Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7/18 Through the 50s: HBD Bill, Hippity Hopp, Al & Jeff; Under the Lights; Kiner Flexes; Long Weekend; Game Stories

  • 1894 - C Bill Haeffner was born in Philadelphia. Bill had a three-year major league career that spanned 14 seasons. He got a cup of coffee with Philadelphia in 1915 and with the NY Giants in 1928 while seeing his only serious time with Pittsburgh in 1920, batting .194 in 54 games. What he did in between is a mystery to us; Baseball Reference and the other chroniclers don’t have any record of him playing in the minors, although he most assuredly did play somewhere. We do know that Haeffner served as the head baseball coach as La Salle University from 1947 to 1952. 
  • 1905 - The Bucs collected eight hits, including a home run by George Gibson against Christy Mathewson, and won 2-1 over NY at the Polo Grounds. The game was halted for a time by umpire Jim Johnstone after a Giants fan tossed a bottle at Pirate RF Otis Clymer while he was chasing a ball. Clymer had already made one great play in the pasture and apparently the home crowd didn’t want another. Charlie Case and Mike Lynch tossed a five-hitter for the win.
Otis Clymer 1905 (photo Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum)
  • 1914 - The frustrated Pirates were probably tired of Forbes Field after splitting a twin bill with the Dodgers, winning the opener 3-0 and losing the evening game 6-5 in 10 innings. The first game of the series went 21 frames, and that was after the Pirates lost a pair to the NY Giants the day before. So the Bucs and Gotham nines played five games in a span of three days that lasted 58 innings, and were in actuality three straight twin bills. The G-Men & Dodgers took four of the matches, two in extra innings and another by a run. The only victory was behind Bob Harmon’s complete-game, six-hit shutout. The contests were part of a 20-of-21 game homestand that finished 7-13, tho they did end the season 39-36 in Oakland. Pittsburgh would finish seventh with 69-win campaign that year. 
  • 1916 - OF Johnny “Hippity” Hopp was born in Hastings, Nebraska. He played three years in Pittsburgh (1948-50) with a .291/24/244 line as a Bucco. During his 14 year big league career, Hopp played in five different WS with the Cards and Yankees and was an All-Star in 1946. Hippity had a kind of odd stay with the Pirates. In 1949, he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Marv Rackley, but three weeks later, the trade was voided (Branch Rickey claimed Rackley had a bum arm, tho he disagreed) and the two players returned to their original teams. As a Bucco in 1950, Hopp had a streak of eight straight hits before the New York Yankees purchased his contract at the beginning of September. Besides “Hippity,” he was also known as “Cotney” (as in cottony) due to his prematurely white hair. Johnny was a coach through the fifties for Detroit and St Louis before getting a day job. 
Johnny Hopp 1949 Bowman
  • 1918 - RHP Al Lyons was born in st. Joseph, Missouri. He put in four big league years with a stop with the Pirates. In August of 1947, Pittsburgh purchased his contract from the Yankees for and he appeared in thirteen games, going 1-2/7.31 over 28-1/3 IP. He did hit his only MLB homer as a Bucco, a future omen. The Yankees won the pennant and World Series that year while the Pirates finished in last place, but the Bronx Bombers remembered their ol’ bud and voted Lyons 1/2 World Series share ($2,915). After the season, the Pirates sent him to Boston as part of the Johnny Hopp/Danny Murtaugh deal. He got into a handful of games for the Braves and then spent several seasons in the PCL, where he became an OF/P hitting 99 homers and winning 47 games over seven seasons. He retired after the 1956 campaign and served for years as a Mets scout. 
  • 1930 - George Grantham and Adam Comorosky each homered and combined with Pie Traynor to go 9-for-14 with nine RBI and seven runs scored as the Pirates defeated Boston 12-4 at Braves Field. Glenn Spencer went the distance for the win. 
  • 1930 - While the Pirates were away, the Homestead Grays played. And it was a historic game, as the Grays squeaked out a 5-4, extra inning win against the storied Kansas City Monarchs in the first night game ever played at Forbes Field (KC was credited w/hosting the first night baseball game earlier in the year). Homestead fell behind 4-0, but put up a pair in the fifth and then rallied to tie the game in the ninth. A line-out DP frustrated the Grays in the 11th, but Buck Ewing’s infield hit scored George Scales with the game winner an inning later. Leadoff men Jake Stephens and Vic Harris provided the juice, collecting five hits and scoring four runs. 34-year-old George Britt went the distance, as did the Monarch’s Chet Brewer, who would spend almost 20 years as a Pirates scout after his playing days. The illumination was provided by 35 sky-high “projectors” with three lights each; apparently the only issues were with the electrical cables laid along the park railings and foul pops behind the plate. The teams played a day-night doubleheader the next day. It would take the Pirates another decade (6/5/1940) before they would play their first home night game.
Ralph Kiner 1948 Leaf
  • 1948 - It was a lousy day for the Pirates as they dropped a twinbill to the Boston Braves by 10-2 and 3-1 scores at Forbes Field. But it was a record setting afternoon for Ralph Kiner, who hit a solo shot in the ninth off Vern Bickford in the nitecap for his 100th career homer in 385 games, a pace that wasn’t surpassed until Ryan Howard did it in 325 games in 2007. 
  • 1951 - Ralph Kiner drove in seven runs and hit three HRs‚ including his 10th grand slam‚ in a 13-12 slugfest win over the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. His final bomb‚ a solo shot off Erv Palica in the eighth‚ broke a 12-12 tie. In Kiner's final at bat in the ninth‚ Carl Furillo hauled in his long drive near the CF gate. Ralph set the franchise record by notching his fourth game with three homers, later to be tied by Willie Stargell. Joe Garagiola and Gus Bell also went long for the Bucs. 
  • 1953 - Scout Jeff McKay was born in Oregon. A minor league pitcher in the Giants system, he coached at Oregon for a couple of seasons before becoming a birddog. He scouted for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1982-89), Kansas City Royals (1990-2006) and Chicago White Sox (2007-08). Jeff coached at Corban University in Salem, Oregon, in 2007-2008 and became the Warriors head coach in 2011. McKay also founded Baseball Northwest, a showcase for high school ballplayers. 
Dick Groat 1956 Topps pin
  • 1956 - Dick Groat’s two-run double in the 10th snapped a six-game losing streak for the Bucs, leading the club to a 4-2 win at Busch Stadium. The Pirates ran themselves out of chances to win in regulation by losing happy-feet runners at second, third and home. It ended a streak for Bob Friend, too - the two runs for the Redbirds ended his scoreless skein against them at 32 innings. On the bright side, the complete game four-hitter was his 12th victory of the year, one that took him a while to earn - his 11th win was on June 16th. 
  • 1957 - Ernie Banks and future Bucco skipper Chuck Tanner of the Cubs hit inside-the-park homers at Forbes Field, but Chicago still lost 6-5 when the Pirates scored four runs off three Chicago pitchers in the ninth. Dick Groat’s two run triple tied the game and he crossed the plate with the game winner following Bill Mazeroski’s single, giving Luis Arroyo the victory.
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