I'm about ready to throw in the towel but I am going to try another couple things before taking it to my independent. I would suggest changing this pin anytime it is removed. I suspect the threads had been boogered up some when the head gasket was done. I have the tool made up (see picture) but will probably have to go up in size slightly and am considering putting the cover back on to pull it out through. The threads are still there but they ain't holding like they are going to have to. I am starting to suspect too that the way I am doing it is creating a "bind" on the pin/rail interface. Worst case I will go ahead and pull the lower cover to remove the rail then the head. I'm sure I can get it out with it sitting on the bench.
I've got the CD but just overlooked the fact that I needed to remove this pin prior to removing the cover.