This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 15th, Al McBean and a Career Day from the Great One

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a great performance by the Great One. Before we get into that, current pitcher Luis Oviedo turns 22 years old today.

The Players

Justin Morneau, first baseman for the 2013 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick out of high school in Canada by the Minnesota Twins in 1999. Morneau batted .302 in 17 games in the Gulf Coast League in 1999, then repeated the level the next season and it was a record-breaking year. He put up a 1.143 OPS, which is the GCL record for OPS in a season over the league’s 54-season history. Morneau batted .402 with 21 doubles, ten homers and 58 RBIs in 52 games. The 2001 season saw him dominate Low-A for 54 games (1.018 OPS), put up strong stats in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, then finish the season in Double-A.  He spent the entire 2002 season in Double-A, where he hit .298 with 16 homers and 80 RBIs. Despite those numbers, he actually spent some brief time in Double-A in 2003, but by June he was up in the majors. Morneau, who was rated as a top 21 prospect in baseball three years in a row (2002-04), played 40 games for the 2003 Twins, hitting .226 with four homers. He split the 2004 season evenly between Triple-A and the majors, but by mid-July he was up in the majors for good. In 74 games for the Twins that year, he hit .271 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs. He played 141 games in 2005, hitting .239 with 23 doubles, 22 homers and 79 RBIs. Morneau had a huge breakout year in 2006 and he didn’t even play in the All-Star game. He hit .321 with 37 doubles, 34 homers and 130 RBIs, setting career bests in the latter two categories. That led to the American League MVP award and his first of two Silver Slugger awards.

In 2007, Morneau made the All-Star team for the first of four consecutive seasons, which would end up being his only four All-Star appearances. He hit .271 with 31 doubles, 31 homers and 111 RBIs, which earned him mild MVP support. In 2008, he hit .300 with 23 homers and 129 RBIs, while setting a career highs with 47 doubles and 76 walks. He led the league with 163 games played, the only season he played every game. For his strong season, he had a second place finish in the MVP race and he won his second Silver Slugger award. In 2009, Morneau had his last of four straight 100-RBI seasons, finishing exactly at the century mark. He hit 31 doubles, 30 homers and walked 72 times. He was on his way to a huge season in 2010, but it ended up being the downside of his career. He was hitting .345 through 81 games when he suffered a season-ending concussion in early July. He received his fourth straight All-Star selection just before the injury. The following season saw Morneau limited to 69 games due to multiple injuries. He batted just .227 with four homers. He played 134 games in 2012 and he .267 with 19 homers and 77 RBIs. He was healthy for all of 2013 and hit .259 with 32 doubles, 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 127 games before the Twins dealt him to the Pirates on August 31st for outfielder Alex Presley and pitcher Duke Welker. With Pittsburgh, as they made their first postseason appearance since 1979, Morneau hit .260 in 25 games. He then hit .292 in the playoffs over six games. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he was hitting in the middle of the order and never came up in big spots. He batted 117 times total with the team and drove in three runs. He had just one hit with runners in scoring position during that time.

Morneau became a free agent after the season and signed with the Colorado Rockies, where he won the batting title with a .315 average, while hitting 32 doubles and 17 homers in 135 games. You would expect a huge split playing in Colorado, but his home stats were just slightly better than his road marks. Injuries limited him to 107 games over his final two seasons in the majors, spent with the 2015 Rockies and 2016 Chicago White Sox. Morneau finished his 14-year big league career with a .281 average in 1,545 games, with 349 doubles, 247 homers, 985 RBIs and 772 runs scored.

Al McBean, pitcher for the 1961-68 and 1970 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958 out of the Virgin Islands for a $100 bonus, just the second Major Leaguer to be signed out of the Islands (the first pitcher). The first one was also a a Pirates player, Joe Christopher, who debuted in the majors in 1959. At 20 years old, McBean spent most of his first season in the Appalachian League, where he went 7-3, 3.09 in 99 innings. He moved up two levels to Class-B in 1959 and he had a 7-7, 4.28 record in 124 innings. He moved up another level in 1960, playing in the South Atlantic League, where he went 9-6, 3.93 in 116.2 innings, pitching mostly in relief. McBean was up in Triple-A by the start of 1961 and in the majors for his big league debut on July 2nd. He posted a 3.75 ERA in 74.1 innings that rookie season. He made just two starts (25 relief appearances) as a rookie, but the following season he was moved into the starting rotation. McBean had a strong sophomore campaign, going 15-10, 3.70, finishing second on the team in wins to Bob Friend. He pitched 189.2 innings over 29 starts. Despite the strong stats, it was said that he wasn’t cut out for starting because he worried too much about his starts the whole previous night prior to the game, sometimes getting no sleep. He was moved to the relief role in 1963, getting just 16 starts during the 1963-67 seasons. He excelled in relief from the start, going 13-3, 2.57 in 111.1 innings over 55 appearances in 1963, with 11 saves to his credit. In 1964, he won eight games, saved a career high 21 contests and had a 1.91 ERA in 58 games and 89.2 innings. In 1965, McBean went 6-6, 2.29 in 114 innings. He made a career high 62 appearances and he picked up 19 saves. The ERA slipped a bit in 1966, but it was still a solid performance. He went 4-3, 3.22 in 86.2 innings over 47 appearances. After picking up 51 saves over the previous three seasons, McBean had three saves in 1966. He would go on to save just nine more games in his final four seasons. In 1967, he had a 2.54 ERA in 131 innings, making 55 appearances, which included eight starts to end the season. Three of those starts saw him allow one run over nine innings.

In 1968, McBean was moved back to the starting role full-time and pitched two shutouts in his first five outings. He began to struggle as the year went on and by late August, after two very poor outings, he was moved back to the bullpen. He finished the year by going 9-12, 3.58 in a career high 198.1 innings. McBean would be selected by the San Diego Padres that October in the expansion draft. He pitched one game for them before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had a tough 1969 season, going 2-7, 4.07 in 55.1 innings. After one appearance during the 1970 season, Los Angeles released McBean and he quickly signed back with the Pirates. His second stint with the team lasted less than a month before he was released, following an 8.10 ERA in seven outings. That released ended his big league career. He finished his pro career playing two more years in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. In 376 games for the Pirates, 75 as a starter, he had a 3.08 ERA over 1,016 innings, with 65 wins and 59 saves.

Jimmy Wasdell, outfielder for the 1942-43 Pirates. His pro career began at age 21 in 1935, playing for Class-C Zanesville of the Middle Atlantic League. He batted .357 with 54 doubles, nine triples and ten homers in 125 games. He moved up two levels to the Southern Association in 1936, where he hit .336 in 88 games. He also played a level higher for 12 games and hit .231, though he batted just 13 times. Wasdell spent 1937 with Chattanooga of the Southern Association, where he hit .319 in 118 games. In September, he joined the Washington Senators and batted .255 with ten extra-base hits in 32 games. He spent a majority of the 1938 season with Washington, hitting .236 in 53 games. The next year was once again split between the minors and majors, though most of the year was with Minneapolis of the American Association, where he hit .323 in 102 games. He did well in his big league time, batting .303 in 29 games. Wasdell hit .086 in ten games for the Senators in 1940 before they sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in late May. After the deal, he hit .278 in 77 games, with a .746 OPS. In 1941, he started 56 games, mostly seeing time in right field. He hit .298 with 48 RBIs in 94 games.

Wasdell was one of four players the Pirates acquired in the Arky Vaughan trade with the Dodgers on December 12, 1941. In parts of five seasons in the majors prior to the trade, he had a .270 average with 11 homers and 126 RBIs in 295 games. In 1942 for the Pirates, Wasdell saw plenty of action at the corner outfield positions, while also getting starts in center field and first base. He hit .259 with 38 RBIs and a .655 OPS in 122 games. Despite the fact he played fewer than 100 games in the outfield, he finished second among all National League outfielders in errors committed. Wasdell wasn’t with the Pirates for long in 1943. After four pinch-hit appearances in the first week of the season, he was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies. He became a solid player in Philadelphia, playing there for 3 1/2 seasons, with his best season coming in 1945 when he hit .300 with 60 RBIs. That year, he struck out just eleven times in 541 plate appearances. His stats dropped off the next year and he was released in mid-June. He signed with the Cleveland Indians two weeks later and combined to hit .261 with nine RBIs and eight runs scored in 58 games, though he started just 14 of those games. He last played in the majors in 1947, getting one at-bat for the Indians that year before being released. He finished his pro career with three more seasons in the minors. Wasdell was a player/manager during his last season in the minors, then managed during the 1950 season. Over 11 seasons in the majors, he hit .273 in 888 games, with 29 homers, 349 RBIs and 339 runs scored.

Jimmy Smith, shortstop for the 1916 Pirates. He was a light-hitting shortstop, who was a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. and an alumni of Duquesne University. There have been just ten players in Major League history who have attended that school and seven of them played with the Pirates. With a day of minor league service, he spent the first two seasons of his big league career in the Federal League, considered an outlaw Major League at the time. Smith debuted at the end of the 1914 season and played just three games in his first year. He was released after hitting .207 in 128 games in 1915 when he split the season between the Chicago Whales and Baltimore Terrapins. Since he never played organized ball before 1914, he didn’t have any ties to a pro (minors or majors) club after being released by the Federal League club. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent on February 6, 1916 and was described by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss as “young, fast and exciting”. He was with Pittsburgh at the beginning of the year, playing shortstop when Honus Wagner played first base, but by June 2nd he lost his starting job and played just two games as a pinch-runner over the rest of the month. Smith was sold to Toronto of the International League on June 28th under an optional agreement in which the Pirates could buy him back at any time. He hit .222 there in 85 games before returning to the Pirates in September. The Pirates repurchased him on August 14th, but allowed him to finish the season in Toronto before returning to Pittsburgh on September 17th. In a total of 36 games for the Pirates, Smith hit .188 with five RBIs. He batted just .148 with 15 strikeouts in 17 games after returning. He started 16 of the final 18 games of the season at shortstop.

Smith was a holdout in spring of 1917 and then sent back to Toronto after unrealistic salary demands (though he said the Pirates tried to cut his salary by $1,000 from the previous year). He was suspended by Toronto until the National Baseball Commission declared him a free agent in August. He soon signed with the New York Giants and hit .229 in 36 games to finish out the season. He was a utility player for the 1918 Boston Braves, hitting .225 in 34 games. That was followed by a similar role with the 1919 Cincinnati Reds, who went on to win the World Series. Smith hit .275 in 28 games and he was limited to one pinch-running appearance in the World Series. He spent 1920 in the minors with Indianapolis of the American Association, then played 105 games over the next two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, which ended up being his final year (1922) in pro ball. Smith played eight seasons in the majors, getting into 370 games, with a .219 career average, 107 RBIs and 119 runs scored. Not only was Smith born in Pittsburgh, he also passed away there in 1974, and currently resides peacefully at Calvary Cemetery in Pittsburgh.

Harry Salisbury, pitcher for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He attended Brown University from 1877 until 1879, then made his Major League debut for the Troy Trojans of the National League after graduating. Salisbury went 4-6 with a 2.22 ERA in ten starts that year for Troy. He had prior pro experience, playing minor league ball in 1877, the first year that organized minor league ball existed. His next known baseball experience came for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, when he showed up on the roster one month into the season. The team started the season with a 6-5 record over the entire month of May (games played were sporadic due to travel and limited time to draw up the first schedule) and Salisbury made his debut on June 1st in an 11-4 win. He actually played an exhibition game against a team from Camden, NJ on May 28th and pitched a complete game in a 10-7 win.  The Alleghenys played 79 games that year, and of the 68 played from June 1st on, he started 38 of those games. He also pitched a complete game in all 38 of those games, getting in a total of 335 innings. He is the first twenty-game winner in Pirates franchise history, finishing with a 20-18 record. On July 10th he pitched his only career shutout in an 11-0 win over Baltimore, giving up just two hits. He then pitched the very next day in a 6-1 win over St Louis, with the opposing pitcher being Morrie Critchley, who threw the first shutout in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history just two months earlier. That 1882 season was his last in the majors and he played at least another three years in the minors afterwards. It was said that he had signed an 1883 contract to play for Louisville of the American Association before the 1882 season ended and some noise was made by Pittsburgh management about his last game in an Alleghenys uniform, which was a 20-6 loss to Louisville. He never played for Louisville or any other minor league team in 1883, though he was said to be playing for a team called Union Pacific along with 1882 Alleghenys teammate Russ McKelvy.

The Game

On this date in 1967, Roberto Clemente had the game of his career, yet the Pirates still lost to the Reds by an 8-7 score. He went 4-for-5 with a double and three home runs. Clemente drove in all seven runs for the Pirates. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning off of Milt Pappas. Clemente repeated that feat in the fourth inning. In the seventh he brought in two runs with a double. He capped his night with a solo homer in the ninth inning. The Reds won in the bottom of the tenth on a walk-off double by Tony Perez, which scored Pete Rose from first base. Clemente would hit three homers in a game two years later, but he never drove in more than five runs in any other game.

Here’s the boxscore from Baseball-Reference.