Friday, February 8, 2019

2/8: Frankie Signed; Josh & Buck HoF; Irishman/Joe Brown DD's; Pirates Charities 1st Project; RIP Ray; HBD Felix, Bob, Monty, Cookie & Slippery

  • 1886 - SS Roy “Slippery/Whitey” Ellam was born in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Roy first got a shot in the show in 1909 with the Reds as a 23-year-old; he had to wait until 1918 to get a second look with the Pirates. He got a fair audition (the Pirates had swung a deal with Indianapolis of the American Association for him) with 101 ABs, but he had more walks (17) than hits (10) and batted just .130. Ellam returned to his long-time base of operations, the Southern Association, and played out his 19-year pro career as an infielder and player-manager, retiring in 1930 to become a hometown contractor. 
Cookie Cuccurelli 1944 (Press photo)
  • 1918 - LHP Arthur “Cookie” Cuccurullo was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He spent his three-year MLB career as a Pirate from 1943-45, with a line of 3-5-5/4.55 in 62 games, nine of which were starts. Cookie was one of many ballplayers who filled in during the war years and returned to the minors afterward. His nickname is a play on his last name. 
  • 1922 - 2B Romanus “Monty” Basgall was born in Pfeifer, Kansas. Monty started with Dodgers, went off to the Army Air Corps and was signed by the Bucs upon his return from the service. He was a yo-yo player for the Bucs from 1948-51, hitting just .215 as he went back and forth from the minors to the show. He was in the Pirate system until 1958, ending his pro career as a player/manager at Waco, Beaumont and Lincoln. He went on to become a scout and coach for the Dodgers. His nickname came from his middle name of Montgomery. 
  • 1943 - 1B/OF Bob Oliver was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Bucs signed him out of American River College in 1963 and he got a brief (0-for-2 in three games) September call-up in ‘65. Pittsburgh shipped him to the Twins after the 1967 campaign for Ronnie Kline to launch Bob on a seven-year run in the Junior Circuit beginning in 1969. Oliver now works as a baseball instructor at his academy and others. His son Darren followed his footsteps to the show, pitching for 20 MLB seasons and now a Ranger exec. 
  • 1959 - Manager Danny Murtaugh and GM Joe Brown were honored at the Dapper Dan dinner at the Penn Sheraton Hotel. Murtaugh was the top awardee, recognized for publicizing Pittsburgh sports (he beat out the Steelers’ QB Bobby Layne) and Brown was recognized for his contributions to Pittsburgh sports while Bob Friend, Bill Mazeroski (who missed due to his dad’s death), Roy Face and Frank Thomas were also given awards for outstanding performances in 1958. In a sidebar to the main event, old Bucco hurler Wilbur Cooper was inducted into the Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame, with former teammate Pie Traynor being his presenter. 
  • 1965 - RHP Ray “The Frenchman” Kremer passed away at the age of 71 in Pinole, California, from heart problems. Ray spent his entire 10-year career as a Pirate, starting out as a 31-year-old rookie in 1924. A bout of rheumatism during a tryout with the Giants in 1916 seems to have erased him from the MLB radar. He went on to toss 2,100+ innings and post 100+ wins in the Pacific Coast League in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and the Bucs wisely gave him a second shot after a 357 IP, 25-16/3.08 Oakland campaign by purchasing his contract from the Oaks. He made up quickly for lost time; he won double-digit games with 200+ innings for eight straight seasons, ending his big league days in 1933 at age 40 with a line of 143-85-9/3.76. Kremer twice won 20 games and led the NL in ERA in both 1926 and 1927. He retired back to his hometown of California and became a mailman. 
  • 1972 - C Josh Gibson and OF Walter “Buck” Leonard were selected for the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues. Gibson, the “Black Babe Ruth,” played for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. His statue is at Nationals Park, where the Grays often played, and Ammon Field in the Hill District was renamed to honor him. The Grays’ Leonard batted behind him and became known as the “Black Lou Gehrig.” The “Thunder Twins” were inducted on August 7th. 
  • 1985 - OF Felix Pie was born in La Romana, Dominican Republic. After a couple of so-so years with the Cubs, Pie had back-to-back solid campaigns for the Orioles in 2009-10 but fell victim to a ruptured back. The Bucs signed him as a depth player in 2013. He was called up in late August and fizzled, batting .138, and took his game to Korea the following season. 
Felix Pie 2013 (photo Ronald Martinez/Getty)
  • 2007 - Pirates Charities completed its first project when the East Liberty Boys & Girls Club opened the Pirates Community Baseball Center, a redo of some old, unused space in a building that was converted to a baseball/softball training facility. The project cost $300K, with PC putting up $165,000 and the Roberto Clemente Foundation $65,000. The Pirates had donated to various charities under previous ownership, but Bob Nutting was the first to fold community action into the formal Bucco structure. 
  • 2013 - LHP Francisco Liriano was signed as a free agent. The Cisco Kid had agreed to a two-year contract worth $12.75M on December 12th, 2012, but broke his arm before the physical, voiding the deal. A new two-year agreement was reached with lots of incentives based on starts that would allow him to reach the original contract figures. Frankie came back May 11th, finishing 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and was the NL Comeback Player of the Year. He followed that with a 7-10 slate in 2014 with a 3.38 ERA, netting a three-year contract during the off season. Frankie was shipped to Toronto at the 2016 deadline for Drew Hutchison, who was DFA’ed at the end of the 2017 campaign. He’s now in the Yankees’ system.

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