Friday, November 30, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Ken Rowe & Chuck Diering

The Orioles family unfortunately lost two players last week, as both Ken Rowe and Chuck Diering passed away on Thanksgiving and Black Friday respectively. This is one of the few times I can recall that two former O's players died in the very same week.

Ken Rowe passed away on Thanksgiving day due to complications of pneumonia; he was 78 years old. 

He briefly pitched in the Majors between 1963-65 with the Dodgers & Orioles (he became the 217th player to appear in a game with the O's when he debuted on 9/14/64) before moving on to a long post-playing career as coach. He stayed involved with the game, mainly as a pitching coach, from the late 1960's through the 2010 season, including a stint as the O's pitching coach in 1985-86. 

I obtained this autograph of Ken's in a trade, and had always intended on sending him a TTM request as he was a consistently great signer of mail requests. It's too late now, but it's nice to know that he was so responsive to his fans. RIP Ken.

The second player to pass away last week was one of the original 1954 Orioles, outfielder Chuck Diering. He was the 12th player to debut with the O's when he appeared in the second game of the team's existence on April 14, 1954. He was selected as the 1954 "Most Valuable Oriole" which he cited as the highlight of his playing career when I sent him a TTM request. 

Chuck was also a very accommodating responder to fan mail requests and signed this card and business card for me when I sent him a request earlier this year. He owned a car dealership for a number of years after his playing career ended and it seems as though he typically included a copy of his signed business card when people sent him a request.

Chuck apparently fell in his house either sometime late on Thanksgiving or early Friday and hit his head, which sadly caused his death. It seems as though his son found his unresponsive dad, and was able to get him medical care, but Chuck passed away a few hours later in the hospital.

Thank you for signing for me Chuck. Rest in Peace.

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, November 28, 2012

O's Acquire Valencia, Mahoney Designated

Today, in a bit of a head-scratching move, the Orioles acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from the Red Sox in a cash transaction. To make room for Valencia on the 40-man roster, the Orioles had to designate first baseman, Joe Mahoney for assignment.

Now, I'm not particularly a believer that Mahoney was going to be an everyday Major League starter at first base, but with the impending decision on the future of Mark Reynolds with the O's also coming this week (and it's sounding like the two sides might not work out a deal), it's possible that the team won't have a legitimate first baseman on their team by the weekend. I know that Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit, and (it sounds like) Valencia can all play first base, but at least in regards to Davis & Betemit, I can say with some certainty that the team would prefer to not have them play there.

So with the impending possibility that the O's are cutting ties with their 2012 starting first baseman, they have released the only other true 1B on the roster, and added another guy who can man the hot corner. Is anyone else confused by the move?

Ultimately though, I know the team probably has feelers out on corresponding moves, or maybe they do intend to bring back Mark Reynolds, which would really limit this to a discussion about possible bench players for the 2013 campaign. After last season, it's hard to not trust what's going on with the team right now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Beginning of the End of My Orioles Vladdy Cards

I'm finally almost to the point where I've shown off all of my Vladimir Guerrero Orioles cards. Which is probably a good thing since he hasn't played for the Orioles in about 14 months.

But even though Vladdy hasn't played for the Orioles in quite some time, Topps continued to milk his time in the black and orange as long as possible, with Vlad's (likely) last major release picturing him as an Oriole coming out in the early August release of Topps minis, almost a full year after his time in Baltimore had clearly ended.

I've probably had this card for almost two years but have refused to show it before since it's ruined by the picture of a Red Sox player. And how are these two a duo in any way, shape, or form? I guess they're both from the Dominican Republic, but it's not like they ever played together professionally. A duo during the World Baseball Classic or some such-a-thing maybe, but not a duo with these two A.L. East rivals. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that everyone out there has an amazing turkey day today. Personally, I'm thankful for my amazing wife, wonderful parents, awesome friends, (mostly) great dogs, and my health. And I'm thankful to all of you out there who have ever helped out with this crazy collection.

Most recently, fellow Orioles autograph collector, Russell, sent me this really nice Gordon Jones autograph, which is an upgrade in my book over my signed Orioles Crown card, which shows him wearing a Giants cap (in fact the "picture" on his Crown card is just a cropped image of his 1959 Topps card). So thank you, Russell, for helping me with this upgrade! And, again, thank you ALL for your help!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's an Orange Day

Why? Why not? I like to see some orange uniforms on my Orioles (& their affiliates) cards.

The 2012 AA Bowie Baysox set really brought it with the orange uniform pictures. Here are some that I was able to get signed last year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

1984 Orioles Debuts, #386-396

Oh boy, 1984 was not a banner year for new Orioles players. There was pretty much Larry Sheets, and I guess one could mention Nate Snell and Ken Dixon, who both stuck around in Baltimore for a few years, but beyond that, there are quite a few "who's that?" type of players.

I might need to consider starting to cover multiple years in these posts, both to add some meat to them and to bump up the number of pictures. But that's not going to happen today.

Here's the older posts in the series...
(200120001999199819961995199419931992199119901989198819871986, 1985)

Wayne Gross #386, 4/2/84 (1984-85)

Tom Underwood #387, 4/7/84 (1984)

Orlando Sanchez #388, 5/20/84 (1984)

Mark Brown #389, 8/9/84 MLB Debut (1984)

John Pacella #390, 9/1/84 (1984)

Vic Rodriguez #391, 9/5/84 MLB Debut (1984)

Ron Jackson #392, 9/7/84 (1984)

Larry Sheets #393, 9/18/84 MLB Debut (1984-89)

Nate Snell #394, 9/20/84 MLB Debut (1984-86)

Jim Traber #395, 9/21/84 MLB Debut (1984, 86, 88-89)

"The Whammer" played in parts of four seasons with the Orioles before moving on the play in Japan and Mexico. He played in 264 games during his time with the O's, and played mostly first base.

Probably the most notable thing that occurred during Jim's playing career is an incident in Japan in which Jim charged the mound and the pitcher retreated all the way to the outfield.

He is currently an Oklahoma City Sports Radio host, and seems to be a bit of a blowhard from some comments I've heard from other collectors.

Ken Dixon #396, 9/22/84 MLB Debut (1984-87)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

1985 Orioles Debuts, #397-408

Compared to the few following seasons that I recently profiled, the Orioles debuts during the 1985 season  saw a few bigger names and/or players that actually stuck around Baltimore for at least a few seasons.  The highlights were probably Fred Lynn, and Alan Wiggins, but a few of these other guys had some decent success in Baltimore as well. 

Here's my older posts in the series...
(20012000199919981996199519941993199219911990198919881987, 1986)

Fred Lynn #397, 4/8/85 (1985-88)

Don Aase #398, 4/8/85 (1985-88)

Fritz Connally #399, 4/10/85 (1985)

Lee Lacy #400, 5/13/85 (1985-87)

Al Pardo #401, 7/3/85 MLB Debut (1985-86)

Alan Wiggins #402, 7/5/85 (1985-87)

Phil Huffman #403, 7/13/85 (1985)

Brad Havens #404, 9/8/85 (1985-86)

Brad pitched eight seasons in the Majors between 1981-89 for five different teams and never was able to find much prolonged success at the MLB level. He was the Opening Day starter for the 1983 Twins and he was once involved in a trade for Rod Carew.

He also has a long-standing tradition of not signing TTM requests, dating back at least a decade, so I'm very happy to have his autograph in my collection.

Tom O'Malley #405, 9/8/85 (1985-86)

Tom's career was similar to that of Brad's in a few ways. He played nine seasons in the big leagues for six different teams, also including two with the O's, but never was able to get in a groove and spent much of his MLB in a back-up role. Their paths split when Tom went on to play six seasons in the Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league following his time in the Majors. He found consistent success in Japan and was one of the league's better players during much of his time there, even winning the Central League MVP award in 1995. He hit over .300 over every season that he played in Japan.

Kelly Paris #406, 9/18/85 (1985-86)

Eric Bell #407, 9/24/85 MLB Debut (1985-87)

John Habyan #408, 9/29/85 MLB Debut (1985-88)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Autograph I've Always Wanted

I really don't know why, but I've always wanted an autograph of Hall of Famer, James "Cool Papa" Bell. I mean I very half-assedly collect signed HOF postcards, but I think that it stems back to my first visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when I was a kid. I'm guessing that the nickname Cool Papa, on top of some of the stories about his legendary speed, probably were the reason. My favorite story was always the one about how he could turn off a light and be across the room in bed before it got dark.

Even though he passed away in 1991, autographs of Bell are widely available, for a price of course. Knowing that there were so many signatures of his out there, I decided to bide my time and try to find the one for the right price. And here it is!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

That's a Nice Vladdy

This is the gem of my Vladimir Guerrero Orioles collection. When I first decided to collect Vlad's Orioles cards, there were a few of these for sale online, but they had a price tag over $100 and I just wasn't going to bite. But then, over the summer, this was listed on ebay and I brought it home for a quarter of what the other cards had been selling for.

Low serial number? Check.

Autographed? Check. (Albeit on a sticker.)

Piece of a bat that Vlad probably at one point at least touched? Check.

And there you have it, the creme de la creme of my Vladdy Orioles cards.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Joe Ginsberg, Oriole #98

Sadly, another former Oriole passed away last week, when catcher Joe Ginsberg died at a nursing home  in Florida. I believe that he had been ill for at least a year because I received this response when I sent him a TTM request almost exactly one year ago. 

Joe had been a great TTM signer for many years, so his autographs are widely available online if you are still looking for one for your collection. I always prefer my signatures to be personalized, so I was attempting to replace the autograph at the top of the post, but it just wasn't meant to be.

He was a major league catcher for 13 seasons between 1948-62, and mostly worked in the backup role.  He played for seven teams over that time, most notably the Tigers and Orioles, with whom he spent five seasons each. Joe made his O's debut on August 19, 1956 during the second season of the team's existence, and was the 98th player to don the Oriole uniform. He played for the Orioles through the middle of the 1960 season and appeared in 240 games for the Birds.

His career highlight was likely having been the catcher for one of Virgil "Fire" Trucks no-hitters in 1952 during his time with the Tigers.

Prior to the start of his MLB career, he spent two years in the military during WWII. I wish that I could have thanked Joe for his service. Rest in Peace, Mr. Ginsberg.

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, November 8, 2012

1986 Orioles Debuts, #409-420

Man, 1986 was a fairly blah year in regards to the players who debuted with the Birds. Not a single one of the twelve new players played more than three seasons in Baltimore and I would be hard pressed to list a star in the bunch. A few guys had decent big league careers, but not due to their brief stints in Birdland.

Here's my older posts in the series...
(2001200019991998199619951994199319921991199019891988, 1987)

Jackie Gutierrez #409, 4/7/86 (1986-87)

Rich Bordi #410, 4/7/86 (1986)

Juan Bonilla #411, 4/7/86 (1986)

Juan played six seasons in the Majors between 1981-87, most notably spending the first three seasons of his career with the Padres; he came in 4th in the 1981 National League Rookie of the Year balloting for them.

He mostly played second base, but played a fair amount at third in his single season with the Orioles. Overall, he played in 102 games and hit .243 during his stint in Baltimore.

Juan Beniquez #412, 4/9/86 (1986)

Rex Hudler #413, 5/15/86 (1986)

Odell Jones #414, 7/8/86 (1986)

Tom Dodd #415, 7/25/86 MLB Debut (1986)

Tony Arnold #416, 8/9/86 MLB Debut (1986-87)

Ricky Jones #417, 9/3/86 MLB Debut (1986)

Ken Gerhart #418, 9/14/86 MLB Debut (1986-88)

Carl Nichols #419, 9/14/86 MLB Debut (1986-88)

Mike Kinnunen #420, 9/15/86 (1986-87)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

1987 Orioles Debuts, #421-439

1987 wasn't a specifically remarkable year regarding the new players to put on an Orioles uniform. The highlight was probably Billy Ripken, who made his orange and black debut to complete the Ripken double play combo with brother Cal, and Ripken trifecta with their manager and dad, Cal Sr. Relief pitcher Mark Williamson also showed up in Baltimore for the first time and would be a part of the team for the next eight seasons, but that was pretty much everything of note. 

Here's my older posts in the series...
(200120001999199819961995199419931992199119901989, 1988)

Terry Kennedy #421, 4/6/87 (1987-88)

Rick Burleson #422, 4/6/87 (1987)

Ray Knight #423, 4/6/87 (1987)

I had the opportunity to briefly work with Ray and he's a nice guy, although I will admit it's a stretch to call me a "great friend", but hey, I'll take it! 

Rene Gonzales #424, 4/6/87 (1987-90)

Rene played in the Majors for thirteen seasons between 1984 and 1997 and spent time with seven different teams. The four seasons he spent with the Orioles was the most time he spent with any specific franchise. He played mostly as a backup second and third baseman over his 267 games in Baltimore. 

Since his playing days ended, it seems as though he has stayed active in baseball and was a manager in the Brewers' farm system between 2007 & 2009. 

Dave Schmidt #425, 4/8/87 (1987-89)

Mark Williamson #426, 4/8/87 MLB Debut (1987-94)

Nelson Simmons #427, 4/18/87 (1987)

Jeff Ballard #428, 5/9/87 MLB Debut (1987-91)

Dave Van Gorder #429, 5/12/87 (1987)

Jack O'Connor #430, 5/13/87 (1987)

Tom Niedenfuer #431, 5/23/87 (1987-88)

Tom was a long-time closer for the Dodgers before he was traded to the Orioles in the middle of the 1987 season. By the time he arrived in Baltimore, he was nearing the end of his ten seasons in the Majors and had begun to lose his effectiveness, although he still saved 13 games in '87 and another 18 in '88.

He finished his career with 97 saves and notched double-digit save totals in six consecutive seasons from 1983-88. Unfortunately, he is probably best remembered for giving up a walk-off home run to Cardinals' shortstop Ozzie Smith during his time with the Dodgers in the 1985 NLCS, which led to Jack Buck's famous "Go crazy, folks" broadcasting call.

Luis DeLeon #432, 6/13/87 (1987)

Luis pitched seven seasons in the Majors between 1981-89 but is probably best remembered for the record he holds of pitching in 12(!) Caribbean World Series, representing his home country of Puerto Rico.

He is another one of those players who spent a short amount of time in Baltimore, appearing in just 11 games during the '87 season; he had an 0-2 record and a 4.79 ERA for the Orioles. His time in Baltimore is commemorated on a single card, of course as part of the all-inclusive Orioles Crown set, and I'm holding out hope to add a signed copy of that to my collection one day. I have just missed out on a signing with him and know of a few collectors with copies to trade, so hopefully, one of those bad boys will join my collection sooner rather than later.

Doug Corbett #433, 6/23/87 (1987)

Mike Griffin #434, 6/26/87 (1987)

Ron Washington #435, 7/10/87 (1987)

Billy Ripken #436, 7/11/87 MLB Debut (1987-92, 96)

Mike Hart #437, 8/14/87 (1987)

Pete Stanicek #438, 9/1/87 MLB Debut (1987-88)

Pete's entire MLB career was the 113 games he played during his two seasons in Baltimore. He played mostly left field and second base, and led the '88 O's with 12 stolen bases. His brother, Steve Stanicek, also briefly played in the Majors.

Jose Mesa #439, 9/10/87 MLB Debut (1987, 90-92)

Joe Table is best remembered for the seven seasons he spent with the Cleveland Indians during which he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. He was an All-Star in 1995 & '96, and led the Majors with 46 saves in '95, which in addition to his 1.13 ERA, was good enough for second place in the Cy Young award balloting. However, Clevelanders probably remember him more for blowing the lead in Game 7 of the  1997 World Series than for anything else.

Interestingly, Jose was almost purely a starter during the parts of four seasons his spent in Baltimore and the results weren't particularly good. He went 13-24 with a 5.41 ERA over 49 games for the O's at the start of his career and really only turned things around once the Indians converted him to full-time reliever in 1994.

As I mentioned in my post on the '88 Orioles, Jose came to Baltimore from Toronto as a player to be named  in the Mike Flanagan-Oswaldo Peraza swap. Which would have been a lot cooler if the O's had held onto him and not traded him to the Indians in the middle of the '92 season for Kyle Washington, who never played above AA ball.

Overall, Jose pitched 19 years at baseball's top level and amassed 321 saves, which is good for the 14th most in baseball history. Not too shabby for a player to be named later.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thank You Billy! AKA Dave Van Gorder Finally Knocked Off of My List

I've long tried to add Dave's Orioles Crown card to my collection since it's the only card that pictures him with the Orioles, but things never quite worked out. Dave would sign some TTM requests for other collectors, but mine always went unanswered.

Originally, I had a signed Reds card of his in my collection, and eventually acquired a signed Rochester Red Wings card, which was a half-step upgrade since it was at least an Orioles organizational card, but the autographed Crown card continued to elude me.

Until I was able to work out a trade with fellow Orioles collector, Billy, who has also written an Orioles autograph blog, Billy's Orioles Collection. He very kindly left a hole in his collection by trading away his signed Van Gorder Crown card, which Dave had signed TTM for him, but I knocked out a number of people on Billy's need list to make up my end of the deal, including the Van Gorder Red Wings card, so at least he still has a signature of Dave's.

Thank you so much Billy, I really, REALLY, appreciate the trade.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Orioles Claim Infielder Alexi Casilla off Waivers from the Twins

This card isn't in my collection, yet at least, but I "borrowed" it from COMC. It's an affordable, on-card auto and would fill a potential hole in my collection if I can't get Alexi's autograph at FanFest or Spring Training.

The Orioles made their first move this afternoon to bring in a player from outside the organization when they claimed infielder Alexi Casilla off of waivers from the Twins. He has played parts of the past seven seasons in Minnesota, mainly at second base, which is a position that the Orioles are non-coincidentally trying to fill.

Brian Roberts, Robert Andino, and Ryan Flaherty all remain in the fold for now, but Roberts has faced myriad injury issues in recent seasons, Andino profiles best into a super-utility role or could be non-tendered, and Flaherty is no longer hampered by his Rule 5 status and can be sent to the minors. And with Casilla owed $1.8 million for next season, I would say that it's logical the O's are going to give him a fair shot at the 2B job in spring training.

Alexi doesn't have much power to speak of, having hit just eleven in over 1,700 plate appearances (and seven of them were hit in 2008), but he does flash some speed, having stolen 71 bases while only being caught nine times in his career.

He also interestingly has connections with two former Orioles who played in Baltimore during the 2012 season. After originally signing with the Angels in 2003, he was traded to the Twins in December 2009 for relief pitcher J.C. Romero. And then when the Twins signed Jim Thome prior to the 2010 season, since Alexi had been wearing Big Jim's preferred #25 jersey, he changed his jersey number to 12 to accommodate the future Hall of Fame slugger.

Welcome to Baltimore, Alexi! I hope that things work out for you here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Congratulations, Zach Clark!

Somewhat buried in yesterday's long-expected announcement by the Orioles about their exercising relief pitcher Luis Ayala's 2013 option while declining that of Mark Reynolds*, was the news that the Orioles were selecting the contract of long-time minor league pitcher, Zach Clark.

*Reynolds remains under team control since he is still arbitration eligible unless they decline to offer him arbitration. 

Zach was signed by the Orioles as an undrafted free agent out of nearby UMBC way back in 2006. He has slowly, yet consistently, worked his way through the O's farm system, and has appeared at every single minor league level, from the rookie Gulf Coast League all the way through the AAA International League. He has pitched most of the past five seasons for the AA Bowie Baysox, but was dominant in eight appearances with AAA Norfolk at the end of the 2012 season, and that was probably what made the O's decision to add him to their 40 man roster to protect him from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The Orioles currently have 36 players on their 40 man, but also still have some players listed on the DL, so I would imagine they will make a few more moves prior to the early December Rule 5 selection process.

The O's also have an affinity for featuring local guys on the team and Zach grew up in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. So combined with his going to college in Baltimore County and his time in the Birds' farm system, he has now spent most of a decade in and around Baltimore.

Since Zach has spent so much time with Bowie, I would venture a guess and say that I probably have twice as many of his signed cards that are shown in this post. He has always been good about signing and I definitely have run out of his unsigned cards more than once.

Good luck Zach! I hope to see you pitching in Baltimore next season!