Baseball History for March 19th

<— MARCH 18     MARCH 20 —>


1868 Samuel “Skyrocket” Smith

Played about half a season with the Colonels in 1888 as a first baseman. Tall rangy guy, became a firefighter in St. Louis after baseball until his untimely death at age 48.

1874 Roy Evans

The first MLB player from Emporia State University in Kansas… Among the greatest con artists to play – constantly stealing advance money and leaving bills behind. A FABULOUS SABR bio was written by Brian McKenna.

1881 Billy Maharg

Speaking of crooks… Billy Maharg was a small time boxer, baseball player who was an insider to the fixing of the 1919 World Series.

Bill Lamb wrote this excellent bio:

1884 Clyde Engle

Utility player whose flyball was dropped by Fred Snodgrass in the 1912 World Series. He scored the tying run and helped Boston win the final game of the World Series.

1884 Bobby Messenger

Pride of Bangor, Maine. Played for White Sox from 1909 to 1911 – quick outfielder, but the Sox didn’t need more Hitless Wonders at that time. Got in one game as an emergency outfielder for the Browns in 1914. Spent better than a decade in the minors.

1887 Tex Covington

Born William Wilks, pitched two years with the Tigers in 1911 and 1912… Was actually born in Tennessee, must have moved to Texas after that. Spent a number of years in the American Association, Southern Association, and Western Association before returning to Denton, Texas. Brother, Sam, also played in the majors.

1891 Rube Schauer

Born in Odessa, Russia with the handle Dimitri Ivanovich Dimitrihoff, he had a rather meteroic rise to the big leagues. Family moved to the Dakotas just after the turn of the century; the Giants won a bidding war to sign him. He was allegedly singled out for fame by none other than Rube Waddell, who was pitching in the Northern League in 1913. He wasn’t always alert to the people he faced – didn’t make an effort to study the batters and patterns of other players, and got a reputation for being a little light between the ears – hence the nicknane.

Terry Bohn penned his SABR Bio:

1894 Red Torkelson

Chester Leroy must have been a ginger – he had gone 31 – 9 with Marshalltown in a D level minors, so the Indians gave him a few chances to pitch. He wasn’t horrible, but he was dispatched to the Southern Association for a while. Eventually the Chicago native returned home until he passed away in 1964.

1894 Bill Wambsganss

You probably know why he’s famous, and he hated it. A good player for a number of years, but the only thing people remember about him is one play – the unassisted triple play in a World Series game. For some, it stinks to be the answer to a trivia question.

After a long career, he even managed in the AAPGL for a season, he retired to Cleveland living into his 90s.

His SABR Bio was inked by Bill Nowlin:

1897 Elmer Bowman

Bob Bennett’s SABR bio would tell you he had just two plate appearances in the majors in 1920, he had a fine minor league career and later worked as a electrician in the movie industry.

1908 Gee Walker

Gerald Walker was a Mississippi man, went to The University of Mississippi, and was a fine outfielder for the Tigers in the 1930s. His career lasted into the war years with the Reds. Popular with the fans for being a bit of a clown, the act didn’t go over as well with his management, which is how he was traded from Detroit to the White Sox, and later (as he got older) to Washington, Boston, and Cleveland.

Once hit for the cycle on Opening Day – in reverse order – in 1937.

1915 Joe Gonzales

Spanish pitcher who grew up in San Francisco, pitched briefly for the Red Sox after graduating from USC, then was traded back to the Seals for Dominic DiMaggio… After baseball, was a high school teacher and coach, and a long time NFL Field Judge.

Bill Nowlin penned his SABR Bio:

1927 Richie Ashburn

A fine outfielder with a strong arm; a fine hitter with a remarkable eye and speed on the bases; a popular broadcaster with the Phillies to the very end.

1931 Paul Smith

Light hitting first baseman with Pittsburgh when not doing service time in the military in the 1950s.

1935 Fritz Brickell

Son of Fred Brickell, who played on the Pirates in the 1927 World Series… Signed by Yankees out of Wichita State University, played briefly there in 1958 and 1959, later released but among the initial members of the 1961 Los Angeles Angels. Injuries ended his career quickly; cancer took his life at 30.

1940 Pete Smith

Got three at bats with the Red Sox in 1962 and 1963.

1947 Garry Jestadt

Short career with Montreal, Chicago, and San Diego from 1969 to 1972. Mostly a third baseman, spent two seasons in Japan.

1947 Angel Mangual

Fourth outfielder on a team that won the AL West four times and three World Series titles. Originally signed by Pittsburgh, moved to Oakland as the player to be named later in the Mudcat Grant trade in 1970.

1947 Don Rose

Stanford grad, brief career pitching on 1971 Mets and getting 16 appearances and four starts with the 1972 Angels. Was one of many bodies included in the Nolan Ryan trade… Finished career with Giants in 1974.

1948 Paul Powell

First round pick of the Twins in 1969, made club in 1971 but only briefly. Traded to Dodgers for Bobby Darwin, appeared in last ten games of his 30 game career with the Dodgers in both 1973 and 1975.

1953 Tim Corcoran

Cal State – LA grad who played first base with the Tigers, then became a baseball nomad. After playing with Minnesota, Philadelphia and the Mets, hung up cleats. Hit .341 with the Phillies in 1984 over 208 at bats…

1955 Mike Norris

Decent pitcher with As in early 1980s – won 22 games with team in 1980. Abused arm gave out by 1983, though he made a comeback and pitched relief in 1990. Wikipedia notes that he may be the only A’s picher with wins in three different decades.

Has beaten many teams, arm demons, cocaine, and cervical myelopathy… I miss him.

1962 Ivan Calderon

I remember him as a talented outfielder and hitter who, when he was on track, was scary good. He just wasn’t scary good every year.

Free agent signee of the Mariners in 1979, traded to Chicago in 1987 and had a few good years. Was then traded to Expos for Tim Raines… Career degenerated because of injuries and was out of baseball after 1993. Didn’t get to enjoy retirement long – was murdered in a bar fight in 2003.

1963 Chuck Jackson

Brief cups of coffee in a long minor league career between 1987 and 1994.

1964 Jeff Hamilton

Dodgers prospect who never lived up to his billing in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

1966 Tony Scruggs

Got in five games for the Rangers in 1991. And then gone.

1968 Pete Young

Expos pitching prospect who failed in two brief tries in 1992 and 1993. Won only decision in relief…

1971 D. T. Cromer

Batted over .300 in two short stints with the Reds from 2000 to 2001, with 7 homers in 100 at bats. But struck out a third of the time, and apparently people noticed that. Now, nobody would blink at the strikeout numbers and just marvel at the power. Went to Japan for a while. Brother, Tripp, is also a major leaguer.

1974 Rocky Coppinger

Orioles and Brewers pitcher who kept getting chances because he had a live arm despite lack of major league success. Gave up last of Mark McGwire’s 583 homers.

1974 Jason LaRue

Catcher with Reds, Royals, and Cardinals – and a pretty good one. Career curtailed by issues with concussions – the last received when on the wrong end of a Johnny Cueto kick during a brawl in 2010.

1977 David Ross

Paul Bako with power – a catcher with great skills and a lot of stickers on his suitcase. One day will likely manage, no?  (And now a Chicago Cubs hero.)

1981 Jose Castillo

Looked like he might be a hitter with the Pirates ten years ago, but never got better… By 2008, he was a nomad, and by 2009 he was out of a major league gig.

1982 Landon Powell

Oakland prospect of about six years ago – got three tries and couldn’t make it stick.

1984 Matt Downs

Skilled with the glove hit some in 2011 with Houston, but otherwise was struggling to hit .200, which ended his major league days.

1988 Clayton Kershaw

The new Sandy Koufax.


1902 Tom Burns
1926 Bill Hutchinson
1928 Tom Lovett
1931 Joe Gannon
1934 Ray Jansen
1936 George Newell
1937 Otto Williams
1944 Joe Dunn
1944 John Kelly
1949 Truck Eagan
1952 Lefty Thomas
1954 Charlie Babb
1954 Frank Fahey
1955 Ed Hovlik
1955 George Stultz
1964 Pop Lloyd
1969 Josh Swindell
1972 Gordie Hinkle
1973 Walt Leverenz
1974 June Greene
1974 Tony Murray
1976 Bert Gallia
1981 Zinn Beck
1989 Joe Malay
2000 Dewey Williams
2003 Joe Buzas
2011 Bob Rush
2011 Tom McAvoy
2018 Dick LeMay
2019 Chuck Harmon


1970 Not a good story… In a spring training game, Cleveland first baseman Ken Harrelson fractures his leg and is out for most of the season. Bad for baseball, good for the PGA, though.

2002 Happy Birthday to the YES Network, which carries Yankees and Nets games (at the time).


1932 The Giants sell Freddy Leach to Boston.

Leach, who had hit over .300 in six of the previous seven seasons, did what a lot of 34 year old guys do – stopped hitting like that – and was out of the bigs at the end of the season.

1953 Pittsburgh signs bonus baby twins Eddie and Johnny O’Brien.

The O’Briens were remarkable Seattle area athletes, adept at baseball and basketball. In college, the two teamed up to beat a Harlem Globetrotters team that was not clowning around… Johnny is listed as the first college player to score 1,000 points in a season. They appeared in both NIT and NCAA tournaments.

The two were both excellent baseball players, too – and Branch Rickey signed the two to play for the Pirates. They each played five seasons as middle infielders. When their baseball careers ended, they both returned to Seattle running various sports camps – Eddie went on to be the athletic director and baseball coach at Seattle University.

As you might imagine, they are the answer to the trivia question: What are the first twins to suit up for the same team in the same game?

1974 Detroit trades veteran Jim Perry to Cleveland, while Cleveland sends Rick Sawyer and Walt “No Neck” Williams to the Yankeees. New York sent Jerry Moses to the Tigers, and Detroit sent Ed Farmer to the Yankees.

I miss trades like that.

1984 Chicago releases Fergie Jenkins.

Fergie was great in 1982 but less so in 1983 and was done the next spring. It was sad, of course, because the Cubs won the NL East that season…

1990 Atlanta buys veteran third baseman Vinny Castilla from Saltillo of the Mexican League.

1991 Toronto signs free agent Alfredo Griffen.

2002 Texas trades Justin Duchsherer to Oakland for Luis Vizcaino.

For a few years, Duchsherer was a valuable arm in the bullpen. Moved to the rotation in 2008, he was a ten game winner when his wing decided he wasn’t destined for a long career. Made five starts in 2010 and then it was over…

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