We have posted three previous Pittsburgh Pirates Memorabilia posts, where we have guest contributors share an item they own and the story behind the item. Our first submission was a 1946 team signed ball owned by Jarrod Ranone. The second installment was an 1887 scorecard used by a fan during the first cycle in Pirates franchise history. That article was written by Joe Gonsowski, a Detroit collector, who focuses on 19th century items. In our third installment, Martin Healy Jr. shared the story of his George Gibson mitt. Healy previously wrote about Gibson here over the winter, and what led him to write a book about the Pirates catcher for the 1909 World Series champs.
Today we go to a former contributor here at Pirates Prospects. If you search John Fredland’s name on our site, you will find numerous game recaps from back in 2011-12 when we had a daily article dedicated to This Date in Pirates History. He has been writing about the Pirates in multiple places since, including some recent in depth game recaps on the main site for SABR. Here’s the most recent one.
John shares an item today that he picked up at ten years old and has cherished ever since.
by John Fredland
My tenth birthday was going to be an exciting day. It would start on Three Rivers Stadium’s turf with a morning baseball clinic, hosted by the Pirates. Next up would be “Camera Day,” a chance to go on the field, meet the players, and get some pictures. Later, my parents and I had box seats—much closer than the usual outfield perch—for the Pirates-Cardinals game that afternoon. Never mind that the Pirates were 14 games under .500 and in last place in the National League East—it was a good day to be alive and a good day to be a kid.
The clinic included sessions with Chuck Tanner, Bill Madlock, and Kent Tekulve. I asked Chuck for his advice on developing a stronger throwing arm; “by throwing,” he responded, patiently. When the clinic was done, we had to leave so they could get the stadium ready for Camera Day. My parents and I headed to my grandmother’s house on the South Side.
As we passed through the parking circle around Three Rivers, we saw a man getting out of his car. It was Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare. We approached and said hello. Hearing his powerful voice in person was mind-blowing—I listened to his radio and TV broadcasts almost every day, but it was something else to hear him live, right in front of us.
One of Lanny’s trademarks was shouting, “Go ball, get out of here!” to celebrate Pirate home runs. On the air, he often mentioned having his own “Go Ball” baseballs. My dad asked Lanny if he could give me a “Go Ball.” Lanny reached into the trunk of his car. He retrieved a small box, the size of a baseball, and gave it to me. When I opened it, I saw a ball with the Dudley logo: a Lanny Frattare “Go Ball.” I’ve kept the “Go Ball,” now in a display cube, ever since.
The rest of the birthday celebration was likewise fun and memorable. Camera Day resulted in pictures with many of my favorite Pirates, including Tanner, Madlock, Tekulve, John Tudor, Jim Morrison, and Lee Tunnell. Several Cardinals also joined us, which is why I have a photo with Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, then a coach for St. Louis.
The game itself was a disappointment—the Pirates lost 5-1 to the Cardinals—but I won a camera in a between-innings drawing. And St. Louis’ game-clinching hit was a two-run homer by an outfielder in his first full season as a major-leaguer; within a few years, Andy Van Slyke would inspire many “Go Balls” of his own.
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.