Saturday, January 5, 2019

1/5 Through the 1940’s: Brown Signed; Have a Ball; HBD Newt, Bob S, Jack & Bob O

  • 1880 - 1B Fred “Newt” Hunter was born in Chillicothe, Ohio. Hunter spent from 1903-18 in the minors, getting his MLB call in 1911 when he was one of six players who spent time at first base in 1911 along with John Flynn, Honus Wagner, Bill McKechnie, Mickey Keliher and Bill Keen. He did OK, hitting .254 in 65 games, but was let go and replaced by Doggie Miller in 1912. After retiring (he played 17 years on the farm for 17 teams), he spent time as a Cardinal coach in 1920, and except for a brief 1924 minor-league comeback that lasted six games, was done with baseball. 
Newt 1911 (photo Conlon Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1894 - LHP Bob Steele was born in Cassburn, Ontario. Steele worked parts of four campaigns in the show, suiting up for Pittsburgh in the second half of 1917 after a deal with the Cards for 3B Doug Baird continuing through the first half of 1918. He did fairly well without flashy results, going 7-14-2/2.87 as a starter who occasionally worked from the pen. Bob was sold to the Giants later in the 1918 campaign and tossed his last MLB season for them in 1919, retiring after finishing out the year with Indianapolis of the American Association. 
  • 1914 - RHP Jack Salveson was born in Fullerton, California. He worked for five MLB campaigns, including five 1935 outings for the Pirates with an 0-1, 9.00 line. Jack was known as a quick worker, once pitching a game in 65 minutes, and was a long-time PCL hurler who tossed for 22 years in the minors. Show biz fact: He got a small part in the movie “Pride of the Yankees” and got to bop Lou Gehrig (played by Gary Cooper) in the noggin as a Tinseltown tosser. 
  • 1928 - C Bob Oldis was born in Preston, Iowa. Oldis was a third string catcher for the Bucs between 1960-61, getting into 26 games and batting .160 as a Pirate. Though seldom used, Oldis appeared in Games 4 and 5 of the 1960 World Series as a late-inning defensive replacement. After his seven-year MLB career ended, he was a coach/scout for the Phillies, Twins, and Expos. He’s been with the Marlins organization since 2002. 
  • 1934 - The leagues still can’t agree on the DH, didn’t play inter-league games until 1997 and didn’t pool umpires until 2000, but they did agree on a common baseball for the first time on this day. The NL adopted the AL horsehide, which had a thinner cover and less prominent seams. The switch was supposed to both juice up the NL attack and make inter-league performance comparisons more equivalent (the NL was considered more of a pitcher's league because of the less lively ball and the higher, pitcher-friendly seams). Pirates manager George Gibson told Volney Walsh of the Pittsburgh Press that “If the lively ball helps anyone it should help us some for we had the hardest hitting team in the league last year.” It didn't quite work out that way. The Bucs led the NL with a .383 slugging % in '33, and tho they came in second in '34, their average fell to .344 as they pounded a paltry 52 homers. Business of baseball trivia: The AJ Reach Company, the AL’s vendor, was contracted to manufacture the balls, but it was bought by Spalding, its chief rival in the business, which then produced the MLB balls until 1977 when Rawlings became the supplier. 
  • 1946 - The Pirates forked over $30,000 to the Cards for infielder Jimmy Brown. Brown had been an All-Star in 1942, but played an abbreviated season in ‘43 before joining the Army Air Corp. He came back for the Bucs as a 36-year-old, hit .241 in 79 games and called it a career after spending the following two seasons in the minors. Afterward, he managed in the Pittsburgh system for a couple of years and then coached with the Braves for three more campaigns.
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