One event and seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one with an extremely significant event in team history.
On this date in 1988, Willie Stargell was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. He was named on 352 of the 427 ballots, while a total of least 321 (75%) votes were necessary for election. Stargell was the only player voted in that year, but five others on the ballot eventually got in, one of them being Bill Mazeroski, who finished seventh with 33.5% of the votes. Stargell played 21 seasons in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, the only team he played for during his career. He was a .282 career hitter with 475 homers and 1,540 RBIs. In Pirates history he ranks third in games played, fifth in runs, seventh in hits, fourth in doubles and first in RBIs, homers and walks.
Bill Madlock, third baseman for the 1979-85 Pirates. He was a four-time National League batting champ, winning two of those titles before joining the Pirates. He would win his third batting title with a .341 mark in 1981 and then pick up his fourth title when he had a .323 average two years later. Madlock was a .305 hitter in 1,806 games over his 15-year career, with 163 homers and 174 steals. He batted .375 with five walks during the 1979 World Series. He is the only Hall of Fame eligible player with four batting titles who isn’t in the Hall. Madlock turns 70 today.
Madlock was originally drafted in the 11th round of the 1969 draft by the St Louis Cardinals out of high school at 18 years old. He wouldn’t sign until the next season when the Washington Senators took him in the fifth round of the January draft. Madlock remained with the franchise through their move to Texas, before the Rangers traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 1973 as part of a package to acquire Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins. During that 1973 season, Madlock debuted with the Rangers and he hit .351 in 21 games. For the Cubs in 1974, he batted .313 in 128 games, earning him a third place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. That was followed up by back-to-back batting titles. Madlock hit .354 in 130 games in 1975 and made his first All-Star appearance. He finished 12th in the NL MVP voting. He hit .339 in 1976 and finished sixth in MVP voting, though he didn’t make the All-Star team. Madlock had 36 doubles, 15 homers and 84 RBIs, all career best marks up to that point.
Madlock was traded to the San Francisco Giants prior to the 1977 season. He saw his batting average drop each year, though he still topped the .300 mark each season, batting .302 in 1977 and .309 in 1978. He was batting just .261 when he was acquired by the Pirates in a six-player deal on June 28, 1979. Madlock immediately hit with the Pirates, finishing the rest of the season with a .328 average, 44 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 85 games. He had a bit of a rough go during the 1980 season with a .277 average and a .739 OPS, but he bounced back with his third batting title in 1981. On top of his .341 average, he had a .907 OPS, he made his second All-Star appearance and got some mild MVP support. He would get MVP during each of the 1981-83 seasons, finishing as high as eighth in the voting. He also made his third All-Star appearance during the 1983 season. Madlock slumped badly in 1984 with a .620 OPS in 103 games. He wasn’t doing any better in 1985 when the Pirates decided to trade him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RJ Reynolds, Sid Bream and Cecil Espy. Madlock flipped a switch with his new team, reminiscent of his time with the Pirates. In 34 games with the 1985 Dodgers, he put up a .360 average, then he batted .333 during the six-game playoff loss to the St Louis Cardinals.
Madlock had a solid season with the 1986 Dodgers, then started off 1987 poorly and he was released. He finished the year with the Detroit Tigers, then retired after the season. He reached the 2,000 hit mark late in his time with the Tigers. In 801 games in Pittsburgh, he hit .297 with 68 homers, 390 RBIs and 392 runs. He had 82 steals and more walks (275) than strikeouts (206).
Ivan Nova, pitcher for the 2016-18 Pirates. In 2 1/2 seasons with the Pirates, he went 25-25, 3.99 in 71 starts. He threw five complete games and one shutout, compiling 412.2 innings, He was acquired from the New York Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline for Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley. He went 5-2, 3.06 in 11 starts for the Pirates in 2016, then became a free agent after the season. Before the calendar flipped to 2017, the Pirates re-signed Nova to a three-year deal. He went 11-14, 4.14 in 187 innings during the 2017 season. That was followed up by a 9-9, 4.19 record in 161 innings over 29 starts. The Pirates traded Nova to the Chicago White Sox during the 2018-19 off-season for minor league pitcher Yoldi Rosario. He went 11-12, 4.72 in 187 innings over 34 starts during his only season in Chicago. He led the American League in both starts and hit allowed (225). Nova signed with the Detroit Tigers for the 2020 season and had four rough starts, going 1-1, 8.53 in 19 innings. He became a free agent after the season. He has an 90-76, 4.38 record in 227 starts and 13 relief appearances over 11 seasons in the majors. Nova was originally signed at 17 years old by the Yankees as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. They briefly lost him in 2008-09 in the Rule 5 draft to the San Diego Padres, but he was returned before making his big league debut. That first game came in 2010, when he pitched a total of 42 innings for the Yankees. He then moved into their rotation in 2011 and remained there until his trade to the Pirates. His best season according to WAR was 2013 when he went 9-6, 3.10 in 139.1 innings. Nova has thrown a total of three shutouts in his career, with two coming in 2013 and one while he was with the Pirates on May 29, 2017 against the Miami Marlins.
Rich Loiselle, relief pitcher who spent his entire big league career with the Pirates, playing for the team from 1996 until 2001. He was a 38th round draft pick in 1991 by the San Diego Padres at 19 years old, coming out of Odessa College in Texas. He remained with the Padres through the middle of 1995, when he was traded to the Houston Astros. He spent a year and four days in their organization before the Pirates picked him up in a trade on July 23, 1996 in exchange for veteran pitcher Danny Darwin. Loiselle was strictly a starter as he was coming up through the minors. He made his MLB debut that September, and in five games he had a 3.05 ERA in 20.2 innings. He made his only three big league starts that season. He moved to the bullpen for good the following season and became the Pirates closer by May, saving 29 games while posting a 3.10 ERA in 72 outings. He had another 19 saves in 1998 with a 3.44 ERA in 55 innings and 54 appearances, but his stats dropped off in the second half and he was removed from the closer role. He pitched 13 games in 1999 before injuring his elbow in a game on May 7th, which cost him the rest of the season. At the time he had a 5.28 ERA in 15.1 innings. Loiselle returned to the Pirates in late May of 2000 and posted a 5.10 ERA in 42.1 innings over 40 games. He struggled again in 2001, and began shuttling between Nashville (Triple-A) and Pittsburgh, finishing with an 11.50 ERA in 18 Major League games. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the St Louis Cardinals, though he was released during Spring Training of 2002. He signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2003, but never appeared in a game for them at any level. His final game with the Pirates on October 6, 2001 was also his final game as a pro. Loiselle had a career 4.38 ERA in 224 innings, while going 9-18 with 49 saves.
Bobby Crosby, infielder for the 2010 Pirates. Crosby played half of a season for the Pirates before being dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a five-player deal. He was signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh in November of 2009 and hit .224 with 11 RBIs in 61 games. He got starts at all four infield spots, seeing his most time at shortstop. Crosby was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2004 and spent seven seasons in Oakland before joining the Pirates. He was a first round draft pick out of Cal State in 2001, taken 25th overall by the A’s. He was originally drafted in the 34th round out of high school three years earlier by the Los Angeles Angels, but chose the college route and it paid off. Crosby played just 11 games in the minors during his signing year, then finished the 2002 season in Double-A. He hit .309 with 22 homers and 24 stolen bases in Triple-A in 2003, which resulted in a September call-up to the A’s. He played 11 games and failed to get a hit in 12 at-bats during his first big league trial. That poor start was not a sign of things to come. Crosby hit just .239 as a rookie, but he won the Rookie of the Years thanks to 34 doubles, 22 homers, 70 runs scored and above average defense. He did better the next season at the plate, but it also marked a stretch of him being unable to play a full season. From 2005 until 2007, he topped out at 96 games played in a season. Crosby had an .802 OPS in 2005, but it dropped to .636 in 2006 and then down to .619 in 2007. He finally played a full season in 2008, though the hitting stats didn’t recover. After batting .223 with six homers in 97 games in 2009, the A’s let him go via free agency. Crosby finished his big league career with Arizona in 2010, but he attempted a comeback in 2013 with the Milwaukee Brewers, which ended with him being released during Spring Training. In his career, he hit .236/.304/.372 in 747 games, with 62 homers and 34 steals.
Ed Stevens, first baseman for the 1948-50 Pirates. Known as “Big Ed”, he signed his first pro contract with the Dodgers in 1941 when he was 16 years old, and he hit .271 with 13 homers that season in Class D ball (lowest level at the time). He remained in Class D ball in 1942 and had a huge season, batting .330 with 56 extra-base hits in 110 games. He managed to avoid service during WWII, but an injury cost him the entire 1943 season. He was skipped to Montreal of the International League when he returned in 1944, which was a huge jump at the time. He did well, batting .271 with 16 homers, 102 RBIs and 80 walks in 153 games. Stevens repeated the level to start, but he got promoted to the majors in July. He made the majors by age 20 and hit .274 with 32 walks and 29 RBIs in 55 games as a rookie. Stevens played 103 games in 1946, hitting .242 with ten homers and 60 RBIs. When all of the talent returning from the war effort, he spent nearly the entire 1947 season in the minors where he hit .290 with 27 homers and 108 RBIs. He played just five games all year for the Dodgers. The Pirates purchased his contract in November 1947 and he would play 128 games for them the next season, hitting .254 with 69 RBIs, while leading all NL first baseman in fielding percentage. Stevens was with the Pirates all year in 1949, though he played just 67 games. He hit .262 with four homers and 32 RBIs. He then spent most of the following year in the minors, getting a brief September call-up, which would end up being his last appearance in the majors. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates, but he was optioned to Indianapolis on March 21st, officially ending his time with the club. He played minor league ball until 1961, hitting over 250 homers during his 16-year career. Stevens batted .253 with 14 homers and 104 RBIs in 212 games with the Pirates. He hit .252 in 163 games with the Dodgers and finished with a .252 career average. He became a full-time scout after his playing career ended.
Tom Kinslow, catcher for the 1895 Pirates. Kinslow had played in the majors as early as 1886, but he got his first real chance in 1890 when the Player’s League was formed. When the league folded after one season, he followed his manager (Hall of Famer John Ward) from the PL to the National League, staying in the same city to play for the Brooklyn Grooms. In 1892, Kinslow hit .305 with 40 RBIs in 66 games. After a down year at the plate, he returned to form in 1894 to put up very similar numbers to 1892. It was a huge year for offense in baseball, but it was still a nice bounce back because that offensive explosion started in 1893, when he was only able to put up a .605 OPS. In 62 games in 1894, he hit .305 with 41 RBIs. Those games played totals appear to be small, but many catchers during that era only worked with certain pitchers, which in turn gave them a chance to rest from the grueling work behind the plate in the 1890s, when the equipment paled in comparison to what is in use today. The best athletes/hitters among catchers back then usually saw work at other positions often to keep them in the lineup. In January of 1895 the Pirates traded pitcher Ad Gumbert for Kinslow. The trade didn’t work out well for either team. Gumbert had two losing seasons in Brooklyn and Kinslow lasted just 19 games in Pittsburgh, in which he hit .226 in 62 at-bats. On June 28, 1895, he was released unconditionally, which was odd for the time because most teams would release a player on ten days notice, then get some type of return for the player, even if it was a sale to a minor league team. Kinslow played two more seasons in the majors (1896 and 1898), seeing a combined 25 games for three different teams. His big league career started with him playing five games total over the 1886-87 seasons for two different teams. In ten seasons, he played for eight teams total in three different Major Leagues. He was a .266 hitter in 380 games, with 222 RBIs. He had two seasons in which he collected more triples than doubles.
Ed Swartwood, outfielder/first baseman for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and 1892 Pirates. He played Independent ball from 1878 until 1881, when purely by chance he got to play an MLB game with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League. Swartwood’s team played an exhibition game against Buffalo on an off-day, but after the game two Bisons players had to leave the team for personal reasons. Buffalo picked him up for the day and he went 1-for-3 with a walk. He rejoined his minor league team after the game. The American Association was formed for the 1882 season as a rival Major League to the NL. Swartwood signed with Pittsburgh and he would hit .329 that first year with 86 runs scored and 18 doubles, leading the AA in each of those last two stats during the league’s inaugural 80-game schedule. He’s best known now as being the first batter in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history, batting lead-off on Opening Day. The AA schedule expanded to 98 games the following year and Swartwood would lead the league with 147 hits, an .869 OPS and a .357 average, winning the first batting title in franchise history.
After hitting .288 in 1884, the Alleghenys sold him to the Brooklyn Grays. The move was made necessary by the fact that Swartwood had said he was going to sign with an NL team, so Pittsburgh was forced to sell or trade him or risk losing him for nothing. Despite the fact that Brooklyn was an American Association team, Swartwood played for the Grays for three seasons. He never quite approaching his 1882-83 numbers, hitting .268 in 312 games over those three seasons. His best season was 1886 when he led the league with 70 walks, and he scored 95 runs. He then played two seasons in the minors, reappearing in the majors in 1890, playing in the American Association when the league’s talent was watered down due to a third Major League in existence, the Player’s League. Despite hitting .327 with 80 walks and 106 runs scored in 1890, he was back in the minors for 1891 after the PL folded. Swartwood started the 1892 season with the Pirates and hit .238 in 13 games with 13 walks before they released him. He went back to the minors and played there until the end of the 1893 season. He umpired off and on in the minors for the next ten years before retiring from baseball. He was a .322 hitters in 286 games with the Alleghenys/Pirates. In 725 big league games, he finished with a .300 average and he scored 608 runs.