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2/26: Big Daddy Signs; Starr-Simon Deal; Tommy Toss; AL-NL Raids; HBD Preacher, Vic, Sonny, Stan, Sam & Wooby

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  • 1863 – IF Simeon Henry Jean “Sam” LaRocque was born in St. Mathias, Quebec. Sam played fairly regularly for Pittsburgh in 1890, getting into 111 games w/481 PA, hitting .242, but after just one outing in 1891 was shipped to Louisville, where he ended his pro career. Sam did stay in baseball, managing in the minors. 
  • 1891 – 2B Jack “Wobby” Hammond was born in Amsterdam, New York. A star high school athlete signed by the Indians, he got three brief stops in the show, his last being a nine-game, 12-at bat stand with the Bucs in 1922 when he was 31, batting .273. Wobby showed a good stick in the minors, but mostly played at Class A. He retired from the Kansas City Blues the year after his Pirates debut. He hit .300, but at his age, the clock was against him. 
  • 1901 – After a bout of AL raids and player league-jumping, the NL suits sat down with Pirates catcher Chief Zimmer, the president of the Players Protective Association, and agreed to contract concessions for NL’ers who stayed home, including recognition of the union, a one-year reserve clause and minor league clarifications. Zimmer promised to suspend members of the union who jumped leagues in return. The summit didn’t work; the players expected more leeway and continued to move to the AL while the beleaguered union folded after the 1903 season. 
Mike Simon – 1909 Pittsburgh Press
  • 1909 – The Pirates traded IF Charlie Starr to the Boston Doves for a PTBNL, who ended up being C Mike Simon, sent to the Bucs a few days later. 1909 was Starr’s last season while Simon was a Bucco reserve catcher for the next five years, compiling a .244 BA and tossing out 45% or more of base stealers four of his five campaigns. 
  • 1916 – LHP Elwin “Preacher” Roe was born in Ash Flat, Arizona. Preacher worked early in his career with the Pirates from 1944-47, where he was 34-47/3.73. He started off with two strong years, but an off season cracked noggin in 1945 from a tussle with a basketball ref was followed by a pair of poor campaigns. Preacher was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and bloomed (a spitter added to his arsenal was said to have helped him mightily), earning four All-Star berths and pitching in three different World Series. There are two versions of how he got his childhood nickname. One is that he was an ornery kid, and his grandma called him “Preacher” in hopes that he would eventually turn into one. The other, more likely, is that a minister and his wife used to ride him around whenever they went out on their buggy, and he became Preacher because of his association with them. 
  • 1930 – C/3B Vic Janowicz was born in Elyria, Ohio. A gridiron All-America and Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, Janowicz passed on football to sign for $75K as a bonus baby with the Bucs. He hit only .214 over two seasons (1953-54) as a bench player. He returned to football late in the 1954 season with the Washington Redskins and was their starting halfback in 1955. An automobile accident in 1956 ended his athletic career. 
  • 1936 – Tommy Padden, a Pirates catcher, reportedly tossed a silver dollar about 475 feet over the Merrimack River and into a snow pile in front of a large crowd. He did this to emulate the feat of the Senator’s Walter “Big Train” Johnson, who flipped a coin across the Rappahannock a few days prior to copy the alleged feat of George Washington per the New Hampshire History Blog.
Tommy Padden – photo Alice Brown via New Hampshire History Society
  • 1941 – 1B George “Sonny” Kopacz was born in Chicago. Sonny was a AAAA player who spent 14 seasons in the minors, eight in AAA, and in 1970 was the International League’s MVP with a line of .310/29/115 for the Pirates Columbus Jets. That campaign earned him a cup of coffee with the Bucs, but in 10 games he went 3-for-16 with no extra base knocks. He spent three more seasons a step away in AAA, retiring after the 1973 season at the age of 32. 
  • 1961 - Pitching coach Stan Kyles was born in Chicago. After an 11-year minor league pitching career, Kyles began coaching in the indie leagues and quickly got gigs with the Cubs (1992-93, 1997-2000), Rockies (1994-96) and Brewers (2001-12), spending his final three years as Milwaukee’s bullpen coach. In 2013, he took over the pitching reins at AA Altoona and has taught in the Pirates system throughout various levels. 
  • 1985 – The Pirates signed 35-year-old RHP Rick Reuschel to a one-year minor league deal with an invite to camp. The FA had gone 5-5/5.17 with the Cubs and inked a contract with Pittsburgh after a bid to join the Giants fell through, with both he and the Bucs looking at a possible long relief role. Big Daddy did get into six games as a reliever, but ended up starting 85 times in 2-1/2 seasons with Buccos, slashing 31-30-1/3.04 over that time and earning an All Star berth. He was then traded to the team that didn’t originally want him, San Francisco, where he worked 4-1/2 more years, winning 36 games in 1988-89 and another All Star spot before hangin’ up the spikes in 1991 at the age of 42 to close a 19-year career.


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