Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kevin Millwood, 2010 Topps 206 #102

Last night Kevin Millwood started what was almost assuredly his final game in an Orioles uniform. If I haven't talked about him at all on this blog (and a quick search shows me that I haven't even mentioned his on-field performance since April), it's probably twofold: 1) he's had a miserable year and 2) I don't have any cards featuring him in orange and black. Both of those factors are a real shame. By the raw numbers, the veteran with the North Carolina drawl has been awful: 4-16 (that's a win percentage of .200), a 5.10 ERA, a 1.51 WHIP. He won a single game all year at home. His first win came on June 19, and thanks to interleague play, he didn't beat an American League team until August 28. He's assured of at least a share of the league lead in losses, which will make him the fourth Oriole pitcher in the last five years to have that dubious distinction. (The full list: Rodrigo Lopez, 2006; Daniel Cabrera, 2007; Jeremy Guthrie, 2009; Millwood, 2010. In 2008, Justin Verlander had a fluke down year and lost 17. Guthrie was the losingest Oriole with 12.)

So yeah, Millwood hasn't done much to help himself. But if you've been watching him all year, you know that he had a great April and August and a decent May and September, with a putrid June and July bookending a trip to the disabled list. When you take out that lost summer (9.33 ERA in nine starts), you're left with a 3.78 ERA in the remaining four months. During that stretch of the season, his W-L has been 2-11. The offense has had its struggles all year long, but it's been positively MIA when #34 takes the mound. The O's bats have produced an average of 3.55 runs when Kevin starts, and that's including runs that scored after he'd left the game. In 18 of his 31 starts, they scored three runs or less. To his credit, he never let his frustration get the best of him, choosing not to blame his unsupportive hitters for his lack of victories.

Last night, Millwood simply took matters into his own hands. He shut out the Rays, who will likely finish with the best record in the American League and were playing in front of a rare capacity home crowd, through seven innings on just two hits. He also struck out seven batters, including B.J. Upton to leave the bases loaded in his final inning. Naturally, the Birds were helpless against Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann for the first six innings, scraping out two singles and no walks. But a Nick Markakis walk and an Adam Jones single put two runners on with two out in the seventh, and Felix Pie finally picked up his pitcher with a triple to plate the only two runs of the game. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara preserved the win by retiring five of the six Rays they faced, and Matt Wieters took care of the sixth by gunning down pinch runner Desmond Jennings in the eighth inning. Millwood insists that he wants to pitch again next year, no matter where it might be. After 2010, it's safe to say that he deserves to play with a team that can put up some crooked numbers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Koji Uehara, 2009 Upper Deck #941

Since he last walked a batter on JULY 16, Koji Uehara has a total of 41 strikeouts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season is now 10.4-to-1. That is all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Merv Rettenmund, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #377

If my calculations are correct (and they probably are not), the Orioles won the 1,001st game in team history on August 27, 1968. It was a walkoff victory in the bottom of the ninth over the visiting Athletics, and Merv Rettenmund provided the heroics. With one out and the scored tied 3-3, Curt Blefary singled. Elrod Hendricks was announced to pinch hit for Larry Haney, so Oakland manager (and ex-Oriole) Bob Kennedy replaced righthander Jack Aker with lefty Warren Bogle. Never one to shy away from a chess match, Earl Weaver countered with the rookie Rettenmund, who delivered a two-run homer. 5-3, Orioles. It was the first home run of Merv's career, and the only walkoff shot he ever hit.

Why am I writing about the Birds' 1,001st win? Because this, loyal readers, is my 1,001st post on this blog. A few weeks ago, William (who must have almost as much time on his hands as I do) mentioned that I was nearing 1,000 and wondered if I had anything special planned. As I prepared to post yesterday's underwhelming Rick Schu card, I briefly considered checking to see how close I was to that nice round number. Obviously, I failed to do so, but I could easily pretend that I planned it this way. After all, life isn't about wrapping things up in neat little packages and round numbers. It doesn't go according to plan. But I've already shown my hand, so there's no chance for that. I'm glad that I found a neat tidbit to go with #1,001 anyhow.

When I started this blog on New Year's Day 2008, I didn't know if I'd really be able to keep myself on-task and update it every day. If you look at the archives on the sidebar, you'll see that I have kept it going for 2.75 years now, with one or two hiccups. I'm certainly not in danger of running out of different cards to feature, and although some days I don't have the time or inspiration to write much, I am still not tired of rambling on about my life, my hobby, and my favorite team. Of course I wouldn't have poured numerous hours into this pursuit if no one was reading, so I'd like to thank all of you who have shared your own memories, opinions, kind words, or snide remarks in blog comments and emails. I've traded cards with a number of you, and others have given freely from their collections without expecting anything in return. I've even had the opportunity to meet a few of you, and that has been a rewarding experience as well. I wouldn't have imagined it when I creeped back into the hobby in 2007, but the Internet has made card collecting a much more social pursuit for me than it was in my adolescence.

So thanks for following along for the first 1,001. The best should be yet to come - I'm sure you'll want to read my thoughts after the Orioles win the World Series next October...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rick Schu, 1989 Donruss #406

Ah, 1989 Donruss. The very definition of junk wax. You can buy a complete set of this stuff for $13, or a 36-pack wax box for $12. I got a call from my mother on Saturday to let me know that she was at a flea market and had discovered a junk wax closeout. I'm fortunate to have family members who keeps their heads on a swivel for baseball cards. Some poor schlub was trying to unload a full wax box of 1989 Donruss, about half a wax box of 1990 Fleer, four packs of 1991 Donruss, four or five blister packed 1990 Donruss Orioles team sets, an unopened factory set of 1987 Donruss Opening Day, another partial set of 1987 Donruss Opening Day, and a few empty plastic card boxes for storage. He was eager to unload the stuff, so I told her to pull the trigger at $20. I already have about 280 of the 660 cards in the 1989 set, so I figured I might as well see if I can complete it. I've got a factory set of 1990 Fleer (one of the dopier purchases of my youth), so I'll be giving those packs away. Let me know if you want some - don't everybody shout at once. I'll probably also divvy up the partial 1987 Opening Day set for other collectors and/or bloggers with team set needs...either that, or I'll burn all of my dupes to create scarcity and drive up the value. Hah.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

John Parrish, 2002 Fleer #228

I'm cutting and running on you tonight, in my ongoing and futile effort to get to bed before 11:30. I've just gotten home from a college friend's wedding in the Lancaster area. You'll be delighted to know that Lancaster is the hometown of southpaw John Parrish, although the last time I checked they haven't gotten around to putting it on their street signs. I'd already forgotten that John started the 2010 season in Kansas City, making nine appearances out of the bullpen and allowing two runs in six innings before getting injured. The Royals released him in June, and it doesn't look like he's caught on anywhere else. Still, I wouldn't say that we've seen the last of Parrish. After all, he is left-handed.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fred Lynn, 1987 Fleer Star Stickers #72

Does Fred Lynn look panicked? You would too, if a NASA-engineered Smart Ball had honed in on your coordinates and was mere seconds away from impact with your soft outer extremities.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Davey Johnson, 1968 Topps #273

Yesterday I spoke of fluke home run seasons in the context of Jose Bautista's 50-homer outburst in 2010. Well, good ol' Joe Posnanski compiled a list of the 32 Flukiest Home Run Seasons, and the man above (Davey Johnson, not God) took home the prize as #1. That's not too surprising; Davey averaged nine home runs per year as an Oriole, peaked at 18 in 1971, and then hit 43 in 1973 in his first season with Atlanta. I'd say that some of his newfound (and fleeting) power was due to hitting in a lineup with Hank Aaron and Darrell Evans (who also topped 40 HR each that year), but most of the time he batted behind them, and you would think that Frank Robinson and Boog Powell would have rubbed off on him previously if power could be transferred by osmosis. The hitter-friendly "Launching Pad" of Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium is the most frequent explanation given for his surge, but even if you take out his 26 HR at home, he still hit 17 on the road. Sometimes a fluke is just a fluke.

That brings me to #2 on JoePoz's list, Brady Anderson. I was a witness to his wild 50-homer barrage in 1996, the year that the O's broke the major league record for home runs in a season with 257 total and had seven different players swat 20. (Eddie Murray added 10 after arriving from Cleveland in July; if Jeffrey Hammonds had eked out one more lousy homer, the Birds would've had a whole lineup in double digits!) It was great fun watching a player from my favorite team chase Roger Maris' record, which Brady did for the first few months: 11 HR at the end of April, 20 at the end of May, 30 at the All-Star Break. On a team with sluggers like Rafael Palmeiro, Chris Hoiles, and Bobby Bonilla, it seemed strange that Brady (with a previous career high of 21 in 1992) was the one reaching the seats most often, especially from the leadoff spot. But at 14 years old, I certainly wasn't asking questions, and neither were most fans and media members. It's only through the lens of the so-called "steroid era" and its aftermath that people have thrown around Brady's name in a snide, presumptuous manner.

There are several logical fallacies at work when someone accuses Brady Anderson of steroid abuse, and he's mentioned some of them himself. He was always a gym rat, as opposed to one of those guys who suddenly added several pounds of muscle during one off-season (see Barry Bonds or Ivan Rodriguez). Throughout the past five years of testimonies, leaked documents, and investigations, hundreds of major leaguers have been implicated in PED abuse, and not once has Brady been fingered. So if he was juicing, any witnesses and/or suppliers must have been a tight-lipped bunch. Finally, his home run totals in the "steroid era" go like this, starting from 1993 and going through his last full season (2001): 13, 12, 16, 50, 18, 18, 24, 19, 8. What gives? Did he only take steroids in 1996, hit 50 homers, get picked for the All-Star team and Home Run Derby, go to the playoffs for the first time, and then decide, "nope, this success and attention just isn't for me"? Or did the stuff just not work as well in every other year?

Sometimes a fluke is just a fluke.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Topps Total Production #TP-MT

Congratulations are in order for a couple of ex-Orioles who have reached home run milestones in the past 24 hours. Last night, current Padres shortstop Miguel Tejada hit his 15th homer of the year, which also happened to be #300 for his career. That big, round number isn't quite what it used to be, but it's still noteworthy for anyone to play long enough to reach it, particularly a middle infielder. Keep in mind that only 127 players in the history of the game have hit more than 300 home runs. If you're wondering about the breakdown, Miggi hit 156 HR in six-plus seasons in Oakland, 109 in four and one-half years in Baltimore, 27 in two seasons with the Astros, and eight so far in San Diego. He's hit 30 against Toronto (the most against any opponent), and his most frequent victims have been David Wells, Tim Wakefield, and Esteban Loiaza (five each). Take a bow, Miggi...

...And then move over. Jose Bautista, a 29-year-old journeyman who has changed teams seven times (Drafted by the Pirates, claimed by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft, claimed on waivers by the Devil Rays, purchased by the Royals, traded to the Mets, traded to the Pirates, traded to the Blue Jays), hit his 50th home run of the 2010 season this afternoon. Considering that he had 59 career home runs prior to that, this has come as something of a shock, although he always had enough potential to tantalize all of those teams to acquire him. Since he first received significant playing time in 2006, he had averaged about 15 longballs per year. He made his major league debut with the O's back in 2004, but received only two starts and 12 plate appearances in two months before the club decided that they couldn't spare a roster spot and Tampa Bay grabbed him off the waiver wire. His spot on the major league roster was taken by Jose Leon, and you can supply your own punchline.

You might have noticed that the Jays are all swinging for the fences this year, so it seems like the club's offensive philosophy coupled with an increase in playing time has allowed Jose to turn it loose. Good for him, even if it turns out to be a fluke. Even with the power spike caused by juiced balls, smaller parks, juiced players, expansion-diluted pitching, and more aggressive hitters, there are still only 26 men who ever belted half-a-century in one season. Bautista's the first to get to 50 since 2007, so things are regressing back to the mean. Now we'll see how long it takes an Oriole to make it to 40 again, much less 50.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Troy Patton, 2008 Bowman #211

Tonight, Troy Patton finally made his Orioles debut two years and nine months after being acquired in the trade that sent Miguel Tejada to Houston. It's been a long (and probably frustrating) road back to the majors for Troy. In 2007, he was considered one of the top prospects in the Astros organization and had a three-game cup of coffee with the big league club. But the next spring, he barely had time to put on an orange jersey before he was diagnosed with a torn labrum and had to get shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the year. Last year he was excellent at AA Bowie (6-2, 1.99 ERA), but seemed to hit a wall after a promotion to AAA Norfolk (1-3, 6.45 ERA). He was shut down late in the year to limit the wear and tear on his shoulder in his first year post-op. By this spring he was an afterthought at the still-young age of 24, as David Hernandez, Jason Berken, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta had all gotten significant exposure to the majors while he worked to regain his form. In 25 starts at Norfolk, he had mixed results: 8-11, 4.43 ERA. In the midst of his minor league work, he was called up to join the Orioles three times.

On July 21, he was promoted for potential long relief work. He was not needed, and was returned to the Tides the following day as Kevin Millwood returned from the disabled list.

On August 1, he got the call once more. With the O's rotation suddenly firing on all cylinders, he sat idle in the bullpen for more than a week. On August 9, he was sent down again.

On September 7, Troy was probably hoping that the third time would be a charm. Two weeks later, he has finally thrown his first pitch for Baltimore. He did well enough for himself. Entering in the seventh inning with one out, he allowed a double to Ryan Kalish, induced a groundout from J.D. Drew, walked Victor Martinez, and struck out David Ortiz to strand both runners. Welcome back, Troy. Hope you don't have to wait another three years for your next appearance.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brooks Robinson, 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #89

Topps produced the All-Time Fan Favorites brand from 2003-2005, pairing a melange of card designs from their first 50 years with unused photos from the archives to replicate the thrill of pulling vintage cards of Hall of Famers. Of course it doesn't quite measure up to that feeling you get when you find some original gems in an unexpected place.

Last weekend I traveled back to Chestertown, MD for the first time in nearly a year. Washington College's drama department had invited me and the rest of Zero Hour Theatre back to campus to perform our play "7 Lessons on Suicide" at the still-new Tawes Experimental Theatre. It was a chance for them to book an inexpensive and ready-made show on an open weekend in the facility, and to give some alumni a wider audience for their work. We did shows on Friday and Saturday night and had good, responsive audiences. What does this have to do with baseball cards, you ask?

After we all checked out of our hotel rooms at 11:00 on Saturday morning, we had eight hours to kill before that night's performance. Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day, so we bided our time in historic downtown Chestertown. This included a stop at a relatively new secondhand store called Primitive Finds. My eyes were immediately drawn to some baseball items in a display case, including an old mitt endorsed by Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, one of my favorite players and a native of nearby Sudlersville. There was also a magazine with Foxx on the cover, and a trio of artifacts from the career of Chestertown's own 1940s All-Star (and fellow Washington College alum) Bill "Swish" Nicholson: a Cubs newsletter, a newspaper caricature, and an AP photo of Bill rounding third base at Wrigley Field after hitting a home run. These treasures were all too rich for my blood (the mitt was $100 and the photo $80), but in the next display were some things that were just right.

I stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw the familiar banner design of 1965 Topps. There were two nine-pocket binder sheets full of vintage cards for $10 apiece. A third sheet was priced at $20, but I was feeling thrifty and the cards that I really wanted were in the $10 sheets, so I bought the following:
The real "get" for me here was the Ron Hansen card at top right. Night Owl recently featured this very card in a post about 1963 Fleer in his Card Back Countdown, and it occurred to me that I had yet to add any cards from that set to my collection. When I saw that exact card staring back at me, I took it as a sign. This sheet also features an incredibly weathered (and misspelled) 1951 Bowman of Del Crandall, a scribbled-up 1966 Topps Johnny Podres, a 1963 Topps Clay Dalrymple (whose number came up today on my 1965 Topps blog - more serendipity), and a 1967 Topps checklist featuring Mickey Mantle. The 1967 Topps Orioles team card is one I already had, but it never hurts to have some vintage dupes around for trading purposes.
Six Hall of Famers on one page is a pretty good ratio, huh? Obviously, I bought this one first and foremost for the 1965s. I'd forgotten that I already had Gaylord Perry, but again, that's a good problem to have. I did need Warren Spahn, who becomes card number 550 for my set - 48 to go! The 1968 Billy Williams is in especially crisp shape, and it's jarring to see Lou Piniella (top right) looking that young and trim. By the way, that's not his true rookie card; he was featured on a Senators Rookie Stars card in the 1964 set. The Hank Aaron commemorative card #1 from 1974 Topps is going to be a new favorite for me, too. Oh, and there was a bonus card on the other side of the sheet:
That's right, a 1959 Topps card highlighting Stan "the Man" Musial's 3,000th career hit, which came during the previous season! Sure, somebody took a bite out of it, but I'll give it a good home.

I've got lots of fond memories of Chestertown spanning the past ten years, and now I can add this one to the list: 19 vintage baseball cards for $20 ($21.30 with tax).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Luke Scott, 2010 Upper Deck #75

Mariano Rivera is the Yankee of recent vintage that I respect the most. He quietly goes about his business year after year and is ludicrously good at what he does. Entering today's series finale, he had faced the Orioles 115 times in his career, more than any other opposing team. Believe it or not, his 3.07 ERA against the Birds is one of the highest marks he has against anyone; the Angels (3.43) are the only American League team that touches him up more frequently. That's not to say that Baltimore has Mo's number by any means. The New York closer has 65 career saves against the O's, and had blown five saves in sixteen years. Only ten of the 481 Oriole batters to face him had hit home runs (Rafael Palmeiro and Aubrey Huff each touched him up twice - Edgar Martinez is the only other hitter with two HR off of him), and only four of those were game-tying or go-ahead homers.

Today the script was flipped from last week's series in Yankee Stadium. It was the Bronx Bombers who were trying to wrap up a road sweep, and who were undone by a ninth-inning homer. Luke Scott (1-for-12 in his career vs. Rivera) led off with a solo shot on a low cut fastball from Mariano to tie the game at three. Though he had blown his sixth career save against the Birds, he did not get the loss. The game pushed along into the 11th inning, at which point Luke did his best to single-handedly deliver the win. He led off with a double off of David Robertson, smartly hitting against the defensive shift to turn a routine fly ball to left field into extra bases. Ty Wigginton was the next hitter, and he delivered Baltimore's major league-best 13th extra-inning win with a wallop to the right-center field gap. 4-3, Orioles. Well done.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jay Payton, 2009 Topps Black #189

Just when you thought it was safe to watch National League West baseball, Jay Payton went and rose from the dead. Yes, the 37-year-old outfielder was probably the oldest September callup for any club, as he received a late-season promotion from the Rockies. After he produced a grisly .250/.292/.363 slash line for the Orioles in two seasons, he was out of the major leagues - indeed, out of baseball altogether - in 2009. But the former first-round draft pick of the Mets signed a minor league deal with Colorado in 2010 and batted .323 with 36 doubles for Colorado Springs in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. As the Rockies make yet another furious late-season push for the playoffs, they've used Jay largely as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement. So far, it's paying off; he's hit safely in five of ten at-bats (.500) with a couple of doubles and the Rox are only a game and a half out of first place.

With Aubrey Huff and Eli Whiteside on the first-place Giants roster, Miguel Tejada, Jerry Hairston, and Oscar Salazar on the second-place Padres roster, and Melvin Mora and Jay Payton playing for the Rockies, a whole slew of ex-O's will have a say in the N. L. West pennant chase. Pretty weird.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Chico Salmon, 1972 Topps #646

You might know that Chico Salmon was known as "Super Sub" because he played every position on the field besides pitcher and catcher. You might also know that despite this versatility, he was not particularly adept with the glove; one Orioles teammate cracked, "If Chico's hands get any worse, we'll have to amputate". If you really know your stuff, you'll be aware that Chico's birth name was "Ruthford". But did you know that he was a superstitious man who was deathly afraid of ghosts?

As a child in Panama, Chico was told terrifying stories of ghosts that could enter rooms through open windows or keyholes in doors. He carried his fears into adulthood, and reportedly insisted on sleeping with the lights on until he served in the army and had no choice in the matter!

So let that be a lesson to you parents: you might think that it's all in good fun to tell your children ghost stories or let them watch scary movies, but you never know what will stick in their minds for years to come.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chris Brock, 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man #200

Why am I posting a Chris Brock card? Just because I can. It's an off-day for the Orioles, and nothing else readily comes to mind, so I thumbed through my 2002-2005 box looking for someone obscure. This dude was drafted in the 12th round by the Braves in 1992 out of Florida State, and made it to Atlanta in his sixth pro season. He had six subpar starts and one good relief appearance, and signed with the Giants in 1998. After two so-so years in San Francisco he was traded to the Phillies, and had his two best seasons there (10-8 with a 4.29 ERA). But it seems that he's best known for pulling rank and complaining to Phils GM Ed Wade about beloved broadcaster Harry Kalas sitting in the back of the team's charter plane with the players. Some of his teammates expressed their support for Kalas, and he returned after a few days.

Brock's major league career ended with a 22-game swing through the O's bullpen in 2002. He allowed 52 hits in 44 innings, and compiled a 4.70 ERA. He was scored upon in half of his appearances, including eight multi-run games. He did win a couple of games in long relief:

-On June 19, the Birds were in Arizona for an interleague game and Sidney Ponson was knocked out in the fourth inning. Entering with runners on the corners, two outs, and a 2-1 lead, Chris walked Tony Womack to load the bases before coaxing a grounder from Alex Cintron to end the inning. He ended up pitching around three walks and a double in three scoreless innings, and departed with the Orioles leading 6-1 in the seventh. That was ultimately the final score. The losing pitcher was Curt Schilling, who finished the season 23-7.

-On August 23, Scott Erickson had a disastrous start against the Blue Jays, and Brock relieved him in the second inning with Baltimore already trailing 6-0. Again he stranded a pair of runners. He blanked Toronto for four more innings before giving up an Eric Hinske home run to lead off the seventh, but escaped the inning without further damage. In total he allowed six hits and no walks in five and one-third innings. The O's chipped away at the Jays' lead throughout the game, and had taken the lead with a four-run sixth inning against three pitchers (the last of whom was current Oriole Mark Hendrickson). The Birds won 11-7, thanks in part to four solo home runs from Geronimo Gil, Tony Batista, Melvin Mora, and Jay Gibbons. Ah, the bad old days.

Since his last major league appearance (September 28, 2002), Brock has spent time in the minors and Japan, and his last documented action came in 2007 for the independent Lancaster Barnstormers. He put up a 5.40 ERA in 21 games, which probably convinced him to go home and call it a day. Three years later, I wrote about him on my blog, and now a dozen or so people are reading a cursory overview of his career, and the world keeps turning.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gary Roenicke, 1985 Donruss #123

It's really difficult to curb my giddiness over the Orioles' late-season success under Buck Showalter. The latest fun stat: After losing their first 12 games against the Blue Jays in 2010, the O's just swept a three-game series from them. In each of the last two games, they beat up on the sons of ex-Orioles.

In last night's game, they flat-out abused Josh Roenicke, Gary's offspring. In one of those weird cosmic coincidences, Josh was born the day before I was. I don't know if we were in the same hospital, but his birthplace was Baltimore. He is now in his third major league season and has shown promise, but has yet to put it all together. He entered Tuesday's game in the bottom of the seventh with two runners on base, one out, and the Birds ahead 3-0. He failed to retire a single batter of the five he faced, surrendering RBI singles to Adam Jones and Matt Wieters before walking the unwalkable Cesar Izturis to load the bases. Rookie Josh Bell (0-3, 3 K at the time) tried to help him out by hitting a weak comebacker, but Roenicke failed to field it cleanly and threw wildly to first. 6-0, bases still loaded for Robert Andino, a career .213 hitter. Andino lined the first pitch into the left field corner for a three-run double. Cito Gaston mercifully pulled Josh from the game with the scoreboard reading 9-0.

Tonight, Toronto's much-heralded prospect Kyle Drabek made his major league debut as starting pitcher against Brad Bergesen and the O's. The 22-year-old is the son of Doug Drabek, who ended his career with a gruesome 1998 campaign in Charm City. Doug and the rest of the family were in attendance at Camden Yards tonight and the team apparently upgraded them from seats just below the press box to new seats behind the dugout. The elder Drabek looks good for 48; his hair and mustache are silver, but he got rid of that trademark mullet. Anyway, Kyle's final line tonight didn't look bad - he gave up three runs in six innings to meet the minimum definition of a quality start. But the Orioles actually got their licks in with nine hits and three walks. Some baserunning misadventures and other missed opportunities kept the game close. Of course Bergesen didn't need much help, as he shut out the Jays after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Bautista. He allowed seven hits and no walks and wrapped the game up in a tidy 1:55. (Note to self: the next time you want to go to the park on a work night, make sure Brad is pitching.) Bergy ties his 2009 total with win number seven and spoils Kyle Drabek's first major league game.

It's a shame the Yankees don't have any Oriole offspring on their pitching staff. We might have been able to pencil in another win on Friday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nick Markakis, 2009 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts #37

Short post tonight, as I just walked in the door from a fantastic night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Met everyday reader and frequent commenter Free the Birds and his lovely wife pregame, collected my loud orange Buck Showalter t-shirt, and settled in with my sister to see the Birds obliterate the Blue Jays 11-3. Rookie Jake Arrieta won what was likely his last start of the season, blanking Toronto over six innings and striking out five while walking just one. Every O's starter had at least one hit. Felix Pie reached base four times and drove in two, Matt Wieters had three hits, Nick Markakis hit his 10th home run and Adam Jones clubbed his 18th. Most surprising of all, second baseman Robert Andino (giving a sore-kneed Brian Roberts the night off) cleared the bases in the seventh inning with a three-run double. Stat of the night: the Orioles clinched their fourth consecutive series win. The last such streak they had came in August 2004, so it's been a minute.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rick Dempsey, 1985 Topps #521

Rick Dempsey is blowing out 61 candles on his birthday cake today...at least he would be if his friends and family were sadistic enough to put that many candles on a cake. While his continued lobbying for the Orioles' managerial job throughout the years (and his complaints and laments when he is passed over each time) have gotten a bit tiresome, I certainly appreciate his decades of work in the Baltimore community, both on and off the field. He was one of the more entertaining players in team history during his playing days, but you don't stick around in the major leagues until age 42 on pranks and pantomimes. He was a strong defensive catcher and had some rare successes with the bat at the most opportune time, rapping five extra-base hits in 13 World Series at-bats in 1983 to walk away as the series' MVP. I've also met Rick a few times in recent years, and he couldn't be more patient and friendly with his fans.

Since I mentioned Rick's longevity, I'll expound on something interesting about his career. If you look at his baseball-reference.com page, you'll see that he pitched in two games...both in 1991, when he was 41 and a member of the Brewers. On July 2, he got a rare start at catcher and had a single and two RBI in four trips to the plate. But the Red Sox had pounded three Milwaukee pitchers and took a 13-4 lead into the top of the ninth. Dempsey made his mound debut (in his 23rd big league season!) and pitched to future Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who had replaced him behind the plate. It didn't go great; he yielded a double, a couple of singles, and a run. But he got those last three outs and saved manager Tom Trebelhorn from having to use another reliever. A month later, he sat on the bench (or in the bullpen) and watched four Brewer pitchers cough up 14 runs to the Rangers in the first eight innings. In the ninth, Rick once again got the call, and this time he'd learned a trick or two. After walking leadoff hitter Gary Pettis, he retired the next three hitters (including slugger Ruben Sierra) on grounders to the middle infield. Not bad for an old rookie pitcher.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lenn Sakata, 1983 Fleer #72

Fellow O's fans...and anyone else who has sharp eyes and a keen memory: can you identify the player sitting on the bench behind Lenn Sakata in this photo? Assuming that it was taken in 1982, we should be able to narrow it down. I don't think it's Eddie Murray. That leaves Al Bumbry, John Shelby, Dan Ford (who usually wore glasses), and Mike Young. My guess is T-Bone Shelby, but I'm not sure. Anyone care to weigh in?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eddie Murray, 1987 Topps Mini Leaders #39

It's Quiz Time once again! My latest Sporcle quiz is once again all about home runs. On a slow day I made a spreadsheet and tracked the top five home run hitters for each letter of the alphabet. For example, the "A"s are led by Hank Aaron, and so forth. In the process of putting the quiz together, it was fun to see who made the cut. I'll admit that I made a stretch to accommodate Eddie Murray; I listed the "M"s and the "Mc"s separately. You can test your wits here, and it'd be nifty if you registered Sporcle users wanted to rate the quiz. Good luck, folks!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Jim Palmer, 1976 O-Pee-Chee #200

By the time this card was making its way into the collection of some lucky Canadian kid, Jim Palmer was well on his way to a second consecutive Cy Young Award. He didn't quite match his 23 wins of the previous year, but he did lead the American League once again with 22 W's. In '76, he dominated several teams, but none moreso than the White Sox: he won all four of his starts against the Pale Hose, with three complete games and two shutouts and a 1.38 ERA. The last of those four games was one for the memory bank.

It was August 22, a Sunday afternoon game at Comiskey Park and the first half of a doubleheader. The White Sox wore their infamous and short-lived short pants, but they didn't embarrass themselves on the field. Palmer and Chicago's Ken Kravec swapped zeroes for the first five innings, but the O's broke out on top with two runs in the sixth inning. Doug DeCinces and Ken Singleton had back-to-back RBI singles to account for the scoring. For a while it seemed like Baltimore's ace would collect his third shutout of the year against the Sox, but they loaded the bases in the eight inning and tied the game on a two-run single by Jorge Orta. Palmer was surely disappointed, but it just set the stage for a dramatic ninth inning.

Ken Singleton led off with a walk, but Paul Blair failed to bunt him over. Dave Duncan singled, and Brooks Robinson pinch hit for Tim Nordbrook. After a Kravec wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, he was replaced mid-batter by reliever Francisco Barrios. Barrios completed a walk of Brooks to load the bases. Now the chess match between Earl Weaver and Chicago manager Paul Richards (the man who helped build the O's in the 1950s) began in earnest. Barrios was relieved by Terry Forster, and Earl pinch hit for his DH and leadoff hitter Tommy Harper. The man he called upon was none other than Reggie Jackson; as pinch hitters go, that's a good one to have in your back pocket. Wouldn't you know it, Reggie belted a grand slam to straightaway center field. 6-2, Orioles.

Palmer finished off the Southsiders in order in the home half of the ninth to seal his 17th win. For the game, he walked three, struck out three, and allowed just three hits - a single in the first inning and two more in the eighth. I'm also going to wager a guess that it was the only win in his career made possible by back-to-back pinch hit appearances by future Hall of Famers.

I "discovered" this game through a post by Steve at White Sox Cards. The great thing about Steve's post is that he found a YouTube video featuring five and one-half minutes of home movie footage taken at the game. Much of it is crowd shots, stadium shots, players warming up, and the like. However, there is some game footage. If you skip ahead to about the 3:45 mark, you can see Reggie's heroics. Thanks for the tip, Steve!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pete Harnisch, 1990 Classic Blue #44

I believe this to be the quintessential 1990 baseball card design. It just perfectly encapsulates the days of Bugle Boy, Body Glove, New Kids on the Block, and Saved by the Bell. It makes the staid white borders of Upper Deck and the garish red borders/Jackson Pollock splatters of Donruss look downright silly. Looking at this card, I feel like Pete Harnisch should be wearing a fanny pack and a slap bracelet. Ooh, and maybe Zubaz pants. Hey Night Owl: If you care to Define the Design for 1990 Classic Blue, I would suggest the Zubaz Set.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bobby Bonilla, 1996 Leaf #120

If any of you ever become a general manager for a Major League Baseball team, here's a free bit of advice: don't ever agree to defer money in a player contract. Case in point: Bobby Bonilla.

The first union between the New York Mets and Bonilla was an unhappy one, as they signed him to a five-year, $29 million contract prior to the 1992 season and did not receive the production they were expecting. On the field, he hit .270 with 95 home runs in three and one-half years, good but not great. The team tanked, and he clashed with the media and team officials. When the Orioles came calling in the summer of 1995 and were willing to part with five-tool outfield prospect Alex Ochoa, the Mets gladly washed their hands of Bobby Bo.

Removed from the glare of the Big Apple, Bobby picked up the pace a bit. He batted .300 and drove in 162 runs in one and one-half years in Baltimore, then went to Florida as a free agent and collected 96 RBI for the Marlins, who won the World Series in 1997. The Fish dumped him the following May in their post-championship fire sale, and he showed significant signs of decline: .249 AVG, 11 HR, 45 RBI in 100 games with the Marlins and Dodgers. So that offseason, Los Angeles unloaded him to...the Mets?

Yep, New York welcomed back the same player who'd dissatisfied them earlier in the decade, only now he was 36, on the downhill slope, and he was still making $6 million a year. While the Mets made it to the postseason in 1999, it had very little to do with Bonilla, who hit .160 in 60 games, feuded with manager Bobby Valentine, and openly quit on the team in the NLCS, famously playing cards with Rickey Henderson in the clubhouse during an 11-inning loss in Game Six. The Mets were so desperate to be rid of Bobby a second time that they waived him the following spring and agreed to eat the $5.9 million left on his contract via deferred payments over a 25-year period. What's the big deal?

The first payment is due next year, and there's this little thing called interest. The math involved is out of my pay grade, but essentially Bobby and the Mets front office agreed on an eight percent rate. It's been a decade since the settlement, and that interest is nothing to sneeze at. The Wall Street Journal reports that his annual salary will be $1,193,248.20. He'll receive these payments right on through 2035, and will be 72 years old when he finally comes off the Mets' payroll. The total damage is $29,831,205, which makes $5.9 million sound reasonable.

Just who could have been short-sighted and oblivious enough to sign off on such a deal? If you guessed former Mets GM and disgraced ESPN bobblehead Steve Phillips, step to the front of the line.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jeremy Guthrie, 2008 Topps Heritage #384

Congratulations are in order for Jeremy Guthrie, who has been selected as the Orioles' nominee for this year's Roberto Clemente Award. The award, to copy and paste from mlb.com, "is given annually to the Major League player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."

We certainly know that Guthrie has handled the whole baseball/contribution to his team part of the bargain. After a disastrous 2009 season in which he led the American League in losses and home runs allowed, he's rebounded to bring his ERA back to the sub-4.00 territory that we've come to expect. And don't look now, but he's gone 6-3 in the second half to bring him within one win of his career high of ten.

As for the community involvement, Jeremy certainly keeps busy. At certain home games, you can see "Guthrie's Gang" in the upper reserve, underprivileged fans who are able to attend Camden Yards on the pitcher's dime. He's also donated his time at the Helping Up Mission, which serves the needy men of Baltimore. He does speaking engagements for children, visits injured soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center, and participates in the player union's Buses for Baseball Program. Needless to say, he's also active in the charitable events that the Orioles and his individual teammates have undertaken, like the O's annual holiday party or Brian Roberts' Baseball Bash.

If you care to cast your vote for Guts, you can do so here. If you're curious (and why wouldn't you be?), four O's have won the Clemente Award since its inception in 1971: Brooks Robinson (1972), Ken Singleton (1982), Cal Ripken, Jr. (1992), and Eric Davis (1997).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2008 Upper Deck Goudey Hit Parade of Champions #HPC-6

There are a few things that I miss about card collecting as it was during my childhood. One of the foremost is the ability to find cards for sale just about anywhere you went: dollar stores, toy stores, department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, you name it. When I started pursuing the hobby in earnest, 1993 Topps could be purchased in cellophane packs of 15 cards for 69 to 79 cents. It was cheap to get a little fix, and you'd always have an opportunity nearby. If you're out on errands now and want to get a few packs as a quick afterthought, you're at the mercy of the big-box stores like Target or Walmart and whatever they've deigned to stock. I always see fellow bloggers taking advantage of marked-down excess inventory from previous years, but whenever I find a bargain box, it seems to be loaded with hockey, football, and basketball. Bleah. I like to give the hobby stores my business when I can, but it's a lot easier to talk myself into grabbing a few packs when I don't have to make another special stop to do it.

I wasn't expecting to buy any cards during my Labor Day Weekend getaway, so I did take a pit stop at Sports Card Depot on Friday (conveniently located about a mile from my house!) to pick up a box of binder sheets and a binder so that I could better organize my vintage cards during my vacation. Sunday night I'd finished that task and was headed to dinner at MaZar's Bridge View Restaurant in the town of Nicholson with my girlfriend when she asked me to stop at the Dollar General down the street. While she picked up a few staples, I roamed the toy and magazine aisles looking halfheartedly for cards for sale. I actually let out a bit of a gasp when I spotted three rows of feeder boxes at the end of an aisle with a big "$2" label. Interestingly enough, they all seemed to be Upper Deck products, all from 2008. The baseball packs were SPX, Series 2 of the base set, Masterpieces, and Goudey. I'd dabbled in Goudey in 2008, and the price tag represented a 33% discount, so I grabbed five packs to make it an even $10 and to see if I could get a bit closer to actually completing the set (I'm on pace to meet this goal some time in 2045). The girlfriend was kind enough to pick up the tab, since I was buying dinner and she'd dragged me into the dollar store...her words, not mine.

I ripped the packs as soon as we got back from dinner and was satisfied with the results. No huge hits, but I got some great base cards (including Warren Spahn in a Boston Braves uniform). I didn't get any O's, but I did pull the Reggie Jackson card from the Hit Parade of Champions insert set, hence the scan of the Cal Junior card that I already had in my collection. It was a nice bonus in a great weekend.

P.S.: It's also the 15th anniversary of 2,131. You didn't really think I'd forget, did you?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mike Mussina, 1995 Fleer Pro Visions #1

I feel safe in saying that Mike Mussina, who was born in Williamsport but called Montoursville home, is the best Pennsylvanian in Orioles history. He won 270 games in his 18-year career, 147 of them in his ten years in Baltimore. While with the O's he was a five-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glover. Plus he inspired some mean works of art.

There's not as much competition as you'd think, especially considering that the Keystone State has produced more major leaguers than any other state in the USA - 1,373 in all. The most prominent names include Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who played just one abbreviated campaign in Charm City; Jamie Moyer, who resurrected his career here but notched only 25 of his 267 wins in orange and black; the aforementioned Cal Abrams; Jeff "Super" Manto, the slugging journeyman who amassed 17 of his 31 career homers in his 89 games as an Oriole in 1995; and Nolan Reimold, who made a case for Rookie of the Year last year before crumbling in 2010. There's still time for Nolan to supplant Moose, though.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cal Abrams, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #2

Acquired from the Pirates in a May 1954 trade, Philadelphia native Cal Abrams was not only the first Pennsylvania-born player to suit up for the Orioles, but he was also their leading hitter. Of course, the brand-new Birds were so offensively deficient that his title was somewhat of a booby prize. They batted only .251 as a team (the major league average was .261), and they were dead last - 16 out of 16 - in runs scored with 483. The nearest club to them was the woeful Philadelphia Athletics, who weren't that close with 542 runs.

Still, the overall ineptitude of Baltimore's bats shouldn't detract from the good year that Abrams had. In 115 games, he managed to lead the club in batting (.293), on-base percentage (.400), slugging (.421), runs (67), doubles (22), triples (7), and even times hit by pitch (4). Most categories weren't even close - the next-best OBP came from Chuck Diering, who checked in at .349! Vern Stephens was the only other regular Oriole to slug over .400 (.403). He was the top home run hitter, with a whopping eight, and also paced the team with 46 RBI. Abrams and Bob Kennedy tied for second place with six round-trippers apiece.

Despite being practically the only Oriole hitter with a pulse, Cal was robbed of the inaugural Most Valuable Oriole award. In a baffling decision, fellow outfielder Diering (with a .258 AVG, .311 SLG and the aforementioned OBP .051 lower than Abrams) took home the honors. Well, Cal, for what it's worth, you would have had my vote in a walkaway.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Ed Barnowski and Larry Haney, 1967 Topps #507

By my count, Ed Barnowski was one of 30 Orioles to date to be born in Pennsylvania. He was born in Scranton, as were 17 other major leaguers. As he had only 7.1 innings pitched in his major league career, it's the ultimate in small sample sizes, but it's still worth mentioning to this fan of minutiae that Ed's 2.45 ERA is the best among all Scrantonians in MLB history.

So why am I talking about the Keystone State? Ah, it’s once again getaway day. I’m bound for the family cottage in Northeastern Pennsylvania (an hour north of Scranton, and an hour south of Binghamton, and nothing else you'd know is even close to there), with my significant other and her dog in tow. Since we’re both trying to conserve our vacation leave, we decided not to go until after work today. Of course, she works a 9-to-5, after which she has to go home, pack the car and dog, and make the eighty-plus-mile drive up from Southern Maryland to my home. Whenever she arrives (likely between 8 PM and 9 PM), only then will we be able to set out for a four-hour car trip up interstates 83 and 81, with a dash of PA Turnpike sprinkled in. It’s not ideal of course, but I’m driving and I am the “night person” between the two of us. Considering how long it takes to get there, it just wouldn’t be worthwhile to wait until tomorrow morning to make the drive. Two full days is the bare minimum to spend at the cottage if you want to feel like you’ve had time to relax.

So what’s on the itinerary, besides as little as possible? The simple things. There’s no cable or Internet (heavens forefend!), so we’ll probably catch up on some DVD viewing. I haven’t seen Kill Bill or Raising Arizona, so Barbara intends to remedy that. In turn, I’ll be exposing her to the final season of LOST, and maybe The Wrestler if she gets tired of my pestering. Undoubtedly we’ll get some reading done – for my part, I’ve fallen off the wagon in my literary pursuits ever since I stopped riding trains to work a year ago. “The Boys of Summer” has been sitting on my shelf for far too long. Maybe we’ll take the rowboat out on the lake, or roast marshmallows in the fire pit. I can assure you of two things, though: 1) I will not give another thought to this blog; I hope you’ll make do with pre-written auto-posts for the weekend. 2) I will enjoy the hell out of the weather. The forecast is calling for highs in the upper 60s and lows around 50 with no precipitation. After a typical week of high 90s and choking humidity in Baltimore, that sounds like a panacea.

Happy Labor Day weekend to you and yours!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Floyd Rayford, 1986 Fleer #283

As if you needed any more proof that the polyester-and-elastic era of the 1970s and 1980s was not the high water mark of baseball aesthetics, I give you the sight of Floyd Rayford's gut spilling over his waistband. You and I could fill out a uniform at least as well as Sugar Bear, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Brandon Snyder, 2005 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects #BDP94

Sometime in the next few days, the Orioles' #1 draft pick from 2005 should make his major league debut. Brandon Snyder won't have nearly the hype of Matt Wieters, Josh Bell, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, or Nolan Reimold. (That's a lot of prospects, huh?) Snyder was drafted as a catcher out of high school, and was switched to first base during his six-season minor league apprenticeship. He didn't get to AA until last year, but it was worth the wait - he batted .343 with a .421 on-base percentage and .597 slugging in 58 games at Bowie before being bumped up to AAA Norfolk. While the Tides' Harbor Park is known for being tough on hitters, Brandon still didn't inspire any confidence with a .248/.316/.355 line in AAA last year and a .257/.324/.407 mark in 2010. He's not seen as having enough power to be an everyday first baseman in the majors (he topped out at 13 HR in 2008), but there's no harm in giving the guy a look.

I'll say this...I am happy for Brandon Snyder and I certainly have higher expectations for him than for Billy Rowell, who was drafted #1 a year after him and is still in Frederick. Eesh.