This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History, September 21st, Max Butcher and Sam McDowell

Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the center fielder from the Pirates first game in the National League.

Tom Brown, outfielder for the 1885-87 Alleghenys. Back on April 30,1887, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first game in the National League and Brown was batting second that day while playing center field. He played three years for Pittsburgh, the first two while the team was still in the American Association. Back after the 1884 season, the Alleghenys purchased almost the entire Columbus Buckeyes roster, an American Association team that was folding before the 1885 season. Brown was one of ten players purchased that day and they made up most of the 1885 Opening Day roster, transforming the Alleghenys from a bad team to a mediocre one overnight. Brown had a .690 OPS and 91 runs scored in 107 games in 1884.

With the Alleghenys in 1885, Brown had his best season to date (he debuted in 1882). He hit .307 with 68 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 108 games. In 1886, he hit .285 in 115 games, scoring 106 runs. He struggled with the jump to the NL in 1887, hitting .245 (.591 OPS) in 47 games before being released, which turned out to be a bad decision because some of his best years were still ahead of him. Brown played 17 years in the majors and stole 657 bases. The interesting part about that is that they didn’t count steals during his first four seasons. He scored 177 runs in 1891, which still stands as the second highest single-season total in MLB history. He also led the league that year with 106 stolen bases, 21 triples and 189 hits. Brown scored 1,521 runs during his career while playing just 1,791 games. Despite the success, he also led the league in strikeouts five times from 1890 until 1895.

Sam McDowell, pitcher for the 1975 Pirates. He was a great pitcher during his day, who joined the Pirates at the very end of his career. He was a big lefty who led the league in strikeouts five times. He signed with the Pirates on April 2, 1975 and pitched 14 times for the team before being released in late June. That short stint with the Pirates marked the end of his big league career. McDowell went 2-1, 2.86 in 34.2 innings in Pittsburgh. He finished his 15-year career with 141 wins and 2,453 strikeouts. His best season was 1965 with the Cleveland Indians when he went 17-11, 2.18 with 325 strikeouts in 273 innings. He led the league in ERA and strikeouts that year. He came close to that success in 1970 with 20 wins and league leading totals of 305 innings and 304 strikeouts. McDowell finished third in the Cy Young voting that year. He was a six-time All-Star, who was born in Pittsburgh and attended Central Catholic HS in town. McDowell turns 78 today.

Max Butcher, pitcher for the Pirates from 1939 until 1945. During his time with the Pirates, he went 67-60, 3.34 in 1,171.2 innings. He had double-digit wins four times during his time with Pittsburgh, topping out at 17 victories in 1941. Butcher was not the best pitcher away from the Pirates. He went 28-46 during the rest of his ten-year career, seeing time with the 1936-38 Brooklyn Dodgers and 1938-39 Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates acquired him in an even up deal for aging first baseman Gus Suhr. As far as career performance to that point, it was a one-sided deal that favored the Phillies, but it became a one-sided deal in favor of the Pirates by the end. Suhr lasted just 70 games, while Butcher was a solid contributor for the Pirates for seven seasons. He actually pitched very poorly for the 1940 Pirates, so it was lucky that they held on to him. Over his final five seasons, his ERA was between 2.60 and 3.12 every season, pitching 150+ innings all five years. He finished with five shutouts in 1944, third most in the league. His 19 complete games in 1941 ranked as the fifth highest total in the NL. He pitched a career high 236 innings that season.

Jason Christiansen, pitcher for the 1995-2000 Pirates. He is known for being the player who was traded to the St Louis Cardinals for Jack Wilson. Christiansen pitched 278 games (all in relief) for the Pirates, posting a 4.13 ERA in 274.2 innings. He was a non-drafted free agent signing in June of 1991 and he made it to the majors at the start of the 1995 season, pitching 63 games during his rookie year. He had a 4.15 ERA in 56.1 innings. Christiansen stumbled in 1996, posting a 6.70 ERA over 33 outings. He actually spent part of the 1997 season in Double-A, but bounced back in the majors with a 2.94 ERA in 39 games. He was even better in 1998, posting a 2.51 ERA in 60 outings. His stats slipped in 1999, and then more in 2000 prior to the deal to the Cardinals. After the trade, he played another five seasons in the majors, mostly spent with the San Francisco Giants, where he had a 4.57 ERA in 126 innings over 187 outings. Christiansen had a career 4.30 ERA in 528 games.

Ben Shelton, outfielder for 1993 Pirates. For the Pirates, he hit .250 in 15 games, with two homers and seven RBIs in 24 at-bats. That ended up being his only big league experience. Shelton was second round draft pick out of high school by the Pirates in 1987. It took him five seasons before he made it to Double-A in 1992, then he struggled there with a .234 average in 115 games. He started off well in Triple-A in 1993 and joined the Pirates in mid-June. His stint with the club lasted just over a month, playing his last game on July 25th, before returning to the minors. Prior to that 1993 season, Shelton was dropped for the 40-man roster when the Pirates signed veteran outfielder Lonnie Smith. Shelton came up with Andy Van Slyke went down with a broken collarbone. Shelton was released after the 1993 season and missed 1994 due to off-season knee surgery. He then finished his career in the minors in 1995, playing with the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox.

Del Lundgren, pitcher for the 1924 Pirates. While in Pittsburgh, he had a 6.48 ERA in 16.2 innings over seven relief appearances and one start. His lost his lone start on April 27th, giving up four runs in 5.1 innings. He made seven relief outings in May and allowed runs in six of those games. He was sent to the minors after making his last appearance with the Pirates in June during an exhibition game. Pittsburgh sent him to Birmingham, but in early September, he was released outright to a team from Williamsport. Lundgren went on to pitch for the 1926-27 Boston Red Sox and got hit hard, posting a 6.51 ERA in 167.1 innings. He was originally acquired by the Pirates on a working agreement with the Flint Vehicles of the Michigan-Ontario League. If he didn’t make the Pirates, he would have been returned to Flint.

Gil Britton, shortstop for the 1913 Pirates. His entire big league career consisted of three games in late September for those 1913 Pirates. Two of those games were during a September 20th doubleheader. He went 0-for-12 and committed three errors, going 0-for-4 with one error in each game. Britton was from Kansas and after playing a game in St Louis, he was allowed to go home for the winter, while the Pirates wrapped up their season in Chicago. Britton was signed by the Pirates on August 15, 1913 by scout Howard Earle, who recommended him to manager Fred Clarke. At the time, it was said that he would join the Pirates on September 9th. He was hitting .270 and was considered one of the top base runners in the Texas League. He finished with a .283 average in 155 games before heading to Pittsburgh. The report said that he could play third base or shortstop. Britton played a total of nine seasons in pro ball (1909-17). He signed with the Pirates for 1914 and it was said that he would compete for the starting third base job with veteran Mike Mowrey. Britton nearly made the team as a backup, but he was sold on April 7th to St Joseph of the Western League.

Danny Cox, relief pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. He began the 1992 season as a starter for the Philadelphia Phillies, before being released in early June. Just 12 days later, he signed with the Pirates and pitched 16 games in relief over the rest of the season. In 24.1 innings, he had a 3.33 ERA, with three wins and three saves. In the NLCS, he tossed 1.1 scoreless innings over two appearances. Cox left via free agency after the season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. After being drafted in the 13th round of the 1981 draft by the St Louis Cardinals, he spent 11 seasons in the majors. He went 74-75, 3.64 in 1,298 innings, making 174 starts and 104 relief appearances. He went 18-9, 2.88 in 241 innings for the 1985 Cardinals, helping them to the World Series. He had a 3.24 ERA in 58.1 postseason innings. Cox is one of just five players born in England to play in the majors since 1971.

Antonio Bastardo, pitcher for the Pirates from 2015 to 2017. He had a 4.48 ERA in 90.1 innings over 103 appearances with the Pirates. He was acquired by Pittsburgh over the 2014-15 off-season in exchange for pitcher Joely Rodriguez. In 66 appearances, he went 4-1, 2.98 in 57.1 innings. Bastardo was granted free agency after the season and signed with the New York Mets, where his performance fell off. He was reacquired by the Pirates in exchange for Jon Niese in July and went on to post a 4.13 ERA over 28 appearances. With the 2017 Pirates, Bastardo pitched just nine games and put up a 15.00 ERA in nine innings. He was released in July, which ended his big league career. In nine seasons, he had a 4.01 ERA in 419 appearances and 393 innings.

Zach Phillips, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was a 23rd round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2004. Phillips debuted in the majors seven years later, shortly after the Rangers traded him to the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched ten games with the 2011 Orioles and six games for them in 2012. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Miami Marlins, who got him into three games in 2013. Phillips spent the 2014-15 seasons in the minors. He was back with Baltimore in 2016 when the Pirates acquired him for Kyle Lobstein on August 31st. Phillips joined the Pirates in September and he made eight relief appearances, allowing two runs in 6.2 innings. It ended up being his last big league time, though he was still actively playing in Mexico up until 2019.