This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 25th, Bob Johnson

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Brad Clontz, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1999-2000 seasons. He had played parts of four seasons in the majors prior to joining the Pirates. He was a tenth round draft pick out of college by the Atlanta Braves in 1992. He was a reliever from the beginning in the minors, pitching 734 pro games without a single start. After splitting his draft season between the Appalachian League and Low-A, Clontz moved up to High-A for his first full season of pro ball in 1993. He had a 1-7 record, but it came with a 2.75 ERA in 75.1 innings, and he picked up ten saves. He may have made his big league debut in 1994 if it wasn’t for the strike. Clontz had a 1.20 ERA and 27 saves in Double-A, followed by a 2.10 ERA in 24 appearances in Triple-A. He was with the Braves on Opening Day in 1995 and he went 8-1, 3.65 in 69 innings over 59 appearances. In 1996, Clontz pitched an National League leading 81 games. That happened despite a 5.69 ERA in 80.2 innings. The ERA is just a bit misleading because one really bad week did a number on his season ERA. Over four games in late August, he allowed 11 runs in 3.2 innings, giving up multiple runs in each appearance. The rest of the season saw him put up a 4.67 ERA in his other 77 appearances. He went 5-1, 3.75 in 48 innings over 51 games in 1997, but he got cut at the end of Spring Training in 1998. In 1998, Clontz split the season between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. posting a 6.08 ERA in 20 appearances. He was granted free agency after the season and signed by the Boston Red Sox two months later, but they released him just before the 1999 season started. The Pirates picked him up two days later and he ended up pitching 56 games out of the Pittsburgh bullpen, with a career best 2.74 ERA in 49.1 innings. In December 1999, the Pirates traded Clontz to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league pitcher, Robert Manzueta. Clontz was released by Arizona at the end of Spring Training and re-signed with the Pirates. He ended up struggling with his control in five April outings before the Pirates sent him to the minors. He underwent elbow surgery that May, and while he ended up pitching until 2006, he never returned to the majors. From 2001-06, he spent time with Colorado Rockies, Braves, San Diego Padres, Rockies again, Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins. He also spent time in 2005 in independent ball. Clontz had a knack for picking up big league wins, going 22-8, 4.34 in 277.2 innings over 272 appearances.

Bob Johnson, pitcher for the 1971-73 Pirates. He was signed by the New York Mets in 1964 as an amateur free agent and made his Major League debut with the 1969 World Series champion Mets team. Johnson attended Bradley University before signing at 21 years old, one year before the MLB amateur draft came into place. Back when the New York-Penn League was still a full-season league, Johnson debuted in pro ball with Auburn of the NYPL and threw 172 innings in 1964. He went 10-9, 4.13 with 146 strikeouts. In 1965, he split the season between Auburn and Double-A Williamsport, combining to go 10-2, 3.63 in 139 innings. Johnson spent the 1966 season with Williamsport and Triple-A Jacksonville of the International League. He went 9-6, 3.51 in 146 innings, while striking out 140 batters. He was pitching well early in 1967 with Williamsport when a motorcycle accident on June 2nd mangled his left leg. A newspaper article from the day said that the injury may end his career. While the injuries were serious, Johnson was able to return late that season. However, he missed all of the 1968 season serving a stint in the military. He was back to baseball in 1969, splitting the year between Double-A and a brief early season stint in Triple-A. He combined to go 13-5, 2.37 in 167 innings, with 161 strikeouts. The Mets called him up in September and he pitched 1.2 scoreless innings over two appearances.

Johnson was traded to the Kansas City Royals in December of 1969 in a one-sided deal that also included Amos Otis going to New York, while the Mets only received one year from veteran third baseman Jim Foy in the deal. Almost exactly a year later, the Pirates acquired him from Kansas City in a six-player deal that went well for both teams. Johnson pitched over 200 innings with the Royals during his only season there, going 8-13, 3.07 in 26 starts and 14 relief appearances, while striking out 206 batters. He became a part of the Pirates rotation during the World Series winning season in 1971. He made 27 starts (four relief outings) and had an overall record of 9-10, 3.45 in 174.2 innings. He started and won game three of the NLCS, going up against the great Juan Marichal. In the World Series, Johnson started game two and took the loss in Baltimore. In 1972, he started the year in the Pirates rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after an 0-3, 4.60 start in his first eight games. He thrived in the new role, going 4-1 with three saves the rest of the way while lowering his ERA to 2.96 by the end of the season. In 1973, he pitched 50 games, posting a 3.62 ERA in 92 innings. In the off-season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for a young outfielder named Bill Flowers, a second round pick in 1970 who never made the majors. Johnson ended up pitching for Cleveland in 1974, then went to the minors for two seasons before finishing his Major League career with the 1977 Atlanta Braves. In between big league stints, he played for the New York Yankees, the Texas Rangers and the Royals again. He had major issues with alcoholism, which started during his time in Pittsburgh, though he quit drinking in 1975 during a brief retirement from baseball and got his career back on track. A great stint in Venezuelan winter ball earned him his final big league shot with the Braves. Johnson was released by the Braves after 15 appearances, and he finished his career later that season in the minors, seeing stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and back with the Pirates in Triple-A. In seven big league seasons, he went 28-34, 3.48 in 692.1 innings. He turns 78 today.

Jimmy Brown, infielder for the 1946 Pirates. He didn’t debut in the majors until he was 27 years old, but from 1937 until 1943, Brown was a star infielder for the St Louis Cardinals, twice leading the league in at-bats and twice he was among the top six in MVP voting. By the time he reached the Pirates in 1946, he was nearing the end of his pro career. Brown debuted in pro ball at 23 years old in 1933, playing shortstop for Greensboro of the Piedmont League, where he hit .289 with 36 extra-base hits in 139 games. The next year he moved up to Rochester of the International League, where he spent the next three seasons. Brown put up similar results during the 1934-35 seasons, but he broke out in 1936 when he batted .309 in 133 games. The next year he debuted in the majors with the Cardinals, seeing most of his playing time at second base. He hit .276 in 138 games, with 58 RBIs and 83 runs scored. The next season he saw time at all three infield spots, hitting .301 in 108 games, while striking out just nine times. Brown played a majority of his time at shortstop in 1939, leading the league with 645 at-bats, while finishing sixth in the MVP voting for the first time. He batted .298 with 42 extra-base hits and 88 runs scored. He set a career high with 192 hits. In 1940, he went back to splitting his time at three infield spots (not first base), hitting .280 in 107 games. Brown saw the majority of his time in 1941 at third base. He hit a career high .306 that season, with 81 runs scored and 56 RBIs. His .769 OPS was his career best and he finished fourth in the MVP voting. He made the NL All-Star squad in 1942 for the only time, when he led the league with 606 at-bats  and set a career high with 71 RBIs. He had 52 walks and 11 strikeouts that season. He finished 13th in the MVP voting. Brown left for military duty in WWII after 34 games during the 1943 season and served until late 1945 before being discharged. The Pirates bought his contract from the Cardinals in early January of 1946. Brown played 79 games for the Pirates in 1946, starting 26 times at shortstop, 20 at second base and nine times at third base. He hit .241 with 23 runs scored, 18 walks and he struck out only five times all season. He was released by the Pirates that November and finished his playing career two years later in the minors, playing a total of 85 games over his final two seasons. Brown also began a career in managing in 1947 and continued on through 1964, winning over 1,000 minor league games. In his big league career he hit .279 in 890 games, with 319 RBIs and 465 runs scored.

Tom Quinn, catcher for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. The Alleghenys signed him on January 22, 1886 after winning a bidding war with two other clubs in Brooklyn and Rochester. It was said at the time that he was born and raised in Johnstown, PA, though modern research lists his birthplace as Annapolis, Maryland. The 22-year-old backstop spent the 1885 season with a semi-pro team from Frostburg, Maryland and another from McKeesport, PA, where he batted .344 in 15 games. He made his Major League debut on September 2, 1886 for the Alleghenys. Quinn played three games that season for Pittsburgh behind the plate, going 0-for-11 with a run scored and a stolen base. He was actually with the team during Spring Training (one of four catchers at the start) and saw some game action, but played his first game once the season started on August 13th in an exhibition game against Altoona, which the Alleghenys lost 3-0. He was 0-for-4 in his big league debut, reaching on a grounder that went for an error, followed by his only stolen base. On defense he made an error and had five passed balls, though the local press gave him a pass by saying that Ed Morris was a tough first pitcher to catch and Quinn had very little practice during the season before joining the Alleghenys. He next caught 33 days later, again for Morris, though this time the paper praised his defense. On October 12th, Quinn caught Hall of Famer Pud Galvin and the Alleghenys won 7-3. In the top of the eighth inning, Quinn collected a single, only to have it erased when the game was called due to darkness and the top of the eighth didn’t count in the boxscore. It would have been his only hit with Pittsburgh. The Alleghenys played a postseason series against the Detroit Wolverines of the National League and Quinn caught Galvin in a 4-4 tie on October 17th. He failed to pick up a hit that day. He spent the next two seasons playing minor league ball before coming back to the majors in 1889, when he played for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. He batted .175 in 55 games that season. Quinn spent the 1890 season playing for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, his last year in the majors. He batted .203 in 58 games, splitting the catching duties with Fred Carroll, who was the man he replaced in the lineup when he made his Major League debut four years earlier. Quinn finished his career by playing two more years in the minors. He was a .189 hitter in 113 Major League games, and during the three years he played in the minors (only counting seasons with completely known stats), he never batted above .207 in any of those seasons.