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11/16 Through 1974: Clemente, Groat MVPs; Catfish Landed; Astray Trades; Al Ousted; HBD Mark, Hector & Charlie Horse Joe

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  • 1852 – IF Joe Quest was born in New Castle. Joe spent nine years in the show with a whistle stop with the Alleghenys in 1884, batting .209 in a dozen games for the North Side nine. Quest was a good glove, bad stick guy but he did leave a legacy: by some accounts, he coined the athletic malady called a charley horse. There are several versions; all include a gimpy-legged horse named Charley. The most widely cited tale is from The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, (tale attributed to OF Hugh Nichol): In 1906, Quest and some other members of the White Stockings spent an off day at the track where the players had gotten a tip that a horse named Charley was a “sure thing” in one of the races. All of the players except Quest placed bets on Charley. The horse had the lead in the race but pulled up lame around the final turn. Quest, who had been ribbed for not betting on the horse, retorted “Look at your Charley horse now.” The next day, while running to second base, Chicago outfielder George Gore pulled up with a strain, much as the horse had done. The incident prompted Quest to note “There’s your old Charley horse.” From that time, the players began using the term to refer to a sudden leg cramp or strain (via Wikipedia). 
  • 1893 - OF George Van Haltren was sold to the New York Giants by the Pirates for $2,500 after coming to the Steel City the year before from Baltimore in return for future Hall of Famer OF/1B Joe Kelley, then a 20-year-old young gun, and $2,000. We’d guess that was probably a deal the Bucs would like to redo – GVH was coming off a .338 season in Pittsburgh and would put up a .321 BA over the next decade for the Giants. But he had gone through two seasons of lackadaisical play in 1891-92, and like most hitters of the era, took full advantage of the mound being moved to 60’6” in ‘92, so the Pirates chose to take the money. Still, it was a penny-wise, pound-foolish pair of moves, giving up two of the era’s better hitters in Kelley and Van Haltren for a $500 profit. 
Al Buckenberger – 1889 Old Judge
  • 1894 – Manager Al Buckenberger of the Pirates was expelled briefly from the NL for being part of a group that attempted, without success, to revive the old American Association. Al was a major league manager for 10 years (Columbus, Pittsburgh, St. Louis & Boston) and also served as club president for the Bucs. The suspension ended his Pirates association and he was replaced at the helm by player/manager Connie Mack in 1895. 
  • 1950 - The Pirates selected 1B/OF George “Catfish” Metkovich from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in the Rule 5 draft. The 29 year-old had six seasons of MLB ball under his belt, but had spent the 1950 season with the Seals. He had a decent run with Pittsburgh, hitting .276 in two seasons and some change before being flipped in 1953 as part of the Ralph Kiner trade. The lefty earned his nickname when he stepped on a catfish during a fishing trip and cut his foot, causing him to miss several games. The Bucs also selected 1B Dale Long, but released him after a handful of games. He would return to the Pirates in ‘52, spend three years in the minors, and then join the show again in 1955, entering the record books a year later by homering in eight straight games. Like Catfish, he lasted through part of his third campaign before being flipped with Lee Walls as part of the Dee Fondy/Gene Baker deal. 
  • 1960 - NL batting champ (.325) Dick Groat was named NL MVP, beating out teammate Don Hoak 276-162. Also trailing him in the race were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks, all who had big years. Groat won despite losing the last three weeks of the season to a bad wrist, injured by a Lew Burdette pitch. Vern Law, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face and Smoky Burgess also received votes to place six Pirates among the Top Twenty finishers. 
  • 1966 - RF Roberto Clemente won the NL MVP, finishing ahead of Dodger ace Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73, 317 Ks) by a slim 218-208 count. Clemente hit .317 with 29 HR and 119 RBI. His strong play kept the Pirates in the hunt until the next-to-last day of the season. The Great One finished the year fourth in batting, 10th in home runs and second in runs batted in while Sandy had to find solace in taking home the Cy Young award. Matty Alou finished ninth in the tally while Gene Alley and Willie Stargell were among the top 20 vote getters; Bill Mazeroski also received some down-ballot love. 
Hector Fajardo – 1991 Classic Best (Augusta)
  • 1970 - RHP Hector Fajardo was born in Michoacan, Mexico. Fajardo was purchased by the Pirates from the Mexico City Red Devils in 1989 and worked his way through the system. He showed swing-and-miss stuff and when the Bucs called him up in 1991, he struck out eight batters in his 6-⅓ IP. Unfortunately, he also walked seven, gave up 10 hits and was traded to Texas in September as part of the Steve Buechele deal. He bounced back and forth between the show and the farm, nagged by injuries, and returned to the Mexican League in 1998. He retired and coaches in the ML now. Fajardo was nicknamed “Senor Lluvia” or “Mr. Rain” because of the freaky number of games he was scheduled to start that were rained out. 
  • 1974 - RHP Mark Corey was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Corey tossed the final two years of a four-season run in the show at Pittsburgh in 2003-04, posting a line of 2-4/4.91 from the bullpen. He saved 112 games in 12 minor league campaigns, but never could close out a game in the majors, blowing his only MLB save opportunity in 2004.


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