Sunday, March 19, 2017

3/19: O'Brien Twins Signed; Bill Released; Trickery Backfires; HBD Rab Roy, Paul, Tom, Jose & Angel

  • 1910 - C Robert “Rab Roy” Gaston was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1932 to 1949, mainly as a reserve. He was a starter for just two of those many years, serving as a caddy for Hall-of-Famers up Double Duty Radcliffe and Josh Gibson. Rab Roy was one of six former local Negro league players who took part in the ceremony that unfurled championship banners recognizing the Grays and Crawfords at TRS in 1993.
  • 1931 - 1B/OF Paul Smith was born in New Castle. He was used sparingly in his Buc career though his stick was solid, hitting .275 for Pittsburgh. He was among the local boys such as Ron Kline, Ron Neccai, Tony Bartirome and Bobby Del Greco that Branch Rickey brought to camp to try out for a spot on the club in 1952 and cracked the roster the following season, hitting a career-best .283 in 110 games. Paul then spent three years on the farm, returning for the 1957-58 campaigns. He had a good eye for numbers, wearing a pair that were Hall-of-Fame worthy and eventually retired by the team. In 1953, he sported #21, made famous by Roberto Clemente, and when he came back from the minors in 1957, he wore #11, Paul “Big Poison” Waner’s number.
Paul Smith 1954 Topps
  • 1953 - The Pirates signed bonus baby twins Eddie and Johnny O’Brien, multi-talented basketball (They were both All-America, led the team to a pair of tournaments and even beat the Harlem Globetrotters!) and baseball stars at Seattle University for a reported $40,000 each. They could both pitch and play infield, but neither made much of a mark with the Bucs.
  • 1964 - GM Joe Brown admitted that four pitchers they had signed in 1963 - Bill Rohr, Jerry Hinsley, Pete Wade and Harvey Chaffin - were held out of minor league play for the season in an effort to keep them from being lost in the First Year Player Draft, but drew the line at reports that he had told the hurlers to claim they had sore arms. The Bucs did lose three of the four - only Chaffin made it safely through the process - but it was ultimately much ado over nothing, as only Rohr and Hinsley made to the majors with 38 appearances between them. The rule was in effect from 1959-64 in an effort to offset bonus signings but was then modified when teams began losing too many prospects.
  • 1978 - Scout Tom Gillespie was born in Iowa. He’s been a Buc scout since 2012, coming over from Oakland, and when you hear of an off-the-wall prospect, his hand is probably involved. He’s an international scout, focused on evaluating baseball talent in Europe, Africa, and Japan. Tom also is a director of a couple of baseball nonprofits that support international play.
  • 1981 - 2B Jose Castillo was born in Las Mercedes, Venezuela. He was considered the long-term answer at second, but after four Bucco years (2004-07) and a .256 BA, he was released and replaced by Freddy Sanchez. He closed out his baseball career with gigs in Taiwan and Japan.
Jose Castillo 2007 Topps Heritage
  • 1992 - The Pirates released RHP Bill Landrum, who had won 13 games and saved 56 more over the prior three seasons, tossing to a 2.39 ERA. He was due $1.7M, and by releasing him this early in camp, the Bucs were on the hook for just a quarter of his salary. That caused a bit of a media & fan kerfluffle, but Landrum only lasted two more years in the show after his release. Performance, along with wear & tear (he was thought to have shoulder and knee problems) also played into the decision to let him go.
  • 1997 - OF Angel Mangual was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. The 19-year-old was signed in 1966 by Pittsburgh’s Puerto Rican scout, Francisco “Pancho” Coímbre and after a slow minor league start looked like a break out player. He sniffed the bigs in 1969 with the Pirates and in 1970 was sent to the A’s in exchange for Mudcat Grant. Angel never became an everyday player (his lifetime BA was .245), but he spent six seasons as a bench member of the three-time World Series champion Oakland clubs, seeing action in 20 postseason games.
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