Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date. Before we get into them, current infielder Kevin Kramer turns 27 today.
Fred Clarke is in the Hall of Fame as a left fielder, but he could just as easily be in as a manager. He was already a star before joining the Pirates in 1900. He hit .334 in his first six seasons with Louisville, the last three years as the manager. Clarke then hit .299 over 1,479 games with the Pirates, four times leading them to an NL title and once to a World Series title. He scored 1,622 runs during his career and hit 220 triples, which ranks seventh all-time. As a manager, he had a 1,602-1,181 record in 19 years. More on him later.
Bob Skinner, outfielder for the Pirates in 1954, then 1956-63. Skinner was an All-Star in 1958 and 1960, hitting .280, with 90 homers, 574 runs scored and 462 RBIs in 1,100 games with the Pirates. He played a total of 12 years in the majors and also managed for parts of three seasons. His son Joel Skinner played nine years in the big leagues. Bob Skinner turns 89 today and is among the oldest living former Pirates. The Pirates signed him three years before he made his pro debut. He played junior college ball for one year before signing with Pittsburgh. He played over two levels in 1951, including a .472 average in 29 games for Mayfield of the KITTY League. Skinner then spent the next two years in the Marines during the Korean War. When he returned, he played well enough in Spring Training in 1954 to make the Pirates, hitting .249 with 32 extra-base hits in 132 games as a rookie. Despite the full-time play, he spent 1955 in the minors, where he hit .346 for New Orleans of the American Association.
In 1956, Skinner returned and began to see more time later in the season. He batted just .202 in 113 games, but the experience helped him out the next year. At 25 years old in 1957, Skinner batted .305 with 13 homers in 126 games. That was followed by his first All-Star season, hitting .321, with 13 homers, 70 RBIs and 93 runs scored in 1958. He would set a career high with 86 RBIs during the 1960 season, then he batted ,302 and slugged a career high 20 homers in 1962. The Pirates traded him to the Cincinnati Reds during the 1963 season for Jerry Lynch. It was a well-timed deal, as he clearly fell off at that point. Skinner had a nice season off the bench for the 1965 St Louis Cardinals, hitting .309 in a limited role, but he was done as a player by the next year. Besides managing after his playing days, he also had numerous coaching spots, with the highlight being the batting coach for the 1979 Pirates, when they won their fifth World Series title.
Phil Gosselin, infielder for the 2017 Pirates. He is playing in his eighth season in the majors this year and has already played for six teams. Gosselin hit .190 in 28 games for the 2017 Pirates, seeing most of his time at second base and off of the bench. He was acquired right before Spring Training in a trade with the Arizona Diamondback for minor league pitcher Frank Duncan. Gosselin spent part of the season in Triple-A with the Pirates. In August, he was lost via waivers to the Texas Rangers. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019 and has been a valuable utility player for them during the 2020 season. As of this writing, he is a .263 career hitter in 355 games, with ten homers and 54 RBIs. He has made big league starts at six different positions, all around the infield and both corner outfield spots.
Alex Ramirez, outfielder during the 2000 season for the Pirates. He hit .209 with four homers in 43 games after being acquired mid-season from the Cleveland Indians. It would be his last MLB experience, but far from the end of his career. Ramirez went to Japan for 13 seasons, where he was a star player. In pro ball, he hit a total of 505 homers between 1993 and 2013. From 2003 until 2010, he had eight straight seasons with 103+ RBIs. In 2010, he set career highs with 49 homers and 129 RBIs. Besides the impressive amount of homers as a pro, he also finished with 3,017 hits and 1,796 RBIs. His overall time with the Pirates was very brief. The Cleveland trade happened on July 28, 2000 and he was sold to Yakult (Japan) on November 1, 2000. Just 25 years old at the time, the Pirates gave him the starting right field job after he joined the team, but he lost that spot in September, making just one start over the final 17 games.
Wil Cordero, left fielder for the 2000 Pirates. He batted .282 with 16 homers in 89 games with the Pirates before being traded for some guy named Alex Ramirez. Two players born on the same date were involved in the same trade. Cordero joined the Pirates as a free agent signing in December of 1999, so his total time with the club was brief. Prior to playing in Pittsburgh, he spent four years with the Montreal Expos, two years with the Boston Red Sox, one year with the Chicago White Sox and one season with the Indians. He batted .299 in 54 games with Cleveland in 1999, so they apparently realized their mistake in letting him go at the 2000 trading deadline. Cordero played 1,247 games over 14 seasons in the majors, finishing with a .273 average and 122 homers. He not only had a second stop with the Montreal Expos (2002-03), he also played for the Washington Nationals in 2005. He saw extensive time at left field, first base and shortstop during his career.
Manny Martinez, outfielder for the 1998 Pirates. He hit .250 with six homers in 73 games for the Pirates, one of four teams he played for during his three-year career in the majors. Martinez originally signed with the Oakland A’s as a free agent out of the Dominican in 1988. He reached minor league free agency in 1994 and signed with the Chicago Cubs, then became a free agent at the end of 1995 and signed with the Seattle Mariners. He played briefly for both the Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies in 1996, getting into 22 games total. Martinez signed with the Pirates after the 1996 season, spent 1997 in Triple-A, where he hit .331, then earned playing time during the 1998 season. The Pirates lost him on waivers to the Montreal Expos in December of 1998, and he played 137 games during the 1999 season in the majors. After that, he played another nine seasons of pro ball without seeing big league time. Martinez played in Mexico, Japan and in independent ball.
Jack Lamabe, rookie pitcher for the 1962 Pirates. He had a 2.88 ERA over 78 innings in his only season with the Pirates. In the off-season, he was traded with Dick Stuart to the Boston Red Sox. Lamabe played seven years in the majors, seeing time with seven different teams. His career numbers show a 33-41, 4.24 record in 711 innings, with 49 starts and 236 relief appearances. Lamabe played a total of 14 seasons in pro ball, beginning as a teenager in 1956, and ending with a year in the minors in 1969. He spent his first year in the Philadelphia Phillies system, then signed with the Pirates in early 1957. Lamabe actually spent time with the Phillies in the majors at the end of 1956, though he didn’t play. After the season, commissioner Ford Frick declared him to be a free agent and the Pirates quickly signed him. He apparently violated a major league college baseball rule in signing with the Phillies. He apparently signed a deal on completion of his sophomore year at the University of Vermont, which wasn’t allowed at the time. Despite being a big deal at the time, plus the fact that he joined the Phillies late in 1956, it still took five seasons before he made it to Pittsburgh.
Frank Kalin, outfielder for the 1940 Pirates. His big league career consisted of an 0-for-3 in three games for the Pirates (he had two walks and an RBI) and an 0-for-4 in four pinch-hitting appearances for the 1943 Chicago White Sox. The Pirates brought him to the majors at the end of the 1940 season and he debuted on September 25th. He spent the year playing for Gadsden of the Southeastern League, where he hit .320 in 135 games. He actually had a better season for Gadsden in 1939, hitting .316 with 59 extra-base hits in 137 games. He failed to make the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1941, and in 1942 he was sold to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. After his brief time with the White Sox, he served two years in the military, then played out his pro career in the minors for another nine seasons.
Johnny Riddle, catcher for the 1948 Pirates. He played just ten games with the Pirates in the last of his seven years in the majors. He has a bit of a footnote in team history, as his younger brother Elmer Riddle was a pitcher for the 1948-49 Pirates. Despite spending the whole season together, with Johnny as a seldom-used third string catcher, they were the battery for just two batters all year and both opposing batters ended up hitting home runs. Johnny Riddle played his seven big league seasons over a 19-year time span. He debuted in 1930 with the Chicago White Sox, then didn’t play in the majors again until 1937, splitting that season between the Washington Senators and Boston Bees (Braves). He spent 1938 with the Bees, then played for the Cincinnati Reds in 1941 and 1944-45, before joining the Pirates three years later. He spent a total of 19 seasons in the minors (22 years in pro ball), hitting .297 in 1,552 games.