Wednesday, March 8, 2017

3/8: Fed League Forms, Casey to HoF, HBD Coldwater Jim, Iron Man, Bill, Al, Toby & Joel

  • 1869 - RHP James “Coldwater Jim” Hughey was born in Wakeshma, Michigan. A journeyman, he pitched for the Pirates from 1896-97, going 12-18 with a 5.03 ERA. Coldwater (named for his first minor league outpost and eventually where he settled) is the last pitcher to lose 30 games, doing so for a historically terrible 1899 Cleveland Spider club that finished 20-134 (he did lead the club in ERA and wins). Because of poor attendance, the Spiders played only 42 home games, setting an untouchable record of 101 road losses!
Jim Hughey (pin image via the Hughey family collection)
  • 1912 - C Ray “Iron Man” Mueller was born in Pittsburg, Kansas. Iron Man played in Pittsburgh (PA, not KS) from 1939-40 and again in 1950, hitting .251. He earned his nickname when he caught every game the Cincinnati Reds played (155) during the 1944 season. Mueller caught a NL-record 233 consecutive games in 1943–1944 and 1946, missing 1945 when he was in the Army.
  • 1913 - The Federal League was born as a six-team outlaw circuit with Pittsburgh (the “Feds” later becoming the “Rebels”) among its clubs. It was a minor league during its first season, but became a third major league, along the the NL and AL, from 1914-15. It initiated a costly wage war by signing established players, but the league pockets weren’t deep enough to continue the battle. After 1915, six of the eight teams were bought or merged into the NL/AL, ending the last major league to compete against the established powers.
  • 1917 - C Bill Salkeld was born in Pocatello, Idaho. He began his career as a Pirate, batting .293 from 1945-47 as a spare catcher and pinch hitter. Salkeld retired from baseball in 1953 after spending some time in the minors and died young from cancer at the age of 50 in 1967. His grandson Roger, born four years after Bill passed away, was chosen by the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the 1989 MLB Draft, and pitched in 45 games for the Mariners and Cincinnati Reds during the mid-nineties.
Bill Salkeld (Image via TSN Collection 1945-47)
  • 1922 - OF Al Gionfriddo was born in Dysart, in Cambria County. He played four years (1944-47) as a spare OF’er and pinch hitter for the Bucs, batting .276, but made his mark after being traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He played in the World Series that year and made a famous fence-kissing catch of a Joe DiMaggio blast to rob Jolting Joe of extra bases. As Red Barber famously called it on Mutual Radio: "...back goes Gionfriddo! Back, back, back, back, back, back...he makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen! Ohhh-hooo, Doctor!” If the line sounds familiar, it’s because ESPN’s Chris Berman adapted it to his call.
  • 1924 - C Maurice “Toby” Atwell was born in Leesburg, Virginia. A strong defensive guy behind the plate, Atwell was a part-time Bucco catcher from 1953-56, batting .250. His career ended the next season; he had injured his knee in the minors and never fully recovered. Toby also answered to “Buster,” after silent film star Buster Keaton, because he spoke so little, per ex-Bucco Nellie King. Lloyd Larsen of the Milwaukee Sentinel added that the Cubs called him “Three Word” because that’s all he said - “hello” when he arrived at camp and “good bye” when the season ended.
  • 1967 - RHP Joel Johnston was born in West Chester, PA. He was a Penn State grad and highly touted KC prospect, breaking into Baseball America’s Top 100 (#59). After a poor showing with the Royals, he was traded to the Pirates in 1993 with P Dennis Moeller for José Lind, and he rebounded with a line of 2-4-2/3.38 in 33 games. But he bombed the next year and was released in May 1994.
Joel Johnston 1994 Topps
  • 1966 - The Hall of Fame Special Veterans Committee elected Casey Stengel to the Hall. He broke his hip in 1965, ending his managerial career, and the Committee waived his waiting period to make him immediately eligible for Cooperstown. (The electors, who weren’t sure The Ol’ Perfessor would last long enough to become eligible, needn't have worried - he lasted another decade, living to the ripe old age of 85). He was inducted July 25th. Stengel was a Pirate outfielder from 1918-19; his famous "sparrow under the hat" episode was as a Bucco.

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