Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brian Matusz, 2011 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL3

Another Orioles FanFest is in the books, and it feels like we've passed an important signpost on the road to Opening Day. Even if temperatures are in the mid-twenties with swirling winds, there's just something energizing about walking through the Eutaw Street concourse, mingling with groups of fans decked out in orange and black, and exchanging a few pleasantries with players past and present. I usually take a pass on most of the memorabilia dealers that set up shop in the Baltimore Convention Center, because their prices are good for a laugh ($3 for an autographed 1990 Score Juan Bell card, for example!), but I did pick up three Jim Palmer oddball cards from the late '70s and early '80s for a total of five dollars. I'll share them soon enough, I assure you.

My sister and I also enjoy browsing the team-sponsored memorabilia sale, which we've dubbed the Orioles' yard sale. There's always a couple of long tables piled high with game-used jerseys from the regular season and spring training, and it's like visiting with the Ghost of Spring Training Past. Here are some of the high-numbered jerseys we found, worn by guys who never made it to Baltimore: Johan Santana, Johnny Monell, Edgmer Escalona, Kelvin de la Cruz...there was also a Willis Otanez jersey mixed in at random. We talked one another into buying orange spring training/batting practice jerseys of our respective sentimental favorites - #48 Joe Saunders for Liz, and #35 Danny Valencia for me. No regrets. We do have our limits, though; neither of us was willing to part with $50 for an empty champagne bottle from last season's locker room celebration. How about $20 for a champagne cork?

We ducked out at noon for lunch at Dempsey's, complete with a flight of their house brews. I still prefer their '83 Golden Ale and their Rain Delay IPA. We timed things well, arriving just before the rush. Then it was back to the Convention Center so I could get some autographs from the trio of Brian Matusz, Caleb Joseph, and Jim Palmer. I'll share the Joseph and Palmer cards next Friday, which will bring us another week closer to baseball.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Lee May, 1978 Topps #640

Lee May brought a lot more to the Orioles than his on-field performance during his six years in Baltimore. Here's a quote from Eddie Murray, excerpted from John Eisenberg's oral history of the team, From 33rd Street to Camden Yards:

"Lee May had some good qualities, and he tried to show me the right way to do things-and not to do things. Some were off the field. Like, always listen. If someone tells you five things, you might use two-but that's two more than you had. And he said, 'If you sit down and break bread with someone, you should be able to pick up a check.' So not just baseball things, but being a major leaguer. It was a learning thing. And then the way when Earl would scream at someone, and Lee would come along behind and pat the guy and say, 'Way to go.' Keeping his head up. They were almost a team that way. Earl was making his point, and Lee was, too."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mark Hendrickson, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #82

I kind of love the bizarre symbiotic relationship the Orioles have had with journeyman Mark Hendrickson since 2009. They signed the 6'9" ex-Blue Jay/Devil Ray/Dodger/Marlin (and 76er/King/Net/Cavalier...he's a two-sport journeyman!) when Andy MacPhail was still bridging the gap to the future with baling wire and Silly Putty. He spent two seasons and change in Baltimore, largely as a reliever, with middling results: 8-11, 4.80 ERA, 92 ERA+, 1.5 WHIP in 191.1 innings. The O's released him in September 2011, and he wound up sitting out the following season.

But he had a good rapport with manager Buck Showalter, and the Birds were close to his home in York, PA, so he found his way back into the organization in 2013 following a tryout. Mark had developed a new sidearm delivery at Showalter's urging, and it was good enough to earn him a minor-league deal. Though he pitched well at AAA Norfolk (3.06 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in 40 relief appearances), the Orioles did not call him up during the season. They expressed interest in retaining him as a coach, but not as a pitcher, so he went back to York, suiting up in 2014 for the Atlantic League's Revolution club. He further honed his sidearm style and was even better, putting up a 1.54 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and nine saves for the Revs.

That brings us to the present, as the now-40-year-old Hendrickson is throwing submarine-style and has once again tried out for Buck and the Birds. According to Roch Kubatko, the team is "leaning toward" inviting him to spring training. They're still interested in acquiring his services as a pitching coach, when (or maybe if) he does decide to retire. I'll always root for an underdog, and there are few players with stories as unusual as Mark Hendrickson's. But I've almost overlooked the newest twist: Mark's also a new grandfather. Viva Mark Hendrickson.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Leo Gomez, 1990 CMC Minors #311

Snazzy glasses there, Leo Gomez. I'm pretty sure that my dad had a pair just like them. In my hazy memories, there were maybe three or four sets of frames for glasses in the 1980s. You didn't have much of a choice, so you usually got stuck with a pair that swallowed up half of your face. It was not a good time to have vision problems. I'm just grateful that my eyes tolerate contact lenses, so I don't have to worry about these fashion faux pas...any more. There are pictures from my childhood and adolescence that I need to go bury in the bottom of a deep, dark hole.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Gregg Olson, 1991 Donruss #393

Valued reader Zach left a comment on yesterday's blog entry requesting the zesty green border of 1991 Donruss Series 2, which solved my daily dilemma of which card to post. The base cards in this set are enough of an eyesore, with their neon Trapper Keeper stripes and splotches in the margins, but the MVP subset cranks it to 11. The goofy clip art baseballs in the background of the photo are reminiscent of Donruss' 1987 set, and the bold yellow "MVP" wordmark on top, complete with rainbow gradient drop shadow, complete the sensory overload.

As for Gregg Olson: with all due respect to the Otter, the fact that Donruss tabbed him as the most valuable player for the Orioles in the just-concluded 1990 season is emblematic of the team's tumble to fifth place in the East. The Birds' sophomore closer was very good, with a 2.42 ERA, 37 saves, and 74 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. But if the standout player on your club is only on the field for the equivalent of eight-plus games, there are probably some everyday players who didn't meet expectations.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Eddie Murray, 1997 Pinnacle #65

It's rare that I go a full weekend without posting unless I'm out of town, but for the past two days I was busier than Eddie Murray at an ass-kicking contest. On Saturday I put my new home brewing kit to the test and started making my first homemade beer, an IPA. I did not expect it to take six hours. All that, and it still won't be ready to drink for another four weeks. The next time I buy a six-pack from the store, I'll be a little more appreciative of the convenience for the price. We spent all afternoon on Sunday doing some much-overdue cleaning around the house. I can neither confirm nor deny that we left our Christmas decorations up for a full month after Christmas. Then last night, I made the 90-minute drive up to Philadelphia with a couple of friends to view WWE's Royal Rumble live from the Wells Fargo Center. So that's why I was missing in action...not that you asked.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Don Buford, 1970 Topps #305

There you have it: photographic proof that the Orioles briefly led the 1969 World Series, coming out on top in the opener in Baltimore. Don Buford homered off of Tom Seaver in his first ever Fall Classic at-bat, and Mike Cuellar went the distance in a 4-1 victory over the Mets. This picture is of course the aftermath of Buford's trip around the bases, as the left fielder is greeted by a grinning bat boy and a dugout full of jubilant teammates and coaches. Brooks Robinson stands to the left, shouting for joy and holding his arms open to receive the hero of the moment.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chris Richard, 2001 Upper Deck MVP #68

Here we see Chris Richard employing the rarely-used and since-discredited "Itsy Bitsy Spider Technique" for fielding ground balls. The Orioles fired their infield coach later that night.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Johnny Oates, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #340

Today would have been Johnny Oates' 69th birthday. It's hard to believe that he's been gone for ten years, his life cut short by brain cancer. Just a few weeks ago, I visited Oates' birthplace of Sylva, a quiet town in the mountains of western North Carolina. I didn't make the connection at the time; my wife and I were visiting her favorite haunts from her undergrad days at Western Carolina University. But it was a fine place, fitting for such a beloved man. I hope he's in an even better place now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Javy Lopez, 2004 Donruss World Series #WS-18

The January 20 weather report from Baltimore: Gray. Chilly. Rainy. But I took an important step towards Spring this morning my booking a flight for Sarasota. At the end of March, my wife, my sister, and I will be spending a long weekend on the west coast of central Florida. We're staying with my wife's brother while we're down there, and catching a Grapefruit League game or two at Ed Smith Stadium. I'll be counting the days over the coming weeks until I can see for myself just how much the Orioles have improved their spring training situation since I last went south in 2007. Back then, the Birds were still hosted by Fort Lauderdale, where the home park was across the street from a ramshackle soccer stadium and down the road a piece from a Wendy's with an ant infestation. As you can see, Javy Lopez put on a brave face in 2004 for his first preseason in Lauderdale, but it must have been a shock to his system after previously training with the Braves at Disney World. The O's might not have digs at the Happiest Place on Earth, but at least they're not doing their weight training in a tent in the parking lot any more. (Yes, that really happened.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cesar Devarez, 1996 Score #264

Yep, nothing quite says "rookie" like a catcher with a uniform number in the high fifties schlepping equipment out to the bullpen. Cesar Devarez is just fortunate that the O's pitchers of the mid 1990s weren't juvenile enough to "punish" him by making him carry a pink Hello Kitty backpack or some other such nonsense.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jim Palmer, 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #70

We're only two weeks away from Orioles FanFest, and now I've got my autograph voucher. I was able to grab a ticket for the 2:00 PM session with Caleb Joseph, Brian Matusz, and Jim Palmer. I couldn't turn down a chance to add a Hall of Famer to my modest assortment of O's autographs, as tempting as it was to lock down one of the sessions with Larry Bigbie. Maybe next year.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Doug DeCinces, 1978 Topps #9

Did Doug DeCinces go through a Wild West phase in the late 1970s?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Arthur Rhodes, 1998 Score #228

I don't want to wallow in yesterday's dour mood, so here are some things that put me in a better headspace today:

1. Tomorrow is Friday, with a holiday weekend in reach.

2. Janet made delicious pork barbeque in the Crock Pot tonight.

3. Score captured lefty Arthur Rhodes checking the runner at first base in mid-windup. It's all about those little details.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Marty Cordova, 2003 Topps Heritage #329

The background of Marty Cordova's card is blank, a washed-out slate of blue that brings to mind a solid sheet of ice. We're smack in the middle of January, and it's one of those gray, frigid winter days that makes me want to wrap myself in a cocoon of sheets and blankets. If I had my way, I might refuse to leave the house until the temperature nudges back over 50 degrees. The alarm sounded at 5:30 this morning and I desperately pushed back the curtain from the bedroom window, hoping to see snow on the ground. No such luck, and for good measure Janet rolled over and told me that she hadn't gotten any delay or closing alerts on her phone. I laid in the dark for five minutes, arguing with myself about whether I should steal another hour of sleep and warmth and comfort, or if I should suck it up and get moving. Since I work on a flex schedule, "suck it up" won out, but it was a bitter fight. There's still more than two months of winter left, and this weather is already wearing me down.
 I think bears have the right idea.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Brady Anderson, 1993 Topps #355

I'm crossing the streams between this site and my ongoing 1993 Topps blog, where today's featured card is Brady Anderson. I never realized how much value Brady brought to the Orioles via his on-base skills. He peaked with a .404 on-base percentage in 1999, but his OBP was at least 93 points higher than his batting average each year of his career after his rookie season. It was .362 for his career (compared to a .256 AVG), thanks in large part to his ability to draw walks. He ranks second to Cal Ripken in career walks as an Oriole with 927. Of course, he was also willing to take one for the team. He was hit by a pitch 154 times in his career, 148 of those in a Baltimore uniform, a franchise record. Brady led the American League in times plunked in 1996 (22 HBP), 1997 (19), and 1999 (24). It hurts just thinking about that.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2014 Topps Fond Farewells #FF-CR

Fellow card blogger Thorzul is one of the real veterans of the scene, by which I mean that he's been doing this thing even longer than I have. I look forward to his "Trade Me Anything" series at the end of each year. In 2013 I missed out, but I had a few random goodies earmarked for Thorzul last month, so I staked my claim to this Cal Junior insert, a Chad Qualls black-bordered parallel (because I have a soft spot for journeyman relievers), and a few Dodgers parallels to be earmarked as trade bait. In return, I sent a few vintage Brewers, a new shiny Brewer, a plastic 1990s Brewer, Mad Libs, a schlocky horror movie, and some Christmas candy to Milwaukee. To see photographic documentation of both sides of the trade, head on over to Thorzul Will Rule.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nick Hundley, 2014 Topps Update Series #US-140

Nick Hundley may have been in Baltimore for less than a full season, having already departed for the thin air of Denver's Coors Field, but at least we've got this excellent card as a way to remember him. It depicts the aftermath of a pie attack, most likely perpetrated by Adam Jones, with an assistant to Charm City's own Dangerously Delicious Pies. (That's right - no lame-ass aluminum tins full of shaving cream or Cool Whip for these Birds.) I love that the pie is suspended in midair, having fallen off of Hundley's face and bound for the dirt. Still, there's a telltale mask of whipped cream and pie chunks left on the catcher's face.

With a quick Google search, I know that this photo was taken on Friday night, July 11, 2014. Nick Hundley had just roped a one-out single off of Adam Warren in the bottom of the tenth inning to score Manny Machado for a walkoff 3-2 win over the Yankees. You can see an animated GIF image from Camden Chat here.

Hey, whaddaya know? I was there for that game! Don't bother looking for me on the card, though; I was up on the third level.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Delmon Young, 2014 Topps Update Series #US-160

Hey, Delmon Young is back for 2015! I would not have imagined a year ago that I would be legitimately happy to type that. But Delmon was a model citizen for the Orioles in 2014 as a backup designated hitter, pinch hitter, and occasional theoretical outfielder. His 120 OPS+ was his highest since 2010, and he batted .302/.337/.442 overall. He was 10-for-20 as a pinch hitter in the regular season, and he had one more important pinch hit in the postseason that you might remember. I'm fairly certain that it was the most exciting thing I've ever witnessed in person at Camden Yards. The best part is that, as the eighth inning of Game Two of the ALDS unfolded, I could see it coming. When three straight batters reached against Joba Chamberlain, I turned to my sister and said, "How many guys have to get on base before Delmon bats?". By the time Buck Showalter sent his pinch hitter extraordinaire to the plate in place of Ryan Flaherty with the bases loaded and the O's down by two, I had absolutely no doubt that he would deliver...the rest is history.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Vintage Fridays: Stu Miller, 1965 Topps #499

The Orioles lost a couple of old friends last Sunday. Former general manager Hank Peters passed away due to complications from a stroke. He was 90 years old. Peters helmed Baltimore's front office from 1975 to 1987, overseeing the 1979 American League Champions and the 1983 World Series winning team. On his watch, the Birds drafted Cal Ripken, Mike Boddicker, and Storm Davis, among others. He also traded for Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez...and that was all in the same deal!

Former reliever Stu Miller also died on January 4, just nine days after his 87th birthday. The righthander started his career with the Cardinals in 1952, but spent the bulk of his career with the O's and Giants. It was with San Francisco that he committed an infamous balk in the 1961 All-Star Game. Taking the mound in the ninth inning with the National League clinging to a one-run lead, he was thrown off balance by one of the famed gusts of wind that were typical for Candlestick Park. The umpire called the balk, and Al Kaline moved to third. Kaline would tie the game a batter later, scoring on Ken Boyer's error. Miller did earn the win in the tenth inning, though. He spent the last five full seasons of his career as an Oriole, anchoring the team's bullpen with a 2.37 ERA (145 ERA+), 38 wins, and an even 100 saves. Not bad for a guy who was 35 when he got to town.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rene Gonzales, 1991 Score #638

My friends at Camden Chat have been doing a mitzvah for myself and O's fans everywhere by maintaining a daily countdown to Opening Day 2015. As Mark Brown noted in today's Bird Droppings post, the Orioles will play the first game of the new season at Tampa Bay in just 88 days. That's a hair under three months, folks! I think we're all gonna make it: you, me, and Rene Gonzales.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ross Grimsley, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #167

Today is a big milestone for Ross Grimsley, as the former Orioles pitcher celebrates his 65th birthday. The man known as both "Scuz" and "Crazy Eyes" (seriously, check out his bio!) is more than just a funny-looking guy with some colorful nicknames, though. He was a second-generation major leaguer who upstaged his father Ross. Sr., a veteran of just seven games with the 1951 White Sox. The younger Grimsley was only 21 when he debuted with the Reds in 1971, two years after the team made him their first-round draft pick. He had three solid seasons in Cincinnati, posting a 37-25 record with a 3.26 ERA, before the O's acquired him in a five-player trade that sent Merv Rettenmund to the Reds.

Ross replaced Doyle Alexander in the Baltimore rotation and got right to work, with an 18-13 mark and a 3.07 ERA that was lowest among Birds starters. He made an incredible 39 starts and completed 17 of them, totaling 295.2 innings to lead an AL East Champion club that only used 12 pitchers all season. That heavy workload may have taken a toll, as Grimsley averaged only 184 innings over the next three years, with a cumulative ERA of 3.99 (90 ERA+). The lefty joined the Expos as a free agent in 1978 and had one burst of greatness, going 20-11 with a 3.05 ERA and 19 complete games. He made the All-Star team, and ultimately stands in the record books as Montreal's only 20-game winner. But Ross was hit hard in subsequent campaigns with the Expos and Indians, and finished his career back in Baltimore as a long reliever in 1982. He had a 5.25 ERA in 21 games, but did eke out one last win with 7.2 innings of six-hit, scoreless relief on May 6. Starter Jim Palmer had lasted just three batters against the Angels, but Grimsley bridged the considerable gap to Tim Stoddard in the ninth inning, allowing an inherited runner to score on a Bobby Grich single but holding the line from there. The O's offense rallied for seven runs in the top of the ninth off of future Oriole Don Aase, with Ken Singleton's three-run homer and Gary Roenicke's two-run shot helping to break a 2-2 tie.

Should you be wondering about the current whereabouts of Scuz, he's been coaching in the Giants farm system since the turn of the century, and he's still got that beautiful mustache.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mike Mussina, 1991 Bowman #97

The Hall of Fame ballot is still an overcrowded mess thanks to mental midgets like Pedro "it's not journalism" Gomez and Jon "steroid specter" Heyman, but at least multiple worthy candidates are managing to navigate the minefield to Cooperstown. Congratulations to 2015 inductees Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio. None of the eligible former Orioles received the required 75% of votes cast, so none will be enshrined in the Hall this summer. However, all of the ex-O's on the ballot saw an uptick in their support except for Sammy Sosa, who dropped from 7.2% last year to 6.6% this year, but still hangs onto eligibility for another go-round. Better luck in 2016 to Tim Raines (55%), Curt Schilling (39.2%), Lee Smith (30.2%), Mike Mussina (24.6%), and last but not least, Slammin' Sammy. My only further opinion on this year's results is that the three-quarters of the BBWAA electorate who don't think Moose is Hall-worthy need their heads examined.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mark Belanger, 2004 Maryland Lottery #4

Since I spent the entire week after Christmas in North Carolina visiting with Janet's family, I wasn't around to mark the seventh anniversary of this blog's debut on January 1. I welcomed the break from my day-to-day routine, but I'm also glad to return to some familiar comforts. Whether it's sleeping in my own bed, or looking for tenuous connections between my baseball cards and my everyday life (seven years of regular blogging deserves a visit with fondly-remembered #7 Mark Belanger), it's good to be back.