Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Billy Gardner, 1958 Topps #105

You can breathe easier now: The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge is back on the calendar! Yep, on Saturday, March 8, I'm still on the hook to take a dip into the frosty Chesapeake Bay. I'm sure my generous donors will be glad to know that they not only contributed to the excellent cause that is the Special Olympics, but they also get the satisfaction (albeit delayed) of knowing that I briefly made a fool of myself in the name of charity. Besides, the way this winter is shaping up, we could still see snow here in the Mid-Atlantic in early March. My only concern is that I don't turn as blue as the background on Billy Gardner's fine old card here. Pictures to follow after the Plunge. Thank you, folks!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scott Erickson, 2000 Upper Deck Victory #200

Just in case you thought that Scott Erickson's public profile couldn't get any stranger - author of a no-hitter, former member of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list, Metallica fan, Homicide: Life on the Street guest star, and so forth - I just found another unusual story about the ex-Oriole pitcher in the unlikeliest of places: wrestler and heavy metal musician Chris Jericho's memoirs.

I recently started reading "Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps", the second book co-authored by Jericho, one of my all-time favorite WWE talents. Sometime around 2000-2001, "Y2J" spent a memorable evening carousing in a pub on Broadway with Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and Sebastian Bach. He was so drunk and rowdy that he managed to get himself banned from the bar for the foreseeable future. That's when the story takes a turn:

"After we left the pub, Paul, Jessica (Jericho's wife), her best friend Lisa (presumably sportscaster, model, and current Erickson spouse Lisa Guerrero), and her boyfriend Scott Erickson grabbed a taxi to take us back to the hotel. Erickson was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, whom I met for the first time at our wedding and hadn't liked since. He rubbed me the wrong way with his arrogance and sarcasm right off the bat (see what I did there?). He also had the same horrible hair as Ted Danson in Cheers, which led me to dub him Sammy Badweeds.
When we got into the cab, Badweeds got on my nerves again by being his arrogant and obnoxious self.
'Hey man, you're pretty small for a wrestler. You must really get your ass kicked!'
I tried to ignore him, but he could tell from the look on my face that I was getting pissed.
'What are you getting so upset about? It's just fake wrestling! Its not really a sport like baseball!' he said with a smarmy grin. I closed my eyes and tuned him out."
Of course, Erickson didn't leave it there. He slapped Jericho's friend Paul Gargano in the back of the head when nobody else was looking, allowing an admittedly inebriated Chris to take the blame. Finally, the first-ever Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Champion boiled over:

" 'That does it! Pull this car over right now,' I screamed at the driver.
 I swung open my door and ran around the side of the car to Sammy's half-rolled-down window. I reached through and punched him in the face. Suddenly I was public enemy number one (and I ain't talkin' about Nikki Sixx) to everybody in the taxi."
To sum up, Jericho claims that he didn't even hit Erickson that hard, but that Scott sold it like Shawn Michaels. Back at their hotel, his wife forced him to swallow his pride and apologize to the O's pitcher, who smirked all the way.

Neither Chris nor Scott/"Sammy" comes out of this story looking great, but I can only say that based on the reputation that Erickson earned throughout his career, it doesn't surprise me in the least that he'd be right in the thick of things like that.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Pacific #17

Always keep your eye on the ball. Pitchers and catchers report in 15 days, and not a moment too soon.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Melvin Mora, 2008 Upper Deck Documentary #2433 (BAL83)

In some ways, I think it's fitting that the slapdash, bloated Documentary set was one of the last products Upper Deck released before they lost their MLB license. Really, who wants to be bothered with a 4,890-card set? Even if you're just aiming for your own favorite team, you've got 162 very similar-looking cards to chase. In the case of the Orioles, that's 162 cards featuring a rotation of just nine players. Lame, lame, lame.

But enough lamentations about this cruddy product. Let's go dumpster-diving in that 2008 O's season and discover the hidden wonders of Game 83. This was another one of their "tread water until late summer, then everything goes to hell" seasons. Thus, the Birds were a passable 42-40 entering their Tuesday, July 1 contest at home against Kansas City. Baltimore jumped all over K.C.'s rookie starter Luke Hochevar with six runs in the first three innings. A pair of two-run singles by Ramon Hernandez and Adam Jones comprised a four-run third inning. Meanwhile, Oriole starter Radhames Liz put up a pitching line that seems typical of his usual effort, to my memory: three runs on seven hits (including two homers) in six innings. He got the win, Adam Loewen earned a hold with a couple of scoreless innings in relief, and Dennis Sarfate...nearly screwed the whole thing up. A Brian Roberts solo home run in the seventh inning had pushed the lead to 7-3, but Sarfate walked two of the three hitters he faced in the ninth and gave way to closer George Sherrill. Ol' Flatbrim did his usual tightrope act, notching out number two on a grounder to first that put the runners in scoring position and then yielding a Mark Grudzielanek single that brought both men home and sent the potential tying run to the on-deck circle. George rallied to strike out Alex Gordon and notch his 27th save.

Oh, and Melvin Mora? Oh-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, making him about the ninth or tenth most valuable Oriole in the game. Which brings me back to my original point...what bozo put this set together?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jeff Tackett, 1993 Fleer Ultra #147

Hi there! Sorry for the unexplained absence yesterday. I had a few friends over to watch the Royal Rumble, my favorite WWE pay-per-view of the year. I spent the afternoon cleaning and the evening hosting, and never did find the time to squeeze in a bit of writing. These things happen.

Meanwhile, back in 1993, the baseball card industry's all-time favorite Oriole backup catcher had his likeness printed on another attention-grabbing card. (If you don't know what I mean, click the 'jeff tackett' tag at the bottom of this post to see some of the other noteworthy cards of Tackett's ouvre.) I know that a few catchers in the 1970s and 1980s were known for eschewing the customary regular batting helmet turned backwards as part of their defensive gear, and instead opted for a helmet with the visor completely missing. But these tended to be smooth and streamlined, kind of like a hard skull cap. The visorless helmet Jeff Tackett is wearing on his '93 Ultra card is more contoured than the batting helmets of his era, making it look more like the hockey goalie-style masks that started popping up in baseball later in the 1990s. But the longer that I look at this photo, the more it seems that the contours on Jeff's lid are tricks of the shadows and the straps that connect the helmet to the face cage. I don't often toot my own horn, but this is probably the most time (and words) that anyone has ever spent on examining Jeff Tackett's catcher's gear.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rick Sutcliffe, 1993 Fleer Flair #158

As you may have heard, today's Polar Bear Plunge was canceled due to the weather. Winds on the Chesapeake Bay got up to 25 mph, creating three-foot waves on the water. There were more snow showers today, adding to the snow and ice that had already accumulated ashore earlier in the week. Sadly, it's not logistically possible to postpone to another date. I would like to offer thanks again to those of you who generously donated to Maryland Special Olympics by sponsoring my aborted plunge. Just so you don't feel completely hosed, Janet has assured me that she intends to photograph me cavorting in my swimsuit on the small snow-covered court at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood. It's probably just as well that I didn't dunk myself in the Bay in 30-degree temps; my beard has not been trimmed in months and it has superseded the face follicles of Rick Sutcliffe in length. I imagine that having my beard freeze right on my face would be unpleasant.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Russ Snyder, 1967 Topps #405

Baseball Reference has given me another new toy! Now anyone can search for historical transactions by date. That's how I learned that on January 24, 1961, the Orioles completed a five-for-two deal with the Kansas City Athletics. The O's shipped out Bob Boyd, Al Pilarcik, Wayne Causey, Clint Courtney, and Jim Archer in order to obtain Whitey Herzog and Russ Snyder. Baltimore got seven solid years out of Snyder, including a career-best 126 OPS+ (.306 AVG, .368 OBP) in their World Series-winning 1966 season. The A's even sent "Scrap Iron" Courtney back to the Birds after a single game; he would play the final 22 games of his 11-season career in Charm City before the club released him in July. So anyway, there's your reminder than once upon a time, the Orioles actually acquired players during the offseason.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lonnie Smith, 1994 Stadium Club #643

Sometimes you come across a story or a quote that makes you go, "Say WHAT?". That happened to me this morning when I was reading what Night Owl had to say about Lonnie Smith on his 1985 Topps blog. He included a link to a 2006 article about Smith from the Columbia, SC newspaper The State that detailed some of "Skates"' darker moments dating back to his famed cocaine addiction in the early 1980s. The outfielder had cleaned himself up with 30 days in a rehab clinic in 1983, but was not on good terms with Royals' GM John Schuerholz near the end of his time with Kansas City (1985-1987). He got the impression that Schuerholz disliked him for his high salary and did not believe that he had gone drug-free following the rehab stint, and accused the GM of badmouthing him to other teams in the league when he found himself without a job early in 1988. Lonnie was so upset, he entertained thoughts of murdering Schuerholz:

“If I couldn’t get back to baseball,” Smith says, “I was going to take him with me. I was going to fly out there, wait for him in the parking lot of the stadium and pop him. If I got caught, I got caught. If not, I’d come on back home.”

He got as far as purchasing a Taurus 9mm handgun from a pawnshop near his home in Spartanburg, SC. But Lonnie was a novice with firearms, and his first practice shot in his back yard left him with a cut on his right hand; he'd held his thumb too high and the hammer snapped back onto it. The following week, he had yet to put his destructive plan into action, and he buried any thought of it when then-Braves GM Bobby Cox called and offered him a contract. As fate would have it, Smith made the most out of his fresh start in Atlanta, and was still on the club in 1990 when Cox left the front office to become the Braves' field manager...appointing John Schuerholz as the new GM. Lonnie never did clear the air with his new old boss, but with his second wife Dorothy's help, he tamped down his violent impluses and usually tried to just avoid Schuerholz. It's a wild and fascinating story.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1998 Fleer Ultra #132

Baseball cards can elicit so many emotions in us. What do you feel when you gaze upon the grotesquerie of Jeffrey Hammonds' intense mid-throw grimace? Is it bemusement? Boundless terror? Curiosity? A vague sense of discomfort? Perhaps it's all of the above. Personally, I'd go with a mixture of the first two. That's a pretty danged silly face, but there's something wild and dangerous in those bugged-out eyes and that twisted mouth.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

B. J. Surhoff, 2004 MLB Showdown #44

It's 11:30 PM Eastern. Do you know where your B. J. Surhoff is?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Adam Jones, 2012 Bowman Platinum #33

Next month, Spring Training will begin! Before it does, Orioles FanFest will happen! As is my wont, I purchased a voucher for one of the autograph sessions on February 1 at the Baltimore Convention Center. I'll be having the standard brief, awkward encounter with Adam Jones, Ryan Flaherty, and Steve Pearce...three men who are each younger than I am. That's just now dawning on me. Oh well. Now that I think to check, there is not one solitary member of the O's 40-man roster who is more than 31 years of age. I'm willing to bet that this hasn't happened in a while, and it certainly isn't a bad thing when it comes to the team's outlook. I think the Yankees' average age is 37. But it's hard for a guy not to feel old when he realizes that nobody he's rooting for was alive on the day he was born.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Jose Mesa, 1988 Donruss #601

I'm so impatient for baseball to come back that I'm looking for an angle in the upcoming Super Bowl. As you know by now (if you even remotely care), the Seattle Seahawks will be meeting the Denver Broncos two weeks from tonight in the NFL's championship game. Out of curiosity, I asked Baseball Reference how many players had suited up for the Orioles as well as the Colorado Rockies and the Seattle Mariners. There have been a grand total of six, and they're not the brightest stars in the O's galaxy: Eric Byrnes, Jack Cust, Jeff Manto, Jose Mesa, Kevin Millwood, and Jamie Moyer. The Jose Mesa Bowl doesn't exactly have a magical ring to it, huh?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mark Reynolds, 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen #27

I don't know many card collectors who get excited about Gypsy Queen, with its drab borders and beginners' Photoshop filters. So it was only mildly surprising to see several packs of 2012 GQ sitting in a $1.59 markdown box at our local Target this evening. I picked up five packs, just to indulge my curiosity. Two of the packs featured four of the same cards (out of six total per pack), which is some shoddy collation. But I did get a few nifty cards, including Rollie Fingers and Mark Reynolds. The Birds' former "Sheriff of Swattingham" (hey, I didn't pick that nickname) just signed a minor league deal with the Brewers this week. It's a long way to fall in three years; it was as recently as 2011 that Reynolds led the O's with 37 home runs and posted a 116 OPS+. I can say that I'd rather have seen the Orioles bring him back as a potential platoon DH, instead of some of the castoffs that they've gathered this offseason. Delmon Young? My blood runs cold.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1975 Topps #26

One of the great things about the 1975 Topps set is that I have previously posted 10 Orioles cards on this blog from the set, and there are still border combinations that I haven't displayed. Here's a new one: electric strawberry-banana. When those bright colors are combined with the Miami palm-tree backdrop to Dave McNally's photo, it leaves you thinking warm thoughts. We've got 34 degrees with a chance of snow showers here in Baltimore this evening, and forecasted highs in the low 20s early next week. So I can use all the warmth I can get.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2012 Bowman Gold #131

I have many hopes and dreams for the Orioles' 2014 season. I hope that the positions of second base, left field, and designated hitter are not the gaping holes that they currently seem to be. I would very much like for Dave Wallace to be the pitching coach who finally says the magic words that turn Brian Matusz and Zach Britton (and maybe Kevin Gausman) into quality big league starters. I'd prefer it if Mike Bordick never utters the phrase "good piece of hitting" during another MASN telecast. But perhaps most of all, I would like the shambling, singles-hitting undead creature who took over Nick Markakis' body in 2013 to go away, and for the real Markakis to return with a vengeance.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Armando Benitez, 1995 Score Select Certified Gold Mirror #100

It's been a week, and the deeply disturbed individual who voted for Armando Benitez for the Hall of Fame is still at large. A strict curfew will be in effect until this lunatic is brought to justice. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Curt Schilling, 1990 Donruss #667

Yesterday's blog post about the Polar Bear Plunge received a bigger response than I'd anticipated. Three donors in, and I've already cleared the $75 minimum in donations that is required to take the plunge. So thanks to my benefactors: Oriole Paul, Randy, and Curt Schilling.

Wait, what?

No joke. If you go to my Plunge page, you'll see a donor listing for Curtis Schilling. I have no way of verifying that the veteran of 20 major league seasons and owner of 216 career wins (plus 11 more in the postseason) actually visited my blog and felt compelled to sponsor my dip in the Bay. After all, my readership tends to be in the dozens. But stranger things have happened. Consider the circumstantial evidence:

-Curt knows his way around a computer, and used to interact with Boston fans on the Sons of Sam Horn message board;

-Really, who would be bored enough to make a donation under a false name, thereby giving the credit to a famous athlete?

Of course, once it sunk in that Schilling may have found his way here, I had to take a hasty trip through my archives to make sure I hadn't taken any cheap shots at him in the past. But it looks like I've behaved myself. There were a few references to him having a big mouth, but I don't think it's the first time that anyone's said that.

Anyhow, Curt, if you're reading: thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your generosity.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Curt Schilling, 1991 Upper Deck #528

Curt Schilling is one of just 11 players in major league history to be born in Alaska - Anchorage, to be specific. This strikes me as relevant, because my better half has convinced me to join her in this year's Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge. The Plunge takes place on Saturday, January 25, with scores of goobers like myself jumping into the almost-certainly frigid Chesapeake Bay to raise money for the Special Olympics. This is the 18th consecutive year for the Plunge, and it's the first time that I'll be doing it. If you would like to help ensure that my foolhardiness is not in vain, I am collecting donations over the next two weeks. Five dollars would be a big help...hell, I wouldn't turn down a buck. You can practice your philanthropy here. Thank you kindly!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1996 Topps #96

Okay, since you patiently endured yesterday's bait-and-switch, here's a fitting card to commemorate my 2,131st blog entry. I would do a victory lap, but it's late and I had a big dinner. Instead, here's a list of the the players who started the most games at shortstop for the other 27 teams in MLB during the first 2,105 consecutive games that Cal Ripken, Jr. played at shortstop (that discounts the first month of Cal's streak, during which he started at third base):

Atlanta Braves - Jeff Blauser, 645 games
Boston Red Sox - Luis Rivera, 425
California Angels - Dick Schofield, 1,015
Chicago Cubs - Shawon Dunston, 1,079
Chicago White Sox - Ozzie Guillen, 1,358
Cincinnati Reds - Barry Larkin, 1,111
Cleveland Indians - Julio Franco, 698
Colorado Rockies - Walt Weiss, 212
Detroit Tigers - Alan Trammell, 1,442
Florida Marlins - Kurt Abbott, 183
Houston Astros - Rafael Ramirez, 470
Kansas City Royals - Kurt Stillwell, 473
Los Angeles Dodgers - Jose Offerman, 531
Milwaukee Brewers - Robin Yount, 347
Minnesota Twins - Greg Gagne, 1,021
Montreal Expos - Spike Owen, 507
New York Mets - Kevin Elster, 462
New York Yankees - Alvaro Espinoza, 421
Oakland Athletics - Mike Bordick, 517
Philadelphia Phillies - Steve Jeltz, 497
Pittsburgh Pirates - Jay Bell, 904
St. Louis Cardinals - Ozzie Smith, 1,771
San Diego Padres - Garry Templeton, 1,119
San Francisco Giants - Jose Uribe, 909
Seattle Mariners - Omar Vizquel, 610
Texas Rangers - Scott Fletcher, 491
Toronto Blue Jays - Tony Fernandez, 1,066

According to Sports Illustrated, these 27 teams combined to start 524 players at shortstop from July 1, 1982 through September 6, 1995. The O's, of course, started just one player at that position. That'll do nicely.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Brady Anderson, 1997 Donruss Preferred #193

Today marks an important arbitrary milestone for this blog. This is the 2,130th entry published. You might have expected a Cal Ripken card, but he only had one home run and two singles in his 2,130th consecutive game played back on September 5, 1995. Brady Anderson, on the other hand, had a pair of solo home runs and a double. So really, wasn't he the star of the game? You could also make a case for Scott Erickson, with his complete-game, three-hit, nine-strikeout shutout of the Angels.

That's what really keeps you coming back to this blog, right? My ability to keep you guessing?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Hank Bauer, 1968 Topps #513

My wife may be the only person who enjoys early mornings less than I do. I routinely wake up at 6:00 AM on work days, and she often refers to it as "the middle of the night". I consider my early rising to be a necessary evil. I work on flex time, so the earlier I get to the office, the earlier I get out. I can clock in as early as six, or as late as half past nine. While it's certainly nice to be home before 5:00 PM most days, it's also important for me to avoid the worst of the Beltway traffic. Nobody likes sitting bumper-to-bumper on the highway, and I know from experience that congestion on 695 can turn a 25-minute commute into an hour-plus slog. If anything, the near four and one-half years that I spent trekking deep into Washington DC for work on a daily basis (by car, train, subway, bus, and foot) have made me even less tolerant of the slightest delays. When I put it all in perspective, even an hour spent traversing 17 miles is a relief compared to the best case scenario of my Columbia-to-Georgetown days, when I'd leave my apartment at 6:45 AM and sit down at my desk around 8:30. But honestly, I feel like I have to make up for the time lost while enduring all of those mass transit delays and breakdowns. Every additional minute spent in my car is a minute not spent watching one of my favorite shows, or playing a video game, or organizing cards, or reading a new book.

I cope with the tedium of my daily drive by keeping my mind stimulated in various ways. Usually I listen to an audiobook or the occasional podcast. I finished The Hunger Games recently and now I'm pushing through Wilkie Collins' 1859 mystery novel The Woman in White, which checks in at a whopping 25 hours of air time. Only 18 hours left to go! If I'm not in the mood for placidly listening along and trying to absorb a narrative, I'll put on some music and play a solo version of the road games that my family has always used for time-wasters on long trips. I often keep track of all of the various out-of-state license plates that I find on the other vehicles. I might watch road signs, billboards, and other such scenery and try to pick out names or words that double as the surnames of past and present baseball players. Sometimes I just let my mind wander and see where it goes...all while keeping my primary focus on the road, of course.

This morning I was out of the house even earlier (and darker) than usual. Our dog, an affectionate 35-pound mutt named Val, has been yanking us out of our slumber around 5:00 AM for the past few days, and I'd already resolved that I would just get up and get moving if it happened again today. If I was already awake, with less than a full hour left before I'd be getting up anyway, might as well see if I can finagle an early exit from the office. So when Val started whining loud enough for me to hear her on the top floor at 5:15, I kept my word and thereby made it to my car by 6:00...just in time for the icy rain that was just bothersome enough to make driving a bigger chore while still allowing my agency to operate on a regular schedule. It didn't look good when I merged onto the Beltway and found three lanes of traffic at a near-standstill. As I craned my neck to search for a path out of the "slow" lane, a tractor trailer bearing the trademarks of Yoo-hoo lurched past in the middle lane. This got me thinking about the number of late-1960s Topps Orioles cards bearing photos taken in the team's spring training facility in Miami. On several of these cards, you can plainly make out the Yoo-hoo sign on the outfield fence. (The clearest view is on the 1967 Andy Etchebarren card that I posted two years back.) That brings me to today's card, with the "Y" of Yoo-hoo peeking out from behind Hank Bauer's right shoulder, and now you know how Friday's sausage was made.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Brooks Robinson, 2003 Fleer Flair Greats #17

For a change of pace, I decided to reach into a box of cards and select tonight's subject at random. First I came up with Kris Foster's 2003 Donruss Team Heroes card, but I'd already used that one back in 2010. I put it back and pulled out this gem. I rather like the elegant, simple design, with the tiny foil-outlined Oriole Bird in the bottom left corner. Adding to the charm is one of the most awkward action photos of Brooks Robinson that I've seen. It looks like he's in mid-throw, mouth hanging agape, right hand curiously chopped off, and stirrups drooping comically. I was looking for random, and I found it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rafael Palmeiro, 1994 Studio #126

Well, there you have it. Hall of Fame voting results for the Class of 2014 were released at 2:00 PM this afternoon, and three men who were superstars for the first 15 years of my baseball fandom made the cut. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, come on down. That's a big improvement over last year's selection of zero players, but the moral grandstanding and/or lack of intellectual curiosity from a large swath of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (the men and women who vote on Hall membership) has conspired to make the story largely about who is being left out, dwelling below the 75% threshold needed to enter the Hall. All-time home run king Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens? Neither cracked 40% this year. Craig Biggio, whose 3,060 hits and 1,844 runs scored would seem to rubber-stamp him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, fell a razor-thin two votes shy in year two of his wait. Jeff Bagwell, with his 449 homers and 149 OPS+, didn't get much more than a bare majority of votes. Mike Piazza, the greatest-hitting catcher of all time, got a handful more votes than adequate starting pitcher Jack Morris. Morris' ballot eligibility elapsed at long last with his 15th unsuccessful nomination, but he'll turn up again in Veterans' Committee proceedings, I'm sure. Several other worthies are left to wait another 365 days: Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Alan Trammell, Jeff Kent, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina (a hard-to-believe 20.3% in his first year eligible)...that's not even a complete list of the guys that have a strong case for Cooperstown.

Then there's the confounding case of Rafael Palmeiro. After scratching and clawing to stay on the ballot in each of his first three years of eligibility, the man who ranks 25th all-time in career hits and 12th in home runs received only 25 votes among the 571 ballots cast. That gave him 4.4% of the vote, dropping him below the 5% minimum required to stick around. It would have seemed inconceivable a decade ago, but Raffy is off the map. He's being swept aside with a group of one-year-and-done retirees that includes Moises Alou, Hideo Nomo, Luis Gonzalez, Eric Gagne, J. T. Snow, Armando Benitez (and woe be unto the one solitary lunatic who cast a vote for him), Jacque Jones, Kenny Rogers, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Todd Jones, Paul LoDuca, Richie Sexson, and Mike Timlin. As the years pass and the Hall of Fame debate becomes even more of a scattershot fiasco, I tell myself in an increasingly-loud voice that the whole thing is unworthy of my annoyance and frustration. But the whole messy process is just too much to ignore for a baseball fan. May time heal all wounds...and wound all heels.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Aubrey Huff, 2009 Upper Deck #539

Whoops, I almost missed this one. Aubrey Huff officially announced his retirement this past weekend. He did not play baseball last year after spending parts of 13 seasons with the Devil Rays, Astros, Orioles, Tigers, and Giants. The 37-year-old corner infielder is looking to kick-start a career in broadcasting, already having landed a gig with the Pac-12 Network for college baseball coverage. The highlights of his time in the major leagues include:

-A career batting line of .278/.342/.464 (114 OPS+) with 242 HR and 904 RBI

-A 2003 season that still places him atop Tampa Bay's single-year leaderboards in hits (198), total bases (353), doubles (47), and times on base (259).

-An award-winning 2008 campaign that saw him named Most Valuable Oriole and the American League Silver Slugger at DH. He led the O's with 32 HR, 108 RBI, a .552 slugging percentage, a .912 OPS, and a 137 OPS+. He also scored 96 runs, cracked 48 doubles, and batted .304.

-Two World Series rings with the Giants. Though he didn't contribute much to San Francisco's championship drive in 2012, playing only 52 games with a .608 OPS and seven RBI, he was a major offensive force for the club in 2010. That year he batted .290/.385/.506 (142 OPS+) with 35 doubles and team bests of 26 HR and 86 RBI. He also slugged .588 and drove in four runs in the Giants' five-game Series win over the Rangers.

-In addition to his on-the-field exploits, Aubrey Huff also had a knack for doing and saying the perfect thing off of the field...as long as you don't know anything about the articles linked here.

Enjoy your retirement, Aubrey. Just don't tell the world about it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mike Boddicker, 1984 Topps #191

Blink and you'll miss me today. I'm dashing this blog post off in a hurry so that I can head downtown with my lovely and patient and open-minded wife to attend a live taping of WWE RAW at the Baltimore Arena. I'd be excited about witnessing my first live WWE event in two years anyhow, but add in the fact that it's Janet's first live wrestling show of any kind and it gets a little more juice. Last week brought the cherry on top, as it was announced that this would be an "Old School" themed show. Yes, WWE is dipping into the nostalgia pool, harkening back to previous decades when it was known as the WWF. There will be retro-themed multimedia displays and set pieces (including those grand old red, white, and blue ring ropes), and some of the legends of the squared circle will make appearances. Ric Flair has already been confirmed, but the commercials also made reference to other names of my childhood. Rowdy Roddy Piper and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase will surely ring a bell with many of you.

If anybody can understand nostalgia, it's baseball card collectors. I'm sure Topps wouldn't have spent the past 15 years cramming reprints of - and tributes to - yesteryear's cards down our throats if folks weren't buying the cards. For this Orioles fan, even the often-goofy 1980s rekindles a warm glow and thoughts of a time when the O's were World Champions and Mike Boddicker was just the latest 20-game winner instead of the last one in franchise history.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ryan Minor, 2001 Fleer Triple Crown #179

Can you believe that it's Ryan Minor's 40th birthday already? Don't worry; I didn't get him anything either. Here's some enlightening facts about the busted Oriole prospect-turned-minor league manager:

-He never hit a major league homer with a runner on base. He only hit five round-trippers total: three solo shots with the O's in 1999 and a pair of solo blasts with the Expos in 2001.

-Ryan hit the first home run in Lancaster Barnstormers history on May 17, 2005.

-His brother Damon, a first baseman who played parts of four seasons with the Giants, was born on the same date: January 5, 1974. What are the odds? ;-)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Davey Johnson, 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Teams #63

I can't rave enough about 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Teams. After the 1993 flagship set, it's probably my favorite thing that UD ever did. It might be even better without the reliance on foil logos, but what can you do? The photos dominate the design, front and back. On the front you've got fresh photos of all of the great and the just plain good players on the most decorated teams in each franchise's history...even a good selection of in-game photos. Here's Davey Johnson roaming the infield pre-pitch, circa 1971 or 1972 judging by his uniform. The card backs feature a gorgeous full-color photo of the team's stadium. (Yes, it's possible for a photo of the utilitarian, 1950s relic that was Memorial Stadium to be gorgeous.) My only regret is that there were but 30 of these cards featuring the Orioles, and that the set as a whole is only 300 cards. I wonder why Upper Deck didn't keep this set going in subsequent years. Was it a poor seller? Or did they have the rare sense not to overdo a good thing? Probably option A.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Hoyt Wilhelm, 1961 Post #80

Okay, I'll admit right off the bat that this one is a bit of a cheat. I found myself in need of a Hoyt Wilhelm card for today, but I'd already featured all of the vintage Wilhelms in my team collection in previous blog posts. I turned a crisis into an opportunity, and stuck this guy in my shopping cart at Check Out My Cards. All for the greater good of the blog...the greater good.

I'm not as active in the discussion threads at Camden Chat as I once was, but I still keep close tabs on the links, articles, and opinions at the site. I'm happy to call managing editors Stacey and Mark friends of mine, and the same goes for contributing author Bill. So when Stacey contacted me over the holidays to ask permission to use some of my card scans for a new project at CC, I quickly agreed. Said project has now launched, so I will share a link to Stacey and Mark's countdown of the Top 40 Orioles of All Time. So far they've revealed numbers 40, 39, and 38: Storm Davis, Gus Triandos, and ol' knuckleballin' Hoyt, respectively. I'd strongly recommend reading the work of the double-play combo of Folkemer and Brown, and bookmarking that link so you don't miss the rest of the players as they're unveiled. You definitely probably won't be sorry!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wayne Gross, 1986 Donruss #535

Group mentality can be hard to break, so I'm sure that I'm not the only one who's contemplating fresh starts and new beginnings in these first days of 2014. But the word "resolutions" is so loaded with negative connotations and well-meaning but easily-abandoned plans. So I'm taking a cue from a friend of mine and laying out a list of personal goals, both small and large, for the coming year:

-Travel to Europe this summer with Janet. We haven't finalized anything, but Italy and Ireland are both atop the list.

-Get in better physical shape. I know, I know. Take a number.

-Do more reading. I've got two books waiting on my Nook and at least a half-dozen more on my shelves that require my attention.

-Do more writing. This blog (and my other one) are an entertaining enough use of my time, but I feel like there's a story I need to tell. I've spent several years distracting myself and making excuses for not practicing my craft. Why wait another year?

-The madness ends here. Finish the grand baseball card sorting and organization project that has been festering for nearly two years. Every card deserves its proper place, from the majestic 1953 Topps to the putrescent 1986 Donruss. I'll thank you not to search through my blog archives to find the previous oaths I've sworn on this account.

That's five chief goals for this, the most recent year of my life. Five things to accomplish, and 365 days in which to accomplish them. Oops, make that 364. No time to lose!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Melvin Mora, 2002 Fleer Tradition #374

It's January first again, which means that it's now been six years since I launched this blog. That's 2,119 posts and counting, including 19 featuring Mr. Melvin Mora. Like most people, I'm not very on-the-ball with New Year's resolutions, so the fact that I've stuck with this thing for more than half a decade means a lot to me. If you're reading this it means that you've hung around too. Thank you kindly.