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3/31 Through the 1970s: DiMag Deal; Robby Released; Beisbol; RIP Billy; HBD Frank, Skeeter, Tom, Chick & Fred

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  • 1886 – OF Fred Kommers was born in Chicago. He debuted with the Bucs in 1913, hitting .233 in 40 games. He jumped to the Federal League the following season, and though he hit better as a Fed than he did in the NL, it didn’t do much to advance his baseball career – it would be his last major league campaign. 
  • 1887 – RHP Chester “Chick” Brandom was born in Coldwater, Kansas. Chick tossed from 1908-09 for the Bucs, getting into 16 games and going 2-0-3 with a 0.94 ERA. The Bucs were loaded back then, and he was sent back to the minors despite that shiny albeit small performance sample. But he may have a greater claim than his Bucco stint. A 1908 picture of Chick shows him delivering a knuckleball and if the date is right, that would make him the first known practitioner of that pitch, predating guys like Eddie Cicotte (caveat emptor; the original knucksy is still debated). 
  • 1894 – RHP Tom Sheehan was born in Grand Ridge, Illinois. Tom pitched the final two years of a MLB career that began in 1915 for the Pirates (1925-26; 1-3-2/4.08). He embarked on a long march as a baseball lifer after his playing days. Sheehan coached for the Reds and Braves, then spent many years as a minor league manager/scout in the Giants system. In 1960, at age 66, he succeeded the fired Bill Rigney as the Giants skipper, becoming the oldest person to make his debut as a big-league manager. That gig didn’t work out, and after the campaign he was once again assigned to scouting.
Skeeter Bigbee – undated photo Detroit Public Library
  • 1895 – OF Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee was born. He played eleven years for Pittsburgh, his only MLB club, from 1916-26, and hit .287 lifetime. His best seasons were 1921-22, when he batted .323 and .350. He banged out 419 hits over that span, scored 213 runs and led the NL in singles both years. Bigbee stole 182 bases in his career, which earned him his “Skeeter” nickname. Bigbee was part of the 1926 “ABC Affair” when he, Babe Adams and Max Carey beefed about team suit Fred Clarke being in the dugout during games and overruling manager Bill McKechnie; all three were on the downside of their careers and got their walking papers as a result. 
  • 1940 – The Pirates and Philadelphia Athletics played the first MLB exhibition game south of the border when they met in Hermosilla, Mexico at Casa del Pueblo Stadium. The A’s won by an 8-7 count at a match that featured soldiers at the gates & on the roof, bands playing throughout the game, and fans on the field. After a little post-game shopping, the two teams hopped a train for their next match in Phoenix. 
  • 1945 – The Pirates traded OF Vince DiMaggio, a two-time All-Star, to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Al “Lefty” Gerheauser. Both were near the end of their playing days; DiMaggio hung up the spikes after the ‘46 season and Gerheauser won just seven more games in three years as the Pirates converted him from a starter to the pen. 
  • 1957 – Ex-manager Billy Meyer died at age 64 of kidney and heart problems in Knoxville, having never fully recovered from a stroke suffered two years earlier. He had a long minor league career with a brief taste of the bigs and was a long time farm skipper before he got the call to manage the Bucs in 1948. He piloted the team to fourth place finish that season (Meyer won The Sporting News Manager of the Year award for that 83 win feat), but was stuck with a roster of Ralph Kiner and Rickey-Dinks, compiling a 317-452 record over five years. He resigned as skipper after the 112 loss 1952 campaign and spent the next three campaigns as a minor league rover/scout for Pittsburgh before his stroke. His #1 was retired by the Pirates in 1954, more as a matter of respect and affection for Billy than accomplishment. 
Billy Meyer – 1952 Topps
  • 1960 – Former Pirates President Frank Coonelly was born in Philadelphia. Hired in 2007 as CEO to replace Kevin McClatchy, he helped engineer the Bucs into respectability with three straight playoff appearances, but couldn’t continue keepin’ on and was let go at the end of the 2019 season. Coonelly previously served as senior VP in the commissioner’s office, where he was in charge of arbitration hearings and draft bonuses, among other items. He was a lawyer in private practice before that. His replacement was Travis Williams. 
  • 1977 – After nine years as a Bucco, the Pirates released 1B Bob Robertson, who had been reduced to part-time status following 1974 knee surgery and then hurt his back in camp. He filed a grievance with the MLBPA to get his full year’s salary because he was let go while injured; it was settled when the Bucs paid him the entire $50K due for 1977. In 1971, the Mount Savage Strongboy became the first player to hit TRS’s upper deck in left center, then enjoyed a monster postseason, but he slumped badly after that campaign before his knees gave out. He retired after being released by Toronto in June of 1979.


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