Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on Christmas Day, including a Hall of Fame pitcher.
James “Pud” Galvin, pitcher for the Alleghenys from 1885-89 and 1891-92. He is the winningest pitcher to ever suit up for the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. He joined the team having already won 222 games by the age of 28, and by the time he retired following the 1893 season, he would be the Major League leader in wins. That was a record he would hold until he was passed by Cy Young in 1903. Pittsburgh purchased Galvin from the Buffalo Bisons of the National League on July 13, 1885. He went just 3-7 that first year for the Alleghenys and the team went 13-26 from August 1st until the end of the season. The next year Galvin was back in form, winning 29 games and pitching 434 innings. He helped Pittsburgh to a 80-57 record, which in turn helped lead to their invitation to leave the American Association and join the National League the following season.
With the Alleghenys in 1887 Galvin went 28-21, 3.21, pitching 440 innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.63 in 1888, but the record suffered with poor run support, as he went 23-25 in 50 starts, with 49 complete games (one game ended in a tie, so he only had 48 decisions). Six of those games were shutout. He won his 300th career game on September 4, 1888 over the Indianapolis Hoosiers. Galvin won 23 games for Pittsburgh in 1889, then he moved on to the newly formed Player’s League with most of his teammates in 1890. When the league folded he returned to the Pirates/Alleghenys where he went 15-14, 2.88 in 33 games. He pitched well early for the Pirates in 1892, but was traded after just ten games to St Louis for Cub Stricker. It was a one-sided trade as far as career value, with the 33-year-old Stricker mostly being league average over 11 seasons in the majors (he was a -1.9 WAR career). However, the Pirates quickly flipped Stricker for pitcher Adonis Terry, who was a better pitcher at the time than Galvin. After the trade, Galvin pitched just 12 more big league games before retiring, though he did briefly pitch in the minors in 1894.
Galvin won 365 career games, a number made more impressive by the fact he played for some bad teams during his career. He retired at age 35, despite posting a 2.92 ERA his last season and he didn’t play in the majors from 1876-78, even though he had a 1.16 ERA in eight games during his rookie season of 1875. During the 1883 season while playing in Buffalo, he went 46-29, 2.72 with 72 complete games and 656.1 innings pitched. He followed that up by going 46-22, 1.99 in 636.1 innings, with a league leading 12 shutouts. He still ranks second all-time in innings pitched and complete games, trailing in both to Cy Young. Those are two spots that he will likely never lose with pitchers seeing fewer starts and complete games now. They would need to average 200 innings per year for 30 seasons to catch Galvin’s mark. He threw two no-hitters during his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1965.
The nickname “Pud” is said to have come from either his love for pudding as a kid, or a writer saying that he turned batters’ legs into pudding with his pitches. However, that nickname was rarely used during his time and shouldn’t be how he is referred to today. A search online of old newspapers only shows the name being used after he was already retired, and only three times total until it was part of a headline story from 1925 that said it was a childhood nickname based on his “chunky physical structure”, so that could be the actual starting point. He was mostly called “Jeems” in references made during his playing days. In fact, the name “Pud” never really caught on until he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1965 and it was part of the press release for the announcement.
Gene Lamont, manager for the Pirates from 1997-2000. He had two memorable seasons during the Pirates long losing streak, winning 79 games his first season and 78 in 1999, when the Pirates were in contention for most of both year. Lamont finished with a 295-352 record in Pittsburgh. He led them to a second place finish in 1997 and finished in third place two years later. Before taking over for Jim Leyland in Pittsburgh, Lamont managed for four seasons with the Chicago White Sox, where he had two first place finishes and a 258-210 record. He was a catcher for parts of five seasons in the majors with the Detroit Tigers from 1970-75 (spent 1973 in the minors), hitting .233 in 87 games. Detroit drafted him in the first round of the 1965 draft out of high school. Lamont also served as a coach with the Pirates for seven seasons, including the 1990-91 pennant winning years, and he has had numerous jobs with many organizations since leaving Pittsburgh.
Rich Renteria, infielder for the 1986 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick by Pittsburgh in the 1980 amateur draft at 18 years old out of South Gate HS in California. He moved up one level each year in the minors until reaching Triple-A in 1984, then spent parts of three seasons there, as well as some time in Mexico, before making his big league debut on September 14, 1986. Renteria went 3-for-12 at the plate for the Pirates in ten games that season, driving in one run. He played just one game in the field, getting a start at third base. After the season, the Pirates traded him to the Seattle Mariners for minor league pitcher Bob Siegel, who never made the majors. Renteria played parts two years with the Mariners (1987-88), before being released following the 1990 season. After spending minor league time with the Detroit Tigers, Montreal Expos, and another trip back to Mexico, he signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins. After playing 53 big league games over his first 13 years in pro ball, Renteria played 103 games for the Marlins in 1993. He hit .255 and spent time at second base and third base. He finished his big league career with 28 games for the Marlins in 1994, playing his final game in the majors right before the league shut down for the strike. Renteria had another stint in Mexico before retiring as a player. He finished with a .237 average and 41 RBIs over 184 career games in the majors. In 2001, he began a career in the minors as a manager, putting in eight years, split between the Marlins and San Diego Padres organizations. In 2014, he managed the Chicago Cubs to a 73-89 record. In 2017, he took over the Chicago White Sox and has been there the last four seasons, putting together a 236-309 record.
Scott Bullett, outfielder for the 1991 and 1993 Pirates. He played 11 games for the Pirates in 1991 and another 23 for the team in 1993, finishing with a .186 average in 59 at-bats. In 1991, he made the jump from A-ball directly to the majors in September. He spent the entire 1992 season in Double-A (he played three games in Triple-A), then rejoined the Pirates in mid-July in 1993. He remained with the team for a total of four weeks, getting sent down on August 12th, then didn’t return in September. Instead, the Pirates sent him to the Arizona Fall League in early October. After leaving Pittsburgh, Bullett played two full seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs, batting .241 over 213 games. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1988. Just before the 1994 season started, the Pirates traded Bullett to the Cubs in exchange for minor league pitcher Travis Willis. He was released by the Cubs in December of 1996, but he was far from finished in his pro career. After spending 1997 in Triple-A for the Baltimore Orioles, he played in China in 1998. That was followed by stints in Mexico and independent ball in 1999, then Mexico again to start 2000. He ended up in the Colorado Rockies system in 2000 and remained there for another 21 games in 2001. He was back in Mexico in 2001, then he spent 2002 in Japan, before playing his final four seasons of pro ball in Mexico. Bullett hit 35 homers in Mexico in 2000, and another 44 during his final two seasons combined.
Earl Kunz, pitcher for the 1923 Pirates. Kunz played all but one season of his pro career in the Pacific Coast League. That season was for the 1923 Pirates. He didn’t pitch particularly well his first three seasons in the minors, going 32-41 with an ERA over 4.00, but he did pitch over 300 innings in 1922, so the Pirates gave him a try for the following season. They were obviously enamored with his possibilities, as they paid a high price to acquire him right before his 24th birthday. On December 13th, the Pirates agreed to send four players and cash to Sacramento for Kunz under the recommendation of scout Bill Hinchman, who called him a “real phenom”. He obviously didn’t live up to those standards. Kunz started two games for the Pirates, one was an early season complete game loss and the other game he failed to retire a batter before he was pulled. They also used him 19 times out of the pen. His last MLB game was on July 30th. On August 11th, he was optioned to Wichita Falls of the Texas League. There was a report that said that he entered his first game for Wichita Falls as a relief pitcher just 26 minutes after he arrived in town by train. The Pirates traded Kunz to Oakland of the PCL on December 12, 1923 as part of a deal to bring in pitcher Ray Kremer, which ended up working out well for the Pirates. Kunz returned to the PCL, where he finished out his pro career in 1930 holding a 109-128 minor league record. He went 1-2, 5.52 in 45.2 innings for the Pirates. His nickname in the PCL was “Pinches”. The cash total sent from the Pirates to Sacramento was originally reported as $7,500, but later sources said they paid $25,000 plus the four players.
Alex Jones, pitcher for the 1889 Alleghenys. He won his only game with Pittsburgh while striking out ten batters when he was just 19 years old. That September 25, 1889 game he pitched against the Washington Nationals was his pro debut. Jones was a local kid who they tried out just for that game. The Nationals had trouble with the 5″9 lefty, but still scored five runs (three earned) in their loss that day. He was called the “Homestead” player, which was a local amateur team. Newspaper reports said that he had excellent control and used an assortment of pitches, including drops (sinkers) and curves. At the plate, he hit a double and drove in a run. He reportedly received a new suit after the game from his former employers (not specified), which was promised to him if he was able to win. On October 3rd, it was announced that he signed a conditional contract for 1890. On October 17, Jones pitched for Homestead against the Alleghenys and lost 14-4. His time with Pittsburgh ended on April 4, 1890 when he was released. Jones next played pro ball for his hometown team in Bradford, Pa during the 1891 season. There is no record of him playing pro ball in 1890. He played in the majors in 1892, splitting his season between the Louisville Colonels and Washington Senators. Despite a 3.42 ERA that season, his record was just 5-14 in 22 games. He played off and on in pro ball until 1907, but his Major League career after 1892 consisted of a complete game win for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1894 and two games for the 1903 Detroit Tigers. He had at least three 20+ win seasons in the minors.
Merry Christmas from us at Pittsburgh Baseball Network.