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4/5 Through 1984: Robby, Little Poison Sign; Robinson, Dravecky Deals; Sweet As Candy; ocal Heroes; HBD JHK, Rennie & Wid

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  • 1877 – SS William “Wid” Conroy was born in Philadelphia. Conroy only played one year in Pittsburgh in 1902, hitting .244, but he started ahead of Honus Wagner at short. Actually, the Flying Dutchman began his career in the pasture; he was converted to part-time shortstop in 1901 by skipper Fred Clarke when Bones Ely had a forgettable year at the dish. Wid was the usual starter at short in 1902 with Wagner seeing some action too, but Conroy’s batting performance was the final straw for Clarke and he installed Wagner at the position full-time in 1903. Conroy then jumped leagues to join the NY Highlanders, playing ball through 1911 for them and the Washington Senators. The nickname “Wid,” short for “Widow,” dates to his youth. Sam Bernstein of SABR suggests that the name came about because Conroy watched over the younger members of his sandlot group like a widowed mother watched over her brood. 
  • 1929 – Paul Waner ended his holdout by signing a one-year deal with the Bucs after meeting for two hours with Buc owner Barney Dreyfuss at Fort Worth, where the Pirates were holding camp. The value of the agreement wasn’t disclosed, but earlier in negotiations, Waner had floated $18K as the amount he was seeking. Big Poison ended up a bargain no matter what the cost – he hit .336 with 15 HR & 100 RBIs during the season. 
Rennie Stennett – 1976 Topps

  • 1951 – 2B Rennie Stennett was born in Colon, Panama. Stennett played nine seasons (1971-79) with the Bucs as a sweet-fielding second sacker, hitting .278 BA to back up the leather. He was involved in a lot of good stuff, appearing in the 1979 Series, starting for the first all-black lineup in MLB in 1971, and collecting a record seven knocks in a nine-inning game against the Cubs in 1975. Sadly, he broke his leg in 1977 and never had a strong season afterward, even though the Giants signed him to a five-year deal worth $3M for 1980. They released him after two years while still in the hole for $2M. 
  • 1954 – It was only a spring training game, but it had some notable local flavor to it. Mt Washington native and South Hills HS grad Bob Purkey tossed a six-hitter and Frank Thomas, who grew up in the shadow of Forbes Field in Oakland and was born at Magee Women’s Hospital, sent one over the wall as the hometown kids (Purkey was 24, Thomas 25) led the way to a 1-0 win over the KC Athletics in Mobile, Alabama. In other baseball business, the club cut Dale Long, Gene Freese and ElRoy Face from camp; they would all be back for keeps in 1955. 
  • 1975 – The Pirates got OF Bill Robinson from the Phils for RHP Wayne Simpson. Simpson appeared in 34 MLB games in 1975 & ‘77 while McKeesport’s Robinson spent eight years in Pittsburgh as a platoon OF’er, hitting .276 with 109 HR. His highlight season came in 1977 when he hit .304 with career highs of 26 home runs and 104 RBI. 
  • 1980 – The Pirates agreed to a two-year extension of jack-of-all-trades Bill Robinson’s contract through 1982. The financials weren’t disclosed, but Robinson, who as a five-and-ten year man had vetoed a trade to Houston in 1979, conceded an eight-team list of teams he would report to if swapped. It was also a good day in other ways for Robby – after he and the team were given their WS rings in a ceremony before the game, his 10th inning homer gave the Bucs a 5-4 Opening Day win over the Cubs in a contest that was delayed four times for over two hours because of rain, played before a TRS crowd that started the day at 44,088. 
  • 1981 – Pittsburgh traded Youngstown native and Class AA Buffalo pitcher Dave Dravecky to the San Diego Padres for utilityman Bobby Mitchell. Mitchell never made it out of the minors while Dravecky eventually carved out an eight-year MLB career with a 64-57 slate, 3.13 ERA, and an All-Star appearance in a stint cut short by a cancerous tumor in his arm. 

Candy Man – 1983 Topps
  • 1983 - John Candelaria gave up just four hits and struck out 10 in a 7-1 Opening Day win over the Cards at Busch Stadium. Lee Lacy led off with a homer, Jason Thompson iced it with a three-run blast in the ninth and Dale Berra and Lee Mazzilli went long in between. For Mazzilli, it was a strong intro to his new team as he went 2-for-2 with two walks in his first game as a Pirate. It was a welcome sign for The Candy Man, too, whose nerve damage to his arm had turned from a workhorse into a guy with just one complete game in 1981-82, although he never tossed 200 IP or had more than three CG in a season after 1980.


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