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12/1 Through the 1950s: Nelson, Face, Gornicki, Yde, McKinnon Pick-Ups; HBD Cal, Cookie, Mike, Eppie, Jake & Paddy

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  • 1868 – 1B/C George “Paddy” Fox was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He played for Louisville in 1891 and then was in the minors before making it back to Pittsburgh in 1899, hitting .244 in 13 games. He had some added value, though – he was sent, along with Jack Chesbro and a couple of other guys, to Louisville for the bulk of their roster, a master move by owner Barney Dreyfuss to pick up the nucleus (Honus Wagner, Deacon Phillippe, Tommy Leach, Fred Clarke & Claude Ritchey w/nine others) of his powerhouse turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh clubs. Paddy finished his playing career on the farm in Lancaster at age 39 in 1908. 
Alex McKinnon – photo via Baseball Prospectus
  • 1886 – The American Association Alleghenys traded 1B Otto Schomberg along with $400 to the St. Louis Maroons in return for 1B Alex McKinnon. Schomberg was in the minors for a year and then finished out his MLB days with a two-season stay with the NL Indiana Hoosiers. The 30-year-old McKinnon was just blossoming, getting into 48 games and batting .340 for Pittsburgh. But he caught pneumonia brought on by typhoid fever early in the season and he passed away in July of 1887. Pittsburgh wore black crêpe on their uniforms for the rest of the season to honor their fallen teammate. 
  • 1895 – OF Jake Miller (Muenzing) was born in Baltimore. Jake was a minor league lifer who played on various farm clubs from 1913-30. His taste of the high life came in 1922 when he got into three games in two days (July 16-17th) for the Pirates, going 1-for-11 against Brooklyn. The newspapers said he was “ripe for the big leagues” (he hit .314 in the minor leagues from 1920-22) but apparently the big leagues had a different take. 
  • 1900 – IF Everett “Eppie” Barnes was born in Ossining, New York. A basketball and baseball star at Colgate, he only got seven at-bats for the Pirates with a hit during 1923-24, but had a long and distinguished athletic career as an amateur coach and executive afterward. A noted semi-pro player, he was later the athletic director at his alma mater and the baseball pilot, along with being the president of the NCAA for three years and Director of the 1968 US Olympic Committee. Eppie was named to the American Association of Baseball Coaches, United Savings-Helms Athletic Foundation and Colgate Halls of Fame. Barnes was also a member of the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues set up by the Hall of Fame from 1971-77 to elect Negro League players to the Hall. 
  • 1900 – LHP Mike Cvengros was born in Pana, Illinois. Mike had a long and solid career in the minors, toiling from 1921-37 on the farm, but in six big league seasons, his 1927 campaign with the Pirates was the only year he finished with an ERA under four (2-1-1/3.35). As a bonus, he got to toss a couple of frames against the Yankees in the WS, holding his own. The Pirates apparently weren’t that impressed (he had more walks than whiffs) and traded him to minor league Wichita Falls for another lefty, Fred Fussell. Mike got one more shot in the show with the Cubs in 1929, then spent the next eight years in the bushes before retiring to the life of a barkeeper. 
Mike Cvengros – 1927 photo via  tnfoto’s Baseball Fotos
  • 1912 – IF Attilio Harry “Cookie” Lavagetto was born in Oakland, California. He started his MLB career as a Bucco bench player, batting .249 from 1934-36. He was then traded to the Dodgers, where he blossomed into a four time All-Star before losing the next four years to WW2, then returning to Brooklyn for two more campaigns. In 1961, he became the Minnesota Twins first manager and was a coach for the New York Mets (1962-63) and San Francisco Giants (1964-67). He got his nickname as an Oakland Oak farm hand early in his career as a hand-me-down from team owner Cookie DeVincenzi, who was fond of the young Lavagetto. 
  • 1923 – The Bucs sent a PTBNL (OF Ed Hock) to Oklahoma City of the Western League for LHP Emil Yde. The lefty went 41-19/3.53 for the Pirates from 1924-26, but the wheels fell off in ‘27, he was waived, and spent one more season in the majors, with Detroit in 1929. Hock did get to sip some coffee in the big leagues, appearing in 19 games and getting one hit over the three campaigns. 
  • 1925 – RHP Calvin Coolidge “Cal” Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish (Cal explained that “There were eight kids in the family, and I was number seven and my dad didn’t get to name one of them before me. So he evidently tried to catch up.”) was born in Anadarko, Oklahoma. He also went by “Bus,” a childhood nickname his poppa (he had a way with names) dropped on him, who upon seeing his infant son for the first time said that “He’s as big as a bus!” McLish didn’t hit his stride until the fifties, but got in three games for the Bucs in 1947-48, giving up seven runs in six innings as a 21/22-year-old and mostly working at Indy before being traded to the Cubs with Frankie Gustine. Cal ended up more of a workman (4.01 lifetime ERA) than All-Star, but still won double digit games in five of six seasons from 1958-63, with a 19-win year for Cleveland in 1959, his only All Star season. His last campaign was in 1964 and after he left the slab, he stayed in baseball as a pitching coach and scout for Philadelphia, Montreal and Milwaukee. 
Cal McLish – undated photo via Lizzy’s Locker
  • 1927 – The coming year’s schedule was finalized by the leagues at the William Penn Hotel. It was a departure from the norm as the schedules were usually drawn up at the winter meetings, but the American League passed a resolution that their dates be already prepared to be voted on at that get-together. The Senior Circuit wasn’t under the gun but decided to set their games ahead of time too, with Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss being the lead man, assisted by NL President John Heydler and his aide, Harvey Traband. Junior Circuit prez Ernest Barnard and his secretary William Harridge were also at the William Penn doing the AL honors. 
  • 1928 – During the winter meetings, National League President John Heydler proposed a ten-man team that included a designated hitter in place of the pitcher. The senior circuit voted in favor of the proposal, but the AL nixed it, more opposed to the tweak because the NL proposed it than on its merits. The DH in one form or another had popped up on occasion going back to the 1890s but didn’t see the light of day until the American League adopted it in 1973. 
  • 1941 – The Bucs claimed RHP Hank Gornicki off waivers from the Cards, and the righty lasted three seasons (1942-43, 1946) with Pittsburgh, posting a line of 14-19-6/3.38 while swapping in his 1944-45 tour of duty from the Pirates to the Army, where he suffered from a bad leg that eventually squelched his return to baseball (being 35-years-old upon discharge didn’t help, either). 
  • 1952 – The Pirates chose ElRoy Face from the Montreal Royals, the top minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, with the first overall pick of the minor league draft. GM Branch Rickey said the decision was between Face and C Johnny Bucha. He made a good choice; Bucha was taken by the Tigers and lasted one more big league season, hitting .222. During a 15-year career with the Pirates, Face led the NL in saves three times, collecting 100 wins and 188 saves as a Bucco while popularizing the forkball, a prototype of the modern day splitter. He retired to North Versailles where he made his living as a carpenter. During his career, he was known as “The Baron of the Bullpen” as popularized by Bob Prince, and is still considered a pioneer in the closer’s evolution. GM Branch Rickey also selected vet pitchers Johnny Hetki and Swissvale’s Bob Hall. Hetki, who had worked for the Browns & Reds, lasted two more seasons, making 112 appearances, and Hall, who had tossed for the Braves, one more, both ending their MLB careers in Pittsburgh. 
Rocky Nelson – 1959 Topps
  • 1958 – The Pirates drafted Rocky Nelson from Toronto of the International League for a $25,000 fee in the minor-league Rule 5 draft. He was already 34, but would spend three seasons with the Bucs, hitting .270 as a platoon player and pinch hitter. Rocky went 3-for-9 in the 1960 World Series with a home run. 1961 was his last campaign as a Bucco and a big league player.


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