This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 8th, Gerrit Cole

We have seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. We also have a Game Rewind coming up later today from a September 8th game.

Gerrit Cole, pitcher for the 2013-17 Pirates. He was the first overall pick by the Pirates in the 2011 draft. Three years earlier out of high school, the New York Yankees selected him 28th overall. Cole began his pro career in fall ball due to signing late. He had a 3.00 ERA in five Arizona Fall League starts. He started the 2012 season in High-A ball and worked his way up to Triple-A, finishing with a combined 9-7, 2.80 record in 132 innings and 26 starts. After making 12 Triple-A starts in 2013, he was called up to the majors on June 11th for his big league debut. Cole won ten of his 19 starts and finished with a 3.22 ERA over 117.1 innings, piling up 100 strikeouts. In 2014, he went 11-5, 3.65 in 22 starts and 138 innings, missing time in June and then in July/August with injuries.

Cole had his best season in Pittsburgh in 2015 when the team won 98 games. He went 19-8, 2.60 in 208 innings. He was an All-Star, finished fourth in the Cy Young voting and even got mild MVP support. He also struck out 202 batters, making him one of just two right-handed pitchers in Pirates history to reach the 200-strikeout mark. Cole struggled in 2016 and made only 21 starts. He finished with a 3.88 ERA and his highest career WHIP to date (1.44). His ERA rose to 4.26 in 203 innings in 2017 and he allowed 31 homers. Cole was traded to Houston and went 35-10 in two seasons before reaching free agency. He signed a large free agent deal with the New York Yankees in 2020 that could run through the 2029 season.

Mike Dyer, pitcher for the 1994-95 Pirates. He was originally a fourth round pick in 1986 by the Minnesota Twins. Dyer made it to the majors by 1989, getting 12 starts and four relief appearances for Minnesota. He went 4-7, 4.82 in 71 innings, throwing one complete game. It took another five years before he would pitch another Major League game. In 1991, he was injured for the entire season and released a short time later by the Twins. He went to the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs organizations, before signing in January of 1994 with the Pirates. Dyer started that 1994 season at Triple-A Buffalo, going 3-3, 2.34 in 29 games, compiling 12 saves. Pittsburgh called him up in late June, getting him into 14 games before the 1994 strike ended his season early. He had a 5.87 ERA in 15.1 innings, picking up four saves.

When baseball resumed in 1995, Dyer was a regular in the bullpen for Pittsburgh, making 55 appearances. He went 4-5, 4.34 in 74.2 innings, though he didn’t pick up any saves. Near the end of 1996 Spring Training, he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Montreal Expos. His big league career came to a strange ending. He pitched 70 games for Montreal in 1996, then was released, getting picked up by the Colorado Rockies. Dyer was the last cut from the Rockies Spring Training roster, just days before Opening Day. He was signed by the Atlanta Braves a short time later and sent to Triple-A, where he pitched until June, before an injury ended his season. After 1997, Dyer pitched just nine more games, coming as a member of the 2000 Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds, an independent league team.

Jim Smith, infielder for the 1982 Pirates. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1976, Smith played just one season in the majors, coming six years later with the Pirates. He was a light-hitting shortstop (career .245 hitter in minors), who spent four full seasons at Triple-A, before making the Pirates 1982 Opening Day roster. He spent all of 1981 at Triple-A for the Pirates and then got his Opening Day spot after the Pirates traded away backup infielder Vance Law two weeks before the season opener. Smith saw very little playing time for the Pirates, getting into 42 games all year, 11 as a starter at shortstop. He also got into a few games between third base and second, though none were starts. He was the backup for both Dale Berra and Johnny Ray, but Ray ended up starting all 162 games. Smith hit .238 in 52 plate appearances with four RBIs and made seven fielding errors in his limited playing time. He was also used 14 times as a pinch-runner and once as a pinch-hitter. The Pirates sent him to the Chicago White Sox after the season and he spent all of 1983 in the minors behind Vance Law on the depth chart. That ended up being his last year in pro ball.

Jim Bagby Jr., pitcher for the 1947 Pirates. He spent the first nine years of his career in the American League with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. Bagby won 15 games as a rookie for Boston, then struggled there for two seasons, prior to being dealt to the Indians. He had his best seasons in Cleveland when baseball was watered down due to a large number of Major Leaguers serving in WWII. Bagby won 17 games during both the 1942 and 1943 seasons, leading the league in games started each year. He pitched a total of 543.2 innings, leading the league in IP’s in 1943 and making the AL All-Star squad each year. He then spent part of the 1944 season in the Merchant Marines and wasn’t the same pitcher when he came back. He went just 19-22 over the 1944-46 seasons, during a time when the talent in baseball was at it’s lowest. He spent that last season back with Boston, who sold him to the Pirates the following February. Bagby was used most in relief during his only season in Pittsburgh, pitching 31 times out of the pen, with six starts. He went 5-4, 4.67 in 115.2 innings pitched. It turned out to be his last season in the majors, though he was still with the Pirates organization in the minors the next year. He ended up pitching two more years before retiring, finishing with a 97-96 career Major League record. His father Jim Bagby Sr pitched for the 1923 Pirates. The younger Bagby’s claim to fame, is that he was the pitcher on the mound for the last out of the game that ended Joe DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting.

Val Picinich, catcher for the 1933 Pirates. He played 18 seasons in the majors as a catcher, yet never played more than 96 games in a season. In 1,037 career games, he hit .258, finishing with strange stat line of 26 homers and 26 triples, and 298 RBIs and 298 runs scored. His best year came during that 96-game season in 1928 with the Cincinnati Reds, when he hit .302 with a career high 35 RBIs. His career fielding stats were below average, especially his 37% caught stealing rate, which was 7% below league average during his career. Picinich began his last season in the majors (1933) with the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing six games before he was released in mid-May. He signed on with the Pirates a month later and finished the year as one of the backups to Earl Grace. Picinich played 16 games for Pittsburgh, mostly being used during the second game of doubleheaders. He hit .250 with seven RBIs in his 60 plate appearances. He caught in the minors in 1934, then was a player/manager in 1935, before finishing his career with three more years of minor league managing. For five seasons in Washington, he was the backstop for Walter Johnson, catching 86 of his starts.

Rosie Rosebraugh, lefty pitcher for the 1898-99 Pirates. He played two years in the minors for the Dayton Old Soldiers of the Interstate League, before joining the 1898 Pirates in September. During that 1898 season, he went 23-11 for Dayton, then made his Pirates debut on September 21, 1898, with one inning of relief work. He started his first game for the Pirates six days later and took a tough 5-4 loss. His second (and last) start of the season came 11 days later and the Pirates gave him no support on offense or defense in an 8-1 loss. He finished that first year 0-2, 3.32 in four games, two of them complete games. In 1899, he made two starts, but lasted just six innings total. The Pirates lost both games, one was credited to Rosebraugh.

He pitched the rest of the season back in the Interstate League for the Mansfield Haymakers, the same league and team he finished his baseball career with the next year. The Pirates loaned him to Mansfield on July 9, 1899 and had the option to bring him back at any time, but he never returned. It is possible that he played in 1901 with New Orleans of the Southern Association. An unknown player for that team was listed as “E. Rosebrough”. Rosie’s last name was constantly misspelled during his career and his real first name was Eli. He also went by the nickname “Zeke”. He was highly regarded before coming to the Pirates as a pitcher with good speed, but little control. He once struck out eight batters and walked eight in the same game. He threw a no-hitter as well. His life came to a tragic ending at age 54, the victim of a self-inflicted gun shot.

Russ McKelvy, right fielder for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on August 24, 1882. He began his pro career in 1877, playing in Pittsburgh for the first minor league team in baseball history. He was an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Allegheny (no “s” at the end) of the International Association. McKelvy played every game that season, hitting .200 in 19 games with eight runs scored. The pitcher for that team was Pirates’ great, Jim “Pud” Galvin, who made all but one start for Pittsburgh, with McKelvy getting the other starting assignment. The next year, McKelvy moved on to the majors, playing for the Indianapolis Blues. He was one of five players on that team to lead the NL with 63 games played. He hit .225 with a team high 36 RBIs (not a stat at the time), hitting two of the team’s three homers on the season. He started 62 games in center field and one as a pitcher.

McKelvy’s playing career records are spotty after 1878, except for his one game in right field for the 1882 Alleghenys. He went 0-for-4 without a play in the field on August 24th, as Pittsburgh moved to 27-31 on the season with a 7-2 win over the St Louis Brown Stockings. Oddly enough, he batted fourth in the lineup during his only game. In May, McKelvy umpired a game between the Alleghenys and Red Stockings when Cincinnati refused to use the originally scheduled umpire due to past experiences.

There is a player known only as “McKelvy”, who played for the 1883 Pittsburgh Enterprise of the Western Interstate League. That is likely Russ, as no other player with the last name McKelvy has ever played minor/major league ball. There are two players named McKelvy who played for a Pittsburgh amateur team named the “CH Kelleys” in 1882, both shortly after his one game for the Alleghenys. You would assume that one of them was Russ. McKelvy was playing for a local team called the Braddocks in June of 1882. After his playing days, he moved to Omaha, where he became a wealthy businessman late in life. He was referred to as “the famous ballplayer” in a Sporting Life article from 1894.