Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus we have one trade of note and a game recap from 1999.
On this date in 1998, the Pirates traded pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Todd Van Poppel and second baseman Warren Morris. Van Poppel was once considered a future ace before he pitched a pro game. He was a high school star that the Oakland A’s took in the first round of the 1990 draft, and at the age of 19 he made his Major League debut. He never panned out though, as by the time of this deal at age 26, he was with his third team already. For the Rangers, he had made four starts and was 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA. Morris was in his second year of pro ball, hitting .331 with 14 homers and 73 RBIs in 95 games at Double-A. Loaiza was also a 26-year-old pitcher, though he had more success at the majors than Van Poppel. Loaiza had a 27-28, 4.63 record in 96 games (87 as a starter) for the Pirates. He was 6-5, 4.52 at the time of the deal.
After the trade, Morris finished the season in Double-A, hitting for the exact same average for the Pirates affiliate (.331) as he had when he came over. In 1999, he finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .288 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs. His numbers dropped off during his sophomore year, then fell even more in 2001, and he was sent to Triple-A for half the season. The Pirates released him during the following Spring Training. Van Poppel went 1-2, 5.36 in seven starts and 11 relief appearances for the 1998 Pirates. They resigned him for 1999, though he spent the entire year in Triple-A. He pitched in the majors until 2004, and for a short time he found success as a reliever with the 2000-01 Cubs. Loaiza ended up pitching in the majors until 2008, winning another 99 games, including 21 for the 2003 White Sox, when he finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. He was a two-time All-Star, making the game in 2003 and 2004. For the Rangers, he went 17-17, 5.19 before they traded him to the Blue Jays in July of 2000.
Brian Rogers, pitcher for the 2006-2007 Pirates. He was originally an 11th round draft pick in 2003 of the Detroit Tigers. He came to the Pirates at the 2006 trading deadline in exchange for Sean Casey. At the time of the deal, Rogers was pitching in relief at Double-A, where he had a 2.39 ERA over 37 appearances, covering 64 innings. He pitched just twice in Double-A for the Pirates before joining the Major League roster. He made his debut on September 1st, pitching a scoreless inning. He would pitch ten times for Pittsburgh, posting an 8.31 ERA in 8.2 innings with seven strikeouts. Rogers began the next season in Triple-A, before getting called up in mid-May. He made three appearances for the Pirates, facing nine batters over two innings of work, allowing three runs to score. He was returned to Triple-A, where he finished the season. The Pirates dropped him from the 40 man roster, then re-signed him after the season. He split his 2008 season between Double-A and Triple-A, before being released in June. He went on to pitch in the minors for the Tigers and New York Mets that year before retiring from baseball.
Jerry Lynch, outfielder for the 1954-56 and 1963-66 Pirates. He played one season of minor league ball before spending two years away from the game serving in the military. When he returned in 1953, he was a member of the Yankees organization, spending the year playing for Norfolk of the Piedmont League. The Pirates picked him up in the 1953 Rule 5 draft and he played 98 games as a rookie in 1954, splitting his time between the corner outfield spots. Lynch had a similar role the next season, as he saw his batting average jump from .239 to .284 in the same amount (308) of plate appearances as the prior season. He would end up playing just 19 games in 1956, with all but one as a pinch-hitter, as he missed most of the season with phlebitis. Just as the Pirates acquired Lynch in the Rule 5 draft in December of 1956, they lost him the same way to the Cincinnati Reds. On May 23, 1963, the Pirates traded outfielder Bob Skinner to the Reds to reacquire Lynch. He had played 640 games with the Reds, hitting .289 with 70 homers and 282 RBIs. The left-handed hitting Lynch, saw limited time over his last four seasons with the Pirates, getting 161 starts, with all but three of them coming as a left fielder. He finished his time with the Pirates as a .263 hitter in 544 games, hitting 45 homers, with 188 RBIs and 144 runs scored.
Chummy Gray, pitcher for the 1899 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1893, with his only Major League experience coming six years later during a September trial with the 1899 Pirates. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, Gray had pitched the previous four seasons for the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League, winning a combined 47 games during the 1897-98 seasons. His first big league appearance was on September 14th, pitching in relief of Sam Leever, who had loaded the bases before he was pulled. Gray allowed all three runs to score, walking one batter and throwing a wild pitch to score the other two. He finished the game off with four scoreless innings, but the Pirates still lost by two runs. Chummy (real name was George) started four days later and won his first game 7-5 over the Boston Beaneaters. He then started six of the next 18 games, with the Pirates winning three of his starts. After the season, he returned to the minors, where he pitched for another seven seasons before retiring. The circumstances that led to Gray’s signing and use by the Pirates would be considered odd under today’s standards. The Pirates had a pitcher named Tully Sparks, who was only signed through September 15th. At that date he was free to leave for home to attend to his cotton business. Chummy was purchased for $1,000 from Buffalo and took Spark’s spot in the rotation.
Jim Handiboe, pitcher for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. His pro baseball career began as a Major Leaguer at the age of 19 with the 1886 Alleghenys, and 15 years later it ended without him playing for another Major League team. Pittsburgh had two strong pitchers for 1886, Pud Galvin and Ed Morris, back during an era when teams rarely used more than two starters, especially when the guys were as Galvin and Morris. Those two started 113 of the team’s 140 games that year, while Handiboe finished third on the team with 14 starts. He started his first game on May 28th, a 4-1 loss to Matt Kilroy, who is the holder of the all-time single season strikeout record. Handiboe’s next start was 11 days later, and it was another loss. He then another ten-day stretch without an appearance before he started three games in a row. Ed Morris was out for a short time and Galvin had started all three of the previous games. Handiboe went 2-1 in those games, throwing a 3-0 shutout in the last game. After a start by Galvin, Handiboe went for the fourth time in a five-game stretch and got hit hard, losing 19-5 to the Louisville Colonels. From then on, he started eight games over the final three months of the year, with his last Major League game coming on September 8th, a 6-2 loss to the St Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader. Pittsburgh went with Galvin or Morris in 24 of the last 26 games, with new rookie pitcher Bill Bishop getting the other two starts. Handiboe finished 7-7, 3.32, completing 12 of his 14 starts.
The Game Recap
On this date in 1999, the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the Cleveland Indians at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates were trying to get to the .500 mark against a strong Cleveland team. It was a back and forth battle that ended with a 13-10 win for the Pirates and a big day for Kevin Young, who homered twice and drove in five runs. Here are full details of that game in one of our Game Rewind features.