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By The Green Weenie
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12/21: Mazzilli-Burke; Hart-Hughey Swaps; Anderson Deal; Ollie, Jack, Kip, Vogey, Frankie, Silva Sign; Deals In the Air; HBD AVS, Freddy, John, Danny, Bugs, Josh, Pete & Doc

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  • 1878 – 1B Warren “Doc” Gill was born in Ladoga, Indiana. He played in the majors for one year as a 30-year-old on the powerful 1908 Bucco club, hitting .224 in 27 games during a month’s audition. Although he played 12 seasons of pro ball, Gill is best known for failing to touch second base in a game against the Chicago Cubs on September 4th, 1908. With the score tied in the bottom of the 10th, the Bucs’ Chief Wilson’s single plated the winning run. But Johnny Evers saw that Gill, who was on first, didn’t run the play out to second and stepped on the sack for a force-out; it was somewhat commonplace if careless for the players to head straight to the clubhouse after the game ended. Doc got away with the gaffe because Ump Hank O’Day, back in the day of one-man crews, didn’t see it. Three weeks later, the New York Giants Fred Merkle duplicated Gill’s bit of lazy-bones running during a game against the Cubs; Chicago again completed the force play and this time, O’Day did see the action. Known to this day as “Merkle’s boner,” the call overturned a Giant victory and helped the Cubs to the 1908 title. Gill was nicknamed “Doc” as he was working on his dentistry degree at Washington University (St. Louis). After he retired, Gill lived up to his moniker by operating a dental practice for the next 35 years. 
Warren “Doc” Gill – 1908 team photo snip
  • 1897 – RHP Jim Hughey was traded by the Pirates with $1,800 to the St. Louis Browns for RHP Bill Hart. Hughey had three not very good years with two terrible teams, St. Louis and Cleveland, posting a line of 16-61/4.76 that included a 4-30 slate in 1898, still the record for most losses in a season. Hart went 5-9-1/4.82 for the Bucs in his penultimate campaign. The club knew him well; Bill had won a personal best 14 games for the Pirates in 1895 during his first City stop. 
  • 1897 – OF Floyd “Pete” Scott was born in Woodland, California. Pete spent three years in the majors as a good stick guy (.303 lifetime BA) off the bench who could play corner OF/IF; his final campaign was in 1928 when he hit .311 in 60 games for the Pirates. During a 14-year pro career, he hit under .300 just twice with .286 being his lowest single-season BA. 
  • 1911 – Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. Considered the top HR hitter (the “Black Babe Ruth”) of the Negro Leagues, he played for the Grays and Crawfords. His power was legendary; he hit moonshots in Forbes Field and Yankee Stadium that are still considered among the longest blasts ever launched. Gibson was the second ballplayer, behind Satchel Paige, to be elected to the Hall of Fame because of their exceptional Negro League careers though Josh never got a chance to prove himself in MLB. 
  • 1920 – LHP Bill “Whirling Willie” Werle was born in Oakland, California. Werle earned the nickname “Bugs” honestly as he was an amateur entomologist (a bug collector). He spent from 1949-1952 with the Bucs, going 28-35-14/4.76 while working every pitching role from starts to closing. Bugs got into deep hot water with the Bucco suits in 1952 after breaking curfew by coming during spring training, and then trying to tapdance his way out of his jam with a set of ever-shifting stories. He was fined, suspended, and then was traded to the St. Louis Cards in May. 
Danny Kravitz – 1957 Topps
  • 1930 – C Danny Kravitz was born in Lopez, near Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The reserve catcher played five years (1956-60) for Pittsburgh, hitting .236, but missed out on the ‘60 Series when he was traded in June to KC for Hank Foiles. His first homer was a story for the grandkids: he launched his bomb on May 11th, 1956, in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Pirates trailing the Phillies, 5-2, to give the Pirates a 6-5 win. Kravitz only hit 10 HRs in his career and that was the only Danny granny. 
  • 1959 – Deals dangled: After Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh nixed an A’s offer to deal Roger Maris for SS Dick Groat earlier in the month (GM Joe Brown was shopping for an outfielder with some punch), Pittsburgh instead took OF Gino Cimoli along with RHP Tom Cheney from the Cardinals for RHP Ronnie Kline. Maris was then dealt to the Yankees and had the first of his two consecutive MVP years in New York, while Groat was named the NL MVP in 1960. As for the deal that did happen, Kline, who had beefed about not being used enough in ‘59, pitched 11 more seasons in the show, including a 1968-69 return to the Bucs. Cheney worked 22 games for the Pirates before being traded, winning 17 games for the Senators over the next five years. Cimoli hit .272 in a pair of Pirates seasons before being shipped to Milwaukee. In other derailed deals, Frank Lane of Cleveland told Les Biederman of the Pittsburgh Press that the Pirates asked about OF Minnie Minoso during the winter meetings, denying newspaper reports that OF Rocky Colavito was a Pittsburgh target. Lane said he asked for either 3B Don Hoak or RF Roberto Clemente and the Bucs countered with C Hank Foiles; needless to say, that trade talk quickly shut down. Joe Brown told Biederman that he also made unspecified player offers to Detroit for OF Al Kaline and to Washington for 3B Harmon Killebrew, but both remained with their clubs in ‘60. 
  • 1960 – OF Andy Van Slyke was born in Utica, New York. AVS played eight years (1987-94) for the Bucs, hitting .283, while earning three All-Star spots, winning five Gold Gloves and claiming two Silver Sluggers during his tour. He was a mainstay of the Jimmy Leyland teams of the early nineties after coming over from the Cards in the Tony Pena deal. Known as “Slick,” his nickname was bestowed on him by his St. Louis skipper, Whitey Herzog. 
John Hope – 1994 Fleer (reverse)
  • 1970 – RHP John Hope was born in Fort Lauderdale. The high schooler was a second round draft pick in 1989, signing for an $85K bonus. He went through elbow and shoulder surgery, and in part of four seasons (1993-96) with the Pirates, the righty went 1-5 with a 5.99 ERA. Hope, who had suffered through a litany of arms woes, became hooked on painkillers after his career, but later came clean through the help of the Baseball Assistance Team and Sam McDowell. 
  • 1977 – 2B Freddy Sanchez was born in Hollywood. In six years (2004-09) as a Pirate, he hit .301, winning the batting crown in 2006 with a .344 BA and appearing in three All-Star games. It was a dark day in the City when fan favorite Steady Freddy was traded to the Giants, where injuries derailed his career. He hit .292 for the G-Men in the 2010 World Series season, but shoulder and back surgeries followed, making 2011 his final campaign. 
  • 1979 – RHP Larry Anderson was traded to Pittsburgh by the Cleveland Indians for minor league players RHP John Burden and OF Larry Littleton. Burden never made it to the show while Littleton got a cup of coffee with the Indians in 1981 and earned a share of the MLB record for the most at-bats (23) without a hit by a non-pitcher. Anderson went 5-7-15/1.74 with AAA Portland, but the Bucs never called him up (the ‘80 bullpen was strong w/Teke, Grant Jackson, Enrique Romo, Buddy Solomon, Rod Scurry, and gang) and he was dealt to Seattle as the PTBNL in the Odell Jones deal. Jones ended up a nine-year MLB career with a line of 24-35-14/4.42 while Anderson appeared in nearly 700 games during 17 campaigns (none as a Bucco) and slashed 40-39-49/3.15. 
  • 1982 – OF Lee Mazzilli was traded to the Pirates by the New York Yankees for minor leaguers Don Aubin, John Holland & Jose Rivera along w/RHP Tim Burke. The key figures were Burke, who had an eight-year career as a reliever with 100+ saves, and Mazzilli, who spent 3-1/2 years (1982-85) with Pittsburgh, playing outfield and first base while putting up a .244 Bucco BA. The Buccos hoped to use him to replace Omar Moreno in center, but Mazzilli lost that job to Marvell Wynn. 
Lee Mazzilli – 1983 Topps
  • 2000 – The Pirates re-signed 27-year-old RHP Jose Silva to a one-year/$795K contract. 2001 was his fifth and final year as a Bucco; he got into 26 games, with a 3-3/6.75 slash and was shipped to the Reds in the offseason. He got into a dozen games with them in 2002 to end his MLB run. In his Pirates stint (1997-2001), his line was 24-28-4/5.44 after 140 outings (53 starts). 
  • 2005 – The Pirates extended tenders to arb-eligible LHP Ollie Perez, RHPs Kip Wells & Ryan Vogelsong, OF Jody Gerut and SS Jack Wilson while passing on RHP Josh Fogg. He signed with the Rockies; GM Dave Littlefield said his spot in the rotation would be taken by one of Ian Snell, Sean Burnett or Victor Santos as the Bucs were going young to retool their staff. Earlier in the offseason, they traded away hurlers Dave Williams and Mark Redman. 
  • 2012 – LHP Francisco Liriano reached an agreement to sign with the Bucs for two years/$14M, pending his physical. He broke his right arm over the holidays, but he and the Pirates worked out an alternate deal that was worth $7M over two years with performance bonuses that would allow him to recapture much of the lost money. The Cisco Kid won 16 games in 2013 and was the “Comeback Player of the Year.” After the 2014 season, he returned after testing the free agent market, inking a three-year contract worth $39M. He didn’t get to finish out the contract in Pittsburgh, being shipped to Toronto at the 2016 deadline.


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