Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nolan Reimold, 2009 Topps 206 #199

Finally, mercifully, there was Orioles baseball today. Even better, there was an O's win.

With first pitch occurring a few minutes after 1:00, the Birds kicked off their Grapefruit League schedule with a fairly breezy 6-4 win over the Pirates in Bradenton, FL. Vlad Guerrero started his Orioles career with two singles, including an infield hit to drive in the first run of the game. Brad Bergesen and longshot invitee Ryan Drese each pitched two scoreless innings. The most encouraging performance came from Nolan Reimold, who hit a towering home run in his first at-bat and walked three times. Coming off of a disastrous and injury-plagued 2010 season, the outfielder isn't even guaranteed a roster spot in April. But he was able to play the entire game this afternoon and showcased the strong batting eye and powerful stroke that made him a Rookie of the Year candidate two years ago. Whether Guerrero and Luke Scott are on the active roster for the full season or not, there's no question that a healthy and focused Reimold makes the O's a stronger team.

I was even able to listen to the final inning on WBAL as I left work late in the afternoon. It felt good, especially when Josh Rupe struck out Ryan Doumit for the 27th out and Joe Angel threw it to commercial: "We'll be right back with the lovely totals."

32 days to go.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cal Ripken, Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson, and Roberto Alomar, 1998 Pinnacle Inside Stand Up Guys #15-C/15-D

Here's another instance of a card company trying to reinvent the wheel. As an insert to their "Inside" brand (which crammed baseball cards into Pringles cans), Pinnacle slapped four players from one team on two sides of a thick card with a notch cut into the top center. There's another card (numbered #15A-B) that is meant to slide into this notch to create a FrankenCard that will stand on its own. Why? The world may never know. I do not have the other half of the card, which features the photogenic rear ends of all four men. Such a shame.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Frank Robinson, 2003 Topps Gallery #63

Earlier this week, Frank Robinson made an appearance at Orioles camp and addressed the team in the clubhouse before workouts. It sounds like he gave a pretty standard speech - work hard, live in the moment, be grateful, prepare yourself - that went over well with the team. For me, it's not so much what he said. Just the fact that he was there was encouraging. Buck Showalter's quote about Robby was music to a Baltimore fan's ears:

"Frank (Robinson), you can see the pride he has in the Orioles. He could have gone to a lot of camps and done that. I was talking to him about that. Why here? He goes, 'I worn a lot of uniforms, but I was an Oriole.' "

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mike Torrez, 1975 SSPC #381

Mike Torrez's career was so long, and he traveled so extensively, that it barely even registers that he was once an Oriole. The big righthander pitched for 7 teams in 18 seasons. He was a Cardinal, Expo, Oriole, Athletic, Yankee, Red Sox, and Met. The O's acquired him in an absolute heist of a trade in December 1974, trading Rich Coggins, Dave McNally, and minor leaguer Bill Kirkpatrick for Torrez and Ken Singleton. At age 32, McNally was done, racking up a 5.24 ERA in a dozen starts in Montreal before retiring in midseason. Coggins, who had hit .319 as a rookie outfielder for the Birds two years earlier, was purchased by the Yankees in June 1975 and was out of the league a year later. Singleton was an offensive force in Baltimore for the next decade, putting up a whopping .388 on-base percentage and slugging 182 home runs.

Torrez stayed in Charm City for only a year, but it was a good one. He went 20-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 16 complete games, though he must have been a master of smoke and mirrors: he led the American League with 133 walks allowed and struck out only 119. In the offseason, the Orioles traded him to Oakland to acquire Reggie Jackson, a strong gamble that didn't quite pan out. However, the Birds also acquired pitcher Ken Holtzman in the deal, and in mid-1976 they sent him to the Yankees in the trade that brought Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, and Rick Dempsey to Baltimore. So you could say that Mike Torrez had a small part in building the 1979 American League Champs and 1983 World Series Champs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eddie Murray, 1997 Collector's Choice Premier Power #PP20

Guess what? Today is Eddie Murray’s 55th birthday! Not only does that make him two years older than Vladimir Guerrero, it also signifies that he is birthday buddies with Bronson Arroyo, Mike Lowell, the great Stubby Clapp, and Honus Wagner. Lowell is a distant second to Eddie’s 504 homers with his own career total of 223 among the February 24thers. Mighty Hans ekes out the hits crown with 3,420 to Eddie’s 3,255, but Murray beats him in the RBI race, 1,917 to 1,739. Numbers are fun! Anysuch, in honor of big, bad 33, here is a subjective list of the greatest Murrays throughout history:

1. Eddie Murray

2. Bill Murray

3. F. Murray Abraham

4. Brian Doyle Murray

Then it all kind of runs together. Chad Michael Murray is in last place, though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Luis Matos, 2001 Stadium Club #86

When you're looking to kill an hour in front of the television, you could do worse than the seeming hundreds of list-style programs that MLB Network uses to flesh out their schedule. I just got through watching the 75 Greatest Robbed Home Runs, and I got a bigger kick out of seeing the grainier 1980s and 1990s footage than the more contemporary highlights. There was also more variety in the older clips; it seemed like the foursome of Carlos Beltran, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mike Cameron, and Torii Hunter were represented in 50 of the 75 clips. There were also a ton of Oriole hitters being denied home runs. Off the top of my head, Roberto Alomar, B. J. Surhoff, Jeff Conine, Leo Gomez, Doug DeCinces, Boog Powell, Adam Jones, and Corey Patterson were all victimized. On the other hand, only two Oriole outfielders were recognized for their thievery, and they were probably two of the last guys you'd expect:

39. Luis Matos robs David Ortiz - 7/9/05. By this point, the Orioles had already lost their early-season hold on first place, but on a Saturday afternoon they drew back to within three games of the first-place Red Sox with a 9-1 romp at Camden Yards. However, the result was still very much in doubt with two outs in the top of the third. Bruce Chen had just given up an RBI single to Edgar Renteria, and "Big Papi" followed with a blast to left-center field. Matos backed up to the fence, leapt, and denied Ortiz of a three-run homer. Four batters into the home half of the inning, Rafael Palmeiro successfully clouted a three-run shot of his own, and the Birds were on their way. The following season, Luis played his final big league game before even turning 28.

33. Joe Orsulak robs Harold Baines - 5/19/90. The O's were already trailing 3-0 when Baines led off the top of the fourth with a deep fly to right. "Joe O" made a leaping grab at the wall in Memorial Stadium to bail out starting pitcher Jay Tibbs. Baltimore fell behind 5-0 before a Mickey Tettleton three-run homer closed the gap to 5-3 in the seventh, but the Birds couldn't muster any further attack and fell by that same score.

Oh, and if you care about this sort of thing, ex-Oriole Gary Matthews, Jr. earned the #1 spot with the back-to-the-field, running-up-the-wall catch that he pulled off a few years ago while with the Rangers. Bully for him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eddie Murray, 1986 Topps Mini Leaders #1

So what did you do last weekend? It probably wasn't as bizarre as what Eddie Murray did. He was a guest at Charlie Sheen's home for a screening of the hedonistic actor's classic 1989 film "Major League". Sheen invited Murray, fellow ex-Oriole Todd Zeile, Kenny Lofton, Lenny Dykstra, and current Giants closer Brian Wilson to the event. Some of the baseball dignitaries were flown in on the host's private jet, which totally happens at the sort of parties that I attend. David Ward, the writer and producer of the movie, was on hand to give an introduction before the screening at Sheen's private theater. The guests also got to try on Babe Ruth's 1927 World Series ring, which Charlie had bought at an auction with some money that apparently wasn't earmarked for cocaine, alcohol, or ladies of the night.

By the way, this all really happened.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dennis Martinez, 1985 Topps #199

I am into my fourth year of operating this blog, and I have never posted a Dennis Martinez card on President's Day. If it weren't for Ryan's suggestion in the comments to yesterday's post, it wouldn't have occurred to me this year, either. Sometimes we miss the obvious. President's Day and "El Presidente"...I guess you guys are going to have to keep me on my toes. If you were fortunate enough to have off today, I hope you had a restful and enjoyable day. I slept in, bought groceries, and started reading "The Bullpen Gospels" by ex-Padres and Blue Jays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst. Viva todos de los presidentes!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Terry Kennedy, 1988 Donruss All-Star Pop-Ups #9

For those of us in the blogosphere who reside in the good ol' U.S.A., tomorrow is President's Day. In honor of our 14th-most-popular holiday, I present to you the Orioles' All-Presidents Team:

C Charles Johnson, Terry Kennedy, Darrell Johnson
UT IF Ron Washington, Bob Johnson
2B Davey Johnson
3B Bobby Adams, Ron Jackson, Bob Kennedy
OF Stanley Jefferson, Lou Jackson, Reggie Jackson, Joe Taylor, Donell Nixon, Dan Ford
DH Joe Carter
P Jesse Jefferson, Grant Jackson, Bob Harrison, Roric Harrison, Dorn Taylor, Connie Johnson, Dave Johnson, David Johnson, Don Johnson, Ernie Johnson, Jason Johnson, Jim Johnson, Mike Johnson, Jim Wilson, Dave Ford

Hmm...could we mold this list into a competitive lineup? Let's see...

C Charles Johnson (.294, 21 HR, 55 RBI in 84 games in 2000)
1B Terry Kennedy (.250, 18 HR, 62 RBI in 1987)
2B Davey Johnson (.282, 18 HR, 72 RBI in 1971)
SS Bob Johnson (.295, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 120 OPS+ in 82 games in 1963)
3B Bob Kennedy (.251, 6 HR, 45 RBI in 106 games in 1954)
LF Stanley Jefferson (.260, 4 HR, 20 RBI in 35 games in 1989)
CF Reggie Jackson (.277, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 28 SB, 155 OPS+ in 1976)
RF Dan Ford (.280, 30 2B, 9 HR, 55 RBI in 103 games in 1983)
DH Joe Carter (.247, 11 HR, 34 RBI in 85 games in 1998)
SP Connie Johnson (14-11, 3.20 ERA, 177 K, 14 CG in 1957)
RP Grant Jackson (8-0, 1.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 9 SV in 1973)

Not an overly impressive team there, and that's even with me cherry-picking their best seasons in Baltimore. It took some gymnastics to stick Terry Kennedy (25 career games at 1B, none as an Oriole) and Reggie Jackson (16 games in CF as an Oriole) at their respective positions. Still, I bet these guys were better ballplayers than they'd be heads of state.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brady Anderson, 1998 Skybox Metal Universe #210

I apologize for the subpar scan, but such are the pitfalls of foil.

Earlier today, Adam Jones posted the following on Twitter: "And Brady never has a damn shirt on. Still jacked for 47."

The following three thoughts occurred to me in succession:

1. "That's pretty funny."

2. "Ye gods, Brady Anderson is 47 years old? Suddenly I need to lie down."

3. "Wow. I hope I haven't used that comic book art card for a blog post yet."

And here we are. Brady, as you may have gathered, is one of a handful of ex-Orioles who are chipping in at spring training as instructors. Mike Bordick and B. J. Surhoff are there, too. Maybe they can tell the current batch of O's what it's like to play for a winner. If this card is any indication, Brady can also teach them how to perform a deadly palm thrust.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Lenny Green, 1959 Topps #209

This is a pretty 1959-intensive week on this blog. I know I usually do the legwork around here, but I'm wondering if anyone else can tell me what that giant tower-like structure is behind Lenny Green. Is it the Space Needle? An exceptionally tall windmill? I just don't know. What I do know is that Lenny was a talented young player who had a solid career, but never put it all together during his time in Baltimore. In 1956, he led the single-A Sally League with a .318 average and 92 runs scored, and followed up with a .311 average at Vancouver the next year. In parts of four seasons with the O's, he had a .225 average and drove in 12 runs in 169 at-bats. He hit just two home runs as an Oriole, but one of those was an inside-the-park two-run homer that gave the Birds a 2-1 lead over the Yankees. It was April 26, 1959, and the O's eventually won 3-2 on the strength of a Hoyt Wilhelm five-hitter.

As long as we're talking about '59 Topps, I would humbly suggest that you follow one of the newest card blogs on the scene. Fellow Orioles fan Bob (a.k.a. Commish), who has commented frequently here,  has nearly completed the 1959 Topps set and is blogging about each and every card. He offers some of his own memories about the players, highlights of their careers, and his opinions about the cards. It's a quick entertaining read, so check out '59 Topps: One F/G Card at a Time. Oh, and have a good long weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Juan Bonilla, 1987 Fleer #464

I just can’t seem to quit while I’m ahead, so I’ve gone and started another card blog…well, it’s on Tumblr, and I think you can substitute “Tumblr” for “blog” for some reason. They’re very good with their branding, even though they did that stupid Web 2.0 thing where you drop a vowel from a common word for no good reason.

But I’m getting sidetracked. My newest pet project is called Bad Touch Baseball, and it’s a much more minimalist endeavor than this blog and my 1965 Topps Project. As I’ve branched off into a more vintage-heavy collection in the past couple of years, I’ve been drawn to the hypnotic aesthetics of the 1970s: the brightly-colored polyester uniforms, the giant eyeglasses and sunglasses, the scraggly or teased-out hair, the oh-so-macho sideburns, mustaches, and beards (both bushy and wispy), the laughable Topps airbrushing, and of course the lack of quality control that led to unflattering poses and facial expressions being immortalized on cardboard. Each day, I will post a card from my collection that fits the criteria listed above. Of course, bad fashion and weird photos are not the exclusive property of one decade, so contenders from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, and the current century will all receive their just due. But the primary targets are the 1970s and the spillover of the 1980s.

I hope that those of you looking to waste another 30 seconds of your day-to-day lives will stop by frequently to have a cheap laugh. If you’re a member of the Tumblr, you can follow me. If you’re not, you still might could tell your friends to stop by. I also hope that everyone understands that the site itself and the captions on each photo are nothing more than lampoons. I would never carelessly accuse a ballplayer of being a sex offender…unless they were convicted as such. Somewhere, Mel Hall’s ears are burning.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Marty Cordova, 2002 Upper Deck #582

There's something wrong with this card, and it's not just the image of Marty Cordova taking the field for the Orioles, which he managed to do 140 times over the span of a three-year contract, and 9 times after the first year of the deal. If you know your Marty Cordova trivia (and really, who doesn't?), you'll realize that he is right-handed. Yet this photo appears to show him throwing lefty. Of course the dead giveaway is the backwards "Orioles" script on his jersey. Somebody at Upper Deck used a reverse negative. I never even realized it until I pulled the card out of one of my boxes tonight. Of course, back in the day, Upper Deck got much more attention for another reverse negative photo. It's always refreshing to see a card company actually make an honest error, rather than manufacturing one to drum up publicity and drive up prices.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Javy Lopez, 2004 Playoff Honors #28

I was so busy blathering about cards yesterday, that I didn't even mention that spring training has finally begun! All of the Orioles' pitchers (minus Alfredo Simon, of course), catchers, and coaches are already down in Sarasota getting loose and adapting to the first Buck Showalter camp. The rest of the position players will likely be trickling in all week; Brian Roberts and Adam Jones are the most noteworthy early arrivals thus far. As if on cue, Baltimore was graced with temperatures in the mid-50s yesterday. After a dip back into the 40s today, it's supposed to be warmer for the rest of the week, including low 60s on Friday. Be still, my heart! Meanwhile, summer will be here before we know it. Daylight past 8:00 PM, vacation getaways, and short sleeves and shorts. Oh, and Orioles baseball on Eutaw Street, of course.

I've heard raves about the Orioles' new (as of 2010) spring home in Sarasota, which underwent significant renovations in recent months. I can't wait to get a good look at it. If an ancient concrete hovel like Fort Lauderdale Stadium could look as vivid and appealing as it does in the above photo on Javy Lopez's card, just imagine the backdrop that Ed Smith Stadium will provide to the first O's games of 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Brooks Robinson, 2008 Topps Heritage Baseball Flashbacks #BF-7

A few weeks ago, I climbed up on my soapbox and swore that I would not be collecting any card sets released in 2011. Nope, no buying retail for me. No chasing shiny gimmicks and inserts, no getting sucked into marked-up retro sets. My money would be better served augmenting my vintage collection and maybe completing some of the dozens of half-finished sets I’d already undertaken.

I figured that I might as well give you a progress report to show that I’m putting my money where my mouth is…on eBay.

Last week I went on a bidding frenzy but didn’t quite drive myself into the poorhouse. First I nabbed a random assortment of 14 slightly battered cards ranging from 1955-1962. This lot included three cards of Hall of Famers: a 1957 Topps Robin Roberts, a 1959 Topps combo card with Richie Ashburn and Willie Mays, and a 1961 Golden Press of Grover Cleveland Alexander. By happenstance, 10 of the cards featured Phillies, including all three of the above. I also got a 1958 Topps Granny Hamner, which I’m pleased to add to my collection solely on the basis of that excellent name. Not bad for a shade under $11.

Clicking on some related searches, I found a huge lot of 1959 Topps: 173 cards in all. Just browsing on eBay made me think that I’d like to give it a go and collect this set. Great classic colorful design, some solid photos, and it’s not nearly as challenging as most sets from that decade. I’ve gotten a good head start by virtue of chasing the Orioles team set and grabbing assorted singles from the dollar boxes at one of my hobby shops. Besides, Thorzul recently mentioned that he was working on this set and I am easily influenced. I hung in the bidding right up until the end, going out of my normally thrifty comfort zone, but bowed out as the price cleared three digits. Ultimately, the whole shebang went for $106. Maybe I should’ve done it. I also took a few cracks at a lot of 154 1958 Topps from the same seller, but the winning bid in that case was $130.59. Shortly after losing out on those two auctions, I found a lot of 71 cards from the 1959 set with a closing time for the following evening. The price was still surprisingly low, so I put in an initial bid and played the waiting game. I was finally outbid the following afternoon, but jumped back in during the final minutes and won the day with a bid of $39.33 (including shipping). I’d forgotten how fun (and dangerous) it could be to treat eBay as your own personal card show!

Anyway, I’m cutting myself off from straight-up card purchases for the rest of the month, but I could be convinced to part with a few dollars for shipping costs if anyone can help me do some set-building through trades. I have want lists for several sets on my other blog: Topps sets from 1965, 1975, 1992, and 2010 Update Series; 1989 Upper Deck; 2008 Topps Heritage; and 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee. Eventually I’ll get around to putting up additional lists for sets like 1959 and 1982 Topps, 1994 Score, 1995 Stadium Club, and 2010 Topps Update Series. If I put goals in writing, I’ll be more persistent in achieving them…right?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eddie Murray, 1987 Boardwalk and Baseball #2

Last week, teacher/bloggingman Thorzul gave the rest of us an assignment: Show Me Your Cups. I've always been a good student if the subject matter interested me, so here are the goods. Please to enjoy a half-dozen souvenir cups.

This fine specimen dates back to 1996, the year of the Orioles' only wild card appearance. It commemorates Earl Weaver's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on August 4. The little baseballs include the answers to the trivia questions about Earl's career which appear on the other side of the cup.

Fantastic cup number two is another Hall of Fame commemorative dealie. This one is from Eddie Murray's induction year of 2003. The top eleven position players in playing time that year? Brook Fordyce, Jeff Conine, Brian Roberts, Deivi Cruz, Tony Batista, Larry Bigbie, Luis Matos, Jay Gibbons, Melvin Mora, David Segui, and B. J. Surhoff. Hard to believe that team lost 91 games, huh? Anyway, that's a great picture of Eddie killing a baseball and perhaps his number 33 as well. The bunting is a nice touch, and the reverse side features a short bio. Wow, did you know that Eddie is 6'5"? That's a big dude.
This one is a bit duller, but what do you want for 1989? The same design all the way around. It celebrates the 35th anniversary of the Birds' arrival in 1954, and is a nice keepsake from the "Why Not?" season in which the O's almost went worst to first. Horseshoes and hand grenades.
I snuck in a cup from the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Ripken-owned short-season New York-Penn League affiliate of the Orioles. The other side just has the name of the food and drink vendor at Ripken Stadium. Nothing to see there.

This is the tallest of my souvenir baseball cups, and another snazzy design. It's also from 2003 (busy year!), and marks the 20th anniversary of the 1983 World Champs. I dig the swingin' Bird in front of the World Series trophy. You might be able to see the team celebrating after the clinching game in the background image. The roster is also printed on the cup, everyone from manager Joe Altobelli to pitcher Bill Swaggerty.

Finally, the only cup that wasn't purchased at a ballpark. In the mid-1990s, we used to shop at a K-mart that had a Little Caesar's Pizza in the store. They had an ICEE frozen drink machine. If you're unfamiliar with ICEE, think of a Slurpee only thicker and with seemingly more red or blue dye. My mom used to say that it was probably staining our insides, which is an odd thing to imagine. Anyway, they had special collector's cups for each major league team, and it's not like I needed a personal invitation to drink down that syrupy goodness. I had a few other teams, but of course I'm sticking to the home team here. This cup in particular was from 1994, as it has the commemorative 125th MLB Anniversary logo to the right of the O's jersey. I wonder whether they consciously chose #5 to represent Brooks Robinson. There's also the Oriole Bird cap logo, and the official logo. This was the last year that the logo included the "Baltimore" word mark. Of course, with the city name returning to the road jerseys and sleeve patches two years ago, all is forgiven.

So there you have it, six cups that I probably haven't used for their intended purpose since the day they were bought. But they're nice to look at, I'd say. Hopefully I'll get an "A" for this assignment.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Joe Altobelli, 1984 Fleer #643

This blog entry is a remote dispatch from the Holiday Inn in Philadelphia, located conveniently behind Citizens Bank Park. I'm in town to raise a glass with my friend Ryan and his girlfriend Kerri. Even though I live an hour and a half away, I never have been to a Phillies home game either at CBP or Veterans Stadium. I suppose I'll have to do something about that eventually. Tonight, I'm just content to get away for a bit.

The last time the O's were in the World Series, they had an I-95 showdown with the Phils in 1983. As you probably remember, the Birds took the series in five games, with Scott McGregor five-hitting the Phillies to clinch the title in the Vet. I'd love to see another Fall Classic between these two teams soon, but I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Gene Woodling, 1960 Topps #190

On Tuesday, April 19, 1960, the Orioles opened their season with a 3-2 win over the Senators in front of 32,747 fans at Memorial Stadium. Young starter Jerry Walker survived a six-walk, five-hit performance and allowed only two runs in five and one-third innings, and reliever Jack Fisher earned the win by shutting out Washington for the rest of the game. The O's picked up two runs in the third on a Brooks Robinson home run, and clinched the win in the seventh when Gene Woodling hit a two-out double to score Jackie Brandt.

That day, a 30-year-old man named Ernie Tyler worked his first game as the Orioles' umpire's attendant. He had been an usher at Memorial Stadium since the team debuted in Baltimore in 1954. In his new role, he would work each and every O's regular season and postseason game (as well as an All-Star Game and a few assorted exhibitions) through July 27, 2007. He only deigned to take a day off when Cal Ripken, Jr., a man with a similar work ethic, requested his presence at the shortstop's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Tyler worked 3,819 consecutive home games in all. Though he encountered health problems in the subsequent years, he was still working for the club through the 2010 season.

Sadly, Ernie passed away at age 86 last night. He had been in a long-term care facility in North Baltimore since December, when he began rehabilitation after having a benign brain tumor removed in October. If you doubt the impact that Tyler had on the fans, players, coaches, and anyone else associated with the Orioles, just stop by the websites of the Baltimore Sun or MASN. The remembrances are pouring in from all over: Cal Ripken, Brian Roberts, Dave Trembley, and Jeremy Guthrie, and of course the various Sun and MASN reporters. The Orioles and the city have lost a great man and a living embodiment of the team's history. If you're interested, you can find out how to pass along your sympathies to Ernie's family and friends here.

I previously wrote about Tyler after spotting him on a Charles Johnson card, and lamented that he'd never been recognized with a card of his own. Fellow blogger Steve of White Sox Cards was kind enough to put together a custom card for the occasion, so I'll pay tribute by posting it now. Thanks for always being there, Ernie.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jimmy Key, 1998 Upper Deck #35

If I had to guess, I'd say that Jimmy Key's groin tore in half at the exact moment that this photo was taken. Whatever the case may be, it sure doesn't look like he's comfortable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brady Anderson, 1996 Pinnacle Summit Above and Beyond #118

Among the several dozens reasons that it's been tough to be an Orioles fan in recent years, there's the team-wide power outage. As Matthew Taylor pointed out earlier this week on his Roar from 34 blog, the O's have only had three 30-home run hitters in the past decade. There haven't been two Birds with 30 homers in the same season since Brady Anderson went out of his gourd in 1996 and left the yard 50 times. He was of course joined by Rafael Palmeiro, who had 39.

I still have serious misgivings about newest Oriole Vladimir Guerrero (who celebrates his 36th birthday today), but I can't deny that it'll be fun watching him tomahawk pitches into the left field seats in Camden Yards. With Vlad, Mark Reynolds (32 HR in 2010, 44 HR in 2009), and Luke Scott (27 HR in 131 G in 2010), the Orioles at least have a fighting chance at a 30-homer tandem. At any rate, they should certainly improve upon last year's piddly total of 133, the most anemic output by an O's team since 1990.  Unless of course everyone gets hurt and Buck has to field a lineup including Cesar Izturis, Nick Green, and Randy Winn. Everybody start making your offerings to Jobu now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Billy Ripken, 1991 Stadium Club #222

Since I assaulted your innocent eyes with the egg-yolk vulgarity of 1991 Fleer yesterday, allow me to make amends with a card that is understated and well-composed, both of which are not to be taken for granted in early 1990s cardlore. As a bonus, we've got two Orioles for the price of one. If that's not B. J. Surhoff in Brewers pinstripes sliding into second base to take out Billy Ripken, then I'm a monkey's uncle.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bob Melvin, 1991 Fleer #482

Everybody loves a good play at the plate. It's one of the most dynamic and intense opportunities for an action photo that there is. I've featured several great examples in this space. Heck, there's a whole card blog inspired by such moments. But with this horrifically yellow card, Fleer has given us the most anticlimactic play at the plate photo they could find. In this Orioles-Rangers contest at Memorial Stadium, Bob Melvin stands poised and ready for a throw home that is already too late, as Texas outfielder Ruben Sierra strides safely to the dish.

My crack research indicates that this photo was likely taken on Sunday, August 6, 1989. Melvin played in only one home game vs. the Rangers in 1990, and Texas did not score in that game. These two players were involved in three qualifying games in the previous season, and Sierra scored in two of them. However, only the August 6 game took place in the afternoon. In a matchup of promising young pitchers, Pete Harnisch and Kevin Brown each allowed a single run in the second inning. Melvin himself drove in the O's first run with a double to center field to score Joe Orsulak. In the top of the third, Texas took a 2-1 lead as Sierra led off with a single, stole second, and scored on a two-out single to right field by Rick Leach. Orsulak's throw home was indeed fruitless, and allowed Leach to take second base. Fortunately, Harnisch escaped the inning without further damage.

The starters traded zeroes until the ninth, when a Cal Ripken single and a Keith Moreland double chased Brown. Randy Milligan greeted Rangers closer Jeff Russell with a game-tying single, but the Birds left the bases loaded and the game went to extras. Baltimore reliever Mark Williamson stranded two more Texas runners in the top of the tenth, and Mike Devereaux sent the fans home happy with a one-out home run in the bottom of the inning off of Russell. Orioles 3, Rangers 2.

The photo may not be any great shakes, but at least the game turned out well.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Babe Ruth, 2010 Promotional Card

Happy 116th birthday to George Herman "Babe" Ruth! I bet you didn't know that I had a card of Babe Ruth with the Orioles. This is a reproduction of a card made in 1914 during that brief window of time in which the future home run king played for Jack Dunn's Baltimore club in the International League. The Red Sox acquired him in midseason. These replicas were handed out last August at the National Sports Collector's Convention to promote the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and the Sports Legends Museum, both of which are within walking distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It's a great glimpse at a 19-year-old pitcher who would become the biggest star the sport ever saw by the end of the decade.

Are you curious about the Babe's performance as an Oriole? Unfortunately, he joined another International League team - the Providence Grays - after the Red Sox signed him, and his I.L. stats are presented on Baseball Reference as cumulative totals. He wasn't quite the otherworldly hitter he would come to be, as he batted .231 with 2 doubles, 8 triples, and 1 home run in 121 at-bats. But he was excellent on the mound, going 22-9 with a 2.39 ERA. You can certainly see why Boston brought him up to the major leagues in July.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rodrigo Lopez, 2004 Fleer Tradition #165

The Orioles added a veteran starting pitcher this week, inking former Rangers and Athletics righthander Justin Duchscherer to a one-year deal that guarantees $1.1 million if he's on the Opening Day roster and promises a few extra million if he reaches performance-based incentives. This is just the kind of deal they should be making. Very little money ventured on a talented pitcher (two-time All-Star, 3.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) who is 32 years old - not yet in that fossilized Steve Trachsel/Kevin Millwood territory. They're buying low on a guy who has missed most of the past two and a half seasons because of injuries and personal issues, and if they can't get a full season out of him, there are a few young arms like Jake Arrieta/Chris Tillman (whichever is the odd man out for the #5 starter spot) and Zach Britton ready to step in. I wasn't keen on adding another starter with all of the developing pitchers at the top of the organization, but this is the way to do it.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Braves signed Rodrigo Lopez to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite earlier this week. He's supposed to battle for the final spot in the Atlanta rotation at age 35, coming off of 200 innings of 5.00 ERA, 37-home run ball for Arizona. Good luck in the N.L. East, Rodrigo.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Dick Hall, 1962 Topps #189

As promised earlier this week, here's the fifth and final autograph I grabbed at last Saturday's Orioles FanFest. I've gotten feedback from a couple of former players since I launched my NumerOlogy website (currently on the disabled list) three years ago, but Dick Hall was the first to send me an email. It was within just a few days of the site's launch. His grandson had shown him the link, and he praised both the concept and the breadth of the project. According to the ex-relief pitcher, the members of the O's bullpen used to pass the time on the bench by guessing which players around the league wore which numbers. He told me that Milt Pappas was the best at it. It was a real thrill being noticed and complemented by a former player, especially one as prominent as Hall.

Dick Hall's career trajectory was quite unconventional. A native of St. Louis, he was a graduate of Swarthmore College, a liberal arts institution outside of Philadelphia. At 6'6", he towered over most of his peers on the diamond. The Pirates signed him in 1951 as an outfielder, though he also played some shortstop and second base in the minors. After a few cups of coffee, he played in 112 games with Pittsburgh in 1954, starting 84 of them. The 24-year-old batted .239 with an on-base percentage of .303 and an anemic .311 slugging percentage. He had only 8 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, and 27 RBI. Things got worse as the season progressed; his average from August 1 to the end of the year was just .207.

The following season, manager Fred Haney oversaw Dick's conversion to pitcher. He went 6-6 with a 3.91 ERA in 13 starts and 2 relief appearances, but never got a full year to show his stuff in Pittsburgh. From 1955-1959 he totaled 44 games pitched for the Pirates with a pedestrian 4.57 ERA. Before the 1960 season, he found himself heading to Kansas City as one of three players dealt for catcher Hal Smith. Given a chance to start regularly for the cellar-dwelling A's, Hall went 8-13 in 29 games with a league-average 4.05 ERA. He walked a team-low 1.9 batters per 9 innings and completed 9 games, including a 6-hit gem against the Orioles for his first career shutout.

When the 1961 campaign was just a day old, Paul Richards swung a deal to bring Hall to Baltimore along with utility player and future Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams. Something clicked for the righty, as he went 7-5 with 4 saves and a 3.09 ERA in a swing role. He even struck out a career-high 6.8 per 9 innings. He feasted on the Senators, shutting them out twice on a total of six hits with a dozen strikeouts and one walk. A year later, Dick started only six games as he was shifted to a relief role. He proved well-equipped for the job, putting up a 2.28 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while walking only 19 men in 118.1 innings! He also grabbed six saves in support of relief ace Hoyt Wilhelm, and his career was just warming up.

I won't bore you with all of the year-by-year numbers, but there are plenty of stats that stand out. He never led the Orioles in saves, but accumulated 58 in two stints totaling 9 years. His strikeout-to-walk ratio as an Oriole was 3.96:1. He had a 65-40 record and a 2.89 ERA, which includes a 9-1, 1.85 season in 1964. He allowed barely more than one baserunner per inning - 774 in 770 innings, a total that includes 46 intentional walks. Even when you add in his stats from the Pirates, A's, and Phillies, Hall's career WHIP of 1.10 is still 19th-best in major league history. He didn't shy from postseason pressure, either: In five postseason games - all after his 38th birthday - he allowed no earned runs in 8.2 innings with an 0.46 WHIP. He won two ALCS games and saved two World Series contests, and retired after the 1971 season at age 41. Oh, and he finished with a .210 batting average that was buoyed by a .464 mark (13-for-28) with the 1963 O's. Not a bad way to spend two decades of your life.

Dick Hall still calls Baltimore home, and stays busy with accounting work. He celebrated his 80th birthday last September, and looks to be in good shape. When I handed him this 1962 Topps card - his first as an Oriole - I formally introduced myself. When he heard who I was, his face lit up and he shook my hand and restated that he enjoyed the site. Dick even leaned to his right to tell Craig Tatum about it. Frankly, just getting to meet him made the $15 autograph voucher and the morning and afternoon spent at the convention center well worth it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nick Markakis, 2010 Topps Attax Code Cards

I'm done. 2011 Topps was released this week, and I haven't bought any packs. I don't intend to buy any at all. I realized this week that I'm fatigued, annoyed, and flat-out bored with the current state of cards. I enjoy the quest of completing a set of base cards. If I bought a wax box each of Series 1, Series 2, and Update Series, I'd be out over $200 without completing the 990-card set. I would have duplicates that I'd have to try to trade for the dozens of cards I'd still need. I'd also have a fat stack of meaningless inserts, one or two of which might have drawn my fancy. Maybe I'd even get a gimmicky, meaningless short print or two, most of which are unannounced parallels that are essentially short prints, but no raw data is provided on the odds or distribution, so you never know just how much time and money you'd waste trying to get them all. You can either go nuts trying, or live with the knowledge that your base set isn't really complete. Stale Gum pointed out that Topps now produces more individual inserts than base cards, and that's ridiculous. I was already leaning away from new product this year, and then I heard about the "twink" short prints. There's that extra push that clinched it. Topps thinks very little of you and me. They think that no matter how they distort and dilute and toy with a base set that we grew up, and that our fathers grew up with, you'll just keep swallowing it and making them richer. The only way you can be heard is by voting with your wallets. I'll still be buying plenty of Topps, but the cards were printed and sold 30, 40, 50 years ago. I'll be giving my money to hobby dealers and fellow collectors. I've got plenty of sets to complete from the past, and I'll enjoy it more (and get more for my money) than I would with new cards that Topps takes for granted. I want all of you to hold me to this. I'll still trade for any and all Orioles cards, but the other 29 teams can take a walk. I'm stepping away from the current scene before it kills my interest in the hobby altogether.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Melvin Mora, 2003 Leaf #14

Happy 39th-ish birthday to Melvin Mora! It's somewhat fitting that the ex-Oriole third baseman (and shortstop and outfielder) was born on Groundhog Day, considering that he has been a near-constant presence through the team's string of 13 consecutive losing seasons. In actuality, he arrived from the Mets in 2000 and departed for the Rockies prior to 2010, so he was privy to 10 years of futility, each one blending muddily into the next.

Of course, poor Brian Roberts is ultimately the true Bill Murray in this scenario. At least Melvin tasted the postseason as a rookie with the 1999 Mets, and his one-year stay in Colorado saw the team scrape out an 83-79 record. This year he's off to the desert, where he may be replacing new Oriole Mark Reynolds. Another winning year looks to be a long shot, but in the anemic National League West anything can happen. Meanwhile, Roberts was drafted in 1999 (Year Two of the Drought) and the sum total of his experience with a winning club was a 44-game stint in 2003 with AAA Ottawa, a ho-hum 79-65 team. Even then, he was promoted to the majors in mid-May and spent the balance of the season slogging along with the 91-loss O's.

On April 1, I hope Brian Roberts doesn't wake up to the sounds of Sonny and Cher. Of course, the date of the Orioles' regular-season opener isn't exactly an encouraging omen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Matt Wieters, 2010 Upper Deck #84

I know it seems cruel and unusual to post two 2010 Upper Deck cards back-to-back, but I have to let the chips fall where they may. This is the fourth of the five autographs that I collected on Saturday. The last will wait for Vintage Friday, which cannot come soon enough.

The hype that accompanied Matt Wieters to the major leagues would have been impossible for anyone to live up to, but it's still funny to see people treating him like a disappointment. He'll be 25 in May, and just completed his first full major league season. In 2010, he dealt with the responsibility of handling a pitching staff for 130 games on a team that wasn't exactly a model of stability. In one year, he became one of the best defensive catchers in the league by any measure. I'm willing to wait another year or two for his bat to catch up. Even though his batting line was a ho-hum .249/.319/.377 (89 OPS+), he did improve slightly in the second half (103 OPS+). I'm not worried about #32.