Monday, June 26, 2017

6/26 Birthdays & Moments: HBD Elmer, Babe, Debs, Smoky, Howie, Bill & Jason; Streaks, POs & More...

  • 1893 - RHP Elmer Ponder was born in Reed, Oklahoma. Elmer was an Oklahoma U grad who was of Cherokee descent and was part of the early wave of Native American players (the Bucs also had Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse on the 1921 roster). He played for the Pirates in 1917, then again from 1919-21. He got into three games his first year before he left to join the Army during WW1, and didn’t return until 1919. His late July debut was special; although the Bucs lost to the Phils 6-1, Ponder tossed 5-⅔ perfect innings of relief. No Pirates reliever could claim five or more innings of perfect work until 94 years later, when Vin Mazzaro did it in 2013 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Elmer went 14-21/2.74 for the Pirates before he was traded to the Cubs in ‘21. He finished the year there before being sent to the Pacific Coast League, where he toiled through the 1928 campaign before retiring to Albuquerque and the work-a-day world.
Steve Brodie (photo via Find-A-Grave)
  • 1897 - Pittsburgh CF Steve Brodie's string of consecutive games ended at 574. His arm was so sore the Pirates went on the road without him, though he did recover. The streak was a 19th-century NL record, three games shy of the then MLB mark. Brodie was a strong two-way player that the Bucs released the following year in a move to cut salary, a fairly recurrent theme throughout franchise history. Steve was eccentric, even for the era; per the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Kingaman “Brodie talked to baseballs, caught flies behind his back and once nabbed a line drive that had ricocheted off his head. He mumbled to himself in the outfield, passing time by reciting soliloquies from Shakespeare. Once, Brodie chastised himself for committing an error, The Sun wrote: ‘Then, as further punishment, he refused to talk to himself for the rest of the game.’ A solid fielder, he cut a hole in the pocket of his glove, believing he could better grasp the ball with his bare palm. In winter, he stayed fit by donning a catcher's mask and chest protector and wrestling a muzzled black bear in his backyard.”
  • 1903 - OF Floyd “Babe” Herman was born in Buffalo. His stories are legion, such as the time he ended up on third base with two other teammates or of fly balls bouncing off his body in the outfield. In actuality, Babe was an average fielder with a great stick - his lifetime BA was .324 and he retired with a 140 OPS+. Herman played part of his 13-year career in Pittsburgh, batting .235 (the lowest average of his career) in 1935, returning as a coach in 1951 and later serving as a Bucco scout. Per the New York Times, he got his nickname in the minors, playing when Babe Ruth was a star. ''He was put in to pinch-hit, and the first time he got a hit, the manager of the club said, 'You're my Babe,''' Charles Herman, Floyd’s son, told the paper.
  • 1907 - OF Debs Garms was born in Bangs, Texas. Debs played 12 years in the show, mainly as a utility player although he did start three seasons for the Boston Braves. That’s where the Bucs got him from in 1940, and he hit .355 in 358 ABs. That was good enough for him to be awarded the batting title by Ford Frick; there was no minimum at-bat requirement and the NL President used 100 games played as the qualifier (Garms got into 103 contests). Stan Hack of the Cubs was the next highest hitter at .317, compiled in 603 at-bats, and Chicago fans cried “we wuz robbed” to no avail. Thx to Debs, in 1950 the standard was changed to a 400 at-bat minimum and a few years later to 3.1/PA per game (502 PA). There was no controversy the next season as he hit .264 for Pittsburgh. Garms was a good stickman with a .293 career BA, and in 1941 he set the then-record of seven consecutive pinch hits. He retired after the 1945 season to become a rancher and later a quarryman. BTW, Debs wasn’t a baseball moniker - he was named after socialist politician Eugene Debs.
Debs Garms 1940 (photo Conlon Collection/Getty)
  • 1918 - RHP Elmer “Smoky” Singleton was born in Ogden, Utah. He came to the Pirates as part of the Bob Elliot deal, working for Pittsburgh from 1947-48 while slashing 6-8-3, 5.54. Bert put parts of seven seasons in the show and his overall professional career spanned 24 years, from 1940-63, when he retired at age 45 to become a salesman.
  • 1921 - LHP Howie Pollet was born in New Orleans. After some stellar seasons with St. Louis (two World Series, three All-Star selections), he was sent to Pittsburgh in 1951, the victim of a slow start and back-to-back contract holdouts. He pitched here through 1953 and returned for his final bow in 1956, going 14-31-2, 4.59 for some sad sack teams. Howie coached for the Cards and Astros from 1959-64, then retired and joined the business world.
  • 1935 - CF Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner set a MLB mark when he recorded 18 putouts during a 5-1, 4-2 doubleheader sweep of the Boston Braves. He had nine grabs in each game and rapped out five hits during the twinbill at Braves Field to support Buc pitchers Guy Bush and Bill Swift.
  • 1943 - OF Bill Robinson was born in McKeesport. The Elizabeth-Forward grad played eight years for Pittsburgh, from 1975-82, batting .276 with 109 HR and 412 RBI. He was a fairly regular starter from 1976-79, and won a ring with the 1971 Bucs.
Bill Robinson 1976 SSPC
  • 1968 - Bucco 3B Maury Wills ran his hitting streak to 24 games against Bob Gibson in a 3-0 loss to the Cards at Busch Stadium. It ended during the second game of the DH, a 3-1 Pirate win, when Larry Jaster and Wayne Granger laid an 0-for-5 on Wills.
  • 1974 - Jason Kendall was born in San Diego. He spent nine years as a Pirate (1996-2004), putting up a .308 BA, hitting over .300 six times and earning three All-Star berths. He was on a Hall of Fame track before a string of injuries slowed his career, finishing his 16-year run with a .288 BA. Kendall has been a member of the KC Royals coaching staff, serving as a roving special assignment coach, since retiring as a player in 2012.
  • 1999 - SS Pat Meares, on the DL recovering from surgery on his left hand but traveling with the team, ran in a mascot race at Milwaukee's County Stadium. Meares, dressed as a bratwurst, won the race by defeating a hot dog and a polish sausage. Two days prior, Meares had been caught on videotape sunbathing in the upper deck of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium for the first six innings of a game. He missed all but the first 21 games of the ‘99 season after signing a contract that carried him until 2003. He played 2000-01 for the team, then spent the next two years on the DL; the Pirates wanted further surgery on his hand and he didn’t.

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