Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two trades and a game of note.
On this date in 1939, the Pirates traded first baseman Gus Suhr to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Max Butcher. Suhr played ten years for Pittsburgh and ranks near the top of the team’s all-time first basemen list. He played 1,365 games for the Pirates, hitting .278 with 789 RBIs. By the time this trade happened though, he was nearing the end of his career at 33 years old. The Phillies got just 70 games out of him before releasing him during the 1940 season. He ended up playing over 600 more minor league games after being released, but never played in the majors again. Butcher was a 28-year-old righty with a 2-13 record at the time of the deal. He had a career record at that point of 28-46 in four seasons. After the deal, the move to Pittsburgh helped Butcher, who finished up 67-60, 3.34 in 202 games over seven seasons with the Pirates. He won a career high 17 games in 1941, but he had a lower ERA in three of his final four seasons in the majors.
On this date in 2000, the Pirates sent left fielder Wil Cordero to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for infielder Enrique Wilson and outfielder Alex Ramirez. Cordero was with Cleveland in 1999, hitting .299 in 54 games. The 28-year-old had been in the majors since 1992, and in 1994 he was an All-Star shortstop for the Montreal Expos. With the Pirates, he hit .282 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 89 games. He played 34 games for Cleveland in 1999 without hitting a homer. Cordero bounced around the majors, playing until 2005, when he hit just .118 for the Washington Nationals. Wilson had just turned 27, and he was in his fourth season with Cleveland, hitting .287 in a total of 190 games. A top ranked prospect in their system, he played third base, second base and shortstop. He played 86 games for the Pirates, hitting .223, before being dealt to the Yankees for Damaso Marte. Ramirez was a 25-year-old, who had hit well in parts of three seasons with Cleveland, batting .286 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 92 games. With Pittsburgh he had some trouble at the plate, hitting .209 in 43 games with a 7/32 BB:SO ratio. After the season, he was sold to Japan, where he played until 2013 and hit 380 homers. In his 21 total seasons of pro ball, he hit 508 homers.
Carmelo Martinez, first baseman for the 1990-91 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him from the Phillies on August 30, 1990 to help with their first pennant run in 11 years. Martinez hit .211 in 12 games for Pittsburgh, getting three starts. He started twice in the NLCS against the Reds and went 2-for-8 with two doubles and two RBIs. He began the 1991 season with the Pirates, but was dealt to the Royals in early May for pitcher Victor Cole. That 1991 season ended up being his last year in the majors, ending his nine-year career with a .245 average, 108 homers and 424 RBIs in 1,003 games. Martinez as a rookie helped the Padres get to the World Series in 1984, where he hit .176 (3-for-17) in both the NLCS and the Fall Classic. The next year he hit 21 homers, drove in 72 runs and walked 87 times, with a league leading 14 assists from left field, his best season in the majors.
Duke Esper, lefty pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the 1892 Pirates. He had two stints with Pittsburgh, playing for two drastically different teams just two years apart and his results were the exact opposite. As a rookie in 1890, Esper began the year with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association, where he went 8-9, 4.89 in 18 games. After being released in August, he signed with the Alleghenys and made two starts, both one-sided losses. Pittsburgh went 23-113 that season and they tried out a ton of players just to get through the season. Esper then went to the Phillies to finish the season, his stay in Pittsburgh done almost as soon as it started. In five starts with the Phillies, he went 5-0 and remained with the team through the first half of the 1892 season. In 1891, Esper went 20-15 for the Phillies. He had an 11-6 record through early August of 1892, when he rejoined the Pirates. Duke (first name was Charles) made three starts for Pittsburgh, going 2-0 with one complete game. This time he was playing for a team that won 80 games that year.
The next two seasons proved just how much of an effect a bad team can have on a pitcher’s record, and vice-versa for a good team. Esper went 12-28 in 1893 for the Washington Senators, a last place team in the 12-team National League. Those 28 losses led the league. The next year he was purchased by the first place Baltimore Orioles, where he went 10-2 in 16 games. His 1895 season back with the Orioles is a hard one to figure out. His ERA was exactly the same as the previous year and the Orioles were again a first place team, but Duke went 10-12 in 25 starts and nine relief appearances. To make matters even stranger, he went 14-5 (with a slightly lower ERA) in 1896, as the Orioles took their third straight NL pennant. Duke pitched two more years in the majors, finishing with a 101-100 record over nine seasons.
Bill Day, pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Right after the Alleghenys gave Duke Esper his last start, they brought in another pitcher from Philadelphia in the person of Bill Day (they were both born in 1867). He had a 1-4 record over parts of two seasons with the Phillies, prior to coming over to the Pirates in exchange for outfielder Billy Sunday in late August. Day made six starts for the Alleghenys and all six resulted in losses, including the 113th loss of the season for Pittsburgh. He almost won his debut on September 2nd, taking a 4-2 lead into the ninth, but a fielding error by right fielder Bill Wilson allowed two runs to score and Day took a 5-4 loss. The last loss of the season was a 10-4 defeat, giving the Alleghenys a Major League record for single season losses that stood for nine seasons and has been topped just five times, even with expanded schedules. For Day, his Major League career was done at that point, although his pro career was far from over, pitching in the minors for another ten seasons before retiring.
On this date in 2001, the Pirates scored seven runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Houston Astros by a 9-8 score. Trailing by six with veteran reliever Michael Jackson on the mound, the Pirates had two outs before they had their first base runner. Kevin Young doubled, followed by a Pat Meares homer to make it 8-4. A single and a walk, set up an RBI single by Jack Wilson made it an 8-5 game and brought on closer Billy Wagner. He hit Jason Kendall to load the bases, which brought up Brian Giles, who put a grand slam into the right field bleachers for the walk-off win. Here’s the boxscore. Here’s the homer: