- 1910 – C Robert “Rab Roy” Gaston was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1932 to 1949, mainly as a reserve. He was a starter for just two of those many years, serving as a caddy for Hall-of-Famers Double Duty Radcliffe and Josh Gibson. Rab Roy was one of six former local Negro league players who took part in the ceremony that unfurled championship banners recognizing the Grays and Crawfords at TRS in 1993.
|Paul Smith – 1958 Topps|
- 1931 – 1B/OF Paul Smith was born in New Castle and raised in Wilkinsburg. He was used sparingly in his Buc career though his stick was solid, hitting .275 for Pittsburgh. He was among the local boys such as Ron Kline, Ron Neccai, Tony Bartirome and Bobby Del Greco that Branch Rickey brought to camp to try out for a spot on the club in 1952 and cracked the roster the following season, hitting a career-best .283 in 110 games. Paul then spent three years on the farm, returning for the 1957-58 campaigns. He had a good eye for numbers, wearing a pair that were Hall-of-Fame worthy and eventually retired by the team. In 1953, he sported #21, made famous by Roberto Clemente, and when he came back from the minors in 1957, he wore #11, Paul “Big Poison” Waner’s number.
- 1947 – OF Angel Mangual was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. The 19-year-old was signed in 1966 by Pittsburgh’s Puerto Rican scout, Francisco “Pancho” Coímbre and after a slow minor league start looked like a break out player. He sniffed the bigs in 1969 with the Pirates (1-for-4 in six games) and in 1970 was sent to the A’s in exchange for Mudcat Grant. Angel never became an everyday player (his lifetime BA was .245), but he spent six seasons as a bench member of the three-time World Series champion Oakland clubs, seeing action in 20 postseason games.
- 1953 – The Pirates signed bonus baby twins Eddie and Johnny O’Brien, multi-talented basketball (they were both All-America hoopsters and led their team to a pair of tournaments, once even beating the Harlem Globetrotters!) and baseball stars at Seattle University for a reported $40,000 each. They could both pitch and play infield, but neither made much of a mark with the Bucs.
- 1964 – GM Joe Brown admitted that four pitchers they had signed in 1963 – Bill Rohr, Jerry Hinsley, Pete Wade and Harvey Chaffin – were held out of minor league play for the season in an effort to keep them from being lost in the First Year Player Draft, but drew the line at reports that he had told the hurlers to claim they had sore arms. The Bucs did lose three of the four – only Chaffin made it safely through the process – but it was ultimately much ado over nothing, as only Rohr and Hinsley made it to the majors with 38 appearances between them. The rule was in effect from 1959-64 in an effort to offset bonus signings but was then modified when teams began losing too many prospects.
|David Ross – 2005 photo Andy Lyon/Getty-SI|
- 1977 – C David Ross was born in Bainbridge, Georgia. After spending three years with LA, the Bucs bought Ross in 2005 to back up 35-year-old Raul Chavez. He got into 40 games, hitting .222, and was flipped at the deadline to San Diego for JJ Furmaniak. Ross never did hit much better – his lifetime BA is .229 – but he carved out a solid 15-year career on defense and the ability to handle a pitching staff. He retired after winning a ring with the Cubs in 2016 and has since been on “Dancing With the Stars,” ESPN and landed the Cubbies manager gig.
- 1978 – Scout Tom Gillespie was born in Iowa. He’s been a Buc scout since 2012, coming over from Oakland, and when you hear of an off-the-wall prospect signing, his hand is probably involved. He’s an international scout, focused on evaluating baseball talent in Europe, Africa, and Japan. Tom also is a director of a couple of baseball nonprofits that support international play.
- 1981 – 2B Jose Castillo was born in Las Mercedes, Venezuela. Signed by Pittsburgh in 1999 as a 16-year-old, he was considered the long-term answer at second (he was the Pirates top-rated prospect and played in the Futures game). The Bucs may have jumped the gun by promoting him straight from AA and awarding him the big league job in 2004, as after four years and a .256 BA, he was released, plagued by injury, weight and fielding problems, and replaced by Freddy Sanchez. He closed out his baseball career with gigs in Taiwan and Japan.
- 1983 – Frank Oceak passed away in Johnstown at the age of 70. Frank was a Bucco coach from 1958-64, again from 1970-72 and finally briefly in 1976, replacing an ill Don Leppert, spending most of his days as Danny Murtaugh’s third base coach (he’s #44 jogging along with Maz after his 1960 Yankee-killer homer and was also the coach who flashed the bunt sign that Bob Robertson missed, instead homering against the O’s in the ‘71 Series) and infield instructor. Frank managed in the minors for Pittsburgh from 1942-57, and again from 1966-69 between his big league coaching gigs. He retired and ran a Johnstown bar, called (what else?) The Third Base Inn.
|Bill Landrum – 1992 Donruss Triple Play|
- 1992 – The Pirates released RHP Bill Landrum, who had won 13 games and saved 56 more over the prior three seasons, tossing to a 2.39 ERA. He was due $1.7M, and by releasing him this early in camp, the Bucs were on the hook for just a quarter of his salary. That caused a bit of a media & fan kerfuffle, but Landrum only lasted two more years in the show after his release. Performance, along with wear & tear (he was pitching through shoulder and knee problems) also played into the decision to let him go.
- 2019 – Sports Illustrated got on GM Neal Huntington’s last nerve in its Pirates preseason review when it quoted an anonymous scout as saying “Josh Bell can’t play…He’s a lump.” Neal defended his first baseman by firing back “These anonymous scouts are hacks. A lot of their criticisms are directed at minorities…we’re happy these guys don’t work for our organization.”
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