On a very busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays, we have eight players and a manager to cover.
Dots Miller, infielder for the 1909-13 Pirates. He played just one season of minor league ball before becoming the starting second baseman for the 1909 Pirates. Miller was brought into Spring Training that year to compete for a bench job and he ended up impressing so much that he won the starting second base job over veteran Ed Abbaticchio. Miller had a 4.6 WAR season in 1909 at 22 years old, hitting .279 in 151 games, with 47 extra-base hits and 87 RBIs. He ranked third in the league in RBIs, third in doubles (31) and fourth with 13 triples. He was also third in extra-base hits. In the World Series, he hit .250 with four RBIs, two runs scored and three stolen bases.
Miller dealt with injuries in 1910, leading to a down season in which he hit .227 and was limited to 120 games. In 1911, he bounced back with a .268 average, 76 RBIs and 82 runs scored in 137 games. By 1912, he was back among the league leaders in multiple categories. He was also moved over to second base, despite strong defensive metrics at his original spot. Miller hit .275 with 86 RBIs, 33 doubles and 12 triples. He ranked top ten in the league in RBIs, doubles and triples again for the second season. During the 1913 season, Miller finished fourth in the league with 90 RBIs and fourth with 243 total bases. He was also second in the league with 20 triples. All three marks would end up as career bests. He finished eighth in the NL MVP voting.
Despite the big season at first base in 1913, the Pirates made a trade to acquire first baseman Ed Konetchy from the St Louis Cardinals. He was a favorite of owner Barney Dreyfuss, who tried to acquire him multiple times in the past. The trade turned out to be a disaster. Not only did Miller outplay Konetchy in 1914, Konetchy bailed on the Pirates after one season to play in the newly-formed Federal League. The trade was even more one-sided, as the Pirates gave up another four players, included starting right fielder Chief Wilson and pitcher Hank Robinson, while receiving two other marginal talents in return. Miller won (or lost if you’re the Pirates) the trade on his own, finishing fifth in the MVP voting in 1914. The Pirates went from a 1913 record of 78-71, to 69-85 after the deal. The Cardinals went from a 51-win team to an 81-win team in one season, bolstered by the infusion of talent from the Pirates.
Miller played four seasons in St Louis before serving during WWI. He returned in 1919 for one more season with the Cardinals, then played his last two years with the Philadelphia Phillies. He would pass away due to tuberculosis in 1923 at age 37, after managing two seasons in the minors. Miller finished his big league career with a .263 average in 1,589 games, with 108 triples, 177 stolen bases, 714 RBIs and 711 runs scored. While with the Pirates, he batted .266 in 710 games, with 389 RBIs and 347 runs scored.
Miller got the nickname “Dots” as a small child due to his thick German accent. He would say “That’s mine” when he grabbed things, but the “That’s” came out as “Dots”. His teammates in Pittsburgh learned of the nickname during his first trip to Philadelphia as a player, when all of his friends and family showed up. There’s an old story of unknown origin that claims he got the nickname from Honus Wagner’s German accent, when he supposedly said told a reporter who asked about the whereabouts of Miller “Dots (that’s) Miller”. There in no truth to that story, but it has been passed around for years as being true. Wagner wasn’t even with the team during Spring Training in 1909 when it supposedly happened. Miller’s first name was John, though he was often called “Jack” during his playing days.
Waite Hoyt, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Pirates from 1933 until 1937. Hoyt made the Hall of Fame on the strength of one of the teams he played for, that being the New York Yankees from 1921-30, when he had a 157-98 record. Over the rest of his career, posting a ERA just slightly higher than his New York days, he had a career record of 80-84, including the 35-31 mark he compiled with the Pirates. His ERA during his five years in Pittsburgh stood at 3.08, forty points below his number with the Yankees. Hoyt was released by the New York Giants after the 1932 season, when he went 5-7, 3.42 in 12 starts and six relief outings. He was signed by the Pirates the following January and was used mostly in relief during his first season in Pittsburgh. He went 5-7, 2.92 in 117 innings, making eight starts and 28 relief appearances.
In 1934, he was used in the same role, just pitching more often. That would be his best season since he went 22-7, 2.63 for the powerhouse 1927 Yankees. Hoyt was 15-6, 2.93 in 190.2 innings, making 17 starts and 23 relief appearances. In 1934, he had a 7-11, 3.40 record in 11 starts and 28 relief outings, throwing a total of 164 innings. He began to slow down the next year but still pitched well with a 2.70 ERA in 116.2 innings. His ERA that season was the lowest among all Pirates pitchers, on a staff that included some strong pitchers like Cy Blanton, Mace Brown, Bill Swift and Red Lucas. Hoyt started off slow in 1937, then was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers in June. He pitched well there over the rest of the 1937 season, but after a few games the next season, he was released, ending his career. He finished with a 237-182, 3.59 record in 674 games, 425 as a starter. He won three World Series titles and had six wins and a 1.83 ERA in the postseason.
Frankie Frisch, Hall of Fame second baseman, who managed the Pirates from 1940 until 1946, finishing with a 539-528 record. Frisch played 19 seasons in the majors, retiring in 1937. He hit .316 with 2,880 hits, 1,532 runs scored, 419 stolen bases and 1,244 RBIs. He was a part of four World Series winning teams as a player and one of those as a player/manager. He went 1,138-1,078 overall in 16 years of managing in the big leagues. Frisch had a winning record in five of his seven seasons in Pittsburgh, finishing second once and fourth four times. He led the 1944 Pirates to a 90-63 record, his best year with the team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.
Dan Miceli, reliever for the 1993-96 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Kansas City Royals as an amateur free agent in 1990, coming over to the Pirates at the 1993 trading deadline, along with Jon Lieber, in exchange for Stan Belinda. Miceli came to the majors that September and stuck around for another three seasons, despite never pitching with any success. In 1995, he was used often in the closer role, picking up 21 saves, but he also had a 4.66 ERA. The next year the Pirates tried him as a starter briefly and he wound up with a 2-10, 5.78 record in nine starts and 35 relief outings. After the season ended, he was dealt to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Clint Sodowsky. Miceli went on to pitcher 14 seasons in the majors, tops among them was 1998 for the San Diego Padres when he went 10-5, 3.22 in 67 games. In 2003, he pitched for four different teams in four different divisions. He finished with a 43-52, 4.48 record in 631 games, with 39 saves. For the Pirates, Miceli was 8-15, 5.41 in 139 games. That was more games than any other team he played with, which ended up being a total of ten teams.
Tom Foley, infielder for the 1993-94 Pirates. He spent his entire 13-year career in the NL, eight of those seasons with the Montreal Expos. His two years in Pittsburgh were book-ended by his first and second stop in Montreal. Foley split most of his time at either shortstop or second base, but he also saw plenty of work between the two corner infield spots. In 1992 for the Expos, he hit just .174 in 72 games, leading to his release as soon as the season ended. The Pirates signed Foley two months later, and he was used mainly at second base in 1993, getting exactly four starts at each of the other three infield spots. In 86 games that season, he hit .253 with 22 RBIs and 18 runs scored in 211 plate appearances. He again played all four infield spots in 1994, although he didn’t make any starts at first base. He hit .236 in 59 games during that strike-shortened season, driving in 15 runs and scoring 13 times. He was released in October and finished his career the next year with the Expos. In 1,108 Major League games, Foley hit .244 with 32 homers, 32 steals and 263 RBIs. He was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1977, spending parts of three seasons in the majors with them, followed by parts of two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, before being dealt in July of 1986 to the Expos.
Pete Naton, catcher for the 1953 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates right out of the College of Holy Cross in June of 1953. He is one of 75 Major League players to attend that school, although only six have began their Major League career after Naton debuted. He went right from college to the Pirates and played two games (one as a starter) before being sent to the minors. He was recalled in September for four more games, three of them as a starter. He hit .167 with one RBI and two walks. Naton then went to the low minors in 1954, where he hit .288 with 16 homers. He split the next two seasons between the Pirates affiliates in Hollywood (PCL) and New Orleans (Southern Association), where he never approached his 1954 hitting numbers. Naton stayed in the Pirates system until 1958 before retiring, never making it back to the majors.
Dan Costello, outfielder for the 1914-16 Pirates. He signed with the New York Yankees right out of Mount St Mary’s University in 1913, a school that hasn’t produced a Major League player since 1932. Costello spent three of his four seasons in the majors with the Pirates. Pittsburgh picked him up off waivers in January of 1914, after he played just two games for New York. He was called up late during the 1914 season by the Pirates, after spending the season playing for a minor league team from Poughkeepsie, NY. He played 21 games, twenty of those in right field, and he hit .297 with five RBIs. In 1915, he was the backup outfielder, seeing time at all three positions, though most of his time came off of the bench. Costello hit .216 with 11 RBIs, 16 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 71 games. During Spring Training in 1916, he was impressing the Pirates with his play and they planned to reward his hard work with more playing time. He got more at-bats in 1916, but played fewer games. Costello started often in left field early in the year, but he ended up hitting just .239 with eight RBIs in 60 games. The Pirates released him to Toronto of the International League in September. While he initially said he would retire rather than report there, he ended up playing in Toronto during the 1917 season before calling it quits.
Doc Johnston, first baseman for the 1915-16 Pirates. The Pirates purchased Johnston from the Cleveland Indians in February of 1915, after he hit .244 with no homers and 23 RBIs in 104 games during the 1914 season. It was his second full year in the majors. He also played briefly for the 1909 Cincinnati Reds and the 1912 Indians (then called Naps). For the Pirates, Johnston replaced Ed Konetchy at first base, after the latter jumped to the Pittsburgh team in the Federal League. Doc (first name was Wheeler) hit .265 in 147 games for the 1915 Pirates, driving in 64 runs and scoring 71 times. He finished ninth in the NL in both stolen bases and homers, and he was sixth in triples. His second season with the team didn’t go so well, hitting .213 with 39 RBIs in 114 games. In 1917, the Pirates went with Honus Wagner at first base and Doc spent the entire year in the minors. By early 1918, he was back with the Indians. Johnston had three good seasons with Cleveland, hitting at least .292 each year from 1919-21. He was sold to the Philadelphia A’s after the 1921 season and finished his Major League career there in 1922. He went on to play four more seasons in the minors, then managed for two years before retiring.
Abner Dalrymple, left fielder for the 1887-88 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the first batter in Pittsburgh National League history. He was a star outfielder in the 1880’s for the Chicago White Stockings (Cubs), but by the time the Alleghenys got him in 1887, he was clearly on the downside of his career. Dalrymple led the NL in at-bats four times between 1880-85, led the league in runs and hits in 1880, home runs in 1885 and four times he batted over .300, including a high of .354 in 1878 as a rookie. He was awarded the NL batting title that rookie season, but later research showed that he actually fell four points behind Paul Hines. Pittsburgh purchased him in November of 1886 after he hit .233 in 82 games for Chicago. The Alleghenys had moved from the American Association to the NL over the off-season and on April 30, 1887, Dalrymple led off against his old team and helped Pittsburgh to a 6-2 win. He never regained his batting form from years earlier, finishing that first season hitting .212 in 92 games, with 45 runs scored and 29 stolen bases.
Dalrymple was never strong defensively. Early in his career he led the NL in errors three times, but by the time he reached Pittsburgh, he was an average fielder. In 1888, he played 57 games for the Alleghenys, hitting .220 with 19 runs scored. He went to the minors in 1889 and played for another seven seasons before retiring. Dalrymple actually played Major League ball again in 1891 under odd circumstances by today’s standards. That year the American Association had a team from Cincinnati that folded near the end of the season and the AA needed a team to take their spot to finish out the schedule. They chose the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League, and Dalrymple just happened to be on that team, hitting .340 at the time. When the team moved to the AA for the last month, Abner went with them and hit .311 with 22 RBIs in 32 games.