This Date in Pirates History: September 5th, Bill Mazeroski and Lefty Leifield

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players were born on this date, including a Hall of Famer and a star pitcher for the 1909 World Series winning team.

Bill Mazeroski, second baseman for the 1956-72 Pirates. On October 13,1960, Mazeroski hit his famous World Series winning, walk-off homer. Not only was it the greatest single moment in Pittsburgh Pirates history, it ranks up there as the single greatest moment in baseball history. He is considered by many to be the greatest fielding second baseman in baseball history, as well as one of the overall best defensive players ever. His list of accomplishments is long. Two World Series rings, eight Gold Glove awards, ten All-Star selections and a Hall of Fame plaque in 2001. He played seventeen seasons and 2,163 games in Pittsburgh, making his Major League debut on July 7, 1956 and playing his last regular season game on October 4, 1972.

In the field, he earned those eight Gold Gloves by leading the National League in assists nine times, putouts six times, fielding range ten times and fielding percentage three times. Career he ranks fifth in assists at second base with 6,685 and seventh in put outs (4,974). In the modern metrics category called Total Zone Runs, which was devised to determine just how valuable a player was on defense at their position, Mazeroski ranked first overall among second baseman. In defensive WAR, he ranks first among all players who put on a Pirates uniform

Among Pittsburgh Pirates hitting categories, Mazeroski ranks fifth in games played behind Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Max Carey. He is sixth in both at-bats and plate appearances, going to the plate a total of 8,379 times. His 2,016 hits ranks eighth all-time in team history, trailing seven Hall of Famers. Maz has the eighth most total bases (2,848), eighth most doubles (294), tenth most homers (138) and sixth most RBIs with 853. Only eight Pirates have reached base more times than Maz in a Pirates uniform, and all eight went on to make the Hall of Fame.

Before making his Major League debut, Mazeroski spent three seasons in the minors, playing a total of 308 games. He played for two teams, the Williamsport Grays of the Eastern League in 1954-55 and the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1955-56. Before being called up for his Pirates debut as a 19-year-old, he batted .306 in 80 games for Hollywood, with nine homers and 36 RBIs. Maz was brought up to replace Spook Jacobs in the lineup, just 11 games after the Pirates had traded for the 30-year-old second baseman. He would hold onto that second base job full-time until 1969 when he started to miss some time and play less frequently, playing just 273 games over his final four seasons combined.

He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner by 21 years old in 1958, when he hit .275 with 19 homers and 68 RBIs. He also had his highest MVP finish that season, ending up eighth in the voting. That home run total ended up being his career high for a season. His highest batting average actually came during the 1957 season, when he hit .283 in 148 games, while also setting a personal best with 27 doubles. Mazeroski topped that RBI total in 1962 when he drove in 81 runs. He set his career high with runs in 1961, crossing the plate 71 times. He led the NL in games played in 1966 and 1967, when he played all 325 games for the Pirates (they played 163 in 1967). He was fairly consistent the entire time from 1957-68, with no major peaks or valleys. He won his last Gold Glove and made his last All-Star appearance in 1967.

During that epic 1960 World Series, Mazeroski batted .320 with two homers and five RBIs. He was a bench player by the time they made the playoffs three straight times (1970-72), but he went 2-for-6 with two walks in that stretch. Mazeroski turns 84 today.

Lefty Leifield, pitcher for the 1905-12 Pirates. Before making it to the majors with the Pirates, Albert “Lefty” Leifield was a workhorse pitcher for Des Moines of the Western League. He pitched 616 innings between the 1904-05 seasons, finishing his second year with a 26-9, 2.11 record in 39 games. He made his debut with the Pirates on September 3, 1905, throwing a three-hit shutout in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs. Before the season ended, he has compiled a 5-2, 2.89 record, giving him 31 wins on the season. He became a regular in the Pirates rotation the next season, a spot he would hold for six straight years. During that 1906 season, Leifield went 18-13 with a 1.87 ERA in 31 starts and six relief appearances. He record that season actually looks like he had some tough luck behind him, as teammate Sam Leever went 22-7 with a 2.42 ERA. On September 26, 1906, Lefty threw the first no-hitter in team history, a six-inning contest called due to darkness, during the second game of a doubleheader. He finished the season with eight shutouts.

In 1907, Lefty won twenty games for the only time in his career. He made 33 starts and seven relief appearances, throwing a total of 286 innings. He had a 2.33 ERA and threw six shutouts. Leifield seemed to have tough luck follow him with the Pirates, especially in 1908, when he had a 15-14 record. His ERA was just 2.10 and the Pirates won 98 games that year. Teammate Nick Maddox went 23-8 with a 2.28 ERA, while Sam Leever was 15-7 with an identical 2.10 ERA. The Pirates won their first World Series title in 1909 and Leifield was again a strong presence in the rotation, going 19-8, 2.37 in 26 starts and six relief appearances. Pittsburgh had a ton of pitching depth start season, so they were able to give the better pitchers more rest than in previous years. In the World Series, Lefty started game four and was hit hard in his four innings, allowing five runs and taking the loss It was his only appearance of the seven-game series.

After going 15-13, 2.64 in 1910, Leifield was asked to step up in the rotation in 1911, setting career highs in starts (37), games pitched (42) and innings pitched (318), all of them team highs that season. The Pirates relied heavily on Babe Adams and Howie Camnitz as well, with the three pitchers accounting for 107 of the team’s 155 starts. Lefty finished the year 16-16, 2.63, another season in which he was hurt by run support. Camnitz went 20-15 with a 3.13 ERA that same year. Part of the problem with his win/loss record over the years, was the fact he seemed to match up against the other team’s best pitcher a lot. Included in those match-ups over the years, was 17 starts from 1906-11 against Christy Mathewson, the best NL pitcher of the time and a noted Pirates killer, even during Pittsburgh’s best years.

The extra workload in 1911 seemed to take an effect on Leifield, who started off slow during the 1912 season. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with Tommy Leach, on May 30, 1912 in exchange for pitcher King Cole and outfielder Solly Hofman. Lefty went 7-2, 2.242 in 13 games for Chicago after the deal. In 1913, he started off poorly, then was sold to the minor leagues. He briefly retired instead of reporting to his new team. Leifield would return to baseball a short time later, going on to play two years for San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, then three years for St Paul of the American Association. In 1918, he returned to the major leagues with the St Louis Browns. He pitched well in limited use during the 1918-19 seasons, then was used just four times during the entire 1920 season. Lefty became a coach in the majors for awhile before retiring from baseball. He finished his career with a 124-97, 2.47 record in 296 games, 216 as a starter. With the Pirates, he went 109-84 with a 2.38 ERA in 1,578 innings, throwing a total of 28 shutouts. His ERA ranks third in team history, trailing two teammates from those 1907-09 teams, Nick Maddox and Vic Willis. His shutout total ranks fifth in Pirates history.

Rod Barajas, catcher for the 2012 Pirates. He spent the final season of his 14-year career in Pittsburgh, where he hit .206/.283/.343 in 104 games, with 11 homers and 31 RBIs. Barajas signed a one-year deal as a free agent with the Pirates shortly after the 2011 World Series ended. He started 98 games behind the plate for the Pirates, split the catching duties with Michael McKenry.  Barajas signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2012 season, but he was released during Spring Training, which ended his career. He was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in 1996 by the Diamondbacks and spent the first five seasons of his big league career in Arizona. Barajas also played for the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was a career .235 hitter in 1,114 games, with 136 homers and 480 RBIs. He hit a career high 21 homers with the Rangers in 2006, and he set a career best with 71 RBIs during the 2009 season in Toronto.

Andy Barkett, first baseman/outfielder for the 2001 Pirates. He had an 11-season career in the pros that began in 1995 with the Texas Rangers organization. Barkett would make it to the majors with the 2001 Pirates for 17 games over a one-month period, from late May until late June. Pittsburgh signed him as a minor league free agent in January of 2001, after he had a down year at Triple-A. In 1998, he hit .314 in 80 games at Triple-A, then hit .308 with 76 RBIs the next season, but Texas never called him to the show. He was released after a slow start in 2000, then signed with the Atlanta Braves the next day. He never got going for Atlanta’s Triple-A team in Richmond that year, finishing the season with a .233 average and a .638 OPS. The Pirates assigned him to Nashville to start 2001, where his stats weren’t much better, but when they designated reliever Don Wengert for assignment on May 28th, the called up Barkett for his big league debut. In his first at-bat, he line a double to deep center field off Florida Marlins pitcher Chuck Smith. Two weeks later, he went 3-for-4, hitting his only career homer off of Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Mays. He was sent down in late June when the Pirates recalled reliever Mike Lincoln.

Barkett would never return to the majors, finishing with a .304 average in 51 plate appearances. After he retired in 2005, he took up managing in the minors. He spent four seasons managing Jacksonville (Double-A for the Marlins), after spending three years at the helm of Lakeland in the Detroit Tigers system. In 2017, he was the manager at Indianapolis for the Pirates. Barkett was then the assistant hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox, helping them to a 2018 World Series title. (side note: Barkett’s birthday is sometimes listed as April 17, 1973)

Chris Green, lefty pitcher for the 1984 Pirates. He was taken in the fourth round of the 1979 amateur draft by the Pirates. By 1981, Green looked like a prospect, going 15-7, 3.08 in 27 starts for Greenwood of the South Atlantic League. The next year he split the season between High-A and Double-A, and looked even better. Green went a combined 16-6, 2.91 in 27 starts, striking out 166 batters in 185.2 innings. He did have control troubles each season, walking 171 batters between those two solid years. His stats really slipped off the next season, opening the year in Triple-A, before being sent down to Double-A, where he was used as a closer. Green went 0-9, 5.24 in his first season of Triple-A in 1983, making 12 starts and one relief appearance before being sent down. He was used strictly in relief in 1984, making 13 Triple-A appearances, with a 5.94 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched. Before he pitched a Triple-A game though, he was called up to the Pirates to replace an injured Rod Scurry. Green spent just over a month on the Pirates roster, yet he appeared in just three games, throwing a total of 2.1 innings. He was recalled in early August and this time he got into just one game over the rest of the season. He was not with the Pirates in September, getting sent down just prior to the rosters expanding. Green spent one more season at Triple-A for the Pirates, before moving on to the California Angels system in 1986, then the Baltimore Orioles organization the next year. He never played in the majors again, ending with four appearances and two runs allowed in three innings.

Jimmy Knowles, first baseman for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He wasn’t the Opening Day first baseman for the Alleghenys on May 1, 1884, but one day later he would take over the position for 46 games, before moving on to the Brooklyn Atlantics to finish the season. Knowles hit .231 for Pittsburgh in 189 plate appearances, scoring 19 runs, while drawing just five walks, leaving him with a .259 OBP. He had 12 extra-base hits, which included seven triples and five doubles. With Brooklyn to finish the year, his stats were very similar over 41 games, hitting .235 with 19 runs scored and just three walks. On August 20th, he took part in a triple play, the ninth in American Association history. The 1884 season was watered down as far as talent went. The Union Association was formed that year, giving baseball three Major Leagues at the time, while the American Association expanded to 12 teams from eight the previous year. Basically, Major League baseball went from 16 teams (eight NL, eight AA) to 28 over the off-season, so it made room for a lot of players who weren’t Major League ready. It was just a one-year experiment though, and things returned to normal the next season.

Knowles was one of those players who returned to the minors in 1885, playing the year for the Washington Nationals of the Eastern League, where he hit .302 in 95 games. The next season the Nationals joined the National League and he remained with the team. The team was greatly overmatched all season, finishing with one of the worst records ever at 28-92, getting outscored by nearly 350 runs. Knowles hit .212 in 115 games, finishing with the sixth highest strikeout total in the league. He also committed the most errors in the league among all positions. He seemed to get jobs in the big leagues due more to needs of teams, rather than his own ability. In 1887 he played for New York of the AA, a team that went 44-89 on the season.

After two years in the minors (1888-89), Knowles reappeared in the majors in 1890, playing for Rochester of the AA. The 1890 season was much like the 1884 season. There were three Major Leagues with the formation of the Player’s League, and the American Association was the worst of the leagues. Proof of that is evident when looking at Knowles’ stats for the season. He played 123 games, hitting .281 with 84 RBIs and 83 runs scored, adding 55 stolen bases and 59 walks. It was far and away his best season, yet when the PL folded after one year, he was back to the minors in 1891 playing for Buffalo of the Eastern League, where he scored 115 runs in 125 games. He played 16 more big league games in 1892, playing third base for the New York Giants. He hit .153 and made ten errors during his late season trial. It ended up being his last season in the majors, leaving him with a .241 average and .618 OPS in 357 Major League games. He played in the minors until 1897, serving part of that time as a player/manager for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association.