Pittsburgh Pirates fans are unhappy. Over the past few days, the team traded away All-Star closer Mark Melancon, pitcher Francisco Liriano (who struggled this season but has been great for the team the past few years) and the disappointing pitcher Jon Niese. The team reduced payroll significantly and also traded away several prospects for seemingly little in return. While I'll let others debate the pros and cons of the trades, I'm taking you back to a simpler time. A happier time. Let's go back to June 1992.
Jonah Keri, formerly of Grantland and currently a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports, hosts The Jonah Keri Podcast and recently welcomed ESPN's Tim Kurkjian. I really enjoyed the two sharing stories, but as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, there was one that stood out. Kurkjian described a cow milking contest between Jay Bell and Mike Lavailliere around the 31:45 mark. Well, I needed to know more about this. This is the text from Kurkjian's Is This a Great Game, Or What?: From A-Rod's Heart to Zim's Head--My 25 Years in Baseball
They don't have cow-milking contests in the NHL, but Pirates Jay Bell and Stan Belinda, who grew up on a farm, engaged in one. "Jay lost by a quart," teammate Andy Van Slyke said. "It wouldn't have been close except Jay was pumping skim milk and Stan was doing whole milk.
I'm giving Kurkjian the benefit of the doubt for confusing Lavalliere and Belinda. I mean, this is a cow-milking contest from more than 20 years ago! But I still need to know more. Enter the June 3, 1992 Beaver County Times.
While the picture is terrible, yes, there was a cow-milking contest on the Three Rivers Stadium turf between Jay Bell and Stan Belinda. There's photographic proof!
Apparently, this wasn't their first, um, rodeo. This is from the June 1, 1991 edition of Tyrone, Pennsylvania's Tyrone Daily Herald:
Two Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay Bell and Stan Belinda, will be the featured attraction at the Sixth Annual Dairy Day in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, June 4, 1991, at Market Square. The two ballplayers will square off in a milking contest at 11 a.m. and attempt to show visitors just how to milk a cow. Bell, the Pirate's Shortstop, is also the dairy industry's spokesperson on behalf of the Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program. He was recently featured on a growth chart that was distributed by the Pirates and the Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program in early May. Belinda, the Pirate's Relief Pitcher, is a farm boy himself and hails from a dairy farm in central Pennsylvania
The cow involved will be provided by Marburger Farm Dairy of Evans City, Butler County. Following the milking contest, promotion visitors can treat themselves to milk and ice cream by participating in several activities. These include Bossey Toss, Pudding Making, and a Dairy "Wheel of Fortune." In addition to these activities, county Dairy Princesses will be entertaining the crowd with several skits and Woodsmoke, a country western band, will provide musical entertainment.
So many questions. What exactly were Bell's responsibilities as the dairy industry's spokesperson? Was Belinda mad that although he was a farm boy from a central PA dairy farm he wasn't the spokesperson? What is Bossey Toss? Skits from the county Dairy Princesses? Sign me up!
How I wish there was Twitter or blogs back then to cover this! Someone has to have video of this somewhere, right? I guess we can dream.