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1/9: Gomez, Grimes Deals; Heredia, Burnitz, Osik, Wikerson, Garcia Signed; Dreyfuss' Folly; RIP Dirt; HBD Ed & Lady

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  • 1868 - LHP Harley “Lady” Payne was born in Windsor, Ohio. He closed out his fourth MLB campaign in 1899 as a Pirate, going 1-3/3.76. Harley had been a workhorse for Brooklyn from 1896-97 (he was their Opening Day pitcher in ‘87), making 74 appearances (66 starts) and going 522 IP but only tossed six games the next two seasons before leaving baseball to work his farm. 
  • 1872 – SS Ed Spurney was born in Cleveland. Ed’s MLB career consisted of three 1891 games as a 19-year-old for Pittsburgh, where he held up OK – he went 2-for-7, walked twice, scored twice and handled 8-of-9 chances in the field. He was part of a rotating crew auditioning for the job as the Pirates played several guys at the spot in ‘91 until Frank Shugart claimed the position in July while Spurney was sidelined with a bum arm. 
Busy place in 1909 – Singer Company Post Card
  • 1910 – Dreyfuss’ Folly, Forbes Field, drew some raves from the local press after a busy debut season. The Pittsburgh Press noted that “…from its opening to the end of football season, Forbes Field drew nearly one million fans…nothing even approaching this record was ever made at any other athletic venue.” Half the crowd was attracted by baseball; the remainder filled the seats for football, track meets, hippodrome events, police drills, and even a Communion service as the Oakland ballyard quickly became Pittsburgh’s big-event host.
  • 1918 – The Pirates traded RHP Burleigh Grimes to the Brooklyn Robins along with RHP Al Mamaux & SS Chuck Ward for 2B George Cutshaw & OF Casey Stengel, who was making his second stop at Pittsburgh. Hall of Famer Grimes went on to win 158 games in nine seasons with Brooklyn. The Bucs top prize was Cutshaw, who manned second for Pittsburgh for four years, hitting .275 and providing solid up-the-middle defense. Stengel battled owner Barney Dreyfuss over salary, joined the Navy for a short stint and then was traded to Philadelphia in August of 1919 after playing 128 games in his return tour with the Buccos. 
  • 1987 - 2B Carlos Garcia, 19-years-old, was signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent. He spent most of his 10-year MLB career with Pittsburgh after debuting in 1990 as a September call up. Garcia batted .278 in his seven Bucco campaigns and earned one All-Star nod before he was traded to Toronto after the 1996 season. After he retired, Carlos coached first base for a season for the Pirates and managed in the Buc system for four more years. 
  • 1991 – The Pirates and backup IF Curtis Wilkerson agreed to a one-year/$400K deal w/incentives. He replaced lost FAs Rafe Belliard, who signed with the Braves in December for two-years/$900K, and Wally Backman, who inked a contract with the Phillies a day later for two years/$1.3M. Wilkerson hit .188 in 85 games and moved on to Kansas City following the season. 
Curtis Wilkerson – 1992 Score
  • 2001 - C Keith Osik avoided arb by signing a two-year deal worth $1.3M, with $675K due this season and the remainder in 2002. The five-year vet also played first, third and pitched in mop-up roles, and GM Cam Bonifay said of the signing that “He’s proven his flexibility. He’s a very important member of our club.” In 111 games over that two-year span, Osik hit .186 with an OPS+ of 38 and was allowed to walk after the contract ended, signing with Milwaukee. 
  • 2006 - 37-year-old OF Jeromy Burnitz was officially signed to the Pirates richest free agent contract to date, a $6M deal with a 2007 mutual option also worth $6M w/$700K buyout. Burnitz had been the Pirates top FA target the year before, but he turned down their $4.25M bid after the Cubs offered $5M. They almost missed on this go-around, too – the Orioles offered two-years/$12M, but Jeromy disagreed with some of the contract language and passed on the deal. It was a pyrrhic victory for the Pirates. He hit .258 w/24 HR in the Windy City in 2005 but just .230 w/16 HR for Pittsburgh in 2006, and the Bucs didn’t renew his contract. Burnitz then announced his retirement after 14 big league seasons during which he logged 315 HR and 981 RBI while playing for seven teams. 
  • 2013 – The Indians traded RHP Jeanmar Gomez to Pittsburgh for OF Quincy Latimore. Gomez was effective in a long role for a couple of seasons (5-2-1/3.28 in 78 appearances) before signing with the Phillies in 2015. He went to the White Sox in 2018, played a bit for the Rangers the following campaign and has been out of MLB since then, while Quincy bounced around the minors and Latin leagues, sat out 2020 and played indie ball in ‘21. 
  • 2014 – Steve “Dirt” DiNardo, who had been the head groundskeeper at Three Rivers Stadium after starting out as a part-timer at Forbes Field in 1961 before retiring in 1994, passed away at the age of 82. Dirt was noted for his tricks, once alleged to have lowered the bullpen mounds of the visiting Cincinnati Reds, with similar feats of homerism on behalf of the Steelers. 
Guillermo Heredia – 2020 photo/Pirates
  • 2020 – The Bucs signed free agent OF Guillermo Heredia, who was soon to turn 29, to a one-year/undisclosed salary deal and released Pablo Reyes to clear a 40-man spot. Speedster Heredia played as a fourth outfielder for Seattle and Tampa, where he was a strong defensive corner player and adequate CF, but not-so-strong batter with a lifetime .240 BA (82 OPS). The Cuban-born OF’er, who was DFA’ed by the Rays, was inked to bolster the Pirates at a thin position, especially after the trade of Starling Marte. Alas, he hit .188, and in August was waived and claimed by the Mets, moving on to the Atlanta Braves in 2021.


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