Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Doug DeCinces, 1975 SSPC #387

Happy 64th birthday to Doug DeCinces. Doug's best season with the Orioles was 1978, when he led the club with 37 doubles, 28 home runs, a .526 slugging percentage, and an .872 OPS. I was surprised to learn that he was never a Gold Glover at third base, and his only All-Star season was in 1983, the year after he batted .301/.369/.548 for the Angels with 42 doubles, 30 homers, and 97 RBI, all career highs. For a guy with a solid 115 career OPS+, he doesn't seem to get his due. So here's to you, Doug.

P.S.: I'll be away and without Internet access for the weekend. See youse on Tuesday!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fred Valentine, 2014 Orioles Alumni Postcards

Here's another of the signed postcards that I picked up at Camden Yards on Monday night. I had noticed that Fred Valentine was wearing an MLB Players' Alumni Association polo shirt, but I didn't realize until I read his bio on the card back that the ex-outfielder was one of the founding members of that group back in 1982.

Here's a few more interesting tidbits about Fred Valentine, courtesy of the SABR Biography Project:

-His aunt nicknamed him "Squeaky" as a toddler, and the moniker stuck throughout his life.

-Fred is ambidextrous, which was an asset when he played quarterback in high school football.

-He graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College (a historically black college, known today as Tennessee State University) in three and a half years.

I'm glad I got a chance to meet a former player who had a greater impact off the field than on it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

B. J. Surhoff, 1996 Pinnacle Aficionado #92

I hope they used B. J. Surhoff's good side for that profile shot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Larry Sheets, 2014 Orioles Alumni Postcards

I guess the only thing the Orioles needed to awaken their bats from a Wrigley slumber was the calming presence of Larry Sheets.

Allow me to clarify. Remembering that the Orioles make a few ex-players available for autographs along the Eutaw Street concourse prior to Monday and Thursday games, I wandered over that way with my sister once we got through the gates yesterday evening. Sure enough, there he was: Larry "31 homers in 1987" Sheets, alongside mid-'70s infielder and Baltimore native Tim Nordbrook and outfielder Fred Valentine, who had three separate stints with the O's in 1959, 1963, and 1968. Since there was still over an hour before first pitch, I waited in line to collect signatures from the trio. Larry looks pretty good for 54, much better than Cal Ripken, if we're being brutally honest. I was a little sorry to see that he'd lost the trademark mustache, but you can't fault a guy for keeping his look fresh. A group of older guys passing by called out to Nordbrook to invite him out for drinks after the game, and he playfully asked if they wanted his autograph. When they responded in the affirmative, Tim yelled, "Get in line!". Valentine was moving more slowly than the two younger ex-players, but his signature was meticulous and clear, so it was a fair trade.

On yet another in a series of the moderate nights that have made this an atypical summer in Baltimore, the Birds seemed glad to be home, even if the crowd was on the small side (15,516 paid, though several of them must have stayed home). Chris Tillman looked sharp right from the start, generating weak grounders all over the infield. Steve Pearce and Jonathan Schoop each dropped a throw from J. J. Hardy on consecutive plays in the third inning, giving Tampa Bay a very short-lived 1-0 lead. But you can't keep a power-hitting team like the Orioles dormant forever, and the breakout came in the bottom of the third. Nick Markakis ended an 0-for-21 skid with a two-run homer to put the O's on top, and Steve Pearce immediately followed with a moon shot to left field. 3-1 Birds on back-to-back home runs against Jake Odorizzi.

The real fun came two innings later, as things got really out of hand in a good way for the hosts. The inning opened with three straight singles by the law firm of Pearce, Jones, and Cruz. After an initial hesitation, Pearce rumbled around third base and scored on Cruz's knock to left, as Rays left fielder Matt Joyce bobbled the ball. I had noticed Steve and Joyce conversing in the outfield during pregame warmups, and my idle theory was that the Oriole slugger was subtly intimidating his contemporary. It sure looked like it on that play. Anyhow, back-to-back-to-back singles are all well and good, but how about back-to-back-to-back home runs? I can tell you first-hand that they're pretty great. Delmon Young continued his baffling rejuvenation with an Earl Weaver Special over the left-center field fence, making it 7-1, and J. J. Hardy chased Odorizzi with a solo shot in the next at-bat. Chris Davis, who probably would've liked to take some hacks against the unraveled starter, rallied to welcome reliever Kirby Yates with a solo four-bagger of his own. It was 9-1, and there were still no outs. Nick Hundley made it seven hits in a row with an infield single and a one-base error by first baseman James Loney, but Yates stopped the bleeding there. Still, the Orioles had made team history by stacking back-to-back homers AND a separate occurrence of back-to-back-to-back home runs for the first time in their 60-plus seasons in Baltimore.

The rest of the game was less eventful. Tillman earned his 11th win with seven innings of three-hit ball, Darren O'Day and Zach Britton were untouchable as usual, and the Birds maintained their six-game division lead. Oh wait - there was a pretty decent double play turned by Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop. You might see this one on highlight reels for a little while yet.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Calvin Pickering, 2000 Fleer Ultra #272

I'm off to the ballpark again tonight, as the Orioles open an 11-game homestand with the first of four games against the Rays. I hope the Birds' bats are waiting for them at Camden Yards, since they sure didn't travel to Wrigley Field with the team. Baltimore racked up a total of four runs in 27 innings against the rebuilding Cubs, two of which came on solo home runs. Things bottomed out yesterday afternoon, as Steve Pearce's four-bagger was the team's only base hit. With Manny Machado and Matt Wieters gone for the season, something needs to change. Chris Davis hitting more like Chris Davis of 2013 and less like Calvin Pickering of any year would be a nice start.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2010 Topps Walmart Exclusive Chrome Refractors #WME-2

It's Cal Ripken, Jr.'s birthday today. Number 54 to be exact. And the Orioles began playing in Baltimore in 1954. Coincidence? Absolutely. In case you were curious, Cal's 54th career home run (of 431 total) came on September 28, 1983, off of Dan Petry of the Tigers. It was his 26th and penultimate homer in his first MVP season, and it went for naught in a 9-5 loss. The Iron Man's only birthday home run also came during that thrilling '83 season. On August 24, 1983, Rip hit game-tying solo shot in the tenth inning off of Toronto's Joey McLaughlin. This was the famous game in which Tippy Martinez picked off three Blue Jay runners in one inning, with Lenn Sakata catching. Sakata went on to hit a walkoff three-run homer later in the tenth.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Manny Machado, 2014 Topps Gypsy Queen Debut All-Stars #AS-MM

It's not been an ideal weekend for the Orioles. Two straight losses to the inhospitable Cubs, and the unwelcome news that Manny Machado is officially out for the rest of the season and the postseason with his second knee surgery. I guess it's better that it's the right knee this time, instead of a second operation on the left...but you wonder how many key players the O's can lose while maintaining their winning ways. Tomorrow is another day, I guess.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Art Ceccarelli, 1958 Topps #191

It's been a while since I posted a vintage card that was good and beat to hell. Someone nibbled on the top right corner, and there's a hefty center crease that left a white streak running down the side of Art Ceccarelli's head. Of course, the smaller horizontal creases combined with the bright blue background make it seem like Art is standing in front of a sparkling swimming pool. It adds a bit of texture that you don't get with the generally static 1958 Topps cards.

My hasty research tells me that Art's last name is pronounced "chick-a-RELL-ee". The Dodgers signed him out of high school in 1948, but his big league debut came with the Athletics in 1955. In between, he served two years in the U.S. Military during the Korean War. He didn't have a very accomplished career in the majors, amassing a 9-18 record with a 5.05 ERA in parts of five seasons. 1957 was his lone season as an Oriole. He pitched in 20 games (eight starts), with an 0-5 record and a 4.50 ERA in 58 innings. Ceccarelli walked 31 batters and struck out only 30. After his career ended, the lefty acknowledged that he never really honed his craft as a pitcher, instead relying too heavily on his fastball. His best outing with the O's was probably May 22, 1957. He held the visiting Tigers to three runs on five hits and a pair of walks, and struck out five in nine innings. Though Art didn't earn the decision, Baltimore picked up a walkoff victory when Tito Francona scored on Al Pilarcik's tenth-inning single. George Zuverink was credited with the win in relief. Make of this information what you will.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Luis Ayala, 2012 Topps Update Series #US270

My recent fascination with 2014 Topps Heritage notwithstanding, I've bought very few current-issue baseball cards over the past four years. I recently found myself in Target with some time to kill, so I wandered into the card aisle looking for bargains. I spotted a $20 repack box that was full of 2012 and 2013 Topps products, 20 packs in all, and took the plunge. If nothing else, I figured it would give me some trade bait (assuming that I ever put forth the effort to initiate trades with other collectors again) and a few packs of Allen and Ginter and Heritage without the usual sticker shock. Besides, within the span of a few hundred new cards, I was bound to find something to surprise me. I actually laughed when I pulled this Luis Ayala card from the lone pack of 2012 Update. It was new to me, and the image of the jacket-clad middle reliever pointing a bat at the camera with what I hope was mock-menace was a welcome departure from the customary sea of stock action photos that has come to define Topps' flagship set and update series. It's always nice to have a reminder that card collecting can be fun...what a concept, huh?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ben McDonald, 1990 Score Rising Stars #93

I've been talking up the O's hitters lately, so let's give a little love to Chris Tillman. He's been excellent ever since a disastrous one-inning, five-run start in Texas on June 5 that pushed his ERA to a season-worst 5.20. Last night the righty shut down the White Sox over eight innings, allowing one run (a first-inning home run by Jose Abreu) on three hits and striking out nine. He improved to 10-5 with a 3.55 ERA, and now has a streak of 14 straight starts with no more than three earned runs allowed. The last time an Orioles starting pitcher pulled that off, it was Ben McDonald in 1993. That was Ben's best full season in the majors, as his 13-14 record was offset by a 3.39 ERA (132 ERA+), seven complete games, and 171 strikeouts. But unlike McDonald, Tillman might be pitching in the postseason this year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2010 Topps National Chicle #73

It's often said that baseball is a team sport, but Nick Markakis sure seemed like he was single-handedly beating the White Sox on Monday night. The veteran left fielder went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and a two-run homer as the Orioles won an 8-2 game that was much closer than the final score. O's starter Bud Norris cruised through the first six innings, but a two-out single by Avisail Garcia in the seventh trimmed the lead to 3-2. Then Conor Gillaspie drove a Norris pitch deep to right field, and Nick left his feet and robbed Chicago's third baseman of a potential go-ahead home run. If you missed it, here it is, and if you already saw it, you probably want to watch it again:

By the by, Markakis is batting .400 in August and entered tonight's game with a 10-game hitting streak. It's nice to see him looking more lively than he did in 2013.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jeff Conine, 2002 Upper Deck Vintage #55

Hey, just a little bit of Jeff Conine catching a pickoff throw as Alfonso Soriano dives back to the bag for your Monday night. I found eight Orioles-at-Yankees games from 2001 featuring Niner at first base, and Soriano reached base in seven of them. So, that doesn't narrow things down for me. I never claimed to have all of the answers, though.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Steve Pearce, 2013 Orioles Postcards

Steve Pearce broke out of his second-half doldrums today, helping the Orioles avoid a sweep at the hands of the Indians. The journeyman led off the sixth inning with a double and scored the tying run, sparking a two-run rally to give the Birds a lead they would not relinquish. He also provided some welcome insurance with his 12th home run, a solo shot in the seventh inning that was positively crushed.  According to the MASN broadcast, the MLB average speed for a ball struck off the bat is 77 mph; Pearce's blast against Chen-Chang Lee was over 100 mph. Chris Davis also had two extra-base hits, a pair of doubles. The second of those put the O's up 2-1. Jonathan Schoop's 12th homer made it 4-1, which was the final score. Kevin Gausman struggled with his control but permitted only two hits in six innings, and Darren O'Day, Andrew Miller, and Zach Britton each tossed a scoreless inning in relief. That's 70 wins for Baltimore, a number they didn't reach once between 2007 and 2011. This isn't your slightly older cousin's Orioles team.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Earl Weaver, 1974 Topps #306

This is a momentous day in Orioles history, though really, aren't they all? With 60 years of history to choose from, there's always something to celebrate or lament. On August 15, 1975, Earl Weaver managed to get ejected from both ends of a doubleheader for the first time. He'd repeat the feat twice more in his Hall of Fame career.

It was a Friday twinbill at Memorial Stadium. Things didn't go well for the Birds in the opener, as Mike Torrez was chased in the third inning. Wayne Garland allowed a few inherited runners to score, putting the home team in a 5-0 hole. The visiting Rangers scored a sixth run in the fourth inning on an odd play. First base umpire Ron Luciano, a longtime Weaver nemesis, initially called Jim Spencer out at first to complete a would-be double play. Then Luciano quickly reversed himself, ruling that first baseman Tony Muser failed to touch the bag. Cesar Tovar scored from third base, and Earl had a conniption and earned an early shower. The O's rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, but it was all for naught. Garland and Dyar Miller combined to allow four runs in the very next inning, giving Texas a 10-6 lead. That would be the final score.

Baltimore's skipper was still fuming when he brought out the lineup card before the second game, and he let Luciano know about it. Weaver insisted that the ump, who ejected him from a total of four minor league games and eight more in the majors, had a vendetta against him. Ron gave Earl more fuel for his fire, as he delivered a second heave-ho before the first pitch could be thrown in the nightcap! Fortunately, the Orioles salvaged a split by battering Texas 13-1. They pounded 18 hits off of Clyde Wright and Tommy Moore. Doug DeCinces homered, tripled, and drove in five runs. Lee May and Tommy Davis had three hits each. Mike Cuellar was the beneficiary, cruising to a complete-game, five-hit victory. It's a shame the manager wasn't around to see it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jimmy Key, 1998 Donruss Preferred #93

Last night I shouted myself hoarse at Camden Yards as the Orioles stunned the Yankees with a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth. Yankee killer Jonathan Schoop hit a game-tying homer off of All-Star reliever Dellin Betances, and Adam Jones provided the game-winning blow with a two-out, three-run homer against Shawn Kelley. 5-3 final to wrap up the rain-aided two-game sweep. Now there are 43 games left, and Baltimore is 7.5 up on the second-place Jays and eight games ahead of New York, with the most demanding stretch of their 2014 schedule in the rear view.

The last time the Orioles had such a substantial cushion was September 13, 1997. Those O's were a veteran, high-payroll team, a club that led the American League East all season long. Jimmy Key tied with Scott Erickson for the team lead in wins, and when was the last time you thought about those guys? This is rarified air. Enjoy it, and allow yourself to dream about October.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Fleer Sports Illustrated #55

Hahaha, get it? "SI-ber"? Because "cyber" was a goofy buzzword in the 1990s, and "SI" is shorthand for Sports Illustrated? Oooo-weee!

Let's never go back to this decade.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Brian Roberts, 2010 Topps Allen and Ginter Relic #AGR-BR

It's always satisfying to see the Orioles beat the tar out of the Yankees, and even more so when it pushes New York to a season-high seven games back in the East. I also feel like it's a vicarious sort of vindication for Brian Roberts, who was given his release by the Yanks on Saturday. The walking wounded in pinstripes had previously designated B-Rob for assignment after acquiring super-utility player Martin Prado from Arizona. Roberts, ironically one of the few Yankee players not to miss significant time with injuries in 2014, batted .237/.300/.360 (86 OPS+) in 91 games with 16 doubles, four triples, five homers, and 21 RBI. He was also 7-for-11 as a base stealer. These are not typical Brian Roberts numbers, but then again, he hasn't had this much playing time since 2009. Five years on, the 36-year-old second baseman is clearly not the player he was during his prime in Baltimore. In Prado, the Yankees got a more expensive player (surprise!) who is six years younger, more defensively versatile, but isn't hitting any better: .264/.311/.364 (88 OPS+), with even worse stats in an 11-game sample size in the Bronx (.189/.250/.297). But New York is still in the wild card hunt through their usual mix of fortuitous bounces and unspeakable dark magic, so they took the gamble on Martin Prado and jettisoned our old, battle-weary friend. I hope this isn't the end for Brian Roberts, but if it is, I hope he's at peace with things.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Manny Machado, 2014 Topps 1989 Mini #TM-31

Dear Manny (cc: Manny's Right Knee):

Please, please, PLEASE be okay. Pretty please.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ramon Hernandez, 2007 Topps Heritage #429

Hey, I'm back! I've returned from a birthday/belated honeymoon trip to Ireland. I had a marvelous time, and even kept tabs on the Orioles whenever I could snag a Wi-Fi signal. I can't say that I expected to find the O's with the largest division lead in the majors when I returned home, but here they are, five games up on Toronto and bearing down on Oakland and the Angels for the best record in MLB. As Janet and I took a connecting flight home from Boston yesterday afternoon, I even got to watch the Birds batter sore loser John Lackey and the Cardinals thanks to the wonders of in-flight satellite TV. 28-year-old rookie Caleb Joseph broke the team record for catchers by homering in his fifth consecutive game, breaking the mark set by Gus Triandos and tied by Ramon Hernandez. Now that I'm back on this side of the Atlantic, I'm eager to see the Orioles finish the job down the stretch.