Friday, September 28, 2012

The Final Countdown- Heathcliff Slocumb

I'm at the point in my collection, needing only twenty-three upgrades and any autograph of three other players, where it's a cause for celebration (for me, at least) anytime I can knock a name off my list. Since I'm currently out of unpossible autographs (signatures of deceased Orioles) to feature every Friday, I'm going to start posting any autographs that I acquire from my shrinking need list. 

Up today is Heathcliff Slocumb, who I wrote about back in June as part of one of my Orioles season debuts posts. Since that time, I came across a private signing with him that was being held through a private promoter on SportsCollectors.Net. You see, Heathcliff is one of those tricky players who had just a single Orioles card produced of him, late in his career. Many recent players largely stop signing once they retire and some avoid charity events as well, which make getting their autographs a tall task. If you want just any autograph of Heathcliff, many signed cards from his time as a member of the Cubs and Phillies are available online, but when you are trying to find a signed copy of a specific card, you're typically going to be out of luck. Fortunately, this signing helped me to knock off a tough name from my need list and I was able to get the card personalized to boot, so I'm pretty thrilled to add this to my collection.

But I do have to point out that his signature is quite a bit more abbreviated than this in-person autograph he signed for me back in 1993 or '94. It's possibly due to the small white space and personalization on the O's card, but it's hard to say.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

L.J. Hoes- Oriole #942

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Orioles has selected the contract of one of their top prospects, L.J. Hoes. Well, after watching a few weeks of Orioles baseball from the bench, he finally made it into a game, but unfortunately, it might have been the lamest O's debut in recent memory. It wasn't that he did anything wrong, but his debut was one of those blink and you missed it kind of things.

You see, L.J. was inserted to the game as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Orioles down to their last out. Jim Thome has just drawn a walk to load the bases and he is a bit slow on the basepaths at this point in his career. So out came L.J. to run for him. Ryan Flaherty was the next batter up, but he swung at the first pitch and flied out to center to end the game. So poor L.J. has only accrued about 15 seconds of MLB playing time, but at least he made it into a game. 

L.J. had been honored as the Orioles Minor League Player of the Year prior to the game, so it was a good time for him to make his debut, I just wish that it had lasted a little longer than it did. 

And in an interesting side note, Dylan Bundy was also honored before the game as being the Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and he also appeared in the game, making his home pitching debut. It seems as though Buck Showalter might have wanted to get both these guys into the game that they had been presented their awards, assuming that it wouldn't have a negative outcome of the game. And it didn't but it was another ill-timed Orioles loss nonetheless. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dylan Bundy- Oriole #941

Dylan Bundy made his Orioles debut yesterday in Boston to become the 941st player to appear in a game for the O's. He entered the game from the bullpen in the eighth inning with a runner on second base and the Orioles trailing the Sawx 2-1. He got Ryan Lavarnway and Danny Valencia to fly out to end the threat and officially began his time as an Oriole. From reading some accounts following the game, it sounds like he was pretty nervous for his debut, and even had a hard time locating his glove in the bullpen.

I wrote about Bundy last Wednesday, when the O's recalled him from the minors. It took him a few days to get into a game, but hopefully this is just the beginning of a long and productive run for him in Birdland. I'd be lying if I said that expectations weren't high!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Suggestions for Old/Used Hard Cards

So for some reason, I have a massive surplus of unused hard cards, well more than I could ever use. Does anyone out there have a suggestion as to what to do with them?

I know that they could be thrown away, but it seems like a waste of something that is very reusable. Any ideas will help. Thanks!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Bob Hale, Oriole #68

Former Orioles infielder Bob Hale passed away on September 8th, which unfortunately necessitates another unpossible autograph post. He played 376 major league games from 1955-61, and spent the first five years of his career with the Orioles before he wrapping up his time in the bigs with the Indians and Yankees. Bob became the 68th player to appear in a game for the Orioles when he made his MLB debut with them on July 4, 1955. 

He was truly a great TTM signer and I, accidentally, sent him two separate requests over recent years. I somehow had misfiled the first cards he signed for me and thought that I still needed his autograph for my collection, so I fired off another request. He dutifully signed all the cards I sent his way, and I truly appreciate each card he signed for me. Thank you for being so great to your fans, Bob! RIP, you will be missed.

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 not very smart, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible." 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wild Card

I think that it's pretty timely that I happened to come across this playing card showing the Orioles as the Wild Card, which currently would be their spot in the A.L. playoffs if the season ended today. I didn't go looking for this card, but rather just came across it while organizing some other Orioles cards, which somehow makes me like it even more. It's from one of those MLB playing card decks, and was apparently made in 2001, so it has taken a few years for it's designation to be accurate.

Now if I can just find one that shows the O's as the A.L. East Champ, or even possibly 2012 World Series Champions...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dylan Bundy Called Up to the Show

Dylan Bundy has officially completed his stratospheric rise through the Orioles' system during the 2012 season, as he was recalled from AA Bowie in the middle of the night last night. The move was necessitated after the Orioles' marathon 18 inning win over the Mariners in Seattle, and the team found itself possibly short on arms for tonight's final game in Seattle. Bundy was already on the 40-man roster and he is still about 16 innings shy of the organization's 125 innings pitched goal for him this season, so it's hard to argue against the move.

The team is really going all-in on their 2012 playoff push, and I'm all about it since you never know when they might have another opportunity to make it to the postseason. I will always remember when my dad took me out of middle school to attend an Orioles playoff game in 1997 because, as he said, "You never know when you will get another chance to see them in the playoffs." At the time, it seemed humorous to think that the O's wouldn't be good in the coming years, but the past fourteen years have taught me a lot.

So it's officially all hands on-deck from the O's. Bundy's rise from 2011 first-round draft pick to becoming a member of the Orioles active roster is especially amazing since he was drafted out of high school. It's not so rare for a battle-tested college pitcher to rapidly go from the draft to the Majors, but it's much more uncommon for a guy who is still 19 and selected out of high school to make it to the Majors this fast.

Since Dylan signed too late in 2011 to pitch for any of the Orioles' minor league affiliates, 2012 has been his first professional season, and he has pitched for the low A Delmarva Shorebirds, hi-A Frederick Keys, and AA Bowie Baysox. I only had the opportunity to see him pitch one time during the season, but it was during his most recent appearance in early September when he started Game 1 of the Eastern League playoffs for the Baysox. Here's a video I took of Dylan warming up in the bullpen prior to the start of the game.

He gave up just one run over six innings, and allowed six hits while striking out six. Is he ready for the Majors? Only time will tell, but I think that he has the potential to be a great MLB pitcher.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Orioles Magic

Wow, how has it been a week since I've written a post? Where does the time go? Well, I know at least some of mine has gone to watching some, largely satisfying, Orioles baseball. The O's have now locked up their first winning record since 1997 and can hopefully make the playoffs for the first time since that season.

I'm hoping that tonight's starter, Wei-Yin Chen, can keep the Orioles' winning ways rolling along. He has been the only starter to last the duration of the season for the O's. Nice rookie campaign, Wei-Yin!

The team has also been helped by the emergence of one of their top prospects, Manny Machado, whose play at third base has been nothing short of stellar, which is particularly remarkable since he had played shortstop for most of his life.

And don't forget the contributing players, like the currently hot Endy Chavez, who have kept the Orioles moving in the right direction. Endy wasn't even going to be recalled to the team in September until Nick Markakis's injury forced the O's to bring him back.

I just hope that the Orioles can keep it together for the next two weeks, and then hopefully the proceeding month! Let's go O's!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Personalized Upgrades

As many of you probably know by this point, my preference is to have the Orioles autographs in my collection personalized to me. I feel as though it adds a personal touch to each autograph, knowing that it was specifically signed for me. It also alleviates some player's concerns that I might try to flip their autograph for a profit, which is not what I do.

I obtain my personalized autographs in a variety of ways, including at Orioles games...

where I was able to get Jason Hammel and Robert Andino to kindly personalize for me,

Orioles Alumni signings...

where I knocked out Dave Ford, Kiko Garcia, Glenn Gulliver, and Jeffrey Hammonds in one shot at a recent signing,

and at minor league games...

where sometimes the instructors like Butch Davis, and players like Rhyne Hughes, are in the O's farm system,

while other times the former O's are members of other team's farm systems, like Scott Erickson and Steve Luebber, who are both pitching coaches in the Hi-A Carolina league.

I have to say thanks to my dad for helping me upgrade the Scott Erickson autograph at a recent Frederick Keys game that we attended together.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The O's Have Hoes

The Orioles made a few roster moves today highlighted by their selection of the contract of prospect L.J. Hoes from AAA Norfolk to help fill the outfield void left by Nick Markakis's broken thumb. L.J. would have had to have been added to the 40-man roster anyway during the upcoming off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so the move makes sense, even though he won't be eligible to play in the post-season, if that scenario unfolds.

At just 22 years old, L.J. spent the majority of the 2012 season with the Tides and actually improved on his AA numbers. After playing mostly 2B during his first three and a half seasons in the O's minor league system, the organization moved him to the outfield in mid-2011 and it seems like the move has really paid off.

He was the Orioles 3rd round selection in the 2008 first year player draft and has regularly been ranked amongst the team's top five prospects by Baseball America in the past few years. This is L.J.'s first MLB call-up and he will be making his big league debut when he appears in a game.

In addition to selecting Hoes' contract, the O's are bringing back Endy Chavez to play in the outfield over the next three weeks.

To make room on the 40 man roster for Hoes & Chavez, the O's designated Kevin Gregg and Ryan Adams for assignment.

Kevin was never particularly effective in Baltimore, but he seemed like a decent guy who pitched with a bulldog mentality. However, I never had a good feeling when he was coming in a game, especially when he was the team's closer in the early half of the 2011 season.

Infielder Ryan Adams played for the Orioles over two stints during the 2011 season but had fallen out of favor in the organization. I never heard any specific reasons for it, but it was pretty obvious that he wasn't in the team's plans for the future. There were some rumblings about other teams being interested in him, so hopefully the Orioles can work out some sort of trade to get at least something in return for him.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Variations of Vlad

Somehow, Topps has figured out how to continue throwing some new Orioles cards of Vladimir Guerrero out there even though he has not been a part of the Orioles for nearly a year now. The most recent Orioles cards of his that they issued are in the 2012 Topps mini set released during the National Card Show. I have a few of them so far but they aren't scanned yet, so I will post them sometime down the road.

In addition to the few new Orioles cards of Vlad's that have come out, I continue to chip away at some of the variations that are out there. I don't put much time or money into this "mini"-collection but I like to pick up cards when I find them at the right price.

Like this Gypsy Queen mini picture variation,

this Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor #'ed 48/50...

and these two variations of his 2012 Topps Series 1 Average Leaders card, the black version #'ed 22/61, and the Walmart Blue.

I somehow only enjoy getting the same card, albeit different colors/shininess, so many times. I believe I now have 10 versions of the Bowman card and 7 versions of the average leader card, and I know there are at least 1 or 2 more variations of each out there!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Les Moss, Oriole #26

Unfortunately, my weekly Unpossible Autograph feature has already returned after just a one week break. As I mentioned in my U.A. post two weeks ago, I had run out of autographs from Orioles who had passed away. That changed when Les Moss passed away on August 29; I didn't hear about his passing until early this week, so am playing catch up.

Les spent the better part of a half century playing, scouting, coaching, and/or managing around the game of baseball. He was chiefly a back-up catcher over the thirteen seasons he played in the Majors from 1946-58 and he spent time with the Red Sox, White Sox, and Orioles, but played most of his career for the St. Louis Browns. Overall, he appeared in 824 games and hit .247 with 63 homers. 

1954 was his only season in Baltimore and he became the 26th player to don the Orioles uniform in his Birdland debut on April 29, 1954. He played in 29 games for the Orioles before being traded to the White Sox in early June. This Orioles Crown card and a '54 Bowman are the only two cards that pictured Les as an Oriole during his short time in town.

After his playing career ended, Les stayed involved around the game of baseball in many different capacities, highlighted by short stints as the manager of the 1968 White Sox and 1979 Tigers. He also served as the pitching coach for the 1981 Cubs and filled that role for the Astros from 1982-89. He officially retired from baseball in 1995, over five decades after his professional career began with the 1942 Americus Pioneers in the Georgia-Florida League. 

By all indications, Les was a great TTM signer until late in his life. When I attempted to send him a request in 2009, I got this very nice letter back from his daughter, informing me of his health problems. I had hoped to upgrade my autograph to a personalized version but truly appreciate the time that Sandy took to write back to me and I was very sad to hear about Les's passing. 

Thanks for taking care of your fans for so many years, Les. Rest in peace, it sounds like you were a great man.

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 not very smart, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible." 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Who's In First?


No matter how things end up this season, it's been an amazing experience. I honestly don't think that any Orioles fans saw this coming, let alone any writers or websites that wrote preseason predictions. This has truly been the most unexpected season I can remember and this Orioles fan has loved every minute of it!

I haven't written much about it over the course of the season partially because I don't know how to express my feelings but also because I don't want to jinx anything. But this screen shot just had to be shared. Can you feel the Orioles Magic?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Oriole #940- Randy Wolf

Randy Wolf became the 940th player to appear in a game for the Orioles when he entered Sunday's game out of the bullpen to replace the injured Chris Tillman in a victory against the Yankees in New York. He is also the 30th new Oriole to debut during the 2012 season and the 50th different player to appear in a game for the O's during this season. That means that 2012 has seen more new players debut in a game for the Orioles outside of the first two year's of the team's existence in 1954 & '55. But if it means making the playoffs, I say let's use 50 players every season!

Randy has been pitching in the Majors since 1999; he spent his first eight MLB seasons with the Phillies before bouncing from the Dodgers, to the Padres, to the Astros, back to the Dodgers, and then has spent the last two plus seasons with the Brewers. They released him on August 22, and he quickly agreed to a deal with the Orioles and spent a few days with the team before officially signing with the O's on August 31, just in time to be eligible for any possible postseason action.

Prior to Sunday's game, Randy had pitched in 371 MLB games (including 365 starts) but had never pitched in an American League game and almost always appeared as a starter. He will now be an American League reliever, so I hope that it helps him turn the corner after a relatively dismal season in Milwaukee. With an admittedly small sample size, it seems to be working, as he pitched 3.1 innings in relief, and gave up three hits, one walk, struck out one, and earned the W. That's a 2.70 ERA and 1.000 winning percentage to start his AL career. Keep up the good work Randy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Another One of my Dad's Cards is Signed- Thanks Miguel!

I was able to get another one of my dad's Oriole card creations signed recently, and this one is extra special since it was his first effort at it. Miguel Gonzalez kindly signed for me at a game during the Orioles last homestand and I have now gotten two of my dad's cards signed; this one and the Lew Ford I showed off a few weeks back.

Hopefully these are the first two of many that I will be able to add to my collection. Thanks again for your creations old man!