Thursday, December 14, 2017

12/14 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: Kitten Goes; Heinie Arrives; Barney $$$; Xmas Job; HBD Lefty, Jerry, Jeff, Willie, Charlie & Ren

  • 1861 - OF James “Ren” (Renwick was his middle name) Wylie was born in Elizabeth. His moment of baseball glory happened on August 20th, 1882 when the 20-year-old center fielder from Geneva College played in his only MLB game, going 0-for-3 for the Alleghenys. He went on to bigger and better things, becoming a successful banker, realtor and two-time Pennsylvania State Representative. 
Ren Wylie as a state rep (photo PA General Assembly History)

  • 1896 - C Charlie Hargreaves was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He caught for Pittsburgh at the end of his career from 1928-30, and was a solid two-way guy for the first two seasons before fading in 1930, putting up a .273 BA over that period. Charlie did rejoin the organization briefly, managing the Bucs’ Class C Keokuk Pirates squad of the Central Association in 1949. 
  • 1898 - 2B Henry “Heinie” Reitz was traded by the Washington Senators to the Pirates for OF/3B Jack "Syracuse" O'Brien, IF Dick Padden and OF Jimmy “Rabbit” Slagle. It wasn’t a very good deal for Pittsburgh; Reitz played 35 games and was traded at the end of the 1899 season. O’Brien was a journeyman, Padden had three solid seasons remaining, and rookie Slagle went on to have a 10 year career, mainly with the Cubs, and a lifetime .268 BA. 
  • 1911 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss proposed that each team in the World Series turn over one-fourth of its share of the gate to the league, to be divided among the other teams. It marked the beginning of changes that ultimately gave players of the top finishing teams a larger share of the World Series money. Dreyfuss had actually added his owner’s cut of the 1903 World Series gate receipts to the players' share, so the Pirates earned a larger payout than the winning Boston team. 
Willie Pope (photo via NLPBA)
  • 1918 - RHP Willie Pope was born in Birmingham and raised in Library. A 6’4’ hurler known as “Wee Willie,” Pope began his career as a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1946 but was mostly known for playing with the Grays during the 1947-48 seasons. During the 1947 campaign, the righty notched a 6-7 record, but pitched a no-hitter against the New York Cubans. In the 1948 season, he was a major contributor to the Grays team that won the last Negro National League Pennant and won the Negro Leagues World Series against the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League. He played a couple of years in the minors while his brother Dave played for Cleveland and Baltimore. Willie remained in the City after his career as a player in Pittsburgh ward politics and a local black baseball historian. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 91. 
  • 1923 - LHP Paul “Lefty” LaPalme was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Lefty began his career in Pittsburgh (1951-54) and was a starter in the last two seasons, with a Pirate line of 14-33-2 and a 4.99 ERA. The knuckleballer was traded to the Cards in 1955, converted to a reliever, and put together several decent seasons from the pen. 
  • 1943 - C Jerry May was born in Staunton, Virginia. May was mainly a backup catcher from 1964-70 (he started in ‘67-68) for the Bucs, hitting .237 in his seven year Pittsburgh stint. He was signed by Syd Thrift out of high school and tossed several no-hitters as an American Legion pitcher; the Bucs converted him to catcher and he was behind the dish for Dock Ellis’ infamous 1970 no-hitter. May was bumped out of the starting role by Manny Sanguillen. Jerry was a good tactician and glove guy throughout his 10 year MLB career, throwing out 43% of the base runners who tried to steal a sack on him, good for 11th on the all-time list. He led NL catchers in 1970 with a 50% caught stealing percentage. 
Jerry May 1968 Pirates Photo Pack
  • 1961 - RHP Jeff Robinson was born in Ventura, California. He finished out his six year career with a few weeks as a Bucco after being claimed off waivers from Texas in June of 1992, getting seven starts (eight outings) with a 3-1, 4.46 line and then being waived again in July. Robinson went on to become the pitching director, coach and instructor with the Natural Baseball Academy in Kansas. He missed the three-year Pirates stint of fellow hurler Jeff Robinson (1987-89), and the two were often differentiated by their middle initial - Jeff M was the starter and Jeff D the reliever. 
  • 1961 - Baseball players may be rolling in long green now, but for many decades, even the stars had a winter job. ElRoy Face earned a Post-Gazette sports column mention on this date by selling Christmas trees grown on his Indiana PA farm at the corner of Bouquet Street and Forbes Avenue in Oakland, a block from the ballyard. 
  • 1963 - The Pirates sent P Harvey Haddix to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for SS Dick Yencha and cash. The Kitten, then 38 and a reliever, spent the last two years of his career in Baltimore, going 8-7-11/2.63 before retiring because of arm problems, while Yencha never made it past AA. Haddix later followed his rookie mentor Harry Brecheen (as St. Louis teammates, veteran Breechen was “the Cat” and his protege, the young Haddix, was “the Kitten”) as a pitching coach, working with the Mets, Reds, Red Sox, Indians, and Pirates before passing away in 1994.

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