Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Billy Klaus, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #242

On Christmas Eve, I've gotta go with Klaus. As always, I'd like to wish my readers a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season spent with friends and family. Be good to one another and remember to be kind and generous for the rest of the year as well. I'm hereby giving you a break from your daily reading for the next week or so. I'll be back in the new year...year number seven for this little endeavor. Where does the time go?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jeff Robinson, 1991 Upper Deck #796

I'd like to give the devil his due and thank Upper Deck for including Jeff Robinson's middle initial on this card. As someone who meticulously catalogs every card in his collection in an obnoxiously large Excel file, I'm always annoyed when I have to tab over to Baseball Reference to find middle names to distinguish between the righthanded Jeff Robinsons of the junk wax era. Yes, that's a very particular first-world problem, but with Upper Deck's help, maybe I'll finally remember that it was Jeffrey Mark Robinson who pitched for the Tigers and Orioles. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Daniel Robinson toiled for the Giants, Pirates, and three other teams. I don't have this problem with the Greg Harrises, you know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Phil Huffman, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #207

Phil Huffman wasn't just a guy who looked like Ron Howard in a fright wig. He was also the American League leader in losses as a 21-year-old rookie, going 6-18 with a 5.77 ERA for the 1979 Blue Jays. In 173 innings, he allowed 220 hits, 25 homers, and 68 walks, and struck out only 56 batters. That was enough to banish him to the minor leagues until 1985, when the Orioles plucked him from a decent season at AAA Rochester (10-10, 3.49 ERA) for one relief appearance in July and a spot start in October. He gave up four earned runs in each game, totaling 4.2 innings, for a sparkling 15.43 ERA. That was enough to cap his major league career, poor devil.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Melvin Mora, 2004 Upper Deck Vintage #191

The Orioles finally have their new hitting coach, and it's...not Melvin Mora, though his name was discussed by team management before they ultimately went in another direction. Nope, the O's hitters will be instructed in 2015 by this guy:
Aside from his excellent name and his presence on a handful of junk wax cards in my collection, I don't know much about Scott Coolbaugh. I see that he played third base for the Rangers, Padres, and Cardinals from 1989 through 1994, batting .215/.281/.310 with eight homers and 41 RBI in 167 games. Despite his own lack of performance at the big league level, he has been a respected presence in the Arizona and Texas organizations for the past 15 years, including a 2011-2012 stint as the Rangers' major league hitting coach. And according to Buck Showalter, Chris Davis thinks that Coolbaugh "hung the moon". I think that's a good thing. Welcome to Baltimore, Scott, and hopefully you can coax a bit more discipline out of the Oriole hitters without sacrificing much power.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tom Niedenfuer, 1989 Fleer #613

The black puffy Orioles pullover with elastic black-and-orange cuffs and waistband is...not the best piece of team apparel I've ever seen. Tom Niedenfuer is modeling it with an uneasy sort of grimace that brings to mind someone who's faking enthusiasm for a tacky Christmas gift.

Speaking of which, I just returned from a last-Saturday-before-Christmas shopping excursion. A few last-minute gifts for family, some foodstuffs for holiday parties, and some liquid reserves for myself. Sweet merciful crap, I hope I don't have to go anywhere near a retail establishment in the coming week. There's a lot of people out there, though I am happy to report that I didn't see any vehicular collisions or fistfights. If you've still got some presents or grub to buy, please be safe. And stay away from the puffy pullovers with elastic.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Harry Dorish, 1956 Topps #167

Sy Berger passed away last weekend at age 91. If the name doesn't ring bells, just know that Sy was the driving force behind Topps baseball cards in the 1950s. The New York Times had a lovely obituary talking about his impact on the hobby. For my part, I'd just like to say that the 1956 Topps set is everything that is beautiful and good about little cardboard rectangles. Harry "Fritz" Dorish and his devilish grin know I'm right. He seems to be enjoying the fact that Topps chose an action shot of a relief pitcher running the bases. If that image was taken from a 1955 game, it came before the White Sox traded him to Baltimore in early June. He was 1-for-13 with one sac bunt in his limited plate appearances that season, and 0-for-10 with the O's. Things went better on the mound, at least; he went 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 48 total games, and 3-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 35 games as an Oriole.

So thanks, Sy, for leading me down this path.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Craig Worthington, 1991 Leaf #298

I was thumbing through some 1991 O's cards this evening when my inner child told me that I'd been neglecting Craig Worthington. It's been 20 months since I featured the former Oriole third baseman on this here blog, and really, how many Cal Ripken and Adam Jones cards can you see? I strive for variety in this trifling little enterprise. While we're here, I'd like to call attention to the fact that Craig drove in 105 runs in 132 games for the Hagerstown Suns in 1986, batting .300/.399/.471 with 35 doubles at age 21. Nobody in the Carolina League drove in more runs, though Ron Gant came close at 102. If only that batting prowess could have translated to the major leagues.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chris Davis, 2014 Topps Heritage Chrome #475

Good news! Chris Davis has regained his therapeutic use exemption for Adderall, which should have several positive implications for the 2015 season. Firstly, after he sits out Opening Day, completing the 25-game suspension he received this past September, the first baseman will be free to play for the Orioles without the threat of an additional 80-game ban hanging over him for any further positive tests for the stimulant. Second, if you aren't cynical enough to believe that Davis is gaming the system (and in his favor, Ken Rosenthal reported that the slugger has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD), then he should be back on track with his treatment. One could assume that he'll be better equipped to rebound from 2014's on-field struggles, and in fact if he wasn't getting regular and proper treatment for his disorder prior to this point, that could help explain his dropoff from the prior season. At any rate, I'm just glad that the O's will have one less off-field worry next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Billy Ripken, 1990 Donruss #164

Guess who turns the big 5-0 today? No, it's not me, and I'm greatly offended by your presumption. It's not 2032 just yet, thank you very much. Nope, the second-best Ripken to ever play for the Orioles was born on this date in 1964. So here's wishing a hap-hap-happy birthday to Billy, the man who gave my 22-year-old self a nonsensical nickname and was generally a tough act to follow. But it's not fair to dwell on unpleasantries on such a momentous occasion, so I went and tracked down the box score from little brother's first career home run: July 19, 1987. It was an Earl Weaver special off of Bud Black in the top of the fifth inning in Kansas City, giving the O's a 4-0 lead in a game they'd eventually win 5-1. For one day at least, Billy snatched the spotlight from Cal, who had a measly double...and three walks...and a stolen base.

What a showoff.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mike Mussina, 1999 Bowman Chrome #60

Should you be curious, the "C" in "Michael C. Mussina" stands for Cole. Former outfielder Alex Cole went 1-for-7 with three strikeouts in his career meetings with Mike Mussina. That probably means something, even if that something is "I've been awake for too many hours".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Brady Anderson, 2000 Pacific Omega #17

Is Brady Anderson in the middle of a headfirst slide into third base, or is he on an invisible hang glider? It's just another one of life's mysteries.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Don Aase, 1987 Fleer Star Stickers #1

This is quite a festive card/sticker, with its green border, red and white banners, and stars. It's hard to believe that we're only 12 days away from Christmas, but it must be true. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is on my television, and holiday greetings continue to arrive in the mailbox. Today I reaped one of the special benefits of being an Orioles season ticket holder, as my favorite baseball team sent me a little something:

So what do you think - should I send them a card?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Camilo Carreon, 1966 Topps #513

That's some good hustle by Topps to get Cam Carreon on a card in an Orioles uniform, considering that the O's didn't acquire him from Cleveland until March 10, 1966. The player they gave up? A young outfielder named Lou Piniella. This card is also something of an oddity because Carreon went on to play just four games for Baltimore, going 2-for-9 with three walks and spending most of the year at AAA Rochester. When he returned to the minors for the duration of 1967 as well, he decided to retire to spend more time at home with his family in Tucson. Though the minor league Toros coaxed him back for one season as a player and a few more as a coach, the team was based out of Tuscon, so he was still around for much of the year. One of his sons, Mark, went on to enjoy a ten-year career as an outfielder with the Mets, Tigers, Giants, and Indians. On one last note, here's a scan of the card back, featuring a great cartoon about Cam's favorite hobby.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chris Gomez, 2007 Topps Heritage #154

I have thousands of Orioles cards in my collection, but I can safely say that this one is the orangest. Heck, the PhotoShop filter that Topps used even gives Chris Gomez's skin a carroty glow. If he were wearing an orange practice jersey, he might be completely camouflaged.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jimmy Key, 1997 Fleer Ultra #356

On this date in 1996, the Orioles signed Jimmy Key to a two-year contract for nearly $8 million. The free agent deal paid immediate dividends, as the veteran lefty tied Scott Erickson for the team lead with 16 wins in 1997, tossing 212.1 innings with a 3.43 ERA that was second on the staff to ace Mike Mussina. He was especially strong prior to the All-Star Break, posting a 12-4 record and a 2.55 ERA as the O's charted their course for a wire-to-wire division lead. By the postseason, Key seemed to be running out of gas. He failed to complete five innings in either of his playoff starts, though he did provide three innings of crucial shutout relief in Game Five of the ALCS. In allowing just one walk and no hits, he carried the Birds' slim two-run lead from starter Scott Kamieniecki to closer Randy Myers and helped Baltimore stave off elimination.

Like most of his teammates, Jimmy's fortunes took a downturn in 1998. Shoulder problems limited him to 25 games that year - 11 starts and 14 relief appearances. He went 6-3 with a 4.20 ERA in 79.1 innings, and retired at age 37 with a career record of 186-117 and a 3.51 ERA in 15 seasons.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cal Ripken Jr., 2011 Topps Lineage #194

A couple of things:

1) I appreciate the nod to the original 1960s All-Star Rookie trophy, which was so much more majestic than the 1980s Rookie Cup. Still, it chafes me that it says "1981 All-Star Rookie". While Cal Junior debuted in 1981, he appeared in just 23 games and maintained his rookie status into 1982, when he won the Rookie of the Year award.

2) I didn't realize that Cal Ripken ever batted barehanded. I hope he didn't use the Moises Alou technique.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Eli Marrero, 2005 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH49

Hey, do you remember when Eli Marrero was an Oriole? Nah, probably not. The former Cardinals' utility player came to Baltimore in the journeyman phase of his career, as he suited up for six different teams in his last four years in the majors. He batted just 56 times in 22 games for the O's in the summer of 2005, but managed to slug .540 despite a .220 batting average. Of his 11 hits in orange and black, eight went for extra bases - three doubles, two triples, and three home runs. But Eli sprained his thumb in late July, and spent the rest of the season on the disabled list as the team went down the tubes. The following January, he wound up in Colorado on a minor league deal. Easy come, easy go.

FYI, the blue wristband Eli is wearing in the photo above gives this away as a snapshot from Father's Day: June 19, 2005. Marrero started in left field against the Rockies that Sunday afternoon and had two singles in three at-bats, scoring one run in the club's 4-2 win. B. J. Surhoff pinch hit for him in the seventh inning. Hayden Penn earned the second of his four career MLB wins. Exciting times.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2008 Topps 50th Anniversary All-Star Rookies Chrome #ARC19

Well, now that we're closing the door on Nick Markakis' career as an Oriole (for the time being, at least), we might as well take a look at where he stands on the team's all-time leader boards. Onward!

  • 1,547 hits, sixth place
  • 1,365 games played, tenth place
  • 749 runs scored, eighth place
  • 316 doubles, sixth place
  • 141 home runs, 13th place
  • 658 RBI, ninth place
  • 553 walks, ninth place
  • .290 batting average, 11th place
Not bad for nine years' work.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Doyle Alexander, 1974 Topps #282

Those are some pretty choice sideburns on Doyle Alexander, but I still prefer him with the 'stache.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter Mini #31

Yes, I got the news about Nick Markakis last night, but I decided to sleep on it in case it was some elaborate hoax. But no, it's true: for the first time since 2005, someone besides #21 will be starting in right field for the Orioles next Opening Day. Markakis signed a four-year, $45 million contract with the Atlanta Braves after the O's balked at a fourth year. The historically cautious Orioles were reportedly concerned about a herniated disc in Nick's neck, and I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on that. After all, I haven't forgotten the sad saga of Brian Roberts' health-related decline, and I'm sure Dan Duquette and company haven't either. So in one sense, I'm relieved. Baltimore's soft-spoken outfielder has given us steady competence and numerous great moments over the past nine seasons, and those memories won't have to be tarnished by watching him slide into irrelevance in his thirties. There have already been signs that Nick is slowing down, and in the cutthroat American League East nobody can afford to make personnel decisions for sentimental reasons.

This might sound like sour grapes, but I'm just trying to examine the pros and cons of life without Nick Markakis in orange and black. On the "con" side, the O's are already a team with deficiences in on-base percentage, and jettisoning a guy with a .358 career OBP isn't exactly going to help matters. At the moment, the Orioles don't have firm starters on the outfield corners or at designated hitter. They'll have to find some workable combination of Steve Pearce, Alejandro de Aza, David Lough, and maybe eventually Dariel Alvarez, a 26-year-old Cuban outfielder who had an impressive 2014 at Bowie and Norfolk. There aren't many attractive options on the free agent market, since it's hard to see Duquette throwing money at Melky Cabrera after taking a hardline stance on Nelson Cruz and Markakis.

Of course, the Orioles' 2003 first-round pick is leaving a void off of the field as well. By all reports, Nick is also well liked in the clubhouse, and his charitable contributions in the Baltimore area will also be missed. It sucks that he's gone, but it could be worse. Can you imagine being an Athletics fan? I'd be afraid to form any kind of attachment to any of their players.

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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Jerry Hairston Jr., 2004 Bowman Heritage #4

Jerry Hairston thought it was odd that the photo shoot was scheduled for 7:00 AM, but he didn't want to make waves. It was only when he showed up to the completely empty stadium that he realized he'd been had.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Albert Belle, 2000 Upper Deck Legends #52

You've probably heard by now that Nelson Cruz is officially an ex-Oriole, having flown the coop for a four-year, $57 million contract with the Mariners. I certainly can't begrudge him for taking the security and the money where he could get it, just like I can't blame the Baltimore brass for blanching at a four-year commitment to a 34-year-old player with a checkered injury history whose best position is designated hitter. So Nelson, thanks for what is likely the best one-and-done performance in team history; I enjoyed every one of your 42 home runs in the regular season and postseason.

The question of the moment is how the Birds go about replacing Cruz's 74 extra-base hits and 140 OPS+. Hopefully their next move works out better than their wheelings and dealings on this date in 1998. On that troublesome December first, Rafael Palmeiro turned down a more lucrative deal in Baltimore to return to Texas. That same day, the O's inked Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million deal (over $83 million in 2014 money); he lasted two years and 60 home runs before retiring with an arthritic hip.