Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scott McGregor, 1988 Topps #419

This may be my favorite of the five autographed cards I received from Alan this week. Scott McGregor's 1988 Topps card rekindles a lot of memories; I've owned a copy since childhood, long before I even followed baseball. It's such a unique photo. How often do you see a shot of the pitcher just standing atop the mound to receive the return throw from his catcher? That Scotty's eyes look to be closed makes it stand out all the more. The orange-and-brown color scheme that Topps used for the Orioles in this set complements the picture very well. I think the autograph just adds to the aesthetic: it's very distinct in its own unintelligible way.

In housekeeping news, I will likely be incommunicado blogwise until Monday. My wife and I are spending the weekend visiting her family. See you next week!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Manny Machado, 2013 Topps Allen and Ginter #120

Last night, Manny Machado became the second Oriole third baseman to ever win a Gold Glove. Of course, the other guy won 16 at the hot corner, so the O's are still well-represented in the annals. Machado, as always bears repeating, is only 21 years old. Brooks Robinson had to wait until he was 23 to receive his first award. Young Manny's incredible range, sure hands, and super-powered throwing arm helped him to beat out a bumper crop of skilled third basemen. Fellow finalists Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre already had six Gold Gloves between them. Baltimore's emerging star was drafted and developed as a shortstop, and is still nimble enough to play at his natural position. One can't help but wonder how dazzling he might be at short.

Of course, Manny is playing at third because of the Birds' incumbent shortstop, J. J. Hardy. Hardy just won his second straight Gold Glove, joining the duo of Mark Belanger and Cal Ripken as the only Baltimore shortstops to win multiple Gold Gloves. Another returning Gold Glover is center fielder Adam Jones, who collected his third trophy in the past five years. Paul Blair is the other O's flychaser to earn consecutive Gold Gloves.

The Orioles took home three Gold Gloves, just as they did in 2012. This tied them with the Royals for the most in the major leagues. Two K.C. Gold Gloves came at the expense of Baltimore finalists, with Eric Hosmer beating out Chris Davis at first base and Salvador Perez besting Matt Wieters at catcher. But then, Hardy topped Alcides Escobar and Jones topped Lorenzo Cain, so THERE.

It's always nice to see the home team add a little hardware, especially when they're receiving notice for their record-setting defensive prowess.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Armando Benitez, 1996 Donruss #513

My mother is retiring next month, so she's been doing a lot of cleaning, organizing, and dumping. Yesterday afternoon she handed me a sealed (but not stamped) envelope that she'd found bearing my handwriting. It was addressed to Dr. Gene Budig, President of the American League from 1994 through 1999. I had no recollection of ever composing a letter to the good doctor, but I had a feeling that it couldn't be anything good. When I got back to my desk and opened it up, my suspicions were confirmed.

The letter, composed in Microsoft Word and printed neatly, is dated October 10, 1996. The day after Game 1 of the ALCS. THAT game. Armando Benitez. Derek Jeter. Tony Tarasco. Jeffrey Freaking Maier. It's a fascinating glimpse into the frustrated mind of a 14-year-old baseball fanatic, and there is contempt dripping off of each and every word. I'm not nearly shameless enough to share the letter in its entirety, but highlights include:

-Referring to myself as "a frustrated ex-baseball fan". 17 years later, I must note that I'm apparently not a man of my convictions. And yes, I underlined "ex" in the letter, just so he would get the point.

-Committing the cardinal sin of the overzealous sports fan and substituting "we" for the team name.

-Describing the umpires as "spiteful" (more on that in a moment) and "incompetent", and Yankee rooters as "nasty, immoral slobs". Gee, young Kevin, tell us what you really think.

-Suggesting that Richie Garcia and the rest of the umpiring crew may have had it in for the Orioles because Roberto Alomar had recently spit on John Hirschbeck.

-Noting that I had stripped my room of all baseball memorabilia. It's a good thing I didn't actually throw those cards out...I suppose.

-Appending a closing salutation of "Worst regards". Oh, BURN.

Obviously, this letter is something that I can laugh at now. Maybe time really does heal all wounds.

On the other hand, I still can't stand Armando Benitez.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Storm Davis, 1986 Fleer #271

I didn't expect to still be receiving wedding gifts six weeks after saying "I do". But today, a plain white envelope arrived from reader Alan, who is much more proactive about collecting Oriole autographs than I am. As he'd promised some days ago, he sent me five autographed O's cards: Tim Stoddard, Scott McGregor, Tom Niedenfuer, Bob Milacki, and ol' George Earl Davis, pictured above. Storm was a better pitcher for the Birds than I'd realized; he only had one subpar season in his initial five-year tenure in Baltimore. Even though he was only 20 years old when he debuted in 1982, Davis posted a 54-40 record and a 3.65 ERA (110 ERA+) in the first half-decade of his career. He completed 27 of his 121 starts. At that juncture, the Orioles traded their young middle-rotation starter for 31-year-old catcher Terry Kennedy and middle reliever Mark Williamson. Kennedy was gone in two years, and Williamson stuck around for eight mostly-competent seasons out of the bullpen. Storm soon landed in Oakland, won 35 games in a two-season span on the strength of the great team behind him, and wound up as a free-agent flop in Kansas City. He had good seasons as a reliever for the Orioles in 1992 and the Tigers in 1994, but never pitched in the majors again after the strike that ended the latter season. That's certainly not the career path that many would have predicted when ex-teammate Mike Flanagan was referring to him as "Cy Clone" due to his similarity to Jim Palmer. But baseball history is rarely tidy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jimmy Key, 1997 Fleer Circa #333

In a little bit, I'll be driving down to the Baltimore Arena to see Pearl Jam in concert for the second time in my life, and the first since 2008. Their newest studio album, released earlier this month, is entitled Lightning Bolt. If that's not reason enough to post this gooberish neon 1990s Fleer card, complete with lightning bolt effects, well...I fear for the future of this planet.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Matt Tucker, 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP72

Out of baseball in 2013. Reached AA Bowie for all of 16 games in 2010, where he posted a .477 OPS at age 27. Bowman, you've done it again.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Joe Ginsberg, 1957 Topps #236

You spend your childhood dreaming about having your picture on a baseball card, and finally it happens. Then some punk-ass kid gets his grubby little hands on that card, and suddenly you've got a "3" written on your back in pencil. The eraser only makes it worse. Kids these days...no respect, I tell you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jeff Conine, 2001 Topps #683

Jeff Conine had many talents as a ballplayer, but chief among them was his ability to look disgusted and vaguely annoyed approximately 100% of the time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joe Carter, 1998 Fleer Tradition #511

It's been 20 years to the day since Joe Carter hit his famed walkoff three-run homer off of Mitch Williams to clinch the Blue Jays' second straight World Series win. This is pretty damned impossible, since I have distinct memories of watching most of that year's Fall Classic at age 11. It hasn't really been 20 years. Yet, here we are. Stupid passage of time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Melvin Mora, 2003 Upper Deck SP Authentic #20

Melvin Mora never was the fastest runner on his team. Maybe it had something to do with the black metal bar fused to his rear end.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rick Dempsey, 1987 Fleer #567

Your quote of the day, from a Roch Kubatko interview with Rick Dempsey:

"I go back to 1986 when at the end of the season with the Orioles, I had to get an elbow operation," Dempsey said. "The Orioles weren't going to pick up the option on my contract, and I was so freaking hurt. They were bringing in Mickey Tettleton to play every day, a big home run hitting catcher. I got in a big contract dispute with (general manager) Hank Peters. I was so upset they didn't call me in to talk about this transaction that I said I'd sign with the worst team at the minimum salary rather than come back to the Orioles, and God was listening. I went to the Cleveland Indians."

The bit about the Indians is worth a laugh, but Dempsey's been holding that grudge for so long he doesn't even remember the details about his departure. Tettleton wasn't signed until 1988; it was Terry Kennedy that the Orioles acquired after the 1986 season. Let it go, Rick. If you read the rest of his quotes, he also seems to be in denial about his ability to play regularly in the early 1990s, when the Brewers and Orioles both put him at arms' length in short order. It must be tough to be an aging professional athlete; I've heard before that guys like Dempsey are often the last to know when they're finished.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Koji Uehara, 2011 Topps Opening Day #77

Last night as I came to terms with the inevitability of a Cardinals-Red Sox World Series, which was the matchup I least wanted to see at the onset of the postseason, I was at least able to take some solace in the successes of Boston closer Koji Uehara. The ex-Oriole saved the clinching Game Six of the ALCS last night with a scoreless inning of relief, striking out a pair of Tigers and doing it all in just 11 pitches. Moments later, Koji was named the Most Valuable Player of the series. He saved three of Boston's wins, and earned the win in the fourth. His totals: six innings, four hits, no runs, no walks, nine strikeouts. Since I'm not crazy about either the Redbirds or the BoSox, I'll just spend the next week and change rooting for Koji rather than the unappealing laundry that he wears.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tony Chevez, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #75

I'm probably repeating myself - after blogging on a near-daily basis for almost six years, I'd be surprised if I wasn't - but the thing I value about the 1991 All-Time Orioles set is that they included everyone. Every Tom, Dick, or Harry who ever threw a single pitch or had a single at-bat in the first 37 years of O's baseball has his own card in this oddball set. That includes Tony Chevez, who was the second player born in Nicaragua to play in the major leagues. Baltimore signed both Chevez and fellow Nicaraguan Dennis Martinez in 1973, and the former was actually the bigger star back home. In the amateur Roberto Clemente League, Tony went 20-1 with a 0.93 ERA and a pair of no-hitters in his final season. His pitching talent translated well to the minor leagues, where he posted a 32-14 record and a 1.93 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Class A Miami Orioles. The club promoted him to AA Charlotte during the 1976 season, and he went 7-3 with a 1.87 ERA. But in 1977, everything changed.

Chevez was 23 when the Birds promoted him to the major leagues in place of the injured Fred Holdsworth in late May of 1977. He was used four times in mop-up relief situations, and gave up runs each time: 13 total (11 earned) in eight innings, for a 12.38 ERA. He allowed 10 hits and eight walks and struck out only seven men. His final appearance came on a cool, wet night in Boston. Chevez says that he slipped during his follow-through after one pitch and felt a pop in his shoulder. He sat unused in the Baltimore bullpen for two more weeks before returning to AAA Rochester. He tried pitching through the pain, but wasn't the same pitcher he had been before. He had a 13-27 record and a 4.52 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Red Wings, and his pro career was finished by 1980. Those four rocky relief appearances comprised the entirety of his major league experience.

But Tony made his happy ending elsewhere, settling in Rochester with his wife Halyma. They became United States citizens in 1982 and raised three children. Their daughter Kelly married then-Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett in 2008. Tony found work for a tool and die manufacturer in Rochester, and Halyma is a social worker. They have not forgotten their roots, either, returning to Nicaragua several times in the past decade with friends from their church to build homes and donate medicine and clothing to the needy.

My source for this blog post was a fine article posted at SABR by Rory Costello.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Bob Grich, 1974 Topps #109

If anybody needs me today, I'm combing through a 3000-or-so-count box of well-used 1970s Topps commons on loan from my buddy Ed. In exchange for bits of American currency, he's allowing me to do some set-building. I've already got this card, which features Bobby Grich, baserunner Pedro Garcia of the Brewers, and a bunch of empty Memorial Stadium bleacher seats. But perhaps I can give it some company in my partially complete 1974 Topps binder. Everybody wins!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2001 Fleer Authority #33

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but on the off chance that any of you know the parties responsible...

For goodness' sake, stop picking on Vi Ripken. What did she ever do to you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Scott McGregor, 1983 Fleer #66

It has been exactly 30 years since Scott McGregor pitched the game of his life, permitting seven Phillies baserunners (five hits, two walks) and striking out six in nine scoreless innings. Eddie Murray broke out of his Fall Classic slump with a pair of home runs, and Rick Dempsey sewed up MVP honors with a double and a homer. It took the Orioles just two hours and 21 minutes to complete a 5-0 victory, clinching the franchise's third World Series Championship...and to date, their last.

The O's haven't even been to the World Series since their 1983 triumph, though they finally seem to be moving in the right direction for the first time since the late 1990s. But it's a simple fact that there are 18 other franchises that have received that shiny trophy in the time that's passed since Cal Ripken caught the final out three decades ago. Of the 11 teams wandering the wilderness with the Birds, two others (Rays and Rockies) have come into existence in the interim. There are six pre-1983 expansion teams that have never won a Series: Colts/Astros, Pilots/Brewers, Mariners, Expos/Nationals, Padres, and Senators/Rangers. Then there are the truly unfortunate: the Pirates (last champs in 1979), Indians (1948), and of course the Cubs (1908). That's not exactly the company you want to keep.

I consider myself lucky to root for a team that has counted itself as a contender for the past two seasons.  But I've made it to 31 without being able to root for a World Series winner, and I'd love to knock that one off of my checklist sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jim Palmer, 2005 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic #42

It's Jim Palmer's 68th birthday today. He won exactly 268 total games as a major leaguer. He had an earned run average of 2.68 in 1971, when he made the All-Star team and was one of the American League Champion Orioles' record four 20-game winners. He also earned 68.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over his career as a pitcher, 35th-best all-time. From 1965 through 1984, the only season in which Palmer didn't appear in a single game with the O's was 1968, when he was rehabbing from surgery. He came back better than ever in 1969: 16-4, 2.34 ERA in 26 games.

What does this all mean? Nothing, probably. But what if it does?

Monday, October 14, 2013

John Habyan, 1988 Topps #153

This monster cold/virus/whatphlegmyever is wreaking havoc with my blogging schedule. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. With any luck, I'll be breathing normally some time before November. I was actually willing and able to post to both blogs today, and the latest 1993 Topps subject is Mr. John Habyan. In researching that entry, I discovered that Habyan's first big league win came under unusual circumstances. The date was October 3, 1985, and the O's were hosting the nightcap of a doubleheader with Boston. Despite an early two-run homer from Larry Sheets, the Birds had fallen into a 6-4 hole when the rookie righthander was called upon with the bases loaded and nobody out. (Thank the bullpen dream team of Nate Snell and Brad Havens, who made that mess!) Red Sox batter Marty Barrett greeted Habyan with a run-scoring single to make it 7-4, but the youngster was able to retire the next three hitters to strand three runners. Errors by Tom O'Malley and Cal Ripken in the eighth inning saddled Habyan with an unearned run, giving Boston a four-run edge.

Just when things looked bleak, the Boston bullpen intervened. In the bottom of the eighth, a Floyd Rayford pinch single and a Rick Dempsey two-run homer cut the margin to 8-7 and helped chase Tim Lollar from the mound. Steve Crawford fared no better for the BoSox, loading the bases with an assist from backup third baseman Ed Jurak, who had just come in to give Wade Boggs a breather. Eddie Murray did the rest, clubbing a two-run double to give the O's a 9-8 lead. Don Aase nailed down the save with a perfect ninth, and young John Habyan had his first-ever MLB win. All it took was a five-run rally. Piece of cake.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Larry Miller, 1969 Topps #323

(When I was whining about being sick on Wednesday night, I had no idea that I wouldn't be able to keep any food or drink down for most of Thursday. I'm doing much better today than yesterday, so you get a blog post. Everybody wins!)

If you don't remember Larry Miller pitching for the Orioles, that's probably because he never pitched for the Orioles. Miller actually debuted with the Dodgers in 1964 as a 27-year-old rookie. He was a collegiate player at the University of Kansas, and also lost a couple of years to military service. He was 4-8 with a 4.18 ERA in his lone season in Los Angeles before being traded to the Mets. Larry didn't fare so well in New York, going 1-6 with a 5.35 ERA in parts of two seasons. That was the last of it, as far as Miller's big league career was concerned; he threw his last MLB pitch in 1966. It seems that Topps rolled the dice and assumed that the expansion-diluted rosters would open up a spot for Larry on the Baltimore staff, but it didn't happen. He spent the year with the Giants' AAA Phoenix team, and that was the end of his pro career.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Billy Ripken, 1992 Topps Gold Winner #752

"Winner*", this card declares. I certainly don't feel like a winner tonight. I've been forced to stay home from work for nine days and counting by the government shutdown, assured that I'll receive back pay as soon as I return to work...with no return to work in sight. And now I've come down with a wicked cold, so anything productive that I could be doing with this unplanned time off takes a back seat to lying around on the couch in a wheezy, congested torpor. It's not been a great week. Billy Ripken, why have you forsaken me?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Koji Uehara, 2010 Upper Deck #83

While I am sorry that Koji Uehara was the pitcher to give up the walk-off home run to Jose Lobaton in the bottom of the ninth inning last night in St. Petersburg, I certainly was glad to see Boston lose. I hope the Rays have some more late-inning magic left for tonight's game. There have been some thrilling games in the 2013 postseason thus far, and another winner-take-all Game Five would be ideal.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dylan Bundy, 2013 Topps #82

Now that the offseason has begun for the Orioles, we could use some reminders that the future is still bright in Birdland. Here's one for starters: Dylan Bundy had his Tommy John surgery on June 27. If his rehab stays on schedule, he could easily be pitching after the All-Star break. Not only do most pitchers make a full recovery from elbow ligament replacement surgery in today's game, but some of them come back throwing harder than they did before. Think about someone with Dylan Bundy's skills and tools...and think about the possibility of him improving on those assets.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1997 Upper Deck Predictors #P7

This here is a Predictor card. They were inserted in packs of 1997 Upper Deck, with scratch-off foil covering up the four bats on the front of the card. As you can see, somebody scratched off all four bats, thereby invalidating this card. At any rate, the idea was that you would scratch off one of the four, and if your player achieved the designated feat in any game during the 1997 season, you would win a super-nifty redemption card of said player. Since Cal Ripken's four checkpoints are all revealed to us, let's see if this card would have been a winner.

First off, Cal had no multi-homer games in 1997. He'd had three such games the previous year, including a three-homer game at Seattle on May 28, 1996. He didn't drive in five runs in any single game in '97, either; he peaked with four on three separate occasions. Nor did Junior have any five-hit games. He had a single four-hit game in the nightcap of a doubleheader against Boston. So a grand slam would be our only hope with this card. Survey says: Winner! He had a pair of salamis in 1997. The first was a seventh-inning tiebreaker against the immortal Pep Harris of the Angels on May 6. The other came on June 30 against the Phillies and former Oriole farmhand Calvin Maduro. Cal always did have a knack for the dramatic moment.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Roric Harrison, 1973 Topps #229

I got another just-for-me item off of our wedding registry earlier this week: an Ultra-Pro three-ring binder for baseball cards. Tomorrow I'm hoping to get around to filling it with nine-pocket pages so that I can give Roric Harrison and the rest of my in-progress 1973 Topps set a proper home. Harrison had just completed his rookie season, the only year he'd spend in Baltimore. He pitched out of the O's bullpen in all but two of his 39 appearances, posting a 2.30 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and four saves. The dark clouds behind the 25-year-old righty might be portending an unsatisfying career arc. Before the 1973 season he was dealt to Atlanta in the Earl Williams trade, and he had a so-so record in two-plus seasons with the Braves: 20-23, 4.45 ERA, 87 ERA+. He was swapped to the Indians in mid-1975 and broke even for his lone partial season in Cleveland: 7-7, 4.79 ERA. Roric spent the following two seasons in the minors before resurfacing with the Twins for a rocky nine-game stint in 1978. That was his last taste of the major leagues. But Harrison does have his own claim to fame, and it's not just that he is the only "Roric"to ever play in MLB. He had only 15 hits in 124 at-bats (.121 AVG), but six of those hits were home runs. In fact, he was the last American League pitcher to hit a home run before the designated hitter rule was introduced. His historical swing came on October 3, 1972 against Ray Lamb of the Indians. With that clout, Harrison helped his own cause in a 4-3 win over the Tribe. And now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

David Segui, 1993 Topps #82

Don't forget to check out my 1993 Topps blog, which I launched in May. Despite recently taking a couple of weeks off for my wedding and honeymoon, I have already posted 82 cards, roughly one-tenth of the base set. It just so happens that I posted this David Segui card on that blog this afternoon! In the perfect partnership between my 1990s navel-gazing and my Oriole-centric card collecting, David Segui also hit a two-run homer in the first game I ever attended at Oriole Park at Camden Yards: July 9,   1993. Everything comes full circle...at least for one day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

B. J. Surhoff, 1997 Upper Deck #304

For their 1997 base set, Upper Deck took some of the guesswork out of puzzling out when the pictures on the cards had been taken. It was a neat idea that was gone completely by 1999. Their reporting checks out here; on April 29, 1996, the Orioles did indeed host the Rangers, and B. J. Surhoff "went yard", lining a ball over the right field fence off of Rick Helling in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was a game-winning shot, as it broke a 7-7 tie and neither team scored for the rest of the contest. This game was as wild as the score suggests, with the Rangers jumping out to a 5-0 lead by the third inning, sending O's starter Kent Mercker to an early shower. Baltimore charged back with a three-spot in the third, but reliever Jimmy Haynes gave a pair of runs back in the fifth to make it 7-3. A Mike Devereaux solo homer and a Surhoff two-run double narrowed the deficit to one in the home half of the fifth, and set the stage for the Orioles to rally for the decisive runs in the seventh. Roberto Alomar led off with a double, stole third base, and scored the tying run on a Rafael Palmeiro sacrifice fly. Then it was over to Surhoff for his big blast, and the Baltimore bullpen combo of Haynes, Jesse Orosco, and Randy Myers successfully walked a tightrope to get the last six outs. Texas stranded 13 men on base, including four in the last two innings. So I guess what I'm saying is that this was a good choice by the Upper Deck folks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ben McDonald, 1996 Pinnacle #120

The last time the U. S. Government shut down was 1996. The idea of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic has aged about as well as these gray Oriole hats.

This time, I am one of the scores of federal employees who has been furloughed. The House of Representatives can't get their act together, so they've sent me home to think about what they did. I don't know how long I'll be barred from working, but I hope to make the best of it by doing some of the organizing and cleaning that this house so desperately needs. If I should happen to catch up on my sleep as well...so be it.