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12/19: Huddy, Hart, Biemel, Meadows, Elster, Sluggo, Kline Signed; Bucs Back DH; Pirates Panned; Russ Gets The Call; RIP Dock; HBD Jose, Mike, Obie, Ray, Eddie, Lou & Artie

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  • 1887 – IF Artie Butler (Bouthillier) was born in Fall River, Massachusetts. Art hit .277 in two Bucco seasons (1912-13) before moving along to the Cards. His claim to fame is a bit on the macabre side – he was the last living teammate of legendary pitcher Cy Young before passing on in 1984. 
  • 1891 – It may be a surprise to the dyed-in-the-wool NL fans of the Steel City, but a Pirates honcho, William Temple (president and part-owner) was the first documented proponent of the DH. The Sporting Life wrote that “President Temple, of the Pittsburgs, brought up the question as to what disposition should be made of the pitcher in the batting order. (He) favored the substitution of another man to take the pitcher’s place at the bat when it came his turn to go there.” The magazine added that “Every patron of the game is conversant with the utter worthlessness of the average pitcher when he goes up to try and hit the ball. It is most invariably a trial, and an unsuccessful one at that.” Temple brought the matter up during the 1892 preseason gathering of the National League nabobs, but it lost in a close vote. (S/O to John Thorn’s “Our Game” blog) 
  • 1898 – RHP Lou Koupal was born in San Gabriel, California. He began his MLB odyssey with the Pirates in 1925-26 and slashed 0-2/5.02. He was shipped back to the farm, came back and worked three more years in the league, then took a seven year hiatus before closing out his career in 1937. Fun fact from the Baseball Junk Drawer: He was one of six 1929 Brooklyn Robins who had been members of the championship 1925 Pirates team, along with Max Carey, Johnny Gooch, Eddie Moore, Johnny Morrison and Glenn Wright. 
  • 1915 – OF Eddie Yount was born in Newton, North Carolina. Eddie was a Wake Forest grad and minor league lifer, starting in 1937 and hanging in there until 1951 when he was 35. He got seven at-bats with the Philadelphia A’s in 1937 with two knocks and two more cuts for the Pirates in 1939 (he struck out both times). He then spent the rest of his time on the farm with a three-year break during WW2, serving with the 12th Armored Division Hellcats. 
Ray Poat (w/NY Giants) – photo via Sports Collectibles
  • 1917 – RHP Ray Poat was born in Chicago. Mainly a reliever, Ray spent six campaigns in the show around a couple of years in the military during the war. He finished his career in 1949 at Pittsburgh, making 11 appearances with a line of 0-1/6.25, after arriving in June as part of the Kirby Higbe deal. He was pitching with a bum wing and had surgery after the season, but it was a recurring woe and he retired to the life of a chemist (he was an Illinois grad). Fun fact: In 1947, Poat became the first MLB player to swat a season cycle, which is collecting just four hits in a year but with one of each flavor – single, double, triple and home run. 
  • 1918 – OF/3B Tommy “Obie” O’Brien was born in Anniston, Alabama. O’Brien was a three-time All State football player and enrolled at the University of Tennessee, but opted for baseball. He started his MLB career as a Pirate, hitting .301 between 1942-45, toiled in the minors from 1946-48 and returned to the show in 1949-50 with Boston and Washington. His shining moment came in 1943 when he had seven consecutive hits in a doubleheader against the NY Giants. 
  • 1938 – In a poll of writers by the Associated Press, the Pirates were selected as the biggest disappointment in sports for the year, edging out the Rice Owls football team. The Pirates had a seven game edge on September 1st and were up 3-1/2 games after September 22nd, but dropped six of their final seven games to finish the season two games behind the Cubs after losing the famous “homer in the gloaming” game. The Bucs went 28-26 in the final two months of the season while the Cubs rampaged through September, winning 21 of their last 26 games. 
  • 1957 – RHP Ron Kline became the first Pirate to sign for the ‘58 campaign when he was inked for an undisclosed amount. He had a Jekyll and Hyde 1957 season – he was 2-15/4.82 through July, then ditched his knuckleball and went 7-1/1.44 from August onward. He went on to have a workmanlike 1958, going 13-16/3.53. The Callery Kid (Callery in Butler County was where he was born) was traded to the Cards after the 1959 campaign, returning to the fold as a reliever in 1968-69 near the end of his 17-year career. He became Callery’s mayor after his retirement. 
Mike Fetter – 2002 Topps Total
  • 1964 – RHP Mike Fetters was born in Van Nuys, California. The veteran reliever tossed 16 major league seasons for eight clubs, spending 2001-02 with the Pirates and slashing 2-1-8/3.75. He’s often remembered for his odd motion; before he delivered the ball, he took a deep breath and turned his head 90 degrees, a move he came up with to counter the stress of pitching. He’s been on the Arizona Diamondbacks staff since 2012 and is now the D-Backs bullpen coach. 
  • 1967 – Russ Goetz got his call to the bigs. The McKeesport native’s dream wasn’t to play but umpire MLB games, and at age 37, his dream came true. He took full advantage, too – he wore the blue for the AL from 1968 to 1983, arbitrating 2,384 games in a 16-year career. Russ worked two World Series (1973, 1979), two All-Star Games (1970, 1975) and four ALCS (1970, 1974, 1977, 1981). He was one of the last umps to still use the old school exterior chest protector when he retired. 
  • 1973 – RHP Jose Silva was born in Tijuana, Mexico. Jose worked five years (1997-2001) for the Bucs, starting 53 of his 140 Pirate games. He finished 25-28-4 with a 5.41 ERA in his Pittsburgh years. He worked one more major league campaign before moving on to the Mexican League. 
  • 1990 – 32-year-old C Don Slaught signed a three-year/$3M contract with the Pirates after coming over the year before from the New York Yankees and hitting .300 in a platoon role. Sluggo played six seasons in Pittsburgh and batted .305 between 1990-95 in 475 games as a platoon guy – he played in 87+ games in a season just one time as a Buc backstop. 
Kevin Elster – 1997 Circa Thunder
  • 1996 – Pittsburgh signed 32-year-old free agent SS Kevin Elster to a one-year/$1.65M deal. The veteran infielder was coming off a career season in Texas, hitting .252 with 24 HR and 99 RBI. But he never got into a groove, hitting .225 for the Bucs with seven homers while getting into just 39 games before breaking his wrist in mid-May. He never returned to duty and was released at the end of the campaign. His injury put a big dent in the “Freak Show” attack, with the 1997 club still managing to compete into September before finishing five games back. 
  • 2002 – RHP Brian Meadows avoided arbitration by signing a one-year/$800K deal, with a split time provision paying him $150K if he was in the minors. And that’s where he started, but after going 7-0 at Nashville, he was called up to earn his big league fee and stayed on the Bucs’ active roster through 2005. He tossed for one more year with Tampa Bay before the 30-year-old called it quits after an MLB stint with five teams over nine years. 
  • 2003 – LHP Joe Beimel signed a one-year/$535K contract after appearing in 69 games in 2003, although a second half meltdown left his slash at 1-3/5.05. He didn’t make it to the opener, being one of the last cuts in camp and then signing with the Twins. The Bucs had John Grabow, Mike Gonzalez and Mike Johnston coming up from the minors, and the youngsters all got showtime in 2004 to make St. Mary’s Joe expendable. In other contract action, LHP Mike Lincoln was non-tendered (he signed w/the Cards but was injured in May, missing the rest of 2004 and all of 2005, then came back in 2008 to toss parts of three years with the Reds). RHP Kip Wells, SS Jack Wilson and UT Craig Wilson were tendered, leaving the Pirates with four 40-man openings for FA’s. 
  • 2008 – One of the most colorful guys to put on a Bucco uniform, Dock Ellis, passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 63 of cirrhosis. Ellis tossed the first eight and then the final season of his 12-year big league career with Pittsburgh. His Pirates line was 96-80/3.16 with a no-hitter (while on LSD, per his retelling), All-Star appearance and World Series ring to his credit. The Docktor also left behind enough stories to fill a 2014 movie, “No No: A Dockumentary” and collaborated with Donald Hall on a 1976 book, “Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball.” Ellis cleaned himself up after he left baseball following the 1979 campaign and became a drug counselor, working with prisoners and minor leaguers among others who were struggling with his familiar old demons. 
Corey Hart – 2015 Topps
  • 2014 – The Pirates signed free agent 1B/OF Corey Hart to a one- year/$2.5M contract with another $2.5M available in bonuses based on at-bats. Hart had microfracture knee surgery in 2013, missing that year, and hit just .203 with Seattle in 2014, but prior to that was a career .271 hitter and two-time All-Star playing for Milwaukee, swatting 30 homers twice. Hart got just 57 at bats with the Bucs before his knees gave out again, and he retired after the 2015 campaign. 
  • 2016 – Free agent RHP Daniel Hudson, 29, signed a two-year/$11M (w/$1.5M more possible based on games finished) deal with the Pirates. The flamethrower (96 MPH fastball) came from Arizona, where his days as a starter ended after a pair of TJ surgeries. Pittsburgh planned to plug him into the back end of the bullpen, which was in need of a righty arm. The deal was made official two days later when Brady Dragmire was DFA’ed to clear a roster spot for Hudson. After a 2-7/4.38 showing in 71 outings in his first campaign, he became more valuable as a trade piece and after the year he was sent to Tampa Bay as part of the Corey Dickerson deal. Since then, he’s been a Dodger, Blue Jay, Nat and Padre. Huddy returned to the Big Blue in 2022.


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