Thursday, December 15, 2016

12/15: HBD Jimmy, Art & Jim; Rule 5 Massacre; Vic Willis, Jim Bunning & Other Deals...

  • 1884 - 1B Jim Nealon was born in Sacramento. He’s one of the Buccos sadder “coulda-been” 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.
Vic Willis 1986 TCMA All-Time
  • 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.
Art Howe 1975 SSPC
  • 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.
  • 1964 - The Bucs sent P Earl Francis and OF Ted Savage to the St. Louis Cardinals in return for OF’s Ron Cox and Jack Damaska (from Beaver Falls HS). Francis sputtered through his last big league season while Savage was the only player that had any MLB impact, serving as a bench bat through the 1971 season. Neither of the players the Pirates received made it to the majors.
Don Money was a popular guy 1965 Topps
  • 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. Money had been targeted by the White Sox also, but the Pirates wanted RHP Joel Horlen in exchange, who Chi-town wasn’t about to surrender. Fryman lasted 18 years in the show, many as a solid mid-level starter and twice an All-Star. Bunning, who the Pirates hoped would be the veteran rotation piece to put them over the top in 1968, stayed in Pittsburgh for 1-½ seasons, slashing at 14-23/3.84.
  • 2002 - Well-traveled Matt Stairs (he played for three teams just in 2002) signed a one year/$900K contract with the Bucs, pending a physical, and was penciled in as Craig Wilson’s platoon mate in right field. He proved to be a nice addition, hitting .292 and playing corner OF and 1B for the Pirates before moving on to Kansas City.
  • December 15, 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 believes would not make an immediate impact. The rest of baseball thought 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 had more future talent on hand than he suspected.

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