Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jose Bautista, 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Starting Point #SP91

This card might make you a bit queasy, since it's a reminder that the Orioles once employed - and cut loose - a player who a) has gone to six straight All-Star Games while playing for a division rival, posting a 156 OPS+ in that span and winning a pair of home run titles, and 2) is a malcontented pain in the ass who has recently butted heads with Baltimore favorites ranging from Adam Jones to Darren O'Day. This card came in the massive mailing from Randy a few months back, and I both love it (for documenting an otherwise-overlooked piece of O's history) and hate it (for the above reasons).

That the wayward Orioles of the 2000s managed to snatch up Jose Bautista from Pittsburgh in the Rule 5 draft, only to lose him on waivers to Tampa Bay after a dozen plate appearances, is a joke that writes itself. But even I can't beat up on the Birds too badly for that one. As has been well documented, "Joey Bats" was passed around like currency in his 2004 rookie year, going on to play a dozen games with the Devil Rays before being sold to the Royals, for whom he appeared in 13 games...and then he changed teams twice on July 30 alone . KC traded Jose to the Mets, who turned around and swapped him to the Pirates in the Kris Benson deal, bringing him full-circle in seven and a half months. Even then, Bautista was a mediocre player throughout his time in Pittsburgh, and still didn't crack a 100 OPS+ in 2009, his first full season in Toronto. So what are the odds that Bautista was going to break out at age 29, after 575 so-so games in parts of six big league seasons? It doesn't serve as much more than an annoying little glimpse into an alternate reality.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Al Pilarcik, 1959 Topps #7

By about 8:00 this evening, I felt as weary and disenchanted as Al Pilarcik looks in this photo. I had barely been home since 6:00 this morning, and Janet and I had been wandering through the mall for 90 minutes or so. (As an aside, I'm pretty sure it was 115 degrees inside of that place. I would've stripped down to my boxers, but that didn't go over well the last time.) On the plus side, we made a big dent in our Christmas shopping. If I'm not overlooking anyone, there are about folks left on the to-buy list. There have been so many errands and events over the past few weeks that I assumed we'd be woefully unprepared for the holidays, but we're keeping our heads above water. The tree is trimmed, the front porch is decked with garland and white lights, and Janet's baking sugar cookies as I type this. I can't believe that Christmas is just a week away, anyhow. I'm looking forward to it, including our now-standard week with my in-laws in North Carolina. As long as I can steer clear of any more shopping malls, that is.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cal Ripken Jr. and Roberto Alomar, 1998 Pinnacle #183

Mail call! This is just one card from the latest care package I received from prolific collector Max. As is typical for Max, the small padded envelope contained a goodly assortment of cards spanning the past few decades, from the widely-distributed base cards to some absolutely weird and obscure cards that will require some researching on my part. Though these cards were sent to our old address, they still made it into my hands, so I'm also considering this to be the first card package I've received at the new house. It's only fitting that it came from Max; now maybe I'll finally send him the cards I pulled together months ago. (Note to self: do it. Do it now!)

As for tonight's featured card, it made me realize that Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar spent only the first of Robby's three seasons in Baltimore playing alongside one another as a double-play duo. The club shifted Cal to third base in 1997, slotting in newly-acquired Mike Bordick at shortstop. But for one year, the Birds had one of the most star-studded keystone combos in baseball history.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Earl Williams, 1973 Topps #504

When some enterprising and likely underpaid card artisan at Topps was tasked with turning Earl Williams' Atlanta Braves cap into a Baltimore Orioles cap, I wonder how he reacted. Did he relish the challenge and embrace the whimsy of the goofy little orange-and-black bird? Or did he grumble and roll his eyes, wondering why Earl couldn't have been traded to the Cubs instead? This task might have been dumped on his desk at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. He was just trying to run out the clock and then grab a few beers with the guys...and now this. No matter what the circumstances may have been, our anonymous Topps drone did a pretty good job with his thankless job. I mean, it's no 1975 Rudy May, but let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Don Buford, 1968 Topps #194

Quiz time! Why does Don Buford look so cheesed off?

a) He just got traded from the White Sox to the Orioles, and he knows that he looks ridiculous with his bare head and pinstriped jersey on a card that says "Orioles".

b) He spent the bulk of his time in Chicago playing second base and third base, positions that are well spoken for in Baltimore at the hands of Messrs. Johnson and Robinson. So he's just trying to figure out where he fits in with the Birds. (Hint: left field.)

c) Some fortune teller just told him that he'll make history as the first player to ever lead off a postseason series with a home run, doing so against Mets ace Tom Seaver in the opener of the 1969 World Series...but that some day he would have to share that distinction with a rodent-faced little dirtball named Dustin Pedroia.

d) Not only is this card woefully miscut, but whoever owned it for the first four decades of its existence allowed it to be creased, dinged, and scratched. Is that any way to treat an All-Star and the leadoff hitter for the 1970 World Champs?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Scott Erickson, 1999 Fleer Brilliants #84

I spent the long holiday weekend in beautiful and sunny Wrightsville Beach, NC with my wife and in-laws. There were temperatures in the 70s, plentiful good food and drink, walks by the sand and surf, board games, a community craft fair, a holiday flotilla and fireworks show...and most blessed of all, three full days of leisure after a couple of downright jam-packed months.

Now it's Monday in Baltimore, and I've returned to a full work week, an overflowing list of errands, a weather forecast of fortysomething temps and rain, and Scott Erickson hurling baseballs into the murky abyss. Sounds about right.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Miguel Tejada, 2004 Fleer Ultra #227

As you may have surmised, updates to this blog will be more sporadic than usual for the foreseeable future. But I'm doing my best to pop in a few times a week as the opportunity arises. Last night, as I was busy staying up way too late (I even procrastinate at bedtime), I caught the end of the Serie de las Americas baseball tournament from Marlins Park. The Dominican Winter League's Aguilas Cibaenas club eked out a 4-3 win over the Venezuelan club Cardenales de Lara, thanks to a two-run single by Zoilo Almonte in the top of the ninth inning. This two-day tournament featured teams from both the Dominican and Venezuelan winter leagues, and the winners from Cibao were managed by none other than Miguel Tejada, making his debut at the helm. I wonder what Miggi will do for an encore.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Herm Starrette, 1965 Topps #539

Today is the 77th birthday of Mr. Herman Paul Starrette, a native of Statesville, NC. I've been through Statesville several times en route to Charlotte to visit my in-laws, which is neither here nor there. He did all right for himself in a brief big league career with the Orioles, pitching to a 2.54 ERA in 46 innings of relief from 1963 through 1965. He allowed just one home run as a major leaguer, a two-run shot to Elston Howard on August 4, 1963 at Yankee Stadium. Despite his moderate success, Herm hung up his spikes at age 27 in the midst of the 1966 season, his fourth spent primarily at AAA Rochester. But that wasn't the end of his life in baseball by a long shot. He worked as an MLB coach, minor league pitching coordinator and coach, and farm system director for a number of teams from 1967 through 2002. He coached in the O's system on two separate occasions (1967-1973 and 1988), and also worked with current Baltimore GM Dan Duquette in Milwaukee, Montreal, and Boston. I wonder if Herm might have any pointers for Duke's current pitching staff.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Willis Otanez, 1999 Fleer Tradition #500

Do you think Willis Otanez was able to watch Diff'rent Strokes in his native Puerto Rico when he was younger? Or did he have no idea what his more obnoxious teammates and opponents meant when they said, "What you talkin' about, Willis?".

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Aubrey Huff, 2008 Topps #277

In one of the more unlikely comeback stories, Aubrey Huff is hoping to lace up his cleats again in 2016. The one-time Most Valuable Oriole is now 39, has only been training for the past two months, and hasn't played since struggling with anxiety in 2012. That wasn't a great year in any sense for Huff; he batted .192/.326/.282 with a single home run in 95 trips to the plate and closed himself off from his teammates. But by his own admission, Aubrey is feeling much better after undergoing treatment and discovering a level of spirituality. If nothing else, I'm pulling for him.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Adam Jones, 2013 Topps Chipz #NNO

I'm checking back in at the end of a long, busy weekend of domesticity just to assure you that I'm not disappearing for another month. I know that I missed a few Orioles happenings during my recent hiatus; for instance, Adam Jones was selected as the Marvin Miller Man of the Year as part of MLB's annual Players Choice Awards. Adam was recognized by his peers for his contributions both on the field and in the community at large. He's the first O's player to earn the honors since the inception of the award in 1997.

Jonesy doesn't look too thrilled to be included in Topps' poker-chip themed product line, though. Maybe he thinks that the 1990s-esque tactic of spelling "Chipz" with a "z" on the end is asinine, and now he can't stop picturing Chuck E. Cheese wearing a backwards hat and fingerless gloves. Or maybe - speaking of the 1990s - these small plastic discs are reminding AJ of the pogs collectible milk caps that briefly took elementary schools by storm in his youth. He probably had an overly strict teacher who confiscated his pogs, and thinking back on that dark day is really bumming him out. Poor guy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Mark Belanger, 1977 Topps #135

Wow. I didn't plan on a month of blogging silence, but then again, I'd forgotten what a colossal pain it is to move. Even as I write this, there are several boxes that need to be unpacked, and straggler items to be brought over from the old rowhouse. Then there's the matter of cleaning and maintenance on that house, so that we can rent it out for some extra income and...no, I'm not crying. Who said I was?

For the two and a half years that Janet and I (and our three cats and one dog) lived together under the roof of a much-too-snug 900-square-foot rowhouse, we would talk in far-off, dreamy tones about our "grown-up house" yet to come. For example: "In our grown-up house, we'll have enough cabinet space to store all of our pots and pans, instead of stacking them on top of the stove and storing them in the basement." Or maybe, "When we get a grown-up house, the master bedroom will have closets for both of us!" Yes, Janet's closet was in the spare bedroom/cat room/baseball card storage. Are you getting the picture?

Finally, enough was enough. We'd been talking for some time about growing our family, and the rowhouse was already too small for us and our four-legged creatures and all of our crap cherished belongings. There was no way another human, however tiny, would squeeze in there with all of its various and sundry accessories. In early August, we started the search in earnest. Let me tell you, I would not wish house-hunting on the worst of my enemies...not even Sidney Ponson. Each open house brought its own delightful surprises: overbearing real estate agents (Who argues with a potential buyer when they complain about smelling cigarette smoke?), slap-dash renovations, creepy basements...and wood paneling. So much paneling. I think one house in particular was sponsored by 84 Lumber. On one of our first days out, we did meet a realtor we liked enough to hire on as our buyer's agent. So she helped keep us on-task and dealt with selling agents so that we didn't have to do it ourselves.

Early on, we zeroed in on a completely renovated rancher with a fully finished basement that Janet and I both loved. After comparing and contrasting it to a few dozen more available homes, we decided to act; our agent had told us that there was another offer pending. After the three of us scrambled all night to put together a competing offer, the seller accepted the first offer - apparently without knowledge of our offer. Exactly what happened is unclear, but at the very least it was a breakdown in communication, and it was very discouraging. Have you ever been sniped on eBay? Well, it was like that, only with much higher stakes. I don't recommend it.

Though we might have found it hard to believe in the moment, our new home was still out there waiting for us, and we uncovered it just a couple of weeks later. This isn't just sour grapes, but the new place is a much better fit for us than the near-miss. It's a roomy two-story house with a finished basement, and it's not as ultra-modern as the other potential new house, but it was well-maintained by the previous owners. They lived here for thirty years and raised three children. There were little touches all over the place that made us feel like this house was meant for us: the slate patio, the storage nooks in every corner of the house, the wet bar in the basement, and of course the cat door cutouts. This is home.

(Tomorrow I'll tell you all about the joys of moving. I'm probably being sarcastic.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Rick Dempsey, 1979 Topps #593

Yeah, it's only been two weeks and I'm already going through some serious Orioles withdrawal. During the 2015 season, the team added a highlights video to the pregame ritual. As the song "Magic To Do" from Pippin played over the PA system at Camden Yards, clips of O's players and fans both past and present flashed on the center field video board. The first couple of times I saw it live, I rolled my eyes a bit at the schmaltziness of the tune, but ultimately I'm not made of stone. Throughout the video, images of the Birds of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were juxtaposed with the current team. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. You have to know your roots. By the end of the season, I found myself looking forward to watching that two and a half minute video prior to each game. That brings us to this Friday night in mid-October, as I'm vacillating between packing and piddling around on my phone. "Magic To Do" got stuck in my head, completely unbidden, and I had no choice but to see if I could find the video online. I did, and even though it was recorded on somebody else's phone and the sound was somewhat compromised by the chatter of nearby fans, I may have watched it two or three times. And now I'm sharing it with you. No need to thank me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jim Palmer, 2003 Topps Record Breakers #RB-JP

Today I had a medium-sized USPS box waiting for me when I got home from work, with the return address of longtime reader Randy. I've had the good fortune to clink glasses (okay, cans) with him at Camden Yards, and I'm sure he won't take it personally when I mention my wife's response to this package full of Orioles cards: "His timing couldn't be any worse." Yes, we're in the process of packing all of our possessions before the big move. No, I didn't let that stop me from ripping the box open and unwrapping all of the carefully-arranged team set bags within. As always, I am grateful for Randy's generosity, and this time in particular he gifted me some real doozies that will make for interesting blog material in the coming weeks and months.

Randy even managed to provide exactly what I was looking for tonight: a new Jim Palmer card to post on the grand occasion of the Hall of Famer's 70th birthday. Not only were Jim's American League-leading ten shutouts in 1975 a team record, but his career total of 53 shutouts are also still 16th-most in MLB history. Just to drive the point home, the O's haven't had ten complete-game shutouts in the past decade...total. Jim Palmer was a once-in-a-generation talent, and it's a different kind of game now. Happy birthday, Cakes, and many more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Daniel Cabrera, 2004 Leaf #216

With the state of Texas failing all of us, I need to compose the most mature and gracious response I can muster for a Royals/Blue Jays ALCS. Here goes:

Baseball is dumb and we are all dumb for liking it. I didn't want to watch the stupid old ALCS anyway.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cal Ripken Jr., 1998 Topps #320

One week into the 2015 MLB postseason, I've found a lot to enjoy and celebrate. The Yankees and Cardinals got bounced, so somebody else will have a chance to hoist a World Series trophy; the Blue Jays are the most recent champion among the remaining playoff teams, and they did it in 1993. There have been a lot of tense, back-and-forth games and some standout individual performances. But sadly, I can't say that I've enjoyed Cal Ripken's commentary on TBS' broadcasts. He was a great and intelligent player, but he's just plain awkward in the booth. Last night, he spent an uncomfortable eternity halfheartedly defending Chase Utley's illegal takeout slide from the previous game of the Mets-Dodgers NLDS. I couldn't even tell you what his main argument was, because I was too busy cringing and waiting for Ernie Johnson or Ron Darling to change the subject. I'm not sure why TBS has kept him on the mic for each of the last four postseasons.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Will Clark, 1999 Stadium Club #226

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Will Clark spent parts of two seasons in an Orioles uniform. It just seems like a weird fit to me. Of course, the O's went 152-172 in 1999-2000, and "the Thrill" missed more than 100 games due to injury in that span, so I guess I'm not going out on a limb here. It's not like the Frank Wren/Syd Thrift teams were stocked with savvy pickups. Take a look at the 1999 roster, and the pitching staff in particular. It's chock full of journeyman and forgotten rookies. Doug Johns, Al Reyes, Jim Corsi, Mike Fetters, Brian Falkenborg, Heathcliff Slocumb, Gabe Molina (?), Doug Linton, a 19-year-old Matt Riley, Ricky Bones...I feel a headache coming on.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lee Lacy, 1986 O-Pee-Chee #226

I really wish that the Memorial Stadium left field scoreboard was in-focus behind Lee Lacy. I'd like to know what was going on in Baltimore on that particular day in 1985. Were they advertising an upcoming series against Don Mattingly and the Yankees? Maybe giving details on a seat cushion promotional giveaway? Or reminding fans not to mess with Earl Weaver's tomato plants? The possibilities are endless.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, 1971 Topps #329

I've spent most of my evening watching other teams play postseason baseball, but nobody looked as good doing it as Frank Robinson did with his high, skinny orange stirrups and his contrast-colored, radial-arched name plate. Even home plate umpire Tony Venzon and number five hitter Paul Blair have to give Frank a once-over to take it all in. I hardly need to tell you that the Orioles dispatched the Reds 9-3 in this game, which took place on October 13, 1970 in Memorial Stadium. The O's only outhit Cincy by a 10-9 count, but three of Baltimore's hits left the field of play, and none of Cincinnati's did. Robby and Don Buford each hit a solo homer off of Tony Cloninger, and winning pitcher Dave McNally really blew the game open in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out grand slam off of reliever Wayne Granger. Perhaps buoyed by his rare feat, the Birds' tough lefty went the full nine innings to give his club a 3-0 advantage in the 1970 World Series. The whole thing took just two hours and nine minutes, which probably has something to do with the lack of three-minute commercial breaks between innings. Crazy, I know.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nick Markakis, 2014 Topps Heritage #106

I haven't been buying many cards lately, because we're moving to a new house at the end of the month (way to bury the lede, Kevin), and all of this cardboard really adds up. But Target went and slapped a $12.99 sticker on a blaster box of 2014 Heritage, and I still haven't wrapped up that ding-danged set yet, so I didn't put the box down after it threw itself into my hands. I didn't do too badly, either. I got a dozen base cards that I needed, and though the few short prints in the blaster were dupes for me, maybe they'll serve as trade bait if anyone else is still working on this set. What's more, each and every one of the eight packs featured a Purple Refractor parallel. I didn't get any personal favorites, so the shiny purple versions of Carlos Santana, Strasburg, Sale, Cano, Arenado, Kimbrel, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Gomez are also all available for the right offer. One other rarity I pulled was a black-back parallel of the Michael Brantley card. Supposedly every card in the set has a parallel version with this variation, but I couldn't find a listed insertion ratio; it seems that they're pretty rare. Maybe I'll just hold on to that one. At any rate, I certainly got more than I expected out of a marked-down blaster.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rich Dauer, 1984 Fleer #4

Congratulations to the Houston Astros, who have a date in Kansas City for Game 1 of the ALDS after dispatching the Yankees in the Wild Card Game by a 3-0 margin. There are no former Orioles on Houston's postseason roster, since Scott Feldman is injured and L. J. Hoes spent most of the season cooling his heels at AAA Fresno. But there are still some familiar faces in the navy blue and orange. Rich Dauer mans the first base coach's box for the 'Stros, after spending the previous two seasons managing San Diego's AA San Antonio Missions club. Ex-O's infielder Enos Cabell is a special assistant to GM Jeff Luhnow, and one-time Baltimore pitcher Dyar Miller is the Houston organization's minor league pitching coordinator. It goes without saying that I'll continue moonlighting as an Astros fan in the Division Series; there's no way I'm letting bygones be bygones so soon where the Royals are concerned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Glenn Davis, 1993 Stadium Club #326

Alright, Astros. Let's lay our cards on the table here. You win tonight, and I'll forgive you for your part in the Glenn Davis trade. I need to know that I can enjoy the rest of the postseason without having to see Joe Girardi's puckered lemon face. You have that power. You can make it happen.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Gregg Olson, 1993 Bowman #465

I hope that the person who chose the photo for this card made a deliberate choice to create the illusion that Gregg Olson was hurling the Bowman logo toward home plate.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Baltimore Orioles, 2004 Topps #641

I wouldn't have thought it possible a week ago, but today the Orioles ended the 2015 season on a five-game winning streak, allowing them to break even at 81-81, good for third place in the American League East. Despite the fact that the O's have collected the most wins in the A. L. since the beginning of 2012, thoughts of the dark days of 1998-2011 (fourteen straight losing seasons) are never that far from my mind. So for all of the challenges that the Birds faced this year, I'm really grateful that they made it back to .500. Now, then...

182 days until Opening Day. What do I do now?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Brooks Robinson, 2004 Maryland Lottery #44

Brooks Robinson's career high in home runs was 28, coming in his MVP season in 1964. Eddie Murray, who racked up 504 homers in his Hall of Fame career, never hit more than 33 in a single season. Cal Ripken peaked at 34 four-baggers, a number he reached in 1991 en route to his second MVP award. Tonight I braved the cold damp weather and bitter October winds to see Manny Machado (who, I feel the need to remind you, is only 23 years old) hit his 35th home run of the year - his fifth in the last four games - as the O's wrapped up a doubleheader sweep of the Yankees with a 4-3 win in the nightcap. A win in tomorrow's season finale would allow the Birds to end 2015 with a five-game win streak and a break-even record of 81-81. A victory tomorrow afternoon would also possibly deny the Yanks home-field advantage in their wild-card playoff game on Tuesday; they are one game ahead of the Astros, and Houston holds the tiebreaker. If you can't go to the postseason yourself, you might as well play spoiler.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Paul Blair, 1967 Topps #319

In 1969, Paul Blair became the first Oriole to join the 20-20 club - 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Yesterday, Manny Machado hit a pair of home runs and stole two bases in the Birds' 6-4 win over Toronto, giving him 33 homers and 20 steals (both career highs by leaps and bounds). Manny joins Brady Anderson as the only players in team history to go 30-20. Next year's team might look drastically different, but as long as #13 is around, the O's have a good foundation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kevin Gausman, 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes #226

I saw a fantastically entertaining game last night at Camden Yards. It breezed by in two hours and 23 minutes, thanks in large part to Kevin Gausman's dominant performance. He struck out 10 Toronto hitters in eight innings, allowing a solo home run to Darwin Barney (out of pity, I suspect) and no more. For the first six innings, the Baltimore hitters made their own contribution to the brisk pace by scraping together a scant two hits against Blue Jays starter R. A. Dickey and reliever Ryan Tepera. But in the home seventh, the Birds broke loose. Manny Machado led off with his 31st home run of the season, and Chris Davis made it back-to-back blasts with his 44th of the year and his career 200th. A J. J. Hardy RBI single and a two-run double by Nolan Reimold capped the five-run inning. The milestones kept coming in the bottom of the eighth. Davis went deep again - his 159th as an Oriole, moving him past Melvin Mora for tenth-most in team history. Two batters later, Matt Wieters crushed a two-run homer, the 100th of his career. Altogether, it added up to an 8-1 trouncing of the front-running Jays.

There was another game earlier yesterday, but I don't remember what happened in that one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Terry Crowley, 1983 Topps #372

The way the Orioles have been hitting (or not hitting) lately, there are probably a few frazzled fans out there who are pining for the days of hitting coach Terry Crowley. I'm not quite that desperate, just for the record. But I did witness Ryan Flaherty snapping the O's 29-inning scoreless streak with a second-inning three-run homer off of Toronto's Marco Estrada last night...followed by the team failing to score again and dropping a 4-3 decision to the Jays. Now torrential rains have bumped tonight's game to the front half of a single-admission doubleheader tomorrow. Maybe the Birds have saved all of their hits for just such an occasion. And maybe I'll find a few hundred thousand dollars between the couch cushions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rafael Palmeiro, 2004 Fleer Hot Prospects Draft Edition #15

Here's a story that broke while I was out of town the weekend before last: Rafael Palmeiro's return to pro baseball.

A full ten years (plus a couple of weeks) after playing his last MLB game with the Orioles, the most overlooked member of the 3,000-hit club signed a contract with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. How a team from Texas fits into the Atlantic League is a question for another day. I'm more interested in the fact that Palmeiro was back on the field at age 50 to play alongside his son Patrick, aged 25. The younger Palmeiro was drafted by the White Sox in 2012, but batted only .227/.277/.365 in three seasons in the low minors. He's spent all of 2015 with the Skeeters, putting up a line of .256/.315/.404 in 128 games, with 13 home runs and 68 RBI.

As it turned out, Raffy played a single game for Sugar Land, batting third and pulling DH duties. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. Patrick batted ahead of his father in the two-hole and started at third base. Patrick turned in a 2-for-5 effort with a walk, a double, a homer, and four RBI. I'm sure the lineup protection afforded by one of the best lefthanded hitters in the history of baseball - one who just happens to be his father - made it all possible.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Willy Miranda, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #307

The Orioles did not score a single lousy run all weekend in Fenway Park. The last time that Baltimore's baseball team was shut out in three straight games, it took a Willy Miranda RBI single to break the skid. That was back on August 2, 1957, in the second inning of the opener of a doubleheader against the Athletics.

I'm still looking forward to seeing the O's open their final homestand of the season tomorrow night, despite this latest embarrassing stumble. After all, I've only got tickets for three more games this year, and there will be something missing in my life for the rest of the fall and winter.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Rich Hill, 2009 Topps Heritage #666

If you were clinging to any pipe dreams about a last-minute Orioles surge into the playoffs, being shut out at the hands of Rich Hill on two hits and ten strikeouts ought to kill that good. Yes, the same Rich Hill who hadn't even made a big league start since bombing out with the O's in 2009. So of course he's slipped into the Boston rotation this September and allowed three runs, ten hits, and two walks while striking out 30 in 23 innings. Man, baseball drives me bonkers.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Dave Nicholson, 1961 Topps #182

I know what you're thinking, but Topps didn't give the Orioles' bat boy a card. Dave Nicholson was 20 years old when he debuted for the Orioles in May of 1960. Two years earlier, they'd signed him as a teenager for a whopping $100,000 bonus. He led the Class C Northern League with 35 home runs in 1959 while playing for the Aberdeen Pheasants. That early success didn't carry over to the big leagues, though. In his first taste of the majors, Dave struck out 55 times in 113 at-bats. "Big Nick" played only 151 games for the O's over two seasons, batting .178/.296/.357 with 14 homers and 26 RBI. Baltimore traded him to the White Sox in January, 1963 as part of the Luis Aparicio deal.

His first season in the Windy City was his best, as he played 126 games and batted .229 with 22 home runs and 70 RBI...and a then-record 175 strikeouts in 520 at-bats. The following year, he made his mark in a May 6 doubleheader at Comiskey Park against the Athletics. Facing future Oriole Moe Drabowsky, Nicholson hit a pair of home runs. His solo shot leading off the bottom of the fifth inning traveled 573 feet, one of the longest measured blasts in history, and either struck or cleared the left field roof and was later located across the street. For good measure, Dave added a third home run off of Aurelio Monteagudo in the nightcap.

Unfortunately, Dave didn't make contact frequently enough to stick in the majors. His career ended with a 10-game swing with the Braves in 1967, when he was just 27 years old. Be that as it may, the dude hit a baseball 573 feet. I have a hard time even picturing that.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Matt Wieters, 2008 Razor #54

By hook or by crook, the Orioles have kept their faint playoff hopes alive. Today Matt Wieters took over in the eighth inning, blasting a go-ahead two-run homer off of Nationals reliever Blake Treinen in the top of the frame and helping blunt a Washington rally in the home half by pouncing on an Ian Desmond bunt and gunning down pinch runner Wilmer Difo at third base. O's win 5-4, completing the sweep and sprinkling even more dirt on the coffin of the one-time World Series favorite. That's an 11-4 run for the Birds, allowing them to claw back to .500. With ten games left to play (three in Boston, four at home vs. Toronto, three at home vs. the Yankees), the O's are 3.5 behind Houston for the second wild card berth. It's still not terribly likely that they will jump over the Twins, Angels, and Astros to earn the right to visit the Bronx for the coin flip game, but as they say, you can't predict baseball (unless you were to predict that Jonathan Papelbon would act like a Neanderthal and embarrass his teammates, coaches, and fans, but I digress). This has not been the greatest of years for the Orioles, but I appreciate that they've continued putting forth an effort through it all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Walter Young, 2006 Topps Heritage #216

I never like talking about recently-deceased Orioles, and I especially don't like it when the ex-player is two years older than me. Walter Young suffered a fatal heart attack last Saturday at age 35. His O's career consisted of a 14-game stint in September 2005, but he made a splashy debut in the Baltimore organization a year earlier with 33 homers and 98 RBI at AA Bowie after being claimed off waivers from the Pirates. According to the text on the back of this 2006 Topps Heritage card, big Walter (6'5", 320 pounds) hit the B&O Warehouse on the fly during a batting practice session at Camden Yards. It's a shame he didn't get to showcase that light-tower power in an extended trial in the bigs. His lone big league round-tripper was hit in Texas on September 13, 2005, leading off the seventh inning against future Cy Young winner R. A. Dickey. Ten years later, he's gone. It's just too soon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cal Ripken Jr., 1999 Upper Deck UD Choice #36

It's a good thing that I have a handful of faithful readers like Zach to pay close attention to arbitrary numeric milestones, otherwise I would never have realized that I was on the precipice of 2,632 blog posts. While it would be tempting to just hang up my proverbial spikes tonight, just as Cal asked out of the Orioles' lineup 17 years ago, nobody likes a copycat. Besides, sharing my collection and my scattered thoughts with you helps me to feel like there's some further purpose to my card-accumulating madness. So let's get started on the next 2,632, and in the meantime...does this butt-ugly card make anybody feel like drinking a nice, cold glass of Sunny Delight?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Jay Gibbons, 2003 Upper Deck MVP #24

So I'm back from the hinterlands Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, and the Orioles have been rained out down in that sterile mallpark in D. C. What kind of a welcome home is that? I blame Jay Gibbons. I have no reason to do so. I just find that it helps to blame Jay Gibbons for things every so often, just to keep him honest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mark McLemore, 1993 Topps #55

I'm leaving town tomorrow, and the O's sent me on my way by sleepwalking through a 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the Red Sox tonight. We are heading to northeastern Pennsylvania for an end-of-summer weekend getaway at my family's lakeside cottage. I have a random memory of buying one of my first packs of 1993 Topps up that way, at a McCrory's store that was probably closed within a few years. It was a Series One rack pack, and I'm fairly sure that this Mark McLemore card came from that pack. Ah, memories.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tony Batista, 2002 Fleer Ultra #200

I wanted to tell you about the Orioles' walk-off win against the Red Sox tonight, but this game is taking too damned long and I get little enough sleep as it is. As I take my leave from you in the middle of the 11th, here's Tony Batista watching the flight of a ball off of his bat. Tony hit a pair of walk-off home runs as an Oriole, a tenth-inning solo shot against J. J. Trujillo of the Padres on June 11, 2002 and another tenth-inning solo shot against Tampa Bay's Jesus Colome on August 21, 2003. Whose turn will it be tonight?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Dennis Martinez, 1981 Donruss #533

September 14 is a good day for an anniversary. On this date in 1976, Dennis Martinez earned the win in his major league debut with 5.2 shutout innings of four-hit, five-strikeout relief in a 9-7 victory over the Tigers. He bailed the Birds out after Ross Grimsley and Dave Pagan combined to cough up seven runs in three and one-third innings, stranding a pair of inherited runners. By the time he entered, the O's had already come most of the way back from an early 6-0 deficit, thanks in large part to a Doug DeCinces three-run homer, but he arrested Detroit's momentum and kept the score tight until the offense broke through with a four-run burst in the bottom of the seventh. Dennis sealed the win with a perfect ninth inning, inducing a trio of ground ball outs to make history as the first-ever Nicaraguan-born player in the major leagues. To this day, he's still one of just 14 players from his native country to play in the bigs, and is by far the most accomplished. (Take THAT, Everth Cabrera.)

September 14, 2015 is also the second anniversary of my wedding day. She's still putting up with me, and often doing so with a smile. I'm forever grateful.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dick Kokos, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #245

For no reason at all, here's Dick Kokos, a St. Louis Browns holdover who played just 11 games for the Orioles in 1954, batting 14 times with four walks and two hits, one of which was a home run. Dick Kokos is fun to say. Try it: Dick Kokos. See?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Nolan Reimold, 2013 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL-13

I feel very chastened after missing my second straight Vintage Friday, but I have the best of reasons. I didn't make it home from Oriole Park at Camden Yards until about 12:15 this morning, because I stayed until the not-so-bitter end of the Birds' four-hour comeback win over the Royals. Being a first-hand witness to one of the more improbable contests of the year reminded me of  how much excitement and weirdness a fan can experience over the course of a single baseball season. Just last night, the O's treated us to:

-Cuban-born outfielder Dariel Alvarez's first career home run

-A daring first-to-home dash from Manny Machado on a two-out single by Chris Davis, punctuated by a head-first slide and a swipe of home plate, just ahead of K.C. catcher Salvador Perez's tag

-Nolan Reimold's go-ahead grand slam off of the left field foul pole in the bottom of the eighth inning

-Machado greeting reliever Franklin Morales with a solo homer immediately after Reimold's grand slam, making for back-to-back four-baggers against two different pitchers

-Chris Davis responding to a presumably intentional plunking by Morales by slamming his bat into the ground, breaking it in two

-Buck Showalter earning an ejection by unleashing a hellacious tirade against home plate umpire Mark Carlson, who warned both benches after the Davis HBP but refused to eject Morales

-Steve Clevenger (who had pinch hit for Caleb Joseph earlier in the inning) earning a measure of retribution against the Royals by hitting another grand slam in the bottom of the eighth, striking his blow against old Baltimore favorite Joba Chamberlain

So all in all, that added up to a wild 14-8 O's win. In that eventful eighth inning, they tallied ten runs in a single frame for the first time since April 11, 2002, when Geronimo Gil and Mike Bordick sparked a 12-run sixth against the Devil Rays with back-to-back home runs. They also became the first major league team in a decade to hit two grand slams in one inning, and only the seventh team to ever perform that feat. It doesn't quite make up for the indignities of the 2014 ALCS, but it felt good all the same.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rodrigo Lopez, 2003 Topps Gallery #13

I hope this bizarre portrait of Rodrigo Lopez doesn't keep you awake tonight. To me, there's something that just seems off about it, but I can't quite pinpoint it. Too strong on the whiskers? Head too narrow? Flesh too orange? Maybe it's all of the above. I'm not saying that I could do better, but then I'm not selling my wares to Topps, either.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rafael Palmeiro, 1995 Upper Deck #366

Before he was finger-pointing, earplug-wearing, Tejada-blaming twilight-of-his-career Rafael Palmeiro, he was just Raffy, and he did a lot of impressive things in an Orioles uniform. But #25 only had one 40-homer season in Baltimore. Same goes for Frank Robinson, Jim Gentile, Brady Anderson, and Nelson Cruz. Within the past week, Chris Davis became the first player in franchise history to hit 40 home runs in two different seasons. Last night, he slugged his 41st in the top of the ninth to give the O's a 2-1 win in Yankee Stadium. Tonight, "Crush" was held in the ballpark, but still came up big in a series-clinching 5-3 win in the Bronx. He singled, doubled, and walked twice, driving in the team's first run and a crucial ninth-inning insurance tally. There hasn't been much worth celebrating in Birdland over the past month, but Chris Davis continues to inspire awe.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1994 Collector's Choice #123

If you look closely at this photo, you will see that the name engraved on the bat is "Jeff Hammonds". That is literally the first time I can recall seeing his name shortened. Was it his choice, or did the bat company just goof? Maybe it was a space-saving measure. I wonder if Jeff Hammonds would have had a more successful career than Jeffrey Hammonds. What about J. B. Hammonds? Eh, I don't like that. It sounds too much like an investment firm. Ultimately, I think Jeffrey was the right call. It just has a ring to it...not a World Series ring, unfortunately, but what's done is done.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Tim Stoddard, 1983 Fleer #75

No, the Orioles' ongoing backslide into crapulence hasn't driven me away from blogging just yet. I was out of town for the holiday weekend, attending Chikara Pro Wrestling's King of Trios tournament in scenic Easton, PA. Because I am the undisputed master of time management, I waited until 90 minutes prior to my departure to try to fit in: yardwork, a shower, packing, and blogging. Guess which of those activities fell by the wayside.

Now that I'm trying to get back to my usual routines, I've got a thoroughly useless fact about the 1983 Fleer Orioles team set for you. There are a whopping six cards featuring O's pitchers without their hats. The rogue's gallery consists of both Dennis and Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, Jim Palmer (of course), Sammy Stewart, and...Tim Stoddard? Hey, when in Rome. Anyhow, there are no Oriole position players in this set who appear capless, which makes things even quirkier. Maybe the pitchers had a No-Hat Wednesday and the hitters weren't invited. It makes as much sense as any other explanation.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chris Hoiles, 1993 Stadium Club #345

Last night Chris Davis caught - and then passed - Chris Hoiles for 11th all-time on the Orioles' home run leader board, and he did so emphatically. The man they call "Crush" first brought the O's back from an early 4-0 hole with a game-tying two-run homer in the third inning that hit the center field batter's eye wall on a bounce, traveling 438 feet from home plate. Then, after Jonathan Schoop's two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth wiped out a 6-4 deficit, the game dragged on into the 11th. A weary Davis jumped on a 3-0 offering from Rays reliever Matt Andriese and nearly hit the right-center field scoreboard with his 38th home run of the season and his 152nd since joining the O's in late 2011. The titanic blast had six seconds of hang time, enough for the ball to travel 459 feet. It was also the brawny first baseman's 90th homer at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, pushing him past Melvin Mora for fourth all-time. There's no shame in being chased down by Chris Davis.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Eddie Murray, 1986 Fleer #282

Tonight's game looked really nasty in the top of the third inning, when poor defense, poor pitching, and poor umpiring conspired to chase Kevin Gausman from the mound after two and a third innings. It was 4-0, and the bases were still loaded. Chaz Roe, fresh off the disabled list, induced a double play grounder to end the inning, and the O's bats awakened from their long slumber to tie the game with a four-run outburst in the bottom half of the inning. Chris Davis' two-run homer knotted it up and ensured the O's of scoring more than three runs in a game for the first time since their last win one week ago. They also spent the prior week failing to exceed three runs in any game. What I'm saying is that the offense is not thriving. So I'm resorting to the ever-reliable Eddie Murray talisman. Let's go O's! Score some runs, break this slide, or Eddie's gonna come straighten you out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eric Bell, 1987 Fleer Update #U-2

Eric Bell looks a bit queasy in this photo. Maybe he watched the Orioles get thrashed by the Rays again tonight, 11-2, their sixth straight loss and 12th in 13 games. They're six games under .500, two games out of last place, and haven't topped three runs in any of those dirty dozen L's. Is this rock bottom, or can they sink even lower?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bobby Grich, 2015 Orioles Postcards

Tonight's Orioles game was yet another pile of uninspired garbage, as the team lost for the 11th time in 12 tries, thanks to more shaky starting pitching and unopportunistic hitting. But hey, at least I met Bobby Grich before the game!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jake Arrieta, 2013 Topps #134

Congratulations to Jake Arrieta for tossing his first career no-hitter tonight against the Dodgers. A dozen strikeouts (including the last three batters of the game), one walk, one Starlin Castro error. He threw 116 pitches, including 80 strikes, and improves to an MLB-best 17-6 with a 2.11 ERA. I'm not bitter about this at all. Not even a little. I'm certainly not wondering whether his remarkable successes in Chicago are a damning indictment of the Baltimore organization's player development.