Tuesday, January 31, 2017

1/31 From the 60s Forward: Gentle Jeems, Jake, Joe & Al To the Hall; Barry Bonds Big Deal; Suppan Signed

  • 1965 - RHP Pud “Gentle Jeems” Galvin was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee and was the lone HOF selection that year. Galvin earned 20 victories ten times in 14 seasons. He tossed for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and Pirates from 1885-1892. Pud won 138 games and notched four 20+ win years for Pittsburgh. He was inducted on July 26th.
Jake Beckley 1889 Goodwin
  • 1971 - The Hall of Fame Special Veterans Committee selected two Bucs from the early days to the Hall, 1B Jake Beckley and OF Joe Kelley. Beckley played for the Alleghenys, Burghers and Pirates from 1888-96, hitting .300. He banged a modest 43 HR, but legged out 113 triples in that span. Kelley got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1892, hitting just .239. The Pirates dumped him, and he went on to have a dozen consecutive .300+ seasons beginning the following year, playing mostly for the Baltimore Orioles. They were inducted on August 9th.
  • 1976 - The Special Veterans Committee selected C Al Lopez for the Hall of Fame. Lopez caught for Pittsburgh from 1940-46, hitting a modest .254. But he was best known for his glove and ability to handle a staff and went on to manage the Indians and White Sox when his playing days ended. He was inducted on August 9th.
  • 1992 - The Pirates signed OF Barry Bonds to a one-year contract worth $4.7M‚ the largest one-year deal in baseball history at the time. Bonds won his second MVP trophy and the Bucs won their division, so it was money well spent.
Jeff Suppan 2003 Topps
  • 2003 - RHP Jeff Suppan was signed as a free agent to a $500K deal. After a breakout summer, he was flipped to the Red Sox at the deadline as part of the Freddy Sanchez/Mike Gonzalez deal. Steady Freddy was a Pirate All-Star while Gonzo eventually became the closer.

1/31 - Through the 50s: Big Poison HoF; Wizard of Whiff Inked; HBD 'Death to Flying Things', Al, Don & Coral

  • 1845 - IF Bob Ferguson was born in Brooklyn. In a 14 year career with eight teams, he closed out his playing days in 1884 with the Alleghenys, getting into 10 games and hitting .146. But he did leave a legacy; he was the first recognized switch hitter in baseball, and also had one of the all-time great nicknames, “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, because of his fielding prowess (although a more prosaic theory holds that he got the name because of his ability to swat flies in hotel lobbies). He managed a couple of years after hanging up the spikes and then moved on to umpiring.
Al Buckenberger Ars Longa Card
  • 1861 - Manager Al Buckenberger was born in Detroit. He managed the Pirates from 1892-94, coming in second in 1893 and posting an overall 187-144 slate while also serving as club president. He tried unsuccessfully to resurrect the old American Association, earning himself a brief league suspension during the 1894 off season.
  • 1899 - LHP Don Songer was born in Walnut, Kansas. He tossed three of his four MLB years with the Bucs between 1925-27, going 7-9-3/3.55. Songer was part of two World Series teams, but never got to participate, being off the playoff roster in his rookie year of 1925, then traded to the Giants before the 1927 year ended.
  • 1919 - P Ken “Coral” Gables was born in Walnut Grove, Missouri. Gables had a 13-11/4.69 slate before being traded to the San Francisco Seals and spent the last seven seasons of his career in the PCL. We can’t confirm it, but we’d guess is nickname is a nod to the Florida town. 
Paul Pettit 1951 (photo World Wide)
  • 1950 - The Pirates signed high school LHP Paul Pettit (“The Wizard of Whiff” pitched six prep no-hitters) for a record $100‚000 after buying his rights from film producer Fred Stephani‚ who had signed him to an exclusive contract as an athlete/actor. The lefty went 1-2/7.43 for the Pirates (1951, 1953) and retired in 1961 with arm problems that had first surfaced a decade earlier.
  • 1952 - RF Paul “Big Poison” Waner was elected to the Hall of Fame and inducted on July 21st. In a 20 year career, he led the NL in hitting three times and put up a slash of .330/.404/.473. His 2,868 hits as a Pirate are third on the team, behind Roberto Clemente (3,000) and Honus Wagner (2,970).

Monday, January 30, 2017

1/30: Monster '59 Reds Deal; No Sale; Pokey, Paul & Eric Sign; HBD Demon & Matt; Block Aboard

  • 1888 - OF Vin “Demon” Campbell was born in St Louis. Vin joined the Bucs in 1910; he had been a two-sport star at Vanderbilt and was dubbed “Demon” for the way he smashed into football opponents (he was named All-Southern Conference with a guy named John Heisman for whom the college Heisman Trophy is named). Campbell hit .326 in 1910 and looked like a future star in the making. He then stunned the Bucs by retiring to join a brokerage firm. Vin rejoined the team in July - his sweetie and future wife was a Pittsburgh girl - and batted .312. Demon held out for a bigger contract and the Pirates traded him. He played ball for three more seasons, then joined the in-laws to run a chain of tire stores in Pittsburgh and New York City after he retired.
Matt the Scat 1981 Topps
  • 1947 - Pinch-runner Matt (“The Scat”) Alexander was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He spent the last four years of his career (1978-81) with the Pirates, and though he only got 27 at-bats during that time, he stole 30 bases (out of 37 tries) and scored 36 runs. During his nine year MLB career, he was in the field for just 138 games while pinch-running 271 times.
  • 1959 - C Smoky Burgess (he was born near the Smoky Mountains), LHP Harvey Haddix and 3B Don Hoak went from the Reds to the Pirates in exchange for RHP Whammy Douglas (his moniker came from his American Legion days; he said “I was striking everyone out, so they just started calling me ‘Whammy’”) , OF Jim Pendleton, OF John Powers and 3B Frank Thomas, providing three major pieces of the 1960 championship club. Slugger Thomas, the key figure in the deal, was the last to know - he was touring military bases in Germany when the deal was made, and the press had to get trade reaction quotes from his wife Dolores.
  • 2002 - The Pirates signed FA 2B Pokey Reese to a two year, $4.25M contract with a 2004 club option. Pittsburgh was the fourth team for Reese since the end of the 2001 season. He finished the year with Cincinnati, and then was traded to the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox in a span of three days in December. Boston didn’t offer him a deal, making him a free agent. Pokey stuck with the Bucs for both seasons, although he lost all but 37 games to injury in 2003. His nickname dates back to his infancy. Reese was a chubby baby and also had a hernia (it wasn’t repaired until he was six) that caused his navel to poke out, so his grandma called young Calvin "Pokey."
Pokey Reese 2002 Fleer Changing Places
  • 2009 - The Pirates avoided arbitration by signing former first round pick LHP Paul Maholm to a three-year, $14.5M contract that included a team option for 2012. He was released after the 2011 season, playing for three different teams afterwards. The lefty reinvented himself in 2014, switching to a bullpen role, but a late-year torn ACL (and 4.84 ERA) made that his last MLB campaign.
  • 2009 - OF/UT Eric Hinske inked a one-year, $1.5M FA contract with Pittsburgh. Hinske was shipped to the NY Yankees before the deadline, hitting .255 with one HR for the Bucs. He retired after the 2013 season, having played 12 years for seven teams.
  • 2010 - Another deal that fell through… Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette broke a story that claimed Penguin owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Buerkle had made an offer to buy the Pirates from Bob Nutting after the 2009 season. The hockey duo had turned around the fortunes of the Pens and Buerkle in particular had the deep pockets that the small-revenue Bucs lacked, but the team stated that it was not for sale and that Nutting was committed to bringing a championship to Pittsburgh. The rumor mill added that sports attorney Chuck Greenberg had made an earlier offer and was told the same thing before teaming up with Nolan Ryan to buy the Texas Rangers.
Joe Block 2016 (image via Root Sports)
  • 2016 - Joe Block was hired as a Root Sports play-by-play announcer to replace Tim Neverett, who left to work in the Boston booth a month earlier. Block spent the prior four years with the Milwaukee Brewers and the 2011 season hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers radio post-game show on KABC. Joe also called nine seasons of minor league baseball, rising up through the ranks by working for five different teams.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Notes: ZiPS Out, El Coffee & That Tweet Thing, Buc Farms Reps Well, Ex-Bucco Moves

The Pirates are playing this off season very close to the vest so far. It looks like they have a lot of trust in this year's roster bouncing back with some more youth to spice up the lineup during the season.  We'll see - they still have several weeks to tinker.

  • Tweet of the week - after a graphic showed that Gregory Polanco was caught looking twenty-one times on pitches that were outside the strike zone, El Coffee tweeted: "Maybe @realDonaldTrump can sign an executive order to fix my strike zone 😒."
  • Dan Syzmborski released his 2017 ZiPS projections for the Buccos on Fangraphs (story Carson Cistulli). Andrew and Starling are 1-2 among everyday guys while Gerrit Cole and somewhat surprisingly Tyler Glasnow top off the pitchers' list. 
ZiPS expects the ol' Andrew in 2017 (206 Topps Tribute)
  • Young Bucs in MLB.com's Top 100: 9) Tyler Glasnow, 10) Austin Meadows, 27) Josh Bell, 48) Mitch Keller & 59) Kevin Newman.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com chose Austin Meadows as his #3 minor league OF prospect. As part of the series, Jim Callis pick KeBryan Hayes as the #9 3B prospect. Mike Rosenblum chose the top 10 minor-league SS prospects. No young Buccos made it, but Kevin Newman, 2015 first rounder, is knockin' on the door.
  • Keith Law of ESPN had six Pirate pups in his Top 100 (subscription needed): 9) Austin Meadows, 14) Josh Bell, 16) Mitch Keller, 25) Tyler Glasnow, 33) Kevin Newman & 74) KeBryan Hayes.
Austin has vaulted to the top of the Bucco prospects lists.
  • Brandon Moss has agreed to a two-year/$12M deal with the Royals pending his physical per Yahoo's Jeff Passan.
  • The Nationals agreed to a minor league deal with RHP Vance Worley that includes an invite to spring training.
  • The Dodgers signed 1B Ike Davis to a minor-league deal with invite.
  • Bronson Arroyo hasn't tossed in two years, but the Reds are considering offering him a minor league deal per MLB Trade Rumors.
Bronson isn't ready to hang 'em up quite yet (2000 Upper Deck)
  • The oft-injured LHP Brett Anderson signed with the Cubs; he's another guy that the Bucs have been gently associated with during the past two seasons.

1/29 From the 60s Forward: Max, Branch, Lloyd HoF; Vic, Nellie & Jose Join Up; Name Game; Roberto DD MoY; HBD Jason

  • 1961 - OF Max Carey was voted into the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee and inducted on July 24th. In 17 seasons with Pittsburgh, he collected 2,400+ hits, batted .287 and stole 688 bases. Carey joined the Bucs planning to become Pittsburgh’s everyday shortstop, but thanks to Honus Wagner, Max spent the entirety of his long Pirate career as an outfielder.
Little Poison 1936 Diamond Star
  • 1967 - GM Branch Rickey and OF Lloyd Waner were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote of the Special Veterans Committee and were inducted on July 24th. Rickey was GM from 1950-55; his teams were terrible but he began the process of building a farm system that paid dividends in 1960. “Little Poison” spent 17 years with the Pirates, mainly in CF, and batted .319 during that time.
  • 1967 - Roberto Clemente was the Dapper Dan Man of the Year and was presented his award in front of a sellout crowd at the Hilton Hotel. He hit .319 with 29 HR, 119 RBI and 105 runs scored in 1966. Gene Alley was also recognized by the Dapper Dan for his strong play.
  • 1971 - The Pirates traded OF Matty Alou and P George Brunet to the Cardinals for OF Vic Davalillo and RHP Nellie Briles. Davalillo spent 2-½ years in Pittsburgh as a role player, hitting .290. Briles spent three full seasons as a Bucco, winning 36 games with a 2.98 ERA.
Jason Schmidt 1997 Circa
  • 1973 - RHP Jason Schmidt was born in Lewiston, Idaho. He was drafted by Atlanta and came to the Pirates in 1996 as part of the Denny Neagle deal. In 5-1/2 seasons with Pittsburgh, he went 44-47/4.39 before being traded to San Francisco, where he had three All-Star campaigns.
  • 2004 - The Bucs inked RHP Jose Mesa, 37, to a minor-league deal after a dismal season in Philly. The vet rediscovered his mojo and became the Buc closer, saving 43 games in 2004 and 27 in 2005 before leaving for Colorado as a FA. He saved 321 games over a 19 year big-league career. The ninth-inning slot was wide open after Mike Williams had been traded at the 2003 deadline and heir-apparent Julian Tavarez signed with the Cardinals earlier in the month after failing to reach a contract agreement with the Buccos.
  • 2004 - Pirates prospect and later starting pitcher Ian Snell, who had gone by the name Ian Oquendo (his wife’s surname) since 2000, returned to his original name per press wire reports. He would reshuffle that a bit in 2009 when he decided to go by Ian Davilo-Snell (Davilo was his stepfather) during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Ian brought an entirely new meaning to the term “player to be named later.”

1/29 Through the 40s: Hans in HoF, Swift & Dickson Deals, Rookie Parade '39, HBD Denny

  • 1848 - Harmar Denny McKnight, son of local politico Robert McKnight, was born on Western Avenue in Allegheny City. He founded the Allegheny Baseball Club of Pittsburgh on October 15th, 1881, making him the father of the Pirates. McKnight managed the club during the 1884 season and was also the first president of the American Association. The Alleghenys bolted to the NL in 1887 following a flap over signing Sam Barkley, after which McKnight sold the club to William Nimick.
Bill Swift 1934 Goudey
  • 1932 - P Billy Swift was traded by Kansas City Blues of the American Association to the Pirates for P Bob Osborn and C Eddie Phillips. It was a good deal: Osborne never pitched in the majors again and Phillips played for three more seasons while Swift worked eight years for the Bucs and notched 91 wins. Swift was a pitch-to-contact guy; he walked few (1.9/9 innings), struck out almost no one (3.4/9 innings) and still put up a 3.57 ERA in Pittsburgh.
  • 1936 - Honus Wagner, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson, was selected by the BBWAA to become the first Hall of Fame class. They had to wait until July 12th, 1939, for the enshrinement, though, until the museum in Cooperstown was opened and the first four HoF classes were inducted en masse.
  • 1939 - Before the Pirates headed for camp, UPI published an article on six rookies to watch. Three ended up pretty good ballplayers - Bob Elliott was a six-time All Star, Frankie Gustine played in the Midsummer Classic three times and Ken Heintzelman pitched for 13 years in the show. Alas, the other three players - Fern Bell, Mel Preibisch and Jack Juelich - managed parts of just five major league seasons among them, none lasting past 1940.
Murry Dickson 1950 Bowman
  • 1949 - The Pirates purchased RHP Murry “Dick” Dickson from the Cardinals for $125,000. During his five-year stay in Pittsburgh, he went 66-85 with a 3.83 ERA and had a 20-win season in 1951; the Pirates won only 64 games that year. Dickson was a soft thrower with a variety of pitches and a rubber arm. Beginning in 1947, when he turned 31, he worked more than 200 innings in each of the next ten seasons.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

1/28 Birthdays: Light the Candles for Emil, Spittin' Bill, Alf, Carlos & Chris

  • 1900 - LHP Emil Yde was born in Great Lakes, Illinois. As a rookie in 1924, Yde led the NL in shutouts with four, in winning percentage (.842) with a record of 16–3 and he was a member of the Pirates 1925 World Series championship team, going 17-9 during the season. His career was brief; he pitched four years for the Pirates with a 44-22/3.84 line before the bottom fell out in 1927 (1-3/9.71). He spent 1928 in the minors and was out of MLB after a stint with the Tigers in 1929.
Emil Yde 1924 (photo Mears Collection/The Sporting News)
  • 1908 - P “Spittin’ Bill” (guess what his bread and butter pitch was) Doak was born in Pittsburgh. Even though he never pitched for the hometown nine, the Bucs and MLB can thank him for an innovation still in use, the first modern glove. He proposed to Rawlings that a web should be placed between the first finger and thumb to create a natural pocket, and his model was introduced when he pitched against the Pirates in 1920. The Bill Doak glove soon replaced all other mitts and is still considered a classic design.
  • 1914 - SS Alf Anderson was born in Gainesville, Georgia, where he was an all-state HS baseball player and a two-sport (baseball/football) athlete for the Georgia Bulldogs. He saw some action in 1941-42 for the Bucs, but lost the next three years to wartime service. He returned for a cup of coffee in 1946, but that was it; he retired after the season. Alf hit .238 as a Bucco. After baseball, Anderson worked for Jefferson Mills HS in Georgia as athletic director and baseball coach. He was inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • 1927 - OF Carlos "Comet" (he led his MiLB league in stolen bases three times) Bernier was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. He only played one MLB season, hitting .213 for the Pirates in 1953, but he was a minor league dynamo. Carlos played for 16 MiLB seasons, appearing in 2,200 games (mostly in AAA and the PCL, then independent), batting .298 with 2,291 hits and 200 home runs in the bushes with a great eye, whiffing and walking at the same pace. Carlos is de facto the first Pirates black player, beating Curt Roberts to the show by a season. Oddly, he’s not recognized as such by MLB or the Bucs, likely because he was Puerto Rican rather than American. His tale has a sad ending: In 1989, at age 62 and homeless, Bernier committed suicide.
Carlos Bernier 1953 Topps
  • 1972 - LHP Chris Peters was born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He graduated from Peters Township HS in McMurray, was drafted by the Pirates in 1993 and toiled five years (1996-2000) for the Bucs, going 17-21/4.57 as a long man/spot starter. His career was short circuited by shoulder surgery in 1999, and 2001 was his last season in MLB, with the Expos. Chris still lives and works in the area, coached at Point Park for a spell and tossed BP for the Bucs at PNC.

1/28: Deacon, Kiki & Highpockets Enter the Hall; Travis Traded; Cobra Dapper Dan Man

  • 1962 - Local boy Bill “Deacon” (he was a quiet soul who even sang in his church choir) McKechnie was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee. He was inducted on July 22nd. The Wilkinsburg native played for and managed the Pirates, winning the 1925 World Series. McKechnie was the first manager to win World Series titles with two different teams (1925 Pirates and the 1940 Cincinnati Reds; he’s one of 15 to pull off that feat), and is one of only two managers (Dick Williams is the other) to win pennants with three teams, also capturing the NL title in 1928 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bill McKechnie 1981 Bob Parker Hall of Fame series
  • 1968 - OF Kiki Cuyler was elected into the Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote of the Special Veterans Committee, and was inducted on July 22nd. Kiki spent his first seven MLB seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .336. Cuyler was traded for the equivalent of a bag of baseballs by the Bucs when he bumped heads with management over a new contract and then with new manager Donie Bush when he didn’t slide into second to break up a DP.
  • 1973 - The Hall of Fame Special Veterans Committee selected 1B George Kelly to the Hall of Fame. Highpockets had a very brief stint in Pittsburgh - as a young player in 1917, the NY Giants waived him because of a weak stick. The Bucs picked him up to back up Honus Wagner, who by that time was playing first, but in eight games, Kelly went 2-for-24 and was released; the Giants took him back. Highpockets was a slick fielder who played 16 MLB seasons - 11 with NY - who put up a lifetime .297 BA. He was inducted on August 6th. He got his nickname (he was also called Long George) because of his stork-legged 6’4” frame.
  • 1979 - Dave “The Cobra” Parker, a couple of days removed from signing his $5M contract, was feted as the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year at the Hilton ballroom. He was the first Pirate to take home the award since 1971 when Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Danny Murtaugh were named co-winners, breaking a football awardee streak of six seasons. The Cobra had a monster year, with a .334/30/117 slash despite breaking his jaw. Like many other Bucs, Parker was nicknamed by Bob Prince who noted Parker was always poised to strike like a cobra at the plate.
Dave Parker 2011 Panini Greats
  • 2015 - Fourth outfielder Travis “Lunchbox Hero” (he was renown for his team cook-outs) Snider, a former first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, was traded to Baltimore for a pair of minor league prospects, LHP Stephen Tarpley and a PTBNL (LHP Steven Brault); he returned later in the year for free, as the O’s released him in mid-August and the Bucs signed him a week later before releasing him in the off season. From 2012-15, Snider had a slash of .242/20/80 in 818 PAs for Pittsburgh.

Friday, January 27, 2017

1/27: Maz Statue, Jose & Joe Ink Deals, HBD Otis & Mike

  • 1876 - OF Otis Clymer was born in Pine Grove (Schuylkill County) Pennsylvania. Clymer started his career in Pittsburgh, playing from 1905-07, when the often injured OF was traded to Washington after hitting .285 during his Pirate days. He was a feisty guy, once getting into a fight with Reds 1B Cliff Blankenship during a 2-1 win at Expo Park in 1905. It started when Clymer spiked Blankenship as a payback for an event a few days prior when the Reds infielder ran into Honus Wagner. Blankenship won the fight but not the war as he was pelted with bottles (even a knife was tossed from the stands) by heated Bucco fans after the pair were ejected, per The Baseball Library. A more memorable moment career highlight came in 1908 when Otis hit for the cycle while a Cub.
Mike Zagurski 2013 (photo Justin Aller/Getty)
  • 1983 - Jumbo reliever LHP Mike Zagurski was born in Omaha. The Bucs signed the 6’, 240 lb southpaw to a minor league deal for 2013, and it looked like they found a gem as he dominated in camp and struck out 37 batters in 21 IP at Indy. He earned a call to the show, but in six innings surrendered 10 runs on 10 hits with eight walks, becoming a poster boy for AAAA pitchers. Zags was released to make room for Brandon Cumpton, and the Yankees picked him up. Mike was hit hard there, too, and has spent the last two seasons pitching in Japan.
  • 2006 - The Pirates signed IF Jose Hernandez, who had played for the Bucs in 2003, to a $150 K minor league deal (which would jump to $850 K in the majors) with a camp invite. Hernandez did make the team and hit .267 before the 36-year-old was sold to Philadelphia in late August. He came back to Pittsburgh for 2007 as a free agent, but father time caught up to him. He spent the season at Indy and then ended his career with a two-year Mexican League stint.
  • 2010 - Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette leaked the news that the Bucs were going to build a Maz statue, confirmed by the team two days later during the Fan Fest. Maz joined Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, and former teammate Roberto Clemente as Bucco greats honored with a statue outside of PNC Park. The 12-foot bronze, designed by local sculptor Susan Wagner, showed the Hall of Fame infielder rounding second base after his legendary homer and was dedicated in September during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pirates 1960 World Championship season.
Joe Beimel 2001 Leaf Rookie
  • 2011 - St. Marys (it’s in Elk county) native Joe Beimel signed a minor league deal with the Bucs, reuniting him with both the Pirates (he began his career in Pittsburgh from 2001-03) and his former manager (he worked for the Rox in 2009) Clint Hurdle. The lefty reliever started the year on the DL with forearm stiffness, pitched six weeks to a 5.33 ERA, went back on the DL and was DFA’ed in August. He had TJ surgery in 2012 and returned as a Mariner in 2014-15. He’s been looking for work since then.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

1/26: Ad Dealt; Cobra First to Make $1M; HBD Kaiser, Jeff & Josh

  • 1874 - RHP Irvin “Kaiser” Wilhelm was born in Wooster, Ohio. Kaiser tossed one year in Pittsburgh (1903), going 5-3/3.24 before bouncing around between the big leagues and the farm. He was quite the minor league arm, tho. While in the bushes, he authored a perfect game for Birmingham in 1906 and put together the minor league record (still standing) for consecutive shutout innings with 59 the following year, also as a Baron. And yes, his nickname was thanks to Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm.
  • 1895 - RHP Addison “Ad” Gumbert was traded to the Brooklyn Grooms for C Tom Kinslow. The deal stirred some controversy as the Reds protested, saying they had a prior handshake deal for Gumbert with manager Connie Mack that was denied by the league. Ad, only 26, had gone 26-21, 5.71 for the Bucs in 1893-94 and Kinslow was a back-up catcher. Neither team got much use out of the deal as both retired after the 1896 season. Ad was a local boy who was elected County Sheriff in 1906 & County Commissioner in 1915. He headed a variety of benevolent efforts - in fact, Pittsburgh Mayor William Magee once appointed him an Assistant Director of Charities - and belonged to many service groups, including the Masons, Shriners and Odd Fellows. Ad is buried in Homewood Cemetery.
Jeff Branson 2014 (photo Jeff Layton/Getty)
  • 1967 - Pirate hitting coach Jeff Branson was born in Waynesboro, Massachusetts. A second round draft pick of the Reds in 1988, he spent nine seasons in the show as a utility infielder, mostly with Cincinnati. After his playing days, Branson joined the Bucco minor league staff in 2003, working his way up from short-season ball to AAA. In late 2012, he was called up to the home club to serve as an assistant hitting coach under Jay Bell; when Bell left after the following year, Jeff was promoted to his position.
  • 1979 - Dave Parker of the Pirates became the first $1M per year player in sports when he signed a five-year/$5M contract after winning consecutive batting crowns and being named MVP. He didn’t get to enjoy it long - he had three straight All-Star seasons, but missed half of the 1981 and 1982 campaigns with injuries before having a full-time but poor, by his standards, 1983. Fans behaved even more poorly when they tossed batteries, nuts, bolts, cups and other assorted trash at him in the field. He signed with Cincinnati when the deal expired. As Lennon and McCartney so aptly noted, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”
  • 1981 - RHP Josh Sharpless was born in Beaver. Josh went to Freedom Area HS and was drafted in the 24th round of the 2003 draft out of Allegheny College, where he still ranks in the top five in several career pitching categories. He blew through the Pirates minor league system in three years, even pitching in the Futures game, and tossed briefly for the Bucs, going 0-1 with a 4.41 ERA between 2006-07 cups of coffee in the show. Sharpless still lives in the area and gives pitching lessons while helping coach the LaRoche College Redhawks nine.
Josh Sharpless 2006 Upper Deck

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1/25: Roberto Gets $100K; Joe & Hank HoF; HBD Gregg & Dan

  • 1956 - SS Joe Cronin and OF Hank Greenberg were elected to the Hall of Fame. Both were considered to be among the top RH hitters of their era and had brief stops in Pittsburgh. Cronin started as a Pirate in 1926-27 and played sparingly before breaking out for Washington and Boston, while Greenberg spent 1947, his last MLB season, as a Bucco, hitting 25 HR and served as a mentor to up-and-coming slugger Ralph Kiner. They were inducted on July 23rd.
  • 1964 - Former Pirate coach Gregg Ritchie was born in Washington DC. Ritchie played in the Giant system, reaching AAA, and then went on to coach in the White Sox organization for a decade before joining Pittsburgh. In 2006, Ritchie became the Bucs roving minor league hitting coordinator and later the hitting coach for the big club during the 2011-12 seasons. He left to take George Washington University’s baseball manager job.
Gregg Ritchie (photo J Meric/Getty)
  • 1967 - Roberto Clemente signed a $100,000 contract, then the highest in Pirate history. The Great One’s payday topped Ralph Kiner’s $90,000 deal of 1952. He joined the MLB’s top shelf of players with a six-figure deal; the others paid at that rate were Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson. His salary helped boost the total Pirates payroll for the year to over $800,000, considered by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to be an “elite” amount for a third place club. It was certainly a different era - the combined total payroll of MLB in 1967 was about $9.5M.
  • 1974 - LHP Dan Serafini was born in San Francisco. Though he got just 104 appearances in parts of seven big league seasons (he was a Pirate in 2000, going 2-5, 4.91, in 11 starts), he deserves a tip o’ the cap for perseverance. Drafted out of HS, he pitched from 1992-2013 professionally from the age of 18 until he was 39, with nine AAA seasons, 10 years in foreign (Mexico, Japan, Venezuela) leagues and even a couple of years of indie ball; that’s one dedicated ball tosser.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1/24: Mack-O-Wack Signs; HBD Dave, Stu, Ugly & Tim

  • 1879 - IF Dave Brain was born in Hereford, England. Brain was a jack-of-all-trades player who spent a bit of his seven big league years (three months of 1905) in Pittsburgh. He hit .257, about his career average, and was a player with a rep for some power & speed (his versatility in the field was probably more a matter of finding a spot to hide him; he booted 22 balls in 82 games as a Pirates IF). He’s noteworthy in two aspects: after the season, he was part of the package that brought Hall-of-Fame P Vic Willis to town, and he was one of the earliest native-born Englishmen to play in the majors for Pittsburgh.
  • 1906 - IF William “Stu” (for Stuart) Clarke was born in San Francisco. He spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, albeit one that lasted just from 1929-30. The backup infielder hit fairly well, putting up a .273 BA over his 61 big league games, but finished out his time in the bushes, where he compiled a lifetime .238 average before retiring after the 1933 season.
Johnny was being hard on himself (photo 1937 - Conlon Collection/Getty Images)
  • 1910 - OF “Ugly Johnny” (he gave himself the moniker as the self-proclaimed “ugliest man in baseball”) Dickshot, whose given name was John Oscar Dicksus, was born in Waukegan, Illinois. He played for the Bucs from 1936-38. Ugly was a feared hitter in the minors, putting up a .318 BA in 14 seasons, but was just a .250 batter with Pittsburgh, although his career MLB average was .276 after six seasons. When he retired after the 1945 campaign, he opened a bar in his hometown. John Ducey, an actor who appeared quite often in TV sitcoms, is his grandson.
  • 1954 - RHP Tim Jones was born in Sacramento. He only tossed three games in his MLB career, all during a September call-up from the Bucs in 1977, but at least he left the league on a high note. After a pair of mop-up details, Chuck Tanner let the 1972 fourth-round pick start on the last day of the season. Jones tossed seven shutout innings against the Cubs, surrendering just four hits, to win his one and only MLB start and finishing his cup of coffee with a 1-0/0.00 slash in 10 IP.
Tim Jones was in good company (1978 Topps)
  • 2005 - OF Rob Mackowiak became the last arb-eligible Buc to settle, signing a one-year/$1.5M deal w/$90K in potential bonuses; he and the FO had a 2/10 deadline to beat before his salary hearing. Veteran OF Ben Grieve also agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates but was among the late cuts of camp.

Monday, January 23, 2017

1/23: Rabbit Deal; Ralph HoF Call; HBD Ed, Kurt, Alphonso, Benny & Victor

  • 1890 - OF Ed Barney was born in Amery, Wisconsin. Barney joined the Pirates in 1915 in mid-season from the Yankees and played just one more year, with a .229 BA as a Bucco. He took a three year baseball hiatus after that, and then closed out his career with five minor-league campaigns.
  • 1921 - SS Rabbit Maranville was traded to the Bucs by the Boston Braves for IF Walter Barbare, OF Fred Nicholson, OF Billy Southworth and $15,000. Billy and Rabbit were the keys to the deal. Hall of Famer Maranville played four seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .283. Southworth played another eight seasons and entered the Hall of Fame with a career slash of .297/52/561 and a stellar coaching record, winning four league titles and a pair of World Series.
Rabbit Maranville 1924 (Conlon/The Sporting News via the Detroit Public Library)
  • 1947 - IF Kurt Bevacqua was born in Miami Beach. The Bucs called on him twice, in 1974 and then again from 1980-81 despite a .171 lifetime BA in a Pirate uniform. He spent 15 years in MLB (six with SD) and hit two homers in the Padres’ World Series win against the Detroit Tigers in 1984.
  • 1957 - LHP Alfonso Pulido was born in Tierra Blanco, Mexico. His Pirates career is easy to miss; he pitched two innings in 1983 and two more in 1984, giving up seven hits and four earned runs before being traded to NY. He did pitch a bit more credibly with the Yankees in 1986, but that would mark the end of his big league time. Even if El Norte was a step too far for a guy considered a hot prospect, Alfonso did carve out a stellar 14 year career in the Mexican Leagues. The Pirates had originally purchased his contract from the Mexico City Reds in 1983 (he stayed w/the Reds on option until after their playoffs) where Pulido had gone 17-3, with Chuck Tanner commenting that he had “Valenzuela-type stuff.”
  • 1962 - 1B/OF Benny Distefano was born in Brooklyn. He played for the Bucs in 1984, 1986, and 1988-89, hitting .227 in 300 PA. Distefano was the last lefty to catch a major league game, going behind the dish three times for the Pirates in 1989.
Victor Cole 1992 Donruss
  • 1968 - RHP Victor Cole was born in Leningrad, Russia (his student father married a Russian girl). Cole’s MLB/Pirates resume consists of eight games with an 0-2, 5.48 slash in 1992, but that was enough to make him the first Soviet-born major leaguer. He later went on to play in the Korean League and part-time for the Russian national team (he suited up when they played in the US) in 2003 and 2007.
  • 1975 - OF Ralph Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame and was inducted on August 18th. Kiner played only 10 years in MLB, but led the NL in home runs for seven consecutive seasons. He received 273 votes on the 362 ballots cast by the writers, exactly enough to be selected. There are a pair of often cited quotes that follow Kiner. One, attributed to Kiner himself was "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords." The other was a quote by Bucco GM Branch Rickey when he told Kiner that he had traded him to the Cubs: "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Notes: Signings, Ratings, Moves & News

A pretty quiet week as the Bucs are three weeks from camp...
  • Andrew Simon of MLB.com picks Cutch as one of his six bounce back candidates and has him running in some pretty fast company.
  • Marty McFly of Rumbunter wrote a story that had Watson and/or Cutch being pursued by Toronto for prospects, per his source, altho it appears to have never gained much traction.
Feliz is off to Milawaukee (photo Joe Guzzy/Pirates)
  • The Brewers signed RHP Neftali Feliz to a one-year/$5.35M contract with an extra $1.5M available in bonuses. He's expected to be their closer.
  • The Pirates inked switch-hitting 1B/OF Joey Terdoslavich to a minor league deal w/invite. He hit .233/.340/.384 w/14 homers between the Orioles AA & AAA clubs last year. Joey has a lifetime .221 BA in 162 PAs with Atlanta posted between 2013-15.
  • Mike Rosenblum of MLB.com chose Tyler Glasnow as the #2 RHP prospect in minor league ball, with RHP Mitch Keller just missing the top ten. Tyler's moving up in the world - his uni # this year is 24 instead of last year's #51.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law picked the Bucco farm system as #4, up from #8 last season, though he thinks it's more top-loaded than deep.
Luebke joins the White Sox (photo USA Today)
  • LHP Cory Luebke, 31, signed with the White Sox. He had a strong season at Indy for the Bucs last year after overcoming a pair of TJ surgeries but was beat up pretty well (nine earned runs in 8-2/3IP) in a brief stint with the big club.
  • Po' Brady Dragmire has been DFA'ed by the Rangers. Dragmire, 23, has gone from the Blue Jays to the Pirates to the Rangers to the Pirates back to the Rangers and now to...?
  • 1B/3B Andy Marte, 33, died in a car accident. The one-time hot prospect spent most of his career in Cleveland with stops in Atlanta and Arizona, and played in 2011 at Indy as a depth player. He last played in the majors in 2014, spending the last two seasons in Korea. 
  • RHP Trevor Cahill inked a one-year/$1.75M deal with San Diego. The ex-Cub had offers from the Pirates, Blue Jays, Reds and Rangers, but wanted to be a starter per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Pittsburgh also showed interest in him as a FA last season when he returned to Chicago.
Bell will manage in the Yankee system (1985 Leaf)
  • Jay Bell was named the manager of the High-A Tampa Yankees. Jay played (1989-96) and coached at Pittsburgh (2013) with other major league coaching stops at Cincinnati and Arizona.
  • Ticket prices will be the same as last season, when they took a big jump. However, the cost will vary due to the dynamic pricing system that takes into account the date and the opponent.
  • The draft order has been set - in the first two rounds, including compensation picks, the Pirates have the following slots: #12, #42, #50 and #72.
  • Tim Raines, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, and Jeff Bagwell were elected into the Hall of Fame.

1/22: Pink Reaction; Sixto Inked; HBD Huck, Diomedes & Jimmy

  • 1895 - In a little blowback from the Red Ehret - Pink Hawley pitcher swap made the week before, Pirates pitcher Ad Gumbert was said to be taking bets that Ehret would win two games for St. Louis to every one that Hawley won for Pittsburgh. It ended up that Gumbert wasn’t taking a shot at his club but was allegedly the victim of a frame-up. He communicated to the Pittsburgh Press the next day to “Kindly deny the statement...the story was originated by a mischief-maker to hurt me with all Pittsburgh people…” Still, he was traded to Brooklyn four days later for reserve C Tom Kinslow.
  • 1917 - SS Eugene “Huck” Geary was born in Buffalo. His MLB career was spent as a Pirate reserve from 1942-43, as Huck could only muster a .160 BA in 55 games. A takeout slide may have had more to do with his short career than his stick, though. The Cubs’ Eddie Stanky made a hard slide at second and cut Geary down, breaking his leg. There was some doubt that Geary would ever play again, and that was the last season that he spent in the majors. Mike Buczkowski, Huck’s grandson & minor league executive, says Geary got his nickname as a kid because of his Huck Finn-like habit of hanging his glove from a bat propped on his shoulder as he walked to the Buffalo ball fields.
Diomedes Olivo 1962 (photo Ted Russell/Getty)
  • 1919 - LHP Diomedes Olivo was born in Guayubin, Dominican Republic. He was the second oldest rookie to pitch MLB when in 1960 he got a September call-up at age 41 after being plucked from the Mexican League (Satchel Paige made his debut as a 42-year-old). He spent the following season in AAA, then all of 1962 in Pittsburgh, going 5-1-7/2.78 in his 66 big league games with Pittsburgh. He was traded to St. Louis in 1963.
  • 1976 - LHP Jimmy Anderson was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. After being drafted in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, he pitched the first four years (1999-2002) of his six-season career in Pittsburgh, going 24-42 with a 5.17 ERA. He retired in 2006.
  • 1984 - The Pirates signed free agent OF Sixto Lezcano to a two-year/$925K contract. Lezcano hit .207 in 1985 and was released at the start of the 1986 season, ending his MLB career. The Bucs ate $500K of his deal, part of $3M in dead money spent that year for players no longer with the club.
Sixto Lezcano 1985 Topps Update

Saturday, January 21, 2017

1/21: Octavio, Schoolboy Sign; Frankie Enters HoF; HBD Jimmy, Fern, Danny & Jeff

  • 1895 - RHP Jimmy Zinn was born in Benton, Arkansas. Zinn worked three years for the Bucs (1920-22; 8-7-4, 3.54), with the last year being his only full season with the club. But he was a minor league legend. A fringe hurler in the majors, he tossed on different farm clubs for 25 years, collecting 279 wins and compiling a 3.49 ERA.
Fern Bell (photo George Burke)
  • 1913 - OF Fernando “Fern” Bell was born in Ada, Oklahoma. He spent his brief MLB career in Pittsburgh from 1939-40, batting .283. Fern was a long time minor leaguer when he got the call to Pittsburgh, and after cooling off from a red-hot start in ‘39, he was sold early in the 1940 season to the minor league Toronto Maple Leafs club. Two Fern factoids: his nickname was Danny and after baseball, he became a golf pro in California.
  • 1927 - IF Danny O’Connell (1927) was born in Paterson, New Jersey. As a Buc rookie in 1950, he hit .292 and finished third in the NL ROY voting. He spent the next two years in the Army during the Korean War but came back strong for Pittsburgh in 1953, hitting .294. The Pirates traded him in the off season to the Milwaukee Braves in one of MLB’s biggest deals, netting six players (Sid Gordon, Sam Jethroe, Curt Raydon, Max Surkont, Fred Waters & Larry Lassalle) along with $100,000. O’Connell hit .279 for the Braves in ‘54, then never had an average above .266 during the rest of his career. But he was steady and finished with a lifetime BA of .260 average over 10 years.
  • 1933 - Future Hall of Fame RHP Waite Hoyt was signed by the Pirates after being waived by the New York Giants. Working mostly out of the bullpen, he went 35-31-18/3.08 in his five-year Bucco career before being sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. Hoyt was called “Schoolboy” because he signed with the Yankees as a 15-year-old. Waite was also known as "The Merry Mortician" because in the off season he was a funeral director by day and a vaudevillian by night, sharing the stage with the likes of Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, and George Burns.
Frankie Frisch 1945 Play Ball
  • 1947 - The Baseball Writers selected Frankie Frisch to the Hall of Fame. Although the Fordham Flash spent his playing career with the Giants and Cardinals, he managed the Buccos from 1940-46. Five of his seven Pittsburgh clubs had winning records but finished higher than fourth just once when the team went 90-63 in 1944, coming in second to St. Louis, which won 105 games.
  • 1970 - RHP Jeff McCurry was born in Tokyo. A Pirate draft pick in 1990, Jeff worked his 1995 rookie campaign in Pittsburgh, then returned for the 1998 season. McCurry was a big ‘un at 6’7”, but it didn’t help his hurling noticeably as the reliever was 2-2-1, 5.38 in 71 Bucco outings.
  • 2010 - Free agent RHP Octavio Dotel agreed to a one-year/$3.5M deal with the Bucs, the only team that offered the right-hander the opportunity to save games rather than be a set-up guy. The 36-year old reliever hadn't been a closer since 2007 with Kansas City, but thrived in the role, saving 21 games before being traded at the deadline to the Dodgers.
Octavio Dotel 2010 (photo Jared Wickersham USA Today)

Friday, January 20, 2017

1/20: Josh RIP; Adam & DJ Sign; Roberto's First Clip; HBD Brian, Jesse, Carl & Cecil

  • 1936 - C Jesse Gonder was born in Monticello, Arkansas. Jesse caught the final two seasons (1966-67) of his eight-year career in Pittsburgh, batting .209 while backstopping 60 games. He came to Pittsburgh hoping to win the starting spot from Jim Pagliaroni, and though he didn’t, Jesse did see a lot of action in 1966. Relegated as the third man the following year, his performance faltered and the curtain dropped on his stint in MLB.
  • 1944 - UT Carl Taylor was born in Sarasota, Florida. He caught, played first and pinch hit for the Bucs in 1968-69, and was brought back again in September of 1971 for their pennant drive. His best season far and away was 1969, when he slashed .348/.432/.457 in 221 AB.
Carl Taylor 1971 (photo via All Star Cards)
  • 1947 - Homestead Gray and Pittsburgh Crawfords C Josh Gibson, the “black Babe Ruth,” died of a stroke at the age of 35. The future Hall of Fame catcher was put to rest in an unmarked grave in Allegheny Cemetery. In 1975, Negro League teammate Ted Page and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn paid for a granite marker that read: "Josh Gibson, 1911-1947, Legendary Baseball Player."
  • 1954 - The Sporting News first mentioned Roberto Clemente in a notes column that read “Three major league organizations - the Giants, Braves and Dodgers - are attempting to sign Roberto Clemente, Santurce (Clemente’s Puerto Rican club) outfielder.” The Dodgers may have won that early tussle, but lost The Great One go in November's Rule 5 draft to Pittsburgh.
  • 1963 - OF Cecil Espy was born in San Diego. He hit .254 in his two Bucco campaigns of 1991-92, part of Jim Leyland’s title clubs' bench corps. Cecil was a highly touted guy who never quite panned out; the speedster was the eighth overall selection in the 1980 draft. The Pirates had originally landed Espy in 1985 as part of the Bill Madlock deal with LA. He spent the next season in AAA Hawaii, then the Rangers took him in the Rule 5 draft before Cecil reunited with the Pirates as a free agent in early 1991.
Cecil Espy 1992 Score
  • 1971 - RF Brian Giles was born in El Cajon, California. In five years with Pittsburgh, he put up a line of .308/.426/.591 with 165 HR/506 RBI and three All-Star berths. He retired in 2010 after a couple of rough seasons with San Diego while trying to play through an arthritic knee.
  • 2009 - 1B Adam LaRoche signed a one-year/$7.05M contract to avoid arbitration. Adam hit .247 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs and 81 strikeouts in 87 games, slumping badly after a hot start, and was shipped to the Red Sox on July 22nd for SS Argenis Diaz and RHP Hunter Strickland.
  • 2010 - RHP DJ Carrasco was signed to a one-year/$950K contract. The reliever stuck around (2-2, 3.88) until the deadline, and was packaged as part of a deal with Arizona. His last MLB gig was in 2012 with the NY Mets. Carrasco was a part of the Pirate organization back in 2002, before KC took him in that year’s Rule 5 draft from Pittsburgh’s High A Carolina League club, the Lynchburg Hillcats.
DJ Carrasco 2010 (photo Getty Images)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

1/19: Kip & Craig Sign, LaRoche Deal, Stew Extended, HBD Chris Stynes, RIP Stan the Man

  • 1973 - Utilityman Chris Stynes was born in Queens. He joined the Bucs in 2004 as a $750K free agent, but hit just .219 and was released in August, ending his MLB days. Stynes had a pretty good run, tho, playing 10 years with a career .275 BA while filling in at every position but pitcher, catcher and first base.
Chris Stynes 2004 (team day photo by Getty Images)
  • 2004 - P Kip Wells and 1B/OF Craig Wilson avoided arb by signing contracts with big pay raises - Wilson jumped from $327K in 2003 to $1.15M in 2004, while Wells leapfrogged his previous $375K salary and inked a $2.575M deal.
  • 2007 - The Bucs traded LHP Mike Gonzalez and SS Brent Lillibridge to the Atlanta Braves for 1B Adam LaRoche and minor league 1B/OF Jamie Romak. Gonzo ended up injury-bitten, Lillibridge became a utility player for six seasons, Romak had a couple of cups of coffee in the show and LaRoche has held a starting job at first for several clubs since the deal after putting up a slash of .265/58/213 in three Bucco seasons.
  • 2013 - Hall of Famer Stan the Man Musial of the Cards, who was born in Donora, died at the age of 92. His 24 All-Star Game selections are more than anyone except Hank Aaron. When he retired after the 1963 season, Musial had an NL record 3,630 hits – 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road – and a .331 batting average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 on his first appearance on the ballot, garnering 93.2 percent of the vote. In 2001, SABR master Bill James ranked Musial the tenth-greatest baseball player in history. No wonder Mon Valley’s Donora is called “The Home of Champions.” Ben Cosgrove of Sports Illustrated noted that his nickname was dubbed by not St. Louis, but Brooklyn, fans. “The story goes that at Ebbets Field on June 23, 1946, Dodgers fans took to chanting "Here comes the man" when Musial, who routinely destroyed Dodger pitching, stepped to the plate. Longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bob Broeg heard the chant, stuck it (Stan the Man) into his next column, and the most fitting nickname in baseball history was born.”
Stew 2016 (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 2016 - C Chris Stewart’s two-year/$3M contract extension became official. Stew’s deal was for $1.35M in 2016 and $1.4M in 2017, with a $1.5M option/$250K buyout for 2018, making a guaranteed $3M deal for the veteran catcher.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

1/18: Greenberg Becomes A Buc; HBD Charlie, Eddie, Laurin, Wandy & Gift

  • 1855 - OF Charlie Eden was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He joined the Alleghenys for two seasons, 1884-85, hitting .258 after a five season minor league stint. Charlie could do it all - he played a little corner infield and also pitched some, going 1-3/5.53 with Pittsburgh. Those campaigns ended the 30-year old Charlie’s four-year MLB career; we presume that he went back to barnstorming through the minors.
Eddie Moore 1923-26 (photo Mears Collection/The Sporting News Archives)
  • 1899 - Utilityman Eddie Moore was born in Barlow, Kentucky. Moore hit .301 as a Bucco from 1923-26 and was a starter on the 1925 WS club, but he clashed a couple of times with management and was sold to the Boston Braves after getting into a shouting match with Fred Clarke, who was not only awkwardly a club exec but a coach on the bench.
  • 1931 - RHP Laurin Pepper was born in Vaughan, Mississippi. A football star drafted by the Steelers (he was an All-America halfback at Mississippi Southern), Pepper was inked for $35K by the Bucs as a bonus baby, as the Pirates easily topped the Steelers’ $15K bid. Probably should have stuck with the pigskin, though: in four MLB seasons (1954-57), he worked just 109-⅔ IP, going 2-8/7.09 with 98 walks. He then spent some time in the minors, finally becoming a long-time HS football coach and AD back home in Mississippi.
  • 1947 - The Pirates purchased Hank Greenberg, the original “Hammerin’ Hank,” from the Tigers for $75,000 after a contract dispute. To celebrate the move, team co-owner Bing Crosby recorded a song, "Goodbye, Mr. Ball, Goodbye" with Groucho Marx and Hank after the Bucs signed him to a reported $90,000 deal, the biggest in history at that time. In his one season with Pittsburgh, he hit .249 with 25 HR/74 RBI to become the first player with a 25 homer season in both leagues, walked a league-high 104 times and served as a mentor to a young Ralph Kiner. He inspired “Greenberg Gardens” when the Bucs shortened Forbes Field’s left field for him and when he retired after the season, his garden was renamed “Kiner’s Korner.”
Wandy Rodriguez 2012 Topps
  • 1979 - LHP Wandy Rodriguez was born in Santiago Rodriguez, Dominican Republic. Wandy joined the Bucs in 2012 when he was acquired in a deadline deal from the Astros. He didn’t become a major contributor as hoped, as his 2013 season derailed after a dozen starts with arthritis in his pitching arm, and contributed just 11 wins in 25 outings, with a 3.66 ERA, as a Pirate before being released in May of 2014.
  • 1980 - SS Gift Ngoepe was born in Randburg, South Africa. Ngoepe became the first black South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he agreed to a deal with the Pirates in October 2008. You could say he was born to be a ballplayer. Ngoepe's mom was a clubhouse attendant for the Randburg Mets, and they lived in one of the clubhouse rooms, so he grew up in a ballyard. Gift has proven to be a brilliant fielder but hasn’t been able to solve MiLB pitching yet, w/a career .232 BA and 731 whiffs in 689 games. A 2016 post-season bar brawl didn’t boost his stock, either. The Pirates signed his brother Victor last year, a confirmation that the sport must run in the Ngoepe blood.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1/17: '14 & '15 Arb; Pink for Red; Kip & Josh Sign; HBD Jack & Jeff; Buc Drafts

  • 1895 - The Pirates traded P Red Ehret and cash to the St Louis Browns for P Pink Hawley. Hawley won 71 games for the Pirates in his three year (1895-97) stint with Pittsburgh, becoming one of only three Bucs to win 30 games in a single season, notching 31 victories in 1985, while Ehret would claim just more 35 victories during the remainder of his MLB career. Pink was well compensated for his era - the Pirates paid him $2,400 a year, the maximum salary at the time. According to Dale Voiss of SABR “Emerson was born one of two twins, the other being named Elmer. People had trouble telling the twins apart so the nurse who assisted in their birth pinned a blue ribbon to one and a pink one to the other. This resulted in Emerson being given the middle name Pink, and the brothers were known as Pink and Blue.” He was a hit with the local fans, too. “Hawley earned the nickname ‘Duke of Pittsburgh’ because of his stylish dress and good looks. He was known to wear diamonds and other items of high fashion and developed a reputation similar to that of a matinee idol in Pittsburgh. Later a cigar was named Duke of Pittsburgh after Hawley. Boxes of these cigars featured his picture.”
Pink Hawley (image from Local Leben magazine, 2012)
  • 1922 - 2B Jack Merson was born in Elk Ridge, Maryland. Jack played for the Pirates from 1951-52, regularly during the second season that ended prematurely with a broken wrist. He hit .257 over that span, but he ended up with Boston the next season, where he played one game in 1953, going 0-for-4 to end his MLB days. He started his big league career at 29, and in Boston, the 31-year-old was blocked by bonus baby Billy Consolo. He played for a few more seasons in San Diego (then a minor league club) and then remained there as a businessman and later a prison guard, raising his family.
  • 1964 - LHP Jeff Tabaka was born in Barberton, Ohio. Jeff got a cup off coffee with the Pirates in 1994, moved on and returned again in 1998, when he went 2-2, 3.02. Jeff had the usual itinerary of a journeyman lefty - in his six seasons in the majors he pitched for the Pirates, San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, and St. Louis Cardinals. Tabaka’s promising career was short-circuited by injuries; he had a pair of TJ surgeries to overcome. At last look, he was coaching at the Strike Zone Academy in North Canton, Ohio.
  • 1970 - The Pirates selected players through the 28th round of the player draft, going nine rounds deeper than any other club, and came up with exactly no one who made it to the majors. LHP Alan Jackson of Northeastern State was their top pick (14th overall); he declined to sign and was instead selected by the Red Sox in the June draft. He topped out a Class AA. The January draft was a secondary feeder. Its pool consisted of high school players who graduated early, JC/community college athletes, and players who opted out of four-year colleges.
Alex Cole was the only keeper from 1984 (1993 Donruss)
  • 1984 - The Pirates drafted pitcher Gil Heredia first, but the righty from Pima CC didn’t sign. He went pro three years later, albeit as a ninth-round pick of the Giants. He made up for lost bonus money by carving out a 10 year MLB career. Light hitting OF Alex Cole was also selected that year. The best pick was in the secondary phase when the Bucs took OF Jay Buhner, who ended up swatting 310 HR in 15 big league seasons after being traded to the Yankees.
  • 2005 - RHP Josh Fogg inked a one-year/$2,150,000 deal with the Bucs to avoid his first year of arbitration. Fogg went 6-11/5.05 during the ensuing campaign and was non-tendered, ending up with Colorado in 2007. Craig Wilson agreed to a one year/$3M contract the next day and also avoided arbitration. He ended up playing only 59 games during the year as a result of hand injuries that landed him on the DL twice.
  • 2006 - The Bucs signed RHP Kip Wells to a one-year, $4.15M contract, avoiding arbitration. Kip only lasted to the deadline, going 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA before being dealt away to the Texas Rangers for Jesse Chavez. Wells, a former first-round draft pick of the White Sox in 1998, pitched for nine teams in 12 seasons with a career slash of 69-103-2/4.78 ERA.
The Fort missed the cut (photo Rob Foldy/USA Today)
  • 2014 - The Pirates signed five players to one-year deals - 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez, P Mark Melancon, 1B Gaby Sanchez and P Vin Mazzaro - to avoid arbitration. They had previously reached agreements with arb-eligible P Charlie Morton, OF Travis Snider and C Chris Stewart, and non-tendered 1B Garrett Jones, C Mike McKenry, and OF Felix Pie to close out a king-sized 2014 arbitration class.
  • 2015 - The Pirates had a MLB-high dozen players eligible for arbitration: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, Josh Harrison, Tony Watson, Francisco Cervelli, Jared Hughes, Travis Snider, Antonio Bastardo, Chris Stewart, Vance Worley and Sean Rodriguez, after previously releasing arb-eligible players Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, John Axford, Jeanmar Gomez and Chaz Roe. Nine signed one-year deals; Walker, Alvarez, and Worley opted to take the arbitration route. Walker lost his case; Alvarez and Worley won their hearings.

Monday, January 16, 2017

1/16: JHK & Ollie Sign, HBD Art, Erskine & Ron, B-Ball

  • 1858 - IF Art Whitney was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. Known for his glove, he played for the Alleghenys from 1884-87, hitting .248 while in Pittsburgh. His lifetime BA was a paltry .223, but the slick gloveman led the league four times in fielding percentage, three times as a third baseman (1886, 1887, and 1891) and once as a shortstop (1885).
Art Whitney 1887 N284 Buchner Gold Coin
  • 1890 - RHP Erskine Mayer was born in Atlanta. He only worked two seasons for Pittsburgh from 1918-19, going 14-6 with a 3.19 ERA. In 1919, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, becoming part of the infamous "Black Sox" team. His only appearance in the scandal-tainted 1919 World Series was a one-inning relief stint, his last in a MLB uniform. He ended his eight-year career with a slash of 91-70-6 and a 2.96 ERA. Over that time, he had several notable moments. His best as a Bucco was going 15-⅓ shutout innings, starting the longest scoreless game in Pirate history (the Pirates eventually beat the Boston Braves 2-0 in 20 innings). He had a couple of lowlights, too. As a rookie for the Phils in 1912, Mayer set the MLB record for consecutive hits allowed with nine (since broken), and also was the pitcher who surrendered Honus Wagner’s 3,000th hit in 1914 while wearing the same Philadelphia uniform.
  • 1960 - The Steelers beat the Pirates 22-20 in overtime in a benefit basketball game played at the Pitt Field House to help support Children's Hospital. Former Duke All-America and Buc shortstop Dick Groat led all scorers with 14 points in the 15-minute contest.
  • 1970 - LHP Ron Villone was born in Englewood, New Jersey. Villone played for 12 teams in his 15-year career, tied for second all-time with P Mike Morgan and OF Matt Stairs, trailing only P Octavio Dotel, who played for 13 teams. Dotel, Stairs, and Villone all wore Bucco uniforms. Villone tossed for the Pirates in 2002, going 4–6/5.81 in 45 games with seven starts after signing a $900K, one-year FA deal in February.
Ron Villone 2002 Upper Deck 40-Man
  • 2006 - LHP Ollie Perez signed a $1.9M contract in his first arbitration year after coming off a 7-5/5.85 campaign. The Bucs had high hopes for a bounce back from the southpaw who had gone 12-10/2.98 with 239K in 2004, but the 24-year-old posted a 2-10/6.55 line during the season and the Pirates sent him to the Mets at the 2006 deadline as part of the Xavier Nady package.
  • 2015 - The Pirates officially signed Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang to a four-year, $11M contract ($2.5M, $2.5M, $2.75M & $3M with a $250K/$5.5M option for 2019). He could earn up to $750K/year in at-bat bonuses, with a guaranteed annual stipend for family travel and an interpreter. Pittsburgh also paid his club a posting fee of $5,002,015 for negotiating rights, making the deal the most expensive the Pirates ever paid out for an international signee. Kang, 27, hit .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBIs in 501 PAs for the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2014. His slash was .287/.355/.461 in his first MLB campaign, cut short by a late-season leg injury. He was strong again in 2016 but suffered through another injury-shortened year.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

1/15: '16 Arb Class; Hartenstein Deal; Honus Museum; HBD Mike, Jock, & Banny

  • 1858 - OF Mike Mansell was born in Auburn, New York. He played three seasons (1882-84) for the Alleghenys with a .251 BA. His final big league year was 1884 when he played for three teams. Mansell did have a knack for scoring - in 202 games for the Alleghenys, he touched home 164 times. His two brothers also played in the MLB, and the trio even played the outfield together, albeit for minor league Albany.
  • 1868 - RHP John “Jock” (the Scottish version of Jack) Menefee was born in Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Jock tossed three not very successful campaigns for Pittsburgh (1892, 1894-95), going 5-9/5.75. But he did have a shining MLB moment: Menefee became the first NL pitcher to pull off a successful steal of home, against Brooklyn on July 15th, 1902, while with the Cubs.
Banny in 2014 (photo Associated Press)
  • 1965 - Jeff “Banny” Banister was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Drafted in 1986, he got one at-bat with the Bucs in 1991 and singled. After going through the minor league system, he then served as a coach or manager for the franchise since 1993. He left the roost in 2014 when he was hired as the skipper of the Texas Rangers and quickly earned the AL Manager of the Year award in 2015. His nickname, btw, isn’t based on his surname but is short for “bantam rooster” because of his scrappy style of play.
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded OF Manny Jimenez to the Cubs for minor league IF Ron Campbell and RHP Chuck Hartenstein. Jimenez played briefly for Chicago before fading into the minors, while Campbell never did make it to the show. Hartenstein made 56 appearances for the Bucs in 1969, with 10 saves and a 3.95 ERA, but slipped in 1970 and was traded to St. Louis.
  • 2005 - Mayor Jim Pascoe of Carnegie announced plans for the Honus Wagner Museum which opened later in the year. The little-known attraction, filled with photos, news clips, and other Flying Dutchman mementos (with many culled from the local Elks Club that he belonged to) is on 1 West Main Street in the Carnegie Historical Society Building. It’s easy to spot with Honus’ famous baseball card replicated on a mural on the outside and is open M-F.
Stop in and visit Hans sometime (photo Amy W/Yelp)
  • 2016 - RHP Mark Melancon was the last of six arbitration-eligible players to agree to a contract. C Chris Stewart had earlier reached a two-year deal with the club. The others avoiding arbitration by inking one-year deals were C Francisco Cervelli, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Jared Hughes, SS Jordy Mercer and LHP Jeff Locke. The FO trimmed five others off the list by non-tendering 1B Pedro Alvarez, 1B Travis Ishikawa, RHP Vance Worley and OF Travis Snider while trading 2B Neil Walker to the Mets.