Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fred Lynn, 1988 Donruss Baseball's Best #297

Happy Halloween to one and all! I'm fairly certain that this is the orange-and-blackest card in my collection. Fred Lynn is actually in costume on this card; he's supposed to be former Giants, Cardinals, and Yankees slugger Jack Clark. Couldn't you tell from the eye black?

I hope you all have a festive and spooky night, no matter what you have planned. I'm staying in, since I'll be at the Ravens game with my dad tomorrow and we have to meet my uncle at nine to drive to an undisclosed tailgate location. But I did venture out last night to a friend's Halloween party in Hampden. My "suicidal Redskins fan" costume was a big hit, and I even gave an actual 'Skins fan the shirt off of my back at the end of the night so I wouldn't have to dispose of it myself. After all, the very idea of me owning a maroon and gold sweatshirt is truly scary.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Bobby Grich, 1975 Hostess #72

Hey kids! Do you all know the witty, urbane, and knowledgeable HandyAndy, whose comments have enlivened several of the posts on this very blog? Of course you do! If I were you (and I may very well be, but I'm not), I would want to read more of his insights on Orioles cards.

Well, you're in luck! Andy recently launched his very own blog, the Vintage Orioles Cards Project, and it's got my seal of approval! He's trying to collect all of the major vintage cards featuring Baltimore's boys of summer (that's all Bowman, Fleer, and Topps issues from 1954-1980). He's posting his finds one-by-one, with information about how he obtained the card and some facts about the players themselves. So far, it looks like a promisingly good read. If you're itching to share your vintage O's with Andy, he's assured me that a want list will be posted soon. So head on over, and tell him that Kevin sent you! Or don't, that's your call.

So why did I post a vintage Hostess snack cakes card of Bobby Grich, when Andy's not seeking these out? I didn't want to steal his thunder. Pretty crafty, huh?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dennis Rasmussen, 1992 Stadium Club #749

I'm barely more than halfway through the 50-pack junx wax rip that was made possible by my sister's generosity, and I've already had some fun finds, including a 1987 Donruss Jamie Moyer rookie card and some early 1990s minor league cards of Leo Gomez and Tim Wakefield. I also tore open another pack of 1992 Stadium Club Series 3, which I'm really starting to love.

I've discussed my particular interest in collecting cards that depict various players on as many of their teams as possible, but the second-year offering of Stadium Club has already given me a few guys who never played a single regular-season game with the team on their card. It's likely that they took the pictures in the middle of 1992's Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues and finalized the checklist in an attempt to keep up with Upper Deck's "final series", which also showed players in their new digs in a timelier fashion. As a result, I have this card of never-was-an-Oriole Dennis Rasmussen, a veteran lefty who pitched for the Padres and Yankees but couldn't make the O's out of Spring Training. He spent a couple of miserable months at Rochester (0-7, 5.67 ERA) before being released in mid-June and bounced around for three more years in the majors and minors before retiring.

I'd already gotten my hands on this card at an earlier date, but the "new" pack of Stadium Club yielded a former Oriole in unfamiliar colors: Jeff Ballard with the Cardinals. I'd previously known that he spent parts of two subpar seasons with the Pirates at the end of his career (1993-1994), but I have never seen or heard of any cards of him in a Pittsburgh uniform and I'd essentially given up hope of adding him to my "multi-team" collection. Not so fast! The Montana native signed with St. Louis in January of '92 but did not head north with the team in April. He had a great season in AAA Louisville, though, going 12-8 with a 2.52 ERA. I guess it just wasn't good enough for Cards manager and future genius Joe Torre.

If you're wondering whether I actually just spent two paragraphs talking about guys who didn't play for teams, I don't know what to tell you. It's a weird hobby sometimes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jeff Conine, 2002 Upper Deck Diamond Connection #16

I told you that I wasn't especially lucid when I posted last night's entry, and boy did it show. As was alluded to in the blog comments, Joe Carter was the man whose walk-off three-run homer off of Mitch Williams won the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays, sending the Phillies home from Toronto cloaked in defeat. On the eve of Game One of a World Series that I desperately want the Phils to win, that was a dumb choice on my part. Bad juju.

Tonight I make amends by posting a card of Jeff Conine, whom the Orioles traded to the Marlins in late 2003, just in time for the venerable old-timer to assist the young Florida team in their playoff push. He made a crucial defensive play in the NLDS, hit .458 in the NLCS, and then hit .333 with a .417 on-base percentage in the Fall Classic to help his new (old) team stun the favored Yankees in six games. Sure, he had only one double and no RBI in the Series, but he did score four runs. Besides, this is a reminder that the Yankees have lost their last two World Series, and that they've ended their last eight seasons with disappointing postseason losses (or, in the case of 2008, a regular-season loss). Let's keep the good times rolling.

But if you want to read about a more prominent Yankee killer, I might refer you to a previous blog post about 1960 World Series hero Hal Smith. Go Phillies!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joe Carter, 1998 Fleer Flair Showcase Flair #62

This week is taking entirely too long. A continually worsening head cold and a five-day training course in Washington, D.C. are the major culprits. Thankfully, I responded to a quick interview by Stacey at Camden Chat while I was still of a clearer mind. She's started profiling other noteworthy Orioles blogs during the offseason, which strikes me as an idea that's smart enough (and simple enough) that it should have been done sooner. Give it a read!

As for this card...ten years in the rear view, it's harmless enough to laugh at. Joe Carter as an Oriole? An iridescent oversized background portrait of Joe with a full-color action shot overlay? The insanely redundant set name? Fleer, what are we supposed to do without you?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jamie Moyer, 1994 Stadium Club 1st Day Issue #284

Help us, Jamie Moyer, you're our only hope. Okay, so the Obi Wan Kenobi of the major leagues won't actually be a participant in this year's World Series; his season was ended by groin and abdominal tears that required surgery. I suppose that's the occupational hazard of being the MLB's oldest active pitcher. Still, Moyer's Phillies are going to need to harness all of his spiritual energy to help them defend their World Championship against the hated Yankees.

That's right, Philly is our last line of defense against the best (and smarmiest) team that $200+ million could buy. Not that the Phightin's are the scrappy little guys that could; their $113M payroll ranked seventh in baseball. Still, that's small potatoes compared to an irritating offseason binge that netted New York all three of the top free agents that were available. Thankfully, manager Charlie Manuel's charges should be a formidable opponent, with a powerful lineup and a top-heavy starting rotation. If only they can provide enough insurance to keep Brad Lidge off of the Yankee Stadium mound in tight ninth-inning situations...

Come Wednesday, I hope you'll join me in donning your Phillies red and rooting against the Steinbrenners. I'm not ready to return to a world order that has the Yankees on top.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Floyd Rayford, 1984 Topps Traded #96T

Because the weekend got away from me and also because you can never have enough "Honey Bear" in your blog, I will pass along some days-old news. Former Orioles third baseman/catcher/fire hydrant-shaped-person Floyd Rayford is currently a hitting coach in the Twins' farm system and he is climbing that ladder. He has been promoted from the AA New Britain Rock Cats coaching staff to AAA Rochester, a team that he should know well. He did spend parts of seven seasons during his playing career in a Red Wings uniform, after all. You keep plugging along, Floyd. Today the International League, tomorrow the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Boog Powell, 1991 Swell Baseball Greats #74

In the aftermath of the Phillies' five-game shellacking of the Dodgers in the NLCS last week, I heard a bit of trivia that had previously escaped my attention. When Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley drew a walk early in Game Five, he tied the record for reaching base in the most consecutive postseason games. It was his 25th straight, and it tied a mark that had been unmatched for 38 years. The previous record holder was your friend and mine, Mr. John Wesley Powell. Of course, Boog did the deed in the first 25 games of his postseason career, whereas Chase was shut out in his postseason debut before picking up the slack in game number two. The slugging first baseman victimized pitchers such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tom Seaver, and Catfish Hunter. Chutley's hit list isn't nearly so gaudy, but I suppose he'll get the last laugh if he can scratch out a hit or a walk in the first game of this year's World Series...whenever that may be.

If you'd like to see more statistical heavy lifting on this subject, check out the edifying Roar from 34 blog.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Frank Baker, 1974 Topps #411

How much must it suck to be a baseball player named Frank Baker? No matter what you accomplished, you'd always be "the other one". It's hard to eclipse your predecessor when he's a Hall of Famer and a three-time World Champion. The first Frank Baker, a native of Maryland's Eastern Shore, is better known as "Home Run" Baker. While the former Athletics and Yankees third baseman did lead the league in homers for four straight years (1911-1914), he hit only 96 total dingers in his deadball era career. He actually earned his moniker by hitting a pair of clutch longballs in the 1911 World Series off of legendary Giants pitchers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard. Baker hit .307 in his 13-year career, and also led the A.L. in triples once and RBI twice, and was renowned as a daring fielder and strong baserunner.

Meanwhile, the Frank Baker who played shortstop with the Yankees and O's from 1970 through 1974 hit .191 with one career homer and 24 RBI. He played in four career postseason games without a single at-bat. But that one lonely home run was a grand slam, so he's got that going for him, right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mike Cuellar, 2005 Topps Retired Chrome Signature Edition #TA-MC

So my sister's wedding is tomorrow. I'm wiped out from the rehearsal dinner, so you get another "Ooh, lookie what I have" post. Shiny Mike Cuellar on-card autograph. Retro Topps logo. Sideburns. "Baltimore" on the jersey. Crappy scan, because it came in a sticker-sealed plastic holder and I didn't want to disturb it (the scratches are on the holder, not the card). Now I'm off to bed before I pass out in my chair.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Frank Robinson, 2009 Topps #400b

So in my habitual reading of other card blogs, I'd learned that Topps, never one to shy away from a good (or even a bad) gimmick, had stealthily added short-printed parallel cards to its base set in 2009. These cards featured some of the greatest retired players from the game, and were numbered as if they were a part of the set, yet there were already base cards that had the same number. (i.e. the Frank Robinson card above is numbered 400, but there is a card #400 in the base set for Alfonso Soriano.) There were 17 Legends each in the first and second series, but it was all a hypothetical matter to me. Since 2009 Topps launched early in the year, I've bought them in all sorts of formats: regular packs, fat packs, cereal boxes, and blasters. In all those hundreds of cards, I hadn't unearthed one short-printed Legend...until today.

On my way home from work, I stopped in White Marsh to pick up my tuxedo (as well as my Dad's) for my sister's wedding on Friday. I also wanted to pick up something extra that was on my sister's bridal registry at Target, so I dropped in there as well. Upon printing out the registry in the store, I realized that the item I had in mind didn't match what was on the registry, so it looked like I'd wasted a trip. Of course I hate waste as much as the next guy, so I started wandering until - oops! - I was in the trading card aisle.

I wanted to knock a few cards off of my 2009 Topps checklist, but they only had Series 2 cello packs with 22 cards and a stick of gum (which tasted terrible even by Topps standards. Very sour). The benefit of cello packs is that you can see the card on top and the card on bottom, allowing beggars to be choosers. After making a spectacle of myself by knocking several packs off of the rack in my efforts to see the rearmost packs, I settled on one pack with Jarrod Washburn and Kyle Davies showing...slim pickings, I tell you. But there was also one single solitary pack with a Legend showing in front, and that man was certified badass Bob Gibson. So I had my second pack. When I got home and opened that one up, I couldn't believe what I'd found. Here is a card-by-card account of the first eight cards:

First, the aforementioned Gibson card, #415b.

Next, Juan Marichal, #476b. Back-to-back SPs? What are the odds?

Card the third is Tony Gwynn, #520b. Ho-ly...

Crap! Jim Palmer is #355b! Not only am I cleaning up, I got an awesome O's card!

That's weird...

Uh-oh, I hope these 22 cards aren't just those first four SPs in a repeating pattern.

Ryno breaks the pattern! Ryne Sandberg is - you guessed it - short-printed as #350b. Is the whole pack SP?
Frank closes it out; the remaining 14 cards were from the base set. It was fun while it lasted, though: eight SP Legends cards, six unique (out of 17 total in Series 2), two of them Orioles. Talk about your pack mojo! That makes up for the pack I pulled out of my blaster that had three or four cards with severely bent corners. I've read other bloggers' "OMG you'll never believe it I pulled some sort of ludicrous souped-up hot pack" posts with envy, and now that I've struck gold myself, I really believe that every collector should get lucky like this at least once in their lives. We've certainly given Topps, Upper Deck, and their departed rivals enough of our money, haven't we?

P.S.: Speaking of Upper Deck, the player pictured on their Series 1 and Series 2 Combo Packs is none other than Matt Wieters. My heart leapt with joy when I spotted him, especially considering that certified jackass Josh Beckett had been the company's cover boy for previous rack pack products this year. The future is closer every day, folks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oswald Peraza, 1989 Topps #297

Do you want to know how cool my younger sister is? She's getting married this Friday, and I'm in the wedding party. I came home last night after having dinner with an old friend, and there was a smallish box sitting on the kitchen table. She told me that it was my gift for being in the wedding, and insisted that I open it right then and there. She's always been impatient when it comes to both giving and receiving gifts. I lifted the flap, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but 50 - that's fifty - packs of junk wax, courtesy of an Amazon.com offer!

These old, unopened packs of cards spanned the years 1986-1994, so I was a bit anxious as I sifted through the box. After all, it could've been like those Fairfield repacks, where they load you up with tons of 1986-1991 Topps, which is at the absolute bottom of my needs list. (More on that later.) But, saints be praised, each and every one of those packs was from a different set and series! There were even a few packs from my recently-mentioned half-completed sets, like 1994 Score and 1994 Collector's Choice. Sure, there were a few packs from sets I've already completed (1993 Upper Deck, 1989 Topps), but that's a near-inevitability at this point. I'm still going to have a lot of fun ripping open all of those forgotten, unloved bundles of cardboard! In case you're wondering what this concoction looks like, here's an image pulled from the item page on Amazon.

As I mentioned, I've got much more junk Topps than I know what to do with, which includes Mr. Oswald Peraza, who combined with Jose Mesa as the "fruits" of the trade that sent Mike Flanagan to Toronto. Anyway, it's probable that I will be moving into a new house (new to me, anyway) in about a month. I have boxes full of duplicate cards from the 1988 through 1991 Topps sets that I'd rather not lug with me to the new digs, so I'm giving you readers and fellow bloggers and collectors the first crack at it all. If by some crazy chance you still haven't completed any of those four sets, send me a want list and I'll pull together a package for trade. Because I don't expect you to trade treasure for trash, the wants I'll be looking to fill in my own collection will be of a similar vintage: 1986, 1990, and 1992 Topps and 1989 Upper Deck will come first. Some of the want lists are already posted in the left sidebar of my other blog. If you don't have what I need, we'll work something else out. After all, I'll always take any Orioles, and there are a few other sets from the past few decades that I keep meaning to complete one of these days. As always, email your requests to brotz13 AT gmail DOT com.

The deadline to propose a trade is Monday, November 2. What happens after that? I take the excess dupes to Goodwill, where they'll find their way to a kid who doesn't know any better or an adult who's feeling nostalgic.

So get to emailing while I try to tackle four dozen packs of pre-wild-card-era whimsy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Brady Anderson, 2000 Skybox Dominion #235

So Brady Anderson, Gaylord Perry, and "Spaceman" Bill Lee play in an 1890s-style baseball game for charity...

No, it's not a really cheeseball joke; this actually happened this past weekend in San Jose, CA. The event was the first annual Legends of Baseball Vintage Showdown, and it pitted a team full of ex-major league greats against the Stogies of Santa Clara County. The Stogies are one of several teams around the country that are stocked with weekend warriors looking to recreate the game of "base ball" as it was played over a century ago. That means fielding your position with work gloves instead of padded, oversized mitts, and taking a walk on seven balls instead of four. I can think of several recent Orioles pitchers who could use the extra rope!

According to this excellent first-hand account from the Walkoff Walk blog, Baltimore's own sideburned hero of the 1990s made some of the headlines at the game. Before the first pitch, he was traded from the Legends to the Stogies in exchange for a catcher and a giant novelty bag of cash. Perhaps the Stogies owner was a distant Steinbrenner relative. Brady also pitched an inning, and reportedly threw very hard. Accounts differ on whether it was Anderson or ex-Yankee phenom Kevin Maas who was presented with an oxygen tank after legging out a triple (but I'm sure Maas would need it more).

As near as I can tell, lumbering save-master Lee Smith was the only other former Oriole to play in the game, but he did not factor into the decision. In a fitting conclusion, Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers (still sporting the classic handlebar mustache!) nailed down a 16-15 win for the Legends
by inducing a grounder to second baseman Jeff Kent with runners on the corners. I'd love to see the Legends take their show on the road, wouldn't you?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mark McLemore, 1994 Score #415

I should have gotten around to this sooner, but I was probably saving it for a rough day, and today's third straight ridiculously heartbreaking loss by the Ravens was nothing if not rough. I've complained about the interminable length of the baseball season before, but when you've got 162 games to play (or watch), at least the really bad losses aren't fraught with so much significance. Football games are draining and agonizing in a way that baseball games rarely are. But enough blather.

Last month, the bloggers par excellence at Dinged Corners proposed the Six-Cards-in-30-Seconds Binder Test, or simply Six-in-30. To put it succinctly, grab a binder and pick out six cards that grab your attention in some way. You have thirty seconds. You might think it boring to do this test with several cards from the same set, but I hope that's not the case. I chose the binder that houses my unfinished 1994 Score set. This is one of several really appealing sets from my early collecting years that just fell by the wayside long before I could complete it. I blame my own short attention span - I also bought bunches of 1994 Collector's Choice and 1994 Topps that year - and the August players' strike, which cooled my desire to buy baseball cards for a while.

So why do I like this set so much? Besides the simple navy blue borders and team-colored bars for the players' names on the front, there's the completeness of the card backs: full career stats, two-paragraph biographies, and full-color photos. The busy backs manage to not look cluttered while nicely complementing the minimalist fronts.But best of all are the high-quality photos, which I'd never previously seen as a strong suit for Score. There's a lot of character in these shots, from the goofy posed pictures like Mark McLemore's GQ shoot above, to...

The candid close-up portraits, such as Paul Molitor's...

The preservation of memorable moments in baseball history, like Chris Bosio's no-no...

The preservation of infamous moments as well, most notably Jose Canseco's ruinous pitching debut...
Lots of great action shots of catchers, including Erik Pappas chasing a pop-up...

More action shots in the infield, like Greg Gagne trying to turn two as Harold Reynolds bears down on him...

Finally, photos celebrating the team aspect of baseball, as seen here: Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Kenny Lofton congratulating Carlos Baerga on a job well done. You can also see some strong interplay of sun and shadows here, as well as in the other cards I posted. Traditionally, cards with daytime photos were either washed-out or cloaked in oppressive shadows, but Score did a great job with this set when it came to making you feel like you were at a sun-drenched afternoon game.

This was a lot of fun, as well as a good reminder that I need to put forth an effort to finish the 1994 Score set...and 1994 Collector's Choice...and 1995 Stadium Club...and 1996 Score...and 2008 Topps and Topps Heritage and maybe Goudey...and 2009 Topps and O-Pee-Chee...and 1982 Topps...ugh. Never mind.

P. S.: If you counted seven cards, allow me to clarify. My Orioles are sorted and stored separately, so I didn't count Mac in my Six-in-30 tally.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Albert Belle, 1999 Topps Race to Aaron #RA5

Got a quickie post today before I drive up to Philadelphia to meet up with some friends. I need a card that stands on its own and says something, and what it says is, "What?". Albert Belle was one hell of a hitter, but ten years into his career it was a stretch to mention him as a challenger to Hank Aaron's home run throne. The back of the cards projects him to play until he's 42, averaging 44 longballs a season. He had kept up that pace for the previous four seasons, which in a situation like this is a pretty small sample size. At age 31 with 321 career homers, he was still 434 away from Hammerin' Hank. Of course, the worst-case scenario occurred, with Albert clouting 60 more round-trippers in his first two years in Baltimore before an arthritic hip condition hobbled him and forced him to retire. He failed to reach 400 HR, much less 755. Whoops.

Have you seen many baseball cards with a more surreal image than the juxtaposition of classy, reserved Hank Aaron and explosive, violent Albert Belle? Thanks for the trip to Bizarro World, Topps.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Tommy Davis, 1975 Topps #564

This card provides a snapshot of all that is good and delightful about the 1975 Topps set: loud colors, even louder hair, and great players from yesteryear. Tommy Davis never equaled his age 23 season, when he led the National League with a .346 average and a jaw-dropping 153 RBI for the Dodgers, he was a valuable contributor to several teams over 18 seasons. He was in his mid-thirties when he became the Orioles' first regular designated hitter in 1973. In three seasons in that role he batted .293 and drove in 230 runs. What's more, 13 of the 24 home runs he hit in his Baltimore tenure either tied the game or gave the O's the lead. His .306 average and 89 RBI in 1973 helped the club to win the A.L. East and earned him a top-ten finish in MVP voting.

Hold on a minute...former Dodgers player...1975 Topps card...if it seems like I'm treading into another blogger's territory, there's a good reason. Diehard L.A. rooter and prolific baseball card wordsmith Greg (a.k.a. night owl) has often professed his appreciation for the 1975 set, which he first collected as a nine-year-old novice. He's finally jumped in with both feet and spun off his love for this multicolored masterpiece, having launched the 1975 Topps (it's far out, man) blog earlier this week. I really admire his uncomplicated approach, as he dedicates one post per card and focuses more on his gut-level reaction to the card (both as a child and in the present day) than on stats and facts. I'm looking forward to reading Greg's take on this retro rainbow, and it will probably further tempt me to complete more of the set (I currently have 80 out of 660, or 12% of the set). I hope you'll check it out as well!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jim Palmer, 2002 Topps American Pie #33

Please join me in wishing Jim Palmer a very happy 64th birthday tonight. In honor of the Orioles' most vocal and most accomplished pitcher, here are a few facts that I didn't previously know about him:

-He was adopted as an infant.

-Before joining the Orioles' organization at age 18, Jim was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity at Arizona State University, although he did not actually attend the school.

-On May 16, 1965, he picked up his first major league win and hit his first home run in the same game. His two-run homer off of Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton tied the game in the fourth inning.

-I knew that Palmer was the only pitcher in history to win World Series games in three separate decades, but it hadn't occurred to me that he was the only Oriole to appear in all six of the team's Fall Classics. His 17 years between his first and last World Series wins were a major league record, and he was the only member of the 1983 World Champion Orioles to have previously won a ring.

-Not only did Jim never allow a grand slam in his career, he also never gave up back-to-back home runs.

-While working out at the University of Miami during his comeback attempt, Palmer was approached by Hurricanes assistant coach Lazaro Collazo. Collazo, presumably not recognizing Palmer, reportedly told him, "You'll never get into the Hall of Fame with those mechanics." "I'm already in the Hall of Fame," Palmer replied.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gordie Sundin, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #447

I was perusing Baseball Reference's Cup of Coffee page, which lists every player in history whose first game was also his last. There are some very well-known stories: Moonlight Graham, who was featured in Field of Dreams; John Paciorek, who went 3-for-3 with two walks and four runs scored in a late-season debut but was felled by a back injury; and Larry Yount (Robin's brother), who was injured while throwing warm-up pitches in his major league debut and never threw an official pitch. But even if you've heard of those one-game wonders, there's a good chance you've never heard of Gordie Sundin.

Gordie was a skilled high school athlete from Minneapolis, MN. Standing 6'4" at the age of 15, he was All-State in football, basketball, and baseball at Washburn High. He signed with the Orioles in 1955, and made his major league debut at 18 the following September. Here are the grisly details:

On September 19, 1956, Sundin entered a game in Tiger Stadium with the O's trailing Detroit 8-1. He walked Frank Lary and Harvey Kuenn, and was replaced by Billy O'Dell. Lary scored on a sacrifice fly, leaving Gordie with a career stat line of one earned run on two walks in no innings pitched...for an earned run average of infinity. Ooh.

Gordie of course never pitched another game for the Birds, but remained in their minor league system through 1961, when his career apparently ground to a halt at the old age of 23.

But he married Mary Ann Dorsey, a member of the 1956 U. S. Olympic Figure Skating Team. So good for him!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mike Mussina, 1996 Topps Laser #125

If you haven't already noticed, I've updated yesterday's post to include the five missing MVOs. Reader HandyAndy was kind enough to leave a comment with the details, which he pulled from "Day by Day in Baltimore Orioles History" by Ted Patterson. You can find it on Google Books. Thanks again, Andy!
You may remember me saying that there were six MVOs that were missing. Well it appears as though the media did not select a Most Valuable Oriole in 1994 on account of the players' strike that led to the cancellation of the final fifty-odd games of the regular season, as well as the entire postseason. I guess that's just one more lousy effect of that work stoppage. I was also somewhat surprised to see that Mike Mussina, who was the team's ace for the better part of a decade, never won an MVO during his years in Baltimore. Well, I know an opportunity when I see one...

In my position as an Esteemed Blogger of the Baltimore Orioles, I hereby unilaterally declare Mike Mussina to be the Unofficial Most Valuable Oriole of the 1994 Major League Baseball season. Mike led the team in wins and winning percentage (16-5, .762), as well as earned run average (3.06), innings pitched (176.1), strikeouts (99), and walks and hits per inning pitched (1.16). If not for the work stoppage, he would have been very likely to post the first 20-win season of his career. Congratulations to Moose for his phony honor!

Honorable mentions go to: first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who hit .319 with a .392 on-base percentage, 32 doubles, 23 home runs, and 76 runs batted in during his first season in orange and black; shortstop Cal Ripken, who extended his consecutive games played streak to 2,009 while hitting .315 with 35 extra-base hits and 75 RBI; and closer Lee Smith, who saved a league-leading 33 games with a 3.29 ERA and struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings.

I'm sure public opinion will differ, especially with the deep-running emotions that still spring from Mussina's mid-career jump to New York, so I welcome your personal choices for 1994's phantom MVO in the comments. If you need a refresher, the team's stats are here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gregg Olson, 1992 Score '90s Impact Player #87

In 1989, Gregg Olson was the first rookie ever chosen to be Most Valuable Oriole. Have you ever been curious about the Most Valuable Orioles throughout history? Each year since 1954, the local sports media types have selected one standout player from the most recently concluded season. However, the comprehensive list doesn't seem to be easily found online. Fortunately, I recently received a 1984 game program from my uncle, and it included a year-by-year recap of the team's fortunes...complete with notations of the MVOs! So here are as many of the 56 MVO selections as I have unearthed, presented in order. If a player is a multiple-time winner, it will be noted after his position. I did as much digging as I could, but there are still six from 1984 through 1997 who are M.I.A. If anyone knows about the missing half-dozen, let me know. At least two of them are Eddie Murray; he's credited online as a seven-time MVO. Take this knowledge and use it well.

UPDATED 10/13: Big thanks to reader HandyAndy, who filled in the blanks for me!

1954: Chuck Diering, CF (.258 AVG, .349 OBP)
1955: Dave Philley, RF (.299 AVG, .367 OBP)
1956: Bob Nieman, LF (.322 AVG, .940 OPS, 12 HR, 64 RBI)
1957: Billy Gardner, 2B (.262, 36 2B)
1958: Gus Triandos, C (30 HR, 79 RBI)
1959: Gene Woodling, OF (.300 AVG, .402 OBP, 14 HR, 77 RBI)
1960: Brooks Robinson, 3B (.294, 27 2B, 14 HR, 88 RBI)
1961: Jim Gentile, 1B (.302 AVG, 1.069 OPS, 46 HR, 141 RBI)
1962: Brooks Robinson, 3B, 2x (.303, 29 2B, 23 HR, 86 RBI)
1963: Stu Miller, RP (2.24 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 27 SV)
1964: Brooks Robinson, 3B, 3x (.317, 35 2B, 28 HR, 118 RBI)
1965: Stu Miller, RP, 2x (14-7, 1.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 24 SV)
1966: Frank Robinson, RF (.316 AVG, 1.047 OPS, 34 2B, 49 HR, 122 RBI)
1967: Frank Robinson, RF, 2x (.311 AVG, .403 OBP, 30 HR, 94 RBI)
1968: Dave McNally, SP (22-10, 1.95 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 18 CG)
1969: Boog Powell, 1B (.304, 37 HR, 121 RBI)
1970: Boog Powell, 1B, 2x (.297 AVG, .412 OBP, 35 HR, 114 RBI)
1971: (tie) Brooks Robinson, 3B, 4x (.272, 20 HR, 92 RBI)
Frank Robinson, RF, 3x (.281, 28 HR, 99 RBI)
1972: Jim Palmer, SP (21-10, 2.07 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 18 CG)
1973: Jim Palmer, SP, 2x (22-9, 2.40 ERA, 19 CG)
1974: (tie) Paul Blair, CF (.261, 27 2B, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 27 SB, Gold Glove)
Mike Cuellar, SP (22-10, 3.11 ERA, 20 CG)
1975: Ken Singleton, RF (.300 AVG, .415 OBP, 37 2B, 15 HR, 55 RBI)
1976: Lee May, 1B (.258, 25 HR, 109 RBI)
1977: Ken Singleton, RF, 2x (.328 AVG, .438 OBP!, 24 HR, 99 RBI)
1978: Eddie Murray, 1B (.285, 32 2B, 27 HR, 95 RBI)
1979: Ken Singleton, RF, 3x (.295 AVG, .405 OBP, 35 HR, 111 RBI)
1980: Al Bumbry, CF (.318 AVG, .392 OBP, 29 2B, 118 R, 44 SB)
1981: Eddie Murray, 1B, 2x (.294, 22 HR, 78 RBI in 99 G)
1982: Eddie Murray, 1B, 3x (.316 AVG, .391 OBP, 30 2B, 32 HR, 110 RBI)
1983: (tie) Eddie Murray, 1B, 4x (.306 AVG, .393 OBP, 30 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI)
Cal Ripken, SS (.318, 47 2B, 27 HR, 102 RBI)
1984: Eddie Murray, 1B, 5x (.306 AVG, .410 OBP, 29 HR, 110 RBI)
1985: Eddie Murray, 1B, 6x (.297 AVG, .383 OBP, 37 2B, 31 HR, 124 RBI)
1986: Don Aase, RP (6-7, 2.98 ERA, 34 SV)
1987: Larry Sheets, OF (.316, 31 HR, 94 RBI)
1988: (tie) Eddie Murray, 1B, 7x (.306 AVG, .393 OBP, 30 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI)
Cal Ripken, SS, 2x (.318, 47 2B, 27 HR, 102 RBI)
1989: Gregg Olson, RP (5-2, 1.69 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 27 SV)
1990: Cal Ripken, SS, 3x (.250 AVG, .341 OBP, 28 2B, 21 HR, 84 RBI)
1991: Cal Ripken, SS, 4x (.323, 46 2B, 34 HR, 114 RBI)
1992: Mike Devereaux, CF (.276, 29 2B, 11 3B, 24 HR, 107 RBI)
1993: Chris Hoiles, C (.310 AVG, 1.001 OPS, 29 HR, 82 RBI)
1994: No selection (Boo, Bud!)
1995: Rafael Palmeiro, 1B (.310, 30 2B, 39 HR, 104 RBI)
1996: Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, 2x (.289, 40 2B, 39 HR, 142 RBI)
1997: Randy Myers, RP (2-3, 1.51 ERA, 45 SV)
1998: Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, 3x (.296, 36 2B, 43 HR, 121 RBI)
1999: B. J. Surhoff, LF (.308, 38 2B, 28 HR, 107 RBI)
2000: Delino DeShields, 2B (.296, 43 2B, 10 HR, 86 RBI, 37 SB)
2001: Jeff Conine, 1B (.311 AVG, .386 OBP, 14 HR, 97 RBI)
2002: Rodrigo Lopez, SP (15-9, 3.57 ERA)
2003: Jay Gibbons, RF (.277, 39 2B, 23 HR, 100 RBI)
2004: Miguel Tejada, SS (.311, 40 2B, 34 HR, 150 RBI)
2005: Brian Roberts, 2B (.314 AVG, .387 OBP, 45 2B, 18 HR, 73 RBI, 27 SB)
2006: Miguel Tejada, SS, 2x (.330, 37 2B, 24 HR, 100 RBI)
2007: Nick Markakis, RF (.300, 43 2B, 23 HR, 112 RBI)
2008: Aubrey Huff, DH (.304, 48 2B, 32 HR, 108 RBI)
2009: Brian Roberts, 2B, 2x (.283, 56 2B, 16 HR, 79 RBI, 30 SB)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chito Martinez, 1992 Donruss Triple Play #192

When you combine writer's block with the act of choosing a card at random from your "1992 Orioles" box, you get Mr. Reyenaldo Ignacio Martinez and some lovely red-to-orange-to-yellow-and-back-again gradients. This is a funny sort of photo, as Chito is racing toward home plate while the third base umpire flees in the other direction. They're like two ships passing in the night, kicking up clouds of infield dirt as they go. So we begin another week, unsure of whether we're coming or going. At least it's a short week, at least if your employer is kind enough to celebrate Columbus' accidental discovery of America.

The next time I pick blindly from a stack of cards, maybe I should keep going until I find one that is more interesting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tony Tarasco, 1997 Score Hobby Reserve #HR382

Lost in the navel-gazing of yesterday's grand anniversary, I failed to realize that it was also the 13th anniversary of a much darker day in Orioles history. Lo and behold, late last night after I'd written my post, another blatantly blown call in the outfield in the Bronx benefited the Yankees in a playoff game. Sigh.

Many people (most of them probably snotty Yankee fans) wonder when we in Baltimore will "get over" the Jeffrey Maier Game. I, for one, will get over it when:

1) Lousy umpiring stops working out in the Yankees' favor in the postseason, and

2) The channels broadcasting baseball games stop playing the clip of that snot-nosed little punk stealing a fly ball from the grasp of Tony Tarasco as if it were one of the greatest moments in the history of the game.

So it looks like it's going to be a while.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Brooks Robinson, Dave McNally, and Andy Etchebarren, 1967 Topps #154

With all apologies to night owl and all other Dodger fans, I must quote the Baltimore Sun:


It's been 43 years to the day that the Orioles won their first World Series ever and brought Baltimore its first major league baseball title since 1896. Regular-season AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson clinched his Fall Classic MVP with a solo home run that provided the margin of victory, as Dave McNally out-dueled Don Drysdale in their dual four-hitters. When Lou Johnson's fly ball to center field landed securely in Paul Blair's glove to strand the tying and go-ahead runs on base and brought the Series to an end, bedlam ensued. The picture that Topps used for this card is the iconic image of that moment and one of my favorite photos of all time. It's amazing to see Brooks Robinson positively airborne, at least five feet off of the ground, ready to land in the jubilant McNally's arms. I'll drop in a larger version of the picture below, and let it do the rest of the talking. Well, it's from a different angle and a few seconds later, but it's still awesome.


Here's the reverse angle.

P.S.: Happy birthday to my Dad (55), and also to Brian Roberts (32).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tippy Martinez, 1987 Topps #728

According to reader and Atlantic League devotee Alan, York Revolution pitching coach Tippy Martinez is pretty accommodating when it comes to autograph requests, save for one quirk. He will not sign a baseball card if it depicts him with a mustache on his face, which would apply to some 1986 and 1987 issues. I can certainly understand his reticence; in my reasonably heterosexual opinion, he was (and still is) a handsome guy, but that cookie duster just did not do him any favors. Drink in that photo up top, just for a minute. He looks less like Tippy, and more like Edward James Olmos. Eek.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jayson Werth, 1999 Topps #209

From Jayson Werth's Baseball Reference page:

December 11, 2000: Traded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Toronto Blue Jays for John Bale.

Ouch. In case you were wondering, this is what the O's got out of John Bale: 26 and 2/3 innings of relief in 2001 with a 3.04 ERA. He was traded to the Mets for Gary Matthews, Jr. the following Spring, and has been a fringe major leaguer ever since, suffering through 43 games in the Royals bullpen this year with a 5.72 ERA that probably should have been worse (judging by his 1.84 WHIP).

You probably know all about Werth, but let me put it in stark relief. In 2009, the Phillies right fielder hit .268. Not bad. Of course he also scored 98 runs, walked 91 times, clouted 36 home runs, and stole 20 bases for good measure. Today he scored the first run of the defending World Champs' 5-1 win in Game 1 of the NLDS, and later tripled in another run.

Sure, the Orioles are pretty set in the outfield with three talented young players, each of whom is at least five years younger than Jayson. Sure, the Blue Jays and Dodgers both let him slip away as well. Neither of these facts makes it easier to accept his breakout season, occurring as it has some 12 years after the O's made the then-high school catcher their first overall draft pick.

Oh, and the inclusion of sluggard Ramon Hernandez on this card? That's just salt in the wound, isn't it?

As long as we're examining the other players pictured, I have no beef with Pat Cline. Besides the "Patsy" taunts that the poor young man must have endured from cruel peers, he slogged along for eight minor league seasons with a .762 OPS, never getting a brief taste of the majors.

But seriously, that Werth trade was turrible.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jim Palmer, 2007 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts #4

On October 6, 1966, Jim Palmer served notice that he had truly arrived. The 20-year-old hurler was a 15-game winner in just his second season. Manager Hank Bauer handed him the ball for Game Two of the World Series against the defending champion Dodgers, winners of 95 regular season games. Though the young O's had won the first game, Palmer had to have felt the pressure: 55, 947 fans packed Dodger Stadium. Moreover, his opponent was Sandy Koufax, who had just had a ridiculously great season (27-9, 1.73 ERA, 317 K, 27 CG).

Then again, maybe the pressure didn't much matter to the blue-eyed kid from New York. "Cakes" allowed only four L.A. hits and three walks, and permitted multiple base runners in the second inning only. In that instance, he wriggled out of trouble by inducing Koufax to pop up. Jim struck out six batters and earned the first shutout of his career. Meanwhile, his much-revered counterpart seemed up to the challenge, taking his own whitewash into the fifth inning before being undone by back-to-back errors by center fielder Willie Davis that led to three Baltimore runs. Koufax allowed his only earned run in the sixth before walking off of the mound for what would be the final time in his Hall of Fame career. The Birds tacked on two more insurance runs in the eighth to arrive at the final tally of 6-0.

As stunning as it may have seemed for a 20-year-old to outduel Sandy Koufax in a World Series game, the headlines would get even bigger. After picking up two runs in the first three innings of the Fall Classic, Los Angeles would not score again that October. The Oriole arms blanked the Dodger bats for the final 33 and 1/3 innings of the Series, with Moe Drabowsky, Palmer, Wally Bunker, and Dave McNally doing the honors.

Sure, tonight's 12-inning Twins vs. Tigers 163rd game tiebreaker was exciting, but I can think of a few games I'd rather watch.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jeremy Guthrie, 2008 Bowman #171

With all of the Brian Roberts doubles record hoopla, I didn't even realize that Jeremy Guthrie tied an Orioles record in yesterday's season finale. The righthander surrendered three home runs to the Blue Jays; the last of these was his 35th, the most in Baltimore history. The previous pitchers to reach this lofty mark were Sidney Ponson (1999), Scott McGregor (1986), and Robin Roberts (1963). Of course, giving up longballs wasn't no thing for Roberts, who was taken deep a record 505 times in 19 seasons. He was still a Hall of Fame pitcher, largely because he had the skill to challenge hitters with the bases empty. It just so happened that he didn't give up many runs in other ways. McGregor was running on fumes near the end of his career, and Ponson was...well, you know all about him. But Guthrie's season to forget was one of the more baffling developments of 2009.

It's never a good thing when the one starter in your rotation who was presumed to be reliable (3.66 ERA in 2007-2008) completely falls off of a cliff. Jeremy didn't look right from the World Baseball Classic onward, as he paced the American League in homers and losses (17) and saw his ERA jump to 5.04 while his strikeouts dipped. What was strange about it was that Guts was completely healthy; he threw the ball as hard as ever and reached 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career. But he just didn't have that same touch on the ball. He got beaten from pillar to post by the best (7.23 ERA vs. Boston, including a blown 7-0 lead in Fenway) and the worst (18.56 ERA vs. Oakland, including a 6 ER, 2/3 IP disaster). He had flashes of his previous good form, but couldn't build momentum; he never posted an ERA under 4.50 in a single month of 2009.

It would be premature to declare Jeremy Guthrie washed up; he will be 31 next year and does not have as much mileage on his arm as most pitchers his age. The O's certainly won't cast him off so soon; no other projected starter currently under contract has more than 24 starts at the major league level. He'll get another chance to be a stabilizing veteran force in the Baltimore rotation in 2010, and I am hoping against hope that he'll show us that those 17 losses and 35 home runs were a fluke.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brian Roberts, 2009 Upper Deck Icons #13

It seems like things go crazy in Birdland every time I leave town for a few days. In this case, I was in Chestertown for just 48 hours and the following took place:

-Dave Trembley's contract option was picked up, meaning that he will manage the O's in 2010. I'm okay with this. I have some questions about his lineups (Melvin Mora should NEVER bat fifth) and his bullpen management, but the players seem to support him and I wouldn't make a change just for the sake of it. It's hard to judge the guy when he hasn't had much to work with. Next year's team should be much more talented.

-Brian Roberts was named the Most Valuable Oriole, as selected by local sports media. He previously received this honor in 2005, but he was consistently amazing in the just-concluded season, breaking his own team record (and the mark for switch hitters) with a league-leading 56. He also set career highs with 110 runs scored and 79 RBI, hit 16 home runs (his personal second-best), stole 30 bases, and batted .283. Hell, the rest of the world even started paying attention to one of Baltimore's best-kept secrets.

-Oh, and the Birds won their last four games (after losing the previous 13) to avoid the ignominy of 100 losses, finishing 64-98. Mora was removed from the game in the sixth inning and was given a standing ovation by the fans, a very nice moment in what was almost certainly his final game in Charm City. Also, Matt Wieters drove in 17 runs in his last 19 games of the year. Hooray, future!

Now, the slate is wiped clean. The O's are 0-0 again, and will be until April. In the meantime, I've got to channel my energies into rooting for the Angels and whichever team comes out of the A.L. Central.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1993 Milk Bone Super Stars #12

Man alive...I cannot believe that it took me 16 years to get my hands on this majestic card. It largely speaks for itself, but what jumps out at me is Cal Ripken's Cosby sweater. That is a COS-BY SWWWEEEAAATTTEEERRR! (link not safe for work: naughty words)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Andy Etchebarren, 1970 Topps #213

Since I'm away for a few days, you're getting the short form and liking it. As mentioned recently, this is the beautiful card that reader Alan got Andy Etchebarren to autograph for me at a York Revolution vs. Somerset Patriots game last month. I don't care for the 1970 Topps design, but this is a great photo: "Etch" glowering at the photographer from under the shade of his cap brim while choosing the only bat on the rack that is coated in pine tar. He's sporting some sharp sideburns and a black batting glove that makes me wonder if he ever rode a Harley. A mysterious mustachioed man sits in the dugout, perhaps observing player behavior in a Jane Goodall-type fashion. This card has got it goin' on.

Fun fact: the card number is #213, and as this card auto-posts I will probably be driving down MD Route 213 to Washington College. Go figure.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Matt Riley, 2000 Upper Deck Victory #334

I'm going to take a cue from those Southwest Airlines ads and get away for a while. I'm taking a half-day off of work tomorrow and driving down to my old stomping grounds in Chestertown. My alma mater is celebrating the grand opening of a huge, beautiful, brand-new performing arts center and I've booked my hotel room for the weekend. Not that I didn't enjoy dorm life, but these will be the finest accommodations that I've ever had in that town. I'm excited to see the large numbers of friends and acquaintances who are coming out of the woodwork for this event.

I've been getting bombarded with emails for weeks as more and more happenings are added to the itinerary. As of now, I'll be: witnessing one of my friends receive an alumni award for his playwriting talents (and attending a reception in his honor); seeing the first Department of Drama play in the new theatre; attending a toast and a crab and pizza feast (what, don't those two foods go together?) with other drama alums; and of course hitting some of my favorite haunts (Luisa's Italian restaurant, O'Connor's Pub, and Andy's bar). There was a small, nagging part of me that wanted to catch one last Orioles game on this final homestand, but this ersatz college reunion is kind of a big deal. I suppose you could argue that Melvin Mora's probable final game with the O's is also important...but I need to make a clean break, and come back refreshed in the Spring.

So, why Matt Riley? Because it's been almost a decade since I rolled onto campus in August 2000. That's incredibly hard to believe. Do you know what else is unbelievable? When I was a freshman in college, this guy was a monster pitching prospect and a guy who was going to turn around a couple years of misfortune in Baltimore. He scraped out five wins in 26 career games pitched with a 5.99 ERA, as injuries and immaturity dogged him for years. Now, we at least have more legitimate young arms and a superior rookie named Matt. Progress can be found if you're paying attention.

P.S.: While I was writing this post, the O's defeated the Rays 3-2 to momentarily stop the madness. Chris Waters two-hit the Rays over five innings and the bullpen turned in three spotless frames before Jim Johnson's now-customary ninth-inning horror show made things exciting. Somehow, this all makes perfect sense.