Monday, July 3, 2017

7/3: HBD Bunny, Chet, Luke, Eddie & Moises; Chief's Cycle; Willie Launch; Cover Boys & Game Stories

  • 1892 - OF Anthony John Grzeszkowski (“Bunny Brief”) was born in Remus, Michigan.He ended his four-year career as a bench player for the Pirates in 1917, hitting .217. Bunny wasn’t much of a major-leaguer, but he ruled on the farm. After his show days, Brief played in the minors until 1928. Though he never hit more than two home runs in any of his big league seasons, Bunny holds the all-time record for home runs in the American Association (by then, a minor league) with 256 and his eight AA home run crowns are tied for the most ever with Ken Guettler. How did Tony Grzeszkowski become Bunny Brief? The Bunny part is easy; it’s a take-off of his childhood nickname of Bundy. As for the Brief, well, you can thank Ellis Island. According to Major-Smolinski’s “Favorite Baseball Nicknames,” his parents were immigrants and when they were processed by a clerk who wrestled with their long Polish name, Papa Grzeskowski suggested that the registrar Americanize the name. "Just change it to something brief," he said. The official did, literally, as related by Joe Brief, a great-nephew of the ballplayer.
  • 1987 - RHP Chet Nichols was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Chet, a three-sport star in high school, was a big-time prospect when the Bucs bought him from New Haven of the Eastern League, but his minor-league chops never carried over. He began his less-than-distinguished six year career (1-8, 7.19) with the Bucs, tossing from 1926-27 and slashing 0-3/6.37. He spent his last three campaigns with Philadelphia, leaving the game after the 1932 season with a bum arm. Chet went on to coach at Woonsocket HS and the University of Rhode Island.
Hot Potato Hamlin 1941 Play Ball
  • 1904 - RHP Luke Hamlin was born in Ferris Center, Michigan. Luke had been a 20-game winner for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939, but age caught up to him. He had become a role pitcher by the time the Pirates got him in 1942 as a 38-year-old, going 4-4/3.94 in 23 outings (14 starts). Luke was sometimes called "Hot Potato" because he liked to juggle the ball while getting ready to pitch, much like a man handling a hot potato.
  • 1910 - Owen “Chief” Wilson hit for the cycle at the Palace of the Fans in Cincinnati as the Pirates took a 10-2 decision from the Reds.
  • 1917 - Bohemian-born Bucco scout Hugo Bezdek was named Pirate manager, replacing the short-lived skipper Honus Wagner. He managed the Pirates through 1919, compiling a 166–187 record, while also coaching Penn State football from 1918-29 during the offseason. He was known for his rigorous, gridiron-inspired workouts and per Baseball Reference's Bullpen, he "...had a good rapport with his players, whom he relied upon to make some key decisions given his lack of baseball experience. Two of those players would go on to be among baseball's most famous managers - Casey Stengel and Billy Southworth."
  • 1926 - The Pirates scored eight times in the fourth inning and rolled over the Cards at Forbes Field 12-3. Pie Traynor had a homer and double in the big frame and drove home four runs to help Vic Aldridge cruise to a win.
Moises Alou 1990 Score Rookie
  • 1966 - OF Moises Alou was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Alou was the second overall pick of the 1986 draft by the Pirates and a good one, although his Pirate career consisted of just five at-bats in 1990. Moise was the PTBNL in the Zane Smith deal with Montreal later that season; Smith helped the Pirates win the pennant while Alou went on to a sterling MLB career. He played for 17 seasons with a BA of .303, 2,134 hits, 332 home runs, 1,287 RBI and six All-Star berths. Alou holds the record for stringing together a 30-game hitting streak for the Mets in 2007, the longest for a 40-year-old player in MLB history. Moises, a member of the storied Alou baseball family, also got to play under his dad, Felipe, who managed from 1992-96 with the Expos.
  • 1967 - Willie Stargell’s estimated 500’ home run (it landed in the little league field behind the LC wall, which is still there today) helped the Pirates to a 5-2 win over Don Drysdale and the LA Dodgers at Forbes Field. Pops had two round trippers and three hits, Bill Mazeroski added a pair of knocks and three RBI and gene Alley doubled twice. Tommie Sisk went the distance for the win, spinning a five hitter.
  • 1967 - Roberto Clemente was featured as the cover story of Sports Illustrated in an article titled “The Big Hitters Are Back.” Pretty good choice - The Great One had 209 hits and a league-leading .357 BA, with 23 HR, 110 RBI, 103 RS and an OPS of .954.
  • 1970 - The Bucs bashed six homers to outlast the Cubs 16-14 at Wrigley Field. Roberto Clemente and Gene Alley each had a pair of bombs and four RBI each, while Al Oliver and Bill Mazeroski also went yard. The two clubs banged out 40 hits and went through a dozen pitchers before Dave Giusti struck out Ron Santo to end it with the tying runs aboard for Chicago.
  • 1972 - Steve Blass was featured as the cover story of Sports Illustrated in an article titled “League Leader.” Steverino had a great season, making the All-Star team and going 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA, but would be struck down by the "Blass disease" the following year.
  • 1983 - RHP Edinson Volquez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Eddie had a rebound season with the Buccos in 2014, going going 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA. As a free agent after the season, he landed a two year deal with the Royals worth $20M, then moved to the Marlins.
  • 1987 - Bobby Bonilla became the first Pirate to homer from both sides of the plate in a 6-0 win against Los Angeles at TRS, collecting five RBI. Rick Reuschel tossed a five-hit shutout for the victory.
Bobby Bo 1987 Donruss Opening Day
  • 2012 - Journeyman Drew Sutton was the hero of the day. He hit a walk-off homer, his first long ball since 2010 and one of his three knocks on the day, off Wesley Wright’s hung slider to give the Bucs an 8-7 win over the Astros at PNC Park. Pittsburgh battled back from a sixth inning 6-2 deficit against their favorite whipping boys to take a late lead and earn the win for Joel Hanrahan, who had blown the save in the ninth when he gave up a two out double to Jason Castro. The victory moved the Pirates into a tie for first in the NL Central.

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