Wednesday, November 30, 2016

11/30: Russ & Reiser Inked; Mooney Back; Wickersham Lost; HBD Lefty, Clyde & Craig

  • 1870 - LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen was born in North Side, then known as Allegheny City. He spent six seasons with the Bucs (1893-98) and twice led the NL in wins, with 36 (a team record) in ‘93 and 30 in ‘96. Lefty’s line with Pittsburgh was 112-82/3.97. The team released him during the 1898 campaign, and his last of 10 MLB seasons was 1900. He ended Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game hitting streak on June 19th, 1897 when Lefty and the Bucs stopped the Orioles 7-1.
  • 1901 - Pirate coach and scout Clyde Sukeforth was born in Washington, Maine. A long time member of the Brooklyn Dodger organization, he came to Pittsburgh as a coach/scout in 1952 and was one of the main players in the selection of Roberto Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He turned down the chance to succeed Pirate skipper Bobby Bragan in 1957 and retired as a coach after the season, but remained with the Pirates as a scout and minor league manager through 1962.
Clyde Sukeforth 1952 Bowman
  • 1931 - George “Mooney” Gibson (he earned the nickname either through his moon-shaped face or because one of his early teams was called the Mooneys; take your pick) returned for his second spin as Bucco manager, replacing Jewel Ens. He lasted until early in 1934, posting a 200-159 record and two second place finishes. Overall, the Canadian Gibson (he was from Ontario) had a 401-330/.549 record with Pittsburgh. He got his start as a long-time Bucco catcher, playing from 1905-1916 in Pittsburgh, hitting .238 but leading the NL in fielding three times with a toss-out rate of 46% against would-be base stealers. Mooney was the Pirates everyday catcher in 1909 when they won the World Series against the Tigers.
  • 1950 - Pittsburgh signed the Boston Braves’ OF Pete Reiser, who had been a three-time all-star for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early-to-mid 40s, as a FA. Reiser hit .271 in 74 games as a Bucco bench player and was released following the season.
  • 1959 - The KC Athletics drafted Dave Wickersham from the Pirates in the minor league Rule 5 draft. The righty went on to have a 10 year MLB career (including 1-0-1, 3.48 with Pittsburgh in 1968) featured by a 19-win season in 1964 with the Detroit Tigers.
Dave Wickersham 1968 Topps
  • 1976 - OF/1B Craig Wilson was born in Fountain Valley, California. He played as a semi-regular for the Bucs from 2001-06 with a line of .268/.360/.486, 94 HR and 284 RBI, along with a 28% career K rate. Wilson tied the MLB single-season record for pinch-hit home runs with seven in 2001. Hand injuries in 2005 and shoulder surgery in 2007 ended his career.
  • 2012 - The Pirates signed free agent catcher Russell Martin, a three-time All-Star, to a two year, $17M deal, the largest free agency contract they had ever negotiated. He got a $2M signing bonus, $6.5M for 2013 and $8.5M for 2014. Russ was among the league's top defensive catchers and had a .290/.402/.430 slash in his final Pirate season. He left after the 2014 campaign, signing a five year, $82M deal with Toronto.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

11/29: HBD Little Bill, Hit Man, Lefty & Ed; Three Minor Deals - Walt, Chris & Andy

  • 1864 - RHP “Little Bill” Sowders was born in Louisville. He pitched two of his three seasons for Pittsburgh from 1889-90, going 9-13, 5.39 for the Alleghenys. Bill came from a baseball family. Two of his brothers, John and Len, also played in the big leagues. No clue as to why he was “Little Bill” as Sowders was 6’0”, although a string-bean at 155 pounds.
  • 1950 - 1B/OF Mike Easler was born in Cleveland. The Hit Man spend six (1977, 1979-83) of his 14 MLB seasons as a Pirate role player with a .302 BA. Fittingly enough, he spent his later years as a hitting coach for a handful of MLB squads. Mike, btw, is considered to be the Original Hit Man, not Don Mattingly. He picked up the name because of his aggressive style at the plate and his ability to drive the ball to all fields, leading to five .300+ seasons in the show and a .293 career BA.
Mike Easler 1983 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1931 - LHP Paul “Lefty” Pettit was born in Los Angeles. He pitched for the Bucs in 1951 and again in 1953, going 1-2, 7.34. The Bucs signed him in 1950, making him baseball's first $100,000 bonus baby. He never really got a chance to show his stuff; he injured his arm in 1951. By 1954, it was so painful that he was sent to the PCL and switched to OF where he showed a nice stick, but he eventually had to move to 1B to spare his wing. He retired from pro ball in 1961, becoming a high school teacher and coach.
  • 1989 - The Pirates signed veteran righty Walt Terrell to a $800K deal as a free agent, and he promptly had the worst start of his career, going 2-7/5.88 before the Bucs cut him loose in July. He did go on to finish up a bit more credibly with the Tigers, tossing through 1992.
  • 1910 - 2B Ed Leip was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He played three years for the Bucs as a pinch hitter and runner, getting into 30 games and hitting .200 from 1940-42 before turning in the flannels for khaki during WW2.
Chris Cannizzaro 1969 Topps
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded 1B/OF Mike Derrick to Detroit for C Chris Cannizzaro. Pittsburgh kept the light-hitting Cannizzaro for a season before moving him to San Diego while Derrick played one MLB campaign.
  • 2010 - The Bucs sent 3B Andy LaRoche outright to Indy; he opted for free agency the following day. Laroche was a key piece of the Jason Bay trade, but hit just .226 in three Pirate seasons. The Bay deal reeled in Laroche, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris, but they never became building blocks for Neal Huntington (although Moss & Morris have developed into ML players). The GM was hoping to maximize the return by dealing Bay at the deadline, but later admitted he probably should have held off until the winter to pull the trigger.

Monday, November 28, 2016

11/28: Bucs Deal Kiki, Tiger, Wood & Ribant; Forbes Field Deal, HBD Dave

  • 1927 - Hall of Famer OF Kiki Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs for journeymen Sparky Adams and Pete Scott. He had bumped heads with manager Donie Bush, and owner Barney Dreyfuss was looking to dump salary with the Waner brothers on the payroll, so it was bye-bye Kiki. Cuyler played twelve more seasons, hitting .300+ in six of them. Per Wikipedia, two explanations have been given for Cuyler's nickname of "Kiki". In the first version, he was known as "Cuy" by his teammates, so when a fly ball was hit to the Nashville outfield, the shortstop would call out "Cuy" as would the second baseman. Their “Cuy - Cuy” caught on with Nashville's fans. In the second explanation, the moniker came from the player's stuttering problem and the way Cuyler said his own last name (Cuy-Cuy-ler). Either way, "Kiki" is credited to Nashville announcer Bob Murray.
  • 1949 - OF Dave Augustine was born in Follansbee, West Virginia. His MLB career lasted from 1973-74, getting 29 at bats with the Bucs and hitting .207. He’s best known for the “ball on the wall” against the Mets. In the heat of a late September pennant race in 1973, he hit a ball at Shea in the 13th inning that appeared ticketed to be a homer. Instead, it landed on the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Richie Zisk was thrown out at home, the Pirates lost the contest, and the Mets eventually took the NL crown by 2-½ games over the Bucs. That was the closest Augustine came to a major league dinger.
Dave Augustine and Junior had something in common - 1974 Topps
  • 1958 - The sale of Forbes Field to University of Pittsburgh was approved; the Pirates were allowed to stay on for five years, until new Northside stadium was built. In reality, the Pirates stayed on not for five but for twelve years, until TRS opened in 1970. The stadium was a political hot potato for a decade, until ground was broken finally in 1968. The Bucs lost a proposed open center field view of town from TRS when the Steelers vetoed that design in search of more seats; the Pirates made up for that lost scenery when PNC Park was built.
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 3B Don Hoak, 34, to the Philadelphia Phillies for IF Pancho Herrera and OF Ted Savage. It ended up a minor deal; The Tiger was at the end of his career while Herrera and Savage never established themselves as regulars in MLB. Hoak got his nickname from Bob Prince for his relentless, hard-nosed play augmented by his background as an ex-Marine and boxer.
  • 1966 - The Bucs completed a deal that sent knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. Under Hoyt Wilhelm's tutelage, Wood pitched twelve seasons for Chicago and won 168 games with three All-Star appearances. His career was cut short in 1976 when Ron LeFlore’s liner broke his kneecap; Wood missed that campaign and was generally ineffective afterward. Pizarro pitched a season and some change in Pittsburgh before being sold to Boston in 1968; he would return in late 1974, ending his 18 year career as a Pirate.
Wilbur Wood (Pirates promo picture)
  • 1967 - In a reliever swap, Pittsburgh dealt Dennis Ribant to the Detroit Tigers for Dave Wickersham. Both were near the end of their careers and while they had solid 1968 campaigns, they were out of the MLB following the 1969 season.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Notes: S-Gone, Cutch, WBC, Arb/Rule 5, Bonifay, Brown & 2017 Game Promos

A few things of note from the past week:
  • Well, dang. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Braves have agreed to a two-year deal with S-Rod, with the deal consisting of $5M per year with $1.5M signing bonus, just about his predicted market value. It's not official yet; Rodriguez needs to complete a physical first. His departure would leave Adam Frazier/Alen Hanson as the likely in-house replacements.
S-Rod to Bravos (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • A second team that asked about Cutch has surfaced: Seattle joins the Nats in clubs that showed interest. Rumbunter makes a good case for the Yankees, too. The great debate: does Andrew have more trade value now or at the deadline?
  • Fran Cervelli has joined Jung-Ho Kang in the World Cup chase; he'll play for Italy per Jon Morosi. Ditto for Starling Marte, who will most likely suit up for the Dominican Republic. 
  • The deadline for arbitration tenders is fast approaching (December 2nd). The Bucs eligible for arb are (with Matt Schwartz's MLB Trade Rumor salary projections) RHP Gerrit Cole ($4.2M), RHP Jared Hughes ($2.5M), RHP Drew Hutchison ($2.2M), LHP Wade LeBlanc ($1.6M), LHP Jeff Locke ($4.2M), SS Jordy Mercer ($4.0M), RHP Juan Nicasio ($4.6M)     and LHP Tony Watson ($5.9M). Some interesting decisions... 
  • Baseball America's JJ Cooper has a list of 15 unprotected players who could go the Rule 5 route. Altoona 3B Eric Wood is the only current Bucco pup on the list, tho LHP Wei-Chung Wang, who the Brewers selected from the Pirates in 2014, is fair game again.
Eric Wood (photo via MiLB.com)
  • Josh Bonifay, the son of old Bucco GM Cam Bonifay and a Pirate minor leaguer in his playing days, was hired away from Houston by Texas to become the MLB field coordinator for the Rangers. He'll join Jeff Banister's crew to handle the base-running and outfield defense. Josh had been an Astro minor league coach and manager since 2011.
  • USA Today has a piece on the early days of announcer Greg Brown and how he came up with a couple of his calls.
  • For you guys who like to tie together games and giveaways, the Pirates have announced their 2017 promotional schedule. Beside Fan Jams, Pup Nights and free tees, there are a couple of sweet bobbles - one is of a singing Fran Cervelli, and the other a bobble-chair of Bob Walk's on-air tumble in the booth last season.

11/27: HBD Marty, Bullet Joe & Dave; Damaso & Bob Inked; Kendall Moved

  • 1888 - RHP Marty O’Toole was born in William Penn, PA (Schuylkill County). A big time minor league ace, the Bucs bought him from St. Paul in 1911. In 1912, he pitched 37 games and 275 innings with a 15-17 record, 2.71 ERA and tied for the NL lead in shutouts with six. Alas, his arm was shot after that workload. He lasted just four seasons as a Pirate, from 1911-14 (his last MLB season), going 25-35/3.17.
Marty O'Toole 1912 T207
  • 1892 - RHP Leslie “Bullet Joe” Bush was born in Gull River, Minnesota. He spent two of his 17 MLB years in Pittsburgh (1926-27) posting a 7-8-3, 3.61 line. According to his SABR bio, his nickname came about in the minors when the local media began to call him Joe Bullet because of his excellent fastball. He became Bullet Joe after Philadelphia teammate Eddie Collins spied a letter in the clubhouse that was addressed to "Joe Bullet" Bush. He turned it around and nickname stuck for the rest of his baseball career.
  • 1939 - RHP Dave Giusti was born in Seneca Falls, New York. Giusti tossed 15 MLB seasons, with seven (1970-76) in Pittsburgh where the closer slashed 47-28-133/2.94, using the palmball as his out pitch. He led the NL with 30 saves in 1971, became the first pitcher to appear in every game of an NLCS and earned a WS save. He won the NL Fireman of the Year Award after the campaign, and after a couple of snubs was finally named an All-Star in 1973. Giusti also recorded the last out at Forbes Field in 1970 in the Pirates win over the Cubs during the park’s grand finale. After he retired, he remained an active Pirates alum and booster from his Upper St. Clair home.
Dave Giusti 1975 Topps
  • 1988 - The Pirates signed Bob Walk to a three year contract worth $850K per season after his 1988 All-Star campaign. Walkie went 29-17 over those three seasons and inked a two year deal following that contract to finish out his Pirate career.
  • 2004 - The Pirates traded two-time All-Star C Jason Kendall to the Athletics for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes as Pittsburgh wanted to unload the $34M due to the catcher over the next three seasons. The Bucs flipped Rhodes to Cleveland for OF Matt Lawton two weeks later while Redman hurled one year at Pittsburgh before being dealt for Jonah Bayliss. Kendall went on to play eight more seasons with four other clubs, ending his career with 2,195 hits and a slash of .288/75/744.
  • 2006 - The Bucs inked LHP Damaso Marte to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2009 worth $8.5M total over the three years ($4.75M guaranteed); the Yankees paid most of it when they traded for the lefty set-up man at the 2008 deadline.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

11/26: HBD Bob, Joe, Gravedigger & Walkie; Drabek Comes, Adams Goes

  • 1916 - OF/3B Bob Elliott was born in San Francisco. He spent eight seasons (1939-46) in Pittsburgh with a .292 BA, 124 OPS+ and three All-Star appearances. Traded during the 1946 off season to the Boston Braves, he became the NL MVP in 1947, helped in part by playing in a much more hitter-friendly field. Elliott was the second MLB third baseman to have five seasons of 100 RBI, joining Pie Traynor, and retired with the highest career slugging average (.440) of any NL third baseman. He also led the National League in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each, and ended his career among the NL leaders in games (8th, 1262), assists (7th, 2547), total chances (10th, 4113) and double plays (4th, 231) at third. In later years, he managed and coached in the minors, with a one year gig at the helm of the sad sack KC Athletics.
Bob Elliot 1948 Leaf
  • November 26, 1922 - LHP Joe Muir was born in Oriole, Maryland. His MLB career consisted of the 1951-52 seasons when he worked 21 games for the Pirates, going 2-5, 5.19 as a reliever and spot starter. Joe was a Marine before he joined pro ball, and after he hung up the spikes he became a Maryland State Trooper.
  • 1929 - IF Sparky “Spark Plug” Adams (he was 5’4-½” tall), who had been a key part of the 1927 Kiki Cuyler deal, was sold to the Cardinals. He hit .272 in his two seasons at Pittsburgh, but manager Jewel Ens told the Post Gazette that “Sparkie did not fit into the plans for next season.” Post Gazette sports editor Havey Boyle wrote that “Sparky Adams was one of those players that looked good far away but in a close up did not appear so attractive…(But) he still has a certain usefulness and possibly in St. Louis he will do better than he did in Pittsburgh.” He sure did. Sparky batted leadoff for the Cards in 1930-31, hitting .314 and .293, and St. Louis represented the NL in the World Series both seasons against the Philadelphia Athletics, winning it all in ‘31.
  • 1947 - 3B Richie Hebner was born in Boston. The Gravedigger (his off season occupation) played 11 years (1968-76, 1982-83) for the Pirates, putting up a .277 BA and playing in five NLCS and the 1971 World Series. He left on a contentious note. After having his contract cut in 1976 after a poor year, he opted for free agency after the campaign. The Pirates GM Pete Peterson offered to match any deal Hebner received on the market, but the Gravedigger wanted a change of scenery and signed with Philadelphia. He returned a few seasons later.
Richie Hebner 1971 Arco
  • 1956 - RHP Bob Walk was born in Van Nuys, California. He pitched a decade for the Pirates (1984-93) with an 82-61-5/3.83 ERA, won an All-Star berth in 1988 and compiled a 2-1 record in the postseason, capped by a three-hitter tossed against the Braves in 1992 to keep the Pirates alive in the NLCS. He’s known now as a Bucco broadcaster, with over 20 years in the booth.
  • 1986 - In a pitcher swap, the Yankees dealt Doug Drabek, Brian Fisher, and Logan Easley to the Bucs for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Pat Clements. It took three days to complete the trade, until Rhoden agreed to a two-year contract extension with NY. (As a 5 & 10 year man, he had to approve the deal). The swap gave Jim Leyland his ace; Drabek went on to win the NL Cy Young in 1990 while posting a 92-62/3.02 Bucco slash in six seasons.

Friday, November 25, 2016

11/25: HBD Jims, Golden Glove for Roberto, Simon & Decker Deals

  • 1903 - RHP Big Jim Weaver was born in Obion County, Tennessee. He spent the middle of his eight-year career in Pittsburgh (1935-37) posting a 36-21, 3.76 line, splitting his time between starting and the pen. Big Jim earned his nickname honestly: he was 6'6" and weighed 230 pounds.
Jim Waugh 1953 Topps
  • 1933 - RHP Jim Waugh was born in Lancaster, Ohio. His MLB career lasted just two seasons (1952-53), both with the Bucs, with a slash of 5-11/6.43. After getting his feet wet out of the pen, Waugh became youngest pitcher at age 18 to win a game in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates when he went the distance at Forbes Field in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs in August of 1952. It was the first start of his MLB career.
  • 1972 - Roberto Clemente won his 12th straight Sporting News Golden Glove award, a string of recognition dating back to 1961. He and “Say Hey” Willie Mays are tied for the most GG’s earned by an outfielder with a dozen apiece. In his 2,433 game career, Roberto handled 5,102 chances with a .973 fielding %, threw out 266 runners and put fear of the Lord into countless others. He was such a versatile fielder that in 1956, he actually subbed at third base for a game and at second for two more. Clemente also played center field 63 times.
  • 2002 - Detroit sent 1B Randall Simon to the Pirates for LHP Adrian Burnside and a player to be named later (RHP Roberto Novoa.) Novoa pitched three MLB seasons; Burnside went to Japan to play. Simon ended up better at swatting sausages (his “Sausagegate” escapade in Milwaukee cost him a $432.10 Milwaukee city fine for disorderly conduct while MLB suspended him for three games and fined him $2,000) than baseballs, hitting .245 with 13 HR in 152 games as a Bucco between 2003-04.
Jaff Decker (photo via MLB.com)
  • 2013 - In a prospects depth deal, the Bucs acquired OF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas from San Diego for 1B/OF Alex Dickerson. All three have since had cups of coffee in the show, with Dickerson on the verge of becoming an everyday player.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

11/24: HAPPY THANKSGIVING - HBD Ed, Ralph, Bob & Al; Million Dollar Arms; See Ya Zachster

  • 1873 - LHP Ed Doheny was born in in Northfield, Vermont. Ed spent the last three seasons of his nine-year career with the Pirates (1901-03) posting a line of 38-14, 2.35. After a mediocre beginning of his career with the NY Giants, Doheny was reaching his prime with the Pirates, but it wasn’t to be. He began exhibiting signs of paranoia in 1903. The team granted him a rest leave, and he returned, but so did the problems. He was sent home for care, missing the 1903 World Series (and as part of the three man rotation, possibly costing the team the championship) where he became violent and was eventually committed to an institution where he died 13 years later.
Ed Doheny (image via the Vermont Historical Society)
  • 1890 - RHP Ralph Comstock was born in Sylvania, Ohio. He tossed for a pair of Pittsburgh teams - the Federal League Rebels in 1915 (3-3-2, 3.25) and the Pirates in 1918 (5-6-1, 3.00). His moment of glory came while working in the minors between those two stints when as a member of Birmingham in the Southern Association, he hurled a no-hitter against Nashville.
  • 1930 - RHP Bob Friend was born in Lafayette, Indiana. A three-time All-Star pitcher for the Pirates, he averaged 232 IP and 13 victories for some of the worst teams in baseball. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Friend became the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA while pitching for a last-place team. He led the NL in victories once, innings pitched twice, games started three times, and WAR for pitchers twice, going 191-218/3.55 in 15 years (1951-65) as a Buc. He also was active in local Republican politics after his career, serving as controller of Allegheny County from 1967 to 1975 and as a three-time convention delegate.
  • 1967 - OF Al Martin was born in West Covina, California. Martin played eight years (1992-99) for Pittsburgh, hitting .280 with 107 HR and 485 RBI. His best season was 1996, when he hit .300 with 18 HR, 72 RBI and 38 stolen bases. In Pittsburgh, he was backed by “Al’s Army,” donated thousands of tickets to various groups and even met fans at the turnstiles before the game. After his Pirate years, though, he was beset with a string of bizarre personal problems, tarnishing his image as a Bucco good guy.
Al Martin 1996 Fleer Ultra
  • 2008 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to sign players from India when they inked pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, winners of a reality show called "The Million Dollar Arm Hunt." Patel was cut in 2010 and returned home, but Singh made it to A ball before losing the last two years to injury, having TJ surgery in 2014. Their story was made into a movie called (what else?) “Million Dollar Arm.”
  • 2010 - After six years as a Pirate, Pittsburgh traded LHP Zach Duke (45-70, 4.54) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a PTBNL, RHP Cesar Valdez. Duke’s 2005 rookie year saw him post an 8-2/1.81 slash and he made the All-Star team in 2009, but never put up an ERA south of four after his first campaign. Zach reinvented himself as a LOOGY after leaving town and resurrected his career as a bullpen specialist before undergoing offseason TJ surgery. Valdez tossed creditably at Indy in 2011, then departed for the Latin leagues.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

(photo: Own The Zone Sports)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

11/23: HBD Chief, Silver Fox & Dale; Quail Takes Over; Goose Goes; War Ball

  • 1860 - C Chief Zimmer was born in Marietta, Ohio. Zimmer was known as a great defensive catcher and spent 1900-02 as a Pirate toward the end of his 19-year career (he finished in 1903 as the player-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics). He hit .262 as a Bucco, catching 193 games between the ages of 39-41. Zimmer was also the first president of the Players' Protective Association and a successful hustler (ok, businessman) during his playing days. Chief ran a cigar business that he promoted during the season and invented "Zimmer's Baseball Game", a sort of pinball machine that was a big thing during the early-to-middle 1890s. His nickname came from his Cleveland days. Since Zimmer was the captain of the Indians team, he was dubbed “Chief” by the press.
The Silver Fox 1929 (photo Conlon Collection/The Sporting News)
  • 1894 - LHP Jesse “The Silver Fox” Petty was born in Orr, Oklahoma. He was a Bucco for two seasons, 1929-30, going 12-16, 4.55. He was sold to the Cubs during his second Pittsburgh campaign, and after the season, his seven-year MLB career was concluded. Jess served bravely during WW1; before he played pro ball, he was a combat dispatch rider, not a position for the faint of heart. Jesse was known as “The Silver Fox” because he didn't earn a full-time big-league roster spot until he was 30 years old.
  • 1944 - The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including Rip Sewell and Paul Waner. Rip was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons for the Bucs, notching 21 wins each campaign with his notorious eephus pitch. Big Poison was at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Yankees; he ended his tenure in the bigs quietly the following year, batting once more before hanging the spikes up for good.
  • 1963 - IF Dale Sveum was born in Richmond, California. Dale played for the Bucs in 1996-97 and closed out his 12 year career when he returned in 1999. He hit .260 for Pittsburgh and played every infield position. After he closed out the book on his playing days, he managed or coached for Pittsburgh, Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago and Kansas City.
Danny Murtaugh 1971 Topps
  • 1971 - Danny Murtaugh retired as manager because of health reasons after winning the 1971 World Series, and Bill Virdon was named as his replacement. The Quail led the Pirates to 96 wins and the 1972 NL East title, but a 67-69 performance the following season cost him his job. The Irishman returned in late 1973 for another stint as skipper. Virdon moved on to skipper the Yankees for two years, the Astros for eight more (with two pennants) and closed out as the Expo’s field general for two more seasons. He’s now a special instructor for the Pirates. Bill had the oddball distinction of having been replaced twice by the manager he replaced, bookended by Murtaugh in Pittsburgh and Jim Fanning in Montreal. Virdon was dubbed The Quail by announcer Bob Prince because Bill dropped so many hits just beyond the infield but in front of the outfielders, a soft hit known in that era as a dying quail for the way it fluttered to the ground.
  • 1977 - The New York Yankees signed Rich “Goose” Gossage to a six-year contract worth $3.6M. Gossage saved 26 games for the Pirates in 1977, but the Bucs never made a serious offer for him to return (and by most accounts, Goose liked the City, the team and Chuck Tanner and hoped for a local bite) so he took the Yankees’ money. When Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest. There are a couple of stories as to his moniker; one is that White Sox teammate (and roomie) Tom Bradley gave it to him for the way he craned his neck while getting a sign from the catcher; the other is that it’s just a play on Gossage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

11/22: Roberto Drafted, Deal For Guy/Big Jim, HBD Dick, John & Mike

  • 1907 - IF Dick Bartell was born in Chicago. He began his 18 year MLB career with Pittsburgh (1927-30) and hit .301 as a Bucco before being traded to the Phillies after butting heads with Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss; his nickname was “Rowdy Richard” because of his aggressive play and jousts with management (in fact, he selected that moniker as the title of his autobiography). He added 14 more seasons to his resume afterward, missing a couple of years during WW2, and made a pair of All-Star teams.
Big Jim could literally carry a team - 1936 National Chicle Fine Pen
  • 1934 - The Pirates acquired P Guy Bush, P Big Jim Weaver (he was 6’6”), and 1B/OF Babe Herman from the Cubs for P Larry French and OF Fred Lindstrom. French ended up the main man; he pitched seven years for Chicago, winning 95 games, while Weaver was a Buc for three seasons and won 36 contests before being sold to St. Louis.
  • 1947 - RHP John Morlan was born in Columbus, Ohio. John spent two years with the Bucs, going 2-5, 4.16 from 1973-74. He was a two-sport athlete in high school, turning down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and instead going to Ohio U. where he could play baseball. He was drafted four times but wanted to get his sheepskin. After graduating with a teaching degree in 1969, John finally signed with the Pirates (he was their first round pick that year, chosen fifth overall), teaching school during the off-season. He planned well to have that fall back; after his Bucco stint, he spent three more years in the minors before leaving pro ball.
  • 1954 - The Pirates, with the first pick, selected Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft, signing him to a $20,000 bonus and sending $4,000 to Brooklyn based on the recommendation of scout Clyde Sukeforth. It was money well spent for a Hall-of-Fame player with 3,000 hits, four batting titles, 15 All-Star games and 12 Golden Glove awards during his Pittsburgh career.
Mike Benjamin 2001 Pacific
  • 1965 - IF Mike Benjamin was born in Euclid, Ohio. He spent from 1999-2002 with Pittsburgh (missing 2001 due to injury), playing every infield position while batting .239. Mike ended his 13-year MLB run after the 2002 campaign. Oddly, the light-hitting glove guy tied the major league record for most hits in two consecutive games with 10, set a major league record for most hits in three consecutive games with 14, and tied another record for most hits in four consecutive games with 15 in 1995, pretty heady stuff for a player with a .229 lifetime BA.

Monday, November 21, 2016

11/21: Donora BD's - The Man & The Kid; HBD Freddie, Bill & Brian; MVP - No Cigars; Mace, Earl, Clint Sign; Bye Bye Bobby

  • 1905 - OF & Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom was born in Chicago. Acquired from the NY Giants, Lindy played two season in Pittsburgh, hitting .302, before being traded to Chicago. Lindstrom batted .311 during a 13-year career.
Freddie Lindstrom 1934 (photo Conlon Collection/The Sporting News)
  • 1920 - Hall of Famer Stan Musial of the Cards was born in Donora. Stan the Man compiled 3,630 career hits, ranking fourth all-time and first in a career spent with only one team. With 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road, he also is considered to be the most consistent hitter of his era. He hit 475 home runs, was named the NL's MVP three times, and won three World Series championship titles. He shares the MLB record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Musial was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
  • 1934 - Pittsburgh purchased the contract of RHP Mace Brown from Kansas City of the American Association. It was a good deal; as a spot starter and long man, Mace went 76-57/3.46 for the Bucs over seven campaigns and earned a 1938 All-Star berth with 15 wins.
  • 1935 - The Phillies sent C Al Todd to Pittsburgh for C Earl Grace, rookie RHP Claude Passeau, who worked just one game for the Pirates during the season and what Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Ed Ballinger called “a healthy amount of cash.” Todd caught three years for the Bucs, hitting a solid .284 before being flipped to Boston for C Ray Mueller while Grace had a couple of seasons left in the tank. Passeau, who had pitched just once for the Bucs as a rookie in 1935, was the key figure, putting up a 162-150/3.32 line during his 13 year MLB career.
Bill Almon 1986 Donruss
  • 1952 - IF Bill Almon was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Bill played in Pittsburgh from 1985-87, batting .249, before being traded to the Mets for Al Pedrique. His last season was 1988 as a Phil, his 15th MLB campaign.
  • 1969 - Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle and Cincinnati fame was born in Donora. The Kid (a childhood nickname given to keep him sorted from his dad, Ken Sr) was a 13-time All-Star, and his 630 home runs rank as the sixth-most in MLB history. Griffey also won 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field. He's tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run (8 games, tied with Don Mattingly and Dale Long). His pop, Ken Griffey Sr., was born there and was a multi-sport star at Donora HS, graduating the year before it merged with Monongahela to form Ringgold.
  • 1973 - Pete Rose won the NL MVP, edging out Willie Stargell by a 274-250 tally. Rose took his third batting crown with a .338 mark. Stargell led the league with 44 HR, 119 RBI, and a .646 slugging percentage while batting .299. Many in Pittsburgh still believe Captain Willie wuz robbed because of the Charlie Hustle mystique.
Brian Meadows 2005 Fleer Tradition
  • 1975 - RHP Brian Meadows was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 2002-05. The Bucs converted him to a reliever in 2003, and his line with the Pirates was 8-12-2 with a 4.20 ERA. He went on to Tampa Bay in 2006 and retired the following season after failing to make it out of camp with the Reds.
  • 1991 - The Brave's 3B Terry Pendleton, who hit .319 with 22 HR and 86 RBI, won the NL MVP over Barry Bonds, who hit .292, with 25 HR & 116 RBI by a 274-259 point count. Bobby Bonilla came in third and was thought to have split Bond's vote.
  • 2005 - The Pirates sent 2B Bobby Hill, part of the ill-fated salary-dump deal with Chicago that made Aramis Ramirez a Cub, to San Diego for RHP Clayton Hamilton, a Beaver Falls native who went to Blackhawk HS and Penn State. Clayton never made it to the majors, although he did work a season or two in Japan. It was a wash; Hill, who been DFA’ed three days earlier, never made another MLB appearance.
Clint Barmes 2012 Topps
  • 2011 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Clint Barmes to a two year, $10.5M contract, their first $10M+ free agent deal since they signed Steve Buechele in 1991. His 2013 walk up song, Journey's "Don’t Stop Believing," became the Bucs' theme for the season when they finally broke their 20-year losing streak and made the playoffs. Barmes inked a one-year deal in 2014 for $2M to serve as insurance for Jordy Mercer, spent 2015 in San Diego and retired in 2016 after a 13 year career.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Notes: Youth Served on 40-Man Roster, AFL Results, Player Moves

Here's whassup this week:

Clay Holmes (photo via Roto Scouting)
  • The Pirates added RHP Clay Holmes to their 40-man roster, bringing the total to 40 players. He joins Dovydas Neverauskas, Brady Dragmire (waiver claim) and Jose Osuna, who were placed on the 40-man earlier. Quite a few young Bucs were added to the list last year and during this season: Pitchers Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Hutchison, Nick Kingham, Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, along with position players Josh Bell, Chris Bostick (trade), Elias Diaz, Adam Frazier, Willie Garcia, Alen Hansen, Max Moroff, Gift Ngoepe, and Jason Rogers (trade), so most of the pups are safe. The guys on the bubble who lost out are OF Barrett Barnes, a first rounder with a breakout year at Altoona, LHP Jared Lakind, a reliever who has a 94 MPH heater and OF/3B Eric Wood, who had a red-hot Arizona Fall League performance and shown consistent power. None of the trio have reached AAA yet.
  • The Bucs are interested in at least one of their free agents; MLB Daily Dish reporter Chris Cotillo tweets that they are in on S-Rod. They're also staying in contact with Ivan Nova, whose FA value has yet to met his expectations.
Eric Wood (photo via MLB Pipeline)
  • The Surprise Seguras of the Arizona Fall league ended up the league runner-ups. Pirate position prospects on the club were Eric Wood (.330/.388/.489) and C Jin-de Jhang (.319/.389/.383) who were lookin' good and 3B Connor Joe (.204), ouch. As for the pitchers, Edgar Santana had a nice campaign (0-0-3, 0.00, 18 K in 13-2/3 IP), Alex McRae (0-1, 3.38) and Tanner Anderson (2-2, 3.76 with a team high 26 IP) were solid and Montana DuRapau's season went a little too long (0-1, 5.40). Small samples all, but another log in the fire.
  • Free agent LHP Zach Phillips (0-0, 2.70 in 6-1/3 Pirates IP) signed with the Cardinals.
  • The Marlins signed LHP Kyle Lobstein to a minor league deal. The Lobster was 2-0. 3.96 with the Bucs last year.
Stetson Allie 2011 Topps Minor League Heritage
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweeted that the Dodgers signed OF Stetson Allie, 25, to minor league deal. The 2010 Pirates second round pick, who the Bucs flipped from a pitcher to position player, hit .247 with 16 HR & 20 2B at Altoona this year.
  • Neil Walker accepted the Mets $17.2M qualifying offer, not a bad payday for a 31-year-old guy who has just had surgery on a herniated disc in September.
  • The Astros announced that they’ve signed Charlie Morton to a two-year/$14M contract.
  • Adrian Sampson, traded for JA Happ at the 2015 deadline, was outrighted by the Rangers, who had claimed him from the Mariners. He had off season elbow surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. 
Joel Hanrahan 2013 Topps Chasing History
  • Joel Hanrahan retired. He was the man in Pittsburgh in 2011-2012, saving 76 games during that span with a pair of All-Star nods before being moved to Boston for Mark Melancon. His injuries - he had two TJ surgeries - proved too much to overcome. Hanny leaves the game with exactly 100 saves and 9.8K/nine innings.
  • Spin Williams, who spent 27 years with the Pirates as a coach and was the Bucs long-time pitching mentor, won the Mike Coolbaugh Award for his work. He now coaches for the Washington Nats.
  • BTW, Yankee pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who the Pirates were thought to be eying at the 2016 deadline, was DFA'ed. The righty will likely miss this campaign while recovering from Tommy John/flexor tendon surgery in August.

11/20: Branch GM, Leyland Hired, JR's Staff, Deacon & Maz All-Stars, Reuschel CoY, Stu Trade, HBD Jeff

  • 1950 - Pirates GM Roy Hamey resigned and was replaced by Branch Rickey. Hamey was a NY Yankee baseball exec who got his first GM gig in Pittsburgh in 1946. He hired Billy Meyer to manage and added players Tiny Bonham, Bob Chesnes and Hank Greenberg to go with holdover Ralph Kiner. What he didn’t develop was a farm system to stock a team lacking in depth, Rickey’s forte, or winning clubs. Rickey would falter too, but his minor league spadework helped his 1955 replacement, Joe Brown, build the successful late-50s & 60s Pirates.
Roy Hamey w/Ralph Kiner (photo The Sporting News/Getty Images)
  • 1960 - RHP Vern Law and 2B Bill Mazeroski were named to The Sporting News MLB All-Star team, selected by 291 Baseball Writers of America Association members. The NL continued to be well represented by winning eight of the team’s 11 spots.
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 1B Dick Stuart and P Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for P Don Schwall and C Jim Pagliaroni. Pags appeared in 490 games over the next five years for the Bucs, batting .254 while Schwall became a multi role pitcher, tossing four years for Pittsburgh with a 22-23-4/3.24 ERA. Stu hit 103 homers in the next three seasons and then faded away, while Lamabe lasted six more seasons in the show, with strong campaigns in 1966-67.
  • 1985 - 36 year old Rick Reuschel was named the NL’s Major League Comeback Player of the Year by United Press International. Reuschel went 14-8 with a 2.27 ERA, starting the year with Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League after signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh in February. Rick went on to win 71 more games in the next five seasons with the Bucs and Giants before running out of gas and hanging up the spikes in 1991.
Rick Reuschel (photo via Steel City Collectable)
  • 1985 - Syd Thrift hired Jim Leyland to manage the Pirates, replacing Chuck Tanner. During his Pirate years from 1986 to 1996, Leyland won two Manager of the Year awards (1990 & 1992), finished as runner-up in 1988 and 1991 and led the team to three divisional titles (1990-92).
  • 1987 - LHP Jeff Locke was born in North Conway, New Hampshire. He joined the Bucs in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade, and the Redstone Rocket (nicknamed by a local paper, Redstone is his home neighborhood, and Jeff had a mean HS fastball, along with the timely association of NASA’s moon-launch from a Redstone Rocket) made his MLB debut in 2011, joining the rotation full time in 2013 and earning an All-Star berth that season.
  • 2007 - Newly hired manager John Russell started to put together his staff, naming Tony Beasley third base coach, Gary Varsho bench coach and Luis Dorante bullpen coach. He later added Jeff Andrews as pitching coach, Don Long as batting coach and Lou Frazier as the first base coach.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

11/19: Groat & Lind Traded, Mickey Moves Up, Bonds MVP Over Bobby Bo, 2010 Roster Flips, HBD Uncle Al & Billy

  • 1847 - Albert G. Pratt, nicknamed "Uncle Al," was born in Pittsburgh (actually, he was from Allegheny City, now the North Side). Pratt was a pitcher who played for three top flight Pittsburgh indy teams, the Enterprise Club, The Allegheny Club and the Xanthus. The Civil War vet also tossed a couple of years for the professional Cleveland Forest Citys and then umped afterward, but is best remembered locally as the skipper of the first major league club in Pittsburgh, the Alleghenys, which joined the American Association in 1882. Uncle Al managed the club from 1882-83, going 51-56. He was also an organizer of the Union Association, and a part owner of the National League Pittsburgh club in 1890 during the Players League revolt. Uncle Al's biggest moment in history came on May 4th, 1871. In front of 200 paying customers, Pratt pitched in the first contest of the National Association, baseball's initial pro circuit. His Forest City nine lost 2-0 to Fort Wayne. He got his nickname, per Frederick Lieb, author of 1948's "The Pittsburgh Pirates," because of the affection the Pirates rooters had for him. 
Uncle Al from the Baseball Page
  • 1862 - OF Billy Sunday was born in Ames, Iowa. Sunday spent three seasons (1888-90) with the Alleghenys before being traded for two players and $1,100 as an early salary dump because the team was broke. He was a flashy outfielder and speedster, supposedly the fastest player of his era, but hit just .243 for Pittsburgh. His true calling was as an evangelical preacher, and from the turn of the century until his death in 1935 he was renown for preaching non-denominational Christianity across the country. He used his reputation as a ballplayer to promote his tent revivals during his early years of spreading the Good Word.
  • 1960 - Mickey Vernon was plucked from Danny Murtaugh’s staff to become coach of the expansion Washington Senators. It was a homecoming for Mickey, who had played 14 years in DC and won a pair of batting crowns as a Senator. He managed there from 1961-63, with a career record of 135–227. He returned to coach for the Pirates in 1964 and was a baseball nomad afterward, coaching for St. Louis, Los Angeles, Montreal and the Yankees. He managed at the AAA and AA levels of the minor leagues and served as a batting instructor in the Royals and Yankees' farm systems before retiring from baseball.
  • 1962 - Dick Groat was traded with P Diomedes Olivo to the St. Louis Cardinals for P Don Cardwell and IF Julio Gotay. Groat played five more years, making two All-Star teams, finishing second in the MVP vote in 1963, and won another World Series. Traded as part of a Joe Brown youth movement, Groat was stunned by the deal - he was born in Wilkinsburg - and didn’t associate with the team again until a 1990 reunion of the 1960 World Series Championship team.
Dick Groat 1962 Topps
  • 1990 - LF Barry Bonds won the NL MVP in a runaway by taking the top spot on 23 of the 24 ballots cast to top teammate and runner-up Bobby Bonilla (.280/32/120). Bonds hit .301 with 23 HR, 114 RBI, and had 52 stolen bases. The All-Star duo led the Pirates to 95 wins and a first place finish in the NL East, but Pittsburgh lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.
  • 1992 - The Pirates traded 2B Jose Lind to the KC Royals for pitchers Dennis Moeller and Joel Johnston. Chico was beset with personal problems and was out of baseball after the 1995 season. Johnston, once the Royals top prospect, had a strong 1993 season but quickly faded and was out of baseball after 1995; Moeller made ten appearances in Pittsburgh and those marked the extent of his MLB days.
  • 2010 - The Pirates DFA’ed LHP Zach Duke, 3B Andy LaRoche and IF Delwin Young to clear 40-man roster space for pitchers Michael Crotta, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos.
Tony Watson 2011 Bowman Draft

Friday, November 18, 2016

11/18 Birthdays: HBD Rocky, Gene, Curt, Jim & Jamo

  • 1924 - 1B Glenn “Rocky” Nelson was born in Portsmouth, Ohio. He got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1951 and then platooned with Dick Stuart from 1959-61. He hit .270 as a Pirate, and in the 1960 World Series went 3-for-9 with a Game Seven homer and two RBI. Rocky may have been a MLB journeyman, but he was a minor league terror. In 1958, Nelson was voted the International League’s MVP after winning the triple crown while a Toronto Maple Leaf. He was inducted into the IL Hall of Fame and later into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He earned his nickname the hard way according to SABR: while in the St. Louis Cardinals training camp, Whitey Kurowski bounced a ball off Nelson's noggin during a pepper game and then added insult to injury by afterward anointing him Rocky after the misadventure.
Rocky Nelson 1959 Topps
  • 1925 - Gene Mauch, long time MLB manager, was born in Salina, Kansas. He made a brief stop in Pittsburgh in 1947 as a 21 year-old infielder, batting .300 in 16 games. His claim to fame was as a big league skipper/small ball advocate who won over 1,900 games (he lost over 2,000 times, too), though never claiming a pennant - his clubs finished one game out three times during his four-team managing career that lasted from 1960-87.
  • 1933 - RHP Curt Raydon was born in Bloomington, Indiana. Raydon had a strong 8-4, 3.62 line in his 1958 rookie season, but never pitched in the show again. He came up with a sore arm after the campaign and was only able to toss 15 AAA games in 1959. In spring training of the following season, his arm pain continued, so Curt gave up baseball and became a policeman.
  • 1943 - LHP Jim Shellenback was born in Riverside, California. He was a seldom used reliever for the Pirates from 1966-67 and 1969, going 1-1-2 with a 3.35 ERA. He put together a nine year career with some solid seasons for the Washington Senators and afterward became a long-time minor league pitching coach for the Twins organization.
Jameson Taillon (photo MLB Pipeline)
  • 1991 - RHP Jameson Taillon was born in Lakeland, Florida. The high school righty was the second pick of the 2010 draft behind Bryce Harper after the Pirates FO debated on whether to select Jamo or Manny Machado. JT zoomed through the minors, and the Pirates had him slated for a 2014 debut. Instead, he had TJ surgery, followed by a sports hernia operation. Despite missing all of 2014-15, he arrived in Pittsburgh on June 8th, 2016, and claimed a spot in the rotation.

11/18 Happenings: Alleghenys, Dealing, Clint MoY, Josh H&H, Bye Bye Russ, Ralph, Expansion...

  • 1882 - The case of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys versus C Charlie Bennett was decided. Prior to the 1882 season, Allegheny gave Bennett $100 to sign an agreement binding him to a future 1883 contract with the club. Instead, Bennett re-signed with the Detroit Wolverines. The Western Pennsylvania District Court ruled in Bennett’s favor for several reasons, including restraint of trade and because there was no concrete ‘83 contract agreed to by the parties. His case later was cited during the fight over the reserve rule during the 1889-1890 Players League battle. He played for the Wolverines for eight seasons, and they named their stadium after him. Charlie is also credited with the first chest protector; his was a cork-lined vest he wore under his jersey. Sadly, he didn’t have long to enjoy his court win - Bennett lost both his legs in 1894 when he was run over by a train.
  • 1886 - The NL officially admitted the Alleghenys, who became the first franchise to jump from the American Association. The club made a reported profit of $160,000 in 1886 (per Wikipedia) and finished second in the AA, making the decision a no-brainer for the NL. The 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys finished sixth in their first NL campaign with a 55-69 record. They played at Recreation Park that year and became known as the Pirates a few seasons later in 1891. The Bucs date their history from their entrance into the NL, although the Alleghenys formed in 1882 and played in the American Association, a rival league that was considered to be major league at the time, with the two champions playing each other in the postseason from 1884-90 in loosely organized, unofficial title bouts.
Danny Murtaugh 1951 Bowman
  • 1947 - The Bucs traded for 1B Johnny Hopp and 2B Danny Murtaugh, sending the Boston Braves C Bill Salkeld‚ P Al Lyons‚ and OF Jim Russell. Hopp played three years for the Pirates, hitting .310 but providing little power as a first baseman. Murtaugh’s career was stronger as a manager than player, but he started full-time around the infield in 1948, hitting .290, before finishing his playing career as a Bucco reserve in 1951.
  • 1949 - Despite hitting .310 with a league-leading 54 HR and 127 RBI, Ralph Kiner finished fourth in the NL-MVP balloting, trailing winner Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.
  • 1997 - The Pirates lost P Jason Johnson to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays while P Clint Sodowsky and 3B Joe “The Joker” Randa went to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft. Randa returned to the Pirate fold for his last MLB season in 2006.
Brian Giles 2000 Topps
  • 1998 - The Bucs sent LHP Ricardo Rincon to the Tribe for OF Brian Giles. In five campaigns with the Pirates, Giles would put up a line of .308/.426/.591 with 165 HR and 426 RBI and was twice named to the All-Star team. That deal began a chain reaction of swaps that eventually led to the Pirates acquiring Jason Bay, Ollie Perez, Xavier Nady, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, and Bryan Morris before the trade tree finally fell.
  • 2014 - Free agent C Russ Martin officially signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after spending two playoff years behind the dish for the Bucs. Born in Toronto, it was a homecoming for the 31-year-old Martin, sweetened by a five-year, $82M contract.
  • 2014 - Manager Clint Hurdle was given the Brooks Robinson Community Service Award and All-Star Josh Harrison was named the MLB recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) 15th annual Legends for Youth Dinner. Hurdle was recognized for his work with the Prader-Willi Association, while Harrison’s award was given to “an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of baseball.”

Thursday, November 17, 2016

11/17: Big Contracts, Lucas Trade, HBD Tom & Elias, Expansion, Benjamin Inked

  • 1933 - The Pirates traded OF Adam Comorosky and 2B Tony Piet to the Reds for P Red Lucas and OF Wally Roettger. Lucas was the key player. He lasted five seasons in Pittsburgh, going 47-32/3.77 and making 96 starts. After the trade, Lucas never lost a game against his old Cincinnati mates, going 14-0 against them during the remainder of his career. Red went 15-4 in 1936 with a 3.18 ERA in his top Bucco campaign and was also handy off the bench with a stick (he started his minor league career in the OF), posting a career .281 BA. Red’s nickname, "The Nashville Narcissus," was coined by Colonel Bob Newhall, a reporter for the old Cincinnati Tribune, who thought the young pitcher who was raised in Nashville was a blooming baseball beauty per SABR.
Tom Dettore 1973 promotional photo
  • 1947 - RHP Tom Dettore was born in Canonsburg. Tom tossed one year for the Bucs in 1973, putting up an 0-1, 5.96 line and pitched the next three seasons for the Cubs. After his playing days, Dettore was a pitching coach in the Pirates minor league system (1988-95) before becoming the Pirates minor league pitching coordinator through 1998.
  • 1990 - C Elias Diaz was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He debuted with Pittsburgh in 2015 and was up briefly in 2016, but an elbow injury and later a case of cellulitis derailed the season. He’s considered an excellent defensive catcher though just a contact hitter, and is the Pirates top prospect at the position.
  • 1992 - The Pirates lost OF Alex Cole to the Colorado Rockies, along with P Danny Jackson and IF Ramon Martinez to the Florida Marlins, in the expansion draft. The Fish flipped Jackson to the Phils, where he won 26 games in 1993-94 and earned an All-Star nod.
Mike Benjamin 2000 MLB Showdown
  • 1998 - The Bucs signed free agent IF Mike Benjamin to a two-year contract worth $924K. He later signed a two-year extension worth $1.4M and played for Pittsburgh through the 2002 campaign, missing ‘01 due to injury, and hit .239 while manning all four infield positions.
  • 2000 - C Jason Kendall signed the richest contract in team history. The $60M, six-year contract extension, which included a $4M signing bonus, had a base salary of $6M in 2002 and peaked at $13M in 2007. To this point from his rookie year of 1996, Kendall had hit .300 or better every season except 1997, when he hit .294. He became the second highest paid active catcher in baseball, behind only Mike Piazza. He was traded to the Oakland A’s in 2004 before his salary jumped to seven figures.
  • 2005 - Jason Bay agreed to an $18.25M, four-year contract that ran through his arbitration-eligible seasons after making $355K in 2005. He hit .296 with 58 HR and 183 RBI in 2004-05 and began his career by winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. The only sticking point was a fifth year that would have been during Bay’s first free agent season; his side wanted a guaranteed renewal to give it up while the Bucs preferred to make it an option year. At loggerheads on that issue, the deal was smooth sailing after a four-year term was struck. Jay Bay was traded to Boston in 2008, before the contract ran out, and had a couple of solid years with the Red Sox before moving on to the NY Mets, where injuries effectively derailed his career.
Jason Bay 2005 Donruss Studio

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

11/16: Roberto MVP, Groat Batting Champ & MVP, HBD Brandon, Welcome Catfish, Bye Al

  • 1894 - Manager Al Buckenberger of the Pirates was expelled briefly from the NL for being part of a group that attempted, without success, to revive the old American Association. Al was a major league manager for ten years (Columbus, Pittsburgh, St. Louis & Boston) and also served as club president for the Bucs. The suspension ended his Pirates association and he was replaced at the helm by Tom Burns in 1895.
Catfish 1952 Topps
  • 1950 - The Pirates selected 1B/OF George “Catfish” Metkovich from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in the Rule 5 draft. The 29 year-old had six seasons of MLB ball under his belt, but had spent the 1950 season with the Seals. He had a decent run with Pittsburgh, hitting .276 in two seasons and some change before being flipped in 1953 as part of the Ralph Kiner trade. The lefty earned his nickname when he stepped on a catfish during a fishing trip and cut his foot, causing him to miss several games. The Bucs also selected 1B Dale Long, but released him after a handful of games. He would return to the Pirates in 1955 and enter the record books a year later by homering in eight straight games.
  • 1960 - NL batting champ (.325) Dick Groat was named NL MVP, beating out teammate Don Hoak 276-162. Also trailing him in the race were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks, all who had big years. Groat won despite losing the last three weeks of the season to a bad wrist, injured on a Lew Burdette pitch. Vern Law, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face and Smoky Burgess also received votes to place six Pirates among the Top Twenty finishers.
  • 1966 - RF Roberto Clemente won the NL MVP, finishing ahead of Dodger ace Sandy Koufax by a slim 218-208 count. Clemente hit .317 with 29 HR and 119 RBI. His strong play kept the Pirates in the hunt until the next-to-last day of the season. The Great One finished the year fourth in batting, 10th in home runs and second in runs batted in.
Brandon Cumpton 2015 Topps
  • 1988 - RHP Brandon Cumpton was born in Augusta, Georgia. A depth starter, the Georgia Tech grad saw action as an injury replacement in 2013-14, going 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA. He was the ninth round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft, but his career has been put on hold after various surgeries.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

11/15: Clint Hired, Cobra MVP, Branch & TSN, HBD Maurice, Gus & Craig

  • 1914 - OF Maurice Van Robays was born in Detroit. Van Robays replaced RF Lloyd Waner late in 1939. He finished third in the NL with 116 RBI and received a smattering of MVP votes the next season. "Bomber" (his nickname after he hit 11 HR in 1940) had a strong 1941. MVR developed vision problems the following season and had to wear glasses, and it took him until 1943 to rediscover his batting stroke. Then he missed the war years of 1944-45 while serving with the 1st Infantry Division, and played one last season in Pittsburgh in 1946. Van Robays is credited with naming Rip Sewell's famous "eephus" pitch. After seeing it delivered, Van Robays said "that's an eephus," using the Hebrew term for "nothing."
Gus Bell 1952 Topps
  • 1928 - OF Gus Bell was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He came up with the Pirates, and between 1950-52 hit .270 with 40 HR. He was traded to the Reds, where he went on to win four All-Star berths. Gus is Buddy’s father and the grandpa of David and Michael. Family factoid from Wiki: David Bell hit for the cycle in 2004, joining his grandfather Gus to become the only grampa-grandkid duo in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
  • 1950 - Branch Rickey was featured in a cartoon on the front page of The Sporting News for the story “Treasure Island,” shown plotting future Pirate moves on an X-marks-the-spot map. Unfortunately, the Bucs ran aground rebuilding during the Mahatma’s 1950-55 reign, although he is often credited with the spadework that led to the strong sixties clubs.
  • 1978 - RF Dave "The Cobra" Parker won the NL MVP, topping runner-up Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers. Parker had 30 HR with 117 RBI and led the league with a .334 batting average, a .585 slugging percentage, and 340 total bases. That was despite the fact that he missed two weeks after breaking his jaw in a home plate collision with the Mets' John Stearns and returned wearing a football-style facemask, thought to be the first time such a contraption was worn in an MLB game.
Craig Hansen 2008 Topps
  • 1983 - RHP Craig Hansen was born in Glen Cove, New York. A first round draft pick of Boston,the closer was traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Jason Bay deal. He only appeared in five games for the Pirates and was diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, a condition that disrupts nerve signals between muscles. His lost his fastball and was released by Pittsburgh in 2011.
  • 2010 - Clint Hurdle, former Colorado manager, became the Pirates sixth field boss since 1992, replacing John Russell. Clint was the first skipper to guide the team to a playoff spot since Jim Leyland in 1992 when his club earned a wild card berth in 2013 while also snapping a record-setting 20-season losing streak and was in the playoffs for three straight years until the string was snapped in 2016.

Monday, November 14, 2016

11/14: Cutch MVP; Doug Drabek Wins Cy; HBD Fred, Paul & X-Man; Deals...

  • 1881 - C/1B Fred Carisch was born in Fountain City, Wisconsin. Playing between 1903-06, the reserve hit .229 for the Pirates. Fred became the center of a storm in 1923, when as a Tigers' coach, he was forced to catch when his team's final receiver was ejected. A protest was filed, but the Cleveland Indians rallied to win in the tenth, making the point moot.
Stan Rojek 1951 Bowman
  • 1947 - The Bucs bought SS Stan Rojek, 29, from the Dodgers with plans to make him the starter in Pittsburgh; he was blocked by Pee Wee Reese in Brooklyn. He played 156 games and hit .290 in 1948, but faded after that season, became a backup in 1950 and was traded to the Cards in 1951. They also purchased 1B Big Ed Stevens from Brooklyn, who played from 1948-50 and hit .253 as a Pirate.
  • 1967 - RHP Paul Wagner was born in Milwaukee. A 12th round draft pick in 1989, he pitched for the Pirates for six campaigns, from 1992-97, mainly as a starter, and went 26-40/4.58 during that span. Wagner came close to capturing a little magic - in 1995, he had a no-hitter broken up against the Colorado Rockies with two out in the ninth on an AndrĂ©s Galarraga single.
  • 1978 - OF Xavier Nady was born in Salinas, California. The X-Man played for the Bucs from 2006-08, hitting .301 as a Pirate. He had been on the Pirate radar for awhile - GM Dave Littlefield tried to pry him from the Padres in 2003, and settled on Jason Bay instead when SD wouldn’t deal Nady. The Friars were that high on him - Nady went straight to the majors without playing minor league ball in 2000 while with San Diego, though the stay didn’t last long, as he was sent to the farm after one game.
Xavier Nady 2006 Upper Deck
  • 1990 - RHP Doug Drabek, who posted a 22-6 record and a 2.76 ERA, was named the NL Cy Young winner and became the first Pirate since Vern Law in 1960 to take home the award. He received 23 of 24 first-place votes and 118 of a possible 120 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
  • 1996 - The Pirates sent 2B Carlos Garcia, 1B/OF Orlando Merced and P Dan Plesac to the Toronto Blue Jays for P Jose Silva, IF Abraham Nunez, and OF Craig Wilson plus prospects SS Brandon Cromer, P Jose Pett and P Mike Halperin. Merced had four good seasons remaining, Plesac lasted in the show through the 2003 season and Garcia was a bench guy in the AL. Silva spent five years in Pittsburgh, and his ERA during that span was 5.44 (he was 24-28-4 for the Pirates), Wilson and Nunez were in and out of the lineup and the other players were minor league material.
  • 2013 - Andrew McCutchen won the NL-MVP easily over Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, taking 28 of 30 votes. He became the Bucs first MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992, which also was the last time the franchise had posted a winning record until this season. It was a year w/o a dominant player as Cutch posted a passel of well-rounded numbers. He hit .317 with 21 HR, 84 RBI, 97 RS and 26 SB and was second in WAR at 8.1. Andrew had finished third in 2012.
AJ Burnett (photo by AJ Burnett/Twitter)
  • 2014 - RHP AJ Burnett returned to the Pirate flock, signing a one year contract valued at $8.5M after a dismal season (8-18/4.59) in Philadelphia. He told the media that “This is where I want to finish my career, playing for this team and for this city. I want to win a ring, and I want to do it in Pittsburgh.” Burnett left $4.25M on the table for the reunion by turning down a player option worth $12.75M with Philadelphia to become a FA, and had his agent negotiate solely with the Pirates. AJ had pitched in 2012-13 for the Bucs, winning 26 games with a 3.41 ERA before moving across the state. He finished with another solid season, going 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA tho slowed down by a late year injury.