1/11: Wade-LaPalme; Keone, Corey, Ryan, Orlando Signed; Brownie Hired; Cutch Cover; AL-DH OK'ed; HBD Warren, Jermaine, Lloyd, Jack, Mickey, Max, Skipper, Silver & Bill
- 1867 – 3B Bill Niles was born in Covington, Kentucky. He played 11 games in Pittsburgh in 1895 and never landed another gig in the show, but he did have a burst that kept him on the radar briefly. He was cut by the Pirates in 1894, and NL clubs Cleveland and Washington put in claims for him while a handful of minor league clubs offered him a deal. Apparently intrigued enough by Niles’ potential and the interest he drew to give him a longer leash, manager Connie Mack removed him from the waiver list and loaned him to minor league Milwaukee for the year. Mack then brought Bill back to the Bucs for the end of the 1895 campaign, but he lost his luster after hitting .216, was returned to the farm after the season and toiled in the minors through 1901.
|Silver King – undated image via Robert Shaw|
- 1868 – RHP Silver King was born in St. Louis. King only played one season in Pittsburgh, but it was a big deal when he signed. King won 110 games from 1888-90 and signed with the Pirates for $5,000, becoming the highest paid player in the game. The investment fizzled; the Bucs got a 14-29 record (although he wasn’t all that bad; he made 44 starts and tossed 384 innings to a 3.11 ERA). But problems were looming. The Bucs released him, and the early sidewinder had one more good year with the Giants before the rules committee chopped him down to size. He threw sidearm from the far right of the pitcher’s circle, making the ball appear to be launched from third base. In 1893, the rubber was introduced and he lost his territorial advantage, never posting an ERA south of four afterward. His nom de guerre is combination physical nickname and writer’s Anglicizing: His real name was Charles Koenig, but his prematurely white hair gave him the nickname of Silver while King is the English translation of Koenig.
- 1888 – C Clarence “Skipper” Roberts was born in Wardner, Idaho. The backstop got into 52 games for the 1914 Pittsburgh Rebels as Claude Berry’s caddy. He batted .234 in his final big league season after jumping to the Federal League Rebs from the NL Cards. Skipper played briefly for the Chicago Whales after he was bounced from the team for punching an umpire, but Federal League President James Gilmore returned him, after a scolding, to Pittsburgh after four games for the Windy City nine. Roberts returned to his home base, the Northwestern League on the left coast, and 1916 was his last season. He worked as a machinist and passed away in 1963. His nickname appears to be a naval promotion by his ball playing buds; he was called Sailor Roberts after a stint in the Navy and it evolved to Skipper after a couple of seasons.
- 1890 – Hall of Fame OF Max Carey was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He played 17 seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a .287 BA while stealing 688 bases, leading the NL in that category 10 times. He was at his best during the 1925 World Series, hitting .458 as the Pirates dethroned the Washington Senators and Walter “Big Train” Johnson in seven games.
|Mickey Keliher – undated image via Out of the Park Developments|
- 1890 – 1B Mickey Keliher was born in Washington DC. He spent his two-year MLB career in Pittsburgh, striking out five times in seven at-bats. Mickey was a career minor leaguer; he spent 18 years on the farm, where he belied his major league performance by hitting .304 lifetime. He was a player/manager for his last three MiLB campaigns before dying young after a car accident.
- 1951 – Scout and executive Jack Zduriencik was born in New Castle. His first big league executive position was as the Pirates Scouting Director from 1991-93, following birddog gigs with the Mets and Bucs. He went on to scouting/farm positions with the Mets, Brewers and Mariners before becoming GM of Seattle from 2009-15 where he became known as “Trader Jack.” Since then, he’s been an pre-and-post game analyst for The Fan (KDKA-FM). The local guy has been inducted in both the California PA University and Lawrence County Halls of Fame.
- 1955 – The Cards sent RHP Ben Wade and cash to Pittsburgh for LHP Paul “Lefty” LaPalme. Wade, 32, worked well if not often in ‘55 with a line of 0-1-1/3.21 in 11 outings in what was his last campaign. Lefty was converted full-time to the pen and spent his final three years (1955-57) as a reliever for three teams, slashing 10-12-11/3.29, while making 132 appearances. After the former Brooklyn Dodger hung ‘em up, he spent his post-pitching days as an Los Angeles scout.
- 1959 – Utilityman and later manager Lloyd McClendon was born in Gary, Indiana. McClendon spent five years (1990-94) as an outfielder/first baseman in Pittsburgh where he hit .251, mainly off the bench. He was named Buc manager in 2001, and in his five seasons as skipper, McClendon compiled a 336–446 record and famously “stole” a base. Fun fact: In 1971, as a 12-year old, McClendon earned the nickname “Legendary Lloyd” when he hit five home runs in five at bats, all on the first pitch, and walked in his other five plate appearances in the three games he played in the Little League World Series.
|Jermaine Allensworth – 1997 Fleer Rookie Sensation|
- 1972 – OF Jermaine Allensworth was born in Anderson, Indiana. Jermaine spent the first 2-1/2 seasons of his four year career as a Bucco, hitting .272 from 1996-98 and saw considerable time in the pasture. He became a minor celebrity after he was portrayed during a Saturday Night Live skit by Tracy Morgan in 1997. He was traded to Kansas City for a minor leaguer, and they moved him to the Mets. His bat went cold and he was out of MLB after the 1999 season, playing for a couple of years on the farm followed by a long stint of indie ball.
- 1973 – This is a red letter day in baseball history. The owners voted to allow the AL to use a designated hitter, drawing a line in the sand that still exists between the junior and senior circuits. On April 6th, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first regular season DH in major-league history, drawing a bases-loaded walk off the Red Sox’s Luis Tiant.
- 1974 – 2B Warren Morris was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. He made his major league debut in 1999, going from non-roster invitee in spring training to starting second baseman early in the season for the Bucs after coming over from Texas in the Esteban Loaiza deal. Morris had a sharp rookie campaign, hitting .288 with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and earning a spot on the 1999 Topps All-Star Rookie team at second base. But he went downhill fast, and the Pirates released him before the 2002 season; his last MLB campaign was in 2003 and he formally retired in 2006.
- 1994 – 1B/OF Orlando Merced signed a one-year/$1.45M contract after hitting .313 w/seven homers and 70 RBI during the past season, a nice jump from the $325K he had earned in 1993.With his signing, the Pirates had tied up their arb eligibles (there were just four, with Jeff King earlier agreeing to a $2.4M contract the other biggie) without a hearing for the first time since 1988.
|Orlando Merced – 1995 Pinnacle Museum|
- 1994 – The Pirates hired Greg Brown, the Buffalo Bison broadcaster, as part of the TV/radio announcing team following the release of Jim Rooker and Kent Dedivanis (Bob Walk would later get the other spot). Brown had been a jack-of-all-trades for the Pirates before leaving for the Buffalo job in 1989 as media coordinator, PA announcer and TCI pre/post game host.
- 2010 – The Pirates signed OF Ryan Church to a one-year/$1.5M contract with an additional $1.32M available in performance incentives that became official a couple of days later. The 31-year-old outfielder was expected to be the Bucs’ fourth outfielder, behind Brandon Moss, Andrew McCutchen, and Lastings Milledge, but instead batted .182 with three homers for Pittsburgh and became part of a deadline package with Arizona. 2010 would be his last MLB season.
- 2013 – Andrew McCutchen was voted to be the cover athlete on the baseball video game “MLB 13: The Show.” Cutch gathered 108,147 votes from fans via Twitter and Facebook, besting NY Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia, who came in second place with 89,054 votes.
- 2019 – The Buccos had two remaining arb contracts to sort out, and got them both done by the deadline when LF Corey Dickerson inked an $8.5M deal and RHP Keone Kela signed for $3.175M. Both posted productive 2018 campaigns and got healthy raises: Dickerson had earned $5.95M and Kela $1.2M. RHP Michael Feliz had agreed to an $850K/$375K split contract earlier in the off season.
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