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4/13 Through the 1960s: Roberts Debut; 10 For Vern; Stuffy Signs; Bob Balk; Pitching Pearls; HBD Doug, Abel & Mike

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  • 1870 – 1B Abel Lizotte was born in Lewiston, Maine. His major league career consisted of seven games played as a Bucco in 1896 with Abel proving to be not very threatening with the stick, going 3-for-29. Lizotte was a 17-year man in the bushes, wielding the lumber a lot better on the farm with a .292 lifetime BA while playing for 10 different clubs. He also managed in the minors. 
  • 1883 – C Mike Simon was born in Hayden, Indiana. He was with the Bucs from 1909-13, mainly as a reserve, and hit .244. He jumped to the outlaw Federal League in 1914 and finished his big league career there, playing two more seasons. Mike spent his final two years in the minors, last playing in 1917. 
Claude Hendrix – 1911-13 photo Wire Service
  • 1889 – RHP Claude Hendrix was born in Olathe, Kansas. He pitched for the Bucs from 1911-13, with a 42-30/2.71 slash. He jumped to the Federal League in 1914 where he won 45 games in two years for the Chicago club. When the Fed folded, he stayed in the Windy City with the Cubs and won 57 more games with them over five seasons. He got caught up in the backwash of a gambling investigation and his career ended in 1920. Hendrix sold cars in KC for a while, then moved to Allentown and opened a restaurant, passing away at age 55. 
  • 1914 – The Bucs dropped their opener 2-1 at St. Louis’ Robinson Park as Babe Adams lost his duel to Dan Griner of the Browns, whose pitching, according to the Pittsburgh Press, was “of the airtight variety.” SL manager Miller Huggins, despite the win, liked Pittsburgh, saying that “Fred Clarke has a sweet baseball club this year.” Huggins was a better skipper than prognosticator as the Pirates finished seventh with a 69-85 record. 
  • 1916 – Babe Adams tossed a one-hit, 4-0, gem against the Cards. The only hit was a generously ruled knock that clanged off 2B Joe Schultz’s mitt. Adams won only one more game that season and was sent to the minors in August. The Pirates brought him back again in 1918 after he sat out a season, and he stuck through 1926, winning 48 games between 1919-21. Babe’s last game was on August 11th, 1926 when he was released after leading a player revolt, asking that former manager and current FO suit Fred Clarke, who had been openly critical of manager Bill McKechnie, be banned from the bench in what became known as the “ABC (Adams, Skeeter Bigbee & Max Carey were the ringleaders) Affair.” He would never play another major league game, though at age 44 his better days were in the rearview mirror. Babe worked 19 years for the Bucs, winning 194 games with a 2.76 ERA and he won three World Series games in 1909. 
  • 1925 – 1B Stuffy McInnis was released by the Boston Braves and signed by the Bucs. He hit .368 in 59 games and played in Pittsburgh’s World Series win over Washington. He was a bench guy the following year, hitting .299 before retiring after 1927. McInnis gained his nickname as a youngster in Boston, where his spectacular fielding brought shouts of “that’s the stuff, kid.” 
Stuffy McInnis – undated photo Conlon Collection
  • 1954 – Seven years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, second baseman Curt Roberts made his major league debut during the season opener at Forbes Field and became the first African American to play for the Pirates (although a good case can be made for Carlos Bernier, who came up in 1953 and was considered Latino rather than black). The former Kansas City Monarch tripled off Robin Roberts in the first inning as the Bucs beat the Phillies, 4-2, by scoring four times in the eighth frame. It was the first time the Pirates had ever opened the season at Forbes Field, drawing 32,294 fans. It was their 11th straight home opener win, a streak that would end the following year. There was a little pre-game merriment as three-year-old Leslie Blair, Honus Wagner’s granddaughter, was slated to throw out the first pitch after the City had awarded a plaque to Hans’ daughter. She was struck by stage fright and never let loose the horsehide, forcing the umps to begin the game without its traditional opening. 
  • 1962 – The Mets played their first Home Opener against the Bucs with only 12,447 fans at the Polo Grounds on a cold, drizzly day. It was Friday the 13th, and the date cursed the home team as the Pirates scored the winning run on two eighth-inning wild pitches thrown by Ray Diavault, scoring Dick Groat, who had opened with a walk, to defeat New York, 4-3. The Pirates had eight hits, with five coming from the 6-7-8 hitters (Smoky Burgess, Don Hoak & Billy Maz), who accounted for two runs and three RBI. Tom Sturdivant went seven innings for the win with ElRoy Face working the last two frames for the save. 
  • 1963 - The Pirates clobbered the Reds 12-4 at Crosley Field, but the big story was on the bump. The league decided to clamp down on balks and a record seven were called in the game, including a MLB high of four on Bob Friend (the mark lasted a month until the Braves’ Bob Shaw was caught five times), who was nonplussed by the calls. He admitted that he never adhered to the full stop rule because it had never been called before. An MLB record 924 balks were rung up during the season after umpires were instructed to enforce the complete, one-second stop during the wind-up. As for the game, three Bucs – Ducky Schofield, Bob Skinner and Billy Maz – had three hits; Roberto Clemente and Friend had two knocks each. Pete Rose collected his first MLB hit during the game, a triple off Friend, after an 0-for-11 start. 
  • 1964 – IF Doug Strange was born in Greenville, South Carolina. He ended his nine-year MLB run off the bench in Pittsburgh, batting .173 in 90 games. He spent a couple of seasons as minor-league depth, then joined the Marlins as a scout for a couple of more years before coming over to Pittsburgh’s Baseball Operations section in 2002. He’s now a Special Assistant to the GM. 
Doug Strange – 1998 Pacific Aurora
  • 1966 – Vern Law won his 10th straight game by a 6-0 count over the Braves at Atlanta Stadium. The Deacon gave up four hits, no walks and fanned four, never allowing a runner beyond first base. Willie Stargell had a homer and three RBI; Donn Clendenon added a two-run blow. Law would miss a month after that with an injury, lose the next outing in May and finish 12-8/4.05 on the campaign. He had one more year left in the tank. 
  • 1968 – Al McBean went the distance to claim a 2-1 victory over San Francisco and Gaylord Perry at Candlestick Park. McBean did it all; he tossed a three-hitter and even singled in the winning run with two outs in the seventh inning. The key play was The Great One gunning down Willie Mays at third to keep the lid on a potential rally by the Giants. Per BR Bullpen, Willie Mays recalled being caught going from first to third just once in his career, and it was on this day. “Roberto Clemente threw me out on a bang-bang play at third. I should have remembered what a tremendous arm he had” later explained the sadder-but-wiser Say Hey Kid.


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