Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Forty Man: In, Out & Why + Notes

The Pirates added OF Austin Meadows and RHPs Dario Agrazal/Luis Escobar to the 40-man roster. Gift Ngoepe was traded to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL or cash, leaving the roster at 38 men, not including Jung Ho Kang.

Meadows, 22, couldn't stay on the field last year, suffering from a gimpy hamstring and a nagging oblique injury. His numbers were meh at Indy, slashing .250/.311/.359 with four homers, 36 RBI, 48 runs and 11 steals in 72 AAA games. Agrazal, 22, spend half the season at High Class A Bradenton (Florida State League), where he put up a 5-3/2.91 line and was promoted to Altoona, but only tossed four frames there before going on the DL with a pectoral strain that cost him the remainder of the season. The control/ground ball pitcher projects as a back-end of the rotation or middle-bullpen arm. Escobar, 21, pitched in the Futures Game and posted a 10-7/3.83 line with 168 strikeouts in 131-2/3 innings for Low Class A (Sally League) West Virginia with a mid-nineties heater, curve and change-up toolkit.

Meadows leads the list - 2016 Bowman's Best

MLB.com Top 30 who weren't rostered: RHP Yeudy Garcia (#19); RHP Tyler Eppler (#26); and SS Adrian Valerio (#30). Yuedy struggled at Altoona at age 24 (4-7, 5.25) although he possesses excellent stuff. Eppler, a guy who depends on control rather than nastiness, may just be a victim of minor-league pitching depth, especially among projected relievers. Valerio had a breakout year hitting .273 with 11 HR; the Pirates may be banking on his youth (20 y/o) and level (Low Class A West Virginia) as cover. As for Gift, the bat never came around and the middle infield prospect posse (Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, Stephen Alemais, Valerio) is closing in.

Notes:
  • OF Harold Ramirez was outrighted off Toronto's 40-man roster after clearing waivers. The 22-year-old-hit .266 last year in AA and was part of the much mocked Frankie Liriano deal. His trade partner, C Reese McGuire, 22, was added to the Jays' protected list after playing at three levels last year (he had a knee injury to rehab), topping out at AA where he hit .278 in 34 games.
  • RHP Mark Appel, who stiffed the Bucs when he was their 2012 #1 (eighth overall) was DFA'ed by the Phillies.
  • Bobblehead giveaways at PNC in 2018: 5/19 (Padres) Throwback uni; 6/23 (D-Backs) Sean Rodriguez walkoff; 7/14 (Brewers) Josh Bell; 8/4 (Cards) Andy Van Slyke; and 9/8 (Marlins) Felipe Rivero.
  • Zambelli Fireworks nights at the ballyard: Sat 4/7 (Reds), Sat 4/28 (Cards), Fri 5/18 (Padres), Fri 6/22 (D-Backs), Sat 7/28 (Mets), Sat 8/18 (Cubs) and Fri 9/21 (Brewers).

11/21 Birthdays: HBD Brian, Bill, Daryl,Freddie, Alex & Billy; Also to Donora's The Man & The Kid

  • 1869 - IF Billy Clingman was born in Cincinnati. Billy played in parts of 10 big league seasons for seven teams, getting his first heavy dose of duty in Pittsburgh in 1895, playing at the hot corner in 106 games with the Alleghenys while batting .259. A good glove man who hit .246 lifetime, he retired in 1903 from the show, played through 1906 in the American Association and then got on with life in Louisville, Kentucky. He owned a print shop and an engraving business called Clingman Engraving Company, retiring in 1947 and passing on in 1958. 
  • 1869 - P Alex Beam (no one recalls which hand he tossed with) was born in Johnstown. He pitched two major league games with the Alleghenys as a 19-year-old in 1889, both complete game starts, going 1-1, 6.50 with a couple of extreme stats: he walked more batters (15) than he allowed to reach via a hit (11), tossed three wild pitches and struck out one foe. His minor league record disappears after 1892 and that’s all we know of Mr. Beam until his death in 1938 in Nogales, Arizona.
Freddie Lindstrom 1933 R333 DeLong
  • 1905 - OF & Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom was born in Chicago. Acquired from the NY Giants along with Larry French, Lindy played two season in Pittsburgh, hitting .302, before being sent to Chicago. Lindstrom batted .311 during a 13 year career. The Pirates got him a couple of seasons after a back injury moved him off his third base position to the outfield. 
  • 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. 
  • 1943 - RHP Daryl Patterson was born in Coalinga, California. Patterson worked off-and-on for five years in MLB, closing out his career with the Pirates in 1974, going 2-1-1, 7.29. He joined the club after two years in the minors and appeared in his last major league game on September 14, 1974. Patterson ended his playing days at the Pirates' AAA Charleston Charlies in 1974-75. Patterson factoid: On July 14th, 1974, he was involved in a brawl with the Cincinnati Reds where he was bitten in the neck and had his hair pulled by Cincy’s Pedro Borbón. Patterson got a tetanus shot after the incident and Borbon was dubbed “Dracula” by Pirates announcer Bob Prince. 
Bill Almon 1986 Donruss
  • 1952 - IF Bill Almon was born in Warwick, 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, before he retired and joined the family business. Trivia Pursuit: Bill Almon is the only Ivy Leaguer to be drafted first overall in any of the four major professional sports. The Brown grad was selected by the San Diego Padres with the first pick of the 1974 Draft.
  • 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; he also went by “Junior”) 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. 
  • 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.

11/21 Happenings: Bragan, Barmes, Hassler Deals; Mace, Todd & Hamilton Join; Close But No Cigar MVP Races

  • 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. 
Mace Brown 1936 R312 National Chicle Pastel
  • 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. 
  • 1956 - Bobby Bragan was inked to his second contract as Bucco manager after his initial one-year audition ended, and though the terms weren’t revealed, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported he had received a ”substantial raise.” Hopefully he didn’t spend it all in one place; he was relieved of duties with two months remaining in the season. Ironically, Brash Bobby’s critics said that he was out of water with such a young team and was better suited to lead a veteran club, but his greatest successes as field general were claimed as a minor-league skipper. In fact, Bragan became president of the Texas League and did so well in that post that he was elected president of the National Association, the governing group of MiLB. 
  • 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. 
Was Willie Robbed? 1973 Topps
  • 1979 - Free agent LHP Andy Hassler signed a six-year/$750K (+$25K bonus money available annually) contract with the Bucs. It was much ado about nothing for the Pirates. They sold the reliever in June after just six outings and a 3.86 ERA to California where he strung together three solid campaigns with the Haloes. He mostly struggled his last three seasons with the Angels & Cards, retiring after the deal expired.
  • 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, leading to Barry’s somewhat surprising runner up finish. 
  • 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. 
Don't Stop Believin' - 2012 Topps
  • 2011 - The Pirates inked 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 came back on 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.

Monday, November 20, 2017

11/20: Leyland Hired; JR Staff; Law, Maz AS; Pags/Schwall Deal; Reuschel Comeback Player; Brown Inked; HBD Jeff & George

  • 1880 - SS George McBride was born in Milwaukee. McBride put together a 16-year career, mainly with the Senators, but one of his early stopping points was in Pittsburgh in 1905 where as Honus Wagner’s sub he hit .218 in 27 games (also his lifetime BA; George was a good field, bad hit SS) before being sent to St Louis for Dave Brain in July. McBride spent his final couple of years in Washington as a player/coach and was rewarded with the skipper’s job in 1921, but only lasted one season due to an odd injury - he was conked by a ball thrown by an OF’er during warm-ups and suffered dizzy spells the rest of the year. He resigned and left baseball until 1925, coached for a while and then retired for good, living to the ripe old age of 92. 
Joe Brown (photo: Post-Gazette Tumblr)
  • 1956 - 38-year-old GM Joe Brown was given a new contract after he had engineered a bit of a buzz both on the field and at the gate for the Pirates in his first campaign behind the wheel. Terms weren’t leaked, but Brown told reporters “I’ll be around for awhile” when quizzed on the length of the deal. He sure enough was; Joe lasted from 1956-76 and came back in 1985 to help transition a franchise that had sprung several leaks. 
  • 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. 
Rick Reuschel 1985 Fleer Update
  • 1985 - 36 year old Rick Reuschel was named the NL’s Major League Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News. 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. 
  • 1985 - Syd Thrift hired Jim Leyland to manage the Pirates, replacing Chuck Tanner after a 57-104 finish in ‘85. 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. 
Jeff Locke 2012 Bowman Chrome
  • 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.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Notes: November Movin' & Groovin', Winter Sked

The last two weeks worth of stuff...not much yet, but the league should start to fire up the hot stove in the next couple or three weeks. The GM meetings are done, and that usually is the pump-priming session for the Winter Meetings on December 10th.

The 40-man rosters are due tomorrow at 8PM, and the arb-eligible guys have to be tendered by December 1st. The winter schedule is available here from Red Bird Dugout.
  • MLB.com's Jim Duquette writes that the Pirates are interested in free agents SS Zack Cozart and utility guy Eduardo Nunez; he thinks the Bucs land Zack. MLB Trade Rumors had the Pirates looking seriously at just about every SS candidate available. Jordy is 31, hasn't had a WAR > 1.5 but one time in his career and hasn't been on the right side of runs saved since 2014. The Pirates have to decide whether to leave Jordy as the placeholder until Cole Tucker and Kevin Kramer are ready or look for a bridge.
Is Jordy on thin ice? (photo (Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • MLB Network's @jonmorosi tweeted that the "Pirates have some interest in reunion with free agent Neil Walker, source says. Ongoing difficulty with Jung-Ho Kang entering country is forcing team to consider infield options." Sounds like some sensible due diligence if the bridges aren't burnt, tho we suspect The Kid is looking for more green (and PT) than the FO plans to offer.
  • In a depth move, the Pirates claimed LHP Nik Turley off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. The 28-year-old Turley went 5-5/2.05 in 92 IP w/124 strikeouts, 29 walks and .198 opponent BA in 23 appearances (13 starts) between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester this past season. Not so much sweetness with the Twinkies - he went 0-2/11.21 in 17-2/3IP and 13 strikeouts in 10 appearances (three starts) over four separate stints with Minnesota. This will be his fifth different organization since 2014. To clear a spot, LHP Dan Runzler was outrighted off the 40-man roster and became a FA. He was 0-0, 4.50 in eight outings (four IP) for the Bucs last year.
  • The Pirates have canned Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo for taking illegal payments that were uncovered by an MLB investigation.
  • David Freese was a finalist for the NL 3B Gold Glove Award that was won for the fifth time by Nolan Arenado. Josh Bell finished third behind Cody Bellinger and Paul DeJong in the RoY vote.
Cobra lookin' for some HoF love (2001 Upper Deck Legendary)
  • Dave "The Cobra" Parker joins Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell on the modern-era HoF ballot this year, with the results to be announced on 1/24.
  • The Pirates got the top Competitive Balance Round selection this year. The sandwich pick is #31, between the first two regular draft rounds. They have the 10th overall pick in the first round.
  • Mitch Keller was named the AFL Pitcher of the Week after pitching five innings of one-hit, shutout ball to open November (he finished the year 4-0, 1.52). He went to Arizona ISO a change-up and Baseball America's Kyle Glaser believes he's found it.
  • Pitching was top rate for the Bucco pups in the AFL. Beside Keller, Brandon Waddell went 1-0-1, 2.57 in nine outings, JT Brubaker 0-1, 2.63, in eight pen outings and Taylor Hearn 2-0, 3.06 with four starts and four relief calls. Not so much for the hitters - Logan Hill batted .236, Kevin Kramer .200 and Mitchell Tolman .197.
  • BA lists the Pirates Top 10 Prospects and toolsiest farmhands; the aforementioned Mr. Keller is their top prospect.
Mitch Keller (photo MLB Pipeline)
  • Pirate minor-leaguers that declared for free agency (a couple were previously announced): RHPs Brandon Cumpton, Luis Heredia, Jason Stoffel; LHP Wade LeBlanc; C's Sammy Gonzalez, Tomas Morales, Jackson Williams; 1Bs Edwin Espinal (he signed w/Detroit), Carlos Munoz, Joey Terdoslavich; SSs Kelson Brown, Anderson Feliz, Alfredo Reyes; OFs Danny Ortiz & Jonathan Schwind. LeBlanc, Cumpton, Heredia & Espinal were the highest-ranked of the group. 
  • Guys with Bucco connections also on the farm FA list are RHPs Nate Adcock, Yhonathan Barrios, Victor Black, Colten Brewer, Jumbo Diaz, Logan Kensing, Vin Mazzaro, Brooks Pounders; LHPs Jared Lakind, Kyle Lobstein, Kelvin Marte, Daniel Schlereth; OFs Chris Dickerson, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata (yep, him!); 1B Matt Hague; SSs Drew Maggi, Gustavo Nunez; IFs Ivan DeJesus Jr, Michael Martinez, Josh Rodriguez; C's Ramon Cabrera, Steve LeRud & Mike McKenry.
  • Former Bucco reliever Jim Gott was named the bullpen coach at Philly, somewhat akin to the ass't pitching coach, after a five-year coaching run with LAA. Gott saved 34 games for the Bucs in 1988, then a team record.

11/19: Bonds-Bo 1-2; Groat, Lind Traded; Mickey Moves Up; DFAs; HBD Jonathan, Bobby, Manny, Stu, Billy, Denny & Uncle Al

  • 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 Pratt via The Baseball Page
  • 1855 - LHP Denny Driscoll was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He tossed for four big league campaigns with a pair as an Allegheny sandwiched in the middle. He led the American Association with a 1.21 ERA in 1882 for Pittsburgh and was the opening day starter in ‘83. But after spinning over 530 IP for the North Siders, he worked barely 100 frames and made just 13 starts for Louisville the next year. He didn’t pitch in 1885 and there would be no comeback as he passed away at the age of 30 from consumption in ‘86. 
  • 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. 
  • 1912 - IF Stu Martin was born in Rich Square,North Carolina. He got his start with Cardinals, earning an All-Star spot, and was sold to the Pirates for the 1941-42 campaigns after his stick began to wear down. He bounced back to hit .305, but struggled in ‘42, was sent to the minors and played his last season for the Cubs. He missed 1944-45 as a member of the Navy, returned to play three more years of minor league ball and retired in 1948 at the age of 35. 
Manny Jimenez 1967 Topps
  • 1938 - OF Manny Jimenez was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Manny was solid minor league hitter and in parts of seven big league campaigns hit a respectable .272, but had a tough big-league row to hoe as a corner OF’er with an average glove and little power. He played for the Pirates in 1967-68, hitting .279, and he was sent to the Cubs for Chuck Hartenstein. 
  • 1945 - OF Bobby Tolan was born in Los Angeles. Bobby spent 13 years in the show and made a brief stop near the end of his big league trail in Pittsburgh. He hit .203 in 49 games during 1977 after being released in June by Philadelphia. He spent 1978 in Japan and came back for 25 games with San Diego in ‘79 before hangin’ up the spikes. 
  • 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. 
Mickey Vernon 1980 TMCA 1960 Pirates
  • 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. 
  • 1982 - LHP Jonathan Sanchez was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The lefty was a non-roster invite to camp in 2013 but when the team headed north, he had landed the #4 spot in the rotation. But what happens in Florida stayed in Florida in his case - he was rocked for seven HR in 13-⅔ IP (0-3, 11.85) and after his appeal of a six-day suspension for hitting Allen Craig was denied in late April, he was done in Pittsburgh and MLB. Sanchez had a strong 2010 campaign for the Giants but couldn’t follow up during his final three seasons, giving up 124 ERs in 180 IP on 187 hits, of which 27 left the yard, and 127 walks. He has since signed minor league deals with the Dodgers, Cubs, Reds and Royals, last pitching in the US in 2014, while working in the winter leagues. 
  • 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. 
Barry Bonds 1990 Fleer
  • 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.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

11/18 Birthdays: HBD Jameson, Rocky, Gene, Curt, Jim, Bill & Mark

  • 1896 - RHP Bill Hughes was born in Philadelphia. Bill got to toss just two MLB frames, working as a Bucco on September 15th, 1921 and giving up a run with two whiffs. But Hughes made his living as a mound workhorse despite his lack of big league time. He pitched for 20 minor league seasons for 11 teams from 1920-39, winning 302 games while taking the bump for 761 outings and 4,803-2/3 IP. Bill won 20 games or more twice and notched double-digit wins in 18 of his 20 farm campaigns before retiring at the age of 42. 
Rocky Nelson 1959 Topps
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
Curt Raydon 1960 Topps
  • 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; we assume he learned to twirl his nightstick as a lefty. 
  • 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. 
  • 1965 - RHP Mark Petkovsek was born in Beaumont, Texas. A 1987 first-round pick of the Rangers in 1987, he came to the Bucs as a free agent in 1992. He spent a year at Indianapolis, then got a shot at the big club in 1993 and though he went 3-0 in 26 outings from the pen (he had been used a starter prior to the call-up) but with a 6.96 ERA and 1.608 WHIP and was released after the year. Petkovsek came back with the Cards in ‘95 and tossed through the 2001 campaign, closing it out where he started it, with the Rangers. 
Jameson Taillon 2017 Topps Inception
  • 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. 2017 continued his rocky physical road as he fought off cancer, but still put together a line of 8-7, 4.44 in 25 starts.

11/18 Happenings: Rincon Tree; Hopp & Danny; Expansion; Russ Goes; Awards; Kiner 4th; 40-Man; Allegheny Moves

  • 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. 
From Alleghenys to Innocents to Pirates thx to Lou.
  • 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 unofficially known as the Pirates a few seasons later in 1891. (There was a season in 1890 when they were referred to as the “Innocents” because they played as if they were children who had never had seen a baseball, but Lou Bierbauer’s “piracy” changed that tag quickly enough). The Bucs, btw, 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. 
  • 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 as Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter won, placed and showed. 
Joe Randa 1997 Circa Rave
  • 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, while rookie Johnson tossed 10 MLB seasons (albeit only one with an ERA south of 4.00) and Sodowsky worked one full campaign and three games in 1999 to finish his stay in the show. 
  • 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; the trade tree continued when Connor Joe, who was selected as a draft pick obtained by Morris’ trade, was sent to Tampa for Sean Rodriguez.
  • 2011 - The Pirates added a half-dozen ball players to their 40-man roster. OF Starling Marte & SS Jordy Mercer became starters while LHPs Justin Wilson & Rudy Owens were rostered and then flipped to other clubs for Francisco Cervelli and Wandy Rodriguez. Two lesser lights moved to the list were RHP Duke Welker, who was part of the 1B Justin Morneau trade, and Matt Hague, who was waived after the 2014 season after hitting .222 as a Bucco. He’s now in the Twins organization. 
Jordy from Team USA in 2008 to the 40-man in 2011
  • 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.”

Friday, November 17, 2017

11/17: Kendall & Bay Contracts; Lucas, Benjamin Join Club; Expansion; HBD Elias, Tom, Don & Jack

  • 1884 - 1B Jack Kading was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Jack got into eight games for the 1910 Pirates, batting .304 in 29 at-bats, and that was his biggest bite of the MLB pie. He also played a couple of years for Chicago of the Federal League. Jack did most of his minor league playing locally in the Canadian and Minnesota-Wisconsin Leagues, falling out of the record books after 1914 and returning to Waukesha. 
  • 1892 - OF Don Flinn was born in Bluff Dale, Texas. Flinn played pro ball for a decade from 1914-26 with a couple of breaks, but his only big league time came with the Pirates in 1917 when he hit .297 in 14 games. He was a good hitter, amassing a .330 BA in a variety of southern leagues (five seasons in the Texas League) but still only got two part-time shots at the Class A and MLB level before racking the bat for the last time at age 33 in 1926. 
Red Lucas 1938 (photo George Burke)
  • 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. 
  • 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 a strong defensive catcher though just a contact hitter, and saw more action in 2017 when Francisco Cervelli was injured. His arm is willing but his bat...he has a .216 BA/.257 OBP, 47 wRC+ line over 67 big league games. 
Alex Cole 1993 Donruss Expansion Draft
  • 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. 
  • 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 w/$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 from seven figures to eight. 
Jason Bay 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter
  • 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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

11/16: Clemente, Groat MVPs; Catfish & Long Inked; Al Axed; HBD Joe, Mr. Rain, Mark, Tim & Brandon

  • 1852 - IF Joe Quest was born in New Castle. Joe spent nine years in the show with a whistlestop with the Alleghenys in 1884, batting .209 in a dozen games. Quest was a good glove, bad stick guy but he did leave a legacy: by most accounts, he coined the athletic malady called a charley horse. There are several versions; all include a gimpy-legged horse named Charley. The most widely cited tale is from The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, (attributed to OF Hugh Nichol): In 1906, Quest and some other members of the White Stockings spent an off day at the track where the players had gotten a tip that a horse named "Charley" was a "sure thing" in one of the races. All of the players, except Quest, placed bets on Charley. The horse had the lead in the race but pulled up lame around the final turn. Quest, who had been ribbed for not betting on the horse, retorted "Look at your Charley horse now." The next day, while running to second base, Chicago outfielder George Gore pulled up with a strain, much as the horse had done. The incident prompted Quest to proclaim, "There's your old Charley horse." From that time, the players began using the term to refer to a sudden leg cramp or strain (via Wikipedia). 
Joe "Charley Horse" Quest 1886 (Graphic: NY Official Record)
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
Dick Groat 1960 Topps
  • 1966 - RF Roberto Clemente won the NL MVP, finishing ahead of Dodger ace Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73, 317 Ks) 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. 
  • 1970 - RHP Hector Fajardo was born in Michoacan, Mexico. Fajardo was purchased by the Pirates from the Mexico City Red Devils in 1989 and worked his way through the system. He showed swing-and-miss stuff and when the Bucs called him up in 1991, he struck out eight batters in his 6-⅓ IP. Unfortunately, he also walked seven and gave up 10 hits and was traded to Texas in September as part of the Steve Buchele deal. He bounced back and forth between the show and the farm, nagged by injuries, and returned to the Mexican League in 1998. He retired and coaches in the ML now. Fajardo was nicknamed "Senor Lluvia" or "Mr. Rain" because of the number of games he was scheduled to start that were rained out. 
  • 1974 - RHP Mark Corey was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Corey tossed the final two years of a four-season run in the show at Pittsburgh in 2003-04, posting a line of 2-4, 4.91, from the bullpen. He saved 112 games in 12 minor league campaigns, but never could close out a game in the majors, blowing his only MLB save opportunity in 2004. 
Mark Corey 2004 Upper Deck Pro Sig
  • 1982 - RHP Tim Wood was born in Tucson. After two years with Florida, Wood took a twisted trail that revolved around Pittsburgh. For 2011, he signed as an FA with Washington, was released, and inked a deal with the Bucs. He spent most of his time at Indy, called up for 13 Pirates games with a line of 0-3, 5.63 and then was sold to Texas. They released him at the end of the year and he resigned with Pittsburgh, spending 2012 with Indianapolis. He was in the Twin system in 2013 and had late-season shoulder surgery, finishing his career. 
  • 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 injuries starting with 2015 TJ surgery. He came back to work briefly in the minors in 2017 and declared for free agency after the season.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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

  • 1893 - IF Joe Leonard was born in West Chicago, Illinois (some sources have his b-day on the 14th, sera, sera). Leonard got parts of five MLB seasons in, starting with the Pirates in 1914, batting just .198 that year. He was highly rated as a youngster, although his bat never proved big-league consistent; when Pittsburgh purchased the 19-year-old from the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League for $3,080 in 1913, he became the highest priced player sold to the majors at the time. Joe died while still an active player in May, 1920, at the age of 26 of appendicitis/pneumonia while a member of the Senators; Washington owner Clark Griffith and several teammates were at his bedside at the time of his death. 
Maurice Van Robay 1940 Baseball Magazine
  • 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 commented that the pitch was eephus, using the Hebrew term for "nothing." 
  • 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. 
Randy Niemann 1983 Topps
  • 1955 - LHP Randy Niemann was born in Scotia, California. Drafted by the Yankees in 1975, the southpaw middle man tossed parts of eight big league seasons. Randy was in Pittsburgh briefly from 1982-83, getting into 28 games and going 1-2-1, 6.24. He retired and immediately started working with the Mets, Red Sox and currently the Cards as primarily a pitching coach, serving at every level from Class A to the majors. 
  • 1978 - RF Dave "The Cobra" Parker won the NL MVP, topping runner-up Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers 320-194 in the vote parade. 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. 
  • 1983 - RHP Craig Hansen was born in Glen Cove, New York. A first round draft pick of Boston from St. John’s U, 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. He last tossed in 2012 while in the Mets system; now he’s a trader and real estate developer in New York. 
Craig Hansen 2008 Topps
  • 2010 - Clint Hurdle, former Colorado manager and current Rangers hitting coach, 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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

11/14: Cutch MVP; AJ Back; Cy Drabek; Toronto Trade; Rojek Deal; HBD X-Man, Paul, Weeping Willie, Jim, Fred & Otto

  • 1864 - 1B/OF Otto Schomberg (Shambrick) was born in Milwaukee. Otto played three big league seasons, beginning with the Alleghenys in 1886, hitting .272 in 72 games. After the campaign, the Alleghenys traded Schomberg with $400 to the St. Louis Maroons for Alex McKinnon. Schomberg was a one-trick pony; his fielding was subpar and he slumped in 1888 for Indianapolis. Added to the mix was an injury and a mild bout with malaria. After that, he was delegated to minor-league and semi pro clubs, even umping, but did pretty well for himself after baseball. He was a successful lumberman and parlayed profits from that business into other investments Otto prospered and was even a delegate to the Republican convention. 
Fred Carisch 1904 (photo Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Getty)
  • 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. 
  • 1881 - OF Jim Wallace was born in Boston. He played seven MLB games for the Pirates in 1905 as a right fielder and batted .207 in his brief career, going 6-for-29. Jim never got another shot; he spent seven seasons in the minors after his Bucco stint and batted .250+ once. 
  • 1898 - RHP Claude “Weeping Willie” Willoughby was born in Buffalo, Kansas. Willie closed out his seven year career in Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 6.31, in nine outings. We assume the Weeping Willie moniker came about because of his performance - he had an ERA of 4.99 or higher in his final six campaigns, though he did have winning records (6-5, 15-14) in 1928-29. He was also known as “Flunky” for reasons we couldn’t uncover. 
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 Andrés Galarraga single. He pitched through the 2003 season and now runs a training camp in Wisconsin, Paul Wagner Power Pitching. 
  • 1978 - OF Xavier Nady was born in Salinas, California. Nady played for the Bucs from 2006-08, hitting .301 as a Pirate. He had been on Pittsburgh’s 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 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. The Bucs finally landed him in 2006 from the Mets for Ollie Perez and Roberto Hernandez. He’s been known as “X” or the “X-Man” since his days with NY. 
Doug Drabek 1991 Donruss Elite
  • 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, but 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 Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 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.

Monday, November 13, 2017

11/13: New Yard or Else; Pops MVP; Beat 'Em Bucs; HBD Gene, Cork, Jack, Ray & Steady Pete

  • 1862 - P “Steady” Pete Meegan (he batted lefty, but his throwing arm is unknown) was born in San Francisco. He closed out his brief two-year MLB run in 1885 when he joined the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He posted a 7-8/3.39 line in 18 games (16 starts, 14 CGs) and was said to possess a feared curve. Pete was the child of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine, and he’s part of Patriot QB Tom Brady’s family tree (his aunt and uncle were Brady’s great-great grands, making him a cousin). He passed away in 1905 at the age of 42, felled by Bright’s Disease (nephritis). We’re guessing the nickname came about thanks to his dependability, finishing 36-of-38 big league games that he started. 
Steady Pete - the sitting on the floor dude with the mustache (1885 Alleghenys via the Pirates)
  • 1894 - RHP Ray Steineder was born in Salem, New Jersey. He worked two years in the show, mainly for the Pirates. He tossed 20 outings (two starts) with a 2-1, 5.15 line from 1923-24 before being sold to the Phils in May and finishing out his big league days there. Ray also knew his way around a batter’s box, going 10-for-25 (.400) in MLB. He did have a yo-yo history - after the Pirates brought him up after a 37-win campaign in the minors in 1920, he was a late cut and signed with an outlaw team in Oil City. That got him suspended and pushed back his debut season to 1923 when the suspension was lifted (and he got a late start to that year, holding out for $6K). When the Phils released him in 1924, he again signed with an outlaw club and again was suspended. He was reinstated the following year but never caught on in the majors again. 
  • 1914 - RHP Jack Hallett was born in Toledo, Ohio. He tossed for the Bucs from 1942-43, and then after wartime service returned in 1946. Working mostly from the pen, Hallett went 6-10 with a 3.06 ERA for Pittsburgh. He was also a solid stick, hitting .238 with one home run in 80 lifetime at-bats, and a perfect fielder, handling all 60 of his career chances flawlessly. 
  • 1915 - RHP Ted “Cork” Wilks was born in Fulton, New York. Ted tossed for the Bucs in parts of 1951-52, going 8-10-16, 3.19, in 92 outings. He arrived in June of ‘51 as part of the Chambers/Westlake deal with the Cards and 14 months later the 37-year-old was flipped to the Tribe as a piece of the Johnny Berardino trade. Converting to a reliever from starter after encountering arm woes early in his MLB career, his Cardinal teammates (he spent almost eight years with St. Louis) began calling Wilks “The Cork” because of the opponents’ rallies he stopped. 
Ted Wilks 1952 Topps
  • 1947 - RHP Gene Garber was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He began his 19-year career with the Bucs as a 20th round pick in the 1965 draft, pitching sparingly from 1969-72 with an 0-3, 5.61 line in just 20 visits to the rubber. Garber would go on to make 931 appearances with 1,510 IP, win 96 games and save 218 more with a career 3.34 ERA before he hit the tape. The sidewinder retired after the 1988 season and went back home as a farmer and poultry producer. 
  • 1956 - The Pirates announced that they would consider moving out of town if a new stadium wasn’t built to replace Forbes Field, the second oldest yard in baseball after Shibe Park in Philly. Buc VP & co-owner Tom Johnson said in the Pittsburgh Press that “What we need is a municipal stadium in Pittsburgh we both (Pirates & Steelers) can use. If we don’t get one, there’s a chance the Pirates will have to leave this city.” They got their wish, though it took some time. The political football was kicked around for years until Three Rivers Stadium opened in July of 1970. 
  • 1979 - For the first time in MLB history, two players shared the MVP. The NL co-winners were Willie Stargell, who hit .281 with 32 HRs, and the Cards 1B Keith Hernandez, who led the NL in runs scored (116), doubles (48), and batting average (.344). With the win, the Pirates had taken (or shared) all four "MVP" awards for the season (All-Star Game, NLCS, World Series, and NL regular season) for the first award sweep in MLB history. Stargell took the honors for the NLCS, World Series, and NL regular season, while Dave Parker won the All-Star Game MVP. 
Willie Stargell 2017 Topps 65
  • 2010 - Beat ‘Em, Bucs! The Byham Theater hosted a sneak preview of a 50-year-old B&W movie, copied from TV for owner Bing Crosby, of NBC's telecast of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. Dick Groat and Bob Costas were the event hosts of The MLB Network production, later aired on TV and then made available on DVD. The Post Gazette’s Bob Hoover wrote “Fans hailed the eight members of the '60 team invited for the showing, clapped rhythmically to start rallies, reacted loudly every time Roberto Clemente appeared on the screen and leapt to their feet for the two clutch home runs in the eighth (Hal Smith) and ninth (you know who) innings.”

Sunday, November 12, 2017

11/12: Cervy Deal; Clint MoY; Cutch SS; HDB Charlie & Dave; RIP Doc; Tourin'

  • 1964 - LHP Dave Otto was born in Chicago. He worked parts of eight seasons in the show with a stop at Pittsburgh in 1993, going 3-4, 5.03 in 28 outings. Dave was 6’7,” a two-sport star (hoops & baseball) at the U of Missouri and a member of the University’s Sports Hall of Fame. Since his retirement, he’s been a sports announcer in Chicago. 
  • 1967 - Doctor Charles Jorgensen passed away. “Doc” was the Pirates trainer for 30 years until he retired in 1958, working under nine field managers (Jewel Ens, George Gibson, Pie Traynor, Frankie Frisch, Billy Herman, Bill Meyer, Fred Haney, Bobby Bragan and Danny Murtaugh) and four team presidents (Barney Dreyfuss, Bill Benswanger, Frank McKinney and John Galbreath) during his three decade stint as the Bucs’ main medico. 
Charlie Morton 2011 Topps Diamond
  • 1983 - RHP Charlie Morton was born in Flemington, New Jersey. The promising righty came to Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade with Atlanta. Despite excellent stuff (he earned the nickname "Ground Chuck" for his ground ball deliveries), Morton was in-and-out of the rotation because of various injuries and spotty performances, going 41-62, 4.39 over seven seasons. He was traded to the Phils, but was put out of action early in the campaign with a torn hamstring. Charlie did find a boost going to the Astros in 2017, going more with his hard stuff to become a rotation mainstay (well, except for that six-week trip to the DL…) and then tossed like Mr. October of the slab set with Game Seven wins for Houston in the ALCS and WS. 
  • 2013 - Clint Hurdle, who guided the Pirates to their first winning record in 21 years and to the NLDS, was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Clint was the first Pirates manager to win the award since Jim Leyland in 1992 and he did it easily by winning on 25 of the 30 ballots cast, leaving the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly and the Braves' Fredi Gonzalez in the dust. New Brighton’s Terry Francona won the AL honor. 
  • 2014 - LHP Justin Wilson was traded to the New York Yankees for C Francisco Cervelli. It marked the third straight offseason that the Bucs took on a Yankee catcher, signing FA Russ Martin for the 2013-14 seasons and acquiring Chris Stewart for the 2014 campaign. Fran had a pair of strong campaigns, and the Bucs signed him to a three-year, $31M extension in 2016. Wilson got a lot of work, too, appearing 205 times in three seasons with the Yankees, Tigers and Cubs.
Fran 2016 (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 2014 - MLB sent a squad overseas to open a 10-day, five game Japanese All-Star series, the first since 2006. Mark Melancon represented the Pirates, along with ex-Bucs Jose Veras, Eric Katz and Justin Morneau. The team played five games in Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo, with exhibitions in Koshien and Okinawa. For Melancon, it was just another good-will trip in a long string of overseas MLB ventures. He had represented baseball in camps held in South Africa, Taiwan, China, New Zealand and Australia in the past. 
  • 2015 - Andrew McCutchen became the first Bucco to win four Silver Slugger awards, breaking a logjam with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Rick Rhoden, each of whom took home three trophies (Bonds & Rhoden consecutively). It was the fourth straight year he took the honor, hitting .292 with 23 HRs and 96 RBI in 2015 after falling below the Mendoza Line by the end of April.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

11/11 Birthdays From the 1920s Forward: HBD Grilled Cheese, Roberto, Kyle, JR, Rey, Bob & Lee

  • 1923 - LHP Lee Howard was born on Staten Island. Lee had a brief MLB career consisting of fives games (16 IP) tossed in 1946-47 with an 0-1, 2.25 slash. Howard was signed by the Bucs in 1942, but a three-year stint in the Navy (he served in the Pacific Theater) delayed his big league arrival. He spent 1948-49 in the minors, but after giving up 10+ hits and nearly six walks per nine while compiling an ERA of 5.93, he hung up the spikes. 
  • 1954 - RHP Bob Long was born in Jasper, Tennessee. Bob didn’t have much of a big league career, but he still did pretty well for himself as a 24th round draft pick in 1976 by working 12 pro seasons. He got a brief look with the Bucs in 1981 with a 1-2, 5.95, line in five outings (three starts) and then had a solid season at Seattle in 1985, appearing in 28 games and posting a 3.76 ERA. He couldn’t break the AAA barrier after that and pitched through the 1987 campaign before retiring from active duty. 
Rey Quinones 1989 Upper Deck
  • 1963 - SS Rey Quinones was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Rey got parts of four MLB seasons under his belt, closing it out in 1989 with the Pirates, hitting .209 in 71 games. The Pirates got him & Bill Wilkinson from Seattle in late April for Mike Dunne, Mike Walker, and Mark Merchant. Quinones was released in July; no one in the deal ever made much noise in the show. 
  • 1964 - RHP Roberto Hernandez was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He tossed for 17 seasons and appeared in over 1,000 games. He made a 2006 pit stop in the Steel City as an FA in his next-to-last campaign and was pretty strong for a 42-year-old, going 0-3-2, 2.93 in 46 outings. The Bucs flipped him to the Mets at the deadline with Ollie Perez to pick up Xavier Nady. 
  • 1976 - RHP Jason Grilli was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. After signing with Pittsburgh as a minor league FA in 2011 out of the Phil’s system, the vet known as “Grilled Cheese” reinvented himself as a back-end reliever, serving as Joel Hanrahan’s set-up man before taking the closer reins in 2013 and winning an All-Star berth. In 2014, he was sent to Angels after putting up a 3-11-47 slash during his stint with the Bucs with a 3.01 ERA and 12.4 K per nine innings. He’s since been with Atlanta, Toronto and Texas and is a free agent this offseason. His moniker is based on his name, a fondness for the sandwiches and probably a little bit because of his favorite pitch, the cheese (a fastball). At any rate, he's adopted the persona well with his twitter handle being @grilledcheese49, a ballpark grilled cheese sandwich named "The Closer" and several community/fun events built around the gooey snack.
Jason Grilli 2014 Topps Opening Day
  • 1979 - C JR (James Rodger) House was born in Charleston, West Virginia. A fifth round pick from Seabreeze HS in 1999, JR was in the Bucco system for six years, catching three games from 2003-04 and going 2-for-10. He went on to play in Houston and Baltimore and is now a minor-league manager for Arizona. 
  • 1987 - RHP Kyle McPherson was born in Creola, Alabama. Kyle, who was a 14th-round draft pick in 2007, was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, and made his MLB debut in 2012, going 0-2 but with a solid 2.73 ERA and 1.177 WHIP. He underwent TJ surgery the following season and never regained his form, being released by the Pirates after the 2014 season and by Tampa Bay in 2016.