Saturday, February 10, 2018

2/10 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: Klinger Brag; Spitter Sunk; HBD Spaghetti, Digger, Country Jake, Cotton, Bill & Jim

  • 1857 - UT Jim Keenan was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He spent 10 years in the show with an 1882 stop with the Alleghenys, hitting .219 as a bench catcher and outfielder (he played every position but 2B during his career). Jim was one of the better catchers of the 1880s, spent mostly with the Red Stockings. He caught barehanded (ouch!) and is also noted as being one of the few players of that rowdy era to kick the booze habit during his playing days. 
  • 1893 - RHP Bill Evans was born in Reidsville, NC. He spent his entire three-year MLB stint with the Bucs (1916-17, 1919) as a fringe hurler, going 2-13 with a 3.85 ERA. Evans went into the military and missed all of the 1918 campaign. He worked seven games for Pittsburgh in 1919, then spent the next decade toiling in the minors. 
Cotton Tierney 1922 American Caramel
  • 1894 - 2B James “Cotton” (because of his light blond hair) Tierney was born in Kansas City, KS. He started his pro career in Pittsburgh (1920-23), mainly as a second baseman but also seeing time in the outfield and at the hot corner. He hit .315 for Pittsburgh and was the main piece in the 1923 trade for P Lee Meadows. Cotton was remembered when in 2005, his great-great-nephew Jeff Euston created the popular website Cot's Baseball Contracts, named after his MLB ancestor. 
  • 1900 - SS “Country Jake” Stephens was born in Pleasantville (or nearby York), Pennsylvania. Jake played in the Negro leagues for 17 years, with stops as a Homestead Gray (1930-31) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932). The SS wasn’t much of a batsman - the curve befuddled him - but he was a fast and acrobatic fielder with a rifle arm. As loaded with bats as the legendary local clubs were, carrying a glove at shortstop was a no-brainer. His leather earned him spots in Pittsburgh and York sports halls of fame. 
  • 1920 - The spitball, shineball, and emeryball were outlawed by the AL/NL Joint Rules Committee. Seventeen pitchers, including off-and-on Pirate Burleigh Grimes, were grandfathered so they could continue to toss a wet one. Grimes, who finished his career in 1934 with Pittsburgh, was the last man to legally throw a spitter. 
Digger O'Dell 1967 Topps
  • 1932 - RHP Billy “Digger” O’Dell was born in Whitmire, South Carolina. He closed out his 13-year career (twice an All-Star) with the Pirates in 1966-67, going 8-8-4, 4.44. Digger retired and left baseball, coaching Legion ball and earning a spot in the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. He got his nickname from the radio/TV show “The Life of Riley” that featured a character named Digby “Digger” O’Dell - an undertaker. 
  • 1939 - RHP Bob Klinger exhibited his flipper to Pittsburgh Press beat writer Les Biederman and told him that “You are now looking at the arm that belongs to the fellow who is going to win 20 games...this year.” Klinger had gone 12-5, 2.99 in 1938 with a gimpy arm, then underwent off season treatment for neuritis. He did get 33 starts, but finished 14-17, 4.36 and 0-1 as a prognosticator. Apparently his arm remained chronically cranky. The Pirates switched him to spot starter/reliever in 1940, and he didn’t rejoin the rotation full-time again until 1943. He was in the Navy from 1944-45, then went to the Boston Red Sox at age 38 and was their closer from 1946-47 as part of the Bosox 1946 World Series club. 
  • 1954 - LHP Larry McWilliams was born in Wichita, Kansas. The sixth overall pick of the 1974 draft by the Braves, he worked for the Pirates from 1982-86. Larry had three strong years as a starter, then faded and was shipped back to his original club, the Braves. His line with the Bucs was 43-44-2 with a 3.86 ERA. Per Wikipedia, he was nicknamed Spaghetti by Tony Pena. "That's what I call him. Take a look at his legs. They look like spaghetti...” his battery mate said.
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