Tuesday, December 15, 2015

12/15: HBD Jim Leyland, Jim Nealon, Bucky Williams, Art Howe; Vic Willis & Other Deals

  • 1884 - 1B Jim Nealon was born in Sacramento. He’s one of the Buccos sadder stories. Nealon played from 1906-07 for the Pirates, and in his rookie season tied for the NL RBI lead (83) while hitting .255. Jim hit .257 the next season, then contracted tuberculosis. He went back home to California, played a couple of years of minor league ball and died of typhoid pneumonia in San Francisco in 1910 at the age of 25.
Jim Nealon 1907 (photo: Chicago Daily News)
  • 1905 - In one of their better deals, the Bucs picked up Hall-of-Famer RHP Vic Willis from the Boston Beaneaters for journeymen UT Dave Brain, IF/OF Del Howard, and P Vive Lindaman. Willis won 20+ games in each of his four years (1906-09) in Pittsburgh, with a slash of 88–46/2.08 ERA and was part of the 1909 World Series championship club. The “Delaware Peach” (he went to Delaware College) was a workhorse throughout his career, completing 388 of his 471 starts.
  • 1906 - IF Wallace “Bucky” (a childhood nickname) Williams was born in Baltimore and moved to Pittsburgh at the age of six months. After stints with the Pittsburgh Keystone Juniors and Monarchs, he played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1927–32; 1937-39) and the Homestead Grays in 1936, and was named an honorary member of the Negro League Hall of Fame in Kansas City. Bucky also played for his employer as part of the Edgar Thomson Steel team after his pro career; his sandlot squad once defeated the Grays in an exhibition game. He went to Holy Rosary and Crescent Elementary before leaving school for work, and rests now in Calvary Cemetery.
  • 1944 - Pirate manager Jim Leyland was born in Perrysburg, Ohio. Leyland was the fiery, chain-smoking manager of the Bucs from 1986 to 1996. He won two Manager of the Year awards (1990 and 1992) and finished as runner-up in 1988 and 1991. Under Leyland, the Pirates went to the NLCS three straight seasons (1990-92) but lost all three, with the latter two going the full seven games against the Atlanta Braves. He did win a title in 1997 as the skipper of the Florida Marlins and also managed the Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers. Leyland became a Pittsburgh boy; he still lives in Mt. Lebanon.
Jim Leyland (photo: Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 1946 - IF Art Howe was born in Pittsburgh. He began his career with Pittsburgh in 1974-75 as a utility infielder, batting .195, before being traded to the Astros, where he became a regular for six seasons beginning in 1977. He played for 11 years in all with a .260 BA, and managed for 11 more years after his playing days, winning a pair of AL West titles with the Oakland As.
  • 1952 - Vic Janowicz was signed to a $75,000 contract by the Pirates a bonus baby. Janowicz was a Heisman-winning running back at Ohio State in 1950, but Pittsburgh saw his future in baseball. As a bonus baby, he had to be carried on the MLB roster for two years. Vic hit .252 as a C in 1953, but dropped to .151 as a 3B’man the following year, for a two year line of .214 with two HR and 10 RBI in 215 PA. He left the team after that season and jumped to the NFL Washington Redskins, where he played two years before a car accident ended his sports career.
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded for RHP Jim Bunning, sending the Phillies pitchers Woodie Fryman‚ Bill Laxton and Harold Clem along with IF Don Money, who would be the Phils regular 3B until Mike Schmidt arrived and then become an All-Star with Milwaukee. HoF’er Bunning stayed in Pittsburgh for 1-½ seasons, slashing at 14-23/3.84.
Jim Bunning (photo: The Sporting News Archives)
  • 2003 - The Pirates lost five players in the Rule 5 draft, 1b Chris Shelton, OF Rich Thompson, LHP Frank Brooks, RHP Jeff Bennett and 3B/OF Jose Bautista, who they traded RHP Kris Benson for to get back in July, 2004. Oddly, the Pirates had three openings on the 40-man roster, but GM Dave Littlefield told the local media that the need to add free agents to the lineup for next season was more important than keeping players the club thought would not make an immediate impact. The rest of baseball reacted a bit differently as the five Pirate farmhands went in the first six picks of the draft. Littlefield also removed pitchers Duaner Sanchez and Matt Guerrier from the 40-man roster to protect Mike Gonzalez and John Grabow, so he may have had more talent on hand than he suspected.
  • 2005 - Pittsburgh signed free agent RHP set-up man Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $2.75M contract, and then flipped him to the Mets at the 2006 deadline for Xavier Nady.
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