Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major game of note.
Mike Sandlock, catcher for the 1953 Pirates. Sandlock started his Major League career in 1942 for the Boston Braves, hitting a single in his first at-bat as a late September call-up. He served in WWII in 1943 before returning to baseball for the 1944 season. He played two seasons for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1945-46 then spent the next seven years in the minors, the last two years as a member of the Pirates organization. In 1953, Sandlock returned to the majors, making the Pirates Opening Day roster because of his ability to catcher knuckleball pitcher Johnny Lindell. In his first game back he went 3-for-3, and for the first half of the season he was seeing regular duty behind the plate. He played just two games in September of that year, finishing with a .231 average in 64 games. Sandlock was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1953 season. The Phillies had acquired Johnny Lindell months earlier and wanted Sandlock to be his catcher. However, Sandlock got hurt on a collision at home plate at the end of Spring Training and never played for the Phillies. He played one more year in the minors before retiring. He spent five seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut, and he played 16 seasons total. We did a two-part interview with him back in 2012, when he was the oldest living former Pirates player and second oldest living player. He passed away in 2016. Here’s the interview. Part one and Part two.
Chris Tremie, catcher for the 1999 Pirates. He went 1-for-14 in nine games during his short time with the Pirates. His four-season big league career consisted of 22 games over a ten-year time span. He was originally a 41st round draft pick out of high school in 1988 by the Houston Astros, but chose college instead. After four years at the University of Houston, Tremie was drafted in the 39th round by the Chicago White Sox. It took him just three years to debut in the majors, playing his first of ten games for the 1995 White Sox on July 1st. He next appeared in the majors in 1998, seeing two games with the Texas Rangers. The Pirates signed him as a minor league free agent after the 1998 season. Tremie spent most of the year with Triple-A Nashville, but he saw action with the Pirates in July and one game in August. He was called up with Jason Kendall out for the year with a broken ankle. It looked like Tremie would get more playing time after the July 21st game in which Keith Osik got injured, but instead the Pirates acquired Joe Oliver and he became the regular catcher. From July 22nd until he was sent back to Triple-A on August 15th, Tremie played one game. He was released after the season and would play just one more big league game. In 2004, he was a defensive replacement for the final inning on September 21st for the Houston Astros. He was called up for the final 15 games of the season after Brad Ausmus suffered a concussion. Tremie played a total of 14 seasons in the minors.
Mark Johnson, first baseman for the 1995-97 Pirates. He hit .239 with 30 homers in 284 games with the Pirates. Johnson played a total of 428 games over seven years in the majors, also seeing action with the 1998 Anaheim Angels and 2000-02 New York Mets. The Pirates originally drafted him in the 42nd round out of Dartmouth College in 1989. He decided to go back to college for his senior year and then the Pirates took him in the 20th round in 1990. It took five full years for him to work his way through the minors, debuting on April 26, 1995, which was actually Opening Day during the strike-shortened season. Johnson hit .208 with 13 homers in 79 games as a rookie, spending a short time in Triple-A mid-season. He was with the club for the entire 1996 season and he batted .274 with 13 homers in 127 games. His average and power numbers dropped in 1997 and he split the season between the majors and minors. The Pirates lost Johnson on waivers in August to the Cincinnati Reds, who held on to him for a year and 13 days before being sent to the Angels, though he was in the minors the entire time. Johnson spent the 1999 season playing in Japan, then return to the U.S. as a free agent signing with the New York Mets.
Ravelo Manzanillo, reliever for the 1994-95 Pirates. He had a 4.19 ERA in 53.2 innings over 51 appearances with the Pirates. His only other big league time was two starts for the 1988 Chicago White Sox. Manzanillo originally signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1980, two months before his 17th birthday. He was released by the Pirates in 1986, topping out in Double-A. He was out of baseball for two years (1986-87), getting released twice during that time without making a minor league appearance. Manzanillo signed with the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1988 season and made his two appearances in late September. He spent the next three seasons in the minors, then played in China in 1992. After not playing in 1993, he made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1994 and appeared in 46 games during the strike-shortened season. He pitched just five big league games in 1995, then bounced around between the minors, China, Mexico and Korea over the next ten seasons before retiring in 2005. His younger brother Josias Manzanillo celebrated his birthday yesterday. He pitched for the 2001-02 Pirates.
Hardy Peterson, catcher for the 1955 and 1957-59 Pirates. He hit .273 over 66 career Major League games, all spent with the Pirates. He is more famously known as the general manager of the 1979 Pirates team. He held a front office position with the club from 1968 until 1985, and prior to that, he was a minor league manager for the Pirates for nine seasons. Peterson signed with the Pirates out of Rutgers University in 1950 at 20 years old. He played two seasons in the minors, then spent the 1952-53 seasons serving in the Army during the Korean War. After spending all of 1954 and the start of 1955 in the minors, Peterson became the third-string catcher for the Pirates in May of that 1955 season. His season ended early due to a broken arm from a home plate collision, which also cost him the 1956 season when he required a later surgery. He returned to the Pirates in July of 1957 and played 30 games that season. The rest of his big league career consisted of two early May games in 1958 and two mid-season games in 1959. He finished his minor league career in 1961. He was a played manager during his final three seasons.
Bert Maxwell, pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. He played four years in the majors, none consecutively, over a nine-year stretch. His only appearance with the Pirates was a start on September 12, 1906 in which he allowed six runs over eight innings. That game was his MLB debut at 19 years old. He spent the 1906 season playing for Montgomery of the Southern Association, where he posted a 17-15 record in his second season of pro ball. The Pirates purchased his contract in late August and he joined the club approximately ten days later. In his lone game with the Pirates, the local press noted that he wasn’t much of a hitter, which played out true over his big league career. He was an .075 hitter in the majors. They also mentioned that his slow fielding cost him a run. Maxwell pitched an exhibition game for the Pirates against a local semi-pro team and lost 6-1 on September 17th. On February 9, 1907, the Pirates returned Maxwell to his team in Montgomery. After leaving the Pirates, he also pitched in the majors for the 1908 Philadelphia Athletics, 1911 New York Giants and 1914 Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League. His real name was James Albert Maxwell, but he was known as Bert.
Pop Dillon, first baseman for the 1899-1900 Pirates. He was one of the few leftovers from the 1899 team to stay after the Pirates completed the 16-player “Honus Wagner trade” but he lost his job just five games into the 1900 season when the Pirates bought Duff Cooley from the Philadelphia Phillies and released Dillon. Pop (his real name was Frank) would start the next season with the Detroit Tigers and he hit four doubles on the first day of the American League’s existence as a Major League ( In 1900 the AL was considered a minor league). Dillon hit .237 in his 35 games with the Pirates. He batted .256 in 30 games as a rookie in 1899 and he went 2-for-18 in 1900. He was a .252 career hitter in 312 games. He also played 21 seasons in the minors and eight of those years he was a player-manager. When he joined the Pirates in September of 1899 for his big league debut, he already had seven seasons of minor league experience. He was purchased for $1,500 by the Pirates on September 4th from Buffalo of the Western League and played his first game four days later. Dillon is the cousin of Hall of Famer Clark Griffith.
George Nicol, pitcher for the 1894 Pirates. He had previously pitched parts of two seasons in the majors (1890-91), with poor control and moderate success in his five combined starts. He debuted in the American Association in 1890 for the St Louis Browns at 19 years old. In 1891, he played for the Chicago Colts (Cubs). Nicol spent the 1892-93 seasons in the minors, where he went a combined 44-33 for three different teams. The Pirates signed him for the 1894 season and he struggled in his nine appearances, five as a starter. In 46.1 innings, he allowed 58 hits and walked 39 batters, recording just 13 strikeouts. During the season, while still with the Pirates, he pitched for a local semi-pro team. On August 13, 1894, the Pirates traded Nicol to the Louisville Colonels, along with cash, in exchange for pitcher Jock Menefee. Nicol pitched very poorly in two starts for Louisville, but played outfield in 26 games and hit .339 with 19 RBIs. While with the Pirates in Spring Training, his outfield play was getting rave reviews and they suggested that he could make it as an outfielder if his pitching didn’t work out. The next season he was back in the minors, taking up outfielder full-time, playing until his retirement in 1900.
On this date in 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium in game seven of the World Series by a 2-1 score to capture their fourth World Series title. Steve Blass threw a complete game, giving up just one run on an eighth inning ground out from Don Buford. It was the second win by Blass, who also pitched a complete game with one run allowed in game three. The Pirates had lost game six the previous day in extra innings by a 3-2 score.
The Pirates scored first in the game in the fourth inning on a solo home run by Roberto Clemente off Orioles starter Mike Cuellar. It was Clemente’s eighth RBI of the series. He batted .383 in the series and was named World Series MVP. The other Pirates run scored in the eighth inning on a lead-off single by Willie Stargell, followed by a double from Jose Pagan. This title was the first for the Pirates since 1960. In 1979, the Pirates would defeat the Orioles again in the World Series, also in seven games, with both series ending in Baltimore.