Saturday, February 23, 2019

2/23 Through the 1960’s: Pud Signs; Regan Day; RIP Bill; HBD Barney, Bo, Ray, T-Bone, Hedi & Mike

  • 1865 - Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss was born in Freiburg, Baden (Germany). He is often credited with the creation of the modern baseball World Series. Dreyfuss also built one of baseball's first modern steel and concrete baseball parks, Forbes Field, in 1909. During his period of ownership (1900-1932), the Pirates won six NL pennants, with World Series titles in 1909 and 1925; only the New York Giants won more NL championships during the same period. He’s in the Hall of Fame as one of the founding fathers that helped steer MLB through its early growing pains. 
Barney Dreyfuss (Photo Rauh Jewish Archives/Heinz History Center)
  • 1888 - RHP James "Pud" Galvin signed with Pittsburgh for $3,000, including $1,000 in advance. The club offered the ace $3,500 with no front money, but Galvin needed the quick infusion to carry him through the off season. “Gentleman Jeems” ended up in the Hall of Fame as MLB’s first 300-game winner (he claimed 365 victories); he was a much better pitcher than financial planner. 
  • 1908 - RHP Ray Brown was born in Alger, Ohio. He tossed for the Homestead Grays from 1932-45,winning 102 NNL games, and to cement the relationship, he even was married to owner Cum Posey’s daughter Ethel. Brown threw a one-hitter in the 1944 Negro League World Series to lead the Grays to the title and pitched a perfect seven-inning game in 1945. In 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier listed Brown as one of five Negro leagues stars who would be certain major leaguers if the color line didn’t exist, along with Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Satchel Paige. All five were voted into the Hall of Fame, with Brown’s election occurring in 2006. 
  • 1928 - 2B Bill Regan of Brookline was honored by a local testimonial at the Roosevelt Hotel before he left town for camp. Bill was in the middle of a five-year run with the Red Sox, but was remembered by his local buds (he first made his name as a member of the semi-pro JJ Coyne’s ball club from Oakland) with Honus Wagner leading the speakers list, along with the president of City Council, James Malone, and Duquesne football coach Elmer Layden. Regan did join the hometown nine for his final campaign in 1931. 
T-Bone 2007 (photo Nick Laham/Getty)
  • 1958 - Coach John “T-Bone” Shelby was born in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2006, he followed manager Jim Tracy to Pittsburgh, where he was the club's first base coach from 2006-07. He went on to coach in the Baltimore, Milwaukee and Colorado organizations. As for his nickname, he told Andrew Gruman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “I grew up being called T. I told my teammates in rookie ball to call me T and some clown on the team started calling me T-Bone and I hated it. It stuck because I hated it and now I love it.” 
  • 1959 - 1B Hediberto “Eddie/Hedi” Vargas was born in Guanica, Puerto Rico. The Bucs signed him in 1977 and he got cups of coffee with the big team in 1982 and again in 1984. Eddie hit .256 but without much power and he couldn’t dislodge Jason Thompson or win a bench spot. He was released in 1985, playing in Mexico & the minors before leaving the game after the 1989 campaign. 
  • 1961 - RHP Mike Smith was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Mike had gotten tastes of the show by working 17 games in four seasons for the Reds & Expos and got his longest exposure as a Bucco in 1989, working 16 times w/24 IP. His counting numbers were OK at 0-1/3.75, but his peripherals told a different tale and that was his last MLB campaign. He closed his career by tossing five years (1996-2000) of indie league ball. 
  • 1963 - OF Bobby “Bo” Bonilla was born in the Bronx. The switch hitter spent six years in Pittsburgh (1986-91) with a line of .284/114/500 and was a four-time All Star for Pittsburgh before leaving in 1991 as an FA, signing a huge deal with the NY Mets. From 1992-94, Bo was the highest-paid player in the league, earning over $6M per season. When he released with a year left on the deal, the Mets settled the contract by sending him $1.2M every season - for the next 25 years! Bobby played for 16 campaigns in the show with eight teams, retiring at 38 after the 2001 season w/a lifetime .279 BA, 287 HR, 1,084 runs and 1,173 RBI. 
Bobby Bo 1987 Donruss
  • 1969 - RHP Bill Swift passed away in Bartow, Florida at the age of 60. He tossed eight seasons (1932-39) for the Bucs, with a 91-79/3.57 record. Swift was a workhorse, going 200+ innings and picking up double-digit wins in his first five seasons, topping out with 16 scalps in 1936. He was the poster child for pitch-to-contact, punching out just 3.4 batters/nine IP during his Pittsburgh career, but giving up less than two walks per game and a homer just once every 18 frames. He worked for 11 years in the bigs, and was 3-0-1 as a reliever for the 100-win Brooklyn Dodgers of 1941, the NL champs, in just nine outings.

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