Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Doug Drabek, 1998 Spire #236

A few times a week, I chat with fellow blogger Andy (of Traded Sets fame). On more than one occasion, he's implored me to write a post with the theme of "Brotz-wurst". You see, it's a play on my last name, and...well, his theory is that it should write itself. With a little help from Andy and the Baseball-Reference Play Index, that's exactly what happened. In one of our conversations last week, I told him that I was planning a post about the worst single-season starting pitchers in Orioles history. So Andy hopped on to the B-R thingumabob and put together this handy list. We capped it at a minimum of 20 starts, which rules out supernova failures like Russ Ortiz and Adam Eaton. But as you'll see, there's still plenty of grist for the rag-arm mill. Working backwards, from fifth-worst to worst of all:

5. Bob Milacki, 1992: Three years removed from his career year of 1989, when he threw 243 innings of league-average ball (14-12, 3.74 ERA), and coming off of another fairly decent season (10-9, 4.01), the 27-year-old had a rude welcome to the brand-new Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Milacki started 20 games and relieved in three others, and went 6-8 with a 5.84 ERA. He gave up six runs per nine innings at home, and wasn't much better on the road. His WHIP was an unsightly 1.59, and at the end of the year the Birds let him go. Things didn't get any better post-Baltimore, as Bob went 2-10 with a 5.83 ERA in 22 games in Cleveland, Kansas City, and Seattle.

4. Garrett Olson, 2008: If you're disappointed by Felix Pie's poor showing thus far, just remember that we didn't exactly give up the farm for him. I'd already repressed the sheer horror of the 2008 O's rotation, but the fact that this jittery kid got to torment us for 26 starts says it all. (Lefty Brian Burres was 13th-worst, and he took another 22 starts.) Olson's 9-10 record belied a vulgar 6.65 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. He was knocked out of four starts before completing three innings, and had nine starts in which he allowed five or more runs. When he was good, he was very good; when he was bad, he was abysmal.

3. Jose Mesa, 1991: Ah, Joe Table. Before he was a good closer, he was a lousy starter. At age 25, the Dominican righthander was allowed 23 starts worth of rope. In a lost season for the Birds, he was 6-11 with a 5.97 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. He walked 4.5 batters per nine innings, and was especially flammable in June (0-3, 11.84 ERA, 2.42 WHIP). Mooooving on.

2. Dave Schmidt, 1989: The rest of the guys on this list played on teams that weren't any good. But Schmidt was supposed to be the one veteran presence on a pitching staff full of rookies and career minor-leaguers. Instead, the young guys did all of the heavy lifting for a surprise contender while Dave fell flat on his face: 10-13, 5.69 in 26 starts and 12 relief appearances. He failed to complete five innings in seven of his starts, and once gave up a dozen hits in three innings of work! It was a long way to fall for someone who hadn't been below league average in ERA in eight prior major league seasons. Considering that the O's finished just two games out of first place in the A.L. East, Schmidt's subpar 156 and 2/3 innings may have cost them a trip to the postseason.

1. Doug Drabek, 1998: I guess the card choice was a spoiler. This was the first of two ill-fated seasons with Ray Miller as manager, and one of his bright ideas was to bring in his best pitcher from his tenure as Pittsburgh's pitching coach. Doug had indeed been great during his Cy Young season (22-6, 2.76 ERA)...in 1990. The mustachioed Texan strolled into Baltimore as a 35-year-old who hadn't posted a decent ERA in four years, and the O's got more of the same. He failed to clear the fifth inning in nearly half of his starts (10 of 21), served up 20 home runs in 108 and 2/3 innings, and went 6-11 with a horrendous 7.29 ERA. Incredibly, he didn't get any cheap wins: he posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in his half-dozen victories and averaged nearly seven innings per game. But oh, those 11 losses: 11.70 ERA, 2.23 WHIP, less than four innings per game. Unsurprisingly, 1998 was the last stand for Drabek's career.

So even though the Birds wasted seven innings of four-hit ball from rookie Jason Berken today, we should probably count our lucky stars. It could be worse...and it has been.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Luke Scott, 2009 Upper Deck #34

Firstly: sorry for the eBay image, but I'm not connected to a scanner at the moment. Onward and upward.

For a few anxious moments last night, I thought that I was going to miss Matt Wieters' major league debut. I left work at 4:30, which gave me just enough time to get to the train station and take the 5:16 train, set to arrive at Camden Yards at 6:33. Or so I thought. I had a sneaking feeling all day that I should have slipped out of work earlier, but that was really just because I wanted to get to the park in time to meet the Camden Chatters across the street for a drink or two. Cutting to the chase, the train did not even board until the scheduled departure time, and then we learned that there was no train crew, and we were delayed 20 minutes until a crew could be located. Yikes. Fortunately, my family arrived downtown before I did and bought the tickets. The crummy weather lent an assist as well, as thunderstorms rolled through Baltimore and did just enough damage to delay the start of the game by half an hour. It was almost 7:00 by the time I arrived, and I had time to grab some hot dogs from a street vendor and walked through the gate just as the pre-game ceremonies were taking place. They were announcing the Orioles starting lineup as my father and I walked to the escalator, and the first six O's hitters were introduced to polite applause. Then: "At catcher, number fifteen, Matt...WIETERS!" An overwhelming cheer rained down from the stands. It was the first of several goosebump moments that night.

When we got to our seats on the upper level and met up with my mother and sister, the stadium was still filling, but there was orange everywhere you looked, as opposed to the usual high-attendance games against New York or Boston. The game got under way, and there was a Wieters moment right away. Tigers leadoff hitter Josh Anderson tried to test the rookie by bunting, but #15 pounced on the ball and threw a perfect strike to first to collect the out. Again, there was a raucous shout of approval from all of us. He was really here, at last. There wasn't much more excitement until the bottom of the second inning, when the Birds put the first two runners on base against Dontrelle Willis, giving Wieters an RBI opportunity in his first at-bat. It's not often that you see a standing ovation when a rookie comes to the plate, but that was the case. Most of the crowd remained standing for the duration, until the catcher hit a sharp liner to Clete Thomas in right field, who then gunned down the terribly slow Melvin Mora trying to advance to third. It was the best-hit ball all night for Matt, who went 0-for-4 to bring a little reality to the outsized expectations that swirled around him. Luckily, his tough night at the dish hardly mattered.

The following inning, the O's bats erupted. Three straight hits by Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis gave the team a 1-0 lead, and Brandon Inge chose to nail Jones trying to score on an Aubrey Huff grounder, rather than going for the force at second and an apparent tailor-made inning-ending double play. Mora singled, and the bases were loaded with two outs. That brought Tiger killer Luke Scott to the plate. Luke's two-home-run performance on Thursday was his third such feat of strength against Detroit in the last two years. Here was a chance to break the game open, as the Birds had been letting a pretty sloppy Willis off the hook early. As Luke stood in, we noticed a rainbow arcing right over the stadium, a bizarre and portentous sight against the still-dark-gray sky. Suddenly, Luke took a big swing and sent a fly ball to right field. Thomas backpedaled and soon gave up, and the crowd game unglued as the ball disappeared onto the flag court. GRAND SLAM! The cries of "LUUUUUUKKKKEEEEE!!!!" were deafening; it was 5-0 and Mr. Wieters had some competition for the limelight.

Scott, of course, went deep again in his next at-bat and was even coaxed out of the dugout for a sheepish and brief curtain call in the middle of Wieters' subsequent at-bat. With his second-inning single and an eighth-inning walk, he didn't make an out all night. His unbelievable career stat line against Detroit now stands at: 18-for-31 (.580), 9 HR, 19 RBI, 4 2B, 5 BB, and a 2.220 OPS. There's nothing you can do but laugh...if you're an Orioles fan, I guess.

With all of the Wieters excitement and the fireworks from Luke, I can't forget the masterful performance from rookie pitcher Brad Bergesen. The sinkerballer, who outed himself as a baseball card collector in an interview with MASN, had reportedly been chomping at the bit to be reunited with his former minor league catcher, and last night he showed why. With Wieters calling every pitch, Brad breezed through the first six innings with only two hits allowed to a fairly strong Tigers lineup before running into a spot of trouble in the seventh. Still, he had a decent shot at a complete game and settle for eight full innings with two runs allowed on seven hits and no walks. As he left the field after being removed, he got a standing "O" that rivaled the stirring reception for Wieters and the huzzahs for Scott. Jim Johnson stranded two runners in the ninth to close it out in a tidy two hours and twelve minutes, and Baltimore had its fifth straight win (and seventh out of eight games).

Look out baseball, here come the Baby Birds.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Bird Hill Aces, 1969 Topps #532

Time to take a quick breather from Wietersmania to focus on a subject recently approached by the delightful Dinged Corners: multi-player combo cards. When I received this card a year or so ago, I thought it was pretty nifty, but curious. When you think of great O's rotations from the glory years, it seems inexcusable to exclude Jim Palmer. But he had just missed most of 1967 and all of 1968 with arm woes, so Topps can be forgiven for not guessing that he'd come back to win 245 more games in the ensuing sixteen seasons. But what about the guys who made the cut? Sure, Tommy Phoebus was a local kid, and he even no-hit the Red Sox in 1968, but was he really an "ace"? Then there's Jim Hardin, who I couldn't tell you anything about without first checking an encyclopedia. Then again, I could just read the text on the back of the card, which goes a long way toward explaining why this particular quartet were featured.

Dave McNally, of course, was the veteran of the group. 1969 would be his eighth season with the Orioles, and after gaining national attention with his World Series-clinching shutout in 1966, he fully realized his potential in 1968 with 22 wins (trailing only Denny McLain's 31), 10 losses, and a 1.95 ERA (third-best in the Year of the Pitcher). He led the American League with a 0.84 WHIP(!) and was still only 26. He would run off three more consecutive 20-win seasons, including a league-best 24 in 1970 and a 21-5 record in 1971, the year that the Birds boasted four 20-game winners. Ace? Yes.

Mike Cuellar had just arrived in Baltimore via an offseason trade with Houston. In what amounted to Cuellar-for-Curt Blefary, the O's got away with murder. The Cuban screwballer had amassed a ho-hum 36-32 record in three full seasons in the Astros rotation, but his peripherals were good and a great supporting cast in Charm City made all the difference. Mike went 23-11 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in his first Oriole season, and (just like McNally) posted four 20-win seasons in orange and black, three of them consecutive. His 24 victories in 1970 tied McNally for the league lead, and he twice topped the Junior Circuit in winning percentage. In each of his first seven seasons with the club, he completed at least 17 of his starts, including an A.L.-best 21 in 1970. Ace? You bet.

Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time this card was printed, Tom Phoebus looked like another great Oriole pitching find. The unibrowed hometown boy had gone 14-9 as a rookie in 1967, and followed up with a 15-15 mark in his sophomore season. His 2.87 ERA was none too shabby, and of course there was the April 27 no-no against Boston. Nine strikeouts, three walks? Yes, please. 1969 was more of the same, a 14-7 record and a 3.52 ERA that was higher, but still better than average. Curiously, he earned only ten decisions in 21 starts in 1970 (5-5), but boasted a 3.07 ERA and a relief win in the World Series that fall. The Birds struck gold by trading Tom that offseason for Padres pitcher Pat Dobson, the missing link of the four 20-game winners in 1971. Phoebus lasted just two years in the National League, winning another half-dozen games. Ace? It didn't turn out that way, but apparently life is still good for Tom.

Righty Jim Hardin was the youngest of this foursome, and he too seemed to be on the rise. After going 8-3 with a 2.27 ERA in half a season in 1967, the slim Tennesseean racked up 18 wins against 13 losses with a 2.51 ERA the next year. He seemed durable, going the distance in 16 of 35 starts. But after being slotted into a swingman role, Jim was less effective in 1969-1970 (12-12, 3.57). On the plus side, he did hit a walkoff home run against former Oriole Moe Drabowsky in 1969! As with Phoebus, Hardin was traded in 1971 and out of the majors within two seasons. Ace? Nope, but it's not he was no slouch for a few years there.
So all four of these guys may not have won 20 games year after year, but two of them did, which isn't a bad success rate in baseball. This card certainly isn't cringe-worthy like this 1993 Upper Deck Cardinals team card spotlighting Geronimo Pena and Bernard Gilkey. Yikes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Matt Wieters, 2007 Donruss Elite School Colors #SC-5

He's coming! About 20 hours from now, I will be at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to witness Matt Wieters' MLB debut. If you're not an O's fan, I just don't know how to explain the delirious excitement that's gripping our battle-tested little fan base right now. It's like Christmas, your birthday, summer vacation...every wonderful day that you've ever anticipated for weeks and months in advance all rolled into one. The Birds are starting to show signs of life, and it coincides with the youth movement that is only just beginning. Tonight, David Hernandez became the fourth Baltimore starter this year to win his major league debut, something that hasn't happened since at least 1900 if I heard correctly (Koji Uehara is included - that's a bit of a cheat, but still). Nolan Reimold hit a home run for the third straight game tonight, and refuses to be ignored. But tomorrow, the Alpha Rookie takes the field.

You might have seen Matt Wieters Facts, which is just the latest take on the Chuck Norris Internet meme. The thing is, this hype and hyperbole is only a natural progression from the actual true stories that are out there about the kid. His freshman year at Georgia Tech, he hit a go-ahead home run, then took to the mound and earned the save, prompting his teammates to playfully nickname him "God". During Spring Training, O's manager Dave Trembley took him aside before an at-bat in a game-winning situation. He advised him: "If he pitches to you, make him pay." Wieters delivered the big hit. This past Tuesday, he was informed before his game at AAA Norfolk that he would be playing in Baltimore on Friday. He responded with a 4-4 night and 4 RBI. Then there are his minor league stats, which are worth several paragraphs in and of themselves.

Happy Matt Wieters Eve, everyone. I can already feel the Yard rocking.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Al Bumbry, 1993 Ted Williams #82

Last night was one of my most enjoyable experiences at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and it went far beyond the game. Last week, Stacey at Camden Chat was kind enough to clue me in on a "Blogger Night" that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network was organizing. So I gladly ducked out of work an hour early and took the train from D.C. to Baltimore. At 5:30, I met up at the Home Plate Plaza with a pretty strong representation of Birdland's best unpaid journalists: Stacey, Bill, and Johnny from Camden Chat, Neal from The Loss Column, and (I hope I'm not forgetting anyone) folks from The Wayward Oriole, Dempsey's Army, Roar from 34, Baltimore Sports and Life, Baltimore Sports Report, Oriole Post, and Oriole Magic. It was great to put some faces with names, and frankly it's encouraging and astounding that a baseball team that's been in the wilderness for so long has inspired such a group of dedicated and talented writers. It's even cooler that some of them made the trip from out of state (New York, North Carolina, and Georgia, if I recall).

When everyone was accounted for, our gracious MASN hosts (Todd Webster and Kristin Hudak) took us up to the press level, where we briefly met field-level reporter Amber Theoharis (who is as charming in real life as she is on television). Then we had an audience with the TV announcing team of Gary Thorne and Buck Martinez, both of whom are shorter than yours truly, incidentally. Gary's voice is as deep and commanding as Buck's is nasal. I'm not a fan of the former Blue Jays and Royals catcher, but anyone who could put together a two-decade broadcasting career with that voice must be doing something right. The duo answered a few questions and described the exhaustive amount of preparation that goes into calling a baseball game, and explained that they don't really follow any blogs for a variety or reasons, including generation gap and time constraints. I appreciated their honesty, and could certainly understand that. After all, I spent a long weekend away from my computer and came back to find 300+ posts waiting for me in my RSS feed. Blogs are an entertaining and informative time-suck, you know.

Next we wandered down to the bullpen picnic area, where Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey were recording the live pre-game show. Todd gave us some more information on MASN (they've been increasing the number of games broadcast in high-definition each year, and next year they're hoping to get the go-ahead from the cable providers to air each and every O's and Nats game in HD; they'd be interested in providing more original content like documentaries and talk shows, but for the first few years, just producing and airing the games took most of their focus; and so forth).

Finally, our motley crew piled into the MASN suite. If you ever have the chance to watch a baseball game from a suite, do it; you'll get spoiled. We shared the suite with a group of Gregg Zaun's family and/or friends, and we were all on our best behavior in matters concerning the veteran catcher. I took advantage of the fridge (stocked with beer, water, and soda) and the various spreads of finger foods (chicken wings and tenders, potato skins, mozzerella sticks, etc.), crab cakes, and cookies. I even ended up taking home a carry-out box full of those crab cakes, at the insistence of one of the event staff. It took a lot of convincing, I assure you.

Various MASN talent stopped in throughout the night. Rick Dempsey watched most of the game on the flat screens in the suite and seemed to take copious notes. I briefly talked to him about the season-long infusion of young talent. In the middle innings, I introduced myself to longtime O's reporter Roch Kubatko. While we were talking, Orioles GM Andy MacPhail appeared on-camera in the broadcast booth and a hush fell over the suite. I didn't realize it at the time, but he'd just announced that top prospect and mythological hero Matt Wieters would officially be making his major league debut in this Friday night's home game against the Tigers. That explains why Roch rushed off almost immediately afterward. But the most unexpected moment came when I spotted Al Bumbry across the room, helping himself to a meal. When he walked over to the partition between the suite and the adjoining balcony to watch the action, I came over to say hello and to ask him what brought him there. "Just hanging out", he replied. Such are the perks of being the 1973 A.L. Rookie of the Year.

We also got to meet Greg Bader and Monica Pence, two of the Birds' top dogs in communications and public relations, and there was a late-innings tour of the MASN production truck in the bowels of the B & O Warehouse. It was overwhelming to see 20 people parked in front of dozens of monitors and laptops; sometimes you take for granted all the work that goes into bringing a ballgame into your living room.

Speaking of the ballgame...believe it or not, I did find time to watch it! Of course, with a temperature in the fifties and a steady light rain for a Tuesday night game against the Blue Jays, I didn't have much company. I was part of a Camden Yards-record-low crowd of 10,130 (paid attendance; my eyeballs told me that the butts in the seats were even fewer). I was thankful to be able to retreat indoors, but I did sit outside for most of the first and last few innings, as well as the odd moment in between. O's starter Jason Berken didn't light the world on fire in his big league debut, but he kept his cool and Houdini'd his way out of ten Toronto baserunners, allowing just two runs in five innings. Perhaps bolstered by the news that Matt Wieters was on his way, the Baltimore bats picked up the slack from the middle of the game onward. Aubrey Huff, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold all hit no-doubter home runs, and Matt Albers and Jim Johnson slammed the door shut with four innings of scoreless relief. It was the perfect capper to an exciting night of VIP treatment.

Thanks again to MASN and the Orioles for reaching out to some of your most vocal and dedicated followers, and for not asking for any special treatment in return. A little effort goes a long way.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Danys Baez, 2008 Upper Deck #174

Okay, I'm back from Baseball Oblivion. While it's nice to get away from the siren song of the Internet and cable TV for a couple days with a good book and a stack of DVDs, there's sort of a helpless sense of disconnect when it comes to the Orioles. I'm always frustrated by the shortcomings of the local news programs in northeastern Pennsylvania, where sports coverage centers on Yankees and Phillies highlights before jumping off the deep end with high school sports or NASCAR or something else that I'm not used to seeing as a focal point. I spent this past weekend searching (mostly in vain) for so much as a scrolling score. I missed out on news of Friday's game, but did learn the bare minimum of Saturday and Sunday's contests well after the fact: Orioles 2, Nationals 1. Nationals 8, Orioles 5. However, early Saturday evening I went out with my family for dinner, and we came far enough down the mountain to drift into cell phone range, so I hungrily gathered all of the details about one of the most exciting and improbable wins the O's will have all year.

First, I saw that I had a voicemail from Ed, a frequent reader of this blog and trading partner. In his message, he mentioned that he was in a good mood thanks to the Birds breaking their losing streak. My curiosity piqued, I sat in the restaurant and used my phone to connect to espn.com so that I could read the game story. Each paragraph brought better news than the last. Danys Baez earned the win by pitching two scoreless innings...AND scoring the winning run after reaching base with a two-out infield hit that died 30 feet from the plate? George Sherrill closed it out with a 1-2-3 frame? Rich Hill had a second solid performance to start his Orioles career? Matt Albers pitched well after taking the roster spot of the released-at-long-last Adam Eaton? Nolan Reimold hit another home run? Hallelujah.

I was sorry to miss the spectacle of Danys Baez (0-3 in his eight-year career heading into Friday's game) somehow making contact while simultaneously backing out of the batters' box, then running to first like a man possessed. That's the kind of bizarrely hilarious thing that is bound to happen sooner or later in a 162-game season. Dave Trembley's got a short bench and his hands are tied, and he's sending a relief pitcher to the plate and telling himself that he'll at least be able to turn over the lineup for the top of the thirteenth, provided the game lasts that long. The next thing you know, the desperation move has ignited the game-winning rally, and a four-game losing streak is history.

I missed it in real time, but you'd better believe I tracked down the video (skip to about 7:46). What the heck, how about a little photographic evidence as well? You don't see this sort of thing every day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gary Roenicke, 1986 Topps #494

This Day in Orioles History: May 25, 1982

Orioles 10, Rangers 3 at Arlington Stadium, Arlington, TX

Jim Palmer won the 250th game of his storied career, scattering nine hits and two walks in eight and one-third innings, but the offense was the story as the O's (20-21) showed signs of life while downing the bottom-feeding Rangers (11-26).

The Baltimore bats were relentless, as the team scored in five different innings and put up crooked numbers three times. With Eddie Murray sidelined due to tendinitis in his left hand, Gary Roenicke started at first base and did his best impression of #33, bashing a pair of two-run home runs and adding a single and a walk in five trips to the plate. His usual platoon partner, John Lowenstein, also went deep as part of a three-RBI night. Al Bumbry set the table with three hits from the leadoff spot, rookie third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr. (who would start the first of a record 2,632 consecutive games later that week) had a single in five at-bats, and the only Oriole starter without a hit was shortstop Bobby Bonner.

After starting the season with a thud (6-12 in April), the O's righted the ship in May (17-12), and posted a winning record in every month for the rest of the year, culminating in an incredible season-ending showdown with the first-place Brewers. The Birds won the first three games of the four-game set to tie Milwaukee before Palmer faltered in the finale. In a touching scene, the Baltimore fans remained in the stands at Memorial Stadium and roared their approval and thanks for retiring manager Earl Weaver.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jim Poole, 1995 Pacific #29

This Day in Orioles History: May 24, 1993

Orioles 8, Yankees 6 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

In front of a sparse crowd in "The House that Ruth Built", the sixth-place Birds (18-25) overcame a rocky start by elder statesman Rick Sutcliffe to top the hated Yankees (24-20). Sut improved to 5-2 despite permitting all six runs in six innings of work. He was victimized by two home runs off the bat of flash-in-the-pan slugger Kevin Maas, which accounted for four of the half-dozen New York tallies. He was relieved by lefty Jim Poole, who shut the Bombers down with two perfect innings of work, fanning three batters in the process. Closer Gregg Olson earned the save despite walking the leadoff hitter in the ninth. It was his ninth save of the year, and his 140th as an Oriole, extending his team record.

Righty Jim Abbott and the host Yanks were nursing a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when all hell broke loose. A Brady Anderson double and a Mark McLemore 2-RBI single gave the O's a 3-1 lead, and catcher Chris Hoiles delivered a three-run homer that looked like the dagger. However, Sutcliffe coughed up a run in the bottom of the frame and four more in the sixth to tie the game, 6-6. The Baltimore bats immediately bailed their pitcher out, though, with Cal Ripken's leadoff dinger in the seventh putting the club ahead for good. Harold Reynolds added insurance with a run-scoring single in the following inning.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1995 Fleer Ultra 2nd Year Standouts #7

This Day in Orioles History: May 23, 1998

Orioles 9, Athletics 1 at Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, CA

Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds led an offensive explosion as the Orioles (21-27) attempted to turn around a disappointing start to their season, pummeling the similarly struggling host A's (20-27). The former #1 draft pick from Stanford went 2-for-5 with three runs scored and four driven in. His fourth-inning grand slam against ex-teammate Jimmy Haynes chased the pitcher from the game and turned a 3-0 contest into a 7-0 laugher. A two-run double by Harold Baines put the finishing touches on the game in the sixth inning.

Almost lost in the shuffle was a strong effort by veteran O's starter Doug Drabek. Off to a brutal start in what would be the final season of his 13-year career, he went the distance, allowing four hits and striking out nine. Believe it or not, Jack Voigt drove in the only Oakland run with an eighth-inning double. Sadly, it was Drabek's best performance as an Oriole by far. He missed most the second half with injuries, and his solid career came to an ignominious end with a 6-11 record and a putrid 7.29 ERA.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Hoyt Wilhelm, 1963 Topps #108

This Day in Orioles History: May 22, 1959

Orioles 5, Yankees 0
at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, MD

The upstart Orioles (21-15) and the dynastic Yankees (12-20) each continued their surprising starts, as 36-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm improved to 6-0 with a one-hit masterpiece. Wilhelm, who would go on to lead the American League with his 2.19 ERA that season, continued his mastery of the Bronx Bombers. Since joining the O's in a midseason trade the previous year, Hoyt was undefeated against New York, no-hitting them in his first try and winning three decisions in five tries. As an Oriole, he had allowed three runs on 15 hits in 43 innings, with 33 strikeouts and 18 walks. That's a 0.63 ERA and 0.77 WHIP, folks. He would shut the Yanks out again in his next start (a four-hitter!) before the pinstripers finally bested him 4-1 at the end of June. Talk about your Yankee Killers!

On offense, the Birds jumped on former Oriole Bob Turley early, knocking him out of the box in the first inning. "Bullet Bob" got two outs and then fell apart. A Gene Woodling RBI single was followed by a Gus Triandos two-run homer. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases before Wilhelm walked to drive in the fourth Baltimore run. That's when Casey Stengel finally gave his starter the hook. A fifth-inning walk by Billy Klaus capped the day's scoring. The sole Yankee hit was a Jerry Lumpe leadoff single to left field to lead off the eighth inning, but pinch hitter Johnny Blanchard immediately wiped him out with a double-play grounder.

If you think this game choice on my part was a bit of retribution for the just-completed Yankee sweep, I'm not going to argue.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ed Barnowski, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #22

Pitcher Ed Barnowski is one of twenty major leaguers to come out of Scranton, PA. Of course, most of you know Scranton as the setting of "The Office", which happens to be one of my favorite TV shows. If you're a real sports nut, you may also know it (in conjunction with neighboring Wilkes-Barre) as the hometown of the Yankees' AAA affiliate, the Penguins' minor-league hockey affiliate, and the Arena Football League 2's Pioneers. It's also the location of the University of Scranton, the alma mater of my grandparents, incidentally. Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be driving past Scranton with my family en route to our cottage in northeastern Pennsylvania, which is situated about an hour north of the "Electric City". We're spending the holiday weekend up there in order to open the little lakeside dwelling for the summer. It's a true getaway destination, nestled in the mountains and sitting on a manmade lake. It's four hours from home, and there's no cable or Internet (gasp!). So I'm abandoning you again for a few days, but the next four installments of "This Day in Orioles History" are scheduled to auto-post in my absence. I might just have a surprise in store for you in the middle of next week, so sit tight and enjoy your long weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ed Rogers, 2002 Studio #107

While searching for inspiration after another team-wide meltdown against the most despised of opponents, I came across good ol' Eddie Rogers, a symbol of an era of overhyped, mediocre prospects. Around the turn of the century, I heard his name mentioned in breathless tones as "the next Alex Rodriguez". He was a shortstop from the Dominican Republic...and that's about where the comparison ends. He hit .298 at AAA Ottowa...in 2006, when he was 27. He topped out at 11 HR and 57 RBI. Despite his mediocre minor league record, he did make it to the majors, and played 30 whole games and batted a robust .207. His lasting legacy was an interleague game in Shea Stadium in 2006, when he was positioned in left field and had a batted ball land in his jersey.

As I sit impatiently through loss after loss, checking minor league box scores and scouting reports, I just keep reminding myself that the new batch of young players are prospects and not suspects. It's not just Syd Thrift and Mike Flanagan selling the fans their own brand of snake oil; respected baseball executives, reporters, and bloggers are sold on Matt Wieters, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and Brian Matusz. The less-heralded rookies are already here, and doing their best to make things interesting. Lost in last night's Chris Ray gasoline job was a strong start by Brad Bergesen, who retired 13 straight batters after Rodriguez's first-inning home run and left in the seventh inning trailing 2-1. Tonight, Nolan Reimold salvaged something from another bullpen wreck by hitting his first career home run off of that Mariano Rivera guy. The uglier things get, the less I want to wait.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sid Fernandez, 1994 Sportflics Update #2

Okay, so lenticular cards don't scan too well. But in this case, it gives the image an ethereal sort of quality that I like. Besides, Sid Fernandez is the guy who, after racking up a 7.67 ERA to start the 1995 season and being demoted to the bullpen, was quoted as saying: "You just won't see me...I'll be gone with the wind, and that's it." Rather than retire, he hung around until the Birds released him in July, halfway through his three-year, $9 million contract (which was a hefty sum in those days). Naturally, he signed with the Phillies and went 6-1 with a 3.34 ERA the rest of the way. Feh.

I look at El Sid's career numbers and try to figure out where the O's went wrong. He was flat unhittable for a full decade with the Mets, never allowing more than 7.4 hits per nine innings in a full season. He was switching to the American League, but there's no reason that the move should have turned him into a toad. Then again, he was pretty chunky, had missed big chunks of two of the previous three seasons with injuries, and was on the wrong side of thirty. Caveat emptor. I also just learned from The Bad Guys Won, Jeff Pearlman's book about the 1986 Mets, that the rotund Hawaiian apparently believed that professional wrestling was real. This absolutely dumbfounded me. How is this possible, even in the 1980s?! I realize that it's not the sort of thing that routinely comes up when a team meets with a free agent, but now I think that it should. If I'm about to sign a guy to a multi-year, seven-figure deal, I think I might like to know that he's afraid of being eaten by Kamala the Ugandan Giant. It's called doing your due diligence.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brooks Robinson, 2001 Upper Deck Decades: 1970's #17

Today (May 18) is a big day for birthdays in the Orioles universe. The following former Birds are hopefully all celebrating with cake and beer tonight:

-Quadruple-A outfielder Luis Terrero, 29
-Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, 63
-One of the oldest living Orioles, outfielder Gil Coan, 87

Of course, the most notable O's birthday today is third baseman Brooks Robinson, who blows out 72 candles! Just last week, I talked about #5's recent treatment for prostate cancer, and the volume and tone of reader responses was a reminder of just how much Brooks has meant to the Orioles, their fans, and the city of Baltimore in the fifty-five years since his major league debut. You've cheered his on-field exploits, corresponded with him, met him face-to-face, and even named your children after him. He has experienced and witnessed the practical entirety of the O's existence, from Paul Richards and Gus Triandos to Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer to Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr. to Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis. Really, if you think about it, May 18 should be a local holiday. It's too late to do anything about it this year, but we can all start preparing our excuses to miss work the next time around!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eddie Murray, 1988 Donruss Baseball's Best #142

Only Eddie Murray could make the batting-helmet-over-the-cap style look cool. The single black glove and the matching orange wristbands don't hurt. But take a closer look at his left wristband, which is facing the camera. If I'm not mistaken, Eddie is wearing wristbands that bear his own likeness, complete with afro. (It's either him or Lionel Richie.) Seriously, do you think Kelly Gruber would have been able to pull that off? Or, say, Ozzie Smith? Okay, maybe Andre Dawson could make it work. But to my knowledge, Eddie Murray is the only member of the 500 home run, 3,000 hit, self-referential wristband club. It's truly a badge of honor.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mike Griffin, 1988 Fleer #561

I would wager that Mike Griffin is one of the most anonymous pitchers in Orioles history. He's got the complete package: totally generic name, a resume that includes five teams in parts of six major league seasons, and a grand Baltimore total of 23 games for a lousy 1987 club. That season saw a league-wide offensive explosion, and the Birds were so desperate to find pitchers that could get a few guys out (5.01 team ERA and a league-worst 226 HR allowed), they called out to the 30-year-old Griffin, who hadn't seen any major league action since 1982. The journeyman wasn't awful, winning three and losing five with a 4.36 ERA that was actually a bit above league average. Among O's pitchers with at least fifty innings in 1987, Mike was third in earned run average. Still, he was back in Rochester in 1988, and took no part in that debacle.

Today, Mike Griffin is having a greater impact on the Orioles than he ever did as a player. Last year, he joined the AA Bowie Baysox as pitching coach and mentored a whole rotation full of promising young hurlers, including Chris Tillman (11-4, 3.18 ERA, 10.2 K/9), David Hernandez (10-4, 2.68 ERA, 10.6 K/9), Jason Berken (12-4, 3.58 ERA), and last year's Orioles minor league pitcher of the year, Brad Bergesen (15-6, 3.22 ERA), who is now on the O's staff. The organization moved Griffin up to AAA Norfolk this year, and he and his pitchers have picked up where they left off. The first-place tides are 23-12, and the staff has a 3.19 ERA. Hernandez, Berken, and Tillman have combined to go 9-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 86 and two-thirds innings.

Mike Griffin is molding the minds and arms that the Orioles are counting on to bring them back to the top of the American League. I'm sure you would have guessed it just by looking at him (or his card) twenty years ago.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Dave Skaggs, 1980 Topps #211

Things you may not know about Dave Skaggs:

-His middle name is "Lindsey". Don't snicker.

-Was the last Oriole to wear #8 before Cal Ripken, Jr.

-Hit his first career home run in the final game of the 1977 season, off of Rick Wise of the Red Sox. He would hit just two more longballs in total, and one of those was also against Wise!

-Is not related to musician Boz Skaggs.

-Hails from Santa Monica, CA. The two most famous major leaguers from his hometown are former Oriole Dwight Evans and submarine-style reliever Dan Quisenberry.

-One anagram for David Lindsey Skaggs is "Salvaged Giddy Skins". Hmm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Joe Price, 1991 Fleer #488

Well, it must be Thursday night, because I'm starting to get punchy. This happens every week. After four days of running on five-ish hours of sleep a night, I get within sniffing distance of Friday and I get a giddy burst of energy. I think that's the very definition of a weekend warrior. What can I say? Friday means two days without a four-hour round trip commute, or a 6 AM wakeup, or deadlines, or the high-pitched beeping of a fax machine that needs a new cartridge...

Okay, let's wrap this up before I kill my own buzz. Thank you to Joe Price for standing in as Joe Friday. Dragnet...is that the most dated reference I've ever made on this blog?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dave Trembley, 2009 Topps Heritage #226

I was listening to a Bill Simmons podcast on ESPN recently, and he was lamenting the lack of colorful, imaginative baseball nicknames these days. I couldn't agree more. We've gone from "Three-Finger" Brown, "The Big Train" Walter Johnson, and "The Georgia Peach" Ty Cobb to "A-Rod", "K-Rod"...ugh. I can't continue. If I have my way, at least one team will have a solid set of nicknames. I'll hit as much of the O's roster as I can, giving credit wherever it may be due.

Gregg ZAUN
- ZAUN needs no nickname, puny fleshbags!

Aubrey Huff
- I've heard "Huff Daddy", but that's a bit dated, don't you think? I'm going with "Hack", because I think he looks like actor David Morse. Besides, it's been a while since Hack Wilson. I'm bringing it back.

Brian Roberts - He's from Durham. Little Bull? I'm a bit stuck.

Cesar Izturis
- The Kaiser. Sure, he's not German, but there's gotta be some wordplay with Cesar/Caesar.

Melvin Mora - On Camden Chat, he is often known simply as MelMo or even Memlo, an intentional mangling. Memlo kind of rolls off the tongue, actually. Alternatively, I always thought he was shaped oddly, kind of like a duck. The Spanish for duck is "pato". El Pato, maybe?

Nick Markakis
- Keep it simple. He's Markickass. I even saw it on the back of a #21 jersey a fellow fan was wearing at Camden Yards.

Adam Jones - His family and teammates call him Jonesy, which is all good and well...but I'm partial to Dr. Jones, per the folks at Camden Chat. He's every bit as dashing and adventurous as Indiana Jones, after all.

Luke Scott
- Again, no nickname needed, really. He's just "LUUUUUKKKKKEEEEE!".

Ty Wigginton - He followed Aubrey Huff to Tampa Bay, Houston, and Baltimore, so Huff jokingly referred to him as his "fat male stalker". I just can't top that.

Jeremy Guthrie - Guts is short, sweet, and to the point. I've seen the nickname used at both Camden Chat and The Loss Column.

Koji Uehara - The Osaka Kid. Yeah, he's 34, but I saw footage of him happily goose-stepping around the clubhouse in cowboy boots, courtesy of Jamie Walker.

Brad Bergesen - Bergemeister. Sure, that's the second German-sounding nickname. What do you want? My last name is Brotzman.

Adam Eaton
- Mud.

Mark Hendrickson - Based on his first professional career, I vote for The Poster.

Danys Baez - Cohiba. He's Cuban, and for the time being, he's throwing smoke.

Brian Bass - Fish Pump. A relatively new Camden Chat moniker, born out of Aubrey Huff's mockery of Joba Chamberlain and a funny typo.

Jamie Walker - Given his good ol' boy persona, I'm leaning toward Jamie Walker Red.

Chris Ray - I've got nothing. He's from Tampa, attended the College of William and Mary (go Tribe!)...suggestions?

Jim Johnson
- I believe this one came from the Loss Column: Bandsaw. There was a Baltimore Sun column about Jim's interest in carpentry. It works, considering the way his sinker cuts through opposing hitters.

George Sherrill
- Well, I thought the consensus was Flat Breezy, but at Camden Yards he seems to be the Brim Reaper.

Dave Trembley - Again, Camden Chat knows him as Diamond Dave, much like Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.

That's everyone I have the energy for at the moment (sorry, Lou Montanez and Dennis Sarfate). You can probably do better, so please have at it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brooks Robinson, 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces #13

Shocking news today, as Brooks Robinson disclosed that he had recently undergone treatment for prostate cancer. He was speaking in Baltimore at a luncheon for the American Cancer Society, and thankfully the news was good. His condition was diagnosed early and he underwent a series of 39 radiation treatments. The 71-year-old Hall of Famer says that he's perfectly healthy now, and is glad that he was so conscientious about his health. I'm certain that thousands of Orioles fans - and baseball fans in general - are even more relieved than he is. I've never heard of someone who met Brooks and didn't come away impressed by his friendliness and candor. In recent years, Baltimore has lost too many of its baseball heroes: Dave McNally, Hank Bauer, Elrod Hendricks, Mark Belanger, Steve Barber. It sounds like "Hoover" will be around for several years to come, as it should be.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Scott Erickson, 1997 Circa #245

I can't believe that the other card companies didn't have an intervention for Fleer in the late 1990s when they staggered into the apartment one night with their newest floozy Circa. Look at this hot mess. The giant gradient last-name letters. The ubiquitous silver foil. The horrendous day-glo polygon background. The banal athlete quote in italics. (Gee, I always wondered what Scott Erickson thought of the grass at Camden Yards!) This loud cardboard vomit brand lasted all of three years, which is about three years too many. The next time you lament the loss of Fleer, just remember: they might have had it coming.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Melvin Mora, 2006 Fleer Ultra #104

As you can see, Melvin Mora is wearing his pink wristband to support breast cancer research on Mother's Day (Sunday, May 8, 2005). Though the pink accessories suited the O's hitters well that day, the pitchers had no such luck, as Kansas City left Oriole Park at Camden Yards with a 10-8 win. Of course, four Baltimore errors didn't help matters much. Still, Mora stood out with a home run, a double, and three RBI in the game. What else would you expect from the major leagues' only father of quintuplets? He was working overtime to pay tribute to the important women in his life.

The Birds don't have a great Mother's Day track record in recent years, as you may be painfully aware. But that should be a secondary concern this afternoon. Step away from the television or computer for a bit, and let the mothers in your life know what they mean to you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dennis Martinez, 1982 Fleer #170

Oh, I am eating this card up with a spoon. Dennis Martinez has one of the best smiles in baseball, but there weren't a whole lot of cards from his time with the Orioles that showed off that smile. Maybe that's poor photo selection from the card companies, or maybe he was actually smiling less, as he was dealing with an alcohol addiction at the time. Either way, I'm glad to see "El Presidente" flashing a mischievous grin here. The cherry on top is the bat-and-helmet pose, which you don't get to see on a lot of pitcher cards, especially for American League teams between the beginning of the Designated Hitter era (1973) and the inception of Interleague Play (1997). It's clear that Dennis and/or the Fleer photographer decided to have a little fun, especially since the stadium in the background looks to be Fenway Park (Fleer did most of their work in Boston in those days). It's unlikely that Earl Weaver was auditioning the Nicarauguan hurler as a pinch hitter. Of course with Earl, you never know!

Incidentally, on this date in 1981, Dennis pitched 8 and 1/3 innings, holding Texas to three runs on seven hits and outlasting Fergie Jenkins for a 7-3 Orioles win. Now you know.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Dave Philley, 1961 Topps #369

I was stunned to learn that Dom DiMaggio, a seven-time All-Star center fielder for the Red Sox and the younger brother of Joe DiMaggio, passed away this morning. It was one of those weird cosmic coincidences, in that just yesterday I was learning about Dom's career by reading David Halberstam's book Summer of '49 and had given him a mention on my 1965 Topps blog. Speaking frankly, I was also a bit surprised that he had still been alive until today; 92 years is a long life by any standard.

So I got to thinking: who is the oldest living ex-Orioles player? After poring over the team's rosters from 1954-1964, the dean of the Birds is none other than pinch hitter extraordinaire Dave Philley. He was born on May 16 (my grandmother's birthday) in 1920. God willing, he will blow out 89 candles on his cake a week from tomorrow. A switch hitter, he made his major league debut with the White Sox in 1941, just in time to lose four years of his career to service in World War II. In an early indicator of his longevity, he still played in the big leagues for parts of eighteen seasons, retiring at age 42 after playing 38 games in 1962 with the Red Sox. He earned a spot in the record books in 1959, when he hit safely in his ninth consecutive appearance as a pinch hitter. He was a favorite of manager Paul Richards and had two stints with the O's. In the second half of the 1955 season, he hit .299 in his first go-round in Baltimore and was named Most Valuable Oriole. In 1961, his final season in Charm City, he set American League records with 24 pinch hits in 72 tries (.333 AVG). Today, he still lives in his hometown of Paris, Texas.

Congratulations on a long and remarkable career and an even longer life, Dave!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bob Melvin, 1992 Upper Deck #692

In this photo, Bob Melvin looks like he's preparing to punch somebody in the groin. Fast-forward to 2009, and he probably feels like doing just that. It was just announced that the Arizona Diamondbacks have fired Bob as their manager after four-plus seasons. In 2007, he was Manager of the Year for guiding the club to 90 wins, a National League West crown, and an NLCS appearance. A year and a half later, the D'backs are 12-17 and nine games behind the Dodgers, so he's a bum. I suppose you know the breaks when you agree to take a managing job, and baseball skippers generally have more job security than their counterparts in the other major professional sports in this country. Still, if you see Bob Melvin in your travels this weekend, be sure to buy him a beer. It probably hasn't been a great week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Travis Driskill, 2004 MLB Showdown #35

You may notice the watermarks on the above image; needless to say, this is not one of my own scans. I was dead-set on posting this card tonight, and I know I have it somewhere in my collection, but I just couldn't find it tonight. The best laid plans, etc. As soon as I track down the dang-blasted thing, I'll replace this picture with a prettier one. Sigh.

I wanted to talk about Travis Driskill, who made his major league debut in 2002 with the Orioles at age thirty, a full decade after being chosen in the fourth round of the amateur draft by the Indians. He hung around until 2007 and racked up a lofty 5.23 ERA, but he made it after all. Besides, he went 5-0 to begin his career and that's something that can't be taken away. Travis has an encouraging story of perseverance, but part of me imagines that he took so long to make it because he's a procrastinator. "I'll earn that promotion to the big leagues tomorrow!"

Travis might not be a procrastinator, but I certainly am one - one of the best (or worst?). It's been that way ever since middle school. Those are confusing years for everyone, and it was like a switch was flipped inside me. I was always a quiet, intelligent kid who worried myself sick over things like grades, but eventually I just decided to save myself the aggravation and let things ride. I probably went too far in the other direction, deciding to start putting together a science fair project the night before it was due or just plain ignoring some homework assignments, as if there would be no consequences. I straightened up a bit eventually, ensuring that I would make it to (and through) the high school of my choice. But the procrastinator in me has won many battles over the years. In college, there were many papers finished at four or five in the morning. I threw myself at the mercy of a few professors for deadline extensions. On one memorable occasion, I sat in my bathroom memorizing a script for a friend's final scene in directing class...approximately fifteen minutes before I was due at the theatre.

If you don't believe that I'm more than willing to put off 'til tomorrow what could be done today, take a look at the time stamps on most of my blog entries. Tonight we're cutting it close to midnight again. I'm finally getting annoyed by my own dawdling, so I'm hoping to start knocking some items off of my to-do list that have been lingering for as long as several months. I haven't made much progress here at midweek, but hopefully writing about it will get the ball rolling. I've got a few overdue packages of cards that are ready to be mailed to trade partners, so that's something. What's next? Updating my resume, adding some must-have music to my iPod, sorting my Orioles cards, filling out an online dating profile (yes, I'm really going there...eventually), putting together some marketing materials for my theatre troupe...something, anything, everything.

But it will have to wait for tomorrow. If I don't get to bed soon, it'll be hard to accomplish anything for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mike Flanagan, 1981 Fleer Star Stickers #56

Since I started trading with other bloggers and readers, I've gotten more than cards to add to my Orioles collection. There are the oddball coins, mini-books, temporary tattoos, and of course, stickers. I have dozens of stickers, just begging to be peeled: full-size player pictures with card-type backs, like Mike Flanagan here; mini album-size player pictures (Panini sticker albums were all the rage when I was a kid); full-color Orioles logo stickers from Fleer; and holographic logo stickers from Upper Deck. I can only imagine what would have become of these stickers if they'd come into my possession fifteen years ago or earlier. Chances are good that they would have been ripped from their backings and plastered all over my card boxes, binders, folders, notebooks, maybe even on top of a baseball-themed poster. I haven't quite figured out what to do with them now. The player stickers will probably stay put, since they're similar to cards. But I think my 1993 Toyota Camry would look pretty fierce with a bunch of 1980's Swinging Bird logos running across the side panel.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Juan Castro, 2009 Topps #99

The following companies were all the beneficiaries of free advertising by way of this card:

-Under Armour
-Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (in HD!)
-State Farm Insurance
-Gogo-Pogo: Invisible Pogo Sticks for Infielders
-Grady Sizemore's match.com profile (you wouldn't think he'd need help with dating, but he's terribly shy)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brian Roberts, 2006 Topps Co-Signers #58

I have to admit that I'm not finding a lot of things worth mentioning about the 2009 incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles (currently on a 3 win, 14 loss skid...bleah), but Brian Roberts reached a notable milestone in yesterday's game. The diminutive second baseman, who spent the first three seasons of his career battling with Jerry Hairston for a spot in the starting lineup, became the fifteenth player in Orioles history to play 1,000 games. It's great to know that one of my favorite players is now in such rare company as one of the team's all-time players. Here's the full list. Rich Dauer sticks out like a sore thumb, and it's eerie that Rafael Palmeiro played exactly 1,000 games in Baltimore before disappearing forever.

Games Played as an Oriole

1. Cal Ripken, Jr. (1981-2001) - 3,001
2. Brooks Robinson (1955-1977) - 2,896
3. Mark Belanger (1965-1981) - 1,962
4. Eddie Murray (1977-1988; 1996) - 1,884
5. Boog Powell (1961-1974) - 1,763
6. Brady Anderson (1988-2001) - 1,759
7. Paul Blair (1964-1976) - 1,700
8. Ken Singleton (1975-1984) - 1,446
9. Al Bumbry (1972-1984) - 1,428
10. Rick Dempsey (1976-1986; 1992) - 1,245
11. Melvin Mora (2000-present) - 1,141
12. Rich Dauer (1976-1985) - 1,140
13. Brian Roberts (2001-present) - 1,001
B. J. Surhoff (1996-2000; 2003-2005) - 1,001
15. Rafael Palmeiro (1994-1998; 2004-2005) - 1,000

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kerry Ligtenberg, 2004 Topps #71

Nothing has ever come easily to Kerry Ligtenberg in baseball. In the early 1990s, he made the University of Minnesota baseball team as a walk-on. There were no major league scouts beating down his door, so he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and kept his baseball dream alive by catching on with the Minneapolis Loons of the now-defunct Prairie League in 1994. The Mariners purchased his contract during the players' strike the next Spring, but released him four days later. Those four days as a replacement player would cost him membership in the players' union. He went back to the Loons and went 11-2 with a no-hitter, but was ready to call it quits until the Braves signed him in January of 1996. He pitched well and quickly moved through the farm system, getting the call to the bigs the following August. By 1998, Kerry was the Braves' closer, saving 30 games and posting a solid 2.71 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. But the next spring, he injured his elbow and missed the whole season with Tommy John surgery.

Ligtenberg bounced back in 2000; though he lost his ninth-inning role, he compiled a 3.21 ERA with Atlanta and Baltimore. He moved on to Toronto in 2004 and was awful (1-6, 6.38), and seven even worse outings in Arizona in 2005 spelled the end of his major league career. He pitched two seasons at AAA and finally seemed through with baseball after a knee injury cut short his Spring Training stint in Cincinnati in 2007. He started looking into work as a financial planner.

But Kerry Ligtenberg is back, in a manner of speaking. Now nine days short of his 38th birthday, the righty is making a run at the ninth-inning job for the St. Paul Saints, one of the better-known independent baseball clubs. He hit his spots and showed good movement during a 10-minute live session earlier this week, and got the invite to camp. Kerry summed it up pretty well:

"I might be old and gray," Ligtenberg said. "But I still love to play."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Dave May, 1970 Topps #81

Happy May Day, folks! Unlike last year, I'm not going to regale you with sordid tales of nudity and bacchanalia. Sorry. Dave May was the first of the three Mays to play for the Orioles (the others, as previously mentioned, were his son Derrick and of course the powerful Lee May). Unfortunately, none of the Baltimore trio of Mays were born in their namesake month, which would have allowed for some creative uniform design. But Lee May's younger brother had the chance and took the initiative.

Carlos May was born on May 17, 1948. He was a decent player in his own right, hitting .274 in a ten-year career and being selected as a two-time All Star despite losing his right thumb in a mortar accident while in the Marine Reserves. But many fans (particularly the trivia-crazy) know him best as the only player in major league history to wear his birthday on his back: MAY 17. I couldn't find a rear view of him, but here's a frontal shot. As somebody who has a fixation on uniform numbers, I think that's pretty cool.

I don't want to give Dave May short shrift, since this very well may be the first and last time he's featured on this blog. He never did much for the O's, hitting .216 with 5 home runs in parts of four seasons at the beginning of his career, but his last home run for the Birds was a game-winning two-run shot in the bottom of the tenth on June 14, 1970. It came off of Fred Talbot of the A's, who incidentally was featured on my 1965 Topps blog today. Dave also was an All-Star for the Brewers in 1973. That year, he hit .303 with 25 HR and 93 RBI and led the American League with 295 total bases. A year later, he was traded to the Braves for none other than Hank Aaron. That's a feather in your cap, I'd have to think.