Flashback Friday: April 8th

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

*Disclaimer: This will usually be Throwback Thursday, Not Flashback Friday*

April 8, 2003 the Pirates, who were 5-1, played host to the 0-6 Milwaukee Brewers led by manager Ned Yost, the current manager of the Kansas City Royals. It was a meaningless game from the standpoint of the game itself. The Brewers, who went on to 68-94 and finish last in the National League Central, defeated the future fourth place and 75-87 Pirates by the score of 5-3. The afternoon game was an overcast day with 50 degree temperatures, and winds blowing right to left. Not the perfect weather for the home opener, but the typical afternoon game in April. The Pirates only runs came on a Jason Kendall three run home run in the bottom of the eighth. But it is not the game that makes today significant or worthy of reflecting on. It was what they did before the game that mattered when looking back on it 13 years later.

The Pirates introduced a sculpture to go along with the statues of Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, and The Great One Roberto Clemente – the bronze hands of former Pirates slugger Ralph Kiner. The hall of fame outfielder played for the Pirates from April 16, 1946 through June 4, 1953 when the Pirates traded Kiner – along with Joe Garagiola, George Metkovich, and Howie Pollet – to the Chicago Cubs for Bob Addis, Tony Atwell, George Freese, Gene Hermanski, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, and $150,000 (the equivalent of $1.3 million according to usinflationcalculator.com). I’ve always viewed Ralph Kiner as the most underrated Pirate great of all time – behind Arky Vaughan and maybe even Fred Clarke. But the reason I’ve always thought Kiner – who has his number 4 retired by the club – was because he played in a down period in the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club period. The best team year that was achieved with Kiner on the team was the 83-71 record they had in 1948, as they finished in fourth place out of eight teams. Ralph was a tremendous power bat, as he led the league in home runs every from 1946-1952, RBIs in 1949 (127), on base percentage in 1951 (.452), and slugging percentage in 1947 (.639), 1949 (.658), and 1951 (.627). Overall in his Pirates career, Kiner posted a slash line of .280/.405/.567 with 301 home runs, 900 runs created, and a WAR of 44.5 in 1095 games.

Ralph was a great player for this franchise for those eight seasons, and thankfully on April 8, 2003 the Pirates memorialized him by putting up a bronzed sculpture of his hands holding a Louisville Slugger bat, modeled after the one he used.

Other events this week:

  • April 6th, 1973: On opening day the Pirates retired Roberto Clemente’s number 21
  • April 7, 1999: The Sixth Street Bridge was changed to the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which serves as a walk way for Pirates home games
  • April 9, 2001: PNC Park opens up for the first time in an 8-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Rest in Peace to Pops, Willie Stargell, who unfortunately passed away from kidney problems at age 61.

Players born on April 8:

  • John Peters 1850
  • Pete Daniels 1864
  • Reddy Grey 1875
  • Kirby Higbe 1915
  • Tom Butters 1938
  • Brian Burres 1981