This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 8th, Pie and Cookie

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Felix Pie, outfielder for the 2013 Pirates. Pie was signed to a minor league deal during the 2012-13 off-season and was called up to the Pirates in late August. He played 27 games, though he started only three times. Pie went 4-for-29 at the plate and drove in two runs. After the season, he was dropped from the 40-man roster and he signed to play in Korea. In six seasons in the big leagues, he had a .246/.295/.369 line in 425 games. Pie spent 2019 playing in Mexico and then he participated in winter ball in the Dominican during each of the last two off-seasons.  He was originally signed by the Chicago Cubs as an international amateur free agent at 16 years old in 2001. After hitting .321 with 33 extra-base hits and 17 steals in 55 games in the Arizona Summer League in 2002, he was ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball. He remained ranked among the top 100 prospects for five years straight, topping out in the rankings at #27 after the 2005 season when he hit .304 in Double-A, with 11 homers and 13 steals in 59 games. He was limited due to an ankle injury that year, but he bounced back to play 141 games in 2006, hitting .283 in Triple-A, with 15 homers and 17 steals. Pie debuted in the majors early in 2007, but he ended up having three different stints and hitting just .215 in 87 games. That was despite tearing up Triple-A whenever he was sent down, batting .362 in 55 games. In 2008, he was limited to 43 big league games and 93 plate appearances. The Cubs traded him to the Baltimore Orioles in January of 2009 and he set a career high with 101 games played that season. Pie hit .266 with nine homers, though the speed was gone, with one steal in four attempts. He would set his career bests with 39 runs scored, 31 RBIs, 15 doubles, five triples and a .271 average in 82 games in 2010, then saw a major drop-off in production in 2011, hitting .220 with no homers in 85 games. He split the 2012 season between independent ball and the Atlanta Braves Triple-A club, before signing with the Pirates. Pie hit .246 with 17 homers, 99 RBIs and 21 steals in 425 big league games. Including all levels of pro ball over 19 seasons, he has played 1,931 games, with 1,003 runs scored, 166 homers, 885 RBIs and 256 stolen bases.

Bob Oliver, outfielder for the 1965 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1963 at 20 years old and spent three full seasons working his way up from A-ball to get a brief September look with the Pirates in 1965. He played three games, all off the bench, going 0-for-2 with a run scored. Oliver returned to the minors for two more seasons before the Pirates traded him to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Ron Kline on December 2, 1967. He would go on to play seven more seasons in the majors, 847 total games and hit .256 with 94 homers and 419 RBIs. He remained in the minors in 1968, before getting his big break when the Kansas City Royals selected him in the 1968 Expansion Draft. At age 26 he played his first full big league season and hit .254 with 13 homers in 118 games. That was a solid rookie season, but he was even better the next year. In 1970, Oliver hit .260 with 27 homers, 99 RBIs and 83 runs scored. His production slipped in 1971, then the Royals traded him to the California Angels early in the 1972 season. He would rebound with two solid years in California, hitting 19 homers and driving in 70 runs over 134 games during the rest of the 1972 season, then following it up with 18 homers and 89 RBIs in 1973. His numbers dropped off once again in 1974 and he never recovered. The Angels traded him late in the year to the Baltimore Orioles, who sold him to the New York Yankees three months later. Oliver played his final big league season in 1975, hitting .132 in 18 games for the Yankees. He spent time in the minors with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976, then back with the Pirates in 1977, where he hit .274 with 17 homers and 85 RBIs for Triple-A Columbus. Then it was on to Mexico for the 1978 season, though he was with the Chicago White Sox for a small part of 1978 in Triple-A. He finished his pro career in Mexico in 1979. Oliver recently ran his own baseball academy in California. He is the father of major league pitcher Darren Oliver, who played 20 seasons in the majors.

Monty Basgall, second baseman for the 1948-49,1951 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942 and played just one year in the minors before spending the next three seasons serving in the military during WWII. He played two seasons for Fort Worth of the Texas League before the Dodgers traded him to the Pirates for infielders Vic Barnhart and Jimmy Bloodworth on December 3, 1947. Basgall hit .272 with 38 extra-base hits in 153 games in 1947, but Brooklyn was set at second base at that time with Jackie Robinson there. Monty (his first name was Romanus) started the first three games of the season at second base for the Pirates in 1948, but was used very little the rest of the way. He hit .216 with two homers in 51 at-bats over 38 games. He pinch-ran 13 times, which helped lead to him scoring more runs (12) than hits (11). He lost the regular second base job to Danny Murtaugh, who ended up starting 145 games at second that season. Basgall was the regular second baseman for most of 1949, playing 98 of his 107 games there. He took over in late June for Murtaugh, who was hitting just .186 at the time. Basgall hit .218 in 308 at-bats in 1949, with two homers and 26 RBIs. He spent the entire 1950 season in the minors playing for Indianapolis of the American Association, before returning to the Pirates in 1951. He batted .209 in 55 games in 1951 and spent part of the year back in Indianapolis. That would end up being  his last season in the majors. He was in the Pirates system until 1958, the last three years as a player/manager for three different teams, then went on to a long career in numerous roles for the Dodgers. Basgall was a career .215 hitter in 200 Major League games. He never really hit for high average in the minors either, batting .263 in 1,311 minor league games over 13 seasons. He had two seasons with double-digit homers, topping out at 13 in 1950. Modern metrics rate him as slightly above replacement level on defense.

Cookie Cuccurullo, pitcher for the 1943-45 Pirates. He got his chance in the majors during the war era when Major League jobs opened up for more minor league players. He capitalized on the weaker play on the field by going 20-8, 2.54 in 1943 for the Albany Senators of the Eastern League. The Pirates let him pitch the last game of that season and he took the loss, allowing seven runs in seven innings. Cookie (his first name was Arthur) spent the 1944 season in the Pirates bullpen, making just four starts among his 32 appearances. He had a 2-1, 4.06 record in 106.1 innings. He would assume the same role the following season, although he pitched much less with poorer results. He made four starts out of 29 total games, pitching 56.2 innings, while posting a 1-3, 5.24 record. He spent all of 1946 in the minors with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, then was traded by the Pirates to the New York Yankees for pitcher Tiny Bonham on October 24, 1946. It was a one-sided deal for the Pirates, as they got three serviceable seasons out of Bonham, while Cuccurullo never pitched in the majors again. Cookie spent the next four years in the minors, spending the 1947 season with Newark of the International League, followed by his final three seasons in the Southern Association, playing for affiliates of the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers. Cuccurullo debuted in pro ball at 21 years old in 1939 and he went 14-8, 4.03 in 174 innings for Greeneville of the Appalachian League. He remained at the same level of play (Class D) in 1940 and lowered his ERA to 3.53 in 148 innings for Niagara Falls of the PONY League. In 1941, he played for Hutchinson of the Western Association, which had a working agreement with the Pirates. After the season, in which he had a 4.43 ERA in 199 innings, another Pirates affiliated team (Harrisburg) purchased him from Hutchinson. Cuccurullo spent the 1942 season pitching for two different teams in the Interstate League, where he pitched 200 innings and won 13 games. He was then purchased by Albany after the season, which just happened to be another team affiliated with the Pirates. Despite playing three years with teams that had working agreements with the Pirates, Cuccurullo’s contract didn’t officially become their property until September 8, 1943, 25 days before his big league debut. He was allowed to remain with Albany until their playoffs ended and he arrived to Pittsburgh on September 17th.

Roy Ellam, shortstop for the 1918 Pirates. He spent 17 years playing in the minors, nine of them as a player/manager and then another three years as just a manager. In between all that time in the minors, he had two brief stints in the majors, nine years apart. He played ten September games for the 1909 Cincinnati Reds, then didn’t play in the majors again until the 1918 Pirates traded infielder Gus Getz to an independent minor league team from Indianapolis in exchange for him. The deal originally happened on July 12th and Indianapolis received cash, plus a player to be named later. The Pirates landed Ellam over the St Paul Saints, who were discussing a deal with Indianapolis involving third baseman Jap Barbeau, who played for the 1909 World Series winning Pirates. The Pirates sent Getz there three days later on an option, with Indianapolis being able to keep him if he did well during a trial. Ellam had played/managed most of the 1918 season for Nashville of the Southern Association, getting into just 12 games with Indianapolis before joining the Pirates. Ellam played 26 games for the Pirates between July 13th and August 29th, hitting just .130, though he did draw 17 walks, giving him a .302 OBP. He was never much of a hitter, even in the minors, where he hit .231 over the course of 1,885 games. He lost his starting shortstop spot with the Pirates to Luke Boone on August 14th and played just three games off of the bench over the final 20 games of the season. The 1918 season ended early due to the war, and Ellam’s status with the team was never updated during the off-season. In late February of 1919, he was named as the manager of his former Nashville club. He ended up playing minor league ball until age 44, retiring after the 1930 season. His career began in 1908 at 22 years old, playing for the Connellsville Cokers of the Pennsylvania-West Virginia League. He jumped from Class D ball in his pro debut, all the way to the majors in 18 months, yet the Pirates were his only other big league club 21 years later when he played his final game.

A sixth player has been added to this date, 166 years after he was born. Harry Arundel for the 1882 Alleghenys had an unknown birth date until very recent history uncovered it as February 8, 1855. His full bio will appear in the February 8, 2022 article.