Friday, March 17, 2017

3/17: Smiley for Neagle; HBD Pete, Hot Rod & John; RIP Charlie; Vic in Venezuela

  • 1919 - OF Pete Reiser was born in St. Louis. The veteran outfielder spent one season (1951) of his 10-year MLB stint in Pittsburgh, batting .271. He spent the next campaign with the Cleveland Indians before retiring.
Pete Reiser 1951 Bowman
  • 1956 - LHP Rod Scurry was born in Sacramento. Scurry tossed for the Bucs for six years, (1980-85) going 17-28-34 with a 3.15 ERA. The first round pick of 1974 was using coke during his playing days, and never could kick the habit; he died in 1992 of suspected cocaine-induced heart failure.
  • 1965 - LHP John Smiley was born in Phoenixville, near Valley Forge. He spent his first six seasons (1986-91) in Pittsburgh with a 60-42/3.57 line. 1991 was his best season, going 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA and All-Star selection. In the off season, he was traded to Minnesota for Denny Neagle, and went on to win 126 games in his 12 year career.
  • 1972 - The Bucs watered their Latin roots by playing and sweeping a three game pre-season series against the Reds in Caracas, Venezuela. The final game was delayed when kids hopped the fence to get Vic Davillo’s autograph during the action. It took about ten minutes for play to resume. Beloved in his homeland, “Vitico” (Little Victor) played in the Venezuelan League before turning pro and returned when his MLB career was done, playing until he was 50 years old.
Vic Davalillo 1972 Topps
  • 1992 - The Pirates traded LHP John Smiley (on his birthday!) after a 20-8 season to the Twins in exchange for LHP Denny Neagle and OF Midre Cummings. Smiley told Bob Hertzel of the Pittsburgh Press that “I’m extremely shocked. My contract had to play a little part in this” as he jumped to a $3.4M payday, a $2M jump over the prior year. GM Ted Simmons said no, telling the paper that “Salary was a non-issue,” and it was just a “daring and aggressive” deal. Smiley went on to toss eight more seasons, mostly with the Reds, while Neagle won 43 games in his 4-1/2 year Bucco stint and would pitch until 2003. Hot prospect Cummings ended up a bench player who posted parts of 11 MLB seasons on his resume.
  • 2014 - Long time (1966-86) Post Gazette Pirate beat writer Charley Feeney, known for calling everyone “Pally” (he didn’t have a good memory for names) passed away at the age of 89. He was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Hall of Fame in 1996. After his selection, he told fellow sportswriter Ron Cook that “I'm in and Bill Mazeroski isn't. It's unbelievable." Maz joined him in Cooperstown five years later.
Charlie Feeney 1996 (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)

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