Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

J. J. Hardy, 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen #124

The Orioles went nearly a full decade (2000-2008) without winning a single Gold Glove Award at any defensive position. Now they've picked up a half-dozen in the past four seasons combined.

Yesterday, the O's took home three Gold Gloves, the most of any team in baseball. For the first time, J. J. Hardy's defensive excellence was recognized by his peers in the dugout. Hardy's a worthy winner; every time I see him backhand a tough hop or spear a line drive, I'm grateful that he's playing in the middle of the field for my team. He is the first Baltimore shortstop to receive this honor since Cal Ripken, Jr. nabbed his second (and final) Gold Glove in 1992. Speaking of two-time winners, the other two Birds' honorees each have received a gaudy Rawlings trophy before: center fielder Adam Jones (who first won in 2009) and catcher/bane of baserunners/pitcher whisperer Matt Wieters (who took home the prize in 2011). I'm a bit surprised that Jones won again this year, as Angels wunderkind Mike Trout earned plenty of attention for his outfield exploits, but I'll never complain about the Orioles getting a little extra recognition.

The recent Oriole drought in Gold Gloves allowed the Yankees to pass them for the most all-time in the American League. However, last night's triple play brings the team's historical total to 64, just one less than New York's 65. Hear those footsteps, Yankees?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Aubrey Huff, 2009 Topps Black #45

Congratulations to Aubrey Huff and the rest of the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants, who swept the Detroit Tigers in four games. Huff didn't make a strong contribution to this year's Giants club, batting .192 in 52 regular season games with a home run and 7 RBI. He missed time with injuries, and was supplanted at first base by prospect Brandon Belt. However, San Francisco kept the 35-year-old on their 25-man roster throughout the postseason and he appeared in 10 of their 16 games as a pinch hitter. Unfortunately, Aubrey went 1-for-9 with a walk. That might be a wrap for the Huffster's Giants career, but he got two rings out of the deal.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Adam Jones, 2012 Panini Triple Play #237

Okay, I majorly approve of these cards. A buck a pack? Unlicensed by Major League Baseball? Stickers and temporary tattoos? Pop art caricatures of prominent big league players? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. (PS: Please note the black feather in the background of Adam Jones' picture here. Nicely done.) I picked up a few packs of Triple Play in Target this afternoon whilst doing some last-minute hurricane preparedness shopping. It felt good to walk right on by the racks and stacks of Topps product so that I could buy something fun and cheap with no phony-baloney promises of autographs or scraps of wood or clothing or short prints. Now I'll sit here, hunkered down safely inside, and wait out this storm. If you're in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast as I am, please be smart and secure.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1993 Hostess Baseballs #26

You know, I've never had a Hostess Baseball. I suppose that's one of my greatest failings as a person.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2001 Upper Deck Vintage Matinee Idols #M10

There are lots of phrases that come to mind when I think of Cal Ripken, Jr., but "Matinee Idol" is not at the top of my list. Way to think outside the box there, Upper Deck.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Gordon Jones, 1960 Topps #98

Topps scrambled to categorize righty Gordon Jones as an Oriole in its 1960 base set. On November 30, 1959, the Giants had dealt him to Baltimore along with outfielder Jackie Brandt and catcher Roger McCardell. In return, San Francisco received a pair of Billys, pitchers Loes and O'Dell. Though Gordon's posed "action" photo in the left margin featured a blacked-out cap logo, they decided not to ugly up his close-up portrait in the center of the card. So Gordon keeps his Giants cap in one picture, anyhow.

I'm not necessarily rooting for Jones' Giants in this year's World Series, but I'm not rooting against them either. I'd just like to see the Tigers get a chance to celebrate for the first time since Sparky Anderson's 1984 powerhouse. Most importantly, I hope it's a long and competitive Fall Classic. How about you?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sammy Stewart, 1981 Topps #262

Alright folks, I'm on the road again - well, nearly. Dark and early tomorrow morning, I'll be accompanying my girlfriend home to Charlotte, NC to meet her family. Eight hours in the car each way seems almost as daunting as being put under the microscope by the girl's loved ones, but at least she's the one driving. Despite having lived in the Mid-Atlantic for all of my 30 years, I have never once visited North Carolina. I'm excited to absorb some of the local color, although my significant other says she prefers the mountains of Asheville in Western Carolina, where she attended college as an undergrad. Asheville is also the birthplace of Sammy Stewart, the former O's relief ace who is currently incarcerated in his hometown but hopes to be released from prison next January after serving a six-year sentence for a number of drug offenses. It's been about a year since Sammy reached out to the Baltimore Sun, so hopefully he's still on the right path.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Davey Johnson, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #225

The voting results for the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Manager of the Year Awards (whew, what a mouthful!) will not be announced until mid-November. To tide us over until then, today The Sporting News revealed that O's manager Buck Showalter was their choice as the American League's top skipper. It's the seventh time an Oriole manager has taken home the award: Hank Bauer (1966) and Earl Weaver (1977 and 1979) won it back when TSN gave out one award for the entire major leagues, and Frank Robinson (1989), Johnny Oates (1993), and Davey Johnson (1997) all received recognition as the A.L.'s best manager after the award was split in two. Coincidentally, Johnson was the publication's choice for the top National League skipper in this just-concluded season. He was at the helm for the Nationals' 18-game improvement, which boosted the club to baseball's best regular-season record with 98 wins and 64 losses. Washington went on to lose to the Cardinals in the NLDS, dropping Game 5 in heartbreaking fashion after sprinting out to a 6-0 lead.

If the Nats' leap forward under Davey Johnson was impressive, the Birds' single-season turnaround with Buck at the helm was otherworldly. The 14 straight years of losing is a theme that's been hammered home endlessly, but just taking it down to a smaller scale we find a 2011 O's team that finished dead last in the A.L. East at 69-93. In 2012, Showalter's charges flipped that record, tacking on an extra 24 wins and jousting with the Yankees and Rays for the division crown until the very end of the season. They scraped into the playoffs as the second wild card, beat a favored Rangers team on the road, and took the Yankees to the absolute brink before being shut down by CC Sabathia in a 3-1 final in Game Five of the ALDS. But more impressive than what the Orioles did is how they did it: Buck and GM Dan Duquette played roster roulette all season long, threatening a decades-old team record by utilizing 52 players on the big league squad. As you may have surmised, they dealt with injuries and other hardships throughout the 162-game slate, playing for big chunks of time without key players such as Mark Reynolds, Brian Roberts, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, Jim Thome, and Jason Hammel. Looking at the rotation, only rookie Wei-Yin Chen started more than 20 games. But the O's played their best ball in close and late situations, obliterating the major league record with a 29-9 record in one-run games and going 16-2 in extra innings (with each of the last 16 extra-innings contests resulting in a win). They won at home (47-34), they won on the road (46-35), and they even won the majority of their intra-division games (43-29 vs. their East rivals). The young and pitching-rich Nationals were expected to make noise, but the Cinderella Orioles truly came out of nowhere. No one may ever be able to quantify Buck Showalter's contributions to that success, but he certainly seems like a deserving choice for Manager of the Year. Congrats, Buck.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1995 Fleer Ultra #3

It's a little-known fact that in the mid-1990s, Jeffrey Hammonds was the Orioles' grand champion in invisible pig carrying for three years straight.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sidney Ponson, 2004 Upper Deck Power Up #40

So what's the most terrifying thing about this card? Is it the giant bulbous head that Upper Deck pasted onto Sidney Ponson's body? Or is it the visual reminder that the Orioles once had the sense and good fortune to trade the immature Aruban righty away, only to immediately reacquire him at a significantly higher salary mere months later? For my two cents, it's option B. The O's weren't a bad team for 14 years by accident.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Brian Roberts, 2008 Topps Chrome #89

If I ever collect an Orioles team set from any year of Topps Chrome, it will be entirely accidental.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jerry Hairston, Jr., 2002 Upper Deck Victory #112

Hey, what's up, Jerry Hairston? Oh, nothing. Just hanging out. How's by you?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Dave Leonhard, 1970 Topps #674

I'm tapping into my weekend warrior vein for the next couple of weeks, so you'll probably see a few more posts of the quick'n dirty variety throughout October. If you try to keep tabs on as many blogs as I do, this news might even come as a relief. Anyhow, I'm spending this Saturday and Sunday in Williamsburg, VA with my girlfriend and a few friends, checking out the Halloween-themed attractions at Busch Gardens. Along that line of thinking, I give you a complete 19-man roster of Orioles born in Virginia. Their seasons spent with the Birds are noted in parentheses after each player name. See you next week!

There were a handful of backup-type catchers from Virginia who wore the orange and black. Onetime Pirate All-Star and Richmond native Hank Foiles (1961) batted .274 and slugged .468 in 43 games in his lone season with the O's. Larry Haney was born in Charlottesville, and spent the first three of his dozen big-league seasons backing up Andy Etchebarren in Baltimore. Then there's Norfolk's Jim Hutto (1975) and Clarksville's Willie Royster (1981), who combined to bat 0-for-9 in their very brief tenures with the Birds. I'll also lump utility player and Fairfax kid Tommy Shields (1992) into this paragraph, since his Oriole career consisted of a pair of pinch running appearances. Just call him Sam Horn's Legs.

The outfielders on our Virginia O's team are more recognizable. Joe Durham (1954, 1957) hailed from Newport News and was the first black Orioles player. Al Bumbry (1972-1984)  is the star of the team, as the Fredericksburg-born center fielder can boast of a Rookie of the Year Award, an All-Star appearance, and a World Series ring. Larry Sheets (1984-1989) came from Staunton, and hit 84 of his 94 career home runs in Charm City. He retired as the seventh-most prolific slugger from Virginia, but has been bumped to 14th by the likes of the Upton brothers, Todd Hundley, David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, and...Brandon Inge? (Willie Horton's 325 still put him in the lead, with Wright a distant #2 at 204 and counting.) If you remember Jon Knott (2007), the Manassas native and former Padres farmhand who hit 166 minor league home runs but clubbed his only major league roundtripper in a 7-game cameo in Birdland, I feel your pain.

This leaves us with 10 pitchers from the Old Dominion state, though you peg them as your pitching staff at your own risk. First out of the bullpen is Danville's Bob Mabe (1960), who coughed up six runs in two-thirds of an inning. On the plus side, only two were earned. Though Dave Leonhard (1967-1972) was originally from Arlington, he graduated from Johns Hopkins before posting a 3.15 ERA in 117 games with the O's. Midlothian native Jesse Jefferson (1973-1975) was a fourth-round draft pick of the Birds who pitched for four other teams in his nine-year career. Ken Dixon (1984-1987) was born in Monroe, and went 26-28 during the team's slide into the basement of the American League East. There's a quartet of forgettable relievers: Fort Belvoir's John Wasdin (2001), Richmond submariner Cla Meredith (2009-2010), and Portsmouth's righty Josh Rupe (2011) and lefty Clay Rapada (2011) combo. In the midst of that group was young prospect John Maine (2004-2005), a son of Fredericksburg who was a 15-game winner for the Mets in 2007 before his arm went boom. We close our baseball tour of Virginia with Falls Church southpaw "Bazooka Joe" Saunders, an unassuming veteran who was picked up by his childhood favorite team for the 2012 pennant race and improbably beat the Rangers in the first-ever one-game playoff between Wild Card winners. Will his great October earn him an extended stay in Baltimore? That's a question for another day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eider Torres, 2008 Upper Deck SP Authentic #170

Is this the most unnecessary autograph in my Orioles collection? Let me put it this way: I have one less Eider Torres autograph than he had hits in his career. But it's pretty snazzy looking for 99 cents, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Albert Belle, 2001 Fleer Gametime #54

Seriously, Fleer? You had to stick Albert Belle's ass in my face?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mike Cook, 1994 Topps Gold #791

This is a card that I've yearned for ever since I learned that it existed, and a few weeks ago I finally brought it into the fold. From 1992 through 1994, the first three years that Topps inserted Gold parallels into packs of its flagship product, they replaced the boring ol' checklist base cards with Gold cards featuring seemingly random players who didn't make it into the regular set. In the case of Mike Cook, they really went digging.

Mike Cook was the Angels' first-round pick (19th overall) out of the University of South Carolina in 1985. He made his big league debut the following year, giving up nine runs in as many innings. He bounced between the majors and minors through the rest of the decade, putting up a 5.80 ERA in 37 relief appearances and a couple of starts. One of the few highlights came on April 21, 1987, when he earned his first and only major league win with three innings of scoreless relief against Oakland. He even struck out Mark McGwire in that game. But after splitting the 1989 season between Minnesota and the Twins' AAA Portland team, Cook couldn't crack an MLB roster in 1990...or 1991...or 1992. He signed on with the Orioles for 1993, and did well enough in relief at AAA Rochester: 6-7 with 13 saves and 3.10 ERA in 81.1 innings. The O's gave the 29-year-old a token September promotion, and he tossed three shutout innings in a pair of mop-up appearances. Early on in 1994, the Birds cut him loose and he latched on with the Mets' AAA Norfolk club. He was even better than he'd been the previous season (2.05 ERA, 59 K/57 IP), but didn't get another look in the majors and apparently called it quits.

For three lost innings late in the season for a third-place team, Mike Cook earned his only Topps card. What's more, the photograph depicts his final career appearance: Sunday, October 3, 1993. In the season's final game, he kept the Blue Jays' B-team from scoring in the seventh and eighth innings, closing the book on his own career by retiring rookie Carlos Delgado on a popout to Cal Ripken, Jr. I can't tell you how much this card genuinely delights me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Elrod Hendricks, 2004 Maryland Lottery #30

The O's just-concluded 2012 campaign, and the resultant response by the fans of Baltimore, makes me think of the strong ties that men like Elrod Hendricks had to this city and its people. I'm still somewhat astounded by the realization that I attended 18 Orioles games this past season. I'm reasonably certain that I've never visited Camden Yards more than a half-dozen times in a year before. But it makes sense: I live closer to the stadium than I ever have before, I've been blessed with a bit more discretionary income, my parents gifted me with a Legends series six-pack of tickets, and of course the O's held up their own end of the bargain by making things fun and exciting again (and eventually coming to their senses and offering bigger discounts to more effectively fill the park on weekdays in September!). I got more than my money's worth for the 22% of the club's 83 regular season and postseason home schedule that I witnessed in person. The Birds went 48-35 at Oriole Park, a .578 winning percentage. But through uncommon good luck, they went 14-4 in the games I attended for a .778 winning percentage! You could root through the past six months of archives to figure out which games I saw, but there's no need for that. Out of the kindness of my heart, I cobbled together a fancy-schmancy results table on Baseball Reference. Observe!
11Friday, Apr 6boxscoreBALMINW421-01TiedArrietaPavanoJohnson2:38D46,773
2121Saturday, Apr 28boxscoreBALOAKW10113-81TiedChenRoss2:53N26,926
3333Friday, May 11boxscoreBALTBRW4321-121up 1.0O'DayPeraltaJohnson2:37N26,669
4747Saturday, May 26boxscoreBALKCRL3429-181up 1.0HollandStropBroxton3:14D26,714
6161Tuesday, Jun 12boxscoreBALPITW8635-2621.0ChenLincolnJohnson3:22N15,618
7070Friday, Jun 22boxscoreBALWSNW2140-3021.5HammelZimmermannJohnson2:20N45,891
7777Saturday, Jun 30boxscoreBALCLEL51142-3525.0TomlinEveland3:16D35,335
8787Saturday, Jul 14boxscoreBALDETW861346-4128.0GreggBenoit4:43D43,215
100100Friday, Jul 27boxscoreBALOAKL91452-4828.5BlevinsJohnson4:00N29,278
113113Friday, Aug 10boxscoreBALKCRW7161-5225.5GonzalezHochevar2:31N17,277
114114Saturday, Aug 11boxscoreBALKCRL3761-5336.5MendozaTillman2:59N40,456
125125Friday, Aug 24boxscoreBALTORW6468-5735.0BrittonVillanuevaJohnson2:52N25,754
128128Tuesday, Aug 28boxscoreBALCHWW6071-5723.5TillmanSale2:30N12,841
137137Thursday, Sep 6boxscoreBALNYYW10677-601TiedO'DayRobertson3:09N46,298
141141Tuesday, Sep 11boxscoreBALTBRW9279-621TiedJohnsonMoore3:03N23,828
156156Wednesday, Sep 26boxscoreBALTORW12289-6721.5GonzalezVillanueva2:47N26,513
158158Saturday, Sep 29boxscoreBALBOSW4391-671TiedHunterDoubrontJohnson2:37N46,311
ALDS Game 2Monday, Oct 8boxscoreBALNYYN
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2012.

And because I'm a bit wonky about this particular phenomenon, I've run some other numbers:

Wins: Chen 3, O'Day 2, Gonzalez 2, Arrieta 1, Hammel 1, Gregg 1, Britton 1, Tillman 1, S. Johnson 1, Hunter 1.
Saves: J. Johnson 7.
HR: C. Davis 13, Jones 5, Reynolds 5, Machado 5, Hardy 4, Markakis 2, Andino 2, N. Johnson 1, Teagarden 1, Quintanilla 1, Ford 1, Wieters 1, McLouth 1, Thome 1. (43 total)

Call me crazy, but I don't expect another 93-win (96 including the playoffs) season in 2013. But I had such a blast in Oriole Park this year that I plan on keeping up my frequent visits next year. Also, some day I might have to name my first-born after Chris Davis. He's no man; he's a remorseless home run machine.