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4/14 Through the 1970’s:Abba Dabba Deal; WGN; Game Stories; HBD Kyle, George & Wild Bill

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  • 1880 – P George Merritt was born in Paterson, NJ. He spent from 1901-03 with the Pirates as a pitcher and part-time outfielder, slashing 3-0/4.50 from the hill and hitting .213 as a bench stick. That was the extent of his MLB days. During his 1903 campaign, he left Pittsburgh and joined the hometown Jersey City Skeeters, playing with them until 1910 before finally hanging up the glove in 1915. 
George Merritt – 1901 Cameo/Pepsin Pin
  • 1884 – RHP Wild Bill Luhrsen was born in Buckley, Illinois. Wild Bill’s MLB career consisted of five games (three starts) for the 1913 Pirates when the 29-year-old rookie went 3-1/2.48, with his only loss to Christy Mathewson. The Pirates bought his rights from Albany of the Sally League during the season after a rash of injuries chewed up the staff. He was later sent to Columbus after the pitching recovered. After his baseball days ended, Luhrsen worked as a machinist and a lumber buyer in Little Rock. 
  • 1925 – Chicago’s WGN Radio broadcast its first ever regular season Cubs’ baseball game (Quin Ryan announced the contest from the grandstand roof) as Chicago’s Grover Alexander defeated the Pirates and Emil Yde on Opening Day, 8-2. Six of the runs against Yde were unearned thanks to three Bucco boots. Old Pete not only was the winning pitcher, but helped himself with a single, double, and home run. 
  • 1937 – The Bucs bought minor league pitcher Jim “Abba Dabba” Tobin from the Yankees, who had him stashed on the PCL Oakland Oaks roster. Tobin tossed three seasons for Pittsburgh, going 29-24 with a 3.71 ERA before being sent to Boston. He was a mainstay of their staff during the war years and pitched in MLB through 1945; he tossed a no-hitter for Beantown in 1944. He was also a good stick; he hit .230 during his career/.275 during his Pittsburgh stay and was often used as a pinch hitter. Abba Dabba is the only modern-era pitcher to hit three homers in one game, as he did for the Braves in 1942 (Guy Hecker, who would later manage the Alleghenys, was the only other pitcher to equal him, back in 1886). Tobin called it a day as a pro player after the 1950 campaign. As for his nickname, the Detroit Athletic Company explained “Tobin liked to do imitations of a vaudeville magician. As part of the act, Tobin would pause in the middle of a magic trick and declare, ‘Abba Dabba, are you ready?’” 
  • 1960 – The Pirates showed that they would be a NL force to reckon with during their home opener, pounding the Reds 13-0 in front of 34,064 fans. Vern Law pitched a complete game shutout while Roberto Clemente and Billy Maz combined to bring home nine runs. One of the Great One’s RBI was a 445’ sac fly that Vada Pinson corralled just short of the batting cage parked in center field. 
  • 1963 – Al McBean tossed Pittsburgh to a 1-0 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field on Easter for their fourth straight victory. It wasn’t a thing of beauty. The Bucs pushed their only run across in the fourth thanks to a walk and pair of infield singles off Joey Jay, with only one other runner reaching third. Cincy had 10 hits to go with a walk and error, but stranded 12 runners, twice leaving the bases loaded and three times leaving runners at second and third. But Alvin was tough enough and mowed down the final seven batters to ice the win. 
Al McBean – 1963 Topps
  • 1968 – Jim Bunning earned his first win with Pittsburgh‚ 3-0, at Los Angeles. It was his 40th career shutout and included his 1‚000th NL strikeout‚ making him the first pitcher since Cy Young with 1‚000 punchouts in each league. His bacon was saved when Roberto Clemente brought back a potential two-run homer to right by Ron Fairly, leaping above the wall to snag the ball.
  • 1976 – RHP Kyle Farnsworth was born in Wichita, Kansas. Kyle spent 16 years and tossed 893 games in the MLB; a few weeks and nine outings were on the Pirates dime in 2013. The veteran was picked up off waivers from Tampa Bay and the 38-year-old did his job, giving up one run in 8-1/3 IP during their playoff run. Kyle’s last year in the show was 2014; he tossed in Mexico for a couple of years afterward while multitasking by playing semi-pro football in Florida.


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