This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 3rd, Matt Capps and Dave Clark

We have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who can be considered the best of the worst. We also have one transaction of note.

The Players

Matt Capps, reliever for the 2005-09 Pirates. He was a seventh round pick in 2002 by the Pirates out of high school. Capps went from pitching in Double-A during the second half of 2005, right to the majors as a September call-up, without ever playing at Triple-A. In 2006, he was used 85 times out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh, going 9-1, 3.79 in 80.2 innings with one save. Capps began closing games in June of 2007, replacing Salomon Torres in that role. He finished the year 4-7, 2.28 in 76 games, with 18 saves. He missed nearly two months of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury. Capps finished that season with 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 49 appearances. In 2009, everything went downhill for him, as he struggled to get outs and  finished with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. The Pirates cut ties with him after the season, deciding to go with veteran Octavio Dotel as their closer, a move that eventually landed them James McDonald in a 2010 deadline deal with the Dodgers. Capps signed with the Washington Nationals, then was traded to the Minnesota Twins, where he was asked to replace All-Star closer Joe Nathan. Capps missed much of 2012 due to a rotator cuff injury, then spent his last four in pro ball in the minors. He finished with a 29-33, 3.52 record, picking up 138 saves in 444 games. With the Pirates, he was 19-19, 3.61 with 67 saves in 271 games.

Juan Perez, lefty reliever for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1998, reaching free agency before he ever pitched for the team. Perez signed with the New York Mets in October of 2005 and pitched for their Triple-A club during the 2006 season. He had a 2.86 ERA over 63 innings and 43 appearances prior to being put on waivers near the end of August. He was taken by the Pirates and sent to Triple-A, where he threw seven scoreless innings in four appearances before being called up to Pittsburgh for his big league debut. Perez appeared in seven games, posting an 8.10 ERA in 3.1 innings. He made the 2007 Opening Day roster and was unscored upon during his first seven outings. He was sent back to Triple-A on April 22nd with his 0.00 ERA after the Pirates activated John Grabow off the disabled list. He would not rejoin the Pirates until September, when he made another nine appearances. Perez finished with a 4.38 ERA in 12.1 innings that season. He would spend all of 2008 in the minors, before being let go by Pittsburgh. He spent the 2009-10 seasons in the minors, making it back to the big leagues in June of 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2012,  he pitched ten games for the Milwaukee Brewers, then he had 19 appearances with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. In 61 Major League games, he went 2-4, 4.25 in 59.1 innings pitched.

Dave Clark, outfielder for the 1992-96 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft in 1983 by the Cleveland Indians. Clark moved fairly quick through the Indians system, by hitting for average with power, while stealing bases and showing the ability to draw a decent amount of walks. He made it to the majors as a September call-up in 1986, although he didn’t stick for good in Cleveland until two years later. Clark struggled during his 1987 trial in the big leagues, then went to the minors and hit .340 with 30 homers in 108 games. Despite those stats, slightly inflated by the high offense of the Pacific Coast League, he was back in the minors during the 1988 season. Clark moved on to the Chicago Cubs in 1990, then the Kansas City Royals the  next year, a season in which he spent most of his time at Triple-A. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in January of 1992 and again, he spent most of the year in the minors. The 1992 Pirates went to the playoffs, and for a six-week stretch in the middle of the season, then again in September, Clark was a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter. He hit .212 in 23 games with seven RBIs.

In 1993, he saw his most playing time with the Pirates, getting into 110 games, 75 as a starter. He played 86 games in the 1994 and had an output on offense very similar  to the prior season. He drove in 46 runs both years, hitting 11 doubles each season, while finishing with 11 homers in 1993 and then ten the next year. He maintained a strong average in 1995, batting .281, but his production dropped off, hitting four homers and driving in 24 runs in 77 games. He was with the Pirates until August 31, 1996, when he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Carl South. Clark would play two more years in the majors before retiring, finishing with a .264 average, 62 homers and 284 RBIs in 905 games. For the Pirates, he hit .278 with 35 homers and 158 RBIs in 388 games. Despite being a stolen base threat in the minors, he had just 19 Major League steals.

Ed Konetchy, first baseman for the 1914 Pirates. He had a strong and somewhat under-appreciated 15-year career in the majors, hitting .281 with 992 RBIs, 972 runs scored, 2,150 hits and 182 triples, which is the 15th highest total ever. On top of the offensive stats, he was an even better defensive player at first base. He led the league five times in putouts, five times in assists, five times in range and six times in fielding percentage. Right in the middle of his career, he spent one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came to Pittsburgh in an eight-player deal on December 12, 1913 from the St Louis Cardinals, in exchange for a five-player group highlighted by Dots Miller and Chief Wilson.

Konetchy played just one season for the Pirates, jumping to the Federal League team in Pittsburgh (Rebels) before the start of the 1915 season. He hit .249 in 154 games for the Pirates, scoring 56 runs, while adding 51 RBIs. The batting, runs and RBI totals, represented his lowest marks since his first full season (1908) in the big leagues. Konetchy did his job on defense though, leading the NL in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he was outplayed by Dots Miller at first base for St Louis. The year after leaving the Pirates, Konetchy set a career high with 93 RBIs and tied his high batting average with a .314 mark. Konetchy played in the majors until 1921, then went to the minors and played another six seasons. In 1925, playing for the Fort Worth Panthers of the Texas League, he hit .345 with 41 doubles and 41 homers at 39 years old. He had 1,123 minor league hits, giving him 3,273 hits as a pro.

Harry Decker, catcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He has the claim to fame of having the highest batting average on one of the worst teams in baseball history. The 1890 Alleghenys, decimated by a mass exodus of star players to the newly formed Player’s League, finished with a 23-113 record, hitting .230 as a group. Decker started his Major League career in 1884, splitting his season between Indianapolis of the American Association and Kansas City of the Union Association, a Major League that lasted just that one season. Decker spent 1885 in the minors, then split the 1886 season between two National League team, Detroit and Washington. After that second brief trial, he went to the minors, returning to the majors three years later with the Philadelphia Quakers (now the Phillies). Decker hit .100 in 11 games that year, giving him a .173 career average through his first 59 games. He began the 1890 season with the Phillies (new name in 1890), playing just five games over the first six weeks of the season. In early June, the Alleghenys purchased his contract and he would become the regular catcher, going behind the plate 70 times over the rest of the season. When he wasn’t catching he still saw regular action in the field, playing five other positions, although most of his other time was spent at first base. Decker hit a team high .274, with 38 RBIs and 52 runs scored. When the Player’s League folded, most of the Alleghenys’ players returned, leaving no room for Decker. He finished his career in the minors the next year playing for New Haven of the Eastern League.

The Transaction

On this date in 1971, the Pirates added depth to their playoff run by purchasing catcher/outfielder Carl Taylor from the Kansas City Royals. Taylor was originally with the Pirates during the 1968-69 seasons. After the trade with the Royals, he played seven games, going 2-for-12 at the plate. He got one start in right field in place of Roberto Clemente. During the middle of Spring Training in 1972, Taylor was sold back to the Royals, where he finished his career two years later.