Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a manager to mention. Starting with the most recent first and working our way back.
Ian Snell, pitcher for the 2004-09 Pirates. He went 33-46, 4.75 in 116 starts and 12 relief appearances with the Pirates. His best year was in 2007 when he had a 9-12, 3.76 ERA in 208 innings, though the previous season he won 14 games with an ERA that was nearly a full run higher. The Pirates sent him to the Seattle Mariners at the 2009 trade deadline, along with Jack Wilson, for five players. Snell went 0-5, 6.41 for the 2010 Mariners, before finishing his career in the minors after the 2011 season. He played in independent ball in 2013 and also pitched winter ball in Puerto Rico during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 off-seasons. The Pirates drafted Snell out of high school in 2000, selecting him in the 23rd round. He went by the last name Oquendo (his father’s last name) during the first few years of his pro career before switching it to Snell (his mother’s last name). Playing at two levels in 2001, he went 10-0, 1.18 in 83.2 innings. Snell went 14-3, 3.00 in 2003, splitting his season between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona. He debuted in the majors on August 20, 2004, though he still made 18 starts at Triple-A in 2005 before sticking in the majors. The Pirates briefly sent him to Triple-A in 2009 and he struck out 17 batters in his first start at Indianapolis. He was traded to the Mariners before he returned to the majors.
Houston Jimenez, infielder for the 1987 Pirates. He lasted just five games in Pittsburgh, going 0-for-6 with a walk, while starting once at shortstop. He played parts of four seasons in the majors, though 108 of his 158 games came with the 1984 Minnesota Twins. Jimenez was originally signed to play pro ball at 16 years old in Mexico. He was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1980, though he didn’t debut in their system until 1982 and it took just a brief time before he made his big league debut on June 13, 1983. The 1984 season was his only full year in the majors and he didn’t play in 1986 before joining the Pirates as a minor league free agent on January 20, 1987. His playing time in Pittsburgh was very limited, though he stayed with the team from May 4th until May 31st. He went back to Triple-A and was released after the season. He played briefly for the Cleveland Indians in 1988, his last year in the majors. Jimenez played pro ball in Mexico until 2001. He managed for 12 seasons in Mexico and was still active as late as 2018. His real first name was Alfonso, but he preferred “Houston”, a nickname given to him because he watched a lot of westerns (movies) when he first arrived in the U.S. He was one of 17 children in his family.
Lee Tunnell, pitcher for the 1982-85 Pirates. He went 11-6, 3.65 in 177.2 innings during his first full season in the majors in 1983, finishing ninth in the Rookie of the Year voting. That would be his best season by far in the majors. He struggled as a starter in 1984 and was moved to the bullpen for most of the season. Tunnell returned to starting in 1985, though he went 4-10, 4.01 in 132.1 innings. Tunnell spent all of 1986 in Triple-A, where he posted a 6.01 ERA as a starter. The Pirates released him after the season, though he was eventually re-signed and then sold to the St Louis Cardinals on April 6, 1987. He finished 17-24, 4.06 in 57 starts and 33 relief appearances for the Pirates in four seasons. His only other big league experience was with the 1987 Cardinals and a brief stop with the 1989 Minnesota Twins. Tunnell was a second round draft pick in 1981, who made it to the majors just 15 months later, debuting with the Pirates on September 4, 1982. He spent his entire first full season of pro ball in Triple-A. Despite pitching his last big league game in June of 1989, he was active in pro ball until 1995. Tunnell spent 2 1/2 seasons pitching in Japan (1991-93).
Bobby Bragan, manager for the 1956-57 Pirates. He had a 102-155 record at the helm of the Pirates before being replaced mid-season in 1957 by Danny Murtaugh. Bragan managed a total of seven seasons in the majors and also had a seven-year career as a player, while missing two years due to WWII. His played three seasons in the minors (1937-39) before debuting in the majors with the 1940 Philadelphia Phillies. After three seasons in Philadelphia and two with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Bragan missed the 1945-46 seasons during the war. He returned to the Dodgers in 1947 and played a total of 34 games over his last two seasons in the majors. He finished out 1948 in the minors and played pro ball full-time until 1955. He had a brief return in the minors in 1959. He began managing in 1948 during his return to the minors. and he was a player/manager for four seasons (five if you count his brief return in 1959). The Pirates under Branch Rickey, who was in Brooklyn with Bragan, hired Bragan to manage their minor league affiliate in Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1953. After three season at the helm in the minors, he moved up to the majors for the 1956 season. He went 66-88 in his first year with the club, then was let go after the team started 36-67 in 1957. Danny Murtaugh was his coach at the time and took took over the managerial role. Bragan had three straight winning season with the Milwaukee Braves (1963-65) and he was their manager during their first season in Atlanta.
Tony Ordenana, shortstop for the 1943 Pirates. He was a Cuban-born player who played 11 seasons of pro ball, though just one of those games came while in the majors. In the final game of the 1943 season for the Pirates, he went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs, then never played in the majors again. He was with the Pirates for Spring Training in 1944 and even made the team, though on May 5th he was released outright to Portsmouth of the Piedmont League without getting into a game. He joined the Pirates from Portsmouth on September 21, 1943 and was called the Havana Antelope due to his speed and defense at shortstop. The Pirates had him working with Honus Wagner, who was a coach with the team at that time. It was noted at the time that manager Frankie Frisch wanted to use Ordenana, but the Pirates were playing for second place and that was no time to throw in a rookie. A second place finish back then came with a bonus for the players, with the money coming out of the World Series splits.
Lefty Wilkie, pitcher for the 1941-42 and 1946 Pirates. He spent his entire big league career with the Pirates, missing 1943-45 due to WWII. Wilkie went 8-11, 4.59 in 194 innings, with most of those stats coming before he missed time. He gave up nine runs over seven outings and 7.2 innings after returning from WWII, then spent the next 5 1/2 seasons in the minors. The Pirates acquired Wilkie from Seattle of the Pacific Coast League on August 28, 1940 for one future player and “a sum of money” that was in the five-figure range. He remained with the Seattle club to finish the season, then joined the Pirates during the following Spring Training. The Pirates used him mostly in relief during his first two seasons, giving him six starts each year. He began working a wartime job on October 19, 1942 and didn’t plan on playing in 1943, but that decision was made for him when he was inducted into the Army. Wilkie announced to the Pirates in late November of 1945 that he would soon be discharged from the Army and he would be rejoining the Pirates. He was in Europe at the time. He was born in Canada and his real first name was Aldon.
Pete Conway, pitcher for the 1889 Alleghenys. He pitched for four teams over a five-year career that ended at 22 years old due to injury. Conway joined Pittsburgh after going 30-14, 2.26 in 45 starts and 391 innings for the Detroit Wolverines, an National League team at the time. Detroit folded and the Alleghenys were able to purchase a few of their players after the 1888 season. Conway won his first two starts with the Alleghenys, then injured his arm in his third game, which ultimately ended his career. Pittsburgh signed him for two years, $7,000 total, but he only got paid a small portion of that amount. The team suspended him for being out of shape, even though his issue was injury related. In mid-June while working out with the team in an attempt to return to action, it was said that he “snapped a cord” in his arm and would be out of action for several weeks or longer. That “longer” turned out to be the entire season.
Conway debuted in pro ball in the majors with Buffalo, an NL team at the time, pitching his first game when he was 18 years old in 1885. He went 10-17, 4.67 in 210 innings. He split the next season between Kansas City (NL) and Detroit, going 11-20, 4.95 in 271 innings. He improved to a 2.90 ERA with the Wolverines in 1887, though his record stood at 8-9 that season. He managed to throw 1,040 innings by the time he was suspended by Pittsburgh.
Prior to the 1890 season, Conway asked for $500 advance on his salary during the second year of his contract. That happened often during those days when players made low salaries. The Alleghenys balked at the request, though they offered to give him $100, which was upped to $150. Conway dropped his final offer to $250 and the two sides decided to part ways. He then signed to play in the newly-formed Player’s League in late March. Conway said in December of 1889 that he would have signed to play in the PL, but the fact that he had a two-year contract meant that he wasn’t eligible. He originally asked for his release, which wasn’t granted at the time, then noted that he would honor his league (NL) deal for one season, then join the PL. Unknown at that time was that the PL would last just one season. After the PL folded, Conway’s rights were still held by the Alleghenys, though he never returned to pro ball. His brother Jim Conway pitched three seasons in the majors, playing for three different clubs in the American Association.