Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Thursday, May 6, 2021

John Means, 2021 Topps #272


I may have strayed far from the discipline of my early years of blogging, but I'm not so far gone that I won't check back in on the occasion of the best-pitched Orioles game of my lifetime, if not the history of the team.

I've watched hundreds upon hundreds of O's games in the past three decades, but I'd never witnessed a no-hitter by a Baltimore pitcher - until yesterday. I've seen position players earn wins and saves on the mound. I've seen Cal Ripken, Jr. break a seemingly ironclad longevity record. I've been inside the ballpark for a Chris Davis three-homer game, a Felix Pie cycle, and three thrilling postseason victories. But I hadn't seen an Oriole so much as carry a hitless game into the ninth inning since Daniel Cabrera's bid at history was cut short by a Robinson Cano single with one out in the last frame at the end of the 2006 season. I haven't done the research, but it seems like O's starters give up their first hit in the 7:00 hour more often than not when I go to a game.

So it was that I found myself checking Twitter in the middle of the afternoon yesterday and noting that John Means had coasted through the first four innings of a getaway game in Seattle with only one base runner allowed. That was Seattle outfielder Sam Haggerty, who had the good fortune to swing through strike three on a pitch that bounced past the grasp of catcher Pedro Severino. (Sevy made amends by throwing out Haggerty on a steal attempt shortly thereafter...more on that later.) I didn't want to act in haste, so I kept tabs on the game via social media as Means breezed through innings five and six. Then I felt emboldened to tune in, through assuredly legal means of streaming video.

By the time Means took the mound in the home half of the eighth inning, he had a 6-0 cushion, bolstered by a solo home run from Pat Valaika and a three-run shot from the resilient Trey Mancini. In a rare exception, we were watching the game play out at the dinner table, because #47 just looked that good. He had another 1-2-3 trip to the mound, and just three outs separated him from a piece of history.

As the Mariners stepped up to take their last swings, Janet and I stood expectantly in front of the laptop, which was still resting on our dining room table. Dylan Moore made weak contact, with third baseman Rio Ruiz snagging a popup in foul territory. Two more. Haggerty whiffed again on a 2-2 pitch, but Severino held on this time as Means tied a career high with his twelfth strikeout. One last out to get. The drama was short-lived, as M's shortstop J. P. Crawford swatted a soft line drive to his counterpart. Ramon Urias gloved the ball, and the jubilation began. The infielders swarmed John Means at the mound. The outfielders and the bench players and coaches raced in from their respective posts. The relievers embraced in the bullpen. Janet and I each hollered and high-fived, while Finn covered his ears.

John Means did not technically throw a perfect game, thanks to baseball's idiosyncratic rules about dropped third strikes. But he faced the minimum 27 batters without issuing a walk or a hit, nor did any Seattle batter reach on an error. This was the first such game in MLB history, and it was also the first no-hitter by the Orioles since the Milacki-Flanagan-Williamson-Olson patchwork effort in Oakland back in 1991. What's more, it was the first complete game no-hitter for the Birds since Jim Palmer shut down those same Athletics in 1969. Yesterday, a former 11th-round pick put an exclamation point on his rise to the top of the sport by ending the longest active solo-no-hitter drought in the major leagues. It was a great way to spend a Thursday afternoon in May.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Austin Hays, 2020 Topps Heritage #326


Gee, it only took me until July to pull an Orioles card from a 2020 product (and yes, it took me until August to post it...my bad). I'm still not buying a whole lot of new cards, but now that Topps Heritage has rolled around to the peerless 1971 design, I'm going to part with a few bucks here or there. I broke in with a blaster box from Target, and...eight packs, no O's. I got a D. B. Cooper card, though! So I had to wait for my next purchase (a hanger pack) to get my hands on current center fielder Austin Hays.

Speaking of Mr. Hays, I guess it's also time for my first regular-season recap of 2020! I mean, I don't know that "regular" is the best word to describe this 60-game summer sprint in ballparks devoid of fans but full of cardboard facsimiles, with a universal DH, expanded rosters, extra inning ghost runners, seven-inning doubleheaders (or is that 14 inning doubleheaders?), and expanded playoffs.

Anyhow, the Birds are exactly a quarter of the way through their condensed schedule, and they have a winning record at 8-7. They earned that eighth win the hard way last night, stumbling over the finish line just ahead of the host Phillies with a 10-9 victory in 10 innings. There were six ties or lead changes over the last five innings, which doesn't even take into account Baltimore pinch runner Andrew Velazquez's near-steal of home plate that was overturned by the killjoy umpires on review. Miguel Castro had his first poor outing of the summer in the eighth inning, coughing up a game-tying two-run homer to Bryce Harper followed by a solo shot by Jean Segura to put the Phils on top, 6-5. The O's bats picked him up in the ninth, as Renato Nunez's bases-loaded single knotted the score again. But it looked like they'd blown a chance to put up a crooked number when Pedro Severino popped up near the mound with two outs...until Segura raced over from third base, calling off first baseman Rhys Hoskins, only to stumble over the mound and miss the catch. With the runners moving on contact, two Orioles scored and they carried a two-run lead into the home half of the ninth...just like the eighth.

Current head honcho of the Birds' closer-by-committee approach Cole Sulser got two quick outs before losing his command and loading the bases on a single and a pair of walks. That set the stage for Didi Gregorius to pull the Phillies even again with one of the weakest bits of contact all night, an excuse-me single to very shallow center field. Sulser escaped with a strikeout of Segura, who couldn't redeem himself for his two-run gaffe in the field. That set the stage for Baltimore's second extra-inning game of the Bonus Runner Era.

Velazquez, having made the final out of the Oriole ninth inning, was placed on second base to start the tenth. Austin Hays led off and rapped a sinking line drive to center field. Philly center fielder Roman Quinn, trying to prevent Velazquez from scoring the go-ahead run, made an ill-advised lunge and came up empty. Hays streaked around the bases as the ball rolled to the wall, and Quinn's stumble-and-throw meant that Austin scored standing up. It was more of a little-league homer, but the official scorer's opinion is what really counts, and by that metric, it was the first inside-the-park homer in Birdland since Robert Andino rounded the bases against Boston nine years ago. The Orioles needed both of those runs, since Paul Fry had his own dose of ineffectiveness and poor positioning in Philadelphia's last at-bat. The lefty surrendered a leadoff Jay Bruce single to score Segura (man, that rule is goofy), and later deflected a possible game-ending double play grounder with his foot. A miscommunication between Fry and Severino led to a passed ball that put the tying and winning runs on second and third, and it took a heady play by shortstop Jose Iglesias to freeze the runners on a grounder by Quinn. Travis Lakins, Sr., one of the newest Orioles, relieved Fry and coaxed a grounder to second base by Hoskins to nail down his first career save in MLB. At long last, I exhaled.

I will admit to turning off the video feed of the game twice in late innings before tuning in to the O's radio call just in time to...miss the decisive Hays trip around the bases. But I stuck around (against my better judgment) to hear the white-knuckle exploits in the bottom of the tenth. It's been a while since I lived and died with every pitch like that, and I really did miss it.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 2019 Topps #441

I wonder when this stadium will be full again. At the rate we're going, it certainly doesn't look like it will even host baseball games without fans in 2020. You can thank the billionaire owners for that one.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Yovani Gallardo, 2016 Topps Stadium Club #153

Man, one look at Yovani Gallardo's weary, lightless eyes and flat grimace tells you just how excited he was to be in Baltimore. Maybe it had something to do with waiting until the end of February to get a contract - one that came in one year and several million dollars lighter after the famously unforgiving team physical raised some red flags. Or perhaps he realized that pitching in the American League East wasn't shaping up to be a beneficial career move. It's also possible that he stepped in his dog's water bowl on the way out the door that morning. We've all been there, right?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Chris Davis, 2017 Topps Fire #113

As I continue searching for ways to fill the void left in my everyday life without baseball, and to keep my housebound preschooler from climbing the walls, I have discovered the Orioles Digital Kids' Corner. Once a week, the team's official YouTube account is updated with a video of a current team member reading a bedtime story to their children. A few days ago, we watched Chris Davis read "The Wonderful Things You Will Be" to his three young daughters. It's an endearing glimpse into the personal lives of these guys. Though if I'm being honest, it also soothes my ego a bit to know that while I wouldn't be able to hit a 95 mph fastball if you gave me a few million swings at it, I'm a much more dynamic narrator than most of the clubhouse.

Seriously. You should hear my Grover voice. (I also do a mean Cookie Monster.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Brian Sackinsky, 1995 Bowman #8

Hey, whaddaya know? The last time I featured former second round draft pick Brian Sackinsky on this blog, I said it would be a long while before he made his way back onto these digital pages. As it turns out, that was a week shy of ten years ago. Two moves, one marriage, one child, and one pandemic ago. It was also three postseason trips ago for the O's. If I could travel a decade back in time and tell my 27-year-old self  what the future would bring, that last item may have seemed even more implausible than the rest. I would also probably try to warn that young guy about one or two things that were coming in 2016.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Vintage Fridays: Sam Bowens, 1965 Topps #188

On this date in 1964, Sam Bowens had a very memorable game. The Orioles were hosting the Twins on a Friday night, and what looked like a pitcher's duel on paper never materialized. Minnesota jumped all over Steve Barber with four first-inning runs on five hits, capped by a two-run double from catcher Earl Battey. The O's immediately cut that lead in half, as Jackie Brandt delivered a two-RBI single off of Jim Kaat in the bottom of the first. Bowens hit a solo homer the following inning, but Barber gave the run back in the top of the third when Harmon Killebrew drove in Vic Power with a single. Brandt scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, making it 5-4 Twins. The bullpens took command for a while, as Wes Stock and Dick Hall combined for five shutout innings of relief for Baltimore. Gerry Arrigo replaced Kaat to start the sixth, and was still on the mound as the Birds took their last swings in the home ninth. Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell each struck out, leaving it all up to Bowens. The rookie right fielder belted an Arrigo offering over the left field fence for the game-tying home run, his second of the game and third extra-base hit overall (he'd also doubled in the fourth inning). Bill Fischer relieved Arrigo for the Twins, but had a short and unsatisfying night of work: O's catcher John Orsino gave the Memorial Stadium crowd a thrill with a walkoff four-bagger, likewise to left field. Orioles win, 6-5, improving to 21-12 and maintaining their half-game lead atop the American League.