Friday, January 1, 2016

1/1: HBD Gunner & Hammerin' Hank; Josh Gibson Breakdown

  • 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. The dapper Gunner was tough to miss on the field. He managed and coached the bases wearing black patent-leather shoes, a cutaway suit coat, lavender trousers, a silk tie and a derby hat. His nickname, btw, wasn't a play on his surname; he earned it in the minors because of the strength of his arm, per Gunner's SABR bio written by Ronald Shafer.
    Bill "Gunner" McGunnigle - 1990 Target
  • 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 $90-100,000 (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.
  • 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 MLB shot, Gibson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. 
Josh Gibson via The Josh Gibson Foundation

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