Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a transaction of note.
Marino Salas, reliever for the 2008 Pirates. He was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for Solomon Torres on December 7, 2007. Salas pitched 13 games during his only season in the majors, posting an 8.47 ERA in 17 innings. He was called up four different times during the season, seeing action in May, June, July and September. The Pirates released him after the 2008 season and he pitched in Mexico in 2009, while playing winter ball through the 2012-13 season in the Dominican. Salas originally signed as an amateur free agent with the Baltimore Orioles at 16 years old in 1998. He spent a total of nine seasons with the Orioles without making it to the majors. The Brewers acquired him via waivers prior to the 2007 season.
Victor Santos, pitcher for the 2006 Pirates. In his only season with the club, he went 5-9, 5.70 in 115.1 innings, making 19 starts and six relief appearances. Santos played for seven teams over a seven-year big league career, which started with the 2001 Detroit Tigers. He then moved on to the Colorado Rockies (2002), Texas Rangers (2003), Milwaukee Brewers (2004-05), Pirates, before finishing in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles. He was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Tigers out of St Peter’s University in NJ. That school has produced just four Major League players, including Frank Brooks of the 2004 Pirates. Santos went 23-48, 5.21 in 87 starts and 99 relief appearances in the majors, throwing 602.1 innings. He won 11 games for Milwaukee in 2004, despite a 4.97 ERA.
Bob Robertson, first baseman for the Pirates in 1967, and then 1969-76. In nine seasons in Pittsburgh, he hit .245, with 106 homers and 339 RBIs in 750 games. He hit 27 homers in 1970 and 26 more in 1971, then added six postseason homers in 41 at-bats that year to help the Pirates to their fourth World Series title. Robertson debuted at 20 years old in 1967, though he only lasted nine games that year, then spent all of 1968 on the sidelines after a surgery for his kidneys. Robertson was with the Pirates during April/May in 1969, then returned in September. In between, he homered 34 times in Triple-A. After he strong 197-71 seasons, his stats quickly dropped off, mostly due to back issues. He batted just .193 with 12 homers in 115 games in 1972, then came back with a .229 average in 1973 and .239 in 1974. He combined to hit 30 home runs during those two seasons. Robertson was a part-time player in 1975-76, collecting eight homers and 43 RBIs in 136 games. The Pirates released him just prior to Opening Day in 1977 and he didn’t play again until 1978 with the Seattle Mariners, then finished his career with the 1979 Toronto Blue Jays.
Maury Wills, 1967-68 third baseman for the Pirates. He once held the MLB modern day record with 104 steals (the all-time record for steals is 138 in 1887 by Hugh Nicol). Wills hit .290 over 302 games with the Pirates and stole 81 bases. He had 586 career steals, though he also led the league in caught stealing seven times. The Pirates acquired Wills on December 1, 1966 in exchange for third baseman Bob Bailey and infielder Gene Michael. At the time, Wills had been an All-Star in five of his previous six seasons. He also won two Gold Glove awards with the Dodgers, though the second one came five years earlier. He hit .302 with 94 runs scored in 1967, though his 29 stolen bases represented a career low. His average dropped to .278 in 1968, while collecting just 18 extra-base hits in 153 games. However, Wills stole 52 bases that season. After the season, he was lost to the Montreal Expos in the Expansion Draft. He played just 47 games in Montreal before returning to the Dodgers for his final 3 1/2 seasons. After his playing days were over, he managed the Seattle Mariners during parts of the 1980-81 seasons. Wills turns 88 years old today. He’s the father of Bump Wills, who spent six seasons in the majors.
Eddie Murphy, outfielder for the 1926 Pirates. He was once a star player for the Philadelphia A’s, but by 1926 when he joined the Pirates, he was out of the majors for five years. He came back just long enough to hit .118 in 16 games with the Pirates. Murphy played five seasons (1921-25) for Columbus of the American Association after his last big league game with the 1921 Chicago White Sox. He hit .351, .350 and .397 during his final three seasons in Columbus. In 1926, he moved on to Rochester of the International League, where he was batting .364 through 109 games in early August. The Pirates purchased his contract “for a large sum” on the recommendation of scout Chick Fraser. He was back in Rochester by 1927, and retired from playing ball in 1928. In his big league career, Murphy hit .287 with 111 steals in 761 games. He played in three World Series, including the final one as a member of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.
Ernie Diehl, outfielder for the 1903-04 Pirates. He was a very minor part of the first World Series team for the Pirates, going 1-for-3 in his lone game on May 31, 1903. He batted .162 over 12 games the following season, then played a total of four games over two seasons for Boston (Braves) to finish out his big league career. He didn’t have much of a minor league career, spending part of the 1907 season with Toledo of the American Association and parts of two seasons with Louisville. It was said that Diehl had plenty of money and the idea of playing baseball every day wasn’t for him. He preferred to play when he wanted to and therefore his career was rather brief compared to the skills that he possessed, which would have easily landed him a job with the best minor league teams each year and likely more MLB time. It’s also said that he never signed a pro contract. The Pirates tried to sign him in 1903 after he impressed in his lone game, but he had business affairs that kept him from joining the team. He came highly recommended from pitcher Sam Leever. In 1904, Diehl filled in when needed, once taking the place of an injured Jimmy Sebring for nearly two weeks until the Pirates could get someone else signed. The Cincinnati Reds made an offer to sign him just prior to joining the Pirates, but he refused his hometown team.
Scott Stratton, pitcher for the 1891 Pirates. He went 34-14 for Louisville in 1890, but was just 63-100 over the rest of his career, including losses in his only two starts with the Pirates. Stratton was an 18-year-old rookie in 1888, when he went 10-17, 3.64 in 269.2 innings for Louisville. He lowered his ERA to 3.23 in 1889, but he was pitching for the team that set the MLB record for losses in a season. Louisville went 27-111 that season, though it was a record that last just one year. While he was having the season of a lifetime (34-14, 2.36 in 431 innings), Pittsburgh went 23-113 (my extensive research says 114, but that is a story for a different day). Stratton was paid just $1,800 in 1890. The Alleghenys/Pirates used Guy Hecker to get him to sign in Pittsburgh. Hecker mentored Stratton for two seasons in Louisville, then managed the Alleghenys in 1890.
In Stratton’s debut with Pittsburgh, he faced future Hall of Famer Kid Nichols and lost a tough 4-3 decision, with some poor defense hurting Stratton’s chances to win. He actually started three days earlier (May 22nd), but that game was called after just two innings due to rain. Stratton lost 5-3 to Brooklyn on June 1st, and it was another solid performance according to the papers. He developed a sore shoulder in that second start and was sent home. He was released by Pittsburgh on June 19th and signed shortly after with Louisville, though he debuted as a position player before making his first start in mid-July. Stratton won 21 games and had a 2.92 ERA in 1892, but he won just 23 more games over the next three seasons and never pitched again. He became an outfielder and played minor league ball for another five seasons, finally retiring in 1900. Stratton refused to play on Sundays and said he would quit before he did that.
On this date in 1964, the Pirates signed 20-year-old catcher Manny Sanguillen as an amateur free agent out of Panama. It took him just three seasons to make the majors. He would go on to make three All-Star teams and hit .299 over 1,296 games with the Pirates in 12 seasons. Sanguillen became the second player from Panama to play for the Pirates, debuting one year after outfielder Dave Roberts.