Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Bob Bailor, 1975 SSPC #386

This card serves as a reminder that I have only scratched the surface of the history of the Orioles. Every SSPC card features a close-up photo of the player with no text on the front. As I paged through my team set in its vintage O's binder, I could identify most players by sight. Grant Jackson, Mike Torrez, Dave Duncan, Elrod Hendricks, Brooks Robinson, Don Baylor. Most, but not all. This wild-eyed young man with tufted shocks of hair protruding from his cap was unfamiliar. I had to flip the card over to read that it was Bob Bailor. Oh, Bob Bailor! I know about him. Well, let's see. He was taken by the Blue Jays in the expansion draft, and...um.

Yeah, I've still got a lot to learn.

Bob Bailor was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Orioles in 1969, but he garnered some attention by hitting .340 with a .423 on-base percentage and 50 RBI in 68 games at low-A Aberdeen at age 19. The following year (1972), he led the Class A California League with 63 stolen bases, nearly double the 32 steals of runner-up Jerry Remy. Bailor also hit .290 that season for Lodi, though he mustered only 21 extra-base hits. That profile would hold as he climbed the ranks. Bob was a .288 hitter with a .359 slugging percentage in parts of 7 minor league seasons in the Baltimore organization.

With Brooksie, Mark Belanger, and Bobby Grich ensconced in the Oriole infield, Bailor received only a few cups of coffee with the Birds in 1975 and 1976, compiling a .231 average (3-for-13) in 14 games.   In his big league debut, he pinch hit for Tom Shopay in the bottom of the 13th inning with runners on first and second and one out. He drew a walk against the Yankee relief ace Sparky Lyle, loading the bases for Don Baylor (Baylor batting behind Bailor!). Baylor singled to deliver the walkoff win. On October 3, 1976, he got only the third start of his O's career. In what would be his final game with the club, he played all 15 innings of a 3-2 loss and went 2-for-6 with both hits coming off of Luis Tiant. One of those hits was a triple, the first extra-base hit of his career.

I did have one thing right: the Blue Jays chose Bob with their first pick (second overall) in the November 1976 expansion draft. He appeared in 122 games in 1977, dividing his time amongst shortstop, left field, and center field. He hit .310 with 5 home runs and 32 RBI and stole 15 bases. Incidentally, he would only hit 4 homers total in another 819 career games going forward. He was named Toronto's Player of the Year, and defended his title in 1978 despite a batting line of .264/.310/.338. That season, he did set career highs with 29 doubles, 7 triples, and 52 RBI. His offensive performance further dwindled in the proceeding two seasons, reducing him to a utility role. The Jays even used him as a relief pitcher in August of 1980. After two scoreless one-inning appearances, he failed to retire a batter against the Royals on August 16, yielding back-to-back doubles and a walk before Mike Barlow replaced him. Bailor was charged with two runs, and never pitched again; his career ERA was locked in at 7.71. On the bright side, he also played right field in that game and had three hits!

Bob spent the 1981-1983 seasons with the Mets, continuing in the utility role and batting .266 without walks or power but succeeding on 40 of his 46 steal attempts. In December 1983, he and reliever Carlos Diaz were dealt to the Dodgers for young lefty Sid Fernandez and minor league shortstop Ross Jones. The trade was a steal for the Mets, as Fernandez was a frontline starter for the next decade. Diaz and Bailor were both done by 1986. Still, Bob hung around for parts of 11 major league seasons, carrying a .264 average overall and striking out only 164 times in 2,937 at-bats. He also played at least 80 games at each of 6 different defensive positions (all three outfield spots, second base, shortstop, and third base).

Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Bailor.

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