This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 12th, Eight Former Pirates Born on This Date

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, starting with the most recent one first.

Chris Snyder, catcher for the 2010-11 Pirates. He came over in a five-player deal the Pirates made at the 2010 trading deadline with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Pirates gave up DJ Carrasco, Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby in the deal and received Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco. Snyder played 40 games with Pittsburgh after the trade, hitting just .169 with five homers. He played in only 34 games in 2011 before he was sidelined with a back injury that required surgery. He was hitting .271 with 17 RBIs at the time of his injury. He was let go after the season and signed with the Houston Astros, where he hit .176 with seven homers in 76 games during the 2012 season. Snyder finished his career in 2013 with the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit .100 over his final nine big league games. Snyder had a crazy 2013 season hidden in the fact that he played for just one team at the big league level that year. He signed with the Washington Nationals in early February and was released in mid-March. That same day he was released, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where he played in the minors until April 28th when he was then traded to the Orioles. Snyder got released mid-season, then quickly re-signed with Baltimore, finishing the year out in the minors. He tried to catch on again with the Nationals in 2014 and was once again released during Spring Training. He signed with the Texas Rangers the next day and went to the minors before deciding to retire two weeks into the season. He ended up with a .224 average, 77 homers and 298 RBIs in 715 games over ten seasons in the majors. Snyder was originally drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners in 1999 in the 43rd round. He decided to go to college, which really paid off. In 2002, he was selected in the second round (68th overall) by the Diamondbacks out of the University of Houston. It took him just two years to make the majors, debuting in August of 2004. Snyder’s value mostly came from his defense during the early part of his career, though he batted .277 in limited time in 2006, then he hit 44 homers total over the next three seasons. He had an .800 OPS during the 2008 season.

Argenis Diaz, infielder for the Pirates in 2010. Diaz was originally signed as a 16-year-old international amateur free agent out of Venezuela by the Boston Red Sox in 2003. He spent his first two seasons (2004-05) in the Venezuelan Summer League, then moved up to the Gulf Coast League in 2006, where he had a .593 OPS. Despite the lack of offense, he jumped up to Low-A ball the next year and did well, posting a .279 average and .723 OPS. He established himself as a prospect that winter playing in the MLB-run Hawaii Winter Baseball league. Diaz hit .358 in 32 games, mostly playing against older competition. He split the 2008 season between High-A and Double-A and put up decent stats at each level. His prospect value was also pushed by strong defense at shortstop. In 2009, Diaz had a .619 OPS through 76 games at Double-A before his move to Pittsburgh. He came to the Pirates from the Red Sox, along with Hunter Strickland, in the Adam LaRoche deal in 2009. Diaz spent the rest of 2009 in Triple-A Indianapolis and really struggled at the plate, though at 22 years old, he was extremely young for the level. He also struggled in winter ball in Venezuela after the season, hitting .194 in 47 games. Diaz started the 2010 season in Triple-A, but quickly joined the Pirates on April 21st when they sent pitcher Brian Burres to the minors. Diaz’s first stint in the majors lasted just three days, though he would return on July 31st and remain around for the rest of the season. He played 22 games for the Pirates in his only season in Pittsburgh, 15 of those games came as a shortstop. He hit .242 in 36 plate appearances with two RBIs and no runs scored. He was released following the 2010 season and then spent the next three seasons at Triple-A as a member of the Detroit Tigers organization. From 2014 until he retired as a player in 2017, he also saw time in the minors with the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins and then back to the Tigers for his last season. Diaz played nine seasons of winter ball during his career, and he played nearly 1,600 games during his 15 years in pro ball. He hit just 17 homers during his career, including winter ball time. Diaz went from August 12, 2008 to June 7, 2013 without hitting a home run, which was well over 2,000 plate appearances. He is currently a minor league coach for the Pirates.

Stan Fansler, pitcher for the 1986 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick (36th overall) of the Pirates out of Elkins High School in West Virginia in 1983. He is one of just three players ever drafted from that school and the only one to make the majors. Fansler had a disastrous beginning to his career, going 0-10, 8.05 in 14 starts in the NYPL. Returning to the level a year later, he again made 14 starts, this time with a 5-1, 2.01 record. In 1985, the Pirates jumped him over two levels to Double-A and in 24 starts he posted a 3.01 ERA, earning a late season promotion to Triple-A. After the season, he was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He started the 1986 season back in Triple-A and went 8-9, 3.63 in 156 innings, earning a September call-up to the majors. The Pirates put him in the rotation for the final month and in five starts he went 0-3, 3.75, walking 15 batters in 24 innings. Fansler put up decent overall numbers in 1987 in Triple-A, but his control was very poor, with 107 walks in 167 innings. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in December of 1987. By 1988 he was pitching down in Double-A, and even though the Pirates kept him around for four more seasons, he never pitched above Double-A during that time. Fansler spent two entire seasons in High-A (1989-90) after returning from an arm injury and failed to pick up a single win in 17 starts. He was released after the 1992 season, took off from baseball in 1993, then pitched briefly in the Texas Rangers farm system, before retiring in 1994. Fansler was actually a pitching coach during his final season, but he was given a chance to pitch four games in relief later in the season. He served as a pitching coach in the minors for the Montreal Expos for two seasons before retiring from baseball. He was a hard thrower, who didn’t learn how to throw a breaking ball until after he was drafted.

Joe Garagiola, catcher for the 1951-53 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 16 years old in 1942 while WWII was going on, after being signed by the St Louis Cardinals. Garagiola hit .254 in 67 games for Springfield of the Western Association that first season. He moved up to Columbus of the American Association in 1943, which was a very high level of play for someone so young. Garagiola more than held his own, batting .293 in 81 games. He was informed that he would be inducted into the Army in March of 1944, but the actual call didn’t come until after he played one minor league game on April 19th for Columbus. He missed the rest of 1944 and all of 1945, before returning to the St Louis Cardinals in 1946, going straight to the majors. He was released from the Army days before he joined the club on May 19th, then he debuted a week later. Garagiola came with high praise, as people with the Cardinals said that it wouldn’t take him long to make the fans forget about All-Star catcher Walker Cooper, who was sold to the New York Giants four months earlier. Garagiola never lived up to that hype. He hit .237 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 74 games as a rookie, seeing the majority of the time behind the plate once he got into the lineup. The Cardinals won the World Series that year and he hit .316 with four RBIs in the series. He saw about the same amount of playing time during the 1947 season, hitting .257 with five homers and 25 RBIs, along with a 40:14 BB/SO ratio. Garagiola struggled in 1948 and even spent part of the year in the minors. He hit just .107 with the Cardinals in 24 games. He bounced back in a platoon role in 1949, hitting .261 in 81 games. He was doing well in the early part of 1950, before a collision at first base with Jackie Robinson on June 1st separated his shoulder and cost him 3 1/2 months. Garagiola was batting .347 at the time.

Garagiola started off slow, hitting .194 through 27 games. The Pirates acquired him on June 15, 1951 in a seven-player deal that saw star outfielder Wally Westlake and pitcher Cliff Chambers (who had just thrown a no-hitter) both go to the Cardinals. Garagiola hit .255 with nine homers and 35 RBIs in the last 72 games of the 1951 season for the Pirates. In 1952 he hit .273 with 54 RBIs in 118 games for the last place Pirates,a 112-loss team. He set career highs in games, RBIs, walks, runs scored and doubles that year. He began the 1953 season with the Pirates, but he would be included in the Ralph Kiner trade to the Chicago Cubs in early June. That was a ten-player deal that also saw the Cubs send $150k to the Pirates. Garagiola finished his nine-season Major League career in 1954 with the New York Giants. He was a .257 career hitter in 676 games, which included a .262 mark in 217 games with the Pirates. He remained active in baseball, mainly broadcasting, until his passing in 2016. He took up broadcasting right after retiring as a player, working for the Cardinals in 1955, before going on to National broadcast jobs, as well as a stint with the New York Yankees.

Woody Main, pitcher for the Pirates in 1948, 1950 and 1952-53. He signed to play minor league ball in 1941, but after two seasons of pro ball he would spend the next three years serving in the military during WWII. Main had a solid ERA during the 1941-42 seasons (combined 3.54 in 346 innings) but his record stood at just 12-29 during that two-year span. He returned to pro ball in 1946, playing for Binghamton of the Eastern League, where he got the same poor support on offense. He went 3-11, 3.03 in 116 innings. He finally played for a good team in 1947, but he didn’t pitch as well. With Kansas City of the American Association, he was 7-6, 4.45 in 95 innings, pitching almost exclusively in relief. The Pirates drafted him out of the New York Yankees system in December 1947 in the Rule 5 draft. He was used infrequently that first year in Pittsburgh, pitching 17 games for a total of 27 innings, with an 8.33 ERA. He returned to the minors for 1949 and struggled with a 5.04 ERA while pitching in relief for Indianapolis of the American Association. Main really turned it around in the minors in 1950 by posting a 1.90 ERA. He actually began that year with the Pirates, but after a 4.87 ERA in 12 appearances over the first month, they sent him back to Triple-A. He would spend all of the 1951 season in Indianapolis as well, seeing a lot of bullpen work. Main went 12-13, 4.22 in 60 games (six starts) and 143 innings. He had his best big league year in 1952 playing for a Pirates team that lost 112 games. His record was poor at 2-12, but he had a career low 4.46 ERA and he threw 153.1 innings. The Pirates gave him 11 starts from June 13th until August 6th and he actually did better in that role, posting a 3.89 ERA in 74 innings, compared to a 4.88 ERA in 79.1 relief innings. In 1953 he pitched poorly in two early season games before the Pirates sent him to the minors, where he would finish his career the following season. On May 13, 1953, he was sold to Toronto of the International League for $10,000, officially ending his time with the Pirates. Over his four big league seasons, he went 4-13, 5.14 in 204.2 innings, with 68 relief appearances and 11 starts. His actual first name was Forrest, and that is how he was often referred to in print.

Dutch Dietz, pitcher for the Pirates from 1940 until 1943. His pro career started in 1935 at 23 years old. He was playing semi-pro and college ball in Michigan before his first pro deal signed with the Detroit Tigers, one in which he received a $2,000 bonus to sign. He was assigned to Charleston of the Mid-Atlantic League after signing in June of 1935, then played for three different teams during the 1936 season. By 1937 he was with Henderson of the East Texas League, where he went 14-7, 3.86 in 219 innings. Dietz went 14-4, 2.80 in 143 innings in 1938, spending most of the season with Beaumont of the Texas League. He went 3-17, 5.89 for Toledo of the American Association in 1939. He was sold by the Tigers to St Paul of the American Association in December of 1939, but by January he was declared a free agent. Papers ran different stories on January 30th, saying he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia A’s, while the Pirates were among the teams that had major interest in him. Later it was clarified that the Reds had signed him, and they put him on the waiver wire in March of 1940, where he was picked up by the Pirates on March 27th, to help a team that was in desperate need of pitching.

Dietz made his Major League debut early in the 1940 season as a pinch-runner before he was sent to the minors without pitching a game.  He was sent on option to Syracuse of the International League, where he had a 9-13, 5.01 record in 153 innings. Despite the poor pitching stats, the Pirates called him up in September and he pitched four games, started two, with an 0-1, 5.87 record in 15.1 innings.  He pitched well for the Pirates in 1941, going 7-2, 2.33 in 100.1 innings. He pitched 33 games that year, six as a starter. He got more work and more starts in 1942, pitching 40 games total (13 as a starter) and 134.1 innings. Dietz went 6-9, 3.95, the highest ERA among any Pirates pitcher who made ten starts that season. He pitched just nine innings over the first 40 games of the 1943 season, when the Pirates traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Johnny Podgajny. Neither pitcher did well for their new team and Dietz’s big league career was done after that 1943 season. He served two years in the army during WWII, then played another four minor league seasons before retiring. With the Pirates, he was 13-15, 3.51 in 259 innings. He had a 6.50 ERA in 36 innings with the Phillies. His actual first name was Lloyd. He had the Dutch nickname long before his pro career started. During the 1920s there was a football player named Dietz with the Dutch nickname, so it wasn’t original.

Earl Sheely, first baseman for the 1929 Pirates. He was a star player in the Pacific Coast League prior to making his MLB debut in 1921. In his fifth season with Salt Lake City (PCL) in 1920, he batted .377 with 91 extra-base hits in 188 games. The PCL played an extended season and he once played 193 games in one year. In Sheely’s first six seasons in the majors he hit at least .296 every year and drove in 80+ runs each season while playing for the Chicago White Sox. He batted .320 with 103 RBIs during the 1924 season, then hit .315 with 111 RBIs in 1925. He struggled through the 1927 season and decided to return to the PCL where he hit .381 with 21 homers in 1928. The Pirates picked him up in the Rule 5 draft on October 3, 1928 and in his only season in Pittsburgh in 1929, he hit .293 with 75 walks and 88 RBIs, starting 137 of the team’s 154 games at first base. The Pirates picked up slugger Gus Suhr in the off-season to play first base and sent Sheely back to the PCL. On December 7, 1929, Sheely was traded to the San Francisco Seals, along with cash, for Suhr, who went on to play ten seasons with the Pirates and is considered by some to be the best first baseman in team history. The younger Suhr was considered to be the better all-around player because he was much quicker on the bases and around first base, though Sheely was considered to be sure-handed at first base and he offered a big target, standing at 6’3″-6’4″, depending on the source. Sheely hit .403 in the PCL in 1930 with 29 homers, 35 doubles and 289 hits. He played one more season in the majors with the 1931 Boston Braves, hitting .273 with 77 RBIs in 147 games, before finishing his career in the PCL in 1934. Under the current system of baseball a player like Sheely would’ve had a long productive, possibly Hall of Fame career, but back then players could make a good living in the PCL and some chose to stay there instead of playing in the majors away from home. Sheely was a .324 minor league hitter in 1,935 games and a .300 hitter in 1,234 Major League games. He had over 3,600 hits between the two levels and he accumulated 670 doubles and over 200 homers during his 24 seasons in pro ball (he played just 11 games in 1911-12 as a teenager, so it was 22 full years). Most of his home runs came in the minors, where he had 190 homers, compared to just 48 in the majors. That difference was partially due to time played, but also Comiskey Park and Forbes Field were two of the tougher home run parts during that era. His son Bud Sheely played three seasons in the majors with the White Sox, catching for the 1951-53 teams.

Ray Miller, first baseman for the 1917 Pirates. He played minor league ball for ten seasons before he got his first chance at the majors in 1917. He was acquired early in that season by the Cleveland Indians who used him in 19 games, mostly off the bench in a pinch-hitting role. He batted .190 with eight walks in 29 plate appearances. Miller was sold to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League on June 1st, where he stayed until he was picked up by the Pirates on August 16th. Miller had actually left Oakland and returned to his home in Pittsburgh, so when the sale was completed, he was able to join the Pirates the same day. Pittsburgh gave him six starts at first base, but after hitting .148 in 27 at-bats, they sent him  to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association on August 29th as partial payment from an earlier trade between the two teams.  Despite playing just six games, he played 70 innings in the field, due to the fact that three straight games went into extra innings, including a 22-inning contest on August 22nd against Brooklyn. Miller never played in the majors again and he played just two seasons of pro ball after the trade, 1920 and 1925. He enlisted in the Navy after the 1917 season ended and he appeared on the Pirates roster in February/March of 1919, but never played for the team. Miller’s career in the minors had a strange start. He batted .330 in 32 games as a 19-year-old in 1907, his first season of pro ball. He then batted .325 in 92 games, while moving up a level of play, going from Class D  to Class C ball, though he was in McKeesport each year. Miller then dropped down a level to  the Ohio State League in 1909 and posted a .232 batting average. That was followed by an identical .232 average in 1910, while splitting the season between Class D/C. He also pitched often that season, something that he also did in 1907. You would imagine that those type of hitting numbers in the low levels after four years would be death for a baseball career, but he bounced back in a big way with a .352 average and 47 doubles in 131 games in 1911, while playing for Akron of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League (Class C). He would jump to Columbus of the American Association in 1912, which was considered one of the top leagues of the day. Miller remained there for four seasons as their everyday first baseman and did well, batting at least .289 each season, while showing a bit more power than in previous years. He spent the 1916 season playing for Omaha of the Western League, which led to his chance at the majors. While there, Miller hit .344 with 45 doubles, eight triples and ten homers in 151 games.