Here we get a team card that is pretty clear, the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three River Stadium. Just about everyone in this photo is recognizable though I admit I’m mystified as to the identity of that tall guy in the middle of the back row. Some notable faces are missing, particularly Richie Hebner and Dave Cash. Dave Parker is not here as well, which indicates to me this is an early-season photo. ’73 was a tough year emotionally for these guys. Roberto Clemente had been killed over the winter break and lots of spring training was spent determining who would take his spot. Initially it was his best friend on the team, catcher Manny Sanguillen, and while the team came out strong at 7-1, it wasn’t because of Manny’s defense. Next up was Gene Clines, who’d been an excellent hitter, but whose numbers went quickly south after an injury. Then came the kids, Zisk and Parker, and these two would step pretty seamlessly into the everyday roster. So the outfield turned out OK. But shortstop was pretty messy, the team had one too many second basemen, and the pitching was tough, especially the implosion of Steve Blass. Pittsburgh had a pretty good pen and some decent front line guys but none could replace Blass’s 19 wins from the prior season, and for most of the year the Pirates were up or down a couple games from .500. But so was just about every other team in the division and the team went on a nice run in mid-September to take over first place for just over a week. Then they lost that damn “ball off the wall” game to the Mets and NY ended up with the division title, as the Pirates slid to third, just two-and-a-half games back.
This will be a two-part post because there are lots of guys requiring bios. So let’s get started:
Kiki Cuyler was really named Hazen, a pretty cool given name in its own right. Kiki rhymed with eye-eye and was given Hazen because he frequently stuttered when pronouncing his last name. There was a bit less sensitivity back then. He was born in 1898 in Michigan where he was a multi-sport star in school and then played football at the US Military Academy, where he was enrolled a couple years. Near the end of WW I he got factory work in Flint but saw his hours tumble in the post-war recession and decided to give baseball a shot. He hooked up with a local team in Bay City and hit .258 in 1920. After hitting .317 with 16 triples – Kiki was fast - for the B level team the next year he was sold to the Pirates and made his debut in a couple games late that season. He would get short looks each of the next two years as well while spending most of his time in the minors. In ’22 he hit .309 with 15 triples in B ball and in ’23 he ratcheted it up to .340 with 39 doubles and 17 triples in A ball. Up for good the end of that season he had a big rookie year in ’24 with a .354/9/85 line with 16 triples, 32 stolen bases, and a .409 OBA. He then had a huge ’25, leading the NL in runs and triples while posting a line of .357/18/102/26/41/.423. It was that year he had all those total bases, not ’29. Those numbers got him second place in NL MVP voting and in ’26 he again led the NL in runs – with 113 – and steals and put up a line of .321/8/92/15/35/.380. His power submerged a bit in ’27 but his other numbers were still good in a year in which he did not get along with manager Donnie Bush, so his playing time came in big and he missed the Series, which seems pretty stupid. Lloyd Waner would take over his spot in center field. Kiki was then sent to the Cubs for Sparky Adams and Pete Scott and once again became an everyday player, except in ’33 when he was injured. For his full seasons Kiki averaged a line of .325/11/92/10/26/.391 and had some big individual years, breaking out big in the power department in ’30 when his line of .355/13/134/17/37/.428 was joined by 50 doubles and 155 runs. He led the NL once in doubles and three times in stolen base while with the Cubbies and went to the Series twice with the team. He played with them through the middle of ’35 when he was released and signed with Cincinnati. For the Reds he had a last big year with a .326/7/74/11/16/.380 line in ’36 when he was 37. He put in another season in Cincy and a year with Brooklyn and finished his MLB time with a .321/128/1,065/157/328/.386 line and hit .281 with five doubles and 12 RBI’s in his 16 Series games. In ’39 he returned to the minors as a player/manager with Chattanooga of the Washington system and continued managing there the next two years. He then came up to coach for the Cubs from ’41 to ’43 before returning to manage at Atlanta in the Southern Association from ’44 to ’48. Back up top with the Red Sox as a coach in ’49 he was still with the team in ’50 when he passed away from a heart attack. He was only 51. He was elected to the Hall in ’68.
Paul “Big Poison” Waner grew up in Oklahoma where he was a pitcher/outfielder. After graduating high school he enrolled at East Central State Teachers College in nearby Ada where his second year he went 23-4 with a 1.70 ERA and that summer of ’22 signed a contract to play for an A team in Missouri. But he opted to finish school instead and by ’23 had been sold to the PCL’s San Francisco Seals. There he hurt his arm right away and was moved to the outfield full-time. Over the next three years in that league’s long seasons he hit the crap out of the ball – a .380 average – and piled on the assists. In ’25 he hit .401 with 280 hits. Following that season he was sold to Pittsburgh and with the Pirates Paul stepped right into the starting right field spot and never stopped hitting, at least not for the next twelve seasons. His rookie year he led the NL with 22 triples and hit .336. In ’27 he led Pittsburgh to the pennant with his MVP stat line of .380/9/131, leading the NL in hits, triples (18), total bases (342), average, and RBI’s. In ’28 he led the NL with 142 runs and 50 doubles while hitting .370. In ’32 he hit 62 doubles. In ’34 he led the league with 122 runs, 217 hits, and a .362 average and in ’36 he led in that last stat with a .373. From ’26 to ’37 he averaged a line of .348/8/86 with 40 doubles, 15 triples, 101 runs, and a .417 OBA. In ’38 his average slipped to .280 and then in ’39 bounced to .328. In ’40 he missed half the season with an ankle injury as his average slipped to .290. In ’41 he was sent to Brooklyn and then the Boston Braves, where he remained through ’42. He returned to Brooklyn in ’43 where he hit .311 and then played out his career the next couple seasons with Brooklyn and the Yankees. He finished with a .333 average on 3,152 hits with 605 doubles, 191 triples, and a .404 OBA. He made four All-Star teams and hit .333 with three RBI’s in his four ’27 post-season games. While playing he was both a big drinker and very near-sighted but attempts to fix both of those resulted in worse play on the field so Paul was left alone. In ’45 he joined a goodwill tour to India during the tail end of WW II and in ’46 managed a C level team in Miami for which he also played a bit, hitting .325 at age 43. He opened a batting cage business outside Pittsburgh, coached a bit for the Phillies, Cardinals, and Braves, and retired to Florida in the late Fifties. In ’52 he was inducted into the Hall. There he passed away in ’65 from complications from emphysema. He was 62. He has a lengthy SABR bio.
Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner was born three years after his brother and was actually bigger – Lloyd was 5’9” and Paul was 5’8”. Lloyd pretty much followed in Paul’s footsteps, attending East Central State as well, though he didn’t pitch there. He came out of the school in ’25, joined his brother’s PCL team, but only hit .250 in his few games. Paul convinced the Pirates to purchase him anyway and in ’26 Lloyd hit .345 for the team’s B level franchise. In ’27 he came up to Pittsburgh, displaced Kiki Cuyler in center, and hit .355 while leading the NL with 133 runs. During his first twelve seasons he put up numbers that were a slight discount to Paul’s, with an average line of .323/2/46 with 89 runs scored and a .360 OBA. He didn’t walk terribly much but he didn’t strike out either and he averaged only 12 K’s per season on an average of 556 at bats. He was hurt twice during that run, in ’30 missing over half the season due to appendicitis and in ’36 he missed time to pneumonia. Still those two seasons he hit .360 and .321 respectively. During that time he also led the NL in hits and triples once each. He also was quite fast and he was regularly a league leader in putouts, assists, and double plays from center. After his only All-Star season in ’38 his average dipped to .285 in ’39 and he lost the starting gig in ’40 and the next two seasons did reserve work for the Braves, the Reds, and the Phillies. He was traded to the Dodgers prior to the ’43 season but missed all of it due to stateside wartime work and then finished his career the next couple years in Brooklyn and back in Pittsburgh. Lloyd hit .316 with 2,459 hits – he and Paul hold the record for brothers – 118 triples, and only 173 strikeouts in over 8,000 plate appearances. He hit .400 in his only Series in ’27. After playing he scouted - and managed in the minors for half a season - for the Pirates from ’46 to ’49. He then did municipal work in Oklahoma City from ’50 until he retired in ’67, the same year he got into the Hall. Like Paul, Lloyd was a big drinker and his health after playing wasn’t too hot. But he hung out a bit longer, passing away in his home state in ’82 at age 76.
Owen “Chief” Wilson was born and raised on a ranch in Texas and was a pitcher through school and into his first few seasons of semi-pro ball. After hurting his shoulder he hooked up with a couple teams in the C-level Texas League in ’05 as an outfielder, hit roughly .250 at age 21, and impressed everyone with his arm. In ’06 he upped his average to .265 at that level and in ’07 to .286 in C ball and then .323 in about a third of a season in A ball before being sold to Pittsburgh on the recommendation of pitcher Babe Adams. In ’08 he became a starter in the outfield but hit only .227 with zero power. But his fielding was good enough to keep him in the line-up and in ’09 he upped his average to .272 with twelve triples. After a similar ’10 season he had a breakout ’11 year with twelve triples again and a .300/12/107 stat line while leading the NL in RBI’s. In ’12 he set a triples record, hit .300 again, and drove in 95 runs. He tapered off to 14 triples and a .266/10/73 line in ’13 before being traded to the Cards in a big deal that included six other guys. For St. Louis he put up a ’14 season nearly identical to the prior year and then spent the next two years sharing all three outfield spots in his last two seasons. He finished his MLB career with a .269 average and 114 triples in nine seasons and hit .154 in his only post-season. He put in a season in B ball back home in ’17 and then retired as a player to resume ranching full-time in his Texas hometown. He passed away in ’54 there at age 70.
Ralph Kiner was born in New Mexico and relocated to California as a kid after his dad passed away. He embraced baseball at a young age and was signed out of high school by the Pirates in ’41. He hit .279 with eleven homers that year in A ball and .257 with 14 homers at the same level the next. After a slow start in Double A in ’43 he was inducted into the Navy for WW II duty and didn’t return until ’46 when he went straight to Pittsburgh and left field. His rookie year he led the NL with 23 homers and he would continue to lead the league in that category the next six consecutive seasons. In ’47 he put up a .313/51/127 line with a .417 OBA. In ’49 he had his biggest year with a line of .310/54/127 with a .432 OBA. In ’51 it was .309/42/109 with a .452 OBA with 124 runs scored and 137 walks. By then his relationship with Pittsburgh GM Branch Rickey was pretty brittle and early in the ’53 season he was sent to the Cubs in a big trade and he finished with 35 homers. By then, too, his lower back was problematic and after another season in Chicago he was traded to Cleveland for pitcher Sam Jones. After a discounted season with The Tribe Ralph was done as a player at age 32, finishing with a .279 average with 369 homers, 1,015 RBI’s, and a .398 OBA in his ten seasons, and made six consecutive All-Star teams. He then became the GM of the PCL San Diego franchise and did some occasional announcing for the team as well. In ’61 he was hired by his old friend Hank Greenberg to announce for the White Sox. In ’62 he became one of the new Mets initial announcers with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, a trio that remained intact through ’79. While Ralph hasn’t had a regular gig for a couple seasons he still broadcasts on occasion for the Mets at age 91. He was admitted to the Hall in ’75 and also has a SABR page.
Arky Vaughan was born in Arkansas – hence that first name – and also relocated to California as a kid, Arky up by the San Francisco area. He then moved to Fullerton where he was a multi-sport star in high school and then played semi-pro winter ball after he graduated in ’30. Spotted by the Pirates he was signed and in ’31 sent to A ball where he put up a .338/21/81 line with 43 stolen bases as a shortstop. He came up to Pittsburgh the next season and settled into that spot as well, hitting .318 as a 20-year old rookie. Initially he’d be a bit challenged in the fielding department and would lead the NL in errors but he got those under control after the team brought in Honus Wagner as a coach and would eventually lead the league in fielding at his position. Meanwhile he continued to hit like Honus. In ’33 he led the NL with 19 triples and had a .314/9/97 line. In ’34 his line was .333/12/94 with 115 runs, 41 doubles, and a .431 OBA as he led the NL in that stat and walks. In ’35 he had his monster year with a .385/19/99 line with an insane .491 OBA. In ’36 he led the NL with 122 runs, 118 walks – third year in a row – and a .453 OBA while hitting .335. In ’37 he missed over a month due to an injury but still hit .322 and led the NL with 17 triples. He remained at or above .300 each of the next four seasons, including ’40 when he led the league in runs and triples, and ’41 when he missed a bunch of time due to a spike wound and a concussion. It was his last season in Pittsburgh as he was traded to Brooklyn for a bunch of guys. With the Dodgers his first season he fell to .277 but he bounced the next year to lead the NL with 112 runs and 20 stolen bases and hit .305. He was not a fan of manager Leo Durocher and when Leo publicly called out pitcher Bobo Newsom, Arky led a mid-season protest in which he had the whole team sit out a game. He returned to the field but at the end of the season retired at age 31 because he didn’t want to play for Durocher any more. He was a very principled guy and went back to California to work his cattle ranch the next three years. In ’47 Branch Rickey coaxed him out of retirement to help new kid Jackie Robinson and Arky did that while hitting .325 in a reserve role and getting his first Series action. He stuck around for another year before leaving to play closer to home in ’49 and hit .288 that year with the PCL San Francisco team. That was his final season as a player and Arky finished with a .318 average with 128 triples, 96 homers, 926 RBI’s, and a .406 OBA. He went one for two with a double and a walk in his three Series plate appearances and made nine consecutive All-Star teams. In ’50 he returned to his ranch which he worked and was a devoted fisherman. But his life after baseball was short: in ’52 he was fishing in a volcanic lake in California when his boat capsized and he drowned trying to save his buddy who couldn’t swim. Arky was only 40. He was admitted into the Hall in ’85 and he, too, has a SABR bio.
That’s a lot of baseball. In Watergate news most of the focus was on testimonies in front of the Senate Committee:
6/10/73 – Bernard Barker testifies. One of the five burglars caught a year earlier breaking into the Watergate complex, he essentially confirmed already-known details of the break-in already laid out by James McCord. He also uttered his famous “I wasn’t there to think” line, which really didn’t help his case too much.
6/25-6/29/73 – John Dean testifies before the Committee. He begins with a seven hour (!!) opening statement in which he lays out his role in the whole campaign as well as the roles of several other individuals, including the President. In that statement he is pretty much on the money with what the Washington Post said he would testify earlier in the month. The hearings had been put on hold about a week while Nixon met with USSR Premier Leonid Brezhnev in DC. As indicated in the Post article Dean’s only evidence was his recollection of conversations and other events and he presented no written documentation. His testimony centered on conversations regarding national security and tactics to enforce it prior to the break-in with senior White House staff members; and conversations regarding covering up White House involvement with the break-in and other events that included those staff members as well as the President after the break-in. Dean was grilled pretty extensively and outside of Jeb Stuart Magruder no testimony offered by any witness before the Committee corroborated Dean’s. During his opening statement his famous advice to Nixon of “a cancer on the Presidency” was heard and in later testimony he indicated the possibility of a White House taping system. Later review of those tapes would verify Dean’s recollections almost to the letter.
The rest of the bios and the hook-up will be on the next post.