Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including two top pitchers of their era.
Jerry Reuss, pitcher for the 1974-78 and 1990 Pirates. He was originally signed as a second round draft pick of the Cardinals in 1967. That first year in pro ball, the Cardinals gave the 6’5″ lefty 65 innings in the low minors, calling the 18-year-old up to Triple-A at one point, where he allowed six runs in his only inning of work. In 1968 he was in Double-A, going 7-8, 2.17 in 112 innings. He made his return to Triple-A in 1969, winning 13 games, with a 4.06 ERA in 186 innings of work. Reuss made his Major League debut at the end of that 1969 season, pitching seven shutout innings in his only start. He was back in Triple-A to begin 1970, getting recalled in June for 20 starts, posting a 7-8, 4.10 record and throwing two shutouts. Reuss made 35 starts in 1971 for the Cardinals, going 14-14, 4.78 ERA, which was well above the team average on a pitching staff with Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. Reuss would be traded to the Astros in the off-season, in a deal that netted the Cardinals two pitchers who threw a total of 17 games in St Louis.
Reuss had a 9-13 record his first year in Houston. He was a workhorse for the 1973 Astros, making a league leading 40 starts. He went 16-13, throwing a career high 279.1 innings. On October 31, 1973, the Pirates traded catcher Milt May to the Astros to acquire Reuss. The trade was a steal for the Pirates. Reuss stepped into the Pirates rotation and went 16-11 in 35 starts that first year, pitching a total of 260 innings. He was even better the next year, winning a career high 18 games, with a 2.54 ERA, which was nearly a run lower than any previous year. In 1975, he was selected to his first All-Star team. His ERA and win total placed him fourth in the NL in each category and he threw six shutouts. Despite the 34 wins over two seasons, Reuss had trouble in the playoffs. He lost all three of his starts and the Pirates couldn’t make it past the NLCS either year.
Reuss had another strong season in 1976, with a 14-9, 3.53 record, but he slipped down to a 10-13, 4.11 record in 1977. It was his only losing season in Pittsburgh and his highest ERA since joining the team. The 1978 season turned out to be even worse for him, as shoulder problems limited his use and effectiveness. He pitched 82.2 innings with a 4.90 ERA, making just twelve starts. It broke a string of five straight 200 IP seasons and seven straight years in which he made at least thirty starts. Reuss wasn’t happy about his role for the upcoming 1979 season and asked to be traded. The Pirates dealt him on April 7, 1979 to the Dodgers for pitcher Rick Rhoden.
Both teams made out well in the deal. Reuss was used in a bigger role for Los Angeles, making 21 starts in 1979, then had perhaps his best season in 1980. He went 18-6, with a 2.51 ERA and six shutouts. He finished second in the Cy Young voting that year and made his second All-Star appearance. In 1981, Reuss picked up his World Series ring, as the Dodgers beat the Yankees. He won game five of the series. He would win 18 games in 1982, matching his career high from both 1975 and 1980.
Reuss lasted in Los Angeles until 1987, then began jumping around the majors, finally landing back in Pittsburgh in 1990 to end his career. He was in the minors, pitching for the Astros until early July, when the Pirates were able to sign him as a free agent. He pitched 14 games (nine starts) in Triple-A before joining the Pirates in September for the pennant run. Reuss pitched four games, including a start on the last day of the season, in what turned out to be the last game of his career.
He finished his career with 220 wins, 61 of them coming while he was with the Pirates. He pitched 3,669.2 innings over 547 starts (and 81 relief appearances) and he threw 39 career shutouts.
Bill Swift, pitcher for the 1932-39 Pirates. Swift played four seasons in the minors, winning a total of 58 games. He went 16-7, 4.54 in 204 innings for Kansas City of the American Association in 1931 before the Pirates acquired him in a trade for two players.
Swift was used as a starter and reliever, excelling in both roles during his first five seasons. He put up double digit wins and threw over 200 innings each year. He had a 14-10 record in each of his first two seasons. He won a career high 16 games in 1936, while pitching 262.1 innings. His best year was 1935 when he went 15-8, 2.70 in 203.2 innings.
In 1937, he moved more to a bullpen role with occasional starts, but still pitched a total of 443.2 innings over his last three seasons with the Pirates. He did well in the role in 1938, posting a 3.24 ERA in 150 innings.
On December 8, 1939, Swift was shipped to the Boston Bees, along with cash, for veteran pitched Danny MacFayden. For Swift, the trade would nearly mark the end of his Major League career. He spent most of the next three seasons pitching for St Paul, back in the American Association. He pitched 9.1 innings for the Bees in 1940, then 22 IP for the Dodgers in 1941 before finishing his career with one last season in the majors in 1943, pitching 18 games with the White Sox. Swift was traded to the minors after the 1943 season, but never played again.
Swift finished his time in Pittsburgh with 91 wins, which ranks 21st in team history to this day. His 1,555 innings ranks him 17th in team history. No pitcher on the Pirates since his outstanding 1932 season, has posted a lower walk rate over a full season than Swift, who walked 1.09 batters per nine innings that year . He was a decent hitting pitcher throughout his career, with his best season coming in 1936 when he hit .295 with 15 RBIs. His first career homer came on June 17, 1936 off Max Butcher, who would go on to pitch seven seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1935, Swift went the entire season without committing a fielding error.
Dusty Brown, catcher for the 2011 Pirates. He was originally a 35th round draft pick of the Red Sox in the 2000. It took ten seasons in the Boston system before he finally got his first shot at the majors in June of 2009. It was a short-lived first cup of coffee, as he caught the ninth inning of a blowout loss before being sent back to the minors after just four days. Brown came back in September, going 1-for-3 in six games, with his first Major League hit being a home run. He got two more brief call-ups with the Red Sox during the 2010 season, getting into seven games. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Pirates a month later. He played 54 games for Indianapolis in 2011, hitting .285 with 28 RBIs. He was called up to the Pirates at the end of May, playing 11 games over three weeks. At the plate, he went 3-for-28(.107) with three singles and two runs scored. He became a free agent at the end of the year, signing with the Rangers. He played pro ball until 2014 without making it back to the majors.
Willis Roberts, pitcher for the 2004 Pirates. He originally signed with a Tigers as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. It took seven years for him to make the majors and in his only appearance with Detroit, which occurred on July 2, 1999, Roberts gave up four runs in 1.1 innings. He was released by the Tigers in early 2000, then signed with the Reds and spent the entire season in the minors. After being released again, he signed with the Orioles and made their 2001 Opening Day roster. After playing just one Major League game over his first nine seasons, Roberts spent three full years in the majors with the Orioles. He would pitch a total of 138 games, with 18 starts (all coming in 2001) and a record of 17-15, 4.57 in 246.1 innings. He became a free agent after the 2003 season and signed with the Pirates in January of 2004. Roberts began the year in Triple-A, going 6-3, 5.87 in 35 relief appearances before being called up in July. For the Pirates, he would make nine appearances out of the bullpen, giving up seven runs in 12 innings of work. He didn’t allow a run during his first six outings, then gave up six runs during a blowout loss to the Padres. Shortly after his last game for the Pirates in mid-August, he was released. Willis pitched the next two years in the Mexican League before retiring.
Doug Mientkiewicz, first baseman for the 2008 Pirates. He was drafted by the Twins in 1995 and spent seven seasons in Minnesota at first base to begin his Major League career. From 1998 until 2004 with the Twins, he hit .275 over 643 games, twice batting .300. He won the Gold Glove award in 2001. He was sent to the Red Sox at the 2004 trading deadline, helping them to their first World Series title since 1918. Mientkiewicz would spend the next five years jumping from team to team each season. He spent 2005 with the Mets, 2006 with the Royals, 2007 with the Yankees, 2008 in Pittsburgh and finally, 2009 with the Dodgers. In his one season in Pittsburgh, he became more of a utility player than in the past. He played 33 games at third base and ten games in right field, two positions he had played a combined total of four times during his first 11 seasons. Mientkiewicz hit .277 with 30 RBIs in 125 games for the Pirates. He was used 53 times as a pinch-hitter that year, excelling in the role with a .326 average and seven RBIs. In his career, he batted .271 in 1,087 games, with 405 RBIs and 422 runs scored. He had a career .996 fielding percentage at first base, the sixth highest all-time.
Butch Davis, outfielder for the 1987 Pirates. He was originally a 12th round pick of the Royals in 1980 out of East Carolina University, one of just 13 Major Leaguers to attend that school. One of the other players from that school was his teammate on that 1987 Pirates team, Bob Patterson, although they were only in Triple-A at the same time during the season. Davis spent parts of two seasons in the majors with the Royals, hitting .344 with 18 RBIs in 33 games at the end of 1983, before making the 1984 Opening Day roster. That year he got sent down in early May for six weeks, then lasted just over a month his second trial later in the year. He was not recalled in September. Davis struggled in Triple-A in 1985, then at the end of Spring Training of 1986, he broke his right fibula, causing him to miss the entire year. He was released by the Royals in October of 1986 and signed with the Pirates two months later. He spent most of that 1987 season playing for Vancouver in Triple-A, where he batted .271 with 57 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 111 games. Davis was called up to the Pirates for three weeks in June, going 1-for-7 at the plate with three runs scored. He was granted free agency following the season and signed with the Orioles. From 1988 until 1994, he spent parts of five seasons in the majors, playing for three different teams. Davis played a total of 166 Major League games, batting .243 with 50 RBIs. Since retiring, he has been a manager, coach and instructor in the Baltimore Orioles system.
Johnnie LeMaster, shortstop for the 1985 Pirates. He was drafted in the first round by the Giants in 1973 and would spend 11 seasons in a San Francisco uniform. LeMaster played 986 games for the Giants, staying in the lineup due to his solid defense and not his bat. He was a .225 hitters with 21 homers, never batting higher than .254 or slugging more than .335 in a season. After stealing 37 bases through his first eight seasons, LeMaster stole a career high 39 bases in 1983. In 1985, he played 12 games for the Giants, going 0-for-16, before they dealt him to the Indians in early May. Cleveland held on to him for only 11 games, trading him to the Pirates at the end of May for Scott Bailes. For Pittsburgh, LeMaster played 22 games, hitting .155 with six RBIs. He was injured in June running out an infield hit, spraining his ankle. While rehabbing, he required minor knee surgery due to fluid buildup and missed nearly the entire rest of the season. LeMaster was released by the Pirates at the end of Spring Training in 1986, signing with the Expos two months later, although he lasted just a month in the minors before being released again. He finished his career in 1987, hitting .083 in 20 games for the Oakland A’s. He had the dubious distinction of playing for three teams in 1985 that lost 100+ games.
Fernando Gonzalez (1950) Third baseman for the 1972-73 and 1977-78 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Seattle Pilots before the franchise played their first game. Gonzalez was released in April of 1970 without making it to the majors. He signed with the Pirates in January of 1971. He hit .308 in the Carolina League during his first year with the Pirates, then followed it up with a big season playing for Sherwood of the Eastern League. In that 1972 season, Gonzalez batted .333 with 42 doubles and 86 RBIs, earning a September call-up. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1973, being used mainly in a pinch-hitting role. He was with the team until early July, going to Triple-A until getting recalled in September. He played 37 games that year, the last 24 were off the bench. He made four starts at third base during the first two months. On December 4, 1973 he was traded to the Royals.
Gonzalez played nine games in Kansas City before being sold to the Yankees. Ten months later, he was released during Spring Training, going to the Mexican League to play. The Pirates re-signed him in July and he spent the rest of 1975, and all of 1976 in the minors. He made the 1977 Pirates Opening Day roster, spending the first half of the year in a limited bench role. Gonzalez began to play regularly in August, finishing the year with a .276 average and 27 RBIs in 80 games. He played nine games for the 1978 Pirates before being put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Padres. Gonzalez spent two season in San Diego, seeing regular time at second base, where he hit .233 with 11 homers and 63 RBIs in 215 games. He finished his playing career back in the Mexican League. For the Pirates, he was a .257 hitter in 129 games.
Don Gutteridge, pinch-hitter for the 1948 Pirates. He spent the first nine years of his Major League career playing in St Louis, five years for the Cardinals, followed by four years with the Browns. During that time, Gutteridge played a total of 1,071 games, hitting .259 with 380 RBIs and 558 runs scored. He was sent to the minors for the entire 1941 season after his five years with the Cardinals. He returned to the majors in 1942, playing well enough at second base for the Browns to finish in the top 20 in MVP votes during each of his first three seasons. Gutteridge began the 1946 season in the minors, before the Red Sox purchased him from the Browns in early July. He spent two seasons in Boston, hitting .185 in 76 games. During Spring Training in 1948, the Pirates purchased his contract and he made the Opening Day roster. He was used twice as a pinch-runner and twice as a pinch-hitter, striking out in both at-bats, before being sent back to the minors a month into the season. He played in the Pirates farm system for three more seasons before retiring after the 1950 season. Gutteridge managed the Pirates Triple-A team in 1951, then moved on to other coaching and managing jobs, including two years at the helm of the Chicago White Sox. He remained in baseball until 1992 as a scout. He was the cousin of Pirates catcher Ray Mueller.
Harry Daubert, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on September 4, 1915. He was a light-hitting shortstop in the minors, who got just one pinch-hit at-bat during his Major League career. On September 4, 1915, the Pirates were down 5-2 in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader at Forbes Field. With pitcher Herb Kelly due up, manager Fred Clarke went to his third pinch-hitter of the game, calling on Daubert to make his Major League debut. Facing Hippo Vaughn that day, winner of 21 games in 1914 and 20 more in 1915, Daubert went back to the bench with his first career strikeout, ending the game. That would end up being his entire Major League career. He spent the 1915 season in the minors, splitting the season between Charleston of the Ohio State League and Rocky Mount of the Virginia League, hitting a combined .240 in 103 games. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 7, 1915 and he reported to the team after his minor league season ended, just in time for his first and only game. He played minor league ball until 1917 before retiring, ending a seven-year pro career.