Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.
Brian Burres, pitcher for the 2010-11 Pirates. He started his career as a 31st round selection in the 2000 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants, selected out of Mount Hood Community College. It’s a school that has produced four Major League players, but Burres is the only one who has been drafted since 1989. He was a draft-and-follow player, who signed shortly before the signing deadline in May of 2001. He split his first two seasons of pro ball between starting and relief work. Despite a 4.75 ERA for Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League in 2002, he had 119 strikeouts in 119.1 innings. He moved up to San Jose of the California League in 2003 and pitched strictly in relief, posting a 3.86 ERA in 60.2 innings, with 64 strikeouts. He switched to a starting role in 2004 and had his breakout season in a hitter-friendly league. Burres went 12-1, 2.84 in 123.2 innings, with 114 strikeouts. He moved up to the Eastern League in 2005 and had a 4.20 ERA in 128.2 innings, then got hit around in the Arizona Fall League after the season, posting an 8.24 ERA in six starts. After five seasons in the minors, he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles. That first season with Baltimore, he went 10-6, 3.76 in 26 Triple-A starts, then had a successful Major League debut, posting a 2.25 ERA in 11 games as a September call-up. Burres spent most of the 2007-08 seasons in the majors with the Orioles, pitching 250.2 innings over that time, with a 13-18, 6.00 record. Putting up similar stats/work each year. In 2007 he went 6-8, 5.95 in 121 innings, making 17 starts and 20 relief appearances. In 2008, he went 7-10, 6.04 in 129.2 innings, with 22 starts and nine relief appearances. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him up off waivers in February 2009 and he made just two big league starts for Toronto, losing both. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent on December 31, 2009 and would end up making 13 starts and seven relief appearances with Pittsburgh in 2010. He went 4-5, 4.99 in 79.1 innings during that first season with the Pirates. He re-signed for 2011 and went 5-9, 4.66 in 129.1 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis before getting a September call-up. Burres made two starts and three relief appearances that September, going 1-0, 3.86 in 14 innings. He signed with the Giants for 2012 and pitched until 2016 without making it back to the majors. He spent the 2013 season in China, then played in Triple-A for the Colorado Rockies in 2014. Burres spent his final three seasons of pro ball playing for Southern Maryland of the independent Atlantic League. He also played one year of winter ball in Mexico and one year in Venezuela. In the majors, he had an 18-25, 5.75 record in 358.1 innings.
Tom Butters, pitcher for the 1962-65 Pirates. It took him six full seasons after signing with the Pirates before he reached the majors in September of 1962. In his pro debut at 19 years old in 1957, Butters played for two low level teams, pitching a total of 111 innings, while posting a 5.35 ERA and issuing 103 walks. His 1958 season was very similar, playing for two low level teams, while showing the wildness that held him back. However, he had much better results, putting up a 3.59 ERA in 158 innings, with 114 walks and 141 strikeouts. Butters moved up to Wilson of the Carolina League in 1959 (Class-B), where he went 8-5, 4.79 in 92 innings, with 70 walks and 71 strikeouts. The 1960 season saw him play at three different levels, and he had a lot of success with Class-B Burlington of the Three-I League, but he struggled with two higher level clubs in limited work. His combined record for the year was 8-6, 3.35 in 129 innings. During the 1961 season, Butters was loaned to the Minnesota Twins organization for the entire year. Pitching for Charlotte of the South Atlantic League, he had a 2.93 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 93.1 innings. Butters returned to the Pirates in 1962 and pitched well in the minors, posting a 2.04 ERA in 97 innings. Pittsburgh called him up in September and he pitched well in four games (one run in six innings), but he still spent most of the 1963 season at Triple-A before getting his second September trial. The Pirates used him six times in 1963, giving him his first big league start with just four games left in the season. Butters had a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings. He made the Opening Day roster in 1964, getting four starts and 24 relief appearances during the year. He spent most of the season with the Pirates, although he was sent to Triple-A in mid-July for a short time. In 64.1 big league innings that year, he had a 2-2, 2.38 record with 58 strikeouts. During Spring Training of 1965, he got into a car accident that left him with severe whiplash and basically ended his career. Butters pitched five times for the 1965 Pirates before being released, then tried to make comeback in Spring Training of 1966 with the Pirates before retiring. He went 2-3, 3.10 in 95.2 innings with the Pirates. Despite possessing nice velocity on his fastball, he also often mixed in a knuckleball during games. After his playing days, he made a bigger name for himself as the Athletic Director at Duke from 1977 until 1997. He began working at Duke shortly after his baseball career ended.
Kirby Higbe, pitcher for the 1947-49 Pirates. He had a rough introduction to pro ball at 18 years old in 1933. Playing in the Western League, which was a bit advanced for a young pitcher with no experience, Higbe gave up 38 runs in 34 innings, while walking 36 batters. He pitched just 14 innings in 1934, then saw regular mound time for the first time in 1935 while playing for Portsmouth of the Piedmont League. That year he went 10-13, 3.93 in 206 innings. He split the 1936 season between Piedmont and Columbia of the South Atlantic League, two teams considered to be in Class-B level leagues. Higbe went 11-12, 5.20 in 187 innings. In 1937, he pitched for Moline of the Three-I League (Class-B), where he went 21-5 in 215 innings (ERA isn’t available for this league). That earned him his first big league cup of coffee, getting a five-inning relief appearance for the Chicago Cubs on October 3rd. The Cubs sent him to Birmingham of the Southern Association in 1938, where he went 15-10, 3.96 in 218 innings. That performance led to two September starts for the Cubs and an Opening Day spot in 1939. Higbe went 2-1, 3.18 in 22.2 innings before the Cubs traded him on May 29, 1939 to the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished the rest of the year by going 10-14, 4.85 in 187.1 innings. For the 1940 Phillies, Higbe had a 14-19, 3.72 record in 36 starts and five relief appearances. He pitched 20 complete games and he threw 283 innings. He was elected to the All-Star game for the first time and received mild MVP support. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for three players and cash after the 1940 season ended. Higbe took full advantage of pitching for a better team, going 22-9, 3.14 in 298 innings. He led the league in wins, starts (39) and games pitched (48), but also led in earned runs, walks and wild pitches. He finished seventh in the MVP voting. He started game four of the World Series and got a no decision. That turned out to be his only postseason start. Higbe went 16-11, 3.25 in 221.2 innings in 1942, then followed that up by going 13-10, 3.70 in 185 innings in 1943.
Higbe missed all of the 1944-45 seasons while he was serving in the military during WWII. In his first year back from the war in 1946, he went 17-8, 3.03 in 210.2 innings, making the NL All-Star team for the second time in his career. He was in his ninth season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him on May 3, 1947 in a six-player deal with the Dodgers. He started off the 1947 season 2-0 with the Dodgers, but he had a 5.17 ERA and couldn’t make it through six innings in any of his three starts. For the 1947 Pirates, Higbe went 11-17, 3.72 in 225 innings. He lost five of his first seven starts and ended up leading the league in walks. He returned for 1948 in a relief role, pitching 56 games (eight starts) and finishing with an 8-7, 3.36 record in 158 innings. He got off to a slow start in 1949 and would be dealt to the New York Giants on June 6th for Ray Poat and Bobby Rhawn. He had a 13.50 ERA in 15.1 innings with the Pirates and he posted a 3.47 ERA in 80.1 innings with the Giants. Higbe would finish his big league career in 1950 with a 4.93 ERA in 34.2 innings over 18 appearances. He spent the next three seasons pitching in the minors before retiring. In his final season (1953) he had 18 wins and threw 249 innings at 38 years old. In his 12-year big league career, he had a 118-101, 3.69 record in 1,952.1 innings, with 238 starts and 180 relief appearances. Higbe had control issues during his entire career, four times leading the league in walks. He ended up with 979 career base on balls, while recording 971 strikeouts. His actual first name was Walter, but he went by Kirby during his baseball days.
Reddy Grey, left fielder for the Pirates on May 28, 1903. On a trip to Boston on May 26, 1903, Pittsburgh found themselves short on players and in need of an outfielder. They used star pitcher Deacon Phillippe in left field on May 27th in place of a sick Fred Clarke. They also didn’t have third baseman Tommy Leach, who returned home to be with his ill son. On May 28th, the Pirates got 28-year-old Reddy Grey on loan from the Worcester Riddlers, a local minor league team from the Boston area. He belonged to Rochester up until just a few days before playing for the Pirates and papers said that he was due to report in Worcester on May 28th (Worcester was off that day, traveling back from a road trip). Grey left Rochester during the middle of the 1902 season without any notice and they held on to his rights up until they decided to give him to Worcester, so his game with the Pirates was actually his 1903 season debut. Grey played left field during the Pirates 7-6 win. He collected a single, a walk, two RBIs (he’s only credited with one now, but recaps from the day credit him with two) and he scored a run. He had just one ball hit his way and handled it cleanly. He was referred to as “Gray” in the papers and the Pittsburgh Press said “Gray proved to be no slouch. Wonder who he really is?”. When the Pirates left to go to Pittsburgh the next day, Grey joined his minor league team as the lead-off hitter playing center field, officially ending his big league career. The 1903 season was his last year in pro ball, ending his nine-year baseball career. He was a consistent .300 hitter in the minors and spent seven seasons in the Eastern League, a top minor league at the time, but his Major League career lasted just one day. Grey’s full minor league stats are incomplete, but it’s known that he hit .309 for Buffalo of the Eastern League in 1897, then followed it up by batting .320 and .317 in back-to-back seasons for Toronto of the Eastern League in 1898-99. He scored 318 runs in 367 games during that three-year stretch. He put up a .310 average during his final season of pro ball. He ended his career as a pitcher, despite having no known prior pitching records. His real name was Romer Carl Grey, making him the only player with the name Romer to play in the majors. The nickname “Reddy” came from his hair color. Prior to his final season of pro ball, it was announced that he inherited a considerable sum of money and he was taking up a course in dentistry. His older brother was Zane Grey, a famous author, who was also his teammate with the 1895 Findlay Sluggers of the Interstate League during Reddy’s first year of pro ball.
Pete Daniels, pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He went by the nickname “Smiling Pete”, but he probably wasn’t smiling much while pitching for the Alleghenys in 1890, a team that finished 23-113 on the season. He spent 14 seasons in the minors, winning 20 games at least five times and collecting at least 176 wins. Minor league records from that era are incomplete (he has two full seasons missing all stats) so his totals in both categories could be higher. Daniels had his first chance at the majors in the spring of 1888, when the Louisville Colonels of the American Association signed him to a deal. He failed to make the club and pitched in the minors. That trial likely helped him in the future, as one of his fellow pitchers that spring was Guy Hecker. Daniels had a 20-20 record for Dallas of the Texas League in 1889. Ted Sullivan, who was a scout for the Alleghenys, signed Daniels in late October of 1889 after seeing the 25-year-old lefty pitch nine times during the season. The 1890 season was his first shot at the majors after three seasons of minor league ball. Two months before the season started, new Alleghenys manager Guy Hecker noted that Daniels was a pitcher with a lot of potential. Daniels was a late arrival to Spring Training (along with two other players) getting there 17 days into the preseason. His first exhibition start was a crazy game, with the Alleghenys putting up 34 runs against a minor league team from McKeesport. Daniels got some praise from the local papers, who were impressed at how hard he threw. He got two more spring starts, then he got the call on Opening Day and led the Alleghenys to a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Spiders. He then started the last game of the four-game series with Cleveland and got pulled early after pitching poorly, but the Alleghenys walked away with a 20-12 victory. After losing his next two games, his Pittsburgh career was over. He last pitched on May 9th, then got released seven days later, just a day after the team left him home (along with two other players) while they went on a road trip to Brooklyn. The last mention of him noted that he was paid up until his final day with the team before being released unconditionally. Daniels spent the next seven seasons in the minors before being purchased by the St Louis Browns (Cardinals) for the 1898 season. He went 1-6, 3.62 through the end of May before being released, ending his big league career. Daniels finished his minor league career four seasons later. In 1891, he went 29-10, 0.79 in 321 innings for Quincy of the Illinois-Iowa League. He spent the next two years pitching for Mobile of the Southern Association, where he won a total of 42 games. During the 1894 season, pitching for Kansas City of the Western League, he went 37-14, 3.53, while throwing 444 innings. The next year he won 20 games and threw 331 innings.
John Peters, shortstop for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his Major League career in the National Association in 1874, the only major league that predates the National League. Peters played two years for the Chicago White Stockings in the NA, batting .287 in 124 games, with 79 runs scored and 59 RBIs. When the NL was formed in 1876, he played two seasons for a team by the same name, which is the current day Cubs franchise. From 1876-78 he batted over .300 each season, finishing in the top ten in batting all three years. He peaked at a .351 average in 1876, when he scored 70 runs in 66 games (the season was 66 games long that year). After batting .317 in 1877, he played for the Milwaukee Grays in 1878 and put up a .309 average. That turned out to be the only season for that Milwaukee franchise, and Peters returned to the White Stockings for the 1879 season. His batting skills quickly went downhill after 1878, batting under .250 each of the next three years, but his defense at shortstop was still above average. He his .245 for Chicago in 1879, then moved on to the Providence Grays for 1880, where he .228 and had just five extra-base hits (all doubles) in 86 games. He played for the Buffalo Bisons in 1881 and hit .214 in 54 games. When Pittsburgh joined the American Association in 1882, Peters signed as their everyday shortstop. He hit .288 with 46 runs scored in 78 games (the team played 79 games that year). His batting average ranked him seventh in the league and third highest on the Alleghenys. Over the next two seasons (his last two in baseball) he played just nine games with Pittsburgh, going 3-for-32 at the plate. In 1884, American Association teams had reserve teams at the start of the year. Those clubs were basically minor league clubs that allowed them to keep extra players around in case they were needed for the season, but the idea only lasted until late May because the reserve teams weren’t drawing big enough crowds to make financial sense to keep them. Peters played for the reserve club before joining the Alleghenys for his final big league game on June 11th. Two days later he was released, with manager Bob Ferguson saying that Peters had too many ideas of his own and he (Ferguson) intended on running the team his own way. Peters played minor league ball for the first time during the 1883-84 seasons, while also serving as the team’s manager. He was a .278 career hitter, with 373 runs scored in 615 games over 11 seasons.