Monday, February 20, 2017

2/20: HBB Tom, Frankie & ElRoy; Bucs Ink Meares; The IA & UA Form

  • 1873 - Utilityman Tom O’Brien was born in Verona. O’Brien played just two seasons and four positions for his hometown club (1898, 1900), hitting .274 for Pittsburgh before his untimely death brought on by a Cuban barnstorming tour in 1901.
  • 1877 - The International Association (so-called because it had a pair of Canadian clubs) was formed in Pittsburgh with the Alleghenys as one of the charter teams. Some baseball historians consider it to be the first minor league; others think the league was conceived to rival the major National League. It was fairly short-lived, folding after the 1880 season. It really didn’t have much a schedule; Alleghenys’ ace Pud Galvin tossed 18 of the 19 IA games played that first year. Pittsburgh finished second at 13-6, 1-½ games behind the London (Ontario) Tecumsehs.
  • 1884 - The short-lived Union Association was organized. It only lasted a season and had two local reps: the Pittsburgh Stogies, which replaced the Chicago Browns before folding (they would form again in 1914) and the mid-state Altoona Mountain City nine.
Frankie Gustine (photo Bettmann/Getty)
  • 1920 - All-Star infielder and restaurant owner Frankie Gustine was born in Hoopeston, Illinois. He played 10 years (1939-48) for the Bucs, hitting .268 as a Pirate and earning three All-Star spots. Gustine later became the head coach at Point Park College from 1968-74 and operated a bar/restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Oakland a few steps away from Forbes Field that became Hemingways in 1982.
  • 1928 - The Baron of the Bullpen, ElRoy Face, was born in Stephentown, NY. He pitched fifteen years (1953, 1955-68) for the Bucs, going 100-93-188/3.36. Face was the first major leaguer to save 20 games more than once, leading the league three times and finishing second three times; in 1959 he set the still-standing major league record for winning percentage (.947) at 18-1, winning 22 games in a row over two seasons (19548-59). He held the NL record for career games pitched (846) from 1967-86, and the league record for career saves (193) from 1962-82. Face still holds the NL record for career wins in relief (96), and he held the league mark for career innings pitched in relief (1,211-1/3) until 1983.
  • 1999 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Pat Meares to a $1.5M contract. In April, they extended the deal through the 2003 season for $15M. He broke his hand early in 1999, had surgery, and was out of baseball by 2002, having played 240 games for the Bucs and hitting .238.
Pat Meares 1999 Pacific Revolution

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/19: AJ Trade, Simon Signing, HBD Dana, Poet & Stew


  • 1967 - Pirates scout Dana Brown was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Pirates hired the former minor league OF away from the Phils in 1993; he moved on to Montreal in 2002 as scouting director and left to become a special assistant to the GM with Toronto in 2009. As a Bucco birddog, he was responsible for signing Ian Snell and Chris Young.

Dana Brown (photo via The Olympian)
  • 1971 - RHP Miguel “The Poet” Batista was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The outfielder-turned-pitcher began his 18-year, 12-team career by tossing a pair of innings for the Bucs in 1992. After his modest Pittsburgh beginnings, he cooled his heels in the minors until 1996 before becoming a MLB fixture from 1998 through his last game with Atlanta in 2012. His nickname came about because of his love of literature. He even published a book of poetry - a lifelong interest of his - titled "Feelings in Black and White (“Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro”) in 2002.
  • 1982 - C Chris Stewart was born in Fontana, California. He joined the Pirates via trade in 2014 and hit .294 as Russ Martin’s caddy (he’s batting .272 in three seasons w/Pittsburgh) while providing solid defense. Stew signed a two year contract with a club option in 2016 as the back-up to Francisco Cervelli. He’s familiar with the drill; he played behind Cervelli and Martin as a Yankee, too. He had late-season knee surgery and is good to go for camp.
  • 2004 - The Pirates signed 1B Randall Simon to an $800,000 FA contract months after trading him to the Cubs following his sausage-swatting incident in Milwaukee. He spent 26 days on the DL with a bad hammy, hit .194 upon his return and was released in August.
Randall Simon 2004 Topps
  • 2012 - The Pirates had RHP AJ Burnett drop in their laps. The Yankees sent him to Pittsburgh for farm hands Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones and agreed to pay $20M of the $33M remaining on the last two years of his contract. AJ went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in Pittsburgh before joining the Phils for an injury-plagued 2014 season. He returned to the Bucco fold in 2015 (9-7, 3.18 ERA) for his farewell campaign, agreeing to a team-friendly $8.5M deal after refusing to exercise a $14.75M Philly option.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Notes: Quiet First Week - News, Prospects, Ex-Bucs

Can't have a week start off any better than with the phrase "pitchers and catchers report today..." And with some familiar ol' names to mentor the boys - the Bucco throwback instructors are John Candelaria, Rennie Stennett, Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, Kent Tekulve, Mike LaValliere, Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen and Omar Moreno. That's a pretty fair group of hardballers.

Throwback coaches - Mike LaValliere, John Candelaria, Omar Moreno, Maz, Steve Blass, Teke, Rennie Stennett (back) Manny Sanguillen & Bill Virdon (front) (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Everyone was present for the Pirates' first workout Friday except for bad boy Jung-Ho Kang.
  • At least one act of the recent Cutch drama has been put to bed. Clint said that Andrew will return to the three hole this season. McCutchen penned an article in the Players Tribune that covered the roller coaster ride he was on during the off season.
  • The Reds claimed RHP Lisalverto Bonilla after the Bucs had DFA'ed him to clear a spot for RHP Pat Light and then jumped on RHP Nefi Ogando who was DFA'ed to make room for IF Phil Gosselin. The Bucs had hoped to sneak one or both of them through waivers and even had lockers set up for them in Bradenton. The Reds also signed long-ago Pirates RHP Bronson Arroyo to a minor league deal.
Tony's bank account took a bit of a hit (2016 Topps)
  • Tony Watson had his arbitration hearing on Wednesday. The Pirates offered Tony $5.6M; Watson countered w/$6M. The Bucs won the case, but it was still a nice bump for Watson, who earned $3.45M in 2016. It was the only Pittsburgh arb board hearing scheduled.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs looked at the Top 10 Transactions of the off season and Ivan Nova's deal popped up in the middle. Enos Sarris of the same site ranked the starting rotations by going eight men deep, and the Bucs came out quite well.
  • Pretty neat - Josh Nelson of the South Side Sox has put together a spreadsheet of the top prospects per BA, MLB Pipeline, ESPN, BP and MiLB to get an average rating plus a view of where they stand in all the lists.
  • Cliff Corcoran of Sports on Earth has the Pirates farm system as a top five group again this year.
S-Rod's injury was worse than expected (2016 Topps Chrome)
  • Bad news for a good guy - S-Rod will likely miss the 2017 season when it was discovered that he had a complete rotor cuff tear during shoulder surgery. Sean was injured when his car was T-Boned last month. His wife and children were also injured, but are recovering well from a variety of breaks, bruises, and cuts.
  • There was good news, too. Former Pirates 1B Andrew Lambo got the all-clear to play after fighting off testicular cancer last year.
  • Ol' Bucco coach Rich Donnelly will be reunited with Team USA manager Jim Leyland as the WBC club's bullpen coach. Donnelly worked with Leyland in Pittsburgh, Florida, and Detroit.

2/18 Birthdays: HBD Sherry, Luis, Manny, Maxie, Bob & Bruce

  • 1891 - LHP Sherrod “Sherry” Smith was born in Monticello, Georgia. He got his career off to an inglorious start in Pittsburgh, giving up seven runs in 4-⅔ IP in his three 1911-12 outings. But after a couple years of minor league seasoning and a change of scenery, he blossomed to win 114 games in the next 12 years for the Brooklyn Robins and Cleveland Indians. In 1980 Smith was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and a decade later he was honored with a state historical marker ("Mansfield's Famous Southpaw") near his home.
Luis Arroyo 1957 (photo via Autograph Warehouse)
  • 1927 - LHP Luis Arroyo was born in Penuelas, Puerto Rico. “Tite” (a Latino nickname for Enrique, his middle name) was a screwballer who got a lot of ground outs. He tossed for the Bucs between 1956-57, with 12 starts in 72 appearances and a 6-14-2/4.69 ERA. After a year in AAA, he was converted full time to relief and spent his last four seasons in Yankee pinstripes, winning a World Series game and earning an All-Star nod in 1961.
  • 1938 - OF Manny Mota was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The pinch hitter supreme spent six seasons (1963-68) with Pittsburgh as a fourth outfielder early in his career, hitting .297 during that span. It wasn’t until 1974 that the Dodgers used him solely as a bench bat and he came through in spades, smacking 150 career pinch hits.
  • 1939 - IF Dal Maxvill was born in Granite City, Illinois. Dal joined the Bucs toward the tail end of his MLB days for parts of 1973-74, hitting .188 before being released. “Maxie” finished his 14-year career with Oakland after the Pirates let him go, playing his last game in 1975. Dal coached and was the Card’s GM afterward, retiring from baseball for good when he was fired from that job during a messy transition following Gus Busch’s death.
Bob Miller 1973 Topps
  • 1939 - RHP Bob Miller was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Miller spent 18 years in the show, tossing for the Bucs in 1971-72 (6-4-6, 2.19) and pitching in two NLCS sets and a World Series. He later managed in the Padres organization and was pitching coach for the Blue Jays and Giants. Miller pitched in an era that featured three Bob Millers, all tossing in the majors in the late 1950s, and in fact was teammates with one of them in 1962 with the Mets.
  • 1950 - RHP Bruce Kison was born in Pasco, Washington. The righty pitched nine years (1971-79) for the Bucs, and his career bookended Pittsburgh World series titles; he was 4-1 in the postseason, including a memorable 6-1/3 shutout innings stint against the Orioles in game #4 of the 1971 Fall Classic. He was part of the rotation for three years but was used mostly as a spot starter and long guy, putting up a Pirate pitching line of 81-63/3.49.

Friday, February 17, 2017

2/17: Turkey Trot, Nate Deal, Groat Award, Hurry Up Rule, HBD Ed & Whammy

  • 1905 - LHP Ed Brandt was born in Spokane, Washington. In his final two MLB seasons (1937-38), he tossed for Pittsburgh and went 16-14-2/3.23. He was mostly a good pitcher on bad big league teams. In 11 MLB years, Ed’s record was 121-146/3.86. He started 278 games and finished 150 of them.
Ed Brandt 1937-38 (photo Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1909 - The NL made it mandatory that a relief pitcher face one batter with a five-pitch warm up limit. The rule countered managers who would yank a pitcher, bring in another (slowly) to kill a little time, and then pull him if they didn't like the hitting match up or when the guy the skipper really wanted on the mound was good and loose. It eventually became Rule #6.2.2.
  • 1912 - The Pirates switched outfielders, sending Vin Campbell to the Boston Braves for Mike Donlin. Both players were solid hitters but neither were one trick ponies. Campbell was a successful businessman while Donlin was a vaudevillian (he carried around an old theater program with him as a good luck talisman), movie actor and all-around bon vivant. Both left baseball for periods of time to hold out for bigger salaries knowing they could make better money at their side jobs. Donlin hit .316 in 77 games for the 1912 Pirates while Campbell hit .296 and led the league in at-bats for the Braves that season. After the season, the 34-year-old Donlin was waived and claimed by the Phillies but refused to report and retired. He came back in 1914 after sitting out a season to play for the Giants, but his bat deserted him and 35 games later, his career was finished. Campbell had one more campaign left, was out of baseball for a year and then played out his string in the upstart Federal League. Donlin was nicknamed “Turkey Mike” due to his red neck and distinctive strut (It’s said many fans even imitated his way of walking). It wasn't a moniker that Mike particularly cared for; go figure.
Whammy Douglas (photo National Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1935 - RHP Charles “Whammy” Douglas was born in Carrboro, North Carolina. Whammy only got 11 starts in MLB, all in 1957 with the Bucs, going 3-3, 3.26. He was sent back to AAA Columbus for the ‘58 campaign, posting a 16-10, 3.35 line and was traded to the Reds in 1959. His promising career was dead-ended by elbow and shoulder problems. One physical impairment that didn’t bother him, tho, was the fact that he was blind in his right eye after childhood accident. Branch Rickey pressed him on the handicap, and Douglas replied that “You have one hitter. He’s got one bat. And I have one ball.” He had “Whammy” hung on him thx to Burlington Times-News writer Bill Hunter. “I was striking everyone out, so they just started calling me ‘Whammy,’” Douglas said.
  • 2009 - CF Nate McLouth signed a three-year, $15.75M contract with an option that bought out his arbitration years. It guaranteed his salary but not his home; he was traded to Atlanta in June to open a starting spot for Andrew McCutchen. He returned to the Bucs briefly in 2012, and since then has played in Baltimore and Washington. A free agent this season, the 34 year old has done OK, earning $30M in 10 campaigns.
Dick Groat 1957 Topps
  • 2016 - Dick Groat was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 80th annual Dapper Dan Dinner. In 1960, Groat hit .325 and was named NL MVP for the WS winners and earned three All-Star berths as a Bucco SS. He was also a two-time All America at Duke as a hoopster.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2/16: #33 Retired, Wheaties Honorees, Leo, Ron & AJ Sign

  • 1952 - Carnegie’s Honus Wagner’s #33 was retired after he bid farewell as a Bucco coach at the age of 77 following 39 years that he associated the team. The Bucs also honored him by giving him a lifetime pension at full pay. Hans number was the first the Bucs retired; other Pirates to join him in the honor were Billy Meyer (1), Ralph Kiner (4), Willie Stargell (8), Bill Mazeroski (9), Pie Traynor (20), Roberto Clemente (21) and Danny Murtaugh (40). The Flying Dutchman finished his career with a .329 average and won eight NL batting titles, ranking among the Pirates' top 10 in 11 offensive categories. He was a coach with the Pirates between 1933 and 1951. Honus was also part of the first Hall-of-Fame class ever selected, along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth.
Honus Wagner 2011 Topps by Kimbrall
  • 1996 - General Mills put out a Wheaties cereal box commemorating Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell to celebrate the league's 75th anniversary. All three legendary figures played for Pittsburgh and/or Homestead at some point in their Hall of Fame careers.
  • 2000 - The Pirates signed RHP Leo Nunez out of the Dominican Republic. He never twirled for the Bucs, being traded to KC in 2004 and made the news in 2011 when he admitted to being Juan Carlos Oviedo, not Leo Nunez, a fake ID he used to shave a year off his age and make him a more desirable prospect. He pitched thru 2011, served a lengthy suspension to start 2012 and then blew out his elbow during rehab, requiring TJ surgery. Juan/Leo returned to the show in 2014, but hasn’t appeared on a MLB hill since that season.
  • 2002 - RHP Ron Villone signed a $900K FA contract with the Bucs, making Pittsburgh one of his 12 MLB stops in a 15 year career. He went 4-6 with a 5.81 ERA for the Pirates and was released at the end of the year.
Ron Villone 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man
  • 2014 - Free agent RHP AJ Burnett signed a one-year/$16M deal that included an option for 2015 with the Phils after coming off a pair of strong seasons (26-21, 3.41) for the Bucs that resurrected his brand. He chose Philly over the Pirates because the ballyard was located 90 minutes from his Maryland home. "It was about my wife. It was about my kids. It was about playing somewhere where I'm at home,” the pitcher explained. But he returned to Pittsburgh the following season, signing a contract that was $4.25M less than the option he declined. He told the press that he had one more year left in the tank and “There’s no other place I want to finish my career (than Pittsburgh).”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2/15: Vic Sold; Birmingham Blues; CBA Woes; HBD Rob, Russ, Don & Barry

  • 1910 - The Pirates sold RHP Vic Willis to the Cardinals. Vic was a 20+ game winner for the Bucs during his four-year stint, going 89-46 with a 2.08 ERA from 1906-09. But the 34-year-old Willis was running on empty. He won nine games for St. Louis, and 1910 was his big league swan song.
Vic Willis 1909 Philadelphia Caramel
  • 1956 - The Pirates and the Kansas City A's canceled a pair of exhibition games in Birmingham‚ Alabama‚ because of a city ordinance barring integrated play. The two teams moved the spring games to New Orleans.
  • 1963 - RHP Barry Jones was born in Centerville, Indiana. He began his career in Pittsburgh after being selected in the third round of the 1984 draft. From 1986-88, Jones went 6-9-6/3.81 with the Bucs before being traded to the White Sox for Dave LaPoint. After an eight-year career, he moved to Murrysville and spent several months helping to build PNC Park as a project manager for the concrete contractor.
  • 1980 - IF Don Kelly was born in Butler. Kelly went to Mt Lebanon HS and Point Park College before signing with the Bucs and making his debut in 2007. From 2009 onward, he’s played with the Tigers, moving on to the Marlins during this off season. He married Carrie Walker in 2007; his brother-in-law is Neil and his father-in-law is former big league pitcher Tom. The Kellys live in Wexford.
Don Kelly 2007 Fleer Ultra
  • 1983 - C Russ Martin was born in East York, Ontario, Canada. The free agent pickup was with the Pirates from 2013-14, hitting .256 and rated highly behind the dish in all the defensive metrics and intangibles. The Toronto Blue Jays signed him to a five-year, $82M FA contract during the 2014 off season after Russ had a career year at the plate.
  • 1987 - RHP Rob Scahill was born in Winfield, Illinois. The reliever was traded to the Bucs from the Rockies after the 2014 season and got into 28 games with a 2.62 ERA in 2015. He’s been with the Rockies and Brewers since.
  • 1990 - The owners refused to open spring training camps without a new Basic Agreement with the Players' Association, beginning a lockout that lasted 32 days and delayed the start of the regular season by one week. The beef was over an owner plan to cap payroll at 48% of the league revenues; the MLBPA and Donald Fehr wanted no part of a cap. They eventually settled on “Super Two” arb, a raise in the minimum salary and adding an extra player to the active roster as the cap plan was sentenced to “death by committee.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2/14: Valentine Babies - Harry, Admiral, Jack, Earl & Damaso; McClatchy Buys Bucs; NCBBL Founded

  • 1873 - P Harry Jordan was born in Titusville (or maybe Pittsburgh; there’s some disagreement among biographers). Manager Connie Mack pulled him out of the New England League to help his shorthanded staff finish the 1894 season and then from the Iron and Oil League the following year, again to plug a pitching gap as the campaign neared the tape. Harry went 1-2, 4.15 in his three career MLB starts, not a bad slash for a semi-pro hurler.
  • 1880 - C Claude “Admiral” Berry was born in Losantville, Indiana. He had a fairly undistinguished MLB career from 1904-07, playing three years and getting into 21 games. But when the Federal League started in 1914, the 35-year-old was apparently well rested - he signed on with the Pittsburgh Rebels and caught 221 games in the league’s two seasons, batting just .219 but throwing out 214-of-445 would-be base stealers, a 48% CS rate. In 1904, while playing for the Chicago White Sox, Claude became the first major league catcher to wear a protective cup. He also caught Frank Allen’s no-hitter against St. Louis in 1915. The Admiral closed out his career with a couple of years of AA ball. His family said that Berry got his nickname because he was a flashy dresser.
Admiral Berry 1914 (Rebels Team Photo)
  • 1884 - Utilityman Jack Lewis was born in Pittsburgh’s South Side. He had an 18 game audition with the Red Sox in 1911, then got back in the groove with the Filipinos/Rebels of the Federal League, playing five positions and batting .245 from 1913-15, earning a spot on the Fed All-Star team in 1913 when it was still an indy league. Jack did play a lot of ball in his day; his career in the bushes began in 1901 and he didn’t quit playing until after the 1921 season, and that was only after a car accident.
  • 1887 - Per Wikipedia, the National Colored Base Ball League, the first attempt at a professional Negro League, was organized at a meeting in Baltimore. Eight clubs were represented, including the original Pittsburgh Keystones. The league quickly folded (the Keystones finished 3-4), but set a foundation that would eventually allow the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays to enter the baseball scene. The Keystones went dormant, then were revived briefly from 19-22 to play in the Negro National League. Their home field was Central Park (also known as Keystone Park or Chauncey Street Park), located in the Hill at the corner of Chauncey Street and Humber Way. The park was built by black architect Louis Bellinger, who would later design Greenlee Field for the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
  • 1897 - C Earl Smith was born in Sheridan, Arizona. Smith spent five of his 12 big league years in Pittsburgh from 1924-28, hitting .315 over that span. He was a member of the 1925 World Series-winning club (he hit .350 v Washington) and the 1927 Series team that lost to the Yankees. Smith was suspended for a spell in 1925 for brawling with a fan in Boston; not only did he lose time to the league, but he was laid up briefly after the fact when a second fan clunked him with a chair!
Earl Smith (photo 1925 Pittsburgh Press)
  • 1975 - LHP Damaso Marte was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He pitched for the Bucs in 2001 and again from 2006-08. He went 7-8-5 with a 3.52 ERA and struck out 200 batters in 186-⅔ IP. In 2008, during his second stint as a Bucco, Marte and Xavier Nady were traded to the Yankees for four prospects: José Tábata, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Daniel McCutchen.
  • 1996 - Kevin McClatchy and partners purchased the Pirates from the Pittsburgh Associates for $90M with the understanding that a baseball-only stadium be built within five years. The sale saved the franchise from being moved out of Pittsburgh by other potential buyers and greased the wheels for a new ballyard, but proved a mixed competitive blessing under the perpetually cash-strapped McClatchy.
Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

2/13: Cool Papa HoF Day; Bill Vetos Trade; Inge In; HBD Crazy, Oadis & Pete

  • 1866 - LHP Frederick “Crazy” Schmit (often misspelled Schmidt) was born in Chicago. The lefty was unleashed on baseball first by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1890, when Crazy went 1-9, 5.83 in his rookie campaign. He tossed for five MLB seasons with a 7-36/5.45 line and 185 career walks to 93 K. One of Crazy’s idiosyncrasies was to warm up with a sopping ball so that when he got to the mound, a game ball would feel like a feather. He was also credited with being the first to keep an actual book on hitters out of necessity; it was said his memory was too poor to keep the info stored in his head. One oft-told story has Crazy pitching against Cap Anson by the book. Schmit pulled his notes from his back pocket, looked up Anson, followed his finger and muttered “walk,” then tossed him four wide ones. His nickname was due to his eccentricities like his book - and likely Schmit’s overblown sense of his abilities as a pitcher. He also answered to “Germany.”
Crazy like a fox (Al Demaree image via Baseball History Daily)
  • 1901 - RHP Oadis Swigart was born in Archie, Mississippi. Oad spent his brief MLB career as a Pirate, going 1-3, 4.44, from 1939-40. His ball playing days were short-circuited by Uncle Sam. The 26-year-old was with the Pirates for spring training in 1941 but was called into the Army on May 1st as the first major league player to be drafted, and he wasn’t released from active duty until 1946.
  • 1921 - IF Pete Castiglione was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. He played seven years (1947-53) for the Bucs, mainly as a reserve, and hit .258 for Pittsburgh. Pete actually signed with the Pirates in 1940, but he joined the Navy in 1943 while in the minors and served two years in the Pacific. He participated in campaigns at the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Palau Islands, Philippine Islands and Okinawa, and was stationed at Wakayama, Japan at the end of the war, so his best work may not have been at Forbes Field, but in the Pacific theater.
  • 1974 - OF James "Cool Papa" Bell was named to the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues. He played for both the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords and was inducted on August 12th. Cool Papa joined the Homestead Grays in 1943, and they won league championships in Bell's first two seasons. They were foiled going for the trifecta, losing in the 1945 World Series to the Cleveland Buckeyes. Per Biography.com, he got his moniker when he began as a pitcher for the St. Louis Stars in the Negro National League. He was dubbed “Cool” by his teammates after he struck out the legendary Oscar Charleston; Bell's manager added the “Papa.”
Cool Papa Bell 2004 Topps Tribute
  • 1980 - As a five-and-ten veteran, OF’er Bill Robinson vetoed his proposed trade to the Houston Astros for pitcher Joaquin Andujar when Houston wouldn’t offer him a new contract. It’s hard to project how the trade would have worked out. Robinson had a strong 1980 campaign and then faded while Andujar wouldn’t hit his prime until 1982, winning 61 games and two All-Star berths between then and 1985 as a St. Louis Cardinal.
  • 2013 - The Bucs signed 36-year-old IF Brandon Inge to a one-year,/$1.25M FA contract. 50 games and a .181 BA later, he was released on August 1st, ending his 13 year MLB career.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2/12: HBD Woody, Joe, Cam, Stanley & Chris; Rennie & John Inked

  • 1922 - RHP Forrest “Woody” Main was born in Delano, California. He pitched off and on for the Bucs in 1948, 1950, and 1952-53 after being claimed from the Yankees. Main was in the Bronx Bomber’s system as a Kansas City Blue, and when KC manager Billy Meyer was named skipper of the 1948 Pirates, he selected Main in that winter’s Rule 5 draft. Woody went 4-13-3 with a 5.14 ERA as a Pirate.
Woody Main 1953 Topps
  • 1926 - C Joe Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent the middle of his MLB career (1951-53) with Pittsburgh. Joe hit .262 over that span, but is best known as an announcer, a profession he began after his playing days in 1955. Garagiola grew up just a few doors down from his childhood friend Yogi Berra and later said, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!"
  • 1952 - GM Cam Bonifay was born in St. Petersburg. After a brief minor league career, Cam toiled as a Cardinal & then Reds birddog before becoming the Scouting Director for the Pirates in 1990. He was named assistant GM in 1991 and got the top job in 1993 when Ted Simmons was felled by a heart attack. He held the position until 2001 when owner Kevin McClatchy replaced him with Dave Littlefield. Despite criticism for signing underperforming players to big contracts, he was named The Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 1997 for building the “Freak Show” team with a payroll of just $9M. Since his Pittsburgh departure, he was worked for Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cincinnati. His son Josh was a minor league catcher in the Pirates system and is now a coach in the Houston Astros organization.
  • 1965 - RHP Stanley Fansler was born in Elkins, West Virginia. The youngster was the Bucs second round draft pick (34th overall) in 1983. By 1985, he was pitching for the Pirates, going 0-3 but with a respectable 3.75 ERA in five September starts. He gave up less than a hit per inning but had some control issues. And therein lies a cautionary tale. Instead of Fansler making the team out of camp the following season, GM Sid Thrift, without consulting the Pirates pitching coach, sent him to the minors to change his delivery and sharpen his control. The result was that Stan’s money maker went haywire from the mechanical tweaking and he subsequently underwent a pair of arm surgeries. He never pitched above Class AA afterward and retired to become a pitching coach in 1993 before giving up the pro game entirely four years later when he married.
Stan Fansler 1985 TCMA
  • 1969 - The Bucs sealed one of their top Latino deals when Pirates scout C. Herbert Raybourn inked 18 year old 2B Rennie Stennett of Colon, Panama, to a contract. Rennie debuted as a 20 year old and played nine seasons (1971-79) with Pittsburgh, hitting .278. His Pirates red letter day was when he went 7-for-7 against the Cubs, a record-setter, in 1975. His career was derailed in 1977 when he broke his leg sliding, and 1981 was his last season in the show.
  • 1981 - C Chris Snyder was born in Houston. He came to the Pirates at the 2010 deadline from Arizona as part of the DJ Carrasco deal. The Pirates plan was for him to become Ryan Doumit’s veteran caddy, but in 2011 an awkward slide caused him to miss most of the year with a bad back. His balky vertebra helped trigger the season of the catcher - the Pirates were forced to use eight players at the position after Snyder and Dewey were both injured. In his time with the Bucs, he hit .214 and the Pirates unsurprisingly declined his 2012 option. After a couple of seasons in a backup role for Houston and the O’s, Snyder retired in 2014.
  • 1993 - The Bucs signed RHP John Ericks to a FA deal. After a couple of seasons on the farm, the 6’7’ Ericks worked 57 games for the Bucs between 1995-97, going 8-14-14 with a 4.78 ERA. The Pirates liked the Fighting Illini as a starter, but he had two shoulder surgeries and was switched to the pen. He was never 100% afterward and was out of baseball after working 10 games in 1997.
John Ericks 1996 Fleer (back)