- 1941 - A Pittsburgh era ended when Paul “Big Poison” Waner, 37, who was released by the Pirates in December, signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers after a 15-year run in the Steel City. He lasted five more years with Brooklyn, the Boston Braves and New York Yankees, and hit .276 over that wartime span. Paul retired after the 1945 season and was a hitting coach for several clubs. He made it into the HoF in 1952 and the Pirates retired his #11 on July 21st, 2007, 55 years to the day of Waner's induction into the Hall.
|Paul Pettit (image by Thomas Paprocki/NY Times)|
- 1950 - The Pirates signed high school LHP Paul Pettit (“The Wizard of Whiff” pitched six prep no-hitters) for a record $100‚000 after buying his rights from film producer Fred Stephani‚ who had signed him to an exclusive contract as an athlete/actor. The lefty went 1-2/7.43 for the Pirates (1951, 1953) and after eight minor league seasons, he retired in 1961 with arm problems that had first surfaced a decade earlier and forced him to become an OF/1B. Pettit did get a couple of bit parts in the movies, but show biz never panned out and he became a high school coach.
- 1952 - RF Paul “Big Poison” Waner was elected to the Hall of Fame and inducted on July 21st. In a 20 year career, he led the NL in hitting three times and put up a slash of .330/.404/.473. His 2,868 hits as a Pirate are third on the team, behind Roberto Clemente (3,000) and Honus Wagner (2,970). 15 years later, he and younger sib Lloyd became the second brother combo to enter the Hall, behind Harry and George Wright.
- 1965 - RHP Pud “Gentle Jeems” Galvin was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee and was the lone HOF selection that year. Galvin earned 20 victories ten times in 14 seasons. He tossed for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and Pirates from 1885-1892. Pud won 138 games and notched four 20+ win years for Pittsburgh. He was inducted on July 26th.
|Dennis Ribant 1967 Topps|
- 1967 - RHP Dennis Ribant, who the Pirates had just gotten from the Mets in the offseason for Don Cardwell, signed his contract for $20,000. The Pirates had high hopes for the 25-year-old after he went 11-9, 3.20, for NY, and Ribant said at the signing that “I hope I can win 15 games” in the coming season. Eh, a little off-target: he won nine with a 4.08 ERA and was sent to Detroit for Dave Wickersham after the year. Ribant was switched to full-time reliever there, but lasted just two more seasons in the show, spending the last four years of his career in AAA.
- 1971 - The Hall of Fame Special Veterans Committee selected two Bucs from the early days to the Hall, 1B Jake Beckley and OF Joe Kelley. Beckley played for the Alleghenys, Burghers and Pirates from 1888-96, hitting .300. He banged a modest 43 HR, but legged out 113 triples in that span. Kelley got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1892, hitting just .239. The Pirates dumped him, and he went on to have a dozen consecutive .300+ seasons beginning the following year, playing mostly for the Baltimore Orioles. They were inducted on August 9th.
- 1977 - The Special Veterans Committee selected C Al Lopez for the Hall of Fame. Lopez caught for Pittsburgh from 1940-46, hitting a modest .254. But he was best known for his glove and ability to handle a staff, and went on to manage the Indians and White Sox when his playing days ended. He was inducted on August 9th.
|Wally Backman 1990 Topps Wide|
- 1990 - The Pirates signed 30-year-old IF Wally Backman to a $600K free agent deal (they also had to compensate the Twins, his former club, with a second-round draft pick) to help ease Jeff King’s load at third base. He filled the bill, starting 68 times at the hot corner and hitting .292 during the campaign in his last solid MLB season; he even started with a bang when he collected six hits during a nine-inning game in late April. Wally went to Philly in the off-season and hit .243, finishing out his playing career after the 1993 campaign and beginning a stormy second life as manager.
- 1992 - The Pirates signed OF Barry Bonds to a one-year contract worth $4.7M‚ the largest one-year deal in baseball history at the time. Bonds won his second MVP trophy and the Bucs won their division, so it was money well spent. His next contract was with the SF Giants, and it was another record-breaker at seven years/$43M.
- 2003 - Free agent RHP Jeff Suppan was signed to a $500K deal. After a solid summer (10-7, 3.57), he was flipped to the Red Sox at the deadline as part of the Freddy Sanchez/Mike Gonzalez deal. Steady Freddy was a Pirate All-Star while Gonzo eventually became the closer. “Sup” went on to toss for eight more seasons, capping a 17-year MLB career in 2012. He’s a KC Royals minor-league pitching coach now.