Thursday, July 23, 2015

Orioles' Franchise Four...ummm Five

I'm sure quite a few of you voted in your team's Franchise Four online poll. MLB's latest way of capturing your email address was too good for me to pass up, almost.

Each franchise had a list of eight candidates, the Orioles were:

Paul Blair
Dave McNally
Eddie Murray
Jim Palmer
Boog Powell
Cal Ripken Jr.
Brooks Robinson
Frank Robinson

Those in bold were the winners of the online voting. And they are hard to argue with. Each is obviously deserving of the honor. But there was enough wiggle room that my sons and I had a lively debate at Minute Maid Park watching the Astros one night before the All Star break. 

In my mind Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer are automatic. Brooks is Baltimore baseball and Palmer is the best pitcher the team has ever had, one of the game's greats. That leaves six. Paul Blair, Boog Powell and Dave McNally all had fine careers while wearing Orioles unis but it's not hard to push them to the second tier of Orioles greats. And we'll leave out the fact that you could have swapped in Mike Mussina for McNally and maybe Brady Anderson for Blair and the whole discussion won't change much.

So we are left with three stars and two slots. In the interest of harmony Cal Ripken Jr. gets one of the two remaining spots. I tried to make a case for putting Murray and Frank in ahead of Cal but I couldn't convince myself, much less my boys who grew up watching him. You can throw numbers and rings, personality and charisma around all day but in the end he's Cal Ripken. 

So we are now down to Eddie Murray and Frank Robinson. Both belong. In my eyes Eddie was the Orioles MVP through the 80s. When we needed a hit, a run, a spark there was nobody I wanted to see stepping out of the dugout with a bat than Eddie. He's a franchise cornerstone.

And then there is Frank Robinson. The trade that was made to bring him to Baltimore in December of 1965 changed to team forever, and I think in many ways, the city as well. Everyone loved Brooks but Frank Robinson was the unquestioned leader of those O's clubs. 

In the end I simply couldn't decide. There was no way I could leave one of those five off my ballot. So I did what most red-blooded Americans do when it comes to elections. I didn't vote

But the whole Franchise Four deal gives me an excuse to show some of my favorite cards of the guys who were voted into the group.

At the top is the 1981 TCMA Cal Ripken Jr. card. I lucked out when I bought this set when it was issued. I got one dupe in the set and it was this card. I periodically check prises on eBay to see what they are going for. The window for me making a killing on this card has long been closed. I'll just keep them both.

The 1960 Leaf card is probably the only one of Brooks Robinson that lists him as as 'Infielder' rather than 'Third Baseman'. It's another quirk in this set. Ken Boyer is listed the same was yet Luis Aparicio is a 'Shortstop' and Sparky Anderson is a 'Second Baseman'.  Some sort of positional bias was at work. But nonetheless it's an interesting set. Definitely one that's 'greater than the sum of it's parts'. The cards are all portraits in black and white and individually they are pretty much the same. But a page of them has a certain charm. I have about a dozen. Brooks' card, with the angelic look of it, is my favorite.

1970 Frank Robinson. He didn't have any cards as an Orioles that I could call iconic or classic but I've always been partial to this one. 

OTOH Jim Palmer has had some really great cards over the years. I prefer this second year card of him over his '66 rookie card.

And then there is this:

One of the best cards Topps has ever produced.

I poked around the other teams' results. I'm not sure how you can possibly pick a F4 for the Yankees, or Dodgers. Throw darts I guess. Too many greats through their long histories. The only choice that really jumped out at me was Buster Posey making the Giants' list and not Juan Marichal. I know Posey has rings and awards, but Juan Marichal. Maybe a Giants' fan can chime in.

The Sporting News got in on the fun and had a Franchise Four for each team. Their Orioles were Ripken, Brooks, Palmer and Murray. They acknowledged Frank Robinson's spot as being worthy of consideration and mentioned Brady Anderson as well. Their 'write-in candidate' was Mike Mussina.


  1. I wouldn't have picked Mazeroski for the Pirates. Paul Waner or Ralph Kiner probably deserved it more. World Series heroics carry some extra weight I guess.

  2. You're absolutely right... it's really tough to choose between Murray and Frank.

    P.S. Love that Ripken!

  3. Your problem is that you remember Orioles baseball B.C. (Before Cal). I think for anyone else, the discussion starts with "Well, *CAL*..." and then you start talking everybody else.

    Inside my head while reading this post: "1960 Leaf... How is it I have no 1960 Leaf?"

    1. Guilty as charged. I know Cal is baseball to several generations of O's fans. He belongs.

      Now, get off my lawn, dammit. ,-)

  4. I really don't like the vote thing, because people tend to think the players they're currently viewing are the best of the best and believe they weren't as good in the past, but in the O's case they were much, much better in my view. For me, it all starts with Brooks (greatest 3rd baseman EVER), but I don't think the O's would have been nearly the same if it wasn't for Frank. The O's had great pitching and Palmer was on the top of the list, McNally next on the list and so on. I really like Cal, and he had the streak thing, so he's usually the new school player to be on the list, but I LOVED Eddie. Such a great player and I hate that he's not on the top of any O's listing...