Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5/17 Birthdays & Deaths: HBD Billy, Frank, Elmer, Hal, Cool Papa, Ozzie, Pascual & Jose; Adieu Gunner

  • 1857 - IF Billy Reid was born in London, Ontario. The second baseman was part of a wave of Ontario-born Canadian players that played in the majors around the turn of the 20th century. He had a brief career, spending his second and last season with the Alleghenys, batting .243 in 1884. Billy played in the minors until 1888 and returned to London to get on with his life.
  • 1860 - RHP Frank Mountain was born in Fort Edward, New York. Frank, who was coming off a 23-win campaign, was one of 10 players the Alleghenys bought from the defunct Columbus Colts club in 1884. Frank only got to pitch seven games in 1985-86, going 1-6, and saw more time in his second year at 1b. After hitting .145, his MLB days were done after that season.
1911 Pirates - Elmer Smith is third row, first player, with hands on hips
(photo via Baseball Reference)
  • 1886 - RHP Elmer Steele was born in Rhinebeck, New York. He spent the final two seasons of his five-year career with Pittsburgh in 1910-11, slashing 9-10-2/2.56 over that time. He left the team under unusual circumstances, being sold to Brooklyn in September although the Pirates were in a pennant race at the time. One school of thought believed he had a bad arm, though the likelier tale is that the fiery Steele had thrown several tantrums and finally pushed the Pirates to the brink when he tossed a sweater in the face of Pirates manager Fred Clarke per Bill Newlin of SABR. At any rate, 1911 was his last big league year. He played in the minors until 1914 and settled into being a player & manager in the local Hudson Valley leagues while spending 30 years as a mailman for his day job.
  • 1892 - RHP Harold “Hal” Carlson was born in Rockford, Illinois. He worked for the Pirates from 1917-23 to a 42-55/3.64 line. Hal was fairly handy with a stick, too, hitting .224. Carlson died while still a player with the Cubs at the age of 38, victim of a stomach hemorrhage.
  • 1903 - James “Cool Papa” Bell was born in Starkville, Mississippi. He played for both the Homestead Grays (1932, 1943–1946) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1933–1938), and compiled a .337 BA in the Negro Leagues. His speed was legendary. One Satch Paige story goes that when facing Bell, the outfielder hit a liner up that went zipping past Paige's ear and hit Bell in the butt as he was sliding into second base. He also claimed that when he roomed with Bell, Cool Papa hit the light switch one night and was in bed before the light went out. The first Mexican League Triple Crown winner (he played there for three years), Bell was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. Per “Mississippi History Now,” Bell told baseball writer John Holway about his nickname: “They said that ‘he’s so cool he don’t get excited.’ St. Louis Stars Manager Bill Gatewood said, ‘We’ve got to add something to it. We’ll call him Cool Papa.’” Thus was born the legendary name.
Ozzie Virgil 1965 Topps
  • 1932 - Utilityman Osvaldo “Ozzie” Virgil Sr. was born in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. He spent nine campaigns playing off MLB benches, stopping in Pittsburgh in 1965 and hitting .265 while playing infield and catching. After his playing days, he coached for nearly 20 years. His son, Ozzie Jr., played in 11 MLB seasons (1980–90) and was a two-time NL All-Star.
  • 1957 - RHP Pascual Perez was born in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. Pérez was signed by scout Neftalí Cruz in 1976. He pitched for the Pirates from 1980-81 with a slash of 2-8/3.94 before being sold to Atlanta where he took off. The 11-year vet was a colorful character, using a hand motion to shoot down opposing batters, liberally buzzing batters, tossing a blooper pitch and peeking between his legs to check runners at first, even on occasion hiking the ball through his wickets as his pickoff. His last big league campaign was in 1991 with the Yankees. Perez’s colorful career came to a sad end when he was beaten to death in 2012 during a robbery in his homeland.
  • 1976 - OF Jose Guillen was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. Signed by the Bucs in 1992, he made the Opening Day roster in 1997 after tearing up the High A Carolina League with Lynchburg. The RF’er was traded after the 1999 season after hitting .267 in his three-year Bucco span. In 2003, he found his power stroke and was a solid MLB player for 14 seasons.
Jose Guillen 1998 Zenith
  • 1985 - While waiting out a 2-1/2 hour rain delay before a Pirates-Cincinnati Reds game at TRS (the Reds won 6-3), Pirate announcer Bob Prince was admitted to the hospital for dehydration and pneumonia. Three days later, with his wife Betty at his side, he passed away at Presbyterian University Hospital, ending an era in Pittsburgh Pirate baseball.

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