Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a transaction of note. Before we get into them, current infielder Colin Moran turns 28 today.
Vance Law, infielder for the 1980-81 Pirates. He’s the son of all-time Pirates great Vern Law. The younger Law played parts of two seasons for the Pirates before they traded him to the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1982 season. He hit .184 in 55 games for the Pirates. The Pirates drafted him in the 39th round of the 1978 draft out of BYU. Despite the long wait in the draft, his wait to get to the majors was very short. Law debuted with the Pirates on June 1, 1980, not even two full years to the day that he was drafted. The Pirates actually had him in Triple-A to start the 1979 season, where he batted .310 in 131 games. He batted .295 in Triple-A in 1980, with more walks than strikeouts. The Pirates had him up in early June, late July and mid-September, getting him into a total of 25 games during those three stints. He saw slightly more time in the strike-shortened 1981 season, beginning the year with the Pirates before the strike, then rejoining them when the rosters expanded in September. After the trade to the White Sox, Law started a string of eight straight seasons with 112+ games played. He spent three years in Chicago, the next three with the Montreal Expos, followed by two more with the Chicago Cubs. He was an All-Star in 1988 when he hit .293 with 11 homers and 78 RBIs. After spending the 1990 season in Japan, he finished his career with the 1991 Oakland A’s. Law was a .256 hitter in 1,212 games over 11 seasons in the majors.
Chuck Hiller, second baseman for the 1968 Pirates. His stay in Pittsburgh was brief. He joined the Pirates as a Rule 5 draft in the winter of 1967, despite the fact that he already had seven seasons of big league experience. He batted .385 in 11 games, which were spread out from mid-April to early June. That ended up being his last stint in the majors. Hiller finished the 1968 season in the minors, then retired from baseball as a player. He went right to managing, spending the 1969 season at the helm of Salem, the High-A affiliate of the Pirates. In 1970 he moved on to a job with the Mets and ended up managing off and on in the minors until 1986. Hiller was an average player during his career, who had one big season. In 1962, he helped the San Francisco Giants to the World Series by hitting .276 with 94 runs scored in 161 games. That season was worth 2.8 WAR, while the rest of his career combined had him at -0.1 WAR.
Jim Russell, outfielder for the Pirates from 1942 until 1947. He was a starter for his last five years in Pittsburgh, hitting .277 with 40 homers, 288 RBIs and 414 runs scored in 723 games. Despite 59 stolen bases in his ten-year big league career, he led the NL in caught stealing three times with the Pirates. He received MVP votes in 1944 when he hit .312 and scored 109 runs. Russell was featured here in an Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article that covers his career in detail. The Pirates acquired him via the minor league draft in 1941, and they traded him for a key piece to two of their World Series championships in 1947. He was part of the five-player deal with the Boston Braves that brought Danny Murtaugh (the player) back to Pittsburgh. Russell played a total of ten seasons in the majors, hitting .267 with 67 homers in 1,035 games. After his final big league game, he spent another three years in the minors before retiring.
Carmen Hill, pitcher for the Pirates for parts of eight years from 1915 until 1929. In his first five seasons with the Pirates, he pitched a total of 26 games, then broke out for 22 wins during the 1927 season, helping the Pirates to the World Series. That was followed up by a 16-win season in 1928. In his other eight seasons in the majors, he won a total of 11 games. Hill debuted in the majors in 1915 at 19 years old, making three starts and five relief appearances for the Pirates. He pitched twice in relief in 1916, then spent the rest of the season in the minors. Hill spent the entire 1917 season with Birmingham of the Southern Association, where he won 26 games. He spent the last two months of the 1918 season in Pittsburgh and posted a 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings. Despite the success, he was used sparingly as a reliever, getting into four games total between May and early July.
Hill played in an outlaw league in 1920, then served a one-year suspension before he was allowed back into pro ball. The New York Giants signed him out of the minors in 1922 and he pitched 28.1 innings. That was followed by three full seasons in Indianapolis and most of the 1926 season, before rejoining the Pirates. From 1922-26 in the minors, Hill won 81 games. He made six starts for the 1926 Pirates, then had a his first full-time big league job in 1927 and responded in a big way. He went 22-11, 3.24 in 277.2 innings. Hill started game four of the 1927 World Series against the great New York Yankees club. He left after six innings with a 3-3 tie, in what ended up as his only postseason game. Hill had a strong 1928 season, going 16-10, 3.53 in 237 innings. His effectiveness quickly dropped off in 1929 and the Pirates lost him on waivers in August to the St Louis Cardinals. Hill played until 1930 in the majors, then finished his pro career two years later in the minors. He won 190 games in the minors, not including his outlaw league stats.
Bobby Cargo, shortstop for the 1892 Pirates. Cargo joined the Pirates in October of 1892 after playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Pittsburgh team of the Pennsylvania State League. He played just two games and showed some rookie jitters during his lone start, making a total of four errors in 11 chances. He went 1-for-4 at the plate with a single. His debut was in the second game of a doubleheader that was called after seven innings due to darkness. Cargo only got to play because Duke Farrell suffered a hip injury in the sixth inning and Cargo went in to play shortstop. He had no chances in the field and didn’t get to bat. Cargo started the next day and even batted third in the 9-4 loss. It was announced that he signed an 1893 contract with the Pirates, but he never came back.
The ironic part about his fielding woes was that he was known for his strong glove. Despite being just 23 years old, the Pittsburgh, PA. native never played in the majors again. He lasted until 1903 in the minors and was scheduled to play in Atlanta for the 1904 season, but shortly before Opening Day, he contracted pneumonia and passed away at the age of thirty-five. Until recent research solved the mystery, his actual birthday was unknown. He now has an October 1, 1868 birthday listed.
On this date in 1949, the Pirates released 42-year-old pitcher Rip Sewell, ending his big league career. In 12 seasons with the Pirates, he posted a 143-97 record. He is tied for seventh in team history in wins, ranks seventh in innings pitched, tenth in complete games and tenth in shutouts. Sewell went 6-1, 3.91 in six starts and 22 relief appearances in 1949, throwing a total of 76 innings.