This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 21st, Meekin Savage Lyons

No major transactions on this date, and just three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on February 21st, all mentioned in my clever title, including a very recent one who didn’t last long.

Tyler Lyons, pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. He was signed as a minor league free agent by the Pirates prior to the 2019 season and lasted just three relief appearances in early May over a four-day stretch in the majors. Lyons allowed five runs in four innings before being designated for assignment. He remained with the Pirates in Triple-A for three months before they released him in August, so he could sign elsewhere. He finished the 2019 season with the New York Yankees, where he had a 4.15 ERA in 8.2 innings over 11 appearances. He pitched one big league game in 2020, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings. He re-signed with the Yankees as a free agent in January of 2021. Lyons has a 4.30 ERA in 282.2 innings over 162 big league appearances. The first 147 games of his career came with the 2013-18 St Louis Cardinals. He was originally drafted in the tenth round in 2009 by the Yankees out of Oklahoma State University. Lyons returned to school, where he was selected by the Cardinals in the ninth round in 2010. He debuted in the minors in 2011, going right to High-A, where he split his time between starting and relief work. From 2012 through 2018, he went back and forth between the minors and majors, seeing starting work in the minors, while mostly pitching in relief in the majors. He first full season at the big league level came in 2016 when he had a 3.38 ERA in 48 innings over 30 appearances. He pitched well in 2017, making 50 appearances, with a 2.83 ERA in 54 innings. That was followed by a rough 2018 campaign in which he twice missed time due to an injury and he finished the year in the minors. Lyons had an 8.64 ERA in 16.2 innings over 27 relief appearances for the 2018 Cardinals. He was granted free agency on October 1st and signed with the Pirates on Christmas Eve.

Ted Savage, outfielder for the 1963 Pirates. Savage debuted in pro ball at 23 years old, playing for Williamsport of the Eastern League. He hit .284 that season, with nine homers, 69 RBIs, 67 walks and 40 stolen bases. The next year he moved up to Buffalo of the International League, where he established himself as a prospect. He batted .325 with 24 homers, 31 stolen bases and 96 walks, though his 115 strikeouts in the minors during that era should have been a bit of a red flag. Savage had a strong rookie season in 1962 for the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting .266 with 54 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 127 games. That November the Pirates acquired him and infielder Poncho Herrera in exchange for third baseman Don Hoak. Savage was used mainly off the bench for the Pirates. He hit well through early May, but his average began to drop, and he made just five starts over the last 94 games of the season. He ended up playing 85 games for the Pirates, hitting .195 in 166 plate appearances. He spent the entire 1964 season in the minors, where hit he .229 in 115 games with ten homers and 26 steals. The Pirates traded him after the season, along with pitcher Earl Francis, to the St Louis Cardinals for two minor leaguers. Savage played parts of three seasons with the Cardinals, batting .160 over 55 games, spending most of his time in the minors. He played four more seasons in the majors, playing for five different teams. He was sold to the Chicago Cubs early in the 1967 season, remaining there until late April of 1968, when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers traded him to the Cincinnati Reds right before the 1969 season started, then the Reds sold him one year later to the Milwaukee Brewers, an expansion team in their second season. With Milwaukee in 1970, he hit a career high .279 with 12 homers, 50 RBIs and 57 walks in 114 games. That was the best season of his career, but by the end of the 1971 season his big league career was over.  He batted .174 in 1971, splitting his time between the Brewers and a another recent expansion team, the Kansas City Royals. Savage finished with a .233 career average, with 34 homers and 49 stolen bases over nine seasons and 642 games. He finished his pro career with two seasons in Mexico.

Jouett Meekin, pitcher for the 1900 Pirates. Meekin debuted in pro ball in 1889 at 22 years old, playing for St Paul of the Western Association. He debuted in the majors in mid-June of 1891, after three seasons with St Paul. He began his big league career with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association, where he went 9-16, 4.28 in 221 innings over 25 starts, with 24 complete games. The American Association closed up shop after the 1891 season and Meekin moved with Louisville to the National League in 1892. He had a 7-10, 4.03 record in 156.1 innings before being released. He finished the year with the lowly Washington Senators, where he had a 3-10 record, despite a 3.46 ERA. While his ERA went up to 4.96 in 1893, the entire league saw a rise in runs scored, so it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Washington finished in 12th/last place with a 40-89 record and Meekin had a 10-15 record. By 1894, which some consider the best year for offense in all of baseball, he was 33-9 with a 3.70 ERA. That was the second best ERA and second most wins in the league. He threw 418 innings and had 41 complete games. When most pitchers had trouble adjusting to the new pitching rules that year, he managed to have his best season.

Meekin went on to win 78 total games over the 1895-98 seasons, all spent with the New York Giants. His 1895 season saw his luck change with his win-loss record. While playing for a .500 team (66-65), he posted a 16-11 record, while putting up a 5.30 ERA. He went 26-14, 3.82 in 334.1 innings in 1896, then had a 20-11, 3.76 season in 1897, topping 300 innings for the fourth time in his career. The Giants were a third place team in 1897, but they were back down to a .500 club the next year and it showed in his record. Despite an ERA just 0.01 higher in nearly the same amount of work, Meekin went from a 20-11 record in 1897 to a 16-18 record in 1898. He started off slow in 1899 and was sold in early August to the Boston Beaneaters, who need an extra arm for their pennant run. He would bounce back with them, going 7-6 2.83 in 13 starts, completing 12 of those games. A month prior to the start of the 1900 season Boston released Meekin, who found a job with the Pirates a short time later, signing on April 10th under the recommendation of new manager Fred Clarke. Meekin would make just two starts for Pittsburgh, one in June and one in July, with his opponent in the pitcher’s box being Cy Young in his final big league game. He didn’t report to the Pirates until 13 days after he signed and was not ready to pitch at the time, so he worked out at Exposition Park while the team was on the road. Interestingly enough, before he pitched a game for the Pirates, Pittsburgh fans had something to look forward to when Boston manager Hugh Duffy said in the papers that he regretted releasing Meekin and it should have never happened.

Meekin returned home for a short time to get into shape, but on May 3rd he was ordered back to Pittsburgh by the team. News was then quiet until mid-June. The Pirates had him penciled in for a debut on June 16th, but poor weather conditions had Fred Clarke decide to use Jack Chesbro instead. He pitched the next day and allowed solo runs in four of the first five innings, before the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) broke through for four runs in the sixth. Meekin lost 8-1 in his debut. There was word that he could pitch June 23rd against St Louis, but he ended up not pitching again until July 8th against St Louis. Meekin got hit hard, giving up 13 runs over five innings before being removed in favor of outfielder Tom McCreery, who pitched the final three innings. According to the game recaps, he had very poor velocity and no command of his pitches. Meekin was known as a pitcher who got by with a lot of velocity at his best and not much else, with decent control and a mediocre curve. The papers also estimated that he wouldn’t pitch again in St Louis and that proved to be correct, though an understatement. That one-sided affair would end up being the last Major League game for Meekin. The day after the Pirates said that they still had faith in him and thought he still offered plenty on the mound. However, he was released 15 days later. The Pirates reportedly stayed with him much longer than expected because his contract was set up to pay him only based on games played, so it cost them very little to keep him around for 3 1/2 months. A week after his release, he returned to the Pirates at the request of Fred Clarke, but never pitched and wasn’t back for long. He played two more seasons of minor league ball before retiring. He finished his major league career with a 152-133 record. His first name was George, but he went by his middle name while playing in the majors.