Tuesday, January 15, 2019

1/15 Through the 1950’s: Sunday, Hawley, Chesnes & Possum Join Up; Green Light; HBD Mike, Jock & Ed

  • January 15, 1858 - OF Mike Mansell was born in Auburn, New York. He played three seasons (1882-84) for the Alleghenys, posting a .251 BA. His final big league year was 1884 when he played for three teams. Mansell did have a knack for scoring - in 202 games for the Alleghenys, he touched home 164 times. His two brothers also played in the MLB, and the trio even played the outfield together, albeit for minor league Albany. 
  • 1868 - RHP John “Jock” (the Scottish version of Jack) Menefee was born in Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Jock tossed three not very successful campaigns for Pittsburgh (1892, 1894-95), going 5-9/5.75. But he did have a shining MLB moment: Menefee became the first NL pitcher to pull off a successful steal of home while with the Cubs against Brooklyn on July 15th, 1902. 
  • 1880 - RHP Ed Kinsella was born in Bloomington, Illinois. He got his first taste of the show in September, 1905, going 0-1/2.65, with the Pirates in three outings (two complete game starts) and made a final MLB stop in 1910 with St. Louis. Kinsella was an early example of a good AAAA player who finished his career with 144 minor league victories - he had four 20> win MiLB campaigns - in 10 seasons. 
Billy Sunday 1886 Goodwin
  • 1888 - OF Billy Sunday was purchased by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from the Chicago White Stockings for $2,000. Billy spent his last three years with Pittsburgh, hitting .243, with the final few weeks of his career played as a Philly after a late August trade. But the aptly named Sunday was transitioning from fly chaser to preacher; he became a famed tent revivalist in the early 20th century, and in a rarity (for both road-tripping evangelists and old-timey baseball players), one who never had a scent of scandal following him. 
  • 1895 - The Pirates traded P Red Ehret and $3,000 (“a large bundle of dollars” per the Pittsburgh Press) to the St. Louis Browns for P Emerson “Pink” Hawley, becoming official a couple of days later. Hawley won 71 games for the Pirates in his three-year (1895-97) stint with Pittsburgh, becoming one of only three Bucs to win 30 games in a single season when he notched 31 victories in 1895. Ehret would claim just 35 more victories during the remainder of his MLB career. Pink was well compensated for his era - the Pirates paid him $2,400 a year (he asked for $3,000). As for the “Pink” part, Dale Voiss of SABR wrote “Emerson was born one of two twins, the other being named Elmer. People had trouble telling the twins apart so the nurse who assisted in their birth pinned a blue ribbon to one and a pink one to the other. This resulted in Emerson being given the middle name Pink, and the brothers were known as Pink and Blue.” He was a hit with the local fans, too. “Hawley earned the nickname ‘Duke of Pittsburgh’ because of his stylish dress and good looks. He was known to wear diamonds and other items of high fashion and developed a reputation similar to that of a matinee idol in Pittsburgh. Later a cigar was named Duke of Pittsburgh after Hawley. Boxes of these cigars featured his picture.” 
  • 1942 - Baseball in wartime, per BR Bullpen: “US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sends his famed ‘Green Light Letter’ to Commissioner Judge Landis, encouraging MLB to continue playing during World War II. President Roosevelt states that he believes playing the sport would be good for Americans and encourages the owners to have more games at night to give war workers an opportunity to attend games. Despite a loss of many star players to military service, all 16 teams will continue to play regular schedules for the duration of the war.” 
Bob Chesnes 1950 Bowman
  • 1948 - The Bucs paid a steep price to land RHP Bob Chesnes, shipping OF Gene Woodling, C Dixie Howell and minor league pitchers Ken Gables & Manny Perez, along with $100,000, to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League for Chesnes’ services to complete a deal begun back in September. Chesnes had just finished up with a 22-8/2.32 slash in the PCL and looked like the real deal as a rookie, going 14-6/3.57 with 15 complete games. But the next two campaigns were plagued by arm soreness and he posted a 10-16/5.81 line. In June of 1950, he was assigned to the minors and never tossed another big league game. The Bucs did have a pretty good replacement in the system, though - after Chesnes was sent down, Vern Law was called up. 
  • 1958 - Jim “The Possum” Woods joined Bob Prince in the broadcast booth from NY, replacing Dick Bingham, who was axed. Woods and The Gunner were a team through the 1969 season. In 1970, after battling KDKA over pay, The Possum moved to the second chair in St. Louis supporting Jack Buck. He later manned the mic for Oakland, Boston and the USA Network. Bingham’s three-year run with Prince (the two didn’t have a smooth relationship) ended his radio work that had begun in 1946. He was a realtor during the offseason and gave up announcing to form his own real estate firm.

1/15 From 1960: Cutch Dealt; Hartenstein Trade; Rookies & Arb; Hans, WBC; RIP Gus; HBD Banny

  • 1960 - The Pirates invited 22 rookies to join the club for spring training in Fort Myers. Out of the group were three who would end up pretty good ballplayers - LHPs Bob Veale & Joe Gibbon along with 1B Donn Clendenon. Gibbon made the club out of camp and saw action in the World Series, with Clendenon claiming a spot on the big team the following season and Veale becoming a member of the squad in 1962. 
Banny at last week's mini-camp (image Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 1965 - Jeff “Banny” Banister was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Drafted in 1986, he got one at-bat with the Bucs in 1991 and singled. After going through the minor league system, he then served as a coach or manager for the franchise beginning in 1993. He flew the coop in 2014 when he was hired as the skipper of the Texas Rangers and quickly earned the AL Manager of the Year award in 2015. His nickname, btw, isn’t based on his surname, but is short for “bantam rooster” because of his scrappy style of play. 
  • 1969 - The Pirates traded OF Manny Jimenez to the Cubs for minor league IF Ron Campbell and RHP Chuck Hartenstein. Jimenez played briefly for Chicago before fading into the minors, while Campbell never did make it to the show. Hartenstein made 56 appearances for the Bucs in 1969, with 10 saves and a 3.95 ERA, but slipped in 1970 and was traded to St. Louis. Chuck coached and scouted afterward, spending some time with the Bucs as a minor league pitching coach during his travels. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates had nine arb-eligible players - Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek, Mike Lavalliere, Jose Lind, John Smiley, Bob Kipper, Bill Landrum & Lloyd McClelland - and all filed for arbitration, with four going the distance to a hearing. Bonds, Bonilla and Lind lost their cases while Drabek beat the club and won a $3.35M salary with $2.3M being the club offer. Among the losers, Bobby Bo settled with $2.4M (he asked for $3.475M), BB got $2.3M (asked - $3.25M) and Chico took home $575K (asked - $950K, although he won the next year’s challenge for a cool $2M). 
Doug Drabek 1991 Score All-Star
  • 2004 - Gus Suhr, who played 10 seasons for the Bucs (1930-39) passed away in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the ripe old age of 98. Gus was more dependable than spectacular - he hit .278 as a Pirate, drove in 100+ runs three times and made the 1936 All-Star squad. Suhr walked 250 times more than he whiffed as a Corsair and compiled a .368 OBP to offset just average power. He played a then-record 822 consecutive games, with the streak halted not by injury or slump but by his mom’s funeral. The San Francisco native liked his home by the bay - he spent from 1925-29 with the SF Seals of the PCL before joining Pittsburgh and came out of retirement to play for them during the war years of 1943-45. 
  • 2005 - Mayor Jim Pascoe of Carnegie announced plans for the Honus Wagner Museum which opened later in the year. The little-known attraction, filled with photos, news clips, and other Flying Dutchman mementos (with many culled from the local Elks Club that he belonged to) is on 1 West Main Street in the Carnegie Historical Society Building. It’s easy to spot with Honus’ famous baseball card replicated on a mural on the outside and is open M-F. 
  • 2006 - Canada’s first WBC team had a distinct Pittsburgh look to it, as current Bucco Jason Bay, past Pirate Matt Stairs, and future Corsairs Justin Morneau & Erik Bedard were named to the squad. 
  • 2016 - RHP Mark Melancon was the last of six arbitration-eligible players to agree to a contract. C Chris Stewart had earlier reached a two-year deal with the club. The others avoiding arbitration by inking one-year deals were C Francisco Cervelli, who then signed a three-year extension in May, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Jared Hughes, SS Jordy Mercer and LHP Jeff Locke. The FO trimmed five others off the list by non-tendering 1B Pedro Alvarez, 1B Travis Ishikawa, RHP Vance Worley and OF Travis Snider while trading 2B Neil Walker to the Mets.
The Shark Signs 2016 Stadium Club
  • 2018 - Two days following the Gerrit Cole trade, the Pirates sent Andrew McCutchen, in the walk year of a $14.5M contract, and $2.5M to the San Francisco Giants for OF prospect Bryan Reynolds, RHP Kyle Crick and $500K international pool money. Reynolds was a 22-year-old switch-hitter who slashed .312/.364/.462 for the Class A San Jose Giants. Crick, a 25-year-old flamethrower with questionable control, was called up from AAA by the G-Men in June to make his MLB debut. Crick became Felipe Rivero’s eighth-inning bridge man during the season (3-2-2/2.39 w/65 K in 60-1/3 IP) while Reynolds had a solid year in AA (.302 BA) and should start 2019 at Indy. The FO had reportedly passed on a 2017 deadline deal with the Washington Nats that would have netted Gio Gonzalez, Lucas Giolito and a third lower-level player for Cutch’s services.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Weekend Notes: Money Matters; Glovely Ke'Bryan; PiratesFest; Ol' Bucs Movin' Along...

Over the weekend:
  • If the Pirates payroll polka has u in a dither this year, wait until 2020 when Jamo, J-Bell, Fraze, Big Joe, Willy and Eli all hit their first year of arb, along w/Corey D becoming a free agent. We're sorta surprised that the FO hasn't tried to tie up at least Taillon through his arb years.
Should the Bucs corral JT thru arb? 2018 Topps Wide 
  • 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes made Jonathan Mayo's MLB Pipeline All-Defense team.
  • Wilbur Miller of Bucs Dugout has a look at MLB spending patterns; it's not pretty in regards to the Pirates. Branch Rickey believed that fans would come out if they felt their team had a chance to win, espousing competitiveness against championship. Looks like he has a disciple in Bob Nutting, who spends enough to keep the team interesting but not enough to put them over the top.
  • Everyone's got a budget: Cole Train is going to arbitration as he asked for $13.5M and the 'Stros countered with $11.425M. Ditto for SS Carlos Correa.
  • IF Gift Ngoepe signed a minor league deal with the Phils after spending last year in the Blue Jays organization; he was in the Buc system through the 2017 campaign. Gift has played 41 MLB games with golden glove and a .181 BA.
  • With Russ Martin moving on to the Dodgers, C Reese McGuire, who was sent to Toronto with Frankie Liriano & Harold Ramirez in 2016, will be battling another youngster, Danny Jansen (both were drafted in 2013), for Russ' job behind the dish.
He's back... (photo ESPN Sports Center)
  • PiratesFest is around the corner on the 26th at PNC Park with a boatful of Bucs to launch the season: Corey Dickerson, Jameson Taillon, Jung Ho Kang, Josh Bell, Colin Moran, Starling Marte, Steven Brault, Kyle Crick, Jordan Lyles, Erik Gonzalez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Clay Holmes, Kevin Newman, Nick Kingham, J.T. Brubaker and Cole Tucker will attend. Former Pirates in the house will include Billy Maz, Dick Groat, Bob Robertson, Bill Madlock, Al Oliver, Richie Hebner,John Smiley and Sid Bream.

1/14 Through the 1950’s: HBD Terry, Hank, Chet, Billy, Brode, Art & John

  • 1868 - 3B John Newell was born in Wilmington, Delaware. He got an MLB cup of coffee with the Pirates in 1891, going 2-for-18 in five games during a 10-day audition. John spent a decade toiling in the minors for teams in the Western, Southern and Atlantic leagues, playing his last pro game in 1898 as a 30-year-old. 
  • 1871 - IF Art Madison was born in Clarksburg, Massachusetts. Art was a minor league lifer, spending a dozen years on the farm, mainly in the Eastern and New York leagues. He did pay a couple of brief visits to the show, getting into 11 games for the 1895 Phillies and coming back four years later to make his major league swan song with Pittsburgh, entering 42 games and batting .271 while playing second, short and third. Madison was part of the big trade with Louisville in 1899; the Bucs later got his contract back and sent him to the minors, where he finished out his playing days. 
  • 1891 - 2B John “Brode” Shovlin was born in Drifton, Pennsylvania, in Luzerne county in the Pocono Mountains area. He got a wham-bam look with Pittsburgh in 1911, getting into two games and going 0-for-1 and scoring a run; he got into another 16 games in 1919-20 with the St. Louis Browns. He had a split career; he spent from 1910-20 mostly in the minors before going dark, then pops up again in the record books from 1928-31 with the Binghamton Triplets of the NY-PA League before going to work in the coalfields at the age of 40.
Billy Meyer 1949 Eureka Sports Stamp
  • 1893 - Manager Billy Meyer was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. After his playing days and a long minor-league managing career, he became the Bucco skipper from 1948-52, with a dismal 317-452 record after a promising fourth place finish in his first year. But the Yankees thought so highly of him that they asked if they could hire him after that season to replace Bucky Harris. NY was rebuffed and had to settle for Casey Stengel instead. After managing, Meyer scouted for the Bucs until 1955, and later had his jersey #1 retired. 
  • 1907- RHP Chet Brewer was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. While he pitched for a couple of dozen teams in the black leagues and Central America, the pitcher never earned a check from Pittsburgh until his playing days were done. Brewer was a Pirates scout based in LA from 1957 to 1974 (he signed Dock Ellis) and later worked for the Major League Scouting Bureau, discovering players like Willie Crawford, George Hendrick, Eddie Murray, Reggie Smith and Roy White. His Chet Brewer Rookies program was the forerunner of MLB’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) project. 
  • 1911 - RHP Hank Gornicki was born in Niagara Falls, NY. He pitched his final three seasons (1943-44, 1946) for the Bucs, with a two-year break when he served during WW2. His slate as a Pirate was 14-19/3.38, and he was used primarily as a spot starter. He had a notable week in August of 1943. Gornicki won both ends of a doubleheader against Boston on the 17th, then lost both games of a twinbill on the 22nd against Brooklyn. 
Terry Forster 1977 Topps
  • 1952 - LHP Terry Forster was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He came over in the Richie Zisk deal and like his trademate, Goose Gossage, worked one season in Pittsburgh and was released after slashing 6-4-1/4.43. The FO may have given up on him too soon; the 25-year-old never became a closer like Goose, but did pitch nine more seasons and put up a lifetime ERA of 3.70, mainly as a set-up guy. And you didn’t have to worry about replacing him with a pinch hitter; he posted a .397 career BA.

1/14 From 1960: '17 Arbs; LaRoche Signed; Dock, Moises Aboard; RIP Pep; HBD Steve, Dovy & Joe

  • 1961 - 3B Joe Redfield was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Joe played 10 minor league campaigns after being drafted by the Mets in 1982; he got into a couple of games for the Angels in 1988 and got a month’s stay with Pittsburgh in 1991, called up from AAA Buffalo to replace an injured Jeff King. He went 2-for-18 in 11 games, spent the next season with the Bisons and retired at age 31. 
  • 1962 - IF Pep (real name: Floyd Lemuel) Young passed away in his hometown of Jamestown, New York, at age 54. Pep spent the first eight years (1933-40) of his 10-season MLB run with the Pirates, playing regularly from 1935-38 while compiling a .262 BA. Young was regarded as among the elite glovemen at second base, leading the National League in assists in 1938. Pep, nicknamed for his energizer-bunny style of play, stayed involved by playing in his hometown semi-pro leagues after leaving pro ball in 1946 at age 38, and is a member of the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame.
The Docktor 1969 Topps
  • 1964 - The Pirates signed RHP Dock Ellis (it was a year before the amateur draft began) shortly before he turned 19. He played on a sandlot team managed by Chet Brewer, a black baseball ace and mentor turned Pirates scout, and after several minor brushes with the law, agreed to a deal worth $500/month salary and a $2,500 bonus while pitching for Los Angeles CC. He made his MLB debut in 1968, slashing 96-80/3.16 in his nine-year Bucco career while adding several colorful chapters to the Pirates history book. 
  • 1970 - LHP Steve Cooke was born in Lihue-Kauai, Hawaii. A 35th round draft pick in 1989, he spent five years with the Pirates (1992-97), going 26-36/4.31. 1993 looked like a breakout year when he went 10-10 with a 3.89 ERA and he was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team. But he had shoulder problems that surfaced in 1994, missed the 1995 season, and never again matched his rookie performance. 
  • 1986 - The Pirates selected OF Moises Alou as the second overall pick in the January draft, behind pitcher Jeff Shaw. He played two games for the Pirates in 1990 before being shipped to Montreal for Zane Smith. Moises went on to have a 17-year-career, with six All-Star berths and a lifetime .303 BA. He’s the nephew of former Pirate Matty Alou and the cousin of former Bucco farmhand Mel Rojas, Jr. 
  • 1993 - RHP Dovydas Neverauskas was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. Dovy is a neat little story. He was signed out of the European Academy in 2009 by the Pirates as the first Lithuanian born-and-raised played to sign a pro baseball deal. The only other Lithuanian to play in the majors was OF Joe Zapustas, who was raised in Boston and played just two games for the Philadelphia A's back in 1933. In 2015, the Bucs converted the hard thrower into a reliever, and he played for the All-World Futures team in 2016. He made his debut in the show in 2017, and in two seasons has slashed 1-1/6.02, giving up 13 homers in 52-1/3 IP.  
Adam LaRoche 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter
  • 2008 - The Pirates re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a 1-year/$5M contract. He hit .270 with 25 homers, and was sent to Boston the following year. Baseball runs in his blood - literally. He’s the son of former MLB pitcher Dave and older brother of Andy, who is still bumping around in the minors. 
  • 2017 - The Bucs settled with all their arb-eligible players but LHP Tony Watson (he asked for $6M & the Bucs countered with $5.6M; the team won the hearing). Reaching one-year deals before the filing deadline were SS Jordy Mercer ($4.325M), RHP Gerrit Cole ($3.75M), RHP Juan Nicasio ($3.65M), RHP Jared Hughes ($2.825M), RHP Drew Hutchison ($2.3M) and LHP Wade LeBlanc ($800K), who agreed to his contract earlier in the off season. LHP Jeff Locke was non-tendered and signed off on a $3M agreement with Miami in December.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

1/13 Through the 1940s: HBD Jim, Ron, Ben, Spades, Fred, Goat, Jud & Al

  • 1865 - RHP Al Krumm was born in Pittsburgh. Al, who had a rep as a pot-stirrer, was ousted from his Lima squad by his teammates in 1888 and came home to work in J&L’s rolling mills. In ‘89, he tossed a game for McKeesport (his only outing with them; he couldn’t pitch much as the day games clashed with his steelworkers schedule) but caught the Alleghenys eye. With Cannonball Morris and Pete Conway injured, they needed pitchers and gave Krumm a shot. He worked his mill shift, took a catnap, and caught a train to NY, getting there three hours before game time. It wasn’t auspicious - the tired hurler walked 10 and gave up two big innings in an 11-7 loss to the Giants. But the contest didn’t nick his confidence any - he vowed to buy a hat for any batter who could work him for a free pass in his next outing. That redemptive game never came, though, and he went back to his day job, retiring eventually to San Diego. 
And there's Jud, circled on the lower right.
  • 1869 - 3B Grant “Jud” (his middle name was Judson) Smith was born in Green Oaks, Michigan. He played off-and-on in the show for four seasons, spending 1896 and 1901 with the Pirates. He hit .268 but only got into 16 games over those two campaigns, though he was a part of the Pirates 1901 championship squad. It was Jud’s destiny to be a minor league depth player; he toiled for 15 years on farm clubs, batting over .300 several times. 
  • 1880 - OF John “Goat” Anderson was born in Cleveland. He only played one year, 1908, in MLB, hitting .206 for the Pirates. But he was the regular RF’er and led off, with a .343 OBP and good base running skills. It wasn’t the lack of reaching base that did in the 27-year-old rookie; Goat developed arm problems and played his remaining ball in the minors through 1913. His nickname’s origin we can only speculate on, although based on his career line, we can safely eliminate Greatest Of All Time. We suspect it was because Anderson was small, (his vitals aren’t listed, but he was compared to 5’4” Wee Willie Keeler) aggressive (both on the bases & in the field), stubborn and argumentative with anyone on the field from umpires to his own manager. 
  • 1901 - OF Fred Schulte was born in Belvidere, Illinois. He was an 11-year MLB vet, and spent his last two campaigns in Pittsburgh in 1936-37, batting .248 (his lifetime BA was .291) before being released by the club at the age of 36. He managed and coached afterward in the minor leagues until 1946. Fred was also a scout for the Reds, White Sox, Indians, and Braves from 1947-64. 
  • 1909 - Charles “Spades” Wood was born in Spartanburg SC. The lefty twirled for two years in Pittsburgh, from 1930-31, mostly as a starter, and went 6-9/5.61. He had a little problem with the strike zone, walking 78 in 122 IP while fanning just 56. JC Bradbury of SABR explained his moniker: “Wood earned his nickname from a 13 spades bridge hand he was dealt on a Sunday, which resulted in his expulsion (from his school, Wofford College) - playing bridge on Sunday was not allowed.” 
Spades Wood 1930 (photo Conlon Collection)
  • 1920 - OF Ben Guintini was born in Los Banos, California. It took him a spell to get to the majors (two years of minor league ball, two years in the Army and two more years on the farm) but in 1946 the Bucs gave him a shot,picking him up in the Rule 5 draft from the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. He went 0-for-3 in two games and was sent back to the bushes, resurfacing for four at-bats with the A’s in 1950. He spent 10 years in the minors, mainly as a PCL player, and was considered quite an entertainer by the fans and even Joe E Brown, who tried to talk him into the movies. Fun fact: In one game when several hometown fans came to see him play, he did handstands on his way to center field to start the game. He was quickly benched by no-fun skipper Lefty O'Doul, per Baseball Reference. Alas, neither baseball nor show biz saved him from a day job - he became a Cadillac salesman after he retired. 
  • 1940 - C Ron Brand was born in Los Angeles. Brand signed with the Pirates in 1958 as an 18-year-old high school kid and begin his MLB journey with the Bucs in 1963, hitting .288. After spending all of 1964 in AAA Columbus, Ron was plucked by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1964 Rule 5 draft and put together an off-and-on eight-year run in the show. He managed for three years after putting away the mask, but then took a long hiatus to raise his family. Brand came back in 1994 as a scout for the Yankees after tending to the home fires. 
  • 1949 - LHP Jim Foor was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Foor was a first round pick of the Tigers (15th overall) in 1967 out of high school. In 1972, he was traded to Pittsburgh by Detroit in a minor deal. Foor pitched in three games for the Pirates, walking one, striking out one and giving up no earned runs while spending most of the year at AAA Charleston in 1973. After the season, the Bucs shipped him to the Royals for Wayne Simpson. That was the end of his MLB career; wildness cursed him and he got into just 12 big league games in three years, tossing six frames while walking 11 batters.

1/13 From 1950: Cole Swap; Dickson Dealt; Kendall Dangled; Craigs Inked; HBD Kevin, Odell & Elmer

  • 1953 - RHP Odell Jones was born in Tulare, California. Jones had several stints with the Bucs, starting out in 1975, spending a year in the minors and returning from 1977-78, then coming back via trade in 1981. He went 9-12/4.28, splitting his time between the pen and starting. The fastballer last pitched in the show in 1988; his final hurrah was in 1992 when he finished in the Mexican League. 
Odell Jones 1978 Topps
  • 1954 - The Pirates traded workhorse RHP Murry Dickson, a 1953 NL All-Star, to the Phils for RHP Andy “Swede” Hansen, IF Jack "Lucky" Lohrke and $70K. Dickson won 62 more games until he retired in 1959, while neither Hansen or Lohre ever suited up for Pittsburgh (or any other MLB club) as both were assigned to the top Bucco farm team, the Hollywood Stars. Dickson was a victim of a Branch Rickey payroll dump; both he and Ralph Kiner (in June, 1953) were traded, trimming $115,000 of Bucco salary. Swede’s moniker was because of his Scandinavian heritage (he was actually a Dane). Lucky came by his nickname honestly; by the time he was 22, he had at least six close calls with the Reaper. Several were in WW2 combat, another in a plane wreck and yet another in a bus crash. 
  • 1963 - Kevin McClatchy was born in Sacramento, California. McClatchy headed the group that purchased the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1996 for $95M and pushed through the construction of PNC Park, keeping the team in Pittsburgh. Bob Nutting replaced him as principal owner after 10 years, and in July of 2007, McClatchy stepped down as CEO of the Pirates, replaced by Frank Coonelly. He’s a director of The McClatchy Company, a newspaper publishing group owned by his family, and stayed local, living in Ligonier. 
  • 1971 - RHP Elmer Dessens was born in Hermosillo, Mexico. He started out with the Bucs by signing with them in 1993 and then pitching from the bullpen from 1996-98 with a 2-8/6.12 slash. He went to Japan the following year, then came back to toss in the MLB through the 2010 season, wearing eight different uniforms, including two stops with the Mets, during a 14-year career. 
  • 2004 - Per the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Padres and Bucs were cooking up a deal that would send C Jason Kendall to San Diego for C Ramon Hernandez and 3B Jeff Cirillo. While SD GM Kevin Towers was a big Kendall fan (this was the fourth different proposal he offered during the off season to get him in the Padre fold), Friar ownership had a late change of heart and killed the proposed swap, leery of taking on the $42M still owed to Kendall over the next four seasons. Jason was moved after the season to the Oakland A’s.
Jason Kendall 2004 Fleer Showcase
  • 2006 - OF Craig Wilson avoided arbitration by signing a $3.3M contract in what would be his last Bucco season, as he was dealt to the Yankees at the 2006 deadline. He played for the Pirates from 2001-06, hitting .268 with 94 HR. He faded with the Yankees, went to Atlanta the following season and was sent to the White Sox, playing AAA ball for the remainder of 2007 and all of 2008 for the Bucs and Mariners before retiring. 
  • 2010 - OF Craig Monroe inked a one-year/$750K deal with the Bucs. Another in a collection of guys of that era who were on the way out but were given a paid farewell tour by the Bucs FO, Monroe hit .215 with three homers and was released in July, ending his nine-year MLB career. 
  • 2018 - The Pirates sent RHP Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a gaggle of youngsters: RHP Joe Musgrove, 3B/1B Colin Moran, RHP Michael Feliz and minor-league OF Jason Martin a day or two after a “fake news” report of a consummated deal between the clubs. The two teams had discussed a Cole deal starting from the 2017 deadline and got back to brass tacks during the winter meetings. Cole had a great season for the ‘Stros while Moran as a platoon 3B and Musgrove as part of the rotation rostered with the Pirates. Feliz had a tough year after a fast start, spent between Indy and Pittsburgh, while the 22-year-old Martin reached AAA ball. The Yankees were considered the initial frontrunners, and reportedly offered either Clint Frazier or Chance Adams as the featured return, with Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial and Miguel Andujar all off the table, underwhelming the Pirates FO.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

1/12 Through the 1970’s: Ballin' & Bikin'; Mo & Larry Drafted; HBD Big Ed, Rich, Ed S. & Tom

  • 1859 - C/1B Ed Swartwood was born in Rockford, Illinois. Swartwood played for the Alleghenys from 1882-84 and then spent his last big league season as a Pirate in 1892. He put up some good numbers, including a career .322 BA in Pittsburgh. In 1882 he led the American Association with 86 runs, 18 doubles, and 159 total bases, then went on to become the league batting champion in 1883 (the first Pittsburgh player to take the crown) with a .357 average. Swartwood married a Pittsburgh gal in 1883 while with the Alleghenys and became an Allegheny County sheriff when he was done with baseball (he also umped for a spell after his playing career). He was buried in North Side’s Union Dale cemetery after he passed on in 1924. 
Ed Swartwood 1885 (photo via Union Dale Cemetery)
  • 1866 - C Tom Kinslow was born in Washington, DC. Tom spent 10 years in the show, squeezing in 19 games with the 1895 Pirates and batting .226 after being traded by the Brooklyn Bridegrooms for Ad Gumbert. The hard-drinking Kinslow (who owned a Washington bar) was released in May for overindulgence, expressing shock - in Brooklyn, they punished his binges with fines. He was by all accounts a friendly galoot, but the drinking led to discipline and conditioning (his weight would yo-yo) issues, and he only played 380 games during his decade in MLB. Tom died young, at 35, from “consumption” (tuberculosis). 
  • 1893 - Several National League owners, led by Pirates manager Al Buckenberger and Washington owner J. Earl Wagner, formed the National Cycling Association, hoping to build bicycle tracks in the baseball stadiums to help increase both their exposure and profit; bike racing was a big-time sport at the turn of the 20th century. But not all of the teams were interested in the venture, and many big-name cyclists opted to stay with their current organizations, scuttling the idea. 
  • 1925 - 1B Big Ed Stevens (actually, a modest 6’1”, 190 lbs, but that was king-sized in the forties) was born in Galveston, Texas. The Pirates got him from Brooklyn when he was bumped off the bag by a rookie named Jackie Robinson. He replaced Hank Greenberg at first for a season in Pittsburgh, then spent his final two campaigns (1948-50; .253 Pirates BA) on the bench. Big Ed didn’t hit it big in the MLB, but was da bomb in the minors. In 16 farm seasons spanning 1941-61, Stevens belted 257 home runs and drove in 1,013 runs on his way to being named to the International League Hall of Fame. After his retirement, he scouted for the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s. 
Big Ed 1949 Bowman
  • 1972 - RH reliever Rich Loiselle was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. He tossed his entire career of six seasons (1996-2001) for the Bucs, and went 9-18-49/4.38 during that span. Loiselle was the Bucco closer in 1997-98 when he picked up 48 of his 49 career saves. He struggled after that, having both control and elbow problems. 
  • 1972 - The Pirates picked up two keepers in the January draft. First they drafted 3B Jim Morrison, who didn’t sign and instead went in the 1974 regular June draft to Philadelphia. But Pittsburgh kept track and finally landed him in 1982 in a deal with the White Sox. Mo spent six seasons with the Pirates, playing 92 or more games in five of them and batting .274. In the secondary phase, the Buccos selected RHP Larry Demery, who made his debut in 1974 and over four Pirates campaigns went 29-23-7/3.72 before an arm injury effectively ruined his career.

1/12 from 1980: Willie HoF & Cover Boy; '18 Arb Signings; Fisher Inker; HBD Bobby & Ivan

  • 1980 - Willie Stargell was featured on the cover of The Sporting News after being selected as TSN’s Man of the Year. Pops hit 32 homers in 1979 and added five more in the postseason, winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. 
  • 1980 - IF Bobby Crosby was born in Lakewood, California. The Rookie of the Year for Oakland in 2004, he came to the Pirates after eight years with the A’s when the 30-year-old signed on as a free agent in 2010. But a .224/.301/.295 slash in 61 games got him flipped at the deadline to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a five-man swap. The Snakes released him in August, ending his MLB career. 
Bobby Crosby 2010 Topps Heritage
  • 1987 - RHP Ivan Nova was born in Palenque, Dominican Republic. After seven years with the Yankees, he joined Pittsburgh when the Bucs sent minor leaguers OF Tito Polo and LHP Stephen Tarpley to the Bronx Bombers at the 2016 deadline for him. In 11 starts, Nova went 5-2, 3.07 and the FO lured him back again as a free agent with a three year/$26M deal. He returned to earth in 2017 as his line was 11-14/4.14, in 31 games, more in line with his career results, then posted a 9-9/4.19 slash the next season before being sent to the White Sox for prospects.
  • 1988 - Willie Stargell was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA‚ and the 17th player elected in his first year of eligibility. Cap’n Willie was inducted on August 1st. His Pirate slash was .282/.360/.529 with 475 HR and 1,540 RBI, both team records. Ralph Kiner is second on the Bucco list of homers; he hit 301. Hans Wagner is the #2 Pirate for RBI’s with 1,475. 
  • 1989 - The Bucs signed RHP Brian Fisher, 26, to a one year/$404K contract to avoid arbitration. Pittsburgh had the fireballer penciled into their rotation for the third straight year after coming over from the Yankees but he broke his knee in 1989 and only made three starts; Brian would pitch just 26 more times before retiring in 1993. They also bought the contract of C Tom Prince from AAA as they began to form their 1989 club. 
Brian Fisher 1988 Donruss Best
  • 2018 - The Pirates signed both RHP Gerrit Cole & SS Jordy Mercer to one-year/$6.75M deals, while RHP George Kontos agreed to a one-year/$2.725M contract to settle with three of their four arb-eligible players. The fourth, RHP Felipe Rivero, filed for a hearing. His ask was for $2.9M, while the Bucs countered at $2.4M. Less than a week later, the two sides agreed on a four-year/$22M contract (Rivero was a Super Two with four arb years) with two added team option years potentially worth another $19M. Cole, on the other hand, was traded two days later and Kontos was released in May. Jordy lasted the season before leaving as a FA for Motown.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Weekly Notes: Mini-Camp; Corey D, KK Sign; Hot Stove; MiLB Notes & Other Stuff

And this week...

  • Big Joe Musgrove considers himself on schedule for the season opener after throwing off the mound for the first time since abdominal surgery. Gregory is not so far advanced; he's hitting off a tee and is on the verge of throwing after having shoulder work done (he also bruised his knee badly, which was treated with rest and appears to be fine), but is still confident he can beat his mid-June return timeline. Chris Archer is just kicking off his throwing program after hernia surgery by throwing off a flat surface, but said that's normal as he usually doesn't start tossing in the off season until January 1st. Edgar Santana, three months removed from TJ surgery and out for the year, is in Pirates City, so he looks rarin' to get after his rehab assignment. And Uncle Ray is in action, so his neck must be feeling good after his procedure, too.
  • New hitting coach Rick Eckstein got his first chance to see the Buccos swinging during camp; Banny was there, too.
Corey stays put (photo via Pirates)
  • The Buccos had two arb contracts to sort out, and got them both done by the deadline - LF Corey Dickerson inked an $8.5M deal and RHP Keone Kela signed for $3.175M. Michael Feliz had agreed to an $850K contract earlier in the year. All three salaries fell right into line with the pre-season value estimates calculated by MLB Trade Rumor's Matt Swartz.
  • Michael Duarte of NBC-LA tweets that the Dodgers are dangling uber prospect OF Alex Verdugo and the Pirates are one of the teams taking a look. The 22-year-old Verdugo is the Dodger's top young gun, with a good bat, though not with a lot of power, cannon arm, and some debate about whether or not he's a MLB-caliber CF'er.
  • You can also scrub LA from the Amore trade list - they just swapped two minor leaguers for old Bucco backstop Russ Martin.
  • The Pirates added to their depth in upper level pitching by claiming RHP Aaron Slegers, 26, off waivers from the Twins and DFA'ing 24-year-old Dario Agrazal.
  • Per MLB.com, the best heater in the Pirate organization belongs to 6'6" Altoona reliever Geoff Hartlieb. The 25-year-old's line was 8-2-10/3.24 with 56 K in 58 IP, and he'll be in the big league camp as an NRI. He's got a sinker to go with the four-seamer and he sits in the mid-to-upper 90's, touching 100. 
Geoff has the hummer goin' 2018 Go Sports
  • Caesar's Palace has the first 2019 MLB line out - they pick the Pirates over/under at 78.5 wins.
  • RHP Drew Hutchison signed a minor league deal with the Yankees; he was the return for Frankie Liriano & company. He went through three teams last year after leaving the Bucs following the 2017 campaign, which he spent at Indy.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers inked C Yasmani Grandal to 1-year/$18.25M deal. He had reportedly earlier turned down a multi-year offer from the Mets and a $19.9M qualifier from LA, which will now receive a comp pick at the end of Competitive Balance Round B while the Brewers will forfeit their third-highest draft pick.
  • Josh Wilson joined the Tigers as a scout. The Mt. Lebo Blue Devil and 1999 PA High School Player of the Year played for 11 teams in an 11-year MLB career, though not the hometown Pirates. They stashed him in Indy as depth in 2008 before sending him to the Red Sox.
  • BTW, for those who wonder where Cutch rates with Bucco greats with comparable time, here's where he stands with the big boys who played in the 10 year/1,300 game range for the Bucs:

So if you think Scoops and The Cobra were shortchanged by the HoF voters, we'll see what happens with Andrew, who so far in his career is a notch ahead of them. He still looks very much like a Hall of the Very Good candidate, along with Parker, Oliver and Mad Dog Madlock, unless he finds a second wind in his 30's.

1/11 Through 1955: Wade-for-Lefty; HBD Max, Jack, Mickey, Silver, Skipper & Bill

  • 1867 - 3B Bill Niles was born in Covington, Kentucky. He only played 11 games in Pittsburgh in 1895, hitting .216, and never landed in the show again, but he did have an interesting journey. He was cut by the Pirates in 1894, and NL clubs Cleveland and Washington put in claims for him while a handful of minor league clubs offered him a deal. Apparently intrigued enough by Niles’ potential to not want to lose him to a league foe, manager Connie Mack removed him from waivers and loaned him to Milwaukee, then in the minor Western League, for the year. Mack brought Bill back to the Bucs for the 1895 campaign, but was returned to the farm after the season and toiled in the minors through 1901. 
Silver King (photo via SABR)
  • 1868 - P Silver King was born in St. Louis. King only played one season in Pittsburgh, but it was a big deal when he signed. King won 110 games from 1888-90 and signed with the Pirates for $5,000, becoming the highest paid player in the game. The investment fizzled; the Bucs got a 14-29 record (although he wasn’t all that bad; he made 44 starts and tossed 384 innings to a 3.11 ERA). But problems were looming. The Bucs released him, and the early sidewinder had one more good year with the Giants before the rules committee chopped him down to size. He threw sidearm from the far right of the pitcher’s circle, making the ball appear to be launched from third base. In 1893, the rubber was introduced and he lost his territorial advantage, never posting an ERA south of four afterward. His nom de guerre is combination nickname and writer’s Anglicizing: His real name was Charles Koenig, but his prematurely white hair gave him the nickname of Silver while King is the English translation of Koenig. 
  • 1888 - C Clarence “Skipper” Roberts was born in Wardner, Idaho. The backstop got into 52 games for the 1914 Pittsburgh Rebels as Claude Berry’s caddy. He batted .234 in his final big league season after jumping to the Federal League Rebs from the NL Cards. Skipper played briefly for the Chicago Whales after he was bounced from the team for punching an umpire, but Federal League President James Gilmore returned him, after a scolding, to Pittsburgh after four games for the Windy City nine. Roberts returned to his home base, the Northwestern League on the left coast, and 1916 was his last season. He worked as a machinist and passed away in 1963. His nickname appears to be a naval promotion by his ball playing buds; he was called Sailor Roberts after a stint in the Navy and it evolved to Skipper after a couple of seasons. 
  • 1890 - Hall of Fame OF Max Carey was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He played 17 seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a .287 BA while stealing 688 bases, leading the NL in that category 10 times. He was at his best during the 1925 World Series, hitting .458 as the Pirates dethroned the Washington Senators and Walter “Big Train” Johnson in seven games.
  • 1890 - 1B Mickey Keliher was born in Washington DC. He spent his two-year MLB career in Pittsburgh, striking out five times in seven at-bats. Mickey was a career minor leaguer; he spent 18 years on the farm, where unlike his major league performance, he hit .304 lifetime. He was a player/manager for his last three MiLB campaigns before dying young after a car accident. 
Mickey Keliher 1911 (photo via Out of the Ballpark Developments)
  • 1951 - Scout and executive Jack Zduriencik was born in New Castle. His first big league executive position was as the Pirates Scouting Director from 1991-93, following birddog gigs with the Mets and Bucs. He went on to scouting/farm positions with the Mets, Brewers and Mariners before becoming GM of Seattle from 2009-15. Since then, he’s been a pre-and-post game analyst for The Fan (KDKA-FM). 
  • 1955 - The Cards sent RHP Ben Wade and cash to Pittsburgh for LHP Paul “Lefty” LaPalme. Wade worked well if not often in ‘55 with a line of 0-1-1/3.21 in 11 outings Lefty was converted full-time to the pen and spent his final three years (1955-57) with three teams, going 10-12-11/3.29, while making 132 appearances. After the former Brooklyn Dodger hung ‘em up, he spent his post-pitching days as an LA scout.

1/11/ From 1959: Church Signed; Gametime Cutch; DH; HBD Lloyd, Warren & Jermaine

  • 1959 - Utilityman and later manager Lloyd McClendon was born in Gary, Indiana. McClendon spent five years (1990-94) as a player in Pittsburgh where he hit .251, mainly off the bench. He was named Buc manager in 2001, and in his five seasons as skipper, McClendon compiled a 336–446 record and famously “stole” a base. Fun fact: In 1971, as a 12-year old, McClendon earned the nickname "Legendary Lloyd" when he hit five home runs in five at bats, all on the first pitch, and was walked in his other five plate appearances in the three games he played in the Little League World Series. 
Mac 2003 Topps Heritage
  • 1972 - OF Jermaine Allensworth was born in Anderson, Indiana. Allensworth spent the first 2-1/2 years of his four year career as a Bucco, hitting .272 from 1996-98 and seeing considerable time in the pasture; he even was portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Tracy Morgan in 1997. He was traded to KC for a minor leaguer, and they moved him to the Mets. His bat went cold and he was out of MLB after the 1999 season, playing a couple of years on the farm followed by a long stint of indie ball. 
  • 1973 - This is a red letter day in baseball history. The owners voted to allow the AL to use a designated hitter, drawing a line in the sand that still exists between the junior and senior circuits. On April 6th, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first regular season DH in major-league history, drawing a bases-loaded walk off the Red Sox’s Luis Tiant. 
  • 1974 - 2B Warren Morris was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. He made his major league debut in 1999, going from non-roster invitee in spring training to starting second baseman early in the season for the Bucs. Morris had a sharp rookie campaign, hitting .288 with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and earning a spot on the 1999 Topps All-Star Rookie team at second base. But he went downhill fast, and the Pirates released him before the 2002 season; his last MLB campaign was in 2003 and he formally retired in 2006. 
  • 2010 - The Pirates signed OF Ryan Church to a one-year/$1.5M contract with an additional $1.32M available in performance incentives that became official of couple of days later. The 31-year old outfielder was expected to be the Bucs' fourth outfielder, behind Brandon Moss, Andrew McCutchen, and Lastings Milledge, but instead batted .182 with three homers for Pittsburgh and became part of a deadline package with Arizona. 2010 would be his last MLB season. 
Cutch the cover boy.
  • 2013 - Andrew McCutchen was voted to be the cover athlete on the baseball video game “MLB 13: The Show.” Cutch gathered 108,147 votes from fans via Twitter and Facebook, while NY Yankees' pitcher CC Sabathia came in second place with 89,054 votes.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

1/10: Todd's Last Stand; Peace in the Valley; NNL-2 Established; HoF's; Rex Takes Over; Bing OK'ed; HBD Cliff, Bo, Fats & Bob

  • 1898 - OF Clarence “Fats” Jenkins was born in New York City. Jenkins was a speedster who played eight games for the Pittsburgh Crawfords at the age of 40 in 1938; he was at the end of his road by that time and hit just .197 before moving on to the New York Black Yankees. He was a force in his day, though, posting a BA of .333 in 17 Negro League seasons. And his best sport may have been roundball. In the early 1920s, he played for Cum Posey's Pittsburgh-based powerhouse five, the Loendi Big Five, and then for the New York Renaissance, the last of the Colored World Champions, starting in 1925. From that season through 1939 he captained the Rens and made the NBA Hall of Fame when the NY team was entered into the hoops Hall of Fame as a unit in 1963.
The leagues decided to lower their dukes...
  • 1903 - The simmering feud between the National and American Leagues was calmed a bit after a meeting of the owners in Cincinnati. The NL asked for a consolidated 12-team league; the AL instead vowed to send Samuel Angus’ Detroit Tiger club to Pittsburgh to go head-to-head with the Pirates. Indeed, Barney Dreyfuss held a lease on Recreation (Union) Park, the only other City ballyard beside Exposition Park, from 1901-04 just to block the AL from claim jumping, using it mainly as a cycling venue he renamed “The Coliseum.” Once that matter was settled, the owners started playing a little more nicely and decided to share baseball’s sandbox. The leagues remained pretty much the same & agreed on common rules, the American Association officially became a minor league circuit, and the players who were under conflicting contracts for the season had their rights assigned to one club. However, a working World Series agreement between the leagues wouldn’t be made until 1905, although the league champions, the Pirates and Boston Americans, scheduled a best-of-nine set after the campaign in what’s considered the first modern World Series. 
  • 1922 - LHP Cliff Chambers was born in Portland, Oregon. He worked for the Bucs between 1949-51, going 28-28 with a 4.33 ERA. But he had a shining moment: On May 6th, 1951, Chambers pitched a no-hitter (albeit with eight walks) for the Pirates, beating the Boston Braves 3-0 for the second no-no in franchise history (the first was Nick Maddox’s 1907 gem v Brooklyn). 
  • 1926 - SS George “Bo” Strickland was born in New Orleans. The Pirates got him from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, and he played for the Bucs from 1950-52, helping to mentor a young Dick Groat. He hit .199 over that span, and then was traded to the Indians, where he lasted eight more seasons, several as a starting SS and manning the middle for the 1954 AL championship club. Strickland was a solid glove guy and good thing; he hit over .238 just once in his 10 year MLB career. Per Mel Marmer of SABR, Bo got his nickname as a kid; he was always covered with scrapes and cuts, and all those “boo-boos” earned him the moniker Bobo, which was shortened to Bo as he grew up. 
Bo 1952 Bowman
  • 1933 - The second Negro National League was established in 1933, two years after the original Negro National League (NNL) folded. It consisted of seven teams: the Baltimore Black Sox, Cole's American Giants, Columbus Blue Birds, Detroit Stars, Homestead Grays, Nashville Elite Giants and Pittsburgh Crawfords. Homestead was expelled early in the first season for raiding Detroit's roster, but remained an associate club until 1935, when they were reinstated as a full member once again. They held on until the league’s end in 1949, while the Crawfords disbanded after the 1938 season. Each local club claimed two NNL titles. 
  • 1956 - Scout Bob Rossi was born in Scranton. He got around, scouting for the Pirates (1986-90), New York Mets (1991-2004) and Chicago Cubs (2005-07) after starting out as a part-timer for the Cards. He signed C Keith Osik, who played seven years for the Bucs. 
  • 1957 - Rex Bowen became the Pirates scouting supervisor, replacing George Sisler. Bowen, who started with the Brooklyn Dodgers - he signed Maury Wills - joined the Pirates as a scout in 1950 and inked the 17-year-old Bill Mazeroski in 1954. Rex also signed Dick Groat, Gene Michael, Bruce Dal Canton and Gene Freese before joining the Reds in 1968. He was recognized by Baseball America as one of the top ten baseball scouts of the 20th century. Rex’s brother Joe and grandson Jack also worked in the Bucco scouting department. 
  • 1957 - Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Bing Crosby could keep his 5% share of the Detroit Tigers, even though he was also a minority owner (16%) of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The dual ownership never became an issue (Der Bingle slipped through a minority-interest loophole; his holdings were not deemed “substantial”) as he sold his shares in both teams by the early sixties. Bing liked keeping his hand in baseball; he also owned shares in the minor-league Hollywood Stars until 1957, when the club was sold, while also a Pirates owner. 
Todd ran out of comebacks 2001 Upper Deck Vintage
  • 2005 - Trying to prove that you can go home again, RHP Todd Ritchie, 33, signed a minor league deal ($350K MLB) with the Pirates after a disappointing season with Tampa Bay following rotator cuff surgery. But his arm and the comeback fell short, and he retired in the spring. Todd made one last comeback try in 2008 with the Rockies, but he never advanced past the low minors and he left the hill for good afterward. 
  • 2006 - In a special election, seventeen Negro Leagues stars were elected to the Hall of Fame, including Homestead Grays owner Cum Posey & RHP/manager Ray Brown, Grays/Pittsburgh Crawfords 3B Jud Wilson and local lad OF/manager Pete Hill. Their formal induction was on July 30th, 2006.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

1/9: Dreyfuss' Folly; Casey & Jeanmar Deals; Carlos, Curtis & Jeromy Inked; RIP Dirt; HBP Lady

  • 1868 - LHP Harley “Lady” Payne was born in Windsor, Ohio. He closed out his fourth MLB campaign in 1899 as a Pirate, going 1-3/3.76. Harley had been a workhorse for Brooklyn from 1896-97 (he was their Opening Day pitcher in ‘87), making 74 appearances (66 starts) and going 522 IP but only tossed six games the next two seasons before leaving baseball to work his farm. 
Forbes Field 1909 Singer Company postcard
  • 1910 - Dreyfuss’ Folly, Forbes Field, drew some raves from the local press after a busy debut season. The Pittsburgh Press noted that “...from its opening to the end of football season, Forbes Field drew nearly one million fans...nothing even approaching this record was ever made at any other athletic venue.” Half the crowd was attracted by baseball; the remainder filled the seats for football, track meets, hippodrome events, police drills, and even a Communion service as the Oakland ballyard quickly become Pittsburgh’s big-event host. 
  • 1918 - The Pirates traded RHP Burleigh Grimes to the Brooklyn Robins along with RHP Al Mamaux & SS Chuck Ward for 2B George Cutshaw & OF Casey Stengel, who was making his second stop at Pittsburgh. Hall of Famer Grimes went on to win 158 games in nine seasons with Brooklyn. The Bucs top prize was Cutshaw, who manned second for Pittsburgh for four years, hitting .275 and providing solid up-the-middle defense. Stengel battled owner Barney Dreyfuss over salary, joined the Navy for a short stint and then was traded to Philadelphia in August of 1919 after playing 128 games in his return tour with the Buccos. 
  • 1987 - 2B Carlos Garcia, 19-years-old, was signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent. He spent the majority of his 10-year MLB career with Pittsburgh after debuting in 1990 for the Bucs as a September call up. Garcia was traded to Toronto after the 1996 season, batting .278 in his seven Bucco campaigns and earning one All-Star nod. After he retired, Carlos coached first base for a season for the Pirates and managed in the Buc system for four more years. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates signed backup IF Curtis Wilkerson to a one-year/$400K deal w/incentives to replace Wally Backman, who inked a contract with the Phillies a day later (two years/$1.3M). Proving you generally get what you pay for, Wilkerson hit .188 in 85 games and moved on to Kansas City following the season. 
Jeromy Burnitz 2006 Upper Deck
  • 2006 - 37-year-old OF Jeromy Burnitz was officially signed to the Pirates richest free agent contract to date, a $6M deal with a 2007 mutual option also worth $6M w/$700K buyout. He hit .230 for Pittsburgh during 2006 and the Pirates didn’t renew his contract. Burnitz then announced his retirement after 14 seasons during which he logged 315 HR and 981 RBI while playing for seven teams. 
  • 2013 - The Indians traded RHP Jeanmar Gomez to Pittsburgh for OF Quincy Latimore. Gomez was effective in a long role for a couple of seasons (5-2-1/3.28 in 78 appearances) before signing with the Phillies in 2015. He signed with the White Sox in 2018 and is a free agent now, while Quincy has bounced around the minors and Latin leagues. 
  • 2014 - Steve “Dirt” DiNardo, who had been the head groundskeeper at Three Rivers Stadium after starting as a part-timer at Forbes Field in 1961 (he retired in 1994), passed away at the age of 82. Dirt was legendary for his tricks, once alleged to have lowered the bullpen mounds of heated rivals, the Cincinnati Reds, when they were in town along with similar feats of homerism on behalf of the Steelers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

1/8: Goose HoF; Frankie & Jose Signed; RIP Kitten; HBD Gene, Twitch, Walker, Bo & John

  • 1864 - SS John Gilbert was born in Pottstown, PA. His big league career lasted a day. John played both ends of a doubleheader for the Alleghenys against the Phils on June 23rd, 1890, going 0-for-8 but playing a clean game in the field during the split. His brother Harry was his teammate up the middle, and that twin bill was his only major league time, too. They did make club history as the first bro teammates of the Alleghenys/Pirates franchise. 
Walker Cooper 1954 Dan-Dee
  • 1915 - C Walker Cooper was born in Atherton, Missouri. Walker had a long and strong 18-year MLB career, starting off with and finishing as a Card with five other clubs in between, and spent 14 games as a Bucco in 1954, going 3-for-15 at age 39. He was released and went to the Cubs. After retiring after the 1957 campaign (he hit .285 as a reserve after leaving Pittsburgh), he explained "it's time to quit when you've got a daughter old enough to marry a teammate" after his girl Sara was wed to 2B Don Blasingame. He spent four years as a minor league skipper and big league coach before he got baseball out of his system. Sibs of a feather: His brother Mort pitched for 11 MLB seasons and won 20+ games for three years in a row before arm injuries fell him. He and Walker were Cardinal teammates; both held out for bigger contracts in 1945 and both were gone before the next season. 
  • 1921 - OF Marv “Twitch” Rickert was born in Longbranch, Washington. Marv put together a six-year MLB run (mostly as a fourth outfielder-type, getting into 100+ games three times) with three years lost to the service.He came over to the Pirates in 1950 after being bought from the Boston Braves, went 3-for-20 and was sold to the Chicago White Sox in late May, where he finished out the year and his career. Twitch earned his nickname because he was always full of energy and loved pulling clubhouse and off-the-field shenanigans. Fun fact: Rickert was one of the earliest, if not the first, major-leaguer to use a batting glove when as a Brave he began wearing a golf glove while batting. 
  • 1934 - IF Gene Freese was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. Augie went to Wheeling Central HS and West Liberty State College, spending two stints (1955-58, 64-65) and six years with the Bucs. Mostly a reserve with Pittsburgh, he hit .247 as a Pirate, though while between Bucco rosters, he started at third for three years at Cincinnati, hitting 26 homers in 1961, helping the Reds to their first NL flag in years. After he retired, Freese settled near New Orleans where he ran a sports bar. Freese had a history of issuing nicknames; he claimed to have given Pete Rose his “Charlie Hustle” moniker. Gene had his own alias hung on him in 1955 thanks to Ebbets’ Field PA announcer Tex Ricard, who was noted for confusing names and introduced him in his first MLB game as Augie. Tex had been mischievously misinformed by the Pirates players that Gene’s name was Augie, inspired by Augie Donatelli, who was the plate umpire. 
Augie 1958 Topps
  • 1968 - Pirates Latino scout Howie Haak signed 19-year-old Dominican SS Frank Taveras to a Pittsburgh contract, sealed by a $3,500 bonus. Frank debuted in 1971, but mostly tread water in the minors through 1973. In 1974, he took over the shortstop job full time from Dal Maxvill & Gene Alley, and started at the position until 1979, when he was traded to the Mets for Tim Foli. Taveras hit .253 as a Bucco and stole 206 sacks, with a league-leading 70 swipes in 1977. 
  • 1969 - RHP Brian Boehringer was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The reliever closed out his 10 year MLB career in Pittsburgh between 2002-04, with a Bucco record of 10-9-1, 4.36 ERA. He had a sharp 2002 season, making 70 appearances and pitching to a 3.39 ERA, but couldn’t keep up the pace during his final two campaigns. 
  • 1994 - LHP Harvey “The Kitten” Haddix passed away in Springfield, Ohio, at the age of 68 from emphysema; he had been a heavy smoker. The Kitten - he was Harry “The Cat” Brecheen’s protege at St Louis - tossed from 1958-63 for the Pirates, winning two WS games in 1960 and tossing what many consider the best game ever, going 12 perfect innings in 1959 against the Braves before losing 1-0 in the 13th. He helped himself on the field with his mitt, earning three Golden Gloves. After retiring following the 1965 campaign, Harvey served as the major league pitching coach of the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Pirates. 
Jose Hernandez 2005 Upper Deck
  • 2007 - The Pirates brought back utility man Jose Hernandez, who they had sold to the Phillies late in the 2006 campaign after he had hit .267 for the Buccos. Jose’s homecoming didn’t have a storybook ending as he was a late cut in camp and played for Indy, marking the end of his MLB career. 
  • 2008 - In his ninth year on the BBWAA's ballot, Rich “Goose” Gossage was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame. During Goose's' 22-year career, he compiled a 124-107 record, saved 310 games, and posted a 3.01 ERA. He spent 1977 as a Pirate, going 11-9-26 with a 1.62 ERA and 151 K in 133 IP. Goose was inducted on July 27th.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Notes: Mini-Camp Opens, NRI's, New SABO's, More...

This weekend's stuff...

  • The Bucs opened a four-day, voluntary mini-camp at Pirate City today. The good news is that some guys who are recovering from various surgeries - Gregory Polanco, Joe Musgrove, and even Ray Searage (back) are participating, even if not at 100% quite yet. Pitchers and catchers start the real camp on February 12th.
Big Joe's in camp 2018 Topps Heritage
  • Andy Martino of SNY wrote that the Pirates were impressed by Tulo's range during his audition, enough that Clint Hurdle eyed him as a starting SS, so he appears healthy and team's interest seemed real even if he did cast his lot with the Evil Empire.
  • The Pirates confirmed these non-roster invitees to camp: LHP Tyler Lyons, RHP Roberto Gomez, C Steven Baron and OF Patrick Kivlehan. No surprises here as all four had been inked to prior minor league deals. They also invited a bunch of up-and-comers from the farm: 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes; 1B Will Craig; OF Bryan Reynolds; RHP's Tyler Eppler, Geoff Hartlieb, Alex McRae & Eduardo Vera; LHP's Elvis Escobar, Brandon Waddell & Blake Weiman; along with C's Jason Delay, Christian Kelley & Arden Pabst. So assuming a full 40-man roster for camp, that's 57 bodies lined up for Bradenton so far.
  • Richard Justice of MLB.com thinks the Pirates could be one of the surprise successes of 2019 because of their rotation; the wild card is whether or not the young guys step it up this year.
  • You can come home again: Jeff Banister was hired as a special assistant for baseball operations. A Bucco lifer, Banny took a four-year hiatus to manage the Rangers. Lot of SABO jobs going around - the day before, the Pirates hired David Eckstein, a retired 10-year MLB vet known for his grit, as a special assistant for baseball operations. Eckstein’s older brother Rick was just hired by the Pirates as their hitting coach. Now for a shortstop...
Banny's back 1992 Topps Debut
  • The Mets acquired OF Keon Broxton, an ol' Bucco farmhand and current pain-in-the-butt to his former homies, from the Brewers for reliever Bobby Wahl and youngsters RHP Adam Hill & IF Felix Valerio, both prospects in the low minors.
  • Jim O'Friel of Cranberry was inspired to write some poetry re: his hero, Roberto Clemente, that made the local papers. Now his prose has joined The Great One in Cooperstown. The Cranberry Eagle's JW Johnston has the story.

1/7: Kevin Cashes Out; Jack Signs; Spin Camp; Bucs-Pens Spat; HBD Kitty, Ducky, Al, Red, Ted, Bud & Jim

  • 1875 - 1B William “Kitty” Bransfield was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He played four seasons for Pittsburgh (1901-04), batting .271, and started for the 1903 Pirate team that played in the first recognized World Series, losing to the Boston Americans. He was active through the 1911 season and then spent time as an minor league umpire, Cubs scout and briefly as a farm team manager. Per David Anderson of the SABR Biography Project, “His original nickname was "Kid," but a reporter with bad hearing (mis)heard it as "Kitty" and the name stuck.” 
Kitty 1903 (photo Chicago Daily News)
  • 1889 - C Leo “Red” Murphy was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. Leo only spent one year in the majors when he was George Gibson’s 1915 back-up in Pittsburgh. He batted .098 and spent the next five years in the minors. But it did lead him on to bigger and better things - Red managed the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (the inspiration for the “A League of Their Own” movie) for five years, winning the AAGPBL title in 1946. 
  • 1902 - C Al Todd was born in Troy, NY. Todd spent from 1936-38 as a Pirate after coming over in a deal with the Phillies. He started the last two seasons, compiling a .282 BA during that span before being traded to the Boston Bees. He hung up the spikes at age 39 after the 1943 season and worked as a minor league manager and scout for several years after his playing career ended.  
  • 1902 - C Cliff “Bud” Knox was born in Coalville, Iowa. The 22-year-old broke in in 1924, catching six games for the Bucs, going 4-for-18, and that was his MLB career. Bud played 16 minor league seasons, batting .302, and was a farm manager from 1935-38. He coached semi-pro ball and college hoops/football when called upon. Knox stayed in sports for a long time - the four-sport star from Des Moines College officiated football and baseball games at the prep/college level for over 30 years, calling NAIA championship games in hoops and being on Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl ref crews. Nickname note: He was also known as “Hard Knox” in the minors after he broke bones in consecutive seasons. 
  • 1921 - OF Ted Beard was born in Woodsboro, Maryland. He played for the Pirates as a reserve outfielder from 1948-52, batting .203, after losing three years to WW2 as a medic. A top prospect, Ted had speed and showed some occasional flashes of power (he became the second player, after Babe Ruth, to clear the RF roof at Forbes Field), but was fated to become an AAAA player. He had great success playing for the Hollywood Stars & San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League and later Indianapolis through the fifties and into the early sixties. 
Ted Beard 1948 Play Ball
  • 1924 - OF Jim Pendleton was born in St. Charles, Missouri. The utility man played sparingly for Pittsburgh from 1957-58, batting .306 in 49 games. He was one of the early Negro League players to reach the majors, having gotten his pro baseball start in 1948 with the Chicago American Giants. Sent to the minors in ‘58, he came back with the Reds and later the Colt .45s to carve out an eight-year career in the show. 
  • 1935 - IF Dick “Ducky” (his dad’s nickname that followed Schofield around; prob a play on Dickie) Schofield was born in Springfield, Illinois. He played eight (1958-65) of his 19 big league years with the Pirates and took over for an injured Dick Groat during the 1960 title stretch run, hitting .333 to help the Bucs take the NL title without missing a beat. Schofield was a regular infielder from 1963-65, but his BA (.248 as a Pirate, .227 overall) limited him to a backup role through most of his career. His son Dick continued the legacy, playing for 14 big league seasons while grandson Jayson Werth has put in 15 campaigns. 
  • 2001 - Under the regime of manager Lloyd McClendon and pitching coach Spin Williams, the Pirates held a voluntary week-long pitching mini-camp in Bradenton for the first time in club history. The staff had put together a 4.94 ERA in 2000, the clubs’ highest since 1953, and Williams said he wanted to get a jump on evaluating his charges’ physical shape, working on the fundamentals before training camp and pounding his philosophy of “Get quick outs.” Only three hurlers of the 20 invited didn’t attend - Kris Benson and Jason Schmidt (who was rehabbing an arm injury and wouldn’t get into a game until mid-May) were about to become fathers and vet Terry Mulholland begged off because of personal business. 
Spinnin' into action (photo Vincent Laforet/Allsports/Getty)
  • 2004 - Pittsburgh pro teams usually get along well, but the Bucs were being a little bit catty (OK, mean) when they ran a season-ticket spot that had Lanny Frattare say something to the effect of “Cheer up, Penguin fans - baseball season is just three months away.” The Pens were not amused by the shade, even tho they were going through a miserable season that featured a 17-game losing streak; after all, the Buccos had racked up an 11-season losing spell themselves. The Pirates pulled the radio ad on this date, apologized to the Penguins and both teams have played nicely in their shared Pittsburgh sandbox ever since. 
  • 2005 - SS Jack Wilson inked a two-year/$8M contract ($3.5M - 2005, $4.5M - 2007; $200K in potential awards bonus money both years) to avoid arbitration. He was coming off an All-Star year when he hit .308. Jack would go on to sign a three-year extension w/an option in the following off-season, putting him under team control up until 2010. 
  • 2009 - Cashing in his last shares in the Pirates, Kevin McClatchy ended his 13-year relationship with the team. Always undercapitalized, he still managed to keep the financially floundering Buccos in Pittsburgh by coming up investors to cover the $90-95M needed to buy the franchise. Bob Nutting became the majority stockholder in 2007 and ushered in the Frank Coonelly/Neal Huntington era when the season ended.