Monday, February 20, 2017

2/20: HBB Tom, Frankie & ElRoy; Bucs Ink Meares; The IA & UA Form

  • 1873 - Utilityman Tom O’Brien was born in Verona. O’Brien played just two seasons and four positions for his hometown club (1898, 1900), hitting .274 for Pittsburgh before his untimely death brought on by a Cuban barnstorming tour in 1901.
  • 1877 - The International Association (so-called because it had a pair of Canadian clubs) was formed in Pittsburgh with the Alleghenys as one of the charter teams. Some baseball historians consider it to be the first minor league; others think the league was conceived to rival the major National League. It was fairly short-lived, folding after the 1880 season. It really didn’t have much a schedule; Alleghenys’ ace Pud Galvin tossed 18 of the 19 IA games played that first year. Pittsburgh finished second at 13-6, 1-½ games behind the London (Ontario) Tecumsehs.
  • 1884 - The short-lived Union Association was organized. It only lasted a season and had two local reps: the Pittsburgh Stogies, which replaced the Chicago Browns before folding (they would form again in 1914) and the mid-state Altoona Mountain City nine.
Frankie Gustine (photo Bettmann/Getty)
  • 1920 - All-Star infielder and restaurant owner Frankie Gustine was born in Hoopeston, Illinois. He played 10 years (1939-48) for the Bucs, hitting .268 as a Pirate and earning three All-Star spots. Gustine later became the head coach at Point Park College from 1968-74 and operated a bar/restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Oakland a few steps away from Forbes Field that became Hemingways in 1982.
  • 1928 - The Baron of the Bullpen, ElRoy Face, was born in Stephentown, NY. He pitched fifteen years (1953, 1955-68) for the Bucs, going 100-93-188/3.36. Face was the first major leaguer to save 20 games more than once, leading the league three times and finishing second three times; in 1959 he set the still-standing major league record for winning percentage (.947) at 18-1, winning 22 games in a row over two seasons (19548-59). He held the NL record for career games pitched (846) from 1967-86, and the league record for career saves (193) from 1962-82. Face still holds the NL record for career wins in relief (96), and he held the league mark for career innings pitched in relief (1,211-1/3) until 1983.
  • 1999 - The Pirates signed free agent SS Pat Meares to a $1.5M contract. In April, they extended the deal through the 2003 season for $15M. He broke his hand early in 1999, had surgery, and was out of baseball by 2002, having played 240 games for the Bucs and hitting .238.
Pat Meares 1999 Pacific Revolution

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/19: AJ Trade, Simon Signing, HBD Dana, Poet & Stew


  • 1967 - Pirates scout Dana Brown was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Pirates hired the former minor league OF away from the Phils in 1993; he moved on to Montreal in 2002 as scouting director and left to become a special assistant to the GM with Toronto in 2009. As a Bucco birddog, he was responsible for signing Ian Snell and Chris Young.

Dana Brown (photo via The Olympian)
  • 1971 - RHP Miguel “The Poet” Batista was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The outfielder-turned-pitcher began his 18-year, 12-team career by tossing a pair of innings for the Bucs in 1992. After his modest Pittsburgh beginnings, he cooled his heels in the minors until 1996 before becoming a MLB fixture from 1998 through his last game with Atlanta in 2012. His nickname came about because of his love of literature. He even published a book of poetry - a lifelong interest of his - titled "Feelings in Black and White (“Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro”) in 2002.
  • 1982 - C Chris Stewart was born in Fontana, California. He joined the Pirates via trade in 2014 and hit .294 as Russ Martin’s caddy (he’s batting .272 in three seasons w/Pittsburgh) while providing solid defense. Stew signed a two year contract with a club option in 2016 as the back-up to Francisco Cervelli. He’s familiar with the drill; he played behind Cervelli and Martin as a Yankee, too. He had late-season knee surgery and is good to go for camp.
  • 2004 - The Pirates signed 1B Randall Simon to an $800,000 FA contract months after trading him to the Cubs following his sausage-swatting incident in Milwaukee. He spent 26 days on the DL with a bad hammy, hit .194 upon his return and was released in August.
Randall Simon 2004 Topps
  • 2012 - The Pirates had RHP AJ Burnett drop in their laps. The Yankees sent him to Pittsburgh for farm hands Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones and agreed to pay $20M of the $33M remaining on the last two years of his contract. AJ went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in Pittsburgh before joining the Phils for an injury-plagued 2014 season. He returned to the Bucco fold in 2015 (9-7, 3.18 ERA) for his farewell campaign, agreeing to a team-friendly $8.5M deal after refusing to exercise a $14.75M Philly option.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Notes: Quiet First Week - News, Prospects, Ex-Bucs

Can't have a week start off any better than with the phrase "pitchers and catchers report today..." And with some familiar ol' names to mentor the boys - the Bucco throwback instructors are John Candelaria, Rennie Stennett, Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, Kent Tekulve, Mike LaValliere, Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen and Omar Moreno. That's a pretty fair group of hardballers.

Throwback coaches - Mike LaValliere, John Candelaria, Omar Moreno, Maz, Steve Blass, Teke, Rennie Stennett (back) Manny Sanguillen & Bill Virdon (front) (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Everyone was present for the Pirates' first workout Friday except for bad boy Jung-Ho Kang.
  • At least one act of the recent Cutch drama has been put to bed. Clint said that Andrew will return to the three hole this season. McCutchen penned an article in the Players Tribune that covered the roller coaster ride he was on during the off season.
  • The Reds claimed RHP Lisalverto Bonilla after the Bucs had DFA'ed him to clear a spot for RHP Pat Light and then jumped on RHP Nefi Ogando who was DFA'ed to make room for IF Phil Gosselin. The Bucs had hoped to sneak one or both of them through waivers and even had lockers set up for them in Bradenton. The Reds also signed long-ago Pirates RHP Bronson Arroyo to a minor league deal.
Tony's bank account took a bit of a hit (2016 Topps)
  • Tony Watson had his arbitration hearing on Wednesday. The Pirates offered Tony $5.6M; Watson countered w/$6M. The Bucs won the case, but it was still a nice bump for Watson, who earned $3.45M in 2016. It was the only Pittsburgh arb board hearing scheduled.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs looked at the Top 10 Transactions of the off season and Ivan Nova's deal popped up in the middle. Enos Sarris of the same site ranked the starting rotations by going eight men deep, and the Bucs came out quite well.
  • Pretty neat - Josh Nelson of the South Side Sox has put together a spreadsheet of the top prospects per BA, MLB Pipeline, ESPN, BP and MiLB to get an average rating plus a view of where they stand in all the lists.
  • Cliff Corcoran of Sports on Earth has the Pirates farm system as a top five group again this year.
S-Rod's injury was worse than expected (2016 Topps Chrome)
  • Bad news for a good guy - S-Rod will likely miss the 2017 season when it was discovered that he had a complete rotor cuff tear during shoulder surgery. Sean was injured when his car was T-Boned last month. His wife and children were also injured, but are recovering well from a variety of breaks, bruises, and cuts.
  • There was good news, too. Former Pirates 1B Andrew Lambo got the all-clear to play after fighting off testicular cancer last year.
  • Ol' Bucco coach Rich Donnelly will be reunited with Team USA manager Jim Leyland as the WBC club's bullpen coach. Donnelly worked with Leyland in Pittsburgh, Florida, and Detroit.

2/18 Birthdays: HBD Sherry, Luis, Manny, Maxie, Bob & Bruce

  • 1891 - LHP Sherrod “Sherry” Smith was born in Monticello, Georgia. He got his career off to an inglorious start in Pittsburgh, giving up seven runs in 4-⅔ IP in his three 1911-12 outings. But after a couple years of minor league seasoning and a change of scenery, he blossomed to win 114 games in the next 12 years for the Brooklyn Robins and Cleveland Indians. In 1980 Smith was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and a decade later he was honored with a state historical marker ("Mansfield's Famous Southpaw") near his home.
Luis Arroyo 1957 (photo via Autograph Warehouse)
  • 1927 - LHP Luis Arroyo was born in Penuelas, Puerto Rico. “Tite” (a Latino nickname for Enrique, his middle name) was a screwballer who got a lot of ground outs. He tossed for the Bucs between 1956-57, with 12 starts in 72 appearances and a 6-14-2/4.69 ERA. After a year in AAA, he was converted full time to relief and spent his last four seasons in Yankee pinstripes, winning a World Series game and earning an All-Star nod in 1961.
  • 1938 - OF Manny Mota was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The pinch hitter supreme spent six seasons (1963-68) with Pittsburgh as a fourth outfielder early in his career, hitting .297 during that span. It wasn’t until 1974 that the Dodgers used him solely as a bench bat and he came through in spades, smacking 150 career pinch hits.
  • 1939 - IF Dal Maxvill was born in Granite City, Illinois. Dal joined the Bucs toward the tail end of his MLB days for parts of 1973-74, hitting .188 before being released. “Maxie” finished his 14-year career with Oakland after the Pirates let him go, playing his last game in 1975. Dal coached and was the Card’s GM afterward, retiring from baseball for good when he was fired from that job during a messy transition following Gus Busch’s death.
Bob Miller 1973 Topps
  • 1939 - RHP Bob Miller was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Miller spent 18 years in the show, tossing for the Bucs in 1971-72 (6-4-6, 2.19) and pitching in two NLCS sets and a World Series. He later managed in the Padres organization and was pitching coach for the Blue Jays and Giants. Miller pitched in an era that featured three Bob Millers, all tossing in the majors in the late 1950s, and in fact was teammates with one of them in 1962 with the Mets.
  • 1950 - RHP Bruce Kison was born in Pasco, Washington. The righty pitched nine years (1971-79) for the Bucs, and his career bookended Pittsburgh World series titles; he was 4-1 in the postseason, including a memorable 6-1/3 shutout innings stint against the Orioles in game #4 of the 1971 Fall Classic. He was part of the rotation for three years but was used mostly as a spot starter and long guy, putting up a Pirate pitching line of 81-63/3.49.

Friday, February 17, 2017

2/17: Turkey Trot, Nate Deal, Groat Award, Hurry Up Rule, HBD Ed & Whammy

  • 1905 - LHP Ed Brandt was born in Spokane, Washington. In his final two MLB seasons (1937-38), he tossed for Pittsburgh and went 16-14-2/3.23. He was mostly a good pitcher on bad big league teams. In 11 MLB years, Ed’s record was 121-146/3.86. He started 278 games and finished 150 of them.
Ed Brandt 1937-38 (photo Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1909 - The NL made it mandatory that a relief pitcher face one batter with a five-pitch warm up limit. The rule countered managers who would yank a pitcher, bring in another (slowly) to kill a little time, and then pull him if they didn't like the hitting match up or when the guy the skipper really wanted on the mound was good and loose. It eventually became Rule #6.2.2.
  • 1912 - The Pirates switched outfielders, sending Vin Campbell to the Boston Braves for Mike Donlin. Both players were solid hitters but neither were one trick ponies. Campbell was a successful businessman while Donlin was a vaudevillian (he carried around an old theater program with him as a good luck talisman), movie actor and all-around bon vivant. Both left baseball for periods of time to hold out for bigger salaries knowing they could make better money at their side jobs. Donlin hit .316 in 77 games for the 1912 Pirates while Campbell hit .296 and led the league in at-bats for the Braves that season. After the season, the 34-year-old Donlin was waived and claimed by the Phillies but refused to report and retired. He came back in 1914 after sitting out a season to play for the Giants, but his bat deserted him and 35 games later, his career was finished. Campbell had one more campaign left, was out of baseball for a year and then played out his string in the upstart Federal League. Donlin was nicknamed “Turkey Mike” due to his red neck and distinctive strut (It’s said many fans even imitated his way of walking). It wasn't a moniker that Mike particularly cared for; go figure.
Whammy Douglas (photo National Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1935 - RHP Charles “Whammy” Douglas was born in Carrboro, North Carolina. Whammy only got 11 starts in MLB, all in 1957 with the Bucs, going 3-3, 3.26. He was sent back to AAA Columbus for the ‘58 campaign, posting a 16-10, 3.35 line and was traded to the Reds in 1959. His promising career was dead-ended by elbow and shoulder problems. One physical impairment that didn’t bother him, tho, was the fact that he was blind in his right eye after childhood accident. Branch Rickey pressed him on the handicap, and Douglas replied that “You have one hitter. He’s got one bat. And I have one ball.” He had “Whammy” hung on him thx to Burlington Times-News writer Bill Hunter. “I was striking everyone out, so they just started calling me ‘Whammy,’” Douglas said.
  • 2009 - CF Nate McLouth signed a three-year, $15.75M contract with an option that bought out his arbitration years. It guaranteed his salary but not his home; he was traded to Atlanta in June to open a starting spot for Andrew McCutchen. He returned to the Bucs briefly in 2012, and since then has played in Baltimore and Washington. A free agent this season, the 34 year old has done OK, earning $30M in 10 campaigns.
Dick Groat 1957 Topps
  • 2016 - Dick Groat was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 80th annual Dapper Dan Dinner. In 1960, Groat hit .325 and was named NL MVP for the WS winners and earned three All-Star berths as a Bucco SS. He was also a two-time All America at Duke as a hoopster.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2/16: #33 Retired, Wheaties Honorees, Leo, Ron & AJ Sign

  • 1952 - Carnegie’s Honus Wagner’s #33 was retired after he bid farewell as a Bucco coach at the age of 77 following 39 years that he associated the team. The Bucs also honored him by giving him a lifetime pension at full pay. Hans number was the first the Bucs retired; other Pirates to join him in the honor were Billy Meyer (1), Ralph Kiner (4), Willie Stargell (8), Bill Mazeroski (9), Pie Traynor (20), Roberto Clemente (21) and Danny Murtaugh (40). The Flying Dutchman finished his career with a .329 average and won eight NL batting titles, ranking among the Pirates' top 10 in 11 offensive categories. He was a coach with the Pirates between 1933 and 1951. Honus was also part of the first Hall-of-Fame class ever selected, along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth.
Honus Wagner 2011 Topps by Kimbrall
  • 1996 - General Mills put out a Wheaties cereal box commemorating Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell to celebrate the league's 75th anniversary. All three legendary figures played for Pittsburgh and/or Homestead at some point in their Hall of Fame careers.
  • 2000 - The Pirates signed RHP Leo Nunez out of the Dominican Republic. He never twirled for the Bucs, being traded to KC in 2004 and made the news in 2011 when he admitted to being Juan Carlos Oviedo, not Leo Nunez, a fake ID he used to shave a year off his age and make him a more desirable prospect. He pitched thru 2011, served a lengthy suspension to start 2012 and then blew out his elbow during rehab, requiring TJ surgery. Juan/Leo returned to the show in 2014, but hasn’t appeared on a MLB hill since that season.
  • 2002 - RHP Ron Villone signed a $900K FA contract with the Bucs, making Pittsburgh one of his 12 MLB stops in a 15 year career. He went 4-6 with a 5.81 ERA for the Pirates and was released at the end of the year.
Ron Villone 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man
  • 2014 - Free agent RHP AJ Burnett signed a one-year/$16M deal that included an option for 2015 with the Phils after coming off a pair of strong seasons (26-21, 3.41) for the Bucs that resurrected his brand. He chose Philly over the Pirates because the ballyard was located 90 minutes from his Maryland home. "It was about my wife. It was about my kids. It was about playing somewhere where I'm at home,” the pitcher explained. But he returned to Pittsburgh the following season, signing a contract that was $4.25M less than the option he declined. He told the press that he had one more year left in the tank and “There’s no other place I want to finish my career (than Pittsburgh).”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2/15: Vic Sold; Birmingham Blues; CBA Woes; HBD Rob, Russ, Don & Barry

  • 1910 - The Pirates sold RHP Vic Willis to the Cardinals. Vic was a 20+ game winner for the Bucs during his four-year stint, going 89-46 with a 2.08 ERA from 1906-09. But the 34-year-old Willis was running on empty. He won nine games for St. Louis, and 1910 was his big league swan song.
Vic Willis 1909 Philadelphia Caramel
  • 1956 - The Pirates and the Kansas City A's canceled a pair of exhibition games in Birmingham‚ Alabama‚ because of a city ordinance barring integrated play. The two teams moved the spring games to New Orleans.
  • 1963 - RHP Barry Jones was born in Centerville, Indiana. He began his career in Pittsburgh after being selected in the third round of the 1984 draft. From 1986-88, Jones went 6-9-6/3.81 with the Bucs before being traded to the White Sox for Dave LaPoint. After an eight-year career, he moved to Murrysville and spent several months helping to build PNC Park as a project manager for the concrete contractor.
  • 1980 - IF Don Kelly was born in Butler. Kelly went to Mt Lebanon HS and Point Park College before signing with the Bucs and making his debut in 2007. From 2009 onward, he’s played with the Tigers, moving on to the Marlins during this off season. He married Carrie Walker in 2007; his brother-in-law is Neil and his father-in-law is former big league pitcher Tom. The Kellys live in Wexford.
Don Kelly 2007 Fleer Ultra
  • 1983 - C Russ Martin was born in East York, Ontario, Canada. The free agent pickup was with the Pirates from 2013-14, hitting .256 and rated highly behind the dish in all the defensive metrics and intangibles. The Toronto Blue Jays signed him to a five-year, $82M FA contract during the 2014 off season after Russ had a career year at the plate.
  • 1987 - RHP Rob Scahill was born in Winfield, Illinois. The reliever was traded to the Bucs from the Rockies after the 2014 season and got into 28 games with a 2.62 ERA in 2015. He’s been with the Rockies and Brewers since.
  • 1990 - The owners refused to open spring training camps without a new Basic Agreement with the Players' Association, beginning a lockout that lasted 32 days and delayed the start of the regular season by one week. The beef was over an owner plan to cap payroll at 48% of the league revenues; the MLBPA and Donald Fehr wanted no part of a cap. They eventually settled on “Super Two” arb, a raise in the minimum salary and adding an extra player to the active roster as the cap plan was sentenced to “death by committee.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2/14: Valentine Babies - Harry, Admiral, Jack, Earl & Damaso; McClatchy Buys Bucs; NCBBL Founded

  • 1873 - P Harry Jordan was born in Titusville (or maybe Pittsburgh; there’s some disagreement among biographers). Manager Connie Mack pulled him out of the New England League to help his shorthanded staff finish the 1894 season and then from the Iron and Oil League the following year, again to plug a pitching gap as the campaign neared the tape. Harry went 1-2, 4.15 in his three career MLB starts, not a bad slash for a semi-pro hurler.
  • 1880 - C Claude “Admiral” Berry was born in Losantville, Indiana. He had a fairly undistinguished MLB career from 1904-07, playing three years and getting into 21 games. But when the Federal League started in 1914, the 35-year-old was apparently well rested - he signed on with the Pittsburgh Rebels and caught 221 games in the league’s two seasons, batting just .219 but throwing out 214-of-445 would-be base stealers, a 48% CS rate. In 1904, while playing for the Chicago White Sox, Claude became the first major league catcher to wear a protective cup. He also caught Frank Allen’s no-hitter against St. Louis in 1915. The Admiral closed out his career with a couple of years of AA ball. His family said that Berry got his nickname because he was a flashy dresser.
Admiral Berry 1914 (Rebels Team Photo)
  • 1884 - Utilityman Jack Lewis was born in Pittsburgh’s South Side. He had an 18 game audition with the Red Sox in 1911, then got back in the groove with the Filipinos/Rebels of the Federal League, playing five positions and batting .245 from 1913-15, earning a spot on the Fed All-Star team in 1913 when it was still an indy league. Jack did play a lot of ball in his day; his career in the bushes began in 1901 and he didn’t quit playing until after the 1921 season, and that was only after a car accident.
  • 1887 - Per Wikipedia, the National Colored Base Ball League, the first attempt at a professional Negro League, was organized at a meeting in Baltimore. Eight clubs were represented, including the original Pittsburgh Keystones. The league quickly folded (the Keystones finished 3-4), but set a foundation that would eventually allow the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays to enter the baseball scene. The Keystones went dormant, then were revived briefly from 19-22 to play in the Negro National League. Their home field was Central Park (also known as Keystone Park or Chauncey Street Park), located in the Hill at the corner of Chauncey Street and Humber Way. The park was built by black architect Louis Bellinger, who would later design Greenlee Field for the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
  • 1897 - C Earl Smith was born in Sheridan, Arizona. Smith spent five of his 12 big league years in Pittsburgh from 1924-28, hitting .315 over that span. He was a member of the 1925 World Series-winning club (he hit .350 v Washington) and the 1927 Series team that lost to the Yankees. Smith was suspended for a spell in 1925 for brawling with a fan in Boston; not only did he lose time to the league, but he was laid up briefly after the fact when a second fan clunked him with a chair!
Earl Smith (photo 1925 Pittsburgh Press)
  • 1975 - LHP Damaso Marte was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He pitched for the Bucs in 2001 and again from 2006-08. He went 7-8-5 with a 3.52 ERA and struck out 200 batters in 186-⅔ IP. In 2008, during his second stint as a Bucco, Marte and Xavier Nady were traded to the Yankees for four prospects: José Tábata, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Daniel McCutchen.
  • 1996 - Kevin McClatchy and partners purchased the Pirates from the Pittsburgh Associates for $90M with the understanding that a baseball-only stadium be built within five years. The sale saved the franchise from being moved out of Pittsburgh by other potential buyers and greased the wheels for a new ballyard, but proved a mixed competitive blessing under the perpetually cash-strapped McClatchy.
Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

2/13: Cool Papa HoF Day; Bill Vetos Trade; Inge In; HBD Crazy, Oadis & Pete

  • 1866 - LHP Frederick “Crazy” Schmit (often misspelled Schmidt) was born in Chicago. The lefty was unleashed on baseball first by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1890, when Crazy went 1-9, 5.83 in his rookie campaign. He tossed for five MLB seasons with a 7-36/5.45 line and 185 career walks to 93 K. One of Crazy’s idiosyncrasies was to warm up with a sopping ball so that when he got to the mound, a game ball would feel like a feather. He was also credited with being the first to keep an actual book on hitters out of necessity; it was said his memory was too poor to keep the info stored in his head. One oft-told story has Crazy pitching against Cap Anson by the book. Schmit pulled his notes from his back pocket, looked up Anson, followed his finger and muttered “walk,” then tossed him four wide ones. His nickname was due to his eccentricities like his book - and likely Schmit’s overblown sense of his abilities as a pitcher. He also answered to “Germany.”
Crazy like a fox (Al Demaree image via Baseball History Daily)
  • 1901 - RHP Oadis Swigart was born in Archie, Mississippi. Oad spent his brief MLB career as a Pirate, going 1-3, 4.44, from 1939-40. His ball playing days were short-circuited by Uncle Sam. The 26-year-old was with the Pirates for spring training in 1941 but was called into the Army on May 1st as the first major league player to be drafted, and he wasn’t released from active duty until 1946.
  • 1921 - IF Pete Castiglione was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. He played seven years (1947-53) for the Bucs, mainly as a reserve, and hit .258 for Pittsburgh. Pete actually signed with the Pirates in 1940, but he joined the Navy in 1943 while in the minors and served two years in the Pacific. He participated in campaigns at the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Palau Islands, Philippine Islands and Okinawa, and was stationed at Wakayama, Japan at the end of the war, so his best work may not have been at Forbes Field, but in the Pacific theater.
  • 1974 - OF James "Cool Papa" Bell was named to the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues. He played for both the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords and was inducted on August 12th. Cool Papa joined the Homestead Grays in 1943, and they won league championships in Bell's first two seasons. They were foiled going for the trifecta, losing in the 1945 World Series to the Cleveland Buckeyes. Per Biography.com, he got his moniker when he began as a pitcher for the St. Louis Stars in the Negro National League. He was dubbed “Cool” by his teammates after he struck out the legendary Oscar Charleston; Bell's manager added the “Papa.”
Cool Papa Bell 2004 Topps Tribute
  • 1980 - As a five-and-ten veteran, OF’er Bill Robinson vetoed his proposed trade to the Houston Astros for pitcher Joaquin Andujar when Houston wouldn’t offer him a new contract. It’s hard to project how the trade would have worked out. Robinson had a strong 1980 campaign and then faded while Andujar wouldn’t hit his prime until 1982, winning 61 games and two All-Star berths between then and 1985 as a St. Louis Cardinal.
  • 2013 - The Bucs signed 36-year-old IF Brandon Inge to a one-year,/$1.25M FA contract. 50 games and a .181 BA later, he was released on August 1st, ending his 13 year MLB career.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2/12: HBD Woody, Joe, Cam, Stanley & Chris; Rennie & John Inked

  • 1922 - RHP Forrest “Woody” Main was born in Delano, California. He pitched off and on for the Bucs in 1948, 1950, and 1952-53 after being claimed from the Yankees. Main was in the Bronx Bomber’s system as a Kansas City Blue, and when KC manager Billy Meyer was named skipper of the 1948 Pirates, he selected Main in that winter’s Rule 5 draft. Woody went 4-13-3 with a 5.14 ERA as a Pirate.
Woody Main 1953 Topps
  • 1926 - C Joe Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent the middle of his MLB career (1951-53) with Pittsburgh. Joe hit .262 over that span, but is best known as an announcer, a profession he began after his playing days in 1955. Garagiola grew up just a few doors down from his childhood friend Yogi Berra and later said, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!"
  • 1952 - GM Cam Bonifay was born in St. Petersburg. After a brief minor league career, Cam toiled as a Cardinal & then Reds birddog before becoming the Scouting Director for the Pirates in 1990. He was named assistant GM in 1991 and got the top job in 1993 when Ted Simmons was felled by a heart attack. He held the position until 2001 when owner Kevin McClatchy replaced him with Dave Littlefield. Despite criticism for signing underperforming players to big contracts, he was named The Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 1997 for building the “Freak Show” team with a payroll of just $9M. Since his Pittsburgh departure, he was worked for Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cincinnati. His son Josh was a minor league catcher in the Pirates system and is now a coach in the Houston Astros organization.
  • 1965 - RHP Stanley Fansler was born in Elkins, West Virginia. The youngster was the Bucs second round draft pick (34th overall) in 1983. By 1985, he was pitching for the Pirates, going 0-3 but with a respectable 3.75 ERA in five September starts. He gave up less than a hit per inning but had some control issues. And therein lies a cautionary tale. Instead of Fansler making the team out of camp the following season, GM Sid Thrift, without consulting the Pirates pitching coach, sent him to the minors to change his delivery and sharpen his control. The result was that Stan’s money maker went haywire from the mechanical tweaking and he subsequently underwent a pair of arm surgeries. He never pitched above Class AA afterward and retired to become a pitching coach in 1993 before giving up the pro game entirely four years later when he married.
Stan Fansler 1985 TCMA
  • 1969 - The Bucs sealed one of their top Latino deals when Pirates scout C. Herbert Raybourn inked 18 year old 2B Rennie Stennett of Colon, Panama, to a contract. Rennie debuted as a 20 year old and played nine seasons (1971-79) with Pittsburgh, hitting .278. His Pirates red letter day was when he went 7-for-7 against the Cubs, a record-setter, in 1975. His career was derailed in 1977 when he broke his leg sliding, and 1981 was his last season in the show.
  • 1981 - C Chris Snyder was born in Houston. He came to the Pirates at the 2010 deadline from Arizona as part of the DJ Carrasco deal. The Pirates plan was for him to become Ryan Doumit’s veteran caddy, but in 2011 an awkward slide caused him to miss most of the year with a bad back. His balky vertebra helped trigger the season of the catcher - the Pirates were forced to use eight players at the position after Snyder and Dewey were both injured. In his time with the Bucs, he hit .214 and the Pirates unsurprisingly declined his 2012 option. After a couple of seasons in a backup role for Houston and the O’s, Snyder retired in 2014.
  • 1993 - The Bucs signed RHP John Ericks to a FA deal. After a couple of seasons on the farm, the 6’7’ Ericks worked 57 games for the Bucs between 1995-97, going 8-14-14 with a 4.78 ERA. The Pirates liked the Fighting Illini as a starter, but he had two shoulder surgeries and was switched to the pen. He was never 100% afterward and was out of baseball after working 10 games in 1997.
John Ericks 1996 Fleer (back)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Notes: Depth Deals for Gosselin & Light, Kang's Court Date, Felipe Love, WBC Roster, Projections, Top 100, Ex-Bucco Moves

Take heart - the Pirates equipment trucks rolled out of PNC Park Monday to set up shop in Florida. Baseball is back in season and the news is starting to pick up...

  • Pittsburgh acquired INF Phil Gosselin from Arizona (they had just DFA'ed him) for RHP Frank Duncan. Gosselin is a utility guy who plays mainly 2B & the infield corners (he's not a S-Rod clone) with a good stick, hitting .277 last season and .283 lifetime. Phil has two options left, so the Bucs can stow him at Indy to start the campaign if he's not needed as JHK insurance; there are a handful of pretty bad outcomes possible in Kang's case. Duncan is a 25-year-old sinkerball tosser who went 12-8/2.34 between Altoona and Indy. While the jury is still out on his future ceiling, it appears Duncan was caught in a back-end logjam of prospects. It also looks like the out-of-options Alen Hanson is gonna have to step it up in camp. To clear a 40-man roster spot for Gosselin, the Pirates DFA'ed RHP Nefi Ogando.
Phil Gosselin (image via mlb.com)
  • The Pirates took on some bullpen depth by adding RHP Pat Light from the Twins for cash/PTBNL. Light, 25, is a hard-throwing but strike-challenged guy who made his MLB debut last season. The Pirates DFA'ed Lisalverto Bonilla; both pitchers (if Bonilla gets through waivers) are projected to start the year at AAA Indy.
  • Jung Ho Kang will stand trial on DUI charges on February 22nd in South Korea. So we'll see what the courts hand down, how the MLB/Pirates will treat his case (Treatment? Suspension? Both?) and if his third DUI will affect his work visa. 
  • USA Today thinks the 2017 Buccos are an 81-81 team. PECOTA via Baseball Prospectus agrees; they have the Pirates at 80 wins. Reno touts have more faith; they set the Pirates over-under at 85-1/2 wins.
  • Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs has a piece on Felipe Rivero, and he says the future looks promising.
  • Cliff Corcoran of Sports on Earth takes a look at the new Pirate OF alignment and likes it. He also tosses in what he feels were the best Bucco outfields and the five best outfields of his time.
Fran will add some amore to the Italian team (image Player's Tribute Snapchat)
  • Bucco WBC participants and reserves: Andrew McCutchen (USA), Gregory Polanco & Starling Marte (Dominican), Fran Cervelli (Italy) and minor-league 3B Eric Wood (Canada) made team rosters. Ivan Nova is a pool pitcher for the Dominican and can join the roster after the opening round. Also eligible as pool pitchers are farmhands Luis Escobar (Colombia), Jared Lakind (Israel) and Sam Street (Australia).
  • Five Pirates made Baseball America's Top 100 Prospect list: #6 OF Austin Meadows, #22 RHP Mitch Keller, #23 RHP Tyler Glasnow, #35 1B Josh Bell and #55 SS Kevin Newman.
Austin Meadows leads Pirate pups on the BA Top 100 list (photo MiLB Pipeline)
  • The Pirates and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine announced a naming-rights agreement for the club's spring training ballpark in Bradenton. The former McKechnie Field is now LECOM Park.
  • Free agent LHP Jon Niese held an open workout Wednesday for interested clubs to take a peek.
  • Jon Heyman tweeted that Jose Tabata signed a minor-league deal with KC that includes an invite to camp.
  • LHP Javier Lopez announced his retirement at age 39. He tossed for the Bucs in 2010, being flipped to the Giants at the deadline for John Bowser and Joe Martinez. He was on four World-Series champs, once for Boston and three times with the G-Men.

2/11: Boom TRS, HBD Hoot & Trey, Jay DD Man, Cecil & Doug Sign, Vic-For-Grimes, Brett First Arb

  • 1924 - OF Hal “Hoot” Rice was born in Morganette, West Virginia. After several season with the Cards serving as Stan Musial’s backup, he joined the Bucs for the 1953-54 seasons and started in left field for Pittsburgh after the Ralph Kiner trade. He hit .311 in that year’s audition, but was batting under .200 in June of 1954 and was shipped to the Cubs in what was his last MLB campaign. Rice gave up three years of baseball during WW2, winning a Purple Heart as a tank commander.
Hal "Hoot" Rice 1954 Topps
  • 1928 - Pittsburgh sent RHP Vic Aldridge, who was fishing for a raise from owner Barney Dreyfuss, to the NY Giants for RHP Burleigh Grimes. Old Stubblebeard won 42 games in 1928-29 for Pittsburgh before being sent to the Braves after reaching a contract impasse. He returned in 1934 for his third Pittsburgh stint to finish his MLB career as a Pirate, the team he started with. The Hall of Famer won 48 of his 270 career victories as a Buc. As for Aldridge, he held out until late May, had a terrible year (4-7, 4.83) and was sent to the Dodgers in August. He refused to report to Brooklyn, opting to retire from baseball instead.
  • 1974 - OF Trey Beamon was born in Dallas. The Bucs took him out of high school in the second round of the 1992 draft, and after the 1995 season, he was named the organization’s top prospect. But Trey never made much of a dent in MLB, spending 24 games with the Bucs in 1996 (.216 BA) before being traded to the Padres as part of the Mark Smith package. He got into a few dozen games with SD and was shipped to the Tigers, and that 1998 season would be his last in the bigs. He played in 98 games and hit .253 without a long ball. He played in the minors and indy leagues until 2006.
Ken Brett in the 1974 AS Game (photo Focus On Sports/Getty)
  • 1974 - 48 players filed to settle their contracts through the newly instituted arbitration system. The only Pirate player to argue his case at a hearing was pitcher Ken Brett; he asked for $40,000 and the Bucs countered with $35,000. Brett may have lost but bore no grudge; he went on to have his only All-Star season in ‘74.
  • 1991 - OF Cecil Espy signed with the Bucs as a FA. He spent two seasons in Pittsburgh as a reserve outfielder, hitting .254. He was a first round pick of the White Sox in 1980 (eighth overall) but was a regular just one year during his eight big league seasons, retiring after 1993.
  • 1993 - SS Jay Bell took home the Dapper Dan Sportsmen of the Year award after hitting .310 and scoring 102 runs during the 1992 season. He also won a Golden Glove award for his fielding during the campaign. Bell played for the Bucs from 1989-96, and returned in 2013 as the hitting coach before joining the Reds as their bench coach the following year.
Jay Bell 1993 Studio
  • 2001 - Three Rivers Stadium‚ the home of the Pirates since 1970‚ was imploded before a full complement of TV cameras and thousands of onlookers. Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit, Mike Schmidt's 500th home run, the 1994 All Star game and a couple of World Series championships were part of the park's 30-year legacy.
  • 2008 - IF Doug Mientkiewicz signed as a FA for $750K. The 34-year-old utility guy had a fairly solid year, hitting .277 in 125 games, and went to LA in 2009, closing out his 12 year career. He’s now a manager in the Twins minor league system.

Friday, February 10, 2017

2/10 Birthdays: HBD Bill, Cotton, Jake, Digger, Larry, Duke & Jeanmar

  • 1893 - RHP Bill Evans was born in Reidsville, NC. He spent his entire three-year MLB stint with the Bucs (1916-17, 1919) as a fringe hurler, going 2-13 with a 3.85 ERA. Evans went into the military and missed all of the 1918 campaign. He worked seven games for Pittsburgh in 1919, then spent the next decade toiling in the minors.
  • 1894 - 2B James “Cotton” (because of his light blond hair) Tierney was born in Kansas City, KS. He started his pro career in Pittsburgh (1920-23), mainly as a second baseman but also seeing time in the outfield and at the hot corner. He hit .315 for Pittsburgh and was the main piece in the 1923 trade for P Lee Meadows. Cotton was remembered when in 2005, his great-great-nephew Jeff Euston created the popular website Cot's Baseball Contracts, named after his MLB ancestor.
Cotton Tierney 1922 E120 American Caramel
  • 1900 - SS Jake Stephens was born in Pleasantville, Pennsylvania. Jake played in the Negro leagues for 17 years, with stops as a Homestead Gray (1930-31) and Pittsburgh Crawford (1932). The SS wasn’t much of a batsman - the curve befuddled him - but he was a fast and acrobatic fielder with a rifle arm. As loaded with bats as the legendary local clubs were, carrying a glove at shortstop was a no-brainer. His leather earned him spots in Pittsburgh and York sports halls of fame.
  • 1932 - RHP Billy “Digger” O’Dell was born in Whitmire, South Carolina. He closed out his 13-year career (twice an All-Star) with the Pirates in 1966-67, going 8-8-4, 4.44. Digger retired and left baseball, coaching Legion ball and earning a spot in the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. He got his nickname from the radio/TV show “The Life of Riley” that featured a character named Digby “Digger” O’Dell - an undertaker.
  • 1954 - LHP Larry McWilliams was born in Wichita, Kansas. The sixth overall pick of the 1974 draft by the Braves, he worked for the Pirates from 1982-86. Larry had three strong years as a starter, then faded and was shipped back to his original club, the Braves. His line with the Bucs was 43-44-2 with a 3.86 ERA.
Duke Welker 2008 Bowman Top Prospects
  • 1986 - RHP Duke Welker was born in Kirkland, Washington. A second round pick in the 2007 draft, the 6’7” pitcher was a hot prospect who never panned out. He got into two games in 2013, then was involved in a bizzaro trade. He was sent to the Minnesota Twins as part of the deal that had brought 1B Justin Morneau to Pittsburgh. The two teams changed their minds a few weeks later, and in November, Welker was sent back to the Bucs in return for P Kris Johnson. But fate trumped his return as Duke had TJ surgery in 2014. The Bucs released him, and he was signed and cut by the Giants in 2016.
  • 1988 - RHP Jeanmar Gomez was born in Caracas, Venezuela. The long man went 5-2-1 with a 3.28 ERA in 78 outings for Pittsburgh from 2013-14 after coming over from the Indians. Gomez became a free agent in the 2014 off season and signed with the Phillies.

2/10 Happenings: Jason DD Sportsman, Ramon Deal, Judy HoF, Wet One Outlawed, Big Talk

  • 1920 - The spitball, shineball, and emeryball were outlawed by the AL/NL Joint Rules Committee. Seventeen pitchers, including off-and-on Pirate Burleigh Grimes, were grandfathered so they could continue to toss a wet one. Grimes, who finished his career in 1934 with Pittsburgh, was the last man to legally throw a spitter.
Burleigh Grimes 1928 (photo Getty Images)
  • 1939 - RHP Bob Klinger exhibited his flipper to Pittsburgh Press beat writer Les Biederman and told him that “You are now looking at the arm that belongs to the fellow who is going to win 20 games...this year.” Klinger had gone 12-5, 2.99 in 1938 with a gimpy arm, then underwent off season treatment for neuritis. He did get 33 starts, but finished 14-17, 4.36 and 0-1 as a prognosticator. Apparently his arm remained chronically cranky. The Pirates switched him to spot starter/reliever in 1940, and he didn’t rejoin the rotation full-time again until 1943. He was in the Navy from 1944-45, then went to the Boston Red Sox at age 38 and was their closer from 1946-47 as part of the Bosox 1946 World Series club.
  • 1971 - The Pirates made one of their better deals when they sent minor league lefty Danilo Rivas to the Mexico City Reds for LHP Ramon Hernandez. The southpaw was a bullpen anchor from 1971-76, going 23-12-39 with a 2.51 ERA before being sold to the Red Sox in 1976. The trade was a homecoming; the Pirates had originally signed Hernandez as an 18-year-old out of Ponce De Leon, Puerto Rico, in 1959.
  • 1975 - 3B Judy Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro League Committee. Playing in the 1920s and 1930s, Johnson was a defensive whiz who batted .309 over a 17-year career, including stints with the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He was inducted on August 18th. His nickname came from his first Negro league club, the Hilldale Daisies, because he resembled Chicago American Giants’ player Judy Gans.
Judy Johnson 1998 Perez-Steele Celebration
  • 2001 - C Jason Kendall was honored as the Dapper Dan 2000 Sportsman of the Year. He made rehabbed a gruesome ankle injury and came back to hit .320, score 112 runs and steal 22 bases, then made a long-term commitment to the Pirates by signing a six-year contract extension. He was the first Pirate to win the award since Jim Leyland in 1990.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

2/9 Birthdays: HBD Harry, Lee Roy, Dutch, Buddy & Aki

  • 1869 - Harry Pulliam, early Pirate exec, was born in Scottsburg, Kentucky. Originally a newspaper writer covering the Cubs for the Louisville Commercial, he was considered one of the leading authorities on the game. Pulliam, then the newspaper editor, met the owner of the Louisville Colonels, Barney Dreyfuss, who hired him away from the Courier, appointing him to the position of club secretary, then quickly moving him to club president; Pulliam negotiated an ownership position in the team. He followed Dreyfuss when he purchased the Pittsburgh Pirates as the team president, and convinced Hans Wagner to join the club, later talking him and his teammates from bolting to the AL during the 1900 raids. Pulliam was unanimously elected president of the National League in 1902. He acted as president, secretary and treasurer of the league from 1902 until 1907, when the stress, workload, and occasional head bumping with owners who thought he favored Pittsburgh in his decisions caught up to him; he committed suicide. Harry was buried in Louisville on August 2nd, and for the first time in history, both NL and AL games were postponed in tribute.
Harry Pulliam (image Cigar Box Art)
  • 1904 - RHP Lee Roy Mahaffey was born in Belton, South Carolina. He got his start as a Pirate, getting into six games (1-0, 5.14) in 1926-27 before being dealt as part of the Larry French deal. After some seasoning, he came back with the Athletics in 1930 and put in seven more MLB seasons. Per SABR, Roy had a passel of nicknames - “Workhorse” because he was willing to take the ball at any time, “Speed” due to his heater and hard curve and most commonly, “Popeye,” speculatively because he was a strapping lad who was a bricklayer in the offseason.
  • 1912 - RHP Lloyd “Dutch” Dietz was born in Cincinnati. Dutch tossed from 1940-43 for the Bucs. He went 13-15-4, 3.51, and worked pretty regularly in 1941-42, highlighted by 1941’s 7-2/2.33 slash. He was traded to the Phils in ‘43, then to the Dodgers. Dietz entered military service with the Army Medical Corps in 1944, and was stationed in Texas where he pitched for the Fort Sam Houston Rangers. After his return to civilian life in 1946, he played four more minor league seasons before hanging up the spikes in 1949. Dutch was a common nickname for German players as a sort of an anglicization of “Deutsch” or German.
  • 1951 - RHP Eddie “Buddy” Solomon Jr. was born in Perry, Georgia. The ten-year vet worked the end of his career (1980-82) in Pittsburgh, splitting time between the pen and the rotation. He went 17-15-1 with a 3.58 ERA for the Pirates before being dealt to the White Sox in 1982, where he concluded his MLB run. He died two years later at age 34 in a car wreck. His nickname was bestowed on him by his family who called him Buddy Jay.
Buddy Solomon 1981 Donruss
  • 1979 - 2B Akinori Iwamura was born in Uwajima, Japan. He didn’t leave much of a legacy, hitting .182 in 52 games during part of 2010 before being released. But Aki did trigger one move that helped the Pirates for years: his sub-par performance opened the door for catcher turned third baseman turned second baseman Neil Walker to earn a starting job. Beginning with that season, Walker held down the position for six years, hitting .272 and earning a 2014 Silver Slugger award before being dealt to the Mets in the 2015 off season.

2/9 Happenings: Satchel, Oscar HoF Call, Ross Wins Arb, Preacher Dinged, Leyland DD-MoY

  • 1946 - Talk about your off season mishaps! Bucco LHP Preacher Roe’s 148 strikeouts in 1945 led the NL and he was selected for the All-Star Game. But while coaching high school basketball after the season, Roe suffered a concussion (some say he actually fractured his skull) in a fight with a referee. His pitching fell off a cliff, dropping from 27 wins in 1944-45 to seven in 1946-47, and his ERA doubled. He was traded to Brooklyn, where he lasted seven seasons, winning 93 games while earning four All-Star berths. Some credit the comeback to a return to health while others credited his new pitch - the spitter.
Satchel as a Crawford 1936 (photo Leon Day Foundation)
  • 1971 - RHP Satchel Paige became the first Negro League star to be selected to the Hall of Fame. Satch pitched for both the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords and was inducted on August 9th. He finally broke the color line in 1948 at the age of 41, and tossed six big-league seasons, with a pair of All-Star berths and a World Series title with the 1948 Cleveland Indians.
  • 1976 - The Hall of Fame Special Committee on the Negro Leagues selected OF Oscar Charleston for enshrinement. In 1932, Charleston became player-manager of the Pittsburgh Crawfords with a roster that included Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Judy Johnson. The team went 99-36, and Charleston himself batted .363 in what was one of the best Negro League teams ever assembled. He managed the Crawfords through 1937 and was also a player with the Homestead Grays. Oscar was inducted on August 9th.
  • 1991 - Jim Leyland was presented with the Dapper Dan Sportsmen of the Year award. Leyland led the 1990 Pirates to a 95-67 record and its first NL Eastern Division title in 11 years. He was named the NL Manager of the Year by both the Baseball Writers and The Sporting News. Jimmy hung around for 11 years with the Bucs (1986-96), winning 851 games and three division titles.
Ross Ohlendorf 2011 Topps Gold
  • 2011 - RHP Ross Ohlendorf was an arbitration winner after being awarded a salary of $2.025M by a three-judge panel. He went 1-11/4.07 in 2010 while earning a $439K paycheck. He rejected the Pirates $1.4M off-season offer to trigger the hearing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2/8: Frankie Signs; Josh & Buck HoF; HBD Cookie & Monty; Danny & Joe DD Honorees; The King

  • 1918 - LHP Arthur “Cookie” Cuccurullo was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He spent his three year MLB career as a Pirate from 1943-45, with a record of 3-5-5 and 4.55 ERA in 62 games, nine of which were starts. Cookie was one of many ballplayers who filled in during the war years and returned to the minors afterward.
Monty Basgall 1951 (photo William Jacobellis/National Press Photography) 
  • 1922 - 2B Romanus “Monty” Basgall was born in Pfeifer, Kansas. Monty was a yo-yo player for the Bucs from 1948-51, hitting just .215 as he went back and forth from the minors to the show. He was in the Pirate system until 1958, ending his pro career as a player/manager at Waco, Beaumont and Lincoln. He went on to become a successful scout and coach for the Dodgers.
  • 1959 - Manager Danny Murtaugh and GM Joe Brown were honored at the Dapper Dan dinner at the Penn Sheraton Hotel. Murtaugh was the top awardee, recognized for publicizing Pittsburgh sports (he beat out the Steelers’ QB Bobby Layne) and Brown was recognized for his contributions to Pittsburgh sports while Bob Friend, Bill Mazeroski, Roy Face and Frank Thomas were also given awards for outstanding performances in 1957.
  • 1967 - Eddie Feigner, headliner softball pitcher of the King and his Court, appeared in a charity softball game at Dodger Stadium and struck out six MLB players in a row, including Roberto Clemente, allegedly tossing a 114 MPH underhand heater.
Thunder Twins Josh & Buck (image via MLB Network)
  • 1972 - C Josh Gibson and OF Walter “Buck” Leonard were selected for the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues. Gibson, the “Black Babe Ruth,” played for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. His statue is at Nationals Park, where the Grays often played, and Ammon Field in the Hill District was renamed to honor him. The Grays’ Leonard batted behind him and became known as the “Black Lou Gehrig.” The “Thunder Twins” were inducted on August 7th.
  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano was signed as a free agent. The Cisco Kid had agreed to a two-year contract worth $12.75M on December 12th, 2012, but broke his arm before the physical, voiding the deal. A new two-year agreement was reached with lots of incentives based on starts that would allow him to reach the original contract figures. Frankie came back May 11th, finishing 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and was the NL Comeback Player of the Year. He followed that with a 7-10 slate in 2014 with a 3.38 ERA, netting a three-year contract during the off season. Frankie was shipped to Toronto at the 2016 deadline.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2/7 Birthdays: HBD Joe, Clipper, Terin, Adrian & Humberto

  • 1927 - Coach Joe Lonnett was born in Koppel, Beaver County. He graduated from Beaver Falls High School and lived in Brighton Township for 45 years before passing away in 2011. He was a catcher for four seasons with the Phillies from 1956-59 before joining the coaching ranks. A long time bud of Chuck Tanner, he came to Pittsburgh with him from the AL - he was with Tanner when he managed the Chicago White Sox (1971-75) and Oakland Athletics (1976) - and was a part of the Pirates staff from 1977-84, serving as the third base coach for the Bucs during the 1979 World Series Championship season.
Felipe Montemayor (photo via Baseball Happenings)
  • 1928 - OF/1B Felipe “Clipper” Montemayor was born in Monterrey, Mexico. He played for Pittsburgh in 1953 and again in 1955, hitting .173 as one of the first Mexican MLB players. But he did have his day in the sun despite the stats. Montemayor had two career home runs, and they came in both ends of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 1st, 1955. The Clipper had a long career (1948-68) although Pittsburgh was his only MLB stop - he started at age 20 and ended his playing days at 40, playing both in the US minors and the Mexican League.
  • 1937 - LHP Juan “Terin” Pizarro was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. The lefty had an 18-year MLB stint and spent 1967 and part of ‘68 with the Pirates, then returned for his last campaign in 1974, slashing 10-12-9/3.55 as a bullpen guy and occasional starter for the Bucs. Juan was a partier who lived large. Per Rory Costello of SABR, “In his childhood, he got the nickname that stuck with him for life, ‘Terín,’ (because) the neighborhood kids likened him to the main character of the comic strip ‘Terry and the Pirates.’” Pizarro was selected into the Caribbean Confederation and the Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fames with a lifetime line of 157-110/2.51 compiled during his Puerto Rican Winter League work (with an additional 38 wins in the Mexican League) to go along with his 131 major league victories and two All-Star selections.
  • 1974 - OF Adrian Brown was born in McComb, Mississippi. A 48th round draft pick in 1992, he beat the odds by having a nine year MLB career, the first six (1997 - 2002) with the Pirates as a reserve. He hit .261 during his Pittsburgh stay. The switch-hitter had a breakout 2000 campaign when he hit .315 w/ four HRs, 64 runs, 28 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 104 games/340 PA. But he had a pair of DL trips that season with hammy issues, and it got worse when he had rotator cuff/labrum surgery out of camp in 2001, costing him virtually all of the season. He never again came close to matching those 2000 numbers.
Humberto Cota 2006 (photo Jamie Squire/Getty)
  • 1979 - C Humberto Cota was born in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. Cota was the Pirate backup catcher for his entire MLB career of seven seasons (2001-07) with a .233 lifetime BA after coming over from Tampa Bay as part of the Jose Guillen deal. He became a free agent in 2008 and signed with the Rox but failed a drug test. Cota was suspended for 50 games and never got another call to the show.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2/6: HBD Glenn, Dale, Smoky, Richie & El Toro; RIP Ralph; DD Honors For Clint & Cutch; Sanchez Signed

  • 1901 - SS Glenn Wright was born in Archie, Missouri. He played five years (1924-28) for Pittsburgh, hitting .294, and was considered one of the league’s elite shortstops until a shoulder injury suffered in 1929. Wright was a member of the 1925 and 1927 World Series clubs and was named a Sporting News All-Star in ‘25 while finishing fourth in the NL-MVP vote.
Glenn Wright 1926 W512 strip card
  • 1926 - 1B Dale Long was born in Springfield, Missouri. Long played four seasons for the Pirates (1951, 1955-57), hitting 27 homers in 1956 and earning a spot on the All-Star team. He put his name in the record books that year by hitting eight home runs in eight consecutive games between May 19th and May 28th, still the MLB standard, tied but never topped. Long was one of the few lefties that caught (though not much) in the majors. The big guy had a choice of careers; he turned down an audition with the Green Bay Packers to focus on baseball.
  • 1927 - C Smoky Burgess was born in Caroleen, NC. He spent six years (1959-64) as Pirate platoon catcher, hitting .296 as a Buc and was a key part of the 1960 World Series club. People sometimes forget what a nice player Smoky was. Burgess was a six-time All-Star who led NL catchers in fielding percentage three times, while his MLB record of 145 career pinch hits (a late career specialty) wasn’t broken until 1979 by Manny Mota. Smoky also called every pitch during Harvey Haddix’s legendary 12-inning perfecto against the Milwaukee Braves in 1959.
  • 1949 - LF Richie Zisk was born in Brooklyn. A third round pick in the of the 1966 draft, he spent six years in Pittsburgh (1971-76), hitting .299 as a Buc before being traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of the Goose Gossage deal. He made post-season appearances with the 1974 and 1975 Pirates, batting .400 in the playoffs, and hit for the cycle against the Giants in 1974.
Richie Zisk (photo Icon Sportswire/Getty)
  • 1987 - 3B Pedro Alvarez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. El Toro, who played at Vandy, was drafted in the first round (second overall) of the 2008 MLB draft. A last minute signing, complicated by some posturing by the FO and Scott Boras along with a suit filed by the MLBPA, was resolved and he joined the club, ultimately receiving a $6.4M bonus. He’s developed into a middling average, high strikeout, middle-of-the-order boomer since his 2010 MLB debut. Pedro tied for the NL lead in homers in 2013 with 36, also netting an All-Star berth, but spent 2014 with a bad case of the yips at the hot corner, triggering a switch to first base in 2015. That didn’t work out, and he was non-tendered in the off season. El Toro played with the O’s last year and is a free agent now.
  • 2013 - Two-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen was honored with the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year Award. He hit .327/.400/.533 with 31 home runs in a breakout 2012 season. A total of 18 Pirates have received the Dapper Dan SOY honor, but McCutchen was only the second in the past 20 years and the first since Jason Kendall in 2000.
  • 2013 - The Pirates signed free agent LHP Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal. He broke camp as the fifth starter but was released on May 8th after posting a 0-3/11.85 line. Known as “The Comeback Kid,” he may be all out of bounce backs. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since, although he has inked a couple of minor league contracts.
Jonathan Sanchez 2013 (photo J Meric/Getty)
  • 2014 - Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle was honored as the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year. Hurdle joined Andrew McCutchen, Ralph Kiner, Danny Murtaugh, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker as winners of the award. Cutch was the 2013 winner, and it was the first time Pirates had won back-to-back Dapper Dans since The Cobra in 1978 and Cap’n Willie in 1979.
  • 2014 - Pirate Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner passed away at the age of 91. He was the game’s greatest home run hitter following World War II, elected to six All-Star Games and led or tied for the NL lead in home runs in his first seven seasons in baseball. Kiner finished with 369 HRs, 1,015 RBIs, 1,451 hits, a .279 BA, and walked 100 or more times in six of his 10 MLB seasons. After his ball playing days, Ralph closed out his career with a 52-year gig calling NY Mets’ games.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Notes: Outfield Shuffle, Josh & Jung-Ho News, National Analysis, Moves

February is starting off just s slowly as January was...

  • Well, not exactly the news you want two weeks before camp opens: After suffering some (wait for it) discomfort, 1B/OF Josh Bell had surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee. Recovery time is estimated at 2-4 weeks. It's not the first time his knee has cost him time; he also was shut down in 2012 and 2014 because of it. His status for Opening Day is TBD.
Josh's knee is still giving him problems (2016 Bowman Scout's Top 100)
  • Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette reported that Jung Ho Kang will undergo voluntary alcohol counseling/treatment after his third DUI. He ehas yet to be disciplined by the league for his escapade. It's also up in the air as to how the charge may affect his visa status.
  • Starling Marte tweeted that he's going to be the Buccos CF in 2017 (the Twitter translation thingie came up with "The OF @Starlingmart confirms that it will play in the central Prairie for next season by the Pittsburgh Pirates."). After the horse escaped the barn, the Bucs belatedly announced that Gregory will move to left, Starling to center and Andrew to right, where there's less prairie to guard and a short wall that will protect his arm. The biggest transition, we think, won't be for Cutch but for El Coffee, who showed some route-running issues that will be magnified in LF.
  • Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth thinks the Pirates will be better than anticipated this year despite their quiet winter, as he expects the starting rotation to be much improved.
A healthy year from Gerrit would be a big boost (2016 Donruss)
  • On the other hand, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated thinks the Bucco off season has been "directionless."
  • Joe Trezza of MLB.com takes his shot at naming the five best players from Western Pennsylvania.
  • Big Mike Zagurski is back in the States. After two years of tossing in Japan, the lefty signed a minor league deal with Detroit.
  • Zach Thornton, who tossed for the Buc system in 2013-14 and is now with the Mets organization will pitched for team Israel in the WBC.

2/5: HBD Tiger, Barney Passes On, Ted Hired, Steady Freddy Inked

  • 1928 - 3B Don Hoak was born in the Potter County town of Roulette. The Tiger played four years for the Pirates (1959-62), hitting .281 and was renowned for his scrappy play on the diamond, living up to his resume as an ex-boxer and Marine. After his playing days ended, Hoak was a Pirates' broadcaster for two years and managed a couple of seasons in the Pirate farm system.
Don Hoak 1961 Topps
  • 1932 - Longtime owner and one of baseball’s early pathfinders Barney Dreyfuss died at 66, leaving Pirate ownership to his widow Florence and his son-in-law Bill Benswanger. Not only was he influential in Pittsburgh, building a solid franchise and a signature park, but he was also a sturdy rudder for baseball as it sailed some stormy seas in its early decades. In Dan Bonk’s Story of Forbes Field, it was noted that “Between 1895 and 1932, Dreyfuss was in the middle of every important decision facing professional baseball including syndication, contraction, league conflicts, the Federal League, schedules, and of course, the scandal arising out of the 1919 World Series.”
  • 1992 - The Pirates hired Ted Simmons as General Manager. He served in that position for only a year, retiring after suffering a heart attack in June 1993. He was under a lot of job-related stress, as ownership wanted to trim payroll, resulting in a decidedly antsy locker room as the players waited for the next head to roll during the salary purge.
Freddy Sanchez 2007 Bowman Heritage
  • 2008 - 2B “Steady” Freddy Sanchez inked a two year, $11M contract with an option for $8M in 2010. He lasted half way through it in Pittsburgh as Freddy was traded at the 2009 deadline to the Giants for RHP Tim Alderson. Sanchez played only one full season for the G-Men, the 2010 World Series campaign, as knee and shoulder injuries eroded his career. Alderson never cashed in as a Pirate prospect and is in the Nats system at last look.