Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Aubrey Huff, 2008 Bowman Chrome #126

Here's a tip of the cap to the Tampa Bay Rays, our fellow brothers in Aubrey Huff, who will square off with the Texas Rangers tonight in the first of two sudden-death playoff games in the American League. The Rays and Rangers finished the regular season tied for the second and final wild-card slot in the junior circuit, with each club posting a 91-71 record. It'll be 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price taking the mound for the Rays, to be opposed by Texas' relatively untested 22-year-old lefty Martin Perez. Coincidentally, I just had dinner with my wife and her oldest sister, who is visiting from the Tampa area on business. Throughout the season, we traded a bit of good-natured trash talk about the Orioles and Rays, though she will still never be able to convince me that she actually enjoys watching games in that dingy Costco with Astroturf that passes for a ballpark in St. Petersburg. May the best team win tonight!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chris Davis, 2013 Topps Allen and Ginter #288

It's time to put a bow on the 2013 regular season. Congratulations to the Orioles, who weathered a September swoon to finished tied for third in the American League East with an 85-77 record. For the first time since 1996 and 1997, the O's posted consecutive winning years. They set a major league record for the fewest total errors, with 54. They were also MLB's runaway home run leader with 212, thanks in large part to a record-setting effort by 2013's Most Valuable Oriole, first baseman Chris Davis.

"Crush" hit a Baltimore-record 53 home runs and added 42 doubles and a league-leading 138 RBI. His 96 total extra-base hits were also a Birds' team record and were sufficient to lead the majors. The only other players to ever tally at least 50 homers and 40 doubles in a single season are a pair of guys with their own Charm City ties: Babe Ruth and Albert Belle.

I would like to personally thank Chris Davis for bringing a little bit of excitement to each and every one of his 673 plate appearances this season. You can't put a price tag on the feeling of anticipation that comes from knowing that a player could create instant offense with every powerful swing of the bat. It'll be a tough act to follow in 2014, but I look forward to watching Chris try.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jim Johnson, 2013 Panini Prizm #77

Tonight I said my personal goodbye to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and I was able to leave smiling, thanks to a 6-5 comeback win that featured Brian Roberts' eighth home run in his 76th game, each of those his highest totals since 2009. Steve Pearce had a pair of doubles and three RBI, including the go-ahead hit in the bottom of the eighth. Young Kevin Gausman earned his third career win with some crucial outs in relief, and Jim Johnson earned his 49th save of the 2013 season by freezing Johnny Gomes with a 3-2 pitch to strand Quintin Berry on second base. The O's clinched their second straight season series win over Boston, the first time they've done the trick back-to-back since 1991-1992. Thanks for everything, guys. I'll see you in April.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Lee May, 1977 Topps #3

As I mentioned earlier this week, my 330-some 1977 Topps cards are now living in their very own binder, which means that I can officially get down to the Serious Business of completing the set. Now that it's all laid out pretty-like in nine-pocket pages, I see that this card is the first from the set that I happen to have. The fact that these two bad mamma-jammas were on the top of their games as leading run-producers tells you all you need to know about why this set is worth collecting. In the United States' Bicentennial year, George Foster led the major leagues with 121 RBI, a nice enough number but not quite up to Chris Davis' current league-leading total of 138. Lee May topped the American League with only 109 ribbies, a number that Adam Jones will reach if he can drive in a single run tomorrow. The 2013 O's top run producers have also outhomered 1976's chief RBI men; Davis hit his league-best number 53 tonight, and Jones got his 33rd for a personal best. May had 25 longballs, tied for fourth and trailing Graig Nettles' A.L.-high 32. Foster, a year before he would crank out 52 home runs, was fourth in the N.L. with 29 (Mike Schmidt led all of baseball with 38). The Orioles may not have made the playoffs this year, but at least they put up some gaudy numbers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jonathan Schoop, 2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP25

Last night's game was full of unexpected treats. The Orioles' makeshift lineup mashed four homers (including a pair from third baseman Ryan Flaherty) and scored nine runs total, the first time the team has tallied more than five runs since putting up seven in back-to-back games on the first and second of September. Bud Norris was shaky at the start, but was bailed out by his offense and the second-tier bullpen combo of T. J. McFarland (the winner), Josh Stinson, Troy Patton, and Jason Hammel (the closer). But it was also a night of firsts for infield prospect Jonathan Schoop. The native of Curacao made his big league debut, starting at second base and batting eighth in front of Flaherty. He had his first hit and run scored in the third inning, singling off of Esmil Rogers and coming home on Flaherty's first dinger. Schoop followed with his first career home run and RBI in the bottom of the sixth, giving the O's a 7-4 lead with a leadoff shot against Kyle Drabek. In his fourth and final plate appearance, the rookie drew his first walk against Jays reliever Ricky Romero. Flaherty again drove him in with a two-run home run, closing out the scoring. Young Jonathan grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fourth frame, but nobody's perfect.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nate McLouth, 2013 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL14

I'm back at last. No, I didn't stretch my honeymoon out for another three days; on the contrary, reality set in as soon as Janet and I arrived home in the rain this past Saturday evening. This week has been full of thank-you notes and laundry and organizing and getting rid of old things to make room for the new. Also, the thoroughly depressing endgame to the 2013 Orioles' season has not created great incentive for me to return to blogging. But sooner or later I have to get back on the horse, and it won't get easier if I stay away for much longer. Some random thoughts:

-Throughout our week in the Endless Mountains, Janet suggested that I should get myself some "honeymoon cards". Naturally, it didn't take much prodding. I couldn't find a hobby shop way up north in Pennsylvania, and I'm kind of worn out on my non-Topps compromises at retail stores. (One man can only buy so many Panini packs and repack boxes.) So I held off until we got home and I had some idea of how much money my bride would be spending on "honeymoon yarn" (she's an avid knitter, you see). Then I knew what kind of budget I should make for myself. In the midst of a busy Sunday spent trying to replace our old refrigerator (back to reality!), we took a mental health break and went wandering in Toys 'R' Us. I didn't blow my whole honeymoon card budget, but I did get a few discounted rack packs of 2007 Fleer Ultra and a spiffy new binder for use in conjunction with one of my wedding gifts. That right, I included Ultra-Pro binder sheets on our Amazon gift registry, and my wise friend John actually bought them for me. I've already put binder and sheets to use, as they now house a half-completed 1977 Topps set. Now I've got set binders assembled for most of the 1970s sets: 1972 and 1974-1978. It looks like 1973 will be next...

-I'm disappointed that the O's lost yet another close game on my wedding day, but there was still plenty of home team spirit to go around. Friends and family regularly stopped by our sweetheart table during dinner to deliver score updates, so I knew all about Manny Machado's 50th double and 14th home run. Similarly, my sister and I shared a moment of celebration at the rehearsal dinner on Friday night upon learning that Chris Davis had reached the 50-homer milestone. Our color theme was apple red and burnt orange, so the latter showed up in accents like cloth napkins, decorative signage, and the flowers. I'll share photos as soon as I have some. Janet and I were stumped about which song the wedding party should have for introductions, but inspiration struck at the last moment. Our bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ultimately the new Mrs. B. and myself were all introduced to the strains of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie", which you might also know as one of Nate McLouth's preferred at-bat walkup songs. Finally, our farm wedding locale gave me the ideal excuse to make a request to the DJ: John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", a seventh-inning stretch standard in Baltimore since the early days of Orioles Magic. By a stroke of good timing, the song was played deep enough into the reception that both Janet and yours truly were free of all other obligations and were able to burn up the dance floor in the refurbished barn. Meanwhile most of our guests were happy to watch from the sidelines and clap along to the beat. It was the single most enjoyable and enduring moment of the reception from my point of view.

-Last night kicked off the final homestand of the 2013 season for the Birds and their fans. There will be no postseason this year. It's a shame that things are ending this way (ongoing six-game losing streak, Manny Machado knee injury, etc.), because I truly believe that this year's team is fundamentally better than the "Buckle Up" club that surprised us all with 93 wins and a Division Series berth in 2012. They've got better defense, better starting pitching on the whole, and career-best offensive production from Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Machado. But they haven't had any of the lucky breaks that just seemed to snowball in the most wonderful way one year ago. Keeping in mind that I have barely seen any of the baseball the Orioles have played in the last two weeks, the ebb and flow of these games and the storylines that are trickling out of them can be simplified as such: these guys are dog-tired. They've been in the daily grind for seven months, fighting in a tightly-contested division and even more tightly-contested wild card scenario, they've all got their own cumulative aches and pains that we'll never even hear about, many of them have dealt with travel snares and family issues and media and fan pressure and God knows what else. Hell, they've had ONE day off in the past four weeks. Maybe the successes of 2012, the relative disappointments of 2013, and the often razor-thin margins between the two, have given me a new perspective on the fan experience. These Orioles are not losers, or failures, or jokes. They're a bunch of guys who have had a rough couple of weeks on the job in difficult circumstances. This has also been my first year as a partial season-ticket holder. I've been to two dozen or more games, many of them exciting and joyous, others dull and frustrating. I've found a comfortable rhythm to the Camden Yards experience: when to arrive, what to eat, what to drink, where to sit, who I'll see sitting in the stands around me from game to game. I feel at home in Oriole Park in a way that I never did before. So as I came down from the stress of wedding planning, the elation of the big event, and the peace and simplicity of the honeymoon, the rapidly-approaching conclusion of the baseball season caught me off guard. There will be no postseason in Charm City. The tickets I hold for tonight's game, tomorrow's game, and Saturday's penultimate game are all that stand between me and the long, quiet uncertainty of the offseason. I feel a more profound sense of loss this September than I can ever remember feeling before. I will spend these three games saying my goodbyes to the sights and sounds and tastes of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But I will see you again next year, my old friend. Early and often.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Sammy Stewart, 1980 Topps #119

This will probably be my last blog entry for a week or more. Tomorrow at 3:00 PM, I will be pledging my love to Janet in front of 100 of our closest friends and family. Then we'll be having one hell of a party: drinks, dinner, and dancing on the farm. We'll probably collapse into our hotel bed by 11, then jump in the car Sunday morning to drive the three hours up to my family's lakeside cottage in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It'll be a week of decompressing, far away from everybody, and enjoying one another's exclusive company as we get a head start on spending the rest of our lives together. It's hard to believe that this moment has nearly come, even though we've been counting down since there were 90-some days left til the wedding. But I can safely say that I have no doubt that Janet is the ideal partner in crime for me. See you all soon. Be good to one another.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Frank Robinson, 2010 Topps 206 #159

While the Orioles continue muddling through a convoluted and anguishing playoff chase, Chris Davis continues his assault on the team's record books. Tuesday night, he hit his 49th home run to tie Frank Robinson for the second-most homers by an Oriole in a single season. His next round-tripper will tie Brady Anderson atop the heap. Last night, Davis drove in two runs with his 40th double of the year. He is now the only Baltimore hitter to go 40-40 (homers and doubles) in the same season. Add the two together and you get 89 extra-base hits, just three short of Brady's team record of 92 set in 1996. Just when you think you've run out of ways to quantify Crush's breakout season, you find a few more.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chris Ray, 2010 Upper Deck #86

Just a hunch, guys and girls, but I think Chris Ray is tipping his pitches.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Radhames Liz, 2008 Topps Moments and Milestones #160

Did you know that Radhames Liz is pitching in South Korea? And that he recently beaned an opposing batter (accidentally, one assumes), and that the unlucky victim was taken away in an ambulance? How about this: Liz rebounded to strike out the side that inning, and drew the ire of his opponents by demonstrably celebrating his success. But wait, there's more: a Korean cartoonist published a very ill-advised comic strip about the incident the following day, before seeing the strip pulled from the web and issuing an apology. You can see the original strip and shake your head in disbelief by clicking here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Koji Uehara, 2011 Topps Attax #135

You probably think Koji Uehara is a pretty good reliever, right? Guess again, because he's even better than that. It's a sad fact for Orioles fans that the Red Sox have an inside track on the American League East division title, since they're 7.5 games up on the Rays and 9.5 ahead of the Orioles with three weeks left in the regular season. But Boston could have actually widened that gap if they had tabbed Uehara as their closer sooner. The Sox went through a handful of other options before injuries caused them to begrudingly turn to the guy with the astronomical strikeout-to-walk ratio and the career relief ERA of 1.98. For the season, Koji is 3-0 with 18 saves in 21 tries. His earned run average is a paltry 1.12, his WHIP is 0.59, and his aforementioned K/BB is 9.89. He's struck out 89 batters in 64.1 innings while walking nine (two of those walks were intentional). Now the Japanese righty is making headlines for his "hidden perfect game". On August 17, Uehara gave up a two-out double to Lyle Overbay, but finished out a 6-1 Boston win over the Yankees by inducing a pop-up from Chris Stewart.

That was the last time anyone reached base against Koji.

Since August 17, the Red Sox' closer is six-for-six in save situations and, with a flawless inning of work in Friday's 12-8 win over New York, he has now retired the last 27 batters he's faced, striking out a dozen. It would take him several more games to topple Mark Buehrle's record of 45 consecutive batters put out, but the guy is just rolling.

Koji Uehara is still one of my favorite players in baseball, but I'd rather see him pitch for almost anyone else.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ben McDonald, 1991 SCD Baseball Card Price Guide Monthly #11

There's something about a poorly-staged portrait in the glare of the sunlight with Comiskey Park's big blue ostentatious scoreboard in the background that runs counter to my image of the reserved, washed-out nature of the 1957 Topps set. This card is modeled after those Golden-Age baseball cards, but the text on the back is much more cynical than the typical copy on its predecessor. To wit:

"The days of buying rookie cards for pennies are over. That's what makes investing in Ben McDonald cards such a gamble. Although he was a two-time All-American at LSU and the '89 College Player of the Year, McDonald is still an unproven talent in the big leagues. Based on his future potential, McDonald's 1990 rookie cards are already high-priced. Until he has established himself, our advice is to proceed with caution."

That's just gross. "Investing in" McDonald cards? It's a wonder that baseball cards survived the 1990's at all.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alvie Shepherd, 1996 Topps #234

Sadly, Alvie Shepherd was unable to become the first "Alvie" to reach the major leagues. The righty from the University of Nebraska was born Alvie Conrad Shepherd; according to Baseball Reference, the only other Alvie in pro ball history was Alvie Mickelson, who played 11 games in the Class C Lone Star League in 1948. As for Shepherd, he was done with baseball at age 25, having topped out at AA in four minor league seasons. He called it quits with a career record of 17-16 and a 5.57 ERA. So if you want your future child to make a unique mark in MLB, you could name him Alvie...or not.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Boog Powell, 1966 Topps #167

Last night, Adam Jones collected his 30th home run and 100th RBI in the 2013 season. Since Chris Davis is already sitting at 48 home runs and 123 RBI, the Orioles have at least two 100-RBI guys on the same team for the tenth time in team history. The first such occasion was the first O's World Championship team in 1966. That club actually had a trio of hitters reach the century mark, with Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson (122 RBI), future league MVP Boog Powell (109), and 1964 MVP Brooks Robinson (100) all doing the honors.

Speaking of Davis, I had the occasion to witness "Crush" 's 48th home run live and in the flesh tonight. It was part of a three-homer effort by the Baltimore offense, as Danny Valencia and Matt Wieters also went deep to support a great pitching performance by Scott Feldman. The righthander held the White Sox to five hits to notch his first career complete-game shutout, and the first one-man whitewash by an Oriole pitcher since Jason Hammel blanked the Braves last June. I believe it's the first time I've ever seen a complete-game shutout by an Oriole in person; it really was a special night.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1996 Fleer Ultra Diamond Producers #9

If you remembered that today was the 18th anniversary of Cal Ripken, Jr.'s 2,130th consecutive game, give yourself a pat on the back. If you remembered any of the non-Cal details of that game, take an Iron-Man-esque victory lap. I'll refresh your memory below, but you can cheat by checking the box score and play-by-play.

It was a Tuesday night, the middle game of a three-game set against the Angels. After dropping the Labor Day matinee to Jim Abbott by a 5-3 margin, the O's came out swinging against California's lefty starter Brian Anderson in the second inning. Chris Hoiles led off by clearing the left field fence on a 2-2 pitch for his 18th home run of the season. Harold Baines jumped on the next offering but flew out harmlessly to right fielder Tim Salmon. Then things got really wild. Jeff Manto, Mark Smith, and Brady Anderson, the 8-9-1 hitters in the Birds' batting order, each belted the second pitch of their respective at-bats for solo home runs: back-to-back-to-back. Just like that, Scott Erickson had been given a 4-0 lead. He wouldn't need that much insurance, as he tossed a three-hit and nine-strikeout shutout, but I'm sure it was appreciated.

The power display - and the drama - was not through just yet, either. Brady added his second solo homer in the fourth inning off of Halos reliever Mike Harkey, and Baltimore followed that round-tripper with four straight singles to build a 7-0 cushion. Finally, Cal got in on the act leading off the home half of the sixth inning, wrapping up the scoring with a screaming liner over the left field wall against Mark Holzemer. It was 8-0 as the crowd roared in approval and wonder.

18 years. It hardly seems possible.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gregg Olson, 1992 Triple Play #13

The sands of the 2013 baseball season are slipping quickly through the hourglass. School is back in session, it's still dark outside when I get up for work, and pumpkin-flavored everything is back on sale. Oh, and here comes the National Football League to horn in on the action.

Last night, I drafted my fantasy football team in my uncle's ten-team league. I'm not sure how he talked me into it, since fantasy football is an excruciating, frustrating exercise in my experience. I've done no prep, as evidenced by how many running backs and receivers were completely new to my wondering eyes as I scanned the draft board. But maybe I'll catch lightning in a bottle like I did a few years back and laugh all the way to the bank. More likely, I'll have three key players out with injuries by week six and I'll be scanning the waiver wire for platoon running backs with an upside of eight points. At the very least, I had a little chuckle when it was time to select a tight end and the best one available was Greg Olsen of the Panthers. Come on down, Greg...when Cam Newton inexplicably stops targeting you this year, I'll console myself by cracking jokes about your mean curveball.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jonathan Schoop, 2011 Bowman Platinum Prospects Green Refractor #BPP63

Though the Orioles are spending this month focused on the present (that is, catching the Rays and/or Athletics or Rangers while keeping the Indians, Yankees, and Royals at bay), they will also be giving fans a glimpse of the future. With the major league roster limit bumped up from 25 to 40, the O's have recalled infielder Jonathan Schoop (once again, that's pronounced 'scope') from AAA Norfolk. The Curacao-born Schoop was limited to 70 games this year with the Tides due to a lower back injury. His batting line was .256/.301/.396 with nine home runs and 34 RBI, which isn't eye-popping by any stretch of the imagination. But it's worth mentioning that he was a 21-year-old getting his first crack at AAA in a home park that favors pitchers. Is there a chance that Jonathan could be in the mix to be Baltimore's starting second baseman in 2014? It's too soon to say, but in the meantime he might as well get a taste of pennant-race baseball.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jim Dwyer, 1988 Topps #521

Janet and I spent most of the weekend running errands, so when we passed the card aisle in Target yesterday she insisted that I pick up some cards. (As if there were any doubt that she's a keeper...) I couldn't resist the allure of the 250-card mystery repack cube. I don't seem to have gotten any new Orioles cards, but I did get three copies of this classic junk wax Jim Dwyer number. It's got everything you could want in a card: a 37-year-old Pig Pen avoiding eye contact with the camera and sporting the worst, scraggliest mustache this side of Jake Arrieta. He looks as unhappy as someone can look in the shadow of a Florida palm tree. Anyway, I'll add him to the ever-multiplying 1988 Topps pile.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Adam Jones, 2013 Topps Allen and Ginter #157

Keeping with yesterday's theme, here's a look at the base card design for this year's Allen and Ginter set. I've never been crazy about horizontal action photos in a brand that lends itself so well to vertical portraits, but fortunately it still seems like the bulk of the cards are indeed portrait-style. Anyhow, Adam Jones is a natural choice for today, since his three-run homer off of Joba Chamberlain was the capper on a seven-run seventh inning rally that allowed the O's to slip out of New York with a 7-3 win and kept their postseason hopes flickering for another day. With 27 games yet to play in 2013, Adam has already reached a career high with 98 RBI, and his 28 home runs are four shy of his personal-best total of 32 from last year. If he can have a good September, the Birds could still make up the three games they need to catch Tampa Bay in the wild card race. Stranger things have happened.