Wednesday, May 31, 2017

5/31 Events: HBD Russ, Joe & Kenny; Coke Trail Verdict; Satch & the Grays; Rainy Day; Heismann Vic; Clemente Day

  • 1888 - S/O to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects “This Date In Pirate History.” The Alleghenys forfeited a game to the New York Giants when they failed to show up at the Polo Grounds while it was raining. The Pittsburg Press wrote “ Manager Phillips claimed that he had word that there would be no game and that it rained from 3:30 to 4 (the game’s starting time). President Nimick will protest the game.” He did; the league didn’t buy the story and the Pittsburgh nine forfeited the match.
  • 1930 - Umpire Russ Goetz was born in McKeesport. After 13 seasons of honing his craft in the minors, he was an AL umpire from 1968 to 1983. Goetz was part of the blue crew for two All Star Games, four AL playoff series, and two World Series, including the Bucs 1979 battle against the Baltimore Orioles. Russ went into umping after serving in the Navy during the Korean War and being deployed in Korea and China. He started his sporting days as a basketball player for the Tigers and remained in Tube City after he retired.
Satchel Paige 1936 Grays (photo via Leon Day Foundation)
  • 1942 - Satchel Page rejoined his old Grays teammates when they played against the Dizzy Dean All-Stars in an exhibition game at Washington’s Griffith Park. The drew 22,000 fans (the major league Senators averaged just 5-6,000 per game) and beat the Deans 8-1. Clark Griffith, the Sens’ owner, told Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard after the game that he was going to “break up your league” and sign black ballplayers, but he never made good on the promise.
  • 1953 - Vic Janowicz became the first Heisman Trophy winner to play MLB when he appeared as a pinch runner for the Pirates in the first game of a doubleheader loss to the Dodgers.
  • 1962 - Joe Orsulak was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. A sixth round pick of the Pirates in the 2008 draft, he was seen as the Bucs future lead-off man and CF’er. In his four years in Pittsburgh (1983-86) he never managed to secure the job, though he did hit .272. He lasted 14 years in the show, hitting .273 lifetime as primarily a platoon outfielder.
Kenny Lofton 2003 Upper Deck
  • 1967 - OF Kenny Lofton was born in East Chicago, Indiana. The Bucs signed him as a free agent for $1.025M and he had a nice year in 2003, hitting .277 with 18 swiped sacks. He became part of perhaps the biggest salary dump in Pirates history when he was traded to the Cubs at the deadline for Bobby Hill, Jose Hernandez and Matt Bruback. Lofton and A-Ram helped Chicago to the 2003 NL Central title. Kenny played until he was 40, retiring after the 2007 campaign with 17 seasons, 11 playoff years and six All-Star berths on his resume. After Lofton left baseball, he went into film and television, his major at the U of Arizona. He does some media gigs and founded FilmPool Inc., a movie company.
  • 1985 - A Federal grand jury indicted seven for cocaine distribution and sales in baseball, none of which were Pirates (the players that testified were granted immunity). GM Joe Brown hoped the indictments would “...remove the shadow that has existed over the Pirates…” but his hope was in vain. The coke trials tainted the team’s clubhouse culture and several Bucs, notably Dave Parker and Rod Scurry, in the eyes of the fans.
  • 2016 - Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that this date would be Roberto Clemente Day throughout Major League Baseball. The highlight of the celebration was to be a game between the Pirates and Miami Marlins at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Unfortunately for Roberto’s homeland, the game was moved to Miami after a Zika outbreak on the island, and his special day was pushed back to its usual floating September celebration.

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