Category Archives: Pirates Jerseys 2020

Jose Osuna Jersey

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As he continues to hit at a high rate the Pittsburgh Pirates need to find at bats for utility man Jose Osuna
One of the stars of Spring Training 2017 and 2018 for the Pittsburgh Pirates was utility man Jose Osuna. Despite a strong Grapefruit League performance each of those seasons, Osuna struggled during the regular season.

This season the roles have been reversed. After struggling in Spring Training, he started the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. Since having been promoted to the Major League level, however, Osuna has raked.

After going 2-for-3 in Friday night’s victory, Osuna is now slashing .304/.347/.609. His ISO is a healthy .304, to go with a .392 wOBA and a 146 wRC+.

With Osuna raking at the plate, the Pirates need to find him every day at bats.

Following the team trading Corey Dickerson to Philadelphia on Wednesday, there is an opening for him to play every day. Osuna can play in right field when there is a right-handed starting pitcher on the mound. When a lefty toes the rubber and Colin Moran is on the bench, Osuna can play third base.

While Osuna’s athleticism in right field leaves a good bit to be desired, he has a cannon of an arm in the outfield. At third base, however, Osuna has flashed as a plus defender. This includes multiple strong plays on Friday night.

The Pirates need to find out what role Osuna can play in the team’s future. Is it as an every day player? Or, is it as a bench bat?

If it is as a bench bat, he has seemingly mastered the art of pinch hitting. In the offseason I dove into his need to improve as pinch hitter this season, and improve he has. Osuna is slashing .370/.370/1.037 as pinch hitter this season, including a MLB leading 5 pinch hit home runs.

Osuna has also been hitting the ball with authority this season. His 36.6% hard contact rate is above league average. So is his average exit velocity of 89.9 MPH. There is certainly reason to believe Osuna has turned the corner as a hitter and is starting to figure it out.

NEXT: A Double-A Pitcher That Should Be In Triple-A
It is time for the Pirates to find out what they have in Osuna. Is he a bench bat or an every day player? Now is the time to play Osuna on an every day basis to find out.

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Checking in at number 9 on the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects list from the 2019 season is utility man Kevin Kramer
As part of the Seinfeld Pittsburgh Pirates connection, the selected UCLA infielder Kevin Kramer in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. This came after selection University of Arizona infielder Kevin Newman in the 1st round of the draft that summer.

Like Newman, Kramer primarily played shortstop in college. This led to Kramer moving to second base early in his professional career. However, he has also played third base and the corner outfield spots, in addition to the two middle infield positions during his professional career.

Kramer made his MLB debut during the 2018 season but struggled mightily. This led to the left-handed hitting utility man starting the 2019 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. Kramer, however, did reach the MLB level once again in 2019.

With Indy, Kramer experienced some struggles in 2019. The 26-year-old slashed .260/.335/.417 with a .328 wOBA and a wRC+ of just 92. Kramer had a 10.4% extra base hit rate, .158 ISO, 9.6% walk rate, and a concerning 25.9% strikeout rate with Indy.

As he did in 2018, Kramer struggled with the Pirates in 2019 as well. In 50 MLB plate appearances Kramer slashed .167/.260/.190. While his 12.0% walk rate was healthy, his 34.0% strikeout rate was not. Additionally, he collected just one extra base hit. This is concerning as his power potential is what Kramer is best known for.

NEXT: The Pirates Pick Up Starling Marte’s Option
Through his first 90 career MLB plate appearances Kramer has struggled mightily. In these 90 PAs Kramer has slashed .152/.222/.165 with a 41.4% strikeout rate. He also had a bad season at Triple-A in 2019. He is now 26-years-old and not getting any younger. To be honest, it would not be a shocker if Kramer was removed from the 40-man roster at some point this offseason. If he is not, he is all but ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis to start the 2020 season.

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When the Pirates find a new GM, he or she will need to determine how to address some of the impending position battles involving their top prospects.

The 2019 season was quite a journey, and the kids were on display. Young talent like Bryan Reynolds, and Kevin Newman grabbed the headline mantle directly from Josh Bell as he cooled off toward the end of June and geared up for his first All Star game appearance.

I often pictured a proud Clint Hurdle pushing the woes of his pitching staff and growing injured list out of his mind, while smiling and mumbling the famous words of his movie counterpart in Major League, “There’s a couple of potential All Stars in there.”

2020 promises to provide more of the youth injection, so let’s take a moment and see if we can broach the subject of where they fit. Of course, injury is sometimes the mother of opportunity as young Mr. Reynolds discovered last season, but for the sake of this look, we’ll assume the healthiest roster in the league.

Ke’Bryan Hayes – 3B

The Runddown: Hayes is a defensive wiz at the hot corner, as my colleague noted on multiple occasions. A late 1 round pick (32 overall) in 2015, Hayes has shown positive strides with the bat but hasn’t shown the power many hoped would develop. He was hampered by injury last season for Indianapolis, but still hit .266 with 10 HR in only 432 at bats. A welcome sight for the Pirates top prospect.

Players to Leapfrog: Colin Moran, Jose Osuna

My Thoughts: The Pirates were one of the very worst teams in baseball defensively last season. This on a team that featured a Gold glove finalist 2B (Frazier), a former Gold Glove winner (Marte), and a steady LF (Reynolds). If you watched more than a dozen games, you would have seen that Moran’s defense at third was a weakness.

So, the question for Hayes is, can his defense and offensive potential outweigh the emergence of Moran who became a consistent contributor on offense in the heart of the order? Osuna has at least proven he is a very solid bench option and defensively superior to Moran as a 3B and 1B. His position flexibility will make him hard to replace. I believe we will see Hayes starting the season with AAA. Hayes is too good to last long down there and will find a way to the MLB club in 2020. The defense is just too impressive and much needed.

Cole Tucker – Middle Infield

The Runddown: Early in the season Cole Tucker was called into duty as the Pirates were bitten by injury at the Short Stop position. He was electric from the start, he smiled and flashed the speed and energy we saw during spring training. Defensively, Tucker took charge of SS and provided stability, but his bat went cold after a very nice start, ultimately leading to his demotion as the roster found their way out of the medical tent. His call up in September provided little opportunity for playing time as Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman were arguably the best hitters in the lineup down the stretch – both competed for tops in the league in batting average.

Players to Leapfrog: Newman, Frasier, Eric Gonzalez, Kevin Kramer

My Thoughts: Middle infield is a position of strength for the Bucs. I see no way Newman and Frazier don’t go into 2020 as penned in starters. However, every team needs a solid middle infielder to provide insurance on the bench and that could very well be Tucker’s spot. He has some hurdles, and not his ex-coach, namely Eric Gonzalez and Kevin Kramer. Gonzalez showed some of what the Pirates hoped he would be as the season wound down. He is entering his first season of arbitration. That’s a whole lot of control to cede for any club, let alone the traditionally frugal Pirates. Kevin Kramer worked in the outfield last season but even that could be a crowded spot with Gregory Polanco expected to return. Tucker will have to earn it in Spring Training, but it may be a numbers game.

Will Craig – 1B

The Runddown: Will has steadily moved up the ranks in the minors. Last season he belted 23 home runs for the Indians, while providing Gold Glove-quality defense. His power has emerged, and the pop is real.

Players to Leapfrog: Josh Bell, Jose Osuna

My Thoughts: Craig will have some real challenges making the club out of camp. His defense and bat look ready for the show but, being stuck behind Josh Bell who rarely takes a night off unless forcibly removed, he won’t find many at-bats off the bench. At 24 the Pirates really need to find another position for him or run the risk of wasting this intriguing prospect.

In previous seasons you could set your watch by what Neal Huntington would and wouldn’t do, but those days are over. We no longer look at these prospects as potential replacements for salary dumped stars, but as potential pieces in a rebuild. When the Pirates find their new GM and manager, they won’t be coming in to the completely bare cupboard. Perhaps some of these position battles will enable the club to make some moves to improve the pitching staff. Or maybe we’ll have a couple younger Pirates make a run at Rookie of the Year.

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PITTSBURGH – Ben Cherington made his first official roster moves as Pirates general manager on Wednesday, adding five prospects to Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Facing Wednesday night’s deadline to set their roster, the Pirates selected the contracts of third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, shortstop Oneil Cruz, first baseman Will Craig and right-handers Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce.

• Pirates Top 30 Prospects

To make room for those additions, the Bucs designated four pitchers for assignment: Dario Agrazal, Montana DuRapau, Luis Escobar and Williams Jerez. Pittsburgh ended the day with a full 40-man roster as Cherington’s real work begins.

The annual Rule 5 Draft will take place at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Dec. 12.

What makes a prospect eligible for the Rule 5 Draft? Players signed at age 18 must be added to the 40-man roster within five seasons or they become eligible if left unprotected. Players signed at 19 or older must be protected within four seasons. This year, that generally meant international signings or high school Draft picks in 2015 had to be protected along with college players taken in the ’16 MLB Draft.

There was no doubt the Pirates would add Hayes and Cruz, two of their top three prospects. Craig, Cederlind and Ponce were also at risk of being selected if left unprotected.

Hayes, the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, is the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 36 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The slick-fielding third baseman is coming off an uninspiring offensive season for Triple-A Indianapolis. After a solid showing in Double-A Altoona, Hayes hit .265/.336/.415 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs in 110 games for Indianapolis this year. The 22-year-old could be ready for the Majors soon, but Pittsburgh might prefer to have him prove himself offensively back in Triple-A to start the year.

Pirates’ Top 5 prospects
Nov 21st, 2019 · 1:00
Pirates’ Top 5 prospects
Cruz, acquired from the Dodgers as part of the Tony Watson trade in 2017, is the Bucs’ No. 3 prospect and ranked 57th overall, according to MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old is a fascinating prospect, from his size (6-foot-7) to his defensive future (currently a shortstop, though most evaluators expect that to change in time) and the tantalizing tools that allowed him to hit .298/.356/.475 with eight homers and 11 steals in 73 games this past season. Cruz began the year in Class A Advanced Bradenton and finished with Altoona, where he’ll likely return to start next year.

Craig, the Pirates’ first-round pick in 2016, is now only a call away from the Majors. The Pirates’ No. 10 prospect has shown more home run power while playing improved defense over the last two years, but he still has questions to answer about his overall offensive profile. This year, the 25-year-old slugged 23 homers and drove in 78 runs in Triple-A but hit just .249 with a .326 on-base percentage and 146 strikeouts in 556 plate appearances.

Cederlind, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, climbed from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis this year. The hard-throwing reliever was particularly dominant in Double-A, posting a 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings over 31 appearances. The 23-year-old could make his Major League debut at some point next season.

The Pirates acquired Ponce, 25, from the Brewers in exchange for starter Jordan Lyles before this year’s Trade Deadline. The right-hander moved to the bullpen in 2018 but spent some time as a starter after joining Pittsburgh. Ponce finished the year in Triple-A, then put together an encouraging stint in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.35 ERA with 27 strikeouts and only three walks in 23 innings over five starts.

Only one eligible prospect on the Pirates’ Top 30 list was left unprotected: outfielder Lolo Sanchez. Despite his upside, Pittsburgh’s No. 15 prospect is unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft after finishing this past season in Bradenton.

Escobar, who was designated for assignment, was the Pirates’ 14th-ranked prospect, but his stock fell with a move to the bullpen and consistently high walk rates. Agrazal made 14 starts for the Pirates this year but struggled after an encouraging start, ending the season with a 4.91 ERA and only 41 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. DuRapau, a 32nd-round Draft pick in 2014, reached the Majors in May but wasn’t recalled when rosters expanded in September.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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The Pirates have narrowed their search to replace Clint Hurdle as manager.

As first reported by MLB.com, their final two candidates are Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, team sources confirmed to the Post-Gazette.

Shelton, 49, was hitting coach with the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2009, then had the same position with the Rays from 2010 to 2016 before the Twins brought him on as bench coach in 2017.

Quatraro, 46, played in the Rays’ minor league system and became a coach in 2004. He worked at various positions with Tampa from 2004 to 2013 before he joining Terry Francona’s staff with the Indians from 2014 to 2017 as an assistant hitting coach. Quatraro returned to the Rays for the 2018 season as third base coach and became bench coach for 2019.

Pirates pitcher Dario Agrazal pitches against the Cubs in the first inning Wednesday, Sept. 25 2019, at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pirates trade Dario Agrazal to Tigers for cash
Both men are highly respected in baseball circles and have experience winning in small markets.

The decision to focus on Quatraro and Shelton eliminates internal candidates such as third base coach Joey Cora and special assistant Jeff Banister.

According to sources, the Pirates are hoping to finalize a decision by the end of the week. Whomever the manager is will have to work quickly to build his staff.

The Pirates still need to hire a bench coach and a pitching coach. The manager, along with general manager Ben Cherington, will also have to decide the fates of the remaining staff members like Cora, hitting coach Rick Eckstein, and first base coach Kimera Bartee.

Rock the vote

Major League Baseball is rolling out a new kind of award — the 2019 All-MLB Team — and Pirates fans can vote for Josh Bell until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Unlike the All-Star Game, this particular honor is designed to incorporate the entire season. It will include two separate teams, regardless of league. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Matt Quatraro stands on the field during a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, May 11, 2018, in Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Breaking down the Pirates’ next manager: Derek Shelton vs. Matt Quatraro
Fans can vote once every 24 hours at MLB.com. Winners will be determined by fan vote and a panel of media members, broadcasters, former players and other officials throughout the game.

There will be three outfielders selected — regardless of position — along with a normal infield, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and two relief pitchers.

Bell ranks third among eligible first baseman with 37 home runs. He’s fourth in RBIs (116) and third in OPS (.936).

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The Pirates announced RHP Geoff Hartlieb underwent right foot surgery Wednesday. He is projected to make a full recovery and be ready for spring training.

Hartlieb told me before the regular season finale on Sep. 29 that he had been dealing with pain in his foot for “awhile,” but did not disclose when it started. He said then that he would meet with a doctor the next day.

Being that his right foot is the one he pushes off the rubber with, he said the injury affected his delivery.

The injury was first brought to attention after the game on Sep. 28, when then-manager Clint Hurdle announced Hartlieb was unavailable to pitch that day and the finale. It seemed to come as a surprise to Hurdle. When asked about the health status of some of his pitchers before that game, he said Hartlieb was fine. He was not mentioned in any of the September injury reports by director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk.

Hartlieb’s final outing of the year came on Sep. 20 in Milwaukee, where he allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings pitched. Hurdle said on Sep. 28 that he had not seen game action due to the number of other pitchers available and not finding the right spot for him.

Hartlieb, a 25-year-old former 29th round pick, made his major league debut on May 18. He struck out 38 batters over 35 innings for the Pirates and recorded an ERA of 9.00. He had more success in Triple-A Indianapolis, finishing with a 2.50 ERA and a 30.7 K% in 26 games pitched.

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Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton is seen in the dugout during a baseball game against the … [+]ASSOCIATED PRESS
Derek Shelton is walking into a mess.

Hired as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager on Wednesday, Shelton takes over a team that went 69-93 this year. That was good for their first last-place finish in the National League Central since 2010.

Just as troubling as the bad play on the field was the awful atmosphere in the clubhouse during the second half of the season when the Pirates went 28-48 after the All-Star break.

Reliever Keone Kela was suspended two games for a verbal altercation with a staffer. Bullpen coach Euky Rojas was also suspended two games for a physical altercation with reliever Kyle Crick.

Crick and closer Felipe Vazquez got into a clubhouse fistfight in mid-September. Crick wound up needing finger surgery and, just a few days, Vazquez was arrested on child sex charges and remains in jail.

You know the old cliché about cutting the tension with a knife? Well, the tension in the Pirates’ clubhouse could only be cut with a chainsaw.

Today In: Business
So, it seems Shelton might need to wear a hazmat suit in his attempt to clean up the clubhouse culture. The discord cost Clint Hurdle his job after nine seasons and played a role in general manager Neal Huntington being fired following 12 years on the job.

Thus, in a statement released by the Pirates, it was not surprising to read that Shelton fully understands what his first order of business should be as he transitions from Minnesota Twins’ bench coach to first-time major league manager.

PROMOTED

“I very much look forward to developing a strong partnership with Ben and the baseball operations staff,” Shelton said in the statement. “It is going to be an exciting change of culture in our clubhouse. It is going to be a fun environment in which we will all be held accountable to each other. It will be a player-centric culture built on strong communication and relationships with our players, our staff and the entire organization.”

The Pirates could certainly use a dose of fun. So, too, could their fans who haven’t had a World Series victory or appearance to celebrate since 1979.

Nothing in sports is more fun than winning, of course. The problem, though, is the Pirates don’t look like a team with any hopes of contending in 2020, especially in a division where the other four teams are in win-now mode.

Whether new GM Ben Cherington decides to go into rebuild mode remains to be seen. He was coy when asked about the matter during his introductory press conference Nov. 18.

Regardless of what direction the Pirates go, Cherington believes he has found his man in Shelton.

Oddly enough, Huntington reportedly thought Shelton was the right choice after interviewing him, too. However, the manager search was put on hold once Huntington was fired Oct. 28.

‘We are confident Derek will help lead an elite playing and coaching environment at the major league level and be a true partner to all of baseball operations as we challenge each other to get better every day,” Cherington said in a statement. “We are thrilled to get to work with Derek and continue building toward a winning team in Pittsburgh.”

That could take awhile but Shelton does come to the Pirates with a sterling reputation.

Shelton spent the past two seasons as the Twins’ bench coach. They won the American League Central title this past season and Rocco Baldelli was voted the AL Manager of the Year award.

The 49-year-old Shelton has been a coach in the major leagues for 15 years. He served as the hitting coach with the Cleveland Indians (2005-09) and Tampa Bay Rays (2010-16) then was the Toronto Blue Jays’ quality control coach in 2017.

“I have known Derek for more than 15 years and have great admiration for his passion for the game and players, work ethic, curiosity, and desire to learn,” Cherington said.

He will need to draw on all those characteristics to get things straightened out with the Pirates.

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Barry Bonds was difficult, and he was controversial … but he was also better at hitting baseballs than almost anyone who ever lived. An MLB team could not ask for better production from a hitter, and yet none of Bonds’ teams — including some very good ones — ever won a World Series.

So why not? What happened? You may be inclined to give simple answers to those questions, but we’re here to dig deeper into the actual deciding factors that kept Bonds short of a ring. Sometimes he struggled in the postseason, sometimes his teammates did. Sometimes he came through in the clutch, sometimes he very notably didn’t. Sometimes bad luck, bad managerial decisions, and bad timing interfered.

This episode of Untitled investigates each of those seasons Bonds approached glory — including the year his Giants came just a few outs away — and figures out precisely what went wrong.

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The baseball history of Fulton County is one that boasts of many Major League players once gracing our local diamonds.

Between the A., J. & G’s of the New York State League (turn of the 20th century) and the Gloversville-Johnstown Glovers of the Canadian-American League (1939-1951), several dozen future/former Major Leaguers have suited up to compete on our local diamonds and interacted with the fans of our communities. As an added bonus, barnstorming Major League teams visiting for one game exhibitions often allowed local fans to interact with entire teams of Major League players and sometimes a future hall of famer or two.

The July 1907 visit to A., J. & G Park (Parkhurst Field) by the Boston Americans (Red Sox) brought with it the appearance of future Hall of Famer Cy Young. Later that same month, the Pittsburgh Nationals (Pirates) also appeared for a game, bringing future Hall of Fame players Honus Wagner, Vic Willis, Fred Clark and owner Barney Dreyfuss.

In 1923, Gloversville resident George Burns was an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds and brought the team to Parkhurst Field, which included two more future Hall of Famers in the form of Edd Roush and Eppa Rixey. Gloversville would again be treated to two Major League teams coming to town for exhibition games in 1937 and 1948 at Berkshire Park (Glovers Park). While the 1948 visit by the St. Louis Browns did not include any future Hall of Famers, the 1937 visit by the Pittsburgh Pirates brought five.

Future Hall of Famers on the field that day included manager Pie Traynor and Honus Wagner (as a coach), along with players Lloyd Waner, Paul Waner and Arkie Vaughn. While few can still recall the 1937 and 1948 visits, and nobody is still around from the earlier exhibitions, what many local residents will remember was a caravan of baseball stars that came to Johnstown on May 2 and 3, 1979. The caravan was hosted by Fred Rulison, CEO of F. Rulison and Sons and included ten of the greatest players in the history of baseball, seven who were either already in the Baseball Hall of Fame or would eventually be inducted.

Whitey Ford talks with area baseball players at Knox Field in Johnstown in 1979. (Photos contributed by Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame)

The 1979 F. Rulison and Sons baseball caravan included;

Graig Nettles (current New York Yankee third baseman at the time);

Jim “Catfish” Hunter (current New York Yankee pitcher at the time & future HOF’er);

Yogi Berra (current New York Yankee coach at the time & HOF’er);

Phil Rizzuto (current New York Yankee announcer at the time & future HOF’er);

Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter signs autographs at Knox Field in Johnstown in 1979. (Photos contributed by Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame)

Whitey Ford (current New York Yankee spring training coach at the time & HOF’er);

Billy Martin (former New York Yankee Player and Ex/Future New York Yankee manager at the time);

Monte Irvin (one of baseball’s first black stars 1949-55 & HOF’er) ;

Bob Feller (former Cleveland Indian pitching legend & HOF’er);

Joe Garagiola (former player & NBC Sportscaster and host of TV’s “To Tell The Truth” Show at the time & future HOF’er);

Graig Nettles is pictured at Knox Field in Johnstown in 1979. (Photo contributed by Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame)

Francis Joseph “Spec” Shea (former Amsterdam Rugmaker & 1947 American League Rookie of the Year)

The historic caravan started arriving in Johnstown on Wednesday, May 2. The events kicked off that evening with an appearance by Bob Feller and Spec Shea at the Lions Club Zone A, District 20Y2 meeting and dinner at the Rainbow Restaurant on Main Street in Johnstown. The event was attended by area Lion’s members from Johnstown, Gloversville, Utica, Amsterdam, Speculator and Saratoga. Both players shared stories about their careers in baseball, followed by a question and answer session from those in attendance. The following morning, Feller and Shea were joined by Monte Irvin for a breakfast meeting of the Johnstown and Gloversville Jaycees at Sambo’s Restaurant (now Friendly’s) on Route 30A in Johnstown. All three served as guest speakers to the group. The trio then took tours of the Lexington Center and the Fulton County Infirmary where they greeted staff, clients and residents. They then attended the Johnstown Rotary Club luncheon at the Johnstown Hotel on Main Street (now the Johnstown Professional Office Complex), where they were once again guest speakers.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees had played the last game of a West Coast road trip in Anaheim California the night before against Gene Autry’s California Angels. They lost the game 1-0 and then at 1:30am Eastern time that morning, Graig Nettles, Jim Hunter, Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto climbed aboard a private jet to travel all night to Johnstown. Joining up with them along the trip were Whitey Ford, Billy Martin and Joe Garagiola. Early that afternoon these seven additional players arrived in Johnstown to join up with Feller, Shea and Irvin at the F. Rulison and Sons tannery on Charles Street. Waiting there to greet them were a few thousand baseball fans, each wanting to get a glimpse of their heroes and an autograph. The event started with a factory tour in which each fan got to see 10 stations showing the different stages of leather processing and a display by Wilson Sporting Goods about baseball manufacturing. The final leg of the tour involved being greeted by the ten baseball legends in attendance. The players were lined up along a long table and the fans moved through like an assembly line getting their autographs on complimentary baseballs in which the white horsehide coverings were tanned in the plant they had just toured, as well as Adirondack Bats manufactured just 25 miles to the East in Dolgeville.

Six of the players were in and out of the open house, taking turns participating in the youth baseball clinics being held a few miles away at Knox Field. It was a closed event and only Johnstown & Gloversville High School and Little League players were present. Ford and Hunter worked with the pitchers, while Garagiola and Irvin worked with the catchers and outfielders. Nettles, while sporting the three-piece suit that he had traveled in overnight, put on hitting and fielding clinics. The highlight of the sessions was Martin giving inspirational tips on the finer points of the game, much like he would while addressing one of his Major League clubs.

The final event of the caravan’s historic visit was a dinner held for the baseball celebrities back at the Rainbow Restaurant, with nearly 500 people in attendance. In addition to the ten players mentioned being lined up at the head table, former New York Giant pitching great Hal Schumacher and ex-Cleveland Indian scout Jim Walsh of Johnstown also joined them. Garagiola was the master of ceremonies, and along with all of the players, took turns addressing the crowd by telling jokes, reminiscing about their careers and making predictions for the 1979 season.

After dinner and the speeches, another autograph session ensued by those in attendance and then the players received a police escort to the home of the event sponsor/organizer Fred Rulison on Phelps Street in Gloversville for a private party. The players eventually spent the night at the Johnstown Hotel and then headed to New York City the following day to begin a three-game homestand against the visiting Oakland Athletics the following evening.

Such a historical caravan of players coming to our area seems too good to be true, but it really did happen thanks to F. Rulison and Sons CEO Fred Rulison. According to Norman Reno, a spokesman for Fred Rulison who helped organize the event, “Rulison spent nearly $150,000 to put the event together. The expenses included the players appearance fees ($100,000 alone), airfare, ground transportation, lodging, and giveaway items at the plant tour (baseballs and bats).”

But what would possess a local business man to spend $150,000 of his own funds (equivalent to $500,000 today) to bring these former players to his hometown? The main reason was to show the community the importance of the leather processing tanneries to the local area. It was also part of Rulison’s crusade to get the word out to the baseball world that horsehide coverings for baseball were superior and should be used in favor of cowhide coverings.

F. Rulison and Sons began operations in 1919 in Northville, but with the flooding of the Sacandaga Reservoir in 1930, were forced to relocate to Johnstown. They were a “raw to finish” leather processor that specialized in horsehides. In 1921, F. Rulison & Sons began supplying white horsehide leather to be used by baseball manufacturing companies to make coverings for baseballs and softballs. These balls included both youth and professional leagues, including Major League Baseball. Horsehide was the preferred material to be used to make baseball covers as it was tougher, harder to break, and harder to scuff or damage. This is especially important when being struck by a wooden bat by individuals with extreme power. F. Rulison & Son’s had their own special formula for turning any horsehide presented to them into a high-quality piece of finished white leather suitable for the likes of the baseball world. Their customers included baseball producers Spalding, Wilson, Rawlings, Lannom (Worth), and deBeer. At the height of their relationship in suppling Major League Baseball’s producers of balls with their horsehide leather for coverings in 1973, they had 72 employees. And 90 percent of F. Rulison and Sons production was for white horsehide leather to make baseball and softball covers.

However, changes in the industry were coming that would negatively affect the use of horsehide to make baseball coverings. These changes centered around the shortage of quality horsehides. In 1960, while speaking at the Annual Tanners Council of America Convention in Chicago, Rulison predicted a shortage of suitable horsehides for making baseball coverings coming within the next ten years.

His reasoning was the effects of the mechanization of the farming industry. Traditionally, farmers used several work horses to tend to their fields. The byproduct of such horses when their farming services were through, was to turn their hides into usable leather for industry. As farms were becoming more modernized, there were less and less operations still utilizing horses. As this happened, domestically available quality hides were becoming scarce, and Rulison began to obtain hides from European markets. This led to horsehide becoming more expensive than other materials such as cowhide, but Rulison was a traditionalist and chose to stand by quality over increased profits.

It was around this time that suppliers of hides to baseball companies realized that they could make more money supplying cowhides rather than horsehides to baseball manufacturers.

Using scare tactics of scarcity and showing that cowhide balls were prettier (you get a more vibrant white ball when tanning cowhide) they started a push to encourage Major League Baseball to consider allowing both materials to be used. As a test in 1973, Major League Baseball made an amendment to Rule No. 1.09 (Rule No. 3.01) that allowed for a ball to be made to the following specifications for use in the American League and National League; “The ball shall be a sphere formed by yarn wound around small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two strips of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together. It shall weigh not less than five nor more than 5 ¼ ounces avoirdupois and measure not less than nine or more than 9 ¼ inches in circumference.”

Cowhide covered balls were first utilized in 1973 spring training games and some minor league games. In 1974, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn allowed the use of cowhide balls in regular season games, hence ending the reign of the horsehide covered ball in professional baseball. This created a sharp drop off in demand for white horsehide leather and was a big hit to the Rulison operation. But Fred was a traditionalist who firmly believed it was a mistake for baseballs to be made out of cowhide, as it was an inferior quality product. Even though his plant already had cowhide tanning capabilities and could produce enough white horsehide leather to make covers for balls needed for an entire season by Major League Baseball in just a few days in his factory, Rulison refused to give in to temptation to start supplying a product that he did not believe in. Instead, he found new products to manufacture horsehide for, such as industrial work gloves and shoes.

Over the next five years, the Rulison operation continued manufacturing horsehide, but were coming under the watchful eyes of environmentalists who were against the use of Chromium and tanning processes that produced harsh odors. While his operation used some Chromium, the bulk of his tanning process was done using Alum, which is considered to be a food grade chemical used in the treatment of water, in medicine, for cosmetics and in food preparation. However, there were not technologies in existence to combat the nasty odors the process emitted, and this drew community scrutiny.

While the historic event was put together by Rulison to show the community how important the tannery was to the community, and to try to convince Major League Baseball as to the superiority and importance of using baseballs made of horsehide covers, some believe that it was simply Rulison’s way of giving back to the community.

According to former F. Rulison and Sons corporate president (1976-85) Jeanne So, “I don’t think the event made an impact on sales, but it made Fred happy and let the community and environmentalists see how important the tannery and the products it produced were to the area. He was most proud to let the world know that a little tannery on Charles Street (in Johnstown) was instrumental in producing white horsehide leather covers for Major League Baseball for years and years.”

Reno concurred with So’s sentiments and added, “Fred was very generous and had an extremely big heart. I felt Fred’s favorite part of the event was the player clinics. He just beamed from ear to ear with pride watching the kids on the fields with the players learning from some of the greats of the game.” Due to failing health, Rulison ended operations of F. Rulison and Sons in 1985.

Loyal to his beliefs and those held by his Grandfather (Fred Sr.) who founded the company in 1919, Fred Rulison Jr. held true to the family craft of focusing on the tanning of horsehide, while doing it the same way that his family had for several decades.

For the Rulison Family’s role in supplying white horsehide leather for baseball coverings to the Major Leagues for several decades, F. Rulison and Sons has been nominated for induction into the Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is set for June 22nd as part of the annual Vintage Baseball Game to be played at Parkhurst Field in Gloversville. Along with F. Rulison and Sons, Johnstown’s Brian Mee and Fred Webb will be inducted between innings of the game. The event will be open to the public. For more information about the inductions and event, visit www.parkhurstfield.org .

A special ‘thank you’ to Jeanne So and Norman Reno for their help with this story. And also to Ed Ausfeld for donating a ball & bat signed by all the players at the historic May 1979 Rulison baseball event. Both items are on permanent display at the Fulton County Museum located at 237 Kingsboro Avenue in Gloversville.

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Did you see it? The Pirates made a great joke on Twitter this week.

The tweet in question came on October 10th, minutes before Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow squared off in a do-or-die Game 5 of the ALDS, and read, “Not tonight, Twitter.” It then featured a clip of a person (I’d like to believe it was either Neal Huntington, farm director Larry Broadway or Ray Searage) looking at tweets, closing a laptop, then hurling said laptop out of the press box.

A real gas, right? How hilarious that the Pirates were willing to acknowledge that two of their biggest failures were front and center for the nation to observe, opposing each other in a division series elimination game, something this team hasn’t seen in six years.

No amount of social media savvy changes the fact that the biggest joke of the 2019 MLB postseason is the Pirates themselves. Huntington, Frank Coonelly and Bob Nutting should have been shamed into oblivion by the entire Astros-Rays series. The team shouldn’t be trying to yuk it up on Twitter, because their mishandling of pitchers is anything but a laughing matter.

It’s a shameful failure. A series of termination-worthy missteps. Yet Huntington and Broadway, and scouting director Joe DelliCarri remain, ready to embark on a 2020 that likely holds more of the same, that is to say, disappointment.

At least Searage’s time can now be referred to in the past tense, though he still took the time to write a farewell to Pittsburgh in The Athletic this past week.

That piece clocked in at a beefy 904 words, way out of line for the guy who wanted at-bats finished in three pitches or less, preferably with a ground ball into an immaculately planned shift, the better to show off Huntington and his lieutenants’ acumen.

You’ve probably read the numbers enough to not have them rehashed here. Cole has turned into a flame-throwing strikeout machine. Precisely six pitchers since 1900 have managed to strike out more hitters than the 326 Cole fanned this season. You may have heard of them: Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Rube Waddell (1904 was a big “three true outcomes” year), Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller.

None of them had a higher strikeout percentage than Cole’s 39.9.

Glasnow was hurt most of the year, but when he was healthy, he was dominant. He did not remotely resemble the broken shell of a pitcher he was with Pittsburgh. He frequently looked unhittable.

If you’re scoring at home, the Pirates traded Cole, currently the best pitcher in the sport, for Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran and Jason Martin.

Glasnow went to Tampa, along with Austin Meadows, who led the Rays with a .922 OPS this season, and Shane Baz, who flashed dominant stuff in Tampa’s minor league system.

At least the Pirates got Chris Archer, who is both broken and currently not very good, in return.

I pause now, to let you replace your monitor or smartphone, since you have doubtless put your fist through it.

Huntington runs a franchise whose approach is antiquated, whose ability to get the most out of the talent they do acquire borders on nonexistent, and whose future, thanks to his failed dealings, looks dim. The Pirates, despite their preposterous organizational positivity, don’t have much hope for the future.

Coonelly and Huntington can try to talk tough and spin the present state of affairs positively all they want; the truth is that no one who has been paying attention expects anything out of this franchise, nor should they.

It’s arguable that no team is worse at developing pitchers, and that reality, coupled with the financial constraints that are a daily reality of Nutting’s ownership, contributes to a grim outlook, in the immediate and long-term.

Glasnow and Cole’s duel, and Cole’s continued excellence, are reminders of the Pirates’ past failings, ones that will define their future for the worse.

Doesn’t seem all that funny to me.