12/28: Klu-Dee Deal; Charlie Signs; Buc Bidders; Jim & Danny Managers of the Year; Minors Stirred; Let Baseball Rip; HBD Dario, Zane, Hitman & Harry
- 1888 – Responding to rumors he was called “nonessential” to the Alleghenys by skipper Horace Phillips after posting 29 wins the previous season, LHP Ed “Cannonball” Morris told the Pittsburgh Press “…They are not going to break my heart by giving me my release. My present relations with the club are not so cordial that I would long regret such a measure…let baseball rip.” The two sides patched up things enough to bring Cannonball, one of baseball’s elite early southpaws, back into the fold. But at the young age of 26, he was on the downslope in 1889 – his starts dropped from 55 to 21 and his win total nosedived to six while his ERA shot from 2.31 to 4.13. He tossed one more year for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League before retiring to run his North Side hotel. Cannonball – he had a great heater – was a supernova for much of his brief Pittsburgh career. In 1886, he claimed 41 victories and even earned a save for good measure. Ed threw 500 innings in 1884 (with Columbus) and again in 1886 (for Pittsburgh) with 300 strikeouts in both seasons. And despite the battle of barbs, he and the team stayed tight. Morris remained a fan who rarely missed a Pirates game, and in 1934 he pitched an inning of the Silver Anniversary of Forbes Field at the age of 72.
|Ed “Cannonball” Morris – 1886 program cover boy|
- 1915 – 1B Harry Sweeney was born in Franklin, Tennessee. Harry was a one-day wonder. The 29-year-old played for the Pirates on the last day of the 1944 season against the Philadelphia Blue Jays (the unofficial Philly nickname during the mid-to-late 40s), going 0-for-2 and flawlessly handling 10 chances at first base in his only big-league outing. Harry deserved the shot; overall, he spent 10 campaigns in the minors with a couple of years off for military duty. He retired two years later and worked as a Monsanto foreman back home in Tennessee.
- 1938 – The Bucs shuffled their minor league clubs, dropping Montreal (International League), Savannah (South Atlantic League) and Mt. Airy (Bi-State League) while picking up Gadsden (Southeastern League) and Valdosta (Georgia-Florida League). They renewed contracts with Knoxville, Hutchinson, McKeesport, and Carthage, leaving the organization with one club each at the A, B and C levels with three D teams for prospects. They also announced that 10 minor leaguers would be promoted to the next level, chief among them 3B Frankie Gustine and OF Bob Elliott who moved up to Class A Knoxville of the Southern Association. They got auditions with the Pirates in 1939 and became starters in ‘40; both ended up with multiple All-Star nods.
- 1949 – 1B/OF John Milner was born in Atlanta. “The Hammer” (he was a huge Henry Aaron fan growing up) was a platoon guy and pinch hitter for five years (1978-82) in Pittsburgh, hitting .263 over that span with a .333 BA in the 1979 World Series. He had perhaps his best season during that championship year, hitting .276 with 16 HR and 60 RBI. His low point came during the coke trials, when he admitted to cocaine and amphetamine use.
|Klu – 1959 Topps|
- 1957 – The Pirates swapped first basemen with the Reds, as Pittsburgh acquired Ted Kluszewski, known for wearing cut-off sleeves to show off his pipes, and Cincinnati received seven-year veteran Dee Fondy in return. Neither side got much; Klu’s power days were behind him, and Fondy spent just one more season in MLB. Klu did have a last hurrah, though. Buried behind Dick Stuart & Rocky Nelson in Pittsburgh, he was moved to the White Sox in ‘59. His presence provided some insurance for the Tribe’s middle-of-the-order, and he had a terrific WS (.391 BA, three HR, 10 RBI) though Chicago lost the set to the LA Dodgers. Factoid: Bill Veeck introduced player names on the back of Chi-town’s jerseys for the first time in MLB history in 1959 when Klu joined the Sox. Kluszewski became the first player to appear in a game with his name misspelled (go figure), with a backwards “z” and an “x” instead of the second “k.”
- 1960 – Danny Murtaugh was selected as Sports Magazine’s “Man of the Year” after guiding the Buccos to the World Series title. He was hired on August 4th, 1957, replacing Bobby Bragan, and went on to hold the Pittsburgh job for all or parts of 15 seasons over four different tours of duty (1957–64, 1967, 1970–71, 1973–76) while winning two World Series crowns.
- 1960 – LHP Zane Smith was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Smith came to the Bucs in 1990 in the Moises Alou deal with Montreal. He pitched well down the stretch in ‘90 and won 16 games in ‘91. Zane tossed five years (1990-94, 1996) for the Buccos, with a 47-41/3.35 line. He almost landed a spot in the record books in a clutch September 1990 match against the second place New York Mets, giving up a leadoff single to Keith Miller, then holding NY hitless the rest of the way, claiming a 1-0 victory to stretch the Pirates NL East lead to three games.
|Zane Smith – 1993 Ultra (reverse)|
- 1984 – Pirates Treasurer Doug McCormick told the Pittsburgh Press that he fielded 40-50 inquiries regarding the sale of the Bucs, with a dozen serious offers, and expressed surprise and disappointment that only four were local bidders (Jim Roddey’s Allegheny Media was the only caller identified as the others requested anonymity). He emphasized, especially to those groups trying to get the Pirates to relocate to their city, that the Buccos had a lease for Three Rivers Stadium that ran through 2011 and the owners planned to honor that agreement.
- 1993 – Jim Leyland was chosen as MLB’s top manager in a reader’s poll conducted by Baseball America, winning 33% of the total vote. The Pirates won the NL East for the third straight year in 1992 with 96 wins, but once again stumbled in the postseason, losing a seven-game NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. It would be the Bucs last winning season until 2013.
- 1994 – RHP Dario Agrazal was born in Aguadulce, Panama. Dario was signed as an international free agent in 2012, was promoted to the 40-man for 2018 and then dropped from it the following year. But he rebounded nicely, moving from Altoona to Indy, posting some nice numbers as a pitch-to-contact guy (4-2/3.10) and joined a revolving door cast of Pirates starters in June, making his first start in the 15th against the Miami Marlins. The first Pirates international signee of the Neal Huntington era to get a Bucco start, he slashed 4-5/4.91 and moved on to Motown in 2020. He was part of the D-Back system in ‘21 and went unsigned in 2022.
|Dario Agrazal – 2020 Topps Series 1|
- 1995 – 30-year-old IF Charlie Hayes was signed as a FA by the Bucs to a deal worth $1.75M, hit .248 and then was flipped at the deadline to the New York Yankees for a minor leaguer, RHP Chris Corn. Hayes had a good September run with the Bronx Bombers, made the playoff roster and earned himself a World Series ring. His son Ke’Bryan, a third baseman, was selected 32nd overall out of high school by the Pirates in the 2015 draft and was a Top-100 prospect who put together a promising 2020 September rookie call-up campaign to claim the everyday job at the hot corner. Corn lasted two seasons in the Pittsburgh system and never advanced past Class AA.
- 2006 – The Pirates agreed to a 30-year spring-training lease with Bradenton after the City fathers voted to upgrade the ballyard facilities to the tune of $15M in time for the 2008 camp. The Bucs had called Bradenton their spring home since 1969, and the lease extended their stay until 2038.
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