Category Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates Gear

Chad Kuhl Jersey

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The Pittsburgh Pirates made a flurry of roster moves on Monday afternoon
Last week, it was reported by Jon Heyman of the MLB Network that the Pittsburgh Pirates planned to pick up the $11.5 million option the team had for center fielder Starling Marte for the 2020 season. On Monday, the Pirates made this move official.

In addition to picking up Marte’s option, the team officially picked up pitcher Chris Archer‘s option for 2020 as well. Archer, who is coming off the worst season of his career, is set to earn $9 million next season. However, this may still prove to be a contract of great value for the Pirates as there is a lot of reason to believe that with a new pitching coach Archer could regain his old form in 2020.

Along with picking up these two options, the Pirates also made multiple moves pertaining to the 40-man roster.

First off, the team activated all of their players that were on the 60-man disabled list. These players were Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, Jason Martin, Kyle Crick, and Nick Burdi. This re-added each of these players to the 40-man roster, creating the need to make room on the 40-man roster.

To make room on the 40-man, the team outrighted four players. All four of these players were pitchers. They were Alex McRae, James Marvel, Wei-Chung Wang, and Yefry Ramirez. Each of these pitchers saw MLB action with the Pirates in 2019.

After these moves the Pirates’ 40-man roster currently sits at 39. With players such as Ke’Bryan Hayes and Will Craig needing to be added to the 40-man roster in order to protect them for the Rule 5 Draft, more players will have to come off the roster. Also, space will, obviously, have to be made for any players added this offseason.

NEXT: The Pirates Should Pursue Yan Gomes
There are plenty of candidates on the Pirates’ 40-man roster to be designated for assignment at some point this offseason. Chris Stratton, Kevin Kramer, Montana DuRapau, Luis Escobar, Sam Howard, and Williams Jerez all come to mind as players who could be DFA’d this offseason.

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As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to hunt for a new catcher, could veteran Jason Castro be the answer?
General manager Ben Cherington has a lot of needs he must address for the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. One of the biggest needs he must address is the catcher position. After being among the best teams in baseball in terms of catcher production in 2018, the Pirates were one of the worst in 2019.

The Pirates primarily used three catchers in 2019 – Elias Diaz, Francisco Cervelli and Jacob Stallings. In addition, Steven Barron also played in seven games. Overall, Pirate catchers combined for a fWAR of -0.5 in 2019 and this was despite Stallings posting a 1.3 fWAR.

Catching market starting to thin out for the Brewers

Stallings did emerge in 2019. In 71 games he slashed .262/.325/.382 with a wRC+ of 82 and his aforementioned 1.3 fWAR. While Stallings proved to be a great defensive catcher and a plus framer, he struggled to hit for any power at all. Due to this, his ceiling moving forward is that of a back up catcher.

Cervelli battled injuries before being released and signing with the Atlanta Braves, Diaz was abysmal and is a DFA candidate this offseason and Barron is a career minor leaguer for a reason. Even though the Pirates may not be looking to compete in 2020, their catcher situation is not good enough and must be addressed this offseason. One way to address this situation would be to target free agent Jason Castro.

The left-handed hitting Castro is a nine-year MLB veteran who has spent the last three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Castro owns a 14.5 fWAR, 93 wRC+, .308 wOBA, and a .231/.313/.390 slash line in 825 MLB games.

While Castro is a slightly below league average hitter, he is a plus defender behind the dish. Castro’s career dWAR is 71.0. He is highly regarded for his ability to call a game, handling of a pitching staff, his ability to lead his staff, and his pitch framing.

Castro would be a great influence for a young Pirate pitching staff. The lessons that pitchers such as Edgar Santana, Joe Musgrove, Kyle Crick, Mitch Keller, and others, could learn from Castro are lessons that may prove to be invaluable.

The Pittsburgh Priates are in need of catching help in 2020. Veteran Jason Castro could provide this help to a Pirate team that features a young pitching staff. Castro’s name will be one to watch as the offseason continues.

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With already completing a trade to in this year’s MLB FanSided offseason simulation, it was time to head to the free agent market to find a way to improve the team.
For the last few years, the MLB Division at FanSided has put together an offseason simulation with the sites playing General Manager. I am in charge of the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason simulation this year. Each team has been able to submit trades to one another as well as trying to bid on free agents.

Yesterday, I discussed my trade with the Philadelphia Phillies (Phillies TBOH). The trade had the Pittsburgh Pirates sending outfielder Starling Marte and reliever Keone Kela to the Phillies. Coming back to the Bucs in the deal was a package of four prospects, including three who are close to MLB ready. The list included top pitching prospect Adonis Medina, outfielder Adam Haseley, catcher Deivy Grullon, and infield prospect Kendall Simmons.

While the trade made with the Phillies was supposed to help bring in talent that will help in a shorter time frame, the team still needs plenty of help. When looking at the free-agent market, I thought it was important to not just add some starting pitching depth, but some quality starting pitching depth. On top of that, it was important to find a quality left-hander for the rotation, something the team has been missing in the last few years.

So as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates I extended a reasonable, two-year contract offer to free-agent pitcher Wade Miley. Miley was getting a lot of one year offers and so the second year was a big part of getting a deal done. Financially speaking, the deal was worth $17.5 million or, $8.75 million per season. A two-year deal seemed like a perfect fit on the Pittsburgh Pirates end of things. This gives them a quality lefty to help compete and win games with a growing team. Also, he would be back for 2021 when the team projects to really compete.

Starting Pitcher Career Numbers: 85-82, 4.23 ERA, 7.15 K/9, 49% Ground Ball Percentage

Wwith it being a two-year deal, it is a relatively safe deal to make. He would be easy to flip in a trade if he was not performing well enough, or if he was really performing well and a team was looking to get a starter with contractual control. Really, the contract made a lot of sense from all angles in terms of team success or value of a solid, left-handed starter.

Miley pitched for the Houston Astros last season and was with the Brewers in 2018. Over the last two years, Miley has had somewhat of a career resurgence. In 2018 he was really impressive in his 16 starts with the Brewers posting a 2.57 ERA. He followed it up with a 3.98 ERA with Houston this past season. While he regressed some, he still put up a strong season and if he repeated those results he would be worth $8.75 million per season.

With Miley slotting into the rotation, it gives some extra flexibility to potentially deal one of the starters. With the change over in management, it might be the time to just move on from Chris Archer. He is owed $9 million this upcoming year and has an option for 2021. Miley has been much better than Archer the last two seasons and would essentially replace him at a cheaper rate. To say the least, there has been a decent bit of interest for Archer by other FanSided GM’s so it seems likely that a deal will be struck.

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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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On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates added five players to their 40 man roster in order to protect them form next month’s Rule 5 Draft
5 PM on Wednesday afternoon was the deadline for MLB teams to add minor league players to their 40 man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. With this, new Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington had his first course of action as the team’s new GM.

Cherington, with the help of assistant Kevan Graves and minor league director Larry Broadway, chose five players to add to the 40 man roster. These five players were third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, shortstop Oneil Cruz, first baseman Will Craig, and pitchers Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce.

Entering Wednesday the Pirates had 39 players on their 40 man roster. Due to this, in order to add five players to their 40 man roster, four had to come off. This led to the team designating four players for assignment. These four players were all pitchers – Dario Agrazal, Luis Escobar, Montana DuRapau, and Williams Jerez.

None of the players added to the 40 man roster come as a surprise. Hayes and Cruz are arguably the team’s top two prospects, and two of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. If all goes according to plan, Hayes will be the team’s starting third baseman at some point in 2020.

While I am not as high on Craig as others, he has hit for impressive power in the minor leagues and will likely make his MLB debut at some point in 2020. Both Cederlind and Ponce are intriguing relief pitcher prospects. With the exception of Cruz, each of the players that were protected are likely to make their MLB debut at some point during the 2020 season.

NEXT: Pirates Mailbag: November 20th, 2019
Each of the four players that were designated for assignment spent time at the MLB level for the Pirates in 2019. However, each of them struggled in their time with the Bucs. In fact, this is the second consecutive offseason in which Agrazal has been designated for assignment.

The Pirates 40 man roster is now full. So, in order to add anyone to it via free agency, a waiver claim, or a trade that does not send someone on the 40 man roster to the other team involved in the deal, the Pirates will have to take someone off the 40 man. This is just the start of a busy offseason for Cherington and the Pirate front office.

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pirates have exercised the options on the contracts of Starling Marte and Chris Archer for the 2020 season.

“Starling is an all-star caliber center fielder who impacts the game in all phases,” said interim General Manager Kevan Graves. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring him back in 2020 following his excellent 2019 season. We are encouraged about the progression Chris [Archer] made in the second half of last season and look forward to him being a part of our rotation in 2020.”

The Pirates also reinstated Archer, Nick Burdi, Kyle Crick, Chad Kuhl, Jason Martin, Gregory Polanco, Edgar Santana, and Jameson Taillon from the 60-day injured list.

James Marvel, Alex McRae, Yefry Ramirez, and Wei-Chung Wang have been released off of the roster.

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While there are a lot of question marks facing the Pirates organization in 2020, one thing is certain: It’s going to look different.

For the first time since September 2007, there will be a new general manager overseeing all things baseball operations wise. Neal Huntington, who became the GM back then and helped rebuild the farm system to the point where it aided the Pirates in making three straight playoff appearances, was let go in late October.

State of the System
AL East BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR
NL East ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WSH
AL Central CLE, CWS, DET, KC, MIN
NL Central CHC, CIN, MIL, PIT, STL
AL West HOU, LAA, OAK, SEA, TEX
NL West ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF
Division Team
For an extended period of time, that farm system was one of the best in baseball, making MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 rankings five times in a row from preseason 2015 through preseason 2017 (Two rankings are released each season.). A combination of graduations and trades thinned it out somewhat, but Pittsburgh did come in No. 15 in the 2019 midseason system rankings.

There is some elite-level talent at the top, with the top three prospects all firmly in the Top 100, but it thins out more quickly than it has in the past. It will be up to whoever takes the helm to help the Pirates restock so the farm system can again be an asset in helping the Pirates compete in the NL Central.

TOP 5 PROSPECTS

1) Mitch Keller, RHP (No. 26 on Top 100)
2) Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (No. 36)
3) Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 57)
4) Travis Swaggerty, OF
5) Cal Mitchell, OF
Complete Top 30 list »

Mayo on Oneil Cruz
Sep 20th, 2019 · 1:10
Mayo on Oneil Cruz
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR

Mason Martin, 1B (No. 16): The 2017 17th-rounder displayed some pretty hefty power in 2019, hitting 35 homers and driving in 129 runs in 131 games with Class A and Class A Advanced combined. He had a .558 slugging percentage.

Cody Bolton, RHP (No. 13): Bolton had an outstanding 12 starts at Class A Advanced Bradenton before moving up to Double-A Altoona and having slightly different results. In Class A Advanced, he had a 1.61 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP, 69 strikeouts and just one home run allowed. More »

STOCK UP/DOWN

green up arrow Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11): Oliva had a solid, if unspectacular second full season of pro ball, with a .277/.352/.398 line to go along with 36 steals in Double-A in 2019. Then he led the Arizona Fall League in doubles, extra-base hits and steals to really raise his prospect profile.

red down arrow J.T. Brubaker, RHP (No. 26): Brubaker pitched well enough in 2018 to land a spot on the 40-man roster and looked poised to contribute to the big league staff at some point in 2019. But he made just six starts all year due to a forearm strain and elbow inflammation and didn’t pitch after June 23. He could come back healthy in 2020, but he’ll be 26 and the clock is ticking.

Oliva’s RBI double
Oct 6th, 2019 · 0:22
Oliva’s RBI double
NOTABLE ADDITIONS

Draft: Quinn Priester, RHP, 1st round (No. 6); Sammy Siani, OF, CBA (No. 7); Matt Gorski, OF, 2nd round (No. 21); Jared Triolo, 3B, CBB (No. 27). Complete Draft list »

International: Christopher Cruz, RHP (No. 20 on International Top 30)

The Pirates were aggressive last July when the 2019-20 international free agent signing period began, handing out a total of 16 six-figure bonuses. Seven were pitchers with Cruz, one of the top arms on the market, leading the way with an $850,000 bonus. The Pirates have been going back-and-forth between taking a high school arm (2019, 2017) and a college bat (2018, 2016) in the first round of the past four drafts. Don’t be surprised if Priester takes off and becomes a Top 100 caliber prospect soon.

2020 IMPACT PROSPECT

Mitch Keller, RHP: Keller finished just two innings shy of graduating off of prospect lists during his uneven big league debut in 2019, but he finished off the year on a strong note and while his prospect star faded a tiny bit, he showed he can be an effective big league starter when he trusts his stuff.

Keller fans Goodrum to begin 5th
Jun 19th, 2019 · 0:26
Keller fans Goodrum to begin 5th
Best tools

Hit: Travis Swaggerty
Power: Mason Martin
Run: Ji-Hwan Bae
Arm: Oneil Cruz
Field: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Best athlete: Oneil Cruz

Fastball: Blake Cederlind
Curveball: Michael Burrows
Slider: Cody Bolton
Changeup: Luis Escobar
Control: Aaron Shortridge

How they were built

Draft: 23
International: 5
Trade: 2

Eight of the Pirates’ top 10 come from the Draft and the overall list is extremely Draft-heavy. But they might look back at a trade as providing a potential elite-level player as a key moment in player acquisition. Back in July 2017, the Pirates sent Tony Watson to the Dodgers and got a gangly teenager who was playing in the United States for the first time. Oneil Cruz is still gangly, but he’s becoming one of the most intriguing prospects in the game.

Top 30 breakdown by position

1B: 2
2B: 3
3B: 1
SS: 2
OF: 8
RHP: 14

If you’re looking for a future battery with a left-hander, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Pirates don’t have a single backstop or southpaw in their Top 30. They do have lots of right-handers, though. The 14 on the top 30 places them third among all 30 organizations, behind only the Astros and Yankees (15 each).

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Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Dave Parker’s remarkable Major League Baseball career and battle with Parkinson’s disease will be the subjects of a 90-minute “MLB Network Presents” documentary titled “The Cobra at Twilight,” set to debut on Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. on MLB Network.

Former Cincinnati Reds player Dave Parker greets fans at Redsfest at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati Friday, December 1, 2017.

Former Cincinnati Reds player Dave Parker greets fans at Redsfest at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati Friday, December 1, 2017. (Photo: The Enquirer/Meg Vogel)

It will be narrated by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and long-time Parker fan Chuck D.

Parker graduated from Courter Tech High School in 1970 and still lives in Cincinnati. He has worked often with young players at the Reds Urban Youth Academy in Roselawn.

More from a press release from MLB Network:

MLB Network Presents: The Cobra at Twilight features new interviews with Parker and his wife Kellye, several of Parker’s former teammates and managers, including Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Tony La Russa and Barry Larkin, plus Eric Davis, Phil Garner, Pete Rose, Gary Sheffield and Kent Tekulve, as well as former Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dungy and “Mean” Joe Greene. Each speaks to Parker’s on-field dominance and brash, outsized personality that had teammates calling him “the Muhammad Ali of baseball,” and how Parker’s landmark contract in 1979 that averaged $1 million per season earned him intense scrutiny from both media and fans.

Parker is among nine former Major League Baseball players and one executive on the 10-name Modern Baseball Era ballot – to be reviewed and voted on Dec. 8 – for 2020, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced earlier this month.

Parker hit .281 with 107 home runs and 432 RBIs in four seasons for the Reds from 1984 through 1987. He was a two-time All-Star for the Reds and finished second in National League MVP voting in 1985 and fifth in 1986.

Parker hit .290 with 339 home runs and 526 doubles in 19 MLB seasons. He won the National League MVP award for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1978.

Parker revealed in 2013 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and his Cobra Classic Golf Outing raises funds for Parkinson’s research. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2014.

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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.