Wednesday, December 7, 2016

12/7 B-Days: Deacon, Bobby, Tony, Johhny, Vinnie, Hal, Don & Bo *whew*

  • 1847 - Hall of Famer C/3B James “Deacon” (he was a religious fellow) White was born in Caton, NY. He played as a 41 year old for the Alleghenys in 1889, and lasted one more season before ending his 20-year career with the Buffalo Bisons, retiring with a .312 BA. As a member of Forest City of Cleveland, White led off the opening game against the Fort Wayne Kekiongas with a double off Bobby Mathews, considered the first major league hit (the National Association of Professional Baseball Players was the first pro league), and banged into the first double play. Deacon also helped popularize the catcher’s mask and he was the first pitcher to go into a wind-up (he pitched twice, piling up 10 innings of relief work).
  • 1886 - C Bobby Schang was born in Wales Center, New York. Bobby spent 1914-15 with the Bucs, hitting .194. He was nothing if not persistent - he toiled in the minors for the next 12 years before getting five more MLB at-bats as a Cardinal at the age of 40 in 1927. He was the brother of catching great Wally Schang, who had a 19-year big league gig.
Tony Piet 1933 Conlon All-Star
  • 1906 - 2B Tony Piet (Pietruszka) was born in Berwick, PA. Tony started his career with the Bucs, playing from 1931-33 and hitting a solid .298. He was traded in 1934 as part of the Red Lucas deal after he led the NL in games played in 1932 with 154.
  • 1915 - LHP Johnny Gee was born in Syracuse. In August 1939, the top minor league prospect was purchased by the Pirates for $75,000 and four players, the highest price paid by the Bucs for a player until the purchase of Hank Greenberg in 1947. Nicknamed “Gee Whiz,” he lasted parts of four seasons (1939, 1941, 1943-44) with the Bucs, winning five games. Also known as “Long John” (the bonus baby was also called the “$75,000 Lemon”), he never recovered his form after a 1940 arm injury. Gee was the tallest person at 6’9” to play MLB until 6’10” Randy Johnson debuted for the Montreal Expos in September, 1988. Not too surprisingly, he also went on to play pro hoops for the NBA Syracuse Nationals; he had been captain of his Michigan roundball squad.
  • 1915 - C Vinnie Smith was born in Richmond. Smith’s career was defined by WW2; his rookie campaign was in 1941 and then he was drafted into the Navy. He returned to the Pirates in 1946 and played in a handful of games (he hit .259 over the two seasons) before being relegated to the minors afterward. Smith got a taste of umping on the farm when a crew couldn’t get to the game and the players had to police themselves and found it to his liking. He began to umpire after he hung up his spikes in 1954 and returned to the majors in that role in 1957. Smith became part of Pirates history while in blue: he was behind the plate on May 26th, 1959 when Harvey Haddix threw his 12 perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves.
  • 1930 - C Hal Smith was born in West Frankfort, Illinois. Although the backup catcher only played two seasons (1960-61) in Pittsburgh, his three run homer in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, overshadowed by Maz’s dramatic walk-off, may have been the key blow of the entire set. Mel Allen called it "one of the most dramatic base hits in the history of the World Series." It put the Bucs up 8-6 after eight innings and set the stage for Maz, whose blow nudged Smith from the history books.
Hal Smith 1960 Leaf
  • 1935 - RHP Don Cardwell was born in Winston-Salem, NC. He spent four seasons (1963-66) in Pittsburgh, where injuries led to a lot of bullpen time. He was 33-33-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his time with the Pirates, winning 13 games in 1963 and again in ‘65 when healthy and starting, but was dogged by arm woes in 1964. Cardwell lasted 14 campaigns, tossing for five teams. He threw a no-hitter for the Cubs and won a ring with 1969 Mets.
  • 1936 - RHP Bo Belinsky was born in New York City. He was the closest thing baseball had to Joe Namath and brought his glitter to the Steel City in 1969 after his playboy career had pretty well dissipated. He went 0-3, 4.38 and would pitch just one more major league game in the show. Bo did clean up his act later in life, getting clean and becoming a born-again Christian.

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