This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 14th, Billy Meyer and Steve Cooke

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date as well as a manager who never played for the team, but he did go on to have his jersey retired by the Pirates.

Dovydas Neverauskas, pitcher for the 2017-20 Pirates. The Pirates signed him at 16 years old out of Lithuania for $150,000 in 2009. He worked his way slowly through the minors as a starting pitcher with mediocre results, before he was moved to the bullpen, where he added velocity. On April 24, 2017, Neverauskas became the first player in Major League history who was born on Lithuania. It was just days before Gift Ngoepe became the first player born in Africa to make the majors. Both players would have likely made their debuts in the previous September, but a fight at a bar resulted in their arrests and a team suspension just days before the Triple-A season ended. Neverauskas had a 3.91 ERA in 25.1 innings over 24 appearances during his rookie season. He made just one appearance during his first call-up to the majors, returned for two games in early June, then got called up in early August and stayed with the team for the final two months. Despite solid rookie results, he wasn’t able to stick with the Pirates for a full season until the shortened 2020 campaign. He made 25 appearances in 2018, which resulted in an 8.00 ERA in 27 innings. Things went even worse in the majors in 2019, with a 10.13 ERA in 9.1 innings over ten outings. During the 2020 season, Neverauskas made 17 appearances and had a 7.11 ERA. He pitched just once over the final two weeks of the season, then got released in early November so he could sign to play in Japan for 2021. His big league numbers currently sit at a 6.81 ERA in 80.2 innings over 76 appearances. He picked up his only career win in his sixth appearance.

Steve Cooke, pitcher for the 1992-97 Pirates. He was a 35th round draft pick by the Pirates in 1989 out of the College of Southern Idaho, but he didn’t sign until right before the deadline in 1990, back when teams could draft and follow players. Despite the late round pick, it took him just over two seasons to work his way up from low-A ball to the majors, where he made his debut in late July 1992. Cooke debuted in short-season ball in 1990 and had a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts. He made 22 starts over three levels in 1991, topping out at Double-A. His combined record that season was 9-7, 2.78 in 129.1 innings, with 103 strikeouts. He split the first half of 1992 between Double-A/Triple-A, combining to go 8-5, 3.51 in 110.1 innings over 19 starts. He went 2-0, 3.52 in 11 games for the first place Pirates, all as a reliever, earning a job for the 1993 season. As a starter that first full year in the majors, he went 10-10, 3.89 in 32 games, pitching 210.2 innings with 132 strikeouts. He struggled during the strike-shortened 1994 season, going 4-11, 5.02, then missed the entire 1995 seasons and half of 1996 due to shoulder surgery. Recovered and back in the rotation for 1997 he made 32 starts for the Freak Show squad, going 9-15, 4.30 in 167.1 innings. Cooke was released in mid-December and he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. He made one start, throwing six innings with one run allowed on April 2nd, then missed the rest of the season with elbow problems. Cooke made two rehab starts that went extremely bad, allowing seven runs in a total of 1.2 innings. He pitched until 2000 in the minors, first for the San Diego Padres in 1999, then the rest of the 1999 season and 2000 for Zion of the independent Western League. While with the Padres in Triple-A, he made five relief appearances and allowed ten runs over three innings, while posting a 12:0 BB/SO ratio. Cooke was originally drafted out of high school in 1988 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 53rd round.

Joe Redfield, third baseman for the 1991 Pirates. He was drafted by the New York Mets in 1982, taken in the ninth round out of the University of California. Redfield was with the Mets until 1986, making it briefly to Triple-A, before getting traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He spent less than a year with the Orioles in Double-A, before they shipped him to the California Angels. In 1987 with Midland of the Texas League (Double-A), he hit .321 with 30 homers and 108 RBIs. He made his Major League debut on June 4, 1988 with the Angels when they were down multiple players due to injuries. He played just one game over nine days with the team, going 0-for-2 before leaving for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. He saw a total of two pitches, hitting fly balls on the first pitch of each at-bat. Redfield was returned to the minors on June 10th. He ended up hitting just three homers during the entire 1988 season, but he received praise for his improved defense at third base, going two full months before he committed his first error. After spending the next two full seasons in the minors, playing for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989 and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1990, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 1990. They called him up to the majors on June 13, 1991 when Jeff King went on the disabled list. In 11 games (five starts) for the Pirates, Redfield hit .111 with four walks. He returned to Triple-A on July 16th, remaining there for the rest of the season. When Redfield was sent down, John Wehner was called to the majors for the first time in his career. The Pirates re-signed Redfield for the 1992 season, which was his last year in pro ball. That year he batted .224 as a part-time player for Triple-A Buffalo. He played for six organizations in his 11-year career, hitting .267 with 111 homers and 167 stolen bases.

Terry Forster, relief pitcher for the 1977 Pirates. Forster played six seasons for the Chicago White Sox before they traded him in December of 1976, along with Goose Gossage, to the Pirates in exchange for Richie Zisk and Silvio Martinez. Forster was a second round draft pick in 1970 out of high school, who made it to the majors at 19 years old, just ten months after being drafted. He had a 3.99 ERA in 49.2 innings over 45 appearances in 1971. In 1972, he improved to a 2.25 ERA in 62 games and 100 innings. He was also thrown into the closer role, picking up a career high 29 saves. Forster was used a lot in 1973, making 12 starts and 39 relief appearances. He pitched a total of 172.2 innings, going 6-11, with a 3.23 ERA and 16 saves. He led the American League with 24 saves in 1974, while going 7-8, 3.62 in 134.1 innings. An arm injury limited him to 37 innings in 1975, then he followed that up with a rough 1976 season, going 2-12, 4.37 in 111.1 innings. After joining the Pirates, Forster went 6-4, 4.43 in 33 games (six starts) during his only season in Pittsburgh. He was granted free agency after the season and signed a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Injuries limited him to 150 relief appearances over his five seasons in Los Angeles, with only two healthy seasons during that time. He had a 1.93 ERA and 22 saves in 1978. Forster pitched in the majors until 1986, playing for the 1983-85 Atlanta Braves and 1986 California Angels, then finished his pro career in the minors the following year. In 16 big league seasons, he went 54-65, 3.23 in 1,105.2 innings over 614 career games (39 starts), with 127 career saves. Forster was a .397 hitter in 86 career plate appearances. He went 9-for-26 at the plate with the Pirates.

Hank Gornicki, pitcher for the Pirates from 1942-43 and 1946. He made his pro debut in 1936, but didn’t make his big league debut until age 30, pitching a total of five games between stops with the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in 1941. He was taken by the Pirates off of waivers in December of 1941 and made their Opening Day roster in 1942. He went 5-6, 2.57 in 25 games that year, 14 as a starter, pitching a total of 112 innings. The next year he went 9-13, 3.98 in 42 games, 18 as a starter. He then served in WWII for two full years before returning to baseball during the 1946 season. In seven games for the Pirates that year, he posted a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings. He began the season with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, before they returned him to the Pirates on May 19th after just two appearances. He didn’t pitch for the Pirates until June 17th, and he threw a total of just four innings before rosters expanded in September. Gornicki finished his career in the minors in 1947, playing at the low level Blue State League, making seven starts for the Gainesville Owls. He was sick during Spring Training in 1947 and became the first cut of the Pirates when he was sold outright to Indianapolis on March 10th. Gornicki played his first pro game at 25 years old, playing at the lowest level (D-Ball) for Daytona Beach of the Florida State League. He had a strong debut though, going 16-9, 2.77 in 234 innings. He played with three different affiliates for the Cardinals in 1937, winning 14 games, while throwing 214 innings. With Asheville of the Piedmont League in 1938, he went 17-13, 2.57 in 308 innings. He had a 9-0 record for Asheville in 1939, while also pitching for Rochester of the International League, where he had a 5.16 ERA in 61 innings. Gornicki was back in Rochester for 1940 and he won 19 games, while posting a 3.21 ERA in 244 innings. His big league time in 1941 was limited to four games during the first month of the schedule with the Cardinals, then one September game with the Cubs. In between, he pitched for Rochester again, where he went 12-9, 2.83 in 181 innings.

Billy Meyer, manager for the Pirates from 1948 until 1952. He was a catcher in the majors for three seasons between 1913 and 1917, but spent the majority of his playing days in the minors where he played from 1910 until 1928. Meyer saw one game for the 1913 Chicago White Sox and 112 games for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics during the 1916-17 seasons. He then played the next 11 seasons for Louisville of the American Association before retiring from playing. He put in over 1,400 minor league games in 17 seasons. He began as a player-manager in 1925 and would go on to manage for 20 seasons before the Pirates gave him his first Major League managerial job in 1948. Meyer spent the prior 16 seasons managing affiliates of the New York Yankees. He won the International League title with the Newark Bears in 1945, then managed Kansas City to the best record in the American Association in 1947. He took over a Pittsburgh club that went 62-92 in 1947 and led them to a 21-game turnaround the following year. That resulted in a fourth place finish, just 8.5 games back in the standings. The turnaround was short-lived and the Pirates were much worse by the end of his tenure, going just 42-112 in 1952, his last season at the helm. They dropped below .500 in 1949, then lost 96 games in 1950 and 90 games in 1951. Despite the poor results, he was a very popular manager, especially with the media. He became a scout for the Pirates until a stroke in 1955 left him unable to return to baseball. The Pirates retired his #1 uniform number in 1954. He finished with a 317-452 record in the majors as a manager, all spent with the Pirates.

John Shovlin, infielder for the Pirates in 1911. He started his minor league career in 1910, playing for a team in Erie, Pa., before the Pirates bought his contract in June 1911. Shovlin hit .288 with 20 stolen bases in 49 games for Erie in 1911. One June 15th, the Pirates paid Erie $2,500 for his contract and had him report days later to Pittsburgh, joining the club at Forbes Field for a game against Brooklyn on the 19th.The Pirates had three infielders unavailable that day, making Shovlin the only backup infielder. He lasted just two games in the majors that year, one as a pinch-hitter and one as a pinch-runner, before the Pirates sent him back to the minors. He struck out in his only at-bat with Pittsburgh, batting for the pitcher in the eighth inning of a 14-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 21st. His pinch-running appearance came five days later. When the Pirates went on a short road trip after their home game on June 28th, Shovelin was left behind to train at Forbes Field with five other players. After not playing in three home games on July 4-5, he was again left behind when the team went on a 17-day eastern road trip. On July 24th, Shovlin was told to join the Pirates for an exhibition game against his former Erie teammates. He started at shortstop that day, with Honus Wagner moving to first base. After the game, the Pirates sent him to Waterbury of the Connecticut State League for $1,000, though they held an option to recall him by August 20th. After the season, he was then sent to Indianapolis, who sent him to Springfield, who then turned him over to Newark of the Ohio State League, all prior to the 1912 season. It took eight years in the minors, playing for six different teams at four different levels, before he got another chance in the majors with the St Louis Browns. He played 16 games in St Louis between the 1919-20 seasons. He didn’t play any pro ball again until the 1928 season when he returned to play for a team in Binghamton, NY for four more seasons. During that time away from pro ball, he was playing in outlaw leagues, which earned him a spot on MLB’s ineligible list. His big league career actually ended when he made the jump mid-season to an outlaw team. Shovlin was born in the small Pennsylvania town of Drifton, where he played for an amateur team for two years before beginning his pro career. His name showed up in the local Pittsburgh papers as “Shovelin” during his short time with the team.

Art Madison, infielder for the 1899 Pirates. He was one of the four players sent to the Louisville Colonels in the 16-player Honus Wagner trade (it was originally reported as 19 players) following the 1899 season. Madison made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1895, at the end of his first season in pro ball at 24 years old. In 11 September games with the Phillies, he hit .353 with eight RBIs and four stolen bases. Despite the brief success, he spent the next three full seasons in the minors. He was with Lancaster of the Atlantic League during the 1897-98 seasons. The Pirates picked him up without seeing him. Owner William Kerr said that he remembered Madison from his Philadelphia days and he was following him all season, then noticed his stats dropped off significantly late in the season. When asked about it, Kerr was told by an opposing manager (from the Atlantic League) that Madison’s wife died in August and he was no good as a player after that happened. He signed with the Pirates on October 11, 1898 and joined the club in March to get ready for the 1899 season. In 42 games that year, he hit .271 with 19 RBIs, playing 19 games at second base and 15 at shortstop. He played his final game of the season on August 22nd. He came down with malaria and was hospitalized with a week of that last game. Madison was involved in the Wagner trade in December of 1899, going to Louisville in the deal. The Louisville team folded shortly after the deal and in March his contract was returned to the Pirates. Just six days later the Pirates sold him to Indianapolis of the American League, which was still considered to be a minor league at the time. He played six more seasons in the minors before ending his playing career after hitting .140 in 25 games for the 1906 Utica Pent-Ups.

John Newell, third baseman for the 1891 Pirates. He started his pro career in the minors in 1889, playing for four different teams before the Pirates bought his contract from Portland of the New England League on July 20, 1891. He made his Major League debut on July 22nd, then ten days later he played his last Major League game. When he joined the club, regular third baseman Charlie Reilly moved out to left field. The next day Reilly was back at third base and Newell didn’t play again until the 27th, with Reilly now in center field. Newell got praise for his play at third base on the 28th, then the next day he made a play on a hard grounder down the line that was the defensive highlight of the day. Unfortunately for Newell, he also made a wild throw that resulted in a costly error that cost the Pirates four runs. At the same time, Reilly made a bad play in the outfield that was also costly. The local newspaper said that Newell looked like a ballplayer and could handle himself in the field, though he made a lot of high throws. In five games for the Pirates he hit .111 with two RBIs and made two errors in 13 total chances. On August 20th, he was released and returned to the minors. The local papers noted that he still had rough edges and needed another season in the minors before he’d be ready for the big leagues. He did not play during his final 19 days with the Pirates, with the ax falling after he was left home while the team went on a road trip. Newell bounced around the minors for seven more seasons including the 1896 season in which he hit .413 with 74 stolen bases for his hometown team, Wilmington of the Atlantic League. He was nearly as good the previous season, hitting .360 with 50 steals for Indianapolis of the Western League. He and Joe Redfield (mentioned above) played third base for the Pirates 100 years apart and they each went 2-for-18 at the plate while with the team.