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12/1 From 1960: S-Rod, Tenace, Wills, Alou Deals; Abe, KY Sign; DD Departs; Rumors; Minor Moves; RIP Tommy & Gene; HBD Reggie

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  • 1960 – The Pirates made some minor league changes: they dropped their second AAA club, Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, moving all their upper level prospects to Columbus of the International League. Then they moved their A team from Savannah to Asheville (Sally League) and shifted from Dubuque to Batavia in Class D (NY-Pennsy League). That fit in with development cuts that reduced the Bucs minor league system from 14 teams to seven under Joe Brown’s regime. 
Matty Alou – 1966 East Hills SC promo
  • 1965 – The Bucs traded for Giants’ CF Matty Alou, who was coming off a .231 season, sending LHP Joe Gibbon and IF Ozzie Virgil to the Bay. Alou played five seasons in Pittsburgh, promptly winning a batting crown in 1966 and putting up four straight .330+ years after manager Harry “The Hat” Walker retooled his batting approach. He finished in the NL’s top five in hitting from 1966-69. In 2007, the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame inducted Alou into their Hall of Fame after he finished his 15 year career with a .307 BA. 
  • 1966 – The Pirates sent 3B Bob Bailey and SS Gene Michael to the Dodgers for SS/3B Maury Wills. Wills hit .290 and stole 81 bases for the Bucs in his two seasons as the club’s third baseman. He was lost in the 1968 expansion draft during a Pirates youth movement, played a year with Montreal and then closed out his career where he started it, in Los Angeles. The highly-hyped Bailey had been signed out of Wilson High School in Long Beach in 1961, and was given the largest signing bonus ever paid up to that time, a reported $135,000, by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Michael was 28 and didn’t find a groove in LA, but went on to become the Yankees’ starting shortstop for five years (1969-73) and played until age 37 before going on to a managerial career. 
  • 1967 – OF Reggie Sanders was born in Florence, South Carolina. Reggie played 17 solid seasons in the show and his 2003 stay in Pittsburgh was excellent as he hit .285 with 31 homers and 87 RBI. The Pirates had signed the 35-year-old to a one-year/$1M contract and he doubled it the next season by jumping to the Cards. Sanders played into the 2007 campaign, before bowing out at age 39 by playing for his eighth team, the Kansas City Royals. 
  • 1970 – The Pirates were set to send SS Gene Alley and C Jerry May to Milwaukee for RHP Marty Pattin, but reports concerning Alley’s sore arm caused the Brewers to back out of the deal. Alley had played with a bad wing since 1967, and the constant wear and tear through the seasons eventually led to his retirement after the 1973 campaign. The light-hitting May was moved the next day, going to KC in a six-man deal. Pattin went on to have his best season as a starter in 1971 and won 10 games or more five times in the next seven years. 
Big Red – 1973 Topps
  • 1972 – Manager Bill Virdon announced from the winter meetings in Honolulu that Willie Stargell, who had moved from left field to first base in July of the prior season (101 games played with a league-leading 15 errors) to replace a cold-hitting Bob Robertson, would stay at the position while Big Red would get work at the corners and left field. It didn’t quite work out that way; Robby did start 32 games playing LF/3B, but got 106 starts at first while Willie played exclusively in left (CF Al Oliver got 99 games in at first in 1973-74). Roberto Clemente’s tragic death created an outfield void that Manny Sanguillen and then Richie Zisk tried to fill in right while Willie provided stability in left. Dave Parker’s emergence allowed Zisk to flip to left in 1975 and Pops with his creaky knees finally made the move to become the Buccos’ full-time first-sacker at age 35. Other news from the winter get-together: Commissioner Bowie Kuhn confirmed that the 1974 All-Star Game would be held in Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium. 
  • 1982 – The Pirates inked 36-year-old FA Gene Tenace to a multi-season deal, thought to be two years/$400K. He was brought aboard as a replacement for Willie Stargell, who was Jason Thompson’s back-up/bench bat during Pop’s last campaign. Gene got into 53 games in 1983, batted .177, and Pittsburgh ate the second year of the agreement. 
  • 1989 – Kent Derdivanis was named as John Sanders replacement in the KDKA booth, joining Lanny Farattare on the play-by-play along with color men Steve Blass and Jim Rooker after signing a two-year contract. He worked for Pittsburgh through the 1993 season before returning to his home base in Arizona. Sanders, who spent nine years as the voice of the Buccos, later landed a deal in Cleveland and was their announcer from 1991-2006. 
  • 1992 – 30-year-old RHP Doug Drabek signed with the Houston Astros, agreeing to a four-year/$19.5M contract. It was a homecoming for DD, who was born in Texas, attended Victoria HS and the U of Houston, and lived in the suburb of The Woodlands. Bobby Bonilla had left the year before and Barry Bonds would sign with the Giants a week later, losing the Big Three of the Pirates’ pennant teams with no return and beginning a long-running baseball soap opera in Pittsburgh. 
Kevin Young – 1998 Donruss Studio
  • 1997 – The Pirates signed 1B Kevin Young to a two-year/$3.7M contract after he hit .300 and led the team in homers (18) and RBI (74) during the season despite missing 35 games with a thumb injury. KY spent the next five years as a starter for Pittsburgh, mainly at 1B, and hit .263 with 103 homers in that span. Young spent 11 of his 12 MLB seasons in Pittsburgh, and still serves as a special instructor. 
  • 1999 – Gene Baker passed away in Davenport, Iowa, at the age of 74. The backup infielder spent the last four years of his MLB career with the Bucs, capped by the 1960 World championship. He retired after that year, and Baker became the first African-American manager in organized baseball when the Pirates named him skipper of their Batavia Pirates farm club in the New York–Penn League. In 1962, the Pirates named him player-coach of the AAA Columbus Jets. In 1963, Baker was promoted to coach with the Bucs. He was the second black coach in the big leagues, following Buck O’Neil by a half-season. Gene then closed out his career as a Pirates scout. 
  • 2003 – The Pirates signed IF Abraham Nunez to a one-year, $625K contract in his eighth season with the club. He hit .236 in 2004 (just about at his .238 Bucco career clip), was released and signed a deal with the Cards for 2005. He played well for them, hitting a career-high .285, but returned to earth during his final three campaigns with the Phils and Mets, finishing up his career in 2008. 
  • 2014 – The Pirates picked up utilityman Sean Rodriguez from Tampa Bay for minor league RHP Buddy Borden to replace newly minted starter Josh Harrison on the Buc bench. Rodriguez hit a career low .211 in 96 games for the Rays in 2014, but set career highs in home runs (12) and RBI’s (41). He became available after being DFA’ed when the Rays signed RHP Ernesto Frieri, who the Pirates had cut loose. S-Rod hit .246 for Pittsburgh in 2015 while playing every infield position and both corner OF spots but broke out in 2016, batting .270 with 18 HR. That led to a two-year/$11.5M deal with the Braves for 2017, short-circuited by a shoulder injury suffered in a car crash. The Pirates decided they wanted him back and sent minor leaguer Connor Joe to the Bravos in exchange for S-Rod in August. He was released a year later and played for Philly, moving to Miami in 2020. Connor played a bit for the Giants and moved on to the Rox. He underwent cancer surgery in 2020, but is back with the Rox.
Tommy Sandt – 1993 Quintex
  • 2020 – Tommy Sandt, a long-time coach/manager in the Pirates organization who was widely popular among the players, passed away at age 69. He was traded here for pitcher John Stuper before the 1979 season by St. Louis, playing AAA ball for the Bucs as a player/manager. After successful runs as skipper in the upper levels, he joined Jim Leyland’s staff in 1987 as the first base/infield coach for the three-time NL East Division champions. He followed Leyland to Florida and Colorado. He returned to Pittsburgh as a special instructor/first-base coach from 2000-2002 under Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon, spending 21 years overall with the Bucs.


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