Thursday, November 30, 2017

11/30: Russ & Pete Sign; Mooney Manages; Wick Goes; HBD Craig, Matt, Joe, Clyde, Tacks & Lefty

  • 1870 - LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen was born in North Side, then still Allegheny City. He spent six seasons with the Bucs (1893-98) and twice led the NL in wins, with 36 (a team record) in ‘93 and 30 in ‘96. Lefty’s line with Pittsburgh was 112-82/3.97. The team released him during the 1898 campaign, and his last of 10 MLB seasons was 1900. He ended Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game hitting streak on June 19th, 1897 when Lefty and the Bucs stopped the Orioles 7-1. 
Lefty from 1896 team photo
  • 1877 - C Clifford “Tacks” Latimer was born in Loveland, Ohio. Tacks played 13 years of organized ball with five whistle stops in the show, including a four-game visit with Pittsburgh in 1900, when he was part of the trade that moved most of Louisville’s roster to Pittsburgh. Latimer wasn’t much of a batter, but his Pirates audition was short-circuited by a bout of malaria caught during spring camp rather than a bad stick as he went 4-for-12. He got his nickname in the minors: though he was a quiet man, one of his teammates dubbed him Tacks, a name usually reserved for guys who play to (and sometimes over) the line in the same vein that a 6’6” player is sometimes called Shorty. He did get tacky after he retired, though. He got a job as a railroad cop, and his boss got into a confrontation with Tacks, ending badly when Latimer shot his knife-wielding foe four times, killing him. Unfortunately, the slugs were in the back and he got life in prison. But Tacks was a model con, siding with the warden & guards during a violent gang escape, then later helping during a prison fire to eventually win a parole. He kept clean after that, passing away in Loveland in 1936. Tack trivia: Ex-Pittsburgh catcher Doggy Miller managed him at minor-league Minnesota and converted Tacks from the OF to C. 
  • 1901 - Pirate coach and scout Clyde Sukeforth was born in Washington, Maine. A long time member of the Brooklyn Dodger organization, he came to Pittsburgh as a coach/scout in 1952 and was one of the main players in the selection of Roberto Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He turned down the chance to succeed Pirate skipper Bobby Bragan in 1957 and retired as a coach after the season, but remained with the Pirates as a scout and minor league manager through 1962. 
Mooney 1909 Silks
  • 1931 - George “Mooney” Gibson (he earned the nickname either through his moon-shaped face or because one of his early teams was called the Mooneys; take your pick) returned for his second spin as Bucco manager, replacing Jewel Ens. He lasted until early in 1934, posting a 200-159 record and two second place finishes. Overall, the Canadian Gibson (he was from Ontario) had a 401-330/.549 record with Pittsburgh. He got his start as a long-time Bucco catcher, playing from 1905-1916 in Pittsburgh, hitting .238 but leading the NL in fielding three times with a toss-out rate of 46% against would-be base stealers. Mooney was the Pirates everyday catcher in 1909 when they won the World Series against the Tigers. 
  • 1950 - Pittsburgh signed the Boston Braves’ OF Harold “Pistol Pete” Reiser, who had been a three-time all-star for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early-to-mid 40s, as a FA. Reiser hit .271 in 74 games as a Bucco bench player and was released following the season. Per Mark Stewart of SABR “As a boy, his friends and family called him Pete, after the cowboy movie hero Two-Gun Pete. He loved westerns, and as a child often walked around the neighborhood with a pair of toy six-shooters holstered to his belt. Eventually his nickname became Pistol Pete.” 
  • 1954 - Coach Joe Kerrigan was born in Philadelphia. A first round draft pick of the Expos in 1974, Joe tossed for five seasons before coaching. He was John Russell’s pitching coach in Pittsburgh from 2008-10 after serving as PC for Montreal, Boston (briefly as Red Sox manager in 2001) and Philly with a bullpen coaching gig for the Yankees.
Joe Kerrigan (photo Rob Trangali/Getty)
  • 1959 - The KC Athletics drafted Dave Wickersham from the Pirates in the minor league Rule 5 draft. The righty went on to have a 10 year MLB career (including 1-0-1, 3.48 with Pittsburgh in 1968 though most of the year was spent in AAA Columbus) highlighted by a 19-win season in 1964 with the Detroit Tigers. 
  • 1971 - OF Matt Lawton was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. Matt spent a few months of his 12-year career in Pittsburgh in 2005, coming to the Bucs from the Indians for Arthur Rhodes and then getting sent to the Cubs at the 2005 deadline for Jody Gerut. Lawton swung a decent stick while here, batting .273 w/10 HR. But after the 2005 season, he received a 10-game suspension after testing positive for PEDs. He played in 11 games for Seattle in 2006 and that was the end of his MLB road. 
  • 1976 - OF/1B Craig Wilson was born in Fountain Valley, California. He played as a semi-regular for the Bucs from 2001-06 with a line of .268/.360/.486, 94 HR and 284 RBI, along with a 28% career K rate. Wilson tied the MLB single-season record for pinch-hit home runs with seven in 2001. Hand injuries in 2005 and shoulder surgery in 2007 ended his career. 
Craig Wilson 2005 Cracker Jacks
  • 2012 - The Pirates signed free agent catcher Russell Martin, a three-time All-Star, to a two year, $17M deal, the largest free agency contract they had ever negotiated. He got a $2M signing bonus, $6.5M for 2013 and $8.5M for 2014. Russ was among the league's top defensive catchers and had a .290/.402/.430 slash in his final Pirate season. He left after the 2014 campaign, signing a five year, $82M deal with Toronto.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

11/29: Hello, Walt & Chris; Bye Andy & Jeff; HBD Hitman, Lefty, Little Bill & Ed

  • 1864 - RHP “Little Bill” Sowders was born in Louisville. He pitched two of his three seasons for Pittsburgh from 1889-90, going 9-13, 5.39 for the Alleghenys. Bill came from a baseball family. Two of his brothers, John and Len, also played in the big leagues. No clue as to why he was “Little Bill” as Sowders was 6’0”, although a string-bean at 155 pounds. 
  • 1910 - 2B Ed Leip was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He played three years for the Bucs as a pinch hitter and runner, getting into 21 games w/30 at-bats, hitting .200 from 1940-42 before turning in the flannels for khaki during WW2. 
Paul Pettit image Thomas Paprocki New York Times
  • 1931 - LHP Paul “Lefty” Pettit was born in Los Angeles. He pitched for the Bucs in 1951 and again in 1953, going 1-2, 7.34. The Bucs signed him in 1950, making him baseball's first $100,000 bonus baby. He never really got a chance to show his stuff; he injured his arm in 1951. By 1954, it was so painful that he was sent to the PCL and switched to OF where he showed a nice stick, but he eventually had to move to 1B to spare his wing. He retired from pro ball in 1961, becoming a high school teacher and coach. 
  • 1950 - 1B/OF Mike Easler was born in Cleveland. The Hit Man spend six (1977, 1979-83) of his 14 MLB seasons as a Pirate role player with a .302 BA. Fittingly enough, he spent his later years as a hitting coach for a handful of MLB squads. Mike, btw, is considered to be the Original Hit Man, not Don Mattingly. He picked up the name because of his aggressive style at the plate and his ability to drive the ball to all fields, leading to five .300+ seasons in the show and a .293 career BA. 
Mike Easler 1977 Topps
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded 1B/OF Mike Derrick to Detroit for C Chris Cannizzaro. Pittsburgh kept the light-hitting Cannizzaro for a season before moving him to San Diego while Derrick played one MLB campaign. 
  • 1989 - The Pirates signed eight-year veteran righty Walt Terrell to a $800K deal as a free agent, and he promptly had the worst start of his career, going 2-7/5.88 before the Bucs cut him loose in July. He did go on to finish up a bit more credibly with the Tigers, tossing through 1992. 
  • 2010 - The Bucs sent 3B Andy LaRoche outright to Indy; he opted for free agency the following day. Laroche was a key piece of the Jason Bay trade, but hit just .226 in three Pirate seasons. The Bay deal reeled in Laroche, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris, but they never became building blocks for Neal Huntington (although Moss & Morris have developed into ML players). The GM was hoping to maximize the return by dealing Bay at the deadline, but later admitted he probably should have held off until the winter to pull the trigger. 
Andy LaRoche 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter
  • 2016 - The Pirates DFA’ed LHP Jeff Locke, who had come to Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth deal. In his six seasons with the Pirates, the lefty compiled a 35-38/4.41 slash in 644-⅓ IP. He was a 2013 All-Star, but frustratingly inconsistent and put up a 5.44 ERA in 2016, although he did go 9-8 and led the team in innings.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

11/28: Kiki, Tiger, Ribant & Wood Deals; Forbes Field Sales Agreement Reached; HBD Angel, Sixto, Dave & Leo

  • 1876 - C Leo Fohl was born in Lowell, Ohio, but learned to play baseball in Pittsburgh where he was raised. Leo was one of those guys who barely appeared in the majors - he played five games with 17 MLB at-bats, going 0-for-3 with the Pirates in 1902, and toiled for 11 seasons in the minors - but had big league squads entrusted to his care. After his playing days, he spent 11 years as field manager for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Boston Red Sox with three second-place finishes to his credit. He finished out his career with three campaigns of minor league skippering before retiring to Cleveland, where he passed away at age 88 in 1965. 
Kiki 1927 (photo via the National Pastime Museum)
  • 1927 - Hall of Famer OF Kiki Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs for journeymen Sparky Adams and Pete Scott. He had bumped heads with manager Donie Bush, and owner Barney Dreyfuss was looking to dump salary with the Waner brothers on the payroll, so it was bye-bye Kiki. Cuyler played twelve more seasons, hitting .300+ in six of them. Per Wikipedia, two explanations have been given for Cuyler's nickname of "Kiki". In the first version, he was known as "Cuy" by his teammates, so when a fly ball was hit to the Nashville outfielder, the shortstop would call out "Cuy" as would the second baseman. Their “Cuy-Cuy” caught on with Vols’ fans. In the second explanation, the moniker came from the player's stuttering problem and the way Cuyler said his own last name (Cuy-Cuy-ler). Either way, the nickname’s popularization is credited to announcer Bob Murray. 
  • 1949 - OF Dave Augustine was born in Follansbee, West Virginia. His MLB career lasted from 1973-74, getting 29 at bats with the Bucs and hitting .207. He’s best known for the “ball on the wall” against the Mets. In the heat of a late September pennant race in 1973, he hit a ball at Shea in the 13th inning that appeared ticketed to be a homer. Instead, it landed on the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Richie Zisk was thrown out at home, the Pirates lost the contest, and the Mets eventually took the NL crown by 2-½ games over the Bucs. That was the closest Augustine came to a major league dinger. 
  • 1953 - OF Sixto Lezcano was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The 12-year vet finished out his big league days in Pittsburgh in 1985, hitting .207 off the bench. His contract was one of a handful of bad deals brokered by the Bucs that created dead money woes in the late 80s - Sixto had signed a two-year FA agreement, and the Bucs ate the second season’s salary of $500K when they released him.
Sixto Lezcano 1985 Fleer Update
  • 1958 - The sale of Forbes Field to University of Pittsburgh was approved; the Pirates were allowed to stay on for five years, until new Northside stadium was built. In reality, the Pirates stayed on not for five but for twelve years, until TRS opened in 1970. The stadium was a political hot potato for a decade, until ground was broken finally in 1968. The Bucs lost a proposed open center field view of town from TRS when the Steelers vetoed that design in search of more seats; the Pirates made up for that lost scenery when PNC Park was built. 
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 3B Don Hoak, 34, to the Philadelphia Phillies for IF Pancho Herrera and OF Ted Savage. It ended up a minor deal; The Tiger was at the end of his career while Herrera and Savage never established themselves as regulars in MLB. Hoak got his nickname from Bob Prince for his relentless, hard-nosed play augmented by his background as an ex-Marine and boxer. 
  • 1966 - The Bucs completed a deal that sent knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. Under Hoyt Wilhelm's tutelage, Wood pitched twelve seasons for Chicago and won 168 games with three All-Star appearances. His career was cut short in 1976 when Ron LeFlore’s liner broke his kneecap; Wood missed that campaign and was generally ineffective afterward. Pizarro pitched a season and some change in Pittsburgh before being sold to Boston in 1968; he would return in late 1974, ending his 18 year career as a Pirate. 
Wilbur Wood 1965 Topps
  • 1967 - In a reliever swap, Pittsburgh dealt Dennis Ribant to the Detroit Tigers for Dave Wickersham. Both were near the end of their careers and while they had solid 1968 campaigns, they were out of the MLB following the 1969 season.
  • 1989 - RHP Angel Sanchez was born in Tenares, Dominican Republic. He had a breakout 2015, but followed with TJ surgery. He came back in 2017 and got into a handful of games for the Bucs, giving up five homers in 12-⅓ IP but also whiffing 10. His 2017 birthday gift was his release. The Pirates seemed poised to give him another year to knock off the rust, but the KBO's SK Wyverns club inked him to a $1.1M deal.

Monday, November 27, 2017

11/27 From the 50’s Forward: Kendall Traded, Walk & Marte Signed, HBD Moose, RIP Nick & Buck

  • 1954 - RHP Nick (Duffy) Maddux died of tuberculosis at Leech Farm Hospital in Lincoln-Lemington at the age of 68. Nick was a meteorite in the Pittsburgh pitching constellation, pitching just four years with one truly outstanding season, 1908 (23-8, 2.28), but a slew of memorable performances. As a late season call-up in 1907, he won his first four starts, something no other Pirate would do until Gerrit Cole in 2013. His ERA was 0.83 and he only allowed 32 hits in 54 innings. In just his third major league start, he became the youngest pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter at 20 years & 10 months from the modern day distance, a mark he still holds. He took the ball in the 1909 World Series on a cold, wet, raw day and beat the Detroit Tigers despite a bad glove day by his teammates to earn the Bucs their only non-Babe Adams win. And that marked the end; he had started the year with a sore arm and had rehabbed it, but after that outing he never had a good wing to work with again. Manager Fred Clarke kept him around, perhaps in gratitude, for one more season and then Nick tended to his family in Millvale, working for Fort Pitt Brewery. 
Nick Maddox 1909 (photo Conlon Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1961 - 1B Randy “Moose” (he was 6’1”, 230 lbs) Milligan was born in San Diego. He spent eight seasons in the show, notably with Baltimore. He got an early jump in 1988, hitting .220 in 80 at bats for the Pirates after coming over as part of the Mackey Sasser deal with the Mets and then moving to the O’s in a minor-league transaction after the year. 1994 was his last MLB season and Moose is now an Orioles scout. 
  • 1988 - The Pirates signed Bob Walk to a three year contract worth $850K per season after his 1988 All-Star campaign. Walkie went 29-17 over those three seasons and inked a two-year deal following that contract to finish out his Pirate career. 
  • 1997 - Buck Leonard passed away in Rocky Mount, North Carolina at the age of 90. He joined the Homestead Grays in 1934 and stayed there until his retirement in 1950. The team won nine league pennants in a row during that span with Leonard hitting cleanup behind Josh Gibson. He led the Negro leagues in batting average in 1948 with a mark of .395 and was one of the NL’s great power hitters, being called the "Black Lou Gehrig." He and Gibson were elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. 
Buck Leonard 2003 Topps Gallery
  • 2004 - The Pirates traded two-time All-Star C Jason Kendall to the Athletics for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes as Pittsburgh wanted to unload the $34M due to the catcher over the next three seasons. The Bucs flipped Rhodes to Cleveland for OF Matt Lawton two weeks later while Redman hurled one year at Pittsburgh before being dealt for Jonah Bayliss. Kendall went on to play eight more seasons with four other clubs, ending his career with 2,195 hits and a slash of .288/75/744. 
  • 2006 - The Bucs inked LHP Damaso Marte to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2009 worth $8.5M total over the three years ($4.75M guaranteed); the Yankees paid most of it when they traded for the lefty set-up man at the 2008 deadline.

11/27 Birthdays Through the 30’s: HBD Dave, Marty, Bill, Bob, Bullet Joe & Shamus

  • 1881 - 1B Jim “Shamus” (misspelled Irish for James) Kane was born in Scranton. The big guy - he was 6’2”, 225 lb - got one stay in the show with the 1908 Pirates, hitting .241 in 166 PAs. Kane had a fair shot at the job as he was one of four different first basemen used that year along with Harry Swacina, Alan Storke and Warren Gill. None played more than 50 games, none hit better than .258 and they combined for 29 errors; Bill Abstein was brought in for 1909 though he proved perhaps more inept than the old gang. Jim, for all his bulk, only banged out six extra-base hits (no homers) and spent the next seven years in the Western League, playing for Omaha and Sioux City. 
Marty O'Toole 1913 Voskamp Coffee
  • 1888 - RHP Marty O’Toole was born in William Penn, PA (Schuylkill County). A big time minor league ace, the Bucs bought him from St. Paul in 1911. In 1912, he pitched 37 games and 275 innings with a 15-17 record, 2.71 ERA and tied for the NL lead in shutouts with six. Alas, his arm was shot after that workload. He lasted just four seasons as a Pirate, from 1911-14 (his last MLB season), going 25-35/3.17. 
  • 1892 - RHP Leslie “Bullet Joe” Bush was born in Gull River, Minnesota. He spent two of his 17 MLB years in Pittsburgh (1926-27) posting a 7-8-3, 3.61 line. According to his SABR bio, his nickname came about in the minors when the local media began to call him Joe Bullet because of his excellent fastball. He became Bullet Joe after Philadelphia teammate Eddie Collins spied a letter in the clubhouse that was addressed to "Joe Bullet" Bush. He turned it around and nickname stuck for the rest of his baseball career. 
  • 1923 - LHP Bob Schultz was born in Louisville. The southpaw worked 11 seasons of organized ball beginning in 1946 with four stops in the majors although 1952 was the only full year he spent in the show. He tossed in Pittsburgh for 11 games in 1953 with an 0-2, 8.21 line. He got one more cup of coffee after that with Detroit in 1955 and retired at age 32 after the ‘61 campaign spent in Chattanooga of the Southern Association. 
  • 1937 - LHP Bill Short was born in Kingston, New York. Bill spent 16 years tossing pro ball and was a well-traveled lefty; he yo-yo’ed back and forth from the minors/majors in five of his six big league years while pitching for 14 different clubs. He got a taste in Pittsburgh in 1956, going 0-0-1, 3.86, in six outings while spending most of his time at AAA Columbus as a starter. Bill did good work in the upper minors - in 1959, he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher of the International League and was inducted into the IL Hall of Fame in 2009. 
Dave Giusti 1974 Pinback
  • 1939 - RHP Dave Giusti was born in Seneca Falls, New York. Giusti tossed 15 MLB seasons, with seven (1970-76) in Pittsburgh where the closer slashed 47-28-133/2.94, using the palmball as his out pitch. He led the NL with 30 saves in 1971, became the first pitcher to appear in every game of an NLCS and earned a WS save. He won the NL Fireman of the Year Award after the campaign, and after a couple of snubs was finally named an All-Star in 1973. Giusti also recorded the last out at Forbes Field in 1970 in the Pirates win over the Cubs during the park’s grand finale. After he retired, he remained an active Pirates alum and booster from his Upper St. Clair home.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

11/26: Rhoden for Drabek; HBD Bob, Walkie, Gravedigger, Charley, Howard, Sparky, Joe & Gussie

  • 1873 - LHP James “Gussie” Gannon was born in Erie. Gussie spent his career in the minors at northern outposts like Buffalo, Rochester, Montreal and Ottawa with his only MLB shot coming in 1895 when he tossed five innings of one-run ball for the Bucs. But it all went for a good cause - his baseball paychecks helped Gannon’s son became a priest in Pittsburgh and helped to foot the bill for his nephew’s education through the seminary; John later became the bishop of Erie. Not only did Gannon have friends in high places, but his collared relatives joined the unofficial clerical scouting web sustained by Philadelphia manager Connie Mack, who was Gussie’s skipper in Pittsburgh. 
  • 1911 - 3B Howard Easterling was born in Mt. Olive, Mississippi. He played for 10 years in the Negro League, with his most productive years (1940-43, 1946) coming with the Homestead Grays where he hit .310+ three times, won three All-Star berths, and a NLWS. He also spent time in the Latin Leagues after the NL began to wane during integration.
Bob Elliott 1940 Baseball Magazine
  • 1916 - OF/3B Bob Elliott was born in San Francisco. He spent eight seasons (1939-46) in Pittsburgh with a .292 BA, 124 OPS+ and three All-Star appearances. Traded during the 1946 off season to the Boston Braves, he became the NL MVP in 1947, helped in part by playing in a much more hitter-friendly field. Elliott was the second MLB third baseman to have five seasons of 100 RBI, joining Pie Traynor, and retired with the highest career slugging average (.440) of any NL third baseman. He also led the National League in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each, and ended his career among the NL leaders in games (8th, 1262), assists (7th, 2547), total chances (10th, 4113) and double plays (4th, 231) at third. In later years, he managed and coached in the minors, with a one year gig at the helm of the sad sack KC Athletics. 
  • 1922 - LHP Joe Muir was born in Oriole, Maryland. His MLB career consisted of the 1951-52 seasons when he worked 21 games for the Pirates, going 2-5, 5.19 as a reliever and spot starter. Joe was a Marine before he joined pro ball, and after he hung up the spikes he became a Maryland State Trooper. 
  • 1924 - Pirates writer Charley Feeney was born in Queens. He began his writing career in 1946 as the New York Giants' beat man for the Long Island Star Journal, covering the team until 1963. He then followed the Yankees and Mets for the New York Journal American until the paper closed its doors. From 1966-86, he covered the Pirates as the correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was famous for calling everyone “Pally;” he could never keep anyone’s name straight. Feeney was the 1996 winner of the JG Taylor Spink Award. Charley died at the age of 89 in 2014. 
Sparky Adams 1928 (photo Conlon Collection/Getty)
  • 1929 - IF Earl “Sparky” Adams (he was 5’4-½” tall), who had been a key part of the 1927 Kiki Cuyler deal, was sold to the Cardinals. He hit .272 in his two seasons at Pittsburgh, but manager Jewel Ens told the Post Gazette that “Sparkie did not fit into the plans for next season.” Post Gazette sports editor Havey Boyle wrote that “Sparky Adams was one of those players that looked good far away but in a close up did not appear so attractive…(But) he still has a certain usefulness and possibly in St. Louis he will do better than he did in Pittsburgh.” He sure did. Sparky batted leadoff for the Cards in 1930-31, hitting .314 and .293, and St. Louis represented the NL in the World Series both seasons against the Philadelphia Athletics, winning it all in ‘31. Sparky is short for Spark Plug, which the diminutive infielder was by all accounts.
  • 1947 - 3B Richie Hebner was born in Boston. The Gravedigger (his off season occupation) played 11 years (1968-76, 1982-83) for the Pirates, putting up a .277 BA and playing in five NLCS and the 1971 World Series. He left on a contentious note; after having his contract cut in 1976 after a poor year, he opted for free agency after the campaign. The Pirates GM Pete Peterson offered to match any deal Hebner received on the market, but the Gravedigger wanted out and signed with Philadelphia (although other tales say Philly doubled Pittsburgh's on-the-table offer, so depends who ya ask...). He returned a few seasons later. 
  • 1956 - RHP Bob Walk was born in Van Nuys, California. He pitched a decade for the Pirates (1984-93) with an 82-61-5/3.83 ERA, won an All-Star berth in 1988 and compiled a 2-1 record in the postseason, capped by a three-hitter tossed against the Braves in 1992 to keep the Pirates alive in the NLCS. He’s known now as a Bucco broadcaster, with over 20 years in the booth. 
Bob Walk 1992 Donruss
  • 1986 - In a pitcher swap, the Yankees dealt Doug Drabek, Brian Fisher, and Logan Easley to the Bucs for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Pat Clements. It took three days to complete the trade, until Rhoden agreed to a two-year contract extension with NY. (As a 5 & 10 year man, he had to approve the deal). The swap gave Jim Leyland his ace; Drabek went on to win the NL Cy Young in 1990 while posting a 92-62/3.02 Bucco slash in six seasons.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

11/25: Decker, Simon Deals; Roberto's 12th GG; HBD Octavio, Big Jim, Jimmy, Ben, Jim, Cholly & Mike

  • 1859 - OF Jimmy Woulfe was born in New Orleans. Woulfe was part of NOLA’s early wave of ballplayers, with six players from the Big Easy hitting the show (National League and the American & Union Associations) in 1884. It was Jimmy’s only MLB campaign, split between Cincinnati and the Alleghenys, as he hit .113 for Pittsburgh and .126 overall. The record book is light on him afterward; he returned to his home base and played for New Orlean’s oldest team, the RE Lee’s, the following season and then his stat sheet dries up. He did remain a hometown kid, passing away in the Crescent City in 1924.
Big Jim (photo via Out of the Park Development)
  • 1903 - RHP Big Jim Weaver was born in Obion County, Tennessee. He spent the middle of his eight-year career in Pittsburgh (1935-37) posting a 36-21, 3.76 line, splitting his time between starting and the pen. Big Jim earned his nickname honestly: he was 6'6" and weighed 230 pounds (and that may be 20 pounds light). 
  • 1922 - RHP Ben Wade was born in Morehead City, North Carolina. Ben closed out a five-year MLB stint in 1955 for the Pirates, getting into 11 games and going 0-1-1, 3.21 after the Bucs swapped Lefty LaPalme for Wade with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wade also worked 16 seasons in the minor leagues. After his playing career ended at age 38 following his 1961 tour of duty with San Diego of the PCL, Wade spent 30 years as a scout and then director of scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. 
  • 1933 - RHP Jim Waugh was born in Lancaster, Ohio. His MLB career lasted just two seasons (1952-53), both with the Bucs, with a slash of 5-11/6.43. After getting his feet wet out of the pen, Waugh became youngest pitcher at age 18 to win a game in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates when he went the distance at Forbes Field in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs in August of 1952. It was the first start of his MLB career. Unfortunately, he had arm problems even then that eventually derailed his career. 
Cholly (photo via Sports Memorabilia)
  • 1934 - RHP Lazaro “Cholly” Naranjo was born in Havana, Cuba. Branch Rickey had him on the radar from an exhibition game and plucked him from the Senators organization in 1954. In 1956 he was called up with his eventual roomie, Bill Mazeroski, and put up a line of 1–2/4.46 in 34-⅓ IP (17 outings, three starts). However, he had a sore arm in the minors that he kept quiet as to not hurt his chances at a MLB gig, and it caught up to him. With that and a beef regarding his contract, he didn’t break camp with the team the next spring and had a so-so year. He went to Cincy organization in 1959 and finished in the Cub system in 1961. His nickname came from his grandmother who called him “Cholito” or little Choly. Fun fact: while a member of the Senator’s system, he sat with President Eisenhower and his guests on Opening Day in 1954. Ike had thrown out the first pitch and Cholly’s job was to make sure the president and his party didn’t get bopped by a foul ball while in the railing seats. 
  • 1941 - C Mike Ryan was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Mike closed out his 11-year MLB stay in 1974 with Pirates, getting into 17 games and going 3-for-30 (.100) after signing on as a FA during the off season. After his playing career, Ryan managed and coached in the Pirates & Phillies minor leagues from 1975-79, then coached for the Phillies for 16 seasons, from 1980 until 1995. 
  • 1972 - Roberto Clemente won his 12th straight Sporting News Golden Glove award, a string of recognition dating back to 1961. He and “Say Hey” Willie Mays are tied for the most GG’s earned by an outfielder with a dozen apiece. In his 2,433 games career, Roberto handled 5,102 chances with a .973 fielding %, threw out 266 runners and put fear of the Lord into countless others. He was such a versatile fielder that in 1956, he actually subbed at third base for a game and at second for two more. Clemente also played center field 63 times. 
Octavio Dotel 2010 (photo Jared Wickersham/USA Today)
  • 1973 - RHP Octavio Dotel was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Dotel tossed for 15 years in the show and got his last gig as closer in 2010 at age 37 for the Pirates after signing a FA deal for $3.25M. He went 2-2-21, 4.28 with 48 K in 40 IP and the Bucs flipped him to the Dodgers for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo. Dotel worked into the 2013 season and appeared in two WS after leaving the ‘Burg while J-Mac showed early promise before flaming out and Lambo couldn’t beat a series of injuries. 
  • 2002 - Detroit sent 1B Randall Simon to the Pirates for LHP Adrian Burnside and a player to be named later (RHP Roberto Novoa.) Novoa pitched three MLB seasons; Burnside went to Japan to play. Simon ended up better at swatting sausages (his “Sausagegate” escapade in Milwaukee cost him a $432.10 Milwaukee city fine for disorderly conduct while MLB suspended him for three games and fined him $2,000) than baseballs, hitting .245 with 13 HR in 152 games as a Bucco between 2003-04. 
  • 2013 - In a prospects depth deal, the Bucs acquired OF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas from San Diego for 1B/OF Alex Dickerson. All three have since had cups of coffee in the show, with Dickerson on the verge of becoming an everyday player before he underwent back surgery in June of 2017. Decker has gotten short stints in the show every year since 2013 and Miles has tossed in Japan since the 2015 season.

Friday, November 24, 2017

11/24: $1M Arms; Duke Dealt; HBD Bob, Al, Ed, Mike, Kelvin, Curly, Whitey, Commy & Frank

  • 1857 - C/OF Frank Smith was born in Fonthill, Ontario. Not much is written about Frank; he played from August through October in 1884 for the Alleghenys, hitting .250 in 10 games after arriving from the Northwest League’s Saginaw Greys as a 26-year-old. Afterward, he put in at least a season in the minors, later living in Canandaigua, New York until he passed on at the age of 70. 
Ed Doheny via Vermont Historical Society
  • 1873 - LHP Ed Doheny was born in in Northfield, Vermont. Ed spent the last three seasons of his nine-year career with the Pirates (1901-03) posting a line of 38-14, 2.35. After a mediocre beginning of his career with the NY Giants, Doheny was reaching his prime with the Pirates, but it wasn’t to be. He began exhibiting signs of paranoia in 1903. The team granted him a rest leave, and he returned, but so did the problems. He was sent home for care, missing the 1903 World Series (and as part of the three man rotation, possibly costing the team the championship) where he became violent and was eventually committed to an institution where he died 13 years later. 
  • 1890 - November 24, 1890 - RHP Ralph “Commy” Comstock was born in Sylvania, Ohio (maybe; the year and place of birth vary by source). Ralph tossed in Pittsburgh twice, for the Federal League Rebels in 1915 (3-3, 3.25) and the Pirates in 1918 (5-6, 3.00). Frank won 11 games in three big-league seasons, but the guy was sure popular. He played for four major league clubs and nine farm teams in nine years of organized ball, playing for multiple teams in five of his campaigns - and that doesn’t include his semi-pro outings in local leagues. But the lifestyle finally got to him, and he retired from pro ball after the 1918 season and went to work in the insurance business in Toledo. 
  • 1890 - SS Harry “Whitey” (he was blonde) Wolfe was born in Worchester, Massachusetts. Whitey started his career with a four-year stint with the indie Northern League feeder Duluth White Sox before being called up by the Cubs in 1917. That would be his career year; he got into seven games with Chicago and was sold to the Pirates, where he got into three more games, going 0-for-5 with four whiffs and a walk. The Bucs optioned him to Richmond - beside the weak start, Wolfe didn’t like Pittsburgh as a destination - but he jumped back to his old indie league to finish the 1917 season with Hibbing, which outbid his old Duluth squad. After serving in the military, he played indie ball for a few more seasons before retiring to Huntington, Indiana to the life of a bartender. 
Bob Friend 1952 Topps
  • 1930 - RHP Bob Friend was born in Lafayette, Indiana. A three-time All-Star pitcher for the Pirates, he averaged 232 IP and 13 victories for some of the worst teams in baseball. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Friend became the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA while pitching for a last-place team. He led the NL in victories once, innings pitched twice, games started three times, and WAR for pitchers twice, going 191-218/3.55 in 15 years (1951-65) as a Buc. He also was active in local Republican politics after his career, serving as controller of Allegheny County from 1967 to 1975 and as a three-time convention delegate. 
  • 1932 - Betty Jane “Curly” Cornett was born in the Spring Hill section of North Side. Growing up, she attended St. Ambrose, St. Mary's, Latimer and Allegheny schools while competing at the Cowley Rec Center on Troy Hill. The tom-boy played softball locally before trying out for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. After attending rookie camp in 1949, Betty Jane played first (she got to pitch a couple of times, but gave up 10 runs in eight innings) for the Rockford Peaches, and then toured with the Springfield Sallies (1950), Kalamazoo Lassies (1951), and Battle Creek Belles (1951), even playing memorably once at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, she didn’t hit like the Babe, but put up a paltry .183 BA in her two seasons. She came back home, waited for her five-year professional status to expire and went back to local amateur softball. Her nickname? She got caught in the rain while at AAGPBL training camp, and her hair got soaked and dropped straight down over her face. Her teammates took one look and dubbed her Curly. 
Curly Cornett - Fritsch card series
  • 1967 - OF Al Martin was born in West Covina, California. Martin played eight years (1992-99) for Pittsburgh, hitting .280 with 107 HR and 485 RBI. His best season was 1996, when he hit .300 with 18 HR, 72 RBI and 38 stolen bases. In Pittsburgh, he was backed by “Al’s Army,” donated thousands of tickets to various groups and even met fans at the turnstiles before the game. After his Pirate years, though, he was beset with a string of bizarre personal problems, tarnishing his image as a Bucco good guy. 
  • 1976 - Utilityman Mike Edwards was born in Goshen, New York. Mike closed out his three-year, 106 game MLB career with the Pirates in 2006, hitting .188 with 18 at-bats after being signed to an off season minor-league deal and spending most of the year at Indianapolis.
  • 1987 - LHP Kelvin Marte was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He spend nearly a decade working his way through the Giants system when the Pirates signed him to a minor league deal in 2016. He got his only MLB action for the Bucs, spinning the ball for two outings with no decisions and a perfect ERA. That is a little misleading though - his FIP was 12.15 as he gave up five unearned runs in 3-⅓ IP thanks to an error and back-to-back two-out homers. 
Dinesh & Rinku, the "Million Dollar Arms" (photo Doug Benc/Getty)
  • 2008 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to sign players from India when they inked pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, winners of a reality show called "The Million Dollar Arm Hunt." Patel was cut in 2010 and returned home, but Singh made it to A ball before a rash of arm injuries; he tossed one inning between 2013-16 and returned to India. Their story was made into a Disney movie called (what else?) “Million Dollar Arm.” 
  • 2010 - After six years as a Pirate, Pittsburgh traded LHP Zach Duke (45-70, 4.54) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a PTBNL, RHP Cesar Valdez. Duke’s 2005 rookie year saw him post an 8-2/1.81 slash and he made the All-Star team in 2009, but never put up an ERA south of four after his first campaign. Zach reinvented himself as a LOOGY after leaving town and resurrected his career as a bullpen specialist before having offseason TJ surgery. Valdez tossed creditably at Indy in 2011, then departed for the Latin leagues.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

11/23: Quail Hired; Goose Cooked; USO; HBD Chief, Silver Fox, Bubber, Grady, El Tiante, Dale, Rich & Jose

  • 1860 - C Charles “Chief” Zimmer was born in Marietta, Ohio. Zimmer was known as a great defensive catcher and spent 1900-02 as a Pirate toward the end of his 19-year career (he finished in 1903 as the player-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics). He hit .262 as a Bucco, catching 193 games between the ages of 39-41. Zimmer was also the first president of the Players' Protective Association and was one of the early athletes to endorse products with his name. Chief ran a cigar business (Zimmer’s Cigars) that he pushed during the season and designed "Zimmer's Baseball Game," a sort of pinball machine that was a thing during the early-to-middle 1890s. His nickname came from his minor league days. Zimmer was the captain of the Poughkeepsie Indians team and so was dubbed “Chief” by the press. 
Zimmer's Baseball Game
  • 1894 - LHP Jesse “The Silver Fox” Petty was born in Orr, Oklahoma. He was a Bucco for two seasons, 1929-30, going 12-16, 4.55. He was sold to the Cubs during his second Pittsburgh campaign, and after the season, his seven-year MLB career was concluded. Jesse served bravely during WW1; before he played pro ball, he was a combat dispatch rider, not a position for the faint of heart. Jesse was known as “The Silver Fox” because he didn't earn a full-time big-league roster spot until he was 30 years old. 
  • 1897 - C Clarence “Bubber” Jonnard was born in Nashville. He and his twin brother Claude, were both major leaguers and both went by “bubber” in their younger days (Claude was an hour older, so he was the big bubber, or brother, and Clarence was the little bubber. Claude lost the nickname as he got older; Clarence went by Bubber all his life.) Bubber spent parts of six seasons in the show, with a brief stop in Pittsburgh in 1922, hitting .238 after 21 at-bats. After closing out his career in the minors, Bubber also managed for the Dallas Steers, the Milford Giants, and in 1944 was the manager of the Minneapolis Millerettes in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. He was a coach for the New York Giants, became a scout for the team, and scouted for the Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Mets. Double trouble: Claude and Clarence were minor league teammates on the Nashville squad in 1920 and 1921 and the twins often formed the Vols battery. Both were called “Bubber” then, with Claude being “Pitching Bubber” and Clarence “Catching Bubber.” 
  • 1922 - SS Grady Wilson was born in Columbus, Georgia. His MLB resumes consists of 12 games in 1922 played for the Pirates, going 1-for-10 with a double and run scored. But the sport kept him busy - he played in the minors for 14 years from 1946–59, and then served as a farm manager until 1966. 
Luis Tiant 1982 Topps
  • 1941 - RHP Luis Tiant was born in Marianao, Cuba. El Tiante tossed for 19 years and his penultimate season was 1981 with the Bucs, where he went 0-2, 3.92 in nine starts after being recalled from AAA Portland in August. Luis won 229 games in his career and belongs to the Boston Red Sox, Venezuelan, and Hispanic Heritage Baseball Halls of Fame. 
  • 1944 - The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including Rip Sewell and Paul Waner. Rip was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons for the Bucs, notching 21 wins each campaign with his notorious eephus pitch. Big Poison was at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Yankees; he ended his tenure in the bigs quietly the following year, batting once more before hanging the spikes up for good. Dixie Walker was also aboard; he would play for the Pirates in 1948-49. 
  • 1963 - IF Dale Sveum was born in Richmond, California. Dale played for the Bucs in 1996-97 and closed out his 12 year career when he returned in 1999. He hit .260 for Pittsburgh and played every infield position. After he closed out the book on his playing days, he managed or coached for Pittsburgh, Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago and Kansas City. 
Rich Sauveur (photo Vince Laforet/Getty)
  • 1963 - LHP Rich Sauveur was born in Arlington, Virginia. Sauveur played in parts of six seasons in the majors with six clubs. The Pirates 11th round draft pick in 1983, he debuted with three 1986 starts for them, getting no decisions with a 6.00 ERA. The southpaw pitched 43 innings in his big league career in 34 outings and never won a game (in fairness, he only wore one loss). He did have an 18-year minor league career and has been a minor-league pitching coach since 2003. Fun fact: Rich holds the record for the most clubs pitched for without a win. 
  • 1964 - OF Jose Gonzalez was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. He came to Pittsburgh briefly in 1991 after starting the year with LA, his seventh as a Dodger, after a July deal for Mitch Webster. He went 2-for-20 and in August was waived to the Indians. Jose had one big league campaign left after that, finishing his career with California. 
  • 1971 - Danny Murtaugh retired as manager because of health reasons after winning the 1971 World Series, and Bill Virdon was named as his replacement. The Quail led the Pirates to 96 wins and the 1972 NL East title, but a 67-69 performance the following season cost him his job. The Irishman returned in late 1973 for another stint as skipper. Virdon moved on to skipper the Yankees for two years, the Astros for eight more (with two pennants) and closed out as the Expo’s field general for two more seasons. He’s now a special instructor for the Pirates. Bill had the oddball distinction of having been replaced twice by the manager he replaced, bookended by Murtaugh in Pittsburgh and Jim Fanning in Montreal. Virdon was dubbed The Quail by announcer Bob Prince because Bill dropped so many hits just beyond the infield but in front of the outfielders, a soft hit known in that era as a dying quail for the way it fluttered to the ground. 
Bill Virdon (photo Teenie Harris)
  • 1977 - The New York Yankees signed Rich “Goose” Gossage to a six-year contract worth $3.6M. Gossage saved 26 games for the Pirates in 1977, but the Bucs never made a serious offer for him to return (and by most accounts, Goose liked the City, the team and Chuck Tanner and hoped for a local bite) so he took the Yankees’ money. When Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest. There are a couple of stories as to his moniker; one is that White Sox teammate (and roomie) Tom Bradley gave it to him for the way he craned his neck while getting a sign from the catcher; the other is that it’s just a play on Gossage.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

11/22: Roberto Drafted; French for Weaver; HBD Rowdy Richard, Mike, John & Walt

  • 1901 - RHP Walt Tauscher was born in LaSalle, Illinois. Walt only got 23 big league appearances spread out over two seasons, 16 of them with the Pirates in 1928, earning a save and tossing to a 4.91 ERA. But Tauscher was a baseball lifer, per Wikipedia: he pitched 23 seasons in the minor leagues as both a starter and a reliever, going 263-200 in 867 games. He reached the 15-win mark seven times and the 20-win mark twice, winning a career-high 21 games in 1934. Tauscher spent 13 of his 23 seasons playing in the American Association, spending nine years with the Minneapolis Millers. Tauscher managed Pirates farm clubs from 1947-51 and led the Tallahassee Pirates to a Georgia-Florida League championship in 1950. The life suited him; he didn’t shuffle off to the locker room in the sky until he was 91. 
Dick Bartell 1929 (photo Conlon/Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1907 - IF Dick Bartell was born in Chicago. He began his 18 year MLB career with Pittsburgh (1927-30) and hit .301 as a Bucco before being traded to the Phillies after butting heads with Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss; his nickname was “Rowdy Richard” because of his aggressive play and jousts with management (in fact, he selected that moniker as the title of his autobiography). He added 14 more seasons to his resume afterward, missing a couple of years during WW2, and made a pair of All-Star teams. 
  • 1934 - The Pirates acquired P Guy Bush, P Big Jim Weaver (he was 6’6”), and 1B/OF Babe Herman from the Cubs for P Larry French and OF Fred Lindstrom. French ended up the main man; he pitched seven years for Chicago, winning 95 games, while Weaver was a Buc for three seasons and won 36 contests before being sold to St. Louis. 
  • 1947 - RHP John Morlan was born in Columbus, Ohio. John spent two years with the Bucs, going 2-5, 4.16 from 1973-74. He was a two-sport athlete in high school, turning down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and instead going to Ohio U. where he could play baseball. He was drafted four times but wanted to get his sheepskin. After graduating with a teaching degree in 1969, John finally signed with the Pirates (he was their first round pick that year, chosen fifth overall), teaching school during the off-season. He planned well to have that fall back position; after his Bucco stint, he spent three more years in the minors before leaving pro ball. 
John Morlan 1974 Topps
  • 1954 - The Pirates, with the first pick, selected Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft, signing him to a $20,000 bonus and sending $4,000 to Brooklyn based on the recommendation of scout Clyde Sukeforth. It was money well spent for a Hall-of-Fame player with 3,000 hits, four batting titles, 15 All-Star games and 12 Golden Glove awards during his Pittsburgh career. 
  • 1965 - IF Mike Benjamin was born in Euclid, Ohio. He spent from 1999-2002 with Pittsburgh (missing 2001 due to injury), playing every infield position while batting .239. Mike ended his 13-year MLB run after the 2002 campaign. Oddly, the light-hitting glove guy tied the major league record for most hits in two consecutive games with 10, set a major league record for most hits in three consecutive games with 14, and tied another record for most hits in four consecutive games with 15 in 1995, pretty heady stuff for a player with a .229 lifetime BA.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Forty Man: In, Out & Why + Notes

The Pirates added OF Austin Meadows and RHPs Dario Agrazal/Luis Escobar to the 40-man roster. Gift Ngoepe was traded to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL or cash, leaving the roster at 38 men, not including Jung Ho Kang.

Meadows, 22, couldn't stay on the field last year, suffering from a gimpy hamstring and a nagging oblique injury. His numbers were meh at Indy, slashing .250/.311/.359 with four homers, 36 RBI, 48 runs and 11 steals in 72 AAA games. Agrazal, 22, spend half the season at High Class A Bradenton (Florida State League), where he put up a 5-3/2.91 line and was promoted to Altoona, but only tossed four frames there before going on the DL with a pectoral strain that cost him the remainder of the season. The control/ground ball pitcher projects as a back-end of the rotation or middle-bullpen arm. Escobar, 21, pitched in the Futures Game and posted a 10-7/3.83 line with 168 strikeouts in 131-2/3 innings for Low Class A (Sally League) West Virginia with a mid-nineties heater, curve and change-up toolkit.

Meadows leads the list - 2016 Bowman's Best Top 30 who weren't rostered: RHP Yeudy Garcia (#19); RHP Tyler Eppler (#26); and SS Adrian Valerio (#30). Yuedy struggled at Altoona at age 24 (4-7, 5.25) although he possesses excellent stuff. Eppler, a guy who depends on control rather than nastiness, may just be a victim of minor-league pitching depth, especially among projected relievers. Valerio had a breakout year hitting .273 with 11 HR; the Pirates may be banking on his youth (20 y/o) and level (Low Class A West Virginia) as cover. As for Gift, the bat never came around and the middle infield prospect posse (Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, Stephen Alemais, Valerio) is closing in.

  • OF Harold Ramirez was outrighted off Toronto's 40-man roster after clearing waivers. The 22-year-old-hit .266 last year in AA and was part of the much mocked Frankie Liriano deal. His trade partner, C Reese McGuire, 22, was added to the Jays' protected list after playing at three levels last year (he had a knee injury to rehab), topping out at AA where he hit .278 in 34 games.
  • RHP Mark Appel, who stiffed the Bucs when he was their 2012 #1 (eighth overall) was DFA'ed by the Phillies.
  • Bobblehead giveaways at PNC in 2018: 5/19 (Padres) Throwback uni; 6/23 (D-Backs) Sean Rodriguez walkoff; 7/14 (Brewers) Josh Bell; 8/4 (Cards) Andy Van Slyke; and 9/8 (Marlins) Felipe Rivero.
  • Zambelli Fireworks nights at the ballyard: Sat 4/7 (Reds), Sat 4/28 (Cards), Fri 5/18 (Padres), Fri 6/22 (D-Backs), Sat 7/28 (Mets), Sat 8/18 (Cubs) and Fri 9/21 (Brewers).

11/21 Birthdays: HBD Brian, Bill, Daryl,Freddie, Alex & Billy; Also to Donora's The Man & The Kid

  • 1869 - IF Billy Clingman was born in Cincinnati. Billy played in parts of 10 big league seasons for seven teams, getting his first heavy dose of duty in Pittsburgh in 1895, playing at the hot corner in 106 games with the Alleghenys while batting .259. A good glove man who hit .246 lifetime, he retired in 1903 from the show, played through 1906 in the American Association and then got on with life in Louisville, Kentucky. He owned a print shop and an engraving business called Clingman Engraving Company, retiring in 1947 and passing on in 1958. 
  • 1869 - P Alex Beam (no one recalls which hand he tossed with) was born in Johnstown. He pitched two major league games with the Alleghenys as a 19-year-old in 1889, both complete game starts, going 1-1, 6.50 with a couple of extreme stats: he walked more batters (15) than he allowed to reach via a hit (11), tossed three wild pitches and struck out one foe. His minor league record disappears after 1892 and that’s all we know of Mr. Beam until his death in 1938 in Nogales, Arizona.
Freddie Lindstrom 1933 R333 DeLong
  • 1905 - OF & Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom was born in Chicago. Acquired from the NY Giants along with Larry French, Lindy played two season in Pittsburgh, hitting .302, before being sent to Chicago. Lindstrom batted .311 during a 13 year career. The Pirates got him a couple of seasons after a back injury moved him off his third base position to the outfield. 
  • 1920 - Hall of Famer Stan Musial of the Cards was born in Donora. Stan the Man compiled 3,630 career hits, ranking fourth all-time and first in a career spent with only one team. With 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road, he also is considered to be the most consistent hitter of his era. He hit 475 home runs, was named the NL's MVP three times, and won three World Series championship titles. He shares the MLB record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Musial was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. 
  • 1943 - RHP Daryl Patterson was born in Coalinga, California. Patterson worked off-and-on for five years in MLB, closing out his career with the Pirates in 1974, going 2-1-1, 7.29. He joined the club after two years in the minors and appeared in his last major league game on September 14, 1974. Patterson ended his playing days at the Pirates' AAA Charleston Charlies in 1974-75. Patterson factoid: On July 14th, 1974, he was involved in a brawl with the Cincinnati Reds where he was bitten in the neck and had his hair pulled by Cincy’s Pedro Borb√≥n. Patterson got a tetanus shot after the incident and Borbon was dubbed “Dracula” by Pirates announcer Bob Prince. 
Bill Almon 1986 Donruss
  • 1952 - IF Bill Almon was born in Warwick, Rhode Island. Bill played in Pittsburgh from 1985-87, batting .249, before being traded to the Mets for Al Pedrique. His last season was 1988 as a Phil, his 15th MLB campaign, before he retired and joined the family business. Trivia Pursuit: Bill Almon is the only Ivy Leaguer to be drafted first overall in any of the four major professional sports. The Brown grad was selected by the San Diego Padres with the first pick of the 1974 Draft.
  • 1969 - Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle and Cincinnati fame was born in Donora. The Kid (a childhood nickname given to keep him sorted from his dad, Ken Sr; he also went by “Junior”) was a 13-time All-Star, and his 630 home runs rank as the sixth-most in MLB history. Griffey also won 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field. He's tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run (8 games, tied with Don Mattingly and Dale Long). His pop, Ken Griffey Sr., was born there and was a multi-sport star at Donora HS, graduating the year before it merged with Monongahela to form Ringgold. 
  • 1975 - RHP Brian Meadows was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He pitched for Pittsburgh from 2002-05. The Bucs converted him to a reliever in 2003, and his line with the Pirates was 8-12-2 with a 4.20 ERA. He went on to Tampa Bay in 2006 and retired the following season after failing to make it out of camp with the Reds.

11/21 Happenings: Bragan, Barmes, Hassler Deals; Mace, Todd & Hamilton Join; Close But No Cigar MVP Races

  • 1934 - Pittsburgh purchased the contract of RHP Mace Brown from Kansas City of the American Association. It was a good deal; as a spot starter and long man, Mace went 76-57/3.46 for the Bucs over seven campaigns and earned a 1938 All-Star berth with 15 wins. 
Mace Brown 1936 R312 National Chicle Pastel
  • 1935 - The Phillies sent C Al Todd to Pittsburgh for C Earl Grace, rookie RHP Claude Passeau, who worked just one game for the Pirates during the season and what Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Ed Ballinger called “a healthy amount of cash.” Todd caught three years for the Bucs, hitting a solid .284 before being flipped to Boston for C Ray Mueller while Grace had a couple of seasons left in the tank. Passeau, who had pitched just once for the Bucs as a rookie in 1935, was the key figure, putting up a 162-150/3.32 line during his 13 year MLB career. 
  • 1956 - Bobby Bragan was inked to his second contract as Bucco manager after his initial one-year audition ended, and though the terms weren’t revealed, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported he had received a ”substantial raise.” Hopefully he didn’t spend it all in one place; he was relieved of duties with two months remaining in the season. Ironically, Brash Bobby’s critics said that he was out of water with such a young team and was better suited to lead a veteran club, but his greatest successes as field general were claimed as a minor-league skipper. In fact, Bragan became president of the Texas League and did so well in that post that he was elected president of the National Association, the governing group of MiLB. 
  • 1973 - Pete Rose won the NL MVP, edging out Willie Stargell by a 274-250 tally. Rose took his third batting crown with a .338 mark. Stargell led the league with 44 HR, 119 RBI, and a .646 slugging percentage while batting .299. Many in Pittsburgh still believe Captain Willie wuz robbed because of the Charlie Hustle mystique. 
Was Willie Robbed? 1973 Topps
  • 1979 - Free agent LHP Andy Hassler signed a six-year/$750K (+$25K bonus money available annually) contract with the Bucs. It was much ado about nothing for the Pirates. They sold the reliever in June after just six outings and a 3.86 ERA to California 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.
  • 1991 - The Brave's 3B Terry Pendleton, who hit .319 with 22 HR and 86 RBI, won the NL MVP over Barry Bonds, who hit .292, with 25 HR & 116 RBI by a 274-259 point count. Bobby Bonilla came in third and was thought to have split Bond's vote, leading to Barry’s somewhat surprising runner up finish. 
  • 2005 - The Pirates sent 2B Bobby Hill, part of the ill-fated salary-dump deal with Chicago that made Aramis Ramirez a Cub, to San Diego for RHP Clayton Hamilton, a Beaver Falls native who went to Blackhawk HS and Penn State. Clayton never made it to the majors, although he did work a season or two in Japan. It was a wash; Hill, who been DFA’ed three days earlier, never made another MLB appearance. 
Don't Stop Believin' - 2012 Topps
  • 2011 - The Pirates inked free agent SS Clint Barmes to a two-year, $10.5M contract, their first $10M+ free agent deal since they signed Steve Buechele in 1991. His 2013 walk up song, Journey's "Don’t Stop Believing," became the Bucs' theme for the season when they finally broke their 20-year losing streak and made the playoffs. Barmes came back on a one-year deal in 2014 for $2M to serve as insurance for Jordy Mercer, spent 2015 in San Diego and retired in 2016 after a 13-year career.

Monday, November 20, 2017

11/20: Leyland Hired; JR Staff; Law, Maz AS; Pags/Schwall Deal; Reuschel Comeback Player; Brown Inked; HBD Jeff & George

  • 1880 - SS George McBride was born in Milwaukee. McBride put together a 16-year career, mainly with the Senators, but one of his early stopping points was in Pittsburgh in 1905 where as Honus Wagner’s sub he hit .218 in 27 games (also his lifetime BA; George was a good field, bad hit SS) before being sent to St Louis for Dave Brain in July. McBride spent his final couple of years in Washington as a player/coach and was rewarded with the skipper’s job in 1921, but only lasted one season due to an odd injury - he was conked by a ball thrown by an OF’er during warm-ups and suffered dizzy spells the rest of the year. He resigned and left baseball until 1925, coached for a while and then retired for good, living to the ripe old age of 92. 
Joe Brown (photo: Post-Gazette Tumblr)
  • 1956 - 38-year-old GM Joe Brown was given a new contract after he had engineered a bit of a buzz both on the field and at the gate for the Pirates in his first campaign behind the wheel. Terms weren’t leaked, but Brown told reporters “I’ll be around for awhile” when quizzed on the length of the deal. He sure enough was; Joe lasted from 1956-76 and came back in 1985 to help transition a franchise that had sprung several leaks. 
  • 1960 - RHP Vern Law and 2B Bill Mazeroski were named to The Sporting News MLB All-Star team, selected by 291 Baseball Writers of America Association members. The NL continued to be well represented by winning eight of the team’s 11 spots. 
  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 1B Dick Stuart and P Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for P Don Schwall and C Jim Pagliaroni. Pags appeared in 490 games over the next five years for the Bucs, batting .254 while Schwall became a multi-role pitcher, tossing four years for Pittsburgh with a 22-23-4/3.24 ERA. Stu hit 103 homers in the next three seasons and then faded away, while Lamabe lasted six more seasons in the show, with strong campaigns in 1966-67. 
Rick Reuschel 1985 Fleer Update
  • 1985 - 36 year old Rick Reuschel was named the NL’s Major League Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News. Reuschel went 14-8 with a 2.27 ERA, starting the year with Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League after signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh in February. Rick went on to win 71 more games in the next five seasons with the Bucs and Giants before running out of gas and hanging up the spikes in 1991. 
  • 1985 - Syd Thrift hired Jim Leyland to manage the Pirates, replacing Chuck Tanner after a 57-104 finish in ‘85. During his Pirate years from 1986 to 1996, Leyland won two Manager of the Year awards (1990 & 1992), finished as runner-up in 1988 and 1991 and led the team to three divisional titles (1990-92). 
  • 1987 - LHP Jeff Locke was born in North Conway, New Hampshire. He joined the Bucs in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade, and the Redstone Rocket (nicknamed by a local paper, Redstone is his home neighborhood, and Jeff had a mean HS fastball, along with the timely association of NASA’s moon-launch from a Redstone Rocket) made his MLB debut in 2011, joining the rotation full time in 2013 and earning an All-Star berth that season. 
Jeff Locke 2012 Bowman Chrome
  • 2007 - Newly hired manager John Russell started to put together his staff, naming Tony Beasley third base coach, Gary Varsho bench coach and Luis Dorante bullpen coach. He later added Jeff Andrews as pitching coach, Don Long as batting coach and Lou Frazier as the first base coach.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Notes: November Movin' & Groovin', Winter Sked

The last two weeks worth of stuff...not much yet, but the league should start to fire up the hot stove in the next couple or three weeks. The GM meetings are done, and that usually is the pump-priming session for the Winter Meetings on December 10th.

The 40-man rosters are due tomorrow at 8PM, and the arb-eligible guys have to be tendered by December 1st. The winter schedule is available here from Red Bird Dugout.
  •'s Jim Duquette writes that the Pirates are interested in free agents SS Zack Cozart and utility guy Eduardo Nunez; he thinks the Bucs land Zack. MLB Trade Rumors had the Pirates looking seriously at just about every SS candidate available. Jordy is 31, hasn't had a WAR > 1.5 but one time in his career and hasn't been on the right side of runs saved since 2014. The Pirates have to decide whether to leave Jordy as the placeholder until Cole Tucker and Kevin Kramer are ready or look for a bridge.
Is Jordy on thin ice? (photo (Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • MLB Network's @jonmorosi tweeted that the "Pirates have some interest in reunion with free agent Neil Walker, source says. Ongoing difficulty with Jung-Ho Kang entering country is forcing team to consider infield options." Sounds like some sensible due diligence if the bridges aren't burnt, tho we suspect The Kid is looking for more green (and PT) than the FO plans to offer.
  • In a depth move, the Pirates claimed LHP Nik Turley off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. The 28-year-old Turley went 5-5/2.05 in 92 IP w/124 strikeouts, 29 walks and .198 opponent BA in 23 appearances (13 starts) between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester this past season. Not so much sweetness with the Twinkies - he went 0-2/11.21 in 17-2/3IP and 13 strikeouts in 10 appearances (three starts) over four separate stints with Minnesota. This will be his fifth different organization since 2014. To clear a spot, LHP Dan Runzler was outrighted off the 40-man roster and became a FA. He was 0-0, 4.50 in eight outings (four IP) for the Bucs last year.
  • The Pirates have canned Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo for taking illegal payments that were uncovered by an MLB investigation.
  • David Freese was a finalist for the NL 3B Gold Glove Award that was won for the fifth time by Nolan Arenado. Josh Bell finished third behind Cody Bellinger and Paul DeJong in the RoY vote.
Cobra lookin' for some HoF love (2001 Upper Deck Legendary)
  • Dave "The Cobra" Parker joins Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell on the modern-era HoF ballot this year, with the results to be announced on 1/24.
  • The Pirates got the top Competitive Balance Round selection this year. The sandwich pick is #31, between the first two regular draft rounds. They have the 10th overall pick in the first round.
  • Mitch Keller was named the AFL Pitcher of the Week after pitching five innings of one-hit, shutout ball to open November (he finished the year 4-0, 1.52). He went to Arizona ISO a change-up and Baseball America's Kyle Glaser believes he's found it.
  • Pitching was top rate for the Bucco pups in the AFL. Beside Keller, Brandon Waddell went 1-0-1, 2.57 in nine outings, JT Brubaker 0-1, 2.63, in eight pen outings and Taylor Hearn 2-0, 3.06 with four starts and four relief calls. Not so much for the hitters - Logan Hill batted .236, Kevin Kramer .200 and Mitchell Tolman .197.
  • BA lists the Pirates Top 10 Prospects and toolsiest farmhands; the aforementioned Mr. Keller is their top prospect.
Mitch Keller (photo MLB Pipeline)
  • Pirate minor-leaguers that declared for free agency (a couple were previously announced): RHPs Brandon Cumpton, Luis Heredia, Jason Stoffel; LHP Wade LeBlanc; C's Sammy Gonzalez, Tomas Morales, Jackson Williams; 1Bs Edwin Espinal (he signed w/Detroit), Carlos Munoz, Joey Terdoslavich; SSs Kelson Brown, Anderson Feliz, Alfredo Reyes; OFs Danny Ortiz & Jonathan Schwind. LeBlanc, Cumpton, Heredia & Espinal were the highest-ranked of the group. 
  • Guys with Bucco connections also on the farm FA list are RHPs Nate Adcock, Yhonathan Barrios, Victor Black, Colten Brewer, Jumbo Diaz, Logan Kensing, Vin Mazzaro, Brooks Pounders; LHPs Jared Lakind, Kyle Lobstein, Kelvin Marte, Daniel Schlereth; OFs Chris Dickerson, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata (yep, him!); 1B Matt Hague; SSs Drew Maggi, Gustavo Nunez; IFs Ivan DeJesus Jr, Michael Martinez, Josh Rodriguez; C's Ramon Cabrera, Steve LeRud & Mike McKenry.
  • Former Bucco reliever Jim Gott was named the bullpen coach at Philly, somewhat akin to the ass't pitching coach, after a five-year coaching run with LAA. Gott saved 34 games for the Bucs in 1988, then a team record.