Monday, January 22, 2018

1/22: Sixto Signed; Who, Moi?; HBD Diomedes, Jimmy, Fred, Hock & Warren

  • 1876 - LHP Warren McLaughlin was born in Plainfield, New Jersey. He had an 11-game MLB career over three seasons; the middle one (1902) spent briefly with the Pirates. The Bucs took him from New Haven in the Connecticut League, where he had tossed a no-hitter, for an audition as they were evaluating pitching to build a B List of arms during the days of inter-league raids. He did well, going 3-0/2.76 with three starts over 11 days, all complete games, and Pittsburgh inked him to a deal. The club did lose a couple of guys to American League marauders, but still had nine pitchers under contract for 1903 and so sold McLaughlin to Philadelphia. He had back woes there and fizzled, ending his big league days. He worked in the minors until 1908 and semi-pro leagues for a while longer before returning home to become a tin knocker.
Ad Gumbert in his pre-Pirates days Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1895 - In a little blowback from the Red Ehret-Pink Hawley pitcher swap made the week before, Pirates hurler Ad Gumbert was said to be taking bets that Ehret would win two games for St. Louis to every one that Hawley won for Pittsburgh. Gumbert claimed that he wasn’t throwing shade at his club but was instead the victim of a frame-up. He contacted the Pittsburgh Press the next day and asked to “Kindly deny the statement...the story was originated by a mischief-maker to hurt me with all Pittsburgh people…” Still, he was traded to Brooklyn four days later for reserve C Tom Kinslow. Pink, btw, won 31 games in 1895; Red won six. 
  • 1917 - SS Eugene “Huck” Geary was born in Buffalo. His MLB career was spent as a Pirate reserve from 1942-43, as Huck could only muster a .160 BA in 55 games. A takeout slide may have had more to do with his short career than his stick, though. The Cubs’ Eddie Stanky made a hard slide at second and cut Geary down, breaking his leg. There was some doubt that Geary would ever play again, and that was the last season that he spent in the majors. Mike Buczkowski, Huck’s grandson & minor league executive, says Geary got his nickname as a kid because of his Huck Finn-like habit of hanging his glove from a bat propped on his shoulder as he walked to the Buffalo ball fields. 
  • 1919 - LHP Diomedes Olivo was born in Guayubin, Dominican Republic. He was the second oldest rookie to pitch MLB when in 1960 he got a September call-up at age 41 after being plucked from the Mexican League (Satchel Paige made his debut as a 42-year-old). He spent the following season in AAA, then all of 1962 in Pittsburgh, going 5-1-7/2.78 in his 66 big league games with Pittsburgh. He was traded to St. Louis in 1963 and retired after the season at age 44. He scouted for the Cardinals afterward and later held a position in the Dominican Ministry of Sports until his death from a heart attack at age 58. 
Ol' Man Olivo 1980 TCMA '60 Pirates series
  • 1948 - RHP Fred Cambria was born in Queens, New York. A Pirates third-round pick in 1969 out of St. Leo College, he tossed a perfect game for the AA York Pirates in 1969 and debuted with the Bucs in 1970. Fred was 1-2, 3.51 during his five-start audition, but that would be his only MLB line. Bursitis ended his career after the 1973 campaign; even an altered submarine delivery didn’t help. Since he’s retired, he’s coached for San Diego and college while also serving as the executive director of a couple of indie leagues. 
  • 1976 - LHP Jimmy Anderson was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. After being drafted in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, he pitched the first four years (1999-2002) of his six-season career in Pittsburgh, going 24-42 with a 5.17 ERA, working later for the Reds, Cubs and Red Sox. The southpaw then made minor league stops with the Twins, Astros, Cubs, Devil Rays and Marlins before he retired in 2006. Now he runs the Jimmy Anderson Baseball Training Academy and coaches a traveling team, the Mid Atlantic Pirates, that play out of his facility. 
  • 1984 - The Pirates signed free agent OF Sixto Lezcano to a two-year/$925K contract. Lezcano hit .207 in 1985 and was released at the start of the 1986 season, ending his MLB career after 12 seasons. The Bucs ate $500K of his deal, part of $3M in dead money spent that year for players no longer with the club. Lezcano then played a bit in Japan and in the Senior League before beginning a run as a Braves minor league coach.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

1/21: Schoolboy Signs; HoF Frankie; Bucs Broadcast in NYC; HBD Danny, Jimmy, Fern, Jeff, Wil & Chase; RIP Clyde

  • 1895 - RHP Jimmy Zinn was born in Benton, Arkansas. Zinn worked three years for the Bucs (1920-22; 8-7-4, 3.54), with the last year being his only full season with the club. But he was a minor league legend, tossing for nine different farm clubs over 25 campaigns (mostly San Francisco and Kansas City), collecting 279 wins and compiling a 3.49 ERA.
Fern Bell 1939-40 (photo by George Burke)
  • 1913 - OF Fernando “Fern” Bell was born in Ada, Oklahoma. He spent his brief MLB career in Pittsburgh from 1939-40, batting .283. Fern was a long-time minor leaguer (he started in organized ball as an 18-year-old) when he got the call to Pittsburgh, and after cooling off from a red-hot start in ‘39, he was sold early in the 1940 season to the minor league Toronto Maple Leafs club. After baseball, Fern continued swinging a stick at balls - he became a golf pro in California. 
  • 1927 - IF Danny O’Connell was born in Paterson, New Jersey. As a Buc rookie in 1950 he hit .292 and finished third in the NL ROY voting. He spent the next two years in the Army during the Korean War but came back strong for Pittsburgh in 1953, hitting .294. The Pirates traded him in the off season to the Milwaukee Braves in one of MLB’s biggest deals, netting six players (Sid Gordon, Sam Jethroe, Curt Raydon, Max Surkont, Fred Waters & Larry Lassalle) along with $100,000. O’Connell hit .279 for the Braves in ‘54, then never had an average above .266 during the rest of his career, finishing with a lifetime BA of .260 over 10 years. 
  • 1933 - Future Hall of Fame RHP Waite Hoyt was signed by the Pirates after being waived by the New York Giants. Working mostly out of the bullpen, he went 35-31-18/3.08 in his five-year Bucco career before being sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. Hoyt was called “Schoolboy” because he signed with the Yankees as a 15-year-old. Waite was also known as "The Merry Mortician" because in the off season he was a funeral director by day and a vaudevillian by night, sharing the stage with the likes of Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, and George Burns. 
The Merry Mortician 1936 World Wide Gum
  • 1947 - The Baseball Writers selected Frankie Frisch to the Hall of Fame. Although the Fordham Flash spent his playing career with the Giants and Cardinals, he managed the Buccos from 1940-46. Five of his seven Pittsburgh clubs had winning records but finished higher than fourth just once when the team went 90-63 in 1944, coming in second to St. Louis, which won 105 games. 
  • 1958 - The Pirates agreed to broadcast games to New York City to provide a NL presence after the departure of the Giants and Dodgers to the west coast (it was the first time the NL didn’t have a NY team since 1876; the hole was filled by the Mets in 1962) when they played the two former New York Senior Circuit clubs. St Louis reached the same deal while the Phils one-upped both squads by airing 78 games in the Big Apple. 
  • 1970 - RHP Jeff McCurry was born in Tokyo. A Pirate draft pick in 1990, Jeff worked his 1995 rookie campaign in Pittsburgh, then returned for the 1998 season. McCurry was a big ‘un at 6’7”, but it didn’t help his hurling noticeably as the reliever was 2-2-1, 5.38 in 71 Bucco outings.
  • 1980 - 3B/OF Clyde Barnhart died in Hagerstown, Maryland at age 84. Clyde spent his entire nine-year career as a Pirate, starting out as a third baseman and then moving to the outfield thanks to Pie Traynor’s arrival at the hot corner. Clyde was a dependable rather than flashy hitter, with a lifetime BA of .295 and 12 hits in 11 World Series games played in 1925 and ‘27. His most famous feat was being the last player credited with hits in three games - on the same day! The 24-year-old rookie, 10 days past his debut, got a knock in each of the three contests played against the Reds in 1920 in the last MLB tripleheader. His son, Vic, also played for the Pirates from 1944-46. 
Clyde Barnhart 1925 (Photo George Bain/Library of Congress)
  • 1981 - LHP Wil Ledezma was born in Valle de la Pascua, Venezuela. Ledezma was entering his 11th campaign in organized ball with a spotty eight-year record in MLB when the Pirates signed him in the 2009-10 offseason. He looked like a steal when he tossed to a 0.94 ERA at Indianapolis w/1.017 WHIP, but the tables turned when he got the call back up - he went 0-3, 6.86, in 27 Bucco outings. He was DFA’ed and claimed by Toronto where he pitched five times in 2011 to end his MLB days. 
  • 1987 - IF Chase d’Arnaud was born in Torrance, California. A fourth round pick of the Pirates in 2008 out of Pepperdine, he debuted for the Bucs in 2011. He got a good look but hit just .217 with some questionable leatherwork, afterward being given a couple of courtesy calls in 2012 and ‘14 before being DFA’ed and claimed by the Phils. He’s bounced around as a depth guy since with them, Atlanta, Boston and San Diego; he’s now in the Giants organization.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

1/20 From the 50s Forward: Adam, Dotel, DJ Signed; Martin the Man; Roberto Makes TSN; HBD Brian & Cecil

  • 1954 - The Sporting News first mentioned Roberto Clemente in a notes column that read “Three major league organizations - the Giants, Braves and Dodgers - are attempting to sign Roberto Clemente, Santurce (Clemente’s Puerto Rican club) outfielder.” The Dodgers may have won that early tussle, but quickly lost The Great One in November’s Rule 5 draft to Pittsburgh. 
Cecil Espy 1992 Fleer Ultra
  • 1963 - OF Cecil Espy was born in San Diego. He hit .254 in his two Bucco campaigns of 1991-92, part of Jim Leyland’s title clubs’ bench corps. Cecil was a highly touted guy who never quite panned out; the speedster was the eighth overall selection in the 1980 draft. The Pirates had originally landed Espy in 1985 as part of the Bill Madlock deal with LA. He spent the next season in AAA Hawaii, then the Rangers took him in the Rule 5 draft before Cecil reunited with the Pirates as a free agent in early 1991. 
  • 1971 - RF Brian Giles was born in El Cajon, California. In five years with Pittsburgh, he put up a line of .308/.426/.591 with 165 HR/506 RBI and three All-Star berths. Giles had a great eye, walking nearly 350 more times during his career than he whiffed. He retired in 2010 after a couple of rough seasons with San Diego while trying to play through an arthritic knee.
  • 1993 - The Barry Bonds era officially ended with Jim Leyland’s announcement that rookie Al Martin, 25, would man left field to replace BB, who took his heart (and bat) to San Francisco in the off season. “I’m not really looking at it as replacing Barry,” Martin said. “Hopefully, I can start a name for myself.” Al had gotten a September cup of coffee in ‘92 and went on to have a solid campaign, batting .289 w/18 HR, coming in fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. His Achilles heel became apparent though, as the lefty swinger had a big L/R split (.191 v LHP, .302 v RHP), a gap that would prove consistent over his career. Even with that split, he got 113 games/425 at-bats or better in six of his eight Bucco campaigns and hit .280.
  • 2009 - 1B Adam LaRoche signed a one-year/$7.05M contract to avoid arbitration. Adam hit .247 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs and 81 strikeouts in 87 games, slumping badly after a hot ‘09 start, and was shipped to the Red Sox on July 22nd for SS Argenis Diaz and RHP Hunter Strickland. 
Octavio Dotel 2010 (photo Jared Wickersham/USA Today Sports)
  • 2010: RHP Octavio Dotel signed a one-year, $3.25M FA deal with the Bucs. The 37-year-old became the closer, going 2-2-21/4.28 and was flipped to the LA Dodgers at the deadline, bringing back RHP James McDonald and OF/1B Andrew Lambo. Dotel worked into the 2013 season and appeared in two WS after leaving the ‘Burg. J-Mac showed early promise before flaming out and Lambo couldn’t beat a series of injuries. 
  • 2010 - RHP DJ Carrasco was signed to a one-year/$950K contract. The reliever stuck around (2-2, 3.88) until the deadline, and was packaged as part of a deal with Arizona. His last MLB gig was in 2012 with the NY Mets. Carrasco was a part of the Pirate organization back in 2002, before KC took him in that year’s Rule 5 draft from Pittsburgh’s High A Carolina League club, Lynchburg.

1/20 Through the 40s: Hans Inked; RIP Josh; HBD Jet, Carl, Jesse & Denny

  • 1904 - OF Denny Sothern was born in Washington. Originally, his last name was Southern, but it changed, along with his age, so he could enlist in the Marines while underage. Sothern had been a fairly effective leadoff hitter for Philadelphia going into his fourth season (.289 BA) and the Bucs sent OF Fred Brickell to the Phils in August of 1930 for him. His bat went cold (he hit .176) and the Pirates sold him to Baltimore, who flipped him to Brooklyn. He played 17 games for the Robins in 1931, ending his MLB career at age 27. Brickell didn’t set the world afire, but he lasted three plus seasons with the Phillies, hitting .258.  
Sam Jethroe (image from Out of the Ball Park Developments)

  • 1908 - Sam “The Jet” Jethroe was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. Jethroe got his nickname due to his speed; he led the Negro League in stolen bases three times as a Cleveland Buckeye. He was on the cusp of major league integration. The Boston Braves gave him his debut in 1950, and he won the AL RoY award hitting .273 w/18HR when he was 32-years-old (although he claimed to be 28, having fudged his age). He had one more good season left in him for the Braves. After a subpar 1952 campaign, he was sent to the minors and made his last appearances in two games with Pittsburgh in 1954 (he came over in the multi-player Danny O’Connell deal), going 0-for-1. The Jet had one more contribution to black baseball - he was part of the suit to get Negro League players who played MLB a pension. The case was dismissed, but led to baseball awarding the players a pension beginning in 1997. 
  • 1936 - C Jesse Gonder was born in Monticello, Arkansas. Jesse caught the final two seasons (1966-67) of his eight-year career in Pittsburgh, batting .209 while backstopping 60 games. He came to Pittsburgh hoping to win the starting spot from Jim Pagliaroni, and although he didn’t, Jesse did see a lot of action in 1966. Relegated as the third man the following year, his performance faltered and the curtain dropped on his stint in MLB. 
  • 1940 - Honus Wagner, 65-years-old, signed his 29th Bucco contract as he joined Frankie Frisch’s coaching staff for his eighth season on the Pirates staff. He had played until 1917, took some time off from baseball and then returned to the coaching ranks in 1933. 
Carl Taylor 1971 All Star Cards
  • 1944 - UT Carl Taylor was born in Sarasota, Florida. He caught, played first and pinch hit for the Bucs in 1968-69 and was brought back again in September of 1971 for their pennant drive from KC; he returned to the Royals after the title run to complete the final two years of his career. His best season far and away was 1969, when he slashed .348/.432/.457 in 221 AB. 
  • 1947 - Homestead Gray and Pittsburgh Crawfords C Josh Gibson, the “black Babe Ruth,” died of a stroke at the age of 35. The future Hall of Fame catcher was put to rest in an unmarked grave in Allegheny Cemetery. In 1975, Negro League teammate Ted Page and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn paid for a granite marker that read: "Josh Gibson, 1911-1947, Legendary Baseball Player."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Notes: Finally, a Few Logs Tossed Into the Hot Stove...Recapping a Few Hectic Days

Well, stuff finally happened:

  • The Pirates sent RHP Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a gaggle of youngsters: RHP Joe Musgrove, 3B/1B Colin Moran, RHP Michael Feliz and minor-league OF Jason Martin a day or two after a “fake news” report of a consummated deal between the clubs. The two teams had discussed a Cole deal starting from the 2017 deadline and got back to brass tacks during the winter meetings. Musgrove (the Bucs plan to stretch him out back into a starter's role) and Feliz worked out of the Astro's pen, Moran has had nothing more than a cup o' joe in the league (in his defense, he was injured last year and is also blocked on the corners in Houston), and Martin is a AA prospect/likely depth-4th OF'er piece.
  • Two days following the Gerrit Cole trade, the Pirates shipped Andrew McCutchen, in the walk year of a $14.5M contract, and $2.5M to the San Francisco Giants for OF prospect Bryan Reynolds, RHP Kyle Crick and $500K international pool money. Reynolds was a 22-year-old switch-hitter who slashed .312/.364/.462 for the Class A San Jose Giants. Crick, a 25-year-old flamethrower with questionable control, was called up from AAA by the G-Men in June to make his MLB debut. In 30 games, he had no decisions with a 3.06 ERA and 28 K/17 BB in 32 IP.
Cutch, we'll miss ya (Topps 2013 Series 2)
  •  Josh Harrison is also on the market with the two New York teams, among others, showing interest in the versatile J-Hay.
  • Felipe Rivero signed a four-year/$22M deal to cash in his arb years. He gets $2.5M in 2018, $4M in 2019, $5.25M in 2020, $7.25M in 2021, plus a $2M signing bonus. There are also club options in 2022 and 2023 for $10M with buyouts of $1M in 2022/$500K in 2023. Rivero had filed for an arb hearing as a Super Two, but it appears he traded it in for guaranteed money for him and team-friendly cost certainty for the club. The Pirates confirmed the length of the deal; the financials were reported by @BNightengale of USA Today and confirmed. Also kinda interesting that he dropped Scott Boras in November and went with L. Warner Companies as his agent.
  • Korean source @sung_minkim reports that Jung Ho Kang is trying to back-door his visa problems by applying for a work permit through the Dominican Republic. 
  • MLB News picked their Top 10 RHP Prospects; Mitch Keller was sixth (Forest Whitley was second...) Keller got the nod as having the highest floor of the 10, a solid recognition.
  • Killer Keller (photo via MLB Pipeline)
  • The Pirates have signed RHPs Tyler Jones and Bo Schultz to minor league deals. Jones, 28, is a closer from LSU who was taken (and returned) by Arizona from the Yankees in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. Schultz, 32, has some MLB experience (0-3, 4.54 in 51 outings with Arizona & Toronto) but was laid up after March, 2017, TJ surgery and probably won't be ready until later in the year. The Bucs are continuing their depth building for the bullpen, and that pretty much sums up their off season activity so far.
  • Not good: RH reliever Montana DuRapau, 25, received a 50-game suspension without pay following a second positive test for a drug of abuse. He was promoted to Indy last year.
  • IF Engelb Vielma and RHP Shane Carle were DFA'd after the Astro deal. Shane went to Atlanta for a PTBNL or cash and Vielma was traded the Giantsfor a yet unknown return.
  • The Tigers have claimed RHP Johnny Barbato, who was DFA'ed for Shane Carle, from the Pirates.
  • RHP Brandon Cumpton, who was an up-and-comer in 2013-14 before arm injuries hit, was signed by Texas to a minor league deal.
  • IF Steve Lombardozzi signed on as a NRI with the Oakland A's. 
  • RHP Vance "Vanimal" Worley inked a NRI deal with the Reds.
  • LHP Wade "Frenchy" LeBlanc signed with the Yankees as a NRI. 
  • The Brewers signed RHP Ernesto Frieri to a minor deal w/camp invite.
  • 1B Justin Morneau is retiring and joining the Twins’ front office after a 14-year major-league career, including a 25-game stint as part of the Pirates 2013 Buctober run.

When the Bucs Were Really Black and Gold

The Pirates introduced the knit uni with the opening of TRS in 1970 (click for ESPN's Paul Lukas story). The reached their height of MLB chic from 1977-79 with the unveiling of the mix-and-match outfits (striped, yellow, black) and the black pillbox hat, which outlasted the knits and was sported by Buccos until 1986. The cap's Stargell stars became famous, although when the Pirates tried to reinstate them in 2013, the league stepped on them because of licensing issues. And they call pro football the "No Fun" league!

While the uniforms remain iconic among baseball buffs, not everyone was enthralled by them. John Candelaria claimed that the all-yellow version "Made me look like a big canary." C'est la vie; they remain the most memorable Bucco outfit ever donned.

The Big Canary (photo via SABR)

1/19: Stew, Kip & Craig Sign; LaRoche Trade; RIP Stan the Man; HBD Chris, Scott & Ed

  • 1872 - SS Ed Spurney was born in Cleveland. The 19-year-old was one of several players given a shot at shortstop in 1891, going 2-for-7 in three games, but the team picked up Frank Shugart to play the spot in mid-year and he held the position into the 1893 season. Spurney’s problem wasn’t his youth but his arm, which he had injured earlier in the year and then aggravated during his Bucco audition. Ed’s story ended well, though - he enrolled in Michigan’s law school in the fall and became an attorney. Fun fact: When he was in the minors in 1890, he used to sleepwalk down hotel hallways so often that teammates would surround his bed with bats to wake him up when he began one of his sandland sojourns. 
Scott Little 1989 Topps
  • 1963 - OF Scott Little was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. Scott came to Bucs in 1987 from the Mets as part of the Bill Almon-Al Pedrique deal. He spent most of the time in the minors, going 1-for-4 in three games for the Bucs in 1989. In 1991, after three injury-nagged farm campaigns, the Bucs transitioned the 28-year-old into coaching and he’s been a minor league skipper/coach for the Pirates, Dodgers, Nats, Rangers and Rockies since. 
  • 1973 - Utilityman Chris Stynes was born in Queens. He joined the Bucs in 2004 as a $750K free agent, but hit just .219 and was released in August, ending his MLB days. Stynes had a pretty good run, tho, playing 10 years with a career .275 BA while filling in at every position but pitcher, catcher and first base. 
  • 2004 - P Kip Wells and 1B/OF Craig Wilson avoided arb by signing contracts with big pay raises - Wilson jumped from $327K in 2003 to $1.15M in 2004, while Wells leapfrogged his previous $375K salary and inked a $2.575M deal. Both remained Pirates until 2006 when they were dealt at the deadline when Wells went to Texas for Jesse Chavez and Wilson to the Yankees for Shawn Chacon. 
Going, Going, Gonzo...2007 Fleer
  • 2007 - The Bucs traded LHP Mike Gonzalez and SS Brent Lillibridge to the Atlanta Braves for 1B Adam LaRoche and minor league 1B/OF Jamie Romak. Gonzo ended up injury-bitten, Lillibridge became a utility player for six seasons, Romak had a couple of cups of coffee in the show and LaRoche held a starting job at first for several clubs after putting up a slash of .265/58/213 in three Bucco seasons. He retired in 2016 after a White Sox edict limited his teenage son’s access to the clubhouse, walking away from $13M due him for the campaign. 
  • 2013 - Hall of Famer Stan the Man Musial of the Cards, who was born in Donora and is on the short list of all-time local stars, died at the age of 92. His 24 All-Star Game selections are more than anyone except Hank Aaron. When he retired after the 1963 season, Musial had an NL record 3,630 hits – 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road – and a .331 batting average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 on his first appearance on the ballot. Ben Cosgrove of Sports Illustrated noted that his nickname was dubbed by not St. Louis, but Brooklyn, fans. “The story goes that at Ebbets Field on June 23, 1946, Dodgers fans took to chanting "Here comes the man" when Musial, who routinely destroyed Dodger pitching, stepped to the plate. Longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bob Broeg heard the chant, stuck it (Stan the Man) into his next column, and the most fitting nickname in baseball history was born.” 
  • 2016 - C Chris Stewart’s two-year/$3M contract extension became official. Stew’s deal was for $1.35M in 2016 and $1.4M in 2017, with a $1.5M option/$250K buyout for 2018, making a guaranteed $3M deal for the veteran catcher. Stew made it through the first two campaigns and then was bought out in 2018 after an injury-filled 2017 season.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

1/18: Greenberg Becomes A Buc; HBD Wandy, Gift, Lauren, Eddie & Charlie

  • 1855 - OF Charlie Eden was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He joined the Alleghenys for two seasons, 1884-85, hitting .258 after a five-year minor league stint. Charlie played a little corner infield and also pitched some, going 1-3/5.53 with Pittsburgh. Those campaigns ended the 30-year old Charlie’s four-year MLB career; we assume that he went back to barnstorming through the minors. 
Eddie Moore (photo Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1899 - Utilityman Eddie Moore was born in Barlow, Kentucky. Moore hit .301 as a Bucco from 1923-26 and was a starter on the 1925 WS club, but he clashed a couple of times with management and was sold to the Boston Braves after getting into a shouting match with Fred Clarke, who was not only a club exec but a bench coach.
  • 1931 - RHP Laurin Pepper was born in Vaughan, Mississippi. A football star drafted by the Steelers (he was an All-America halfback at Mississippi Southern), Pepper was inked for $35K by the Bucs in 1954 as a bonus baby, as the Pirates easily topped the Steelers’ $15K bid. Probably should have stuck with the pigskin, though: in four MLB seasons (1954-57), he worked just 109-⅔ IP, going 2-8/7.09 with 98 walks. He then spent some time in the minors, finally becoming a long-time HS football coach and AD back home in Mississippi. 
  • 1947 - The Pirates purchased Hank Greenberg, the original “Hammerin’ Hank,” from the Tigers for $75,000 after he had a contract dispute with Detroit. To celebrate the move, team co-owner Bing Crosby recorded a song, "Goodbye, Mr. Ball, Goodbye" with Groucho Marx and Hank after the Bucs signed him to a reported $90,000 deal, the biggest in history at that time. In his one season with Pittsburgh, he hit .249 with 25 HR/74 RBI to become the first player with a 25 homer season in both leagues, walked a league-high 104 times and served as a mentor to a young Ralph Kiner. He inspired “Greenberg Gardens” when the Bucs shortened Forbes Field’s left field for him and when he retired after the season, his garden was renamed “Kiner’s Korner.” 
Wandy Rodriguez 2013 Topps
  • 1979 - LHP Wandy Rodriguez was born in Santiago Rodriguez, Dominican Republic. Wandy joined the Bucs in 2012 when he was acquired in a deadline deal from the Astros. He didn’t become a major contributor as hoped, as his 2013 season derailed after a dozen starts with arthritis in his pitching arm, and contributed just 11 wins in 25 outings, with a 3.66 ERA, as a Pirate before being released in May of 2014. 
  • 1980 - SS Gift Ngoepe was born in Randburg, South Africa. Ngoepe became the first black South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he agreed to a deal with the Pirates in October 2008 and first to play in the majors in 2017. You could say he was born to be a ballplayer. Ngoepe's mom was a clubhouse attendant for the Randburg Mets, and they lived in one of the clubhouse rooms, so he grew up in a ballyard. Gift has proven to be a brilliant fielder but hasn’t been able to hit the ball, with a .222 Pirates BA (.231 career MiLB) and was sold to Toronto in the 2017 offseason. The Pirates signed his brother Victor, so the legacy continues.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1/17: 2014-15 Arb; Kip & Josh Signed; January Drafts; HBD Jeff, Jack, Doc and Art

  • 1861 - 1B Milt Scott was born in Chicago. He played in the majors for four seasons, spending part of 1885 with the Alleghenys, joining them in late June after being purchased from the Detroit Wolverines and batting .248. He was then “traded” to Baltimore (actually the American Association settled a contract dispute over Sam Barkley’s rights with his transfer). He hit .190 in 1886 and was out of the majors after that, retiring after spending 1890 with Fort Wayne of the Indiana State League. 
  • 1882 - C/1B John “Doc” Kerr was born in Dellroy, Ohio. With eight years in the minors, he played 59 big league games, all in the Federal League, from 1914-15 with his first 42 contests as a Pittsburgh Rebel, batting .239. One and Done: Doc played for 12 teams in 10 years; he spent full back-to-back season with just one, Trenton. 
Jack Merson 1952 Topps
  • 1922 - 2B Jack Merson was born in Elk Ridge, Maryland. Jack played for the Pirates from 1951-52, regularly during the second season that ended prematurely with a broken wrist. He hit .257 over that span, but he ended up with Boston the next season, where he played one game in 1953, going 0-for-4 to end his MLB days. He started his big league career at 29, and in Boston, the 31-year-old was blocked by bonus baby Billy Consolo. He played for a few more seasons in San Diego (then a minor league club) and then remained there as a businessman and later a prison guard, raising his family. 
  • 1964 - LHP Jeff Tabaka was born in Barberton, Ohio. Jeff got a cup off coffee with the Pirates in 1994, moved on and returned again in 1998, when he went 2-2, 3.02, overall. Jeff had the usual itinerary of a journeyman lefty - in his six seasons in the majors he pitched for the Pirates, San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, and St. Louis Cardinals. Tabaka’s promising career was short circuited by injuries; he had a pair of TJ surgeries to overcome. At last look, he was tutoring at the Strike Zone Academy in North Canton, Ohio. 
  • 1970 - The Pirates selected players through the 28th round of the player draft, going nine rounds deeper than any other club, and came up with exactly no one who made it to the majors. LHP Alan Jackson of Northeastern State was their top pick (14th overall); he declined to sign and was instead selected by the Red Sox in the June draft. He topped out a Class AA. The January draft was a secondary feeder. Its pool consisted of high school players who graduated early, JC/community college athletes, and players who opted out of four-year colleges.
Alex Cole 1993 Donruss
  • 1984 - The Pirates drafted pitcher Gil Heredia first, but the righty from Pima CC didn’t sign. He went pro three years later, albeit as a ninth round pick of the Giants, and carved out a 10-year MLB career. Light hitting OF Alex Cole was also selected that year. The best pick was in the secondary phase when the Bucs took OF Jay Buhner, who ended up swatting 310 HR in 15 big league seasons after being traded to the Yankees. 
  • 2005 - RHP Josh Fogg inked a one-year/$2.15M deal with the Bucs to avoid his first year of arbitration. Fogg went 6-11/5.05 during the ensuing campaign and was non-tendered, ending up with Colorado in 2007. Craig Wilson agreed to a one year/$3M contract the next day and also avoided arbitration. He ended up playing only 59 games during the year as a result of hand injuries that landed him on the DL twice. 
  • 2006 - The Bucs signed RHP Kip Wells to a one-year, $4.15M contract, avoiding arbitration. Kip only lasted to the deadline, going 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA before being dealt away to the Texas Rangers for Jesse Chavez. Wells, a former first round draft pick of the White Sox in 1998, pitched for nine teams in 12 seasons with a career slash of 69-103-2/4.78 ERA. 
Kip Wells 2005 Topps Chrome
  • 2014 - The Pirates signed five players to one-year deals (2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez, P Mark Melancon, 1B Gaby Sanchez and P Vin Mazzaro) to avoid arbitration. They had previously reached agreements with arb-eligible P Charlie Morton, OF Travis Snider and C Chris Stewart, and non-tendered 1B Garrett Jones, C Mike McKenry and OF Felix Pie to close out a king-sized 2014 arbitration class. 
  • 2015 - The Pirates had a MLB-high dozen players eligible for arbitration: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, Josh Harrison, Tony Watson, Francisco Cervelli, Jared Hughes, Travis Snider, Antonio Bastardo, Chris Stewart, Vance Worley and Sean Rodriguez, after previously releasing arb-eligible players Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, John Axford, Jeanmar Gomez and Chaz Roe. Nine signed one-year deals; Walker, Alvarez, and Worley opted to take the arbitration route. Walker lost his case; Alvarez and Worley won their hearings.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

1/16: Spring Road Trip; Interleague OK; Ollie & JHK Signed; HBD Dave, Ron, Erskine & Art

  • 1858 - IF Art Whitney was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. Known for his glove, he played for the Alleghenys from 1884-87, hitting .248 while in Pittsburgh. His lifetime BA was a paltry .223, but the slick gloveman led the league four times in fielding percentage, three times as a third baseman (1886, 1887, and 1891) and once as a shortstop (1885). 
Erskine Mayer 1915 Cracker Jack
  • 1890 - RHP Erskine Mayer was born in Atlanta. He worked two seasons for Pittsburgh from 1918-19, going 14-6 with a 3.19 ERA. In 1919, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, becoming part of the infamous "Black Sox" team. His only appearance in the scandal-tainted 1919 World Series was a one-inning relief stint, his last in a MLB uniform. He ended his eight-year career with a slash of of 91-70-6 and a 2.96 ERA. Over that time, he had several notable moments. His best as a Bucco was going 15-⅓ shutout innings, starting the longest scoreless game in Pirate history (the Pirates eventually beat the Boston Braves 2-0 in 20 innings). He had a couple of lowlights, too. As a rookie for the Phils in 1912, Mayer set the MLB record for consecutive hits allowed with nine (since broken), and also was the pitcher who surrendered Honus Wagner’s 3,000th hit in 1914 while wearing the same Philadelphia uniform. 
  • 1930 - Before the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, teams traveled all over the country for camp. The Pirates took 30 players to the 1930 spring training site, California’s Paso Robles, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The club announced nine late-March final tune-up games after breaking camp at nearby LA, SF and Oakland, then trips to Fort Worth, Dallas, Tucson, Mobile, New Orleans and Cincinnati before returning to Pittsburgh and Forbes Field. The pre-season warm-up trip covered 6,500 miles of railroad track and countless hands of gin rummy. 
  • 1957 - Coach Dave Jauss was born in Chicago. Dave was named to the Pirates scouting staff in 2011 and became a coach for Clint Hurdle the next season. He’s been managing, coaching and scouting since 1982, managing college, Dominican & minor league nines while coaching/scouting for Montreal, Baltimore, Boston, the Dodgers and Mets prior to landing in Pittsburgh. 
Ron Villone 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man Looming Large
  • 1970 - LHP Ron Villone was born in Englewood, New Jersey. Villone played for 12 teams in his 15-year career, tied for second all-time with P Mike Morgan and OF Matt Stairs, trailing only P Octavio Dotel, who played for 13 teams. All but Morgan wore Bucco uniforms. Villone tossed for the Pirates in 2002, going 4–6/5.81 in 45 games with seven starts after signing a $900K, one-year FA deal in February. 
  • 1996 - Interleague play was approved by MLB for the next season and was later given an imprimatur from the MLBPA. It was meant to showcase rivalry games; three decades in, the Pirates are still looking for their natural rival. 
  • 2006 - LHP Ollie Perez signed a $1.9M contract in his first arbitration year after coming off a 7-5/5.85 campaign. The Bucs had high hopes for a bounce back from the southpaw who had gone 12-10/2.98 with 239K in 2004, but the 24-year-old posted a 2-10/6.55 line during the season and the Pirates sent him to the Mets at the 2006 deadline as part of the Xavier Nady package 
Ollie Perez 2005 Upper Deck Future Stars Artifacts
  • 2015 - The Pirates officially signed Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang to a four-year, $11M contract ($2.5M, $2.5M, $2.75M & $3M with a $250K/$5.5M option for 2019). He could earn up to $750K/year in at-bat bonuses, with a guaranteed annual stipend for family travel and an interpreter. Pittsburgh also paid his club a posting fee of $5,002,015 for negotiating rights, making the deal the most expensive the Pirates ever paid out for an international signee. Kang, 27, hit .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBIs in 501 PAs for the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2014. His slash was .287/.355/.461 in his first MLB campaign, cut short by a late-season leg injury. He was strong again in 2016 but suffered through another injury-shortened year, followed by a missed campaign in 2017 due to legal issues in Korea that cost him his US work permit.