Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nolan Reimold, 2010 Topps Logoman #HTA 50

Here's a rare (and brief) update from my iPad, since my laptop charger seems to have bitten the dust. I even had to take a picture instead of a scan. This card arrived in the mail today from our old pal Max, who also read my mind and sent three 2014 Heritage O's and a few other assorted treats. Nolan Reimold here was the fiftieth and final card in a Hobby Shop-exclusive set that amounted to Topps taking a victory lap to celebrate their exclusive MLB license. That explains the sudden chill that just ran down my back.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chris Davis, 2014 Topps Heritage Then and Now #TAN-RD

Aw, crap. Now they've gone and done it.

I've spent the last three-plus years steadfastly avoiding new Topps products, chiefly as my own stubborn small-scale protest against their monopoly on MLB-licensed baseball cards. But Topps has also made it easier on me by rolling out some uninspired merchandise in recent years. Even when I read other collectors' reviews of the new stuff, or bought the occasional pack out of curiosity, there was nothing under the Topps banner that really got its hooks in me. So leave it to 2014 Heritage to break my resolve.

This year's Heritage set gets its design from the 1965 Topps set, a vintage that holds a special place in my heart thanks to the five and a half years that I spent collecting and blogging about it. To date, it's my only completed set pre-1982. So my curiosity was piqued from the word 'go'. When fellow '65-enthusiast Max (who had just as much to do with the completion of my set as I did) wrote up his Heritage box break and gave it a glowing review, I knew that I was doomed. My errands just happened to take me to Target after work yesterday, and three packs of 2014 Heritage jumped into my hand. So it began.

If I wasn't already on board with this set, this Mat Latos card would have been the clincher. The beefy righthander's cheesy grin was the first thing that greeted me upon opening my very first pack. As an added bonus, Topps didn't half-ass the design. Same color scheme and fonts as the 1965 sets, and as Max pointed out, they incorporated post-1965 teams into the pre-existing border/pennant/text color combos. (Curiously, the Nationals share the Orioles' gray/orange/black scheme. I'm sure that won't ruffle any feathers in D.C.!)

Here's a World Series subset card, mimicking the live-action shots in the original set. It's a fortuitous coincidence that the Cardinals were in both the '64 and '13 World Series. I'm glad the bizarre conclusion of Game 3 gets its own highlight card.

You've got to have the Giant Rookie Trophy, which is far superior to the latter-day Rookie Cup. Of course, not even the trophy can distract attention from Jedd Gyorko's unsettling intensity.

The card backs are a well-crafted tribute to the real thing as well. That pleasing light blue color, the playful player name font, and of course, cartoons and factoids where space permits. I've yet to see any doodles that stand up to the best and silliest artwork from 1965, but it also doesn't look like they just recycled a handful of generic caricatures.

Though my attitude towards inserts leans in the direction of "empty nuisance that impedes set-building", the few inserts I pulled from my three packs at least were designed to fit comfortably into the 1965 Topps aesthetic. The Frank Robinson-Chris Davis combo at the top of this post recognizes the top run producers of both the 1965 and 2013 seasons, with '65 runner-up Robby joining '13 RBI champ Crush because of their Baltimore ties...and probably because Frank is a flashier name than Deron Johnson.

Of course, Topps is gonna Topps, and the last 75 cards of the 500-card set are still annoyingly short-printed (a 15% chunk), but at least I know what I'm facing. I'm still 104 cards away from finishing off my 2008 Heritage set, the only other TH project that I've attempted in earnest. But even a hobby box's worth of 2014 Heritage would go a long way in scratching that itch. I'll also do my level best to ignore the multiple base card variations, or at least to discount them as necessary for true set completion.

While part of me feels like I'm capitulating, I really don't believe that's the case. This set is the perfect storm of elements that attract me to a particular brand or set. The flagship Topps set has been crushingly stagnant since about 2009, and also tends to suffer from insert bloat. So my previous Topps embargo won't be a complete thing of the past. Meanwhile, the second half of the 1960s delivered a number of my least favorite card designs, so even the nostalgia-heavy Heritage line won't keep my interest once the 1965 tribute has passed. I'll sink the majority of my collecting efforts into growing my vintage collection, and periodically shake my fist ineffectually at the industry giant.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Brian Matusz, 2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers #H579

Today I have the pleasure of wishing my favorite (and only) sister a very happy birthday. I mention her often on this blog, as we own a pair of season tickets on the 29-game plan, and thereby share in dozens of highs and lows throughout baseball season. My sister is a tad more superstitious than I am when it comes to the O's, though. For instance, she put her autographed Brian Matusz jersey in mothballs for quite awhile after becoming convinced that she was personally responsible for his disastrous 2011 season. Now that he's rebuilt some confidence with a strong season-plus of relief pitching, the jersey is safe to wear again. But she's still a little snakebit after Jim Johnson and Nate McLouth - both of whom signed t-shirts for her at fan events last year - left the Birds this past offseason. For the time being, she's sworn off any further autograph collecting for the greater good. She's nothing if not unselfish.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rich Bordi, 1986 Topps Traded #14T

Sure, you need a picture of Rich Bordi in his new Orioles threads, but don't go to any extra trouble, Mr. Photographer. Just snap a few quick shots in front of a pile of crap or something. He's just a middle reliever, anyway. Probably won't even be in the league in a couple of years. It's Spring Training, and you're a busy guy. Let's just get on with it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jonathan Schoop, 2014 Panini Donruss #37

I know it's been out for a while, but last night was the first time that I had spotted Panini's new Donruss-themed cards for sale at one of my nearby Target stores. At a hefty $2.99 for an eight-card pack, I contented myself with two packs and called it a night. I actually rather like the design, with the strip of baseballs in the center of the border evoking the 1987 Donruss set. But the team colors are an improvement over its predecessor. Oddly enough, the white border and the city and player name on the bottom make me think of 1978 Topps more than anything else. As you can see, I pulled a card of young Jonathan Schoop, who has a very good chance to be the Orioles' starting second baseman when the season begins in nine days. The single best thing about this set might be the return of our old friend, the Rated Rookie subset. We missed you...or at least I did. If I was only going to get one hometown player out of my packs, Schoop may have been the one to get. I wouldn't say these are exactly worth the price tag, but it's worth grabbing a few impulse packs for the novelty of it all.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Dave Duncan, 1976 Topps #49

Random thoughts about this card:

-The picture was clearly taken in Spring Training. Palm trees are wonderful, especially when there's a chance of MORE SNOW in the last week of March here in the Mid-Atlantic, but I'll be glad to see games that count in the standings. No more ties, split squad games, or lack of TV coverage.

-I kind of wish that Dave Duncan's head was tilted to the side, so that he was mimicking the Oriole Bird on his cap.

-I'm also picturing Matt Wieters with Duncan's floppy hairstyle. It's not a good look.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alfredo Simon, 2012 Topps Orioles Team Set #BALT6

Things have been going pretty well for Alfredo Simon since the Reds selected him off of waivers from the Orioles two years ago. In 99 relief appearances he has a 2.78 ERA (142 ERA+). What's more, he hasn't been accused of murdering anyone since 2011!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Upper Deck UD3 #33

Those are some ugly-ass Reeboks. Of course, Roberto Alomar wasn't about to turn down free shoes. He's only human.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chris Tillman, 2014 Topps #141

Two weeks.

We are two weeks away from tens of thousands clad in orange and black and descending upon Eutaw Street. Fourteen days separate us from Pickles and Sliders and Boog's and Gino's and Dempsey's. A fortnight is all that stands between the people of Baltimore and a Chris Tillman vs. Jon Lester duel for an early AL East advantage. You could count down the 330 hours that must elapse before we'll once again hear "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" played in succession. In 19,800 minutes or so, Chris Davis will officially begin the defense of his home run crown. In less than 1,188,000 seconds, the long and cold winter will ceremonially come to an end. At long last.

But you get the picture.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jeff Tackett, 1994 Topps #664

Safe or out? Let's go to Baseball Reference.

Angels at Orioles, 1993 season, Jeff Tackett catching, Tim Salmon running. Jeff went and made things easy for us by only appearing in one home game vs. the Halos in 1993: April 17, a Saturday afternoon game. Arthur Rhodes started, and bombed out in the fourth inning after putting the O's in a 5-0 hole. The Baltimore batters got all five runs back in the fourth against Chuck Finley, with Leo Gomez providing a three-run homer. But Brad Pennington did his Brad Pennington thing in the eighth, giving up a walk and a J. T. Snow triple to put the Angels on top to stay. In the ninth, the scene pictured on this card unfolded. Chad Curtis walked and stole his third and fourth bases of the game, and Salmon walked as well. Gomez threw away a Gary Gaetti grounder for the seventh California run, but then Rene Gonzales tapped a ball back to pitcher Todd Frohwirth. Frohwirth fired the ball home to nail Salmon and keep it a two-run game, but Angels closer Joe Grahe retired the heart of the Birds' order 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth and the Orioles lost 7-5.

The TL;DR version: he was out.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

John Maine, 2004 Topps Traded #T101

Success in Major League Baseball is all too often temporary. Just ask John Maine. He entered the 2004 season as Baseball America's 54th-best minor league prospect, and two years later was dealt to the Mets with Jorge Julio for veteran starter Kris Benson. At age 26, he seemed to have arrived as a dependable starter in New York. That was 2007, when he logged 191 innings and tied for the team lead in wins with Oliver Perez, going 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 180 strikeouts. But his arm soon broke down: his innings total dropped to 140 the next year, then to 81.1 in 2009, and 39.2 in 2010. The next time John was seen in the majors was 2013, when even the bottom-feeding Marlins couldn't see fit to keep him around after four ugly relief appearances. He allowed 15 hits and five walks in 7.1 innings, with 10 runs charged to his account. That's a 12.27 ERA and 2.73 WHIP. Today, he's a few months shy of 33 and is a man without a team.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Jackie Brandt, 1963 Post #58

Among my vintage bargain buys last Sunday at the Philly Card Show were a whole mess of early 1960s Post Cereal cards. Most were 50 cents or a dollar, and almost all were in better condition than poor Jackie Brandt here. But for a couple of quarters, tape discoloration and a drawn-on "1" in front of the card number give it a little bit of character, much like Jackie himself.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Manny Machado, 2013 Topps Update 1971 Mini #TM-50

Mail call! I don't trade with Greg (a.k.a. Night Owl) very often, but it's always a pleasure. Yesterday afternoon there was a small padded envelope in the mailbox from Upstate New York with ten assorted Orioles tucked inside. Despite trading blind, Greg managed not to send me any duplicates! There were a few Manny Machado cards, including this sharp-looking insert from last year's update series. Topps Archives, throwback mini inserts in the flagship, Heritage...nobody flogs their own history quite like Topps! (Okay, maybe the Yankees.) My Manny collection can use the boost, since I'm hoping to have plenty of reasons to talk about him on the blog in 2014. There was also a Scott McGregor sticker, a shiny foily Roberto Alomar card from the days before Upper Deck got muscled out of their MLB license, a 2001 Topps Chrome "retrofractor" team card that was shiny on the front, thick cardboard stock on back, a 2008 UD Documentary Nick Markakis (eight down, 154 to go!), a 2009 Goodwin Champions preview card of Cal Ripken, 2013 Allen and Ginter minis of Adam Jones and Eddie Murray, a 2013 Topps Update Chrome Bud Norris, and a Kevin Gausman insert from 2014 Topps Series One. I thank Greg from the bottom of my heart, and I hope he finds next week's return package to be full of joy and want list fulfillment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tom Chism, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #76

The SABR Baseball Biography Project is an absolute treasure for the curious baseball fan. I picked out this card for today's blog because Tom Chism was making a goofy face and had the prerequisite late-1970s mop of hair and mustache. His career major league record consists of an 0-for-3 and a few defensive substitutions at first base in a September cup of coffee with the 1979 O's. But then I found Chism's SABR biography, and learned that Tom:

-Idolized Dick Allen and Mickey Mantle, and wore the latter's #7 whenever it was available to him. (With Mark Belanger entrenched at shortstop for the Orioles throughout the seventies, Tom settled for #12 in his brief stay in Baltimore.)

-Didn't play baseball at his high school because he didn't see eye-to-eye with the coach, but was a two-time batting champ in a semipro league in Wilmington, Delaware. Rocker George Thorogood later played in that same league.

-Hit around .300 and posted on-base percentages of .375 or above at every stop on his way to the Orioles, but was a man without a position. The club assigned him to first base because he was thought to be too slow for the outfield, but first Lee May and then Eddie Murray had that spot locked down in Charm City.

-Returned to AAA Rochester after frustrating stints in the Minnesota and Detroit organizations, and spent the 1981 season as a player-coach with the Red Wings. He even performed spot pitching duty, allowing three runs in four innings spanning four games.

-Spent a couple of years scouting for the Orioles, and was given a World Series ring for his work in 1983. Unfortunately, it was stolen during a home invasion in 2008 and disposed of by the thief because it was traceable.

-Has a son, T.J., who has spent the past five seasons in the Mets' farm system as a pitcher, posting a 2.11 ERA as a reliever. The younger Chism has not yet reached AA.

The more you know...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Todd Frohwirth, 1994 Score #226

I feel like I do one of these "ex-Orioles returning as Spring Training instructors" blog entries at least once a year. If not, I really should. Nostalgia is one of the chief motivating factors behind this enterprise, to be honest. Anyway, one name from my childhood who came to Sarasota this winter (check the calendar, the vernal equinox won't be here for another ten days) was Todd Frohwirth. The submarine-style reliever, who toiled for the O's from 1991 through 1993, is now a scout in the Baltimore organization. The team invited him to the Ed Smith Stadium complex a few weeks back and he spent some time with kindred spirit Darren O'Day, helping the sidewinding setup man to hone a changeup. Although O'Day was as dependable as ever in 2013, pitching to a 2.18 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP, there is room for improvement. His strikeout-to-walk ratio dropped by a full strikeout, from 4.93-to-1 in 2012 to 3.93-to-1 last season. Lefties also tattooed the righthander to a .309/.367/.556 tune. If Darren can add another weapon to his utility belt, he could turn those troubling numbers on their heads. Then the next time you see Darren O'Day cross up an opposing batter with an offspeed pitch, you can say, "Thanks, Todd!".

Monday, March 10, 2014

Robin Roberts, 2011 Topps Heritage Baseball Flashbacks Relic #BSR-RR

Isn't this a right pretty card? It was a rare non-vintage purchase from yesterday's card show. At five bucks, I might have ignored it, but for the possibility that this wooden relic actually came from Memorial Stadium. I choose to believe that it did, and that makes Robin Roberts and the postage-stamp-sized-slab-o-wood a welcome addition to my collection. Wait, was I supposed to be talking about something else?

Yes, so, the Polar Bear Plunge. Saturday was a beautiful day, with temperatures near 60 and clear, sunny skies. The Missus and I parked at the Navy Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis and took a shuttle bus to Sandy Point State Park. We had enough time to register and do a quick once-around of the various sponsor booths and food and merchandise stands before the 1:00 PM plunge. As we reached the shore and I stripped down to my plunging gear - a "Wild Bill" Hagy Orioles promotional tee, swimming trunks, and an old pair of Airwalks that I didn't mind immersing in the icy waters of the bay, I noticed that the air coming off of the bay was a bit cooler than the 60-degree temps I'd felt elsewhere that day.

Before I knew it, the first wave of plungers was already entering - and emerging from - the water. Janet and I tentatively made our way up the sand from our initial position in the back of the crowd, and she asked if I was ready. In response, I started awkwardly chugging toward the Bay, so my wife had to remind me that we weren't supposed to run. Safety first when you're dunking yourself in a large, frigid body of water, after all.

And frigid it was. I waded in about thigh-deep, hesitated for a moment, and then squatted down to soak the rest of my body up to my chin. I popped back up as soon as I could, most of my body feeling shocked and invigorated from the icy bath, but my sneaker-covered feet were practically aching from the cold. Janet had followed me in, and asked if I was ready to go completely under and then head for the safety and warmth of our gender-specific changing tents. I was completely unprepared to dunk my head under, as we hadn't discussed anything of the sort ahead of time. I told her so, my voice raising several octaves, and she acquiesced. Maybe next year...we are planning to partake in this madness again.

By the time I'd changed into my dry clothes, I felt completely fine and still a bit exhilarated. We joined up with a friend of a friend and his wife who had also just plunged, availed ourselves of the free Wawa coffee and complimentary hot dog lunch, and then shuttled back to our car. The story ends there, so I'd like to offer one final note of thanks to the handful of kind and generous readers who made donations in my name, thereby helping out the Special Olympics. You folks are awesome.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

B. J. Surhoff, 2005 Topps Total #6

I survived the Plunge yesterday, but I won't have time to share the pictures until tomorrow. I know - I'm such a tease. But I did take a last-minute trip to King of Prussia this afternoon for the periodic Philly Card Show. I'd only gotten their postcard in the mail yesterday, leaving me very little time to budget something extra or to compile my want lists. I think I did pretty well nonetheless, bolstering a few of my 1970s sets with some star cards marked down to one dollar or less. A got a nice variety of Post Cereal cards, knocked down my 1975 Topps set needs to one lonely, pricey George Brett second-year card, and even walked away with a discounted wax box of 2005 Topps Total. I hit my spending limit within about 90 minutes of entering the convention, and there were plenty of other great vintage deals that I just had to bypass. I'll try to give myself more prep time by remembering that the next show comes along in late September.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Kiko Garcia, 1980 Topps #37

To cap off this slapdash 1980s theme week, here is Kiko Garcia - floppy hair and dirt-stained knees included - making a relay throw in a ballpark that I am reasonably sure is Yankee Stadium. Lookin' good, Kiko.

Tomorrow, I take the Plunge into the Chesapeake Bay. For real this time! I'll report back with pictures and any relevant stories.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

John Lowenstein, 1984 Fleer #10

John Lowenstein may be one of the premier clowns in Orioles history, but even he would have to tip his cap to Bob Uecker as the best of baseball's cutups. So it's only fitting that the Milwaukee Brewers are honoring "Uke" next month with his own statue at Miller Park...in the last row of the stadium. Uecker, a longtime play-by-play announcer for the Brewers, is clearly thrilled and honored, saying: "This will be great for fans and even better for pigeons."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Larry Sheets, 1985 Donruss #36

You may have known that Larry Sheets was a one-year wonder. But did you know that he was a historical one-year wonder? According to a blog post by High Heat Stats contributor Doug, ol' Sheetsy had the biggest-ever dropoff in single-season slugging percentage between his best season (.563 in 1987) and any other season in his career (second-best was .343 in 1988). Considering that this 220-point drop in his slugging mark came immediately on the heels of that great 31-homer effort, it's no wonder that the 1987 and 1988 seasons were the only two years that Larry got enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Those putrid '88 Orioles could have used the Larry Sheets of 1987, and instead he hit one-third the home runs in almost exactly the same number of trips to the dish. That's enough to sour a team on a player right quick.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

John Shelby, 1986 Fleer #287

John Shelby was definitely not known for his hitting, as you might expect for a guy who scraped together a mere .281 on-base percentage in an 11-year career. But he had his moments. Consider his performance on June 15, 1983 in a 10-inning, 11-8 O's victory at Milwaukee. Batting leadoff for the Birds, "T-Bone" reached base five times in six tries, with a pair of walks, three singles, two runs scored, two batted in, and a stolen base. His efforts helped the Orioles rally from a 7-0 hole in the seventh and eighth innings, though the biggest blow was a Cal Ripken three-run homer. But Shelby was right there again as Baltimore put up a four-spot in extras: his single off of Brewers reliever Bob Gibson (no, the other one) scored Joe Nolan with the go-ahead run, and John subsequently stole second and scored the eventual winning run on a Ripken double. Not a bad day's work for the center fielder.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Floyd Rayford, 1987 Topps #426

If my week (and counting) of recovery from wisdom tooth extraction surgery has an avatar, it's Floyd Rayford's musty 1987 Topps card. Thanks to an infection that developed in the middle of last week, it's now been eight days since I've been able to: exercise, sleep soundly, chew food like a normal human being, drink a beer...it hasn't been fun. I dragged myself out of the house on Saturday for the first birthday party of my best friend's son, and while we were gift shopping at Target I thought that I could find a pick-me-up in the card aisle. I was way too crabby to buy anything Topps, so I grabbed a 100-card repack hanger even as my brain shouted "BAD IDEA BAD IDEA BAD IDEA WALK AWAY". I don't need to tell you what I found inside. This Floyd Rayford card, bunches more 1987-1991 Topps, a smattering of 2010 Topps just to keep me guessing, some Donruss junk wax, maybe a dozen cards that were new to me. So there's your lesson: don't try to make even small-scale hobby choices when medicated and dealing with pain and discomfort.