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12/24: Bell For Crowe/Yean; Barkley Brouhaha; Pops/Terry SI Cover; Dappers Syd & Dick; Forbes Field Flames; Logo Is A Go; HBD Tim, Victor, Frank, Eppa, Tex & Del

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  • 1877 - OF George “Del” Howard was born in Kenney, Illinois. Del (short for his middle name, Elmer) spent his 28-year-old, 1905 rookie season as a Pirate after he was pried from the Phils for Kitty Bransfield, Otto Krueger and Moose McCormick. He had his best campaign, hitting .292 while playing 1B, OF and even pitching once before being flipped to Boston as part of the deal for Vic Willis. He spent four more years in the majors, twice appearing with the powerhouse Cub clubs that won the World Series of 1907-08. Howard trivia: Not only was Del born on Christmas Eve, but he also passed away on 12/24 at the age of 79 in 1956. 
  • 1885 – The St. Louis Browns sold the rights of infielder Sam Barkley to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for $1,000. It wasn’t an easy deal to consummate. In March, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe offered Barkley around the league for $1,000. Barkley, in the meantime, signed an undated contract with the Baltimore Orioles after von der Ahe had already inked his deal with the Alleghenys’ owner, Denny McKnight. The American Association threw a snit and suspended Barkley for not honoring his Oriole contract, finally settling out of court with a fine replacing the suspension. As part of the penance, Baltimore was sent 1B Milt Scott by the Alleghenys, so it ended up a costly trade + cash transaction (the fine) for McKnight. Barkley played well in 1886, hitting .266 with 31 doubles and 22 stolen bases. He faded the following campaign, batting just .224, and after the season was sold to the Kansas City Cowboys. After his career in baseball ended after the 1889 season, Sam became a cigar maker. He passed away at the age of 53 in his hometown of Wheeling. 
Sam  Barkley – 1886 Alleghenys program
  • 1899 - C Fred “Tex” Burnett was born in Houston. Burnett was a backup catcher and sometime starter for at least 14 different black teams (talk about your journeyman!) during the 20s & 30s, including the Pittsburgh Keystones, Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He briefly managed the Newark Eagles in 1937, and took over the Black Yankees in 1940. 
  • 1910 - LHP Lloyd “Eppa” Johnson was born in Santa Ana, California. Eppa tossed for a dozen years in the minors and earned a stat line and baseball card in 1934 when he got to work a scoreless inning for the Buccos against the Reds. He hung ‘em up after 1941 after he was shuffled among three different farm clubs. 
  • 1939 - The Pirates President Bill Benswanger announced a uniform change. They eliminated the script “Pirates” across the chest and replaced it with a Buccaneer logo on the left breast, the first time the yo-ho-ho team emblem was worn on a Bucco jersey. 
  • 1949 – Frank Taveras was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. The SS spent eight years (1971-72, 1974-79) with the Pirates as a top-of-the order guy, swiping 206 bases with a streak of four seasons with 44+ steals, including an NL-leading 70 in 1977. But his bat (.253), OBP (.306) and not-so-steady glove work made him expendable and he was sent to the Mets in April of 1979 for Tim Foli, a dependable fielder and two-hole contact hitter that helped jell the World Series infield. Taveras played three seasons in NY, then spent his final year (1982) with Montreal. 
  • 1957 – Pirates SS Dick Groat outpolled Steelers coach Buddy Parker 16-13 to win the 1957 Dapper Dan Man of the Year Award after batting .315 during the season. It was presented to the Swissvale native on January 19th at the charity’s annual dinner funder. The honor marked the second straight MoY recognition for the Bucs; Dale Long was the 1956 recipient. 
Victor Cruz – 1982 Fleer
  • 1957 - RHP Victor Cruz was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. Cruz came to Pittsburgh as part of the Bert Blyleven deal. He lasted one season here, and tossed pretty well in 22 games going 1-1/2.65 as a bridge man before he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1982 for Nelson Norman. As it ended up, Cruz was the most effective Pirates asset of the trade that shipped out Blyleven, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher with 11 big-league seasons left in the tank, demonstrating that GM Harding Peterson could blow a deal as well as any Bucco exec. 
  • 1964 - RHP Tim Drummond was born in La Plata, Maryland. Tim was signed by the Pirates after being chosen in the 12th round of the 1983 draft out of the College of Southern Maryland. He worked for the Bucs in 1987, making six outings/six IP with no decisions and a 4.50 ERA. Drummond worked 1989-90 with the Twins, ending his MLB career. 
  • 1970 – There was a fire in the right field stands of the vacated Forbes Field. The damage this blaze caused, followed by a July 1971 fire, hastened the old ball yard’s demolition. The Christmas Eve blaze became a five-alarm fire when Pitt security guards couldn’t find the keys to the center-field gate, delaying the firefighter’s entry to the ballpark. 
  • 1979 – The famous Willie Stargell/Terry Bradshaw cover issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands when the pair were named co-Sportsmen of the Year. Willie led his team to the World Series title and Terry & the Steelers won the Super Bowl, with both being named MVP. 
  • 1987 – Syd Thrift was given an early Christmas present when he was named the “Sportsman of the Year” by the Dapper Dan Club, awarded to him at their annual banquet in February. The glow wore off quickly as he was ousted after the 1988 season, but he helped lay the groundwork for the success of Jim Leyland’s early 1990’s teams. 
  • 2020 – 1B Josh Bell, 28, was traded to the Washington Nationals for minor league prospects RHP Wil Crowe and RHP Eddy Yean. Crowe, 26, was Nats’ #3 prospect, and Yean, 19, was #6 on the DC list. Bell was an All-Star who was en fuego during the first half of 2019, but faded badly in the backstretch and hit just .233 in 2020, and his defense left much to be desired. DC was hoping for him to rebound as a middle-of-the-order bat, and in ‘21 he hit .261 with 27 HR. Crowe was considered a potential back-end starter (he went 4-8/5.48 in 25 Bucco starts in 2021) while Yean hasn’t worked beyond A ball, and though he was treated roughly at Bradenton as a 20-year-old, he’s projected as a potential mid-rotation arm.


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