Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Frank Robinson, 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Charcoal #18

Happy 76th birthday, Frank Robinson! Nothing seems to slow down Robby, who punished pitchers with a career total of 586 home runs. He hit only 2 of those on August 31:

-August 31, 1956: Rookie Frank celebrated his 21st birthday with his 31st longball, a game-tying shot off of Chicago's Bob Rush to tie the game 3-3. Five batters later, the Reds celebrated a walkoff win on a Smoky Burgess sacrifice fly.

-August 31, 1966: En route to a Triple Crown, MVP, and World Series win in his debut season in Baltimore, Frank showed that he wasn't an old 31 by taking Luis Tiant deep in Cleveland. His two-out eighth inning blast also scored Curt Blefary and gave the O's a 2-1 lead. They went on to win 5-1 and boosted their stranglehold on first place to a dozen games.

Do you know how Frank Robinson celebrates his birthday? However he damned well pleases.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brian Roberts, 2009 Topps Chrome #83

I haven't talked about Brian Roberts in a while because there's not anything new to say, particularly not anything that's not discouraging. The 33-year-old first second baseman made it through the first six weeks of the season without his balky back crumbling to dust, and I thought last year's disaster was behind him. Then he sustained his second concussion in less than a year while sliding headfirst into first base on May 16, and he's been on the shelf ever since. He hasn't been able to resume workouts for more than a few days without his symptoms recurring. The pessimist in me says that Brian Roberts might be finished.

There is still reason for some positivity, though. Ryan Adams, in his second stint with the club this year, is performing well. Given the chance to play every day at second base, the 2006 2nd-round draft pick has hit safely in 8 of his 9 games with the O's this month, which includes 4 doubles. He also went 2-for-5 tonight with the game-winning hit, a tenth-inning single that gave the Birds a walkoff victory. There's reason to believe that he can be a solid big leaguer for a few years, based on his .783 minor league OPS and defensive improvement in recent years. I would love to feature Ryan tonight, but I was keen enough to use my only Ryan Adams card in a 2008 post mocking his 52-error season at Delmarva. I'll catch you on the rebound, Ryan.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jim Palmer, 2010 Topps History of the World Series #HWS-14

Yesterday I mentioned that there were some things rattling around in my head without an outlet during my weeklong sabbatical from the serious business of card blogging. For instance, Saturday I watched a replay of Game 3 of the 1983 American League Championship Series on MASN. The game took place on Friday, October 7, 1983, with Mike Flanagan picking up the win with five innings of one-run ball to give the O's a 2-1 series advantage over the White Sox. The Oriole offense battered Rich Dotson early and often and tacked on some late runs to make it an 11-1 laugher. Sammy Stewart got an old-fashioned save with four shutout innings of relief. It's a game that an O's fan would certainly like to relive once in a while, and it was a nice way to remember Flanagan.

But no one was laughing after two bench-clearing incidents. In the bottom of the fourth, Flanny came too far inside with a curveball and drilled Chicago slugger Ron Kittle on his already-gimpy left knee, and he had some cross words for the lefty. Home plate umpire Nick Bremigan immediately cinched Kittle in a bearhug, helping to defuse the tension. But the next inning, Dotson got two quick outs and then plunked A.L. MVP Cal Ripken, Jr. in the ribs. Cal immediately tossed his bat aside and took his base grinning and showing no signs of pain, seeming to goad the opposing pitcher. In the NBC announcing booth, Bob Costas and Tony Kubek attempted to read Ripken's lips, and thought that he shouted to Dotson: "Is that all you've got?" When the next pitch dusted Eddie Murray (who had belted a three-run homer in his first at-bat) off the plate, the switch-hitting first baseman wasn't nearly so jovial. He and the Pale Hose starter got into a shouting match, and everyone spilled out onto the field again, though again no punches were thrown. After much deliberation, the umpires decided that both teams had had their say and they issued official warnings. Compare this to the current state of things, when home plate umps jump up and issue warnings the first time a player gets plunked, either offering no consideration of context or leaving the scales uneven.

I was buried in my laptop by the time the Birds came to bat in the eighth with a 6-1 lead. But I snapped to attention when something else unusual happened. Designated hitter Ken Singleton, 36 years old and one season away from retirement, was intentionally walked after Murray had walked and stolen second (a surprising feat in itself!). Kenny was then lifted for a pinch runner: pitcher Jim Palmer, himself a week shy of his 38th birthday! I suppose he couldn't have been slower than Singleton, though he attempted only one steal in his lengthy career (making it safely in 1971). Manager Joe Altobelli also left himself with some bench options for the end of the game, though the outcome wasn't much in doubt by that point. Anyway, not much came from that odd substitution. Palmer advanced to second base easily on Todd Cruz's RBI single, but he was stranded there. When the O's sent eight men to the plate in a four-run ninth, backup catcher Joe Nolan batted for Palmer.

There you have it: Jim Palmer, pinch runner. How come nobody told me about this?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Raul Chavez, 2006 Upper Deck #534

Well, I'm back from my week-long self-imposed exile, though I did of course make an exception in posting Wednesday about Mike Flanagan's tragic and senseless death. This was a very eventful week to be away from the blog, for better and worse. The Birds honored the memory of their departed pitcher/coach/executive/broadcaster by adding a "Flanny" patch to their jersey sleeves, hanging a black banner with an orange "46" over the press box, putting together a tribute video to air in the first inning at all remaining 2011 home games, and of course requesting a moment of silence prior to Friday night's home game. The players also did him proud by rattling off a 6-game win streak, their longest since early 2008. That run of prosperity included their first-ever four game sweep in Minnesota and their second and third wins of the entire season against the Yankees. Suddenly, the sleepwalking O's were hitting (somewhat), pitching, and even flashing the leather. I felt superstition creeping in, and was loath to jinx the club by posting again. Now that the Orioles have dropped the nightcap of today's doubleheader, it's a moot point.

I also received my goodies from this month's cheapo eBay lot break courtesy of Thorzul. For $10 I secured all of the Orioles cards in a random assortment, which included a bunch of shiny Chrome O's from the past three years, some 1980s oddballs, my first Manny Machado card (to be shown off at a later date), and a card that I didn't know existed, which is pictured above. Raul Chavez played for 6 teams in 11 big league seasons, and only saw action with Baltimore in 16 games spread across April, May, and September in 2006. He had 5 whole hits in 28 at-bats, all singles with no RBI. But I'm thrilled to know that someone that minor in the grand scheme of team history has his own card in orange and black, and I'm even happier to own it. Last of all, as disgusted as I was a week ago, I'm encouraged to know that I spent several moments during the week thinking about tidbits that I would have liked to post on this blog. No matter what may come for the Orioles, I don't think I'm going anywhere.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mike Flanagan, 1982 Topps #520

I intended to take this week off from the blog, but these are bizarre and unfortunate circumstances. At 4:26 this afternoon, police were called to Mike Flanagan's property in Sparks, MD, with reports of a male body being spotted on the trail to his barn. Hours later, it was confirmed that the body was identified as Flanagan, age 59. Details are still few and far between, but Baltimore has lost a star pitcher, a coach, a front office executive, and a broadcaster all in one. More importantly, his family lost a husband and father. There's nothing I can tell you about Flanny's playing career that you won't hear elsewhere: 1979 Cy Young Award winner, 3 postseason victories, 12-4 with a 3.30 ERA for the 1983 champs, combined with 3 other pitchers to no-hit Oakland in 1991, was the last O's pitcher on the mound in Memorial Stadium, fifth in team history with 141 wins.

I'll tell you a bit about what Mike Flanagan means to me. The second entry I ever wrote on this blog was about him, and a card that had been in my possession for as long as I could remember. Each of the past two years, he was in the MASN broadcast booth for the network's blogger event at Camden Yards. He took time out of his pregame routine to meet with our ragtag group and answer our questions. He was casual and warm, and shared some entertaining stories from his long Oriole career. This past June, we were running behind schedule and he still took time away from his pregame meal to spend a few minutes with us. It was truly appreciated.

Hats off to Mike Flanagan. I've never heard anyone say a bad word about him, and I hope this story doesn't get sadder.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Juan Bell, 1990 Topps #724

Nothing seems more fitting today than a crappy card of a crappy player from a crappy set. I'm beyond disgusted with the Orioles today. I've been watching them lose and lose and lose for my entire adult life and then some, and somehow this team is on pace to be the worst of the bunch. After drafting and trading for an entire rotation's worth of highly-acclaimed young pitchers, they're no closer to contending. Every pitcher has encountered injuries and/or a startling regression in ability. The pitching stinks. The hitting stinks. The defense stinks. The manager's lineup decisions are often confounding. The general manager spent $25 million on three past-their-prime players (Kevin Gregg, Vladimir Guerrero, and Derrek Lee) that were unwanted elsewhere, and all three have performed below even the rock-bottom expectations that my pessimistic side had for them. Same general manager has waved a white flag when it comes to signing Latin American prospects, essentially widening the talent gap between the Baltimore organization and its rivals. The fan exodus from Camden Yards continues unchecked. Player development is apparently broken as well, given the lack of fruit borne by the farm system and the repeated failures of the few players who do make it to the major leagues. I can't remember ever feeling this hopeless as a baseball fan.

Something has to give. I'm shutting the doors of this blog for the first time in the 44 months since I began posting. I plan to take a week off. No scanning, no writing, no trying to come up with something to say about a team and a franchise that just don't seem to be worth the effort. See you in a week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gustavo Molina, 2007 Topps '52 Rookies #118

I know that Topps has flogged their iconic 1952 card design to death with numerous tributes, reprints, and retro sets. Still, the '52 Rookies issues of 2006 and 2007 had some charm simply because they shone a spotlight on a bunch of underwhelming minor league veterans who had the good fortune to play a few games in the majors during those seasons. Take Gustavo Molina, who despite his surname and his status as a catcher, is not a part of the famed Molina brotherhood. The Venezuelan native signed with the White Sox as an amateur free agent in 2000, but didn't debut with Chicago until his eighth pro season. Injuries left the Pale Hose shorthanded behind the plate, and he saw action in 10 games early in 2007. Unfortunately he started 0-for-16 before singling off of Chien-Ming Wang in his final game for the White Sox. The Orioles claimed him off of waivers in July, and summoned him to the big league roster in September. He fared a bit better, going 2-for-9 to leave his final batting line at a mighty .111/.138/.148. That was enough to get him on this card, complete with a hastily Photoshopped oriole bird in place of what was presumably a "SOX" insignia.

Gustavo continues to drift through the ranks of MLB and its affiliates, going 1-for-7 in a 2008 cup of coffee with the Mets and doing the same in 2010 with the Red Sox. This past April, he found himself on the Yankees roster and had a double in six at-bats. Yesterday the Yanks designated him for assignment, dropping him from the 40-man roster to clear a spot for pitcher Aaron Laffey, who they'd claimed off waivers from Seattle. It's all part of baseball's circle of life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Steve Barber, 1961 Topps #125

I see that Things Done To Cards hasn't been updated all summer, but I've got a test case for them. If something looks amiss in that scan above, it's because some enterprising collector chose to preserve his or her Steve Barber card by coating the front of it in Con-Tac paper. Sure, they failed to smooth out a few air pockets in the top left corner, and the very top of the card has had the Con-Tac pulled off, leaving a sticky residue that served as a lint magnet, but overall the surface is in pretty danged good shape. It's like they were decades ahead of their time, creating a DIY glossy finish! Has anyone else found old cards modified in this fashion?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Glenn Davis, 1993 Triple Play #73

Welp, I'm on the disabled list under pretty embarrassing circumstances. Tuesday night, I got up from my couch too carelessly and whacked the instep of my right foot on the corner of my coffee table. It hurt like the wordsworth at the time (I'm sick of "hurt like the dickens"), but I didn't give it much thought until I took a walk on my lunch break yesterday afternoon. I had some soreness after that, but suddenly by the time I got home I couldn't put any weight on the foot. There was a red, angry-looking splotch just below the ankle, so I spent most of last night trying to keep the foot elevated and icing it. I figured that I could muddle through, but I woke up a few times during the night with throbbing pain in the foot. From 4:00 AM onward, I was unable to get back to sleep. After laying in bed for a few more hours, I got up and dressed and made breakfast on one foot, took some Motrin, and drove my sorry carcass to the doctor.

The diagnosis: a nasty contusion. Nothing broken, probably not even a sprain. All the same, I was sent home with anti-inflammatories, an Ace bandage, and crutches. I wish my bedroom and bathroom weren't on the top floor of the house.

If there's a baseball tie-in here, it's that I probably have little room to make fun of injury-prone bumblers who miss games after falling asleep in a tanning bed or getting nailed with a line drive while sitting in the dugout.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Boog Powell, 2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #28

It's the Big 7-0 for Big 2-6 today - Boog Powell's 70th birthday! He's gotta be the best baseball player ever born on this day, right? Let's see:

-That prematurely balding runt Dustin Pedroia is 28 today. Aww crap, he's younger than me. Then again, I don't resemble a common vampire bat.

-Ex-Phillie and current Astro pitcher Brett Myers is 31. He's also a pig.

-Jorge Posada, who seems to be slowly decomposing in a Yankee uniform in 2011, is blowing out 40 candles. 271 homers is nice, but it ain't 339, right Boog?

-Ex-pitcher Diego Segui is 74. His claims to fame are fathering ex-Oriole David Segui and pitching for both Seattle teams (Pilots and Mariners). A 3.81 ERA isn't too impressive for a guy who did his work in the 1960s and 1970s.

-Rudy York was born 98 years ago today (he passed away in 1970). Rudy was an All-Star catcher for Detroit and Boston and hit 277 home runs, but our guy wins the OPS+ battle, 134 to 123.

So there you have it. In my totally unbiased opinion, the massive slugger from Florida is the pre-eminent ballplayer in the August 17 club. Happy birthday, and many more, Boog!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harold Baines, 1993 Bowman #281

Today's idle thought: I wish I could grow a beard as neat and full and even as that of Harold Baines. That thing looks like it was painted on his face.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rich Dauer, 1985 Donruss #106

If you watched ESPN's pregame coverage of the Rockies-Cardinals game last night, you witnessed a scary moment. Rich Dauer, currently Colorado's first base coach, was in the midst of pregame fielding drills when he was struck in the face with an unexpected throw from infielder Chris Nelson. Dauer immediately crumpled to the ground, his legs writhing. Fortunately, he was soon able to leave the field under his own power, albeit with a bloody face. The former Orioles second baseman suffered a broken nose, but he was medically cleared to fly out of St. Louis later in the evening with the rest of the team. This certainly isn't the way that anyone would want to make the news, but I'm glad Rich is okay.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chris Hoiles, 1996 Score #136

It turns out that today is a pretty special day in Orioles history:

-Earl Weaver blew out 81 candles on his birthday cake today, or maybe he didn't. It seems cruel to expect an 81-year-old man with a history of smoking to put all of that stress on his lungs. Maybe they just gave him one big candle.

-On August 14, 1998, Chris Hoiles hit two grand slams in a 15-3 win over the Indians. It was the tenth and final two-homer game of the powerful catcher's career, and also the last pair of grand slams he ever hit. Hoiles retired at season's end with 151 home runs (including 8 grand slams), a total that is still good for tenth in O's history.

-Two years ago, Felix Pie became the fourth player in Birds history to hit for the cycle, driving in four runs in a blowout win over Jered Weaver and the Angels. I had the privilege of being at Camden Yards to witness a team-record 12 extra-base hits in the 16-6 rout, and of course I wrote a little something about it.

Sadly, a card featuring all three of Weaver, Hoiles, and Pie exists only in fevered dreams, so we'll have to settle for Chris Hoiles by his lonesome.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chris Tillman, 2010 Topps 206 #156

As I touched upon in my penultimate post of the past week, I did spend Thursday evening taking in the finale of the Orioles-White Sox series. All I can say is that it was a pretty ideal evening, with the pesky exception of the game itself. Thanks to the wonders of a flex-hours work schedule, I arrived at Oriole Park shortly after 4:00 PM. You astute types will know that the gates don't open until 5:30, so I had no choice but to bide my time across the street at Slider's. The weather was beautiful, high-80s, clear, sunny, and not too humid, which is not something that you hear very often in mid-August in Baltimore. I was perfectly content to sip a cheap pint can of Pabst Blue Ribbon while I waited to meet my friend Michele.

Michele is a well-traveled graduate student whose research has brought her to Baltimore for the next year. Her previous places of residence have included Philadelphia, Boston, Vermont, and Seattle, and while I'm sure that each of those places has its own charms, none of them have the finest baseball stadium in the country. This was to be Michele's first visit to Camden Yards, and I was glad to be her host. We had time for one drink before my sister Liz and cousin Brittany called to let me know that they'd made it to the ballpark, and would be waiting for us by the ticket windows at the front gates. We found a rack to secure Michele's bike (bicycling enthusiast Jeremy Guthrie would be proud), purchased some upper reserve seats (as well as my complimentary birthday ticket), and collected our free and very orange Jake Arrieta t-shirts. In true Orioles fashion, these shirts were given away the day before the young pitcher had season-ending elbow surgery.

As it was a Thursday home game, there were O's alumni signing autographs on the concourse. The guests of honor were Paul Blair, Dan Ford, and Bill Swaggerty. Since I had a guest and I already have Blair and Swaggerty's signatures, I bypassed their booth. I'll catch you some other time, Disco Danny.

We made it to the upper deck, purchased some fine cuisine (hot dogs, chicken tenders, and fries covered in Old Bay), and took our seats with plenty of time to spare before first pitch. After all of that salty food, I was ready for another beer, but my dear sister and cousin had taken off in search of ice cream, leaving me to watch their bags. When they finally returned, it was almost time for the game to start, but Michele and I went to fetch drinks anyhow. If I was going to miss some game action, I figured I'd skip Chicago's first ups. Fewer good things can happen when the Birds are on defense, especially this season. We had to go all the way to the street-level concourse to find a stand selling mixed drinks (Michele has a gluten allergy that puts beer off-limits). As we waited to be served, I glanced at a flat-screen TV broadcasting the game, and had the pleasure of seeing Chris Tillman serve up a two-run homer to Alexei Ramirez. Two batters equaled a 2-0 deficit for the home team.

It was 4-0 by the time we got back to the nosebleed seats, with young Tillman having yet to retire any of the first five Pale Hose hitters. Michele remarked that the game would be a long one at that rate, but I assured her that opposing starter Mark Buehrle would make quick work of the O's. Baltimore got out of the inning without further damage, but Tillman was not long for the game. He was chased after two and two-thirds innings with the club in a 6-0 hole. This has been a disturbing habit for Chris, who has failed to complete 5 innings in 6 of 13 starts this year. Liz and Brittany had seen enough, wandering off to the team store for a diversion.

Showing impeccable timing, my family members missed the only Oriole highlights of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Buehrle had retired the first seven hitters before Nolan Reimold crushed a ground-rule double to right-center field. He scored two batters later on a single by the cyborg known as J. J. Hardy, and Nick Markakis capped the outburst by driving the first pitch he saw onto the flag court for his 100th career home run. The blast measured in at 390 feet, but I've rarely witnessed a ball with such an impressive trajectory. He blasted a hanging fastball, and there was truly no doubt that it was gone.

I didn't see the other half of my group until the fifth inning, at which point Michele and I took our leave of section 330 for a second round of drinks. This time we wound up at the Natty Boh Bar on the first level, and just as I was asking myself why I'd ever spend $7.50 on the cheapest brew in town, the bartender asked us where we were sitting. We told him, even though we were unsure of his reason for asking. He then handed us two tickets for section 26, telling us that we'd just been upgraded. That's one way to earn a generous tip!

After informing Liz of our whereabouts, Michele and I found our new seats, five rows behind the Orioles dugout. It was an incredible vantage point for a fairly unremarkable conclusion to the game, as Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, and Mike Gonzalez combined for six and a third innings of shutout relief. Buehrle likewise kept the O's off the scoreboard for the fourth through eighth innings, and Sergio Santos  whiffed two batters in a perfect ninth for the save. The only real fireworks came from the younger guys sitting behind us, who heckled the erratic Gonzalez mercilessly.

Now here are some photos from my crappy iPhone camera to play us out.

 Alexei Ramirez takes his hacks against Brad Bergesen in the sixth.
 Harold Baines, one of my favorite baseball people, coaching at first for the White Sox.
Vlad Guerrero prepares to stand in against Mark Buehrle in the bottom of the sixth.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Bert Hamric, 1958 Topps #336

I honestly know 100% of nothing about outfielder Bert Hamric, so let's learn together. Okay, we've struck gold right off the bat. His birth name was "Odbert", poor devil. His hometown is Clarksburg, WV, also home to Herbert "Babe" Barna, who hit .257 with 58 RBI for the Giants in 1942.

But back to Mr. Hamric. He got his start in the Brooklyn Dodgers chain, entering pro ball at Class D Cambridge in 1949. Subsequently, Bert didn't reach AAA until 26. That was 1954, and he made up for lost time by hitting .350 in 88 games at St. Paul. The Dodgers gave him a glimpse of the big leagues the following April, but his experience consisted of two late-game appearances. He pinch-ran on the 24th and struck out as a pinch hitter against Bob Rush of the Cubs on the 28th. Then it was back to the minors, where he stayed until the O's claimed him in the Rule 5 draft in December 1957.

He made the big league roster to start the 1958 season, but received minor injuries in a car accident and had to sit out a few weeks. Throughout the month of May, he was used eight times as a pinch hitter with less-than-ideal results. He struck out six times, popped out once, and mercifully singled off of Bob Turley on May 14 for his only career hit. The 30-year-old rookie was sent to AAA Miami in June, and stayed there for two-plus seasons. He bounced around the minors through the 1961 season before hanging up his spikes with a total of 1,529 minor league games played compared to just 10 in the majors. But he did make it there - twice - and even collected a hit against an All-Star pitcher. All in a day's work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nick Markakis, 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces #10

This is going to be quick and dirty, as I attended tonight's ugly, forgettable game and I've got a 6 AM wakeup call coming tomorrow. One of the few high points of the game - and one of the most impressive moments I've witnessed at Camden Yards - was the absolute bomb that Nick Markakis hit onto the right field flag court in the third inning for his 100th career home run. I can't remember many harder-hit balls in Oriole Park, and it's been a pleasure to witness most of Nick's homers during his six-year tenure in Baltimore. He's only the 21st Oriole to reach the century mark. Kudos to you, Nick. Wish we had a few more of you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Johnny Schmitz, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #407

Johnny Schmitz, in addition to his smoky good looks, was a two-time All-Star early in his career, when he was a starter for the Cubs. In 1946, he went 11-11 with a 2.61 ERA and a league-high 135 strikeouts. Two years later, he was 18-13 with a 2.64 ERA for a last-place Chicago squad. But he was far removed from those days when he was acquired by the Orioles in May 1956. Then 35, he pitched sparingly out of the bullpen and put up an 0-3 record and a 3.99 ERA. When the O's released him at season's end, it signaled the end of the major league career of "Bear Tracks", so nicknamed for the way he paced around the pitchers' mound.

It's worth noting that Schmitz allowed only 3 home runs in 38.1 innings with the Birds, and one of those was served up to an Indians rookie named Rocky Colavito. It was the sixth of an eventual 374 career homers for the slugging outfielder, and the first of 39 that he would hit against Baltimore. A few weeks later, on August 10, 1956, Rocky hit his 11th. It also happened to be his 23rd birthday.

So what does all of this have to do with the price of soup? Well, August 10, 1956 was also the day that my uncle Jeff, the first baseball fanatic in my life, was born. As a kid, he always checked the bios on the backs of cards to see who shared his birthday (as I'm sure most of us did), and Colavito was the only one that really leapt out at him. Indeed, if you check the full list on Baseball-Reference, you won't see many exciting names on the 8/10 list. The only Orioles are 1950s reliever Bob Chakales and lunchpail catcher Sal Fasano. Note that Sal regrettably did not earn a card for his surprisingly productive 64-game stint in Baltimore in 2005; you can bet that I would have posted it in a blink. Maybe it's time I started rooting around for photos to make my own virtual cards. But I'm getting off-track.

So anyway, happy birthday, Uncle Jeff. I should also pass along birthday wishes to my mother and my cousin Brittany. August 10 is a jam-packed day in my family!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brady Anderson, 1994 Topps Finest #131

Posting this because it is the oldest Topps Finest card that I own, and I didn't even realize I had it until I went rifling through my 1993-1994 box waiting for something to leap out at me for tonight's card. I was rifling through said box because motivation for thoroughly planned and researched blog entries rarely strikes when your favorite baseball team has sputtered through the entire second half of the season without winning so much as a single series. (Now that's a run-on sentence to take home to momma.) I never bought Pack One of Finest, even though it debuted in 1993. In those days I was a sixth-grade whelp who was foaming at the mouth for everything baseball, especially if it was thin and rectangular. Of course, my lack of diligence concerning Finest probably had something to do with the price tag. When your allowance is a cool Alexander Hamilton, it makes stuff like the Topps base set or Donruss Studio a lot more appealing than those six-per-pack chrome shinies. A lot more cards for your buck. But a generation later, I've got to admit that there's something appealing about these cards. They're not exactly attractive design-wise, but they're so utterly different than anything else from that time. It looks more like a plaque than a baseball card. I think there's a place for that in the hobby. That being said, there's no way in hell I'm forking out $400 for an 18-pack box of this stuff.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Baltimore Orioles, 2003 Topps #633

This is a weird card for a few reasons. Firstly, there's the fake outfield wall that Topps Photoshopped into the front of the picture. For some reason, they started doing this with team cards last decade; I guess they didn't get rights from the batboys' union or something and had to cover them up. But there's something else that I only noticed tonight. Look closely at the players and coaches. You'll probably have to click on the photo to enlarge it. Each and every person pictured is wearing sunglasses, and I'm guessing it was a conscious decision - some sort of goofy in-joke. Certainly many of the O's are grinning like they're in on something that you're not. They all appear to be the same type of shades, too. They gave me something to pay attention to and smile about on an otherwise ho-hum team card for a 95-loss club. I'll give them that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1994 Studio #123

The Orioles have pretty much gotten what they should have expected from infielder Mark Reynolds in his first season with the team: plenty of strikeouts and plenty of home runs. Today he accounted for all of the O's offense with a pair of solo home runs, his team-leading 25th and 26th of the year. The second was a real moon shot, a 450-foot bomb that reached the second deck in left field. It was a rare slugging feat; only Rex Hudler of the Angels had ever hit one there in an actual game. Reynolds' blast was also the sixth-longest home run in Camden Yards history, and the second-longest by an Oriole. The only Baltimore player to hit one farther was Jeffrey Hammonds, on September 15, 1997. In the first game of a doubleheader with Cleveland, he crushed an Eric Plunk offering 460 feet to score Roberto Alomar and turn a 5-4 seventh-inning deficit into a 6-5 lead. It's incredible that with all of the power hitters the Orioles have had since moving to Eutaw Street in 1992, creaky, injury-prone Hammonds holds a distance record. I guess that's just a little more proof of what could have been.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mike Mussina, 1992 Fleer Ultra #9

This card is pretty cool, and not just because of that classy marble design on the bottom border. The photo was taken during Mike Mussina's major league debut: August 4, 1991. (In hindsight, it would've had much more significance if I had thought to post this two days ago, but life is rarely so tidy.) It was the only game in his abbreviated rookie season in which Moose faced the White Sox on the road, and it was quite a first act for a great career. Just one year after the O's drafted him out of Stanford University with their first-round pick (20th overall), the righthander found himself in the bigs to stay. He was promoted to the major leagues after posting a 10-4 record and a 2.87 ERA with the Rochester Red Wings, and he pushed past some early jitters. Three Chicago batters drew walks in the first two innings, but none of them scored. Likewise, Frank Thomas was stranded at second after a fourth-inning double that set the stage for many future meetings between the two players.

Though Mussina was proving difficult for the Pale Hose to solve, the Oriole batters had no more luck with ancient knuckleballer Charlie Hough. So the contest remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, when Thomas again got the best of the young pitcher with a solo home run. As it turned out, that was the only run of the game. Mike was pulled after giving up a two-out double to (who else?) Thomas in the eighth, leaving his line at 7.2 innings pitched, 4 hits (3 by the Big Hurt), an earned run, 4 walks, and a single strikeout. All of that work for a hard-luck loss. The 43-year-old Hough went the distance, permitting 5 hits (all singles) and 2 walks and striking out 7 Baltimore batters. The Birds' 3-4-5 hitters (Cal Ripken, Jr., Dwight Evans, and Chito Martinez) went 0-for-11 with a walk by Evans. Though Mussina was denied a win in his debut, he would retire in 2008 with 270 W's to his credit.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, 1968 Topps Game Card #7

On August 1, 1982, Frank Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Four days later, I was born. That's right, today is my 29th birthday, and I can say with confidence that of all my birthdays, it is the most recent. I don't know what the final year of my twenties will hold, but I can't think of a better way to kick it off than by showing off a great vintage oddball of one of the true legends of the game.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Doug DeCinces, 1981 Donruss #352

As much as I pride myself in playing detective and identifying in-game photos from context clues, I'm a bit in the dark when it comes to stadiums (stadia?). In particular, I haven't done much to familiarize myself with the characteristics of older stadiums. However, I know Chicago's Comiskey Park when I see it...or at least when I see its famed "exploding scoreboard", which is blurry yet visible over Doug DeCinces' right shoulder. There's something gratifying about being able to pin a thirty-year-old photo to a specific place.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Arthur Rhodes, 1992 Donruss #727

I'm hoping it isn't so, but Arthur Rhodes may have thrown his last pitch in the major leagues. The 41-year-old southpaw was cut loose by the Rangers to make room for new reliever Mike Adams. In 24.1 innings this year, Arthur was touched up for a 4.81 ERA. Of course, he was quite effective for the three seasons prior, so there's still a chance that someone takes a late-season flier on him as a lefty specialist.

Now if Rhodes really has reached the end of the line, he leaves behind a 20-year resume in the bigs. For giggles, let's look at the box score from his major league debut: August 21, 1991 vs. the Rangers at Arlington Stadium.

Baltimore Orioles       Texas Rangers
1Mike DevereauxCF1Gary PettisCF
2Joe OrsulakLF2Julio Franco2B
3Cal RipkenSS3Ruben SierraRF
4Glenn DavisDH4Juan GonzalezLF
5Randy Milligan1B5Brian DowningDH
6Chito MartinezRF6Dean Palmer3B
7Leo Gomez3B7Mike Stanley1B
8Bob MelvinC8Ivan RodriguezC
9Billy Ripken2B9Jose HernandezSS
Arthur Rhodes PKevin Brown P

Incredibly, Ivan Rodriguez is still playing, grinding along as the Nationals' second catcher; he's collected 2,793 hits in 2,486 games since that one. Cal Ripken, Jr. has been in the Hall of Fame since 2007. Bob Melvin is now in his eighth season as a manager. Practically everyone in that Rangers lineup played until they were 50 years old, including Brian Downing, who debuted with the White Sox in 1973 and hung 'em up in 1992 at age 41. So between Rhodes and Downing, you've got nearly 40 years of continuous baseball history represented in a single game. And of course, the late Johnny Oates was managing the O's. They've had nine other skippers since. Eight of them have never managed a winning Orioles team.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rick Schu, 1989 Score #452

For reasons that I can't begin to imagine 25 years later, the Phillies played a young Rick Schu at third base in 1985 and shifted the excellent Mike Schmidt to first base.

In other Orioles-Phillies crossover news, I'm sure you're dying to know how my sojourn to the City of Brotherly Love went. I had a great time. Citizens Bank Park is a beautiful stadium, with a nice open view of downtown Philadelphia. The food choices were of course plentiful, and we opted for crab fries from Chickie's and Pete's (french fries with Old Bay - hard to screw up) and pit beef sandwiches from Bull's Barbecue. The "Bull" is of course former Phils slugger Greg Luzinski, who had his moments as a player but was no Boog Powell. Likewise, the beef was tasty but didn't quite measure up to Boog's - a little too dry and crumbly. As for the beer, they had stands spaced out evenly throughout the stadium that offered both domestic and craft options, and there was no difference in price, which left a good impression on this beer snob. Thumbs up to the Hop Devil.

As far as the game goes, we had a great vantage point from section 418, high above the field but smack behind home plate. It was hot but not oppressively so, and got pretty comfortable once the sun went down. We were treated to a strong performance by Cliff Lee, who struck out 11 in 7.2 innings. Ryan Howard provided most of the offensive fireworks with a perfect 4-for-4 evening with a walk, a pair of doubles, a home run, and 3 RBI. (By the way: there is a big neon Liberty Bell in the outfield that swings back and forth and lights up red and blue when a Phillie goes deep. They also play a clip over the PA of the late, great Harry Kalas shouting, "That ball is OUTTA HERE!". Nice touch.) The only disappointment came when Howard, needing a triple for the cycle, drove a ball to deep center field just out of the reach of Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. It hit the wall and rolled away, but Howard pulled up at second. I doubt he would have made it to third, but there was a chance. The other excitement for the evening was provided by the Phillies debut of Hunter Pence, acquired 24 hours earlier in a trade with the Astros. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and was cheered wildly both before and during the game. The final was a 7-4 win for the home team, delivered in a tidy three hours.

Since I've already devoted two full paragraphs to the Phillies, I'll share an Oriole-related anecdote. As promised, I wore my Oriole cap to the game. The O's had already lost the first half of the doubleheader with the Yankees, 8-3, and when Ryan and I went for a beer during the third inning, I got a score update on my phone that they had fallen behind 2-0 in the first inning of the nightcap. I was annoyed, but not surprised. When we made it back to our seats, a guy behind me noticed my hat and mockingly asked me what happened. He motioned out to the out-of-town scoreboard, and I saw to my horror that several more Yankee runs had scored and the first inning was not yet over. At that point the guy sitting to my left piped up, and it turned out he was a New York fan. He offered some good-natured sympathy, and we kept following the progress of the game as it escalated to 8-0, 9-0, 12-0...he even bought me a beer out of pity. So that's where we stand in the world, Oriole fans.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mike Devereaux, 1995 Stadium Club #282

One of the great things about collecting is that you can always find something to surprise you. I bought several packs of 1995 Stadium Club back when it first came out, but it was too pricey for my 13-year-old self to actually complete the set, so it sat around incomplete for a while. A few years ago I bought a Series 1 hobby box online, but I'm still far from finishing off the set. So a few months ago, I added this fantastic Mike Devereaux card to my collection, and it was the first time I'd ever seen it. This has got to be one of my favorite candid baseball photos, and it's certainly my favorite of "Devo". I'm going to assume that he's giving the camera lens a playful fist bump, and not lashing out at an expensive inanimate object in annoyance. He doesn't strike me as a violent sort of guy, and that's not a fighting posture he's taking. He's playing it cool.