This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 5th, Kent Tekulve

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one of their top relief pitchers ever. Before we get into them, current Pirates reliever Sam Howard turns 28 today. He will get his bio when he’s a former player.

Eric Bedard, pitcher for the 2012 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1999, selected out of Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. It’s a school that has produced ten draft picks since 1970 (none since 2000) and Bedard is the only one to make the majors. Despite the college experience, he started his career in the Gulf Coast League in 1999, where he put up a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings. He spent the entire 2000 season in Low-A, where he had a 3.57 ERA in 111 innings. He missed a small part of the 2001 season, but did well when healthy, putting up a 2.15 ERA over 17 starts in High-A. Bedard missed the end of 2002 due to Tommy John surgery, but did outstanding at Double-A (1.97 ERA in 68.2 innings) and earned a brief trip to the majors, where he made two early season relief appearances. His comeback in 2003 was limited to 19.1 innings due to the timing of his surgery. Healthy in 2004, Bedard spent the season in the majors (except two Triple-A starts), going 6-10, 4.59 in 137.1 innings. He made 24 starts for the Orioles in 2005, compiling a 6-8, 4.00 record in 141.2 innings. Bedard established himself as a top pitcher in 2006, going 15-11, 3.76 in 33 starts and 196.1 innings. The next year he finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting by going 13-5, 3.16 in 182 innings. He made 230 starts during his career, but only pitched one complete game. It came during the 2007 season and saw him throw a two-hit shutout over the Texas Rangers, while racking up 15 strikeouts. Bedard was traded to the Seattle Mariners for five players prior to the 2008 season and it did not go well for his new team. They gave up Adam Jones, while Bedard was limited by injuries during his four years in Seattle. He made a total of 46 starts for the Mariners, going 15-14, 3.31, while missing the entire 2010 season due to a shoulder injury. He went 5-9, 3.62 in 24 starts in 2011, splitting the season between the Mariners (16 starts) and Boston Red Sox. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in early December 2011. He went 7-14, 5.01 in 125.2 innings over 24 starts before being released in late August. He would go on to pitch two more seasons in the majors before retiring, going 4-12, 4.59 in 151 innings for the 2013 Houston Astros, and 4-6, 4.76 in 75.2 innings for the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays. Bedard posted a 71-82, 3.99 record in 11 seasons in the majors, throwing a total of 1,303.2 innings.

Kent Tekulve, pitcher for the 1974-85 Pirates. Since his time ended with the Pirates, he has been sitting in second place on the team’s all-time list of games pitched and saves, trailing only Elroy Face in both categories. Tekulve signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1969 after a tryout at Forbes Field.  It took him seven seasons and 255 minor league appearances before he established himself as a big leaguer. He was a starter during the 1969 season, posting a 1.70 ERA in 53 innings in the New York-Penn League. He moved up to the Carolina League the next year and switched to relief. Tekulve pitched well, posting a 1.94 ERA in 41 appearances, with 75 strikeouts in 79 innings. Despite those stats, he remained at the same level the next year and saw a slip in his performance, putting up a 3.48 ERA in 75 innings. The 1972 season saw him pitch strong enough at Double-A (2.63 ERA in 72 innings) that he made nine appearances in Triple-A, where he had a 4.09 ERA in 22 innings. That Triple-A assignment didn’t stick in 1973, but perhaps it should have according to his stats at Double-A that year. Tekulve went 12-4, 1.53 with 18 saves over 57 appearances and 94 innings. He spent the 1974 season in Triple-A, where he went 6-3, 2.25 in 35 appearances and 60 innings. From May 20th until June 10th, he made eight appearances with the Pirates, giving up six runs in nine innings. He did not pitch again in September. After his brief stint with the Pirates in 1974, Tekulve was recalled again in late June 1975 and he stayed in the majors for good, but that almost didn’t happen with the Pirates. After the season, the Pirates dropped him from the 40-man roster, which made him eligible for the Rule 5 draft. As it turned out, he was ready for the majors in 1975. He pitched 56 innings over 34 games that season with the Pirates, posting a 2.25 ERA, helping them to the playoffs, where he pitched twice in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds.

During his first full season in the majors in 1976, Tekulve went 5-3, 2.45 in 102.2 innings over 64 appearances. He picked up nine saves and he had a 1.13 WHIP. That was followed by a 10-1 record in 1977, when he recorded seven saves. He had a 3.06 ERA in 103 innings, and he pitched 72 times. In 1978, he set team records with 91 appearances and 31 saves. He pitched 135.1 innings, posting a 2.33 ERA with eight wins. Those numbers earned him MVP (13th place) and Cy Young Award (5th place) votes. The Pirates won their fifth World Series title in 1979 and Tekulve was a big part of that team. He topped his games pitched record, appearing on the mound 94 times. He tied his saves record with 31, while also winning ten games. Kent pitched twice in the NLCS and five times in the World Series, saving three games, including recording the final out of game seven.

In 1980 Tekulve posted his highest single season ERA with the Pirates, but managed to make the only All-Star appearance of his career. It wasn’t exactly a bad year though. His 3.39 mark in 93 innings and 78 appearances was still better than the team average that year. He had an 8-12 win/loss record with an odd split, starting the year 5-0, then going 3-12 over the final four months. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Tekulve lost his closer job, but he pitched well. He had a 2.49 ERA in 65 innings over 45 games. He had another big season in 1982, leading the National League with 85 games pitched. He won 12 games that year, saved another 20 and threw 128.2 innings. He was at his best during the 1983 season, putting up a career best 1.64 ERA in 99 innings, while recording seven wins and 18 saves. Tekulve was strong once again in 1984, putting up a 2.66 ERA in 88 innings over 72 appearances. He had 13 saves that season. He remained with the Pirates until early in the 1985 season when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Al Holland and a minor league pitcher named Frankie Griffin. Tekulve played another four seasons before retiring in 1989. While he was rarely used in the closing role with the Phillies, Tekulve was still used often. In his four seasons in Philadelphia, he had a 3.01 ERA in 291 appearances and 367.1 innings. He became a free agent after the 1988 season and signed with the Cincinnati Reds at the end of Spring Training in 1989. His last season in the majors was rough, with a 5.02 ERA in 52 innings over 37 games. Tekulve pitched 1,050 games in his career, all in relief, and was second on the all-time list for games pitched to Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm when he retired. While with the Pirates he pitched 722 games, saving 158, winning 70 and throwing a total of 1,017.1 innings with a 2.68 ERA.

Larry Elliot, outfielder for the 1962-63 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1958. During his first two seasons of pro ball he led his team in homers. In 1958 he finished with 16 home runs for the D-level Clinton Pirates of the Midwest League, then in 1959 he had 25 for the Wilson Tobs of the Class-B Carolina League. He spent almost all of the 1960 season with Savannah of the South Atlantic League, where his saw a decline in the power, which led to a .753 OPS. Elliot saw some brief action in the Pacific Coast League that year, just one step from the majors. In 1961 he played his first full season at Triple-A ( Columbus of the International League), hitting 16 homers with 67 RBIs in 134 games. The next season he started the year with the Pirates, but was returned to Columbus after just ten at-bats. In his final at-bat with the Pirates, Elliot hit a pinch-hit two-run homer. He spent the rest of the season in the minors, where he batted .235 with 23 homers, trailing in home runs to only two Pirates minor leaguers, Bob Bailey (28 homers) and a 22-year-old named Willie Stargell, who hit 27 homers that year. Elliot made the Opening Day roster again in 1963, but was sent to the minors after just four pinch-hit appearances over the first 17 games, with three of those at-bats resulting in strikeouts. In December 1963 his contract was purchased by the New York Mets. The Mets were bad at that time and they offered him a much better opportunity than he could get in Pittsburgh. In 1964, he played 80 games, hitting .228 with nine homers and 22 RBIs, seeing most of his playing time in center field. He spent the entire 1965 season in the minors, then returned to the Mets in 1966, where he hit .246 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 65 games. He was traded to the Kansas City A’s early in the 1967 season, but never appeared in the majors after 1966. Elliot remained active as a player through the end of the 1969 season. He hit 186 homers in his pro career (15 in the majors), yet his first big league hit was a bunt single off of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. That hit came in his only start with the Pirates on April 25, 1962 when he played right field in place of Roberto Clemente, who had the day off until pinch-hitting late in the game.

Del Crandall, catcher for the 1965 Pirates. He already had 14 years in the majors before the Pirates acquired him from the San Francisco Giants for Bob Burda and Bob Priddy on February 11, 1965. Crandall was an outstanding defensive catcher, a four-time Gold Glove winner, despite the fact the award didn’t exist his first six seasons in the majors. He led National League catchers in assists six times, including four years in a row (1957-60). He led in games caught five times, putouts three times, and fielding percentage four times. In a modern stat called Total Zone Runs, which measures the effectiveness of catchers, Crandall ranks eighth all-time, and he was the best in the NL six times. That career stat doesn’t even include his first two seasons, since the stat currently goes back to the 1953 season. Crandall was also named to the National League All-Star team 11 times while with the Boston/Milwaukee Braves. He received MVP support in seven different seasons and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1949.  He wasn’t much of a hitter for average (.254 career), but from 1953 until 1960 he hit at least 15 homers every season, piling up 179 homers during his career. He had a career best 26 homers in 1955 and he set a high with his .805 OPS in 1958. That home run streak ended in 1961 when an arm injury kept him out of action for almost the entire season. Crandall helped the Braves get to the World Series during the 1957-58 seasons, where they played the New York Yankees each year and won the 1957 title. He accomplished all of things during his career despite missing two prime years (1951-52) while serving in the military during the Korean War. Crandall received Hall of Fame votes in 1976-79, but may have fared better on that ballot if he didn’t miss those two full season. In his first year back from the service, he put up a .759 OPS and threw out more runners than any other catcher in the NL. He was on the downside of his career by the time the Pirates traded for him, just shy of his 35th birthday at the time. He had played just 69 games in 1964 for the Giants, hitting .231 with three homers. His offensive numbers slipped even more during his only season with the Pirates. He hit .214 with two homers and ten RBIs in 60 games, but on defense he made just one error and threw out 57% of would be base stealers. Pittsburgh released him following the season and he finished his playing career the next year with the Cleveland Indians. Crandall spent 17 years as a manager in the pros, six in the big leagues. Four of those big league years were back in Milwaukee (for the Brewers) where he played 11 years during his career. He also managed the 1983-84 Seattle Mariners. He turns 91 years old today.

Harry Shuman, pitcher for the 1942-43 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1936 at 21 years old after attending Temple University. Two years after his pro debut, he began a string of five straight seasons with at least 11 wins, topping out with 18 victories for the Harrisburg Senators of the Interstate League in 1941. Shuman recorded 200+ innings in three of those seasons, with a high of 237 during that 1941 season. He joined the Pirates after the Interstate League playoffs ended and spent the last 12 days (Sept. 17-28) on the bench without an appearance. In 1942 he went 12-11, 3.18 for Toronto of the International League before earning a September look with the Pirates. The Pirates just gave him a tryout in 1941, so when he went from Harrisburg to Toronto, it was actually a player sale between the two minor league clubs. The Pirates purchased his contract on September 2, 1942, allowing with two of his teammates, Burgess Whitehead and Jim Russell. In his big league debut on September 14, 1942, Shuman tossed two shutout innings at the Polo Grounds against the New York Giants, allowing just one runner (a walk). In 1943 he was used in a mop-up role in Pittsburgh, making 11 relief appearances (all in losses) through July 10th, many of them being one-sided games. In his final game, the Pirates lost 23-6 to the Brooklyn Dodgers, allowing ten runs in the first and another ten runs in the fourth inning. Shuman came on with one out in the first and allowed four runs of his own before being removed after recording just one out. He was loaned to Toronto for the last half of the season on July 21st in exchange for infielder Al Rubeling. Shuman was still a member of the Pirates for the first three months of 1944,  but did not pitch because he decided to work in a war plant during WWII. He was put on waivers where he was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies on July 21st. He pitched 18 games for Philadelphia, all in relief, posting a 4.05 ERA over 26.2 innings. That would be his last season in the majors. The Phillies attempted to trade him to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League, but the deal fell through and they released him instead. He pitched briefly in the minors in 1946 before retiring.

Earl Browne, first baseman/outfielder for the 1935-36 Pirates. He started his pro career at the age of 17 in 1928, playing eight seasons in the minors before getting his first shot in the big leagues in September 1935 with the Pirates. He started as a pitcher but switched to the outfield in 1933. He had some success as a pitcher, including a big second year in pro ball. He won 17 games for Dayton of the Central League (Class B), then saw time with Louisville of the American Association, a very advanced level for an 18-year-old. He ended up pitching 254 innings that year and the workload may have got to him because he pitched much worse the following season, seeing the same playing time split between the same two clubs. He had a 19-10 record one year and then 10-17 the next. He may have considered his move to the outfield at this point, because while his pitching wasn’t as good, he batted .313 in 147 at-bats. Browne actually moved down a level in 1931, playing for a Class C team called the Huntington Boosters of the Middle Atlantic League. He went 14-7, 3.67 in 162 innings. He batted .295 that year in 70 games, occasionally picking up at-bats when he wasn’t pitching. After a 4.44 ERA in 148 innings during the 1932 season, Browne made the moving off of the mound.

Browne batted .323 with 45 extra-base hits in 139 games for Little Rock of the Southern Association in 1933. He didn’t hit as well in 1934 (.257 average in 155 games), but he still got picked up by the Pirates that September 18th under an agreement with the Little Rock club. The papers said that his slump (which they quoted as a .280 batting average) was to be blamed on Browne having “domestic difficulties” during the season. He attended Spring Training with the 1935 Pirates, but returned to the minors and bounced back in a big way, which led to his Major League shot. He had hit .345 with 19 triples and 13 homers during the 1935 season for Little Rock. He was called up to Pittsburgh on September 4th and played nine games, hitting .250 with six runs scored and six RBIs. He returned to the minors for 1936, this time playing for Minneapolis of the American Association. Browne attended Spring Training again, trying to win the first base job from Gus Suhr, but he was sent to the minors after the third game of the regular season. In 155 games with Minneapolis, Browne hit .328 with 35 homers, earning another September promotion. This time he hit .304 in eight games for the Pirates. Just four days prior to Opening Day in 1937, Pittsburgh traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Joe Bowman. Browne ended up playing 105 games that season for the Phillies, hitting .292 with 52 RBIs. The next season he was an everyday starter early in the season, before he was sold to the St Louis Cardinals on May 26th, who sent him to the minors. He played another 12 seasons without returning to the majors. He played over 2,100 minor league games, with over 2,300 hits and 189 homers. Browne also managed for five seasons in the minors, the last three as a player/manager, playing his final game at 38 years old. His name was often listed as James Earl back then, but research has the two names flipped now. His nickname was “Brownie” while with the Pirates.

John Richmond, shortstop for the 1885 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He debuted in pro ball in 1875, playing for his hometown Philadelphia Athletics in the National Association at 20 years old. During the final season of the first Major League (1871-75), Richmond hit .200 in 29 games, but he managed to score 29 runs. He played all three outfield spots, second base and even caught three games. He was out of a pro job in 1876 when the National League was the only level, but returned to pro ball in 1877 in the League Alliance, the first professional minor league system. He played for Utica of the International Association in 1878, then returned to the majors in 1879 with the Syracuse Stars for their only season as a big league franchise. Richmond hit .213 with one homer in 62 games, splitting most of his time between shortstop and center field. He would switch between shortstop and center field the next two years in a limited role while playing for the Boston Red Stockings, where he combined to hit .260 in 59 games. Richmond split the 1882 season between the Cleveland Blues of the National League and the Philadelphia Athletics of the brand new American Association. He didn’t hit in either place, batting .176 with a .509 OPS in 59 total games. He saw his best big league time with the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association during the 1883-84 seasons. Richmond played 197 of the team’s 207 games during those two years, hitting .267 with 120 runs scored. After the 1884 season, Columbus sold nine of their players off to the Alleghenys, including Richmond. The 1885 Alleghenys were basically the Columbus Buckeyes in 1885, with only three holdovers from the previous season. Richmond hit .206 in 34 games for Pittsburgh, playing 23 games at shortstop, eight in center field and three in right field. His game on July 10th was his final big league game, ending his eight-year career with a .238 average in 440 games, with five homers and 239 runs scored. He was released by the Alleghenys on July 16th. He finished the 1885 season in the minors and played his final pro game in 1887.