Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.
Evan Meek, pitcher for the 2008-12 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2002 out of high school, who ended up being a draft-and-follow player, signing in May of 2003, right before the deadline to sign. Meek went to the Appalachian League during his first season, where he posted a 7-1, 2.47 record in 51 innings. He made three very poor starts in 2004 at Low-A, allowing seven runs and 15 walks in 5.2 innings. The rest of the year was spent back in the Appalachian League, where he also struggled throwing strikes, issuing over one walk per inning. In 2005, his season consisted of 11 relief appearances in Low-A, with 36 walks in 18 innings. He was released by the Twins, but the San Diego Padres came calling with a minor league deal. Meek went 6-6, 4.98 in 119.1 innings, with 113 strikeouts, before being traded in late August to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In his only full season with the Rays, he went 2-1, 4.30 in 67 innings over 43 relief appearances. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League and posted an 0.93 ERA in nine appearances. Meek joined the Pirates in the winter of 2007 as a Rule 5 pick, though the Pirates made a deal in May to keep him without the Rule 5 draft restrictions. He gave up 11 runs in 13 innings during that first year in Pittsburgh. In 2009, he made 41 appearances for the Pirates, going 1-1, 3.45 in 47 innings. Meek was an All-Star during the 2010 season when he posted a 2.14 ERA in 80 innings over 70 appearances. All three of those numbers were career bests. Meek ended up on the disabled list twice in 2011 due to right shoulder issues. He had a 3.48 ERA in 24 appearances with the Pirates that season. He pitched poorly in early 2012 and spent the majority of the year back in Triple-A. The Pirates let him go via free agency after the season and he signed a deal with the Texas Rangers for 2013. In five seasons in Pittsburgh, he pitched 153 games, going 7-7, 3.22 with four saves. His only other big league experience ended up being an 0-4, 5.79 record in 23 appearances and 23.1 innings for the 2014 Baltimore Orioles. Meek spent all of 2013 in Triple-A, seeing some time as a starter for the first time in seven years. After his stint with the Orioles, he split the 2015 season between Korea and Triple-A for the Washington Nationals. His career ended after splitting the 2016 season between two independent teams in the Atlantic League.
Josh Phelps, first baseman for the 2007 Pirates. He was one of those rare Rule 5 draft picks that already had big league experience before he was picked, and he had plenty of it. Phelps had over 350 games in at the majors and six seasons of big league experience, when the Baltimore Orioles signed him as a minor league free agent on November 10, 2006. Less than a month later, the New York Yankees selected him in the Rule 5 draft. He would hit .263 in 36 games in New York through the end of June. He was put on waivers, where the Pirates picked him up. Playing in 58 games, mostly off the bench, he hit .351 with five homers and 19 RBIs for the Pirates. He was even used as a catcher when Ryan Doumit went down with an injury, getting two starts at the position, which were his first big league starts behind the plate in six years. Despite his versatility and his strong hitting, the Pirates dropped him from the roster in November of 2007 when they picked up pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier off waivers. Phelps played just 19 more Major League games after leaving Pittsburgh, all with the 2008 St Louis Cardinals. He was active in pro ball until 2011, spending the 2009 season in the minors with the San Francisco Giants, splitting the 2010 season between Triple-A for the Cleveland Indians and independent ball, and the 2011 season was spent in Italy.
Phelps began his pro career in 1996 after the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the tenth round out of high school. He is one of 12 big league players born in Alaska and he’s the all-time leader in most categories for that group. He batted .241 with five homers in the Pioneer League. He spent the next two seasons at Low-A, hitting .210 in 68 games in 1997, then .265 with eight homers in 117 games in 1998. Phelps had a breakout the next year playing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he hit .328 with 27 doubles and 20 homers in 110 games. He had a strange season in 2000 after that big year. He spent part of the year back in High-A, did poorly in a trial at Double-A, and played one big league game in June. Phelps hit .297 with 31 homers and 97 RBIs in Double-A in 2001, then saw action in eight games as a September call-up to the majors. Phelps played parts of two seasons in the majors before he played his first game at Triple-A in 2002, when he split the season evenly between the minors and majors. With the Blue Jays, he hit .309 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 74 games. Phelps was a catcher until about a month into the 2002 season in Triple-A, when he made the switch to first base full-time. In 2003, he saw his most big league time in one season. He hit .268 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs in 119 games. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians midway through the 2004 season. Between the two stops that season, he hit .251 with 17 homers in 103 games. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In 47 games in 2005, Phelps hit .266 with five homers. He spent the entire 2006 season in Triple-A with the Detroit Tigers, where he batted .308 with 24 homers. Phelps was a .273 hitter in 465 big league games, with 64 homers, 244 RBIs and 198 runs scored. His 64 homers makes him the leader for players born in Alaska, but the competition for that spot was weak. The other 11 Alaskan born players combined to hit 21 homers.
Johnny Hetki, pitcher for the 1953-54 Pirates. He began pro ball in 1942 at 20 years old, but missed the next two years due to military service. He looked like a potential future star that first season of pro ball, going 17-9, 2.22 in 235 innings. When he returned from the Army in 1945, Hetki pitched well in the minors, earning a September call-up to the Cincinnati Reds. He was with Birmingham of the Southern Association for part of 1942, and returned to the same team three years later, going 16-10, 2.97 in 218 innings. During his September trial with the Reds, he had a 3.58 ERA in 32.2 innings over two starts and three relief appearances. Hetki went 6-6, 2.99 in 32 games (11 starts) during his first full season in the majors in 1946, but really struggled the next two years. Pitching mostly in relief in 1947, he went 3-4, 5.81 in 96 innings. That was followed by allowing seven runs over 6.2 innings during the first month of the 1948 season. Hetki spent most of 1948 and all of 1949 in the minors before coming back up to the majors with the 1950 Reds as a bullpen arm. He was used 22 times and posted a 5.09 ERA in 53 innings. Hetki then spent most of the 1951-52 seasons pitching for Toronto of the International League, where he won a combined 32 games. He also pitched three early season games for the 1952 St Louis Browns, including one start. The Pirates picked him up in the 1952 Rule 5 draft in December of 1952, paying $10,000 for his rights. Hetki would pitch two full seasons for Pittsburgh out of the bullpen, getting into a total of 112 games with 201.1 innings pitched. He went 7-10, 4.38 with 12 saves. He had much better results in 1953, posting a 3.95 ERA in 118.1 innings over 54 games. Hetki had a 4.99 ERA in 58 appearances during his final season in the majors in 1954. He returned to Toronto in 1955 for two years there before retiring as a player. In eight big league seasons, he went 18-26, 4.39 in 525.1 innings. He made 161 minor league starts over eight seasons, but he started just 23 games in the majors, with 11 of those outings coming during the 1946 season. He passed away in 2019 at 96 years old, making him one of the oldest former Pirates.
Hank Borowy, pitcher for the 1950 Pirates. He didn’t start pro ball until he was 23 years old, but he started at a high level, playing his first three years for Newark of the International League, an affiliate of the New York Yankees. He went 9-7, 4.82 in 112 innings in 1939 during his first season in the minors. In 1940, he went 12-10, 3.71 in 182 innings, then improved even more in 1941, going 17-10, 2.91 in 229 innings. Bowory had an outstanding rookie season for the Yankees in 1942, going 15-4, 2.52 in 178.1 innings over 21 starts and four relief appearances. He tossed 13 complete games, including four shutouts. In the World Series, he started game four and allowed six runs over three innings. Bowory went 14-9, 2.82 in 217.1 innings in 1943, with 14 complete games and three shutouts. The Yankees made the World Series again and this time he allowed two runs over eight innings in a win during game three of the series. His workload increased in 1944 when he went 17-12, 2.64 in 252.2 innings. He set a career high with 19 complete games, and also added three more shutouts to his resume. In 1945 he won 21 games, splitting the year between the Chicago Cubs and Yankees. The Cubs acquired him on July 27th for a price reported to be $97,000. Bowory threw a career high 254.2 innings and he posted a 2.65 ERA. The Cubs made the World Series and he started three games, plus pitched in relief in another outing. He went 2-2, 4.00 in 18 innings. In 1946, he went 12-10, 3.76 in 201 innings, showing a downward trend that would continue for the next two years. Bowory was 8-12, 4.38 in 183 innings in 1947, making 25 starts and 15 relief appearances. He went 5-10, 4.89 in 127 innings over 17 starts and 22 relief appearances in 1948. He was part of a four-player deal with the Philadelphia Phillies after the season.
Bowory made 28 starts for the Phillies in 1949, going 12-12, 4.19 in 193.1 innings, but in the first two months of 1950 he pitched just three times in relief and was being used as a batting practice pitcher. The Pirates picked him up off waivers in mid-June 1950 from the Phillies, paying the $10,000 fee for his rights. Borowy had a 104-76 career record at that point. For the Pirates, he was put into the starting rotation and got hit hard in his two starts, including one against the Phillies just ten days after he was acquired. He got one more start and eight relief appearances before the Pirates sold him to the Detroit Tigers for more than they had paid to the Phillies 52 days earlier. He was 1-3, 6.39 in 25.1 innings for Pittsburgh. Bowory would pitch 39 games for the Tigers over the next two years, posting a 5.42 ERA in 78 innings, before he was released following the 1951 season. He pitched for Buffalo of the International League in 1952 before retiring from baseball. He finished his ten-year big league career with a 108-82, 3.50 record in 1,717 innings.
Alex McCarthy, infielder for the 1910-17 Pirates. He was a teammate of Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey, playing for South Bend of the Central League when both players had their contracts purchased by the Pirates. McCarthy was in his first season of pro ball at the time, hitting .243 with 28 extra-base hits in 141 games. Pittsburgh let him play the last three games of the season at shortstop, with Honus Wagner moving over to first base to give the new 21-year-old kid a chance to play his normal position. On the final day of the season, he led off the game with a triple, though he also made two errors in the field and didn’t collect another hit. In 1911, he made the team out of Spring Training and was the backup middle infielder, getting into 33 games at shortstop and 11 at second base. He batted .240 with 31 RBIs in 50 games. The following year, the Pirates moved Dots Miller over to first base and McCarthy became the regular second baseman. He played a career high 111 games that year, hitting .277 with 41 RBIs and 53 runs scored. In 1913, McCarthy struggled at the plate, so 22-year-old Jim Viox took over the second base job. Viox hit .317 to lead the team, while McCarthy hit .203 in 31 games. The 1914 season was an even tougher one at the plate for McCarthy. He played strong defense in his 36 games at third base but hit just .150 in 173 at-bats. He was with the Pirates until September of 1915, when the team sold him to the Chicago Cubs. He was being used as the backup for all four infield positions for Pittsburgh, though he had played just 21 games all year, hitting .204 with one extra-base hit, three runs scored and three RBIs.
McCarthy was with the Cubs until July of 1916 when the Pirates reacquired him. He played a total of 60 games in Chicago, hitting .251 with 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored. He saw plenty of time at shortstop over the end of the season, but hit just .199 in 50 games. He missed the final two months of the season because he had rheumatism, which affected his legs and feet to a point that he could not walk. After hitting .219 in 49 games in 1917, he was traded to a minor league team in Kansas City (American Association). McCarthy never returned to the majors. He played another ten seasons of pro ball before retiring, spending three years with Kansas City, five seasons in Milwaukee (American Association) and two years for Springfield (Illinois) of the Three-I League. He would also manage in the minors during three of those final ten seasons. He played 372 games with the Pirates over eight seasons, hitting .229 with five homers, 121 RBIs and 136 runs scored. During his big league career, he played 100+ games at second base, third base and shortstop. He was considered an above average defender and modern metrics give him positive defensive WAR numbers during each of his seven full seasons in the majors. We posted an Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article about McCarthy.
Harry Truby, second baseman for the 1896 Pirates. He began playing minor league ball as an 20-year-old in 1888 (his birth year has recently changed, making him two years older), but didn’t make the majors until seven seasons later with the 1895 Chicago Colts (Cubs). Truby’s minor league stats have a lot of holes throughout the years, with almost nothing available prior to his big league debut. He missed the 1890 season due to being suspended by the Texas League for signing with two different teams. He played in eight different leagues during that time. He made his Major League debut in late August of 1895, playing 33 games at second base with a .336 average and 16 RBIs. Truby began the 1896 season back with the Colts, hitting .257 with 31 RBIs in 29 games. On July 4th, the Pirates purchased his contract from Chicago. He made his debut three days later batting seventh and playing second base. Truby was said to likely be there only until the starting second baseman Louis Bierbauer recovered from a minor injury. He played poorly in his eight games, hitting .156 with five singles, and he made some poor plays in the field. When Bierbauer returned, Truby lost his spot in the lineup, and as it turned out, he never played in the majors again. He was sent to Toronto/Albany, a team in the Eastern League that the Pirates used as a farm team, where he played out the year. Truby played his final game on July 14th, then left for Albany that night. The Pirates were adding infielder Dick Padden from Toronto/Albany, so the two players switched spots. Truby saw his big league career end the day before Padden saw his only big league career begin.
Truby would be part of a fairly big trade for the Pirates later that year. Pittsburgh gave up Jake Stenzel, the franchise leader with a .360 career average in Pittsburgh, along with three players from Toronto, to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Steve Brodie and third baseman Jim Donnelly. Truby ended up playing another eight seasons in the minors before his playing career ended. He also managed for three seasons between 1899 and 1908. He played for 12 different teams in eight different leagues during his final six seasons in the minors