Tuesday, April 4, 2017

4/4: Hit Man & Manny Deals, Capps Inked, TRS Final Opener, Shifty, HBD Bill & Jim, Rasslin' Russ & More

  • 1883 - OF Bill Hinchman was born in Philadelphia. He played for the Bucs from 1915-18 and again in 1920. Bill started the first two seasons, hitting over .300, but faded at the end, finishing his five-year Bucco stint with a .284 BA. Hinchman was a Pirates coach in 1923 and scouted for the club from 1921 to 1958, with a pretty keen eye - he signed Lloyd Waner, Arky Vaughan, Rip Sewell, Cookie Lavagetto, and Billy Cox.
  • 1938 - A half dozen Pirate players “were feeling playful” per Post Gazette writer Edward Balinger and got into a wrestling match while aboard a train. The result was that Russ Bauers, a big righty slated to work Opening Day, wrenched his knee. He didn’t start a game again until April 25th and didn’t pick up his first win until June 1st. That was the year the Bucs lost six of their last seven games to finish two games out of first; the loss of their ace to horseplay may have been the difference between the flag and staying home.
Russ Bauers 1940 Play Ball
  • 1942 - IF Jim Fregosi was born. Jim spent the last season and change of his 18-year career with the Bucs in 1977-78, batting .263 as a bench jockey. Pittsburgh released him after the Angels wanted him as their manager, and Fregosi segued from player to skipper. He was the skipper of four MLB teams over 15 years with some time as a Triple-A manager, retiring from baseball in 2000.
  • April 4, 1954 - While the popularity of infield shifts has taken off in recent seasons, it’s not a modern stratagem. The Post Gazette noted that the KC Athletics pulled a “Kiner shift” on young Pirate slugger Frank Thomas with three infielders on the 3B side of second base during an exhibition. The shift was made famous in the forties when it was employed against Ted Williams and dates back to at least the twenties.
Frank got the shift 1954 Dan Dee Chips
  • 1954 - Instead of sitting on an unexpected small windfall, the Bucs got into the tax refund spirit, announcing a ticket reimbursement of 19 cents/per box seat, 16 cents/per reserved seat and a thin dime per general admission for pre-season ticket holders after a federal levy had been cut in half. And it wasn’t credited toward the purchase of future ducats; the Pirates paid their customers back in cold cash.
  • 1975 - The Pirates released minor league infielder Tony LaRussa after he hit .260 at Class AAA Charleston in 1974. He retired in 1977 and came back to haunt the Bucs as the manager of the St. Louis machine that ran roughshod over the NL Central during his tenure as skipper.
  • 1977 - OF Mike Easler was traded by the California Angels to the Pirates for P Randy Sealy. The Hit Man spent six seasons with the Bucs, hitting .302 and earning an All-Star spot in 1981. The Pirates actually sold him to the Red Sox after the 1978 campaign but traded a couple of minor leaguers to get him back before the 1979 season began. Persistent Boston eventually got him back for the ‘84 season, sending John Tudor to Pittsburgh for Easler. 
  • The Hit Man 1977 Topps
  • 1978 - The Pirates sent OF Miguel Dilone, P Elias Sosa and IF Mike Edwards to the A’s for C Manny Sanguillen, who was traded to Oakland 17 months earlier for Chuck Tanner and cash. He spent three more seasons in Black & Gold, mainly as a bench player behind Ed Ott and Steve Nicosia.
  • 1986 - 1B Jason Thompson was traded to Montreal for a pair of PTBNL minor leaguers, Ron Giddens and Ben Abner. It ended up a very minor deal as Thompson fared poorly for the Expos in his last MLB campaign and neither prospect the Pirates got made it to the show.
  • 2000 - The Bucs drew a record announced crowd of 54,399 as Jason Schmidt lost 5-2 to the Astros for TRS’s final home opener. Sadly, the butts in the seats didn’t match the attendance figure by a longshot even with Christina Aguilera on hand to sing the Anthem. There were maybe an estimated 15,000 live fans on hand because of drizzly, 40-degree weather in Pittsburgh.
  • 2007 - The Bucs swept the Astros in Houston for the first time since 1991, winning 5-4 at Minute Maid Park behind Tom Gorzelanny. Jose Bautista banged out three hits including a double and drove in three RBI to prime the attack.
Matt Capps 2008 Topps Heritage
  • 2008 - Closer Matt Capps agreed to a $3.05M, two-year contract that ran through 2009 and covered his first year of arbitration. Capps wasn’t tendered when the deal ran out - he had 27 saves in 2009, but with a 5.80 ERA - and moved on to Washington.
  • 2016 - Cumberland “Cum” Posey, the first black athlete at Penn State & Duquesne and a former player, manager, and owner of the Homestead Grays baseball team, was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He had been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, and thus became the only member of both the professional basketball and baseball halls of fame. Posey, who was born in Homestead in 1890, played two hoop seasons at Penn State, then with the Loendi Big Five, an all-black basketball team that won multiple Colored Basketball World Championships, and later at Duquesne under the name "Charles Cumbert," leading the Dukes in scoring for three seasons from 1916-18. After Duquesne, he focused on baseball and helped build the Grays into a powerhouse club. (bio via Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

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