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12/5 Through the 1950s: Long, Fiddler, Westlake, Adams Deals; Lefty Drafted; Waner Released; HBD Bill, Pink, Snake & Frank

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  • 1868 - C Frank Bowerman was born in Romeo, Michigan. He spent a couple of his 15 pro seasons, 1898-99, in Pittsburgh, batting .265 while throwing out 49.5% of attempted base stealers and also playing 1B. But Bowerman had a hair-trigger temper, once giving manager Fred Clarke a shiner during a brawl, and incidents of that ilk led to a short stay in the Steel City. 
Snake Wiltse — 1902 photo via Library of Congress
  • 1871 – LHP Lewis “Snake” Wiltse was born in Bouckville, New York. He began his brief three-year stay in the show with Pittsburgh in 1901. Snake put up a line of 1-4/4.26 and was released in July, signing with the Philly Athletics. He also tossed for the Orioles and NY Highlanders before being sent down in May of 1903, then toiling in the minors through the 1910 campaign. Wiltse might have done better as a position player. His MLB line from the hill was 29-31/4.59, but at the plate he compiled a .278 lifetime BA; Baltimore played him at first, in the OF and even at second base once. Snake got his nickname in the minors thx to his twisty delivery. Wiltse family tree roots: Snake’s brother was George “Hooks” Wiltse, who pitched for 12 big-league seasons. Hooks featured a killer curve but earned his moniker because he caught everything as a fielder, showing off his great hooks (hands). 
  • 1872 - RHP Emerson “Pink” Hawley was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He tossed for Pittsburgh from 1895-97 with a slash line of 71-61-1/3.76. He was a workhorse, appearing in 56 games in 1895 while throwing 444-1/3 innings, both league-leading numbers. Pink was a stand up guy, once turning down a bribe to throw a game. But then again, he came from good stock. His ancestor was the noted essayist Major Joseph Hawley, who joined with Samuel Adams and James Otis, Jr., as a revolutionary leader during the Stamp Act/Boston Tea Party era. Pink is his given middle name; he was part of a set of twins, and his family, as the story goes, put a blue ribbon on his brother and a pink one on Emerson so they could tell them apart. Fact of the day: The ribbon color really didn’t mean much. Up until the baby boomers came along, baby’s clothes colors were either considered sex-neutral or if anything, the opposite of today, with pink for boys and blue for girls. 
  • 1922 – OF Bill Rodgers was born in Harrisburg. Bill was a wartime special – he played for the Bucs from 1944-45, got into three games and went 2-for-5 with one run scored. Rodgers was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1946, but never again made it to the majors, spending nine years on various farm clubs. 
Bill Rodgers – 1946 photo via Tailgating Jerseys
  • 1922 – The Pirates sent RHP Fred “Sheriff” Blake, OF Ray Rohwer and $15,000 to Seattle of the Pacific Coast League for IF Spencer Adams. After a year with Seattle, Blake went on to pitch for nine MLB seasons while Rowher became a PCL fixture, playing in the league through 1931. Adams spent a year in Pittsburgh (.250 BA in 56 AB) before being traded back to the PCL (Oakland this time), and later played three more big league seasons as a backup. 
  • 1940 - Paul Waner was released by the Pirates. The Hall of Fame OF’er played 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .340 with 2,868 hits, 1,627 runs and 1,309 RBI. A party hearty type, Waner was famous for his ability to hit hung over. He gave up the bottle for a year in 1938 at management’s request, and only hit .280, the first time he failed to reach .300+. Needless to say, the teetotaler experiment ended after that campaign. Another bit of lore was that the Bucs discovered he was nearsighted late in his career and made him wear glasses. He gave those up when he found the large fuzzy object he had been swinging at all those years turned into a small spinning BB that was nearly impossible to hit when he had his peepers on. Paul and his younger brother Lloyd (Little Poison), one of baseball’s premier sibling duos, set the career record for hits by brothers with 5,611. 
  • 1946 - The Bucs sent Johnny Hutchings and $35,000 to Oakland of the PCL for OF Wally Westlake. Wally spent 1947-51 as the Bucs starting outfielder, mostly in center and right, hitting .281 with one All-Star nod before being traded to St. Louis. He played through 1956, although he only had one strong season after he left the Pirates. It was a busy day; they also swapped LHP Al Gerheauser to the St. Louis Browns for IF Eddie “The Fiddler” Basinski. Al worked one more season and The Fiddler hit .199 for the Bucs in his final MLB campaign. Finally, they sold OF Tommy O’Brien to the Cards. He spent four years in the minors, then came back for parts (61 games total) of two final MLB tours in 1949-50. 
  • 1949 – The Bucs took LHP Paul LaPalme from the Boston Braves in the minor league draft. Lefty gave the Bucs four years of service, slashing 14-33-2/4.99 for the terrible Pirates clubs of the early fifties. LaPalme went to the Cards after the ‘54 season, and was converted to a reliever. He lasted three more years, and with better teams and a consistent role, put up a line of 10-12-11/3.29. 
Lefty LaPalme – 1952 Topps
  • 1951 - Pittsburgh purchased 1B Dale Long from the St. Louis Browns. After 10 games, he was released and the Browns reclaimed him. Then in December, they sold him back to the Bucs, who stashed him in the minors for three years while he smacked 91 dingers. In the next 2-1/2 years and 400 games, he was with the big club, banging out 64 long balls, including an eight-game homer streak in 1956, before being part of a trade with the Cubs in 1957.


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