Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Frank Robinson, 2009 Topps Legends of the Game #LG-FR

Maybe I'm easily amazed, but I think it's incredible that three Oriole greats celebrate their birthdays in the last two weeks of August. Boog Powell was born on the 17th, Cal Ripken, Jr. on the 24th, and today Frank Robinson turns 75. Robby had such an immense impact on the O's, it's hard to believe that he played in Baltimore for just six years. Needless to say, he made those years count, averaging nearly thirty home runs per year, a .401 on-base percentage, and a .543 slugging percentage. The MVP, Triple Crown, four pennants, and two world championships were pretty nifty too.

In honor of Frank, let me see if I can compile an All-Robinson Team:

C Aaron Robinson (1943-1951) - Career .260 hitter, one-time All-Star, his best season was 1946. He hit .297 with 16 HR and 64 RBI with the Yankees.

1B Eddie Robinson (1942, 1946-1957) - Four-time All-Star drove in 100 runs in three straight years, peaked with .282 AVG (.371 OBP), 29 HR, 117 RBI for White Sox in 1951. Played the final four games of his career with the Orioles.

2B Jackie Robinson (1947-1956) - First African-American player in MLB, inducted into Hall of Fame in 1962. Six-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 1949 NL MVP (.342 AVG, .432 OBP, 38 2B, 12 3B, 16 HR, 124 RBI, 37 SB). Batted .311 overall.

SS Yank Robinson (1882, 1884-1892) - Had to dig way back for this one. William H. "Yank" Robinson played all over the infield, and played chiefly for the St. Louis Browns of the American Association. He led his league in walks three times, and had almost as many bases on balls as hits: his career batting average was .241, but his on-base percentage was .375. From the "It Was a Different Game" file, he committed 95 errors at second base in 125 games in 1886!

3B Brooks Robinson (1955-1977) - Do I need to tell you about him? Hall of Famer, 1964 AL MVP, 1970 World Series MVP, 16-time Gold Glover, 18-time All-Star, 268 career home runs. He's also a pretty nice guy.

LF Frank Robinson (1956-1976) - The man of the hour. Hall of Famer, first player to win MVPs in both leagues, 1966 World Series MVP and Triple Crown winner, 586 career home runs, 1812 career RBI, 528 career doubles, .294/.389/.537 slash line. First African-American manager in the majors.

CF Bill Robinson (1966-1969, 1972-1983) - Longtime Pirate had his best years after turning 30, including four 20-homer seasons. Career year was 1977: .304, 32 2B, 26 HR, 104 RBI.

RF Floyd Robinson (1960-1968) - Starred for the White Sox early and ran out of gas quickly. Still hit .283 for his career. 1962: .312, AL-best 45 2B, 109 RBI.

SP Ron Robinson (1984-1992) - Big gregarious ginger went 14-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 1990. Also saved 14 and won 10 out of the bullpen in 1986, and could easily be interchanged with the next man on the list. If you're hard up for a pinch hitter, he batted .202 (18-for-89) for the Reds over a three-year span.

RP Don Robinson (1978-1992) - Won 109 games with a 3.79 ERA and 57 saves for his career in a variety of roles. Won 11 and saved 19 in relief in 1987.

MGR Wilbert Robinson (1902, 1914-1931) - Former Orioles catcher and John McGraw disciple "Uncle Robbie" won 1399 games and two NL pennants, spending all but one of his 19 years as a manager with the Brooklyn "Robins" (Dodgers). Also once had a fine mustache.

So there you have it. A solid team with four Hall of Famers and four one-time Orioles. If I had the patience to put together a full 25-man roster, early 1960s Oriole outfielder Earl Robinson would be there too. Happy birthday, Frank!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nick Markakis, 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter National Pride #NP34

This is the sort of card that benefits from an artist's touch. But sometimes a third party comes along and adds their own finishing touch to a card that's less-than-welcome.

In general, I avoid comment threads on online articles because they devolve into shouting, posturing, name-calling, and every other brand of ugliness that the anonymity and wide audience of the Internet encourages. But the commenters on sportswriter Joe Posnanski's blog are the refreshing exception that proves the rule. Joe calls them "Brilliant Readers", and he's not being sarcastic. I'm always entertained and enlightened when I move on from his great feature articles to the supplemental remarks provided by his other readers. Over the weekend Poz ranked the current major league managers based on their playing careers, and the mention of Buck Showalter (who never made the majors but did hit .324 with 82 RBI in 1980 for the Yankees' AA Nashville squad) elicited a great anecdote from reader "sansho1". I excerpt it in full below:

"In 1981 I (age 13) was waiting for a flight in the Birmingham airport, absently flipping through the baseball cards I’d brought along to alleviate boredom, when an older gentleman saw what I was doing and asked to see my best Yankee card. I didn’t know what he wanted with it, so after some deliberation I settled on a 1974 Roy White and handed it to him.

He told me his son played in the Yankees farm system and had just been promoted to AAA. Said he was a first baseman and a .300 hitter, and he figured to be in the major leagues probably the following year. Then he took out a pen, scrawled something on the card, and handed it back to me, saying, “Hold on to that card, it’s going to be worth something one day!”

As he walked away, I looked at the card. In the white border along the bottom was etched “Nat Showalter’s Father”. Nat, it turns out, was William Nathaniel “Buck” Showalter.

I was perplexed, and a little pissed, that the guy thought he’d actually ADDED value to my 1974 Roy White by writing on it. But when I think about it now, I think about a guy bursting with such pride at his son’s accomplishments that he’d walk around airports autographing his kid’s name on strangers’ paraphernalia, and how great it must have been for those few months when the sky was the limit for the son he’d raised, and I forgive him."

I think the storyteller has the right idea. In hindsight, he probably realizes that it's pretty cool that he met Buck's father. Even if the guy overstepped his bounds by defacing a 1974 card (and let there be no doubt, he overstepped), he was just a proud father who got carried away. Besides, he did end up making it in the majors...it just took him a little longer than expected. But when he got there, he won 898 games and counting. As good a player as Roy White was, that kid was never going to put his future kids through college with that card anyway.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scott Kamieniecki, 1997 Fleer Ultra #498

In recent years, the extensive length of the six-month, 162-game baseball season has been more of a curse than a blessing for Orioles fans. No matter how poorly or how well the first two-thirds of the season went, you could count on the Birds to crash and burn in August and September. This year, the "dog days" have actually allowed the club and its rooters to salvage something positive out of a season that ran off the rails from game one.

With one game left in the month, the O's have a record of 16 wins and 10 losses in August, thanks to the weekend road sweep of the Angels (whose ridiculous geographic identifier will not be repeated here). Holding a team - any team - to a single run in 27 innings is reason enough to celebrate, but it's also allowed the Baltimore faithful to breathe a sigh of relief. Before this month, the Orioles had not broken even for a full calendar month since June 2008. More astoundingly, it is the first winning August for the Birds since 1997 (they went 18-10 then, which was their seventh straight winning month spanning two seasons). It's probably not coincidence that there have been 13 straight losing seasons in the interim.

Just how long ago was 1997? Browse the names of the pitchers who won games for the O's that August. Arthur Rhodes swooped in from the bullpen to grab three wins. Mike Mussina had a pair, as did Scott Kamieniecki, Scott Erickson, Jesse Orosco, and Armando Benitez. Shawn Boskie, Terry Mathews, Alan Mills, Jimmy Key, and Rick Krivda rounded out the victory parade. Randy Myers saved ten of those W's, and Benitez slammed the door on one other. Rhodes, of course, is still pitching with the Reds, his sixth team since leaving town in 2000. Benitez, as mentioned last week, is delaying the inevitable by playing out the string with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League at age 37. Moose retired two years ago with 270 career wins. Scott Erickson sputtered to the finish with nine forgettable games as a Yankee in 2006. The other eight pitchers have all been retired for a decade, save for the ageless Orosco, who hung 'em up in 2003.

If you're curious, the Orioles last posted a winning September in 2004, when they were 18-10. But they've only managed that feat twice in the 13-year-skid, with a 20-8 mark in 1999 being the other. So to crack .500 next month would be monumental as well - even more so, if you consider that all but four games come against the quadruple beasts of the American League East. Make it happen, Buck and Co.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Frank Robinson, 2002 Topps 206 #291

Usually, when you see modern-day cards featuring Frank Robinson, they show him in the prime of his playing career. Classic black Orioles cap, lean body, orange stirrups cut and pulled high, bat whipping through the strike zone. There's a different scene going on here. It's 1988, and Frank is 52 years old. He's been pulled in during the season to pilot a rudderless ship. The club will lose his first 15 games, and 107 in total. You can understand why he looks so rankled, can't you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Ross Grimsley, 1974 Topps Traded #59T

1974 marked the first year that Topps released a supplement to their basic set late in the year to highlight players who had changed teams during the season. They certainly didn't just dip their toes in, or wade in gradually. Topps absolutely took the plunge, slapping a caution-tape-yellow strip at the bottom of the player picture that took up nearly a quarter of the card's real estate. In case they still didn't have your attention, the blood-red "TRADED" label should have done the trick. It's almost reminiscent of a wanted poster; at any rate, Ross Grimsley's expression is world-weary. He's squinting off into the high noon sun, preparing for an Old West showdown with guns drawn. Ross knows that he's not coming back. In a manner of speaking, this was the end of Grimsley as he had previously been known. In 1975 he grew a bushy mustache and grew his hair out into a shag, and within a year or two it was teased into a buoyant thicket of curls that transformed him into the Caucasian equivalent of Oscar Gamble.

On another note, it's somewhat ironic that the "Traded" name was rendered outdated almost immediately. On December 16, 1974, an arbitrator ruled that Oakland pitcher Catfish Hunter was baseball's first free agent, as owner Charlie Finley had breached his contract. Two weeks later, Hunter signed with the Yankees for big money. Several other players began the 1975 season without signed contracts, as the emergent players' union challenged the reserve clause that had made player movement a one-way street. By the end of the season, pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally had played all year without inking deals. Again, they were ruled free agents, and this time the reserve clause was gone for good. Topps did not issue a Traded set in 1975, but brought it back the next year. They kept the "Traded" name, even though it would have been more accurate to dub it "Traded and Free Agents". It was another five years before the next supplemental set, but when it returned it was still "Traded". In fact, Topps kept putting out Traded sets through 2004, although the scope of the set had also expanded to incorporate rookies who emerged during the season. Since 2005, Topps has gone with the unwieldy but more inclusive "Updates and Highlights" brand name.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Armando Benitez, 1995 Upper Deck Special Edition #48

Yesterday I saw that Baseball-Reference was featuring a blog post entitled "October Blown Saves" and I immediately thought of Armando Benitez. I pulled up the entry and whaddaya know, our old match-in-the-gas-tank buddy has blown more saves than anyone else in postseason play. He's saved four games in the playoffs and World Series in his career and blown a whopping six saves. His overall postseason ERA is 3.56, which seems decent until you look at the individual series: 1996 ALCS - 7.71 ERA. 1997 ALCS - 12.00 ERA. Those are his two worst October performances, and whaddaya know, both were instrumental in keeping the Orioles out of the World Series. I still see Tony Fernandez in my nightmares...you know, the freaking prehistoric Indians second baseman whose 11th-inning home run off of Armando clinched a 1-0 win for the Tribe in Game Six of the 1997 ALCS and sent them to the Fall Classic. Ugh.

I suppose Benitez could take solace in the fact that the man right behind him on that blown saves list is Mariano Rivera. Of course, Mo is 39-for-44, a slightly higher percentage. Plus he has those five championship rings. But can Rivera say that he's saved ten games in the independent Atlantic League? Case closed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Koji Uehara, 2009 Upper Deck X Die-Cut #99

I'm way past due in giving the pitchers some love on this blog, and no one is more deserving than Koji Uehara. For the first year and a half of his two-year, $10 million contract, he looked like just another free agent bust for the Orioles. He was as fragile as a Faberge egg, wilting in the heat and humidity and landing on the disabled list multiple times. He missed a chunk of June and all of the second half of the 2009 season, at which point the club decided to minimize their losses and drop him from the rotation. It was a logical move, as he'd spent his last two years in Japan as a closer with some success. His stamina problems would be less of a factor in one-to-two inning bursts, and his excellent control would be a panacea after the heave-and-a-prayer stylings of the Dennis Sarfates and George Sherrills of the world. It was a great idea in theory...but then Uehara tweaked his hamstring once more in spring training and wasn't seen again until May. He pitched effectively in six games, but then went back on the DL with a strained forearm. He returned 40 days later and seemed out of sync, allowing runs in three out of four appearances.

But then something clicked. In his last fourteen games, Koji has given up just one run in 17 innings for an 0.53 ERA. He's allowed 13 hits and only two walks while striking out 19. He has three holds, picked up a win in the wild 11-10 comeback victory against the Rays, and earned his first major league save in Saturday's 8-6 win over Texas. For the season, his ERA has dropped to 1.73 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is an excellent 5.80-to-1. Oh yeah, and he's rocking an amazing set of sideburns.

It would be great to see Koji back in the Baltimore bullpen in 2011. We just have to make sure he eats his spinach and does his yoga.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Relic #16

Sorry about the blurry scan, but I was too impatient to free this card from its screw-down case.

I'm sure I'm the last to tell you, but today is Cal Ripken, Jr.'s 50th birthday. Last week, I made note of Boog Powell's birthday by mentioning the two home runs he'd hit on his special day. Well, Cal only homered on his birthday once: August 24, 1983, a Wednesday game in Baltimore. You've probably heard about this game. With the Birds down 3-1 to the Blue Jays in the ninth, Joe Altobelli used a couple of pinch hitters to complete a rally. Having emptied his bench, he deployed an unusual defensive alignment in the top of the tenth: outfielders Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein played third base and second base, respectively, and diminutive infielder Lenn Sakata became the new catcher. After Tim Stoddard gave up a Cliff Johnson home run and a Barry Bonnell single, Tippy Martinez was brought in to relieve him. That's where the story gets really crazy.

Bonnell, undoubtedly eager to run on Sakata (who hadn't caught since Little League), was picked off by Martinez. Tippy walked the next hitter, Dave Collins, and promptly picked him off as well! With two outs, Willie Upshaw hit a bouncer up the middle that Brother Lo put a glove on, but he had no play at first. Base hit. As Buck Martinez came to bat to try to pad the Jays' lead, Tippy...you guessed it, picked off Upshaw! Toronto manager Bobby Cox blew a gasket, arguing in vain that the O's lefty must have been balking. The umpires didn't see it that way, and the Blue Jay runners' aggressiveness cost them. But they still had the lead heading to the bottom of the tenth.

Cal was the first batter, and he deposited a Joey McLaughlin pitch over the Memorial Stadium wall for a game-tying homer - Happy 23rd Birthday, Cal. Eddie Murray walked, Lowenstein advanced him to second with a grounder, and John Shelby was intentionally walked to set up a double play. Instead, Roenicke struck out, leaving it up to Mr. Sakata and his .616 career OPS. Lenn hit the biggest of his 25 career home runs, a three-run walkoff shot that sparked an eight-game winning streak. In the process, the O's took control of the American League East. They won the division, the pennant, and the World Series. Cal won the first of his two MVP awards and caught the final out in the Fall Classic. I have a feeling that he didn't mind being upstaged on his birthday, either.

P. S.: Read one fan's excellent remembrances of listening to the game on the radio at the blog Swing and a Miss.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tim Raines, Jr., 2001 Bowman Chrome #279

Today I was researching Orioles home runs, and I uncovered something interesting...to me, anyway. In 174 plate appearances in 75 major league games spanning three seasons, Tim Raines, Jr. never hit a home run for the O's. His father made just a dozen trips to the plate for the Birds in four games in 2001, his penultimate season, and went deep once. Tim Junior was schooled by his 41-year-old Dad!

So why was I preoccupied with round-trippers? I put together another Sporcle quiz, this one asking the taker to list the top 200 players on the Orioles' all-time home run list. Why 200? Because that's the largest number of questions that Sporcle accommodates. Again, why 200? It seems excessive, considering that it encompasses every Oriole with as many as five homers, and even a few with four (there was a 20-way tie, but only three spots left to 200, so I took the three who used the fewest at-bats to get there). I've taken several home run list quizzes that were created for other teams, and had a great time seeing how many players I could pluck from my brain in the 20 minutes allotted. I just figured that the Birds should be represented too. So feel free to kill some time and exercise some brain cells by taking my quiz (and rating it)! I'll even give you a hint: you can enter last names only and kill multiple birds with one stone. Typing "Smith" might hypothetically get you four points. Wink, wink. Good luck!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Curtis Goodwin, 1996 Pinnacle #111

Pictured left to right are Cal Ripken, Jr., Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curtis Goodwin. How humbling do you think it must be to be the fourth banana on your own card? Goodwin lasted five seasons in the major leagues with five clubs, and totaled three home runs in that time. Brady went deep 210 times in 13 years. Cal touched 'em all 431 times in 21 years. Raffy hit 569 four-baggers in 20 seasons. I guess Pinnacle had Curtis sniffed out when they chose a photo of him congratulating Ripken for the latter's successful turn at bat.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Stadium Club #240

Suddenly, as Roberto Alomar leaped to corral the wild throw from Chris Hoiles, he witnessed Kenny Lofton being violently vivisected by a Topps Stadium Club name ribbon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Gus Triandos, 1959 Topps #568

This magnificent fifty-year-old All-Star card of Gus Triandos has lost a bit of its luster. Back in the early 1960s, some towheaded little scamp wanted an easy and affordable way to display his favorite cards. Ultra-Pro binder sheets were just a wonderful fevered dream at that time, so he took his mom’s dumb old photo album and pulled out all those boring pictures of his little sister, and inserted his cardboard treasures in their place. But how to make them stay in place? Luckily, the ‘rents had a roll of Scotch tape lying around! Little Junior didn’t give much thought to the effects that adhesive, combined with six decades of exposure to the elements, might have on his collectibles. After all, some of those words sound vaguely sciencey, and that’s the kind of junk they make you learn in school! So here we are, far into the future, and his card has fallen into the possession of a grown man with a full-time job and a mortgage who has too much time on his hands and is obsessing about those yellowed corners that aren’t even sticky any more.
This is why I don’t obsess about condition when it comes to vintage cards. Think of how dull this card’s backstory would be if Junior had snuck it into Dad’s fireproof document box instead.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ty Wigginton, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #443

Last night I suggested, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that Albert Belle was some sort of terrible, hulking creature fueled by his own fury and the fear of mortals. If you watched tonight's Orioles game, you know that the real enforcer is Mister Ty Wigginton. In the top of the sixth inning, with neither team having yet scored, young pitcher Brian Matusz gave up a gapper to right-center field. As Nick Markakis came up with the ball, the hitter (Andres Blanco) tried to stretch it into a triple. Markakis hit his cutoff man, Brian Roberts, who fired a strike to Wigginton at third. It was a bang-bang play, but the hydrant-shaped infielder expertly blocked Blanco's headfirst slide with a well-placed knee. He plucked Roberts' high throw out of the air and slapped the tag down in time for the crucial out. Blanco's momentum caused his head to collide with Wiggy's elbow, adding injury to insult. He popped up from the bag and began jawing at Ty while his third-base coach tried to guide him toward the dugout. Wigginton went chest-to-chest with the Ranger second baseman, shouting back at him and pointing toward the visitor dugout, telling him that he was out and should grab some bench. The bullpens slowly emptied, but the altercation was diffused before it became a fracas. Blanco is a lucky man; if they had come to blows, he might have had to crawl back to the clubhouse afterward.

Oh, and Wiggy went 1-for-4, Matusz pitched eight innings of five-hit, six-strikeout ball, and Corey Patterson, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis drove in runs in a four-run seventh inning. Orioles 4, Rangers 0.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Albert Belle, 2001 Fleer Tradition #111

Ho-ly crap. You are staring directly into the face of all of your fears. Do not make any sudden movements around Albert Belle. Do not taunt him. Do not address him directly. Do not blink. He feeds off of your darkest secrets, and luxuriates in your pain. He is older than the mountains, stronger than the redwoods. Albert Belle is the reaper of souls.

Or maybe he's just a big scary dude with an arthritic hip.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boog Powell, 2006 Fleer Greats of the Game Autographs #15

Not much time to blog today, as I was at the ol' ballpark tonight. Just wanted to pass along birthday wishes to John Wesley Powell, "Boog" to you and me and millions of fans of baseball and barbecued meats. The Booger turns 69 today. Of the 339 home runs that he hit over the course of his career, just two fell on his birthday:

-August 17, 1970: In the bottom of the seventh inning in Milwaukee, Jim Palmer gives up two runs to tie the game. Boog hits an eighth-inning solo shot (his 29th of the season) off of Lew Krausse that gives the Orioles a 3-2 lead over the Brewers. They would win by that score, boosting Palmer's record to 17-7.

-August 17, 1971: Again, the O's are in Milwaukee. Again, they score late and pull out a 3-2 win. Again, Boog shifts the momentum with an eighth-inning blast - this one a game-tying two run shot off of Marty Pattin. It was his 17th homer on the year, as injuries cost him 30 games. Eddie Watt picked up the win in relief of Dave McNally, thanks to an Elrod Hendricks home run to lead off the ninth inning.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ken Gerhart, 1988 Topps #271

Ah, the eternal question: what to do with all this junk wax?

I've been more or less settled at my house for two months now, but one room in particular is half-finished. I'm using the spare bedroom as something of a hobby room, where my books and sports memorabilia will all be stored and displayed. Because it doesn't get as much traffic and doesn't serve an essential day-to-day purpose, I've dragged my feet on hanging and framing the photos and posters and organizing the baseball cards in a more efficient manner. I'm slowly getting around to it, and I do have the luxury of having an entire modest two-story home to myself, so space is not at an absolute premium. But it just kind of bugs me that I have boxes upon boxes of leftover duplicate (and triplicate and occasionally quadruplicate) cards, oh so many of them spanning the years 1986-1993. By now, anybody who would actually want to trade for them has already done so. I could give them to Goodwill, as I intended to originally, but that seems like a cop-out.

I want to do something creative. Junk wax has gotten a bad name from collectors. Even when we come across cards from that era of overproduction that we don't already own, many of us dismiss it out of hand. It's bland, primitive, derivative. But there must be some greater purpose for all of this 20-year-old cardboard moldering away in shoeboxes, under beds and on shelves and locked away in storage facilities. I want to find that purpose. What could it be? I just don't know. I have vague notions of modern art - mosaics or sculptures or Randy Ready knows what - but nothing concrete.

I'm going to open this up to all of my readers - all seven of you. What should I do with all of my duplicate junk wax? Leave a suggestion, or multiple suggestions, in the comments. Whoever comes up with the best idea, in terms of creativity and feasibility, will get to choose one of the following relic cards: Edgar Martinez, Trevor Hoffman, and Chase Utley (or Yadier Molina, if anyone actually wants him). Solid, star-type guys. Tell your friends, link to this post on your blogs, I want to see what the Card Blogging Universe Hive Mind can concoct. Have a little fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marty Cordova, 2003 Donruss #92

One of the things that's a real treat about action shots taken at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is that you sometimes get a giant hot dog lurking in the distance. That blurry weiner behind Marty Cordova is of course the Esskay ad on the left side of the right field out-of-town scoreboard. Of course, scoreboards are getting more and more advanced all the time, and we now have full-color, high-definition video boards all over stadiums. Some teams put scoreboards directly on the outfield fence...like the Milwaukee Brewers. Today I was putting my 2010 Topps set in its binder when something struck me about Ryan Braun's card. Does that disembodied grinning face looming behind the Brew Crew's left fielder look familiar?It's Brian Roberts, don'tcha know. That's gotta be the most unique player cameo I've ever seen on someone else's card. This picture must have been taken the weekend of June 20-22, 2008, which was the last time that the Orioles and Brewers met in interleague play. By checking the box scores, I can narrow it down to the last two games of that series, as B-Rob didn't hit any balls to left field in Friday night's game. If anyone can narrow it down further, feel free. In the meantime, I'll be here wondering whether Braun made that catch under the watchful gaze of MechaRoberts.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Joe Nolan, 1982 Topps Traded #81T

Joe Nolan's looking pretty orange in this photo, but he's got nothing on the throwback threads the Orioles wore last night. It was Turn Back the Clock Night at the Tropicana Dome, which might have been problematic for the Rays, who have only been in existence since 1998. Since there's nothing fun about reminiscing over the salad days of a dozen years ago, the home team appropriated the uniforms of the 1970 Tampa Tarpons, a former minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. While it was jarring seeing James Shields, B. J. Upton, and Evan Longoria in red and white caps and v-neck pullovers, they had nothing on the O's and their 1971-vintage threads. In an act of sheer genius, the Birds wore the rare all-orange jersey and pants combo that Brooks Robinson's Sporting Goods Company foisted upon his teammates for two whole games that year before they were banished to history. They were a true thing of beauty, particularly for those players like Felix Pie and Koji Uehara who wore era-appropriate black stirrups with white sanitary socks underneath. Manager Buck Showalter was not a fan, as he kept his black pullover on for the entire game and insisted that he'd never be seen in the pumpkin gear again...killjoy. Of course, the Orioles looked even better in their painfully loud duds because they won a solid game over the Rays, 6-0. Jeremy Guthrie kept on rolling, Luke Scott hit yet another homer, and Uehara and Mike Gonzalez slammed the door on Tampa Bay. Come back soon, orange uni's! Well...maybe not too soon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Jim Palmer, 1976 Kellogg's #37

If you've been an Orioles fan since the glory days (and even if you haven't), you might be shocked to hear that today marks the 41st anniversary of Jim Palmer's no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. It wasn't Friday the 13th, but rather Wednesday, August 13, 1969. I guess "Cakes" wasn't triskaidekaphobic!

It was a night game at Memorial Stadium, and only 16,826 Baltimore fans were on hand to cheer on the steamrolling O's, who at 80-35 stood 14.5 games ahead of the second-place Tigers and had the best record in all of baseball by 7.5 games over the Cubs. The A's were no slouches; at 66-47, they were just a game off the pace of the A.L. West-leading Twins. Oakland manager Hank Bauer, having been fired by the Birds the previous season despite piloting their first World Champion club in 1966, might have had payback on his mind. But it was not to be on this night.

Palmer was making just his second start after a month-plus stay on the disabled list, but it was the opposing batters who looked rusty. He pitched around walks in each of the first two innings, racking up four strikeouts in the process. Meanwhile, Don Buford led off the Oriole first with a triple and scored on a Paul Blair flyout to stake the pitcher to an early lead.

After failing to score on a bases-loaded threat in the second, the Birds broke out in the fourth. Oakland starter Chuck Dobson walked Elrod Hendricks and Merv Rettenmund to start things off, and Bobby Floyd bunted them into scoring position for...Jim Palmer? Palmer, hitting .118 entering the game, had singled in his first at-bat. This time he doubled to center field, scoring Hendricks. Don Buford followed with a single to left that scored Rettenmund, but left fielder Tommie Reynolds cut down Palmer at the plate. 3-0, Orioles.

Oakland got their first runner to second base in the sixth inning thanks to an error by Floyd (playing shortstop in place of the defensively gifted Mark Belanger) and a walk to Reggie Jackson. But Jim coaxed flyball outs from the next two hitters to frustrate the visitors once again.

The O's exploded for five runs in the home half of the seventh, and Palmer was once again at the heart of the rally. He led off with a walk against Vida Blue, who had retired the first six batters he'd faced in relief. A passed ball and a Buford single scored Palmer, and a stolen base and a Frank Robinson single plated Buford. Boog Powell followed with a single to chase Blue, and Brooks Robinson greeted reliever George Lazerique rudely with a three-run homer. 8-0, Orioles.

Palmer cruised through the eighth, but battled in the final inning. Whether it was nerves, an insistence not to give in and surrender that first hit, or something else, he wound up walking the bases loaded. The first of these walks was given to Reggie Jackson, the third time he'd gotten a free pass that evening. I'd suspect that some of that was by design, at least. Sal Bando lined out to Blair in center field and Jackson was forced at second on a Danny Cater grounder, leaving Palmer one out away from a little piece of history. He got two quick strikes on Dick Green before losing him with four straight balls. Reynolds followed with another walk, Palmer's sixth of the evening. Ex-Oriole Larry Haney stepped to the plate and there was nowhere to put him. Fortunately, he grounded the ball to Floyd at short, and he flipped to Buford at second for that pesky 27th out! Palmer improved to 11-2 with the win, his ERA a scant 1.77. He struck out eight batters, tying a career high.

There have undoubtedly been scores of great days in the life of Jim Palmer, but this one has to have been near the top.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mike Boddicker, 1985 Leaf #109

For the past two nights, I had the pleasure of listening to Mike Boddicker add his insights and humor to the Orioles' broadcasts. Tuesday night he was the third man in WBAL's radio booth, and last night (and tonight) he had the same role on MASN's TV coverage. I hadn't watched/listened to any other games that he'd covered this season, but now that I have I think he's the best of the guest analysts in 2010. He sounds comfortable and articulate, as if he'd been at it for years. He's knowledgeable about the O's and their opponents, and he might just be clairvoyant. At the start of the fourth inning on Tuesday, the Birds were trailing 1-0 and Cleveland starter Justin Masterson had set down nine batters in a row. Boddicker noted that Masterson had the talent to get batters out, but that he has a tendency to come unraveled quickly. As if on cue, the Orioles touched him up for four runs on their way to a 14-8 laugher.

In last night's game, Boddicker was reunited with former teammate Mike Flanagan. The pair were mainstays in the Baltimore rotation from 1983-1987, and they had an easy and collegial chemistry in the booth. They swapped anecdotes, jokes, and good-natured insults as Brad Bergesen breezed through a complete-game victory. Late in the game, as Bergy was polishing off another quick inning, Boddicker observed that the game was much less tense than you would expect, given a two-run margin between the teams. Flanagan astutely added that it was as though Bergesen had put the Indians in a sleeper hold.

So if you're in the MASN viewing area tonight and you're not sufficiently football-mad to watch an exhibition game, check out Mike Boddicker's work. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brad Bergesen, 2010 Topps #423

The Brad Bergesen of 2009 has re-emerged of late, and it's about time. After emerging in his rookie season as the most consistently effective Orioles pitcher, his sophomore campaign seemed doomed from the beginning. A freakish shoulder injury incurred during a winter commercial shoot delayed his spring training, and from his first start he seemed hittable. His sinker wasn't sinking, his defense wasn't giving him as much support as it had before, and innings were unraveling in a hurry. You could see in his body language that he was having a confidence crisis, and being shunted to AAA Norfolk twice (and to the bullpen once) didn't do anything to help. After finishing at least six innings in each of his last dozen starts last year, he failed to complete even five innings in five of his first 11 starts in 2010. He took yet another pounding on July 26 in Toronto, giving up a career-high eight runs in five innings to leave his ERA at an unsightly 6.95 and his won-lost record at an ugly 3-9.

But Bergy showed signs of recovery his next time out, holding Kansas City to two runs in seven innings and missing out on a win when David Hernandez blew the save. Last Friday he was even better, yielding only a solo home run to Chicago's Gordon Beckham and leaving after seven innings in a tie game. Still, he couldn't snap that personal seven-game losing streak.

Tonight, Brad took matters into his own hands. With his offense again scuffling (the Birds pushed across only three runs on 13 hits), the young righthander breezed right through the Cleveland Indians, surrendering a single run on two hits, two walks, and a hit batter. He held the Tribe hitless until the fifth inning, when Luis Valbuena singled with two outs to bring home Shelley Duncan (who had walked earlier). All he did after that was set down the next 12 batters in order, including three straight strikeouts at the end of the string. Asdrubal Cabrera singled with two outs in the ninth to bring Shin-Soo Choo to the plate as the tying run, but Bergesen induced a fly ball to Adam Jones to earn the win and wrap up his second career complete game. It took him just 102 pitches, and he logged several innings of ten pitches or less. In his last three starts, he's lowered his earned run average by more than a full run.

Let's keep the good vibes going, okay Brad?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Brian Roberts, 2005 Donruss Zenith #186

It's not like I need an excuse to post another Brian Roberts card. If you're keeping score, this is the 19th time he's been featured in this, the 32nd month of this blog's lifetime. But when my favorite current Oriole hits the second walkoff home run of his career (and his first homer in a painfully injury-and-illness-shortened season) for the team's third walkoff win of the homestand and league-leading ninth such win of the season, thereby capping a three-to-one series win against the first-place White Sox and clinching the first back-to-back series wins of the mostly-heinous 2010 Orioles season, to say nothing of a 6-1 homestand under brand-new manager Buck Showalter, well...that's a no-brainer.

As I mentioned, only one of Brob's 77 previous longballs ended a game. I remember that one well, as it came in the midst of his breakout 2005 season and delivered a ten-inning triumph over those blasted Yankees. It put New York four games behind the second-place O's (yes, that's before that particular Jekyll-and-Hyde season went straight to hell). Brian showed a flair for the dramatic by depositing veteran reliever Mike Stanton's first and only pitch over the fence. Last night, perhaps because he's still shaking off the rust, he settled for Chicago pitcher J.J. Putz's second offering.

Though the Birds have won nine games this year in their final at-bat, this was the first one that concluded with a euphoric trot around the bases. It left me wondering how many times each member of the current team has delivered a walkoff blast. Here's what I found, with an assist from Baseball Reference's Home Run Logs:

-Matt Wieters hit the O's last walkoff homer last September 16 off of Tampa Bay's Russ Springer with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth in a 2-2 game. It was a two-run shot, and took Jim Johnson off the hook for allowing the game-tying blast to Ben Zobrist in the top half of that inning.

-On July 19, 2008, Luke Scott memorably broke up a 10-10 stalemate with a towering shot to deep right field against Detroit's Freddy Dolsi to give the Birds a 10-inning victory in a wild game. I wrote all about it in a previous blog entry.

-Nolan Reimold (yes, I'm still including him) capped a resilient Baltimore effort with a three-run clout in the bottom of the 11th to deliver an 12-10 win on May 27, 2009. The Orioles rallied from an 8-3 eighth-inning deficit and a 10-8 11th-inning hole as the rookie's fourth career home run was one to remember.

Aaand that's all. Five walkoff home runs by three current members of the roster and one current Norfolk Tide. I was surprised that Nick Markakis isn't on this list. I'd say he's due...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jay Gibbons, 2003 Topps Finest #24

He's baaaaaaack...

Nearly three years to the day that he played his last major league game, Jay Gibbons was recalled from AAA Albuquerque to take Garret Anderson's place on the Dodgers' major league roster yesterday. He pinch hit for starting pitcher Ted Lilly in the sixth inning and delivered an RBI single to extend L.A.'s lead over the Nationals to 6-3. They would ultimately win 8-3.

It was starting to look like Jay's strikeout in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance on August 12, 2007 would be his final big league at-bat. He missed the rest of that season due to injury and was implicated shortly thereafter in the Mitchell Report for performance-enhancing drug use. He hit .189 with no home runs in spring training in 2008, and the O's released him with two years left on his multimillion dollar contract. When he couldn't catch on with another team, he went to the independent Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. He wondered (publicly and privately) if he'd been blackballed for his PED choices, even though many of the other active players in the Mitchell Report had continued to be employed by MLB teams. Gibbons embarked on an odyssey that took him from Long Island to Huntsville, AL to Nashville, TN to Newark, NJ to Venezuela to Albuquerque, NM, and finally to Los Angeles. He'd spent the second half of 2008 with Milwaukee's top two minor league teams and saw action with the Marlins in the Grapefruit League in 2009, but it took four months of torrid hitting in the admittedly offense-friendly Pacific Coast League (.347, 28 2B, 19 HR, 83 RBI) combined with an outfield crunch at Dodger Stadium (Manny Ramirez is injured, and Garret Anderson is washed up) to finally get Gibby back to The Show.

I wish nothing but the best to Jay Gibbons, who I liked well enough when he was with the O's. Sure, he still got his $11-12 million from the team while he was slumming it for the past three years, but I'm a sucker for comeback stories.

If you get a moment, click the link to that Orioles-Red Sox box score from August 12, 2007. Steve Trachsel? Paul Bako? Ramon Hernandez? Jay Payton? Tike Redman? It might not look that way in the loss column, but things really are better now than they once were.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Adam Jones, 2010 Topps Allen and Ginter Relic #AGR-AJ

Okay, the world has stopped moving long enough for me to share my impressions and purchases from my return trip to the National on Friday. Since I had to put in a full eight hours at work, I didn't make it downtown until three in the afternoon. I was supposed to meet Ed at the entrance to the hall, but he was about fifteen minutes late because he got sidetracked due to a conversation with former Baltimore Colts linebacker Mike Curtis. As excuses go, that's a pretty good one. Ed gave me a few Ravens crab mallets that he'd picked up at the Baltimore Sun booth, and in return I loaned him some summer reading. Searching for 1970 Seattle Pilots cards the previous day reminded me that he'd never read Ball Four, so I took matters into my own hands.

Near the entrance, former Cardinals, Reds, Tigers, and Nationals player Dmitri Young was handing out free autographed posters at a memorabilia dealer's booth. "Da Meat Hook" is an avid collector himself, and he had brought along several of the crown jewels of his collection for display. Included in the glass case in the crummy iPhone photo below are rookie cards of Brooks Robinson, Pete Rose, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron...all graded perfect 10. I can think of worse ways to spend your major league salary.
Shortly after arriving, I called and met up with fellow collector and Orioles fan Craig, a reader of this blog who came up for the week from Virginia. He really seemed to be enjoying himself, and even had the good fortune to be at Camden Yards for a few O's wins along the way. We parted ways and I went window-shopping at a booth that had three racks of game-worn baseball jerseys from the past few decades. No stars, of course, but it was a treat seeing and handling the uniforms of several familiar names. Among the Orioles were forgettable infielders Kelly Paris and Luis Garcia, hitting coach Rick Down, and pitcher Jose Mercedes. The coolest non-Oriole threads may have been the Montreal Expos jerseys, and perhaps the powder blue 1980s Braves number with "BB" (for batboy, of course) on the back. If I had the kind of disposable income that would allow me to drop $150-$200 for secondhand clothing, I would've gladly patronized that seller.

My first purchase of the day was four relic cards for three bucks a piece, one of which was the Adam Jones bat relic that you see above. The others were a Brian Roberts bat relic from the same set and two jerseys relics that will be stashed for future disbursal to blogger friends. Mystery abounds again!

Next I set out in search of a hobby box. As much fun as it was rooting for singles, I couldn't leave without giving myself a big mess of packs to rip. It was harder than I had anticipated to find a box of Upper Deck's 2009 homage to O-Pee-Chee, but I ended up getting one from Pittsburgh Sports Wholesale for $40. Maybe I'll actually complete that set at some time in the murky offing. I'm one-third of the way through the 36-pack box, and I've gotten a few Orioles I didn't have (Jim Johnson, Radhames Liz, and a black-bordered Oriole Park photo/team checklist) as well as this nifty Padres checklist with a lovely photo of Petco Park. I will look at it often and brainwash myself into flying out to San Diego again soon.
I only had a little over an hour left before the day's activities came to a close at six in the evening, so I intended to simply return to Bill Henderson's table to resume pillaging his ten-cent 1970s boxes. But I was distracted by a table full of modern-day dime boxes, and figured that I might as well see if I could knock off a few Orioles needs. I grabbed some '52 Rookies from 2006 and 2007, some 2010 Heritage High Numbers, 2007 Allen and Ginter, 2005 Bowman Heritage, and a few others. You'll likely see them sooner or later. For now, I'll show off the Albert Einstein card that was my favorite random pick from the thirty-card haul.

While I was hunched over one of the inner tables that this dealer had, I overheard a spirited conversation between two Phillies fans behind me. After several minutes, I was entertained enough that I decided to turn around and chime in...at which point I discovered that Ryan and Mike (both of whom I'd met on Thursday) were the guys in question. We spent several minutes joking about players and cards that we found in those boxes, and it was nearly 5:30 by the time I finally pulled myself away for a speed-shopping session at Bill Henderson's.

I only had time to pull 100 cards from Bill's 1970s boxes on this occasion, so I grabbed a pair of one-dollar cards from the top of another box to round it off at $10: a 1960 Topps Johnny Podres and a 1976 card featuring the previous year's American League wins leaders: Jim Palmer, Catfish Hunter, and Vida Blue. It wasn't until I was sorting my cards the next day that I saw that this was an O-Pee-Chee card. Not a bad surprise.
I understand that the National won't be back on the East Coast until 2014, when it comes to Atlantic City. For the next three years it will be in Chicago and Cleveland. Now that I fully comprehend the grand scale of this convention, I might have to make some long-term plans to take a few days off in a year or two so I can a) sightsee in another city and b) not rush myself.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Javy Lopez, 2005 Bowman Heritage #101

Right, so it was probably foolish of me to think that I would be able to blog in detail about the National AND clean my house and host my birthday party today. But tonight's abbreviated blog post does allow me to build suspense if nothing else. The card above is one of my more economical purchases from Friday's trip to the Convention Center. It's in the style of 1951 Bowman, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite vintage sets. Surprisingly, the handful of 2005 Bowman Heritage cards that I picked up yesterday were my first few cards from that set. To be continued...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Bob Hale, 1956 Topps #231

Okay, I'd better tell you about my National experience while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind. Much as my good friend (and lifetime Oriole fan and avid collector and sometime dealer) Ed Schott predicted, one day (one half-day, really) was not enough for me to get my fill. Still, I accomplished a lot yesterday in three and one-half hours on the convention floor. The card you see above was actually given to me by Ed as something of a birthday gift. I'm that much closer to Upon entering the hall, I set out to find the Topps booth. They were hosting a meet and greet and Q and A with Topps employees and collectors on Thursday night from 5-7, and tickets were free but were also first-come-first-served. Most of the heavy hitters were at the back of the hall, as I quickly spotted hanging signs for Upper Deck, Tristar, Press Pass, and others. But I wandered for several minutes without locating Topps. As I was headed back to the front of the hall, I spotted a guy in a Topps polo shirt and asked him where in blazes his booth was. He was of course headed there, so I tagged along with him and nabbed a ticket for the event. There was a line of people waiting for a pack redemption...something about that Strasburg guy.
My first task being accomplished, I stopped by Bill Henderson's booth. Bill has a well-earned reputation as the "King of Commons", and I easily could have spent all of my time rooting through his dime boxes. He's "semi-retiring" to Florida with his wife, and is wiping out much of his inventory. I fixated on two large boxes of 1970s Topps: ten cents per card, discounts for increments of 50 ($4), 100 ($8), 200 ($15), 400 (don't remember the price). I spent at least ninety minutes going through just a few rows of the first box, plucking out set needs for 1975 Topps and otherwise grabbing players and photos that appealed to me. I wound up with a ton of 1978 Topps, which is my second-favorite set from the decade. I stopped at the 200 mark, and that was just because my muscles were stiffening up from standing in place for so long. Besides, I wanted to see what else I could find. But before I left, I dug through Bill's 30 cent bin and came away with 35 more cards, mostly 1969 Topps. My favorite find was Aurelio Rodriguez's rookie card, which had a significant error - the photo was of bat boy Lenny Garcia!
I shuffled around aimlessly for a while and realized I was dying of thirst, so I bought a bottle of Gatorade from the concession stand...for four dollars. It was probably the worst value of the day for me, but I was at their mercy! Besides, there was a table near the concessionaire that had affordable 1950s cards in binders for easy browsing. I spent $30 and came away with seven classic cards, including my first three vintage Browns: Snuffy Stirnweiss, Roy Sievers, and Clint Courtney. Just keeping in touch with the Orioles' Midwestern roots. I picked up a 1949 Bowman of Harry "the Hat" Walker, which is now the oldest card I own. I also went with Matt Batts and Sibby Sisti...yes, I chose some of these cards largely based on the player names. The final card from this dealer was a 1951 Bowman featuring an odd caricature of White Sox (and future Orioles) manager Paul Richards. None of the other cards on display from that set had such a cartoonish appearance. Weird and wonderful.
Ed met back up with me at that table, and gave me a hard time about being a newbie and neglecting to bring a bag to store my purchases (I was holding two overstuffed sandwich baggies full of my cheapie 1970s cards at the time). He gave me a spare shopping bag and introduced me to another dealer he knew. This guy had bins full of oddballs: Hostess card panels, pocket schedules, bumper stickers, bottle caps, photographs, you name it. I zeroed in on the Surf card gallery paperbacks, which had been giveaways in 1987 and 1988. They produced individual books for each team, featuring year-by-year color photos of each and every Topps card for that club and brief summaries of the team's performance. You can see an example of the 1987 Indians book at David Henderson's entertaining blog. So I bought the Orioles' 1988 book for $5, and found a few others that should make their way through the mail to other card bloggers, wink wink. Ed was busying himself with a box of dollar-per-card 1970 O-Pee-Chees, trying to complete his Orioles team set. I decided to help him search, and we found some Seattle Pilots for my collection, eight in all.
It was getting closer to five P.M., and I wanted to squeeze in another purchase before the Topps event. I spotted a table with 1950s vintage cards marked down...down from "book price", anyway. Most ranged from $5-$30, but I was on a mission for a specific player. Finally I found him in the 1951 Bowmans...former Dodgers pitcher Rex Barney, who became a Baltimore institution as the Orioles' PA announcer from 1974 until his death in 1997. He spent six years (1943, 1946-1950) with Brooklyn, winning 15 games and tossing a no-hitter in 1948 but otherwise struggling with poor control and injuries. At $6, I was more than happy to add a true gentleman with significant Charm City ties to my collection.
Up in a third-floor meeting room, Topps put on a pretty decent show. They had an open bar with wine and beer, as well as some finger foods. There was a panel of five Topps employees, including their social media guru Mike Mader (who you Twitter-philes may know as the man behind the @toppscards feed; he also blogs on topps.com). The Q-and-A wasn't incredibly captivating to me, but I'll give you some snapshots: they don't think the monopoly created by their exclusive MLB license is a bad thing, particularly since they've been able to redirect some money to things like autograph deals with star players and the Million Card Giveaway. They're NOT bringing back Topps Total because it wasn't selling before and they don't believe it will in the future either. They're trying to pull kids in with Topps Attax and they're happy with it even though it's not selling big. Next year is Topps' "Diamond" Anniversary (60 Years), so they're brainstorming in order to make it a big to-do. Football hasn't been their strong suit historically, but they're working to change that. It went on like this. The best thing about the session was finally getting the chance to meet some folks I'd only known as Internet entities, like Ryan (whom I mentioned yesterday), as well as Chris Harris (whose Stale Gum is one of the trailblazing card blogs) and Beardy (a fellow Baltimoron, whose facial hair is much more impressive than my own).

Oh yeah, there were also prizes! Each meet-and-greet attendee wrote their name on the back of their ticket and the tickets were placed in a box with winners chosen at random. The prizes included baseballs autographed by that Strasburg guy (though one of the Topps guys joked that it was Stephen "Stroudsburg", a Topps mail room employee), some hobby boxes of Bowman products, and some autographed mini-football helmets. When they got to a pair of boxes of Bowman featuring football draft picks, Ryan and I joked that we would be the winners of the products we were least interested in. As luck would have it, we did each win a prize. Ryan got a mini-helmet signed by Cowboys legend Ed "Too Tall" Jones (probably not much use to an Eagles fan like him). I got quite a pleasant birthday surprise when I won a complete factory set of 2010 Topps. Yes, it includes a card of Stephen Whatshisname.
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Whew, that was what happened on day one. By the end, I was fully sold on making my way back for a few hours after work on Friday...especially since I had "only" spent $85, less than half my budget for the National. When I left last night, I drove down to my parents' house for a birthday dinner of crabs and beer and ice cream cake. I may have also talked my family's ears off about baseball cards, although I'm sure that's hard to believe.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the second day of my inaugural National experience. I promise it will be shorter!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Al Pardo, 1986 Topps #279

Last night I posted a 1982 Topps card to commemorate the year of my birth. I didn't have time to write my usual self-indulgent birthday post today, but it was a good day. I'll do some show and tell from the National tomorrow, but for now I present a 1986 Topps card in honor of Ryan Petzar, an Orioles and Phillies fan from York, PA. I've gotten to know Ryan via Twitter, which is one of those uses that I never imagined when I signed up for an account a few years ago. Today we finally met at a Q and A/meet-and-greet session that was hosted by Topps at the Convention Center. Since Ryan is a young'un and was born in 1986, this set appeals greatly to his nostalgic side.

Because I chose the most anonymous Oriole in the set, I'll offer a bit of biographic info. Al Pardo is one of just four players in major league history to have been born in Spain (Oviedo, specifically). His middle name is Judas, oddly enough. He played 34 games for the O's as a rookie in 1985, hitting a sizzling .133 with a single run batted in. The following year he returned for 16 games and "improved" to .137 with a home run (against Chicago's Joe Cowley) and three RBI. After leaving the Birds, he played only three more MLB games, all with the Phillies in 1988-1989. He was 0-for-3 to leave his career average at .132 with a .322 OPS and an OPS+ of -11.

Hey, he played for the Orioles and the Phillies. I swear that I didn't even plan for that when I picked this card. Spooky.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bob Bonner, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Jeff Schneider, 1982 Topps #21

This is one of the more iconic cards in my collection, although when it comes to monetary value it's a far cry from the 1982 Topps Traded card that features Cal Ripken, Jr. all by his lonesome. I don't yet have the latter, and I don't think I've even seen it in physical form. I'm sure a few copies of it will be on display tomorrow at Baltimore's Convention Center, where I will be attending the official first day of the National Sports Collectors Convention. I had some idea that this show was a big deal, based on this article written by Bill Simmons a year ago. I became aware several months ago that this Big Deal was coming to my hometown, as fellow card bloggers were emailing back and forth trying to nail down plans for the weekend. As happenstance would have it, tomorrow is my birthday...I may have mentioned that once or twice in the past week. This is like the perfect storm for a cardboard-loving nerdlinger like myself.

Needless to say, I'm giving myself a bit more leeway than I usually do when it comes to the ol' cardboard budget. I'm also taking off of work a few hours early to maximize my browsing time, though I've been forewarned by those in the know that mere hours probably won't be enough to get my fill. On the contrary, a shortened agenda may be all that keeps me from bankruptcy. I'll report back in a few days with my haul.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jeremy Guthrie, 2008 Topps Opening Day #136

Tonight I have a legitimate excuse for posting at a late hour. I've been out at Oriole Park helping to give Buck Showalter a warm welcome to Baltimore. The fact that I had a voucher for a free upper reserve seat at any August home game (part of the team's birthday promotion) didn't hurt, and the free Felix Pie t-shirt giveaway was the icing on the cake. I made it a family outing by bringing along my sister and my cousin Brittany, who also took advantage of a free ticket a week before her 19th birthday.

The early returns on the Buck Era are positive. The Birds shook off a sluggish offensive start with a four-run outburst in the sixth inning to pull out a 6-3 win over the Angels. Luke Scott's booming two-run homer nearly reached Eutaw Street and gave the O's a lead that they did not relinquish. Rookie third baseman Josh Bell hit a two-run double for his first career extra-base hit and runs batted in. Matt Wieters added three hits and two RBI, and Felix Pie had two hits, two runs scored, and a stolen base on his special night. The pitchers held up their end of the bargain, as Jeremy Guthrie held the Angels in check with five hits allowed in seven brisk innings and benefited from some rare run support in earning his fifth win of 2010. The bullpen was perfect, with Mike Gonzalez breezing through five Halo batters (and even earning a warm ovation when he exited the field) and Alfredo Simon having a much easier night than usual in striking out the only batter he faced to end the game.

Although it was a typically sparse weeknight crowd (16,723 announced), those who came out were livelier than usual. Buck earned loud cheers for his every appearance, from a pregame video that aired on the scoreboard to the customary lineup card exchange at home plate to a brief trip out of the dugout to ask for clarification on a foul ball call by the home plate umpire. At several key points late in the game, the fans clapped and cheered when our pitchers got to a two-strike count without being prompted on the scoreboard (I hope that little bit of audiovisual overkill has been retired at the Yard). Just in case Buck needed a reminder that his Yankee days are far behind him, the video screen in center field showed highlights of New York's 8-2 loss to Toronto at the end of the eighth inning. The various Blue Jay scoring plays were received with raucous applause, and the lone positive Yankee clip - a home run by Mark Teixeira, of all people - was met with thunderous boos.

It's a small sample size, but the last two months of this season have a chance to be a little more fun than the first four.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Johnny Oates, 1993 Topps #501

Today Buck Showalter was officially introduced as the 17th manager in Orioles history. While I think his no-nonsense approach and predilection toward younger players is exactly what the team needs, none of us has any way of knowing whether this will work out. The team could be a winner in 2011, or 2012, or 2013…or God forbid, they could just keep losing. But before Buck has even managed his first game in the home dugout at Camden Yards, he has made one gesture that should endear him to Baltimore fans.

Throughout his managerial career, Showalter has worn uniform number 11. Coincidentally, that’s the same number that had been worn by former third base coach and interim manager Juan Samuel, the man Buck is replacing. Perhaps knowing that Samuel was popular in the O’s clubhouse, or maybe just looking for a fresh start, the new skipper decided that he’d like to wear #26. That was the number worn by Johnny Oates during his managerial stints in Baltimore and Texas; after a brain tumor cut his life tragically short in 2004, the Rangers retired the number in his honor. Oates managed Showalter during the latter’s time as a minor leaguer in the Yankees organization in the early 1980s, and the pair became good friends. Even though they managed competing teams in the American League East in the early 1990s, they didn’t let the rivalry affect their personal relationship. While it was classy and understandable for Buck to request his fallen friend’s jersey number with the Orioles, he took the gesture a step further by first calling Johnny’s widow Gloria to ask her permission to do so. After getting an enthusiastic response from the rest of the Oates family, she called Showalter back and gave him the approval he sought.

Good move, Buck. May it be the first of many you make in this town.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adam Jones, 2009 Topps Unique #35

I'm already getting excited for my 28th birthday, which I will be celebrating this Thursday. But today I'm taking time out to wish Adam Jones a happy 25th birthday. I hope he gets whatever he wishes for...especially if it's a World Series ring in 2011.