Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rodrigo Lopez, 2004 Fleer Tradition #165

Unlucky number thirteen. I'm not even angry any more. I'm almost beyond discouragement and depression. This is starting to get impressive, in a surreal way. I mean, you almost have to be trying to lose games to actually drop a baker's dozen of them in succession. The freaking Nationals haven't had a losing skid longer than eight games all season. The laughingstock Royals topped out at ten in a row.

The good news? The season will end before the Birds can try for twenty.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bobby Young, 1994 Topps 1954 Archives #8

I'm really, honestly trying to count my blessings while the bedraggled, skeleton crew Orioles continue to slowly murder my love for baseball. The next week needs to come and go in a hurry.

At least I can continue to linger in the past. On this date in 1953, the American League owners approved the sale of the sad-sack St. Louis Browns to an ownership group headed by Baltimore mayor Tom D'Alesandro. The league honchos also okayed the group's plans to move the club East to Charm City, where they would become the Orioles. The city of Baltimore owes a great debt to the Browns' previous owner, Hall of Famer Bill Veeck, who badly wanted to move the team himself. Of course, the other owners were beyond annoyed with the beer-swilling, free-thinking, sideshow-creating Veeck and they insisted that they would not approve the relocation of the franchise unless he sold the team. Rather than dragging out the process or retrenching himself in St. Louis, Bill chose to be the bigger man and stepped aside. Without this selfless act, Baltimore may have had to wait even longer to re-enter the major leagues for the first time since the turn of the 20th century. Instead, the stage was set for April 13, 1954, when second baseman (and Granite, MD native) Bobby Young became the first player to take the field for the new Orioles, grounding out to first base at Tiger Stadium on Opening Day at the onset of a 3-0 O's loss. It wasn't the result that local fans wanted to see, but there would be plenty of chances for better games. The Birds had found their nest.

So there's the upshot: at least we have a team.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Todd Frohwirth, 1992 Topps Gold Winner #158

Happy Todd Frohwirth Day! Yes, I know what you're thinking: every day is Todd Frohwirth Day. After all, he's the greatest Milwaukee-born submarine pitcher who ever played at Northwest Missouri State University (go Bearcats!). But today is also the 47th birthday of the greatest underhand-tossing relief pitcher on the Orioles' roster in 1991. In all seriousness, Todd did have one excellent season in Baltimore, one very good one, and then one mediocre year. That's more than you or I ever did, unless you happen to be Tippy Martinez, in which case you probably have better things to do than to read this blog. Froh also held Kirby Puckett to a .490 OPS in 22 career matchups, but your probably knew that.

Someone has to celebrate Todd's birthday, especially when the alternative is talking about yet another loss and Dave Trembley's extremely tenuous job status. I'll pass.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Steve Kline, 2005 Upper Deck Fly Ball #115

Wow, back-to-back crummy Steves. Didn't even noticed until I started writing the post. Unlike Mr. Jeltz, Steve Kline did have a chance to rain down woes upon the Baltimore faithful, collecting a $2.5 million paycheck in 2005 to post a mediocre 4.28 ERA and a disappointing 1.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and cough up a home run every 5.5 innings. Kline, a classy and tactful gentleman who once flipped off manager Tony LaRussa in-game during his time with the Cardinals, instantly earned the respect of O's fans by complaining that he was "miserable" in Charm City and wished he had never left St. Louis. He said these things during the second week of his Orioles tenure. Love you too, #41.

Steve Kline's foot-in-mouth moment was pretty low, but it's got nothing on the depths that the current team is plumbing. I've tried to ignore them, but the futility is pretty staggering right about now. When the Birds won their 60th game a week and a half ago, I assumed that they would at the very least be able to grab three W's in their final 17 contests to avoid the big ugly round number of 100 losses. Ten straight defeats later, I look like an idiot. They've just been swept by an Indians team that entered the weekend on an 11-game skid of their own, and in the grotesque finale today, Baltimore's baseball team allowed Cleveland's team to score more (nine runs) than Baltimore's football team allowed to their Cleveland counterparts (three points). Only those perpetual punch lines in Pittsburgh and Washington are keeping the O's from being the worst team in all of baseball. I hate this, because I know how many great young players have made their mark on the 2009 team, but hardly any of them are left standing due to injuries and/or organization-mandated shutdowns and it's not making the current team any easier to watch. Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.

162 games is a death march when your team is no good, and when it's been no good since you were in high school. If Baltimore didn't have a stable, talented football team, I just don't know what I'd do with myself.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Steve Jeltz, 1991 Impel Line Drive Pre-Rookie #457

Now, for no good reason, here's a minor league card of Steve Jeltz. Actually, that's not true. I already had a vague sense that this no-hit, all-hair infielder was something of a 1980s cult figure, and I was giving serious consideration to posting this card earlier this week. (Fun fact: he was born in Paris, France!) I passed on it, but his name was brought up independently by reader Jim in the comments for my Luis Mercedes entry. It's funny how you bring up jheri curls and subpar major leaguers whose cards just seem to multiply in your collection and the next thing you know, there's Steve!

Before this card came into my collection, I had no idea that the immortal Jeltz had played out the string in the Orioles organization. Still fiesty at 32, he had played his way out of the majors by batting .210 in eight seasons with the Phillies and Royals; a .155 average, .394 OPS, and 12 OPS+ in 1990 was the final nail in the coffin. So it was that Steve began the next season as a Rochester Red Wing, keeping the shortstop position warm for the up-and-coming Ricky Gutierrez. Jeltz finished the season with Toronto's AAA club in Syracuse and Baseball Reference regrettably doesn't break out his stats, but I can tell you that between the two clubs he batted .188 and slugged .254 in 71 games. In other words, it's not likely that this dude was ever in danger of becoming a Baltimore Oriole. Still, all it might have taken was a Cal Ripken, Jr. ankle sprain...there but for the grace of God.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Jerry Walker, 1959 Topps #144

While it's true that I write this blog each day (and another blog a few times a week) with no expectation of income, there are those who say that a job well done is its own reward. Of course, that doesn't mean that I will turn down the occasional perk that comes my way. About a week ago, I heard from Dean Hanley, founder and proprietor of Dean's Cards, an online hobby shop that seems to maintain the personal touch of the best brick and mortar shops (Dean has ten employees other than himself). Dean's recently gotten into the blogging game himself, so naturally he wanted to exchange links. I was happy to do so anyway, but he went above and beyond the call of duty by offering to send me some vintage Orioles off of my want list free of charge!

First, I had to register for a free account at Dean's site, but that was quick and painless. In all, he sent 13 cards (my favorite number), all in pretty good condition. Of course, the patriotic-looking Jerry Walker rookie pictured above was part of the shipment. They shipped quickly, and came packaged with a nifty marble coaster that featured images of some early 1900's cards of some of the game's greats. While I've never ordered from Dean's Cards before, I will certainly keep the link handy the next time I've got some cash burning a hole in my pocket and I get that familiar itch for the good old cardboard stuff. I'd recommend that you do the same.

I'm sure some crank out there will say that I've "sold out", but if a baker's dozen of semi-stars and commons from 1957-1974 is enough to buy me out, then I'm a cheaper date than most, haha. Thanks again, Dean!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Luis Mercedes, 1993 Fleer #547

One of the troubling realities of being an Orioles fan who collects and blogs about baseball cards is that I have no less than fifteen different cards of Luis Mercedes. Fifteen! On most of these cards, the former outfield prospect is pictured wearing a batting helmet with what seems like a ridiculously excessive amount of white foam padding. I just don't know why that's the case. I suppose that he could have had a concussion in the recent past and it's a protective measure, like the MacGyvered face masks that adorned the helmets of Gary Roenicke, Dave Parker, and others after coming back from beanings. But I tend to think that this ultra-plush helmet was employed by Luis to preserve his luscious jheri curls.

Since I've dragged jheri curls into the conversation, let me just add another early-90s observation: the stadium in the background (most likely Anaheim's ballpark) has a half-visible Bud Dry sign. "Why Ask Why? Dry Bud Dry." It terrifies me that I remember that slogan and yet managed to get all the way to the checkout line at Walmart tonight before realizing that I had left my wallet in the car.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ben McDonald, 1993 Upper Deck SP #158

I dug into my box of mid-90's Orioles cards tonight with something vague, yet oddly specific, in mind. I needed to go to my happy place. After the frustration and ranting and shiny unpleasantness of last night, I had to cleanse the palate. I wanted to find something silly and unusual.

So I got halfway through the box and suddenly I found Ben McDonald, informing me that I had a front row seat to the Gun Show. Thanks for the boost, you crazy Cajun.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Jose Morban, 2003 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia #75

Naturally, I have already vented my spleen about the vulgarities of tonight's Orioles game, just another road bump on the way to 100 losses and another lifeless, cover-your-eyes-ugly September full of anonymous quadruple-A sacrificial lamb players. A blown three-run lead by the back end of our bullpen, the only guys left out there who are supposed to be dependable. Five runs on fifteen hits. Horrendous situational hitting and baserunning. Nick Markakis being left on the bench while the Lou Montanezes and Jeff Fiorentinos floundered at bat in extra innings. Whatever. This is one of those days when I wonder why I even care about this laughingstock, and whether things will ever change, and why I let myself get so angry about the whole damn thing.

I'm so disgusted that I'm subjecting you to Jose Morban and his mismatched uniform-and-team-identification on a hideously ugly card and his wasted roster spot in 2003 (.141/.187/.225...that's an OPS+ of NINE. As in, 91% below league average). I'm sorry, but baseball is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mike Devereaux, 1994 Upper Deck #356

There's much ado about autographs tonight. Firstly, this is the fourth and final card that I had signed on Friday, August 14 at Oriole Park. I love Mike Devereaux's flashy yet mostly legible John Hancock, and I appreciate his discretion in signing at the bottom of the card so as to not cover up that awesome action shot. In case you were wondering: no, Devo does not sport the high fade hairstyle any more.

I've traded a few cards back and forth with Alan, a loyal blog reader who has seen his share of Atlantic League games. Recently, he's been kind enough to send me cards signed by the last two managers of the York Revolution: ex-O's catchers Chris Hoiles and Andy Etchebarren. He also sent along a ticket stub that was inked by former Baltimore bullpen catcher Sammy Snider, and I can't tell you how awesome and thoughtful that is. I'll do a little "show and tell" with those cards at a later date.

Though I'm really starting to build a tidy little Orioles autograph collection (I've got fourteen or so now), I must bow at the altar of Ryan, a.k.a. "Orioles Magic", whose Great Orioles Autograph Project escaped my radar for far too long. Ryan has collected autographs of 557 of the 871 players in Orioles history, which blows my mind. He's incredibly organized and has lists of autographed cards that he is offering for trade, and players whose autos he seeks in return. If you can help him out, make him an offer. If not, just enjoy the great scans and stories!

I almost forgot that another great trade partner, Max, recently sent me a package that included an autographed Mike Cuellar card. That's another one that I'll wait on, and post it on some future rainy day. How's that for foreshadowing?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jeff Ballard, 1989 Fleer #607

In a possible sign of mental illness, I'm posting another one of these absolutely fetching 1989 Fleer things. Again, the photography just raises so many questions:

-Why is Jeff Ballard's jersey unbuttoned halfway? Was he coming on to the photographer?

-Why does he have two gloves? Did he run off with Bob Milacki's leather so he could stuff it full of potato salad?

-How did jersey manufacturer Rawlings feel about Jeff wearing a Wilson glove?

-Who is the man in the black coat and khakis standing in front of the backstop? What's in the briefcase? Is the the Red Sox team doctor, dispatched to medicate some unruly fans?

-Why am I spending so much time staring at a Jeff Ballard card from the 1980s?

Well, I can answer the last one at least...because someone has to do it, and I'm sparing you the horrors. You're welcome.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Javy Lopez, 2005 Topps Gallery #87

Oh, so that's what Javy Lopez would look like if he were painted by Claude Monet. At least that's the look that Topps was trying to achieve; in all honesty, it bears a closer resemblance to the work of LeRoy Neiman. That's what you get when you rely on PhotoShop filters instead of, you know, an actual artist.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Moe Drabowsky, 1967 Topps #151

I hope you'll forgive me for simply passing along a link on a Friday night, but I don't want to take a chance on an excellent blog post slipping through the cracks. I already knew (and had mentioned here) that Patricia and Lucy from Dinged Corners had become big fans of the dearly departed Moe Drabowsky. However, I was stunned and pleased to come across an interview that they published on Tuesday. The bloggingest card collecting mother-daughter duo in all of New Mexico had been in contact with Laura Nevell and Beth Drabowsky Morris. Laura and Beth are Moe's daughters, and they were kind enough to share their memories of the mischievous righty. It's a great chance to get a private glimpse of a loving father, an entertaining teammate, a patient coach, a gracious ambassador, and a pretty skilled pitcher.

But enough of my blather. Go read the interview here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dave Schmidt, 1989 Fleer #618

Across the wide spectrum of baseball card collecting, 1989 Fleer has been roundly and justifiably panned. Like all late Eighties cards, the set was so mass-produced that it's used as legal tender on some island nations. Many of the photos have terrible lighting, with players alternately washed out by blinding sunlight or cloaked in shadows. Plus, the design is butt-ugly. When have gray borders ever worked, and what is the deal with the white pinstripes? It looks like a bad suit or a set of vertical blinds. If it weren't for Billy Ripken's unspeakable bat knob, the set would be completely ignored twenty years later.

But as I was flipping through my 1989 Orioles box the other night, I took a closer look at one of Fleer's notorious bombs and found some eye-raising photos. This Dave Schmidt card is the best of the bunch in my humble opinion. It's a crummy shot of the featured player, of course. He's not looking at the camera, he's not pitching or even warming up, and we can't begin to guess what has grabbed his attention. But we can also see a blurry fan in a bright red jacket sitting a few rows back who appears to be clutching his head in pain, probably because he just spent his hard-earned money to see the home team play against the dreadful 1988 Orioles. Tomorrow night Frank Viola and the defending champion Twins come to town...why didn't you double-check the paper before you left the house, pal? Your loss.

But even Mr. Red Jacket pales in comparison to the horror that lurks over Schmidt's right shoulder. Outfitted in sinister black and glowering malevolently, Mike Morgan swears oaths at his teammate and plots the coming moment in which he will strike out at his fellow righthanded journeyman starter, because there can be only one. Sure, they all say Morgan is mad when he tells them that he will pitch across the decades, straight on into the 21st Century. But he'll do it, all right. He'll show them all, even if he has to drain Dave Schmidt of his life force to make it happen. Poor Dave doesn't suspect a thing. They never do.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Melvin Mora, 2005 Donruss Leather and Lumber #96

Say, who wants an autographed Melvin Mora card? If you shouted "me, me!", you'd better make plans to attend Saturday's home game against the Red Sox. As part of OriolesREACH and the Oriole Advocates' 2009 Cardboard to Leather collection, volunteers will be positioned at the Oriole Park gates to accept donations of new and gently used baseball and softball equipment (gloves, bats, balls, shoes, uniforms, catchers' gear, bases, umpires' equipment, etc.). They'll also take cash donations. Anyone who donates will receive an autographed baseball card featuring Melvin. The proceeds from the collection will be sent to his foundation in Venezuela and to the Sebaco Valley Little Leagues in Venezuela. Even if you don't want the autograph, it can't hurt to give a little.

It's going to be a pretty full weekend for Mora. On Friday night the team will honor him in a pregame ceremony; he recently passed Doug DeCinces for second place among all Orioles third basemen in games played. Tonight he's playing game number 794 at the hot corner, putting him only 2,076 games behind Brooks Robinson. In a great bit of news for O's fans, Brooks will actually be on hand Friday night as part of the celebration. As you may know, the Hall of Famer is very rarely seen on Eutaw Street, purportedly due to strained relations with the Angelos family. Let's hope he comes back again very soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brian Roberts, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Face of the Franchise #FF17

I've certainly said more than my share about Brian Roberts lately, so I will let MASN O's blogger Roch Kubatko tell you tonight's news:

"Brian Roberts broke Brian Roberts' club record for most doubles in a season with No. 52 in the third inning, which scored Felix Pie with the Orioles' first run of the night. Brian Roberts ranks third on the list with 50."

Simply incredible. His 295 doubles since 2003 are the most of any player. If you're curious, he's also set a new career high with 74 RBI in 2009 and is seven runs away from a personal best in runs scored. Kudos, Brian.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mike Linskey, 1991 Bowman #105

It's always kind of intriguing to feature an Orioles card of a player who never actually made it to the major leagues. This card of lefty pitcher Mike Linskey is already kind of strange, in that he's wearing the "new" O's hat that debuted in 1989 but it is paired with the "old" jersey that was put in mothballs after 1988. But things become even more curious when you take a good long look at Mike's glove. Written near the thumb in black Sharpie is the word "NUKE". I can only assume that this is a nickname bestowed upon the Birds' ninth-round pick of the 1988 draft, probably a reference to Tim Robbins' Nuke LaLoosh character in the very popular film "Bull Durham". The movie came out in 1988, and featured Robbins as a naive, flaky minor league phenom who had to learn to control himself and his fastball. (Incidentally, the film was written and directed by former O's minor leaguer Ron Shelton, who based Nuke's character on former teammate and human myth Steve Dalkowski).

Indeed, Charm City native (he graduated from Loyola Blakefield High School) Linskey was every bit the phenom himself. He was a 6'5", 200-pound southpaw who had gone 10-1 as a senior at James Madison University and boasted a four-pitch repertoire. He went 29-21 with a 2.59 ERA in his first three seasons in the Baltimore organization, shooting up to AAA Rochester by midseason in 1990. So what happened? He scuffled badly in 1991, going 7-10 between AA and AAA with a 5.23 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. The O's gave up on him at age 25, and he was out of baseball two years later, having failed to regain his form in the Padres farm system.

If anyone out there can fill in some of the blanks as it pertains to Mike Linskey, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Frank Robinson, 2003 Fleer Fall Classic #56

With a tip of the hat to the always-timely 30-Year-Old Cardboard blog, today marks the 38th anniversary of Frank Robinson's 500th career home run. As I read Brian's description of the event, I noticed many uncanny similarities to Eddie Murray's 500th longball, which occurred 25 years later. Observe:

Both were hit in September games in Baltimore against the Tigers. In both instances, the O's were bound for the playoffs (as the A.L. East champs in 1971 and as the A.L. Wild Card in 1996). They were trailing in each game at the time of the milestone home run, though Eddie's blast tied the score. Both men were batting behind fellow Oriole greats (Boog Powell and Cal Ripken, Jr., respectively).

There's more to the story, though. Both of these first-ballot Hall of Famers grew up in California, and both were traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers. They each played for the Indians and Angels as well. Frank played his last major league game in 1976, when he was player/manager of the Indians. Eddie played his first major league game the following April. Of course, Robby also managed Murray during the woeful 1988 season. Pretty wild, huh?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jim Palmer, 2005 Upper Deck Classics #49

Last night I was thumbing through a brick of cards from yet another overstuffed envelope courtesy of reader Max. When I got to this Jim Palmer card, I had the following progression of thoughts:

1) "He's hatless again. What do you know?

2) "Look at his pinky sticking out, like he's drinking tea. That's odd."

3) "What a tiny glove - it's hanging halfway off of his hand."

4) "Wait a minute...he must be playing pepper! Cool!"

As you can see, I didn't even get around to the backdrop, which I believe to be Fenway Park. I've never played pepper myself, but it was recently explained in one of those in-studio demonstrations on the MLB Network by Harold Reynolds, Dan Plesac, and somebody else. Let's say Mitch Williams. I'll cut and paste from Wikipedia because I'm lazy:

"Pepper is a common pre-game exercise in baseball, where one player hits brisk ground balls and line drives to a group of fielders who are standing close by. The fielders try to make a play on the ball, and throw it back as quickly as possible. The batter then attempts to hit the return throw, and so on.

Some ballparks have banned pepper games because of the danger of balls landing in the stands and injuring spectators. Some of these stadiums may display a "NO PEPPER" warning on the edges of the field near the stands. Major League Baseball has also discouraged pepper because it damages the infield grass."

The way the ex-players described it, you wanted a glove that was as hard and small as possible, making it more so a paddle than a glove. In recent years, Upper Deck has been using one particular photo of "Cakes" over and over again, so it's nice to see a really creative action shot like the one on this card. Can you think of any other cards you've seen that depict a game of pepper?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Paul Mitchell, 1976 Topps #393

When his company bought Topps, and again this summer when they effectively re-established a baseball card monopoly by negotiating exclusive rights with Major League Baseball, jut-browed tyrant Michael Eisner smarmed about his altruistic desire to bring baseball card collecting back to the "kids". Just reading his warmed-over corporate speak made me want to take a long, hot shower. Well, riddle me this, Mr. Disney: if baseball cards were such a pure, child-friendly pursuit in the good old days, just how do you explain this utterly indecent offering from three decades past? Where did that photographer have to be positioned to get such an intimate and extensive angle on Paul Mitchell's special area? Which editor at Topps looked at this photo and said, "Yes! Here's a 25-year-old kid who just went 13-1 between Rochester and Baltimore, someone so desirable that he will help the Orioles land Reggie Jackson in a trade. The world is his. This photo, this gray polyester expanse, says it all!"

To think, most of you probably assumed that Billy Ripken was the most licentious Oriole to ever pose for a baseball card.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chris Richard, 2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove #20

If there were any lingering hopes that 2009 would be another enchanted season for the Tampa Bay Rays, they were likely extinguished on Tuesday night, when 35-year-old Chris Richard started at first base for the injured Carlos Pena. Yes, that's the same guy who the O's acquired for Mike Timlin in 2000 and tabbed as their budding star first baseman, ignoring the fact that he'd repeated AA twice because, ooh shiny, he hit a home run every 15.3 at-bats in one 200-at-bat sample size in the majors. He's also the same guy who disappeared from the majors after 2003 and who has spent the last three seasons with the Durham Bulls, becoming the famed minor league team's career home run leader in the process (64 HR total). I don't wish him any ill will, even though he had a reputation as an arrogant guy during his time in Baltimore. I'd like to think that a six-year exile from the big leagues would humble a guy. Of course, his return has been humbling on its own: he's 1-for-5 in three games with a crucial error that sparked the Yankees' game-winning rally last night. Baseball's not easy, as it so happens.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brady Anderson, 1997 Leaf #88

Number nine...
Number nine...
Number nine...
Number nine...
Number nine...
Don Buford Autograph on a 1970 Topps (#428)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Josh Towers, 2002 Upper Deck Victory #114

I just learned that Josh Towers is pitching in the major leagues, in 2009, for the A.L. East-leading Yankees. I can't even think of anything snarky to say about that, since the Orioles lost 10-0 to the Red Sox and I'm running on three hours of sleep. That Monday night power nap had to fuel me through my first day of work at the Social Security Administration, which was actually several hours worth of tutorials from various folks about all of the stuff that we as federal government employees absolutely cannot do. Think of the Simpsons episode where Bart Simpson tries to get his pocket knife certification from the Junior Campers: "'Don't Do What Donny Don't Does'. They could have made this clearer." So, we must live to fight another day.

(On the plus side, the commute to work is much more favorable, even with Beltway traffic. Also, most of the litany of speakers were at least skilled and witty enough at their jobs to make the presentations more palatable.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Eddie Murray, 1997 Topps #462

From the "And you consider yourself a die-hard Orioles fan" department: Somehow I failed to recognize that yesterday was September 6, a momentous day in O's history. It was fourteen years to the day that Cal Ripken, Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking Lou Gehrig's fifty-six-year-old record. Making it an even more embarrassing oversight, I spent the evening writing a post for my 1965 Topps blog about Phil Regan, the man who put Cal's name on the lineup card that night! Simply inexcusable on my part.

Further compounding my shame, yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of Eddie Murray's 500th home run, which he hit in Baltimore off of Tigers pitcher Felipe Lira. You would think that I would remember these sort of things, especially since I witnessed them in my formative years as a baseball fan. In my defense, I've had two weeks off from work and it's thrown off my calendar. (I'm sure you're very sympathetic to my plight!) At the very least, I suppose I've learned a lesson about publishing blog posts before I've checked my RSS feed. Anyway, there's never a bad time to celebrate Steady Eddie, is there?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mark Hendrickson, 2009 Topps #378

Six times this season, Mark Hendrickson and Kam Mickolio have both pitched in relief for the Orioles in the same game. Both are 6'9", and I'd have to imagine that they hold some kind of quirky, superficial record for the tallest bullpen tandem in major league history. Hendrickson in particular is quite a sight when he's on the mound, as he's pretty thin and most of his height seems to be in his legs. You may or may not know that Hendo was a pretty good college basketball player at Washington State University. He's the second-best rebounder all-time in Cougar history, a two-time All-Pac-10 first-teamer, and averaged 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Mark in the second round (31st overall) in 1997, and he played for four seasons in the NBA with the Sixers, the Nets, the Kings, and the Cavaliers, averaging 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Of course, he was scraping by in basketball, so at that point he turned to baseball. Eight seasons in the big leagues later, he's the second-tallest pitcher to ever win 50 career games (the first is that Randy Johnson guy, who stands 6'10"). My favorite story about Hendo is as follows: last season, he pitched with the Marlins. Some of his teammates found a Michael Jordan poster that pictured His Airness dunking over none other than Mark Hendrickson. Needless to say, that poster hung in the Florida clubhouse all season long!

Picture courtesy of The Fightins

Frankly, I give Mark a lot of credit. As others have pointed out, he played at the highest professional level in baseball and basketball. MJ topped out at AA Birmingham during his short-lived try at baseball.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Boog Powell, 1970 Milton Bradley

As you can see from the title, I need a little help from you, bright readers. I recently received this Boog Powell card in a trade, and I have no idea what it is. It's probably from some sort of card game, but what game? Who made it, and when? Help a brother out. Here's the card back:
DISCLAIMER: The above text refers to a card that you cannot see because my Internet connection is on the fritz and I can't manage to upload any scans. That's what I get for waiting until near midnight to throw something together. I guess you'll get a doubleheader tomorrow!

EDIT 9/6 8:41 PM: Now with images!

EDIT 9/7 9:35 PM: I knew I could count on you guys. Thanks!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Bob Kuzava, 1955 Bowman #215

Bob "Sarge" Kuzava pitched for the Orioles in 1954, their first season in Baltimore after more than a half-century in St. Louis. That year, a 36-year-old radio announcer named Ernie Harwell also came to Charm City and started a six-year run as the team's play-by-play man. Of course, most baseball fans know him as the voice of the Detroit Tigers, a job that he held for more than four decades after leaving Baltimore. No matter who you root for, chances are that you've taken a liking to Ernie's low-key, folksy broadcasting style. The accolades he's received include the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Ty Tyson Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting. He's also been enshrined in the Sports Halls of Fame in Michigan and Georgia, as well as the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame and the Radio Hall of Fame. At 91 years of age, Harwell is one of baseball's living treasures.

Sadly, Ernie announced yesterday that he has been diagnosed with incurable cancer of the bile duct and he had reached a consensus with his loved ones and doctors to not pursue treatment. At most, he expects to live for another year. But he's lived a long and full life, and if this article is any indication, he's accepting his fate with grace and aplomb. I wish him the best in the time he does have left. I'll wrap this post up with the Bible verse that Ernie quoted to kick off each baseball season:

"For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nick Markakis, 2008 Topps Target 205 #TCP21

The Orioles have a much-needed off day today, which seems to be as close as they'll be getting to a victory this week. It's as good a time as any to call attention to one of the few bona fide stars on the current team and the positive things that he's doing in the community.

Yesterday was designated as Roberto Clemente Day across Major League Baseball, in honor of the Pirates Hall of Famer who lost his life in a 1972 plane crash en route to delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Each team celebrated their nominee for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, given to a player "who combines exceptional performance on the baseball field with devoted work in the community". Like Clemente, the Orioles' nominee is an excellent right fielder who wears #21. Nick Markakis, who signed a contract extension in the off-season and recently moved to Baltimore with his family, is making himself right at home.

In May, Nick and his wife Christina established the Right Side Foundation to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Maryland. One of the first programs launched was "Fun for 21", in which the couple treat a group of 21 kids to a day of activities (such as lunch at the ESPN Zone and an afternoon at the National Aquarium). Last month, the Foundation's first 5K run and 1 mile fun walk was held at Patterson Park to raise funds; nearly 600 runners participated. The Markakises also regularly donate their suite at Camden Yards to a local youth group.

Nick's philanthropy extends beyond his activities with the Right Side Foundation. He's committed $75,000 annually to the Orioles Charitable Foundation, with a portion of that money earmarked for a partnership between the O's and Baltimore City Schools. He's also represented the Birds in MLB initiatives to promote breast cancer awareness and prostate cancer awareness.

If you'd like to vote for Nick Markakis to win the league-wide 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, just follow this link. It's reassuring to know that one of Baltimore's most visible players doesn't confine his best efforts to the baseball diamond.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bob Turley, 1994 Topps 1954 Archives #85

I want to vent my frustration over another disastrous series against the Yankees, another demoralizing invasion of Camden Yards by New York, New Jersey, and bandwagoning Mid-Atlantic fans, another endless September where losses are taken for granted as inevitable...but I just don't have the strength. Bob Turley was one of the original Orioles, a wild young fireballer with undeniable talent who led the O's in wins and was their top strikeout pitcher by a country mile. Of course, he was traded to the Yankees, who were able to surround him with a good enough team that he went on to win 82 games in eight years. He won a Cy Young and was a two-time All-Star with a career 3.19 ERA in the postseason. The Birds got a decent player or two in the deal (particularly slugging catcher Gus Triandos), but my distaste for the Yanks is such that I feel a little twinge of jealousy any time I think about "Bullet Bob". He could've been one of the anchors of the Baltimore staff for a decade...blast it.

Stupid Yankees...some day you won't have the Orioles to kick around. Some day soon? Wieters willing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Darnell McDonald, 1999 Bowman Chrome #76

I wanted to make note of Jeff "Screech" Fiorentino's return to the Orioles, but it turns out that I've already posted my one and only card of him. Instead, here's another former high draft pick of the O's who has had a circuitous path back to the major leagues.

Darnell McDonald was a two-sport high school athlete from Colorado when Baltimore made him their first-round pick (26th overall) in the 1997 draft. The club enticed him to turn down a football scholarship to the University of Texas, and he made a steady (if unexceptional) ascent through the minor leagues. He also endured the death of his mother Nina in 1999, which caused him to briefly question his desire to continue playing. As spring training drew to a close in 2004, the 25-year-old was told that he had made the big league team. He had boarded the plane and made arrangements to send his car to Baltimore when he was informed at the last moment that he was being sent to Ottawa to make room for Rule 5 draftee Jose Bautista. Darnell finally did make his debut later that month, but played in just 17 games for the O's in a few separate stints, collecting only 5 hits in thirty-two at-bats (.156 average), including a hitless run for the duration of his September callup. That would bring an end to his time in the Orioles system.

The Indians signed McDonald for 2005, as he'd played out his seven-year obligation to the Birds. Unfortunately, this also kick-started the itinerant phase of the outfielder's career; he was released by the Tribe that June and has plied his trade for five organizations in the past five seasons. Until this year, he'd seen a lot of AAA ballparks (877 games) and not nearly as many big league parks (4 games with the Twins in 2007 in addition to the 17 with the Orioles). Finally, at age 30, he made the Reds' Opening Day roster in 2009 and even started in center field when Willy Taveras came down with the flu. Again, he struggled, hitting .175 and getting sent down to AAA in late May.

But there's still time for Darnell to rewrite history. He was recalled late last month and is on a 5-for-13 streak, bringing his average up to .226. On Sunday, he hit his first career major league home run, a memorable moment in what has been a twelve-year odyssey. As the Birds and the Reds each play out the string in September, I'll be keeping tabs on McDonald.