Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one quick transaction of note at the bottom.
Paul Maholm, pitcher for the 2005-11 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2003, taken eighth overall out of Mississippi State. Maholm was originally drafted in the 17th round in 2000 out of high school by the Minnesota Twins. It took just 212 minor league innings for him to make his way to the Pirates by August of 2005. He debuted in the New York-Penn League in 2003, where he had a 1.83 ERA in eight starts. A line drive to the face caused him to miss much of the 2004 season. He had a 1.84 ERA in eight starts before the injury and he struggled in his rehab starts at the end of the year. The next season Maholm had a 3.20 ERA in 16 starts at Double-A Altoona, then posted a 3.53 ERA in six starts in Triple-A, before moving to the majors. He went 3-1, 2.18 in six starts that first season in Pittsburgh. From that point on, he was a regular in the Pirates rotation, making at least 26 starts in each of his six full seasons with the team. Maholm went 8-10, 4.70 in 30 starts and 176 innings in 2006. He dropped down to a 10-15, 5.02 record in 177.2 innings over 29 starts the next season. In 2008, he went 9-9, 3.71 in 31 starts, while setting a career high with 206.1 innings. He made 31 starts again in 2009, but he wasn’t as effective as the previous year. Maholm was 8-9, 4.44 in 194.2 innings. He set a career high with 32 starts in 2010, but his ERA took another big hit. He went 9-15, 5.10 in 185.1 innings. In his final season in Pittsburgh, he had a 6-14 record, despite his best season ERA (3.66). He made 26 starts and threw 162.1 innings.
With the Pirates, Maholm pitched a total of 185 games, all as a starter, with a 53-73, 4.36 record in 1,143.2 innings. His 185 starts ranks 22nd in team history and his 705 strikeouts rank 21st. He left the Pirates via free agency after the 2011 season and signed with the Chicago Cubs. Maholm went 9-6, 3.74 through July of 2012, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. He went 14-16, 4.14 in 37 starts with the Braves before being becoming a free agent in October of 2013. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he finished his big league career in 2014, making more relief appearances that year than starts. He went 1-5, 4.84 in 70.1 innings. He had a 77-100, 4.30 career record in 1,556.1 innings.
Aramis Ramirez, third baseman for the 1998-2003 and 2015 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent at age 16 in 1994 out of the Dominican Republic. Ramirez worked his way to the majors by May of 1998, although he didn’t spend his first full season in the majors until 2001. He spent his first season in pro ball (1995) in the Dominican Summer League. The next year he jumped to the New York-Penn League, where he batted .305 with nine homers in 61 games and received a late promotion to Low-A ball. Despite playing just six games in Low-A, Ramirez spent the entire 1997 season in High-A, where he batted .278 with 29 homers, 114 RBIs and 80 walks. The Pirates aggressively promoted him to Triple-A to start 1998, then gave him just 47 games there before he reached the majors. He had a .796 OPS with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League that year, then hit .235 with six homers in 72 games with the Pirates. Most of the 1999 season was spent back in Triple-A, where Ramirez hit .328 with 35 doubles and 21 homers. He joined the Pirates in September for 18 games. In 2000, he batted just .167 through late April before being sent to the minors. He returned in June and hit .284 in 55 games before a shoulder injury ended his season in late August.
After hitting .239 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs in 163 games during those first three years with the Pirates, Ramirez exploded for a .300 average with 40 doubles, 34 homers and 112 RBIs in 2001. The next year his stats really dipped, going down to a .234 average (only 29 walks as well) with 18 homers and 71 RBIs in 142 games. Through 96 games in 2003, Ramirez was batting .280 with 12 homers and a league leading 23 errors. The Pirates dealt him at the trading deadline to the Chicago Cubs, along with Kenny Lofton. It was a salary dump that netted the Pirates a half season from veteran infielder Jose Hernandez and 185 games from infielder Bobby Hill, who was supposed to be the big piece in the deal. Ramirez ended up staying in Chicago after becoming a free agent following the 2006 season, playing a total of nine years with the Cubs, batting .294 with 239 homers and 806 RBIs in 1,124 games.
Ramirez hit .259 with 15 homers in 2003 following the trade to the Cubs. In 2004, he batted .318 with 99 runs scored, 32 doubles, 36 homers and 103 RBIs, which earned him mild MVP support, resulting in a tenth place finish in the voting. He missed some time in 2005, playing just 123 games, but he hit great when he was healthy, batting .302 with 31 homers and 92 RBIs. He also made the All-Star team for the first time. In 2006, Ramirez hit .291 with 93 runs scored, 38 doubles, 38 homers and 119 RBIs in 157 games. He sent career highs with homers and RBIs that season and once again received mild MVP support. In 2007 he batted .310 with 35 doubles, 26 homers and 101 RBIs. He finished 13th in the MVP voting. The 2008 season was his second All-Star campaign. Ramirez hit .289 with 44 doubles, 27 homers, 111 RBIs and 74 walks. He never drew more than 50 walks in any other season during his 18-year career. He finished tenth in the MVP voting. Ramirez was limited to 82 games in 2009 due to a shoulder injury. He batted .317 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in his limited time. In 2010, he had his worst season since 2002, posting a .745 OPS in 124 games, yet he still managed to drive in 83 runs. He bounced back in 2011, batting .306 with 35 doubles, 26 homers and 93 RBIs.
Ramirez became a free agent again at the conclusion of the 2011 seasons, then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers through 2014, with a 2015 option. He played 3 1/2 seasons in Milwaukee, starting with a high point in 2012 when he batted .300 with a league leader 50 doubles, to go along with 105 RBIs. He finished ninth in the MVP voting, his best career finish. His stats slowly declined each year until the Pirates picked him up at the trade deadline in 2015. Multiple injuries limited him to 92 games in 2013, yet he still managed an .831 OPS. His numbers really dropped in 2014, down to a .757 OPS in 133 games, yet he made his third and final All-Star appearance. He was batting .247 with 11 homers at the time of the deal. Ramirez hit .245 in 56 games with the Pirates, with six homers and 33 RBIs. In his career, he had a .283/.341/.492 slash line, with 495 doubles, 386 homers and 1,417 RBIs. He was a three-time All-Star and he won the Silver Slugger award in 2011. He was eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2020, but he received just 1% of the votes and dropped off of the ballot. Ramirez compiled 41.9 WAR on offense during his career, but poor defensive numbers knocked him down to a career 32.4 WAR.
Bobby LaFromboise, pitcher for the 2014-15 Pirates. He signed with the Seattle Mariners as an eighth round pick in 2008 out of the University of New Mexico. It was the third time that he was drafted, also going to the Chicago White Sox as a 23rd round pick in 2005 out of Rio Hondo College, and in 2007 to the Arizona Diamondbacks out of New Mexico. LaFromboise was a starter at the beginning of his pro career, debuting with a 3.46 ERA in 41.2 innings in the short-season Northwest League. He moved up to A-Ball in 2009 and had a 4.03 ERA in 138.1 innings. The next season was spent in the ultra high-offense environment of High Desert in the California League, where his 10-5, 4.51 record in 113.1 innings made him one of the better pitchers. LaFromboise moved to relief full-time in 2011, putting up a 3.10 ERA in 61 innings over 49 appearances in Double-A. He split the 2012 season between Double-A and Triple-A and had great results at both levels, combining for a 1.36 ERA in 66.1 innings. He followed that up with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where he had a 5.54 ERA in 13 appearances. LaFromboise debuted with the Mariners during the 2013 season, making ten appearances, with a 5.91 ERA in 10.2 innings. He had stints with the team in April, July and September. He was picked up off of waivers by the San Diego Padres on April 2, 2014, though he never pitched for them in the majors. He was in the minors when the Pirates acquired him via waivers in August of 2014. After a brief stint in Triple-A, Lafromboise made six appearances for the 2014 Pirates, allowing one run in 3.2 innings. He spent part of 2015 with them as well, giving up one run over eight innings and 11 appearances. Most of that year was spent in Triple-A, where he had a 2.98 ERA in 54.1 innings over 54 outings. That 2015 season ended up being his last big league time. He played minor league ball until 2017 before retiring, spending the 2016 season in the Philadelphia Phillies system and a brief time in the Texas Rangers system in 2017. In the majors over three years, he was 0-1, 3.63 in 22.1 innings over 27 appearances.
Alejandro Pena, pitcher for the 1994 Pirates. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers at 19 years old in 1978 out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted in A-Ball in 1979 as a reliever, putting up a 4.18 ERA in 71 innings. The next year he went 10-3, 3.21 in 73 innings in the Florida State League. In 1981, Pena was skipped to Triple-A, where he had a 1.61 ERA in 56 innings over 38 appearances, with 22 saves. The Dodgers brought him to the majors in August and he had a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings, helping them to a World Series title. He struggled in both the majors and Triple-A in 1982, then had a strange move occur the next season. He was a starting pitcher in the majors during the 1983-84 seasons and excelled in the role after pitching poorly in relief in 1982. Pena went 12-9, 2.75 in 177 innings in 1983 with the Dodgers. He followed that up with a 12-6, 2.48 record in 199.1 innings over 28 starts He pitched 12 complete games during those two seasons and seven of those games were shutouts. The following year he missed most of the season with shoulder and abdominal issues, which forced an eventual move back to the bullpen.
Pena had a 4.89 ERA in ten starts and 14 relief appearances in 1986. He had 30 relief outings and his final seven big league starts in 1987, posting a 2-7, 3.50 record in 87.1 innings, with 11 saves. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1988 and he had a 1.91 ERA in 94.1 innings over 60 games, with 12 saves. In the postseason, he allowed two runs over 9.1 innings. He had a strong 1989 season as well, putting up a 4-3, 2.13 record in 76 innings over 53 appearances, with five saves. Pena was traded to the New York Mets in the off-season and his numbers were almost exactly the same in five categories, despite posting a 3.20 ERA. He had a 3-3 record in 76 innings over 52 appearances, with five saves, falling one win and one game short of matching those numbers exact. He was having a strong 1991 season when the Mets traded him to the Atlanta Braves in August. He had a combined 8-1, 2.40 record and 15 saves in 82.1 innings over 59 games. In the playoffs, he had four scoreless appearances against the Pirates, but the Braves lost in the World Series to the Minnesota Twins.
The Pirates signed Pena in December of 1992 after he had 15 saves and a 4.07 ERA in 41 appearances for the Braves. He did not appear in the postseason that year. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, before he could even pitch a Spring Training game, he had to have elbow surgery, which cost him the entire 1993 season. He returned in 1994 and went 3-2, 5.02 in 28.2 innings over 22 games with seven saves. Pena was released on June 30, 1994 and didn’t sign with another team until April of the following year, partially due to the strike. He would go on to pitch for three teams during the shortened 1995 season, posting a combined 2.61 ERA in 31 innings for the Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves. The Braves won the World Series and he picked up his third World Series ring that year. Pena finished his career with the Marlins in 1996, making four appearances in April before going on the disabled list for the rest of the season. He played 15 seasons in the majors, pitching a total of 503 games. He won 56 games, saved 74 and had a 3.11 ERA over 1,057.2 innings during his career.
John Gelnar, pitcher for the 1964 and 1967 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of the University of Oklahoma in 1963, sending him to Asheville of the South Atlantic League, where he went 12-5, 3.04 in 27 starts and 169 innings. The Pirates jumped him up the system quickly in 1964, getting nine starts between Double-A/Triple-A before reaching the majors in early August. He was used seven times in relief over the rest of the season, pitching a total of nine innings. Gelnar would return to the minors in 1965, where he pitched the next four seasons for Triple-A Columbus. He made a total of 100 starts during the 1965-68 seasons, averaging 175 innings per year, while going 41-30 with an ERA of 3.54 or less every year. The Pirates only called him up once during that stretch, giving him one start and nine relief appearances in August/September of 1967. He went 0-1, 8.05 in 19 innings for Pittsburgh that year. Gelnar was sold to the expansion Kansas City Royals after the 1968 season. On April 1, 1969, the Royals traded him to the expansion Seattle Pilots in a two-for-one deal for Lou Piniella. Gelnar pitched 39 games (ten starts) for the Pilots during that team’s only season, going 3-10, 3.31 in 108.2 innings. The franchise moved to Milwaukee (Brewers) and he pitched 53 games in relief, going 4-3, 4.19 in 92.1 innings. He pitched two early season games for the Brewers in 1971 before being traded to the Detroit Tigers. Gelnar never made it back to the majors. He spent the rest of 1971 in Triple-A, then played the 1972 season for Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. That marked the end of his pro career. He went 7-14, 4.18 in 230.1 innings over 111 games, with 11 starts and seven saves.
Ralph Erickson, left-handed pitcher for the 1929-30 Pirates. He was a college pitching star for Idaho State for four years, the only Major Leaguer ever that attended that college. Erickson joined pro ball in 1927, though he played semi-pro and independent ball during his college career before signing his first pro deal. He pitched for Pocatello of the Utah-Idaho League after school ended in 1927, where he did not pitch well in his brief time, going 1-4, 6.08 in 53.1 innings. He remained in the league the next year, switching teams to play for the Boise Senators, where he went 8-5 and pitched 110 innings. Erickson finally stepped out of the state of Idaho when he was signed by the Pirates on September 15, 1928, but he didn’t pitch for the team that season. Pirates scout Chick Fraser was able to sign him as a free agent without compensation to Boise because Erickson refused to sign for more than a year with Pocatello/Boise, which was very rare for the day that teams would agree to those type of deals. Pittsburgh sent him to the South Atlantic League to play for Columbia in 1929. He went 16-15, 3.24 in 258 innings, earning a look from the Pirates in September. He made his debut on September 11, 1929, pitching one inning in relief, allowing three runs. It would end up being his only big league appearance that season. The next year he remained with the team through the middle of May, making seven more appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched a total of 14 innings, allowing 21 hits, ten walks and 11 runs. His last appearance was on May 31st and three days later he was released outright back to Columbia. Erickson pitched in the minors until 1934 without making it back to the big leagues, spending most of that time with Dallas of the Texas League. He won 82 minor league games and finished with a 1-0 Major League record. He passed away at the age of 100, just two days after his birthday. His middle name was Leif, like the famous explorer with the same (slightly different spelling) last name.
Bill Webb, infielder for the 1917 Pirates. He began his career in the minors in 1916 at 20 years old, playing for Class-C Duluth of the Northern League. He hit .264 in 110 games that first season. The next year he moved up to Class-A ball, spending the season with Birmingham of the Southern Association. He hit .279 in 132 games with 31 extra-base hits. Four players from that Birmingham team all joined the Pirates after their season ended. Besides Webb, the groups also included infielder Howdy Caton, pitcher Elmer Ponder and catcher Red Smith. The Pirates completed the deal on August 15th to acquire six players, which also included pitchers Carmen Hill and Marcus Milligan. One day after he reported to the team, Webb made his Pirates debut on September 17, 1917 (as did Caton and Smith), going 0-for-4 while playing second base. He went 3-for-15 with two walks and a run scored in his five games that season for the Pirates. He played four games at second base and one at shortstop. He spent the entire 1918 season serving in the Navy during WWI, still property of the Pirates, listed as voluntarily retired. Webb returned to the minors in 1919, playing until 1930 without making it back to the big leagues. He finished his career managing in the minors for six seasons, the first three as a player/manager. His 1920-29 seasons were spent in the International League, playing for Akron (1920), Newark (1921-22), Buffalo (1923-26) and Toronto (1927-29). From 1920-26 he batted over .300 each season, topping out at .336 in 1925 when he also hit 19 homers and he was the team’s manager.
On this date in 1981, the Pirates signed infielder Denny Gonzalez as a 17-year-old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He would spend parts of four seasons with the Pirates (1984-85 and 1987-88) before being traded to the Cleveland Indians for Jay Bell. He was a .200 hitter in 90 games with the Pirates. You can read more about Gonzalez in our Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates feature.