First Pitch: A New Feature and a Look Ahead at Some of the Upcoming Site Changes

Today is the start of a new series from Wilbur Miller, one that you can follow into October. He is previewing the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates season today, tomorrow and Saturday. That will be followed by a recap of the 1979 season opener, which occurred on April 6th. You will get a new article each day of the season on the dates the games were played.

Once our history site is launched as part of the Pittsburgh Baseball Network, the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates articles will be found there daily. That site will be the busiest one on the network until the actual baseball season starts, whenever that happens, whether it’s June, July or next year.

The “This Date in Pirates History” section of this article, which was also found in the Morning Report during the season, will transfer over to the history site, and of course that will post every day of the year.

The Card of the Day feature will be a regular article as well. If you’ve missed any of those articles, you can find the older ones linked in the bottom of the most recent article, which was about an unusual 1887 card that featured more than just a Pittsburgh player. The plan is to post somewhere between 5-7 Card articles per week. During the regular season, it might be hard to pump out one every single day, but in the winter it will be daily. We want to make sure that even on Christmas day or Puppy Bowl Sunday, two of our slowest traffic days, you’ll still have a minimum of three articles to read.

That third article will come from one of various sources, which you have started to see on this site. We have posted two Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates articles already, most recently featuring the often overlooked Cy Blanton.

We have also started the Game Rewind series of articles. That will provide an endless supply of possible articles. About the only games we won’t post in this feature right now are games from 1979, as those will all be covered by Wilbur over the next six months. The first two Game Rewind articles featured Willie Stargell’s debut and a big game from Al Oliver and the 1971 Pirates.

Then there is the Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons feature, where we take a look at a noteworthy season in team history. I started with one of the best seasons in franchise history, covering Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler’s 1925 performance. That was followed up yesterday by Mike Easler’s 1980 season.

Then we will have random history articles whenever something might pop up that seems like an interesting story to share. That actually happened Wednesday night when I wrote up a quick article on the 1940 Pirates during Spring Training. Technically I was writing about a “This Date” fact, but it was a story that I just read that day. It was so different from Spring Training as we know it now that I decided it was worth sharing.

I also have a group of people who are willing to contribute their own articles, which you will start to see once the site in launched. I have many ideas for these articles, including a section where people can share Pirates memorabilia and the story behind it.

The history site will deal with Pittsburgh baseball, so it won’t just be the Pirates, though they will be the main focus for obvious reasons. You will also see some features on the Negro League teams that played in Pittsburgh, some early minor league teams from the city, as well as the Pittsburgh Burghers of the 1890 Player’s League and the Pittsburgh Rebels of the 1914-15 Federal League. Pittsburgh also briefly had a team in the Union Association in 1884, which was a Major League at the time. I’m sure that club will provide a few interesting stories on a slow winter day(s).

The history site will provide plenty of reading material each day and over time it will turn into a library of Pirates history, where you can spend hours reading or researching Pittsburgh baseball history.

SONG OF THE DAY

Let my father pick the song again today. Never heard this one before…

DAILY QUIZ


RANDOM STUFF OF THE DAY

Decided to try some standup comedy again here because it makes sense at this time.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Two Pittsburgh Pirates trades and five former players born on this date.

On this date in 1986, the Pirates sent outfielder Marvell Wynne to the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Bob Patterson. Wynne came up with the Pirates in June of 1983 and stepped right into the starting center field role, playing 103 games that rookie season and 154 in 1984. He hit .266 with 11 triples and 24 doubles in 1984. He stole 24 bases, although he was caught stealing 19 times. He struggled in 1985, hitting .205 with a .505 OPS in 103 games. Patterson was a 26-year-old lefty reliever, who made his Major League debut in September of 1985, getting hit hard in three appearances.

Patterson bounced between the minors and majors his first four seasons in Pittsburgh. They tried him as a starter but his eventual value with the team came as a reliever for the three pennant winners from 1990-92. During those three seasons he made 169 appearances, winning 18 times and saving another 16 games. In six seasons with Pittsburgh, he had a 3.97 ERA in 331 innings over 207 games. Wynne spent 3 1/2 seasons in San Diego, getting plenty of playing time at all three outfield positions. In 468 games with the Padres, he hit .258 with 138 RBIs, 107 runs scored and 29 stolen bases (in 51 attempts). His best season came in 1988 when he hit .264 with a .752 OPS and career high 42 RBIs.

On this date in 1990, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded outfielder Billy Hatcher to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitcher Mike Roesler and infielder Jeff Richardson. Hatcher was 29 at the time, coming off a season he split with the Pirates and Astros, in which he hit .231 with four homers, 51 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 135 games. In 1987 with the Astros he hit .296 with 53 stolen bases, but never came close to that success in any other season. Roesler was a 26-year-old reliever with a 3.96 ERA in 17 appearances in 1989 for the Reds, his rookie season. Richardson was a rookie in 1989 as well. He hit .168 with two homers in 53 games for the Reds, spending most of his playing time at shortstop.

The Pirates didn’t get much from this deal. Richardson was in Triple-A at Buffalo for three seasons, getting just six games and four at-bats with the Pirates during the 1991 season. He was dealt in 1993 for Daryl Irvine, a pitcher that never played for the Pirates in the majors. Roesler pitched only six innings for the Pirates during the 1990 season, his last year in the majors. He was in the Pirates system through the middle of 1992, finishing his career in 1993 as a member of the Royals farm system. Hatcher helped the Reds to the 1990 World Series, hitting .333 in the NLCS against the Pirates, then batting .750 in the WS against the Oakland A’s. He hit .276 with 30 stolen bases and 68 runs scored during that regular season. He was with the Reds until July of 1992 when he was traded to the Red Sox for pitcher Tom Bolton.

Ryan Doumit, catcher for the 2005-11 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1999 amateur draft and lasted in the system for 13 seasons. In 611 Major League games over seven seasons, he hit .271 with 67 homers and 266 RBIs. Doumit’s best season came in 2008 when he hit .318 with 15 homers, 34 doubles, 71 runs scored and 69 RBIs in 116 games. He suffered numerous injuries during his time in Pittsburgh, but in 2010 he was able to play a career high 124 games. It was only the second time he played over 83 games in a season. Doumit was signed by the Twins as a free agent on November 23, 2011 and he played in the majors until 2014.

Bobby Hill, 2B/3B for the 2003-05 Pirates. He was originally a second round draft pick of the Cubs in 2000. Hill made his Major League debut in 2002, hitting .253 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 59 games. He spent most of 2003 in Triple-A with the Cubs, where he hit .288 with 40 RBIs in 92 games. On August 15, 2003 he was sent to the Pirates as the player to be named later in the Aramis Ramirez deal made two weeks earlier. In 2004, he played 126 games for the Pirates, 76 off the bench. Most of his playing time in the field was at second base, occasionally playing third base, and he made just two errors all season. In 233 at-bats he hit .266 with 27 RBIs. Hill played 58 games for the Pirates in 2005, then was traded in the off-season to the Padres for pitcher Clayton Hamilton. After spending all of 2006 in Triple-A, he didn’t play in 2007, then returned in 2008 to play independent ball for four seasons.

Miguel Garcia, pitcher for the 1987-89 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Garcia and minor league third baseman Bill Merrifield from the Angels in exchange for second baseman Johnny Ray in August of 1987. Prior to that, Garcia had pitched one game in the majors, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings. In the minors during the 1987 season, he went 10-6, 2.59 in 50 relief appearances at Double-A. After coming over to the Pirates, he pitched one game, retiring the only two batters he faced. In 1988 he pitched one early season game for the Pirates, then spent the rest of the year at Triple-A. Garcia started the 1989 season in the minors, before getting recalled in early June. He made 11 appearances, posting an ERA of 8.44 in 16 innings before being sent back down. He spent the 1990 season in Double-A for the Pirates as a starting pitcher. That was his last season of pro ball, except for a brief five game comeback in 1995, pitching at Triple-A for the Expos.

Dick Conger, pitcher for the 1941-42 Pirates. He was signed as a teenager by the Detroit Tigers in 1940 and went right to the majors to start his career. After two appearances, Conger went to the minors to finish the season. The Pirates picked him up in the Rule 5 draft in October of 1940. He pitched two seasons with the Pirates, spending most of the time in the minors. Conger made two appearances with the Pirates each year. He had no record and a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings with Pittsburgh. After the 1942 season, he was traded to Toronto of the International League in exchange for the rights to Burgess Whitehead, a veteran second baseman who was serving in the military. Conger was purchased by the Phillies during the 1943 season and finished his Major League career later that year. He spent  another six seasons in the minors before retiring from baseball.

Guy Hecker, pitcher/1B and manager for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He had a 175-146 record in nine seasons in the majors, one of those seasons was a very special one though. In 1884, Hecker, while pitching for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association, had one of the best overall seasons in baseball history. He won an amazing 52 games, led the league with a 1.80 ERA, 670.2 innings pitched and 385 strikeouts. For reference, most baseball sources will quote the single season strikeout record to be Nolan Ryan with 383 in 1973, but that is just a modern record. Hecker also batted .297 with 42 RBIs that season and led all AA pitchers in assists and putouts.

In 1886, Hecker won 26 games and led the AA with a .341 batting average. He qualified for the batting title by playing first base and outfield when he wasn’t pitching. On August 15, 1886 he hit three homers in one game. After the 1889 season, with his skills declining, he was released by Louisville. He signed on to manage the Alleghenys, who lost most of their team to the newly formed Player’s League. The Alleghenys were one of the worst teams in baseball history and Hecker suffered through the whole season at the helm of the team. They went 23-113, he went 2-9 on the mound and hit .226 in 86 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. Guy played minor league ball until 1895.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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