Saturday, April 18, 2015

4/18: Kiner, Clemente First HR; Steve Blass B-Day; Opening Day DH & Under the Lights; #20 Retired & More

  • 1886 - The Alleghenys played the only Opening Day doubleheader in Pittsburgh baseball history at Sportsman’s Park. It’s easy to see why it never caught on locally; the North Siders dropped both ends to the eventual American Association champion St. Louis Browns. They lost the opener 8-4 with Ed “Cannonball” Morris on the bump and went down 10-5 in the second game with Hall of Fame pitcher James “Pud” Galvin toeing the rubber. It was the last season the team played in the AA, moving on the the NL in 1887. 
  • 1909 - Howie Camnitz spun an eight hit shutout as the Bucs whipped the Cubs 1-0 in twelve innings, besting Three Finger Brown at the West Side Grounds. The run scored when, as the Pittsburg Press wrote “(George) Gibson hit to (Chicago SS Joe) Tinker, who bungled and (Bill) Abstein scored…,” but the Pirates wouldn’t need much help that season as they won 110 games and the World Series from the Ty Cobb-led Detroit Tigers. 
  • 1942 - Happy Birthday, Steve Blass, who was born on this date in Canaan, Connecticut. The Bucco announcer was an All-Star and World Series clinching pitcher for the Pirates from 1964-74. The righty won 103 games for Pittsburgh during his career to go with two Series victories against Earl Weaver’s Orioles in 1971. 
  • 1946 - Rookie Ralph Kiner smacked his first big league homer off Howie Pollet in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to St. Louis at Sportsman Park. He would end his career with 369 long balls, 301 belted as a Bucco. 
Ralph Kiner 1953 Redman series
  • 1947 - The Pirates took the home opener from the Reds 12-11. The Bucs had added Hank Greenberg to their roster and shortened LF at Forbes Field for him. It kinda worked. Pittsburgh blasted five homers - Wally Westlake had a pair - and three landed in the new Greenberg Gardens. Greenberg himself (and for that matter, Ralph Kiner) didn’t go long, tho the other Bucs apparently took a liking to the short porch. The season opener at Forbes Field drew a record crowd of 38,216. 
  • 1950 - Pittsburgh played the first MLB season opener under the lights at St. Louis' Sportsman Park. The Cards won, 4-2, as Bob Chesnes gave up homers to Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst in the loss to Gerry Staley. Johnny Hopp had both Bucco RBI. 
  • 1952 - In their home opener at Forbes Field before 29‚874‚ Bob Friend shut out the Reds‚ 5-0‚ on five hits. It was the second win in a row for the Pirates‚ and the “Rickey-Dinks” wouldn't have a win streak longer than two games all season (they finished 42-112), a 20th century MLB record for futility. In fact, they didn’t win back-to-back contests that year after August 9th! 
  • 1955 - In his first major league appearance, 25-year old reliever Al Grunwald got just one batter out. He gave up a single to Don Mueller‚ a double to Monte Irvin‚ a triple to Willie Mays‚ and a homer to Whitey Lockman. The NY Giants “cycle” led to an eight-run fourth frame and eventual 12-3 victory over the Pirates. But there was a bright spot. Rookie Roberto Clemente hit his first home run, an inside-the-park 445’ shot that the weirdly configured Polo Grounds kept in the yard. 
Al Grunwald (image via Out of the Park Development)
  • 1957 - The Bucs lost a ho-hummer to the Brooklyn Dodgers 6-1 at Ebbetts Field. The game marked the last time a Pirate pitcher batted eighth (Luis Arroyo, with Bill Mazeroski behind him) for over 50 years, until June 30th, 2008 when Paul Maholm batted ahead of Jack Wilson. Bobby Bragan made a habit of batting pitchers early in the fifties before John Russell again adopted the concept for a brief time. 
  • 1972 - Pie Traynor’s number 20 was retired at TRS posthumously on Opening Day in front of 47,489. The Bucs could have used Pie, losing 6-4 to the Chicago Cubs despite Richie Hebner’s homer and Manny Sanguillen’s double and triple. 
  • 1987 - Mike Schmidt hit his 500th career home run‚ a three-run shot off Don Robinson in the top of the 9th inning, to give the Phillies an 8-6 win at TRS. Schmidt became the 15th MLB player to reach the 500-HR mark. And though the Pittsburgh-Philly rivalry was pretty bitter during that era, the fans give him a warm ovation. 
  • 2004 - Kris Benson tied a MLB record with 4 sac bunts as the Bucs topped the Mets 8-1. He became the seventh player to accomplish the feat‚ and only the second since 1920. For all of that effort, none of the four runners Benson advanced scored. Craig Wilson did the heavy lifting, going 3-for-5 with a homer, two runs and two RBI. 
  • 2009 - In the first Saturday afternoon game in Pittsburgh since 2005, Craig Monroe hit two three-run home runs in consecutive innings to give the Pirates their first back-to-back victories of the season by a 10-0 count over the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park. Ian Snell went seven innings and gave up three hits for the win. 
Craig Monroe (image from Fox Sports Pittsburgh)
  • 2011 - Seven Pirates had two hits as the Bucs spread the attack around in drubbing the Reds 9-3 at GABP. Kevin Correia went the distance, scattering four hits. Six different Pirates scored, and six contributed RBI in a true team effort at the dish. 
  • 2014 - 1B Ike Davis was traded by the New York Mets to the Pirates for a PTBNL (LHP Blake Taylor) and RHP Zack Thornton. He hit .235 and was released at the end of the season, signing a deal with the Oakland Athletics.

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