Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a key member of the Lumber Company. There are also two games of note, one which will be expanded on later in our 1979 season recap.
Al Oliver, outfielder/first baseman for the Pirates from 1968 until 1977. He signed with the Pirates out of high school as a 17-year-old in June of 1964 and made his debut the next year in Gastonia, where he hit .309 in 123 games. Oliver played for Raleigh in the Carolina League in 1966 and hit .299 in 117 games. He repeated the level to start the next year, but was promoted to Double-A to finish the 1967 season, where he struggled. Despite hitting just .222 in Double-A, he was promoted to Triple-A. for 1968. By the end of the year he was in the majors with the Pirates and got into four late-season games.
In 1969, Oliver was in the majors to stay, and he played well, finishing second in the NL rookie of the year voting due to his .285 average, 17 homers and 70 RBIs in 129 games. He mainly played first base his rookie season, but from 1970 on he mostly played center field with the Pirates. Oliver topped .300 for the first time in 1972 (.312), which was also his first All-Star appearance. In 1973, he set his Pirates highs with 20 homers and 99 RBIs. In 1974, he set his Pittsburgh highs with 96 runs scored, 198 hits and 11 triples. Oliver batted .323 during the 1976 season, when he had just 29 strikeouts in 121 games.
In his time in Pittsburgh, he made three All-Star games, received MVP votes in five different seasons and batted over .300 four times. He played a total of 1,302 games in a Pirates uniform, and his 1,490 hits during that time ranks him 12th in team history. His 276 doubles ranks 11th in team history and his 717 RBIs is the 13th highest total.
The Pirates dealt Oliver in December of 1977 to the Texas Rangers as part of a four-team trade that brought Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven and outfielder John Milner back to Pittsburgh. Oliver finished his 18-year career with a .303 average, 529 doubles (which ranks 43rd all-time) and 2,743 hits, which ranks 58th all-time in baseball history. He made seven All-Star games and won three Silver Slugger awards in his career. With the Montreal Expos in 1982, he led the NL with a .331 average, with 204 hits, 43 doubles and 109 RBIs. All were career highs, as was his 22 homers and .906 OPS. He finished third in the MVP voting that season.
Kris Johnson, pitcher for the 2013 Pirates. In one start and three relief appearances with the Pirates, he went 0-2, 6.10 in 10.1 innings. His only other big league experience was three starts for the 2014 Minnesota Twins. Johnson was a first round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2006. He was released five years later without making the majors. He signed with the Pirates over the 2011-12 off-season and split 2012 between Double-A and Triple-A. Johnson went 10-4, 2.39 in 135.2 innings at Triple-A in 2013. After the season, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Duke Welker, who was sent to the Twins by the Pirates in an earlier trade. Johnson is still pitching, spending the last six years in Japan. He has 124 wins and has thrown almost 2,000 innings over all levels of pro ball.
Duaner Sanchez, pitcher for the 2002-03 Pirates. He made nine appearances and pitched 8.1 innings, giving up 15 earned runs, during his time with the Pirates. The rest of his seven-year career went better, as he finished with a 4.10 ERA in 288 appearances. Sanchez was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1996 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. It took him six years to make the majors, then almost immediately after his debut, he was traded to the Pirates for reliever Mike Fetters. Sanchez allowed six runs over six innings prior to the trade. He pitched three times in 2002 for the Pirates, allowing four runs in 2.1 innings. In 2003, he allowed 11 runs in six innings, giving up 3+ runs in three of his appearances. He had two separate stints that year, joining the club in late July, then returning in mid-September. The Pirates lost him via waivers to the Los Angeles Dodgers shortly after the season ended. Sanchez had a 3.38 ERA in 67 appearances with the Dodgers in 2004. He made 79 appearances in 2005, with a slightly higher ERA, then was traded to the New York Mets, where he had a 2.60 ERA in 55.1 innings in 2006. Sanchez was injured for all of 2007, had a mediocre 2008 campaign, then had a rough season with the 2009 San Diego Padres, which turned out to be his final season in the majors. He played pro ball until 2011.
Ryan Church, outfielder for the 2010 Pirates. He hit .182 in 69 games with the Pirates, before being dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks mid-season. Church played seven years in the majors and batted .264, with 56 homers in 654 games. He was a 14th round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2000, who was traded to the Montreal Expos shortly before his big league debut in 2004. Church batted .175 in 30 games for the Expos in 2004, then hit .287 with nine homers in 102 games in 2005 when the franchise moved to Washington. For the 2006 Nationals, he put up an .891 OPS in 71 games. He saw his most playing time in 2007, hitting .272 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 144 games. Church was traded to the New York Mets after the season, then moved on to the Atlanta Braves in a 2009 trade. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent in January of 2010. While his time in Pittsburgh was a disaster, he rebounded in Arizona to finish strong, posting an .835 OPS in 35 games. That ended up being his final season in pro ball.
Midre Cummings, outfielder for the Pirates from 1993 until 1997. He played 172 games over his five seasons in Pittsburgh, batting .217 in 501 at-bats. His best season with the Pirates came in 1995, when he had a .645 OPS in 59 games. Cummings played for seven teams over his 11 years in the majors, batting .257 in 460 games. He didn’t have any success in Pittsburgh, but things changed instantly for him after being picked up mid-1997 off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies. In 63 games, he batted .302 and played strong defense, leading to 1.8 WAR. Despite playing well, he was released prior to 1998 and signed with the Boston Red Sox, where he put up an .856 OPS as a bench player. Even with two solid showings in a row, the rest of his career in the majors amounted to a total of 320 at-bats spread out over five seasons and five teams. Cummings also spent time in the minors with two other clubs during that stretch to finish out his career. The Pirates acquired him in March of 1992, along with Denny Neagle, in the John Smiley trade with the Minnesota Twins. Cummings was a first round pick in 1990 out of high school by the Twins.
Tom Cheney, pitcher for the 1960-61 Pirates. Had a 3.98 ERA in 52 innings for the 1960 World Series champs. He pitched three postseason games that year, allowing two runs over four innings. In 1961, he lasted just one game, allowing five runs (four earned) without recording an out. In June, he was traded to the Washington Senators for pitcher Tom Sturdivant. Cheney pitched one of the best games in baseball history on September 12, 1962 for the Senators. He allowed just one run over a 16-inning complete game and set a still-standing single game MLB record with 21 strikeouts. The Pirates acquired him from the St Louis Cardinals in December of 1959, along with Gino Cimoli, in exchange for pitcher Ron Kline. Cheney was originally signed by the Cardinals prior to the 1952 season and he debuted in the majors five years later at 22 years old. He missed the 1958 season due to military service, then returned in 1959 to pitch 11 big league games. He had a career 19-29, 3.77 record in 466 innings over eight seasons.
Ken Heintzelman, pitcher for the Pirates for eight seasons. He debuted in the majors with Pittsburgh in 1937 and was there for six seasons, until he spent three years serving in the Army during WWII. He returned and played for the 1946-47 Pirates. He went 37-43 during those eight years, with a 4.14 ERA in 699.1 innings. His best season for the Pirates was 1941 when he won 11 games and posted a 3.44 ERA in 196 innings. You can read much more on Heintzelman in our in depth Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article.
Hugh Casey, pitcher for the 1949 Pirates. He went 4-1, 4.66 in 38.2 innings before the Pirates released him in early August. He finished his nine-year big league career with the New York Yankees that season. Just like Heintzelman, he spent 1943-45 serving in the military. Casey spent three seasons in the minors right out of high school before the Chicago Cubs purchased his contract for the 1935 season. He pitched 13 games in Chicago, then returned to the minors, where he stayed until the Brooklyn Dodgers made him a Rule 5 pick after the 1938 season. Before serving during WWII, he spent three seasons as a starter for Brooklyn, winning a total of 40 games. In 1942, he moved to a relief role, where he posted a 2.25 ERA in 112 innings over 50 appearances. Though it wasn’t a stat at the time, he was retroactively awarded 13 saves, which was the most in the league. Casey pitched great in his first season back from the war, posting a 1.99 ERA in 99.2 innings over 46 appearances. His ERA went up exactly two full runs (3.99) while making 46 appearances again in the following season. He was released by Brooklyn shortly after the season ended and signed right away with the Pirates as a free agent. In his career, he went 75-42, 3.45 in 939.2 innings.
Ona Dodd, infielder for the 1912 Pirates. In his only big league experience, he went 0-for-9 with a walk and an RBI in five games for the Pirates, seeing time at shortstop and second base. Dodd debuted in late July and played his final game on August 14th. In his start at second base on July 27th, it was said that he hit the ball well all three times, and even accounted for an RBI on a ground out in the fifth inning. The Pirates signed Dodd after his first season of pro ball in 1911, though he had previous experience for semi-pro and independent teams. He was with the Pirates during Spring Training in 1912 and made a strong impression, but was still shipped to the minors in April. He was released by the Pirates on September 28th, eight days before the regular season ended. Dodd played for Wheeling during the early parts of the 1912 season, where he hit .343 in 90 games. He played a total of eight seasons in the minors, debuting in 1911 in the Texas League. He spent seven of his eight seasons in that league, playing for four different teams.
Norm Baker, pitcher for the 1883 Alleghenys. He debuted in the majors in late May of 1883 at the age of 20 and made three starts for Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 3.32 in 19 innings. He had two other stints in the big leagues, pitching for Louisville in 1885 and Baltimore in 1890. He won 13 games for Louisville, but lasted just two starts with Baltimore. Baker bounced around pro ball, playing for at least 15 different teams during 11 seasons in the minors/majors. In his debut for the Alleghenys on May 21st, he dueled Bobby Mathews, a 297-game winner, for seven innings in a 1-1 tie. In the eighth, Pittsburgh committed two errors, which led to three runs being scored. and a 4-1 loss for Baker. He was thrown out there again the very next day against the same Philadelphia Athletics club and lost 9-1. Short on pitching, the Alleghenys threw him out there for a third straight game on May 24th and he lasted just one inning, before being sent to left field to finish the game. He allowed three runs, but the Alleghenys still won 16-4. Some reports only credit him with 18 innings with Pittsburgh (8 IP debut, 9 IP second game, 1 IP final).
The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in game five of the World Series on this date in both 1971 and 1979. In 1971, they took a 3-2 lead in the series on a 4-0 shutout by Nelson Briles. In 1979, they started their comeback from down 3-1 in the series by winning 7-1, getting strong starting pitcher from Jim Rooker and excellent relief work by Bert Blyleven.