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3/12: Ladies Day; Klein HoF; RIP Flash; HBD Deacon, Reb, Dave, Denny, Lefty, Raul, Greg & Phil

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  • 1865 – LHP Phil Knell was born in San Francisco. In a six-year career, he made a pair of stops in Pittsburgh. He started out as a 23-year-old rookie for the Alleghenys in 1888, going 1-2/3.76, and pitched briefly for the Pirates in 1894, appearing in one outing and getting whacked. But during 1890-91, he won 50 games for the Philadelphia Quakers and Columbus Colts. At 5’7” and 155 pounds, he didn’t cut an intimidating figure, but no one in the box was comfortable facing him. In those two halcyon seasons, the wild child bopped 82, walked 392 and tossed 39 wild pitches in 748-⅔ IP. Phil started 52 games and worked 426 innings for the Colts in 1891 alone while setting the season record for hit batsmen with 54. 
Denny Lyons – undated photo via NY Public Library
  • 1866 – 3B Denny Lyons was born in Cincinnati. He played four seasons for Pittsburgh (1893-94; 1896-97) and mustered a .299 BA during that span. He put together a 52-game hitting streak, largely ignored because back in the day because a walk was considered the same as a hit. Still, it was a pretty impressive on-base skein. Lyons played for 13 campaigns, quitting only after a fastball thrown by Amos Rusie broke two of his fingers which never fully healed. 
  • 1894 – The Pittsburgh Pirates issued free season tickets for ladies, good for Tuesday and Friday games at Exposition Park, per Baseball Almanac. The New York Gothams introduced the ladies day promotion in 1883 and Pittsburgh eventually bought into the concept. 
  • 1899 – OF Ewell “Reb” Russell was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Russell started as a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 1912 and was a good one, but developed arm trouble in 1918 and was released. While in the minors, he converted to playing the outfield and became an accomplished hitter. Reb got back to the show with Pittsburgh in 1922-23, and in 511 at-bats hit .323 with 21 HR/113 RBI. His downfall was that though he hit like an outfielder, he played the outfield like he was a pitcher. Still, Russell returned to the minor leagues American Association and was a highly paid star in the AA through age 40, even winning the league batting title when he was 38 years old with a .385 BA. Ewell was nicknamed “Reb” for his Mississippi roots. 
  • 1907 – LHP Leroy “Lefty” Matlock was born in Moberly, Missouri. After a cup of coffee with the Homestead Grays in 1932, he closed out the second half of his Negro League career with the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1933-38, winning 51 games in his first four years and being named to three All-Star teams. He put together a 26-game winning streak from 1934-36 per his Baseball Reference bio (although BR’s stat page shows different results, so…). He was suspended early in the 1937 season for playing on a Dominican League team and won just four more games in his final two campaigns. 
Vern Law – 2001 Topps Golden Anniversary
  • 1930 – RHP Vern “The Deacon” Law was born in Meridian, Indiana. The righty pitched 16 years for the Pirates (1950–1951, 1954–1967), putting up a 162-147/3.77 line and winning the Cy Young in 1960 with a 20-9/3.05 mark for the World Series champs. Law infamously hurt his ankle during some horseplay after clinching the pennant. A true trooper – he pitched through it during the Series, won twice and left Game #7 with a three run lead – he tore muscles in his shoulder while compensating for the ankle. Both injuries lingered on for most of the remainder of his career, and his arm woes led him to briefly retire in ’63. He had one more strong campaign afterward, going 17-9/2.15 in 1965 when he was named the Comeback Player of the Year. Law was also selected twice as an All-Star. “The Deacon” came by his nickname honestly; a devout Mormon, Vernon was a church deacon. 
  • 1971- OF Raul Mondesi was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. The Pirates signed the 33-year-old vet in 2004 and he had a good month, batting .283 w/two homers & 14 RBI before going home to handle a personal issue; he never came back, as it was ploy to get out of his contract. It worked – he was released in May and signed with Anaheim 10 days later, hit .118 and was cut in August. In 2005, the Braves became his last stop in a 13-year career; he batted .211 and was released in May. Mondesi became mayor of San Cristobal after baseball but couldn’t quite shake his shady ways. In 2017, a Dominican court handed him an eight-year sentence and fined him $1.3M for embezzling funds while in office. 
  • 1971 – RHP Greg Hansell was born in Bellflower, California. He closed out a four-year MLB run in 1999 with the Pirates with a 1-3/3.89 line in 33 outings after a June call up from AAA Nashville. In December, Hansell was purchased from the Bucs by the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese League. He tossed there through 2002, but big league comeback attempts in 2003 & ‘04 fell short; he settled for two more minor league seasons and retired after the 2004 campaign. 
  • 1973 – Frankie “The Fordham Flash” Frisch passed away at the age of 74 as the result of injuries suffered in a car crash. The Hall-of-Fame 2B played for the NY Giants & the Gashouse Gang in St.Louis, serving as their player/manager from 1933-37, and winning the MVP in 1931. He was the Pirates skipper from 1940-46 with a 539-528 record, but never took a title, finishing higher than fourth just once in seven seasons. He went on to broadcast and was also the Chairman of the HoF Veterans Committee. 
Dave Williams- 2001 SP Authentic Future Watch
  • 1979 – LHP Dave Williams was born in Anchorage, Alaska. He spent four seasons (2001-02, 2004-05) with the Bucs, going 17-26 with a 4.25 ERA, and got to play with high school teammate Ian Snell. Williams was traded to Cincinnati for Sean Casey after the 2005 season. He had surgery for a herniated disc in his neck in 2007 and never was sharp afterward. Williams ended his career after the 2009 season following a 2008 stint in Japan, then a year in the minors. 
  • 1980 – OF Chuck Klein was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Klein batted .320 over a 17-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and one season with the Pirates, 1939, when he hit .300. He was inducted on August 3rd.


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