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1/8: Hernandez, Taveras, Mueller Signed; Goose Voted Into the HoF; RIP Kitten; HBD Bo, Augie, Twitch, Walker & John

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  • 1864 – SS John Gilbert was born in Pottstown, PA. His big league career lasted a day. John played both ends of a doubleheader for the Alleghenys against the Phils on June 23rd, 1890, going 0-for-8 with the bat but playing a clean game in the field during the split. His brother Harry was his teammate up the middle, and that twin bill was his only major league time, too. They did make club history as the first bro teammates of the Alleghenys/Pirates franchise. 
Walker Cooper – 1954 Dan Dee
  • 1915 – C Walker Cooper was born in Atherton, Missouri. Walker had a long and strong 18-year MLB career, starting off with and finishing as a Card with five other clubs in between, spending 14 games as a Bucco in 1954 and going 3-for-15 at age 39. He was released and went to the Cubs. After retiring after the 1957 campaign (he hit .285 as a reserve after leaving Pittsburgh), he explained “it’s time to quit when you’ve got a daughter old enough to marry a teammate” after his girl Sara was wed to 2B Don Blasingame. He spent four years as a minor league skipper and big league coach before he got baseball out of his system. Sibs of a feather: His brother Mort pitched for 11 MLB seasons and won 20+ games for three years in a row before arm injuries befell him. He and Walker were Cardinal teammates; both held out for bigger contracts in 1945 and both were gone before the next season. 
  • 1921 – OF Marv “Twitch” Rickert was born in Longbranch, Washington. Marv put together a six-year MLB run (mostly as a fourth outfielder-type, getting into 100+ games three times) with three years lost to the service. He came over to the Pirates in 1950 after being bought from the Boston Braves, went 3-for-20 and was sold to the Chicago White Sox in late May, where he finished out the year and his career. Twitch earned his nickname because he was always full of energy and loved pulling clubhouse and off-the-field shenanigans. Fun fact: Rickert was one of the earliest, if not the first, major-leaguer to use a batting glove when he began wearing a golf glove while batting as a Brave. 
  • 1934 – IF Gene Freese was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. Augie went to Wheeling Central HS and West Liberty State College, spending two stints (1955-58, 64-65) and six years with the Bucs. Mostly a reserve with Pittsburgh, he hit .247 as a Pirate, though while between Bucco rosters, he started at third for three years at Cincinnati, hitting 26 homers in 1961 and helping the Reds to their first NL flag in years. After he retired, Freese settled near New Orleans where he ran a sports bar. Freese had a history of issuing nicknames; he claimed to have given Pete Rose his “Charlie Hustle” moniker. Gene had his own alias hung on him in 1955 thanks to Ebbets’ Field PA announcer Tex Ricard, who was noted for confusing names and introduced him in his first MLB game as Augie. Tex had been mischievously misinformed by the Pirates players, inspired by plate umpire Augie Donatelli, that Gene’s name was Augie. 
Ray Mueller – undated George Burke photo
  • 1939 - C Ray Mueller, for whom the Pirates had sent Johnny Dickshot, Al Todd and $30,000 to Boston in December, signed his contract for an undisclosed amount. He was supposed to take over the backstop position for the Pirates, but instead became part of a three-headed platoon with Ray Berres and George Susce. Spud Davis and Al Lopez donned the tools in 1940, and Mueller was optioned to Rochester of the International League after hitting .235 as a Pirate. He would return with a vengeance, though, taking off in 1943 as an ironman catcher for the Reds for the next few campaigns. He did return to Pittsburgh in 1950 as a 38-year-old bench piece for a season. 
  • 1968 - Pirates Latino scout Howie Haak signed 19-year-old Dominican SS Frank Taveras to a Pittsburgh contract, sealed by a $3,500 bonus. Frank debuted in 1971, but mostly tread water in the minors through 1973. In 1974, he took over the shortstop job full time from Dal Maxvill & Gene Alley, and started at the position until 1979, when he was traded to the Mets for Tim Foli. Taveras hit .253 as a Bucco and stole 206 sacks, with a league-leading 70 swipes in 1977. 
  • 1969 - RHP Brian Boehringer was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The reliever closed out his 10-year MLB career in Pittsburgh between 2002-04, with a Bucco slate of 10-9-1/4.36. He had a sharp 2002 season, making 70 appearances and pitching to a 3.39 ERA, but couldn’t keep up the pace during his final two campaigns. After several minor league/indie stops, he retired after the 2006 campaign and went to work as a scout for the D-Backs. 
  • 1994 - LHP Harvey “The Kitten” Haddix passed away in Springfield, Ohio, at the age of 68 from emphysema; he had been a heavy smoker. The Kitten – he was Harry “The Cat” Brecheen’s protege at St Louis – tossed from 1958-63 for the Pirates, winning two WS games in 1960 and tossing what many consider the best game ever, going 12 perfect innings in 1959 against the Braves before losing, 1-0, in the 13th. He helped himself on the field with his mitt, earning three Golden Gloves. After retiring following the 1965 campaign, Harvey served as the major league pitching coach of the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Pirates. 
Jose Hernandez – 2004 Fleer Tradition
  • 2007 - The Pirates brought back utility man Jose Hernandez, who they had sold to the Phillies late in the 2006 campaign after he had hit .267 for the Buccos, as a FA. Jose’s homecoming didn’t have a storybook ending as he was a late cut in camp and was stashed at Indy, marking the end of his MLB career. 
  • 2008 – In his ninth year on the BBWAA’s ballot, Rich “Goose” Gossage was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame. During Goose’s 22-year career, he compiled a 124-107 record, saved 310 games, and posted a 3.01 ERA. He spent 1977 as a Pirate, going 11-9-26 with a 1.62 ERA and 151 K in 133 IP. Goose was inducted on July 27th.


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