Friday, October 13, 2017

10/13: HBD Rube, Mr X, Dick & Bob; Shepard Manager; Game 7 Gang; Rizzo, Russell, Rhyne & Waner Join; Smoky City

  • 1876 - LHP George “Rube” Waddell was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania. He pitched just two season for the Pirates (1900-01), but his legend deserves mention. He wore out his welcome with Pittsburgh, getting into two games in 1901 after leading the NL in ERA (2.37) the year before with the Bucs. His eccentricities: He was a fire fanatic in a good way; Rube always wore a red t-shirt so he could join up with any fire-fighting brigade that he found in action. Though he never showed up drunk at a game, he was a heavy drinker - The Sporting News called him a “sousepaw” - and was distracted by crowds, who would mesmerize him by flashing shiny objects at him. In exhibition games, he had his teammates sit around him on the mound. Waddell also wrestled alligators in the off season. Current baseball historians believe he was autistic or had ADD before the conditions were commonly diagnosed. But Rube could throw a baseball. He won 193 games and struck out 2,316 batters in his career (349 whiffs in 1904 alone). Rube K’ed three batters on nine pitches in 1902. He was one of the great drawing cards of early baseball, and is in the Hall of Fame. The story of his life was written by the stars: Rube was born on Friday the 13th and died on April Fools Day (4/1/1914).
Nearby smokestacks could turn day into night at Exposition Park (photo via MLB Cathedrals)
  • 1899 - Smoky City, indeed. Per Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, the Louisville Colonels scored four runs in the ninth to take a 6-5 lead over the Pirates at Exposition Park‚ as thick‚ black smoke from the local mills settled over the field. The game was called before the Bucs could bat because of poor visibility (darkness, technically), and the score reverted to the last full frame, the eighth inning, giving Pittsburgh a 5-2 victory. 
  • 1912 - RHP Xavier Rescigno was born in New York City. He tossed for the Pirates during the war years of 1943-45 (it was his entire MLB career, too), slashing 19-22-16/4.13 in 129 games (21 starts). The curve ball whiz tossed for Manhattan College and was signed by the Yankees but didn’t take off until he joined the Brooklyn organization and was tutored by Burleigh Grimes. The Pirates eventually bought his contract and sent him to Albany, and they brought him and Ralph Kiner up in 1943. He worked through the ‘45 season when at age 32, he was overtaken by the wartime talent returning from the service and back into baseball. He worked in the minors for five more years before retiring. Rescigno was known as “Mr. X” and was the first guy named Xavier to play in MLB (there have been six in big league history and the Pirates rostered three - Rescigno, Nady and Paul). In fact, while in his 90s one of his final baseball acts was to meet up with the newest MLB Xavier at the time, OF’er Nady, during a game at San Diego and following up with a letter welcoming him into the Xavier fraternity of baseball men. 
  • 1925 - The Pirates purchased SS Hal Rhyne and OF Paul Waner from San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, then an unaffiliated independent organization. Rhyne played a couple of years for the Bucs and had a seven year MLB career while Big Poison went on to the Hall of Fame after spending 15 of his 20 big league seasons with Pittsburgh. 
Hal Rhyne 1926 (photo Conlon/TSN/Getty)
  • 1932 - IF Dick Barone was born in San Jose. His bio, per BR Bullpen: the 27-year-old Barone was called from Columbus to become the back-up to Dick Schofield in 1960 after Dick Groat was injured. He played in three games (once as a starter) over the final month, and those three contests constituted his entire major league career. He was hitless in six at-bats and flawless in the field, but wasn’t included on the Pirates' 1960 World Series roster as Groat returned and Schofield went back to the bench. Barone's baseball legacy is that he once started a game for the 1960 Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, was the player called from the minors when 1960 MVP and batting champion Groat was injured, was once pinch-hit for by legendary pinch-hitter Burgess, and once replaced Hall of Famer Mazeroski in the lineup. Afterward all that, he played in the minors through 1962 and saw his pitcher grandson, Daniel, play in the show in 2007 with Florida. 
  • 1937 - The Bucs got OF Johnny Rizzo from the Cards for 1B Bernard Cobb, C Tom Padden, OF Bud Hafey and cash. The rookie Rizzo hit 23 homers in 1938, a team record that lasted for nearly a decade (it was broken by Jason Bay and Josh Bell, both who hit 26 dingers), and was traded early in 1940 for Vince DiMaggio. Rizzo went downhill in 1941 and ‘42 was his last season. 
  • 1941 - The Pirates drafted Fayette City’s Jim Russell from Memphis of the Southern Association in the minor league draft. He hit .277 from 1942-47 for the Bucs before spending his next four MLB campaigns playing for the Braves and Dodgers. Jim’s career was cut short by heart problems he had contracted as a child. He stayed on in the sport, though, scouting for the Dodgers and Senators for two decades after his playing days had ended. 
Bob Bailey 1964 Topps Giant
  • 1942 - 3B Bob Bailey was born in Long Beach. He began his 17 year pro career in Pittsburgh (1962-66) where he hit .257 with occasional power. Bailey had his best years with Montreal in the early seventies, with three 20+ HR seasons and three more with 80+ RBI. 
  • 1967 - Larry Shepard was named manager, replacing Danny Murtaugh, who in turn had replaced Harry Walker earlier in the year. He lasted two seasons (replaced by Murtaugh), then became the pitching coach of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine under Sparky Anderson from 1970 through 1978. He finished his coaching career with the San Francisco Giants in 1979. 
  • 1985 - Saul Finkelstein sat at the base of the flagpole by the Forbes Field wall outside Schenley Plaza and listened to a taped NBC radio broadcast of Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan calling the seventh game of the 1960 World Series on his boombox. Since that day, it has evolved into an annual ceremony open to all under the auspices of the Game Seven Gang, often drawing an assortment of politicos and members of the championship team.

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