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.

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