Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date. Before we get into them, current Pirates infielder Rodolfo Castro turns 22 today.
Mace Brown, pitcher for the 1935-41 Pirates. He spent five seasons in the minors prior to the Pirates purchasing his contract in November of 1934 from Kansas City of the American Association. Brown debuted at 21 years old in 1930 and split his time between three teams, two Class-C clubs and one club two levels higher in A-Ball. He finished the year with a 12-24 record and threw 295 innings. He walked 163 batters, a number he would never approach again. His full ERA isn’t available for much of his minor league career, but he had an 0-7, 5.55 mark for St Joseph of the Western League in 1930, which was the A-Ball club. He pitched in Class-C ball in 1931 with Durham of the Piedmont League, where he went 8-7 and pitched 149 innings over 30 appearances. Brown was back up to the Western League in 1932 with Des Moines, where he 8-10 in 168 innings over 35 games. In 1933, he moved up to Kansas City, where he was 4-16, 4.41 in 194 innings. Brown spent most of the 1934 season pitching for Tulsa of the Texas League, where he won 19 games and posted a 3.53 ERA in 242 innings. On November 21, 1934, he was purchased from Kansas City and the local papers said that it was on a trial basis, meaning he could be returned to Kansas City if it didn’t work out. One great scouting report in the local papers the next day said that he was a “likely looking prospect” according to Pirates scouts.
The Pirates took him to training camp in 1935 and he made the team, but would be used very little that first year. He made his big league debut on his 26th birthday. Brown had pitched in just seven of the first 84 games of the season, when he was given a spot start on July 20th during a doubleheader. He would throw a complete game against the Braves, winning 14-2. Over the next ten days, Brown got three more starts and the results got worse as he went along. He was moved back to the pen and saw limited time through mid-September. On the 16th of September, he threw one-hit ball over 5.1 innings of relief work. Pittsburgh gave him another start to end the year and he allowed one run in a complete game win over the Cincinnati Reds.
Brown would have a bigger role in 1936, getting ten starts throughout the year, but he got more work during his 37 relief appearances. Eleven times that season he pitched four or more innings in relief, including July 30th, when he threw seven shutout innings in a 5-3 win against the Boston Braves. He threw a total of 165 innings, winning ten games, with a 3.87 ERA. In 1937, he pitched 50 games, 48 in relief. He won seven games and saved another seven, which would’ve led the league, although saves weren’t an official stat back then. In 1938, Brown became the first reliever to ever pitch in the All-Star game. He made 49 relief appearances that season, pitching a total of 132.2 innings. He won 15 games that year, pitching two or more innings 32 times. His season didn’t have a good ending though. Late in the year, he gave up a game-winning homer to the Cubs’ Gabby Hartnett. Referred to as the “Homer in the Gloamin”, it helped the Cubs to the World Series over the Pirates, who were leading the National League for half of the season.
In 1939, Brown began the year in his normal relief role, but after 7.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen in early July, he was moved to a starting role. He made a career high 19 starts before the year was over, winning nine times and posting a 3.37 ERA in 200.1 innings. The 1940 season was just the opposite. He began the year as a starter, before going 4-6 and being moved back to the pen. It was the last full season for Brown in Pittsburgh. He went 10-9, 3.49 and saved seven games, while pitching a total of 173 innings over 17 starts and 31 relief appearances. After just one appearance in 1941, the Pirates sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 22nd. It was a move that surprised fans who thought the Pirates were short on pitching to begin with, especially since they didn’t receive any players back in the deal. The Dodgers made an offer that the Pirates couldn’t refuse, paying a hefty cash price for the 32-year-old reliever.
Brown finished the 1941 season in Brooklyn, where he had a 3.16 ERA in 42.2 innings. He then moved on to the Boston Red Sox in 1942, where he went 9-3, 3.43 in 60.1 innings. He had a great season in 1943, posting a 2.12 ERA in 49 games, throwing a total of 93.1 innings. He spent 1944-45 serving in the Navy, then returned for one more season with the Red Sox before retiring. He had a 2.05 ERA in 1946, though he pitched just 26.1 innings. Brown pitched a total of 262 games with the Pirates, 55 as a starter. He threw 852.2 innings, winning 55 games (45 losses), saving another 29 and posting a 3.67 ERA. In his four seasons after leaving the Pirates, he pitched only in relief, making another 125 appearances in which he picked up 21 wins and 19 saves.
Steve Pegues, outfielder for the 1994-95 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1987, taken 21st overall out of Pontotoc HS in Mississippi. He spent five seasons in the Tigers organization, eventually getting to Triple-A in his last season, where he struggled at the plate. Pegues debuted in the Appalachian League in 1987, where he hit .284 with 22 steals in 59 games. He moved up to Low-A in 1988 and had a .256 average in 118 games, with 28 extra-base hits and 21 steals, though a low walk rate resulted in a .292 OBP. He repeated Low-A at the start of 1989 and batted .309 in 70 games. He moved up to High-A, where he posted a .597 OPS in 55 games. In 1990, Pegues hit .271 in 126 games at Double-A, with 17 steals and 35 extra-base hits. His walk rate was even lower than in 1988, giving him a .291 OBP, just 20 points higher than his average. He repeated Double-A in 1991 and hit .301 in 56 games, but his average at Triple-A dropped to .225 in 68 games. He also went 12-for-23 in stolen base attempts. Pegues was picked up by the San Diego Padres on waivers prior to the 1992 and played two years at Triple-A, before he was cut at the end of Spring Training in 1994. He had a .694 OPS in 1992, when playing in the high offense environment of Las Vegas. In 1993, he had a .352 average through 68 games when his hand was broken by a pitch on July 17th, which ended his season. Less than a week after being cut by the Padres, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. Pegues was called up to make his Major League debut on July 6th, walking in a pinch-hit appearance. It was an odd start for him, since his main problem in the minors was his inability to take walks. In his minor league career he took 122 walks in 3,661 plate appearances. After 11 games, in which he went 3-for-10 at the plate, Pegues was released by the Reds on July 27th and immediately picked up by the Pirates.
In his first game in Pittsburgh, he collected three hits, including a game-tying, two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning, in a game eventually won by the Pirates in ten innings. His rookie season was interrupted by the strike that wiped away the end of the 1994 schedule. He hit .361 in 36 at-bats between his two stops, playing 11 games in Cincinnati and seven in Pittsburgh. All of his games with the Reds were off of the bench, but he saw seven starts during his two weeks with the Pirates before the strike. Pegues spent the entire 1995 season on the Pirates roster, getting into 82 games, including 36 starts. He split his time between the two corner outfield spots and pinch-hitting. He batted .246 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 171 at-bats. The Pirates released him after the season ended. He would end up playing three more years in the minors before retiring, spending time with seven different teams during those last three years. Pegues originally signed with the Seattle Mariners after leaving the Pirates, but he never played a game for them. He spent 1996 in Triple-A for the Atlanta Braves, while also seeing time playing in Mexico. In 1997 he played for the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs and an independent team out of Winnipeg. His final season was split between the Colorado Rockies and a stint in China.
Ed FitzGerald, catcher for the 1948-53 Pirates. The start of his pro career was delayed when he went straight from college to wartime duty. He signed his first pro contract in 1946 at 22 years old, hitting .329 in 102 games that year split between two teams, with the majority of his time spent in the Class-B Western International League. In 1947, he played for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .363 average and a .926 OPS in 144 games. Many claimed that his defense, especially his arm, was better than his hitting. Pittsburgh purchased his contract on September 8, 1947 and he made the 1948 club out of Spring Training. There was a high cost for their new catcher due to a bidding war with other teams, though the price was never released (see more below). The Pirates paid cash and promised to release four players to Sacramento (one source said five players, though two would be on option), which included pitchers Dewey Soriano, Roger Wolff and Lou Tost.
FitzGerald would hit .267 with 35 RBIs that rookie season in 1948, starting 66 games behind the plate and coming off the bench another 36 times. The Pirates acquired veteran catcher Clyde McCullough in the 1948-49 off-season, meaning less time for FitzGerald. He would start just 34 games at catcher in 1949, hitting .263 with 18 RBIs in 160 at-bats. He began the year with the Pirates in 1950, but was sent to the minors a month into the season after hitting .067 in 15 at-bats. Shortly after FitzGerald was sent down, the Pirates also sent down Bob Chesnes, another high priced prospect. It was said at the time, that the Pirates had a $200,000 battery in the minors, claiming that each player cost the team $100,000 apiece, though most guessed that the Pirates spent about $40,000 in cash on FitzGerald, so the rest of that value came in the form of players. A later report added even more confusion, saying the deal was $65,000 and three players.
After hitting .313 in 103 games, while playing for Indianapolis of the American Association, FitzGerald rejoined the Pirates for the 1951 season. He was the backup to McCullough to begin that year, then went to the third-string role when Pittsburgh acquired Joe Garagiola in June. Early in 1953, the Pirates sold him to the Washington Senators. FitzGerald would go on to play in the majors until 1959. He batted .250 in 88 games with the Senators to finish out the 1953 season. In 1954, he broke the 100-game barrier for the only time in his career. He batted .289 with four homers and 40 RBIs in 115 games. FitzGerald was back down to a platoon role in 1955 when he hit just .237 with eight extra-base hits in 74 games. He set a career high with a .304 average and a .786 OPS in 1956, though his playing time once again dropped, batting 170 times total in 64 games. The drop continued into 1957, with 45 games and 139 plate appearances. He batted .272 with one homer. FitzGerald saw more time off of the bench in 1958, playing 58 games, with 23 starts. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians in late May of 1959 and saw a bit more playing time, finishing with his highest at-bat total since 1955. He batted .246 in 68 games that year, including his time with Washington. FitzGerald was released by the Indians a week prior to the 1960 season, which ended his playing career. He then took up a coaching role, ending with two years (1965-66) of managing in the minors. He finished with a .260 average in 807 Major League games over 12 season. He played 275 of those games while with Pittsburgh, hitting .247 with 74 RBIs during that time.
Fred Dunlap, second baseman for the 1888-1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, and manager for the 1889 team. He was a strong fielding second baseman, considered to be a star during his time. He played three years of minor league ball, including the first season of the minors in 1877, before making it to the majors shortly before his 21st birthday. As a rookie in 1880, playing for the Cleveland Blues, he led the National League in doubles and led all second basemen in assists with 290, finishing third in the league fielding percentage. The next year he hit .325 with 60 runs scored in 80 games (the team played 85 games that year). In 1882, he became the player/manager and hit .280 with 68 runs scored in 84 games, leading the league again in assists (297) for second basemen, while getting the most total chances. After hitting .326 with 81 runs scored in 1883, Dunlap moved to the newly-formed Union Association, one of the few star players to make that move. The UA was considered a Major League, but the play was not on par with either the American Association or the National League. Dunlap became the instant star of the league, once again taking the player/manager role, finishing with a league leading .412 average, while scoring 160 runs in 101 games. His 1.069 OPS led the league and it was the highest OPS in 12 years, dating back to the National Association. He also led all UA second basemen in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. His team won the UA title with a 94-19 record, going 66-16 under Dunlap.
When the league folded after one year, his St. Louis Maroons team joined the National League. Dunlap saw his numbers drop back down to normal levels, posting a .667 OPS in 106 games, which was 61 points higher than the league OPS that season. Midway through the 1886 season, he was sold to the Detroit Wolverines. Between the two stops, he batted .274 in a career high 122 games, with 69 RBIs and 85 runs scored. He would hit .265 with 60 runs scored and 45 RBIs in 65 games for Detroit in 1887, helping them to the World Series, which was then played between the winner of the American Association and the National League. Detroit won the series, which lasted 15 games, although Dunlap hit just .150 in 40 at-bats. Shortly after the series ended, Pittsburgh purchased his contract for a large sum (at least $4,000) and then paid him $7,000 for the season, the highest salary of the day. He was named the team captain and the Alleghenys had high hopes for the 1888 season. Dunlap was coming off an 1887 season in which he broke his leg, missing nearly half the year. After a slow start for Pittsburgh, he again suffered an injury that put him out for awhile, a broken jaw that happened during pre-game practice in early July. Dunap hit .262 that season, playing 82 out of a possible 139 games. In 1889, he played in 121 games, leading the league with a career high .950 fielding percentage. His offense slumped though, all the way down to a .235 average at the plate. In late July, he took over the manager position when Horace Phillips was forced to leave due to his declining health. Dunlap only lasted 17 games (7-10) before handing the reins over to center fielder Ned Hanlon, in the process, starting a Hall of Fame managerial career for Hanlon.
When the Player’s League formed in 1890, Dunlap was one of the few star players not to jump to the new league. He was one of four 1889 Alleghenys players who remained with Pittsburgh, but he wasn’t around for too long. Early in the year, after hitting .172 through 17 games, he was released. Dunlap was a holdout in spring and didn’t join the team until more than two weeks into Spring Training, but on Opening Day he was hitting in the cleanup spot. When he was released by Pittsburgh on May 14th, it was said that he was tough to get along with, and the Alleghenys also had a much cheaper second baseman (Henry Youngman) who was getting paid just $1,050 for the season, compared to the $3,500 being paid to the struggling Dunlap (one source said $3,700). Dunlap went on to play one game in the PL that year with the New York Giants (not an original name), signing with them nine days after being cut by Pittsburgh. He played one game, then said that his contract wasn’t satisfactory and he wanted to assurance that the PL would be around still in 1891, which he didn’t get from the team owners. He signed with the Washington Statesman of the American Association for the 1891 season. Just eight games into his stay there, Dunlap broke his leg for a second time, ending his baseball career. He finished his 12-year career as a .292 hitter in 965 games with 759 runs scored. Four times he led second basemen in fielding percentage and assists, while twice he led in putouts. He reportedly had the nickname “Sure Shot Fred” for his strong/accurate arm, though the first mention of it in print came 30 years after his final game and the second mention happened another 29 years later.
Fred Clement, shortstop for the 1890 Alleghenys. He might be the worst player in Pirates franchise history, or the team just gave up on him too soon. The 1890 Alleghenys are the worst team in franchise history. They gave numerous trials to players during the season, some out of necessity due to a lack of players. There were times when they had 11-12 active players on the roster. In late June, the Alleghenys visited Philadelphia for a series against the Phillies. On June 23rd, Pittsburgh used siblings Harry and John Gilbert as their double play combo in a doubleheader. That was their only day in the majors. Pitcher Sumner Bowman also debuted that day, but he would stick around through the 1891 season in the majors. The next day there was a 23-year-old named Fred Clement at shortstop for the Alleghenys. He was a local kid, who was also a dentist. He played a little bit of minor league ball in 1889 for Wilmington of the Middle States League. Pittsburgh owner J. Palmer O’Neil hired a man named James Randall to be a scout for the team and he recommended Clement, who did so poorly that he was removed after two innings. He went 0-for-1 at the plate and committed three errors before being replaced at shortstop by Tun Berger, who was in center field. The center fielder who replaced Berger was Sumner Bowman, the pitcher. The score was 6-0 at that point and his throwing error and two missed grounders were responsible for most of that damage. Modern numbers credit Clement with five innings played, but numerous sources from the day mention two innings, which would make sense because if he played five innings, he would have batted more than once. That was it for Clement in baseball. Two big league innings, three errors, one out at the plate. One interesting note is that he was called “Clements” in the Philadelphia papers, which made sure to note that he wasn’t related to their star catcher Jack Clements, who is the greatest left-handed catcher in baseball history. A Pittsburgh paper called him “BF Clements”, but his real name was Frederick Garwood Clement.