Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Caleb Joseph, 2016 Topps Orioles Team Set #BO-2

I swear that I wasn't going to do the baby thing again tonight, but then Caleb Joseph tied a career high with four hits in as many at-bats, helping spoil Matt Wieters' return to Baltimore as the O's beat the Nationals, 6-4. That's five straight wins, folks.

So what does this have to do with my first-born? Well, two weeks ago, Caleb made a Saturday afternoon appearance at Point Breeze Credit Union in Westminster. Janet, Finn, and I jumped at the chance to say hello to our favorite person on the team. (Well, maybe Finn was mostly just along for the ride.) As it turned out, we arrived at 12:15, just as the shuttle showed up to deliver Joseph. It was pretty cool to see a good-sized crowd already lined up inside the bank, cheering for the team's backup catcher as he made his slightly belated entrance. He apologized for being late, and jokingly blamed the team rep that had accompanied him.

When we got to the front of the line, we introduced Caleb Joseph to our Finn Caleb, and told him that we'd even debated naming him Caleb Joseph...but Janet "thought it would be weird". Caleb's well-reasoned response was that "everyone has to be named for somebody".

At the time of our meeting, #36 was 0-for-12 on the young season and famously had not driven in a run since September 11, 2015. My sister and I had tickets to the game later that night (April 22, 2017), and wouldn't you know it? Caleb Joseph started that night and went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored in the Birds' 4-2 win over Boston; he hasn't looked back since. I'm not saying that my kid is a lucky charm or anything, but Caleb is now batting .316 (12-for-38) with a home run and four RBI since their meeting. Yep, the long dry spell is over. You're welcome.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Joey Rickard, 2016 Topps Update Series #US105

I'm still floundering about trying to re-establish blogging as a routine, but I love showing off photos of my ridiculously photogenic son (not that I'm biased or anything), so that's the angle tonight. Earlier today, the Orioles played the 2,000th game in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and it also happened to be Finn's first. He must have brought them luck, because #2,000 resembled #1: a shutout win for the O's.

I wouldn't have guessed the outcome from the way the game started. Chris Tillman got the call after missing the first month of the season with an ouchy shoulder, and started by throwing nine balls in his first ten pitches. But the White Sox squandered a bases-loaded opportunity en route to an 0-for-7 performance with runners in scoring position. Tillman seemed to discover his command as the game wore on, allowing three singles and three walks in five scoreless innings. Alec Asher bridged the gap to the ninth inning, scattering five hits in three and a third frames. After he yielded back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth, Brad Brach came on to earn the save. The first batter he faced, Leury Garcia, hit the ball right back to the mound, and Brach started the 1-6-3 double play.

All of the scoring happened in the first two innings against Chicago ace Jose Quintana, who was uncharacteristically wild. Adam Jones and Manny Machado drew back-to-back walks in the bottom of the first, and Mark Trumbo followed with his specialty, an infield single. A Chris Davis sac fly put the Birds on the board, and rookie Trey Mancini knocked in Machado with a single to right field. The O's put up another two-spot in the second, thanks to base hits by four of the first five hitters in the inning. Jones and Machado each drove in a run. Joey Rickard, everyone's favorite doe-eyed Royal Farms spokes-outfielder, was named Player of the Game on the strength of a 3-for-5 performance with a double, a run scored, and a stolen base.

I won't pretend that Finn paid rapt attention to the game; he is ten months old, after all. He was far more interested in grabbing the cap off of my head and the sunglasses off of Janet's face, when he wasn't staring at the other fans in the rows behind us. He was also quite enamored of Janet's Dippin' Dots, and once he started fussing in the late innings, she was fortunately able to cover him with a blanket and get him to sleep. But we did get his "first game" certificate from Fan Assistance, and we have these excellent photos to remember the day.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Vintage Fridays: Ken Singleton, 1979 Topps #615

Time flies, and it flies, and it flies. Adam Jones is in the midst of his tenth season in Baltimore, and it seems like every day he's leapfrogging notable names from Birdland's past on the franchise leader boards. Just nine games into the 2017 season, he's attained the following ranks:

-11th in games played (1330), passing Brian Roberts (1327)

-7th in base hits (1458), passing Roberts (1452) and Ken Singleton (1455)

-9th in doubles (245), passing Boog Powell (243)

-5th in home runs (224), passing Rafael Palmeiro (223)

Oh, and by the by, the O's are a league-best 7-2, which includes a perfect 4-0 mark against the 1-9 Blue Jays. I can live with that.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dylan Bundy, 2016 Orioles Postcards #NNO

One of the best developments of last season was Dylan Bundy's long-awaited emergence as a starter for the Orioles. After injuries limited the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft to a total of 65.1 minor league innings from 2013 through 2015, he appeared in 36 games for the O's in 2016. He started out the year in the bullpen and was gradually stretched out before being slotted into the starting rotation in midseason. Considering that it was his first prolonged big league exposure and his first full-length pro season, Bundy held his own. He went 8-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 14 starts, allowing 63 hits and 30 walks in 71.2 innings while striking out 72. When you factor in his relief work, his overall stats were 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA; he actually allowed fewer base runners per inning as a starter (1.30) than he did as a reliever (1.53). It didn't happen the way we expected, but Dylan Bundy finally contributed to a contending Baltimore team.

As we kick off the 2017 season, the O's fortunes are expected to hinge on the performance of their two talented young starters, Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Two games in, and we're trending upward. Gausman, starting the opener in place of the injured Chris Tillman, allowed two runs in five and a third innings against a Toronto team that has hit him hard in the past. Tonight, Bundy was masterful in a 3-1 victory to sew up a two-game series sweep of the Jays. Pounding the strike zone with a fastball-curveball-slider mix, the Oklahoma native held the opposition to one run on four hits and no walks in seven innings. He struck out eight batters, and had five 1-2-3 innings out of seven. No sweat.

Friday night, the Yankees roll into town, and Dylan Bundy passes the baton to...Ubaldo Jimenez. Gulp.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Todd Frohwirth, 1994 Topps #242

As long as we're on the topic of 1990s Oriole relievers, there was some sad news in Birdland last week. Todd Frohwirth, who pitched out of the O's pen from 1991 through 1993, and had been a scout for the organization since 2003, died at age 54 after battling cancer. The Milwaukee native was known for his unconventional sidewinder delivery, and he appeared in 186 games for the Orioles in three seasons, compiling a record of 17-13 with 10 saves and a 2.71 ERA. In recent years, he was also active back home as a youth and high school basketball coach for a number of different boys' and girls' teams. You'll be missed, Todd. Rest in peace.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Alan Mills, 1992 Stadium Club #871

We're not even with the Blue Jays by a long shot, but I was able to appreciate the parallels between today's 2017 season opener and 2016's Wild Card game. A 2-2 game into extra innings, ending on a walkoff home run in the 11th. (Of course this time, Buck went to Zach Britton in the ninth inning...) Happily, today I was there to see Mark Trumbo launch a hanger from Jason Grilli into the left field seats, beyond the reach of our old friend Steve Pearce. The Orioles are now a flawless 7-0 on Opening Day in the Buck Showalter Era, and Trumbo's walkoff shot was the first ever in an O's opener.

So what does all of this have to do with Alan Mills? Well, today was his first game as Baltimore's bullpen coach, marking his return after having pitched in 346 games for the Birds from 1992 to 1998 and 2000 to 2001. So far so good, as his charges kept things moving with five and two-thirds innings of shutout relief. Although Mychal Givens allowed an inherited runner to score, the O's relievers held the line from there, with Tyler Wilson earning the win thanks to a scoreless 11th inning of work. The O's have never lost a game with Alan Mills as bullpen coach.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kurt Ainsworth, 2004 Topps #404

I'm probably not setting a great precedent by posting mostly by explicit request. However, my mother gave me a nudge this evening. As she pointed out, pitchers and catchers reported to spring training today, and that's as good a reason as any to dust off my blogging cap. Besides, I try to be a good son.

So here we are, 49 days from Opening Day. Sweet merciful crap, spring training is way too long. I wouldn't blame the players for getting as stir-crazy as Kurt Ainsworth seems to be in this candid shot from the summer of 2003. Then again, that facial expression could be saying, "My shoulder is being held together with Big League Chew and fishing line." It wouldn't be that far from the truth. Also true: the "Fun Bird" on Kurt's left sleeve is still one of my least favorite O's logos. Somehow it crosses the line from endearingly goofy to just plain corny. Plus, I'll always associate it with those barftacular Orioles teams of the early 2000s.

Until next time, I'm going to go apply for a trademark on the word "barftacular".

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mark Trumbo, 2016 Topps Orioles Team Set #BO-8

It's been nine years (nine!) since I started blogging about baseball cards, so I couldn't let the entire month of January lapse without touching base. Thanks to last weekend's FanFest, I've got some experiences to share that I hope will be worth the wait.

Since Finn wasn't born until late June, Saturday's midwinter shindig doubled as his first visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. We're already excited about bringing him back in a few months to get his "first game" certificate.

Thanks to the early (10:00 AM) entry time for season ticket holders, we were able to scope out the main hall of the Convention Center before the larger crush of people streamed in. Among other things, we won free admission to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum by spinning their prize wheel, bought this year's Orioles/BARCS Pet Calendar (I love J. J. Hardy's goofy-looking retriever), invested in some O's cards in the form of three late 1990s team sets for five bucks, and even scoped out the team-sponsored authenticated game-used stuff. Of particular interest were the actual lineup cards that are posted in the dugout for each home game; after a few minutes of searching, we found the card for the second game of the June 25 doubleheader vs. the Rays - Finn's birthday. After some friendly haggling, we brought it home with us. The plan is to get it signed by as many players as we can at the midseason event for season ticket holders, and to have it framed and hung in the kid's room.

There was a crowd around the bank of tables for the team's minor league affiliates, but we stuck around long enough to snap photos with Bowie Baysox mascot Louie and Frederick Keys mascot Keyote. I can't remember what had drawn Finn's attention in the latter shot, but I suspect that it was nothing in particular. Kids.

About the time we started feeling claustrophobic, I checked the FanFest brochure and saw that one of the kid-friendly events being held on the third floor was "Drumming with Caleb Joseph"...and it was starting in ten minutes. So we hustled upstairs and spent a half hour listening to Baltimore's delightful backup catcher as he answered questions from children and showed off his self-taught skills on the drums. Caleb performed a medley that included selections from "Eye of the Tiger", "Limelight", "Don't Stop Believing", and "Let It Go"...yes, the Disney song. He does have a toddler, after all. More impressively, he drummed along to the entirety of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" by request. I really hope #36 is able to rebound from last year's dismal offensive performance, because he comes across as one of the most personable, friendly guys you could meet.

On our way to Caleb's jam session, we'd notice that there was a photo station set up on the second floor. A five-dollar donation to the Orioles' Shannon's Fund charity got you a picture with whichever player happened to be on shift. At the time we'd passed it, Mychal Givens was there. When we came back to take our place at the end of the line, Christian Walker was up. But while we were waiting our turn, one of the volunteers came by and announced that our player would be the recently-signed Mark Trumbo. Good news! So here's the kind of cutting-edge insight you've come to expect from me over the years: Mark Trumbo is a large mammal. For comparison's sake, I'm about six feet tall; you'll see below that the 2016 MLB home run king towers over me. Our turn finally came and we exchanged greetings with Mark. I offered to let him hold Finn for the photo and he politely declined. He probably noticed that our seven-month-old was content in my arms and didn't want to mess with what worked...or maybe he was self-conscious about his defensive abilities.

After a detour for lunch at the Pratt Street Ale House (I strongly recommend the roast turkey sandwich), we toured the O's clubhouse in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The tour takes you through the weight room and the locker room (I think the shuffleboard table was a new addition since the last time I'd been on the tour), spills out into the home dugout, and then into the interview room where Buck Showalter dispenses his unique brand of insight before and after each home game. We also got a photo print there, but this one was free. You'll notice that Finn reached for the microphone just as the picture was being taken. Why? Because it was there.

So there you have it, another FanFest in the books. It was exhausting, in a good way. Now we just have to endure the two months that separate us from real live baseball games that matter.