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2/12: Dyson, Ericks, Milner, Stennett Sign; Jumpin' Jack Wins Arb; TRS Named; HBD Argenis, Todd, Chris, Stan, Cam, Joe, Woody, Dutch, Big Train, Whitey & Ray

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  • 1888 – 1B Ray Miller (no, not the pitching coach) was born in Pittsburgh. The local kid spent 1917 in the majors, playing his last six big league games as a Pirate. He hit .148 and was sent to the American Association’s Kansas City Blues as part of the Roy Sanders/Fritz Mollwitz off season deal. Ray, who got his start in the Pennsylvania-Ohio League with the Uniontown Coal Barons and then the McKeesport Tubers, played until 1925 and put in a 13-year minor league career. 
  • 1893 – 1B Earl “Whitey” Sheely was born in Bushnell, Illinois. He spent one season of his nine-year MLB career, 1929, as the starting first baseman for the Bucs, batting .293 in 139 games. Earl was a nice hitter, finishing with a career .300 BA and a pair of 100-RBI years after he retired following the 1931 campaign. He served as a scout for the Boston Red Sox, coach at St. Marys’ College and he was a manager for the Sacramento Solons and GM of the Seattle Rainiers in the Pacific Coast League. Sheely is an inductee of the PCL Hall of Fame after spending his entire 15-year minor league stint on the left shore in either the PCL or Northwest League, hitting .324 lifetime with 2,319 raps. Earl’s son Bud was also in the show, catching for three seasons for the White Sox. 
  • 1912 – RHP Tom “Country/”Big Train” Parker Jr. was born in Alexandria, Louisiana (birth year uncertain). Big Train tossed for 10 years in the Negro Leagues (and also played some OF), but the Homestead Grays were his home. He worked for them for six seasons (1935-39, 1948; 23-19/4.88) and overall, it’s thought that Country answered the bell for 21 campaigns counting unaffiliated, Canadian and Latin teams even with spending some time in the Army. Parker was 6’1”, 235 pounds, a likely but unverified cause for the “Big Train” moniker. 
  • 1912 – RHP Lloyd “Dutch” Dietz was born in Cincinnati. Dutch tossed from 1940-43 for the Bucs. He went 13-15-4/3.51, and worked pretty regularly in 1941-42, highlighted by 1941’s 7-2/2.33 slash. He was traded to the Phils in ‘43, then to the Dodgers. Dietz entered the military service with the Army Medical Corps in 1944, and was stationed in Texas where he pitched for the Fort Sam Houston Rangers. After his return to civilian life in 1946, he played four more minor league seasons before hanging up the spikes in 1949 as a 37-year-old. Dutch was a common nickname for German players as an anglicization of “Deutsch.” 
Dutch Dietz – photo via Find-A-Grave
  • 1922 – RHP Forrest “Woody” Main was born in Delano, California. He pitched off and on for the Bucs in 1948, 1950, and 1952-53 after being claimed from the Yankees. Main was in the Bronx Bomber’s system with the minor-league Kansas City Blues, and when KC’s manager Billy Meyer was named skipper of the 1948 Pirates, he selected Main in that winter’s Rule 5 draft. Woody, who worked out of the bullpen, went 4-13-3 with a 5.14 ERA as a Pirate. 
  • 1926 – C Joe Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent the middle of his MLB career (1951-53) with Pittsburgh. Joe hit .262 over that span, but is best known as an announcer, a profession he began after his playing days in 1955. Garagiola grew up just a few doors down from his childhood friend Yogi Berra and later said, “Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street!” 
  • 1952 – GM Cam Bonifay was born in St. Petersburg. After a brief minor league career, Cam toiled as a Cardinal & then Reds bird dog before becoming the Scouting Director for the Pirates in 1990. He was named assistant GM in 1991 and got the top job in 1993 when Ted Simmons was felled by a heart attack. He held the position until 2001 when owner Kevin McClatchy replaced him with Dave Littlefield. Despite criticism for signing underperforming players to big contracts, he was named The Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 1997 for building the “Freak Show” team with a payroll of just $9M. Since his Pittsburgh departure, he has worked for Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cincinnati, where he’s a pro scouting special assistant. His son Josh was a minor league catcher in the Pirates system and is now the player development director for the Phils. 
  • 1965 – RHP Stanley Fansler was born in Elkins, West Virginia. The youngster was the Bucs second round draft pick (34th overall) in 1983. By 1985, he was pitching for the Pirates, going 0-3 but with a respectable 3.75 ERA in five September starts. He gave up less than a hit per inning but had some control issues. And therein lies a cautionary tale. Instead of Fansler making the team out of camp the following season, GM Sid Thrift, without consulting the Pirates coaches, sent him to the minors to change his delivery and sharpen his control. The result was that Stan’s money maker went haywire from the mechanical tweaking and he subsequently underwent a pair of arm surgeries. He never pitched above Class AA afterward and retired to become a pitching coach in 1993 before giving up the pro game entirely four years later when he married. 
Stan Fansler – 1987 Topps
  • 1969 – The Bucs sealed one of their top Latino deals when Pirates scout C. Herbert Raybourn inked 17-year-old 2B Rennie Stennett of Colon, Panama, to a contract. Rennie debuted in 1971 and played nine seasons with Pittsburgh, hitting .278. His Pirates red letter day was when he went 7-for-7 against the Cubs, a record-setter (and he got three more hits to lead off the next game for 10-in-a-row), in 1975. His career was derailed in 1977 when he broke his leg sliding. Rennie never recovered fully from the injury and 1981 was his last season in the show. 
  • 1969 – The new North Shore playground for the Pirates and Steelers was officially dubbed “Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium” by a unanimous vote of the Stadium Authority board, overriding consideration to name the field for either David Lawrence (he became the namesake for the Convention Center) or Roberto Clemente (who got the Sixth Street Bridge). The board also approved 3M’s Tartan Turf rather than Monsanto’s AstroTurf for the field covering; the hardballers and gridders each had recommended it for TRS after testing both rugs. 
  • 1980 – John Milner signed a one-year deal for an undisclosed amount to avoid arb and the Bucs were close to settling three more contentious contracts when Kent Tekulve, Omar Morena and Ed Ott all withdrew their names from the scheduled arbitration hearings list. All four played for the Bucs in 1980, although Milner and Ott would be traded during the 1980-81 off season. 
  • 1981 – C Chris Snyder was born in Houston. He came to the Pirates at the 2010 deadline from Arizona as part of the DJ Carrasco deal. The Pirates plan was for him to become Ryan Doumit’s veteran caddy, but in 2011 an awkward slide caused him to miss most of the year with a bad back. His balky vertebra helped trigger the season of the catcher – the Pirates were forced to use eight players at the position after Snyder and Dewey were both injured. In his time with the Bucs, he hit .214 and the Pirates unsurprisingly declined his 2012 option. After a couple of seasons in a backup role for Houston and the O’s, Snyder retired in 2014. 
Todd Frazier – 2021 Pirates camp photo
  • 1986 – 3B/1B Todd Frazier was born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. He was the 34th overall pick in the 1st round of the 2007 draft by the Reds out of Rutgers. He went on to debut with Cincy in 2011, where he became a two-time All-Star, and later moved on to play with the White Sox, Yankees, Mets (twice) and Rangers. The Toddfather signed as an NRI with the Pirates for the 2021 campaign. He didn’t make the team out of camp, but was called up in late April. Frazier got into 13 games, hit .086, and was DFA’ed when the Bucs claimed Ben Gamel. He did not go quietly into the good night, but grumped at the local baseball media as he went out the door. Frazier played a handful of Frontier League games, joined the 2021 US Olympic team and then announced his retirement before the 2022 campaign. 
  • 1987 – SS Argenis Diaz was born in Guatire, Venezuela. He and Hunter Strickland came over from the Red Sox in 2009 for Adam LaRoche and Diaz got his only big league time in 2010 as a 23-year-old with the Buccos, hitting .243 in 22 games. Argenis, with a reputation as an excellent defensive guy, has bounced around among several organizations as AAA depth since while a regular in Venezuelan League winter play, and after a couple of years of minor league ball coached at Indy in 2020 and is now an instructor for Florida Torch Baseball Academy. 
  • 1993 – The Bucs signed RHP John Ericks, who was the Cards top draft pick in 1988, to a FA deal. After a couple of seasons on the farm, the 6’7” Ericks worked 57 games for the Bucs between 1995-97, going 8-14-14 with a 4.78 ERA. The Pirates liked the Fighting Illini as a starter, but after shoulder surgery, he was switched to the pen (and was penciled in as the closer in ‘97). He worked 10 games in ‘97 before going under the knife. He never recovered entirely after the second surgery and those appearances in ‘97 would be the last of his pro career. 
  • 2004 – Jack Wilson won his arbitration hearing and the fourth-year shortstop was awarded a salary of $1.85M, a hefty bump over the $335K he had earned in his last year of pre-arb. He had hit .256 and provided steady play in the field while getting into 150 games, and the arbitrators picked his number over the $1.4M offered by the Bucs. Jack was the first Pirate to go to arbitration since 1993 and the first to win against the club since Jose Lind in 1992. 
Jarrod Dyson – 202 Topps Update
  • 2020 – With a void in CF after the trade of Starling Marte, the Pirates signed 10-year vet Jarrod Dyson to a one-year/$2M contract, pending his physical, which he passed the next day. The 35-year-old played for Kansas City, Seattle, and Arizona, featuring good defense and fleet feet but an indifferent bat – in 2019, he slashed .230/.313/.320 (66 OPS+) but with 30 swiped bases and 13 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). Dyson hit .157 and in August was sent to the White Sox for future considerations. He hasn’t played since 2021 stops in KC and Toronto.


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