Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pete Stanicek, 1988 Donruss The Rookies #15

I wonder if Pete Stanicek carries an aura of superiority in his day-to-day life. After all, he rests secure in the knowledge that he is the best Stanicek to ever play in the major leagues. In a 30-game stint with the Orioles in 1987, the 24-year-old second baseman hit .274 and stole 8 bases in 9 attempts. Sure, he batted a paltry .230 with 4 homers and 17 RBI in 83 games in 1988, and never played in the bigs again afterward. But he still outperformed older brother Steve, a first baseman who went 2-for-7 for the Brewers in 1987 and 1-for-9 for the Phillies in 1989, leaving him with a .188 career average. Interestingly enough, the siblings both debuted in 1987 and played their final professional season in 1990, despite being three years apart in age.

Orioles Card "O" the Day: Your home for all things Stanicek.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ricky Gutierrez, 1992 Bowman #103

What, you don't remember Ricky Gutierrez as an Oriole? That's probably because he never played a game for the big league club. The Miami high schooler was chosen by the Orioles with the 28th overall pick in the 1988 draft, a pick they received as compensation for failing to sign #1 choice Brad Duvall in 1987. His stock rose when he hit .306 in 49 games at AAA Rochester in 1991, but he hit .252 (and slugged .288!) the following year for the Red Wings. The Birds dealt him to San Diego in August 1992 for veteran pitcher Craig Lefferts. He debuted with the Padres in April 1993, and became the starting shortstop for the cellar-dwelling Friars. He hit .251 with 5 homers and 26 RBI as a rookie with a 78 OPS+, which was a typical performance for him. He managed to stick in the bigs for 12 years, with a career OPS+ of 83. He topped out at 99, when he hit .276 with career highs of 11 home runs and a .375 OBP for the 2000 Cubs.

I don't really have any pithy way to end this, so here's a list of former Orioles that Ricky homered against in his career: Dennis Martinez, Jeff Ballard, Steve Trachsel, Pat Rapp, Kevin Brown, Rob Bell, Gregg Olson, Sidney Ponson, and David Wells. He also went deep against ex-O's farmhand Garrett Stephenson. So...that's that.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Steve Stone, 1982 Fleer #182

Just enjoy this card. Enjoy it for all of your days.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leo Gomez, 1992 Upper Deck #161

Congratulations to Leo Gomez, who was named the manager of the Aberdeen IronBirds yesterday. The IronBirds, of course, are Baltimore's short-season low-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. The club is owned by the Ripkens and briefly employed yours truly as an unpaid marketing intern (and eventually a temporary "consultant") in the fall of 2004. Other former Orioles who have managed the IronBirds include Don Buford and Andy Etchebarren. No word on whether Leo will bring those sweet Rec Specs to Ripken Stadium with him.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Jim Palmer, 1979 Topps #340

Happy Memorial Day weekend folks! As you read this, I am preparing to haul off to my family's cottage in scenic Northeastern Pennsylvania. I will have a college friend and his better half in tow, as well as their affectionate beagle Lucy. Yes, this means that you're getting bare-bones pre-scheduled posts all weekend, but I'm hoping that you'll be too busy sightseeing or catching up on sleep or barbecuing or some such, and that you won't have time to read lengthy Internet ramblings anyhow. For my part, I'll be cut free from my cable TV and Internet tethers, which is something I could stand to do more often. It'll be a bit of reading, writing, maybe a movie or two, some card or board games...the simpler joys in life.

One thing I won't be doing is buying cards. The hobby shop at the bottom of the mountain is a few years gone at this point, and it appeared to be hanging by a thread for several years before that. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did, honestly. I still have my fond memories of my trips there throughout my adolescence, as I agonized over what to buy for an eternity while my mom and grandma shopped at the nearby Hallmark store and my father patiently bided his time by making small talk with the hobby shop's owners. They used to have a great variety of 1980s cards, and at that time they were almost exotic to me. I had never seen rack packs before, but at various times I bought those three-chambered cellophane packs of 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1988 Topps. I always opened them in the car, not nearly able to wait 30 minutes to get back to the cottage.

Back in the summer of 2003, I was a rising college senior, but I still looked forward to cottage vacations with my folks. I wasn't actively collecting any more, but I still stopped in the hobby shop on a whim. This time, I bought my first - and to date only - pack of vintage cards. It was a cellophane-wrapped 16-card pack of 1979 Topps. Although the original price printed on the pack was 30 cents, I paid the $15 they asked without much dithering. I was not disappointed, as this Jim Palmer card (with a blurry Doug DeCinces cameo!) was one of two Orioles I pulled; the other was Don Stanhouse, ol' Fullpack himself with a bare head and his white guy afro displayed in all its glory. I also got Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski with some thick sideburns, a card that Milhouse Van Houten would probably like to buy for a significant price.

Alas, no more vintage wax or junk wax at Mazz's Baseball Cards in Clarks Summit. But don't cry for me...I grabbed a discounted blaster box of 2009 O-Pee-Chee at Wallymart earlier this week and I'll be ripping through it while I'm up there. Meet you back here on Tuesday!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nolan Reimold, 2009 Topps Heritage Chrome #CHR168

Hey, I think Nolan Reimold's back, and something tells me that he'd rather not return to Norfolk. After his awful 2010 season, the outfielder was finally healthy when he came to spring training this year. He had a strong showing in the Grapefruit League, batting .315/.448/.537 with 14 runs scored, 3 home runs, 10 RBI, and 12 walks in 66 trips to the plate. Of course, since the Orioles manufactured a roster crunch by signing Vlad Guerrero to DH and moving Luke Scott back to left field, Nolan was caught in the numbers game and optioned to the AAA Tides. Last week, injuries to Cesar Izturis, Derrek Lee, and Brian Roberts created some roster vacancies, and the 2009 Rookie of the Year candidate was brought back to Baltimore. Here's what he's done since:

-Singled in his first at-bat of the year on Friday after entering as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.

-Belted a game-tying two-run homer in his first trip to the plate Saturday, helping the O's come back to win 8-3.

-Went 4-for-4 today with a walk, a double, 2 home runs, and 4 RBI to key a comeback from an early 4-0 deficit. The Orioles beat the Royals 6-5 in 12 innings to claw back to .500 (24-24) for the first time since the beginning of the month. His double in the 11th might have scored Mark Reynolds with the winning run, but it bounced out of play and Reynolds had to stop at third base.

So in 11 at-bats this week, Reimold has already matched the home run output of his 2-month, 116-AB scuffle of 2010. It's good to know that he didn't just turn into a pumpkin overnight, and that Nolan still has the potential to contribute to a winning Orioles team long after Guerrero and Lee are gone. Now it's up to Buck Showalter to keep finding at-bats for him when the roster returns to full strength. Not a bad problem to have.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Adam Jones, 2010 Topps Turkey Red #TR104

Look out, American League. Adam Jones is heating up.

Last night he delivered the Orioles' first ninth-inning comeback win of 2011 with a 416-foot walkoff homer to dead center field off of Royals' closer Joakim Soria, and tonight he keyed an eight-run outburst in the fourth inning with a leadoff double and a subsequent two-run single. So far this month, Jones is batting .375 with a .423 on-base percentage and .523 slugging percentage. He has 8 doubles, a triple, a homer, and 14 RBI. In that span he's boosted his average from .218 to .297, and he leads the Birds with 28 RBI on the season. If he can keep this up, he just might be a two-time All-Star.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alex Cintron, 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH283

A little birdie on the MLB Network told me that Alex Cintron retired today. As somebody who can't feasibly retire until at least 2039, I find the use of that term somewhat funny. The Puerto Rican shortstop is 32, not quite 4 years older than me. He played his first full season in the majors with Arizona in 2003, my senior year of college. I've been steadily employed since 2005, which would make me a seasoned veteran in baseball terms. Ah well, at least I won't be stripped of my purpose in life in a couple of years. We've each got our own dues to pay.

I have to admit that nothing readily comes to mind when I try to recall Cintron's 61 games as an Oriole in 2008. I do remember thinking that of all the O's weak options at short that year, I thought he was the best and should have gotten more playing time than he did. The stats show a pretty empty .286 average (.321 OBP, .361 SLG), with an 81 OPS+ indicating that he was below average by a healthy margin. Of course, a glimpse at his cohorts indicates that he was a damn sight better than the likes of Juan Castro (43 OPS+), Brandon Fahey (57 OPS+), and Freddie Bynum (18 OPS+), at least offensively. I do remember him being kind of clunky with the glove, but you would think that a team fielding Ramon Hernandez at catcher and Kevin Millar and Melvin Mora on the corners wouldn't be so picky about defense.

I had to jump to Alex's 2008 Game Log on Baseball Reference to jog my memory. He had four singles in four at-bats in his first start, a 6-5 win over the Nationals on May 17. He delivered a walkoff single against the Yankees in a wild 11-inning game on May 27, after New York manager Joe Girardi walked two batters to get to him. And I was at Oriole Park for his only home run with the Birds, a June 19 solo shot that gave them a 3-2 lead in a game they would win 7-5 over Houston. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn't remember that, but it goes to show you how the years and players run together when you're dropping 90-100 games each year.

So enjoy your retirement, Alex. Maybe you can take up woodworking, or book yourself on a few cruises.

Monday, May 23, 2011

B.J. Surhoff, 2000 Upper Deck MVP #125

I can appreciate the effort that goes into selecting just the right photo for a baseball card, and it sounds like a dream job for a cartophile such as myself. There are only so many times you can see an outfielder tracking a fly ball, a slugger unleashing a power swing, or an ace pitcher in the midst of his windup before it all starts running together. There's a desire for the creative and unconventional. With that being said, there's probably a reason you don't see many cards immortalizing the batter as he loosens his stance and glances back to see whether the umpire has called a ball or a strike. It's not terribly dynamic. Still, it seems somewhat fitting for B.J. Surhoff. I remember him as a player who was deadly serious, and often let his frustrations show. Mercifully, he wasn't as temperamental and demonstrative as certain other players of his ilk (*cough cough Paul O'Neill cough*).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rene Gonzales, 1991 Topps #377

Congratulations to Vladimir Guerrero, who tied Rene Gonzales and 22 others on the Orioles' all-time home run list with his fifth round-tripper today, the 441st of his career.

Sure, I'm being facetious. By the end of the season I would certainly expect Vladi to have more home runs as an Oriole than Steve Barber, Mike Cuellar, Larry Haney, and Marv Throneberry. But as much fun as it's been watching the former Expos slugger slash line drive singles all over the place, the homers have been missing in action. I watched with increasing frustration as Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann shut down the O's for six innings this afternoon, yielding only a walk and a Mark Reynolds double. The young pitcher had set down 13 in a row before Nick Markakis led off the seventh with a single. That allowed Guerrero to step to the plate representing the go-ahead run in a 1-0 game. A home run would be nice, I thought, but I quickly lowered my expectations as Vlad took a couple of wild hacks to fall behind 0-2. I would have been even less optimistic if I had realized that the designated hitter hadn't left the yard yet in the month of May. But a moment later, he roped a 76-mph curveball from Zimmermann four rows deep in the left field box seats to put the Birds ahead 2-1. That would be the final, as Koji Uehara and Kevin Gregg each tossed a scoreless inning of relief to seal the win and give Baltimore the three-game series over the Nats.

Thanks for the power surge, Vlad. Feel free to make it a habit.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jeff Manto, 1996 Donruss #38

I quite literally have one foot out the door as I type this sentence. I am driving over the Bay Bridge to Chestertown to drop in on reunion weekend at Washington College, the seventh such occasion since my graduation from that fine institution in 2004. It seems impossible that it's been that long, but here we are. Why Jeff Manto? He's the only Oriole who was once traded for Chestertown native Ryan Thompson, a journeyman outfielder who hit .243 in a 9-year career (1992-2002). The deal in question sent Manto to the Indians and Thompson to the Blue Jays on June 5, 1997. Remember that...there will be a quiz later.*

*=There will not be a quiz later.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Jerry Walker, 1961 Topps #85

This card was sent to me by reader Bob, known as the Commish around these parts, back in the infancy of this blog. I'm going to go ahead and assume that Jerry Walker actually did sign this card, because there's not much of a secondary market for his John Hancock. Or is there?

If you're as foolhardy as I am, you may have stayed up and fretted through all 15 innings of the Orioles' wrenching loss to the rassumfrassum Yankees on Wednesday night (and on into Thursday morning). Even though rookie Zach Britton gave the O's seven solid innings, the bullpen was still tapped out and then some. All seven Baltimore relievers were used, and Buck Showalter even had to burn Thursday's starter Jeremy Guthrie. You can thank the putrid Mike Gonzalez and trigger-happy home plate umpire Dan Bellino, who ejected Gonzo for a presumably accidental beaning of Chris Dickerson. But if Buck had been managing the Birds 50 years ago, he might not have put himself through all of that trouble. Paul Richards certainly didn't.

The date was September 11, 1959, and the Orioles and White Sox met at Memorial Stadium for a Friday doubleheader. The O's took the opener 3-0, with Fat Jack Fisher tossing a complete game three-hitter in a tidy hour and 53 minutes to spare the bullpen. Billy Pierce also went the distance in a losing cause for Chicago, but Jerry Walker almost equaled the combined efforts of those two starters in the nightcap. The bats remained missing in action, with the Pale Hose managing five singles off of the 20-year-old Walker through nine scoreless innings. The home team was no better, scraping out two singles and a Bob Boyd double off of 23-year-old Sox starter Barry Latman through nine.

According to Walker, manager Paul Richards came to him in the eighth or ninth inning and asked how he felt. The righthander insisted that he felt good, and the skipper let him know that he was keeping him in the game. It looked like it might be over in the tenth when Billy Gardner hit a one-out single for the Birds. Walker followed with another single (his second of the night) to chase Latman, but Chicago reliever Gerry Staley struck out pinch hitter Bob Nieman and retired Al Pilarcik on a comebacker. If the O's pitcher was frustrated, he didn't let it show. Instead, he seemed to get stronger. From the ninth inning through the fourteenth, he retired 17 White Sox batters in a row. Earl Torgeson snapped the streak by drawing a two-out walk, but Gus Triandos promptly gunned him out at second base on an attempted steal.

With Richards checking on Walker every inning, the youngster kept convincing his manager that he was ship-shape. Improbably, he tossed a perfect fifteenth, and got two more outs in the sixteenth before yielding a Luis Aparicio single. Again, the inning ended on a caught stealing. This time, Richards drew the line in the sand, telling his pitcher that he was done. Fortunately, the White Sox flinched first. In the bottom of the sixteenth Staley (himself working on his seventh inning of relief) allowed a leadoff single to Pilarcik. Barry Shetrone bunted the runner to second, and Gene Woodling was intentionally walked to get to Bob Boyd, who grounded into a force play at second base. With two outs and runners on the corners, none other than Brooks Robinson brought an end to the stalemate with a game-winning single. Baltimore won 1-0 in 16 innings, with Jerry Walker getting one of the hardest-earned complete game shutouts you could imagine. His final line: 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, 0 runs in 16 innings pitched. That's a lot of balls in play!

Walker lowered his earned run average from 2.94 to 2.66 in earning the 11th win of his first full big league season. Unsurprisingly, he was hit hard in his final two starts of the year, yielding 9 runs in 13 innings to finish 11-10 with a 2.92 ERA. The former "bonus baby" had already peaked as a major leaguer, and injuries and ineffectiveness ended his career within five years. He retired with a 37-44 record and a 4.36 ERA, and tossed only one more shutout the rest of the way. Somewhat incredibly, Jerry still doesn't blame his shortened career on that 16-inning marathon, rationalizing that the few baserunners he allowed made it a relatively low-impact game. He estimates that he threw 170 pitches that day, or 11 per inning. That seems a little low, but he was there and I wasn't. Walker allows that he was "extremely sore" the following day (I should think so!), but maintains that the O's generally monitored his workload appropriately and that he didn't truly injure himself until the 1961 season, his first with the Kansas City Athletics.

Either way, it makes my arm hurt just thinking about it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mike Mussina, 1996 Bowman's Best #54

Okay, Orioles fans. I want you to stare directly into the hypnotic shiny yellow foil that is engulfing Mike Mussina and listen to me:

This week never happened.

The O's just took two out of three in Tampa, and before that, they swept a home series against the Mariners. They're ready for the first interleague series of the year, a weekend faceoff at Camden Yards with the Nationals. A win tomorrow night will get the Birds back to the always-elusive .500 mark, and considering the small roll they're on, you've got to like their chances.

Brian Roberts and Derrek Lee are ready to play. There was no bullpen implosion in Boston Monday night, no irritating rainout Tuesday. No frustrating and bizarre 15-inning loss to the Yankees last night, and certainly no 13-0 loss tonight.

Denial...it's all I have left after a week like this.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vintage Wednesdays: Brooks Robinson, 1965 Topps #5

Rules are made to be broken, so I bring you a vintage Orioles card a little early this week. Tonight I clamber up from my sickbed to wish a happy 74th birthday to Brooks Robinson, who by all accounts is an even better man than he was a ballplayer. Brooksie is about 11 months younger than Harmon Killebrew, a fellow kind-hearted Hall of Famer who passed away yesterday after losing his battle with esophageal cancer. Robinson overcame his own bout with prostate cancer; he's had a clean bill of health for the past two years. The loss of a great person like Killebrew is a reminder that we're fortunate to still have #5 in our lives. Now, if only the Orioles could give their legendary third baseman a birthday present in the form of an extra-inning win over the Yankees...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mike Oquist, 1994 Topps Team Stadium Club #276

One thing you may not know about me (because I just made it up) is that I am always looking for any excuse to talk about Mike Oquist. The former Oriole righthander's name was on the lips of many a baseball fan and writer last night when Royals long reliever Vin Mazzaro matched a rather dubious Oquist feat.

Kansas City was already in a desperate way when starter Kyle Davies left with an injury after facing only four batters in the first inning. Nathan Adcock was not particularly sharp in relief, allowing two of Davies' runners to score and permitting a run of his own in an inning and two-thirds. Adcock walked the leadoff man in the third inning, causing Royals manager Ned Yost to summon Mazzaro from the bullpen. The third-year veteran, making his second appearance after replacing the injured Bruce Chen on the roster May 10, got through the third inning without a problem. Things got a little rocky in the fourth, but the Indians had only plated one run in the frame with two outs, two on, and Carlos Santana at the dish. Then, disaster struck:

Walk, 3-run double, 1-run single, single, 2-run double, single, 3-run home run, and mercifully, a strikeout. That's 10 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks, with 9 runs scoring with 2 outs. A 3-0 Tribe lead had ballooned to 13-0. Yost sent Mazzaro out to start the fifth, and some have questioned the skipper's motives. But having already burned through two pitchers, and probably hoping to salvage something from the righty's outing, there's a case to be made for that decision. Needless to say, it didn't work out too well. He retired Shin-Soo Choo on a fly ball, but the next four at-bats went double, walk, single, 1-run single, and that was all she wrote for the shell-shocked Mazzaro...but his ERA wasn't finished taking its beating. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress allowed all three inherited runners to score on a Matt LaPorta double and a groundout by Jack Hannahan. It was 17-1 at that point, en route to a 19-1 romp.

Vin Mazzaro's final line: 2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. He retired 7 of 21 batters faced, and saw his ERA skyrocket from 4.50 to 22.74. To add insult to injury, he was demoted to AAA Omaha right after the game. He was the first pitcher to allow 14 runs in a game since...drumroll please...Mike Oquist, who coughed up 14 in a 5-inning start for Oakland against the Yankees on August 3, 1998. In a few respects,  Vin's blowup exceeded Mike's drubbing. He did it in relief, and in nearly three fewer innings. No one had ever given up that many runs in so few innings, in fact. As for relief pitchers, the last to get hung with a 14-spot was the great Les "Buster" McCrabb of the 1942 Philadelphia Athletics.

If you think I'm talking about Vin Mazzaro as a diversion from the Orioles' late-inning meltdown in Fenway last night, well...hey! Look over there!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hoyt Wilhelm, 2003 Donruss Team Heroes #66

When I was 17, I got a tattoo. It was the Pearl Jam "Stickman" insignia, and I got it inked on my lower back. Chalk it up to the impulsiveness of youth, I guess. I managed to keep it from my parents for several months, but eventually the truth came out and I had to do a little squirming. I remember futilely trying to convince my mother that it was a one-time urge that was out of my system; she insisted that nobody gets just one tattoo.

My younger sister got that tattoo urge, but waited until she was 20 and had worn down my parents to the point that they offered grudging consent. She never tired of reminding them that she had waited until she was of legal age, unlike me. Also unlike me, she didn't stop with just one. She's gotten nine different surfaces on her body inked with various insects: butterflies, a ladybug, a spider, ants, cicadas, you name it. But now it seems that she's gotten bored with bugs and moved on to birds. Last weekend, my sister had logos from two of her favorite sports teams emblazoned on her ankle: the Capitals and the Orioles. I particularly like the Oriole bird that she chose, this crazed-looking character that the club used as a secondary logo from 1965-1967.

She also intends to get the Ravens' "B/R" crest permanently inscribed on her leg, but hasn't decided exactly where to place it yet. It's worth noting that the O's are 2-0 since she added The Bird on Saturday, and at the moment they're leading the Red Sox 5-0 in the middle innings. I'm starting to wonder why she didn't do this sooner!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jake Arrieta, 2010 Topps Update Series #US-251

Well, this weekend ended up much better than it started. After getting shut out on four hits by rookie Jeremy Hellickson on Friday night, the Orioles rebounded to win two straight and take another road series from the Rays. Last night, some O's that have struggled all year long flipped the script in a 6-0 win. Jake Fox and Mark Reynolds hit home runs to support Brad Bergesen, who earned a couple of firsts: his first win of the season, and his first-ever complete-game shutout. When paired with Jeremy Guthrie's hard-luck loss (number 1,350 in that category for him) the night before, it gave the Birds their first back-to-back complete games since the days of Sidney Ponson and Rodrigo Lopez...that's 2003 if you're keeping score.

Earlier this afternoon, the O's took the rubber match in a close contest that turned into a laugher with a 9-3 final. Jake Arrieta turned in his seventh quality start in nine tries in 2011, bumping his record to 5-1 with a six-inning, two-run, seven-strikeout effort. Matt Wieters, Derrek Lee, and Reynolds all had run-scoring singles, and Nick Markakis hit his fourth home run of the year. Oh, and then there's J. J. Hardy. His sixth-inning grand slam broke the game open, and made him a .400 hitter (10-for-25) with 2 home runs, 7 RBI, and a pair of walks since his return last week from the disabled list. The Orioles are now 9-2 when James Jerry plays, and were 10-18 without him. What I'm saying is that I will personally cover J. J. Hardy in bubble wrap if that's what it takes to keep him on the field. Now it's on to Boston, to make sure the Red Sox stay at the bottom of the Eastern division.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sammy Stewart, 1986 Fleer #289

Do you think Sammy Stewart enjoyed the humid summers in Baltimore? I'm just asking.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Doyle Alexander, 1972 Topps #579

You know, these Psychedelic Tombstones (copyright of Night Owl) are starting to grow on me. There's just no other design that's quite like it in baseball card history. The odd, bright colors. The plain capitalized player names, no position listed for possibly the only time in a Topps base set. The trippy, drop-shadowed, art deco team names. Originally, I only had a handful of the Orioles and no other teams, so the blue borders didn't give me a good sense of the full spectrum of the set. I obtained a scant few from non-Baltimore teams, and finally broke through at the Philly Card Show back in March. Gorging on 10-cent commons, I reached the triple-digits for total 1972 Topps, making it undeniable that I was effectively going to shoot for set completion, whether I liked it or not. So when I spotted a cube of 240 of these bad boys at the hobby shop for $50, I couldn't let it go. Now my fledgling '72 Topps set is 352 deep, still a long way from 787 but a promising 45% start. Of course that 352 is front-loaded in the first few series, meaning that the short-printed high numbers still have a lot of damage to inflict upon my wallet and my sanity. However, I did accumulate some doubles in the blind purchase of the cube, so now I've got some trade bait to offer if you can help me build this set. I'll get up a want list soon, and then the game will begin.

This high-number of Doyle Alexander, I do have. It's a good representative of the set at its best and worst. Because it was in the fifth of the sixth series, it was printed late enough for Doyle to be tagged as an Oriole; the Birds had acquired him from the Dodgers in the Frank Robinson trade of December 1971. But because of the late change, Topps opts to go with the extreme up-the-nostril closeup, giving the airbrush artists as little work as possible. Just a dab of orange over the bill, and a blob of black to cover the bit of the crown that's not obscured by the underside. At the very least, this angle gives me the opportunity to fully appreciate Alexander's precisely groomed sideburns and impeccable facial structure. Incidentally, Doyle was the fourth Oriole to ever wear #13, worth mentioning on Friday the 13th. To my credit, I've showed enough restraint to limit my Doyle Alexander Friday the 13th posts to two so far.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Earl Weaver, 1981 Donruss #356

I wrote a novel last night, but I'll be spending this evening in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, enjoying a few draughts of Heavy Seas (buy local!), collecting my free Vlad Guerrero t-shirt, and hopefully watching Zach Britton complete a three-game sweep of the Mariners. So I'll just pass along a link to Mike Klingaman's story about Earl Weaver auctioning off a number of mementoes from his Hall of Fame managing career. I was just relieved to learn that he wasn't selling his keepsakes because of a financial emergency. Instead, he's saving himself and his family some difficult decisions about how to divvy up his memorabilia after he shuffles off to the tomato garden in the sky. It might seem morbid, but as usual Earl is thinking ahead. Most of us probably wouldn't mind seeing our loved ones enjoy their inheritance while we're still around.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baltimore Orioles, 2011 Topps #152

I realize that this triumvirate of Oriole outfielders are not doing anything unique in their victory celebration. Often, when I see Felix Pie, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones leaping into one another to form a human asterisk, I worry instinctively that one of them will land just wrong and blow out a knee. All the same, I could watch them do it every day. I would even settle for watching them do it 100 to 110 days out of the year.

All three guys are extremely fun to watch play. Felix has spent most of the last month serving as Luke Scott's legs and glove in the late innings, but his good friend's balky shoulder might give him more of an opportunity to see the field. With last night's game going 13 innings, Pie played roughly half of a regular game, and played a prominent role in much of the drama. With the go-ahead run on base in the ninth inning for Seattle, the left fielder sent it to the tenth with a running grab of a short liner by Miguel Olivo. He continued running off of the field in goofy, loping strides, clearly enjoying himself. He was even more animated in the next inning, throwing a bit of an elbow into Justin Smoak as the Mariner first baseman tagged him out on his way down the line. Smoak responded in kind, and Pie lost his temper, getting right in the towering slugger's face and shouting some probably unkind words. The umpires and O's first base coach Wayne Kirby got in the middle of the conflagration, defusing it even while the bench and bullpen were emptying. The Birds were trailing 6-5 when Felix came to bat three innings later with two runners on base. His bounding single up the middle plated the tying run, and two batters later he raced home ahead of Michael Saunders' throw and Miguel Olivo's tag to score the game-winner.

Markakis has not had an ideal start to the season, with an extended slump pushing his average near the Mendoza line and blunting his run production. What's more, he missed his first game of the year tonight with the flu. But his defense certainly hasn't slumped, and he teamed with Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters to gun down Olivo at home in the top of the twelfth. He's also showing signs of life on offense; he was 3-for-6 with a walk last night and started the game-winning rally with a leadoff single. He's gone 12 for his last 36 with 4 RBI in the most recent 8 games, raising his average from .206 to .239. I have no worries about Nick.

Speaking of overcoming rough starts, there's Adam Jones. He matched Nick's 3-for-6 with a walk last night, and improved upon it with two doubles and three RBI. For an encore, he went 4-for-4 tonight with a two-run, two-out triple to put the Orioles up 4-1 in the fifth inning against reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. For fun with small sample sizes, Dr. Jones is batting .326 (29-for-89) since April 14 to boost his average from .189 to .286 in that span. He's been even better so far in May, clocking in at .436 (17-for-39) with 9 RBI in as many starts. Plus, I enjoy his Twitter feed even though I don't understand half of what he says.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The current crop of Oriole outfielders sure beats the days of Marty Cordova, Chris Singleton, and Jay Gibbons.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Joe Orsulak, 2010 Orioles Alumni Postcards

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you generally have to take the good with the bad. For instance, I don't do lengthy trade posts with scans of a couple dozen cards and explanations of the significance of each. Don't get me wrong; I'm not vehemently opposed to trade posts like some people. They have their place, but I prefer them in small doses. They're just not part of my blogging style. So that's the good. I don't try to force it vis a vis long and image-intensive trade posts.

However, I do tend to go in the other direction, milking a single transaction for several posts in a short span. This is the third card I've featured in a week from out-of-state Oriole fan Randy. This one was the most thoughtful contribution. Randy's employer had a company day at Camden Yards last year, with a private suite and everything. He wasn't personally able to make it, so his boss brought this card back. Joe Orsulak dropped by the suite, as Orioles Alumni often do to mingle with the team's benefactors. When I mentioned a few weeks back that I had narrowly missed an opportunity to get Joe O's autograph, Randy thought I might appreciate this. Of course I do. Now that I've put this up on the blog, hopefully I'll remember to put a few Roberto Clemente cards in the mail for him as promised.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rick Burleson, 1987 Donruss Opening Day #134

Professional wrestler and sometimes author Mick Foley is one of my favorite people in this world. I own both of his novels and all four of his memoirs. I've gotten autographs and awkward photos with him at two public appearances, and I went on a bus trip to Philadelphia a few years back to see him win the TNA World Title in a steel cage match. So when he announced recently that he was auctioning off his childhood baseball cards to raise money for RAINN (a national anti-sexual violence organization), I was helpless to resist. Rarely do my interests dovetail so beautifully. I won an auction for a lot of 160 1976 Topps cards, all formerly the property of an 11-year-old Mickey Foley. The cards arrived today, and thumbing through them, I got a glimpse into the world of the future Hardcore Legend:

-Every kid has that one card that keeps turning up in pack after pack, seeming to mock him. Judging from the four Rick Burlesons in this lot, "The Rooster" was that guy for Mick.

-Most of the cards were in a "well-loved" condition. I would expect no less from a bunch of 35-year-old cards that were owned by a kid back before cards were thought of as investments. Plenty of dings and creases, but very few mutilations.

-Larry Dierker wasn't so lucky. His photo had several gouges. I guess Foley wasn't a fan.

-There were two Duffy Dyer card backs fused together, back-to-back...actually, I guess they were stuck front-to-front. Couldn't pry them apart. Not sure that I'd want to.

-A Rick Manning card had "Denise" written on the back in pen. Who is Denise? I've asked Mick via Twitter. I'll let you know if I get a response. (UPDATE: Direct from the source: "No idea. Really." So, give me your guesses.)

-The lot included about 20 of those so-awful-they're-great 1976 Topps Traded, complete with shoddily airbrushed caps and fake newspaper headlines.

-Mick grew up on Long Island, and I believe he was a Mets fan. There weren't many Mets in this collection, though - well-worn Bud Harrelson and Traded Mickey Lolich cards, and a better-kept Del Unser. There was a four-player rookie card featuring Ron Guidry that was in surprisingly good shape.

-A few Orioles to be found, though of course I already had the team set: Dave Duncan, Al Bumbry, Lee May, Ken Singleton, Tony Muser. Among ex-Orioles, there was the sight of Boog Powell in a tomato-red Indians jersey.

So, there you have it. I got to donate to a good cause, add to my vintage card collection, and talk tangentially about rasslin'. It's a win-win-win...for me, anyway. I'm not sure what was in it for you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Randor Bierd, 2008 Upper Deck #701

I hope everyone reading this blog did something nice for their mothers today. After all, Mom has done plenty of great things for you. For starters, she didn't name you "Randor".

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Eddie Murray, 1987 Fleer #636

This is another card from the parcel of 1980s Orioles that Randy sent last week. I had never seen this one before, and I was astounded by the horrifying juxtaposition of the worst first baseman in O's history standing alongside the best. As Randy noted in a Post-It affixed to the front, this card was surely a bad omen. I'm always glad to point the finger and assign blame for the disastrous trade that brought Glenn Davis' brittle body to Baltimore, and now I have a brand new scapegoat. Surely the powers that be at Fleer planted the first foul seeds of that ill-fated deal when they photographed Davis alongside the great Eddie Murray and produced this card, treating the two as players on equal footing.

In the winter of 1990-1991, with Murray in Dodger blue and the Birds looking to bolster the middle of their lineup, General Manager Roland Hemond sifted absent-mindedly through a stack of scouting reports on his desk and a small rectangle of cardboard fell out. It was one of his grandson's baseball cards. Hey, Glenn Davis! He's productive and talented! It says so right on the back there. Oh, and how about this? He was raised by the family of Storm Davis! It's like a homecoming or something. He was the power source for the National League Western Division champion, you say? 31 home runs and 102 RBI? Why, no one's put up those kind of numbers in Charm City since Eddie Murray in the mid-1980s. It was meant to be! Gloria, get the Houston Astros on the phone!

Thanks a LOT, Fleer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Gus Triandos, 1962 Post #33

On this day 55 years ago (Sunday, May 6, 1956), Gus Triandos hit a three-run home run to power the Orioles to a 6-2 win over the Tigers in the first game of a doubleheader at Memorial Stadium. His blast came with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, breaking a 2-2 tie and sending Detroit starter Steve Gromek to a loss. Of course, Gromek had himself to blame, having walked Oriole starting pitcher Ray Moore to lead off the inning and issuing a second free pass to Bob Hale later in the frame. The O's took an early 2-0 lead with a first-inning RBI triple by Dave Philley and a fourth inning double play from Chuck Diering that scored Tito Francona. The Tigers finally got to Moore in the top of the fifth, as the first four runners reached. Fred Hatfield singled to plate one run, and Charlie Maxwell tied the game by tagging up on a Harvey Kuenn fly ball. However, left fielder Philley gunned the ball to third base to cut down Hatfield trying to advance. The Birds got the lead back right away in the bottom of the inning with Triandos' big fly. They capped the scoring in the sixth by pulling off a double steal with Fred Marsh on first and Billy Gardner on third. Catcher Frank House tried to throw out Marsh at second, but fired wildly and Marsh took third while Gardner stole home.

Detroit threatened in the eighth, chasing Moore by putting the first two runners on base. But George Zuverink put out the fire, coming out of the Oriole bullpen and retiring five of the six hitters he faced to earn a save, his fifth of the year. Moore got the win to even his record at 2-2, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. He struck out 4 batters in 7.1 innings. The game lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes, leaving the O's with enough energy to complete the sweep with a 4-3 win in the nightcap. Erv Palica held the Motowners to two runs in seven innings, and Zuverink notched his second save of the day with a perfect ninth. Francona was responsible for all four Baltimore runs, with a two-RBI single and an RBI groundout that plated a second run thanks to a Harvey Kuenn error. With the pair of victories, the Orioles improved to 8-11 on the year. They would finish the season 69-85, a 12-game improvement from the previous year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Buddy Groom, 2004 Topps Total #526

I will never get tired of photographs depicting the dumb expressions on pitchers' faces when they're captured in mid-pitch. Buddy Groom looks like he's having an aneurysm...or a severe bowel movement. Either way, it's not good.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jeff Ballard, 1991 Upper Deck #260

As I do from time to time, I am about to put way too much thought into a goofy baseball card:

-Jeff Ballard is wearing those fake stirrup socks. I hate those. Either go all the way with it or don't.

-Judging from the dirt and grass stains on his knees, whoever he's catching is a bit wild. My guess is Jose Mesa (5.2 K/9 IP in 1990).

-Last week, offensively-offensive backup infielder Cesar Izturis strapped on the tools of ignorance and caught Chris Tillman's bullpen session. This led to the revelation that Izzy is the current emergency catcher. That would have to be one hell of an emergency. I love those dumb little tidbits. Recent emergency catchers for the O's have included the likes of Ty Wigginton and Kevin Millar, who certainly fit the profile moreso than Cesar. I wonder what kind of emergency it would have taken for Jeff Ballard to suit up behind the plate.

-I can't even remember a time when baseball caps didn't have the ubiquitous MLB batter logo on the back of them.

-In the early 1990s, the crustier baseball types used to grouse about Ken Griffey, Jr. wearing his cap backwards during batting practice. It was disrespectful, apparently. Seems kind of quaint when you think about Prince Fielder and countless others untucking their jerseys as soon as the game ends.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fritz Connally, 1985 Fleer Update #U-30

Yesterday I received a small box of cards from reader Randy, an Orioles fan from New York. He was generously filling a bunch of 1980s O's needs (and threw in a few 1970 Topps as well). A few cards had Post-It notes attached to them with a bit of commentary. The bright yellow note appended to this card simply said, "Who is this?". Whether Randy was being genuine or funny, I took it as my mission.

Let's address the elephant in the room: Fritz Connally is a hilarious name, and completely anachronistic for someone who played in the 1980s. He may have been more at home at the turn of the 20th century, in a heavy wool uniform with a laced collar and a pillbox cap, twirling his handlebar mustache. But it gets better: Baseball Reference lists him as "Fritzie", which was actually his birth name. Fritzie Lee Connally from Bryan, TX.

Fritzie attended Baylor University and was a 7th-round pick of the Cubs in 1980. He slugged his way through the minors as a corner infielder, batting between .288 and .310 in each of his first 5 minor league seasons and totaling 92 home runs in that span. The Cubs gave him a September callup in 1983, but he served mostly as a pinch hitter and had just one single in 10 at-bats, striking out 5 times. A few months later he was sent to the Padres in a three-way deal that landed pitcher Scott Sanderson for the Cubbies. After only a year at AAA with San Diego, Connally was moved again, this time to the Orioles for Vic Rodriguez. With third base generally being a black hole for the Birds throughout the decade, the 26-year-old made the Opening Day roster and saw action in 50 games, including 29 starts. His plate discipline wasn't bad; he walked 19 times and struck out 21. But the whole "hitting" thing was a challenge, as he had a .232 average with 3 home runs and 15 RBI in 112 at-bats. A .258 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) suggests that his luck might have been a bit tough, but anyhow the O's sent him to Rochester at midseason. He continued to scuffle, hitting .214 with 6 homers in 52 games. That was all she wrote; he never played in organized baseball again.

But there was something notable about Fritzie's brief tenure in Baltimore. Each of his first two home runs were grand slams: one in a 6-5 loss at Toronto on April 19 and another in an 11-3 win at Seattle on May 17.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jay Gibbons, 2002 Donruss Studio #79

It's not every day that the President announces that the country's greatest enemy has been captured and killed, so I thought I'd commemorate the occasion with the ol' Stars and Stripes. It seems inconceivable to me that it's been ten years since Osama bin Laden became a household name in the United States. On September 11, 2001 I had just started my sophomore year of college. I don't remember much about that day. I had already gone across campus for my morning Basics of Computing class when the full scope of the terrorist attacks was realized and we were notified that all classes would be cancelled. I went straight to the dining hall for lunch and sat with my friend Boothe, who was visibly shaken by the whole thing. That stands out to me because he's the kind of guy who doesn't allow himself to appear vulnerable very often, and naturally I had no idea what to say to reassure him. But we made it through the day, and hundreds and thousands of days since. Life goes on...we always find a way.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Nick Markakis, 2010 Topps Peak Performance #PP94

Today's 6-4 win over the White Sox turned into a nail-biter late, but the O's pulled it out with a little help from home plate umpire Cory Blaser. After Kevin Gregg gave up a walk and a single to the first two batters in the ninth, the ump rang up Paul Konerko on a borderline third strike and then called out Alex Rios on a 3-2 pitch that was about a foot outside. Of course, Blaser's strike zone seemed to be all over the place for most of the game, but if I were a Chicago fan I'd be throwing things.

No matter how it happened, that's three straight wins and five out of six for the Orioles. At 13-13, they're back at .500 for the first time since April 15. This is also the latest point in the season that they've been even-up since 2008. I had to look it up; the Birds actually stayed around .500 for the entire first half of that season, not slipping below the mark for good until July 12. I had completely forgotten about that. It just goes to show you how all of these losing seasons run together after a while. Of course, the O's hit the skids down the stretch in '08, going 22-47 after that 46-46 start. In hindsight, it makes sense that I scrubbed it from memory.

The most encouraging moment from today's game was probably Nick Markakis' first-pitch bases-clearing double off of Gavin Floyd in the Orioles' five-run outburst in the fifth inning. It broke the game open, and hopefully it will be the big break that Nick needs. He's gotten off to a frustrating slow start, hitting just .206 with a pair of home runs and 9 RBI so far. As you might imagine, the gifted right fielder has been the victim of some bad luck. His batting average on balls in play, which is .324 for his career (generally, the average for most players is around .300), is hovering around .210 through the first month of play. It's about time for those balls to start dropping in front of (or behind) some opposing outfielders.