Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a member of the 1979 World Series champs. We also have two transactions of note.
Mike Easler, outfielder for the 1977 and 1979-83 Pirates. He was traded nine times during his career, including four straight deals that involved the Pirates. Easler didn’t become a starter in the majors until his seventh season. He was mainly used as a pinch-hitter during the 1979 season, hitting .278 in 54 at-bats spread out over 55 games. The next year he hit .338 with 21 homers, then made his only All-Star appearance in 1981. In six seasons with the Pirates, Easler hit .302 with 56 homers and 244 RBIs in 549 games.
Easler was drafted out of high school in the 14th round in 1969 by the Houston Astros. It took him four years to make the majors, though during three seasons in Houston, he played just 26 games total and had 27 at-bats. He was traded to the St Louis Cardinals in June of 1975 and remained there until September of 1976. He never appeared in a game for the Cardinals, despite batting .352 with 26 homers in Triple-A that season. He was traded to the California Angels and made it into 21 September games in 1976. The Angels then traded him to the Pirates right before Opening Day in 1977. Easler hit .444 in ten games for the 1977 Pirates, but that wasn’t enough to earn him a job the next season. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Red Sox in October of 1978, then traded to get him back five months later. He spent the next five seasons in Pittsburgh before they shipped him off to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher John Tudor.
Easler had a big season in 1984, batting .313 with 27 homers and 91 RBIs. He saw his numbers slide the next season, then was shipped to the New York Yankees, where he hit .302 with 78 RBIs in 1986. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the off-season, then reacquired by the Yankees in June of 1987, finishing his big league career there that season. He played his final two years of pro ball in Japan before retiring as a player. He took up a career in coaching and has had numerous jobs over the years for many organizations at all levels. In his 14-year career in the majors, he was a .293 hitter in 1,151 games, with 118 homers and 522 RBIs.
Paul Pettit, lefty pitcher for the 1951 and 1953 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates for $100,000 as an 18-year-old in early 1950. He went 2-7, 5.17 in the minors that first year, then made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1951, although he lasted just two games before being optioned to Indianapolis on May 14th. When he was sent down, the Pirates noted that they were expecting to lose him to the service during the Korean War, since he just recently took his Army physical. That didn’t happen, though he played just nine games total after being sent down. A knee injury limited his mound time, causing him to miss most of the summer. After the season, Branch Rickey called out Pettit without mentioning him by name, saying that once a young player gets a big bonus and has a yearly salary guaranteed, he won’t pitch as hard as he used to for fear of injury. Pettit won 15 games for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1952, which earned him an Opening Day roster spot with the Pirates in 1953. He pitched seven games through the end of May, then spent most of the year back in the minors, returning for three more appearances in September. On the season, he had a 7.71 ERA in 28 innings for the Pirates. He never played in the majors again after 1953, spending eight more seasons in the minors, with most of that time coming as an outfielder. While the $100,000 bonus back in 1950 obviously gave him some comfort, it was also a tag that followed him throughout his career because it was the biggest signing bonus ever at that time. When his name showed up in print, the bonus amount almost always followed.
Ed Leip, second baseman for the 1940-42 Pirates. He played 21 games and had 30 at-bats over his three seasons with the Pirates, hitting .200 with three RBIs. His only other big league experience was nine games for the 1939 Washington Senators. He spent three seasons in the military (1943-45) and another five years in the minors before retiring as a player after the 1950 season. Leip joined the Pirates on April 4, 1940 off waivers from the Senators. At the time, it said that he was expected to be sent to the minors and that’s just what happened. Ten days after being acquired, he was shipped to Syracuse of the American Association for the season. He batted .228 as the team’s everyday second baseman, then rejoined the Pirates in late September and played three games (one start). He spent 1941 with Albany of the Eastern League, then joined the Pirates in early September and saw slightly more playing time than the previous year, playing 15 games, including five starts. His big league time in 1942 consisted of three April pinch-running appearances. He was sent down on May 3rd and then recalled late in the year, but never rejoined the club because he was inducted into the Army on September 28th. His name was pronounced “leap” in case you were wondering.
Marc Campbell, shortstop for the 1907 Pirates. There wasn’t much of a need at shortstop for the Pirates in 1907 due to that Wagner fella, but Campbell got two games in at the end of the season and he went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. That ended up being his only big league experience. Campbell played four seasons in the minors, finishing up in 1911 with the Fond du Lac Mudhens of the Wisconsin-Illinois League. He debuted with the Pirates on September 30th, batting seventh and playing shortstop. He collected an RBI hit and handled six plays in the field without any issues. He actually got into an exhibition games against Youngstown the day before and went hitless while committing an error. Campbell (his first name was spelled “Mark” in the papers) was called the former Interstate League player. He doesn’t have any minor league stats on Baseball-Reference prior to his MLB debut, but it appears that he played at least one year with a team from Punxsutawney (his hometown) before joining the Pirates. His only prior experience appears to be college ball.
Bill Sowders, pitcher for the 1889-90 Alleghenys. In two seasons in Pittsburgh, he went 9-13, 5.39 in 22 starts and six relief appearances. He debuted in the majors in 1888 with the Boston Beaneaters and won 19 games while posting a 2.07 ERA, but he was out of the big leagues just two years later. Sowders didn’t get much of a chance with Boston after his strong rookie season at 23 years old. The next season he pitched seven games for the Beaneaters before being sold to Pittsburgh for $1,000 on July 19th. The local papers weren’t impressed with the deal, saying that Boston was in need of pitching at the time, so if they were willing to let him go, then he must not be any good. Things didn’t go well after the deal in his 11 starts and two relief appearances. Sowders had a 6-5 record, but it came with a 7.35 ERA in 52.2 innings. The 1890 Alleghenys are the worst team in franchise history and while he pitched much better than he did in 1889, Sowders had a 3-8 record, with a 4.42 ERA in 106 innings. On June 23rd, he was traded to Milwaukee of the Western Association for pitcher Charlie Heard. He would play in the minors until 1892, then return for the 1896 season. He had two brothers, Len and John Sowders, who each played in the majors.
On this date in 1989, the Pirates signed veteran right-handed pitcher Walt Terrell as a free agent. With the Tigers from 1985-87, he won at least 15 games each season. Terrell’s record slipped in 1988, going 7-16, though his 3.97 ERA was slightly lower than in 1987 when he went 17-10. In 1989, he split the year between the Padres and Yankees, finishing 11-18, 4.49 in 32 starts. His time with the Pirates was not good. He finished 2-7, 5.88 in 16 starts and was released at the end of July. Terell finished his career with a 111-124, 4.22 record over 11 seasons.
On this date in 1967, the Pirates acquired catcher Chris Cannizzaro from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for minor league OF/1B Mike Derrick, who was signed by the Pirates out of high school in 1962 and spent six years in the farm system. Cannizzaro ended up hitting .241 for the Pirates over 25 games in 1968. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres in Spring Training of 1969 in a four-player deal that went poorly for the Pirates. He was an All-Star in his first season with the Padres, then put up better offensive stats in 1970. Derrick ended up briefly making the majors in 1970 with the Boston Red Sox, but he spent the rest of his 11-year pro career in the minors.