Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Here's a few more interesting tidbits about Fred Valentine, courtesy of the SABR Biography Project:
-His aunt nicknamed him "Squeaky" as a toddler, and the moniker stuck throughout his life.
-Fred is ambidextrous, which was an asset when he played quarterback in high school football.
-He graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College (a historically black college, known today as Tennessee State University) in three and a half years.
I'm glad I got a chance to meet a former player who had a greater impact off the field than on it.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Allow me to clarify. Remembering that the Orioles make a few ex-players available for autographs along the Eutaw Street concourse prior to Monday and Thursday games, I wandered over that way with my sister once we got through the gates yesterday evening. Sure enough, there he was: Larry "31 homers in 1987" Sheets, alongside mid-'70s infielder and Baltimore native Tim Nordbrook and outfielder Fred Valentine, who had three separate stints with the O's in 1959, 1963, and 1968. Since there was still over an hour before first pitch, I waited in line to collect signatures from the trio. Larry looks pretty good for 54, much better than Cal Ripken, if we're being brutally honest. I was a little sorry to see that he'd lost the trademark mustache, but you can't fault a guy for keeping his look fresh. A group of older guys passing by called out to Nordbrook to invite him out for drinks after the game, and he playfully asked if they wanted his autograph. When they responded in the affirmative, Tim yelled, "Get in line!". Valentine was moving more slowly than the two younger ex-players, but his signature was meticulous and clear, so it was a fair trade.
On yet another in a series of the moderate nights that have made this an atypical summer in Baltimore, the Birds seemed glad to be home, even if the crowd was on the small side (15,516 paid, though several of them must have stayed home). Chris Tillman looked sharp right from the start, generating weak grounders all over the infield. Steve Pearce and Jonathan Schoop each dropped a throw from J. J. Hardy on consecutive plays in the third inning, giving Tampa Bay a very short-lived 1-0 lead. But you can't keep a power-hitting team like the Orioles dormant forever, and the breakout came in the bottom of the third. Nick Markakis ended an 0-for-21 skid with a two-run homer to put the O's on top, and Steve Pearce immediately followed with a moon shot to left field. 3-1 Birds on back-to-back home runs against Jake Odorizzi.
The real fun came two innings later, as things got really out of hand in a good way for the hosts. The inning opened with three straight singles by the law firm of Pearce, Jones, and Cruz. After an initial hesitation, Pearce rumbled around third base and scored on Cruz's knock to left, as Rays left fielder Matt Joyce bobbled the ball. I had noticed Steve and Joyce conversing in the outfield during pregame warmups, and my idle theory was that the Oriole slugger was subtly intimidating his contemporary. It sure looked like it on that play. Anyhow, back-to-back-to-back singles are all well and good, but how about back-to-back-to-back home runs? I can tell you first-hand that they're pretty great. Delmon Young continued his baffling rejuvenation with an Earl Weaver Special over the left-center field fence, making it 7-1, and J. J. Hardy chased Odorizzi with a solo shot in the next at-bat. Chris Davis, who probably would've liked to take some hacks against the unraveled starter, rallied to welcome reliever Kirby Yates with a solo four-bagger of his own. It was 9-1, and there were still no outs. Nick Hundley made it seven hits in a row with an infield single and a one-base error by first baseman James Loney, but Yates stopped the bleeding there. Still, the Orioles had made team history by stacking back-to-back homers AND a separate occurrence of back-to-back-to-back home runs for the first time in their 60-plus seasons in Baltimore.
The rest of the game was less eventful. Tillman earned his 11th win with seven innings of three-hit ball, Darren O'Day and Zach Britton were untouchable as usual, and the Birds maintained their six-game division lead. Oh wait - there was a pretty decent double play turned by Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop. You might see this one on highlight reels for a little while yet.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
September 28, 1983, off of Dan Petry of the Tigers. It was his 26th and penultimate homer in his first MVP season, and it went for naught in a 9-5 loss. The Iron Man's only birthday home run also came during that thrilling '83 season. On August 24, 1983, Rip hit game-tying solo shot in the tenth inning off of Toronto's Joey McLaughlin. This was the famous game in which Tippy Martinez picked off three Blue Jay runners in one inning, with Lenn Sakata catching. Sakata went on to hit a walkoff three-run homer later in the tenth.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Friday, August 22, 2014
My hasty research tells me that Art's last name is pronounced "chick-a-RELL-ee". The Dodgers signed him out of high school in 1948, but his big league debut came with the Athletics in 1955. In between, he served two years in the U.S. Military during the Korean War. He didn't have a very accomplished career in the majors, amassing a 9-18 record with a 5.05 ERA in parts of five seasons. 1957 was his lone season as an Oriole. He pitched in 20 games (eight starts), with an 0-5 record and a 4.50 ERA in 58 innings. Ceccarelli walked 31 batters and struck out only 30. After his career ended, the lefty acknowledged that he never really honed his craft as a pitcher, instead relying too heavily on his fastball. His best outing with the O's was probably May 22, 1957. He held the visiting Tigers to three runs on five hits and a pair of walks, and struck out five in nine innings. Though Art didn't earn the decision, Baltimore picked up a walkoff victory when Tito Francona scored on Al Pilarcik's tenth-inning single. George Zuverink was credited with the win in relief. Make of this information what you will.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
the Orioles won an 8-2 game that was much closer than the final score. O's starter Bud Norris cruised through the first six innings, but a two-out single by Avisail Garcia in the seventh trimmed the lead to 3-2. Then Conor Gillaspie drove a Norris pitch deep to right field, and Nick left his feet and robbed Chicago's third baseman of a potential go-ahead home run. If you missed it, here it is, and if you already saw it, you probably want to watch it again:
By the by, Markakis is batting .400 in August and entered tonight's game with a 10-game hitting streak. It's nice to see him looking more lively than he did in 2013.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014
It was a Friday twinbill at Memorial Stadium. Things didn't go well for the Birds in the opener, as Mike Torrez was chased in the third inning. Wayne Garland allowed a few inherited runners to score, putting the home team in a 5-0 hole. The visiting Rangers scored a sixth run in the fourth inning on an odd play. First base umpire Ron Luciano, a longtime Weaver nemesis, initially called Jim Spencer out at first to complete a would-be double play. Then Luciano quickly reversed himself, ruling that first baseman Tony Muser failed to touch the bag. Cesar Tovar scored from third base, and Earl had a conniption and earned an early shower. The O's rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, but it was all for naught. Garland and Dyar Miller combined to allow four runs in the very next inning, giving Texas a 10-6 lead. That would be the final score.
Baltimore's skipper was still fuming when he brought out the lineup card before the second game, and he let Luciano know about it. Weaver insisted that the ump, who ejected him from a total of four minor league games and eight more in the majors, had a vendetta against him. Ron gave Earl more fuel for his fire, as he delivered a second heave-ho before the first pitch could be thrown in the nightcap! Fortunately, the Orioles salvaged a split by battering Texas 13-1. They pounded 18 hits off of Clyde Wright and Tommy Moore. Doug DeCinces homered, tripled, and drove in five runs. Lee May and Tommy Davis had three hits each. Mike Cuellar was the beneficiary, cruising to a complete-game, five-hit victory. It's a shame the manager wasn't around to see it.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The last time the Orioles had such a substantial cushion was September 13, 1997. Those O's were a veteran, high-payroll team, a club that led the American League East all season long. Jimmy Key tied with Scott Erickson for the team lead in wins, and when was the last time you thought about those guys? This is rarified air. Enjoy it, and allow yourself to dream about October.