Wednesday, March 14, 2018

3/14: Kenny Signs, Roberto Hurt; RIP Harold; HBD Butch, Earl & Bunker

  • 1869 - RHP Billy “Bunker” Rhines was born in Ridgway, Elk County. He tossed for the Bucs at the end of his career in 1898-99, going 16-20 with a 3.95 ERA after twice leading the NL in ERA as a Cincinnati Red. Bunker did have one league leading stat as a Bucco in 1898 - he tossed 258 frames without allowing a homer. The nickname “Bunker” may be a corruption of Rhines' alma mater, Bucknell, although that is uncertain.
  • 1928 - OF Earl Smith was born in Sunnyside, Washington. Smith had a brief career in the show with the Bucs, going 1-for-16 in April 1955 before being sent back to the minors, never to return. But he is the answer to a trivia question. Smith was the last player to wear #21 on the Pittsburgh Pirates' roster before Roberto Clemente. The Great One was a rookie that year and began the season wearing #13, but he claimed #21 (the number of letters in his full name, Roberto Clemente Walker) when Smith was sent down. 
We hope Butch is in his easy chair for his b-day (photo Pirates)
  • 1956 - C/coach Harold “Butch” Wynegar was born in York, Pennsylvania. He had a 13-year career with the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and California Angels, twice being named an All Star. Butch added more miles after his playing days, coaching with the Orioles, Rangers, Brewers and Yankees organizations before becoming the Pirates AAA hitting coach at Indy in 2015 before moving on to Bradenton this campaign. Sports Illustrated’s Douglas Looney wrote that he was “Nicknamed ‘Butch’ by a grandmother who stared into the crib of Harold Delano Wynegar, Jr. and declared ‘You look like a Butch.’” 
  • 1969 - After recovering from a right shoulder injury, Roberto Clemente banged his left wing chasing a foul pop during a spring game, which prompted a trip back home to Puerto Rico to visit his own doctor. He started the year 0-for-12, but roared back with a .345 BA, second to Pete Rose’s .348 in a race that went down to the last day. Roberto was hitting .363 in August, but a cranky back kept him on the bench for much of September and likely cost him the crown. 
  • 1986 - Harold Arlin passed away at age 90 in Bakersfield, California. On August 5th, 1921, Arlin announced the first MLB game ever broadcast on radio for KDKA, an 8-5 Bucco win over the Phils at Forbes Field, providing a template that was copied throughout baseball. He was heard across the nation and did games through 1925, when he retired from radio and took a day job in Mansfield, Ohio. He returned to the format for a last hurrah in 1972 at Bob Prince’s invitation, doing play-by-play with The Gunner as his grandson, Steve Arlin, was on the hill for the San Diego Padres against the Pirates at TRS. Harold also did college football, boxing and tennis matches, was the first to do celebrity interviews and also the first to announce the results of a presidential election over the airwaves.
The Gunner & Harold Arlin 1972 (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 2003 - OF Kenny Lofton agreed to a one-year/$1.025M deal with the Pirates. Kenny took over in center, bumping Brian Giles to left and Reggie Sanders to right. They formed a sweet swinging if somewhat grizzled trio (Lofton was age 36, Sanders 35, & Giles the baby at 32) with some punch. But Lofton didn’t last out the year as he was traded to the Cubs on July 23rd with Aramis Ramirez for not much in Dave Littlefield’s most infamous salary dump. Kenny hit .277 with 18 swiped sacks and nine long balls in his abbreviated Bucco tour of duty.
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