11/19: Groat-Cardwell; Lind-Johnston; Bonds MVP; Rosters Ruffled; In The Red; Good Guy Pops; Mickey To Sens; HBD Jonathan, Bobby, Manny, Stu, Elmer, Billys, Denny & Uncle Al
- 1847 – Albert “Uncle Al” Pratt was born in Allegheny City, now the North Side. Pratt was a pitcher who played for three top flight Pittsburgh indy teams, the Enterprise Club, The Allegheny Club and the Xanthus. The Civil War vet also tossed a couple of years for the professional Cleveland Forest Citys and then umpired afterward, but is best remembered locally as the skipper of the first major league club in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny, which joined the American Association in 1882. Uncle Al managed the club from 1882-83, going 51-56. He was also an organizer of the Union Association, and a part owner of the National League Pittsburgh club in 1890 during the Players League revolt. Uncle Al’s biggest moment came on May 4th, 1871, when in front of 200 fans, Pratt pitched in the first contest of the National Association, baseball’s initial pro circuit. His Forest City nine lost, 2-0, to Fort Wayne. He got his nickname, per Frederick Lieb, author of 1948′s “The Pittsburgh Pirates,” because of the affection the Pirates’ rooters had for him.
|Al Pratt – image via The Baseball Page|
- 1855 – LHP Denny Driscoll was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He tossed for four big league campaigns with a pair of seasons as an Allegheny sandwiched in the middle. He led the American Association with a 1.21 ERA in 1882 for Pittsburgh and was the opening day starter in ‘83. But after spinning over 530 innings for the North Siders, the wear showed and he worked barely 100 frames, making just 13 starts for Louisville the next year. He didn’t pitch in 1885 and there would be no comeback as he passed away at the age of 30 from consumption in ‘86.
- 1862 – OF Billy Sunday was born in Ames, Iowa. Sunday spent three seasons (1888-90) with the Alleghenys before being traded for two players and $1,100 as an early salary dump because the team was broke. He was a flashy outfielder and speedster, supposedly the fastest player of his era, but hit just .243 for Pittsburgh. His true calling was as an evangelical preacher, and from the turn of the century until his death in 1935 he was renown for preaching non-denominational Christianity across the country. He used his reputation as a ballplayer to promote his tent revivals during his early years of spreading the Good Word.
- 1895 – OF Billy Zitzmann was born in Long Island City (Queens County, New York). He began his six-year MLB run with 11 games for the Bucs in 1919, going 5-for-26 (.192). Billy last appeared in the show in 1929 for the Reds, the only other big league he played for over the rest of his career. He didn’t get the game out of his system until 1937, retiring at the age of 41 as a minor league player/manager, though he did take a couple of lengthy breaks in between campaigns.
- 1904 – RHP Elmer Tutwiler was born in Carbon Hill, Alabama. Elmer’s MLB resume consists of two games with the 1928 Pirates, during which he gave up a pair of runs in 3-2/3 IP. The 23-year-old was sent to the Southeastern League, and then spun his final four campaigns in the Western League, stepping off the rubber for good after the 1932 campaign.
|Stu Martin (Cards) – 1937 photo via Baseball Birthdays|
- 1912 – IF Stu Martin was born in Rich Square, North Carolina. He got his start with the Cardinals, earning an All-Star spot, and was sold to the Pirates for the 1941-42 campaigns after his stick began to wear down. He bounced back to hit .305, but struggled in ‘42, was sent to the minors and played his last season for the Cubs. He missed 1944-45 as a member of the Navy and like many guys who went to the service, Stu never made it back to the show but spent the rest of his ball-playing days in the minors. Martin retired after the 1948 season after three years as a player/manager. The decision was easy after he was beaned by Whitey Ford, who was a Class D pitcher at the time, costing him six weeks of his final campaign.
- 1938 – OF Manny Jimenez was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Manny was a solid minor league hitter and in parts of seven big league campaigns hit a respectable .272, but had a tough big-league row to hoe as a corner OF’er with an average glove and little power. He played for the Pirates in 1967-68, hitting .279, and dealt to the Cubs for RHP Chuck Hartenstein.
- 1945 – OF Bobby Tolan was born in Los Angeles. Bobby spent 13 years in the show and made a brief stop near the end of his big league trail in Pittsburgh, hitting .203 in 49 games during the 1977 season after being released in June by Philadelphia. He spent 1978 in Japan and came back for 25 games with San Diego in ‘79 before hangin’ up the spikes.
- 1960 – Mickey Vernon was plucked from Danny Murtaugh’s staff to become coach of the expansion Washington Senators. It was a homecoming for Mickey, who had played 14 years in DC and won a pair of batting crowns as a Senator. He managed there from 1961-63, with a career record of 135–227. He returned to the Pirates’ staff in 1964 and was a baseball nomad afterward, coaching for St. Louis, Los Angeles, Montreal and the Yankees. The former 1B managed at the AAA and AA levels of the minor leagues and served as a batting instructor in the KC Royals and NY Yankees’ farm systems before retiring in 1988 as a NY scout.
|Dick Groat – 1963 TSN All Stars|
- 1962 – Dick Groat was traded with LHP Diomedes Olivo to the St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Don Cardwell and IF Julio Gotay. Groat played five more years, making two All-Star teams, finishing second in the MVP vote in 1963, and won another World Series. Traded as part of a Joe Brown youth movement, Groat anticipated the deal, but wasn’t happy about it – he was born in Wilkinsburg – and didn’t associate with the team again until a 1990 reunion of the ‘60 champs.
- 1979 – Willie Stargell was recognized as a “Good Guy” at a luncheon in the Hilton by Gordon’s Gin Company, which presented him with a $10,000 check to fight Sickle Cell Anemia and sponsored a 12-city tour to raise funds and awareness to battle the disease. Among the speakers at his soiree were Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and Pittsburgh Mayor Dick Caligiuri. Willie had his wife Delores with him; that seemed only fair, as it was their 13th wedding anniversary.
- 1982 – LHP Jonathan Sanchez was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The lefty was a non-roster invite to camp in 2013 but when the team headed north, he had landed the #4 spot in the rotation. But what happened in Florida stayed in Florida in his case – he was rocked for seven HR in 13-2/3 IP (0-3/11.85) and after his appeal of a six-day suspension for hitting Allen Craig was denied in late April, he was done in Pittsburgh and MLB. Sanchez had a strong 2010 campaign for the Giants but couldn’t follow up during his final three seasons, giving up 124 ERs in 180 IP on 187 hits, of which 27 left the yard, and 127 walks. He has since signed minor league deals with the Dodgers, Cubs, Reds and Royals, last pitching in the US in 2014, and was last found tossing in Mexico in 2019.
- 1986 – Pirates president Malcolm Prine refused to divulge how much the Pirates had lost during the year, just saying that it was “…less than in the prior period…” when the Galbreaths owned the club, citing an ongoing audit. However, the Pirates reportedly lost $8M in 1985 and $10M in 1986, which was a big deal. The Bucs were under their first year of public-private ownership and started the year with $24M to play with from the investors; if the team burned through that before five years were up, the TRS lease could be invalidated and the team would be free to move on to greener pastures. Spoiler alert: they would somehow muddle through.
|Barry Bonds – 1990 Fleer|
- 1990 – LF Barry Bonds won the National League MVP in a runaway by taking the top spot on 23 of the 24 ballots cast to best teammate and runner-up Bobby Bonilla (.280/32/120). Bonds hit .301 with 23 HR, 114 RBI, and 52 stolen bases. The All-Star duo led the Pirates to 95 wins and a first place finish in the NL East, but Pittsburgh lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS. His victory gave the Pirates a clean sweep of the top NL individual honors, though, with MVP Bonds, Cy Young winner Doug Drabek and Manager of the Year Jimmy Leyland.
- 1992 – The Pirates traded 2B Jose Lind to the Kansas City Royals for LHP Dennis Moeller and RHP Joel Johnston. Chico was beset with personal problems and was out of baseball after the 1995 season. Johnston, once the Royals top prospect, had a solid 1993 season (2-4-2/3.38) but quickly faded and tossed his last MLB game in 1995; Moeller made 10 appearances for Pittsburgh (1-0/9.92) and those were his last big league outings.
- 2004 – The Pirates released vet IF Abraham Nunez along with OF JJ Davis (who was eventually traded to Washington), OF Tony Alvarez and 1B Carlos Garcia. They added seven youngsters to the 40-man: OF’s Nate McLouth, Rajai Davis & Chris Duffy; P’s Jeff Miller, Leo Nunez and Matt Peterson, and 1B Brad “Big Country” Eldred. They had earlier released pitcher Nelson Figueroa while hurlers Jason Boyd, Mark Corey, Jim Mann & Pat Mahomes all became free agents.
- 2010 – The Pirates DFA’ed LHP Zach Duke, 3B Andy LaRoche and IF Delwin Young to clear 40-man roster space for pitchers Michael Crotta, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos. Watson was the keeper, tossing for 11 seasons and earning an All-Star outing.
|Tony Watson – 2011 Bowman|
- 2021 – Ya need a scorecard! The Pirates added SS Liover Peguero and OFs Canaan Smith-Njigba, Jack Suwinski and Travis Swaggerty to the 40-man roster. They DFA’ed C Michael Perez to clear a final spot after releasing RHP Tanner Anderson, C Taylor Davis and INF/OF Phillip Evans earlier. Before that, the had Bucs outrighted IF Wilmer Difo, LHP Chasen Shreve and RHPs Chase De Jong, Connor Overton, Kyle Keller, Enyel De Los Santos and Shea Spitzbarth to AAA to create space for six pitchers returning from the 60-day IL – LHPs Steven Brault & Dillon Peters and RHPs Blake Cederlind, Jose Soriano, Duane Underwood Jr. & Bryse Wilson. The Pirates later added IF Diego Castillo to their 40-man and DFA’ed Soriano. RHPs Shelby Miller and Trevor Cahill, along with 1B/OF Yoshi Tsutsugo, became free agents after the World Series. All that movement left OF Cal Mitchell, 1B Mason Martin, LHP Omar Cruz and righties Cody Bolton, Tahnaj Thomas & Eddie Yean among the prospects who were left available for the Rule 5 draft, which ended up canceled after all that.
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