Thursday, June 1, 2017

6/1 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: K Record, Clemente Sighting, Ump Show, HBD Bad Bill & Harry, Eephus, Under the Lights, Friend Gem

  • 1869 - 2B “Bad Bill” Eagan was born in Camden, New Jersey. Per David Nemec of SABR, “He got the nickname “Bad Bill” the hard way: He earned it through regular, rowdy behavior.” Eagan was like many old-timey players: a heavy drinker, gambler, and general thorn in the side of umpires & management. He was also a ball magnet, even practicing getting hit by pitches in BP by crowding the plate, leading umps to often allow him to get plopped a couple of times before yielding to the inevitable and awarding him a base. Though he was briefly the Bucs starting second baseman and hitting .328 in 1898, he was sent down to the minors after a drinking bout. It was a familiar pattern; in his 13-year pro career he wore out his welcome often and only got three years and 107 games in the majors. Bad Bill, after a tumultuous private life, died of “consumption” in 1905.
  • 1887 - RHP Harry Gardner was born in Quincy, Michigan. His MLB career consisted of 14 outings with the Pirates from 1911-12 with a 1-1, 4.46 line. Harry did have a long baseball stint, tho, pitching 16 minor league seasons and winning 206 games. He spent his last nine years working in the Pacific Coast League before retiring at age 37 after the 1924 season.
  • 1901 - The Bucs lost to the Reds 4-3, following a disputed call by rookie umpire Bert Cunningham, a pitcher whom the Pirates got in an offseason trade and then cut to end his playing career. Cunningham ruled Kitty Bransfield out at first on a questionable bang-bang call, costing the Pirates the tying run and ending the game. 2,000 fans stormed the field at Exposition Park after the decision, suspecting a bit of payback figured in the ump’s call, and Cunningham had to be led to the locker room by Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner to escape mob justice. It made the front page of The Pittsburg Press which described the scene: “ angry crowd followed umpire Cunningham and the Cincinnati players and despite the efforts of the Pittsburg players to protect the official and their visitors managed to land a few blows...The disgraceful scene occurred under the very eyes of President NE Young of the National League, who came here yesterday to investigate the reports about the poor umpiring of Nash (Cunningham’s partner in blue) and Cunningham, two recent additions...” Seeing is believing.
  • 1939 - Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia in the Phillies’ first night game at Shibe Park, 5-2, as Rip Sewell took the W. The Bucs only had seven hits, but eight walks and a beaned batter gave them plenty of runners. Bill Brubaker homered while Paul Waner & Arky Vaughan scored the other four runs from the top of the order.
  • 1943 - For the first time that we can find, Rip Sewell tossed the ol’ eephus in a MLB game during a 5-4 win against the Boston Braves at Forbes Field. He first unveiled it during the 1942 exhibition season against Detroit’s Dick Wakefield. The pitch went by the names blooper, LaLob, dew drop, moon ball and many other less flattering titles. It’s name legendary came from Pirate OF Maurice Van Robays, who said an "'Eephus ain't nothing, and that's a nothing pitch," referring to the Hebrew word "efes,” meaning "nothing.” The Bucs won the game thanks to Huck Geary and his 14th inning steal of home. And Rip, with the new trick pitch added to his arsenal, went on to have back-to-back 21-win campaigns.
Roberto (photo Teenie Harris/Carnegie Museum of Art)
  • 1954 - Montreal Royals OF’er Roberto Clemente, who the Dodgers had sent to Canada, was nevertheless found out (Roberto was on several radar screens) by Pirate scout Clyde Sukeforth. Sukeforth, ironically, wasn’t even a scout but a Pittsburgh pitching coach on special assignment in Richmond, where the Royals were playing, to check out pitcher Joe Black. Sukeforth strongly recommended that the Bucs take Clemente in the upcoming minor league draft, based more on his pre-game eyeball scouting of Roberto throwing and running than his actual performance, and the rest is history.
  • 1960 - Bob Friend gave up a leadoff single to Eddie Kasko, but the Reds would find him hard to hit the rest of the way as the Bucs beat Cincinnati 5-0 at Forbes Field. Friend tossed a three hitter, walking only one, and none of the Redlegs reached second base. Four Pirates had two hits, with Roberto Clemente driving home a pair of runs and Don Hoak plating twice.
  • 1965 - Bob Veale set the Pirate nine inning strikeout mark when he K'ed 16 Phillies at Forbes Field in a 4-0 victory, even though he sat through two rain delays that added two hours to the game. The five-hitter was the Bucs 12th consecutive win. The big lefty also struck out 16 Reds in 12 innings on September 30th, 1964. Back before the gun, the 6’6” lefty was estimated to throw a heater in the 97-98 MPH range.

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