Thursday, February 7, 2019

2/7: Baron of the Bullpen Honored; HBD Humberto, Adrian, Terin, Clipper, Joe, Bill, Lefty, Spike, Mitty & John

  • 1859 - P John Fox was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. John spent one of his four major league campaigns with the Alleghenys in 1894, going 1-6/5.63 in seven complete game performances. Believe it or not, he was third in starts on the team - Fleury Sullivan and Jack Neagle got 89 starts between them, leaving just 21 outings for the rest of the staff. It was just the third year of existence for the Alleghenys and the birth pangs showed - the club won only 30 games and went through five managers. And though Fox tossed 45 big league games for four teams over four seasons, none of them bothered to note whether he was a lefty or righty. 
  • 1863 - OF Michael “Mitty” Jordan was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He played just one year of big league ball, in 1890 for the Alleghenys, and that’s not too surprising considering he hit .096 in 125 at-bats. But as his nickname tells us, he was carried as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement, although there wasn’t much call for a 23-win team to roster a glove guy whose sole purpose was to protect late inning leads. Mitty later went home to work in the local textile industry and became a politician later in life.
Spike Shannon w/his first team, the Cards (photo via Wikipedia)
  • 1875 - OF William “Spike” Shannon was born in Clarksburg (Indiana County) and raised in Pittsburgh. He attended Grove City College, where he played baseball and additionally was an oft-injured football star who played semi-pro ball afterward. Spike also put in five MLB campaigns, closing out with the hometown Buccos in 1908 with a .197 BA (his career average was a healthier .259 and he was the NL leader in runs scored in 1907, when 104 tallies for the NY Giants). After his playing career (Shannon played pro ball until 1913, his 35-year-old campaign), he was an umpire in the Federal League. The Feds folded in 1915 but Spike’s gig in blue continued on in the minors through 1931. His nickname has a couple of possibilities. One was that he was a bit clumsy as a 1B and spiked several runners, although the more likely is that he picked it up in college, when he wore a knee brace that was held together by a spike. 
  • 1894 - OF Charles “Lefty” Jackson was born in Granite City, Illinois. Charlie had played in the Sally League, went off to WW1 and then got a cup of coffee (OK, one at-bat) with the White Sox in 1915. The Bucs inked him in 1917 and the 24-year-old outfielder hit .240 in 121 at-bats for his big-league final hurrah. He closed out his playing days with a three-year stint with the Minnesota Millers of the American Association, retiring in 1920 at the age of 26. 
  • 1907 - C Bill Steinecke was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Bill was a baseball lifer who spent 13 years in the minors, getting his reward in September of 1931 when the Bucs got him into four games, going 0-for-4. Steineke continued on - he managed in the minors for 22 years, then moved on to scouting. He’s semi-famous as “Steiny” in Pat Jordan’s book “A False Spring.” 
  • 1927 - Coach Joe Lonnett was born in Koppel, Beaver County. He graduated from Beaver Falls High School and lived in Brighton Township for 45 years before passing away in 2011. He was a catcher for four seasons with the Phillies from 1956-59 before joining the coaching ranks. A long time bud of Chuck Tanner, he came to Pittsburgh with him from the AL - he was with Tanner when he managed the Chicago White Sox (1971-75) & Oakland Athletics (1976) - and was a part of the Pirates staff from 1977-84, serving as the third base coach for the Bucs during the 1979 World Series Championship season. 
The Clipper (photo via Baseball Happenings)
  • 1928 - OF/1B Felipe “Clipper” Montemayor was born in Monterrey, Mexico. The Bucs bought him from Mexicali in 1951 and he played for Pittsburgh in 1953 and again in 1955, hitting .173 as one of the first Mexican MLB players. But he did have his day in the sun despite the stats. Montemayor had two career home runs, and they came in both ends of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 1st, 1955. The Clipper had a long career (1948-68) although Pittsburgh was his only MLB stop - he started at age 20 and ended his playing days at 40, playing both in the US minors and the Mexican League. Felipe then became a hometown sportswriter. He got his nickname in the 40s as a Mexican superstar, with “El Clipper” being a knockoff of Joe DiMaggio’s “Yankee Clipper” handle. 
  • 1937 - LHP Juan “Terin” Pizarro was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. The lefty had an 18-year MLB stint and spent 1967 and part of ‘68 with the Pirates, then returned for his last campaign in 1974, slashing 10-12-9/3.55 as a bullpen guy and occasional starter for the Bucs. Juan was a partier who lived large. Per Rory Costello of SABR, “In his childhood, he got the nickname that stuck with him for life, ‘TerĂ­n,’ (because) the neighborhood kids likened him to the main character of the comic strip ‘Terry and the Pirates.’” Pizarro was selected into the Caribbean Confederation and the Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fames with a lifetime line of 157-110/2.51 compiled during his Puerto Rican Winter League work (with an additional 38 wins in the Mexican League) to go along with his 131 major league victories and two All-Star selections. 
  • 1960 - Pirates reliever ElRoy Face was honored as the Dapper Dan Athlete of the Year in the annual award ceremony at the Hilton Hotel. The Baron of the Bullpen posted an 18–1/2.70 line with 17 victories in a row to begin the year after ending 1958 with five consecutive wins; he didn’t surrender a run in a month, from June 11th to July 12th. His teammate, Harvey Haddix, was also recognized after his 12-inning perfecto at Milwaukee. 
ElRoy at the Dapper Dan (photo 2/8/1960 Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
  • 1974 - OF Adrian Brown was born in McComb, Mississippi. A 48th round draft pick in 1992, he beat the odds by having a nine year MLB career, the first six (1997 - 2002) with the Pirates as a reserve. He hit .261 during his Pittsburgh stay. The switch-hitter had a breakout 2000 campaign when he hit .315 w/ four HRs, 64 runs, 28 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 104 games/340 PA. But he had a pair of DL trips that season with hammy issues, and it got worse when he had rotator cuff/labrum surgery out of camp in 2001, costing him virtually all of the season. He never again came close to matching those 2000 numbers. 
  • 1979 - C Humberto Cota was born in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. Cota was the Pirate backup catcher for his entire MLB career of seven seasons (2001-07) with a .233 lifetime BA after coming over from Tampa Bay as part of the Jose Guillen deal. He became a free agent in 2008 and signed with the Rox but failed a drug test. Cota was suspended for 50 games and never got another call to the show.

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