Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Mom Adds Scott Williamson to my Collection

So my autograph collecting began years ago as a kind of father and son bonding thing between me and my dad.  My mom would frequently tag along on trips to watch baseball games, but she would leave us to try to collect autographs. Well that all changed on Sunday. 

I met my parents at the Atlantic League playoff game between the York Revolution and Somerset Patriots in York. Scott Williamson is currently playing for the Somerset Patriots and he has ignored the two TTM requests that I sent to him over the past two years. I was running out of his Orioles cards and I needed to be proactive, so I figured I would try to get him in person.

Before the game, as more and more of the Patriots' players were coming out on the field to warm up and prepare for the game, I was talking with a fellow autograph hound who mentioned that Scott would normally wait until the game started to come out to take his place in the bullpen. That wasn't good news for me, since players will rarely to never sign once the game has started. 

Sure enough, Scott finally made it to the bullpen bench (which was right in front of our section thanks to some smart ticket selection by my dad) but not until the middle of the first inning. I wasn't really trying to stay until after the game, but if that's what I had to do, so be it. I've had too many in-game autograph requests ignored over the years, so I wasn't even going to ask Scott during the game, but my mom volunteered to do it. I'm not sure she had ever gotten a player's autograph before, so she was well outside of her comfort zone, but she calmly walked over the 'pen between innings and asked Scott if he would sign my card. 

As you can see, my mom came through for me and the collection, so I think I owe her a dinner or something.  She reported that Scott didn't say anything to her after she asked for his autograph, he just signed the card and gave it back to her. Nice work Mom! Thank you very much!

Scott pitched in the Major Leagues from 1999-2007 and is still attempting to make it back to that level, but each passing year seems to make it more and more unlikely that he will get back to the Bigs. Scott's best year was in 1999 with the Reds when he was selected as the N.L. Rookie of the Year and also made the All-Star team. He also won a World Series with the 2004 Red Sox, but wasn't on the active roster for the Series. A multitude of injuries plagued Scott throughout his career, including two Tommy John surgeries, and he was never able to rediscover the magic of his rookie campaign.  

Scott was 1-0 with a 4.40 ERA over 16 games with the 2007 O's before his attitude earned him a ticket out of town. He was essentially questioning the front office's strategy and promotion of younger players, and while I think every Orioles fan has done the same thing, it's different when you're putting your bosses out there in public like that.  

Thanks again for your help mom, I'm glad that you helped me to add Scott to the collection!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baseball Postseason CONTEST

I've decided to hold my second contest ever and it's going to be a lot of fun. This is something that I've done with friends for a few years and everyone seems to enjoy it, so I hope that you all do too. 

Here's the deal-all you need to do to enter is to be a follower of the blog and fill out this 2010 MLB postseason bracket. Since none of the match-ups are decided yet, it's blank, but on Monday morning, or whenever all the postseason spots are locked in, I will re-post a filled out bracket so that you don't need to figure everything out on your own. 

It’s pretty easy to play, just pick the teams you think will win each round of the playoffs up through the World Series champ. All rounds are weighed equally. To avoid a tie, you also need to select the number of games the World Series will last (between 4-7) and the total number of runs in the final game of the World Series. If there is a tie after all that, then will be used to decide the winner. 
Just like for my last contest, as far as the prizes go for this, I was going to list a bunch of cards that the winner could choose from but I have decided to just say that I'll work with the winner to make sure that they are happy with their winnings. It will be something good from my selection of autographs, inserts, short prints, and base cards. Your prize will be something that will make you happy.  

If you link to my contest on your blog, I will let you submit two brackets.  Everyone else gets one. Start spreading the word and check back on Monday morning for the match-ups and to begin submitting your guesses.  Cutoff time for submissions is going to be just before the first game start time on Wednesday.  Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goodbye Al

Sadly, another former Orioles player has died this year when Al Pilarcik passed away on September 20. I couldn't find a cause of death listed, but it's always sad when a former Oriole leaves this world behind. 2010 has been an especially bad year for former O's, as Al becomes the tenth Oriole to pass away this year after Curt Motton (1/21), Bob Chakales (2/18), Frank Bertaina (3/3), Billy Hoeft (3/16), Mike Cuellar (4/2), Robin Roberts (5/6), Morrie Martin (5/25), Billy Loes (7/15), and Bobby Thomson (8/16). I'm guessing that 2010 has seen more former Orioles die than any other year.  It somewhat makes sense as the franchise started in 1954 so many of the guys who played for the team in the mid-50's are getting old nowadays.  With over three months to go in the year, I can't help but feel that Al might not be the last Oriole to die this year the way things have gone so far.

Al played all three outfield positions, but chiefly was a right-fielder, during his 6 seasons in the Majors from 1956-61. He played 517 of his 668 games with the Orioles from 1957-60,  played two stints with the Kansas City A's and finished his career with the White Sox. 

After retiring from baseball, Al spent 34 years as a high school health teacher in St. John, Indiana, where he also coached baseball, football and basketball. In his later years, he taught part-time at Indiana University.  He was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.  Here's a link to his obituary. RIP Al.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Orange Uni Autographs

It's a dreary Monday in Birdland as the O's are heading to Tampa riding a four game losing streak and the first series sweep since Buck took over the team.   As the rain continues to fall here in Baltimore, I'm trying to remain optimistic.  My motivation level is pretty low today too, so here's a post I've been sitting on for some time now: a bunch of Orange Uni autographs.

This is a part of my main collection as well as my orange uni autographs.  I got it signed through a private signing sometime earlier this year.

Fellow O's autograph collector Aaron hooked me up with this Aase-some card at an O's game earlier this season.

Up until recently, it had been years since I added a Leo autograph to my collection.  This season he has both been an Orioles Alumni signer on Eutaw Street and has taken over a coaching position with the nearby Aberdeen Ironbirds.

Scott McGregor, what haven't you done in the Orioles organization?  He's as easy an autograph as anyone in Birdland. 

I recently got this card signed through a trade on  I might have posted about the trade but I can't remember and I'm just lazy enough today to not want to look it up, so here it is, possibly again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

NFL Survivor League Lock of the Weekend- the Baltimore Ravens

Picture here

Yeah, I like the Ravens at home over the Browns this week.  My survivor league has already lost 9 of its' 19 members, so let's hope that I can continue to win for a few more weeks.  I know you guys want these cheerleaders pics to keep on comin...and unlike the Packers last week, the Ravens actually have cheerleaders, and that have their own website!

You know who used to be a Ravens' cheerleader?

Picture here

 Yeah, Stacy Keibler. Not bad Ravens.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Unpossible Autograph Friday-Bob Avila & Other Cards from Russell

Recently one of my favorite Orioles autograph trade partners, Russell, got in touch with me about a trade we started discussing months ago but didn't make much progress on at the time. Once he emailed me this time, we didn't waste any time in working out a trade. This isn't my first trade with Russell, and we always seem to follow a similar model; I trade him current O's autographs and he sends me older and harder to get autographs. It works well for both of us, so I hope we can work out another trade down the road.

Since this is "Unpossible Autograph Friday",  I will start out by showing off the unpossible autograph that Russell traded to me. 

Bobby Avila was one of the first great Mexican players to play in the Major Leagues. While with the Indians in 1954, he became the first Latino player to win a batting title when he posted a .341 average. Over his 11 season MLB career, he was also a 3x All-Star, led the A.L. with 11 triples in 1952, and appeared on the MVP ballot three times, highlighted when he came in third behind Yogi Berra and Larry Doby in '54. 

He played his first 10 seasons with the Indians before being passed around from the Orioles to the Red Sox and then on to the Twins in his final big league season. He only appeared in 20 games for the O's in 1959 before they put him on waivers, so I'm glad that he was featured on a Topps card as an O. 

Before and after his MLB career, Bobby played in the Mexican Leagues, and after he officially retired following the 1960 season, he became President of the Veracruz Eagles team and then took over as President of the entire Mexican League. His leadership skills carried over to politics and he was later elected as the Mayor of Veracruz.

He was elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 and passed away from diabetes in 2004. RIP Bobby.

Next up is Eddie Robinson. Eddie had a long and pretty accomplished career in baseball, both on the field and in several front office positions. He got his first taste of the Bigs in 1942, followed by an unexplained three season absence that I can only guess was due to being drafted into service for WWII.  Eddie returned to baseball in 1946 and played through the 1957 season with seven of the eight American League clubs in existence at the time; the Orioles were the last team of three teams he played for in 1957, and he only made it into four games for the club. I'm just glad that his Crown card was able to use a picture of him in an Orioles uniform for the set. Earlier in his career, he played on four All-Star teams and appeared on the MVP ballot three times. He was also a member of the 1948 World Series Champion Cleveland Indians; to date, that's the last time the Indians won the World Series. 

After Eddie's playing career ended, he started his work behind the scenes in baseball by becoming the field director for the O's in 1961. Over the next 35 years, he worked in player development for five different organizations and rose to become the General Manager of the Braves from 1973-76 and Rangers from 1977-82. 

Foster Castleman played the last of his five professional seasons for the O's in 1958 when he appeared in 98 games, 91 of them at shortstop, but only hit .170 on the year. His first four seasons were with the New York Giants, although he only an everyday player in 1956.

Jesse pitched in 1,252 games over his 24 season career that spanned four decades. I'm pretty sure that he broke that record for pitching appearances at some point during his 5 seasons with the O's from 1995-99 because I believe that there is a plaque commemorating the feat in the O's bullpen at Camden Yards. He is probably best remembered for his time with the Mets at the start of his career. During his 8 seasons in New York, he was a closer for the 1986 World Series Championship team, elected to two All-Star teams and received Cy Young and MVP votes for his 1983 season. He also won a World Series with the '88 Dodgers and pitched for nine different teams during his career.

Russell also threw in an orange uni autograph of Jim Palmer. You all know about Jim, so I probably couldn't tell you anything that Jim hasn't already told you. He was great, maybe the best pitcher ever (he is definitely the best O's ever had), etc...

Here's an autograph index card of Werner "Babe" Birrer.  Babe used to be good at signing TTM requests, but hasn't signed recently.  Over the past year or so, I've sent him two requests at two different addresses, so I hope that I get one back some day. 

Finally, here is an autograph index card of Leo Burke.  I won't say too much about Leo right now because I should have another post about him coming soon.

Thanks for the awesome trade Russell!  I hope that you are as happy with your cards as I am with mine.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oriole #887- Troy Patton

 This POH set featured much better players than the POS set

Troy Patton finally made his Orioles debut last night in the 7th inning of a 6-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. I say finally because Troy is currently in his third stint with the O's this season; he was called up for the first time on July 21st but sent back to Norfolk the next day, he was called up again on August 1st but didn't make it into a game before being sent back down on the 9th, and was called up most recently on September 7th. All told, Troy spent 24 days with the Orioles before he made it into a game and I'm not sure why, but I know that he must be happy to have finally got back on the mound. He pitched two thirds of an inning and allowed a double and a walk but also struck out David Ortiz to end the inning and didn't allow any runs.

That's not what your signature looks like Troy!
Last night wasn't Troy's Major League debut; he pitched in three games for the Astros at the end of the 2007 season before being sent to the Orioles, along with Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate and Mike Costanzo, in the Miguel Tejada trade that went down on December 12, 2007. As I remember it, Patton was the centerpiece of the Orioles haul and big things were expected of him. Unfortunately, a torn labrum caused him to miss the entire 2008 season, but I hope he is back on the right track now. I find it funny that the Orioles re-signed Tejada and again traded him away before Troy at last made his Orioles debut.

Love those Tides orange unis

I had the pleasure of watching Troy pitch the first half of the 2009 season for the AA Bowie Baysox; he was a dominating 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts before being promoted to AAA Norfolk. He struggled to adjust to the AAA hitters after his promotion and had a 1-3 record and 6.45 ERA for the Tides over nine starts to finish out the season. In 2010, outside of riding the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle, he went 8-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 25 starts for the Tides, so I hope that he is able to make the next step and start the 2011 season in Baltimore.

Troy was always a very nice guy and extremely accommodating with autograph requests, so I'm really pulling for him. We also share the same birthday, although he is younger than I, so that's another thing he has going for him. Good luck Troy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Birthday Additions- Mainly of the Unpossible Variety

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I got some awesome autographs as presents. In my typical blog fashion, it's taken me a few weeks to scan and post the cards I got, but better late than never, right?

I'll start with what I got from Kalina...

Frank Bertaina's autograph had remained just out of my reach a few times over the past few years but Kalina was finally able to track down his autograph for me. Frank unfortunately died earlier this year on March 3 from complications of a heart attack at 65 years old. I had sent him a TTM request last fall but did not get it back before his death. 

Frank pitched for the Orioles in five of his seven big leagues seasons from 1964-70 and was a member of the O's 1966 World Series Champs, but didn't pitch in a game during the series. He also spent a few seasons with the Washington Senators and pitched his final season in the Majors with the Cardinals. RIP Frank.

Kalina also got me an ebay gift card which I was able to use to get two more unpossible autographs for my collection.

I traded for a signed O's postcard of Pat a few months ago, but I was still on the lookout for a signed Orioles card of his and I finally found one for the right price. Pat played four of his fifteen big league seasons with the O's from 1977-80; he also played for the Twins, Royals, White Sox & Indians. He made the 1973 A.L. All-Star team while with the White Sox and the best part of his game was his speed on the base paths which he used to amass 250 stolen bases. 

Pat's older brother, Leroy, was a running back for the Cleveland Browns and is a member of the Football Hall of fame.  After Pat retired from baseball, he became an ordained minister in the Baltimore area. And like Bertaina, he also died from a heart attack, but Pat was only 61.  RIP Pat.

Jerry Adair is another player who I have been trying to add to my collection for a long time. I've found some of his autographs available but they have always been too expensive for me to afford since he died over 23 years ago in 1987. Having a gift card certainly helped and I was finally able to add Jerry to my collection. 

He was a utility infielder who played in the Majors from 1958-70 with the O's, White Sox, Red Sox and Royals. Jerry began his big league career in Baltimore and spent his first 9 seasons with the Birds, and was known mostly for his glovework playing mainly second base and shortstop, but he was good enough that he received MVP votes for two seasons during his career. He coached with the A's and Angels after his playing career was over and his life was ended way too early when he died of liver cancer at only 50 years old. It's always sad to hear when a life is cut so short. RIP Jerry.

And now for what my dad got for me...

Will the Thrill was with the Orioles for the last two seasons of his career in 1999 & 2000; the O's did trade him to the Cardinals mid-way through the 2000 campaign so he wrapped up his playing days in St. Louis. I've had his autograph on a Rangers card in my collection for some time, but hadn't been able to add his autograph on an O's card until my dad came through for me.

I don't feel like there's a lot I can say about Will that most of you don't already know. He was a super intense guy on the field, a six-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger, won a Gold Glove, received MVP votes five times, and came in fifth in ROY balloting. Between 1988-91, during his time with the Giants, he lead the league at least once in games played, plate appearances, runs, RBI, walks, slugging percentage, total bases and intentional walks.  He was THE MAN during those four seasons and was one of the most feared hitters in baseball during that time.

Will is in the College Baseball Hall of Fame and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and is currently working in the Giants front office. While researching this post I found that someone runs a pretty comprehensive website showcasing all of Will's baseball cards and other collectibles. Will is also a direct descendant of the explorer, William Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame.

My dad also got me an autograph of former Orioles Minor Leaguer, Juan Guzman, that I somehow neglected to scan. 

Thank you so much to Kalina and my parents for knowing me so well and getting me such awesome autographs (among other things) for my birthday!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blog Bat-Around: If I Were the Commissioner

This is my first time to join in on a Blog Bat-Around topic so I bear with me. This topic was started by David at Indians Baseball Cards and Random Wax who asked what we would do if we were MLB's commissioner. 

As a disclaimer, I've never been a fan of Bud Selig, partially stemming from how he was both the owner of the Brewers and the commissioner of baseball for a time. There seemed to be a major conflict of interest there and he has always been known to be more of an owner's commissioner. He also almost ruined baseball with the way he "handled" the steroid era and I don't know if I'll ever get over the 2002 All-Star Game. I was at a hotel watching the "end" of the game and thinking that a damn coin flip would've made more sense than just calling a tie. There's no tying in baseball!

Moving on to what I would do to change baseball...

1) Install some sort of salary cap.
I know that this would be extremely complicated and might never pass a vote with the owners, but I think it has to be done. Teams with $200+ million payrolls and $30 million payrolls can't really compete. I know that the poor teams will beat the rich teams on occasion, but so many things have to work out for it to happen. I'll cite the current Rays as an example. I don't know what their exact payroll is but I know it's not much, especially compared to the Yankees and Red  Sox. They currently have the perfect storm of great scouting/drafting and developing their star players during their arbitration years.  Can they stay competitive over the next 5 years?  Only time can tell, but it will be hard, unless they can increase their payroll, or play on a more level monetary surface. Will the Yankees & Red Sox stay competitive since they can afford the sign players to bad contracts (Dice-K for $100 million!?!) but still have enough payroll to spend on other veterans who can pick up the slack? Yes they will.

2) Use the DH in both leagues.
Who ever wants to see a pitcher hit? Anyone? I know that there are about 10 pitchers who can actually hit the ball with some consistency and probably a few hundred more who like to strike-out hit, but wouldn't it be more fun for fans to only watch hitters hit? I mean, hitters are very rarely asked to pitch, and when they are, the game is either a laugher or ridiculously long. Also, National League starting pitchers have a statistical advantage compared to their American League counterparts since they get to face a pitcher in the batter's box every third inning or so. This definitely pads the strike-out and ERA stats. 

3) Give every team a chance to make the playoffs by restructuring the divisions every few years.
Now, I really don't know how this would/could work and I'll admit that all of my ideas have major holes in them, but something should be done. As a fan of team that plays in the toughest division to win in baseball, it's extremely frustrating that the Orioles would have to win 90+ games to even come in 3rd place in the A.L. East.  I'm not saying that the O's are close to competing and I know they haven't even had a .500 record since '97, but it's tough to know that they have to get so much better to even have a whiff of the playoffs while some other divisions are won by teams' with a .500 record every few years.  So, realign the divisions.  Somehow.  I just don't know how.

4) Increase instant replays.  Get rid of the umpires who like the spotlight. 
Honestly, I feel like replacing umpires with computers is possible with the technology we have today. But the umps are important to keep around; they are part of the game and should stay a part of the game. However, they are human and blow calls, sometimes very important ones, that everyone else in the stadium can see was wrong within 30 seconds. So why shouldn't they be able to see it too? The simple solution would be to add a fifth ump at a computer station who can alert when an incorrect safe/out, home run or fair/foul call occurs and immediately correct that call. It creates jobs, and you would never have another Tony Tarasco situation (I still hate Jeffrey Maier). On a similar, yet unrelated, note, I would get rid of the few umpires who like to become the story of the game, rather than just call it, as well as the umps who are flat out awful. So goodbye Cowboy Joe West and CB Bucknor, among others. 

5) Fix the draft signing deadline. 
The MLB First-Year Player draft is held in mid-June, yet the signing deadline is not until mid-August. But why? Sure, I understand that sometimes negotiations take some time to work out, but 2 months? The new signing deadline is July 15. You either sign the players or you don't. A month should be plenty of time to get it done, and the players would now be guaranteed at least a half season in rookie ball with their new organizations. From what I understand goes on now, many of the top picks (and their agents) have no discussions with the teams that drafted them until a few days before the deadline anyway. So does it really matter when that deadline is? If they only need a few days to work things out, we could move the signing date up even further, say to June 30, but I'm fine with having it be July 15.

6) Ensure that every MLB
I know that this would be a huge number of cards, but the guys who only play in a few games deserve some love too and this would also help my autograph quest.  It's not like the rookies and stars need that 20th or 40th card produced every year.  These cards could be spread out over multiple releases or just one mega-set but I would make it happen. 

The Commish has spoken.  Feel free to let me know how smart (or dumb) you think my ideas are. I'd like to hear the feedback.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 Orioles Topps Team Set

For the past few years, I have looked forward to purchasing the Orioles Topps team set, you know the ones that are prepackaged and aren't part of the actual Topps master set. The Orioles cards are number BAL1-14 (or 15) and typically feature a recently acquired player or two photoshopped into an Orioles uniform; this is generally their first Orioles card, so it makes me happy. 

This year's set included the first (and to-date, only) Orioles cards of Mike Gonzalez and Cla Meredith. 

The 2010 Topps set has this exact picture showing Mike in a Braves uniform, but they worked a little photoshop magic to show him in an "Orioles" uniform. The hat is fine but his jersey looks more like a Giants uni than an Orioles. I'm cool with it since it's his only Orioles card.  

I got two of these signed and this one actually has the "better" signature of the two. Mike's a pretty good signer at the Yard but I'm not really sure what's going on with his 'graph. I see M____  maybe a G and then I really don't know. 

This card's inclusion surprised me since Cla was/is a middle reliever who didn't do anything to specifically stand out from the rest of the O's relief core during the '09 season. By my count, there were five other Orioles relievers (Jim Johnson (64), Danys Baez (59), Matt Albers (56), Mark Hendrickson (53) & Brian Bass (48)) who pitched in more games than Cla (29) and were on the Orioles for the entire season too. Cla's ERA was lower than those other guys but Jim Johnson was the Orioles (awful) CLOSER for the last two months of the season and he didn't get any love. Baez and Bass were out of Baltimore following the season but the other three pitchers could have a beef with being passed by so Topps could include Cla. 

Anyway, I'm happy to have his only Orioles signed card to include in my collection but I'm skeptical that he is actually wearing that O's uniform.  I think this is another photoshop job from Cla's time with the Padres.  His '08 Topps card used a similar picture and the jersey just doesn't look right.  Was Topps not able to get a photographer out to an Orioles game after mid-July?  I like that he was included but find it hard to believe that they didn't have a decent O's pic of him. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

NFL Survivor League Lock of the Week- the Green Bay Packers

Since my Titans pick worked out last week, I give you week 2 of showing a cheerleader representing my Survivor League selection. 

Just one problem this week.  I really like the Packers over the Bills in Green Bay, but the Packers suck and don't have any real cheerleaders.  So I figured that you might like these crazy Packers fans...


 It's definitely better than this...

But they're all idiots who are cheering for the Packers.  Go Vikings! I'm out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Matt Nokes Story

Unless this is your first time on my blog, you probably know how my collection works. I collect signed cards of everyone who has played for the Orioles. My preference of what autograph is in my collection goes something like this: signed Orioles card, signed Orioles postcard, signed card of player on different team, singed 3x5. Basically, if the player has an Orioles card, I want that signed for my collection.  
My regular go-to source to find out what cards are available for a player is since they have a fairly extensive listing of cards that are available. They always have base cards listed and will normally have a lot of obscure and/or low number cards as well. And they are broken down by what team the player is shown on, so I can (typically) rely on them to let me know what's available.  

Well, it looks like Matt Nokes is a player whose listing is screwed up.  You can see here on the left hand sidebar under team, it doesn't show that Matt has any Orioles cards.  But then in mid-July, I read on Kevin's Orioles Card "O" the Day blog (mentioned at the bottom of this Kris Foster post) that Matt supposedly had an Orioles card in the '95 Pinnacle set. No way, I thought. Beckett doesn't list any Orioles cards for him! But upon further inspection, I looked for the card Kevin mentioned and, sure enough, listed as a Yankees card, there was Matt's single Orioles card. There are two parallel versions of this card, so I guess he technically had 3 Orioles cards, but I'm getting off topic. Point is that there was an Orioles card of Matt and I needed to upgrade my collection.  

Luckily, Matt is currently the hitting coach for the Potomac Nationals, the single A affiliate of the Nationals, and they play in the Carolina League with the Frederick Keys. Kalina and I go to a handful of Keys games every year, so I just circled the next time the P-Nats would be in town. Matt's not much of a TTM signer, so I was happy that I could try to get him in person. I tracked down this card at my local card shop, and went to Frederick, confident that I could get the card signed.  

Harry Grove Stadium, where the Keys play, is an awesome place to get autographs of both the Keys and the visiting teams since the players & coaches have to walk through the concourse to get from their clubhouses to the dugouts. Everyone HAS to walk past the fans, and I've never been shut down, so what could go wrong? As I stood outside the visiting clubhouse and waited for Matt to come out, I started to get worried as the entire team had passed me by and was stretching or warming up on the field.  The pitching coach was down there and so was the manager. But where was Matt? Was he not on the trip? Well, it turns out that he was, and came out of the clubhouse just a few minutes before game time. He was either in a bad mood or just a jerk because when I asked if he would sign, Matt flatly said "No" and rushed past me to the field.  I struck out! So how is my card signed then?  

Well, luckily the Keys and P-Nats would meet again in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs, just over a week later (I wrote a post on Monday about that). This time Kalina was on the job.  After my middling autograph skills hadn't worked, I sent in my better half.  I think that players always prefer to sign for kids and the ladies, especially attractive ones. Not fifteen minutes after Kalina walked over there, she came back with my cards signed and even reported that Matt was a nice guy. It sounds like he was shocked to see his Orioles card, as most people either have a Yankees or Tigers card for him to sign.  I now had two signed copies of Matt's only Orioles card.  Thank you Kalina!

This is the card that was in my collection which I obtained in a trade last June.  If anyone is interested in trading for it, or the twin of his Orioles card, just let me know!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Unpossible Autograph Friday-Chico Carrasquel

This is an autograph that remained just out of my grasp at the National Card Show; a dealer had it for sale, but it would have pushed me beyond my personal budget for the show. I tried to bargain with him but he wouldn't come down from his price, so I had to walk away. Luckily, I've recently had some success selling a few items on ebay, so I was able to flip my money back on this card with a dealer who was willing to bargain the price down to where I was comfortable with it. 

Chico was the third ever Venezuelan native to play in the Major Leagues, following the footsteps of his uncle, Alex Carrasquel, and a player named Chucho Ramos, who had a brief career with the Reds. Chico's nephew, Cris Colon, played briefly with the Rangers in 1992, so his family is truly a baseball dynasty.

While he wasn't the first player from Venezuela to play in the Majors, he was certainly his country's first star. Over his ten year career, he was a 4 time All-Star (and the first Latin player to be selected for that team), twice received MVP votes and came in third in the 1950 ROY balloting behind Walt Dropo and Whitey Ford. Chico started a long tradition of Venezuelan shortstops which still continues to this day; in fact the current O's SS, Cesar Izturis, is from Venezuela.

Chico is mostly known for the 6 seasons he spent with the White Sox from 1950-55 at the beginning of his career, but he also spent time with the Indians and the KC Athletics before he wrapped up his Major League career with the O's in 1959.

After his playing career ended he returned to Venezuela where he coached, and managed local teams before he turned to scouting for the Royals and Mets. He eventually returned to the U.S. to work in the White Sox' front office and work on their Spanish language radio broadcasts.  In 2002, a baseball stadium was named after him in his home country and he was a member of the inaugural 2003 class of the Venezuela Baseball Hall of Fame. In his later years, he also established The Chico Carrasquel Foundation to help the children of Venezuela through baseball.  He was 75 years old when he passed away in 2005 of cardiac arrest.

RIP Chico.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Sweep It Is & John Bale

While I slightly apologize for the silly and cliche title, you have to understand that us Orioles fans don't get to use that s-word very often, at least not in a good context. The O's have been swept ten times this season, including twice being swept away in back-to-back series; 4 of the series sweeps have occurred in Baltimore, two of those coming at the hands of the Blow Blue Jays. In fact the Orioles were 0-12 on the season against the Jays until sweeping them out of Baltimore this week.

I don't know how much of this current turnaround has to do with Buck Showalter, but I damn near love our new manager so far. This weekend, the Orioles have a chance to win their fifth consecutive series for the first time since 1998. 1998! That's sad and awful and embarrassing, but I'm really glad we have a chance to get rid of some of these bad "milestones" this season, since next year, we will be a respectable and somewhat competitive team again. That's right, I'm going there. 

John's in this post because he doesn't have any Orioles cards and this is a Jays card, that connection works for me.
John Bale was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 5th round of the 1996 draft, which was actually the third time he was selected in the draft; the Cardinals took him in the 12th rd. of  '94 and the O's picked him in the 6th rd. of  '95, but the third time was the charm for him. The Jays traded him to the Orioles in December 2000 for Jayson Werth (it's good to know the O's weren't the only organization that gave up on Werth before he became good) and he pitched in 14 games for the Orioles during the 2001 season and went 1-0 with a 3.04 ERA out of the bullpen. The Orioles traded him to the Mets in Spring Training 2002 in return for Gary Matthews Jr. 

After the O's sent him packing, John pitched briefly with the Reds, spent three seasons with the Royals and is currently on his second stint in Japan, pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. An interesting, unrelated fact about John is that his wife is is the sister of NHL star Vincent Lecavalier. 

I'm not a big fan of this card, it's kind of ugly what with the pale yellow & pinstripes and the huge Team Best logo in the background. What's the opposite of when something "pops" at you?  Maybe flops?  Well then, this card really flops to me. But I didn't have a wide selection to chose from since the only major release that he's ever been included in is 2009 Upper Deck and he's not much of a TTM signer. This 1998 Team Best is his only certified autograph I could find and it was only $1, so I can literally look beyond it's ugliness and add it to my collection. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oriole #886- Pedro Viola

Pedro was the second player to make his Orioles debut this week (after Brandon Snyder, see the previous post for that write up), but this wasn't Pedro's Major League debut.  He pitched in 9 games with the Reds last September and had a 5.14 ERA over 7 innings.  Some eagle-eyed readers might notice that I included this card in last Wednesday's Adios Baysox post.  The O's claimed Pedro off waivers from the Reds on April 21, 2010 and he started the season with the AAA Tides where he "pitched" in 11 games to the tune of 17+ ERA before being demoted to the AA Baysox for the remainder of their season. 

I wasn't really sure how Pedro belonged on the Orioles 40 man roster for the duration of the season, but he somehow survived various roster cuts and releases to be called up to the Baltimore on September 7.  He appeared in his first game with the Orioles last night and it looks like my confusion was justified, at least in a small sample size.  Pedro was brought in to the game with a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning with the O's leading the Blue Jays 9-0. He promptly walked the free-swinging Lyle Overbay and then gave up a home run to the light-hitting Aaron Hill before finally striking out Adam Lind to get out of the inning.

My prediction is that Pedro will not make any additional appearances for the remainder of the season, unless the Orioles are winning or losing by more than 9 runs.  The man has a 54.00 ERA and cannot be trusted in close (Orioles lead/deficit < 9 runs) games. I don't mean to be hard on the guy, but I just don't like what I see; he reminds me too much of Daniel Cabrera, which is not a good thing.

Before I wrap this up, I also want to mention that I got this card signed at one of the Baysox meet-the-team days.  Pedro signed it with one of the markers on the table, not my preferred sharpie, but at least I have his autograph, which is good because I didn't see him sign before the games at all.  He wasn't included in the Baysox or Tides team sets, so I'm not aware of any Orioles' affiliates cards that he could have, so this will stay in my collection for now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oriole #885 Brandon Snyder

My favorite autograph of Snyder, however it looks like my sharpie was a little dry that day

Brandon Snyder made his MLB debut with the Orioles on Friday night, appearing as a ninth inning defensive replacement in another Orioles win. He made his first Major League start yesterday and went 0-3 with a strikeout but was 10-10 in fielding chances and also helped turn a double play.  He will forever be the 885th player to wear the black and orange uniform in Baltimore.

He was one of the O's September call-ups, so he had to bide his time on the bench for 9 days before he made it into a game.  I hope that he plays in a game or two during the upcoming homestand so the Baltimore fans get to see him play.  I wrote a post about him back in February after the O's added him to the 40 man roster, so don't want to repeat much from that, but please check the link to learn about him. 

Good Luck B-Snyde.  We hope that you can find success at the Major League level!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Frederick Keys Playoff Pictures & Manny Machado

I apologize for the crappy cell phone pictures, but I accidentally left the normal camera behind.
These were taken after the Keys' walkoff victory, and although they are fuzzy, you can clearly see the players' excitement. 

When writing my Adios Baysox post last Wednesday, I somehow neglected to mention that the Orioles hi-A affiliate, the Frederick Keys, were in the Carolina League playoffs.  I swear that I mentioned it in there, but I couldn't find anything about it today.  Anyway, on Wednesday night Kalina and I went to the first game of their best of five series against the Nationals' affiliate, the Potomac Nationals.  Most of you would've figured out on your own that the P-Nats are in the Nationals' farm system, but I just wanted to clarify, because Minor League baseball doesn't always make sense. 

It was a great game, specifically a great Minor League kind of game.  Neither of the starting pitchers made it into the second inning; the Keys' starter gave up 8 runs while only getting 2 outs while the Keys were able to squeeze 7 runs out of the P-Nats starter while getting a whole 3 outs.  Both the Keys and P-Nats hit grand slams in the first inning. Miguel Abreu (below w/ Kalina on his right) won the game in the bottom of the ninth on what was essentially a walk-off bunt double.  We have rooted for Miggy for the past three seasons so it was great to see him come through in the clutch like that.  It was the only game that the Keys won in the series and their season is over now, but it was great to see them win at least one game. 

Kalina had Miggy sign the scorecard that we used for the game

The Orioles 2010 First Round Draft Pick, Manny Machado was also with the Keys as part of the taxi squad from Aberdeen/Delmarva.  I somehow missed him when he came out before the game but I caught up with him as he was walking from the dugout to the clubhouse after the game.  He signed this Baltimore Sun sports section for me.  We also saw him in Aberdeen the previous week, but that's a post for another day. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NFL Survivor League Lock of the Week

Picture from here
For something completely different on the blog, I am going to share the NFL team that I feel is a lock to win every week. I'm in a Survivor pick-em league and if you've never heard of that before, basically I have to pick an NFL team I think will win every week, but can't select the same team more than once over the course of the season.  For everyone's benefit, I'll include a picture of a cheerleader from the team I think will win (an idea I somewhat borrowed from Night Owl).  This week, I picked the Tennessee Titans. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Alan Wiggins

Alan Wiggins' story is probably one of the sadder tales in Orioles history.  You might see his picture on this 1986 Fleer card and think that he looks pretty young.  Why is Alan an unpossible autograph then? 

Alan was the California Angels' first round draft pick (8th overall) in the 1977 draft but he failed to live up to his high draft position and washed out of the Angels and Dodgers organizations before being snagged by the San Diego Padres in the 1980 Rule V draft.  He showed off his tremendous speed at various Minor League levels and reportedly stole 120 bases in a single season while still in the Dodgers' system. 

He made his Major League debut in late 1981 with the Padres and had decent success over the next 4 seasons with them but was also arrested multiple times for cocaine possession.  His drug use and addiction would be a recurring theme over Alan's remaining years. 

After another cocaine relapse, the Padres traded Alan to the Orioles in the middle of the '85 season and he filled a utility role for the O's over the next few seasons.  He continued to show blazing speed on the base paths but his average and on-base percentage went down each year, but he had a harder time stealing bases since he was no longer good at getting to first.  It's impossible for me to directly connect his decreased level of play to his drug use, but it was certainly a possibility since he was getting worse in his late 20's which are normally the prime years of a player's career.  The '87 season was Alan's last year in organized baseball and he died in 1991 from complications due to AIDS.  It's believed that he was the first baseball player to die from AIDs.  

While he died at the very young age of 32, Alan's son and daughter are keeping the Wiggins name in sports as Alan Jr. and Candice are professional basketball players; he plays for the German club Eisbaren Bremerhaven and she plays for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA.

RIP Alan, you died way too young. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

TTM Success-Charlie Locke

While still recovering from the excitement of a walkoff Frederick Keys playoff win last night in the first round of the single A Carolina League playoffs, I present to you Charlie Locke. 

He pitched in only 2 games for the Orioles during the 1955 season but didn't allow any hits or runs during his 3 MLB innings while walking one and also striking a batter out.  Before and after his brief time in the Majors, Chuck spent 9 seasons in the Minor Leagues from '1950-58, mostly with the Browns/Orioles organization.

Charlie signed my TTM request in only 6 days, which is an extremely fast turnaround from Maryland to Missouri.  He also included a nice long letter thanking me for my request and telling me a little bit about his career. 

Thanks Chuck!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adios Baysox

The Bowie Baysox, the AA O's affiliate located somewhat near my house, were unfortunately eliminated from the Eastern League playoff contention on Monday, the final day of their regular season.  They had battled for weeks with the Harrisburg Senators, the Nats AA affiliate, for the second (and last) spot in the Western Division standings, and could have forced a one game play-in game if they had one and the Senators had lost on Monday.  Neither of those things happened and the Senators clinched their playoff spot, so the Baysox season was over.  It's too bad because we only made it to one or two of their games over the past couple months and didn't one last night of fun in at Prince George's County Stadium. 

Well, as a proper send off to the team, here are some of the Baysox autographs I got over the season.  Caleb Joseph up top was my favorite player this season, so I took the time to separate his card. 

This is what their 2010 team set looks like; the Aberdeen Ironbirds set looks very similar.  I really like how many of the cards show the players in their orange uni's!  The Tucker card is an All-Star insert card from 2010 Topps Debut.  Waring led the E.L. with 179 K's, Henson was 2nd with 156.  None of these guys have very nice autographs... 

This is Tanaka & Johnson's first O's affiliate cards.  Car-los Ro-jas! McCrory pitched for the O's in 2008 & 09, but spent most of the season with the Baysox.  Chad's card isn't very flattering.  Cooney didn't like how his little pinkie is up on his '09 Shorebirds card.  Gamboa is a great guy, very friendly, another one of my favorites.  

Joel was one of the hardest autographs to get on the team.  I got all of these signed at one of the meet-the-team days, but did get his Baysox card signed at our last game of the season.  He led the Eastern League with 33 homers, 264 total bases, and was second with 98 RBI.  He's had stints with the Dodgers and Devil Rays in the Majors, but won't be coming to Baltimore this September.

Viola had awful numbers with the AAA Norfolk Tides at the start of the season but his numbers over 23 appearances with the Baysox were good enough for him to get a September call-up with the O's.  I think that Komminsk is probably sick of me getting his autograph, and since I don't have anything left for him to sign, I'll stop now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Delino Deshields-the Montana Non-Signer

Delino is a bad TTM signer, to say the least.  According to SCN, he hasn't signed a single request dating back to 2001.  So I was excited when he was named the manager of the Billings Mustangs, the Reds rookie level affiliate, prior to the 2009 season.  I figured that many guys won't sign from their home addresses but will sign from the stadium.  I didn't send out a request but I wanted to wait to see how other collectors' fared, and  I'm glad I didn't send anything out because "Bop" still hasn't signed anything.  It's not like I know anyone in Montana, so I wasn't sure where to turn next.

I got lucky and a fellow SCN member located somewhere a few hours from Billings posted that he was going to a Mustangs game and would get things signed for a few dollars each.  I jumped at the opportunity and I'm very pleased with how the card turned out.  I guess since Delino hasn't signed much over the years, his signature still maintains a resemblance to his actual name, especially his first name.  

Delino had a 13 season big league career from 1990-2002; one of his career highlights was finishing second in the 1990 National League Rookie of the Year balloting to the Braves' Dave Justice.  He played for the Expos, Dodgers, Cardinals, Orioles and Cubs and the trade the sent him from the Expos to the Dodgers for Pedro Martinez is considered one of the worst that the Dodgers franchise has ever made.  He played from the Orioles from 1999 until mid-2001 when they released him due to his struggles at the plate.

Bop was the Expos' 1st round draft pick(12th overall) in 1987, and his son, Delino Jr., was the Astros' #1 draft pick(8th overall) in the 2010 draft.  I guess that gives Junior temporary bragging rights, he just has to have a decent Major League career to keep up with his dad. 

Born in Delaware, Delino Sr. currently has the most all-time Major League at-bats for a player born in "the first state" and was inducted to the states' Hall of Fame in 2006.  I wonder how many other people are in their HOF?  There aren't too many people to choose from; maybe they should rename it the Delino De-Hall of Fame.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A (Very) Delayed Thank You to Zach

Zach, who writes the amazing Autographed Cards blog, held a College World Series contest at the end of June.  I haven't had luck with winning contests around the blogosphere but I was finally able to win one thanks to my random selection of the winning teams.  I don't think I did a great job but I was able to edge out the competition.

It's only taken me about 2 months to get around to thanking him for the awesome cards and autographs he sent me, but hey, better late than never.  

I love autographs of Hall of Famers and this is my first one of Harmon.

 Augie is the legendary Texas Longhorns baseball head coach who has the most wins in NCAA history. 

The cards marked R are also mine, and the Jim Rice autograph is an 8x10.  You'd think I could have found time to get these scanned within two months, but no.  

I sent Zach a couple cards of Mario's since he is playing somewhere in the Midwest.  Zach was nice enough to send this one back to me for my orange uni collection.

Thanks for everything Zach!  If you've never checked out his blog, head over there right now!  He features a new autographed card every day and he always has some interesting information on how he got the autograph.