- 1893 – IF Joe Leonard was born in West Chicago, Illinois (some sources have his b-day on the 14th, sera, sera). Leonard got parts of five MLB seasons in, starting with the Pirates in 1914, batting just .198 that year. He was highly rated as a youngster, although his bat never proved big-league consistent; when Pittsburgh purchased the 19-year-old from the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League for $3,080 in 1913, he became the highest priced player sold to the majors at the time. Joe died while still an active player in May, 1920, at the age of 26 of appendicitis/pneumonia while a member of the Senators; Washington owner Clark Griffith and several teammates were at his bedside at the time of his death.
- 1914 - OF Maurice Van Robays was born in Detroit. Van Robays replaced RF Lloyd Waner late in 1939 and finished third in the NL with 116 RBI and received a smattering of MVP votes the next season. “Bomber” (his nickname after he hit 11 HR in 1940) also had a strong 1941. MVR developed vision problems the following year that required him to wear glasses, and it took him another season to rediscover his batting stroke. Then he missed the war years of 1944-45 while serving with the 1st Infantry Division, and played one last season in Pittsburgh in 1946. Van Robays is credited with naming Rip Sewell’s famous “eephus” pitch. After seeing it delivered, Van Robays commented that the pitch was eephus, using the Hebrew term for “nothing.”
|Maurice Van Robays – photo via Retro Archives|
- 1928 - OF David “Gus” Bell was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He came up with the Pirates, and between 1950-52 hit .270 with 40 HR. He was traded to the Reds after getting into Branch Rickey’s doghouse – Bell wanted his wife and kids with him on road trips and Rickey apparently didn’t like the precedent; he went on to win four All-Star berths with Cincy. He was called “Gus” by a cousin whose favorite player was a catcher, Gus Mancuso and the name stuck. Family Ties: Gus is Buddy’s father and the grandpa of David and Michael. David Bell hit for the cycle in 2004, joining Gus to become the only grampa/grandkid duo in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
- 1950 - Branch Rickey was featured in a Willard Mullin cartoon on the front page of The Sporting News for the story “Treasure Island,” shown plotting future Pirate moves on an X-marks-the-spot map. Unfortunately, the Bucs ran aground rebuilding during the Mahatma’s 1950-55 reign, although he is often credited with the minor-league spadework that fed the strong sixties clubs.
- 1955 - LHP Randy Niemann was born in Scotia, California. Drafted by the Yankees in 1975, the southpaw middle man tossed parts of eight big league seasons. Randy was in Pittsburgh briefly from 1982-83, getting into 28 games and going 1-2-1/6.24. He retired and immediately started working with the Mets, Red Sox and currently the Cards as primarily a pitching coach, serving at every level from Class A to the majors.
- 1970 - Josh Gibson, Ralph Kiner and Elroy Face were inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, with ceremonies held at the Penn-Sheraton in Philadelphia.
|Craig Hansen – 2008 Topps|
- 1983 – RHP Craig Hansen was born in Glen Cove, New York. A first round draft pick of Boston from St. John’s U, the closer was traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Jason Bay deal. He only appeared in five games for the Pirates before being diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, a condition that disrupts nerve signals between muscles. He lost his fastball and was released by Pittsburgh in 2011. He last tossed in 2012 while in the Mets system; now he’s a trader and real estate developer in New York.
- 1988 - The Pirates signed OF/1B Gary Redus as a free agent for two years at $500 K per campaign. Redus ended up spending five seasons with the Buccos as a solid contributor to the nineties pennant-winning clubs. He batted .255 during his Pirates time (.279 in 15 NLCS games) and served as a platoon/pinch hit bench bat who saw time at first base and in the corner outfield spots, also playing center in a pinch.
- 1994 – Mayor Tom Murphy announced that John Rigas, owner of Adelphia Cable, had reached an $85M agreement to buy the Pirates and keep the team in Pittsburgh. But MLB rejected Rigas’ offer to buy the Bucs in June because the bid didn’t include enough cash; it felt too much debt assumption was involved (in fact, Adelphia itself went bankrupt in 2002). So the City went to plan B, and Kevin McClatchy’s group ended up with the club in 1996 for $95M before Bob Nutting became the principal owner in 2007.
- 2010 – Clint Hurdle, former Colorado manager and current Rangers hitting coach, became the Pirates sixth field boss since 1992, replacing John Russell. Clint was the first skipper to guide the team to a playoff spot since Jim Leyland in 1992 when his club earned a wild card berth in 2013 while also snapping a record-setting 20-season losing streak and was in the playoffs for three straight years until the string was snapped in 2016. He held the post until the end of the 2019 campaign. Tom Prince managed the last game, and eventually the Pirates hired Derek Shelton for the post.
|Clint Hurdle – 2013 photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates|
- 2017 – The Pirates informed Rene Gayo, their Latin scouting director, that they would not renew his contract in 2018 after an MLB investigation found that he had taken money from a Mexican team while a Bucco birddog. Rene had been in controversial waters before with the Miguel Sano flap. The Latin coordinator since 2004, he signed players like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Elias Diaz and Edgar Santana to the Pirates.
- 2019 – Ben Cherington, 45, accepted the Pirates offer to become the new GM, replacing Neil Huntington, and was introduced formally a couple of days later in Pittsburgh. Cherington had worked for Boston and Toronto, and came with a mixed rep in the FA market but a solid record for developing players. On the same day, the Pirates continued with its “out with the old, in with the new” housecleaning by announcing that ass’t GM Kyle Stark had been let go; he had held the AGM position since 2007.
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