Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, but we start with two transactions of note.
On this date in 1966 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded 3B/LF Bob Bailey and shortstop Gene Micheal to the Los Angeles Dodgers for All-Star shortstop Maury Wills. Bailey and Michaels performed poorly for the Dodgers following the deal, while Wills played two seasons for the Pirates, hitting .302 in 1967 with 92 runs and 29 stolen bases in 149 games. He would steal 52 bases in 1968, the second highest total in the NL. He hit .278 and scored 76 runs in 153 games. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft in October 1968. Michael hit .204 in his only season in Los Angeles before being sold to the New York Yankees. Bailey batted .227 in both years for the Dodgers, totaling 12 homers. He had 13 homers in 1966 before the trade.
Exactly one year before the Wills trade, the Pirates traded pitcher Joe Gibbon and 3B/C Ozzie Virgil to the Giants for outfielder Matty Alou. Prior to the deal, Alou was a .260 hitter over six season, but he turned his career around with the Pirates, hitting .342 his first year, winning the batting title and finishing ninth in the MVP voting. He would hit over .330 each season from 1967-69 twice making the All-Star team. In 1969 he led the NL with 231 hits and 41 doubles. He dropped down to .297 in 1970, but still scored 97 runs and had 201 hits. Following that season he was traded to the Cardinals in exchange for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo. Gibbon would actually return to the Pirates in 1969 after four solid seasons in San Francisco, where he had a 3.07 ERA in 223 innings. Virgil had just 43 games left in the majors after the trade.
Reggie Sanders, outfielder for the 2003 Pirates. He signed with Pittsburgh in March of 2003 after hitting .250 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs for the San Francisco Giants in 2002. Sanders hit .285 with 31 homers, 15 stolen bases and 87 RBIs in 130 games for the Pirates. He left the team as a free agent following the season and signed with the St Louis Cardinals. He played 17 seasons in the majors, scored 1,037 runs, drove in 983 and is a member of the 300 stolen base/ 300 home run club, reaching both milestone marks 22 days apart during the 2006 season. Sanders had a streak of playing with a different team each year that stretched from 1998 until 2004. He was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of the 1987 draft. It took him four years to make the majors, but he stayed around Cincinnati for his first eight seasons in the majors. After playing his last year with the Reds in 1998, he played for the 1999 San Diego Padres, 2000 Atlanta Braves, 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, 2002 Giants, 2003 Pirates and 2004 Cardinals. He remained in St Louis for two years, then finished his career with the 2006-07 Kansas City Royals.
Despite all of his career success, he had just one All-Star appearance and it was also the only season that he received any MVP votes. In 1995, Sanders batted .306 with 36 doubles, 28 homers, 99 RBIs and 36 stolen bases. All of those stats are career highs except the homers, which he topped with the Diamondbacks (33) and the Pirates. Those numbers are made more impressive by the fact that the 1995 season was shortened due to the 1994 strike, with MLB getting a late start the following year. He finished sixth in the MVP voting that year.
Cal McLish, pitcher for the Pirates in 1947-48. The Pirates acquired him in May of 1947 as part of a five-for-one trade with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with Al Gionfriddo (and cash) being the lone player sent to Brooklyn. McLish was originally signed by the Dodgers in 1944 at 18 years old and he pitched in the majors that season. He missed all of 1945 while serving in the military during WWII. After joining the Pirates, he pitched just one game that 1947 season, giving up two runs in his only inning. He spent most of 1948 in the minors, posting a 12-9, 4.13 record in Triple-A. For the Pirates in 1948, he pitched one inning in April, then made one start in late September, allowing five runs in four innings. Following the 1948 season he was traded to the Chicago Cubs on December 8th in a four-player deal that also included Cliff Chambers and Frankie Gustine. McLish saw brief big league time in 1949, spent all of 1950 in the minors, then returned for a full season in 1951. He didn’t stick though, returning to the minors for the next four seasons. When he returned to the big leagues in 1956, McLish had eight career wins and he was already 30 years old. He barely added to that total in his first season, winning two games. However, from 1957 through 1963, he averaged 12 wins per season, topping out at 19 wins in 1959 for the Cleveland Indians. That was also his only All-Star season in the majors. He had a career record of 92-92, 4.01 in 15 seasons. He also added 102 minor league wins over his 20-year pro career. McLish has likely the most interesting name in baseball history. His full name is Calvin Coolidge Julius Caeser Tuskahoma McLish.
Cookie Lavagetto, outfielder for the 1934-36 Pirates. The Pirates bought Lavagetto from the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League on September 13, 1933 for cash and a player to be named later. He was in his first season of pro ball at the time, hitting .312 that season with 44 extra-base hits in 152 games. He remained with the Oaks after the deal, joining the Pirates during the following Spring Training. He made the Opening Day roster in 1934 and played second base during his rookie season, hitting .220 with 46 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 87 games. At the time, he was believed to be 19 years old, though he was actually 21 and he “gained” those two years at some point after leaving the Pirates. He played both second base and third base in 1935, hitting .290 in 78 games. Lavagetto batted .244 in 60 games in 1936, seeing very little time over the final three months of the season. He made just two starts in the final 88 games. Following the season, the Pirates traded him (and Ralph Birkofer) to the Brooklyn Dodgers for pitcher Ed Brandt. Cookie (his first name was Harry) broke out with the Dodgers, making four straight All-Star teams (1938-41) before leaving to serve in WWII. He missed four full seasons, returning in 1946 for two more years with the Dodgers, before finishing his career in the minors. He was a career .269 hitter in 1,043 games, with twice as many walks (485) as strikeouts (244). Lavagetto managed for five seasons in the majors after his career. He was the manager at the time of the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota in 1961. We posted a full-length feature article on Lavagetto’s time with the Pirates here.
Mike Cvengros, pitcher for the 1927 Pirates. Cvengros was a small lefty, standing just 5’8″, 159 pounds. He was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Pirates in 1926 and then they traded him away after the 1927 season, so his time in Pittsburgh was short. With the Pirates, he went 2-1, 3.35 in 19 relief appearances and four starts. He pitched twice during the World Series, giving up one run over 2.1 innings. That one run came on a home run by Babe Ruth. Cvengros pitched a total of six years in the majors, going 25-40, 4.59 in 144 games. He won 159 games in the minors. He debuted in pro ball with Chickasha of the Western Association in 1921, where he lost 22 games and walked 151 batters. He moved up to Little Rock of the Southern Association and pitched well enough to get a start for the 1922 New York Giants on September 30th, just eight days before they won the World Series title. Cvengros then pitched the next three seasons for the Chicago White Sox, before spending 1926 in the minors for New Orleans of the Southern Association. He went 18-5, 3.68 in 220 innings, which gained the attention of the Pirates. He saw sporadic playing time throughout the season in Pittsburgh, never pitching more than six times in any month. From July 29th through October 1st, he pitched just six innings total over eight appearances. Cvnegros got the start on the last day of the regular season and he threw five shutout innings. He was traded to a minor league team in December of 1927 and his only other big league experience was with the 1929 Chicago Cubs. He pitched eight seasons in the minors after his final big league game, including the last six years with Houston of the Texas League.
Eppie Barnes, first baseman for the 1923-24 Pirates. Barnes came to the Pirates right out of Colgate University and played two games in September of 1923, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He went to the minors on May 8th during the 1924 season, joining Dallas of the Texas League, where he hit .261 with no homers in 110 games. He played one game with the Pirates four days before being sent down, and then another he got into another game in September, going 0-for-5 at the plate. He likely would have played more, but a batting practice mishap led to a broken nose on September 3rd, which kept him from playing for the next 20 days. The Pirates called up Barnes on August 26th when starting first baseman Charlie Grimm was in a horrible slump at the plate. It was said that Barnes would play regularly unless Grimm turned things around immediately. Barnes spent the 1925 season with Chattanooga of the Southern Association, after the Pirates optioned him there on January 28, 1925. He was actually sent back to the Pirates on April 12th because his price was too high according to the Chattanooga management, though things quickly changed and Barnes was in the Chattanooga lineup by April 18th. That season was the end of his brief pro career, though he remained active as a player in semi-pro leagues long after his final pro game. His time with the Pirates officially ended on February 12, 1926 when his contract was sold to Buffalo of the International League. In the transaction note, it said that he was being sold as a pitcher. Barnes was born the same day as Mike Cvengros. He went by the nickname Eppie quite often, but his actual first name was Everett. He was famous in his days after his brief career, helping form the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and he spent a long time back at Colgate as a coach and athletic director. He was also a key member in getting baseball included in the Olympics.
Jake Miller, right fielder for the 1922 Pirates. On July 11, 1922, the Pirates acquired Miller from Wichita Falls of the Texas League in a trade for pitcher John “Bonnie” Hollingsworth. Miller’s big league career lasted three days, July 15-17, 1922. He went 1-for-11 with a stolen base and two walks in his three games. His only big league hit was a single in his first Major League at-bat. In the field, he made one error in nine chances. The error was a costly one early in a game against Brooklyn, but a play he made in the fourth inning caused him more grief. He caught a deep foul ball with one out and a man on third, despite cries from his teammates to let it drop. The run came in to score to make it a 4-1 game in favor of Brooklyn. It’s interesting to note that manager Bill McKechnie was irate over the play and that ended up being Miller’s final game. On July 29th, he was sold to Toronto of the International League for the reported price of $5,000. His actual time spent with the Pirates was 16 days. His off-and-on minor league career lasted from 1919 until 1930, but he never made the majors again. Miller was a .303 career hitting in the minors and batted over .300 in five of his eight seasons. In his final season, he hit .328 in 87 games while serving as a player-manager for the Hagerstown Hub of the Blue Ridge League.
George Fox, 1B/C for the 1899 Pirates. Fox had an eight-year stretch between his two short stints in the majors. He made his MLB debut in July of 1891 for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. Fox played six games at third base and went 2-for-19, with a triple and two RBIs. He then spent the next nine seasons playing all over minor league teams in Pennsylvania, with a brief stop in Pittsburgh near the end. He made his pro debut in 1889 with a team from Lebanon, then eventually played in Hazelton, Lancaster, Reading, Danville, Allentown, Shamokin, Pottsville and Philadelphia. Fox joined the Pirates on August 7, 1899, and debuted as a pinch-hitter on August 10th. He was used as a defensive replacement on August 22nd behind the plate in both games of a doubleheader. Starting on August 29th, he played nine straight games as the starting first baseman. He played his final game on September 7th, but he was still part of the team for the final month of the season. As the third-string catcher, Fox was left at home to save on travel expenses when the team went on a 13-day Eastern road trip in mid-September. He ended up playing nine games at first base and three games at catcher. He hit .244 in 13 games, with a homer and three RBIs. Fox was one of the players traded to Louisville when the Pirates made the famous Honus Wagner trade. Louisville was one of the teams cut from the NL a short time later and Fox was returned to the Pirates in February, though he was released unconditionally on April 5th. He returned to the minors in 1900 and played pro ball until 1908, retiring at 39 years old.