Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Steve Barber, 1964 Topps #450

A lot can happen in ten years. In 1954, the Orioles were the new kids in the American League, but they were also bottom-feeders. For the most part, they were just the also-ran St. Louis Browns in a new city with new uniforms. By 1964, Paul Richards had built the foundation of a team that would become the class of the league for the next two decades. There was a pitching staff full of strong young arms: Steve Barber, Milt Pappas, Dave McNally, Wally Bunker. Brooks Robinson had developed from a raw teenager into the best third baseman in the majors. Boog Powell was just beginning a career as a dangerous power hitter. The O's were on the cusp of greatness.

Somehow, it's been ten years since I graduated from college. Today I'm returning to the Eastern Shore for a reunion weekend. I'm looking forward to spending time with a handful of folks with whom I've kept close over the years, but I'm even more excited to reconnect with others whom I haven't seen since 2004. I'm even going to shake off the rust and perform in an improv comedy show with some fellow drama alumni tomorrow evening. I'm sure you can get along without me for 48 hours.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rich Hill, 2009 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH29

Sometimes, you dig into a box of cards and come out with a reminder that Rich Hill, Baltimore Oriole used to be a thing. Looking at his delivery in this photo, I'm not sure how the lefty won three games for the O's in 2009. His 7.80 ERA in 57.2 innings, however, makes a bit more sense. Yes, I'm picking on Rich. This is obviously a spring training picture, and he could just be doing some long toss...but from the mound? Maybe. I don't know nearly as much about baseball as I'd like to think.

Hill seemed to find his niche as a lefty relief specialist for the Red Sox, but he couldn't stay healthy. From 2010-2012, he posted a cumulative 1.14 ERA in Boston, but saw action in just 40 games comprising 31.2 innings. He went to Cleveland in 2013 and made it into 63 games last season, but his 38.2 innings did not go so smoothly: 38 hits, 29 walks, and a 6.28 ERA. Rich re-signed with Boston this spring, but is biding his time at AAA Pawtucket, where he has a 3.62 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 17 appearances. At 34, it may seem like time is running out for Hill to establish himself...but he is left-handed, so he'll probably get a few more chances in the majors before all is said and done.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Brian Roberts, 2007 Upper Deck First Edition Leading Off #LO-BR

Have I mentioned that typing out six-word (or more) descriptions of card sets drives me bonkers? Anyway, I thought we'd check in with our old snakebitten friend Brian Roberts and see how he's faring in enemy pinstripes. The 36-year-old second baseman has actually appeared in 44 of the Yankees' 51 games, but his stats are underwhelming. He's batting .242/.309/.362 with six doubles, three triples, two home runs, and 11 RBI. He's also 4-for-5 in steals. Of course, the Orioles have given most of their starts at second base to Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop, and they haven't been any better. But I don't fault the O's for deciding not to roll the dice with Roberts again. Schoop is getting valuable experience at age 22, and has shown flashes of promise. But it still kind of stings to see Brian playing in the Bronx.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2003 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres #84

Yes, it really has been 11 years since the Orioles drafted Nick Markakis, a "dangerous" lefty junior college pitcher with "an above-average fastball and hard-breaking curve that he can spot all over the plate", according to the copy on the back of this card. For some crazy reason, the O's envisioned him as an outfielder. In that capacity, he's won a Gold Glove, appeared in 1,259 games over parts of nine seasons, and collected 1,431 hits (eighth in team history, trailing seventh-place Brian Roberts by 21). I guess that hunch paid off.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jonathan Schoop, 2014 Topps Green #83

Was your Memorial Day as good as Jonathan Schoop's? The rookie second baseman had a pair of solo home runs to help the Orioles rally from a 6-3 seventh-inning deficit. His second round-tripper came with two outs in the ninth off of Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez, closing the gap to 6-5. Delmon Young followed with a pinch single, and Nick Markakis doubled in pinch runner David Lough with the tying run. In the tenth inning, a J. J. Hardy double was followed by a run-scoring single by new O's catcher Nick Hundley to cap the comeback. But the Birds never would've gotten to that point without Schoop's pair of big late-inning hits.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ben McDonald, 1993 Bowman #437

Legend has it that Ben McDonald used to wrestle alligators down in Louisiana. I won't be seeing any alligator wrestling today, but there will be wrestling ants, frogs, snow trolls, and more. I'm getting ready to drive up to Easton, PA to see the latest Chikara Pro Wrestling show, entitled You Only Live Twice. Chikara is a small independent promotion run out of Pennsylvania that combines exciting, high-flying ring action with family-friendly bizarre characters. So enjoy a beautiful Sunday, wherever you might be. I'll be back tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dylan Bundy, 2012 Bowman Platinum Prospects #BPP64

It's been a rough few days at the ballpark for me. My wife and I endured 13 innings and four and a half hours of Thursday night's Orioles-Indians game, just to see the home team lose 8-7. I took last night off, so of course the Birds pulled out a relatively breezy 8-4 win. Then this afternoon, my sister and I witnessed an ugly, ugly, ugly 9-0 blowout loss to the Tribe. I think Ubaldo Jimenez just walked two more batters while I was typing. I don't want to dwell on the bad stuff, so...hey, lookit that! A shiny Dylan Bundy card! He threw two innings today in his latest rehab effort! He'll be back in Baltimore before you know it, and everything will be better...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Davey Johnson, 1969 Orioles Postcards

This big (5.5"x3.5"), full-color postcard photo of Davey Johnson came to me a few weeks back from reader and fellow collector Randy. I'm not certain that it's from 1969, but that's my best guess because Davey is wearing the sleeveless home jersey that the Orioles donned occasionally during the 1968 and 1969 seasons. I love getting a rare look at one of the less-common uniforms in team history, and I always welcome oddball vintage items into my collection. It could also be a trick of perspective, but I'm pretty sure Johnson's eye black is lopsided. Didn't he use a mirror?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chris Davis, 2013 Bowman Chrome #102

Last night Chris Davis doubled his 2014 home run total in one game, hitting home runs in three straight at-bats against three different pitchers. It's been a tough start to the year for Crush, including a two-week stay on the disabled list with an oblique strain, but Tuesday's outburst was very encouraging. It was the second time in Davis' O's career that he's gone deep thrice in a single game; I was there for the first one back on August 24, 2012. If the slugging first baseman wants something to shoot for, there have only been two Baltimore hitters to have three three-homer games: Boog Powell and Eddie Murray. That would be pretty elite company.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jack Harshman, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #184

Tonight the Orioles kick off their first road interleague series of the season, and you know what that means...pitchers batting! Given Baltimore's recent spate of offensive futility, the last thing they need is a guaranteed out anchored to the bottom of their batting order (hold your Ryan Flaherty jokes until the end of the post). It's probably best not to hold out hope for any Jack Harshman-type performances, since the team's probable best-hitting pitcher is Zach Britton, and he's currently holding up the back end of the bullpen.

If Jack Harshman doesn't ring a bell, here's a refresher. He was a 6'2" first baseman who converted to pitching full-time at age 26 with the 1954 White Sox. He was pretty good on the mound, with a 69-65 record and a 3.50 ERA (109 ERA+) in parts of eight seasons in the majors. Jack spent a year-plus with the O's in 1958 and 1959, and in the former season he became the first Oriole pitcher to hit two homers in a game, doing it twice. The only other Birds' pitcher to have a multi-homer game in the ensuing years was Milt Pappas, who did it against Minnesota in 1960. As for tonight's starter, Miguel Gonzalez, I'd probably be satisfied if he could scratch out a single...or reach on an error. I'm not picky.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Miguel Tejada, 2005 Donruss Classics #10

Sometimes it seems like there is no limit to the number of chances a formerly-great player can get. Consider Miguel Tejada, who just signed a minor league deal with the Marlins six days shy of his 40th birthday. This despite the fact that he now has the defensive range of a cactus, hasn't slugged above .400 since 2009, and still needs to finish serving a 105-game suspension stemming from last season's positive test for banned amphetamines. But hey, wasn't it cool when he won the AL MVP award in 2002? In case you're wondering how long ago that was, the Orioles' starting outfielders were Marty Cordova, Chris Singleton, and Jay Gibbons. Good luck, Miggi.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Brooks Robinson, 2011 Topps Lineage #74

Happy 77th birthday to Brooks Robinson, the first, greatest ambassador of Baltimore Orioles baseball.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Chris Tillman, 2011 Topps Heritage #75

Chris Tillman had himself a night last night, tossing the first complete game shutout of his career. In the Orioles' 4-0 win over the Royals, the righthander allowed five hits and a walk and struck out three batters. Tillman has had some ups and downs so far in 2014, but he's 4-2 with a 3.34 ERA right now and could conceivably be an All-Star again this season. All-Star or no, I'm just glad that one of Baltimore's passel of pitching prospects panned out.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Jim Palmer, 1970 Topps #449

In the storied career of Jim Palmer, the dates of May 16 and 17 represent beginnings and endings.

On Sunday afternoon, May 16, 1965, the Orioles hosted the Yankees at Memorial Stadium. A Curt Blefary homer off of New York starter Jim Bouton staked Dave McNally to a 1-0 lead, but the O's lefty was chased from the game in just the third inning after allowing five straight hitters to reach base with one out. With Mickey Mantle on first base following a two-run single, a 19-year-old Jim Palmer was called in from the bullpen to make his seventh career big league appearance and hopefully to stop the bleeding at 4-1. He did just that, inducing a double-play grounder from Hector Lopez to end the inning. Meanwhile, "Bulldog" Bouton gave up a couple more home runs, and with them, the lead. First baseman Norm Siebern took him deep with the bases empty in the bottom of the third, and an inning later Palmer himself delivered the equalizer, a two-run shot for his first major league home run. Jim blanked the Yanks in innings four and five, but dug himself a hole with a pair of walks and a Tony Kubek RBI single in the sixth, putting New York on top 5-4. Palmer was removed for pinch hitter Russ Snyder in the bottom of the sixth; Snyder struck out against reliever Pete Mikkelsen, but Paul Blair walked ahead of a Luis Aparicio two-run homer to put Baltimore's rookie pitcher in line for the win. A Blefary run-scoring double provided an eighth-inning insurance tally, and Don Larsen and Stu Miller kept the Bronx Bombers from crossing the plate in the late frames. On the same day, Jim Palmer had his first career home run (of three) and his first career win (of 268).

A less auspicious day in mid-May - May 17 - reared its ugly head 19 years later. It was early in the 1984 season, and the defending champion Orioles were already 10.5 games behind a red-hot Tigers club. One culprit was the 38-year-old Palmer, who had been demoted from the starting rotation to the bullpen after three brief and unsightly April appearances. Things had not gotten better from there; in his most recent outing, Jim coughed up four runs in a two-inning mop-up detail in Oakland on May 12. For the season, he had allowed 19 runs (18 earned) on 22 hits and 17 walks in 17.2 innings, while striking out only four batters. His ERA was 9.17, and the league was batting .319/.443/.507 against the future Hall of Famer. When the end came for Jim Palmer, it came quick. The Orioles could not convince him to retire, so they found themselves in the unenviable position of releasing the greatest pitcher in team history. The ax fell on Thursday, May 17, 1984. He refused to take an off-field job with the team, hoping to continue pitching elsewhere in the major leagues. No other team picked Palmer up, and that was all she wrote. Thankfully he eventually returned to the team as a TV analyst, a position he maintains to this day.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1988 Fleer Superstars #31

The following is an actual dialogue between me and my wife.

K: That is the most of Cal Ripken's ass that I've ever seen on a baseball card.

J: That is a pretty asstacular picture.

Sorry guys, she's taken.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dennis Martinez, 1984 Fleer #11

It's the big 6-0 today for Dennis Martinez! El Presidente was born on a momentous day. Other May 14 birthday boys include Hall of Famers Ed Walsh, Earle Combs, and Tony Perez, as well potential future Cooperstowner Roy Halladay. Dick Howser, who managed the Royals to their only World Series triumph in 1980, was another member of the 5-14 Club. I'd also like to give an honorable mention to ex-Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders, who belongs in the Hall of Fame of bad, wispy mustaches.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Melvin Mora, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Highlights and Milestones #HM3

Why would I post this card tonight? Could it have something to do with the game being highlighted, a 16-8 humiliation of the Detroit Tigers on August 17, 2008? Could I possibly be that petty, that frustrated after a brutal loss to those same Tigers? Nah, it's probably just a coincidence.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Adam Jones, 2012 Topps Orioles Team Set #BALT1

Yesterday I witnessed an Orioles loss live and in person for the first time in 2014, as the team looked listless throughout a nondescript 5-2 loss to the Astros that snapped a five-game winning streak. But it takes a lot more than an 'L' to ruin my day...most of the time.

What's to complain about in this case? It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and the entire family was together for Mother's Day: my parents, my sister, and my wife Janet and me. We had a good view and plenty of shade in the left field lower box seats, and we even got to see Adam Jones' 500th and 501st career RBI. There were other highlights if you looked hard enough (Nick Markakis extending his hitting streak to 18 games, Chris Davis returning from the 15-day DL with a single and a double, David Lough making a great leaping catch in left field to save a couple runs), but everybody is a sucker for a round number.

It seems hard to believe, but Jonesy is already in his ninth big league season, and while 500 RBI might not seem so impressive when you consider that it doesn't even crack the top 1,000 of MLB's career leader board, especially if you take a gander at the Jay Paytons and Larry Bowas loitering at the bottom of that list. But he'll be there by season's end, and his career numbers mean more in the context of Orioles team history. Adam has collected 489 of his 501 career RBI in Baltimore orange and black, which leaves him 15th on the Birds' leader board. Up next is Gus Triandos with 517. His 141 homers are 12th among all O's, and his next big fly will tie Triandos for 11th on that account. With good health and fortune, he'll be top-ten and beyond.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Radhames Liz, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #101

Is this card orange enough for you? I kind of wish that Radhames "Rad Hams" Liz had been wearing an orange jersey, so that he would be camouflaged. Fun fact from my most recent visit to Baseball Reference: Radhames' middle name is Corey.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Stu Miller, 1964 Topps #565

I'm back from the ballpark, where the O's made it out with their fourth straight win, a 4-3 squeaker over  the Astros in a brisk two and a half hours. As always, Tommy Hunter did his best to give me and 28,000-plus other fans palpitations, putting the first two runners on the corners before getting a run-scoring double play grounder and a strikeout of George Springer to nail down the save. That's a league-leading 11 saves for Hunter, but he's yet to have a 1-2-3 inning this year. It's enough to make you long for a Stu Miller type; the 5'11" veteran righty posted consecutive seasons with a sub-1.00 WHIP in 1965 and 1966 as Baltimore's relief ace. One baserunner per inning just isn't enough excitement for Tommy, I guess.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jonathan Schoop, 2014 Topps Opening Day #186

Jonathan Schoop is starting to look more comfortable in the major leagues. Last night, he hit a tie-breaking homer in the Orioles' 4-3 win over the Rays. The rookie followed up tonight with an RBI single in the team's 3-1 win in Tampa, securing the series sweep. Manny Machado's return has allowed Schoop to settle in at second base, where he seems better acclimated than he was at third. It's nice to have that position not look like a giant question mark after all these years.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brooks Robinson, 2006 Topps Rookie of the Week #9

This card arrived in a plain white envelope today from Randy. I was glad to have it, since 1) it's new to me and 2) it saves me from chasing down an eight-year-old promotional giveaway card on my own. Topps done goofed on this one, going with the 1957 design to harken back to Brooks Robinson's rookie card. The picture, judging from the uniform and Brooks' shabby hair and weathered face, is actually from the mid-1970s - that is, the tail end of Brooksie's career. Apparently that was something of a common problem in this set. Eek.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Randy Milligan, 1993 Donruss #191

Sometimes it's Tuesday night, you're ready for bed, and you scan and post a mid-90s Randy Milligan card. It's a somewhat unusual camera angle, straight down the first base line, allowing you to see the 318-foot marker on the right field wall in still-new Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Milligan crouches, ready to stretch and receive the throw.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fernando Valenzuela, 1994 Stadium Club 1st Day Issue #69

It's Cinco de Mayo, so I give you the gift of the most popular Mexican player in major league history: Fernando Valenzuela. (Sorry, Karim Garcia fans.) He's wearing a Baltimore Black Sox cap in homage to one of Charm City's great Negro League teams. Here at Orioles Card "O" the Day, we are nothing if not multicultural.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Brady Anderson, 1992 Baseball Cards Magazine #70

For an oddball card that was cut out of a glossy cardboard magazine insert, this is a nice-looking card. The color choices in the photo complement the usually-blah 1970 Topps design that this card borrows. The picture itself is a somewhat unconventional choice, a zoomed chest-and-above shot of Brady Anderson in profile as he lifts a practice bat behind his head. The photographer was even savvy enough to shoot Brady from his left side, away from the ear flap. You wouldn't want those showcase sideburns to be covered up.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Billy Ripken, 1991 Fleer Ultra #23

My Saturday morning deviated from the usual routine. Instead of staying in bed until lunchtime, I got up and drove down to the Inner Harbor to meet an Internet friend for beers at 9 AM. Said friend would be Jon Springer, whose Mets by the Numbers website provides an excellent resource for New York Mets history through the lens of uniform numbers. It was the inspiration for my own (since-neglected...I REALLY need to update sometime in 2014) NumerOlogy Orioles uniform number site. I contacted Jon while I was still in the planning stages of my own site way back in 2007 to get advice and guidance, and he encouraged me right from the start. We've never met in person before, but he was in Baltimore for the annual Fiesta 5K, a Johns Hopkins-sponsored charity race to raise funds and awareness for ALS research. Jon's sister Jen lost her battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, back in 2011. He and his team were running in her memory. I'm not in adequate 5K condition, but I did make a last-minute donation to his cause and arranged to meet Jon at the Mex tequila bar at Power Plant Live after the race.

The weather was beautiful here this morning, so we sat at the outdoor bar for nearly three hours talking about baseball, the wonders of Elkton and Rising Sun (Jon worked at the Cecil Whig newspaper after college), and even a bit of 1980's pro wrestling. We also swapped stories about Billy Ripken's unprofessional behavior. I've written about my own experiences with Billy before, but Jon had the pleasure of being flat refused by #3 when he asked for a minute of his time for a post-game quote for the Whig. So it goes. I also got my new/old friend Jon to sign my copy of his book, which he seemed delighted to see when I pulled it from my pocket.

I'm glad we finally got to meet and bond a bit over our mutual hobbies. Maybe we can do it again next year.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Ken Singleton, 1979 Hostess #135

Was Kenny Singleton ever actually this young? Was 1979 really 35 years ago? Don't you wish that you could still go to the supermarket and buy snack cakes or cereal and pick out the box that had the players you liked best looking back at you from the back? Do you think that Singleton and his former Orioles teammates derive a small bit of satisfaction when the current O's beat the Pirates in interleague play? Are you glad that doubleheaders aren't as common as they were in decades past? Does this occasional blog gimmick of a series of rapid-fire rhetorical questions annoy the hell out of you?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Allan Ramirez, 1984 Donruss #332

Today former Orioles pitcher Allan Ramirez celebrated his 57th birthday. As coincidence has it, I am also celebrating today. 365 days ago, I asked Janet to marry me and she said yes. What's more, she claims that she would have done so even if I hadn't sweetened the deal with ice cream cake, craft beer from Dogfish Head, and a fire in our backyard pit. At nearly eight months, our marriage has already lasted longer than Allan's brief big league career. A fifth-round draft pick out of Rice University in the 1979 draft, Ramirez filled in with the 1983 O's when they needed an extra starter during the summer. He held his own, going 4-4 with a 3.47 ERA despite walking 30 and striking out only 20 in 57 innings,  but his 11-appearance stint in Baltimore during their most recent championship season represented his only big league experience. He remained in the Birds' farm system through the 1985 season before throwing in the towel.

Happy birthday, Allan. I hope you enjoyed your day as much as I did.