Monday, April 6, 2015

4/6: Smoky Joe, Bert, Dock, Drabek, Benson, AJ, Arriba, Bobby Bo, Giles

  • 1885 - Hall of Fame RHP Smokey Joe (Cyclone) Williams was born Seguin, Texas. The fireballer pitched for the Homestead Grays from 1925-32. In a night game against the KC Monarchs, Williams allowed only one hit and struck out 27 batters as the Homestead Grays defeated the Monarchs and Chet Brewer (who had 19 K) 1-0 in 12 innings in what may have been the greatest pitching duel of all-time. A 1952 Pittsburgh Courier newspaper poll of black baseball officials and sports writers named Williams the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues. 
Smokey Joe Williams via ESPN
  • 1951 - Rik Aalbert “Bert” Blyleven was born in Zeist, Netherlands. The Hall-of-Fame righty with the legendary hook pitched three seasons for the Pirates (1978-80) before being traded to the Indians for beads and trinkets after locking horns with Chuck Tanner. The Dutchman went 34-28 for the Bucs with a 3.47 ERA, six shutouts and worked 697-2/3 frames for the team. Oddly, his beef was getting pulled too quickly, so apparently he didn’t think 230+ innings/season was much of a load. 
  • 1971 - It’s the little things that win ballgames. Before 39‚712 fans, the Pirates took a 4-2 win from the Phils at TRS’ first home opener. Dock Ellis won and laid down three sac bunts, one being a suicide squeeze to plate a score and another setting up an eventual run while the Phillies self-destructed with four errors that led to two unearned runs. Ellis went the distance, giving up eight hits and whiffing eight. 
  • 1973 - 51‚695 fans were on hand at Three Rivers Stadium as number 21 of Roberto Clemente was retired. The Pirates then beat St. Louis‚ 7-5‚ staging a eighth inning rally that saw the Bucs score five times after two were down, keyed by a Richie Hebner double and Gene Clines three-bagger. Other honors for the Great One: PNC Park’s right field fence is now known as the Clemente Wall, and reaches 21’ high to commemorate his number while his statue sits outside the CF gates of the yard. And the players wore the round #21 patch on their uniforms for the season to commemorate Clemente after sporting black ribbons during spring training. At the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh on July 11th, 2006, players on both squads wore yellow wristbands with the initials "RWC" in honor of Clemente. He also has a street, bridge, and park named after him, a museum, a Susan Wagner statue and a handful of awards. 
Roberto Clemente Topps 1973
  • 1982 - The Bucs’ home opener at TRS was cancelled after an April blizzard rolled across the mideast. The Atlantic Coast was buried in an unseasonable snowfall, cancelling several games, and though Pittsburgh skirted the worst, it still was pelted by 39 MPH winds and swirling snow. 
  • 1988 - Bobby Bonilla went long from both sides of the dish in a 14 inning 6-5 loss to the Phils at Veteran’s Stadium. It was the second time he’d done it, and only he and Dale Sveum have pulled off that feat for Pittsburgh. Bonilla went 4-for-7 with all five RBI; the rest of his team mates stranded 13 runners. 
  • 1989 - In a three day span, the Pirates lost closer Jim Gott (elbow) and first baseman Sid Bream (knee) for the season, while CF’er Andy Van Slyke pulled his rib cage, losing a month and affecting his swing all year. A week later, catcher Mike LaValliere went down and missed much of the season, and the snake bitten Pirates finished 1989 with just 74 wins. 
  • 1992 - Doug Drabek outdueled Montreal’s Dennis Martinez to pitch the Pirates to a 2-0 win over the Expos in the Bucs home opener. Drabek helped his own cause with a two out, RBI single in the second that along with Spanky LaValliere’s sac fly provided the margin of victory. 
Doug Drabek - Leaf Studio '91 series
  • 2000 - The Pirates beat the Astros 10-1 at TRS. Brian Giles went 5-for-5 with two homers, a triple, four RBI and three runs scored. Francisco Cordova didn’t give up a hit until after one was out in the eighth inning. 
  • 2003 - Kris Benson shut out the Phillies 2-0 at Veteran’s Stadium and ended Jim Thome’s streak of 60 consecutive games on base, the longest since Mark McGwire reached base 62 games in a row in 1995-96. Brian Giles and Pokey Reese drove in the Bucco runs. 
  • 2009 - Down a pair in the ninth at Busch Stadium, the Pirates rallied with two outs against Jason Motte to beat the Cardinals 6-4. With two away and Freddy Sanchez aboard, Adam LaRoche singled and pinch-hitter Eric Hinske doubled home Steady Freddy. Brandon Moss got plunked to jam the sacks, and Jack Wilson banged a three-run double to unjam them. Matt Capps came in to get the save for John Grabow’s win in the season Opener. 
Jack Wilson 2007 Topps Opening Day series
  • 2013 - AJ Burnett lost a pitching duel to Clayton Kershaw 1-0 at Dodger Stadium. Burnett gave up the only run in the third on an infield single, stolen base and two-out grounder through the SS hole. Four Buc pitchers combined for 11 K, but Kershaw and friends spun a two-hitter. 
  • 2015 - “MLB Central” debuted on MLB Network. Not only was it the network’s first original content morning show, but it was the first to be aired from the channel’s state-of-the-art, 8,000 square foot Studio 21, named in honor of Roberto Clemente and his number, retired on this date in 1973.

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