Sunday, February 17, 2019

2/17: Vin-for-Turkey; Zane Return; Nate Signs; Groat DD; Ike Letter; Pace of Play; HBD Rivington, Eddie, Ed, Whammy & Dave

  • 1890 - IF Rivington Bisland was born in New York City. He got his first big league game with the Pirates in 1912, going 0-for-1 as a September pinch hitter after hitting .287 for Springfield of the Central League. Bisland was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the St. Louis Browns in 1913 and then got another shot with the Cleveland Naps the following season after reneging on an oral agreement with the Pittsburgh Rebels. That was it for him. In 31 games, he hit .118, and after being released in June spent the next two years with the Atlanta Crackers, where the club paid him $350 per month, well over the league limit, to keep him from jumping to the Rebs. He retired after the overpay was discovered rather than face the league’s music (a suspension), played a year of semi-pro ball and then went on to be a fairly successful boxing promoter. (Thx to Diamonds in the Dusk for filling in his background story.) 
  • 1901 - C Eddie Phillips was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Phillips caught for parts of six MLB campaigns and got his most work as a Pirate in 1931. He started behind the plate for 100 games, batting .232, and was traded to Kansas City as part of the Bill Swift deal the next season. He retired after the 1943 season following 17 years of pro ball and became a minor league manager. 
Ed Brandt 1937 (photo via Retro Image Archive)
  • 1905 - LHP Ed Brandt was born in Spokane, Washington. In his final two MLB seasons (1937-38), he tossed for Pittsburgh and went 16-14-2/3.23. He was mostly a good pitcher on bad big league teams. In 11 MLB years, Ed’s record was 121-146/3.86. He started 278 games and finished 150 of them. After his 1939 retirement, Brandt ran a hometown hunting lodge and tavern. He was killed on November 1st, 1944, when he was struck by a car while crossing a street at the age of 39.
  • 1909 - With an early “pace-of-play” reg, the NL made it mandatory that a relief pitcher face one batter with a five-pitch warm up limit. The rule countered managers who would yank a pitcher, bring in another (slowly) to kill a little time, and then pull him if they didn't like the hitting matchup or when the guy the skipper really wanted on the mound was good and loose. It eventually became Rule #6.2.2. 
  • 1912 - The Pirates switched outfielders, sending Vin Campbell to the Boston Braves for Mike Donlin. Both players were solid hitters but neither were one trick ponies. Campbell was a successful businessman while Donlin was a vaudevillian (he carried around an old theater program with him as a good luck talisman), movie actor and all-around bon vivant. Both left baseball for periods of time to hold out for bigger salaries knowing they could pay the bills with their side jobs. Donlin hit .316 in 77 games for the 1912 Pirates while Campbell hit .296 and led the league in at-bats for the Braves that season. After the season, the 34-year-old Donlin was waived and claimed by the Phillies but refused to report and retired. He came back in 1914 after sitting out a season to play for the Giants, but his bat deserted him and 35 games later, his career was finished. Donlin was nicknamed “Turkey Mike” due to his red neck and distinctive strut (It’s said many fans even imitated his way of walking). It wasn't a moniker that Mike particularly cared for; go figure. Campbell, who was expendable in Pittsburgh after the emergence of Max Carey, was also out of baseball for a year and then played out his string in the upstart Federal League, hitting .315 in 1914-15. His nickname was “Demon,” a carryover from his college football days. 
The Press of 2-18-1912 was all over the trade.
  • 1935 - RHP Charles “Whammy” Douglas was born in Carrboro, North Carolina. Whammy only got 11 starts in MLB, all in 1957 with the Bucs, going 3-3, 3.26. He was sent back to AAA Columbus for the ‘58 campaign, posting a 16-10/3.35 line and was traded to the Reds in 1959. His promising career was dead-ended by elbow and shoulder problems. One physical impairment that didn’t bother him, tho, was the fact that he was blind in his right eye after childhood accident. Branch Rickey pressed him on the handicap, and Douglas replied that “You have one hitter. He’s got one bat. And I have one ball.” He had the nickname “Whammy” hung on him thx to Burlington Times-News writer Bill Hunter. “I was striking everyone out, so they just started calling me ‘Whammy,’” Douglas said. 
  • 1941 - OF Dave Wissman was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The Bucs signed him out of the University of Bridgeport in 1961, and he got his only pro shot in 1964, playing in 16 games for the Pirates and hitting .148. Wissman played AAA ball for the Pirates and Tigers over the next three years and hung up the spikes after the 1967 campaign. 
  • 1954 - A week before Honus Wagner’s 80th birthday, President Dwight Eisenhower sent Hans a letter that read in part "Realization that you now count your years at the four score mark reminds me, with something of a shock, that it was fifty years ago that I used to follow your batting average with the keenest of interest." Wagner was one of Ike’s childhood sports heroes when DDE was growing up in Abilene, Kansas. Eisenhower was a high school and local semi-pro ballplayer and as a youth had declared his ambition “to be a real major league ballplayer, a real professional like Honus Wagner.” 
  • 1996 - The Pirates brought back LHP Zane Smith after he had left the fold for Boston on a one-year/$400K deal. The lefty had been a Bucco from 1990-94 with a couple of nice seasons during that span, but this was to be his last rodeo. The 35-year-old slashed 4-6/5.08 and was released in July to end his MLB career. 
Nate's last skate - 2009 Topps Heritage
  • 2009 - CF Nate McLouth signed a three-year/$15.75M contract with an option that bought out his arbitration years. It guaranteed his salary but not his home; he was traded to Atlanta in June to open a starting spot for Andrew McCutchen. He returned to the Bucs briefly in 2012, and since then has played in Baltimore and Washington before taking his final bow after the 2014 season. 
  • 2016 - Dick Groat was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 80th annual Dapper Dan Dinner. In 1960, Groat hit .325, was named NL MVP for the WS winners and earned three All-Star berths as a Bucco SS. He was also a two-time All America at Duke as a hoopster.

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