1/24: Taillon Trade; Mack, Bo, Sid, Spanky, Bill, Starg, Ralph Sign; Ben, Leppert Hi & Bye; Booth Rotation; HBD Enny, Jose, Ross, Tim, Wally, Brute, Ugly Johnny, Dave & Stu
- 1879 – IF Dave Brain was born in Hereford, England. Brain was a jack-of-all-trades player who spent a bit of his seven big league years (three months of 1905) in Pittsburgh. He hit .257, about his career average, and was a player with a rep for some power & speed (his versatility in the field was probably a matter of finding a spot to hide him; he booted 22 balls in 82 games as a Pirates IF). He’s noteworthy in two aspects: after the season, he was part of the package that brought Hall-of-Fame P Vic Willis to town, and he was one of the earliest native-born Englishmen to play for Pittsburgh.
- 1906 – IF William “Stu” (for middle name Stuart) Clarke was born in San Francisco. He spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, albeit one that lasted just from 1929-30. The backup infielder hit fairly well, putting up a .273 BA over his 61 big league games, but finished out his time in the bushes, where he compiled a more telling lifetime .238 average before retiring after the 1933 season.
|Johnny Dickshot – 1938 photo Conlon/Getty|
- 1910 – OF “Ugly Johnny” (he gave himself the moniker) Dickshot, whose given name was John Oscar Dicksus, was born in Waukegan, Illinois. He played for the Bucs from 1936-38, mainly as a bench outfielder. Johnny was a feared hitter in the minors, putting up a .318 BA in 14 seasons, but was just a .250 batter with Pittsburgh, although his career MLB average was .276 after six seasons. When he retired after the 1945 campaign, he opened a bar in his hometown. John Ducey, an actor who appeared quite often in TV sitcoms, is his grandson.
- 1913 – C Josh “Brute” Johnson was born in Evergreen, Alabama. Raised in the Pittsburgh area, he caught for the Homestead Grays in 1934-35 (he was taught “the book” on hitters by Smokey Joe Williams) and then returned in 1939-42. He took over the starting catcher’s job during the 1940 season when Josh Gibson, along with several other stars, jumped to the Mexican League, and responded with his best campaign, batting .429 in league play. He was drafted during WW2 and returned from serving with the “Red Ball Express” in Europe to become a teacher and coach with a degree from Cheyney State/masters from Penn State.
- 1917 – OF Wally/Walt Judnich was born in San Francisco. Wally was a touted HS player with speed and some power who started his MLB career with three strong seasons with the St. Louis Browns, batting .299 as a starting center fielder. But WW2 took three years from him and he lost his edge after he was discharged. He spent four more seasons in the league, but hit .259 over that span and finished his career with a 10-game swan song as a Pirate in 1949, batting .229. He was sent to the PCL and closed out his pro days with six seasons on the coast, where his stroke returned (his MiLB lifetime BA was .288). Wally retired in 1955 at age 39.
- 1941 – OF Ralph Kiner signed with the Pirates when scout Hollis Thurston pulled him away from the Yankees by citing a better opportunity to play and then inked Ralph to a deal after he graduated from Alhambra (CA) HS. It took Kiner until 1946 to crack the lineup after serving as a Navy reconnaissance pilot in the Pacific theater during WW2 and missing two-plus years, but he made up for lost time. In eight Bucco seasons as a Pirates drawing card (the fans would often stream out of Forbes Field after his last at bat), he smacked 301 homers, drove in 801 runs, hit .280 and walked 250 times more than he fanned, posting a 157 OPS+. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.
|Tim Jones (Columbus) – 1977 TCMA|
- 1954 – RHP Tim Jones was born in Sacramento. He only tossed three games in his MLB career, all during a September call up from the Bucs in 1977, but at least he left the league on a high note. After a pair of mop-up details, Chuck Tanner let the 1972 fourth-round pick start on the last day of the season. Jones tossed seven shutout innings against the Cubs, surrendering just four hits, to win his one and only MLB start to finish his big league cup of coffee with a 1-0/0.00 slash in 10 IP. He’s the only player in MLB history to have pitched at least 10 career innings and not allow a run. Tim was traded to the Montreal Expos for Will McEnaney as camp broke in 1978, had a terrible year at AAA Denver and after reading the tea leaves called it a career at the tender age of 24.
- 1965 – The Pirates conditionally purchased the contract of C Don Leppert, who had caught for them from 1961-62 but was with Washington’s minor league Hawaii club thanks to bursitis. He received a camp invite, but was returned to the Senators after the Jim Pagliaroni – Del Crandall pairing claimed the job. Still, the Bucs brought him to Columbus in ‘66 and then launched Don on a long minor league coaching career that also included stops in the Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros and Minnesota Twin systems.
- 1968 – LHP Ross Powell was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Powell spent 48 games over three years in the show, closing out his MLB stand with Pittsburgh in 1995 when he was sold to the club by the Astros in late July. Jim Leyland worked him mostly from the pen, though he did give him three of his four major league starts. He didn’t impress in either role (0-2/5.23) and was released.
- 1970 – 29-year-old Bucco banger Willie Stargell signed his contract. He hit .287 with 29 homers in 1969 and was rewarded with an estimated (by the Pgh Press) $35,000 deal. Pops would bop 31 homers during the ‘70 season, although hitting just .264. C Milt May also put his John Doe on an agreement, making $24,000 as a backup to Manny Sanguillen.
|Bill Landrum – 1992 Donruss Triple Play|
- 1989 – The Bucs reached agreements with a pair of vets, C Mike Lavalliere and RHP Bill Landrum. The arb-eligible Lavallier inked a one-year contract worth $482,500 after hitting .261 in ‘88, the mid-point between his ask and the Pirates offer. Landrum was a FA signing; he had been hurt with the Cubs for most of the ‘88 campaign and settled for a $75K salary, quite a bargain as he posted 26 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 56 outings during the season. They also settled at midpoint with arb-eligible LHP Bill Krueger for $150K, who they had acquired via an off season trade with the Dodgers after he had won 15 games at AAA Albuquerque. Krueger was in a rotation battle for a starting spot and was a late camp cut; Milwaukee claimed him and he went on to have some solid seasons, eventually pitching for seven teams through the 1995 campaign as a long man/spot starter.
- 1989 – LHP Jose Quintana was born in Arjona, Colombia. Pittsburgh signed him to a one year/$2M deal during the 2021 off season. Q was a 10-year veteran coming off an 0-3/6.43 campaign with the Angels and Giants that started off with Quintana on the IL until June with shoulder inflammation, but still managing a career best 12 whiffs per nine innings. The Pirates were looking for some stability in the rotation, or at least a placeholder until the young guys got their feet wet pitching in AAA, and the southpaw was already familiar with the division, having spent four years (2017-20) with the Cubs. He tossed well for the Bucs (3-5/3.50) and served as a mentor for a young staff. Jose was traded to St. Louis at the deadline, continuing to toss solid ball, and is an FA.
- 1990 – 1B Sid Bream settled for the midpoint of his arbitration request and the Pirates offer, signing a one-year deal for $520K (a $10K bump over 1989’s rate) to avoid a showdown hearing in February. He was the second player of 11 who had filed for arb to settle.
|Sid Bream – 1995 Topps Archives|
- 1991 – LHP Enny Romero was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After three years at Tampa Bay and another with the Nationals, the Bucs picked up Romero when he was DFA’ed by Washington in mid-April of 2018. The mid reliever fit into the Pirates profile of a big-armed, flame-throwing wild child, but only got two outings as a Pirate before being released. The Royals picked him up, gave him four calls and cut him three weeks later. Enny tossed winter ball in the Dominican and then signed on with Chunichi of the Japanese League, where he spent the two seasons while also tossing in the Dominican Winter League. He took his services to Korea after the Dodgers cut him in ‘21 and is still there.
- 2002 – The Pirates signed RHP Brian Boehringer to a minor league contract, and he made the club during the spring, leading to a two-year MLB deal worth $2.175M. Bo spent the final three seasons of his 10-year career in Pittsburgh, working 167-1/3 IP while slashing 10-9-1/4.36 in 153 outings between 2002-04.
- 2005 – OF Rob Mackowiak became the last arb-eligible Buc to settle, signing a one-year/$1.5M deal w/$90K in potential bonuses. Mack went on to hit .272 w/nine HR before being dealt to the White Sox during the following off season. Veteran OF Ben Grieve also agreed to a minor-league NRI deal with the Pirates but was among the late cuts of camp.
- 2021 – Joining Josh Bell, Starling Marte and Joe Musgrove as part of the Pirates teardown, RHP Jameson Taillon became the fourth top gun Bucco to be traded by Ben Cherington, going to the Yankees for RHP Miguel Yajure, 22; RHP Roansy Contreras, 21; IF Maikel Escotto, 18; and OF/1B Canaan Smith-Njigba, 21. JT, 29, only managed one full season with the Bucs after a pair of TJ surgeries and another for cancer, but the prospect of him being healthy with a #2 rotation slot potential sold NY, as did a friendly contract and two years of team control (the grapevine had the NYY outbidding Tampa Bay and Toronto). Only Yajure and possibly Contreras were thought to be contenders to play in the show in 2021. None of the four were thought to be future elite players, but all were projected as MLB talent, with Roansy penciled into the rotation and Smith-Njigba getting a long look in 2023 after ’22 debuts. Yajure was DFA’ed and claimed by the Giants while Escotto is still playing A ball.
|Steve Blass Day – 9/28/2019 Pirates photo|
- 2021 – Steve Blass proved to be a hard man to replace in the booth; AT&T SportsNet announced that former Pirates Kevin Young, Matt Capps and Michael McKenry would alternate as color commentators for games aired this season in his stead. The trio joined game analysts Bob Walk and John Wehner along with play-by-play guys Greg Brown and Joe Block. To add to the competition, ex-Buc Neil Walker also claimed some booth love later in the year.
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