Saturday, October 15, 2011

1977 Baltimore Orioles

At 97-64 the O's were an Excellent team.  As late as early August they held sole possession of 1st place yet somehow they finished 2 games out of 1st to a surging Yankee team.  How did the O's come up short ?  Maybe they didn't ?  If you look at their pythagorean they should have won 88 games.  The great Earl Weaver somehow coaxed 9 more wins out of his team and in most years 97 wins would take the division hands down.  His pitching ranked just above average after you look at HOF workhorse Jim Palmer, who was 20-11 with a 2.91 ERA, while logging 319 innings.  A typical O's team was built on dominant pitching and the 3 run homer.  The pitching was good and the 3 run homer didn't come as often.  The O's were in the bottom half of the league in batting average and OBP, so a lot of those 3 run homers became solo homers.  Still, Weaver pushed all the right buttons and got his team to overachieve.  People talk about him only winning 1 championship, but they forget about all the teams that he got to the post season that were either one dimensional or understaffed.  The man was a genius.  During his first tour of duty with the O's 1968-82 (15 years) he NEVER had a losing season.  In fact his worst finish was 4th place and that team won 90.  In 1980 he would finish second to the Yankees once again even though he won 100.

Besides Palmer, who were the stars on this team ?  With Lee May entrenched at 1st, rookie sensation Eddie Murray was the regular DH for 110 of the 160 games that he played.  Murray won the Rookie of the Year award hitting .283 with 27 homers.  May also had 27 homers and Kenny Singleton had 24 with 99 RBI's.  Doug DeCinces was a fine glove man at 3rd, who also chipped in with 19 roundtrippers.  The middle of the infield was a bit of a problem.  Perenial gold glover Mark Belanger was beginning to lose range at short, which meant it was becoming hard to justify his .206 average.  Billy Smith hit .215 while manning second.  Singleton (.328) let the team in batting, followed by centerfielder Al Bumbry (.317).  Pat Kelly had 25 stolen bases.  Bumbry stole 19.  Belanger even stole 15.  Weaver knew he needed to manufacture runs any way shape or form.  Rudy May (18-14, 3.61), Mike Flanagan (15-10, 3.64) and Ross Grimsley (14-10, 3.96) rounded out the rotation with rookie Dennis Martinez going 14-7 as a spot starter and long man.  Nobody had more than 9 saves, so Weaver went to a bullpen by committee with Tippy Martinez finishing the most games.

To complete the 1977 Topps set for Baltimore I had to add 20 cards in total.  I created two different ones for Eddie Murray, since this would have been his Rookie card if he had a card in the '77 set.

After a fast cup of coffee with the O's in '76 Dauer spent the full season in '77 battling Billy Smith for the second base slot.  By 1978 he would evenutally become the everyday second baseman for the next 8 seasons.  Dauer hit .243 in 304 AB's during the '77 season.  He was a lifetime .257 hitter in 10 big league seasons.  Dauer career will be defined by his glove.  He holds the AL single season fielding record for second baseman (86 consecutive errorless games spanning 425 chances).  Shockingly he never won a gold glove.  The photo from this card came from a Topps negative that was never used on cardboard.

A 23 year old Scotty McGregor spent 1977 pitching primarily out of the pen in long relief situations.  His 3-5 record with a 4.42 ERA were not indicative of the sustained excellence that was to come.  He would spend 13 seasons in the big leagues, all in Baltimore.  He would win 20 games in 1980 and make the All-Star team in '81.  He would finish 6th in the Cy Young voting in '80 and '83.  He was a clutch post season performer who had a 3-3 record with a slim 1.63 ERA.  He pitched game clinching shutouts in the 1979 LCS and 1983 World Series.  Originally drafted by the Yankees he was sent to the O's along with Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May and Dave Pagan for Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Freeman, Ellie Hendricks and Grant Jackson.  It's a safe bet to say that the O's got the better end of that 1976 trade deadline transaction.  The photo used here came from an 8x10 glossy action shot that was unsigned.

Crowley arrived back in Baltimore for his second tour of duty in the middle of the '76 season.  He built a solid 15 year major league career as a backup outfielder, part time DH and most importantly a clutch left hand pinch hitter.  Crowley is 13 on the all time pinch hit list with 113.  He first broke into the big leagues with the '69 O's and was part of their 3 straight pennant winning clubs.  He was traded to Cincy in time to earn a World Series ring in 1975.  In 1977 he appeared in 18 games as a pinch hitter and hit .364.  He was a career .260 hitter as a pinch hitter.  He was the second native Staten Islander (NY) to make it to the majors (Bobby Thomson was the first).  The photo used here came from his 1979 Topps card.

Shopay was a bit player who bounced back and forth between "the biggs" and triple A, never batting more than 79 times in any of the 7 partial seasons he spent in the majors.  1977 would be his final shot at the biggs.  At 32, he would hit just .188 in 79 plate appearances as the team's 5th outfielder.  The photo I used was taken during his first stint with the big club in the early 70's.  Shopay was sent down to Rochester (AAA) for 3 years, then resurfaced in '75 with the O's once again.  THis was a 8x10 glossy taken at Comiskey.

Born Silvio Antonio Aguilera Chévez in Telica Nicaragua, "Tony" spent 3+ seasons in the minors before getting a shot with the O's.  In 4 games, spanning 8 innings he would allow 10 hits, 13 runs and sport a 12.38 ERA in his own action in the bigs.  For those of you paying attention, there is a spelling error on Tony's card.  Once I noticed it I had 2 choices:  Fix it or call it a rare "error card".  I went with the latter, since Topps was infamous for their "error cards" and poor Tony only played in 4 games.  This photo was surprisingly found while searching Google.  I believe it was taken in Anaheim Stadium.

This Hall of Fame Goalie won 4 straight Stanley Cups with the Islanders in the early 80's...Oooops, I think I got that one wrong.  Let me start again.  This second baseman had a quick 6 year career, 3 of which was spent in Baltimore either splitting time with Rich Dauer or backing him up.  In 1977 he hit just .215 in 109 games, but down the stretch lost more and more playing time to Dauer, who as a gold glove caliber fielder.  After playing in just 68 games in 1979 the O's cut him loose.  He would eventually wind up with the Giants organization.  His call up in 1981 was his last shot at the big leagues.  After hitting .180 in 71 plate appearances his career was over at the age of 27.  For this card I used his 1978 Topps card photo, which I airbrushed out the position ball in the top right corner where the cloud formation was.

On July 25, 1977 David Gerald Criscione hit a walk off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the O's a comeback win over the Brewers.  This would be Criscione's one bright shining moment in a major league career that spanned just 9 at bats in 7 games.  In 3 of those at bats he would reach base safely and finish his brief major league career with a .333 average.  This photo was originally a black and white shot that came from a 1991 set of Orioles cards featuring every player in franchise history up to that point..

Skaggs split time behind the plate with Rick Dempsey who was injured a lot during the '77 season as well as batting a very low batting average.  Skaggs hit .287 in 216 at bats, so he was definitely the hitting catcher.  That designation would be removed the following season when his average plumeted to .151.  After hitting .248 in 63 games during the '79 season he looked to be back into the catching rotation.  ONce again he began to slip and was sold to the Angels early in the '80 season.  A sub .200 average in California earned him his unconditional release, which marked the end of his career.  For this card I used his 1978 Topps card.

1977 was El Presidente's first full season in the big leagues.  21 years later he would leave the game with 245 career wins and a perfect game.  He holds the destinction of having the most career wins for a pitcher who never won 20 games in a single season.  Sadly his 1981 season (14-5) would have been that 20 win campaign if the strike didn't cut out 1/3 of the schedule.  After a very promising cup of coffee in 1976, Matinez made the most of his full time promotion to the big club in '77.  Going 14-7 with a 4.10 ERA in 42 games (13 starts) caught the eye of manager Earl Weaver.  For the next 8 season, until he was traded to Montreal, he was a fixture in the Orioless rotation.  In 1990 at the age of 35 he made his first All-Star team.  At the age of 40, in 1995 he made his 4th All-Star appearance.  His 3.32 post season ERA (in 43 innings) is quite impressive.  In 1998 at the age of 43 he made 4 appearances in the NLCS for the braves and won 1 without giving up a single run.  This photo was found while searching Google.  It was posted on a blog by an Oriole fan who took the picture with a 126 Instamatic camera during the late 70's.

By 1977 Drago had successfully made the transition from frontline starter to frontline reliever.  On June 13, 1977 the O's dealt Dyar Miller to the Angels to acquire Drago who went 6-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 36 games out of the pen.  Drago would sign with Boston after the '77 season ended and spend 3 years there before ending his career in the Pacific Northwest with the Mariners in 1981.  This photo was an 8x10 autographed picturte taken in what looks like Tiger Stadium, judging by the roof overhang.  Interesting fact:  He gave up the final homer run ever hit by Hank Aaron.

Played parts of 2 seasons in Baltimore (1977-78).  Got into just 1 game in '77 and gave up 3 runs in 3 innings of work.  He would pitch in 2 games the following year, then disappear in the minors.  His only season of full time action (1972) saw him go 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA in 35 games for the Brewers.  This rare shot was taken while he was up with the big club during either the '77 or '78 season or quite possibly during spring training one year.

Best known as one of the radio voices of the White Sox, "Farmio", spent more years as a scout for the Orioles organization (3) than he did pitching for it (1 game).  Farmer had two separate careers as a major league pitcher.  From 1971-1974 he struggled with the Indians, Tigers adn Phillies.  He developed arm trouble and spent the next 3 seasons trying to find his way back to the show.  His 1 game in '77 with the O's left him with an ERA of "infinity" since he never registered an out and gave up 1 run.  He would get into just 2 games in Milwaukee the following season, so his career looked to be over.  They mysteriously the light bulb went on and he figured it out.  He would go on to have six solid years as a reliever for Texas, Chicago (AL), Philly and Oakland.  His peak year was 1980, where he saved 30 games for the Chisox.  As much as I hated to do it I had to go with the BHNH look for this updated card.  Farmer's one game in an Oriole uniform didn't warrant anyone taking a picture of him, so I used this 1980 Topps sticker photo taken of him while he was a member of the Pale Hose.

1977 Rookie of the year, 8 time All-Star starter, 3 time gold glover, 3 time silver slugger award winner and two time MVP runner up are the titles that Murray accrued during his 21 seasons in the big leagues.  Along the way he would collect 504 homers, the second most for a switch hitter, 1,917 RBI's and 3,255 hits.  Murray was a sure fire first ballot HOF'er and was inducted in 2003.  He spent 13 of his 21 seasons as an Oriole.  In 1977 the only blemish on his Rookie of the Years season was that he struck out 104 times.  That would be the only time in his illustrious career that he would eclipse the century mark for k's.  For Eddie's "pre"-rookie card I decided to use this team issue portrait photo.

Many people think of Murray as this nasty / threatening dude who didn't like to talk to the media.  Sadly we get these portrayals of players from a media that is very opinionated and feels the urge to make us feel the same way they do.  These two photos show Murray laughing and smiling.  By all accounts he was a great teammate and the fans in Baltimore still love him to death.  When I walked outside of Camden Yards and tried to buy a #33 Murray T-shirt off a street vendor I was told, "sold out, we can't keep them in stock".  This tells you volumes about the guy.  I created two cards  for him, because I wasn't 100% sure which one I liked best.  I will leave that to you all.

In January 1977 the Yankees traded Maddox and Rick Bladt to the Baltimore Orioles for Paul Blair.  At the time Maddox was recovering from a horrible knee injury that he sustained during the 1975 season while he was playing for the Yankees.  Maddox turned around and sued the New York Yankees as his employer, the New York Mets as lessees of Shea Stadium, and the City of New York as owners of the stadium. In the notable decision Maddox v. City of New York, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that Maddox knew of the condition of the grass at the time and decided to play anyway. Therefore he assumed the risk, and the defendants were found to be not liable for any damages that occurred to him.  He had come off two of his best seasons ever to that point.  After his half season in Baltimore he ironically signed with the Mets as a free agent, where he played the final 3 seasons of a career that was good, but not as good as he or his employers expected.  In 49 games with the O's he hit .262 and played a flawless centerfield and third base.  I shockingly found an autographed photo of him on ebay and used it for this card.

Rudolph's 9 year run as a well traveled back up catcher ended in Baltimore in 1977 after his contract was purchased from the Giants in August.  Ironically the light hitting Rudolph (.213 career avg) hit a career best .286, albeit in 11 games, for the O's.  He was released at the end of the season and resigned by the Cardinals, then cut.  This card was created using a photo from that Black and White 1991 Orioles franchise set.  I had to colorize it and removed the black sharpie autograph which blocked his face on the original.

Garcia spent 1977 serving as a utility man biding his time while looking to push Mark Belanger out of the starting lineup.  That time would come in 1979, but Garcia couldn't hit much better than Belanger and after bottoming out with a .199 average in 1980 he was traded to the Astros.  He played in 65 games during the '77 season and hit .221 with 139 plate appearances.  The photo here came from a team issue 5x7 set.

Harlow was that classic 4th outfielder who didn't hit for much in the way of average or power.  At 25, he finally got a chance to play with the big club in '77 and hit just .208 in 54 plate appearances.  He would play regularly in '78 (147 games) and hit just .243 with 8 homers, which isn't going to cut it if you are going to play the outfield in the majors and you don't have a glove like Curt Flood.  After just 38 games in '78 he was sent packing to California for Floyd Rayford and that all important "cash".  After hitting just .207 in 1981 he left the majors and headed to the Japanese League.  This photo was found in the same team set where Garcia's photo was found.

Dimmel got into 25 games as a defensive replacement for the O's in 1977.  He got to bat 6 times and did not register a hit.  Curiously he did register a stolen base and scored 8 runs, so I suspect he was used a lot down the stretch as a pinch runner.  The following season he was dealt to St. Louis for Benny Ayala, who would help the O's win pennants in 1979 and 83.  To make this card I airbrushed a minor league card of his when he played for Rochester.

Parrott played for the Rochester Red Wings and was the International League's Most Valuable Pitcher in 1977. He was called-up later that year by the Orioles and in three games, two starts, he gave up just one earned run.  He spent 5 years in the Oriole chain before being liberated with an end of season exchange of minor league prospects with Seattle.  His 4 seasons in Seattle were sub par except for his breatkout 1979 season, where he was 14-12 with a 3.77 ERA in 38 games (229 innings).  The following year he was 1-16, then 3-6 and then bye-bye.

After 12 years in the big leagues Briles was coming to the end of the road when the Rangers sold his contract to Baltimore on September 19, 1977.  With the O's fighting to stay in the pennant race Briles was brought on for veteran leadership and much needed stretch help in an overworked pen.  He would see action in just 4 innings over 2 games and post a 6.75 ERA.  He would return in '78 for one final major league campaign and go 4-4 with a 4.64 ERA as a spot starter and long man in the pen.  Briles had some great years for the Cardinals and the Pirates in the late 60's and early 70's.  He led the NL in winning percentage in 1967 with a 14-5 record.  He was a key contributor for St. Louis' 1967 and 1968 back to back pennant winners.  He won his second world championship with the Bucs in 1971.  When he hung it up after the '78 season his career record was 129-112.  This photo came from an Orioles fan page found via Google.

Pat Kelly, who curiously looks very much like famed (SNL) ex-Met second baseman Chico Escuela (pictured below), joined the O's in an offseason trade for Dave Duncan.  Topps got it right by creating a card for Kelly on the O's and Duncan on the Chisox, but they did a brutal Airbrush job on Duncan's card and gave Kelly the "look to the heavens" look on his.  I updated Kelly's card with a team issued portrait photo.  kelly played all 3 outfield positions and DH'd for the O's in '77.  He hit .256 with 10 homers in 426 plate appearances.  His next 4 seasons in Baltimore would be even better and he would be a key platoon contributor for the '79 pennant team.  After the '80 season he signed with Cleveland as a free agent, which marked the beginning of the end for a guy who had a solid 15 year major league career (.264 avg).

Miller's 1 game shot with the O's in '77 reads like this:  1 game, 2/3 inning pitched, 4 hits and 3 earned runs.  For his troubles he recorded a 40.50 (no typo) ERA.  On December 7, 1977he was traded by the Baltimore Orioles with Rudy May and Bryn Smith to the Montreal Expos for Joe Kerrigan, Gary Roenicke and Don Stanhouse.  That trade would help the O's win the '79 pennant.  It would not help Miller's career one bit.  He appeared in 5 games for the Expos in '78 and pitched 7 innings.  He gave up 11 hits and 8 earned runs with a 10.29 ERA.  His modest improvement was not enough to overwhelm Expo management who sent him back down to Denver (AAA Affiliate).  At Denver he would sport a winning record with a sky high ERA and would be released after the 1980 season at the age of 27.  I did some airbrush touch ups on a photo that was taken from a Venezuelan league baseball card that he appeared on.  The team colors looked similar to Baltimore's, so all I needed to do was add the smiling bird logo to the cap and crop the jersey high enough so the team name wasn't legible.

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