Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on this date.
Duke Welker, pitcher for the 2013 Pirates. His big league career consisted of two scoreless relief appearances in late June of 2013. He debuted on June 23rd and pitched a scoreless inning, retiring all three batters he faced. Two days later, he needed three pitches to retire the only batter he faced. Welker was a second round draft pick (68th overall) by the Pirates in 2007 out of the University of Arkansas. It was the third time that he was drafted. He was originally taken in the 34th round in 2004 out of high school in Washington by the Seattle Mariners. One year later, the Mariners took him again, this time in the 39th round out of Seminole State College. Welker debuted at State College of the New York-Penn League in 2007 and had excellent results in seven starts. He remained in the starting role in 2008 with Hickory of the South Atlantic League and struggled. Welker posted a 5.51 ERA in 116 innings over 24 starts. He was back in Low-A in 2009 and split the season between starting and relief. He managed to compile an 0-11 record, with a 5.79 ERA in 101 innings. Moved to full-time relief in 2010, he split the season between Low-A and High-A, showing much better results. He had a combined 3.66 ERA and averaged nearly a strikeout per inning. The 2011 and 2012 seasons were both split at two levels, as he slowly crawled up the system ladder. He did well in High-A in 2011 (2.25 ERA), but struggled in Double-A. In 2012 he had his best season, doing well at both Double-A and Triple-A. Welker had a combined 2.29 ERA in 55 innings. Before getting called up to the majors in 2013, he had a 2.78 ERA in 25 appearances, with 34 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. His official time on the big league roster was seven days (June 20-26). In October of 2013, he was named as the player to be named later in the August trade for Justin Morneau from the Minnesota Twins. Six weeks later, the Pirates reacquired him in a trade for pitcher Kris Johnson. He missed most of 2014 and all of 2015 due to injury, then returned for one season in Triple-A with the San Francisco Giants before retiring. His real first name is Matthew.
Jeanmar Gomez, pitcher for the 2013-14 Pirates. The Cleveland Indians signed Gomez as an international free agent out of Venezuela at age 17 in 2005. It took him five years to make his way to the majors, debuting in July of 2010. Gomez made 11 starts as a rookie and had a 4.68 ERA. He saw nearly identical big league time in 2011, making ten starts and one relief appearance. His ERA was nearly the same as well, posting a 4.47 mark in 58.2 innings. Gomez struggled in his big league chances in 2012, making 17 starts and three relief appearances, posting a 5.96 ERA in 90.2 innings. He instantly saw better results with the Pirates, which was partially due to a move to the bullpen. He was acquired via trade for minor league outfielder Quincy Latimore on January 9, 2013. Gomez started eight of 34 games in 2013, making his last big league start on June 26th. He had a 3.35 ERA in 80.2 innings that first season in Pittsburgh. He pitched once in the NLDS against the St Louis Cardinals and allowed two unearned runs over four innings. That was followed by a 3.19 ERA over 44 appearances in 2014. In two seasons in Pittsburgh, he had a 5-2, 3.28 record in 142.2 innings, making 70 relief appearances and eight starts. After the season, he was surprisingly let go, which ended up coming one year too early. Gomez signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2015 and he had a 3.01 ERA in 74.2 innings over 65 appearances. He saw a decline in his stats the next year and never approached his peak level. He spent two more seasons in Philadelphia, including a 37-save season in 2016 (with a 4.85 ERA), then had a 4.68 ERA in 25 innings for the 2018 Chicago White Sox. Gomez played for the Texas Rangers in 2019, giving him ten seasons in the majors, though he had an 8.22 ERA in 16.1 innings, so things didn’t go well. He was released on June 1, 2019 and did not play in 2020. He has a 28-30, 4.51 record in 555.1 innings, with 269 relief appearances, 46 starts and 40 career saves.
Luis Cruz, shortstop and second base for the 2008-09 Pirates. He signed with the Boston Red Sox out of Mexico as a 16-year-old international amateur free agent in 2000. After the 2002 season, he was traded to the San Diego Padres, where he remained until he reached minor league free agency following the 2007 season. In December of 2007, he signed a minor league deal with the Pirates. Cruz spent most of the 2008 season in Double-A, where he put up average stats, but nothing that stood out. He moved up to Triple-A mid-season and batted .325 in 32 games, which earned him a September call-up. He made his Major League debut on September 2nd and played 22 games in his first season with the Pirates, hitting .224 in 67 at-bats. Cruz played 27 games for the Pirates the next year, seeing time in the majors briefly in April, then coming back in early July, staying through the end of the season during his second stint. He batted .214 with one double and six walks. Cruz started a total of 32 games at shortstop for the Pirates, while seeing some brief time at second base each season. He hit .219 with five RBIs in 137 at-bats for Pittsburgh. After the 2009 season, he was picked up off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. Cruz played seven games for the 2010 Brewers, then next appeared in the majors with the 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers, where he hit .297 in 78 games. He split the 2013 season between the Dodgers and New York Yankees, hitting .145 in 61 games. Cruz played a total of five seasons in the majors, batting .234 in 195 games, with seven homers and 57 RBIs. He is still active, playing in Mexico this current winter, but he has not appeared in the majors since 2013. He spent the 2014-17 seasons playing in Japan. In his 20-year pro career, including winter league stats, Cruz has played over 2,500 games, with 251 homers and 1,178 RBIs.
Cesar Izturis, infielder for the 2007 Pirates. He was originally signed as a 16-year-old international amateur free agent out of Venezuela by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1996. It took him five years to make the majors and he didn’t stay long in Toronto. Izturis hit .269 in 46 games as a rookie in 2001, then got traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the off-season. He made a name for himself during his 4 1/2 seasons in Los Angeles. He was an All-Star in 2005 and won a Gold Glove at shortstop in 2004. Izturis had his best season at the plate during that 2004 season, batting .288, while setting career highs with 90 runs scored, 32 doubles, nine triples, 62 RBIs, 43 walks and 25 stolen bases. He actually did much worse during his All-Star season that followed, hitting .257 with a .624 OPS. At the 2006 trade deadline, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs even up for Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux. The Pirates purchased him from the Cubs in mid-July of 2007 and let him leave via free agency at the end of the season. In his one partial season in Pittsburgh, he batted .276, with a .643 OPS in 45 games. He had an extremely impressive strikeout rate during that time, striking out just three times in 130 plate appearances. Izturis signed with the St Louis Cardinals as a free agent for the 2008 season and he batted .263 in 135 games, with 24 steals. After the season, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent and lasted three years at Camden Yards. He split the 2012 season between the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals, then finished his big league career with the 2013 Cincinnati Reds. Izturis signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent in January of 2014, but he was released near the end of Spring Training. His pro career ended with two seasons of winter ball in Venezuela. Izturis played a total of 1,310 games over 13 seasons and had a .254 average, with 17 homers, 312 RBIs, 441 runs scored and 110 stolen bases. His career .981 fielding percentage is the tenth best in baseball history at shortstop. His younger brother Maicer Izturis played 11 seasons in the majors (2004-14).
Ruben Mateo, outfielder for the 2004 Pirates. He was signed by the Texas Rangers in 1994 at 16 years old as an international amateur free agent. Mateo was one of the top prospects in baseball after hitting .314 with 12 homers and 20 stolen bases as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League in 1997. He prospect status continued to get better, moving up to #9 by Baseball America after hitting .307 with 18 homers and 18 stolen bases in Double-A in 1998. In Triple-A in 1999, Mateo hit .336 with 18 homers in 63 games. That led to a promotion to the majors, where he hit .238 with five homers in 32 games for the Rangers. He was still a rookie going into 2000 and rated as the sixth best prospect in baseball. It seemed like he could live up to that potential early on, batting .291 with seven homers and six steals in 52 games, before he fractured a bone in his leg, ending his season. He struggled a bit in 2001 and on June 15th he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds kept him in the minors for the rest of 2001, then used him sparingly during the 2002 season. In 2003, Mateo saw his most action in the majors, playing 74 games, with a .242 average, three homers and 18 RBIs. The Pirates signed him as a free agent prior to the 2004 season and he was sold to the Kansas City Royals on July 1, 2004. In his brief 19-game stint with the Pirates, Mateo played all three outfield spots and hit .242 with three homers. He hit .194 in 32 games with the Royals, which ended up being his last time spent in the majors. He played a total of six seasons in the majors and he batted .250 with 21 homers in 295 games. He played pro ball until 2015, spending most of his time in Mexico, though he had time in Korea, independent ball and a stint in the minors for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007. He hit 37 homers and drove in 119 runs in Mexico in 2013. In his 18-year pro career, he was a .284 hitter in 1,465 games, with 241 homers and 906 RBIs.
Larry McWilliams, pitcher for the Pirates from 1982 until 1986. He was a first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1974, taken sixth overall at 19 years old out of Paris Junior College. He played his first two pro seasons for Greenwood of the Low-A Western Carolinas League and posted matching 2.81 ERAs each year. Despite those stats, he was back in Greenwood again for half of the 1976 season and he did even better, with a 2.63 ERA. He struggled with the jump to Double-A, posting a 4.62 ERA in 74 innings. In 1977, he spent the entire year in Double-A, compiling a 3.36 ERA in 158 innings. That was followed by a move to Triple-A in 1978, where he had a 3.00 ERA in 108 innings. He debuted in the majors in July and went 9-3, 2.81 in 15 starts. McWilliams had a rough sophomore season, going 3-2, 5.56 in 15 starts. Things got slightly better in 1980 despite a 9-14 record. He had a 4.95 ERA in 163.2 innings over 30 starts. He ended up spending most of the 1981 season bacvk in Triple-A. The Pirates traded for him on June 30, 1982, sending Pascual Perez to Atlanta. McWilliams was a starter his first four seasons in the majors, but was moved to the bullpen for 1982 and was struggling with a 6.21 ERA before the Pirates picked him up. He would move back to the starting role in Pittsburgh and cut his ERA in half with a 6-5, 3.11 record. In 1983 he had his best big league season, going 15-8, 3.25 in 38 starts. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young award voting. We wrote up a Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons article, looking at his 1983 season. His ERA improved to 2.93 the following season, but the Pirates were a sub .500 team and it showed in his 12-11 record.
McWilliams was moved to the bullpen late in 1985, and then he went back and forth between the starting and relieving roles in 1986. He posted a 4.70 ERA in 1985 and a 5.15 in 1986. He was released by the Pirates following the 1986 season and went on to play back in Atlanta in 1987. His stay there in the majors was brief and it resulted in a 5.75 ERA in limited use. He signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 1988 and saw bullpen and starter time, going 6-9, 3.90 in 136 innings. McWilliams had the same starter/relief split role in 1989, playing most of the year for the Philadelphia Phillies, before finishing with the Kansas City Royals. He had a decent 4.11 ERA in 153.1 innings, but it with a 4-13 record. He finished his career as a reliever for the 1990 Royals, where he had a 9.72 ERA in 13 appearances. McWilliams went 43-44, 3.64 in 835.2 innings with the Pirates, making 119 starts and 48 relief appearances. In his career he went 78-90, 3.99 in 1,558.1 innings.
Billy O’Dell, pitcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. He had been a starter early in his career, four times winning at least ten games, with a high of 19 in 1962. He was moved to a bullpen role in 1964 and was still in that role when he was picked up by the Pirates. He began the 1966 season with the Atlanta Braves, posting a 2.40 ERA in 41.1 innings, before the Pirates acquired him on June 15th for reliever Don Schwall. O’Dell would pitch 37 games after the trade, going 3-2, 2.78 in 71.1 innings. In the beginning of the 1967 season he was used as a starter and struggled in the role, posting a 6.18 ERA in 11 games before being moved back to the bullpen. He finished the season with a 5-6, 5.82 record in 86.2 innings. O’Dell retired after the Pirates released him following the 1967 season. He was a two-time All-Star, who never played a single game in the minors. The Baltimore Orioles signed him at age 21 in 1954 as a Bonus Baby, which meant that he had to remain in the majors that season because his $12,500 bonus exceeded the $4,000 Bonus Baby mark. Anything under $4,000 would have allowed the Orioles to send him to the minors. The rule was in place to keep the wealthier teams from stockpiling young talent. O’Dell debuted in the majors 12 days after signing out of Clemson University. He was used sparingly that first year, but did well with a 2.76 ERA in 16.1 innings. He joined the Army after the season and remained there until returning to baseball in August of 1956. He gave up one run over eight innings to finish out the 1956 season. O’Dell put up strong numbers over the next three seasons in Baltimore, splitting between starts and long relief. He had a 2.69 ERA in 140.1 innings in 1957. That was followed by a 2.97 ERA in 221.1 innings in 1958, then a 2.93 mark in 199.1 innings in 1959. Despite a strong ERA each year, his record over that time was 28-33. O’Dell was part of a five-player trade with the Orioles and San Francisco Giants after the 1959 season. He had similar results with the Giants that first year, going 8-13, despite a 3.20 ERA in 202.2 innings. After seeing more bullpen time in 1961, he had a big season in 1962, going 19-14, 3.53 in 280.2 innings. San Francisco went to the World Series that year and O’Dell pitched another 12.1 innings in the series loss to the New York Yankees. Things went well for him in 1963, going 14-10, 3.16 in 222.1 innings, before dropping off in 1964, when he had a 5.40 ERA in 85 innings, pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen. The 1964 season was really bad, but during the following year he won ten games, with a 2.18 ERA and 18 saves in 111.1 innings over 62 games. In his 13-year career, he went 105-100, 3.29 in 1,817 innings.
Cotton Tierney, second baseman for the 1920-23 Pirates. He played minor league ball for seven seasons before the Pirates gave him his first shot at the majors as a September call-up in 1920 at 26 years old. His highest minor league average was .275 prior to his 1920 season with Tulsa of the Texas League. In 1920, he hit .335 and collected 72 extra-base hits, setting career highs with 48 doubles, 13 triples and 11 homers. He debuted with the Pirates on September 22nd and made ten starts at second base and two at shortstop, hitting .239 with eight RBIs. Cotton (his first name was James) was a regular on the 1921 Pirates, playing about half of the team’s games at second base, while getting time in at three other positions. He hit .299 with 52 RBIs in 117 games. In 1922 he played 122 games and hit .345, which place him fifth in the National League in average, and second on the Pirates to outfielder Carson Bigbee. We wrote up a Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons article for his 1922 season. The crazy part of that season was that he was limited due to a back injury that bothered him for much of the year. He was batting .292 early in the 1923 season before he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player/cash deal that got the Pirates pitcher Lee Meadows. Tierney hit .317 with 11 homers and 65 RBIs in 121 games for the Phillies in 1923, but by the end of 1925 his Major League career was over. He was traded to the Boston Braves in December of 1923 and lasted one season there, hitting .259 in 136 games. Prior to the 1925 season, he was traded to the Brooklyn Robins, where he batted .257 in 93 games. Prior to the 1926 season, he was traded once again, this time to Minneapolis of the American Association. The Robins gave up five players to acquire 33-year-old infielder Johnny Butler, who lasted just 375 big league games. Tierney was a .296 hitter in 630 big league games. With the Pirates, he hit .315 in 280 games, with 169 RBIs and 133 runs scored. He played in the minors until 1930, moving around just as much as he did in the majors. Tierney played for eight teams during the 1926-30 seasons. He was a player-manager during his final two seasons and hit .364 in 35 games in 1930.
Bill Evans, pitcher for the 1916-17 and 1919 Pirates. Evans had an odd start to his pro career. His contract was purchased by Pittsburgh in June of 1916 from Morganton of the Western North Carolina League, an independent league. The Pirates scout William Neal was able to sign him when several other big league teams were looking at him, but the two sides kept the deal quiet until after the Morganton team disbanded in late July. The timing was more of a coincidence, as Evans was originally scheduled to join the Pirates in August. The original deal called for the Pirates to deliver a sizable bonus to Morganton once Evans reported to Spring Training in 1917. A week after Morganton went under, Evans pitched one game for a team from Lumberton, NC, they left to join the Pirates on August 2nd. During the time between the Pirates signing him and his final game for Morganton, there were still scouts for other big league teams following him around, trying to get a deal done. Evans was said to have good velocity, a nice curveball, and he pitched well in both the college ranks and semi-pro ball over the 1913-16 seasons. He made his Major League debut on August 13th and pitched 13 games over the final seven weeks of the season, starting seven of those games, and throwing three complete games. He had a 2-5, 3.00 record in 63 innings. In 1917 he went 0-4, 3.38 in eight appearances before joining the military after the season to serve during WWI. His work was limited early in 1917 due to illness, which kept him out of action from mid-April until he pitched on July 31st. He missed the entire 1918 season due to the war, returning the following year to go 0-4, 5.65 in seven early season games for the Pirates before being sent to Kansas City of the American Association on June 20th, 19 days after his final appearance. He played minor league baseball until 1928, three times winning at least 16 games in a season, but never returned to the majors. When he was sent down in 1919, the papers said that the minor league experience should help him in the future, as he has good control, fine speed and a fast-breaking curve. He had a 2-13 record with the Pirates despite a 3.85 overall ERA. That winning percentage of .133 leaves him tied with John Van Benschoten (who had a 9.20 ERA) for the worst winning percentage in franchise history among pitchers with at least 15 decisions. He did much better in the minors, posting a 63-40 record over six seasons.
Jim Keenan, catcher for the first team in franchise history, the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Keenan caught the first pitch in franchise history on May 2, 1882 against the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the team he would end up playing most of his big league career for a few years later. Prior to joining the Alleghenys, he had seven games of MLB experience. He played five games in 1875 for New Haven of the National Association, which was a league that lasted five seasons before giving way to the National League in 1876. Keenan then caught two games for the 1880 Buffalo Bisons of the National League. In 1882 for Pittsburgh, he hit .209 with nine runs scored in 24 games. Keenan caught 22 games. He was in right field on July 6th in a 9-8 loss to Baltimore. They next day the team announced that he was suspended indefinitely for intoxication and insubordination. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted on July 8th that Keenan probably wouldn’t have been suspended just for intoxication, but he told manager Al Pratt that he could “go somewhere that is always warm” and that got him the indefinite suspension. After not playing major league ball in 1883, he finally established himself as a big league regular in 1884, playing one season for Indianapolis of the American Association and the next seven years in Cincinnati. He played for Indianapolis during the 1883 season on an independent team, then remained there when they became a big league club the next year. He was a manager in 1883, but did not hold that role the following season. In 1884, his 3.1 WAR was the highest mark on a team that finished the year with a 29-78 record. The odd part about his long stay in Cincinnati is that when Pittsburgh got rid of him, the Cincinnati Enquirer was among the most vocal, saying that new Pittsburgh catcher Rudy Kemmler was significantly better than Keenan and Pittsburgh made a good decision getting rid of him. Keenan finished with a .240 average in 527 games. In 1888, he led all American Association catchers with a .946 fielding percentage. In 1889 he had his best season at the plate, putting up an .849 OPS, which ranked seventh best in the league. He finished eighth in OBP and sixth in slugging.