Friday, May 28, 2010

Flashback Friday: Baltimore no-hitters, and "The Summer of the Near Miss"

Catcher Rick Dempsey told him, "Let's go throw a no-hitter," to which Martinez responded, "Why not?"

[Note: You can also read this post on Camden Chat.]

Chris Tillman returns to a big league mound on Saturday for the Orioles against the Blue Jays. Tillman got the call up to the parent club after a successful stint in Norfolk that included a no-hitter against the Gwinnett Braves on April 28.

The Orioles' most recent no-hitters came against the opponent that just left town, the Oakland Athletics: Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Scott Williamson, and Gregg Olson tossed a combined no-hitter against the A's in 1991; meanwhile, Jim Palmer posted a solo effort in 1969.

Fittingly, the team's website categorizes no-hitters under the heading "Rare Feats." (Pretty soon they'll have to include winning seasons in that category as well.) Also rare is that the O's pitched no-hitters in three consecutive seasons from 1967 to 1969. But when it comes to no-hitter-related novelty, it'd be tough to match the summer of 1978.

Call it "The Summer of the Near Miss." In the span of a little more than two weeks in August 1978, three different Baltimore pitchers carried no-hitters into the seventh inning only to lose them around stretch time.

First was Scott McGregor on Aug 9. After recording two seventh-inning ground-outs to the left side of the infield, McGregor allowed a two-run double to Hal McRae. Four consecutive hits produced two Royals runs and McGregor took the 2-0 loss at Memorial Stadium. Final line: nine innings pitched, five hits, two earned runs, four strikeouts, and one walk.

Next came Mike Flanagan on Aug 21. Facing the A's, Flanagan gave up a run-scoring single to Rico Carty in the seventh, shortly after he considered the possibility of pitching a no-hitter. Said Flanagan: "I started thinking about the no-hitter after six innings. 'There are nine outs to go,' I kept telling myself, but the no-hitter was secondary." The O's won 3-2 at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. Final line: nine innings pitched, three hits, two earned runs, eight strikeouts, and three walks.

Four days later, on Aug. 25, Dennis Martinez thought about the no-hit possibilities in the fifth inning of a home game against the Mariners. Catcher Rick Dempsey told him, "Let's go throw a no-hitter," to which Martinez responded, "Why not?" With two outs in the seventh, Mariners third baseman Bill Stein ended Martinez's bid with a single to centerfield. Final score: Orioles 5 - Mariners 0. Final line: nine innings pitched, two hits, no runs, four strikeouts, and six walks.

Asked when a no-hitter would be pitched, McGregor stated, "As soon as we get rid of the seventh inning."

Not quite.

September 26. Ninth inning. Two outs. Orioles lead the Indians 3-0. No hits for Cleveland. Flanagan on the mound. Three thousand fans on their feet at Memorial Stadium. Two-one count to designated hitter Gary Alexander. Flanagan goes with the curve, Alexander goes deep.

"The pitch," said Flanagan, "was not really where I wanted it."


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie are not getting their due

Jeremy Guthrie (3.64) and Kevin Millwood (3.71) are currently ahead of Felix Hernandez (3.80), C.C. Sabathia (3.86), and Wade Davis (4.01) among American League ERA leaders.

Guthrie and Millwood join King Felix and Zack Greinke as the only A.L. pitchers in the top 30 for ERA who have losing records.  Both pitchers are among the league's top 10 for innings pitched.

Guthrie (1.12) is in the A.L. Top 10 for WHIP, tied with Justin Verlander and ahead of the likes of Jon Lester (1.13), David Price (1.14), Greinke (1.16), and C.C. Sabathia (1.21).  He also is tied for the league lead in quality starts.

The Orioles have four pitchers (Millwood, Guthrie, Matusz, Hernandez) among the league leaders in tough losses. Millwood is tied with John Danks for the A.L. lead.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All the Orioles' Exes Lived in Texas

The Texas Rangers are bankrupt and have a list of unsecured creditors that includes several current or former Orioles.
After Rodriguez, the next five unsecured creditors are also players or former players for the Rangers. They are: Kevin Millwood, a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles ($12.9 million); Rangers third baseman Michael Young ($3.9 million); Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla ($1.7 million); Mickey Tettleton, who retired from the Rangers in 1997 ($1.4 million); and Mark McLemore, a former Rangers second baseman who retired from the Oakland A’s in 2004 ($970,000).
They're still paying Mickey Tettleton and Mark McLemore?

It would all be laughable were it not for, oh say, the Albert Belle and Scott Erickson deals in Baltimore.

And the fact that one of the Rangers' all-time legends is prepared to buy the team.

And did I mention the Rangers are currently in first place?

As an O's fan, it's actually more depressing than funny.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Arthur Rhodes' daughter knows her way around a diamond as well

Like father, like ... daughter.

These are pretty heady times for the Rhodes family.

Dad and former Oriole Arthur Rhodes is currently the top reliever out of the Cincinnati Reds' bullpen. The 40-year-old lefty has a 0.52 ERA in 19 games and hasn't allowed a run in his last 17 appearances. Those are the kind of numbers that make me wish the word Oriole wasn't preceded by "former."

Daughter and No. 3 hitter for the Sarasota High softball team Jade Rhodes helped lead the Sailors to a runner-up finish in the state softball tournament. The third baseman's two-run homer in the semi-finals fueled an 8-2 victory that earned Sarasota a spot in the championship.

The Herald-Tribune profiled Jade Rhodes and her big league dad earlier this month.
Jade spent plenty of time with her father, who is in his 19th big league season.

The 41-year-old Rhodes is with Cincinnati this year, his seventh major league team since debuting with Baltimore in 1991. He is 1-1 with a 0.69 earned run average in 14 games this season with the Reds and 81-63 with a 4.11 ERA in 794 career games.

"It was exciting," Jade said. "I got to travel a lot and see different teams and how they function. It's pretty cool."

She said Cincinnati is the best place she has visited.

"They have a really nice ballfield and the players are also really nice," Jade said. "They have a good coaching staff and are really nice to the players."

Born in Sarasota, she has made stops in New Jersey, Cincinnati and West Palm Beach before returning here.

Although Arthur Lee never has seen his daughter play in a Sailors' uniform, he has taught and encouraged her along the way.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Flashback Friday: Playing ball for both the Orioles and the Senators

With the Orioles and Nationals preparing for a three-game set this weekend, here are some historical anecdotes involving players to have taken the field for franchises in Baltimore and Washington.

-Leslie Ferdinand "Buster" Narum pitched for both the Orioles (1963) and Senators (1964-1967). The pitcher shares with Lou Montanez the distinction of being the only Orioles to hit home runs in their first major league at-bats. Narum did so on May 3, 1963, Montanez on Aug. 6, 2008.

Narum had a career .059 average with three home runs in 118 career at-bats. The Orioles traded him to the Senators prior to the start of the 1964 season for a player to be named later. That player was Lou Piniella, who played four games for the Orioles in 1964 and went hitless in one at-bat.

A vagabond early in his career, Piniella was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1969 while playing for the Kansas City Royals.

-John Orsino played three seasons in Baltimore (1963-1965) and parts of two seasons in Washington (1966-1967).

Two things stand out from Orsino's brief career.

1. He homered in his first five Spring Training at-bats for the Orioles.

2. He  was the catcher on Sept. 12, 1964 when both starting pitchers tossed one-hitters. Orsino had the Orioles' only hit in the 1-0 victory over the Athletics.

-The Orioles traded Mike Esptein and Frank Bertaina to the Senators for Peter Reichert in 1967.

The Sporting News named Epstein Minor League Player of the Year in 1966. He also earned International League Player MVP honors that season after batting .309 with 29 home runs and 102 RBI. However, his path to the majors was blocked at first base by Boog Powell and efforts to convert him to an outfielder failed. He was traded at the end of May after refusing to report back to the minors.

Epstein got a measure of revenge on June 24, 1967, by hitting a grand slam in his first at-bat against the Orioles in an 8-3 Senators victory at Memorial Stadium.

-Outfielder Roy Sievers never made it to Baltimore in 1954 when the St. Louis Browns relocated. The Orioles traded Sievers to Washington on Feb. 18, 1954, for Gil Coan.

Sievers, the 1949 A.L. Rookie of the Year with the Browns, was a four-time All-Star (five if you count the fact that he played in both games in 1959).

Coan, the 1945 Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year, appeared in 155 games with the Orioles during the 1954 and 1955 seasons before being selected off waivers by the Chicago White Sox.

Coan holds the record for most at-bats in a season hitting .500 or better with 42. He set the mark while appearing in 11 games in 1947.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

There's no justice in baseball, Bruce Chen edition

After pitching 1.1 innings of relief work in the Royals' 8-4 victory on Wednesday night, former Oriole Bruce Chen now has more wins than Kevin Millwood.

Chen is 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA, 8 Ks, 7 walks, and a 1.8o WHIP in 6.2 innings pitched.

Millwood is 0-4 with a 3.65 ERA, 48 Ks, 15 walks, and a 1.26 WHIP in 51.2 innings pitched.

No justice.

Chen's lone save would put him in a second-place tie with Michael Gonzalez, Jim Johnson, and Cla Meredith for the Oriole lead in saves.

No pen.


Ask Roar from 34 - Slip 'N Slide Edition

The fourth installment of my imagined advice column "Ask Roar from 34" probes vital topics including ballpark promotions, runners in scoring position, and excessive perspiration.

(See past "Ask Roar from 34" columns here.)

Dear Roar from 34,

Attendance is, um, down a bit in Baltimore these days. Any ideas on how to gin up excitement and put fans back in the seats?


Dear Green(chair)backs,

Promotions are key. For instance, how about tandem bike races featuring teams with a Baltimore connection?

Match-ups could include:

Nestor Aparicio and Peter Angelos vs. Roch Kubatko and the Oriole Bird

Peter Schmuck and Juan Samuel vs. David Steele and Sam Perlozzo

Aubrey Huff and Bubba the Love Sponge vs. Cal Ripken and Jon Miller

Sidney Ponson and James Hetfield vs. Scott Erickson and Lars Ulrich

Some other promotions to consider:

Garrett Atkins Dunk Tank

Install a Slip 'N Slide between third base and home

Adam Jones Helmet Toss Contest for fans

Geronimo Berroa T-Shirt Tuesday

Dear Roar from 34,

The Orioles have been horrendous with runners in scoring position this season. What can they do to improve?

-No Offense

Dear No Offense,

Petition Major League Baseball to allow our hitters to face our bullpen in clutch situations. Seems fair.

-Roar from 34

Dear Roar from 34,

I have some perspiration issues when I'm on the mound.

-Hot and Bothered

Dear Hot and Bothered,

Stop sweating and start living!

-Roar from 34

Dear Roar from 34,

I'm a slugger considering Baltimore as a free-agent destination this off-season. Why should I become an Oriole?

-Not Really

Dear Not Really,

Very funny.

-Roar from 34

Dear Roar from 34,

I keep hearing people say "The writing's on the wall" for me. Where's the damn wall? I've been looking everywhere for it.

-Dave Trembling

Dear Trembling,

You'll find it soon enough.

-Roar from 34


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Orioles are returning to form in one key category: PCPGIWCISC

Last season I wrote about the Orioles' impressive PCPGIWCISC numbers. For those of you not versed in advanced stats, PCPGIWCISC = Players Conducting Post-Game Interviews While Covered in Shaving Cream.

As has been the case in many statistical categories this season, the O's PCPGIWCISC numbers have been a bit down in the early going. However, Thursday's thrilling - and I'm talking thrusting-both-arms-into-the-air-while-listening-to-the-game thrilling - 6-5 victory over the Mariners helped improve the figures a bit.

Add Luke Scott and Corey Patterson to the esteemed PCPGIWCISC club.

Scott got his pie during a dugout interview with Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey. The Oriole Bird even joined in the fun. Here's the video from MASN.

Patterson was an on-field victim during his interview with Amber Theoharis, who pulled out one of her go-to lines in this situation: "It stings."

Even the on-field reporter is cool under shaving cream fire.

Last Stand Photography has a great Flickr photo of Will Ohman - who seems to have taken over for Adam Jones as the lead instigator -  administering the shaving cream pie to Patterson.

[The MASN video wasn't coming up at the time I posted this, so try the end of highlight video posted on Camden Chat.]

Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog did a little investigating reporting last season to find out what a shaving cream pie feels like. The results confirmed Theoharis's analysis.

Said Craig Stammen of the Nats: "It didn't hurt-hurt," Stammen told me. "It stung my eyes and my nose and my ear....I didn't know it would sting my eyes as bad as it did. It was stinging my eyes all into the plane ride home. I could still feel it in there. It was weird."

Stammen's comments in the article should also give fans an appreciation for the fortitude of O's players who carry on the interview as if nothing's happened.
He said he told the MASN producers, "Get the camera off me, I don't want to talk for a while, someone get me a towel," because he couldn't see or hear at the time. 
Am I the only one who thinks Steinberg should've done some first-person reporting and gone through the experience himself? The local news reporters do it with tasers, so why not follow suit with a shaving cream pie?

Here are some videos of last year's memorable victims:

Chris Tillman

Brian Matusz

Felix Pie

D.C. Sports Bog has links to Reimold, Wieters, and Hernandez.

By the way, does it surprise anyone that the Yankees reportedly use whipped cream pies instead of shaving cream? And to think, Jeter's a freakin' Gillette guy (along with Tiger).


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Orioles & Royals - Similar sounding names, similar sounding games

Last summer, Stacey from Camden Chat posed as a Royals fan during a game at Fenway Park. After reading Nick Bromberg's piece on Big League Stew, I feel like posing as a Royals fan as well. Perhaps I already am, given the similarities between the laments of Royals and Orioles fans.

Check out "Are we winning yet? A Royals fan checks in with an annual lament."

Here's an excerpt:
But it's only the middle of May and it already feels like the season has been dragging on for months. The Royals are 11-23 — 11 games behind the Twins in the AL Central — and as a Kansas City resident my whole life, I've even taken the drastic step of debating of giving up my fandom.

Crazy, I know, but how can a rational baseball fan like myself root for a team with the following realities staring me straight in the face?
Raise your hand if you can relate to the phrases "it already feels like the season has been dragging on for months" and "taken the drastic step of debating giving up my fandom."


Terrible, miserable, horrendous. Surprisingly, these are words I'm happy to hear.

I appreciated Andy MacPhail's video address to the fans on Wednesday afternoon.

Make no mistake about it, this is not something a respected baseball executive, the GM of two World Series champions, has to do. It's an unprecedented move.

Sure, it's a controlled forum. A press conference with follow-up questions from reporters would be ideal, I suppose, for an angry fan base. But that elevates baseball to a whole new level of import. The president of the United States, who is supposed to answer to the people who elected him, rarely holds press conferences these days, and he makes decisions far more important than which free-agent closer to sign.

Andy MacPhail doesn't owe us any answers. And for that matter, he didn't provide many on Wednesday. What he did provide was an acknowledgment of how bad things have been so far this season. Phrases like "terribly horrendous start," "terribly problematic," and "miserable way to start the season" are not spin. Rather, they represent a baseball executive putting himself on the level of a fan for a moment and saying, "This stinks." For me, that means something.

Too often in the past decade Orioles fans seem to have been an afterthought. The Warehouse has been viewed - sometimes fairly - as aloof and out of touch with local fans. So yes, it does matter that the president of baseball operations put himself on the level of a fan, even if it was just for two minutes and 45 seconds.

Stating the obvious? Perhaps. But sometimes even that's harder than it seems. It's been nearly 10 years since Syd Thrift spoke about a non-existent player on a radio show rather than admit he'd never heard of the guy. Which do you prefer?

Besides, much of sports talk involves stating the obvious. There's something therapeutic in knowing that others share your pain, even on trivial matters like baseball. Andy MacPhail shares our pain and believes he still holds the remedy. Here's hoping he does.

The post-1997 Orioles franchise has been a disgrace, especially considering Baltimore's rich baseball history. The 2000s were the worst decade, by win percentage, in team history, worse even than 1954 to 1959 after the St. Louis Browns - "First in booze, first in shoes, and last in the American League"- relocated to Baltimore. The organization has gone from king to jester. If you grew up on Orioles baseball, that hurts.

For better or worse, though, fans like me who are desperately hanging on to our affection for this team have to view things in a relative sense. It's been a tremendous  fall from grace, but this franchise isn't going to become the 1970 Baltimore Orioles overnight. After a slow, sustained fall, it's  a slow, sustained climb back to respectability.

Andy MacPhail is currently leading that climb, and it's a monumental task (literally - we should build a monument to the guy if he turns the Orioles into a winner). He came to Baltimore - only three years ago, mind you - and laid out a vision with an accelerated deadline. A year before that deadline he's watched a worst-case scenario unfold before his eyes for more than a month.

The season that was supposed to whet the fans' baseball appetite, an appetizer prior to 2011's main course, has instead given us all food poisoning. If ever there were a time to duck and hide, this would be it.

Instead, Andy MacPhail sat before a camera and directed attention toward his team's struggles. He's accepted that, for better or worse, he is the public face of a huge rebuilding effort. And that's no small thing. 


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nolan Reimold Mini Bobblehead Night

Nolan Reimold is headed to Norfolk. In other news, May 26 is Nolan Reimold Mini Bobblehead night at Camden Yards. 


Baltimore's Never Been Perfect

Dallas Braden is the toast of the proverbial baseball town these days after hurling a perfect game on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

On Tuesday, he appeared on David Letterman to deliver the Top Ten list of his thoughts during the perfect game, including "Grandma's right. Stick it, A-Rod."

The Orioles are one of 11 major league teams to have never played in a perfect game, win or lose. However, the Birds have a connection of sorts to baseball's most famous perfect game.

Don Larsen, the only pitcher to toss a perfect game in the postseason, played for the O's during their first season in Baltimore, 1954. It's hard to believe it was only two years before his legendary effort in the 1956 World Series for the Yankees given that Larsen set an entirely different type of record for the Orioles: most losses in a season.

Larsen went 3-21 in 28 starts for the '54 Orioles with a 4.37 ERA.  The O's traded Larsen to the Yankees that November in a deal that reads like a novel relative to most transactions.

From Baseball Reference:
Traded by the Baltimore Orioles with players to be named later, Billy Hunter and Bob Turley to the New York Yankees for players to be named later, Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Willy Miranda, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos and Gene Woodling. The New York Yankees sent Bill Miller (December 1, 1954), Kal Segrist (December 1, 1954), Don Leppert (December 1, 1954) and Ted Del Guercio (minors) (December 1, 1954) to the Baltimore Orioles to complete the trade. The Baltimore Orioles sent Mike Blyzka (December 1, 1954), Darrell Johnson (December 1, 1954), Jim Fridley (December 1, 1954) and Dick Kryhoski (December 1, 1954) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.
Larsen was 45-24 in five seasons with the Yankees with a 3.50 ERA. The Yankees appeared in the World Series in four of Larsen's five seasons with the team, winning two. And that, my friends, is one of many reasons Orioles fans hated the Yankees from the very start.

Larsen returned to Baltimore in 1965 and pitched in a relief role.

Check out Sports Illustrated's photo gallery of Modern Era Perfect Games.

I should note that former Oriole Dennis Martinez pitched a perfect game for the Expos in 1991. Montreal broadcaster Dave Van Horne provided the memorable coda: "El Presidente, El Perfecto."

Said Vin Scully, broadcasting the game for the Dodgers, in his typically understated way: "What a day."

Martinez pitched in Baltimore for 10 seasons, totaling a league high 14 wins in 1981 and finishing fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. Martinez led the league in games started, complete games (18), and innings pitched in 1979. He is a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No longer a kid, Griffey is unlikely to return to Eutaw Street this week

It's a must that I link to Dan Connolly's article "O's power trip leads to Eutaw Street," which provides an overview of Eutaw Street home runs and the intrigue that surrounds hitting the Warehouse on the fly.

Connolly uses the occasion of Ken Griffey Jr.'s (potentially last) visit to Baltimore to tell the Eutaw Street story. Griffey was the first player to hit the Warehouse, albeit during the All-Star Game's Home Run Derby.

Connolly uncovers some new ground, at least for me, in providing the names of players to hit the Warehouse in batting practice: Jay Gibbons, Walter Young, Carlos Pena, and David Ortiz.

Young, the heaviest player in major league history, would make for a fun bit of baseball trivia had he been the first one to hit the Warehouse in game action. However, Young hit just one home run for the Orioles, and it came on the road at Texas.

Young played alongside Jose Lima last summer with the Edmonton Capitals of the Golden Baseball League.

Something tells me that Sam Horn could've done it had he played more games at Camden Yards. Horn predicted as much back in 1992, telling the Washington Times: "When I hit one really good, I'll hit the warehouse. I may not be the first to do it and I don't want to talk too much, but I will be putting in my effort."

Griffey is unlikely to match his effort this week given that it would require him to stay awake for a full nine innings. 

Connolly's article serves as a nice reminder that I need to get cracking on more entries for the Eutaw Street Chronicles, which tell the back story behind each home run to land on the walkway.

Here's the Eutaw Street Chronicles archive.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Flashback Friday: He earned one career victory, and it came against the Red Sox

"I only got a couple cups of coffee. But they were good cups." 

-Former Orioles pitcher Mark Brown

I appreciate stories about the Moonlight Grahams of the baseball world, the guys outside the spotlight who loved the game and got a brief shot to play it at the highest level. Mark Brown is one of those guys. Even better that he played in parts of two major league seasons, one for the Orioles and one for the Twins, the Birds' opponent in their current series.

Brown earned one major league win in 15 relief appearances. It came at Fenway Park on the last day of the 1984 season. Baltimore's staff ERA was second best in the majors that year.

Brown's line for the day read as follows: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. But as always, the full story is better than a single line.

Here's how it went down, as described by Jeremy Rosenberg of SABR's Baseball Biography Project.
It's September 30, 1984, an early autumn Sunday afternoon in Boston's Kenmore Square. The trees are already tinged with red, yellow and orange; soon the Green Monster will be the only thing still green. Inside Fenway Park, a righthander is warming up in the visitors' bullpen. He's built like a ballplayer -- 6'2", 190 lbs., according to his baseball card -- and wears his tri-colored cap stiffly, with little curve in the brim. He's got his road grays on, with "Orioles" stitched across his chest in orange script. His black Nike cleats have swooshes so visually loud they're practically flourescent.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the bullpen gate opens and the righthander heads for the mound. He's a struggling rookie, still winless after eight major league appearances; now it's the last game of the season, his last chance to pick up a victory. In the stands, his father takes in the moment, thinking about how the two of them used to come each summer to this very place, a mere three-hour drive from home.

Two innings later, Jim Rice is standing frozen at the plate and the righthander is sprinting off the field, afraid to look back. If he does, he's sure the umpire will wave him back, tell him there's been some sort of mistake; rookies aren't supposed to get any breaks, especially when facing future Hall of Famers. But in this case the rookie threw the exact same pitch twice in a row -- a nasty slider on the outside corner. The first time the umpire called it a ball, in deference to Rice. But not the second time.

In the top half of the inning, the Orioles scored twice on a Wayne Gross single to break a 3-3 deadlock and take the lead for good. Nate Snell and Sammy Stewart come on to finish the game for Baltimore, and the rookie's pitching line in the box score that appears in the next week's issue of The Sporting News reads: "Brown (W 1-2) 2 1 0 0 1 2." As a souvenir, pitching coach Ray Miller gives Brown a game ball. Written between the stitches is the date, the score, the teams, the time and the glorious words "First Major League Win."
Two batters before Rice, Brown struck out Wade Boggs. So in the process of earning his first and only major league win, Mark Brown struck out two future Hall of Famers.

Things went considerably better with the last batter Brown faced as an Oriole than they did with the first batter he faced. Again, Jeremy Rosenberg tells the story.
The first big league batter Brown faced, Julio Franco, smashed a line drive off his knee. To add insult to injury, the hit went for an infield single, and, worst of all, it came on what Brown thought was a good pitch. "I threw him a real nasty slider on the outside corner and he took it right off my kneecap. [The ball] just trickled over to first base. I hobbled over there and just watched him run to first, and he was safe." Brown pitched on and was hit hard. He gave up another hit, Cal Ripken made an error and a 4-4 tie was suddenly a 6-4 deficit. "I had my first appearance, my first loss and my first sore knee," Brown says. "I finished the inning, then [manager] Joe Altobelli took me out. He thought I might hurt my knee more by throwing for another few innings."

"It was alright, it wasn't really hurt bad," Brown says. "It was funny, I got to the clubhouse and I remember Mike Flanagan coming up to me, patting me on the back, saying, 'Oh yeah, welcome to the big leagues, even the outs here are hard.'" Brown says those words from a fellow New Hampshire resident meant a lot to him, as did the treatment he received during each of his five summers in the Baltimore chain. "They were a great organization," he says. "When I went well, they promoted me; when I was hurt, they put me on the disabled list; when I got to the big leagues they were good to me, they gave me a shot."
Brown finished his Orioles career 1-2 with a 3.91 ERA, 10 strikeouts, and seven walks.

Of his brief time in the majors, the Vermont native said: "I only got a couple cups of coffee. But they were good cups."

Image source: Here.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tales from the Baltimore Baseball Cruise

"Former first baseman Sam Horn achieved legendary status one year when he strutted on stage during a passenger talent show clad only in a towel."

In searching for information for my latest Camden Chat post "Rookie of the Year in Minnesota, burnt to a crisp in Baltimore," I came across this photo of Marty Cordova and Jay Gibbons. It comes, presumably, from a past Baltimore Baseball Cruise.

Cordova was a regular on the Orioles Cruise, including the January 2004 voyage, during which Sidney Ponson agreed to a three-year, $22.5 million extension with the Birds. 

From the Jan. 15, 2004 Baltimore Sun:
Ponson agreed to the deal on a cruise ship off the coast of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He has been making his annual guest appearance on the "Orioles Cruise," with Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray, longtime bench coach Elrod Hendricks, and outfielders Jay Gibbons and Marty Cordova.
But the good times on past cruises clearly extended beyond just contract signings. 

Carolyn Spencer of The Washington Post wrote about the Orioles cruise back in 1999. She talked with a cruise organizer who described the process of selecting players for the journey.
He looks for athletes with star power and name recognition. Veterans who can tell colorful stories at dinner are valued. Those who have the 'it' quality--a mix of showmanship, sense of fun and sociability, regardless of stature (or lack thereof)--are always welcome.
Then she provided a rundown on popular players and their antics.
Players who have been big hits on the Baltimore Baseball Cruise over the past 13 years include Brady Anderson, Chris Hoiles, Billy Ripken, Arthur Rhodes, Brooks Robinson, Mike Devereaux and Earl Weaver. Former first baseman Sam Horn achieved legendary status one year when he strutted on stage during a passenger talent show clad only in a towel.
Anderson, who has taken three Orioles cruises, is responsible for attracting a lot of the younger (i.e., under 50) cruisers; says Nigro, he "attracted a lot of women those years." What a bummer, then, for the group's female contingent that on one trip, Anderson had a shipboard romance with a cruise staffer, according to cruise organizers.
Memorable for quite another reason was John Lowenstein, a one-time Orioles outfielder turned broadcaster, who on embarkation decided he hated his cabin and bagged the cruise entirely. He wasn't asked back.
And here's a bit about Spencer's own experience.
Lee May and his wife, Terry, turned me on to the best place to buy saffron in Grenada; Eddie Murray slammed a spike my way during a volleyball tournament in Aruba; Fred Manfra, a news junkie, spent a lot of time in the ship's business center surfing the Internet for the latest developments in sports trades (and regular Baltimore weather reports). 
Read that again: "Eddie Murray slammed a spike my way during a volleyball tournament in Aruba."

Being able to share that story would alone make it worth the cost of the cruise.

The 2010 Baltimore Baseball Cruise took place in January and featured Tippy Martinez, Ross Grimsley, and members of the York Revolution.

Publish Post

Monday, May 03, 2010

The 2010 version of Ty Wiggington looks a lot like the 2008 version, at least for a month

Ty Wiggington has had hot starts prior to 2010. Playing for the Rays in April 2006, Wiggington posted a .281 average with eight home runs, 24 RBI, and a .930 OPS. However, it was a hot August in 2008 that best prepared Wiggy for his current stay in Baltimore.

Wiggington had arguably his best-ever month at the dish for the Astros in August 2008: 28 games, .379 average, 12 home runs, 26 RBI, .394 OBP, 1.200 OPS. That occasion resembled what he's now experiencing as an Oriole in at least three ways.

Miguel Tejada was a teammate

In 2008, Wiggington played third base next to shortstop Miguel Tejada in Houston.Wiggington's now at second base (at least for the time being) with Tejada at third.

Think those guys ever imagined they'd reunite, playing different positions in Baltimore two seasons later? 

Constant lineup shifts were the norm

Wiggington is clearly not a creature of habit.

When asked which is his natural or preferred position on the field, baseball everyman Wigginton said: “I don't really have one. I just want to be in that batting order somewhere.”

Emphasis on somewhere.

During his torrid stretch with Houston in August 2008 Wiggington occupied seven different spots in the Astros' starting lineups. Think about that: seven different lineup spots in one month's time.

Wiggington batted first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh depending on the day. He also pinch hit for the pitcher twice in the nine spot. Wiggington most often batted second, ahead of Tejada, but he also served as protection behind Tejada in the five spot on occasion.

Dave Trembley has taken a page from then-Astros Manager Cecil Cooper's playbook. So far this season, Wiggington has batted second, third,  fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth. Just like in Houston, that's seven different lineup spots in one month's time.

Rising to the Red Sox occasion

Wiggington officially proclaimed his status as a Red Sox killer over the weekend with his clutch hitting at Camden Yards. However, this is not new territory for Wiggington.

Consider his career numbers against Boston: 45 games, .303 average, 12 home runs, 24 RBI, .370 OBP, .963 OPS.

The home run and slugging numbers are the best he's posted against any opponent. His OPS split against the Red Sox relative to his total OPS is 142.

In 2008, the Astros faced the Red Sox twice in Interleague play, and Wiggington delivered with a 429 average, home run, RBI, .429, OBP, and 1.571 OPS.

Wiggington's home run came in the bottom of the eighth inning on June 28, 2008 and tied the game between the Astros and Red Sox. The Astros won by one run as part of a sweep of the Red Sox (two games rather than a glorious three-game sweep).

Sound familiar?