Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one who holds a major team record.
Brian Giles, outfielder for the 1999-2003 Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a 17th round draft pick out of high school in California by the Cleveland Indians in 1989, who didn’t make his Major League debut until six years later. Giles hit just eight home runs over his first four seasons in the minors combined. He connected on eight homers in 1993, then reached double digits in each of the next three seasons, topping out with 20 in 1996. He went 5-for-9 in six games during his late season debut in 1995, then batted .355 in 51 games for the Indians in 1996, getting called up to the majors right after the All-Star break. He played four seasons in Cleveland, hitting .284 with 39 homers in 299 games, before they traded him to the Pirates on November 18, 1998 in exchange for pitcher Ricardo Rincon. Giles immediately became a star for the Pirates, hitting ,315 with 95 walks, 39 homers, 115 RBIs and 109 runs scored in his first season. He followed that up with his first All-Star season in 2000, hitting .315 again, while breaking the century mark in walks (114) RBIs (123) and runs scored (111). His RBI total that season is tied for the seventh highest single season total in franchise history.
In 2001 Giles made his second All-Star team, hitting .309 with 37 homers and a career high 116 runs scored. In 2002 he hit 38 homers, batted .298 and walked 135 times, falling just short of Ralph Kiner‘s team record of 137 walks set in 1951. During the 2003 trading deadline, the Pirates traded Giles to the San Diego Padres for Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and Corey Stewart. After the trade, Giles played 6 1/2 seasons with the Padres. He never approached his three biggest seasons in Pittsburgh, but that was partially due to the pitcher-friendly ballpark in San Diego. For his first three full seasons with the Padres, Giles missed just 11 games total. He hit 23 homers, picked up 94 RBIs and scored 97 runs in 2004, which were all his best totals during his time with the Padres. In 2005, he led the National League with 119 walks. He finished ninth in the MVP voting that season, his highest finish during his career. In 2008, he set a career best with 40 doubles, while also batting .306 in 147 games. He was limited to just 61 games in 2009 due to a knee injury and he batted just .191 for the season, with two homers. Giles became a free agent after the season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though he decided to retire during the early part of Spring Training in 2010.
He has the highest OPS in Pirates franchise history with his 1.018 mark, and three of his single season home run totals are among the top ten in Pirates history. He hit .308 with 501 runs scored, 506 RBIs and 519 walks in 715 games with Pittsburgh. Overall in his 15-year career he hit .291 with 1,121 runs scored, 1,078 RBIs and 1,183 walks in 1,847 games. He had some issues in the playoffs over the years, batting .205 with no homers in 29 games. Giles posted 26.1 WAR in his five seasons with the Pirates and 17.4 WAR in seven seasons with the Padres. He had 7.6 WAR with the Indians. His only two All-Star appearances came while he was with the Pirates. He played 885 games in right field during his career, with 646 games in left field and 303 in center field. His brother Marcus spent seven seasons in the majors, including one year (2007) as his teammate in San Diego.
Cecil Espy, outfielder for the 1991-92 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1980, taken eighth overall out of high school. Before he could play a game for Chicago, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in March of 1982, and then made a brief 20-game appearance for them at the big league level in 1983. He spent all of 1984-85 in the minors, then he was traded to the Pirates in September 1985, along with Sid Bream, in exchange for Bill Madlock. The following season, he hit .263 with 41 stolen bases in 106 games for Triple-A Hawaii. After the season, the Pirates lost him to the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. Espy ended up spending the entire 1984-86 seasons in Triple-A, before returning to the majors in September of 1987. He was a regular for the Rangers during the 1988-89 seasons, then played sparingly in 1990. After four seasons in Texas in which he hit .241 with 91 steals in 331 games, he was allowed to leave via free agency. He signed with the Pirates on February 11, 1991 and hit .244 in 43 games in Pittsburgh, spending most of the year in Triple-A. He debuted in center field on August 1st and spent the rest of the season with the team. He struck out in two pinch-hit at-bats during the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. In 1992, Espy got into 112 games, mostly off the bench, and he hit .258 in 194 at-bats. He got starts at all three outfield spots, while seeing a lot of time as a defensive replacement in right field. He played four games during the NLCS against the Braves that year and went 2-for-3 at the plate. After the season he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds. He played one season for Cincinnati and another in the minors, then went overseas to China in 1985, before retiring after spending the 1986 season in Mexico. In 546 Major League games over eight seasons, he hit .244 with seven homers, 108 RBIs, 160 runs scored and 103 stolen bases. He stole 358 bases in the minors, topping out with 74 during the 1982 season.
Carl Taylor, catcher/outfielder for the 1968-69 and 1971 Pirates. Taylor was signed by the Pirates in early 1962 as an amateur free agent at 18 years old. It took him five full minor league seasons before he made the majors with the Pirates as a member of the 1968 Opening Day roster. He spent the entire season on the Major League roster, but he only played 44 games and received just 82 plate appearances. He was the backup catcher to Jerry May, who started 128 games that year. Taylor also saw some brief time in the corner outfield spots. The following season he hit .348 in 104 games, playing first base, outfield and was often used as a pinch-hitter. Manny Sanguillen took over the starting catcher spot that year and May became his backup, which pushed Taylor off of the spot. Right after the 1969 season ended, the Pirates traded Taylor to the St Louis Cardinals in a four-player deal that landed them longtime reliever Dave Giusti in return. Taylor played one year for St Louis, hitting .249 in 104 games, before they traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in October. The Brewers then traded him to the Kansas City Royals 3 1/2 months later. On September 3, 1971 the Pirates purchased his contract from the Royals to help them with their playoff push. He batted .362 in 73 Triple-A games for the Royals that year, but he hit just .179 in 20 big league games. Taylor went 2-for-12 in seven games for the Pirates to finish the season. Just prior to the start of the 1972 season, the Pirates sold him back to Kansas City, where he finished his playing career in 1973. Taylor began in the majors as a catcher and he finished back behind the plate during his final two seasons there, even though they didn’t use him as a backstop in 1971. He didn’t catch in the majors during the 1969-71 seasons. He was a .266 hitter, with ten homers and 115 RBIs, in 411 Major League games over six seasons. He hit .309 in 155 games with the Pirates. He was a .291 hitter in the minors.
Jesse Gonder. catcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. He started his Major League career with the team that the Pirates beat in the 1960 World Series, but he was originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a teenager. Gonder debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1955. He was traded to the New York Yankees in March of 1960. He made his big league debut in late September of 1960, just over a week before the World Series started. He played parts of two seasons for the Yankees before they traded him back to the Reds prior to the 1962 season. Gonder played just four games in the majors in 1962, but he excelled in the minors, leading the Pacific Coast League with a .342 average and 116 RBIs. Through his first three big league trials, he played a total of 26 games and just one came as a starter. He was traded to the New York Mets during the 1963 season and began to see his first significant playing time in the majors. The Mets were in their second season, after going 40-120 in 1962. They were only slightly better in 1963, but that allowed Gonder to play regularly after the trade. In 1964, he batted .270 with seven homers and 35 RBIs, while playing 131 games. It was the only time in his career that he played over 100 games in a season. That opportunity for full-time play didn’t last long. Gonder was traded for a fourth time in 1965, this time to the Milwaukee Braves mid-season. He hit .151 in 31 games after the trade. The Pirates picked him up in November of 1965 during the Rule 5 draft. He had played a total of 314 games during his first six seasons in the majors prior to joining Pittsburgh. In 1966 he played 59 games, 52 of them behind the plate, and he hit .225 with seven homers. He spent half of the 1967 season in the minors, getting into 22 games with the Pirates before he was sent down in June after hitting .139 in 36 at-bats. Gonder played two more seasons in the minors before retiring as a player. In eight seasons, he hit .251 with 26 homers and 94 RBIs in 395 games.
Denny Sothern, outfielder for the 1930 Pirates. A .322 hitter in seven minor league seasons, Sothern made his MLB debut for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1926 at 22 years old. He then spent 1927 in the minors, before becoming Philadelphia’s regular center fielder for the 1928 season. He batted .285 in 141 games during his first full season, then followed it up with a .306 average in 76 games in 1929. He played 90 games with the Phillies in 1930 before they traded him to the Pirates on August 7,1930 in exchange for 23-year-old outfielder Fred Brickell. The deal was technically two players claimed off waivers, with the Phillies wanting to get rid of Sothern because he was unhappy for quite some time playing in Philadelphia. They also wanted Brickell for a while, so when he became available, they put Sothern on waivers in order to have roster room to make the claim. Sothern was hitting .280 over 90 games at the time of the “trade”, but in 17 games with the Pirates, he hit just .176, going 9-for-51 at the plate. They gave him eight starts in center field in August, then he played just six of the final 25 games, four of those coming off of the bench. On September 3rd, he hurt his leg while rounding third base and his only appearance over the next two weeks was as a pinch-hitter on September 10th. On November 11, 1930, the Pirates sold his contract to the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. He remained there until he was purchased by the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) on August 3, 1931. He played 19 games with the Robins over the final two months of the season, but after hitting .161 during that time, his Major League career was over. He finished his playing career in the minors in 1933 and later managed for two years in the minors. Sothern batted over .300 in each of his first five seasons in the minors, including a .374 mark over two levels in 1926. During his final two minor league campaigns, he posted .256 and .252 averages. During his time in Pittsburgh, his last name was often spelled “Southern” in the local papers.