Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two who were part of the 1971 team.
Tom McCreery, outfielder for the 1898-1900 Pirates. He was a .303 hitter in 215 games for the Pirates, and he batted .320 in three years and 237 games with Louisville. Despite the two solid runs with different teams, McCreery finished as a .289 hitter over nine seasons in the majors. In his three partial seasons with Brooklyn at the end of his career, he batted .264 in 243 games and saw a 100+ point drop to his OPS. He led the NL in triples with 21 in 1896, then led the league in games played the following season. The Pirates signed McCreery just two days after he was released by the New York Giants, and they put him right in the starting lineup. He batted .324 in 119 games during the 1899 season. The Pirates added a ton of talent in the Honus Wagner trade following the 1899 season and that left McCreery without a full-time spot the next year. After playing sparingly in 1900, he decided to retire over the off-season. That lasted about ten days, when Ned Hanlon, manager of Brooklyn, convinced him to sign.
Tom Lovelace, pinch-hitter for the 1922 Pirates. On September 23, 1922, Lovelace hit for pitcher Hal Carlson in the ninth inning and lined out to second base. That ended up being his entire big league career. He played 11 seasons of minor league ball. The Pirates purchased him on September 7, 1922 after he hit .332 with 61 extra-base hits in 146 games over two levels in the minors. Lovelace joined the team ten days later and he actually played a little more than you see on paper. On September 25th, he started in left field against the Detroit Tigers in an exhibition game and went 0-for-3. Three days later he finished an exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians, going 0-for-1 while playing left field.
Lovelace was released to the Dallas team of the Texas League on November 3, 1922, where he was when the Pirates acquired him. They had the ability to get him back if needed during the 1923 season, but Lovelace ended up breaking his leg and missing two months of the season. After he was released, there was an article passed around that said Lovelace had particular trouble using the newly-invented sunglasses from Fred Clarke, which attached to the brim of the cap and folded down. He was used to the regular sunglasses, but didn’t have them with him when he joined the Pirates. From the report, Lovelace had quite an adventure on every fly ball that day because of the brutal sun field in left field. He continued to play all the way up until 1932 without getting another shot at the majors.
Don Leppert, catcher for the 1961-62 Pirates. He debuted in the majors mid-season with the 1961 Pirates and hit .267 with three homers in 22 games. Leppert was already 29 years old at the time. In 1962, he hit .266 with three homers in 45 games. After two more big league seasons spent with the Washington Senators, then two minor league seasons, he became a minor league manager for one year. From 1968 until 1976 he was a Major League coach with the Pirates. Leppert got his pro career started after college, signing with the Milwaukee Braves prior to the 1955 season. The Pirates acquired him over the 1960-61 off-season in a one-for-three trade that sent three minor league players to the Braves, two of them with prior big league experience. Leppert came up to the Pirates on June 15, 1961 after Pittsburgh sold backup catcher Bob Oldis to a minor league team in Columbus. He homered on a full count in his first career at-bat after taking the first five pitches from Curt Simmons of the St Louis Cardinals. He turns 89 today.
Rimp Lanier, late season pinch-hitter for the 1971 Pirates. In six big league games, he pinch-hit five times and pinch-ran once, going 0-for-4 at the plate with a hit-by-pitch. Lanier debuted on September 11, 1971 after hitting .272 with 22 steals and 66 walks for Charleston of the International League. He was a 37th round draft pick of the Pirates out of high school in 1967. Lanier played seven seasons in the minors for the Pirates, spending parts of three seasons in Double-A and parts of three seasons in Triple-A. He was batting .365 with a .484 OBP in Double-A in 1972 when he suffered a knee injury that limited him to 38 games on the season. He played just 59 games in 1973, then was released at the end of Spring Training in 1974, never fully recovering from his knee injury. He turns 72 today.
Jose Bautista, utility player for the 2004-08 Pirates. He was a .241 hitter with 43 homers in 400 games for the Pirates. Ended up with 344 homers over his 15-year career, spent with eight different clubs. Bautista hit 54 homers and drove in 124 runs during the 2010 season, then led the AL in homers, walks, slugging and OPS in 2011. He was an All-Star each season from 2010 to 2015, though he missed over 100 games total during the 2012-13 seasons. He bounced back to have back-to-back finishes in the top ten in MVP voting during the 2014-15 seasons. Bautista won three Silver Slugger awards (2010-11 and 2014). His stats dropped off significantly in 2016 when he missed time again due to injury, and by 2018 he bounced around to three NL East clubs that season, which ended his career. During his great run from 2010-15, he compiled 36.3 WAR. During his other nine seasons combined, he had 0.3 WAR. The Pirates originally drafted him in the 20th round of the 2000 draft out of college. They lost him in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2004 season, but got him back in a trade with the New York Mets later that season. He would be traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in late 2008 and struggled there until hitting coach Dwayne Murphy suggested a batting stance change late in the 2009 season, which Bautista claims helped him add power to his game.
Rajai Davis, outfielder for the 2006-07 Pirates. Hit .242 in 44 games for the Pirates before being traded to the San Francisco Giants in the disastrous deal for Matt Morris. Davis was active through the end of the 2019 season. He played 1,448 games over 14 seasons in the majors, seeing time with eight clubs, while playing in all six divisions. He put up a .262 career average and 415 stolen bases. In 2016 while with the Cleveland Indians, he led the league with 43 stolen bases. He had an 11.9 career WAR, with much of that coming during his brief time with the Oakland A’s. He had a career best 3.3 WAR in 2009 when he hit .305 and stole 41 bases. In 2010, he set a career high with 50 steals. Davis had a rough time in postseason play, putting up a .175 average over 19 games, but he hit a memorable two-run homer off of Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning of game seven in the 2016 World Series, which tied the game up. The Pirates drafted Davis in the 38th round of the 2001 draft. He had 40+ steals during every season from 2003 until 2006.
JA Happ, pitcher for the 2015 Pirates. After being acquired at the trade deadline from the Seattle Mariners for Adrian Sampson, he went 7-2, 1.85 in 11 starts with the Pirates. Happ has won 123 games over his 14-year career, seeing time with six different clubs. He currently plays for the New York Yankees, where he has pitched since the middle of 2018. Happ was a third round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies out of college in 2004. He made it to the majors three years later, though he only pitched one game for the 2007 Phillies. He also saw brief time in 2008, but he was still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award in 2009 and nearly won. He finished second with a 12-4, 2.93 record in 166 innings, making 23 starts and 12 relief appearances. Happ led the league with two shutouts. His best season turned out to be 2016 after he left the Pirates via free agency. For the Toronto Blue Jays that year, he went 20-4, 3.18 in 195 innings, finishing sixth in the Cy Young voting. Thanks in part to a 17-win season, Happ was an All-Star for the first time in 2018.
James McDonald, pitcher for the 2010-13 Pirates. In four seasons with the Pirates, he had a 27-24, 4.21 record in 435.2 innings. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2010 trade deadline for Octavio Dotel, after posting a 4.11 ERA in 76.2 innings over three partial seasons in the majors. McDonald was an 11th round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2002, though he didn’t sign until May of 2003 under the old draft-and-follow rules. He didn’t make the majors until 2008, though he was limited to six innings total during the 2004-05 seasons due to injury. The 2011-12 seasons in Pittsburgh were his only full seasons in the majors. McDonald was injured for half of 2013 and did rehab work over four levels in the minors, though he was limited to just 29.2 innings with the Pirates that season. He spent the entire 2014 season with the Chicago Cubs, though he never pitched due to a shoulder injury, which ultimately ended his career. He went 32-30, 4.20 in 512.1 innings in the majors. Not only did he have a 4.21 ERA with the Pirates, he also posted a 4.21 ERA during the 2011 and 2012 seasons in Pittsburgh. His cousins Donzell and Darnell McDonald were siblings, who both played in the majors.
John Holdzkom, pitcher for the 2014 Pirates. Signed out of independent ball, he worked his way to the majors for nine late season innings with the 2014 Pirates, giving up two runs and striking out 14 batters. That turned out to be his only big league time, as an injury sidetracked him in 2015 and he lasted just one minor league game for the Chicago White Sox in 2016. His only other appearances since was winter ball in Australia during the 2018-19 off-season. Holdzkom was drafted out of high school in the 15th round in 2005, but decided not to sign with the Seattle Mariners. Instead, he moved up to a fourth round pick in 2006, selected by the New York Mets. Injuries sidetracked his career before his break with the Pirates. In fact, from 2006 through his last appearance in 2018, he threw just 307 innings total, which included winter ball stats (three years) and he made 27 starts. His brother Lincoln Holdzkom played pro ball for nine seasons, including 2009 with the Pirates in Double-A.
Jordan Lyles, pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. In his ninth big league season, he had a 5-7, 5.36 record in 17 starts for the Pirates before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 29th. Lyles made 11 starts for the Brewers, going 7-1, 2.45 in 58.2 innings. He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers for 2020 and went 1-6, 7.02 in nine starts and three relief appearances. Lyles was a first round draft pick of the Houston Astros out of high school in 2008. He made it to the majors in three seasons, debuting in 2011 at 20 years old. He struggled in each of his first three seasons, posting an ERA over 5.00 each year. He was dealt to the Colorado Rockies and had a 5.22 ERA in four seasons. Before joining the Pirates as a free agent, he also played for the Brewers and San Diego Padres. Lyles is 44-66, 5.22 in 152 starts and 105 relief appearances, throwing a total of 967.1 innings.