Sunday, November 4, 2018

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.

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