Thursday, March 23, 2017

3/23: Cover Boy Jim Bunning; HBD Mike, Danny, Ray, Hooks, Wendell, Johnny & Lanny

  • 1868 - OF/P Elmer “Mike” Smith was born in Pittsburgh’s North Side. Smith was a pitcher that was converted to the OF after his arm wore down. He played from 1892-97, then briefly again in 1901, for the Pirates. He was a good hitter with a .325 BA, .415 OBP and 136 OPS+ during his Bucco years. Smith also tossed for the Pirates in 1892, going 6-7/3.62. He remained a local boy after his 14-year career in MLB (during his playing days, he kept a North Side home on Madison Avenue) and when he died, he was buried in Union Dale Cemetery.
Mike Smith (photo via Union Dale Cemetery)
  • 1885 - OF Danny Moeller was born in DeWitt, Iowa. Danny began his career playing 47 games in 1907-08 for Pittsburgh, batting .219. He sharpened his skills in the bushes afterward (and picking up the nickname “Rochester Rambler” for his time spent with that club), returning to the show in 1912 to begin a five-year run with Washington and a brief stint with Cleveland. He did start four years for the Senators, batting leadoff while sporting a fine glove and strong arm, tho he became the first MLB player to strike out 100 times in a season when he whiffed 112 times in 1912. Danny’s career was short-circuited by a chronic shoulder dislocation.
  • 1893 - RHP Remy “Ray” Kremer was born in Oakland, California. Kremer pitched 10 seasons for the Pirates (1924-33), his only MLB club, and went 143-85/3.76, winning 20 games twice and leading the NL in ERA in 1926 and 1927. What's more amazing is that he didn't make his major league debut until he was 31 years old!
  • 1905 - OF Harold “Hooks” (he had noticeably bowed legs) Tinker was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but migrated to Pittsburgh with his family in 1917. He played sandlot for the Edgar Thompson team, then for the Pittsburgh Monarchs. Hooks joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1928, playing center field and acting as assistant player-manager of the team; he was said to have discovered Josh Gibson. Tinker was on the team when it was sold to Gus Greenlee in 1931, but when faced with Greenlee's decree to "work or play," Tinker chose to leave the team and keep his mill job to support his family. Hooks answered to a second calling (spoiler; not baseball) while making steel and became a highly respected reverend in the Hill District.
Wendell Smith (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1914 - Writer Wendell Smith was born in Detroit. He was the baseball writer and sports editor for the Pittsburgh Courier from 1937-47. Smith covered the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Pirates. He chronicled the early days of Jackie Robinson and was reputed to be one of the industry insiders to recommend Jackie to Branch Rickey. He was recognized by the BBWAA Spink’s Award in 1993. In a bit of irony; the group had turned down his membership application while he was with the Courier, though in 1948 they finally relented and admitted him as one of its earliest black members, behind only Sam Lacy.
  • 1926 - IF Johnny Logan was born in Endicott, NY. Logan spent the end of a productive 13-year career with the Pirates (1961-63) as a reserve, getting in 152 games and hitting .249. Playing mainly as a Brave, Logan batted .268 with 93 home runs, 547 runs batted in, 651 runs scored and 1,407 hits in 1,503 games. He was a four-time all-star, including three berths in a row from 1957-'59, and was on Milwaukee’s 1957 World Series-winning club.
Johnny Logan 1963 Topps
  • 1948 - Pirate announcer Lanny Frattare was born in Rochester, NY. He was part of the Pirate broadcasting team from 1976-2008 and announced over 5,000 Bucco games during those 33 seasons ("...and there was no doubt about it"), becoming the Pirates longest-tenured voice before moving on to academia.
  • 1968 - Jim Bunning was featured on the cover of The Sporting News for the story “Bucks In Pirate Bank.” The season didn’t work out quite as expected, though. Injuries to his groin, ankle and hip led Bunning to win just four games as he came in with his worst major league season to date with a 4-14 record and 3.88 ERA.

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