Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1/17: '14 & '15 Arb; Pink for Red; Kip & Josh Sign; HBD Jack & Jeff; Buc Drafts

  • 1895 - The Pirates traded P Red Ehret and cash to the St Louis Browns for P Pink Hawley. Hawley won 71 games for the Pirates in his three year (1895-97) stint with Pittsburgh, becoming one of only three Bucs to win 30 games in a single season, notching 31 victories in 1985, while Ehret would claim just more 35 victories during the remainder of his MLB career. Pink was well compensated for his era - the Pirates paid him $2,400 a year, the maximum salary at the time. According to Dale Voiss of SABR “Emerson was born one of two twins, the other being named Elmer. People had trouble telling the twins apart so the nurse who assisted in their birth pinned a blue ribbon to one and a pink one to the other. This resulted in Emerson being given the middle name Pink, and the brothers were known as Pink and Blue.” He was a hit with the local fans, too. “Hawley earned the nickname ‘Duke of Pittsburgh’ because of his stylish dress and good looks. He was known to wear diamonds and other items of high fashion and developed a reputation similar to that of a matinee idol in Pittsburgh. Later a cigar was named Duke of Pittsburgh after Hawley. Boxes of these cigars featured his picture.”
Pink Hawley (image from Local Leben magazine, 2012)
  • 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. 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 coaching 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 was the only keeper from 1984 (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. He made up for lost bonus money by carving 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/$2,150,000 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.
The Fort missed the cut (photo Rob Foldy/USA Today)
  • 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.

Monday, January 16, 2017

1/16: JHK & Ollie Sign, HBD Art, Erskine & Ron, B-Ball

  • 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).
Art Whitney 1887 N284 Buchner Gold Coin
  • 1890 - RHP Erskine Mayer was born in Atlanta. He only 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 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.
  • 1960 - The Steelers beat the Pirates 22-20 in overtime in a benefit basketball game played at the Pitt Field House to help support Children's Hospital. Former Duke All-America and Buc shortstop Dick Groat led all scorers with 14 points in the 15-minute contest.
  • 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. Dotel, Stairs, and Villone all 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.
Ron Villone 2002 Upper Deck 40-Man
  • 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.
  • 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.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

1/15: '16 Arb Class; Hartenstein Deal; Honus Museum; HBD Mike, Jock, & Banny

  • 1858 - OF Mike Mansell was born in Auburn, New York. He played three seasons (1882-84) for the Alleghenys with a .251 BA. His final big league year was 1884 when he played for three teams. Mansell did have a knack for scoring - in 202 games for the Alleghenys, he touched home 164 times. His two brothers also played in the MLB, and the trio even played the outfield together, albeit for minor league Albany.
  • 1868 - RHP John “Jock” (the Scottish version of Jack) Menefee was born in Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Jock tossed three not very successful campaigns for Pittsburgh (1892, 1894-95), going 5-9/5.75. But he did have a shining MLB moment: Menefee became the first NL pitcher to pull off a successful steal of home, against Brooklyn on July 15th, 1902, while with the Cubs.
Banny in 2014 (photo Associated Press)
  • 1965 - Jeff “Banny” Banister was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Drafted in 1986, he got one at-bat with the Bucs in 1991 and singled. After going through the minor league system, he then served as a coach or manager for the franchise since 1993. He left the roost in 2014 when he was hired as the skipper of the Texas Rangers and quickly earned the AL Manager of the Year award in 2015. His nickname, btw, isn’t based on his surname but is short for “bantam rooster” because of his scrappy style of play.
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded OF Manny Jimenez to the Cubs for minor league IF Ron Campbell and RHP Chuck Hartenstein. Jimenez played briefly for Chicago before fading into the minors, while Campbell never did make it to the show. Hartenstein made 56 appearances for the Bucs in 1969, with 10 saves and a 3.95 ERA, but slipped in 1970 and was traded to St. Louis.
  • 2005 - Mayor Jim Pascoe of Carnegie announced plans for the Honus Wagner Museum which opened later in the year. The little-known attraction, filled with photos, news clips, and other Flying Dutchman mementos (with many culled from the local Elks Club that he belonged to) is on 1 West Main Street in the Carnegie Historical Society Building. It’s easy to spot with Honus’ famous baseball card replicated on a mural on the outside and is open M-F.
Stop in and visit Hans sometime (photo Amy W/Yelp)
  • 2016 - RHP Mark Melancon was the last of six arbitration-eligible players to agree to a contract. C Chris Stewart had earlier reached a two-year deal with the club. The others avoiding arbitration by inking one-year deals were C Francisco Cervelli, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Jared Hughes, SS Jordy Mercer and LHP Jeff Locke. The FO trimmed five others off the list by non-tendering 1B Pedro Alvarez, 1B Travis Ishikawa, RHP Vance Worley and OF Travis Snider while trading 2B Neil Walker to the Mets.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

1/14: Bucs Select Moises; Adam Re-Ups; HBD Billy, Chet, Hank, Terry and Steve

  • 1893 - Manager Billy Meyer was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. After his playing days and a long minor-league managing career, he became the Bucco skipper from 1948-52, with a dismal 317-452 record after a promising fourth place finish in his first year. In fact, the Yankees thought so highly of him that they asked if they could hire him after that season to replace Bucky Harris. NY was rebuffed and had to settle for Casey Stengel instead. After managing, Meyer scouted for the Bucs until 1955, and later had his jersey #1 retired.
Billy Meyer 1950 (photo Associated Press)
  • 1907- RHP Chet Brewer was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. While he pitched for a couple of dozen teams in the black leagues and Central America, the pitcher never toiled in Pittsburgh until his playing days were done. Brewer was a Pirates scout based in LA from 1957 to 1974 (he signed Dock Ellis) and later worked for the Major League Scouting Bureau, discovering players like Willie Crawford, George Hendrick, Eddie Murray, Reggie Smith and Roy White. His Chet Brewer Rookies program was the forerunner of MLB’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) project.
  • 1911 - RHP Hank Gornicki was born in Niagara Falls, NY. He pitched his final three seasons (1943-44, 1946) for the Bucs, with a two year break when he served during WW2. His slate as a Pirate was 14-19/3.38, and he was used primarily as a spot starter. He had a notable week in August of 1943. Gornicki won both ends of a doubleheader against Boston on the 17th, then lost both games of a twinbill on the 22nd against Brooklyn.
  • 1952 - LHP Terry Forster was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He came over in the Richie Zisk deal and like his trademate, Goose Gossage, worked one season in Pittsburgh and was released after slashing 6-4-1, 4.43. The FO may have given up on him too soon; the 25-year-old never became a closer like Goose, but did pitch nine more seasons and put up a lifetime ERA of 3.70, mainly as a set-up guy. And you didn’t have to worry about replacing him with a pinch hitter; he posted a .397 career BA.
Steve Cooke 1993 Flair
  • 1970 - LHP Steve Cooke was born in Lihue-Kauai, Hawaii. A 35th round draft pick in 1989, he spent five years with the Pirates (1992-97), going 26-36/4.31. 1993 looked like a breakout year when he went 10-10 with a 3.89 ERA and he was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team. But he had shoulder problems that surfaced in 1994, missed the 1995 season, and never again matched his rookie performance.
  • 1986 - The Pirates selected OF Moises Alou as the second overall pick in the draft, behind pitcher Jeff Shaw. He played two games for the Pirates in 1990 before being shipped to Montreal for Zane Smith. Moises went on to have a 17 year career, with six All-Star berths and a lifetime .303 BA. He’s the nephew of former Pirate Matty Alou and the cousin of former Bucco farmhand Mel Rojas, Jr.
  • 2008 - The Pirates re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a 1-year/$5M contract. He hit .270 with 25 homers, and was sent to Boston the following year. Baseball runs in his blood - literally. He’s the son of former MLB pitcher Dave and older brother of Andy, who is still bumping around in the minors.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Arb: Everyone Set But Tony & Weekly Notes

The big news this week are the arb settlements. Everyone's status but LHP Tony Watson's has been settled. The Bucs are generally a "file and trail" club that doesn't negotiate after the arb deadline, but it's thought that Tony and the FO may still be talking turkey. There's not a huge gap - Watson filed for $6M and the Pirates countered at $5.6M (per Jon Heyman) so it should be negotiable.

Tony Watson pitching for a raise (2014 Topps Update)

Reaching deals before the 1PM Friday deadline for filing were SS Jordy Mercer, RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Juan Nicasio,  RHP Jared Hughes, RHP Drew Hutchison and LHP Wade LeBlanc, who settled on his contract earlier in the off season. LHP Jeff Locke was non-tendered and signed off on a $3M agreement with Miami in December.

Cole, Nicasio and LeBlanc came in well under the expected price tag; the others were pretty much in the ballpark.  The estimated salary costs per Matt Schwartz of MLB Trade Rumors were:

  • Tony Watson - $5.9M ($5.6-6.0M TBD; $3.5M in 2016)
  • Juan Nicasio - $4.6M (2017 - $3.65M; $3M in 2016)
  • Jared Hughes - $2.5M (2017 - $2.825M; $2.175 M in 2016)
  • Jordy Mercer - $4.0M (2017 - $4.325M; $2.075M in 2016)
  • Drew Hutchison - $2.2M (2017 - $2.3M; $2.2M in 2016)
  • Wade LeBlanc - $1.6M (2017 - $800K; $750K in 2016)
  • Gerrit Cole - $4.2M (2017 - $3.75M; $541K in 2016)
Other News & Notes:
  • Michael Klopman of Sports on Earth suggests three upgrades for the 2017 Pirates.
Brandon is on the comeback trail (2015 Topps)
  • Pittsburgh has invited 19 more players not on the 40-man roster to camp. Most are prospects (with the usual overload of catchers) and include old buds Casey Saddler and Brandon Cumpton. Prior NRI's announced were Ps Josh Lindblom, Dan Runzler & Jason Stoffel along with OF Eury Perez.
  • Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs has his list of the Bucs Top 21 Prospects and a pretty thorough report on each player.
  • The Twins have agreed to a minor-league deal with RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Vogey, 39, posted a 3-7/4.81 line in 24 appearances (14 starts) with the Pirates in 2016.
  • Reliever Trey Haley, 26, signed a minor league deal w/the Orioles. The Pirates signed him from the Cleveland organization last January and had a strong camp but was among the late cuts. He was sent to Indy where he didn't pan out with a 5.76 ERA and was removed from the 40-man in June. Haley had a fast-track resume prior to last season, so we'll see if he has a bounce-back in him.
Trey Haley is taking it to Texas (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • The Marlins signed C Ramon Cabrera to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. He was in the Pirates system until 2012 when he was traded to Detroit for P Andy Oliver. Ramon has spent some time with the Reds in the past two seasons, appearing in 56 games w/.264 BA.
  • Another guy who the Bucs may have had some interest in, RHP Tyson Ross, has signed with Texas for one-year/$6M with bonuses. 
  • Pirates camp begins February 14th for pitchers and catchers; the rest of the squad is due in on the 17th.
  • In a mix of the historic and morbid, Uncovering PA has a guide to six Hall of Fame gravesites around the City.

1/13: Church, Wilson Inked; Kendall Deal Nixed; Dickson Deal; HBD Jud, Goat, Fred, Spades, Odell & Elmer

  • 1869 - 3B Jud Smith was born in Green Oaks, Michigan. He played off-and-on in the show for four seasons, spending 1896 and 1901 with the Pirates. He hit .268 but only got into 16 games over those two campaigns, though he was a part of the Pirates 1901 championship squad. It was Jud’s destiny to be a minor league depth player; he toiled for 15 years on farm clubs, batting over .300 several times.
  • 1880 - OF John “Goat” Anderson was born in Cleveland. He only played one year, 1908, in MLB, hitting .206 for the Pirates. But he was the regular RF’er and led off, with a .343 OBP and good baserunning skills. It wasn’t the lack of reaching base that did in the 27-year-old rookie; Goat developed arm problems and played his remaining ball in the minors through 1913. His nickname’s origin we can only speculate on, but we suspect it was because Anderson was small (his vitals aren’t listed, but he was compared to 5’4” Wee Willie Keeler, due to both hitting style and physique) aggressive (both on the bases and in the field) and stubborn, as he’d argue with anyone from umpires to his own manager.
Fred Schulte 1936 (photo Conlon Collection/Getty Images)
  • 1901 - OF Fred Schulte was born in Belvidere, Illinois. He was an 11-year MLB vet, and spent his last two campaigns in Pittsburgh in 1936-37, batting .248 (his lifetime BA was .291) and then released by the club at the age of 36. He managed and coached afterward in the minor leagues until 1946. Fred was also a scout for the Reds, White Sox, Indians, and Braves from 1947-64.
  • 1909 - Charles “Spades” Wood was born in Spartanburg SC. The lefty twirled for two years in Pittsburgh, from 1930-31, mostly as a starter, and went 6-9, 5.61. He had a little problem with the strike zone, walking 78 in 122 IP while fanning just 56. JC Bradbury of SABR explained his moniker: “Wood earned his nickname from a 13 spades bridge hand he was dealt on a Sunday, which resulted in his expulsion (from his school, Wofford College) - playing bridge on Sunday was not allowed.”
  • 1953 - RHP Odell Jones was born in Tulare, California. Jones had several stints with the Bucs, starting out in 1975, spending a year in the minors and returning from 1977-78, then coming back via trade in 1981. He went 9-12/4.28, splitting his time between the pen and starting. The fastballer last pitched in the show in 1988; his final hurrah was in 1992 when he finished in the Mexican League.
Murry Dickson 1950 (photo Conlon Collection/Getty Images)
  • 1954 - The Pirates traded workhorse P Murry Dickson, a 1953 NL All-Star, to the Phils for P Andy “Swede” Hansen, IF Jack "Lucky" Lohrke and cash estimated in the $70-80,000 range. Dickson won 62 more games until he retired in 1959, while neither Hansen or Lohre ever suited up for Pittsburgh (or any other MLB club); both were sent to the top Bucco farm team, the Hollywood Stars. Dickson was a victim of a Branch Rickey payroll dump; both he and Ralph Kiner were traded, trimming $115,000 of Bucco salary. Swede’s moniker was because of his Scandinavian heritage (he was actually a Dane). Lucky came by his nickname honestly; by the time he was 22, he had at least six close calls with the Reaper. Several were in WW2 combat, another in a plane wreck and yet another in a bus crash.
  • 1971 - RHP Elmer Dessens was born in Hermosillo, Mexico. He started out with the Bucs, pitching from the bullpen from 1996-98 with a 2-8/6.12 slash. He went to Japan the following year, then came back to toss in the MLB through the 2010 season, wearing eight different uniforms, including two stops with the Mets.
  • 2004 - The Padres and Bucs had a deal set up that would send C Jason Kendall to San Diego for C Ramon Hernandez and 3B Jeff Cirillo. While SD GM Kevin Towers was a big Kendall fan (this was the fourth different proposal he offered during the off season to get him in the Padre fold), Friar ownership had a late change of heart and killed the proposed swap, leery of taking on the $42M still owed to Kendall over the next four seasons. Jason was moved after the season to the Oakland A’s.
Craig Wilson 2005 Topps Cracker Jack
  • 2006 - OF Craig Wilson avoided arbitration by signing a $3.3M contract in what would be his last Bucco season as he was dealt to the Yankees at the 2006 deadline. He played for the Pirates from 2001-06, hitting .268 with 94 HR.
  • 2010 - Ryan Church inked a $1.5M, one-year deal with the Bucs. The 31-year old outfielder was expected to be the Bucs' fourth outfielder, behind Brandon Moss, Andrew McCutchen, and Lastings Milledge. Instead, Church hit .182 and was traded to Arizona at the deadline in what was his final MLB season.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

1/12: HBD Ed, Big Ed, Rich & Ivan; Cover Boy & HoF'er Willie; Fisher Signs

  • 1859 - C/1B Ed Swartwood was born in Rockford, Illinois. Swartwood played for the Alleghenys from 1882-84 and then spent his last big league season as a Pirate in 1892. He put up some good numbers, including a .322 BA in Pittsburgh. In 1882 he led the American Association with 86 runs, 18 doubles, and 159 total bases, then went on to become the league batting champion in 1883 with a .357 average. Swartwood married a Pittsburgh gal in 1883 while with the Alleghenys and became an Allegheny County sheriff when he was done with baseball (he also umped for a spell after his playing career). He was buried in North Side’s Union Dale cemetery after he passed on in 1924.
  • 1925 - 1B Big Ed Stevens (actually, a modest 6’1”, 190 lbs, but that was king-sized in the forties) was born in Galveston, Texas. The Pirates got him from Brooklyn when he was bumped off the bag by a rookie named Jackie Robinson. He replaced Hank Greenberg at first for a season in Pittsburgh, then spent his final two campaigns (1948-50; .253 Pirates BA) on the bench. Big Ed didn’t hit it big in the MLB, but was a minor league legend. In 16 farm seasons spanning 1941-61, Stevens belted 257 home runs and drove in 1,013 runs on his way to being named to the International League Hall of Fame. After his retirement, he scouted for the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s.
Ed Stevens 1949 Bowman
  • 1972 - RH reliever Rich Loiselle was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. He tossed his entire career of six seasons (1996-2001) for the Bucs, and went 9-18-49/4.38 during that span. Loiselle was the Bucco closer in 1997-98 when he picked up 48 of his 49 career saves. He struggled after that, having both control and elbow problems.
  • 1980 - Willie Stargell was featured on the cover of The Sporting News after being selected as TSN’s Man of the Year. Pops hit 32 homers in 1979 and added five more in the post season, winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards.
  • 1987 - RHP Ivan Nova was born in Palenque, Dominican Republic. After seven years with the Yankees, he joined Pittsburgh when the Bucs sent minor leaguers OF Tito Polo and LHP Stephen Tarpley to the Bronx Bombers at the deadline for him. In 11 starts, Nova went 5-2, 3.07 and the FO lured him back again as a free agent with a three year/$26M deal.
  • 1988 - Willie Stargell was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA‚ and the 17th player elected in his first year of eligibility. Cap'n Willie was inducted on August 1st. His Pirate slash was .282/.360/.529 with 475 HR and 1,540 RBI. Ralph Kiner is second on the Bucco list of homers; he hit 301.
Brian Fisher 1988 Topps
  • 1989 - The Bucs signed RHP Brian Fisher, 26, to a one year, $404K contract to avoid arbitration. Pittsburgh had the fireballer penciled into their rotation for the third straight year after coming over from the Yankees but he broke his knee in 1989 and only made three starts; Brian would pitch just 26 more times before retiring in 1993. They also bought the contract of C Tom Prince from AAA as they began to form their 1989 club.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

1/11: HBD Bill, Silver, Max, Mickey, Lloyd Jemaine & Warren; DH Adopted; Cutch Cover Boy

  • 1867 - 3B Bill Niles was born in Covington, Kentucky. He only played 11 games in Pittsburgh in 1895, hitting .216, and never landed in the show again, but he did have an interesting journey. He was cut by the Pirates in 1894, and NL clubs Cleveland and Washington put in claims for him while a handful of minor league clubs offered him a deal. Apparently intrigued enough by Niles’ potential to not want to lose him to a league foe, manager Connie Mack took him off waivers and loaned him to Milwaukee, then in the minor Western League, for the year. Mack brought Bill back to the Bucs for the next campaign. He was sent back to the farm after the season and toiled in the minors through 1901.
Silver King (photo via SABR)
  • 1868 - P Silver King was born in St. Louis. King only played one season in Pittsburgh, but it was a big deal when he signed. King won 110 games from 1888-90 and signed with the Pirates for $5,000, becoming the highest paid player in the game. The investment fizzled; the Bucs got a 14-29 record (although he wasn’t all that bad; he made 44 starts and tossed 384 innings to a 3.11 ERA). But problems were looming. The Bucs released him, and the early sidewinder had one more good year with the Giants before the rules committee chopped him down to size. He threw sidearm from the far right of the pitcher’s circle, making the ball appear to be launched from third base. In 1893, the rubber was introduced and he lost his territorial advantage, never posting an ERA south of four afterward. His nom de guerre is combination nickname and writer’s Anglicizing: His real name was Charles Koenig, but his prematurely white hair gave him the nickname of Silver; King was the English translation of Koenig.
  • 1890 - Hall of Fame OF Max Carey was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He played 17 seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a .287 BA while stealing 688 bases, leading the NL in that category 10 times. He was at his best during the 1925 World Series, hitting .458 as the Pirates dethroned the Washington Senators and Walter “Big Train” Johnson in seven games.
  • 1890 - 1B Mickey Keliher was born in Washington DC. He spent his two-year MLB career in Pittsburgh, striking out five times in seven at bats. Mickey was a career minor leaguer; he spent 18 years on the farm, where unlike his major league performance he hit .304 lifetime. He was a player/manager for his last three MiLB campaigns before dying young after a car accident.
Lloyd McClendon 1993 Topps
  • 1959 - Utilityman and later manager Lloyd McClendon was born in Gary, Indiana. McClendon spent five years (1990-94) as a player in Pittsburgh where he hit .251, mainly off the bench. He was named Buc manager in 2001, and in his five seasons as skipper, McClendon compiled a 336–446 record and famously “stole” a base. A side note: In 1971, as a 12-year old, McClendon earned the nickname "Legendary Lloyd" when he hit five home runs in five at bats, all on the first pitch, and was walked in his other five plate appearances in the three games he played in the Little League World Series.
  • 1972 - OF Jermaine Allensworth was born in Anderson, Indiana. Allensworth spent the first 2-1/2 years of his four-year career as a Bucco, hitting .272 from 1996-98 and seeing considerable time in the pasture; he even was portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Tracy Morgan in 1997. He was traded to KC for a minor leaguer, and they moved him to the Mets. His bat went cold and he was out of MLB after the 1999 season, playing a couple of years on the farm followed by a long stint of indy ball.
  • 1973 - This is a red letter day in baseball history. The owners voted to allow the AL to use a designated hitter, drawing a line in the sand that still exists between the junior and senior circuits. On April 6th, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first regular season DH in major-league history, drawing a bases-loaded walk off the Red Sox’s Luis Tiant.
Warren Morris 2000 Pacific Invincible
  • 1974 - 2B Warren Morris was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. He made his major league debut in 1999, going from non-roster invitee in spring training to starting second baseman early in the season for the Bucs. Morris had a sharp rookie campaign, hitting .288 with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and earning a spot on the 1999 Topps All-Star Rookie team at second base. It went downhill fast, and the Pirates released him before the 2002 season; his last MLB campaign was in 2003 and he formally retired in 2006.
  • 2013 - Andrew McCutchen was voted to be the cover athlete on the baseball video game “MLB 13: The Show.” Cutch gathered 108,147 votes from fans via Twitter and Facebook, while NY Yankees' pitcher CC Sabathia came in second place with 89,054 votes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

1/10: HBD Cliff & Bo, Negro League Established, Bing Double Dips, Rex the Scout

  • 1922 - LHP Cliff Chambers was born in Portland, Oregon. He worked for the Bucs between 1949-51, going 28-28 with a 4.33 ERA. But he had a shining moment: On May 6th, 1951, Chambers pitched a no-hitter (albeit with eight walks) for the Pirates, beating the Boston Braves 3-0 for the second no-no in franchise history (the first was Nick Maddox’s 1907 gem v Brooklyn).
  • 1926 - SS George “Bo” Strickland was born in New Orleans. The Pirates got him from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, and he played for the Bucs from 1950-52, helping to mentor a young Dick Groat. He hit .199 over that span, and then was traded to the Indians, where he lasted eight more seasons, several as a starting SS and manning the middle for the 1954 AL championship club. Strickland was a solid glove guy; he hit over .238 just once in his 10 year MLB career. Bo got his nickname as a kid; he was always covered with scrapes and cuts, and all those “boo-boos” earned him the moniker Bobo, which was shortened to Bo as he grew up.
Bo Strickland 1952 Bowman
  • 1933 - The second Negro National League was established in 1933, two years after the original Negro National League (NNL) folded. It consisted of seven teams: the Baltimore Black Sox, Cole's American Giants, Columbus Blue Birds, Detroit Stars, Homestead Grays, Nashville Elite Giants and Pittsburgh Crawfords. Homestead was expelled early in the first season for raiding Detroit's roster, but remained an associate club until 1935, when they were reinstated as a full member once again. They held on until the league’s end in 1949, while the Crawfords disbanded after the 1938 season. Each local club claimed two NNL titles, with Pittsburgh earning two more half-season crowns in the league’s earliest years.
  • 1957 - Rex Bowen became the Pirates scouting supervisor, replacing George Sisler. Bowen, who started with the Brooklyn Dodgers - he signed Maury Wills - joined the Pirates as a scout in 1950 and inked the 17-year-old Bill Mazeroski in 1954. Rex also signed Dick Groat, Gene Michael, Bruce Dal Canton and Gene Freese before joining the Reds in 1968. He was recognized by Baseball America as one of the top ten baseball scouts of the 20th century. Rex’s brother Joe and grandson Jack also worked in the Bucco scouting department.
Bing Crosby 1948 (photo Loomis Dean/Life Magazine)
  • 1957 - Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Bing Crosby could keep his 5% share of the Detroit Tigers, even though he was also a minority owner (16%) of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The dual ownership never became an issue as he sold his shares in both teams by the early sixties. Bing liked keeping his hand in baseball; he also owned shares in the minor-league Hollywood Stars until 1957, when the club was sold, while a Pirates owner.

Monday, January 9, 2017

1-9: Forbes Field a Hit, Burleigh Traded, Jeromy's Big Deal, Dirt Passes Away

  • 1910 - Dreyfuss’ Folly, Forbes Field, drew some raves from the local press after a busy debut season. The Pittsburgh Press noted that “...from its opening to the end of football season, Forbes Field drew nearly one million fans...nothing even approaching this record was ever made at any other athletic venue.” Half the crowd was attracted by baseball; the remainder filled the seats for football, track meets, hippodrome events, police drills, and even a Communion service as the Oakland ballyard quickly become Pittsburgh’s big-event host.
  • 1918 - The Pirates traded P Burleigh Grimes to the Brooklyn Robins along with P Al Mamaux and SS Chuck Ward for 2B George Cutshaw and OF Casey Stengel, who was making his second stop at Pittsburgh. Hall of Famer Grimes went on to win 158 games in nine seasons with Brooklyn. The Bucs top prize was Cutshaw, who manned second for Pittsburgh for four years, hitting .275 and providing solid up-the-middle defense.
The Ol' Perfesser returns to Pittsburgh 1918 (photo via RMY Auctions)
  • 2006 - 37-year-old OF Jeromy Burnitz was officially signed to the Pirates richest free agent contract to date, a $6M deal with a 2007 mutual option worth $6M/$700K buyout. The option didn’t come into play - he hit .230 for Pittsburgh during 2006, his last year in the majors as the Pirates opted not to renew his contract. The following spring, Burnitz announced his retirement after 14 seasons during which he logged 315 HR and 981 RBI while playing for seven teams.
  • 2014 - Steve “Dirt” DiNardo, who had been the head groundskeeper at Three Rivers Stadium after starting as a part-timer at Forbes Field in 1961 (he retired in 1994), passed away at the age of 82. Dirt was legendary for his tricks, once alleged to have lowered the bullpen mounds of heated rivals, the Cincinnati Reds, when they were in town along with many feats of homerism on behalf of the Steelers.