Friday, November 30, 2018

The Week's Notes: Hot Stove Rumors; Feliz Signs, Corey & Keone Tendered; Bucco Events; Ol' Pirates Shuffle

With the winter meetings around the corner, some possible moves, arb tenders and news of the week...

  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo!Sports is floating the names of Bucco backstop Fran Cervelli and ex-Pirates C Russ Martin as being available for trade in a year that has quite a bit of demand for the position. Personally, we don't expect a swap for Cervy unless someone - and it only takes one - overbids, and we don't foresee that with his injury history. He would seem to have more value in Pittsburgh than on the market. Still, as Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects notes in a do it-don't do it post, there are arguments both ways. The FO does like to flip guys in the last year of their contract, he is affordable, and his intangibles are off the board, so...
  • Dropping a level, MLB Pipeline opines on the likeliest prospect to be dealt for each club; they think the Pirate pup who may draw attention in RHP Luis Escobar.
Luis Escobar (photo via MLB Pipeline)
  • Jason Rollison of Bucs Dugout names a couple of lefty relievers who are showing on the Pirates radar: Jerry Blevins and Jake Diekman.
  • Jordy has really cut his Bucco ties; he'll be represented in free agency by the Boras Corporation.
  • Arb day: Michael Feliz inked a $375K guaranteed deal w/$850 K for MLB time per Jon Heyman of Fancred. The other two arb-eligibles, Corey Dickerson and Keone Kela, were tendered and so stay in the flock. They have six weeks to come to an agreement before they exchange salary numbers and begin the arb process.
  • In a bit of speculation (or maybe wishful thinking) David Slusser of Rumbunter takes a peek at what a Jameson Taillon contract extension might look like.
  • Particulars for Pirates Fest: It's scheduled for noon-to-five PM on Saturday, January 26th, at PNC Park; admission is free. There will be autograph tables featuring players/alum, and Pirates Charities will donate all autograph proceeds to the City of Pittsburgh’s Fraternal Order of Police Injured Officers Fund/Public Safety Support Trust Fund. There will also be the usual annual Q&A, games, booths and all that jazz.
  • Clint is switching hats from baseball manager to life coach during a visit to IUP to share his experiences on the road of life during a "Guys Night Out with Clint Hurdle" on December 6th, an event sponsored by Indiana hoops and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Other Bucco good guys are Joe Musgrove and Steven Brault, who visited Obama Academy for a "Shred Hate" mash up.
Clint does some mentoring (photo via Whirl Magazine)
  • 2B Dilson Herrera, 24 (he'll be 25 in March), who was traded to the Mets by the Bucs in 2013 as part of the Marlon Byrd deal, is returning to the Big Apple after signing a minor-league deal w/the Metropolitans. He had been with the Reds where injuries short-circuited his progress.
  • The Rangers made it official: after signing RHP Edinson Volquez to a minor league deal last year while he recovered from TJ surgery, they inked him to a $2M deal loaded with incentives for this campaign.
  • The Orioles have fired farm director Brian Graham, who had held the job since 2013. He was the Bucs Director of Player Development and the interim GM between Dave Littlefield and Neal Huntington, with his Pittsburgh stay lasting from 2001-07.
  • Ol' Bucco nemesis Billy Hamilton was non-tendered by the Reds; let's hope he finds a happy home somewhere in the AL.
  • OF Robby Grossman, who the Pirates traded for Wandy Rodriguez back in the day, was non-tendered by the Twins.
  • New Castle's Jack Zduriencik, the Pirates pre-and-post game radio analyst, has a background with a depth not realized by a lot of fans, as described by the Post-Gazette's Bill Brink.

11/30: Russ Signs; Wicks Lost; Lynch & Pistol Pete Found; HBD Lefty, Mooney, Clyde, Tacks, Joe, Craig & Kyle

  • 1870 - LHP Frank “Lefty” Killen was born in North Side, then still Allegheny City. He spent six seasons with the Bucs (1893-98) and twice led the NL in wins, with 36 (a team record) in ‘93 and 30 in ‘96. Lefty’s line with Pittsburgh was 112-82/3.97. The team released him during the 1898 campaign, and his last of 10 MLB seasons was 1900. Killen trivia: he ended Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game hitting streak on June 19th, 1897 when Lefty and the Bucs stopped the Orioles 7-1. 
Lefty Killen 1896 team photo snip
  • 1877 - C Clifford “Tacks” Latimer was born in Loveland, Ohio. Tacks played 13 years of organized ball with five whistle stops in the show, including a four-game visit with Pittsburgh in 1900, when he was part of the trade that moved most of Louisville’s roster to Pittsburgh. Latimer wasn’t much of a batter, but his Pirates audition was short-circuited by a bout of malaria caught during spring camp rather than a bad stick as he went 4-for-12. He got his nickname in the minors: though he was a quiet man, one of his teammates dubbed him Tacks, a name usually reserved for guys who play to (and sometimes over) the line using the same reverse-logic that dubs a 6’6” player Shorty. He did get tacky after he retired, though. He got a job as a railroad cop, and his boss got into a confrontation with Tacks, ending badly when Latimer shot his knife-wielding foe four times, killing him. Unfortunately, the slugs were in the back and he got life in prison. But Tacks was a model con, siding with the warden & guards during a violent gang escape, then later helping during a prison fire to eventually earn a parole. He kept clean after that, passing away in Loveland in 1936. Tack trivia: Ex-Pittsburgh catcher Doggy Miller managed him at minor-league Minnesota and converted Tacks from the OF to C. 
  • 1901 - Pirate coach and scout Clyde Sukeforth was born in Washington, Maine. A long time member of the Brooklyn Dodger organization (he was scout on Jackie Robinson), he came to Pittsburgh as a coach/scout in 1952 and was one of the main players in the selection of Roberto Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He turned down the chance to succeed Pirate skipper Bobby Bragan in 1957 and retired as a coach after the season, but remained with the Pirates as a scout and minor league manager through 1962. 
  • 1931 - George “Mooney” Gibson (he earned the nickname either through his moon-shaped face or because one of his early teams was called the Mooneys; take your pick) returned for his second spin as Bucco manager, replacing Jewel Ens. He lasted until early in 1934, posting a 200-159 record and two second place finishes. Overall, the Canadian Gibson (he was from Ontario) had a 401-330/.549 record with Pittsburgh. He got his start as a long-time Bucco catcher, playing from 1905-1916 in Pittsburgh, hitting .238 but leading the NL in fielding three times with a toss-out rate of 46% against would-be base stealers. Mooney was the Pirates everyday catcher in 1909 when they won the World Series against the Tigers. 
Mooney 1911 Mecca Double Folders
  • 1950 - Pittsburgh signed the Boston Braves’ OF Harold “Pete/Pistol Pete” Reiser, who had been a three-time all-star for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early-to-mid 40s, as a FA. Reiser hit .271 in 74 games as a Bucco bench player and was released following the season. Per Mark Stewart of SABR “As a boy, his friends and family called him Pete, after the cowboy movie hero Two-Gun Pete. He loved westerns, and as a child often walked around the neighborhood with a pair of toy six-shooters holstered to his belt. Eventually his nickname became Pistol Pete.” 
  • 1953 - The Pirates selected OF Jerry Lynch from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. Lynch spent the first and final three campaigns of his 13-year career as a Pirate (he spent the middle seven seasons with the Reds), batting .263. He was one of baseball’s great pinch hitters, with 116 pinch hits during his career, joining ex-Bucs Manny Mota, Matt Stairs and Smoky Burgess on the all-time roster. Lynch is also high on the career pinch hit home run list (he was first when he retired) with 18. He kept his local roots watered when he teamed up with Dick Groat to own and operate the Champion Lakes Golf Course in Ligonier. 
  • 1954 - Coach Joe Kerrigan was born in Philadelphia. A first round draft pick of the Expos in 1974, Joe tossed for five seasons before coaching. He was John Russell’s pitching coach in Pittsburgh from 2008-10 after serving as PC for Montreal, Boston (briefly as Red Sox manager in 2001) and Philly with a bullpen coaching gig for the Yankees. Kerrigan was a volatile guy and also known for his “Pitchers Pal,” a mannequin he had his pitchers throw against instead of a live batter. The Pirates bullpen nicknamed the dummy “Oyez,” one of Joe’s favorite terms. 
  • 1959 - The KC Athletics drafted Dave Wickersham from the Pirates in the minor league Rule 5 draft. The righty went on to have a 10-year MLB career (including 1-0-1/3.48 with Pittsburgh in 1968 though most of the year was spent in AAA Columbus) highlighted by a 19-win season in 1964 with the Detroit Tigers.
Craig Wilson 2005 Fleer Tradition
  • 1976 - OF/1B Craig Wilson was born in Fountain Valley, California. He played as a semi-regular for the Bucs from 2001-06 with a line of .268/.360/.486, 94 HR and 284 RBI, along with a 28% career K rate. Wilson tied the MLB single-season record for pinch-hit home runs with seven in 2001. Hand injuries in 2005 and shoulder surgery in 2007 ended his career. 
  • 1992 - RHP Kyle Crick was born in Fort Worth, Texas. A first round pick (49th overall) out of high school in 2011 by the Giants, he got into 30 games with SF in 2017 (0-0/3.06) before joining the Bucs as part of the Andrew McCutchen trade. He didn’t make the team out of camp, but was called up mid-April to join the big club and worked his way into the set-up role for Felipe Vazquez with a 3-2-2/2.39 slash and 65 K in 60-1/3 IP. 
  • 2012 - The Pirates signed free agent catcher Russell Martin, a three-time All-Star, to a two-year/$17M deal, the largest free agency contract they had ever negotiated. He got a $2M signing bonus, $6.5M for 2013 and $8.5M for 2014. The deal was a bit of role reversal as the Pirates outbid the NY Yankees, Martin’s last team, which reportedly offered two years/$12-$14M. Russ was among the league's top defensive catchers and had a .290/.402/.430 slash in his final Pirate season. He left after the 2014 campaign, signing a five year/$82M deal with Toronto.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

11/29: Cannizaro Trade; Terrell Signing; Locke, LaRoche Leave; Single AS Game Returns; HBD Hit Man, Little Bill, Hutch, Ed & Lefty

  • 1864 - RHP “Little Bill” Sowders was born in Louisville. He pitched two of his three seasons for Pittsburgh from 1889-90, going 9-13/5.39 for the Alleghenys. Bill came from a baseball family. Two of his brothers, John and Len, also played in the big leagues. No clue as to why he was “Little Bill” as Sowders was the middle bro and fair-sized at 6’0”, although a string-bean at 155 pounds. 
  • 1884 - SS Marc “Hutch” Campbell was born in Punxsutawney. He got into his only two MLB games in 1907 with the Pirates as a 22-year-old, going 1-for-4 and converting 8-of-9 chances in the field. He had played for Lock Haven University, and after his Pirates stint, played four more years of minor league ball. 
Ed Leip (photo uncredited/Pinterest)
  • 1910 - 2B Ed Leip was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He played three years for the Bucs as a pinch hitter and runner after being purchased from the Senators after his rookie campaign. He didn’t see much action, getting into 21 games w/30 at-bats and hitting .200 from 1940-42 before turning in the flannels for khaki during WW2. 
  • 1931 - LHP Paul “Lefty” Pettit was born in Los Angeles. He pitched for the Bucs in 1951 and again in 1953, going 1-2/7.34. The Bucs signed him in 1950, making him baseball's first $100,000 bonus baby. He never really got a chance to show his stuff; he injured his arm in 1951. By 1954, it was so painful that he was sent to the PCL and switched to OF where he showed a nice stick, but he eventually had to move to 1B to spare his wing. He retired from pro ball in 1961, becoming a high school teacher and coach. 
  • 1950 - 1B/OF Mike Easler was born in Cleveland. The Hit Man spend six (1977, 1979-83) of his 14 MLB seasons as a Pirate role player with a .302 BA. Fittingly enough, he spent his later years as a hitting coach for a handful of MLB squads. Mike, btw, is considered to be the Original Hit Man, not Don Mattingly. He picked up the name because of his aggressive style at the plate and his ability to drive the ball to all fields, leading to five .300+ seasons in the show and a .293 career BA. 
  • 1962 - MLB & MLBPA reps agreed to return to a single All-Star Game in 1963. To compensate, the players' pension fund was given 95% of the proceeds rather than the prior 60% haul from the two-game series. The double set was in place from 1959-62 (the ASG began in 1933), and it’s stayed a one-game baseball holiday since then. 
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded 1B/OF Mike Derrick to Detroit for C Chris Cannizzaro. Pittsburgh kept the light-hitting Cannizzaro for a season before moving him to San Diego while Derrick played one MLB campaign. 
Walt Terrell 1990 Bowman
  • 1989 - The Pirates signed eight-year veteran righty Walt Terrell to a $800K deal as a free agent, and he promptly had the worst start of his career, going 2-7/5.88 before the Bucs cut him loose in July. He did go on to finish up a bit more credibly with the Tigers, tossing for them through 1992. 
  • 2010 - The Bucs sent 3B Andy LaRoche outright to Indy; he opted for free agency the following day. Laroche was a key piece of the Jason Bay trade, but hit just .226 in three Pirate seasons. The Bay deal reeled in Laroche, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris, but they never became building blocks for Neal Huntington (although Moss & Morris developed into big league-caliber players). GM Neil Huntington was hoping to maximize the return by dealing Bay at the deadline, but later admitted he probably should have held off until the winter to pull the trigger. 
  • 2016 - The Pirates DFA’ed LHP Jeff Locke, who had come to Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth deal. In his six seasons with the Pirates, the lefty compiled a 35-38/4.41 slash in 644-⅓ IP. He was a 2013 All-Star, but frustratingly inconsistent and put up a 5.44 ERA during the season, although he did go 9-8 and led the team in innings pitched.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Busy Couple of Days: Lonnie Signs; Ouch Arch; Winter Ball; Depth; Cruz Official; Dates; Ol' Buccos

Don't snooze...

  • The Pirates have signed 3B/RF Lonnie Chisenhall, 30, to a one-year/$2.75M deal w/bonuses based on at bats, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Jason Rollison of Bucs Dugout had the first radar sighting). Lonnie, who bats left and throws right, put in eight years at Cleveland; the Bucs are betting on him staying in one piece for a campaign. He looked like he was breaking out in 2017 (.288/12 HR/.233 ISO/236 AB's) but he strained his calf during the season, limiting him to 111 games.  Lonnie only played 29 games last year while still on the mend (he's also had a concussion and shoulder sprain), though he did hit .321 w/.394 OBP in 95 PA's. Chisenhall is a solid signing for the Bucco needs if the docs can keep him on the field. RHP Alex McRae was DFA'ed to clear a roster spot for Chisenhall.
Lonnie Chisenhall 2018 (photo Tony DeJak/AP) 
  • Tough year for pitchers. Chris Archer had hernia surgery on Tuesday; he should be out for six weeks. They expect him to be ready for the season. He joins Joe Musgrove (October ab wall surgery; he's expected to be ready for camp) and Edgar Santana/Chad Kuhl, both gone for the year after TJ surgery.
  • Bucs playing winter ball: Utilitymen Pablo Reyes & Erik Gonzalez, with pitching prospects Tyler Eppler and Gage Hinsz. Expected to join for the second half are C Elias Diaz, RHP Michael Feliz and perhaps 1B/3B/OF Joey Osuna. Add in the AFL guys - Cole Tucker, Will Craig, Bryan Reynolds, Blake Weiman, Matt Eckelman and Geoff Hartlieb - and it's been a long year for some of the gang.
  • The FO is beginning its sweep through the heap: The Pirates reportedly signed righty Roberto Gomez, 29, to a minor league deal. A depth move, Gomez has played parts of the last two seasons with the San Francisco Giants, slashing 1-0/7.98 in 14-2/3 IP (nine outings) per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. A converted starter who missed two years after TJ surgery, he sits at 97 but doesn't have much movement. He did have a strong second half in the PCL last year, so he's worth the look. 
Roberto Gomez (photo Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
  • It was leaked out of Chicago last week, and the Pirates finally made it official on Monday - Jacob Cruz is signed, sealed and delivered as the Bucco ass't hitting coach.
  • BTW, pitchers and catchers report on February 13th; the team is due in camp on the 18th. The first spring game is February 23rd, the Opener is on March 28th at Cincy, and the first home game of the season is on April 1st against the Cards. Not quite there, but she's comin' 'round the corner... The year's schedule is here.
  • RHP Jesse Chavez, 35, has reportedly left da Cubs and joined Texas on a 2-year/$8M deal. Raise your hand if you thought Jesse was gonna be embarking on his 12th big league campaign back in 2007...
  • C Erik Kratz signed a one-year, majors/minors deal with the Brewers to avoid arb. He's guaranteed $300K, with a $1.2M salary while on the active roster.

11/28 Through the 1950’s: Kiki Dealt; Forbes Field Sale; HBD Sixto, Dave, Max, Heinie & Leo

  • 1870 - C Heinie Peitz was born in St. Louis. Heinie was versatile - he played every infield position at some point in his career, a little outfield and even pitched four times - and spent the final two (not counting a three-game final bow in 1913 with the Cards) of his 16 big league seasons with the Pirates in 1905-06 after Pittsburgh sent C Ed Phelps to the Reds for his services. He had a rep as a great game manager from behind the dish, but hit just .228 as a Bucco and could barely run after all his years spent in a crouch. He played for Louisville, then a minor league club, for four years before embarking on an umpiring/coaching/scouting career. 
Heinie Peitz (photo via Baseball Reference)
  • 1876 - C Leo Fohl was born in Lowell, Ohio, but learned to play baseball in Pittsburgh where he was raised. Leo was one of those guys who barely appeared in the majors - he played five games with 17 MLB at-bats, going 0-for-3 with the Pirates in 1902, and toiled for 11 seasons in the minors - but had big league squads entrusted to his care. After his playing days, he spent 11 years as field manager for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Boston Red Sox with three second-place finishes to his credit. He finished out his career with three campaigns of minor league skippering before retiring to Cleveland, where he passed away at age 88 in 1965. 
  • 1916 - 1B Max West was born in Dexter, Missouri. He closed the book on his seven-year MLB career in Pittsburgh in 1948 as a 32-year-old, batting .178 in 87 games after hitting .306 for San Diego of the Pacific Coast League the year before. Max then spent the final six years of his pro career in the PCL with San Diego and Los Angeles. West had been an All Star in 1940 with the Braves and even swatted a three-run homer in the ASG, but gave up 1943-45 to the Army Air Corp. He operated a sporting goods firm with Ralph Kiner in California after retiring from baseball, and passed away at the age of 87 in Sierra Madre. 
  • 1927 - Hall of Famer OF Kiki Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs for journeymen IF Sparky Adams and OF/1B Pete Scott. He had bumped heads with manager Donie Bush, even being benched during the World Series, and owner Barney Dreyfuss was looking to dump salary with the Waner brothers on the payroll, so it was bye-bye Kiki. Cuyler competed for 12 more seasons, hitting .300+ in six of them. Adams batted .272 in two Bucco campaigns before being sold to the Cards and played through 1934. Scott, 30, bowed out with a final year in the show and hit .311 as a backup OF. 
Dave Augustine & Jim Rice had something in common... 1975 Topps
  • 1949 - OF Dave Augustine was born in Follansbee, West Virginia. His MLB career lasted from 1973-74, getting 29 at bats with the Bucs and hitting .207. He’s best known for the “ball on the wall” against the Mets. In the heat of a late September pennant race in 1973, he hit a ball at Shea in the 13th inning that appeared ticketed to be a homer. Instead, it landed on the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Richie Zisk was thrown out at home, the Pirates lost the contest, and the Mets eventually took the NL crown by 2-½ games over the Bucs. That was the closest Augustine came to a major league dinger. 
  • 1953 - OF Sixto Lezcano was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The 12-year vet finished out his big league days in Pittsburgh in 1985, hitting .207 off the bench. His contract was one of a handful of bad deals brokered by the Bucs that created dead money woes in the late 80s - Sixto had signed a two-year FA agreement, and the Bucs ate the second season’s salary of $500K when they released him. 
  • 1958 - The sale of Forbes Field to University of Pittsburgh was approved; the Pirates were allowed to stay on for five years, until new Northside stadium was built. The Bucs had discussed replacing Forbes Field as far back as 1948 because of both its deteriorating condition (it was built in 1909) and smallish seating capacity of 35,000. In reality, the Pirates stayed on not for five but for 12 years, until TRS opened in 1970. The stadium was a political hot potato for a decade as politicians wrangled over location, costs, and design until ground was broken finally in 1968. The Bucs lost a prefered open center field view of town from TRS when the Steelers vetoed that design in search of more seats; the Pirates made up for that lost scenery when PNC Park was built.

11/28 From 1960: Bucs Deal for Bell, Vin, Pizarro, Wickersham & Savage; HBD Jose & Angel

  • 1962 - The Pirates traded 3B Don Hoak, 34, to the Philadelphia Phillies for IF Pancho Herrera and OF Ted Savage. It ended up a minor deal; The Tiger was at the end of his career while Herrera and Savage never established themselves as regulars in MLB. Hoak got his nickname from Bob Prince for his relentless, hard-nosed play augmented by his background as an ex-Marine and boxer. 
Juan Pizarro 1967 Topps
  • 1966 - The Bucs completed a deal that sent knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. Under Hoyt Wilhelm's tutelage, Wood pitched twelve seasons for Chicago and won 168 games with three All-Star appearances. His career was cut short in 1976 when Ron LeFlore’s liner broke his kneecap; Wood missed that campaign and was generally ineffective afterward. Pizarro pitched a season and some change in Pittsburgh before being sold to Boston in 1968; he would return in late 1974, ending his 18 year career as a Pirate. 
  • 1967 - In a reliever swap, Pittsburgh dealt Dennis Ribant to the Detroit Tigers for Dave Wickersham. Both were near the end of their careers and while they had solid 1968 campaigns, they were out of the MLB following the 1969 season. 
  • 1972 - RHP Jose Parra was born in Jacagua, Dominican Republic. Parra got in pieces of five MLB campaigns, stopping in Pittsburgh for six games in 2000, going 0-1/6.94 as a reliever after working most of the year at AAA Nashville as part of the rotation. He could never quite figure out where to toss - beside his big league stops, he spent 11 years in the minors, four in Mexico, two in Japan and one in Korea before hurling his last pitch in 2005. 
  • 1988 - The Pirates sent UT Denny Gonzalez and SS Felix Fermin to the Cleveland Indians for SS Jay Bell. Gonzalez was the only player actually traded on the day of the deal. He was out of options and had to go to clear roster space for the returning RHP Bob Walk, who had inked a free-agent contract with the Bucs on the day before. Fermin and Bell were PTBNL, and weren’t officially named until March 25th. Bell solidified the SS spot for the Bucs, batting .269 over eight years and earning an All-Star and Gold Glove during that spell. Fermin started 4-of-5 years for the Tribe, hitting .256, while Gonzalez got into eight games in ‘89 to end his MLB career. 
Jay Bell 1993 Studio
  • 1989 - RHP Angel Sanchez was born in Tenares, Dominican Republic. He had a minor-league breakout in 2015, but it was followed by TJ surgery. He came back in 2017 and got his MLB baptism with a handful of games for the Bucs, giving up five homers in 12-⅓ IP but also whiffing 10. His 2017 birthday gift was his release: the Pirates seemed poised to give him another year to knock off the rust, but he got a $850K deal from the KBO’s SK Wyvern club and hopped the pond. 
  • 2012 - The Pirates acquired RHP Vin Mazzaro & 1B Clint Robinson from Kansas City in a waiver deal for two pitchers from the Dominican Summer League (Luis Rico & Luis Santos), also adding RHP Zach Stewart from Boston for a PTBNL (RHP Kyle Kaminska). Vin was a Pirate from 2013-14, with most of the second year spent at Indy, slashing 8-2-1/2.89 in 62 outings. His moment of glory was in 2013 against Milwaukee. After a rain delay, he set down all 15 batters he faced in order in a game that the Pirates eventually won in the 14th. Robinson never made it to PNC Park, claimed off waivers as a late cut at the end of camp by Toronto. Stewart was lost the same way. Two months after getting him, the Pirates tried to slip him through waivers for 40-man roster room, but were foiled by the White Sox.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

11/27 Birthdays Through the 1930’s: HBD Dave, Bullet Joe, Marty, Bill, Bob & Shamus

  • 1881 - 1B Jim “Shamus” (misspelled Irish for Seamus/James) Kane was born in Scranton. The big guy - he was 6’2”, 225 lb - got one stay in the show with the 1908 Pirates, hitting .241 in 166 PAs. Kane had a fair shot at the job as he was one of four different first basemen used that year along with Harry Swacina, Alan Storke and Warren Gill. None played more than 50 games, none hit better than .258 and they combined for 29 errors; Bill Abstein was brought in for 1909 though he proved perhaps more inept than any of the old gang. Jim, for all his bulk, only banged out six extra-base hits (no homers) and spent the next seven years in the Western League, playing for Omaha and Sioux City. 
Marty O'Toole 1913 Voskamp
  • 1888 - RHP Marty O’Toole was born in William Penn, Pennsylvania (Schuylkill County). A big time minor league ace, the Bucs bought him from St. Paul in 1911. In 1912, he pitched 37 games and 275 innings with a 15-17 record, 2.71 ERA and tied for the NL lead in shutouts with six. Alas, his arm was shot after that workload. He lasted just four seasons as a Pirate, from 1911-14 (his last MLB season), going 25-35/3.17. 
  • 1892 - RHP Leslie “Bullet Joe” Bush was born in Gull River, Minnesota. He spent two of his 17 MLB years in Pittsburgh (1926-27) posting a 7-8-3, 3.61 line. According to his SABR bio, his nickname came about in the minors when the local media began to call him Joe Bullet because of his excellent fastball. He became Bullet Joe after Philadelphia teammate Eddie Collins spied a letter in the clubhouse that was addressed to "Joe Bullet" Bush. He turned it around and nickname stuck for the rest of his baseball career. 
  • 1923 - LHP Bob Schultz was born in Louisville. The southpaw worked 11 seasons of organized ball beginning in 1946 with four stops in the majors although 1952 was the only full year he spent in the show. He tossed in Pittsburgh for 11 games in 1953 with an 0-2, 8.21 line. He got one more cup of coffee after that with Detroit in 1955 and retired at age 32 after the ‘61 campaign spent in Chattanooga of the Southern Association. 
  • 1937 - LHP Bill Short was born in Kingston, New York. Bill spent 16 years tossing pro ball and was a well-traveled lefty; he yo-yo’ed back and forth from the minors/majors in five of his six big league years while pitching for 14 different clubs. He got a taste in Pittsburgh in 1956, going 0-0-1, 3.86, in six outings while spending most of his time at AAA Columbus as a starter. Bill did good work in the upper minors - in 1959, he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher of the International League and was inducted into the IL Hall of Fame in 2009. 
Dave Giusti 1974 Pinback
  • 1939 - RHP Dave Giusti was born in Seneca Falls, New York. Giusti tossed 15 MLB seasons, with seven (1970-76) in Pittsburgh where the closer slashed 47-28-133/2.94, using the palmball as his out pitch. He led the NL with 30 saves in 1971, became the first pitcher to appear in every game of an NLCS and earned a WS save. He won the NL Fireman of the Year Award after the campaign, and after a couple of snubs was finally named an All-Star in 1973. Giusti also recorded the last out at Forbes Field in 1970 in the Pirates win over the Cubs during the park’s grand finale. After he retired, he remained an active Pirates alum and booster from his Upper St. Clair home.

11/27 From 1950: Kendall Trade; Walkie & Damaso Inked; RIP Nick & Buck; HBD Moose & Tim

  • 1954 - RHP Nick (Duffy) Maddox died of tuberculosis at Leech Farm Hospital in Lincoln-Lemington at the age of 68. Nick was a meteorite in the Pittsburgh pitching constellation, pitching just four years with one truly outstanding season, 1908 (23-8/2.28) and a slew of memorable performances. As a late season call-up in 1907, he won his first four starts, something no other Pirate would do until Gerrit Cole in 2013. His ERA was 0.83 and he only allowed 32 hits in 54 innings. In just his third major league start, he became the youngest pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter at 20 years & 10 months from the modern day distance, a mark he still holds. He took the ball in the 1909 World Series on a cold, wet, raw day and beat the Detroit Tigers despite a bad glove day by his teammates to earn the Bucs their only non-Babe Adams win. And that marked the end; he had started the year with a sore arm and had rehabbed it, but after that outing he never had a good wing to work with again. Manager Fred Clarke kept him around, perhaps in gratitude, for one more season and then Nick tended to his family in Millvale, working for Fort Pitt Brewery. 
Nick Maddox 1909-11 American Tobacco
  • 1961 - 1B Randy “Moose” (he was 6’1”, 230 lbs) Milligan was born in San Diego. He spent eight seasons in the show, notably with Baltimore. Moose hit .220 in 80 at bats for the Pirates after coming over as part of the Mackey Sasser deal with the Mets and then was moved to the O’s in a minor-league transaction after the year. 1994 was his last MLB season and Milligan is now an Orioles scout.   
  • 1969 - C Tim Laker was born in Encino, California. He spent 11 years as a reserve big league backstop (with 15 seasons in the minors, many being split campaigns). In 1998-99, he bounced between Pittsburgh and AAA Nashville. Tim hit well in 20 games with a .364 BA, mainly as a pinch hitter with some first base and catching outings. His last MLB appearance was in 2006, and since he’s managed and coached in the minors; Laker is now the hitting coach for Arizona. 
  • 1988 - The Pirates signed Bob Walk to a guaranteed three-year contract worth $2.5M after his 1988 All-Star campaign. “I’m thrilled,” the righty told Paul Meyer of the Post Gazette. “I got the length of contract I wanted from the team I wanted to play for. It’s kind of like winning the lottery.” The deal was a win for Walk, who was holding out for three years after the Bucs had reportedly offered him two years at $775K per season (Dave LaPoint also asked for three years and got it, but with the Yankees as the FO wouldn’t bend for him). Walkie went 29-17/4.00 over those three seasons and inked a two-year deal following that contract to finish out his Pirate career. 
  • 1997 - Buck Leonard passed away in Rocky Mount, North Carolina at the age of 90. He joined the Homestead Grays in 1934 and stayed there until his retirement in 1950. The team won nine league pennants in a row during that span with Leonard hitting cleanup behind Josh Gibson. He led the Negro leagues in batting average in 1948 with a mark of .395 and was one of the NL’s great power hitters, being called the "Black Lou Gehrig." He and Gibson were elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. 
Buck Leonard 1993 Ted Williams
  • 2004 - The Pirates traded two-time All-Star C Jason Kendall to the Athletics for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes as Pittsburgh wanted to unload the $34M contractually due to the catcher over the next three seasons. The Bucs flipped Rhodes to Cleveland for OF Matt Lawton two weeks later while Redman hurled one year at Pittsburgh before being dealt for Jonah Bayliss. Kendall went on to play eight more seasons with four other clubs, ending his career with 2,195 hits and a slash of .288/75/744. 
  • 2006 - The Bucs inked LHP Damaso Marte to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2009 worth $8.5M total over the three years ($4.75M guaranteed); the Yankees paid most of it when they traded for the lefty set-up man at the 2008 deadline.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Weekend Notes: Hot Stove, Winter Ball, Prospects on the Rise, Kelly to Houston

The Black Friday weekend news...

  • MLB Trade Rumors has the Sonny Gray grab bag down to five teams; the Pirates, once thought to be checking him out as a blue-light special, aren't among them.
  • Kevin Creagh of The Point of Pittsburgh posts that the Buc search for a lefty from the pen may have an answer at San Francisco. He likes ol' bud Tony Watson and Will Smith as affordable trade targets.
  • Blake Finney of the National's blog District on Deck posts that J-Hay is getting a look from Washington. Jon Morosi of tweets that Jordy is on the Tigers radar.
Jordy & Josh 2016 (photo Nam Huh/Associated Press)
  • Jonah Keri of CBS Sports looks at the Bucs and suggests a couple of  modest investments to better the club.
  • After some down time, C Elias Diaz and corner man Jose Osuna may suit up for some second-half winter ball, per John Dreker of Pirate Prospects.
  • Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs have put together their list of the Top 35 Buc Prospects. RHP Mitch Keller has company at the top and there are a couple of names you may not know on the rise. Good read with a lot of player reviews.
  • MLB Pipeline posts their list of the most likely suspects to be considered in the Rule 5 draft for each club. They think LHP Brandon Waddell is the Pirates prospect at most risk of being selected.
  • SS Cole Tucker is really hot after his AFL performance - Baseball America picked him as one of its Prospects on the Rise (behind a paywall) while's Mike Rosenbaum named him one of the Arizona League's breakout candidates. He also made the MLB Pipeline AFL All-Star team along with partner in crime 1B Will Craig.
Cole Tucker 2014 Bowman Sterling
  • The Houston Astros hired Don Kelly, born in Butler and a Mt. Lebanon HS/Point Park College alum who played nine seasons in the majors. He'll become the 'Stros 1B coach after serving as a Detroit Tiger scout. He started his big league career in 2007 with the hometown Bucs, then spent six years with the Tigers with his final pair of campaigns in Miami.

11/26: Drabek-Rhoden Deal; HBD Walkie, Gravedigger, Bob, Josh, Sparky, Charley, Joe, Howard, Bill & Gussie

  • 1873 - LHP James “Gussie” Gannon was born in Erie. Gussie spent his career in the minors at northern outposts like Buffalo, Rochester, Montreal and Ottawa with his only MLB shot coming in 1895 when he tossed five innings of one-run ball for the Bucs. But it all went for a good cause - his baseball paychecks helped Gannon’s son became a priest in Pittsburgh and helped to foot the bill for his nephew John’s education through the seminary. John later became the bishop of Erie and had Gannon University named after him. Not only did Gannon have friends in high places, but his collared relatives joined the unofficial clerical scouting web sustained by Philadelphia manager Connie Mack, who was Gussie’s skipper in Pittsburgh. 
  • 1897 - C Bill Warwick was born in Philadelphia. Bill played 23 MLB games over three years, getting his first taste of the show with Pittsburgh in 1921, catching two innings and going 0-for-1 as a 23-year-old. Warwick persevered in pro ball until 1929, when he took his last at bat for Waco in the Texas League. 
Howard Easterling (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1911 - 3B Howard Easterling was born in Mt. Olive, Mississippi. He played for 10 years in the Negro League, with his most productive years (1940-43, 1946) coming with the Homestead Grays where he hit .310+ three times, won three All-Star berths, and a NLWS. He also spent time in the Latin Leagues after the NL began to wane during integration. 
  • 1916 - OF/3B Bob Elliott was born in San Francisco. He spent eight seasons (1939-46) in Pittsburgh with a .292 BA, 124 OPS+ and three All-Star appearances. Traded during the 1946 off season to the Boston Braves, he became the NL MVP in 1947, helped in part by playing in a much more hitter-friendly field. Elliott was the second MLB third baseman to have five seasons of 100 RBI, joining Pie Traynor, and retired with the highest career slugging average (.440) of any NL third baseman. He also led the National League in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each, and ended his career among the NL leaders in games (8th, 1262), assists (7th, 2547), total chances (10th, 4113) and double plays (4th, 231) at third. In later years, he managed and coached in the minors, with a one year gig at the helm of the sad sack KC Athletics. 
  • 1922 - LHP Joe Muir was born in Oriole, Maryland. His MLB career consisted of the 1951-52 seasons when he worked 21 games for the Pirates, going 2-5/5.19 as a reliever and spot starter. Joe was a Marine before he joined pro ball, and after he hung up the spikes he became a Maryland State Trooper. 
  • 1924 - Pirates writer Charley Feeney was born in Queens. He began his writing career in 1946 as the New York Giants' beat man for the Long Island Star Journal, covering the team until 1963. He then followed the Yankees and Mets for the New York Journal American until the paper closed its doors. From 1966-86, he covered the Pirates as the correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was famous for calling everyone “Pally;” he could never keep anyone’s name straight. Feeney was the 1996 winner of the JG Taylor Spink Award. Charley died at the age of 89 in 2014. 
Sparky Adams 1928 (photo Conlon Collection/Getty)
  • 1929 - IF Earl “Sparky” Adams (he was 5’4-½” tall), who had been a key part of the 1927 Kiki Cuyler deal, was sold to the Cardinals. He hit .272 in his two seasons at Pittsburgh, but manager Jewel Ens told the Post Gazette that “Sparkie did not fit into the plans for next season.” Post Gazette sports editor Havey Boyle wrote that “Sparky Adams was one of those players that looked good far away but in a close up did not appear so attractive…(But) he still has a certain usefulness and possibly in St. Louis he will do better than he did in Pittsburgh.” He sure did. Sparky batted leadoff for the Cards in 1930-31, hitting .314 and .293, and St. Louis represented the NL in the World Series both seasons against the Philadelphia Athletics, winning it all in ‘31. Sparky is short for Spark Plug, which the diminutive infielder was by all accounts. 
  • 1947 - 3B Richie Hebner was born in Boston. The Gravedigger (his off season occupation) played 11 years (1968-76, 1982-83) for the Pirates, putting up a .277 BA and playing in five NLCS and the 1971 World Series. He left on a contentious note; after having his contract cut in 1976 after a poor year, he opted for free agency after the campaign. The Pirates GM Pete Peterson offered to match any deal Hebner received on the market, but the Gravedigger wanted out and signed with Philadelphia (other tales say Philly doubled Pittsburgh's on-the-table offer, which sounds a little more like it). He returned a few seasons later. 
  • 1956 - RHP Bob Walk was born in Van Nuys, California. He pitched a decade for the Pirates (1984-93) with an 82-61-5/3.83 ERA, won an All-Star berth in 1988 and compiled a 2-1 record in the postseason, capped by a three-hitter tossed against the Braves in 1992 to keep the Pirates alive in the NLCS. He’s known now as a Bucco broadcaster, with over 20 years in the booth.
Bob Walk via Root Sports
  • 1986 - In a pitcher swap, the Yankees dealt Doug Drabek, Brian Fisher, and Logan Easley to the Bucs for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Pat Clements. It took three days to complete the trade, until Rhoden agreed to a two-year/$1.5M contract extension with NY (as a 5 & 10 year man, he could veto the deal). The swap gave Jim Leyland his ace; Drabek went on to win the NL Cy Young in 1990 while posting a 92-62/3.02 Bucco slash in six seasons. 
  • 1988 - LHP Josh Smoker was born in Calhoun, Georgia. After working two years with the Mets, he signed with the Bucs as a minor league FA in 2018. Josh saw limited action with the big club (with good reason), giving up seven runs in 5-2/3 IP on 11 hits with five walks and just two whiffs. He was released, claimed by the Tigers, and is once again a free agent.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

11/25: Dickerson Deal; Simon Swap; Roberto Golden; HBD Jimmy, Frank, Big Jim, Ben, Jim, Cholly, Mike & Octavio

  • 1859 - OF Jimmy Woulfe was born in New Orleans. Woulfe was part of NOLA’s early wave of ballplayers, with six players from the Big Easy hitting the show (National League and the American & Union Associations) in 1884. It was Jimmy’s only MLB campaign, split between Cincinnati and the Alleghenys, as he hit .113 for Pittsburgh and .126 overall. The record book is light on him afterward; he returned to his home base and played for New Orlean’s oldest team, the RE Lee’s, the following season and then his stat sheet dries up. He did remain a hometown kid, passing away in the Crescent City in 1924. 
  • 1877 - RHP Frank Moore was born in Portsmouth, Ohio. He got one appearance in the show, tossing three scoreless innings for the Pirates in 1905, giving up two hits and fanning one. Moore played in the minors through 1912, twice winning 20+ games, and was later a minor league manager. 
Jim Weaver 1936 National Chicle Fine Point
  • 1903 - RHP Big Jim Weaver was born in Obion County, Tennessee. He spent the middle of his eight-year career in Pittsburgh (1935-37) posting a 36-21, 3.76 line, splitting his time between starting and the pen. Big Jim earned his nickname honestly: he was 6'6" and weighed 230 pounds (and that may be on the light side). 
  • 1922 - RHP Ben Wade was born in Morehead City, North Carolina. Ben closed out a five-year MLB stint in 1955 for the Pirates, getting into 11 games and going 0-1-1/3.21 after the Bucs swapped Lefty LaPalme for Wade with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wade also worked 16 seasons in the minor leagues. After his playing career ended at age 38, following his 1961 tour of duty with San Diego of the PCL, Wade spent 30 years as a scout and then director of scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. 
  • 1933 - RHP Jim Waugh was born in Lancaster, Ohio. His MLB career lasted just two seasons (1952-53), both with the Bucs, with a slash of 5-11/6.43. After getting his feet wet out of the pen, Waugh became youngest pitcher at age 18 to win a game in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates when he went the distance at Forbes Field in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs in August of 1952. It was the first start of his MLB career. Unfortunately, he had arm problems even then that eventually derailed his career.
  • 1934 - RHP Lazaro “Cholly” Naranjo was born in Havana, Cuba. Branch Rickey had him on the radar from an exhibition game and plucked him from the Senators organization in 1954. In 1956 he was called up with his eventual roomie, Bill Mazeroski, and put up a line of 1–2/4.46 in 34-⅓ IP (17 outings, three starts). However, he had a sore arm in the minors that he kept quiet as to not hurt his chances at a MLB gig, and it caught up to him. With that and a beef regarding his contract, he didn’t break camp with the team the next spring and had a so-so year. He went to Cincy organization in 1959 and finished in the Cub system in 1961. His nickname came from his grandmother who called him “Cholito,” a Latino term of endearment. Fun fact: while a member of the Senator’s system, he sat with President Eisenhower and his guests on Opening Day in 1954. Ike had thrown out the first pitch and Cholly’s job was to make sure the president and his party didn’t get bopped by a foul ball while in the railing seats. 
Cholly (photo via Sports Memorabilia)
  • 1941 - C Mike Ryan was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Mike closed out his 11-year MLB stay in 1974 with Pirates, getting into 17 games and going 3-for-30 (.100) after signing on as a FA during the off season. After his playing career, Ryan managed and coached in the Pirates & Phillies minor leagues from 1975-79, then coached for the Phillies for 16 seasons, from 1980 until 1995. 
  • 1972 - Roberto Clemente won his 12th straight Sporting News Golden Glove award, a string of recognition dating back to 1961. He and “Say Hey” Willie Mays are tied for the most GG’s earned by an outfielder with a dozen apiece. In his 2,433 games career, Roberto handled 5,102 chances with a .973 fielding %, threw out 266 runners and put fear of the Lord into countless others. He was such a versatile fielder that in 1956, he actually subbed at third base for a game and at second for two more. Clemente also played center field 63 times. 
  • 1973 - RHP Octavio Dotel was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Dotel tossed for 15 years in the show and got his last gig as closer in 2010 at age 37 for the Pirates after signing a FA deal for $3.25M. He went 2-2-21, 4.28 with 48 K in 40 IP and the Bucs flipped him to the Dodgers for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo. Dotel worked into the 2013 season and appeared in two WS after leaving the ‘Burg while J-Mac showed early promise before flaming out and Lambo couldn’t beat a series of injuries. 
  • 2002 - Detroit sent 1B Randall Simon to the Pirates for LHP Adrian Burnside and a player to be named later (RHP Roberto Novoa.) Novoa pitched three MLB seasons; Burnside went to Japan to play. Simon ended up better at swatting sausages (his “Sausagegate” escapade in Milwaukee cost him a $432.10 Milwaukee city fine for disorderly conduct while MLB suspended him for three games and fined him $2,000) than baseballs, hitting .245 with 13 HR in 152 games as a Bucco between 2003-04.
Jaff Decker (photo Pirates/
  • 2013 - In a prospects depth deal, the Bucs acquired OF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas from San Diego for 1B/OF Alex Dickerson. All three have since had cups of coffee in the show, with Dickerson on the verge of becoming an everyday player before he underwent back surgery in June of 2017; he’s now a free agent. Decker has gotten short stints in the show through 2017; he spent last season in AAA. Miles went to Japan for the 2015 season and came back loaded for MLB bear in 2018, winning 18 games for St. Louis.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

11/24 Birthdays Through the 1930’s: HBD Bob, Frank, Ed, Commy, Whitey & Curly

  • 1857 - C/OF Frank Smith was born in Fonthill, Ontario. Not much is written about Frank; he played from August through October in 1884 for the Alleghenys, hitting .250 in 10 games after arriving from the Northwest League’s Saginaw Greys as a 26-year-old. Afterward, he put in at least a season in the minors, later living in Canandaigua, New York until he passed on at the age of 70. 
Ed Doheny via Vermont Historical Society
  • 1873 - LHP Ed Doheny was born in in Northfield, Vermont. Ed spent the last three seasons of his nine-year career with the Pirates (1901-03) posting a line of 38-14/2.35. After a mediocre beginning of his career with the NY Giants, Doheny was reaching his prime with the Pirates, but it wasn’t to be. He began exhibiting signs of paranoia in 1903. The team granted him a rest leave, and he returned, but so did the problems. He was sent home for care, missing the 1903 World Series (and as part of the three man rotation, possibly costing the team the championship) where he became violent and was eventually committed to an institution where he died 13 years later. 
  • 1890 - RHP Ralph “Commy” Comstock was born in Sylvania, Ohio (maybe; the year and place of birth vary by source). Ralph tossed in Pittsburgh twice, for the Federal League Rebels in 1915 (3-3/3.25) and the Pirates in 1918 (5-6/3.00). Frank won 11 games in three big-league seasons, but the guy was sure popular. He played for four major league clubs and nine farm teams in nine years of organized ball, playing for multiple nines in five of his campaigns - and that doesn’t include his semi-pro outings in local leagues. But the lifestyle finally got to him, and he retired from pro ball after the 1918 season and went to work in the insurance business in Toledo. 
  • 1890 - SS Harry “Whitey” (he was blonde) Wolfe was born in Worchester, Massachusetts. Whitey started his career with a four-year stint with the indie Northern League feeder Duluth White Sox before being called up by the Cubs in 1917. That would be his career year; he got into seven games with Chicago and was sold to the Pirates, where he got into three more games, going 0-for-5 with four whiffs and a walk. The Bucs optioned him to Richmond - beside the weak start, Wolfe didn’t like Pittsburgh as a destination - but he jumped back to his old indie league to finish the 1917 season with Hibbing, which outbid his old Duluth squad. After serving in the military, he played indie ball for a few more seasons before retiring to Huntington, Indiana to the life of a bartender. 
  • 1930 - RHP Bob Friend was born in Lafayette, Indiana. A three-time All-Star pitcher for the Pirates, he averaged 232 IP and 13 victories for some of the worst teams in baseball. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Friend became the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA while pitching for a last-place team. He led the NL in victories once, innings pitched twice, games started three times, and WAR for pitchers twice, going 191-218/3.55 in 15 years (1951-65) as a Buc. He also was active in local Republican politics after his career, serving as controller of Allegheny County from 1967 to 1975 and as a three-time convention delegate. 
Curly Cornett 1995 Fritsch
  • 1932 - Betty Jane “Curly” Cornett was born in the Spring Hill section of North Side. Growing up, she attended St. Ambrose, St. Mary's, Latimer and Allegheny schools while competing at the Cowley Rec Center on Troy Hill. The tomboy played softball locally before trying out for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. After attending rookie camp in 1949, Betty Jane played first (she got to pitch a couple of times, but gave up 10 runs in eight innings) for the Rockford Peaches, and then toured with the Springfield Sallies (1950), Kalamazoo Lassies (1951), and Battle Creek Belles (1951), even playing memorably once at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, she didn’t hit like the Babe, but put up a paltry .183 BA in her two seasons. She came back home, waited for her five-year professional status to expire and went back to local amateur softball. Her nickname? She got caught in the rain while at AAGPBL training camp, and her hair got soaked and dropped straight down over her face. Her teammates took one look at her Cher-like do and dubbed her Curly.

11/24 From 1960: Cecilio Signed; Zachster Traded; Million Dollar Arms; HBD Al, Mike & Kelvin

  • 1967 - OF Al Martin was born in West Covina, California. Martin played eight years (1992-99) for Pittsburgh, hitting .280 with 107 HR and 485 RBI. His best season was 1996, when he hit .300 with 18 HR, 72 RBI and 38 stolen bases. In Pittsburgh, he was backed by “Al’s Army,” donated thousands of tickets to various groups and even met fans at the turnstiles before the game. After his Pirate years, though, he was beset with a string of bizarre personal problems, tarnishing his image as a Bucco good guy.
Al Martin 1998 Pacific Aurora
  • 1976 - Utilityman Mike Edwards was born in Goshen, New York. Mike closed out his three-year, 106 game MLB career with the Pirates in 2006, hitting .188 with 18 at-bats after being signed to an off season minor-league deal and spending most of the year at Indianapolis. 
  • 1979 - The Pirates signed RHP Cecilio Guante, a member of the silver medal-winning Dominican Republic of the Pan American Games. The then 22-year-old reliever made his debut in 1982 and slashed a solid 13-17-20/3.08 in five years with Pittsburgh. He was sent to the Yankees in 1986 as part of the Doug Drabek trade and worked for them, the Rangers and Indians through 1990. 
  • 1987 - LHP Kelvin Marte was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He spend nearly a decade working his way through the Giants system when the Pirates signed him to a minor league deal in 2016. He got his only MLB action for the Bucs, spinning the ball for two outings with no decisions and a perfect ERA. That is a little misleading though - his FIP was 12.15 as he gave up five unearned runs in 3-⅓ IP thanks to an error and back-to-back two-out homers. 
  • 2008 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to sign players from India when they inked pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, winners of a reality show called "The Million Dollar Arm Hunt." Patel was cut in 2010 and returned home, but Singh made it to A ball before a rash of arm injuries; he tossed one inning between 2013-16 and returned to India, where he’s become a WWE wrestler. Their story was made into a Disney movie called (what else?) “Million Dollar Arm.” 
Singh/Patel - The Million Dollar Arms 2009 (photo: Getty Images)
  • 2010 - After six years as a Pirate, Pittsburgh traded LHP Zach Duke (45-70, 4.54) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a PTBNL, RHP Cesar Valdez. Duke’s 2005 rookie year saw him post an 8-2/1.81 slash and he made the All-Star team in 2009, but never put up an ERA south of four after his first campaign. Zach reinvented himself as a LOOGY after leaving town and resurrected his career as a bullpen specialist before having elbow surgery in 2016, returning to action the following campaign. He's a free agent now. Valdez tossed creditably at Indy in 2011 before departing for the Latin leagues.

Friday, November 23, 2018

11/23 Through the 1940’s: USO Trippers; HBD Chief, SIlver Fox, Bubber, Grady & El Tiante

  • 1860 - C Charles “Chief” Zimmer was born in Marietta, Ohio. Zimmer was known as a great defensive catcher and spent 1900-02 as a Pirate toward the end of his 19-year career (he finished in 1903 as the player-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics). He hit .262 as a Bucco, catching 193 games between the ages of 39-41. Zimmer was also the first president of the Players' Protective Association and was one of the early athletes to endorse products with his name. Chief ran a cigar business (Zimmer’s Cigars) that he pushed during the season and designed "Zimmer's Baseball Game," a sort of pinball machine that was a thing during the early-to-middle 1890s. His nickname came from his minor league days. Zimmer was the captain of the Poughkeepsie Indians team and so was dubbed “Chief” by the press.
Chief Zimmer Baseball Game (via McLoughlin Brothers)
  • 1894 - LHP Jesse “The Silver Fox” Petty was born in Orr, Oklahoma. He was a Bucco for two years, 1929-30, going 12-16/4.55. He was sold to the Cubs during his second Pittsburgh campaign, and after the season, his seven-year MLB career was concluded. Jesse started his baseball days late - he served during WW1, predating pro ball, as a combat dispatch rider, not a position for the faint of heart. Jesse was known as “The Silver Fox” because he didn't earn a full-time big-league roster spot until he was 30 years old.
  • 1897 - C Clarence “Bubber” Jonnard was born in Nashville. He and his twin brother Claude, were both major leaguers and both went by “bubber” in their younger days (Claude was an hour older, so he was the big bubber, or brother, and Clarence was the little bubber. Claude lost the nickname as he got older; Clarence went by Bubber all his life.) Bubber spent parts of six seasons in the show, with a brief stop in Pittsburgh in 1922, hitting .238 after 21 at-bats. After closing out his career in the minors, Bubber also managed for the Dallas Steers, the Milford Giants, and in 1944 was the manager of the Minneapolis Millerettes in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. He was a coach for the New York Giants, became a scout for the team, and bird-dogged for the Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Mets. Double trouble: Claude and Clarence were minor league teammates on the Nashville squad in 1920-1921 and the twins often formed the Vols battery. Both were called “Bubber” then, with Claude being “Pitching Bubber” and Clarence “Catching Bubber.”
  • 1922 - SS Grady Wilson was born in Columbus, Georgia. His MLB resumes consists of 12 games played for the Pirates in 1948 after he returned from the service, going 1-for-10 with a double and run scored. But the sport kept him busy - he played in the minors for 14 years from 1946–59, and then served as a farm manager until 1966.
Luis Tiant 1982 Topps
  • 1941 - RHP Luis Tiant was born in Marianao, Cuba. El Tiante tossed for 19 years and his penultimate season was 1981 with the Bucs, where he went 0-2/3.92 in nine starts after being recalled from AAA Portland in August. Luis won 229 games in his career and belongs to the Boston Red Sox, Venezuelan, and Hispanic Heritage Baseball Halls of Fame.
  • 1944 - The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including Rip Sewell and Paul Waner. Rip was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons for the Bucs, notching 21 wins each campaign with his notorious eephus pitch. Big Poison was at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Yankees; he ended his tenure in the bigs quietly the following year, batting once more before hanging the spikes up for good. Dixie Walker was also aboard; he would play for the Pirates in 1948-49.

11/23 From 1960: Danny Retires; Clemente Nominated; Goose Goes; Cam Goes Fishing; White Hired; HBD Dale, Rich & Jose

  • 1963 - IF Dale Sveum was born in Richmond, California. Dale played for the Bucs in 1996-97 and closed out his 12 year career when he returned in 1999. He hit .260 for Pittsburgh and played every infield position. After he closed out the book on his playing days, he managed/coached for Pittsburgh, Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago and Kansas City. 
Dale Sveum (photo Tom Mihalek/Getty)
  • 1963 - LHP Rich Sauveur was born in Arlington, Virginia. Sauveur played in parts of six seasons in the majors with six clubs. The Pirates 11th round draft pick in 1983, he debuted with three 1986 starts for them, getting no decisions with a 6.00 ERA. The southpaw pitched 43 innings in his big league career in 34 outings and never won a game (in fairness, he only wore one loss). He did have an 18-year minor league career and has been a minor-league pitching coach since 2003. Fun fact: Rich holds the record for the most clubs pitched for without a win. 
  • 1964 - OF Jose Gonzalez was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. He came to Pittsburgh briefly in 1991 after starting the year with LA, his seventh as a Dodger, after a July deal for Mitch Webster. He went 2-for-20 and in August was waived to the Indians. Jose had one big league campaign left after that, finishing his career with California. 
  • 1971 - Danny Murtaugh retired as manager because of health reasons after winning the 1971 World Series, and Bill Virdon was named as his replacement. The Quail led the Pirates to 96 wins and the 1972 NL East title, but a 67-69 performance the following season cost him his job. The Irishman, who had stayed with the organization as a scout and trouble-shooter, returned in late 1973 for another stint as skipper. Virdon moved on to skipper the Yankees for two years, the Astros for eight more (with two pennants) and closed out as the Expo’s field general for two more seasons. He’s now a special instructor for the Pirates. Bill had the oddball distinction of having been replaced twice by the manager he replaced, bookended by Murtaugh in Pittsburgh and Jim Fanning in Montreal. Virdon was dubbed The Quail by announcer Bob Prince because Bill dropped so many hits just beyond the infield but in front of the outfielders, a soft hit known in that era as a dying quail for the way it fluttered to the ground. 
The Quail Replaced the Whistlin' Irishman (photo Teenie Harris)
  • 1971 - Roberto Clemente was the runaway October nominee for the Hickok Award after winning the World Series MVP, qualifying him for the big enchilada, the annual Hickok Belt awarded to the top pro athlete of the year. The Great One didn’t make the final cut, though - the 1971 winner was golfer Lee Trevino.  
  • 1977 - The New York Yankees signed Rich “Goose” Gossage to a six-year contract worth $3.6M. Gossage saved 26 games for the Pirates in 1977, but the Bucs never made a serious offer for him to return, though by most accounts, Goose liked the City, the team & Chuck Tanner (when Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest) and had hoped for some local love. He did get a reported multi-year offer from the Bucs but the salary was not in the bidding ballpark, so he took the Yankees’ money, turning down a larger & longer offer from Ted Turner's Atlanta Braves, per the papers. There are a couple of stories as to his moniker; one is that White Sox teammate (and roomie) Tom Bradley gave it to him for the way he craned his neck while getting a sign from the catcher; the other is that it’s just a play on Gossage. 
  • 1998 - GM Cam Bonifay met with 33-year-old free agent BJ Surhoff for dinner and contract talk at The LeMont, along with owner Kevin McClatchy and manager Gene Lamont. The Bucs wanted the vet to man the hot corner and offered him a guaranteed deal reported to be for four years/$16M dollars. Alas, a couple of weeks later Surhoff re-signed with the Orioles, accepting a three-year contract worth $14M with an option year salary of $4.5M if exercised. He had an All-Star year in ‘99 (.308 BA/28 HR/107 RBI) and went on to play through his 40th birthday, retiring after the 2005 campaign, so age didn’t end up an issue for BJ, who hit .291 over his final seven seasons. The Pirates FO was busy on another front, hiring Brookline native and South Hills Catholic grad Mickey White away from Tampa Bay to become the Bucs’ scouting director.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Notes: 40-Man Set; Tanner Traded; Hot Stove Ember; Draft #; HoF; Holiday Giving; Ol' Bucs Shuffle

An appetizer before the turkey is front and center...

  • A hot stove spark: Jason Rollison of Bucs Dugout reports that the Bucs have been sniffing around FA OF'er Lonnie Chisenhall, a good stick with an injury history. He's played just 111 games in the past two years for the Tribe with a recurring calf injury, albeit with a .297 BA and 127 OPS+. The Pirates drafted him out of high school in 2006; he went to college instead and it paid off as he was the #1 pick of Cleveland two years later. Jason considers him a "...perfect fit on a short-term low $ deal to rebuild value after two injury-plagued seasons." So we'll see... He adds that Brandon Guyer is also in shake-the-box mode. In seven years with Tampa Bay and the Tribe, he's hit .250 with a 100 OPS+, making him perfectly average.
Tanner is off to the coast (photo via ESPN)
  • The Oakland A’s picked up RHP Tanner Anderson from the Bucs for a PTBNL or cash. Tanner, 26, went 1-0/6.35 for the Pirates in 11-1/3 IP and cleared out an extra 40-man roster spot. The club needed it as they chose RHP's Mitch Keller & JT Brubaker, SS Cole Tucker, and OF Jason Martin as protected players. The first three were pretty much shoo-ins; Martin was iffy but a strong second half at Indy may have tilted the scales. The three players left on the outside looking in : C Christian Kelley, LHP Brandon Waddell and RHP Tyler Eppler; the other prospects are long shots to draw interest. 
  • Josh Harrison may be on the way out, but he and wife Brittney are leaving something behind. Actually, quite a lot - they donated their Pittsburgh crib's furnishings to the Light of Life shelter.
  • The Bucs will have five of the Top 100 picks in this year's amateur draft. John Dreker of Pirates Prospects has the details.
  • The Pirates have reportedly hired Jacob Cruz, the Cubs minor league hitting coordinator, as the assistant hitting coach. He was the D-Back's hitting coach through the levels before joining Chicago. He got at-bats over nine MLB years with five different teams, and put in time playing in Japan and Mexico before coaching. Now if he can bring Baez, Bryant and Rizzo with him...
  • The HoF ballots are out. The only two Pittsburgh connections who are up for a vote are OF's Jason Bay and Barry Bonds.
  • Over the weekend, a group of Pirates that included Fran Cervelli, Chris Archer and now-front-office guy Mike Gonzalez were joined by ex-Bucco OF'er Danny Ortiz, Red Sox Ramon Vazquez and the Royals Jorge Lopez on a visit to Cayey, Puerto Rico. They had clinics for the kids, left some loot for a youth complex and handed out Thanksgiving turkeys, with the purpose to show that the Pirates and Puerto Rico are something special together.
Hey hey Cayay (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Utility guy Chris Bostick, who the Bucs lost to the Marlins last year, was signed to a minor league deal by the Orioles.
  • RHP Colten Brewer, 26, who the Pirates gave up in the 2016 Rule 5 draft, was traded to the BoSox by the SD Padres. 
  • RHP Trey Supak, 22, who was sent to the Brew Crew in 2015 along with Keon Broxton for Jason Rogers, was placed on Milwaukee's 40-man roster. 
  • LHP Taylor Hearn was added to Texas roster; he was part of the Keone Kela trade. RHP Edinson Volquez, who sat out 2018 after TJ surgery, was also protected by the Rangers. He had signed a minor-league deal with them while he recovered last season.

11/22: Gooble Gooble - Bucs Draft Roberto; Weaver-French Deal; Quail Retires; HBD Walt, Dick, John & Mike

  • 1901 - RHP Walt Tauscher was born in LaSalle, Illinois. Walt only got 23 big league appearances spread out over two seasons, 16 of them with the Pirates in 1928, earning a save and tossing to a 4.91 ERA. But Tauscher was a baseball lifer, per Wikipedia: he pitched 23 seasons in the minor leagues as both a starter and a reliever, going 263-200 in 867 games. He reached the 15-win mark seven times and the 20-win mark twice, winning a career-high 21 games in 1934. Tauscher spent 13 of his 23 seasons playing in the American Association, spending nine years with the Minneapolis Millers. Walt managed Pirates farm clubs from 1947-51 and led the Tallahassee Pirates to a Georgia-Florida League championship in 1950. He didn’t shuffle off to the locker room in the sky until he was 91. 
Dick Bartell 1935 Diamond Stars
  • 1907 - IF Dick Bartell was born in Chicago. He began his 18-year MLB career with Pittsburgh (1927-30) and hit .301 as a Bucco before being traded to the Phillies after butting heads with Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss; his nickname was “Rowdy Richard” because of his aggressive play and jousts with management (in fact, he selected that moniker as the title of his autobiography). He added 14 more seasons to his resume afterward, missing a couple of years during WW2, and made a pair of All-Star teams. 
  • 1934 - The Pirates acquired righties Guy Bush & Big Jim Weaver (he was 6’6”), along with 1B/OF Babe Herman, from the Cubs for LHP Larry French and OF Fred Lindstrom. French ended up the main man; he pitched seven years for Chicago, winning 95 games, while Weaver was a Buc for three seasons and won 36 contests before being sold to St. Louis. Lindstrom hit .272 during his last two MLB seasons on his road to Cooperstown. 
  • 1947 - RHP John Morlan was born in Columbus, Ohio. John spent two years with the Bucs, going 2-5, 4.16 from 1973-74. He was a two-sport athlete in high school, turning down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and instead going to Ohio U. where he could play baseball. He was drafted four times but wanted to get his sheepskin. After graduating with a teaching degree in 1969, John finally signed with the Pirates (he was their first round pick that year, chosen fifth overall), teaching school during the off-season. He planned well to have that fall back position; after his Bucco stint, he spent three more years in the minors before leaving pro ball. 
  • 1954 - The Pirates, with the first pick, selected Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft, signing him to a $20,000 bonus and sending $4,000 to Brooklyn based on the recommendation of scout Clyde Sukeforth. It was money well spent for a Hall-of-Fame player with 3,000 hits, four batting titles, 15 All-Star games and 12 Golden Glove awards during his Pittsburgh career. The reason he was eligible for the draft was that the Dodgers had signed him to a $10,000 bonus in February, and by the rules of the day either had to carry him for the season on their major league roster or expose him to the draft. The rolled the dice on the latter and lost. 
Bill Virdon 1994 Upper Deck
  • 1965 - CF Bill Virdon was officially released after retiring from the Bucs to begin his managing career in the Mets system.The Quail held down center field in the spacious Forbes Field for a decade after coming over from the Cards in 1956, winning a Golden Glove and batting .266 from the one-two hole. He retirement was a bit premature; he actually got into six more games in 1968 while coaching for Larry Shepard. Virdon managed the Bucs in 1971-73, winning a division title, and later coached off-and-on during the Jim Leyland era. Bill still lends a veteran hand during camp for the Pirates. 
  • 1965 - IF Mike Benjamin was born in Euclid, Ohio. He spent from 1999-2002 with Pittsburgh (missing 2001 due to injury), playing every infield position while batting .239. Mike ended his 13-year MLB run after the 2002 campaign. Oddly, the light-hitting glove guy tied the major league record for most hits in two consecutive games with 10, set a major league record for most hits in three consecutive games with 14, and tied another record for most hits in four consecutive games with 15 in 1995, pretty heady stuff for a player with a .229 lifetime BA.