11/16: Clemente, Groat MVPs; Vera Drive; Craig RoY; Jay's GG; Bye Buster; Catfish, Dale Rule 5; Uncle Al Booted; Van Haltren Sold; RIP Bucky; HBD Will, Brandon, Tim, Mark, Hector & Joe
- 1852 – IF Joe Quest was born in New Castle. Joe spent nine years in the show with a whistle stop with the Alleghenys in 1884, batting .209 in a dozen games for the North Side nine. Quest was a good glove, bad stick guy but he did leave a legacy: by some accounts, he coined the athletic malady called a charley horse. There are several versions; all include a gimpy-legged horse named Charley. The most widely cited tale is from The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, (tale attributed to OF Hugh Nichol): In 1906, Quest and some other members of the White Stockings spent an off day at the track where the players had gotten a tip that a horse named Charley was a “sure thing” in one of the races. All of the players except Quest placed bets on Charley. The horse had the lead in the race but pulled up lame around the final turn. Quest, who had been ribbed for not betting on the horse, retorted “Look at your Charley horse now.” The next day, while running to second base, Chicago outfielder George Gore pulled up with a strain, much as the horse had done. The incident prompted Quest to note “There’s your old Charley horse.” From that time, the players began using the term to refer to a sudden leg cramp or strain (via Wikipedia).
|GVH – 1909 image Harry Murphy/Sunday Oregonian|
- 1893 – OF George Van Haltren was sold to the New York Giants by the Pirates for $2,500 after coming to the Steel City the year before from Baltimore in return for future Hall of Famer OF/1B Joe Kelley, then a 20-year-old young gun, and $2,000. We’d guess that was probably a deal the Bucs would like to redo – GVH was coming off a .338 season in Pittsburgh and would put up a .321 BA over the next decade for the Giants. But he had gone through two seasons of lackadaisical play in 1891-92, and like most hitters of the era, took full advantage of the mound being moved to 60’6” in ‘92, so the Pirates chose to take the money. Still, it was a penny-wise, pound-foolish pair of moves, giving up two of the era’s better hitters in Kelley and Van Haltren for a $500 profit.
- 1894 – Manager Al Buckenberger of the Pirates was expelled briefly from the National League for being part of a group that attempted, without success, to revive the old American Association. Al was a major league manager for 10 years for Columbus, Pittsburgh, St. Louis & Boston, and also served as club president for the Bucs. The league suspension ended his Pirates association and he was replaced at the helm by player/manager Connie Mack in 1895.
- 1950 – The Pirates selected 1B/OF George “Catfish” Metkovich from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in the Rule 5 draft. The 29 year-old had six seasons of MLB ball under his belt, but had spent the 1950 season with the Seals. He had a decent run with Pittsburgh, hitting .276 in two seasons and some change before being flipped in 1953 as part of the Ralph Kiner trade. The lefty earned his nickname when he stepped on a catfish during a fishing trip and cut his foot, causing him to miss several games. The Bucs also selected 1B Dale Long, but released him after a handful of ‘51 games. He spent the next three years in the minors, putting together an MVP season in the Pacific Coast League in 1953. He rejoined the show in 1955, and entered the record books a year later by homering in eight straight games. Like Catfish, he lasted into his third campaign before being flipped with Lee Walls as part of the 1957 Dee Fondy/Gene Baker deal.
|Catfish – 1952 Topps|
- 1960 – NL batting champ (.325) Dick Groat was named NL MVP, beating out teammate Don Hoak 276-162. Also trailing him in the race were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks, all who had big years. Groat won despite losing the last three weeks of the season to a bad wrist, injured by a Lew Burdette pitch. Vern Law, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face and Smoky Burgess also received votes to place six Pirates among the Top Twenty finishers.
- 1966 – RF Roberto Clemente won the National League MVP, finishing ahead of LA Dodger ace Sandy Koufax (27-9/1.73 ERA/317 Ks) by a slim 218-208 count. Clemente had a slash of .317/29 HR/119 RBI and his strong play kept the Pirates in the hunt until the next-to-last day of the season. The Great One finished the year fourth in batting, 10th in home runs and second in runs batted in while The Left Arm of God had to find solace in taking home the Cy Young award. Matty Alou finished ninth in the tally while Gene Alley and Willie Stargell were among the top 20 vote getters; Bill Mazeroski also received some down-ballot love.
- 1970 – RHP Hector Fajardo was born in Michoacan, Mexico. Fajardo was purchased by the Pirates from the Mexico City Red Devils in 1989 and worked his way through the system. He showed swing-and-miss stuff and he struck out eight batters in his 6-1/3 innings when the Bucs called him up in 1991. Unfortunately, he also walked seven, gave up 10 hits and was traded to the Texas Rangers in September as part of the Steve Buechele package. Afterward, he was nagged by injuries and bounced back and forth between the show and the farm. He finished his pro career in 1998 in the Mexican League, where he coaches now. Fajardo was nicknamed “Senor Lluvia” or “Mr. Rain” because of the freaky number of games he was scheduled to start that were rained out.
- 1974 – RHP Mark Corey was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Corey tossed the final two years of a four-season run in the show at Pittsburgh in 2003-04, posting a line of 2-4/4.91 from the bullpen. He saved 112 games in 12 minor league campaigns, but never could close out a game in the majors, blowing his only MLB save opportunity in 2004.
|Buster – 1979 Topps|
- 1979 – RHP Bruce Kison, 29, left the Pirates and signed a five-year/$2,465,000 contract with the California Angels. Kison had spent nine years with the Bucs and was one of three players (Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillen were the others) left from both the ‘71 and ‘79 World Series clubs. He told the media he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, but “the door was closing” and he chose the Halos’ offer over that of the NY Yankees. It ended up a tough transition; Buster had surgery in 1980 and ‘82 as an Angel for different physical issues. He went to Boston in 1985 and closed out his career that season at the age of 35.
- 1982 – RHP Tim Wood was born in Tucson. After two years with Florida, Wood took a twisted trail that revolved around Pittsburgh. For 2011, he signed as a FA with Washington, was released, and inked a deal with the Bucs. He spent most of his time at Indy, was called up for 13 Pirates games with a line of 0-3/5.63 and then was sold to Texas. They released him at the end of the year and he re-signed with Pittsburgh, spending 2012 with Indianapolis. He was in the Twin system in 2013 and had late-season shoulder surgery, finishing his career.
- 1988 – RHP Brandon Cumpton was born in Augusta, Georgia. A depth starter, the Georgia Tech grad saw action as an injury replacement in 2013-14, going 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA. He was the ninth round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft, but his career was put on hold after various injuries starting with 2015 TJ surgery. He came back to work briefly in the minors in 2017 and then moved on to Toronto; he worked 2018-19 in the indie and Latin leagues.
- 1993 – SS Jay Bell broke Ozzie Smith’s 13-year Gold Glove reign by winning the Gold Glove; Dave Concepcion of Cincinnati in 1979 was the last senior circuit shortstop other than Smith to take the award. Bell won after leading MLB shortstops in fielding percentage (.986) and total chances (793) while making just 11 errors to Smith’s 19 during the season. Barry Bonds, in his first year as a Giant, won his fourth straight Golden Glove.
|Will Craig – 2021 image/AT&T SportsNet|
- 1994 – 1B Will Craig was born in Johnson City, Tennessee. He was the 2016 ACC Player of the Year for Wake Forest and drafted by the Bucs in that year’s first round (22nd overall). Will was a man without a settled position for a while before he settled in at first base, where he became a good glove man who showed 20-HR flashes of power at the plate. Craig got his first taste of the show in 2020 and was called up again the following season. He hit .217, made a Sports Center fielding gaffe chasing a runner and was later released, catching on in the Korean League. Craig spent 2022 at Wake Forest, working on completing his degree.
- 2001 – After hitting .310 with 13 homers and tying a pinch hit record with seven long balls, the Pirates Craig Wilson was selected to the Topps All-Rookie team at first base, as voted on by the managers. It was a pretty solid squad – the pitchers were CC Sabathia & Roy Oswalt, the other infielders were Albert Pujols, Jimmy Rollins & Alfonso Siriano, and the outfield featured Suzuki. The honor was hard-won, as Wilson only got into 88 games with just 35 starts; he served time at first, both corner OF spots, catcher and DH. He followed the trail blazed by 2B Warren Morris, who made the rookie all-star team in 1999.
- 2009 – Bucky Williams, who played black Pittsburgh baseball at virtually every level, passed away in Penn Hills at the age of 102. He took the field for the Keystone Juniors, Monarchs, Edgar Thompson, the Grays and the Crawfords along with many local sandlot teams, spending 22 years in the black major/minors. The infielder posted a .340 BA over the different pro levels, and when his ball playing days finally wound down, he switched lanes and umpired in the East End Little League. He managed all that while employed at US Steel as a ladle liner, retiring from his day job in 1971.
|Bucky – Pgh Monarchs, last R, first row|
- 2021 – Pittsburgh City Council, at the request of the Clemente family, renamed Oakland’s Roberto Clemente Drive (it winds past the old Forbes Field wall) to Roberto and Vera Clemente Drive. It was a recognition of the work of Roberto’s late wife who carried on the family philanthropy, serving as chairwoman of the Roberto Clemente Foundation and representing MLB as a Goodwill Ambassador. Vera passed away in November, 2019, at the age of 78.
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