Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one of the all-time great pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.
Luis Tiant, pitcher for the 1981 Pirates. He made nine starts for the Pirates, going 2-5, 3.92 in 57.1 innings. Tiant won 229 games during his career, including four season with 20+ victories. He led the AL with a 1.60 ERA in 1968 and a 1.91 ERA in 1972. He ranks 21st all-time with 49 shutouts and 47th all-time with 2,416 strikeouts. The Pirates signed Tiant as a free agent in February of 1981 and he made 21 starts in Triple-A. He joined the Pirates after the player strike ended, debuting on August 13th. The Pirates released Tiant right after the season ended and then he finished his career with the California Angels in 1982. He debuted in the majors in 1964 with the Cleveland Indians and picked up double-digit victories in each of his first five seasons, topping out at 21 wins in 1968. He led the league with a 1.60 ERA that season and also threw nine shutouts. Just one year later, he led the league with 20 losses, then by 1971, he posted a 1-7 record for the Boston Red Sox. Tiant would turn things around in 1972 with 15 wins and a league best 1.91 ERA. From 1972 to 1978, he had a 121-74 record for the Red Sox. He went 3-0 in the playoffs in 1975. Before joining the Pirates, Tiant spent two seasons with the New York Yankees, where he went 21-17. He ranks 66th all-time in wins and 43rd all-time for WAR among pitchers. His highest finish in the Hall of Famer balloting was 30.9% in his first year on the ballot.
Jose Gonzalez, outfielder for the 1991 Pirates. He played just 16 games in Pittsburgh, joining them in a July 3, 1991 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, before being lost on waivers on August 15th to the Cleveland Indians. In eight big league seasons, he hit .213 in 461 games. He was signed out of the Dominican by the Dodgers in 1980 before his 16th birthday. He made it to the majors five years later, though he had just 144 at-bats during his first four seasons combined. Gonzalez finally saw significant time in 1989 when he hit .268 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 95 games. He played 106 games in 1990, though he started just 15 times and only had 99 at-bats all season. He split the 1991 season between the Dodgers, Pirates and Indians, batting .111 in 117 at-bats over 91 games. He went 2-for-20 at the plate for the Pirates with a home run. Gonzalez finished his big league career playing 33 games for the 1992 California Angels. During his big league career, he stole 33 bases in 42 attempts. Following his time with the Angels, he also played briefly in China and spent two partial seasons in independent ball.
Dale Sveum, infielder for the 1996-97 and 1999 Pirates. In three seasons with the Pirates, he hit .260 with 16 homers over 187 games. On August 18, 1999, he homered from both sides of the plate, then managed to hit just one more career home run. In 12 seasons in the majors, Sveum was a .236 hitter with 69 homers, including 25 in one season. He was a first round draft pick out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982. It took him four years to make his Major League debut and he put together a decent rookie season in 91 games, then hit .252 with 25 homers and 95 RBIs during his first full season in the majors in 1987. He missed all of 1989 with a broken leg suffered late in the 1988 season and never fully regained his pre-injury success. His best season from 1990 through 1999 was for the 1997 Pirates when he hit .261 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs in 126 games. He left the Pirates via free agency after the season and played part of 1998 for the New York Yankees, who won the World Series that season. He was released in August of 1998, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks and remained there through early May of 1999, though he never played in the majors with them. Eight days after being released, he re-signed with the Pirates and hit .211 in 49 games, mostly off of the bench. That was the end of his big league career. Sveum managed in the minors for the Pirates, taking the helm of the Altoona Curve during the 2001-03 seasons. He also managed in the majors with the 2008 Brewers and 2012-13 Chicago Cubs.
Rich Sauveur, pitcher for the 1986 Pirates. He has something in common with a player lower on this list of birthdays (Bubber Jonnard). Sauveur saw MLB action over six seasons in his career, but he had only one set of back-to-back seasons in the majors. He pitched a total of 34 games in the majors between 1986 and 2000. He made three starts for the 1986 Pirates, posting a 6.00 ERA in 12 innings, with no decisions. Those three starts turned out to be the only three starts of his career. The Pirates originally drafted him in the 11th round of the 1983 January draft. He decided to remain in college, but when the Pirates came calling again in June, he signed as a fifth round pick. It took him just three years to make the majors, though he was never able to stick for more than ten games in a season. In his six years, he played for six different teams, seeing action with the 1986 Pirates, 1988 Montreal Expos, 1991 New York Mets, 1992 Kansas City Royals, 1996 Chicago White Sox and 2000 Oakland A’s. He went 0-1, 6.07 in 46 innings in the majors. The Pirates lost him to the Expos in the 1987 Rule 5 draft. He actually came back to Pittsburgh as a free agent signing in December of 1989, though he was cut at the end of Spring Training. He also spent time in the minors with the 1998-99 Pirates. Besides his six big league clubs, he spent time with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds (twice) and Los Angeles Dodgers. Sauveur certainly earned his big league looks over the years, posting a 2.91 ERA in 1,536.1 innings in the minors.
Grady Wilson, shortstop for the 1948 Pirates. His entire big league experience was 12 mid-season games for the 1948 Pirates. He went 1-for-10 at the plate, collecting a double as his only hit. Wilson played a total of 12 seasons in the minors, beginning his career at age 23 in 1946, and playing until 1959. He also had six seasons of managing in the minors, including one season (1957) as a player-manager. He got a late start in pro ball due to his four years of service during WWII. Wilson began his pro career with the Boston Red Sox, but he moved on to the St Louis Cardinals after one season in the 1946 minor league draft. Exactly one year later, the Philadelphia Phillies picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. He never played for the Phillies though. The Pirates purchased his contract for $10,000 on April 5, 1948. He made the Opening Day roster, but he didn’t debut until May 15th in the 22nd game of the season. He had just one more appearance over the next 17 days and that was as a pinch-runner. Wilson played eight games in June and he had two pinch-running appearances in July, playing his final game on the 15th. On July 21st, he was sent to New Orleans. On September 28th, he was released to Indianapolis of the American Association.
Bubber Jonnard, catcher for the 1922 Pirates. He played just ten games with the Pirates, hitting .238 with a triple and two RBIs. Jonnard played a total of six seasons in the majors from 1920 until 1935, only once playing in back-to-back seasons. He is one of ten pairs of twins to play in the majors. His brother Claude was a pitcher, who also played a total of six seasons in the majors from 1921 until 1929. Not only were they twins, but they were both given the nickname “Bubber” in the minors, making research confusing for the pair. The Pirates acquired their Bubber (his real first name was Clarence) as a Rule 5 pick on October 15, 1921. A dispute over Bubber’s contract kept him in the majors for all of 1922 with the Pirates. His contract was originally purchased in the draft from Nashville of the Southern Association over the off-season. The Pirates tried to send him to the minors (Memphis) in May, but Nashville blocked the deal, saying that if he was sent to the minors, he had to play for them. An article in early January confirmed this fact and showed that Nashville was already expecting the Pirates to attempt to send him elsewhere to play. Prior to May 1st, the Nashville owner offered to refund the Pirates $1,500 of their original purchase price ($4,000) if they would send Jonnard to them. Owner Barney Dreyfuss refused the offer when Nashville refused a stipulation saying that the Pirates could recall him at any time on a ten-day option. A short time later, the Pirates declared that they were keeping him all season, refusing a return of 75% of their purchase price in the process. Jonnard remained with the Pirates though May 28, 1923 before he was sent to Wichita Falls of the Texas League, where he would spend the next three seasons. Despite being a backup for the 1923 Pirates for the first 36 games of the season, he didn’t play a single game. He also played in the majors with the 1920 Chicago White Sox, 1926-27 and 1935 Philadelphia Phillies and the 1929 St Louis Cardinals.
Jesse Petty, pitcher for the 1929-30 Pirates. He had an 11-10, 3.71 record in 184.1 innings for the 1929 Pirates. He went 1-6, 8.27 in 41.1 innings in 1930 before being sold to the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates gave up star shortstop Glenn Wright to acquire him from the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) on December 11, 1928 in a deal that had very little chance of paying off for the Pirates. Petty was 34 years old at the time of the deal, with a 54-59, 3.52 in 934.1 innings over four seasons in Brooklyn. His only other experience in the majors was four relief appearances for the 1921 Cleveland Indians. Petty had a sub-3.00 ERA in 1926 and 1927, but he saw it rise to 4.04 in 1928 before the deal. His time with the Pirates started off rough, posting a 5.88 ERA though the end of July. Over the final two months, he had a 2.32 ERA in 112.1 innings, leaving hope for better things in 1930, which obviously didn’t work out. While he did well with the Cubs after being let go (2.97 ERA), he had just 39.1 innings left in his big league career. Petty spent the next five years in the minors before retiring. He compiled a total of 253 wins in pro ball (67 in the majors), including 29 wins for Indianapolis in 1924, which earned him a trip back to the majors with Brooklyn. He pitched over 4,000 innings in pro ball, including 219 innings at 40 years old in 1935. He did all that despite missing approximately two full years during service in WWI.
Chief Zimmer, catcher for the 1900-02 Pirates. In three seasons in Pittsburgh, he was a .262 hitter over 193 games, with 73 RBIs. He began his career in 1884 and was one of the games caught leaders early in his career, ranking as high as third all-time well after he retired. He’s second all-time in throwing out runners, with 1,208 caught stealing to his credit. Zimmer was acquired by Pittsburgh in the Honus Wagner trade on December 8, 1899, which changed the face of the Pirates. Zimmer finished the 1899 season in Louisville. Between the 1899 and 1900 seasons, the National League decided to go from 12 teams to eight teams and Louisville was one of the clubs dropped. Hall of Fame owner Barney Dreyfuss was the owner in Louisville and he became the owner in Pittsburgh going into 1900, then traded all of his best players to the Pirates for very little in return. Zimmer was among those players, coming off of a season in which he batted .307 with four homers and 43 RBIs in 95 games. He did well in his first year in Pittsburgh at 39 years old, which made his the oldest player in the league. Zimmer batted .295 in 82 games. His average and playing time dropped in his final two seasons and on March 6, 1903, he was released to the Philadelphia Phillies. He saw sporadic playing time in his final season, though that was his own desire, as he was the manager of the team. Zimmer was a .269 hitter in 1,280 games over 19 big league seasons. His first name was Charles. His nickname came from when he was a manager in the minors of a team named the Indians. Zimmer invented a baseball board game in 1891 that was extremely popular then and is highly collectible today, with five-figure prices if it comes up for sale.