Sunday, October 22, 2017

10/22: HBD Jughandle, Possum, Hat, Wilbur, Keith, Brian & Alen; Clint MoY, Cutch AS, Scrap Iron SI; Clines for Dyer; WS Forerunner

  • 1885 - Pittsburgh hosted a world series that it wasn’t even part of. The 1885 World Series was an ad hoc post-season playoff roadshow between the NL champion Chicago White Stockings and American Association champion St. Louis Browns, played in four different cities. The fifth game was played at Recreation Park in Pittsburgh. The weather was cold and fewer than 500 people were present. Chicago won 9-2 in a shortened game that was called after seven innings because of darkness. 
  • 1895 - RHP “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison was born in Pellville, Kentucky. He worked eight seasons (1920-27) for the Pirates with an 89-71 record and 3.52 ERA. In 1921, he was part of a Pirate brother act when sib Phil made the roster. Jughandle twice led the senior circuit in shutouts with three in 1921 and five in 1922. His best campaign was in 1923 when he was 25-13/3.49 w/301 IP. He led the NL in outings in 1924 with 41 and again in 1925 with 44. In 1925, Johnny was 17-14 for the pennant-winning Pirates and pitched three games in the World Series against the Washington Senators without a decision, striking out seven in 9-⅓ frames. He got his nickname from his sweeping curve that bent like a jughandle. 
Johnny Morrison 1922 (photo Bain/Library of Congress)
  • 1916 - Announcer Jim Woods was born in Kansas City. He was a sidekick of Bob Prince at KDKA from 1958-69, where he was known as "The Possum." Woods worked for the Yankees, Giants and NBC before coming to Pittsburgh, moving later to the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox, then finishing his career as an announcer for the USA Network's Thursday Night Baseball games. Woods picked up his nickname of "Possum" while with New York. He had a slight overbite and close-cropped hair, and as he walked into the clubhouse fresh from a haircut, Enos Slaughter (or perhaps Whitey Ford; they're both suspects), looked him over and said, "I've seen better heads on a possum." Bob Prince picked up on the nickname, and the Gunner's wife Betty would even introduce Woods’ spouse Audrey as “Mrs. Possum.” 
  • 1916 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Walker was hired in 1965 to replace Danny Murtaugh, who stepped down for health reasons. The Pirates contended for the pennant during the 1965 and 1966 seasons, finishing third behind the left-coast one-two punch of the champion Los Angeles Dodgers and runner-up San Francisco Giants. But when the 1967 Pirates stumbled to a .500 mark in mid-season, Walker was let go in favor of his predecessor, Murtaugh. He did leave his mark, though, as an offensive mind on the organization. Walker got his nickname from his habit of constantly tugging on his cap between pitches during his playing days. 
  • 1941 - RHP Wilbur Wood was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The knuckleballer spent four years with Boston and 1964-65 w/Pittsburgh (1-3/3.18 in 37 games), never finding a spot while mixing his regular stuff with the dancer. He was traded to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. That’s where Hoyt Wilhelm convinced him into converting into a straight knuckleball tosser and his career took off. He made 292 relief appearances over four years for Chicago and then flipped to the rotation, where he made 40> starts for five straight years, work 300+ IP for four of those seasons and also won 20+ games four times (he won 16 times & threw 291 IP in 1975). He ended his 17-year career in 1978 at age 37 with 651 appearances (297 starts), 164 wins, a 3.24 ERA and 52.2 WAR. 
Wilbur Wood 1965 Topps
  • 1968 - C Keith Osik was born in Port Jefferson, NY. Osik played for the Bucs from 1996-2002 as a catcher and all around utility guy, even pitching twice in blowout games while hitting .231. He’s been a successful head baseball coach since 2008 at Farmingdale State College, a Division III school located on Long Island. 
  • 1974 - The Pirates traded OF Gene Clines to the New York Mets for C Duffy Dyer. Dyer was a Pirate reserve for four years, mostly playing behind Manny Sanguillen. Clines didn’t do much for the Mets, but still had a couple of decent seasons left in him before hanging up the spikes after the 1979 season. 
  • 1979 - Phil Garner was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated during SI’s WS coverage. He was a great choice, hitting .500 (12-for-24) in the October Classic, banging out four doubles, scoring four runs and driving home five. 
  • 1982 - Utility man Brian Bixler was born in Sandusky, Ohio. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2004 MLB draft from Eastern Michigan U. Bix looked good in the minors and even made Team USA in 2007. He got 68 yo-yo games between 2008-09 to show his stuff, but hit just .189 for Pittsburgh. The Bucs traded him to Cleveland; then the Tribe sold him back to the Pirates and 11 minor-league games later Pittsburgh sold him to the Nats. BB played a bit for Washington and the ‘Stros, then hung ‘em up after the 2014 season after playing in the Padre system.
Brian Bixler 2009 Topps
  • 1992 - Utilityman Alen Hanson was born in La Romana, Dominican Republic. A prize 2B prospect (his development allowed the Bucs to let Dilson Herrera go in a trade), his bat and glove never quite matched the hype. In two call-ups with the Pirates in 2016-17, he was seldom used and produced little (92 PAs, .205 BA). Out of options, the Pirates waived him in June of 2017 and he was claimed by the White Sox. Alen hit .231 for them, playing five positions plus DH while swiping nine bases in 11 tries. 
  • 2013 - The Sporting News named Clint Hurdle NL Manager of the Year after he led the Pirates to playoffs after breaking a 20-year string of losing seasons with a 90 win campaign. The Bucs won the NL Wild Card Game against the Reds before dropping a five game series against the NL Central champs St Louis in the 2013 NLDS. 
  • 2014 - CF Andrew McCutchen was the only Pirate named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team. 3B Josh Harrison & 2B Neil Walker were runner-ups, while C Russ Martin and LHP Tony Watson were also in the zip code, finishing third at their positions.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

10/21: HBD Pap, Ding-Dong, Ron & Marc; Comeback Club; AVS FA; Giusti/Rocketts Deal; Kiner AS

  • 1917 - LHP Frank “Pap” Papish was born in Pueblo, Colorado. Frank worked five post-war years from 1945-49 pretty effectively for the White Sox and Indians, but his effort to squeeze out one more campaign in Pittsburgh fell way short. The 32-year-old southpaw retired just seven of the 19 batters he faced, compiled a 27.00 ERA and was sent to AAA, where he rebounded for the remainder of 1950 but from ‘51-53 couldn’t put up an ERA south of five, retiring from pro ball at 35.
  • 1933 - RHP Bill “Ding Dong” Bell was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Bell was one of two professional pitchers to throw three no-hitters in the same season (1952) as a member of Pirates affiliate Bristol in the Class D Appalachian League. Success there didn’t translate into a MLB career, though. Ding Dong was given a September call up at age 18 in ‘52 and resurfaced again briefly in 1955, going 0-1, 4.32 lifetime for the Bucs. He had a well deserved rep as a wild child on the hill, walking 14 during his 16-⅔ IP in the show.
Ron Davis 1969 Topps
  • 1941 - OF Ron Davis was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. He ended his five-year MLB run, mainly spent with Houston, with Pittsburgh in 1969, batting .234 primarily as a pinch hitter after coming over from St. Louis in the Tommie Sisk/Chris Cannizzaro deal. Davis finished out his pro days with two more seasons in AAA before retiring.
  • 1947 - In its second-ever MLB All-Star team, the Associated Press named Pirates OF Ralph Kiner to the 10-man squad. Ralph had some pretty sweet company in the pasture, joining Ted Williams and Joe Di Maggio while earning a spot by hitting .313 with 51 HR and 127 RBI. Oddly enough, he didn’t garner a spot on the NL-AS team, but did begin a six-year AS run the following season.
  • 1969 - RHP Dave Giusti and C Dave Ricketts came over from from St. Louis for 1B/OF Carl Taylor and OF Frank Vanzin. Giusti spent seven years in the Buc bullpen and earned 133 saves, marking his trade as one of the Buccos shrewder deals. Ricketts didn’t have a lot of on-field impact (he hit .182 in his only Bucco season) as a player, but was a popular clubhouse figure. He played basketball at Duquesne with his brother Dick and coached in Pittsburgh from 1971-73 before returning to the Cards as a long time field coach and catching mentor.
Marc Wilkins 1997 Ultra
  • 1970 - RHP Marc Wilkins was born in Mansfield, Ohio. He spent his entire six season MLB career (1996-2001) as a Bucco reliever (he started two games as a rookie), putting up a line of 19-14-3/4.28 and appearing in 70 outings during 1997. It was actually a pretty strong run for a guy who Pittsburgh selected in the 47th round of the 1992 draft. The U of Toledo product is now a financial advisor in Mansfield, Ohio.
  • 1994 - Andy Van Slyke became a free agent. In his eight years (1987-94) with Pittsburgh, he slashed .283/.353/.458 and was a three-time All Star. But at 34 and with a bad back, he managed a one year/$700K deal with the Baltimore Orioles only after a spring training audition. He played sparingly for them and was traded to Philly; he got into just 80 games total and was done after the 1995 campaign.
  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02) was named The Sporting News “Comeback Player of the Year” for 2013. Frankie had posted ERA’s north of 5 in three of his four prior seasons but sparkled for the Bucs. The runner up was RHP Mark Melancon, the Bucs set-up/closer arm, and third place went to OF Marlon Byrd, who the Pirates picked up from the NY Mets during the stretch run in late August.

Friday, October 20, 2017

10/20: HBD Jocko, Jerry & Jose; Barnstorming, QB or Ps?

  • 1864 - UT John “Jocko” Fields was born in Cork, Ireland. Jocko played everything on the field (mainly OF & C), hitting .265 as a member of the Alleghenys (1887-88), the Burghers of the Players’ League (1889) and the Pirates in 1890. 
Jocko Fields 1887-90 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1888 - In what may have been the first and surely the grandest international barnstorming tour ever undertaken, Albert Spaulding, with a team of Chicago players (including Mark “Fido” Baldwin & John Tener, who would later pitch in Pittsburgh) and and “All-America” team (The Allegheny’s Fred Miller was on that nine along with future OF/manager Ned Hanlon), left Chicago and played exhibitions in the US West, then took a liner to play in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Ceylon, Egypt, Italy, France England, Scotland and Ireland before getting back home for more exhibitions, finally wrapping it up 53 games later on April 20th, 1889. 
  • 1961 - Ump Jerry Meals was born in Butler. He began umping in the eighties, came up on a fill-in basis in 1992 and became a regular member of the blue crew in 1998; he’s been a crew chief since 2015. Jerry has worked the WBC, two AS games, nine division/league championship series and a WS. Meals has had his share of controversial calls, including the missed play at the plate against the Braves in 2012 that began the Pirates spin around the drain and began the “Jerry Meals says he’s safe” meme. He lives in southeast Ohio just across the PA state line and graduated from Salem HS (OH).
  • 1970 - Dan Marino and John Elway weren’t the only pro football quarterbacks that had baseball scouts sniffing around them. UPI reported that the Pirates, along with the Yankees, Mets and Reds, had contacted Notre Dame QB Joe Theismann to gauge his interest in MLB. The 3B was coy, saying that he’d be interested if his football career didn’t pan out. He did end up drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the 1971 draft, but that gridiron thing did pan out for Joe, even with time in the CFL and that brutal leg-snapping NFL finale. 
Jose Veras 2011 (photo Justin Aller/Getty)
  • 1980 - RHP Jose Veras was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jose tossed for nine years and eight teams, stopping in Pittsburgh during the 2011 campaign, going 2-4-1, 3.80 in 79 appearances. The reliever was last sighted pitching in the Indy leagues in 2016 and out of work during the past campaign.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

10/19: HBD Tom M. Tom L, Don, Rimp, Joey Bats, Raj, James & John; Hat Becomes Manager

  • 1874 - OF Tom McCreery was born in Beaver. The local kid played from 1898-1900 for the Pirates, batting .303. Tom became the only player in major league history to hit three inside-the-park homers in a single game in 1897 as a Louisville Colonel. He later became head baseball coach at Pitt for the 1912 season. He lived out his days in his hometown, and stayed connected to the game by running the semi-pro Rochester Athletics. 
  • 1897 - OF Tom Lovelace was born in Wolfe City, Texas. Tom was a minor league vet, playing on the farm from 1920-1932, and he got one at-bat in the majors, with the Pirates in September of 1922, resulting in a ninth-inning lineout. He and a handful of other youngsters who were on the roster didn’t get to see much time; though the Pirates faded from the pennant chase of the Giants, they were involved in a three-way battle for second-place money. They might as well have played the kids; they finished tied for third with St. Louis, a game behind second-place Cincinnati. 
Don Leppert 1962 Topps
  • 1931 - C Don Leppert was born in Indianapolis. He had a brief four year MLB career as a reserve catcher, starting with Pittsburgh in 1961-62 and batting .266. But he made the record books by hitting a homerun on the first pitch thrown to him in the show on June 18th, 1961, against Curt Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals in a 5-3 Bucco win. Leppert managed the Pirates’ Class A Gastonia club in 1967 and then served as a MLB coach for Pittsburgh from 1968–1976. 
  • 1948 - OF/3B Lorenzo “Rimp” Lanier was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Pirates drafted him out of high school in the 37th round of 1967 and sent him to Salem. He hit well for the next three seasons, albeit without much power, and got a September look for the powerhouse 1971 Bucs, going 0-for-4 in six games. His star dimmed after that; he was sent down in 1972, had trouble with AAA pitching & his fielding, and he left baseball after the 1973 campaign at age 24. 
  • 1964 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was named manager of the Pirates, replacing Danny Murtaugh after an 80-82 season and sixth place finish in the NL. After a couple of competitive seasons, he was let go in 1967 and replaced by...Danny Murtaugh. 
Jose Bautista 2007 Upper Deck
  • 1980 - 3B/OF Jose Bautista was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He played for the Bucs from 2004-08, and hit .241 with 43 HR during that time before being traded to Toronto in 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Joey Bats blossomed after becoming a Blue Jay, leading the AL in homers and RBI twice; Diaz, well, not so much. 
  • 1980 - OF Rajai Davis was born in Norwich, Connecticut. Raj was a late round pick in 2001 by the Bucs. He showed speed and a pretty good stick in the minors, but was always one step behind guys like Chris Duffy, Nyjer Morgan and Nate McLouth. He got parts of two years with the Pirates, seeing action in 44 games and hitting .242 before being traded for Giants’ P Matt Morris in 2007 in a deal that greased the skids for Dave Littlefield. Since then, Davis has played for six more teams with a .265 lifetime BA and 367 stolen bases over 12 years. 
  • 1984 - RHP James McDonald was born in Long Beach, California. The righty came to Pittsburgh in 2010 as part of the Octavio Dotel deal, and was an up-and-down member of the rotation until 2013, going 27-24/4.21 in his Pirate years. J-Mac had a breakout campaign in 2012 until after the All-Star break when the wheels fell off, and he never recovered. 
John Holdzkom 2015 Topps
  • 1987 - RHP John Holdzkom was born in Pasadena, California. After extreme control issues cost him his gig in the Mets system, Holdzkom was pitching indy ball when scout Mal Fichman signed him to a contract with the Pirates in 2014. Big John zipped through the minors and got a September call-up, striking out the side in his first outing and finishing the year with a line of 1-0/2.00 with 14 K in 9 innings. He was sent back to the minor leagues to start the 2015 season, where nagging injuries and inconsistency with control, mixed with him being on the gray side at age 28, kept him on the farm. He had a brutal offseason; his brother Lincoln died in a car crash in December and he was DFA’ed in April of 2016. The White Sox signed him to a minor league deal but released him after six games and he’s been on the outside since then.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

10/18: WS Sidebars; Cash for Brett; Cup Loss; HBD Cliff, Hans 2, Frenchy, Phil, George & Andy

  • 1859 - OF Cliff Carroll was born in Clay Grove, Iowa. Cliff closed out the first half of his career in 1888 with Pittsburgh, playing in five games and hitting 0-for-20. He was playing through some health issues and wouldn’t reappear until 1890 after a brief retirement to his farm. He played for four more campaigns, three quite solidly, before retiring with 11 years in the show. Cliff also influenced the design of baseball jerseys. In his day, the shirts had a pocket, and he had a ball that took a strange hop and got stuck in his. It caused some embarrassment on the field and his owner fined him over the play, leading to some bitterness between the club and Carroll. The ugly incident led his squad, the St. Louis Browns, to eliminate the pocket from their uniforms and the rest of the league followed suit. Earlier in his career, Carroll had been shot at by a fan he had squirted with a hose during pre-game warmups (it seemed to be the result of heckling repaid with horseplay). The bullet missed him and grazed SS Joe Mulvey, who was uninjured. 
Hans reunion 1938 (Transcendental Graphics/Getty)
  • 1881 - IF John “Hans” Lobert was born in Wilmington, Delaware. His family moved to Pittsburgh (Lobert went to Carnegie Tech) and he played for the semi-pro Pittsburgh Athletic Association nine, but went unnoticed until the PAA was playing in Atlantic City at the same time Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was vacationing at the shore. He signed Lobert with the Bucs for a September 1903 audition when the team was running away with the pennant. He played everywhere after the Pirates had clinched, but the biggest impression he made was on Honus Wagner, who dubbed Lobert “Hans Number Two.” The pair remained friends throughout their lives. Lobert went to the minors for a year of seasoning, then spent the next 13 campaigns in the show with four different clubs, hitting .274 with 361 stolen bases. Lobert was noted for his fleet feet; he once defeated Jim Thorpe in a 100-yard dash. Hans #2 retired at the age of 35 in 1917, led West Point baseball for eight years and then coached, managed the Phils for a year and scouted until he passed away at the age of 86. 
  • 1886 - RHP George “Frenchy” LeClaire was born in Milton, Vermont. He spent his career largely with the Pittsburgh Rebels of the outlaw Federal League from 1914-15, going 6-4, 3.81 in 36 games, 10 as a starter. After starting 1915 with the Rebels, he finished the campaign with Buffalo and Baltimore. When the league folded, Frenchy’s major league career came to an end.
  • 1894 - RHP Phil Morrison was born in Rockport, Indiana. His MLB career consisted of ⅔ IP for the Pirates in 1921, but with that appearance he became one of the early Pirate family acts, joining his brother, pitcher “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison, on that season’s stat sheet. 
  • 1900 - The Brooklyn Superbas won the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup three games to one with a 4-1 win at Exposition Park as Joe McGinnity bested Sam Leever. The series was a challenge match sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph (bought by the Pittsburgh Press in 1924) between the top two NL teams in an era before post-season games. It was a fruitful learning experience for the runner-up Pirates, which went on to win the next three NL pennants and played in the first World Series in 1903. The Brooklyn club didn’t win another playoff set until 1955, when they claimed the World Series title as the Dodgers. 
George Hendricks 1985 Topps Traded
  • 1949 - OF George Hendrick was born in Los Angeles. The Pirates got him as part of the John Tudor deal with St Louis during the 1984 off season, but Hendrick hit just .230 with two homers in ‘85 and was sent to Angels at the deadline. He was nicknamed "Silent George" because he never spoke to the media. After his 18 year career ended, he landed coaching gigs with the Cards, Dodgers, Angels and Tampa Bay, where he still works as an advisor to the GM. 
  • 1951 - LHP Andy Hassler was born in Texas City, Texas. The veteran Hassler signed a six-year/$750K contract with the Bucs in 1979. It lasted for six outings and a 3.86 ERA before he was sent to California in June where he strung together three solid campaigns with the Haloes. He mostly struggled his last three seasons with the Angels & Cards, retiring after the deal expired to end a 14-year career. 
  • 1960 - Cause and effect: a little blowback from Maz’s home run took place when the Yankees let go of manager Casey Stengel, supposedly because he had passed the newly mandated Yankee mandatory retirement age of 65. The Ol’ Perfesser, who amassed a 1149-696 (.623) record while capturing ten AL pennants and seven World Series Championships in his 12 years at the NYY helm, said "Resigned, fired, quit, discharged, use whatever you damn please. I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again." His counterpart, Danny Murtaugh (The Whistling Irishman was just 42 years old), still had 11 seasons with a couple of service breaks and another WS title yet to be added to his Pirates resume. 
Ken Brett 1974 Topps
  • 1973 - The Pirates shipped 2B Dave Cash to Philadelphia in exchange for LHP Ken Brett. Cash was being phased out for Rennie Stennett, but still had seven years and three All-Star games left in him. Brett went 22-14 with a 3.32 ERA for Pittsburgh in two seasons and made an All-Star team before an elbow injury slowed him down, and like Cash still had a long shelf life. He pitched seven more years after leaving the Pirates, although he wasn’t really effective again after 1976. 
  • 1979 - Chuck Tanner returned to hometown New Castle 12 hours after the Pirates had won the World Series in Baltimore to bury his mom. She passed away before Game 5 with the Pirates down three games to one, and Chuck told his players in a quiet locker room before the contest that "My mother is a great Pirates fan. She knows we're in trouble, so she went upstairs to get some help." Tanner was quite close to his mom, but he insisted on managing through the series because he knew she would have wanted him to see it through. Judging by the results, that extra angel in the outfield sure proved handy. 
  • 1979 - Congressman Doug Walgren ate high off the hog thanks to the Pirates World Series win. Maryland congresswoman Barbara Mikulski paid off her losing bet with crabs, sausage and pastries while Ohio rep Tom Luken brought in some Cincinnati chili dogs after being dunned for the Reds NLCS defeat. Walgren sported a Pirates cap all day, and his phone’s background music was “We Are Fam-A-Lee.” Senator Richard Schweiker also got in on the action and was served a regional delicacy, Maryland beaten biscuits, by MD lawmaker Charles Mathias.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

10/17: Birds Plucked in '71 & '79; Bravos Win '91 NLCS; HBD Kid, Pop, Pete, Ravelo, Mark & Chris, Banny Goes; Cup Win

  • 1870 - LHP George “Kid” Nicol was born in Barry, Illinois. George was called up from the semi-pro ranks to pitch for St Louis (he was 19 years old, hence “Kid”) of the American Association, and he began his career with a no-hitter (seven innings, nine walks) and a one-hitter over five frames. With the demise of the Player’s League that season, there were more players than roster spots around baseball so the Kid went to the minors despite that opening spurt. He got a couple of more shots in the majors, with Pittsburgh giving him the ball eight times (five starts) in 1894, with Nicol going 3-4, 6.50 and giving up 57 hits and 33 walks in 44-⅓ IP. He had a curve that baffled lesser hitters but looked like a beach ball to better stickmen and control issues bit him throughout as he issued 8.3 free passes every nine innings. To boot, it was suspected that his performance with the Pirates was the opening round of arm problems; the Kid returned to the minors and converted to the outfield. He played on farm clubs until 1906, retiring to the life of a hubby, father and working Joe machinist in Milwaukee. 
Pop Dillon (photo via Baseball History Daily)
  • 1873 - 1b Frank “Pop” Dillon was born in Normal (North Bloomington), Illinois. Pop spent the first two campaigns of his five-year MLB career in Pittsburgh (1899-1900) and he hit .237 as a bench guy. He lost out the following year after the franchise was reinforced by Barney Dreyfuss’ bringing in the Louisville roster, but found a new home on the coast. He became a player and manager for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League from 1902-15, taking the LAA to PCL pennants four times. It was also there that he earned his nickname; after his decade plus of service with the Angels, his hair had gone gray and so he became “Pop.” He went on to work for the Association of Professional Ball Players of America after the Angels gig and was inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame.  
  • 1900 - Pittsburgh avoided being swept in the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup series by nickle-and-diming Harry Howell for 13 singles and 10 runs. Tommy Leach reached base five times and scored four runs. Ginger Beaumont had three hits, and Claude Ritchey, Honus Wagner and Bones Ely added a pair. Deacon Phillippe threw a six-hit shutout for the win at Exposition Park, although the Pirates still trailed the best-of-five series two games to one. 
  • 1929 - Pirate catcher and GM Harding “Pete” Peterson was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He appeared in 65 games over four seasons (1955; 1957–59) for Pittsburgh and batted .273 in limited service, due to a two-year stint in Korea. His playing career was effectively ended as the result of a broken arm suffered in a home plate collision at Wrigley Field in early 1959. Pete coached and headed the scouting department for the Bucs afterward, and took Joe L. Brown’s spot as GM in 1976. He fielded strong teams in the late seventies with a championship club in 1979. Peterson lasted until 1985, dragged down by the cocaine trails and the soap opera over team ownership. 
Ravelo Manzanillo 1994 Flair
  • 1963 - LHP Ravelo Manzanillo was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Ravello tossed for three years in the show, two with Pittsburgh (4-2-1, 4.19 in 51 outings between 1994-95). He also tossed in the minors from 1981–2005, including stints in the Korea, Taiwan, Mexico and indie baseball circuits. Manzanillo also played winter ball in the Venezuelan and Dominican Leagues. 
  • 1967 - 1B Mark Johnson was born in Worcester, MA. Mark was a good glove, power-hitting guy who made his MLB debut at the advanced age of 27. His .239 BA in three years (1995-97) with the Pirates didn’t cut it as he lost his job to Kevin Young. Johnson was a good pinch hitter and closed out his career with the NY Mets, playing until 2002. 
  • 1969 - C Chris Tremie was born in Houston. Chris got four wham-bams in the majors; his stop in Pittsburgh was in 1999 when he got into nine games and went 1-for-14 in a year that the Pirates rostered six different catchers (Tremie, Jason Kendall, Keith Osik, Joe Oliver, Tim Laker and Yamid Haad). Baseball has been Chris’ career canvas - he spent 14 seasons in the minors and been a manager in the Indian’s system since 2007. Not a bad resume for a kid who was drafted by the White Sox in the 39th round (#1,100 overall) in 1992. 
  • 1971 - Steve Blass hurled a four-hitter and Roberto Clemente homered as the Pirates won Game Seven of the World Series, 2-1, at Baltimore, earning Pittsburgh its fourth World Championship. The winning run scored in the eighth, when Jose Pagan doubled home Willie Stargell. Clemente hit safely in all seven games of the series, a feat he also accomplished in 1960 against the Yankees, extending his consecutive Fall Classic hitting streak to 14 contests. He also became the first Latino player to earn World Series MVP honors after batting .414. Bruce Kison and his best man Bob Moose were taken from Memorial Stadium by helicopter to a waiting Lear Jet to attend his wedding in Pittsburgh (even so, the groom arrived 33 minutes late). And though it was a bright moment for the club, it wasn’t for some fans. After the game‚ 40‚000 people ran wild downtown; many were arrested and at least 100 were injured. 
  • 1979 - In Game Seven at Baltimore, President Jimmy Carter opened the game with a ceremonial pitch (his first and only opening pitch while prez) and Willie Stargell finished it by going 3-for-4 with his third World Series homer, lifting the Pirates to a 4-1 win and their fifth World Championship. Captain Willie gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead in the sixth with his blast. Kent Tekulve worked out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth and Pittsburgh tacked on a pair of ninth inning insurance runs to take a 4-1 victory, with Grant Jackson earning the W. Pops was named Series MVP after the Pirates erased a three-games-to-one deficit to rally past the Orioles. 60,000 fans greeted the team at the airport when they arrived home at 3AM, with thousands more lining the parkway. Baltimore, which planned a victory parade two games prior, still held one the next day and drew 125,000 for their beloved and bedraggled Birds. The game was big - an estimated 80 million people, then the largest TV audience in the history of the World Series, watched the showdown. 
  • 1991 - In Game Seven of the NLCS, Brian Hunter's two-run shot in the first inning off John Smiley was all John Smoltz needed as he tossed a 4-0, six-hit whitewash against the Bucs at TRS. Atlanta won their first NL pennant since their move from Milwaukee as the Pirates failed to score in the last 22 innings of the series. The Braves lost the World Series to the Minnesota Twins four games to three in one of the most dramatic championships in the MLB annals. 
Banny 1992 Topps Debut
  • 2014 - After a 29-year affiliation with the Pirates, starting as a player and spending the last five as the Bucs bench coach, Jeff “Banny” Banister left the organization to become the 18th manager of the Texas Rangers. It was, in a way, a delayed PTBNL deal involving coaches turned skippers; the Pirates took their manager, Clint Hurdle, from Texas in 2011.

Monday, October 16, 2017

10/16 Birthdays: HBD George, Baseball Tourist, Tomatoes, Leaping Mike, Bill, Boom Boom, Ed, Lenny, Brian, Josias, Matt & Edgar

  • 1856 - 2B/OF George Strief was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Strief played in the majors for five years with a stop with the Alleghenys in 1882; he batted .199 and moved along. George, who walloped five homers during his career, was the first Pittsburgh major league batter to go deep when he went yard against Will White of the Cincinnati Red Stockings on May 3rd, 1882 during a 7-3 loss at Exposition Park. 
  • 1866 - C Fred “The Baseball Tourist” Lake was born in Cornwallis Township, Nova Scotia. Fred spent bits and pieces of time in MLB for five seasons, playing for the Pirates in 1898 and going 1-for-13. He also put in 13 minor-league seasons with 15 teams, hence his nickname. Lake managed both the Boston Beaneaters and Doves, scouted for St. Louis and managed several farm teams and college nines. 
  • 1888 - C Jake “Tomatoes” Kafora was born in Chicago. Tomatoes tore up the minors but in a two-year stint with the Pirates, he batted .125 and discovered he couldn’t hit the curve. Jake went back to Chicago after spending a couple of years in the minors and became a local star in bowling circles, a profession he worked at during the offseason. He passed away young in 1928. His nickname dates back to his youth when he would get behind the plate, give a target and exhort his pitchers to “put the ol’ tomato in the big mitt.” 
Mike Menosky Ars Longa Art Card (Jim Dandie original)
  • 1894 - OF “Leaping Mike” Menosky was born in Glen Campbell in Indiana County, and attended State Normal College (now IUP). He started his career in the Federal League for the Pittsburgh Rebels from 1914-15, hitting .242, and went on to play for the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox until 1930 with a .280 BA in the AL. Leaping Mike is famous as the guy who replaced Babe Ruth in left field after the Bambino was sold to the New York Yankees. His nickname was bestowed because of his speed and acrobatic catches. 
  • 1895 - OF Bill Skiff was born in New Rochelle, New York. Skiff only played two MLB seasons - he hit .289 in 16 games with the Pirates in 1921 and sipped a cup of coffee with the Yankees five years later - but he was a baseball lifer. Skiff served 19 seasons as a player or player/manager on farm teams and another 14 solely as a minor league manager, mostly for the NYY organization. 
  • 1904 - RHP Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck was born in Decatur, Illinois. He tossed for 12 years in the show, closing out his career in Pittsburgh in 1945 with a line of 6-1, 2.14 in a strong final bow at the end of the war years. He only won 38 games during his big league career, but to the best of our knowledge is the only “Boom Boom” to play for the Pirates. The story begins with him pitching for Casey Stengel’s Brooklyn Dodgers against the Phillies at the Baker Bowl, which had a tin outfield fence. Philadelphia had been drilling balls off that wall all afternoon, wearing out Hack Wilson and bringing on the Ol’ Perfessor to yank Beck. Beck didn’t like the hook and instead of handing the ball to the manager, he fired it off the fence. Wilson, who had been daydreaming while the mound switch was going on, was startled and thought another ball had been lined over his head and off the wall, chased down the carom and threw the ball to second. The “boom-boom” sound of the ball hitting the wall that day gave Beck a nickname he never shook. 
Ed Bahr 1946 Play Ball Mini
  • 1919 - RHP Ed Bahr was born in Rouleau, Saskatchewan. In a career that lasted from 1946-47, Bahr went 11–11, 3.73 with 69 strikeouts in 46 appearances, (25 starts, eight complete games) and 219 IP. But ominously, his ERA went up by two runs per game from his rookie year to his sophomore season and he failed to make the team in 1948. He was traded to Brooklyn in 1949 and never returned to the show. 
  • 1928 - P and scout Lenny Yochim was born in New Orleans. He had a brief career with the Pirates (1951, 1954, 1-2, 7.62 ERA), but a long and fairly shiny one in the minors, where he once tossed a no hitter. After his playing days, Yochim rejoined the Pirates in 1966 as part of their baseball operations department. He served in various scouting positions before moving into the front office in 1994, where he worked as a senior adviser for player personnel through 2004. 
  • 1959 - C/OF Brian Harper was born in Los Angeles. Brain was a utilityman for the Bucs from 1982-84 before being traded to St. Louis; he didn’t really blossom until the 1988 season with Twins, who played him full time and kept him behind the dish. He started there for five seasons through the age of 33 before he slowed down. Harper retired in 1996 and did some high school coaching before returning to the majors to ride the minor-league coaching carousel for several clubs. 
Brian Harper 1985 Topps
  • 1967 - RHP Josias Manzanillo was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. He tossed for 11 years in the MLB, serving 2000-02 with the Bucco staff. His first two campaigns were good as he went 5-4-2, 3.39 in 114 appearances, but he lost it in the following campaign with his ERA shooting up to 7.62. He struggled along with the Reds in 2003 and the Fish in 2004, retiring when he didn’t make it out of camp with Boston in 2005. He’s famous for two things: one was when his family jewels were blown up thanks to a liner in the groin, requiring reconstructive surgery. The second was just as ugly as he was named as a player who shot up steroids in the 2007 Mitchell report. Josias and his people denied it, saying he admitted to buying PEDs but was afraid to actually use them and didn’t. 
  • 1969 - LHP Matt Ruebel was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 3rd round of the 1991 draft out of Oklahoma, and pitched parts of three seasons for Pittsburgh and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He made 70 appearances and went 4-3-1, 5.49 for the Bucs in 1996-97 and a little worse for Tampa the following season, his last in MLB. He’s with the Bucs now as a special assistant to the GM with a scouting pedigree. 
  • 1991 - RHP Edgar Santana was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. He was green as a youth and Pirates scout Juan Mercado signed him as a project just before his 22nd birthday. Santana picked up a slider to go with his four seamer in the DSL and took off. He zipped through the system and landed in Pittsburgh in 2017, getting into 19 games and posting a 3.50 ERA with 20 K in 18 IP.

10/16: Bucs Take '09 WS, Split With O's, Bravos Win, Berardino Deal, Cutch BA RoY, Hans Arm, Bucs Drop Cup Game

  • 1898 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, Honus Wagner hurled a baseball 403 feet 8 inches in a throwing contest at Louisville's League Park (teams often featured races and long-toss exhibitions back in the day) to beat the record of 400' 7-1/2" set by the Brooklyn Mutuals' John Hatfield in 1872. Wagner's distance throw was‚ in some histories‚ topped by Larry LeJeune’s toss of 435 feet on October 3rd‚ 1907, although that toss is not universally accepted. 
Honus Wagner 1960 Baseball Greats
  • 1900 - The Bucs committed six errors against the Brooklyn Superbas at Exposition Park during the Chronicle-Telegraph Challenge series and lost 4-2 as Fred Kitson got the better of Sam Leever. Pittsburgh was held to four hits, with Honus Wagner’s double leading to one run and Jack O’Connor driving in Tom O’Brien for the other tally. 
  • 1909 - In a World Series showdown between two of baseball's premier players, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, the Pirates downed the hometown Detroit Tigers, 8-0, in game seven to become World Champions for the first time. The real star of the Series, though, was rookie pitcher Babe Adams, who notched three victories, including the decisive seventh game six-hit shutout. The Pirates were helped by Tiger wildness; the Bucs banged out just seven hits, but the 10 walks were the killers for Motown (Fred Clarke got zero official at bats; he walked four times and scored twice). Honus Wagner and Dots Miller had a pair of RBI, while Clarke and Tommy Leach scored twice. It was the first World Series to go seven games. The Flying Dutchman, battling injuries in his first World Series in 1903, bounced back this time around. Hans hit .333, with seven RBIs and six stolen bases to outshine Ty Cobb, who hit .231 with six runs driven home and two steals. 
  • 1952 - Pittsburgh sent IF George Strickland and RHP Ted Wilks to the Cleveland Indians for IF Johnny Berardino, a PTBNL (RHP Charles Sipple) and $50,000. Strickland played eight years for the Tribe, but the light-hitting infielder batted just .233 over that time. Wilks was at the end of his playing days and made 11 Indian appearances before retiring. Berardino was staging a return to Pittsburgh, but his .143 BA and a bum leg turned him into a full-time actor after 56 at bats. Sipple never made it past the minors.
Roberto Clemente 1971 Topps Super
  • 1971 - The Baltimore Orioles came back from a 2-0 hole to take a 3-2, 10-inning win from the Bucs at Memorial Stadium and forcing the World Series to a seventh game. The Pirates left the bases loaded in the 10th. Baltimore didn’t. Brooks Robinson’s short sac fly to center off Bob Miller barely brought in Frank Robinson; Al Oliver had been removed in a double switch just that inning, putting the weak-armed Vic Davalillo in center. Robinson paid a price; he injured his hamstring and reaggravated an Achilles injury, limiting him severely in the decisive game. Roberto Clemente had a homer for Pittsburgh and also had a highlight throw in the bottom of the ninth, a one hop strike to home that froze Mark Belanger, who represented the winning run, at third after Don Buford’s two-out double. Bob Moose became the Bucs sixth different starter when he took the hill in the first, as the scheduled pitcher, Dock Ellis, was scratched with an injury. 
  • 1979 - With Baltimore papers filled with stories of the Orioles’ World Series victory parade, the Bucs rode John Candelaria and Kent Tekulve to a 4-0 win at Memorial Stadium to square the series at three games each. The top of the order (Omar Moreno & Tim Foli) and the bottom (Ed Ott & Phil Garner) combined for nine hits and scored all four runs. 
  • 1991 - For the second time in the series, the Bucs were 1-0 losers to the Atlanta Braves to send the NLCS to a seventh game. The Pirates were held to four hits by Steve Avery and Alejandro Pena at TRS. The game’s only tally came with two outs in the ninth when Greg Olsen doubled home Ron Gant to hand Doug Drabek the defeat. 
Andrew 2017 Bowman Then and Now
  • 2009 - Andrew McCutchen was named the Baseball America Rookie of the Year for 2009, and finished fourth in the NL ROY balloting. He joined the team in June, replacing Nate McLouth, and finished his rookie season with a .286 BA, 12 HR, 54 RBI, and 22 stolen bases in 108 games. Cutch singled off the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey in his first MLB at-bat to get his career off to a flying start.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

10/15 Birthdays: HBD Bob, Mule, Don, Bill, Gail, Red, Mitchell, Carlos, Mendy & Juan

  • 1887 - RHP Bob Harmon was born in Liberal, Missouri. He tossed for four seasons for the Pirates (1914-16, 1918), going 39-52 with an ERA of 2.60, splitting his time between starting and the pen. After his baseball career ended in 1918, he became a successful dairy farmer in Louisiana and stayed active in local sports. 
Mule Haas 1981 Conlon/TSN
  • 1903 - OF George “Mule” Haas was born in Montclair, New Jersey. Haas was signed as a youngster by the Bucs and worked his way to the show in 1925, getting in four games and going 0-for-3. Haas was in a wrong-time,wrong place situation - the Pittsburgh OF featured Kiki Cuyler, Clyde Barnhart & Max Carey. Mule (he got his nickname in the minors when after homering, a local beat man wrote that his bat had the kick of a mule) was sold to Atlanta after the season more due to the logjam than poor performance. He played 11 more seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, hitting .292 and playing in three World Series. 
  • 1926 - RHP Don Carlsen was born in Chicago. Carlsen was signed by the Cubs as an IF, played a season and then went into the service, coming back two years later as a pitcher. He got in a game for Chicago, then in 1951-52 tossed for Pittsburgh, going 2-4, 5.43 in 12 games (seven starts). Don worked in the Pirates minors until 1957, retiring after that campaign. 
  • 1927 - LHP Bill Henry was born in Alice, Texas. The veteran reliever spent the latter half of the 1968 campaign with the Pirates. It was his 15th year in the show and the creaks showed as he had the worst line of his career, compiling no record but tossing to an 8.10 ERA and giving up 18 runs (15 earned) and 29 hits in 16-⅔ IP over 10 appearances. Bill got into three games with the Astros the following year and then hung ‘em up. Henry did have a nice run despite the messy finish; he ended his MLB days with 572 outings, 46 wins, 90 saves and a 3.26 ERA with an All-Star game and World Series under his belt. 
Gail Henley 1954 (Pirates Promo photo)
  • 1928 - OF Gail Henley was born in Wichita, Kansas. He hit .300 in his only year with the Pirates (and in the big leagues), 1954, but the spot he was auditing for was more than adequately locked up with the arrival of Roberto Clemente the next year. Henley did serve some minor league time, then managed eventual Pirates skippers Jim Leyland and Gene Lamont. After managing in the minors for the Detroit Tigers, Henley joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as a scout and organizational manager. He ended his baseball jones with a stint as a scout for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. 
  • 1936 - RHP Art “Red” Swanson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was signed by the Pirates as a bonus baby in 1955 and spent the next two years (covering 1955-57) on the big league club as required by the signing rules. Red was sent to the minors when he was eligible where he pitched until 1963, but never got back to the majors; the time treading water in the majors was too much to overcome. His dad was AL “Red” Swanson, who coached baseball and basketball at LSU and from whom Red picked up his nickname. 
  • 1951 - OF/1B Mitchell Page was born in Los Angeles. A third round pick of the Pirates in 1973, he tore it up in the minors for two years before being shipped to Oakland in part of the big deal that brought Phil Garner to Pittsburgh. He spent seven seasons on the coast before returning to the Pirates in 1984. He went 4-for-12 as a late-season call up, spending most of his time at AAA Hawaii. Mitchell retired after the year and coached off and on for the Royals, Cards and Nats before passing away in 2011. He was known as "The Swinging Rage" in Oakland, a nickname dropped on him by A’s broadcaster Monte Moore. 
Carlos Garcia 1994 Panini
  • 1967 - IF Carlos Garcia was born in Tachira, Venezuela. In seven (1990-96) Bucco seasons, he hit .278. Carlos was named to the 1993 Topps All-Star Rookie Team and the NL All-Star squad in 1994. In 1995, he was a hitting machine who had a 21-game hitting streak in June and then a 15-game hitting streak in September. GarcĂ­a was the first base coach and infield instructor for Pittsburgh in 2010. He was named the manager of the Bradenton Marauders in December 2010, and in 2013-14, Garcia managed the Altoona Curve before being released by the Pirates.
  • 1973 - IF Mendy Lopez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Mendy got bits and pieces of seven campaign in the majors, with some of 2001-02 with the Pirates where he hit .217 in 25 games (he spent almost all of 2002 in AAA Nashville). Since he retired after the 2004 year, he’s played in Korea, Mexico and the Dominican. 
  • 1978 - RHP Juan Cruz was born in Bonao, Dominican Republic. Juan finished up his 12-year career in Pittsburgh, getting into 43 games and going 1-1-3, 2.78 with 14 holds as part of the support group of closer Joel Hanrahan. With several younger back-end options, the Pirates released him in late August and that was it for his MLB journey.

10/15: Bucs Beat Big Train for '25 Title, Alleghenys Back in Business, Pittsburgh No-Hit, Stage Star Waners, Telegraph Cup

  • 1881 - HD “Denny” McKnight resurrected the Allegheny Baseball Club of Pittsburgh (it had disbanded after the 1877 season) and later joined the newly formed American Association. In 1887 they joined the NL and in 1891 morphed into the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
Denny McKnight Ars Longa Art Card
  • 1892 - On the last day the season, Cincinnati pitcher Charles “Bumpus” Jones no-hit Pittsburgh at League Park in his first major league start. Bumpus won 7-1, fanning three and issuing four walks. His MLB career lasted eight games and he won just one other decision. Still, he remains the only player to pitch a no-hitter in his first MLB appearance. Bill James, according to Wikipedia, gave him the distinction of being the “mathematically least likely pitcher ever to have thrown a no-hitter in the major leagues.” 
  • 1900 - The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph offered a silver cup to the winner of a best-of-five series at Exposition Park between the NL’s top two teams, the Pirates and the Brooklyn Superbas; Brooklyn won the 1900 title by 4-½ games over the Bucs during the regular season. Two future Hall of Famers faced off in the opener as NL ERA leader Rube Waddell (2.37) went against “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, who topped the league with 28 wins. McGinnity whitewashed the Pirates for eight innings before two unearned runs in the top of the ninth cost him the shutout. Not only was he hurt by shoddy fielding, but he had been knocked out briefly the inning before during a rundown when he was accidentally kneed. He refused to come out after he regained his breath and went the distance for a five-hit, 5-2 victory. Claude Ritchey banged out a pair of knocks in a losing cause. 
  • 1925 - In Game Seven of the World Series at Forbes Field, played on a muddy track soaked by a two day rainstorm, Kiki Cuyler laced an eighth-inning, two-out, bases-loaded double off Washington's Walter “Big Train” Johnson to lead the Pirates to a 9-7 comeback victory and their second World Championship, made all the sweeter by rallying from an early 4-0 deficit. Ray Kremer got the win, his second of the Series, with four innings of one-run relief after pitching a complete game win two days before. Errors by SS Roger Peckinpaugh, the AL MVP, in both the seventh and eighth innings led to four unearned runs. He had a tough Series in the field, committing a record eight errors. The Bucs became the first team to win a World Series after being down three games to one. The Series was a big financial hit‚ grossing a record-setting $1.2M. Winning shares were $5‚332.72 while the losers pocketed $3‚734.60. And though it would take awhile, Bucco manager Bill McKechnie would become the first MLB skipper to win a WS with two different teams when his Reds beat the Tigers in the 1940 Fall Classic. 
The Press captures the Game 7 Crowd.
  • 1927 - Although the New York Yankees Murderers Row pushed the Pirates out of the spotlight with a World Series sweep, the Bucs strong season kept the Waner brothers on the main stage a little longer as the pair commenced a series of vaudeville appearances for the Loew movie house franchise in St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, culminating with a $3,000 payday for a week in the Big Apple.