Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Jim Brideweser, 1957 Topps #382

Jim Brideweser was one of the first men to play for both the Orioles and the Yankees. A World War II veteran, he wore pinstripes from 1951-1953, batting .327 in 49 at-bats spanning 51 games. He was traded to the O's in their 1954 debut season in Baltimore and batted .265 with very little power and a handful of walks in a career-high 204 at-bats. After being dealt to the White Sox (and then the Tigers) Jim played his final year in the majors back with the Birds in 1957. In 91 games, the infielder hit .268 with a .362 on-base percentage. He also hit his one and only career home run, a three-run shot off of Boston's Frank Sullivan, on May 24.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zach Britton, 2011 Topps Diamond #418

Zach Britton was nearly as brilliant today as this highly reflective card bearing his likeness. In the flesh, the young lefthander overcame some fitful early innings to earn the win as the Orioles beat the White Sox 5-3. Zach struck out a career-high 10 batters in 8 innings and walked none, and retired 18 of the last 20 men he faced. The O's are starting to get some mileage out of their rotation, and as a result are heading into New York just three games behind the Yankees for the American League East lead. The best-case scenario would have the Birds and Yanks tied atop the division on Labor Day. Yes, really.

Speaking of the holiday, I'm heading out of town for a long weekend with my girlfriend. I've scheduled a post for tomorrow, but I will go dark on Saturday and Sunday. It'll give you a chance to watch the O's take over Yankee Stadium or enjoy the companionship of friends and family or something. See you Monday night!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Frank Zupo, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #494

I'd like to take some time out from crowing about the Orioles' winning ways (I'll never get used to saying that) to wish a happy birthday to the late Frank Zupo, who was born 73 years ago in San Francisco. "Noodles" was a bonus baby whose entire major league career consisted of 16 games spread over three seasons with the O's. He collected 3 hits and a pair of walks in 20 plate appearances, and during his brief time in the bigs he did get the chance to catch for pitcher George Zuverink, forming the first all-Z battery in major league history. Frank's other claim to fame is his impressive unibrow, which puts even the legendarily woolly brow of Andy Etchebarren to shame.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adam Jones, 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen #85

My boss and I have a running joke about my status as a good-luck charm for the 2012 Orioles. He keeps urging me to go to every game, even when they're on the road. When I mentioned that I was actually attending tonight's game, he said that he wouldn't even have to watch on TV, because he already knew it was a win. He's certainly got more confidence than I do. I wasn't expecting the O's to knock Cy Young Award hopeful Chris Sale out of the game after four innings, and I didn't anticipate Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz collaborating on a two-hit shutout of the powerful White Sox. What's more, neither hit left the infield. The castoff tag team of Nate McLouth and Lew Ford were at it again; McLouth had three hits and a stolen base, and Ford hit another home run. Adam Jones got in on the fun, pushing a ball over the right field scoreboard to snap a 110-at-bat homerless streak. It was Adam's long-awaited 100th career home run, and his 25th of the season to tie a career high. Orioles 6, White Sox 0. My record at Oriole Park is 9-4, and the Birds' record is 71-57. They're 14 games above .500 for the first time in 7 years. If I'm dreaming, don't wake me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Randy Myers, 1997 Fleer #11

Look out, Randy Myers. Jim Johnson is coming. The Orioles closer is a major reason why the team has now won a club-record 13 straight games decided by a single run. Tonight he sealed a 4-3 comeback win over the Central-leading White Sox, earning his 40th save in 43 opportunities. Johnson now trails only Myers (who was 45-of-46 in the O's division-winning 1997 season) for the most saves in one year by an Oriole. The importance of a top closer is easy to overstate, but the 2012 Birds win most of their games by the thinnest of margins, and I can guarantee that they wouldn't be leading the Wild Card chase with Kevin Gregg taking the ball in the ninth inning. There are still four days left in August, and the Orioles have 70 wins. They haven't reached 70 over a full season since 2006, and haven't exceeded that total since 2005. They're even ahead of the pace of the "Why Not?" Orioles of 1989, who were 67-60 at this juncture. With losses by the Yankees and Rays tonight, Baltimore climbs back up to second place in the East, 3.5 games back of the Yankees. This is frighteningly real.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Frank Robinson, 2012 Topps Gold Standard #GS-39

In general, the design of this card leaves a lot to be desired. Gold foil was played out 15 years ago, and I hate cards that shunt the player photo off to one side to make room for needlessly expansive graphic elements. If you've got the "1,500 RBI CLUB" gold seal (which isn't half-bad, actually), why do you need the faded-out "1,500 RBI CLUB"word stamp taking up an entire quarter of the card directly below it? However, the saving grace of this card is the placement of the round gold seal. It looks as if Frank Robinson has just walloped the seal and sent it hurtling right toward your face. Duck!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nick Markakis, 2007 Upper Deck Future Stars #9

Last night Chris Davis became the first Oriole to hit three home runs in one game since Nick Markakis did it as a rookie on August 22, 2006. Sadly, I'm fresh out of Davis cards, so Nick will have to do.

I was fortunate to be in attendance for last night's power display by Davis, as I took my girlfriend Janet to her first O's game in several years. Before the first pitch, the team observed a moment of silence for Mike Flanagan, who tragically took his own life one year ago to the day. In contrast, the Birds later wished Cal Ripken, Jr. a happy 52nd birthday via a scoreboard message.

Before Chris Davis began swinging for the fences, young lefty Zach Britton got the game started the right way by retiring the Blue Jays in order in the first inning. It was a nice contrast to the last Friday night start by Britton in Camden Yards, when he surrendered four runs to Oakland on July 27. Zach had an excellent night on this occasion, allowing just two runs on four hits and two walks in six and two-thirds innings with six strikeouts to earn his third win of the season.

Davis led off the bottom of the second inning with the Orioles trailing 1-0. I was in the process of explaining to Janet that he was notorious for his prodigious power and his penchant for striking out. I said something to the effect of "Once every four at-bats he'll crush the hell out of the ball, but the other three times -", but I was interrupted by the crack of the bat. I looked up to see Toronto pitcher Carlos Villanueva's first offering to Chris already soaring through the air, bound for Eutaw Street. Tie game. Way to shut me up, Crush.

It looked like Villanueva had calmed down after Davis introduced himself; he set down the next eight batters in a row. Of course, that brought things back around to the O's designated hitter. With two outs in the home half of the fourth, Chris toyed with his opponent a bit, working a 2-2 count before serving one up into the right field bleachers to give the Birds a 2-1 lead. It was his 22nd round-tripper of the year, a new personal best.

Nearing 100 pitches on the night, Villanueva started to tire in the sixth inning. Back-to-back hits by Nate McLouth and Adam Jones and a shallow sac fly by Matt Wieters bumped the Baltimore lead to two runs. With Jones on second base and Davis due up, Jays manager John Farrell didn't give Chris another chance to take the starter deep. He called on righty reliever Steve Delabar, who had allowed one home run to lefty batters all season. Whoops. With a seemingly effortless flick of the wrists, Davis drove Delabar's second pitch to the opposite field. I laughed incredulously as the ball sailed over the head of left fielder Rajai Davis and into the seats for a two-run homer. I was on my feet with the rest of the 25,754 in attendance at Oriole Park; we roared our approval as Chris poked his head back out of the dugout for a curtain call.

Thanks to a small rally in the seventh that pushed across a sixth Oriole run, Chris Davis batted second in the bottom of the eighth with a chance to make history. Though he struck out swinging, we gave him one last standing ovation for his great effort. He became the 19th player in O's history to homer thrice in one game, and secured an even rarer achievement. Thanks to his successful two-inning relief stint in Boston on May 6, Chris is now the fourth major leaguer ever to earn a pitching win and hit three home runs in one game all in one season. Of course, two of the others were pitchers, and the third was Babe Ruth, who had been a regular pitcher years before turning the trick in 1930. I guess Chris Davis likes operating on a difficulty curve.

As a final footnote, I've already been to 12 O's games in 2012. With last night's outburst, I have now seen Chris Davis hit 8 of his 15 home runs at Camden Yards! Maybe I'm a good luck charm.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jeff Manto, 1996 Fleer Tiffany #14

There's always room for more Jeff Manto talk on my blog, especially on the occasion of his 48th birthday. You might remember him as the journeyman who stepped into the O's lineup in 1995 to slug .492 with 17 home runs in 89 games, posting a solid 108 OPS+. The important thing is that he acted as a band-aid for the third base position, starting 60 of the team's 144 games in that strike-shortened season. Leo Gomez (83 OPS+) had 36 starts at the hot corner, and Jeff Huson (64 OPS+) was penciled in 24 times. Bobby Bonilla also made 24 starts at third after joining the team in late July, but was used more frequently in right field (37 GS).

These days, Manto is working as the White Sox hitting coach, having joined the surprising American League Central leaders last offseason. Under Jeff's watch, the Pale Hose are in the middle of the pack offensively, but trail only the Yankees with 164 total home runs. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is having a career year at age 35, and designated hitter Adam Dunn and right fielder Alex Rios have also bounced back significantly from terrible 2011 performances.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

David Segui, 2003 Upper Deck #320

Nine years ago, I sat wearily in the left field upper reserve at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was the sixteenth inning of an Orioles-Phillies futility-fest, and David Segui faced Dan Plesac with the bases empty, two out, and the score tied 1-1, as it had been since the top of the third. Friday evening had given way to Saturday morning, and in my exhaustion and frustration I bellowed a mock-threat to the Orioles' injury-prone designated hitter, implying that I might kidnap his children if he failed to end the stalemate. Instead he foul-tipped a 2-2 offering into the waiting glove of Philly catcher Mike Lieberthal, and the visitors pulled it out in the seventeenth by way of Jason Bleeping Michaels' three-run homer off of Omar Daal. I will never forget the parties involved so long as I draw breath.

Because the world is (sometimes) small and (always) funny, and because it's only natural that we rely on previously-established connections to help us on our path in life, one of David Segui's offspring is now a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization. According to The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, the O's signed 20-year-old infielder Cory Segui as an undrafted free agent. He played at the junior college level this past spring for the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes and worked out with his father's ex-teammate Brady Anderson. Connolly also reports that Cory's roommate at SCC was infielder James Boddicker, whose father Mike won 79 games as an Oriole in the 1980s. The younger Segui is making his pro debut for the Gulf Coast League O's today.

The capper to this story is David Segui's self-aware quote regarding his son's lack of a signing bonus: "I figured Peter (Angelos) paid me enough, that's Cory's signing bonus right now. When I die, he's going to get some of it." David's candor is refreshing, even if it doesn't quite make up for the fact that he earned $145,077.72 per game played in his career-capping run with the Birds in 2001-2004.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brooks Robinson, 2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #148

I know that several of my readers have been rooting for the Orioles longer than I've been alive, so I'll pose a question: can you believe that it's been 35 years since Brooks Robinson retired?

On this date in 1977, Brooksie made room on the roster for Rick Dempsey (who had been sidelined with a broken finger) by announcing that his legendary 23-year career was over. The longtime O's third baseman was certainly one of those players that wrung every last drop of baseball ability out of his body, as he had appeared in only 24 games in his final season, including 15 starts. He batted just .149 (7-for-47) with a .212 on-base percentage and .255 slugging.

Even his final game appearance was underwhelming. In the bottom of the ninth inning on a Saturday evening in Baltimore (August 13 to be exact), he was announced to pinch-hit for Al Bumbry. There were two outs, and the Birds were trailing Oakland 9-6 with Lee May standing on second after hitting a double. But A's manager Bobby Winkles replaced lefty pitcher Bob Lacey with righty Doug Bair, and Earl Weaver countered by sending Tony Muser to the plate instead of Robinson. Muser struck out to end the game.

Nevertheless, Brooks had given the fans of Charm City plenty to cheer about in more than two decades in orange and black, and they got one last chance to salute their hero with "Thanks Brooks" day, a celebration coinciding with a Sunday, September 18 game.

Monday, August 20, 2012

B.J. Surhoff, 1999 Skybox Thunder #16

Copied verbatim from the back of this card:

"Give him a chance, and Surhoff will set it off. Yeah, everybody knows...you're always kickin' it with the O's."

That's...that's just beautiful. I think I need a moment.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Adam Jones, 2011 Topps Chrome #83

I'm running out of ways to describe the surreal delightfulness of the 2012 Orioles. Banished to the minors after getting creamed one time too many, Zach Britton makes a handful of underwhelming starts, gets tabbed for a Saturday night start against powerful Tigers team, and tosses seven shutout innings. Chris Davis breaks a scoreless stalemate with a three-run homer in the top of the eighth. Jim Johnson continues a strong season with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 36th save, slamming the door on yet another one-run win. Today, Wei-Yin Chen is bombarded in a five-run first inning, and the O's immediately strike back with four in their next at-bat, sparked by another Davis homer. In the fourth inning, the club finishes their comeback with a two-out, three-run rally, courtesy of a triple by Nate McLouth (inexplicably batting third in the order) and a single by Adam Jones. The Birds are clinging to their 7-5 lead in the middle of the sixth now, with Chen having salvaged his day by blanking Detroit after their opening outburst. Buckle up, folks. The Orioles might just be winning a road series against one of their chief rivals for a Wild Card slot.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Marty Cordova, 2002 Fleer EX #68

In 2002, baseball card companies had some real flops in the name of futuristic card design. Consider this messy collage of foil stamping, semi-transparent glittery plastic stock, and an embossed splatter pattern. One decade later, we've got all sorts of futuristic touches in baseball: high-definition full-color video scoreboards at the ballpark, MLB games that can be streamed to your cell phone, a second wild card, and the list goes on. Yet we've barely got any instant replay, which could easily correct the most egregious umpiring errors in a manner of minutes. The O's are on a brief two-game losing streak, thanks in large part to some irritatingly poor work by the men in blue. In just last night's 6-3 defeat in Detroit, the Orioles had a run taken away from them in the first inning on a blown call, and then had a correct call on a play at first base overturned by home plate umpire Tim Timmons, who had a poor vantage point. That mistake was compounded by the hair-trigger ejection of Mark Reynolds, depriving the Birds of their hottest hitter in a close game. Buck Showalter was of course also booted from the game in an ensuing argument. When you read headlines like the ones from last night's fiasco, you start thinking that Bud Selig should skip instant replay altogether and go all-out futuristic: robot umpires, anyone?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Wally Bunker, 1965 Topps #290

Wally Bunker truly earned his ornate 1964 All-Star Rookie trophy, by way of his excellent age-19 season: 19-5 (a league-best .792 winning percentage), a 2.69 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. He was the ace on an Orioles staff that made a surprising run at the American League pennant, finishing a couple games short with 97 wins overall.

I'm sure Wally felt a great sense of accomplishment for dominating major league competition as a teenager. Similarly, I'm going to take a victory lap because I just finished a project that took nearly five years. My good card-collecting friend Max (a.k.a. jacobmrley) obtained the final four cards that I needed for my 1965 Topps set, and the package arrived in the mail this afternoon. I'll be posting blog entries for those cards in the next week or two, but if you're curious, the previously-elusive quartet are: Mickey Mantle, the Clay Carroll/Phil Niekro Braves Rookies card, the Athletics Rookies featuring Catfish Hunter, and the Red Sox Rookies featuring Jim Lonborg. I launched The Great 1965 Topps Project in November 2007, taking a shot in the dark at completing a decades-old 598-card set entirely through trades and donations with fellow Internet-dwelling collectors. I was astounded time and again over the past several years by the generosity of the folks I connected with through my blog. Many of you asked for little to no return from the cards you sent, and I feel like I'll never be able to repay your largesse. But I do look forward to trying! For now, I'm just going to savor the completion of a vintage card set that was released 17 years before I was born. Thanks to Max, Ed, Bob, Dave, Don, Jamie, and anyone else I've overlooked - I'll compile a full list of my contributors when I wrap up the set on my other blog. You are all good people.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jim Palmer, 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen #7

Tonight the Orioles lost a clunker of a game from the sound of it; thankfully, I had other plans. But my Twitter timeline tells me that Jim Palmer at least was in rare form. He spent much of the evening roasting home plate umpire Laz Diaz over his Post-It Note-sized strike zone. Even better, when Boston starter Clay Buchholz hit Adam Jones with a pitch, Palmer not-so-subtly suggested that Dustin Pedroia or David Ortiz should be expecting a fastball to the Achilles in the near future. Jim Palmer may be 66 years old, but he's still throwing smoke.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mark Reynolds, 2011 Topps Heritage #36

Last night, I posted a Mark Reynolds card and made a passing mention of my hope that he would heat up and hit a few home runs in the Boston series. Within a few hours of publishing, I had witnessed a two-homer, four-RBI performance by the man known to some locals as "The Sheriff of Swattingham". The O's drew first blood against the Red Sox, winning 7-1. I had the urge to dabble in clairvoyance again this evening, but instead I think I'll quit while I'm ahead. Of course, if Mark wanted to muscle up once more...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mark Reynolds, 2012 Bowman Gold #52

This card showed up in a package that just arrived from across the Atlantic Ocean, courtesy of Jack Plumstead of The Pursuit of 80's(ness). We haven't traded in a few years, so it was nice to hear from him...even if I do hope that my Orioles trounce his Red Sox in the three-game series that just got underway an hour ago. It would be especially nice if Mark Reynolds could reverse his near-season-long struggles and crank out a few home runs against Boston pitching. Although this photo appears to have been taken at a Grapefruit League game in Sarasota, it's nice to see an Esskay sign making its blurry presence felt in the background. As a true O's fan, naturally I buy only Esskay chicken and pork franks. Whenever I check the receipt from the Food Lion, I always get a chuckle: the shorthand from the scanner reads "Oriole Meat Franks". I choose to believe that no Baltimore Orioles have been harmed in the production of my wieners, but if they have, they are quite delicious.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jeff Ballard, 1989 Donruss #495

I haven't done a birthday post in a while, and I found myself saying, "Self, if you don't wish Jeff Ballard a happy 49th birthday, who will?". Then I was a bit staggered by the realization that Jeff Ballard is 49. Then I remembered that Jamie Moyer is also 49, and has thrown 3,073 big league innings and another 32 in the minors since Ballard last pitched in 1994. I also took note of Cory Doyne, who turns 31 today and pitched in 5 games for the 2007 O's, with disastrous results in a pair of those outings. Sadly, I've already featured Cory's superbly goony rookie card on this blog. Sometimes I think I should have shut this thing down in January 2011, because I'll never post a more sublime piece of cardboard than that one.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nick Markakis, 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars #81

Despite the horrors of last night's seven-hour, rain-delayed evening at Camden Yards, the Orioles salvaged a split of their four-game series with the Royals with a 5-3 win this afternoon. The O's are still contenders in mid-August, due in large part to the contributions of their new leadoff hitter Nick Markakis. The right fielder homered and doubled today, giving him a slash line of .336/.378/.519 since he assumed the top spot in the batting order on July 13. With 47 games left in the season, the Orioles have 62 wins. They haven't even reached 70 victories over a full season since 2006. It's a different year, all right.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Eddie Murray, 1984 Ralston Purina #1

It's a weekend jam-packed with Orioles baseball for me. Last night I was on hand for Manny Machado's first two major league home runs and his first curtain call, as the O's whomped the Royals 7-1. Poor overlooked Miguel Gonzalez earned his fourth win with a career-high eight innings of six-hit, one-run ball. I don't know what the team can do for an encore this evening, but the unveiling of Eddie Murray's Orioles Legends statue in the center field picnic area is something worthwhile. I'd also like to see the Birds get back to 10 games above .500 for the first time since June 24, of course. This is my first chance to see the "new and improved" Chris Tillman, so fingers crossed that he's on his game.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Jim Busby, 1958 Topps #28

On this date 55 years ago, Orioles center fielder Jim Busby had a rough day. It was August 10, 1957, a Saturday, and the O's were hosting the powerhouse Yankees (70-38) at Memorial Stadium. Facing former Baltimore hurler "Bullet" Bob Turley, Busby went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. From his spot in the lush green outfield grass, Jim also had a close-up view of Mickey Mantle's first-inning home run as it sailed over his head and clear over the center field hedge at Memorial Stadium. The Mick's two-run blast traveled 460 feet in all, and it was the first ball to overtake that hedge. Mantle victimized Birds starter Ray Moore, who was hung with a loss after giving up five runs on six hits and three walks in just three innings. Turley fell one out short of a complete game, allowing three runs (two earned) in a 6-3 Yankee victory. Baltimore native Tommy Byrne earned the save for New York.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Manny Alexander, 1994 Bowman #215

Manny's coming!

No, no THAT Manny. Sorry, that was mean, but I've already used the only Manny Machado card in my collection. It's shameful that I've been caught short-handed on the day the O's top position prospect and 2010 first-round draft pick makes his big league debut, but this really was an ambush. The kid just turned 20 a month ago and I'm too burned out on the current-day Bowman and Topp$ cards to have amassed a stockpile of Mannybilia. So if you haven't gouged your eyes out due to the Manny Alexander ambush, remember this: after he left rookie-level Bluefield, the putative heir apparent to Cal Ripken, Jr. never had an OPS above .651 in the O's farm system. As one of the youngest players in AA, Machado just put up a .789 OPS with Bowie. I still feel like he's being rushed to the big leagues, but he doesn't have to be great right away. He just has to slide over to third base and be better than Wilson Betemit and Robert Andino. That's not a very tall order, you know. So bring on the Manny Machado Era, in a matter of speaking.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dave Johnson, 1991 Topps #163

August 8, 1989. That's the day that 29-year-old Dave Johnson, summoned from AAA Rochester as a fill-in starter a week earlier, realized several firsts in his career: First start in Memorial Stadium, in his hometown of Baltimore. First major league complete game. First major league win. The righthander scattered eight hits and four walks and came out on top in a 6-1 Orioles win over Rick Aguilera and the Twins. Johnson struck out only three batters, but he did induce double-play grounders against Kirby Puckett and Brian Harper, as those two formidable Minnesota batters took a combined 0-for-8 collar. The Twins were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, whereas the opportunistic Birds went 3-for-7. The crucial win improved the O's to 58-53 and helped them maintain a two-game lead over second-place Toronto in the tightly packed American League East.

In a delicious bit of cosmic alignment, Dave's son Steve is being called upon as the Orioles' emergency starter tonight at Camden Yards. Though he debuted in Baltimore with a two-inning relief outing on July 15, the 24-year-old rookie will be making his first big league start in Charm City against Kevin Millwood and the Mariners. His promotion was necessitated by last night's marathon 14-inning win, the 12th straight in extra frames for the absurdly resilient and fortunate O's. Tonight's scheduled starter Tommy Hunter was not used, but did warm up in the 14th in the likely event that he'd be needed. That's how we've arrived at a landmark moment for Steve Johnson, whose hometown team looks to keep pace in the tightly-packed American League wild card race after pulling into a three-way tie with the Athletics and Angels early this morning.

I've given up worrying about the return to Earth. It may still come. But with every weird bounce of the ball, every heroic play by a replacement-level guy, every nail-biting and run-differential-confounding win, this season gets funnier and more delightful. I'm trying not to lose sight of that. All that I can do is laugh.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Earl Weaver, 1987 Topps #568

I've spent some time in thrift stores in my day, and I've even found some secondhand articles of clothing that I came to treasure, like an old paper-thin "Maryland Is for Crabs" ringer tee. But never have I found a genuine game-worn Earl Weaver jersey. Some lucky bastige named Ben Aguirre not only spotted one of Earl's 1977 home whites in a Bay Area thrift store (complete with the telltale breast pocket for his pack of smokes), but took it home for $3. As if that weren't enough, Ben also got his mitts on Mike Torrez' 1975 home jersey at the same price! The Orioles' legendary manager was back in Baltimore this past weekend for the National Sports Collectors Convention, so our charmed bargain hunter was able to meet Weaver and get him to sign the uniform top. Follow the link up above to read more about this incredible story, including a great quote from Earl. If you need me, I'll be at the thrift store.

Chris Tillman, 2009 Tristar Obak #27

A year ago, I never would have thought that Chris Tillman would be the only one of the Orioles' young pitchers thriving in Baltimore. Tonight he dominated the Mariners for the second time this summer, carrying a shutout into the eighth inning and ultimately allowing a single run on five hits in seven and a third innings. Orioles 3, Mariners 1, and Chris is 5-1 on the season. The O's are 58-51; I still feel like I'd be happy with an 82 or 83 win season, but the notion that the team is within an eyelash of a playoff spot after two-thirds of the season is endlessly delightful. I'm ready to see where things go in the next two months.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Frank Robinson, 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Gold Framed Paper #255

On the occasion of my 30th birthday, I felt compelled to feature Frank Robinson, who was dismissed by his previous employers in Cincinnati as "not a young thirty" when they dealt him to the Orioles in December 1965. Indeed, all that he had left in the tank was a Triple Crown, a second MVP award, a half-dozen more All-Star selections, 262 home runs, 803 RBI, and a 160 OPS+. I don't know if my thirties will bring the same successes that Robby experienced, but I can't complain about the way the next decade of my life has started. While I was celebrating with my family over burgers and ice cream cake this afternoon, the O's eked out their 11th straight extra inning win, outlasting David Price and the Rays 1-0 on Taylor Teagarden's 10th-inning RBI double. For my birthday, the Birds have given me meaningful August baseball for the first time in my adulthood. They went 4-2 on a road swing through New York and Tampa, and are just a game out of both wild card slots. With a homestand against last-place Kansas City and Seattle clubs, as well as a still-scuffling Boston team, this would be a good week to get hot. And because I'm still keeping score, the Orioles are now 32-22 all-time on August 5, including a 19-10 mark in my lifetime.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1996 Pinnacle #196

I have a few hundred Cal Ripken, Jr. cards in my collection, but I'm reasonably certain that this is the only one that depicts him gazing lovingly at the barrel of his bat.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Brooks Robinson, 1962 Post #29

I just got home about an hour ago and I need to do my best impression of a corpse in order to recharge my batteries for the weekend's birthday festivities. I'll just do a miniature show and tell from my six-hour spree at the National this afternoon. I only bought cards from two dealers, but I got my money's worth. The first half of my day was spent scouring the 90% off table manned by Danny Phillips of Phillips Vintage Sports Cards. I got a ton of high number cards for my 1959 and 1972 sets and a great bunch of discounted vintage stars as well. One such card was the Brooks Robinson specimen you see above, which was expertly clipped from the back of a cereal box 50 years ago. It's odd that the Post copy writer refers to Brooksie's "addition" in 1960, considering that he started 206 games over the two seasons previous. Eh, what do you want from a box of raisin bran, right?

The most expensive card I picked up for myself was a 1933 Goudey featuring Indians outfielder and Hall of Famer Earl Averill. It cost me $17.50, and it was only that heavily discounted because it looks like it's spent the past 80 years residing in someone's hip pocket. Still, I was thrilled to find a single card from that iconic set that wasn't marred by a young collector's ink or pencil scribbles. It is now the oldest piece of my collection, superseding the runners-up by a good 15 years. I guess it's just a matter of time before I talk myself into obtaining a tobacco card. I also happened to run into reader and fellow collector Greg Armentrout, also known as GCA. It was great to put another face with a name.
The latter half of my visit was spent at one dealer's dime box. Sadly I didn't get his name, even though I realized I'd also done business with him at the Philly Card Show. He and his young son (presumably) were impressed that I managed to find 400 cards I was interested in buying from that box, but I've got a lot of 1970s Topps sets that are 40-50% complete, and this dealer was stocked up on commons from that era.

Funnily, it dawned on me as I was leaving the Baltimore Convention Center that I had chosen to mark my 30th birthday by buying a whole mess of cardboard that was older than me; the most recent card in my bag was from 1981. That seemed fitting.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Felix Pie, 2010 Topps National Chicle #134

It's time to kick off my birthday weekend in style. I'll be turning thirty on Sunday, which is a poorly-kept secret; I've spent most of the past year worrying over it. But now that the end of my twenties is upon me at last, I'm less concerned. Maybe it's because I'm more comfortable in my own skin, or maybe it's because I've marked this personal milestone by packing the next few days with the things I love: family, friends, good food and drink, and of course, baseball cards.

The mysterious forces that govern my hobby have seen fit to hold the National Sports Collectors Convention here in Baltimore for the second time in three years. Having learned my lesson from 2010, I took a full day off from work tomorrow so that I may spend as much time as I see fit browsing and shopping for a proper birthday gift for myself. Given that this convention is kind of a big deal, I fully expect at least a few readers of my small-time blog to be there as well. If you want to say hello, just shoot me an email (brotz13 at gmail dot com) and we can swap information. Alternately, you can just look for the skinny bearded guy in the orange "PIE 18" jersey tee. I'll probably be standing in front of a dime box and throwing fistfuls of cash at the dealer. Can you think of a better way to celebrate one of the signposts of adulthood?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Freddie Bynum, 2007 Upper Deck #566

I love it when minor league veterans and forgotten major leaguers make contributions to the Orioles. One of the newest members of the 2012 O's is a real doozy in that regard. Lew Ford started his third consecutive game in left field last night, doubling and scoring a run. What's the big deal? Lew is a few weeks shy of his 36th birthday, and that double was his first major league hit since September 21, 2007. That's 1,774 days between hits for the former Twins fan favorite, who peaked with a .299/.381/.446 line, 15 homers, and 20 steals in 2004. In the five years in between, Lew played in Japan and Mexico, and for the Long Island Ducks. The Birds snapped him up earlier this season for organizational depth, and he responded by hitting .331/.390/.550 in 62 games at AAA Norfolk to earn a promotion back to the bigs.

To offer a little perspective on how long it's been since 2007: I hadn't started this blog yet. Three players from the '07 Orioles are still with the team: Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, and Jim Johnson. Take a look at the O's box score from September 21, 2007, a 3-2 loss to the Rangers. Victor Santos and Rob Bell pitched, Tike Redman and Freddie Bynum shared center field duties, Brandon Fahey was replaced in left field by Luis Hernandez, and Gustavo Molina and Paul Bako combined to give Ramon Hernandez a day off from catching. Ugh. Even having lived through it, I sometimes forget just how bleak and pathetic the Orioles rosters were throughout the 2000s, especially once September hit.

As incredible and laughable as Lew Ford, Starting Left Fielder might seem in 2012, it's got nothing on Luis Hernandez and Freddie Bynum sharing real estate with poor Nick Markakis.