Tuesday, December 31, 2019

12/31: Roberto; Walkie's Last Deal; CBA Expires; HBD Bobby, Jim, Esteban & Dorothy

  • 1884 - 3B Bobby Byrne was born in St. Louis. The pint sized (5’-7”, 145 lbs.) scrapper played five seasons for the Pirates (1909-13) and hit .277 with 97 stolen bases in Pittsburgh. He was acquired late in 1909 and helped the Bucs to their World Series title against the Tigers. A leadoff hitter, Bobby had 176 swipes in his career and walked more often than he whiffed. Byrne was also a very good soccer player, making the All-St. Louis team as a youth and playing in the area until Barney Dreyfuss made him stick to one sport. 
Dorothy Kovalchick - 1995 Fritsch
  • 1925 - Dorothy Kovalchick Roark was born in Sagamore, a coal-mining town in Armstrong County. For eight years she barnstormed with her dad’s team, the semi-pro Kovalchicks, and was the only girl on the squad. She stood 5’2” but played first base even though she wasn’t a typical cleanup slugger, but rather a skilled bunter. In 1945, Dottie took a trip with her father to Chicago, where he had, unbeknownst to her, signed her up for a tryout with the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. She impressed and spent a season in the OF and 3B as a member of the Fort Wayne Daisies. Playing for $75 a week, the team toured with the Grand Rapids Chicks before getting into the regular season. Dorothy played a year (no stats available) before returning home to once again play for the Kovalchicks according to the Heinz History Center. 
  • 1954 - The day that caused Roberto Clemente’s legendarily achy back: While in Puerto Rico, Clemente suffered disc damage to his lower spine when he was broadsided by a drunk driver who ran a red light. The accident caused Clemente to suffer from back pain for the remainder of his life, sometimes even leading to hypochondria accusations from writers and some teammates.
  • 1955 - Manager Jim Tracy was born in Hamilton, Ohio. Tracy was hired by the Pirates in 2005, taking the spot of interim skipper Pete Mackanin, who finished Lloyd McClendon’s term. Jim logged a 135–189 record in two campaigns and was let go after the 2007 season, replaced by John Russell. Clint Hurdle hired him as a bench coach at Colorado in 2008, and Tracy took over there where Hurdle was fired in May. Did pretty well, too, being named Manager of the Year. Clint also landed on his feet, taking JR’s place in 2010 at Pittsburgh. 
  • 1971 - RHP Esteban Loaiza was born in Tijuana. He began his 14-year career in Pittsburgh from 1995-98, where he showed maddening promise, but no consistency, going 27-28/4.61 over that span. He did put it together once, in 2003 for the White Sox, going 21-9/2.90 and earning his first of two All-Star berths. He was also considered for the Cy Young that year, finishing second behind Roy Halladay but ahead of Pedro Martínez and Tim Hudson. 
  • 1972 - The day that baseball still mourns: Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when his plane, on a humanitarian trip to Managua, crashed in the Atlantic while on a rescue mission. Clemente had quietly spent much of his time during his off-seasons involved in charity work. When Managua was affected by a massive earthquake, he put together relief flights to aid in its recovery and was aboard on the fourth trip he had personally organized, on an overloaded and mechanically cranky DC-7. In an eerie trivial bit, pitcher Tom Walker, Neil’s dad, helped The Great One load the plane and was going to take the flight with him, but Clemente insisted he stay in San Juan and enjoy New Year’s Eve. Roberto went because he thought the situation called for his presence as some supplies were being hijacked by government officials, but it wasn't to be. The plane crashed into the ocean, and Clemente's body was never recovered. In fact, Manny Sanguillen missed Roberto's memorial service; he was diving in a search for the body. Posthumously, Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame as its first Latino player, and the second to have the five-year wait waived (Casey Stengel was granted a waiver in 1966). The Roberto Clemente Award was established to provide a charitable grant to the player who was the most committed to community service. His number was retired by the Pirates and his statue is prominent near the Roberto Clemente bridge leading to PNC Park. 
  • 1979 - The New Year wasn’t a happy one for baseball or its fans. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expired, not to be hammered out until May after a threatened player’s strike date was set. It still didn’t address the 800 pound gorilla in the room, free agent compensation, and kicking that can down the road led to the 1981 strike. 
  • 1991 - RHP Bob Walk inked his final contract, signing up for two more years with the Bucs. He earned $4.2M over the two campaigns, cashing in on bonus money included in the package. He went 23-20-2/4.64 over the life of the deal with a solid 1992 (10-6/3.20) but then hit a rough patch (13-14/5.68) in 1993, his last campaign.

Monday, December 30, 2019

12/30: Babe for Babe; Solly Signs; Legacy Continued; RIP Rex; HBD Sean, Jim & Ovid

  • 1888 - LF Ovid Nicholson was born in Salem, Indiana. Ovid had a six-game MLB career, and showed a nice stick as a 24-year-old rookie, going 5-for-11 with a walk during the last two weeks of September, 1912. He was a good contact hitter and speedster (he once stole 110 bases during a minor league season) but never got another shot at the show. He left baseball after the 1917 season to join the service, got married the following year and, except for one campaign in the 20s as a player/manager, lived out his life as a businessman. 
Jim Viox - photo 1915 Hot Springs camp (uncredited)
  • 1890 - IF Jim Viox was born in Lockland, Ohio. Viox played from 1912-16, starting at second base from 1913-15. His five year career was spent as a Bucco, and he put up a .272 lifetime BA. The Buc infielder had a good eye, drawing 100 more walks during his career than strikeouts. He left during the purge of 1916, when the Bucs, in a downward spiral since 1912, made major changes to the roster (it didn't help - the Pirates weren’t a contending club again until the 1920s). In a 506-game career, Viox had a .361 OBP, countered by *ouch* a minus-114 defensive runs rating per Total Baseball. He never played MLB ball again and became a minor league player/manager, including skippering the 21-year-old Pie Traynor at Portsmouth of the Class B Virginia League. 
  • 1943 - The Phillies traded 1B Babe Dahlgren to the Pirates for C Babe Phelps and cash. Dahlgren hit .271 with 176 RBI in his two-year stay with the Bucs. “Well traveled” described Dahlgren to a tee as he played for eight teams in his 12-year career, and he was best known as the player who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939. The deal was a win for Pittsburgh as Phelps, 34, never played again after the trade (he had gone on-and-off the voluntary retired list since 1941). He had logged a solid career, though, being named to the NL All-Star Team from 1938-40 while his .367 batting average in 1936 for Brooklyn remains the highest for any catcher of the modern era. Babe was a nickname given to oversized (or baby-faced) players. Dahlgren at 190 pounds was just large. But Phelps was a 6’ 2” jumbo who tipped the scales at 235 lbs. with a stance and swing, not to mention physique, that were similar to Babe Ruth’s. He also answered to a second, less kindly moniker later in his career: “Blimp.” The trigger for the deal was Uncle Sam; Pirates first sacker Elbie Fletcher was drafted, creating a hole at first for the Bucs. 
  • 1985 - RHP Sean Gallagher was born in Boston. He came to Pittsburgh in July of 2010 from San Diego and was given every chance to show his stuff during 31 outings, but the impression he left wasn’t the one he wanted as he finished with a 6.03 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.8 walks per nine and the only two balks of his big-league career. He was sent to Indy in 2011, and though he later landed minor league deals with the Reds and Rox, 2010 was the last of his four MLB campaigns. 
  • 2001 - The Pirates signed RHP 29-year-old Salomon Torres as a minor league free agent. He had retired after the 1997 campaign to coach, but came back after a successful year in Korea and the Dominican. Torres started a six-year run in Pittsburgh after spending most of the year in AAA Nashville, appearing in 358 games while posting a solid slash of 26-28-29/3.63 as a Buc, covering everything from starter to closer, before being flipped to the Brewers. 
Salomon Torres - 2003 Upper Deck 40-Man
  • 2004 - Pirate bird dog and later scouting director Rex Bowen passed away in New Smyrna, Florida, at age 94. After a minor league playing & managing career, Rex scouted for the Pirates from 1950-1967 (the last 12 years as scouting director) after starting out with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Following his Pirates stint, he joined the Cincinnati Reds as special assistant to the GM and consultant. He signed Bill Mazeroski, Maury Wills, Dick Groat, Bruce Dal Canton, Gene Freese and George Freese among others. In 2000, Baseball America named him one of the top 10 scouts of the 20th Century. 
  • 2004 - Per BR Bullpen: Aid originally destined for Nicaragua to commemorate the anniversary of Roberto Clemente's tragic flight 32 years ago, was sent instead to the earthquake and tsunami victims of the Pacific Rim. Roberto Clemente Jr., who with the help of the Project Club Clemente, collected two tons of supplies and raised nearly $20,000 in efforts to reenact his father's unfinished mission, decided to postpone that symbolic flight and instead diverted the relief to help those in immediate need. Junior didn’t forget his original task - he raised another planeload of relief aid for Nicaragua that he delivered on 12/31 of 2005.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

12/29: Burghers to Bucs; Playoff Pairings; HBD Jack, Clyde, Franks, Mike, George, Emil & Kevin

  • 1882 - OF Frank Delahanty was born in Cleveland. He played two years in Pittsburgh, not as a Pirate but for the Rebels of the Federal League. Frank hit .239 from 1914-15, and that was the end of his pro career. Baseball was in his family’s blood - his older brothers Ed, Jim, Joe and Tom also played in the Majors. 
  • 1890 - The Burghers of the Players League gave up the ghost and became the National League Pirates in a machiavellian maneuver. Though the PL only lasted a year, it had crippled the NL’s 1890 Alleghenys, who had lost most of their top guns to the upstart league and went through a disastrous NL campaign, finishing 23-113. Alleghenys owner Denny McKnight moved the franchise (on paper) to the American Association, then became part of the Burghers ownership. Then the Burghers group repurchased the Alleghenys under a new corporate name to regain control of the player contracts, returned to the NL, stole Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics and became known unofficially as the Pirates. 
1890 Pittsburgh Burghers - Dab's Cabinet Card
  • 1895 - OF Clyde Barnhart was born in Buck Valley, in Fulton County near the Maryland border. He spent his entire career (1920-28) with the Pirates, starting as a third baseman and moving to the outfield. In 814 games, he hit .295, batting over .300 in five of his nine campaigns. Barnhart played on two World Series teams and hit .273 with nine RBI in 11 Fall Classic matches. Clyde played his college ball at Cumberland Valley State Normal School, today known as Shippensburg University. His son Vic was a Buc infielder from 1944-46. 
  • 1930 - Umpire Frank Dezelan was born in Johnstown. After a decade in the minors, Frank was a NL fill-in ump before becoming full-time in 1969. He only worked the ‘69-70 seasons due to a brain tumor, though he did survive the operation and went on to live 40 more years. Dezelan had the honor of ejecting Earl Weaver when both were in the Northern League, and in the show he worked Willie Mays' 600th home run game, the 1970 All-Star Game and the Three Rivers Stadium opener. He cited Roberto Clemente as one of his favorite players because he never griped (at least to Frank) about a call.
  • 1937 - RHP George Perez was born in San Fernando, California. He was signed as an undrafted prep prospect from Verdugo Hill HS in 1956 and made his debut in 1958 at the age of 20. In four games, he was 0-1/4.50 and spent most of the year with AAA Salt Lake City. After a strong campaign there in 1959, he dropped off the record book for a season with a chronic bad wing, then in 1961 he had a brief and unsuccessful comeback with Asheville in the Sally League, ending his pro career. 
  • 1959 - OF Mike Brown was born in San Francisco. After three years with the Angels, he came to Pittsburgh in 1985 as part of the John Candelaria deal, was plugged into right field and delivered with a .332 BA in 57 games. But he fell to earth the following season, hitting just .218. Mike was released and mounted a brief comeback with the Halos in 1988, but he lasted just 18 more games before his MLB career ended. 
  • 1974 - OF Emil Brown was born in Chicago. Brown started his career as a Pirate, playing in Pittsburgh from 1997-2001, but could never hit his way into the lineup, with a .205 BA as a Buc. Brown did breakout with the Royals from 2005-07 with a slash of .279/38/229, but after a so-so season with Oakland, he was released by the Mets in 2009 after just six PA. 
Jack Wilson - 2005 Fleer Showcase
  • 1977 - Jack Wilson was born in Westlake Village, California. He played SS for the Bucs from 2001-09, hitting .269, after coming over from the Cards for Jason Christiansen. He was named to the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger in 2004. The slick fielder (he led MLB in PO, assists and DPs 2004-05) collected 201 hits that year, the franchise's first player since Dave Parker (1977) and the first Pirate shortstop since Honus Wagner (1908) to reach the 200-knock mark. After Pittsburgh, he played for Seattle (part of a big deal w/Ian Snell for Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Brett Lorin, Aaron Pribanic and Nathan Adcock) and Atlanta, but a steady stream of nagging injuries led to his retirement after the 2012 season. 
  • 1982 - RHP Kevin Hart was born in Cleveland. He came to Pittsburgh in 2009, along with Josh Harrison and Jose Ascanio for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow. The Pirates threw him into the rotation, where he went 1-8/6.92. That line was probably due to a bum wing; he had labrum surgery that cost him the 2010-11 seasons, and he never made it back to the show. 
  • 2013 - Black & Gold trivia: The Steelers missed playing in the postseason, marking the first year since 1991 that the Pirates made the playoffs but the Steelers didn't. The streak began anew in 2014 and continued the next season, then reverted back to football-only (if any) playoffs in recent years.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

12/28: Charlie on Board; Klu for Dee; Leyland MoY; Buc Bids; Cannonball Burst; Minor Moves; HBD Hammer, Zane, Dario & Harry

  • 1888 - Responding to rumors he was called “nonessential” to the Alleghenys by skipper Horace Phillips after posting 29 wins the previous season, LHP Ed “Cannonball” Morris told the Pittsburgh Press “...They are not going to break my heart by giving me my release. My present relations with the club are not so cordial that I would long regret such a measure...let baseball rip.” The two sides patched up things enough to bring Cannonball, one of baseball’s elite early southpaws, back into the fold. But at the young age of 26, he was on the downslope in 1889 - his starts dropped from 55 to 21 and his win total nosedived to six while his ERA shot from 2.31 to 4.13. He tossed one more year for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League before retiring to run his North Side hotel. Cannonball - he had a great heater - was a supernova for much of his brief Pittsburgh career. In 1886, he claimed 41 victories and even earned a save for good measure. Ed threw 500 innings in 1884 (with Columbus) and again in 1886 (for Pittsburgh) with 300 strikeouts in both seasons. And despite the battle of barbs, he and the team stayed tight. Morris remained a fan who rarely missed a Pirates game, and in 1934 he pitched an inning of the Silver Anniversary of Forbes Field at the age of 72. 
Cannonball Morris - 2/27/1888 Pgh Press
  • 1915 - 1B Harry Sweeney was born in Franklin, Tennessee. Harry was a one-day wonder. The 29-year-old played on the last day of the 1944 season against the Philadelphia Blue Jays (the unofficial Philly nickname during the mid-to-late 40s), going 0-for-2 and flawlessly handling 10 chances at first base in his only big-league outing. Harry deserved the shot; overall, he spent 10 campaigns in the minors with a couple of years off for military duty. He retired two years later and worked as a Monsanto foreman back home in Tennessee. 
  • 1938 - The Bucs shuffled their minor league clubs, dropping Montreal (International League), Savannah (South Atlantic League) and Mt. Airy (Bi-State League) while picking up Gadsden (Southeastern League) and Valdosta (Georgia-Florida League). They renewed contracts with Knoxville, Hutchinson, McKeesport, and Carthage, leaving the organization with one club each at the A, B and C levels with three D teams for prospects. They also announced that 10 minor leaguers would be promoted to the next level, chief among them 3B Frankie Gustine and OF Bob Elliott who moved up to Class A Knoxville of the Southern Association. They got auditions with the Pirates in 1939 and became starters in ‘40; both ended up with multiple All-Star berths. 
  • 1949 - 1B/OF John Milner was born in Atlanta. “The Hammer” (he was a huge Henry Aaron fan growing up) was a platoon guy and pinch hitter for five years (1978-82) in Pittsburgh, hitting .263 over that span with a .333 BA in the 1979 World Series. He had perhaps his best season during that championship year, hitting .276 with 16 HR and 60 RBI. His low point came during the coke trials, when he admitted to cocaine and amphetamine use. 
  • 1957 - The Pirates swapped first basemen with the Reds, as Pittsburgh acquired Ted Kluszewski, known for wearing cut-off sleeves to show off his pipes, and Cincinnati received seven-year veteran Dee Fondy in return. Neither side got much; Klu’s power days were behind him, and Fondy spent just one more season in MLB. Klu did have a last hurrah, though. Buried behind Dick Stuart & Rocky Nelson in Pittsburgh, he was moved to the White Sox in ‘59. His presence provided some insurance for the Tribe’s middle-of-the-order, and he had a terrific WS (.391 BA, three HR, 10 RBI) though Chicago lost the set to the LA Dodgers. Factoid: Bill Veeck introduced player names on the back of Chi-town’s jerseys for the first time in MLB history in 1959 when Klu joined the Sox. Kluszewski became the first player to appear in a game with his name misspelled (go figure), with a backwards "z" and an "x" instead of the second "k." 
Zane Smith - 1993 Fleer Ultra (reverse)
  • 1960 - LHP Zane Smith was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Smith came to the Bucs in 1990 in the Moises Alou deal with Montreal. He pitched well down the stretch in ‘90 and won 16 games in ‘91. Zane tossed five years (1990-94, 1996) for the Buccos, with a 47-41/3.35 line. He almost made history in a clutch September 1990 match against the second place Mets, giving up a leadoff single to Keith Miller, then holding NY hitless the rest of the way. The Bucs won his complete game outing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth to stretch their NL East lead to three games.
  • 1984 - Pirates Treasurer Doug McCormick told the Pittsburgh Press that he fielded 40-50 inquiries regarding the sale of the Bucs, with a dozen serious offers, and expressed surprise and disappointment that only four were local bidders (Jim Roddey’s Allegheny Media was the only caller identified as the remainder requested anonymity). He made it clear, even to those groups trying to get the Pirates to relocate to their city, that the Pirates had a lease with TRS through 2011 that they would honor. 
  • 1993 - Jim Leyland was chosen as MLB’s top manager in a reader’s poll conducted by Baseball America, winning 33% of the total vote. The Pirates won the NL East for the third straight year in 1992 with 96 wins, but once again stumbled in the postseason, losing a seven-game NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. It would be the Bucs last winning season until 2013. 
  • 1994 - RHP Dario Agrazal was born in Aguadulce, Panama. Dario was signed as an international free agent in 2012, was promoted to the 40-man for 2018 and then dropped from it the following year. But he rebounded nicely, moving from Altoona to Indy, posting some nice numbers as a pitch-to-contact guy (4-2/3.10) and joined a revolving door cast of Pirates starters in June, making his first start in the 15th against the Miami Marlins. The first Pirates international signee of the Neal Huntington era to get a Bucco start, he slashed 4-5/4.91 and moved on to Motown in 2020.  
Charlie Hayes - 1996 Circa
  • 1995 - 30-year-old IF Charlie Hayes was signed as a FA by the Bucs to a deal worth $1.75M, hit .248 and then was flipped at the deadline to the New York Yankees for a minor leaguer, RHP Chris Corn. Hayes had a good September run with the Bronx Bombers, made the playoff roster and earned himself a World Series ring. His son Ke'Bryan, a third baseman, was selected 32nd overall out of high school by the Pirates in the 2015 draft and is a Top-100 prospect. He suffered through an injury-plagued 2016 season but has made steady progress since with the bat; he’s already considered an elite glovemen at the hot corner and one of the Bucs’ top prospects. 
  • 2006 - The Pirates agreed to a 30-year spring-training lease with Bradenton after the City fathers voted to upgrade the ballyard facilities to the tune of $15M in time for the 2008 camp. The Bucs had called Bradenton their spring home since 1969, and the lease extended their presence until 2038.

Friday, December 27, 2019

12/27: Nova Signed; Brown Exec of the Year; Hoak Hitched; HBD Jeff, Craig, Jim, Ducky & Bill

  • 1862 - OF William “Ducky” Hemp was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Hemp played a game for Louisville in 1887 and had one more MLB run in 1890, getting into 29 contests with Pittsburgh and Syracuse. He hit .235 for the NL Alleghenys before finishing out the campaign with the American Association Stars. He got his nickname as a 19-year-old playing for the Wichita Braves for reasons unknown. 
  • 1864 (or maybe 1869) - RHP Bill Bishop was born in Adamsburg in neighboring Westmoreland County near Jeannette. He pitched two seasons (1886-87) for the Alleghenys, going 0-4 in five starts with a 9.21 ERA. There are two different years given for his birthday. We went with 1864 as his DOB; he would have been a pre-peach fuzz 16-year-old rookie if he was actually born in 1869, although that age would provide some cover for his pedestrian pitching results.
Jim Tobin - 1985 Big League Collectibles
  • 1912 - RHP Jim Tobin was born in Oakland, California. Tobin spent his first three seasons (1937-39) as a Pirate, going 29-24 with a 3.71 ERA, before being traded to Boston, where he would spend the majority of his nine-year career. He was OK with a stick, too; Tobin pinch-hit over 100 times in his major league career with a batting line of .230/.303/.345 in the majors. He totaled 35 doubles, 17 homers and 102 RBI in 796 at-bats in the show. Tobin is the only pitcher in the modern era to hit three home runs in the same game, batting against the Cubs when he pitched for the Braves in 1942. 
  • 1952 - SS Craig Reynolds was born in Houston. The Bucs selected him in the first round (22nd overall) of the 1971 draft, signing the Houston HS Player-of-the-Year to a $2M bonus. He played sparingly for the Pirates, hitting .225 in 38 games over 1975-76 and was traded to Seattle for Grant Jackson after Craig was unable to oust Frankie Taveras from the SS job. He went on to have a pretty solid career, playing 15 seasons (11 with his hometown Astros) with a .256 BA and earning a pair of All-Star berths while fielding league average at short. 
  • 1958 - In his third year on the job, Buc GM Joe L Brown was named The Sporting News’ “Executive of the Year.” Under his hand, the Pirates finished second in the NL after a long run of second division play (the teams’ 84 wins were the most since the 90 victories of 1944) and drew 1,311,000 fans to Forbes Field in 1958, the first time the team cracked the million-fan mark since 1950. 
  • 1961 - 3B Don Hoak married Avonmore’s Norma Jean Speranza, better known as pop singer and TV starlet Jill Corey, in a civil ceremony in Common Plea judge Frederick Weir’s chambers, with Mayor Joe Barr as a guest. The Tiger met the singer at a promotional event at Forbes Field and the pair exchanged vows 16 months later. 
  • 1975 - RHP Jeff D’Amico was born in St. Petersburg, Florida. D’Amico was a 1993 first rounder of the Brewers, but after 40 MLB starts missed 1998-99 following shoulder surgery. The Pirates plugged him into the rotation in 2003; he went 9-16/4.77, and his 16 defeats were the most in the majors. His career ended the next season when the Indians released him in June.
Ivan Nova - 2018 AT&T SportsNet image
  • 2016 - Ivan Nova, 29, re-upped with the Pirates. The deal was for three years/$26M (including a $2M signing bonus) with another $2M in performance bonus money available annually. Nova slashed 5-2/3.06 ERA in 11 starts as a Bucco after coming over at the deadline in exchange for minor league OF Tito Polo LHP Stephen Tarpley were sent to the New York Yankees and has held down a back end rotation spot since. Like many multi-year Pirates signees, he didn’t outlast his contract in Pittsburgh, being traded to the White Sox for the 2019 campaign. He's currently a free agent.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

12/26: Hanny for Shark; Kluttz Deal; O'Donnell Six Pack; Jack Z; HBD Jeff, Mario, Lee & Bonnie

  • 1892 - OF Lee King was born in Hundred, West Virginia, just across the PA state line. After being picked up from the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies, he played for Pittsburgh from 1916-18, compiling a .241 BA. King’s Bucco career ended when he enlisted during the war; when he returned in 1919, his contract was purchased by the New York Giants. He played through 1922, mostly in NY, spent a few seasons in the minors and retired to his native West Virginia, where he would relive the old days with an occasional trip to watch the Pirates at Forbes Field. 
  • 1895 - RHP John “Bonnie” Hollingsworth was born in Jacksboro, Tennessee. Hollingsworth worked four MLB seasons, his first as a 27-year-old for the Pirates in 1922. In nine games he had no decisions and an ERA of 7.90. He was shipped to Minneapolis of the American Association for Reb Russell, who was in his thirties but still hit .323 over two seasons for Pittsburgh. Bonnie closed out his decade in organized ball in 1930 with Chattanooga of the Southern Association. 
Clyde Kluttz - photo via Worth Point
  • 1946 - The Pirates purchased C Clyde Kluttz from the St. Louis Cardinals, and he caught 160 games over the next two seasons. In 1947, he hit .302 with career-high six home runs and 42 RBIs in 73 games, but faded to .229 the following season and was sent to the minors. He finished his career in 1952 with Washington, spent a couple of years in the bushes and then became a long-time MLB scout. 
  • 1950 - IF Mario Mendoza was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. In five seasons (1974-78) with the Pirates, the infielder put up a .204 BA. About the Mendoza line: "My (Seattle Mariner) teammates Tom Paciorek and Bruce Bochte used it to make fun of me," Mendoza told Dave Seminara of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2010 "Then they were giving George Brett a hard time because he had a slow start that year, so they told him, 'Hey, man, you're going to sink down below the Mendoza Line (.200 BA) if you're not careful.' And then Brett mentioned it to Chris Berman from ESPN, and eventually it spread and became a part of the game." Mario ironically ended up with a .215 lifetime BA, safely above his namesake line. 
  • 1953 - The Pirates sent 2B Danny O'Connell to the Milwaukee Braves for 3B Sid Gordon, P Max Surkont, OF Sam Jethroe, and minor league hurlers Curt Raydon, Fred Waters, and Larry LaSalle. The Braves threw in $100,000 to sweeten the deal. It was the only 6-for-1 deal in MLB history, outgunned only by Vida Blue’s 7-for-1 swap in 1978. Danny was sold at his high point; after hitting .294 for Pittsburgh, he never had a BA over .266 in the remaining eight years of his career. It evened out; none of return for Pittsburgh had much impact, either. 
  • 1964 - 3B Jeff King was born in Marion, Indiana. The first pick overall in the 1986 draft, King reached Pittsburgh in 1989 and stayed until 1996, hitting .258 with 493 RBI during that span and was part of two division title teams in 1990 and 1992. King is one of three players, along with Willie McCovey and Andre Dawson, to hit two home runs in the same inning twice during his career. On August 8th, 1995, he hit two home runs in the second inning of the Pirates' 9-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. On April 30th, 1996, he repeated the feat in the fourth inning of the Pirates' 10-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Cinergy Field. At last look, his new day job was as a cattle rancher in Montana. 
Jeff King - 1989 Fleer
  • 1990 - Jack Zduriencik was named the Pirates chief scout. The New Castle native played at California U of PA, coached at Clairton HS and was a Mets scout before joining the Bucco staff. He held the position through 1993. Zduriencik followed with a successful decade-long front office run with the Brewers, becoming the first non-GM to win Baseball America’s “Executive of the Year” award. He became Seattle’s GM in 2008, a job “Trader Jack” held until 2015. Now he’s an occasional media commentator, having served on Root Sports and other outlets. 
  • 2012 - RH closer Joel Hanrahan and IF Brock Holt were officially traded to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Stolmy Pimentel, IF Ivan De Jesus, RHP Mark Melancon and 1B/OF Jerry Sands to finalize a deal agreed to a week or so earlier. Hanny, 31, was the key player for Boston, with 76 saves in 2011-12 for Pittsburgh, but ended up with TJ surgery and is now a Pirates minor league pitching coach, while Holt blossomed as a utility guy. The Bucs got some prospects that never emerged as more than fringe roster players, but did land a sterling back-end reliever in Melancon who thrived as both a set-up man & closer while earning a pair of NL All-Star berths as a Pirate. He went to the Nats at the 2016 deadline and then inked a juicy four-year deal with the Giants as a free agent. The Shark was moved in 2019 to the Bravos.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

12/25 Through 1934: Waner Title; The Unkindest Cut; HBP Pud, Big Train, Pinches, Alex & Ed

  • 1856 - RHP James Galvin was born in St. Louis. The Hall of Famer was MLB’s first 300 game winner and may have had the most nicknames of any player ever, going by "Pud," "Gentle Jeems," “Gentleman James” and "The Little Steam Engine." He threw 6,003 IP and 646 complete games, both of which are second only to Cy Young. Pud tossed seven years (1885-89, ‘91-92) for the Alleghenys/Pirates, with the 1890 campaign lost when he jumped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the rogue Player’s League. He was 126-110 with an ERA of 3.10 during his Steel City career. As for his litany of nicknames, Charles Hausberg in Galvin’s SABR bio wrote “He may have been called Pud because of his ability to turn batters into pudding, or from his pudgy physique. He was presumably called “The Little Steam Engine” because he was small but powerful, and he was called “Gentle James” or “Gentle(man) Jeems” for his kind demeanor.” 

James "Pud" Galvin - 1989 Hall of Fame sticker
  • 1869 - LHP Alex Jones was born in Bradford, located in the northern tier in McKean County. Alex got into 26 games in four big league campaigns with five teams. His first was as a 19-year-old for the Alleghenys, giving up five runs (three earned) in a complete game win. He tossed for 11 pro seasons, missing several more with a variety of injuries, and finally called it a career after 1907 at age 37 when he tossed for the Class D Washington (PA) club of the Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland League. 
  • 1884 - LHP Ed Henderson was born in Newark, New Jersey. He tossed six games for the Federal League’s Pittsburgh Rebels in 1914 (0-1/3.94) and two more for the Indianapolis Hoosiers later in the season to close out his only big league campaign. Ed had started his pro career in 1907; it appears he concluded it as a 30-year-old after his lone MLB season. 
  • 1898 - RHP Earl “Pinches” Kunz was born in Sacramento, California. He worked one MLB campaign in 1923, going 1-2, 5.52 (per Baseball Reference; “Gold on the Diamond” cites a 2-4, 4.00 line). He preferred working out west, spending 10 years in the Pacific Coast League with half that time on the hometown Sacramento roster. The workhorse retired in 1930 at age 31 and spent his time raising and racing horses. His original nickname was Pinchers, as in the crab claws, and was shortened a bit; we’re assuming it came about because of his delivery/grip. 
  • 1912 - C Quincy “Big Train” Trouppe was born in Dublin, Georgia, the grandson of slaves. He worked for nine Negro League teams from 1930-49, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays in the early thirties, was an eight-time All-Star, played in the Mexican League, managed the Cleveland Buckeyes and had a cup of coffee in MLB when he caught six contests (10 games overall) for the 1952 Cleveland Indians. He was 39 years old when he made his big league debut and was behind the dish to catch "Toothpick Sam" Jones, forming the first black battery in AL history. Trouppe carried the nicknames of "Big Train" and "Baby Quincy," probably because of his 6’2”, 225 pound frame. He was also an excellent boxer. 
Quincy "Big Train" Trouppe - photo via Lauren County Afro-American History
  • 1934 - The NL released its final official figures confirming that OF Paul “Big Poison” Waner had won his second batting crown, compiling a .362 BA to defeat Bill Terry of the Giants at .354. Long-ago Pirate Kiki Cuyler, 35-years-old and in his seventh season with the Cubs, claimed the third spot by hitting .338. Pittsburgh was a good-swinging club that year; they finished second in the league with a .287 BA, just one point behind the pennant winning St. Louis Cards. 
  • 1934 - As noted by John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, RHP Bill Harris was the only Pirate ever released on Christmas Day (what a grinch FO!) when he was demoted from the big club and sent to the farm at Buffalo. He had one more hurrah in the show in 1938 with Boston, but otherwise spent 1935-45 toiling in the minors, hanging up his spikes at the age of 45.
  • Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Years to you all!

12/25 From 1935: RIP Patsy; HBD Tarrik, Gene, Rick, Scott & Al

  • 1935 - LHP Al Jackson was born in Waco, Texas. He was a Bucco product and worked his first two pro campaigns of 1960-61 as a Pirate, getting into 11 games and going 1-0/4.75. He was then lost to the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. Al started there, and while he suffered through a couple of 20-loss seasons, he also won 40 games in four years for the sad sack Metropolitans. He ended up with 10 campaigns in the show and then coached 20 more seasons with the Mets, Orioles and Red Sox. 
Al Jackson - 2008 Topps Heritage Autograph
  • 1946 - Gene Lamont was born in Rockford, Illinois. After serving stints as Jim Leyland’s 3B coach, he took over the team reins in 1997. In his first year, Lamont finished second with a young, inexperienced team (“The Freak Show”) that was widely predicted to finish last, and he was the runner up behind Dusty Baker for the Manager of the Year. That was the highlight; after the 2000 season, Lamont was fired after compiling a record of 295–352 and replaced by Lloyd McClendon. After coaching stops at Boston, Houston, and Detroit, Lamont moved to Kansas City in 2018 as a special assistant to the GM. 
  • 1953 - OF/Manager Patsy Donovan died at the age of 88 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Donovan played with the Pirates from 1892-99, putting together a stretch of six consecutive .300+ seasons and serving as player-manager in 1897 & 1899. That seemed to be Donovan’s niche; he was player/manager for four different clubs and managed two more after his playing days. The Pirates were sold late in 1899 to Barney Dreyfuss, who brought in Fred Clarke as, yes, player/manager, and the result was that Donovan was sent to the Cardinals to remove any potential friction. Fun fact: after Patsy retired, he coached for a bit at Phillips Academy in Andover, where one of his players was the future 41st President, George H.W. Bush. 
  • 1961 - Rick Renteria was born in Harbor City, California. The Pirates selected him 20th in the 1980 draft, and he was rewarded with a cup of coffee with the team in 1986, going 3-for-12 in 10 games. He went on to play parts of four more seasons in the show before taking coaching jobs with the Marlins and Padres. He landed a gig as the manager of the Cubs for a year, but despite doing a generally fine job with a rebuilding team, he was shown the door when Joe Maddon became available. RR moved crosstown to become the White Sox’s bench coach; a year later, he was their manager. 
  • 1968 - OF Scott Bullett was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The Pirates signed Scott out of high school in 1988 and he was up-and-down in the minors. He got a couple of short visits to the big club in 1991 and again in 1993, batting .186 in 34 games. He fell behind other Bucco OF prospects like Midre Cummings, Al Martin and Trey Beamon and was traded to the Cubs for Travis Willis, a pitcher who couldn’t get past AAA. He put in two years with the Cubs and closed out his career playing in Japan and Mexico. He now runs a baseball development camp called Bullettproof Baseball Prospects.  
Scott Bullett - 1992 Fleer Ultra Rookie
  • 1973 - Tarrik Brock, the Pirates first base/outfield/baserunning coach, was born in Goleta, California. Brock, a second round pick of the Tigers in 1991, had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2000. By 2006, he joined the coaching ranks, working with the Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers before he was hired by the Bucs in late 2019 to replace Kimera Bartee on Derek Shelton’s staff.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

12/24 Through the 1940’s: Barkley Deal; New Uni; HBD Frank, Eppa,Tex & Del

  • 1877 - OF George “Del” Howard was born in Kenney, Illinois. Del (short for his middle name, Elmer) spent his 28-year-old, 1905 rookie season as a Pirate after he was pried from the Phils for Kitty Bransfield, Otto Krueger and Moose McCormick. He had his best campaign, hitting .292 while playing 1B, OF and even pitching once and then was flipped to Boston as part of the deal for Vic Willis. He spent four more years in the majors, twice appearing with the powerhouse Cub clubs that won the World Series of 1907-08. Howard trivia: Not only was Del born on Christmas Eve, but he also passed away on 12/24 at the age of 79 in 1956. 
Sam  Barkley - 1887 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1885 - The St. Louis Browns sold the rights of infielder Sam Barkley to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for $1,000. It wasn’t an easy deal to consummate. In March, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe offered Barkley around the league for $1,000. Barkley, in the meantime, signed an undated contract with the Baltimore Orioles, with an complication: von der Ahe had already inked a deal with the Alleghenys’ owner, Denny McKnight. The owners convinced Sam to renege on the deal with the Birds and go to the North Side. The American Association threw a snit and suspended Barkley for not honoring his Oriole contract, settling out of court with a fine replacing the suspension. As part of the penance, Baltimore was sent 1B Milt Scott by the Alleghenys, so it ended up a costly transaction for McKnight. Barkley played well in 1886, hitting .266 with 31 doubles and 22 stolen bases. He faded the following campaign, batting just .224, and after the season was sold to the Kansas City Cowboys. After his career in baseball ended after the 1889 season, Sam became a cigar maker. He passed away at the age of 53 in his hometown of Wheeling. 
  • 1899 - C Fred “Tex” Burnett was born in Houston. Burnett was a backup catcher and sometime starter for at least 14 different black teams (talk about your journeyman!) during the 20s & 30s, including the Pittsburgh Keystones, Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He briefly managed the Newark Eagles in 1937, and took over the Black Yankees in 1940. 
  • 1910 - LHP Lloyd “Eppa” Johnson was born in Santa Ana, California. Eppa tossed for a dozen years in the minors and earned a stat line and baseball card in 1934 when he got to work a scoreless inning for the Buccos against the Reds. He hung ‘em up after 1941 after he was shuffled among three different farm clubs.
  • 1939 - The Pirates President Bill Benswanger announced a uniform change. They eliminated the script “Pirates” across the chest and replaced it with a Buccaneer logo on the left breast, the first time the team emblem was worn on a Pirates jersey. 
John Lanning shows off the new 1940 look - photo George Burke
  • 1949 - Frank Taveras was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. The SS spent eight years (1971-72, 1974-79) with the Pirates as a top-of-the order guy, swiping 206 bases with a streak of four seasons with 44+ steals, including an NL-leading 70 in 1977. But his bat (.253), OBP (.306) and not-so-steady glove work made him expendable and he was sent to the Mets in April of 1979 for Tim Foli, a dependable fielder and two-hole contact hitter that helped jell the World Series infield. Taveras played three seasons in NY, then spent his final year (1982) with Montreal.

12/24 From 1950: Starg, Terry SI MoY; Groat & Syd DD Winners; Fire; HBD Vic & Tim

  • 1957 - Pirates SS Dick Groat outpolled Steelers coach Buddy Parker 16-13 to win the 1957 Dapper Dan Man of the Year Award after batting .315 during the season. It was presented to the Swissvale native on January 19th at the charity’s annual dinner funder. The honor marked the second straight MoY recognition for the Bucs; Dale Long was the 1956 recipient. 
Victor Cruz - 1981 Topps
  • 1957 - RHP Victor Cruz was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. Cruz came to Pittsburgh as part of the Bert Blyleven deal. He lasted one season here, and tossed pretty well in 22 games going 1-1/2.65 as a bridge man before he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1982 for Nelson Norman. As it ended up, Cruz became the most Pirates asset of the trade that shipped out Blyleven, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher with 11 big-league seasons left in the tank, demonstrating that GM Harding Peterson could blow a deal as well as any Bucco exec. 
  • 1964 - RHP Tim Drummond was born in La Plata, Maryland. Tim was signed by the Pirates after being chosen in the 12th round of the 1983 draft out of the College of Southern Maryland. He worked for the Bucs in 1987, making six outings/six IP with no decisions and a 4.50 ERA. Drummond worked 1989-90 with the Twins, ending his MLB career. 
  • 1970 - There was a fire in the right field stands of the vacated Forbes Field. The damage this blaze caused, followed by a July 1971 fire, hastened the old ball yard’s demolition. The Christmas Eve blaze became a five-alarm fire when Pitt security guards couldn’t find the keys to the center-field gate, delaying the firefighter’s entry to the ballpark. 
  • 1979 - The famous Willie Stargell/Terry Bradshaw cover issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands when the pair were named co-Sportsmen of the Year. Willie led his team to the World Series title and Terry & the Steelers won the Super Bowl, with both being named MVP.
  • 1987 - Syd Thrift was given an early Christmas present when he was named the “Sportsman of the Year” by the Dapper Dan Club, awarded to him at their annual banquet in February. The glow wore off quickly as he was ousted after the 1988 season, but he helped lay the groundwork for the success of Jim Leyland’s early 1990’s teams

Monday, December 23, 2019

12/23: Jaso Signed; Low Ball; Strike; Bucco Basement; HBD Rick, Shawn, Goshen Schoolmaster, Cozy, Sam & Dave

  • 1871 - RHP Sam "The Goshen Schoolmaster" Leever was born in Goshen, Ohio. He was a Pirate mainstay on the hill from 1898-1910, compiling a record of 191-100 with a 2.47 ERA, spending his entire career with Pittsburgh. Leever won 20 games or more four times and led the league with seven shutouts in 1903. Sadly for Sam, he went 0-2 in the 1903 World Series, trying to pitch through a shoulder injury, and didn’t appear in the 1909 World Series. Sam got his nickname not only because he did indeed teach for several years before he made it as a ballplayer, but also because of his serious, schoolmarmish disposition.
  • 1882 - RHP Sam Frock was born in Baltimore. Sam spent five years in the majors, serving in 1909-10 as a Bucco. He went 2-1/2.58, before being traded to Boston for Kirby White in April of 1910. He won a dozen games for the Doves that year, then tossed 16 IP in 1911 to mark the end of his MLB road. 
Cozy Dolan - photo via Find A Grave
  • 1889 - 3B Albert “Cozy” Dolan was born in Chicago. Dolan had a seven-year MLB run and spent 35 games of it with the Pirates in 1913, batting .203. His career ended on a dark note. As a Giants' coach in 1924, Dolan was implicated in a botched attempt to throw a game during a close pennant race. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis issued a lifetime ban from baseball on Dolan and another player. His nickname may have been a hand-me-down from Pat “Cozy” Dolan, a baseball contemporary who played just before our Cozy from 1895-1906. 
  • 1949 - OF Dave May was born in New Castle, Delaware. He ended his 12-year career by going 0-for-4 in five games as a Bucco in 1978 after the Pirates purchased his contract in mid-September. A journeyman outfielder, May was included in a pair of deals involving a couple of baseball’s big names - in 1974, he was dealt to Atlanta by the Brewers in a swap that allowed Henry Aaron to end his career in Milwaukee, and in 1976 he was part of the mega-deal that brought 1974 MVP Jeff Burroughs from Texas to Atlanta. 
  • 1954 - Talk about your bad campaign: The NL announced the official end-of-season stats and Pittsburgh was, well... The Pirates finished last in the NL (53-101, 44 games behind the NY Giants), a sadly consistence position in 1954. They were also in the cellar for hitting (.248, & last in OBP/slugging %, too), pitching (4.92 ERA) and fielding (.971 FA) to hit the trifecta. 
  • 1968 - RHP Rick White was born in Springfield, Ohio. White, a 15th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1990, began his 12-year MLB career as a Buc in 1994-95, and made another Steel City stop in 2005. He went 10-15-8 with a 4.03 ERA as a Pirate, who used him as a swingman. He was converted full-time to the bullpen by Tampa Bay in 1998, and worked 12 years in the league. 
  • 1977 - RHP Shawn Chacon was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Shawn worked in Pittsburgh toward the end of his eight year career in 2006-07, coming over after a trade with the Yankees for Craig Wilson. Chacon went 7-7-1, 4.44, as a reliever and starter in the Steel City, making 64 appearances. His MLB days ended on a nasty note when he was accused of a smack-down of Astro’s GM Ed Wade and waived in 2008, never to return to the show. 
Shawn Chacon - 2007 Topps Heritage
  • 1994 - Merry Christmas, indeed. The players, who struck in August rather than accept a hard salary cap, had their offer of a soft cap with a tax for overspenders rejected by the MLB, which then unilaterally imposed a salary cap and elimination of salary arbitration among other items. It was a mess; federal mediators couldn’t help, ex-President Carter offered to chair the talks, and Congress introduced five different bills to resolve the situation. It lasted until camp, which was populated by replacement players, before now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer slapped an injunction on MLB. Under it, the season started late and was played under the terms of the old CBA, with a 144-game schedule and replacement umpires; the real ones were on strike. 
  • 1997 - In the first year of the luxury tax, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the lowest payroll of any MLB club at $16.6M. The next lowest club was Detroit at $23.5M. Each payroll had $5.1M in benefits included, so the Pirates paid out $11.5M in straight salary for luxury tax purposes. That rings about right; the Associated Press had the Bucs Opening Day payroll pegged at just $9,071,667. 
  • 2015 - The Bucs signed 1B/OF John Jaso, 32, to a two year/$8M deal after Jaso hit .286 and produced a .380 OBP/.839 OPS in 70 games with the Tampa Bay Rays. JJ was primarily a catcher and DH in the show until the 2015 campaign, when concussion woes necessitated a switch of positions. He was converted to first base by the Pirates to replace Pedro Alvarez after he was non-tendered after the season. John played 1B and corner OF while running hot and cold at the plate, posting a 2016-17 slash of .245/.342/.409 in a platoon/bench role before retiring in 2018.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

This Week's Notes: Coaches, Catcher, Depth Added & Pirates Potpourri

Stuff going on...

  • C Luke Maile, 28, signed a one-year/$900K major league deal (it's a split agreement worth $325K if he ends up in the minors) with the Pirates. The glove-first free agent had been with Jays and Rays. Maile hit .151 last year with a career .198 BA/51 OPS+. Both Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton have worked with him before.
  • The Post Gazette reported that the Bucs signed Oscar Marin, 37, as their pitching coach, taking Uncle Ray's old spot. He was the Texas Rangers’ bullpen coach after serving as the minor-league pitching coordinator with the Seattle Mariners from 2017-18. Marin spent over six years as an instructor in Texas’ farm system from 2010-16. Ass't pitching coach Justin Meccage,who was in the PC mix, will become the Pirates bullpen coach. (both moves were confirmed by the team)
Tarrik Brock - image Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Shelty then hired Tarrik Brock (he'll be 46 on Christmas) to be the first base, outfield and baserunning instructor/coach, replacing Kimera Bartee. Brock spent the past three seasons as the Dodgers’ Minor League outfield/baserunning coordinator and also coached for the Mariners, 'Stros and Friars.
  • The injury report, via MLB.com's Adam Berry: J-Bell, Archie & Starling should be 100% for camp, Gregory is on track to be although he's tossing at just 120' now and his shoulder is still being monitored, while OF Jason Martin and RHP Nick Burdi may not yet be at full speed in Florida. Jamo, Edgar Santana and Chad Kuhl are on schedule with their rehabs.
  • UT Jake Elmore re-signed with the Buccos on a MiLB deal; he got into 20 games, played four positions and batted .213 last year. IF Phillip Evans, 27, who last played (2B, 3B) in the MLB with the Mets in 2018, also signed a minor league deal w/the Bucs. He has a .241 BA in 61 big league at bats. And the more the merrier: OF Socrates Brito and LHP Miguel Del Pozo signed minor league contracts also. Brito, 27, is a speedster who played for the D-Backs and Blue Jays, batting .179 in the show with a 25%+ K rate. Del Pozo, also 27, got a taste of the bigs last year with the Angels and got swatted around, though he did whiff 11 batters in 9-1/3 MLB frames. All four got an invite to camp.
Jake is back - photo Pittsburgh Pirates
  • No surprise here: MLB.com selected each team's Player of the Decade; Cutch took the Bucco honors. He also made the site's All-MLB Team of the Decade.
  • Ol' Buccos moving around: C Erik Kratz signed w/the Yankees, RHP Edinson Volquez went to the Rangers and IF Phil Gosselin agreed with the Phils. All are minor league deals.
  • The Angels signed RHP Julio Teheran, 28, to a one-year/$9M deal; it was speculated that he might be on the Bucco radar. He was 10-11/3.81 for the Bravos last year.
  • If you think President Trump and the Democrats are having a tiff, you ain't seen nuthin' until you've checked out the MLB-MiLB war of words.

12/22 Through the 1950’s: Arky Title; Fed League Ends; HBD Matty, Connie, Tommy, Skates, Glenn & Bob

  • 1862 - Cornelius “Connie” Mack was born in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Mack was a reserve catcher for the Pirates from 1891-96, hitting a modest .242. Mack's last three seasons in the NL were as a player-manager with Pittsburgh from 1894 to 1896, eventually leading to a 50-year gig as the field general of the Philadelphia Athletics (1901–1950), where he won five World Series and became a Hall-of-Fame skipper. 
The last of the Rebels - 1915 photo JC Stewart
  • 1915 - The Federal League and Pittsburgh Rebels came to an end, agreeing to drop its antitrust suit and disband after the NL and AL made the following concessions: the reinstatement of all players who had been blacklisted during the bidding wars, the sale of Fed players to the highest bidder rather than a forced return to their old club, $600K to be distributed among the Federal League owners, and the Fed clubs in Chicago and St Louis combining with the existing Cub and Brown teams after being sold to Federal League owners. 
  • 1923 - RHP Bob Hall was born in Swissvale. The local kid only had a three-year career, spending his early 20’s with the Coast Guard during the Second World War instead of honing his game in the minors. After two years with the Braves and two more seasons on the farm, he was part of Pittsburgh’s 1953 staff, going 3-12-1/5.39 in what would be his final MLB campaign. Hall went by two monikers: “The Blade,” because of his slender build, and “Tarzan.” We speculate that one wasn’t due to that physique (though we concede that it may have been a bit of reverse mimicry) but because the comic book Lord of the Jungle was sometimes drawn by a Marvel artist named Bob Hall. 
  • 1935 - The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed their fourth batting title king when Arky Vaughan was officially crowned by the league, joining Hans Wagner, Ginger Beaumont and Paul “Big Poison” Waner. It wasn’t much of a race; Vaughan left runner-up Ducky Medwick (.353) in the dust with his .385 BA. Beside the best average in baseball, Arky also led the majors in OBP at .491 and WAR at 9.2 (for non-pitchers; Boston Red Sox hurler Wes Ferrell posted an 11.0 WAR). 
  • 1938 - CF Matty Alou was born in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic. Obtained from the Giants for the 1966 season, he became a slap-hitting machine under Harry “The Hat” Walker’s tutelage. In his time in Pittsburgh, he won a batting title and hit .300+ for four straight years. Mateo was traded to the Cards for the 1971 campaign after hitting .327 as a Pirate. Alou is part of the Dominican Republic’s first family of baseball, along with his MLB brothers Felipe (who is Moises dad) and Jesus. 
  • 1950 - Coach Tommy Sandt was born in Brooklyn. Sandt played only 42 games in the majors, but had a 15-year pro career. After he put down the bat, Tommy was a minor league coach, manager, and major league coach. He worked under skipper Jim Leyland with the Pirates from 1987-96 and stayed with Leyland for stints with the Florida Marlins in 1997-98 and the Colorado Rockies in 1999. Sandt returned as a Pirates coach from 2000-02 with Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon. 
Lonnie Smith - 1993 Leaf (reverse)
  • 1955 - OF Lonnie “Skates” Smith was born in Chicago. Lonnie spent 15 years in the majors, making a 1993 stop in Pittsburgh, an awkward destination considering he was one of the players granted immunity in the infamous 1986 coke trials. The 37-year-old was signed to a $1M FA deal by the Bucs, hit .286 and then was sent to Baltimore in September for a pair of minor leaguers. He closed out his career there after the 1994 season. Skates played in five World Series, winning three, and hit .278 in 63 post-season games over his lifetime. His nickname - which he despised - came about because he sometimes ran his routes a little circuitously in the outfield and took an occasional tumble while on the basepaths. 
  • 1958 - OF Glenn Wilson was born in Baytown, Texas. He came to the Pirates in 1988 from the Mariners for Darnell Coles and a year later was flipped to the Astros for Billy Hatcher, returning to the Pirates as a FA in 1993, his last season. He played 147 games over those three campaigns with a .274 BA as part of a 10-year MLB tour of duty.

12/22 From 1960: Teke, Todd, Dewey & GI Sign; JHK Bid; Tiger Tiff; Prez Dan; HBD Jake & Jaku

  • 1961 - Ex-marine and Bucco third sacker Don Hoak lived up to his “Tiger” nickname on this night. Three young smack-talkers cornered him in town and taunted him regarding the Pirates, leading to words. Allegedly, one member of the group waved a knife as the other pair began to shove Hoak. They picked the wrong guy to bully; the Post-Gazette wrote that “After a short tussle, the trio broke and ran...He (Hoak) tracked two of them down…” and turned them over to the police after making what he termed a “citizen’s arrest.” They were charged with disorderly conduct, as stupidity wasn’t a criminal offense.
The Tiger 1961 - photo Jay Publishing
  • 1969 - 41-year-old Dan Galbreath took over as team president for his father, John, who at 71 had run the club for 23 seasons. Dan would christen Three Rivers Stadium and told the press that his theme would be “Win In the Seventies,” which he did, bracketing the decade with World Series titles in 1971 and ‘79. He remained prez until 1985 when the Pittsburgh Associates bought the ball club.
  • 1978 - RHP Chris Jakubauskas was born in Upland, California. Chris had a hard start; after college, he missed two seasons with TJ surgery and had to work through the indie leagues to earn his big-league bow with Seattle. From there, he ended up with the Pirates and he was called up by Pittsburgh in late April of 2010, making his Bucco debut the following night at Minute Maid Park. With two outs in the first, a Lance Berkman liner drilled him above the ear in one of the Pirates scarier moments. Jaku never lost consciousness and escaped with a concussion & contusion, but it did end his Pirates stay when he was released in the offseason. He made it back with Baltimore in 2011, but then spent AAA time with four organizations, retiring in 2014.
  • 1983 - Free agent RHP Kent Tekulve re-signed with the Pirates for three years/$900K per season. In 1983, Teke had 18 saves and a 1.64 ERA for Pittsburgh. The inking was a big deal for the Bucs; Tekulve had been a bullpen fixture since 1975 in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates had to fend off the deep pockets of California Angel owner Gene Autry to seal the deal. Teke picked a good year to hit the market; after the Yankee’s Goose Gossage, he was the top reliever available.
  • 1989 - C Jacob Stallings was born in Lawrence, Kansas. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 draft out of North Carolina with a rep as a good glove, bad bat catcher, he’s picked it up with the stick, hitting .268 over parts of four seasons and has outlasted Elias Diaz on the roster. His dad Kevin was Pitt’s basketball coach for a short spell.
  • 1998 - Third-year man RHP Todd Ritchie, 27, signed as a free agent with the Pirates for $225K. Ritchie won a career-high 15 games in 1999 with a 3.49 ERA in 26 starts and the Pirates’ Opening Day starter in 2001, but it was downhill after the opening act. In his three Pirate seasons, he went 35-32/4.29 for the Bucs before he was dealt to the White Sox for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe after the 2001 campaign.
Dewey - 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter
  • 2008 - C Ryan Doumit signed a three year/$11.5M extension that bought out his arbitration years, with a team option for 2012/13 worth $15.5M. Doumit hit .271 during his time as a Pirate, but he was often injured and not very strong defensively. The Pirates didn’t pick up the option seasons, and Dewey signed with Minnesota in 2012.
  • 2008 - The Bucs signed FA 1B/OF Garrett Jones to a minor-league deal. He was on the big club by mid-year and never looked back. He sprinted from the gates, becoming the first Buc to hit seven home runs in his first 12 games since Dino Restelli in 1949 and finished with flair when in 2013 he became the second player and first Pirate to hit a homer out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River on the fly. The big lefty hit .256 with 100 HR/325 RBI in his five Pittsburgh seasons before signing with the Marlins in 2014.
  • 2014 - The Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization accepted the Pirates’ posting offer of $5,002,015 in exchange for negotiating rights for SS Jung-Ho Kang, a five-time KBO All-Star and the league’s 2014 MVP after a .356/40/117 slash. The Bucs had a 30-day window to sign him. Asian free-agency was a new market for Pittsburgh; it was the first time the Pirates had ever won a bid for an international player through the posting system. He was officially inked to a deal three weeks later.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

12/21 Through the 1950s: Hart Deal; Irons In the Fire; HBD Josh, Bill, Danny, Doc & Pete

  • 1878 - 1B Warren “Doc” Gill was born in Ladoga, Indiana. He played in the majors for one year as a 30-year-old on the pretty powerful 1908 Bucco club, hitting .224 in 27 games during a month’s audition. Although he played 12 seasons of pro ball, Gill is best known for failing to touch second base in a game against the Chicago Cubs on September 4th, 1908. With the score tied in the bottom of the 10th, the Bucs' Chief Wilson’s single plated the winning run. But Johnny Evers saw that Gill, who was on first, didn’t run the play out to second and stepped on the sack for a force-out; it was somewhat commonplace if careless for the players to head straight to the clubhouse after the game ended. Doc got away with the gaffe because Ump Hank O'Day, back in the day of one-man crews, didn’t see it. Three weeks later, the New York Giants Fred Merkle duplicated Gill's bit of lazy-bones running during a game against the Cubs; Chicago again completed the force play and this time, O’Day did see the action. Known to this day as “Merkle’s boner,” the call overturned a Giant victory and helped the Cubs to the 1908 title. Gill was nicknamed "Doc” as he was working on his dentistry degree at Washington University (St. Louis), and when he retired he started a 35-year dental practice. 
Doc Gill - 1908 team photo snip
  • 1897 - RHP Jim Hughey was traded by the Pirates with $1,800 to the St. Louis Browns for RHP Bill Hart. Hughey had three not very good years with two terrible teams, St. Louis and Cleveland, with a line of 16-61/4.76 that included a 4-30 slate in 1898 which is still the record for most losses in a season. Hart went 5-9/4.82 for the Bucs in his penultimate campaign. 
  • 1897 - OF Floyd “Pete” Scott was born in Woodland, California. Pete spent three years in the majors as a good stick guy (.303 lifetime BA) off the bench who could play corner OF/IF; his final campaign was in 1928 when he hit .311 in 60 games for the Pirates. During a 14-year pro career, he hit under .300 just twice with .286 being his lowest single-season BA. 
  • 1911 - Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. Considered the top HR hitter (the “Black Babe Ruth”) of the Negro Leagues, he played for the Grays and Crawfords. His power was legendary; he hit moonshots in Forbes Field and Yankee Stadium that are still considered among the longest blasts ever launched. Gibson was the second ballplayer, behind Satchel Paige, to be elected to the Hall of Fame because of their exceptional Negro League careers. 
  • 1920 - LHP Bill Werle was born in Oakland, California. Werle earned the nickname “Bugs” honestly as he was an amateur entomologist (a bug collector). He spent from 1949-1952 with the Bucs, going 29-39-15 and working everything from starts to closing. Bugs got into some hot water with the Bucco suits in 1952 after coming in late one night. He was fined, suspended, and traded soon thereafter. 
  • 1930 - C Danny Kravitz was born in Lopez, near Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The reserve catcher played five years (1956-60) for Pittsburgh, hitting .236, but missed out on the ‘60 Series when he was traded in June to KC for Hank Foiles. His first homer was memorable: it happened on May 11th, 1956 in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Pirates trailing the Phillies 5-2 to give the Pirates a 6-5 win. 
Danny Kravitz - 1960 Topps
  • 1959 - Deals made and not made: After Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh nixed an A's offer to deal Roger Maris for SS Dick Groat earlier in the month (GM Joe Brown was shopping for an outfielder with some punch), Pittsburgh instead took OF Gino Cimoli along with RHP Tom Cheney from the Cardinals for RHP Ronnie Kline. Maris was then dealt to the Yankees and had the first of his two consecutive MVP years in New York, while Groat was named the NL MVP in 1960. As for the deal that did happen, Kline, who had beefed about not being used enough in ‘59, pitched 11 more seasons in the show, including a 1968-69 return to the Bucs. Cheney worked 22 games for the Pirates before being traded, winning 17 games for the Senators over the next five years. Cimoli hit .272 in a pair of Pirate seasons before being shipped to Milwaukee. In other derailed deals, Frank Lane of Cleveland told Les Biederman of the Pittsburgh Press that the Pirates asked about OF Minnie Minoso during the winter meetings, denying newspaper reports that OF Rocky Colavito was a Pittsburgh target. Lane said he asked for either 3B Don Hoak or RF Roberto Clemente and the Bucs countered with C Hank Foiles; needless to say, that trade talk quickly shut down. Joe Brown told Biederman that he also made unspecified player offers to Detroit for OF Al Kaline and to Washington for 3B Harmon Killebrew, but both remained with their clubs in ‘60.

12/21 From 1960: Mazzilli Deal; Cisco Kid, Jose & Arbs Sign; HBD AVS, Freddy & John

  • 1960 - OF Andy Van Slyke was born in Utica, New York. AVS played eight years (1987-94) for the Bucs, hitting .283, earning three All-Star spots, winning five Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers during his tour. He was a mainstay of the Jimmy Leyland teams of the early nineties after coming over from the Cards in the Tony Pena deal. 
John Hope - 1994 Fleer
  • 1970 - RHP John Hope was born in Fort Lauderdale. The high schooler was a second round draft pick in 1989, signing for an $85K bonus. He went through elbow and shoulder surgery, and in part of four seasons (1993-96) with the Pirates, the righty went 1-5 with a 5.99 ERA. Hope, who had suffered through a litany of arms woes, became hooked on painkillers after his career, but later came clean through the help of the Baseball Assistance Team and Sam McDowell.
  • 1977 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was born in Hollywood. In six years (2004-09) as a Pirate, he hit .301, winning the batting crown in 2006 with a .344 BA and appearing in three All-Star games. It was a dark day in the City when fan favorite Steady Freddy was traded to the Giants, where injuries derailed his career. He hit .292 for the G-Men in the 2010 World Series season, but shoulder and back surgeries followed in 2011-12. 
  • 1982 - OF Lee Mazzilli was traded to the Pirates by the New York Yankees for minor leaguers Don Aubin, John Holland & Jose Rivera along w/RHP Tim Burke. The key figures were Burke, who had an eight-year career as a reliever with 100+ saves, and Mazzilli, who spent 3-½ years (1982-85) with Pittsburgh, playing outfield and first base while putting up a .244 Bucco BA. The Buccos hoped to use him to replace Omar Moreno in center, but Mazzilli lost that job to Marvell Wynn. 
  • 2000 - The Pirates re-signed 27-year-old RHP Jose Silva to a one-year/$795K contract. 2001 was his fifth and final year as a Bucco; he got into 26 games, with a 3-3/6.75 slash and was shipped to the Reds in the offseason. He got into a dozen games with them in 2002 to end his MLB run. In his Pirates stint (1997-2001), his line was 24-28-4/5.44 after 140 outings (53 starts). 
Josh Fogg - 2005 Topps Heritage
  • 2005 - The Pirates extended tenders to arb-eligible LHP Ollie Perez, RHPs Kip Wells & Ryan Vogelsong, OF Jody Gerut and SS Jack Wilson while passing on RHP Josh Fogg. He signed with the Rockies; GM Dave Littlefield said his spot in the rotation would be taken by one of Ian Snell, Sean Burnett or Victor Santos as the Bucs were going young to retool their staff. Earlier in the offseason, they traded away hurlers Dave Williams and Mark Redman. 
  • 2012 - LHP Francisco Liriano reached an agreement to sign with the Bucs for two years/$14M, pending his physical. He broke his right arm over the holidays, but he and the Pirates worked out an alternate deal that was worth $7M over two years with performance bonuses that would allow him to recapture much of the lost money. The Cisco Kid won 16 games in 2013 and was the “Comeback Player of the Year.” After the 2014 season, he returned after testing the free agent market, inking a three-year contract worth $39M. He didn’t get to finish out the contract in Pittsburgh, being shipped to Toronto at the 2016 deadline.

Friday, December 20, 2019

12/20 Through the 1960’s: Kitty Dealt; HBD Jimmy, Branch, Jose, Spud, Joe & Paul

  • 1876 - 2B Jimmy Williams was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He only played two years in Pittsburgh, but made quite a splash. In his first year, 1899, Williams hit in 27 straight games, setting an MLB rookie record that wasn’t broken until 1987, and his mark is still a Pirates team standard. His 27 triples are also an MLB rookie record, and he ended the campaign with a .354 BA. But the next year he returned to reality, hitting .264, and then jumped leagues in 1901, joining the AL Baltimore Orioles and opening the door for Tommy Leach to take control of the hot corner. 
Jimmy Williams 1902 - photo via Sporting Life
  • 1881 - Branch Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio. An innovator of things as diverse as the breaking the color line, a feeder minor league system and batting helmets, Rickey was the Pirate GM from 1950-55. His Pittsburgh teams were notoriously poor (“The Rickey-Dinks”), but his player development pipeline helped to form the core of the 1960 World Championship club. New York sportswriter Tom Meany gave him the nickname “Mahatma,” per Lee Lowenfish in “Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman,” because he reminded him of Gandhi with his combination of almost religious fervor combined with Tammany Hall backroom tactics. He was also called “The Brain” for his innovative work & eye for players, and “El Cheapo”by some players for his tight-fisted contract dealings. 
  • 1885 - OF Joe Wilhoit was born in Hiawatha, Kansas (although SABR’s Bob Rives notes that “Wilhoit's age appears to have been more closely guarded than the Coca-Cola formula In various publications, his date of birth ranges from 1885 to 1891 and his birthplace varies from Los Angeles to Illinois to Kansas.” Our place and DOB are consensus but uncertain.) He played for four MLB seasons, and made three separate stops in 1917 with the middle stay in Pittsburgh where he went 2-for-10 before joining the NY Giants. Joe’s claim to fame: As a member of the Western League’s Wichita Jobbers’, he put together pro baseball’s longest hit streak of 69 games and ended the season with a .422 average. Per baseball lore, he was given a gift hit to reach 63 games when a third baseman ate his bunt rather than make a play (thought to be due to Wilhoit’s popularity among the players). When his streak ended at home, the fans passed a hat and filled it with $600 to reward Joe’s feat. 
  • 1904 - The Pirates traded 1B Kitty Bransfield, IF Otto Krueger and OF Moose McCormick to the Phillies for 1B Del Howard and RF Otis Clymer. In his first MLB season, Howard hit .292 for the Pirates and was then part of the deal for P Vic Willis the following year. Clymer was a reserve for three years, hitting .284, before he was sold to the Senators in 1907. Kitty, a member of the Pirates first World Series club, stayed on for seven campaigns in Philadelphia, with a .269 BA. Moose, one of baseball’s earliest full-time pinch-hitters, didn’t play again until 1908 after leaving the game to become a salesman. Krueger hung around for one more year before leaving baseball. 
  • 1904 - C Virgil “Spud” Davis (his uncle gave him the nickname as a youth because Virgil loved potatoes) was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He spent his last four seasons (1940-41, 1944-45) as a back-up catcher who hit .301 as a Bucco. From 1943-44 he coached before returning for a couple of seasons during the war years. He continued as a coach and a scout for the Pirates and briefly managed the team when manager Frankie Frisch resigned in September of 1946. Spud left baseball for good in 1950. Davis hit over .300 ten times in 16 MLB seasons, and as of his retirement, his .308 career BA was second only to Mickey Cochrane all-time among major league catchers. At last peek, it’s still in the Top Five. Per Andy Sturgill of SABR: The nickname was given to Davis by an uncle in his childhood. “I liked potatoes so much early in life that I was nicknamed Spud,” Davis explained. “But I loved baseball more than potatoes, so I cut them out.” 
Paul Moskau 1983 - photo via Mainline Autographs
  • 1953 - RHP Paul Moskau was born in St. Joseph, Missouri. After five years with the Reds, he joined the Bucs in 1983, getting into 13 games (five starts). Paul went 1-3/4.37 and finished his MLB tour the following year as a Cub. 
  • 1960 - RHP Jose DeLeon was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. After being taken in the third round of the 1979 draft, he reached Pittsburgh in 1983. He went 17-38 with a 4.02 ERA as a Buc before being traded to the White Sox in 1986. DeLeon lasted 13 seasons in the MLB, winning 86 games behind a workmanlike 3.76 ERA.