Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a Hall of Famer. We also have one trade of note from the 1970 season.
Deacon White, third baseman for the 1889 Alleghenys. In the 19th year of his 20-year career, White hit .253 with 26 RBIs in 55 games for the Alleghenys. He collected the first hit in MLB history, a double, back on May 4, 1871. Despite being a star player before MLB baseball started, and playing much of his career when full seasons were under 100 games, White had 2,067 base hits, 1,140 runs scored and 988 RBIs. He won a batting title in 1875 and 1877, and also won three RBI crowns. White played his final Major League game in 1890 and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 123 years later in 2013, though many of his family members were in attendance for the ceremony in Cooperstown. His brother Will White was a star pitcher, who had three 40+ win seasons and he once threw 680 innings in a season. Their cousin Elmer White played one season in the majors as a teammate of Deacon, but he sadly passed away at 22 years old prior to the 1872 season.
White had a rocky start with the Alleghenys, as his sale was disputed for most of the off-season. He was playing for the Detroit Wolverines of the NL in 1888 and the club folded after the season. White disputed the reserve rule that said that a team still existed until all of its players were sold off. He believed that he should be able to sign where he wanted to because the team no longer existed, and he desired to play for Buffalo of the International League in 1889. All off-season and part of the regular season, Pittsburgh fans were unsure if the Deacon was going to play for the team. He was managing in Buffalo to start the season, but finally gave in to join the Alleghenys on June 27th after Detroit offered to give him a share of the money (reported as $1,250) they were paid for his release by Pittsburgh. It was said that he was willing to make the change at that point because Buffalo was losing too much. White also agreed that he would get the pro-rated amount of his $3,500 salary. Everything seeming to be in place as he traveled to Pittsburgh the next day, but he left town on June 30th and headed home without signing. Despite that setback, White agreed to join the Alleghenys in New York for the July 8th opener against the Giants. Pittsburgh was 26-31 at the time and they went 35-40 (with two ties) after he signed.
After the 1889 season, White left to play for Buffalo, which was now part of the newly-formed Player’s League, which got many star players and didn’t adhere to the reserve rule. That ended up being his final season, though he was already 42 years old at that time, the oldest active player in the majors.
Roscoe Miller, pitcher for the 1904 Pirates. In his only season in Pittsburgh, he went 7-7, 3.35 in 134.1 innings. He made 17 starts and two relief appearances. In his four-year big league career, Miller went 39-45, 3.45 in 772.2 innings. He played pro ball from 1896 until 1909. Miller made his big league debut with the 1901 Detroit Tigers at 24 years old in the first year of the American League as a Major League (it existed in 1900, but as a minor league). He saw a lot of work that year and he was very successful, going 23-13, 2.95 in 332 innings. That 1902 season didn’t go as well and he jumped teams mid-season, going from the Tigers to the New York Giants. Players jumped leagues often back then, but usually during the off-season, as the two leagues battled for the best players. Miller went 6-12, 3.69 for the Tigers, then 1-8, 4.58 for the Giants. He saw limited work for New York in 1903 and got released late in the season. The Pirates actually signed him while the first World Series was being played on October 4th (travel day between games three and four), though he wasn’t an eligible player for the series. Miller was seeing regular use through July 8th, but he pitched just three times after that date. The Pirates released him unconditionally on August 27th. He was at home in Cleveland at the time nursing a sore arm suffered during his last appearance on August 3rd. He was signed by Cleveland in late 1906, but never played for them, remaining in the minors for his final five seasons of pro ball.
Mike Wilson, catcher for the 1921 Pirates. His big league career consisted of five games for the 1921 Pirates, all of them off of the bench. He caught in each game and went 0-for-4 at the plate. The Pirates were his first team in pro ball. His next seven seasons were spent in the minors before he retired from baseball. Wilson played ball at three different colleges before his big league debut at 24 years old. He was called the “Lehigh star athlete” when it was announced that he signed with the Pirates on January 27, 1921. Besides catching for the baseball team, he also played for the football team. He gained semi-pro baseball experience playing for Bethlehem of the Bethlehem Steel League in 1920, a small industrial league team run by the Bethlehem Steel company. He was with the Pirates during Spring Training in 1921 and made the Opening Day roster in early April, but he didn’t play his first game until June 4th. Wilson was with the Pirates during Spring Training of 1922 and was still there for Opening Day, but he was given his unconditional release on April 22nd so he could pursue a bigger role elsewhere, even if it was in the minors. He was reportedly headed to Rochester of the International League because he wanted to play for manager George Stallings, but didn’t play for that team until 1927, which was Stallings’ last year with the team.
Johnny Welch, pitcher for the 1936 Pirates. He finished his nine-year big league career with one season for the Pirates, making eight relief appearances and one start, with a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings. Welch had two double-digit win seasons with the Boston Red Sox (1934-35), but he finished with just 35 big league wins. He played a total of 14 seasons in pro ball, yet he was done with his career by age 30. Welch debuted at 17 years old and managed to get in two games in one of the best minor leagues, playing for Buffalo of the International League. After winning 17 games and throwing 269 innings for Ottumwa of the Mississippi Valley League in 1925, Welch debuted in the majors in 1926 with the Chicago Cubs and despite being healthy and with the team for the entire 1926-27 seasons, he pitched a total of four games, all in relief. After some early season games in 1928, he went to the minors and didn’t return until 1931, still with the Cubs. Welch moved on to the Red Sox in 1932 and put in 4 1/2 seasons, posting a 4.66 ERA in 583.1 innings. He gained some notoriety for being the final remaining player on the Red Sox from before new owner Tom Yawkey took over after the 1932 season. The Pirates acquired Welch off waivers on June 4th and he pitched sporadically the rest of the way, with just one appearance after July 29th. At the time of his pick-up, Welch was working out with the St Louis Cardinals, waiting for the Red Sox to sell him elsewhere. In his second appearance with the Pirates, his wild pitch led to a walk-off win for the New York Giants. After the season, he was sold to the Chicago White Sox. Welch never pitched in the majors again. He finished his career in the minors in 1937.
Andre Rodgers, infielder for the 1965-67 Pirates. In three seasons in Pittsburgh, he saw time at five different positions and hit .257 in 158 games. He was a .249 hitter over 11 big league seasons. Rodgers was the first player born in the Bahamas who made it to the majors. He was originally signed by the New York Giants in 1954 at 19 years old. He debuted in the majors in April of 1957 with the Giants, then made the move cross country to San Francisco for another three seasons. Right after the 1960 season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. Right before the 1961 season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Rodgers spent four seasons in Chicago and saw the majority of his big league time during the 1962-64 campaigns. He played 417 of his 854 career games during that time-frame. The Pirates acquired him on December 9, 1964 for minor league infielder Roberto Pena and cash. Rodgers was coming off of a season in which he hit .239/.317/.371 in 129 games, with a career high of 12 homers. He saw most of his playing time with the Pirates in 1965 and responded by hitting .287 in 75 games. He saw more bench time in 1966-67, getting just 110 at-bats in 83 games. Rodgers spent the 1968 season at Triple-A for the Pirates, then finished his pro career in Japan in 1969.
Wyatt Toregas, catcher for the 2011 Pirates. His big league career consisted of 19 games for the 2009 Cleveland Indians and three games for the 2011 Pirates. He went 0-for-4 at the plate in Pittsburgh, and 9-for-55 for his career. Toregas has managed for the last five seasons (2015-19) in the minors for the Pirates, working his way from Morgantown to Bradenton. The Indians drafted Toregas in the 24th round out of college in 2004 and signed him nine days later. He worked his way up through their system to debut on August 1, 2009, and he remained with the club through the end of the season on October 4th. He spent 2010 in the minors for the Indians, then signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates on January 18, 2011. Toregas joined the Pirates in June and played three straight games (June 10-12). His total stay with the Pirates was four days, getting called up on the 9th and he was designated for assignment on the 13th. Toregas re-signed with the Pirates in both 2012 and 2013, though he was a player-coach those years and didn’t actually play any games.
On this date in 1970, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals completed a six-player trade with Bruce Dal Canton, Jerry May and Freddie Patek going to the Royals and Jim Campanis, Jackie Hernandez and Bob Johnson coming back to Pittsburgh. Patek was by far the best player involved in the trade, but Johnson and Hernandez both contributed to the 1971 World Series title. Patek played three years for the Pirates with decent overall results (3.1 WAR total), but he really broke out with the Royals, making three All-Star teams over nine years, while accumulating 20.5 WAR. Dal Canton spent five years in Kansas City, with one big season (1974) accounting for much of his value. May was a backup for three seasons after the deal, playing a total of 139 big league games. The three combined had 26.4 WAR in 17 seasons with the Royals
The Pirates did not get anything close to that WAR total from their three players, though the fourth World Series title more than made up for that fact. Johnson was a solid starter-turned-bullpen arm during his time in Pittsburgh. He went 9-10, 3.45 in 174.2 innings in 1971, then he out-pitched Juan Marichal in game three of the NLCS. Johnson actually had 4.5 WAR for the 1970 Royals, so the Pirates were banking on him being a bigger contributor. His Pirates WAR total was just 2.9 over three seasons, but he was still a solid contributor all three years. Hernandez has his best year with the Pirates in 1971 due to his defensive contributions. However, he was -0.9 WAR over three seasons due to very poor offense in Pittsburgh (.537 OPS in 214 games). Campanis pinch-hit six times for the Pirates and that’s it. It was a bad trade that still managed to work out fine.