Sunday, October 21, 2018

Notes: Lavarnway, Market Lefties, Pirates Pups, MLB News

Weekend odds and ends:

  • Ryan Lavarnway was profiled in the Jewish Chronicle by Adam Reinherz about the role the Buccos signed him up for in the past season, his time with Team Israel, and more. 
  • One hole the Pirates are expected to try to fill during the off season is lefty reliever; they have southpaw closer Felipe Vazquez, long man Steven Brault, and nada in between. Here's the list of available lefty relievers, compiled by MLB Trade Rumor's Jeff Todd, if you're curious about who's on the market (it's not very deep).
Geoff Hartlieb 2018 Go Sports
  • One name for you to follow in the Arizona Fall League is RHP Geoff Hartlieb. The 24-year-old reliever throws in the high 90's and has touched 100, but is still looking for a second pitch to trust and a little more control. He went 8-2-10/3.24 at Altoona during the season with 56 K in 58-1/3 IP and a high ground ball rate. The 6'5" hurler was a 29th round pick in the 2016 draft from Lindenwood U in Missouri.
  • Baseball America profiles the best hitter, pitcher and sleeper in each team's system. Among the Buc pups, they were respectively Kevin Kramer, JT Brubaker and Jonah Davis.
  • The Reds have a new field boss. Cincy hired Giants VP of player development David Bell as their skipper, signing him to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season. Bell, 46, managed in the minors and was on the staffs of the Cards (bench coach) and Cubs,so he knows the division. He's also a native of Cincinnati, so you can go home again.
  • In the junior circuit, the Anaheim Angels named ex-Detroit Tiger skipper Brad Ausmus as their new manager, taking over for Mike Scioscia.
  • Boston and the LA Dodgers will meet in the WS. Not only are they arguably the two best teams in baseball this year, but #1 and #3 in payroll (Bosox - $228.4M, Dodgers - $199.6M). 

10/21: Kiner AS; Frankie Comeback Player; Giusti/Ricketts Deal; Pena Chatter; Burwell Moved; AVS FA; HBD Pap, Ron & Marc

  • 1917 - LHP Frank “Pap” Papish was born in Pueblo, Colorado. Frank worked five post-war years from 1945-49 pretty effectively for the White Sox and Indians, but his effort to squeeze out one more campaign in Pittsburgh fell flat. The 32-year-old southpaw retired just seven of the 19 batters he faced, compiled a 27.00 ERA and was sent to AAA, where he rebounded for the remainder of 1950 but from ‘51-53 couldn’t put up an ERA south of five, retiring from pro ball at 35. 
Ron Davis 1969 Topps
  • 1941 - OF Ron Davis was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. He ended his five-year MLB run, mostly spent with Houston, with Pittsburgh in 1969, batting .234 primarily as a pinch hitter after coming over from St. Louis in the Tommie Sisk/Chris Cannizzaro deal. Davis finished out his pro days with two more seasons in AAA before retiring. 
  • 1947 - In its second-ever MLB All-Star team, the Associated Press named Pirates OF Ralph Kiner to the 10-man squad. Ralph had some pretty sweet company in the pasture, joining Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio while earning a spot by hitting .313 with 51 HR and 127 RBI. Oddly enough, he didn’t garner a spot on the NL-AS team, but did begin a six-year All Star run the following season. 
  • 1948 - Third base coach Bill Burwell was relieved of his major league duties by manager Billy Meyer. Burwell stayed with the organization and was reassigned as a minor league pitching coach (he mentored Vern Law) and scout. He later rejoined the big club from 1958-62 as the pitching guru for Danny Murtaugh’s coaching staff. 
  • 1969 - RHP Dave Giusti and C Dave Ricketts came over from St. Louis for 1B/OF Carl Taylor and OF Frank Vanzin. Giusti spent seven years in the Buc bullpen and earned 133 saves, marking his trade as one of the Buccos shrewder deals. Ricketts didn’t have a lot of on-field impact (he hit .182 in his only Bucco season) as a player, but was a popular clubhouse figure. He played basketball at Duquesne with his brother Dick and coached in Pittsburgh from 1971-73 before returning to the Cards to become a long time field coach and catching mentor.
Dave Giusti 1970 Topps
  • 1970 - RHP Marc Wilkins was born in Mansfield, Ohio. He spent his entire six-season MLB career (1996-2001) as a Bucco reliever (he started two games as a rookie), putting up a line of 19-14-3/4.28 and appearing in 70 outings during 1997. It was actually a pretty strong run for a guy who Pittsburgh selected in the 47th round of the 1992 draft. The U of Toledo product is now a financial advisor in Mansfield, Ohio. 
  • 1982 - The Los Angeles Examiner wrote that the Dodgers and Pirates were tinkering with a deal that would send 24-year-old C Tony Pena to LA for either OF Mike Marshall, 22, or 1B Greg Brock, 24. Though the talks broke off, the youngsters were all legit. Marshall lasted 11 years in the show, belting double-digit homers for eight straight campaigns while compiling a .270 BA and landing in an AS Game. Brock spent 10 years in the league, hitting with some pop but putting up .265+ average just twice, with a lifetime .248 BA. Pena was special. He earned five All-Star slots in an 18-year run, batting .260. Tony was eventually traded for Andy Van Slyke after the 1986 campaign. (S/O to John Fredland of PGH Sports History) 
  • 1994 - Andy Van Slyke became a free agent. In his eight years (1987-94) with Pittsburgh, he slashed .283/.353/.458 and was a three-time All Star. But at 34 and with a bad back, he managed a one year/$700K deal with the Baltimore Orioles only after a spring training audition. He played sparingly for them and was traded to Philly; he got into just 80 games total and was done after the 1995 campaign.
AVS 1994 Donruss
  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02) was named The Sporting News “Comeback Player of the Year” for 2013. Frankie had posted ERA’s north of 5 in three of his four prior seasons but sparkled for the Bucs. The runner up was RHP Mark Melancon, the Bucs set-up/closer arm, and third place went to OF Marlon Byrd, who the Pirates picked up from the NY Mets during the stretch run in late August.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

10/20: Eastern Trip; Frankie to Cubs Rumors; Fireman Signs; Hardball QB's; HBD Jocko, Jose & Jerry

  • 1864 - UT John “Jocko” Fields was born in Cork, Ireland. Jocko played everything on the field (mainly OF & C), hitting .265 as a member of the Alleghenys (1887-89), the Burghers of the Players’ League (1890) and the Pirates in 1891. 
Jocko Fields 1887 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1888 - In what may have been the first and surely the grandest international barnstorming tour ever undertaken, Albert Spaulding, with a team of Chicago players (including Mark “Fido” Baldwin & John Tener, both whom would later pitch in Pittsburgh) and and “All-America” team (The Allegheny’s Fred Miller was on that nine along with future OF/manager Ned Hanlon), left Chicago and played exhibitions in the US West, then took a liner to play in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Ceylon, Egypt, Italy, France England, Scotland and Ireland before getting back home for more exhibitions, finally wrapping it up 53 games later on April 20th, 1889. 
  • 1948 - RHP Hugh Casey announced that he would sign with the Pirates for the upcoming season; he had been been released by the Brooklyn Dodgers at the end of the 1948 campaign. “Fireman,” who was 35, had been troubled by a bad back and lasted until August with the Bucs, going 4-1-5/4.66 before being released and claimed by the Yankees in what would be his last big league campaign. 
  • 1948 - In his “Village Smithy” column in the Pittsburgh Press, sports editor Chester Smith shot down the Frankie Gustine-to-the-Cubs rumors that had been floating around. He wrote that the Cubs had had a long time interest in Gustine and a hole at third base, so they offered Pirates GM Roy Hamey C Clyde McCullough and an unspecified pitcher or two for Gustine during talks dating back to the World Series. Hamey replied that McCullough would have to be joined by pitchers Hank Borowy and Cliff Chambers for him to consider a deal, and that price ended the convo. But Smith should have left the fortune-telling to Nostradamus; the Bucs sent Gustine (and Cal McLish) to the Cubs for McCullough and Chambers six weeks later. Though coming off an All-Star season and just 29-years-old, Frankie only hit .226 as a Cub in ‘49 and would last one more MLB season. Borowy, btw, joined the Bucs in 1950 and tossed poorly for two months (1-3/6.39) before he was sold to the Tigers. 
Frank Gustine 1949 Bowman
  • 1961 - Ump Jerry Meals was born in Butler. He began umpiring in the eighties, came up on a fill-in basis in 1992 and became a regular member of the blue crew in 1998; he’s been a crew chief since 2015. Jerry has worked the WBC, two AS games, nine division/league championship series and a WS. Meals has had his share of controversial calls, including the missed play at the plate against the Braves in 2012 that began the Pirates spin around the drain and birthed the “Jerry Meals says he’s safe” meme. He lives in southeast Ohio just across the PA state line and graduated from Salem HS (OH). 
  • 1970 - Dan Marino and John Elway weren’t the only pro football quarterbacks that had baseball scouts sniffing around them. UPI reported that the Pirates, along with the Yankees, Mets and Reds, had contacted Notre Dame QB Joe Theismann to gauge his interest in MLB. The 3B was coy, saying that he’d be interested if his football career didn’t pan out. He did end up drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the 1971 draft, but that gridiron thing did pan out for Joe, even with time in the CFL and that brutal leg-snapping NFL finale. 
  • 1980 - RHP Jose Veras was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jose tossed for nine years and eight teams, stopping in Pittsburgh during the 2011 campaign, posting a 2-4-1/3.80 line in 79 appearances. The reliever was last sighted pitching in the indie leagues in 2016.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Notes: Big Joe Surgery; Barkett on the Radar; Eovaldi, Clint, Littlefield & Cole Train

Another week of Bucco blurbs...

  • Joe Musgrove had abdominal surgery today; so much for rest as a cure. The Pirates said that "A typical recovery time frame from this type of surgery that would allow an athlete to participate in full off-season training activities is approximately six weeks. We anticipate Joe will be on or close to a regular schedule for 2019 Major League Spring Training." You may recall the Big Joe didn't start 2018 until late May because of a shoulder injury; this doesn't appear to be something that would bump him back that far, if at all, this year.
Barkett Reunion? (photo Rick Stewart/Allsport)
  • Andy Barkett, former Indy skipper, Bucco minor league hitting coordinator and current assistant batting coach at Boston, is reportedly on the Pirates list of potential hitting coaches to replace Jeff Branson. There's also a chance Jeff Banister could return to the staff, largely depending if bench coach Tom Prince lands a managing gig.
  • Another tire-kick free agent: Don't be surprised to see the Bucs size up RHP Nathan Eovaldi of Boston; they were said to be interested in him both last offseason and at this year's deadline. He was just 6-7/3.81 during the regular season, but is a power pitcher, which fits into the Pirates recent trend, who averages 97 on his heater with 8K/nine innings. The big glitch is that he may cost more than the Pirates are willing to pay.
  • ESPN had a panel select the top 50 coaches in four major North American pro sports; Clint made the list barely, behind Mike Sullivan of the Pens and Mike Tomlin of the Steelers. The article said "Hurdle is well respected in baseball circles and among players -- he's not viewed as being on the rise but will have a role in the game as long as he wants one."
  • Kinda odd rumor: Marc Carig of The Athletic NY tweeted that Dave Littlefield interviewed for the Mets GM job. He's currently the Detroit Tigers VP of Player Development.
  • Sunday night's Astro-Red Sox battle featured the first-ever matchup of number one overall draft picks - 2011's numero uno, Gerrit Cole, and 2007's top gun, David Price - to start against one another in the postseason. Neither was taken by their current team. Cole, of course, was the Buccos' selection, and Price was chosen by Tampa Bay. As for the game, well, both sides could have called up AAA guys; it was 5-4 after three frames, with the Bosox eventually taking home a 7-5 win. The matchup won't happen again this postseason; Boston eliminated Houston.

10/19 Through the 1940’s: '87 Postseason; Stan the Man Honored; HBD Two Toms, Don & Rimp

  • 1874 - OF Tom McCreery was born in Beaver. The local kid played from 1898-1900 for the Pirates, batting .303. Tom became the only player in major league history to hit three inside-the-park homers in a single game in 1897 as a Louisville Colonel. He later became head baseball coach at Pitt for the 1912 season. Tom lived out his days in his hometown, and stayed connected to the game by running the semi-pro Rochester Athletics. 
Tom McCreery 1913 Pitt Owl Yearbook
  • 1887 - The 55-win Alleghenys of the National League and the 39-win Cleveland Blues of the American Association met in a four-game postseason exhibition series set up by their leagues. This date was the opener in Cleveland. The Alleghenys won that lidlifter 9-6 behind Pud Galvin. The teams combined for 26 hits; more telling were the 11 errors. The second game went the Blues way as George Hays suffered an 11-8 defeat. Cleveland scored six unearned runs thanks to Pittsburgh committing seven more errors. The Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette wrote “the visitors put up a remarkably shabby game in the field...with Pop Smith (he booted three balls) particularly off.” When the Alleghenys returned to Expo Park, they took the next two games handily, 6-3 behind Galvin and 16-7 with Ad Gumbert on the hill. This was before the World Series concept was finalized, but the NL and AA did have a championship series to battle for the short-lived Dauvray Cup. The two league champs, the Detroit Wolverines (NL) and St. Louis Browns (AA), played a prearranged 15-game set that was taken easily by Motown 10-games-to-five. 
  • 1897 - OF Tom Lovelace was born in Wolfe City, Texas. Tom was a minor league vet, playing on the farm from 1920-1932, and he got one at-bat in the majors, with the Pirates in September of 1922, resulting in a ninth-inning lineout. He and a handful of other youngsters who were on the roster didn’t get to see much time; though the Pirates faded from the pennant chase of the Giants, they were involved in a three-way battle for second-place money. They might as well have played the kids; they finished tied for third with St. Louis, a game behind second-place Cincinnati. 
  • 1931 - C Don Leppert was born in Indianapolis. He had a brief four year MLB career as a reserve catcher, starting with Pittsburgh in 1961-62 and batting .266. But he made the record books by hitting a homer on the first pitch thrown to him in the show on June 18th, 1961, against Curt Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals in a 5-3 Bucco win. Leppert managed the Pirates’ Class A Gastonia club in 1967 and then served as a MLB coach for Pittsburgh from 1968–1976. 
Don Leppert 1978 TCMA 60's Pirates
  • 1948 - OF/3B Lorenzo “Rimp” Lanier was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Pirates drafted him out of high school in the 37th round of 1967 and sent him to Salem. He hit well for the next three seasons, albeit without much power, and got a September look for the powerhouse 1971 Bucs, going 0-for-4 in six games. His star dimmed after that; he was sent down in 1972, had trouble with AAA pitching & his fielding, and he left baseball after the 1973 campaign at age 24. 
  • 1949 - Donora’s Stan Musial was honored as a Pennsylvania Ambassador for promoting the state at his hometown St. Dominic’s Hall. 400 fans filled the venue with speakers from business and government honoring “The Man,” including Bucco broadcaster Rosey Rowswell.

10/19 From the 1960’s: The Hat Hired; Fam-A-Lee Party; HBD Joey Bats, Rajai, JA, J-Mac & Big John

  • 1964 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was named manager of the Pirates, replacing Danny Murtaugh after an 80-82 season and sixth place finish in the NL. GM Joe Brown had discussed the job with ex-Cards manager Johnny Keane but it never became serious as Keane had the Yankee position lined up and instead recommended Walker to Brown. After a couple of competitive seasons (the Pirates came in third with 90+ wins both years and finished second and then first in NL team BA), The Hat was let go in 1967 and replaced by...Danny Murtaugh. 
Post-Gazette 10-20-1964
  • 1979 - The World Champion Pirates had their moment of glory in downtown’s Market Square when 29 members of the team & their families were cheered by 15-35,000 fans (take your pick; estimates were all over the place); by any measure, the noontime celebration was packed. Tom Hritz of the Post Gazette wrote that “Market Square was so crowded you couldn’t get an X-ray through it.” Sister Sledge’s “We are Fam-a-lee” blared over the loudspeakers on the sunny day as Milo Hamilton and Lanny Frattare MC’ed the event. The local politicos got first crack at the mic, causing disgruntled chants of “We want the Bucs” that were finally answered when Tim Foli led off the Pirates lineup. The biggest cheer was for Willie Stargell, who wore a stetson with a gold star and told the fans that “You are as responsible for winning the World Series as we are.” The afternoon’s comic relief was provided by a hot air balloon that refused to fly, alternating between dropping on the fans and snagging buildings until it finally tore and was deflated. 
  • 1980 - 3B/OF Jose Bautista was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He played for the Bucs from 2004-08, and hit .241 with 43 HR during that time before being traded to Toronto in 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Joey Bats blossomed after becoming a Blue Jay, leading the AL in homers and RBI twice before becoming a 37-year-old nomad in 2018. Diaz didn’t leave much of a mark. He didn’t crack the majors again after his Pittsburgh stop, and last played in 2016-17 in the Dominican Winter League. 
  • 1980 - OF Rajai Davis was born in Norwich, Connecticut. Raj was a late round pick in 2001 by the Bucs. He showed speed and a pretty good stick in the minors, but was always one step behind guys like Chris Duffy, Nyjer Morgan and Nate McLouth. He got parts of two years with the Pirates, seeing action in 44 games and hitting .242 before being traded for Giants’ P Matt Morris in 2007 in a deal that greased the skids for Dave Littlefield. Since then, Davis has played for six more teams with a .262 lifetime BA and 415 stolen bases over 13 big-league years. 
JA Happ 2015 Topps Postseason
  • 1982 - RHP James Anthony “JA” Happ was born in Peru, Illinois. JA debuted with the Phils in 2007 and been in the majors ever since. He played a key role in the Pirates 2015 playoff run when the Bucs sent RHP Adrian Sampson to Seattle for Happ, who went 7-2/1.85 down the stretch to help Pittsburgh to a wildcard finish. The Pirates let him walk after the campaign and he signed with Toronto, moving on to the Yankees late in 2018, his sixth team in a dozen campaigns. 
  • 1984 - RHP James McDonald was born in Long Beach, California. The righty came to Pittsburgh in 2010 as part of the Octavio Dotel deal, and was an up-and-down member of the rotation until 2013, going 27-24/4.21 in his four Pirate years. J-Mac had a breakout campaign in 2012 until after the All-Star break when the wheels fell off, and he never recovered. He was injured before the 2014 season and hasn’t tossed since. 
  • 1987 - RHP John Holdzkom was born in Pasadena, California. After extreme control issues cost him his gig in the Mets system, Holdzkom was pitching indy ball when scout Mal Fichman signed him to a contract with the Pirates in 2014. Big John zipped through the minors and got a September call-up, striking out the side in his first outing and finishing the year with a line of 1-0/2.00 with 14 K in 9 innings. He was sent back to the minor leagues to start the 2015 season, where nagging injuries and inconsistency with control, mixed with him being on the gray side at age 28, kept him on the farm. He had a rough offseason; his brother Lincoln died in a car crash in December and he was DFA’ed in April of 2016. The White Sox signed him to a minor league deal but released him after six games and he’s been on the outside since then, finally ending his exile by signing up to pitch in New Zealand during the 2018 winter season.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

10/18: Cash-for-Brett; Chuck's Mom Buried; DC Snackin'; HBD Silent George, Andy, Cliff, Hans 2, Frenchy & Phil; More

  • 1859 - OF Cliff Carroll was born in Clay Grove, Iowa. Cliff closed out the first half of his career in 1888 with Pittsburgh, playing in five games and hitting 0-for-20. He was playing through some health issues and wouldn’t reappear until 1890 after a brief retirement to his farm. He played for four more campaigns, three quite solidly, before retiring with 11 years in the show. Cliff also influenced the design of baseball jerseys. In his day, the shirts had a pocket, and he had a ball that took a bad hop and got stuck in his. It caused a bit of embarrassment on the field and his owner fined him over the misplay, leading to some bitterness between the club and Carroll. The quirky incident led his squad, the St. Louis Browns, to eliminate the pocket from their uniforms and the rest of the league followed suit. It wasn’t his only moment - earlier in his career, Carroll had been shot at by a fan he had squirted with a hose during pregame warmups (it seemed to be the result of heckling repaid with horseplay). The bullet missed him and grazed SS Joe Mulvey, who was fortunately just scratched. 
Old buds Hans #2 & Hans #1 1938 (photo Transcendental Graphics)
  • 1881 - IF John “Hans” Lobert was born in Wilmington, Delaware. His family moved to Pittsburgh (Lobert went to Carnegie Tech) and he played for the semi-pro Pittsburgh Athletic Association nine, but went unnoticed until the PAA was playing in Atlantic City at the same time Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was vacationing at the shore. He signed Lobert with the Bucs for a September 1903 audition when the team was running away with the pennant. He played everywhere after the Pirates had clinched, but the biggest impression he made was on Honus Wagner, who dubbed Lobert “Hans Number Two.” The pair remained friends throughout their lives. Lobert went to the minors for a year of seasoning, then spent the next 13 campaigns in the show with four different clubs, hitting .274 with 361 stolen bases. Lobert was noted for his fleet feet; he once defeated Jim Thorpe in a 100-yard dash. Hans #2 retired at the age of 35 in 1917, led West Point baseball for eight years and then he coached, managed the Phils for a year and finally scouted until he passed away at the age of 86. 
  • 1886 - RHP George “Frenchy” LeClaire was born in Milton, Vermont. He spent his career largely with the Pittsburgh Rebels of the outlaw Federal League from 1914-15, going 6-4, 3.81 in 36 games, 10 as a starter. After starting 1915 with the Rebels, he finished the campaign with Buffalo and Baltimore. When the league folded, Frenchy’s major league career came to an end. He died young at the age of 31, a victim of the 1918 flu pandemic that claimed an estimated 675,000 American lives and millions of souls world-wide. 
  • 1894 - RHP Phil Morrison was born in Rockport, Indiana. His MLB career consisted of one appearance lasting two-thirds of an inning (it was scoreless) for the Pirates in 1921, but with that outing he became one of the early Pirate family acts, joining his brother, pitcher “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison, on that season’s stat sheet. Phil was considered a top prospect with a good curve like his brother, but the Buc staff was loaded and he never got another chance to crack it though he posted some strong minor league numbers. At 25, he tossed his last full season as a pro, retiring to his wife and family in Kentucky and working as a blacksmith while tossing semi-pro ball. He made a comeback try in 1926 but fell short.
  • 1900 - The Brooklyn Superbas won the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup three games to one with a 4-1 win at Exposition Park as Joe McGinnity bested Sam Leever. The series was a challenge match sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph (bought by the Pittsburgh Press in 1924) between the top two NL teams in an era before post-season games. It was a fruitful learning experience for the runner-up Pirates, which went on to win the next three NL pennants and played in the first World Series in 1903. The Brooklyn club didn’t win another playoff set until 1955, when they claimed the World Series title as the Dodgers. 
George Hendrick 1985 Topps Traded
  • 1949 - OF George Hendrick was born in Los Angeles. The Pirates got him as part of the John Tudor deal with St Louis during the 1984 off season, but Hendrick hit just .230 with two homers in ‘85 and was sent to Angels at the deadline. He was nicknamed "Silent George" because he never spoke to the media. After his 18 year career ended, he landed coaching gigs with the Cards, Dodgers, Angels and Tampa Bay, where he still works as an advisor to the GM. 
  • 1951 - LHP Andy Hassler was born in Texas City, Texas. The veteran Hassler signed a six-year/$750K contract with the Bucs in 1979. It lasted for six outings and a 3.86 ERA before he was sent to California in June where he strung together three solid campaigns with the Haloes. He mostly struggled his last three seasons with the Angels & Cards, retiring after the deal expired to end a 14-year career. He became a ranch manager in Arizona. 
  • 1960 - Cause and effect: a little blowback from Maz’s home run took place when the Yankees let go of manager Casey Stengel, supposedly because he had passed the newly mandated Yankee mandatory retirement age of 65. The Ol’ Perfesser, who amassed a 1149-696 (.623) record while capturing ten AL pennants and seven World Series Championships in his 12 years at the NYY helm, said "Resigned, fired, quit, discharged, use whatever you damn please. I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again." His counterpart, Danny Murtaugh (The Whistling Irishman was just 42 years old), still had 11 seasons with a couple of service breaks and another WS title yet to be added to his Pirates resume. 
  • 1973 - The Pirates shipped 2B Dave Cash to Philadelphia in exchange for LHP Ken Brett. Cash was being phased out for Rennie Stennett, but still had seven years and three All-Star games left in him. Brett went 22-14 with a 3.32 ERA for Pittsburgh in two seasons and made an All-Star team before an elbow injury slowed him down, and like Cash still had a long shelf life. He pitched seven more years after leaving the Pirates, although he wasn’t really effective again after 1976. 
Ken Brett and bro George 1974 (photo Associated Press)
  • 1979 - Chuck Tanner returned to hometown New Castle 12 hours after the Pirates had won the World Series in Baltimore to bury his mom. She passed away before Game 5 with the Pirates down three games to one, and Chuck told his players in a quiet locker room before the contest that "My mother is a great Pirates fan. She knows we're in trouble, so she went upstairs to get some help." Tanner was quite close to his mom, but he insisted on managing through the series because he knew she would have wanted him to see it through. Judging by the results, that extra angel in the outfield sure proved handy. 
  • 1979 - Congressman Doug Walgren ate high off the hog thanks to the Pirates World Series win. Maryland congresswoman Barbara Mikulski paid off her losing bet with crabs, sausage and pastries while Ohio rep Tom Luken brought in some Cincinnati chili dogs after being dunned for the Reds NLCS defeat. Walgren sported a Pirates cap all day, and his phone’s background music was “We Are Fam-A-Lee.” Senator Richard Schweiker also got in on the action and was served a regional delicacy, Maryland beaten biscuits, by MD lawmaker Charles Mathias.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

10/17 Through the 1920’s: Cup Series; Waners Sign; HBD Pete, Kid, Pop, Bert, Red & Mike

  • 1870 - LHP George “Kid” Nicol was born in Barry, Illinois. George was called up from the semi-pro ranks to pitch for St Louis (he was 19 years old, hence “Kid”) of the American Association, and he began his career with a no-hitter (seven innings, nine walks) and a one-hitter over five frames. With the demise of the Player’s League that season, there were more players than roster spots around baseball so the Kid went to the minors despite that opening spurt. He got a couple of more shots in the majors, with Pittsburgh giving him the ball eight times (five starts) in 1894, with Nicol going 3-4, 6.50 and giving up 57 hits and 33 walks in 44-⅓ IP. He had a curve that baffled lesser hitters but looked like a beach ball to better stickmen and control issues bit him throughout as he issued 8.3 free passes every nine innings. To boot, it was suspected that his performance with the Pirates was the opening round of arm problems; the Kid returned to the minors and converted to the outfield. He played on farm clubs until 1906, retiring to the life of a hubby, father and working Joe machinist in Milwaukee. 
Pop Dillon (photo via Baseball  History Daily)
  • 1873 - 1b Frank “Pop” Dillon was born in Normal (North Bloomington), Illinois. Pop spent the first two campaigns of his five-year MLB career in Pittsburgh (1899-1900) and he hit .237 as a bench guy. He lost out the following year after the franchise was reinforced by Barney Dreyfuss’ bringing in the Louisville roster, but found a new home on the coast. He became a player and manager for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League from 1902-15, taking the LAA to PCL pennants four times. It was also there that he earned his nickname; after his decade plus of service with the Angels, his hair had gone gray and so he became “Pop.” He went on to work for the Association of Professional Ball Players of America (a charity that assisted pro ball players, including minor leaguers) after the Angels gig and was inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame. 
  • 1886 - RHP James ”Bert” (his middle name was Albert) Maxwell was born in Texarkana, Texas. Bert worked 21 games over four MLB seasons, with his debut being one start for the Pirates in 1906. He gave up six runs (five earned) in eight innings. He spent seven years tossing baseballs, mostly in the Sally League, and went on to manage in the minors afterward. 
  • 1892 - C Frank “Red” Madden was born in Pittsburgh. He got a brief taste of the bigs by getting into two games for the 1914 Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal league, going one-for-two. Not much info on Mr. Madden; he was apparently brought in for depth from the Ohio State League, where he played minor league ball. 
  • 1900 - Pittsburgh avoided being swept in the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup series by nickel-and-diming Harry Howell for 13 singles and 10 runs. Tommy Leach reached base five times and scored four runs. Ginger Beaumont had three hits, and Claude Ritchey, Honus Wagner and Bones Ely added a pair. Deacon Phillippe threw a six-hit shutout for the win at Exposition Park, although the Pirates still trailed the best-of-five series two games to one. 
  • 1915 - C Mike Sandlock was born in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. He played for parts of five years in the majors, with his last campaign as a Bucco in 1953, when he got into 64 games and hit .231 as a 38-year-old. He had a six-year hiatus between MLB gigs; the Pirates brought him up with knuckleballer Johnny Lindell from the PCL Hollywood Stars as Sandlock was used to catching the floater. It didn’t work out quite as planned as Mike allowed 15 passed balls and Lindell tossed 11 wild pitches, both league-leading numbers. Even more embarrassing, Johnny outhit Sandlock with a .286 BA. Mike finished his pro career in the Phils system after 16 years and retired, becoming a carpenter. 
Pete Peterson 1958 Topps
  • 1929 - Pirate catcher and GM Harding “Pete” Peterson was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He appeared in 65 games over four seasons (1955; 1957–59) for Pittsburgh and batted .273 in limited service, due to a two-year stint in Korea. His playing career was effectively ended as the result of a broken arm suffered in a home plate collision at Wrigley Field in early 1959. Pete coached and headed the scouting department for the Bucs afterward, and took Joe L. Brown’s spot as GM in 1976. He fielded strong teams in the late seventies with a championship club in 1979. Peterson lasted until 1985, dragged down by the cocaine trails and the churn over team ownership. 
  • 1929 - After being pre-season holdouts the year before, the Waner brothers were among the first to turn in signed contracts for the 1930 season per team Treasurer Sam Dreyfuss. Neither salary agreement was released, but Paul (who was rumored to be on the trade market) probably inked a deal in the ballpark of $13K while Lloyd likely settled for a grand less.

10/17 From the 1960’s: '71,'79 Bucs Beat Birds; Banny Leaves; RIP Skeeter; HBD Ravelo, Mark & Chris

  • 1963 - LHP Ravelo Manzanillo was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Ravello tossed for three years in the show, two with Pittsburgh (4-2-1, 4.19 in 51 outings between 1994-95). He also tossed in the minors from 1981–2005, including stints in the Korea, Taiwan, Mexico and indie baseball circuits. Manzanillo also played winter ball in the Venezuelan and Dominican Leagues.  
Ravelo Manzanillo 1994 Flair
  • 1964 - OF Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee passed away in Portland, Oregon, dying in his sleep at the age of 69. He spent his 11-year MLB career entirely with the Bucs (1916-26), hitting .287 lifetime, with a personal best .350 BA in 1922 to finish fourth in the NL (that’s the year Rogers Hornsby hit .401). He even got to play a year (1921) with his brother Lyle. Skeeter left the team after the “ABC” affair (he was the “B”) when he, Babe Adams and Max Carey staged a short-lived protest over management overkill. After a couple of seasons in the PCL, he worked as a salesman, farmer and shipyard worker, while squeezing in a couple of campaigns managing in the All-American Girls Pro League. 
  • 1967 - 1B Mark Johnson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Mark was a good glove, power-hitting guy who made his MLB debut at the advanced age of 27. His .239 BA in three years (1995-97) with the Pirates didn’t cut it as he lost his job to Kevin Young. Johnson was an effective pinch hitter and closed out his career with the NY Mets, playing until 2002. He did pretty well after baseball, using his Dartmouth degree to become a Wall Street trader. 
  • 1969 - C Chris Tremie was born in Houston. Chris got four wham-bams in the majors; his stop in Pittsburgh was in 1999 when he got into nine games and went 1-for-14 in a year that the Pirates rostered six different catchers (Tremie, Jason Kendall, Keith Osik, Joe Oliver, Tim Laker and Yamid Haad). Baseball has been Chris’ career canvas - he spent 14 seasons in the minors and been a manager in the Indian’s system since 2007. Not a bad resume for a kid who was drafted by the White Sox in the 39th round (#1,100 overall) in 1992. 
  • 1971 - Steve Blass hurled a four-hitter and Roberto Clemente homered as the Pirates won Game Seven of the World Series, 2-1, at Baltimore, earning Pittsburgh its fourth World Championship. The winning run scored in the eighth, when Jose Pagan doubled home Willie Stargell. Clemente hit safely in all seven games of the series, a feat he also accomplished in 1960 against the Yankees, extending his consecutive Fall Classic hitting streak to 14 contests. He also became the first Latino player to earn World Series MVP honors after batting .414. Bruce Kison and his best man Bob Moose were taken from Memorial Stadium by helicopter to a waiting Lear Jet to get to his wedding at Pittsburgh’s Churchill Valley CC (even so, the groom arrived 33 minutes late). And though it was a bright moment for the club, it wasn’t for some fans. After the game‚ 40‚000 people ran wild downtown; many were arrested and at least 100 were injured. 
The Great One 1972 Fleer
  • 1979 - In Game Seven at Baltimore, President Jimmy Carter opened the game with a ceremonial pitch (his first and only opening pitch while prez) and Willie Stargell finished it by going 3-for-4 with his third World Series homer, lifting the Pirates to a 4-1 win and their fifth World Championship. Captain Willie gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead in the sixth with his two-run blast. Kent Tekulve worked out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth and Pittsburgh tacked on a pair of ninth inning insurance runs to take a 4-1 victory, with Grant Jackson earning the W. Pops was named Series MVP after the Pirates erased a three-games-to-one deficit to rally past the Orioles. 60,000 fans greeted the team at the airport when they arrived home at 3AM, with thousands more lining the parkway. Baltimore, which planned a victory parade two games prior, still held one the next day and drew 125,000 for their beloved but bedraggled Birds. The game was big - an estimated 80 million people, then the largest TV audience in the history of the World Series, watched the showdown. 
  • 1991 - In Game Seven of the NLCS, Brian Hunter's two-run shot in the first inning off John Smiley was all John Smoltz needed as he tossed a 4-0, six-hit whitewash against the Bucs at TRS. Atlanta won their first NL pennant since their move from Milwaukee in 1966 as the Pirates failed to score in the last 22 innings of the series. The Braves lost the World Series to the Minnesota Twins four games to three in one of the most dramatic championships in the MLB annals. 
  • 2014 - After a 29-year affiliation with the Pirates, starting as a player and spending the last five as the Bucs bench coach, Jeff “Banny” Banister left the organization to become the 18th manager of the Texas Rangers. It was, in a way, a delayed PTBNL deal involving coaches turned skippers; the Pirates took their manager, Clint Hurdle, from Texas in 2011. The Rangers won the AL West title during Banny’s first two seasons but lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS both times. His next two campaigns finished south of .500 and he was let go with a year remaining on his contract.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

10/16 Through the 1890’s: Hans Strong Arm; HBD George, Baseball Tourist, Tomatoes, Leaping Mike & Bill

  • 1856 - 2B/OF George Strief was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Strief played in the majors for five years with a stop with the Alleghenys in 1882; he batted .199 and moved along. George, who walloped five homers during his career, was the first Pittsburgh major league batter to go deep when he went yard against Will White of the Cincinnati Red Stockings on May 3rd, 1882 during a 7-3 loss at Exposition Park.
Fred Lake 1910 (photo Paul Thompson/Library of Congress)
  • 1866 - C Fred “The Baseball Tourist” Lake was born in Cornwallis Township, Nova Scotia. Fred spent bits and pieces of time in MLB for five seasons, playing for the Pirates in 1898 and going 1-for-13. He also put in 13 minor-league seasons with 15 teams, hence his nickname. Lake managed both the Boston Beaneaters and Doves, scouted for St. Louis and managed several farm teams and college nines.
  • 1888 - C Jake “Tomatoes” Kafora was born in Chicago. Tomatoes tore up the minors but in a two-year stint with the Pirates, he batted .125 and discovered he couldn’t hit the curve. Jake went back to Chicago after spending a couple of years in the minors and became a local star in bowling circles, a profession he worked at during the offseason. He passed away young in 1928. His nickname dates back to his youth when he would get behind the plate, give a target and exhort his pitchers to “put the ol’ tomato in the big mitt.”
  • 1894 - OF “Leaping Mike” Menosky was born in Glen Campbell in Indiana County, and attended State Normal College (now IUP). He started his career in the Federal League for the Pittsburgh Rebels from 1914-15, hitting .242, and went on to play for the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox until 1930 with a .280 BA in the AL. Leaping Mike is famous as the guy who replaced Babe Ruth in left field after the Bambino was sold to the New York Yankees. His nickname was bestowed because of his speed and acrobatic catches.
Mike Menosky Ars Longa Art Card
  • 1895 - OF Bill Skiff was born in New Rochelle, New York. Skiff only played two MLB seasons - he hit .289 in 16 games with the Pirates in 1921 and sipped a cup of coffee with the Yankees five years later - but he was a baseball lifer. Skiff served 19 seasons as a player or player/manager on farm teams and another 14 solely as a minor league manager, mostly for the NYY organization.
  • 1898 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, Honus Wagner hurled a baseball 403 feet 8 inches in a throwing contest at Louisville's League Park (teams often featured races and long-toss exhibitions back in the day) to beat the record of 400' 7-1/2" set by the Brooklyn Mutuals' John Hatfield in 1872. Wagner's distance throw was‚ in some histories‚ topped by Larry LeJeune’s toss of 435 feet on October 3rd‚ 1907, although that toss is not universally accepted.