Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a member of the first World Series winning team in franchise history.
Gary Redus, first baseman/outfielder for the 1988-92 Pirates. He played five years in Pittsburgh, including all three NL East pennant winning seasons in the early 90’s. Redus got his career off to an amazing start, hitting .462 in 68 games with Billings of the Pioneer League in 1978 after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 15th round of the amateur draft that year. Despite that quick start it still took him four more full seasons to make the majors. Redus hit 17 homers and scored 90 runs in 1983 for the Reds, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. That would be his best overall season prior to joining the Pirates in a 1988 mid-season trade with the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Mike Diaz. The latter played just 40 more Major League games after the trade, so it turned out to be a major win for the Pirates. Redus joined the White Sox in a trade from the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 1987 season. He spent one year with the Phillies after being traded from the Reds in the winter of 1985.
Redus was a key utility player with the Pirates during their three playoff runs, though he was never a full-time player for any long stretch during that time. He played all three outfield positions and first base, but never had more than 279 at-bats in a season. Redus provided the team with speed besides his versatility. He stole 69 bases while with the Pirates and had 322 steals total in his career. He struggled in the 1991 playoffs hitting just .158 (3-for-19), then came back the next year to hit .438 with four runs scored and three RBIs. In his five seasons in Pittsburgh he batted .255 with 96 RBIs in 398 games. He left the Pirates via free agency after the 1992 season and spent his last two years with the Texas Rangers. After his playing days, he took up coaching, including seven years in the Pirates minor league system, starting in 2001.
Miguel Dilone, outfielder for the 1974-77 and 1983 Pirates. He had two stints with the Pirates covering five seasons, yet it amounted to 69 at-bats. Dilone was signed as an amateur free agent in 1972 by the Pirates and he hit well enough in high-A ball as a 19-year-old in 1974 to earn his first promotion to the big leagues that year. Stealing 95 bases in 1973 and 85 bases in 1974 helped his chances as well. He spent most of the next two years at Triple-A, but got brief call-ups to the Pirates as well. In 1977, Dilone stole 34 bases in 38 games in Triple-A, He was with the Pirates to start the year and end the year, but it amounted to just 29 games played and only seven starts. Just prior to the 1978 season the Pirates traded Dilone to the Oakland Athletics, along with two other players in exchange for Manny Sanguillen. In November of 1976 the Pirates had traded Sanguillen (and cash) to the A’s in exchange for manager Chuck Tanner.
Dilone played with four different teams before being reacquired by the Pirates from the Chicago White Sox in September 1983 in exchange for pitcher Randy Neimann. Dilone was used solely as a pinch-runner during his second stint, getting into seven games. He was declared a free agent following the season and he played two more years in the majors before retiring. He played a total of 82 games for the Pirates over five seasons without recording an extra-base hit or an RBI. In fact, he had just 75 plate appearances over that time with ten singles to his credit. He stole 23 bases with the Pirates, 267 in his major league career and a high of 61 in 1980 for the Indians. He a total of 399 bases in the minors, giving him a lucky 666 steals during his pro career. Dilone was a .265 career hitter in 800 MLB games, though he managed to bat .341 as a full-time player in 1980. He was a .238 career hitter over his other 11 seasons combined.
Robert “Ham” Hyatt, outfielder/first baseman for the 1909-10 and 1912-14 Pirates. He was a rookie on the first Pirates team to win the World Series in 1909. Hyatt spent his first two seasons in pro ball playing in Vancouver before joining the Pirates. He was used mainly as a pinch-hitter in 1909, playing just eight games in the field all year. Despite being a rookie, he was able to hit .299 for the season in that role, though he did better as a starter (.375 vs .256 off the bench). He played almost all of game seven in the World Series after lead-off hitter Bobby Byrne left the game following a first inning hit-by-pitch. He drove in the first run of the game on a second inning sac fly and it turned out to be the go ahead run of the game as the Tigers were shutout 8-0.
In 1910 Hyatt got his most playing time while in Pittsburgh, starting 38 games at first base while also getting his share of pinch-hit at-bats again. He hit .263 with 30 RBIs in 175 at-bats. Ham spent the entire 1911 season in the minors getting into 166 games with the Kansas City Blues. He returned to the Pirates the following season and reprised his occasional start/pinch-hitting role for three more years. Over his five seasons in a Pirates uniform he batted .277 in 306 games with 90 RBIs in 499 at-bats. In 1913 he played just ten games in the field all year but was still able to hit .333 over 63 games. The Pirates put him on waivers following the 1914 season, where he was picked up by the St Louis Cardinals. He had a .714 OPS in 106 games with St Louis, then spent the next two full seasons in the minors. Hyatt saw his last big league action in 1918 with 53 games for the New York Yankees. He played pro ball until retiring after the 1923 season. The “Ham” nickname came from his middle name, Hamilton.
Larry French, pitcher for the Pirates from 1929-34. He pitched three years in the minors prior to joining the Pirates and he had a losing record plus a high 4.65 ERA. French actually saw his winning percentage get worse each year, while his ERA improved each season. He was purchased from Portland of the Pacific Coast League in December of 1928 in a deal that also included three players going to Portland, with the final two pieces being sent there in April of 1929. Once in the majors in 1929, he started out in the bullpen before the Pirates let him get his first start on May 7th. He threw a 10-inning complete game 3-2 win over the New York Giants. He also pitched complete game wins in his next two starts, although it took exactly three months for him to pick up his fourth career win. He finished his rookie season 7-5, 4.90 in 30 games, 13 as a starter. The 1930 season was one of the biggest years for offense in baseball and French posted a 17-18, 4.36 record. The ERA might sound high but teammates Ray Kramer (20-12, 5.02) and Erv Brame (17-8 4.70) obviously got much more run support than French, who actually led the NL in losses that year.
In 1931 French started a stretch of three straight seasons in which he not only posted a better winning percentage each year but also lowered his ERA, dropping it all of the way down to 2.72 in 1933 when he had an 18-13 record. French went 12-18, 3.58 for the 1934 Pirates, a team that finished in fifth place, one season after going 87-67 for a second place finish. Following the season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom for Guy Bush, Babe Herman and Jim Weaver. French played the best among the whole group after the trade going 95-84 over seven seasons for his new team. While with the Pirates French had an 87-83, 3.50 record. He finished 197-171, 3.44 in 383 starts and 187 relief appearances. He had 199 complete games, 40 shutouts (ranks 44th all-time) and 3,152 innings pitched. Despite all of that success, he never had a 20-win season and he made just one All-Star appearance.
Eddie Williams, first baseman for the 1997 Pirates. He hit .277 with three homers in 30 games during his short time in Pittsburgh. He was a .252 hitter in 395 games spread over ten seasons in the majors. His travel through baseball is a long list (get ready for it). Williams was drafted in the first round (fourth overall pick) in 1983 by the New York Mets out of high school. Almost a year to the day he was drafted, the Mets traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. Then 18 months later, the Cleveland Indians selected him in the Rule 5 draft. He received three trials (1986-88) with the Indians, but failed to hit over .200 in any season. He was then traded to the Chicago White Sox, who released him after one season. He signed with the San Diego Padres in 1990 and played four big league games. Williams was purchased by a team in Japan and spent the 1991 season overseas. Over the next two seasons, he bounced around the minors with the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and two stints in Mexico. He finally made it back to the majors in 1994, but continued to bounce around, playing for the Padres, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, before joining the Pirates in an August 9, 1997 deal for a minor league player. After the season ended, Williams was released by the Pirates. He signed with the Padres for a third time, finishing his big league career with 17 games in 1998. He spent 1999 in the minors with the Minnesota Twins. Williams played in Mexico and independent ball over the next three seasons before retiring.
Howie Goss, outfielder for the 1962 Pirates. He hit .243 in 89 games for the Pirates, mostly off the bench. In 1963, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s in exchange for Manny Mota, which turned out to be a one-sided deal. Goss lasted in more season in the majors, while Mota hit .297 over six seasons with the Pirates. Goss originally debuted in the minors at 18 years old in 1953. He would soon become a member of the Pirates organization, though it took him a total of nine minor league seasons before he reached the majors. After hitting .299 with 27 homers and 100 RBIs in Triple-A in 1961, he made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1962 at 27 years old. He was on the bench for the first 15 games, then started both ends of a doubleheader in place of Roberto Clemente. In late May he had another string of starts in right field, then moved over to center field when Clemente returned, then served as a defensive replacement in left field for the next three weeks. Goss had just four starts total in June/July because he had to contend with an outfield of Clemente, Bill Virdon and Bob Skinner ahead of him. From August 6 through September 27, Goss made four starts total. Over the final three days of the season, he started once at each outfield spot. He was traded to Houston on April 4, 1963 and spent out season there, then one years in the minors, before retiring.
Clarence Berger, right fielder for six late season games with the 1914 Pirates. He was 19 at the time and it ended up being his only big league experience. Berger went 1-for-13 with a walk and somehow managed to get just two chances in the outfield over his five games played on defense. The Pirates purchased him on August 21, 1914 from Richmond of the Virginia League for $2,500, which was said to be one of the highest purchase amounts from that league at the time. Berger was allowed to stay with his team in Richmond until the end of their season. He batted .298 in 136 games, though he had just 16 walks all season, so his OBP was just .319 for the season. At the time of his purchase, he was leading the league in batting average (said to be .318) and fielding percentage (for outfielders). He had 28 extra-base hits and stole 34 bases. It was Berger’s first season of pro ball after playing college ball at Richmond College. The Pirates gave him a pinch-hit appearance on September 23rd, seven days after he reported to the team, then he went nine straight games without playing. That was followed by three starts and two bench appearances in the final five days of the season. The Pirates released Berger on February 13, 1915, sending him back to his Richmond team. Two months later, he was sent to a team from Newport News. That’s the end of his pro career according to Baseball-Reference, but I was able to track him down playing in Norfolk in the second half of 1915 and a team from Rocky Mount, NC in 1916.
Earl Blackburn, catcher for the 1912 Pirates. His big league debut was catching the final inning on September 17, 1912, as the third catcher used by the Pirates that day. In fact, he was pinch-hit for in the ninth inning, so he didn’t even get a chance to bat. He played just one more game in 1912, but it came as a member of the Cincinnati Reds six days later. The Reds were short on catchers and purchased Blackburn from the Pirates on September 22nd. He also saw limited big league time with the Reds in 1913, Boston Braves in 1915-16 and Chicago Cubs in 1917. In five big league seasons, he hit .262 in 71 games. The Pirates purchased his contract in August of 1912 from Springfield of the Central League, where they also picked up three of his teammates. Blackburn batted .274 in 74 games. The players joined the Pirates after their season ended and the first mention of Blackburn with the Pirates occurred on September 9th when he was part of a “large group” of 25 players going on a road trip with the team. This wasn’t the first time that Blackburn was with the Pirates though. He joined the team on July 10, 1911 with no prior pro experience. In fact, there were mentions of his name with the team through October 3rd, but he never actually played a game until he rejoined the team in 1912.
Mike Hopkins, catcher for the Pirates on August 24, 1902. His only big league game was also his only game as a pro. Hopkins was an amateur player in Pittsburgh, who Honus Wagner recommended should get a tryout. He got more than that on August 24th when he went into a one-sided game for the final four innings and went 2-for-2 at the plate. He was credited with an error that day, and it was still listed in the team stats later that season, though for some reason it’s no longer part of his career records. Hopkins got his shot because catcher Jack O’Connor was suspended the day before and third-string catcher Harry Smith broke a toe days earlier, plus the Pirates had a doubleheader in Cincinnati. When the second game got out of hand early, starter Chief Zimmer was pulled and Hopkins got his one big league game. The game was called after seven innings due to the Pirates needing to catch the train to get back home for a game the next afternoon. In the papers the next day, he was called the “Carnegie boy” who played for the local McCullough Railroad team, and has been playing for local teams for many years. The Pirates took just 13 players total to Cincinnati for the one-day trip. By August 27th, Harry Smith was back in the lineup playing with his injury and Hopkins was gone.