Wednesday, January 18, 2017

1/18: Greenberg Becomes A Buc; HBD Charlie, Eddie, Laurin, Wandy & Gift

  • 1855 - OF Charlie Eden was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He joined the Alleghenys for two seasons, 1884-85, hitting .258 after a five season minor league stint. Charlie could do it all - he played a little corner infield and also pitched some, going 1-3/5.53 with Pittsburgh. Those campaigns ended the 30-year old Charlie’s four-year MLB career; we presume that he went back to barnstorming through the minors.
Eddie Moore 1923-26 (photo Mears Collection/The Sporting News Archives)
  • 1899 - Utilityman Eddie Moore was born in Barlow, Kentucky. Moore hit .301 as a Bucco from 1923-26 and was a starter on the 1925 WS club, but he clashed a couple of times with management and was sold to the Boston Braves after getting into a shouting match with Fred Clarke, who was not only awkwardly a club exec but a coach on the bench.
  • 1931 - RHP Laurin Pepper was born in Vaughan, Mississippi. A football star drafted by the Steelers (he was an All-America halfback at Mississippi Southern), Pepper was inked for $35K by the Bucs as a bonus baby, as the Pirates easily topped the Steelers’ $15K bid. Probably should have stuck with the pigskin, though: in four MLB seasons (1954-57), he worked just 109-⅔ IP, going 2-8/7.09 with 98 walks. He then spent some time in the minors, finally becoming a long-time HS football coach and AD back home in Mississippi.
  • 1947 - The Pirates purchased Hank Greenberg, the original “Hammerin’ Hank,” from the Tigers for $75,000 after a contract dispute. To celebrate the move, team co-owner Bing Crosby recorded a song, "Goodbye, Mr. Ball, Goodbye" with Groucho Marx and Hank after the Bucs signed him to a reported $90,000 deal, the biggest in history at that time. In his one season with Pittsburgh, he hit .249 with 25 HR/74 RBI to become the first player with a 25 homer season in both leagues, walked a league-high 104 times and served as a mentor to a young Ralph Kiner. He inspired “Greenberg Gardens” when the Bucs shortened Forbes Field’s left field for him and when he retired after the season, his garden was renamed “Kiner’s Korner.”
Wandy Rodriguez 2012 Topps
  • 1979 - LHP Wandy Rodriguez was born in Santiago Rodriguez, Dominican Republic. Wandy joined the Bucs in 2012 when he was acquired in a deadline deal from the Astros. He didn’t become a major contributor as hoped, as his 2013 season derailed after a dozen starts with arthritis in his pitching arm, and contributed just 11 wins in 25 outings, with a 3.66 ERA, as a Pirate before being released in May of 2014.
  • 1980 - SS Gift Ngoepe was born in Randburg, South Africa. Ngoepe became the first black South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he agreed to a deal with the Pirates in October 2008. You could say he was born to be a ballplayer. Ngoepe's mom was a clubhouse attendant for the Randburg Mets, and they lived in one of the clubhouse rooms, so he grew up in a ballyard. Gift has proven to be a brilliant fielder but hasn’t been able to solve MiLB pitching yet, w/a career .232 BA and 731 whiffs in 689 games. A 2016 post-season bar brawl didn’t boost his stock, either. The Pirates signed his brother Victor last year, a confirmation that the sport must run in the Ngoepe blood.

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