Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Training Contest Winner- Congratulations Alvin!

Happy Opening Day everyone. The O's don't play until tomorrow, so today doesn't feel 100% right to me, but I'm still very excited to be watching some "real" baseball.

The Spring Training contest came down to the last few games but the Royals edged out the Giants by a half game to take home the title of the best ST team. The four teams with the best record were all Cactus League teams (Royals, Giants, Rockies, Brewers) and the Astros were the big losers with a 11-24 mark.

Congrats to Alvin who correctly predicted that the Royals would come out on top. He almost nailed their record too by guessing they would go 21-11; they were actually 20-10 which I guess means that they had two ties in there.
Alvin- get in touch with me and we can work on your winnings.

To honor the Royals' dominance, here's a Royals/Orioles mash-up card of Lou Piniella. 

Lou made his Major League debut with the O's in 1964, only appearing in four games with the team, so I guess no one could drum up a picture of him sporting the Baltimore uniform. His first full season was with the Royals in 1969 and he won the A.L. Rookie of the Year. Not too shabby. 
Sweet Lou went on to represent KC in the '72 All-Star game, win two World Series with the Yankees as a player & another as the Reds' manager, and win two N.L. & A.L. Manager of the year awards. He's had a long and successful career in baseball and is currently working as a special advisor for the Giants. 

Congrats again Alvin!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Training Autograph- Kevin Gregg

The O's new closer surprised me by showing up to the Minor League complex the day we were there. He had been working a lot against the young guys to fix a mechanical problem with his delivery.  Not exactly what you want from your stopper but it worked out for me.

Luckily, I was prepared with my O's team set and he kindly stopped to sign for me. I was the only one around at the time and he seemed pretty nice. It's rather unfortunate that he chose to sign on the only dark part of the card since I picked this card since it was so light overall. But I'm still happy he signed. Now I'm hoping that he has his pitching issue corrected before Friday.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Some Free Publicity

My blog was recently mentioned on one of the local Orioles' fan websites. (at the end of the article) This is the first time I've been mentioned on a site like that.

It's nice to have someone else give my site a shout out like that. I know that my collection is certainly in a very small niche, and not many people are interested in it, even amongst fellow card collectors. So non-creepy obsession really ain't that bad!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Orioles Bobblehead of the Week- Cal 2131

The picture does all of the work one this one. It depicts my favorite Oriole commemorating my favorite memory from during his long career. Footage of his 2130 & 2131 games still get me, and probably always will.

This bobble was given away on at the O's game on July 24, 2007 and was the second of three Ripken bobbles given away that season to celebrate Cal's induction to the Hall of Fame. I'll show off the first giveaway some other time, while the third was only given to season ticket holders and has somehow eluded my collection to this point.

The back of the box shows off some of his impressive stats during "The Streak". I wish the O's had another player somewhat like Cal. I still miss knowing that you could always count on seeing him play, every single game of every season. There weren't any off days when you might miss getting to see your favorite player. Ah, when the O's were relevant. Hopefully we are moving back that direction.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Marcelino Lopez

This is a guy whose autograph had eluded me for quite some time before I added this card to my collection. Marcelino has to have one of, if not the best, first names of anyone who has ever played for the O's. It flows right off the tongue. I'm not sure if that's a common Hispanic name but it seems relatively unique, at least among baseball players as he is one of only two MLB players all-time with that first name, so I'd say it's fairly uncommon.

Marcelino's autograph is also pretty amazing. That M is near perfection. Great stuff.

He is best remembered among O's fans for being a member of the 1970 World Series champs, and also came in second (behind the Orioles Curt Blefary) in the 1965 A.L. ROY voting when we was a member of the Angels.

Over his eight seasons in the Majors, he had a 31-40 record with a 3.62 ERA for five different teams. He pitched in 171 games, including 93 starts.

Marcelino passed away in 2001 at only 58 years old. RIP Marcelino. That's way too young to go.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Training Autographs- Coaches & Instructors

It's pretty nice that most of the Orioles' roving Minor League instructors and coaches were at the Birds Minor League complex the day that I was there. It's a pretty easy graphing situation and most of them signed willingly.

I have to start with Leo Gomez. He was one of Kalina's favorite O's back in the day and he took the time to show off this card to some of the other coaches who were around. He was proving that he used to be able to field and liked his form in the picture. It was pretty funny stuff.

Devo was also around and was signing two cards per person. I conveniently had exactly two cards that I was trying to get signed. The orange uni was my top priority and the Crown is available for trade. 

Brady was the least willing signer, he tried to "big league" me even when I had him one on one. He eventually did sign my orange uni card with possibly the worst example I've seen of his autograph. I don't know if I would believe he actually signed this if he hadn't done it right in front of me. 
I've seen Butch at a number of Minor League games over the years, but somehow never had this card with me. So this is my first IP success from him. 
Probably the coolest progression of autos that I got was of Troy Mattes. He signed a Shorebirds card from during their inaugural season in 1996 (while they were still an Expos affiliate), a card from his big league career, and his 2010 Shorebirds coach card. I can confidently say he is the only person to be included in the Shorebirds set 15 years apart, at least besides the mascot.

Dave signed a few cards for me. He's probably the instructor who I've had the most success with over the past few seasons. 

I got Mike's autograph a few times while he was still the Baysox pitching coach, but hadn't had any luck with him since he moved up to Norfolk in 2009.

Back in 2008, I didn't often get Crown cards signed since I don't particularly collect the set, but now I know that a bunch of other collectors do collect it, so they are good trade bait. 

Denny was definitely the nicest coach/instructor I came across all day. Someone else was complimenting him on his signature while he was signing for me. He mentioned how he normally puts his uniform number in the large swoop at the end of his graph, but not on Minor League cards. Interesting. To me at least. 
New Orioles bullpen coach Rick Adair was around to observe some of the pitchers. He seems like a nice guy but didn't bat an eye at what I thought was a pretty random card. I guess he's seen them all. 
I found another fairly obscure card for Dickerson to sign but got the same reaction from him. Oh well.

Since neither Adair nor Dickerson ever played in the Majors, their cards are few and far between. I probably had to pay more for the unsigned cards than the signed cards are worth, but I enjoyed getting them signed. After all, I'm not into autographs for the money. It's all about having fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Training Autographs- Successes from Ed Smith Stadium

By far the majority of the autographs I got on my trip were from the Minor League complex, but I know that most of you care more about the Major League autos, so I'll start with them.

The biggest Orioles star who signed for me was Brian Roberts. He was one of the few autographs I got at Saturday's game, but since he doesn't sign often in Baltimore, it was a nice get. This is also the first time I've seen him inscribe a bible verse, although I know he's a religious guy.

He stood by the railing talking to some friends for about twenty minutes after taking BP,  and signed for most of the fans who were around. 

I also got three Orioles postcards signed by members of the coaching staff. 

Probably the most "exciting" was Buck Showalter, who signed for a few minutes after Friday's game. I didn't get his autograph in person last season, so was happy to get him so early in the year.

New 1B coach Wayne Kirby signed for me before Friday's game. He seems to be a fun-loving guy and was constantly joking around with fans and players.

New third base coach John Russell signed for me before Saturday's game. He wasn't quite as outgoing and didn't say much while he was signing. He seemed like a bit of a downer, but time will tell.

Finally, MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey also signed before Saturday's game. It wasn't quite as exciting as getting Jim Palmer's autograph at Spring Training last season, but still cool to get another Crown Card signed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Training Pictures & Contest Update

You might have noticed that I haven't been around for the past few days. Well that's because Kalina and I went down to Florida for a long weekend and enjoyed the Orioles games in Sarasota on Friday and Saturday. It would have been nice if the O's would've bothered to win one of the games for us, but the weather was beautiful and we had a great time anyway. I'll have a rundown on my autographs later this week but let's just say that I did pretty well.


We started out on Friday by going to the O's Minor League complex at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota. We didn't know what to expect, but pretty much you just roam around these four fields where the O's minor leaguers are working out. From what I understand, the single A and lower guys were around that day to play the Twins' minor leaguers, while the AA/AAA players were on the road to play at the Twins' complex.

It was amazing and the autographs were easy to get, especially if you could recognize the players before waiting for them to walk by to see the names on their backs. Most of them were pretty cool about signing, even on a fairly hot day. There were even some former Orioles Major Leaguers working as instructors, most of whom also signed willingly.

After workouts, the players split into two groups to play games on two of the four fields. There weren't many fans around to watch the games, but we were literally surrounded by the minor leaguers who had the day off. Everyone wearing black in this picture currently plays in the O's organization. It was like an alternate reality where almost everyone in the stands were also players. Cool stuff.

We then drove over to the NEW Ed Smith Stadium, which is also in Sarasota, about a fifteen minute drive away. We had been to some games last year before the stadium had been renovated and almost everything was different. These gates were one of the first things we noticed as we came up to the stadium. They're very similar to the gates at Camden Yards, so it made us Orioles fans feel like we were back at home. 

This awesome bat/banner display is just inside the main entrance to the stadium. I hope the O's can add another banner to it soon. 

Here's a view of the press boxes and retired numbers from the inside of the stadium.

Me and a giant Oriole Bird bobblehead. Now how can I get this back to my house? 

This sign, inside the left field gate, was probably our favorite addition to the stadium. Sometimes the small things really do make a difference. We're such big fans of the all the Orioles affiliates and it's cool to see them get some recognition.  

And here's the wackiest beer man in Sarasota. I don't know his name but he's hard to miss. 
ICE COLD BEER! tweet tweet tweet

CONTEST UPDATE: Kirk's Giants continue to lead the way with an 18-8 record, while the 18-9 Tigers and 15-8 Rockies could easily snag the lead. With just over a week to go, most teams are still in the running. Good luck everyone!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Orioles Bobblehead of the Week- Nick Markakis

Nick has really become one of the faces of the franchise since he made the O's 25 man roster following Spring Training in 2006. He's been one of the team's most consistent producers, but has largely been surrounded by an underperforming cast, so his peripheral numbers aren't too flashy. He's averaged about 20 HR and a .300 average over his five MLB seasons and is one of the best right fielders in the game. His arm is ridiculous to the point that many teams no longer test him on the basepaths. He was absolutely robbed of a Gold Glove in 2008 when he led the American League in putouts and assists, a fact that was made worse when Adam Jones won the award in 2009. Jones makes some spectacular plays in centerfield but also commonly misreads balls off the bat and uses questionable judgment at times. Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy when an Oriole wins an award, but a Gold Glove should be in Nick's trophy case too.

This bobblehead was given away to the first 25,000 fans on June 19, 2008 prior to a game against the Astros. Nick has a number of other bobbles given away by the O's and their affiliates, but this is his only full size stadium giveaway (SGA) bobble to date. I like the diving catch pose since it features Nick doing what he does best and it's unique. Nick signed an extension that will keep him in Baltimore through at least 2014, so I bet we will see another Kakes bobble someday. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Saul Rogovin

While doing my research for this post, I came across some stories about Saul's wacky antics and personality.  It sure sounds like he was a classic baseball character. One quote from Saul stuck out to me; near the end of his career, he said about the speed of his pitches, "Somebody cracked that I now throw with three speeds – slow, slower, and stop." He would also commonly fall asleep in the dugout during games and could still be found sleeping on the bench long after the game ended. Some fellow players called him lazy because of that, but it's since been theorized that he had some sort of sleep disorder.

Saul pitched for the Tigers, White Sox, Orioles & Phillies during his eight seasons in the Majors from 1949-57. He lead the American League with a 2.78 ERA in 1951 while splitting the season with the Tigers & White Sox.

In 1955, he pitched in 14 games, including 12 starts, for the O's. He was 1-8 with a 4.56 ERA before being released in early July. That was the extent of his time in Baltimore, so I can see why his Crown card couldn't find a picture of him in an Orioles cap.

After he retired from baseball, he went back to school and got his teaching certificate and then taught at a high school in New York City.

Saul passed away in 1995, he was 71 years old. RIP Saul.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Today is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It doesn't involve a whole lot except sharing some Irish food, green beer and/or car bombs with friends. Very low stress, high fun kind of day. I know some people even take off of work to "celebrate" all day, but I will just have some fun later on. That's enough for me these days.

To observe St. Patty's Day, I decided to show off the greenest cards in my Orioles autograph collection. I know that many cards feature pictures that feature plenty of grass on the field but my focus was the color of the card design. There have been plenty of green colored sets over the years and these are my best representatives.

This '91 Donruss Ron Kittle card is probably the closest color to what I think of as Irish green, it's a little too dark but it's close.

In his rookie year with the White Sox in 1983, Ron won the A.L. Rookie of the Year award and also made the All-Star team. In 1990, he played in 22 games with the O's near the end of his time in the Majors. Ron currently makes some awesome benches out of baseballs, bats & bases. If you have an extra $2500, it might be a nice addition to your house.

This '92 Fleer set is a nice green at the top of the card before fading to white at the bottom. Overall not a great looking set, but a decent green representative.

Roy pitched in the Majors from 1984-91 for the Indians, Twins & Orioles, mainly bouncing between AAA & the big leagues. He appeared in 17 games, including 14 starts, for the '91 O's, going 5-4 with a 5.60 ERA. After he retired in 1993, he has been a scout and Front Office executive for the Pirates, Dodgers, and Mets.

I waffled about including this '91 Score card. It's green and all, but definitely more teal than an Irish green. But screw it, it's a party type of day, not a day for decisions, so here it is.

Tim played for the White Sox, Orioles, and Cardinals over his 12 MLB seasons. He was the O's utility IF from 1989-94 and appeared mainly 3B and 2B.

He has been the manager of the Rangers' Lo-A affiliate, the Spokane (Washington) Indians for the past five seasons and guided them to the 2008 Northwest League championship. He somehow also coaches High School baseball in Louisiana and has led Evangel Christian Academy to state titles in 2006 & 2009.

Tim's son, Tug, has played in the Majors with the Mariners and Royals over the past few seasons.

Have a great day everyone and enjoy a green beer for me. Erin Go Bragh!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yorkis Perez

I'm having trouble coming up with something to write about today. So here's Yorkis Perez.

I got this card signed, at I think it  a Pirates game, when Yorkis was pitching for the Marlins in the mid '90s. He later pitched in 23 games for the O's during the '02 season, but never had an Orioles card produced, so this has stayed in my collection over the years.

Yorkis is a cousin of the three pitching Perez hermanos, Melido, Pascual & Carlos, so I guess that some Major League pitching talent runs in that family's blood.

About the only other thing I have to say is that he signs his Y in a unique and cool way. Although it looks like his first name spells Youk, which I don't like.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Training Contest Update- The Giants Pull Ahead

The Giants currently own the best Spring Training record with a 14-5 mark in Cactus League action. It's pretty surprising for the defending World Series Champs to be leading the way in Spring Training too. So much for a lull. 

Here's the two signed "Giants" cards I have in my Orioles autograph collection.

Tim pitched 14 seasons in the Majors, most notably for the Padres and Giants. His Orioles career lasted all of five games early in the 2000 season and he went 2-2 with a 7.36 ERA before the O's released him on May 1st.

Since he was only with the O's for a month, he never had any Orioles cards produced but I think this Giants card is pretty cool. I really like how the crowd provides the backdrop and how Tim is either pointing to a pop-up or celebrating a victory. He was nice enough to sign my TTM request in only five days in September 2009. 

Steve managed to criticize both the Orioles fans and his teammates before the regular season even started in his only season in Baltimore in 2005. He's one of my least favorite recent Orioles, which is an accomplishment for a relief pitcher who was 2-4 during his only season pitching for the O's. Great work Steve.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Coolest Thing To Ever Happen To My Blog- My First "Interview

Over my years of sending TTM requests, I've come across a few players who seem more open and communicative than most. So I've sent out a few follow-up letters explaining that I write a blog and asking if they would agree to let me interview them. Well, Dave Criscione sent me back a letter about his life and playing career, which is the closest thing I've ever had to an interview with a former player. It's great that he would take the time to write this and it's outstanding to hear about a player's career in his own words, even if he only had a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues. Dave's letter is kind of long, but I hope you will take the time to read it, he clearly put a lot of thought and time into writing it.

Have a great Sunday everyone! Dave's letter really made my weekend.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Orioles" Bobblehead of the Week- Nolan Reimold

Only one week into my Orioles Bobblehead of the Week (OBW) series, I decided that I was going stretch my definition of what constitutes an Orioles Bobblehead. I consider all of my bobbleheads from the Orioles and their minor league affiliates to be in the Oriole family. Without further delay...

Here's a Nolan Reimold bobblehead that was given away by the AA Bowie Baysox on July 22, 2010. I figured that it was appropriate to show Nolan's bobble this week since he is having a great spring training so far. Oh yeah, and he's one of Kalina's favorite players. 

Nolan is definitely on the bubble of the O's roster this year, but his performance through the first two weeks has only helped his chances of heading north with the team.  

It's very fitting that the Baysox made a bobblehead commemorating Nolan's time in Bowie since he led them to the Eastern League playoffs in 2008.  He also made the regular and post-season Eastern League All-Star teams that year, and had possibly the greatest single-game performance in Baysox history during those '08 Playoffs. On September 3, 2008, Nolan hit three home runs and had 8 RBI against the Akron Aeros, the Indians AA affiliate. That date happens to be my birthday, and one of my presents from Kalina was Baysox playoff tickets, so we were in the first row behind the Baysox dugout for Nolan's fireworks display. It was AMAZING.

 The Orioles also gave away a Reimold bobblehead last season as part of the OF mini-bobble set. Unfortunately, the giveaway date was May 26, exactly two weeks after Nolan had been shipped to AAA Norfolk. 

Many fans' bobbleheads were also broken off the base when they opened them up due to insufficient styrofoam protection. I remember that there was a bunch of separated bobble bodies and bases left with all the trash at the end of the game. Luckily, only one of my two was broken and it was fairly easily fixed with some super glue. Now if his head angle could only be adjusted. Any bobble collectors out there have any suggestions from me?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Bob Alexander

Continuing to show the tough Orioles autographs I recently purchased from a friendly ebay seller, like the cards from last Friday and yesterday, here is Bob Alexander. He is special to my collection because his name was at the top of my alphabetized need list for a long time, an honor that is now bestowed to John Anderson, who I am guessing will be there for an even longer time since he virtually disappeared after his playing career ended.

As far as I know, this Crown card is the only card produced of Bob during his career, which is understandable since he only pitched in 9 MLB games over two seasons in the mid to late 1950's. But as far as picture quality goes, this could be the worst in the set. It's defintely in the top 5.

I know that I've complained about how other cards in this set show players wearing other team's caps, but that would be an upgrade over this picture. has a pretty nice head shot of Bob in an Indians hat that puts this photo to shame. This picture looks like Bob is wearing a jersey but the focus seems to be on his hair and forehead. And what is he looking at?!? Oh well, at least it looks a lot better since it's signed.

Bob pitched in four games for the '55 O's and five games for the '57 Indians; that was it for his time in the Bigs. The most interesting thing I found about his playing career was the outlandish names of some of the minor league teams he played for over his 18 seasons in the minors. He played for the Rugmakers, Tars, Triplets and Exporters, among others. Crazy, right?

I also felt that I should mention that Bob served in the military during WWII but did not deploy before the war ended. Thanks for your service and RIP Bob.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tony Chevez & Nicaraguan Orioles

Last Friday, I mentioned that I found an ebay seller with some tough-to-find Orioles autographs. Well here's another one of them, Mr. Tony Chevez.

Tony's autograph is very hard to track down, and I've never actually seen another example of it to compare this one to, but everything else I got from this seller checked out so I have no reason to believe that Chevez isn't legit as well. Tony pitched in only four games for the 1977 Orioles and seems to have fairly well disappeared, possibly back to Nicaragua, after his professional baseball career ended following the 1979 season.

The only lead I've ever been able to track down for him is that current Padres SS Jason Bartlett is his son-in-law. I'm such an Orioles autograph freak that I considered trying to talk to Bartlett during his time with the Rays about Chevez's whereabouts. I never did, and doubt I would've gotten anywhere with that anyway. Can you imagine someone walking up to you at your job asking you where your father-in-law lives? It comes off a little strange. Even I will admit that.
Tony was the second baseball player from Nicaragua to make it to the Majors after "El Presidente" Dennis Martinez.

Martinez is still the most famous player to make it to the Majors from his home country with only Vicente Padilla giving him any sort of competition. Porfi Altamirano and Devern Hansack aren't gonna give him a run for the money on this one.

El Presidente pitched for the O's for the first 11 years of his 23 seasons in the big leagues. He was a four time All-Star (none of those appearances were during his time with the O's), pitched a perfect game for the Expos in 1991 and led the American League with 14 wins in 1981 and the N.L. with a 2.39 ERA in 1991. His 245 career victories are the most of any Latin American pitcher. So he found just a little more Major League success than his fellow countryman Chevez, but Chevez leads the way in the hard to find autograph category.

Martinez has been a pitching coach in the Cardinals organization for the past few years and has signed TTM requests from time to time but my two attempts (in May & August 2009) have not made it back to me yet, and I'm not hopeful at this point. I picked up this signed card in a trade and I think that he signs one of the coolest and most unique M's that I've ever seen.