This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 4th, Jake Beckley

Today is a busy date in Pittsburgh Pirates history. Eight former players born on this date. Before we get into the former players, current shortstop Kevin Newman turns 27 today.

The Players

Steve Bieser, outfielder for the 1998 Pirates. He was originally a 32nd round draft pick in 1989 of the Philadelphia Phillies. Eight years later, he made his Major League debut with the 1997 New York Mets, hitting .246 in 47 games with four RBIs. He played all three outfield spots and even went behind the plate for two games. The Pirates signed Bieser as a free agent that off-season, sending him to Triple-A, where he hit .257 in 84 games, with most of his defensive time spent behind the dish. He was called up in early July and played 13 games that month, all off the bench. Bieser went 3-for-11 at the plate, getting into two games in the outfield, before returning to the minors. He remained in the Pirates organization until the middle of the 1999 season, splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A. Bieser played minor league ball for another two seasons with the St Louis Cardinals before retiring.

Ruben Rodriguez, catcher for the 1986 and 1988 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1981 as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He spent the first seven seasons of his pro career (1982-88) in the Pittsburgh system, twice getting called up to the majors in September. Rodriguez played two games for the Pirates in both 1986 and 1988, starting once each year, while coming in as a defensive replacement in the other two games. During Spring Training of 1989, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Lou Thornton. Rodriguez remained in pro ball until 1995, never making it back to the majors. His only Major League hit was an RBI triple off of Scott Sanderson

Bill Schuster, shortstop for the 1937 Pirates. He had a five-year big league career, with the large majority of his time coming during the war years (1943-45) while with the Chicago Cubs. Schuster began his pro career in 1935, playing three season in the NY-Penn League with Scranton and Albany. He was a late September addition to the 1937 Pirates, making his Major League debut on September 29th as a pinch-runner, and he scored a run. Schuster got into both games of a doubleheader four days later as the starting shortstop, going 3-for-6 at the plate. He was back in the minors the next year, hitting .318 for Montreal of the International League, but he did not play in the majors again until September of 1939, this time as a member of the Boston Bees (Braves). After spending three years in the minors, then three years with the Cubs, Schuster returned to minor league ball from 1946 until 1952, ending his 18-year pro career with over 2,250 games played.

Homer Blankenship, pitcher for the 1928 Pirates. He began his pro career with the 1922 White Sox, where he pitched for parts of two season alongside his older brother Ted. After eight appearances over two seasons with Chicago, Homer (which was his real first name) went three years before he played pro ball again, resurfacing in the Texas League, where he pitched three seasons for Shreveport and Dallas. Blankenship won 43 games over that time, leading to a September trial with the 1928 Pirates. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 25th from Dallas, but he was allowed to finish out the minor league season before reporting to Pittsburgh. In two starts and three relief outings for the Pirates, he went 0-2, 5.82 in 21.2 innings, losing both of his starts. He returned to the minors for three more seasons without making it back to the big leagues. His brother Ted pitched nine years in the majors, winning 77 games for the White Sox.

Cliff Lee, catcher/outfielder for the 1919-20 Pirates. He spent five seasons in the minors, beginning his career as a 17-year-old in 1914, before making his Major League debut with the 1919 Pirates. For two years in Pittsburgh, he was a backup catcher, who occasionally played outfield, hitting .213 in 79 games, with ten RBIs in exactly 200 plate appearances. Before he played a game for the 1921 Pirates, he was taken off waivers by the Phillies, where he spent four seasons as a first baseman/outfielder. He played briefly for the Reds at the end of the 1924 season, then spent two years with the Indians, prior to returning to the minors for four more seasons. Lee was a .300 career hitter in 521 Major League games, surpassing the .300 mark during all three full seasons he spent in Philadelphia. In 1921, he hit .322 with 17 homers and 77 RBIs.

Lew Moren, pitcher for the 1903-04 Pirates. A lifelong native of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Duquesne University, he made his Major League debut with the Pirates on September 21, 1903 as a starting pitcher. It was the second game of a doubleheader against Brooklyn, at home, with the Pirates already wrapping up the 1903 pennant days earlier. Moren gave up seven runs in six innings, but it was said that he still pitched well and looked like a good pitcher for the future. The local newspaper must’ve really liked him, because in an early season 1904 game, in which Moren came in to relieve for Deacon Phillippe, The Pittsburgh Press said “he pitched remarkably well” despite giving up six runs in four innings. The Pirates did not agree with the praise given to Moren and he never pitched again in Pittsburgh. He spent the next two years in the minors before coming back to the majors with the Phillies in 1907 for four seasons. He went 48-56 over those four years, posting a 2.88 ERA in 872 innings. Moren had arm troubles and never pitched again after 1910, although he attempted a comeback with the 1914 Phillies.

Paddy O’Connor, catcher for the Pirates from 1908 until 1910. He was a veteran of seven minor league seasons prior to joining the Pirates in 1908. He spent the previous six years playing for the Springfield Ponies of the Connecticut State League. O’Connor was taken by the Pirates in the September 1907 Rule 5 draft and he played his first game with the team in 1908. He was a backup catcher to George Gibson for three years, during a time when Gibson played 145 games per year and the schedule was 154 games long. The team also carried a third catcher named Mike Simon, so playing time for O’Connor was sporadic at best. In his three seasons with the Pirates, he played 27 games, getting 38 plate appearances. Most of that limited time was as a pinch-hitter, spending just eight games behind the plate. Paddy (first name was Patrick) batted once during the 1909 World Series, striking out in his only chance. He returned to the minors for three years, the came back to the majors with the 1914 St Louis Cardinals. O’Connor returned to Pittsburgh in 1915 as a member of the Rebels, playing in the Federal League, which was considered a Major League at the time. He hit .228 in 70 games during that season. He played off and on in the minors until 1921, while playing one more Major League game with the 1918 Yankees.

Jake Beckley, first baseman for the 1888-89 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, and the 1891-96 Pirates. In his eight seasons with the Pirates franchise, Beckley hit .300 in 930 games, with 664 RBIs and 701 runs scored. Five times he drove in 96 or more runs and six times he scored over 90 runs. Beckley scored 123 runs during the 1894 season, which ranks as the 15th highest season total in team history. Beckley’s 19 triples in 1895 is tied for 15th best in team history, tied with 13 other seasons, including Jake Beckley in 1891, 1892, 1893 and 1894. Yes, he finished with 19 triples in five straight seasons. His 122 RBIs in 1894 ranks ninth best in franchise history. He also has two other top 50 seasons (111 in 1895 and 106 in 1893). Beckley held the top three spots on the team’s single season hit-by-pitch list until Jason Kendall was hit 20 times in 2001. Beckley held those three top spots for 106 years.

On July 25, 1896, the Pirates traded him to the New York Giants in exchange for first baseman Harry Davis and cash, in what was a very unpopular deal. Beckley played in the majors until 1907, finishing his career with 2,934 hits, 1,602 runs, 1,578 runs scored and a .308 average. His 244 career triples ranks fourth all-time and no first baseman in baseball history has recorded more putouts. Beckley has 2,056 more putouts than the second highest total all-time at first base. In fact, he’s the Major League all-time leader in putouts, regardless of position. He played five seasons in the minors after his Major League career was over, adding more than 600 hits to his resume, which doesn’t include a 234-hit season in 1887 prior to making the majors. As a pro, he had 3,840 hits, 998 going for extra bases. Beckley was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 by the Veteran’s Committee.

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