This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 27th, Six Former Players Born on This Date

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Craig Reynolds, infielder for the 1975-76 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 1971, the 22nd overall pick. He hit .318 that first season the Gulf Coast League, but struggled the following year in A-ball, playing just 41 games, while hitting .240 with no homers. Just one year later he earned a late season promotion to Triple-A after hitting .287 with 13 homers while playing for Salem of the Carolina League. By 1975 he was a full-time shortstop in Triple-A, hitting .308 through 108 games, when he earned a Major League call-up on August 1st. He played 31 games in Pittsburgh that first year, hitting .244 in 76 at-bats. He returned to Triple-A for 1976 and didn’t do as well, but still got a September, getting four plate appearances in seven games.. Following the season the Pirates traded Reynolds to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Grant Jackson. The deal worked out for both teams. By 1978, Reynolds became an All-Star. He hit .292 in 148 games that season, posting a career best 3.7 WAR on offense. The Mariners sold high on him, trading him to the Houston Astros on December 8, 1978 for starting pitcher Floyd Bannister. That trade worked out well for both clubs, with each player making an All-Star appearance with their new teams. Reynolds stayed in Houston through the 1989 season, playing 1,170 games over 11 seasons with the Astros. His best overall season during his career was 1984 when he had 3.1 WAR as the everyday shortstop. Reynolds played a total of 15 seasons in the majors, hitting .256 over 1,491 games, twice making the All-Star team. He was an excellent bunter, three times leading the league in sacrifice hits during his career. He led the NL with 12 triples in 1981.

Bill Bishop, pitcher for Pittsburgh in 1886-87. He made his big league debut with the 1886 Alleghenys, pitching two games. He allowed seven runs in each game, but just six of those runs total were earned. He pitched to a tie in his first game, which was called after nine innings due to darkness. The report from his first game makes you wonder how he actually got more chances. Bishop was said to be extremely wild and very poor with his fielding. The boxscore shows eight walks, five wild pitches and he committed four errors in five chances. His second start came seven days later in New York and he allowed five runs in the first inning. In a game called after eight innings, he managed to hold New York to just two runs over the final seven frames, taking a 7-5 loss. The following season he pitched two games of a three-game series against Detroit early in the year and lost badly in each game, going down 10-3 on May 9th and 18-2 just two days later. Ed Morris was scheduled to pitch both games and there was a big controversy over him not playing, with Pittsburgh President William Nimick calling him a coward for not wanting to pitch against Detroit. As a side note, Detroit would win the NL title in 1887. Morris rejoined the rotation and the Alleghenys didn’t use Bishop again for another five weeks. He lost 18-1 in his next start on June 18th to an Indianapolis team that had a 37-89 record that year. That turned out to be his final game with the Alleghenys.

Just one day before his final game, the Alleghenys turned down an offer from a minor league team in Wheeling to purchase Bishop. All five of his starts with Pittsburgh came in road games. The next day manager Horace Phillips announced to the papers that Bishop was a “failure” and he would be released. Numerous times it was said that he lost all of his nerve during big league games, but looked confident at all other times. He played only two more MLB games, both relief appearances for the 1889 Chicago White Stockings. His pro career ended in the minors in 1891. From 1887 through 1889, he played for a total of eight different teams, plus he had two stints with the same team. After he was released by the Alleghenys, he went nearly a month before settling on his next job, pitching for Lowell  of the New England League. His salary that he requested and received was $200 per month and $100 advanced money. Until recent research confirmed otherwise, Bishop was thought to be five years younger, which at the time made him one of the youngest players in Major League history.

William “Ducky” Hemp, outfielder for the 1890 Alleghenys. On a team that went 23-113, he was one of the few Opening Day roster players who had previous MLB experience and it wasn’t much. Hemp played one Major League game prior to joining the Alleghenys, an 1887 game for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. The game was a late season game and played in St Louis, which is where Ducky was from, so it is likely he was signed just for that day (signed is a technical term, since one-day players rarely signed contracts back then). He went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk in his big league debut. He played the next two seasons in the minors, hitting .253 with 39 extra-base hits and 21 steals for Evansville of the Central Interstate League in 1889, then made the Opening Day roster for the 1890 Alleghenys. He got into 21 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .235 with nine runs scored before being released on June 4th. The team was going on a road trip after going 9-24 to start the season and Hemp was one of two players who didn’t board the train with his teammates to head to Louisville. During Spring Training that year, the Alleghenys played a lot of exhibition games and Hemp was consistently mentioned as one of the best hitters during the spring, so there were some high hopes for his success. He moved on to the American Association to play nine games with Syracuse in August (he batted .152), then he never played in the majors again, ending his pro career after the 1892 season. Hemp played with four different teams over his final two seasons of pro ball. A newspaper article announcing the 1890 Alleghenys listed Hemp as being 5’6 1/2″ and weighing 146 pounds. His age was also reportedly 24 years old, but later research determined that he was three years older.

Jim Dee, shortstop for the 1884 Alleghenys. He was just 19 years old when he made his big league debut on July 30, 1884, and his entire big league career lasted 18 days. Dee hit .125 in 12 games, going 5-for-40 with one walk. He failed to score a run during his career and all five hits were singles. During his first game, he made a “marvelous” catch that was considered the highlight of the game, though the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted that “his bat failed entirely”, which was a sign of things to come. He struck out in every at-bat that first day. His final game was on August 16th and the Alleghenys went 1-11 during his time with the team. After a Sunday off-day on August 17th, Horace Phillips took over the managerial reins and brought three players with him from Saginaw. One of those players was Tom Forster, who took over at shortstop. Dee was immediately released by his new manager, while Forster played in each of the team’s final 35 games. Dee was a Pennsylvania native (born in Safe Harbor), who played for seven minor league teams between the 1887-88 seasons, with six of them being teams in the Keystone State. There are no pro records of him playing in 1885-86 or before he joined the Alleghenys.

Jeff D’Amico, pitcher for the 2003 Pirates. D’Amico debuted in the majors in 1996 at age 20 with the Milwaukee Brewers. That first season he went 6-6, 5.44 in 17 starts. After showing some slight improvements the next year, he was injured for all of 1998 and most of the following season, getting in a total of four minor league starts and one big league in 1999. D’Amico made an incredible return in 2000, finishing third in the league with a 2.66 ERA, while going 12-7 in 162.1 innings. He also made six minor league starts that year, going from a total of 14.1 innings in 1998-99 to 193.2 innings the next season. That was the high point for the 1993 first round draft pick, who was taken 23rd overall by the Brewers out of Northeast HS in Florida. He played four more years, for four different teams and never approached that one-year success. He spent 2001 with the Brewers compiling a 6.08 ERA, then he was traded to the New York Mets in the off-season in a deal that included the Colorado Rockies as well and a total of 11 players moving to new teams. D’Amico went 6-10, 4.94 in 145.2 innings during his only season in New York. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in January of 2003 and he went 9-16, 4.77 in 29 starts, leading the league in losses. He set a career high with 175.1 innings. After the season, he left as a free agent, signing with the Cleveland Indians, where he was done after seven starts and a 7.63 ERA. D’Amico finished with a 45-52, 4.61 career record over eight seasons. During the 2000 season, the Kansas City Royals also had a pitcher named Jeff D’Amico.

Jim Tobin, pitcher for the 1937-39 Pirates. He had been in the minors since 1932, spending the 1933-36 seasons as a member of the New York Yankees organization when the Pirates purchased his contract on April 14, 1937. Tobin spent the previous season playing for Oakland of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 16-8, 4.38 in 230 innings. As a rookie for the 1937 Pirates, he went 6-3, 3.00 in 20 games, eight of them starts, throwing a total of 87 innings. The following year he was put in the starting rotation full-time, where he went 14-12, 3.47, pitching a total of 241 innings, which was the ninth most in the NL that season. He was the team leader in wins and his 14 complete games also led the team. He struggled in 1939, posting a 9-9 record with a 4.52 ERA, making just 19 starts. On December 6, 1939, he was traded to the Boston Bees for pitcher Johnny Lanning. Tobin saw limited use in 1940, but as the league became watered down with players being lost due to war service, he began to see even more playing time. In 1942, he led the league with 287.1 innings pitched and 28 complete games. However, Boston was a cellar dweller at the time and he had a 12-21 record, also leading the league in losses. On May 13, 1942, he tied an MLB record and set an NL record for pitchers by hitting three homers in the same game. He had a terrific 1943 season, posting a 2.66 ERA in 250 innings, while also hitting .280 in 113 plate appearances. Tobin was a workhorse in 1944, making 36 starts and ten relief appearances, while piling up 299.1 innings pitched. He did a great job too, posting a 3.01 ERA. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1945 and he helped them to a World Series title, in what ended up being his final big league season. He finished his career with a 105-112 career record over nine seasons. After his MLB career was over, he returned to the minors for four more seasons. Tobin’s brother Jackie Tobin played for the Red Sox in 1945.