Thursday, June 15, 2017

6/15 Happenings: HBD Peek-A-Boo, Babe, Bud, Gene, Bruce, Big Wheel & Eric; Trades Galore: Pirates Honored

  • 1862 - 1B/OF/P William “Peek-A-Boo” Veach was born in Indianapolis. He only played part of season with the Alleghenys in 1890 (did pretty well, too, hitting .300) and had just a brief three-year big league career with a lifetime .215 BA. He was also a Spanish-American War vet, but he made the cut for the history pages thanks to his unique nickname. When he pitched for the Kansas City Cowboys of the Union League in 1884, his club called pick-offs with hand signals from the bench for him; he became antsy on his own with runners aboard. Veach would shift his eyes from the field to the dugout so often before a pitch that the runners caught on and dubbed him Peek-A-Boo. Afterward, the manager put a plant in the grandstands who would wave a game program to indicate when Veach should throw over to first, but that was quickly sniffed out by the opponents, too. So the ploy to hold runners never became a thing, explaining largely why Veach became a 1B/OF, but the nickname carried on.
Babe Dahlgren (photo via Baseball Birthdays)
  • 1912 - 1B Babe Dahlgren was born in San Francisco. He played for the Pirates from 1944-45, hitting .271 and earning an All-Star spot in 1944. Babe was famous for two things: He replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939, ending the Iron Horse’s 2,130 game playing streak, and was credited as being the first MLB player to take a drug test for a non-performance enhancing drug. He took it voluntarily in 1943 to dispel rumors that he was a pothead.
  • 1916 - OF Eddie “Bud” Stewart was born in Sacramento, California. He started his nine-year MLB run (.268 lifetime BA) in Pittsburgh in 1941-42, hitting .242. He was considered a strong defensive player with good speed and a dependable pinch-hitter. His ball-playing days were interrupted by WW2 when he entered the Army. Bud was a gym teacher after his playing days, and as a California guy played as an extra in several Hollywood flicks.
  • 1925 - Gene Baker was born in Davenport, Iowa. The back-up infielder played for the Bucs from 1957-58 and 1960-61 with a .259 BA. In 1961, he became the first African-American manager in organized baseball when the Pirates named him skipper of their Batavia farm club in the New York-Penn League. In 1963, the Pirates promoted him to the big team as the second black coach in MLB, behind Buck O'Neil by three months. When Danny Murtaugh was tossed by an ump, Baker became the interim manager for two games, making him the first black to manage a team in a major league game. Baker managed Batavia again in 1964, and served as a minor league coach and manager. He then returned to Davenport and became the Bucs’ top midwest scout for 23 years.
Elbie Fletcher 1941 Double Play
  • 1939 - The Pirates picked up 1B Elbie Fletcher from the Boston Bees for IF Bill Schuster and cash. Fletcher played seven seasons for Pittsburgh (he missed three because of WW2) and hit .279 with 60 HR and 464 RBI for the Bucs. Broadway Bill Schuster was a sub who also missed three war years, and hit .234 over a five-year career.
  • 1941 - RHP Bruce Dal Canton was born in California, Washington county. Dal Canton was signed by the Bucs out of California State College and tossed his first four big-league seasons (1967-70) in Pittsburgh to a 20-8-8, 3.57 line. He put together an 11-year career as a starter and long man, also twirling for KC, Atlanta and the White Sox.
  • 1951 - The Pirates received RHP Ted Wilks, IF Dick Cole, C Joe Garagiola, OF Bill Howerton and LHP Howie Pollet from St. Louis for LHP Cliff Chambers and OF/3B Wally Westlake. Pollet and Chambers ended up as washes on the hill, but Westlake played seven more seasons and retired with a lifetime .272 BA.
Lance Parrish 1995 Fleer
  • 1956 - C Lance “Big Wheel” Parrish was born in Clairton. Lance spent 19 years in the show, returning home near the end of the trail as a 38-year-old in 1994, putting up a .270 BA. He was an eight-time All-Star for three different teams, six-time Silver Slugger awardee and three-time Gold Glove honoree. Since retiring, he’s been both a major and minor league coach, announcer, and is now a minor league manager. The nickname “Big Wheel” came about in the early ’80s based on a Mel Allen This Week in Baseball feature. Allen opened with “...the wheels of the Motor City were turning...” and referred to Parrish as the Big Wheel, according to Baseball By the Letters.
  • 1958 - SS Johnny O’Brien and 3B Gene Freese were traded to the Cardinals for IF Dick “Ducky” Schofield, who would play a key role in the Bucs 1960 NL championship as a sub for the injured Dick Groat during the stretch run for the pennant.
  • 1961 - Pittsburgh traded OF Gino Cimoli to the Milwaukee Braves for IF Johnny Logan. Cimoli was a bench player for the Braves, then went on to start for KC in 1962-63. Logan’s All-Star days were behind him and he spent three seasons with the Bucs as a reserve infielder.
Digger O'Dell 1967 Topps
  • 1966 - The Atlanta Braves traded LHP Billy O'Dell to the Pirates for RHP Don Schwall. Digger O’Dell was effective in ‘66, making 37 appearances with a 2.78 ERA, but that doubled the next season, his last in the majors. Schwall went 3-3 in eight starts for Atlanta, and pitched one game in 1967 before his career ended.
  • 1980 - C Erik Kratz was born in Telford PA. The journeyman made his second appearance as a Bucco in 2016; he caught nine games in 2010 as a rookie. Defensively, he did a fine job, throwing out 50% (8-of-16) wanna-be base larcenists, but hit just .111. Pittsburgh is one of five teams the journeyman has played for in seven MLB seasons.
  • 2010 - The PA House passed a bill recognizing the Pirates 1960 championship team as part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebration. It was accepted by a 197-0 vote and was sponsored by 64 members in a rare bipartisan display.
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