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12/15 From 1960: Fryman, Francis Trades; Stairs, King, Leppert Sign; '03 Draft Debacle; '61, '71 Coaches; TV Ka-Ching

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  • 1961 – Though none of the players had signed a contract for 1962 yet, the Pirates did get the John Hancock of all seven of Danny Murtaugh’s coaches – Frank Oceak, Ron Northey, Sam Narron, Bill Burwell, Lenny Levy, George Sisler and Virgil Trucks – on agreements to return and keep the staff intact. 
  • 1962 – The Pirates shipped 30-year-old backup C Don Leppert to Washington for minor league righty Ron Honeycutt. It ended up a pretty minor deal; Leppert got into 123 games over two years for the Senators but hit only .207 while Honeycutt lasted two seasons longer in pro ball, never advancing past Class AA. 
  • 1964 - The Bucs sent P Earl Francis and OF Ted Savage to the St. Louis Cardinals in return for OF’s Ron Cox and Jack Damaska (from Beaver Falls HS). Francis sputtered through his last big league season while Savage was the only player that had any MLB impact, serving as a bench bat through the 1971 season. Neither of the players the Pirates received made it to the majors. 
Ted Savage – 1964 Topps
  • 1964 - ABC and MLB announced a two-year/$12M package for the rights to the Saturday Afternoon Game of the Week, with the pot being evenly divided among the clubs. The network loosened the blackout rule; it had previously been anywhere within a 50-mile radius of a big league city, but now would be limited to the hometowns of the two teams playing. Most teams were at least publicly ho-hum about competing with the televised games; the Pirates announced that they wouldn’t change any Saturday TV conflicts. It also marked the first time that TV money had been split even-steven, a boon to the lower-revenue franchises. 
  • 1967 - Pittsburgh traded for RHP Jim Bunning, sending the Phillies pitchers Woodie Fryman, Bill Laxton and Harold Clem along with IF Don Money, who became the Phils regular 3B until Mike Schmidt arrived and then was an All-Star with Milwaukee. Money had also been targeted by the White Sox, but the Pirates wanted RHP Joel Horlen in exchange, who Chi-town wasn’t about to surrender. Fryman lasted 18 years in the show and was twice named an All-Star. Bunning, who the Pirates hoped would be the veteran rotation piece to put them over the top in 1968, stayed in Pittsburgh for 1-1/2 seasons, slashing at 14-23/3.84. 
  • 1971 – Bill Virdon made his only new hire as Bucco manager by promoting Charleston Charlies skipper Joe Morgan to his staff as an infield/batting coach. He kept four of Danny Murtaugh’s assistants – Frank Oceak, Don Leppert, Don Osborn and Dave Ricketts – as members of his coaching gang. 
  • 1994 - 3B Jeff King turned down a chance to become a restricted free agent and instead opted to sign a one-year guaranteed deal with the Bucs for $2.16M, a 10% pay cut. He was coming off a sub-par year (.263/5 HR/42 RBI) and told Paul Meyer of the Post Gazette that “I was happy they (the Pirates) wanted me…I like it here and I wanted to stay.” 
Matt Stairs – 2003 Topps Home Field Advantage
  • 2002 – Well-traveled Matt Stairs (he played for three teams just in 2002) signed a one year/$900K contract with the Bucs, pending a physical (the official signing date was 12/18), and was penciled in as Craig Wilson’s platoon mate in right field. He had a strong season, hitting .292 with 20 HR despite just 305 AB, earning himself a three year/$3.55M contract with KC the following campaign. He retired after the 2011 season and joined another ex-Buc in the record books: Stairs played for more major-league teams (12) than any position player in big league history (technically, he was rostered on 13 teams but for just 12 franchises, as he played for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals). Octavio Dotel holds the record for pitchers and all players at 13 clubs. 
  • 2003 – The Pirates lost five players in the Rule 5 draft, 1B Chris Shelton, OF Rich Thompson, LHP Frank Brooks, RHP Jeff Bennett and 3B/OF Jose Bautista, for whom they traded RHP Kris Benson to get back in July, 2004. Oddly, the Pirates had three openings on the 40-man roster, but GM Dave Littlefield told local media that the need to add free agents to the lineup for next season was more important than keeping players the club believed would not make an immediate impact. The rest of baseball thought a bit differently as the five Pirate farmhands went in the first six picks of the draft. Littlefield also removed pitchers Duaner Sanchez and Matt Guerrier from the 40-man roster (and lost them to the Dodgers and Twins, respectively) to protect Mike Gonzalez and John Grabow.


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