Friday, November 9, 2018

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.

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