Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Matt Riley, 2000 Pacific Crown Royale Card-supial #3

If you quit collecting baseball cards in disgust at some point before the turn of the century, and you're wondering whether you made the right choice, I present the Card-supial. I didn't think to scan it alongside a regular-sized card for scale, so you'll have to take my word for it: This card is about twice the size of a postage stamp (1 and 3/4"x1 and 1/4"), and I am certain that I will lose it before long. It was a one-per-pack insert in Pacific's 2000 Crown Royale set. Why the bafflingly stupid name? The mini-card was tucked in a pocket in the front of a full-size card. You know, like a kangaroo, opossum, or any other marsupial that comes to mind. Har har. Matt Riley here was tucked inside a Cal Ripken, Jr. card which I don't have. If you'd like to read more about this ill-fated insert set, I'll point you toward Cliff's blog post at Things Done To Cards. Meanwhile, I'm going to go pretend that I'm a giant.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Frank Peters and Ron Stone, 1968 Topps #409

This is a profoundly weird card. Not only do Frank Peters and Ron Stone look eerily alike, with the same facial expression and all, but Stone is clumsily airbrushed to obscure his Athletics cap. The bill is still green, as are his sleeves, and the vest is still gold. But the cap is black! Job well done. These are also two players that I know nothing about. But that's why I have this blog!

Frank Peters is not to be confused with Hank Peters, the Orioles' general manager from 1975 to 1987. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of Frank; he never made it to the major leagues. The O's signed the Oregon native in 1964, when he was 20 years old. He was a career .269 hitter in a ten-year minor league career, with a total of 65 home runs. He was never a threat to supplant the likes of Davey Johnson, Mark Belanger, or Brooks Robinson, and he spent the last few years of his playing career close to home in Portland.

Despite the green-and-old duds, Ron Stone was originally signed by Baltimore out of California State University Sacramento in 1963. He missed out on the 1964 season due to military service, and was a Rule 5 pick of the A's prior to the 1966 campaign. Kansas City used him in only 26 games, and he batted scarcely (6-for-22, .273 AVG). They finally threw in the towel and returned him to the Orioles in July. He spent the following two years at AAA Rochester, then was traded to the Phillies for backup catcher Clay Dalrymple. Ron was in the majors with Philly for parts of the 1969-1972 seasons, peaking with a .262 average, 3 homers, and 39 RBI in 123 games in 1970. He finished with a .241 average, 6 home runs, and 89 RBI in 388 career games.

Once again, hindsight tells us that Topps was a bit presumptuous in labeling these gentlemen as "Rookie Stars".

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dave Gallagher, 1991 Topps #349

My friend Andy recently had the pleasure of interviewing former Orioles (and Indians, White Sox, Angels, Mets, Braves, and Phillies) outfielder Dave Gallagher for his High Heat Stats blog. You should give it a read. Dave talks about how he became a Giants fan while growing up in New Jersey, why he didn't sign with the Athletics when they drafted him in 1980, how he learned to lay off of the down and away slider, and more. Sadly, Andy didn't get around to any questions about Gallagher's 23-game stint with the O's in late 1990...I can't imagine why. In all seriousness, it's always good to learn more about a player who wasn't a big star, especially when he gives a bit of his time to one of us "little guys". If you want to keep tabs of Dave, he's on Twitter (@davegallagher22), and has his own website: davegallagherbaseball.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mike Mussina, 1993 Leaf On the Fast Track #4

Congratulations are in order for Mike Mussina and Rich Dauer, the newest members-elect of the Orioles Hall of Fame. Each spent a decade in an O's uniform, and they've both earned the honor. My only hope is that the fans in attendance for the pregame induction ceremony on August 25 carry themselves with class and grace and give Moose a warm welcome back to Baltimore. He went to the Yankees because they made him feel wanted, both financially and personally. Given the often frustrating and head-scratching actions of the Orioles' ownership in the ensuing years, who can blame him? I was mad when it happened. But that was 12 years ago. You're not going to hurt Mike Mussina's feelings if you boo and jeer him on his special day. You'll just make yourself look petty and foolish. I don't mean to lecture anyone, but I feel strongly about this. Save your derision for people who truly deserve it...like Mark Teixeira.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eddy Rodriguez, 2005 Upper Deck Artifacts #119

I'd like to think that I've grown as a baseball fan over the years One of the greatest lessons I've learned is not to be blown away by the dreaded Small Sample Size. Just as great players have bad days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years, so too do the most overmatched major leaguers strike gold in the occasional game or series. When such an event occurs at the beginning of a player's career, that's the small sample size conspiring with the arbitrary endpoint. There we have Eddy Rodriguez.

In 2004, Rodriguez was a 22-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic. He'd been climbing the ranks of the Oriole farm system since 2000, and had posted a 2.34 ERA and a team-high 13 saves for AA Bowie in 2003. He was struggling to adjust to AAA Ottawa, however; his ERA in 28 relief appearances was 5.12, and he had a WHIP of 1.64. Still, he had a strong right arm, and more often than not that's good enough for the post-Ripken Orioles. The Birds promoted him to the big leagues amidst a flurry of late-May transactions, just two days after designating future home run king Jose Bautista for assignment. (Ouch.)

Eddy made his debut in a Memorial Day matinee at Fenway Park, replacing the legendary Darwin Cubillan with runners on the corners and nobody out in the seventh inning. Two runs were in for Boston with the heart of their order due up, but a 10-3 O's lead made it a pretty low-leverage situation anyhow. I'm not sure the rookie would agree as he stared in at his first big league batter, David Ortiz. He quickly fell behind 3-0 to Big Papi, but battled back to a full count before getting a swinging strike three with his seventh pitch. From there, he faced Manny Ramirez, batting a mere .355 entering the game. Again, the count ran full, and again, the result was a swinging strikeout. Finally, Jason Varitek flew out to center field to end the inning. The Orioles collected a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the frame, and Rodriguez took the mound for a second inning of work. Kevin Millar solved the youngster with a home run to lead off, and Boston got another couple of runners on base, but Eddy coaxed a double play grounder and punctuated his debut with a called strike three on Johnny Damon. Mike DeJean (yuck) took over in the ninth inning to sew up a 12-4 Baltimore win.

Eddy made enough of an impression to stick around throughout the summer. When he earned his first big league win with 3 shutout frames in a 15-inning slog in Philadelphia on July 2, the rookie had a 2.18 ERA with 20 strikeouts through his first 20.2 innings. Of course, he also had 14 walks. Major league hitters caught up to Rodriguez after the All-Star break, as he gave up 18 runs in 22.2 innings for an unsightly 7.15 ERA. He also walked 16 against 17 strikeouts. For the season, he wound up with a 4.78 ERA in 29 games. Sadly, his professional career had already peaked. He spent all of 2005 and much of 2006 back in Ottawa, and was hit hard in two short stints with the Orioles in 2006 (7.20 ERA in 15 total innings). Two ugly outings with the Dodgers' AAA Albuquerque club in 2007 represented the end of Rodriguez's time in affiliated pro ball, and according to the Baseball Reference Bullpen Wiki he had a short and equally unsuccessful tenure with Bologna in the Italian Baseball League in 2009.

But despite the fact that his career was done before age 30 and he hasn't thrown a pitch in this country in half a decade, I still remember the excitement that I felt in watching Eddy Rodriguez baffle the soon-to-be world champions on a Monday afternoon 8 years ago. Small sample sizes may be a lousy way to judge a player's worth, but they still make the game fun.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Harold Baines, 1996 Score #408

Ouch. I'm feeling creakier than Harold Baines' knees today, and I only have myself to blame. After months of near-total inactivity, I recently realized that I should get in better shape. I've spent the last few weeks doing a half-hour of aerobic workouts in front of the TV, but I knew that wouldn't offer much of a payoff. So yesterday, I bit the bullet and went for a two-mile run on the track at the nearby high school. You'll notice that I said "run" as opposed to "jog". For whatever reason, I find it difficult to pace myself when running solo. Maybe it's the dormant competitive spirit from my cross country days. Maybe I just want to get it over with.

Either way, I'm paying for it today. Several muscles in my back and legs are reminding me that they exist, and that they haven't been taxed like this in quite some time. Every time I cause myself physical pain by engaging in a fairly simple activity, it gives me a renewed respect for athletes like Harold Baines, who fought through numerous injuries and surgical procedures to perform at a high level for many years. I'm not quite 30 yet, and I haven't suffered any significant breaks or sprains over the past 25 years. I can't imagine being on the verge of 50 like Jamie Moyer (who I suspect to be featuring often on this blog in the coming months) and fully rehabbing a surgically-repaired elbow in order to compete for a 28th season of pro baseball. I think we take the physical abilities of even the least successful major league players for granted much of the time. I know I do, anyway. So it's just something to keep in mind the next time you or I shout at the TV or click away on the keyboard during a blown save or a costly error.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Josh Towers, 2002 Studio #65

This is probably a silly question, but does anyone else watch Mad Men? I was behind the curve with it, as I am with many pop culture phenomena. Thanks to Netflix, I've taken a crash course on the first four seasons of the show. I just now watched the last one, in the nick of time for tonight's season premiere. I picked up this card a few weeks back, and it occurred to me that Josh Towers bears a passing resemblance to Aaron Staton, the actor who portrays Ken Cosgrove in the series. I wonder if there are any other Mad Men lookalikes in Orioles lore?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hoyt Wilhelm, 2001 Upper Deck Hall of Famers #88

I'm making an executive decision here. There's a Giants logo on the back, so the TeamSets4U website lists it as a Giants card. But the keen-eyed among you will note that this is an action photo of Hoyt Wilhelm delivering a pitch for the Orioles. It's a great picture, and the first card I have of the ageless knuckleballer in action, so I'm claiming it for the O's.

As you can see, Hoyt retired in 1972 as the all-time leader in games pitched, but was deposed by another one-time Oriole, Jesse Orosco. Eventually he was also passed by Dennis Eckersley. One other Oriole makes the list - Lee Smith. If we were to update the list for the current day, John Franco and Mike Stanton would also place ahead of Wilhelm. Additionally, Dan Plesac, Mike Timlin (yet another former Baltimore pitcher), Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman would all be in the top ten, pushing Smith (among others) out. Considering the changes in pitcher usage in the modern era, it's unsurprising that the number of pitchers appearing in 1,000 or more games has nearly tripled in the last decade.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Lee May, 1979 O-Pee-Chee #1

I am just in a phenomenal mood. It's Friday, the weather is sunny and warm and mild here in Baltimore, I ordered sushi from one of my favorite local restaurants for dinner, and tomorrow I'm following up my sister's celebratory birthday lunch with a boys' night (ahem, make that a mens' night) with my three best friends from college. Oh, and today is Lee May's 69th birthday.

Okay, so Lee's birthday doesn't really have anything to do with my high spirits, but it doesn't hurt them, either. The "Big Bopper" spent the decline phase of his career in Charm City, playing first base and DHing from 1975 through 1980, his age 32-37 seasons. But on the whole, he still put up a slightly above-average 105 OPS+ as an Oriole and clubbed 123 home runs, 14th-most in team history. (Slightly ahead of him are Jim Gentile with 124 HR and Paul Blair with 126.) His best season in orange and black was 1976, when he hit .258 but posted a 127 OPS+ thanks in large part to his 25 home runs. In a low-offense American League, he led all hitters with 109 RBI, and finished ninth in MVP voting. However, veteran O's like Mike Cuellar, Paul Blair, and Brooks Robinson bottomed out, and Reggie Jackson's April holdout left the Birds wondering "what if". They finished 88-74, a distant second behind the 97-win Yankees.

Lee May finished his career with two seasons as a bench bat in Kansas City. He retired with 354 career home runs, which currently ties him with Luis Gonzalez for 79th all-time. Of course, the offensive explosion of the 1990s and 2000s took its toll on his rank; when he retired in 1982, Lee was #32 in lifetime home runs. But then, time waits for no man. There's not much for the Big Bopper to do but sit back and enjoy a big piece of cake, because he's earned it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brady Anderson, 1993 Donruss Spirit of the Game #SG17

This is one of a couple dozen Brady Anderson cards that I picked out from the nickel and dime boxes at the last card show I attended, and it's the rare card that I'll scan front and back. I always liked this insert set from Donruss, since it relies on action photography and often features a sequence of shots from one play. In this case, Brady is sliding head first into second base. The right field scoreboard at Camden Yards is visible in the background, and the old Champs Sports sign makes me a tinge nostalgic. Rangers infielder Jeff Frye is unable to dig out the low throw, so chances are good that Brady is safe. There aren't enough context clues for me to narrow it down further, but I can tell you that this photo was taken during a Rangers-Orioles four-game series in Baltimore from July 23-26, 1992. Frye started all four games at second base for the visitors, and Anderson batted leadoff and started in left field all weekend. Texas took three out of four games, and Brady went 4-for-15 with a pair of doubles, a couple walks, and 3 RBI. He also scored twice and stole two bases, and was picked off first base once.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Anthony Telford, 1992 Score #853

I don't know if you've heard, but the Internet makes the world a pretty small place. Case in point: Today Anthony Telford left a comment on a blog post I wrote about him two years ago. Fortunately, I had kind words to say about him, and vice versa. It's a gentle reminder of something that I know I occasionally take for granted. If you share your words, thoughts, and opinions online, anyone can read them at any time. Choose those words carefully. (For instance, I should probably hope that Sidney Ponson never Googles himself!) Anyway, I'm glad that Anthony dropped by and liked what he saw, and I think I'll have to do as he suggested and put a card in the mail.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chris Hoiles, 1997 Score #223

It's not like I need additional reasons to count Chris Hoiles among my all-time favorite Orioles, but I'll reach for them as they come. Andy at High Heat Stats posted a list of the all-time home run leaders who played exclusively for each franchise. In other words, anyone who played for more than one team is not eligible. This method produces some odd results, especially for expansion teams (like the Diamondbacks' home run king Rusty Ryal, with his career total of six HR). Even some teams that have been around for more than a century have had to share their top sluggers, leaving the Braves with Andres Thomas (42 HR) until Chipper Jones retires, the Athletics with Dick Green (80 HR), and the White Sox with Ron Karkovice (96 HR). Naturally, the Orioles make a good showing with Baltimore icons Cal Ripken, Jr. (431 HR) and Brooks Robinson (268 HR) leading the way. But Chris Hoiles is a strong third-place entry. Though he was a 19th-round pick of the Tigers in the 1986 draft, the soft-spoken catcher from Ohio came to the O's organization as part of a trade package for Fred Lynn in 1988 and made his major league debut the following year. Chris spent parts of 10 seasons in Charm City, and though various aches, pains, and bad breaks kept him from ever playing more than 127 games in a year, he finished his career with 151 home runs (10th-most among all Orioles). His single-season high was 29 longballs in 1993, but he averaged 27 HR per 162 games. It's incredible to think what he could've done if he had the durability and longevity of a Carlton Fisk or Gary Carter, but what he gave us was still pretty damn good.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wally Westlake, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #480

Before I move away from my recent all-1991 Crown/Coca-Cola format, I have to make a correction to yesterday's Dave Philley entry. Reader Russell sent me an email pointing out that Eddie Robinson is not actually the oldest living Oriole. Outfielder Wally Westlake, who had an 8-game cameo with the O's in 1955, was born on November 8, 1920 and is still with us. That makes him one month and seven days the senior of Robinson. That's what I get for taking Roch Kubatko's reporting at face value. (Sorry, Roch!)

Anyway, Wally Westlake was a Californian by birth and was 19 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940. He lost three years of his pro career to military service during World War II, but remained stationed in California for the duration. He later referred to himself sarcastically as a "Broadway soldier". After being dealt to the Pirates, Wally reached the majors to stay in 1947. He was remarkably consistent during his first four seasons, batting between .273 and .285 and peaking with an .852 OPS in 1950. He had 23 homers and 104 RBI in 1949 and 24 homers and 95 RBI the following year, making him the only power threat on those dismal Pittsburgh clubs other than future Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner. He was dealt to the Cardinals in June 1951, and made his only All-Star team that season.

Westlake was also a decent part-timer for the Indians for a few seasons, putting up a strong line of .330/.427/.495 in 1953; that season he also had 9 HR and 46 RBI in just 218 at-bats. But he was just about out of gas when he arrived in Baltimore in June 1955. He'd been 5-for-20 that year with 3 walks as a pinch hitter in Cleveland, and mustered only 3 hits and 6 walks in 30 trips to the plate with the Orioles. Baltimore cut him loose on July 9, leaving him with a line of .125/.300/.167 in orange and black. A five-game stint with the Phillies in 1956 brought a formal end to Wally Westlake's big league career. He finished with a .272 average, 127 home runs, and 539 RBI in parts of 10 seasons.

After retiring from baseball, Wally had a sales job with Tidewater Oil but eventually found more satisfying work as a lead laborer for the A. Teichert & Sons Construction Company. The outdoor work suited him, and the timetable left him free to fish and hunt in Northern California during duck season. At last check, the 91-year-old is still living in Sacramento, the city he's called home since the age of 6.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dave Philley, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #360

Three years ago, I figured out that Dave Philley was the oldest living Oriole. Sadly, that's no longer the case, as the 18-year major league veteran passed away last Thursday in his hometown of Paris, TX. He was 91 years old. His American League record of 24 pinch hits in one season was achieved in 1961, when the then-41-year-old was in his second stint with the O's. Dave served his country in World War II and had 1,700 hits and a .270 career batting average for the Orioles and 8 other big league teams. Serendipitously, he played for both "Philly" teams: the Athletics and the Phillies.

Roch Kubatko notes that Eddie Robinson, a former first baseman who spent just four games at the end of his career in Baltimore but also served on Paul Richards' coaching staff here, is now the current senior Oriole. As it happens, Robinson was also born in Paris in 1920; his birthday is December 20 whereas Philley's was May 16. The pair were teammates in a few different cities and were reportedly close friends.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gene Green, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #163

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Even here at Orioles Card "O" the Day, we partake in the Wearing of the Green. In this case, it's Gene Green, a veteran of seven big league seasons whose O's career lasted all of one game in 1960. He'd been with the Cardinals for the first three years of his career, peaking with a .281 average, 13 home runs, and 55 RBI in 137 games in 1958. The Birds traded outfielder Bob Nieman to acquire Gene, but stashed him at AAA Miami all year long. He got a September callup, starting in right field against the Senators on the 23rd and scratching out one single in four at-bats. The following offseason, the Senators moved to Minnesota and an expansion team was placed in Washington. That club drafted Green from the Orioles, and he had a career year with a line of .280/.341/.489, 18 homers, and 62 RBI. He was traded twice more in the next two years, ending his major league tenure with bench roles in Cleveland and Cincinnati. He was only 47 when he died in 1981; I couldn't find any information online concerning the cause of death.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Earl Robinson, 1961 Topps #343

Let this card serve as a reminder that Topps has been clumsily manipulating images for several decades. It's not just a recent thing. In this case, Earl Robinson's Dodgers helmet has been painted over with an orange and black that look more like red and navy blue. The Orioles had just purchased his contract the previous December, so Topps didn't have many options here. Earl would play in a career-high 96 games for the O's in 1961, batting .266 with a strong .354 on-base percentage. He totaled 8 home runs and 30 RBI, and his .455 slugging percentage was second-best on the team behind Jim Gentile. Robinson never stuck in Baltimore, though; he saw action in just 29 games in 1962 and another 37 contests in 1964. As it stands, he has had to accept his fate as the third-best Robinson in Orioles history. Of course, the competition is pretty fierce.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Felix Pie, 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen #272

I hope somebody else finds this card as hilarious as I do. It just perfectly encapsulates Felix Pie's three-year tenure in Baltimore. The design gives the appearance of classic baseball, but you don't have to look too closely at the contents to see that it's just plain goofy. Of course, now Felix is trying to win a bench job in Cleveland, which may be difficult. He just made it back onto the field after slamming into the center field fence while chasing a fly ball on Sunday. Fortunately, he was none the worse for wear, other than a little soreness. There remains no bigger hazard to Felix Pie's health than the man himself.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vladimir Guerrero, 2011 Topps Attax #NNO

I don't play Topps Attax myself, mostly because the substitution of the letter "x" for "-cks" offends my English major sensibilities. But if you can read the small print on Vladimir Guerrero's Attax (ugh) card, you'll see that he gives his card player a perk: if you are losing, his doubles turn into home runs. Clearly the folks at Topps didn't see Vlad play in Baltimore. The aging designated hitter slugged just 13 home runs in 2011, his lowest output since he hit 11 in 90 games as a rookie in 1997. Of those 13 homers, a whopping 3 either tied the game or gave the Orioles the lead. That's just what you want from a cleanup hitter, right?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Charles Johnson, 2000 Skybox Metal Universe #61

Ah, Metal Universe, I just can't walk away from you. Sure, it's mostly because the swirly patterns etched in your foil have seared my retinas, but at least you're trying to be something that other cards are not. All the same, you're at your brain-collapsing best when you're unashamedly ratcheting the insanity up to 11. Charles Johnson gunning down a base runner while hurtling into a black hole is all well and good, but it can't hold a candle to B.J. Surhoff's nuclear power or Rocky Coppinger falling prey to a giant emerald spider. You can do better, Metal Universe. Give in to those screaming, howling noises of malevolent lunacy in your head. Do it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Steve Finley, 1989 Donruss The Rookies #47

Today is Steve Finley's 47th birthday! I always feel like birthday posts are a bit of a cheat, so I'll try to dig up some interesting bits of trivia:

-Others born on March 12 include Daryl Strawberry (age 50) and Dale Murphy (56). Together with Finley, that's one mighty outfield! If you have different tastes, you could sub in fellow birthday boys Raul Mondesi, Jimmy Wynn, or Johnny Callison.

-Steve batted .409 (9-for-22) against Chuck Finley, with no extra-base hits. They are the only two pro baseball players with that surname since World War II.

-The Orioles drafted Finley with the 7th pick in the 13th round of the June 1987 draft (325th overall). He was chosen immediately after the Braves took pitcher Mike Stanton. Both players lasted 19 big league seasons, their careers spanning the years 1989-2007. Finley is 40th all-time with 2,583 games played, and Stanton is 2nd among all pitchers with 1,178 games pitched. They each played for eight different teams, and were finally teammates with the 2006 Giants.

-For some reason, I've always been obsessed with the notion of one player suiting up for each of the five California teams in his career. No one has done it yet. Steve is a near-miss, checking in with the Padres, Dodgers, Angels, and Giants. Didn't make it to Oakland.The other players in the Four-for-Cali club, and the team they didn't join:

  • Derrel Thomas (also missing the Athletics)
  • Rickey Henderson (Giants)
  • Jay Johnstone (Giants)
  • Elias Sosa (Angels)
  • Brett Tomko (Angels...but he's still active!)
  • Mike Aldrete (Dodgers)
  • John D'Acquisto (Dodgers)
  • Dave Kingman (Dodgers)
  • Stan Javier (Padres)
-Steve hit 304 home runs in his career, including 257 after his age 30 season. He is currently tied with Miguel Tejada for 129th all-time. A partial list of players who stalled out between 250 and 300 homers: Tim Salmon, Rickey Henderson, Kent Hrbek, Bobby Bonilla, Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Staub, Will Clark, Ryne Sandberg, Roger Maris, Steve Garvey, Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Kirk Gibson, Joe Torre, Robin Yount.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Doug Drabek, 1998 Upper Deck Collector's Choice #312

This is a pretty silly card. Despite that fact (or maybe because of it), I just had to have it. I placed it on the Covetous Cluster, or most-wanted, list on the left sidebar. Ed, who spends more time working on my various want lists than I do, tracked it down and put it in my hands yesterday afternoon. So why was it so necessary for me to own?

I didn't have a single Orioles card of Doug Drabek, whose 13-year big league career sputtered to a halt with a 6-11 record and a 7.29 ERA for the Birds in 1998. I couldn't do without a reminder that Pat Gillick and/or Ray Miller thought it was a good idea to acquire a 35-year-old who had gone 29-29 with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP over the most recent 3 seasons. Once I got a look at the actual card, which features a silver-haired Drabek trying to leg out a grounder while batting in a spring training, I knew that it would hold a place of honor in my collection. The icing on the cake is Doug's intense, tongue-showing facial expression and his conspicuously-advertised Reebok batting gloves. The logo on the gloves almost looks like lightning bolts shooting out of his fingers.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Miguel Tejada, 2006 Upper Deck #888

I went to a small card show this morning over in Glen Burnie, and emptied out my wallet at some nickel and dime boxes. About half of my haul was various Orioles cards, the better to keep the good times rolling here. I haven't sorted them yet, but it seems like I plucked out several dozen different cards of Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons. I may have to become the world's foremost Jay Gibbons supercollector by default, and that's about as sad as any sentence I've ever typed. Anyway, this nondescript checklist card was one of my purchases today, but I'm less interested in what Miguel Tejada is doing and more interested in what's on the scoreboard behind him. It's been a while, so let's do some sleuthing!

The bottom of the scoreboard looks like it's got a Toronto at Houston matchup. #7 is a very unusual number for a starting pitcher, and I remember former Oriole Josh Towers having the #7 jersey for the Blue Jays. Roy Oswalt wore #44 for the Astros, so we should have our starters. That makes this Sunday, June 12, 2005. Oswalt tossed a real gem, two-hitting the Jays in a 3-0 victory. Towers gave up all three runs (two earned) on nine hits and a pair of walks in seven innings. Willy Taveras and Jason Lane each had three hits and an RBI for the Astros.

Oh, but you probably want to know about the Orioles. On June 12, they were visiting the Cincinnati Reds in interleague play, and it didn't end well. Sidney Ponson barfed up a seven-run, eleven-hit masterpiece in six innings of work, and Steve Kline tossed a molotov cocktail on the fire by allowing all three batters he faced to get on base. Todd Williams replaced Kline and permitted those three runners to score on a pair of singles, giving the Reds their full tally of ten runs. The O's batters fought gamely, with six runs in a losing effort. Sammy Sosa had his second (and last) multi-homer game with Baltimore, career home runs #581 and #582. Incidentally, Ken Griffey, Jr. took Ponson deep for the 512th longball of his own storied career. So there you go. 10-6 loss, giving the Reds a pair of wins in a 3-game set.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Don Larsen, 1977 TCMA Renata Galasso Greats #3

This spiffy black and white portrait of Don Larsen, the only Oriole pitcher to ever suffer a 20-loss season, comes to us via Max of the Starting Nine blog. It's part of a 270-card set that was released in six annual series of 45 cards each from 1977 through 1984 and featured prominent retired players. The TCMA card company produced it on behalf of famed hobby dealer Renata Galasso of Brooklyn. Galasso offered the sets for free with purchase of that year's Topps set. You can read more about her various retro card sets at the Fleer Sticker Project. The funny thing about the Galasso Greats set is that Larsen was the only O's player included. There were six other cards depicting players from the franchise's St. Louis Browns era. So thanks to Max, I've got a complete team set for this oddball 1977 release! Thanks, pal.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sam Horn, 1991 Studio #5

Thank goodness for Donruss' Studio cards. How else would we have known that Sam Horn used a Big Stick?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Melvin Mora, 2009 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL9

Last week, I treated myself to a trip to the hobby shop on the other side of town, because it had been too long since I'd gorged on their vintage dollar bins. As I proceeded to the register with entirely too many dog-eared and moderately creased 1956 and 1959 Topps singles, a blister-packed 2009 Orioles team set from Topps caught my eye. Since at least the mid-2000s, Topps has put out yearly team sets for each club that are only partially identical to their base cards. As near as I can tell from this set, all of the Series One cards are reproduced in the team issue, and the other players receive cards with that year's design but with a photo that differs from their eventual base card. Some players that didn't get a base card might sneak into the team set, as was the case with Cla Meredith in 2010. The distinct photos and the possibility of relatively obscure Orioles was incentive enough to pick up this set, but as I flipped through the cards when I got home, I found other selling points. The recent additions to the team (Cesar Izturis, Ryan Freel, Felix Pie) were Photoshopped into their new uniforms in hilariously slipshod fashion. There was a bonus card spotlighting Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And last but definitely not least, there was this silly picture of Melvin Mora discarding his bat and looking like he just realized that it's covered in manure. I defy you to find a card featuring a more entertaining bat flip moment.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Miguel Tejada, 2006 Topps Hobby Masters #HM6

This is one of those cards that I just had to scan to see how it would look. It's shinier and more iridescent in person, but it still looks pretty good...aside from the cruddy photo of Miguel Tejada craning his neck to check on something we can't even see. You can't win 'em all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Joe Orsulak, 1990 Classic Yellow #T50

I usually take my sweet time ramping up to my point in blog posts, and that's when I even have a point, but I don't want to bury the lede this time. So here goes: my 60 year-old high school track and field/cross-country coach tried out to be an Orioles ballboy yesterday.

I heard about it from Keith Mills during his 6:30 AM sports report on 98 Rock's morning radio show as I drove into work today. When he uttered the name "Gene Hoffman", I just about swerved into the next lane. (For a colorful anecdote about my own personal history with Coach Hoffman, read this blog post from 2008.) According to Keith, he had just parked his car at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when he ran into Gene, with whom he was already acquainted because you can't throw a rock in Baltimore without hitting someone that Keith Mills knows personally. Hoffman explained that just by trying out, he'd be fulfilling one of his dreams: scooping ground balls on the field at the O's ballpark. It didn't bother him that he was decades older than the majority of the other applicants. As he told his coworker Matt (a friend and former classmate of mine, and a diehard Oriole fan in his own right), the age requirement was 18+ and by that measure he was the most qualified person there.

Joe Orsulak was helping to judge the hopefuls, and Keith claims that he ensured that at least one fungo was hit out onto the grass so that Gene could range over from the third base-side foul territory and realize his goal of snagging a grounder on the playing field. He dove for it and everything! The invaluable secondhand account I received from Matt fills in further details:

-Gene was wearing a Cal Ripken, Jr. shirt for his tryout, and when he signed in he was #8 in the queue. Coincidence, or good omen?

-Though he'd run in championship meets and the Penn Relays and spoken at many public events, he'd "never been this nervous". But it was "a thrill coming out from behind home plate and sitting in the dugout".

-Bob Popik, who Gene coached at Archbishop Curley High some years ago, runs the music for the O's and the Ravens. At Keith's insistence, Bob played the "CHARGE!" rally music when Gene took his turn.

-One last quote: "I don't know the outcome---really don't care, but it was a neat thing to do. Maybe we'll all be there next year."

For my part, I'd like to wish Gene Hoffman luck, and just hearing about his tryout made my day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nerio Rodriguez, 1997 Stadium Club #267

We are 31 days away from Opening Day, and that's just not soon enough for my tastes. After all, here I am commenting on Nerio Rodriguez's 41st birthday. The Dominican righthander had an unconventional career trajectory. The White Sox originally signed him as an international free agent in 1990, and he was a catcher until 1995, when the O's converted him to pitching shortly after picking him up in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. In 1996, he had a 2.26 ERA at Frederick and narrowly missed qualifying for the Carolina League ERA title; with another two-thirds of an inning under his belt, he would have had the lowest mark in the league. He had a few strong outings at Rochester, and debuted with the Orioles in mid-August. The rookie appeared in 8 major leagues with uneven results, finishing with a 4.32 ERA in 16.2 innings.

After a full season at AAA in 1997, Nerio got a September callup to Baltimore and again got knocked around a bit, but earned his first two big league wins: One in relief on September 20 and a start three days later in Toronto. In the latter, he beat Roger Clemens, who was seeking his 22nd win for the Blue Jays. He wound up being dealt to the Jays the following summer for veteran pitcher Juan Guzman, and was hit hard in short stints in Toronto in 1998 and 1999. His only other major league experience came in 2002, when he threw in a game for the Indians and in two more for the Cardinals. Believe it or not, Rodriguez was still an active player as of 2011, when he appeared in 16 games for two teams in the Mexican League. Judging from his 7.64 ERA, his best days may be behind him. But he did have a few standout seasons south of the border late last decade, including a 17-3 record and a 2.54 ERA for the Acereros de Monclova in 2008.

His Mexican exploits are all well and good, but Rodriguez's lasting legacy may be his status as the only "Nerio" to ever play Major League Baseball. There have only been two other players with that name in affiliated pro ball, and the only active one is shortstop Nerio Rios, who is still in rookie ball in the Phillies organization.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Juan Beniquez, 1986 Topps Traded #8T

Journeyman Juan Beniquez played for 8 different teams in 17 big league seasons, all within the American League. At age 36, he joined the Orioles for the 1986 season. He had a decent enough year, batting .300/.372/.397 with a 112 OPS+, 6 homers and 36 RBI in 395 plate appearances. He played all three outfield positions, both infield corners, and DH. Just imagine what he could have done if he'd had a  few more gold necklaces to blind opposing pitchers.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1971 Topps #320

With today's intrasquad game, the Orioles inched a little closer to the April 6 opener of the regular season. But there's still a few dozen exhibition games to slog through before we get there, so I decided to find the best Opening Day performance by an O's starting pitcher. My quest was facilitated by Baseball Reference's Opening Day starters page for the club; I clicked on the box scores and used the pitchers' Game Scores as my criteria for simplicity's sake. There have been a fair share of stinkers and plenty of "good enough" efforts, but five performances stood out above the rest. I'll list them in reverse chronological order.

April 1, 2011: Orioles 4 at Rays 1. WP: Jeremy Guthrie (GS 81)

This is the only one I witnessed as it was happening, in the company of friends and acquaintances from Camden Chat at Pickles' Pub. Sitting a few hundred feet from Oriole Park, we saw Jeremy Guthrie turn in his best game of the season. He breezed through 8 innings on 94 pitches, giving up only a pair of doubles, a single, and a walk. No batter reached third base, and he struck out six. With the O's up 4-0 in the ninth, Jim Johnson was called upon to finish, and gave up a solo home run to Ben Zobrist to spoil the shutout.

April 6, 1992: Orioles 2 vs. Indians 0. WP: Rick Sutcliffe (GS 82)

This was of course the first regular-season game played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and Sutcliffe's Oriole debut. (Side note: How cool is it that the Birds open the 2012 season on the 20th anniversary of the ballpark's first opener?) The red-bearded veteran kept Cleveland off-balance all day, yielding five singles and a walk and striking out six. His offense gave him little margin for error, but Sut outdueled Charlie Nagy, who took a complete-game, six-hit loss.

April 10, 1975: Orioles 10 at Tigers 0. WP: Jim Palmer (GS 85)

Going by Game Score, this one is the winner winner, chicken dinner. It's little surprise, as Palmer mowed down the first dozen Detroit batters before Nate Colbert managed a leadoff single in the fifth inning. All three Tiger hits were singles, and none even made it to second base. "Cakes" had only four strikeouts, but did not issue any walks. The O's battered Joe Coleman, with Lee May doing manager Earl Weaver proud with a three-run homer to open the scoring in the first inning.

April 6, 1973: Oriole 10 vs. Brewers 0. WP: Dave McNally (GS 82)

Another 10-0 romp? I hope Baltimore fans knew how good they had it in the 1970s. McNally's effort was also a three-hit, no-walk gem, but he struck out just one batter. He pitched around a Gorman Thomas triple as well as a Rick Auerbach double, but the outcome wasn't truly in doubt. Brooks Robinson socked two home runs, and Don Baylor pounded out four extra base hits, finishing a single shy of the cycle.

April 7, 1970: Orioles 8 at Indians 2. WP: Dave McNally (GS 81)

Jim Palmer may have the single best O's Opening Day start, but the lefty from Montana is the only repeat performer on this list. He surrendered a pair of runs on four hits and three walks, but compensated by whiffing a career-high 13 Tribe hitters. Opposing starter "Sudden Sam" McDowell fanned 11 Birds, but lasted only 6.1 innings. The Orioles put the game on ice against the Cleveland bullpen thanks to some patient at-bats. McDowell walked the first two batters in the seventh and was pulled with one out and a 2-1 lead. Davey Johnson walked to load the bases, and then Mike Paul earned a blown save by issuing run-scoring walks to Elrod Hendricks and Curt Motton. A pair of two-run doubles by Paul Blair and Davey Johnson gave the Birds a four-run eighth inning, and Frank Robinson added the exclamation point with a ninth-inning home run.

So there you have it. Whoever gets the Game 1 assignment next month has a tough act to follow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sid Fernandez, 1994 Donruss #396

As you can see here, things usually get ugly when the Orioles and Mets mix. In addition to the Birds' ill-fated acquisition of Sid Fernandez, there's the 1969 World Series, the Bobby Bonilla and Mike Bordick/Melvin Mora trades...by now, fans of both teams are probably throwing things in disgust. But we can and do find common ground in baseball cards. One of my favorite Mets fans is Max, who comments here as jacobmrley. After all these years, he's finally broken down and started his own card blog, Starting Nine. It seems like he's got a unique concept; he's pared down his considerable card collection and has grouped the remnants by theme in nines. (Nine pockets to a binder page, you know.) So best of luck to Max...welcome to the club!