Wednesday, October 31, 2018

10/31: Halloween Happenings - Reuss for May; Leyland MoY; Shake It Up; HBD Dee, Hardie, Harry, Ray & Yamaico

  • 1862 - RHP James “Hardie” (his middle name was Harding) Henderson was born in Philadelphia. He tossed for six MLB campaigns, his last stint being a five-game swan song with the Alleghenys in 1888, posting a 1-3/5.35 line (tho he did hit .278; Hardie played some outfield and a smidgen of infield during his career). Hardie had a good arm but forgot the zip code in his final three seasons, issuing 134 walks in 271 IP. He umpired for a while after that before meeting his Maker at age 40 when he was run down by a trolley in Philadelphia. 
Harry Smith 1903 (Photo Getty via the Chicago History Museum)
  • 1874 - C Harry Smith was born in Yorkshire, England. He was a reserve catcher from 1902-07, hitting just .202 as a Bucco after joining the club as a highly touted youngster after his rookie season with the Philadelphia A’s. When the Bucs signed him, the Pittsburgh Press gushed “Clever Harry Smith...is the catcher pronounced by all the writers who are in sympathy with the National League as being the greatest young backstop in the country.” He didn’t blossom quite as advertised: Harry spent nine years in the NL and hit .209 w/-0.6 WAR. Smith was a player/manager for the Boston Doves briefly and went on to become a minor-league skipper after he hung up the spikes. 
  • 1894 - OF Ray O’Brien was born in St. Louis. Ray was a lifetime minor league guy, playing from 1913-32 on various farm clubs, but he did get a taste of the show in 1916 with the Pirates when he hit .211 in 57 AB/16 games. After his Bucco trial, he put together his longest stretch with one club at Denver of the Western League, spending nine seasons with the Bears.
  • 1924 - 1B Dee Fondy was born in Slaton, Texas. Dee joined the Bucs in 1957 from the Cubs after being dealt for Dale Long and Lee Walls, hitting .313 in 95 games. As a Bucco, he was the last player to bat at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn before the Dodgers switched coasts, grounding out. Fondy was a big guy but a contact hitter, and in the off season, the Bucs dealt him to Cincinnati for the more muscular Ted Kluszewski. Following his playing career he worked as a scout and in the FO for the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers, where he signed Paul Molitor. 
  • 1973 - The Astros traded LHP Jerry Reuss to the Pirates for 22-year-old C Milt May. Reuss ended up 61-46 with a 3.52 ERA as a Buc and was a rotation mainstay for four seasons. The lefty worked six campaigns in Pittsburgh (1974-78, 1990) and spent his last MLB season as a Pirate. He did get around; Reuss was on the roster of eight different clubs at one time or another and won 220 games in a 22-year career. Milt had quite a nice shelf life too, playing 11 more seasons, the final two (1983-84) after a reunion with the Pirates. 
Jerry Reuss 1974 Topps
  • 1987 - IF Yamaico Navarro was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Navarro got into 79 MLB games over four seasons; 29 were with the Pirates in 2012 after the Bucs sent Brooks Pounders to KC for him. He hit .160 with an OPS+ of 27, then got a short look at Baltimore the next season that ended his big league stay. Navarro has played in Korea, Japan and the Dominican Leagues since, with his last known posting in 2017-18 in the Dominican Winter League. 
  • 1990 - Jim Leyland was selected as the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He guided the Bucs to 95 wins and a division title, easily outdistancing the Cincinnati Reds’ Lou Piniella in the voting. 
  • 2011 - Roster shake-up day: the Pirates lost C Ryan Doumit, C Chris Snyder, SS Ronny Cedeno and LHP Paul Maholm to free agency after deadline rentals OF Ryan Ludwick and 1B Derrek Lee had declared themselves FAs the day before. Dewey went to the Twins, Snyder to the ‘Stros, Cedeno to the Mets, Maholm to the Cubs, Ludwick to the Reds and Lee retired.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

10/30: Gunner & Nellie Axed; Sauer Prez; Colts Bought; HBD Ian, Bobby, Lee, Pete, Lefty, Mosquito & Houston

  • 1866 - RHP Pete Conway was born in Burmont, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philly. For Pete, it was a matter of too much, too soon. He broke into the majors at age 18 in 1885, and by his 1888 campaign made 46 starts, with 43 complete games and 391 IP on the way to a 30-14, 2.26 year for the Detroit Wolverines. Motown disbanded, Conway signed with the Alleghenys for two years at $3500 per year and then worked all of three games as his arm was shot (the Boston Daily Globe reported that he had “snapped a cord in his arm”; later researchers believed he had a rotator cuff injury) and Pittsburgh suspended him - without pay, of course - for not being in baseball condition. He became a cause celebre with the Players Brotherhood as they tried to get his contract enforced (Pete even reported to the team daily) but to no avail; the injury was deemed to have a “natural cause.” He tried to pitch for a couple of more years, then went to Michigan to get a law degree. He coached the Maize & Blue nine for two years, but never had much time for either career, passing away at age 36 of a heart ailment. His older brother Jim was also a big league pitcher; his career ended because of a bum arm, too.
Pete Conway 1891 (photo via Wikiwand)
  • 1884 - Financially troubled despite finishing second to New York in the American Association‚ the Columbus Colts sold its players to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for $8‚000 and disbanded. The Alleghenys needed all the help they could get; they finished the 1884 season 30-78 and 45-1/2 games behind the AA champion NY Metropolitans. 10 of Columbus’ players stuck on the Alleghenys 1885 roster, and five became core players for years - C Fred Carroll, OF Tom Brown, 2B Pop Smith, 3B Bill Kuehne and P Ed Morris. 
  • 1914 - LHP Aldon “Lefty” Wilkie was born in Zealandia, Saskatchewan. Lefty worked three years in the majors, all for Pittsburgh (1941-42, 1946), posting a line of 8-11-3, 4.59. He lost 1943-45 to the war as he was sent to Europe by the Army, and he never regained his pitching touch after his return. Lefty worked in the minors through 1951, then retired to Oregon and became a poultry farmer. 
  • 1917 - Manager Bobby Bragan was born in Birmingham, Alabama. The former big league infielder managed the Bucs in 1956-57, just before they turned the corner, slating a record of 102-155 (.397) before Danny Murtaugh took the reins. Bobby moved on to Cleveland and after a break managed the Braves from 1963-66. He went on to become president of the Texas League and chairman of the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation. 
Bobby Bragan 1957 (photo Hy Peskin/Getty)
  • 1918 - SS Tony “Mosquito” Ordenana was born in Guanabacoa, Cuba. Ordenana spent from 1942 to 1954 in pro ball, playing in 11 leagues with 14 teams. After appearing in one big league game with the Pirates in 1943, going 2-for-4 w/three RBI while handling seven chances at short, he spent the rest of his pro career in the minor leagues. But Mosquito (so called because of his quickness) hurt his MLB cause by batting just .250 without ever swatting a homer. 
  • 1957 - IF Houston Jimenez was born in Mexico City. Jimenez got parts of four seasons in the show, with most of his playing time as a Twin. He went 0-for-6 as a Bucco, getting into five games in 1987 before moving on the Indians for a final cup of coffee the following campaign. Houston finished out his career playing winter ball and in the Mexican League, taking his last at bat in 2001 as a 43-year-old. He’s managed below the border since and was recognized in 2013 when he was selected into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame. 
  • 1960 - RHP Byron Lee Tunnell was born in Tyler, Texas. The Baylor righty was the Bucs’ second pick in the 1981 draft. He arrived in Pittsburgh the following September and then went 11-6/3.85 in 1983, but his four year run (1982-85) produced just a 17-24/4.06 line overall. Lee went on to toss for St. Louis and Minnesota. He later pitched in the Japanese League for three seasons, then coached in the minor leagues for the Rangers & Reds. Tunnell joined the Brewers in 2009 as a minor league pitching coordinator and became their bullpen coach in 2012. 
  • 1975 - Westinghouse Broadcasting stunned Pirate fans by announcing that Bob “The Gunner” Prince and sidekick Nellie King were getting the ax. At the time, no major league broadcaster had ever spent more years (29) with one team than Prince had with the Pirates. The reasons given were that the pair didn’t do enough to promote the team and went off-topic too often (guilty of the latter, but not the former). Despite a parade in his support that drew 10,000 fans, the duo were replaced by Milo Hamilton, formerly of the Atlanta Braves booth, and Lanny Frattare, the voice of the Pirates AAA Charleston club. 
Ian Snell 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter
  • 1981 - RHP Ian Snell was born in Dover, Delaware. He spent parts of six seasons (2004-09) as a Pirate starter, showing promise but never quite getting over the hump with a line of 33-46/4.75. Ian was demoted to Indy in 2009, at his own request, and traded to Seattle a month later. He bombed there and was DFA’ed in June of 2010, ending his MLB career, although he did make a couple of comeback efforts. 
  • 1991 - Mark Sauer was named club president after Carl Barger left to run the Florida Marlins. He oversaw the cost-cutting that gutted the Pirates' 1990-92 powerhouse teams as per the orders of the Pirates' public-private ownership to reduce payroll. He was eased out of action by the Kevin McClatchy group and resigned in the summer of 1996; McClatchy took his spot.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Notes: Corey D; Rotation; AFL; Ol' Bucs on the Move, Season Ends w/Boston Title, Pearce WS-MVP & Stuff

And the recent happenings:

  • Corey Dickerson was the only Pirate to make it as a finalist for the Rawlings Golden Glove award. His left field competitors are Adam Duvall (Reds/Braves) and Christian Yelich (Brewers). Corey had a DRS of +16 and seven assists as he showed himself to be the steadiest player in the pasture for Pittsburgh this past season. Winners will be announced November 4th.
  • If the Pirates are looking for starting depth - their five-man is solid but with question marks behind them - here's the starting pitcher market per Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors. Depth may or may not come into play; Mitch Keller and JT Brubaker will be AAA reinforcements, and/or perhaps the Bucs will count on Nick Kingham/Clay Holmes to shake the freshman blues and develop. Still, lots of maybes behind the returning rotation.
  • Some familiar names opted for minor league free agency - 1B Pedro Alvarez, RHP Brooks Pounders, LHP Mike Zagurski, IF Goose Gosselin, RHP George Kontos, and RHP Brandon Cumpton.
Mike Zagurski 2013 (photo Justin Aller/Getty)

  • SS Cole Tucker is hitting .349 in 10 games for the Surprise Saguaros; 1B Will Craig is batting .262 with a pair of homers. LHP Blake Weiman is the leading Bucco pitcher with a line of 0-1-1/1.18 and eight K in eight IP.
  • Boston won the series in five games with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers; Steve Pearce hit two homers and won the MVP after going 4-for-12 with three long balls. David Freese did his best to get LA going; he was 5-for-12 with a homer. And you know what the final game means: pitchers and catchers report in 108 days....
  • Moon Township broke ground this week for a Miracle League Field for challenged kids. It's the seventh ML field in the area built with the support of Pirates Charities.
  • The Angels claimed C Kevan Smith, 30, off waivers from the White Sox. Kevan is from Cranberry, and was a multi-sports star at Seneca Valley HS. He QB'ed at Pitt, but when told to switch positions, he instead switched sports. Smith had a .375 BA, 19 home runs and 123 RBIs in his three seasons with the Panther nine and was twice named All-Big East. The Chicago White Sox selected then him in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. In the last three campaigns, he's gotten into 146 games with Chicago and hit .281, but with a meager 14% throw-out rate during that span. The Sox also outrighted RHP Rob Scahill, 31, (six games/5.40 ERA), who spent most of 2018 in AAA Charlotte.
  • St. Louis Cardinals C Yadier Molina was named the recipient of the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award. Yadi, like the Great One, is Puerto Rican, and he and his wife have founded Foundation 4 to help children cope with poverty and disease on the island.

10/29: Jones - Anderson; HBD Jim, Fido, Solly & Dana; RIP Bill

  • 1863 - RHP Marcus “Fido” Baldwin was born in Homestead. He only pitched two years and some change for the Pirates (1891-93) but the club got its money’s worth. Between 1891-92, Fido started 104 games, went 47-55, and worked 878 IP with a 3.14 ERA. He was known as one of, if not the fastest, thrower of his era. He also was sued by St. Louis owner Chris von der Ahe for trying to influence his players to skip leagues (which he did), and was arrested for participating in the Homestead steel strike (he was freed, claiming to be just a spectator). Fido couldn't stay out of controversy; as a minor league owner in 1896, he and his teammates were arrested and convicted of a Blue Law violation for playing the first-ever Sunday professional game in Auburn, NY, and he was fined $5. Baldwin later became a doctor and was affiliated with Homestead’s Municipal Hospital. He’s buried in Allegheny Cemetery. His nickname came about because he seemed to live his baseball life in the manager's doghouse per Jonathan Light’s “Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball.” 
Circus Solly 1912 (photo Boston Herald)
  • 1882 - OF Arthur Frederick “Solly” Hofman was born in St. Louis. Hofman played for the Pirates in 1903, then returned again in 1912-13. Coming off the bench, he hit .246 for the Bucs. Solly had a long run in the show, playing 14 years in the National, American and Federation leagues. His nickname was "Circus Solly,” credited to either a comic strip character of the era or to his acrobatic “circus catch” antics in the outfield. 
  • 1944 - RHP Jim Bibby was born in Franklinton, NC. The big guy worked five years (1978-83; he was out all of 1982 with a shoulder injury) for Pittsburgh, and won 19 games in 1980 during his All-Star season. He was 50-32/3.53 during that span. Bibby started three games in the 1979 championship run (1 NLCS, 2 WS) and while not getting a decision in any of them, put up a 2.08 ERA. His Pirates highlight was in 1981, when he gave up a leadoff, bloop single to Atlanta’s Terry Harper and retired the next 27 batters. A shoulder injury suffered later that season eventually led to his retirement in 1984. Originally, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in 1978 to replace Goose Gossage as the new closer, but he started 91 of his 146 Bucco outings. Another factoid: at 6'5", you might suspect he had some basketball genes, and he did. Jim was an older brother of Henry Bibby and the uncle of Mike Bibby, both NBA players. 
  • 1965 - Bill McKechnie passed away in Bradenton at the age of 79. A Wilkinsburg native, Bill spent 11 years in the majors as a player, then went on to lead three different clubs to the NL pennants as a manager and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1962. He was a utility guy for the Pirates in 1907 & 1910-12 to start his career. By 1922, he was a Pirates coach and replaced George Gibson as skipper in mid season. The club played better and eventually won the World Series over the Sens in 1925. The Pirates fell to third in 1926 and McKechnie was fired (he got caught up in the ABC Affair backwash), but bounced back with managing gigs at St. Louis, Boston and Cincinnati to carry him through 1946. As a field general, he split four World Series sets and was twice named Manager of the Year. The Pirates' spring training home, McKechnie Field in Bradenton, was named after him from 1962-2017, when it became LECOM Park.
O'Dell Jones 1977 Topps
  • 1980 - The Pirates traded a PTBNL (AAA Portland’s RHP Larry Anderson) and cash to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Odell Jones. It was a homecoming for Jones, who had pitched for the Bucs in 1975 & 1977-78, and he went 4-5/3.31 in 1981. He was in AAA in 1982 and then lost in the Rule 5 draft to Texas. Anderson had a pretty good run - he pitched through the 1994 season and ended up appearing in 699 MLB games (40-39-49/3.15) before heading out to pasture. Anderson was involved in one other notable deal when he traded by the Astro's a decade later to Boston for Jeff Bagwell. 
  • 1983 - LHP Dana Eveland was born in Olympia, Washington. Eveland was your basic journeyman lefty; he logged parts of 11 big league seasons with 10 teams, making 187 appearances. The Pirates got him in June, 2010, from Toronto for Ron Uviedo and he spent most of the year in the minors, toeing the slab three times for Pittsburgh and giving up nine runs in 9-⅔ IP. Dana tossed a bit in Mexico last year and is a free agent, not working in 2018.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

10/28: TSN All-Stars; Leyland MoY; FA Bo; Dixie Sez No; Pie Slice; HBD Big Bob, Nate, Big Bill, Percy, Joe, Canena & Gair

  • 1867 - C “Big” Bill Wilson was born in Hannibal, Missouri. He played pro ball for 15 years, mostly in the minors, spending 1890 with the Alleghenys, which had been hard hit by defections to the Players League (he hit .214 and caught, played 1B and some OF) and then with the 1897-98 Louisville Colonels. He was argumentative and got into several donnybrooks during his career, stepping up to the world of crime when he retired. He was alleged to have been a member of Detroit’s “Purple Gang” and served time in Leavenworth. “Baseball” Wilson, as he was known to his associates in crime & law enforcement, met a brutal end when he was knifed to death in a St. Paul speakeasy in 1924. 
  • 1899 - LHP Percy Lee Jones was born in Harwood, Texas. Percy closed out his nine-year career, mainly spent with the Cubs, in Pittsburgh where he went 0-1/6.63 in nine games in 1930 before being sent down. He came to Pittsburgh in a deal for Burleigh Grimes with the Boston Braves. 
Joe Page 1954 (Photo Barney Stein/Fine Art America)
  • 1917 - LHP Joe Page was born in nearby Cherry Valley and was raised in the mining town of Springdale. He was signed by the Yankees in 1940, starting out for the Class D Butler Yankees. Joe’s career turned in 1947 when NY flipped him from a starter to to reliever, and he had several strong seasons before 1951 when his arm died. He worked in the minors to overcome the loss of his bread-and-butter heater, coming up with a sinker (and almost assuredly a spitter, too). The Bucs gave him a shot in 1954, but after a quick start he was rocked (11.17 ERA in 9-⅔ IP) and released. He returned home to Springdale and ran a pair of local watering holes. Joe was known as “Fireman,” not only because he was a reliever but because he used to sport a red FDNY tee-shirt in the clubhouse. He was also called the “Gay (as in light-hearted) Reliever” by his bud Joe DiMaggio because of his love of the night-life. 
  • 1924 - The Pirates got $16,545 for placing third in the NL race - they finished 90-63, three games behind the NY Giants - a bonus of $570 for the 27 players who earned a full share with a little left over for the staff and short-timers. The cash bonus was determined by World Series revenues. 
  • 1925 - OF Luis Ángel "Canena" Márquez Sánchez was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. One of the first Puerto Rican players in the MLB, he played for both the Homestead Grays (1946–1948) and briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1956), going 1-for-9 with four walks as a Buc. Though he played just two MLB seasons and 68 games, he spent 14 years in the minors, with another four seasons in the Negro League. The municipal baseball stadium in Aguadilla is named for him. 
  • 1931 - IF Gair Allie was born in Statesville, North Carolina. The Pirates signed Allie out of Wake Forest in 1952 where he went to school with Arnie Palmer. He got a lengthy look in 1954, hitting just .199 in 121 games, and his chance to challenge in camp the following season was dashed by a broken ankle. He played well in the Southern League after he recovered and had a solid 1956 in AAA Hollywood, then lost a year to the service. Gair never put together a strong season after his return and retired, becoming a Falstaff/Lone Star Beer VP (not a bad fallback position!) and later operated a restaurant. 
Gair Allie 1955 Topps
  • 1935 - Big lefty Bob Veale was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He pitched 10-1/2 years for the Pirates (1962-72) with a line of 116-91/3.06 and 1,652 strikeouts. Veale led the league with 250 K in 1964 and had over 200 whiffs four times in his career; his 276 punchouts in 1965 are still a club record. He also led the league in walks allowed four times. After his retirement from pitching in 1974 after a shoulder injury, he returned to his hometown, working a few years as a coach for the Braves and Yankees. Veale stayed connected to his baseball roots by working as a groundskeeper at Rickwood Field, a ballyard he played on as a youth. In 2006, Veale was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. 
  • 1955 - Dixie Walker, manager of minor-league Rochester, pulled his hat out of the Bucco manager’s ring, telling Joe Brown that he was happy as part of the Cardinal organization and decided to stay after expressing interest in the job a couple of days earlier. His brother, Harry “The Hat” Walker, was also skippering in the Redbird system (and would take the Pirates helm a decade later in 1965). Dixie probably had a premonition; Bobby Bragan, an early front-runner, got Fred Haney’s job and didn’t last through the 1957 campaign. 
  • 1981 - OF Nate McLouth was born in Muskegon, Michigan. Drafted in the 25th round of the 2000 draft, he spent his first five big league years (2005-09) with the Bucs, hitting .256 and earning an All-Star spot in 2008. McLouth was traded to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke after his AS season when his value was high and Andrew McCutchen was ready to step in to play center field. Nate finished his 10-year career with Washington in 2014. 
Nate McLouth 2008 Upper Deck Documentary
  • 1991 - Bobby Bonilla became a free agent. In his six years with Pittsburgh (1986-91), Bobby Bo slashed .284/.357/.481 w/114 HR, 500 RBI, four All-Star nods and was twice a top-three finisher for the MVP. He signed with the Mets for five years/$29M, making him the highest paid player in baseball at the time. He got deferred money from that deal and more from a buy-out of his second contract that will pay him $1.19M annually until 2035. A couple of other Bucs, 3B Steve Buechele and P Bob Kipper, also declared for FA. Buechele returned while Kip went to the Twins. 
  • 1992 - Jim Leyland was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the second time he won the award. Leyland received 20 of 24 first-place ballots to outpoll rookie manager Felipe Alou of the Expos. Pittsburgh won 96 games and the division, only to be derailed by Atlanta in a seven game NLCS. Leyland would remain with the Bucs through the 1996 campaign, never winning more than 75 games after the roster deconstruction, then moved on to Florida and renewed success. 
  •  2015 - CF’er Andrew McCutchen and closer Mark Melancon were named to The Sporting News' National League all-star team. Cutch hit .292 with 23 HR and 96 RBI, making his fourth straight appearance on the list, while Mark the Shark, who set a Pirate record and led the majors with 51 saves while appearing in 78 games & posting a 2.23 ERA, was a first-time awardee. It was a big day for Melancon; he also took home the 2015 Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year award.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

10/27 Through the 1930’s: Six-Man Deal; Craws v MLB; Spud on Menu; HBD Ralph, Charlie & Rube

  • 1876 - IF Charlie Kuhns was born in Freeport. The local lad made his MLB debut in 1887 for the Bucs as a 20-year-old one-game fill-in, going 0-for-3 with a walk. He almost lost that line: the game he played in was at Philly, and the Pirates were losing but threatening weather was rolling in. Warming up between innings, the ball was zinged over his head and into the crowd, and the Bucs went on a recon mission to find it. Philadelphia pleaded their case to the ump that the Pirates were playing a delay game, hoping for the storm to hit. The ump agreed, but Pittsburgh remained a bit leisurely despite his warning, so he called the game in favor of the Phillies. Pity - the rains came shortly after the field was cleared; the Bucs likely would have got their wish for a washout if they played it straight. As for Kuhns, he got a cup of coffee at Boston the next season and ended up with nine minor/indie league campaigns under his belt, mostly in the Eastern League, before retiring and heading back home. 
  • 1918 - RHP Ed “Rube” Albosta was born in Saginaw, Michigan. The Bucs drafted Ed from the Dodger system in 1942 after he had made a couple of September starts for Brooklyn, but he entered the service afterward and was in the military from 1942 through 1945. Albosta spent the entire 1946 season with Pittsburgh and made 17 appearances. He finished with an 0-6 record and 6.13 ERA. That ended his MLB days. Although he had a strong campaign or two in the minors, he never got another call up and retired from baseball after the 1954 season. After baseball, Ed returned home went to work for Grey Iron Steering and he was selected to join the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame. 
  • 1922 - OF Ralph Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico. He led the NL in home runs for seven straight seasons as a Buc. Kiner hit 301 bombs, drove in 801 runs, and had a .971 OPS in his eight Pittsburgh seasons (1946-53) and was named an All-Star six times. Ralph was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Pirates retired his #4 in 1987. 
  • 1924 - 1B Charlie Grimm, LHP Wilbur Cooper and SS Rabbit Maranville were traded to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Vic Aldridge, 1B George Grantham and rookie 1B Al Niehaus. Cooper was near the end of his career, Maranville would have two more strong seasons with Boston, and Grimm played for Chicago for the next dozen years, hitting .296 with 1,079 RBI and became their player-manager. Grantham hit .300 over six seasons with Pittsburgh, Aldridge won 40 games in his three year Bucco tenure and Niehaus, who was the highly-touted wild card in the deal, split 1925 between the Pirates and Reds in what would be his only MLB campaign. 
  • 1935 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, a touring group of AL All-Stars topped the Negro League champion Pittsburgh Crawfords 7-2 in Mexico City in the final match of a three game stand. Rogers Hornsby drove in three runs against Bert Hunter‚ and he drove in three more the day before when the All-Stars won 11-7. The first game ended in a 6-6 tie. The AL squad featured Hornsby‚ Jimmie Foxx‚ Ted Lyons‚ and Vern Kennedy while the Crawfords roster included Josh Gibson‚ Judy Johnson‚ and Cool Papa Bell. 
Spud Davis 1940 Play Ball
  • 1939 - The Pirates purchased C Spud Davis from the Phils. Spud caught 99 games in 1940, but in 1941 Al Lopez took over the Pirates starting catcher's role. The next season, Spud became a coach for the Pirates before returning to the active roster in 1944-45 due to the player shortages of WW2. In his four Pirate seasons, he hit .301 and continued as a Bucco coach (he also served as the manager for a short stint after Frankie Frisch resigned in 1946) and a scout. He then played minor league ball and coached for the Cubs until retiring from the game in 1953.

10/27 From the 1940’s: Billy MoY; Curt Flood Law; HBD Pete, UL, Mike, Jason & Jon

  • 1948 - Manager Billy Meyer was selected as The Sporting News MLB Manager of the Year, edging out Boston’s Billy Southworth by an 89-87 vote tally. After 22 years in the minors, he improved the hapless Pirates by 21 games to fourth place with an 83-71 record, 8-½ games behind Southworth’s first place Braves (and just 2-½ out on 9/12 before a late season nose dive). The glow wore off quickly after new GM Branch Rickey dealt the vets and rebuilt; Meyer and his Pirate puppies lost 112 games in 1952, and Billy resigned. 
Billy Meyer 1952 Topps
  • 1952 - RHP/coach Pete Vuckovich was born in Johnstown. In his 11 year MLB career, he never tossed for the Pirates, but in 1992 he was hired by Pittsburgh as a pitching instructor. Vuckovich served as the pitching coach during the 1997–2000 seasons for Gene Lamont, then worked his way through the organization to become the Special Assistant to the General Manager until joining the Seattle organization in 2012. Pete also had a role in the movie “Major League,” uttering the snarky “How’s your wife and my kids?” line. Vuckovich is a member of the Clarion University Sports Hall of Fame, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. 
  • 1953 - IF UL Washington was born in Springtown, Oklahoma. He closed out his 11-year big league visit in 1986-87 with the Pirates,batting .207 off the bench. After ending his playing career, Washington coached in the minors for the Pirates (1989), Royals (1991–98), Dodgers (1999), Twins (2001–02) and the Red Sox (2003–present). Two UL factoids: UL isn’t shorthand for anything; it’s actually his given name. Also, the toothpick he always had in his mouth was a by-product of Astroturf. UL had always played with a blade of grass in his mouth until he got to the pros and there were no more grass fields; he substituted a toothpick. 
  • 1962 - RHP Mike Dunne was born in South Bend, Indiana. The US Olympian from 1984 came to the Pirates as part of the Tony Pena trade and paid immediate dividends, going 13-6 with a 3.03 ERA in 1987 and finishing second to Benito Santiago in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting. He then encountered arm problems and couldn’t match his first-year numbers, winning just eight more games before being traded to Seattle in 1989. His Pittsburgh slash was 21-18/3.65. Dunne’s last MLB campaign was in 1992 with the White Sox, and he went on to coach at his alma mater, Bradley University. 
  • 1973 - RHP Jason Johnson was born in Santa Barbara, California. He was signed by the Pirates in 1992 out of high school and made his debut in 1997, working six innings and giving up four runs before being lost to Tampa Bay in the expansion draft. He turned into a journeyman, working 11 seasons for eight teams and spending another year in Japan. Jason played through lifelong Type 1 diabetes; he was the first MLB player to wear an insulin pump on the field. 
Jon Niese 2016 Topps
  • 1978 - LHP Jon Niese was born in Lima, Ohio. After working eight years as a Met, Niese was traded to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker in 2016. He was 8-6 for the Bucs, but a 4.91 ERA and 1.545 WHIP were more indicative of his performance than wins and losses. On August 1st, the Pirates sent him back to NY for Antonio Bastardo, a trade tree Neal Huntington would like to forget about. The Mets bought him out after the season, and he signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees but was let go in June. He didn’t have any better luck in 2018, signing with the Rangers but being released in camp. 
  • 1998 - Per the NY Times, President Bill Clinton signed the Curt Flood legislation that overturned part of baseball's 70-year-old antitrust exemption, putting baseball on a par with other professional sports on labor matters after Congress approved it unanimously earlier in the month. The new law overrode part of a 1922 Supreme Court ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust restrictions on grounds that it was not interstate commerce. The law took three sessions of Congress to pass and revoked the antitrust exemption only for labor relations, not for matters involving relocation, league expansion or the minor leagues.

Friday, October 26, 2018

10/26: BB, DD FA's; Marte AS; HBD Frankie, Judy, Diomedes, Wilfredo, Marty, Gabby, Harry & Bill

  • 1867 - RHP Bill Garfield was born in Sheffield, Ohio. The Oberlin product tossed his first big league season for the 1889 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, going 0-2, 7.76 in 29 IP (two starts, four outings). He worked for the Cleveland Spiders the following year and then spent time in Bradford, Peoria and Sandusky in the minors before hangin’ up the mitt after the 1893 campaign. 
  • 1884 - RHP Harry Camnitz was born in McKinney, Kentucky. He worked once for the Pirates in 1909, going four innings and giving up a pair of runs, but that was long enough for him to become an early brother act with teammate sib Howie, who won 109 games with the Bucs. Harry did have a strong minor league career, once winning 27 games for the McKeesport Tubers. 
1989 Perez-Steele Celebration
  • 1899 - 3B William Julius "Judy" Johnson was born in Snow Hill, Maryland (This is the generally accepted date; there are a couple of others floating around). The Hall-of-Famer spent the twenties as a stalwart of the legendary Philadelphia Hilldale Darby teams, then played and managed for the Homestead Grays in 1929-30. He was also with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, serving as team captain from 1932-1936. He retired after 17 seasons with a career .290 BA. The New York Times wrote that "...as a third baseman, Johnson was often compared with Pie Traynor," and the paper recalled Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack’s comment about Johnson: "If Judy were only white," Mack said, "he could name his own price." He acquired his nickname early in his career as a Hilldale Star, inherited from a teammate he resembled named “Judy” Gans, who incidentally was from Washington, PA. 
  • 1919 - 3B Jack “Gabby”/”Scat” Cassini was born in Dearborn, Michigan. Jack put 12 years in the minors (he missed three full seasons after entering the Army Air Corp) as a speedy infielder with All-Star chops (he had a lifetime .304 BA on the farm) and six stolen-base titles, but his only stop in the show was in 1949 for the Pirates. He managed to get into eight games w/o touching a bat or mitt; he was used solely as a pinch runner, and did pretty well, scoring three times. After the season, the Pirates sent him to Brooklyn for Danny O’Connell. His playing days were cut short when he was hit in the face by a pitch in 1954, suffering a broken cheekbone and blurred vision. That effectively ended his playing career, but he soldiered on for the next two decades as a scout and minor league skipper for four different organizations - the White Sox, Redlegs/Reds, Mets and Indians. 
  • 1974 - RHP Marty McLeary was born in Kettering, Ohio. After getting a brief taste of the show with San Diego, McLeary got nine outings (two starts) with the Bucs in 2006-07, going 2-0/3.91, and that was the end of his MLB road. He tossed for five different organizations before retiring at age 35 after the 2010 campaign and is now a sales manager for medical devices in Nashville. 
Marty Mcleary 2006 Upper Deck
  • 1983 - LHP Frankie Liriano was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. One of the Pirates most notable reclamation projects, the southpaw went 41-36 with a 3.67 ERA from 2013-16 for the Bucs and won the 2013 "Comeback Player of the Year" award. In the midst of a dismal 2016 campaign, Frankie was traded to Toronto at the deadline. From there, he ended up with the ‘Stros and a date at the 2017 World Series and moved on to the Tigers in 2018. 
  • 1989 - RHP Wilfredo Boscan was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Wil has been in baseball since 2007, spending 11 years in the minors as a starting pitcher while wintering in the Latino leagues six times, and got his only showtime as a Pirate in 2016 when he went 1-1/6.46 in six outings lasting 15-⅓ IP. He last worked in the Mets minors in 2017 and the Venezuelan Winter League that following offseason. 
  • 1989 - RHP Diomedes Mateo was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. The Bucs were hoodwinked by Mateo, who they signed in 2009 under the false pretense that he was a 16-year old player named Yoldi Sierra instead of a 20-year-old Diomedes. The MLB fact-checkers quickly found out and suspended Mateo for two seasons. He returned in 2011 but was out of organized ball after the 2012 campaign. 
Barry Bonds 1992 Kenner Starting Lineup
  • 1992 - It was a dark day for Pirates fans as Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek both declared for free agency. Bonds was a two-time MVP (1990, 1992) and Drabek a Cy Young winner in 1990. Barry signed a six-year/$43.75M deal with the San Francisco Giants while Doug inked a four-year/$20M contract with the Houston Astros. 
  • 2016 - LF Starling Marte was named to The Sporting News 2016 NL All-Star Team for the first time. Marte slashed .311/.362/456 with 34 doubles, five triples, nine HR, 71 runs, 46 RBIs, 47 stolen sacks and a 4.9 WAR. He was the only Pirates player to receive votes for AS consideration from the panel of baseball execs who selected TSN team.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

10/25: Rooker Deal; Rickey Goes; HBD Schoolmaster, Nanny, Pete, Danny & JJ

  • 1893 - RHP Vic “Hoosier Schoolmaster” Aldridge was born in Crane, Indiana. He only tossed three of his nine MLB seasons for the Bucs (1925-27), but bookended those campaigns with World Series appearances. Vic went 40-30-2/3.99 for the Pirates, starting 86 times, and went 2-1 in his four WS starts, claiming both his wins in 1925 against the Washington Senators’ Stan Coveleski. After his retirement from baseball, he was a big man back home, serving as a state senator in the General Assembly and selected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. And yes, he was a schoolmaster before he became a pitcher. 
Vic Aldridge 1925-27 (photo Conlon Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1918 - Utilityman Froilan “Nanny” Fernandez was born in Wilmington, California. Nanny played for Boston in 1942, went off to the service and put in a couple of more seasons with the Braves. A quiet bat got him sent back to the farm and eventually swapped into the Pirate system. Fernandez shifted to third base and made it back to the majors with Pittsburgh in 1950, playing 65 games as a backup to Stan Rojek (he played SS, 3B & OF) and batting .258. Fernandez was sent to Indianapolis in 1951 and then played from 1952-55 back on the coast in the PCL with Seattle and Sacramento. 
  • 1939 - RHP Pete Mikkelsen was born on Staten Island. He tossed for Pittsburgh from 1966-67, with a line of 10-10-16, 3.46 from the pen in 103 outings. Pete played for five different clubs over a nine-year career that carried through 1972, despite suffering from a chronic back injury he received as a Pirate when a truck rear-ended his car in 1967. He’s also a card collector’s set-breaker. Mikkelsen got into a dispute with Topps, and they didn’t issue a card for him during the last four years of his career. 
  • 1955 - Hall-of-Fame executive Branch Rickey stepped down as the Pirates' general manager, replaced by Joe L. Brown. During the Mahatma's five-year tenure, Pittsburgh’s “Rickey-Dinks” had three 100-loss seasons. Rickey was, however, credited with developing a solid farm system for the Pirates and stayed with the organization as an advisor. Brown filled some holes via the trade route that paid off with a strong ‘58 campaign and the world title in 1960. 
Danny Darwin 1996 Fleer Update
  • 1955 - RHP Danny Darwin was born in Bonham, Texas. DD tossed for 21 years and one of his nine teams for a bit was Pittsburgh. He signed with the Pirates in 1996 at the age of 40, and they traded him to the Astros for a second tour of duty at mid-season for Rich Loiselle after he put up a solid line of 7-9, 3.02. Darwin was known as the "Bonham Bullet" as a nod to the hometown and was dubbed "Dr. Death" by Houston teammate Nolan Ryan because of his flyin’ fists. He retired after the 1998 season and is coaching as a member of the Reds organization. 
  • 1972 - The Pirates traded RHP Gene Garber to the Royals for LHP Jim Rooker. Rooker pitched eight seasons for the Pirates, winning 82 games with a 3.29 ERA before becoming a Buc announcer. Garber tossed out of various bullpens until 1988, winning 96 games and saving 218 more. Over his 19 year career, he saved 20+ games five times, with a high of 30 in 1982 for Atlanta. 
  • 1978 - OF Jerry “JJ” Davis was born in Glendora, California. A first round draft pick in 1997 (eighth overall), Davis made very little noise in the show, playing in just 53 games from 2002-04 for the Pirates and batting .163, mostly as a pinch hitter. He had the bad timing to come up right after the Jason Bay trade and then got into manager Lloyd McClendon’s doghouse, both limiting his opportunities to crack the lineup.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Notes: Bucco Bits, Postseason Pieces

In the last three days...

  • Dan Szymborski of Fangraphs posted "Elegy for '18 -  Pittsburgh Pirates," that warns "In a lot of ways, the Pirates are a bit of a cautionary tale for rebuilding teams."
  • We don't know how this will influence the FO's thinking during the winter, but 40% of the runs scored in baseball last year were the result of a homer (and that percentage has held true through the postseason). The Pirates were 25th in MLB and last in the NL Central in long balls during the 2018 campaign. Surprisingly, the Cubs only hit 10 more taters than Pittsburgh; maybe that's part of the reason they fizzled down the stretch. Seems like muscle matters...
Hometown hero Kimbera Bartee (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Pirates coach Kimera Bartee was inducted to the Omaha Public School Hall of Fame; he's believed to be his school's first MLB player.
  • Gary Varsho's son, Daulton, is catching in the D-Back system and in the Arizona Fall League. His dad played outfield, coached, and is now a scouting exec with Pittsburgh. Another local touch: his minor league manager is old Bucco backstop JR House.
  • Per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, the Phillies have hired Josh Bonifay as their new Farm Director. Bonifay was a field coordinator and coach in the Houston and Texas systems. Josh is the son of Cam Bonifay, former Pirates GM, and played for seven seasons in the Bucco farm system.
  • MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince collected some favorite playoff moments, including the Buc's 2013 wild card win against Johnny Cueto. There are lots of guys who played for the Pirates whose memories are included, too.
  • JR Radcliffe of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel looks at World Series droughts after the Brew Crew fell to the Dodgers; the Buccos make the story.
  • Surprise - Dave Littlefield didn't make it to the next round of the Mets GM search.
  • A few fun tidbits regarding the last time the Dodger-Red Sox franchises met in the World Series from MLB.com. Some old-timey names (Babe Ruth, Casey Stengel) and places are involved, since their only other meeting for all the marbles was held in 1916!

10/24 Through the 1940’s: Take Me Out to the Ballgame; HBD Bill, Jay, Chicken, Heinie, Pete, Cal, Ding-Dong & Johnny

  • 1858 - 3B Bill Kuehne (his surname was an Ellis Island special; in Germany, it was Knelme) was born in Leipzig, Germany. He played every position but pitcher and catcher, hitting .240 in Pittsburgh (Alleghenys 1885-89, Burghers 1890). His best years were with the Alleghenys, hitting .299 in 1887 and leading the NL with 138 games played in 1888. 
Bill Kuehne 1887 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1859 - 1B Jacob “Jay” Faatz was born in Weedsport, New York. He began his four-year MLB career with a 29 game audition with the 1884 Alleghenys, batting .241 and then spending the next three years in the minors before getting another big-league opportunity. Faatz was an argumentative player with a knack for sticking out an elbow or knee and getting plunked, and that fiery temperament led him to become a ringleader in the Players League movement, which put an end to his career. He retired in 1894 after spending some time in the minors and moved to Syracuse to become a sales rep. His highlight came against his old Allegheny teammates in 1889 when he smoked a grounder to third that glanced off the fielder’s foot and kicked into temporary stands along the baseline; by the time the Pittsburgh infield could dig out the ball, Jay had a three-run homer (one of three career four-baggers) on a hit that never left the infield. 
  • 1870 - OF Phil “Chicken” Routcliffe was born in Frontenac, Ontario. Routcliffe got into one MLB game as an Allegheny in 1890, going 1-for-4 and HBP, scoring once, driving in a run and swiping a sack while corralling three balls in the pasture as the left fielder. Just 19 when he played (although his 1870 birthdate is questionable), he was thought to be a contender for a starting role, but was released shortly thereafter. The Alleghenys must have sensed something; he hit .213 in the Western League and was out of baseball two years later, working as a newspaper pressman and later as a policeman before being claimed by the 1918 flu epidemic at age 47. 
  • 1871 - 2B Heinie Smith was born in Pittsburgh. Heinie played for six MLB campaigns and spent 1899 with the Pirates, batting .283 in 15 games (a deceptive small sample; his career BA was .238). Smith had a disastrous turn as big league skipper, losing 27-of-32 games as the Giants player/manager in 1902. That didn’t deter him when his playing days ended; he was the minor league Buffalo Bisons’ manager for a decade and then coached the U of Buffalo for a couple of seasons after hangin’ up his glove. 
  • 1906 - PH Pete McClanahan was born in Coldspring, Texas. His only big league time came in 1930 as a Pirate, getting into seven games as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. He went 2-for-4 with two walks and scored twice, so he did OK in that role. Pete’s calling card was his stick. In six farm seasons in the Texas, Lone Star and Dixie Leagues, he hit .317 before racking the bat for a final time after the 1933 campaign at age 26. 
Cal Hogue 1953 Topps
  • 1908 - Edward Meeker recorded "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" for the Edison Phonograph Company, the first recorded version of the tune (popularized by Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet on Victor Records, who turned the song into a 1908 chart-topper). The melody was written earlier in the year by Tin Pan Alley vets Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer (“Shine On, Harvest Moon”) and became a vaudeville hit. Though it remained popular and was updated lyrically in 1927, it wasn't until 1976 that it became a big league ballyard standard. That’s when Chicago White Sox announcer Harry Caray began singing it during the stretch, accompanied by organist Nancy Faust, after he was, per baseball lore, urged on by Sox owner Bill Veeck. Norworth and Von Tilzer, incidentally, had never seen a ballgame before writing the song, and wouldn’t until decades later.
  • 1927 - RHP Calvin “Cal” Hogue was born in Dayton, Ohio. His MLB career spanned 1952-54, all spent as a Bucco, with a line of 2-10, 4.91 in 25 games (16 starts). He got a decent shot in his first campaign after a July call up while the next two seasons were cup of coffee stops. Cal’s issue was finding the dish - he issued 96 bases on balls in 113- 2⁄3 innings as a Pirate. He stayed in the system through the 1957 season before retiring; he returned to Dayton and worked as a pipefitter. 
  • 1933 - RHP Bill “Ding Dong” Bell was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Bell was one of two professional pitchers to throw three no-hitters in the same season (1952) as a member of Pirates affiliate Bristol in the Class D Appalachian League. Success there didn’t translate into a MLB career, though. Ding Dong was given a September call up at age 18 in ‘52 and resurfaced again briefly in 1955, going 0-1, 4.32 lifetime for the Bucs. He had a well deserved rep as a wild child on the hill, walking 14 during his 16-⅔ IP in the show. 
Johnny Jeter 1970 Topps
  • 1944 - OF Johnny Jeter was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. Johnny began his six-year MLB run with the Pirates, which had signed him out of Grambling, between 1969-70. He hit .252 in 113 games (30 starts) and got a couple of at-bats against the Reds in the 1970 NLCS. JJ got in a pair of seasons with the Padres and played for the White Sox and Indians before he retired.

10/24 From the 1950’s: Willy Deal; Maz Retires; New CBA; HBD Antelope, Junior, Reggie, Dave, Rafe, Chris & Arthur

  • 1952 - Pirate CF Omar Moreno was born in Puerto Armuelles, Panama. “The Antelope” played eight years in Pittsburgh (1975-82) and led the league in stolen bases twice, swiping 487 sacks as a Buc. Moreno played every game of the 1979 and 1980 seasons, led the National League in at bats both years and hit .333 against the Orioles in the 1979 World Series. Known as “The Antelope” for his speed both on the base paths and in center field, he also picked up the less PC fan nickname of “Omar the Outmaker.” Moreno hit or ran into an out 560 times in 1980, a major league record, and ended his career with a 79 OPS+. One of the good guys in the game, he and his wife Sandra began the Omar Moreno Foundation, a youth baseball charity for underprivileged kids in Panama, and the Antelope is still active in Pirates alumni and PR work. Moreno was inducted into the Latino Hall of Fame in 2014. 
Omar Moreno 1982 Fleer
  • 1952 - OF Reggie Walton was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Reggie had a 12-year pro career in the majors, on the farm and in Mexico, finishing his big league time with the Pirates in 1982, hitting .200 in 17 PAs. Reggie was a good stick guy with a .291 minor league BA, but half of his time was spent in the hitter-friendly PCL and he didn’t have much plate patience. He hung ‘em up after the 1983 campaign at age 30 after playing in Hawaii. 
  • 1959 - C Adalberto “Junior” Ortiz was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Junior caught for the Bucs from 1982-83 (.264 BA), spent a year with the Mets, and came back again between 1985-89. In seven seasons, the reserve hit .262 during his career. We’re not sure where Junior picked up his moniker (he’s not a junior by name, but he did start stateside in the minors at age 17 and reached the Bucs as a 22 year-old) but Ortiz embraced it; he even joked after the birth of his son, Adalberto Jr, that he was going to call him “Junior Junior.” 
  • 1959 - RHP Dave Johnson was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Dave got his first pro shot with Pittsburgh in 1987, giving up seven runs in 6-⅓ IP. He bounced back to have a couple of solid years for Baltimore before calling it quits after five tours of MLB duty following the 1993 season. His son, Steve, also worked in the show, tossing for Baltimore and Seattle. 
  • 1961 - SS Rafael Belliard was born in Pueblo Nuevo, Dominican Republic. He played his first nine seasons (1982-90) in Pittsburgh as a good glove shortstop, hitting .218 during that time but ranking first in the NL in fielding percentage in 1988. Belliard went on to play the second half of his career in Atlanta, and was part of the ‘91-92 teams that eliminated the Bucs in the NLCS. He’s coached for the Tigers in the majors & farm, and been an minor-league coach for Atlanta and Kansas City, his current club. 
Rafe Belliard 1989 Score
  • 1969 - LHP Arthur Rhodes was born in Waco, Texas. Rhodes spent 20 years in the show and pitched for nine teams. He was also a Bucco for a brief winter visit. The Pirates got him from Oakland in late November of 2004 along with Mark Redman for Jason Kendall; two weeks later he was on his way to Cleveland for Matt Lawton. He last tossed in the majors in 2011 and retired officially before the 2015 campaign. 
  • 1972 - Bill Mazeroski retired from the Pirates after 17 seasons. He only played 34 games and hit .188 in his final campaign as a bench infielder (.260 lifetime). The Hall-of-Famer left a legacy of 10 All-Star games, eight Golden Gloves and two World Series championships. His number #9 was retired in 1987 and his statue was erected at PNC Park in 2010. He still shows up in the spring to show the boys how to handle the pivot. 
  • 1978 - RHP Chris Bootcheck was born in LaPorte, Indiana. Chris worked parts of seven big league seasons (2007 with the LAA was his only full season in the show) and made a stop in Pittsburgh in 2009, earning no decisions while putting up an 11.05 ERA in 13 outings. Bootcheck did earn a paycheck for 14 professional seasons, including a couple in Japan, before retiring after the 2014 campaign at the age of 35. He’s now coaching at Georgia State University. 
  • 2006 - The Players Association and MLB announced that they had agreed on a new CBA that would run for five years through the 2011 season. It jiggled some items and finances, but there were no major changes except that the winning All-Star team would host the World Series and the removal of MLB’s chief threat to the union, contraction. The players voted on and ratified the new deal in December, marking an unbroken stretch of labor peace since 1995. 
Willy for a coach...cool (image via Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 2015 - The Miami Marlins traded RHP Trevor Williams to the Pirates for Rookie League P Richard Mitchell. The Fish had hired away Pirates pitching assistant Jim Benedict, and it was thought that swapping a potential MLB back-ender for a long shot prospect was compensation for the Marlins' luring Benedict away. Looks like a pretty good deal so far - Willy claimed a rotation spot and broke out in 2018 while Benedict was axed by the new Fish ownership.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

10/23: Lloyd Hired; Danny MoY; Josh #2; Tyler MiLB PoY; Mac Quits; Manny Joins Up; HBD Jim, Lefty, Billy, Groundhog & Denny

  • 1881 - LHP Lafayette “Lave/Lefty” Winham was born in Brooklyn. He relieved once in 1902 for the hometown Superbas and the Pirates took him via waiver wire the following season. His counting numbers in a small sample were excellent - 3-1/2.25, 22 K in 36 IP, quite good for the era - but he walked 21 over the same period, gave up a hit per inning and less than half the runs he surrendered (nine of 20) were earned, skewing his ERA. That was his last MLB campaign, and there’s not much of a baseball trail to follow afterward. 
Billy Sullivan Jr. 1966 James Elder Post Card
  • 1910 - C Billy Sullivan Jr. was born in Chicago. The son of 16-year vet C Billy Sullivan, he played football at Notre Dame and was advised by his dad to get a good contract and avoid the minors if he wanted to play baseball; Junior apparently listened. While his compensation isn’t known, he began his MLB career as a 20-year-old, avoiding the farm altogether. He put in 11 years with six teams before he entered the service in 1941; he didn’t return to baseball until 1947 at age 36 for a last hurrah with the Pirates. He hit .255 in 38 games, not too shabby considering the five-year layoff, and with that out of his system, he retired to Florida where he ran a successful construction firm. 
  • 1918 - LHP Frank “Groundhog” Thompson was born in Merryville (Maryville?), Louisiana. Groundhog got his name due to his unfortunate appearance; he had a short (5’2”), squat build, cleft lip and bulging eyes to go along with a fastball, sinker and curve. He spent 10 years in the Negro Leagues, toiling for Homestead from 1946-48 and was a member of the Grays last championship club. Though he was considered one of their top pitchers, it’s a wonder he lasted that long - C Josh Gibson named him to his “All-Ugly” team and Luke Easter, at 6’4”, 220+ lbs, threatened to punch him out during a card game until Groundhog pulled out a knife and told him that he planned to “cut you down to my size.” Fun times. He closed out his career with the Birmingham Black Barons and the Memphis Red Sox. 
  • 1931 - RHP Jim Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky. The Hall of Famer tossed for the Bucs in 1968 and part of 1969, compiling a 14-23 mark with a 3.84 ERA before being traded to the LA Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. In a 17-year career, Bunning tossed a perfecto and was later inducted into the Hall of Fame. He did pretty well as a politico in Kentucky when he was done twirling the horsehide, climbing from City Council to become a six-term Congressman and two-term Senator. 
Jim Bunning (photo via The Sporting News)
  • 1970 - The Associated Press named Danny Murtaugh as its major league Manager of Year, outpolling Reds’ skipper Sparky Anderson 148-131, although Sparky had the last laugh as his Reds swept the Bucs in the NLCS. 
  • 1981 - RHP Manny Sarmiento was sold by the Boston Red Sox to the Pirates. He gave the Pirates two strong campaigns in 1982-83, going 12-9, 3.25 in 87 appearances (17 starts) while working 249 frames but blew out his elbow in camp the next season, effectively finishing his career. 
  • 1982 - RHP Denny Bautista was born in Sanchez, Dominican Republic. The vet pitched in 2008-09 for the Pirates, going 5-4/5.89. Denny was a second cousin of Pedro Martinez and while pitching chops didn’t prove to be a family hand-me-down, he did manage a seven-year MLB career, ending with the Giants in 2010. Bautista then tossed for the Korean, Mexican and Dominican Leagues through the 2015-16 winter campaign, with the 2015 regular season spent in the Boston system. 
  • 1987 - Malcolm “Mac” Prine resigned as president of the Pittsburgh Associates, the Pirates ownership group that he had helped to cobble together back in 1985. He cited conflict with GM Syd Thrift, whom he had hired, as the reason for leaving. Carl Barger, who was also involved in the formation of the PA, replaced Mac and in turn got Thrift’s resignation after the 1988 season ended. 
  • 2000 - The Pirates hired deposed manager Gene Lamont’s batting coach, Lloyd McClendon, as their the new skipper even though he had no prior experience as a manager. He inked a three-year deal, thought to be worth $500K per season. McClendon spent his last five MLB seasons as a player with the Buccos. He managed through 2005, spent time with Jim Leyland as a coach at Detroit and was the skipper for Seattle from 2014-15. He’s back as Motown’s hitting coach.  
Lloyd McClendon 2002 Topps
  • 2014 - 21-year-old RHP Tyler Glasnow was selected as MiLB.com’s Starting Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The 6-7 hurler, selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft and signed to a $600K bonus, went 12-5 with a 1.74 ERA while averaging 11.4 K per nine innings at High Class A Bradenton and he zoomed through the Bucco organization. He got some MLB starts in 2016-17, but was relegated to bullpen duty the following year before being sent to Tampa Bay as part of the Chris Archer deal. His Bucco line was 3-11/5.79 in 56 games, with 17 starts. 
  • 2017 - Josh Bell’s .255/26 HR/90 RBI were pretty good numbers for his rookie campaign but not strong enough to catch LA Dodger sensation Cody Bellinger (.267/39/97) for The Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year. Bell came in second, tied with the Cards Paul DeJong and nosing out the Cubs Ian Happ, in what was a landslide win (97 votes-to-2-2-1) by Bellinger.

Monday, October 22, 2018

10/22 Through the 1960’s: Rec Park WS Game; HBD Jughandle Johnny, Possum, Harry the Hat, Wilbur & Keith

  • 1885 - Pittsburgh hosted a world series that it wasn’t even part of. The 1885 World Series was an ad hoc post-season playoff roadshow between the NL champion Chicago White Stockings and American Association champion St. Louis Browns, played in four different cities. The fifth game was played at Recreation Park in Pittsburgh. The weather was cold and fewer than 500 people were present. Chicago won 9-2 in a shortened game that was called after seven innings because of darkness. 
Recreation Park (center left) from Observatory Hill (photo via Heinz History Center)
  • 1895 - RHP “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison was born in Pellville, Kentucky. He worked eight seasons (1920-27) for the Pirates with an 89-71 record and 3.52 ERA. In 1921, he was part of a Pirate brother act when sib Phil made the roster. Jughandle twice led the senior circuit in shutouts with three in 1921 and five in 1922. His best campaign was in 1923 when he was 25-13/3.49 w/301 IP. He led the NL in outings in 1924 with 41 and again in 1925 with 44. In 1925, Johnny was 17-14 for the pennant-winning Pirates and pitched three games in the World Series against the Washington Senators without a decision, striking out seven in 9-⅓ frames. He got his nickname from his sweeping curve that bent like a jughandle. 
  • 1916 - Announcer Jim Woods was born in Kansas City. He was a sidekick of Bob Prince at KDKA from 1958-69, where he was known as "The Possum." Woods worked for the Yankees, Giants and NBC before coming to Pittsburgh, moving later to the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox, then finishing his career as an announcer for the USA Network's Thursday Night Baseball games. Woods picked up his nickname of "Possum" while with New York. He had a slight overbite and close-cropped hair, and as he walked into the clubhouse fresh from a haircut, Enos Slaughter (or perhaps Whitey Ford; they're both suspects), looked him over and said, "I've seen better heads on a possum." Bob Prince picked up on the nickname, and the Gunner's wife Betty would even introduce Woods’ spouse Audrey as “Mrs. Possum.” 
  • 1916 - Harry “The Hat” Walker was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Walker was hired in 1965 to replace Danny Murtaugh, who stepped down for health reasons. The Pirates contended for the pennant during the 1965 and 1966 seasons, finishing third behind the left-coast one-two punch of the champion Los Angeles Dodgers and runner-up San Francisco Giants. But when the 1967 Pirates stumbled to a .500 mark in mid-season, Walker was let go in favor of his predecessor, Murtaugh. He did leave his mark, though, as an offensive mind on the organization. Walker got his nickname from his habit of constantly tugging on his cap between pitches during his playing days. 
Wilbur Wood (photo via Cooperstown Collection)
  • 1941 - RHP Wilbur Wood was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The knuckleballer spent four years with Boston and 1964-65 w/Pittsburgh (1-3/3.18 in 37 games), never finding a spot while mixing his regular stuff with the dancer. He was traded to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. That’s where Hoyt Wilhelm convinced him into converting into a straight knuckleball tosser and his career took off. He made 292 relief appearances over four years for Chicago and then flipped to the rotation, where he made 40> starts for five straight years, work 300+ IP for four of those seasons and also won 20+ games four times (he won 16 times & threw 291 IP in 1975). He ended his 17-year career in 1978 at age 37 with 651 appearances (297 starts), 164 wins, a 3.24 ERA and 52.2 WAR. 
  • 1968 - C Keith Osik was born in Port Jefferson, NY. Osik played for the Bucs from 1996-2002 as a catcher and all around utility guy, even pitching twice in blowout games while hitting .231. He’s been a successful head baseball coach since 2008 at Farmingdale State College, a Division III school located on Long Island.

10/22 From the 1970’s: Clines Trade; Clint MoY; Cutch TSN-AS; Scrap Iron; HBD Bix & Alen

  • 1974 - The Pirates traded OF Gene Clines to the New York Mets for C Duffy Dyer. Dyer was a Pirate reserve for four years, mostly playing behind Manny Sanguillen. Clines didn’t do much for the Mets, but still had a couple of decent seasons left in him before hanging up the spikes after the 1979 season. Afterward, he coached for the Astros, Cubs and Dodgers organizations, and is currently a special assistant with the Giants. 
Gene Clines 1974 Topps
  • 1979 - Phil Garner was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated during SI’s WS coverage. He was a great choice, hitting .500 (12-for-24) in the October Classic, banging out four doubles, scoring four runs and driving home five. 
  • 1982 - Utility man Brian Bixler was born in Sandusky, Ohio. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2004 MLB draft from Eastern Michigan U. Bix looked good in the minors and even made Team USA in 2007. He got 68 yo-yo games between 2008-09 to show his stuff, but hit just .189 for Pittsburgh. The Bucs traded him to Cleveland; then the Tribe sold him back to the Pirates and 11 minor-league games later Pittsburgh sold him to the Nats. BB played a bit for Washington and the ‘Stros, then hung ‘em up after the 2014 season after playing in the Padre system. 
  • 1992 - Utilityman Alen Hanson was born in La Romana, Dominican Republic. A prize IF prospect (his development allowed the Bucs to let Dilson Herrera go in a trade), his bat and glove never quite matched the hype. In two call-ups with the Pirates in 2016-17, he was seldom used and produced little (92 PAs, .205 BA). Out of options, the Pirates waived him in June of 2017 and he was claimed by the White Sox. Alen hit .231 for them, playing five positions plus DH while swiping nine bases in 11 tries. He joined the Giants in 2018, playing four spots and batting .252 in a career-high 110 games.  
Alen Hanson 2017 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 2013 - The Sporting News named Clint Hurdle NL Manager of the Year after he led the Pirates to playoffs after breaking a 20-year string of losing seasons with a 90 win campaign. The Bucs won the NL Wild Card Game against the Reds before dropping a five game series against the NL Central champs St Louis in the 2013 NLDS. 
  • 2014 - CF Andrew McCutchen was the only Pirate named to The Sporting News NL All-Star team. 3B Josh Harrison & 2B Neil Walker were runner-ups, while C Russ Martin and LHP Tony Watson were also in the zip code, finishing third at their positions.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Notes: Lavarnway, Market Lefties, Pirates Pups, MLB News

Weekend odds and ends:

  • Ryan Lavarnway was profiled in the Jewish Chronicle by Adam Reinherz about the role the Buccos signed him up for in the past season, his time with Team Israel, and more. 
  • One hole the Pirates are expected to try to fill during the off season is lefty reliever; they have southpaw closer Felipe Vazquez, long man Steven Brault, and nada in between. Here's the list of available lefty relievers, compiled by MLB Trade Rumor's Jeff Todd, if you're curious about who's on the market (it's not very deep).
Geoff Hartlieb 2018 Go Sports
  • One name for you to follow in the Arizona Fall League is RHP Geoff Hartlieb. The 24-year-old reliever throws in the high 90's and has touched 100, but is still looking for a second pitch to trust and a little more control. He went 8-2-10/3.24 at Altoona during the season with 56 K in 58-1/3 IP and a high ground ball rate. The 6'5" hurler was a 29th round pick in the 2016 draft from Lindenwood U in Missouri.
  • Baseball America profiles the best hitter, pitcher and sleeper in each team's system. Among the Buc pups, they were respectively Kevin Kramer, JT Brubaker and Jonah Davis.
  • The Reds have a new field boss. Cincy hired Giants VP of player development David Bell as their skipper, signing him to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season. Bell, 46, managed in the minors and was on the staffs of the Cards (bench coach) and Cubs,so he knows the division. He's also a native of Cincinnati, so you can go home again.
  • In the junior circuit, the Anaheim Angels named ex-Detroit Tiger skipper Brad Ausmus as their new manager, taking over for Mike Scioscia.
  • Boston and the LA Dodgers will meet in the WS. Not only are they arguably the two best teams in baseball this year, but #1 and #3 in payroll (Bosox - $228.4M, Dodgers - $199.6M). 

10/21: Kiner AS; Frankie Comeback Player; Giusti/Ricketts Deal; Pena Chatter; Burwell Moved; AVS FA; HBD Pap, Ron & Marc

  • 1917 - LHP Frank “Pap” Papish was born in Pueblo, Colorado. Frank worked five post-war years from 1945-49 pretty effectively for the White Sox and Indians, but his effort to squeeze out one more campaign in Pittsburgh fell flat. The 32-year-old southpaw retired just seven of the 19 batters he faced, compiled a 27.00 ERA and was sent to AAA, where he rebounded for the remainder of 1950 but from ‘51-53 couldn’t put up an ERA south of five, retiring from pro ball at 35. 
Ron Davis 1969 Topps
  • 1941 - OF Ron Davis was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. He ended his five-year MLB run, mostly spent with Houston, with Pittsburgh in 1969, batting .234 primarily as a pinch hitter after coming over from St. Louis in the Tommie Sisk/Chris Cannizzaro deal. Davis finished out his pro days with two more seasons in AAA before retiring. 
  • 1947 - In its second-ever MLB All-Star team, the Associated Press named Pirates OF Ralph Kiner to the 10-man squad. Ralph had some pretty sweet company in the pasture, joining Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio while earning a spot by hitting .313 with 51 HR and 127 RBI. Oddly enough, he didn’t garner a spot on the NL-AS team, but did begin a six-year All Star run the following season. 
  • 1948 - Third base coach Bill Burwell was relieved of his major league duties by manager Billy Meyer. Burwell stayed with the organization and was reassigned as a minor league pitching coach (he mentored Vern Law) and scout. He later rejoined the big club from 1958-62 as the pitching guru for Danny Murtaugh’s coaching staff. 
  • 1969 - RHP Dave Giusti and C Dave Ricketts came over from St. Louis for 1B/OF Carl Taylor and OF Frank Vanzin. Giusti spent seven years in the Buc bullpen and earned 133 saves, marking his trade as one of the Buccos shrewder deals. Ricketts didn’t have a lot of on-field impact (he hit .182 in his only Bucco season) as a player, but was a popular clubhouse figure. He played basketball at Duquesne with his brother Dick and coached in Pittsburgh from 1971-73 before returning to the Cards to become a long time field coach and catching mentor.
Dave Giusti 1970 Topps
  • 1970 - RHP Marc Wilkins was born in Mansfield, Ohio. He spent his entire six-season MLB career (1996-2001) as a Bucco reliever (he started two games as a rookie), putting up a line of 19-14-3/4.28 and appearing in 70 outings during 1997. It was actually a pretty strong run for a guy who Pittsburgh selected in the 47th round of the 1992 draft. The U of Toledo product is now a financial advisor in Mansfield, Ohio. 
  • 1982 - The Los Angeles Examiner wrote that the Dodgers and Pirates were tinkering with a deal that would send 24-year-old C Tony Pena to LA for either OF Mike Marshall, 22, or 1B Greg Brock, 24. Though the talks broke off, the youngsters were all legit. Marshall lasted 11 years in the show, belting double-digit homers for eight straight campaigns while compiling a .270 BA and landing in an AS Game. Brock spent 10 years in the league, hitting with some pop but putting up .265+ average just twice, with a lifetime .248 BA. Pena was special. He earned five All-Star slots in an 18-year run, batting .260. Tony was eventually traded for Andy Van Slyke after the 1986 campaign. (S/O to John Fredland of PGH Sports History) 
  • 1994 - Andy Van Slyke became a free agent. In his eight years (1987-94) with Pittsburgh, he slashed .283/.353/.458 and was a three-time All Star. But at 34 and with a bad back, he managed a one year/$700K deal with the Baltimore Orioles only after a spring training audition. He played sparingly for them and was traded to Philly; he got into just 80 games total and was done after the 1995 campaign.
AVS 1994 Donruss
  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02) was named The Sporting News “Comeback Player of the Year” for 2013. Frankie had posted ERA’s north of 5 in three of his four prior seasons but sparkled for the Bucs. The runner up was RHP Mark Melancon, the Bucs set-up/closer arm, and third place went to OF Marlon Byrd, who the Pirates picked up from the NY Mets during the stretch run in late August.