Tuesday, December 18, 2018

12/18: Neverett Hired; Lopez, Vogey, Herrera & Kuwata Signed; HBD Joker, Gino, Jack & Josh

  • 1915 - OF Jack Barrett was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He played from 1942-46 and hit .251. His best seasons were 1944-45, when he stole 53 bases (he led the NL in steals in 1944 with 28) and scored 196 runs. But when WW2 ended and the players returned, Barrett’s career came to an end; he hit .193 in 1946, his last big league campaign. 
Gino Cimoli 2002 Topps Refractor
  • 1929 - OF Gino Cimoli was born in San Francisco. He only played a season and some change (1960-61) for the Bucs, but was their fourth outfielder for the 1960 Series champs, hitting .267 as a Pirate and .250 in the series. He scored the first tally in Pittsburgh’s five-run eighth inning in the deciding game seven and started several games in place of the injured Bob Skinner. He was one of Bob Prince’s favorites - everytime Cimoli came through on the field, The Gunner would, in his best faux Italian accent, gush “Thatsa my boy, Gino!” 
  • 1969 - IF Joe “The Joker” Randa was born in Milwaukee. Joe played early and late with the Pirates - he spent his third big league season, 1997, and his MLB finale in 2006 in Pittsburgh, hitting a solid .291. Tony Muser, Joe’s skipper in KC, gave him his nickname because he reminded him of “The Joker” character, always with a smile on his face. 
  • 1984 - IF Josh Rodriguez was born in Houston, Texas. His MLB career was short; he went 1-for-12 in six games for the Bucs in 2011. The Pirates took him from the Indians as a Rule 5 selection and he beat out Pedro Ciriaco for the middle infield bench spot in camp. It was a short-lived victory; the Bucs returned him to the Tribe in late April as he was replaced on the roster by Brandon Wood. Josh returned in June in a cash deal with Cleveland and he played for Indy & Altoona. He’s been in the minor league systems of the Mets (three times), Oakland and Miami since then and is currently a FA. 
  • 2006 - Cuban RHP Yoslan Herrera, 25, agreed to a three-year/$1.92M contract with the Pirates. He defected in July of 2005 and was signed by scouts Rene Gayo and Louie Eljaua after posting a combined record of 18-7/3.27 during his Island career as a member of the Youth Cuban National Team for two years (1999-2000) and four seasons with the big boy Cuban National Team (2001-2004). His numbers didn’t translate in the US, and he won just one game for the Bucs. In a nice bounce-back tale, Herrera was signed to a minor league deal by the LA Angels in 2013 after last pitching in the majors in 2008, put together a nice run at the end of 2014 (1-1/2.70 in 20 outings) for the Halos, then moved across the Pacific to toss in the Nippon League in 2015. He was the Pirates first Cuban signing of the Castro era.
Yoslan Herrera (photo Doug Pensinger/Getty)
  • 2006 - On the same day they signed Herrera, the Bucs announced another dip into the international market by inking 38-year-old Japanese RHP Masumi Kuwata to a one year/$500K minor-league contract. He chose the Pirates over the Red Sox and Dodgers because he thought he had a better shot at making the club, but an ankle injury in the spring delayed his MLB call until June. He was 39 then, the oldest rookie to appear since Diomedes Olivo and Satchel Paige and the first Japanese player to suit up for the Bucs. After 19 games, his ERA was 9.43. He was sent down, signed again for camp in 2008, but returned to Japan after failing to make the final roster cut and rejecting an offer by the Bucs to remain as a coach. 
  • 2008 - Tim Neverett was hired as the Pirate play-by-play man. Prior to joining the Pirates, Neverett spent four years working for FSN Rocky Mountain, where he spent the 2008 campaign serving as both the pre and post-game studio host for Colorado Rockies games along with calling many other sports. Neverett began his baseball on-air career in 1985 at the age of 19 with Pittsburgh's Class AA affiliate in the Eastern League, the Nashua Pirates. The New England native left to man the booth in Boston after the 2015 campaign, leaving the post after the 2018 Sox season in a beef with management. He rebounded quickly and is now part of the LA Dodgers’ broadcast squad.
  • 2009 - The Pirates signed LHP Javier Lopez to a one-year/$775K contract. The LOOGY reestablished his credentials in Pittsburgh and then was traded to the Giants at the deadline for OF John Bowker & P Joe Martinez. The southpaw was the only active player to have played on four or more World Series championship teams, winning three times with the G-Men and once with Boston. He retired after the 2016 campaign and caught on as part of the SF broadcast team. 
  • 2015 - The Pirates and RHP Ryan Vogelsong agreed to a one-year/$2M contract, bringing him back home after he had been gone for a decade following stints in Japan and San Francisco. In what would prove to be be his final MLB season, he went 3-7/4.81 as a starter/long man.

Monday, December 17, 2018

After the Meeting Notes: SS Search Heats Up; Pitching Adds; Other Signings & Final Payrolls 2018

The afterglow of the winter soiree...

  • The signing of RHP Jordan Lyles, announced on the 11th to kick off the winter meeting, was made official today after he passed his physical. he seems most likely to be a bullpen piece, but NH said "...he will have a legitimate opportunity to earn a spot in our rotation in 2019," so we'll see how that works out in camp.
  • The Padres sold RHP Cristofer Melendez to the Pirates. He's a 21-year-old starter who had a lights-out 2018 Dominican season, doing 4-4/1.54 with 93 K in 70-1/3 IP after three meh prior seasons. The Friars had just claimed Melendez from the White Sox during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft; they had an early pick, so perchance this handover was pre-arranged. One thing for sure - the Pirates are into some serious refurbishing of their lowel level pitching.
Anyone seen a shortstop? (Panda clipart)
  • George A King III of the NY Post wrote that the Bucs have "big interest" in Freddy Galvis, ex of the Phils and Padres. Meanwhile, Susan Slusser of the SF Chronicle speculates that the Bucs could be kicking Tulo's tires; there are six unidentified clubs sniffing around. We guessing the Nick Ahmed talks have hit a speedbump. Shortstop could get interesting for a season or two.
  • Per the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell, J-Hay is in the hunt for a second base gig for the Nats, though the market and options are glutted. Boswell opines that "The safest option, and maybe wisest, too, could be (Marwin) Gonzalez, whom the Nats seem to prefer over Harrison, who has similar utility skills."
  • Chase d'Arnaud, soon-to-be 32-years-old, signed a minor league deal with an invite to camp with the Rangers. The Bucs 2008 draft pick has suited up for six teams in parts of seven seasons with a .222 BA and has played every position on the field except for catcher.
  • The AP has an article on 2018 payrolls and the team rankings. Pittsburgh is 27th, slotted between Miami and Oakland.
On a final note, Jordy Mercer tweeted his farewell to the fans after signing with Detroit:


12/17 Through the 1950’s: Big Easy; AA Folds; HBD Cy, Rebel, Jim, Charlie & Marvell

  • 1879 - RHP Fred “Cy” Falkenberg was born in Chicago. He worked his 1903 rookie campaign for the Pirates, going 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA. It would be the fewest wins and highest ERA compiled in a single season for ol’ Cy, who tossed 12 big league years, winning 130 games (20+ victories twice) with a 2.68 lifetime ERA. Those 20-win tallies in 1913-14 were sparked by a new pitch that he came up with - a scuffed “emery” ball. The delivery was declared illegal after the 1914 season, and Cy was out of MLB two years later (in justice, hitting the age of 38 probably had as much with his descent as did the rulebook). So far as the Cy moniker, SABR’s Eric Enders speculates that it was another Cy Young knock-off, the old-timey ace whom many promising youngsters were likened to. 
Rebel Oakes 1915 Cracker Jack
  • 1883 - CF Ennis “Rebel” Oakes was born in Lisbon, Louisiana. He played five years for the Reds and Cards, then jumped to the Federal League when it was established in 1914. After two seasons as the player-manager for the Pittsburgh Rebels, perhaps named in his honor, the league folded and Oakes never returned to MLB despite his .295 BA. SABR writer Phil Williams believes “Rebel Oakes was effectively blacklisted” after the Federal League’s demise. Btw, he didn’t earn his nickname by being particularly iconoclastic. When he was in the minors, an Iowa sportswriter dubbed him Rebel because of his Deep South birthplace. 
  • 1891 - The American Association, the home of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys through 1886, ceased as a major league after a ten-year run when a settlement was reached with the National League for a semi-merger. Four AA clubs (St. Louis, Louisville, Washington, and Baltimore) joined the NL to form a twelve-club league. The other four AA clubs were bought out for about $130,000. 
  • 1896 - C Jim Mattox was born in Leesville, Virginia. Jim was a back-up in 1922-23 for the Pirates, hitting .253 off the bench. He was released after the year and retired rather than report to the minors again. Jim may have missed his true calling - in 1919, he was an All-Conference quarterback at Washington and Lee. 
  • 1947 - C/PH Charlie Sands was born in Newport News, Virginia. Charlie played for the Bucs in 1971-72, going 5-for-33 (.192) and was on the ‘71 WS roster. He hung around the league for three more seasons, but only got into 63 more games. Fun fact: Sands caught all 29 innings of what at the time was the longest game in professional baseball. Playing for the Class A, Florida State League Miami Marlins on June 15th, 1966, Sands held the fort as Miami beat the St. Petersburg Cardinals (coached by Sparky Anderson), 4-3. 
Charlies Sands 1972 Topps
  • 1947 - The Pirates bought the AA New Orleans Pelicans, including 37 players (none of which ever made the Bucco roster), for an estimated $200K. In an era when farm systems were deep, The Big Easy became the Pirates 19th farm club in 1948. Oddly, in 1947 the club didn't field a AA team, so NOLA was a needed addition to fill the gap between AAA Indy and Single A Albany. 
  • 1959 - CF Marvell Wynne was born in Chicago. He started his career with the Pirates, playing from 1983-85. Projected as a leadoff hitter, he stole 46 sacks but batted just .245 with an OBP of .297 before being traded to San Diego for Bob Patterson, and there he put together a solid four-year run. Marvell’s last season was 1991, played in Japan. His son, also named Marvell, became a pro jock, too, but as a MSL soccer player.

12/17 From 1960: Rogers Deal; King, Ward, Schourek & Correia Inked; HBD Steve & Larry

  • 1967 - RHP Steve Parris was born in Joliet, Illinois. Steve started his eight-year MLB run in Pittsburgh between 1995-96 with a 6-9/5.82 slash as a starter. After a year in the minors, he tossed three solid seasons with the Reds and three not-so-solid seasons with Toronto and Tampa Bay. 
Steve Parris 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice
  • 1980 - Scout & suit Larry Broadway was born in Miami. The MontrĂ©al Expos chose him from Duke in the 3rd round (77th overall) of the 2002 draft. Larry got to AAA and had a couple of good years but was up-and-down after a 2005 knee injury. He never got a chance in the show, and Broadway signed with the Pirates for 2009 to play at Indy. He lost his batting eye and even tried pitching but retired and became a scout with the Bucs in 2010. As of the 2014 season, he was Pittsburgh's Director of Minor League Operations. 
  • 1993 - 3B Jeff King avoided arbitration by signing a one year/$2.4M contract. He lost an arbitration hearing the previous year, asking for $2M but being awarded $675K. He hit cleanup during the season, batting .295 with 9 HR and 98 RBI to earn the pay bump. 
  • 1997 - OF Turner Ward was signed to a two-year/$1.6M contract after hitting .353 off the bench during the season. Ward earned the money when he turned in a highlight-reel play in the ‘98 campaign when he crashed through the wall at TRS. He batted .262 in 1998 and was released in August of 1999 after posting a .209 BA. He rebounded to have a great season with Arizona to help them win the NL West, then played two more years before retiring after 2001. In all, he had 12 big league years with a .251 career BA. 
  • 1998 - The Pirates signed free agent LHP Pete Schourek to a two-year/$4M contract after he went 8-9/4.43 for Houston and Boston. He was the Cy Young runner-up to Greg Maddux in 1995 after going 18-7 for the Reds, but various injuries limited his effectiveness, and he never won more than eight games after that breakout ‘95 season. It didn’t get better; he went 4-7/5.34 for the Bucs and was released at the start of the 2000 season, with Pittsburgh eating $2M of his deal. He went on to win four more games for Boston over the next two years, ending his 11-year MLB career after the 2001 season. 
Pete Schourek (photo Vincent Laforet/Getty)
  • 2010 - RHP Kevin Correia signed as a FA with Pittsburgh, agreeing to a two year/$8M deal. In those two seasons, he would post a line of 24-22/4.49 before joining the Twins after losing his spot in the rotation to Wandy Rodriguez. He started 54 games, appeared 59 times, represented the Pirates at the 2011 All-Star Game and was the Opening Day pitcher that same season. KC worked for three more teams afterward, retiring after the 2015 season. 
  • 2015 - The Pirates sent CF Keon Broxton and RHP Trey Supak to the Milwaukee Brewers for 1B Jason Rogers. The speedy Broxton is an on-again, off-again major leaguer with a great glove and some power while Supak is on the Brew Crew’s 40-man roster. Roger’s 2016 MLB chance was effectively blocked when the Bucs later signed David Freese; Jason got just 33 PAs and hit .080 for the Bucs in 2016, went to Japan in 2017 and played indie ball as a 30-year-old last season.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

12/16: Mueller, Shantz, Santiago Deals; Candy, DJ, Chris, Jimmy & Ronny Lost; Niagara Joins System; HBD Fred, Steamboat Bill, Rick & Jeff

  • 1876 - OF Fred Crolius was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. He went straight from college to Boston in 1902 and got into nine games as a Pirate in 1902, batting .263. His pro career was short-lived; the Bucs sent him back down and Fred was banned from the majors in 1906 after a messy contract dispute with Toronto. But he had a Plan B. Fred was also a star halfback for Dartmouth, and in 1901 he played football for the Homestead Library & Athletic Club, and the following season was a halfback on the Pittsburgh Stars, a member of first National Football League (and suspected of being financed by baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates). Fred also coached clubs - in 1899, he was the head coach for the Bowdoin College gridders. In 1902, Crolius was the boss man of the WUP (Western University of Pennsylvania, now Pitt) eleven. He then went east and coached Villanova from 1904-11, managing the Wildcat baseball team during the same period (1905-11). 
Bill Otey 1909 T206
  • 1886 - LHP William "Steamboat Bill" Otey was born in Dayton, Ohio. He was the ace of the Norfolk Tars of the Virginia League, winning 69 games from 1906-09, but it didn’t carry over to the big leagues. Otey hurled for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1907 (0-1/4.41 in three games) and the Washington Senators in 1910-11, going a combined 1-5 with a 5.01 ERA in 24 games. He finished out his career with the hometown Dayton Veterans of the Central League, retiring at age 27 following the 1914 season. 
  • 1938 - The Boston Bees traded catcher Ray Mueller to the Pirates for C Al Todd and OF Johnny Dickshot. Todd had a couple of good seasons left, while Dickshot wouldn’t hit his prime until his last two seasons in 1944-45 during the war for the White Sox. “Iron Man” Mueller (he picked up his nickname in the early forties after catching 233 consecutive games for the Reds) played 90 games in two years with Pittsburgh as a reserve catcher, hitting .269. Factoid: Mueller was from Pittsburg - Pittsburg, Kansas, a coal mining hub that was named after our fair town. 
  • 1956 - Coach Rick Sofield was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was a #1 draft pick and outfielder for the Twins, worked in the minors (he was the Pirates' minor league field coordinator in 2002) and managed in college. Sofield was brought back to the Pirate fold by long-time bud Clint Hurdle, managing at West Virginia for a season before joining the big league staff in 2013. After a barrage of ill-advised windmills at third base (he also coached the runners), he was released after the 2016 campaign. 
  • 1960 - The Bucs sent UT Harry Bright, 1B RC Stevens and RHP Bennie Daniels to the expansion Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers) for veteran curveballer LHP Bobby Shantz. Daniels was a useful starter in DC for several seasons, while Shantz lasted a year in Pittsburgh before being lost to the Houston Colt .45s in the 1961 expansion draft. He went 6-3-2/3.22 in 43 games with the Pirates, and pitched fairly effectively afterward, his career lasting until the end of the 1964 season. Schantz won 24 games in 1952 as a starter for the Philadelphia Athletics and was voted the AL MVP, but arm injuries drove him from the rotation to the bullpen. 
  • 1969 - The Niagara Falls Pirates were granted a franchise in the New York-Penn League. The short season club remained a Bucco farm until 1977, with guys like Dale Berra, Miguel Dilone, Mike Edwards, Al Holland, Omar Moreno, Ed Ott and Rod Scurry passing through. It lasted until 1988 as a Tigers & White Sox affiliate before the team moved to Jamestown. 
  • 1971 - LHP Jeff Granger was born in San Pedro, California. Granger was a quarterback for Texas A&M and was also a pretty fair pitcher, breaking Roger Clemens Southwest Conference strikeout record. The first-round pick of KC in 1993 had four fairly quick stops in the majors, spending three years with the Royals (18 appearances) and getting his final nine calls as a Bucco in 1997 (0-1/18.00), walking eight and giving up three long balls in five frames. The Pirates sent him down and he spent the next three seasons struggling in the minor leagues for five clubs in four organizations, retiring after a stint with the indie Long Island Ducks. 
  • 1992 - After burning his bridges with the Bucs in 1985 and being sent to California via trade, John Candelaria signed a free agent deal worth $760K with the team he started with as a 21-year-old. The reunion didn’t work out. It started poorly when he was busted for a DUI while in camp and then was ineffective from the pen during the campaign, slashing 0-3-1/8.24. Candy Man was released in August, ending his 19-year MLB career. Still, he finished his 12 years as a Bucco with a line of 124-87-16/3.17, posting a no-hitter, 20-win campaign and winning an All-Star nod. 
  • 2002 - The Rule 5 Draft took RHP DJ Carrasco, C Ronny Paulino and RHP Chris Spurling from the Pirates. Carrasco tossed for eight MLB seasons (including 2010 as a Bucco), Spurling for four and Paulino was returned to the club in the spring, going on to catch for eight years in the show, the first four with Pittsburgh (2005-08/.278). They also released LHP Jimmy Anderson. 
Benito Santiago 2005 Pirates Promo
  • 2004 - The Pirates acquired C Benito Santiago and cash (KC paid all but $750K of the $2.2M due Santiago) from the Royals for RHP Leo Nunez (Juan Oviedo). The 30 year old Oviedo served a 2012 suspension after pitching for seven seasons because of name fraud; he went by Nunez to make it appear he was younger. Santiago, 40, got in six games before his release and never played in the majors again.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

12/15 Through the 1940’s: Vic Willis & Johnny Rizzo Deals; HBD Leyland, Art, Jay, Bucky & Jim

  • 1882 - C Jay “Nig” Clarke was born in Anderdon Township (now Amherstburg) Ontario. Jay had a long career, starting in organized ball in 1902 and retiring in 1927, with some time off for duty in the Marine Corps during WW1. He played parts of nine years in the big leagues, making his last MLB stop in Pittsburgh in 1920. He got into three games, went 0-for-7 and was sent to the farm in late April. His moment in the sun came in 1908 when he caught a perfect game tossed by Addie Joss of the Cleveland Naps. Nig got his nickname from a newspaper article that noted he was dark complected, joining about a dozen pre-integration players with the same crude moniker. Fun fact: According to lore, Clarke hit eight homers in eight at-bats in a 51-3 romp for the Texas League Corsicana Oil Citys over the Texarkana Casketmakers. Spoiler alert: the field he played on wasn’t meant for pro games but was used as a Sunday blue-law work-around, and the fence in right was estimated to be just 150-200’ from home, a lefty’s delight. Jay died on June 15th, 1949, 47 years to the day that he hit his eight home runs. Finally, Clarke was inducted into the Canadian Baseball HoF in 1996. 
Jim Nealon 1907 (photo Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum)
  • 1884 - 1B Jim Nealon was born in Sacramento. He’s one of the sadder Buccos “coulda-been” stories. Nealon played from 1906-07 for the Pirates, and in his rookie season tied for the NL RBI lead (83) while hitting .255. Jim hit .257 the next season, then contracted tuberculosis. He went back home to California, played a couple of years of minor league ball and died of typhoid pneumonia in San Francisco in 1910 at the age of 25. 
  • 1905 - In one of their better deals, the Bucs picked up Hall-of-Famer RHP Vic Willis from the Boston Beaneaters for journeymen UT Dave Brain, IF/OF Del Howard, and RHP Vive Lindaman. Willis won 20+ games in each of his four years (1906-09) in Pittsburgh, with a slash of 88–46/2.08, and was part of the 1909 World Series championship club. The “Delaware Peach” (he went to Delaware College) was a workhorse throughout his career, completing 388 of his 471 starts. 
  • 1906 - IF Wallace “Bucky” (a childhood nickname) Williams was born in Baltimore and moved to Pittsburgh at the age of six months. After stints with the Pittsburgh Keystone Juniors and Monarchs, he played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1927–32; 1937-39) and the Homestead Grays in 1936. Bucky also played for his employer as part of the Edgar Thomson Steel team after his pro career; his sandlot squad once defeated the Grays in an exhibition game. He went to Holy Rosary and Crescent Elementary before leaving school for work, and rests now in Calvary Cemetery. He was named an honorary member of the Negro League Hall of Fame in Kansas City. 
  • 1937 - The Bucs sent OF Bud Hafey, 1B Bernard Cobb, C Tom Padden and cash to the St. Louis Cards for OF Johnny Rizzo. Hafey and Padden each spent time in the minors before getting one last MLB campaign while Cobb never advanced from the farm. Rizzo had a great year in ‘38, swatting 23 HR and batting .301. He hit .283 in his two years and change with the Bucs and then was sent to Philly in exchange for Vince DiMaggio. 
Jim Leyland 1989 Topps
  • 1944 - Pirate manager Jim Leyland was born in Perrysburg, Ohio. Leyland was the fiery, chain-smoking manager of the Bucs from 1986 to 1996. He won two Manager of the Year awards (1990 and 1992) and finished as runner-up in 1988 and 1991. Under Leyland, the Pirates went to the NLCS three straight seasons (1990-92) but lost all three, with the latter two going the full seven games against the Atlanta Braves. He did win a title in 1997 as the skipper of the Florida Marlins and also managed the Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers. Leyland became a Pittsburgh boy; he still lives in Mt. Lebanon. 
  • 1946 - IF Art Howe was born in Pittsburgh. A star pitcher and QB at Shaler HS, he went to Wyoming to play football and became a full-time baseballer after an injury. He went undrafted, returned home to Pittsburgh, got a job with Westinghouse and played semi-pro baseball on weekends in the Federation League. But Art had a good day at a Pirates tryout camp and the hometown club inked him the next day. He began his big league career with Pittsburgh in 1974-75 as a utility infielder, batting .195, before being traded to the Astros, where he became a regular for six seasons beginning in 1977. He played for 11 years in all with a .260 BA, managed for 11 more years after his playing days, winning a pair of AL West titles with the Oakland A’s (he also skippered the Astros and Mets) while also scouting/coaching for several clubs before retiring for good in 2008.

12/15 From 1950: Stairs & Janowicz Signed; Fryman, Francis & Leppert Traded; '03 Rule 5; Quail's Staff Finalized

  • 1952 - Vic Janowicz was signed to a $75,000 contract by the Pirates a bonus baby. Janowicz was a Heisman-winning running back at Ohio State in 1950, but Pittsburgh saw his future in baseball. As a bonus baby, he had to be carried on the MLB roster for two years. Vic hit .252 as a C in 1953, but dropped to .151 as a 3B’man the following year, for a two year line of .214 with two HR and 10 RBI in 215 PA. He left the team after that season and jumped to the NFL Washington Redskins, where he played two years before a car accident ended his sports career. 
Vic Janowicz 1954 Topps
  • 1962 - The Pirates shipped 30-year-old backup C Don Leppert to Washington for minor league righty Ron Honeycutt. It ended up a pretty minor deal; Leppert got into 123 games over two years for the Senators but hit only .207 while Honeycutt lasted two seasons longer in pro ball, never advancing past Class AA. 
  • 1964 - The Bucs sent P Earl Francis and OF Ted Savage to the St. Louis Cardinals in return for OF’s Ron Cox and Jack Damaska (from Beaver Falls HS). Francis sputtered through his last big league season while Savage was the only player that had any MLB impact, serving as a bench bat through the 1971 season. Neither of the players the Pirates received made it to the majors. 
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded for RHP Jim Bunning, sending the Phillies pitchers Woodie Fryman‚ Bill Laxton and Harold Clem along with IF Don Money, who would be the Phils regular 3B until Mike Schmidt arrived and then become an All-Star with Milwaukee. Money had been targeted by the White Sox also, but the Pirates wanted RHP Joel Horlen in exchange, who Chi-town wasn’t about to surrender. Fryman lasted 18 years in the show, many as a solid mid-level starter and twice an All-Star. Bunning, who the Pirates hoped would be the veteran rotation piece to put them over the top in 1968, stayed in Pittsburgh for 1-½ seasons, slashing at 14-23/3.84. 
  • 1971 - Bill Virdon made his only new hire as Bucco manager by promoting Charleston Charlies skipper Joe Morgan to his staff as an infield/batting coach. He had kept on board four of retired Danny Murtaugh’s assistants - Frank Oceak, Don Leppert, Don Osborn and Dave Ricketts - as members of his coaching gang.
Matt Stairs 2003 Topps HTA
  • 2002 - Well-traveled Matt Stairs (he played for three teams just in 2002) signed a one year/$900K contract with the Bucs, pending a physical (the official signing date was 12/18), and was penciled in as Craig Wilson’s platoon mate in right field. He had a strong season, hitting .292 with 20 HR despite just 305 AB, earning himself a three year/$3.55M contract with KC the following campaign. He retired after the 2011 season and joined another ex-Buc in the record books: Stairs played for more major-league teams (12) than any position player in big league history (technically, he was rostered on 13 teams but for just 12 franchises, as he played for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals). Octavio Dotel holds the record for pitchers and all players at 13 clubs. 
  • 2003 - The Pirates lost five players in the Rule 5 draft, 1B Chris Shelton, OF Rich Thompson, LHP Frank Brooks, RHP Jeff Bennett and 3B/OF Jose Bautista, for whom they traded RHP Kris Benson to get back in July, 2004. Oddly, the Pirates had three openings on the 40-man roster, but GM Dave Littlefield told the local media that the need to add free agents to the lineup for next season was more important than keeping players the club believes would not make an immediate impact. The rest of baseball thought a bit differently as the five Pirate farmhands went in the first six picks of the draft. Littlefield also removed pitchers Duaner Sanchez and Matt Guerrier from the 40-man roster (and lost them to the Dodgers and Twins, respectively) to protect Mike Gonzalez and John Grabow, so he had more future talent on hand than he suspected.

Friday, December 14, 2018

12/14 Through the 1910’s: Heinie & Flynn Join Up; Share the Wealth; HBD Ren, Charlie & Willie

  • 1861 - OF James “Ren” (Renwick was his middle name) Wylie was born in Elizabeth. His moment of baseball glory happened on August 20th, 1882 when the 20-year-old center fielder from Geneva College played in his only MLB game, going 0-for-3 for the Alleghenys. He went on to bigger and better things, becoming a successful banker, realtor and two-time Pennsylvania State Representative. 
Charlie Hargreaves 1924 (photo: Conlon/Rogers/Getty)
  • 1896 - C Charlie Hargreaves was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He caught for Pittsburgh at the end of his career from 1928-30, and was a solid two-way guy for the first two seasons before fading in 1930, putting up a .273 BA over that period. Charlie did rejoin the organization briefly, managing the Bucs’ Class C Keokuk Pirates squad of the Central Association in 1949. 
  • 1898 - 2B Henry “Heinie” Reitz was traded by the Washington Senators to the Pirates for OF/3B Jack O'Brien, IF Dick Padden and OF Jimmy “Rabbit” Slagle. It wasn’t a very good deal for Pittsburgh; Reitz played 35 games and was traded at the end of the 1899 season. O’Brien was a journeyman, Padden had three solid seasons remaining, and rookie Slagle went on to have a 10 year career, mainly with the Cubs, and a lifetime .268 BA. “Heinie” was a popular nickname for German baseball players, particularly those named Henry, or Heinrich in German. 
  • 1909 - Pittsburgh purchased 1B John Flynn from St. Paul of the American Association for $4,000. He was solid in 1911, batting .274 in 96 games, but fizzled the following campaign and was sent back to the Paulies. They flipped him to Washington, where he played his last 20 MLB games in 1920. 
  • 1911 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss proposed that each team in the World Series turn over one-fourth of its share of the gate to the league, to be divided among the other teams. It marked the beginning of changes that ultimately gave players of the top four finishers in each league a share of the World Series money. Dreyfuss had actually added his owner’s cut of the 1903 World Series gate receipts to the players' share, so the Pirates earned a larger payout than the winning Boston team that year. 
Willie Pope (photo NLBPA)
  • 1918 - RHP Willie Pope was born in Birmingham and raised in Library. A 6’4’ hurler known as “Wee Willie,” Pope began his career as a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1946 but was mostly known for playing with the Grays during the 1947-48 seasons. During the 1947 campaign, the righty notched a 6-7 record, but pitched a no-hitter against the New York Cubans. In the 1948 season, he was a major contributor to the Grays team that won the last Negro National League Pennant and won the Negro Leagues World Series against the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League. He played a couple of years in the minors while his brother Dave played for Cleveland and Baltimore. Willie remained in the City after his career as a player in Pittsburgh ward politics and a local black baseball historian. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 91.

12/14 From 1920 Through the 1960’s: Kitten, Yellow Horse Deals; Yde & Roy Go; HBD Lefty, Jerry & Jeff

  • 1922 - In what looked like a big deal at the time, the Bucs sent RHPs Chief Yellow Horse & Bill Hughes, minor leaguers Harry Brown & Claude Rohwer, and $7,500 to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League for RHP Earl Kunz. The Chief and Hughes never pitched big league ball again, Brown and Rowher proved to be career farm hands, and the 23-year-old Kunz went 1-2/5.52 during 1923 in his only major league campaign.
  • 1923 - LHP Paul “Lefty” LaPalme was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Lefty began his career in Pittsburgh (1951-54) and was a starter in the last two seasons, with a Pirate line of 14-33-2/4.99. The knuckleballer was traded to the Cards in 1955, converted to a reliever, and put together several decent seasons from the pen. 
Emil Yde 1924 (Photo: Conlon/Getty)
  • 1927 - The Pirates waived four-year man LHP Emil Yde and three-year vet C Roy Spencer to Indianapolis; they were to receive a PTBNL, whose name never made the record books. Yde had won 41 games in his first three Pirates campaigns, but fell apart in ‘27, giving up 35 runs (32 earned) in 29-1/3IP. He had a last hurrah in 1929 with the Tigers, going 7-3 but with a 5.30 ERA to close out his MLB career. Spencer hung around for nine more big league seasons, getting regular time in the early thirties with Washington and Cleveland, before doffing the mask. 
  • 1943 - C Jerry May was born in Staunton, Virginia. May was mainly a backup catcher from 1964-70 (he started in ‘67-68) for the Bucs, hitting .237 in his seven year Pittsburgh stint. He was signed by Syd Thrift out of high school and tossed several no-hitters as an American Legion pitcher; the Bucs converted him to catcher and he was behind the dish for Dock Ellis’ infamous 1970 no-hitter. May was bumped out of the starting role by Manny Sanguillen. Jerry was a good tactician and glove guy throughout his 10 year MLB career, throwing out 43% of the base runners who tried to steal a sack on him, good for 11th on the all-time list. He led NL catchers in 1970 with a 50% caught stealing percentage. 
  • 1961 - RHP Jeff Robinson was born in Ventura, California. He finished out his six year career with a few weeks as a Bucco after being claimed off waivers from Texas in June of 1992, getting seven starts (eight outings) with a 3-1/4.46 line and then being waived again in July. Robinson went on to become the pitching director, coach and instructor with the Natural Baseball Academy in Kansas. He missed the three-year Pirates stint of fellow hurler Jeff Robinson (1987-89), and the two were often differentiated by their middle initial - Jeff M was the starter and Jeff D the reliever. 
  • 1961 - Baseball players may be rolling in long green now, but for many decades, even the stars had a winter job. ElRoy Face earned a Post-Gazette sports column mention on this date by selling Christmas trees grown on his Indiana farm at the corner of Bouquet Street and Forbes Avenue in Oakland, a block from the ballyard. 
  • 1963 - The Pirates sent P Harvey Haddix to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for SS Dick Yencha and cash. The Kitten, then 38 and a reliever, spent the last two years of his career in Baltimore, going 8-7-11/2.63 before retiring because of arm problems, while Yencha never made it past AA. Haddix later followed his rookie mentor Harry Brecheen (as St. Louis teammates, veteran Brecheen was “the Cat” and his protege, the young Haddix, was “the Kitten”) as a pitching coach, working with the Mets, Reds, Red Sox, Indians, and Pirates before passing away in 1994.

12/14 From 1990: Lieber-Brown Deal; Cordero, Overbay, Sauerbeck, Kingery Join; Tax Cut; HBD Fraze

  • 1991 - 2B Adam Frazier was born in Athens, Georgia. He was selected from Mississippi State in the sixth round (179th overall) of the 2013 draft and was signed for slot value of $240,600. Fraze was known for his 24/7 stick and it earned him a call up in 2016. He’s slashed .280/.345/.422 during his three Bucco campaigns. He’s proven quite versatile, playing all three OF spots along with 2B, SS & 3B for the Pirates as a member of the super-utility club of Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez. But like J-Hay, he may have claimed the second base spot with a strong second half in 2018, so we’ll see where he ends up this year. 
HBD Fraze (image Pirates)
  • 1993 - The State legislature cut the City’s amusement tax from 10% to 5%; one state senator said that the Pirates had informed him that without the lower rate that they could be forced to leave the City in two years. GM Mark Sauer told the Post Gazette that the team wouldn’t be cutting ticket prices (neither did the Steelers) and then ran down a financial wish list featuring revenue sharing and a salary cap from the MLB to go with a new stadium and lease for the team. They got three-out-of-four wishes granted eventually; good luck on the cap. 
  • 1995 - Pittsburgh signed 35-year-old free agent CF Mike Kingery to a two year/$1.5M contract, planning to use him as a platoon/bat & glove off the bench player. It didn’t quite work out; Kingery, who had been a .272 lifetime hitter before the deal, hit .246 in 117 games and was released after the season. He opened Solid Foundation Baseball School the year after he retired, and makes appearances with the Kingery Family, a gospel/bluegrass group. 
  • 1998 - RHP Jon Lieber was traded to the Chicago Cubs for OF Brant Brown. Lieber tossed nine more years in the show, winning 20 games for the Cubs in 2001 while Brown was one and done in Pittsburgh. After his breakout campaign, workhorse Lieber had TJ surgery and only reached the 30-start, 200 IP mark once more in his career. 
  • 1998 - The Pirates chose LHP Scott Sauerbeck from the New York Mets in the Rule 5 draft. Sauerbeck stuck with the Pirates until 2003, going 19-15-5/3.53 in his 4-½ year Bucco career before he was traded to Boston. Sauerbeck missed 2004 after surgery, and after a fairly ineffective campaign in 2006, the LOOGY’s MLB career ended. 
Wil Cordero 2000 Upper Deck MVP
  • 1999 - “Wil Cordero, a good hitter who has had difficulty staying healthy and out of trouble, signed a $9 million, three-year contract yesterday with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his fourth team in four years...” per the New York Times. Cordero in reality was a good pick up, as the left fielder banged 16 HR with 51 RBI before he was traded in late July to the Indians for Alex Ramirez (who hit .209 and was out of baseball the following year) and Enrique Wilson, a reserve infielder who hit .262 in 1-½ Pirates seasons. Cordero ended up having one more strong year left in him as a Montreal Expo in 2003. 
  • 2001 - The Giants did what the Bucs couldn’t afford to do by signing RHP Jason Schmidt to a four-year/$31M contract (it became official on the 18th). The Pirates had flipped him to the G-Men at the deadline of his 2001 walk year for Ryan Vogelsong. Jason wasn’t done with the art of the deal; he signed a three-year/$47M agreement with the LA Dodgers in 2006. He pulled in about $92M in his career; $8M was from his five Bucco campaigns. 
  • 2010 - The Pirates agreed to terms with 1B Lyle Overbay on a one-year/$5M contract; he was waived in August after hitting .227. The Bucs also signed 32-year old OF Matt Diaz to a two year deal worth up to $5M. He was sent back to the Braves at the deadline for P Eliecer Cardenas after hitting .259 with no homers.