Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on this date
Brandon Wood, third baseman/shortstop for the 2011 Pirates. He was a first round pick out of Horizon HS in Arizona, selected 23rd overall by the Anaheim Angels in 2003. Wood had two solid seasons to open up his pro career, then really broke out in High-A ball in 2005. Playing in the high-offense California League, he hit .321 with 53 doubles, 43 homers and 115 RBIs. He even earned a late promotion to Triple-A to finish the season. Wood went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and he hit 14 homers in 29 games. In 2006, he spent the entire season in Double-A, where he batted .276 with 71 extra-base hits, 19 steals and 54 walks. He moved up to Triple-A in 2007 and hit .272 with 51 extra-base hits in 111 games, again playing in a high-offense environment. The Angels called him up three different times, all brief stints, amounting in a .152 average over 13 games. After the season, he did poorly in a short stint in the Mexican winter league. Wood began 2008 back in Triple-A, but he was up in the majors by the last week of April. He had a rough go, batting .125 through 29 games, when the Angels sent him back down in mid-June. He returned in late August and hit .256 with four homers in the final 26 games. Wood tried winter ball again, this time in the Dominican, and again did very poorly in a short stint. The 2009 season was similar to the previous two years. He did well in Triple-A (.910 OPS), but it didn’t carry over to the majors (.559 OPS in 18 games). In 2010, he was injured for part of the year and did awful at both Triple-A and during a brief big league stint. After the season, he played in the Arizona Fall League, as a rare player with MLB experience to see action in the league. He batted .341, but it comes with the caveat that he was basically playing Double-A level ball.
Out of minor league options, Wood began the 2011 season in the majors and did poorly over six games. The Pirates took him off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on April 22, 2011. He had played parts of five seasons for the Angels, hitting .168 over 173 games, with 11 homers. In 764 minor league games over eight seasons (up to that point), he batted .284, with 222 doubles and 161 homers. For the Pirates he played 99 games and hit .220 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. He saw most of his playing time at third base, but he also saw time at shortstop, second base and first base. He was granted free agency in early November 2011 and signed with the Colorado Rockies two weeks later. Wood played pro ball until 2014 without making it back to the majors. He played all of 2012 in Triple-A for the Rockies, then spent 2013 with the Kansas City Royals first, followed by the Baltimore Orioles, who released him in late July. He signed with the San Diego Padres for 2014, but they released him late in Spring Training. Wood finished up in independent ball in 2014, hitting .098 in 25 games for the Sugar Land Skeeters. His career ended at 29 years old, with a total of 211 homers over 12 seasons of pro ball.
Don Schwall, pitcher for the 1963-66 Pirates. Schwall was a star basketball player at the University of Oklahoma, who wasn’t quite as good at baseball, but still drew the attention of scouts for his fastball and ability to throw strikes. He signed with the Boston Red Sox and debuted in pro ball at 22 years old in 1958. After a decent first season, he played for Alpine of the Sophomore League in 1959 and won 23 games, while posting a 3.36 ERA in 228 innings. He made the huge jump from Class-D to Triple-A in one year, playing for Minneapolis of the American Association in 1960. Schwall went 16-9, 3.59 in 193 innings. He moved sideways to the Pacific Coast League to start 1961, making five starts for Seattle before getting the call to the majors. He had a terrific rookie season for the Boston Red Sox in 1961, going 15-7, 3.22 in 25 starts, completing ten games. He was named to the All-Star team and was also voted the AL Rookie of the Year. His sophomore season wasn’t quite as good, as he posted a 9-15, 4.94 record in 32 starts and 182.1 innings. The difference in the two seasons showed in his inning total, pitching just 3.2 more innings in 1962, despite seven more starts and one relief appearance. The Pirates acquired him in a four-player deal that included them giving up power hitting first baseman Dick Stuart in November of 1962. Schwall had a 3.33 ERA in 167.2 innings during his first season with the Pirates, but his record suffered from playing for a sub .500 team. He went 6-12 and didn’t win a game after July 16th, going 0-8 in nine starts and nine relief appearances over the last 71 games of the season. He began the 1964 season in the majors, but ended up spending half of year (early May until mid-July) in the minors. Schwall went 4-3, 4.35 in 49.2 innings over nine starts and six relief appearances for the 1964 Pirates. He was in the majors for all of 1965 and pitched the entire season in relief, picking up nine wins and posting a 2.92 ERA in 77 innings. He had a 3-2, 2.16 record in 11 games (four starts) through the first two months of 1966, before the Pirates sent him to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for pitcher Billy O’Dell. Schwall finished the 1966 season with Atlanta, then pitched one game for them in 1967, which turned out to be his last appearance in the majors. He finished his pro career in the minors later that year. While with the Pirates he went 22-23, 3.24 in 102 games. His career record stands at 49-48, 3.72 in 743 innings over 103 starts and 69 relief appearances.
Cal Abrams, outfielder for the 1953-54 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942, but due in part to serving three years in the Army during WWII, he didn’t make his Major League debut until 1949. Abrams was a strong minor league hitter, batting at least .331 every season from 1946-1950. He played just 19 games before being inducted in the Army at 18 years old in January of 1943. He got out in January of 1946 and then went to Danville of the Three-I League, where he batted .331 with 86 walks, 100 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. Moving up to Mobile of the Southern Association in 1947, he batted .345 with 124 walks, 56 extra-base hits and 134 runs scored. Despite those great stats, he repeated the level for the entire 1948 season and put up similar results, albeit in 23 fewer games. Abrams then went from Double-A to the majors for Opening Day in 1949, playing eight April games before being sent to Fort Worth of the Texas League. He hit .336 with 137 walks and 116 runs in 120 games, putting up a .497 OBP. He got another look from Brooklyn in 1950, but still ended up spending half of the season in the minors, where he batted .333 for St Paul of the American Association. Abrams never got a chance to play full-time with the Dodgers during his four seasons in Brooklyn because they had a star packed lineup at the time. He hit .280 and had a .419 OBP in 1951, but from August 1st on, he was used strictly as a pinch-hitter, getting just 11 plate appearances over the last 60 games. The Dodgers traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in June 1952, then Cincinnati shipped him to Pittsburgh in October of that year as part of a three-for-one swap in exchange for Gus Bell. Abrams hit .274 with 21 walks and 13 extra-base hits in 81 games in 1952. For the Pirates, he played right field regularly in 1953, hitting .286 with 15 homers, 58 walks and 66 runs scored in 119 games. Just 17 games into the 1954 season, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for veteran pitcher Dick Littlefield. Abrams was batting .143 at the time of the deal. He hit .293, with 72 walks and 67 runs scored in 115 games for the Orioles that season. He followed that up with a .243 in 118 games in 1955, though his 89 walks led to a .413 OBP. The Orioles shipped him to the Chicago White Sox just two weeks after the 1955 season ended. By May of 1956 he was out of the majors, getting just five plate appearances over four games with Chicago. Abrams finished up as a .269 hitter in 567 big league games, with 32 homers and 138 RBIs. He had just 12 stolen bases in 32 attempts. He excelled at drawing walks, getting 304 free passes, which led to an impressive .386 OBP. He ended up playing the rest of the 1956 season and all of 1957 in the International League, before retiring as a player.
Frank Colman, outfielder for the 1942-46 Pirates. Colman was born and raised in Canada, where he played amateur ball until signing his first pro deal in 1939. He hit .290 in limited time during his first season in pro ball, then moved up two levels to Wilmington of the Interstate League in 1940, where he batted .361 in 73 games. Colman joined Toronto of the International League in 1941, and he batted .294 in 113 games. In 1942 he hit .300 in 119 games for Toronto before joining the Pirates in September to make his Major League debut. The Pirates acquired him and teammate Jack Hallett on September 7, 1942 for what was described as “a sum of cash and several players to be named later”. Colman had a crazy debut with the Pirates on September 10, 1942, getting into a second inning collision with Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Murphy, which knocked Murphy out cold and he needed to be carried off the field in a stretcher. Murphy debuted in the majors that same day during the first game of a doubleheader. The collision happened in game two, which was called in the fourth inning due to the weather, so Colman’s first game in the majors didn’t actually make it to the record books. His recognized debut came two days later and he ended up batting .135 in ten games that year. Colman made the 1943 Opening Day roster, but through the first 82 games of the season, he played just 30 times and only started nine games. He was sent back to Toronto to finish the season. The 1944 season was his first full season in the majors and he hit .270 with 53 RBIs in 99 games, spending most of his playing time in right field. He didn’t hit well the following season, hitting .209 in 77 games and 162 plate appearances. Colman began the 1946 season with the Pirates before being sold to the New York Yankees on June 17, 1946. He hit .163 in 27 games total with New York through the end of the 1947 season. After finishing up his big league career in August of 1947, he was sent to Newark of the International League, where he spent the entire 1948 season. That was followed by two years in the Pacific Coast League, then his final three seasons of pro ball were spent back with Toronto in the International League. In his five seasons with the Pirates, he hit .233 over 244 games, with 12 homers and 95 RBIs. He only attempted one stole base (unsuccessfully too) during his six seasons in the majors. Most of his playing time with the Pirates was spent in right field, but he also played 30 games at first base and 14 games in left field. He was a .304 career minor league hitter in 1,035 games. Colman was mostly a singles hitter early in his career, but in the later years, he reached double digits in home runs four times, topping out at 18 homers during the 1950 season.
Rip Wheeler, pitcher for the 1921-22 Pirates. He pitched just two games for the Pirates, one in each season with the team. Wheeler had won 23 games and pitched 263 innings in the minors when he joined the Pirates late in the 1921 season. He began the year pitching for London of the Michigan-Ontario League, but got his break when the Pirates let him throw batting practice as a tryout before an exhibition game on July 8th. He impressed manager George Gibson enough that the Pirates sent him to their affiliate (Birmingham of the Southern Association) to finish out the season. He joined the Pirates on September 19th and made his Major League debut on September 30, 1921 in relief of Hal Carlson, who gave up eight runs to the Cardinals through 4.1 innings. Wheeler pitched three innings, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk in the 12-4 loss. He returned to the minors in 1922, winning 22 games and again finished with 263 innings pitched. His one big league game that season came during the 13th game of the season and this time he pitched one scoreless inning, allowing a hit and two walks. On May 2nd, he was released on option to Rochester of the International League, though he was there for just one game before being sent to Wichita Falls of the Texas League. On December 16, 1922, the Pirates officially cut ties with him, releasing him outright to Wichita Falls. Wheeler spent the 1924 season with the Chicago Cubs, his last year and only full season in the majors. He had won 22 minor league games in 1923 and also made three September starts for Chicago, earning his full-time job in 1924. He played pro ball regularly until 1928, spending a lot of time with Wichita Falls (1922-23, 1925-26). In 1939 at age 41, he pitched two innings for San Diego of the Pacific Coast League, 11 years after his previous final game of pro ball. His pro career began in 1916 at 18 years old, but he didn’t play again professionally until five years later. His real name was Floyd and that is how he was most commonly referred to during his time in Pittsburgh. He had a sidearm delivery that was called puzzling for batters, and he was said to “scrape the grasstops” during his delivery.
William Fischer, catcher for the 1916-17 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1909 at the age of 18, playing in the New England League. He spent the 1910-11 seasons playing with Binghamton of the New York State League. After the 1910 season, he was drafted by the Brooklyn Superbas. He went to Spring Training with them in 1911 and 1912, but failed to make the team each year. At the beginning of 1912, he was traded to Toronto of the International League, a top minor league at the time. He lasted just 34 games in Toronto, finishing the season back in the New York State League with Wilkes-Barre. Brooklyn reacquired Fischer when they took him in the Rule 5 draft that September. He ended up playing two seasons (1913-14) in the majors for the Superbas. He hit .263 in 105 games, with one homer and 20 RBIs during that time. He broke his contract and jumped to the Federal League for the 1915 season before returning to the National League to play for the Chicago Cubs in 1916. Fischer did outstanding in the Federal League with the Chicago Whales, hitting .329 in 105 games. With the 1916 Cubs, he hit .196 in 65 games. The Pirates acquired him on July 29, 1916 in a four-player deal. He would go on to play 42 games for Pittsburgh that season, hitting .257 with six RBIs in 113 at-bats. In 1917 he platooned at catcher for the Pirates with Walter Schmidt and Bill Wagner. It would be the last season in the majors for Fischer, and he hit .286 with 25 RBIs in 95 games. He hit just ten homers in his 412 major league games but twice he hit two homers in the same game. His time with the Pirates ended due to a contract hold out in 1918. He stayed at home to work during Spring Training and the early part of the season, until the Pirates agreed to release him to Binghamton of the International League on May 5, 1918. He ended up playing sporadically in the minors over the next 12 years, seeing action in 1918-19, 1924, 1927 and 1929.
Chick Robitaille, pitcher for the 1904-05 Pirates. He pitched 163 games for the Troy Trojans over four seasons before the Pirates purchased his contract in August of 1904. He also played some third base for Troy when he wasn’t pitching and the scouting report said that he was a fine fielder. Robitaille was signed by the Pirates on August 30th and joined the team two days later, one day prior to his big league debut in Pittsburgh, which he won 2-1 over Brooklyn, allowing ten hits and a walk while pitching a complete game. He made eight late season starts and had a 4-3, 1.91 record in 66 innings during that rookie season. In 1905 he spent the entire season with Pittsburgh, making 12 starts and five relief appearances, posting a record of 8-5, 2.92 in 120.1 innings. He fell out of favor with manager Fred Clarke at a surprising time. He won a complete game 2-1 over St Louis on the road on June 28th. Robitaille didn’t pitch again until August 10th, and was even left home to practice on his own on July 10th while the team went on a 17-day road trip. On August 7th, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Pirates sold Robitaille to the Cincinnati Reds, going as far as patting themselves on the back for getting the scoop ahead of everyone else. The very next day it was reported that the St Louis Cardinals were after his services. Two days later he pitched five innings in relief and allowed just one run. Robitaille was left at home during another shorter road trip in September and he didn’t make a single appearance during the final 40 days of the season, yet the club still reserved him in September for the 1906 season. Despite the success in the majors (2.56 ERA over two seasons), he did not return with the Pirates in 1906, or with any other big league club. The Pirates acquired a strong starter in Vic Willis in the off-season and had a five-man rotation in place ahead of Robitaille. On January 18, 1906, the Pirates sold Robitaille and fellow pitcher Patsy Flaherty to Columbus of the American Association. He returned to the minors where he pitched eight more seasons, the last six near his hometown in upstate New York. His minor league stats are far from completely known, but we do know that he won 21 games for Columbus in 1907, and then matched that win total three years later with Utica of the New York State League. His actual first name was Joseph, but was more commonly known as Chick during his baseball career. While in Pittsburgh, he was known by the name Robertaille, which was even phonetically written in the local papers as “rob-er-toy” as an introduction to the fans.