I won't be around these parts for the rest of the week, so I leave you with tonight's hero, Chris Davis. My sister and I endured the stifling heat and humidity to attend tonight's pregame Social Media gathering at the Upper Deck Rooftop Bar in Camden Yards. We dined on Esskay franks, picked up our #BirdlandSocial tees, and listened to the Q and A with Roch Kubatko and Jim Palmer. Afterward we took our seats in Section 352, down the third-base line and fairly near home plate, giving us an excellent vantage point for Chris Davis' go-ahead three-run homer in the first inning and his two-run shot past the reach of Nick Markakis in the second. It was the tenth multi-home run game of Crush's career, and if memory serves me correct, it's the third such game that I've seen live. He also made a fantastic running grab of an A. J. Pierzynski fly ball to deep right field in the eighth inning, when the Braves were making a late bid to get back in the game. That's four in a row for the Birds. It's good to have a productive Chris Davis in the lineup again.
Tonight, the Orioles finally returned home for the first time since the All-Star Break, following a 4-5 road trip that featured a pair of series wins bookending a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the dag-blasted Yankees. The Baltimore fans were treated to a pitchers' duel, with Kevin Gausman blanking the Braves on six hits over a career-best 7.2 innings and Alex Wood matching him frame-by-frame. Zach Britton, pitching the ninth in a non-save situation, gave up a rare solo home run to somebody named Adonis Garcia, setting the stage for Atlanta's new closer (and Charm City's old one) Jim Johnson...who promptly blew the save. Adam Jones legged out an infield hit, Matt Wieters lined a hanging 0-2 curveball for a more conventional single, and J. J. Hardy tied the game with a sac fly to left. Wieters, who's looked rusty more often than not since returning from Tommy John surgery, then blasted a Luis Avilan offering into the right-center field bleachers for a walkoff home run with no outs in the bottom of the 11th. The O's have clawed back to .500 at 49-49, and they spoiled Nick Markakis' homecoming. The longtime Oriole right fielder collected a pair of hits in five at-bats, but did fly out to left field with the potential go-ahead run on second base in the 10th. Oh, and Ryan Lavarnway started at catcher for the Braves, and picked up right where he left off in his forgettable stint in Birdland earlier this season: 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a stolen base allowed to David Lough. It's a veritable family reunion at Camden Yards this week.
Here we see Jeff Robinson throwing his famous "razz-ball", which was just an ordinary fastball. However, as he delivered the pitch, Robinson would stick out his tongue and blow a raspberry at the unsuspecting batter. It was...less than effective.
If the name Billy Cox rings a bell to you, it's probably due to his tenure with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Cox was an infielder for the Bums from 1948 through 1954, and he gained a reputation as an acrobatic and dependable third baseman in particular. Though he wasn't known for his offense - he batted .262/.318/.380 (85 OPS+) with a total of 66 home runs in 1,058 career games - he held his own with the bat in World Series play. Billy played for three pennant-winning clubs in Brooklyn, and although all three of those teams were defeated by the damned Yankees in the Fall Classic, he hit .302/.351/.453 in 15 total Series games. Unfortunately, the Dodger fan-favorite wasn't around in 1955 when Brooklyn finally toppled the Bronx Bombers, as he'd been traded to Baltimore the previous December along with pitcher Preacher Roe. The Orioles didn't give up much in the deal, sending a pair of minor leaguers and $50,000 to the Dodgers; of course, they didn't get much out of the trade either. The 39-year-old Roe, a former four-time All-Star, retired without throwing a pitch for the O's. Cox, age 35, batted just .211/.275/.314 in 53 games as an Oriole, homering three times and driving in 14 runs. In mid-June, the Birds agreed to a four-player swap with the Indians, Cox and Gene Woodling for Dave Pope and Wally Westlake. Billy chose to retire rather than switch teams again, so Baltimore sent $15,000 cash to Cleveland to complete the trade. Billy Cox returned home to Newport, PA, near Harrisburg, and tended bar. He died of cancer at age 58 in 1978.
I really should be wringing my hands and venting spleen over the ongoing horrors of the Orioles' July meltdown, but I'm busy helping my wife Janet celebrate her birthday in style. So just stare at this 3-D-ish 35-year-old rendering of Jim Palmer...why? Janet's initials before we got married were J. P. That's good enough for me.
Leo Gomez was part of an 80-card insert set in 1992 Pinnacle that touted young players who were expected to be stars in (you guessed it) the year 2000. He did post an .880 OPS with 27 homers in Y2K, but he did it in Japan. Besides, he's not even the biggest miss in the O's team set. Luis Mercedes, anyone? That guy played his last major league game in 1993 (.190/.286/.242 in 70 career games), and was out of baseball altogether by 1997. At least they got it right with Mike Mussina.
I don't think I've mentioned it here, but it's super-annoying that Jake Arrieta figured out how to pitch after the Orioles traded him to the Cubs in 2013. In 53 starts with Chicago, the righty is 25-12 with a 2.70 ERA (139 ERA+) and a 3.62-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 69 games (63 starts) in parts of four seasons in Baltimore, Jake was 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA (77 ERA+) and a 1.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio. What a butthead.
I can remember playing with baseball cards as a toddler, but I actually started collecting them when I was ten. Now I'm an adult looking for an outlet to talk about my hobby without receiving blank stares in return. You can contact me thusly.