Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note.
Kevin Young, first baseman for the 1992-95 and 1997-2003 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick of the Pirates in 1990 out of the University of Southern Mississippi. He debuted in the New York-Penn League and put up a .732 OPS in 72 games. Young started his first full season in High-A, batting .313 with 22 extra-base hits in 56 games. He made it to Double-A by the middle of 1991, where he hit .342 in 75 games, then finished the year in Triple-A during the final week of the season. Young hit .314 with 91 runs scored and 43 extra-base hits in 137 games at Triple-A in 1992, earning a ten-game trial with the Pirates. He batted just nine times, but he went 4-for-7 with four RBIs and two walks. He was the Opening Day first baseman in 1993, playing 141 games that year. He had a .236 average, with 24 doubles and 47 RBIs. The 1994 and 1995 seasons were split almost evenly between Triple-A and the majors. For the Pirates, he hit .205 with one homer in 59 games in 1994, then batted .232 with six homers in 56 games in 1995.
Young spent 3+ years with the Pirates, but was never able to hit well. His highest OPS during the 1993-95 seasons was a .649 mark during that last year. He had over 800 plate appearances with only 13 homers to show for it. Pittsburgh released him at the end of Spring Training in 1996 and he signed on with the Kansas City Royals six days later. Young hit .242 with eight homers in 55 games for Kansas City in 1996, then was released in the off-season. Pittsburgh re-signed Young at the end of Spring Training in 1997, almost one year to the day they released him. He started the year as a bench player, but began to see regular time in the middle of May. He played first base mainly, although he also saw time at third base and the corner outfield spots. An early August injury cost him six weeks of the season. Young finished with a .300 average, hitting 18 homers and driving in 74 runs in 97 games. The next year he moved into the starting first base role, a spot he would hold for the next five years. He had two strong back-to-back years in 1998-99. That first year he hit .270 with 40 doubles, 27 homers and 108 RBIs. He was even better in 1999, hitting .298 with 41 doubles, 26 homers, 106 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. Young led all National League first baseman in putouts during both of these seasons.
Young’s numbers began to slowly decline in 2000, though he still drove in 88 runs in 132 games that season. He had a career best .909 OPS in 1999, then saw it drop to a .744 mark the next season. He hit .232 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs in 2001, then batted .246 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs over 146 games the next year. Young was batting .202 with seven RBIs through the end of June in 2003 when the Pirates released him. He finished his career in Pittsburgh with a .259 average, 136 homers and 583 RBIs in 1,150 games. He ranks 24th in team history in games played, 17th with 229 doubles, 18th in extra-base hits, 11th in homers and 18th in RBIs. He has been a coach/special assistant with the Pirates since 2014 and he took up a broadcasting job with the team in 2021.
Arquimedes Caminero, pitcher for the 2015-16 Pirates. He was signed as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic at 17 years old in 2005 by the Florida Marlins. He debuted in 2006 and spent his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. Caminero had just four starts during his entire pro career and all of them came in 2007. He moved to the Gulf Coast League in 2008 and worked his way up to A-Ball, playing at three levels that year. He also played at three levels in 2009, topping out in High-A. He had a combined 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings that season. In 2010, he spent the entire season in Low-A, going 5-2, 3.01 in 74.2 innings over 48 outings. Caminero was injured in 2011 and he was limited to one rehab game that year. In 2012, he posted an 0.44 ERA in 19 appearances in High-A, then had a 3.06 ERA in 12 games at Double-A. The 2013 season started in Double-A and ended in the majors, with just one game at Triple-A in between. He debuted in the majors on August 16th and pitched 13 times, putting up a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. He was with the Marlins in April of 2014 for five games, then returned in late May for one more game, but he spent the rest of the season in Triple-A, where he had a 4.86 ERA in 63 innings. The Pirates purchased the hard-throwing right-hander from the Marlins prior to the start of the 2015 season. For the Pirates that year, he made 73 relief appearances, going 5-1, 3.62 in 74.2 innings, with 73 strikeouts. In 2016, Caminero had a 3.51 ERA through 39 games and 41 innings, when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for two minor league pitchers (Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez) on August 6th. He put up a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings over 18 appearances in Seattle. Caminero pitched the 2017-18 seasons in Japan, then split 2019 between Triple-A for the New York Mets and a stint in Mexico. The last two seasons, he only pitched winter ball in the Dominican, where he has played a total of eight seasons of winter ball. He has a 7-5, 3.83 record in 149 appearances and 155 innings in the majors. Between all of his pro work, he has pitched a total of 588 games.
Chris Gomez, infielder for the 2008 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in the 37th round by the California Angels in 1989. He decided to attend Cal State Long Beach, where the Detroit Tigers selected him in the third round in 1992. Gomez flew through the minors, playing 64 games at Double-A in 1992 and 87 games at Triple-A in 1993. He played 46 games for the Tigers, debuting in the majors just 11 months after being drafted. He hit .250 with a .625 OPS that first year, splitting his time between shortstop and second base. He did the same thing defensively the next year when he hit .257 with eight homers and 53 RBIs in 84 games during the strike-shortened season. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Gomez saw his average drop to .223 in 1995, when he hit 11 homers and drove in 50 runs over 123 games. He played strictly at shortstop in 1996 when he was part of a mid-season deal with the San Diego Padres that included five players. Between both stops, he hit .257 with four homers and 45 RBIs in 137 games. Gomez was the everyday shortstop for the Padres during the 1997-98 seasons, playing a total of 295 games. He hit .253 with 53 walks and 54 RBIs in 1997, then had a .267 average in 1998, when he set a career high with 32 doubles. His .980 fielding percentage that year was the best for all American League shortstops. Injuries limited him to 109 games during the 1999-2000 seasons, then he was released in the middle of 2001, though he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays just five days later. Gomez batted .259 in 98 games that season, with much better results in Tampa, where he hit .302 in 58 games. He was the starting shortstop for the 2002 Devil Rays, hitting .265 with 31 doubles, ten homers and 46 RBIs in 130 games.
Gomez signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins for 2003 and he hit .251 with one homer in 58 games. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004 and took a utility role, hitting .282 with 37 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 109 games. He moved on to the Baltimore Orioles in 2005 and played there for 2 1/2 seasons, seeing time at all four infield spots each year. He hit .279 in 89 games in 2005, then batted .341 over 55 games and 132 at-bats in 2006. Gomez split the 2007 season between the Orioles and Cleveland Indians, hitting a combined .297 in 92 games. He already had 15 seasons in at the Major League level when the Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 2007. With the Pirates, he played 90 games, getting multiple starts at all four infield spots. He hit .273 in 200 plate appearances, with a .655 OPS and 26 runs scored. After the season, he was granted free agency and he signed back with the Orioles. Baltimore cut him at the end of Spring Training, ending his 16-year Major League career. Gomez was a .262 career hitter, with 487 RBIs and 517 runs scored in 1,515 games, spending time with eight different teams.
Max Surkont, pitcher for the 1954-56 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1938 at 16 years old and he threw 160 innings that year. At age 17 he threw 218 innings at Class-C ball, then upped that to 234 innings the next year, when he went 19-5, 2.50 for Decatur of the Class-B Three-I League. Surkont was in the International League with Rochester, just one step from the majors, during the 1941-42 seasons. He did well in 1941 with a 3.20 ERA in 163 innings, but his ERA rose to 5.04 in 193 innings in 1942. After spending five years in the minors, the next three years were spent serving in the military during WWII. He returned in 1946 for three more years in the minors, all spent with Rochester, where he pitched 606 innings and had a 39-38 record during the 1946-48 seasons. Eleven years after his pro debut, Surkont made the majors with the 1949 Chicago White Sox. He went 3-5, 4.78 in 44 games (two starts), pitching 96 innings. He returned to the minors to start 1950, before getting his big break in August of 1950 when the Boston Braves purchased him from Chicago. He spent four years with the Braves, going 40-36, 3.90 in 105 games, 92 as a starter. He had a 3.23 ERA in 55.2 innings to finish out 1950, then set a career high with 237 innings in 1951, when he had a 12-16, 3.99 record. In 1952 he went 12-13, 3.77 in 215 innings. That was followed by an 11-5, 4.18 record in 170 innings during the team’s first season in Milwaukee.
Surkont was acquired by the Pirates on December 26, 1953 as one of six players (and cash) they got in return for infielder Danny O’Connell. He went into the rotation of a team that would lose 195 games over the 1954-55 seasons. Surkont went 9-18, 4.41 in 208.1 innings his first season in Pittsburgh, then followed it up with a 7-14, 5.57 record over 166.1 innings the next year. On May 5, 1956, the Pirates traded him to the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Luis Arroyo. Surkont had made just one relief appearance for the 1956 Pirates before the trade. He would go on to pitch five games for the Cardinals, who then sold him to the Boston Red Sox a month later. After spending two months in the minors, he was purchased by the New York Giants. He pitched 13 games in New York and had a 9.95 ERA in 6.1 innings, ending his Major League career in May of 1957 when he was sent to the minors. Max (his real name was Matthew) ended up pitching minor league ball until age 41 in 1963, spending his last five years with Buffalo of the International League. He pitched over 2,500 innings in the minors and won 160 games. During his nine seasons in the majors, he went 61-76, 4.38 in 1,194.1 innings.
Pete Coscarart, infielder for the 1942-46 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 21 years old in 1934, hitting .253 in 58 games for Portland of the Pacific Coast League. That was an advanced placement for a minor league debut and Coscarart dropped down to A-Ball in the Western League in 1935, where he batted .272 in 81 games for St Joseph. He was back with Portland for the entire 1936 season, hitting .233 in 170 games, with 32 doubles. He improved a small amount in 1937, batting .253 while adding 19 points to his slugging percentage. He spent four seasons in the minors before making his debut with the 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers on April 26th, getting into 32 games, while putting up a .152 average. He ended up spending part of the year back in the minors, hitting .315 in 66 games for Nashville of the Southern Association. Coscarart had a strong second season with the Dodgers in 1939, finishing with a .277 average and 59 runs scored in 119 games, while garnering some MVP votes along the way. In 1940, he made his only All-Star appearance, although his batting average was just .237 in 143 games played. He had 53 walks, 58 RBIs and 55 runs scored. The next year his batting really dropped off and he was forced to the bench, getting only nine starts and 71 plate appearances all year. He had just eight hits in 62 at-bats and just one double, giving him a .145 slugging percentage.
Coscarart was acquired by the Pirates from the Dodgers on December 12, 1941 as part of the return for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan. Coscarart immediately became the starting shortstop, hitting .228 with 57 runs scored in 133 games. He was asked to replace one of the greatest shortstops ever, but he finished that 1942 season with -0.5 WAR according to modern metrics. He moved to second base the next year, playing 133 games again. He batted .242 with 48 RBIs, while scoring 57 runs for a second straight year. The 1944 season was his best in Pittsburgh, but it was also a low point for talent in the game, with many players serving in the military during WWII. He scored a career high 89 runs that year, while putting up a .264 batting average and a season high 30 doubles. Coscarart hit .242 in 123 games 1945 and posted a .699 OPS, his best OPS mark while with the Pirates. After playing just three games over the six weeks of the 1946 season, he was sold to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League on June 1, 1946. He initially balked at playing there, saying he could still play big league ball, but he ended up reporting and staying there through the end of the 1948 season. Coscarart played for three different west coast teams during the 1949-50 seasons before retiring. He was a .243 hitter in 864 big league games, with 28 homers, 269 RBIs and 399 runs scored. His brother Joe was a Major League infielder for two seasons with the Boston Braves.
Fritz Mollwitz, first baseman for the 1917-1919 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1910, playing for Green Bay of the Wisconsin-Illinois League, where he stayed up until making his Major League debut in late September of 1913 with the Chicago Cubs. He put up a .311 average in 126 games with Green Bay in 1913 before playing two games for the Cubs. He remained with Chicago for the start of 1914, but it wasn’t a long stay and did not go well. Early in 1914, Mollwitz was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he would have his best season after struggling through the rest of 1914. He hit .150 in 13 games for the Cubs, then batted .162 in 32 games for the Reds. In 1915, Mollwitz played a career high 153 games, leading all National League first baseman in fielding percentage and in putouts. He drove in a career high 51 runs, but it was his glove that kept him around. He had an empty .259 batting average, with low walks/power totals leading to a .597 OPS. In the middle of 1916, he was sold back to the Cubs, who in turn sold him to Kansas City of the American Association during the next spring. Between the two big league stops in 1916, he batted .236 in 98 games, with a .562 OPS. Pittsburgh picked him up from Kansas City in August for Ray Miller and a package of players to be determined (the amount depended on the quality of the players chosen), after Mollwitz hit .303 through 123 games. He took over first base from Honus Wagner, who was retiring at season’s end, and batted .257 in 36 games, driving in 12 runs. The 1918 season was his only full year in Pittsburgh. He played 119 games, hitting .269 with 45 RBIs. He finished third in the NL among first baseman in assists, putouts and fielding percentage. He was with the Pirates through the beginning of August in 1919, leading the league in fielding percentage that year, but having a horrible season at the plate. Mollwitz was hitting .173 through 56 games played, when the Pirates sold him to the St Louis Cardinals. His Major League career ended that year, though he played seven more seasons in the minors, the last as a player/manager. He played five of those seasons for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, where he averaged 164 games played per season during that stretch. Mollwitz was a .241 career hitter in 534 big league games. In 1,907 Major League plate appearances, he hit just one homer, which was an inside-the-park home run. His real name was Frederick and he often went by Fred, though Fritz is how he is known now. He is one of 42 MLB players who was born in Germany,
Ralph Capron, pinch-runner for the Pirates on April 25, 1912. He was a star athlete at the University of Minnesota, the first player from that school to make the majors. When he signed with the Pirates on March 18, 1912, it was said that he played in the Pacific Coast League in 1910, but they were confusing him with a played named George Capron, who retired in 1910 and was his older brother. That’s not surprising because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss sent George a blank contract in January of 1912 and told him to fill out his terms, but George decided to remain retired, selling real estate in Oregon instead. When George didn’t sign, the Pirates went after his younger brother, who was the quarterback at Minnesota in 1911, along with a track star and a baseball player. Ralph Capron’s one appearance for the Pirates was his Major League debut, coming in with two outs in the ninth to pinch-run for Alex McCarthy. Pittsburgh was down 1-0 at home, when McCarthy singled to keep the game alive. Ham Hyatt came in to hit for George Gibson, and Capron came in to run for McCarthy. Hyatt struck out and Capron never left first base. It was said that the crowd was anxious to see him run because he was known for his great speed. Capron was sent to the minors on May 1st for the rest of the year, where he split the season between two American Association clubs, St Paul and Milwaukee. On February 3, 1913, he was released to St Paul outright as part of a previous deal in which the Pirates acquired pitching phenom Marty O’Toole. He was with the Philadelphia Phillies for Opening Day in 1913 and got into five games, one as a defensive replacement in left field and the other four games as a pinch-runner. He went 0-for-1 at the plate (his only big league at-bat), and he scored two runs. The Phillies purchased his contract because of his speed and strong defense, getting him before the New York Yankees could close a deal. He was sent to the minors right after the game on May 15th and never returned. He hit .258 in 43 games for Baltimore of the American Association that season. Capron played briefly for three different teams (the same three minor league teams he previously played with) in 1914 before retiring from baseball. He was a track star in college who tried out for the Olympics before signing with the Pirates. He also played pro football briefly in 1920.
Marr Phillips, shortstop for the 1885 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He had a minor league career that spanned from the first year of organized minor league ball in 1877, until 1899. Over that 22-year stretch, Phillips played 198 Major League games, with the majority of them coming in 1884 and 1890, which were the two seasons that three separate Major Leagues were all playing at the same time. He hit well for most of his time in the minors and he had a strong hands at shortstop (literally hands, fielders didn’t wear gloves during the early part of his career, except for catchers). Phillips was a Pittsburgh native, born there (in Allegheny) and passed away there at age 70 in 1928. He also rests in Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh. He played just four games for his hometown team. He debuted in the majors with Indianapolis of the American Association in 1884, where he hit .269 in 97 games, with 18 doubles, eight triples and 41 runs scored. He began the 1885 season with Detroit of the National League. After hitting .209 in 33 games, he was let go. He hooked on with the Alleghenys in the American Association and started four games at shortstop, going 4-for-15 at the plate with two RBIs. It was said on July 17th (one day after his debut with Pittsburgh) that he would take over shortstop, while Art Whitney would play third base and Bill Kuehne would be released An arm injury, that was said to have left him nearly disabled, quickly ended Phillips’ time with Pittsburgh, though they gave him some time to rest/heal before finally releasing him. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they got rid of infielder John Richmond instead and held on to Kuehne, who stayed with them through the end of the 1889 season. Phillips next saw Major League time with the 1890 Rochester Broncos of the American Association, in what would end up being his final big league season. In 64 games, he had a .206 average and 34 RBIs, leading all AA shortstops in fielding percentage with a .918 mark, 33 points above the league average. Most of his minor league time was spent playing either in Troy (1891-95) or Hamilton, Ontario, where he played during the 1887-88 and 1896-99 seasons. His obituary says that his career actually started in 1876 with Erie at 19 years old, which was probably true because his pro debut came in 1877 with Erie. It also says that he played in Hamilton until 1901, although no records are credited to him after 1899.
On this date in 1888, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys acquired third baseman Elmer Cleveland from the New York Giants in exchange for third baseman Art Whitney. Cleveland had been in the minors for three seasons, after making his Major League debut in the Union Association in 1884. The 25-year-old had played just nine games with New York prior to the trade. Whitney was 30 years old at the time, a veteran of four seasons with Pittsburgh, dating back to the American Association days. He was holding out at the time, after batting .260 with 51 RBIs in 1887. He led all third baseman in fielding percentage for a second straight season. After the trade, Cleveland played just 30 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .222, with well below average fielding at third base. He would go back to the minors, returning briefly to the big leagues in 1891 with the Columbus Solons of the AA for one last season. The trade didn’t end up hurting the Alleghenys, who had no choice but to move the hold out. Whitney hit just .218 with New York over two seasons and his defense wasn’t up to the standards of his previous two seasons. In the four seasons he played after the trade, his highest average was .220 in 1888.