Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Frank Robinson, 1988 Topps Traded #96T

So my plans took a sharp left turn on Monday, and that day's entry is being brought to you on a Tuesday. Better late than never. Let's keep with the Frank Robinson theme, as here we see an older, wiser Robby than the player depicted on the weekend's cards. He's putting his best face forward despite being given the thankless task of managing a rudderless mess of an Orioles team that has started the 1988 season 0-6. They will lose another 15 in a row to set a new record for season-opening futility, and will drop 107 of their 161 games in all. 34 and a half games will separate them from the American League East Champion Red Sox.

I keep coming back to the '88 Birds because I have never followed a team that seemed poised, right from the beginning of the year, to challenge their complete and utter futility...until now. This team was supposed to be much better, but here I am watching an injury and slump-wracked jumble of castoffs and underperformers stumble all over the place. It's now June and they're stuck on 15 wins - five more than Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. They are already 18 and a half games behind the Rays. I've had to put up with 34 games of Julio Lugo, 38 games of Garrett Atkins, and 20 of Lou Montanez. Most of the time, the bullpen seems to be comprised entirely of spare parts. I hate this.

This can't be fun to read on a weekly basis. I'm trying to make sense of a disaster of a season, and there are only so many ways to say that the Orioles are crummy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frank Robinson, 2004 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts #39

Nice design, "Baltimore" on the jersey, pleasant smile, use of uniform number, and just the slightest hint of afro puff. Thumbs up.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Frank Robinson, 2005 Donruss Leather and Lumber Big Bang #BB-11

Okay, I said I wouldn't comment, but I need to clarify: hidden in all of that foil and crap is a notation that Frank hit 586 career home runs. Nice design, Donruss...but at least you incorporated the classic Oriole Bird.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, 1972 Topps #88

As mentioned yesterday, I am now miles away from my computer and likely up in the Pennsylvanian mountains without Internet access. So here is a pre-scheduled Frank Robinson weekend, kicking off with an impressive tri-player league leader card from "The Psychedelic Tombstone Set", as Night Owl calls it. You know of course that Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson are Hall of Famers, having combined for 1159 home runs in their long and illustrious careers. But Reggie Smith was no slouch - a seven-time All-Star who once won a Gold Glove as an outfielder. He played for 17 seasons, batting .287 with a .366 on-base percentage, 314 home runs and 1092 RBI. As for the 1971 RBI race, it wasn't much of a contest. "Killer" was the only American Leaguer to drive in 100 runners (119 to be exact). Robby was left in his dust, runnering-up with 99; to be fair, injuries limited him to 133 games. Frank's two most popular Oriole teammates, Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson, tied for sixth overall with 92 RBI apiece.

For each of the next two days, I will publish a scan of a fantastic modern-day Frank Robinson card without commentary. I'm going to allow the pretty pictures to speak for themselves...and give me a little break. See you Monday!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brad Pennington, 1993 Bowman Foil #361

Tomorrow I'll be driving up to my family's lakeside cottage in Northeastern Pennsylvania for a long weekend getaway, but I'll leave a little something behind to tide you over. I was also hoping I'd be able to take a side trip to PNC Field to check out the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (hey, Yankee affiliate baseball is still baseball), but their homestand ends tomorrow night and I don't think we'll be up for the 40-plus minute drive after the five-hour trip that morning and afternoon.

I'm sitting here reflecting on my past experiences at that ballpark. Since I was an awkward middle schooler, I've enjoyed going to these AAA games with my father every time we got the chance. For much of that time, the team was known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, and they were the highest affiliate of the Phillies. Lackawanna County Stadium (as it was then known) was built in 1989, and it was a nice cozy place by minor league standards. There was a wooded area and rock formations directly beyond the outfield fence, giving the impression that the stadium had been carved right out of the mountain. There were aluminum bleacher benches down the third base line, and they were cheap and general-admission and offered a great view of the field. They also afforded a close proximity to the visitors' bullpen, which meant that you could get a good look at relievers, coaches, and catchers as they made their way to and fro. Over the years, I saw many future stars and starters of the Phillies; I particularly remember the buzz about Chase Utley. The Red Barons faithful sitting near us raved about the young second baseman, and they weren't disappointed.

Of course, the 2007 season brought some unwelcome (to me, at least) changes. Several teams shuffled their AAA affiliations, and the Phils shuffled their allegiance to a new Allentown team. My least favorite team swooped in and unimaginitively rechristened the S/W-B club as the Yankees, lest I try to forget who I was watching. The new ownership did everything they could to make a buck, including selling naming rights to the stadium to PNC Bank, charging a parking fee (it's a minimal one, but $2 is still more than the zero that it once was), draping garish sponsor's ad banners around the upper deck, and - most hurtful of all - reclassifying the bleachers as season ticket sections. That's right. If I want to go to a game now, I'm stuck up in the nosebleeds. Thanks a lot, guys.

But no matter what they do to dampen the fan experience on Montage Mountain, I'll always have my memories. Like the time I heckled Brad Pennington as he strolled to the visitors' clubhouse from the bullpen in his Durham Bulls uniform. Or the night I joined several thousand Red Barons fans in jeering Darryl Strawberry as he went 0-fer while rehabbing with the visiting Columbus Clippers (they played police siren noises every time he came up to bat). Those were the days.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Will Clark, 2000 Pacific Paramount Red #30

It's funny. I don't think of Will Clark as having been a productive player for the Orioles, mostly because he replaced the eye-popping numbers of Rafael Palmeiro and missed chunks of time due to injury. But according to Raphy (no relation) at the Baseball-Reference Blog, "The Thrill" had the seventh-best season among all hitters in the final year of their careers. That was the 2000 season, which he split between Baltimore and St. Louis. The 36-year-old played in 130 games (his second-highest total in seven seasons), hitting .319 with an excellent .418 on-base percentage, 30 doubles, 21 homers, and 70 RBI. His .964 OPS was the highest of his 15-year career, fueled largely by the 28 extra-base hits he stroked in 51 games after being traded to the Cardinals. His efforts totaled up to a 4.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a very solid number.

Among the six players whose swan songs outrank Will's, three come with an asterisk. The 1-2 combo of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch both played their final season at their physical peaks, as they were banned from baseball after the 1920 campaign due to their roles in the Black Sox scandal. Carlos Beltran currently ranks fourth because injuries have kept him out of action thus far in 2010, but he will likely drop back off the list before long. Long story short, an aging Will Clark was still a damn sight better than Garrett Atkins.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Val Majewski, 2005 Playoff Prestige #183

It's time once again for "Where's Kevin?", the thoroughly underwhelming spinoff to "Where's Waldo?". Shortly, I will be traveling to New Brunswick, NJ, proud hometown of Val Majewski, he of the 13-at-bat major league career. Val played college ball at Rutgers University. As coincidence would have it, the purpose of my trip is to represent my employer at a career fair at RU's New Brunswick campus. Send me good-traffic vibes and keep your fingers crossed that the hotel bed is comfortable.

Okay, sure, you're wondering where Val is now. He's right up I-83 with the York Revolution of the Atlantic Baseball League, along with fellow ex-Oriole Matt Riley. The Rutgers grad is acquitting himself well in the indy league, hitting .330 with a .392 on-base percentage, eight doubles, and 22 RBI in 29 games. Riley, however, has allowed ten runs on 15 hits and 11 walks in 14 innings of work. You win some, and you lose some.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ken Dixon, 1987 Fleer #468

Hey, whaddaya know? Ken Dixon has a place in baseball's record books. According to this post on the Baseball-Reference Blog, Ken is one of just 16 pitchers in the modern era (1901-present) to allow more home runs than walks in a season (with a minimum of 20 HR). In 1987, one of the most homer-happy seasons of all time, the righty served up 31 gopher balls while issuing only 27 free passes in 105 innings. To give you some indication of how many longballs were hit that year, Dixon's 31 didn't even place him in the top ten of the American League. He was edged out for the tenth spot by teammate Eric Bell, who let 32 hitters touch 'em all. In related news, the Orioles lost 95 games that year.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chris Hoiles, 1994 Topps #295

Chris Hoiles wore four different uniform numbers during his time with the Orioles. Two of those were #23 and #42, which happen to be a couple of the six numbers that have been an ongoing theme in LOST, a show that has been an obsession of mine for much of its six-year run on television. (The Numbers, of course, are 4-8-15-16-23-42. Some have noted that all six have been retired by the Yankees - but then, there aren't many numbers left that they haven't retired!) Tonight, LOST concludes its incredible and often confouding run with a massive two-and-a-half hour series finale. I can't wait to see how it all ends.

Speaking of numbers, I've received a couple emails from readers that indicate that something is awry with my NumerOlogy site. Broken links, virus alerts...I've got no idea what is going on, but for your own security, I wouldn't recommend visiting the site until I can figure it all out. Oh, technology.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Daniel Cabrera, 2003 Bowman #191

I'm in Frederick today as the girlfriend's wedding date. Here's something old (DCab's status as a rising young prospect), something new (I recently received this card in the mail), something borrowed (I assume that Daniel borrowed his hair from Miss Cleo), and something blue (the inner border of the card).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vintage Fridays: John Orsino, 1964 Topps #63

Today, May 21, is a momentous day. It is the 24th anniversary of the birth of the otherworldly being who will someday deliver all of Birdland from apathy, ennui, and suffering. Happy Wietersmas, everyone!
As coincidence would have it, two other (much less prominent) O's catchers also blow out the candles today: Chris Widger, who ended his career with a forgettable nine-game stint in Baltimore in 2006, is 39 today. Tommy Davis, a 2nd-round draft pick in 1994 whose entire career consisted of five games in mid-1999, hits the big 3-7.

As long as we're talking about catchers, let me throw a little love in the direction of John Orsino. "Horse" didn't have a particularly long career; he played in the majors for parts of seven years, but topped 25 games played only thrice. But he became a cult hero in Charm City in 1963, his only season as a primary starter. It was the Orioles' first season post-Triandos, and the 25-year-old Orsino had just arrived in a six-player trade with the Giants that was most notable for bringing veteran reliever Stu Miller to Baltimore. The new catcher grabbed some headlines in spring training by homering in each of his first five exhibition at-bats. He kept it going with a two-run home run in his first regular-season game, a 5-4 win over the Red Sox. The longballs just kept coming for John, as he finished the season with 19 of them. He posted a strong 133 OPS+ that led the team and ranked third among American League starting catchers, trailing only All-Stars Elston Howard and Earl Battey. He was also something of a Yankee killer, hitting three homers and driving in nine runs while batting .294 with a .940 OPS against the Bronx Bombers. The only team he did more damage against was the Senators (.353 AVG, 1.020 OPS, 3 HR, 11 RBI).

As I said, John wasn't long for this town. After slumping to .227 with 17 home runs over the next two seasons combined, he was traded to Washington and played only 15 games in two seasons to wrap up his big league career. But he's still a household name among longtime O's fans.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brian Roberts, 2004 Playoff Prestige #23

As a baseball fan, you know it's going to be a long year when it's only mid-May and your favorite player (who is also the senior member of the team and its offensive pace-setter) has already dealt with:

-a herniated disk in his lower back
-a stomach virus/gastrointestinal discomfort
-a strained abdominal muscle

I may have missed a malady or two, like scabies or Walking Leprechaun Syndrome. The past few months have been beyond belief vis a vis Brian Roberts. If any of my readers happen to know somebody that owns a B-Rob voodoo doll, could you please tell them to give it a rest?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Luke Scott, 2008 Topps Allen and Ginter #42

It's a poorly-kept secret that Luke Scott is a streaky hitter. Sometimes, it can be painful to watch him scuffle for extended periods of time, like the second half of last season (.208 AVG/.292 OBP/.375 SLG). But the upside is that when he gets hot, he's blazing. It's just plain fun to see him blasting the ball all over - and out of - the park.

In his first six games as an Oriole, Luke was 10-for-20 with three doubles and a home run. Over a nine-game stretch in June of 2008, he batted .387 with five homers and ten runs scored. He batted .485 and reached based at a .553 clip in a ten-game run that August, scoring eight times and tallying seven extra-base hits. And of course, there was a ridiculous 13-game swing in May and June of 2009 (interrupted by an injury) in which he batted .465 (20-for-43) and slugged 1.116, thanks to a double and nine home runs. He also drove in 20 runs and scored 14. Y'know, O's fans don't just bellow "LUUUUUKKKKEEEEE!!!" because it sounds neat.

Don't look now, but the soft-spoken, gun-toting, Bible-loving slugger is torching the opposition again. Since an 0-for-4 on May 4 left his average in a crater at .177, he has had 15 hits in his last 33 at-bats entering play tonight (.455). He's slugging 1.030, with a double, six homers, and 11 RBI in those nine games. That paltry batting average has been boosted 82 points to a healthier .259. Last night all he did was go deep twice off of 2009's Cy Young, Zack Greinke.

Enjoy the ride, folks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brooks Robinson, 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated MVP Collection #2

If you see Brooks Robinson today, go ahead and wish him a happy 73rd birthday. Did you know that Brooksie's career batting average was .267 and his career home run total was 268? If he had gotten just two more hits in his 10,654 career at-bats, the two stats would have matched. Most people don't think about the legendary defensive-minded third baseman as a power hitter, but when you play for 23 years, you have plenty of chances to do something interesting with the longball. Here are some more pointless home run tidbits about the Human Vacuum Cleaner:

-He hit his 268 home runs off of 166 different pitchers. He most frequently victimized Bill Monbouquette and Dean Chance (six times each).

-Robinson hit 12 homers off of fellow Hall of Famers, including five against Catfish Hunter and three vs. Whitey Ford.

-37 of his homers were against the Red Sox, with 23 coming in Fenway Park. Those were his most frequently targeted team and opposing ballpark.

-He hit his only leadoff home run on September 1, 1961 against Barry Latman of the Indians. That's right, Brooks used to hit leadoff.

-Brooks hit one home run on his birthday. It was a two-run homer in 1971 against Fritz Peterson of the Yankees, and it gave Baltimore a 3-1 lead in the 4th inning. They won 6-2.

-He totaled eight walkoff homers, including a 14th-inning clout to top the Angels in 1962 and a 10th-inning grand slam in 1970 to frustrate the Yankees and give Mike Cuellar a complete-game victory.

-The final home run of his career was a walkoff shot - a three-run pinch-hit homer to down the Indians in the 10th inning on April 19, 1977! It was the only pinch HR of his storied career. If he had a real flair for the dramatic, he would have retired right then and there. But that wasn't Brooksie's style.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Adam Jones, 2009 Topps Triple Threads #26

Tonight I came home after spending the early evening touching up the paint job at my new house and found a rectangular box wrapped in brown paper on the front porch. I instantly new that it was my new copy of the Strat-O-Matic baseball board game, the spoils of my victory in the White Sox Cards trivia contest. Naturally, I tore right in. I was surprised to find that the game board featured a panoramic photograph of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards playing field! I assume that they have team-specific stadium shots for each club, but that was a nice touch. My previous incarnation of the game featured a generic drawing of a baseball diamond.

After I spent an hour separating all of the player cards from their perforated sheets, I decided to take the 2009 Orioles for a spin. What better opponent than the hapless Kansas City Royals? Since K.C. is actually in town tonight, I chose to go with the actual starting pitching matchup: Brad Bergesen vs. Kyle Davies. This one looked like it would be a laugher as the Birds put up a five-spot in the bottom of the first and chased Davies with two outs in the inning. Five of the first six batters reached and scored, with the big blow coming in the form of a Matt Wieters three-run homer. But reliever Robinson Tejeda blanked the O's through the fifth inning, and they scored their only other run on an Adam Jones home run in the seventh.

Bergesen turned in a strong start, pitching into the eighth inning and allowing only a pair of solo home runs in the third. Danys Baez allowed an inherited run to score, but Nick Markakis ended the threat by gunning down his second runner of the evening at home plate. You just don't run on Nick. Jim Johnson earned the save with a perfect ninth inning, and the lovely final was a 6-3 Baltimore win.

...If only real life were so pleasant. The Royals are still hapless, Bergesen kept his team in the game and allowed three earned, but the bats sputtered for the umpteenth time in 2010. Other guys 4, our guys 3. Yuck. I think the O's need a 20-sided die.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dorn Taylor, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #451

Last week there was a request from reader and frequently entertaining commenter William for Dorn Taylor. I take reader feedback very seriously, of course, especially when it allows me to show off a card of a guy who pitched a grand total of three and two-thirds innings in an Orioles uniform, all in 1990. Besides, he's the only "Dorn" in major league history (although his given name is actually Donald Clyde Taylor), and he looks kind of like Dwayne Wayne from the early 1990s sitcom A Different World. He's also from Abingdon, PA, roughly half an hour from my family's lakeside cottage in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Go figure.

In all seriousness, I've got respect for somebody like Dorn, who played college ball at a small Division II school in North Carolina (Pfeiffer College, which is now Pfeiffer University) and wasn't even drafted. He signed with the Pirates in 1981 as an amateur free agent and stuck it out for nine professional seasons, earning only brief cups of coffee in Pittsburgh and Baltimore in 1987, 1989, and 1990. You lived the dream, Dorn, and you did it with style.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Corey Patterson, 2006 Upper Deck #528

Tonight's results notwithstanding, Corey Patterson has been having a great time making my last blog entry about him look dumb. The O's won their first three games with him back in the lineup, and he had leadoff hits to ignite rallies in each game. He threw out the tying run at home plate to end a thrilling 6-5 win over Seattle on Thursday, and had three hits, a walk, and robbed a home run from Shin-Soo Choo in last night's 8-1 victory over the Indians. It's almost like he wants to stick around or something. If he keeps it up, Corey can stay as long as he likes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Bob Reynolds, 1975 Topps #142

If you like reading about baseball cards on the Internet (and if you don't, I'm not sure why you're here), you probably know that there's an embarrassment of riches in the way of blogs on the hobby. I'm sure there are tons of great ones out that that I never get around to reading. I find the sheer volume to be overwhelming, and tend to stick to the tried-and-true few that have served me well for the last couple of years. One of those is Greg (a.k.a. Night Owl)'s blog, which is well-written with an always-inquisitive approach to cards and a self-effacing humor. Within the past year he started a second blog, which pays tribute to the 1975 Topps set that was a major part of his childhood. It's through the latter that I learned of a fantastic incident involving Bob Reynolds and another more famous Oriole.

Reynolds was known as "Bullet Bob" thanks to a blazing fastball that could register triple digits on the radar gun. He had two great years out of the Baltimore bullpen, appearing in 96 games between the 1973 and 1974 seasons and winning 14 games and saving 16 others. His earned run average was a paltry 2.25. But apart from that, Bob was a true journeyman; he bounced among six teams in parts of six big league seasons. He totaled just 44 games in the other four years.

Bob's last stop in the bigs was Cleveland, where he appeared in five games late in the 1975 season. At the time, the Indians were managed by Frank Robinson, who was also at the tail end of his playing career. Reynolds went to spring training with the club the following year, but didn't make the cut and toiled at AAA Toledo all season. As it happened, he was 34 days short of the minimum service time required to draw a major league pension. In midseason, the Indians played an exhibition game against their top farm team. Reynolds faced Robinson and retired him on a fly ball. As the future Hall of Famer was making his way back to the dugout, the pitcher shouted at him, demanding to know why he had been demoted. Frank didn't appreciate being challenged, even in an exhibition, and charged across the field to knock his ex-player off his feet with a surprise punch.

Reynolds claims it was a misunderstanding. As of the writing of this article (July 2003), the two had not spoken since that exciting game, though Robinson made an attempt to call his victim that very year and could not reach him.

All I know is that I wouldn't look at Frank Robinson sideways if I wanted to keep my teeth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1996 Collector's Choice You Make the Play #33

It's time for a pop quiz! Don't worry, it doesn't count toward your final grade. One of my latest time-wasting obsessions is Sporcle, a site full of user-created timed quizzes on any and every subject under the sun: music, television, sports, geography, history, language...you name it. Naturally I gravitate toward the sports quizzes. There are a ton just pertaining to the Orioles, if you do a site search, but I also like to challenge myself with more general-knowledge stuff, like the 20-game winners of the 2000s or the members of the Hall of Fame. It was just a matter of time before I decided to throw my own hat into the ring. I present to the first quiz of my own creation: The Top Ten All-Time Maryland-Born Home Run Leaders. Billy Ripken just missed the cut, but his brother might be on there. I wouldn't want to give away my secrets. So go give it a whirl, and let me know what you think! I'd also appreciate it if you could rate the quiz. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Corey Patterson, 2007 Topps Opening Day #44

I've been anticipating this post for at least a week, but it still feels weird. Corey Patterson has returned. The simple fact that Corey and his .290 career on-base percentage are back, much less that he's being counted upon as a breath of fresh air by some, tells you in a nutshell just how poorly the season is going in Baltimore. Still, he's a good baserunner and a strong fielder, both of which are in short supply on this club. No one expects him to hit .368 as he was at AAA Norfolk, but even if he hit 100 points below that he would be miles above most of his new teammates...

...Including Lou Montanez, who must have photos of Andy MacPhail in a compromising position. I understand that Nolan Reimold was demoted so he could continue to get steady playing time and hopefully regain some confidence, but I don't see why Lou couldn't join him on the shuttle bus. He's a 28-year-old minor league veteran who has four singles in 35 at-bats. That's a .114 average to go with a .253 OPS (-30 OPS+). You can't tell me that any AAA outfielder at random couldn't give the Birds something more than that.

If there's anything that concerns me about Corey Patterson II: The Coreying, it's that Diamond Dave Trembley won't be able to resist the urge to bat him leadoff. Hey, he's a fast, slightly built guy, so naturally he bats first, right Dave? Ugh. Yes, the O's miss the steady presence of Brian Roberts at the top of the order, but I'd love it if the skipper could keep a guy with a sub-.300 OBP down low where he belongs. Corey's unfitness for the leadoff position has even been immortalized in t-shirt form.

By the way, Corey Patterson is batting first tonight. Ouch. Prove me wrong, ol' pal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jay Tibbs, 1989 Score #262

There's something rotten in the state of Denmark when I'm posting a second Jay Tibbs card in the span of three weeks. Jay probably wishes that I wasn't mentioning him, since I'm now bringing up his ten-game personal losing streak during that season. He actually started out 2-0 and 4-5 in 1988 before dropping the rest of his decisions that year. Strangely enough, he went undefeated for the O's in 1989, running up a 5-0 record in an injury-shortened campaign.

This brings us to current O's starter David Hernandez, who has now surpassed Tibbs' 10-game skid by losing 11 straight since starting his career 4-4. His is the longest ongoing skein in the major leagues, as you might suspect when it's May and a guy is winless since the previous August. David hasn't had much help, of course. The anemic Baltimore offense has put up a total of 21 runs in his seven starts, with only six of those tallies coming while he was actually in the game. The second-year hurler could use a break soon, or at least before he mounts a serious challenge to ex-Met Anthony Young's record string of 27 losses.

Of course, with Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta knocking on the door, he might not get the chance to make such dubious history anyhow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nick Markakis, 2009 Topps Chrome #130

Does your mind ever get stuck on one track, causing you to completely shut out all else, to your own detriment? That happened to me last night.

I spent yesterday hanging out with my girlfriend and really dragged my feet getting home. It was a quarter after ten when I finally climbed into my car and drove home. I made excellent time, but that still meant that it was almost midnight when I got back.

A smart person would have gone straight to bed. Instead, I scanned a card and wrote something quick for this blog. I still could have called it a night and gotten five and a half hours of sleep. Nahh, gotta put a link on Twitter. While I was there, I glanced at my feed and saw that Steve of White Sox Cards had posted a link to the trivia contest on his blog with a note that no one had guessed correctly yet. I'd glanced at the question earlier that day, saw a few quick responses in the comments, and assumed that one of them would be right. There are lots of sharp cookies in the baseball card blogosphere. But I still had a chance to win, and the prize was a 2010 version of the Strat-o-Matic Baseball board game. Count me in!

The question that burned a thousand brain cells was this: "What flash in the pan Major League pitcher ended his long professional career by fielding a triple play?"

Hint: It happened in the twentieth century.

So I started furiously Googling. I found a SABR database that listed every major league triple play by fielding position. I went through the pitchers one-by-one throughout the 1900s, looking up their career stats to see if the triple play occurred in their final game. The only one was Pete Smith, who had already been guessed and shot down by Steve. I tried some text searches and just couldn't narrow things down. At 1:30 AM, I finally headed to bed, exhausted and frustrated.

I got up for work four-plus hours later feeling like I'd been hit by a truck. I pulled up Steve's blog on my iPhone and checked the comments: still no winner. All morning I chewed on the maddening problem, finally gathering from Steve's further remarks that "professional" was the key word. This triple play could have happened in a minor league game...or in Mexico, Japan, or elsewhere. That didn't make things easier, since MLB stats are those that are most readily available and painstakingly documented. This mysterious triple play could have happened any time, anywhere! I tried honing in on the "flash in the pan"qualifier, searching for baseball's all-time fluke seasons. How about the "long professional career" portion of things? I tried to uncover some ageless hurler that had slipped my mind but came up with the usual suspects like Nolan Ryan and Satchel Paige.

Finally, as my lunch break was drawing to a close, I gave it one last Hail Mary. I did a site-specific search of the Baseball-Reference.com Bullpen wiki with the terms "triple play" and "ended his career". Within the first ten results, I struck gold! My mystery man was Bruno Haas, and he was a flash in the pan in the sense that his major league career consisted of nine games for the 1915 Athletics. A desperate Connie Mack had signed the 24-year-old Haas right out of prep school, where the young man had befriended Connie's son Roy. In his major league debut, Bruno set a dubious major league record by walking 16 batters. He had an 11.93 ERA in six games on the mound. He also spent three games in the outfield, and went 1-for-18 at the plate. Afterward, Bruno went on to play in the minors for 21 years without ever making it back to the bigs. He became a star outfielder for the St. Paul Saints and moonlighted as an NFL halfback.

Remarkably, Haas' story doesn't end there. He founded the Northern League, which lasted almost 40 years despite having its origins in the Great Depression, and continued his baseball career as a minor league manager, playing in games sporadically. The last such appearance came in an All-Star Game in 1946, when the 55-year-old inserted himself as the pitcher in the ninth inning. He allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases, then made a diving stop of a ground ball and threw home to force the runner. The catcher fired the ball to first base for the second out, and the first baseman made a heads-up play to cut down the runner from second base trying to score. Bruno knew how to quit while he was ahead!

So I can finally rest easy as I wait for my new copy of Strat-o-Matic. When it arrives, I'll do my best to turn the 2009 Orioles into a winner. I've heard that Nick Markakis has a defensive rating of 1, which is the best possible designation. That's a start, right?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Koji Uehara, 2009 Topps 206 #23

He may have only pitched in two games since starting the season on the disabled list, but the early returns on Koji Uehara as a late-inning reliever are encouraging. Protecting leads in both contests, the Japanese hurler has retired six of the seven batters he's faced. He's thrown only 24 pitches, 19 for strikes (as is his M.O.). Now if he can make it through the next five months without his hamstrings exploding, we'll be getting somewhere.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jamie Moyer, 1995 Pacific #26

When this photo was taken, Jamie Moyer was a mere lad of 31 years. Sixteen years later, he has supplanted Phil Niekro to become the oldest man to ever throw a shutout in the major leagues at 47 years, 170 days of age. He accomplished the feat last night, two-hitting the Braves in a 7-0 Phillies win (his 262nd career victory, 40th-best all-time). When told of his place in history, Moyer's response was typically understated: "Really? Cool. Just doing my job."

If you've been reading me for a while, you know that I never tire of "Jamie Moyer is so old" trivia. As Joe Angel joked on the radio today, his first name has become "The 47-Year-Old". You can't say his name without mentioning his age in the same breath. Well, here's a great piece of business. Last night's two-hitter was the third of Jamie's career. The first came in his ninth career start, on August 16, 1986. Pitching for the Cubs, the southpaw defeated the Montreal Expos, a team that no longer exists. The losing pitcher was Floyd Youmans, who has not pitched in the majors for 21 years. The starting left fielder for Chicago was Gary Matthews, whose son is now a 12-year major league veteran.

Cool indeed. Keep doing your job, Jamie.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Robin Roberts, 1963 Topps #125

I really wish that I didn't have to spend so much time on this blog providing obituaries for the men who made baseball in Baltimore what it is today. I suppose it goes with the territory when your favorite team is in its 57th year of existence, and when the glory days of that club are several decades in the past. Still, it's been an uncommonly rough year for ex-Orioles. By my count, six have passed away in the first four months and change of 2010. That's not even counting former radio man Ernie Harwell and longtime traveling secretary Phil Itzoe. The world is moving on.

I don't have much to say about Robin Roberts, who died yesterday after a remarkable 83 years on this Earth. Within the past year or two I contemplated mailing him one of the few cards I own that shows him in his O's uniform, but I heard that he charged a few bucks for his autograph and put it on the back burner. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Ultimately, there's nothing I can say about the Hall of Famer that would compare to the excellent and heartfelt eulogy that Joe Posnanski delivered in his blog yesterday. Please give it a read.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Justin Turner, 2010 Upper Deck #39

Just in case (Justin? Get it? I'll show myself out) you haven't laid your hands on any of this year's Upper Deck cards, check this out. After losing their MLB license, the 20-year veteran of the Card Wars goes out with a whimper. Bland design, hideous rookie card logo, nicknameless cities (even though the Orioles and Red Sox are mentioned as such on the card back), and not-fooling-anyone photograph angles. Sure, Justin Turner's torso is contorted in such a way that the insignia on the front of his jersey is obscured, but did they think they could get away with showing half of the bird logo on his helmet? Rest assured that there are much more blatant examples in this set, which I for one have no earthly desire to collect. See you in another life, Upper Deck.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Larry Bigbie, 2004 Leaf Certified Materials #121

What would possess me to feature a Larry Bigbie card tonight? Well, I want to talk about Eric Byrnes, but I don't have any cards of him in an Orioles uniform. But the O's did trade Bigbie to acquire him at the trade deadline in 2005. It's a long and winding road that runs through my brain, but it gets you where you need to go.

Byrnes had been a productive major leaguer for a few seasons prior to his arrival in Baltimore, seeming to really come into his own with a .283 average, 20 homers, and 73 RBI in 2004. But he had been scuffling in Oakland in '05, and didn't light the world on fire in the two-and-a-half weeks he spent with the Rockies (.189 in 53 at-bats). The Birds must have hoped that the third team was a charm (or they were desperate to unload the fragile Bigbie), but they were off the mark. He didn't hit for average (.192), power (.299 SLG), or work the count (.246 OBP). He was 4-for-55 (.073) after August 31. Plus, the team cratered both on and off the field, having completed an in-season first-to-worst mini-collapse. So my first prolonged exposure to the man dubbed "the Human Crash Test Dummy" (for his reckless disregard for his own body in the outfield) was altogether unpleasant.

That offseason, Eric signed with the Diamondbacks. That's when he really started to bug me. He looked like a whole different player, putting up 67 doubles, 47 home runs, 162 RBI, and 75 steals with a .277 average in the 2006 and 2007 seasons combined. It was bad enough that he was producing while we were suffering with the likes of Jay Payton in left field, but he also started showing up on offseason and postseason ESPN and FOX baseball broadcasts as a loud, uninteresting, mop-headed color analyst. I particularly remember him camping out in a kayak in McCovey Cove during the 2007 All-Star Game. It was as hilarious as it sounds.

Of course, the Eric Byrnes I was familiar with from that two-month stretch of 2005 reared his ugly head soon after signing a three-year, $30 million contract extension with the Snakes. Injuries limited him to 136 games over the past two seasons, and his batting line was a grisly .218/.271/.382. This prompted Arizona to eat the last year of his contract, whereupon Seattle snapped him up on the cheap. The now-34-year-old hit rock bottom for the Mariners, scraping together three hits in 32 at-bats (.094) and going out in a blaze of baffling glory last Friday night. With Ichiro on third base with one out in the 11th inning of a scoreless tie, Byrnes was called upon to squeeze bunt. For no apparent reason, he pulled the bat back, leaving the incoming runner dead to rights. After the ball reached the catcher, Eric inexplicably squared to bunt again! Ichiro was easily tagged out, and opposing manager Ron Washington of the Rangers was ejected for arguing that the pitch should have been called a strike. A few pitches later, Byrnes struck out anyhow.

After the game, the floundering outfielder did not stick around to answer for his bizarre decision. Instead, he exited the clubhouse and rode his bicycle through the hallway, passing a group of reporters and Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik along the way. After sitting out Saturday's game, he went 0-for-4 on Sunday and was released shortly thereafter. It remains to be seen where he will land next, but I can only hope it's not anywhere near my television.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1991 O-Pee-Chee Premier #100

When the Orioles arrived in Baltimore in 1954, Ernie Harwell was there to call their games on the radio. He shepherded Charm City's baseball fans through those lean early years before moving on to Detroit in 1960. But he was back for the emotional farewell to Memorial Stadium in 1991, as his Tigers were the opponent in the final O's game on 34th Street. He made the call when Cal Ripken, Jr. hit into a double play to bring that game to a close.

Today we bid a bittersweet farewell to Ernie, who passed away at home after an eight-month battle with inoperable cancer of the bile duct. He lived a rich and full 92-year life. Rest in peace, Ernie.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jeremy Guthrie, 2009 Upper Deck #16

I find Yankee manager Joe Girardi to be insufferable.

Yeah, I know, major news flash. I’ve waxed rhapsodic about my distaste for all things pinstriped over and over again in the past few years. After a particularly spiteful post-2009 World Series entry, I was even chided in the comments by reader and Yankee fan Bo for going overboard. So I’ll try to make my case without lapsing into hyperbole, fun though it may be.

Girardi gets under my skin in a way that his predecessor Joe Torre never did. I generally respect the latter, a well-liked veteran and cancer survivor who paid his dues with a few undistinguished managerial jobs before taking over in New York just as the team’s talent was peaking. He might get too much credit for masterminding all of those World Series wins, but there’s no denying that he had a special touch when it came to massaging the egos of his star players and quietly suffering the bombast of owner George Steinbrenner. But this isn’t about Torre – it’s about Girardi.

First of all, he’s disingenuous. In June of 2007, he was a free agent, having been fired at the end of the previous year due to a personality conflict with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. The day after the Orioles fired manager Sam Perlozzo, they interviewed Girardi and offered him the job. On Wednesday he and the team decided to work on an agreement, and the very next day he reconsidered. If he had plainly said that he was holding out for a better job, that would have been one thing. The O’s were a mess, and he was a hot commodity, having won the National League Manager of the Year Award in his first try at the helm. But instead, he offered a tepid excuse about it not being “the right time for the Girardi family”.

Four months later was apparently the right time for the Girardis. That’s when the Yankees hired Joe as their new skipper. Right away, he displayed the pomposity that many baseball fans see in the Bronx Bombers by announcing that he would wear number 27 on his back, because he intended to deliver New York’s 27th World Series win. Gag. (When the team made good on his promise last year, he switched to #28. Double gag.)

Right from the beginning of his tenure as Yankee manager, Joe painted himself as an arbiter of the unwritten rules of sportsmanship and common decency in the great and storied game of baseball. During an exhibition game in March 2008, Tampa Bay rookie infielder Elliot Johnson collided with fellow prospect and Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli in an attempt to reach home plate and jar the ball loose from his glove. He fractured the catcher’s wrist, an unfortunate accident that was caused by a common (and accepted) baseball action. But Girardi climbed up on his soapbox, declaring the hungry young player’s decision as “uncalled for” and adding that it was “disheartening”. You can practically hear the condescending tone of the disappointed parent, can’t you? The next time the two teams played, Yankee outfielder Shelley Duncan showed his solidarity to his new boss by attempting to gouge Rays second baseman Aki Iwamura with his spikes on a late slide into second base. This touched off a brawl between the clubs – all in a preseason game! Surely Judge Joe was quick to condemn the malevolent action of his own player, in the interest of fairness. Actually, he danced around the topic, claiming that he hadn’t seen the play or viewed any replays in the 24 hours’ aftermath and not offering any specific comment when pressed by the media. Interesting, isn’t it?

The Orioles have also run afoul of Girardi’s sense of propriety – pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in particular. It seems that the O’s starter is a bounty hunter, out to collect Yankee scalps. Whoops, I’m lapsing into hyperbole. Guthrie has plunked a comparably high number of New York batters in recent years. He’s pegged 16 hitters total over the past two seasons, but half of them were Yankees. In an exhibition game (not again!) this very March, he got two more, including star first baseman Mark Teixeira and catcher Francisco Cervelli (that guy should probably stay away from the Grapefruit League altogether). Joe was quick to say in postgame comments that he did not believe that Guthrie was deliberately throwing at Teixeira, but he was “annoyed” that he could not control his pitches. I guess that explains why he yelled at Jeremy from his post in the Yankee dugout during the game.

Fast forward to last week, when Guthrie had his worst start of the young season against those same Yanks, giving up seven runs in an O’s loss. Another pitch got away from him, striking catcher Jorge Posada on the knee. The veteran backstop had to leave the game, and once again Joe just knew that Jeremy didn’t do it on purpose, BUT…"he hits a lot of people. That’s frustrating for us.” Tsk, tsk, Jeremy. If only you could be an upstanding and professional pitcher like that Roger Clemens.

So tonight it was Big Bad Guthrie against those poor unsuspecting Yankees. It's amazing that Girardi goes to such lengths to cast aspersions on a bike-riding, Stanford-educated Mormon family man - particularly one who has had considerable struggles against his team.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jim Palmer, 1987 Topps Kmart Stars of the Decade #17

No, you weren't dreaming. The Orioles just completed a three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is exactly one more win than they had all of last year against the Beantown bullies. Two extra-inning wins bookending a five-homer outburst. If it seems like it's been a while, that's only because it has. Discounting those goofy two-game series, the O's hadn't swept the Sawx in a home series since the summer of 1998, when they took a four-gamer behind wins from Jesse Orosco, Scott Erickson, and Doug Johns.

While you're digesting those names, consider the fact that the Birds have never swept a three-game series from Boston at Oriole Park. The last time they brought out the brooms for a trio of home games against the BoSox, it was 1974 - September 2-4, to be exact. That was a pretty remarkable series, as the Orioles whitewashed the Red Sox. In a Monday doubleheader, Ross Grimsley and Mike Cuellar each earned a 1-0 victory. Grimsley and Luis Tiant tossed matching three-hitters in the first game, but Bobby Grich's home run was the difference. Cuellar allowed only two hits in the second game, as Boston's Bill Lee was undone by a three-hit third inning culminating in a Paul Blair sacrifice fly. After a day off on Tuesday, Jim Palmer sealed the deal with another three-hitter on Wednesday as the O's won 6-0. Earl Williams swung the heavy lumber with a two-homer, three-RBI day.

The O's may not have held Boston to eight hits over this past weekend, but they still have a lot to celebrate. It's about time!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Fleer National Pastime #49

Here's a new rule of thumb. Any time you have a game-tying home run in the eighth inning followed by a game-winning single in the tenth inning to topple the Red Sox, you get your own post at Orioles Card "O" the Day. A year ago, I never thought I'd say these words: it's good to have Miguel Tejada back in Baltimore.