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6/23 From 1970: Koldzkom Signs; Nasty Neagle; Blass Blossoms; Never Say Die; Short Season; Game Tales

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  • 1972 – Steve Blass won his eighth straight decision to run his slate to 9-1 as the Pirates beat the Cubs, 4-2, at Wrigley Field. Roberto Clemente’s triple triggered a three-run fourth inning, and Dave Giusti got the last two outs to put it away. Blass continued to pitch well though his record slacked a bit as the innings piled up (10-8 to finish the campaign), but Steverino still won a career-high 19 games, earned his only All-Star appearance that season and came in second in the National League Cy Young balloting to Lefty Carlton, who won 27 games with a 1.97 ERA. The Bucs took the NL East with 96 wins, but lost a five-game series to the Reds for the flag, with Cincy moving on to meet the A’s in the World Series. 
  • 1973 – Another Saturday, another win, as the Bucs took their sixth straight Saturday contest by a 3-2 count over the New York Mets at TRS in 10 innings. Jeff Samuels of the Pittsburgh Press wrote “Every other day of the week they doddle somewhere between mediocrity and ineptitude. But on Saturdays, they’re killers. They play…like world champs.” They ran their Saturday streak to seven before the Dodgers dropped them in July, a role reversal for a club that was 0-5 on Saturn’s Day before the victory run began. Manny Sanguillen was the hero of this one, singling home Gene Clines to make a winner of Ramon Hernandez, who was tossing in relief of starter Dock Ellis. In other news of the day, the Bucs announced they had signed their top draft pick, C Steve Nicosia, to a contract that included an estimated $50,000 bonus. 
  • 1974 – After Frank Taveras made an error that led to four unearned runs and a 7-3 Bucco defeat at Wrigley Field, the clubhouse received four phone calls threatening the life of the shortstop from an irate gambler who claimed to have lost $5,000 betting on the game. Team officials and the Chicago police couldn’t trace the call, Frank himself basically blew it off, and nothing other than a couple of newspaper sidebars ever became of the incident. 
Larry Mc Williams – 1983 Donruss
  • 1983 – The Bucs broomed the Chicago Cubs at TRS in a five-game set by a 5-2 tally behind Larry McWilliams’ five-hitter; both runs were unearned on his own first-inning error, dropping what should have been an inning-ending flip to first. Tony Pena had four hits; six other Pirates had raps in an otherwise balanced attack. The sweep wasn’t easy, with the first two wins being walk offs, and it was sweet revenge after Pittsburgh had lost a four-game series at Wrigley Field two weeks earlier. The Bucs kept on by sweeping the St. Louis Cards in a four-gamer before coming back to earth and getting swept by, yep, the Cubs again at Wrigley. 
  • 1995 – Denny Neagle won a duel with Pedro Martinez as the Bucs beat the Montreal Expos, 2-0, at Olympic Stadium. Mark Johnson and Nelson Liriano chased home the Pirates runs, while Neagle surrendered just a pair of hits to become the first National League hurler to reach eight wins (8-3/2.82) on the campaign. Denny later earned his first All-Star bid. 
  • 2005 – The Pirates jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead over the Cardinals and never looked back while coasting to an 11-7 win. Humberto Cota led the way with three RBI, two on sac flies, but St. Louis was its own worst enemy, committing three errors that allowed Pittsburgh to plate seven unearned runs at Busch Stadium. Dave Williams got the victory and Rick White earned the save after he blunted a last-gasp Redbird rally in the ninth inning. 
  • 2013 – It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Los Angeles Angels pitchers had sat down 16 straight Pirates and went into the ninth with a 6-3 lead at Angel Stadium with closer Ernesto Frieri on the hill. But the battlin’ Bucs tied the game on a double by Russell Martin and single by Starling Marte, both with two strikes and two outs. Then they scored four more in the 10th. But LA didn’t mail it in but played on; they scored three times off Bucco closer Jason Grilli and had runners on second and third with two out and Mike Trout up; Grilli got him swinging. Martin and Andrew McCutchen were scheduled for off days, but played the last two innings, going a combined 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI. It was also the MLB debuts of C Tony Sanchez, who doubled in his first at bat, and RHP Duke Welker, who worked a frame and got his first big league punch out. The 10-9 win completed a three-game brooming by the Pirates, their first road interleague sweep ever. As for Grilli and Frieri, they would be traded for each other a year later. 
John Holdzkom – 2015 Topps
  • 2014 – The Pirates signed 26-year-old righty reliever and former Mets draftee John Holdzkom, who spent the early season tossing for independents San Angelo and Amarillo, to a minor league FA deal on the advice of scout Mal Fichman. He was assigned to Altoona and was hot; between the Curve and later Indy, he fanned 37 in 27-2/3 IP. Called up in September, Holdzkom became a feel-good tale, going 1-0-1/2.40 with 14 whiffs in 10 frames, using a fastball/palmball combo. But he didn’t make the club in 2015, missed large hunks of time at Indy with a bum shoulder and was released in 2016. Except for a brief and ineffective stint in the White Sox organization, that was the curtain call on his MLB career. Big John – he was 6’9” – pitched briefly and helped coach/promote baseball in New Zealand in 2018. 
  • 2015 – Cincinnati jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, but the Pirates answered with their most productive inning in over a year, plating seven runs in the fourth against the Reds at PNC Park. The big blows were a three-run homer by Fran Cervelli and a two-run shot by Andrew McCutchen. Pittsburgh needed every one of those tallies, as the lumber shut down after that outburst. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon cooled the hot Redleg bats in the last two innings by ringing up six straight whiffs for the save of Rob Scahill’s 7-6 victory. 
  • 2019 – In a see-saw game at PNC Park, the Padres extended their 5-4 lead to 7-4 in the top of the eighth (San Diego would hold four leads during the game) and carried it into the ninth. But the Bucs took advantage of an error and infield single to go along with two solid raps to tie the game against Kirby Yates, breaking his streak of 33 straight saves. In the 11th, SD had the bases loaded with no outs, Frankie Liriano almost escaped but came up an out short; a well-executed two-out bunt single put the Padres up, and a fly that dropped in right made it 10-7. But the Bucs’ goose wasn’t quite cooked. A walk to Bryan Reynolds, Josh Bell’s single and a Melky Cabrera double got back a run and put runners on second and third with one away. Jake Stallings rapped a knock to left, tying the game, and after a single and walk loaded the bases, a pop up was out number two. It was left up to Kevin Newman, who fell behind 0-2, but kept his cool and drew a walk-off walk to cap a memorable comeback, Pittsburgh’s first “shrimp” win since 2014. Liriano, despite surrendering a three-spot, got the victory. 10 different Bucs scored and seven more added RBIs; Jose Osuna had three knocks to lead the 17-hit attack. The Friars were good to the last swing, too – eight of their 10 runs scored with two outs. Other tidbits: The game took 4:58 to play, was the first one since 2008 to feature both teams scoring 10 or more runs in the same game w/o a homer (Kansas City 11, San Francisco 10) and the Buccos became the third team in MLB history to come back from three-run deficits in both the ninth and extra innings. 
  • 2020 – The coronavirus shutdown ended after many starts and stops when MLB and the MLBPA agreed on a 60-game, no-fans-in-the-ballyard schedule beginning July 23rd-24th. (Camp began July 1st.) The players received prorated salaries. Other items: The DH was put in play for the NL, and in extra inning games, a runner started on second base, as was experimented with in the minors. But hey, no robo umps – yet! There were to be 10 playoff teams (though that wasn’t written in stone). Active rosters consist of 30 players during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the next two weeks and 26 after the first month (27 for doubleheaders). With no minor leagues, teams were allowed to carry 60 players, with up to three non-roster players allowed to travel with a team as a taxi squad, and one of that trio must be a catcher. The trade deadline was moved to August 31st with the date for postseason eligibility being September 15th. There was a COVID-19 IL with no mandatory sit-out term, plus a bunch of COVID safety protocols: the regular IL was 10 days for all and the 60-day IL was cut to 45 days. The deal kept the three-batter minimum for pitchers and allowed position players to mop up in blowout games.


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