Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at an interesting pitching match-up on this date from 129 years ago.
Max Moroff, infielder for the 2016-18 Pirates. He was a 16th round draft pick out of high school in 2012, who required an over-slot bonus to sign. Moroff debuted in the Gulf Coast League, where he batted .343 in 23 games. In 2013, he moved up to Low-A ball, and hit .233 in 115 games, though it came with 65 walks and 75 runs scored. In 2014, he played in High-A Bradenton, where he hit .244 with 30 doubles, 54 walks and 21 steals, though he was thrown out stealing 15 times. He had a breakout season in 2015 at Altoona, hitting .293 in 130 games, with 70 walks and 41 extra-base hits. Moroff was overly patient during his first two full seasons in pro ball, but he became much more aggressive early in the count during his big year. That plate patience was a one-year mirage, as he took too many pitches again in Triple-A in 2016, which led to a .230 average and a drop in his power, though he did end up drawing 90 walks. Moroff was given a brief mid-season shot with the Pirates and struck out in his only two at-bats. In 2017, he spent more time in the majors than he did in Triple-A, where he had a .909 OPS in 51 games. With the Pirates, he batted .200 in 56 games, with eight extra-base hits and 16 walks. He started 26 games, seeing time at second base, shortstop and third base. In 2018, Moroff struggled in both Triple-A and the minors. With the Pirates, he batted .186 in 26 games. He was part of a five-player deal with the Cleveland Indians after the season. He was limited to 61 games total due to a shoulder injury in April. Moroff hit .125 in 20 games for the Indians, then became a free agent after the season. He spent 2020 with the New York Mets, participating in their Alternate Site Training camp, though he never saw big league action. In 2021, he signed a minor league deal with the St Louis Cardinals. With the Pirates, he hit .193 with six homers and 30 RBIs in 84 games.
John Ryan Murphy, catcher for the 2020 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the New York Yankes out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton in 2009. Murphy played just nine games in the GCL during his first season after signing late. He still skipped to Low-A in 2010, where he hit .255, with a .703 OPS in 87 games. He spent most of 2011 back in Low-A, batting .297 with 29 extra-base hits in 63 games. He moved up to High-A and had a .634 OPS in 23 games. Murphy split the 2012 season between High-A and Double-A, combining to hit .248 with 37 extra-base hits in 110 games. He saw time at Double-A, Triple-A and the majors in 2013. Murphy hit .269 with 29 doubles and 12 homers in 108 minor league games, then hit .154 in 16 games (six starts) with the Yankees. He split the 2014 season evenly between starting in Triple-A and serving as a backup in the majors. Murphy hit .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games with the Yankees that season. He spent the entire 2015 season in the majors, hitting .277 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 67 games (43 starts). Murphy was traded to the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2016 season and he spent most of the year in Triple-A. He hit .146 with one homers in 26 games during his only year in Minnesota. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of 2017, after hitting just .222 in Triple-A. Arizona called him up in September and he played seven games, including one start. Murphy spent the entire 2018 season in the majors, playing a career high 87 games. He hit .202 with nine homers and 24 RBIs, setting career highs in the latter two categories. He was sold to the Atlanta Braves after hitting .177 in 25 games in 2019. Despite joining the Braves in July, he played just one game for them in the majors. Murphy signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates in January of 2020. He made the team as a backup after Luke Maile got injured for the season. Murphy hit .172 in 25 games for the Pirates. He became a free agent after the season and is currently unsigned. In 284 big league games, he has a .215 average, with 18 homers and 61 RBIs. He has not attempted a single stolen base in the majors. His last minor league stolen base attempt came in May of 2013 before his big league debut.
Jack Shepard, catcher for the 1953-56 Pirates. He was heavily recruited while in college at Stanford, where he batted .399 during the 1953 season. Shepard decided to sign with the Pirates because he felt General Manager Branch Rickey had the team going in the right direction. The scout who recommended Shepard to the Pirates was Branch Rickey Jr, the son of the Pirates GM, who was scouting the College World Series for the Pirates. The Pirates signed Shepard on June 15th and brought him right to the majors two days later. He debuted two days later and got into two games before being sent to the minor leagues on June 26th when they called up pitcher Jim Waugh. Shepard went to Denver of the Western League and hit .324 with nine homers in 84 games. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1954 and had a strong rookie season platooning with Toby Atwell behind the plate. In 82 games, Shepard hit .304 with 22 RBIs and 24 runs scored. The next year he got even more playing time, although his batting was nowhere near as solid as his rookie season. He hit .239 in 94 games, with a .639 OPS. When he was sent to the minors in 1953, it was said that he needed to work on his throwing to make himself a strong Major League player. He must’ve taken that to heart, as he threw out 52% of would-be base stealers in 1955. In 1956, Shepard played a career high 100 games, hitting .242 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. He made 71 starts behind the plate during the 1955 and 1956 seasons, platooning with Atwell in 1955 and Hank Foiles in 1956. Shepard signed his contract to play for the Pirates in February of 1957 but less than a month later he retired from baseball to pursue a career in business. He managed briefly for the Pirates in the minor leagues in 1959, but his entire professional baseball career consisted of 362 games over four seasons. In the majors, he finished with a .260 average, 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 278 games. He scored 24 runs in each of his three full seasons in the majors. Of his 12 homers, the first eight he hit were on the road. His first homer at Forbes Field was hit off of Hall of Famer Warren Spahn on June 18, 1956.
Frank Miller, pitcher for the 1916-19 Pirates. Despite winning twenty games for four straight seasons in the high levels of the minors, Miller didn’t make his big league debut until age 27 with the Chicago White Sox. He began pro ball in 1907 at 21 years old, pitching at the lowest level of the minors, Class-D ball. Full stats are incomplete from his first two seasons, but he’s credit with a 12-20 record in 1907 and 38 games pitched in 1908. He jumped up to Class-A for Des Moines of the Western League in 1909 and had a 24-16 record. From there it was on to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League for the next three seasons. Miller went 20-15, 2.17 in 344.1 innings. The next two years were very similar, though his record suffered due to support from his teammates. He was 20-21, 2.07 in 378.1 innings in 1911, then 20-22, 2.09 in 335.1 innings in 1912. Miller was supposed to get a legit big league shot with the White Sox in 1913, but he became very sick over the off-season and didn’t join the team until mid-season. On July 12, 1913, the White Sox gave him one start and he pitched poorly, allowing five runs in 1.2 innings. He was sent home shortly after the game and returned healthy in 1914. It was then back to the minors for two full seasons before he returned to the majors again with the 1916 Pirates. He played for Montreal of the International League in 1914, going 9-13 in 188.1 innings. While ERA isn’t available for the league, Miller allowed fewer runs per game in 1915 with Montreal when he posted a 15-6 record and tossed 182.2 innings. The Pirates purchased Miller and outfielder Paul Smith from Montreal on August 27, 1915, though both players were allowed to finish their season with Montreal. Smith ended up playing ten big league games, all coming with the Cincinnati Reds in 1916.
In his first season in Pittsburgh, Miller went 7-10 with a 2.29 ERA in 173 innings, getting twenty starts and ten relief appearances. They next year, the Pirates were awful, winning just 51 games all year. Miller had a decent 3.13 ERA in a career high 224 innings during a down year for offense, but his record was just 10-19 in 28 starts and ten relief outings. He tossed five shutouts that year, including a ten-inning game against Brooklyn on August 20th. On September 17th, he went 15 innings in a complete game loss to Boston. His 1918 season was his best overall. Miller had a 2.38 ERA in 170.1 innings, with a record of 11-8 in 23 starts, throwing 14 complete games. The next year he had a 3.08 ERA and won a career high 13 games. He topped the 200 inning mark for the second time and set a personal best with 16 complete games. He had a 12-12 record going into his final start and threw 11 innings to pick up the win. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Braves in March of 1920, but he didn’t play for them until 1922. It was said he retired due to “family and business pressure”. He went 11-13, 3.51 in 200 innings for the Braves his first year back in 1922, then went 0-3, 4.58 in six starts and two relief appearances before he was released in 1923, ending his baseball career. For the Pirates, Miller went 41-49, 2.75 in 769 innings over 97 starts and 26 relief appearances. He threw 54 complete games and he had 12 shutouts.
Jimmy Archer, catcher for the 1904 Pirates and then again in 1918. He began his pro baseball career in the low levels of the minors in 1903 and played just 20 games that first year. By the following year he established himself as a prospect. That second season, he hit .299 in 72 games for Class-D Boone of the Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs. That was despite breaking his collarbone during the season. His calling card was a very strong throwing arm, and in September of 1904 the Pirates gave him a trial in the majors. He was secured just days earlier by scout Frank Haller, who saw Archer put on a hitting display during one of his scouting trips. He wasn’t going to join the Pirates right away, but on September 1st they needed a replacement for backup Harry Smith, who was injured with a month to go in the season. That left starter Ed Phelps as the lone catcher, with first baseman Kitty Bransfield serving as the emergency backup due to having catching experience early in his career. Archer left for the Pirates on September 1st and arrived just a couple of days before his big league debut on September 6th. He played seven games and impressed defensively (he batted just .150), but he needed more seasoning, so he was sent to Atlanta of the Southern Association for two years. The Pirates used him only in game two of doubleheaders for all seven games he caught, with the club noting that due to his inexperience, it was better that he caught the second games because they usually were called due to darkness before nine innings. As it turned out, he played just one nine-inning game. He played every inning during that time, but he caught just 47 innings total. He was originally placed on the Pirates reserve list following the 1904 season, but he was released to Atlanta on March 1, 1905. He batted .254 in 86 games in 1905 and his average dropped down to .224 in 93 games in 1906. On September 1, 1906, Archer was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the Rule 5 draft. Archer played 18 games for the Tigers in 1907, then returned to the minors, where he was again taken in the Rule 5 draft, this time by the Chicago Cubs in 1908. He would become a solid player for the Cubs, spending nine seasons in Chicago before being released during the 1917 season. He was slightly above average as a hitter during the deadball era, and his defense was also above average, so he was helping his team on both sides of the ball. He split his time in 1910 between catching and first base, though he excelled behind the plate in his backup role, throwing out a league best 57.8% of base runners attempting to steal. Archer caught over 100 games each year during a three-year span from 1911 through 1913. He received mild MVP support each season, finishing 16th in the voting in 1911 when he hit .253 with 41 RBIs and 41 runs scored. The next year he set career highs in all three Triple Crown categories, batting .283 with five homers and 61 RBIs. He also set highs with 109 hits and 20 doubles. Despite that being his best year, he finished lower in the MVP race that season, ending up 22nd in the voting. His best MVP finished was 13th place in 1913 when he hit .266 in 111 games, with 44 RBIs and 38 runs scored. Archer led the league by throwing out 52% of base runners in 1913. He slipped into more of a platoon role over the next three years, starting a total of 211 games behind the plate during that stretch. The Cubs tried to cut his salary in 1917 and that led to him holding out at the beginning of the season. He ended up playing just two games off of the bench in late May and early June before being released.
The Pirates signed him as a free agent on March 9, 1918. He was 35 years old and 15 years of catching had worn him down by then, so he was well past his prime. He hit .155 in 24 games before Pittsburgh released him on July 15th. They noted that he provided excellent veteran leadership, but the Pirates brought back long-time outfielder/third baseman Tommy Leach a few weeks earlier, so he assumed that role for the young players. The Pirates also catcher Fred Blackwell back from the Army as a capable backup, so he was filling that role ahead of Archer at the time. Archer played briefly later in 1918 for the Brooklyn Robins, then for the Cincinnati Reds, before he decided to call it a career. In 847 Major League games, he was a .249 career hitter with 299 RBIs and 247 runs scored. He hit just 16 homers in his career, though at one point four of his homers in a row came off of Hall of Fame pitchers, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, Eppa Rixey and Rube Marquard.
The Pirates took on the Cleveland Spiders on May 13, 1892 with Elmer “Mike” Smith on the mound. Smith was just one year away from becoming a star outfielder for the Pirates, but in 1892 he was trying to make a comeback to the majors as a pitcher. He won 34 games as a 19-year-old in 1887, yet three years later he was back in the minors for two full seasons (1890-91). The Pirates lost 6-1 on this day, although it could actually be considered a win, as Smith was hit hard. He would make just 11 more starts before becoming a full-time outfielder, then over the next five seasons for the Pirates, he would hit .336 with 152 steals, 558 runs scored and 406 RBIs.
The starter for Cleveland that day was Denton True Young, the papers referred to him as Farmer Young back then but he is more well-known as Cy Young. The Pirates made seven errors during this game. They had two Hall of Famers in their lineup, with Jake Beckley at first base and Connie Mack was Smith’s catcher. Ed Swartwood played right field and batted sixth that day for the Pirates in one of his last Major League games. He was the first batter in franchise history ten years earlier on May 2, 1882 and he had returned to the team after an eight-year absence. He went hitless on the day, but he drew two walks. Center fielder Pop Corkhill got a lot of praise for three outstanding catches (two with multiple runners on base), which helped keep this game from being a blowout. He also drove in the only run for the Pirates.