Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at a very bad day for baseball in Pittsburgh.
Brandon Inge, utility player for the 2013 Pirates. He signed with the Pirates early in Spring Training of 2013. He was 36 years old at the time and had 12 season in the majors already, 11 1/2 with the Detroit Tigers. Inge was a utility player with the Pirates, after mostly playing third base and catcher prior to 2013. He split most of his time between third base and second base in Pittsburgh, while also playing right field, first base and shortstop. Inge had a rough time with the Pirates, hitting .181 with one homer and two walks in 50 games. He was released on August 1st and that marked the end of his pro career. He was a career .233 hitter in 1,532 big league games, with 152 homers, 648 RBIs and 563 runs scored.
Inge was a second round draft pick of the Tigers in 1998 out of VCU. He was a full-time catcher during his climb to the majors. He spent his first season in the New York-Penn League and had numbers similar to his big league career, batting .230 with eight homers in 51 games. He moved up to A-Ball in 1999, where he hit .244 with nine homers. Inge established himself as a prospect the next year with a season split between Double-A and Triple-A. He batted .244 again, but this time he hit 34 doubles and 11 homers, resulting in an 85 point jump in his OPS. That helped him earn a spot on the Opening Day roster of the Tigers in 2001. Inge batted .180 with no homers in 79 games, while also spending some time back in the minors. He spent most of 2002 with the Tigers, hitting .202 with seven homers in 95 games. The 2003 season had a similar majors/minors split, with Inge hitting .203 with eight homers in 103 games for Detroit. He became a utility player the next year, seeing most of his time at third base, while also catching and playing outfield. Inge hit .287 with 13 homers and 64 RBIs in 131 games. He never approached that batting average again in the majors, though his OBP was nearly as high in 2005 when he set a career high with 63 walks. He hit .261 in 2005, with a career best 31 doubles, to go along with 16 homers, 72 RBIs and 75 runs scored. He played 160 games, mostly at third base.
Inge was only at third base in 2006 when he hit .253 with 27 homers and 83 RBIs. He would top the RBI total, but never the home run total. His 83 runs scored were a career high. In 2007, Inge hit .236 with 14 homers and 71 RBIs. He moved back to catching in 2008, while also seeing time at third base and center field. His batting average dropped to .205 and he hit just 11 homers. In 2009, Inge led the league with 161 games played and he made his lone All-Star appearance. He tied his career best with 27 homers, while setting a high mark with 84 RBIs. He made 157 starts at third base that season. In 2010, he hit .247 with 28 doubles, 13 homers and 70 RBIs. That was followed by a .197 average and three homers in 103 games in 2011. Inge started the 2012 season with the Tigers, but he was released in late April after hitting .100 in nine games. The Oakland A’s picked him up and he batted .226 with 11 homers in 74 games to finish out the season. Inge was known as a solid defense player, especially at third base. His career 14.4 WAR on defense ranks 126th all-time, and he’s third all-time in dWAR among Detroit Tigers.
Ed Whitson, pitcher for the 1977-79 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1974, going to the Gulf Coast League that first year, where he went 1-4, 4.30 in eight starts. Whitson moved up to A-ball the next year and really struggled, especially with his control, walking 99 batters in 142 innings. He went 8-15, 5.07 in 142 innings. By the next season he completely turned things around. He cut his ERA in half, down to 2.53, and he issued just 65 walks in 203 innings. He led the Carolina League with 15 wins and 186 strikeouts. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A in 1977, where he pitched well enough to get a September call-up to the Pirates. He had an 8-13 record, but it came with a 3.34 ERA in 175 innings. Whitson got in five appearances for the Pirates that season, including the start in the last game of the year. Going up against the Cubs on October 2nd, he threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk. In his other four outings he gave up six runs over 9.2 innings.
Whitson began the 1978 season back in Triple-A as a starter, making seven starts and posting a 3.71 ERA. He was recalled at the end of May and sent to the Pirates bullpen. Whitson made 43 appearances in the majors that year, pitching a total of 74 innings with a 3.28 ERA. He actually pitched better than the ERA would indicate, as nearly half of the earned runs he allowed came during two of those appearances, which saw him give up 11 runs in 3.2 innings. Whitson’s ERA in the other 41 appearances was just 2.05 in 70.1 innings. In 1979, he made the Pirates out of Spring Training. He was being used as a spot starter during the first two months, then in June he made four starts. He had a 2-3, 4.37 record in 57.2 innings on June 28th when the Pirates traded him in a six-player deal to the San Francisco Giants that brought Bill Madlock to Pittsburgh. Whitson would end up pitching another twelve seasons in the majors, finishing with 126 career wins, eight coming while with the Pirates.
After the trade to the Giants, he was put in the starting rotation, where he went 5-8, 3.95 in 100.1 innings. In 1980, Whitson was an All-Star for the only time in his career, thanks to an 11-13, 3.10 in 211.2 innings over 34 starts. He wouldn’t crack that 200+ inning mark again until 1987, then he did it four years in a row. Whitson went 6-9, 4.02 in 22 starts during the strike-shortened 1981 season. A month after the season ended, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians even up for second baseman Duane Kuiper. Whitson mostly pitched in relief in 1982, making nine starts in his 40 appearances. He went 4-2, 3.26 in 107.2 innings. One year and four days after he joined the Indians, he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Whitson went 5-7, 4.30 in 144.1 innings over 21 starts and ten relief appearances in 1983. The Padres went to the World Series in 1984, and he had a 14-8, 3.24 record in 189 innings over 31 starts. He allowed one run over eight innings in his NLCS start, but he gave up three runs on five hits in the first inning of his only World Series start. After the season, he signed a five-year free agent deal with the New York Yankees, which did not go well, but ended better when he was traded back to the Padres during the 1986 season. With the Yankees in 1 1/2 years, Whitson went 15-10, 5.38 in 195.2 innings over 34 starts and ten relief appearances. His time in New York is best remembered for a hotel fight with manager Billy Martin.
After returning the the Padres, Whitson didn’t see true improvements until 1988. He went 1-7, 5.59 in 1986 after the trade, then had a 10-13, 4.73 record in 205.2 innings in 1987. The next year was the start of him getting back on track. Whitson went 13-11, 3.77 in 205.1 innings. He improved to 16-11, 2.66 in 227 innings in 1989, then had a 14-9, 2.60 record in a career high 228.2 innings in 1990. Those two seasons were worth a combined 13.5 pitching WAR. The absolute crazy part about his 1990 season is that he had the highest WAR for all National League pitchers, but didn’t get a single Cy Young vote. Whitson had a rough 1991 season due to multiple injuries, including one in his final start in September, which ended his career. He had a 5.03 ERA in 78.2 innings in his final season. Whitson finished 126-123, 3.79 in 15 seasons, with 2,240 innings pitched. He finished with exactly 2,240 hits allowed.
Bud Culloton, pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He went to Columbia University for two years, then played minor league ball for two seasons (1919-20) before retiring and returning to college, this time at Fordham. When he graduated school in 1924, he played semi-pro ball in the Paterson Industrial League before he joined the Pirates on July 26th, although he did not pitch a regular season game that season. He did however pitch in exhibition games, including one right before he signed with the Pirates, a game in which he shutout Pittsburgh for nine innings before losing in the tenth. It was that game that convinced Pittsburgh to sign him. Culloton was put on the list of players eligible for the 1924 postseason but the Pirates failed to win the National League pennant.
He was with the Pirates during the entire 1925 season, although he ended up pitching just 21 innings all year, with five of those innings coming during a start on the last day of the regular season. Culloton won a complete game over the Washington Senators on July 6th. It was an exhibition game, although the Senators were the defending champs at the time and it turned out to be a preview of the 1925 World Series. He was again eligible for the postseason in 1925, but never got into the seven-game series won by the Pirates. In 1926, he was being used even less, getting three appearances over the first two months, throwing a total of 2.2 scoreless innings. After an outing on June 11th in which he allowed four runs in one inning, the Pirates never used Culloton again, sending him to New Haven of the Eastern League on June 25th as partial payment in a trade for pitcher Chet Nichols, who ended up throwing 35.1 innings for the Pirates over two seasons. Culloton was sent to New Haven on option. He was returned to the Pirates in August of 1926 and they released him unconditionally on August 13th, ending his pro career. It was said that he planned to enroll back at Fordham to study law and retire from baseball. He was already 30 years old at the time. In May of 1927, Culloton visited the team and ended up throwing batting practice. Two months later he pitched an exhibition game for the semi-pro Kingston Colonels against the Pirates and won 6-1, while facing a lineup that had five future Hall of Famers (The Waners, Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler and Joe Cronin). A month later he defeated the Chicago White Sox in another exhibition game. He was often referred to in the press by his first name, Bernard. It was said that he had a nice fastball, but his curveball was below average.
May 19, 1890
This date in 1890 was a tough one for Pittsburgh baseball fans. Not only did the Alleghenys lose their game by an 18-2 score, but the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, lost their game 16-3. For the National League team, it was the beginning of their downward spiral that resulted in the worst season in franchise history. Up to that point, the team had an 8-10 record, so what happened the rest of the season couldn’t have been predicted by the most pessimistic Pittsburgh fan. The 18-2 loss started an eleven-game losing streak that would’ve been a twenty-three game losing streak if the Alleghenys weren’t able to pull out a 9-8 win against Boston on May 31st. They actually finished their season with a 7-82 run (one tie) over their last 90 games.
The Burghers weren’t anywhere near as bad as their crosstown rival. They had an 8-10 record after this game, then went on to lose another seven games in a row. Their season got much better though, going 52-51 the rest of the way. That Player’s League team was basically the 1889 Pittsburgh National League team, with most of the lineup jumping to the new league. Jake Beckley, Ned Hanlon, Pud Galvin, Al Maul, Harry Staley, Ed Morris, Bill Kuehne, Jocko Fields and Fred Carroll all jumped from the NL to the PL that year. The first three are in the Hall of Fame and Galvin, Staley and Morris made a combined 108 starts for the 1889 Alleghenys. Al Maul made four of the team’s other 26 starts.