This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 27th, Pirates Acquire Rambo

Just one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date and one minor transaction of note. We also take a look at the Pirates 1893 Opening Day.

The Player

Paul Miller, pitcher for the 1991-93 Pirates. He was a 53rd round draft pick of the Pirates in 1987 at 22 years old out of Carthage College in Wisconsin. Just 11 players have been drafted out of that school and he is the only one from that group to make the Major Leagues. In 1986 the Cincinnati Reds took him in the 27th round of the amateur draft, but he decided to return to Carthage. Miller debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1987, pitching 70.1 innings over 12 starts, while putting up a 3.20 ERA. He spent his first full season of minor league ball in 1988 pitching for Augusta in the South Atlantic League. He went 6-5, 2.89 in 15 starts, with 51 strikeouts in 90.1 innings. He moved up a level to Salem in 1989 and struggled, going 6-12, 4.17 in 133.2 innings, forcing the Pirates to repeat him at the level to start the next year. In 22 starts for Salem in 1990, he went 8-6, 2.45, pitching a total of 150.2 innings. He was moved up to Double-A Harrisburg to finish the year and had a 2.19 ERA in five starts. He threw a total of 187.2 innings that season, which is an almost unheard of innings total now in the minors. Miller had a breakout season in 1991, splitting the minor league season between Double-A and Triple-A. In 25 total starts, he had a 12-4, 2.01 record with a 1.11 WHIP in 156.1 innings. On July 30, 1991, he earned a promotion to the majors to make a spot start. In five innings against the Braves, he allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts. It ended up being his only big league appearance that season.

Miller started the 1992 season on the Opening Day roster, but he was quickly placed on the disabled list three days into the season (without an appearance) when he injured his side swinging a bat. He made a brief rehab stop in Triple-A before being recalled in early May when the Pirates released veteran outfielder Kirk Gibson. Pitching in relief, Miller made six appearances, throwing a total of 11.1 innings with a 2.38 ERA. Despite the strong stats, he was optioned to the minors in late May when the Pirates called up veteran pitched Jerry Don Gleaton, who was signed the same day that Miller got injured at the start of the season. Miller made just a few more starts before going on the disabled list again, this time with a shoulder issue that required surgery, and he was out for the rest of the season. In 1993, he made 16 minor league starts, going 5-3, 3.77 in 90.2 innings before getting called up to the majors in September. With the Pirates, he made two starts and a relief appearance, allowing six runs in ten innings of work. Miller was dropped from the 40-man roster on October 8, 1993 and then granted free agency, but chose to re-sign with the Pirates in January of 1994. He made 13 appearances in Triple-A in 1994, nine as a starter, with a 4.91 ERA, in what would be his last season of pro ball. He had a 47-46, 3.11 record in eight seasons in the minors and was 1-0, 4.10 in ten Major League games.

The Transaction

On this date in 1985, the Pirates sent minor league catcher Steve Herz to the Philadelphia Phillies for Mike “Rambo” Diaz, who split his time between catching, first base and outfield. This turned out to be a one-sided deal for the Pirates, partially due to the trade value for Diaz three years later. Herz was a minor league veteran, who was done with baseball by the end of the 1985 season. Diaz had a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox in 1983 and remained in the minors for all of 1985. He was with the Pirates for all of 1986-87 and part of 1988 before they traded him for Gary Redus, which also worked out well for the Pirates. In his time in Pittsburgh, Diaz was a .250 hitter with 28 homers and 89 RBIs in 247 games. He saw time at five different positions, as well as significant time off of the bench.

1893 Opening Day

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Spiders opened up the 1893 season on April 27th, the latest that Pittsburgh opened their season between 1887 and 2020. Cleveland went with 26-year-old starter Cy Young, a 36-game winner in 1892, who had a league leading 1.93 ERA. The Pirates had 22-year-old lefty named Frank Killen on the mound, an off-season acquisition from the Washington Senators. The Spiders ended up winning that day with a lineup that included two other future Hall of Fame players besides Young. Catcher Buck Ewing played right field this game and the left fielder was Jesse Burkett. The also had Chief Zimmer (who caught for the Pirates from 1900-02) and one of the better double play combos in baseball history, and one that most people couldn’t name either player involved. Ed McKean played shortstop for 12 years in Cleveland, hitting .304 with 1,084 RBIs. His double play partner was Cupid Childs, who hit .318 with 541 RBIs and 758 walks in eight seasons alongside McKean.

Young went the distance and allowed two runs on six hits with both runs coming in the first inning. The Spiders put four runs on the board in the first inning and took the game by a 7-2 score. The attendance that day was considered strong at nearly 5,000 despite the cold weather, but for the town of Pittsburgh it was the first time in two weeks that the sun was out according to the local paper. The lineup that day for Pittsburgh, which included two Hall of Famers, was as follows:

Patsy Donovan, rf
George Van Haltren, cf
Frank Shugart, ss
Elmer Smith, lf
Jake Beckley, 1b
Denny Lyons, 3b
Louis Bierbauer, 2b
Connie Mack, c
Frank Killen, p

Also check out our Game Rewind article for a 23-4 Pirates win over the Cincinnati Reds on this date in 1912.