Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mike Kinkade, 2002 Fleer Tradition #346

Does anyone remember Mike Kinkade? Knowing some of the dedicated baseball fans that read this blog, that's probably a silly question. But there's a good chance that you're a true diehard if you have some recollection of this journeyman. Kinkade played for nine organizations in a fourteen-year pro career. He also played five defensive positions (right field, left field, first base, third base, and catcher) and served as designated hitter in his limited swings through the big leagues. He arrived in Baltimore during the fire sale of 2000, as he, Melvin Mora, and two shlubs were the booty extracted from the Mets in exchange for shortstop Mike Bordick. But beyond his glorious season-plus in Charm City (.281 in 64 games with four homers - one of them against Mike Mussina), Mike was also something of an American hero during his baseball career.

At the ripe age of 27, Kinkade was a member of the United States baseball team that shocked the world by winning the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He saw action in nine games in all, playing first and third base. Eight years later, he played for Team USA again, but only during the qualifiers for the Beijing Olympics. He acquitted himself well at least, hitting .333. Maybe if they'd kept him on the team when they got to China, they would've done better than a lousy bronze medal.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1989 Topps Box Bottoms #J

With no other posts in mind today and a pressing need to rush out the door for the inspection of my new home, I decided to dip into my bag of tricks and show you another one of my Cal Ripken, Jr. oddballs. This particular card was cut from the bottom of a cardboard box full of wax packs (otherwise known as a wax box, of course) of 1989 Topps. It came to me in a trade; whoever did the cutting has much steadier hands than I do. Back in the day, Topps used to print bonus cards on the box bottoms in panels of four; the cards would highlight star players and noteworthy achievements for the previous year.

In 1989, the major difference between the box bottoms and the regular cards was a light blue gradient around the border of the box bottoms, as you can see above. The photos also differed from the players' regular issue cards. In this case, Cal has a close-up portrait, whereas his base set card features a full-body action shot at bat. You wouldn't think that anything about the 1988 Orioles (54-107) was worth commemorating, but in fact the O's shortstop had just reached 1,000 consecutive games played. No one, especially Topps, had any way of knowing that Ripken would play over 1,600 more games in a row before finally sitting down a full decade later. Now that's a milestone worth celebrating!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jerry Hairston, Jr., 1999 Topps #426

Here's something you don't see every day. It's been 11 years since this "Prospects" card was issued, and all three players featured are still active. None of the three has developed into a real star, but they've been solid role players for a good while. Oddly enough, all three also set personal bests in home runs in 2009: Michael Cuddyer belted 32 for the Twins, Mark DeRosa clubbed 23 for the Indians and Cardinals, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. totaled 10 for the Reds and Yankees. I'm sure that means something, but just what that might be is a cosmic secret.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hoyt Wilhelm, 2007 Topps Heritage 1958 Flashbacks #FB10

Why? Why? Sweet monkey on a unicycle, why? Hoyt Wilhelm pitched for the Orioles for four-plus seasons. During that time, Topps issued a few cards picturing him in an O's uniform. So it just stands to reason that they would have ample photos in the Topps Vault from which to choose. Instead, they've ostensibly:

-Selected a picture of Hoyt in a Giants uniform. I say Giants rather than White Sox or Braves or some such, because he doesn't appear to be old as hell here.

-Photoshopped him into Orioles duds.

-Photoshopped him into modern-day Orioles duds, rather than the period-appropriate threads.

-Done so poorly. The O's didn't have placket piping on their jerseys in 2006 or 2007, and if they had, it wouldn't have been applied by someone on a caffeine bender. What IS that?

-As a final indignity, they've stayed with #49 for Wilhelm, which was what he wore in New York. In Baltimore, he was #15.

Come on, Topps. Take some pride in your work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jeff Tackett, 1994 Score #136

I'm bored. Let's do a little photo sleuthing.

To start, let's confirm that this picture was snapped during the 1993 season. That's the Orioles' 1993 All-Star Game patch on Jeff Tackett's left sleeve, so we're good to go there. The pinstripes and blue uniform number outlined in gold indicate that the opposing catcher is a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. (You might have also spotted the Brewers logo on his shin guard.) In 1993, Tom Lampkin wore #22 for the Brew Crew, and he was indeed a catcher.

Both of these guys were reserve players, so hopefully it won't be hard to pinpoint the game in question. Checking Lampkin's 1993 Batting Gamelog on Baseball-Reference.com, we see that he played only two games at home against the Orioles - June 14 and June 16. Looking over both box scores, we'll see that Tackett played in only the June 16 game...and it was not pretty. While Jeff singled and walked in three at-bats while giving starter Chris Hoiles a breather, the O's were pounded to the tune of 7-2. Starter Mike Mussina earned just his third loss of the season by giving up all seven runs in six and two-thirds innings.

So, can we determine the result of this play? Consulting the play-by-play, we're looking at the top of the fifth. The O's are trailing 3-0 when they mount a rally against Milwaukee starter Jaime Navarro. They load the bases with three walks, and Brady Anderson follows with a line-drive double to right field to score a pair. The runner on first, Tackett, winds up at third. But the rally ends there. Mark McLemore hits a grounder to first, and the O's catcher inexplicably breaks for home. First baseman John Jaha cuts him down at the plate for the fielder's choice. Cal Ripken, Jr. follows with a double play grounder to third, and Baltimore fails to score another run in the game.

The next time I do one of these, I've got to make sure that the Orioles actually won the game.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nick Markakis, 2008 Upper Deck Sweet Spot #78

Believe it or not, this past Saturday's Orioles FanFest was the first that I had ever attended. Now that I've been there, I can safely say that there will be others.

We've still got more than three weeks until pitchers and catchers report, but I got a real sense of excitement from buttoning up my gray jersey with "Baltimore" stitched across the chest and driving down I-95 to Russell Street. I parked at the stadium and cut through the Eutaw Street concourse. Just seeing the sights that had been missing from my life over the past five months - the Orioles Hall of Fame plaques, the towering right-center field scoreboard and video screen, the little baseball-sized plaques commemorating the home runs that have exceeded the reach of the right field flag court, and of course the carefully manicured field - gave me a jolt of adrenalin. The temperature may have been in the forties, but baseball was coming.

I walked across to the Convention Center at about 10:45 AM. I knew that I only had two hours to spare before hopping back in my car and driving to Annapolis to meet my girlfriend, so I wanted to be there when the doors opened to the public at 11. Fat chance. The line to get in wrapped around the entire perimeter of the building! I joked to myself that the Orioles have about 15,000 dedicated fans left...and they were all waiting in line with me. Later on, the O's PR staff would estimate that a total of 12,000-plus fans poured through the doors of the Convention Center throughout the day. I think that's pretty astounding, and it demonstrates both the dedication of Baltimore's faithful and the genuine enthusiasm over the early fruits of the rebuilding effort.

I made it inside at about 11:15, as the line moved quickly once the doors opened. I had primarily chosen to attend in hopes of collecting some autographs, but I was quickly disabused of that notion. Players, former players, and coaches signed in groups of three at four separate stations. Each group was announced an hour prior to their start time, and each line was cut off at 250 people. Do the math. I'd already missed the bus for the 11:00 signers, and lines were likely already forming for noon. So I wandered the floor before stopping at the Fan Forum, where a series of Q and A sessions with groups of Orioles personalities were ongoing throughout the day.

Here, my timing was actually fortuitous. Longtime Baltimore sportscaster Tom Davis was just beginning a session with the theme of "The Hitters", and he introduced new first baseman Garrett Atkins, my personal favorite player Brian Roberts, incumbent All-Star and Gold Glove center fielder Adam Jones, and cornerstone right fielder Nick Markakis. I met up with Camden Chat co-editor Stacey, and we snapped some photos (mine were taken with my crummy iPhone camera) and marveled at the hideous, bushy majesty of Markakis' black beard. Nick was sitting onstage next to Adam, who was wearing diamond earrings and a dark suit with a pink tie, and the contrast was greatly entertaining. (Nick was also wearing a camouflage baseball cap and sweatshirt and jeans, FYI.) One young woman begged him to shave the beard; to paraphrase her point, he's pretty and all, but that look ain't cutting it. He of course reminded her that with the team's strict anti-facial hair policy, he only gets to enjoy his wooliness for another month before it all goes away. There wasn't anything especially enlightening about the session (Brian doesn't know how he hits so many doubles, though it probably involves taking dumb risks; Adam hasn't had much luck selling his teammates on the benefits of Twitter; Garrett is looking forward to playing here; etc.), but it was great to see some of the team's best players interacting with the fans and showing a little personality...even if most of that personality was provided by Roberts and Jones.
With half an hour to kill until the next Fan Forum, we wandered the premises. There were booths set up for memorabilia dealers (which I shrewdly avoided - most of my money is going toward that house thing for the near future), local radio and TV stations, charitable foundations, and more. One booth had information and artifacts from the Negro Leagues. There were a couple of former players signing autographs, and regrettably I didn't stop to make a note of who they were. Nor did I play "Orioles Bingo" or "Family Feud", but I can't say I'm kicking myself over that. Somewhat amusingly, there was also a group of people in line to receive free O's memorabilia, which looked to be previous seasons' leftover giveaways such as George Sherrill and Gregg Zaun t-shirts. I spotted veteran Charm City sportscaster Keith Mills out in the open and introduced myself. He was very friendly, and showed off his uncanny knowledge of local prep sports - when I mentioned that he emceed one of my high school's pep rallies, he immediately spit out the name of my cross country coach. Stacey and I also scoped out the autograph stations, just to grab another peek at some of the players and snap some more photos. Here's a picture of former shortstop and new minor league offensive coordinator Mike Bordick (who looks the same as ever, just a bit grayer) and slugger Luke Scott (who may be a werewolf).At 11:15, we ventured back to the Fan Forum, where Orioles TV broadcaster and pregame host Jim Hunter was kicking off the segment featuring "The Rookies". By all accounts, this was the most heavily-attended session of the day, with an overflow crowd circling around the stage and seating area to get a glimpse of an impressive collection of five players, none older than 26: catcher Matt Wieters, left fielder Nolan Reimold, and pitchers Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman. While giving me hope for the future of the O's, this group also made me feel old. Bergesen talked about being in grade school the first time he watched new teammate Kevin Millwood pitch, and Matusz in particular looked like a baby-faced teenager. You could just sense the fan appreciation for the "new kids", from the youngster who asked the three pitchers where they were planning to display their Cy Young Awards to the middle-aged fan who spoke about growing up during the glory years of the Earl Weaver teams and tried to impress upon the young players the importance of that tradition to those that still root for the team after all of the frustrations of the past decade-plus. Naturally, most of the questions were for Wieters. Speaking of the heavily-hyped catcher, it was mentioned several times that he makes sure to give his batterymates an earful if they give up a hit after shaking off one of his pitch calls.

So that was the short and the (mostly) long of my abbreviated day at FanFest. If you were there, I hope you had a great time and maybe even got a few signatures. If you missed out, I'd recommend it in 2011. Now, on to Sarasota!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Topps Heritage #15

Just five days after I posted about Miguel Tejada and his unsigned status for the 2010 season, he came back to Baltimore. News broke during yesterday's FanFest that the soon-to-be third baseman, who was a three-time All-Star in his first go-round with the Birds, had agreed to a one-year contract pending a physical. Despite his shortcomings (doesn't take walks, switching to a new position, losing his power stroke, has a reputation for pouting when the losses pile up), I think he's as good as the Orioles could do if they were determined to bridge the gap to third base prospect Josh Bell via free agency. He's still likely to hit near .300 and play every day, and no matter what the media may have reported about his behavior, his once and future teammates Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts have spoken in positive terms about him.

I certainly feel better about penciling him into this year's lineup than other rumored targets like Joe Crede (whose back is so bad that he's practically in traction) and Hank Blalock (whose picture has been on milk cartons since about 2005). This also appeals to the sentimentalist in me. For all of the good that Tejada did in an Orioles uniform for his four seasons here, he deserved a better ending than he got. Sure, there might not be many happy endings in baseball, but now he at least has a shot at one.

So welcome back to Charm City, Miggy. Make it count.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ty Wigginton, 2009 Upper Deck #540

If you see this spaceholder, I didn't make it home in time to post tonight. I'll make it up to you tomorrow!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Curt Motton, 1970 Topps #261

I hate to begin the weekend on a down note, but it's my sad duty to pass along the news that Curt Motton has lost his battle with stomach cancer. He was 69 years old. I didn't know much about Curt, but this very heartfelt remembrance from Roch Kubatko's blog gave me a good sense of his character. He was by all accounts a very warm and friendly guy, known to his friends and teammates as "Cuz". Terry Crowley mentioned that Motton was a player who had "terrific" minor league numbers but was blocked by the great regulars with the Orioles in the late 1960s. Well, the Crow wasn't just whistling Dixie. Curt was a .297 hitter in the minors, peaking at .333 at Class A Stockton in 1963, after which he lost a year-plus to military service.

"Cuz" peaked in 1969, when he hit .303 with a .573 slugging percentage in limited at-bats for the American League champs. He homered six times in 89 at-bats. (The entire league batted .246 and slugged .369.) He also broke a scoreless tie with a game-winning opposite-field single in the bottom of the eleventh inning in Game Two of the 1969 ALCS.

The really astounding thing about Roch's blog post was his list of all of the 1970 World Champion Orioles who have passed away; Motton is the tenth player, and two coaches are also departed. I realize that 40 years have gone by, but that's still tough to hear. Hopefully you'll take the chance to meet some of your heroes whenever the opportunity arises. For my part, I will be at FanFest early tomorrow afternoon (11-1:15 or so); if you spot me in my "Baltimore" road jersey, come say hello. I still look a lot like my profile picture, just with a patchy beard.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scott Moore, 2007 Topps '52 Rookies #194

Pitchers and catchers don't report to spring training for another month yet, but the benefits of the Orioles' move from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota all already becoming clear. Earlier this week, the O's announced their list of Spring Training invites: twelve players in all, including injury-prone third baseman Scott Moore.

In past years, the O's had to cram their major league camp with as many warm bodies as possible; the minor league facility was 200 miles away in Sarasota. Since they couldn't just walk across the street and grab a few spare players for a split-squad game or a long road trip to Jupiter, the big league camp was packed with a rogue's gallery of has-beens, never-will-bes, and whosits. Last year, the O's had 71 guys in Fort Lauderdale. As in a 40-man roster plus 31. Yikes.

So now we don't have to scramble to figure out who the heck Scott Chiasson and Craig Brazell are (yes, they were actually non-roster invitees in 2009), nor do we have to worry that they'll go north with the team due to some horrible clerical error. Welcome to Ed Smith Stadium, you crazy Orioles.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

David Wells, 1997 Upper Deck #251

Over the course of his 21-year career, David Wells called a lot of different cities home. He switched teams 11 times and played for nine different teams: the Blue Jays (twice), Tigers, Reds, Orioles, Yankees (twice), White Sox, Padres (twice), Red Sox, and Dodgers. Whew! The above card highlights his series-tying win in Game Two of the 1996 ALCS, in which the O's beat the Yankees 5-3. The following season, "Boomer" jumped ship from Baltimore to New York as a free agent. You just couldn't tie this guy down.

Much like Wells, I've been on the move more than I cared to be over the past few years (of course, I stayed in Maryland through it all). Since June of 2008, I've packed up all of my belongings twice, going from Columbia to Silver Spring to Chase. Next month, I'll be doing it all again, but this will be the last move for a while...knock on wood.

Tonight I signed a contract to purchase my brother-in-law's rowhouse in Parkville, which means that I'm taking the leap into home ownership for the first time. It's an exciting and overwhelming thing, and there's still a lot to be done in the next few weeks: tons of loan paperwork, an appraisal and inspection, some cosmetic improvements to the walls and floors, some furniture shopping, and of course the actual act of moving in. But I'm thrilled to be near the Beltway (not too near), and consequently closer to work. Needless to say, I'm also relieved to be escaping from the "blogger living in his parents' basement" stereotype. I'm going home. My home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1992 Score #884

Few people realize that Cal Ripken, Jr.'s historic consecutive games played streak almost came to an untimely end at 1,495 straight. It was July 14, 1991, and Cal and the Orioles had just lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in 11 innings in Oakland. Trying to get his mind off of an 0-5 day at the plate, the shortstop agreed to an impromptu photo shoot with Score. He was still preoccupied, however, and didn't think it odd when the photographer led him to the defunct 16th Street train station. Lost in his own thoughts, Junior failed to hear the giant old-timey locomotive that was bearing down on him, seemingly from nowhere. The photographer (who would be fired shortly thereafter) claimed that he tried to warn the player of his impending doom, but that his shouts were drowned out by the loud, shrill whistle of the train. Luckily and mysteriously, the original "iron horse" stopped inches short of squashing Baltimore's native son. But after everyone had recovered their wits and checked the train, there was not a single living soul to be found inside.

Strange but true.*

*=Not actually true

Monday, January 18, 2010

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Donruss Diamond Kings #28

There's a lot more uncertainty in Miguel Tejada's life now than there was when he was the subject of this portrait five years ago. He is no longer a threat to hit 20 home runs, much less 30, and hasn't driven in more than 100 runs since his excellent 2004 season. His defense at shortstop has slipped to the point that he will likely have to shift to third base to keep his career going. Of course, the Catch-22 is that his dwindling offensive numbers will look even less significant when compared to the competition at the hot corner. So it is that the 35-year-old, who has dealt with off-the-field revelations about his age (he was previously assumed to be two years younger) and performance-enhancing drug use (he was implicated in the Mitchell Report early in 2008), remains an unsigned free agent with a month left before spring training begins.

But rather than pouting about a lack of strong contract offers, Miggy seems to have focused on helping those whose problems are much greater than his. Yesterday, the former O's shortstop rode aboard a helicopter to Haiti to personally deliver emergency water, food, and other supplies to the impoverished victims of last week's major earthquake. Tejada is a native of the neighboring Dominican Republic, and employs four Haitians at his home. He said that the people of Haiti are his "brothers" and that he wants to bring them support. It would have been easy to write a check and not to have given this dire situation another thought, but the 2002 American League MVP gave his money and his time. He traveled to a place that most of us are probably thanking our lucky stars that we'll never have to see in person. I'm more than happy to call more attention to his good deed, rather than spend more time drudging up outrage over comparatively insubstantial matters like Hall of Fame voting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jehosie Heard, 1994 Topps 1954 Archives Gold #226

Ninety years ago today, Jehosie "Jay" Heard was born in Athens, GA. Sadly, he passed away in 1999, but in his life he made his mark on the baseball world. On April 24, 1954, he made his major league debut, becoming the first black pitcher in Orioles history.

The 34-year-old rookie had an unconventional path to the major leagues, never having played or even seen a game of baseball until he served in the Army during World War II. However, he was a quick study, joining the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues in 1948 and winning a league championship. In 1952, he was a 20-game winner for Victoria of the Western International League. The following year, he won 16 games for the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League, which brought him to Baltimore.

Jay's entire big league career consisted of a pair of relief appearances for the O's in 1954, but he worked hard to get even that far and should be celebrated today.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adam Jones, 2009 Upper Deck Goudey #15

Today we're talking football through a baseball lens. While I watched my Ravens improbably steamroll the Patriots last Sunday, I was also checking Adam Jones' Twitter feed and it was heartening to see that he was rooting openly for the Ravens. Somehow, I don't think that will be the case tonight when the Ravens travel to Indianapolis for a high-stakes playoff game; winner advances to the AFC Championship, loser goes home.

Adam is a self-professed Indianapolis (ugh) Colts fan, and a great admirer of their star quarterback Peyton Manning. When the Colts visited Baltimore during the regular season, Jones did the wise thing and showed up on the field level with a Johnny Unitas Baltimore Colts jersey on his back. That's what I love about Dr. Jones - he gets it.

Even if Charm City's emerging young center fielder isn't pulling for Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, and company, you can bet that I will be. It was beyond my wildest dreams for this particular team to beat Tom Brady and the Pats for the first time ever and advance to the second round. To exorcise their Manning demons and the haunting memories of the horseshoes driving out of Baltimore in Mayflower vans 25 years ago would be a best-case scenario. Hey, why not? Go Ravens!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Paul Blair, 1977 Topps #313

Although I consider myself a diehard Orioles fan, I've never had much interest in attending the annual FanFest, which takes place downtown prior to every season. But this year, I'm intrigued. The Birds open the 2010 regular season in Tampa, so rather than host FanFest at Camden Yards a day or two before Opening Day they're doing it at the Baltimore Convention Center next Saturday, January 23 from 11 AM to 6 PM. If you're not sure whether this is your idea of a good time, just check out the list of O's (past, present, and future) who are slated to attend:

In addition to practically everyone on the 40-man roster (including Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters), there are almost 30 ex-Orioles who will be there to shake hands and sign autographs. This list is a veritable who's who of great O's teams of yore, as well as a few names for the truly knowledgeable fan. That includes Mr. Paul Blair, as well as Mike Bordick, Don Buford, Al Bumbry, Mike Cuellar, Rick Dempsey, Ken Dixon, original team member Joe Durham, Todd Frohwirth, Dick Hall, Ron Hansen, Chris Hoiles, Billy Hunter, Dave Johnson, Rick Krivda, Calvin Maduro, Scott McGregor, John Miller, Tim Nordbrook, Joe Orsulak, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Gary Roenicke, Larry Sheets, Nate Snell, John Stefero, B. J. Surhoff, Bill Swaggerty, and Fred Valentine. Yes, I got too lazy to link each player.

In the past year or two, I've started amassing a modest collection of Oriole autographs. This would be a great opportunity to add to that collection, and maybe even to meet some of my all-time favorites like Hall, Hoiles, Palmer, and Surhoff. So hopefully I'll have a chance to make it down to the Convention Center, and maybe I'll see some of you there too!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kris Benson, 2007 Fleer Ultra #14

It's usually fun to do these "When Was This Game?"-type posts. This is an easy one: July 2, 2006, Orioles at Atlanta. The outfield wall is a giveaway, and of course Kris Benson only pitched at "the Ted" once in his only year in Baltimore. But this game isn't one to reminisce about.

Dude got his brains beaten in.

When embattled manager Sam Perlozzo sent reliver Chris Britton to the mound to start the sixth inning, Benson's pitching line settled at 5.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 4 K. He gave up home runs to the gruesome twosome of Ryan Langerhans and Wilson Betemit, and one of the two errors that led to the unearned runs was committed by the pitcher himself. He turned a 2-0 lead (via a Melvin Mora 2-run HR) into a 6-2 deficit in a game the Birds would lose 10-3.

This one's a hit-and-run piece, but I saw the card, became curious, looked up the box score, and was sorely disappointed. There's no sense in not sharing that disappointment with the people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jay Gibbons, 2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition #93

Once again, I am the lone demented voice crying out in the wilderness to tell one and all that Jay Gibbons has reached the next signpost in his Sisyphean journey back to the major leagues. The former Oriole, who will be 33 on Opening Day and has not played in the MLB since 2007, has signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers and a spring training invite. It smacks of a last ditch effort. In the past two and a half years, here's the path that Jay's career has taken:

September 2007: Implicated as a steroid and human growth hormone user by Sports Illustrated. A torn labrum had already brought a halt to his worst season to date (.230, 6 HR, 28 RBI in 84 games).

December 6, 2007: Suspended by commissioner Bud Selig for the first 15 games of the 2008 season.

March 29, 2008: Released by the Orioles on the eve of the new season, bringing an end to his seven-year tenure with the club. He had hit .189 with no homers and four RBI in 16 Grapefruit League games. With a rebuilding effort underway, the O's chose to eat the $11.9 million left on his contract rather than keep him around.

June-July 2008: Still unsigned, Jay sends a letter to all 30 teams pleading for a second chance and offering to donate his salary to charity. Ultimately, he signs with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League and hits .280 with five home runs in 107 at-bats.

July 22, 2008: Gibbons signs a minor league contract with the Brewers. He hits .308 with five homers in 34 games between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville. He is not promoted to Milwaukee, and becomes a free agent at season's end.

January 12, 2009: Jay signs a minor league contract with the Marlins. They invite him to spring training, but release him in mid-March after just 16 at-bats (with five hits, a .316 average), citing a roster crunch.

May 11, 2009: He signs with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. In 40 games, he hit .230 with four home runs. But he did get to rub elbows with a bunch of big league washouts.

Well, Gibbons is persistent anyway. Because of that, and because I used to enjoy rooting for him, I'll keep updating you on his progress. After all, I've got to do something with the THIRTY-FIVE cards of his that I own.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scott McGregor, 1983 Topps #745

Scott McGregor is wearing long sleeves; judging from the green backdrop, I'd say he's likely pitching in Memorial Stadium on a chilly April afternoon. It's so unmercifully cold in Baltimore right now - and has been so for the past few weeks - that I would kill for some brisk early Spring weather. I'm sure I've discussed my intolerance for frigid temperatures and early sundowns before; simply put, I was born in August and I live for summer. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of winter's bitter indignities. Grasping for extra layers of clothing and blankets, commuting to and from work in the dark, shivering bitterly as I struggle to complete my thoughts, listening jealously as the school closings are reported on the radio, suffering from chapped lips and dry skin, eschewing any and all outdoor activity...these are a few of my least favorite things.

C'mon April...and make sure that June, July, and August follow closely behind.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Aubrey Huff, 2009 Topps Attax #NNO

Next year, Aubrey Huff will wear orange and black and play near the Bay. Of course, it'll be the San Francisco Bay, and his cap will have an "SF" insignia, as he just signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Giants. That's a 63% pay cut from his 2009 salary, but them's the breaks when you're a 33-year-old slugger whose OPS dropped 218 points from one season to the next. Still, I wish the Manhorse (read the second paragraph here) well, and I thank him for doing the O's one last favor.

By signing with San Francisco, Huff damaged the leverage of fellow free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, who seems to have severely overestimated the market for his services. With a short-term vacancy at first base and a need for more power in the lineup, the Orioles would seem to be a good fit for LaRoche, who is in his prime at age 30 and should be counted on for 35-40 doubles, 25 home runs, and strong defense. But the ex-Brave and Pirate has been seeking a three-year, $30 million contract, which is too long and too rich for GM Andy MacPhail. Just last week, Adam reportedly turned down two years and $17 million from the Giants. Now he has one less bidder, and it's more likely that he could have to swallow his pride and take a one or two-year deal for a few less bills. I'd be fine with that, though I'm glad that the Birds never got around to trading Brian Roberts for LaRoche back in the middle of the last decade, as they planned to before owner Peter Angelos nipped it in the bud. Yikes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eddie Murray, 1999 Upper Deck Retro #109

I just can't resist doing a second straight football-themed post.

Throughout his Hall of Fame career, Eddie Murray wore number 33.

Today, the Baltimore Ravens scored exactly 33 points in steamrolling fragile little flower Tom Brady, snarling hobo curmudgeon Bill Belichick and the rest of the recently-dynastic New England Patriots. Next week, it's onward to Indianapolis to take exorcise some more demons against another insanely successful team.

How sweet it is!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mike Adamson, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #5

I've spent most of a fairly leisurely Saturday watching and thinking about football. It's the opening weekend of the playoffs, after all. As such, I didn't give much thought to today's post. So follow the stream of consciousness that led to this card and this player:

-The Jets defeated the Bengals, 24-14. Much was made of the matchup between quarterbacks Mark Sanchez of New York and Carson Palmer of Cincinnati, both of whom attended the University of Southern California.

-I wandered over to baseball-reference.com to find a list of major leaguers who were once USC Trojans.

-There have been 100 Southern Cal alumni in MLB to date. The most notable are Tom Seaver, Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Fred Lynn, Barry Zito, Dave Kingman, Bret Boone, and Don Buford.

-Despite the significant number of former USC players, only one has ever pitched for the Orioles: Mike Adamson. He was their first-round draft pick in 1967, debuted with the Birds days later at age 19, and went 0-4 with a 7.46 ERA in 11 games over three seasons. He was the first player to ever go straight to the majors from the draft, for all of the good it did him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Sam Bowens, 1966 Topps #412

A week ago, reader Jim asked when I would be getting around to Sam Bowens. Because my motto is "the customer is always right"*, I took him up on his request right away. It turns out that I've already dug up a lot of great facts about Sam for my 1965 Topps blog, as you can see here (I have no idea why Photobucket displays some of my images as black and white). But should that not slake your thirst for all things Bowens, feel free to peruse the following links:

-Sam's obituary from The Wilmington Star-News, April 1, 2003.

-A photo of his gravesite at Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Wilmington, NC.

-A list of the other major leaguers that share his March 23 birthday, most notably Lee May and George Scott.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Leo Gomez, 1995 Fleer Ultra #255

Sometimes, things happen when I'm not paying attention. According to this, former O's third baseman Leo Gomez is the bench coach for Baltimore's rookie-level Appalachian League team in Bluefield. It's an interesting full-circle deal, as he first set foot in Bluefield, WV as a 20-year-old in 1986 and hit .352 with seven home runs in the first 27 games of his pro career.

You know it's a slow offseason when I keep blogging about ex-Orioles who are coaching in the minors. But I'm a sucker for the good old names from my childhood and adolescence.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Roberto Alomar, 1998 Topps #285

This card has a special copper foil stamp in the top left corner indicating that it has been "minted in Cooperstown". Unfortunately, Roberto Alomar cannot yet say the same. I would express my annoyance and irritation with the schmucks of the Baseball Writer's Association of America who turned in blank ballots (there were five - Bert Blyleven missed election by FIVE VOTES) or gleefully explained their circular voting logic or voted for David Freaking Segui (one person actually did this)...but Adam Jones tweeted his dismay first, and I can't compete with that.

Instead, I'll actually try to play Polyanna on this one. If you look at the voting results, every single incumbent candidate received more votes this year than they did last year. That's not a great consolation when Tim Raines is getting 30 percent of the vote, but the voters are becoming more inclusive and there are more progressive and sane writers who are receiving the vote.

It's just that there's a lot of work left to do.

I'm not sweating Robbie much. While it's insane that the best second baseman of his era can't get in on the first try, he's close enough that he'll likely get there next year. Besides, Warren Spahn (363 wins!) was a second-ballot guy, so this crap has been going on for decades. I just hope that Bert can beat the clock.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Harold Baines, 1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #188

Well, this is it. After weeks of dissection, argument, and statistical analysis, the results of voting for the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 will be revealed tomorrow. While a handful of players seem to have good odds of being enshrined in Cooperstown this year, Harold Baines is likely not one of them. He seems doomed to that "very-good-not-great" purgatory that is reserved for players who were steady but unspectacular. I've had an appreciation for the Maryland native's hitting talent since he first put on an Orioles uniform in 1993, yet even I didn't realize just how consistently productive he was.

The always-edifying Joe Posnanski examined each candidate on this year's ballot for Sports Illustrated and suggested that Harold was "the most professional hitter in baseball history". According to Poz's research, he is:

-The only hitter to bat between .290 and .310 ten times.
-The only hitter with 15 seasons between 15-25 home runs.
-An 11-time member of the 20-plus doubles club. He also scored between 70-90 runs in a season eight times, and drove in between 88-105 runs eight times.

That's the sort of reliability that you can set your watch to, as they say. Who says it? Some guys, I guess. Anyway, I'll hope for some kind of future recognition for Baines, even if the Hall doesn't come calling.

By the way, how great is this card? In one shot, you've got Harold Baines, Cal Ripken, Jr., Arthur Rhodes, and Ben McDonald. That's 70 years of major league experience in all!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tim Raines, Jr., 2000 Topps #445

So here's another attention-grabbing 2000 Topps prospect card featuring an Oriole. There are actually two Orioles, counting future Bird Gary Matthews, Jr. Topps made a sharp move in putting three second-generation outfielders (all named after their accomplished fathers!) on the same card. The only thing that would be snazzier would be if all three of their major league dads also made an appearance.

So how do these flycatching progeny stack up against their papas?

The elder Tim Raines is hopefully a future Hall of Famer, by virtue of his .294 career average, .385 on-base percentage, and 808 stolen bases. Seven straight All-Star appearances don't hurt, either.

The first Gary Matthews spent 16 years patrolling major league outfields and has a Rookie of the Year award on his mantle. He hit .281 with a .364 on-base percentage, and batted .323 in four postseason series.

Garry Maddox, Sr. was an outstanding center fielder for 15 years, nabbing eight Gold Gloves. He didn't walk much, but did hit at an .285 clip. He was a teammate of Sarge Matthews on the Giants and the Phillies.

The Juniors have totaled 1,320 major league games in 14 seasons: 1,245 games belong to Matthews and 75 to Tim Raines, Jr. Garry Maddox, Jr. never made it to the bigs, and was out of organized baseball after 2003. "Little Sarge" has the only All-Star appearance, a 2006 selection that looks like a fluke in hindsight (he is a .258 career hitter). Raines has not played in the majors since a 48-game swing through Baltimore in 2004, despite hitting over .300 in the minors in 2007 and 2008.

As you can see, the younger trio had some especially big shoes to fill and couldn't quite achieve the same level of success as their fathers. But they still got closer than most young men with baseball dreams.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Matt Riley, 2000 Topps #446

I mentioned that I received the 2000 Topps hobby factory set as a Christmas gift last month. That night, I opened the box and thumbed through all 480 cards one by one. This card was one of those that made me do a double take. You are most likely more than familiar with these three players...as long as you're an Orioles fan. Their career numbers, through 2009:

Matt Riley: 5-4, 5.99 ERA, 78 K, 72 BB. Currently out of baseball.

Mark Mulder: 103-60, 4.18 ERA, two-time All-Star, one 20-win season

CC Sabathia: 136-81, 3.62 ERA, three-time All-Star, 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner

Meatloaf may have said that two out three ain't bad, but he wasn't an O's fan. This card is a pretty cruel joke on the Baltimore faithful.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mike Devereaux, 1996 Collector's Choice Silver Signature #468

Two days ago, I was talking about the return of Mike Bordick to the Baltimore organization. The same day, I heard that Mike Devereaux was also coming back into the fold. The former O's outfielder has signed on as the field coach for the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds, who also announced that hitting coach (and ex-Orioles third baseman) Ryan Minor has been promoted to manager. If nothing the else, the Birds are putting together a staff at the major and minor league levels that could kick some serious butt in Old-Timers' games.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1972 Topps #344

As this card depicting Dave McNally at two vastly different times in his life shows, the years go by in the blink of an eye. A couple of readers have already made the connection, but today marks this blog's second anniversary. When I started posting, I was hoping that I would be able to motivate myself to write something - anything - each day for the foreseeable future. 730 posts later, I'm still here and so are you, which means that I must be doing something right. As I begin another new year of observations on life, baseball cards, and the Orioles, I hope that you'll all be with me for the duration. I don't want much in 2010. If I can muddle through with health, happiness, security, friends and family, and a competitive season for the O's, I'll consider it a success. I wish the same things for my supportive and generous readers and commenters. I'll be back tomorrow...but you probably suspected as much.