Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday: Pirates v Blue Jays - Nova v Lucas Harrell, Bucs Win 2-1, Notes

Today: Pittsburgh hosts the Blue Jays at Bradenton. The game begins at 1:05 at LECOM Park with Ivan Nova getting the nod vs Lucas Harrell. The match will be webcast (audio) at pirates.com.

Lineup (subs): Adam Frazier LF (Barrett Barnes), Josh Harrison 2B (Chris Diaz), Andrew McCutchen RF (Clark Eagan), Fran Cervelli C (Jackson Williams), Joey Terdoslavich DH (Kevin Newman), Jordy Mercer SS (Chris Bostick), Jose Osuna 1B (Wyatt Mathison), Austin Meadows CF & Phil Gosselin 3B (Jason Rogers). Fran gets his first Grapefruit outing as a late replacement for Elias Diaz. 2012's #2 pick, Wyatt Mathison, 23, gets a look at first; he's already been flipped from catcher to third base.

Ivan gets his first call of the spring (image Positively Pittsburgh)

Pitchers: Ivan Nova, Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, Pat Light and AJ Schugel. This is Ivan's first outing of the spring, followed by the bullpen.

Yesterday's Game: Lots of nice tossing as the Pirates edged the Blue Jays 2-1 to take their third of four games. Scheduled arms Chad Kuhl, Wade LeBlanc (we wager he felt like a grandpa among this group), Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes put up goose eggs as did youngster Miguel Rosario. Only Altoona's Montana DuRapau was touched for a run. The ensemble gave up just four hits and whiffed 12. Starling Marte scored the first Bucco run after he doubled, stole third and touched home on John Jaso's sac fly. Eric Wood tallied the game-winner. He also smacked a two-bagger, went to third on a bouncer and scored on a balk.

  • Adam Frazier took part in camp drills yesterday; the Toronto game was a scheduled off day for him, not an injury time-out for his bruised thumb. He's back in the lineup today.
  • Reese McGuire, part of the Frankie Liriano deal with Toronto, will start at catcher for the Blue Jays today. He's rated as their #11 prospect.
  • Stew has been held out of the early games, but that's by plan. His knee is fine and the Bucs have him on a soft work schedule that will hopefully keep it that way.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball rates the farm systems; he has Pittsburgh as fifth with an overview of the prospects.
  • If you were looking for a Joe Blanton reunion gig in Pittsburgh, quit looking. Joe signed a one-year/$4M deal with the Nats, pending his physical.

2/28: A-Ram & Jack Sign; Barney Double-Dips, Drug Fines, Tix Go Up, Cover Boy Bobby, HBD Cotton Top & Boojum

  • 1881 - IF Terry “Cotton Top” Turner was born at Sandy Lake in Mercer County. He only got seven at-bats for Pittsburgh as a 20-year-old in 1901, but after a couple of seasons on the farm, Terry carved out a 17-year MLB career, mostly as a Cleveland Nap/Indian. Turner was a master at “small ball.” He was a strong defender who led AL shortstops in fielding four times. On the attack, tho he only had a .253 BA, Terry was great bunter (he laid down 268 sac bunts) and a speedy & fearless runner who pioneered the use of the head-first slide while stealing 256 bases as a pro. His "Cotton Top" nickname came about because of his light hair.
Jud Wilson Hall of Fame pin
  • 1897 - IF Ernest Judson (Jud or Boojum) Wilson was born in Remington, Virginia. Jud played for the Homestead Grays (1931-1932, 1940-1945) and had a brief stop with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932. The Grays’ captain and Hall of Fame infielder compiled a .351 lifetime BA. He was indifferent with the glove and feisty - his Hall of Fame bio describes him as “ill tempered and fearless” - but may have been the best pure hitter the Negro Leagues ever produced. Satchel Paige gave him his nickname when he heard a line drive off Wilson's bat zip by his head. After that, Satchel called Jud by the sound the ball made: "Booh-ZHOOM!" per Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post.
  • 1903 - A syndicate headed by Philadelphia socialite James Potter that included Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss bought the Phillies for $170,000 and brought in former Buc Chief Zimmer as a player/manager. Though they sold the team two years later, ownership interest in more than one team wasn’t prohibited until 1910.
  • 1926 - The Pirates announced an increase in ticket prices: with tax included, box seats jumped to $1.75; reserved $1.50; grandstand $1.10 and bleachers remained the same at $.50.
  • 1970 - Roberto Clemente was featured on the cover of The Sporting News for the story “Swan Song?” TSN needn’t have worried; the 35 year old Arriba hit .352 and made the All Star team for the division-winning Buccos.
  • 1985 - RHP Rick Reuschel, 36, signed a free agent deal with the Bucs. He proved to be far from over the hill, working from 1985-87, going 31-30 with a 3.04 ERA with 91 starts while eating 586-2/3IP and winning an All-Star berth. He was flipped in a 1987 deadline deal with the Giants, traded for pitchers Scott Medvin and Jeff Robinson.
  • 1986 - Commissioner Peter Ueberroth gave seven players who were admitted drug users, including Pirates Dave Parker and Dale Berra, a choice of a year's suspension without pay or heavy fines (10% of their salary) and career-long drug testing‚ along with 100 hours of drug-related community service as a result of the Pittsburgh Cocaine trial.
Aramis Ramirez 2001 Fleer Tradition
  • 2002 - The team agreed to terms with 3B Aramis Ramirez on a back loaded, three-year contract extension through 2004 for $9.5M. The Bucs traded him to Chicago, along with Kenny Lofton, in mid-2003 for IF Bobby Hill and a minor league pitcher before the big money fell due. A-Ram finished his career with the Bucs in 2015, retiring after 18 MLB campaigns with a .283 BA, 368 HR and 1,417 RBI.
  • 2006 - The team and SS Jack Wilson worked out a three-year/$20.1M contract extension through the 2009 season with an $8.4M club option for 2010. He was sent to Seattle before the 2009 deadline. Injury-bitten in his later years (he only played 90+ games once from 2008-12), he retired after the 2012 campaign.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday - Bucs/Blue Jays: Kuhl v Marcus Stroman, Game Result, Notes

Today: The Pirates visit the Toronto Blue Jays. The first pitch is at 1:05 at the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin. The contest will be webcast (audio only) at pirates.com.

Lineup (sub): Eury Perez RF (Clark Eagan), Starling Marte CF (Danny Ortiz), Gregory Polanco LF (Barrett Barnes), David Freese 3B (Eric Wood), John Jaso 1B (Joey Terdoslavich), Chris Bostick 2B (Alen Hansen), Erich Weiss DH, Jacob Stallings C (Jin-De Jhang) & Gift Ngoepe SS (Max Moroff). Clark Eagan, who is slated to make his first appearance in the outfield today, is the Bucs ninth-round 2016 draft pick from Arkansas and was just invited to big league camp on Saturday to provide depth - Cutch, Starling & El Coffee leave at the end of the week for their WBC teams. Andrew gets his first day off after back-to-back games.

Cool Chad gets the call - 2016 Topps Now

Pitchers: Chad Kuhl, Wade LeBlanc, Nick Kingham & Clay Holmes. Kingham and Holmes are part of the next wave of young Bucco hurlers. Nick is returning from TJ surgery and Clay is working his second full season after the procedure; seems like the chop shop is a mandatory step anymore.

Yesterday's Game: The O's bopped the Bucs 8-3. Jameson Taillon and especially Jared Hughes got the rust knocked off them (Hughes only retired one batter while surrendering five runs) while Tyler Glasnow had a Superman outing, whiffing six of the seven batters he faced. Jose Osuna had a homer and two RBI while Eric Wood also went yard.

  • Adam Frazier's injury was caused when he took a foul off the thumb Saturday; he's being "monitored" and is out of the lineup for a second day.
Fraze has a bruised thumb and is day-to-day (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Dayn Perry of CBS Sports selects the camp battles for all 30 teams. For the Bucs, he selected the fight for the fifth spot in the rotation.
  • The Jays will come to Bradenton tomorrow in another fairly commonplace spring home-and-home series.
  • The never-ending rumor (no, not Cutch): Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports that Jose Quintana is still being discussed. "The Astros, Cardinals, Pirates and Yankees are teams believed to be dug into the sweepstakes for the 28-year-old Quintana," per Levine.
  • Pitt's junior pitcher Kayla Harris tossed a perfect game for the 19th-ranked Pitt softball team as the Panthers defeated Southeastern Louisiana 5-0 Sunday. It was the second perfecto in Pitt history, with Sarah Dawson hurling the first just last season.

2/27: Pie, Cum, Jud, Ray & Pete to HoF; HBD Matt & Craig; Coleman Sold

  • 1915 - C Bob Coleman, a Pirate backup who hit .245 during the 1913-14 seasons, was sold to Columbus of the American Association during the era when minor league clubs were independents. He made it back to the bigs with Cleveland in 1916, but after that, Bob toiled in the minors until hanging up the spikes in 1927 at age 36.
Pie Traynor 1933 R333 DeLong
  • 1948 - 3B Pie Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers. The infielder spent his entire 17-year career with the Pirates, where he compiled a .320 lifetime batting average and never had a season where he struck out more than 28 times. Traynor was best known for his glove at the hot corner, where he recorded 2,288 putouts and started 308 double plays. He was formally inducted on June 13th, 1949, and accepted with a succinct 40-word speech. Pie stayed in the City after his career and is buried in Homewood Cemetery.
  • 1968 - 1B/OF Matt Stairs was born in St. John, New Brunswick. Matt made a stop in Pittsburgh in 2003, hitting .292 with 20 homers before moving on to Kansas City as a free agent. Stairs was a vet at relocating; in his 19 big league campaigns, he played for a dozen different franchises. He is just one of five Canadian players with 200+ HRs and was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. He was nicknamed “Stairsmaster," a play on his name and likely his 5’9”, 215 lb. build. He was also known as the “Wonder Hamster.” He told Joe O'Connor of the National Post that “I have no idea what the Wonder Hamster was all about. That was from a fan in Oakland.” He did offer that "I'm short and chubby. I get up there and I'm a little guy" so again his physique may be the moniker's genesis.
  • 1977 - OF/PH Craig Monroe was born in Texarkana, Texas. The vet hadn’t had a solid year since 2006, but the Bucs inked him as a free agent in 2009, hoping for a bounce back from the 32-year-old. They didn’t get it; he hit .215 with three homers and was released on July 1st, ending his MLB career.
Cum Posey 1913 Homestead Grays Team Photo
  • 2006 - Homestead Gray player, manager and owner Cumberland “Cum” Posey was elected to the Hall of Fame’s Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, along with 1B/3B Jud Wilson of the Grays/Pittsburgh Crawfords and RHP Ray Brown, also of the Grays. Included in the class was OF Pete Hill, who was born (or at least raised from an early age) in Pittsburgh and first played for the Keystones. They were inducted on July 30th.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday - Bucs/O's: Taillon v Wade Miley After Saturday Sweep

Today: The Pirates visit the Orioles. Gametime is 1:05 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The contest will be carried by 93.7 The Fan.

Lineup (subs): Phil Gosselin 2B (Max Moroff), Kevin Newman DH, Andrew McCutchen RF (Eury Perez), Jason Rogers 3B (Erich Weiss), Elias Diaz C (Christian Kelley), Jose Osuna 1B, Eric Wood LF (Joey Terdoslavich), Austin Meadows CF (Danny Ortiz) & Alen Hanson (Gift Ngoepe). Andrew and some bench depth take the field today. Only Newman is penciled in for all nine frames (Osuna's sub at first is TBD), and that's as the DH. Gosselin and Hansen will battle for the fifth spot on the bench, so expect to see them get lots of early playing time at a variety of infield spots while the staff evaluates them. Both have primarily been 2B so competent versatility will loom large.

JT toes the rubber today (2016 Topps Heritage).

Pitchers: Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Hutchison, Jared Hughes and Tyler Webb are slated for the hill. Tyler and Hutch begin to make their cases to break camp with the club. Hutch is working on eliminating a twist in his motion, so we'll see if Uncle Ray's tinkering under the hood pay off. Webb also needs to hit the ground running; as a Rule 5 pick, he has to earn a roster spot or be offered back to the Yankees.

Yesterday's Results: The Bucs took their Grapefruit League home opener by a 6-2 count over the O's behind long balls from Chris Bostick & Jin-De Jhang. El Coffee went 3-for-3 with two RBI and two SBs. The Pirates also whipped Toronto 7-2 so all is well on day one. Joey Terdoslavich and Phil Gosselin each had a pair of RBI while Jacob Stallings went deep.

Game/Camp Notes:
  • Adam Frazier was scratched from the lineup with a sore thumb and David Freese was a healthy scratch (manager's decision) from the original card.
  • Cutch's first outing in right went smoothly. He noted post-game that it will be a learning experience picking up the ball, backing the bases differently and avoiding the railing while chasing fouls.
Andrew adjusting to a new spot - 2014 Topps Spring Fever
  • Gerrit Cole will miss the first turn around the track - he'll toss a sim game (2 IP) today. No worries, tho - skipper Hurdle named him the Opening Day starter on April 3rd against the Bosox at Fenway yesterday.
  • Clint added that Jameson Taillon will start the the second game and Ivan Nova will get the home opener April 7th against Atlanta. The other spots will be determined as camp goes on and the players battle for the back end roles. Chad Kuhl holds the early edge for one of those two open positions as the #4 man based on last year's work.

2/26: HBD Sam, Preacher & Vic; Early Players Association; Simon Deal; Tommy's Toss

  • 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.
  • 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 and continued to move to the AL while the beleaguered union folded after the 1903 season.
Mike Simon 1909 Pittsburg Press
  • 1909 - The Pirates traded IF Charlie Starr to the Boston Doves for a PTBNL, who was C Mike Simon. 1909 was Starr’s last season while Simon was a Pirate 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 fractured skull in 1945 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.
  • 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 emulate the alleged feat of George Washington per the New Hampshire History Blog.
Vic Janowicz 1956 (football) & 1954 (baseball) Topps
  • 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.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Let's Play Two! Bucs Open Spring Season

The spring games start off with a split-squad twinbill. The home club will host the Baltimore Orioles while the road warriors will tackle the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte to kick off the Grapefruit League.

Pirates v Baltimore (1:05 @ LECOM Park, the former McKechnie Field):

Lineup (subs): Adam Frazier SS (Kevin Newman), Starling Marte CF, Andrew McCutchen RF, Gregory Polanco LF, David Freese 3B, Jason Rogers 1B, Alen Hanson 2B (Chris Bostick), Elias Diaz C (Jin-De Jhang) & Barrett Barnes DH.
Pitchers: Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Antonio Bastardo, Daniel Hudson, Juan Nicasio, AJ Schugel & Pat Light.
Notes: The newly aligned outfield gets its first shakedown cruise - Clint tentatively has them scheduled to go the distance - and some A-List arms get loose today. While most are relievers, Brault and Williams are part of the battle for the fifth man in the rotation, along with Drew Hutchison and Tyler Glasnow. Also, top gun SS Kevin Newman will get in later in the match. The game will be webcast on pirates.com.

Steven Brault opens LECOM Park today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Pirates @ Tampa Bay (1:05 PM @ Charlotte Sports Park)

Lineup (subs): Josh Harrison 2B (Erich Weiss), Jordy Mercer SS (Gift Ngoepe), John Jaso 1B, Joey Terdoslavich RF, Jose Osuna LF, Phil Gosselin 3B (Max Moroff), Austin Meadows CF (Danny Ortiz) & Jacob Stallings C (Jackson Williams).
Pitchers: Josh Lindblom, Dan Runzler, Jared Lakind, Cody Dickson, Tyler Eppler, Edgar Santana & Dovydas Neverauskas.
Notes: The Goose gets a look at third (John Jaso has been spending some camp time there, too), the highly touted Mr. Meadows gets a start and while the arms are depth guys and comers, watch for prospects Santana & Neverauskas.

Camp Notes:
  • Fran Cervelli and Josh Bell were held out of today's games but are doing drills at camp; Bell may be a week away from showtime while Fran is still day-to-day. 
  • The Pirates return the favor and visit Baltimore tomorrow at Sarasota. Jameson Taillon will start against Wade Miley.

2/25: Womack Trade, Lawton Inked, MLB & Anti-Trust, Camp Perks, HBD Syd & Phil

  • 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, played a seven-game exhibition schedule starting April 4th and started playing for keeps (hopefully with fresh legs) on April 12th.
Syd Thrift with his thinking cap on (photo Rick Stewart/Getty)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Tony Womack 1997 Fleer
  • 1999 - The Pirates traded 2B Tony Womack to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later (P Jason Boyd) and OF Paul Weichard (minors). Womack led the NL in steals for three straight seasons, two with the Bucs, and played on Arizona and St. Louis World Series clubs.
  • 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.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Notes: Healthy Camp, JHK Case Moving Along, Young Pitchers, WBC Players, Hanny Back & More

Yes, baby - the games start tomorrow! Glad for the action; camp has been as quiet as a churchmouse so far. Here's whar happened this week:

  • All the Bucs (except Josh Bell, who is taking live BP and is a week away from resuming full practice) seemed to be in the pink of health coming into camp; only Gerrit Cole was babied during the first session, working an inning of live pitching when everyone else got two. Clint said that was by plan, and it does make sense to bring the Cole Train along slowly. On the other side of the pillow, Fran left the workout with "foot discomfort," citing the same right foot that was problematic for him in 2016 and is day-to-day. 
Jung Ho Kang is still a question mark (image Custom Collage 3)
  • Jung Ho Kang expressed remorse and then pleaded guilty to his DUI charge. The court will hold a sentencing hearing on March 3rd; he faces a big fine. He still hasn't been banged by the Pirates/MLB yet and may face some hurdles in getting his work permit after his third DUI.
  • Steven Brault may not have been 100% last year. The lefty tore his hamstring in May, and he may not have been entirely recovered from its affects when he took the hill again in June. He's healthy going into camp, so we'll see if that helps smooth out a fairly rough (0-3, 4.86) maiden voyage.
  • The Bucco pitching grease monkeys are doing some mechanical work on Tyler Glasnow. He's added a changeup as his third pitch and went from a four-seam fastball to a two-seamer.
Andrew & the boys will leave for their WBC teams on 3/5 (photo Shelley Lipton/Pirates)
  • Cutch, Starling, El Coffee and Fran leave camp on March 5th to join their WBC teams.
  • MLBPA union chief Tony Clark met with the players this week and the bulk of the pow-wow involved pace-of-game issues. Afterward, he told the media that the Association was "engaged" re: Jung Ho Kang's situation and would support him, as they would any player.
  • Hey, look who's back! Joel Hanrahan is the new assistant pitching coach for Low Class A West Virginia Black Bears. Hanny worked just one season after being traded to Boston before having TJ surgeries in 2013 and 2015 that led to his retirement in November.
The Hammer is back (image from psf wallpapers)
  • The Yankees signed LHP Jon Niese to a minor-league deal with an invite to camp; he's expected to compete for a back-end/long man role.

2/24: Bucs Go To Court; HBD Hans, Wilbur, John Henry, Earl & Bronson

  • 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 American Caramels
  • 1892 - LHP Wilbur Cooper was born in Bearsville, WV. Cooper tossed for 13 years in Pittsburgh, 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. 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.
Earl Grace 1934 Goudey
  • 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 a dozen more big league years since then, mainly with the Reds, and inked a minor-league deal with the Nats this year at the age of 40 after getting TJ surgery in July of 2014.
  • 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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

2/23 TRS/PNC Era: Luis & Raul Ink Deals, Martin Traded, Russ Out of WBC, 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.
Jason Boyd 2004 (photo MLB Photos)
  • 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.
  • 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 moved on to the Tampa Bay organization in 2016 and signed with Oakland this season.
  • 2000 - The Bucs dealt Al Martin to the San Diego Padres for OF John Vander Wal and pitchers Jim Sak and Geraldo Padua. Martin played four 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. Sak & Padua never made it to the show.
Al Martin 1994 Studio
  • 2004 - The Pirates signed free agent OF Raul Mondesi to a $1.15M contract. He left the team in May to fight a lawsuit in his native Dominican Republic, didn’t return, and was released for breach of contract. Mondesi suspiciously signed another deal with the Angels a few days later, but it was a pyrrhic victory - he was out of baseball in 2005.
  • 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.

2/23 Expo Park/Forbes Field Era: Pud Signs; HBD Barney, Ray, T-Bone, Eddie & Bo

    Barney Dreyfuss (image from NL Service Bureau)
  • 1885 - 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 and 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.
  • 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 grand to carry him through the off season. “Gentleman Jeems” ended up in the Hall of Fame; 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 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.
Ray Brown (image by John Chiarello)
  • 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” 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.
  • 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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2/22: Bucs Visit DC; Orlando Signs; Off to FL; RIP Howie; HBD Bill Benswanger, Roy, Bill Baker & Frankie

  • 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. 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 the president, a position he held until 1946. Baseball wasn’t exactly in his blood. He told Vince Johnson of the Post Gazette that “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.
Bill Benswanger and his better half 1937 (photo NY Post/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.
  • 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 the NL for a season before his knees finally gave out, an occupational hazard for an old catcher.
  • 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.”
  • 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 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.
Howie Haak & Chuck Tanner (photo George Gojkovich/Getty)
  • 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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2/21: HBD Ted & Joel, JR's Contract Renewed, Groat to Hoops HoF, First CBA

  • 1936 - OF Ted Savage was born in Venice, Illinois. Ted played for eight teams in a nine-year major league career, including a stop in Pittsburgh in 1963, batting just .195. He only ended up with a .233 lifetime BA, but made the most of his post-baseball days. Savage earned a Ph.D. in urban studies from St. Louis University, worked there and then for the Cards as a community relations admin before retiring. He kept his hand in the game afterward as a promoter and fundraiser for baseball’s RBI program.
Ted Savage 1964 Topps
  • 1961 - C Joel Skinner was born in La Jolla, California. Joel was Pirates OF Bob Skinner’s son, and the Bucs drafted him in the later rounds of the 1979 draft. Though he only played two years in the Bucco system, he was part of a pair of landmarks. The Pirates lost him in the short-lived free agent compensation draft to the Yankees as the first player ever claimed under that system (oddly enough, it was because the Phillies had signed NY’s Ed Farmer, but the compensation pool was formed by the entire league, not just the team involved.) He also was an interim manager for Cleveland, so he and his dad, a former Phil’s skipper, formed just the second father-son manager team in MLB history (George and Dick Sisler are the other).
  • 1968 - Marvin Miller negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in history with the team owners. The agreement ran from January 1st‚ 1968 to December 31st‚ 1969. The minimum MLB player's salary was raised to $10‚000, meal money during the season went up to $15 a day‚ and players got $40 a week for training-camp expenses.
  • 2009 - The Pirates picked up manager John Russell’s contract option for the season. The sophomore skipper went 67-95 after taking Jim Tracy’s spot. "JR met or exceeded expectations in his first year as the Pirates' manager," GM Neal Huntington explained in a statement. JR skippered through the 2010 campaign, suffering through a dismal 105 loss year, and was replaced by Clint Hurdle.
John Russell 2010 Topps Heritage
  • 2011 - Seven new members of the College Baseball Hall of Fame were announced, including Duke’s Dick Groat, who became the first player ever inducted into both the college basketball (he was a two-time All-America who considered hoops to be his best sport) and baseball halls. Groat won a World Series and MVP while with the Pirates, and in his 26 game NBA career with the Fort Wayne Pistons, he averaged 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists before joining the Bucs full-time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

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

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

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

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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

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