Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paul Blair, 2004 Fleer Greats #41

Welcome back to the blog! Sorry to leave you dangling for the past week, but everybody's routines are interrupted during the holidays, hopefully more to the good than the bad. I had an exhausting but enjoyable trip to Charlotte with the wife and our dog to celebrate Christmas with my in-laws. Now, in the final entry for 2013, I'd like to wish the happiest of New Years to you readers and to those you hold dear. May it bring peace and joy and prosperity to us all.

Before we turn the page on 2013, let's take a moment to remember the members of the Oriole family who left us over the past 365 days, including Paul Blair, the eight-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder and two-time All-Star who passed away at age 69 last Thursday after collapsing at a Pikesville bowling alley. Blair had called Baltimore his home since spending 13 of his 17 big league seasons in an O's uniform. Some other recently departed:

-Hall of Fame Manager Earl Weaver, 82, heart attack on January 19.

-Catcher and first baseman Earl Williams, 64, acute myeloid leukemia on January 28.

-Pitcher and Mount St. Joseph's grad Lou Sleater, 86, lung disease on March 25.

-Catcher Gus Triandos, 82, died in his sleep on March 28.

-Pitcher Bob Turley, 82, liver cancer on March 30.

-Infielder Grady Hatton, 90, natural causes on April 11.

-Outfielder Drungo LaRue Hazewood, 53, ampullary cancer on July 28.

-Pitcher Jack Harshman, 86, unknown causes on August 17.

-Pitcher Babe Birrer, 84 or 85 (sources vary), unknown causes on November 19.

-Pitcher George Werley, 75, unknown causes on November 21.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rafael Palmeiro, 2004 Upper Deck Power Up #22

It's Christmas Eve, so I'll pass along a quick link and get back to my family. If you've got some free time over the weekend, read Oriole fan Tom Scocca's essay about Rafael Palmeiro and his slim Hall of Fame chances. It's been eight years since Raffy flunked his steroid test and disappeared from baseball in a near-instant. I still haven't come any closer to making sense of the entire situation.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jeff Ballard, 1990 Leaf #118

The benefits of this pitching delivery are twofold: 1) By hiding the ball, Jeff Ballard created deception and left the batter guessing as to his pitching grip; and 2) if his left ankle ever started itching in the middle of his windup, he could surreptitiously scratch it without balking.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Luke Scott, 2008 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL13

Okay, it was a rough week on the Orioles' Hot Stove. Brian Roberts jumped ship for the Yankees, heartthrob/lefty-killer Danny Valencia was traded to the Royals for David Lough (pronounced "low", as in low walk totals and low power numbers), and a promising free-agent deal with closer Grant Balfour was scotched due to an apparent red flag on his physical, leading to Balfour loudly trashing the O's in protest. But the Birds still had a better week than their former left fielder/designated hitter Luke Scott, who settled for a one-year contract with the SK Wyverns, a South Korean ballclub. His contract was $250,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus, which still puts him well below the MLB minimum. If a 35-year-old, injury-prone gun nut with a reputation for running his mouth can't get a good deal in this free agent market, what chance does any player have?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Clay Dalrymple, 1969 Topps #151

Oh, the undeniable cruelty of the capless zoomed portrait of the balding gentleman ballplayer.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

John Stephens, 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man #220

After several days of haggling, the Orioles have their new closer. Yesterday the team agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract with Grant Balfour, a righthanded soon-to-be 36-year-old who spent the last three seasons in the Oakland bullpen. I think he'll be a capable replacement for Jim Johnson. While he's five and a half years older than Johnson, and a bit more homer-prone, he's also cheaper (Jim's arbitration-eligible and expected to fetch more than $10 million for 2014) and much more of a strikeout pitcher. It's always good to have guys with swing-and-miss stuff; while Johnson's sinker can produce ground balls, bad things can happen when those grounders find holes. We saw that last year.

Of trivial interest: Balfour was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. That makes him one of just 28 Aussies to play in the major leagues, and he'll be the third to suit up for the O's. Naturally the Birds will hope for much better results from him than they got from the others, a pair of fellow pitchers. John Stephens was a soft-tosser who couldn't replicate his minor-league success in a 12-game audition in Baltimore (2-5, 6.09 ERA in 2002). Damian Moss had a strong rookie season with the 2002 Braves before being dealt twice in eight months: in December 2002 he was sent to San Francisco in a package for Russ Ortiz, and the following July the Giants swapped him and a couple other young arms to the Orioles for the great (as in immense) Sidney Ponson. Moss lost five of his six decisions with the O's, walking 29 while striking out only 22, and putting up a 6.22 ERA and 1.8 WHIP. He moved on to Tampa Bay in 2004, was even worse in his five games there, and that was that. It's always so cheerful when we get to bring up the recent past on this blog, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brian Roberts, 2007 Bowman Heritage #11

It would be disingenuous of me to say that I'm heartbroken over the news that Brian Roberts has signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Yankees. But I am certainly bummed out. I'd already made peace with the high probability that the veteran second baseman and the Orioles would be parting ways; I think both sides are in need of a clean break and a fresh start. The O's needed to stop penciling him in at second base, knowing that another knock on the head or muscle pull would once again leave them casting their lot with a minor league free agent or major league washout at the keystone position. Roberts could do without the weight of the unfulfilled expectations from the four-year, $40 million contract extension that just lapsed. But...it just HAD to be the Yankees, didn't it? The guys in pinstripes still know how to twist the knife.

Brian Roberts has been my favorite Oriole for the past decade, but his roots in the Baltimore organization go even deeper. He was drafted by the team in 1999, which seems like ages ago: Ray Miller was the manager, Frank Wren the general manager, and Will Clark the starting first baseman. Within two years, the undersized infielder was in the major leagues, playing alongside graying Birds greats Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson. He spent his peak seasons (2004-2009) toiling in relative obscurity for bad, overmatched clubs. During said peak, he averaged .290/.365/.438 (111 OPS+) with 101 runs scored, 46 doubles, 12 homers, 62 RBI, and 35 steals per season. Roberts was a two-time All-Star who had a good case for two more. Through his entire pro baseball career, from the 1999 Delmarva Shorebirds (featuring Tim Raines, Jr. and Ntema Ndungidi!) on through to the 2011 Orioles (featuring Chris Jakubauskas and the ghost of Vlad Guerrero!), he never played for a team that broke even, much less entertained hopes of postseason play...unless you count the 2003 Ottawa Lynx, for whom he played 44 early-season games before joining the O's for good. And when Baltimore finally became reacquainted with winning baseball and meaningful October games in that magical 2012 season, Brian wasn't around to enjoy it. His myriad injuries limited him to 17 substandard games in midseason. He was reduced to spectator and cheerleader for Baltimore's thrilling six-game postseason run, a spectre in a black stocking cap perched on the dugout bench.

After all of that, Roberts finally got healthy enough to cobble together an ersatz farewell tour in the last half of the 2013 season. He wasn't up to his former high standards of play, but after three and a half years of commiserating with my favorite player's disabled list torment, it was a thrill and a relief to watch and take note of every nimble catch and pivot in the field. The dozen doubles and eight home runs he hit in his 77-game swan song may as well have been 70 and 50. I even appreciated the lengthy at-bats that might have ended in outs, but worked the opponent's pitch count in a way that so many of Roberts' younger and more robust teammates couldn't seem to master. It was apparent for much of 2013 that the Orioles were not leading the same charmed existence of 2012, and yet they clung to their playoff hopes deep into September before the door slammed shut on them. Brian Roberts would still not get to taste the champagne.

So after all of these years, all of the hits and stolen bases and runs and defensive stops, and the frustration of all of the injuries, and the heartening comeback...after all of the charitable efforts that Brian undertook in the community...after witnessing his rise and fall at the highest level of his sport, and his development into a devoted husband and father...I don't begrudge Brian Roberts any successes he might have in 2014, and I will still root for him on a personal level. But the possibility of seeing his struggles culminate in postseason success in the Bronx is too much for me to contemplate.

Thank you for everything, Brian. Do good, and be well, and know that you made a difference here in numerous ways.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wilson Betemit, 2012 Topps Blue #538

Wilson Betemit: He came, he hit pretty okay, he fielded terribly, he got hurt, he got hurt again, he left.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, 2012 Bowman Top Picks #TP-BG

Here's a doozy of a card that Max just sent my way (note to self: get your butt to the post office this week!), with a pair of reminders that the Orioles still have hopes for a competitive future despite their timidity in free agency. Both Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman have already had their first tastes of the major leagues, and with the proper sacrifices to the baseball gods, there should be better times ahead. As long as the O's don't wind up earning too many more top-five draft picks in the coming years, I'll be happy.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Miguel Tejada, 2004 Fleer Classic Clippings #54

The back of this card features a box score from June 19, 2003, when Miguel Tejada had his first-ever five-hit game in a 9-2 Oakland win over the Rangers. What struck me was the fact that four of the nine players in the Athletics' starting lineup played for the Orioles at one time or another. Besides Miggi, the A's also started Eric Byrnes, Ramon Hernandez, and Chris Singleton. The quartet combined for 10 hits in 19 at-bats with six runs scored and five batted in. The Rangers had Rafael Palmeiro in their lineup as the sole player with Baltimore connections, and his lone single in four at-bats was a poor match for the Oakland onslaught.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Jim Hutto, 1975 SSPC #385

This is Jim Hutto, Jim Hutto's scraggly hair, Jim Hutto's comparatively well-trimmed mustache, and Jim Hutto's wayward tuft of chest hair.

If you require more information, there's this: Hutto was a rookie with the 1970 Phillies, appearing in 57 games and seeing time at first base, catcher, and the outfield corners. He was a zero with the bat: .185/.222/.304 in 101 plate appearances. Philadelphia traded him to the Orioles that offseason along with Grant Jackson, and he spent five of his last six pro seasons with the Rochester Red Wings. In 1975, he was a September call-up and went 0-for-5 with the O's in four games. That was his only major league experience save for that 1970 season. Jim Hutto's legacy as an Oriole is complete, though: he was the last player to wear #33 before Eddie Murray claimed it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr. and Jerry Hairston, Jr., 2001 Fleer Platinum RC #472

Jerry Hairston retired this week, hanging up his spikes after a 16-year run in the major leagues. He never achieved the stardom that disingenuous prospect cards like this one insinuated by propping him up alongside Cal Ripken. But for a smallish (5'10"), injury-prone 11th-round pick out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1,442 regular-season games and another 17 postseason contests is a pretty decent legacy. He even got to team up briefly with his younger brother Scott in San Diego; the Hairstons were the third (of four to date) three-generation big league families. Hairston spent the first seven seasons of his MLB career in Baltimore, and I've always remembered him fondly despite the three strikes against his favor:

1. He delayed Brian Roberts' entrenchment in the O's everyday lineup.

2. He was part of the trade package that brought Sammy Sosa to Baltimore in 2005.

3. He won his World Series ring with the dag-blasted Yankees in 2009.

Jerry immediately landed on his feet, accepting a TV job with the Dodgers' broadcast team. Best of luck to him in his transition off of the diamond.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Carl Nichols, 1988 Donruss #477

Carl Nichols is not going to listen to another word of your trifling nonsense. He doesn't have time to stand here and pretend that the gibberish coming out of your mouth has any purpose. Just keep on walking.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Terry Kennedy, 1989 Score #123

This is quite a well-composed photo. Your eye is drawn to Terry Kennedy as he shields his eyes from the sun with his glove and peers upward to track the ball. In his right hand he holds his catcher's mask, which will make an excellent emergency catching apparatus if the glove fails.

Of course, TK's face is completely cloaked in shadow, and nobody bothered to crop out the umpire's disembodied arm and hand...come to think of it, this card is pretty cruddy. Well, what can ya do?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mike Mussina, 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes #234

Yesterday was Mike Mussina's 45th birthday, and he probably didn't spend it wondering whether he'd be selected for the Hall of Fame. However, he is on the ballot for the first time this year, and we'll find out next month whether he made the cut. I will say that he probably has a better chance than former O's teammate Armando Benitez, whose very name makes fans in Baltimore and New York twitch.

Speaking of making the cut, I can tell you that Panini's continued insistence on removing all accent colors from player uniforms on their cards is an idea that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Moose looks like he's pitching for the White Sox, not the Orioles. Are they so paranoid as to think that Topps and/or MLB would sic their armies of high-priced lawyers upon them if they dared to include orange on their Orioles (excuse me, "Baltimore") cards? Why not just go the extra mile and Photoshop Mike into a completely blank, white uniform? I realize that the lack of an MLB license puts Panini in a bind, but there has got to be a better, more creative way to do things.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Brady Anderson, 1997 Upper Deck Long Distance Connection #LD2

If you live on the East Coast, I hope you had the good sense not to travel long distances today. We got at least six inches of snow here in Baltimore, with more "wintry mix" on the way. I have my fingers crossed for a snow day tomorrow, but at the same time I'm not holding my breath. Anyhow, it's always nice to see a little white stuff, and it inspired my wife to do some holiday baking. No complaints from where I sit.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kyle Hudson, 2012 Topps #218

How soon we forget...or at least, I do. Kyle Hudson was the Orioles' fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Illinois in 2008, and it's already looking like his September 2011 callup could represent the entirety of his big league career. Kyle appeared in 14 games for that cellar-dwelling Birds team, collecting four singles in 28 at-bats. He did score the winning run against the Tigers in the ninth inning on September 24 after pinch-running for Chris Davis. Davis had singled off of Daniel Schlereth, then Hudson advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch with Robert Andino at bat. Andino struck out, but Matt Angle bunted up the first base line to plate Hudson. Kevin Gregg allowed a two-out single to Magglio Ordonez in the bottom of the inning, because of course he did, but subsequently retired Delmon Young on a line drive to Adam Jones to earn his 22nd save, the last of his Orioles career. This was two years ago...that's practically a lifetime in baseball.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Luis Aparicio, 1963 Topps #205

The White Sox had the nerve to trade Luis Aparicio to the Orioles in January of 1963. So Topps had to slap a drab hatless portrait of Looie on his card, but there was still the inset photo to worry about. Pity the poor baseball card company drone who had to draw an O's cap onto a tiny black-and-white photo of an All-Star shortstop. What I'm trying to say is that I can almost understand why Aparicio looks like the Great Gazoo in the inset photo.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

John Mitchell, 1991 Donruss #710

This evening, the wife and I are going south for dinner, drinks, and a movie with friends of mine from college. The movie? The Rifftrax Live simulcast (if you're too busy to click, think Mystery Science Theatre 3000) of the classic film "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians". This has inspired me to post a 1991 Donruss card for the first time in two years. One red and green abomination deserves another.

What's that, John? No, of course not! I would never call YOU an abomination! I was talking about the hideously busy yet somehow dull design of the card, you see. On a totally unrelated note, I have to go now.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ken Singleton, 1985 Topps #755

Some of the biggest trades in Orioles history have gone down on December 4. Let's take a look at a Meatloaf Special's worth of these deals:

December 4, 1968: The Orioles trade John Mason and Curt Blefary to the Houston Astros for Mike Cuellar, Elijah Johnson, and Enzo Hernandez. We can cut to the chase here; Mason and Johnson never made the majors and the historically weak-hitting Hernandez was dealt to San Diego in the Pat Dobson swap before making his MLB debut, so this one comes down to the 1965 Rookie of the Year Blefary straight-up for Cuellar. Blefary, battling alcoholism, lasted four more seasons in the big leagues, only one of which was spent in Houston (.253/.347/.393, 109 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR, 12 HR, 67 RBI). The Cuban righty, meanwhile, lasted eight seasons in Baltimore, which was good enough for three American League pennants, one World Series title, one Cy Young Award, and a pair of All-Star appearances. His O's totals: 143 wins, 88 losses, a 3.18 ERA, 133 complete games, and a 109 ERA+. He accumulated a pitching bWAR (Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement) of 17.4 in that span. So this exchange was a clear win for the Birds.

December 4, 1974: The Orioles trade Bill Kirkpatrick, Rich Coggins, and Dave McNally to the Montreal Expos for Mike Torrez and Ken Singleton. Again, Kirkpatrick was a career minor leaguer, so out he goes. Coggins, who'd seen his OPS plunge from .831 as a rookie to .618 in his sophomore season, lasted all of 13 games north of the border before being sold to the Yankees. His career lasted a total of 103 games in two post-Oriole seasons. McNally was entering his age 32 season with a dozen years' worth of major league mileage on his left arm. He added a scant 77.1 innings to his ledger with the Expos, allowing 88 hits and going 3-6 with a 5.24 ERA (-0.5 bWAR) before retiring and serving as a test case in the Players' Association fight for free agency. The 28-year-old Torrez was a 20-game winner for the only time in his career in 1975, putting up a 3.06 ERA (115 ERA+, 3.5 bWAR) despite a league-leading total of 133 walks. He was flipped to Oakland on the eve of the 1976 season in the Reggie Jackson blockbuster. The December '74 trade would be a mismatch even without the inclusion of Ken Singleton; throw him in, and it becomes a laugher. Singleton, also 28 at the time, served the O's for the final decade of his career. He was a three-time All-Star as an Oriole, with a pair of top-three MVP finishes. He gave the club a career triple-slash line of .284/.388/.445 and an OPS+ of 135. His cumulative bWAR in Baltimore was an even 30, which takes into account a dreadful last act in 1984 (-1.9 bWAR). If you like the counting stats, Kenny slugged 182 homers and drove in 766 in orange and black. Well done, guys.

December 4, 1988: The Orioles trade Eddie Murray to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Juan Bell, Brian Holton, and Ken Howell. Welp, this is the one that did not go as planned. Howell, who had been a mediocre reliever in L.A., was quickly moved to the Phillies with pitcher Gordon Dillard in exchange for Phil Bradley. That was fine, as Bradley was worth 3.5 bWAR in a season and a half in Charm City. Holton gave the Birds 174.1 forgettable innings of relief and spot starts in two seasons (7-10, 4.18 ERA, 91 ERA+, -0.5 bWAR). Juan Bell did not make anyone forget the name of Cal Ripken, with a putrid line of .172/.201/.249 in the 1991 season, his lone full year on the O's roster. From there it was off to Philly, Milwaukee, Montreal, Boston, and eventually Taiwan. Murray, entering his age 33 season in 1989, outlasted all of the players for whom he had been traded. He wasn't the star he'd been in Baltimore, but he did produce steadily through the 1996 season and had great individual efforts in 1990 (.330/.414/.520, 159 OPS+) and 1995 (.323/.375/.516, 129 OPS+). He reached the 3,000-hit and 500-homer milestones in the last few years of his run, the latter coming in his 1996 pennant race return to the Orioles. It's not so much that the O's were wrong to trade Eddie when they did. They just got a whole pile of nothing in exchange for him.

Don't be sad...'cause two out of three ain't bad...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jim Johnson, 2013 Topps Allen and Ginter Mini Black #166

Just like that, the Baltimore bullpen is 50 saves and $10-11 million lighter. Jim Johnson, erstwhile closer and one of the senior Orioles (drafted in 2001, O's debut in 2006), has been traded to the Athletics for second baseman Jemile Weeks and the ever-cryptic Player to Be Named Later. You never like to see an established star leave, but it is encouraging to see the Birds sell a guy when his salary starts outstripping his value. There are better ways to spend money than on a "proven closer", since plenty of previously-anonymous pitchers have proven capable of racking up saves when given the chance. I'll never forget Dirty Jim's contributions to the suddenly-competitive Orioles of 2012, even if his hiccups in 2013 put a couple dings in the team's postseason hopes. He was also a valuable setup man from 2008 onward, and I'll root for him in Oakland as long as he's not facing our guys.

As for Weeks, he's not head and shoulders above the other candidates in the O's second base soup despite his lineage (younger brother of the Brewers' Rickie Weeks) and his pedigree as the twelfth overall pick in the 2008 draft. But he's got a penchant for walking, a rare commodity in Birdland, and he's two years removed from a rookie batting line of .303/.340/.421. It's worth a shot. Incidentally, I was in attendance for Jemile's big league debut on June 7, 2011. Now I'd like to see the Birds spend the money they've saved on a big-ticket player elsewhere. Something tells me that Santa Claus might be the best bet on that one.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Brad Komminsk, 1991 Score #259

1991 Score is not a set that has occupied my thoughts very often. I didn't collect it as a kid, and the sickly teal and purple borders couldn't hold a candle to the bolder shades of the brand's 1988 and 1990 issues. But black borders are usually a surefire crowd pleaser, and if this set had been all-black instead of just partially so, it might be better remembered today. All I know is that this black-bordered card, with 46-game Oriole Brad Komminsk fielding his post in left field in front of Fenway Park's hand-operated scoreboard, is a fine example of the medium. At least Score got things partially right in 1991.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Jim Poole, 1994 Fleer Ultra #8

Jim Poole had a couple really strong seasons as a lefty arm in the Baltimore bullpen. In 1991, he posted an ERA of 2.00 and a WHIP of 0.778 in 24 appearances (36 innings). Two years later, he was second on the team with 55 appearances and put up a 2.15 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 50.1 innings. The O's parted ways with Jim after an ugly 1994 campaign (6.64 ERA, 2.12 WHIP in 20.1 innings), and he traveled all over the league through the 2000 season, never performing as effectively as he had in Charm City. One of the things that struck me about Jim Poole was the near-maniacal grin that he seemed to have in the action shots on some of his card photos. I have to imagine that it was unnerving to be standing at bat, looking out to the mound, and seeing the pitcher leering back at you as he went into his windup.  It's hard enough facing down 90-plus mph heat.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tim Hulett, 1994 Stadium Club #430

Boring explanation: Tim Hulett is calling off Cal Ripken or another Oriole infielder on a pop-up. "I got it!"

More satisfying explanation: What look like flecks of dust from my scanner are actually rain drops falling from the sky, and Tim is taking a carefree run through the elements, arms flung wide in exultation.

Completely insane explanation: There is a sperm whale free-falling from miles above the stadium, and Tim Hulett has just noticed it and is frantically trying to call time out and warn everyone to run for cover. "VERY BIG WHALE!", Tim shouts. "We've got to get the hell out of here!"

"That's a good name - ground!", the sperm whale thinks. "I wonder if it will be friends with me? Hello ground!"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rudy May, 1977 Topps #56

Rudy May has drawn his signature about him like a cape.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Brad Pennington, 1993 Fleer Final Edition #F-163

On this, my 32nd Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things, including:

-My loving family, with whom I just had a joyous and delicious holiday dinner.

-My beautiful, bright, caring wife. I'm looking forward to spending many more holiday seasons with her.

-My job, which helps me to afford the important things like food, shelter, Internet access, and baseball cards.

-The Orioles, who are a competitive organization once again. They're not pinning their hopes to hard-throwing, no-technique dinguses like Brad Pennington.

-And of course you, dear readers, who repay my time and efforts on this blog with your comments and occasional cards and oddball memorabilia. Thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mark Williamson, 1988 Topps #571

I've often wondered why baseball cards sometimes feature photos shot from this angle. I just picture a photographer crouching in front of Mark Williamson, his camera trained upward at a severe angle. "That's it, Mark, look natural. Pretend that I'm not even here. Peer out at the field pensively. Chin up, sweetie. Okay, let's take five."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chris Hoiles, 1993 Studio #156

If this Chris Hoiles card could talk, it would say, "Haw, haw, haw...basebawl."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brooks Robinson, 1982 Topps K-mart MVPs #5

As you may have noticed, there is no greater balm for baseball blogger writer's block than the birthday post. Well, here's one better: a birthday post about a birthday post. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times has posted a list of trivia tidbits about baseball players and their birthdays. Among the things I learned was that Brooks Robinson, born May 18, 1937, somehow played only a dozen games on his special day in the span of his 23-year career. However, he hit safely in all 12 birthday games, the longest such streak in baseball history. His overall birthday stats included a .435 batting average (20-for-46) with a double, a home run, and five runs batted in. He walked twice and struck out twice and hit into only one double play. His best May 18 game was a 1971 contest at the Yankees. Brooksie had just one hit in four tries, but it was a two-run homer off of Fritz Peterson in the fourth inning. It gave the O's a 3-1 lead which they would not relinquish. So I guess you could say that Baltimore's beloved third baseman was able to have his cake and eat it too.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Francisco Rodriguez, 2013 Topps Update Series #US78

Here it is: photographic proof that violent twit Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez came to Baltimore, pitched 22 mediocre innings in which he allowed five home runs, and presumably (hopefully) left as a free agent. I hope he doesn't let the door hit him in the ass on the way out.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Joe Gaines, 1964 Topps #364

It has been exactly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas. That day also happened to be the 27th birthday of Orioles outfielder Joe Gaines; I can't imagine that he felt much like celebrating.

Gaines is the type of player that falls through the cracks of baseball history. His major league career spanned the years 1960 through 1966, but in three of those seasons he received little more than a cup of coffee. He played his best ball with the O's in 1963, when he appeared in 66 games as a fifth outfielder and pinch hitter. That year, Joe batted .286 with a .381 on-base percentage and .476 slugging percentage, and had six home runs and 20 RBI. But he started slow in 1964, and was dispatched to the fledgling Astros. By 1965, young Rusty Staub had replaced Gaines in the starting lineup. He prolonged his career by jumping to Japan in 1969, spending one season with the Hanshin Tigers. He's still alive and presumably well at 77 years of age.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eddie Murray, 2004 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts #35

On this date in 1977, Eddie Murray was named the American League's Rookie of the Year. At just 21 years of age, the native Los Angeleno appeared in all but one of the Orioles' 161 games, starting at designated hitter 110 times and spelling Lee May at first base in 42 contests. He even mixed in a handful of games in left field. Steady Eddie batted .283/.333/.470 (123 OPS+) with 29 doubles, 27 homers, and 88 RBI. He tied May for the team lead in homers, and trailed only May and Ken Singleton in RBI (they had 99 each). All this for a 97-win club that finished just two and a half games behind the Eastern Division champion Yankees. Murray bested Oakland's Mitchell Page (.307/.405/.521, 21 HR, 75 RBI, 42 SB) in a close vote, with Bump Wills and Dave Rozema also receiving consideration. Page had the more impressive numbers overall, but Murray undoubtedly received extra credit for being on a contending team, hitting more dingers, and being a certified, stone-cold badass.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mike Mussina, 2001 Fleer Tradition #147

Mail day! I received an unannounced plain white envelope from Max today. It contained some new cards of my favoritest team, including my first O's cards of Bud Norris, Francisco Rodriguez (boo hiss), and Kevin Gausman...to be seen here later, of course. There was also this strange card, which is a thick cardboard punch in the gut to any orange-blooded Baltimore fan. It wasn't enough that Mike Mussina signed with the juggernaut Yankees after the 2000 season, but Fleer had to keep Moose in his Orioles uniform and put the team's banner on the card. It logically belongs in the completist's team set, but there's that stark black lettering under the veteran righty's chin, forever taunting Birdland, a reminder of things lost. I should hate this card, and yet I kind of like it because of the oddity of it all. I must be getting soft in my old age.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rick Schu, 1988 Topps Big #122

Hey Rick Schu, stop punching yourself in the head!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Geronimo Gil, 2004 Topps #163

I'm posting this one just for my wife, who bellows "Geronimooooooooo Giiiiiilllllllllll!" every time his name is mentioned.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Brad Havens, 1987 Topps #398

How is the Great Sorting and Storing of 2013 going? I just spent my entire Sunday collating all of the 1980s cards in my collection. It gave me no small sense of accomplishment, but checking out all of the boxes that are still littering my living room and lurking in my spare bedroom closet offered me a reminder that the 1990s cards are waiting with bated breath to kick my ass by the thousands. It's going to be a long week.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Brady Anderson, 1999 Skybox Thunder #78

I found a Skybox Thunder card that I hadn't posted yet. Do you know what that means? More terrible 90's faux-street verse!

"Goin' yard at Camden is all good for you, B, and you're one of the best at it...gettin' straight jiggy."

How did we ever survive that ridiculous decade?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Johnny Powers, 1960 Topps #422

I snickered the first time I saw this card. Johnny Powers is rocking that pompadour, leaving his cap tilted high atop his head so his 'do doesn't get mussed. That's quite convenient, since the Reds had sold him to the Orioles the previous December and Topps didn't have any pictures of him in his new uniform. To be honest, Johnny didn't spend much time in any big league uniform, though. The Red Sox signed him as a teenager in 1949, but his development was delayed by military service during the Korean War. He put up some gaudy power numbers in the higher minors, including 39 home runs in 1956 for the Pirates' AA New Orleans squad. Powers got his first taste of the majors in 1955, but struggled in parts of four seasons in Pittsburgh: .190/.275/.303 in 90 games (160 plate appearances). In his lone season in Cincinnati, he was used as a pinch hitter with fair results: .256/.319/.488 in 47 plate appearances. With the O's, Johnny was tabbed as the Opening Day right fielder, but after three games that experiment ended. He appeared in just ten games total, batting .111 with no extra-base hits before being placed on waivers in mid-May. He caught on with the Indians, but after eight games and 14 plate appearances his MLB career was through. He hung on in the minors through 1965, finishing with 298 career homers. That's not nothing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Frank Robinson, 1991 Topps #639

A fun fact, courtesy of John Autin at High Heat Stats (and yes, I'm just now catching up to last month's blogroll):

There have been 11 1-0 final scores in postseason history with the only run scoring on a solo home run. Of those 11 games, four involved the Orioles. The bad news first: Sal Bando's round-tripper against Jim Palmer in the top of the fourth inning delivered Game Three of the 1974 ALCS to the Athletics. 23 years later, Tony Bleeping Fernandez took Armando Double-Bleeping Benitez deep in the top of the 11th to help the Indians wrap up both Game Six of the 1997 ALCS and the series as a whole.

But of course, there's good news in the form of astounding happenstance. The O's won their other two solo-homer-only 1-0 contests in postseason play...and they did it on back-to-back days. On October 8, 1966, Paul Blair touched 'em all against Los Angeles pitcher Claude Osteen in the bottom of the fifth inning. Wally Bunker six-hit the Dodgers, and the Birds took a three-games-to-none World Series lead. The following day (October 9, 1966, if you're not good with numbers), it was deja vu all over again. This time the instant offense came from Frank Robinson, against Don Drysdale, in the home half of the fourth. Dave McNally was the beneficiary of Robby's largesse, as he dispatched L.A. on four hits and a couple of walks to complete the sweep. Occasionally I feel like I've mined all the material that I possibly could from Baltimore's most dominating Fall Classic effort, but it seems like there's always another remarkable fact or statistic to be mined. I hope that this guy doesn't think I'm picking on him and his favorite team, especially since the events of October '66 took place before I was born and before he was even rooting for the boys in blue.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2001 Fleer Tradition Diamond Tributes #8

WARNING: Graphic images of a messy nature enclosed within. If you are a neat freak, germophobe, or any other variety of Type-A person, you may want to turn back now. This is what my living room currently looks like:

I am showing you this in an effort to shame myself into following through and getting all of these cards merged and stored, once and for all. After all, it's hard to relax on the couch when you've got stacks of loose cards and wayward shoeboxes cluttering up your line of sight. This poor Cal Ripken card has been waiting for a more permanent place for six months! In this instance, I've given myself a week and a half to get on with it. Most of the legions of cardboard pictured above are already sorted by year and brand. It's just a matter of combining them with the rest of my collection and getting them tucked away in a more sane and orderly fashion. A few small clusters of miscellaneous vintage (i.e. old sets that aren't close enough to completion to merit their own binders) need to be paged in the miscellaneous binder. I need to get off of my duff and start a long-overdue Orioles-specific binder...or five. And perhaps most of all, I need to cull out the scads of doubles (and triples, and quadruples, and...) and set them aside so I won't be caught flat-footed the next time I'm looking for trade bait. Piece of cake, huh?

If nothing else, let this serve as a cautionary tale. Whether you're buying a single rack pack at your big-box retailer or absorbing someone else's unwanted collection into your own, never put off the sorting and storage. It tends to snowball.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

John Lowenstein, 1983 Fleer #63

I'm still keeping tabs on Night Owl's breezy and informative 1971 Topps set blog, and you should be too. Just yesterday, he posted John Lowenstein's rookie card, which he shares with pitcher Vince Colbert. I've had this card for a couple years, so I was already acquainted with the strange sight of a clean-faced Brother Lo in an Indians uniform. But I guess I didn't pay close attention to the card when I added it to my own collection. Night Owl highlights the odd factoid about Lowenstein on the card back:

"In a Little League game John was once 6-for-6 with 4 Homers & 14 RBI's, & once walked & scored 6 times in Babe Ruth League."

It's funny enough seeing childhood feats highlighted on a major leaguer's card, but especially so because it's a noted loon like Lowenstein. I agree with Night Owl; I think there's a good chance that Lo goosed his numbers a bit to have a laugh at the expense of the folks at Topps. If not...well, I guess he peaked early.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sammy Sosa, 2005 Topps Total Silver #110

We've still got something like four and a half months until Opening Day. It seems like an eternity, especially after suffering through a Ravens game yesterday. Football is a bloated spectacle, and I can tolerate the endless commercial breaks and the empty announcing cliches and the blatant corporatism a little less each year. When my home team is taking their lumps as much as they are this season, I just don't have the patience to endure those three-to-four hours every Sunday. It leaves me about as empty as a 2005 swing off the bat of Sammy Sosa.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Paul Carey, 1994 Donruss #465

I'm not going to lie: I would love a pair of Paul Carey's 1954 Orioles throwback stirrups. The black stirrup with triple orange stripes is a damned sharp look.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Josh Bell, 2010 Topps Update Series #US225

In retrospect, that whole Josh Bell thing didn't turn out very well. Defense, offense, no matter what he did, he looked about as ugly as those patriotic caps. But the Orioles have Platinum Glover Manny Machado at third base, so all is well that ends well perhaps.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Paul Blair, 1972 Topps #660

I haven't paid close attention to the Orioles Topps want list hosted on my 1965 Topps blog for quite some time. I'll check in on it if I'm out bargain-hunting for vintage cards and I come across a member of the home team, or on the off chance that Ed or another fellow collector finds one of my needed cards. But off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you which cards have proved elusive...except of course the 1957 Brooks Robinson rookie. That's a doozy. Nor have I bothered to take inventory of the base cards I need from the last five Topps flagship sets, which mirrors the way that I've almost completely checked out on the modern product.

But I've spent a lot of time in recent weeks filling holes in some of my 1970s Topps set binders (1972-1974 and 1976-1978), and that piqued my curiosity. How am I doing on my 1970s O's? Not too bad, if my own shoddy record-keeping is to be believed. I have all of the Orioles from 1970 and 1973 through 1979. That leaves me with five suspects on the loose for the whole of the decade. The rundown:

1971 Topps (3): #330 World Series Game 4 (Reds Stay Alive), #595 Davey Johnson, #700 Boog Powell (short print). One postseason recap card left to get, and it's the only World Series game the Birds lost in 1970. I can wait on that one. The others are higher-series cards, and Boog is a dastardly short-print.

1972 Topps (2): #680 Davey Johnson, #731 Orioles Team. Of the 1970s sets that I've put any effort into building, it's 1972 that I have the lowest expectation of completing. With its monstrous-for-its-time 787-card checklist and pricey high-number cards, it's no wonder. If I can at least keep an eye out for this duo, I can earn the satisfaction of completing the team set. For now, though, Paul Blair is the uppermost Oriole in my 1972 set.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Adam Jones, 2013 Panini Prizm #33

Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J. J. Hardy. Just like that, the Orioles claim ownership to three Silver Slugger Awards in one season for the first time in team history. These awards are given out to the best offensive player at each position in both leagues, and all three Birds are first-time winners. In fact, Jones is the first O's outfielder to ever win a Silver Slugger. Davis and Hardy are in rarified air as well: Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro are the other pair of Baltimore first basemen to be so honored, and Cal Ripken and Miguel Tejada are the two previous shortstops on the team list. As a matter of fact, Aubrey Huff was the last Oriole at any position to claim this prize, based on his strong DH performance in 2008. I don't expect Chris Davis to beat out Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera for the big prize (American League MVP) when those results are announced in a week, but the rest of the league is serving notice that these aren't the same cruddy Orioles.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jeff Manto, 1995 Stadium Club #597

If you're looking for your dose of mid-1990s nostalgia tonight (and aren't we all?), this will do in a pinch. Jeff Manto, recently relieved of his position as Chicago White Sox hitting coach, has rejoined the Orioles as the organization's minor league hitting coordinator. Manto hasn't been seen around these parts since 1995, when he slugged .492 in 254 at-bats for the stunningly mediocre Phil Regan-managed O's. Jeff Manto will be molding the minds and bodies of Baltimore's offensive threats of tomorrow. Who knew?