Saturday, November 3, 2018

11/3 Through the 1940’s: Dizzy Outpolls Big Poison; RIP Mike; HBD Harry, Jim, John, Ed, Homer & Meow

  • 1856 - RHP Jim McCormick was born in Thornliebank, Scotland. He ripped off eight consecutive 20+ win seasons (including years with 45, 40, 36 & 31 wins) before he closed out his career with the Alleghenys in 1887 following a trade with the White Sox that sent George Van Haltren and $2,000 to Chicago. He was sadly over the hill when he got here, posting a 13-23/4.30 line, the first time in his decade of MLB that his ERA was north of 2.80. He retired after the year at the age of 30. As a rookie for the NL Indianapolis Blues, he became the first native Scot to get into a big league game in 1878. McCormick was one of the forgotten dominators of the deadball era; Baseball Reference compares his career to that of Pittsburgh ace Pud Galvin. 
  • 1866 - RHP Harry Staley was born in Jacksonville, Illinois. Staley pitched in Pittsburgh from 1888-91, tossing for the Alleghenys, Burghers and Pirates. His overall Steel City record was 51-58 with a 3.21 ERA. He was a workmanlike pitcher, and one who knew his way around the batter’s box. On June 1st, 1893, Staley (then a Boston Beaneater) had nine runs batted in, hitting two three-run homers off Louisville’s Billy Rhines. It set a record for most RBIs in a game by a pitcher that stood for over 70 years until equalled by Atlanta Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger in 1966. 
Harry Staley 1889 Police Gazette photo
  • 1871 - P (no one noticed which hand he used) Fred “John” Hayner was born in Janesville, Wisconsin. As a Chicago prepster in 1890, 18-year-old Fred had an in-game tryout with the floundering Pittsburgh Alleghenys, in town to play the Colts at West Side Park. Fred fizzled as he tossed four innings and was lit up for nine runs (six earned) and that was the extent of his big league career. He eventually ended up a sports writer for the Chicago Daily News, and in 1901, along with George Rice, began using the name “Cubs” for the Chicago ball club, supposedly because of the team’s youth. It was officially adopted a few years later and still is the banner. So if you ever want to win a free beer by betting that a Pittsburgh pitcher helped name the Cubs... 
  • 1883 - 3B James “Ed” (middle name Edgar) Lennox was born in Camden, New Jersey. After a four year MLB career, Ed played for the Pittsburgh Rebels from 1914-15, batting .311. While a Rebel in 1914, Lennox hit for the cycle to become the only Federal League player to pull off that feat. He also swatted pinch-hit home runs in consecutive games the same season, a deed that was unmatched until Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers repeated it in 2016. 
  • 1898 - OF Homer Summa was born in Gentry, Missouri. He began a 10-year MLB career in 1920 with the Pirates, going 7-for-22 (.318) in 10 games. He later served as a platoon outfielder with a lifetime BA of .302, playing for the Indians before closing out his run with two years in Philadelphia. His parents were a little over optimistic when they named him Homer; he only hit 18 round-trippers during his big league decade. 
  • 1917 - RHP Len “Meow” Gilmore was born in Fairview Park, Indiana. Gilmore pitched 11 minor league seasons between 1938-52 for nine teams, going 128–94, 3.66, in 332 pitching outings after starting out at Indiana State Teachers College, now IUP. The Bucs gave him his reward when he got to start the second game of a twinbill against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shibe Park on the last day of the 1944 season. Gilmore allowed seven earned runs on 13 hits, with no walks or strikeouts, in eight innings of work, but more importantly, got to add the title of major league pitcher to his resume. Following his days on the slab, Gilmore worked for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, retiring as a captain. Per “Indiana-born MLB Players,” Len got his nickname from a West Coast service station franchise named Gilmore that had a lion as its logo. Somehow its tagline “Roar with Gilmore” morphed into a meow. 
Paul Waner 1934 National Chicle Diamond Stars
  • 1934 - Dizzy Dean‚ with a 30-7 record‚ was selected as the NL MVP, with the Pirates Paul Waner finishing a distant second despite a .362/14/90 slash. It would start a string of three top-eight MVP finishes in four years for Big Poison. 
  • 1945 - P/OF Elmer “Mike” Smith passed away at age 77 and was buried at Union Dale Cemetery in the North Side. He was born in old Allegheny City and spent half his career (1892-97, 1901) in Pittsburgh. Smith started out with the Reds, where he was a pitcher known for his heater, but by the time he became a Pirate in ‘92, his pitching arm was shot. No diff; Pittsburgh wanted him as an outfielder, using him in just 17 games on the hill (he’d only toss once more as a Pirate afterward) but spending 124 contests in the pasture. It was a good positional switch; Elmer could hit, and finished with a .325 BA/.415 OBP during his Bucco years. Mike played for four teams in his 14-year career, but kept his permanent home on the North Side on 510 Madison Avenue. After leaving baseball in 1906, Smith worked as an inspector for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Highways, retiring from that job in 1931.
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