Monday, January 30, 2017

1/30: Monster '59 Reds Deal; No Sale; Pokey, Paul & Eric Sign; HBD Demon & Matt; Block Aboard

  • 1888 - OF Vin “Demon” Campbell was born in St Louis. Vin joined the Bucs in 1910; he had been a two-sport star at Vanderbilt and was dubbed “Demon” for the way he smashed into football opponents (he was named All-Southern Conference with a guy named John Heisman for whom the college Heisman Trophy is named). Campbell hit .326 in 1910 and looked like a future star in the making. He then stunned the Bucs by retiring to join a brokerage firm. Vin rejoined the team in July - his sweetie and future wife was a Pittsburgh girl - and batted .312. Demon held out for a bigger contract and the Pirates traded him. He played ball for three more seasons, then joined the in-laws to run a chain of tire stores in Pittsburgh and New York City after he retired.
Matt the Scat 1981 Topps
  • 1947 - Pinch-runner Matt (“The Scat”) Alexander was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He spent the last four years of his career (1978-81) with the Pirates, and though he only got 27 at-bats during that time, he stole 30 bases (out of 37 tries) and scored 36 runs. During his nine year MLB career, he was in the field for just 138 games while pinch-running 271 times.
  • 1959 - C Smoky Burgess (he was born near the Smoky Mountains), LHP Harvey Haddix and 3B Don Hoak went from the Reds to the Pirates in exchange for RHP Whammy Douglas (his moniker came from his American Legion days; he said “I was striking everyone out, so they just started calling me ‘Whammy’”) , OF Jim Pendleton, OF John Powers and 3B Frank Thomas, providing three major pieces of the 1960 championship club. Slugger Thomas, the key figure in the deal, was the last to know - he was touring military bases in Germany when the deal was made, and the press had to get trade reaction quotes from his wife Dolores.
  • 2002 - The Pirates signed FA 2B Pokey Reese to a two year, $4.25M contract with a 2004 club option. Pittsburgh was the fourth team for Reese since the end of the 2001 season. He finished the year with Cincinnati, and then was traded to the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox in a span of three days in December. Boston didn’t offer him a deal, making him a free agent. Pokey stuck with the Bucs for both seasons, although he lost all but 37 games to injury in 2003. His nickname dates back to his infancy. Reese was a chubby baby and also had a hernia (it wasn’t repaired until he was six) that caused his navel to poke out, so his grandma called young Calvin "Pokey."
Pokey Reese 2002 Fleer Changing Places
  • 2009 - The Pirates avoided arbitration by signing former first round pick LHP Paul Maholm to a three-year, $14.5M contract that included a team option for 2012. He was released after the 2011 season, playing for three different teams afterwards. The lefty reinvented himself in 2014, switching to a bullpen role, but a late-year torn ACL (and 4.84 ERA) made that his last MLB campaign.
  • 2009 - OF/UT Eric Hinske inked a one-year, $1.5M FA contract with Pittsburgh. Hinske was shipped to the NY Yankees before the deadline, hitting .255 with one HR for the Bucs. He retired after the 2013 season, having played 12 years for seven teams.
  • 2010 - Another deal that fell through… Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette broke a story that claimed Penguin owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Buerkle had made an offer to buy the Pirates from Bob Nutting after the 2009 season. The hockey duo had turned around the fortunes of the Pens and Buerkle in particular had the deep pockets that the small-revenue Bucs lacked, but the team stated that it was not for sale and that Nutting was committed to bringing a championship to Pittsburgh. The rumor mill added that sports attorney Chuck Greenberg had made an earlier offer and was told the same thing before teaming up with Nolan Ryan to buy the Texas Rangers.
Joe Block 2016 (image via Root Sports)
  • 2016 - Joe Block was hired as a Root Sports play-by-play announcer to replace Tim Neverett, who left to work in the Boston booth a month earlier. Block spent the prior four years with the Milwaukee Brewers and the 2011 season hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers radio post-game show on KABC. Joe also called nine seasons of minor league baseball, rising up through the ranks by working for five different teams.

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