This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: Bruce Kison, Bob Miller and Manny Mota

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who pitched for the last two Pirates World Series teams.

Bruce Kison, pitcher for the 1971-79 Pirates. He was a 14th round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1968 amateur draft. Kison shot through the minors out of high school, going 30-9 over his four seasons. In 1970, while at Double-A most of the year, he had a 13-5, 1.99 record in 163 innings. Prior to being called up by the Pirates in July of 1971 at 21 years old, he went 10-1, 2.86 in 12 starts at Triple-A. Kison debuted on July 4th and went 6-5, 3.40 in 18 games as a rookie, 13 as a starter. He was used three times in relief during the playoffs that year, allowing just three hits and no runs in 11 combined innings. He pitched a full season of winter ball after the year, giving him an incredibly high total of innings from March through early 1972. During his first full season in the majors in 1972, he went 9-7, 3.26 in 152 innings, starting 18 of his 32 games pitched. In the 1972 playoffs he had two more scoreless outings, running his total to 13.1 innings of scoreless relief in the playoffs.

Kison spent most of 1973 in the minors despite the early success he had in the majors. He had a shoulder injury when he reported to Spring Training and debuted that year in the minors. He made 20 Triple-A starts before coming back to Pittsburgh in September for seven starts. In 1974 he went 9-8, 3.49 in 129 innings, making 24 relief appearances and 16 starts. He started game three of the NLCS against the Dodgers and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, but the Pirates lost the series. He was finally used in a starting role all season in 1975 and he responded with 12 wins and a 3.23 ERA in 192 innings. Kison allowed his first postseason run that year in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds. That strong season was backed up by a 14-9, 3.08 record over 193 innings in 1976, arguably his best year in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for him, the 1977 season wasn’t a good one. He pitched 193 innings again, but it came with a 4.90 ERA. That ERA was 1.41 over his second worst mark during nine seasons in Pittsburgh. Kison moved to more of a relief role in 1978 and pitched well in slightly limited use, putting up a 3.19 ERA in 96 innings.

For the 1979 Pirates he was back in the rotation, where he went 13-7, 3.19 in 172.1 innings, helping the Pirates to the World Series. In his only postseason start he got hit very hard and was unable to make it out of the first inning. After that season he left the Pirates as a free agent, signing a five-year contract with the California Angels. Elbow surgery limited him to just 117.1 innings during his first two seasons in California. He bounced back with a strong season in 1982, but it was just a one-year peak. Kison went 10-5, 3.17 in 142 innings that year, then had ERAs of 4.05, 5.37 and 4.11, while throwing fewer than 100 innings per year on average. His final big league season (1985) was spent with the Boston Red Sox. Kison went 115-88, 3.66 in 1,809.2 innings during his 15-year career. In Pittsburgh, he was 81-63, 3.49 in 1,266.1 innings.

Bob Miller, pitcher for the 1971-72 Pirates. He played 18 seasons in the majors, most of that time as a reliever, pitching a total of 694 games for ten different teams. His big league career began at 18 years old, playing for the 1957 St Louis Cardinals. That was followed by a full season in the minors in 1958, then partial years with the 1959-60 Cardinals. Miller spent all of 1961 in the majors, mostly pitching in relief. That off-season, he was taken by the New York Mets in the Expansion Draft. His stay there was brutal on a very bad team. Miller went 1-12, 4.89 in 143.2 innings. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers shortly after the season ended and flourished in the new environment. His ERA was under 3.00 during each of his first four seasons with the Dodgers. That was followed by one down year in 1967, then a trade to the Minnesota Twins. In Los Angeles, Miller had a  29-33, 3.03 record in 597.2 innings over 30 starts and 245 relief appearances. His move to the Twins set off a string of moves that had him switching teams nine times between November 1967 and September 1973. He actually did well during most of that time, starting with a 2.91 ERA over 191.2 innings with Minnesota. Miller played for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs during the 1970 season, went from the Cubs to the San Diego Padres in May of 1971. The Pirates acquired him from the Padres on August 10, 1971 in exchange for minor leaguers Johnny Jeter and Ed Acosta. That made it two straight seasons in which he played for three different teams.

Miller had a 7-3, 1.41 record in 63.2 innings for the Padres prior to the trade. With the Pirates he pitched 16 games and posted a 1.29 ERA in 28 innings. In the playoffs that year he pitched three innings in the game two win over the Giants in the NLCS, then pitched in three games during the World Series win over the Baltimore Orioles. Miller pitched 36 games for the 1972 Pirates going 5-2, 2.65 with three saves, followed by a scoreless inning in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds that postseason. He was released by the Pirates just prior to the start of the 1973 season. He moved around a lot that year, got to the Padres first, followed by time with the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets. He wasn’t as good as his time in Pittsburgh, but he still had a solid season, posting a 3.67 ERA in 73.2 innings over 41 outings. Miller finished up his career with the Mets in 1974, posting a 3.58 ERA 78 innings over 58 games. He was released after the season and finished his pro career with a brief stint in Triple-A for the Padres in 1975. In his career he went 69-81, 3.37 with 51 saves.

Dal Maxvill, shortstop for the 1973-74 Pirates. He was a strong fielding, light-hitting shortstop nearing the end of his career when the Pirates purchased his contract from the Oakland A’s on July 7,1973. He won a Gold Glove with the St Louis Cardinals in 1968 and batted .253 that season. It was the only year during his 14-season big league career he hit over .250, and the only time he scored more than 50 runs (51) in a season. Maxvill provided the Pirates with strong defense in 1973, playing 74 games at shortstop, but he hit just .189 with no homers and 17 RBIs. He was released eight games into the 1974 season and signed back with the A’s where he finished his career in 1975. He signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1960. Maxvill made the majors just two years after starting the 1962 season strong with Tulsa of the Texas League. He was batting .348 with 18 extra-base hits in 47 games before joining the Cardinals in June. That average couldn’t carry over, but he provided plenty of defensive value at shortstop. Maxvill hit .222 in 79 games as a rookie. He was a bench player in 1963, seeing 57 plate appearances over 53 games. He played 24 games at shortstop, nine at second base and three at third base, though he made a total of nine starts. He saw a little less time in 1964, while spending part of the year in the minors. He made just two starts all season with the Cardinals, until the postseason. An injury to second baseman Julian Javier forced Maxvill into the final game of the regular season, then he started all seven games in the World Series. He had 22 plate appearances in the World Series and 27 during the season. He hit just .135 with no homers in 68 games during the 1965 season. You would think that doing that poorly would hurt his career, but he was a regular in the lineup for the first time in 1966. It would be the first of seven straight season with 132+ games played. He had a solid year at the plate by his standards, batting .244 with 14 doubles, which was a career high that he tied the next season. Using modern metrics, his 2.5 dWAR was the best in the National League in 1966.

Maxvill set a career high with 152 games played in 1967, a mark he would tie three years later. His 2.3 dWAR was third best among all NL players. After his big 1968 season, Maxvill dropped like a rock the next year on offense. He hit .175 with a .492 OPS in 132 games. Things were barely better in 1970, though his defense earned him a league best 2.1 dWAR. Maxvill hit .201 in 152 games, with no homers or stolen bases, while posting a .510 OPS. He improved slightly in 1971, putting up a .565 OPS. That was followed by a .560 OPS in 1972, prior to an August trade to the Oakland A’s. He ended up playing with four World Series winning teams during his career, winning twice in St Louis (1964 and 1967) and twice in Oakland (1972 and 1974). Maxvill ended his career with a .217 average and just six homers and seven stolen bases in 1,423 games. His career 15.7 dWAR ranks him just outside the top 100 players all-time at any position. He turns 82 today.

Manny Mota, outfielder for the 1963-68 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1957 at 19 years old and batted .314 in 126 games for Michigan City of the Midwest League, but didn’t make it to the majors for the first time until five years later. Mota batted well every year in the minors, backing up that debut with a .304 average in 1958, a .301 mark in 1959 and a .307 average in 1960. He spent all of 1961 in the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .289 in 142 games. Mota made the Opening Day roster for the 1962 San Francisco Giants, where he hit .176 in 47 games. He spent a chunk of the season back in the minors, where he batted .348 in 30 games. He was traded to the expansion Houston Colt .45’s in the off-season. The Pirates acquired him on April 4, 1963 before he played a game in Houston, giving up outfielder Howie Goss in the deal. Mota didn’t play much during his first season in Pittsburgh, but from 1964-68 he saw plenty of time at all three outfield positions, playing at least 111 games each season. He started just 25 games in 1963, mostly playing left field. In 1964, he started 47 games in center field. He played a total of 56 games in left field, but only three of those games were starts. His 1965 season was very similar in playing time and batting average (.277 in 1964 vs .279). Mota also saw a large majority of his starts in center field, while playing 35 games in left field without a start. He would hit .332 in 116 games in 1966, followed by a .321 season in 1967, getting a total of 671 at-bats between the two seasons. He saw a large dip in his offense in 1968, though it was a down year for offense all around baseball. Mota hit .281 with a .653 OPS. The Pirates lost him to the Montreal Expos during the 1968 Expansion Draft, though his stay there was short. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in June of 1969 and remained there for the duration of his career. He batted over .300 in each of his first five seasons after leaving Pittsburgh. Mota played parts of 20 seasons in the majors, last getting an at-bat in 1982 for the Dodgers. He was a .304 career hitter and also the all-time leader in pinch hits when he retired, breaking the record of former Pirate Smoky Burgess in 1979, before losing the record to Lenny Harris in 2001. He had an incredible 1977 season off of the bench at 39 years old. He put up a .389 average and a 1.022 OPS in 48 pinch-hitting appearances. He started just one game that year and collected two hits. He finished with an even .300 average as a pinch-hitter in his career, assuming that role 594 times total in 1,536 games. Mota was an All-Star in 1973, despite playing just 89 games and failing to hit a homer. His sons Andy and Jose Mota each played in the majors as well as his cousin Jose Baez. He turns 82 today.

Cal Neeman, catcher for the 1962 Pirates. He was in his sixth season in the majors when the Pirates purchased his contract from the Philadelphia Phillies on May 9, 1962. Neeman played 24 games for the Pirates, hitting .180 with five RBIs in 50 at-bats. Prior to Spring Training in 1963, the Pirates traded him to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for first baseman Bob Burda, who never played for the Pirates. Neeman went on to play for three organizations that season, his last year in the majors. In seven big league seasons he was a .224 hitter, playing in 376 games. He first signed to play pro ball at 20 years old in 1949, but it took him eight years to make it to the majors. Part of that time length is due to the fact that he spent two years (1951-52) in the Army during the Korean War, which happened with many players during that era. Neeman returned in 1953, but didn’t make a strong impression until the 1955 season when he batted .295 for Birmingham of the Southern Association. He moved up to Triple-A in 1956 and had a mediocre season at the plate, which was still enough to get him selected in the Rule 5 draft in December of 1956. As a rookie in 1957 for the Chicago Cubs he hit .258 with ten homers in 122 games and led all National League catchers in putouts and runners caught stealing. He hit .259 with 12 homers in 76 games in 1958, then saw a huge drop in his offensive production. Neeman batted .162 with three homers in 1959, then started off 2-for-13 in 1960, before being traded to the Phillies. He hit .188 in 78 games for Philadelphia before joining the Pirates. After leaving Pittsburgh, he played in the minors for the Cardinals, then saw nine games for the Cleveland Indians and 14 games for the Washington Senators. He also saw some minor league time with the Indians that year, which was his last in pro ball.

Luis Arroyo, pitcher for the 1956-57 Pirates. He didn’t make the majors until age 28 in 1955, but was able to make the All-Star team his rookie season while playing for the St Louis Cardinals. Early the next season the Pirates acquired him for Max Surkont, a veteran pitcher who was nearing the end of his Major League career. Arroyo pitched 18 games for the Pirates, mostly in relief and went 3-3, 4.71 in 28.2 innings. He was sent to the minors after an appearance on July 1st and didn’t return until mid-September. He was used often in 1957, pitching 54 total games, ten as a starter. He went 3-11, 4.68 in 130.2 innings pitched. After spending all of 1958 in the minors, the Pirates traded Arroyo to the Cincinnati Reds for minor leaguer Nino Escalera on December 3, 1958. Arroyo pitched one partial season for the Reds, spending most of the year in the minors. He then played four years for the New York Yankees, including the 1961 season when he won 15 games, saved 29, finished sixth in the AL MVP voting and made his second All-Star appearance. Arroyo led the league with 65 pitching appearances. He pitched against the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, after going 5-1, 2.88 during the regular season. During his only postseason appearance, he allowed an RBI single to Roberto Clemente in game five, which helped the Pirates to victory that day. In his eight seasons in the majors, Arroyo went 40-32, 3.93 in 244 games (36 starts) and 531.1 innings. He was born in Puerto Rico and first played pro ball at 21 years old in 1948. His career was sidetracked in the spring of 1952 due to an arm injury, which caused him to miss two full seasons. He returned in 1954 to go 16-9, 2.42 in 227 innings, splitting his season between two levels in the minors. Despite the fact that he was playing in A-ball and Double-A that season, he made the Opening Day roster for the Cardinals in 1955. He had a nice 11-8 record during that All-Star season, though his 4.19 ERA in 159 innings was a bit high. He had a 2.44 ERA at the All-Star break, which explains the selection. Arroyo had an 8.19 ERA after the All-Star break and lost his starting role in early September.

Sherry Smith, pitcher for the 1911-12 Pirates. After his first season in the minors in 1910, the Pirates picked him up in the Rule 5 draft that September. Smith saw very little minor league time in 1910 and the team the Pirates selected him from (Jacksonville of the South Atlantic League) used him more at third base than on the mound. He made his big league debut on May 11, 1911 during a 19-10 loss to the Phillies. Smith faced seven batters, retired two, while allowing four hits and a walk before he was pulled. All five base runners would score, four of them earned runs. The Pirates didn’t have the innings for Smith, so they decided on May 31st to release him to Minneapolis of the American Association, though he ended up playing mostly for the Greenwood Scouts of the Cotton States League in 1911. The Pirates recalled him at the end of the year, but in January he was released to Springfield of the Central League. He moved up two levels in the minors in 1912 and won 18 games, earning another look from the Pirates. He pitched in three September games, including both games of a doubleheader on September 19th, allowing three runs over four innings of work. On December 13, 1912, Smith was released to Louisville of the American Association, officially ending his time with Pirates. He next appeared in the majors in 1915 when he won 14 games for Brooklyn in back-to-back seasons. In 1916, he had a 2.34 ERA in 219 innings. After going 12-12, 3.32 in 211.1 in 1917, Smith spent the entire 1918 serving during WWI. He returned in 1919 and had a great 2.24 ERA in 173 innings, though he finished with a 7-12 record for a team that went 69-71 on the season. He was even better in 1920, going 11-9, 1.85 in 136.1 innings, making 13 starts and 20 relief appearances. Smith had a similar role over the next three years, spent with Brooklyn and the Cleveland Indians, who acquired him on September 18, 1922 via waivers. He finished out his career in Cleveland in 1927. While there, he had three straight double-digit win seasons (1924-26) and pitched a total of 484.2 innings during the 1925-26 seasons. He played a total of 14 seasons in the majors, finishing with a 114-118 career record. Smith had a 3.32 ERA in 2,052.2 innings. He threw complete games in 142 of his 226 games. During his time in Pittsburgh, he went by his first name (Sherrod).

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