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12/19 Through the 1960s: Kline Signs; Flop of the Year; Russ To the Show; Early DH; HBD Mike, Obie, Eddie, Lou & Artie

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  • 1887 – IF Artie Butler (Bouthillier) was born in Fall River, Massachusetts. Art hit .277 in two Bucco seasons (1912-13) before moving along to the Cards. His claim to fame is a bit on the macabre side – he was the last living teammate of legendary pitcher Cy Young before passing on in 1984. 
Art Butler – 1914 photo/George Bain
  • 1891 - It may be a surprise to the dyed-in-the-wool NL fans of the Steel City, but a Pirates honcho, William Temple (president and part-owner) was the first documented proponent of the DH. The Sporting Life wrote that “President Temple, of the Pittsburgs, brought up the question as to what disposition should be made of the pitcher in the batting order. (He) favored the substitution of another man to take the pitcher’s place at the bat when it came his turn to go there.” The magazine added that “Every patron of the game is conversant with the utter worthlessness of the average pitcher when he goes up to try and hit the ball. It is most invariably a trial, and an unsuccessful one at that.” Temple brought the matter up during the 1892 preseason gathering of the NL nabobs, but it lost in a close vote. (S/O John Thorn “Our Game” blog) 
  • 1898 – RHP Lou Koupal was born in San Gabriel, California. He began his MLB odyssey with the Pirates in 1925-26 and slashed 0-2/5.02. He was shipped back to the farm, came back and worked three more years in the league, then took a seven year hiatus before closing out his career in 1937. Fun fact from the Baseball Junk Drawer: He was one of six 1929 Brooklyn Robins who had been members of the championship 1925 Pirates team, along with Max Carey, Johnny Gooch, Eddie Moore, Johnny Morrison and Glenn Wright. 
  • 1915 – OF Eddie Yount was born in Newton, North Carolina. Eddie was a Wake Forest grad and minor league lifer, starting in 1937 and hanging in there until 1951 when he was 35. He got seven at-bats with the Philadelphia A’s in 1937 with two knocks and two more cuts for the Pirates in 1939 (he struck out both times). He then spent the rest of his time on the farm with a three-year break during WW2, serving with the 12th Armored Division Hellcats. 
  • 1917 - RHP Ray Poat was born in Chicago. Mainly a reliever, Ray spent six campaigns in the show around a couple of years in the military during the war. He finished his career in 1949 at Pittsburgh, making 11 appearances with a line of 0-1/6.25, after arriving in June as part of the Kirby Higbe deal. He was pitching with a bum wing and had surgery after the season, but it was a recurring woe and he retired to the life of a chemist (he was an Illinois grad). Fun fact: In 1947, Poat became the first MLB player to swat a season cycle, which is collecting just four hits in a year but with one of each flavor – single, double, triple and home run. 
Obie O’Brien – 1943 photo via Out of the Park Developments
  • 1918 - OF/3B Tommy “Obie” O’Brien was born in Anniston, Alabama. O’Brien was a three-time All State football player and enrolled at the University of Tennessee, but opted for baseball. He started his MLB career as a Pirate, hitting .301 between 1942-45, toiled in the minors from 1946-48 and returned to the show in 1949-50 with Boston and Washington. His shining moment came in 1943 when he had seven consecutive hits in a doubleheader against the NY Giants. 
  • 1938 – In a poll of writers by the Associated Press, the Pirates were selected as the biggest disappointment in sports for the year, edging out the Rice Owls football team. The Pirates had a seven game edge on September 1st and were up 3-1/2 games after September 22nd, but dropped six of their final seven games to finish the season two games behind the Cubs after losing the famous “homer in the gloaming” game. The Bucs went 28-26 in the final two months of the season while the Cubs rampaged through September, winning 21 of their last 26 games. 
  • 1957 – RHP Ron Kline became the first Pirate to sign for the ‘58 campaign when he was inked for an undisclosed amount. He had a Jekyll and Hyde 1957 season – he was 2-15/4.82 through July, then ditched his knuckleball and went 7-1/1.44 from August onward. He went on to have a workmanlike 1958, going 13-16/3.53. The Callery Kid (Callery in Butler County was where he was born) was traded to the Cards after the 1959 campaign, returning to the fold as a reliever in 1968-69 near the end of his 17-year career. 
  • 1964 - RHP Mike Fetters was born in Van Nuys, California. The veteran reliever tossed 16 major league seasons for eight clubs, spending 2001-02 with the Pirates and slashing 2-1-8/3.75. He’s often remembered for his odd motion; before he delivered the ball, he took a deep breath and turned his head 90 degrees, a move he came up with to counter the stress of pitching. 
Mike Fetters – 2002 Upper Deck 40-Man
  • 1967 – Russ Goetz got his call to the bigs. The McKeesport native’s dream wasn’t to play but umpire MLB games, and at age 37, he finally got his chance. He took full advantage, too – he wore the blue for the AL from 1968 to 1983, arbitrating 2,384 games in a 16-year career. Russ worked two World Series (1973, 1979), two All-Star Games (1970, 1975) and four ALCS (1970, 1974, 1977, 1981). He was one of the last handful of umps still using the old school exterior chest protector when he retired.


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