- 1882 – The case of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys versus C Charlie Bennett was decided OTD. Prior to the 1882 season, Allegheny gave Bennett $100 to sign an agreement binding him to a future 1883 contract with the club. Instead, Bennett re-signed with the Detroit Wolverines, triggering the proceedings. The Western Pennsylvania District Court ruled in Bennett’s favor for several reasons, including restraint of trade and the lack of a concrete ‘83 contract agreed to by the parties. His case later was cited during the fight over the reserve rule during the 1889-1890 Players League battle. He played for the Wolverines for eight seasons, and they named their stadium after him. Charlie is also credited with the first chest protector; his was a cork-lined vest he wore under his jersey. Sadly, Bennett lost a foot and most of his other leg in 1894 when he was run over by a train. He ran a cigar store afterward but Motown still loved him; he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day for 30 straight years.
|1887 Alleghenys, the first Pgh NL team – photo Charles Gross & Co.|
- 1886 – The Alleghenys officially joined the National League, becoming the first franchise to make the jump from the American Association. The club made a reported profit of $160,000 in 1886 (per Wikipedia) and finished second in the AA, making the decision a no-brainer for the NL, which had a pair of franchises to replace. The 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys finished sixth in their first NL campaign with a 55-69 record. They played at Recreation Park that year and became unofficially known as the Pirates a few seasons later in 1891. (There was a season in 1890 when they were referred to as the “Innocents” because in the eyes of the local media, they played as if they were children who had never had seen a baseball, but Lou Bierbauer’s “piracy” changed that tag quickly enough). The Bucs, btw, date their history from the Alleghenys entrance into the NL, although the the franchise formed in 1882 and played in the American Association, a rival that was considered to be major league at the time, with the two league champions playing each other in the postseason from 1884-90 in loosely organized, albeit unofficial title bouts.
- 1896 - RHP Bill Hughes was born in Philadelphia. Bill got to toss just two MLB frames, working as a Bucco on September 15th, 1921 and giving up a run with two whiffs. But Hughes made his living as a mound workhorse despite his lack of big league time. He pitched for 20 minor league seasons for 11 teams from 1920-39, winning 302 games while taking the bump for 761 outings and 4,803-2/3 IP. Bill won 20 games or more twice and notched double-digit wins in 18 of his 20 farm campaigns before retiring at the age of 42.
- 1923 – RHP Roy Wise was born in Springfield, Illinois. The 20-year-old Wise worked three innings in two outings on back-to-back days in May with the Bucs in 1944. He gave up three runs on four hits with three walks and a whiff as his big league stat line. Wise was sent to Albany and appears to have continued his career in the Minnesota semi-pro leagues, a pretty active scene for town-based baseball in the late 40’s and 50’s.
|Rocky Nelson – 1961 Topps|
- 1924 - 1B Glenn “Rocky” Nelson was born in Portsmouth, Ohio. He got a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in 1951, left and then later returned to platoon with Dick Stuart from 1959-61. He hit .270 as a Pirate, and in the 1960 World Series went 3-for-9 with a Game Seven homer and two RBI. Rocky may have been a MLB journeyman, but he was a minor league terror. In 1958, Nelson was voted the International League’s MVP after winning the triple crown while with the Toronto Maple Leaf club. He was inducted into the IL Hall of Fame and later into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He earned his nickname the hard way according to SABR: while in the St. Louis Cardinals training camp, Whitey Kurowski bounced a ball off Nelson’s noggin during a pepper game without apparent effect and then added insult to injury by afterward anointing him Rocky after the misadventure.
- 1925 - Gene Mauch, long time MLB manager, was born in Salina, Kansas. He made a brief stop in Pittsburgh in 1947 as a 21-year-old infielder, batting .300 in 16 games after serving in the military for two years and spending another season in the Dodger farm system. His claim to fame was as a big league skipper/small ball advocate who won over 1,900 games (he lost over 2,000 times, too), though never claiming a pennant – his clubs finished one game shy of the flag three times during his four-team managing career that lasted from 1960-87.
- 1933 - RHP Curt Raydon was born in Bloomington, Indiana. Raydon had a strong 8-4/3.62 line in his 1958 rookie season, but never pitched in the show again. He came up with a sore arm after the campaign and was only able to toss 15 AAA games in 1959. In spring training of the following season, his arm pain continued, so Curt gave up baseball and became a policeman; we assume he learned to twirl his nightstick as a lefty.
- 1943 - LHP Jim Shellenback was born in Riverside, California. He was a seldom used reliever for the Pirates from 1966-67 and 1969, slashing 1-1-2/3.35 in 16 outings. He put together a nine-year career with some solid seasons for the Washington Senators, and afterward became a long-time minor league pitching coach for the Twins organization.
|Danny Murtaugh – 1948 Leaf|
- 1947 – The Bucs traded for 1B Johnny Hopp and 2B Danny Murtaugh, sending the Boston Braves C Bill Salkeld, RHP Al Lyons, and OF Jim Russell. Hopp played three years for the Pirates, hitting .310 but providing little power as a first baseman. Murtaugh’s career was stronger as a manager than player, but he started full-time around the infield in 1948, hitting .290, before finishing his playing career as a Bucco reserve in 1951. Russell spent four more MLB seasons with Boston and Brooklyn, Salkeld hit .248 in two Braves campaigns, and 1948 would be Lyons’ last big league season.
- 1949 – Despite hitting .310 with a league-leading 54 HR and 127 RBI, Ralph Kiner finished fourth in the NL MVP balloting. Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter won, placed and showed as Ralph was running against some pretty fast company.
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