Friday, July 22, 2016

7/22 Happenings: HBD Mooney, Elmer, RC, Denny & Ryan, Deals, Grilli On SI...

  • 1880 - C George “Mooney” Gibson was born in London, Canada. He played a dozen years for the Bucs (1905-16) as a defense-first catcher, batting .238 but tossing out 949 runners. He had a 46% throw-out rate back in the days when baseball was a go-go league - 1,101 runners actually did steal off him against the Pirates. He was durable, too, once catching 140 straight games. Mooney finished his career as a NY Giant and later returned to Pittsburgh as a manager, first in 1920-22, then from 1932-34, finishing second three times with a record of 401-330. Gibson was the first baseball player elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Per Wiki, his nickname may have been inspired by his round, moon-shaped face, though other sources claim he picked it up because he had played on a sandlot team known as the Mooneys.
Mooney Gibson 1908 (photo Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
  • 1885 - LHP Elmer Knetzer was born in Carrick. He tossed for the Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal League from 1914-15 with a 38-26/2.73 slash, with six years in the NL sandwiched on either end of that stint. Knetzer was the first active player to jump from the NL to the FL after Brooklyn lowballed him during contract time. He went by “Pretzel” and “The Baron” - Pretzel because of the way his curveball twisted, while Baron goes unexplained. He stayed a hometown boy, and when he died in 1975, he was buried in St Wendelin’s Cemetery in Carrick.
  • 1911 - The Pirates paid St. Paul of the American Association $22‚500 for RHP Marty O'Toole‚ the most expensive purchase of a player to that date. Barney Dreyfuss spent another $5‚000 for his battery mate Bill Kelly. In 1912‚ O'Toole went 15-17 and lead the NL with 159 walks and was out of Pittsburgh by 1914, winning a total of 26 games while walking 300 batters in 599-1/3 IP. Kelly was a reserve catcher, hitting .290 for Pittsburgh and out of MLB after 1913.
  • 1934 - 1B RC Stevens was born in Moultrie, Georgia. The 6’5” slugger was signed out of Moultrie HS, but one-trick stick never translated in the show. As a back up, he hit decently, with a .260 BA and eight homers in 108 PA from 1958-60, getting into 71 games. He couldn’t outpace Ted Kluszewski, Dick Stuart and Rocky Nelson in the first base race.
RC Stevens circa 1958 (photo via SABR)
  • 1939 - Girls baseball never caught on in Pittsburgh, but softball was red hot here. The Duquesne Gardens hosted a pair of games touted as “Girls Indoor Baseball” (never mind that it was softball) on back-to-back days with the championship New York City Roverettes going against the Pittsburgh All-Stars. Pittsburgh won the opener 2-1 behind SS Ann Giaciach, who had four hits, but was thumped in the rematch 10-1.
  • 1963 - Utilityman Denny Gonzalez was born in Sabana Grande de Boya, Dominican Republic. He played parts of four seasons as a Buc (1984-88) but never spent a full campaign on the active roster, hitting .206.
  • 1977 - RHP Ryan Vogelsong was born in Charlotte, NC. He worked five years for the Pirates (2001, 2003-06), going 10-19 with a 6.00 ERA. He took a hiatus to Japan, but came back in 2011 to his original team, the SF Giants, and pitched strong ball for the G-Men, earning an All-Star spot in 2011. He rejoined the club in 2016 as a long man/spot starter, missing a large chunk of the campaign after a brutal beaning in the eye area.
  • 1988 - In a swap of outfielders, Pittsburgh sent Darnell Coles to Seattle for Glenn Wilson. Wilson spent 1988-89 as a Buc, returning again for his 1993 swan song, getting into 147 games, and was solid, hitting .274 with 11 HR. Coles spent 1987-88 as a Pirate, also smacking 11 homers but hitting just .230 in 108 games.
Glenn Wilson scores v Cubs in 1989 (photo Mark Elias/AP)
  • 2003 - The Pirates traded 3B Aramis Ramirez, OF Kenny Lofton, and cash to the Cubs for SS Jose Hernandez, P Matt Bruback, and 2B Bobby Hill in Dave Littlefield's darkest day of salary dumping. It was speculated that P Kris Benson, not Ramirez, was who the Cubs were after, but he missed his prior start with “shoulder discomfort” so Chicago passed on him.
  • 2009 - The Pirates traded Adam LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox for two minor leaguers, SS Argenis Diaz and RHP Hunter Strickland. LaRoche has remained in the show, while Diaz played for Pittsburgh briefly in 2010 and Hunter is up-and-down with the Giants.
  • 2013 - Jason Grilli was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the poster boy for Ben Reiter’s story “The Strangest But Truest Story: The Playoff Bound Pirates and Their Sharknado Bullpen.” It was purely coincidental that Grilled Cheese was injured pitching the same day, put on the DL, and out of action until September 3rd. It was also the first time in 21 years, since Barry Bond’s 1992 appearance, that a Pirate graced the cover of SI.

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