Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oriole Bird, 2012 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M2

Here's a nifty surprise that arrived in the mail yesterday from our old friend Bob, a.k.a. Commishbob. It seems that Bob spotted one of my Coveted Cluster needs in his travels and grabbed it for me. It also seems that I need to update my list, since you eagle-eyed readers and fellow collectors have been helping me check off cards faster than I can seek out new needs. Perhaps some other day. In the meantime, thanks, Bob! I've never seen the point of Topps' Opening Day set, but if it continues to provide an excuse for the Bird to wriggle his way onto cardboard, more power to it. I love this photo especially, what with the beloved O's mascot peering in for the sign from his catcher whilst gripping the ball. I wonder if he'd be willing to take Tommy Hunter's next turn in the rotation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Brian Roberts, 2010 Topps Chrome #166

Over the weekend, another long offseason began for Brian Roberts. The Orioles' 34-year-old second baseman elected to have surgery to repair a labral tear in his right hip and will miss the rest of the 2012 campaign. His disappointing totals for the year include 17 games with a slash line of .182/233/.182. Pulling up his stats for the past three injury-shortened seasons, you get an even more discouraging picture:

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/30/2012.

Brian's body has been breaking down on him ever since he signed a four-year contract extension in 2009. He's been waylaid by problems with his back, abdominal muscles, post-concussion symptoms, and now his hip. My heart goes out to one of the best players to suit up for the O's in the 2000s, and I'll continue to hope against all logic that he is able to play 150 (or even 140) games in 2013. Hell, I might even settle for 100.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mike Mussina, 1994 Pinnacle #295

This is a pretty incredible photo. Taken mere moments after Mike Mussina released a pitch, it shows the baseball seemingly floating in midair adjacent to his right hand. It doesn't look like it could have come out of his hand; you'd expect it to appear above the fingertips rather than next to them. All I know is that I don't envy the opposing hitters that had to guess where and when pitches like this would arrive at home plate.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Adam Jones, 2012 Topps Archives #32

Last night's 14-9 loss to the Athletics was one of the ugliest, most frustrating games that I've ever seen in person. Sitting through a four-hour, nine-inning game in stifling humidity left me in a pretty lousy mood to be sure. There's something about a game bookended by a four-run Oakland first and a six-run ninth that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Oh, and did I mention the three runs allowed by Zach Britton and Miguel Socolovich in the top of the sixth, when the two combined to walk the bases loaded despite facing the bottom of the batting order? Ugh.

But if there's a positive to be drawn from this lackluster evening, it's the tenacious performance of a Baltimore offense that has been missing in action for most of the summer. They clawed back from a 5-0 hole, with Adam Jones providing the big blow with a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning. After Britton and Socolovich immediately surrendered that hard-earned lead, the O's hitters scraped together a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth against relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook. They did it with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and four two-out singles. In the process, they forced a blown save from Cook, an All-Star who entered the game with a .115 opponents' batting average. Even after the disheartening implosion by Jim Johnson and Luis Ayala in the A's ninth, the Birds' offense went down fighting. Mark Reynolds and Omar Quintanilla scraped out a pair of singles, and only an impressive leaping catch by right fielder Josh Reddick kept Nick Markakis from driving them both in with a likely double.

The Orioles lost, but they have 62 more chances to win in 2012. Last night's game could have jump-started the offense. All is not lost.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Jim Hardin, 1968 Topps #222

On this date in 1969, the Orioles continued flattening every American League team in their path, sealing a four-game home sweep of the White Sox with a 17-0 blowout victory. Jim Hardin, less than two weeks shy of his 26th birthday, pitched one of the finest games of his career. He blanked Chicago and permitted just two hits, both singles by second baseman Bobby Knoop. The righthander struck out five and issued no walks, and even chipped in on offense with a three-run homer off of Gary Bell to give himself a 10-0 in the fourth inning. Home runs were the order of the day for the O's, as Boog Powell had a two-run shot and Frank Robinson added a pair and finished with five RBI. The Birds racked up 20 total hits on that early Sunday evening. Four players had three hits apiece: Don Buford, Paul Blair, Boog, and Davey Johnson. Perhaps the biggest surprise was light-hitting shortstop Mark Belanger's 4-for-5 performance. By brooming the Pale Hose out of Baltimore, the Orioles boosted their season record to 69-31 (a .690 winning percentage!) and increased their prohibitive American League East lead to 12.5 games. More than four decades later, this game still represents the greatest margin of victory by an O's team in a shutout win.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jim Johnson, 2006 Upper Deck Update #1022

Jim Johnson had a rare luxury in this afternoon's game against the Rays: he was called upon to finish a game in a non-save situation. Thanks in large part to Chris Tillman's six innings of two-run ball and Chris Davis' two-hit, four-RBI game, the Orioles handed a 6-2 ninth-inning lead to their closer. After allowing back-to-back singles to start out, Jim wrapped things up in his customary fashion with a pair of ground balls to account for the three outs he needed. I'm just hoping that the O's carry over a bit of momentum into tomorrow night's series opener with Oakland, as I will be attending the game with my dad and uncle. I've already been to eight games at Camden Yards in 2012, and I'm working with a 6-2 record. 7-2 sounds pretty good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nick Markakis, 2011 Topps Chrome Orange Refractor #22

There are not nearly enough orange-bordered Orioles cards. Ooh, ostentatiously shiny.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Brad Bergesen, 2004 Bowman Draft Picks #BDP80

Now that I finally dug out the card I was looking for a few days ago, we can all wave goodbye to Brad Bergesen, the 2009 rookie who had surprising success and then crashed back to Earth with all of the force of a Billy Butler line drive to the shin. Brad had been pushed further and further to the margins of the team's plans thanks to his own increasing ineffectiveness in 2010-2011, and spent most of this year at AAA Norfolk. Though the Orioles called him up as an emergency reliever last week, they sent him out the next day and tried to pass him through waivers. The Diamondbacks claimed him, reuniting him with fellow ex-Oriole David Hernandez in their bullpen. Au revoir, Bergy. We'll always have those mostly-magical 19 starts from the dark Dave Trembley days.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Larry Bigbie, 2005 Topps Heritage #94

Good news! The 2012 Orioles are now ahead of the pace of the 2005 team, which was the last incarnation of the O's to remain in the playoff hunt into the second half of the season. All through the current season, Baltimore fans have been haunted by comparisons to that ill-fated gang who went from first to fourth place in 30 games, lost in a quagmire of steroid suspensions, DUIs, and bad baseball. But yesterday, the present-day Birds picked up win number 51 in their 95th contest. The 2005 Orioles also happened to play game 95 on July 22, and they dropped to 50-45 with a 7-5 road loss to the Devil Rays. Bruce Chen's five-run second inning doomed them that day, and among the position players only Larry Bigbie (3-for-4 with a home run) had more than one hit. It was the third consecutive loss in an eventual six-game skid, so the O's didn't earn their 51st win until game 99. They immediately began an eight-game slide, running their record to 51-56 with a 10.5 game deficit in the division.

I've got my tongue firmly planted in cheek here, but it's nice to be able to say that the 2012 Orioles are superior to their fluky, weary predecessors.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zach Britton, 2011 Topps Lineage #61

Naturally, all that I had to do was write an incredibly pessimistic, reactionary lament about the current state of the Orioles in order to look stupid. Five consecutive road wins later, the O's have not only thrown the brakes on their backslide, they've regained their hold on second place in the American League East. Most of the credit goes to the pitching staff in general and the starters in particular, who have turned in quality starts in each of the last five games to allow the relievers the early-and-middle-innings naps they so sorely need. Some strong outings (Wei-Yin Chen) were expected. Others (everyone else - Miguel Gonzalez, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, and Zach Britton) were less expected. Britton looked sharp today in earning the first major league win of his injury-delayed sophomore season. He blanked the Indians over six innings, limiting them to four hits and two walks. The young lefty also struck out five batters, including Carlos Santana looking with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning. It would seem that all the 51-44 O's need to continue topping the Wild Card standings is six or so innings of above-average starting pitching each day, along with a couple of timely hits and strong net performances in high-leverage relief situations. Simple, huh?

As long as you're indulging my wild upward mood swing, I'll just nonchalantly mention that the Yankees just got swept out of Oakland in a four-game set, helping the Orioles to draw within six games of first place in the American League East. This could still be an interesting summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sidney Ponson, 2004 Upper Deck Diamond Collection #75

Sidney Ponson in a St. Louis Browns throwback uniform? Sure, why not. If you're curious, this photo would have been taken on Saturday, June 7, 2003 in St. Louis. Sidney actually pitched a complete-game seven-hitter, striking out eight Cardinals in an 8-1 Orioles interleague win. It was a home run derby for the O's, with Jeff Conine, Melvin Mora, and Deivi Cruz (twice!) going deep in support of their pitcher. I certainly wasn't expecting that result when I looked up this game. It's nice to get a pleasant surprise now and then.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Elrod Hendricks, 1970 Topps #528

I hope nobody minds another Vintage Friday post on Elrod Hendricks just two weeks after the last one. I have an excellent excuse: I went searching for interesting box scores from today's date, and found one from Monday, July 20, 1970. The Orioles wrapped up a three-game series in Chicago in grand fashion, trouncing the White Sox 14-5 in the rubber match. The visitors got a big boost from catcher Hendricks, who doubled, homered, and walked twice to drive in a career-high six runs. Not bad for a seventh-place hitter.

Elrod gave the O's the lead with a two-run double in the second inning, and they never trailed after that. It was just one of three two-RBI hits in the frame, with Paul Blair and Boog Powell also doing the honors. Powell's double chased overmatched ChiSox starter Gary Janeski, who surrendered four hits and a walk and hit two batters in the six-run outburst. The damage may have been worse if Baltimore pitcher Mike Cuellar hadn't popped up a bunt attempt for the second out.

Cuellar wasn't exactly on his game in the field, either. Because he earned the complete-game win (making him 13-5 for the year), I'm legally obligated to say that he "scattered" 11 hits and a pair of walks, allowing 5 runs total. That's why Hendricks' seventh-inning grand slam off of Barry Moore was crucial, turning a 7-4 seesaw battle into a rout. The Pale Hose were once again undone by a pitcher's wildness, as Moore had followed a Frank Robinson double by issuing walks to Brooks Robinson and Davey Johnson to load the bases for Elrod. Overall, Chicago hurlers issued nine walks and two wild pitches and plunked three batters. As a result, the Orioles totaled 14 runs with only 11 hits.

Looking a little deeper into Elrod Hendricks' big performance, the grand slam was the first of two in his career. He wouldn't hit another one until July 18, 1975, when he took Dave Goltz deep to give the O's a 5-1 fourth-inning lead en route to an eventual 9-6 victory over the Twins. The 1970 salami was also his second homer off of Barry Moore in as many days, though the previous day's longball was just a solo shot for a bit of insurance in an 8-2 Birds triumph.

With their series win in the Windy City, the Orioles boosted their record to 57-36 and maintained a 4-game lead over the second-place Tigers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gregg Olson, 1993 Fleer Flair #155

The value of a closer can be overstated sometimes, but it's better to have a good one than not. For five years, the Orioles knew that they could rely on Gregg Olson to preserve narrow ninth-inning leads. Similarly, the 2012 O's would be in deep trouble without relief ace Jim Johnson. Today, the first-time All-Star earned his league-leading 28th save by closing out a second straight one-run win over the Twins. The team is now 37-0 when leading after eight innings, 18-6 in one-run games, and 32-14 in games decided by two runs or less. You can thank Baltimore's sinkerballing closer, who has only blown two save opportunities all season. Incidentally, the Orioles won both of those games in extra innings. We're not in Jorge Julio or Kevin Gregg territory any more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Glenn Davis, 1991 Classic II #T6

Prepare yourself for some self-loathing from the fan of a perennial loser. It was written before tonight's win, but still applies. How bad is it gonna be? Does the invocation of Glenn Davis' image give you a clue?

Well, it took fully half of the baseball season, but the Orioles waited until they were sure that everyone was strapped securely to the bandwagon, and then pushed it straight off of a cliff. Next stop: Hell.

Am I being hyperbolic? Perhaps just a bit. I've been girding myself for the eventual tumble, knowing that the O's spent a few months winning in spite of themselves. They've allowed more total runs than they've scored for a good chunk of the season, the team defense could charitably be described as "1970s kitchen decor ugly", the hitters have been striking out and hitting into double plays like nobody's business, and the starting rotation could be summed up as "Hammel and Chen, and what happens then?". They say it's better to be lucky than good, and with a plus-.500 record that was built predominately on an improbable 10-game winning streak in extra-innings games, the Birds were playing with house money.

All the same, I've been a bit gobsmacked by the suddenness and totality of the team's collapse. All at once, Hammel is on the shelf with knee surgery, and every other non-Chen starter is a meatball-throwing bumbler. The bullpen is so overtaxed that no amount of Buck Showalter juggling can keep the relievers from wearing out and subsequently turning into arsonists. The errors that were a cause of frustration in the spring are now surefire backbreakers. And of course the offense is non-existent. Those blasted Yankees have scored at least 3 runs in each of their last 42 games, a franchise record. Meanwhile the O's have averaged 3 runs over their last 27 games, scoring 0, 1, or 2 runs 14 times in that span. When the Orioles fall apart, they don't do it halfway.

I've watched these losing skids year-in and year-out, and it's as discouraging as can be. Every day brings another game that seems destined to be another heartache, another early deficit turned into a sleepwalk or an early lead turned into a blown opportunity. The schedule is relentless, and you wonder how you could have ever enjoyed baseball. Any small measure of success - a winning record after 5, 20, 40, or even 80 games - gives you the flickering hope that this will be a new year. Maybe injuries and underperformance even drag the more talented teams in the league down close to Baltimore's level. The illusion kept itself going longer than usual this year, but here we are in July and I'm once again feeling like a chump.

Hooray baseball!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ernie Whitt, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #501

Here's another one from the "When the hell was he an Oriole?" files. The answer is 1991, of course. But not for too long. Ernie Whitt, known chiefly for the dozen years he spent behind the plate in Toronto, was 39 years old and at the end of the line when he made the O's roster as a third catcher behind rookie Chris Hoiles and Bob Melvin. But Ernie was a shell of the player who socked double-digit home runs for the Blue Jays in eight straight seasons (1982-1989). The veteran made only 70 plate appearances in 35 games over the season's first three months, putting up an underwhelming slash line of .242/.329/.274. He did not hit a single home run, and drove in just three runs. The Birds released him on July 5, bringing an end to his long career. On the plus side, he did throw out 6 of 17 would-be base stealers, a slightly above-average 35% rate. What more can you ask for from your 39-year-old third catcher than slightly above-average?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mickey Tettleton, 1990 Score Superstars #9

When I go to ballgames, I like to spot jerseys that are a little out of the ordinary. I saw some good ones yesterday. There was a black Orioles spring training jersey featuring former pitching coach Rick Kranitz's name and #39 on the back; I assume that the owner bought it game-used from the O's FanFest rummage sale. After all, that's where I got my Lou Montanez masterpiece. There was also somebody in a current-day black Orioles jersey with Joe Orsulak's name and #6. That's an interesting blend of past and present.

There were a surprising number of Tigers fans in attendance yesterday, and they also came dressed to the nines. One guy was wearing Miguel Cabrera's Team Venezuela #24 jersey from the World Baseball Classic. But the best was the gentleman I came across in a Mickey Tettleton #20 Detroit road jersey from the early 1990s. Whether it was intentional or not, his clothing choice was a clever tweak of longtime Baltimore fans who will never forget the Mick's 112 homers and .387 on-base percentage in the four years following his trade from the O's to the Tigers. It's a good thing the home team got the last laugh yesterday evening.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jim Palmer, 2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM-94

I would love to give you the blow-by-blow from tonight's absurd 8-6, 13-inning win by the Orioles. However, I've been home from the stadium for about an hour and my brain is still in a fairly gooey state. The palms of my hands are still raw and red from pounding them against each other, and my voice is hoarse. Just wild.

So here's a new card (with an old design) featuring Jim Palmer's trademark high leg kick, which was immortalized in statue form at a dedication ceremony nine hours ago. Orioles Magic, spanning the generations. I'm pretty certain that I'm typing gibberish. I'm going to stop now.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1956 Topps #100

This is such a cool card that I'm going to go beyond my usual format and show you the back of it as well. First things first: the condition of the card itself. As you can see, it's been bent, nicked, creased, folded, and just generally manhandled over the course of 56 years. But it still maintains its essence. It's a baseball card, just as it ever was. Rectangular cardboard, bright colors, small-but-legible type. You can't keep a good old baseball card down.

So, the front of the card. We've got a group portrait of the 1955 Orioles, who still had that new-team smell. Maybe "smell" is a poor word choice for a club that had a 57-97 record and was only spared the ignominy of the American League basement by their poorer Beltway cousins in Washington. But back to the matter at hand. We've got the fantastic original Orioles logo, with the grinning little bird perched atop a baseball bearing the team name, set in front of a pair of crossed bats. There's the rare sight of an O's team shot that lacks Brooks Robinson, who had just a cup of coffee in September at age 18. Though Brooksie is absent, three batboys are present - and acknowledged by Topps! I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume that "Batboy Diering" is the son of center fielder Chuck Diering, who at 32 could conceivably have a son of batboy age. Also getting in on the action is trainer Edward "Doc" Weidner, Jr., pictured at far right in the second row in the classic white outfit. His employment with Charm City's baseball teams spanned the 1915 through 1967 seasons. He came on board when Baltimore was still a minor league city, hosting rising stars like Lefty Grove and Max Bishop and veterans giving it one last try (Rube Marquard, Chief Bender, etc.). How's that for a bit of baseball history?

Flipping the card over, we've got a brief and garbled history of both the St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles American League franchise and Baltimore's overall pro baseball history. I appreciate the effort, anyhow. At the bottom of the card, there's a notation of the one sad, lonely A.L. pennant that the Browns won before heading east to Charm City in 1954. But the best thing about this card is the diagram of Memorial Stadium, complete with the original outfield dimensions...FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY feet to straightaway center field! That's not a baseball field, it's a deserted moonscape.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Topps #152

Hey, I found another card in my collection in need of some detective work! This one was surprisingly easy. Since Roberto Alomar joined the Orioles for the 1996 season, this photo was obviously taken that year. The White Sox played six games in Baltimore, and Robbie and Ray Durham each played in all of those games. Durham started four of them, and pinch ran for Harold Baines late in the game in the other two. There was not a play at second base in either pinch running appearance, and Ray did not reach base in three of his starts. That leaves only Saturday afternoon, June 8, 1996. In the top of the fifth inning, Durham led off against O's starter Kent Mercker and dunked a single in front of Brady Anderson in center field. But Frank Thomas followed with a grounder to B. J. Surhoff at third base, and Surhoff, Alomar, and Rafael Palmeiro turned the 5-4-3 double play.

But what did that mean in the larger context of the game? This was an unorthodox contest. The ChiSox charged out to the early lead, scoring a pair of first-inning runs as Frank Thomas, Lyle Mouton, and Danny Tartabull went single-double-triple(!) in succession. It looked like Mercker was laying another egg; he began the day with a horrific 6.70 ERA. However, he walked a tightrope for the next five innings, allowing seven more hits and a walk but keeping Chicago from increasing their lead. The visitors left eight men on base in the first six innings and stranded nine total.

Unfortunately, the Birds also faltered in the clutch.  Alomar drove in the only Baltimore run in the third inning with a two-out single off of James Baldwin. Brady Anderson, who doubled two batters earlier, came home to make it 2-1. But the Orioles marooned 10 runners, most notably coming up empty after loading the bases with nobody out in the sixth inning. Pale Hose reliever Matt Karchner struck out Surhoff and got both Gregg Zaun and Jeffrey Hammonds to pop out to shortstop Ozzie Guillen.

That's how the Orioles fell to the White Sox, 2-1, in a game featuring 20 total hits, 3 walks, and an error. Baldwin (who pitched for the O's in 2005) escaped with his sixth win in seven decisions, Roberto Hernandez earned his 18th save, and Mercker fell to 3-4. He would not win another game before being traded to the Indians on July 21 for returning hero Eddie Murray. I'd make that trade any day, especially since it allowed Eddie to hit his 500th career home run in Charm City and to participate in the team's first postseason games since Eddie, Cal Ripken, Jr., and the rest of the 1983 Orioles won the World Series.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Billy Ripken, 1988 Score Young Superstars 1 #20

Billy Rip! That's right, it's a Ripken Brothers doubleheader. On this date in 1987, Billy made his major league debut. His father, Cal Senior, was the first-year manager of the Orioles, and he made baseball history by writing the names of both of his sons into the starting lineup as the team's double play combo. Shortstop Cal Junior batted third, going 0-for-4 with a double play grounder, and second baseman Billy was 0-for-3 with a walk. The O's outhit the visiting Twins 8-5 but lost 2-1, as they failed to record an extra-base hit and went 1-for-8 overall with runners in scoring position. Frank Viola earned the complete game win, and Mike Griffin was saddled with a hard-luck complete game loss. Ron Washington gave the home team a third-inning lead with an RBI single, but Griffin was undone by a pair of solo home runs from Randy Bush and Gary Gaetti.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1987 Topps Glossy All-Stars #16

I guess I should've consulted the box score from the 1986 All-Star Game before scanning this card. That year's Midsummer Classic took place in the Houston Astrodome on July 15 and the American League eked out a 3-2 win. Cal Ripken, Jr. started at shortstop for the A.L. and nearly played the whole game, but went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts (Fernando Valenzuela and Mike Scott got him to whiff) before Tony Fernandez subbed in on defense in the bottom of the ninth. On the plus side, Cal played an errorless game with one assist. In other O's news from the game, Eddie Murray was selected to the team but did not play, as he had a balky hamstring. Reliever Don Aase bailed out the Yankees' Dave Righetti in the ninth, entering with one out and runners on the corners and coaxing a game-ending double play grounder off the bat of Chris Brown to earn the save. Despite Aase's heroics, American League starter Roger Clemens was voted the game's MVP. Something about three perfect innings, blah blah blah.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jay Gibbons, 2003 Fleer Showcase #3

There goes Jay Gibbons, stealing the thunder of the Home Run Derby by announcing his retirement. The 35-year-old former Oriole had split the first half of this season between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville in the Brewers organization. In 34 games with the Nashville Sounds, he hit just .204 with a .275 on-base percentage and a .439 slugging percentage. I've been following his post-Baltimore odyssey on this blog since I started doing my thing back in 2008. With Jay's retirement, he walks away as the 15th most prolific home run hitter in O's history, having totaled 121 of them in his 7 seasons with the team. Of course, Nick Markakis (112 HR) and Adam Jones (92) will likely pass him in the next calendar year, and so begins Gibbons' fade into that sepia-toned background.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scott McGregor, 1982 O-Pee-Chee #246

Let's try to forget that the Orioles failed to score a run for 22 consecutive innings heading into the All-Star Break. Most of the team will now have four days off, and when they resume play in Baltimore on Friday they will do so with a 45-40 record. The O's have cleared the first half as the second-place team in the monstrous American League East, and they're still fending off the Rays, Indians, Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Athletics for the second wild card spot. All of this was achieved with only 17 games played by Brian Roberts and 16 by Nolan Reimold, to say nothing of the broken hamate bone that has cost Nick Markakis the last 35 games.

As long as we're here, we'll take note of the bilingual cover boy, Scott McGregor. The southpaw was named to his only All-Star team in 1981 by virtue of a 6-2 record with a 3.15 ERA in the strike-shortened first half. The abbreviated schedule cost Scotty a shot at his second straight 20-win season; he won 7 of his 10 decisions after play resumed in August to finish 13-5 with a 3.26 ERA overall. In a normal 162-game season, he would have likely made a dozen additional starts.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Jim Palmer, 2012 Topps Archives Stickers #67S-JP

This card is so delightfully goofy that I am obligated to love and cherish it. It's an insert from Topps' new Archives set, and it pays homage to the floating-head stickers that the company released in 1967 on a trial basis for the Pirates and Red Sox. Of course, Jim Palmer's piercing blue eyes and vaguely spacey grin issuing forth from a disembodied head set against a blood red background may conjure up nightmares for some of you, but that's not my problem. Pleasant dreams!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Elrod Hendricks, 1969 Milton Bradley #NNO

Here's one of five game cards I received in a recent mailing from Randy, a fellow diehard Orioles fan. They came from the 1969 Milton Bradley baseball game, which you can see in more detail here. As the linked page explains, this was a more basic game than APBA or Strat-o-Matic. There were only 11 possible outcomes on each card, to be determined by a roll of the dice. There were 15 O's in the team set, and interestingly enough Mark Belanger (145 games played in 1968) and Jim Palmer (missed the entire season due to injury) were not among them. I'll also note that each of the five cards currently in my possession (in addition to Elrod Hendricks' smiling face, the others are Clay Dalrymple, Andy Etchebarren, Jim Hardin, and Dave Leonhard) features one home run result. Did anyone ever play this game (or the 1970 version) as a kid?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Benny Bautista, 1987 ProCards #1470

Here we see Benny Bautista posing for the Hagerstown Suns logo lookalike contest. He's the clubhouse favorite.

Did You Know? Benny's birth name is "Bienvenido". "Bienvenidos" is Spanish for "welcome".

Did You Also Know? Bautista is a native of the Dominican Republic. He made his pro debut at age 18 with the Bluefield Orioles in 1984, and stole 20 bases in 24 tries.

Did You Also Also Know? 1987 was his last year in baseball. He batted .208 and slugged just .255 for the Suns, and walked away with a career batting average of .234 and a slugging percentage of .277.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chris Tillman, 2010 Topps Allen and Ginter #166

I'm not sure what I expected from Chris Tillman's season debut with the Orioles today, but I can safely say that I wasn't anticipating a shutout bid into the ninth inning. The righthander, who is still only 24 years old, dominated the Mariners with 8.1 innings of 2-hit ball and might have had the complete game if he had a competent defense behind him. As it was, he set a career high in innings pitched and struck out seven batters while walking just a pair. The Birds have never seen such an efficient performance out of Tillman. While it's just one game, and it comes against a fairly anemic Seattle offense, he looked like the vaunted prospect that the O's acquired from the Mariners in the Erik Bedard trade. Not only did he hit 97 mph on the radar gun, but he maintained that velocity after he topped 100 pitches. That's the kind of thing that Baltimore needs. Welcome back, Chris.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dave Johnson, 1990 Leaf #434

One of my favorite things about baseball is all of that gooey human-interest junk. So I was happy to see that the Orioles called up Steve Johnson, son of Dave. Papa J. pitched for the O's from 1989 through 1991, and memorably tossed 4 complete games in his first 10 starts as a 29-year-old rookie for the "Why Not?" team. There are some parallels between the two generations. Both were born and raised in Baltimore rooting for the Birds, and both paid their dues in the minor leagues. Dave had a cup of coffee with the Pirates in 1987 (the year of his son's birth) but didn't get an extended look in the majors until his eighth pro season. Steve, who was drafted by the Dodgers out of St. Paul's High School in the 13th round of the 2005 draft, is poised to make his big league debut in his eighth season of pro ball. After scuffling in his first taste of AAA competition last year, the younger Johnson seemed to figure some things out in early 2012. He's put up a 2.73 ERA this season at Norfolk, with a 1.07 WHIP and 63 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. He's been even better since a shift to the bullpen for long relief, allowing a single earned run in 17 innings while striking out 24.

When Steve toes the rubber for the first time in an Orioles uniform, he and Dave will go down in the books as the sixth father and son combo in team history. The others are the Kennedys (Bob and Terry), the Bufords (Don and Damon), the O'Donoghues (John and John), the Mays (Dave and Derrick), and the Raineses (Tim, Sr. and Tim, Jr.). If you're keeping an eye out for the next family connection in Charm City, you could be waiting for a bit. 24-year-old Steven Bumbry is currently hitting .170 through his first 29 games at AA Bowie, and Ryan Ripken is expected to attend the University of South Carolina in the fall on an athletic scholarship. If brother duos are your thing, Zach Britton's 26-year-old brother Buck is hitting .283/.349/.428 with 28 RBI in 48 games with Bowie. There's also the Bundy brothers, although older sibling Bobby is taking his lumps with the Baysox (2-9, 4.79 ERA, 1.5 WHIP).

Monday, July 2, 2012

Adam Jones, 2009 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH31

With the Orioles starting July on a skid, it's the perfect time for a diversion...hey, look at that! The All-Star rosters were unveiled yesterday! For once, the O's have something to celebrate as the Midsummer Classic approaches. After years of obligatory "gotta pick somebody" selections like George Sherrill and Ty Wigginton, the 2012 club is sending THREE players to Kansas City next week: center fielder Adam Jones (.302 AVG, .902 OPS, 19 HR, 42 RBI), catcher Matt Wieters (.249/.331/.440, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 38% caught stealing rate), and closer Jim Johnson (1.30 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 23 SV). It's the second All-Star nod for both Jones and Wieters, and the first for Johnson. The last time the Birds had more than one guy on the squad was 2005, when Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, and B. J. Ryan all joined the party in Detroit. (That's just what this season needed: another parallel to the disastrous '05 campaign.)

But wait! There's (possibly) more! Starting pitcher Jason Hammel, who leads the O's staff with an 8-3 record, a 3.29 ERA, and 89 strikeouts in 93 innings, is one of five American League pitchers in the running for the Final Vote competition. With Japanese star Yu Darvish of the Rangers on the ballot, the odds seem to be stacked against Hammel, but if you want to show him your support, vote here. Even if Jason gets shut out, the Orioles will still have three times as many All-Stars as the Red Sox, and that's something right there.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sammy Sosa, 2005 Upper Deck #468

As I alluded to yesterday, the Orioles traded two low-level minor leaguers to the Phillies for designated hitter Jim Thome, who will turn 42 in late August. I'm going to silence the nagging voices in my head that are telling me that the last thing the O's need is another guy who can't play defense, because Jim Thome is one of the most delightful human beings currently playing baseball. He's just a big, gregarious slugger who always seems to have a smile on his face. Since making his major league debut with the Indians in September 1991, he's hit 609 home runs. The first time he clears the fence in an Orioles uniform, he will pass Sammy Sosa for sole possession of seventh place on the all-time list; that's just the icing on the cake.

Oh, and did I mention that he once dressed as Paul Bunyan for a ticket ad for the Twins?