Tuesday, June 30, 2020

6/30 Through the 1930’s: Forbes Debut; Barney Bust; Nixey Nixed; Wright Wracked; Game Stories; HBD Don, Dave, Hal, Tincan, Davy & Jovo

  • 1880 - OF Davy Jones was born in Manikota, Minnesota. After a 13-year career in the show, the 34-year-old Jones spent his last two campaigns (1914-15) with the Pittsburgh Rebels, where he hit .279 before an ankle injury led to his release. Jones had spent most of his MLB time fighting for a third outfield spot in Detroit between Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, and saw considerable time as the leadoff hitter, scoring at a good pace with those two Hall-of-Fame bats behind him. He even homered in the 1909 Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That he ended up with the Rebels was no surprise. Per SABR, “During his first years in the pros he jumped so many contracts that the press nicknamed him ‘The Kangaroo.’" 
Davy Jones - Sporting Life (filter ColouriseSG)
  • 1892 - The Philadelphia Phillies were the home team at Expo Park for a twin bill, and they weren’t even playing the Pirates, but the Washington Senators! They were making up a pair of rain dates against the Sens while the Pirates were away playing the Cleveland Spiders (Pittsburgh won 6-5), as Washington just finished a set at Baltimore and the Phils were coming off a home series with a mutual off day. 1,200 fans showed up at Exposition Park to watch the double dipper split, with each side taking a 3-2 win. 
  • 1893 - The Pirates scored seven runs in the ninth inning at Expo Park and still lost to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms by a 22-16 count. It was the epitome of ugly baseball - 38 runs, 37 hits, 24 walks and 11 errors made for an amateur hour match. The Pittsburgh Press wrote of the walks (although noting that the ump seemed “a little off”) that “This beats anything in that line seen in a league game...Three pitchers were used by the Pittsburgs in one inning, and this, too, had never been heard of in the league.” The first six Pirates in the order combined for 16 hits, with George Van Haltren banging out four knocks in a losing cause. 
  • 1895 - RHP Johnny Miljus was born in Lawrenceville and went to Pitt, where he was a football and baseball star. Known as “Jovo” (short for Jovan, or John in Serbian) and “The Big Serb” (a nickname bestowed on him by Babe Ruth, per baseball lore), he got his start with an inning for the Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal League in 1915, and later worked for the Bucs from 1927-28 (he fought in WW1 and was wounded in action, delaying his career), going 13-10-1 with a 3.53 ERA. He was a multi-role hurler, and did everything from start to close. He’s best remembered for his wild pitch that allowed the Yankees to sweep the 1927 Series. Jovo struck out Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel in the ninth of that game and got two strikes on Tony Lazzeri. But he muscled up on the next pitch (some say it was a spitter, tho Johnny never 'fessed up) and it got past C Johnny Gooch, allowing Earle Combs to score the winning run. Johnny was thought to be the first Serbian to play MLB. 
  • 1902 - RHP Hal Smith was born in Creston, Iowa. Smith broke into the big leagues as a 30 year old, and spent his four-year career (1932-35) as a Buc, although most of his twirling in the first and last year was done for the AA Kansas City Blues. He went 12-11-1 with a 3.77 ERA as a Pirate with his time split between starting and the bullpen. Hal played for the Blues again in 1936, then hung ‘em up. 

  • 1909 - The fans were pumped; they began lining up 6-1/2 hours before the game for tickets as an SRO crowd of 30,338 filled every nook, to date the largest gathering to ever watch a baseball game, to see the Pirates fall to the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, in the debut of Forbes Field. Ed Reulbach tossed a three-hitter to top Pittsburgh’s Vic Willis, who spun a four-hitter. Honus Wagner collected two hits and scored a run in a game that was played in one hour and 50 minutes. Mayor William Magee threw out the first ball. He was in the second tier and lobbed the ball to John M. Morin, Director of Public Safety, on the field below. Morin then went to the mound and threw the first pitch to open the festivities. The ball yard was one of the nation's first made completely of concrete and steel, featuring public phones, separate ladies room, ramps rather than stairs and even included a visitor’s clubhouse. FF’s firsts: the first radio broadcast in 1921, the first fan elevator installed in 1938, the first field tarps, the first pads to cushion the outfield wall in the forties and the first All-Star (1944) game played at night. It had a print shop (Banker’s Lithographing) in its interior and in the twenties, the space under the LF bleachers was used for car sales and repairs! It wasn’t exactly embraced at the beginning; it was often called "Dreyfuss' Folly" in its conceptual years. Some folly; the yard was the Pirates’ home for 61 seasons. 
  • 1909 - LHP Harry “Tincan” Kincannon was born in parts unknown. He pitched for the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1930-36, being one of just three players to transition from the original independent club to the Negro National League. The curve-ball specialist made one All-Star appearance for the Crawfords before he was traded to the NY Black Yankees. He finished his career after the 1939 campaign. 
  • 1917 - Pirates skipper Jimmy "Nixey" Callahan was fired after the club staggered to a 20-40 start, and Honus Wagner took over as player-manager. The Wagner-led Bucs won 5-4 win over the Reds‚ with the Dutchman banging a two-run double. Wilbur Cooper went the distance for the win at Forbes Field. Wagner resigned after a five-game stint at the helm; he much preferred playing to filling out lineup cards, and business manager Hugo Bezdek took the reins.
  • 1927 - Sometimes ya just can’t win: Per BR Bullpen, SS Glenn Wright, on the way home from St. Louis after being beaned while batting against the Cards, was slightly injured when the train he was riding wrecked in Ohio. “Buckshot” lost two weeks to the twin traumas, not returning to the lineup until July 14th. Lee Meadows, who accompanied Wright on the trip home, escaped shaken but unscathed. 
  • 1931 - LHP Don Gross was born in Weidman, Michigan. Gross pitched from the pen for the Bucs from 1958-60, going 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA. The Pirates made one of their “whatever was I thinking” deals when they got him from the Reds; they sent RHP Bob Purkey to Cincinnati, who won in double figures for eight seasons and made three All-Star teams. 
Don Gross - 1960 Topps
  • 1933 - 1B/OF Dave Roberts was born in Panama City, Panama. After a couple of years playing off the Colt .45’s (Astros) bench, Roberts spent a year on the farm and joined the Bucs in 1966 via the Rule 5 draft, going 2-for-16 in his last MLB shot while spending most of the campaign at AAA Columbus. Afterwards, he put in eight seasons in Japan (1967-74). J
  • 1934 - A small stone monument dedicated to Barney Dreyfuss was unveiled outside Forbes Field’s RF gates, leading to Schenley Park, on the 25th anniversary of the ballyard. The monument was later displayed in TRS and it’s now located at PNC Park, on the concourse behind home plate. The ceremony didn’t help the Bucs, who were 4-2 losers to the Cubs.

6/30 From 1960 Through the 1980’s: McWilliams Trade; Nay Maye; Cobra Bitten; Game Stories; HBD Chan Ho, Drew, Cole & Delwyn

  • 1960 - Dick Stuart bombed three consecutive HRs to key an 11-6 win as the Pirates split a DH with the second place Giants at Forbes Field. Stuart had seven RBI in the nitecap and joined Ralph Kiner as the second Pirate to hit three homers in a game at Forbes Field. Joe Gibbon worked 7-⅔ innings, giving up six hits and a run after Vinegar Bend Mizell was chased by the G-Men in the second frame. The Bucs were flattened in the opener, losing by an 11-0 count. 
  • 1962 - The Pirates clobbered the Cards 17-7 at Busch Stadium. Smoky Burgess had two homers and a double, good for seven RBI. Roberto Clemente had a hot stick, too, going 4-for-5 with a homer, a double and five runs driven in. Dick Groat, Bob Skinner and Dick Stuart added three knocks apiece as the Pirates drilled 22 hits against St. Louis. 
Smoky was smokin' - 1962 photo Jay Publishing
  • 1965 - Post Gazette Sports Editor Al Abrams disclosed that in May, in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, the Pirates and the Braves were close to pulling the trigger on a Lee Maye for Vern Law, Donn Clendenon and Jerry Lynch swap. But the Bucs turned it around on the field and as the wins came, the deal (thankfully for Pittsburgh) fell in the rear view mirror. Milwaukee sent Maye to Houston instead for Ken Johnson/Jim Beauchamp and he never developed into more than a platoon guy and off-season singer with the Five Crowns & the Hearts. Law won 17 games in ‘65 and a dozen more the next season, Clendenon played through the 1968 campaign for the Bucs, and Lynch retired as a Pirate at age 35 in 1966. 
  • 1973 - RHP Chan Ho Park was born in Kong Ju City, South Korea. He finished his 17-year MLB career in Pittsburgh in 2010 after being claimed off waivers from the Yankees, making 26 appearances and slashing 2-2/3.49. He tossed for two more years in Korea afterwards before retiring to focus on various children charities on behalf of his Chan Ho Park Dream Foundation. 
  • 1978 - The Bucs lost a ballgame and Dave Parker in the ninth inning at TRS. The Pirates were leading 3-2 when two errors helped the Mets to four runs. The Pirates came roaring back. Frank Taveras and Omar Moreno singled with one out, and Parker followed with a triple to cut the lead to 6-5. Bill Robinson lifted a fly to RF Joel Youngblood, and his throw home beat the tagging Cobra, who tried to run through NY catcher John Stearns, a former defensive back in college. Instead Stearns exploded into him to make the tag, ending the game and breaking Parker’s jaw & cheekbone all in one fell swoop, then spiking the ball after the play. David returned 16 days after his bones were set and his jaw wired shut, wearing a goalie's mask, then football helmet and later a cage to protect his puss. He slumped on his return - he was on a liquid diet and lost 20 pounds - but rediscovered his stroke in time to repeat as league batting champ (.334) and was voted the NL-MVP. 
  • 1982 - The Atlanta Braves traded LHP Larry McWilliams to the Pirates for RHP Pascual Perez and minor leaguer Carlos Rios. Both pitchers were solid starters for a spell (each won 33 games during his next three years) in an even up deal. 
  • 1982 - UT Delwyn Young Jr. was born in Los Angeles. A touted minor-league prospect, Delwyn was a AAA All-Star and played for Team USA, but the Dodgers outfield was loaded and he Young was sent to Pittsburgh for Eric Krebs & Harvey Garcia. He was the starting 2B, replacing the traded Freddy Sanchez. Delwyn began on fire but faded during the dog days, relegating him to a utility role in 2010. His bat slipped - he hit .238 following a .266 season - and he left at the end of the year as a free agent. Young had a couple of bites, but never caught on in the majors again. 
Drew Sutton - photo 2012 Jason Alter/Getty
  • 1983 - UT Drew Sutton was born in El Dorado, Arkansas. Drew had a dizzy but brief Bucco stay. The Pirates purchased Sutton from the Braves on May 20th, 2012. Then Tampa Bay purchased Drew from the Bucs on the next day; the Pirates had let him go as a professional courtesy because the Rays were going to add him to their MLB roster. 18 games and a month later, Sutton was DFA’ed by Tampa and claimed by Pittsburgh. He became the stuff of local folklore when Drew hit his first career walk-off home run into PNC’s batter’s eye off the Astro’s Wesley Wright to give the Pirates a come-from-ahead win after a blown save by Joel Hanrahan. The victory gave the Pirates a share of first place. Drew left as a free agent after the year, spent one more season as a 30-year-old at AAA Pawtucket for Boston and then retired. 
  • 1987 - IF Cole Figueroa was born in Tallahassee, Florida. He made three brief stops in the show between 2014-16 with his last hurrah in Pittsburgh. He got into 23 games in 2016, batting .154. He read the writing on the wall; he’s now with the Tampa Bay Rays, working in Baseball Research & Development and putting his Sports Management degree from Florida (he was selected to the All-SEC Academic Team) to good use.

6/30 From 1990: Hanny Deal; Old Bossmen Return; Walk Out; Slick Pitching; Game Stories

  • 1992 - Pittsburgh eked out a 2-0 win v St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Doug Drabek was the man, tossing a three-hit, complete game whitewash with nine strikeouts. It was the third time that Drabek went the distance on the way to a career-high 10 CGs during the season. The Bucs scored both runs in the sixth off Rheal Cormier when Cecil Espy and Chico Lind’s back-to-back singles plated Lloyd McClendon and Don Slaught. 
  • 1997 - Jon Lieber tossed a five-hit/10-K, 3-1, complete game victory over the Chicago White Sox at TRS, backed by homers from Kevin Young and Dale Sveum. But the most memorable part of the afternoon was Lieber’s dominance of Albert Belle, whom he whiffed four times. The 28,070 fans loved it; Belle was in the first year of an $11M contract, while the “Freak Show” Pirates had a $9M payroll for the entire team. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette headline for Bob Smizik’s game story was “Pirates Clang Belle.” Lieber also held Frank Thomas, who was making a mere $7.15M, 0-for-2, though the Big Hurt did draw a walk and lifted a sac fly to account for Chi-town’s only run. 
Brian Giles - 1999 Skybox
  • 1999 - The Bucs rode an eight-run fourth frame to a 9-1 win over the Phillies at TRS. Brian Giles had a three-run homer, Al Martin had a three-run bases-clearing double and Brant Brown doubled in another pair as the Bucs banged out six hits with three walks in their big frame. Jason Schmidt cruised to victory, with ninth inning help from Brad Clontz. 
  • 2006 - The hottest team in baseball, the Detroit Tigers (at the time, 54-25, and eventually World Series bound) rolled into PNC Park with a boatload of old Bucco honchos: Manager Jim Leyland and his coaches Gene Lamont, Lloyd McLendon, Andy Van Slyke, Don Slaught and Rafe Belliard. They won the opener 7-6 and took 2-of-3 games of the series. Motown also rostered a bunch of future Buccos during the visit - Brandon Inge, Craig Monroe, Jason Grilli and Wil Ledzema all appeared. 
  • 2007 - To protest the team’s small payroll and general ineptitude, a group called “Fans for Change” staged a walkout at PNC Park. Estimates ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand of the 26,959 on hand who strolled out of the park after the third inning. They picked a bad day for it, as the Bucs beat the Nats 7-2 behind Tom Gorzelanny, who was supported by a three-run homer by Adam LaRoche. Though the sentiment was widespread, the boycott had little effect. 
  • 2008 - The Pirates penciled a pitcher in the eight-hole for the first time in over 50 years when John Russell had Paul Maholm (.161) bat ahead of Jack Wilson (.312); Bobby Bragan had been the last Pittsburgh skipper to use the ploy during the 1957 campaign. It didn’t exactly juice the attack as the Bucs went down 4-3 to the Reds at GABP after Matt Capps gave up a two-run homer in the ninth to Junior. Maholm went 0-for-3; Wilson 1-for-3. 
  • 2009 - The Bucs traded LF Nyjer Morgan and LHP Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals for RHP Joel Hanrahan and OF Lastings Milledge in a change-of-scenery swap. Hanrahan would become the major piece, eventually taking over as the Pirate closer. They also completed a minor deal the same day, shipping utilityman Eric Hinske to the Yankees for minor leaguers Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson. 
Joel Hanrahan - 2009 Topps Heritage wide
  • 2013 - The Pirates won their ninth straight game, 2-1, in 14 innings over the Brewers at PNC Park. The yard was packed with 35,351 fans on a warm Sunday afternoon, but the game was delayed in the second inning by rain for nearly 2-1/2 hours, and the bullpens took over with Milwaukee ahead 1-0. Andrew McCutchen tied the game in the eighth when his two-out knock drove in Starling Marte. The Pirates left the bases loaded in the 13th to miss a golden chance, but Russell Martin, the last position player remaining, singled home Gaby Sanchez, who had an infield knock and stolen base to open the frame, with the game winner in the following go-around. Tony Watson got the win after three scoreless innings. He followed five other Pirate relievers, and the ensemble tossed 12 innings of two-hit, shutout ball without issuing a walk, led by Vin Mazzaro’s perfect five-inning stint (it was the first Bucco five IP+ bullpen perfecto since Elmer Ponder did it in 1919). It was the first time in franchise history that the bullpen put up that many consecutive zeros in one game. J
  • 2017 - The Bucs were bombed by the Giants 13-5 at PNC Park to complete a SF sweep, but the G-Men couldn’t slow down Andrew McCutchen. He went 2-for-2 with a walk to close out a red-hot June. He slashed .411/.505/.689 with six homers, 23 RBI and 22 runs scored, taking the Player-of-the-Month Award for a franchise record fifth time.

Monday, June 29, 2020

6/29 Through the 1940’s: Expo Finale; Game Stories; HBD Heinie, Whitey & Patsy

  • 1867 - IF Henry “Heinie” Reitz was born in Chicago. Heinie had established himself as a dependable .290 hitter over his first five years and the Pirates sent three players to Washington to get him. Father Time won this deal. The 32-year-old Reitz played just 35 games for the Bucs, hitting a career low of .262 and was traded to Milwaukee of the American Association for Harry Smith, who spent six years with the Bucs as a backup catcher. Heinie never played major league ball again after the deal and became a sad but historic footnote in baseball history when he died in 1914 at age 47, the first major league player to meet his Maker as the result of a car accident. 
Patsy Flaherty - 1904 Chicago History Museum/Getty (filter: ColouriseSG)
  • 1876 - LHP Patsy Flaherty was born in Mansfield (now Carnegie). The Flaherty and Wagner families were neighbors and Patsy & Hans were lifelong friends. Flaherty was a “quick-pitch” stylist and master of the pickoff (between pitching as soon as he got the ball back from the catcher and his deceptive pickoff move, it’s been said that he struck out at least two batters who swung at throws to first!) who was recommended to the Pirates twice by his homie Hans. He pitched for the Bucs in 1900 and then again from 1904-05. He went 29-19-1/2.85 in that span. When he retired after nine years of major league ball with a dead arm, he coached, managed and scouted for various clubs until 1940. 
  • 1907 - The Pirates edged the Cubs 2-1 at West Side Park when CF Tommy Leach threw out Chicago’s Harry Steinfeldt at the plate in the ninth inning. Per the Pittsburgh Press: “...the wee outfielder (Leach)...was as active as a cat all afternoon. Tommie grabbed the bounding sphere and hurled it to catcher (George) Gibson at the plate. It was a perfect throw and had ‘Steiny’ beaten by 20 feet.” Deacon Phillippe was the winner over Ed Reulbach‚ who had a 17-game winning streak snapped. 
  • 1909 - The Pirates won the final game they played at Exposition Park by an 8–1 count from the Chicago Cubs in front of 5,543 people, moving on to Oakland and Forbes Field the next day. George Gibson banged the final big league hit in the ballpark and Lefty Leifield earned the win over Three Finger Mordecai Brown. Lefty ended the game dramatically, striking out Jim Archer. Tommy Leach and Dots Miller, with four RBI, each collected three hits, and three other Bucs had a pair of knocks. The Park was ushered out in appropriate style - “Commodore” Charles Zieg played Taps as the flag was lowered after the contest. It was a fitting finale: the Cubs helped open the Expo in 1891 (against the Alleghenys; the Chicago Pirates - ironic, no? - opened the yard officially in 1890 against the local Player’s League club, the Burghers) and would perform the same honors for Forbes Field v the Pirates, both opening and closing the yard. 
  • 1910 - Burgess “Whitey” Whitehead was born in Tarboro, North Carolina. A good glove, erratic hitting infielder, Whitey put in eight years with the Cards and Giants, winning a World Series, three NL pennants and an All-Star selection. After missing three seasons while in the military, he returned in 1946 for a last hurrah with the Pirates, hitting .220 at age 36 and then retiring after two more years in the minors. Whitehead was elected into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and was the last surviving member of the Gas House Gang when he died in 1993 at the age of 83. Fun Fact: He hit 17 career homers; they were all in the Polo Grounds (S/O to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects
Max Carey - 1915 Cracker Jack
  • 1915 - The Bucs and Cards split a doubleheader at Robison Field in less than ideal conditions. Today’s groundskeepers would be aghast, but the St. Louis crew used 300 gallons of gas to “bake” the infield after rain had turned it to mush. Doc Johnson of the Redbirds and the Buccos Hans Wagner both suffered minor leg injuries (they returned the next day) on the torched surface. Left fielder Max Carey, who had three assists in the two games, collected one with a helping hand from the hitter: the Cards LF Cozy Dolan's drive hit his own glove in the grass behind third base (it was common practice to leave your glove on the field between innings) and Carey took advantage of the deflection to throw Dolan out at second. Pittsburgh won the opener, 8-6, by scoring four ninth-inning runs. They were led by Hans Wagner and Carey with two hits and RBIs each; Babe Adams pitched the last two frames for the win. The Cards took the nitecap, 6-4, holding off the Pirates after jumping out to an early 6-0 lead. 
  • 1949 - Ralph Kiner had a feature article running in the current Saturday Evening Post and celebrated by driving in five runs with a grand slam (the fourth of his four-year career) and a double to lead the Bucs to a 7-3 win over the Reds at Forbes Field. Johnny Hopp led the hit parade with three knocks while Kiner, Pete Castiglione and Dino Restelli had a pair of raps. Vic Lombardi was given a six-run lead after two innings and coasted to the win, with a three-run dinger surrendered to Virg Stallcup his only major miscue. Kiner’s homer was his 19th of the year, tying him with Ted Williams for the MLB lead, and Ralph would eventually run away from the Splendid Splinter to take the title with 54 long flies, the still-standing Bucco record.

6/29 From 1950 Through the 1970’s: 400 For Pops; Mooooose; Game Stories; HBD Rock & Tony

  • 1952 - The Bucs stopped the Cards 2-1 at Forbes Field behind Howie Pollet. The game went just five frames as a thunderstorm washed away the final 12 outs. The rain also pulled the plug on Donora’s Stan Musial’s 24-game hitting streak; he walked and lined out in his only two at-bats before the weather turned soggy. 
Howie Pollet - 1952 Topps
  • 1965 - 28,589 fans got their fill of baseball at Forbes Field when the Bucs split a twilight twin bill with the Reds. The contests started at 6:05 and ended at 1:42 AM, with the Pirates taking the opener 2-1 in 16 innings and dropping the second game 7-5. Cincy had 11 hits in the first game but went 1-for-11 w/RISP; the last of the Buccos six hits was a two-out rap by Roberto Clemente that scored Bob Bailey, making a winner of Steel City’s fourth hurler, Don Schwall. The Reds broke out of their malaise with a five-run fourth frame in game two to overcome two-hit outings by Clemente, Manny Mota and Donn Clendenon to hang the L on Joe Gibbon. 
  • 1967 - John Wehner was born in Carrick. The Rock was drafted out of Indiana University by the Pirates in the seventh round of the 1988 draft and the infielder spent nine seasons (1991-96, 1999-2001) with the Bucs as a utilityman, hitting .250. On October 1st, 2000, Wehner hit the final home run smacked at TRS. He played every position except pitcher during his career. John shares the major league record of 99 consecutive errorless games at third base with Jeff Cirillo and has a 1997 World Series ring won with the Florida Marlins under Jim Leyland. After a couple of years as a Bucco hitting coach at Altoona, he became an analyst on the Pirates’ TV team. 
  • 1968 - The Pittsburgh Press sports page lede was “M-000 000 000-se Blanks Phils” after Bob Moose twirled a two-hit, one walk, eight-K performance at Veterans Stadium to claim a 1-0 win. Both of the hits were weak, with one being a bad-hop single off Maury Wills’ mitt and the other a ball through the box that Moose didn’t react quickly enough to glove. His eight whiffs were of three Phillies - Dick Allen (4 times), Johnny Briggs (2) and pitcher Larry Jackson (2 - both on foul third strike bunts). The Buccos only score came in the ninth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Matty Alou hit a two-hopper to seven-time Gold Glove winner Bill White at first; it went through his wickets to allow Wills to score the game’s only run. 
  • 1977 - Pops Stargell became the first Pirates player to hit 400 career home runs when he connected in the fifth frame off Eric Rasmussen in a 9-1 win at Busch Stadium. Bill Robinson had a four-bagger and double while Phil Garner added a long ball against the Cards. Bruce Kison and Goose Gossage combined for a seven-hitter. Captain Willie finished his career with 475 bombs, far and away the most by a Bucco - Ralph Kiner is a distant second with 301. 
  • 1977 - RHP Tony McKnight was born in Texarkana, Arkansas. Tony was a big righty who was a first round draft pick and pitched modestly well for Houston (5-1/3.91 in nine starts) in limited work. The Pirates took a dice roll on the 24-year-old by swinging a deadline deal that sent reliever Mike Williams to the ‘Stros for him. They rolled snake eyes; Tony went 2-6/5.19 in 12 starts with a 1.572 WHIP, then spent two years in the minors before moving on. He’s now a coach at Texas A&M at Texarkana.
Tony McKnight - 2002 Fleer
  • 1978 - Rennie Stennett, gimpy but game with a bum ankle, came off the bench in the eighth and tripled in Phil Garner to give the Bucs a 4-3 win over the Mets at TRS. The drive gave Grant Jackson the win with a ninth-inning save by Ed Whitson after they took over for Bert Blyleven and Kent Tekulve. Willie Stargell had three knocks, including a homer and double, and Kenny Macha added three more, one a triple, to account for half of the Pirates 12 hits.

6/29 From 2000: Ouch Ollie; Roberto Statue; Streak Snapped; Game Stories

  • 2000 - Jason Kendall put on a show with two hits, including a homer, walk, two stolen bases, three RBI and two runs as the Bucs outlasted the Cubs 5-4 in 10 innings at TRS. He capped the game with a walk-off single to bring home Mike Benjamin for the bonus baseball win. Marc Wilkins, the fourth Pirates pitcher, got the victory in a game started by Jose Silva. 
Jason Kendall - 2000 Upper Deck Pro
  • 2003 - Matt Stairs drove in four runs with a homer and double while Jason Kendall added four knocks to lead the Bucs to a 9-0 whipping of the Rockies at PNC Park. Jeff Suppan pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout for the win. In other big news, veteran Kevin Young was released. He was hitting just .202 and the writing was on the wall, but KY was a respected clubhouse guy and mentor for many of the players in the organization as the 34-year-old had spent 11 of his 12 big league years with Pittsburgh. 
  • 2005 - LHP Ollie Perez was placed on the DL with a broken toe. He kicked a laundry cart in frustration after being pulled from a game in St. Louis on the 26th (an eventual 10-inning, 5-4 Pirate win) and was out of action for 10 weeks. 
  • 2006 - The Pirates edged the White Sox at PNC Park 7-6, ending a club-record 13-game losing streak. Freddy Sanchez was the hero with four hits, including a walk-off ninth inning homer. He had help from the tres Jose's - Bautista, Castillo and Hernandez had two hits - and Jack Wilson, who also rapped out a pair of knocks. Mike Gonzalez got the win after Roberto Hernandez blew an eighth-inning lead. 
  • 2012 - The Pirates pounded four homers on the way to a 14-5 win at Busch Stadium. Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes and Alex Presley all went yard. Cutch had a 4-for-5 day with four runs and three RBI; Alvarez added four RBI. Kevin Correia went five frames for the win; Brad Lincoln and Chris Resop covered the final four innings. It was an early leg of a 24-of-35 winning streak that put them 16 games above .500 in early August, though a dog-day’s free fall left them at just 79 wins at season’s end. 
Cutch - 2012 Topps Museum Collection
  • 2013 - A life-size statue of Roberto Clemente was unveiled at the 25-acre Roberto Clemente State Park along the Harlem River in the Bronx. The likeness, sculpted by Maritza Hernandez, was the first in New York to honor a person of Puerto Rican heritage, according to the park's director. The park opened in 1973 as the Harlem River Park before being renamed after Clemente, and holds an annual Roberto Clemente Week to celebrate its namesake.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

6/28 Through 1970: Hans 3,000 Or So; Forbes Finale; Long Day; HBD Orlando, Kevin, Frank & Mike

  • 1865 - IF Frank Scheibeck was born in Detroit. He spent parts of eight seasons in the show and sported the Bucco colors for 23 games in 1894, batting .353. Frank played pro ball through 1906 and after his playing days, he went on to umpire. He later held hometown day jobs as a real estate salesman and as an auto plant assembler. 
Mike Lynch - 7/30/1904 Pittsburgh Press photo
  • 1880 - P Mike Lynch was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The righty pitched four seasons (1904-07) for the Pirates, picking up 32 wins and working over 400 innings in his first two years. He was still effective in his final two years with the team, but the Bucs had juiced up their staff and he became the odd man out, going to the Giants during the second half of ‘07 and then retiring to go into business. His career Pittsburgh line was 40-26/3.01. 
  • 1914 - Honus Wagner became the first 20th century ballplayer to collect 3,000 hits when he singled off of Cincinnati's rookie Pete Schneider in the second game of a twinbill at Redland Field. While a good day for Hans, it wasn’t such a good one for the Pirates. They lost both ends of the doubleheader to the Reds by 7-6 and 1-0 scores. The first loss was especially gruesome as the Bucs blew a 6-2 lead in the ninth triggered by a missed call. Up by a run with two outs and two aboard, a 3-2 foul tip was gloved by catcher Bob Coleman. The Reds on base started to run to the dugout, but the batter, Bert Niehoff, jogged innocently to first and the ump bought his act, calling it a check swing and ball four. A protest, made en masse by the Pirate infield and battery, was to no avail and a following single gave Cincy the game. The second was a pitching duel with Schneider’s three-hitter bettering the four-hit work of Marty O’Toole and Erv Kantlehner. In the long run, it made little difference as the Pirates finished seventh and the Reds last in the NL that season. (There have been a slew of June dates tossed around for Hans’ 3,000th hit. June 9th was the consensus, but Bucco historian John Dreker of Pirates Prospects says that this date is the newly accepted one following research of old-timey box scores, which are generally kinda sketchy.) 
  • 1916 - Cubs catcher Bill Fischer set a MLB record by catching all 27 innings of a doubleheader loss to the Bucs at brand new Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh won both games 3-2, with the second game going 18 innings. The winning pitchers were Mike Prendergast and Tom Seaton with Prendergast pulling double duty, coming on to get the save in the nitecap. Impressed with Fischer's stamina, the Pirates traded for him at the end of July, and he played his last two seasons in the show for Pittsburgh. 
  • 1938 - C Orlando McFarlane was born in Oriente, Cuba. Signed by the Bucs as an infielder in 1958, he was converted to catcher and got a cup of coffee with the Pirates in 1962, playing a bit more in 1964 and hitting .208 in his 45-game Bucco career. He was lost in the Rule 5 draft and played three more years with Detroit and the California Angels, but he battled nagging injuries while his impressive minor league bat never carried over to the show. Orlando played 10 years in the bushes with more stops in the Cuban, Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican leagues. 
Kevin Polcovich - 1998 Pacific (reverse)
  • 1970 - SS Kevin Polcovich was born in Auburn, New York. He spent his MLB career of two years (1997-98) with the Pirates, hitting .234. The University of Florida player was drafted in the 30th round by the Bucs in 1992, getting his call when Kevin Elster was injured, and would become a key member of the 1997 “Freak Show” that against all odds stayed in the divisional race until late September despite a $9M payroll. After he left the game, Kevin did some scouting and established the Icrush Bat Company, a manufacturer of maple bats. 
  • 1970 - The Pirates swept a twinbill from the Chicago Cubs, 3-2 and 4-1, in the last games played at 61-year-old Forbes Field in front of 40,918, the second largest crowd to gather at the ballyard. Al Oliver hit the last home run in FF history. Jim Nelson got the final W iced by a Dave Giusti save. It was a fitting finale; the Cubs were the first team the Pirates played at Forbes Field in 1909. Bill Mazeroski had the last Pirate hit there, a seventh inning double, and recorded the last put-out on a force play at second. It was the Pirates seventh straight victory and the Cubs 10th straight loss. The Bucs went on the road afterwards and opened TRS on July 16th, after the All-Star streak.

6/28 From 1973: Pops 300; Mad Dog Deal; Unlucky 13; Good Ump Show; Cole Rolls; Game Stories; HBD Michael

  • 1973 - Willie Stargell hit his 300th career home run as the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6–0 at TRS. Al Oliver had a huge day, going 4-for-5 with a triple, two doubles and three RBI while Rennie Stennett added three hits to back Dock Ellis’ five hitter. 
Bill Madlock - 1980 Topps
  • 1979 - The Pirates traded pitchers Ed Whitson‚ Al Holland‚ and Fred Breining to the Giants for P Dave Roberts and infielders Bill Madlock and Lenny Randle. Mad Dog solidified the Bucco infield at third and spent six seasons with Pittsburgh, winning batting titles in 1981 (.341) and 1983 (.323). Roberts was workmanlike for the Bucs in ‘79-80, though at 35 he was near the end of his journey; 1981 was his last season. Randle wasn’t here long enough to find his way to the North Shore before he was sold to the Yankees. Whitson pitched through 1991, winning 126 games and saving eight more while Holland worked out of various bullpens for 11 more seasons. Breining had a shorter career, lasting five years as a multi-role hurler. 
  • 1993 - It took the Bucs nine innings to score five runs but just one frame to add four more as they rallied to take a 10-inning win from the Expos, 9-5, at Stade Olympique. There were two Buccos aboard via walks with two out in the ninth, and Orlando Merced was behind in the count 1-2 when he flared a single to right to tie the game. The Pirates were aided by Montreal gifts in the extra frame, with a walk and a poor decision on a bunt, sandwiched around an infield knock, loaded the bases with no outs. Another free pass forced home the lead run and singles by Tom Foley & Jay Bell provided plenty of insurance. Tim Wakefield got the win in relief, with Stan Belinda picking up the save; Pittsburgh went through six pitchers during the contest. The hot Pirates took their ninth victory in 11 games and snapped a seven-game winning streak of Expo twirler Denny Martinez.
  • 1993 - RHP Michael Feliz was born in Azua, Dominican Republic. Houston signed him in 2010 and he debuted in 2015. He averaged better than 13 K/nine innings with the ‘Stros from 2016-17 and was part of the Gerrit Cole package sent to the Pirates. He started as the seventh inning guy and was bumped up a notch when George Kontos was released, but hit on hard times and was removed from that role after compiling a 5.66 ERA. He was mostly in good graces in 2019, although still a roller coaster ride on the hill thanks to an excess of home runs and walks. 
  • 2006 - The Bucs set a team record with their 13th straight defeat, eclipsing the old mark set by the 1939 club when the White Sox edged them 4-3 at PNC Park with Paul Maholm taking the loss. They walked off the next game by a 7-6 score on a Freddy Sanchez homer, but still lost 7-of-11 on their way to a 67-95 campaign. 
  • 2011 - Alex Presley was called up to replace an injured Jose Tabata and banged out a pair of hits, including his first MLB homer, while driving in three runs to lead the Bucs to a 7-6 win over Toronto at the Rogers Centre. An unlikely pair of batting heroes, Matt Diaz and Ronny Cedeno, combined for five hits, three runs and an RBI to help the cause against the Jays. Chris Resop, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan pitched three scoreless frames to preserve the win for Kevin Correia. 
Cole Train - 2013 Panini Home Town Hero
  • 2013 - Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick of the 2011 draft, became the first Pirate rookie since Nick Maddox in 1907 to win the first four games he started when the Bucs shellacked the Brewers 10-3 at PNC Park in front of 36,875. Cole went six frames for the win, with Ryan Reid tossing three scoreless, two-hit innings to cruise home. They were supported by Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, who each had three hits. Cutch had a double, homer, three RBI and a run while Starling added a double, triple, two runs and two RBI. 
  • 2017 - Walking on the Roberto Clemente Bridge after lunch on his way to work the Pirates-Rays game at PNC Park, umpire John Tumpane saw a woman scaling the span’s railing; she told him she wanted a better view of the river. Sensing that she was suicidal and ready to plunge into the Allegheny River below, Tumpane grabbed one arm, passer-by Chris Dazen grabbed the other and a Tampa Bay staffer heading to the yard, Mike Weinman, joined in to keep her hogtied until emergency workers came to the rescue. John modestly said "I just happened to be there."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

6/27 Through the 1930’s: Hans Hot; HBD Roy, Hank, Elmo, Jackie & Minute Man

  • 1861 - C Jackie Hayes was born in Brooklyn. Hayes played in three leagues - the National League, the American Association and the Players League - and spent two of his seven big league campaigns with the Alleghenys from 1883-84. Primarily a catcher, Jackie also played three infield positions and the corner outfield for Pittsburgh, batting .253. He fit right in with the rowdy bunch on the team at that time, gaining some notoriety for a late-evening brawl in a Cincinnati saloon. Hayes’ story had a sad ending as he died at the age of 43, deaf and suffering from locomotor ataxia, a condition that prevented him from walking unaided.
Hans - 2020 Topps Decade of Dominance
  • 1903 - The Pirates banged 15 hits off Iron Man Joe McGinnity‚ including four knocks by Honus Wagner‚ and it still took the Bucs extra innings to topple the Giants 4-2 at the Polo Grounds. Tommy Leach hit a two-run double in the 11th, drilling a McGinnity curve off the LF wall, to earn a W for Deacon Phillippe, who notched his seventh straight victory. Hans stayed hot in the Big Apple; he had four hits in his next game against Brooklyn. 
  • 1916 - P Cecil “Minute Man” Kaiser was born in New York. Per BR Bullpen, Kaiser got his start on the sandlots of West Virginia and debuted in 1945 with the Homestead Grays before heading south to play. Lured by a $700 per month paycheck, he returned to the Grays in 1947 and worked through the 1949 season for the club. He spent the majority of his time in the Latino leagues, getting a shot in the minors when he was 35; unfortunately, his arm was gone by then. He was a small guy in stature at 5’6” but with great control and a killer curve. He got his “Minute Man” moniker because it was said that’s how long it took for him to strike out a batter. 
  • 1921 - RHP Hank Behrman was born in Brooklyn. The righty tossed for four seasons and split 1947 between his hometown Dodgers and the Pirates. The Bucs got him as part of the Al Gionfriddo deal, and worked him for 10 outings (0-2/9.12) before selling him back to Brooklyn. He did have one strong year for da Bums in 1946 featuring a strong heater/curve combo, but as Rob Edelman of SABR wrote “His career was all promise and little delivery.” His last MLB campaign was in 1949 and his last pro game in 1953 when his arm went bad. He retired and became a teamster. 
  • 1926 - C Roy Jarvis was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A 17-year-old bonus baby when he played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jarvis then served in the Navy during WW2 and then returned to baseball with the Pirates which had claimed his rights in the 1944 Rule 5 draft. (Roy was the last Pirate to lose a full season to WW2 military duty. Pittsburgh sent 28 MLB players and 15 minor-leaguers to the service in WW2 per “Baseball in Wartime.”) He got a couple of cups of coffee with the Buccos in 1946-47, hitting .163 in 20 games and spent the rest of his career in the minors, retiring to become a salesman after the 1955 campaign. 
Elmo Plaskett - 1963 Topps
  • 1938 - C Elmo Plaskett was born in Frederiksted, Virgin Islands. Elmo played in 17 games for the Bucs between 1962-63, hitting .200. He was a great hitter in the minors, winning a batting title and being named “Player of the Year'' with Asheville of the Sally League but it didn’t carry over to the show. He played other positions beside catcher, but wasn’t much with the mitt and when he broke his leg in a winter league game in 1964, it spelled the end of his MLB days in the pre-DH era. He played in the minors through 1969, then retired to operate beisbol programs as a rec specialist for St. Croix, developing Midre Cummings for the Pirates. Plaskett, who died in 1998 at the age of 60, had a sunny, Manny Sanguillen-type personality, was dedicated to baseball throughout his life, and is still a hero in the Virgin Islands. The city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, inducted Elmo into the Museo Pancho CoĆ­mbre (Sporting Hall of Fame), and the Little League program on St. Croix is named after him, per SABR.

6/27 From 1960 Through the 1980’s: Juan Gone, Henry Here; Streakin'; Big Crowd, Big Win; Movie Maz; Game Stories; HBD AJ, Lee & Daryle

  • 1967 - Bill Mazeroski hit into the only triple play of his career (although he participated in a pair as a fielder) at Shea Stadium. It didn’t hurt the Bucs, though - it was staged before the game and filmed in ten minutes as a scene for the film “The Odd Couple.” Roberto Clemente was first called on for the shot; there are two stories regarding that per Rob Edelman's 2018 "The National Pastime: Steel City Stories." First, he thought it was for a children's promotional film and agreed to the scene for the minimum fee, and pulled out when he discovered it was a regular Hollywood film. The second was that he couldn't help but beat the throw to first, either through pride or ability, and so they switched to Maz.
  • 1967 - LHP Lee Hancock was born in North Hollywood, California. He got into 24 games from 1995-96 for the Pirates, with no decisions and a 4.45 ERA, and that was the extent of his MLB days. Lee joined the Pirates in 1990 from the Mariners, swapped straight up for Scott Medvin, but spent most of his Bucco time on the farm at Buffalo and Calgary. The Cal-Poly alum finished his pro career in 1997. 
Lee Hancock - 1996 Leaf Signature
  • 1968 - The Bucs rearranged their bullpen by selling LHP Juan Pizarro to the Boston Red Sox and purchasing 40-year-old LHP Bill Henry from the San Francisco Giants. Pizarro pitched through 1974, closing out his baseball days as a Pirate, while Henry was released by the Bucs in mid-August and got three more outings in ‘69 with Houston before calling it a career. 
  • 1971 - Roberto Clemente bombed a pinch hit homer in the eighth to give the Bucs a wild 11-9 win at Philadelphia. He became the first player to “ring the bell” as his drive hit the duplicate Liberty Bell in the second level of center field at Veterans Stadium, perhaps to celebrate his 1,200 RBI. But Jose Pagan earned the game’s gold star with a pair of home runs and five RBI. Dave Giusti saved the win (despite giving up a three-run homer to Tim McCarver) for Dock Ellis, who had been cruising after a slow start until a five-run outburst in the ninth by Philadelphia. 
  • 1975 - 1B Daryle Ward was born in Lynwood, California. He played from 2004-05 for the Bucs, with a slash of .256/27/120. Ward joined his father, Gary, to become the first father-son combination in major league history to hit for the cycle after he matched his dad’s feat in 2004 against the Cards. Ward was also the first player to hit one into the Allegheny from PNC Park while he was a member of the Astros, launching his shot off Kip Wells in 2002. 
  • 1983 - The Pirates ran their winning streak to nine games while the Cardinals dropped their seventh straight as Pittsburgh won 6-1 at Busch Stadium. The game did have some early excitement when Joaquin Andujar buzzed Marvell Wynne; payback came quickly when John Candelaria dusted him, earning an ejection from umpire Joe West and a near brawl. It devolved into a bench-clearing coffee clatch thx to Chuck Tanner’s peacemaking intervention with the Buccos lined up to take a shot at Andujar. Tanner was also booted (it was automatic; West had warned the clubs after Wynne bit the dust) as was Jim Bibby, who was a bit too rambunctious. A two hour and 20 minute rain delay gave both sides a chance to regain their cool, and Cecilio Guante’s work in relief kept the Cards at bay the rest of the way. The win capped the Pirates victory skein; they lost the next day at Wrigley Field. In other news, GM Pete Peterson announced that he wouldn’t talk contract during the season, leaving Kent Tekulve, Dave Parker and Bibby in the cold during their walk year; only Teke would return in 1984. 
Cecilio Guante - 1983 Donruss (and no, no one has ever figured out how Donruss came up with "Matt")
  • 1988 - The Pirates squeaked by the Mets in front of the largest crowd at TRS in five years, 41,489 (on a Monday night yet!), by a 2-1 score despite losing a tally due to replay two decades before review legally existed. Up by a run after an RBI double by Andy Van Slyke in the fourth and a run-producing rap by Rafael Belliard in the fifth, a wild pitch seemingly brought home an insurance marker. The TRS scoreboard vid showed a replay that caught plate ump Paul Runge’s and Met’s manager Davey Johnson’s eyes. The ball seemed to change direction a bit on the vid, so Johnson came out to beef to Runge. He called together the boys in blue for a conference and they voted that it was a foul ball. Jose Lind, who was the batter Doc Gooden buzzed, said it ticked off his helmet and not his twig, but the umps stuck to their call. Commonplace today, replay review wouldn’t become legit until 2008 (and then just for disputed HRs; the current form began in 2014), and Jim Leyland protested the game. It never made it to the Commish as Mike Dunne, Barry Jones and Jim Gott made the two runs stand up. 
  • 1989 - RHP AJ Schugel was born in Winter Haven, Florida. A waiver claim by the Bucs, he got into 36 games for Pittsburgh in 2016, going 2-2-1/3.63 as a long man in the pen with a nice 1.038 WHIP. He started 2017 at AAA Indy with a brief Pittsburgh stop in June and more permanent residence in August, but spent 2018 on the DL. He opted for free agency after the season and is still on the market, pitching indy ball.

6/27 From 1990: Denny Grand Slam; Comebacks; Big Bats; Game Stories; HBD Yacksel

  • 1991 - The Bucs solved rookie Frank Castillo in the ninth (he was making his MLB debut), turning a 3-0 deficit to the Cubs into a 4-3 win at TRS. Castillo and two relievers gave up four singles, two walks, and a two-out wild pitch that allowed Barry Bonds to score from third with the walk-off game winner. Bob Walk took home the win with Bill Landrum earning the save. 
  • 1993 - It took a couple of comebacks, but the Bucs rallied past the Phils 4-3 in 10 innings at TRS in front of 27,824. Down 2-1 in the eighth, Jeff King banged a two-out single to plate Carlos Garcia with the game-tying run. Stan Belinda gave up a score in the 10th, but the Pirates got him off the hook quickly when the first batter, Don Slaught, took a 3-2 Mitch Williams delivery and tucked it just inside the left field screen and into the seats to knot the score. Jay Bell singled, then a bunt and pair of walks later (one intentional, one not) set up King again, whose knock brought the Pirates all the way back. Zane Smith had started the game against Uniontown’s Terry Mulholland; Garcia had four hits and scored twice during the day to lead the attack. 
Jeff was king for the day - 1993 Topps Stadium Club
  • 1993 - RHP Yacksel Rios was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. A 2012 draftee of the Phils, he yo-yo’ed between them and AAA Lehigh from 2017-19. He was DFA’ed in July of ‘19, claimed by the Pirates, assigned to Indy and called up in September. Yacksel features a 96 MPH heater, and the Bucs are hoping a change of scenery will help straighten out his control issues after he went 1-0/5.23 with a K per frame but five walks and two bopped batters in 10 IP. 
  • 1995 - Denny Neagle helped himself to his ninth victory by belting a grand slam off Jim Bullinger, the key blow in a 6-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Neagle became the first Pirate pitcher to hit a slam since Don Robinson on September 12th, 1985 and just one of five to smack one in franchise history. Not known as a strong batsman, Neagle told Ben Walker of the Associated Press "Something must have been in the coffee." Paul Wagner got a hold and Dan Plesac the save for Neagle. 
  • 1998 - Ishmael Valdez was one batter shy of throwing a perfecto against the Bucs at Dodger Stadium, giving up a leadoff eighth-inning single to Kevin Young. Valdez struck out seven and used just 97 pitches to tame Pittsburgh, 2-0. Francisco Cordova was the hard-luck loser, a victim of temporary loss of control when with two outs and a runner on third in the sixth, an intentional walk was followed by an unintentional pass to set up Raul Mondesi’s two-run single. 
  • 2004 - Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Craig Wilson combined to go 9-for-16 with three walks, three doubles, a triple and homer to score seven runs and drive in seven more as the Bucs romped over the Reds 14-4 at GABP. Josh Fogg got the win. 
  • 2014 - Two youngsters, the Bucs’ Brandon Cumpton and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, pitched strong games and then turned the contest over to the bullpens as the Pirates outlasted NY 3-2 in 11 innings at PNC Park. Pittsburgh was clutch; Jordy Mercer singled in a pair of runs with two outs in the fourth after Pedro Alvarez was worked around and walked, then Josh Harrison chased home Clint Barmes with the game winner with a two-out double to right center; both RBI knocks came on the first pitch. Jared Hughes picked up the win. 
  • 2014 - In a change of scenery deal, the Pirates and Angels traded struggling closers, with Pittsburgh sending Jason Grilli to LA for Ernesto Frieri. Both had lost their closing gigs in 2014 after being the shut-down guy in 2013, and both moved around since and are currently free agents. 
Grilli gone - 2014 Topps Gypsy Queen
  • 2018 - Zach Wheeler put up seven zeros against the Bucs at Citi Field in a battle with Ivan Nova and left the bullpen a 3-0 lead; it wasn’t enough. The Pirates plated once in the eighth and then put up a four-spot against closer Jeurys Familia in the ninth to rally for a 5-3 win over the Mets. The Corsairs went small ball to win with five singles, a walk and sac fly doing the final frame damage. Felipe Vazquez worked two innings of one-hit, two-whiff ball to claim the victory. 
  • 2019 - The Pirates swatted five homers on the way to a 10-0 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park after having won the prior game 14-2 with four bombs (two off 1B Tyler White, used by the ‘Stros as a ninth-inning mop-up guy). Former Astro Joe Musgrove tossed six innings of shutout ball, and another old Houstonian, Michael Feliz, tossed a 1-2-3 inning of relief. Kevin Newman and Jake Stallings each had three hits, including a homer. Starling Marte, Josh Bell and Corey Dickerson also went deep. Every Pirate but one had a rap (and he walked), while seven Buccos scored and six had RBI (six had both) in a balanced offensive effort. The Pirates became the first team ever to win back-to-back interleague games by 10+ runs (although the Yankees turned that trick in 1960 during the WS, ironically against the Bucs, with 16-3 and 10-0 wins in games 2 & 3). They also became just the fourth NL team since 1900 to hit four or more homers with four or more doubles in consecutive games. As a bonus, they were the first squad in 13 tries to win a series in Houston during the ‘19 campaign.

Friday, June 26, 2020

6/26 Through the 1920’s: Brodie String Snapped; Pre-Game Bop; HBD Elmer, Babe, Howie, Debs & Smoky

  • 1893 - RHP Elmer Ponder was born in Reed, Oklahoma. Elmer was an Oklahoma U grad who was of Cherokee descent and was part of the early wave of Native American players (the Bucs also had Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse on the 1921 roster). He played for the Pirates in 1917, then again from 1919-21. He got into three games his first year before he left to join the Army during WW1, and didn’t return until 1919. His late July debut was special; although the Bucs lost to the Phils 6-1, Ponder tossed 5-⅔ perfect innings of relief. No Pirates reliever could claim five or more innings of perfect work until 94 years later, when Vin Mazzaro did it in 2013 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Elmer went 14-21/2.74 for the Pirates before he was traded to the Cubs in ‘21. He finished the year there before being sent to the Pacific Coast League, where he toiled through the 1928 campaign before retiring to Albuquerque and the work-a-day world. 
Steve Brodie - 1899 Baltimore Sun image (filter ColouriseSG)
  • 1897 - Pittsburgh CF Steve Brodie's string of consecutive games ended at 574. His arm was so sore the Pirates went on the road without him, though he did recover. The streak was a 19th-century NL record, three games shy of the then MLB mark. Brodie was a strong two-way player that the Bucs released the following year in a move to cut salary, a fairly recurrent theme throughout franchise history. Steve was eccentric, even for the era. Per the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Kingaman “Brodie talked to baseballs, caught flies behind his back and once nabbed a line drive that had ricocheted off his head. He mumbled to himself in the outfield, passing time by reciting soliloquies from Shakespeare. Once, Brodie chastised himself for committing an error, The Sun wrote: ‘Then, as further punishment, he refused to talk to himself for the rest of the game.’ A solid fielder, he cut a hole in the pocket of his glove, believing he could better grasp the ball with his bare palm. In winter, he stayed fit by donning a catcher's mask and chest protector and wrestling a muzzled black bear in his backyard.” 
  • 1903 - OF Floyd “Babe” Herman was born in Buffalo. His stories are legion, such as the time he ended up on third base with two other teammates or tales of fly balls bouncing off his body in the outfield. In actuality, Babe was an average fielder with a great stick - his lifetime BA was .324 and he retired with a 140 OPS+. Herman played part of his 13-year career in Pittsburgh, batting .235 (the lowest average of his career) in 1935, returning as a coach in 1951 and later serving as a Bucco scout. Per the New York Times, he got his nickname in the minors, playing when Babe Ruth was a star. ''He was put in to pinch-hit, and the first time he got a hit, the manager of the club said, 'You're my Babe,''' Charles Herman, Floyd’s son, told the paper.  
  • 1903 - Lose the fight and the game: Before the start of a Giants-Pirates duel at the Polo Grounds, NY catcher Frank Bowerman started a fight with Pittsburgh’s player/manager Fred Clarke. Bowerman was fined $100 for starting the brawl while Clarke escaped with his wallet intact, as the league apparently felt his shiner was punishment enough. Christy Mathewson then led the fired-up New York nine over Pittsburgh by an 8-2 tally. There are various tales of what led to the fisticuffs, the two favorites being bad blood carried over from when Clarke managed Bowerman at Louisville to John McGraw egging Bowerman into the bout to light a fire under the G-Men before their series with the Bucs (though they won that battle, they lost the war, falling 6-1/2 games short of the Pirates at season’s end). 
  • 1907 - OF Debs Garms was born in Bangs, Texas. Debs played 12 years in the show, mainly as a utility player although he did start three seasons for the Boston Braves. That’s where the Bucs got him from in 1940, and he hit .355 in 358 ABs. That was good enough for him to be awarded the batting title by Ford Frick; there was no minimum at-bat requirement and the NL President used 100 games played as the qualifier (Garms got into 103 contests). Stan Hack of the Cubs was the next highest hitter at .317, compiled in 603 at-bats, and Chicago fans cried “we wuz robbed” to no avail. Thx to Debs, in 1950 the standard was changed to a 400 at-bat minimum and a few years later to 3.1/PA per game (502 PA). There was no controversy the next season as he hit .264 for Pittsburgh. Garms was a good stickman with a .293 career BA, and in 1941 he set the then-record of seven consecutive pinch hits. He retired after the 1945 season to become a rancher and later a quarryman. BTW, Debs wasn’t a baseball moniker - he was named after socialist politician Eugene Debs.
Debs Garms - 1940 Louisville Slugger ad
  • 1918 - RHP Elmer “Smoky” Singleton was born in Ogden, Utah. He came to the Pirates as part of the Bob Elliot deal, working for Pittsburgh from 1947-48 while slashing 6-8-3, 5.54. Bert put parts of seven seasons in the show and his overall professional career spanned 24 years, from 1940-63, when he retired at age 45 to become a salesman. 
  • 1921 - LHP Howie Pollet was born in New Orleans. After some stellar seasons with St. Louis (two World Series, three All-Star selections), he was sent to Pittsburgh in 1951, the victim of a slow start and back-to-back contract holdouts. He pitched here through 1953 and returned for his final bow in 1956, going 14-31-2, 4.59 for some sad sack teams. Howie coached for the Cards and Astros from 1959-64, then retired and joined the business world.

6/26 From 1930 Through the 1980’s: Wills' 24-Gamer; Bombs Away By JT; Twin Wins; Game Stories; HBD Bill & Jason

  • 1930 - Larry French tossed a seven-hit shutout to beat Phil Collins and the Philadelphia Phils 1-0 in the opening game of a Forbes Field DH’er. The Buc bats woke up in game #2, pounding out an 11-5 win. Paul Waner had three hits, including a double and triple, scored four times and drove in a run to lead the attack. All nine Pirates had hits; seven different Bucs scored and seven had RBI. Erv Brame went the distance for the victory. 
Little Poison was busy - Helmar Cabinet
  • 1935 - The Bucs swept a twin bill from Boston at Braves Field by 4-2 and 5-1 scores. It was their third doubleheader in five days (they went 5-1 in the three double dippers), and one that “Little Poison” Lloyd Waner was glad to have end so he could soak his overworked dogs - he set a record by running down 18 balls over the two games (nine in each contest) while collecting five hits. Guy Bush tossed a six-hitter in the opener, and Lloyd’s three knocks led the hit parade, with Pep Young (who homered), Woody Jensen and Gus Suhr adding a pair of raps. Bill Swift spun a four-hitter in the nightcap, chipping in with a pair of doubles along with two-knock outings by Waner, Jensen and Tom Padden. 
  • 1943 - OF Bill Robinson was born in McKeesport. The Elizabeth-Forward grad played eight years for Pittsburgh, from 1975-82, batting .276 with 109 HR and 412 RBI. He was a fairly regular starter from 1976-79, and won a ring with the 1971 Bucs. He held a variety of coaching jobs afterward as a hitting coach for the Mets and Yankees, a minor league skipper for the Giants and Phils (he was also a batting instructor w/Philly) and Venezuelan manager,along with a brief gig with ESPN
  • 1968 - In the year of the pitcher, the Bucs found themselves on the wrong end of history as St. Louis’ Bob Gibson tossed his fifth straight shutout against them, winning 3-0 on a five-hitter at Busch Stadium. He was zoned in on one of the great hurling streaks of history. The Dodgers scored once off him in the next game, then he authored three more shutouts in his next five games, giving up one run twice. His totals for that stretch of 11 games were: 11 wins, 11 complete games, 99 innings, three runs allowed on 56 hits, with 13 walks and 82 strikeouts.
  • 1968 - Bucco 3B Maury Wills ran his hitting streak to 24 games against Bob Gibson in a 3-0 loss to the Cards at Busch Stadium by beating out a ninth-inning bunt single. It ended during the second game of the twinbill, a 3-1 Pirate win, when Larry Jaster and Wayne Granger laid an 0-for-5 on Wills. It was a good run by Wills; he hit .419 during the 24-game stretch. 
  • 1974 - Jason Kendall was born in San Diego. He spent nine years as a Pirate (1996-2004), putting up a .308 BA, hitting over .300 six times and earning three All-Star berths. He was on a Hall of Fame track before a string of injuries slowed his career, finishing his 16-year run with a .288 BA. Kendall has been a member of the KC Royals coaching staff, serving as a roving special assignment coach, since retiring as a player in 2012. 
Jason Thompson - 1986 Topps
  • 1984 - 1B Jason Thompson hit two homers in each game (a pair off Dennis Eckersley and then two more off Rich Bordi) during a doubleheader split with the Cubs at Wrigley Field, winning 9-0 behind a Rick Rhoden four hitter and dropping the nitecap 9-8. Thompson tied the club record (established by Ralph Kiner on 9/11/47) by hitting four home runs in a doubleheader. In the opener, the Pirates jumped to a quick 8-0 lead after three innings, with the only drama being Johnny Ray’s effort for a cycle (he fell a homer short). Doug Frobel joined the HR parade in the second match by also adding a pair of long flies, but the four homers were all solo shots and not quite enough to rally the Bucs from a six-run opening frame by the Cubbies against Larry McWilliams. 
  • 1988 - It took 10 innings before anyone could push a run across the dish, but the Bucs outlasted the Expos 3-0 at Stade Olympique. Doug Drabek gave up two hits over eight innings and Jeff Robinson cruised home, giving up a rap and fanning four in 1-2/3 IP for the win. In the final frame, a Montreal error and two walks set up a sac fly by Sid Bream and the coup d’ grace was applied by Mike LaValliere, who doubled in a pair; all three runs were unearned. The Bucs made it hard on themselves by stranding 12 and going 1-for-11 w/RISP.

6/26 From 1990: Lloyd Steals First; DP-Lightful; Six In-A-Row; Brat Pat; Game Stories

  • 1991 - The Pirates scored five times in the third inning and then hung on to defeat the Cubs at TRS in front of 41,389 fans by a final count of 7-6. Jose Lind had a three-run homer, Barry Bonds a two-run shot, and Jay Bell went 5-for-5 to prime the attack against Chicago. Bob Walk hung on for the win with Bill Landrum finishing up for the save. 
Jay Bell - 1991 Donruss Diamond Kings
  • 1999 - SS Pat Meares, on the DL recovering from surgery on his left hand but traveling with the team, ran in a mascot race at Milwaukee's County Stadium. Meares, dressed as a bratwurst, won the race by defeating a hot dog and a polish sausage. Two days prior, Meares had been caught on videotape sunbathing in the upper deck of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium for the first six innings of a game. He missed all but the first 21 games of the ‘99 season after signing a contract that carried him until 2003. He played 2000-01 for the team, then spent the next two years on the DL; the Pirates wanted further surgery on his hand and he didn’t. Needless to say, the relationship became contentious, involving the union, league office and random attorneys. They eventually reached an uneasy truce, but Meares never played in the majors again after his 2001 campaign. 
  • 2001 - On his 27th B-Day, Jason Kendall was ruled out at first, prompting the most famous steal in Pirate history. Manager Lloyd McClendon stormed out, put on a show for the 24,120 fans at PNC Park, and finally pulled the sack off its stanchion and carried it into the dugout in protest (he would later be hit with a $1,000 fine for his antics). As for the game, the Bucs came back to beat the Brewers 7-6 in 12 frames. They dodged a late bullet when Aramis Ramirez smacked a two-run, two-out eleventh inning homer to keep the game alive after the Brew Crew had taken the lead on back-to-back homers in their half off Mike Williams. Rob Mackowiak singled through a drawn-in infield to plate Kevin Young, who had opened the 12th with a double and moved to third on a ground out, to seal the deal for Omar Olivares and Pittsburgh. 
  • 2004 - Randall Simon’s home run in the ninth was all the Pirate pitching needed as they edged the Reds 1-0 at GABP; he and Jose Castillo each had a pair of hits. Ollie Perez gave up three hits while firing 13 whiffs over seven frames but wasn’t part of the decision - Mark Corey got the win and Jose Mesa earned his 17th save. 
  • 2005 - The Pirates turned six double plays and beat the Cardinals in St. Louis, 5-4, in 10 innings. The six twin killings were a club record and each was scored differently (2-4; 5-4-3; 9-4; 4-6-3; 5-2-3; and 6-4-3). Jason Bay hit a three-run HR in the third and a game-tying blast in the top of the ninth. Jose Castillo’s solo shot in the 10th iced the victory. Starter Ollie Perez broke his toe when he kicked a laundry cart in the clubhouse, frustrated that he had been pulled in the seventh inning. He wouldn’t pitch again until September. 
Vin Mazzaro - 2013 photo Otto Greule Jr/Getty
  • 2013 - The Pirates won their sixth straight game (they were in the midst of a nine game winning streak) on the road by a 4-2 count over the Seattle Mariners. It went to the wire, with Jordy Mercer’s two-out, two-run single giving Vin Mazzaro the win, iced by a Mark Melancon save. The Bucs tied the Cards for the lead in the NL Central with the victory, a spot they’d hold for the next 10 days and off-and-on through mid-September before ending the year with 94 wins, three games behind the Redbirds, and a wild card spot. 
  • 2014 - Gregory Polanco went 2-for-3 with a walk and stolen base, hit his first PNC Park homer and had four RBI to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 win over the Mets, with Pedro Alvarez adding three hits. Vance Worley went seven innings for the win with Mark the Shark Melancon claiming the save.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

6/25 Through the 1920’s: Yde's One-Man Show; Bats Break Out; 15 Straight; RIP Jake; HBD Bill & Ralph

  • 1895 - 2B Bill Webb was born in Chicago. His show time consisted of five big league games for the 1917 Pirates, going 3-for-15 as a 22-year-old. His late season Bucco try out had its up-and-downs. Webb was 0-fer in his first four games, but in his last go, he went 3-for-4 with a run scored as the Bucs beat Boston, 2–0, at Forbes Field. Webb did have a long minor league career, playing 14 seasons and went on to become a baseball lifer. He managed in the minors and then coached third base for the White Sox under Jimmy Dykes for five years before becoming their farm director, a position he held until he had a fatal heart attack at the age of 47.
Ralph Eriksen - 1930 photo Barbara Bowman via Dave Cicotello
  •  1902 - LHP Ralph Erickson (yep, his middle name was Lief) was born in DuBois, Iowa. He went to Idaho State and toiled in the Class C Idaho-Utah League before the Bucs brought him to Pittsburgh in September, 1929. He lasted until mid-summer of 1930, getting into eight games with a 1-0/8.40 slash. Ralph was a workhorse starter on the farm after that trial and pitched through the 1934 season. He then went to Arizona and worked in the mining industry, which apparently agreed with him - he was MLB’s oldest living player until he passed away in 2002 at the ripe old age of 100. Erickson did have his moment in the sun: He tossed a no hitter in 1933 while pitching for Shreveport of the Texas League. He won the game, 2-0, against Houston, beating none other than Dizzy Dean. 
  • 1903 - Ed Doheny surrendered just four singles as the Pirates won at Philadelphia, 4-3, in 10 innings to run their winning streak to 15 games. Hans Wagner had three hits while Ginger Beaumont and Fred Clarke each had a pair; Doheney helped his own cause by scoring twice. It would end later in the day as the Phils took the nitecap of the Baker Bowl twinbill by a 5-1 tally.
  • 1912 - The Pirates swept a DH from the Cards by 10-4 and 19-3 scores, banging out 35 hits over the course of the day at Robinson Field. Max Carey (he had six hits during the affair) and Chief Wilson hit grand slams (Wilson’s was thought to be the longest ball ever hit at Robison, clearing the park), and rookie Stump Edington came close, being thrown out at home after clearing the bases with a triple. The Bucs put up a 10 spot in the seventh inning of the nitecap. Claude Hendrix and King Cole were the winning pitchers. The Pittsburgh Press wrote “The Pirates slugged their way to a double victory… There appeared to be absolutely no style of pitching that the Corsairs could not solve.” 
  • 1913 - What had been a tight pitching duel through nine innings turned into a laugher in the 10th when the Pirates erupted for eight runs against three St. Louis Cardinal relievers to take home a 9-1 win at Robison Field. The Bucs had five hitters with a pair of knocks (and all in a row, batting 7-8-9-1-2 in the order), including pitcher Marty O’Toole who scattered eight hits for the complete game win. The eight-run margin in extra innings is the largest bonus baseball spread in Pirates history. 
  • 1918 - 1B Jake Beckley passed away in Kansas City. He spent 20 years in MLB, and during his first nine campaigns (1888-96), he wore Pittsburgh colors as an Allegheny, Burgher and Pirate. He hit over .300 for six of those nine seasons. During his six-team career, he batted .308 with a .361 OBP, scored 1,600 runs and chased home 1,575 teammates.
Emil Yde - 1924 photo Conlon Collection (filter ColouriseSG)
  • 1924 - Pitcher Emil Yde's bases-loaded double tied the score in the ninth inning and in the 14th, the Pittsburgh southpaw's two-run triple beat the Cubs at Forbes Field, 8-7. Beside the two hits and five RBI, do-it-all Yde hurled 10-1/3 innings of one-run ball in relief to earn the win.

6/25 From 1940 Through the 1970’s: Kiner Muscles Up; Pops Bomb; Game Stories; HBD A-Ram, John & Alejandro

  • 1943 - RHP John Gelnar was born in Granite, Oklahoma. The Bucs signed Gelnar out of Oklahoma in 1963; a year later he got a cup of coffee with the Pirates, working nine innings and giving up five runs. He got into 10 games in 1967, going 0-1, 8.05, with most of his time spent with AAA Columbus. In 1969-70, after a couple of trades, John pitched fairly well for the Seattle Pilots and then the Milwaukee Brewers. He got off to a rough start with the Brew Crew in ‘71, was sent down to AAA and then retired at the end of the 1972 campaign. He did get some recognition from Jim Bouton in “Ball Four” when Bouton wrote Gelnar used to bring binoculars to the bullpen when the pair were with Seattle so they could watch girls. 
Spud's cheapo tied the game - 1940 Play Ball
  • 1944 - The Cards edged the Bucs 2-1 in the opener of a twinbill as Red Munger outpitched Rip Sewell. The second ended in a controversial 5-5 tie, called after nine innings because of the Pennsylvania Blue Law. Pittsburgh tied the game in the ninth on a pinch hit long ball by Virgil “Spud” Davis that went through the screen in front of the RF stands. Cards manager Billy Southworth protested, claiming that the ground rules were that a fair ball stuck in the screen was a double and the same reasoning should apply. Ump Beans Reardon didn’t buy the argument and ruled that since it didn’t hang up but went through the fence, it was a homer. 
  • 1949 - The Bucs hit five home runs (Ralph Kiner twice, Wally Westlake, Ed Stevens & Dino Restelli) but the Dodgers banged out four of their own to leave Pittsburgh eating their dust at Forbes Field, winning a 17-10 slugfest. Rookie Restelli set a record as his four-bagger was the seventh in his first ten MLB games; he would only hit six more in his abbreviated big league career. 
  • 1950 - Ralph Kiner had a massive day as he led the Pirates to a 16-11 win at Brooklyn by hitting for the cycle, the only one of his legendary career. He went 5-for-6 with two homers, scored four times and drove in eight runs at Ebbets Field. Stan Rojek added four hits against the Dodgers, Gus Bell had three and Ted Beard homered. Cliff Chambers got the win in relief of Vern Law though both were tagged for five runs in four innings. 
  • 1959 - RHP Alejandro Pena was born in Cambiaso, Dominican Republic. After helping whip the Pirates in the playoffs as a Brave in 1991, the Pirates signed him as a free agent after the 1992 season for $1.35M. He promptly sat out the year with elbow surgery and came back in 1994, going 3-2-7/5.02 and was released in June. The 15-year vet had a twisty road to join the Pirates - he was mentioned, along with Kevin Mitchell and a PTBNL, to be part of a 1992 preseason deal for Barry Bonds with Atlanta. The swap was agreed to in principle by GM Ted Simmons but nixed by Jimmy Leyland, who went over Simmons’ head to plead his case with team President Carl Barger. So the club, which apparently thought highly of Pena, later signed him as a free agent even after he sat out the 1992 postseason with tendonitis. 
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell hit the longest home run in Veterans Stadium history against Jim Bunning during a 14-4 win over the Phils. The spot where the ball landed in section 601 was highlighted with a yellow star with a black "S" inside a white circle until Stargell's 2001 death, when the white circle was painted black. The star remained in place until the stadium's 2004 razing. Teammate Richie Hebner quipped "I went up there after he hit that home run and I looked down. It looked like a $20 cab ride from there to home plate." 
Stargell star at the Vet (above upper right gateway) 
photo 15Nomad Philly Sports
  • 1978 - 3B Aramis Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Pirates signed him in 1994 as a 16-year old, he debuted in 1998, and was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2003 in one of Pittsburgh’s more brutal contract dumps of the Dave Littlefield era. On July 23rd, 2015, he was traded back to Pittsburgh exactly 12 years after they first traded him away, and helped the Pirates in their wildcard run by hitting six homers and playing first base as needed for the first time in his 18-year career. He retired in November as a member of the team that first signed him two decades earlier. A-Ram spent a dozen years with the Cubs and Brewers in between and was a three-time All-Star who hit .286 and swatted 386 HR.