Sunday, April 17, 2016

4/17: Clemente Debut, AJ's #2,000, Frankie's Shoelace, Rallies & More...

  • 1902 - Tommy Leach scored the game’s only run in the third inning as Deacon Phillippe won a 1-0 duel against the Cards Stan Yerkes on Opening Day at Robison Field. The Bucs were 103-36 that year and took the NL pennant, but there wasn’t a World Series until the following season because of animosity between the leagues.
  • 1908 - Sam Leever tossed a three hit, 3-0 shutout over the Cardinals at Robison Field to lead the Bucs to a series sweep. More importantly in the long run, though, was the signing of Honus Wagner, who had retired in March as a contract ploy. Barney Dreyfuss made him the highest paid player in baseball with a $10K deal, and The Flying Dutchman proved worth every penny. Bill James cited Wagner's 1908 campaign as the greatest single season ever for any player. Wagner hit .354 with 109 RBI in an era when half as many runs were scored as today. James wondered in his 2001 book Historical Baseball Abstract "if you had a Gold Glove shortstop like Wagner, who drove in 218 runs, what would he be worth?”
The Flying Dutchman via Dugout Legends
  • 1920 - The Bucs Elmer Ponder and the Cards Jesse Haines carried a scoreless ballgame into the thirteenth inning at St. Louis’ Robison Park. The Pirates finally broke the ice with three runs in the lucky thirteenth, driven in by Max Carey and Billy Southworth, and Ponder finished up with an eight hit goose egg. It was his first full big league season; Ponder was an airman in WW1, became an ace, was wounded and received the French Croix de la Valeur Militaire. He’s thought to be the first ballplayer to win a medal in the war.
  • 1923 - The Cubs opened newly remodeled Wrigley Field in front of 33,000 faithful, but the Bucs took the match 3-2 on Charlie Grimm’s three run, bases loaded double in the fourth. The Pirates only had three hits, but Johnny Morrison made them stand up, working a complete game and giving up just a pair of unearned runs.
  • 1939 - The Pirates trailed, 5-2, on Opening Day before scoring four times in the eighth inning and eventually winning a 7-5 decision over the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field. Gus Suhr led the way offensively for the Pirates by collecting three RBI while Cy Blanton started and hung around long enough to earn the win.
  • 1945 - The Bucs came out on the short end of the stick, losing 7-6 in eleven innings on Opening Day to the Reds thanks to a trio of improbabilities. With the Bucs up 2-0 in the fifth and two runners aboard‚ Frankie Zak called time to tie his shoe, and got it from the ump. But Reds pitcher Bucky Walters had his back to the play and delivered a pitch to Jim Russell. He knocked out of the park, but it didn’t count, and tho he followed with an RBI knock, it cost the Corsairs a pair of runs. Next, Cincy’s Dain Clay drilled a grand slam that was his only HR of the year in 700 plate appearances. Finally, the win went to forty-six-year old Hod Lisenbee‚ who had been out of the majors for the past nine years, after working two innings of hitless relief to earn the last W of his career. According to Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo’s book “The Baseball Hall of Shame,” Pittsburgh manager Frankie Frisch presented Zak with a pair of spikes that buckled rather than laced up the next day.
Frankie Zak via Find A Grave
  • 1947 - Hank Greenberg connected on his first Pirate homer as the Bucs whupped the Cubs 7-1. Pirate starter Preacher Roe was on cruise control; he didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning. Chicago starter Hank Wyse was victimized by a pair of Cubbie boots by SS Lennie Merullo, allowing the Pirates to plate six unearned runs.
  • 1951 - 25,894 hardy souls braved the snow to watch the Bucs win their home opener 5-4 over the Cards at Forbes Field. Murry Dickson pitched six innings and homered in the win. Wally Westlake also went long while Bill Wuerle tossed three shutout innings for the save. It also marked the opening of live footage for the movie tentatively titled “Angels And The Pirates” (released as “Angels In the Outfield”), starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh.
  • 1955 - Roberto Clemente, a 20-year-old rookie from Carolina, Puerto Rico, made his MLB debut in right field at Forbes Field. In his first at bat, Clemente singled off the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Johnny Podres, the first step on his journey to 3000 career hits. Roberto collected two more hits in the nightcap, but the Bucs lost both ends of the twinbill, 10-3 and 3-2. Brighter days were just on the horizon, though.
Roberto "Bob" Clemente 1958 Topps
  • 1960 - LHP Joe Gibbon made his MLB debut in the second game of a twinbill against the Reds at Forbes Field, coming in to mop up with the Pirates down 5-0 in the eighth. He tossed a pair of scoreless innings and the Bucs scored six times in the ninth to give him the win. Hal Smith banged a three run pinch hit homer and Bob Skinner walked off after his game winning two run, two out blast off Ted Wieand. The Bucs won the opener 5-0 behind Bob Friend's four hitter.
  • 1964 - Before 48‚736 fans, the Pirates defeated the Mets 4-3 in the first game played at Shea Stadium. Bob Friend was the winner over Cuban righty Ed Bauta. Willie Stargell hit the first home run ever at Shea Stadium off Jack Fisher.
  • 1967 - Maury Wills was the cover boy for Sports Illustrated’s Baseball 1967 issue. In his first year as a Buc, he hit .302 with 92 runs and 29 swiped sacks.
Cover boy Maury Wills
  • 2011 - Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata led off the game with back-to-back home runs off Edinson Volquez, the third time that had been done in club history. The Pirates scored four times in the opening inning and held off the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 at Great American Ball Park.
  • 2013 - AJ Burnett had a no-hitter going against the Cards at PNC Park, carrying the no-no into the seventh before Carlos Beltran banged a double. It was a big day for AJ; he also went over the 2,000 mark in career strikeouts. The Bucs won 5-0.
  • 2014 - The Pirates scored nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings to blow past the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park 11-7. The offense was primed by four long balls off the bats of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez. Edinson Volquez went seven innings to claim his first victory as a Bucco.

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