Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paul Gilliford, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #156

Today I was in the mood to blog about a card from my All-Time Orioles set, one of the cornerstones of my team collection. If I ever get serious about collecting at least one card of every player who's ever passed through Baltimore, this gas station premium gives me a leg up on the first 38 years of team history. I scanned the checklist and stopped on Paul Gilliford. The O's have occupied my thoughts for more than two decades, and still I sit here puzzling over that name. Who in the heck is Paul Gilliford?

For starters, he's a lefty pitcher from Bryn Mawr, PA. He played collegiately at Randolph Macon, in Ashland, VA. Paul was 20 years old when the Orioles signed him in 1965, and he performed impressively in the low minors. With the Miami Marlins (no, not those Miami Marlins) of the Class A Florida State League, he went 16-3 with a league-best 1.27 ERA in 1966. He allowed only 30 earned runs (40 runs total) in 213 innings. The southpaw split the 1967 season between another A-ball team in Stockton and the AA Elmira Pioneers, holding his own with a 12-10 mark and a 3.07 ERA.

The Birds rewarded "Gorilla" (his nickname, if Baseball Reference is to be trusted, and I don't see why not) with a September callup, and he debuted in the back end of a September 20 doubleheader at Washington. Manager Hank Bauer entrusted the rookie with the seventh and eighth innings of a tie game, and he held the line with two scoreless innings, allowing a walk and a single and closing out his day with a double-play grounder off the bat of Hank Allen. Paul was formally removed from the game in the top of the ninth, as Frank Robinson pinch hit for him with the go-ahead run on second base and received a free pass. There's one for the memory banks. The Orioles put together three runs in the tenth to win that day.

The lefty's second (and as fortune would have it, final) big league appearance was less auspicious. With the O's trailing the postseason-bound Red Sox 7-3 in the top of the ninth on September 24, it appeared to be a lower-leverage situation for the young Gilliford. He relieved Eddie Fisher to become Baltimore's fifth pitcher of the game, and he recovered from back-to-back singles to lead off the inning by striking out opposing pitcher Bucky Brandon and getting a forceout at second base on a Reggie Smith grounder. But then the lead runner, Jose Tartabull, scored on the front end of a double steal. Dalton Jones followed with a double to plate Smith, and George Scott walloped a two-run homer to increase the Boston lead to 11-3. After a Rico Petrocelli single, Paul finally escaped the nightmare ninth courtesy of an Elston Howard comebacker. The Oriole offense rallied for four runs of their own in their final at-bat to really twist the knife; if not for Gilliford's difficulties on the mound, it could've been a tie game. As it was, he was saddled with a 12.00 ERA in his three innings in the majors.

Paul returned to AA Elmira in 1968, and had a 7-7 record for Cal Ripken Sr.'s Pioneers. His 2.34 ERA in 131 innings was right in line with the team's overall 2.36 number. He landed in the Athletics' organization the following year, but was battered to the tune of a 9.39 ERA in 23 innings at AAA Iowa, and that's where his pro baseball record ends. That's everything that I could dig up with a cursory Google search, and it's enough to shine the smallest bit of light on one of the shortest-tenured players in Orioles history.

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