Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus I’ll note that current reliever Kyle Crick turns 28 today. There’s also two transactions of note.
On this date in 1950, the Pirates signed 32-year-old outfielder Pete Reiser as a free agent. He was a three-time All-Star, a batting champ and a two-time stolen base champ with the Brooklyn Dodgers prior to joining the Pirates. The 1950 season was easily his worst. Reiser batted .205 with one homer and one stolen base in 53 games for the Boston Braves. He lasted just one season in Pittsburgh, hitting .271 in 74 games, with an .811 OPS. He injured his shoulder during a game of pepper in mid-August and missed the last six weeks of the season. He signed with the Cleveland Indians for the 1952 season and had just 34 big league games left in his career after leaving the Pirates.
On this date in 1972 the Pirates traded Dick Sharon, their first round draft pick from 1968, to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitchers Jim Foor and Norm McRae. Sharon was a minor leaguer all five years with the Pirates while Foor and McRae each pitched briefly in the majors with little success. Following the trade Sharon played three years in the majors, two for the Tigers, where he hit .231 in 151 games. He spent the 1975 season with the Padres, hitting just .194 in 91 games. McRae never suited up for the Pirates organization. He played in the Mexican League for five years before retiring as a player. Foor pitched just three games for the Pirates in 1973, facing a total of eight batters, and then never pitched in the majors again. The Pirates traded him away during the following Spring Training.
Craig Wilson, outfielder/first baseman for the 2001-06 Pirates. In 634 games with the Pirates, he hit .268 with 94 homers. Wilson hit 29 homers and drove in 82 runs during the 2004 season. He split his time fairly evenly between first base and right field, but he also played some left field and even caught in 40 games. He played just 64 big league games after being traded away from the Pirates during the 2006 season. Wilson was a second round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school in 1995. The Pirates acquired him in December of 1996 in a nine-player deal, with six players headed towards Pittsburgh. Wilson wasn’t the biggest piece for the Pirates in the deal, but he ended up being the best. At the time of the trade, he just completed a season in Low-A ball. He moved up to High-A in 1997 and hit 19 homers for Lynchburg. The following year he raised his batting average 30 points to .294, while still hitting for power (17 homers). Wilson would hit 20 homers in Double-A in 1999, then improve to 33 homers in 2000.
Wilson played just 11 games in Triple-A in 2001. He made his Pirates debut on April 22nd and ended up playing 88 games as a rookie, batting .310 with 13 homers. He was an everyday player in 2002, hitting .264 with 16 homers in 131 games. He had a similar 2003 season with a .262 average and 18 homers, before his breakout season in 2004. His 29 homers and 82 RBIs that year were both career highs that he never approached in any other season. Multiple injuries limited him to 59 games in 2005, then he was hitting .267 with 13 homers in 85 games before his trade to the New York Yankees for Shawn Chacon. Wilson hit .212 with four homers in 40 games for the Yankees, then batted .172 in 24 games for the 2007 Atlanta Braves. He finished his career in the minors in 2008, with part of the season spent with the Pirates in Triple-A.
Matt Lawton, outfielder for the 2005 Pirates. He hit .273 with ten homers and 16 stolen bases in 101 games with the Pirates, one of three teams he played for during the 2005 season. Lawton was a career .267 hitter over 12 seasons in the majors, finishing with 138 homers and 165 stolen bases. Lawton was a 13th round draft pick in 1991 by the Minnesota Twins at 19 years old. He was selected out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. It took him four years to make the majors, debuting in September of 1995. Lawton played seven seasons for the Twins, hitting .277 with 72 homers and 96 steals in 771 games. He was an All-Star during the 2000 season when he hit .305 with 91 walks, 13 homers, 88 RBIs and 23 steals. He was traded to the New York Mets to finish out the 2001 season, then got traded to the Cleveland Indians over the 2001-02 off-season. He made his second All-Star appearance in 2004 when he hit .277 with 20 homers, 77 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
The Pirates acquired him in December of 2004 from the Indians for pitcher Arthur Rhodes. Lawton’s stay in Pittsburgh lasted just under eight full months. He was shipped to the Chicago Cubs at the July 31st trade deadline for outfielder Jody Gerut and cash. Lawton would finish the 2005 season with the New York Yankees and finish his career with 11 games for the 2006 Seattle Mariners. His brother Marcus Lawton played one season in the majors for the 1989 Yankees.
Tacks Latimer, catcher for the 1900 Pirates. He played just four games in Pittsburgh, going 4-for-12 at the plate. Latimer’s time with the Pirates didn’s start off well, as he suffered from malaria in the spring. He was the third-string catcher, but saw time early in the year due to an injury to Pops Shriver. His debut was April 27th as a mid-game replacement for Chief Zimmer in a one-sided contest. On May 3rd, he caught Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell. Latimer then caught Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro on May 18th and had two hits to help the Pirates to an 11-4 win. His final game was on May 20th when he went 0-for-3 in a loss against Frank Killen, who you might read about soon. On May 25th, Latimer was sent to Syracuse of the Eastern League after the Pirates acquired veteran catcher Jack O’Connor. The Pirates still held the rights to Latimer, but he never returned. He signed with New Castle of the Interstate League on June 10th. He played parts of five seasons in the majors, with a different team each year, and lasted just 27 games total. He played for 30 different teams in 13 seasons of pro ball.
The Pirates acquired Latimer as part of the famous Honus Wagner trade made during the 1899-1900 off-season. He was one of 12 players going to Pittsburgh in the original deal, though the Pirates ended up with more players after Louisville was one of four teams dropped from the National League before the 1900 season. His real first name was Clifford. The nickname Tacks was given to him by a teammate, who liked to give everyone nicknames and there was no real reason behind it. After his playing days, he scouted for the Pirates for a time, but ended up in trouble and served six years in prison for a second degree murder, which he claimed was self-defense.
Frank Killen, lefty pitcher for the 1893-98 Pirates. During the 1893 season, Killen went 36-14, leading the Pirates to their best season in franchise history (12 years) up to that point. In 1896, he went 30-18 for a team that went 36-45 in the rest of their games that season. He led the league in wins, games started, complete games, innings pitched and shutouts. Killen had a 112-82 record for the Pirates, and he won 164 games in his ten-year career. He’s the last 30-game winner in team history. Killen was a Pittsburgh native, who played with local amateur teams through 1889. He got his start in pro ball in 1890 at 19 years old and was in the majors by 1891, posting a 1.68 ERA in 11 starts for Milwaukee of the American Association. Killen moved on to Washington in the NL in 1892 and he went 29-26, 3.31 in 459.2 innings, which was his career high. The Pirates acquired him for catcher Duke Farrell, who refused to catch in Pittsburgh and wanted to play third base, which wasn’t an option for the Pirates in 1893.
Killen had an $1,800 per year contract with Washington, but Pittsburgh signed him for $2,400 after the trade and got their money’s worth and more in his first season with that aforementioned 36-14 record. Injuries in both 1894 and 1895 limited him to a total of 299 innings (seriously, that was very limited for him), but he bounced back in 1896 and unknowingly at the time, he put together the last 30-win season in franchise history. He also threw 432.1 innings that year. Killen went 17-23, 4.46 in 337.1 innings in 1897, then got unconditionally released on August 1st after the Pirates couldn’t find any takers in trade talks. He re-signed with Washington on August 11th to finish the 1898 season and then saw action with three different teams during the 1899-1900 seasons. Killen finished his pro career three years later in the minors. He made exactly 300 starts during his career and he threw 253 complete games, with just over 2,500 innings pitched. He was also quite the hitter during his day for a pitcher, batting .241 with 11 homers, 127 RBIs and 131 walks.