Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

George Sherrill, 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights #

How was your Saturday? Improbably enough, mine included an audition for a MASN Orioles commercial. Several weeks ago, I was contacted by someone at MASN. Apparently, they were planning an ad campaign focusing on regular fans sharing their memorable Orioles (and Nationals, ehh) moments. I'd participated in a discussion thread at Camden Chat on just that very topic, and they liked my response enough to bring me in for the audition. So at noon today, I dolled myself up in my new "Baltimore" road jersey and my Angry Bird hat and drove up to Fall Road to the studio. I got a bit flustered because I had trouble finding the building (poor signage), which made me a few minutes late. But it turned out that they weren't ready for me yet, so I had a chance to sit in the waiting room and gather myself.

When I got there, there was an older man in Nationals gear ahead of me. We talked baseball for a bit. His memorable moment was Ron Belliard's walkoff home run against George Sherrill, which I remembered all too well. It was another crushing loss during the O's inexplicable streak of Sunday defeats, and I was watching it on TV at our hotel in Ocean City. Not the best start to vacation. While we waited, the woman who had signed us in passed out our checks. I was thrilled with the promise of $150 just for showing up and talking about the Orioles; I would have done it for free. (I can safely say that now that I have the check!) Shortly after I arrived, another young guy with an orange Orioles warmup jersey bustled in. He sat next to me and I happened to mention that I'd been contacted after posting on Camden Chat. It turned out that this guy, whose name was Joe, was a fellow Camden Chatter! With that as an icebreaker, we passed the time chatting about the O's and football. After about an hour, I got called in to face the casting tribunal.

My jersey got some attention right away, as one of them mentioned to the others that the jersey should definitely be in the wardrobe for the commercial shoot (scheduled for mid-February), because it's part of the new uniform, and the "Baltimore" across the chest hasn't been there for 20 years and it's "a big deal". I just couldn't help myself, and I piped up that it was more like 35 years. First, Peter, who was operating the camera and doing most of the talking and instructing (and whose name was the only one I remembered), prompted me to tell my story. I'd rehearsed it in my head all week, going to Baseball Reference to fact-check the little details.

It was June 19, the final game of a six-game interleague homestand in which the Birds had come from behind to win four of the first five. (They'd also battled back from 4-0 in the one loss before dropping it in extra innings.) The point was that I believed, for the first time in years, that they could win any game, no matter what the circumstances. After falling behind 2-0 early in this one, they used three home runs to take a 7-3 lead going into the ninth inning. Dennis Sarfate loads the bases with one out, and George Sherrill is brought in to save the day. I turn up the bill of my hat to flatten it, for good luck. He coaxes a fly ball for the second out. So it's 7-4 and Miguel Tejada is up. He singles, it's 7-5 and I start to sweat it. Lance Berkman, one of the best hitters in the National League, is up representing the winning run. George gets two quick strikes and Camden Yards comes alive. I'm on my feet now, whipping my hat around in my hand (here I act it out), chanting, "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" Sure enough, it's a shallow fly ball to left, Jay Payton camps out under it, and makes the catch. Game over!

Okay, I wasn't quite that verbose, but it was close. They seemed impressed with my level of recall, so I admitted that I'd checked up on myself. Now Peter helped me condense it to the meat and potatoes, essentially jumping to the two-strike pitch. Then he asked me to work with a crude script centered around the previous Friday's game against the Pirates. It was a bit strange, since it was a moment someone else had submitted. He had me improvise a scenario in which I watched the game with a friend who was down on the Orioles and giving me a hard time about them falling behind 6-0. There was some youthful banter he was looking to get, probably trying to place me in a "smack-talking young guys" demographic. I was encouraged to get fired up, and to use colloquialisms like "Dude". I pushed through it a few times, feeling a little more awkward and less genuine, but I realize that if I get the commercial I'm not going to be doing 100% of my own material. As we wrapped up, Peter tossed out a few shouts of elation that I might want to work in, and I took his cues. Caught up in the moment, I let out a loud hoot of joy, which is the sort of thing that I really would do if the O's pulled out a big win, regardless of whether I was at the stadium or in front of the TV. That got a good laugh from the group, and I hope it was a good note to leave on.

There are more auditions next weekend, and I assume that I'll know the verdict shortly thereafter. For now, it looks like my acting background and my obsession with sports have intersected in an unexpected way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Tom Matchick, 1973 Topps #631

This card was recently sent to me by Andy, who rebounded from a false start with his 1978 Topps blog and has gotten back in his wheelhouse with a fun and informative blog about the 1988 Score Rookie & Traded set. It's a rare beauty, not because of utility infielder Tom Matchick and his awkward hunched-over pose, but because of the backdrop. In the days before action photos were all the rage in baseball cards, Topps did most of their photography either in Spring Training or in New York, when players from around the league came to town to play the Yankees (and later the Mets). But as soon as I eyeballed this card, I recognized Tom's environs. The ugly makeshift green fence. The red National beer sign on top of the left-center field scoreboard. And of course, the Orioles logo to the right of said scoreboard. This is indeed Memorial Stadium, the all-purpose jewel of 33rd Street in Baltimore, as it was in 1972. It's a sight for sore eyes, and it's almost enough to make me stop wondering why Matchick would be attempting to field ground balls near the righty on-deck circle.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Eric Davis, 1999 Topps Chrome #153

In my time as a sports fan, I've seen a lot of amazing feats of courage, plenty of examples of playing through pain. From Cal Ripken, Jr.'s 2,632 consecutive games played to Derrick Mason of the Ravens running routes and catching passes with a dislocated shoulder and strained trapezius muscle, I've often shook my head in disbelief. I try to put myself in the shoes of these athletes and wonder where they get the strength and energy to keep taking the field and putting themselves at further risk of injury. But Eric Davis' debut season with the Orioles in 1997 surpasses them all.

At one time, the name of Eric Davis was being mentioned in the same breath as Willie Mays. He was one of the most exciting young players of the 1980s, mixing power and speed in a dynamic package. He had five straight years of at least 24 home runs per season and stole 80 bases in one year at his peak. Injuries eventually ground his career to a near-halt, as he averaged 83 games per year between 1991 and 1994 and failed to hit above .237 in that span. After a year of retirement, Davis felt rejuvenated and returned to the Reds, winning 1996's Comeback Player of the Year award (.287, 26 HR, 83 RBI, 23 SB). He signed with the O's as a free agent and seemed primed to join Brady Anderson and B.J. Surhoff to form an impressive veteran outfield. He got off to a blazing start, homering seven times in his first 21 games. But Davis was not long for the Oriole lineup.

In late May, Eric got the devastating news that he had contracted colon cancer. He immediately underwent surgery to remove a malignant mass, and soon began chemotherapy treatments. He vowed to return to the field before the season's end, a pronouncement that was met with considerable skepticism. Of course the team rallied around Eric, wearing his #24 on the side of their batting helmets. But on August 22, less than ten weeks after his surgery, Davis worked out with the Birds, spent that day's game watching from the dugout, and received a standing ovation from the Baltimore faithful. On September 15, the team activated the 35-year-old and he played in eight games over the final two weeks of the regular season...in between his ongoing chemotherapy treatments. He completed only two of those games, but it was remarkable that he played at all. He had three multi-hit games, including a 4-for-5, 1 HR effort against Milwaukee. As inspiring as this comeback was, it wasn't over yet.

The 1997 Orioles accomplished a rare feat, going wire-to-wire; they won 98 games and sat in first place for every day of the entire season. In Game One of the Division Series, Davis helped the O's break things open with a two-run single off of Mariners ace Randy Johnson. In all, the team scored four runs in the frame to break a 1-1 tie; they would romp 9-3 and dispose of Seattle in four games to move on to the American League Championship Series. Like most of the Orioles, Eric struggled in the six-game series loss to the Indians, going 2-for-13. But he did provide insurance in one Baltimore win, belting a pinch-hit home run off of Paul Assenmacher in the ninth inning of Game Five. The O's won that game 4-2.

Eric Davis won the Roberto Clemente Award after the season, and was stronger than ever in 1998. He set an Orioles record with a 30-game hitting streak, reached career highs with 29 doubles and a .327 batting average, and his 28 home runs and 89 RBI were his best totals in a full decade. I'm running out of superlatives.

Cancer, schmancer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vaughn Eshelman, 1992 Stadium Club Dome #44

When Vaughn Eshelman graduated from the University of Houston in 1991, his classmates selected him as "Most Likely to Confuse His Topps Photo Shoot with a Modeling Gig for J. Crew".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miguel Tejada, 2006 Upper Deck #65

Check it out - a midair moment and a bunch of conspicuous light blue wristbands! This is a card worthy of both Dinged Corners and Uni Watch. So why exactly were Miggy, his blurry teammate in the outfield, and baserunner J.D. Closser all wearing those wristbands? A quick check of baseball-reference.com shows that this photo was taken on June 19, 2005; that was the only game of the three-game interleague series between the O's and the Rockies in which Closser played. It was a Sunday afternoon game, Father's Day to be exact. Every MLB team wore blue ribbons and wristbands to promote prostate cancer awareness. Some players even wore "eye blue" instead of eye black.

This was a good one, with the Birds winning 4-2 to maintain their surprising grip on first place. Young Hayden Penn won his second career game while pitching into the seventh inning, and B.J. Ryan notched his 18th save. Rafael Palmeiro's sixth-inning two-run home run was the big blow. Manager Lee Mazzilli had his most memorable moment in a short tenure at the helm of the O's, earning an ejection while arguing a near-miss foul ball hit by Chris Gomez in the sixth inning should have been ruled a home run. Replays would later show that the umps got the call right, but the sight of Mazzilli tossing a tray full of chewing gum from the dugout onto the field delighted fans who were starved for a taste of Earl Weaver-esque histrionics.

The above picture was taken in the top of the third inning, when Closser walked with one out but was wiped from the basepaths by Eddy Garabito's inning-ending double play grounder, 3-6-3. I love the rich detail of Upper Deck's photography. It makes it so easy to do a little sleuthing and to identify the specific moment in time that they've captured.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Curt Schilling, 1990 Score #581

You might not know that Curt Schilling was born in Anchorage, Alaska. It goes without saying that his hometown gets plenty of snow every year. Right about now, I wish they'd stop hogging it all and share a little with the Mid-Atlantic region. They're calling for snow tomorrow, but the timetable has been pushed back to "before noon", which means that it will just potentially make my commute to and from work especially annoying, rather than precluding me from even leaving the house to go to work. Sure, I just had a four-day weekend last week (Monday's MLK holiday and Tuesday's Inauguration), but I could always use another day off. This is looking like a busy work week, which is never fun. Besides, I want snow. They're calling for three inches, which is just plain piddly. We had a warm, green-and-brown Christmas. There have been plenty of miserable, 40-degree rain storms. We've had a few random flakes here and there that don't even qualify as flurries. There was a bit of white stuff early last week that I could generously describe as a dusting. Maryland, particularly the areas surrounding Baltimore, is no winter wonderland. I want to be buried, and revel in my hermitage.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go change into my pajamas, which will be inside-out. Do kids still do that when they want snow?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tim Stoddard, 1982 Fleer #181

Since tonight is the Royal Rumble, my favorite wrestling event of the year, I'm posting this card of Tim "Bigfoot" Stoddard, whose imposing size (6'7", 250 lbs.) could have made him a pretty good wrestler. Tonight, I'm attempting my first ever live blog for the Royal Rumble match, as a follow-up to the contest that I ran with my post this afternoon on A Pack a Day. Since I couldn't track down anyone to split the $40 price tag for the pay-per-view, I'll be live-blogging other live blogs, essentially. Not the best-laid plans, to be sure. Keep refreshing for updates!

9:49 - Okay, we're underway! The first two entrants are #1 Rey Mysterio, Jr. (tiny masked Mexican wrestler) and #2 John Morrison (egocentric Jim Morrison knockoff.) After that we got #3 Carlito (Puerto Rican second-generation wrestler with a huge afro) and #4 MVP (generic conceited black athlete gimmick). #5 is the Great Khali (ginormous 7' tall Indian wrestler, starred in The Longest Yard remake). #6 is Vladimir Kozlov (undefeated evil whitebread Russian), who eliminates Khali! #7 is Triple H (neanderthal superstar who loves Motorhead and married the owner's daughter to ensure his stardom). Aaaand we're caught up!

10:03 - Had some technical difficulties. #8 is Randy Orton (obnoxious third-generation wrestler with some really dumb tattoos), followed by #9 JTG (horrendous black stereotype), #10 Ted DiBiase, Jr. (son of the Million Dollar Man, an awesome 1980s villain), #11 Chris Jericho (my personal hero, a bestselling author/heavy metal singer/VH1 commenter, and he wrestles sometimes too), #12 Mike Knox (creepy bearded baddie), #13 The Miz (John Morrison's tag team partner and a former MTV reality star), #14 Fit Finlay (insane middle-aged Irish brawler), and #15 Cody Rhodes (son of Dusty Rhodes and cohort of Orton and DiBiase). Someone needs to clear out some of the bodies in that ring, from the sound of it!

10:11 - They keep on comin'. #16 is the Undertaker (wrestling zombie/aging biker from Houston), #17 is Goldust (homoerotic man with gold facepaint and bodysuit), #18 is CM Punk (straightedge technician/greasy looking urchin), and #19 is Mark Henry (400+ pound ex-Olympic weightlifter).

10:14 - Apparently, the Twitter feed I was following was not keeping track of eliminations. Gone are MVP and Carlito at the hands of Kozlov. HHH takes out Kozlov, Morrison, and the Miz. #20 entrant is Shelton Benjamin (former amateur wrestler at the University of Minnesota, African-American with bleach blond hair). #21 is King William Regal (evil Britisher, real life recovering drug addict). #22 is Kofi Kingston (high-flying young Jamaican) and #23 is Kane (sadistic gargoyle who was burned badly as a child and is storyline brother to the Undertaker).

10:20 - #24 is R-Truth (wrestling rapper - he also had a brief role in "The Wrestler", which is a fantastic movie btw). So far, only commenter RWH is out of the running for the contest prize. I better reload and see if anyone else was eliminated.

10:25 - #25 is Rob Van Dam (pothead/ex 7-11 pitchman/flippy-floppy type guy), which is a huge surprise since he has only made one appearance for WWE in the last few years! #26 is THE Brian Kendrick (little shrimpy blond guy who hides behind his huge bodyguard Ezekiel). I need to find a liveblog that updates eliminations...grr.

10:30 - #27 Dolph Ziggler (doofy looking guy whose gimmick is introducing himself to people - don't ask), and #28 is Santino Marella (unibrowed Italian stereotype/chauvinist who is inexplicably hilarious). Marella is immediately gone - sorry, Thorzul. #29 is Hacksaw Jim Duggan (who you may have actually heard of - America-lovin', 2X4 toting slob from the 80's). #30 is the Big Show (7-plus-foot, 500 pound beast, good friend of Hulk Hogan. Was originally brought into WCW as Andre the Giant's son. Starred as Captain Insano in The Waterboy). Aaand now I'll try to find out who the heck got eliminated, and by whom.

10:38 - Here we go. Undertaker murders JTG - or maybe just throws him out (there goes Mad Guru's guy). Rhodes tosses Goldust, his real life brother and William's pick. Undertaker buries Mark Henry and Shelton Benjamin, and roofgod's chances of winning. Punk takes out Regal, Kendrick takes out Kingston (condolences to Fan of Reds), and Kendrick is dumped in turn by Triple H. Kane deposited Ziggler and the aforementioned Marella. That's all I've got right now.

10:41 - No word on the specifics of the other eliminations, but the Final Six are HHH, Orton, Rhodes, DiBiase, Big Show, and Undertaker. Even though only 15 of the 30 slots were claimed in my contest, only DiBiase (#10) is remaining among the unclaimed! Chances are we'll have a prize winner tonight!

10:43 - Latest on the Twitter has Taker and Show biting the dust. Sorry MGonnella and Burnsee2!

10:44 - Your 2009 Royal Rumble winner is Randy Orton (#8)! Congratulations to Sam! Email me (brotz13 AT gmail DOT com) with your favorite team and address, and I'll send out your prize later this week!

Thanks for hanging with me folks. A lesson learned: the next time I liveblog, I'll make sure I'm actually watching the event I'm blogging.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Brook Fordyce, 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man #196

Ah, the tools of ignorance. I've felt a special brotherhood with the guardians of the backstop ever since my high school years, when I was the starting catcher for my co-ed CYO softball team. I loved softball, because it finally provided me with a chance to look like a competent athlete. I'd had a brutal two-year cameo in little league when I was in middle school, so it was a relief to have a ball twice as large being tossed to me underhanded, rather than fired in my general direction in an overhand fashion. I'm not too proud to admit that. One thing that little league had taught me was that I was not gifted as a flycatcher, so I settled in behind the plate for softball. If I thought that I was going to have it easy, I was soon disabused of that notion.

We played out our seasons during the late spring and early summer, which meant several innings of crouching at home plate in the heat. Fortunately, our games were played under a strict time limit, sparing untold wear and tear on my knees. Also, stolen bases were not allowed. But I did have to deal with our pitchers, one of whom was a younger girl with major temper and self esteem issues. Fun? You got it. I essentially became an on-field coach, coaxing and encouraging her between every pitch, offering a low, wide target with my glove (I actually wore an outfielder's glove instead of a catcher's mitt for some reason), and most of all, working to tamp down my own temper while suppressing hers as well. But she thanked me often, at least. There's nothing worse than an ungrateful pitcher.

I took pride in my modest skills as a softballer, since I knew it was as close as I'd ever get to emulating my baseball heroes. Even with the increased ease of facing slow-pitch floaters, I never hit for much power, functioning as a line-drive and scratch hitter. I had enough speed to beat balls into the infield and leg out numerous infield hits, and in fact I led my team in batting average at least once that I can remember. (So I was told at the end-of-year party; I swear I didn't keep track of my own stats!) I was also honored to be named a team captain, even though there was no oversized "C" to wear on my chest like those that certain ostentatious major league teams give out.

Though catcher is a fairly unglamorous position, I occasionally made some attention-grabbing plays, throwing out a runner attempting to advance to second or third base on a throw home or a dribbler by the batter. My favorite play occured one afternoon when we were playing a team that included a few peers from my high school track team. As I was warming up our pitcher before the game, those same schoolmates started teasing me from behind the backstop, suggesting that I had been put behind the plate to hide my bad glove. They took it a step further, pointing out that most teams in our league used girls as catchers. (Not a very Christian or enlightened attitude, huh?) I simply laughed it off and went about my business. An inning or two into the game, one of my hecklers came to bat and hit a foul tip to my right side, toward my throwing hand. I made a diving attempt, reaching across my body with the glove and snagging the ball out of the air for the out. The batter shook his head in disbelief, smiling increduously. I'd let my on-field performance do the talking.

So there you have it: my own version of Al Bundy's football stories. I'll work on embellishing it more as the years go by.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Jack Fisher, 1960 Topps #46

Jack Fisher had a knack for giving up historic home runs. During his playing days he was known as "Fat Jack", but as you can see from the three-quarters' photo at left, that was a tongue-in-cheek moniker, as some of the best ones are. Of course, it could also refer to the "fat" pitches that he offered up from time to time. It wasn't as though he had an exceptionally high gopher ball rate; with 193 HR in 1975+ innings, he surrendered less than one clout per nine innings. He just allowed opposing hitters to get the best of him in memorable situations. To wit:

-September 28, 1960, Fenway Park, Boston, MA. 41-year-old Ted Williams is playing in his last game, having previously announced that he will not accompany the Red Sox on their final road trip to New York. Fisher enters the game in the first inning in relief of Steve Barber and inherits a 2-0 deficit. The Orioles rally to take a 4-2 lead as Jack blanks the BoSox into the eighth inning. With one out in the frame, the Splendid Splinter steps to the plate. His rookie season was 1939, the year of Fisher's birth! The lanky righty fires a strike past Williams, and makes the mistake of thinking that he can do so again. His second pitch is walloped to deep center field and over the fence for Ted's 521st career home run, in his last at-bat. In the ninth inning, Fisher would be hung with the loss after second baseman (and ex-Bostoner) Billy Klaus threw away a potential game-ending double play ball.

-September 26, 1961, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY. Almost a year to the date of the Williams homer, Fat Jack does it again. The baseball world has been captivated all season long by the M and M boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and their twin pursuit of Babe Ruth's hallowed single-season home run record. The Mick had been slowed by injuries and would finish the year with 54 dingers. With five games left in the season, Maris was stuck on 59, one short of the mammoth mark. There wouldn't be much waiting around this time: in the bottom of the third inning with the Birds up 2-0, Roger belted a two-out solo home run to right field for the big six-oh. Once again, Fisher lost a one-run game in agonizing fashion, with center fielder Jackie Brandt dropping a Hector Lopez fly ball in the seventh inning to allow the eventual winning run to score. 3-2, Yankees.

-April 17, 1964, Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY. Three seasons later, Fat Jack took the mound on Opening Day for the woeful Mets. It also happened to be the inaugural game at the team's brand new stadium. In the top of the second in a scoreless game, the righthander served up a leadoff home run to Pirates left fielder Willie Stargell. It was the first roundtripper ever hit in Shea. Though the Mets lost 4-3, Fisher was not charged with the loss. Coincidentally, one of Fisher's teammates that season was Tracy Stallard, who gave up Roger Maris' record-breaking 61st home run in 1961.

So there you have it. Jack Fisher was on the receiving end of home run history several times...or maybe that should be the giving end.

By the way, any guesses as to who hit the most home runs off of Fat Jack?

That would be Hank Aaron, who blasted six of his 755 circuit clouts off of the poor guy. Go figure.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mike Devereaux, 1993 Fleer Ultra #493

When I became an Orioles fan in 1993, I took a quick dislike to Mike Devereaux. Looking back, it's almost hard for me to remember how Devo became the first in a long line of my personal whipping boys. It probably didn't help that he was fresh off a breakout season in which he'd hit .276 with 29 doubles, 11 triples, 24 home runs, and 107 RBI. Expectations were high, but the outfielder had a down year in '93. He hit .250 with 14 HR and 75 RBI, and missed 31 games in total. It's possible that I could have personally seen a few games in which he made high-profile mistakes and they made a lasting impression upon me. Certainly, his awful 1994 season didn't do anything to disabuse me of my animosity toward him (.204, 9 HR, 33 RBI in 301 AB). An ugly beaning at the hands of Cleveland's Chad Ogea did nothing to help him, of course.

The following season, he wound up hitting .299 with the White Sox and the Braves, and was the unlikely MVP of the National League Championship Series (.308, 5 RBI in 4 games). He proceeded to return to the O's in 1996, just in time to stop hitting well again (.229, 8 HR, 34 RBI), capped off with a hitless postseason (0-for-3). My dodgy relationship with Mike Devereaux continued unabated.

But Devo was a fine Oriole in the big picture. He was a gifted athlete, and his speed helped him to play an exciting center field (though he wasn't much of a base stealer). He put together back-to-back years with double-digit doubles, triples, and home runs (1991-1992), which you don't see much. He also holds a few major league records for players born in Wyoming: most triples (33), home runs (105), and RBI (480). That counts for something, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mike Mussina, 1999 Skybox Thunder #125

The next time you start to fret about the latest unimaginative parallel set or gimmicky fake-error or variation card, just remember that it could always be worse. Much worse. Some synergistic dork copy writer at Fleer could be trying to cook up "edgy" verses to appeal to the cool kids. If you've never had the unintentionally hilarious experience of reading the back of a Skybox Thunder card, peep at this beautiful turn of phrase about Moose:

"You've been starrin' with the Birds of Baltimore for years. Yeah, the bird, bird, bird, the bird's the word."

Wow. Nothing says hip like droppin' the "g" from the ends of your words. Not to mention quoting "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen. You know, a novelty song that was popular in 1963. Way to stay ahead of the curve, Fleer.

I shudder to think about how much of this goofy stuff I would have bought if I were actively collecting in high school.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nick Markakis, 2008 Stadium Club #22

In a week that was surprisingly packed with O's news, the best news of all arrived yesterday. Nick Markakis, shown here making a catch with his feet planted firmly on the ground, has ensured that both he and the team as a whole will be on solid footing for the next six years. In just three seasons in Baltimore, he's already staked a legitimate claim as the best right fielder in the American League. Now, he's signed a contract extension that buys out his arbitration years as well as three potential free agency years. The young star, who might well be the face of the Orioles, will continue in that capacity through at least 2014, his age thirty season.

I'm happy for Nick, who has a new wife, a baby on the way, and $66 million worth of security. I'm happy for the Birds, who can go forward in their rebuilding effort with a player to actually build around. And I'm especially happy for beaten-down, paranoid O's fans, who can take comfort knowing that this front office won't sit idly by and take young talent for granted. Hopefully, this means that the especially pessimistic fans who are already preparing to kiss Matt Wieters goodbye when he hits free agency in six years (seriously, these people DO exist) can button up for a little while.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Randor Bierd, 2008 Upper Deck Timeline #203

Just to show you how busy the Oriole front office has been, earlier today I scanned this card in order to write a post about how Randor Bierd seemed to have been squeezed out of the team's bullpen despite a sometimes-impressive rookie season. By the time I got back online, I discovered that he had been traded to the Red Sox for fellow right-handed pitcher David Pauley. This comes one day after the O's acquired speedy outfielder Felix Pie (pronounced PEE-ay, much to my disappointment) from the Cubs in exchange for lefty Garrett Olson. Easy come, easy go.

It's always tricky to acquire a player in the Rule V draft, as the Birds did with Randor last year. You've got to keep the guy on your major league roster for the entire season, or else offer him back to his original club for half-price. The O's drafted pitcher Mike Johnson in 1997, and he flopped (7.94 ERA). They lucked out with Jay Gibbons in 2001 (be fair: he did have a few good years), but Jose Morban was absolutely overmatched in 2003 (.141 AVG). But Bierd hit the ground running, pitching thirteen scoreless innings to start his career and wowing the coaching staff with an unhittable changeup that he reportedly learned from Pedro Martinez. He also had an exotic name and a hilarious nickname, courtesy of Camden Chat: Randor the Burninator. (For those unfamiliar with Homestar Runner: click here. Wait it out, it's worthwhile. RANDOOOOOOORRRRR!!!)

Unfortunately, Randor went on the disabled list after back-to-back rough outings at the end of April. He had a right shoulder impingement, which cost him velocity. He clearly wasn't the same pitcher upon his return in July, and he finished the year with a 4.91 ERA. Despite his strong start and a track record for throwing strikes (always a rare and precious commodity for the Orioles), he wasn't even on the team's list of Spring Training invites prior to today's trade. With Danys Baez (ecch) and Chris Ray returning from surgery, and the eventual loser(s) of the starting rotation derby slotted for long relief, it looked like Randor was the odd man out. It just goes to show you how fleeting success can be at the major league level. I'll pull for him to turn things around in 2009...but I'll probably also pull for the Red Sox to trade him elsewhere first!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bob Milacki, 1991 Upper Deck #328

Okay, I'm short on words tonight, but I can tell you that there won't be any more football talk around here for a while. It's been a great and surprising season for the Ravens, and the future looks even brighter. Speaking of the future...pitchers and catchers report on February 14.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes #16

I bought a blaster box of Baseball Heroes last October, but it wasn't anything I was interested in collecting. I'm not sure what the point is in producing a set called "Baseball Heroes", and stuffing it with rookies and young players. For every Cal Ripken, Jr. card commemorating an MVP season, there would be a card celebrating Daric Barton having two hits in a game. Be still, my heart!

The devil is in the details, as they say, and it's pretty annoying that a card meant to highlight Cal Ripken's great 1991 season would feature a photo that had to have been taken no later than 1988. That was the last season that Baltimore wore the tri-color cartoon bird hat. There is a detail in that photo that amuses me, though. Look closely (click on the picture to zoom in if you must) and you'll see the name "RIPKEN" written in big black letters on Cal's glove. You don't often think of major leaguers as needing hand-labeled equipment, but perhaps an Oriole teammate had a similar glove and they were always getting them mixed up. A player's glove is a highly personal thing, and who knows how many more errors Cal would have made if he was unwittingly using Ray Knight's glove. Of course, nowadays he would probably have a locker full of custom-crafted and personalized gloves from the manufacturer of his choice.

The bold ink on Junior's glove also serves as an interesting callback to a much more notorious card featuring a Ripken. But more on that later...I'm just waiting for the right day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vintage Fridays: 1971 World Series Game No. 6 (Frank Robinson), 1972 Topps #228

This card pretty aptly captures the turbulent, decades-long sports feud between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The two cities both had teams in the National League from 1892-1899, but weren't serious rivals. The Orioles were doormats for the first few years before blowing past Pittsburgh and establishing a brief dynasty with the likes of Ned Hanlon, John McGraw, and "Wee Willie" Keeler. But in the 1970s, the Pirates and the "new" Orioles twice did battle in hotly contested World Series; both were heartbreaking for Charm City.

In 1971, the O's were thwarted in an attempt to repeat as World Champions. After taking the first two games in Memorial Stadium, they were swept in the three games in Steel City. The Birds pulled out Game Six, 3-2, on Frank Robinson's desperate base running in the tenth inning. The 36-year-old walked, dashed to third base on Merv Rettenmund's single, and tagged up on Brooks Robinson's shallow fly ball to center field, barreling into home plate just ahead of Al Oliver's throw to force a winner-take-all seventh game. Sadly, pitcher Steve Blass stymied the Baltimore bats for the second time in the Series, twirling a 2-1 complete game victory. After reaching four World Series in six years (winning two), the Orioles would not return to the Fall Classic until 1979...

...When the Pirates again stood in the way of Mobtown's glory. The O's were out for revenge and stormed to a three games to one lead, fueled by an offensive attack that produced 24 runs in those four games. But again, Willie Stargell and company devastated the good guys, who went cold and were outscored 15-2 in three straight losses. Pittsburgh had erased a big deficit to beat the Orioles in a seven-game Series for the second time in the decade. Their rallying cry of "We Are Family", inspired by the obnoxious tune of the same name from the musical group Sister Sledge, served as salt in the wounds of Baltimore's fans.

Then, of course, there's football. My hometown Colts scored the first victory when a flat-topped rookie quarterback (and Pittsburgh native) named Johnny Unitas was cut by the Steelers. He found his way to Baltimore and the rest, as the amorphous "they" say, is history. When the NFL merged with the upstart AFL (American Football League) in 1970, these two teams joined with the Cleveland Browns to switch from the original NFL (now the NFC) to the AFL (now the AFC). It was just a matter of time before their paths crossed in the postseason, which could not have gone worse for the Colts. After winning 21 games (and losing only 7) in 1975 and 1976, they were blown out in back-to-back Division Series playoff games against the Steelers, 28-10 and 40-14. This proved to be the beginning of the end for Baltimore's first NFL team. They would have only one more winning season before bottoming out and eventually leaving for Indianapolis under the cover of night in March 1984.

When the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens, a new divisional football rivalry was born. Though the series was lopsided in the early years (including a 37-0 Pittsburgh romp in 1997), Charm City's new bird developed a hard-hitting defense that was a mirror image of their Steeler foes. The pendulum swung decisively in Baltimore's favor in 2000, as they set the tone for a historic season by shutting Pittsburgh out in the season opener. The Ravens would set a league record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165) and win a Super Bowl, something that the Steelers hadn't done since 1979. The following year, the villains in black and gold ruined the opportunity for a repeat, crushing the Blackbirds 27-10. The Ravens wouldn't win another playoff game for the rest of Coach Brian Billick's tenure (through 2007), while the hated Steelers returned to glory by winning the Super Bowl in 2006.

The Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry has boiled over in the past three years, with the Ravens embarrassing the Steelers twice in 2006 (27-0 and 31-7) before the tables were turned again in 2007 with a 35-7 pasting on Monday Night Football. This year, the dials have been turned to eleven, with Pittsburgh winning two absolutely brutal games by a combined total of seven points. There have been brutal injuries, heated confrontations, allegations of bounties being placed on players and spitting incidents. Oh, and controversial officiating. It wouldn't be the NFL without shaky referees.

Now the Ravens are looking for redemption and the continuation of an unbelievable season that has seen them flip their record from 5-11 in 2007 to 11-5. A rookie quarterback, a rookie head coach, and a roster of walking wounded veterans have won two straight road games. Now they're walking back into the lion's den to face their bitter enemies, an elite AFC team with a potentially explosive offense, a monster defense, and a more rested and healthy roster. The Steelers have baggage of their own, having lost three straight AFC Championship games at home. I think Sunday's game will be nerve-wracking and incredible, but I wish I had the same confidence about it as I did going into the previous two playoff games. I just can't bear the thought of this enchanted season ending with a jubilant Steelers team punching their tickets to the Super Bowl, having dispatched the Ravens for the third straight time this year. It just can't happen.

Less than forty-eight hours to go. C'mon, Ravens. Win it for the former Ravens. And the Colts. And Frank and the Orioles, while you're at it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gregg Olson, 1990 Topps Coins #3

When is a baseball card not a baseball card? When it's a small metallic coin, of course. That also explains why the scan is so crummy. As you can see, the scanner focused on the outer edge, which was pressed directly against the surface. But chances are that you know what Gregg Olson looks like anyhow. This coin is from a 60-coin set that Topps released in 1990; the other two Orioles on the checklist are Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mickey Tettleton. This is the first coin in my baseball card collection, received last year in a blind trade. (I have since picked up a 1964 Brooks Robinson Topps Coin in another trade, incidentally.) I can see why these didn't catch on. They're an interesting novelty, but they're no match for the tactile experience of flipping through a stack or pack of cardboard. Besides, there's always the danger of rust, though this one has held up well over the strain of the last two decades.

These coins remind me of Pogs, which were an absolute mania for myself and most other kids in the mid-1990s. I still have a binder packed with those goofy cardboard milkcaps, including a full set of 50 Simpsons characters. Considering that I could count the number of times that I actually attempted to "play" with the Pogs on one hand, it seems likely that I wouldn't have been the type to flip or pitch cards in the 1950s and 1960s. My personality is more of the buy and trade and organize and gawk variety.

By the way...pink?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

David Segui, 1993 Triple Play #12

Oh, there's nothing like some good 1990s nostalgia. It was a simpler time, when Luis Polonia (shown sliding) and the Angels simply hailed from California, and not Los Angeles by way of Anaheim. For that matter, Luis hadn't yet befouled the Orioles roster with his special brand of horrible, careless baseball. That would have to wait until 1996 (51 OPS+ in 58 games). David Segui was just discovering his stroke as a hitter, and probably not giving any serious consideration to performance enhancing drugs. He wasn't closely acquainted with the disabled list at the time, either. But perhaps one of the most mystical things that this card tells us about 1993 is that it was a time when you could use color gradients and the word "Awesome" without any hint of irony or sarcasm. Halcyon days, indeed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mike Boddicker, 1988 Donruss Baseball's Best #317

When I posted Jose Bautista's 1988 Donruss Rookies card last weekend, reader Jeffrey observed that the dark, murky blue-bordered base set would have looked better in green. It made me think of this card and several others like it that I recceived in two separate trades last month. I don't know much about Baseball's Best, except that it's a 336-card set, so it's barely more than half the size of the regular Donruss issue. All of the cards in the set feature this bright orange border, which of course is an awesome fit for the Orioles. The cards are glossy, much like the Rookies set but unlike the drab regular set. The card backs are a golden yellow and vertically oriented with full career major and minor league stats, unlike the blue, horizontally oriented, last-few-years statline card backs in 1988 Donruss. Even the photography seems clearer, more dynamic, less shadowy than usual. It's amazing to me that Donruss could put out a set that was, with a few tweaks, leaps and bounds beyond its now-universally-panned 1988 release. They put out similar, but less-impressive (in my opinion) sets in 1989 and 1990, as well.

Why am I just discovering this set now? Why is there so little information about it online? Was it meant to be a hobby-exclusive or Tiffany-type set, for the distinguished collector? If so, they must have still fallen victim to disinterest and/or overproduction. I found one site selling sealed factory sets for $12. Well, I for one am going to spread the word about Baseball's Best, though your mileage may vary.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jay Gibbons, 2004 Skybox LE #69

Jay Gibbons is like a bad penny; he just keeps turning up. (I'm not quite sure what that means either, but I know I've heard it before. Bear with me...it's late.) As I've gotten back into collecting in the past few years and started ripping packs from the middle of this decade, I've found that I still get a little charge from unwrapping an Oriole. But those mid-2000s issues are just loaded with Jay Gibbons cards, and he's a less-than-thrilling find, what with the injuries and the performance-enhancers and the middling output and the hey-hey.

A little while ago, fellow blogger Thorzul announced a Five Dollar Group Break. He'd gone and bought a random mess of packs, and he was going to bust them all open and sort his findings by team. You could claim one or more teams by leaving a comment on the blog and dropping five bucks in his PayPal account. Seemed easy and fun, so of course I grabbed dibs on the O's cards. Luckily, Thorzul posted previews of each scrambled team set, forewarning me that he had pulled not one, not two, but THREE copies of the Jay Gibbons card posted above. Baltimore's own redheaded stepchild was once as ubiquitous in wax as Elizabeth Banks is in movies these days. Of course, all was not doom and gloom in my portion of the Group Break; I got an awesome Cal Ripken, Jr. Turkey Red, a 2001 Upper Deck Vintage team card with a bunch of floating heads, and a hilarious Sammy Sosa card from some Upper Deck subset or another that touts his Hall of Fame prospects. A nice little assortment, all in all.

I had already planned on writing about Jay Gibbons when I learned earlier this evening that he had just signed a minor league contract with the Marlins for 2009. Jay Gibbons is here. Get used to it, America.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jose Bautista, 1988 Donruss The Rookies #41

The following substances may or may not have been used by Jose "J. J." Bautista to give his jheri curl that extra body:

1. Crisco
2. WD-40
3. Maple syrup
4. Four egg yolks
5. Leave-in conditioner
6. Bubble-blowing liquid
7. Baseball rubbing mud
8. Green slime
9. Eye of newt
10. Single malt whiskey

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chris Gomez, 2007 Upper Deck #564

While we wait to see whether Gregg Zaun will become an Oriole for the second time, veteran utility man Chris Gomez has returned to the nest. The 37-year-old infielder signed a minor-league deal with the team, but seems like a shoo-in for the Opening Day roster. Sadly, the complete crap shoot that is the Baltimore pitching staff makes manager Dave Trembley likely to start the season with a thirteen-man pitching staff. Every year, it seems like the O's are coming closer to employing an eleven-man bullpen and completely eliminating the bench. Anyway, with a three-man bench being a real possibility, Gomez would cover all three bases and shortstop, with Ryan Freel serving as an extra outfielder (and second baseman in a pinch), and some defensive-minded mystery catcher completing the trio. Of course, Chris might also be insurance in the event that Brian Roberts is traded, but speculation about something that's been rumored for over a year now just seems futile. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I always liked Chris Gomez. His nickname among teammates was "Fresh Hands", because he played so sparingly. But it seemed like whenever you did call on him, he'd come up with a hit. He hit .302 as an Oriole from 2005-2007, and though his defensive range isn't what it once was, he rarely makes an error. I've gone on at length about the horrors of the Baltimore utility infielders of 2008, so Chris is definitely an upgrade. Also, if you're keeping track, this is the eighth time he's changed teams (Tigers, Padres, Devil Rays, Twins, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Pirates, Orioles again). Actually, the Phillies claimed him from the O's in the Rule 5 draft five days after we signed him in December 2004, but we reacquired him in a trade a week after that. Not one of the brighter moments in front office history.

So the roster continues to take shape...even if it is the outer fringes of the roster.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Milt Pappas, 1965 Topps #270

This fine Milt Pappas card just happens to be featured in my next post for my other blog, The Great 1965 Topps Project. It should be ready to go later this weekend. It may be hard to remember back this far, but I actually started that blog before this one, all the way back in November 2007. I wanted to build a vintage 598-card set, one that was over four decades old, completely from the ground up. I would not buy cards from eBay or hobby shops (aside from my set starter, Steve Barber, which was an eBay purchase); I would only supplement the set with trades and/or donations from my readers. Things started slow, and by last September I'd only acquired about fifty cards. I was struggling to find a good format, eventually deciding upon full biographies and separate posts for each card. But in the past few months, things have really taken off.

Currently, I've completed nearly 37% of the set: 219 cards. After sometimes going a month or more without a card to write up, I've now got a list a page long of cards that are backed up and need to be posted. Even though I've been steady enough to update the blog three or four times per week, I'm actually falling further behind (I have two more trades in the works right now). It's a great problem to have, and it's encouraging to know that more collectors/readers are finding my blog and enjoying the work I'm putting into it. Some contributors have even suggested that my writing is a major reason that they're sending the cards; they're curious to see what I have to say about that particular player. I'm glad that I started the Project; not only am I making great strides in what had been a fairly sparse vintage collection, but I'm learning a lot about the men that populated the baseball universe in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Now I can tell you who the previously-unknown-to-me Duke Carmel and Gary Geiger are, in addition to pretty good players that had also escaped my attention (Al Worthington, Tony Taylor, et. al.). I've also gotten some awesome cards of Hall of Famers that I thought I would be waiting on forever (Whitey Ford and Willie Mays are two of the biggest thrills, even if Whitey is a Yankee).

If you're a regular reader of my Orioles blog but you'd somehow missed out on The Great 1965 Topps Project, I hope you'll give it a look and that you might enjoy tracking my progress. As I've learned in the past year, the Internet is full of incredible and generous people, if you know where to look.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mark Smith, 1992 Upper Deck #66

I've got a bit of writers' block tonight, so let's do a little sign-gazing. (You may have to click the picture to enlarge it and play along.) One of the small-time, quirky charms of minor league baseball is the copious advertising on the outfield fence, and Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, Maryland is no exception. At top left I see "FCNB", which I assume is/was a bank in Frederick. There's a stylized "M" with the rest of the sign obscured by Mark Smith's bat; I believe that's a Miller beer sign. The Pepsi logo is easily visible. Above and to the right of that is a graphic featuring some vertebrae and the wordmark of Yalich Clinic, a local chiropractor. I remember seeing their commercials as a kid. At the far right, above the yellow sign, is an ad for Canon printers and copiers. The rest of our fine sponsors are indistinguishable to me; feel free to clarify any that I've missed in the comments.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lenn Sakata, 1981 Donruss #499

I'm spending a lot more time this winter on Hot Stove talk than I did in early 2008. But yesterday's news was a lot more exciting than a Ramon Hernandez salary dump or a Mark Hendrickson signing. The Orioles have just come to terms with 34-year-old Koji Uehara, who will be the first Japanese player in team history. By extension, he's also the first Oriole born in an Asian country (Lenn Sakata was Hawaiian, by the way). This is an encouraging development
for several reasons. First and foremost, he's a legitimate starting pitcher. The only sure thing about the Birds' 2009 rotation was Jeremy Guthrie; now we can pencil in a veteran who has twice won his league's equivalent of the Cy Young Award for the Yomiuri Giants, one of the most successful and storied franchises in Japan. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of approximately 5-to-1, and a 12-0 record in international competition. Even though he struggled by his standards in 2008, his 3.81 ERA would have looked pretty damn good on the O's staff. As for his demotion to the minors, it's been suggested that the team was punishing him for his decision to pitch in America. Baltimore also signed him to a reasonable contract: two years, $10 million with an additional $6 million in incentives. Compare that to the five-year, $20 million Kei Igawa contract that the Yankees are saddled with (not to mention the $26 million they posted just to negotiate with him!).

Of greater significance still might be the Orioles' standing as an international player. After years of sticking their heads in the sand while the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, and others got a head start in scouting and signing in Cuba, Japan, and elsewhere, Andy MacPhail is truly rebuilding a badly damaged organization from the ground up. It's exciting to imagine throngs of Japanese baseball fans watching and reading about the Orioles. Heck, maybe they'll even throw some All-Star Game votes to the guys in orange and black!

Welcome to Baltimore, Koji. I hope there's a Japanese word for "hon".
Koji Uehara

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jason Johnson, 2002 Fleer Tradition #394

Everyone's favorite diabetic righthanded pitcher is on the move once again. Earlier today, Jason Johnson signed a minor league contract with the Yankees, with an invite to Spring Training. The Bronx Bombers are the ninth MLB organization for Jason, following the Pirates, Devil Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, Reds, and Dodgers. To be honest, I keep forgetting that he's still around. He had two pretty good years in Baltimore (2001: 10-12, 4.09 ERA; 2003: 10-10, 4.18), but spiraled downward after joining Detroit as a free agent in 2004 (20-42 overall). In 2006, he played for three different teams. The following year, he went to Japan, but pitched only seven games for the Seibu Lions (1-4, 4.36). But pitching is such an elusive and coveted commodity that teams keep bringing him back: a 35-year-old with a 56-100 career record (.359 win percentage) and a 4.99 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. It has been a full decade since he notched a winning record in a major league season (8-7 for the 1999 O's). Here's to you, Jason Johnson, and to your Sisyphean task of posting a won-lost record above .500.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Craig Worthington, 1989 Score Rising Stars #6

You have to love Spring Training photos. Where else could you see Craig Worthington, who wore #3 and #25 in four seasons in Baltimore, wearing a wacky number like #63? That's the kind of number that belongs to an offensive lineman, not a third baseman. For the purposes of my website research, rogue uniform numbers are murder. Suddenly you see Billy Ripken wearing #56 and you start second-guessing yourself. But it's always fun to see something obscure and silly-looking on a baseball card.

Speaking of weird things on an O's card, I see a grass-stained #27 lurking on deck in the above picture. I'm guessing that this is a Spring Training 1988 photo, which raises the possibility that the mystery man is Lee Lacy. He didn't play for the Birds that year, and his three-year contract with the team expired at the end of 1987, but he could have gotten an invite to extend his career at age forty. Of course, if he couldn't make that lousy 1988 team, he really would have gotten the message that it was time to hang it up. (FYI: Caucasian pitcher John Habyan wore #27 in the 1988 regular season, so I know that isn't him.)
I can at least guess about the identity of the fuzzy #27. As to the umpire's attendant-ish guy with the orange shirt and too-short black shorts directly behind Craig, I'm not sure I want to know.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cory Morris, 2006 Topps '52 Rookies #190

The back of this card tells of a simultaneous high and low in Cory Morris' career. In 2006, the Orioles recalled him from AAA Ottowa on April 9. He was 27 years old and in this, his sixth professional season, he finally got to the big leagues. Three days later, he was sent back down, not having appeared in a single major league game. He did not pitch in affiliated baseball after that season. I wonder how it felt to have worked for over half a decade, riding buses and sitting in dingy minor league clubhouses, and thinking that it's going to pay off, only to have it all taken away without even facing a batter. Would it still be worth it, just to get a glimpse of the big leagues and to meet Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, and the other Orioles? Will he still tell his children and grandchildren about it?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Greg(g) Zaun, 1996 Pinnacle Summit #167

I'm not sure when exactly Greg Zaun became Gregg, but the latter is now the widely accepted spelling. All of his cards from his Orioles days refer to him as "Greg", though. Clear as mud, right?

Gregg Zaun could be on his way back to Baltimore. The O's are in a precarious situation as they shop for a veteran catcher in the wake of last month's trade of Ramon Hernandez. Matt Wieters will be assuming his throne some time in 2009, the only question is when. So no matter who the O's sign, they'll be signing him with the understanding that he is coming to town as a placeholder, a Band-Aid who will be phased out as soon as the Chosen One arrives from Norfolk. Maybe it will be May, maybe it will be July, but when the times comes, you'll be relegated to the bench, relied upon to dispense advice to the kid and give him a breather whenever he needs it.

Most veteran free agents would laugh in Andy MacPhail's face when presented with this scenario. For instance, I can't see Ivan Rodriguez (another rumored pickup) agreeing to this. But Gregg Zaun has made a career out of being there in a pinch. He's topped 110 games in only one season, and 38-year-old catchers with .251 career averages can't be too choosy. When contacted by the local media, Zaun's said the right things: Wieters is a great kid, I love the Orioles organization, etc. He probably mentioned something about Rick Dempsey being his uncle, which is the sort of trivia that has been beaten into the heads of Bird fans for the last decade-plus.

I wouldn't mind having Gregg Zaun behind the plate next year. We've plumbed the depths of Paul Bako and Geronimo Gil and the rest, and Gregg's certainly better than them. Besides, as a fellow Camden Chatter discovered, he's got one totally radical website.

Bring your Z-game, indeed.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Hal Brown, 1961 Post #78

There's a lot to like about this card. In list form:

1. This is cut right off of the back of a box of Post cereal, circa 1961. As incredible as it is to hold a Topps card that is decades old, it's somehow more impressive to me to be in possession of a card like this. It's more of an artifact, something that kids (and their parents) were even less likely to preserve than a regular trading card.

2.As you can see, the previous owner was somewhat less than precise with their scissors. I can identify with that. The first day my mother picked me up from preschool, the teacher said, "Did you know that he can read?". The following day, she said, "Did you know that he can't use scissors?". Motor skills have never been my strong suit.

3. There's something charming about the phrase "Baseball Star Card". It sounds like it was translated to English by a non-native speaker. Alternately, it's trying to oversell itself. This is not just a baseball card...no! It's a baseball STAR card. Beat that, smart guy!

4. I really do like the unique design that Post used. Since they were printing the card right on the cereal box, they left the back blank. So they've squeezed the stats and the bio right on the front with the photo. It's one-stop shopping! Of course, this also means that they've cropped Hal Brown's picture such that his hands and elbows are cut off.

5. Speaking of the photo, there's the mysterious white square behind Hal's head. Is he posing in a tunnel, and the square is the light at the end? The world may never know.

6. Check out that 1960 stat line. What a year! He pulled his career won-lost record over .500, and walked only 22 batters in 159 innings. The modern-day O's would kill for that kind of control.

7. His bio uses the term "reliefer". Was that a common spelling at the time?

8. There are exactly eight stars separating the card number and the bio. How did they settle on that number?

9. If you check eBay, vintage Post cereal cards are cheap. I'll jump at a vintage card that hasn't been slobbered over by the speculative maven collectors.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fred Lynn, 1986 Topps Champion SuperStars #18

A year ago today, I started this blog with a card of Fred Lynn and a hope to continue updating once each day. So far, so good. A few times, technical difficulties caused me to pull double-duty the day after, but before this post, we stood at 366 posts for 366 days. I've shared autographed and relic cards as well as cards pulled from cereal boxes. There has been a weekly feature on vintage cards dating back to 1954, and several cards from 2008. I've talked about my meetings with some of the Oriole greats, and I've shared anecdotes about players that I read from articles and books. There have been embarrassing (and hopefully amusing) personal remembrances, and glimpses of games from years past. I launched my pet project, a website about the Orioles uniform numbers throughout history.

Most importantly, I discovered a dedicated readership. Without your comments, support, and suggestions, this blog would only be so much navel-gazing. Your cardboard contributions, both through generous donations and through trades, have greatly increased my collection and broadened the variety of cards I have to choose from when I put together my daily post. You guys and gals give me the extra push that I sometimes need to keep writing. Thanks for a great year, and here's to another one!