Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Not...Again?

Since the 2012 Orioles are in a bit of a slump right now after starting out the year at such a torrid pace, I'm hoping that showcasing a few autographs of key players on the 1989 Why Not Orioles team might bring the current Birds some luck during their weekend series in Tampa. (I know that my actions on the blog have nothing to do with the team, but maybe this will make me feel better at least!)

I've limited this post to just players who I would consider "full-time" type players for the '89 squad, because when I went to pick out autographs for this post, I quickly realized that I haven't covered this era of Orioles baseball very well at all.

Starting catcher Mickey Tettleton (Oriole #453) made a huge contribution during his second season in Baltimore and led the team with 26 home runs. 

Second baseman Billy Ripken (Oriole #436) continued to prove solid defense in the middle of the diamond alongside his brother Cal, who you might have heard of before. And somehow, this is the first mention of Billy (F&#* Face) Ripken in the history of my blog. That ain't right.

Rookie Craig Worthington (Oriole #449) manned the hot corner with authority and held his own at the plate too. He came in fourth in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting, losing to a teammate, whom we will soon cover, and finishing directly behind some kid named "Griffey". 

Center-fielder Mike Devereaux (Oriole #469) provided some highlight reel caliber catches during his first season in Birdland and became a fixture in Baltimore over the following six seasons. 

I'm using this 2010 Shorebirds coach card for this post since I've never used it on the blog before, but I'm sure this card is a much better representation of how we all remember Devo. 

Mark Williamson (Oriole #426) was the team's primary set-up guy out of the bullpen and won an insane 10 games without having made a single start. 

Brian Holton (Oriole #465) was another one of the team's primary relief pitchers but also spot-started 12 games.

His name came up recently in a collecting conversation about players who don't seem to sign TTM requests and his signature seems to be relatively tough to come by, at least on Orioles cards.

Wrapping up this post is likely one of my most egregious blogging omissions from the past four years. It seems as though this is my very first mention of the Orioles' lock-down Rookie of the Year closer, Gregg Olson (Oriole #457). It's pitiful really, how could I have never mentioned this guy before today? It is what it is, I suppose.

Anyway, Gregg was lights out during his first full season in Baltimore; he pitched in 64 games, finishing 52 of them, and amassed 27 saves while maintaining a tidy 1.69 ERA. He ran away with the 1989 A.L. Rookie of the Year award (receiving 26 of 28 first place votes) and also came in 6th in Cy Young voting while also receiving some MVP consideration.

Gregg was an All-Star in 1990 and went on to compile 160 saves over his five plus seasons with the O's. It also appears that Gregg is nearly a 100% TTM signer, so I might need to send out a request for a personalized card sometime soon. And I'm just writing about him for the first time today. Shameful.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Well This Is A New One- Oriole #927, Miguel Gonzalez (UPDATED)

For the first time in my recent collecting experience a player, who I don't believe has ever been featured on a baseball card, made his Orioles debut last night.

Miguel Gonzalez, a 28 year old pitcher from Mexico, made his Orioles and MLB debut in last night's game against the Blue Jays. He pitched 3.1 innings in relief of Jake Arrieta and gave up four hits, one earned run and struck out five. Unfortunately, he also allowed two inherited runners to score at the beginning of his outing, and the Orioles ended up losing 8-6, so that could have made a difference. But all-in-all, he had a successful debut and will be an intriguing member of the bullpen.

Photo "borrowed" from Yahoo
Miguel pitched in the minors for five seasons, spending the 2005-07 seasons in the Angels system and 2010-11 in the Red Sox system before the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal this past off-season. (I believe that he was injured in 2008-09.) He either moved from level to level of the farm system too often or the teams he pitched for just didn't produce a card set while he was with the various minor league teams. I've never run into this before, and in this day and age, it seems so odd to have a player reach the Majors having never been featured on some cardboard! To further complicate things, the White Sox have a catching prospect also named Miguel Gonzalez who does have a few cards out there.

The Orioles' Miguel had appeared in 11 games for the AAA Norfolk Tides, going 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA, prior to his call-up to Baltimore, and it's my hope that he will be included in the 2012 Tides team set. For now, I will try to get Miguel to sign a team card of some sort, and his name is currently added to my need list. I hate it when I have to add names to my list!

Thanks to fellow Orioles autograph collector Russell, I've discovered that Miguel has at least this one card from his minor league playing days. This obviously changes most of what I wrote in the post, but since it's still not in my collection, I'm not changing anything!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Check Out Autographed Cards' College World Series Contest!

Zach over at Autographed Cards is holding his third annual College World Series Contest. Go check it out; it's easy to enter and it just takes a bit of luck to win, something that I've been fortunate enough to do the past two years and I hope to be in the mix again this season.

He has given away some really great prizes over the years, like this Harmon Killebrew autograph that I scored in, I believe, the first year of the contest.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celebratory Vlads

Happy Memorial Day everyone. To celebrate, here are some of my flashiest Vladimir Guerrero Orioles cards. Let's pretend that all the shiny stuff is mini baseball card variety fireworks!



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Oriole #699- Rock Jr.

Tim Raines Jr. is probably best remembered by O's fans as having played in the final game of the 2001 season with his more accomplished dad, Tim Sr.. On October 3, 2001, Senior had signed a one day contract with the Orioles for the chance to play in a game with his son, who had just made his MLB debut two days earlier on October 1. Tim Jr will forever be Oriole #699, while his dad is lucky #700. The Raines' were just the second father-son duo to play for the same team at the same time following the Griffeys'.

While his dad's tenure with the Orioles lasted just that one game, Tim Jr. went on to play in 75 games for the Birds over three seasons, in 2001 and 2003-04. He never did much to distinguish himself at the major league level, but he continued to play professional baseball through the 2011 season. He spent most of the past three seasons in the independent Atlantic League, including the past two under his father's tutelage with the Newark Bears. I don't see any stats for him in 2012 so it's possible that he has finally hung up his spikes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Jim McDonald- Oriole #54

Today's player is one of the stranger "unpossible" autograph situations that I have run across during my time collecting Orioles' autographs. I just read about Jim's passing this week, but the thing is that he died in 2004, and no one in the baseball community seems to have known about it until recently. Both his and pages added information about his passing in recent months, and a fellow collector pointed it out just this week on SCN, which is what grabbed my attention. Before his passing came to light, I had just figured that he didn't like signing TTM requests, and by all accounts I've come across, it doesn't sound like he was a great signer even during his "actual" lifetime.

I guess that Jim had kind of fallen off the baseball map, because in this age of the internet, it's pretty hard for a former MLB player to pass away without someone knowing about it. Normally, player deaths are widely known within a matter of hours, or at least days, but for eight years to pass is unheard of, at least in my experiences. I've heard of some players, like fellow Oriole John Anderson, who have left the country and more or less disappeared, whether intentionally or otherwise, but all accounts seem to indicate that Jim stayed in the US.

Jim pitched in the Majors for parts of nine seasons from 1950-58 for the Yankees, White Sox, Orioles, Browns, and Red Sox and had a career record of 24-27 with a 4.27 ERA over 136 games. He made his Orioles debut on April 17, 1955 and became the 54th player to appear in a game with the O's. His career highlight likely was that he was a member of the 1953 World Champion Yankees, and his being a member of a Yankees Championship team makes his unnoticed passing even stranger.

I picked up this signed 1955 Bowman "Orioles" card a few years back. He is clearly wearing the Yankees pinstriped jersey in the picture on the card, but he was "photoshopped" into an Orioles cap and this is widely considered an Orioles card, so it works for my collection. He was definitively pictured as an Oriole on his Crown card, but I have only ever seen one signed copy of that.

RIP Jim, sorry if this post is about eight years overdue.

To briefly explain the misspelled/made up title of these weekly posts: Every Friday, I profile a former Oriole who has passed away. I've substituted the word unpossible for impossible as an homage to a line from "The Simpsons". Young Ralph Wiggum, who is as sharp as a bowling ball, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TTM Success- Tony Chevez

I recently received a comment on this post that I wrote about Tony (and Dennis Martinez) back in March 2011, and the commenter mentioned that Tony lived in the Rochester, NY area. Since Tony grew up in Nicaragua and I've heard relatively nothing about him over my years of collecting, I figured he returned to his home country after his playing career ended. 

I decided to do some online research to see if I could corroborate the commenter's claim and sure enough I came across an online article about Tony and the work he was doing with his church in Rochester. It referenced his baseball career and the picture clearly was the same guy as is pictured on his Crown card, albeit thirty years later. So I found his address and sent out a TTM request. I figured that it never hurts to take a chance.

Sure enough, one week later, this was waiting for me in the mailbox.

I'm not sure if I got lucky, or if no one has had a reliable address for Tony in recent years, but Tony seems to be a gracious signer. 

The signature on the TTM is slightly different than this one that had been in my collection, especially the T, but there are enough similarities in the rest of the signature to make me confident they are both of the same guy.

Thanks for signing Tony!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oriole #921- Exposito Knocked Off the List

On Saturday, I took a trip to Nationals Park in DC for this past weekend's "Battle of the Beltway" series between the O's and Nats and was happy to see the Orioles beat the Nationals 6-5 in a very exciting game. It was my first trip of the season to Washington but I will likely get back down there for another game or two, depending on my schedule. It's a nice park and all, but it's no Camden Yards!

It's highly probable that I was one of very few autograph seekers whose primary goal was to get a signature of the team's backup catcher, but such is the madness of my collection. 

And I succeeded! Luis Exposito graciously signed for a nice group of fans, and was kind enough to personalize this card for me. Too bad it pictures him in a Sawx uniform but beggars can't be choosers. 

I also was able to "upgrade" my autographs of a few other players to include my preferred personalization. I don't know exactly why I like it, but it makes the autographs mean more to me. 

Brian Matusz and Kevin Gregg were both leaning against the railing during Orioles batting practice, so it was pretty easy to knock out both of the relatively tough signers in one clip. 

Matt Lindstrom seems to be a pretty good signer thus far and was kind enough to add "Best Wishes".

So I got to see an Orioles win, a new autograph for my collection, and three new personalized autographs. I would say it was a very successful trip to DC, at least by my standards!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oriole # 706- Mike Moriarty

Where else can you go to read about Mike Moriarty? You know my site is a good place to hear about a random Oriole that few of us likely remember well, if at all.

Mike made his MLB debut with the Orioles on April 11, 2002 and was 28 years old at the time of his debut. He appeared in eight games for the O's over the ensuing month and played in his final big league game on May 4th.

Although his time in the Majors was short, at least he made it to the show. He had spent seven years in the Minors before his debut and another three after his brief stint in Baltimore. Mike's ascent to the Majors is a testament to determination, and I'm very happy for him that he made it to the Show.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vlad's Museum

At this point, it seems like I own most of Vlad's Orioles cards that are in my price range, but I still have a number that I haven't yet posted about. 

Two of my favorites are these Jumbo Lumber cards that contain a nice cross section of, presumably, a bat that Vlad at least held in his hands. 

Somehow I got this rarer version number to 20 for less than 

this slightly easier to come by version numbered to 30.

Now that Vlad has inked a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, I'm fairly sure I've seen the end of his Orioles cards, with the possible exception of 2012 Allen & Ginter which somehow projects to show Vlad in an Oriole uniform a full nine months after his time with the organization ended.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Kevin Hickey

The Orioles family lost another member this week when former pitcher Kevin Hickey passed away. He had been employed as the White Sox batting practice pitcher and was found unresponsive in his hotel room on Opening Day, April 5, 2012. Apparently, he was a diabetic and his health issues stemmed from that; he remained in a coma until passing away on Wednesday. He was only 56.

I've read quite a lot about him in recent days and his rise to the big leagues was a true underdog story. It seems as though he played little to no baseball growing up and was more of a softball player. He attended an open tryout held by the White Sox in 1977 or '78 and they signed him to a deal. He pitched for the White Sox from 1981-83 and then toiled in the minor leagues for five years before rising back to the Major Leagues with the Orioles in 1989. He was a major member of the "Why Not" team that almost made the playoffs after having been horrible in 1988. Kevin stuck with the O's for two plus seasons and retired after the 1991 season. Over his six seasons in the Majors, he had a 9-14 record with a 3.91 ERA over 231 games, which is pretty amazing for a "softball player".

After his baseball career ended, Kevin worked as a car salesman, and made an appearance in the movie Major League II.

Rest in Peace Kevin, thanks for the memories.

To briefly explain the misspelled/made up title of these weekly posts: Every Friday, I profile a former Oriole who has passed away. I've substituted the word unpossible for impossible as an homage to a line from "The Simpsons". Young Ralph Wiggum, who is as sharp as a bowling ball, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cards From the Netherlands

I recently completed a trade with Jeroen who writes The Dutch Card Guy blog from across the pond.

He contacted me and told me that he had a bunch of cards from my set needs list so I went looking for some cards that he might like. I think we both walked away happy with the swap.

I once again failed to take pictures of any of the cards I needed for my sets before filing them away, but I did snap a picture of the three awesome Vlad cards he included.

I particularly like the fluorescent card on the left, but you can't really see what it looks like from my picture. Just trust me that it's flashy and gaudy and amazing.

Thanks again for the trade Jeroen!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moving the Collection Backwards

I'm totally relatively kind of fine when I add newly debuted Orioles to my need list. While I try to collect as many Orioles minor league autographs as possibly, sometimes players bypass the two affiliates closest to me (the AA Bowie Baysox and hi-A Frederick Keys) and go directly to AAA Norfolk and on to Baltimore as was the case with two of the newest Orioles, Luis Exposito and Bill Hall. I will gladly trade for autographs of players on the Tides' roster, but I refuse to buy autographs of AAA guys who might never make it to Baltimore. Even though I'm highly-focused on my Orioles autograph collection, I won't take it that far.

 Anyway, moving along to the point of this post, I recently found out that two of my rarer Orioles signatures  seem to not be of who I thought they were. A knowledgeable long-time collector of rare baseball autographs recently alerted me that my Carl Powis and Dick Luebke autographs are no good.

Many of the long-ago Orioles' autographs are tough to come by, and tougher still to find another signature to compare them with if I do happen across one for sale, so many times I'm flying blind when it comes to knowing if a signature is actually that of the player. I always do a google search to see if I can find a comparison, but when I can't I'm generally left to rely on the honesty of sellers. Most of the time it works out for the best, but occasionally, it doesn't. I think sometimes it's an honest mistake while other times I come across an under-handed dealer.

According to the collector who knows these things, Carl Powis's autograph looks nothing like this, so this is likely a forgery.

While this is an authentic autograph of Roy Luebke, not Dick Raymond (or as I thought) Ray Luebke.

Long story short, these guys are back on my need list and my collection is likely to be under 100% again for some time. While Luis Exposito and Bill Hall should be easy enough to knock off, I have no such hopes for Luebke or Powis.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Slew of Debut

So of course I happened to be away over a weekend when a player made their Orioles debut in four consecutive games. I had a great time with some friends and still was able to catch bits and pieces of the games, but overall, I didn't pay attention like I normally do, so I'm playing catch-up now.

Steve Tolleson became the 923rd Oriole when he started the second game of Thursday's doubleheader against the Rangers. He went 1-3 at the plate and also started Saturday's game, going 1-4 with a double but  did commit an error at third base.

I picked up Steve's autograph during spring training this year, so he goes straight on the have list. And it's personalized to boot!

Journeyman Dana Eveland will forever be Oriole #924 after he was called up to start Friday's game against the Rays. It was a rather sloppy affair, although he somehow kept the O's in the game. He lasted six innings and allowed three earned runs, walked six, struck out two and also hit two batters.

He came on in relief in last night's game and the results were pretty similar. In just 1.2 innings, he walked two and hit two batters while allowing another earned run. Dana's stay in Baltimore is apt to be short if he continues to have those type of control issues.

I added Dana's autograph to my collection back at Orioles FanFest, so he also goes right to the have list.

Longtime big leaguer, Bill Hall was called up from Norfolk prior to Saturday's game and he started the game in left field to become Oriole #925. He went 1-3 with a late home run that provided some nice padding in a 5-3 win over the Rays.

As you can see, or rather cannot see, I don't currently have an autograph of Bill's, but he has plenty of certified examples out there that can be had cheaply, so I'm not worried about it. I'll try to get him in person and if it doesn't work, I can just drop a few bucks to pick one up online. But for now, his name is added to my need list.

Lastly, for today at least, is Oriole #926, Xavier Avery. "X" made his Orioles, and MLB, debut on Sunday and went 0-4 out of the lead-off spot. He is the only one of these four players who would be considered a prospect, and his name has appeared near the top of Baseball America's Orioles top prospect list in recent years, highlighted by being listed at #3 heading into the 2011 season. He has long been known for his speed and athleticism and is a real burner when he gets on the base-paths. The Orioles selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

His speed was clearly visible in last night's game against the Yankees when he again led off, but had better luck at the plate, hitting a first inning double for his first big league hit and followed it up with a fifth inning triple. Pretty solid for just his second MLB game!

Since X has played at nearly every level of the Orioles' farm system, I have multiple copies of his autograph, especially from his time with the Keys and Baysox. And as you can see, his signature doesn't consist of much more than an "X".

I made it back in town in time to catch Avery's debut on Sunday. I believe this picture was taken during his third at-bat.

At this point, I expect Avery to stick with the Orioles and bat lead-off in most of their games, at least until Nolan Reimold is healthy enough to return. As for the other three, only time will tell, but I just hope that the Orioles can continue their winning ways!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Orioles "Bobblehead" of the Week- Frank Robinson Statue

Prior to the Orioles' game against the A's on Saturday, April 28, the team honored Frank Robinson with a large statue in the centerfield picnic area. It was the first of six statues that will be debuted over the course of the season to honor the six Orioles Hall of Famers who have their numbers retired by the team. The team is calling it the "Orioles Legends Celebration Series" and you can find more information about it by clicking the link. 

To coincide with the full size statues, the team is giving away miniature replica statues. And they are nice. Check out the Frank.

I can't wait to add the other five to my collection. Brooks was to have had the statue unveiling today but it has been pushed to the end of the season due to his recent health issues.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Art Houtteman, Oriole #108

Art "Hard Luck" Houtteman pitched 12 seasons in the Majors between 1945-57. He was just 17 years old when he began his career with the Tigers and was the youngest player in the big leagues for the first two years of his career. He was an All-Star in 1950 and received MVP votes in 1949 & '50.

He spent the majority of his time in baseball with the Tigers and Indians before very briefly playing for the Orioles at the end of the 1957 season. Art's Orioles debut came on May 24, 1957 and  he played in just five games for the O's. He allowed 13 earned runs over just 6.2 innings which worked out to a 17.55 ERA to close the book on his time with the Birds.

Art earned the nickname "Hard Luck" due to an 0-8 start to his 1948 season, which was contributed to by lack of offensive run support, and later further solidified by his nearly being killed in a car accident and his daughter's death in another car accident.

He passed away in 2003 at the age of 75. RIP Art.

To briefly explain the misspelled/made up title of these weekly posts: Every Friday, I profile a former Oriole who has passed away. I've substituted the word unpossible for impossible as an homage to a line from "The Simpsons". Young Ralph Wiggum, who is as sharp as a bowling ball, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thanks Kirk!

I recently swung a trade with Kirk, who writes the Orioles autograph-centric Eutaw Street Cardboard blog, and added a few new orange uniform autographs to my collection.

Ahh, the glory of the orange uniform!

Thanks for the trade Kirk.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jose One-Ups Josh

I had the "luck" to attend last night's Orioles-Rangers game in which Josh Hamilton went deep four times in the game. I do appreciate historic baseball achievements (and I actually read that 4 HR games are rarer than perfect games) but I would prefer those type of things be done against teams other than the Orioles. 

Jose Leon, who played with the Orioles from 2002-04 and made his Orioles debut on 6/16/02 as Oriole #712, one-ups Josh in that Jose hit 5 HR' his MLB career...which spanned 88 games over those three seasons. 

OK, I got nothing. Sorry for the lame attempt, and well done Josh. All the same, I can't wait for you and your team to leave Baltimore.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Orioles #921 & 922

Two players have made their Baltimore (and MLB) debuts in recent days.

Catcher Luis Exposito, who the Orioles selected off of waivers from the Red Sox in mid-April, made his debut in the 12th inning of Friday night's game against, coincidentally, the Red Sox. He became the 921st player to appear in a game for the Orioles, and I am currently in need of his autograph.

He has a few certified minor league autographs that I can pick up if needed, but I will try to get his signature in person first. It's too bad he is only featured on Red Sox cards thus far in his career but an autograph would still help out my collection.

Interestingly, Luis is now the team's back-up catcher since Ronny Paulino has been sent down to AAA Norfolk. Considering that Luis has only been in the organization for three weeks, you can tell that the brass must think highly of him to make him the official back-up catcher so quickly.

Next up is Oriole #922, Stu Pomeranz, who made his debut last night against the Rangers. He was the only one of the three Orioles pitchers in the game who was able to hold his own against the potent Texas lineup, which really says something about him considering it was his first appearance in the big leagues. He pitched three scoreless innings and allowed three hits, one walk, and struck out two. And Gary Thorne called him "a tall drink of water" on the MASN broadcast. I guess he is 6'7" but I might have said something else.

Stu signed these cards for me during Spring Training this season. He inked a minor league deal with the Orioles this past offseason but spent a majority of the spring in the big league camp. You could kind of tell that Buck liked him, but he was still kind of one of those autographs I got and expected never to see the guy in Baltimore. Stu was the only player that I saw coming and going from the Orioles complex without being hounded for autographs since no one really knew who he was, but I was lucky enough to get him inside the stadium when he had the uniform number that helped to ID him. 

Stu is 27 years old, so is not a typical rookie, but he battled injuries and alcoholism on his road to the majors. He seems like an easy guy to root for, and rose from AA Bowie all the way to Baltimore in about a month.

Some of you might recognize his last name because of his younger brother Drew, who has been a top prospect for the Indians, then Rockies for the past few years. Drew just made his MLB debut late last year, so it's a good time to be a Pomeranz.

Monday, May 7, 2012

All Chris Davis, All the Time

Or at least all day today.

In case you hadn't heard, the Orioles beat the Red Sox in 17(!) innings yesterday. The winning pitcher was none other than first baseman/designated hitter Chris Davis who shut the Red Sox down over two innings to ice the victory. He even struck out two Sawx players, including "superstar" Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, Chris had pitched back in high school and college but that still means that he likely hadn't stepped on a mound since sometime in 2005. And he didn't look too rusty to me. At least the O's know they have that as an option if the situation ever arises again.

To give you an idea of how rare this feat is, he became the first American League position player to earn a win in a game since 1968.

The Red Sox also resorted to using a position player as a pitcher, but their guy, Darnell McDonald, (himself a former Oriole) didn't do nearly as well and gave up a three run homer to Adam Jones.

Chris has been a favorite of Kalina and mine since his time with the Rangers in 2009 when he tossed Kalina a ball during fielding drills and was just generally goofing around. He seems like a great guy and I'm happy that he was the winning pitcher yesterday.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Orioles are the BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL right now too! 19-9! This is crazy!