Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.
Danny Kolb, relief pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in Illinois in the 17th round in 1993 by the Minnesota Twins, but he didn’t sign until 1995, when the Texas Rangers selected him in the sixth round out of Illinois State University. Kolb made the majors almost exactly four years to the day after he was drafted, but he didn’t see extended big league time until his fourth season in the majors. He was a starting pitcher throughout the minors, putting up strong numbers at the lower levels, including a 2.21 ERA as a rookie in pro ball in 1995, followed by a 2.82 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 175.2 innings in 1996, spread out over three levels. However, he hit a roadblock in the starting route at the upper levels, posting an ERA of 4.20 and higher during the next three years. The Rangers called him up as a reliever in June of 1999 and he had a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings over 16 games. He pitched just one big league game in 2000 and it did not go well. Kolb allowed five earned runs while recording just two outs. He made 17 big league appearances in 2001, resulting in a 4.70 ERA in 15.1 innings. While he spent the first half of 2002 in the minors, he stepped into a regular relief role for the Rangers in July and pitched 34 games over the final three months. He had a 4.22 ERA in 32 innings.
He was released late in Spring Training in 2003 and quickly signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he turned his career around in a hurry. In 2003 he had a 1.96 ERA and 21 saves in 37 appearances, then followed that up with a 2.98 ERA and 39 saves in 2004, making the National League All-Star team. The Brewers traded Kolb to Atlanta prior to the 2005 season, where he posted a 5.93 ERA in 65 appearances. He was traded back to the Brewers in December of 2005 and failed to regain his form from the 2003-04 seasons. For the 2006 Brewers, he had a 4.84 ERA in 48.1 innings over 53 appearances. Kolb became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates in February of 2007. He spent most of the year in Triple-A, getting just three relief appearances with Pittsburgh in mid-June. In his brief time with the Pirates, he allowed three runs over three innings. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Boston Red Sox for 2008, pitching nine games in the minors before being released in late April, which effectively ended his career. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays a month later, but never pitched a game for them at any level. Kolb finished his nine-year big league career with a 4.36 ERA in 286.2 innings over 290 appearances, recording 73 saves. His cousin Gary Kolb played for the 1968-69 Pirates, making them one of just 22 sets of relatives to play for the Pirates.
Sean Lowe, pitcher for the 2002 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the St Louis Cardinals in 1992 out of Arizona State (selected 15th overall) and made his Major League debut with the Cardinals five seasons later. Lowe was originally drafted out of Community College, twice getting selected in the 43rd round. The Cincinnati Reds took him in 1989, followed by a selection by the Oakland A’s in 1990. He worked almost exclusively as a starting pitcher in the minors, but ended up mostly pitching in relief in the majors. Lowe debuted with a 1.61 ERA in short-season ball in 1992, then got skipped to the Florida State League in 1993, where he had a 4.23 ERA, which was high for the pitcher-friendly league. He improved in 1994 while repeating the level, which led to a three-game stint in Double-A, where he had a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 innings. Despite the strong showing at Double-A, he spent the entire 1995 season back at the level and began the 1996 season there. Lowe spent the majority of the 1996 season in Triple-A, where he had a 4.70 ERA in 115 innings. He joined the Cardinals in late August of 1997, after going 6-10, 4.37 in 131.2 innings for Triple-A Louisville. Lowe struggled in his first shot at the big league level, posting a 9.35 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances. He had a strong 1998 season in Triple-A, as the Cardinals moved their affiliate to Memphis of the Pacific Coast League. Despite the higher-offense league, Lowe 12-8, 3.18 in 153 innings. His only big league time that year came in late May/early June and he had a 15.19 ERA in 5.1 innings over one start and three relief outings. After ten games in the majors between the 1997-98 seasons, he moved on to the Chicago White Sox, where he made 159 appearances over three season. The Cardinals traded him on February 9, 1999 for a minor league pitcher (John Ambrose) who never made the majors. Lowe instantly added value to the White Sox bullpen, pitching 64 games in 1999, posting a 3.67 ERA in 95.2 innings. He had a rough go of it in 2000 with a 5.48 ERA in 70.2 innings, but he rebounded the next year while making 11 starts and 34 relief appearances. Lowe went 9-4, 3.61 in 127 innings in 2001. On December 13, 2001 the Pirates traded starting pitcher Todd Ritchie to Chicago in exchange for Lowe, Josh Fogg and Kip Wells. Lowe made 43 appearances (one start) for the Pirates before he was released in early September. In 69 innings he had a 4-2 record and a 5.35 ERA. He finished that season with the Colorado Rockies, where he had an 8.71 ERA in eight appearances. Lowe then spent most of 2003 in the majors with the Kansas City Royals, where he had a 6.25 ERA in 44.2 innings. That was his last season in baseball, leaving him with a 23-15, 4.95 record in 440 innings over 248 career games, 22 as a starter.
Mike Kingery, outfielder for the 1996 Pirates. He made his Major League debut in 1986 with the Kansas City Royals, seven years after signing as an amateur free agent at 18 years old. Kingery started off slow in rookie ball in 1980, hitting .224 in 44 games. He moved up to Low-A in 1981 and posted a nice .713 OPS in 69 games, but his breakout year with 1982 when he repeated the level. Kingery hit .318 with 75 RBIs, 25 steals and 62 walks in 140 games, resulting in an .805 OPS. From then on he moved one level per year, though his numbers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in 1983 were not impressive, outside of stealing 31 bases. The next year he batted .297 in Double-A, while drawing 93 walks in 139 games. In his first run through Triple-A, he had a .695 OPS in 132 games. His second year at the level was much better and led to his big league debut in July of 1986. For Triple-A Omaha, he hit .332 with 21 steals in 79 games. With the Royals in the second half of the year, Kingery hit .258 in 62 games, posting a .684 OPS. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in December of 1986 and spent the entire 1987 season in the majors, something he would do just once before 1994. Kingery hit .280 in 120 games, with 25 doubles, nine homers and 52 RBIs. Despite solid stolen base numbers in the minors, he went 7-for-16 in steal attempts. Over the next five seasons, he bounced between the minors and majors. He hit just .203 in 57 games in 1988, then saw very limited action during the 1989 season. He failed to make the Mariners out of Spring Training in 1990 and became a free agent. Kingery signed eight days later with the San Francisco Giants and began the year in Triple-A. He was called up in late May and provided some solid offense the rest of the season, hitting .295 in 105 games (41 starts). He struggled in a deep bench role in 1991, batting .182 in 126 plate appearances over 91 games. Kingery signed with the Oakland A’s in 1992 and played just 12 big league games, hitting .107 in 28 at-bats.
After spending all of 1993 in the minors back with the Royals, he signed with the Colorado Rockies and hit .349 in 105 games in 1994. At first glance, one would assume he was helped greatly by the thin air in Colorado, but he actually hit 29 points higher on the road that season. The following season his average dropped 80 points and the Rockies let him go via free agency at the end of the year. Kingery signed quickly with the Pirates, receiving a two-year contract. In 117 games in 1996, he hit .246 with three homers and 27 RBIs. He started 58 games all year and spent most of his time playing center field. He was released after the season and decided to retire from playing baseball to open a baseball school in Minnesota that he still runs to this day. He didn’t officially retire until after the season so he was still able to collect his 1997 paycheck from the Pirates. Kingery was brought in to help with the defense in center field, but he ended up posting a -1.9 dWAR, which was easily the worst total of his career. Combined with the low offensive output, he finished with a -2.0 WAR on the season. In his ten seasons in the majors, he hit .268 with 30 homers, 219 RBIs, 292 runs scored and 45 stolen bases in 819 games.
Bob Steele, pitcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. He was born in Canada and made his pro debut in his home country in 1913 at 19 years old, playing for a team from Moose Jaw of the Western Canada League. He went 17-9 and pitched 243 innings during that first season of pro ball. He was playing for Victoria of the Northwestern League in 1914, where he went 18-13 (ERA isn’t available) in 295 innings, while picking up 188 strikeouts. He was acquired by the St Louis Cardinals after the season and spent the next year in the states with St Paul of the American Association, where he went 20-16, 2.48 in 316 innings, with 142 walks and 183 strikeouts. By the next season he was in the majors, playing for the Cardinals. Steele had a 3.41 ERA in his rookie season in 1916, a number that doesn’t sound bad, but was actually rather high for the time (the NL had a 2.61 league average in 1916). His record showed just how bad the team was that year, as he went 5-15 in 21 starts and eight relief appearances, throwing a total of 148 innings. In 1917, he began the year with the Cardinals, but in mid-June he was shipped to the Pirates in exchange for infielder Doug Baird. While it’s listed as a trade now, it technically wasn’t one. When the Cardinals picked up Baird off waivers on June 13th, Steele became available and the Pirates paid the $1,500 waiver fee to acquire him. So the two players traded roster places, but it was two waiver deals made one day apart. The Pirates finished with a 51-103 in 1917 and Steele went 5-11, despite a 2.76 ERA in 179.2 innings. On September 11th, he threw a complete game shutout against his old Cardinals teammates. He began the 1918 season with the Pirates, going 2-3, 3.31 in 49 innings, before he was traded to Kansas City of the American Association as part of a deal to acquire pitcher Roy Sanders. Steele got to pitch what was called a farewell game on June 30th and he took the loss, allowing two unearned runs in a complete game against St Louis. He refused to report to Kansas City and instead he pitched for a team with the Delaware River Shipyard League on July 14th. Two days later, Kansas City sold his rights for $2,500 to the New York Giants. Steele threw a total of 17 innings without an earned run to end his time in Pittsburgh. He then threw 20.2 innings over his first three appearances with the Giants without allowing an earned run. That streak was snapped in the first inning of a game on July 31st against the Pirates. He pitched 12 games for the Giants that season, posting a 2.59 ERA in 66 innings, and then made one last appearance in April of 1919 before his Major League career ended. Steele was sold to a minor league team just days after his last appearance and he finished his baseball career later that year in the minors, going 6-9, 3.53 in 181 innings. He went 16-38, 3.05 in 487.2 innings in the majors.
Duff Cooley, first baseman for the 1900 Pirates. He made the majors as a 20-year-old in 1893, and already had seven seasons in at the majors prior to the Pirates acquiring him for cash from the Philadelphia Phillies on April 30, 1900. Cooley was a .315 career hitter in 696 games at that point. Cooley burst onto the scene as a rookie, hitting .346 in 29 games for the St Louis Browns in 1893. He hit .296 in 54 games in 1894, though it came with a low walk rate and just five extra-base hits. The 1894 season is at the top of the list for offense in baseball, so his .670 OPS was well below average for the league. Cooley was strong during the 1895 season, putting up a career year. He hit .342 in 133 games, with 108 runs scored, 194 hits, 20 triples and 75 RBIs. He was traded to the Phillies in the middle of the 1896 season and he finished the year with a .307 average in 104 games. In 1897, he hit .329 and set a career high with 124 runs scored. He nearly matched that during the 1898 season, batting .312 with 123 runs scored. In 1899, Cooley hit .276 with 31 RBIs and 75 runs scored in 94 games. That season was the first that he primarily played first base, after seeing more time at all three outfield positions in previous years. For the Pirates, he played 66 games in 1900, hitting just .201 with 22 RBIs and 30 runs scored in 249 at-bats. Manager Fred Clarke kept him around for over a month after his final game, saying that he was good motivation for the other players to have on the bench. Cooley played his final game on July 21st and he was released on August 23rd, His only game during those five weeks was an exhibition game against a team from Atlantic City, NJ, which is where Cooley was sent after being released by the Pirates. While his defense was considered to be the best in the league, he wasn’t hitting well and he lost some speed, making him a detriment to the team whenever he could get on base.
Cooley ended up playing another five seasons in the majors and even had a run of three solid seasons with the 1902-04 Boston Beaneaters. After putting up a .631 OPS in 63 games during the 1901 season, Cooley hit .296 with 58 RBIs and 75 runs scored in 135 games in 1902. He batted .289 with 76 RBIs and 70 runs scored in 1903, then had a .272 average and 70 RBIs in 1904. He ended his big league career with the 1905 Detroit Tigers, hitting .247 in 97 games. Cooley finished with a .294 career average, 224 stolen bases, 102 triples, 557 RBIs and 849 runs scored in 1,317 games. After the 1905 season, he played another four seasons in the minors and managed for three years. At age 49 in 1922, he not only managed Topeka of the Southwestern League, he also pitched seven games. In 18 years of pro ball (minors and majors), he had over 2,000 career hits. His first name was actually Duff, one of two players with that first name in MLB history. The other was Duff Brumley for the 1994 Texas Rangers.
Hank Gastright, pitcher for the 1893 Pirates. He began his Major League career in the American Association in 1889, pitching for the Columbus Solons at 24 years old. He had one year of pro ball at the time, spending the 1888 season with Toledo of the Tri-State League. Gastright had a rough first season in the majors, going 10-16, 4.57 in 222.2 innings, but he really turned it around in 1890. That year he went 30-14, 2.94 in 401.1 innings, helping Columbus go from sixth place the previous season, to a second place finish. He was helped out by the fact that the Player’s League was formed for the 1890 season, which spread out the talent around baseball, making the competition in the American Association much weaker for one year. In 1891 the Solons were back to a sixth place team and Gastright went 12-19, 3.78 in 283.2 innings over 33 starts. The 1891 season was the final season for the American Association at the big league level, and Gastright joined the Washington Senators in the National League, where he struggled with a 5.08 ERA in 79.2 innings over eight starts and three relief outings. He was signed by the Pirates on November 28th and they expected him to bounce back the next year because his arm was fine and he struggles were due to illness. He got off to a good start for the Pirates in 1893, winning three of his first five starts. The Pirates also won another start he made, though he wasn’t around long enough to pick up the win. His last start came on June 1st and he made just two appearances over the next four weeks, both in relief. He was given ten days notice of his release on June 28th (a common practice back then) and he signed with the Boston Beaneaters on July 10th to finish the season. Despite a season ERA of 5.44 (It was 6.25 with the Pirates), Gastright had a 15-5 record, giving him the best winning percentage in the majors. He would pitch just 16 games in 1894 and one game in 1896 before his big league career was over. He had a 6.39 ERA in 93 innings for the Brooklyn Grooms in 1894. His final big league game was on June 5, 1896 when he pitched six innings in relief for the Cincinnati Reds and allowed six runs (three earned). During the 1895 season, he was said to be signing with minor league teams in Detroit, New Bedford and Providence, but he never pitched. That was due to him actually signing with New Bedford, then trying to back out when Providence gave him a better offer days later, but New Bedford held on to his rights. He was later stricken with typhoid fever, which kept him out of action until his one poor showing in 1896. He finished his pro career in the minors in 1897. Over seven big league seasons, he was 72-63, 4.20 in 1,301.1 innings.