Five former Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note
Johnny Morrison, pitcher for the 1920-27 Pirates. He started his career in the minors in 1915, and didn’t make a name for himself until 1920 when he went 26-13 in 319 innings for Birmingham of the Southern Association. He made his Major League debut with the Pirates later that season, pitching one inning of relief on September 28th. On the last day of the season four days later, he pitched the third game of the last tripleheader in MLB history. Morrison threw a complete game shutout for his first career win, although the game went just six innings.
After starting the 1921 season back with Birmingham, Morrison joined the Pirates rotation for good in late June and he would go on to pitch over 200 innings each of the next four seasons. After going 17-11 in 1922, he would have his best season the following year when he went 25-13, 3.49 for the third place Pirates. He was second in the league in wins that year and no Pirates pitcher has won more than 25 games in a season since. He threw 301.2 innings that year. Morrison led the NL in games pitched in 1924, but he slipped to an 11-16 record.
In 1925, the Pirates won the National League pennant and Johnny led the NL in games pitched again. The pitching staff had five pitchers who won at least 15 games, with Morrison going 17-14 3.88 in 211 innings. In the World Series he pitched three games in relief, totaling 9.1 innings in which he allowed three earned runs. He helped the Pirates in game seven to a series win with 3.2 innings in relief when starter Vic Aldridge couldn’t get out of the first inning.
In 1926 Morrison was pitching well until the end of May, but he began to have problems. He claimed he was injured and left the team, but the Pirates suspended him claiming it was personal problems. He pitched to just one batter between June 1-August 22 ( June 27 during a 16-0 loss) before returning to the team for the last month and a half. In his final season in Pittsburgh he was used sparingly, then after his July 2nd appearance he left the team, claiming he was injured again. When the Pirates told him to rejoin the team and he didn’t, he was suspended for good. He pitched two seasons with Brooklyn before returning to the minors for two final seasons. Morrison finished his Pirates career with an 89-71 record in 242 games, posting a 3.52 ERA in 1,363.2 innings. He ranks 22nd in team history in wins, complete games and innings pitched.
Wilbur Wood, pitcher for the 1964-65 Pirates. Before he became the durable knuckleball pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, winning 163 games over 12 seasons, Wood was in the Pirates organization. Between 1964-65, he pitched 37 games for Pittsburgh, three of those games were as a starter. He went 1-3, 3.28 in 68.2 innings, with most of that time coming in 1965. Wood spent all of 1966 in the minors, going 14-8, 2.41 in 31 starts at Triple-A. Right after the season ended, he was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Juan Pizarro. He was a fastball/curve pitcher in his early years, then developed a knuckleball thanks to Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. Wood also had a deceptive short delivery, where he would be able to mix in his fastball and curve occasionally to unsuspecting hitters.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, Wood became an excellent relief pitcher for four seasons in Chicago, back when good relievers regularly pitched over 100 innings. Then he was put into the starting rotation in 1971 and he won 20+ games four years in a row. During that stretch, he pitched at least 320 innings each season, nearly totaling 1,400 innings. He retired after the 1978 season with 164 wins, recording one with the Pirates/Red Sox and 163 in Chicago. Pittsburgh originally acquired him late in the 1964 season, purchasing him from the Boston Red Sox, where he signed at 18 years old in 1960 and played parts of four seasons in the majors without a single win.
Keith Osik, catcher for the 1996 to 2002 Pirates. He was the backup in Pittsburgh for seven seasons, playing a high of 66 games in 1999. Osik was a .231 hitter with 11 homers in 359 games with the Pirates. He also played for the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers, 2004 Baltimore Orioles and 2005 Washington Nationals, adding another 97 games to his career total. Osik was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 47th round out of high school in 1987. He decided to go to college (LSU), where he moved up to a 24th round pick of the Pirates in 1990. He moved quickly through the lower levels, then stalled out in the upper levels. He played two full years and one partial season in Double-A, then two full seasons at Triple-A. He opened the 1996 season with the Pirates and did well in his backup role to Jason Kendall, batting .293 in 156 plate appearances. Osik saw sporadic playing time in 1997-98, then got a bigger role in 1999 when Jason Kendall broke his ankle. Unfortunately for Osik, he also missed time with an injury and hit just .186 on the season. He saw the same backup role over the next three years, before leaving the Pirates via free agency after the 2002 season.
Brian Bixler, infielder for the 2008-09 Pirates. A second round draft pick by the Pirates in 2004, Bixler hit .178 over 68 games in Pittsburgh. He also played for the Washington Nationals in 2011 and Houston Astros in 2012, batting .189 in 183 big league games. Bixler put up mediocre stats in the lower levels during his first two pro seasons, despite being draft out of college. He had a breakout of sorts in 2007, batting .302, while splitting the season between High-A and Double-A. In his first season at Triple-A in 2007, he hit .274 /.368/.396 in 129 games. Despite not seeing the majors in 2007, he was with the Pirates in April of 2008, debuting in the sixth game of the season. He was given regular playing time until the end of May, when he was sent back to Triple-A with a .175 average and .441 OPS. Bixler returned for one game in July, then returned in September, hitting .111 over 15 games in the final month of the season. He had three stints with the Pirates in 2009, coming up in late April for two weeks, late August for one week and mid-September for the final two weeks. During the 2009-10 winter, Bixler was traded to the Cleveland Indians for minor league infielder Jesus Brito.
Alen Hanson, infielder for the 2016-17 Pirates. He batted .205 in 64 games with the Pirates over his two seasons. He was a top second base prospect in the minors, but the Pirates handled him poorly in the majors, never giving him a chance to play regularly. They had a chance to call him up in September to help with the playoff run, but passed on it, despite him already being on the 40-man roster. In 2016, he was used often off the bench when he played, starting just four games, which happened to be the final four games of the season. In 36 days on the active roster, he batted just 33 times. That was despite the Pirates being a below .500 team. In 2017, he saw slightly more use, but they were also moving him around the infield and outfield, with only nine total starts spread out over two months. On June 9th, he was lost on waivers to the Chicago White Sox. Since leaving the Pirates, he has also played for the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays, playing a total of 261 big league games so far. Hanson was signed by the Pirates as an international free agent at 16 years old out of the Dominican.
On this date in 1974 the Pirates traded outfielder Gene Clines to the New York Mets in exchange for catcher Duffy Dyer. The day after the trade, the Pirates released backup catcher Mike Ryan. The Pirates got four seasons out of Dyer, who mostly served as a backup. His best season was 1977 when he played 94 games, hit .241, and led all NL catchers in fielding percentage. In 269 games with the Pirates, he hit .227 with nine homers. After spending five seasons with the Pirates, Clines had one rough season in New York before he was traded away for a backup outfielder prior to the 1976 season. He had a .554 OPS in 82 games with the Mets, then lasted another four seasons in the majors (just ten games in his final year).