This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 22nd, Three Players and a Signing

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date including a pitcher for the Pirates first World Series team. We also have a transaction of note. It’s a slow day in team history, so I’m going to do something later to help out future June 22nd articles.

The Players

Brant Brown, outfielder for the 1999 Pirates. He was a third round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 1992 draft out of USC. He went right to A-Ball, where he hit .274 in 70 games, with a .701 OPS. The next year he split the season between High-A and Double-A. He tore up the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, batting .342 in 75 games, then had a .315 average and 18 extra-base hits in 28 games for Orlando of the Southern Association. Brown ended up spending the next two full seasons in Double-A, putting up a .722 OPS in both seasons, while playing a total of 248 games. He moved up to Iowa of the Pacific Coast League in 1996 and hit .304 with 38 extra-base hits in 98 games. Brown made his Major League debut in June of 1996, hitting .304 in 29 games for Chicago that year. He was batting .372 after 11 games, but he was just filling in for Mark Grace, who took over his first base spot when he returned from a short stint on the disabled list. Brown returned in September, but only saw four starts over the final month. He split the next season between Triple-A and the majors, hitting .301 with 16 homers in the minors and .234 with five homers in 46 games for the Cubs. During his first two seasons, he played more first base than outfield, though he saw slightly more left field time during the 1997 season. In 1998, he played his first full season at the Major League level, batting .291 with an .850 OPS in 124 games. He split his playing time between left field and center field.

On December 14, 1998, the Pirates traded pitcher Jon Lieber to the Cubs in exchange for Brown. He started 85 games for the Pirates in 1999, getting into another 45 off the bench. His numbers fell well off from the previous year, hitting .232, with just 22 walks and 114 strikeouts in 371 at-bats. Almost exactly a year to the date that they acquired him, the Pirates traded Brown to the Florida Marlins for outfielder Bruce Aven. He would spend the next season splitting the year between the Marlins and the Cubs, hitting just .173 in 95 games. The Cubs actually acquired him in a trade from the Texas Rangers on the same day that Texas acquired him in a trade with the Marlins. That 2000 season would be his last in the majors. He would spend 2001 in Triple-A for the St Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, then he returned to baseball in 2003 for one last season, this time playing independent ball. In five years at the big league level, Brown batted .247 with 45 homers, 146 RBIs and 142 runs scored.

Dave Tomlin, left-handed pitcher for the 1983 and 1985 Pirates. He was a 27th round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1967 amateur draft out of high school in Ohio, selected right before his 18th birthday. He played that first season with Wytheville of the Appalachian League, where he had a 4.34 ERA in 85 innings. He then put in another 39 innings in the Florida Instructional League. In his first full season, he moved up to Tampa of the Florida State League, where he moved to a relief role and posted a 2.41 ERA in 56 innings over 37 appearances. His was 5-1, 2.76 in 44 innings in 1969 with Tampa, then added another 34 innings in instructs. Tomlin moved up to Double-A in 1970 and back into a starting role. He went 6-10, 3.11 in 139 innings. The next season he was up in Triple-A and back in relief. He went 7-4, 2.21 in 61 innings over 41 outings. He most pitched in relief in 1972, getting eight starts and 28 relief appearances. He had a 2.80 ERA in 90 innings. It took Tomlin five seasons to reach the majors, getting in three relief appearances in September of 1972. He split the 1973 season between the minors and majors, posting a 4.88 ERA in 27.2 innings with the Reds, then got traded to the San Diego Padres in the off-season. Tomlin saw some Triple-A time in 1974, posting a 1.69 ERA in 25 outings. Most of his time was spent in San Diego that year, going 2-0, 4.34 in 58 innings over 47 appearances. He finally spent a full season in the majors in 1975, when he went 4-2, 3.25 in 67 games and 83 innings pitched. He followed that up with a 2.84 ERA in 73 innings over 49 games. Tomlin had his busiest big league season in 1977. He went 4-4, 3.01 in 101.2 innings and 76 appearances.

Tomlin spent four seasons in San Diego, pitching a total of 239 games, with a 10-7, 3.28 record and six saves in 315.2 innings. In January of 1978, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, along with $125,000 in cash, for Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry. Before he pitched a regular season game in Texas, the Reds reacquired him at the end of Spring Training. He would go on to post a 9-1 record in 1978, despite a 5.78 ERA in 62.1 innings. That ERA dropped to 2.62 in 58.1 innings in 1979, but then it went back up to 5.54 in 27 appearances in 1980. He lasted in Cincinnati through September of 1980 when he was released. Tomlin spent all of 1981 in the minors for the Toronto Blue Jays, then re-signed with the Reds in April of 1982. His third time with the team lasted less than five months and was spent in the minors, before he was sold to the Montreal Expos. He pitched one game in the majors for the Expos that September, allowing one run in two innings.

Tomlin was in Triple-A for the Expos through August of 1983, posting a 4-1, 3.61 record in 41 relief appearances. He contract was sold to the Pirates on August 2, 1983, and he would pitch four innings over five games for Pittsburgh before the year was through. After spending all of 1984 in Triple-A, Tomlin made another appearance for the Pirates on August 9, 1985, throwing a scoreless inning during a 7-2 loss to the Expos. He was sent back to the minors, then granted free agency after the season. He pitched one last partial year in the majors with the 1986 Expos, getting into seven games and 10.1 innings, before ending his career in the minors the next season. Tomlin finished his career with a 25-12 record in 511.1 innings over 409 games, with 12 saves and a 3.82 ERA. Since retiring as a player, he has been a minor league pitching coach/manager in three different organizations, including 19 seasons with the Boston Red Sox.

Gus Thompson, pitcher for the 1903 Pirates. He played ball at two different colleges before making his pro debut in 1902 for the Helena Senators of the Pacific Northwest League at 25 years old. Thompson is one of just two Major League players who attended Grinnell College in Iowa. He also played for the University of Iowa. In 1903, Helena moved to Class-A ball (one level higher than the prior year), playing in the Pacific National League. Thompson went 13-15 in 31 games, earning a trial with the first place Pirates after their team disbanded for the season. The Pirates also signed Fred Carisch, his catcher that season with Helena. Both Thompson and Carisch practiced with the Pirates bench for four days and observed the team, before making their debut on August 31st as the starting battery against the St Louis Cardinals. Thompson pitched well in a 9-6 win that saw the Pirates commit four errors behind him, before they made up for the miscues with five runs in the 9th for the win. He would make three more starts and a relief appearance before the season was over, finishing with a 2-2, 3.56 record in 43 innings. That would be his only season with the Pirates, but his last game with the team was during game five of the 1903 World Series, when he pitched the last two innings of a blowout loss. The scouting report on Thompson said that he had good control and threw plenty of curves and off-speed pitches. The following Spring Training, Thompson was a contract hold out into early March because he desired a raise over his 1903 salary, while owner Barney Dreyfuss didn’t believe that his work deserved a raise. Thompson was released by the Pirates on April 14, 1904, two days before Opening Day and one day after pitching in front of a large group of family and friends in Des Moines, Iowa, not far from his old home town.

Thompson returned to the minors in 1904, going 20-17 for the Boise Fruit Pickers of the Pacific National League. He remained in that league in 1905, playing for the Ogden team. He would return to the majors in 1906 with the St Louis Cardinals, going 2-11, 4.28 in 103 innings over 12 starts and five relief appearances. The Cardinals as a team went 52-98 in 1906, but Thompson was easily the worst pitcher among the six guys on the team who pitched at least 100 innings. The highest ERA among the rest of that group was 3.02 from Fred Beebe, who had the unfortunate experience of starting that season with the Chicago Cubs, a team that won 116 games, before being traded to the lowly Cardinals. Thompson pitched another four seasons in the minors before retiring from baseball. He won 21 games in 1908 for Aberdeen of the Northwestern League, then went 26-8 for Seattle of the Northwest League the following season. He finished his career with Seattle in 1910. His actual first name was John. The “Gus” name came from his middle name, Gustav, though during his brief time in Pittsburgh, he was either called John or J.G.

The Transaction

On this date in 1901, the Pirates signed outfielder Lefty Davis as a free agent. He was with Brooklyn until three days earlier. They released him after he hit .209/.287/.231 in 25 games as a 26-year-old rookie. Davis took off after joining the Pirates, hitting .313/.415/.421 in 87 games, helping Pittsburgh to their first National League title. He batted .280 over 59 games in 1902 for the Pirates, then jumped his contract to the American League for the 1903 season. After a poor showing with the New York Highlanders (Yankees), he spent the next three seasons in the minors, only returning to the majors for the 1907 season with the Cincinnati Reds.