Wednesday, January 2, 2019

1/2: Sure Shot, Williams Inked; HBD Mad Dog, Sup, Ed, Bill, Jesse, George, Jack & Sam

  • 1854 - 2B Sam Crane was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sam got around, playing for eight big league clubs in seven seasons over an 11-year span, with his last hurrah partially spent as an Allegheny in 1890 when he was 36-years-old. He hit just .195 in 22 games and closed out his career playing four games with the Giants. He signed with the Bucs after he was cleared in a trail that accused him of taking another mans’ wife (and $1,500), though he shouldn’t be confused with the infamous Sam Crane who played 25 years later and was imprisoned for shooting his girlfriend and her companion. (It was apparently a pretty hot-blooded period in America, at least for Sam Cranes.) Our Sam umped a little afterwards, but found his retirement niche as a widely respected sports writer for the New York Evening Journal. Crane covered the beat for 25 years, earning the sobriquet “the dean of baseball writers." 
  • 1858 - RHP Jack Neagle was born in Syracuse, New York. Jack tossed for the Alleghenys between 1883-84, going 14-38/4.28 (the Alleghenys were pretty poor during those seasons; they only won 61 games as a team). He also played a few games in the outfield but that was no better than his mound work as he hit just .165. His Pittsburgh tenure marked the last two years of his career after he had worked for Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Baltimore. 
Sure Shot 1888 Goodwin Champions
  • 1888 - 2B Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap signed with the Alleghenys following the sale of his contract by the Detroit Wolverines. He agreed to a $5‚000 salary and a $2‚000 bonus‚ making him the highest-paid player of the time. The rangy defensive whiz played three years for the team, hitting just .240 (his lifetime BA was .292) at the backside of his career. Sure Shot is credited with earning his nickname from King Kelly, who was duly impressed with his fielding acrobatics and sure, strong arm. There is an alternate tale, per Wikipedia. In his book “The Complete History of the Home Run,” Mark Ribowsky claimed the nickname was won when Dunlap, then with the Cleveland Blues, hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth to snap a 21-game Chicago White Stocking victory streak. One the local papers called the blast the "...Shot Heard 'Round Cleveland," leading to the Sure Shot dub. Dunlap was also known as “The King of the Second Basemen.” Fun facts: Alfred Spink in “The National Game” wrote that Dunlap was ambidextrous and could catch/throw a baseball equally well with either hand. Moreover, Sure Shot reportedly never wore a glove. 
  • 1892 - RHP George Boehler was born in Lawrenceville, Kansas. George spent parts of nine campaigns (he never appeared more than 18 times in any single season) in the majors over a 15-year period. He worked 10 games for the 1923 Pirates, going 1-3/6.04. He had a long, strong minor league career spanning 1911-30. George won 38 games one year, 27 in two others, and topped the 20-win mark seven times with 248 farm victories (and his record is missing a couple of seasons), mostly hurling in the Western & Pacific Coast Leagues. 
  • 1893 - OF Jesse Altenburg was born in Ashley, Michigan. His MLB career was comprised of the 19 games he played as a Pirate from 1916-17, with a .290 BA. Jesse had a strong September in his rookie campaign, but faltered in the second go-round. He did have a long run in baseball, spending 10 years in the minors and hitting .300+ in at least five of those seasons. 
  • 1894 - C Bill Wagner was born in Jessup, Iowa. The light-hitting reserve (he also played 1B) was a Bucco from 1914-17, putting up a .205 BA in 80 Pittsburgh games. He was then sold to the Boston Braves, and 1918 was his last MLB season. 
  • 1929 - RHP Ed Wolfe was born in Los Angeles. Ed served for two years as an Army paratrooper after high school and following his discharge, he played at Fullerton JC before the Pirates' signed him. He spent eight years with the organization, pitching at Indianapolis, Modesto, Bartlesville, Charleston, New Orleans and finally in Hollywood. He got his moment in the sun when he was with the Pirates in April of 1952, going 0-1/7.36 in three outings. 
Mad Dog 19893 Donruss Action All Star
  • 1951 - 3B Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock was born in Memphis. The third baseman played seven seasons for the Bucs (1979-85) with a line of .297/.357/.428 while leading the league in hitting in 1981 (.341) and 1983 (.323). He was a key part of the 1979 Championship team, batting .333 in the playoffs and World Series after coming from San Francisco in a June trade for Ed Whitson. The nickname? Madlock had a fiery temper and was ejected from 18 games during his career. 
  • 1975 - RHP Jeff Suppan was born in Oklahoma City. “Sup” spent 17 years in the majors and made 417 starts; 21 of those were for the Pirates in 2003, when he went 10-7/3.57 after signing as a free agent. That performance got him flipped to the Red Sox at the deadline, netting the Pirates a gift-wrapped return of IF Freddy Sanchez and LHP Mike Gonzalez. 
  • 2002 - The Pirates officially signed a two-year deal with RHP Mike Williams worth $5.5M, getting him back from the Astros after he was swapped at the ‘01 deadline for Tony McKnight. After an All-Star campaign in 2002 (46 saves/2.93 ERA), Williams faded the next season, collecting another 25 saves but with a 6.27 ERA. He was traded to the Phillies, and 2003 was his last MLB season. His saving grace in Pittsburgh was his swing-and-miss stuff as Williams whiffed 250 batters in 222-⅔ IP as a Buc.
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