Tuesday, February 12, 2019

2/12: Rennie, Milner, Ericks Sign; HBD Chris, Argenis, Cam, Stan, Joe, Woody, Ray & Earl

  • 1888 - 1B Ray Miller (no, not the pitching coach) was born in Pittsburgh. The local kid spent 1917 in the majors, playing his last six big league games as a Pirate. He hit .148 and was sent to the American Association’s Kansas City Blues as part of the Roy Sanders/Fritz Mollwitz off season deal. Ray, who got his start in the Pennsylvania-Ohio League with the nearby McKeesport Tubers, played until 1925 and put in a 13-year minor league career. 
Earl Sheely 1929 (photo Conlon Collection/Getty)
  • 1893 - 1B Earl "Whitey" Sheely was born in Bushnell, Illinois. He spent one season of his nine-year MLB career, 1929, as the starting first baseman for the Bucs, batting .293 in 139 games. Earl was a nice hitter, finishing with a career .300 BA and a pair of 100-RBI years after he retired following the 1931 campaign. He served as a scout for the Boston Red Sox, coach at St. Marys’ College and he was a manager for the Sacramento Solons and GM of the Seattle Rainiers in the Pacific Coast League. Sheely is an inductee of the PCL Hall of Fame after spending his entire 15-year minor league stint on the left shore in either the PCL or Northwest League, hitting .324 lifetime with 2,319 raps. Earl’s son Bud was also in the show, catching for three seasons for the White Sox. 
  • 1922 - RHP Forrest “Woody” Main was born in Delano, California. He pitched off and on for the Bucs in 1948, 1950, and 1952-53 after being claimed from the Yankees. Main was in the Bronx Bomber’s system as a Kansas City Blue, and when KC manager Billy Meyer was named skipper of the 1948 Pirates, he selected Main in that winter’s Rule 5 draft. Woody went 4-13-3 with a 5.14 ERA as a Pirate. 
  • 1926 - C Joe Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent the middle of his MLB career (1951-53) with Pittsburgh. Joe hit .262 over that span, but is best known as an announcer, a profession he began after his playing days in 1955. Garagiola grew up just a few doors down from his childhood friend Yogi Berra and later said, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!" 
  • 1952 - GM Cam Bonifay was born in St. Petersburg. After a brief minor league career, Cam toiled as a Cardinal & then Reds bird dog before becoming the Scouting Director for the Pirates in 1990. He was named assistant GM in 1991 and got the top job in 1993 when Ted Simmons was felled by a heart attack. He held the position until 2001 when owner Kevin McClatchy replaced him with Dave Littlefield. Despite criticism for signing underperforming players to big contracts, he was named The Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 1997 for building the “Freak Show” team with a payroll of just $9M. Since his Pittsburgh departure, he was worked for Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cincinnati. His son Josh was a minor league catcher in the Pirates system and is now a coach in the Houston Astros organization. 
Stan Fansler 1986 (photo via Sully Baseball)
  • 1965 - RHP Stanley Fansler was born in Elkins, West Virginia. The youngster was the Bucs second round draft pick (34th overall) in 1983. By 1985, he was pitching for the Pirates, going 0-3 but with a respectable 3.75 ERA in five September starts. He gave up less than a hit per inning but had some control issues. And therein lies a cautionary tale. Instead of Fansler making the team out of camp the following season, GM Sid Thrift, without consulting the Pirates coaches, sent him to the minors to change his delivery and sharpen his control. The result was that Stan’s money maker went haywire from the mechanical tweaking and he subsequently underwent a pair of arm surgeries. He never pitched above Class AA afterward and retired to become a pitching coach in 1993 before giving up the pro game entirely four years later when he married. 
  • 1969 - The Bucs sealed one of their top Latino deals when Pirates scout C. Herbert Raybourn inked 18-year-old 2B Rennie Stennett of Colon, Panama, to a contract. Rennie debuted as a 20-year-old and played nine seasons (1971-79) with Pittsburgh, hitting .278. His Pirates red letter day was when he went 7-for-7 against the Cubs, a record-setter (and he got three more hits to lead off the next game for 10 in-a-row), in 1975. His career was derailed in 1977 when he broke his leg sliding and 1981 was his last season in the show. 
  • 1980 - John Milner signed a one-year deal for an undisclosed amount to avoid arb and the Bucs were close to settling three more contentious contracts when Kent Tekulve, Omar Morena and Ed Ott all withdrew their names from the scheduled arbitration hearings list. All four played for the Bucs in 1980, although Milner and Ott would be traded during the 1980-81 off season. 
  • 1981 - C Chris Snyder was born in Houston. He came to the Pirates at the 2010 deadline from Arizona as part of the DJ Carrasco deal. The Pirates plan was for him to become Ryan Doumit’s veteran caddy, but in 2011 an awkward slide caused him to miss most of the year with a bad back. His balky vertebra helped trigger the season of the catcher - the Pirates were forced to use eight players at the position after Snyder and Dewey were both injured. In his time with the Bucs, he hit .214 and the Pirates unsurprisingly declined his 2012 option. After a couple of seasons in a backup role for Houston and the O’s, Snyder retired in 2014. 
Chris Snyder 2011 Topps
  • 1987 - SS Argenis Diaz was born in Guatire, Venezuela. He and Hunter Strickland came over from the Red Sox in 2009 for Adam LaRoche and Diaz got his only big league time in 2010 as a 23-year-old with the Buccos, hitting .243 in 22 games. Argenis, with a reputation as an excellent defensive guy, has bounced around among several organizations as AAA depth since while a regular in Venezuelan League winter play, and is now a free agent. 
  • 1993 - The Bucs signed RHP John Ericks to a free agent deal. After a couple of seasons on the farm, the 6’7’ Ericks worked 57 games for the Bucs between 1995-97, going 8-14-14 with a 4.78 ERA. The Pirates liked the Fighting Illini as a starter, but he had two shoulder surgeries and was switched to the pen. He was never 100% afterward and was out of baseball after working 10 games in 1997.

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