Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jeremy Guthrie, 2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom #50

A check of my archives shows that I haven't posted a Jeremy Guthrie card since the Orioles traded the righty in February of last year for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. That's a shame, because he was one of the more personable and likable players to come through Baltimore in recent years. So I may as well take a moment to sing his praises now.

Jeremy's short stay in Colorado was disastrous, as he went 3-9 and posted an astronomical 6.35 ERA and 12.1 hits per nine innings in 19 games with the Rockies. His home run rate skyrocketed from 1.1 in 2011 to 2.1. Unsurprisingly, Coors Field was not a welcoming place for a fly-ball pitcher like Guts. But the Rockies gave him a reprieve, trading the veteran to Kansas City for fellow wayward starter Jonathan Sanchez in mid-July.

There haven't been many players in recent years who have had a career revival with the Royals, but the difference in Jeremy Guthrie's performance was stark. His 5-3 won-lost record came with a sterling 3.16 ERA and a much-improved 8.3 H/9 IP. His home run rate dropped back down around his career norm. The Royals, rolling the dice on some veteran starters to augment their prospect-laden lineup, retained Guthrie with a three-year, $25 million contract. Five starts into that deal, the early returns are promising for both player and team. Jeremy is a perfect 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA after blanking the Indians for six and two-thirds innings this past Sunday. Dating back to last year, he's now gone 16 starts since absorbing his last loss. Guts actually got hung with an 'L' in each of his first three starts as a Royal, but the third of those, a 5-3 defeat against the Rangers on August 3, was the last losing decision for him. It's a pretty drastic reversal of fortune for a guy who led the American League with 17 losses twice in a three-year span while with the O's. This ongoing run of success certainly couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, and I hope it continues for as long as possible.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Brian Matusz, 2013 Topps Emerald Foil #217

I got an unexpected mailing from Max today, complete with the shiniest greeniest something I've ever seen. This is one of the 4,192 parallel inserts in 2013 Topps, and it features the Orioles' newest relief ace in a special camouflage jersey. Sure, Brian Matusz took a tough blown save yesterday against the A's, but he entered the game with the bases empty, ensuring that his season-spanning streak of stranding inherited base runners continues into another week. The lefty has prevented all 24 inherited runners from scoring since being switched to relief midseason last year. For his career, Brian has a 2.22 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 IP in 29 games as a reliever; in 68 big league starts, he has a 5.51 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and 7.1 K/9 IP. The O's may not have drafted Matusz fourth overall planning to use him as a high-leverage reliever, but it's better than being a bust. They're still getting some value out of the 2008 first-rounder, which is more than you can say about many of the top draft choices that preceded him in the organization.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kevin Gregg, 2012 Topps Orioles Team Set #BALT7

Sorry, everyone. I spent the day suffering with allergies (stupid pollen) and watching in horror as the Orioles lost an immensely aggravating 10-inning game in Oakland. I offer up Kevin Gregg as a sacrifice. I guess that's my attempt at taking out my frustration on others. Misdirected anger, if you will. At least this goggled goon is the Chicago Cubs' problem now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson, 1992 Score #427

The combined no-hitter started by Bob Milacki and finished by the O's bullpen on July 13, 1991 was a rare highlight for the Orioles in Oakland. For as long as I can remember, it seems like the Oakland Coliseum (or O.co Coliseum, as some idiot decided it should be called) has been a special house of horrors for the Birds. But suddenly, there is sweet relief. Jim Johnson wriggled out of a bases loaded, no-out jam in the ninth inning today to seal a 7-3 win and to guarantee the Orioles their first series win in Oakland since 2007. But by taking the first three games of this four-game set, the O's are also assured of winning their first four-game road series against the A's since July 31-August 3, 1997. Just as a refresher, the club's winning pitchers in that series were Armando Benitez, Mike Mussina, and Shawn Boskie. (I write, read, and think about the Orioles 365 days a year, and it probably would have taken me 100 guesses or more to tab Shawn Boskie. He won a half-dozen games here.) Not that I'm getting greedy, but a win in tomorrow's finale would give Baltimore their first four-game sweep in Oakland since May 22-25, 1987. Ken Dixon had three saves in that series, don't ya know.

A lot of smart people assumed that the O's would come back down to earth in 2013 after going 29-9 in one-run games in their wild-card run last year. It's still early, but we've got 24 games to look at, almost 15 percent of the season. The Orioles are 15-9, including an 8-4 road record and a 9-6 mark in the brutal American League East. They're in second place in the division, 1.5 games behind the Red Sox and 6.5 up on the offseason darlings in Toronto. I'm glad the good times aren't over in Birdland just yet.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Boog Powell, 1971 Topps Super #5

Now that I've fully committed to the "oddball week" theme, let's super-size it. There are few better subjects for an extra-large, extra-thick card than the Orioles' heavyweight first baseman and the American League's Most Valuable Player of 1970. If you want more details about the 1971 Topps Super set, I wrote up Dave McNally's card a few years ago. There's a lot to take in when it comes to Boog's card, from his confident smirk to his reproduced signature of John "Boog" Powell, and of course the unmistakable white frieze of the old Yankee Stadium. There are a few other Orioles players or coaches preparing for the afternoon's game in the background. My favorite thing about the photo may be the clear signs of strain as Powell's gray road jersey struggles to contain his bulging torso. The Booger was truly one of a kind.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson, 2001 Sunoco Dream Team #5

I've heard from a few readers who enjoyed this week's oddball cards, so here's another! It's got some telltale signs of oddity: corporate sponsorship (in this case, Philadelphia-based oil company Sunoco) and lack of a Major League Baseball license. So we get "Baltimore" splashed up at the top of the page in a Microsoft Word font...Forte, maybe? I'm not much of a font wonk. Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer are wearing plain uniforms with some simple striping and numbering. Go Team Gray, White, Orange, and Black! Team G.W.O.B. all the way!

All jokes about design and budget limitations aside, this is a nice concept for a set. There were 12 cards in all, each featuring a pair of retired greats from one team. There were only nine clubs featured, so it's an extra feather in the cap for the O's to make the cut. The others were the Indians (Lou Boudreau/Bob Feller), Mets (Tug McGraw/Gary Carter), Phillies (Mike Schmidt/Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts/Richie Ashburn), Pirates (Willie Stargell/Bill Mazeroski), Red Sox (Luis Tiant/Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn/Jim Rice), Reds (Tony Perez/Joe Morgan), Tigers (Sparky Anderson/Al Kaline), and Yankees (Don Mattingly/Yogi Berra and Roger Maris/Catfish Hunter). I can't quibble much with the checklist, though you're left wondering why they chose a mix of guys who were teammates and players who weren't contemporaries at all. Then there's the inclusion of manager Sparky Anderson on the Tigers card, which is a real curveball. I'll also just note that of the 24 men featured in this set, most are currently in the Hall of Fame, as you might expect with a "Dream Team" set. McGraw, Tiant, Lynn, Mattingly, and Maris are the only five who are on the outside of Cooperstown looking in, and all were very good players.

I'm certain that I've got an extra copy of this card stashed somewhere in my collection, if anyone would like it. First come, first served.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1993 Investor's Journal #6

Right from the start, something seemed off about today's O's game. There was the rare "businessman's special" start time of 12:35, and the fact that Josh Stinson (claimed on waivers from Oakland three weeks ago) was given the spot start, when it had been presumed for days that Zach Britton would get the call from Norfolk. Things only got weirder once the game was underway. Stinson breezed through five and two-thirds innings on 76 pitches, as long as you ignore the fact that four of the five hits he allowed were home runs. Said homers put the Orioles in a 5-2 hole, as the home team went hitless from the second inning through the sixth. Naturally it was Ryan Flaherty, now batting an even .100, who broke through with a run-scoring double in the seventh. A few more timely hits followed, with Manny Machado's triple to the right-center field gap tying the game. But Toronto's bullpen didn't break, stranding Manny at third and turning aside Baltimore scoring opportunities in both the ninth and tenth innings. It was especially unusual to see Chris Davis go 0-for-5 with three strikeouts after powering the offense through much of April. Then came the fateful 11th.

Jim Johnson, with a spotless ERA in 2013, got two quick outs before giving up a pair of unimpressive singles. Time to bear down and...whoops, he nailed Brett Lawrie on the arm with a pitch. Bases loaded, but that left it up to Maicer Izturis, brother of Cesar and owner of a lifetime OPS+ of 92. Jim threw four straight balls, none especially close to the strike zone, to force in the go-ahead run. Brian Matusz was called upon to strand three more runners; he's 24-for-24 in stranding inherited runners since moving to the bullpen last year. But the horse was out of the barn. The bottom of the O's order went down 1-2-3 in their final at-bats, and it was a 6-5 final. Goodbye, 17-game extra-innings win streak. Goodbye to my personal 10-game winning streak as a Camden Yards spectator. It took some freaky stuff to make it happen...

But still not as freaky as Cal Ripken posing for a photo in an Orioles jersey with no number on the front AND no dot above the "i". What's that about?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Adam Stern, 2010 Topps Jewish Major Leaguers #23

This is the true centerpiece of my recent Amazon purchase - a card that I never knew existed until I started surfing the storefront of Your Favorite Team Sets and Singles. As a team collector, I delight in the obscure, and it doesn't get better than this. Though they didn't put their branding all over it, Topps did indeed produce a set of 50 cards featuring past and present major leaguers of the Jewish faith. Not only does Adam Stern (lifetime batting line of .116/.156/.209 in 45 plate appearances) make the cut, but he does so while wearing the Orioles' orange and black. If you remember Adam at all, it's probably from his brief stints in Boston in 2005 and 2006. He had come to Beantown as a Rule 5 draft pick from the Braves, who had drafted him in the third round of the 2001 draft out of the University of Nebraska. In August 2006, the O's traded catcher Javy Lopez to the Red Sox for a player to be named later. In October, Adam Stern became said player. His career with the Birds was as follows:

April 16, 2007: Was recalled from AAA Norfolk when Corey Patterson went on bereavement leave. Entered the Orioles' 9-7 win over Tampa Bay as a ninth-inning defensive replacement, taking over in center field for Freddie Bynum(!), who shifted to left field to replace Jay Gibbons. He recorded no putouts, and had no plate appearances.

April 17, 2007: Entered the Orioles' 6-4 loss vs. Tampa Bay as an eighth-inning defensive replacement, taking over in center field after Jon Knott pinch hit for Freddie Bynum. (How about that organizational depth? It's like a blueprint for a 93-loss team.) He recorded no putouts, and had no plate appearances.

April 18, 2007: Was optioned back to AAA Norfolk when Corey Patterson returned from bereavement leave.

That's all, folks. And wonder of wonders, I have an Adam Stern O's card.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tsuyoshi Wada, 2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers #H577

Alright, here's the sheepish confession portion of my Amazon purchase review. I bought the 2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers team set for the Orioles, five cards in all, from a dealer at a fairly ridiculous markup of $20. Now I have Tsuyoshi Wada, who has yet to throw a pitch in a regular-season game more than a year into his O's contract, staring back at me with his dead, Photoshop-filtered eyes. Four dollars for THIS card? But I don't regret it at all.

$20 for the team set is still better in my mind than $100 for the entire 100-card high-number set, because Topps did not get my money. I still got the cards that I really would have wanted from their "online exclusive" set, and since I used gift money, I can tell myself that I didn't really spend that tender anyhow. Now I never have to waste another thought on the latest wretched cash grab from the monopoly-holders over at ToppsTown.

At least until they do the same damn thing with 2013 Heritage.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tommy Hunter, 2013 Topps #62

The Orioles haven't quite hit their stride in 2013 yet; they've got a 10-8 record after today's loss to the Dodgers. The Birds are in third place in the AL East, trailing the Yankees by half a game and the Red Sox by two and a half. The starting pitching in particular has been shaky more often than not, but the bullpen remains strong save for an occasional blip. Of course, I'm just grateful that the O's continue to win when I'm at the ballpark.

Last night, my sister and I attended our third game of the season, and had the pleasure of witnessing a 6-1 win over the Dodgers. Dating back to last season, it was the tenth straight game I've attended that the Orioles have won. Anticipating a large crowd for a Saturday night game against a storied interleague opponent, as well as the pregame memorial ceremony for Earl Weaver, we arrived at 5:00. It was a good decision, since the Birds wound up selling over 10,000 walkup tickets for their second sellout of the year. While it was still somewhat sunny and warm, we grabbed a patio table at Dempsey's Brew Pub for an early dinner. I had a delicious mushroom, bacon, and swiss burger. The house brews at Dempsey's didn't really do much for me, with the exception of the '83 Golden Ale. We finished up shortly after the ceremonies began, and got to hear some heartfelt and often amusing tributes from Brooks Robinson, Rick Dempsey himself, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Earl's son Mike.

Once the sun went down, it was a surprisingly chilly spring night. Luckily, Wei-Yin Chen did his part to keep the game moving, holding the Dodgers to a single run in six innings despite issuing an uncharacteristic four walks. Chris Davis once again went above and beyond the call of duty, bringing us to our feet with a towering 448-foot home run to straightaway center field that was reportedly the third-longest hit by an Oriole in Camden Yards history. The O's offense put the game on ice in the middle innings against Josh Beckett. A pair of fifth-inning RBI doubles by Manny Machado and Adam Jones gave the home team a 3-1 lead, and Machado chased Beckett an inning later with a three-run homer to left field. Tommy Hunter did the rest, as the homer-prone righty kept the ball in the park and gave a breather to his bullpen mates with three scoreless innings. In finishing out the game, Tommy earned his first major league save. Meanwhile, Liz and I went home to thaw out. We'll be back on Wednesday night, when a yet-to-be-determined starter (possibly Zach Britton) fills in against the Blue Jays. Do I hear 11 straight?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ryan Berry, 2010 Topps Pro Debut #432

I've been stockpiling Amazon gift certificates and rewards points for a while, and I finally went on a baseball card shopping spree this week. Everything arrived in the mail on Friday, so I'll be showing off the goods for the next few posts. I filled out my 1959 Topps set a bit more (only 169 cards left to go!), got a couple pesky 1975 Topps needs in Thurman Munson and the Gary Carter rookie card, and the rest were Orioles needs. I picked up the 2010 Topps Pro Debut team set, since that's one of those oddball things that I'd rather just cross off in one fell swoop. Ryan Berry is no longer in the O's organization, but after seeing this card he holds a special place in my heart. With that long shaggy hair and those big glasses, he looks like Ogilvie from the Bad News Bears, all grown up. Actually, though, the Birds drafted him in the ninth round of the 2009 draft out of Rice University. He's put up a 3.26 ERA in three seasons in the minors, topping out with a single game at AA Bowie last year. It appears that the Birds released him in the offseason, which is a shame. We'll always have this card, at least.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Terry Crowley, 1979 Topps #91

I hope that you had the pleasure of watching Matt Wieters' first-pitch, walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the tenth inning last night. It was the capper on another tight, back-and-forth series with the Rays. It seems like every game between the O's and Tampa Bay is chock full of bizarre happenings, but that's a story for another day. For now, I thought I'd pay a visit to the trusty Baseball Reference Play Index to research the history of walkoff grand slams for the Orioles. There have been seven:
DateBatterOppPitcherScoreInnRoBOutPit(cnt)RBIWPARE24LIPlay Description
1970-07-07Brooks RobinsonNYYLindy McDanieltied 2-2b10123040.062.172.62*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run; Motton Scores; Robinson Scores; Hendricks Scores/unER
1976-05-22Ken SingletonDETJim Crawfordtied 4-4b9123240.353.376.39*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run; Blair Scores; May Scores; Harper Scores
1982-08-08Terry CrowleyKCRMike Armstrongtied 6-6b9123140.172.695.64*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run; Murray Scores/unER; Lowenstein Scores; Ripken Scores
1982-08-24Joe NolanTORJoey McLaughlintied 3-3b10123240.343.336.39*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run; Rayford Scores; Murray Scores; Ripken Scores
1996-05-17Chris HoilesSEANorm Charltondown 13-10b9123240.893.294.00*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run; Alomar Scores; Bonilla Scores; Ripken Scores
1999-05-04Harold BainesCHWDavid Lundquisttied 5-5b1012315 (2-2)40.162.665.40*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run (Fly Ball); Bones Scores; Bordick Scores; Anderson Scores
2013-04-18Matt WietersTBRBrandon Gomestied 6-6b1012301 (0-0)*WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF); Markakis Scores; Machado Scores; Jones Scores
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/19/2013.

The Birds were in their 17th season in Baltimore when (who else?) Brooks Robinson delivered their first walkoff granny. Like Wieters, the great third baseman hit his with nobody out in the tenth inning. For the cherry on top, it came against those dastardly Yankees, who were in the middle of a swoon that put them comfortably behind the O's. Brooksie's full-count blast to left field gave Mike Cuellar a well-deserved complete-game victory, as the screwballer permitted just seven hits and a walk in ten innings. He outlasted Yankee starter Mel Stottlemyre, who gave up seven hits and two walks (and hit a solo homer of his own!) in seven innings. Lindy McDaniel had stranded an inherited runner at second base in the ninth inning, but was undone in the tenth by a leadoff walk to Boog Powell, followed by a Frank Robinson single and a Gene Michael boot of an Elrod Hendricks grounder.

Six years later, Ken Singleton helped the Orioles avoid extra innings on a Saturday night at Memorial Stadium when his clout off of Jim Crawford struck the left field foul pole. Incredibly, it was the first homer Kenny had hit with runners on base during his O's tenure. He was new to the team in 1975, and swatted 15 solo shots that season. The game-winning grand slam was his second home run of the '76 season, and it undid six-plus innings of shutout relief from Crawford, who replaced Detroit's ineffective starter Joe Coleman in the third inning. The Birds also yanked their starter, Ross Grimsley, in the third, and received solid long relief from Wayne Garland, who allowed the tying run in the sixth inning on a walk, a double, and a fielder's choice but kept the Tigers off the board otherwise to earn the win. A big assist came from Baltimore catcher Dave Duncan, who gunned down the speedy Ron LeFlore on an attempted steal of third base in the top of the ninth to keep the game knotted up.

Strangely enough, the O's hit their next two walkoff slams within two and a half weeks of each other in August 1982. Terry Crowley provided the first of the pair, and did it during your humble narrator's fourth day on this earth. Naturally, Crow's four-run four-bagger was a pinch-hit job in the ninth inning. It was his fourth career slam and his 101st pinch hit, and was the record-tying third pinch-hit slam of the season for the plucky Birds. Royals reliever Mike Armstrong got to a 2-2 count by pitching Terry away, but the wily veteran wasn't fooled when the pitcher came inside, and the result was a game-winner into the right field bleachers. Crowley had pinch-hit for Rick Dempsey, as Earl Weaver out-manuevered KC manager Dick Howser. After Eddie Murray (who reached on an error by shortstop U.L. Washington) and John Lowenstein (reached on a walk) moved to third and second base on an Armstrong balk, Howser ordered Cal Ripken, Jr. to be intentionally walked. Oops. This was a wild game even before the late fireworks; six home runs were hit in all, with Washington and Jerry Martin going long for the Royals and Murray, Lowenstein, and Al Bumbry also doing the honors for Baltimore.

How about another 10-inning complete game victory by an Oriole pitcher to go along with a walkoff granny? That's what the Birds got on August 24, 1982 when Dennis Martinez went the distance on four hits and Joe Nolan went yard to best the Blue Jays. Eddie Murray's three-run homer gave El Presidente a first-inning lead, but the Jays chipped away in the fourth and fifth frames to even the score. It stayed that way until the bottom of the tenth, when Toronto manager Bobby Cox replaced starter Dave Stieb with Joey McLaughlin. Hindsight is 20/20, right? McLaughlin walked the bases loaded, which included another intentional pass to Cal Ripken, Jr. following a John Lowenstein bunt. Jim Dwyer struck out for the second out, but backup catcher Nolan made it all moot with his heroics.

Chris Hoiles' "Ultimate Grand Slam" is the most well-known of these seven slams, and is also the only one hit when the O's were trailing. I wrote about it three years ago, so I'll save myself a little work this time around.

Harold Baines had been the last Baltimore hitter to end a game with a grand slam prior to last night, performing the feat way back in 1999. The O's badly needed that win, as they "improved" to 8-17 in the process. There are plenty of unusual sights in the box score, including an Albert Belle stolen base, Paul Konerko starting at first base for the White Sox (he's still there in 2013!), and the eternal punchline that is Calvin Pickering pinch hitting for Willis Otanez. Oh, did I mention reliever Ricky Bones pinch running for catcher Lenny Webster ahead of Baines' slam? Wait, it gets better. Despite two home runs from Jeff Conine, the Orioles were down 5-3 heading into the home half of the ninth. Chicago skipper Jerry Manuel subbed in Craig Wilson for Greg Norton at third base, and moved Norton to first, removing Konerko from the game. Naturally, Brady Anderson hit the ball to Norton, who muffed it. Rich Amaral was due up as the DH, but manager Ray Miller wisely pinch-hit with the 40-year-old Baines, who blasted Bob Howry's 0-1 pitch to center field for a run-scoring triple! Knowing the decrepit condition of Harold's knees, I can only assume that center fielder McKay Christensen suffered a major heart attack while the ball was in the air. Anyway, the O's were down to their last out after a pair of strikeouts, but Conine tied it with a line single to left field. The decisive tenth inning went walk, walk, bunt, hit-by-pitch (Brady Anderson, naturally), grand slam. Rough loss for Pale Hose rookie reliever David Lundquist, but at least he can see from this list that he wasn't alone.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Alex Ochoa, 1994 Bowman #367

When Foil Goes Wrong: Check out the gruesome severed ear resting on Alex Ochoa's right shoulder. Bowman, my boy, you done goofed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Craig Worthington, 1991 Fleer Ultra #26

Craig Worthington's 48th birthday is today, which probably happened because he stopped playing for the Orioles 22 years ago and you lost track of him, you insensitive person you. But the former International League MVP didn't just disappear from the face of the earth after the O's traded him to San Diego in the spring of 1992, you know. Where in the world is (was) Craig Worthington? Let's play:

1992: Released by the Padres at the end of Spring Training. Signed with the Indians three weeks later, put up a .794 OPS in 90 games at AAA Colorado Springs. Went 4-for-24 in a late-season cameo in Cleveland, and was released.

1993-1994: Played two full seasons for the Cubs' AAA Iowa affiliate, tallied a combined 30 homers and 135 RBI. Did not play in the majors at all.

1995: During the players' strike, he signed with the Reds as a free agent, was claimed in the Rule 5 draft by the Phillies, and was returned to Cincinnati prior to Opening Day. Hit .318/.381/.484 in 81 games at AAA Indianapolis, and collected five hits in 18 at-bats for the Reds in a 10-game stint. In mid-August, Craig was traded to the Rangers for Stephen Larkin (Barry's younger brother) and cash. Playing once again for former O's skipper Johnny Oates, Worthington mustered a scant .661 OPS in 26 games.

1996: A baker's dozen worth of games in Texas, another 15 at AAA Oklahoma City, and a June 12 release. That was the end of Craig's time in affiliated pro ball, but not the end of his playing career. He played briefly for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan near season's end.

1997: Worthington went south of the border to play for the Monterrey Sultanes. No statistics are available on his Baseball Reference minor league register.

1998-2000: Craig's final act, as is the case for many ballplayers, was in the independent leagues. He totaled 196 games over three seasons for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. His batting line: .271/.378/.471 with 34 home runs and 124 RBI. He would have at least briefly crossed paths with a few other ex-Orioles, including Joe Borowski, Jeff McKnight, John Mitchell, and Tom O'Malley (the team's manager).

So there you have it. More than you could possibly ever need to know about the post-Baltimore playing career of Craig Worthington, a decade spent largely in obscurity. As I try to remind myself, he accomplished more within his abilities than most pro baseball players.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mike Mussina, 1992 Leaf #13

Here's a rare sight: Mike Mussina in a #42 jersey. Moose wore that number for his initial two-month stint with the Orioles in 1991, switched to #35 in 1992, and wore the latter for the rest of his career.

Tonight is the one night of the year that the Orioles will wear #42...each and every one of them. Since the O's had off yesterday, they're observing Jackie Robinson Day tonight against the Rays by wearing his number on nameless jerseys. I'll be there, trying to send good-pitching vibes to the confounding Jake Arrieta and probably enjoying a more "intimate" crowd experience after enduring the crush of revelers a few weeks back at the home opener. C'mon, Jake...don't mess up my personal eight-game win streak at Camden Yards!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rafael Palmeiro, 1997 Upper Deck Run Producers #RP9

If you were an Oriole fan in the 1990s, there's a good chance that Rafael Palmeiro was once one of your favorite players. He was the first big "get" of the Peter Angelos era, he seemed to be an affable family man, and most importantly, he contributed big-time to some successful teams. In his first stint with the O's (1994-1998), Raffy batted .292/.371/.545 (134 OPS+) with 182 home runs and 553 RBI. Just as importantly, he played almost every game and was a solid defender at first base. But for some reason or another, folks' warm memories of the slugger have cooled.

We've hashed and rehashed the ignominious end of Palmeiro's career-ending second swing through Charm City, so I thought I'd share an entertaining story from better times. This one comes straight from Brady Anderson, who was recently talking to ESPN's Buster Olney about the legacy of retirement-bound Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Some of those late-90s Birds had uncommon success against the great closer, particularly Raffy (.331/.471/.556) and Roberto Alomar (.385/.438/.615). The duo had a special, smaller-than-usual bat (32 inches long) that was intended to help them get inside of Rivera's trademark cutter. The bat was socked away safely until it was time to face #42. Then the All-Star infielders would summon "Stumpy", as it was called. Brady says that he relished the challenge of facing Mariano with his own standard-sized bat, and his numbers were decent, but well below the bar set by his teammates: .273 average (6-for-22), with a walk and a pair of doubles. Anyhow, Anderson used Stumpy once, perhaps out of curiosity, and promptly got jammed by Rivera. He broke Stumpy.

That's why the Orioles can't have nice things, I guess.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Grady Hatton, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #187

Another 1950s Oriole player passed away last week. Six decades later, I suppose it's an occupational hazard. In this case, the deceased is Grady Hatton, aged 90. He spent eight years and change with the Reds at the beginning of his career, including an unusual All-Star selection in 1952. That season, he batted .212/.319/.312 with 9 home runs and 57 RBI. If you check his first-half splits, they're not much better: .235/.335/.358. The infielder's time in Baltimore wasn't very notable, either: 27 games in 1956 on the downside of his career. Nine hits in 61 at-bats (.148 AVG), a home run, three RBI. But Grady has his place in the Oriole trivia book, as brought to my attention by reader (and coworker) Al. Hatton was the last O's player to wear number five on his back before Brooks Robinson came up to stay in 1957 and staked his claim to it. So fare thee well, Grady Hatton. You'll go down in history with Mike Epstein (#4), Dave Skaggs (#8), Gino Cimoli (#20), Dean Stone (#22), and Jim Hutto (#33).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Alfredo Simon, 2010 Topps Update Series #US-61

Man, National League baseball seems like it's being played in another universe sometimes. I just finished watching the Pirates defeat the Reds in a 3-1 squeaker. Playing prominent roles in a losing cause for Cincinnati were Cesar Izturis, who started at second base and had a single and an intentional walk in four trips to the plate, and Alfredo Simon, who replaced an injured Johnny Cueto in the fifth inning and ultimately took the loss. Simon surrendered a pair of Pirate runs in two innings of work, but also singled in his lone plate appearance for his first career hit. I wasn't completely certain that the duo of ex-Orioles was still in the league, much less seeing the field for a team expected to contend in the N.L. Central. Naturally Izturis, with his .616 career OPS, was given a free pass with a runner on second base and two outs to allow the Bucs to pitch to Cincy starter Cueto, who justified the iffy strategy by flying out to center field. If it were me, I would've just taken the near-certain out from Izzy, but I'm not paid the big bucks like Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1975 Topps Mini #26

Earlier this week, I hinted of a vintage item contained in the mailing I just got from Night Owl. If you follow Mr. Owl's blog at all (and why wouldn't you?), you should have known that an older mystery card from him could mean only one thing...


Did I get that right, Night Owl?

Yes, my fellow card blogger and vintage enthusiast is closing in on completion of the 1975 Topps 2 1/4" X 3 1/8" parallel set just as I whittle my base set needs down to the nitty-gritty. He actually sent me a pair of perfectly imperfect copies of Dave McNally's mini card. In addition to the lovingly creased card you see here, there was another that was stupendously miscut on the top and bottom borders. They will be added to my team collection with nary a discouraging word. Though I seem to have successfully acquired all of the Orioles' Topps base set cards from 1973 through 1978, I haven't really gotten moving on the 1975 Minis. In addition to this here McNally, I've got Grant Jackson and Jim Palmer...at least I think I have Palmer. Note to self: you've still got a lot of organizing to do.

Anyhow, for the sake of comparison, here's a scan of Dave's 1975 Mini alongside the full-sized card. It really is slightly smaller! Wonders never cease.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Luis Ayala, 2013 Topps Blue #276

It sure seems like I put the whammy on ol' Luis Ayala by featuring him on my blog two days ago. Sure, the O's had reportedly been shopping him before Opening Day, but it's funny that he was traded to the Braves for a AA pitcher less than 24 hours after I hit "publish". Anyhow, now's a good time to show off the other half of my Big Retail Parallel Tandem, the Walmart blue-border special. Adios to Luis, whose superficially good 2012 season (2.64 ERA, 3.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio) was undermined by a tendency to allow inherited baserunners to score. Last year, the righty permitted 22 of 50 inherited runners to cross the plate, a lofty 44% rate. Even so, there were years in the not-so-distant past when the Orioles would have killed for a guy who did the things that Ayala did in their wild card season. I'm not even talking about his ballhawking exploits on home runs hit into the team's bullpen, impressive though they were.

Now I can add a bit of trivia to my experience at the 2013 home opener. I witnessed Luis Ayala, in his final appearance as an Oriole, earn credit for the win with an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief. That's surely something to tell the grandkids about one day.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Brian Matusz, 2012 Panini Triple Play #8

Here's another card from Night Owl. I love the Triple Play set, and only partially because they don't have an MLB license and I want to stick it to The Man. I also love the price point (a dollar per 7-card pack) and the creativity of the set. Going with player caricatures draws the attention to the artwork and away from the lack of team logos. Some of the player likenesses are pretty accurate. Others are just silly. Then there are player portraits like this one of Brian Matusz, which fall into the "so bad it's good" category. I would think that the young lefty would be easy to cartoonize, what with his perpetually pink cheeks, protruding ears, and his long, giraffe-like neck. You can see hints of a long neck in this doodle, but even that's obscured by the pitcher's glove. It goes downhill from there. The rain-thin Matusz is depicted as a moon-faced, squinting fellow with shocks of unruly black hair. Even when Brian experimented with a shaggier 'do in early 2011, his locks have always been a medium brown. The guy on this card looks more like Josh Beckett on a bender than Brian Matusz. But that's why I enjoy this card. It's so completely off the mark that it amuses me every time I look at it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Luis Ayala, 2013 Topps Red #276

What's this? A current-year Topps product? That must mean that it's mail day! Indeed, on this beautiful and unseasonably warm day, I had a small yellow envelope waiting for me after work. It was an unexpected package from none other than the friendly neighborhood Night Owl. He sent a half-dozen cards, all of them new to me...though one was older than I am. (To be revealed on Friday. Ooh, a cliffhanger!) Thanks to Night Owl, I now have both the red and the blue border parallels of Luis Ayala's 2013 Topps card. Those in the know say that the red ones are inserted into packs of cards shipped to Target, and the blue guys are inserted into packs of cards destined for Walmart. I honestly think the red looks better, as it's more vivid than the grayish-blue of the Wallyworld parallels. Besides, you get a warm-color effect with the O's orange logo and color banner that's not half-bad. It's a shame that I got tired of spending my money to support Topps' monopolistic reign of terror, because this year's design is light years better than their 2012 effort. Anyhow, I'll have to pull out the handful of Dodgers inserts I bought at a flea market a few months back and see if I have anything that Mr. Owl can use. It never hurts to think of others when you're hunting for bargains.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Roberto Alomar, 1998 Upper Deck 10th Anniversary #X3

Well, I left town for a couple of days and the O's dropped two straight one-run games to the Twins. I had a wonderful time hanging out with old friends in Chestertown on Saturday, then spent Sunday in southern Maryland watching WrestleMania with a few other friends. No regrets, but I need to get back on the blogging horse as the Orioles hit the road. They're in Boston tonight, and if they're looking to spend the first full week of the 2013 getting out to a fast start, they could take a cue from Robbie Alomar. In April of 1996, the talented second baseman burst out of the gates for his new team. After signing a three-year free-agent deal in the prior offseason with the Birds, Alomar proved that he was worth his contract by batting .375 with a .441 on-base percentage and a .558 slugging percentage. In 26 games, he scored 20 runs, had nine doubles, a pair of triples, a pair of home runs, and 15 RBI. Roberto had 13 multi-hit games in that first month in orange and black. So yeah, just be more like Roberto Alomar, guys. Um, except for the extracurricular stuff. Nobody wants that.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Clint Courtney, 1954 Bowman #69

I mentioned a few days ago that bespectacled catcher Clint "Scrap Iron" Courtney hit the first home run in Orioles history, though thankfully he wasn't wearing a jersey guilty of apostrophe abuse when he did so. I guess the artists over at Bowman weren't big on grammar.

Anyhow, Courtney wasn't much of a power hitter throughout his 11-year career with the Yankees, Browns/Orioles, White Sox, Senators, and Athletics. He totaled 38 home runs in 946 games, with a season high of eight. In the Birds' inaugural 1954 season, Clint hit four in 397 at-bats.

Today, Chris Davis hit his fourth home run in his first 15 at-bats of the 2013 season. This one was the biggest yet, a first-pitch, tie-breaking grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning in the O's home opener. "Crush" is now the fourth player in MLB history to go deep in each of his team's first four games, joining the formidable trio of Willie Mays, Mark McGwire, and Nelson Cruz. He also has 16 of the team's 29 RBI, and that's a modern record for the first four games of the year - at least since 1920, when they started keeping track of runs batted in as an official statistic. Since my sister and I attended today's game, Chris is also going to be taking the blame for my hoarse voice. I may have completely lost my fool mind with that one swing of the bat that wrapped up the Orioles' 9-5 win over the Twins. But that's a trade I'll make every time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chris Davis, 2012 Topps #151

Man, I really need to diversify my Chris Davis collection. This is the third card I've posted of the O's slugging first baseman, and the other two were parallels of this base card. That's what I get for boycotting new Topps products and being too lazy to initiate trades with others.

Anyhow, I'm looking for the silver lining of last night's ugly 8-7 walkoff loss to the Rays. Sure, Wei-Yin Chen ran out of gas in the sixth inning, which is something of a trend in his brief Orioles career. Sure, Luis Ayala and Pedro Strop each blew a late-inning lead, and Tommy Hunter doomed the Birds by doing what he does best: tossing up a meatball to Matt Joyce for a game-ending homer. But Chris Davis is a flat-out beast, an unstoppable, hulking monster who was made to send baseballs to heaven.

Last night, Davis was 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and another towering three-run homer, and he had four RBI total. Through two games (smallest of sample sizes!), he has a .625 average, a .667 on-base percentage, a 1.625 slugging percentage, two home runs, and seven RBI. He has at least a share of the league lead in doubles, total bases, RBI, slugging, OPS, and OPS+ (586...again, 100 is average!). Hell, let's just go right off the deep end and project Chris' two-game totals through a full 162-game season. Were Davis to keep up his pace - and I see no reason why he shouldn't - he would finish the year with 162 doubles, 162 home runs, and 567 RBI. Those would all be major league records, I think.

EDIT: I obviously wrote the above before today's 6-3 win over the Rays. Chris went 2-for-3 with a double and a home run, drove in four more runs, and was hit by a pitch. The updated totals: .636/.692/1.727, three doubles, three homers, 11 RBI. As I write this, he's outproduced the Marlins 11-1, and he is now the first player in Orioles history to hit 10 home runs in a span of 10 regular-season games (dating back to last season, of course). Mercy.

Okay, let me take my tongue out of my cheek and provide a serious update on the Brian Roberts Comeback Watch: 2-for-4 with a game-tying double in the ninth inning off of Fernando Rodney, who blew only two of his 50 save attempts in 2012. That's Brian's first extra-base hit since May 4, 2011. I don't think I can tell you how badly I want the O's senior player to be back in his 2009 form...or at least reasonably close to it.

EDIT: Brian singled in the ninth inning today, stole second base with a headfirst slide, and came up favoring his right knee. He had to be helped off the field. Dammit.