Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Brad Pennington, 1993 Bowman #661

Brad Pennington making a heinous Pitcherface while throwing on a spring training mound? That must mean that the Orioles lost to the Yankees by a run on a Monday night. Bleah.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chris Davis, 2012 Topps Gold Foil #151

It was miserably cold and damp at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last night, but that didn't seem to bother Chris Davis. The Birds' slugging first baseman went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and 4 RBI, and he put the exclamation point on a 10-1 rout of the Athletics with a seventh-inning home run. He launched the ball 418 feet down the right field line for his first career homer onto Eutaw Street. It was Chris' fourth home run of the season and his third of the home stand, as he looks to shake the "AAAA" label that he acquired with the Texas Rangers. So far, so good: in this young season, Davis is hitting .313 and slugging .582. He's even striking out a bit less, though 17 K's in 67 at-bats doesn't exactly make him Tony Gwynn. It would be nice if the O's had a legitimate first baseman for the first time since...what, Rafael Palmeiro? We'll see how the next 140 games go.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frank Robinson, 2011 Kimball Champions Mini #KC-77

Later this evening I will be at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to witness the unveiling of Frank Robinson's statue in the picnic area beyond the bullpens. I'm excited just to get the chance to see the Hall of Famer up (reasonably) close for the first time, and he won't be the only all-time great in attendance. Among others, the Orioles are expecting Hank Aaron, Bill Russell (the Celtics' center, not the Dodgers' shortstop), Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, and Eddie Murray. It's an honor that is a long time coming for the man who retired with more career home runs than anyone other than Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays. I'll definitely give you a report on the ceremonies, complete with pictures, in the next week.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Tom Phoebus, 1969 Topps #185

On April 27, 1968 - exactly 44 years ago today - Baltimore native Tom Phoebus tossed the third no-hitter in team history, cruising to a 6-0 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of a paltry Saturday afternoon crowd of 3,147 at Memorial Stadium. There was an 83-minute rain delay, which might help explain the low turnout. The 26 year-old righty walked a pair of BoSox batters and threw a wild pitch in a shaky first inning, but catcher Curt Blefary (making only his fourth start behind the plate after beginning his career as a first baseman/outfielder) gunned down Joe Foy on an attempted steal of third base to wipe out Boston's first and last runner in scoring position. Starting with an inning-ending groundout by Reggie Smith, Phoebus put down 13 Boston hitters in a row before a sixth-inning walk by Gene Oliver gave the visitors their only other baserunner on the day.

The O's gave Tom a little wiggle room with a four-run third inning. The pitcher actually sparked the rally himself with a one-out single off of his opposite, Boston starter Gary Waslewski. Paul Blair also singled, and a two-out grounder by Blefary was booted by Sox first baseman George Scott, loading the bases and keeping the inning alive for Brooks Robinson, who cleared the sacks with a double to right field. A wild pitch moved Brooks over to third, at which point Boog Powell was intentionally walked to bring up Davey Johnson. Davey singled to knock in Robinson and make it 4-0.

The Orioles added single runs in the fifth on another Johnson hit and the eighth on Phoebus' second single. Davey scored on the latter after doubling for his team-high third hit of the game, as he and his pitcher were the only Birds with multi-hit games that day. Tom picked up momentum as he got deeper into the game, shrugging off the leadoff walk of Oliver in the sixth inning to mow down the final 12 Red Sox to come to bat. The biggest threat to the feat was a one-out sinking line drive hit by Rico Petrocelli in the eighth inning. Naturally, Brooks Robinson lunged to his right and plucked it off of his shoetops. Phoebus sealed his no-hit gem by striking out Foy for the final out, giving him his ninth whiff against three walks. The pitcher's final Game Score was 93, matching Hoyt Wilhelm's 1958 blanking of the Yankees (8 K/2 BB) for the highest mark by an Oriole in a no-hitter.

Tom, who grew up playing stickball in the Hampden neighborhood, now lives in Palm City, FL. He is a retired physical education teacher who enjoys golfing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Curt Schilling, 1990 Topps #97

Normally when Curt Schilling talks, I tune out, but I have to admit that the anecdote about his major league debut with the Orioles made me laugh. Curt was tabbed as Baltimore's starting pitcher on Wednesday, September 7, 1988 for a home game against the Red Sox. In the pitcher's own words:

The night before the game I stayed at a hotel down the street from Memorial.  The Sox were staying there too – next thing I know, Boggs, Greenwell, and Stanley are buying me beers trying to get me drunk.  I suspected that they were doing that just so they could destroy me the next day."

Fortunately for Schilling, he either exhibited sufficient restraint or had a high tolerance for alcohol. He was a bit wild in his debut, walking five and striking out only two, but he gave up just three runs in seven innings. He left trailing 3-2, but escaped with a no-decision when the Orioles rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth against Bob Stanley. The Boston reliever blew the save by allowing a bases-loaded single to Billy Ripken and a run-scoring groundout by Cal Ripken, Jr. Maybe Stanley's the one who should have stayed in his hotel room on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pete Stanicek, 1990 ProCards #717

You know, Pete Stanicek had parents, a brother, friends and teammates, maybe even a girlfriend or wife. Odds are good that at least one of those important people in his life told him that this mustache was a good look. How must it feel, to know you've been lied to by someone you love?

Oh, and the Orioles spend another day in first place in the East, on the strength of their first shutout of the year. Jason Hammel is 3-0 in his first four starts as an Oriole. This team really is trying to suck us in this year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Marlin Stuart, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #446

All the way back on May 14, 1954, Marlin Stuart recorded the first save in Orioles' history with a scoreless ninth inning in relief of Bob Turley, as the O's topped the Red Sox 7-2. I can't even figure out how he was credited with the save. When Turley was pinch-hit for, the game was tied at two apiece, but the pinch hitter (Bob Kennedy) singled in the go-ahead run. It seems like that was enough for Turley to get the win, and even though the Birds tacked on four insurance runs before Stuart entered in the top of the ninth, he got the easy save for slamming the door on Boston. That, along with being the only "Marlin" in team history, is his place in Oriole lore.

Jumping back to the present, Pedro Strop earned the first save of his major league career by pitching around a walk and blanking the Blue Jays in the ninth inning of a 2-1 squeaker. Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Darren O'Day, Luis Ayala, and Strop combined to hold the Jays to five hits in the game, supporting an O's offense that was likewise stifled by Henderson Alvarez and Casey Janssen. The Orioles' runs scored on an Adam Jones double play grounder and a Matt Wieters fly ball that Toronto left fielder Eric Thames deflected over the wall with his glove. In other words, it all went according to plan.

Strop, the 27 year-old flamethrower acquired from Texas last August for Mike Gonzalez, got the nod tonight because regular closer Jim Johnson had to be hospitalized with a nasty case of the flu. Even with the walk of Brett Lawrie, Pedro dispatched the Jays in 18 pitches, bookending his appearance with strikeouts of Adam Lind and Thames. He celebrated the final out by jumping a few inches off of the mound and pointing to the sky with both hands. He's now given up only 4 total runs in 23.1 innings as an Oriole, with 26 strikeouts. That's how to make a good impression on your new teammates.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Erik Bedard, 2008 Upper Deck Spectrum #9

It's not easy being Erik Bedard. After spending the past four years as a starting pitcher for the If He Were Healthy All-Stars, the lefty signed with the Pirates for $4.5 million this season. So far in 2012, he's been perfectly healthy, and has shown that he's still got some value in that arm. Through four starts, he has a 2.63 ERA and a 135 ERA+. Sure, his strikeouts are down in the early going - 6.4 K/9 IP compared to a career figure of 8.7 K/9 IP, but he's also allowed only one home run in 24 innings.

He's also got an 0-4 record, because the Pirates are an offensive trainwreck. He lost the team's opener by a 1-0 score, with Roy Halladay holding the Bucs to a pair of hits in 8 innings of work. In each of his other three starts, Bedard has permitted two earned runs and received exactly one run of support. It looks like Erik will have to take matters into his own hands. So far he's got a single and four whiffs in eight at-bats this year, but when you account for his interleague appearances, he's a career .214 hitter (6-for-28). Through their first 15 games, the Pirates are hitting .202 as a team. Woof. It's enough to make you wonder if the ex-Oriole had any comparable contract offers last winter, and whether he's having second thoughts about going to Pittsburgh.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Leaf Alternate Threads #AT 15

The Orioles eked out a 3-2 win in 10 innings against the Angels today to salvage a single game out of their weekend series against the Angels. That brings their record to 9-7 and leaves them tied with the Rays in second place, a half-game out of first place. This isn't really anything to trumpet, but it is worth noting that the O's have just wrapped up a ten-game road trip through Toronto, Chicago, and Anaheim, and they posted a winning record of 6-4. The last time the Orioles got the best of a ten-game swing away from Camden Yards was September 13-23, 2004. Back then, they took two of three each in Toronto and Minnesota before splitting a four-game set in Boston against the eventual World Champion Red Sox. To offer a little perspective, that was five managers ago (Lee Mazzilli, who was replaced by Sam Perlozzo, who gave way to Dave Trembley, who was succeeded by Juan Samuel, who was supplanted by Buck Showalter). In the final game of that road trip, the O's topped the Red Sox 9-7. Todd Williams was the winning pitcher, and Miguel Tejada hit his 30th home run of the season, a 3-run shot off of Derek Lowe in the fifth inning. It was Miggi's first year in Baltimore, and the team finished with a 78-84 record. In the ensuing seven full seasons, they haven't gotten any closer to a .500 record. Could this be the year? Probably not, but staying above water on a long journey away from Camden Yards is a rare pleasure.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jay Gibbons, 2004 Upper Deck Twenty-Five Salute #S-4

Every time I dig through dime boxes of Orioles cards, I find at least a dozen mid-2000s Jay Gibbons cards that I need. There has probably never been a looser definition of the word "need". That is the curse of the team collector. By sheer inertia, the redheaded, injury-prone outfielder found himself representing the cruddy O's in an endless procession of meaningless sets, subsets, and inserts from several card companies locked in an arms race of proliferate irrelevance. At present, I own 84 Jay Gibbons cards and I haven't even scratched the surface. At least this insert set is so oddly specific that it seems to have a purpose. As you can see on the top and bottom borders, they've identified 10 players who wore #25 in the previous season and chosen to celebrate them. There's quite a mixed bag, with Hall of Fame hopefuls (Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Rafael Palmeiro), guys who played at a high level for a number of years (Carlos Delgado, Andruw Jones, Jason Giambi)...and then the remainders of Troy Glaus, Jeremy Giambi, Gibbons, and Dmitri Young. Each has an interesting story, but you don't often see all 10 brought together in one place.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Don Buford, 1969 Topps #478

I mentioned recently that I had been neglecting Don Buford on this blog. The only post I wrote about him was this one, the third-ever Vintage Friday way back in January 2008! Perhaps it's somewhat fitting that Buford, one of the truly underrated players of his era, has gotten short shrift from me.

There are a few factors working against Don. He had a fairly short career in the major leagues, just nine full seasons. The White Sox signed him in 1959 after a collegiate career at the University of Southern California, and he was 27 by the time he cracked Chicago's starting lineup in 1964. But he was a league-average hitter in his four years manning second and third base on the South Side, posting a 103 OPS+ and stealing a total of 114 bases. (Of course he was also caught stealing 57 times, giving him a sub-optimal 67% success rate.)

But Buford truly thrived after being traded to Baltimore in the deal that reunited Luis Aparicio with the ChiSox. His lowest OPS+ from 1968 through 1971 was 126, which came in the 1970 championship season. That year, he led the club with 99 runs scored and 109 walks, and his .406 on-base percentage trailed only AL MVP Boog Powell (.412) for the team lead. He also set a career best with 66 RBI. Again, that was the least-successful of Don's first four seasons as an Oriole. And he still got some down-ballot MVP consideration, just as he had in 1968 and would again in 1971.

That 1971 season was Buford's masterpiece. He made his only All-Star team, topped the American League with 99 runs scored (the third straight year he'd had exactly 99), tied Frank Robinson with a team-high 153 OPS+, and also reached personal bests with 19 home runs, a .413 OBP, .477 slugging percentage, and an .890 OPS. All this for an Orioles squad that topped 100 wins and reached the World Series for the third consecutive year. Not bad for a 34-year-old guy. Of course, a big theme in sports is "what could have been", and for all of their dominance from 1969 through 1971, the O's won just that one World Series. If they had been dealt a bit more luck in '69 and/or '71, they might hold an ever higher place of esteem in baseball history and Buford might be talked about more today.

Getting back to the relative brevity of Don Buford's career, he had an unbelievably poor season in 1972. His slash line was only .206/.326/.267, meaning that his OPS tumbled nearly 300 points and his OPS+ (76) was exactly half of what it had been the preceding year. He had just 13 extra-base hits and 22 RBI in 485 plate appearances. The Orioles released him the following February and he played the final four seasons of his career in Japan for the Taiheiyo Club Hawks and the Nankai Hawks. The abrupt end of his O's tenure doesn't change the fact that "Buf" was an excellent table setter for the greatest teams in Oriole history.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Endy Chavez, 2012 Topps Orioles Team Set #BALT9

I wanted to tip my cap to pitcher Jason Hammel, who earned the win in a 5-3 squeaker today by pushing through bases-loaded situations in the first and third inning and hanging on to complete six innings of two-run ball. He also tied his career high by striking out 10 White Sox batters. Hammel won't soon make Orioles fans forget Jeremy Guthrie, the man he was traded for, but he's making a good first impression. Unfortunately, I don't have any Hammel cards yet, so he has to share space with another of today's key players, outfielder Endy Chavez.

Chavez, seen here hastily Photoshopped from a Rangers uniform to O's threads, was a surprise starter in left field thanks to Nolan Reimold's neck discomfort. Despite entering the game with just a pair of hits in 18 at-bats, the one-time Expo reached base three times from the leadoff spot in the order (single, walk, hit-by-pitch) and scored twice. He also made a running over-the-shoulder catch in the sixth inning to save at least a run. It was one of those under-the-radar performances that can get lost in the drone of a 162-game season, but for today it helped keep the Orioles in first place in the American League East. Yep, you read that right. There's 149 games left to go, but I didn't even expect the Birds to be atop the division at this point, a couple weeks into the season. Savor it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jamie Moyer, 1994 Fleer Flair #6

You had to know that this post was coming. Ever since Jamie Moyer signed with the Rockies in his quest to pitch a 25th big league season (and 28th professional season) after missing all of 2011, I've been monitoring his progress. I was thrilled when he earned a spot in Colorado's starting rotation to begin the year, but I figured I'd save the celebratory post for the occasion of his first win. Last night, the lefty made history. By holding the Padres to six hits and two unearned runs in seven innings, Moyer became the oldest pitcher to ever win a major league game. At 49 years and 150 days of age, he bested the mark set by the Dodgers' Jack Quinn in 1932 by a cool 80 days. In true Jamie Moyer fashion, he did it all without throwing a single one of his 87 pitches at 80 miles per hour or greater.

Jamie also had a remarkable sense of timing in accomplishing the feat when he did. As I noted, yesterday was the 47th anniversary of Jim Palmer's big league debut. Moyer's win was the 268th of his career, tying him with Palmer on the all-time list. Not only that, but it was also 66 years to the day that Jack Quinn passed away. I don't want to end on such a morbid note, so here's a few more of those endless and delightful Jamie Moyer age facts:

-He was born on November 18, 1962, making him less than 16 months younger than President Obama and 27 months younger than former teammate Cal Ripken, Jr.

-He is older than every member of the Rockies' original 1993 starting rotation and their Opening Day starting lineup, with the exception of first baseman Andres Galarraga (born June 18, 1961).

-He debuted with the Cubs on June 16, 1986. In the news at the time: the USFL's antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, Mikhail Gorbachev's new arms-control proposal for the USSR, protests over apartheid in South Africa, and the NBA draft prospects of Brad Daugherty and Len Bias.

-Moyer has faced 8.9% of all hitters in major league history. As of April 9, 2012, he had pitched to 1,417 of the 15,855 men who had taken hacks in a big league game since 1876. That's still less than Greg Maddux, who is the current record holder with 1,535 unique batters faced (9.7%!). More details here.

Some day I will tell my children that I saw Jamie Moyer pitch...as they watch him pitch.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jim Palmer, 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #22

Do you know what today is? Yeah, it's tax day. But I know that everybody already filed months ago, to save the stress of doing it at the last minute.


Okay, maybe not. But putting aside those fun study dates with the 1040s and W-2s and hey hey, it's also the 47th anniversary of Jim Palmer's big league debut. The tall, slim righthander was born in New York but raised in Arizona, and the Orioles convinced him to forgo college and sign with them in 1963. He reported to the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Pheasants in 1964 for his first pro season and went 11-3 with a 2.51 ERA despite walking 130 batters in 129 innings. Manager Hank Bauer saw enough promise to bring him to the major leagues to begin the 1965 season, and the 19-year-old served an apprenticeship in the bullpen.

That brings us to April 17, the third game of the young season and the Saturday afternoon opener of a two-game series at Fenway Park. The Birds busted out of the gate with five first-inning runs, with homers by Paul Blair and Brooks Robinson helping to chase Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette before he could get an elusive third out. Curt Blefary also went deep in the third for some insurance. But veteran O's starter Robin Roberts wasn't long for the game, either. He was reached for a pair of first-inning runs and allowed the first three batters to reach in the third inning. With the score now 6-3 and the tying run at the plate in the form of Carl Yastrzemski, young Jim Palmer was called upon for a baptism by fire.

Wearing the jersey number 22 that would be retired in his honor two decades later, Palmer began his career by walking Yaz to load the bases. He might have sighed in relief after striking out Tony Conigliaro looking for the first out, but outfielder Lee Thomas (now a special assistant to Orioles GM-type Dan Duquette) properly welcomed Jim to the show with a two-run single. The rookie stopped the bleeding after that, inducing a 5-4-3 double play grounder off the bat of Felix Mantilla. It was a 6-5 game.

Palmer had a few hiccups in his second inning of work, walking opposing pitcher Arnold Earley and gifting him second base on a wild pitch, but otherwise he was unharmed. Two ground balls and a short fly ball, all handled by shortstop Luis Aparicio, and "Cakes" had his first major league appearance in the books. His final totals: two innings, one hit, two walks, one strikeout, no earned runs, two of three inherited runners scored. Nothing to put in the headlines, but no disaster either.

Jim was followed to the mound by Dave McNally, another youngster who would soon step into the starting rotation and stay there for some time. McNally breezed through the fifth inning before walking two of the three batters he faced in the sixth. Dick Hall and Harvey Haddix allowed both runners to score, putting Boston ahead for the first time that afternoon. By the end of the sixth, the hosts had taken an 8-6 advantage. The game was far from over, though.

The O's scored once each in the seventh and eighth innings, with Charlie Lau's solo homer tying the game at 8-8. But in the bottom of the eighth, wildness was once again the undoing of the Orioles. Stu Miller walked each of the first two batters and was replaced by Steve Barber. Barber went walk-single-walk, and it was 10-8 with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ken Rowe retired three of the next four Red Sox to get out of it, but it was suddenly a 12-8 game. Blefary's second solo home run of the game was too little, too late, and the Birds lost 12-9.

Better times were ahead, of course. The Orioles won 5 of 6 at the end of April to get their heads above water, and though they never sat atop the American League, they finished with 94 wins, just a few games off the pace of their breakout 1964 season. The acquisition of Frank Robinson prior to the 1966 campaign was the catalyst that propelled the Birds to their first World Series title, and you know all the rest. Jim Palmer went 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 27 games (6 starts) in 1965, and walked 5.5 batters per nine innings. He would not have a BB/9 greater than 4.0 in any other full season in his career, and though he was hampered by various injuries, he persevered to win 268 games with a 2.86 ERA and 126 ERA+ in 19 years in the majors. He is the only pitcher to win a World Series game in three different decades, and he famously never allowed a grand slam. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1990, and you can still hear him on Orioles telecasts on MASN. Congratulations on a long and impressive career, Jim.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Armando Benitez, 1996 Score #152


(Yes, I'm cross-posting to Bad Touch Baseball. Some cards are just too good not to share.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mike Linskey, 1992 Fleer #663

I am once again pleasantly surprised by the reach of this blog. More than two and one-half years ago, I wondered what had become of former Orioles prospect Mike Linskey. Some 31 months later, Mike himself dropped in and left a comment on that blog post to provide a first-person perspective.

"Nuke" (he self-identified as such) lives in Houston these days; perhaps he's neighbors with Bob the Commish? He's remained active in baseball, coaching an elite team of ten year-olds. He also videotapes amateur pitchers for the Just Wright baseball academy. Mike confirms that his career was derailed by a back injury suffered during his first big league camp that robbed him of velocity. In his own words, he spent three years in the San Diego organization "before becoming an old man at 28 in baseball years".

I'd like to thank Mike Linskey for sharing a bit of his story with me and the readers of this blog.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nolan Reimold, 2006 Tristar Prospects Plus #75

It's good to see Nolan Reimold finally get some regular playing time, and it's even better to see him taking advantage of the opportunity. Finally free from the shadows of Felix Pie, Luke Scott, and Vlad Guerrero, the power-hitting left fielder is getting results as the team's new leadoff hitter. Last night against the Blue Jays, Nolan doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the first inning, singled, stole second base, and scored the tying run in the eighth inning, and added an important insurance run with his first homer of the season an inning later. Sure, he also made a costly error to give Toronto their second run in the fourth inning. And although his batting average is .308, he has yet to take a walk. So he's still got some work to do. But at least he's getting the chance to hone his skills in an everyday game situation without fear of being buried on the bench.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Sam Mele, 1954 Topps #240

58 years ago today, it all began.

It was a dry, warm Tuesday afternoon in Detroit, Opening Day of the 1954 baseball season at Briggs Stadium, which most fans came to know as Tiger Stadium. The home team was hosting the Baltimore Orioles, who had spent the previous 52 seasons existing as the St. Louis Browns, second-class citizens in their own city and the bottom-feeders of the American League. Now they had traded in brown caps for black ones and moved to the East Coast, but the talent-deficient roster was essentially the same. Most O's fans today wouldn't recognize many of the names.

-Second baseman Bobby Young was the first batter in team history, wearing the uniform number 5 that would soon be claimed by a young third baseman who stayed around for more than 20 years. Young grounded out to first base to break the ice on Baltimore's return to the majors after a half-century absence.

-Center fielder Gil Coan, batting third, singled off of Tigers starter Steve Gromek for the Birds' first hit. The 32-year-old would be out of the league within a couple of years.

-Don Larsen (there's a familiar name) threw the first pitch for the club, and struck out the first batter he faced, Detroit second baseman Frank Bolling. He wasn't as fortunate in subsequent innings, permitting leadoff home runs to Ray Boone, Walt Dropo (who finished his career as an Oriole in 1961), and Bolling in innings 4, 6, and 7. Those three homers accounted for all the scoring in a 3-0 loss; both starters went the distance but Gromek kept Baltimore inside the park and off the scoreboard. The defeat was the first of a league-high 21 for Larsen and the first of 100 for the seventh-place Orioles. The equally woeful Athletics, playing out their final season in Philadelphia, lost 103 to keep the O's out of last place.

-Incidentally, Larsen also had the team's first extra-base hit, a double in the fifth inning.

Other notable firsts would have to wait for the next day's game. Left fielder Sam Mele drove in Bobby Young in the first inning of that contest with the Orioles' first run. The O's pushed across three runs in that frame and starter Duane Pillette made them hold up, earning the first win in team history by a 3-2 margin.

The Orioles had their home opener on Thursday April 15, topping the White Sox 3-1 in another squeaker, with Bob Turley turning in the third straight complete-game effort by a starter. Bespectacled catcher Clint "Scrap Iron" Courtney hit a home run in the fourth inning, the first ball to clear the fences at Memorial Stadium and one of just 38 career homers for him. Power was not a strong suit for those Orioles, who were dead last in the league with 52 total home runs in 1954. The Senators were next-to-last with 81, and the Pirates brought up the rear with 76 in the National League. Vern Stephens led the Birds with 8 home runs.

It wasn't always pretty, but the men, women, and children of Charm City finally had a big league team of their own.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1994 Score Burger King #7

I finally organized the pile of cards that I bought last weekend. While I couldn't quite complete the 2004 Maryland Lottery set, I did compile a few Cal Ripken, Jr. oddball sets. One of them was the nine-card set that includes this card and was sold at Burger King in 1994. This is my favorite card in the set, as it offers a fantastic panoramic view of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I'm thankful that my eyes are still sharp enough to read the scoreboard, which easily allows me to figure out which game is pictured. Harold Baines is at bat, and he's facing White Sox reliever Roberto Hernandez. It looks like Chicago has scored in double digits, unfortunately. I can also see from the out-of-town scoreboard in right field that Marquis Grissom has hit an RBI single for the Expos. To Baseball Reference!

Our featured game took place on Sunday, July 11, 1993. Incidentally, that was two days after I attended my first game in Camden Yards, which had a much more pleasant result for the O's. On this day, the Birds dropped an 11-5 decision to the Pale Hose. They reached that year's Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell for 10 hits and 5 runs, including a couple of home runs by Baines and Ripken, but were undone by a subpar start by Jamie Moyer, who couldn't get through the fifth inning and allowed five runs of his own. Todd Frohwirth fanned the flames in relief, coughing up five more runs in just an inning and one-third. Frank Thomas had two home runs, and Ozzie Guillen (of all people) took Frohwirth deep as well. Bo Jackson also chipped in with three RBI. The Orioles fell to 47-41, but were still only one and a half games out of first place in an American League East that lacked a runaway leader.

This photo comes from the bottom of the ninth inning. In his second inning of work, Hernandez got Harold Reynolds to ground out, but a Mark McLemore double and an infield single by Mike Devereaux have kept the O's on life support. Baines will walk to load the bases for Cal, who unfortunately lines out to second baseman Craig Grebeck for a game-ending double play.

I'm always kind of bummed out when I pinpoint the game featured in a baseball card photo, and it turns out that the Orioles lost that game. Obviously that's a likely outcome in recent years. So it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Harold Reynolds, 1994 Fleer #17

I strive for variety in this blog, sometimes to the point of distraction. In fishing for ideas today, I went through the tags to see if there were any important players that were under-represented. Some vintage subjects (Dons Baylor and Buford) have only gotten one post each, and that will have to be remedied. One of the more surprising members of the One-Post Club was Harold Reynolds. Sure, he was only an Oriole for one underwhelming season (.252/.343/.334 in 1993), but I've spent enough time waxing nostalgic about that 1993 season and my introduction to O's fandom that I would have assumed that H.R. would have had a greater presence on this blog. Besides, the timing of his stint in Baltimore means that there were about a hundred and eleventy different card sets featuring Harold in orange and black.

So here's another Harold Reynolds blog post, so the one from October 2008 doesn't get lonely. And just so this thing doesn't come across as complete filler, here's a fascinating tidbit about the Harold Reynolds Era in Charm City: Harold hit four home runs with the O's, the final four of his career. (He totaled a whopping 21 longballs in parts of 12 seasons.) All four were hit between July 15 and August 21. The last was a high-leverage shot in a wild game in Baltimore vs. the Rangers. 46-year-old Nolan Ryan was facing the Orioles for the final time in his career, and he didn't leave on a high note, surrendering a first-inning grand slam to Mike Pagliarulo and lasting just three innings. But the Birds were shut out in the following seven innings, and the Rangers chipped away and ultimately took a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning. Reynolds led off the ninth against Texas closer Tom Henke and tied the game with a solo home run! It stayed tied until the bottom of the 12th, when Mark McLemore singled off of former Oriole Craig Lefferts to score Jack Voigt, who had led off with a walk and advanced to second on a bunt. I guess if you're not going to hit many homers, you might as well make them count when you do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rex Barney, 2004 Maryland Lottery #33

It looks like I have a new set to chase.

This is part of a 50-card set produced by the Maryland Lottery to commemorate the Orioles' 50th anniversary in 2004. The cards were sold in packs at lottery stations, and if you collected all 50 you were eligible for a prize drawing. I had one or two of these that wandered into my collection through various trades, but I found a whole stack in a dime box at the Northpoint Flea Market last Saturday. It's a really neat set, as it features not only most of the O's legends (Frank, Brooks, Boog, Jim, Cal, Earl...no Eddie, though) and favorites (Tippy, Dempsey, McGregor, Bumbry), but also gives a little attention to beloved announcers/broadcasters Rex Barney and Chuck Thompson. There are cards featuring both Memorial Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, as well as cards for each of the team's three World Series winning seasons.

But of course there's a catch. I've got 43 of the 50 cards in my possession now, and of those I'm missing, cards #46-50 are the rarest. The Lottery had to make it a challenge for participants to collect the whole set if there were prizes involved. I've read that #50, featuring Babe Ruth with the International League Orioles, is in the shortest supply, with one estimate placing its quantity at 10,000. So if you see any of those floating around, let me know. The other two cards I need are #32 (Camden Yards) and #35 (Mike Flanagan).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Robert Andino, 2012 Topps Orioles Team Set #BALT12

Sorry to do a link dump, but Deadspin's Tom Scocca wrote a long, thoughtful, bittersweet, yet ultimately somewhat heartening article about what it means to be an Orioles fan. You can read it here, though you should be forewarned of salty language if that's one of your hang-ups. The framing device used is Robert Andino's game-winning hit last September 28, the one that ultimately cost the Red Sox a trip to the postseason. If you're a fan of some other major league team, you might have noticed that we O's fans are awfully proud of that one shining moment of spoilerdom at the end of our 15th straight losing season. That's kind of the point. We mattered. For one more night, everyone else's attention was focused on Baltimore, and our guys didn't embarrass themselves. I'd like to think it was a sign of things to come. But I won't dare allow myself to expect that.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nick Markakis, 2011 Bowman Platinum #34

It's been a good couple of days for me personally and for the Orioles. The O's completed their first three-game home sweep of the Twins since 2002 thanks in large part to some outstanding starting pitching. Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, and Jason Hammel combined to allow three runs (one earned) on 10 hits in 22 innings. Hammel capped it with seven no-hit innings in his team debut this afternoon before allowing a pair of doubles to start the eighth. The Birds' hitters provided some timely support, which included a four-hit game from unlikely designated hitter Ronny Paulino and a trio of good efforts by Nick Markakis. The O's stalwart right fielder batted .556 (5-for-9) with a pair of home runs and 4 RBI, and also walked three times. It certainly looks like Nick is healthy after undergoing offseason surgery for an abdominal muscle tear. Now the O's are 3-0 for the second straight April, the Yankees and Red Sox are 0-3, and there's nothing to do but hope that this year the home team can do a better job of maintaining momentum.

As for me, I've spent my Easter weekend with friends and family. Yesterday was the annual pre-holiday breakfast at IHOP (only the best health food for us) with my mother's side of the family, followed by a visit to my grandparents' gravesite. Afterward, I went across the street to the hobby shop to pick up some one-dollar 1950s commons, and just happened to run into Ed. We stopped by a nearby flea market and found some dime boxes of cards to our liking. After a few hours back home to recharge, I did dinner and Easter vigil mass with my parents and sister and then spent the night at my sister's place. Today we did the holiday gathering at my aunt and uncle's house, complete with our unique spin on egg-picking, a tradition from my grandmother's childhood in the Baltimore neighborhood of Highlandtown.

Since 1991, we've turned that simple game into a single-elimination tournament, brackets and all (the initial pairings are chosen at random). You only get to use one egg for all five rounds, and if you're the last person standing, you get your name put on a wooden plaque that stays in your possession until the following Spring. Today, for the first time in my 22 years of participation, I won the tournament. So I've got a few weeks to figure out where I'll be displaying that egg-shaped plaque for the next year. Who knows? If I could break my skid, maybe the Orioles can finally reverse their fortunes as well.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rafael Palmeiro, 1996 Upper Deck SP #35

I've been bolstering my Orioles collection lately by rooting through some el cheapo boxes provided by my friend (and bargain hunter supreme) Ed. One of the gems I added was this unusual Rafael Palmeiro card. I stared at it for a few seconds before I noticed that Raffy was standing on the mound and delivering a pitch...or at least pretending to do so. It seems pretty clear that he's clowning around in a practice session, though you have to admire his form. I'm not much of a scholar when it comes to pitching mechanics, but my crack research indicates that the slugging first baseman is flashing a four-seam fastball grip. Please correct me in the comments if you know better.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1967 Topps #302

I haven't done many late-night updates recently, but I just got home after a long day that included my second-ever Opening Day experience at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This time I went with my sister; it was my treat for her birthday. The weather was beautiful, though it was a bit chilly where we sat in the shade of the upper deck overhang. Our seats were on the second level, midway down the third base line. After briefly braving the crush of orange-and-black-clad revelers across the street at Pickles Pub and Sliders, we checked out the new rooftop bar inside the ballpark. It offered a great view of the field, and there was plenty of comfortable seating. We made sure to be in our seats by 2:30, when the on-field ceremonies began. Rick Sutcliffe threw a picture-perfect strike to Chris Hoiles for the first pitch, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters were presented with their 2011 Gold Glove awards, and of course all of the players, coaches, and other team personnel were introduced. It was bittersweet to see the video board tribute to all of the past members of the O's organization who had passed away since last April, with Mike Flanagan being the final person recognized.

The game certainly lifted everyone's spirits, though. A sellout crowd of 46,773 was treated to a 4-2 win over the Twins. Jake Arrieta, finally healthy after having a fibrous mass removed from his elbow last summer, breezed through seven shutout innings. He allowed two walks and two singles, and got sufficient support from Nick Markakis, who hit a two-run homer and a run-scoring triple. Relievers Troy Patton and Jim Johnson made things a bit tense in the ninth inning, but Johnson nailed down the save by inducing a fielder's choice grounder from Trevor Plouffe to strand the tying runs.

I'm certainly trying to keep my expectations reasonable for the Orioles in 2012, but 1-0 is a fine way to start the season.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cesar Izturis, 2009 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH254

I hope you liked yesterday's goofy American League predictions. Here, have some National League stuff!

Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones’ final season is marred by the discovery that he no longer has knees – no cartilage, no bone, no muscle, nothing. He still hits .305 with 23 home runs in 108 games.

Miami Marlins: Owner Jeffrey Loria outdoes himself by ordering a fire sale of all of the team’s stars and using the money saved on player salaries to commission abstract sculptures to fill the empty seats in the new ballpark.

New York Mets: The Mets will be shocked to discover that Jason Bay has been stranded on a deserted island since December 2009. The “Jason Bay” who has been playing for New York for the past two seasons was actually four possums stacked one on top of the other.

Philadelphia Phillies: Philly’s hopes of another Eastern division championship are dashed when the United States suddenly shifts from a representative democracy to a Logan’s Run-style dystopia.

Washington Nationals: 19 year-old phenom Bryce Harper makes his much-anticipated debut in mid-May. Not only is he the league’s leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, he is also voted “Most Punchable”.

Chicago Cubs: In a scene reminiscent of the false-identity scandals involving Marlins pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo (a.k.a. Leo Nunez) and Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez Heredia (a.k.a. Fausto Carmona), Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney admits that he has been using an alias. His actual name is Dagwood Gerbert. He claims that he changed it because it was “just too silly”.

Cincinnati Reds: GM Walt Jocketty obtains a court order barring manager Dusty Baker from all team facilities after Baker switches Aroldis Chapman from a reliever to a starter back to a reliever and back to a starter over the course of a single weekend.

Houston Astros: Several players admit to having frequent nightmares in which they show up to play National League Central opponents only to discover that they’re supposed to be playing in the American League West already.

Milwaukee Brewers: Robin Yount boosts team morale by shaving his mustache and attaching it to Cesar Izturis’ face with Krazy Glue while the utility infielder naps in the clubhouse.

Pittsburgh Pirates: In an ill-advised move to increase attendance, the club changes their name to the Steelers.

St. Louis Cardinals: The defending World Series champs miss the playoffs altogether after the Rally Squirrel is killed and eaten by ESPN baseball personality John Kruk.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The entire club is mortified to learn that the color they’ve been referring to as “Sedona red” is actually just brick red.

Colorado Rockies: Jamie Moyer spends a few weeks on the disabled list in July after getting some rust scraped off of his left shoulder.

Los Angeles Dodgers: In a new take on the old Boston Braves pitching staff of “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”, L.A. fans adopt the slogan “Kershaw and Kemp, plus Larry, Moe, and Shemp”.

San Diego Padres: The Friars increase their community outreach by hosting a marathon. The 26.2 mile course consists of a single lap around the Petco Park outfield.

San Francisco Giants: New outfielder Melky Cabrera is shunned by his teammates after repeatedly calling the Giants' stadium PacBell Park.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vladimir Guerrero, 2011 Topps Update Series #US200

Everyone and his or her cross-eyed grandma is making predictions this week, I figured I’d give in to peer pressure. But let’s be honest: I’m no insider, and I don’t have any uber-advanced data-driven projection systems. Most predictions are guaranteed to be wrong. Knowing, as G.I. Joe once said, is half the battle. So I’m going to be bold and forecast one thing that is definitely NOT going to happen for each Major League Baseball team in 2012. Today, the American League. Tomorrow, the National League. Laugh along!

Baltimore Orioles: In a controversial move, the club celebrates the Autumnal Equinox by burning the Oriole Bird at the stake. It remains to be seen whether the baseball gods will reward this sacrifice with a winning season in 2013.

Boston Red Sox: Fighting again for a wild-card berth on the last day, the Sox name 53-year-old Oil Can Boyd as their starting pitcher for Game 162.

New York Yankees: The team retires Karim Garcia’s uniform number on Old-Timers Day.

Tampa Bay Rays: Joe Maddon protests a blown call by hurling a bottle of fine wine onto the field.

Toronto Blue Jays: Embarrassed by the good fortune of Jose Bautista’s sudden leap forward into stardom, the club trades him back to the Pirates for future considerations.

Chicago White Sox: Robin Ventura is named Manager of the Year after sparking the team’s successful playoff push by moving designated hitter Adam Dunn to shortstop.

Cleveland Indians: A new round of performance-enhancing hysteria is touched off by the debut of the Tribe’s new center fielder, Cybernetic Grady Sizemore.

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander shocks the baseball world by striking out 636 batters, shattering Nolan Ryan’s post-1901 record. He is quoted as saying, “I had no choice. Did you see the defense they put behind me?”.

Kansas City Royals: Growing impatient with the progress of their rebuilding efforts, K.C. brass tips the competitive balance in their favor at the All-Star Game by locking all of the American and National League stars in the clubhouses at Kauffman Stadium.

Minnesota Twins: Looking to protect their considerable investment in the fragile Joe Mauer, the Twins take the unusual step of benching him for the whole season. “Better safe than sorry,” says manager Ron Gardenhire.

“Los Angeles” Angels: Free-agent bust Albert Pujols is benched in early June after batting just .157 with a pair of home runs in his first two months in the American League. His replacement at first base is Vladimir Guerrero, who returned to the team as a pinch hitter in mid-May and hit home runs in each of his first eight at-bats off of the bench. Before Vlad can make his first start at his new position, he is attacked in the locker room by a furious Pujols. The Halos suspend Albert indefinitely.

Oakland Athletics: A’s ownership finally gives up their star-crossed efforts to move to San Jose, opting instead to relocate to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean. Attendance increases by 50%.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners’ offensive struggles become so severe that the team petitions Commissioner Bud Selig to outlaw overhand pitches. He announces the formation of a blue-ribbon committee to explore the possibilities.

Texas Rangers: Local TV ratings for game broadcasts plummet when the introduction of the Nolan Ryan Cam proves to be a flop. It turns out that no one wants to stare at the team president’s leathery mug for three hours at a time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jason Johnson, 2004 Topps Heritage #105

We're less than 72 hours away from Opening Day. The Orioles' 25-man roster is almost completely set, but there are still surprises to be found in Sarasota.

Remember Jason Johnson? Tall guy (6'6" to be exact), righty, spent the better part of five years in the O's starting rotation? He showed up in camp today after former teammate Brady Anderson got him a tryout. Johnson hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2008. He got knocked around in a nine-game stint in the Yankee farm system in 2009, had shoulder surgery a year later, and was pummeled in eight starts for the independent Camden Riversharks in 2011. But he says he's fully healed, topping out at 92 miles per hour (a couple of mph below his original peak velocity), and looking for work again at age 38. He's already thrown for the Giants, but they couldn't find an opening for him. It remains to be seen if the Birds will welcome him back and send him through the minor league gauntlet; according to Roch Kubatko, he reached 90 mph in his tryout, which is a touch lower than he can supposedly throw.

Stranger things have happened, I guess.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chris Hoiles, 1991 Fleer Ultra #17

As if I needed another reason to like Chris Hoiles, I found out from his Twitter feed (@c23hoiles) that he was also watching Wrestlemania on pay-per-view last night. In case you were wondering, he was suitably impressed by the Hell in a Cell bout between the Undertaker and Triple H. I would have to agree that it was very entertaining, and that's coming from someone who generally dislikes Triple H.

Oh, and there's some slightly more universally accessible news about Chris Hoiles today. The Orioles announced that he will be receiving the ceremonial first pitch before Friday's Opening Day game. That pitch will be thrown by Rick Sutcliffe, the other half of the Birds' battery in the first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It should be a fine way to kick off the 20th-anniversary season of the finest ballpark in the major leagues.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Aubrey Huff, 2009 Topps 206 #263

This is a hit-and-run post today, since I have to get on the road to Southern Maryland to watch Wrestlemania XXVIII (28 for those of you with a roman numeral phobia) with my friends Donnie and Boothe. This year's keystone event for WWE is being broadcast from Sun Life Stadium (a.k.a. Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark Stadium) in Miami. In that spirit, here's a card featuring University of Miami alumnus Aubrey Huff.