This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 23rd, Five Former Players Born on This Date

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Dave Davidson, pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He was a tenth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2002 out of Denis Morris HS in Canada. Davidson had a rough intro to pro ball. He spent the 2003-04 seasons in the Gulf Coast League, where he debuted with a 12.91 ERA his first year, followed by a 3.41 ERA in limited work in 2004. By the end of his third season in the minors, he had only reached low-A ball for ten games, and did not pitch well while he was there, posting a 9.78 ERA in 19.1 innings for Hickory. Things turned around in a big way in 2006 when he worked his way from Low-A Hickory up to Double-A Altoona. That year he went 3-2, 2.01 in 42 appearances, with 96 strikeouts in 76 innings. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League after the season, posting a 5.17 ERA in 15.2 innings. Davidson spent most of 2007 in Double-A, getting a brief stop at Triple-A and a late September recall to the majors. He had a 4.22 ERA in 59.2 innings with Altoona, then managed a 1.17 ERA in six appearances with Indianapolis. He pitched two games for the Pirates, both were relief appearances in blowout losses. In his debut on September 6th, three days after he joined the team, he allowed four runs in one inning. Ten days later he gave up two runs in his only inning of work. After spending all of 2008 in Double-A, where he had a 3.34 ERA in 64.2 innings, Davidson was put on waivers after making just three appearances with Indianapolis. He was picked up by the Florida Marlins and sent to Triple-A. After being waived by the Pirates, he sent some parting shots and noted how much better things were in his new organization, which now looks very bad for him in hindsight. Four weeks after being claimed by the Marlins, he was recalled on May 21st and came in to pitch in relief on May 22nd. He faced 11 batters in his only inning, throwing 52 pitches before getting the final out. Davidson was put on waivers right after the game and picked up by the Baltimore Orioles. He was injured at the time from his long inning though (shoulder injury) and was returned to the Marlins, who had to place him on the 60-day disabled list. He was released at the end of the season, did not pitched in 2010, then spent 2011 in independent ball before retiring.

Ron Blackburn, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1958-59 seasons. He was originally signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1953. Blackburn pitched five seasons in the minors before getting his first chance with Pittsburgh. At 18 years old, he split his first pro season among two teams, including a team (Burlington-Graham of the Carolina League) that played close to his home, which allowed for an easier transition into pro ball. Blackburn had a 3.84 ERA in 68 innings during that 1953 season. He pitched the 1954 season in Class-C ball, playing in Canada for St Jean of the Provincial League. He had a rough sophomore season, going 5-14, 5.81 in 158 innings. His best season in the minors came for the Phoenix Stars of the Arizona-Mexico League in 1955 when he went 16-6, 3.48 in 197 innings. He actually spent part of the year back near home with Burlington-Graham and posted a 10.80 ERA in 20 innings. Blackburn moved up in competition the next season, splitting the year between New Orleans of the Southern Association and Williamsport of the Eastern League. He went 6-7, 3.64 in 131 innings. He went 9-13, 4.30 in 199 innings for Triple-A Columbus in 1957, which was enough to earn him a big league look for the first time. The Pirates purchased his contract on October 1, 1957, adding him to their protected roster for the off-season. Blackburn pitched out of the Pirates bullpen all season in 1958, appearing in 38 games and pitching a total of 68.2 innings. He went 2-1, 3.39 and picked up three saves. He was in the bullpen again in 1959 until the end of July, making 26 appearances with a 3.65 ERA in 44.1 innings. On July 31st, the Pirates sent him to the minors and recalled pitcher Fred Green, who originally made the team out of Spring Training, but got sent to the minors after two games. Blackburn never made it back to the majors, spending the next five seasons pitching for the Pirates in the minors. He competed for a spot on the 1960 Pirates, but he was among the final cuts on April 7th, five days before Opening Day. On May 3, 1961, his contract was sold outright to Macon of the Southern Association, which was a Pirates affiliate at the time. Back when teams used to get money for finishing among the top four teams in the league, Blackburn received a 3/4 share of the pot in 1959, which earned him an extra $441.75 in October. The year before when the Pirates finished second and he remained in the majors all season, he received a full share valued at $1,507 each. He had an 84-80, 4.09 record in 379 minor league games over 12 years in pro ball. His brother Gerald Blackburn was a minor league pitcher for five seasons (1950-51, 53-55)

Ray Starr, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1944-45 seasons. He debuted in pro ball with Danville of the Three-I League at 20 years old in 1926, posting a 6.60 ERA in 90 innings during his first season. Danville was considered to be a Class-B level of play, so when Starr pitched for Mashalltown of the Mississippi Valley League in 1927, he was actually dropping two levels in competition. He compiled an 11-10 record, while throwing 182 innings in his second season in the minors. He was back with Danville for part of 1928, spending the rest of the year with Class-C Topeka of the Western Association. Starr had an 11-8, 4.12 record in 190 innings between the two stops. He had a huge year for Shawnee of the Western Association in 1929, going 24-13, 2.78 in 295 innings. Four years after he debuted, he was back in Danville in 1930, where he had a 17-11, 3.89 record in 245 innings. Starr moved up to Rochester of the International League in 1931, one step from the majors. There he went 20-7, 2.83 in 217 innings. He had a rough time in Rochester in 1932, going 9-12, 5.08 in 186 innings, but still received his first shot at the majors in September with the St Louis Cardinals, posting a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings. Starr split the 1933 season between the New York Giants and Boston Braves, putting up a 4.35 ERA in 41.1 innings. He wouldn’t reappear in the majors again until 1941. From 1934 through September of 1941, he had 120 wins in the minors, while compiling six seasons with 250+ innings. He won 19 games during the 1937 and 1939 seasons, then went 20-15, 3.43 over 273 innings in 1941 for Indianapolis of the American Association. That September, the Cincinnati Reds brought him up to the majors for the first time in eight years and he had a 2.65 ERA in 34 innings.

Starr’s best season in the majors came in 1942 when he went 15-13, 2.67 in 276.2 innings over 33 starts and four relief appearances. He threw 35 complete games in his big league career and 17 came during the 1942 season. He basically had the same usage in 1943, but he was much less effective, leading to a large drop in innings pitched. Making 33 starts and three relief appearances in 1943, Starr went 11-10, 3.64 in 217.1 innings. On May 27, 1944, the Pirates purchased the contract of Starr from the Reds. When Pittsburgh picked him up he had not pitched yet that season due to signing late and developing a sore arm once he started training, but they team believed it wasn’t anything serious. Starr ended up pitching 27 games for the Pirates in 1944, and twelve of those games came as a starter. He went 6-5, 5.02 in 89.2 innings. He pitched just four times for the Pirates through the first two months of the 1945 season. Starr was suspended by the Pirates for leaving the team without permission on June 21st, deciding to go home before a doubleheader, when the team had said he could leave immediately after the games that same day. When he didn’t show up for a series three days later, he was suspended by the team. He was then sold to the Chicago Cubs two days later for the $7,500 waiver price. At the time, the Pirates replaced the 39-year-old Starr with the 40-year-old Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck. Starr had a 7.43 ERA in 13.1 innings with the Cubs, which ended up being his last appearance in pro ball. His Major League career didn’t amount to much despite his one big year in 1942, but he stuck around long enough to win 251 games in pro ball, including 214 during his 15-year minor league career.  He finished with a 37-35, 3.53 record in 699 Major League innings, making 88 starts and 50 relief appearances. In his pro career, he threw over 3,700 innings. Starr was known for his strong curveball.

Connie Walsh, pitcher for the 1907 Pirates. He pitched just one inning for the Pirates in his only big league game on September 16, 1907. That game was a significant one in Pirates history. They lost 5-1 to the St Louis Cardinals in the second game of a doubleheader, but the starter that day was Babe Adams, making his first start in a Pirates uniform. It was the beginning of an 18-year career for Adams in Pittsburgh. He pitched the first five innings and allowed four runs, before giving way to Walsh, who finished the game that went just 6 1/2 innings before being called on account of darkness. Walsh faced five batters in his only inning of work, allowing one hit, one walk and one run. He had played two seasons in the minors prior to his only Major League game and he would return to the minors for another seven seasons before he retired as a player. He also managed for three seasons in the minors, two of them while he was still playing. Walsh didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 24 years old in 1906. Prior to that he played semi-pro ball in his hometown of St Louis, which is where he pitched his only big league game. Walsh ran off a streak of 21 straight wins in 1905, which was broken when the opposing pitcher threw a one-hitter. He played for the St Joseph/Hutchinson franchise in the Western Association in 1906, where he put up a 10-13 record (full stats aren’t available). He pitched for Seattle of the Northwestern League in 1907, posting a 7-10 record. When he was released in late August, he received word that he would get a tryout with the Pirates, which he waited to get while at his home in St Louis. He joined the Pirates on September 15th when they arrived to St Louis for three days and he practiced with the team all three days. It was said that manager Fred Clarke was impressed with him and he would join the Pirates for Spring Training in 1908, but he was also left behind in St Louis when the team left to return home on September 18th. By early April of 1908, it was announced that he was let go by the Pirates and he was signing with St Paul of the American Association, but he ended up spending the year with Cedar Rapids of the Three-I League. He remained in the Three-I League for the rest of his career, though he played for six different teams in the league.

Bob Ganley, right fielder for the 1905-06 Pirates. He spent eight seasons in the minors prior to making his Major League debut as a 30-year-old with the Pirates on September 1, 1905. Ganley played for 12 different teams in nine different leagues before his first big league game. He hit .316 in 123 games for the Des Moines Underwriters of the Western League during that 1905 season. The Pirates tried to purchase Ganley and pitcher Lefty Leifield from Des Moines during the season for $4,000 total, but they settled for just Leifield at a cost of $2,500. The Pirates eventually landed Ganley, though they had to outbid the New York Giants and St Louis Browns for his services. He was highly sought after at the time because he was recognized as the best outfielder in the Western League, with the ability to beat out bunts for hits and he his speed led to plenty of stolen bases. He played with Des Moines up until three days before his big league debut and he was inserted right into the lineup on the day he arrived with the Pirates. He hit lead-off and played right field in his first game in the majors, going 0-for-4, though the Pittsburgh Press noted that he looked good at the plate. Ganley would play 32 games for the Pirates that season, hitting .315 with seven RBIs and no errors in the field. He was the Pirates starting right fielder for the 1906 season, hitting .258 with 41 walks, 63 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in 137 games. On December 31, 1906 the Pirates sold his contract to the Washington Senators. He would played three years in the American League before returning to the minors to finish his career. Ganley hit .276 in 154 games for the Senators in 1907, setting career highs with 73 runs scored, 40 stolen bases and 167 hits. He played 150 games in 1908, batting .239 with career highs with 19 doubles and nine triples, while stealing 30 bases. He split the 1909 season between the Senators and Philadelphia Athletics, hitting just .208 in 99 games. Ganley batted .254 in 572 big league games, with 112 stolen bases, 123 RBIs and 246 runs scored.  He hit just two big league homers, both with the Senators and both were inside-the-park homers. He played until 1913 and managed for two seasons in the minors, including 1913 when he was the player-manager for Fredericton of the New Brunswick-Maine League. At 38 years old that season, he put up a .336 batting average.