Saturday, October 13, 2018

10/13 Through the 1920’s: Smoke Out; Waner & Rhyne Deal; HBD Rube, Jack, Frank, Xavier & Charlie

  • 1876 - LHP George “Rube” Waddell was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania. He pitched just two season for the Pirates (1900-01), but his legend deserves mention. He wore out his welcome with Pittsburgh, getting into two games in 1901 after leading the NL in ERA (2.37) the year before with the Bucs. His eccentricities: He was a fire fanatic in a good way; Rube always wore a red t-shirt so he could join up with any fire-fighting brigade that he found in action. Though he never showed up drunk at a game, he was a heavy drinker - The Sporting News called him a “sousepaw” - and was distracted by crowds, who would mesmerize him by flashing shiny objects at him. In exhibition games, he had his teammates sit around him on the mound. Waddell also wrestled alligators in the off season. Current baseball historians believe he was autistic or had ADD before the conditions were commonly diagnosed. But Rube could throw a baseball. He won 193 games and struck out 2,316 batters in his career (349 whiffs in 1904 alone). Rube K’ed three batters on nine pitches in 1902. He was one of the great drawing cards of early baseball, and is in the Hall of Fame. The story of his life was foretold by the stars: Rube was born on Friday the 13th and died on April Fools Day (4/1/1914). 
Rube Waddell 2011 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions
  • 1888 - Manager, coach & scout Jack Onslow was born in Scottdale, between Connellsville and Mt. Pleasant. Jack had a brief MLB career, consisting of two seasons and 36 games as a catcher and then coached for the Pirates (1925–26), Washington Senators (1927), St. Louis Cardinals (1928), Philadelphia Phillies (1931–32) and Boston Red Sox (1934). Onslow also scouted for the White Sox and Boston Braves. He was the White Sox skipper from 1949-50 and managed minor league squads for six seasons. 
  • 1889 - SS Frank Smykal was born in Chicago. He got a six-game cup of coffee with the Bucs in 1916, going 3-for-10 with three walks. He was one of a group of SS’s on the roster as it was Hans Wagner’s final season; the shortstop spot stayed patchwork after the Dutchman left until Rabbit Maranville arrived in 1921. It was the 26-year-old Smykal’s only taste of MLB ball, and it appears that after his Pirates stint that he went home to Chicago for good, where he lived until he passed away at age 60. 
  • 1899 - Smoky City, home field edge: Per Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, the Louisville Colonels scored four runs in the ninth to take a 6-5 lead over the Pirates at Exposition Park‚ as a thick‚ black mist from the local mills settled over the field. The game was called before the Bucs could bat because of poor visibility (darkness, technically), and the score reverted to the last full frame, the eighth inning, giving Pittsburgh a 5-2 victory. 
  • 1906 - IF Charlie Hughes was born in Lawrenceville. Hughes, a gifted gloveman who developed his skills on Ammon Field, played two seasons for the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931 & 1934) and another campaign for the Homestead Grays (1933). Hughes started in the local black sandlot leagues of the City, playing for the Bluesox of Herron Hill/Lawrenceville and the Edgar Thompson mill team (he played 32 years for them, off-and-on, as not only did you get to play ball but had a job in the mill to pay the bills). 
X-Man 1943 (photo via NY State HoF)
  • 1912 - RHP Xavier Rescigno was born in New York City. He tossed for the Pirates during the war years of 1943-45 (it was his entire MLB career, too), slashing 19-22-16/4.13 in 129 games (21 starts). The curve ball whiz tossed for Manhattan College and was signed by the Yankees but didn’t take off until he joined the Brooklyn organization and was tutored by Burleigh Grimes. The Pirates eventually bought his contract and sent him to Albany, and they brought him and Ralph Kiner up in 1943. He worked through the ‘45 season when at age 32, he was overtaken by the wartime talent returning from the service back to baseball. He worked in the minors for five more years before retiring. Rescigno was known as “Mr. X” and was the first guy named Xavier to play in MLB (there have been six in big league history and the Pirates rostered three - Rescigno, Nady and Paul). In fact, while in his 90s, one of his final baseball acts was to meet up with the newest MLB Xavier at the time, OF’er Nady, during a game at San Diego and Rescigno followed up with a letter welcoming Nady into the Xavier fraternity of baseball men. 
  • 1925 - The Pirates purchased SS Hal Rhyne and OF Paul Waner from San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, then an unaffiliated independent organization. Rhyne played a couple of years for the Bucs and had a seven-year MLB career while Big Poison went on to the Hall of Fame after spending 15 of his 20 big league seasons with Pittsburgh.

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