Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Starting with the youngest first:
Curtis Partch, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. Back when the draft had 50 rounds, Partch was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 49th round of the 2005 draft out of Merced HS in Merced, California (no relation to Pirates first baseman Orlando Merced). Partch decided to continue with school, staying in town to attend Merced College. In 2007, the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 26th round and he signed. It’s a school that has produced 11 big league players, including current Pirates reliever Blake Cederlind and former Pirates pitcher Blas Minor. Partch was a starter in the minors up until 2011, slowly working his way through the Cincinnati system. During a four-year stretch from 2009-12, he split each year between High-A and Double-A. He finally reached Triple-A for the first time in late April of 2013 and wasn’t even there for six full weeks before he was debuting in the majors. Partch pitched 14 games that season for the Reds, going 0-1, 6.17 in 23.1 innings. He had major issues with control, issuing 17 walks during that time. The control limited his big league time in 2014, though he had better results in fewer opportunities. He pitched seven shutout innings over six appearances, despite issuing seven walks. He was let go after the season and the Giants finally got their man, signing him to a minor league deal. Partch spent the entire season in Triple-A, posting a 3.53 ERA in 63.2 innings over 48 appearances. He signed a minor league deal with the Pirates for 2016 and pitched well in Triple-A, going 2-2, 2.24 in 60.1 innings over 42 games. The Pirates called him up three times during the season, once in June when he allowed three runs without recording an out, then again in August, when he recorded two outs without allowing a run. He had another four-day call-up in early June in which he didn’t pitch. He spent a total of ten days on the big league roster and the Pirates designated him for assignment twice. In 2017, he pitched very poorly in independent ball and retired after that season. His big league career consisted of a 5.52 ERA in 31 innings over 22 games.
Al Grunwald, pitcher for the 1955 Pirates. The Pirates signed him at 17 years old as an amateur free agent prior to the 1947 season. He began his career as a first baseman, but seven years later he was switched to the mound, where he went 9-3, 2.89 in 21 games (19 starts) in the minors, splitting the season between Waco of the Big State League and Billings of the Pioneer League. Without any upper level experience on the mound, he made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1955, although he would’ve liked to forget his first game. In the fourth inning on April 18th, with the Pirates already trailing 5-0 to the Giants, New York sent five men to the plate and hit for the cycle against him. Both inherited runners scored and Grunwald allowed four runs of his own before being pulled. He pitched 5.1 innings of scoreless relief in his next appearance two weeks later, then threw two scoreless innings against the Giants during another blowout loss a week later. He went back to the minors and returned to first base while still occasionally pitching. The Pirates sold him to the Kansas City A’s during the middle of the 1957 season and he made one more brief appearance in the majors during the 1959 season for the A’s, allowing 14 runs over six appearances and 11.1 innings. He went on to play baseball in Japan during the 1962 season, but he retired after batting .211 in 70 games, while posting a 4.54 ERA in 83.1 innings.
As a first baseman, Grunwald reached the top level of the minors, hitting .333 in 35 games for Indianapolis of the American Association in 1950. His career may have trended towards him making it at first base because the Pirates were bad in 1951 and really bad in 1952, however, he spent those two seasons serving in the Army during the Korean War. Grunwald was going to compete for the 1951 first base job with Jack Phillips and Dale Long, before he got the call into service three days after his 21st birthday. He returned in 1953 to hit .293 with 18 homers and 111 RBIs for New Orleans of the American Association. He competed for the Pirates first base job that season, only to lose it to Paul Smith, who held the spot for one year. Grunwald was an early cut during Spring Training in 1954 and had a strange start to the season. He was assigned to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League on April 9th, where he played nine games. From there he went to Toronto of the International League, who sent him back to the Pirates after three games. The Pirates then sent him to Waco of the Big State League, with instructions that he be switched to the mound. He was a .295 with 111 homers in 1,336 minor league games.
Pete Castiglione, third baseman for the Pirates from 1947 until 1953. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1940, but he lost a good portion of his early years while serving in the military during WWII. During his first three years of pro ball, he worked his way from the lowest level (Class D) to Class B ball, with a steady average along the way. He hit between .263 and .274 each year, while failing to collect a single home run. There was an announcement on March 16, 1943 that he would be joining the Pirates during Spring Training, only to be corrected six days later by saying that he was already serving in the military, with a note that said he wouldn’t return to baseball until after the war was over. After three years of service he returned for the 1946 season and hit .342 in 134 minor league games while playing for Selby of the Class B Southeastern League. The Pirates then sent him to Indianapolis of the American Association where he spent the next two seasons, making a September appearance with the big club each year. In 1947, he got a nice look in the majors, with 12 starts at shortstop. He didn’t get that same look in 1948, as he played just four games off of the bench and just one inning on defense. In 1949 he made the club out of Spring Training and played a total of 118 games (98 at third base), while hitting .268 with 57 runs scored. He set a career best that year with his average, as well as 20 doubles and 43 RBIs.
In 1950, Castiglione hit .255 in 94 games and made starts at all four infield positions, with a majority of his time coming at third base (35 games) and shortstop (19 games). The following year he was the regular third baseman for most of the year, getting 94 starts. He played 134 games on the year and set career highs in runs (62) hits (126) and home runs (seven) while posting a .261 batting average. Castiglione led the National League in range factor for third basemen. a feat he would repeat two years later. He played 67 games in 1952 before a broken arm on a hit-by-pitch sidelined him for the season. He struggled in 1953 with a .208 average in 45 early season games and the Pirates would end up trading him in June to the St Louis Cardinals for outfielder Hal Rice. Castiglione played parts of two seasons for St Louis before going to the minors, where he finished his career in 1958. In 1954, he played five April games without getting an at-bat, before being sent to Rochester of the International League. In eight seasons in the majors, he hit .255 with 24 homers and 150 RBIs in 545 games. We provided a more in depth feature on Castiglione here in an Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article.
Bobby Rhawn, third baseman for the 1949 Pirates. He got a late start to his Major League career due to almost five full seasons serving in the military during WWII. He began his pro career in 1938 at 19 years old, playing for Albany of the Georgia-Florida League. Rhawn hit .246 in 81 games during his first season, then stayed at Albany in 1939, batting .282 in 95 games. He moved up to Asheville of the Piedmont League in 1940 and batted .272 with 11 homers in 135 games. He was due to move up to Columbus of the American Association in 1941 before he was drafted into service, where he remained until 1945. Rhawn returned during the 1945 season and played 32 games for Columbus, hitting .240 with two homers. He remained there in 1946 and split his playing time between shortstop and third base, hitting .281 with 11 homers in 45 games. He was originally a member of the St Louis Cardinals, but by 1947, he was with the New York Giants. Rhawn spent that season in Minneapolis of the American Association, hitting .302 in 140 games, with 56 extra-base hits and 90 RBIs. He debuted in the majors on September 17, 1947 and he hit .311 in 13 games. That helped land him a big league job in 1948, but he was glued to the end of the bench by late April, due to a 1-for-14 start at the plate in his first five games. From April 25th until July 5th, he had two at-bats in 17 games and pinch-ran 13 times. He was then sent back to the minors until returning to New York in September. He started eight of the first ten games of the 1949 season at second base, before once again heading to the end of the bench, where he had one at-bat over the next five weeks. Rhawn had played 63 games over three partial seasons with the Giants when the Pirates acquired him on June 6, 1949 for an aging pitcher named Kirby Higbe. Rhawn started at third base during his first two days with Pittsburgh, going 1-for-7 with an error, before he went to the bench. He pinch-hit three days later, then was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Chicago White Sox. After 24 games with the White Sox, they traded him across town to the Chicago Cubs, who sent him to the minors. Rhawn played ball until 1952, never making the majors again. He hit .237 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 90 games in the majors. He was a .280 hitter in 995 minor league games.
Oadis Swigart, pitcher for the 1939-40 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1935 at age 20, seeing time in the advanced Texas League during his first season. He pitched in the Texas League for part of 1936 as well, then jumped up to Davenport of the Western League, where he went 14-12, 2.67 in 223 innings. The Pirates liked what they heard from scout Bill Hinchman and they purchased his contract on July 17, 1937, though he was allowed to remain in Davenport for the remainder of the season, which was later shortened to get him to Pittsburgh a little sooner. Swigart joined the Pirates on September 5, 1937 in Chicago, but he never got a chance to pitch during the final four weeks. He wasn’t with the team at all at any point in 1938, when he struggled with Montreal of the International League, going 4-7, 4.88 in 120 innings. He went 17-10 3.90 for Knoxville of the Southern Association, when the Pirates decided to give him his first actual chance at the majors in September of 1939. Swigart made three starts during the last 20 games of the year, all during doubleheaders. He had a poor first start and didn’t do any better his third time out, allowing seven runs in each game, but in between those two starts he would throw a 7-0 shutout over Boston. He made the 1940 Pirates squad out of Spring Training, but he was being used only in mop-up work, getting four relief appearances in which he allowed seven runs in 4.1 total innings. They sent him down to pitch for Syracuse of the International League on May 14th, where he went 8-9, 3.94 in 137 innings before bringing him back up for three September appearances, including a 2-1 loss in which he pitched eight innings without allowing an earned run. He then served in the military until 1946, when he would return to Spring Training for the Pirates until March 31st when he was released unconditionally to Birmingham of the Southern Association. He lasted just five games in the minors for Birmingham before being released in early June, ending his pro career. Swigart was the first Pirates player drafted, getting his orders to join the Army on April 21, 1941. His first name “Oadis” is unique in baseball history. He usually went by Oadis, though he’s more commonly referred to now as Oad.
Herman Layne, outfielder for the 1927 Pirates. He was a star hitter in the minors, batting at least .341 in each of his five seasons prior to being picked up by the Pirates. Pittsburgh paid a heavy price for him, acquiring him from Toronto of the International League for $30,000 and two players on August 16th. At the time, he was called one of the fastest men in baseball. Both players had to report to Toronto before the 25-year-old Layne reported to the Pirates during the following spring. The main recommendation to acquire Layne came from Hall of Fame outfield/long-time Pirates manager Fred Clarke. The Pirates planned on giving him a starting job in 1927, but he was beaten out by a rookie named Lloyd Waner in Spring Training. Layne went to the bench for the first two months of the season, getting just one start before the Pirates returned him to the minors. He would spend the next seven seasons in the minors, never returning to the big leagues, despite a minor league career average of .327 in 1,696 games. For the Pirates he went 0-for-6 with a walk and three runs scored in 11 games. He went 0-for-5 in his one start, while playing left field against the St Louis Cardinals (in St Louis) on April 26th. In his only time to the plate in front of the home fans on May 31st, Layne drew a walk. He was let go the very next day. Layne beat out Fred Brickell for the Opening Day job, only to be replaced by Brickell on June 1st. They switched roster spots that day, with Layne going from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis of the American Association, and vice versa for Brickell. On February 4, 1928, Layne was released outright to Indianapolis, ending his time with the Pirates. The reason given for his release was that he didn’t hit the ball as hard as the other outfielders ahead of him on the Pirates roster. He spent three years in Indianapolis and hit between .307 and .347 each year. He then went to Louisville of the American Association for the next four years, before finishing up his career in 1934 for Charleston of the Mid Atlantic League, where he had his only career sub-.300 average, finishing with a .297 mark. Layne wasn’t just a singles hitter in the minors, he showed some power with 300 doubles, 119 triples and 75 homers.
Harl Maggert, outfielder for the 1907 Pirates. The Pirates drafted him in the 1906 Rule 5 draft after just one season in pro ball. He started in the Interstate League, where he hit at a .316 clip and had a perfect fielding percentage before the league disbanded. He then played for a team from Sharon, PA in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, where he hit .325 over a 16-day span in the second half of July. He finished the season with an independent team in Bluffton, Indiana, where he made a favorable impression in an exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds in September by collecting three triples. On October 19th, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss announced his draft acquisition. Maggert was sent outright to the Wheeling Stogies of the Central League on February 18, 1907, where he hit .270 in 111 games that season. The Pirates purchased him back on August 25, 1907, along with pitcher Nick Maddox and catcher Thomas Philbin for a total price of $1,000. All three were supposed to report after the minor league season ended on September 16th, but the Pirates called Maggert up in early September and he played just three games over the next month, two in left field and one off the bench. He went 0-for-6 with two walks and a stolen base. Barney Dreyfuss actually visited Wheeling on September 2nd to try to get Maddox and Maggert earlier. Maggert was in the Pirates lineup two days later, once again playing against Cincinnati. On February 10, 1908, he was sold to Rochester of the Eastern League, ending his time with the Pirates. It would be five more seasons before he was finally able to pick up his first Major League hit while playing with the 1912 Philadelphia Athletics. He saw regular big league time that season, hitting .256 in 74 games. Maggert spent 14 seasons in the minors and collected over 2,000 hits. He is the father of Harl Maggert who played for the 1938 Boston Bees (Braves). The elder Maggert was often referred to as “Ves”, a shortened version of his middle name Vestin.
Frederick “Crazy” Schmit, pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. As you may know, the 1890 team was by far the worst team in Pirates franchise history. They used a ton of players to get through that season and Schmit was one of seven pitchers to get at least ten starts. It was a group that won a combined 16 games. Schmit went 1-9, 5.83 in ten starts and one relief appearance. His win came on May 13th when he threw a 4-0 shutout over Cincinnati. During his final start with Pittsburgh on June 12th, he allowed 16 runs, 14 hits and 12 walks. After the game, Pittsburgh owner J. Palmer O’Neil announced that Schmit was fined $50 and suspended for a month, while also noting that he would never play for the team again. Schmit is currently credited with a complete game in his final appearance, but he was actually replaced by Doggie Miller, who faced the final two batters. Miller has never received credit for his lone pitching appearance during his career. He was an eccentric player who drank a lot and moved around from team to team even more, playing for 22 different teams from 1889-1896. While in Pittsburgh, the opposition quickly realized that he did a very poor job of holding runners on base and they took full advantage of his weakness. At one point he allowed a total of 28 steals in back-to-back games.
The Alleghenys were bad in 1890, but the Cleveland Spiders were even worse in 1899 and Schmit made 19 starts for them on their way to a 20-134 season. He went 2-17 that season and had a 7-36 career record in the majors. He also saw time in the majors with the 1892-93 Baltimore Orioles, the 1893 New York Giants, and he pitched in the American League during the league’s first season at the Major League level (it existed in 1900 as a minor league). He went 0-2 for a different Baltimore Orioles club, which ended up being the New York Yankees now (that fact is disputed now, but my own personal opinion based on extensive research says it’s the same franchise). Despite his poor results, Schmit was considered to be a student of the game and had the novel idea (at the time) to scout opposing hitters from the stands before his starts, keeping notes on everyone he saw. While the nickname “Crazy” has stuck with him, he also had the nickname “Germany” from an early point in his career, due to his German heritage.
In a strange side note to his time in Pittsburgh, the Alleghenys had a Spring Training catcher named George Ziegler, who was Schmit’s catcher in 1889, so they were brought along as a pair and used together. Ziegler didn’t make the team, so he went to play for Wheeling of the Tri-State League. The Alleghenys used George Ziegler as a pitcher later in the year, and then he went to Wheeling to play out the season. The crazy side note is that it wasn’t the same person, and the two actually formed the battery at times for Wheeling.