Friday, March 3, 2017

3/3: Debs Joins Bucs, HBD Boys - Yaller, Neal, Ron, Trent & Matt

  • 1879 - C Ed “Yaller” Phelps was born in Albany, NY. Phelps was on the 1902 and 1903 National League pennant-winning clubs and played in the 1903 World Series, serving as a back-up catcher during his six year Pittsburgh career (1902-04, 1906-08). He hit .247 as a Bucco. Phelps' nickname of "Yaller" referred to his sallow complexion, according to his family.
Ed Phelps 1904 (photo Carl Horner)
  • 1940 - The Boston Braves sold OF Debs Garms to the Pirates. In 358 at bats for Pittsburgh he led the NL in hitting with a .355 average. At the time, there was no minimal at-bat requirement. League prez Ford Frick said the title was unofficial and 100 games was enough (Garms got into 103). In 1950, the NL made 2.6 AB’s per scheduled game the magic qualifying number. The veteran was sold to St. Louis after the 1941 season, where he would finish his career in 1945. Debs, btw, is not a moniker but his given name. His parents christened him in honor of early twentieth century labor activist and socialist, Eugene Debs.
  • 1960 - LHP Neal Heaton was born in South Ozone Park, NY. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 1989-91, making the All Star team in 1990 after a 9-1 start. Heaton, who had battled tendinitis, credited the 1990 success to a new pitch, a knuckle change. The league apparently caught on; he finished the year at 12-9. As a Pirate, his line was 21-19 with a 3.46 ERA.
  • 1961 - IF Ron Wotus was born in Colchester, Connecticut. Ron spent his MLB career in Pittsburgh, getting into 32 games and batting .207 between 1983-84. He played in the minors afterwards, ending his playing days in the Giant organization. Wotus remained with the Giants as a minor league manager from 1991 to 1997. He became the Giants third base coach in 1998 under Dusty Baker and has served as bench coach since 1999 under Baker, Felipe Alou and Bruce Bochy. Wotus was interviewed by the Bucs for the head honcho job in 2000, losing out to Lloyd McClendon.
Ron Wotus (photo via Mainline Autographs)
  • 1964 - Coach Trent Jewett was born in Dallas. Jewett was a catcher on the Pirate farm before continuing on as a coach in the organization. He managed the Triple-A Nashville Sounds from 1998 to 2000, was the Bucs third base coach from 2000-02, then returned to managing AAA Nashville and Indy until 2008 when he skipped to the Nat system. In 2013, he joined Lloyd McClendon as bench coach for Seattle.
  • 1978 - OF Matt Diaz was born in Portland, Oregon. In December of 2010, he signed a two-year/$4.125M free-agent contract that could reach $5M w/bonuses with the Pirates, who were looking for some platoon punch to add to their attack. Instead, he slashed .259/.303/.324 without a dinger and the Pirates traded him back to the Braves, the club he had left after a non-tender, at the deadline for Eliecer Cardenas. Matt put 11 years in the league with a .290 lifetime BA after he hung ‘em up following the 2013 campaign but his tank was nearing empty when he came to Pittsburgh and he only got into 77 more games after he left town.


WilliamJPellas said...

Matt Diaz was kind of a strange case. He was a very good hitter for most of his career and he particularly killed lefthanders. He wasn't truly a full time starter but was a very effective part-timer and one of the better bench players / fourth outfielders in the game. But when he got to Pittsburgh he went totally over a cliff and he wasn't particularly old. I don't remember just now, but had he been hurt the year before? I seem to recall that he had some kind of hand injury and was supposed to be recovered, but was never the same.

Ron Ieraci said...

He was a lefty killer, Will. As I recall, he got pushed out because the Pirates had a boatload of other guys - Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Xavier Nady, and Garrett Jones had his breakout year - in the OF. None particularly worked out, but Diaz drew the short straw.