Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lou Montanez, 2010 Upper Deck #78

I'll take a break from posting autographs to show you my impulse buy from FanFest. While strolling the third floor of the convention center, I spotted a sign outside of a conference room: "Silent auction and game-used items". I stopped dead in my tracks and inhaled sharply. I've toyed with the notion of ponying up for a game-used jersey ever since I spotted a rack full of them at the National in August. There was something intoxicating about those polyester uniform tops, brightly colored with 1980s-2000s logos and wordmarks, bearing names and numbers of thoroughly uninspiring ex-players. Anyone can own a Cal Ripken, Jr. or Roy Halladay jersey. But a Kirk Saarloos Athletics jersey or a Peter Bergeron Expos road jersey...these things appeal to my twisted sense of humor and aesthetics.

I entered the room and gravitated toward a table piled high with orange and black batting practice jerseys. They were all available for $50 each, and the names and numbers were a wonderful cross-section of forgotten or soon-to-be-forgotten coaches, instructors, minor leaguers, and fringe major leaguers. I glossed over the instructors and minor league coaches. Even I didn't want something as esoteric as a Richie Hebner #99. Same thing goes for the spring training invitees who didn't sniff the majors; tough luck for you, Chorye Spoone and Blake Davis. I spent several minutes clutching a Jake Fox #47 black road jersey. There's something about that big, hard-swinging lummox that just reaches me. But then I realized that it was enormous, a size 52 that hung to my knees. I briefly considered an Oscar Salazar #16 and an Adam Eaton #56, but ultimately settled on a Lou Montanez #16 (size 48). I like the look of the black road jersey over the orange home jersey due to the "Baltimore" wordmark. Besides, the shade of orange on the other jersey looks washed-out.

Lou also seemed like a good choice because he came across as an articulate and decent guy during his time in Baltimore (and Bowie and Norfolk). He also had some rabid supporters among O's fans, including one Camden Chat member who declared, "LOU CAN HIT. DEAL WITH IT." That phrase became a running joke on the blog. Montanez just signed as a free agent with the Cubs, the organization with which he spent the first seven years of his professional career. I guess that ensures that I will be the only person in Charm City wearing a Lou Montanez jersey. As tongue-in-cheek keepsakes go, it's a good one.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mike Bordick, 1997 Collector's Choice #274

Here's autograph number two from yesterday. My sister procured Mike Bordick's signature as well as Jason Berken's. I've already posted the only Berken card that I own, so I'll post the autographed scan below.
As you can see, Mike Bordick's John Hancock isn't quite as legible as Craig Tatum's, but it is leaps and bounds better than Berken. It's worth noting that Berken looked much thinner than I had remembered, and it so happens that he adopted a more healthy diet and lost thirty pounds this offseason. Hopefully that helps him to stay on the field in 2011.

I mentioned on Friday that the main attraction for my sister was pitcher Brian Matusz, and he was caught off guard when she handed him a replica of his own #17 jersey to sign. "Is it alright if I sign on the number?" He asked. "I don't think I've ever done a jersey." He placed his autograph on the top of the "7", and it looks pretty sharp if I say so myself. Matusz apparently has a lot to learn about this sort of thing. While my sister was waiting in line, she overheard Berken telling the lefthander that he was actually signing the back of his photo postcards instead of the front. Brian flipped one of the cards over and realized his mistake, and also remarked upon how good the photo looked. I guess players do pay attention to those kinds of things. Take note, card manufacturers.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Craig Tatum, 2010 Orioles Postcards

I'm briefly coming up for air between the Orioles FanFest and an evening out with friends. Here's the first autograph that I collected today, trusty backup catcher Craig Tatum. "Tater" was the only featured player who I didn't have a card for, as it's hard for the role players to get their just due in card sets these days. Fortunately, the O's produce these postcard-sized prints for their players, coaches, and alumni to sign. I'm going to count this as a card. Craig's signature is fairly legible, and I appreciate that he included his uniform number. As for the card itself, it's a pretty nice action photo; the dude has a cannon for an arm.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Tippy Martinez, 1980 Topps #706

With several inches of snow on the ground and only one football game remaining (no, the Pro Bowl DOESN'T count), baseball season cannot arrive soon enough. Thankfully, there is the 2011 Orioles FanFest to tide me over. Big thanks to out to reader and coworker Jeff (a.k.a. FreeTheBirds), a season ticket holder who gifted me his complimentary tickets for the event. Tomorrow morning I'll get up earlier than usual for a Saturday, but it's a good cause in my book. I'll round up my sister at 9:00, with hopes that we're two of the first 250 people through the door at the 10:00 entry time for season ticket folks. That group will be privy to a free autograph session with Brad Bergesen, Al Bumbry, and new O's infielders Mark Reynolds and Brendan Harris. You might have heard some grumbling about the decision to charge $15 for vouchers per regularly scheduled autograph sessions throughout the rest of the day, but I gladly paid for one. Here's my rationale:

1) Demand at past free autograph sessions was just too high. The line for each session began forming an hour prior to the session. In effect, you could lose up to two hours of the seven-hour event just getting signatures from a single three-or-four-person booth.

2) All of the proceeds from the vouchers will reportedly go to the OriolesREACH childrens' charities. Jeff reports that a ticket representative told him that the $15 voucher fee would not be tax-deductible, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

3) Kids from 4-14 can still get free autographs at a separate booth throughout the day, and that's what matters.

4) Adults will just have to put a price on the autographs. Is it worth it to you to get three or four player signatures for $15? That's better than you'll do at a memorabilia show. I'm willing to buy one, but I'll stop there. It's not so hard.

Anyway, I'll be lining up for the 11:20 AM session with Matt Wieters, Craig Tatum, and Dick Hall. I've been keen on meeting Hall ever since we exchanged a few emails about my NumerOlogy website shortly after its February 2008 launch. (Note: the site got hacked several months ago, and I'm still puzzling out a fix for it. I appreciate your patience!)

My sister wants to get her Brian Matusz jersey signed, so she bought into the 3:20 session with Matusz, Jason Berken, and Mike Bordick. She's only interested in the young lefty's autograph, so she's going to get the other two to sign cards for me. I told her it will be an acceptable trade for my chaffeur duties.

If you look at the entire autograph lineup, you'll see a fair representation of players from bygone days. In addition to Bumbry, Hall, and Bordick, there are sessions featuring Larry Sheets, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Ross Grimsley, Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor, Joe Orsulak, Tippy Martinez, and Mike Flanagan. As of this writing, all but a pair of the 15 sessions have sold out. So I guess there wasn't too much outrage over the new policy. As for me, I'm looking forward to showing off some autographs throughout the coming week!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Albert Belle, 2001 Topps Opening Day #136

After spending an hour tormenting my back muscles by shoveling snow, I enjoyed the rest of my day off with some well-earned sloth. This included watching one of those entertainingly disposable Top 50 countdown programs on the MLB Network. In a thumb of the nose toward concussion awareness, this particular episode focused on the most memorable on-field collisions. Number one was Pete Rose's flying shoulder block of Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 1970 All-Star Game, of course. The first runner-up was Albert Belle's violent forearm shiver to the jaw of Brewers second baseman Fernando Vina in a 1996 game. If somehow you missed it, Belle was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning with the Indians up 9-3. When Eddie Murray followed with a grounder directly to Vina, the second baseman reached up to tag the charging runner. Albert chose to break up the would-be double play by squaring up and clocking him. Vina flailed to the ground but held onto the ball, and Belle was called out. As there was no play at first, Murray was safe on a fielder's choice. Some choice! Anyway, the Brewers retaliated by plunking the rage-filled slugger again in the ninth. A brawl ensued, and Belle was subsequently suspended for five games.

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the clip again for the first time in several years. It was so blatant. It's been a full decade since Albert retired due to an arthritic hip, so there's an entire generation of baseball fans who may not truly grasp the bat-doody insanity of Albert Belle. Tell the children...never forget.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brian Roberts, 2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball #152

This card stretches the boundaries of an Orioles card, but it's my favorite player and my blog so I'm going to run with it. Picked this up a few weeks ago, and I'm glad to add it to my player collection. According to the bio on the back, Brian Roberts played 21 of a possible 26 games for the 1997 USA Baseball National Team. Though they had a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Intercontinental Cup in Spain, Brian performed well with a .330 batting average.

Incidentally, Roberts just broke down and joined Twitter under the name 1brianroberts. To my knowledge, Adam Jones (THE_ADAM_JONES) is the only other O's player out there tweeting. So be sure to follow both if that's your kind of thing!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sam Horn, 1993 Topps #109

Today I want to wish a happy birthday to Ryan, a diehard Orioles and Phillies fan who I befriended through the technological wonders of Twitter. We had the opportunity to meet in the meatworld last August at the National Sports Collectors Convention here in Baltimore, and I look forward to catching a game with him some time this season if the timing is right.

The list of January 25th baseball birthdays is pretty weak; former Oriole phenom Wally Bunker might be the best of the lot and he has very few non-vintage cards. The only other ex-O's are reliever Richie Lewis (four games, 12.71 ERA) and first baseman Francisco Melendez (nine games, .273 AVG). So instead I went with a card from 1993 Topps, one of Ryan's favorite sets of all time. The design might not be so hot, but I've got the kind of affection for it that can only be achieved by building your first set at age 11, and doing it the hard way: pack-by-pack, from now-obsolete places like Revco and McCrory's. (I suddenly sound incredibly old for someone under age 30.) The photography is also better than you'd expect at a glance. This is one of my favorite Orioles cards in the set, with the hulking Sam Horn sitting in pregame repose with his hands and chin resting on the knob of a heavily pine-tarred bat. Meanwhile, a female fan leans against the rail behind him, wearing some spiffy neon sunglasses and clutching a baseball in her hand. It's time to play ball.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leo Gomez, 1993 Pinnacle #351

You can tell from the long-sleeved undershirts being worn by Leo Gomez and the Tigers players in the visiting dugout that this photograph was taken at a cold-weather game. But I can safely say that I would gladly take an overcast, chilly April day right about now. For the past few days, it's been turribly cold in Baltimore. Cold enough that I am unable to think in complete sentences while outdoors, to borrow a bit from comedian Lewis Black. When I got up for work at six this morning, it was nine degrees. Nine. I don't like being able to count the temperature on my fingers. While I am grateful for the little things, like the fact that my ancient car is still starting up on the first try, or that my house has heat, it doesn't make it easier to hoist oneself out from under the warmth of a feather comforter while it's still dark outside. I have lost my admittedly small reserve of patience for winter, and would love nothing more than to make a fleeting escape to San Diego to visit friends. Unfortunately said friends are booked solid for the rest of the winter. Maybe I should plan a Spring Training excursion to Sarasota for February or March. Whaddaya say?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Adam Jones, 2010 Bowman Gold #187

One of my favorite elements of a baseball card photo is some sort of visual indicator of the stadium in which the game is being played. It's pretty clear here that the extensive green wall and adjacent utility door are landmarks of Boston's Fenway Park. Judging from the shadows and Adam Jones' shades, I'd say that it's a day game. The only Fenway day game in which AJ recorded a putout in 2009 was on Sunday, July 26. In fact, he caught five fly balls that day as David Hernandez pitched seven strong five-hit innings and topped John Smoltz and the Red Sox 6-2. Jones had a rough day at the plate (0-for-5), but Nick Markakis picked him up with a double, a home run, and three RBI. Brian Roberts set the pace with two singles and two walks from the leadoff spot. Believe it or not, that was the only game the O's won in Beantown two years ago, and one of just two wins in their 18-game season series against the Sawx. Don't worry; they've been lulling Boston into a false sense of security all these years and in 2011 they're going to strike. This orange Kool-Aid is delicious...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Arthur Rhodes, 1994 O-Pee-Chee #17

Ladies and germs, it's time once again for your annual "Arthur Rhodes is the Highlander" update. On January 3, the 41-year-old lefty signed with the Rangers for $3.9 million for one year, with a vesting option for a second year at $4 million. If he pitches in 62 games in 2011 and does not finish the season on the disabled list, the option will be guaranteed. Incidentally, his games totals for 2008-2010 have been 61, 66, and 69. Such is the life of the LOOGY (Lefthanded One Out GuY). Barring disaster, Rhodes will begin his 20th major league season in April, with a fair chance of ensuring himself a 21st. Let the good times roll.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Bob Nieman, 1959 Topps #375

I'm going to conclude Four-Eyes Week with the first good bespectacled player the Orioles ever had, unless I'm overlooking someone. Given the quality of the team in those early years, I'm confident in my declaration. Bob Nieman was a professional hitter through and through. He hit for average, took walks, and had some pop. For a guy with a career batting line of .295 AVG/.373 OBP/.474 SLG and a 132 OPS+, he seems to have faded from memory. I suspect that he would be better-known if his career had been a bit longer; he attended college at Kent State University (a rarity for ballplayers in the 1940s) and got a late start. His first full season was with the Browns in 1952, when he was already 25. By 1960, he was through as a starting player and his career totaled 12 seasons in all.

Bob did his best to make up for lost time, however. In his debut with the Browns on September 14, 1951, he became the first player in big league history to homer in each of his first two at-bats. He proceeded to hit .284 with 82 doubles, 54 homers, and 239 RBI through the 1955 season, not a bad start at all. But it was a trade from the White Sox to the Orioles in early 1956 that seemed to push Nieman into a higher gear. In 114 games with the O's that year, he hit .322 with an absurd .442 on-base percentage (still a team record for a single-season OBP). Despite playing in only 74% of the club's games, he led them in every major offensive category except for home runs and RBI. His totals of 12 HR and 64 RBI trailed only slugging catcher Gus Triandos for the team lead, and he was a top-ten player in the American League in several categories. Bob finished seventh in A.L. MVP balloting despite playing most of the year for a 69-85 team.

After a "down" season in 1957 (.276/.363/.429; still good for a 123 OPS+), Nieman had a career year sidetracked by injury. He was batting .367/.449/.560 on June 2 when he was struck on the basepaths by a Bob Boyd line drive. The outfielder missed more than a month, but still finished with a line of .325/.395/.522, an OPS+ of 157, 20 doubles, 16 home runs, and 60 RBI in 105 games. The following season was both his last in Baltimore and his last as a regular. He left Charm City on a high note with a career-high 21 home runs as well as 60 RBI in 118 games. He batted .292/.367/.528 with a 146 OPS+, leading the team in slugging.

Bob was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1960 season for the immortal Gene Green, who would play exactly one game in an O's uniform. He served as a pinch hitter and backup outfielder for the Cards, Indians, and Giants before playing one last season in Japan in 1963. His final stats as an Oriole (609 games): .301/.384/.486, 140 OPS+, 100 2B, 19 3B, 82 HR, 336 RBI. He has the seventh-best career slugging percentage in team history, the fifth-best on-base percentage and OPS, and the fourth-best adjusted OPS+. Not bad for a guy with something less than 20/20 vision.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eddie Murray, 1987 Topps #120

Until reader Drew made mention of it in the comments to Tuesday's post, I had completely forgotten that Eddie Murray had appeared in glasses on a baseball card. I'm not quite seasoned enough to remember a time when he wore glasses, and off the top of my head I can't remember seeing any other photos or cards where he sported this look. Was it a short-lived experiment? Did he usually wear contact lenses? Help me out, folks. At any rate, I'm grateful that Eddie didn't keep it up. Even he couldn't make those oversized wire frames look intimidating.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dizzy Trout, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #463

The Orioles seem to be desperately scouring the free agent and trade markets for a veteran starter, convinced that they need to create more competition for the young arms vying for the rotation. Hopefully they don't get desperate enough to coax someone out of retirement, as they once did with a World War II-era All-Star.

Paul Howard "Dizzy" Trout was fortunate enough to enter his prime as a pitcher during the war, when the major league talent pool was greatly diluted by the departure of able-bodied players for military service. He led the league in shutouts (5) and wins (20) in 1943 and had a 2.48 ERA that placed him in the top ten for the first of six times in his career. The following year his record was an astounding 27-14, and his ERA a league-best 2.12 in an astronomical 352.1 innings - not only did he complete 33 of his 40 starts, he relieved in 9 other games! What's more, Dizzy batted .271 with 5 home runs and 24 RBI and produced an OPS+ of 107. In other words, he was a better hitter than Cesar Izturis. He was a contributor to the team's World Series win in 1945 as well, winning 18 games in the regular season and allowing a single earned run in 13.2 innings in the Fall Classic. Although he never hit those lofty heights again, Trout remained a dependable pitcher for the Tigers for more than a decade. He was 161-153 in parts of 14 seasons in Detroit, with a 3.20 ERA. He finished his productive career at age 37 as a member of the 1952 Red Sox, leaving on a good note with a 9-8 mark and a respectable 3.64 ERA...or so it would seem.

Five years later, the then-42-year-old Trout got the itch to come back. He had rejoined the Tigers as a broadcaster from 1953-1955, and in 1956 made an unsuccessful bid to be sheriff of Wayne County, MI. He joined a "good" semipro team in Detroit, and supposedly got the attention of the Orioles after an old-timer's game. With the club hovering around .500 for the first time in their four years in Baltimore, manager Paul Richards was willing to take a flyer. He had the veteran throw batting practice, liked what he saw, and assigned him to a short stint with the Vancouver Mounties in late August. The manager seemed realistic, offering this lukewarm quote: "We need a right-hander who can pitch a couple of innings at a stretch the rest of the season and he just might be able to do it." For his part, Dizzy was a bit more bullish: "For a couple of innings, I didn't think there are more than five or six guys in this league who can throw harder than I can."

Truth be told, Trout's three-game run at Vancouver was pretty underwhelming. He allowed only one earned run in 10.2 innings...but four unearned runs as well, to say nothing of ten hits and five walks. But Richards sent for him anyway, and in early September the 42-year-old joined a pitching staff with a handful of guys young enough to be his sons. Rookie Jerry Walker had been born two months before Diz made his major league debut in 1939!

Manager Richards eased the sage veteran back into major league competition, having him face Boston's Pete Daley with the bases empty and two out in the eighth inning on September 7. Daley hit a shallow fly ball that was gloved by second baseman Billy Gardner, and the O's still trailed 4-2. After a ninth-inning rally fell short, there was no need for the host Red Sox to bat in the ninth. One game in the rear view for Trout. Maybe he let his guard down. On September 11, the Birds hosted Kansas City for a doubleheader. In the first game, Oriole starter Ray Moore coughed up four early runs. Dizzy was called upon to start the fourth inning, hopefully to get the game under control. He lasted for four batters: double, single, triple, single. When opposing pitcher Ralph Terry singled home the third run of the inning - and seventh of the game - for the A's, Trout was yanked. He walked off of the mound for the last time that day with an 81.00 ERA for his abbreviated comeback.

The righty did land on his feet, joining the White Sox in 1959 as a pitching instructor. He also worked with the team in public relations up until his untimely death from cancer at age 56 in 1972. His son Steve pitched for the White Sox, Cubs, Yankees, and Mariners from 1978-1989. Strange but true: Steve attempted a comeback of his own with the Pirates in 1997 at age 39. He retired the side on five pitches in his first inning in the Grapefruit League, but allowed a home run to the leadoff batter in the second and apparently went downhill from there, as I can't find any other record of his performance that spring.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cory Doyne, 2007 Topps '52 Rookies #111

When regular reader Bob pointed out that I had featured two bespectacled (or in the case of Chris Sabo, begoggled) players in a three-day span, I decided to spin it off into a theme week. We're still a month away from spring training, so I'm all about generating easy content. There's no better way to continue Four-Eyes Week than with this stupendously goofy card. This would be Cory Doyne's only major-brand baseball card, if not for a 2003 Bowman pre-rookie issue. What a shame.

So much to absorb from one 2 and 1/2" x 3 and 1/2" piece of cardboard. The oddly colored glove, almost assuredly meant to mimic the red stitches on a white baseball. The half-unbuttoned shirt, as though Cory knows his chances of making the team (and by extension, getting his own card) are slim and none, so why should he bother looking spiffy? The terrible and baseball-player-ubiquitous soul patch, which for some reason seems to be exempt from the Orioles' stuffy no-beard policy. And of course, the state-of-the-art prescription eyewear made famous by pitchers such as Brendan Donnelly, Eric Gagne, and new Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg.

I remember Cory Doyne's brief and ignominious major league career. He was nearly 26 and a veteran of eight professional seasons when the O's promoted him to the bigs on June 16. He mopped up in a loss against the Diamondbacks, walking Conor Jackson before retiring Orlando Hudson on a grounder to second. He'd been a placeholder, and was sent back to Norfolk immediately. But the former eighth-round draft pick of the Astros was gaining momentum as a lights-out closer for the Tides: he would finish the season with a 2.23 ERA, nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and a franchise-record 29 saves. So when the Birds learned in late July that Chris Ray would need elbow surgery, they brought back Cory for a longer look. But after a scoreless eighth inning against the Rays in his first game back, the wheels came off.

The O's put Doyne in on July 26 for a second straight game. It was the ninth inning, they were up 10-5, it was a textbook low-leverage situation for an inexperienced pitcher. But he was shaky, allowing a couple of runs on two singles and a walk to make manager Dave Trembley squirm a little. Still he got through it, collecting the necessary three outs for a 10-7 Orioles win. Two nights later, he was called upon in practically the same situation, with much worse results. Thanks to an uncharacteristically well-pitched game by Brian Burres and some rare success against Roger Clemens, the O's had cruised to a 7-1 ninth-inning lead over the hated Yankees. It was Cory time, in a manner of speaking. Hideki Matsui greeted him with a single, and Jorge Posada followed with a two-run homer to tighten the margin. It took Robinson Cano just two pitches two rip a double, and Bronx legend Andy Phillips singled on the first pitch he saw. Still looking for the first out of the inning, Doyne instead surrendered an RBI single to Melky Cabrera. Trembley had finally seen enough and put the rookie out of his misery. He sent in Jamie Walker to blunt the New York rally with the tying run suddenly standing at home plate.

Walker (back before he fell apart) coaxed a double play out of Johnny Damon, but Derek Jeter closed the book on poor Cory with a weak grounder that he Derek Jetered through the hole to score Phillips. The final line for the first-year reliever: five batters faced, five hits, four earned runs, 16 painful pitches. I was screaming at my television like a lunatic, swearing oaths upon the name of Cory Doyne as my Yankee fan roommate wisely bit his tongue. Walker ended the anguish and earned a save by striking out Bobby Abreu to lock in the final score at 7-5.

Cory appeared once more in an Orioles uniform, battling through a scoreless 1.1 innings in a loss to the Red Sox, but the writing was on the wall. On August 3, he was returned to Norfolk, his place taken by Kurt Birkins. The vision-impaired righty endured an injury-abbreviated 2008 season in the O's farm system before signing with the Nationals in 2009. Washington released him that July, and he briefly pitched for the unaffiliated Long Island Ducks. Doyne did not play professionally last year, and his career may be over. If so, his final major league stats are as follows: 3.2 IP in 5 games, 6 earned runs allowed on seven hits, three walks, and a hit batter. His WHIP was 2.73, and his ERA 14.73. Yikes.

But in this odd-looking card, Cory Doyne has left an enduring legacy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ron Kittle, 1991 Donruss #613

You might not remember Ron Kittle's time in an Orioles uniform. I'm sure he would like to forget it. In mid-1990, the White Sox traded the 32-year-old slugger to the O's for Phil Bradley. He played in only 22 games with Baltimore, batting just .164 (10-for-61) with a couple home runs and three RBI. He returned to Chicago in 1991 but retired after being released in August.

Though his career ran out of steam quickly, the former Rookie of the Year made the most out of the time he had in the majors. Ron hit 176 home runs in just 843 games, and averaged one homer for every 15.4 times at bat, the 22nd-best ratio of all time. He also averaged one home run per 17.1 plate appearances. There are currently 27 players (including five currently active) who hit between 176 and 186 career home runs. Of all of these men, "Kitty" had the best PA/HR ratio. Interestingly enough, he also had the lowest number of RBI at 460. This was probably attributable to his boom-or-bust offensive approach: his career batting average is a scant .239, and he struck out 744 times total. He also wore the hell out of a pair of glasses.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Francisco de la Rosa, 1992 Stadium Club #61

Reader Bo tipped me off a few days ago to some unfortunate news. On January 6, former O's pitcher Francisco de la Rosa passed away in Baltimore. The native of the Dominican Republic was originally signed by the Blue Jays in 1985, but spent four years in the Oriole farm system (1988-1991). He went 9-5 with a 2.05 ERA for the Hagerstown Suns and Rochester Red Wings in 1990, and followed up with a 2.67 ERA in 38 games the following year at Rochester. He received a September callup from the Birds in 1991, allowing two earned runs in four innings of relief. The club traded him to the Yankees in the offseason for Alan Mills, and de la Rosa never made it back to the major leagues. After his career ended, he lived in New York and Philadelphia before moving back to Baltimore to live with his brother Gustavo. I couldn't find a cause of death listed anywhere, but Francisco was only 44 years old. Hopefully he's at peace now.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chris Sabo, 1995 Score #385

Football has filled me with rage, frustration, and disappointment this evening. I need the calming, otherworldly zen of Chris Sabo's Rec Specs. Thank goodness you're here, Spuds.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, 1970 Topps #463

As an update to yesterday's post, Frank Robinson was released from the hospital yesterday and returned to the meetings he had been attending with MLB owners and general managers. Even though the Paradise Valley, AZ doctors gave him the all-clear and said that he was "not dehydrated, but a little dry", he wisely said that he would follow up with his doctors at home in Los Angeles. He suggested that heart health wasn't something to take lightly, but also seemed to be attempting to head off any potential nagging: "I know my doctor will be calling me tonight telling me to get in there tomorrow. And I know my family will be after me to go.”

It just bears repeating: Frank Robinson is the baddest badass that ever badassed. Eddie Murray would agree.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Frank Robinson, 2008 Upper Deck Goudey Mini Red #203

On this day 29 years ago, Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron were both voted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Now that's one hell of an HOF class. If you look at the ballot, you'll see that a dozen other players who didn't make the cut that year eventually joined this pair of legends in Cooperstown. While it's inexcusable that there were 45 schmucks who didn't vote for Robby, it's also pretty incredible that Harmon Killebrew wound up having to wait until his fourth year of eligibility to get the nod. Take heart, Jeff Bagwell; the BBWAA has been doing this crap for decades.

On the topic of Frank Robinson, please keep the Oriole great in your thoughts and prayers. The 75-year-old was taken to the hospital earlier today because of dizziness and a rapid heartbeat. There aren't many details available just yet, but Bud Selig confirmed that the initial tests came back negative for any serious conditions. I have a feeling that it will take a lot more than a dizzy spell to keep Frank down.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gregg Olson, 1989 Donruss The Rookies #35

I realize that Gregg Olson's nickname was "Otter" but with eyebrows like those, he probably should have been called "Caterpillar".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kris Benson, 2007 Topps #483

Yesterday Kris Benson announced his retirement, which I'm sure is a great shock to those of you who assumed that he retired four years ago. Since his contract with the Orioles expired after he missed the 2007 season with shoulder surgery, Kris has pitched for the Clearwater Threshers, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Frisco RoughRiders, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Reno Aces, the Texas Rangers, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In that time, he appeared in only 11 big league games, going 2-2 with a 7.18 ERA for Texas and Arizona. Benson said he was tired of putting in so much effort to try to stay healthy, signing minor league contracts, and stressing out about making teams. He'll just have to go home to his buxom, opinionated wife and his presumably lovely children and his millions of dollars.

Kris did have a few highlights in his one season as an Oriole. There was his five-hit win over the Nationals, not to mention the home run that he hit off of Pedro Martinez in a 4-2 win against the Mets. The latter feat represented the O's first homer by a pitcher in interleague play. In fact, he was the first Birds pitcher to touch 'em all since Roric Harrison went deep on the final day of the 1972 season, the last game of the pre-designated hitter era. So Kris Benson still holds a place in the trivia books, at least.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Curt Schilling, 1991 Score #788

Welp, this is it. The 20th anniversary of the Orioles' own Black Thursday, January 10, 1991. If you want to see how blase the rest of the world is about that dark and dreary day, just look at the ho-hum treatment it gets from Baseball Reference. To quote from Curt Schilling's player page:

"January 10, 1991: Traded by the Baltimore Orioles with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch to the Houston Astros for Glenn Davis."

Yep, that's it. 126.8 total WAR (wins above replacement) out, 0.1 total WAR in. But on the bright side, the Orioles weren't the only team to trade away Curt Schilling in a lousy deal. Check this out:

April 2, 1992: Traded by the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Grimsley.

July 26, 2000: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Omar DaalNelson FigueroaTravis Lee and Vicente Padilla.

November 28, 2003: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Boston Red Sox for Michael Goss (minors), Casey FossumBrandon Lyon and Jorge de la Rosa.

That's four trades where the team moving Schilling didn't get much of anything in return. Still, none of the others hold a candle to the Orioles' stink bomb. People don't forget.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jeff Williams, 1992 Bowman #284

Whenever people ask Jeff Williams if he likes denim, he tells them, "No."

Then he breaks out in an irrepressible grin.

"I LOVE denim."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Score Heart of the Order #11

I spotted this card in a quarter box at one of my local hobby shops last week and picked it up. I'm a sucker for cards that show off Camden Yards and the Baltimore skyline, and this one does it with a full-bleed photo. It was part of a three-card subset that also included Rafael Palmeiro and Cal Ripken. I also grabbed the Palmeiro card, but still need Cal to complete the panorama. Raffy's card includes the Bromo Seltzer tower, which is a treat.

If you're eagle-eyed, you might be looking at the scoreboard and trying to hone in on the game. The video board indicates that Dave Hollins is the batter for the Twins. You can actually make out the whole Minnesota lineup up above:

Knoblauch 2B
Lawton RF
Molitor DH
Hollins 3B
Myers C
Kelly CF
Stahoviak 1B
Meares SS
Becker LF

Of course, Jimmy Haynes was the Orioles pitcher. Given this information, the game is easy to pin down. It was Sunday, April 14, 1996, and sadly the O's lost 4-1. Haynes and Twins starter Frankie Rodriguez matched zeroes until the fifth inning, when the visitors broke through for three runs on three hits and a walk. Hollins chased the young Birds pitcher with a two-out RBI single. The lone Oriole run came on a Cal Ripken double to score Bobby Bonilla in the bottom of the seventh. The normally high-octane O's had only three hits in the entire game, but it wasn't the end of the world. Even with the loss, they were still 9-2 on the young season en route to capturing the American League Wild Card.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Don Lenhardt, 1954 Bowman #53

Would you like to know some things about Don Lenhardt? Okay, here goes:

-He is still alive! As of this writing, Don is 88 years old.

-He had narrow feet, making it hard to find shoes that fit well. Accordingly, he was nicknamed "Footsie".

-Lenhardt served in the Navy for four years during World War II.

-Due partly to his military service, Don was 27 by the time he reached the majors with the 1950 Browns. As the starting first baseman, he led the sad-sack team (58-96 record) with 22 home runs, 81 RBI, 90 walks, and a .481 slugging percentage.

-He spent the next four years as a part-time player, until a broken leg ended his short career in 1954.

-Don played only 13 games for the Orioles at the onset of their inaugural 1954 season before he was dealt to the Red Sox. In those 13 games he managed just 5 hits (.152 AVG) and a single RBI.

-He scouted for the BoSox for several years and also coached and broadcast games for the club. He was responsible for the signing of major leaguers such as Dick Mills, Al Nipper, Scott Cooper, and Cory Bailey.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harold Baines, 1994 O-Pee-Chee #221

As promised, today I'll look at the collection of former Orioles on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot who did not reach the 75% threshhold (436 of 581 ballots) needed to gain membership. Some will live to fight again in 2012, and others will never see the ballot again. In decreasing order of votes:

Lee Smith (263 votes, 45.3%): The onetime career saves leader actually saw his share drop from 47.3% last year. There's no rhyme or reason to the way the BBWAA regards relief pitchers. Bruce Sutter is in with 300 career saves, a 2.83 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and a 136 ERA+, but Lee's not even close with 478 saves, a 3.03 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and a 132 ERA+. Even more confusing is that John Franco (424 SV, 2.89 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 138 ERA+) was one-and-done on the ballot, receiving 27 votes and a 4.6% share to fall barely short of the 5% cutoff for remaining under consideration.

Tim Raines (218 votes, 37.5%): Tim Senior got a fair bump from 2010's 30.4%, but it's disheartening that so few voters recognize his greatness. He was one of the dominant players of the 1980s, remained productive until age 41, maintained a career on-base percentage of .385 (62 points higher than Hall of Fame teammate Andre Dawson!), and stole 808 bases (more than all but four players in history) at an 85% success rate. Maybe a lack of big-name first-balloters in the next year or two will boost his prospects.

Rafael Palmeiro (64 votes, 11.%): Oof. And so the highfalutin' moral majority of the BBWAA has their say. Raffy himself was pretty realistic in his expectations for his first year on the ballot, figuring that he might poll 25%. Even that was a bit too hopeful, it seems. I'd point to the madness of such a meager showing for a player with the formerly-automatic counting stats of 3,000 career hits and 569 home runs, but this electoral statement has nothing on the injustice being done to Jeff Bagwell, who never tested positive, isn't somebody frequently cited as a steroid suspect, and yet received 41.7% of the vote with superlatives that include an MVP award, 488 doubles, 449 home runs, 202 steals, a slash line of .297/.408/.540, and an OPS+ of 149. I have a feeling that the next few years of Hall of Fame developments are going to be immensely frustrating.

And now, the four ex-O's who failed to receive 5% of the vote (30 total votes) and will not be eligible for the Hall in the future.

Harold Baines (28 votes, 4.8%): So close, and yet so far. Harold didn't go without a fight, as he scraped by for the previous four years with between 5.2% and 6.1% of the vote. Ultimately, he was the kind of player who has trouble making it to Cooperstown: quiet, unassuming demeanor; long and consistently good yet never spectacular career; lack of big round numbers (384 HR, 2,866 hits); and of course, the unfair stigma of having spent most of his career as a designated hitter after knee injuries robbed him of his mobility. So long, Harold. Thanks for getting it done for so long and so well.

Kevin Brown (12 votes, 2.1%): Here's a guy that got the shaft. He wasn't well-liked, didn't have a great postseason resume, and his final few injury-plagued years combined with the huge contract from the Dodgers probably are the things that stick out in peoples' minds. But his six-year peak was ridiculous (1996-2001: 92-45, 2.53 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 163 ERA+). He was 211-144 with a career ERA of 3.28. He is 37th in career strikeouts with 2,397. I don't know that I would vote for him, but he certainly deserved to be in the conversation for more than one year.

B. J. Surhoff (2 votes, 0.3%): Well, someone was thinking of him anyway. One of the two votes that B. J. received was from ESPN's Barry Stanton, and it's generally kind of a neat story. At the beginning of Stanton's career, he covered and was impressed by a teenage Surhoff in amateur competition. He told the young player that he would be voting for him for the Hall of Fame someday, and he figured that he might as well take advantage of the opportunity. If he had thought that his vote for Surhoff would take away from a more deserving candidate, he maintains that he would not have done it. Indeed, if there's any issue with Stanton's ballot, it's his general decision-making: his votes went to Jack Morris, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly, and Surhoff. No Alomar, Blyleven, Raines, Larkin, Trammell, McGwire, Palmeiro...it's like he chose the other names at random. The lack of intellectual curiosity by some of these writers is baffling.

Charles Johnson: (0 votes, 0.0%): There were no Barry Stantons to shield CJ from the indignity of the goose egg. University of Miami product Johnson started off as a defensively gifted hometown hero with the Marlins, winning the National League Gold Glove in each of his first four seasons. He usually threw out at least 40% of base stealers and had some pop, reaching double-digits in home runs in 9 out of 10 seasons. 2000 seemed like a breakout year, as he batted .304 with 31 home runs and 91 RBI for the Orioles and White Sox. But he fell off a cliff at age 30, hitting .227 from 2002-2005 and bottoming out with a release from the lowly Devil Rays in June '05. What have you done for me lately?

So that's all I intend to say about the Hall of Fame until the ballot rolls out again late this year. One more time through the wringer for the first three guys on this list, and the first and probably last go-round for Javy Lopez and Scott Erickson.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Roberto Alomar, 1996 Collector's Choice #463

Congratulations to Bert Blyleven and ex-Oriole Roberto Alomar on their selection for the Baseball Hall of Fame. By happenstance, the clinching Game Four of the 1996 American League Division Series was the focus of an Orioles Classics broadcast on MASN on Friday afternoon, and I watched all five hours of it. Even though 1996 was right in the middle of my formative years as a baseball fan, I believe this was the first time I'd seen this game. I remember going on a pre-planned bus trip to Kings Dominion with my church's youth group that Saturday. When we were all back in the bus at the end of the day, somebody announced the final score, and we let out a loud cheer. It was time to bring on the Yankees!

Nearly fifteen years later, I was struck both by how odd the game was and how long ago it seemed. It was originally broadcast on ESPN2, which still had the bizarre "underground" looking graphic interface, with all-lower-case letters and smears of color and what have you. Jon Miller (still the voice of the Orioles) had the play-by-play, but thankfully he was not joined by the insufferable Joe Morgan. Instead it was a three-man booth with Dave Campbell and the recently retired Kirby Puckett, who was something less than polished. The starting pitchers were Charles Nagy for the Indians, coming off of his career year (17-5, 3.41 ERA), and David Wells for the O's (11-14, 5.14 in his only season in Baltimore). Though Boomer had surrendered four runs in six and two-thirds innings in Game One, he fared better than Nagy, whom the Birds pounded for seven runs in five and one-third en route to a 10-4 win.

I'd forgotten just how much fun that 1996 Orioles team was. They were loaded with power-hitting veterans, and broke the 1961 Maris-Mantle Yankees team record by clubbing 257 home runs. A whopping seven hitters topped 20 home runs: Brady Anderson had 50, Rafael Palmeiro 39, Bobby Bonilla 28, Cal Ripken 26, Chris Hoiles 25, Alomar 22, B.J. Surhoff 21. As if the Birds didn't have enough sluggers, late-season trades brought in Todd Zeile (25 HR with the Phillies and O's) and Pete Incaviglia (18 total HR) and a returning Eddie Murray (22 total HR, including career #500). It would be hard to imagine that the pitching was a strength when you consider the 5.14 overall ERA, but it was a ridiculous year for offense; there were six teams in the American League alone with a higher mark, and I'd be willing to take my chances with a big three of Mike Mussina, Wells, and Scott Erickson.

It was interesting to see how Davey Johnson constructed his lineup. Brady and his 50 home runs led off, with Zeile as an unlikely #2 (he batted second in 100 of his 2016 career starts). A closer look shows that Todd offset a mediocre batting average with 82 walks in 1996, so Davey was on to something. Next came a murderous 3-4-5 of Alomar-Palmeiro-Bonilla, followed by Hall of Famers and old friends Cal and Eddie 6-7. Longtime Baltimore fans were probably used to seeing those two back-to-back, just not in those slots. Inky, starting for a hobbled Surhoff, played left field and batted eighth, and Chris Hoiles made one hell of a nine-hole guy.

Unfortunately, as the game progressed the weakness of that year's team was apparent: boom-or-bust. The O's jumped out to an early lead on back-to-back solo homers by Palmeiro and Bonilla in the second inning, and then were blanked for the next six frames. In 12 innings, they left 14 men on base. After the initial power display, Raffy and Bobby Bo were hitless for the rest of the game, each striking out four times. Oriole hitters struck out 23 times overall, while drawing only 3 walks.

On the mound, Wells battled gamely against a similarly-loaded Cleveland lineup. The catalysts were Kenny Lofton and Albert Belle, but combined they were 0-for-9 with a walk (an intentional pass to Belle in the first inning). The Indians broke through in the middle innings, with a two-out, two-run double by Sandy Alomar tying the contest in the fourth and and Omar Vizquel RBI single putting the hosts up 3-2 an inning later. Wells exited after seven innings, having allowed three runs on three walks and seven hits. Surprisingly, doughy reliever Terry Mathews held the Tribe in check in the eighth, which set the stage for ex-Oriole and current Indian closer Jose Mesa to slam the door on the O's.

Things looked grim as Incaviglia was called out on strikes and Surhoff (pinch-hitting for Hoiles) battled to a 2-2 count. But B.J., who had a gimpy hamstring and sore knee, sliced one up the middle and hobbled to first base. Having come through in a crucial moment, he was then lifted for pinch runner Manny Alexander. Next Anderson fought one off for a shallow fly ball single, and the tying run was in scoring position. But Zeile fouled out and the O's were down to their last out. On a 1-2 count, Alomar stroked a line drive to left, and it was a new game at 3-3. Raffy struck out again to strand the go-ahead runs, and it was up to the bullpen to get it to extras.

Out for a second inning of work, Mathews ran into trouble when he walked Manny Ramirez and failed to direct traffic on a Sandy Alomar infield pop-up. Jesse Orosco would have to bail him out of the two-on, one-out jam. But the 39-year-old lefty was having a miserable series. He had faced seven batters in the previous four games and retired only one. The low point came in Friday's Game Three, when he walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a tie game and was replaced by Armando Benitez. Benitez promptly served up a grand slam to Albert Belle, and Jesse was the losing pitcher. Proving he had a short-term memory, the veteran coaxed a grounder from Jose Vizcaino and struck out Lofton to bring on free baseball.

Things remained in a stalemate for two innings, as Indians manager Mike Hargrove stuck with Mesa and Davey Johnson got a bounceback performance from Benitez as well (2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K). Surprisingly, Hargrove sent his closer out to begin the 12th - his fourth inning of work. Robbie Alomar led off and dealt the big blow, depositing a Mesa slider into the seats for the go-ahead run. Cal later chased the pitcher with a two-out double, but Chad Ogea pitched around Murray and struck out Mike Devereaux (a defensive sub for Inky in the 10th inning), ensuring that O's closer Randy Myers would come in with no margin for error. Fortunately, he didn't need any cushion, as he set the Tribe down 1-2-3 on 11 pitches, striking out Vizquel looking to send the Birds to their first ALCS since 1983. Of course, they couldn't have done it without the late-inning heroics of the newest Hall of Famer.

Most of the other ex-Orioles on the ballot didn't fare so well, sadly. I will give them their due tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1998 Pinnacle #115

I read an interesting post on The Platoon Advantage today. In it, "Bill" comes to the realization that a screening committee makes the ultimate determination about which eligible retired players appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. This year, that meant that 41 otherwise-eligible guys (10+ years of big league experience, retired since 2005) were turned away. Bill takes a look at each and every one of them, and finds something worth mentioning about their time in the majors. By my count, there were eight ex-Orioles: James Baldwin, Midre Cummings, Buddy Groom, Jeffrey Hammonds, Luis Lopez, Greg Myers, Keith Osik, and Steve Reed. You could also count Jay Powell, the reliever who was Baltimore's first-round draft pick in 1993 and was later traded for Bret Barberie. It's a nifty trip down memory lane, though the stark fact that Jeffrey Hammonds has been retired for five years is a slap upside my head. Where does time go, where is it still going?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jim Dwyer, 1981 Topps Traded #757

A few minutes ago, I checked my email and found a trade proposal. One of my readers saw that I needed Ron Perranoski's card for my 1965 Topps set, and I had replied to him over the weekend to find out what he'd be looking for in return. Interestingly enough, his favorite player is/was Jim Dwyer, and it looks like I'll be able to fill a need in his player collection. Next I checked the Baseball Reference Bullpen's daily almanac to see if there were any Oriole-centric tidbits for January 3. As serendipitous coincidence would have it, today is "Pigpen" Dwyer's 61st birthday! It's also Monkton resident A.J. Burnett's birthday, but he's both a Yankee and a multimillionaire, so he gets nothing and likes it.

One more Jim Dwyer fun fact: the 2011 Hall of Fame class is being unveiled this Wednesday, and Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris are candidates who each have very ardent supporters. Dwyer was a contemporary of both players, and faced them many times. He batted 50 times against Morris, drawing 9 walks and hitting safely 12 times for a .300 average and .420 on-base percentage. In 28 trips to the plate against Blyleven, he managed only two walks and four hits (.154 AVG, .214 OBP). Make of that what you will.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Charles Johnson, 1999 Topps Stars #132

I hope you'll indulge me in a second football post in a week, but it is January after all. Today I took my sister to her first Ravens game, and my first game this season. We had bought tickets online from a reseller on Friday on a whim, and were prepared to grab a Sherpa to help us with the trek up to section 537. But fate smiled on us. One of our uncles is a season ticket holder and he and his wife decided to forgo today's game when the rain started falling this morning. They offered us their tickets, in section 141 (bottom seating bowl, west end zone). We were also able to meet up with our uncle's regular tailgating crew and share in their free parking a flew blocks from the stadium. After grabbing a bite to eat and a few drinks at the tailgate, we walked over to M&T Bank Stadium (oh, corporate naming rights) and had our second bit of luck on the day as the rain stopped. The sun didn't make an appearance all afternoon, but 50 degrees and overcast is nothing to complain about for a January football game in Baltimore.

I generally like to make it to one football game a year just for the experience.  Though baseball is my first passion, NFL games are a different creature. Crowd noise is such a big part of it, and it starts with the player introductions. My sister works for the company that provides the special effects for the Ravens, so we both enjoyed watching the team come charging through the tunnel with its glowing red eyes and columns of smoke and flames. A few moments later came the Star-Spangled Banner, complete with the roar of an "O!" from the hometown crowd. Here you can see me doing my best to blend into the sea of purple while still representing the Orioles, thanks to one of the purple O's-Ravens "rally caps" that were given away at Camden Yards on NFL Draft Day in April 2009.


The game itself was kind of brutal, with the 4-11 Bengals gaining twice as much yardage as the 11-4 Ravens. The Baltimore defense locked into "bend but don't break" mode, forcing five Cincinnati turnovers. Yet the game was still in doubt until only 16 seconds remained. At that moment, Bengal quarterback Carson Palmer threw an incompletion on fourth down from the Ravens' two-yard line. But two interceptions by future Hall of Famer Ed Reed (a University of Miami product, much like Mr. Charles Johnson) and three fumble recoveries gave all 71,088 of us in attendance plenty to shout about. Every time Palmer lined up under center, the crowd noise was deafening. Sometimes it's a lot of fun just to make loud noises for the sake of it, and even though I'll be hoarse for the next few days, I have no regrets. Now, Baltimore's other birds will hit the road for the playoffs. Kansas City won't know what hit it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Delino DeShields, 2000 Fleer Tradition #372

Since today is 1-1-11, I thought that I should turn to #11, Delino DeShields. Not only is it the first day of the new year, but it's also the third anniversary of the first-ever post on this blog. I had no idea when I started this blog whether I would be able to stay focused on writing every day. Three years and no end in sight. 1,096 posts and many more to come. Thanks for stopping by, and for sticking around. Let's make 2011 a great year.