Sunday, August 13, 2017

8/13 Birthdays: HBD Steve, Good Kid, Sid, Vinegar Bend, Mudcat, Jeff, Tom & Jonah

  • 1903 - RHP Steve Swetonic was born in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County. A Pitt grad, he pitched for the Bucs from 1929-33 and in 1935 to a line of 37-36/3.81. He won 11 games in 1932 and tied for the league lead in shutouts with four. He spent his entire MLB career in Pittsburgh; he retired young at 28, suffering from a chronic sore arm. 
Steve Swetonic 1929 (photo Leslie Jones/Boston Public Library)
  • 1907 - C George “Good Kid” Susce was born in Pittsburgh. The local kid spent one of his eight big league seasons with the Pirates in 1939, hitting .227. After his career, Susce was a coach (mostly bullpen) for the Kansas City A's (1955-1956), Milwaukee Braves (1958-1959), Louisville Colonels (1960), Washington Senators (1961-1967), Jacksonville Suns (1968), Senators again (1969-1971), and Texas Rangers (1972). He got his nickname as a rookie because he cheerfully did all the little housekeeping and hazing tasks that teams have their young players do. It carried on - to this day there’s a program that helps youngsters deal with social issues that’s called the George “Good Kid” Susce Foundation based in Richmond. 
  • 1917 - OF/3B Sid Gordon was born in Brooklyn. Sid spent 13 years in the majors as one of its better sluggers. He homered at least once in every park in which he played in three seasons, was a two-time All-Star and had twice as many walks as whiffs during his career. He joined the Bucs in the 1953 off-season as part of the six-for-one deal that sent Danny O’Donnell to the Braves. Even though he was in his late 30s, he hit .290 with a dozen HR and 50 RBI in 147 games before being sold to the NY Giants, his original club, where he finished out the ‘55 campaign and retired. Sid was elected to the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. 
  • 1930 - LHP Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama (or thereabouts, anyway). The Pirates sent 2B Julian Javier to St Louis for Mizell in May of 1960, and in four months he won 13 games to help carry the Bucs to the 1960 championship. In parts of three seasons, Mizell’s Bucco line was 21-16/3.94. He was nearing the end of his career and the Pirates shipped him to the NY Mets in 1962, from where he retired at season’s end. He became a politician after baseball and went on to serve in local offices and as a three-term congressman from North Carolina. 
Vinegar Bend Mizell 1977 TCMA (1960 Pirates)
  • 1935 - RHP Jim “Mudcat” Grant was born in Lacoochee, Florida. Mudcat made 50 appearances for Pittsburgh with a 7-4-7, 3.41 line but never tossed in the playoffs - he was acquired too late in 1971 (September) to be eligible for the roster and was sent to Oakland before the 1972 postseason began. His nickname was bestowed on him in the minors when a teammate dubbed him Mudcat, mistakenly believing that he hailed from Mississippi, the home of a large catfish known as a mudcat. At least that’s his story; another claims that his MLB roomie Lary Doby of the Indians pinned it on him when he claimed that Grant was as “ugly as a Mississippi mudcat.” Ouch. 
  • 1963 - LHP Jeff Ballard was born in Billings, Montana. After five years with the Orioles, he worked for Pittsburgh from 1993-94, getting into 43 games and going 5-2-2, 5.42 to close out his career. Ballard didn’t exactly end up on the street afterward. He had earned a degree in geophysics from Stanford University and plied his trade in Montana, spending his spare time as an organizer for the Billings American Legion baseball program. 
  • 1964 - C Tom Prince was born in Kankakee, Illinois. Prince started his career in Pittsburgh (1987-93) as a backup catcher behind Mike LaValliere and Don Slaught. In 177 games for the Pirates, he hit .177. Despite his bat, he played for five teams and parts of 17 seasons in the show before hanging up his spikes in 2003. He was a Buc minor league manager since 2005 and in 2017 was promoted to the show as Clint Hurdle’s bench coach. 
Jonah Bayliss 2006 (photo Sean Brady/Getty)
  • 1980 - RHP Jonah Bayliss was born in North Adams, Massachusetts. Bayliss came over to Pittsburgh as the key figure the Mark Redman trade, but never panned out. He spent 2006-07, the last two seasons of his three-year career, in Pittsburgh and went 5-4 with a 7.22 ERA in 16 outings from the pen, showing good stuff but poor control. He’s now a pitching coach/trainer with his own hometown baseball academy.

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