Saturday, December 30, 2017

12/30: Babe for Babe; Clemente Memorial Trips; RIP Rex; HBD Jim, Sean & Ovid

  • 1888 - LF Ovid Nicholson was born in Salem, Indiana. Ovid had a six-game MLB career, and showed a nice stick as a 24-year-old rookie, going 5-for-11 with a walk during the last two weeks of September, 1912. He was good contact hitter and speedster (he once stole 110 bases during a minor league season) but never got another shot at the show. He left baseball after the 1917 season to join the service, got married the following year and except for one campaign in the 20s as a player/manager lived out his life as a businessman.
Jim Viox 1914 Baseball Blanket
  • 1890 - IF Jim Viox was born in Lockland, Ohio. Viox played from 1912-16, starting at second base from 1913-15. His five year career was spent as a Bucco, and he put up a .272 lifetime BA. The Buc infielder had a good eye, drawing 100 more walks during his career than strikeouts. He left during the purge of 1916, when the Bucs, in a downward spiral since 1912, made major changes to the roster (it didn't help - the Pirates weren’t a contending club again until the 1920s). In a 506 game career, Viox had a .361 OBP, countered by *ouch* a minus-114 defensive runs rating per Total Baseball. He never played MLB ball again and became a minor league player/manager, including skippering the 21-year-old Pie Traynor at Portsmouth of the Class B Virginia League. 
  • 1943 - The Phillies traded 1B Babe Dahlgren to the Pirates for C Babe Phelps and cash. Dahlgren hit .271 with 176 RBI in his two year stay with the Bucs. “Well traveled” described Dahlgren to a tee as he played for eight teams in his 12-year career, and he was best known as the player who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939. The deal was a win for Pittsburgh as Phelps, 34, never played again after the trade (he had gone on-and-off the voluntary retired list since 1941). He did log a solid career, though, being named to the NL All-Star Team from 1938-40 while his .367 batting average in 1936 for Brooklyn remains the highest for any catcher of the modern era. Babe was a nickname given to oversized (or baby-faced) players. Dahlgren at 190 pounds was just large. But Phelps was a 6’ 2” jumbo who tipped the scales at 235 lbs. with a stance and swing, not to mention physique, that were similar to Babe Ruth’s. He also answered to a second, less kindly moniker later in his career: “Blimp.” The impetus for the deal was Uncle Sam; Pirates first sacker Elbie Fletcher was drafted, creating a hole at first for the Bucs.
  • 1985 - RHP Sean Gallagher was born in Boston. He came to Pittsburgh in July of 2010 from San Diego and was given every chance to to show his stuff during 31 outings, but the impression he left wasn’t the one he wanted as he finished with a 6.03 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.8 walks per nine and the only two balks of his big-league career. He was sent to Indy in 2011, and though he later landed minor league deals with the Reds and Rox, 2010 was the last of his four MLB campaigns.
Sean Gallagher 2010 (photo Jared Wickersham/Getty)
  • 2004 - Pirate bird dog and later scouting director Rex Bowen passed away in New Smyrna, Florida, at age 94. After a minor league playing & managing career, Rex scouted for the Pirates from 1950-1967 (the last 12 years as scouting director) after starting out with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Following his Pirates stint, he joined the Cincinnati Reds as special assistant to the GM and consultant. He signed Bill Mazeroski, Maury Wills, Dick Groat, Bruce Dal Canton, Gene Freese and George Freese among others. In 2000, Baseball America named him one of the top 10 scouts of the 20th Century. 
  • 2004 - Per BR Bullpen: Aid originally destined for Nicaragua to commemorate the anniversary of Roberto Clemente's tragic flight 32 years ago, was sent instead to the earthquake and tsunami victims of the Pacific Rim. Roberto Clemente Jr., who with the help of the Project Club Clemente, collected two tons of supplies and raised nearly $20,000 in efforts to reenact his father's unfinished mission, decided to postpone that symbolic flight and instead diverted the relief undertaking to help those in immediate need. Junior didn’t forget his original task - he raised another planeload of relief aid for Nicaragua that he delivered on 12/31 of 2005.

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