Monday, November 12, 2018

11/12: Cervy Deal; Japanese Tourists; Clint MoY,Cutch SS; Twin Bill Blues; RIP Doc; HBD Ground Chuck & Dave

  • 1916 - The Pittsburgh Press’ Ernest Lanigan wrote “No one knows who invented doubleheaders, the gentleman who did so refusing to step up...and claim the dubious honor. Jimmy Callahan, the Pirates field boss, would like to meet the person responsible...” His Pirates were swamped by bargain baseball, partaking in 34 twin bills during 1916, almost 45% of the schedule, with just 14 at Forbes Field, and finishing a dismal 27-39-2 playing them. “Barney’s Buccaneers” weren’t very good in any mode, it should be noted - they were only a smidge better at 38-50 in single game matchups that year.  
Vet Bo visited Japan after the war - 1952 Topps
  • 1951 - It was announced that five players who were part of a 15-game American-Japanese Goodwill Baseball Tour would spend two days in Korea with the troops during the week before heading home. One of the players selected was Pirates infielder George Strickland (P Bill Werle was also part of the US team). Bo was no stranger to the military life, as he had served in the South Pacific with the Navy from 1944-46. The tour, led by Lefty O’Doul, was the first of six by the MLB between 1951-58 and helped find common ground between the two WW2 foes. O’Doul had led an earlier 1949 tour, at the request of General MacArthur, with the San Francisco Seals players from the Pacific Coast League. 
  • 1964 - LHP Dave Otto was born in Chicago. He worked parts of eight seasons in the show with a stop at Pittsburgh in 1993, going 3-4/5.03 in 28 outings. Dave was 6’7,” two-sport star (hoops & baseball) at the U of Missouri and a member of the University’s Sports Hall of Fame. Since his retirement, he’s been a sports announcer in Chicago. 
  • 1967 - Doctor Charles Jorgensen passed away. “Doc” was the Pirates trainer for 30 years until he retired in 1958, working under nine field managers (Jewel Ens, George Gibson, Pie Traynor, Frankie Frisch, Billy Herman, Bill Meyer, Fred Haney, Bobby Bragan and Danny Murtaugh) and four team presidents (Barney Dreyfuss, Bill Benswanger, Frank McKinney and John Galbreath) during his three-decade stint as the Bucs’ main medico. 
Ground Chuck 2013 Topps Emerald Update
  • 1983 - RHP Charlie Morton was born in Flemington, New Jersey. The promising righty came to Pittsburgh in 2009 as part of the Nate McLouth trade with Atlanta. Despite excellent stuff (he earned the nickname "Ground Chuck" for his ground ball deliveries), Morton was in-and-out of the rotation because of various injuries and spotty performances, going 41-62, 4.39 over seven seasons. He was traded to the Phils, but was put out of action early in the campaign with a torn hamstring. Charlie did find a boost going to the Astros in 2017, going more with his hard stuff to become a rotation mainstay (well, except for that six-week trip to the DL…) and then tossed like Mr. October of the slab set with Game Seven wins for Houston in the ALCS and WS. He went 15-3/3.13 in 2018, with one forgettable postseason start and is now a free agent. 
  • 2013 - Clint Hurdle, who guided the Pirates to their first winning record in 21 years and to the NLDS, was named the NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Clint was the first Pirates manager to win the award since Jim Leyland in 1992 and he did it easily by winning on 25 of the 30 ballots cast, leaving the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly and the Braves' Fredi Gonzalez in the dust. New Brighton’s Terry Francona won the AL honor. 
  • 2014 - LHP Justin Wilson was traded to the New York Yankees for C Francisco Cervelli. It marked the third straight offseason that the Bucs took on a Yankee catcher, signing FA Russ Martin for the 2013-14 seasons and acquiring Chris Stewart for the 2014 campaign. Fran had a pair of strong campaigns, and the Bucs signed him to a three-year, $31M extension in 2016. Wilson got a lot of work, too, appearing 205 times in three seasons with the Yankees, Tigers and Cubs. 
The Shark went East, too - 2016 Stadium Club
  • 2014 - MLB sent a squad overseas to open a 10-day, five-game Japanese All-Star series, the first since 2006. Mark Melancon represented the Pirates, along with ex-Bucs Jose Veras, Eric Katz and Justin Morneau. The team played five games in Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo, with exhibitions in Koshien and Okinawa. For The Shark, it was just another goodwill trip in a long string of overseas MLB ventures. He had represented baseball in camps held in South Africa, Taiwan, China, New Zealand and Australia in the past. 
  • 2015 - Andrew McCutchen became the first Bucco to win four Silver Slugger awards, breaking a logjam with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Rick Rhoden, each of whom took home three trophies (Bonds & Rhoden consecutively). It was the fourth straight year he took the honor, hitting .292 with 23 HRs and 96 RBI in 2015 after falling below the Mendoza Line by the end of April.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

11/11 Through the 1920’s: Brodie Deal; HBD Rabbit, Pie, Art, George, Lee, Joe & Charlie

  • 1853 - IF Joe Battin was born in West Bradford, in Chester County, although some cite Philadelphia as his birthplace. Contrary to his name, Joe was a good glove, bad bat guy who spent 10 years in a variety of major leagues - the National Association, National League, American Association, and the Union Association. He was with the Allegheny from 1882-84, batting .215 and serving briefly as a player/manager for a smidgen of the 1883 and ‘84 campaigns, going 8-18. His career highlight was taking part of the 1874 tour of the UK and France by the Philadelphia Athletics & Boston Red Stockings. The Americans not only introduced the Euros to baseball, but also were booked for several cricket matches. 
  • 1870 - RHP Charlie Hastings was born in Ironton, Ohio. Working mostly as a fourth starter in the days when two or three were the norm, he put up a 11-14-1 record with a 4.51 ERA between 1896-98, appearing in 67 games (45 starts) for Pittsburgh. Charlie played through the 1904 season before spending a few seasons as an ump. He then retired to Parkersburg, WV, where he collected bridge tolls for a living before passing away in 1934. 
Rabbit 1924 (photo Conlon Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1891 - IF Walter “Rabbit” Maranville was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Hall of Famer spent four (1921-24) of his 23 big league seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .283 during his stay. In 1922, he led the league with 746 PA and 672 AB, scoring 115 times. There are a couple of tales regarding the origin of his nickname. One is that he earned it because of his big ears. He begged to differ, claiming that the young sister of a friend came up with it after watching him bounce around like a bunny on the field. 
  • 1896 - CF Jake Stenzel was traded along with bench players RHP Elmer Horton, OF Tom O'Brien and IF Harry Truby to the Baltimore Orioles for CF Steve Brodie and 3B Jim Donnelly. Stenzel, who had a .360 BA over five years with the Bucs, hit .353 with 116 RBI for the O’s in 1897. Brodie was released after 1-1/2 years in Pittsburgh (.283 BA) and Donnelly only lasted one season (.193 BA). Brodie was re-signed by Baltimore after the Bucs let him go and hit .308 for them through 1899, and in a bit of circle dancing replaced Stenzel, who was traded to the St. Louis Browns after his big 1897 season. 
  • 1898 - Harold “Pie” Traynor was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. The Hall of Fame 3B played 17 seasons (1920-35, 1937) for the Pirates with a career .320 BA. He hit over .300 ten times, had over 100 RBI in a season seven times, and was considered the top third baseman of his era. The ensuing local generations may remember him for his “Studio Wrestling” promos, when he touted American Heating with his “Who Can? Ameri-Can!” line. Traynor became a scout for the Pirates when his career ended (he held that post for the rest of his life) and hosted a radio program six days a week for 20 years on KQV called "The Pie Traynor Club" where he talked baseball with local kids. Pie passed away in 1972 and is buried in Homewood Cemetery. There are several stories involving his nickname. A couple revolve around his love of pie when he was a kid, with another explaining that his round puss made him look "pie-faced." Dave Finoli, in his “Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia (second edition),” adds another contender, writing that Traynor as a youth came home covered in dirt after a day at play, and was told by his dad that he was “...as dark as a pied pipe.”
Art McKennan (photo via SABR)
  • 1906 - Announcer Art McKennan was born in Oakland. Starting out as a Forbes Field errand boy, he did odd jobs around the park, working his way up to bat boy and scoreboard runner. Art got a job in the real world and continued on as an usher. He couldn’t keep that gig, though - in 1930, he was diagnosed with polio. But it didn’t stop him. Art was the voice of the Pirates at Forbes Field from 1948 until it closed, and then at TRS until 1987 (he did Sunday games after that until 1993). He also had stints with the Penguins, Pitt football and Duquesne hoops along with a 30-year career in Pittsburgh’s Parks Department. He died in 1996 at the age of 89. 
  • 1906 - Scout George Detore was born in Utica, New York. The infielder played in 33 games over two years for the Indians before getting into coaching and scouting. He served on Danny Murtaugh's MLB coaching staff during 1959 season, taking the place of Jimmy Dykes when he left the Pirates to become the manager of the Detroit Tigers. Detore joined Pittsburgh in 1950 as a minor league coach, then later as a New York based scout/scouting supervisor, serving in that role from 1955–58, 60-63 and once again from in 69–86. 
  • 1923 - LHP Lee Howard was born on Staten Island. Lee had a brief MLB career consisting of five Bucs games (16 IP) tossed in 1946-47 with an 0-1/2.25 slash. Howard was signed by the Bucs in 1942, but a three-year stint in the Navy (he served in the Pacific Theater) delayed his big league arrival. He spent 1948-49 in the minors, but after giving up 10+ hits and nearly six walks per nine while compiling an ERA of 5.93, he hung up the spikes.

11/11 From 1950: Martin Signed; Draft Dodgers; HBD Grilled Cheese, Roberto, Bob, Scott, Rey, JR & Kyle

  • 1954 - RHP Bob Long was born in Jasper, Tennessee. Bob didn’t have much of a big league career, but he still did pretty well for himself as a 24th round draft pick in 1976 by working 12 pro seasons. He got a brief look with the Bucs in 1981 with a 1-2/5.95 line in five outings (three starts) and then had a solid season at Seattle in 1985, appearing in 28 games and posting a 3.76 ERA. He couldn’t break the AAA barrier after that and pitched through the 1987 campaign before retiring from active duty. 
  • 1956 - OF Scott Loucks was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Loucks finished his five-year, 73-game MLB career in Pittsburgh, going 2-for-7 with two walks in four 1985 contests after being signed as a free agent from the Houston organization. He spent most of the year at AAA Hawaii, the last of his nine minor league campaigns, and retired at age 28. 
Rey Quinones 1989 Topps Traded
  • 1963 - SS Rey Quinones was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Rey got parts of four MLB seasons under his belt, closing it out in 1989 with the Pirates, hitting .209 in 71 games. The Pirates got him & Bill Wilkinson from Seattle in late April for Mike Dunne, Mike Walker, and Mark Merchant. Quinones was released in July; no one in the deal ever made much noise in the show. 
  • 1964 - RHP Roberto Hernandez was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He tossed for 17 seasons and appeared in over 1,000 games. He made a 2006 pit stop in the Steel City as an FA in his next-to-last campaign and was pretty strong for a 42-year-old, going 0-3-2/2.93 in 46 outings. The Bucs flipped him to the Mets at the deadline with Ollie Perez to pick up Xavier Nady. 
  • 1976 - RHP Jason Grilli was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. After signing with Pittsburgh as a minor league FA in 2011 out of the Phil’s system, the vet known as “Grilled Cheese” reinvented himself as a back-end reliever, serving as Joel Hanrahan’s set-up man before taking the closer reins in 2013 and winning an All-Star berth. In 2014, he was sent to Angels after putting up a 3-11-47 record during his stint with the Bucs with a 3.01 ERA and 12.4 K per nine innings. He’s since been with Atlanta, Toronto & Texas, and sat out 2018. His moniker is based on his name, a fondness for the sandwiches and probably a little bit because of his favorite pitch, the cheese (a fastball). At any rate, he's adopted the persona well with his twitter handle of @grilledcheese49, a ballpark grilled cheese sandwich named "The Closer" and several community/fun events built around the gooey snack. 
  • 1979 - C JR (James Rodger) House was born in Charleston, West Virginia. A fifth round pick from Seabreeze HS in 1999, JR was in the Bucco system for six years, catching three games from 2003-04 and going 2-for-10. He went on to play in Houston and Baltimore and is now a minor-league manager for Arizona. 
Kyle McPherson 2013 Topps
  • 1987 - RHP Kyle McPherson was born in Creola, Alabama. Kyle, who was a 14th-round draft pick in 2007, was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, and made his MLB debut in 2012, going 0-2 but with a solid 2.73 ERA and 1.177 WHIP. He underwent TJ surgery the following season and never regained his form, being released by the Pirates after the 2014 season and by Tampa Bay in 2016. 
  • 1991 - OF Al Martin was signed as a minor-league free agent after serving six years in the Atlanta system. He was called up from AAA Buffalo for a cup of coffee in 1992 and remained a Bucco through the 1999 season, batting .280 mainly as a left fielder during that time. Martin played for three more years for San Diego, Seattle and Tampa Bay before spending a season in Korea and calling it quits. 
  • 1997 - The Pirates announced their 15-man protected list for the following week’s expansion draft by Tampa Bay and Arizona. The players taken off the board were P’s Francisco Cordova, Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza, Rich Loiselle, Ricardo Rincon, Jason Schmidt, Jose Silva, Jeff Wallace; C Jason Kendall; OFs Jose Guillen, Al Martin; IF Abraham Nunez, Tony Womack, Ron Wright & Kevin Young. The Bucs risked Joe Randa, Lou Collier & Marc Wilkins and a bevy of young outfielders. They did lose Randa and P Clint Sodowsky to the D-Backs along with P Jason Johnson to the Devil Rays.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

11/10 Through the 1910’s: 7-Man Swap; White/Rowe Deal; HBD Little Globetrotter, Fred, Eddie & Speed

  • 1867 - C Billy “Little Globetrotter” Earle was born in Philadelphia. Billy was one of the better hitting catchers of his era (and capable at other positions) with a career .286 BA who spent brief parts of 1893-94 in Pittsburgh batting .287 as a replacement backstop when regulars Connie Mack, Joe Sugden & company went down. But he only got into 142 games in his five-year career. Earle was a spiritualist who it was claimed could hypnotize people. Other players were said to have feared his “voodoo,” “evil eye” and all-around rep as a jinx. Be that as it may, Billy never had any out-of-the ordinary encounters with his teammates but was probably kept at a distance due to a more mundane curse - he was addicted to morphine. He finally cleaned himself up with rehab in 1898, thanks to an intervention by John McGraw and financial support for treatment provided by his Cincinnati teammates per Baseball History Daily. He went on to play, manage and coach in the minors through 1911, living to the ripe old age of 78. He got his nickname as a member of Albert Spalding’s 1888 worldwide baseball tour. 
  • 1867 - IF Fred Roat was born in Oregon, Illinois. Fred spent a dozen seasons in the minors, with a pair of stops in the show. He got a cup of coffee with the Chicago Colts in 1892 after being part of the 1890 Alleghenys, batting .223 in 57 games. Fred retired after the 1899 campaign and led a quiet life back home. 
Jack Rowe as a Bosox 1887 Tomlinson
  • 1888 - The Boston Red Stockings sold Jack Rowe and Deacon White to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Both players had solid resumes (White entered the HoF), but were on the downside of the hill and lasted just a year with the Allegheny. White, 41, was a Hall-of-Famer who hit .253 in 55 games playing 3B/1B for Pittsburgh, while Rowe, 32, played 75 games at SS, batting .259. The move didn't come without some maneuvering - Rowe and White had became owners of the International League's Buffalo Bison franchise and refused to report to the Pirates so they could play on their own team. The principle that they really were pushing is that they believed they should share in whatever fee their old club received for their services. It was resolved when the pair joined the Pirates with fat salaries and a cut of the selling price that Pittsburgh had paid Boston. However, the trading and selling of ballplayers was an issue that wouldn’t go away and contributed to the formation of the Players League in 1890. 
  • 1890 - OF/P Eddie Eayrs was born in Blackstone, Massachusetts. He got his start with the Bucs in 1913, getting two of his four games on the hill, giving up six runs (two earned) in eight IP while going 1-for-6 at the dish as a 22-year-old signed out of Brown. He didn’t return to the show until 1920-21 with Boston and Brooklyn, mainly patrolling the pasture. Eayrs did have a long pro career, playing outfield in the Eastern League until 1927, when he finally took off the spikes for good at age 36. 
  • 1897 - The Pirates sent veterans OF Elmer “Mike” Smith and RHP Pink Hawley along with $1,500, to the Reds for five players - C/1B Pop Schriver, OF Jack McCarthy, P Billy Rhines, 3B Bill Gray and 2B Ace Stewart. Of the players the Bucs received, Stewart never played a game, McCarthy, Gray and Rhines lasted a season or two in Pittsburgh, and Pop stayed with the Pirates for three years, batting .260 as a part timer. Smith hit .342 for the Reds and Hawley went 27-11 in 1898 for the Reds. That would be their last hurrahs as neither had strong campaigns afterward and retired after the 1901 season.
Pop Shriver (photo Moller/Detroit Public Library) 
  • 1914 - OF Claude “Speed” Whatley was born in Griffin, Georgia. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1939-43, noted for his blazing speed (hence the nickname) and small-ball wizardry at the plate. Speed hit .300+ in two of his four Grays’ campaigns before leaving for the NY Black Yankees. He spent his last season with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1946. Speed defeated Olympic champ Jesse Owens in a promotional race before a game in the thirties (whether he was given a head start, generally part of Owen’s schtick, is unclear), but either way his moniker was well earned.

11/10 From 1960: Pops #2; Starling GG; Jamo Honored; Hot Rod Signed; Rug Sample; HBD Junior & Matt

  • 1964 - IF Junior Noboa was born in Azua de Compostela, Dominican Republic. He got his final two at bats as a Bucco in 1994, going 0-for-2 to close out an eight-year MLB career. Junior spent one more year in the minors, served as batting coach for the Dominican National teams and now works in the Arizona Diamondbacks front office as Vice President of Latin Operations, helping land Miguel Montero, Gerardo Parra, Ender Inciarte, Carlos Gonzalez, and José Valverde. 
  • 1967 - The Pirates announced a $25-30,000 deal with Monsanto Corporation to cover the field of the Bucs’ Eastern League affiliate York (Memorial Stadium) with artificial turf. The experiment would determine if Astroturf would be an acceptable alternative to grass for the proposed Three Rivers Stadium, as the co-tenants of TRS, the Steelers, indicated that they would favor an artificial surface (they changed their minds, thx to player input, when Heinz Field was designed; ditto for the Bucs and PNC Park). It worked out OK, tho not so much for the York Pirates - their franchise folded after the ‘69 season and Memorial Stadium was used by the area softball players before the turf wore out after a decade of use. 
Pops 1971 Topps Super
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell (.295/48/125) was MVP runner-up to Joe Torre‚ who led the NL in RBI (137) and batting (.363) while hitting 24 HR. Torre received 318 points to Stargell's 222. However, Pops did win the WS and HR title. 
  • 1982 - C Matt Pagnozzi was born in Miami, Arizona. Pagnozzi got in pieces of five MLB campaigns, including a 2011 stop in Pittsburgh as one of eight catchers used by the Bucs. Matt hit .250 in his five games (the Pirates didn’t pick him up until mid-September). He packed up the tools of ignorance after the 2015 season and 13 campaigns in the majors, minors and Dominican. 
  • 2011 - The Pirates signed free agent C Rod Barajas to a one-year/$4M contract with club option for 2013 ($3.5 million with no buyout). Hot Rod hit .206 and threw out just a half dozen baserunners all year. His option wasn’t exercised, marking the end of his MLB road, and he’s now a minor-league manager. 
  • 2015 - Starling Marte was named a Gold Glove Award winner for the first time. Marte led all NL left fielders in fielding percentage (.995), making just one error in 196 total chances. He also led all National League outfielders with 16 assists, the most by a Pirates OF’er since Jose Guillen (also 16) in 1998, with 15 coming without a relay man. Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole were also GG finalists, but lost out to AJ Pollock and Zack Greinke. 
Starling saves the day (image Root Sports)
  • 2018 - Jameson Taillon was honored at the Rotary Club’s Chuck Tanner banquet with the Memorial Award while Lanny Frattare took the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his 33 years as “Voice of the Pirates.” Sandy Dengler was awarded the Sally O’Leary Distinguished Woman in Baseball trophy after spending 20 years with Tampa Bay (and she also served as the Buccos Bradenton complex coordinator before that). Bob Melvin of the Oakland A’s won the Manager of the Year, and Kent State’s Jeff Duncan was named the College Coach of the Year.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Weekly Notes: Kang, Corey, Cruz, Cole, Gage & Moves...

Stuff keeps happening...

  • The Bucs, as expected (and hoped) re-signed Jung Ho Kang for one year, reportedly for $3M base + $2.5M in incentives, redistributing but still equalling the original $5.5M option. The Bucs see him as a 3B and a potential platoon partner with Colin Moran, but not an option at SS, so that hole has yet to be addressed. 
  • Corey Dickerson, who arrived in Pittsburgh with a rep as a meh gloveman only to be thrown into PNC Park’s massive left field, accepted the challenge and took home his first Golden Glove award. He ranked first among NL left fielders with a .996 fielding % while making one error in 263 chances and setting career highs with seven assists in 122 starts in left. Corey saved 16 defensive runs this year.
Oneil Cruz 2018 Go Sports
  • MLB.com picked each team's best minor league power prospect. A little surprisingly, the site gave the nod to 20-year-old West Virginia Power SS Oneil Cruz rather than Altoona 1B Will Craig.
  • Bill Mitchell of Baseball America has a piece about the standouts in the Arizona Fall Stars game. The emphasis is on the pitching prospects, but he dedicates quite a few lines to Altoona SS Cole Tucker at the end of the article, who picked up some outside knowledge and self-confidence during the event.
  • Good news on the injury front: Nicholas Caporoso of Rumbunter reports that RHP Gage Hinsz, one of the Bucs young gun arms, will pitch winter league ball, a quick rebound after losing the season to heart valve replacement surgery.
  • Will Leitch of MLB.com selected each team's best FA signing of the 21st century. His Bucco choice: Russ Martin.
  • C Jin-de Jhang, who was buried in the organizational depth charts and opted for free agency, reportedly signed with the Giants
  • MLB housekeeping w/a Pittsburgh touch: 2B Dilson Herrera was removed from Cincy's 40-man roster, 3B Andy LaRoche was released by KC (he hasn't stuck with an MLB organization since 2014, so it's mostly a paper move), and OF Alex Dickerson declared for free agency from San Diego, along with IF Chase d'Arnaud of the Giants.
  • The Reds and new skipper David Bell have hired Turner Ward, 53, as their hitting coach. You might remember Turner, an ex-Bucco whose engine never stopped running, for crashing through the fence at TRS against the Dodgers in 1998. And yes, he held on to the ball.

11/9: Nix on Nixey; Bella Ball; Supremes; HBD Nick, Goooooch, Scott, Cy, Blue Goose, Fred, Red & Jerry

  • 1868 - RHP “Cyclone” Bill Phillips was born in Allenport in Washington County, between Charleroi and Brownsville. Phillips broke into the big leagues in 1890 at age 21, throwing 10 games for the Pittsburgh Allegheny with an 0-1/7.57 line (he was actually first a member of the Washington Nationals, but never got into a game and joined Pittsburgh when the DC club folded). He pitched for seven seasons in the majors, the last six with the Reds, and managed for a couple more. Bill died at age 72 in Charleroi and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Fayette City. He picked up his “Cyclone” moniker while with the Nationals; it was a popular honorific for young fireballers. He was also known as “Whoa Bill” which was said to be the result of Phillips', who was a miner before he became a ballplayer, comical attempt to tame a bronco. Many sites list him as “Silver Bill,” but we think that’s a crossed wire as that was the nickname of 1B Bill Phillips who played a decade earlier, although it’s possibly a hand-me-down to our Bill. Phillips factoid: Bill was the first pitcher to allow two grand slams in the same inning during an 18-5 loss to the Chicago Colts while tossing for the Allegheny. 
  • 1885 - LHP Gene “Blue Goose” Moore was born in Lancaster, Texas. He tossed for parts of three MLB seasons with his first two years as a Pirate (1909-10; he didn’t make the World Series roster), posting a line of 2-1, 4.66 in five outings. We can’t vouch 100% for his nickname, but he spent his entire 11-year minor league career in the Texas League, and while playing for Galveston (he spent five campaigns there) was known to frequent a tavern near the ballyard called The Blue Goose. His son, Gene Jr, was an All-Star OF’er who played for six big league teams from 1931 through 1945. 
Nick Maddox 1908 Real Photo Postcard
  • 1886 - RHP Nick Maddox was born in Govanstown, Maryland. He tossed four years (1907-10) for Pittsburgh, his entire MLB career, with a 43-20/2.29 line. He threw a no-hitter as a rookie, won 23 games in 1908, and a World Series contest in 1909. Maddox won his first four starts, something no other Pirate would match until Gerrit Cole in 2013. He stayed in Pittsburgh after his brief career ended due to arm problems, raising nine kids in Millvale while holding down a job at the Fort Pitt Brewery. 
  • 1897 - C Johnny Gooch was born in Smyrna, Tennessee. He caught eight years (1921-28) for the Pirates, hitting .286 in a part-time role and was a member of the 1925 and 1927 World Series clubs. Per Greg Tucker of the Rutherford County (TN) Historical Society, the fans liked Johnny in part because he had a “fun name.” When Johnny was introduced at the ballpark, the announcer would bellow “Johnny Gooooooch” and the fans would echo the “ooooo.” A lifelong friend of Pie Traynor, his minor league teammate, Gooch was a Pirate pitching coach and scout from 1937-42. Afterward, Johnny opened a factory making baseball bats in 1943 and was the exclusive supplier to the major leagues until 1947, when he switched from producing bats to lamps. 
  • 1906 - OF Fred Brickell was born in Saffordville, Kansas. Brickell played for Pittsburgh from 1926-30, hitting .312 as a reserve outfielder. Fred’s minor & major league career went from 1925-36 with Brickell elected into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951. His son Fritz also played in the major leagues for the Dodgers and Angels from 1958 to 1961. 
  • 1909 - CF Jerry Benjamin was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He played in the Negro Leagues from 1931-48, spending the majority of his days with the Homestead Grays (1935-47) where he hit .300+ three times, played on four Negro League World Series-winning clubs and was named an All Star three times. 
Nixey, out of uniform, in a 1916 Holmes Bread card
  • 1916 - Manager Jimmy "Nixey" Callahan made the trip from Chicago to Pittsburgh to meet with owner Barney Dreyfuss and brainstorm over the coming campaign. Callahan was upbeat and told Pittsburgh Press beatman Ralph Davis that the team was set in the outfield and mound, with his middle infield the only soft spot with Hans Wagner moving to first base (although the only off-season move to improve it was to claim Greenfield Jimmy Smith off waivers), and to “emphatically” deny rumors that he was leaving to skipper another squad. Jimmy wasn’t a very good prognosticator - the Pirates started off 20-40 and he was fired. Hans Wagner briefly took the reins, followed by Hugo Bezdek, but it didn’t stop the bleeding. The Bucs finished 51-103 in 1917, in eighth (and last) place, 47 games behind the champion New York Giants. Nixey should have jumped if he had winter job offers; his seven year managerial career (he spent five earlier seasons with the White Sox and started his Pittsburgh gig in 1916) ended when he was axed. 
  • 1931 - RHP George “Red” Witt was born in Long Beach, California. Red tossed for the Bucs from 1957-61, going 10-13/3.93 as a starter/long man, and worked three games in relief against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series without surrendering a run. Witt went 11-16 with a 4.32 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 66 career games after spending 1962 with Houston and the Los Angeles Angels. He looked like a breakout candidate after a strong 1958 season, but arm woes followed and derailed his career. 
  • 1953 - The Supreme Court confirmed by a 7-2 decision that baseball is a sport, not a business, and therefore not subject to antitrust laws in a case brought before it by a minor league player who litigated his demotion from AAA to AA. 
Scott Sauerbeck 1999 Sky Box Premium
  • 1971 - LHP Scott Sauerbeck was born in Cincinnati. The lefty spent the first five years (1999-2003) of his MLB career with Pittsburgh after being selected as a Rule 5 pick from the Mets. He went 19-15-5/3.56 in his Pirates time. The southpaw retired in 2008 after seven big league campaigns.
  • 2007 - The Italian nine beat Team USA 6-2 in the 2007 Baseball World Cup. Italy had not beaten the US for 21 years and had never beaten an American team with pro players. Pirate farmhands were complicit in the defeat - SS Brian Bixler committed a pair of errors (plus was picked off first base) while Andy LaRoche mishandled a pick-off try while playing first, allowing five unearned runs to the Italian club. Still, it was just a bump in the road as it was the USA’s only loss on their journey to the Cup title. Jeff Karstens, Steve Pearce, and Delwyn Young were also among the US players on the team who would suit up for the Pirates.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

11/8: Jay Bay RoY; Starling GG; Scout Scrams; HBD Nick, Wally, Rex & Bill; RIP Little All Right

  • 1870 - RHP Bill Hoffer was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bill started out on fire, winning 78 games for the Orioles from 1895-97 before the bottom fell out. He worked for Pittsburgh from 1889-90, going 11-10/3.33, but was near the end of his career, pitching MLB ball again in 1901 as his swan song. He also played some outfield, but put up a measly .186 BA. Bill retired back to Iowa and became an engineer/conductor on the interurban railway between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and was later named to the Des Moines Register Iowa Sports Hall of Fame. 
  • 1920 - OF Wally Westlake was born in Gridley, California. He played 4-1/2 seasons for the Pirates (1947-51) and hit .281 with 97 HR in that span as an everyday player. Wally was an All-Star in 1951, the season he split between the Pirates and Cardinals, and played through the 1956 season. Wally retired and returned to the coast as a labor foreman and dedicated fisherman/hunter. 
Rex Johnston (image via Steelers.com)
  • 1937 - PH Rex Johnston was born in Colton, California. Rex was signed for $40K but only played briefly for the Bucs, going hitless in seven at-bats in 1964. In 1960, the former two-sport Southern Cal star played as a kick returner for the Steelers (he was behind John Henry Johnson & Tom “The Bomb” Tracy in the backfield) during the minor league off-season and thus became the only athlete to date who suited up for both the Bucs and the Steelers. Rex retired after the 1966 season and went back home to California to run the family painting business. Johnston factoid: he was teammates with the Phil’s Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick, who was a lefty pitcher when USC won the 1958 College World Series. 
  • 1951 - Claude “Little All Right” Ritchey passed away; the hard-drinking player fell victim to cirrhosis of the liver at age 78. Ritchey manned the middle of the Pittsburgh infield for seven seasons (1900-06) at the turn of the century, a solid defender who hit .277 in 977 games. He was part of the big trade that sent most of the Louisville Colonels roster to the Pirates before being sent to Boston as part of the Ed Abbaticchio deal. He spent his retirement (1912 was his last comeback effort) in his hometown of Emlenton (Venango county), where he worked a variety of jobs, mainly in the oil industry. His nickname, per teammate and oftentimes roomie Hans Wagner, came about because "Claude was never a great hitter except in a pinch. But then is when you could bet on him. That is why the fans gave him the name of Little All Right.” 
  • 1991 - RHP Nick Kingham was born in Houston, Texas. Kingham was drafted by the Pirates in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of high school and was put on the 40-man in 2014. The next year, he was about to get the call when his arm gave out and he had TJ surgery. Pittsburgh petitioned the league for an extra option year and got it. Good thing, too - he made his MLB debut in 2018 and took a perfect game through 6-2/3 innings to earn his first win as a Bucco. The rest of the campaign didn’t go as smoothly, and he’ll enter 2019 on the bubble and out of options. 
Jay Bay poster (via Sports Collectibles)
  • 2004 - Jason Bay, who hit .282 with 26 HRs and 82 RBI, became the first Pirate (and Canadian) player to win the Baseball Writer’s NL Rookie of the Year Award (Johnny Ray won The Sporting News ROY award in 1982). Although he didn't begin his year until May while recovering from shoulder surgery, Jay led all NL rookies with a .550 slugging percentage, 54 extra base hits and 226 total bases. Bay also took home RoY honors from TSN and the Players Association. He had a pretty good week; he married his college sweetie Kristen two days before winning the award. Bobby Crosby won the AL honors; he would become a Bucco briefly in 2010. 
  • 2016 - Starling Marte became the ninth Pirate to win multiple Golden Gloves as he was selected for his second straight Rawlings GG award. Starling threw out 17 runners - 16 without a relay man - topping his previous best of 16 assists. He was the first Pirate since Andy Van Slyke (1988-92) and Barry Bonds (1990-92) to win consecutive honors. 
  • 2016 - Greg Schiltz, who began his scouting career at Pittsburgh in 2004 and worked his way from amateur bird dog to Northern Regional Supervisor, was hired away by the Phils to become their National Scouting Coordinator; he’s now their Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

11/7 Through the 1960’s: Vote For Me; HBD Stu, The Only, Ed, Bill, Andy & Dave; RIP Fred

  • 1857 - RHP Ed “The Only” Nolan was born in either Canada or Patterson, New Jersey; no one is quite sure. Nolan was a two-fisted drinker who made a brief stop with the Alleghenys in 1883. The following is per the Baseball Reference Bullpen page: He lost the seven games he pitched, and then, after he was fined $10 for something, went on a drinking spree and put it on the team's tab. He was fined $100 and suspended for the rest of the season. One fan even sold a line of T-shirts featuring Nolan, Buttercup Dickerson and the 1883 Allegheny as “The Hardest Drinking Team of All Time." There are several theories regarding his nickname. One says it was because he would demand to be the only pitcher employed by the teams on which he played. Others claim it was lifted from a burlesque actor named "The Only Leon." The KISS explanation is that "The Only" was a commonly used term during Nolan's time, applied to anyone who excelled at something, and so Nolan took the moniker to feed his ego. Guy Smith, who wrote “Heroes of Baseball,” threw another iron in the fire, writing that he got the nickname as a minor league pitcher after he earned 11 straight wins, six by shutout, for Indianapolis. Ironically, in an “all the sinners are saints” twist, bad boy Nolan became a cop after he retired.
Ed Mensor 1913 (photo Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
  • 1885 - SS/OF Ed Mensor was born in Woodville, Oregon. He played three years for Pittsburgh (1912-14) and hit .221 from the bench. Baseball players weren’t exactly noted for politically correctness back in the day; the 5’6” Mensor’s nickname was “The Midget.” Mensor factoid: Ed was the first Jewish switch-hitter in major league history per the Jewish Baseball Museum. 
  • 1904 - C Fred Carroll died in San Rafael, California at the age of 40 after a heart attack. He was one of the top hitting catchers of his era, with a .284 BA, and had his hand in all the Pittsburgh franchises, playing for the Allegheny, Burghers and Pirates for seven (1885-91) of his eight big-league years. He was a complete player - he also spent some time in the OF, corner IF and short while stealing 137 bases during his career and even umped a game in ‘87. Fred had nine hits during an 1886 twinbill and was the first Pittsburgh player to hit for the cycle (both as an Allegheny) in 1887. He’ll always be a part of local baseball lore for burying his pet monkey and team mascot under home plate at old Recreation Park before a game. He left baseball early, at age 26, partly because of a sub-par year with the Pirates (he hit .218) and partly because the Sacramento native wanted to return to the west coast. 
  • 1910 - 3B Bill Brubaker was born in Cleveland. He played nine years for the Bucs, from 1932-40, and batted .264 as a Pirate, earning most of his starts in 1936-37.(he was super in ‘36, hitting .289 w/101 RBI) After a couple of years in the service, he ended his career in 1943 with the Boston Braves. His grandson, Dennis Rasmussen, also played in the major leagues, putting together a 12-year career as a starting pitcher in the early 80s-to-mid 90s. 
Big Stu 1962 Salada Tea Coin
  • 1932 - 1B Dick Stuart was born in San Francisco. “Dr. Strangeglove” played in Pittsburgh from 1958-62, hitting .273 with 117 bombs as a Bucco, and was a 1961 All-Star after losing 35 baseballs. The slugger’s inability to field was legendary; he was once hit in the back when Roberto Clemente threw behind a runner, and received an ovation for spearing a hot dog wrapper as it blew past him at Forbes Field. He led the league in errors a record seven years in a row (1958-64), drove a car with the license plate "E3" and his 29 muffs at first base in 1963 remain the MLB record for the position. He said “As long as you drive in more than you let in, you get to play.” Oddly enough, stick-first Stu was the first 1B to record three assists in one inning; go figure. Stuart also mashed 66 home runs for the Lincoln club of the Class A Western League in 1956, proving that his glove wasn’t the main reason he got a paycheck. The apt nickname for the poor-fielding 1B was adapted from the movie “Doctor Strangelove,” and at 6’4”, he was also known as Big Stu. Hank Aaron dubbed him “Stonefingers.” Per Wikipedia, other less well known but equally unflattering nicknames included "Iron Glove" and "The Ancient Mariner," a reference to an opening line in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: "It is an ancient mariner, And he stoppeth one of three." 
  • 1966 - OF Andy Tomberlin was born in Monroe, North Carolina. The strong-armed and fleet Tomberlin spent parts of six seasons as a big league bench outfielder after being converted from a pitcher, beginning in Pittsburgh in 1993, where he hit .286. Tomberlin played most of his games in the minor leagues from 1986 through 2000 for eight different organizations. After his playing days, Andy scouted and coached in the minors for the Brewers and White Sox. 
  • 1967 - Bob Friend made the transition from Sennett to Ross Street seamlessly by winning his first political outing, running as the Republican candidate for County Controller. He defeated the incumbent, James Knox, in a horse race. Those ‘60 Pirates pitchers were quite the political powerhouse: Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell would become a North Carolina congressman, Ronnie Kline became the mayor of Callery, PA after he retired and Diomedes Olivo wasn’t elected to office but was appointed as Director of the Ministry of Sports by the Dominican President. 
Post Gazette 11-13-1967 Cy Hungerford
  • 1967 - RHP Dave Wainhouse was born in Toronto, Ontario. The Montreal Expos selected Wainhouse with their first-round pick of the 1988 draft, making him the first Canadian-born player picked the first round. He put in seven years as a middle reliever, spending 1996-97 with the Bucs, going 1-1/6.97 in 42 outings. He now operates a baseball academy and is an assistant baseball coach for Seattle University.

11/7 From 1970: No Sale; Eli Inked; FA's; Cordova Deal; HBD Todd & Kris

  • 1971 - RHP Todd Ritchie was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. Ritchie went 35-32/4.29 for the Bucs from 1999-2001, winning 15 games in ‘99. In 2001’s off season, he was traded to the White Sox for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe. He signed again with Pittsburgh in 2005, but retired during camp. Todd’s final comeback effort was in 2008 with the Rockies; he lasted through five minor-league starts before leaving the slab for good. 
Todd Ritchie 2001 Upper Deck Vintage
  • 1974 - RHP Kris Benson was born in Kennesaw, Georgia. The first overall selection of the 1996 draft, the Clemson grad pitched for the Pirates from 1999-2004 (missing 2001 after TJ surgery) with a line of 43-49/4.26. His “parking lot sex” and other such antics with wife Anna were sports page fodder throughout his career, culminating in a 2013 divorce. On the other side of the pillow, he and Anna also fronted many charitable causes and raised an estimated $750K in alms during his big league days. 
  • 1983 - Dave Parker, Jim Bibby, Kent Tekulve, Richie Hebner, Miguel Dilone and Dave Tomlin became free agents and entered the convoluted compensation draft; only Teke (three years + option/$1M per year) and Tomlin (who spent two years at AAA Hawaii) returned to the Pirates. Parker went to Cincinnati, Bibby to Texas, Hebner to the Cubs and Dilone to Montreal. 
  • 1997 - The Pirates reached agreement with RHP Francisco Cordova on a three-year/$4.1M contract with an option year. Cordova went 11-8/3.63 with a nine-inning no-hitter during the season. He went 27-32 over the three guaranteed seasons of the deal, but his ERA zoomed each year, from 3.31 to 4.43 to 5.21 as arm troubles limited his effectiveness. After his MLB days, the lefty tossed in his native Mexico from 2002 through 2011. 
  • 2005 - Owner Kevin McClatchy denied rumors that the Pirates had been sold to Dallas Maverick owner/Mt. Lebanon native Mark Cuban. McClatchy told Paul Meyer of the Post Gazette bluntly that “..the team was not for sale.” But the deck was being shuffled: by January 2007, Bob Nutting had taken over as the principal owner of the club. 
Eli Spring 2015 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • 2008 - Rene Gayo signed 18-year-old C Elias Diaz out of Venezuela. Eli developed slowly but steadily, outpunching first-round prospects Tony Sanchez and Reese McGuire. Baseball America named him the best defensive catcher in the minors in 2014. After being injury-bitten and sputtering in his early MLB calls, Diaz broke out in 2018 and became Fran Cervelli’s heir apparent, shaking his earlier backup rep.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

11/6 Through the 1950's: Rickey GM; Bartell-Thevenow; Nealon Signed; HBD Candy Man, Tommy & Bob

  • 1877 - 3B Tommy Sheehan was born in Sacramento (some sources say his BD is on the 5th, c’est la vie). Tommy played for Pittsburgh from 1906-07 and hit .255. He also spent a year with the New York Giants and Brooklyn Superbas before and after his Bucco stint. He did get to play a lot of ball near home, though - he earned his daily bread with 11 years of minor league ball at Sacramento, Portland, Tacoma, Oakland and Stockton. A word of caution - make sure to keep your Sheehan’s straight - this one is not to be confused with Tommy Sheehan, pitcher from the mid-20s who tossed for the Bucs from 1925-26. 
Jim Nealon 1906 (photo George Burke)
  • 1905 - The Pirates signed a hot shot prospect, San Francisco Seals 1B Jim (aka Joe, his middle name) Nealon, for a reported $6,500 in a heated bidding battle with the Cincinnati Reds (the New York Highlanders, Boston Americans, St. Louis Browns and Chicago Cubs were also on his scent). Manager Fred Clarke spent a week by the Bay working on Nealon and his father, with the Reds rep arriving a little late on the scene. Signing Nealon allowed the Pirates to include 1B Dave Brain as part of a package to the Boston Beaneaters to add Vic Willis to their staff a month later without losing any offensive muscle. Joe led the NL in RBI in 1906, but reported to camp in 1907 overweight and with a bad hand, the result of a fracture suffered in the off-season. He also fell out of favor with management; as a son of wealth, they felt he didn’t have his focus on baseball but on business. Nealon retired after the season - the Pirates were already auditioning replacements - and returned to the coast, playing in the California State League. He died of typhoid fever at the age of 25 in 1910. 
  • 1925 - OF Bob Addis was born in Mineral Springs, Ohio. He closed out a four-year MLB career with Pittsburgh, going 0-for-3 with a pair of whiffs and one pinch-running assignment. Bob finished his pro career that season with Toronto of the International League. Addis was later the baseball coach and AD at Euclid (Ohio) HS, and was inducted into the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1975. 
  • 1930 - SS Dick Bartell was traded by the Pirates to the Philadelphia Phillies for SS Tommy Thevenow and P Claude Willoughby. Defensive whiz Thevenow spent six season with the Bucs and hit .251 while Willoughby went 0-2 for Pittsburgh in his final MLB season. Bartell played 14 more seasons, made a couple of All-Star teams and ended up with a .281 lifetime BA. But the seemingly one-sided swap of SS’s worked out OK - Thevenow hurt his leg in 1931, and in 1932 was replaced in the lineup by Hall-of-Famer Arky Vaughan. Tommy Thevenow factoid: he didn't homer in his final 3,347 at-bats, the most consecutive at bats without a home run in MLB history. 
Branch Rickey 1950 (cartoon Willard Mullin/The Sporting News)
  • 1950 - Branch Rickey signed a five-year contract with the Pirates to become the team executive vice president/GM, replacing Roy Hamey. His son, Branch Jr., was named Pittsburgh's VP and farm system director. Branch laid the groundwork for future success by developing a productive farm system, but the Bucs put together just a 269-501 record (.349) during his tenure as GM. 
  • 1953 - LHP John Candelaria was born in New York. The Bucs selected the LaSalle Academy (Brooklyn) star in the second round of the 1972 draft. In 12 years (1975-85, 1993) with the Pirates, his line was 124-87-16/3.17, with a 1-1, 3.91 ERA slash in his four post-season starts. The Candy Man tossed a no-hitter, led the MLB in ERA once, earned an All-Star nod and a won a World Series ring while a Bucco. Overall, he had a 19-year MLB career with the Pirates, California Angels, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, and Los Angeles Dodgers. 

11/6 From 1960: Cutch & Neil SS's; Sadowski-Carroll Swap; Parker Proposal; HBD Adam, Don & Matt

  • 1969 - RHP Don Wengert was born in Sioux City, Iowa. Don had spent 1996-97 full-time with Oakland but had been bouncing back and forth since when the Pirates signed him as a FA in 2001. The 32-year-old got four starts in May, went 0-2, 12.38, and spent the rest of the year back on the farm. That ended his MLB days; he tossed one more year for the Boston system before retiring and returning to Iowa. 
Don Wengert 2001 (photo Tom Pidgeon/Getty)
  • 1972 - RHP Matt Skrmetta was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. Matt got to toss briefly in the bigs during 2000, first getting into a half-dozen games with the Expos and finishing with eight outings and an 0-2, 9.26 line with Pittsburgh. Matt was a determined hurler: he played for 25 teams, believed to be a record, and 13 organizations, including a couple of seasons in Japan and an indie campaign. He’s now a scout for Softbank in the Japanese League. 
  • 1976 - In a swap of 22-year-old righties, the Bucs traded Jim Sadowski to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Tom Carroll. The deal ended up a wash; neither Sadowski nor Carroll ended up never pitching in the majors again. 
  • 1979 - 1B Adam LaRoche was born in Orange County, California. He played for the Bucs from 2007-09, hitting .265 with 58 HR. During his last Pirate season, he got to play with his brother Andy (their pop was P Dave LaRoche) and also became the first player in major league history to lose a home run to video review. He left baseball in 2016 after a messy clubhouse beef about him bringing his teen-aged son to the Chicago White Sox clubhouse too often. A devout family man and Christian, LaRoche quietly retired rather than compromise, passing on a $13M contract for the season. 
  • 1981 - Dave Anderson of the NY Times wrote that the Bucs and Yankees were discussing a deal for RF Dave Parker with the departure of Reggie Jackson on the horizon. The Pirates originally wanted five pitchers; the Yankees countered with an offer of hurlers Ron Davis and Gene Nelson along with SS Andre Rodgers. There were two sticking points: Pittsburgh wanted lefty Dave Righetti, whom New York considered an untouchable, and the Gotham gang wanted Parker to agree to a playing weight of 210 pounds, which the Cobra ho-ho-ho’ed off. No match was made and Parker played as a Pirate for two more seasons, then signed as a free agent with the Reds. 
Neil Walker 2014 Topps Heritage
  • 2014 - CF Andrew McCutchen won his third consecutive NL Silver Slugger award and 2B Neil Walker took home his first. Cutch became the first Pittsburgh outfielder to earn three consecutive Silver Sluggers since Barry Bonds in 1990-92 while Walker was the first Pirate second baseman to earn one since Johnny Ray in 1983. Cutch and SS Ian Desmond of the Nats were the only NL repeat winners.

Monday, November 5, 2018

11/5 Through the 1920’s: Sure Shot Signed; Bagby Bagged; HBD Gunboat, Lefty, Big Jack, Tom & John

  • 1877 - 2B Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap was purchased by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from the Detroit Wolverines for $4000-5000 (the final figure is up for debate); he also got $2K personally to agree to the deal. Sure Shot remained a slick fielder, but his batting eye disappeared after he hit .266 in 1888, stroking the ball at a .235 clip the following season and hitting just .172 in 1890 after 17 games before being released (he had a big salary & was in manager Guy Hecker’s doghouse to boot) and claimed by the NY Giants. His career ended the next year with Washington after he broke his leg sliding in April. Dunlap, who had amassed a considerable nest egg as a player, was bankrupt a decade later. Some say his frittered finances were due to poor stock market decisions and others blamed horse-racing debts. Either way, the arguably top second baseman of his era passed away penniless in 1902 of consumption. 
Sure Shot 1888 Goodwin Old Judge/Gypsy Queen
  • 1888 - Umpire John Mullin was born in Pittsburgh and lived in Brookline. John umpired in the NL in 1909, the AL in 1911-12 and the Federal League in 1915, spending most of his arbitrating time in the minors with the American Association, although he also wore the blue in six other farm leagues. John was just as quick tempered as the early baseball players he joined on the field. In one of his first major league gigs, two days after he had been called up from the bushes in 1909, he threw out three players during an argument and after they refused to leave, he waited the allotted one-minute of grace time they had and forfeited the game. 
  • 1895 - OF Tom McNamara was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His MLB stay consisted of one June pinch-hitting appearance in 1922 for the Buccos, resulting in a ground out. The 26-year-old Princeton grad was sent to Flint for the rest of the year, hitting .313 before disappearing from baseball’s radar. 
  • 1899 - RHP “Big Jack” (he was 6’3”) Wisner was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jack’s first two major league campaigns consisted of 21 outings for the Bucs from 1919-20 and he was solid, going 2-3/2.70. He got fours years off after that, tossing for Rochester, before getting the call to serve 1925-26 as a NY Giant. Big Jack was sent down during the ‘26 season, worked in the minors through 1929 and hung ‘em up to work as a minor league coach. 
  • 1908 - LHP Ralph “Lefty” Birkofer was born in Cincinnati. Lefty worked for the Bucs from 1933-36 and slashed 31-26-2/4.04, splitting time between starting & the pen, then finishing his career in 1937 as a Dodger, going to Brooklyn as part of a three-man trade for Ed Brandt. 
Lefty Birkofer (photo Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1909 - RHP Harry “Gunboat” Gumbert was born in Elizabeth. Harry tossed for 15 big league seasons (and that’s with missing a year, 1945, in the service), closing out his run in his hometown in 1949-50 (1-4-3/5.83) before retiring at age 40. Gunboat joined his great-uncles Ad and Billy Gumbert (also pitchers) as Pittsburgh hurlers. During his career, he slashed 143-113/3.68 with 235 starts (94 CGs), 13 shutouts and 48 saves, working 200+ IP in a season five times before transitioning into a reliever. His nickname doesn’t have much of a backstory behind it; Harry said it came about because a sportswriter thought ”Gunboat Gumbert” sounded good together. 
  • 1922 - RHP Jim Bagby Sr. was claimed by the Pirates after being waived by the Indians. Bagby won 31 games for Cleveland in 1920 and 122 games for the Tribe over the last six years, but at age 33 was done. He finished 3-2/5.24 in 23 appearances for Pittsburgh and retired at the end of the campaign. His son, RHP Jim Bagby Jr., also played for the Pirates in 1947.

11/5 From 1970: Tanner Trade; Gunner Parade; JR Hired; Syd GM; FA's; RRI Goes Down; A-Ram Retires; Frankie & Russ Honored

  • 1975 - After KDKA fired Pirate announcers Bob Prince and Nellie King days earlier, rival station WEEP organized a downtown parade in their honor that drew thousands of fans and featured both Pirates & City politicos as supporters. While the parade was a success, it didn’t move the station or team off their position. The Gunner wouldn’t broadcast a Bucco game again until 1985, after he had been diagnosed with throat cancer, and he died a few days later. 
Chuck Tanner (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 1976 - The Pirates sent catcher Manny Sanguillen and $100,000 to Oakland to land manager Chuck Tanner. It was the second player-for-skipper deal in MLB history (excluding player/managers), the first being in 1967 when the Mets sent RHP Bill Denehy and cash to the Washington Senators in exchange for manager Gil Hodges. Chuck had a good run in Pittsburgh. During his nine-year tenure, he posted a 711-685 (.509) record and won a World Championship in 1979. Manny returned home after a year in exile in a trade, spending his last three campaigns in Pittsburgh. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates hired Syd Thrift as their GM, replacing Harding Peterson. Syd only lasted until 1988 after a contentious relationship with the owners, but laid the groundwork for the powerhouse early-ninety clubs. Thrift traded for Doug Drabek, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke and Mike LaValliere, then hired Jim Leyland to stir the pot. This date is when the news of his hiring was leaked by the media; the official announcement wasn’t made until two days later. 
  • 1990 - Whole lotta shakin’ going on as the following Bucs became free agents after the season: IF Wally Backman, RHP Doug Bair, SS Rafe Belliard, 1B Sid Bream, RHP Ted Power, OF Gary Redus, LHP Jerry Reuss, OF RJ Reynolds, C Don Slaught & LHP Zane Smith. Redus, Sluggo and Smith rejoined the team while the others went on their merry way: Belliard & Beam to Atlanta, Backman to Philly, Bair spent two years on minor league deals and was done, Power to Cincy, Reuss retired, and Reynolds went to Japan for three years before a final season in Mexico. 
  • 1997 - The Regional Renaissance Initiative was soundly defeated at the polls. A funding mechanism for a new stadium, its defeat cast doubts as to whether Kevin McClatchy’s Pirates team could remain in Pittsburgh. Some later political twists and turns eventually led to the selling of the team and the building of PNC Park to save the franchise for the City. 
JR 2008 Topps
  • 2007 - The Pirates named third base coach John Russell as manager, replacing Jim Tracy. The Bucs' new skipper was the 2006 International League Manager of the Year at Scranton. He never was given much to work with, and in 2010 was fired as the Pirates manager after a 105 loss season and an overall record of 186-299, replaced by Clint Hurdle. 
  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano was named the Baseball Writer’s “Comeback Player of the Year,” the second time he took the honor, having earlier won the same recognition from The Sporting News after a 16-8, 3.02 ERA, 9.1K/game campaign. 
  • 2014 - C Russ Martin was named the Wilson Major League Defensive Catcher of the Year after losing the Golden Glove award to Yadier Molina the day before. 
  • 2015 - 3B Aramis Ramirez retired after 18 years in the show. A-Ram, 37, hit .283/.341/.492 with 386 home runs. He made his debut with the Pirates in 1998 and played here for parts of six years before being traded to the Chicago Cubs in a salary dump that still rankles. He returned as a stretch run rental from the Brewers in 2015, hitting .245 with six long balls. Ramirez played his first 17 seasons as a third baseman, never taking the field at another position other than DH, until September; he manned 1B for the Bucs five times in his final go-round.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Weekend Notes: Hitting Coach Hired; 40-Man Shuffle; Fall Stars; Minor Moves; Freeser Signs w/LA, Ground Chuck Flirts

Over the weekend, some baseball stuff slipped in between football games:

  • The Pirates hired Rick Eckstein, 45, who was the Twins' minor league hitting coordinator for the past two seasons, as their new hitting coach. He was the Nats hitting coach from 2009-13, then spent two years at the University of Kentucky. Eckstein appears to be a fan of big data, fitting into the Buc mold, and used to working with young hitters. He's also former MLB infielder David's big bro.
  • RHP Chad Kuhl, who is on the 60-day DL, was put on the 40-man roster as required, bringing its count up to 37. He was the only Pirates player who had to be added; Edgar Santana, who is also on the 60-day DL, was never taken off the list. They have to stay on the roster until the season opens, when they can be removed again if roster room is needed. Both are out for the season following TJ surgery. As for the 40-man, it's looking good this year - there are three or four bubble guys on it to go with the three openings, so there's lots of wiggle room for deals, free agents and Rule 5 protection.
Ryan walks it off in September (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • C Ryan Lavarnway cleared waivers and elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster. 
  • SS Cole Tucker went 1-for-2 in the Arizona League Fall Star game with a double and run scored. RHP Blake Weiman gave up a single and got a strikeout in 2/3IP; he was charged with a run when the pitcher following him gave up a dinger with Weiman's runner aboard. The two Altoona Curve players were on the winning West club, which took a 7-6 decision.
  • The Pirates had some minor league defections due to MiLB free agency, per Pirates Prospects John Dreker. They are 3B Eric Wood & Wyatt Mathisen (2012-2nd rounder, taken as a C), catchers Jackson Williams & Jin-De Jhang, OF Daniel Nova (remember him in camp as a Cutch replacement before Corey D? He sat out the year with a bad back) and pitchers Damien Magnifico & Bo Schultz. They are not necessarily gone; the Pirates can re-sign any of them.
  • 3B David Freese signed a one-year deal with the LA Dodgers. He agreed to $4.5M plus a $500K buyout of his original $6M option.
  • RHP Charlie Morton wasn't given a $17.9M qualifying offer from the Astros, making him a free agent with a draft pick fee (but not a team's first selection) attached. In his last two years as an Astro, he went 29-10/3.36 in 55 starts w/10.4 K per nine innings.
  • For those who thought Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were headed for a divorce, think again: Kershaw inked a deal with LA for three years/$93M with incentives.

11/4 Through the 1960’s: Dodger Dealin'; Coach Law; $64,000 Pie; HBD Dick, Wee Tommy, Fiddler, Spook & Logan

  • 1877 - 3B/OF “Wee Tommy” Leach was born in French Creek, NY. The 5'6" Leach hit 63 career homers; 49 were inside-the-park, which is still a NL record. Leach joins Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner and Pedro Alvarez as the only Pirates to lead the league in long balls. During Leach's years in Pittsburgh (1900-12), the Pirates won the NL flag four times and World Series champions once. His 1903 Fall Classic triple is the first World Series hit. Leach is still in the top 100 all-time in stolen bases (361) and runs scored (1,355), and for the Pirates, he's ninth in games played (1,548), at-bats (5,909), runs (1,007) & singles (1,229), sixth in stolen bases (246) and seventh in triples (137). 
Eddie the Fiddler Custom Card
  • 1922 - 2B Eddie “The Fiddler” Basinski was born in Buffalo, New York. Eddie was a Mr. Peepers look-alike, thin and with wire-rim glasses, who earned his nickname as a violinist who played for the U of Buffalo Symphony (and he was a good one, becoming concertmaster). He went straight from the sandlots to Brooklyn, mainly as an audition so the Dodgers could determine what minor-league level to start him at, and the sweet-fielding SS ended up in AA after a hot big league start. Eddie put in 13 minor league years mostly in the PCL (he moved to Portland and even, to his later regret, turned down a 1948 call to the Yankees to stay on his beloved West Coast). Aside from parts of two seasons with Brooklyn (Pee Wee Reese blocked him at SS and converted him to 2B) his only other showtime was with Pittsburgh in 1947, where he hit a paltry .199 in 56 games. Eddie’s glove made him a hit - in 1984, he was named to the all-time PCL All-Star team, then inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame in 2006. Beside “The Fiddler,” Basinski was also known as “Bazooka,” a moniker laid on him by Leo Durocher because of his strong arm. 
  • 1925 - 2B Forrest “Spook” Jacobs was born in Cheswold, Delaware. Spook spent 17 years in baseball (he wintered in the Cuban, Panamanian and Puerto Rican winter leagues) with three in the majors. His last season in the show was 1956, when the Bucs got him from the KC Athletics and he hit .162 with the Pirates. He was selected into the Cuban and Delaware Sports Hall of Fames, along with a handful of smaller HoFs. His nickname came about because of the “spooky” way he could drop Texas-League bloopers over the infield for hits, somewhat reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance.” 
  • 1930 - SS Dick Groat was born in Wilkinsburg. The Swissvale Golden Flash HS star was a two sport ace and was twice named an All-America at Duke in basketball. He was selected as the Helms National Player of the Year in 1952 after averaging 25.2 points per game and played one season in the NBA. But he made a more permanent mark in baseball. As a Bucco bonus baby, he never played in the minors. He was the NL-MVP during the 1960 World Series campaign, and in his Pirate era (1952-62, with two years out for the service), he hit .286 and was a three-time All-Star. A Pitt basketball announcer, in 2011 Groat was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first man ever inducted into both the college basketball and college baseball halls of fame. 
City Council's Dick Groat Day June, 2018 (photo Corey O'Connor)
  • 1949 - The Pirates purchased IF Hank Schentz from the Brooklyn Dodgers. The bench piece put in a season plus with the Bucs, and marked the end of a frenzied bit of dealing between the two clubs. Per @JohnDreker of Pirates Prospects “Between October 2nd, 1946 and November 4th, 1949, the Pirates and Dodgers completed 12 transactions with each other. The two franchises then went over 17 years before making another deal, which was the Maury Wills trade.” Over that span, the Pirates got Eddie Basinski, Hank Behrman, Monte Basgall, Nanny Fernandez, Hal Gregg, Art Herring, Kirbe Higbe, Dixie Howell, Vic Lombardi, Gene Mauch, Cal McLish, Steve Nagy, Danny O’Connell, Marv Rackley, Stan Rojek, Schentz, Ed Stevens & Dixie Walker. The Bucs gave up Ed Bahr, Vic Barnhart, Hank Behrman (he went from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh back to Brooklyn), Jimmy Bloodworth, Jack Cassini, Billy Cox, Al Gerheauser, Al Gionfriddo, Johnny Hopp, Gene Mauch (he also went back and forth), Preacher Roe & Grady Wilson. Hopp and Rackley were returned to the Pirates and Dodgers respectively after their trade was voided. In all, 30 players were moved. The Pittsburgh GM that rode the trade tsunami was Fred Hamey; Branch Rickey was the Dodger exec...and the flood gates slammed shut once Rickey became Bucco GM after the 1950 campaign. 
  • 1959 - Shortly after the highly-rated “$64,000 Question” TV quiz show scandal broke due to the leaking of the quiz answers to the winner, former Pirate Pie Traynor disclosed that he had been asked to participate in the show, but declined because he was told the category for his proposed session would be music. “I don’t know a thing about music. (But) I suppose that wouldn’t have mattered. I would have gotten the answers,” he explained in hindsight with tongue-in-cheek. 
  • 1961 - RHP Logan Easley was born in Salt Lake City. He got into 27 games for the Bucs in 1987 and 1989, posting a 2-1-2/5.12, line. He came to the Bucs via Gotham: Easley was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 1981 draft and was traded to the Pirates in November of 1986 along with Brian Fisher and Doug Drabek for Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante and Rick Rhoden. Logan, btw, did more than pitch when he went to college. After retiring from baseball, he returned to his alma mater and is part of the geology faculty at the College of Southern Idaho. 
Maury Wills 1967 Topps
  • 1966 - Maury Wills left the Los Angeles Dodgers team touring in Japan, griping about his injured right knee. He was granted his wish to go home for treatment, but a few days later, he was spotted on a Hawaiian beach jamming with Don Ho by vacationing Dodger GM Buzzie Bavasi. Wills had a deserved rep as hard to handle, and that was the last straw for LA. On December 1st, he was traded to the Pirates for Bob Bailey and Gene Michael. 
  • 1967 - Bucco Cy Young winner Vernon Law was named pitching coach for the Pirates for new manager Larry Shephard. Law coached here from 1968-69, then became an assistant at Brigham Young University from 1969 to 1979. Vern also worked in Japan with the Seibu Lions from 1979-81 before managing in the White Sox organization at Denver in the American Association in 1984.

11/4 From 1970: Russ, Frankie QO's; FA Parade; Benny; HBD John & Chris

  • 1976 - Richie Hebner, the Pirates only FA, was claimed by eight teams (including Pittsburgh, which retained his rights) in the first Free Agent Re-Entry Draft. The Gravedigger could only deal with the teams that chose him, and he reached a deal with the Phillies six weeks later for three years & a tad over $600K; the Pirates had reportedly offered $270K over the same span. The Bucs selected 10 players for their wish list of free agents, including Rollie Fingers, Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson. Gene Tenace was the only one of the 10 who ever wore a Pirates uniform, and that wasn’t until 1983, his final season.
Richie Hebner 1976 Topps
  • 1977 - Pirates Goose Gossage and Terry Forster were two of the eight players claimed (both drew the interest of 13 clubs) during the Free Agent Re-Entry Draft; Bobby Tolan didn’t get enough suitors (three or more were required), allowing him to play the field. Goose went to the Yankees, Forster to the Dodgers and Tolan took his game to Japan. The Pirates selected seven players to chase, with reliever Rawly Eastwick being their prime target. They didn’t sign any, with Eastwick inking a deal with the Bronx Bombers. 
  • 1978 - The Pirates had two of their free agents claimed, Duffy Dyer (who signed with Montreal) and Dave Hamilton (who went with Oakland) during the Free Agent Re-Entry Draft. Two other players, Steve Brye and Cito Gaston, drew no takers and saw their careers end after the ‘78 campaign. Pittsburgh chased 13 players, including ex-Bucco Wilbur Wood, Pete Rose, Tommy John and Mike Marshall. For the first time since the draft began three years ago, they actually signed a FA they claimed - OF Lee Lacy, who inked a six-year deal for a reported $1.05M. They took a twisty route to land RHP Dave Roberts. They picked him, but he signed with the Giants. Persistence pays; the Bucs quickly reeled him in as part of the Bill Madlock trade in June. 
  • 1978 - LHP John Grabow was born in Arcadia, California. Grabow, a third round draft pick in 1997, pitched from 2003-09 for the Bucs until traded to the Cubs. In 390 Pirate appearances, he went 20-15-6/4.09. In 2009, Grabow pitched for the US in the World Baseball Classic, the first Bucco to be named to the US squad. His last MLB season was 2011 with the Cubs. 
John Grabow 2009 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1982 - RHP Chris Resop was born in Naples, Florida. Resop tossed for the Pirates from 2010-12 after being claimed off waivers from the Braves and posted a line of 6-8-2/3.88 in 159 appearances, mainly as the Bucs bullpen bridge guy. He was heavily involved in civic/charity work and was voted the Pirates Roberto Clemente Award honoree in 2012. Chris retired during the 2014 season after eight years of MLB and returned to his hometown. 
  • 1987 - Padres catcher Benito Santiago was the unanimous selection as the NL Rookie of the Year‚ while Pirate RHP Mike Dunne (13-6/3.03 ERA) finished second. Santiago closed out his career as a Bucco, playing six games in 2005 before being released. 
  • 2014 - C Russell Martin and LHP Francisco Liriano became the first two Pirate free agents ever to be tendered qualifying offers ($15.3M) to retain their services for the upcoming year. Both rejected the offer. Russ signed with Toronto for $82M over five years while Frankie eventually came to terms with the Bucs on a three-year/$39M deal.