This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 20th, Elroy Face and Frankie Gustine

There have been six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Elroy Face, pitcher for the 1953, 1955-68 Pirates. He joined the Pirates in December of 1952 after he was taken in the Rule 5 draft. He had played four seasons in the minors with the Philadelphia Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers, winning at least 14 games every year. He had a 69-27 record during that time, averaging over 210 innings per year. Half of that time was spent at the lowest level of the minors, but his best season came in 1951 when he won 23 games for Pueblo of the Western League. The Dodgers acquired via the minor league draft, while the Pirates selected him in the Major League portion of the draft. The second time he was picked by General Manager Branch Rickey from his old team. In his rookie season in 1953, Face pitched 40 games, getting 13 starts from June 17th until the end of the year. He was clearly not ready for the majors, but as a Rule 5 pick he had to stay. In 119 innings he posted a 6.58 ERA. He spent the entire 1954 season in the minors, where he developed his famous forkball and also worked on a slider. Prior to that he was throwing a fastball and curveball. He went 12-11, 4.45 in 192 innings for New Orleans of the Southern Association, making 25 starts and 15 relief appearances. Face returned to the majors for 1955 and cut his ERA to 3.58, down exactly three runs. He threw 125.2 innings, making ten starts and 32 relief appearances. He threw four complete games and picked up five saves (not an official stat at the time).

By 1956 he was being used strictly out of the bullpen. After making 23 starts his first two seasons, he started just four more games his entire career (none after 1957). In 1956 he threw 135.1 innings and led the league with 68 games pitched, which set a team record for appearances at the time. He had a 12-13, 3.52 record and added four more saves. Face didn’t see as much work in 1957, but he saw improvements in his ERA for a third straight season. In 93.2 innings over 59 appearances, he went 4-6, 3.07 with ten saves. In 1958 he posted a 2.89 ERA in 84 innings over 57 games, while recording 20 saves, which was tops in the National League. In 1959 Face compiled an amazing 18-1 record in his 57 appearances. He made his first of three straight All-Star appearances and finished seventh in the MVP voting. We covered that season in depth here. During the 1960 season, the Pirates won the World Series and he contributed with ten wins, 24 saves and a league leading 68 appearances. He pitched 114.2 innings during the season and another 10.1 innings in the series, picking up saves in games one, four and five.

In 1961, Face led the league in saves (17) for a second time and he was an All-Star for a third straight season. He went 6-12, with a 3.82 ERA, so it was a bit of a drop-off from previous seasons, but he would bounce back quickly, even if it was a temporary rise. Face had perhaps his best season in 1962. In 91 innings over 63 games, he posted a career low 1.88 ERA and career high 28 saves, which led the NL. According to WAR, his 4.0 mark that year was the best of his career. He began to see less work in 1963, which was still a solid season, despite a 3-9 record. Face had a 3.23 ERA and 16 saves in 69.2 innings over 56 games. His ERA dropped down to a 5.20 in 1964 at the age of 36, but he rebounded for four more strong seasons with an ERA between 2.42 and 2.70 each year. His 1965 season was limited to 16 appearances and 20.1 innings due to a knee injury suffered while running in the outfield. He was out from early May until late August. He bounced back to make 115 appearances and pitched 144.1 innings over the 1966-67 season. Before his sale to the Tigers in late August 1968, the Pirates kept him long enough so that he could tie Walter Johnson’s record for most games pitched with one team, getting his 802nd appearance on the same day he was shipped to Detroit. Among the Pirates all-time leaders he ranks first in games pitched and saves with 186. He went 100-93, 3.46 in 1,314.2 innings with the Pirates. The 1968 Tigers won the World Series and Face was brought in to help their bullpen, but they ended up using him just two times, pitching a total of one inning. That was mostly because their starting pitchers were finishing a lot of their games. Face finished his Major League career with 44 appearances for the Montreal Expos in 1969, then pitched briefly in the minors in 1970 before retiring.

Frankie Gustine, infielder for the 1939-48 Pirates. He played 1,176 games with the Pirates, the 21st highest total in franchise history. The Pirates signed him as a 17-year-old amateur and sent him to the low minors in 1937. He did well in 1938 after moving up a level, then even better in 1939 in Class-B ball, where he hit .300 in 137 games, earning a September call-up for the Pirates. By 1940, he was their everyday second baseman, hitting .281 in 133 games as a rookie. He hit .270 in 121 games during the 1941 season, then tried to enlist in the military after the season, but he was denied due to a hernia, so he remained in baseball during that time when teams lost many of their best young players. Gustine had a poor 1942 season, batting just .229 in 115 games, but turned it around the next year by hitting .290. That season he played more shortstop than second base. He was the regular shortstop in 1944-45 and struggled the first year with a .230 average and a .591 OPS, before he hitting .280 with 66 RBIs in 1945. Back to second base for 1946, he made his first All-Star team by hitting over .300 for most of the first half of the season. On July 20th, Gustine was batting .306 through 79 games. Over the remainder of the season, he hit just .193 in 52 games.

Gustine moved to third base in 1947 and made the All-Star team again while leading the league in games played with 156. That year he set career highs in batting average (.297), runs scored (102) and RBIs (67). He made his third straight All-Star appearance in 1948 before the Pirates shipped him to the Chicago Cubs on December 8, 1948 in a four-player deal that netted them pitcher Cliff Chambers, who would throw a no-hitter in 1951. The 1948 season was similar to 1946, when a hot start got him the All-Star selection and a poor finish made the season look average. He was even more impressive early in 1948 though, holding a .411 average at the end of play on May 29th. While he was still hitting over .300 by the time the All-Star game came around, his drop-off began on May 30th and lasted the rest of the season. He batted .209 over his final 98 games and he was getting limited starts during the second half of September. The decision to move on from Gustine seemed like good timing for the Pirates, despite making three straight All-Star appearances and being two months shy of his 29th birthday at the time. In his only season with the Cubs, he hit .226 in 76 games and played below average defense, resulting in a -0.5 WAR for the season. He was selected by the Philadelphia Athletics off waivers after the season, then traded to the St Louis Browns in a six-player deal two months later. His last season in the majors saw him hit .158 over nine games for the 1950 Browns. Gustine has the dubious distinction of leading the league in errors at three different positions, second base in 1940, shortstop in 1945 and third base in 1947. While with the Pirates he hit .268, with 1,152 hits, 523 runs and 451 RBIs. Gustine hit 34 homers for the Pirates, with 26 of them coming during his three All-Star seasons. Part of that was due to the left field fence being moved in at Forbes Field in 1947. He had five homers at Forbes over his first seven seasons, then hit 12 in the next two years. For good measure, his final big league homer came at Forbes while as a member of the Cubs.

Tony Menendez, pitcher for the 1993 Pirates. He was born in Cuba, but he became a first round pick of the Chicago White Sox in the 1984 draft, selected at 19 years old out of American HS in Miami, Florida. It took him eight years and four organizations before he finally made the majors in 1992, pitching three mid-season games over a two-week stretch for the Cincinnati Reds that year. Menendez saw his career stall at Double-A for quite some time, pitching four straight seasons (1986-89) for Birmingham of the Southern Association. He spent the 1990 season at Triple-A, then became a minor league free agent at the end of the year. Menendez signed with the Montreal Expos, but they released him right before Opening Day in 1991. He was picked up by the Texas Rangers, where he had a 5.20 ERA in 116 innings at Triple-A. The Reds signed him as a free agent and gave him his brief big league trial, which went well, with one hit and one run in 4.2 innings. That November the Pirates signed him as a free agent and sent him to Triple-A, where he worked as the team’s closer. He was briefly called up in July, making his Pittsburgh debut in long relief against the Reds. After two games he was sent back to the minors, where he compiled a 2.42 ERA and 24 saves in 54 games. The Pirates recalled Menendez in September and used him often out of the pen, getting 12 appearances in the final month of the season. His final stat line showed a 3-0, 3.00 record in 21 innings. He left via free agency after the season and signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he played two seasons (mostly in Triple-A). Menendez pitched terrific in relief in Triple-A in 1994, posting a 2.22 ERA in 28.1 innings over 28 appearances. He earned another cup of coffee in the majors (actually two brief stints) and saw very poor results, with eight runs over 3.1 innings in his six appearances. After a 3.92 ERA and 13 saves in 50 appearances and 64.1 innings in the minors in 1995, he went on to play in Mexico in 1996, which was his final season of pro ball. A majority of his pro career was spent as a starting pitcher, but all 23 of his Major League appearances came in relief.

Jack Rafter, catcher for the Pirates on September 24, 1904. He played 13 seasons in the minors beginning in 1894, yet he managed to get into just one big league game. Rafter had played for the Troy Trojans of the New York State League for four seasons prior to playing for the Pirates. During the 1902-04 seasons he was the catcher for Chick Robitaille, who also made his Major League debut in September 1904 for the Pirates. Not surprisingly, when Rafter played his only game in the majors, Robitaille was on the mound. During a 3-1 loss in New York to the Giants, Rafter went 0-for-3 at the plate and was flawless in the field while throwing out one of the two runners who attempted to steal off him. The scouting report on him said that he was the best defensive catcher in the New York State League. He actually gave up catching for a time to play outfield, before switching back while in Troy and established himself as a strong defensive player. The Pirates threw him right into the fire, as a note out of Troy said that he left to join the Pirates on September 22nd, and then he was playing two days later. The day after his only big league game, he caught an exhibition game against a minor league team from Newark and failed to pick up a hit, while committing an error and a passed ball. The next day he was allowed to leave for home for the winter while the Pirates headed to Boston for a series. They wanted to give time to a young catcher named Jimmy Archer. The decision between the two catchers came down to the fact that Archer was signed to a contract and Rafter never actually signed with the Pirates. He returned to the minors in 1905 and played three more seasons before retiring in May of 1908, so he could stay at home and run his business in Troy. Rafter almost didn’t make a the majors. He had to retire for a time due to injuries suffered in an accident, which took a long time to heal. Rafter is one of 60 players who attended Fordham University to make the majors, but only eight have started their career since 1950. He was a railroad inspector in the off-season back when most baseball players needed to supplement their salary over the winter.

Tom O’Brien, infielder for the Pirates in 1898 and 1900. He was a member of the Pirates three different times although he was traded before he played his first game for the team. In that trade on November 11, 1896, the Pirates also gave up Jake Stenzel (their all-time batting leader) in exchange for star outfielder Steve Brodie. O’Brien played one full season and part of 1898 before the Pirates purchased his contract back in June. In Baltimore, he hit .242 with no homers in 68 games, splitting his time between first base and the two corner infield spots. After joining the Pirates, he would hit .259 in 107 games with 45 RBIs and 53 runs scored to finish out the year. In 1899, the Pirates loaned him to the New York Giants, in a move that seems crazy to do now, but it occasionally happened back in the day. O’Brien would have his best season in the majors with the Giants, hitting .296 with 101 runs scored. When the season ended he was returned to the Pirates. In 1900 he hit .290 with 61 runs scored and 61 RBIs in 102 games. O’Brien would’ve likely played a big role on the 1901 Pirates, the first team to win a pennant in franchise history, but in early February that year he died of pneumonia at the age of 27. It was said that he became ill in the previous fall while on a baseball tour to Cuba, where he was told that drinking sea water helped prevent seasickness. O’Brien apparently took that advice to heart and became very ill, losing 40 pounds and suffering with lung issues before the pneumonia came on while he was in Arizona attempting to recover. There was talk of possibly trading him to New York in December of 1900, but talks died down when his condition became more serious. The Pirates originally signed O’Brien after he wrote them a letter in late December 1895 saying that he wanted to play for them. He previously had an offer to play for the Boston Beaneaters (current day Atlanta Braves), but he refused to join the team. The Pirates saw O’Brien first-hand on September 10, 1895 when they played (and lost to) his New Castle minor league team. Manager Connie Mack soon visited his at his home after January 1st and signed an agreement, noting that he didn’t have a blank contract, but the deal was still good. On January 20, 1896, they loaned him to Newark of the Atlantic League, though he ended up playing for the Toronto/Albany franchise of the Eastern League that season. His season ended in mid-September due to a broken ankle, two months before his trade to Baltimore.

Harry Raymond, third baseman for the 1892 Pirates. He began his big league career as a September call-up for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association in 1888. He wasn’t much of a hitter in his four seasons in Louisville. Raymond batted .243 with two homers in 299 games during that time. His best season came when the talent in the league was watered down in 1890 due to the fact three Major Leagues were running at the time. The next year he lasted just 14 games with Louisville before playing out the rest of the season in the minors. He was a strong fielder at third base during an era when defense at the position was much more important than it is today. When the American Association closed shop after the 1891 season, it left the National League as the only Major League, but that didn’t prevent him from getting a job. Raymond signed with the Pirates on March 22, 1892, and at the time he was called the best man who ever manned the third base position for Louisville. He would serve as the backup to Duke Farrell, who ended up starting 133 games at third base for the 1892 Pirates. Raymond played just 12 games for the Pirates that season, hitting .082 in 49 at-bats before being released on June 3rd. Back then when players were released, teams still held their rights for ten days. The Pirates worked out a deal with the Washington Senators on June 13th to release Raymond to them, while outfielder Patsy Donovan was then released to the Pirates. It was a deal that worked out tremendously. Donovan put in eight seasons for the Pirates and was a .307 hitter with speed, scoring 842 runs in 982 games. The Senators gave up on Raymond after just four games and an .067 batting average. Raymond’s defense wasn’t up to par with either team, committing 11 errors in 68 chances at third base. He finished the year in the minors, then would go on to play another seven seasons of minor league ball before retiring. From 1893-99, he played with 13 different minor league teams, two of them as a player/manager.