Thursday, January 1, 2015

1/1: Gunner McGunnigle, Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, Josh Gibson...

Gunner McGunnigle, Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, Josh Gibson...
  • 1855 - Manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle was born in Boston. After his playing career was ended by a beanball that fractured his skull, McGunnigle stayed in the game as a manager. When the 1891 Pittsburg Pirates (the first to officially use the Pirate nickname) got off to a 31–47 start on the heels of a 23–113 season, the club demoted captain/manager Ned Hanlon and hired McGunnigle, who had a prior stop at Brooklyn. He managed the club to a 24–33-2 record over the remainder of the year and was replaced by Tom Burns. 
Bill McGunnigle - 1990 Target 100th Dodger Anniversary series
  • 1911 - Hall of Fame OF Hank Greenberg was born in New York City. He played for the Bucs in 1948, teaming up with Ralph Kiner in the middle of the Pirate order. The original Hammerin’ Hank signed for $100,000 (although the actual figure is in dispute), the biggest contract inked to date. Team co-owner Bing Crosby recorded a song, "Goodbye, Mr. Ball, Goodbye" with Groucho Marx and Greenberg to celebrate Greenberg's arrival. The Pirates also brought in the left field fence at Forbes Field for him, calling it "Greenberg Gardens" and keeping it intact during the Kiner era. Though he hit just .249 in Pittsburgh, he had a .408 OBP (he was walked 104 times), launched 25 HR and tutored Kiner in his final MLB season. 
Hank Greenberg (l) & Ralph Kiner (r) - 1947 The Sporting News collection
  • 1943 - C Josh Gibson suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to St. Francis Hospital for rest and treatment. He was released in time to play for the Homestead Grays. The Pirates reportedly wanted to sign the future Hall of Famer that season as the first black player in baseball, but were thwarted by the commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The color line wouldn’t be crossed until Landis died in 1944 and Happy Chandler replaced him in 1945. Although he never got a shot at the show, Gibson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. 
Josh Gibson via Josh Gibson Foundation

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