This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 3rd, Herman Makes the Hall of Fame

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one news item of note.

The News

On this date in 1975, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman/manager Billy Herman was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a player by the Veteran’s Committee. He was joined that year by manager Bucky Harris, Cleveland Indians star Earl Averill, Negro Leaguer Judy Johnson and also Pirates outfielder Ralph Kiner, who was elected earlier by the baseball writers. Herman was the Pirates manager in 1947, staying with the team until the last day of the season when he was replaced by Bill Burwell, who managed his only career game that day. Herman actually didn’t play much, getting into 15 games throughout the entire season. He was a career .304 hitter over 15 seasons and he was elected to ten straight All-Star games from 1934-43. He becomes the third member of the 1947 Pirates to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Along with Kiner, the other one was Hank Greenberg, who had been elected by the baseball writers 19 years earlier. Just like Herman, Greenberg only played with the Pirates during the 1947 season.

The Players

Joe Coleman, pitched for the 1979 Pirates. During the first amateur draft in baseball in 1965, Coleman was the third overall pick, taken out of high school by the Washington Senators. He was just 18 years old at the time, but he debuted in the majors later that same year. In fact, he made two starts and pitched complete games victories in both games. The next year he was limited to one start for Washington and it too was a complete game victory. Coleman saw regular mound time for the next four seasons in Washington, going 43-50, 3.51 in 850.1 innings, before being traded to the Detroit Tigers just days after the 1970 season ended. The change of scenery, and going to a better team, really paid off. Coleman pitched 280+ innings in each of his first four years in Detroit, while putting together a 76-50 record during that stretch. He was an All-Star in 1972 (his only mid-season classic) and he won 23 games in 1973, yet he didn’t get a single Cy Young vote. He had a rough 1975 season, going 10-18, 5.55, then played for six teams over the next four years. He had brief stints with the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants and then the Pirates. Despite being in his 15th season in the majors, he was just 32 years old when he joined the Pirates on May 8, 1979. He started that season with the Giants, but he was released after throwing five scoreless appearances out of the bullpen. Coleman had a career record of 142-135 in 474 games (340 as a starter) prior to joining the Pirates, yet he had not picked up double figure wins in a season since 1975. While with the Pirates he went to the minors for the first time since 1967, then was called up in late July and pitched ten games in relief, posting a 6.10 ERA. That 1979 season would be the end of his MLB career. He pitched three more seasons in the minors before retiring. Coleman is the son of Joe Coleman who pitched for ten seasons in the majors between 1942 and 1955. He is the father of pitcher Casey Coleman, who last pitched in 2019 and has spent parts of four seasons in the majors. That makes them one of just a few three-generation families in MLB history, and the only one to include only pitchers. Joe Coleman (the middle one) turns 74 years old today.

Freddie Toliver, pitcher for the 1993 Pirates. He pitched in the majors for four different teams between 1984 and 1989. He did poorly during that 1989 season, posting a 7.76 ERA with the Minnesota Twins and a 7.07 ERA with the San Diego Padres, seeing limited time with both clubs. Toliver would then spend each of the next three seasons in the minors, being sent as low as High-A ball to work his way back to the majors. The Pirates purchased his contract from an independent minor league team on July 23, 1992 and sent him to Double-A, where he worked out of the bullpen for the rest of the season. He began the 1993 season in the minors, but in late May he was called up to the Pirates for a five-week stretch that saw him mostly work mop-up duties in long relief. He had a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings before being sent back down. He pitched the next three years in China, then briefly made a comeback in the U.S. in 1998, pitching seven games in the independent Western League. He had a career record of 10-16, 4.73 in 270.1 innings spread out of 37 starts and 41 relief appearances. Toliver was drafted in the third round at 18 years old, signing out of high school in 1979, after being selected by the New York Yankees. The Yankees traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in 1981 for Ken Griffey Sr. Toliver made his big league debut three years later, giving up one run over ten innings during a September trial. Following the season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he spent the majority of his big league time. He played parts of three seasons in Philadelphia, before the third trade of his career sent him to the Twins. He would get traded two more times, including a trip back to the Yankees. Despite two stints in New York, he never pitched in the Bronx. He was let go during Spring Training in 1990 and spent the next two years playing minor league ball for the California Angels.

George “Live Oak” Taylor, center fielder for the 1884 Alleghenys. He had played previous in the majors with Hartford in 1877 (two games) and Troy in 1879 (24 games), both National League teams. He went 3-for-8 at the plate during his first trial and he hit .216 while playing in Troy. In 1884 there were three Major Leagues, the NL, the American Association and the Union Association. The AA also expanded to 12 teams from eight, so there were a lot of extra MLB jobs and it led to watered down talent. It allowed Taylor to return to the majors, where he hit .211 in 41 games and scored 22 runs. He was a left fielder originally, but struggled in center field with Pittsburgh, making 19 errors, giving him a fielding percentage well below league average. Taylor started Spring Training as one of the reserve players for the Alleghenys, which were sort of like having a Triple-A team play in town against the reserves of other American Association clubs and also some semi-pro/amateur teams in town. It was an idea that didn’t last long because the reserves failed to draw crowds big enough to cover their salaries. He played his final game on July 30th and was released the next day, along with fellow outfielder Jimmy Woulfe. The two releases left the Alleghenys with 12 players signed to contracts on August 1st. Taylor played some minor league ball after his big league career was done, but he didn’t live long after his playing days, passing away from consumption in 1888 at the age of thirty-seven. He lived in San Francisco, California and played most of his pro ball there, where most of the statistical records are impossible to find. Taylor was actually fairly famous as a ballplayer in California and was often referred to just as “Live Taylor”, or by his middle name, Edward. He was often singled out for his amazing defensive plays. In his obituary, he was called “the best left fielder in the state (California)”. A benefit game for his family played three weeks after his passing netted his wife and child $2,000. Taylor was a .218 career hitter in 67 Major League games. There is no known explanation for the Live Oak nickname, though it was usually just a name given to someone with a hot bat. It was not used often throughout his career, especially compared to the shorter “Live” nickname.