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4/1 From 1970: AVS, JT, Jones Deals; The Kid's Granny; Sheesh SS; Strike; Top 10; Parrot Hatched; RIP Jerry & Frankie; HBD Axman

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  • 1972 – The first players’ strike in baseball history began and wiped six-to-eight games off the schedule, which were canceled upon settlement. This resulted in teams playing a different number of games during the 1972 season and led to the Detroit Tigers edging the Boston Red Sox by only one-half game (86-70 to 85-70) to win the AL East Division championship. The strike settlement required the team owners to add salary arbitration to the CBA and increased pension fund payments, per Wikipedia
The Parrot has its own card – 2007 Topps
  • 1979 – The Pirate Parrot was “hatched” at Three Rivers Stadium as a response to the Phillie Phanatic, introduced the year before. The concept of a parrot came from Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate tale “Treasure Island.” At first, the Parrot was a lean, mean bird dressed in pirate gear, but in the mid-eighties was transformed into the more child-friendly, goofy butterball in a team jersey and backward cap that we have today. The Green Machine is a mainstay of charity, community and childrens’ events and even hosts a Twitter account. The big bird has had its controversial moments, too, being involved in a drug scandal and showing up at a political event but has managed to escape the temporary bad press with its feathers unruffled. 
  • 1980 – RHP Odell Jones was re-traded to the Pirates by the Seattle Mariners for a PTBNL and cash in a redo deal. Jones had pitched in Pittsburgh from 1975 & 77-78, then went to Seattle as part of the Enrique Romo swap. Pittsburgh later sent Larry Andersen (October 29, 1980) to Pacific Northwest to complete the trade. Anderson, who was lights out in AAA Portland after coming over from Cleveland, pitched through 1994 in the show. Jones yo-yo’ed between the minors and majors, appearing in 137 MLB games and 168 MiLB games through 1989; he pitched in Mexico after that except for a brief 1992 stop in the Angel’s organization. 
  • 1981 – 1B Jason Thompson was traded by the California Angels to the Bucs for LHP Mickey Mahler and C Ed Ott. Thompson took control of a muddled first base situation in Pittsburgh, which was transitioning from Pops Stargell (Doe Boyland and Eddie Vargas, the organizational heir apparents, never panned out), and held the starting job through 1985 until Sid Bream replaced him. The 29-year-old Ott was taken by surprise by the swap – he and the Pirates had been close to finalizing (at least in Ott’s mind) a six-year/$275K per season deal. Steve Nicosia and rookie Tony Pena shared the load after Otter’s departure. The deal was originally to be a three-teamer. The Yankees were to send the Pirates 1B Jim Spencer, two minor league pitchers and $850,000 for Thompson, with $450,000 earmarked to pay Spencer’s salary, but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nixed that part of the swap because of the money involved; at the time, $400K was the max amount allowed to switch hands. That decision worked out bigly to the Pirates advantage – the 33-year-old Spencer hit .182 over 1981-82 and then retired. 
  • 1983 – RHP John “The Axman” Axford was born in Simcoe, Ontario. Axford has 10 MLB campaigns on his resume, with two months spent as a Pirate in 2014. He was claimed off waivers from the Indians in August, where he had a workmanlike campaign, to strengthen the Bucco mid-inning pen during its playoff run. He slashed 0-1/4.14 and after the season signed with the Rockies; he’s now with Toronto. 
The Axman – 2015 Topps
  • 1985 – The Pittsburgh Press speculated that the Pirates were in the market for a shortstop with a void in the lineup following Dale Berra’s trade to NY. The hot stove league stoked trade rumors for Johnny Lemaster as Tim Foli was on his last legs and Rafael Belliard was considered a good glove backup. The Giants, though, wanted an arm and leg for him, so the Bucs wisely passed. He ended up with the Indians, and Pittsburgh did grab him on May 30th in exchange for a career minor leaguer (Johnny had three hits in 23 games between the Bay and Tribe, which dropped his price considerably). A change of scenery didn’t help as he hit .155 here and the Pirates ended up with Sammy Khalifa taking the job. There were six SS’s that year – Khalifa, Lemaster, Foley, Belliard, Bill Almon and Jerry Dybzinski. Pittsburgh didn’t fill that hole until 1990 when they added Jay Bell to the lineup. 
  • 1987 – St. Louis sent OF Andy Van Slyke‚ C Mike LaValliere‚ and RHP Mike Dunne to Pittsburgh in exchange for All-Star C Tony Pena. Van Slyke thought it was an April’s Fool joke when first told of the trade, and Pena cried at the press conference when the deal was announced. AVS ended up a key player in the Pirates early nineties resurgence and Spanky formed a solid catching combo with Don Slaught during the same era. Pena remained solid behind the dish but only hit above .263 once in his remaining 12 big league campaigns. 
  • 1991 – Frankie Gustine died at the age of 71. The versatile infielder was a three-time All-Star who played a decade for the Pirates (1939-48) after signing as a 16-year-old, compiling a .268 BA. After his MLB career, Gustine coached at local Point Park College from 1968-74 (he’s in the school’s Hall of Fame). He became a successful local business owner, too, operating a popular Oakland restaurant on Forbes Avenue located just a Texas League bloop away from the ballyard; he also held part ownership of the Sheraton Inn at Station Square. 
  • 2006 – The Pirates Top Ten prospects going into the year were IF Neil Walker, 1B Brad Eldred, CF Andrew McCutchen, 3B Jose Bautista, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, IF Yurendell DeCaster, C Ronny Paulino, RHP Josh Sharpless, CF Rajai Davis and OF Adam Bouve, a collection of youngsters who covered a full gamut of baseball achievement. Another riser with a bullet, RHP Matt Capps, who was expected to start the year by returning to AA Altoona, instead went north with the big team. 
Neil Walker – 2011 Topps
  • 2011 – Neil Walker hit his first career grand slam on Opening Day at Wrigley Field off Ryan Dempster. He became the second player in team history to hit a grand salami on Opening Day, joining Roberto Clemente, who drilled one to start the 1962 season. It was the key blow in a 6-3 win over the Cubs, supporting the pitching of Kevin Correia and four relievers. 
  • 2012 – One of the games great pinch-hitters, Jerry Lynch, died at the age of 82. He started and ended his career as a Pirate, spending seven seasons with the Bucs. He came off the bench to collect 116 pinch hits during his career, 18 of which were homers. Lynch lived in Allison Park when he passed away and was part owner of Champion Lakes GC, along with Dick Groat.


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