Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Donnie Hart, 2016 Orioles Postcards #58

With this blog entry, I have now been as active in the first month of 2018 as I was in all of 2017! Sure, eight posts is pretty low-hanging fruit, but I've gotta start somewhere. So, let's talk about last Saturday's Orioles FanFest. I believe this is the ninth straight year I've attended the team's winter convention, and of course the second year I've done so with the rest of my nuclear family of three. As ever, I appreciated the 10:00 AM early entry for season ticket holders (compared to the 11:00 AM entry time for the unwashed masses). We arrived right at ten, took our place in the back of the line, and moved right on into the Baltimore Convention Center.

The first thing we did was head up to the third floor, where the team gives away the previous season's excess promotional items in a couple of conference rooms. I've never bothered waiting in that absurdly long line, particularly since we make it a point to get to the majority of the games with the most desirable freebies. But this year, they added a separate room for kids 14 and under, and we have one of those. With the 'Fest just having started, we figured we'd split up and have a good shot at collecting our prizes from both rooms. So Janet and Finn went their way, and zoomed right through the kids' line. I got to the adults' room two doors down and...the line was already snaking out the door and across the width of the hallway. That's a nope for me. So we contented ourselves with a Manny Machado Starting Lineup figure, a Manny garden gnome, a Camden Yards 25th Anniversary poster, and an Orioles Magazine game program featuring Dylan Bundy on the cover. Not bad.

As long as we were on the third floor, we also decided to bargain hunt in the "team store" room. All told, we came out with a pair of seatbelt covers, two pairs of socks, a stainless steel water bottle, a glass train Christmas ornament (Finn loves choo-choos!), and a brick of 50 assorted Orioles cards, and the total came to $33. We also browsed the sponsors and merchandise booths in the main hall, and bought a pair of 2018 Orioles Pet Calendars from BARCS for our offices. I restrained myself and spent a mere $10 more on 18 packs of assorted junk wax cards, just to scratch the pack-ripping itch. Most of the sponsor booths were also giving away cellophane-wrapped five-card packs of 2017 Topps Series One that were provided by the team, and they were suitably generous with them. In all, Janet and I came away with 14 packs.

I didn't spend much time listening to the player and coach and executive and media Q and A sessions, as we were busy chasing down a tiny moving target while trying to pilot a stroller laden with merchandise and personal effects. Those sessions don't tend to be very revelatory, anyway. We did manage to keep Finn sedentary for lunch, during which time we were able to hear and see a game of Family Feud in which four of the younger O's players (pitchers Mike Wright and Donnie Hart and outfielders Austin Hays and Joey Rickard) bested a foursome of fans. Rickard was jeered for answering "Sweet Caroline" to the category of "songs you'd hear at Camden Yards". It ain't Fenway, Joey Jo-Jo.

I'm sure you've been waiting patiently for pictures of our photogenic kid, so here's a few.

 Finn hammed it up for a MASN photographer.

We spotted Donnie Hart setting up at the Shannon's Fund photo booth and got in before there was a line. Finn was fussing for Mama as we made our way up to the O's lefty, but turned on the charm as soon as he was in front of a camera.

A beautiful day for baseball! Well, close enough.

A family selfie in the home dugout at the end of the Camden Yards clubhouse tour. Finn is telling Chris Davis to swing away.

We finished up our day with a press conference by the locker rooms. Finn was very quotable.

I had a few more pictures to share, but Blogger is being obnoxious tonight. Stay tuned in February, then!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Davey Johnson, 1991 Swell Baseball Greats #46

Happy 75th birthday to Davey Johnson, who excelled as both a Gold Glove second baseman and a manager for the Orioles. If you're wondering how he performed in the 1975 season, well, he had an incredible slash line of 1.000/2.000/3.000 (710 OPS+) for the Atlanta Braves! Yep, Davey rapped a pinch hit double in his one and only plate appearance in his 11th season in the majors. He then jumped to Japan to play for the mighty Yomiuri Giants, becoming the first foreign player on the club in nearly two decades. The culture shock was significant, and Johnson batted just .197/.275/.356 in 91 games while facing scorn from the media and fans. He even lost 25 pounds.

But a renewed determination allowed him to bounce back in 1976, batting .268 with 26 homers for the pennant-winning Giants and earning recognition as an All-Star and the Japanese league's top-fielding second baseman. However, Davey clashed with manager Shigeo Nagashima, a former great player in his own right who had recruited Johnson as his on-field replacement. The skipper belittled Johnson over a midseason arm injury and a late-season illness, casting doubt on the veracity of his player's ailments. So Davey returned to MLB in 1977, finishing his playing career in a reserve role with the Phillies and the Cubs, and then jumping right into managing in the minor leagues in 1979.

Incidentally, I picked up this card at the Orioles FanFest last Saturday. We had a good time as usual, though it was even more exhausting with a fully mobile toddler to chase. I'll post details and pictures soon...ish.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Vladimir Guerrero, 2011 Bowman #167

Yesterday the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its four newest inductees, as they revealed the results of the BBWAA ballot. Kudos are in order for one-time Orioles Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome, as well as Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman.

Vlad was certainly running on fumes by the time he arrived in Baltimore as a 36-year-old DH, and his 2011 season in Baltimore was pretty forgettable for team and player. But he still played in 145 games and rapped out a .290 average. He also eked out the last 13 of his 449 career home runs. I'm a little disappointed that he's chosen to wear an Angels cap on his plaque instead of the Expos, but I guess he enjoyed his time in Anaheim.

Jim Thome was an incredibly fun player to watch, a big, strapping guy with an aw-shucks demeanor who just hit the bejeezus out of the ball. When the O's acquired him for the second half of the 2012 season, it made a magical season that much more entertaining. It's a shame that a herniated disk limited him to 28 games as an Oriole (plus four postseason contests), but even at 41 he still held his own with a batting line of .257/.348/.396 in that limited stint. Like Guerrero, Thome ended his career in Charm City, mashing three taters to wind up with a total of 612, good for eighth all-time.

As for the other ex-O's on the 2018 ballot:

-Mike Mussina was frustratingly passed over again, but got closer than ever in his fifth year of eligibility. At 63.5% of the vote (up from 51.8% in 2017), he is on track to make it to that 75% cutoff in a year or two.

-Curt Schilling is farther off the pace, coming in at 51.2% in year six. If he ever stopped sharing his repugnant opinions, he might do a bit better.

-Sammy Sosa is barely hanging on, garnering just 33 votes on the 417 ballots cast. At 7.8% in his sixth try, he is in danger of falling below the 5% cutoff to remain on the ballot.

-Sadly, there were four one-and-done guys with Baltimore ties: Jamie Moyer, receiving ten votes (2.4%), didn't get much credit for his remarkable longevity and late-career renaissance. Also receiving a mere ten votes was Johan Santana, whose 2014 comeback bid with the Birds was snuffed out by an Achilles tear in rehab. Lastly, Kevin Millwood (4-16 for the 2011 O's) and Aubrey Huff (2008 Most Valuable Oriole and 2017 Least Valuable Tweeter) were both shut out completely. Such is baseball, such is life.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Vintage Fridays: Boog Powell, 1974 Topps #460

One of the things that I've missed most during my recent blogging hiatus is the Vintage Fridays feature. It has been nine months since I've featured a pre-1981 card on this site, and it is my firm belief that old cards are the best. So let's make things right with good old Boog, and recap my most recent meeting with the 1970 American League MVP.

As I recently mentioned, I celebrated my 35th birthday last August 5 with a family trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There were four of us in all - my sister, my wife Janet, our son Finn, and myself. The O's were kind enough to give out Jonathan Schoop bobbleheads for the occasion. After we collected our freebies, we headed down Eutaw Street for some pit beef. As is often his wont, Boog Powell was holding court in front of his eponymous barbecue stand, seated on a tall chair with an umbrella for shade. I couldn't pass up a photo op on my special day, so we waited in Boog's line before getting our sandwiches. Number 26 was gracious as always, and even tried to give Finn a high-five. Unfortunately, my baby boy had stopped paying attention by that point. But before he lost interest, we did get this excellent picture.
It's not really apparent from the photo, but I was wearing my Danny Valencia game-worn jersey...because he was #35 during his 2013 stint in Baltimore. And because you're probably wondering, yes, Finn enjoyed the pit beef. We're trying to raise him right.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jose Mesa, 1992 Fleer Ultra #305

In my first blog post of the year, I may have been a little harsh in my criticisms of the Orioles' somnolent winter. After all, Dan Duquette claimed not one, not two, but three pitchers in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft last month. It's been a running joke for a while now that the O's top front office exec treats this draft like his own personal Christmas; after all, he acquired eight players total in his previous six go-rounds. Many of them have been shoehorned onto the team's roster the next season (Ryan Flaherty, T. J. McFarland, Jason Garcia, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander). But to draft three guys in one fell swoop? That makes it seem like Dan is actively trolling the die-hards among us. The three 2018 hopefuls are 23-year-old lefty Nestor Cortes, 24-year-old righty Pedro Araujo, and 24-year-old righty Jose Mesa, Jr.

Yes, that's right. The Birds are going to take a long look at the son of the 19-year big league veteran who got his start in Baltimore. The elder Mesa didn't do so well in parts of four seasons here, posting a 13-24 record with a 5.41 ERA in 47 starts (and two relief appearances). He walked 131 men and struck out only 127 in 269.1 innings, and in 1992 the O's traded him to Cleveland for a AA outfielder. Two seasons later, the Indians had the good sense to move Jose to the bullpen, and he never looked back. Junior was a 24th-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2012, and has pitched to a 2.86 ERA in four minor league seasons. He's topped out at AA so far, where he allowed three runs in 34.1 innings for Trenton last year. He's whiffed 226 batters in 176 pro innings, a rate of 11.6 per nine IP. It still seems like Jose is a long shot to make (and stick with) the Orioles this season. Nestor Cortes is getting most of the buzz, on account of being a southpaw and having had AAA exposure, but we all know that the O's aren't exactly bubbling over with pitching depth...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jeff Ballard, 1992 Donruss #74

I've been listening to Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan's Effectively Wild podcast for the past year, but today was the first time that I'd heard Jeff Ballard's name mentioned on the show. With Sullivan on vacation, Lindbergh was interviewing Forbes contributor David Seideman about his experiences reporting on baseball memorabilia. Seideman offered some details on his latest article, recounting Ballard's recent reunion with a memento from his big league career.

The lefty had long prided himself on his hitting prowess, having eschewed the DH in his college days at Stanford. Obviously he never got to show off his offensive chops during his five seasons in Baltimore, but he never lost the knack. When he joined the Pirates in 1993, Jeff took batting practice reps with the position players instead of joining up with his fellow pitchers. Working primarily in relief during his two years in Pittsburgh, he didn't get many in-game chances to hit, but still made the most of them. Thanks to five hits in thirteen tries, Ballard owns a .385 batting average for his MLB career.

On September 16, 1993, he even struck a ground-rule double off of Marlins reliever David Weathers for his first (and only, as it happened) big league extra-base hit. An unknown fan in Miami caught the ball after it popped over the wall, and for some reason happened to inscribe it with the date and other relevant details. Years later, it was obtained by Gary Stilinovich, a devoted Pirates collector from Texas. He decided that it might mean more to Ballard, and managed to track down the ex-pitcher's home address in Billings, Montana. As you can imagine, Jeff was pleased to have the physical proof of his lone two-base knock, and to share it with his eight-year-old son Kyren and his five-year-old daughter Kennley, both of whom were born well after his playing days.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Todd Zeile, 1997 Score #257

Zach was the first to comment on my initial blog post of the year, so I have fulfilled his request to feature Todd Zeile. As you can see, his 29-game stint with the Orioles in 1996 (38 if you include the postseason) was not long enough for the folks at Score to bother depicting him in orange and black in the following year's card set. Instead, he is pictured with the Phillies, who shipped him and Pete Incaviglia to Baltimore on August 29 of the previous season. In return, the Phils received minor league pitchers Calvin Maduro and Garrett Stephenson. Stephenson, incidentally, was a 16-game winner for the Cardinals in 2000, which I certainly could not have told you before looking it up just this moment.

You may remember Todd Zeile showing off his acting chops as "Mullet" in the 2005 Adam Sandler movie "Mr. Deeds", or as "High Roller" in the 2011 comedy "Zookeeper". I certainly don't, but to each his own. Todd also dabbled in film production, and had a few guest starring spots on the Kevin James sitcom "The King of Queens". Because you asked (yes, you did), Zeile's Kevin Bacon Number is 2. He was in "Zookeeper" with Donna Glee Reim, who was in "R.I.P.D." with Kevin Bacon.

So...if you have a problem with seeing guys in Phillies unis on this O's blog, or reading about awful Adam Sandler and Sandler-adjacent movies in this space, take it up with Zach.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

B'More Boppers, 2017 Topps #36

I'm brushing off the dust for the first blog post of 2018, some ten years and two days since I began this little adventure. At the very least, I want to say I've had a more active offseason than the Orioles. Well, I actually don't want to say that at all, but I may as well clear the below-sea-level bar that Dan Duquette and Co. have set for me.

I'm trying to live a more purposeful life in some ways in this new year, prioritizing methods of self-care and day-to-day living that have gotten lost in the shuffle. That includes my writing, so here I am for as long as I can stick to it. Today's card came from my stocking, because my wife (and Santa Claus) knows what I like. So, how have you all been? As for me:

-First and foremost, I'm currently the father of a very active and curious 18-month-old. I can barely believe it myself. Finn is growing and learning every day, and he makes us laugh and melt and throw up our hands in frustration all at the same time. We brought him along to seven games at Camden Yards last year, and he ran up an impressive 6-0 mark before Dylan Bundy and a snoozy O's offense let him down in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees on September 4. But he seems to love the sights and sounds of the ballpark. When we rolled the dice and took Finn to his first night game on August 5 (my birthday, don'tcha know), he quite pointedly stayed awake and mostly alert throughout the club's 5-2 comeback win over Detroit. Staying up three-plus hours past bedtime and cheering for a three-homer outburst from Adam Jones, Tim Beckham, and Welington Castillo took its toll, of course...the kiddo was out cold in his car seat before we made it onto I-95 for the trip home.

I don't know if Finn will have a consistent love for baseball throughout childhood, but the early signs are good. One of his newest words is "hat", and he'll point to his bitty Oriole Bird cap on its perch by the kitchen door. When we take it down for him, he'll wear it around the house as he plays.

-My wife Janet has now officially been cancer-free since her surgery in September 2016. She finished radiation just before Christmas 2016, and wrapped up a clinical trial of an oral chemo drug last May. Her oncologist's preferred target is three years from the initial diagnosis - March 1, 2019 in this case. It seems so far away, but we will get there.

-As I alluded to above, it's as frustrating to be an Oriole fan right now as it has been in...five or more years, easily. The Birds just had their first losing season since 2011, and they truly earned it with some putrid starting pitching and a handful of lame offensive performances (paging Mark Trumbo). As the Yankees begin loading up on big names again, Baltimore...stands pat. They've already missed their window to trade Zach Britton for anything of value, and now he's out until at least July with an Achilles tear. They fielded offers for Manny Machado (who, to my frustration, they did not manage to extend at any point in the past six seasons, during which time it should have been priorities #1-10 on their list), unsurprisingly couldn't find anyone willing to part with two MLB-ready starting pitchers for a one-season rental, and backed off from declarations of Manny's availability. So, if you're not tearing down and rebuilding, what are you doing? Reloading for the season ahead? Forget that. Here's the list of pitchers that the Orioles have signed this offseason who project to join Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the rotation, addressing the screaming need for a team whose starters barfed up a 5.70 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and .837 OPS allowed in 2017:

...Oops. C'mon, guys. Get creative, get aggressive, get...somebody. Mike Mussina isn't walking through that door, and if you don't wake up, even the likes of Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Jaime Garcia will be off limits.

-I don't want to end on a down note. Otherwise, life is good. We are rolling with the punches and doing what we can to make our world a little bit better. I hope you are too. As always, thanks for reading. Welcome back.