Saturday, August 13, 2016

8/13 Happenings: ABC Affair; HBD Steve, Sid, Mudcat, Vinegar Bend, Jeff, Tom & Jonah

  • 1903 - RHP Steve Swetonic was born in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County. A Pitt grad, he pitched for the Bucs from 1929-33 and in 1935 to a line of 37-36/3.81. He won 11 games in 1932 and tied for the league lead in shutouts with four. He spent his entire MLB career in Pittsburgh; he retired young at 28, suffering from a chronic sore arm.
Steve Swetonic (photo Leslie Jones via Boston Public Library)
  • 1917 - OF/3B Sid Gordon was born in Brooklyn. He was a monster in his heyday with the Giants and Braves, but joined the Bucs at the twilight of his career in 1954-55. Still, he hit .290 with a dozen HR and 50 RBI in 147 games before being sold to the Giants, his original club, where he finished out the ‘55 campaign and retired.
  • 1926 - The ABC Affair concluded with Babe Adams, Carson Bigbee and Max Carey cut loose from the club. Adams had been a World Series hero, Bigbee spent 11 years with the team, and Carey was a Hall of Fame player. But they crossed management by holding a team meeting to complain of an odd management dynamic - Bill McKechnie was the manager, but the owner, Barney Dreyfuss, had Fred Clarke sit on the bench every game, leaving the players befuddled as to who was in charge. After the ABC heads rolled, Clarke never sat on the bench again and Dreyfuss fired McKechnie after the season.
  • 1930 - LHP Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama (or thereabouts, anyway). The Pirates sent 2B Julian Javier to St Louis for Mizell in May of 1960, and in four months he won 13 games to help carry the Bucs to the 1960 championship. In parts of three seasons, Mizell’s Bucco line was 21-16/3.94. He was nearing the end of his career, and the Pirates sent him to the NY Mets in 1962, from where he retired at season’s end.
Vinegar Bend Mizell 1977 TCMA
  • 1935 - RHP Jim “Mudcat” Grant was born in Lacoochee, Florida. Mudcat made 50 appearances for Pittsburgh with a 7-4-7, 3.41 line, but never tossed in the playoffs - he was acquired too late in 1971 (September) to be eligible for the roster, and was sent to Oakland before the 1972 postseason began. His nickname was bestowed on him in the minors when a teammate dubbed him Mudcat, mistakenly believing that he hailed from Mississippi, the home of a large catfish known as a mudcat. At least that’s his story; another claims that his MLB roomie Lary Doby of the Indians pinned it on him when he claimed that Grant was as “ugly as a Mississippi mudcat.” Ouch.
  • 1963 - LHP Jeff Ballard was born in Billings, Montana. After five years with the Orioles, he worked for Pittsburgh from 1993-94, getting into 43 games and going 5-2-2, 5.42 to close out his career. Ballard didn’t exactly end up on the street afterward. He had earned a degree in geophysics from Stanford University and worked as a geophysicist in Montana, spending his spare time as an organizer for the Billings American Legion baseball program.
  • 1964 - C Tom Prince was born in Kankakee, Illinois. Prince started his career in Pittsburgh (1987-93) as a backup catcher behind Mike LaValliere and Don Slaught. In 177 games for the Pirates, he hit .177. Despite his bat, he played for five teams and parts of 17 seasons in the show before hanging up his spikes in 2003. He’s been a Buc minor league manager since 2005.
Tom Prince 1988 Donruss
  • 1980 - RHP Jonah Bayliss was born in North Adams, Massachusetts. Bayliss came over to Pittsburgh as the key figure the Mark Redman trade, but never panned out. He spent 2006-07, the last two seasons of his three-year career, in Pittsburgh and went 5-4 with a 7.22 ERA in 16 outings from the pen, showing good stuff but poor control. He’s now a pitching coach/trainer with his own hometown baseball academy.

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