Tuesday, October 31, 2017

10/31: Reuss Arives; Leyland MoY; Roster Shakeout; HBD Dee, Ray, Harry & Hardie

  • 1862 - RHP James “Hardie” (his middle name was Harding) Henderson was born in Philadelphia. He tossed for six MLB campaigns, his last stint being a five-game swan song with the Alleghenys in 1888, posting a 1-3, 5.35 line (tho he did hit .278; Hardie played some outfield and a smidgen of infield during his career). Hardie had a good arm but forgot the zip code in his final three seasons, issuing 134 walks in 271 IP. He umped for a while after that before meeting his Maker at age 40 when he was run down by a trolley in Philadelphia. 
Harry Smith 1903 (photo via Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1874 - C Harry Smith was born in Yorkshire, England. He was a reserve catcher from 1902-07, hitting just .202 as a Bucco after joining the club as a highly touted youngster after his rookie season with the Philadelphia A’s. When the Bucs signed him, the Pittsburg Press gushed “Clever Harry Smith...is the catcher pronounced by all the writers who are in sympathy with the National League as being the greatest young backstop in the country.” He didn’t add up quite as advertised: Harry spent nine years in the NL and hit .209 w/-0.6 WAR. Smith was a player/manager for the Boston Doves briefly and went on to become a minor-league skipper after he hung up the spikes. 
  • 1894 - OF Ray O’Brien was born in St. Louis. Ray was a lifetime minor league guy, playing from 1913-32 on various farm clubs, but he did get a taste of the show in 1916 with the Pirates when he hit .211 in 57 AB/16 games. After his Bucco trial, he put together his longest stretch with one club at Denver of the Western League, spending nine seasons with the Bears. 
  • 1924 - 1B Dee Fondy was born in Slaton, Texas. Dee joined the Bucs in 1957 from the Cubs after being dealt for Dale Long and Lee Walls, hitting .313 in 95 games. As a Bucco, he was the last player to bat at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn before the Dodgers switched coasts, grounding out. Fondy was a big guy but a contact hitter, and in the off season, the Bucs dealt him to Cincinnati for the more muscular Ted Kluszewski. Following his playing career he worked as a scout and in the FO for the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers, where he signed Paul Molitor. 
Jerry Reuss 1974 Topps
  • 1973 - The Astros traded Jerry Reuss to the Pirates for Milt May. Reuss ended up 61-46 with a 3.52 ERA as a Buc and was a rotation mainstay for four seasons. The lefty worked six campaigns in Pittsburgh (1974-78, 1990) and spent his last MLB season as a Pirate. He did get around; Reuss was on the roster of eight different clubs at one time or another and won 220 games in a 22-year career. 
  • 1990 - Jim Leyland was selected as the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He guided the Bucs to 95 wins and a division title, easily outdistancing the Cincinnati Reds’ Lou Piniella in the voting. 
  • 2011 - Roster shake-up day: the Pirates lost C Ryan Doumit, C Chris Snyder, SS Ronnie Cedeno and LHP Paul Maholm to free agency after deadline acquisitions OF Ryan Ludwick and 1B Derrek Lee had declared themselves FAs the day before.

Monday, October 30, 2017

10/30: Gunner Axed; Colts Corralled; Sauer Prez; HBD Ian, Bobby, Lee, Mosquito, Pete & Lefty

  • 1866 - RHP Pete Conway was born in Burmont, Pennsylvania. For Pete, it was a matter of too much, too soon. He broke into the majors at age 18 in 1885, and by his 1888 campaign made 46 starts, with 43 complete games and 391 IP on the way to a 30-14, 2.26 year for the Detroit Wolverines. Motown disbanded, Conway signed with the Alleghenys for two years at $3500 per year and then worked three games as his arm was shot (the Boston Daily Globe reported that he had “snapped a cord in his arm”; later researchers believed he had a rotator cuff injury) and Pittsburgh suspended him - without pay, of course - for not being in baseball condition. He became a cause celebre with the Players Brotherhood as they tried to get his contract enforced (Pete even reported to the team daily) but to no avail; the injury was deemed to have a “natural cause.” He tried to pitch for a couple of more years, then went to Michigan to get a law degree. He coached the Maize & Blue nine for two years, but never had much time for his practice, passing away at age 36 of a heart ailment. His older brother Jim was also a big league pitcher; his career ended because of a bum arm, too.
The 1885 Pittsburgh Colts..er, Alleghenys
  • 1884 - Financially troubled despite finishing second to New York in the American Association‚ the Columbus Colts sold its players to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for $8‚000 and disbanded. The Alleghenys needed all the help they could get; they finished the 1884 season 30-78 and 45-1/2 games behind the AA champion NY Metropolitans. 10 of Columbus’ players stuck on the Alleghenys 1885 roster, and five became core players for years - C Fred Carroll, OF Tom Brown, 2B Pop Smith, 3B Bill Kuehne and P Ed Morris. 
  • 1914 - LHP Aldon “Lefty” Wilkie was born in Zealandia, Saskatchewan. Lefty worked three years in the majors, all for Pittsburgh (1941-42, 1946), posting a line of 8-11-3, 4.59. He lost 1943-45 to the war as he was sent to Europe by the Army and never regained a pitching spot in the show after his return. Lefty worked in the minors through 1951, then retired to Oregon and became a poultry farmer. 
  • 1917 - Manager Bobby Bragan was born in Birmingham, Alabama. The former big league infielder managed the Bucs in 1956-57, just before they turned the corner, slating a record of 102-155 (.397) before Danny Murtaugh took the reins. Bobby moved on to Cleveland and after a break managed the Braves from 1963-66.
Bobby Bragan 1952 (photo Pgh Post Gazette)
  • 1918 - SS Tony “Mosquito” Ordenana was born in Guanabacoa, Cuba. Ordenana spent from 1942 to 1954 in pro ball, playing in 11 leagues with 14 teams. After appearing in one big league game with the Pirates in 1943, going 2-for-4 w/three RBI while handling seven chances at short, he spent the rest of his pro career in the minor leagues. Despite that promising debut, Mosquito (so called because of his quickness) hurt his MLB cause by batting just .250 without ever swatting a homer.
  • 1960 - RHP Lee Tunnell was born in Tyler, Texas. The Baylor righty was the Bucs’ second pick in the 1981 draft. He arrived in Pittsburgh the following September and then went 11-6/3.85 in 1983, but his four year run (1982-85) produced just a 17-24/4.06 line overall.
  • 1975 - Westinghouse Broadcasting stunned Pirate fans by announcing that Bob “The Gunner” Prince and sidekick Nellie King were getting the ax. At the time, no major league broadcaster had ever spent more years (29) with one team than Prince had with the Pirates. The reasons given were that the pair didn’t do enough to promote the team and went off-topic too often (guilty of the latter, but not the former). Despite a parade in his support that drew 10,000 fans, the duo were replaced by Milo Hamilton, formerly of the Atlanta Braves booth, and Lanny Frattare, the voice of the Pirates AAA Charleston club.
Ian Snell 2008 Upper Deck Spectrum
  • 1981 - RHP Ian Snell was born in Dover, Delaware. He spent parts of six seasons (2004-09) as a Pirate starter, showing promise but never quite getting over the hump with a line of 33-46/4.75. Ian was demoted to Indy in 2009, at his own request, and traded to Seattle a month later. He bombed there and was DFA’ed in June of 2010, ending his MLB career, although he did make a couple of comeback efforts. 
  • 1991 - Mark Sauer was named as club president after Carl Barger left to run the Florida Marlins. He oversaw the cost-cutting that gutted the Pirates' 1990-92 powerhouse teams as per the orders of the Pirates' public-private ownership to reduce payroll. He was eased out of action by the Kevin McClatchy group and resigned in the summer of 1996; McClatchy took his spot.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

10/29: Odell for Larry; RIP Bill, HBD Fido, Solly, Jim & Dana

  • 1863 - RHP Marcus “Fido” Baldwin was born in Homestead. He only pitched two years and some change for the Pirates (1891-93) but the club got its money’s worth. Between 1891-92, Fido started 104 games, went 47-55, and worked 878 IP with a 3.14 ERA. He was known as one of, if not the fastest, thrower of his era. He also was sued by St. Louis owner Chris von der Ahe for trying to influence his players to skip leagues (which he did), and was arrested for participating in the Homestead steel strike (he was freed, claiming to be just a spectator). Fido couldn't stay out of controversy; as a minor league owner in 1896, he and his teammates were arrested and convicted of a Blue Law violation for playing the first-ever Sunday professional game in Auburn, NY, and he was fined $5. Baldwin later became a doctor and was affiliated with Homestead’s Municipal Hospital. He’s buried in Allegheny Cemetery. His nickname came about because he seemed to live his baseball life in the manager's doghouse per Jonathan Light’s “Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball.”
Circus Solly 1912 (photo Boston Herald)
  • 1882 - OF Arthur Frederick “Solly” Hofman was born in St. Louis. Hofman played for the Pirates in 1903, then returned again in 1912-13. Coming off the bench, he hit .246 for the Bucs. Solly had a long run in the show, playing 14 years in the National, American and Federation leagues. His nickname was "Circus Solly,” credited to a comic strip of the era. 
  • 1944 - RHP Jim Bibby was born in Franklinton, NC. The big guy worked five years (1978-83; he was out all of 1982 with a shoulder injury) for Pittsburgh, and won 19 games in 1980 during his All-Star season. He was 50-32/3.53 during that span. Bibby started three games in the 1979 championship run (1 NLCS, 2 WS) and while not getting a decision in any of them, put up a 2.08 ERA. His Pirates highlight was in 1981, when he gave up a leadoff bloop single to Atlanta’s Terry Harper and retired the next 27 batters. A shoulder injury suffered later that season eventually led to his retirement in 1984. Originally, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in 1978 to replace Goose Gossage as the new closer, but he started 91 of his 146 Bucco outings. Another factoid: at 6'5", you might suspect he had some basketball genes, and he did. Jim was an older brother of Henry Bibby and the uncle of Mike Bibby, both NBA players. 
  • 1965 - Bill McKechnie passed away in Bradenton at the age of 79. A Wilkinsburg native, Bill spent 11 years in the majors as a player, then went on to lead three different clubs to the NL pennants as a manager and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1962. He was a utility guy for the Pirates in 1907 & 1910-12 to start his career. By 1922, he was a Pirates coach and replaced George Gibson as skipper in mid season. The club played better and eventually won the World Series over the Sens in 1925. The Pirates fell to third in 1926 and McKechnie was fired (he got caught up in the ABC Affair backwash), but bounced back with managing gigs at St. Louis, Boston and Cincinnati to carry him through 1946. As a field general, he split four World Series sets and was twice named Manager of the Year. The Pirates' spring training home, McKechnie Field in Bradenton, was named after him from 1962-2017, when it became LECOM Park. 
Bill McKechnie October 1920 Baseball Magazine
  • 1980 - The Pirates traded a PTBNL (AAA Portland’s RHP Larry Anderson) and cash to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Odell Jones. It was a homecoming for Jones, who had pitched for the Bucs in 1975 & 1977-78, and he went 4-5, 3.31 in 1981. He was in AAA in 1982 and then lost in the Rule 5 draft to Texas. Anderson had a pretty good run - he pitched through the 1994 season and ended up appearing in 699 MLB games (40-39-49, 3.15) before heading out to pasture. He was involved in one other notable deal when he traded by the Astro's a decade later to Boston for Jeff Bagwell. 
  • 1983 - LHP Dana Eveland was born in Olympia, Washington. Eveland was your basic journeyman lefty; he logged part of 11 big league seasons with 10 teams, making 187 appearances. The Pirates got him in June, 2010, from Toronto for Ron Uviedo and he spent most of the year in the minors, toeing the slab three times for Pittsburgh and giving up nine runs in 9-⅔ IP. Dana tossed a bit in Mexico last year and is a free agent.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

10/28: Leyland MoY; Bobby Bo FA; Cutch, The Shark AS; HBD Bob, Nate, Joe & the Gang

  • 1867 - C “Big” Bill Wilson was born in Hannibal, Missouri. He played pro ball for 15 years, mostly in the minors, spending 1890 with the Alleghenys, which had been hard hit by defections to the Players League (he hit .214 and caught, played 1B and some OF) and then with the 1897-98 Louisville Colonels. He was argumentative and got into several donnybrooks during his career, stepping up to the world of crime when he retired. He was alleged to have spent some time as a member of Detroit’s “Purple Gang” and served time in Leavenworth. “Baseball” Wilson, as he was known to his comrades in crime & law enforcement, met a brutal end when he was knifed to death in a St. Paul speakeasy in 1924.
  • 1899 - LHP Percy Lee Jones was born in Harwood, Texas. Percy closed out his nine-year career, mainly with the Cubs, in Pittsburgh where he went 0-1, 6.63 in nine games in 1930 before being sent down. Percy ended up on a sad note; he was injured the following season in Columbus in the minors at age 31 and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life per “The Baseball Necrology.” It was a long one, too - he survived until 1979. 
Joe Page 1954 (photo Barney Stein/Fine Art America)
  • 1917 - LHP Joe Page was born in Cherry Valley, southwest of Pittsburgh. He was raised in the mining town of Springdale and was signed by the Yankees in 1940. Joe’s career turned in 1947 when NY flipped him from a starter to to reliever, and he had several strong seasons before 1951 when his arm died. He worked in the minors to overcome the loss of his bread-and-butter heater, coming up with a sinker (and almost assuredly a spitter, too). The Bucs gave him a shot in 1954, but after a quick start he was rocked (11.17 ERA in 9-⅔ IP) and released. He returned home to Springdale and ran a pair of local watering holes. Joe was known as “Fireman,” not only because he was a reliever but because he used to sport a red FDNY tee-shirt in the clubhouse. He was also called the “Gay (as in light-hearted) Reliever” by his bud Joe DiMaggio because of his love of the night-life.
  • 1925 - OF Luis Ángel "Canena" Márquez Sánchez was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. One of the first Puerto Rican players in the MLB, he played for both the Homestead Grays (1946–1948) and briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1956), going 1-for-9 with four walks as a Buc. Though he played just two MLB seasons and 68 games, he spent 14 years in the minors, with another four seasons in the Negro League. The municipal baseball stadium in Aguadilla is named for him.
  • 1931 - IF Gair Allie was born in Statesville, North Carolina. The Pirates signed Allie out of Wake Forest in 1952 where he went to school with Arnie Palmer. He got a lengthy look in 1954, hitting just .199 in 121 games, and his chance to challenge in camp the following season was dashed by a broken ankle. He played well in the Southern League after he recovered and had a solid 1956 in AAA Hollywood, then lost a year to the service. Gair never put together a strong season after his return and retired, becoming a Falstaff/Lone Star Beer VP (not a bad fallback position!) and later operated a restaurant.
Gair Allie 1955 Topps
  • 1935 - Big lefty Bob Veale was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He pitched 10-1/2 years for the Pirates (1962-72) with a line of 116-91/3.06 and 1,652 strikeouts. Veale led the league with 250 K in 1964 and had over 200 whiffs four times in his career; his 276 punchouts in 1965 are still a club record. He also led the league in walks allowed four times.
  • 1955 - Dixie Walker, manager of minor-league Rochester, pulled his hat out of the Bucco manager’s ring, telling Joe Brown that he was happy as part of the Cardinal organization and decided to stay after expressing interest in the job a couple of days earlier. His brother, Harry “The Hat” Walker, was also skippering in the Redbird system (and would take the Pirates helm a decade later in 1965). Dixie probably had a premonition; Bobby Bragan, an early front-runner, got Fred Haney’s job and didn’t last through the 1957 campaign.
  • 1981 - OF Nate McLouth was born in Muskegon, Michigan. Drafted in the 25th round of the 2000 draft, he spent his first five big league years (2005-09) with the Bucs, hitting .256 and earning an All-Star spot in 2008. McLouth was traded to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke after his AS season when his value was high and Andrew McCutchen was ready to step in to play center field. Nate finished his 10-year career with Washington in 2014.
Nate McLouth 2009  Upper Deck Series 2
  • 1991 - Bobby Bonilla became a free agent. In his six years with Pittsburgh (1986-91), Bobby Bo slashed .284/.357/.481 w/114 HR, 500 RBI, four All-Star nods and was twice a top-three finisher for the MVP. He signed with the Mets for five years/$29M, making him the highest paid player in baseball at the time. He got deferred money from that deal and more from a buy-out of his second contract that will pay him $1.19M annually until 2035. A couple of other Bucs, 3B Steve Buechele and P Bob Kipper, also declared for FA. Buechele returned while Kip went to the Twins.
  • 1992 - Jim Leyland was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the second time he won the award. Leyland received 20 of 24 first-place ballots to outpoll rookie manager Felipe Alou of the Expos. Pittsburgh won 96 games and the division, only to be derailed by Atlanta in a seven game NLCS. Leyland would remain with the Bucs through the 1996 campaign, never winning more than 75 games after the roster deconstruction, then moved on to Florida and renewed success.
  • 2015 - CF’er Andrew McCutchen and closer Mark Melancon were named to The Sporting News' National League all-star team. Cutch hit .292 with 23 HR and 96 RBI, making his fourth straight appearance on the list, while Mark the Shark, who set a Pirate record and led the majors with 51 saves while appearing in 78 games & posting a 2.23 ERA, was a first-time awardee. It was a big day for Melancon; he also took home the 2015 Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year award.

Friday, October 27, 2017

10/27: HBD Ralph, Pete & Co; Meyer MoY; George for Rabbit; Spud Joins Up; Barnstorming

  • 1876 - IF Charlie Kuhns was born in Freeport. The local lad made his MLB debut in 1887 for the Bucs as a 20-year-old one-game fill-in, going 0-for-3 with a walk. He almost lost that line: the game he played in was at Philly, and the Pirates were losing but threatening weather was rolling in. Warming up between innings, the ball was zinged over his head and into the crowd, and the Bucs went on a recon mission to find it. Philadelphia made it plain to the ump that the Pirates were playing a delay game, hoping for the storm to hit. The ump agreed, but Pittsburgh remained a bit leisurely despite his warning, and so he called the game in favor of the Phillies. Pity - the rains came shortly after the field was cleared; the Bucs likely would have got their wish if they played it straight. As for Kuhns, he got a cup of coffee at Boston the next season and ended up with nine minor/indie league campaigns under his belt, mostly in the Eastern League, before retiring and heading back home. 
  • 1918 - RHP Ed “Rube” Albosta was born in Saginaw, Michigan. The Bucs drafted Ed from the Dodger system in 1942 after he had made a couple of September starts for Brooklyn, but he entered the service afterward and was in the military from 1942 through 1945. Albosta spent the entire 1946 season with Pittsburgh and made 17 appearances. He finished with an 0-6 record and 6.13 ERA. That ended his MLB days. Although he had a strong campaign or two in the minors, he never got another call up and retired from baseball after the 1954 season. After baseball, Ed returned home went to work for Grey Iron Steering and he was selected to join the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame. 
Ralph Kiner 2015 Topps Gypsy Queen
  • 1922 - OF Ralph Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico. He led the NL in home runs for seven straight seasons as a Buc. Kiner hit 301 bombs, drove in 801 runs, and had a .971 OPS in his eight Pittsburgh seasons (1946-53) and was named an All-Star six times. Ralph was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Pirates retired his #4 in 1987. 
  • 1924 - 1B Charlie Grimm, LHP Wilbur Cooper and SS Rabbit Maranville were traded to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Vic Aldridge, 1B George Grantham and 1B Al Niehaus. Cooper was near the end of his career, Maranville would have two more strong seasons with Boston, and Grimm played for Chicago for the next dozen years, hitting .296 with 1,079 RBI and became their player-manager. Grantham hit .300 over six seasons with Pittsburgh, Aldridge won 40 games in his three year Bucco tenure and Niehaus split 1925 between the Pirates and Reds in what would be his only MLB campaign. 
  • 1935 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, a touring group of AL All-Stars topped the Negro League champion Pittsburgh Crawfords 7-2 in Mexico City in the final match of a three game stand. Rogers Hornsby drove in three runs against Bert Hunter‚ and he drove in three more the day before when the All-Stars won 11-7. The first game ended in a 6-6 tie. The AL squad featured Hornsby‚ Jimmie Foxx‚ Ted Lyons‚ and Vern Kennedy while the Crawfords roster included Josh Gibson‚ Judy Johnson‚ and Cool Papa Bell. 
Spud Davis (Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1939 - The Pirates purchased C Spud Davis from the Phils. Spud caught 99 games in 1940, but in 1941 Al Lopez took over the Pirates starting catcher's role. The next season, Spud became a coach for the Pirates before returning to the active roster in 1944-45 due to the player shortages of WW2. In his four Pirate seasons, he hit .301 and continued as a Bucco coach (he also served as the manager for a short stint after Frankie Frisch resigned in 1946) and a scout. He then played minor league ball and coached for the Cubs until retiring from the game in 1953. 
  • 1948 - Manager Billy Meyer was selected as The Sporting News MLB Manager of the Year, edging out Boston’s Billy Southworth by an 89-87 vote tally. After 22 years in the minors, he improved the hapless Pirates by 21 games to fourth place with an 83-71 record, 8-½ games behind Southworth’s first place Braves (and just 2-½ out on 9/12 before a late season nose dive). The glow wore off quickly after new GM Branch Rickey dealt the vets and rebuilt; Meyer and his Pirate puppies lost 112 games in 1952, and Billy resigned. 
  • 1952 - P Pete Vuckovich was born in Johnstown. In his 11 year MLB career, he never tossed for the Pirates, but in 1992 he was hired by Pittsburgh as a pitching instructor. Vuckovich served as the pitching coach during the 1997–2000 seasons for Gene Lamont, then worked his way through the organization to become the Special Assistant to the General Manager until joining the Seattle organization in 2012. Pete also had a role in the movie “Major League,” uttering the snarky “How’s your wife and my kids?” line. 
Pete Vucovich (photo via Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame)
  • 1953 - IF UL Washington was born in Springtown, Oklahoma. He closed out his 11-year big league visit in 1986-87 with the Pirates,batting .207 off the bench. After ending his playing career, Washington coached in the minors for the Pirates (1989), Royals (1991–98), Dodgers (1999), Twins (2001–02) and the Red Sox (2003–present). Two UL factoids: UL isn’t shorthand for anything; it’s actually his given name. Also, the toothpick he always had in his mouth was a by-product of Astroturf. UL had always played with a blade of grass in his mouth until he got to the pros and there were no more grass fields; he substituted a toothpick. 
  • 1962 - RHP Mike Dunne was born in South Bend, Indiana. He came to the Pirates as part of the Tony Pena trade and paid immediate dividends, going 13-6 with a 3.03 ERA in 1987 and finishing second to Benito Santiago in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting. He couldn’t match his first-year numbers down the road, winning just eight more games before being traded to Seattle in 1989. His Pittsburgh slash was 21-18/3.65. 
  • 1973 - RHP Jason Johnson was born in Santa Barbara, California. He was signed by the Pirates in 1992 out of high school and made his debut in 1997, working six innings and giving up four runs before being lost to Tampa Bay in the expansion draft. He turned into a journeyman, working 11 seasons for eight teams and spending another year in Japan. Jason played through life-long Type 1 diabetes; he was the first MLB player to wear an insulin pump on the field. 
Jon Niese (via @BurghInfo)
  • 1978 - LHP Jon Niese was born in Lima, Ohio. After working eight years as a Met, Niese was traded to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker in 2016. He was 8-6 for the Bucs, but a 4.91 ERA and 1.545 WHIP were more indicative of his performance than wins and losses. On August 1st, the Pirates sent him back to NY for Antonio Bastardo, a trade tree Neal Huntington would like to forget about. The Mets bought him out after the season, and he signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees but was released in June.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

10/26: Barry & Doug Go; Starling Gets AS, HBD Frankie, Johnny, Judy & More

  • 1867 - RHP Bill Garfield was born in Sheffield, Ohio. The Oberlin product tossed his first big league season for the 1889 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, going 0-2, 7.76 in 29 IP (two starts, four outings). He worked for the Cleveland Spiders the following year and then spent time in Bradford, Peoria and Sandusky in the minors before hangin’ up the mitt after the 1893 campaign. 
Bill Garfield (image from May 15 1889 Sporting Life)
  • 1884 - RHP Harry Camnitz was born in McKinney, Kentucky. He worked once for the Pirates in 1909, going four innings and giving up a pair of runs, but that was long enough for him to became an early brother act with teammate sib Howie, who won 109 games with the Bucs. Harry did have a strong minor league career, once winning 27 games for the McKeesport Tubers. 
  • 1899 - 3B William Julius "Judy" Johnson was born in Snow Hill, Maryland (This is the generally accepted date; there are a couple of others floating around). The Hall-of-Famer spent the twenties as a stalwart of the legendary Philadelphia Hilldale Darby teams, then played and managed for the Homestead Grays in 1929-30. He was also with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, serving as team captain from 1932-1936. He retired after 17 seasons with a career .290 BA. The New York Times wrote that "...as a third baseman, Johnson was often compared with Pie Traynor," and the paper recalled Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack’s comment about Johnson: "If Judy were only white," Mack said, "he could name his own price." He acquired his nickname early in his career as a Hilldale Star, inherited from a teammate he resembled named “Judy” Gans, who incidentally was from Washington, PA. 
  • 1919 - 3B Jack “Gabby”/”Scat” Cassini was born in Dearborn, Michigan. Jack put 12 years in the minors (he missed three full seasons after entering the Army Air Corp) as a speedy infielder with All-Star chops (he had a lifetime .304 BA on the farm) and six stolen-base titles, but his only stop in the show was in 1949 for the Pirates. He managed to get into eight games w/o touching a bat or mitt; he was used solely as a pinch runner, and did pretty well, scoring three times. After the season, the Pirates sent him to Brooklyn for Danny O’Connell. His playing days were cut short when he was hit in the face by a pitch in 1954, suffering a broken cheekbone and blurred vision. That effectively ended his playing career, but he soldiered on for the next two decades as a scout and minor league skipper for four different organizations - the White Sox, Redlegs/Reds, Mets and Indians. 
Frankie Liriano 2013 Topps Chrome
  • 1983 - LHP Frankie Liriano was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. One of the Pirates most notable reclamation projects, the southpaw went 41-36 with a 3.67 ERA from 2013-16 for the Bucs and won the 2013 "Comeback Player of the Year" award. In the midst of a dismal 2016 campaign, Frankie was traded to Toronto at the deadline. From there, he ended up with the ‘Stros and a date at the 2017 World Series. 
  • 1989 - RHP Wilfredo Boscan was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Wil has been in baseball since 2007, spending 11 years in the minors as a starting pitcher while wintering in the Latino leagues six times, and got his only showtime as a Pirate in 2016 when he went 1-1, 6.46 in six outings lasting 15-⅓ IP. 
  • 1989 - RHP Diomedes Mateo was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. The Bucs were hoodwinked by Mateo, who they signed in 2009 under the false pretense that he was a 16-year old player named Yoldi Sierra instead of a 20-year-old. The MLB quickly found out and suspended Mateo for two seasons. He returned in 2011 but was out of organized ball after the 2012 season. (S/O to John Dreker @JohnDreker) 
Barry & Doug headed to greener pastures - 1992 Topps
  • 1992 - It was a dark day for Pirates fans as Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek both declared for free agency. Bonds was a two-time MVP (1990, 1992) and Drabek a Cy Young winner in 1990. Barry signed a six-year/$43.75M deal with the San Francisco Giants while Doug inked a four-year/$20M contract with the Houston Astros. 
  • 2016 - LF Starling Marte was named to The Sporting News 2016 NL All-Star Team for the first time. Marte slashed .311/.362/456 with 34 doubles, five triples, nine HR, 71 runs, 46 RBIs, 47 stolen sacks and a 4.9 WAR. He was the only Pirates player to receive votes for AS consideration from the panel of baseball execs who selected TSN team.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10/25: Bye-Bye Branch; Garber For Rook; HBD Schoolmaster, Nanny, Pete, Dr Death & JJ

  • 1893 - RHP Vic “Hoosier Schoolmaster” Aldridge was born in Crane, Indiana. He only tossed three of his nine MLB seasons for the Bucs (1925-27), but bookended those campaigns with World Series appearances. Vic went 40-30-2/3.99 for the Pirates, starting 86 times, and went 2-1 in his four WS starts, claiming both his wins in 1925 against the Washington Senators’ Stan Coveleski. After his retirement from baseball, he was a big man back home, serving as a state senator in the General Assembly and selected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. And yes, he was a schoolmaster before he became a pitcher. 
Vic Aldridge 1925 (photo Mears/The Sporting News)
  • 1918 - Utilityman Froilan “Nanny” Fernandez was born in Wilmington, California. Nanny played for Boston in 1942, went off to the service and put in a couple of more seasons with the Braves. A quiet bat got him sent back to the farm and eventually swapped into the Pirate system. Fernandez shifted to third base and made it back to the majors with Pittsburgh in 1950, playing 65 games as a backup to Stan Rojek (he played SS, 3B & OF) and batting .258. Fernandez was sent to Indianapolis in 1951 and then played from 1952-55 back on the coast in the PCL with Seattle and Sacramento. 
  • 1939 - RHP Pete Mikkelsen was born on Staten Island. He tossed for Pittsburgh from 1966-67, with a line of 10-10-16, 3.46 from the pen in 103 outings. Pete played for five different clubs over a nine-year career that carried through 1972, despite suffering from a chronic back injury he received as a Pirate when a truck rear-ended his car in 1967. He’s also a card collector’s set-breaker. Mikkelsen got into a dispute with Topps, and they didn’t issue a card for him during the last four years of his career. 
  • 1955 - Hall-of-Fame executive Branch Rickey stepped down as the Pirates' general manager, replaced by Joe L. Brown. During the Mahatma's five-year tenure, Pittsburgh’s “Rickey-Dinks” had three 100-loss seasons. Rickey was, however, credited with developing a solid farm system for the Pirates and stayed with the organization as an advisor. 
Danny Darwin 1966 Fleer Update
  • 1955 - RHP Danny Darwin was born in Bonham,Texas. DD tossed for 21 years and one of his nine teams for a bit was Pittsburgh. He signed with the Pirates in 1996 at the age of 40, and they traded him to the Astros for a second tour of duty at mid-season for Rich Loiselle after he put up a solid line of 7-9, 3.02. Darwin was known as the "Bonham Bullet" as a nod to the hometown and was dubbed "Dr. Death" by Houston teammate Nolan Ryan because of his flyin' fists. 
  • 1972 - The Pirates traded RHP Gene Garber to the Royals for RHP Jim Rooker. Rooker pitched eight seasons for the Pirates, winning 82 games with a 3.29 ERA before becoming a Buc announcer. Garber tossed out of various bullpens until 1988, winning 96 games and saving 218 more. Over his 19 year career, he saved 20+ games five times, with a high of 30 in 1982 for Atlanta. 
  • 1978 - OF Jerry “JJ” Davis was born in Glendora, California. A first round draft pick in 1997, Davis made very little noise in the show, playing in just 53 games from 2002-04 for the Pirates and batting .163, mostly as a pinch hitter.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

10/24 From 1959 Forward: Trevo Deal, Maz Retires, New CBA, HBD Chris, Arthur, Rafe, Dave & Junior

  • 1959 - C Adalberto “Junior” Ortiz was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Junior caught for the Bucs from 1982-83 (.264 BA), spent a year with the Mets, and came back again between 1985-89. In seven seasons, the reserve hit .262 during his career. We’re not sure where Junior picked up his moniker (he’s not a junior by name, but he did start stateside in the minors at age 17 and reached the Bucs as a 22 year-old) but Ortiz embraced it; he even joked after the birth of his son, Adalberto Jr, that he was going to call him “Junior Junior.” 
Junior Ortiz 1987 Donruss
  • 1959 - RHP Dave Johnson was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Dave got his first pro shot with Pittsburgh in 1987, giving up seven runs in 6-⅓ IP. He bounced back to have a couple of solid years for Baltimore before calling it quits after five tours of duty following the 1993 season. His son, Steve, also worked in the show, tossing for Baltimore and Seattle. 
  • 1961 - SS Rafael Belliard was born in Pueblo Nuevo, Dominican Republic. He played his first nine seasons (1982-90) in Pittsburgh as a good glove shortstop, hitting .218 during that time but ranking first in the NL in fielding percentage in 1988. Belliard went on to play the second half of his career in Atlanta, and was part of the ‘91-92 teams that eliminated the Bucs in the NLCS. 
  • 1969 - LHP Arthur Rhodes was born in Waco, Texas. Rhodes spent 20 years in the show and pitched for nine teams. He was also a Bucco for a brief winter visit. The Pirates got him from Oakland in late November of 2004 along with Mark Redman for Jason Kendall; two weeks later he was on his way to Cleveland for Matt Lawton. 
Maz 2010 (photo UPI)
  • 1972 - Bill Mazeroski retired from the Pirates after 17 seasons. He only played 34 games and hit .188 in his final campaign as a bench infielder (.260 lifetime). The Hall-of-Famer left a legacy of 10 All-Star games, eight Golden Gloves and two World Series championships. His number #9 was retired in 1987 and his statue was erected at PNC Park in 2010. 
  • 1978 - RHP Chris Bootcheck was born in LaPorte, Indiana. Chris worked parts of seven big league seasons (2007 with the LAA was his only full season in the show) and made a stop in Pittsburgh in 2009, earning no decisions while putting up an 11.05 ERA in 13 outings. Bootcheck did earn a paycheck for 14 professional seasons, including a couple in Japan, before retiring after the 2014 campaign at the age of 35. 
  • 2006 - The Players Association and MLB announced that they had agreed on a new CBA that would run for five years through the 2011 season. It jiggled some items and finances, but there were no major changes except that the winning All-Star team would host the World Series and the removal of MLB’s chief threat to the union, contraction. The players voted on and ratified the new deal in December, marking an unbroken stretch of labor peace since 1995. 
Trevor Williams (photo Joe Guzy/Pirates)
  • 2015 - The Miami Marlins traded RHP Trevor Williams to the Pirates for Rookie League P Richard Mitchell. The Fish had hired away Pirates pitching assistant Jim Benedict, and it was thought that swapping a potential MLB back-ender for a long shot prospect was compensation for the Marlins' luring Benedict away. Looks like a pretty good deal so far - Trevor claimed a back-end rotation spot and Benedict was axed by the new Fish ownership during the past season.

10/24 Birthdays Thru 1952: HBD Bill, Jay, Heinie, Cal, Johnny, Omar & Reggie

  • 1858 - 3B Bill Kuehne (his surname was an Ellis Island special; in Germany, it was Knelme) was born in Leipzig, Germany. He played every position but pitcher and catcher, hitting .240 in Pittsburgh (Alleghenys 1885-89, Burghers 1890). His best years were with the Alleghenys, hitting .299 in 1887 and leading the NL with 138 games played in 1888. 
Bill Kuehne 1887 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1859 - 1B Jacob “Jay” Faatz was born in Weedsport, New York. He began his four-year MLB career with a 29 game audition with the 1884 Alleghenys, batting .241 and then spending the next three years in the minors before getting another big-league opportunity. Faatz was an argumentative player with a knack for sticking out an elbow or knee and getting plunked, and that fiery temperament led him to become a ringleader in the Players League movement, which put an end to his career. He retired in 1894 after spending some time in the minors and moved to Syracuse to become a sales rep. His highlight came against his old Allegheny teammates in 1889 when he smoked a grounder to third that glanced off the fielder’s foot and kicked into temporary stands along the baseline; by the time the Pittsburgh infield could dig out the ball, Jay had a three-run homer (one of three career four-baggers) on a hit that never left the infield. 
  • 1871 - 2B Heinie Smith was born in Pittsburgh. Heinie played for six MLB campaigns and spent 1899 with the Pirates, batting .283 in 15 games (a deceptive small sample; his career BA was .238). Smith had a disastrous turn as big league skipper, losing 27-of-32 games as the Giants player/manager in 1902. That didn’t deter him when his playing days ended; he was the minor league Buffalo Bisons’ manager for a decade and then coached the U of Buffalo for a couple of seasons after hangin’ up his glove. 
  • 1927 - RHP Calvin “Cal” Hogue was born in Dayton, Ohio. His MLB career spanned 1952-54, all spent as a Bucco, with a line of 2-10, 4.91 in 25 games (16 starts). He got a decent shot in his first campaign after a July call up while the next two seasons were cup of coffee stops. Cal’s issue was finding the dish - he issued 96 bases on balls in 113- 2⁄3 innings as a Pirate. He stayed in the system through the 1957 season before retiring; he returned to Dayton and worked as a pipefitter.
Cal Hogue 1953 Topps
  • 1944 - OF Johnny Jeter was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. Johnny began his six-year MLB run with the Pirates, which had signed him out of Grambling, between 1969-70. He hit .252 in 113 games (30 starts) and got a couple of at-bats against the Reds in the 1970 NLCS. JJ got in a pair of seasons with the Padres and played for the White Sox and Indians before he retired. 
  • 1952 - Pirate CF Omar Moreno was born in Puerto Armuelles, Panama. “The Antelope” played eight years in Pittsburgh (1975-82) and led the league in stolen bases twice, swiping 487 sacks as a Buc. Moreno played every game of the 1979 and 1980 seasons, led the National League in at bats both years and hit .333 against the Orioles in the 1979 World Series. Known as “The Antelope” for his speed both on the base paths and in center field, he also picked up the less PC fan nickname of “Omar the Outmaker.” Moreno hit or ran into an out 560 times in 1980, a major league record, and ended his career with a 79 OPS+. He and his wife Sandra began the Omar Moreno Foundation, a youth baseball charity for underprivileged kids in Panama, and the Antelope is still active in Pirates alumni and PR work. Omar was inducted into the Latino Hall of Fame in 2014. 
Omar Moreno 1977 Topps
  • 1952 - OF Reggie Walton was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Reggie had a 12-year pro career in the majors, farm and Mexico, finishing his big league time with the Pirates in 1982, hitting .200 in 17 PAs. Reggie was a good stick guy with a .291 minor league BA, but half of his time was spent in the hitter-friendly PCL and he didn’t have much plate patience. He hung ‘em up after the 1983 campaign at age 30 after playing in Hawaii.

Monday, October 23, 2017

10/23: Lloyd Hired; Danny MoY; Sarmiento Deal; Glasnow MLB.com PoY; HBD Denny, Jim, Groundhog, Billy & Lave

  • 1881 - LHP Lafayette “Lave/Lefty” Winham was born in Brooklyn. He relieved once in 1902 for the hometown Superbas and the Pirates took him via waiver wire the following season. His counting numbers in a small sample were excellent - 3-1, 2.25, 22 K in 36 IP, quite good for the era - but he walked 21 over the same period, gave up a hit per inning and less than half the runs he surrendered (nine of 20) were earned. That was his last MLB campaign, and there’s not much of a baseball trail to follow afterward, so he went home and either got a job or tossed semi-pro, perhaps both.
Billy Sullivan Jr 1966 James Elder Post Card
  • 1910 - C Billy Sullivan Jr. was born in Chicago. The son of 16-year vet C Billy Sullivan, he played football at Notre Dame and was advised by his dad to get a good contract and avoid the minors if he wanted to play baseball; Junior did a good job with both. He put in 11 years with six teams before he entered the service in 1941; he didn’t return to baseball until 1947 at age 36 for a last hurrah with the Pirates. He hit .255 in 38 games, not too shabby considering the five-year layoff, and with that out of his system retired to Florida where he ran a successful construction firm.
  • 1918 - LHP Frank “Groundhog” Thompson was born in Merryville (Maryville?), Louisiana. Groundhog got his name due to his unfortunate appearance; he had a short (5’2”), squat build, cleft lip and eyes that bulged to go along with a fastball, sinker and curve. He spent 10 years in the Negro Leagues, toiling for Homestead from 1946-48 and was a member of the Grays last championship club. Though he was considered one of their top pitchers, it’s a wonder he lasted that long - C Josh Gibson named him to his “All-Ugly” team and Luke Easter, at 6’4”, 220+ lbs, threatened to punch him out during a card game until Groundhog pulled out a knife and told him that he planned to “cut you down to my size.” Fun times. He closed out his career with the Birmingham Black Barons and the Memphis Red Sox.
  • 1931 - RHP Jim Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky. The Hall of Famer tossed for the Bucs in 1968 and part of 1969, compiling a 14-23 mark with a 3.84 ERA before being traded to the LA Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. In a 17-year career, Bunning tossed a perfecto and was later inducted into the Hall of Fame. He did pretty well as a politico in Kentucky when he was done tossing horsehides, climbing from City Council to become a six-term Congressman and two-term Senator.
Danny Murtaugh 1970 (photo Getty Images)
  • 1970 - The Associated Press named Danny Murtaugh as its major league Manager of Year, outpolling Reds’ skipper Sparky Anderson 148-131, although Sparky had the last laugh when his Reds swept the Bucs in the NLCS. 
  • 1981 - RHP Manny Sarmiento was sold by the Boston Red Sox to the Pirates. He gave the Pirates two strong campaigns in 1982-83, going 12-9, 3.25 in 87 appearances (17 starts) and working 249 IP but blew out his elbow in camp the next season, effectively finishing his career.
  • 1982 - RHP Denny Bautista was born in Sanchez, Dominican Republic. The vet pitched in 2008-09 for the Pirates, going 5-4, 5.89. Denny was a second cousin of Pedro Martinez and while pitching chops didn’t prove to be a family hand-me-down, he did manage a seven-year MLB career.
Denny Bautista 2008 Topps
  • 2000 - The Pirates hired deposed manager Gene Lamont’s batting coach, Lloyd McClendon, as their the new skipper even though he had no prior experience as a manager. McClendon spent his last five MLB seasons as a player with the Buccos. He managed through 2005, spent time with Jim Leyland as a coach at Detroit and was the skipper for Seattle from 2014-15. He’s back as Motown’s hitting coach.
  • 2014 - 21-year-old RHP Tyler Glasnow was selected as MiLB.com’s Starting Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The 6-7 hurler, selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft and signed to a $600K bonus, went 12-5 with a 1.74 ERA while averaging 11.4 K per nine innings at High Class A Bradenton. He had an extended shot in 2017 of claiming a rotation spot, but is still very much a work in progress.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

10/22: HBD Jughandle, Possum, Hat, Wilbur, Keith, Brian & Alen; Clint MoY, Cutch AS, Scrap Iron SI; Clines for Dyer; WS Forerunner

  • 1885 - Pittsburgh hosted a world series that it wasn’t even part of. The 1885 World Series was an ad hoc post-season playoff roadshow between the NL champion Chicago White Stockings and American Association champion St. Louis Browns, played in four different cities. The fifth game was played at Recreation Park in Pittsburgh. The weather was cold and fewer than 500 people were present. Chicago won 9-2 in a shortened game that was called after seven innings because of darkness. 
  • 1895 - RHP “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison was born in Pellville, Kentucky. He worked eight seasons (1920-27) for the Pirates with an 89-71 record and 3.52 ERA. In 1921, he was part of a Pirate brother act when sib Phil made the roster. Jughandle twice led the senior circuit in shutouts with three in 1921 and five in 1922. His best campaign was in 1923 when he was 25-13/3.49 w/301 IP. He led the NL in outings in 1924 with 41 and again in 1925 with 44. In 1925, Johnny was 17-14 for the pennant-winning Pirates and pitched three games in the World Series against the Washington Senators without a decision, striking out seven in 9-⅓ frames. He got his nickname from his sweeping curve that bent like a jughandle. 
Johnny Morrison 1922 (photo Bain/Library of Congress)
  • 1916 - Announcer Jim Woods was born in Kansas City. He was a sidekick of Bob Prince at KDKA from 1958-69, where he was known as "The Possum." Woods worked for the Yankees, Giants and NBC before coming to Pittsburgh, moving later to the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox, then finishing his career as an announcer for the USA Network's Thursday Night Baseball games. Woods picked up his nickname of "Possum" while with New York. He had a slight overbite and close-cropped hair, and as he walked into the clubhouse fresh from a haircut, Enos Slaughter (or perhaps Whitey Ford; they're both suspects), looked him over and said, "I've seen better heads on a possum." Bob Prince picked up on the nickname, and the Gunner's wife Betty would even introduce Woods’ spouse Audrey as “Mrs. Possum.” 
  • 1916 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Walker was hired in 1965 to replace Danny Murtaugh, who stepped down for health reasons. The Pirates contended for the pennant during the 1965 and 1966 seasons, finishing third behind the left-coast one-two punch of the champion Los Angeles Dodgers and runner-up San Francisco Giants. But when the 1967 Pirates stumbled to a .500 mark in mid-season, Walker was let go in favor of his predecessor, Murtaugh. He did leave his mark, though, as an offensive mind on the organization. Walker got his nickname from his habit of constantly tugging on his cap between pitches during his playing days. 
  • 1941 - RHP Wilbur Wood was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The knuckleballer spent four years with Boston and 1964-65 w/Pittsburgh (1-3/3.18 in 37 games), never finding a spot while mixing his regular stuff with the dancer. He was traded to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. That’s where Hoyt Wilhelm convinced him into converting into a straight knuckleball tosser and his career took off. He made 292 relief appearances over four years for Chicago and then flipped to the rotation, where he made 40> starts for five straight years, work 300+ IP for four of those seasons and also won 20+ games four times (he won 16 times & threw 291 IP in 1975). He ended his 17-year career in 1978 at age 37 with 651 appearances (297 starts), 164 wins, a 3.24 ERA and 52.2 WAR. 
Wilbur Wood 1965 Topps
  • 1968 - C Keith Osik was born in Port Jefferson, NY. Osik played for the Bucs from 1996-2002 as a catcher and all around utility guy, even pitching twice in blowout games while hitting .231. He’s been a successful head baseball coach since 2008 at Farmingdale State College, a Division III school located on Long Island. 
  • 1974 - The Pirates traded OF Gene Clines to the New York Mets for C Duffy Dyer. Dyer was a Pirate reserve for four years, mostly playing behind Manny Sanguillen. Clines didn’t do much for the Mets, but still had a couple of decent seasons left in him before hanging up the spikes after the 1979 season. 
  • 1979 - Phil Garner was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated during SI’s WS coverage. He was a great choice, hitting .500 (12-for-24) in the October Classic, banging out four doubles, scoring four runs and driving home five. 
  • 1982 - Utility man Brian Bixler was born in Sandusky, Ohio. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2004 MLB draft from Eastern Michigan U. Bix looked good in the minors and even made Team USA in 2007. He got 68 yo-yo games between 2008-09 to show his stuff, but hit just .189 for Pittsburgh. The Bucs traded him to Cleveland; then the Tribe sold him back to the Pirates and 11 minor-league games later Pittsburgh sold him to the Nats. BB played a bit for Washington and the ‘Stros, then hung ‘em up after the 2014 season after playing in the Padre system.
Brian Bixler 2009 Topps
  • 1992 - Utilityman Alen Hanson was born in La Romana, Dominican Republic. A prize 2B prospect (his development allowed the Bucs to let Dilson Herrera go in a trade), his bat and glove never quite matched the hype. In two call-ups with the Pirates in 2016-17, he was seldom used and produced little (92 PAs, .205 BA). Out of options, the Pirates waived him in June of 2017 and he was claimed by the White Sox. Alen hit .231 for them, playing five positions plus DH while swiping nine bases in 11 tries. 
  • 2013 - The Sporting News named Clint Hurdle NL Manager of the Year after he led the Pirates to playoffs after breaking a 20-year string of losing seasons with a 90 win campaign. The Bucs won the NL Wild Card Game against the Reds before dropping a five game series against the NL Central champs St Louis in the 2013 NLDS. 
  • 2014 - CF Andrew McCutchen was the only Pirate named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team. 3B Josh Harrison & 2B Neil Walker were runner-ups, while C Russ Martin and LHP Tony Watson were also in the zip code, finishing third at their positions.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

10/21: HBD Pap, Ding-Dong, Ron & Marc; Comeback Club; AVS FA; Giusti/Rocketts Deal; Kiner AS

  • 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 way short. 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.
  • 1933 - RHP Bill “Ding Dong” Bell was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Bell was one of two professional pitchers to throw three no-hitters in the same season (1952) as a member of Pirates affiliate Bristol in the Class D Appalachian League. Success there didn’t translate into a MLB career, though. Ding Dong was given a September call up at age 18 in ‘52 and resurfaced again briefly in 1955, going 0-1, 4.32 lifetime for the Bucs. He had a well deserved rep as a wild child on the hill, walking 14 during his 16-⅔ IP in the show.
Ron Davis 1969 Topps
  • 1941 - OF Ron Davis was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. He ended his five-year MLB run, mainly 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 Di Maggio 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 AS run the following season.
  • 1969 - RHP Dave Giusti and C Dave Ricketts came over from 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 as a long time field coach and catching mentor.
Marc Wilkins 1997 Ultra
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

10/20: HBD Jocko, Jerry & Jose; Barnstorming, QB or Ps?

  • 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 (1887-88), the Burghers of the Players’ League (1889) and the Pirates in 1890. 
Jocko Fields 1887-90 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, who 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. 
  • 1961 - Ump Jerry Meals was born in Butler. He began umping 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 began 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. 
Jose Veras 2011 (photo Justin Aller/Getty)
  • 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, going 2-4-1, 3.80 in 79 appearances. The reliever was last sighted pitching in the Indy leagues in 2016 and out of work during the past campaign.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

10/19: HBD Tom M. Tom L, Don, Rimp, Joey Bats, Raj, James & John; Hat Becomes Manager

  • 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. He lived out his days in his hometown, and stayed connected to the game by running the semi-pro Rochester Athletics. 
  • 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. 
Don Leppert 1962 Topps
  • 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 homerun 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. After a couple of competitive seasons, he was let go in 1967 and replaced by...Danny Murtaugh. 
Jose Bautista 2007 Upper Deck
  • 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; Diaz, well, not so much. 
  • 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 .265 lifetime BA and 367 stolen bases over 12 years. 
  • 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 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. 
John Holdzkom 2015 Topps
  • 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 brutal 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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

10/18: WS Sidebars; Cash for Brett; Cup Loss; HBD Cliff, Hans 2, Frenchy, Phil, George & Andy

  • 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 strange hop and got stuck in his. It caused some embarrassment on the field and his owner fined him over the play, leading to some bitterness between the club and Carroll. The ugly incident led his squad, the St. Louis Browns, to eliminate the pocket from their uniforms and the rest of the league followed suit. Earlier in his career, Carroll had been shot at by a fan he had squirted with a hose during pre-game warmups (it seemed to be the result of heckling repaid with horseplay). The bullet missed him and grazed SS Joe Mulvey, who was uninjured. 
Hans reunion 1938 (Transcendental Graphics/Getty)
  • 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 coached, managed the Phils for a year and 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.
  • 1894 - RHP Phil Morrison was born in Rockport, Indiana. His MLB career consisted of ⅔ IP for the Pirates in 1921, but with that appearance he became one of the early Pirate family acts, joining his brother, pitcher “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison, on that season’s stat sheet. 
  • 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 Hendricks 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. 
  • 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. 
Ken Brett 1974 Topps
  • 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. 
  • 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.