Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a 30-game winner. We also have a trade of note from 1978.
Pink Hawley, pitcher for the 1895-97 Pirates. He played on some bad teams before joining the Pirates, going 30-58 with the St Louis Browns during the 1892-94 seasons. In 1894, he led the NL with 27 losses and had a 4.90 ERA, though that was a huge year for offense in baseball, so that ERA wasn’t actually as bad as it sounds. Hawley didn’t get along well with St Louis owner Chris von der Ahe and wanted to be traded. The Pirates acquired Pink on January 15, 1895 in a very colorful trade from the Browns for pitcher Red Ehret and cash (green). He immediately turned things around with the Pirates in 1895, winning 31 games, while leading the league in innings (444.1), games pitched (56) and shutouts (four). Hawley went 22-21, 3.57 in 378 innings in 1896, pitching alongside 30-game winner Frank Killen, to provide the Pirates with a strong 1-2 punch. He went 18-18, 4.80 in 1897 and saw a drop in his innings before being traded to Cincinnati. That deal worked out poorly for the Pirates short-term, as they gave up the best two players (outfielder Elmer Smith as well) and Hawley posted a 27-11 record in his first season with the Reds. However, he began to slip in 1899 and was sold by Cincinnati the following March. He had a solid season in 1900 with the New York Giants, but he pitched poorly after jumping to the American League in 1901, which ended up being his final big league season. Hawley won 167 Major League games total over ten season and pitched 3,012.2 innings. He completed 297 of his 344 career starts. He had very little minor league experience, playing a full season in 1902 and seeing some time as a player-manager during the 1905-06 and 1908 seasons. Hawley debuted in the majors at 19 years old with only a brief amount of semi-pro ball to his credit. Pink wasn’t a nickname as you might expect, it was his middle name. His first name was Emerson.
Frank Bowerman, catcher for the Pirates in 1898-99. The Pirates bought him from the Baltimore Orioles along with Tom O’Brien for $2,500 on June 3, 1898. He played 48 games over four seasons with the Orioles prior to the purchase. Most of that playing time came in 1897 when Baltimore had two catchers miss significant time with injuries. While with the Pirates he hit .274 in 69 games in 1898. In 1899 he hit .260 with 53 RBIs in 110 games. He caught 80 games that year and led all NL catchers with 23 errors. His 111 hits that year were a career high and the only time in his 15-year career he reached the 100-hit mark. On March 9, 1900, Bowerman was one of two players turned over to the New York Giants by NL President Nick Young. It was part of the settlement when the owners agreed to buy out four teams so they could go from a 12-team league in 1899 to an eight-team league for 1900. The Pirates already had three other catchers for the season and Bowerman would have been a platoon player with veterans Chief Zimmer and Pop Schriver. Bowerman had expressed a desire to be traded to New York because he faced some tough criticism for his defense at first base in 1899, despite playing just ten games at the spot over his first four seasons. He stayed in New York for eight seasons before moving on to the Boston Doves (Braves) for his final two years in the majors. He hit .250 over 1,048 career games and threw out 48% of base runners attempting to steal. At 40 years old in 1909, he served as a player-manager for Boston before being released in July. He finished the 1909 season in the minors and played for two more years, before managing during the 1912 season.
Snake Wiltse, pitcher for the 1901 Pirates. He made five starts and two relief appearances for the Pirates, going 1-4 4.26 in 44.1 innings before being release due to what was described as “a lame arm and disorder of the stomach”. He made his last Pirates appearance on June 26th, got released on June 30th, pitched games for a semi-pro team in Punxutawney on July 8th and the 11th, then returned home to Syracuse, where he agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Athletics on July 13th. He debuted with the A’s ten days later and he went 13-5 in 19 starts. The 1901 Pirates pitching staff was so deep with Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, that they were able to give up on a quality pitcher like Wiltse. They also won three straight NL pennants (1901-03) so they didn’t miss him, but he was still let go for nothing at the time so it turned out to be a bad move in that regard.
Wiltse was acquired by the Pirates from Syracuse on January 1, 1901 in the deal that included the Pirates shipping three players to the Eastern League club. One of those players was Patsy Flaherty, who ended up back in Pittsburgh in 1904 and won 19 games. There was said to be great interest in Wiltse around baseball and it took Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss four weeks to finally work out a sufficient deal. Wiltse threw a fastball and different variations of a curve ball, which impressed manager Fred Clarke, who credited his poor start with the big league club to nerves. He was already 29 years old at the time of his MLB debut, but he had minimal pro experience, debuting in the pro ranks in 1899. He played at least five years of semi-pro ball before that. Wiltse played in the majors until 1903, finishing his career with the New York Highlanders (Yankees). He went 29-31, 4.59 in 537.1 innings over 62 starts and six relief appearances. Wiltse played pro ball until 1910 before retiring. He was called Snake (his first name was Lewis) because of his odd delivery that reminded people of a snake unwinding. He had a brother named Hooks Wiltse, who pitched 12 seasons in the majors. His nickname came from his fielding prowess.
Bill Rodgers, outfielder for the 1944-45 Pirates. He played three major league games, two late season appearances in 1944 and a pinch-hitting appearance the following April. He got his only big league start in the final game of the 1944 season, playing right field and batting second. Rodgers went 2-for-5 at the plate. He spent three seasons in the minors for the Pirates, hitting at least .310 each year, before he went to serve his country in WWII. After returning to baseball in 1946, he played one year in the minors for Pittsburgh and his final five years in the Yankees organization before retiring. Rodgers joined a minor league club from Hornell, NY right out of high school and started as a pitcher/outfielder. He was switched to outfield full-time in 1942 and finished second in the league with a .367 average, less than a full point behind the league leader. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 30, 1944 from Albany of the Eastern League. The Pirates had a working agreement with Albany at the time, which allowed the Pirates the rights to any player on their roster for an agreed upon price. Rodgers was one of four players purchased that day, including Vic Barnhart, the son of Pirates great from the 1920s Clyde Barnhart.
Rodgers was hitting .325 through his first 75 games with Albany and stayed with the club long enough to hit .330 in 100 games. He reported to the Pirates on September 21st and played in an exhibition game against Newark of the International League the next day. His MLB debut was five days later as a pinch-runner and he scored a run. His lone start came four days later in the second game of a doubleheader. Rodgers made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1945 and played his final game on April 21st. On May 6, 1945, Rodgers was sent to Kansas City of the American Association as part of a deal to acquire veteran infielder Jack Saltzgaver. As part of the deal, Rodgers had to stay with Kansas City through the end of their season before he could return to the Pirates. Manager Frankie Frisch said that he would bring Rodgers back at the end of the year, but before the end of the month, Rodgers was called into services, so he didn’t get that chance.
Sam Khalifa, shortstop for the 1985-87 Pirates. He was the Pirates first round draft pick in 1982, the seventh overall pick in the draft. It took him three years to go from high school to the majors, debuting on June 25, 1985. He played 95 games his rookie season, hitting .238 with 34 walks and 31 RBIs. Khalifa spent part of the 1986 season in the minors, and finished the year hitting .185 over 64 games with the Pirates. He was on the Opening Day roster and stuck around until mid-June. He was back on July 27th when Rafael Belliard dislocated a finger, but sent down again two weeks later and didn’t play for the Pirates again until September 14th. That was because he sprained his right ankle on August 31st, right before he was supposed to leave to join the Pirates for the expanded rosters. Khalifa returned to Triple-A for 1987 and batted .226 with no homers in 111 games. He played just five July games in the majors after getting called up to replace Felix Fermin, who suffered a fractured thumb. That ended up being Khalifa’s last time in the big leagues and the writing was on the wall just over a week before his final big league shot. The Pirates needed a shortstop and they called up Fermin from Double-A instead of Khalifa at Triple-A. He played two more years in the minors before retiring as a player. His career ended when he left Triple-A Buffalo on August 2nd due to personal issues, then came back when the team went on the road to pack his belongings and head home. He was a career .219 hitter in 164 Major League games.
On this date in 1978 the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners made a six-player trade with three players involved from each team. Pitchers Enrique Romo and Rick Jones, along with shortstop Tom McMillan, went to the Pirates in the deal. Seattle got pitchers Rafael Vasquez and Odell Jones, and shortstop Mario Mendoza. Romo was the only player who made a significant contribution with his new team. He pitched four years out of the Pirates bullpen, getting into 236 games. During the 1979 season when the Pirates won the World Series, Romo pitched 84 games, posting a 2.99 ERA with ten wins and five saves. With the Pirates Romo had a 3.56 ERA with 25 wins and 26 saves.
Rick Jones had three big league seasons in prior to the trade, but never played in the majors after the deal. Tom McMillan played two big league games, both with the 1977 Mariners. Odell Jones struggled with Seattle in 1979, going 3-11, 6.07 in 118.2 innings. He was in the minors in 1980 and back with the Pirates by 1981. Rafael Vasquez pitched 16 innings at age 21 for the 1979 Mariners, then never played in the majors again. Mendoza hit .218 in 262 games with the Mariners, putting up a -2.3 WAR during that time.