Friday, November 10, 2017

11/10: Wheelin' & Dealin'; Grass Test; Starling GG; Hot Rod Signed; Pops #2;, HBD Matt, Speed, Fred & Little Globetrotter

  • 1867 - C Billy “Little Globetrotter” Earle was born in Philadelphia. Billy was one of the better hitting catchers of his era (and capable at other positions) with a career .286 BA who spent brief parts of 1893-94 in Pittsburgh batting .287 as a replacement backstop when regulars Connie Mack, Joe Sugden & company went down. But he only got into 142 games in his five-year career. Earle was a spiritualist who it was claimed could hypnotize people. Other players were said to have feared his “voodoo,” “evil eye” and all-around rep as a jinx. Be that as it may, Billy never had any out-of-the ordinary encounters with his teammates but was probably kept at a distance due to a more mundane curse - he was addicted to morphine. He finally cleaned himself up with rehab in 1898 (an intervention by John McGraw and financial support for treatment provided by his Cincinnati teammates per Baseball History Daily) and went on to play, manage and coach in the minors through 1911, living to the ripe old age of 78. He got his nickname as a member of Albert Spalding’s 1888 worldwide baseball tour. 
  • 1867 - IF Fred Roat was born in Oregon, Illinois. Fred spent a dozen seasons in the minors, with a pair of stops in the show. He got a cup of coffee with the Chicago Colts in 1892 after being part of the 1890 Alleghenys, batting .223 in 57 games. Fred retired after the 1899 campaign and led a quiet life back home in Illinois. 
Deacon White 1888 (photo Tomlinson/Spalding Collection/NY Public Library)
  • 1888 - The Boston Red Stockings sold Jack Rowe and Deacon White to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Both players had solid resumes (White entered the HoF), but were on the downside of the hill and lasted just a year with the Alleghenys. White, 41, was a Hall-of-Famer who hit .253 in 55 games playing 3B/1B for Pittsburgh, while Rowe, 32, played 75 games at SS, batting .259. The move didn't come without some controversy - Rowe and White became owners of the International League's Buffalo Bison franchise and refused to report to the Pirates so they could play on their own team. The principle that they really were pushing is that they believed they should share in whatever fee their old club received for their services. It was resolved when the pair joined the Pirates at fat salaries and a cut of the selling price that Pittsburgh had paid Boston. However, the trading and selling of ballplayers was an issue that wouldn't go away and contributed to the formation of the Players League in 1890.
  • 1897 - The Pirates sent veterans OF Elmer “Mike” Smith and RHP Pink Hawley along with $1,500 to the Reds for five players - C/1B Pop Schriver, OF Jack McCarthy, P Billy Rhines, 3B Bill Gray and 2B Ace Stewart. Of the players the Bucs received, Stewart never played a game, McCarthy, Gray and Rhines lasted a season or two in Pittsburgh, and Pop stayed with the Pirates for three years, batting .260 as a part timer. Smith hit .342 for the Reds and Hawley went 27-11 in 1898 for the Reds. That would be their last hurrahs as neither had a strong campaign afterward and retired after the 1901 season. 
Pop Schriver 1888-90 (photo - Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1914 - OF Claude “Speed” Whatley was born in Griffin, Georgia. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1939-43, noted for his blazing speed (hence the nickname) and small-ball wizardry at the plate. Speed hit .300+ in two of his four Grays’ campaigns before leaving for the NY Black Yankees. He spent his last season with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1946. Speed defeated Olympic champ Jesse Owens in a promotional race before a game in the thirties (although whether he was given a head start, generally part of Owen’s schtick, is unclear), but either way his moniker was well earned. 
  • 1967 - The Pirates announced a deal with Monsanto Corporation to cover the field of the Bucs’ Eastern League affiliate York with artificial grass. The experiment would determine if Astroturf would be an acceptable alternative to grass for the proposed Three Rivers Stadium, as the co-tenants of TRS, the Steelers, indicated that they would favor an artificial surface. 
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell (.295/48/125) was MVP runner-up to Joe Torre‚ who led the NL in RBI (137) and batting (.363) while hitting 24 HR. Torre received 318 points to Stargell's 222. However, Pops did win the WS and HR title.
Willie Stargell 1971 Topps
  • 1982 - C Matt Pagnozzi was born in Miami, Arizona. Matt got in pieces of five MLB campaigns, including a 2011 stop in Pittsburgh as one of eight catchers used by the Bucs. Matt hit .250 in his five games (the Pirates didn’t pick him up until mid-September). Matt packed up the tools of ignorance after the 2015 season and 13 campaigns in the majors, minors and Dominican. 
  • 2011 - The Pirates signed free agent C Rod Barajas to a 1 year/$4M contract with club option for 2013 ($3.5 million with no buyout). Hot Rod hit .206 and threw out just a half dozen baserunners all year. His option wasn’t exercised, marking the end of his MLB road, and he’s now a minor-league manager. 
  • 2015 - Starling Marte was named a Gold Glove Award winner for the first time. Marte led all NL left fielders in fielding percentage (.995), making just one error in 196 total chances. He also led all National League outfielders with 16 assists, the most by a Pirates OF’er since Jose Guillen (also 16) in 1998, with 15 coming without a relay man. Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole were also GG finalists, but lost out to AJ Pollock and Zack Greinke.
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