Sunday, November 18, 2018

Notes: Hot Stove Chat; Cole, Will, Mitch & the Pups; Meadows & J-Low; Piratefest; Ol' Bucs in the News

And this weekend *ta da*...

  • @MaxWildstein of Yankee's Insider (Gotham Sports Network) says the Bucs are tire-kicking, along with several others, RHP Sonny Gray, whose splits make him an interesting risk. We wouldn't hold our breaths; early indications are that he'll fetch a respectable return while the FO is bargain hunting this winter.
  • Speaking of winter dealing, we're hoping the Bucs pick up a competent fourth outfielder; we're not fans of bouncing Fraze all over the lot. A proven shortstop wouldn't hurt, nor would some pitching depth. It'll be interesting to see if Jung Ho Kang can rebound to become Red Beard's platoon playmate. Without Freeser, Jose Osuna looks like Plan B if JHK flops as of today's roster. Of course, ponying up for a glue guy like Marwin Gonzalez would help plug the dike after missing out on Aledmys Diaz.
Is Tucker ready to break out? (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Arizona Fall League big boys: SS Cole Tucker boosted his stock, coming in third in AFL BA, hitting .370 while his .442 OBP was fourth in Arizona. Cole also took home the Fall League Stenson Sportsmanship Award; he's a good guy besides a good player. Also showing strong was Tuck's Altoona & Fall-Star teammate 1B Will Craig, who tied for the league lead in homers with six, finished fourth in RBI with 18 and batted .304. He also had a solid contact rate, whiffing just 18 times in 95 PA (19%). So there are your top-of-the-order, middle-of-the-order prospects; we'll see if they can keep on keepin' on at Indy this coming season.
  • MLB.com takes a look at each team's prime suspect for 2019 Rookie of the Year. For Pittsburgh, they like RHP Mitch Keller.
  • John Dreker of Pirates Prospects has a recap of BA's look at the Bucs' latest draft class (BA is behind a paywall; link included with John's story if you're a subscriber).
  • John Denzler of Roto Baller takes a look at ex-Bucco OFs Austin Meadows & Jordan Luplow, with maybe a little different take than local fans usually hear.
  • Piratefest will be late again this year. It's scheduled for January 26th at PNC Park.
  • The Red Sox have re-signed World Series hero Steve Pearce to a one-year/$6.25M deal.
  • The Reds have reportedly hired JR House as third base/catching coach, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com., after serving as a minor league manager with the Diamondbacks. JR, from Nitro, WV, was a one-time hot prospect of the Bucs who got into a handful of games, went to WVU briefly as a QB, and then returned to baseball and played a bit for Houston and Baltimore from 2006-08.

11/18 Through the 1940’s: Alleghenys to NL; Hopp & Danny Deal; HBD Rocky, Gene, Roy, Bill, Curt & Jim

  • 1882 - The case of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys versus C Charlie Bennett was decided. Prior to the 1882 season, Allegheny gave Bennett $100 to sign an agreement binding him to a future 1883 contract with the club. Instead, Bennett re-signed with the Detroit Wolverines. The Western Pennsylvania District Court ruled in Bennett’s favor for several reasons, including restraint of trade and because there was no concrete ‘83 contract agreed to by the parties. His case later was cited during the fight over the reserve rule during the 1889-1890 Players League battle. He played for the Wolverines for eight seasons, and they named their stadium after him. Charlie is also credited with the first chest protector; his was a cork-lined vest he wore under his jersey. Sadly, he didn’t have long to enjoy his court win - Bennett lost both his legs in 1894 when he was run over by a train. 
1887 Alleghenys (Charles Gross & Company card)
  • 1886 - The NL officially admitted the Alleghenys, who became the first franchise to jump from the American Association. The club made a reported profit of $160,000 in 1886 (per Wikipedia) and finished second in the AA, making the decision a no-brainer for the NL. The 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys finished sixth in their first NL campaign with a 55-69 record. They played at Recreation Park that year and became unofficially known as the Pirates a few seasons later in 1891. (There was a season in 1890 when they were referred to as the “Innocents” because they played as if they were children who had never had seen a baseball, but Lou Bierbauer’s “piracy” changed that tag quickly enough). The Bucs, btw, date their history from their entrance into the NL, although the Alleghenys formed in 1882 and played in the American Association, a rival league that was considered to be major league at the time, with the two champions playing each other in the postseason from 1884-90 in loosely organized, unofficial title bouts. 
  • 1896 - RHP Bill Hughes was born in Philadelphia. Bill got to toss just two MLB frames, working as a Bucco on September 15th, 1921 and giving up a run with two whiffs. But Hughes made his living as a mound workhorse despite his lack of big league time. He pitched for 20 minor league seasons for 11 teams from 1920-39, winning 302 games while taking the bump for 761 outings and 4,803-2/3 IP. Bill won 20 games or more twice and notched double-digit wins in 18 of his 20 farm campaigns before retiring at the age of 42. 
  • 1923 - RHP Roy Wise was born in Springfield, Illinois. The 20-year-old Wise worked three innings in two outings on back-to-back days in May with the Bucs in 1944. He gave up three runs on four hits with three walks and a whiff as his big league stat line. Wise was sent to Albany and appears to have continued his career in the Minnesota semi-pro leagues, a pretty active scene for town-based baseball in the late 40’s and 50’s. 
Rocky Nelson 1960 Topps
  • 1924 - 1B Glenn “Rocky” Nelson was born in Portsmouth, Ohio. He got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1951 and then platooned with Dick Stuart from 1959-61. He hit .270 as a Pirate, and in the 1960 World Series went 3-for-9 with a Game Seven homer and two RBI. Rocky may have been a MLB journeyman, but he was a minor league terror. In 1958, Nelson was voted the International League’s MVP after winning the triple crown while a Toronto Maple Leaf. He was inducted into the IL Hall of Fame and later into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He earned his nickname the hard way according to SABR: while in the St. Louis Cardinals training camp, Whitey Kurowski bounced a ball off Nelson's noggin during a pepper game without effect and then added insult to injury by afterward anointing him Rocky after the misadventure. 
  • 1925 - Gene Mauch, long time MLB manager, was born in Salina, Kansas. He made a brief stop in Pittsburgh in 1947 as a 21-year-old infielder, batting .300 in 16 games after serving in the military for two years and spending another season in the Dodger farm system. His claim to fame was as a big league skipper/small ball advocate who won over 1,900 games (he lost over 2,000 times, too), though never claiming a pennant - his clubs finished one game shy of the flag three times during his four-team managing career that lasted from 1960-87. 
  • 1933 - RHP Curt Raydon was born in Bloomington, Indiana. Raydon had a strong 8-4/3.62 line in his 1958 rookie season, but never pitched in the show again. He came up with a sore arm after the campaign and was only able to toss 15 AAA games in 1959. In spring training of the following season, his arm pain continued, so Curt gave up baseball and became a policeman; we assume he learned to twirl his nightstick as a lefty. 
Jim was a Topps star in 1969.
  • 1943 - LHP Jim Shellenback was born in Riverside, California. He was a seldom used reliever for the Pirates from 1966-67 and 1969, going 1-1-2 with a 3.35 ERA. He put together a nine year career with some solid seasons for the Washington Senators and afterward became a long-time minor league pitching coach for the Twins organization. 
  • 1947 - The Bucs traded for 1B Johnny Hopp and 2B Danny Murtaugh, sending the Boston Braves C Bill Salkeld‚ P Al Lyons‚ and OF Jim Russell. Hopp played three years for the Pirates, hitting .310 but providing little power as a first baseman. Murtaugh’s career was stronger as a manager than player, but he started full-time around the infield in 1948, hitting .290, before finishing his playing career as a Bucco reserve in 1951. 
  • 1949 - Despite hitting .310 with a league-leading 54 HR and 127 RBI, Ralph Kiner finished fourth in the NL MVP balloting as Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter won, placed and showed. 

11/18 From 1960: Giles Deal; Clint Honored; Draft Blues; Roster Shuffle; Russ Goes; HBD Jamo & Mark

  • 1965 - RHP Mark Petkovsek was born in Beaumont, Texas. A 1987 first-round pick of the Rangers in 1987, he came to the Bucs as a free agent in 1992. He spent a year at Indianapolis, then got a shot at the big club in 1993. Petko went 3-0 in 26 outings from the pen (he had been used a starter prior to the call-up) but with a 6.96 ERA/1.608 WHIP and was released after the year. Petkovsek came back with the Cards in ‘95 and tossed through the 2001 campaign, closing it out where he started it, with the Rangers. 
Jamo 2017 Topps Allen & Ginter
  • 1991 - RHP Jameson Taillon was born in Lakeland, Florida. The high school righty was the second pick of the 2010 draft behind Bryce Harper after the Pirates FO debated on whether to select Jamo or Manny Machado. JT zoomed through the minors, and the Pirates had him slated for a 2014 debut. Instead, he had TJ surgery, followed by a sports hernia operation. Despite missing all of 2014-15, he arrived in Pittsburgh on June 8th, 2016, and claimed a spot in the rotation. 2017 continued his rocky physical road as he fought off cancer, but still put together a line of 8-7, 4.44 in 25 starts. He broke out in 2018 after a slow start, going 14-10/3.20 with a streak of 22 starts giving up three earned runs or fewer starting on May 27th and running through the end of the year. 
  • 1997 - The Pirates lost P Jason Johnson to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays while P Clint Sodowsky and 3B Joe “The Joker” Randa went to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft. Randa returned to the Pirate fold for his last MLB season in 2006, while rookie Johnson tossed 10 MLB seasons (albeit only one with an ERA south of 4.00) and Sodowsky worked one full campaign and three games in 1999 to finish his stay in the show.
  • 1998 - The Bucs sent LHP Ricardo Rincon to the Tribe for OF Brian Giles. In five campaigns with the Pirates, Giles would put up a line of .308/.426/.591 with 165 HR and 426 RBI and was twice named to the All-Star team. That deal began a chain reaction of swaps that eventually led to the Pirates acquiring Jason Bay, Ollie Perez, Xavier Nady, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, and Bryan Morris; the trade tree continued when Connor Joe, who was selected as a draft pick obtained by Morris’ trade, was sent to Tampa for Sean Rodriguez. 
Brian Giles 1999 Fleer Flair Showcase
  • 2011 - The Pirates added a half-dozen ball players to their 40-man roster. OF Starling Marte & SS Jordy Mercer became starters while LHPs Justin Wilson & Rudy Owens were rostered and eventually flipped to other clubs for Francisco Cervelli and Wandy Rodriguez. Two lesser lights moved to the list were RHP Duke Welker, who was part of the 1B Justin Morneau trade, and Matt Hague, who was waived after the 2014 season after hitting .222 as a Bucco. He’s now in the Twins organization. 
  • 2014 - Free agent C Russ Martin officially signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after spending two playoff years behind the dish for the Bucs. Born in Toronto, it was a homecoming for the 31-year-old Martin, sweetened by a five-year, $82M contract. 
  • 2014 - Manager Clint Hurdle was given the Brooks Robinson Community Service Award and All-Star Josh Harrison was named the MLB recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) 15th annual Legends for Youth Dinner. Hurdle was recognized for his work with the Prader-Willi Association, while Harrison’s award was given to “an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of baseball.”

Saturday, November 17, 2018

11/17 Through the 1970’s: Red Lucas Deal; HBD Orlando, Tom, Jim, Jack & Don

  • 1884 - 1B Jack Kading was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Jack got into eight games for the 1910 Pirates, batting .304 in 29 at-bats, and that was his biggest bite of the MLB pie. He also played a couple of years for Chicago of the Federal League. Jack served most of his five-year minor league career locally in the Canadian and Minnesota-Wisconsin Leagues, leaving baseball after 1914 at age 29 and returning to Waukesha. 
  • 1892 - OF Don Flinn was born in Bluff Dale, Texas. Flinn played pro ball for a decade from 1914-26 with a couple of breaks, but his only big league time came with the Pirates in 1917 when he hit .297 in 14 games. He was a good hitter, amassing a .330 BA in a variety of southern leagues (five seasons in the Texas League) but still only got two part-time shots at the Class A and MLB level before racking the bat for the last time at age 33 in 1926. 
Red Lucas 1934 Diamond Stars
  • 1933 - The Pirates traded OF Adam Comorosky and 2B Tony Piet to the Reds for RHP Red Lucas and OF Wally Roettger. Lucas was the key player. He lasted five seasons in Pittsburgh, going 47-32/3.77 and making 96 starts. After the trade, Lucas never lost a game against his old Cincinnati mates, going 14-0 against them during the remainder of his career. Red went 15-4 in 1936 with a 3.18 ERA in his top Bucco campaign and was also handy off the bench with a stick (he started his minor league career in the OF), posting a career .281 BA. Red’s nickname, "The Nashville Narcissus," was coined by Colonel Bob Newhall, a reporter for the old Cincinnati Tribune, who thought the young pitcher who was raised in Nashville was a blooming baseball beauty per SABR
  • 1933 - RHP Orlando Pena was born in Victoria de Las Tunas, Cuba. He tossed for parts of 14 big league seasons, getting into 23 games and posting a 2-1-2/4.78 slash as a 36-year-old for the Pirates. Orlando was released in August and picked up by Baltimore; he hung around through the 1975 campaign. He’s now a Tigers scout. 
  • 1947 - RHP Tom Dettore was born in Canonsburg. Tom tossed one year for the Bucs in 1973, putting up an 0-1/5.96 line and pitched the next three seasons for the Cubs. After his playing days, Dettore was a pitching coach in the Pirates minor league system (1988-95) before becoming the Pirates minor league pitching coordinator through 1998. 
Tom Dettore 1989 Star
  • 1974 - RHP Jim Mann was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. He got into 25 MLB games in four seasons; his last two were as a Bucco in 2003, giving up two runs in 1-2/3 IP. Afterward, he was a AAA guy for Pittsburgh, the Yankees and Boston before spending his last three seasons (2005-07) in the indie leagues.

11/17 From 1980: Kendall, Bay Contract$; Expansion Losses; Benjy Signed; HBD Eli & Ty

  • 1982 - RHP Ty Taubenheim was born in Bellingham, Washington. The Bucs picked Ty up from Toronto in the 2007 off season; he got one start in 2008, his last in the majors, and it was a good outing. He didn’t get the decision, but went six innings of two-run ball in an eventual 4-3 win over Tampa. The Bucs released him in early September, and he continued through 2010 in the minors and with a Mexican Winter League stint before stepping off the rubber for the last time. 
Ty Taubenheim 2008 (photo Joe Robbins/Getty)
  • 1990 - C Elias Diaz was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He debuted with Pittsburgh in 2015 and was up briefly in 2016, but an elbow injury and later a case of cellulitis derailed the season. He was considered a strong defensive catcher though an iffy hitter, and saw more action in 2017 when Francisco Cervelli was injured. He showed the ability to handle the stick in 2018 after a slow campaign the previous two seasons, batting .286 with 10 homers. 
  • 1992 - The Pirates lost OF Alex Cole to the Colorado Rockies, along with P Danny Jackson and IF Ramon Martinez to the Florida Marlins, in the expansion draft. The Fish flipped Jackson to the Phils, where he won 26 games in 1993-94 and earned an All-Star nod. 
  • 1998 - The Bucs signed free agent IF Mike Benjamin to a two-year contract worth $924K. He later signed a two-year extension worth $1.4M and played for Pittsburgh through the 2002 campaign, missing ‘01 due to injury, and hit .239 while manning all four infield positions. 
  • 2000 - C Jason Kendall signed the richest contract in team history. The $60M, six-year contract extension w/$4M signing bonus had a base salary of $6M in 2002 and peaked at $13M in 2007. To this point from his rookie year of 1996, Kendall had hit .300 or better every season except 1997, when he hit .294. He became the second highest paid active catcher in baseball, behind only Mike Piazza. He was traded to the Oakland A’s in 2004 before his salary jumped to seven figures. 
Jason Kendall 2000 Pacific Crown Royale
  • 2005 - Jason Bay agreed to an $18.25M, four-year contract that ran through his arbitration-eligible seasons after making $355K in 2005. He hit .296 with 58 HR and 183 RBI in 2004-05 and began his career by winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. The only sticking point was a fifth year that would have been during Bay’s first free agent season; his side wanted a guaranteed renewal to give it up while the Bucs preferred to make it an option year. At loggerheads on that issue, the deal was settled after a four-year term was struck. Jay Bay was traded to Boston in 2008, before the contract ran out, and had a couple of solid years with the Red Sox before moving on to the NY Mets, where injuries effectively derailed his career.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Week's Notes: Preview; Hot Stove; First Trade; 40-Man; Arb; Wyatt Walks; NL Awards

And during the week...

  • Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors has his Pirates offseason outlook for the coming campaign. It begins with "The Bucs’ bid to compete in 2018 fell flat, but the team’s mid-season acquisitions were also designed to keep the window open for the two ensuing seasons. As ever, building out the roster will likely mean a search for cost-efficiency for the Pittsburgh front office...."
  • If you expect much more than filling-in-around-the-edges this winter, well..."We went for it aggressively this summer," Neil Huntington told 93.7 The Fan, referring to the Chris Archer and Keone Kela deals. So outside of shortstop, it doesn't look like a lot on the front burner for the FO; NH has said often enough that the Pirates will "explore the options," meaning we'll see if anyone falls through the cracks.
Max is off to Cleveland (image Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • The Bucs sent Cleveland OF Jordan Luplow & INF Max Moroff in return for INF Erik Gonzalez, RHP Tahnaj Thomas & RHP Dante Mendoza. Gonzalez is a major league utility guy while the two pitchers are 19-year-old lotto tickets. Luplow has a shot at playing time for the Tribe, which is currently thin in the OF.
  • The Pirates have to set their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft by Tuesday, November 20th; WTM at Bucs Dugout has a solid look at the options available. They have three open spaces and a couple of bubble guys to work with.
  • Pittsburgh has just three arb-eligible players this year. They are, with MLB Trade Rumor's Matt Swartz estimated arb salaries: Corey Dickerson (5.101 years service time) - $8.4M; Keone Kela (4.000 YST) - $3.2M, and Michael Feliz (3.026 YST) - $900K. The first two are no-brainers to be tendered, and Feliz is also likely to be retained.
  • 3B Wyatt Mathisen, 24, a second round draft pick in 2012 who received a $746,300 bonus, signed a minor league deal with the Arizona D-Backs per @JohnDreker. He was drafted out of high school as a catcher and converted to the corners, playing briefly at Altoona last year before moving to Indy, where he hit .248 with nine homers.
Wyatt Mathisen 2013 Bowman Chrome Prospects
  • As expected (and deserved), Milwaukee's Christian Yelich took home the 2018 NL-MVP Award. Jacob deGrom (10-9/1.70) of the Mets captured the NL Cy Young Award, despite a season of non-support by his NY batsmen. The Braves' Brian Snitker was picked as the NL Manager of the Year. 20-year-old Braves OF Ron Acuna won the NL Rookie of the Year award; the kid had himself a year.

11/16: Roberto, Dick MVP's; Catfish Bought, GVH Sold; Al Booted; HBD Joe, Mr. Rain, Mark, Tim & Brandon; RIP Bucky

  • 1852 - IF Joe Quest was born in New Castle. Joe spent nine years in the show with a whistle stop with the Alleghenys in 1884, batting .209 in a dozen games. Quest was a good glove, bad stick guy but he did leave a legacy: by most accounts, he coined the athletic malady called a charley horse. There are several versions; all include a gimpy-legged horse named Charley. The most widely cited tale is from "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract," (tale attributed to OF Hugh Nichol): In 1906, Quest and some other members of the White Stockings spent an off day at the track where the players had gotten a tip that a horse named "Charley" was a "sure thing" in one of the races. All of the players, except Quest, placed bets on Charley. The horse had the lead in the race but pulled up lame around the final turn. Quest, who had been ribbed for not betting on the horse, retorted "Look at your Charley horse now." The next day, while running to second base, Chicago outfielder George Gore pulled up with a strain, much as the horse had done. The incident prompted Quest to proclaim, "There's your old Charley horse." From that time, the players began using the term to refer to a sudden leg cramp or strain (via Wikipedia). 
GVH 1909 (image Harry Murphy/Sunday Oregonian)
  • 1893 - OF George Van Haltren was sold to the New York Giants by the Pirates for $2,500 after coming the Steel City the year before from Baltimore in return for future Hall of Famer OF/1B Joe Kelley, then a 20-year-old young gun, and $2,000. We’d guess that was probably a deal the Bucs would like to redo - GVH was coming off a .338 season in Pittsburgh and would put up a .321 BA over the next decade for the Giants. But he had gone through two seasons of lackadaisical play in 1891-92, and like most hitters of the era, took full advantage of the mound being moved to 60’6” in ‘92, so the Pirates chose to take the money. Still, it was a penny-wise, pound-foolish pair of moves, giving up two of the era’s better hitters in Kelley and Van Haltren for a $500 profit. 
  • 1894 - Manager Al Buckenberger of the Pirates was expelled briefly from the NL for being part of a group that attempted, without success, to revive the old American Association. Al was a major league manager for 10 years (Columbus, Pittsburgh, St. Louis & Boston) and also served as club president for the Bucs. The suspension ended his Pirates association and he was replaced at the helm by Connie Mack in 1895. 
  • 1950 - The Pirates selected 1B/OF George “Catfish” Metkovich from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in the Rule 5 draft. The 29 year-old had six seasons of MLB ball under his belt, but had spent the 1950 season with the Seals. He had a decent run with Pittsburgh, hitting .276 in two seasons and some change before being flipped in 1953 as part of the Ralph Kiner trade. The lefty earned his nickname when he stepped on a catfish during a fishing trip and cut his foot, causing him to miss several games. The Bucs also selected 1B Dale Long, but released him after a handful of games. He would return to the Pirates in ‘52, spend three years in the minors, and then join the show again in 1955, entering the record books a year later by homering in eight straight games. Like Catfish, he lasted through part of his third campaign before being flipped with Lee Walls as part of the Dee Fondy/Gene Baker deal. 
Catfish 1952 Topps
  • 1960 - NL batting champ (.325) Dick Groat was named NL MVP, beating out teammate Don Hoak 276-162. Also trailing him in the race were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks, all who had big years. Groat won despite losing the last three weeks of the season to a bad wrist, injured on a Lew Burdette pitch. Vern Law, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face and Smoky Burgess also received votes to place six Pirates among the Top Twenty finishers. 
  • 1966 - RF Roberto Clemente won the NL MVP, finishing ahead of Dodger ace Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73, 317 Ks) by a slim 218-208 count. Clemente hit .317 with 29 HR and 119 RBI. His strong play kept the Pirates in the hunt until the next-to-last day of the season. The Great One finished the year fourth in batting, 10th in home runs and second in runs batted in. Sandy had to find solace in taking home the Cy Young award. Matty Alou finished ninth in the tally while Gene Alley and Willie Stargell were among the top 20 vote getters; Bill Mazeroski also received some down-ballot love.
  • 1970 - RHP Hector Fajardo was born in Michoacan, Mexico. Fajardo was purchased by the Pirates from the Mexico City Red Devils in 1989 and worked his way through the system. He showed swing-and-miss stuff and when the Bucs called him up in 1991, he struck out eight batters in his 6-⅓ IP. Unfortunately, he also walked seven and gave up 10 hits and was traded to Texas in September as part of the Steve Buechele deal. He bounced back and forth between the show and the farm, nagged by injuries, and returned to the Mexican League in 1998. He retired and coaches in the ML now. Fajardo was nicknamed "Senor Lluvia" or "Mr. Rain" because of the freaky number of games he was scheduled to start that were rained out. 
  • 1974 - RHP Mark Corey was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Corey tossed the final two years of a four-season run in the show at Pittsburgh in 2003-04, posting a line of 2-4/4.91 from the bullpen. He saved 112 games in 12 minor league campaigns, but never could close out a game in the majors, blowing his only MLB save opportunity in 2004. 
Mark Corey 2004 Upper Deck Pro Signatures
  • 1982 - RHP Tim Wood was born in Tucson. After two years with Florida, Wood took a twisty trail that revolved around Pittsburgh. For 2011, he signed as an FA with Washington, was released, and inked a deal with the Bucs. He spent most of his time at Indy, was called up for 13 Pirates games with a line of 0-3/5.63 and then was sold to Texas. They released him at the end of the year and he re-signed with Pittsburgh, spending 2012 with Indianapolis. He was in the Twin system in 2013 and had late-season shoulder surgery, finishing his career. 
  • 1988 - RHP Brandon Cumpton was born in Augusta, Georgia. A depth starter, the Georgia Tech grad saw action as an injury replacement in 2013-14, going 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA. He was the ninth round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft, but his career was put on hold after various injuries starting with 2015 TJ surgery. He came back to work briefly in the minors in 2017 and then moved on to Toronto; he worked the last part of 2018 in the indie leagues. 
  • 2009 - Bucky Williams, who played black Pittsburgh baseball at virtually every level, passed away in Penn Hills at the age of 102. He took the field for the Keystone Juniors, Monarchs, Edgar Thompson, the Grays and the Crawfords along with many local sandlot teams, spending 22 years in the black major/minors. The infielder claimed a .340 BA over the different pro levels, and when his ball playing days finally wound down, he umpired in the East End Little League. He managed all that while employed at US Steel as a ladle liner, retiring from his day job in 1971.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

11/15: Clint Hired; Redus Signs; Gayo Gonzo; X Marks the Spot; HBD Gus, Joe, MVR, Randy & Craig

  • 1893 - IF Joe Leonard was born in West Chicago, Illinois (some sources have his b-day on the 14th, sera, sera). Leonard got parts of five MLB seasons in, starting with the Pirates in 1914, batting just .198 that year. He was highly rated as a youngster, although his bat never proved big-league consistent; when Pittsburgh purchased the 19-year-old from the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League for $3,080 in 1913, he became the highest priced player sold to the majors at the time. Joe died while still an active player in May, 1920, at the age of 26 of appendicitis/pneumonia while a member of the Senators; Washington owner Clark Griffith and several teammates were at his bedside at the time of his death. 
Maurice Van Robays (1940 Baseball Magazine)
  • 1914 - OF Maurice Van Robays was born in Detroit. Van Robays replaced RF Lloyd Waner late in 1939. He finished third in the NL with 116 RBI and received a smattering of MVP votes the next season. "Bomber" (his nickname after he hit 11 HR in 1940) had a strong 1941. MVR developed vision problems the following season and had to wear glasses, and it took him until 1943 to rediscover his batting stroke. Then he missed the war years of 1944-45 while serving with the 1st Infantry Division, and played one last season in Pittsburgh in 1946. Van Robays is credited with naming Rip Sewell's famous "eephus" pitch. After seeing it delivered, Van Robays commented that the pitch was eephus, using the Hebrew term for "nothing." 
  • 1928 - OF David “Gus” Bell was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He came up with the Pirates, and between 1950-52 hit .270 with 40 HR. He was traded to the Reds after getting into Branch Rickey’s doghouse - Bell wanted his wife and kids with him on road trips and Rickey apparently didn’t like the precedent; he went on to win four All-Star berths with Cincy. He was called "Gus" by a cousin whose favorite player was a catcher, Gus Mancuso and the name stuck. Family Ties: Gus is Buddy’s father and the grandpa of David and Michael. David Bell hit for the cycle in 2004, joining his grandfather Gus to become the only grampa-grandkid duo in MLB history to accomplish that feat. 
  • 1950 - Branch Rickey was featured in a Willard Mullin cartoon on the front page of The Sporting News for the story “Treasure Island,” shown plotting future Pirate moves on an X-marks-the-spot map. Unfortunately, the Bucs ran aground rebuilding during the Mahatma’s 1950-55 reign, although he is often credited with the minor-league spadework that fed the strong sixties clubs. 
Randy Niemann 1983 Topps
  • 1955 - LHP Randy Niemann was born in Scotia, California. Drafted by the Yankees in 1975, the southpaw middle man tossed parts of eight big league seasons. Randy was in Pittsburgh briefly from 1982-83, getting into 28 games and going 1-2-1/6.24. He retired and immediately started working with the Mets, Red Sox and currently the Cards as primarily a pitching coach, serving at every level from Class A to the majors. 
  • 1983 - RHP Craig Hansen was born in Glen Cove, New York. A first round draft pick of Boston from St. John’s U, the closer was traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Jason Bay deal. He only appeared in five games for the Pirates before being diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, a condition that disrupts nerve signals between muscles. His lost his fastball and was released by Pittsburgh in 2011. He last tossed in 2012 while in the Mets system; now he’s a trader and real estate developer in New York. 
  • 1988 - The Pirates signed OF/1B Gary Redus as a free agent for $500 K, and he ended up spending five years with the Buccos. He was a solid contributor to the nineties pennant-winning clubs who hit .279 in 15 NLCS games. Redus batted .255 during his Pirates time and served as a platoon/pinch hit bench bat who saw time in the corner outfield spots (he also played center in a pinch) and at first base. 
  • 2010 - Clint Hurdle, former Colorado manager and current Rangers hitting coach, became the Pirates sixth field boss since 1992, replacing John Russell. Clint was the first skipper to guide the team to a playoff spot since Jim Leyland in 1992 when his club earned a wild card berth in 2013 while also snapping a record-setting 20-season losing streak and was in the playoffs for three straight years until the string was snapped in 2016. 
Clint 2012 Topps Heritage
  • 2017 - The Pirates informed Rene Gayo, their Latin scouting director, that they would not renew his contract in 2018 after an MLB investigation found that he had taken money from a Mexican team while a Bucco birddog. Rene had been in controversial waters before with the Miguel Sano flap. The Latin coordinator since 2004, he signed players like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Elias Diaz and Edgar Santana to the Pirates.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Bucs Send Jordan Luplow, Mad Max to Tribe for IF Gonzalez & Pair of Pups

The Pirates sent OF Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff to the Cleveland Indians for infielder Erik González and right-handed pitchers Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza. Luplow, 25, a third-round pick in 2014 and Minor League PoY in 2017, had been given a chance to break camp with the Bucs in 2019 with Gregory Polanco on ice while Moroff, also 25 & a 16th round high school pick in 2012, had been bypassed by the Kevins on the Pirates depth chart. Both had brief trails with the big club. J-Low hit .194 in 64 games while Maxie batted .193 in 84 games. They'll have a chance to crack Cleveland's roster. Luplow will have a big opp as the Tribe OF is thin right now and Mad Max will audition as Gonzalez's replacement.

J-Low to the Tribe - 2018 Topps

Gonzalez, 27, slashed .265/one homer/16 RBI last season for Cleveland as a utility infielder and has a .263 BA over three campaigns (162 games). He's mostly played second (71 games), but has seen action at short (35 games) and third (30 games), even playing the OF and first on occasion Gonzalez has an MLB OPS+ of 79; he whiffs a lot (29%) and walks rarely (3%), with a good hard-hit rate (395) and huge ground ball trend (57%) - hullo, swing angle tweak. Neil Huntington described his glove as "solid" and as a player who will challenge for PT in the middle infield. He's a good glove guy by rep, though Fangraphs lists him as a poster boy for average with the mitt (he's between +1/-1 in DRS for six positions, with an admittedly small sample size with all the shuffling; he hasn't pitched, caught or played center), so we'll see if the Pirates plan to use him in tandem with Kevin Newman. Erik won't hit arb until 2020, although he is out of options, so the Bucs consider him a big league addition.

Thomas, 19, was the Indians' #30 prospect and the Bahamian has tossed for two years in the Arizona Rookie League, going 0-3/5.47 with 56 K in 52-2/3 IP; he also walked 35 batters, so he fits into the usual Bucco wild child prospect mold. Mendoza, 19, is Zach Britton's cousin and was a 12th-round pick in the 2017 draft out of high school. In two rookie league seasons. he's 0-2/4.69 with 39 K in 40-1/3 IP with 22 walks, so same cut of cloth. Both are lotto tickets.

Along with Maxie (image: Pittsburgh Pirates)

The surprise was moving Luplow; the Pirates OF depth took a hit with Polanco's injury and Austin Meadow's trade. This puts Adam Frazier/Pablo Reyes on top of the fill-in list and there isn't any immediate help from Indy, so the FO should be in the market for a fourth OF'er. It also jams up the backup infield spot; that will be sorted out at camp. All in all, it's a housekeeping move more than anything else, opening up PT at Indy and one more 40-man spot on the roster with the deadline to protect guys set for next week.

11/14 Through the 1960’s: Stan & Big Ed Join Bucs; HBD Otto, Fred, Jim, Weeping Willie & Paul

  • 1864 - 1B/OF Otto Schomberg (Shambrick) was born in Milwaukee. Otto played three big league seasons, beginning with the Allegheny in 1886, hitting .272 in 72 games. After the campaign, the Alleghenys traded Schomberg with $400 to the St. Louis Maroons for Alex McKinnon. Schomberg was a one-trick pony; his fielding was subpar and he slumped in 1888 for Indianapolis. Added to the mix was an injury and a mild bout with malaria. After that, he was delegated to minor-league and semi pro clubs, even umpiring, but did pretty well for himself after baseball. He was a successful lumberman and parlayed profits from that business into other investments. Otto prospered and was a delegate to the Republican convention.
Fred Carisch 1904 (photo Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum)
  • 1881 - C/1B Fred Carisch was born in Fountain City, Wisconsin. Playing between 1903-06, the reserve hit .229 for the Pirates. Fred became the center of a storm in 1923, when as a Tigers' coach, he was forced to catch when his team's final receiver was ejected. A protest was filed, but the Cleveland Indians rallied to win in the 10th, making the point moot. 
  • 1881 - OF Jim Wallace was born in Boston. He played seven MLB games for the Pirates in 1905 as a right fielder and batted .207 in his brief career, going 6-for-29. Jim never got another shot; he spent seven seasons in the minors after his Bucco stint and batted .250+ once. 
  • 1898 - RHP Claude “Weeping Willie” Willoughby was born in Buffalo, Kansas. Willie closed out his seven year career in Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 6.31, in nine outings. We assume the Weeping Willie moniker came about because of his performance - he had an ERA of 4.99 or higher in his final six campaigns, though he did have winning records (6-5, 15-14) in 1928-29. He was also known as “Flunky” for reasons we couldn’t uncover. 
  • 1947 - The Bucs bought SS Stan Rojek, 29, from the Dodgers with plans to make him the starter in Pittsburgh; he was blocked by Pee Wee Reese in Brooklyn. He played 156 games and hit .290 in 1948, but faded after that season, became a backup in 1950 and was traded to the Cards in 1951. They also purchased 1B Big Ed Stevens from Brooklyn, who played from 1948-50 and hit .253 as a Pirate. 
Stan Rojek 1949 Bowman
  • 1967 - RHP Paul Wagner was born in Milwaukee. A 12th round draft pick in 1989, he pitched for the Pirates for six campaigns from 1992-97, mainly as a starter, and went 26-40/4.58 during that span. Wagner came close to capturing a little magic - in 1995, he had a no-hitter broken up against the Colorado Rockies with two out in the ninth on an Andrés Galarraga single. He pitched through the 2003 season and now runs a training camp in Wisconsin, Paul Wagner Power Pitching.

11/14 From 1970: Doug Wins Cy; Cobra, Cutch MVP; Toronto Trade; The Hammer & AJ Sign; HBD X-Man

  • 1978 - RF Dave "The Cobra" Parker won the NL MVP, topping runner-up Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers 320-194 in the vote parade. Parker had 30 HR with 117 RBI and led the league with a .334 batting average, a .585 slugging percentage, and 340 total bases. That was despite the fact that he missed two weeks after breaking his jaw in a home plate collision with the Mets' John Stearns and returned wearing a football-style facemask, thought to be the first time such a contraption was worn in an MLB game.
  • 1978 - OF Xavier Nady was born in Salinas, California. Nady played for the Bucs from 2006-08, hitting .301 as a Pirate. He had been on Pittsburgh’s radar for awhile - GM Dave Littlefield tried to pry him from the Padres in 2003, and settled on Jason Bay instead when SD wouldn’t deal Nady. The Friars were high on him - Nady went straight to the majors without playing minor league ball in 2000 while with San Diego, though the stay didn’t last long, as he was sent to the farm after one game. The Bucs finally landed him in 2006 from the Mets for Ollie Perez and Roberto Hernandez. He’s been known as “X” or the “X-Man” since his days with NY. 
Xavier Nady 2008 Topps Heritage
  • 1980 - In the final Free Agent Re-Entry Draft, the Bucs John Milner opted out of contract to test the waters, but the Pirates managed to ink him to a new deal (they kept a retainer on his rights). They claimed bidding rights on a dozen players including Dave Winfield and Don Sutton, and signed none. But they did eventually get Willie Montanez, who they had on their list as a potential replacement if they had lost Milner. Willie signed with the Expos, but was the return when the Pirates traded The Hammer to Montreal in August. 
  • 1990 - RHP Doug Drabek, who posted a 22-6 record and a 2.76 ERA, was named the NL Cy Young winner and became the first Pirate since Vern Law in 1960 to take home the award. He received 23 of 24 first-place votes and 118 of a possible 120 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. 
  • 1996 - The Pirates sent 2B Carlos Garcia, 1B/OF Orlando Merced and P Dan Plesac to the Toronto Blue Jays for P Jose Silva, IF Abraham Nunez, and OF Craig Wilson plus prospects SS Brandon Cromer, P Jose Pett and P Mike Halperin. Merced had four good seasons remaining, Plesac lasted in the show through the 2003 season and Garcia, who was the Jays main target, ended up as a bench guy in the AL and lasted three more years in the show. Silva spent five years in Pittsburgh, but his ERA during that span was 5.44 (he was 24-28-4 for the Pirates), Wilson and Nunez were in and out of the lineup and the other players were minor league material. 
  • 2013 - Andrew McCutchen won the National League MVP easily over Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, taking 28 of 30 votes. He became the Bucs first MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992, which also was the last time the franchise had posted a winning record until this season. It was a year w/o a dominant player as Cutch posted a passel of well-rounded numbers. He hit .317 with 21 HR, 84 RBI, 97 RS and 26 SB and was second in WAR at 8.1. Andrew had finished third in 2012. 
Cutch 2013 Topps Series 2
  • 2014 - RHP AJ Burnett returned to the Pirate flock, signing a one-year contract valued at $8.5M after a dismal season (8-18/4.59) in Philadelphia. He told the media that “This is where I want to finish my career, playing for this team and for this city. I want to win a ring, and I want to do it in Pittsburgh.” Burnett left $4.25M on the table for the reunion by turning down a player option worth $12.75M with Philadelphia to become a FA, and had his agent negotiate solely with the Pirates. AJ had pitched in 2012-13 for the Bucs, winning 26 games with a 3.41 ERA before moving across the state. He finished with another solid season, going 9-7/3.18 tho slowed down by a late year injury.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

11/13: Pops Shares the MVP; Pirates Threaten to Move; Beat 'Em Bucs; HBD Gene, Steady Pete, Cork, Ray & Jack

  • 1862 - P “Steady” Pete Meegan (he batted lefty, but his throwing arm is unknown) was born in San Francisco. He closed out his brief two-year MLB run in 1885 when he joined the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He posted a 7-8/3.39 line in 18 games (16 starts, 14 CGs) and was said to possess a feared curve. Pete was the child of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine, and he’s part of Patriot QB Tom Brady’s family tree (his aunt and uncle were Brady’s great-great grands, making him a cousin). He passed away in 1905 at the age of 42, felled by Bright’s Disease (nephritis). We’re guessing the nickname came about thanks to his dependability, finishing 36-of-38 big league games that he started. 
  • 1894 - RHP Ray Steineder was born in Salem, New Jersey. He worked two years in the show, mainly for the Pirates. He tossed 20 outings (two starts) with a 2-1/5.15 line from 1923-24 before being sold to the Phils in May and finishing out his big league days there. Ray also knew his way around a batter’s box, going 10-for-25 (.400) in MLB. He did have a yo-yo history - after the Pirates brought him up after a 37-win campaign in the minors in 1920, he was a late cut and signed with an outlaw team in Oil City. That got him suspended and pushed back his debut season to 1923 when the suspension was lifted (and he got a late start to that year, holding out for $6K). When the Phils released him in 1924, he again signed with an outlaw club and again was suspended. He was reinstated the following year but never caught on in the majors again. 
  • 1914 - RHP Jack Hallett was born in Toledo, Ohio. He tossed for the Bucs from 1942-43, and then after wartime service returned in 1946. Working mostly from the pen, Hallett went 6-10 with a 3.06 ERA for Pittsburgh. He was also a solid stick, hitting .238 with one home run in 80 lifetime at-bats, and a perfect fielder, handling all 60 of his career chances flawlessly. Jack carved out a 12-year career with twenty different clubs as a pro, even with his service stint, and tossed in the bigs for the White Sox and New York Giants along with the Buccos.
Ted Wilks 1952 Topps
  • 1915 - RHP Ted “Cork” Wilks was born in Fulton, New York. Ted tossed for the Bucs in parts of 1951-52, going 8-10-16, 3.19, in 92 outings. He arrived in June of ‘51 as part of the Chambers/Westlake deal with the Cards and 14 months later the 37-year-old was flipped to the Tribe as a piece of the Johnny Berardino trade. Converting to a reliever from starter after encountering arm woes early in his MLB career, his Cardinal teammates (he spent almost eight years with St. Louis) began calling Wilks “The Cork” because of the opponents’ rallies he stopped. 
  • 1947 - RHP Gene Garber was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He began his 19-year career with the Bucs as a 20th round pick in the 1965 draft, pitching sparingly from 1969-72 with an 0-3, 5.61 line in just 20 visits to the rubber. Garber would go on to make 931 appearances with 1,510 IP, win 96 games and save 218 more with a career 3.34 ERA before he hit the tape. The sidewinder retired after the 1988 season and went back home as a farmer and poultry producer. 
  • 1956 - The Pirates announced that they would consider moving out of town if a new stadium wasn’t built to replace Forbes Field, the second oldest yard in baseball after Shibe Park in Philly. Buc VP & co-owner Tom Johnson said in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that “What we need is a municipal stadium in Pittsburgh we both (Pirates & Steelers) can use. If we don’t get one, there’s a chance the Pirates will have to leave this city.” The beef was triggered because the Steelers, rumored to have four different cities interested in transplanting the franchise, were itching to escape Forbes Field and move to the roomier Pitt Stadium, a move that required legislative action. Both got their wish, though it took some time. The political football was kicked around for years until Three Rivers Stadium opened in July of 1970. 
Willie Stargell 2004 Fleer Greats of the Game
  • 1979 - For the first time in MLB history, two players shared the MVP. The NL co-winners were Willie Stargell, who hit .281 with 32 HRs, and the Cards 1B Keith Hernandez, who led the NL in runs scored (116), doubles (48), and batting average (.344). With the win, the Pirates had taken (or shared) all four "MVP" awards for the season (All-Star Game, NLCS, World Series, and NL regular season) for the first award sweep in MLB history. Stargell took the honors for the NLCS, World Series, and NL regular season, while Dave Parker won the All-Star Game MVP. 
  • 2010 - Beat ‘Em, Bucs! The Byham Theater hosted a sneak preview of a 50-year-old B&W movie, copied from TV for owner Bing Crosby, of NBC's telecast of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. Dick Groat and Bob Costas were the event hosts of The MLB Network production, later aired on TV and then made available on DVD. The Post Gazette’s Bob Hoover wrote “Fans hailed the eight members of the '60 team invited for the showing, clapped rhythmically to start rallies, reacted loudly every time Roberto Clemente appeared on the screen and leapt to their feet for the two clutch home runs in the eighth (Hal Smith) and ninth (you know who) innings.”

Monday, November 12, 2018

Holiday Weekend Notes: 2019 Steamer; Trade Chip; Corey Rep; Minors Check; PED Again; Ryan to Yankees; MLB Moves

And during the holiday weekend...

  • Steamer projections for 2019 are out (position players here; pitchers here). The Pirates have a handful of players rated between 2-4 WAR (good-to-solid players): Chris Archer, 3.8; Starling Marte, 3.4; Gregory Polanco & Fran Cervelli, 2.6; and Jamo at 2.5, with Corey Dickerson on the bubble at 1.9 WAR. Like last year, they still lack a go-to guy per the early projections.
  • Mark Feinsand of MLB.com selected each team's top trade chip; for the Pirates, his opinion is  that it's Fran Cervelli. 
Any takers...? (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • JJ Cooper of Baseball America looked at the 2018 Golden Glove winners to see how their leather played in the minors. Corey Dickerson and, oddly enough, the two second basemen, DJ  Lemahieu and Ian Kinsler, were the only players who weren't noted for their defense while coming up. So there's hope for Adam Frazier, who, btw, had a +4 DRS last year.
  • Craig Edwards of Fangraphs rates the farm systems by potential WAR based on player grades; the Bucs are quite middle-of-the-pack.
  • Sheesh, another one: Pirates 18-year-old Dominican League RHP Cristian Charle was suspended for 72 games after testing positive for the PED Stanozolol. He was just signed in April, when he was 17.
  • C Ryan Lavarnway signed a minor league deal with the Yankees. With Jake Stallings out of options and Jin-de Jhang now with the Giants, the Pirates may be in the market for a veteran depth guy to stash in AAA to mix in with Christian Kelley, Arden Pabst and Jackson Williams, who are next up.
  • Be careful translating everything you read: All sorts of hot takes are out saying the Cubs are shopping Kris Bryant. What GM Theo Epstein really said was that nobody on the roster is untouchable, so while Bryant may be moved for any of several baseball reasons from budget to hole-patching, it's not as if he's being dangled.
  • The Cincy Reds will celebrate their 150th anniversary by wearing 15 different throwback unis during the season. 

11/12: Cervy Deal; Japanese Tourists; Clint MoY,Cutch SS; Twin Bill Blues; RIP Doc; HBD Ground Chuck & Dave

  • 1916 - The Pittsburgh Press’ Ernest Lanigan wrote “No one knows who invented doubleheaders, the gentleman who did so refusing to step up...and claim the dubious honor. Jimmy Callahan, the Pirates field boss, would like to meet the person responsible...” His Pirates were swamped by bargain baseball, partaking in 34 twin bills during 1916, almost 45% of the schedule, with just 14 at Forbes Field, and finishing a dismal 27-39-2 playing them. “Barney’s Buccaneers” weren’t very good in any mode, it should be noted - they were only a smidge better at 38-50 in single game matchups that year.  
Vet Bo visited Japan after the war - 1952 Topps
  • 1951 - It was announced that five players who were part of a 15-game American-Japanese Goodwill Baseball Tour would spend two days in Korea with the troops during the week before heading home. One of the players selected was Pirates infielder George Strickland (P Bill Werle was also part of the US team). Bo was no stranger to the military life, as he had served in the South Pacific with the Navy from 1944-46. The tour, led by Lefty O’Doul, was the first of six by the MLB between 1951-58 and helped find common ground between the two WW2 foes. O’Doul had led an earlier 1949 tour, at the request of General MacArthur, with the San Francisco Seals players from the Pacific Coast League. 
  • 1964 - LHP Dave Otto was born in Chicago. He worked parts of eight seasons in the show with a stop at Pittsburgh in 1993, going 3-4/5.03 in 28 outings. Dave was 6’7,” two-sport star (hoops & baseball) at the U of Missouri and a member of the University’s Sports Hall of Fame. Since his retirement, he’s been a sports announcer in Chicago. 
  • 1967 - Doctor Charles Jorgensen passed away. “Doc” was the Pirates trainer for 30 years until he retired in 1958, working under nine field managers (Jewel Ens, George Gibson, Pie Traynor, Frankie Frisch, Billy Herman, Bill Meyer, Fred Haney, Bobby Bragan and Danny Murtaugh) and four team presidents (Barney Dreyfuss, Bill Benswanger, Frank McKinney and John Galbreath) during his three-decade stint as the Bucs’ main medico. 
Ground Chuck 2013 Topps Emerald Update
  • 1983 - RHP Charlie Morton was born in Flemington, New Jersey. The promising righty came to Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade with Atlanta. Despite excellent stuff (he earned the nickname "Ground Chuck" for his ground ball deliveries), Morton was in-and-out of the rotation because of various injuries and spotty performances, going 41-62, 4.39 over seven seasons. He was traded to the Phils, but was put out of action early in the campaign with a torn hamstring. Charlie did find a boost going to the Astros in 2017, going more with his hard stuff to become a rotation mainstay (well, except for that six-week trip to the DL…) and then tossed like Mr. October of the slab set with Game Seven wins for Houston in the ALCS and WS. He went 15-3/3.13 in 2018, with one forgettable postseason start and is now a free agent. 
  • 2013 - Clint Hurdle, who guided the Pirates to their first winning record in 21 years and to the NLDS, was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Clint was the first Pirates manager to win the award since Jim Leyland in 1992 and he did it easily by winning on 25 of the 30 ballots cast, leaving the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly and the Braves' Fredi Gonzalez in the dust. New Brighton’s Terry Francona won the AL honor. 
  • 2014 - LHP Justin Wilson was traded to the New York Yankees for C Francisco Cervelli. It marked the third straight offseason that the Bucs took on a Yankee catcher, signing FA Russ Martin for the 2013-14 seasons and acquiring Chris Stewart for the 2014 campaign. Fran had a pair of strong campaigns, and the Bucs signed him to a three-year, $31M extension in 2016. Wilson got a lot of work, too, appearing 205 times in three seasons with the Yankees, Tigers and Cubs. 
The Shark went East, too - 2016 Stadium Club
  • 2014 - MLB sent a squad overseas to open a 10-day, five-game Japanese All-Star series, the first since 2006. Mark Melancon represented the Pirates, along with ex-Bucs Jose Veras, Eric Katz and Justin Morneau. The team played five games in Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo, with exhibitions in Koshien and Okinawa. For The Shark, it was just another goodwill trip in a long string of overseas MLB ventures. He had represented baseball in camps held in South Africa, Taiwan, China, New Zealand and Australia in the past. 
  • 2015 - Andrew McCutchen became the first Bucco to win four Silver Slugger awards, breaking a logjam with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Rick Rhoden, each of whom took home three trophies (Bonds & Rhoden consecutively). It was the fourth straight year he took the honor, hitting .292 with 23 HRs and 96 RBI in 2015 after falling below the Mendoza Line by the end of April.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

11/11 Through the 1920’s: Brodie Deal; HBD Rabbit, Pie, Art, George, Lee, Joe & Charlie

  • 1853 - IF Joe Battin was born in West Bradford, in Chester County, although some cite Philadelphia as his birthplace. Contrary to his name, Joe was a good glove, bad bat guy who spent 10 years in a variety of major leagues - the National Association, National League, American Association, and the Union Association. He was with the Allegheny from 1882-84, batting .215 and serving briefly as a player/manager for a smidgen of the 1883 and ‘84 campaigns, going 8-18. His career highlight was taking part of the 1874 tour of the UK and France by the Philadelphia Athletics & Boston Red Stockings. The Americans not only introduced the Euros to baseball, but also were booked for several cricket matches. 
  • 1870 - RHP Charlie Hastings was born in Ironton, Ohio. Working mostly as a fourth starter in the days when two or three were the norm, he put up a 11-14-1 record with a 4.51 ERA between 1896-98, appearing in 67 games (45 starts) for Pittsburgh. Charlie played through the 1904 season before spending a few seasons as an ump. He then retired to Parkersburg, WV, where he collected bridge tolls for a living before passing away in 1934. 
Rabbit 1924 (photo Conlon Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1891 - IF Walter “Rabbit” Maranville was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Hall of Famer spent four (1921-24) of his 23 big league seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .283 during his stay. In 1922, he led the league with 746 PA and 672 AB, scoring 115 times. There are a couple of tales regarding the origin of his nickname. One is that he earned it because of his big ears. He begged to differ, claiming that the young sister of a friend came up with it after watching him bounce around like a bunny on the field. 
  • 1896 - CF Jake Stenzel was traded along with bench players RHP Elmer Horton, OF Tom O'Brien and IF Harry Truby to the Baltimore Orioles for CF Steve Brodie and 3B Jim Donnelly. Stenzel, who had a .360 BA over five years with the Bucs, hit .353 with 116 RBI for the O’s in 1897. Brodie was released after 1-1/2 years in Pittsburgh (.283 BA) and Donnelly only lasted one season (.193 BA). Brodie was re-signed by Baltimore after the Bucs let him go and hit .308 for them through 1899, and in a bit of circle dancing replaced Stenzel, who was traded to the St. Louis Browns after his big 1897 season. 
  • 1898 - Harold “Pie” Traynor was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. The Hall of Fame 3B played 17 seasons (1920-35, 1937) for the Pirates with a career .320 BA. He hit over .300 ten times, had over 100 RBI in a season seven times, and was considered the top third baseman of his era. The ensuing local generations may remember him for his “Studio Wrestling” promos, when he touted American Heating with his “Who Can? Ameri-Can!” line. Traynor became a scout for the Pirates when his career ended (he held that post for the rest of his life) and hosted a radio program six days a week for 20 years on KQV called "The Pie Traynor Club" where he talked baseball with local kids. Pie passed away in 1972 and is buried in Homewood Cemetery. There are several stories involving his nickname. A couple revolve around his love of pie when he was a kid, with another explaining that his round puss made him look "pie-faced." Dave Finoli, in his “Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia (second edition),” adds another contender, writing that Traynor as a youth came home covered in dirt after a day at play, and was told by his dad that he was “...as dark as a pied pipe.”
Art McKennan (photo via SABR)
  • 1906 - Announcer Art McKennan was born in Oakland. Starting out as a Forbes Field errand boy, he did odd jobs around the park, working his way up to bat boy and scoreboard runner. Art got a job in the real world and continued on as an usher. He couldn’t keep that gig, though - in 1930, he was diagnosed with polio. But it didn’t stop him. Art was the voice of the Pirates at Forbes Field from 1948 until it closed, and then at TRS until 1987 (he did Sunday games after that until 1993). He also had stints with the Penguins, Pitt football and Duquesne hoops along with a 30-year career in Pittsburgh’s Parks Department. He died in 1996 at the age of 89. 
  • 1906 - Scout George Detore was born in Utica, New York. The infielder played in 33 games over two years for the Indians before getting into coaching and scouting. He served on Danny Murtaugh's MLB coaching staff during 1959 season, taking the place of Jimmy Dykes when he left the Pirates to become the manager of the Detroit Tigers. Detore joined Pittsburgh in 1950 as a minor league coach, then later as a New York based scout/scouting supervisor, serving in that role from 1955–58, 60-63 and once again from in 69–86. 
  • 1923 - LHP Lee Howard was born on Staten Island. Lee had a brief MLB career consisting of five Bucs games (16 IP) tossed in 1946-47 with an 0-1/2.25 slash. Howard was signed by the Bucs in 1942, but a three-year stint in the Navy (he served in the Pacific Theater) delayed his big league arrival. He spent 1948-49 in the minors, but after giving up 10+ hits and nearly six walks per nine while compiling an ERA of 5.93, he hung up the spikes.

11/11 From 1950: Martin Signed; Draft Dodgers; HBD Grilled Cheese, Roberto, Bob, Scott, Rey, JR & Kyle

  • 1954 - RHP Bob Long was born in Jasper, Tennessee. Bob didn’t have much of a big league career, but he still did pretty well for himself as a 24th round draft pick in 1976 by working 12 pro seasons. He got a brief look with the Bucs in 1981 with a 1-2/5.95 line in five outings (three starts) and then had a solid season at Seattle in 1985, appearing in 28 games and posting a 3.76 ERA. He couldn’t break the AAA barrier after that and pitched through the 1987 campaign before retiring from active duty. 
  • 1956 - OF Scott Loucks was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Loucks finished his five-year, 73-game MLB career in Pittsburgh, going 2-for-7 with two walks in four 1985 contests after being signed as a free agent from the Houston organization. He spent most of the year at AAA Hawaii, the last of his nine minor league campaigns, and retired at age 28. 
Rey Quinones 1989 Topps Traded
  • 1963 - SS Rey Quinones was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Rey got parts of four MLB seasons under his belt, closing it out in 1989 with the Pirates, hitting .209 in 71 games. The Pirates got him & Bill Wilkinson from Seattle in late April for Mike Dunne, Mike Walker, and Mark Merchant. Quinones was released in July; no one in the deal ever made much noise in the show. 
  • 1964 - RHP Roberto Hernandez was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He tossed for 17 seasons and appeared in over 1,000 games. He made a 2006 pit stop in the Steel City as an FA in his next-to-last campaign and was pretty strong for a 42-year-old, going 0-3-2/2.93 in 46 outings. The Bucs flipped him to the Mets at the deadline with Ollie Perez to pick up Xavier Nady. 
  • 1976 - RHP Jason Grilli was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. After signing with Pittsburgh as a minor league FA in 2011 out of the Phil’s system, the vet known as “Grilled Cheese” reinvented himself as a back-end reliever, serving as Joel Hanrahan’s set-up man before taking the closer reins in 2013 and winning an All-Star berth. In 2014, he was sent to Angels after putting up a 3-11-47 record during his stint with the Bucs with a 3.01 ERA and 12.4 K per nine innings. He’s since been with Atlanta, Toronto & Texas, and sat out 2018. His moniker is based on his name, a fondness for the sandwiches and probably a little bit because of his favorite pitch, the cheese (a fastball). At any rate, he's adopted the persona well with his twitter handle of @grilledcheese49, a ballpark grilled cheese sandwich named "The Closer" and several community/fun events built around the gooey snack. 
  • 1979 - C JR (James Rodger) House was born in Charleston, West Virginia. A fifth round pick from Seabreeze HS in 1999, JR was in the Bucco system for six years, catching three games from 2003-04 and going 2-for-10. He went on to play in Houston and Baltimore and is now a minor-league manager for Arizona. 
Kyle McPherson 2013 Topps
  • 1987 - RHP Kyle McPherson was born in Creola, Alabama. Kyle, who was a 14th-round draft pick in 2007, was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, and made his MLB debut in 2012, going 0-2 but with a solid 2.73 ERA and 1.177 WHIP. He underwent TJ surgery the following season and never regained his form, being released by the Pirates after the 2014 season and by Tampa Bay in 2016. 
  • 1991 - OF Al Martin was signed as a minor-league free agent after serving six years in the Atlanta system. He was called up from AAA Buffalo for a cup of coffee in 1992 and remained a Bucco through the 1999 season, batting .280 mainly as a left fielder during that time. Martin played for three more years for San Diego, Seattle and Tampa Bay before spending a season in Korea and calling it quits. 
  • 1997 - The Pirates announced their 15-man protected list for the following week’s expansion draft by Tampa Bay and Arizona. The players taken off the board were P’s Francisco Cordova, Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza, Rich Loiselle, Ricardo Rincon, Jason Schmidt, Jose Silva, Jeff Wallace; C Jason Kendall; OFs Jose Guillen, Al Martin; IF Abraham Nunez, Tony Womack, Ron Wright & Kevin Young. The Bucs risked Joe Randa, Lou Collier & Marc Wilkins and a bevy of young outfielders. They did lose Randa and P Clint Sodowsky to the D-Backs along with P Jason Johnson to the Devil Rays.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

11/10 Through the 1910’s: 7-Man Swap; White/Rowe Deal; HBD Little Globetrotter, Fred, Eddie & Speed

  • 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, thanks to an intervention by John McGraw and financial support for treatment provided by his Cincinnati teammates per Baseball History Daily. He 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. 
Jack Rowe as a Bosox 1887 Tomlinson
  • 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 Allegheny. 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 maneuvering - Rowe and White had 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 with 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. 
  • 1890 - OF/P Eddie Eayrs was born in Blackstone, Massachusetts. He got his start with the Bucs in 1913, getting two of his four games on the hill, giving up six runs (two earned) in eight IP while going 1-for-6 at the dish as a 22-year-old signed out of Brown. He didn’t return to the show until 1920-21 with Boston and Brooklyn, mainly patrolling the pasture. Eayrs did have a long pro career, playing outfield in the Eastern League until 1927, when he finally took off the spikes for good at age 36. 
  • 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 strong campaigns afterward and retired after the 1901 season.
Pop Shriver (photo Moller/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 (whether he was given a head start, generally part of Owen’s schtick, is unclear), but either way his moniker was well earned.