Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kevin Millwood, 2010 Topps Update Series #US255

Right. So this card was supposed to be published yesterday, on the occasion of Kevin Millwood's 38th birthday. But my time management skills could use improvement in general, and that ain't getting any better around the holidays. Now I'm saying hello and goodbye and Merry Christmas, if you choose to celebrate it. I'm on my way to Charlotte in about seven hours, and I don't have any cards scanned for the rest of the week while I'm away. (See previous statement about time management skills and a personal lack thereof.) I will see you on Sunday or Monday, but until then you get a vacation from me as I get a vacation from everything else in my own life. Be good!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mike Flanagan, 1987 Fleer #470

I wish that I didn't have a reason to write today's post. For the second time in as many years, a former Orioles player has taken his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Last year, it was Mike Flanagan committing suicide in August. Now, we've heard that Ryan Freel killed himself at his home in Florida yesterday. The former outfielder, who batted .133 with a .350 on-base percentage in a brief 9-game stint in Baltimore in 2009, was 36 years old. He leaves behind a wife and three young daughters, and does so right in the midst of the holiday season. Just awful news all around. I don't know what else to say.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Benny Ayala, 1981 Donruss #236

If Donruss had only tried a little harder, I'm sure that they could have found a blurrier photo of Benny Ayala. The focus here is softer than on those Barbara Walters interview specials. The only part of Benny's face that comes through clearly is his thick black mustache. It's a fine mustache indeed, but I'd like to think that there was more to the veteran outfielder than a cookie-duster. If it were up to Donruss, we might never know.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Hank Bauer, 1966 Topps #229

I feel as exuberant as craggy ol' Hank Bauer looks in this uncharacteristic photo. As of 3:30 this afternoon, I am officially on Christmas vacation. I won't have to go back to the office until January 2. That's 11, count 'em, 11 days to do as I please. This is the first time I've been able to take off for the entire week of Christmas since at least 2008. I'll be filling my time with holiday parties with friends, a Christmas Eve and Day with my family, and then a few days in Charlotte with my girlfriend and her loved ones. Naturally, I'll still be checking in with you fine folks each day. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Luis Matos, 2005 Donruss #109

I hope that I never run out of cards with distinctive photos like this. I can't tell you why Donruss selected a picture of Luis Matos trudging back to the dugout after a strikeout, but I'm glad that they gave me a puzzle to solve. The opposing catcher is wearing Detroit Tigers duds and has a name ending in "Z". Baseball-Reference tells me that Matos played three games for the O's in Detroit in 2004: a May 28-30 weekend series. He didn't strike out on Friday, and Brandon Inge was behind the plate on Saturday, with Ivan Rodriguez serving as designated hitter. Sunday afternoon "Pudge" was catching for the Tigers, and Matos went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles, a run scored, and a strikeout looking. Bingo.

So this picture was taken on May 30, 2004. Mike Maroth took the mound for the Tigers, with Erik Bedard toeing the rubber for the Birds. After a scoreless first inning, Luis batted with one out in the second and was called out on a 2-2 pitch, which immediately preceded the moment captured above. Detroit eventually took a 2-0 lead on a pair of RBI singles by Rodriguez, but the O's broke through in the top of the sixth. Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston had back-to-back hits, and B-Rob scored on an errant pickoff throw by Maroth. The score held at 2-1 until the top of the ninth, when Motown closer Ugueth Urbina ran into some trouble. The first four Baltimore batters reached safely, with Javy Lopez, Matos, and B. J. Surhoff all singling and Rafael Palmeiro drawing a walk. With the game tied and the bases loaded, Robert Machado struck out. Roberts then walked on five pitches to give the Orioles their first lead of the day, and Hairston followed with a two-run single. Future Oriole Jamie Walker replaced Urbina and got Melvin Mora to strike out, then intentionally walked Miguel Tejada to reload the bases. Manager Alan Trammell's strategy backfired, as Larry Bigbie (who had pinch-run for Lopez) drove in a pair with a single. Matos grounded out to end the inning at last, but that was of little consequence. In all, the O's scored six runs on five singles and three walks.

Jorge Julio came in to wrap up the win for the visitors, but walked the first two batters with a five-run cushion. (That sounds about right.) He got a big break when Rodriguez bounced into a double play, then allowed an RBI single to Rondell White. It was too little, too late for the Tigers, as Craig Monroe flew out to Matos to bring about the 7-3 final. So even though the Donruss photographer caught Luis in a moment of frustration, things worked out for the best...at least for one day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chito Martinez, 1992 Donruss #558

Admit it, you haven't thought about Chito Martinez in a while. You didn't even know that today was his 47th birthday. It's okay, that's why you're here. So here are some other fun facts about every Oriole fan's third-favorite Martinez:

1. His full name is Reyenaldo Ignacio Martinez.

2. He is the only player in MLB history born in Belize, but played high school baseball in Metairie, Louisiana.

3. Chito was drafted by the Royals in 1984, and signed with the O's as a minor league free agent prior to the 1991 season.

4. In 1991, he made his big league debut after hitting .322/.393/.654 with 20 homers and 50 RBI in only 60 games at AAA Rochester.

5. As a 25-year-old rookie, Martinez more than held his own, batting .269 and slugging .564 for the Birds in 67 games.

6. The first of his 13 home runs in his first major league season was a pinch-hit solo shot against Oakland's Gene Nelson on July 11, 1991. With the Orioles trailing 8-0 in the eighth, he batted in place of Billy Ripken.

7. Chito fell out of favor with the O's after an 0-for-15 start to the 1993 season. He spent the rest of that year in the minors, and never returned to the big leagues.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Derrek Lee, 2011 Topps Chrome #148

If you should find yourself feeling antsy over the Orioles' quiet offseason to date, just remember: it's better to stand pat than to make moves just for the sake of cosmetic improvement. Otherwise, you might end up paying Derrek Lee $7.25 million to wheeze out a .246/.302/.404 batting line with 41 RBI for a 93-loss team, only to flip him at the trade deadline for a non-prospect. If you're not convinced, look upon the free agents that CSN Baltimore's Rich Dubroff suggests as fits for the Birds and despair.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Geronimo Gil, 2002 Donruss Originals #149

You know what they say: when life hands you lemons, make Geronimo Gil.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Luke Scott, 2012 Topps Gold #107

Well here's a rare sight: Luke Scott robbing a home run in left field at Camden Yards. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to make a play like this: racing back to the wall, timing your jump just right, snatching the ball securely in your glove...and that's without accounting for the yokels in the front row who are reaching their filthy meathooks out to try to grab it away from you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Larry Bigbie, 2000 Topps HD #92

It's a good thing that this card is presented in High-Definition (spoiler alert: it's actually just super-glossy), because that affords us the chance to see every freckle on Larry Bigbie's adorable baby face. This photo was undoubtedly taken shortly after the Orioles drafted the 21-year-old outfielder with the 21st overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft, but I defy you to tell me that Larry looks a day over 18. I'm willing to bet that he got carded any time he went to the bar in numerous minor league towns.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Harvey Haddix, 1965 Topps #67

On this date in 1963, the Orioles acquired three-time All-Star Harvey Haddix from the Pirates in exchange for minor-league shortstop Dick Yencha and cash. The 38-year-old southpaw, who'd won 20 games with the Cardinals a decade earlier, was used strictly as a reliever by Baltimore manager Hank Bauer. Haddix excelled in the role, finishing second on the 1964 O's with 49 pitching appearances and clocking in with a 2.31 ERA. He went 5-5 and saved 10 games in support of Stu Miller, who paced the club with 23 saves. "The Kitten", so nicknamed for his resemblance to Harry "the Cat" Brecheen, struck out 90 batters in 89.2 innings and allowed only 23 walks and 4 home runs. He was less effective in 1965, which proved to be his last season in the big leagues; the lefty equaled his previous season's total of 23 walks in just 33.2 innings of work. He still fashioned a 3.48 ERA, but that was only by the grace of 9 unearned runs on his ledger. But Harvey's 1965 struggles don't change the fact that he contributed in a meaningful way to the 97-win Orioles of 1964.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mike Devereaux, 1993 Studio #55

Am I the only collector who goes wild for 1993 Studio? I've loved this set since I started buying packs off the shelf of my local hobby shop for 99 cents a pack in the fall of that year. The holographic facsimile signatures and the use of team jerseys, logo patches, and cap insignias as backgrounds were design touches that appealed to me at age 11 and still hold up in my mind. Photographically, it was a departure from the disastrously goofy posed yearbook shots of the previous two Studio sets. Most of the player photos on the card fronts in 1993 Studio appeared to be candid shots, offering a better glimpse into the subject's personality than any stiff "smile for the camera" grin or "show us your game face" glower. The more formal portraits were consigned to the card back, but zoomed in and bleeding in from either the left or right border, giving you a (literally) closer look at your heroes than ever before. These shots are fine as a contrast to the candid pictures on the front, and fit well with the sometimes-enlightening, often-confounding "Up Close" factoids. Where else will you learn that Mike Devereaux dislikes inconsiderate drivers?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Fleer #696

Happy 12/12/12 to you all! I'm sure most of us aren't celebrating the last "repeating number date" of our lifetime in any particular way, especially with all of those more prominent December holidays hogging all of the attention. But one Hall of Fame #12 is making it a very special day indeed. Roberto Alomar got married to his second wife Kim today in Toronto, and hopefully the second time will be a charm for him. I'm sure Canada is lovely in December. Personally, I'd be willing to wait a few months for a chance at warmer weather...of course it was a sunny and pleasant 45 today in Baltimore, so what do I know?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Todd Frohwirth, 1993 Topps #415

Why this card, and why today?

  • Because "Todd Frohwirth" is fun to say.
  • Because nothing says "Tuesday night in December" like Todd Frohwirth and 1993 Topps.
  • Because submarine-style pitchers are always cool, especially when that odd underarm delivery is coming right for you.
  • Because I'm thinking about starting a 1993 Topps blog, and I want people to tell me that I'm crazy for even considering it.
  • Because 1993 Topps reminds me of a time when I actually did walk down to the drug store to buy 79-cent packs of cards, and then traded with my friends. (Suddenly I want to have a warm glass of milk and an early bedtime.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ryan Minor, 1999 Topps #293

There's something incredibly eerie and lonely about this photo. Ryan Minor is just readying himself for a line drive down the first base line, but because of the zoom and the angle, it looks like he's the only man left standing on the diamond. There's nothing but arid infield dirt, dull outfield grass, and a man's own shadow. He remains vigilant against an opponent that may never come.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1991 Post #19

Imagine for a moment that you were some tragically sheltered child in the early 1990s. Your only exposure to baseball came through oddball cards that came with your breakfast cereal. Because the fine folks at Post didn't want to pony up for an MLB license (isn't the players' association enough for you?), you have no idea that uniforms actually feature logos and wordmarks on the caps and jerseys. The Orioles have the solid black hat and the white jersey with orange piping on the sleeves, the Yankees have the solid navy blue hat and the white uniform with navy pinstripes, and so forth. It all looks kind of dull, so you assume that you're not missing much. Fortunately, you and I knew better than that.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mike Mussina, 1992 Baseball Cards Magazine #77

Today is Mike Mussina's 44th birthday, and I've spent much of it trying to sort mountains of early 1990s junx wax, something I've been putting off for months. On the plus side, it allowed me to come across this oddball card of Moose. Back in the day, Baseball Cards Magazine used to give away cards in every issue featuring contemporary players and classic Topps set designs. Here, they've produced a pretty faithful tribute to the 1970 set, for better or worse. I'm not nuts about the original design, but for some reason this card works for me. Maybe it's a calming influence when set against the excesses of the hobby in the 1990s. Hopefully someone got Mike a decent razor for his birthday.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1974 Topps Team Checklist

For the first Friday of December, I thought this team checklist with its Christmasy colors would be an appropriate choice. As you can see, it features facsimiles of several Orioles' signatures: Andy Etchebarren, Dave McNally, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Don Baylor, Paul Blair, Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Earl Williams, Mike Cuellar (I think), Bobby Grich, and Tommy Davis. The card back lists all 28 O's cards included in the 1974 Topps base set, along with uniform number and position where applicable. As an added bonus, my copy has most of the check boxes filled in with pencil. I also have checklists for the Astros, Royals, Twins, and Mets. Isn't that special?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Logo Card, 1996 Fleer Orioles #19

Well, the stupid jerkface Red Sox already blew my dream scenario to bits by signing Koji Uehara to a one-year deal today. Booooooo. Oh well. I might as well tell you who else is on my Christmas list.

Billy Butler: Yes, I've forgiven Kansas City's burly slugger for ruining Brad Bergesen's career with that heat-seeking line drive back in 2009. It's hard to resent anyone who's stuck playing for the Royals, especially when his nickname is "Country Breakfast". K.C. is desperately shopping for an established starting pitcher, and rumor has it that the Birds are interested in both Butler and young first baseman Eric Hosmer. The O's probably wouldn't part with veterans Jason Hammel and/or Wei-Yin Chen, and the only other starters they've got with even a season's worth of solid performance are Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. There's not really a good trade match here, but at least there's some indication that the Orioles have good taste in middle-of-the-lineup hitters. It's my fantasy, and it features Country Breakfast DH'ing and batting cleanup for the hometown team and maybe replicating the .313/.373/.510 batting line he produced in 2012, along with those career-high 29 home runs. I'm fairly sure that he'd be worth the defensive downgrade that would come from moving Chris Davis back to first base.

Brandon McCarthy: The O's haven't been linked to the free agent starting pitcher, who put up a 3.29 ERA (121 ERA+) over the past two seasons in Oakland. But Dan Duquette claims that he's looking for another veteran starter. McCarthy seems like a talented, entertaining guy (if you're on Twitter and don't follow him, you're missing out), and his recovery from brain surgery after taking a line drive to the head late last year was inspirational.

R. A. Dickey: This is the super long shot. The reigning N. L. Cy Young winner is only signed through 2013 for a bargain price of $5 million, and the Mets haven't made much progress in extension talks. They've been letting other teams know that the 38-year-old "power knuckleballer" can be had for two top prospects, preferably a catcher and an outfielder. That's not going to hack it for the Orioles, who have a bare cupboard behind the plate and no outfielders better than fourth-OF types Xavier Avery and LJ Hoes. Still, Baltimore is thought to have at least checked in with the Mets about Dickey, which is all of the license I need to imagine the Tolkien-loving, mountain-climbing, book-writing All-Star taking the ball from Buck Showalter every fifth day. 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 230 strikeouts? And despite his age, Robert Allen's got time on his side. His mentors (Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield, et. al.) pitched effectively well into their forties. I'd be willing to see if New York would take Jonathan Schoop and any two pitchers not named Dylan Bundy for Dickey. Of course, word has it that they're already asking for much more than that, so I'm starting to sound like a talk radio caller, I fear.

Hey, I've got to think warm thoughts. It's getting colder outside.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Koji Uehara, 2011 Bowman #138

The marvelous thing about baseball's offseason is that fans can spend time daydreaming about player moves that might happen, or could happen...or even those that probably won't happen. So far, the Orioles have taken an even more restrained approach to the Hot Stove League than they did last year, adding and subtracting pieces on the margins of the roster. Since Alexi Casilla and Danny Valencia aren't going to get anyone's blood pumping, I started fantasizing about the more prominent names that the O's have been linked to in some recent trade and free agency rumors. I'll plug away at this for the next few days, but let's start with a familiar face...

Koji Uehara: I figure he's the one most likely to actually land in Baltimore. Koji loved playing here back when the team was still lousy, and during his season-plus in Texas he was actually rumored to be a trade target for the Birds once or twice. Now that he's a free agent, the Japanese control specialist has inevitably been linked to the Orioles once again. It might seem like the bullpen is the one facet of the team that doesn't need improvement, but repeat after me: You. Can. Never. Have. Enough. Pitching. What if the Pedro Strop of September rears his ugly head again? What if Luis Ayala has a crummy season, like he did in 2008 and 2009? What happens if (when) somebody gets injured? Koji turns 38 in April, but his 1.75 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and 14.33 K/BB ratio (!) in 2012 suggest that he's got plenty left in the tank, especially for one inning per game. After making $4 million last year, he's a bit pricier than you'd like for a setup man, but come on...it's Koji!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rafael Palmeiro, 1995 Pinnacle Zenith #82

I'm guessing that somebody at Pinnacle really loved The Wizard of Oz. Follow, follow, follow, follow...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chris Hoiles, 1994 Bowman #131

With Christmas just three weeks away, it's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle. Buying gifts, cleaning and decorating the house, attending parties, making travel plans...you might feel like the holiday season ambushed you. But I think we should all take a moment to stop, breathe deeply, and pay attention to the smaller details in life. For instance, take this Chris Hoiles card. The two things that jump out at me are as follows:

1) Chris has his last name printed in black marker on the strap of his batting glove. You see this a lot on cards - player names, nicknames, or initials scrawled on a piece of equipment. It makes sense; with 25 guys in the clubhouse, and six months of in-season travel, you don't want to get caps and gloves mixed up. There's still something endearing about the haphazard and informal personalization, though.

2) Not only does Hoiles have the Orioles' 1993 All-Star Game host patch on the left sleeve of his jersey, but All-Star is the brand of his chest protector. That's a nice bit of synchronicity.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vladimir Guerrero, 2011 Topps Lineage #41

This is obviously a posed picture. For accuracy's sake, I wish Vlad Guerrero had posed as if he were swinging at an ankles-high pitch.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mark Reynolds, 2012 Topps Archives #199

There's not much room for sentimentality in baseball. In this vein of thinking, yesterday the Orioles chose not to tender Mark Reynolds a contract. Though "the Sheriff" hit 60 home runs over the past two seasons and proved to be a surprisingly adept defender after switching to first base last year, he probably wasn't worth the $11 million that he would have made if the O's had picked up his option for next year. He's now a free agent, and the reported lack of contract talk from GM Dan Duquette makes it likely that he'll sign with another team for 2013. It's a shame, but I'll play the optimist and suggest that the Birds can probably find someone better going forward. So long, Mark, and thanks for all the dingers.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Tommy Davis, 1975 SSPC #398

For the second year in a row, I spent the entire month of November growing a mustache from scratch as part of the Movember campaign. While I didn't exactly reach the hirsute heights of Tommy Davis, I'm pretty happy with the results. You can check out the photo gallery on my "Mo Space", and if you want to feel good about yourself, you could also make a donation to support prostate and testicular cancer research and awareness. It probably would've been wiser for me to mention it at the beginning of the month, but rumor has it that I'm an extreme procrastinator. Better late than never, I suppose!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ben McDonald, 1994 Fleer Extra Bases Game Breakers #18

This is a pretty well-designed card, taking advantage of the horizontal format to juxtapose an action shot of Ben McDonald in mid-delivery with a zoomed-in shot of the tall Cajun in the set position. This card is also a pain in the butt, because it's oversized. At 2.5" by 4.7", it's about 33% taller than the standard card when set on its end. I've got odd cards of varying dimensions scattered around my spare room. I should really just gather them up and stash them all in a trusty shoe box. They should fit easily; that's one of the benefits of having enormous clown feet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jose Mesa, 1991 Bowman #91

It's Hall of Fame ballot day! There are a whopping 37 players vying for enshrinement in Cooperstown in 2013, including 24 first-time nominees. Nine, count 'em, nine, former Orioles will be on this year's ballot. The holdovers are Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Sr., Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, and David Wells. The newcomers are Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, and Jose Mesa.

Yep, Jose Mesa.

Good ol' Joe Table might not be the worst player on the ballot (Todd Walker?), but it's tough to make a case for a guy with a 4.36 ERA just because he hung around long enough with enough good teams to rack up 321 saves. Naturally, Mesa will probably be one of several one-and-done players, dropping off the crowded ballot after receiving little to no consideration. But it tickled me to see his name juxtaposed with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, and the like.

As for the louder-than-ever Big Bad Steroids debate, my views line up pretty closely with Craig Calcaterra's. It's odd that baseball writers have suddenly decided to become morality police. I hope common sense prevails in this year's vote, but I will not hold my breath.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Larry Sheets, 1989 Upper Deck #254

This is Kevin, your trusted imaginary neighborhood blogger (that is, the neighborhood is imaginary...I'm a real person, I swear), with a public service announcement: Always store your baseball cards properly.

You see, I have lots of cardboard boxes and binders in which to keep my precious treasures. Most of my cards are even housed securely in said boxes and binders. But in my laziness, I've allowed a few of these binders to take up residence on the bottom shelf of my glass-top coffee table, rather than finding space for them in my half-finished spare bedroom, where most of my collection lives.

Perhaps you can already see where this is going.

Last night, I was sitting on my couch, enjoying a frosty Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin Ale and some leftover pumpkin roll from Thanksgiving while watching TV. My charming cat Charlie hopped onto the coffee table, doing a tightrope act precariously close to both my mug and my laptop. In my infinite wisdom, I reached over with my free hand and attempted to scoot him off before he could make a mess...and knocked over the mug my own fool self. Most of the beer soaked into the rug, but some seeped through between the glass panels and the wooden frame, onto said binders. I spent the next portion of my evening on my hands and knees, wiping pumpkin ale off of the plastic binder pages that contain my half-finished 1959 Topps set. To my naked eye, it appears that the cards themselves were unharmed, but I bet that binder is going to be a bit sticky and malty-smelling now. I also leafed through the 1989 Upper Deck and 1994 Topps binders to make sure that they were dry. I brought this all upon myself, and appear to have just barely skirted disaster. Still, any lingering effects will serve as a reminder of my folly.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Harold Reynolds, 1993 Stadium Club #668

Today is Harold Reynolds' 52nd birthday. That's absolutely stunning; he is the very epitome of "well-preserved". When I tune in to the MLB Network, I often think to myself that he doesn't look a day over forty. It's not a stretch to say that Harold looks like he could still be playing.

Of course, he batted .232 with a .290 slugging percentage and a 10-for-17 success rate on stolen bases in his swan song with the Angels in 1994, so it's probably for the best that H. R. traded in his glove and cap for a microphone and a suit. But he still looks damned good for 52!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brian Falkenborg, 2000 Bowman Chrome #189

You'd have to get up pret-ty early in the morning to find an Oriole more obscure than Brian Falkenborg. The 6'7" righty was the team's second-round pick in the 1996 draft, and had a cup of coffee in October 1999 that consisted of three scoreless relief innings spanning two games against Boston. That offseason, he underwent Tommy John surgery and subsequently missed the entire 2000 season. The O's released him, and he spent three seasons in the Seattle organization. Brian next latched on with the Dodgers, and made it back to the major leagues in 2004, five years after his debut in Baltimore. He earned his first big league victory on May 9, 2004, tossing two shutout innings of relief against the Pirates. He bounced around the league through 2008, also pitching for the Cardinals and Padres. Since then, he's actually carved out a living in the land of the Rising Sun. Falkenborg has been a member of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for the past four seasons, compiling a 10-5 record and a scant 1.39 ERA as a reliever, striking out 12 men per 9 innings. For his first three years in Japan, Brian was a teammate of current Orioles pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. It's a small world after all.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Jeff Conine and Jason Johnson, 2002 Upper Deck Victory #11

I know that pitcher wins aren't the most precise statistic, but you don't have to look much further than Jason Johnson's team-leading 10 wins to puzzle out the fate of the 2001 Orioles. When a team wins 63 games total (against 98 losses), there aren't many W's to go around. That was a pretty brutal team, all things considered. Buddy Groom was the leading fireman with a whopping 11 saves, Jay Gibbons and Chris Richard tied for the club lead with 15 home runs, Cal Ripken, Jr. sputtered to a .276 on-base percentage in his final season...yuck. At least Jeff Conine had a pretty solid year, with his .311 average and .386 on-base percentage.

Man, I hope the Orioles don't go back to being crappy next year.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Boog Powell, 1970 Topps #410

As I was leafing through my 1970 Topps Orioles cards this evening, it struck me that several of them have other O's players clearly visible in the background. I've already featured Dick Hall's card, with cameos by Gene Brabender and Russ Snyder. Now I'm showing you Boog Powell posing for the camera at Yankee Stadium, but he's not the only one getting photographed. To his left, our right, you can see Mark Belanger standing with bat on shoulder and wearing his trademark #7. It's a shame that Topps went with such a dull design in 1970, because they really had some unique snapshots.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sid Fernandez, 1994 Pinnacle #483

Today, I'm thankful that I didn't have to cook Thanksgiving dinner for Sid Fernandez. Happy Turkey Day, folks. It's time to slip into a food coma.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mark Eichhorn, 1995 Donruss #475

Happy Mark Eichhorn Day, everyone!

What? Don't even pretend that you'd forgotten the 52nd birthday of one of the foremost relief pitchers of the 1980s and early 1990s. Whatever you do, don't tell me that you weren't aware that today marks the momentous anniversary of the birth of Cabrillo Junior College's greatest athlete. I just can't bear to have you toy with my emotions.

All sarcasm aside, Mark Eichhorn was a mighty fine pitcher. The stat line for his 1986 rookie season in Toronto is the kind of thing we might never see again. Despite the fact that all 69 of his appearances that year came in relief, he tossed 157 total innings...leaving him just 5 shy of qualifying for the league's lowest earned run average. That's especially notable because he posted a 1.72 ERA that would've bested Mike Scott's official major league-leading mark by a half a run! If you like the counting stats, Mark had a 14-6 record to tie Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy for the team lead in wins, and he also wrested 10 saves from the grasp of closer Tom Henke. Eichhorn's 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings and 3.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio were also the kinds of numbers his parents could brag about, if they were boastful-type folks. If Wins Above Replacement (WAR) had existed in 1986, the Eichhorns could have trumpeted his 7.1 figure, which trailed only Teddy Higuera and Roger Clemens among all A.L. pitchers. All of that was enough to get him a third-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Canseco (2.8 WAR) and Wally Joyner (2.9 WAR). Imagine the field day that sabermatricians would've had with THAT vote!

Mark was never quite so otherworldly in any other season, but he had several other good-to-great years before throwing his last pitch in 1996. That includes his 1994 season with the Orioles, in which he had a 2.15 ERA (17 ER in 71 IP). He was no longer missing many bats (4.4 K/9 IP), but the then-33-year-old still found a way to keep runs off of the board. Happy Birthday, Ike!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mike Young, 1986 Donruss #123

You may notice that I failed to post a card yesterday. Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't missed more days over the nearly five years that I've been pecking away on this blog. Sometimes, after 1,700-plus entries, I feel like I've written all there is to write about the Orioles, baseball cards, my own mundane life, you name it. My mind and the computer screen are both as blank as the expression on Mike Young's face. So yesterday I took a mulligan. It's November, the hot stove season hasn't even gotten going in full force, I've got one eye on the long holiday weekend upcoming, and it was a blah sort of Monday.

Yeah, excuses, excuses. I'll try not to let this become a habit.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1992 American Sports Monthly

This is just another in a long line of Cal Ripken, Jr. oddball cards, but at the very least it's one of the more visually compelling. The border is actually blue foil, and is much brighter than it scans. It provides a nice complimentary color contrast with the Oriole-orange background. The picture is even pretty distinct, offering a profile portrait of the Iron Man in mid-career. You can see him gazing out at the field (presumably) with his icy blue-gray eyes. He still has his hair at this point, but it's already more salt than pepper. On the blue and white card back, the stat line for his MVP-winning 1991 season is printed, along with defensive statistics. I am also informed that this card is of a "limited edition" run of 16,000, which really stretches the concept of "limited". FYI, my card is number 4275. Truly one of a kind.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Adam Jones, 2012 Topps Opening Day #66

Earlier this week, Adam Jones capped a very good year by finishing sixth in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player award. To review, the O's center fielder was an All-Star and a Gold Glover for the second time each, was the only player on the team to appear in all 162 games, and set career highs in average (.287), slugging percentage (.505), OPS (.839), runs (103), doubles (39), home runs (32), and stolen bases (16). Though Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown helped him win the MVP by a comfortable margin, Jones got some down-ballot support with a third-place vote, two fourth-place votes, seven fifth, five sixth, four seventh, three eighth, and two ninth. His voting total of 120 points trailed fifth-place finisher Josh Hamilton by only 7. It was the highest finish for an Oriole since Miguel Tejada placed fifth in 2004.

A few other Birds players received some recognition in this year's vote. Jim Johnson's team-record 51 saves earned him a 14th-place finish, as he had a third-place vote, one fourth, one seventh, and one eighth. Matt Wieters got a single lonely seventh-place vote, landing him 22nd in the MVP race. All in all, a couple members of the baseball media noticed what the Orioles accomplished in 2012.

Vintage Fridays: Jack Harshman, 1959 Topps #475

On September 23, 1958, Orioles pitcher Jack Harshman redefined the well-worn baseball cliche of "helping your own cause". In a sparsely attended Tuesday home game against the lowly Senators, the southpaw improved his record to 12-14 with a 3-2 complete-game victory. Just 6,478 fans straggled into Memoral Stadium that day, and they watched as Harshman spotted Washington a pair of runs on six total hits in the first two innings. But something clicked for the O's starter after that, and he permitted only three more hits in seven shutout innings thenceforth. For the game, Jack struck out nine Senators and walked none. Though he allowed nine hits in all, none went for extra bases.

But it wasn't Harshman's pitching that was the story of the game; it was his work at the plate. The native San Diegan had played a lot of first base in the minors (and a bit in the majors) before the Giants converted him to the mound in the early 1950s. He clubbed 192 home runs in 3,101 minor-league at-bats, a rate of one every 16.2 at-bats. It's a little bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but Frank Robinson's career rate in the big leagues was one homer per 17.1 at-bats. Anyhow, Jack went 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs and an RBI double against opposing starter Pedro Ramos to drive in all three Baltimore runs. The rest of the Birds' lineup was 3-for-27 with three walks, which brings to mind another old saying: "If you want anything done right, you've got to do it yourself."

Harshman's heroics helped him finish the 1958 season with six home runs, matching his career high. His batting line for the year was .195/.330/.427, giving him an above-average OPS+ of 113. On the other side of the ledger, he had a tough-luck record of 12-15 despite a team-leading 2.89 ERA (124 ERA+) and 17 complete games, with 4 saves to boot! The 30-year-old pitcher did get a few down-ballot votes in the American League MVP race as a consolation prize, the only time in his career that he received that honor. 1958 was his only full season in Charm City; the following year he was dealt to Boston and then selected on waivers by the Indians. He finished his career in 1960 with Cleveland, walking away with a career record of 69-65 and an ERA of 3.50 in parts of eight seasons. As a hitter he batted .179/.294/.344 with 21 home runs and 65 RBI in 521 plate appearances (424 at-bats). Just to save you the math, that's one home run every 20.2 at-bats. There aren't many big league pitchers who could do that today...if any.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Daniel Cabrera, 2007 Upper Deck #63

In case you'd been wondering just where Daniel Cabrera has been hiding since he washed out of the major leagues in 2009, um...Manny Ramirez found him last night.

The now-40-year-old slugger made his Dominican Winter League season debut last night for Aguilas Cibaenas and went deep on the first pitch he saw from the 31-year-old Cabrera, a 91-mph meatball. That's a sellout crowd roaring for Manny's power display. The implication in this Big League Stew blog post is that the ex-Red Sox great is the one who put butts in the seats, but it's worth noting that his teammates include Bartolo Colon, our old friend Miguel Tejada, and one-time Marlins Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan. All that plus Daniel Cabrera on the mound for the opposition! If that's not enough to pack the stands, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Logo Card, 1988 Sportflics #112

Usually, Sportflics cards don't scan well. But there's something about this logo card featuring the always-excellent bat-swinging cartoon bird that just works. Less is more, probably. But I like that you can see the three different-sized circular logos nested in one another with a sort of bullseye pattern resulting from the orange outer borders. Or maybe it's a vortex...a vortex full of humanoid, baseball-playing birds. It's probably best not to think about.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Frank Robinson, 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini #255

The Orioles - and baseball at large - lost a great man last week when Hall of Fame executive Lee MacPhail passed away at age 95. Younger Baltimore fans may be more familiar with Lee's son Andy, who served as the O's GM from 2007-2011. But the elder MacPhail put his mark on Charm City as the team's general manager from 1959-1965, also serving as club president for much of his tenure. Lee came to the Orioles after nearly a decade as a top personnel man with the Yankees, which worked out pretty well for all involved. But the powerful New Yorkers were already winners. In just a few years in Baltimore, MacPhail worked with manager Paul Richards to build a winner practically from the ground up. Amateur free agents signed and developed under his watch included Boog Powell, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Davey Johnson, and Mark Belanger, just to name a few. Paul Blair was drafted out of the Mets' system. Veterans like Stu Miller, Dick Hall, and Luis Aparicio were picked up in savvy trades. Throughout the early 1960s, the Birds were up-and-comers in the American League.

Then, in December 1965, MacPhail arranged the finishing touch just as he was heading out the door. Tabbed for a job in Major League Baseball's front office as an assistant to new commissioner Spike Eckert, Lee informed new O's GM Harry Dalton (who had been promoted from within the organization) that the framework was in place for a trade that would bring the Reds' slugging outfielder Frank Robinson to the Orioles in exchange for three players (say it with me now): Jack Baldschun, Dick Simpson, and Milt Pappas. Dalton wisely signed off on the deal, and the glory years of Baltimore baseball had arrived.

Lee MacPhail furthered his imprint on the game of baseball in the decades that followed, returning to the Yankees as general manager from 1967-1973 and serving as President of the American League from 1974-1983. He will certainly be missed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rafael Palmeiro, 1994 Collector's Choice #605

Wow. I don't quite remember Rafael Palmeiro having such a formidable mullet. It looks like birds could comfortably nest in that thing. Teaming up that mullet with his trademark mustache just seems like overkill, if you ask me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mike Hargrove, 2004 Topps #270

"Yeah, so...does anyone have any ideas? Anything? I'm fresh out. I hope the clubhouse boy put some beer on ice. I'm getting too old for this crap."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ben McDonald, 1990 Upper Deck #54

I'm sure Ben McDonald looked tall enough without having to shoot him from ground level. After all, the dude is 6'7". It's also a bit jarring to see him in number 50; for most of Ben's Orioles career, he wore #19. When he debuted in 1989, he wore #23, since Larry Sheets was the incumbent #19. But I'm guessing that this photo came from a shoot shortly after the O's made him the first overall pick in the 1989 draft. They would have just handed him a jersey at random, as long as it fit. I'd assume - and hope - that he's wearing pants as well. Who's to say, though?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Ray Barker, 1961 Topps #428

Ray Barker played five games for the Orioles in 1960 as a 24-year-old rookie. The Birds had signed him as a 19-year-old free agent in 1955, and he hit 102 home runs in those first half-dozen minor league seasons to earn his September cup of coffee. Poor Ray went 0-for-6 and struck out three times.

He returned to the majors at age 29, earning a bench job with the Indians at the start of the 1965 season (as immortalized on this four-player card)...and went 0-for-6, walked twice, and was traded to the Yankees in May. Surprisingly, he eked out a decent season as a part-timer in New York, putting up a .254/.316/.410 line, 7 home runs, 31 RBI, and a 109 OPS+ in 98 games.

Unfortunately, Barker couldn't replicate that modest success. In 1966, he batted .187 with 3 homers in 61 games for the Yanks. The following year, his last in baseball, he went just 2-for-26 in 17 games. But  he finished his career with cards in four separate Topps sets (also appearing as a Yankee in 1966 and 1967). Not a bad representation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Harold Baines, 1993 Leaf #249

Today is the 92nd birthday of Waldon Thomas "Wally" Westlake, whose eight-game stint in Baltimore in 1955 qualifies him as the oldest living Orioles player. I already used my lone Wally Westlake card in a post last March, so I thought I'd consult Baseball Reference's Oracle of Baseball to link Wally to the youngest living Oriole, 19-year-old phenom Dylan Bundy. Incidentally, Bundy will turn 20 in a week. So we may as well wish the future 600-game winner a happy birthday while we're at it! There are five degrees of separation (and 72 years of age) between these two O's, and there are some fun names involved in this chain:
  • Wally Westlake played with Cal McLish for the 1948(!) Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Cal McLish played with Minnie Minoso for the 1959 Cleveland Indians.
  • Minnie Minoso played with Harold Baines for the 1980 Chicago White Sox. (NOTE: Minoso, then age 54, went 0-for-2 as a pinch hitter in the last few games of the season.)
  • Harold Baines played with Jim Thome for the 1999 Cleveland Indians.
  • Jim Thome played with Dylan Bundy for the 2012 Baltimore Orioles.
There was one four-link chain between Wally and Dylan, but it comes with a catch: though Westlake and Brooks Robinson were each on the 1955 Orioles club, they were not teammates. Westlake joined the O's on 15 and was released on July 9. Brooksie made his big league debut on September 17. Just for giggles, here's that chain:
  • Wally Westlake and Brooks Robinson both played for the 1955 Baltimore Orioles.
  • Brooks Robinson played with Dennis Martinez for the 1976 Baltimore Orioles.
  • Dennis Martinez played with Jim Thome for the 1994 Cleveland Indians.
  • Jim Thome played with Dylan Bundy for the 2012 Baltimore Orioles.
There was also a cool chain that went Westlake-Joe Nuxhall-Pete Rose-Tim Raines, Sr.-Brian Roberts-Dylan Bundy, but I similarly tossed that one out since Roberts was back on the disabled list by the time the Birds' young phenom debuted with the team in September. Everything is connected if you look hard enough.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

John Lowenstein, 1983 Topps Stickers #24

I have got to start accumulating doubles of these decades-old stickers that have been trickling into my O's collection over the past few years. Only then will I give in to temptation and start peeling and sticking those bad boys. I've got scores of boring white and brown cardboard boxes storing my colorful, dynamic cards. Those boxes need John Lowenstein and Rick Dempsey affixed to their facades. It shall be so!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Albert Belle, 2001 Fleer Ultra #139

I hope you exercised your right and duty as an American citizen and voted in the Presidential and State elections today. If not, Albert Belle is coming for you.

This card arrived in the mail today as the spoils of my first successful Listia auction bid. If that's a new one on you, it's an eBay-type site that trades in "points" instead of currency. You earn points in several different ways, but the most reliable is to sell your own items on the site. I haven't gotten off of my lazy duff to offer up any of the chaff in my card collection, so I used some of the 600 credits I got for signing up. If you'd like to join Listia, be a mensch and use my referral link. You'll get 100 extra credits, on top of the standard 500 for signup. I'll get some goodies, too. Happy bidding!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dennis Martinez, 1982 Topps #712

Dennis Martinez will return to the major leagues next year as the Houston Astros' new bullpen coach. "El Presidente" was most recently an instructor in the Cardinals' organization, but now he'll be answering the phone when manager Bo Porter calls for a reliever. Not a bad gig, all things considered.