Category Archives: Orioles Prospects

Prospect Autos: Gregg Olson

1989 Topps

1989 Topps

Man oh man, there was a time when a card like this would draw high acclaim from my friends. I picked it up a few years ago for a couple of dollars, which was a steal, as far as I was concerned. Can you really put a price on making your inner child happy every now and then?
 
If you don’t know Gregg’s story, he was a friggin amazing closer for the Orioles. I got to see him pitch in his rookie season in Baltimore, closing out an amazing game against the Blue Jays (my first major league game). He had a hell of a curveball, and though closers are generally overrated, I was always excited to see him come out of the pen. Unfortunately, his knee-bending curveball, as it often does, led to a torn elbow ligament, and he was never quite the same after that (a la Kerry Wood). He had a decent comeback year in 1998 with the Diamondbacks, then finished up his career with the Dodgers as a setup guy. Sad ending for a promising career.
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Chris Hoiles

1991 Stadium Club

1991 Stadium Club

I always felt like Chris was vastly underrated, both as a prospect and a major league player.  He was a super catching prospect back in 1990, and from 1992 onward, he had an above-100 OPS+, and yet only lasted until 1998, which baffles the hell out of me. I was so excited for him to finally make the majors and show the Orioles what he could do, as I was a big O’s fan at the time. When he made the leap I followed his exploits closely, figuring that he would become another Orioles superstar in the mold of Cal Ripken and, like I said, he was a hell of performer for a catcher, but never got the acclaim I think he deserved, but hey, he did get into the Orioles Hall of Fame, so there’s something.
 
Wikipedia has a good entry about his grand slams:

On August 14, 1998, at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Hoiles became the 9th player ever to hit two grand slams in one game.

On May 17, 1996, Hoiles joined the list of 23 major league players who have hit an ultimate grand slam when he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with the Baltimore Orioles down by three runs against the Seattle Mariners. But besides being simply an “ultimate” grand slam, Hoiles’ homer may be considered the “ultimest” grand slam of all time, as he hit his home run on a full 3-2 count with 2 outs, the only time in major league history this has ever been recorded.

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Mike Mussina

Mussina Gold Leaf

Whew. I knew I would have to eventually get to this one. I was once a HUGE Mike Mussina fan; he was second on my list of favorite players after John Olerud, and I was collecting his cards in an obsessive fashion. I followed every start, and would have died to get his autograph. He was the quintessential Oriole to me, and more than that, he represented that rare player that I like: the intellectual, who lets his game speak for itself. This card was the centerpiece of my Mussina collection: a great shot, as is standard with the Leaf Gold set from that year, and the design that I loved so much.
 
Then he signed with the Yankees, and I learned what it felt like to despise someone you once liked (this would be echoed later, ironically, with Alfonso Soriano when he JOINED my favorite team). I always thought that maybe, in the back of his mind, Moose would want to return to the Yankees…but it never happened. So I let him go as a fan. These days I can appreciate what he accomplished as a player, but the kid inside of me still resents him for bolting for more money. Ah, well. That’s baseball, right?

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Update: Pete Rose Jr.

I was going through my collection last night and found the 1990 Classic card that I referenced in my previous Pete Rose Jr. entry, so I had to share:

1990 Classic

1990 Classic

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Arthur Rhodes

Rhodes Leaf Gold Rookie

Remember when Arthur Rhodes was supposed to be the next Vida Blue? Ugggggh. Yeah. I bought into that, especially as I was an O’s fan at the time. Mussina and Rhodes – what else could the Orioles want in their rotation?
 
Well, of course it didn’t work out that way. Rhodes turned out to be decent, but Vida Blue he is and was not. This card, however, is still a favorite of mine. Look at the gorgeous photo – the orange just pops, especially with the player in the background. I also love the lighting here.

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Pete Rose Jr.

Rose Jr Star

Ahhh good old Pete Rose Jr. Anybody who was around in 1990 can probably remember that Classic Blue card of Pete Rose Jr. Man, did that thing hook me in! I knew nothing about the guy, but he was an Oriole, he was a prospect, and after Ken Griffey Jr. became a star, I HAD TO HAVE IT. I begged my parents to get it for me on QVC.

 
Of course, Pete bombed out….he had a long minor-league career but never really did much at the major league level. I shouldn’t have been surprised given that I’d never heard of him before that card, but I still managed to be. This particular card is from the 1990 Erie Orioles team set by Star…I used to daydream about somehow rounding up all these sets in a given year, but the mass and cost was just too much.
 
So…hats off to Pete for keeping at it all these years. I hope he found happiness, at least. 

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Ben McDonald

McDonald UD

Ahhh, Ben McDonald. In 1990, there was a rookie battle afoot: the forces of John Olerud (me, mostly) versus the forces of Ben McDonald (everyone else). It was tough for me to appreciate what the guy was capable of when everyone in town was treating him like the second coming. I thought Olerud was a much more solid prospect: good swing, strong college pitcher, great fielder…oh, and he played in those awesome late 80s/early 90s Blue Jays uniforms. What wasn’t to love? He rapidly became my favorite player while others went down the McDonald path, fueled by the 1990 Upper Deck error.
 
We know how their careers turned out: Olerud had a much more solid path, while McDonald got injured and flamed out somewhat early in his career. But every time someone mentions McDonald or I see one of his cards, I’m that 13-year old kid again, standing in the backyard catching flak for my choice of player. Still, that didn’t stop me from eventually seeing what was there and at least pursuing one of his autographs as a sort of badge of honor. Today, for me, McDonald is one of those “could have been” stories that intrigue me. What if his body had held up? He posted pretty good ERA+s from 1993 onward, cursed by playing for some lousy teams. I don’t know. It’s an interesting quandary.

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