Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Albert Belle, 2001 Donruss Elite #56

It's no secret that we're all getting older. It just seems like some of us get to "old" a lot quicker than others. The last time I saw Albert Belle, he looked something like this. That was roundabouts 2000, when he played his final game for the Orioles before abruptly retiring due to an arthritic hip. But earlier this week, he re-emerged at Indians camp at the urging of ex-teammates Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. Though Albert looks a lot more at ease than he ever did during his playing days, he also looks closer to 55 than 45, his actual age. See for yourself. Suddenly I feel silly for fretting over my upcoming 30th birthday and the increasing flecks of gray in my hair. Of course, the yin to Belle's yang is Lofton, who doesn't look much different at 44 than he did at 24. Some guys have all the luck.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

B.J. Surhoff, 1997 Fleer Ultra #423

Well, it's past my bedtime, so enjoy the often-intense B.J. Surhoff actually cracking a smile in this candid spring training photo. B.J. is just one of the former Orioles lending a helping hand in Sarasota this year as an instructor, joining former teammates such as Brady Anderson, Mike Bordick, Chris Hoiles, and Alan Mills.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sidney Ponson, 1998 Leaf Rookies and Stars #250

When you consider that I’ve owned cats for the past year, and that I’m lazy enough to leave stacks of baseball cards laying around the living room and spare room, it’s pretty remarkable that this Sidney Ponson card was the first significant victim of those exploratory claws and teeth. I only have myself to blame, as I had left a box of late 1990s Orioles open on the guest bed with Sir Sidney sticking straight up as a placeholder so that I might easily place the Danny Clyburn card I’d pulled to scan a few weeks back. I never got around to it, so the portly Aruban hurler was just hanging out there in the open, taunting a couple of house pets who enjoy pawing anything within reach. (Of course, the mystery assailant could have been making a personal statement about his distaste for the boorish behavior and oft-subpar performance of Mr. Ponson.) Homer, the more spastic of the pair, has knocked piles of unsorted cards off of the top of my DVD rack on multiple occasions, and I know that I have to be vigilant when he’s poking around in that vicinity. I’ll say it one more time: I need to get my organization and cataloguing act in gear. If I need any further motivation, I’ll refer to this card…and this picture of Charlie hovering menacingly over my incomplete 1972 Topps set.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Juan Guzman, 1999 Topps #309

This is kind of an odd photo. Is that Juan Guzman's actual pitching motion? It doesn't seem like he'd be able to generate much velocity if his front foot was already on the ground before the ball was released. I'm guessing that he was playing long toss between innings, or maybe he's intentionally walking the batter. Hell, maybe he's lobbing an eephus pitch to throw the batter off-balance. Whatever he's doing, it looks like there are about five fans there to witness it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mike Mussina, 2000 Pacific Omega #19

When the Orioles traded their erstwhile #1 starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies earlier this month, a lot of media members and fans wondered aloud who the team's Opening Day starting pitcher would be. If you ask me, that's a secondary concern. After all, there's not one pitcher who could be considered a lock for the five-man rotation, much less a front-runner to take on the Twins on April 6. But the speculation did inspire me to do some crack research on the O's previous 58 Opening Day starters. What follows is a list of the 33 men to receive that honor. As you can see, they were not all created equal. The guys at the very top of the list, though, should be no surprise.

-Mike Mussina and Jim Palmer: 6 starts each
-Dave McNally: 5
-Jeremy Guthrie, Rodrigo Lopez, Steve Barber: 3
-Rick Sutcliffe, Mike Boddicker, Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez, Milt Pappas: 2

And of course, the one-timers.

-Kevin Millwood, Erik Bedard, Sidney Ponson, Scott Erickson, Pat Hentgen, Jimmy Key, Jeff Ballard, Bob Milacki, Dave Schmidt, Storm Davis, Scott McGregor, Steve Stone, Pat Dobson, Tommy Phoebus,  Billy Hoeft, Jerry Walker, Jack Harshman, Connie Johnson, Hal Brown, Bill Wight, Lou Kretlow, Don Larsen

Which names are surprising to you? Only three pitchers had more Opening Day starts for the Birds than Guthrie, and they're the three best in club history. Rodrigo Lopez's three starts may seem to be an indicator of the team's lack of pitching depth in the 2000s, but two of those assignments came on the heels of his very good 2002 (15-9, 3.57 ERA) and 2004 (14-9, 3.59) seasons. Dave Schmidt's start in the 1989 opener seems like an odd choice in hindsight, since he wound up with an astronomical 5.69 ERA on a surprisingly competitive young team that had a cumulative 4.00 ERA on the season. But he'd been much better than that in 1988, with a 3.40 ERA in a swingman role for a much worse O's team. Besides, Frank Robinson had no way of knowing how well Ballard and Milacki would pitch in '89.

So who's your pick for Opening Day 2012? I'll go out on a limb and say it's Zach Britton. Now I've probably doomed him to have a slow recovery from his ongoing bout of shoulder soreness.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Eddie Murray, 1980 Kellogg's #24

In honor of Eddie Murray's 56th birthday (and Honus Wagner's 138th), I think that February 24 should be a national day of recognition for beastly men everywhere. On Like a Boss Day, it would be your duty to ask yourself one question: What Would Eddie Do? Then you would act accordingly. Go to the zoo and pick a fight with a lion. Repair your neighbor's roof with nothing but a box of toothpicks and a children's glue stick. Balance the country's budget while reciting Shakespeare.

...Or maybe just think about how outstanding Eddie Murray is. Many happy returns, 33.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jay Gibbons, 2005 Donruss Zenith #199

It was three years ago that I compared Jay Gibbons to a bad penny, and he’s still reemerging from the ether for yet another baseball season. The soon-to-be 35 year-old outfielder just signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, complete with an invite to major league spring training. He’s probably competing for a bench job, but the absence of departed free agent first baseman Prince Fielder certainly improves Jay’s odds of sticking around for a bit. He’s already exceeded my expectations by making it back to the majors after a two and one-half year exile at the end of the last decade. Gibbons was a Dodger for parts of the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, batting .269/.317/.438 with 6 home runs and 22 RBI in 61 games total. Most of that production came in the former year, so he’ll have to prove himself all over again. But that should be old hat by now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chris Sabo, 1994 Pinnacle #490

You can't tell me that the folks at the card companies didn't get a kick out of Chris Sabo's Rec-Specs just like the rest of us did. Why, Pinnacle's photographer even tried to give them a little free advertising. I spent a few moments gazing deep into Sabo's lenses in this photo to see if I could puzzle out the reflected image, but all that I could make out was the white chalk outline of the base path. I'd give it a second try, but to spend too much time in those shatterproof oracles is an invitation to madness. Beware.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brian Roberts, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Black #20

I heard that Brian Roberts was hitting off of a tee today in Sarasota. Roch Kubatko even tweeted a blurry picture of it. I wish I could get excited, but I'm reading between the lines. He's not facing live pitching, running, or even taking ground balls at this point. I just have this sinking feeling that Brian's slow recovery from multiple concussions will keep him from ever taking the field for the Orioles again. The worst part is that these symptoms have impaired Roberts' day-to-day life, but the uncertainty of the whole thing is what makes it hard to see. In my experience as an O's fan, I've seen prominent players slowly decline (Cal Ripken, Jr., Brady Anderson, Melvin Mora), and I've seen others simply fall off the face of the earth (Albert Belle, Javy Lopez, Vladimir Guerrero, I could keep going...). But it's like Brian is in limbo. You can't put a bandage on your brain, there's no exercise you can do to make headaches go away. I hope he'll make it back, but I can't even begin to lay odds on something like that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1990 Fleer #634

"Okay, Tony, stand right there with your arms awkwardly hanging to the sides. And Cal, can you stand as far away from him as you possibly can while maintaining the illusion that you're actually touching? That's perfect! Now, if you could just glance to your right with an expression that seems to say, 'I would rather be literally anywhere other than here' - oh, you're way ahead of me! Yes, wonderful! This will be the centerpiece of my study in ballplayers who would never hang out together in real life."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carlos Mendez, 2003 Fleer Tradition Update #U368

I can't say that I remember much about Carlos Mendez' 26-game stint with the Orioles in 2003, which also represented the entirety of his major league career. But there's something about this card that I really like. The bright blue Florida sky in the backdrop, full of fluffy clouds. Carlos domineering over the photographer, strong arms crossed over his chest, grinning gregariously. He looks much bigger than the 6'0" and 210 pounds at which he's listed. Even though the infielder is on the verge of his 13th professional season without yet having reached the bigs, he projects an air of confidence and joy. It's spring training, and anything is possible.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eddie Murray, 2012 Dave Campbell #NNO

I have never featured a custom card on this blog, but this masterpiece is more than worthy of being the first. This was painted by fellow card blogger Dave Campbell, a.k.a. dayf, a.k.a. the Cardboard Junkie. I knew that Dave was sending me a couple needs off of my most-wanted list - the long-awaited Tim Raines, Sr. 2002 Fleer Tradition short-print and Carlos Mendez' rookie card from 2003 Fleer Tradition Update. But he snuck this excellent reproduction of Eddie Murray's 1978 Topps rookie card into the envelope as well, and I was blown away when I found it. All that Dave asked for in return was for me to draw him something - anything. Wow, I guess the pressure is on! Oh, and for comparison's sake, I'll drop in a scan of Eddie's actual rookie card below. Pretty damned good, I must say. Thanks, Dave!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Willy Miranda, 1956 Topps #103

I mentioned earlier this week that I have a pretty small rotation of baseball card blogs that I read regularly, but now I think I have to add one to the bunch. Cliff Anderson asked me to check out his work at the bluntly-named "really bad baseball cards" blog, and I'm glad he did. Cliff focuses on offbeat photos, names, and other idiosyncracies from the rich subject material of 1950s cards. His posts are irreverent and clever, and it looks like he churns out a new one every week or so, which means that it shouldn't be too hard for us Internet junkies to keep up with reading them. I got a kick out of the "Little Guy" series of posts, examining the smaller action shots that complemented the close-up portraits on the fronts of the 1954, 1955 and 1956 Topps cards. Somehow this card, with its depiction of Willy Miranda doing either a bunny hop or a crab walk, escaped Cliff's attention. There will always be room for card blogs that exist for the pure and simple fun of it, and I hope that Cliff keeps up the good work for a long time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mark Belanger, 1982 Topps #776

There's something about a baseball card depicting Mark Belanger at bat that just seems mean, like they're making fun of him. Moreover, what is with the bat boy in the background? Is that Paul Williams? Is that the most bizarre pop culture reference that I've made on this blog? Is this week over yet?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Doug DeCinces, 1982 Fleer #162

There are only so many hours in the day, and I already spend too many of them on the Internet, so I tend to keep my hobby reading habits to a tried-and-true small list of baseball card blogs. I should probably branch out once in a while, because even the few that I read provide great inspiration for topics for my own blog. (Inspiration...that's what it's called when you blatantly recycle someone else's ideas, right?) Anyway, Night Owl (a.k.a. Mr. Dependable) just posted his unapologetic tribute to the offbeat, off-centered charms of the 1982 Fleer set. It's still February, so there's no real live baseball to talk about. I thought I'd supplement his work by looking at some of the so-bad-they're-good Orioles cards from Fleer's sophomore effort. The charms of this Doug DeCinces card are numerous: the light saturation makes it look like a Polaroid, Doug's left arm is cut off, and he's got his right hand tucked into his waistband as if the photographer caught him leaving the restroom. This is the seventh card I've posted from the set. The others, in chronological order:

-A pigeon-toed Lenn Sakata takes infield practice on what looks like the local sandlot.

-John Lowenstein lets his freak flag fly.

-Tim "Bigfoot" Stoddard wears a Hefty bag and conspicuously tight pants during warmups.

-Dennis Martinez flashes his pearly whites and poses with a bat and helmet.

-Rich Dauer tries to turn two with Carlton Fisk bearing down on him, and Coke gets some product placement.

-Steve Stone, a curly hairdo, and a mess of Oriole Bird helmets.

Oh great, now I feel the urge to build another set. One thing at a time, Kevin...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fred Valentine, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #466

Frankly, I'm surprised I held off on the Valentine wordplay for the previous four years of this blog. This year I'm flying solo, but maybe I'll buy myself something nice. I deserve it, after all, and I am in desperate need of a new couch. But I'm thinking out loud.

Fred Valentine was signed by the Orioles way back in 1956 out of Tennessee State University, which also produced fellow O's Sam Bowens and Nate Snell. He had been the college's starting quarterback as well. Fred had a September cup of coffee with the big league team in 1959, collecting 6 singles and 3 walks in 22 trips to the plate (.316 AVG, .409 OBP). His first big-league hit came off of All-Star pitcher Billy Pierce of the White Sox on September 11. However, he found himself trapped by a glass ceiling for the next few years, not returning from AAA to Baltimore until the middle of the 1963 campaign. That year, he saw action in 26 games and hit .268 with a .388 on-base percentage and no power. Nearing age 30, he didn't seem to have a place with the Orioles.

In October 1963, the Senators purchased his contract. He spent parts of the next five years in Washington, including back-to-back seasons as an everyday player in 1966 and 1967. 1966 was his career year; he had a team-high 131 OPS+ and 22 stolen bases and batted .276/.351/.455. His 16 home runs and 59 RBI trailed only Frank Howard for the team lead. The O's reacquired him in exchange for pitcher Bruce Howard on June 15, 1968 and Valentine played his last 47 big-league games in orange and black, batting just .187 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI. He did provide the margin of victory in a July 7 game against the Yankees, hitting a tiebreaking home run off of Stan Bahnsen in the top of the ninth. It was his last major league homer; he played back at AAA Rochester in 1969 and put in a season in Japan before retiring. In parts of 7 MLB seasons, Fred hit .247 with a .330 OBP, 36 home runs, and 138 RBI. Today, the 77-year-old is the vice president and secretary of the MLB Players' Alumni Association.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jim Dwyer, 1988 Fleer #558

When Jim Dwyer arrived at the ballpark that afternoon, Billy Ripken offered him a coffee. Jim was running late for his photo shoot with Fleer, so he accepted it gladly and gulped it down in no time. There was something odd about the flavor, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Ten minutes later, as he posed with his bat resting on his left shoulder, he had a sudden and awful realization. Billy had done it again.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Boog Powell, 2001 Upper Deck Decades: 1970s #20

Look at Boog Powell rockin' the shades. He looks like he's basking in the sun's rays, and if he just happens to catch a popup, all the better. Do you think he's a Ray-Bans type of guy?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rick Dempsey, 2004 Fleer Greats #77

My first thought about this card was that it was encouraging to see Fleer put out a "greats" set while looking outside of the done-do-death limits of Cal, Eddie, Brooks, Frank, and Jim. My second thought was that the photo looked mighty familiar. If you pay attention to the faded, sepia-toned background image, you can see an Angels batter with a prominent mustache. Sure enough, this is the exact picture of Rick Dempsey and Bobby Grich from the Dipper's 1984 Fleer card. What can you say? It's a good photo.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Tim Nordbrook, 1976 Topps #252

There's no turning back now. Good friend and affordable vintage watchdog Ed let me pick through a box of well-used 1974 and 1976 Topps commons, and when the dust settled I had bought a total of 370 cards off of him. I've put each (incomplete) set in a shiny new binder, so I guess there's nothing left but to admit that I'm building those sets. I don't have want lists posted yet; that would have required some planning. But a glimpse at my card catalog tells me that my 1974 set is 57% complete (377 of 660), and my 1976 set is right behind it at 56% (371 of 660). So as soon as I get my act together - and who knows when that will be - I'll be sure to point you towards my lists so that we can make a deal.

I love the two-color bar design at the bottom of the 1976 Topps set for its simplicity and brightness. Green makes sense as a secondary color for the Orioles, in my humble opinion. Not too sure about the yellow, but I'm not sure what else Topps could have done. Blue? Purple? Ewww. This is one of the delightfully crooked photos that are seeded throughout the set, giving it a trippy 1970s vibe. The subject of the card is Baltimore's own Tim Nordbrook, a hometown boy who attended Loyola Blakefield, one of the local all-boys' Catholic high schools. The Birds then drafted him out of Loyola College in Maryland (no relation) with their ninth-round pick in 1970. Though Tim had a six-game stint in the majors in 1974, this is his rookie card and the only Topps card depicting him as an Oriole. He had played a career-high 40 games in 1975, but came to the plate only 41 times with a frightening .118/.268/.147 triple-slash. He would go on to have cups of coffee with the Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Brewers, playing his last game in 1979 and finishing with stats of .178/.286/.195 in 128 major league games. He managed in the Milwaukee farm system from 1982-1984 despite still being in his early thirties, and later returned home to coach baseball at his high school alma mater.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2009 Upper Deck 20th Anniversary #810

After yesterday's spleen-venting against Topps and their anachronisms, I thought I'd post this card as proof that date-appropriate photos are just half the battle. Upper Deck made a card commemorating Cal Ripken, Jr.'s record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game played and actually used a photo from September 6, 1995. The photo they used...is a zoomed-out shot of the post-game ceremony. I can't even tell if Cal's in that blurry mass of people in the infield. All that I can see is the Palpatine-esque puss of Peter Angelos on the video board, with Frank Robinson probably choking down his own rage over the owner's shoulder. Oh, and in the foreground is a supremely ugly rock with "2,131" engraved in it. I'm sure that didn't end up in the Ripken garage under a pile of horse blankets.

On the plus side, Upper Deck edited out the Coca-Cola and Budweiser signs on the scoreboard, but left the Baltimore Sun, Legg Mason, and Maryland Lottery "Hit It Here" ads. Support local commerce, y'all.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2012 Topps Golden Greats #GG-42

Hey, who wants to hear me bitch and grouse about how sorry the 2012 Topps flagship set is? Too bad, you’re already here. It’s not like your browser has a “back” button, or a “close” command or anything. Don’t even bother looking for them.

Anyhow, I’d already made up my mind to ignore 2012 Topps, because it worked out pretty well in 2011. It took me years to get fully on board with vintage, but it’s just more fun for me and can even be more affordable, if you know where and how to shop. Plus, those monopolistic, condescending dopes at the card company don’t get your money! But when I saw that the 2012s were out, I figured that I should get a taste. I’d be supporting my neighborhood hobby shop (that’s Sports Card Depot, tell your friends!), and $8 isn’t going to make much of a difference to Topps. After rifling through all four packs, I can say that I made the right choice staying away from contemporary set-buying-and-building.

The base cards are fine. I don’t particularly like the design, but it’s inoffensive and largely stays out of the way of the player photos, which are high-quality and varied. But we all know that Topps puts most of the focus on the inserts, and at two per pack, they certainly refuse to be ignored. However, they absolutely deserve to be ignored. Let me just list the inserts that I pulled: Golden Giveaway, Golden Greats, Golden Moments, Gold Standard. Do you sense that Topps just isn’t trying? That they’re maybe getting a little complacent without any competition? There’s nothing wrong with an overarching theme to your product, but this isn’t so much a theme as crushing monotony. Also, these inserts are just dull and ugly. They look more like commemorative plates from the Franklin Mint than baseball cards.

I probably would have sorted these cards with a shrug and moved on with my life, but this Cal Ripken, Jr. insert just touched a nerve. Any reasonably attentive Oriole fan (and most fans of baseball in general) could glance at the photo and tell you that it dates to the 1980s. But the card shines a spotlight on Cal’s phenomenal 6-for-6, 5-run, 6-RBI performance on June 13, 1999. For a company with the wealth of resources that Topps has, this is unforgivably lazy. It suggests that:

a) They were not able to find a photo from the correct DECADE, much less the correct year, anywhere in their 60-year photo archive.

b) They were not able to procure an appropriate photo from Major League Baseball, the organization that gave them exclusive rights as the only MLB-licensed collectible card company.

c) Failing all else, no one at Topps was able to do a quick search of the Dressed to the Nines database.

Those three scenarios all seem pretty implausible. It’s more likely that

d) They don’t care, and assume that we don’t care. They've been doing crap like this for years, after all. What's more, a quick peek at eBay tells me that there are later-years Ripken photos used on other cards IN THE SAME SET!

Well I do care, and I know that some of you do as well. Maybe it’s time to let them know about it, with our words and our wallets.

P.S.: Let’s not even talk about the stupid squirrel.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Danny Clyburn, 1998 Leaf Rookies and Stars #254

I don't know what to say about this one. I certainly wish I never had to write about an ex-Oriole getting shot to death, especially at age 37. Danny Clyburn was murdered in his hometown of Lancaster, SC early this morning. He leaves behind two children, ages 11 and 17. Deepest sympathies to Danny's family and friends.

Clyburn, the Pirates' second-round draft pick in 1992, made his big league debut with the Orioles in September 1997 and hit .280 with the team in an 11-game stint the following year. His first career home run was hit off of Tim Wakefield in Fenway Park on September 25, 1998.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jeremy Guthrie, 2011 Topps Diamond #321

One of the great disappointments of being an Orioles fan is that any player who performs well is essentially trade bait. Jeremy Guthrie has been rumored to go elsewhere for several years, and the team finally pulled the trigger this morning. Guts is now a Colorado Rockie, and in his place we have Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. It's a bit of a head-scratcher, to say the least. I'm not qualified to talk about the value of the two new arrivals, so instead I want to give a proper sendoff to one of the smartest, funniest, and most decent men to wear the orange and black.

When the O's claimed Jeremy off of waivers from the Indians in the spring of 2007, I was among those who assumed that it was a desperate attempt to strike gold with another team's castoff. Instead, they got a dependable starting pitcher who easily would have been a perennial 15-game winner with any kind of offensive support. Looking back, I realize that I was present for his Camden Yards debut, a solid three-inning, one-run effort in long relief on a chilly April 10. He struck out three Tigers in a 3-1 O's loss, and within a month he was in the starting rotation to stay.

The thing that really struck me about Guthrie was the way he seemed to enjoy his profession, his teammates, and his fans. Through Twitter, he made it clear that he didn't take himself as seriously as many more standoffish athletes do. He regularly interacted with all kinds of people online, even going so far as to fulfill Christmas wishes that were tweeted to him: signed photos and memorabilia, even phone calls to some lucky fans. He also encouraged people to be socially responsible, setting the example by biking to Camden Yards on game days. That's the Jeremy Guthrie who was on display today with his classy farewell remarks to the O's organization and the community at large.

It seems to me that Jeremy Guthrie is a better person than he is a baseball player, and I mean that as a compliment. I hope he thrives in Denver.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mike Morgan, 1988 Topps Traded #73T

When you think about baseball players going straight from the amateur draft to the big leagues, you might think of legendary names like Dave Winfield, or inspirational stories like Jim Abbott. But one of the few players to make that jump was Mike Morgan, who was selected by the Athletics out of Valley High School in Las Vegas with the fourth overall pick in the 1978 draft. Coincidentally, the first of his 597 major league appearances came against the Orioles, for whom he would pitch in 1988. It was an uneven appearance on June 11, 1978, as he pitched a complete game but took the loss. He allowed ten hits and five walks, did not strike out a single batter, yet gave up only three runs (two earned) in a 3-0 game. Ken Singleton drove in a pair of runs, and Lee May hit a solo homer. Scott McGregor got the shutout win on six hits, striking out six. It was the tenth straight win for the O's, as they attempted to charge back into the American League East pennant race after a slow start. Morgan didn't gain a lasting foothold in the majors until 1986, but he proved to have staying power, winning 141 games (against 186 losses) with a 4.23 ERA in parts of 22 seasons.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Andy Etchebarren, 1967 Topps #457

This is most probably my favorite Andy Etchebarren card. I love the angle, which makes it look like he's rearing back to fire the ball right through the frame at me. The block-lettering "Orioles" doesn't even look bad, and the juxtaposition with the yellow "Orioles" team name at the bottom is visually interesting. The impish grin and sideways glance suggest that Etch is sharing a laugh with a teammate just off-camera. And of course, we have the Florida palm trees and the Yoo-Hoo sign in the outfield behind him. Who doesn't love the syrupy assault of a nice cold Yoo-Hoo?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jim Palmer, 2010 Topps Hall of Fame Stars #HOF-9

I'm sick with what I'm hoping is just a cold, so while I'm couch-bound and feeling sorry for myself I'll leave you this spiffy card featuring a young Jim Palmer in a Rochester Red Wings uniform. Interestingly enough, "Cakes" actually went straight from the Class A Aberdeen (SD) Pheasants in 1964 to the Orioles in 1965. But he did spend time in Rochester on rehab assignments in 1967 and 1968.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice #240

This has long been one of my favorite Cal Ripken, Jr. cards, and finally the truth behind the photo is known. ESPN.com's Jim Caple featured the card in an entertaining article about "The Weird, the Bad, and the Ugly" of baseball cards. He went straight to the source, and Cal explained that it was general manager Roland Hemond's phone, and that even in 1993 it was comically oversized. The Iron Man picked up the phone mockingly, and Upper Deck's photographer was in the right place at the right time. A few other great O's cards made the cut, though Caple has no further details on them. But I'd recommend giving it a read. You'll also get some insight into other collector favorites, like Lowell Palmer's sunglasses and Orel Hershiser's chunk of sod. What more could you want?