Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2/26: Starr-for-Simon; Tommy's Toss; Player/Mgmt Summit; HBD Preacher, Vic, Stan, Sonny, Sam & Wobby

  • 1863 - IF Simeon Henry Jean “Sam” LaRocque was born in St. Mathias, Quebec. Sam played fairly regularly for Pittsburgh in 1890, getting into 111 games w/481 PA, hitting .242, but after just one outing in 1891 was shipped to Louisville, where he ended his pro career. Sam did stay in baseball, managing in the minors. 
  • 1891 - 2B Jack “Wobby” Hammond was born in Amsterdam, New York. A star high school athlete signed by the Indians, he got three brief stops in the show, his last being a nine-game, 12-at bat stand with the Bucs in 1922 when he was 31, batting .273. Wobby showed a good stick in the minors, but mostly played at Class A. He retired from the Kansas City Blues the year after his Pirates debut. He hit .300, but at his age, the clock was against him. 
Chief Zimmer (as a Nap) couldn't broker a deal - 1887 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1901 - After a bout of AL raids and player league-jumping, the NL suits sat down with Pirates catcher Chief Zimmer, the president of the Players Protective Association, and agreed to contract concessions for NL’ers who stayed home, including recognition of the union, a one-year reserve clause and minor league clarifications. Zimmer promised to suspend members of the union who jumped leagues in return. The summit didn’t work; the players expected more leeway and continued to move to the AL while the beleaguered union folded after the 1903 season. 
  • 1909 - The Pirates traded IF Charlie Starr to the Boston Doves for a PTBNL, who ended up being C Mike Simon, sent to the Bucs a few days later. 1909 was Starr’s last season while Simon was a Bucco reserve catcher for the next five years, compiling a .244 BA and tossing out 45% or more of base stealers four of his five campaigns. 
  • 1916 - LHP Elwin “Preacher” Roe was born in Ash Flat, Arizona. Preacher worked early in his career with the Pirates from 1944-47, where he was 34-47/3.73. He started off with two strong years, but an off season cracked noggin in 1945 from a tussle with a basketball ref was followed by a pair of poor campaigns. Preacher was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and bloomed (a spitter added to his arsenal was said to have helped him mightily), earning four All-Star berths and pitching in three different World Series. There are two versions of how he got his childhood nickname. One is that he was an ornery kid, and his grandma called him "Preacher" in hopes that he would eventually turn into one. The other, more likely, is that a minister and his wife used to ride him around whenever they went out on their buggy, and he became Preacher because of his association with them. 
  • 1930 - C/3B Vic Janowicz was born in Elyria, Ohio. A gridiron All-America and Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, Janowicz passed on football to sign for $75K as a bonus baby with the Bucs. He hit only .214 over two seasons (1953-54) as a bench player. He returned to football late in the 1954 season with the Washington Redskins and was their starting halfback in 1955. An automobile accident in 1956 ended his athletic career. 
  • 1936 - Tommy Padden, a Pirates catcher, reportedly tossed a silver dollar about 475 feet over the Merrimack River and into a snow pile in front of a large crowd. He did this to emulate the feat of the Senator’s Walter “Big Train” Johnson, who flipped a coin across the Rappahannock a few days prior to copy the alleged feat of George Washington per the New Hampshire History Blog. 
Nice arm on Tommy Padden - photo via New Hampshire Historical Society
  • 1941 - 1B George “Sonny” Kopacz was born in Chicago. Sonny was a AAAA player who spent 14 seasons in the minors, eight in AAA, and in 1970 was the International League’s MVP with a line of .310/29/115 for the Pirates Columbus Jets. That campaign earned him a cup of coffee with the Bucs, but in 10 games he went 3-for-16 with no extra base knocks. He spent three more seasons a step away in AAA, retiring after the 1973 season at the age of 32. 
  • 1961 - Pitching coach Stan Kyles was born in Chicago. After an 11-year minor league pitching career, Kyles began coaching in the indie leagues and quickly got gigs with the Cubs (1992-93, 1997-2000), Rockies (1994-96) and Brewers (2001-12), spending his final three years as Milwaukee’s bullpen coach. In 2013, he took over the pitching reins at AA Altoona and has taught in the Pirates system throughout various levels.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Bucs Bats Remain AWOL; Phils Come Back Late to Take 6-2 Win

Big Joe Musgrove got his first call of the spring this afternoon, and like yesterday's ball spinners, it was zeroes galore. Joe tossed two scoreless frames, then Michael Feliz, Clay Holmes and Blake Cederlind continued the trend while the Philly arms kept their end clean. It was scoreless after five, with the Bucs owners of two hits and the Phils with one. The Phillies struck in the sixth when a pair of doubles, the run-producer banged with two outs, off Miguel Del Pozo to break the deadlock.

Is Big Joe trying to flip a Zoltan?- photo Pittsburgh Pirates

But not for long. JR (John Ryan) Murphy, yet another new Bucco backstop, got a ball into the jet stream (despite the low score, it is a breezy day at the beach) and drove it well over the fence. It scored Dylan Busby (running for Redbeard, who had walked), and gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. It didn't hold up long. Willams Jerez gave up two singles and a walk around a whiff to start the seventh. The Bucs couldn't turn an around-the-horn DP, and the added life gave the Phils the edge again at 5-2 following a two-out, wind-aided double and triple; the gusts cut both ways. The inning ended on a sharp play; a delayed steal of home was sniffed out and cut down 2-4-2. Pittsburgh, looking much like the SOB, left the bases loaded in their half.

Matt Eckelman put up a zero in the eighth and the Pittsburgh batters went down 1-2-3. Brandon Waddell gave up three straight two-out knocks to give Philadelphia another run in the final frame. Cal Mitchell singled for the Buccos, but that was the extent of their comeback as they fell for the third time, 6-2.

JR pulled a ball into the parking lot - photo MLB.com

Tomorrow: The Buccos host the Red Sox at LECOM Park at 1:05. The game will be aired on AT&T SportsNet & 93.7 The Fan.

Notes:
  • 20-year-old OF Cal Mitchell had two hits; the Pirates as a team had six.
  • JR Murphy's homer was the Bucs first of the spring.
  • Kevin Newman, Colin Moran and Gregory Polanco (DH) took their turn in the lineup today.

2/25: Womack-for-Boyd; Lawton Signs; CBA; Anti-Trust Upheld; Strike Authorized; Catch a Cab; HBD Syd, Phils & Jim

  • 1893 - LHP Phil Slattery was born in Harper, Iowa. He got his only sip from the MLB well in 1915, doing nicely as a Bucco. In three outings covering eight frames, the 22-year-old pitched scoreless ball, giving up just five hits and a walk. His Bucco stop was in between stints with Marshallville of the Central Association, and that’s where he returned to after his September audition in Pittsburgh. Phil remained in the minors until 1921 when he retired. 
The overworked 1906 Bucs at Hot Springs: photo Farrell Studios via Arkansas Sports Encyclopedia
  • 1906 - Pampered players department: The Pittsburgh Press reported that for spring drills in Hot Springs, manager Fred Clarke decided to “...do away with the running in from the park to the hotel after afternoon practice. The road is a hard one the players injured their legs while sprinting. If the men rode in open cars, they caught cold. Clarke will try to have a closed car held...until practice ends.” The team opened camp March 14th, barnstormed through a seven-game exhibition schedule starting April 4th and started playing for keeps (hopefully sniffle-free & with fresh legs) on April 12th. 
  • 1929 - Pirate GM Syd Thrift was born in Locust Hill, Virginia. Thrift had been out of baseball for nine years when he was the surprise hire for general manager in 1985. He brought in dark horse Jim Leyland as manager and dealt veterans like Don Robinson, Tony Pena and Rick Reuschel in exchange for young prospects like Doug Drabek, Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, Mike Dunne, Chico Lind and Jeff Robinson. Thrift's term ended after the 1988 season when he was fired after noisily butting heads with team ownership. He’s credited for laying the foundation for the team's success in the early nineties under Jim Leyland. 
  • 1931 - RHP Jim Dunn was born in Valdosta, Georgia. His only MLB work was done with the Bucs in 1952; in three outings, he went 0-1/3.38 in 5-⅓ IP as a 21-year-old. He started in the Pirates system after being signed in 1951 out of Alabama, and the Pirates lost him in the 1955 minor league draft. He pitched solidly in 1955-57, going through three levels with the Bucs and Cubs, but hit the wall in AA in 1958 and retired a year later at age 28. 
  • 1957 - In a big day for MLB, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-3 that baseball is the only professional sport exempt from antitrust laws, withstanding a challenge from the NFL. Ever since, congressmen (mainly from areas without teams) have threatened to rescind the exemption, but baseball has managed to dodge the bullet so far. The case was Radovich v. National Football League, and the NFL tried to sway the court to give it the same antitrust status as baseball, but the Supremes ruled that was a matter for legislative, not judicial, action. 
  • 1973 - A new three-year CBA was reached between MLB and the MLBPA. Included items were a $15,000 minimum salary, salary arbitration, and the '10 and five' rule, which allowed a player with 10 years in the major leagues, the last five with his current team, to veto a trade. The players were briefly locked out of camp before the deal was agreed upon. 
Lockout Ends - Pgh Press 2/26/1973
  • 1981 - The MLBPA voted for a strike authorization on May 29th if free agent compensation wasn’t settled. It wasn’t and the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, the first work stoppage that resulted in regular season games being cancelled, began on June 12th after an NLRB hearing couldn’t resolve the issue. It forced the cancellation of 713 games before the two sides reached an agreement on July 31st and play resumed on August 10th, with the Pirates getting just 102 games in, the fewest in baseball. The 1981 campaign was split into first and second half winners w/playoffs and the compensation issue was never resolved satisfactorily. The negotiations were so toxic that when peace returned, MLBPA’s Marvin Miller and MLB negotiator Ray Grebey refused to shake hands or even pose with one another; the animosity would lead to more stoppages and the 1994-95 strike that cancelled an entire season. 
  • 1987 - RHP Phil Irwin was born in Germantown, Tennessee. The U of Mississippi hurler was drafted in the 19th round of the 2009 draft on the recommendation of scout Darren Mazeroski and compiled a promising minor league resume. He was called up for a so-so spot start in 2013 and injured his arm upon his return to Indy, requiring ulnar nerve surgery (he had a forearm issue in 2012 which was likely the first sign of the damage) and never made it back. He was DFA’ed by the Pirates in 2014 and claimed by the Rangers. He made one start for them and spent his last pro season in Korea in 2015. 
  • 1999 - The Pirates traded 2B Tony Womack to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a PTBNL (P Jason Boyd, who was sent over in August) and minor league OF Paul Weichard. The original deal (Womack/Al Martin for Bernard Gilkey) had been hung up when Gilkey wouldn’t agree to contract revisions. Womack led the NL in steals for three straight seasons, two with the Bucs, and played on Arizona and St. Louis World Series clubs. Mike Benjamin was supposed to keep the spot warm until Warren Morris was ready for everyday action, but the deal instead led to an unsettled situation at second with Morris, Pat Meares, Pokey Reese and Abraham Nunez holding down 2B until Jose Castillo’s arrival in 2004. Boyd got into four games as a Pirate while Weichard was a teenage lottery ticket who was often hurt and in four Pirates seasons never got past AA. 
Matt Lawton - 2005 Studio Plus
  • 2005 - OF Matt Lawton signed a one-year, $7.75M deal with the Pirates. The Bucs traded him at the deadline to the Cubs for Jody Gerut. He had a solid half season, hitting .273 with 10 HR and 44 RBI before being flipped. It was his last hurrah; he played 11 games in 2006 to close out his 12-year career.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Pirates Rally With Two Gone in Ninth To Earn 3-3 Tie

Hey, nothing like a Gerrit Cole sighting, even if it's two teams and a few zillion dollars later. He rubbed off - there was some stalwart tossing going on, with K's (and walks) but not much hitting.The Bucs couldn't solve the Pinstripers while Chris Stratton, Geoff Hartleib, Edgar Santana, Yacksel Rios and Luis Escobar posted zippos through five. The Bucs had one knock, a Jake Stallings two-bagger, and the Bronx Bombers banged just a pair of raps; a couple of Bucco DP's, both involving Cole Tucker, Fraze (each started one/turned another) and J-Bell, eased the pressure.

Chris Stratton started the Pirates off on the right foot - photo Jennifer Stewart/Getty
The Pirates dented the scoreboard in the sixth, although they continued to shoot themselves in the foot with runners on. B-Rey was bopped by a pitch, Tuck singled him to third, and a J-Bell 4-6-3 DP chased Reynolds home as it killed the inning. The Bucs added on in the seventh when two soft hits and a two-out passed ball (thx, old buddy Erik Kratz) allowed Oneil Cruz to plate. Nik Turley handed the 2-0 lead over to Nick Mears. He loaded the bases with two outs, then launched a wild pitch before giving up a two-run knock, and the Pirates were in the hole for the first time tonight.

Samuel Reyes, Pablo's little bro, posted another zero for the Buccaneers. The 'Burg batters, eh - five of the next six fanned. But the one who didn't, Andrew Susac, walked with one gone, scooted to third on Ke'Bryan Hayes two-down flare into short right and tied the game when Jason Martin rolled one up the middle. Pedro Vasquez toed the slab and worked a 1-2-3, two-whiff frame - Pittsburgh has struck out 10 and the Yankees 14. And that was it; the game ended 3-3 thanks to some two out lightning and a thoroughly used up complement of pitchers. The two teams worked a total of 17 twirlers, each spinning at least a frame.

Edgar Santana worked his first frame since 2018 - photo Pittsburgh Pirates
Tomorrow: The Bucs already have a rematch, taking on the Phils at LECOM Park at 1:05 after dropping a 4-3 decision to them yesterday at Spectrum Field. The game is on AT&T SportsNet.

Notes:
  • Jake Stallings had a single, double and was nicked by a pitch. Ke'Bryan Hayes also had a pair of knocks. And that was about it - the Bucs only had two more hits, drew three walks and were HBP twice.
  • Archie was supposed to take his first bow tonight, but was scratched with a stiff neck, with the skip made just as a springtime precaution rather than a necessity per Archer & the team. Chris Stratton got the call instead; he was already scheduled as part of the team's rotation against the Yankees.
  • Shelty gave a couple of regulars some playing time today - Fraze, Bryan Reynolds, J-Bell and Stalls got their first outings of the spring. The Yanks pretty much sent out their A team.
  • Quick take: Pirates pitchers loved Stall's game-management last year, and seem to be on the same page with Luke Maile early on. They're also pretty heads-up in the field and on the bases; hopefully, the fundamentals will carry on during the season.
  • Lonnie Chisenhall officially retired; that $2.75M the Pirates gave him last year was a nice parting gift. He mostly stayed home last season with a bum leg, although he did manage to fit in seven games with Indy first.

2/24: Bucs Sue to Break Lease; Greenberg Doc Debuts; HBD Hans, Wilbur, Earl, Bronson, John Henry & Steamboat

  • 1874 - Hall of Famer (he was part of the first class, with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, et al) Honus Wagner was born in Chartiers, now a part of Carnegie. Considered by many to be the greatest SS to ever play, he spent 18 years (1900-17) with Pittsburgh and played on a pair of World Series teams, winning in 1909. The Flying Dutchman won eight NL batting titles with a lifetime .328 BA. He drove in 100+ runs nine times and scored 100+ runs seven times. Wagner also served as a Pirate coach from 1933-51 and very briefly as a player/manager. 
Wilbur Cooper: 1915-19 The Sporting News Archives
  • 1892 - LHP Wilbur Cooper was born in Bearsville, West Virginia. Cooper tossed for 13 years in Pittsburgh (1912-24), winning 202 games, the most in Pirate history, with a 2.74 ERA and 263 complete games to his credit. He and Carl Mays are the only two 20th century pitchers who worked over 3,000 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. 
  • 1898 - 2B John Henry Russell was born in Dolcito, Alabama. He played second and short for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932-33, batting between Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston while earning a 1933 All-Star bid. Russell was considered one of the Negro League’s premier defenders and earned his keep at the dish, hitting .276 for Pittsburgh per Seamheads. Russell finished his career the following season at age 36 with the Cleveland Red Sox. 
  • 1907 - C Earl Grace was born in Barlow, Kentucky. He was a reserve catcher for the Bucs for five seasons (1931-35) with a .275 BA, coming over from the Cubs for C Rollie Hemsley. Earl handled a glove as well as he handled a bat. In 1932, he finished the season with just one error in 413 chances to establish a then NL record with a .998 fielding percentage. Grace spent 15 seasons in organized ball, retiring in 1940 and becoming a Phoenix-based real estate broker who occasionally did some scouting for the Yankees. Trivia: Earl was traded three times in his career; all three deals were for a different catcher. 
  • 1909 - P Clarence “Steamboat” Struss was born in Riverdale, Illinois. In 1934, Steamboat was called up from Little Rock, where he was the Southern Association’s strikeout leader. The 25-year-old “smokeball” artist got the start for the last game of the season, the back end of a twinbill at Wrigley. Steamboat gave up six runs (five earned) in seven innings. Struss held the Cubs to seven hits, but six walks and a wild pitch that plated the winning run were more than enough to do him in. He did help himself, though, by smacking a two-run double. Struss pitched in the minors until 1941 in the Cub and White Sox systems but never got a second invite to the bigs. 
  • 1977 - RHP Bronson Arroyo was born in Key West Florida. A third round pick of the Bucs in 1995, Bronson debuted with the Pirates in 2000 and worked three seasons for Pittsburgh, splitting the time between starting and the pen while slashing 9-14/5.41. He’s put in more than a decade of MLB work since then, mainly with the Reds, before being derailed by TJ surgery in July of 2014. The 40-year-old came back to pitch a final season for the Reds in 2017, retiring after the year with 16 seasons under his belt. 
Bronson Arroyo - 2002 Topps Total
  • 1981 - How close were the Bucs to leaving? The Pirates, bleeding money, filed suit in the Allegheny County Courthouse for the annulment of its lease at Three Rivers Stadium after receiving relocation overtures from New Orleans, Washington & Tampa. The case was eventually resolved when the Galbreath family sold the team in 1985 to a public-private partnership after threatening bankruptcy. 
  • 2000 - “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” had its local premiere at the Carnegie Museum of Art as part of the Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival. The 1998 documentary featured archival shots, interviews and songs of Hammerin’ Hank’s era. Greenberg caught a lot of grief by being baseball's first Jewish superstar, and was considered by many Jews to be their equivalent of Jackie Robinson. The film was well received; it won a dozen various awards between 1998-2001.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bad Day For Starters - Bucs Go Down 8-4 v Detroit, 4-3 v Phils & Notes

Day Two: Derek Holland got the start against the Tigers at LECOM Park today in an 8-4 loss. D's second pitch was banged over the fence, then he settled in to fan the side. Will Craig's sac fly small-balled the tying run in the Bucco half. Holland was tagged with another run after giving up a pair of two-baggers; the Pirates rallied back with an RBI double from Oneil Cruz and a flare to left by JT Riddle to plate Cruz to take the lead at 3-2.

Luke Maile: Gloveman has a pair of hits- photo MLB. 

That was the highlight. Ric Rod and Sam Howard each worked an inning and gave up a run (plus the lead), and a three-run shot off Robbie Erlin by Daniel Pinero iced it. Cal Mitchell's sac fly scored Jason Delay (yes, both Bucs) in the eighth, but Riley Greene's dinger off Nick Economos in the ninth made the final 8-4 El Tigres.  Motown banged four homers, though Steven Brault, Keona Kela and Dovydas Neverauskas (a guy to watch this spring; he and Clay Holmes are the guys thought most likely to rebound under a new staff) put up scoreless frames. JT Riddle and Luke Maile each had two raps for the Pirates.

And yes, the Bucs played two: Don Kelly got to manage the bus boys as Trevor Williams took the hill against the Phils at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. That one was close, but again no cigar as the Pirates fell 4-3. Williams was not ready for prime time; he was rattled for four runs in the opening frame, surrendering four hits, a walk and tossing a wild pitch. He then twirled a 1-2-3 second, and the rest of the hill gang - Hector Noesi, Nick Burdi, Montana DuRapau, JT Brubaker, Cody Ponce and Blake Weiman - posted a zero the rest of the way, giving up just four hits.

Nick Burdi on the comeback trail - 2019 Topps

The Bucs got two back in the third on a pair of walks, both chased home by a pair of ground ball singles, one off a glove. They cut the lead to one when Jake Elmore doubled home Jared Olivo. The Steel City nine put runners on first and third in the eighth, but a strikeout was followed by a caught stealing to meekly squelch that effort. The Pirates had runners on first and second in the ninth with an out, but no luck again - they finished the day 3-for-15 w/RISP and stranded a dozen men on the basepaths. Jose Osuna had the club's only two-hit outing. So there's a new staff in town, but sadly, the SOB have showed up the past two days at the dish.

Tomorrow: The Bucs visit the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the spring's first night game at 6:35. The game will be aired on 93.7 The Fan.

Notes:
  • One thing  the early slog shows is the importance of Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds and even Colin Moran to the lineup - with Starling and his 23 HR gone, this team has no muscle but isn't built for small ball. How Shelty and the braintrust manage to grind out runs is going to be the key to whatever success they'll have. You can see an effort to increase the team's speed, but Oneil Cruz is the only near-term prospect with plus power. It's gonna be interesting to follow that process...
Oneil Cruz:  future muscle? - photo 2019 MLB Pipeline
  • S/O to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, who reported that the Bucs added 18-year-old Taiwanese SS Tsung-Che Cheng to the camp roster today. He signed for $380K in July as one of their top rated international signings.
  • Shelty had the perfect gang to kick off his managing career with yesterday, his old buds from the Twins, manager Rocco Baldelli, Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew and Tony Oliva. The foursome got in a little pre game socializing before the main event.

2/23 Through the 1960’s: Pud Signs; Regan Fete; RIP Bill; HBD Barney, Bo, Ray, T-Bone, Hedi & Mike

  • 1865 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss was born in Freiburg, Baden (Germany). He is often credited with the creation of the modern baseball World Series. Dreyfuss also built one of baseball's first modern steel and concrete baseball parks, Forbes Field, in 1909. During his period of ownership (1900-1932), the Pirates won six NL pennants, with World Series titles in 1909 and 1925; only the New York Giants won more NL championships during the same period. He’s in the Hall of Fame as one of the founding fathers that helped steer MLB through its early growing pains.
Pud Galvin - image Dick Perez
  • 1888 - RHP James "Pud" Galvin signed with Pittsburgh for $3,000, including $1,000 in advance. The club offered the ace $3,500 with no front money, but Galvin needed the quick infusion to carry him through the off season. “Gentleman Jeems” ended up in the Hall of Fame as MLB’s first 300-game winner (he claimed 365 victories); he was a much better pitcher than financial planner.
  • 1908 - RHP Ray Brown was born in Alger, Ohio. He tossed for the Homestead Grays from 1932-45,winning 102 NNL games, and to cement the relationship, he even was married to owner Cum Posey’s daughter Ethel. Brown threw a one-hitter in the 1944 Negro League World Series to lead the Grays to the title and pitched a perfect seven-inning game in 1945. In 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier listed Brown as one of five Negro leagues stars who would be certain major leaguers if the color line didn’t exist, along with Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Satchel Paige. All five were voted into the Hall of Fame, with Brown’s election occurring in 2006.
  • 1928 - 2B Bill Regan of Brookline was honored by a local testimonial at the Roosevelt Hotel before he left town for camp. Bill was in the middle of a five-year run with the Red Sox, but was remembered by his local buds (he first made his name as a member of the semi-pro JJ Coyne’s ball club from Oakland) with Honus Wagner leading the speakers list, along with the president of City Council, James Malone, and Duquesne football coach Elmer Layden. Regan did join the hometown nine for his final campaign in 1931.
  • 1958 - Coach John “T-Bone” Shelby was born in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2006, he followed manager Jim Tracy to Pittsburgh, where he was the club's first base coach from 2006-07. He went on to coach in the Baltimore, Milwaukee and Colorado organizations. As for his nickname, he told Andrew Gruman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “I grew up being called T. I told my teammates in rookie ball to call me T and some clown on the team started calling me T-Bone and I hated it. It stuck because I hated it and now I love it.”
  • 1959 - 1B Hediberto “Eddie/Hedi” Vargas was born in Guanica, Puerto Rico. The Bucs signed him in 1977 and he got cups of coffee with the big team in 1982 and again in 1984. Eddie hit .256 but without much power and he couldn’t dislodge Jason Thompson or win a bench spot. He was released in 1985, playing in Mexico & the minors before leaving the game after the 1989 campaign.
Eddie Vargas w/Buffalo - 1981 TCMA
  • 1961 - RHP Mike Smith was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Mike had gotten tastes of the show by working 17 games in four seasons for the Reds & Expos and got his longest exposure as a Bucco in 1989, working 16 times w/24 IP. His counting numbers were OK at 0-1/3.75, but his peripherals told a different tale and that was his last MLB campaign. He closed his career by tossing five years (1996-2000) of indie league ball.
  • 1963 - OF Bobby “Bo” Bonilla was born in the Bronx. The switch hitter spent six years in Pittsburgh (1986-91) with a line of .284/114/500 and was a four-time All Star for Pittsburgh before leaving in 1991 as an FA, signing a huge deal with the NY Mets. From 1992-94, Bo was the highest-paid player in the league, earning over $6M per season. When he was released with a year left on the deal, the Mets settled the contract by sending him $1.2M every season - for the next 25 years! Bobby played for 16 campaigns in the show with eight teams, retiring at 38 after the 2001 season w/a lifetime .279 BA, 287 HR, 1,084 runs and 1,173 RBI.
  • 1969 - RHP Bill Swift passed away in Bartow, Florida at the age of 60. He tossed eight seasons (1932-39) for the Bucs, with a 91-79/3.57 record. Swift was a workhorse, going 200+ innings and picking up double-digit wins in his first five seasons, topping out with 16 scalps in 1936. He was the poster child for pitch-to-contact, punching out just 3.4 batters/nine IP during his Pittsburgh career, but giving up less than two walks per game and a homer just once every 18 frames. He worked for 11 years in the bigs, and was 3-0-1 as a reliever for the 100-win Brooklyn Dodgers of 1941, the NL champs, in just nine outings.

2/23 From 1970: Martin-Vander Wal; Raul & Luis Sign; Russ Stays Home; Rock in Booth; RIP Vic; HBD Jason & Jaff

  • 1974 - RHP Jason Boyd was born in St. Clair, Illinois. He began his career with the Bucs in 1999 and ended it with another Pirates stop in 2004 after outings in Philly, Cleveland, and San Diego. Jason didn’t help himself much - he had a 1-0/4.91 line for the Bucs, broke his hand later in the season after punching the rubber when he was pulled from a minor-league game and had gotten into a couple of 2003 off-season fights. He spent 2005 in the Texas system before ending his pro ball tenure. 
Vic Harris - 1942 Teenie Harris photo/Carnegie Art Museum
  • 1978 - Vic Harris, long time outfielder/manager for the Homestead Grays, passed away at age 72 in San Fernando, California. Vic was born in Florida and moved to Pittsburgh, attending Schenley HS in Oakland. As a player, Harris spend 18 years with Homestead after his 1925 debut, hitting .304, and in nine years as skipper (with eight league titles) beginning in 1936, he led the Grays to a 406-281 record (per Seamheads) while serving as a player/manager for every season but his last in 1946. He even slipped in a campaign with the cross-town rivals, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, hitting .339 in 1934.  
  • 1981 - RHP Luis Tiant signed a minor league deal with the Bucs for a guaranteed $125K. He tossed in Class AAA Portland until August, when the 40-year-old El Tiante was called up, going 2-5 with a 3.92 ERA down the stretch. He was released at the end of the season and tossed in Mexico the following campaign. He was purchased from the Plataneros de Tabasco club in August by California, appearing in six games for the Halos to end his MLB career after 19 seasons and 229 wins. 
  • 1990 - OF’er Jaff Decker was born in Phoenix. A first-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2008 out of high school, he put in a couple of emergency stints in Pittsburgh in 2014-15, getting in 28 games and hitting .214, but with a strong .371 OBP. He's hopscotched organizations since, being with Texas at last look. Jaff got his unique first name thanks to a slip of the pen; he was supposed to be named after his uncle Jeff, but the name was misspelled by a nurse and so Jaff it became. 
  • 2000 - The Bucs dealt Al Martin to the San Diego Padres for OF John Vander Wal and pitchers Jim Sak and Geraldo Padua. The Mariners had also been making a pitch for Martin since the winter meetings and finally got their guy when the Padres sent him to Seattle in July at the deadline. Martin played three more years as a platoon guy while Van der Wal lasted the better part of two seasons for the Bucs before being traded to the Giants and playing through the 2004 campaign. Sak & Padua never made it to the show. 
John Vander Wal - 2008 Pirates Program
  • 2004 - The Pirates, which had been unable to pry Raul Mondesi from the Yankees the year before, signed him to a one-year/$1.75M free agent deal. Mondesi was hitting .283 w/two homers and 14 RBI when he left the team on May 7th to return to the Dominican Republic to fight a lawsuit; he never came back. The Pirates terminated him a couple of weeks later, citing breach of contract. It was suspected he was angling to leave town all along, and that probably was his game plan as he signed with the Angels at the end of the month (he tore a quad and was released from that contract for not showing up for rehab). He finished his 13-year MLB career with a 41-game stint with the Braves in 2005. He went into Dominican politics afterward, and in 2017 was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay a $1.3M fine for corruption and mishandling of public funds while mayor of San Cristóbal. 
  • 2005 - John Wehner made the move from hitting instructor at Altoona to road-crew color man for Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh. He took over for Steve Blass, who announced that he wasn’t travelling anymore and was only going to work home games. The Rock only got to make a couple of cameo spring auditions after applying late in the process, but he aced them to join Lanny Frattare, Greg Brown and Bob Walk in the broadcast booth. 
  • 2013 - C Russell Martin withdrew from the Canadian team roster of the World Baseball Classic because he wasn’t allowed to play shortstop. Both the Pirates and the Canadian team were uncomfortable with the switch, while Martin, who had signed a two-year/$17M deal with the Pirates, told MLB.com that “...I simply didn’t want to catch,” citing concern about the pre-season tournament wear and tear. He had played in 2009 for the Canadian WBC nine.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Bucs Drop Spring Opener 2-1; Camp Notes - News, Injuries, Instructors, Moves

Hey - guess what opened today? Yep. Let the annals show that Mitch Keller started against the Twinkies at LECOM Park, and Guillermo Heredia was first Pirates leadoff batter to begin the Sheltie era. It was alas, a 2-1 loss.

It was 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh - Keller and Miguel DelPozo each tossed a pair of scoreless frames, and Michael Feliz & Clay Holmes also added zeroes while James Marvel was, well, not marvelous with two run on three hits and two walks in his inning. The Bucs were held to one hit, a Cole Tucker single. Del Pozo put up a zippo to start the inning.

Mitch started off his year right - photo Pittsburgh Pirates

For the Bucs, Jason Delay walked and Ke'Bryon Hayes doubled, just missing a tater, to put Pittsburgh in business. But they stayed anchored after a K and comebacker. The Bucs did push across a run off Andrew Susac's (NRI catcher) infield hit off a glove, but Hayes was tossed out trying to tie the score.Williams Jerez and Blake Cederlind followed with goose eggs. The Pirates got a one-out walk from Hayes and an Oneil Cruz rap in the ninth, but Jake Elmore put it to bed when he banged the next pitch back to the box for a game-ending DP.

Nice pitching to start, and each side used 25 players, so lots of introductions all around. And hey - they play two tomorrow!

Tomorrow: The Pirates split the squad. Detroit will visit LECOM at 1:05, with the game on AT&T SportsNet, while a busload of Bucs travel to Clearwater to play Philly at Spectrum Park, also at 1:05, with that match on 93.7 The Fan.

Notes: 
  • No travel blips this year; the whole squad is in camp and on time.
  • Eric Gonzalez isn't quite 100% after breaking his foot in winter ball, but is close enough to get his reps in with some workload monitoring. The Pirates are giving him a look at third in camp per Kevin Gorman of the Tribune Review. Gorman also notes that Kevin Crick discovered he was tipping pitches last year, ID'ed through Bucco analytics, and has that under control now.
  • The Pirates have continued their tradition of special camp instructors with deep roots. This year's gang are Manny Sanguillen, The Candy Man and Omar Moreno. Steve Blass had a jersey on and Billy Maz even stopped by for a week to chat with the boys and drop some knowledge.
  • Pirates injury update: RHP Jameson Taillon is throwing from 90 feet; RHP Geoff Hartlieb (foot) is throwing live BP, RHP Tom Koehler (shoulder) is good to go after missing last season, RHP Nick Burdi (thoracic outlet syndrome) is throwing w/o pain, and RHP Chad Kuhl is on schedule a year after TJ surgery. INF Erik Gonzalez (foot) isn't quite at 100% yet, OF Jason Martin (shoulder) is involved in all the baseball activities to date and Gregory Polanco is clinically healed although the Bucs will be careful with his workload.
Fraze played through the ouchies last year - image Pgh Pirates
  • Per Adam Berry of MLB.com, 2B Adam Frazier revealed that he broke his right index finger last spring and separated his right shoulder on Opening Day. He quietly played through them both and led the Pirates by appearing in 152 games last year.
  • The Pirates are extending the netting at PNC and Bradenton's LECOM Parks, so that it covers basically all the base boxes. Outfield fans are still on their own!
  • Ugh. Pablo Reyes was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for PED Boldenone, with the suspension from the start of season. He wasn't in camp; he had already been moved off the 40-man and placed on Indy's roster during the off season.
  • RHP Jared Hughes signed a minor-league, NRI deal w/the Astros. Guess Houston needed at least one guy at camp no one will hate on, lol.
  • RHP AJ Schugel, 30, has signed with the indie league KC T-Bones. He tossed pretty well for the Pirates (6-2-1/3.00 in 68 outings during 2016-17) but a major shoulder injury in 2018 has derailed him since.
  • The Brewers signed UT Brock Holt to a one-year contract with a club option for 2021.

2/22: Steverino & Orlando Sign; Dickerson Deal; Doc Joins; Welcome to FL & DC; RIP Howie; HBD Frankie, Bills, Roy & Tom

  • 1892 - Pirate suit Bill Benswanger was born in New York City. His family moved to Pittsburgh when he was five and he attended Central HS, located in the Hill. Bill married into owner Barney Dreyfuss’ family, and in 1931 he became the team’s treasurer. Dreyfuss passed away the following year and Benswanger became president, a position he held until 1946. Baseball wasn’t exactly in his blood. He told Vince Johnson of the Post Gazette “I literally got dumped into baseball. I didn’t know a thing about it. I was there just because I was the only man in the family.” But Bill was a quick learner and ran the club creditably before the Dreyfuss family sold it to Frank McKinney’s group for an estimated $2,225,000. 
Roy Spencer - 1925 photo Conlon/Getty
  • 1900 - C Roy Spencer was born in Scranton, NC. He played his first three campaigns in Pittsburgh (1925-27) on two World Series clubs as a reserve, appearing in the ‘27 Classic. In three years, he hit .307 for Pittsburgh. After leaving Pittsburgh, Spencer played nine more seasons, starting from 1929-32 for Washington after sharpening his game by spending a year with Indianapolis of the American Association. 
  • 1911 - C Bill Baker was born in Paw Creek, NC. The backup played four seasons (1941-43, 1946) with Pittsburgh, missing a couple of years while in the Navy during WW2, and hit .247. Baker went into umpiring after his career and worked his way up to an NL arbitrator for a season before his knees finally gave out, an occupational hazard for an old catcher.
  • 1915 - The Pirates bought 1B Doc Johnston from Cleveland for $7,500. It was thought that Doc was brought in to challenge Honus Wagner for the first base slot, with owner Barney Dreyfuss telling the Pittsburgh Press that “No man is certain of his job with the Pirates. Every place is open this spring…” Hans was 41 and it was assumed that he would slide over to cover Ed Konetchy’s spot at first after Konetchy skipped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Federal League. When the season started, Doc was indeed at first, but not at Hans’ expense - the Dutchman held onto his shortstop job, playing 131 games at the position. Doc started in Pittsburgh for two years and then was moved as part of the Burleigh Grimes deal after the 1916 campaign. 
  • 1922 - SS Frankie Zak was born in Passaic, New Jersey. He played three years, all in Pittsburgh (1944-46), as a reserve infielder and pinch runner with a .266 lifetime BA. Even tho he only got 160 bats in 1944, he was named a replacement All-Star. The game was held at Forbes Field, and with wartime travel restrictions creating logistic problems, the NL took the easy road by selecting him (Frankie did hit .300 that season). Red Patterson in the New York Herald-Tribune explained “Frank Zak was substituted at the last moment for (Pirate) Pete Coscarart, who was supposed to replace Eddie Miller (of the Reds) but went fishing before he could be notified.” A local sports scribe cracked "He (Zak) got a break. He thought he'd have to pay his way in." The poor guy couldn’t even get a memento; he was named to the team too late to have his name included in the All-Star program. 
Frankie Zak - photo via SABR
  • 1947 - For the first time since 1918, the Pirates held spring training in Florida with the pitchers reporting and the full squad due on the 27th. Billy Herman’s club worked out in Miami Beach, with the players getting $5 per day spending money, which the Post Gazette estimated as enough “for a couple of hamburgers...and a cup of coffee.” 
  • 1948 - RHP Tom Griffin was born in Los Angeles. He was a first round pick of the Astros (4th overall) in 1966 and spent 14 years in the show as a swingman. He bowed out as a Bucco in 1982 after being traded by the Giants for Doe Boyland. Griffin got into six games, went 1-3/8.87, and hung up his spikes at age 34 after the Pirates released him in May to clear a spot for IF Ken Reitz. His career game was tossed against the Bucs when on May 7th, 1974, he threw a one-hitter against the Pirates, giving up just a Willie Stargell single, and took home a 2-1 win. To add a little salt to the wound, Milt May, who the Bucs had sent to the Astros for Jerry Reuss in October, tripled home the game winner. 
  • 1970 - RHP Steve Blass signed a contract estimated to be for $28,000 after going 16-10/4.46 in 1969. With that signing, Joe Brown had wrapped up his staff, inking Bob Veale to a deal two days prior to Steverino’s agreement. 
  • 1980 - President Jimmy Carter hosted both the Steelers and Pirates in a single ceremony at the White House to celebrate their respective championship wins in Super Bowl XIV and the 1979 World Series. More than one cynical observer believed that the ceremony had more to do with the upcoming Pennsylvania primary than trophies. Championship showcases, thought to be initiated by JFK, were made into an annual rite by Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates signed Orlando Merced as an amateur free agent out of high school at the age of 17. The Puerto Rican spent seven seasons with the Bucs, playing outfield and first, batting .283 from 1990-96 before being traded as part of the Jose Silva/Abraham Nunez deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. 
Orlando Merced - 1996 Topps
  • 1999 - Howie Haak, known as the “King of the Caribbean” by baseball people and “Big Daddy” by young Latino ballplayers, died of a stroke at age 87. Haak toiled for the Pirates from 1950-88, when he resigned after a spat with GM Syd Thrift and beat the bushes for the Houston Astros for several years afterward. In 1984, Haak was selected as the first recipient of the Scout of the Year award, voted on by his peers. He signed scores of players for the Bucs, including Manny Sanguillen, Omar Moreno & Rennie Stennett of Panama; Tony Pena, Jose DeLeon, Frank Taveras & Cecilio Guante of the Dominican Republic, Ramon Hernandez & Junior Ortiz of Puerto Rico, Joe Christopher & Al McBean of the Virgin Islands, Roman Mejias & Orlando McFarlane of Cuba and Tony Armas of Venezuela. He also reeled in some US players, like Dick Stuart, Dale Berra, Steve Nicosia, Joe Gibbon, Red Witt, John Candelaria and Bob Veale. 
  • 2018 - The Pirates swung a deal with Tampa Bay to land All-Star OF’er Corey Dickerson, 28, who was being DFA’ed as part of the Rays contract housekeeping. Pittsburgh acquired Dickerson for RHP Daniel Hudson, highly touted young 2B Tristan Gray and $1M cash. His 2017 line was .282/27/62. Corey was added to replace Andrew McCutchen, who had been traded to the Giants earlier in the off season, taking over in left field as Starling Marte shifted to center. He did well, posting a 118 OPS+, the same as the departed Cutch’s, in 2018.