Saturday, April 13, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 6: Tim Nordbrook and Bobby Gritch Entwined in Free Agency

Orioles Victory Number 6: 9-5 over the Boston Red Sox

1976 Topps Tim Nordbrook

Today's card comes courtesy of a trade. Now that I'm settled back in and have access to the complete collection, the trading has picked back up. Two trades in ten days is pretty good for me. In exchange for a bunch 2019 Topps duplicates, Trading Card Database member madams30 sent this card and thirty-nine other cards I needed from Texas.

While the five 1976 Topps he included were the hook, the nine 1988 Topps may have been the most important. Why? Because they completed my 30 year quest to complete that set. I quest that, if I'm not mistaken started with a box of cards purchased from Price Club (for you young kids, that's what Costco was before it was Costco). It was the first time I purchased an entire box of cards and if I'm not mistaken I did consume all of the gum that came in the backs.

That box had 540 cards (36 packs of 15 cards each) and most likely included just a few duplicates. That means it took me 30 years to knock the remaining 250 or so cards left on the checklist.  Speaking of the checklist, I'm sure more than a few of them have cards marked off on them.

Pretty sure Tony Armas completes the collection. Could be wrong though.

That's enough about 1988 Topps, let's get back to Nordbrook. He was born in Baltimore in 1949 and drafted by his hometown club in the ninth round of the 1970 draft (18 spots after Rich "Goose" Gossage).

He made his way through the minors in four years, highlighted by a .287/.364/.685 slash line for the Rochester Red Wings in 1974. That earned him a quick six game call-up in 1974 and another 40 games in 1975 as a back-up infielder. He was a solid defender but he wasn't going to unseat Bobby Grich and Mark Belanger.

He appeared in 27 more games for the Orioles in 1976 before being sold to the California Angels in September of that year. He ended his Baltimore career with a slash line of .183/.301/.498. He bounced around for another three seasons, seeing time with the Angels, White Sox and Blue Jays before playing his last game in 1979.

Oddly enough, Nordbrook and Grich would intersect again post-Baltimore as they were both part of the inaugural MLB free agency class in 1976. Part of the reason the Angels bought Nordbrook from the Angels in 1976 was because he was set to be a free agent. Back in those days, teams were limited to signing only two free agents. The exception was that they could replace the number of players they lost in free agency. The first two signees for California were Don Baylor and Joe Rudi. With Nordbrook choosing free agency, that opened up a third slot for the Angels.

That slot went to California-native Gritch. As part of the first free-agent class Gritch could be considered the first free agent to spurn the New York Yankees. They wanted him, and supposedly offered him a $2.2 million contract. He turned it down to play in front of his parents in California. The Yankees didn't sulk for long, they used that money to sign Reggie Jackson. That turned out ok.

Also of note. While this card shows Nordbrook wearing the number 43, he changed it late in 1975. The new number - 8. He and Dave Skaggs would be the last players to wear it before a certain lanky infielder from Havre de Grace, Maryland would make it famous.


Fuji said...

Is that the Oakland Coliseum in the background of the Nordbrook? Anyways... I remember buying boxes of Topps back at Price Club. Started with 1987 Topps... but it carried into 1988 or 1989.

Justin G. said...

It could be the Coliseum. Assuming the picture was taken in 1975 (when he was still wearing 43) he was with the team when they made a road trip to Oakland in May. He even appeared in a game, subbing in for Belanger.

Based on the amount of 1989 Topps that I have, I think I may have a picked up a box or two of those from Price Club as well.