1860 – C Chief Zimmer was born in Marietta, Ohio. Zimmer was known as a great defensive catcher and spent 1900-02 as a Pirate toward the end of his 19-year career (he finished in 1903 as the player-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics). He hit .262 as a Bucco, catching 193 games between the ages of 39-41. Zimmer was also the first president of the Players' Protective Association and a successful hustler (ok, businessman) during his playing days. Chief ran a cigar business that he promoted during the season and invented “Zimmer's Baseball Game”, a sort of pinball machine that was a big thing during the early-to-middle 1890s. His nickname came from his Cleveland days. Since Zimmer was the captain of the Indians team, he was dubbed “Chief” by the press.
The Silver Fox 1929 (photo Conlon Collection/The Sporting News)
1894 – LHP Jesse “The Silver Fox” Petty was born in Orr, Oklahoma. He was a Bucco for two seasons, 1929-30, going 12-16, 4.55. He was sold to the Cubs during his second Pittsburgh campaign, and after the season, his seven-year MLB career was concluded. Jess served bravely during WW1; before he played pro ball, he was a combat dispatch rider, not a position for the faint of heart. Jesse was known as “The Silver Fox” because he didn't earn a full-time big-league roster spot until he was 30 years old.
1944 – The MLB sponsored a USO caravan to visit war zones, including Rip Sewell and Paul Waner. Rip was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons for the Bucs, notching 21 wins each campaign with his notorious eephus pitch. Big Poison was at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Yankees; he ended his tenure in the bigs quietly the following year, batting once more before hanging the spikes up for good.
1963 – IF Dale Sveum was born in Richmond, California. Dale played for the Bucs in 1996-97 and closed out his 12 year career when he returned in 1999. He hit .260 for Pittsburgh and played every infield position. After he closed out the book on his playing days, he managed or coached for Pittsburgh, Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago and Kansas City.
Danny Murtaugh 1971 Topps
1971 – Danny Murtaugh retired as manager because of health reasons after winning the 1971 World Series, and Bill Virdon was named as his replacement. The Quail led the Pirates to 96 wins and the 1972 NL East title, but a 67-69 performance the following season cost him his job. The Irishman returned in late 1973 for another stint as skipper. Virdon moved on to skipper the Yankees for two years, the Astros for eight more (with two pennants) and closed out as the Expo’s field general for two more seasons. He’s now a special instructor for the Pirates. Bill had the oddball distinction of having been replaced twice by the manager he replaced, bookended by Murtaugh in Pittsburgh and Jim Fanning in Montreal. Virdon was dubbed The Quail by announcer Bob Prince because Bill dropped so many hits just beyond the infield but in front of the outfielders, a soft hit known in that era as a dying quail for the way it fluttered to the ground.
1977 – The New York Yankees signed Rich “Goose” Gossage to a six-year contract worth $3.6M. Gossage saved 26 games for the Pirates in 1977, but the Bucs never made a serious offer for him to return (and by most accounts, Goose liked the City, the team and Chuck Tanner and hoped for a local bite) so he took the Yankees’ money. When Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he invited Tanner as his special guest. There are a couple of stories as to his moniker; one is that White Sox teammate (and roomie) Tom Bradley gave it to him for the way he craned his neck while getting a sign from the catcher; the other is that it’s just a play on Gossage.