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5/4 Through the 1950s: Roman, Little Poison, Babe On Tears; Roberto Giveth, Roberto Taketh...; Hans Day - In Brooklyn!: Game Tales; HBD Ken, Smokey, Zip, Lou & Vic

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  • 1875 - OF Lou Gertenrich was born in Chicago. His MLB career consisted of six at-bats, half with the 1903 Pirates as he went 0-for-3. He was somewhat of a semi-pro legend in the Windy City who played sporadically in the pros as he was a well-off businessman (his family was in the chocolates business) besides ballplayer. He got his day as a Bucco when the Pirates were in Chicago. Manager Fred Clarke, who was injured, had given outfielder Jimmy Sebring three days off for his wedding and being a man down, the Buccos used Gertenrich for the match. He went hitless, but did lay down a bunt and played the pasture flawlessly. Though he did stay local, he dabbled in the pro ranks off-and-on until 1913, closing his career out with the then-independent Federal League Chicago Keeleys. After that season, he continued to play semi-pro ball in the Windy City until he passed away in 1933. 
  • 1891 – 1B Vic Saier was born in Lansing, Michigan. Vic took over first base for Frank Chance (Tinker-to-Evans-to-Chance) in 1911. He had six good seasons for the Cubs before he broke his leg in 1917, missing almost all that year and 1918, when he worked in a defense factory. The Bucs took a chance on him in 1919, but Saier hit only .223 in 58 games and was released before the season was over; some say his performance was affected because he was unhappy that he was no longer a Cub.
  • 1892 – OF John Edgar “Zip” Collins was born in Brooklyn. Collins started his career in Pittsburgh in 1914-15 and also played with the Boston Braves & Philadelphia Athletics during his five-year big league run. He came to Pittsburgh as a 22-year-old hotshot out of the Texas League and he did hit .276 during his Pirates tenure before being sold to Boston late in the 1915 campaign. He played pro ball until 1925 and then managed in the minors until taking a variety of day jobs. Zip got his nickname not due to his wheels but because of his strong arm; he had 20 assists for the Pirates, but his 18 errors offset his rifle arm. 
Vic Willis – 1906-09 photo Conlan Collection
  • 1908 – After losing three in a row at Cincinnati’s Palace of the Fans, Vic Willis tossed a five hitter to top Billy Campbell and the Reds 1-0. Honus Wagner tripled in the seventh and a grounder by Ed “Abby” Abbaticchio brought him home for the game’s only tally. 
  • 1909 – The Pirates won their fourth straight over the Cubs by beating Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown 1-0 in 11 innings at West Side Park behind Dots Miller RBI and Babe Adams shutout. It was the second time in three weeks that the Pirates defeated the hard-luck Brown 1-0 in extra innings. 
  • 1913 – Pitcher Babe Adams was a one man wrecking crew at Redland Field. He threw a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati and drove home the game’s only run with the Pirates only hit, a triple, to score C Bill Kelly who had walked ahead of Babe. The 31-year-old Adams (he pitched until he was 40) was the team ace that year, winning 21 games with a 2.15 ERA while working 313-⅓ innings. 
  • 1931 – P/SS Lenora “Smokey” Mandella was born in McKeesport. She played for four different clubs in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League between 1949 and 1951. She got her break when she impressed AAGBL scouts in a tryout at Renziehausen Park and from there went on to start her baseball career with the South Bend Blue Sox. After the league dissolved (she finished 4-8 on the hill with a .127 BA between 1950-51 w/no record of her first-year stats), Smokey stayed involved with softball in the Steel Valley, coaching for 30 years. Her nickname was due to her strong arm and smokin’ hot fastball. 
  • 1933 – The Brooklyn Dodgers tossed a Honus Wagner tribute day at Ebbets Field for their legendary foe. 10,000 showed up for the affair, and the Pirates didn’t spoil the day for their first-year coach, rallying for a 2-1 win behind the pitching of Heinie Meine and Tony Piet’s three hits. It was the first time Wagner appeared in Brooklyn since his playing days ended in 1917. Hans received a proclamation at City Hall, and when the crowd outside clamored for a speech, Honus told them diplomatically that his memory of Ebbets Field and the Dodgers was that “Sometimes you got me out and sometimes you didn’t” before a motorcade parade took him to the ballyard.
Honus in Brooklyn – photo 5/5/1933 Pgh Press
  • 1938 – Lloyd Waner had himself as day as the Pirates pulled away from the Dodgers to take a 9-5 win at Forbes Field. Little Poison had four hits, including a long ball & two triples, five RBI and three runs scored to lead Pittsburgh to the win. The Pirates had 12 hits on the day; eight went for extra bases as they teed off on Brooklyn’s Luke Hamlin and then eventual loser Bill Posedel. The Buccos starter, Russ Bauers, also was hit hard, but Joe Bowman came to the rescue and tossed five innings of one-hit relief to earn the win. 
  • 1951 – Pete Castiglione tripled on the second pitch that NY hurler Sal Maglie tossed and that would be the only hit The Barber surrendered in a 5-1 Giant win at the Polo Grounds. It wasn’t quite a gem, as Maglie walked five, but he had the Buccos’ number – it was his seventh straight win over Pittsburgh. 
  • 1955 – Sweet redemption: After going hitless and making a ninth-inning error, Roberto Clemente climbed the wall in right to take away extra bases from George Crowe with Braves on second and third to close out a 5-4 Pirates win over Milwaukee at Forbes Field. Dale Long and Gene Freese had a pair of RBI apiece while Bob Friend saved the game for Max Surkont. 
  • 1956 – IF Ken Oberkfell was born in Highland, Illinois. Ken played 16 years in the majors and spent the second half of 1988 and the early weeks of 1989 in Pittsburgh, where he made the transition from a 100-game-per-year player to a utility bench guy. He got into 34 games as a Pirate and hit just .181 before being sent to the Giants. He coached for 14 years in the Mets system, took a break and at last check was coaching a hometown indie league squad while tending to family duties. 
  • 1958 – At Seals Stadium‚ Roman Mejias hit three HRs in the nitecap of a DH with San Francisco to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-2 win and a split after losing the opener 4-3. Mejias hit two more homers the rest of the season. His four RBI helped Ronnie Kline to victory, with ElRoy Face coming on in the ninth for the save.


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