Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a manager and another MLB player of note with Pirates ties.
Danny Ortiz, outfielder for the 2017 Pirates. He was signed as a minor league free agent by the Pirates in November of 2015, just two weeks after reaching free agency. Ortiz was drafted out of high school in Puerto Rico at 17 years old by the Minnesota Twins, who took him in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. He ended up spending the better part of two years in Triple-A for the Pirates.He played in their system until 2015, when he hit 17 homers and drove in 78 runs for Triple-A Rochester. He also played half of the 2014 season in Triple-A, but the Twins never gave him a shot in the majors. Ortiz played the entire 2016 season in Triple-A for the Pirates, matching his 17 homers from the previous year, though he hit just .236 with 25 walks in 130 games. He went to winter ball in Puerto Rico after the season and put up a .340 batting average, which led to him re-signing with the Pirates as a minor league free agent. He went to Spring Training in 2017, but he began the year back in Triple-A. In late April, he was called up to the majors for the first time in his career and lasted just one day before being returned, though he got to make his debut as a defensive replacement in right field in the seventh inning. He came back 17 days later he went 1-for-13 with a walk over eight games, before being optioned back to Triple-A. That has been his only big league experience to this date. He actually spent a total of nine days on the big league roster, getting into a game each day. Ortiz played in Mexico in 2019 and is currently playing winter ball in Puerto Rico for the 11th straight season. He actually played the first half of the 2020-21 winter season in Mexico, which began two months earlier than the league in Puerto Rico. Including winter ball, he has played nearly 1,600 games and he has 182 homers and 835 RBIs.
Mark Redman, pitcher for the 2005 Pirates. Pittsburgh acquired Redman, along with Arthur Rhodes, in November 2004 from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Jason Kendall. He went 11-12, 4.71 for the A’s in 2004, after winning 14 games for the World Series winning Florida Marlins in 2003. Redman started off strong for the Pirates, going 4-4, 2.80 in his first 14 starts, but he went downhill quick after that. He finished with a 5-15 record. The Pirates won just one of his last 16 starts. Following the season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Jonah Bayliss and a minor leaguer (pitcher Chad Blackwell). Redman was an All-Star during the 2006 season in Kansas City, though it was far from a solid performance. He went 11-10, 5.73 in 167 innings. He retired after the 2008 season with a 68-85, 4.85 record over 1,238.2 innings, spending ten seasons in the majors. He was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 41st round out of high school in 1992. Three years later after attending the University of Oklahoma, Redman was a first round pick of the Minnesota Twins, taken 13th overall. It took him four years to make the majors, debuting for the 1999 Twins. After making just five appearances that first year in the majors, he moved into the starting rotation in 2000, where he went 12-9, 4.76 in 151.1 innings. He was traded mid-season to the Detroit Tigers in 2001, spending one full year and two months in the Motor City, where he went 8-17, 4.29 in 212 innings. From Detroit, he went to the Marlins, then the A’s, then the Pirates, to the Royals, then the Atlanta Braves, on to the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, before finishing his career with 1 1/2 seasons for the Colorado Rockies. During that seven-year stretch from 2001-07, he played for ten big league teams (eight at the Major League level). During that 2007 season alone, he played for seven different teams, including his major/minor league time.
Danny Jackson, pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. Jackson went 23-8 for the 1988 Cincinnati Reds team that won the World Series, finishing second in the NL Cy Young voting that year. When the Pirates acquired him from the Chicago Cubs on July 11, 1992 for third baseman Steve Buechele, he had won a total of 17 games since that 1988 season. He went 4-4, 3.36 in 15 starts for the Pirates to finish out the 1992 season. He started game two of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, but was chased from the game in the second inning, giving up four earned runs and taking the loss. Following the season he was taken by the Florida Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft. He pitched in the majors until 1997 finishing with a 112-131, 4.01 record, while throwing 2,072.2 innings. Jackson was originally drafted in the 24th round of the 1980 draft by the Oakland A’s. Just two years later, he was the first overall pick in the January 1982 draft, taken by the Kansas City Royals. Jackson debuted in the majors the following September. He pitched half of a season in 1984, then he was a regular on the 1985 Royals teams that won the World Series. He went 14-12, 3.42 in 208 innings over 32 starts. He started two games in the World Series that year and allowed just three runs over 16 innings. Jackson improved his ERA to 3.20 in 1986, though his record dropped to 11-12. His ERA then dropped in 1987 to 4.02 in 224 innings, and he finished with a 9-18 record. The Royals traded him over the winter to the Reds, where he had his near Cy Young season. That big 1988 season was followed by an ERA that was more than double the previous year, going from 2.73 to 5.60, while making just 20 starts. Jackson did well in two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies after leaving the Pirates, posting a 26-17, 3.57 record in 57 starts. From there he moved to the St Louis Cardinals, where he had an awful time, going 4-15, 5.78 over three seasons. He finished up with a tough time for the San Diego Padres, going 1-7, 7.53 in nine starts and four relief outings.
John Russell, manager of the Pirates from 2008-2010. Russell was a catcher in the majors for ten seasons prior to becoming a manager/coach. He managed in the Minnesota Twins minor league system from 1995 to 2002 before becoming the Pirates third base coach and catching instructor from 2003 to 2005. After two seasons of managing in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system ,the Pirates hired him as their manager for the 2008 season. In three years at the helm he went 186-299 with a high of 67 wins in 2008. He went on to be a coach for the Baltimore Orioles for eight seasons and now coaches at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Roger Samuels, pitcher for the 1989 Pirates. He was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the January 1980 draft. He decided to go back to school, where he was next taken by the Houston Astros in 1983, dropping to the tenth round. Before he could make the majors, the Astros released him prior to the 1987 season. Samuels topped out at Double-A with the Astros, posting a 5.10 ERA in 1986 after being moved to the bullpen. He signed as a minor league free agent with the San Francisco Giants 18 days later and ended up making his MLB debut with them in July of 1988, getting 15 relief appearances. Samuels had a 3.47 ERA in 23.1 innings, with 22 strikeouts during his first big league trial. He began the 1989 season back in the minors, and was still there when the Pirates acquired him in a deal for veteran third baseman Ken Oberkfell on May 10th. Samuels reported to Triple-A Buffalo before he was called up by the Pirates on May 29th. He struggled in five relief appearances (9.82 ERA in 3.2 IP) before they returned him to the minors on June 11th. He pitched until 1990, finishing his career in the New York Mets organization after being released by the Pirates on April 29, 1990. The Oberkfell for Samuels deal was a very controversial one because fans/media believed that the Pirates dumped a valuable player for a player who was unlikely to help. While that was true about Samuels, Oberkfell was a highly paid bench player, whose best days were behind him. He was a singles-hitting third baseman, who had 22.4 WAR in his first ten seasons (he played 33 games total in his first two years). In his final six seasons in the majors, he had 0.0 WAR.
Bill Laxton didn’t play for the Pirates, but he has an interesting footnote in their history. He was signed by the Pirates as a seventh round draft pick in 1966, then a year later he was involved in a big trade. He pitched for the Pirates rookie league team in Salem in 1966, then for their A-ball team in Clinton, Iowa in 1967, going a combined 5-15, 3.71 in 30 games. In December of 1967 he was one of four players traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. Laxton pitched parts of five seasons in the majors going 3-10, 4.73 in 121 games. His son Brett Laxton pitched for the 1999 Oakland A’s and 2000 Kansas City Royals.
Bob Oldis, catcher for the 1960-61 Pirates. Oldis had previously played only 24 Major League games over three seasons (1953-55 with the Washington Senators) when the Pirates took him in the 1959 Rule 5 draft from the New York Yankees. He spent the 1959 season playing for Denver of the American Association, where he batted .294 in 135 games. It was the second time that he hit .294 in a season with Denver, though it didn’t happen in consecutive seasons (first time was 1957). Oldis was already 32 years old at the time he joined the Pirates. He was used very little throughout the 1960 season in Pittsburgh, making three starts all year, while playing a total of just 22 games. He went 4-for-20 at the plate, with a double, an RBI and a walk. He was used twice off the bench in the World Series without getting an at-bat. He started the following season on the Pirates roster, but spent most of the year in the minors. He went 0-for-5 in four games for the 1961 Pirates, playing twice in April, once in May and once in June. Shortly after the season ended, the Pirates sold him to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he played 85 games over the next two seasons before retiring as a player. Oldis was a .237 hitter in 135 big league games, with one homer and 22 RBIs. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent in 1949 by the Senators. He was scouted at a baseball camp at 21 years old and signed without getting a bonus. He spent his first four years of pro ball in the minors before making his MLB debut early in the 1953 season. In 1954, he spent the entire season in the majors, yet he played just 11 games, serving as the third-string catcher. Oldis spent six games in the majors in 1955, then played four full seasons in the majors before his Pirates debut. The Yankees acquired his after the 1956 season, though he never saw big league time with them over his three years. After his final season in the majors, he became a coach for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was actually a player-coach in September of 1964, but he never got into a game. He continued to coach for a few more years, then took up scouting, which he did for over 30 years. Oldis earned a World Series ring with the 2003 Florida Marlins. He turns 93 years old today.
Jack Salveson, pitcher for the 1935 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him in December of 1934 from the New York Giants for pitcher Leon Chagnon. Salveson was just shy of his 21st birthday and had already pitched parts of two seasons in the majors at the time of the trade. He debuted in the majors in early June of 1933 with the Giants, just over a year after his debut in pro ball at 18 years old. Salveson went 0-2, 3.82 in two starts and six relief appearances with the 1933 Giants. In 1934, he started and finished the season in the majors, while spending approximately two months from May-July in the minors. Salveson made four starts and eight relief appearances, posting a 3.52 ERA in 38.1 innings with New York. He pitched just five games for the 1935 Pirates, posting a 9.00 ERA in seven relief innings, before they decided to trade him on June 9, 1935 to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a young outfielder named Bud Hafey, who was a cousin of Hall of Fame outfielder Chick Hafey. Salveson finished the 1935 season with the White Sox, then returned to the minors for seven seasons before he played in the majors again in 1943 and 1945 for the Cleveland Indians, when player losses to the war effort offered older players a chance to get back in the majors. However, he actually quit baseball for the 1944 season to work a wartime job, before returning to the Indians in 1945. He won just nine Major League games over five seasons, but was able to pick up 224 minor league wins before he retired in 1953 after 21 seasons in pro ball. Salveson won 21 games for Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League in 1936 and he won a career best 24 games for Oakland of the PCL in 1942.
Gene Madden, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on April 20, 1916. Madden played one game in his big league career and he was lucky to get that game. He played for Galveston of the Texas League for a fourth straight season in 1915 and batted .312 in 134 games. He was a speedy player, who played third base and outfield that season, while also seeing significant time at second base during his career. The Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft on September 15, 1915. Owner Barney Dreyfuss had a habit then of not announcing drafted players until they signed their contracts and Madden was the first player from that group to be announced, inking his 1916 contract on September 19th. It was mentioned by Dreyfuss at the time that he has been scouting Madden for the last three seasons before securing him. Madden made the 1916 Pirates Opening Day roster, but didn’t get into action through seven games. The Pirates were planning on releasing him to Syracuse of the New York State League after play on April 20th and he wasn’t in the starting lineup. When the starting pitcher Al Mamaux got knocked around early, Madden was sent in to hit for him in the second inning. He grounded out to second base. After the game, he was assigned to Syracuse of the New York State League and was never recalled. The local press said that they expected Madden to rejoin the team in the fall, but he batted .232 that season in 133 games with Syracuse. The Pirates sold his contract to Birmingham of the Southern Association on September 13, 1916. He returned to Syracuse for the 1917 season and hit .232 again. Madden had a long career in the minors and also served in the military during WWI. He began playing in 1908 and retired from pro ball after the 1921 season. (Editor’s note: His birth date has been updated recently to June 5th, so in future articles he will be listed under that date)
Newt Hunter, first baseman for the 1911 Pirates. He had been playing minor league ball since 1903 when the Pirates traded three players for him on August 20, 1910. The trade was made with the minor league team he was playing for at the time, the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. There was quite the bidding war for Hunter’s services, with the local papers noting that the Pirates were the front runners and said to be offering as many as six players for his services. Some papers reported that all 16 Major League teams made offers. Other teams were making cash offers, but Kansas City’s owner wanted players and he wanted to make a deal before the Rule 5 draft on September 1st, where there was a slim chance that he could end up getting just $1,000 for Hunter. . It’s interesting to note that the report on him said that he was about 22 years old at the time. Hunter was actually 30 years old. In addition to hitting well at the time, he was also noted as a fast runner and a brilliant defender. His batting average a few days prior to the trade was .331, yet he finished the year with a .295 mark.
He played 65 games total for the 1911 Pirates, 61 at first base, splitting time there with two future Hall of Famers, Honus Wagner and Bill McKechnie. Hunter hit .254 with 35 runs scored and 24 RBIs in what ended up being his only big league season. While his contributions to the Pirates were minimal, all three players sent to Kansas City in the trade ended up being career minor leaguers, so it worked out well in that sense. Hunter was sold outright to Indianapolis of the American Association on September 7, 1911, ending his time with the Pirates. He finished the season with 20 games in Indianapolis, then he played regularly in the minors until 1918, briefly making another appearance on the field in 1924 for six games. After his playing career ended he coached and scouted for many years. While not all of his minor league stats are known, Hunter played over 1,500 minor league games during his 17 seasons. During his time in Pittsburgh and most years in the minors, he was known by his first name (Fred).