Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.
Chance Sanford, infielder for the 1998 Pirates. He was a 27th round pick of the Pirates in the 1992 draft out of San Jacinto College, signing with the team two days after his 20th birthday. Pittsburgh had originally taken him 17 rounds earlier in the 1991 draft. Sanford worked his way slowly through the minors, spending three seasons at High-A ball, while also missing most of the 1995 season. He hit .254 with five homers and 13 steals in 73 games during his first season, splitting the year between short-season ball and Low-A. Sanford moved up to High-A in 1993, hitting .255 with 21 doubles and ten homers in 115 games for Salem of the Carolina League. He remained in Salem for all of 1994 and did much better. He batted .274 with 32 doubles, 19 homers, 81 runs scored, 78 RBIs and 12 steals. When he was healthy in 1995, he did well, batting .298 with seven homers in 38 games. The 1996 season was spent with Carolina of the Southern League (Double-A), where he saw brief time in the previous season. Sanford hit .245 with 72 walks and 13 triples. He hit just four homers and he was caught stealing in half of his 22 stolen base attempts. He was in Double-A for a third season in 1997 when he began to hit his stride, batting .262 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 44 games, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A. He did even better a level up, hitting .292 with 60 RBIs in 89 games for Calgary. In 1998, Sanford started the year in Triple-A, before earning a promotion to the majors on April 30th to replace third baseman Freddy Garcia. Sanford was called up because of a strong Spring Training performance and the fact that he offered a lot of versatility. He mostly played second base in the minors, but he had shots at third base, shortstop and in the outfield. He batted just .120 in 11 games before returning to the minors, but he was quickly back in Pittsburgh when Lou Collier got hurt at the end of May. After being sent down two weeks later, Sanford played in the minors until late June, when a shoulder injury landed him on the disabled list. It was described as just shoulder soreness, but he never returned that year. He ended up hitting .143 in 14 games, seeing five starts at third base and one at second base. After the season ended, he was released by the Pirates. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999 and spent most of the year at Triple-A. He also played five Major League games in June, going 2-for-8 at the plate, before being sent back down. He finished his playing career in independent ball the following year, batting .243 in 110 games for Atlantic City of the Atlantic League.
Darnell Coles, right fielder for the 1987-88 Pirates. He was a first round pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1980, taken sixth overall at 18 years old out of high school in California. He debuted with a .214 average in short-season ball, though 22 walks in 34 games led to a .340 OBP. In 1981, he hit .274 with 32 extra-base hits in 111 games. Coles moved up one level to the hitter-friendly California League in 1982 and responded with a big season. He batted .303 with 39 extra-base hits, 27 steals and 68 walks in 136 games. He spent half of the 1983 minor league season in Double-A and the other half in Triple-A, where he put up better numbers. His combined totals for the season showed a .301 average with 15 homers, 23 steals and 61 walks. Coles made the majors in September of 1983 and was used often over the final month. He got 100 plate appearances in 27 games and he hit .283 with seven doubles and a homer. Coles split the 1984 season between Triple-A and the majors, where he hit just .161 with no homers in 48 games for the Mariners. The 1985 season saw him spend most of the year on the Mariners bench behind rookie Jim Presley. Coles played just 58 games all year, including a stint in the minors. He mentioned mid-season that he wanted to be traded because Presley was playing so good that he wouldn’t see any playing time. He played parts of three seasons with Seattle before being traded to the Detroit Tigers on December 12, 1985. Coles had a breakout season in 1986, hitting .273 with 20 homers and 86 RBIs, but his success didn’t carry over into the next season. In 1987 for the Tigers, he hit .181 through 53 games, even spending a short stint in the minors in June. He was playing mostly third base at that time and having troubles there as well, making 17 errors in 36 games. Detroit dealt him to the Pirates on August 7, 1987 in exchange for veteran third baseman Jim Morrison, who was upset about losing playing time, mostly due to the emergence of Bobby Bonilla.
Coles hit .227 with six homers and 24 RBIs in 40 games for Pittsburgh in 1987, spending most of his time in right field. In 1988, he was the Pirates regular right fielder until July, when he was traded back to the Mariners for outfielder Glenn Wilson. At the time, Coles was hitting .232 with five homers and 36 RBIs through 68 games. After the deal, he hit .292 with ten homers in 55 games in 1988. In 1989, he batted .252 with ten homers in 146 games. Two years after the Mariners reacquired him, they would again trade him to Detroit. He combined to hit .209 with three homers in 89 games during the 1990 season. He ended up with the San Francisco Giants in 1991, though he played just 11 big league games that season. Coles had a bit of a rebound in 1992, hitting .312 in 55 games for the Cincinnati Reds, though he walked just three times, so his .322 OBP wasn’t impressive. The next two seasons were spent as a bench player for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he hit .234 with eight homers in 112 games during the 1993-94 seasons. Coles played 63 games for the St Louis Cardinals in 1995, hitting .225 with three homers. He spent all of 1996 and second part of 1997 in Japan. The first two months of the 1997 season was spent as a bench player for the Colorado Rockies, where he hit .318 in 22 at-bats over 21 games. Coles played 14 years in the majors and later coached at various levels, including four years of managing in the minors. In 957 Major League games, he hit .245 with 75 homers and 368 RBIs. Despite stealing 27 bases in 1982 and 23 bases in 1983 in the minors, he went 20-for-43 in steals during his time in the majors.
Jeff Schulz, pinch-hitter for the 1991 Pirates. He was a 23rd round draft pick in 1983 by the Kansas City Royals out of Indiana State University. Despite being 22 years old at the time, he started his pro career in the low level Pioneer League, where he batted .327 in 61 games. Schulz split the 1984 season between Low-A and High-A, hitting well at each level. He combined to hit .326 in 128 games, with 80 RBIs and 75 runs scored. The next season was spent in Double-A, where he put up a .305 average and 59 walks in 136 games. He made it up to Triple-A Omaha by his third full season in pro ball and he hit .303 in 123 games, but that high average didn’t get him to the majors right away. Schulz spent the 1987 and 1988 seasons back in Omaha and couldn’t match his stats from his first season at Triple-A. He put up a .688 OPS in 99 games in 1987 and a .718 OPS in 101 games in 1988. He spent a total of seven seasons in their system before making his Major League debut in September of 1989. That year, his fourth at Omaha, he batted .278 in 95 games. Schulz played seven games for the Royals that year, getting his lone start on the final day of the season. He had three different stints with Kansas City in 1990, hitting .258 with six RBIs in 30 games (16 starts). Schulz was released by the Royals that December and signed with the Pirates in January of 1991. He spent most of 1991 in Triple-A Buffalo, where he batted .300 with 54 RBIs and 55 runs scored in 122 games. His big league time that season consisted of three pinch-hitting appearances over a two-week stretch in May. Schulz went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts before returning to the minors. His time with the big league team ended when they acquired veteran outfielder Mitch Webster from the Cleveland Indians on May 16th. Schulz became a free agent after the 1991 season, then signed with the Cincinnati Reds. He finished his career in the minors in 1992, seeing time at Triple-A for the Reds and Chicago Cubs. Schulz was a .296 hitter in 1,038 minor league games. He batted .244 in 40 Major League games.
Gene Michael, infielder for the 1966 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in 1959. His minor league career started off slow, batting .227 in 124 games at Grand Forks of the Northern League (Class-C ball) in his debut season at 21 years old. Michael then hit .203 in 124 games the next season, spending almost the entire year back with Grand Forks. He hit well in 1961, batting .324 in 121 games, with 37 extra-base hits and 36 steals, but he was playing a level lower at Class-D ball for Hobbs of the Sophomore League. When he was promoted two levels higher to Kingston of the Carolina League the next year, his average dropped to .215 in 138 games with one homer and 92 strikeouts. In 1963, the Pirates moved their shortstop to the mound, which was a failed experiment. He went 1-3, 6.79 in 16 games. The position change was also a temporary move because his bat started to come alive that season. Michael was still in Kingston, though the league was considered to be A-ball 1963. He hit .304 in 125 games. He was promoted to AAA Columbus in 1964 and spent three seasons there as the team’s shortstop. Defense is what kept him there because his first season was a rough one at the plate. He hit just .221 in 131 games and drove in 19 runs all season. Michael put up a similar average and OPS in 1965 over 138 games, but it came with a much higher walk rate and a big drop in his slugging. He hit .289 in 78 games during the 1966 season at Triple-A, showing decent OBP/slugging numbers, which led to the Pirates calling him up for his Major League debut in July, one month after his 28th birthday. Michael started three times during his first week, then just once more the rest of the year. In 30 games, some as a pinch-runner, he hit .152 with nine runs scored. On December 1, 1966, the Pirates traded him, along with Bob Bailey, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for All-Star shortstop Maury Wills. Michael played one season in L.A. and put up a .470 OPS in 98 games, before being sold to the New York Yankees, where he spent the next seven seasons.
Michael was a backup during the 1968 season in New York, though most of his time was spent at shortstop. He played 61 games and batted 119 times. He batted .198 and hit his first career homer, though he drew just two walks, giving him a .218 OBP. In 1969 he became the starting shortstop. Michael hit a career high .272 in 119 games, with a career best .705 OPS. He dropped down to a .214 average in 1970, but he saw more playing time, getting into 134 games. He played a career high 139 games in 1971, hitting .224 with three homers and 48 walks. Michael saw a slight dip in his playing time each of the following two years, but he was still a semi-regular in the starting lineup. He batted .233 in 126 games in 1972, and .225 with a career best 47 RBIs in 129 games in 1973. He was back to a part-time player in his final season in New York, hitting .260 in 81 games, while seeing more time at second base. Michael finished his playing career in 1975 with the Detroit Tigers, batting .214 in 56 games. Following his playing career, he held many positions with the Yankees, including manager and general manager. In ten big league seasons, he batted .229 with 15 homers, 22 steals, 226 RBIs and 249 runs scored in 973 games. As a big league manager, he was at the helm for four partial seasons, 1981-82 with the Yankees and 1986-87 with the Chicago Cubs. He had a 206-200 record as a manager.
Tom Leahy, outfielder for the 1897 Pirates. He spent four seasons in the minors, playing for the Springfield Ponies of the Eastern League, before getting his first big league chance with the 1897 Pirates. He didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 24 years old in 1893. That first season he hit .299 with 24 steals in 34 games. The next year he batted .274 with 30 steals and 38 extra-base hits in 101 games. Leahy batted .314 in 63 games during the 1895 season. He was a catcher mostly in the minors, but during his time in Pittsburgh he played more outfield. The Pirates paid $500 to draft him from Springfield in December of 1896 after he batted .256 with 59 steals in 104 games that season. The local papers, quoting fielding stats, noted that he had his share of trouble in the outfield, but he was an above average catcher. Leahy played his first game in the majors at the catcher spot, coming off the bench for the Pirates on May 18, 1897. It was said of his first game that his throws to second base were weak, but he showed great patience at the plate. For Pittsburgh, he was used in a utility role, getting six games at catcher, another six at third base and 13 in the outfield, spread out between all three positions. Leahy hit .261 in 24 games for the Pirates, with 12 RBIs and ten runs scored. In mid-August he was released by the Pirates and about a week later he signed with the Washington Senators, where he finished the season hitting .385 in 19 games. Leahy started off slow the following season before returning to the minors until 1901, when the American League became a second Major League. He spent the 1898-1900 seasons with Providence of the Eastern League. He played for two AL teams that year, seeing time with the Philadelphia Athletics and the Milwaukee Brewers (current day Baltimore Orioles). He batted .254 in 38 games. After another three seasons in the minors, mostly spent in San Francisco, Leahy returned for one last big league season as a catcher for the 1906 St Louis Cardinals. He debuted in early July and batted .227 in 35 games over the rest of the season. He ended his 15-year pro career in the minors in 1908. In four big league seasons he hit .256 with no homers and 42 RBIs in 131 games. Despite some strong stolen base numbers in the minors, he had just 18 steals in the majors.
Jack O’Connor, catcher for the 1900-02 Pirates. He had a 21-year Major League career that began in 1887, spending time with seven different teams in three different leagues. He played just one year of minor league ball before starting that long career, playing for St Joseph of the Western League at 20 years old in 1886. He joined the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association in 1887 and batted .100 in 12 games. In 1888 he batted .204 in 36 games for Cincinnati. He moved on to the Columbus Solons of the American Association in 1889 and batted .269 with 60 RBIs in 107 games. The next year he hit a career high .324 in 121 games, with 66 RBIs and 89 runs scored. For the second straight season, he led all catchers in the American Association in fielding percentage. It should be pointed out that three leagues existed in 1890 and the American Association was the weakest of the three Major Leagues. With the Player’s League done after one year, O’Connor hit .266 in 56 games for Columbus. The American Association was done after 1891, leaving just the National League, which was at a premium for talent that year. He mostly played right field that season for the Cleveland Spiders and hit .248 in 140 games, with 71 runs scored. In 1893 he was back behind the plate more often and batted .286 with 75 RBIs and 79 runs scored in 96 games. Offense started to pick up that season due to new rules that limited the effectiveness of pitchers, including moving the pitching distance back. Offense was at a peak in baseball history in 1894 and O’Connor benefited as well, batting .315 in 86 games, with 23 doubles and 67 runs scored. Offense dropped off over the next few years leading into the deadball era, but he still hit for a high average. O’Connor batted .292 in 90 games during the 1895 season, then hit .297 in 68 games in 1896. He put up a .290 average and 69 RBIs in 103 games in 1897. He played extra at first base in 1898 and saw a lot more playing time, getting into 131 games. O’Connor hit .249 that season, with a .598 OPS.
In 1899, the Cleveland owners bought the St Louis Browns and transferred all of their best players from Cleveland to St Louis. O’Connor went along and hit .253 in 84 games for St Louis (they were briefly named the Perfectos). The Pirates purchased his contract in May of 1900 from the Cardinals. During that 1900 season, Pittsburgh used a three-man platoon behind the plate of veteran catchers during a time when not many catchers lasted past 32 years of age. O’Connor was 34 years old at the time, plus they also had 39-year-old Chief Zimmer and 34-year-old Pop Schriver. O’Connor hit .219 in ten games with the 1900 Cardinals, then batted .238 with 19 RBIs in 43 games with the Pirates over the rest of the season. In 1901 when the Pirates won their first National League title, he hit just .193 in 61 games, but modern metrics rate his defense as well above average that year. O’Connor’s best season in Pittsburgh was 1902, when he hit .294 with 28 RBIs in 49 games and threw out 52.9% of base runners attempting to steal. His time in Pittsburgh though is marred by the fact it ended with his release near the end of the 1902 season after the Pirates learned that he was trying to convince teammates to jump to the American League.
O’Connor played for the New York Highlanders (Yankees) in 1903 and had a rough season at the plate, hitting .203 with a .466 OPS in 64 games. He played briefly for the St Louis Browns in 1904, didn’t play at all in 1905, then came back for two more seasons with St Louis. Over three years with the Browns, he batted .184 with a .383 OPS in 95 games. He managed the Browns in 1910 to a 47-104 record and he caught an inning during the final game of the season, which was another controversy for O’Connor. Nap Lajoie went 8-for-8 during a doubleheader against his team and seven of the hits were infield hits. It was said that O’Connor had his team play back in the infield to allow Lajoie to pick up enough hits to beat Ty Cobb out for the batting title, with the winner that year receiving a new car. Lajoie was a well liked player and Cobb was not. O’Connor played 1,452 Major League games, hitting .263 with 738 RBIs and 718 runs scored. Mostly known as a singles hitter, his only home run during the last nine seasons of his career was an inside-the-park homer. There have been two played named Jack O’Connor in Major League history. The other was a pitcher in the 1980’s for three different teams and he was also born on this date, 96 years after the original Jack.