Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Jason Kendall, catcher for the 1996-2004 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates out of high school in the first round of the 1992 amateur draft. After hitting .261 in 33 games in the Gulf Coast League during his first year, Kendall moved up to Augusta of the South Atlantic League for 1993. He hit .276 with 40 RBIs in 102 games that season. He showed great contact, with just 30 strikeouts but also walked only 22 times and hit one homer all year. In 1994, he moved up to Salem of the Carolina League and had a breakout season. Kendall batted .318 with an .843 OPS and 14 stolen bases, earning a late season promotion to Double-A for 13 games. He would spend the entire 1995 season playing for Carolina in Double-A, batting .326 with 71 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 117 games. He had an impressive 56 walks with just 22 strikeouts. The Pirates decided to keep Kendall in the majors in 1996, skipping him over Triple-A and making him their everyday starter. The move proved to be the right one as he finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting and made the National League All-Star team. He batted .300 in 130 games, driving in 42 runs and scoring 54 times. Kendall caught 142 games in 1997, batting .294 with 36 doubles and 18 stolen bases. His 1998 season would be even better. He played 149 games, hitting .327 with 75 RBIs, 94 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. He made his second All-Star team and led all NL catchers in putouts. It looked like his 1999 season would be even better, but a freak ankle injury ended his season early.
On July 4, 1999 Kendall tried to bunt for a hit against the Brewers and in a close plate at first base, he hit the bag awkward, breaking his right ankle. He was batting .332 with 31 extra-base hits in 78 games at the time. The injury caused him to miss the rest of the year, but he returned healthy in 2000. He played 152 games that year, hitting .320 with a career high 14 homers and 112 runs scored. He made the All-Star team for the third time and led all NL catchers in games caught, assists and putouts. The Pirates decided in 2001 to give their catcher a break, yet keep his bat in the lineup by playing him in the outfield on occasion. His hitting suffered that year, despite the breaks from catching. He batted .266 and his OPS dropped nearly 200 points from the previous season. The outfield experiment ended in 2002, but his hitting didn’t return to form until the following year. He batted .283 and had a nice 49:29 BB/SO ratio, but his low power output led to a .706 OPS, just 13 points above the previous year. In 2003, Kendall hit .325 with 191 hits and 84 runs scored in 150 games. He caught 146 games on the year, the fifth time he led the NL in games caught. He hit .319 with 86 runs scored in 147 games in 2004. After the 2000 season, Kendall signed a six-year $60M extension with the Pirates that would’ve kept him around until 2007. The contract by 2004 was a large portion of the Pirates payroll and they decided to move him.
On November 27, 2004, the Pirates traded Kendall to the Oakland A’s for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. He played 2 1/2 years for the A’s before getting traded to the Chicago Cubs during the middle of the 2007 season. The first year after the deal, he hit .271 with no homers in 150 games. He improved to .295 over 143 games in 2006, but the lower power numbers (23 doubles, no triples, one homer) led to a slugging percentage lower than his OBP. At the time of his trade to Chicago, he was hitting just .226 in 80 games. After the deal, Kendall batted .270 with one homer in 57 games. He became a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for the next two seasons. He hit .246 with 30 doubles and two homers in 151 games in 2008, then hit .241 with a .636 OPS in 134 games the next season. Kendall played his last year in the majors in 2010 with the Kansas City Royals, hitting .256 in 118 games, with a .615 OPS. He was signed for 2011, but missed the entire season after shoulder surgery and never played again.
While with the Pirates, Kendall set the team record in games caught. He played 1,252 in a Pittsburgh uniform, batting .306 with 1,409 hits. He ranks 19th in team history in games, 15th in batting average, 17th in runs and hits, 14th in doubles and 19th in stolen bases. Kendall caught 2,025 games in his career, the sixth highest total ever. He led the league in games caught eight times, assists five times, putouts four times and runners thrown out five times. He collected 2,195 hits, scored 1,030 runs, stole 189 bases and finished with a .288 career average. Kendall’s father Fred Kendall was a catcher in the majors for 12 seasons.
Bill Robinson, infielder/outfielder for the 1975-82 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves as an amateur free agent in 1961, fresh out of high school, just a few days short of his 18th birthday. Robinson had a slow start to his pro career, hitting .239 with two homers, while playing 67 games in Class-D ball. He repeated the level the next year and showed a huge improvement, batting .304 with eight homers, earning a late promotion to Class-C ball. Robinson worked his way slowly through the minors, playing two straight seasons of A-ball and doing well each year. He hit .316 with ten homers in 1963, then followed it with a .346 season in which he hit 18 homers. Robinson skipped over Double-A and spent the 1965 season in Triple-A, where he hit .268 with ten homers in 133 games. He would repeat the level the next year, earning himself a late season call-up with his .312 average and 20 homers. He went 3-for-11 in six games for the Braves, who were in Atlanta by that time. After the season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for veteran third baseman Clete Boyer. The Yankees would put him in the lineup and let him play through his struggles for three seasons. From 1967-69, Robinson played 310 games in New York, hitting .206 with a .582 OPS. He hit .196 in his rookie season, with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 381 plate appearances over 116 games. His stats actually improved quite a bit in 1968, while getting the exact same amount of at-bats (342) in 107 games. He hit .240 with 16 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 40 RBIs. Robinson saw a major drop in production in 1969 and his playing time went down as well. He hit .171 in 87 games, with three homers and 21 RBIs.
In 1970, Robinson spent the entire year in the minors for the Yankees, then got traded to the Chicago White Sox on December 3, 1970. After spending all of 1971 in the minors, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 13, 1971. After spending the first two months of the 1972 season at Triple-A, he was called up at the end of June and hit .239 in 82 games. Robinson had his first big season in 1973 when he hit .288 with 32 doubles, 25 homers and 65 RBIs in 124 games. He played 14 games at third base and at least 15 games at all three outfield spots. His inconsistencies returned the next year, hitting .236 with 17 walks and five homers in 100 games, resulting in a low .626 OPS. Just before Opening Day in 1975, the Pirates gave up minor league pitcher Wayne Simpson in exchange for Robinson. Simpson won seven Major League games after the deal, while Robinson played eight seasons in a Pirates uniform. That first year in Pittsburgh, Robinson was a backup outfielder and he was used often as a pinch-hitter. He got 200 at-bats in 92 games and hit .280 with 33 RBIs. In 1976, he began to see more regular time and he would have his best season up to that point. He batted .303 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs in 122 games, seeing playing time at five different positions, adding first base to his resume. Robinson was valuable enough to the team that National League MVP voters took notice, as he received votes for the first time. His 1977 season would be the best of his career. He set career highs with a .304 average, 26 homers, 104 RBIs and 74 runs scored, while playing 137 games. He also collected 32 doubles, which was a career best at the time. Robinson finished 11th in NL MVP voting, the second highest finish on the team to Dave Parker, who finished third overall.
Robinson’s average dropped to .246 in 1978, but he drove in 80 runs and scored 70 times, while also setting a career high with 36 doubles. The Pirates won the NL East in 1979 and Robinson contributed 24 homers and 75 RBIs, while playing in a career high 148 games. In the playoffs, he went 0-for-3 in the NLCS, but got more time in the World Series, where he batted .263 with two runs and two RBIs in 22 plate appearances. In 1980, Robinson moved to a bench role, getting 272 at-bats with a .287 average and 36 RBIs. He saw even less time during the strike-shortened 1981 season, playing 39 games. He missed time due to a heel injury that occurred just a week into the season. Robinson played 31 games for the Pirates in 1982, batting .239 with four homers and 12 RBIs. On June 15, 1982, the Pirates traded Robinson to the Phillies for Wayne Nordhagen. He remained in Philly until June of 1983, when he was released, ending his career. He played just ten games in his final season, all of them off of the bench. He played a total of 1,472 games in the majors, hitting .258 with 166 homers and 641 RBIs. While with the Pirates, he hit .276 with 109 homers and 412 RBIs. Robinson worked in baseball, mostly as a coach, from 1984 until his untimely passing in 2007.
Howie Pollet, pitcher for the 1951-53 and 1956 Pirates. He was part of two big trades in Pirates history. He came to the Pirates in the seven-player deal on June 15, 1951 with the St Louis Cardinals, that saw Wally Westlake and Cliff Chambers go to St Louis for five players. Two years later, Pollet would be sent to the Chicago Cubs in the ten-player Ralph Kiner trade. While with St Louis, Pollet won 97 games over nine seasons, all while missing two years due to WWII service. He debuted in pro ball in 1939 shortly before his 18th birthday. Pitching mostly in the Class-D Evangeline League that year, he went 15-6, 2.70 in 190 innings. He skipped up to the Texas League and played for Houston for a small part of that season, then stayed there the next two years. In 1940, Pollet went 20-7, 2.88 in 228 innings. The next year he went 20-3, 1.16 in 194 innings, which earned him a look with the Cardinals in August. He went 5-2, 1.70 in 73 innings over the final six weeks of the season. In 1942, he split his time between starting and relief, going 7-5, 2.88 in 109.1 innings. He won the league ERA crown with a 1.75 mark in 1943, going 8-4 in 118.1 innings, while making the All-Star team. He made his final start on July 10th, then was called into action in WWII, serving in the Air Force.
Pollet returned to baseball at the start of 1946 and it didn’t take him any time to get back to the pitcher who was leading the league in ERA when he left 2 1/2 years earlier. He went 21-10, 2.10 in 266 innings in 1946, leading the league in wins, ERA and innings pitched. He was an All-Star again and he finished fourth in the National League MVP voting. Despite the triumphant return, the next two seasons were rough. Pollet went 9-11, 4.34 in 176.1 innings in 1947, then had a 13-8 record in 1948, despite a 4.54 ERA in 186.1 innings. He bounced back in 1949 with his second (and last) 20-win season. He went 20-9, 2.77 in 230.2 innings, leading the league with five shutouts. He made his third (and final) All-Star appearance and he finished 11th in the MVP voting. Pollet had a solid 1950 season, going 14-13, 3.29 in 232.1 innings. Prior to his mid-season trade to the Pirates in 1951, he was 0-3, 4.38 in 12.1 innings over two starts and four relief appearances.
With the Pirates in 1951, Pollet went 6-10, 5.04 in 21 starts. The next year he got 30 starts, pitching 214 innings. He went 7-16 with a 4.12 ERA for a team that went 42-112 that year. Before the trade to the Cubs in 1953, Pollet was 1-1 with a 10.66 ERA in 12.2 innings. After the deal he went 5-6, 4.12 in 111.1 innings, making 16 starts and nine relief appearances. He was strictly a starter in 1954, going 8-10, 3.58 in 128.1 innings over 20 starts. The next year Pollet was switched mainly to relief, going 4-3, 5.61 in 61 innings. He was released by the Cubs after the season, but stayed in town, signing a free agent deal with the Chicago White Sox. He would return to the Pirates in July of 1956 as a free agent, after being released by the White Sox, where he went 3-1, 4.10 in 26.1 innings. He went 0-4, 3.09 in 19 relief appearances for the Pirates, in what would be his last season in the majors. Pollet finished his 14-year big league career with a 131-116, 3.51 record in 2,107.1 innings. He was 14-31, 4.59 in 378.2 innings with the Pirates.
Elmer Singleton, pitcher for the 1947-48 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Yankees in 1940, but he didn’t make his Major League debut until 1945 with the Boston Braves. He debuted at 22 years old in the Class-B Western International League, where he went 5-10, 7.69 in 165 innings, with 111 walks. Singleton moved down a level to the Class-C Pioneer League in 1941, where he had a 3.21 ERA in 70 innings for Idaho Falls. In 1942, he split the year between Oklahoma City of the Texas League and Portland of the Pacific Coast League, combining to go 12-17, 3.09 in 224 innings. He took 1943 off to help in the war effort, though he played for a team called the Brigham City Peaches, an industrial league baseball club. Returning to pro ball in 1944, he spent most of the year with Kansas City of the American Association, where he went 7-11, 4.38 in 150 innings. He was back in Kansas City for most of 1945, before being traded to the Braves in August. Singleton spent two seasons with Boston, going 1-5, 4.31 in 22 games, seven as a starter. The Pirates acquired him in a six-player deal with the Braves just as the 1946 season was ending. He was used mostly out of the pen in 1947 for the Pirates, making 36 appearances, three as a starter. He went 2-2, 6.31 in 67 innings. Singleton had a similar role in 1948, going 4-6, 4.97 in 38 outings, five as a starter, with 92.1 innings pitched. Just before the start of the 1949 season, the Pirates sold him to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 8-14, 4.02 in 188 innings. In June of 1950, he was traded by San Francisco to the Washington Senators for former Pirates pitcher Steve Nagy. Singleton would pitch 21 games for the 1950 Senators, going 1-2, 5.20 in 36.1 innings. He then spent the next six seasons in the minors, before returning to the big leagues at the age of 39 in 1957 to pitch parts of three years with the Chicago Cubs. From 1952 through 1956, he averaged 245 innings per season, throwing at least 213.1 innings each year. Singleton had an 82-65 record during that time, piling up as many as 19 wins in a season (1955). His ERA was between 2.20 and 3.23 each season. He pitched just 60 innings over three years with the Cubs, with a majority of that time coming in his final season (1959). He pitched his final pro game at 45 years old in 1963. Singleton went 11-17, 4.83 in 327.1 innings over 145 big league games. He had a 184-186 record in twenty minor league seasons. He threw over 3,000 innings during his pro career.
Debs Garms, third baseman/outfielder for the 1940-41 Pirates. He played five seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut with the St Louis Browns in August of 1932. He debuted in 1928 at 21 years old in the Class-D West Texas League, where he hit .317 in 83 games. The next year was split between two teams in the Class-B South Atlantic League, where he played 129 games (full stats aren’t available). From there it was to the Class-A Western League during the 1930 season. He played part of the year still in the South Atlantic League, hitting .347 in 55 games for Augusta, while also batting .298 in 70 games that season for Topeka. Garms spent the 1931-32 seasons playing for Wichita Falls of the Texas League. He hit .298 in 123 games the first year, then batted .344 with 41 extra-base hits in 118 games the next year. That second season earned him a trial with the Browns in August. He hit .284 with 20 runs scored and 17 walks in 34 games. In 1933, Garms batted .317 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 78 games for St Louis, seeing most of his time off of the bench. He got more playing time in 1934, mostly seeing action in left field, hitting .293 with 31 RBIs in 93 games. He played just ten games during the 1935 season for the Browns, before spending the rest of the year and all of 1936 back in the Texas League, this time playing for San Antonio. Garms spent four seasons with the Browns, hitting .298 with 63 RBIs in 213 games. Debs (which was his real first name) was selected in the September 1936 Rule 5 draft by the Boston Bees. He played three years with Boston, hitting .259 in 125 games, with 60 runs scored during the 1937 season when he played significant time at third base and the corner outfield spots. In 1938, Garms hit .315 with 47 RBIs and 62 runs scored in 117 games, once again moving around the field often. That performance earned him mild MVP support. He hit .298 in a career high 132 games in 1939, with 24 doubles and nine triples, which were both career highs. The Pirates purchased his contract in March of 1940, just in time for him to have his best season. Garms would hit a league leading .355 that season, although the batting title came with some controversy.
Garms had just 385 plate appearances all year, which many people thought shouldn’t be enough to win the batting title. The National League President at the time (Ford Frick) declared that Garms just had to play 100 games to be considered the batting champ, and he played 103 games, so the at-bats/plate appearances didn’t matter. He finished 13th in the MVP voting, his best career finish. He would see his playing time drop the next year as his average fell to .264 in 83 games. In December of 1941, the Pirates sold him to the St Louis Cardinals. Garms played in the minors in 1942, then reappeared with St Louis in 1943 for three more seasons as a part-time player. He started 102 of 237 games with the Cardinals, while failing to connect on a homer during his 612 plate appearances. He hit .257 in 90 games in 1943, which was the most work he saw during his stay in St Louis. His average went from a career low of .201 in 1944, up to .336 the following season, though he had just 180 plate appearances in 1945, in what ended up being his final season. Garms was released in December of 1945 and finished his career in 1946 in the minors. In 1,010 Major League games, he was a .293 career hitter, with 17 homers, 328 RBIs and 438 runs scored.
Babe Herman, outfielder for the 1935 Pirates. He started his Major League career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1926 and for seven seasons there, he was one of the best hitters the franchise has ever seen. Herman batted .339 overall in Brooklyn, with a .381 average in 1929 and a .393 mark the next year. His pro career began shortly before he turned 18 years old in 1921, playing for Edmonton of the Class-B Western Canada League, where he hit .330 in 107 games. The next year was mostly spent with Class-A Omaha of the Western League, where he put up a .416 average in 92 games, before getting a late bump up to the International League. Despite that impressive hitting display, he still had to put in some significant minor league time before his big league debut. He was property of the Detroit Tigers at the time, then went to the Boston Red Sox after the 1922 season in a six-player/cash deal. Herman spent the 1923 season in the Southern Association, where his incomplete stats show that he had at least 59 extra-base hits in 145 games. The 1924 season saw him split time between the Southern Association and the Texas League, hitting .326 in 90 games. The 1925 season saw him play one step from the majors in the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .316 with 52 doubles, 13 triples and 15 homers in 167 games. Herman was with the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day in 1926 and he had a big rookie season, batting .319 in 137 games, with 35 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers and 81 RBIs. That led to mild MVP support for the first of four times in his career.
In 1927, Herman saw his batting average drop to .272, though he still had 49 extra-base hits and 73 RBIs in 130 games. He played more first base than anything else during his first two years, then moved to right field in 1928, where he put up a .340 average, 37 doubles, 12 homers and 91 RBIs in 134 games. The best was yet to come. Herman hit .381 in 1929, with 105 runs scored, 217 hits, 42 doubles, 13 triples, 21 homers and 113 RBIs in 146 games. Those stats were all career highs at the time, but he would surpass all of them except triples in 1930, though that would fall too before he left Brooklyn. He finished eighth in the MVP voting that season. Herman hit .393 in 1930, with 143 runs scored, 241 hits, 48 doubles, 11 triples, 35 homers and 130 RBIs. He also set a career high with 66 walks. In 1931, he hit .313 with 93 runs scored, 43 doubles, 16 triples, 18 homers and 97 RBIs. Babe (real first name was Floyd) would be dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in 1932, in a six-player deal that also included Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi. In his only season in Cincy, Herman hit .326 with 38 doubles, a league leading 19 triples, 16 homers and 87 RBIs. He finished 12th in the MVP voting. In the off-season, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs for a package of four players.
Herman hit .289 with 64 extra-base hits and 93 RBIs during his first season in Chicago. In 1934, he hit .304 with 14 homers and 84 RBIs in 125 games, which earned him a 14th place finish in the NL MVP voting. He came to the Pirates in November of 1934, in a five-player trade that saw Pittsburgh give up future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom. Herman’s stay in Pittsburgh didn’t last long. He would be sold to the Cincinnati Reds in June after playing just 26 games with a .235 average and seven RBIs. He began to hit as soon as he got to Cincinnati, batting .335 with 58 RBIs in 92 games with the Reds that year. Herman played one more year for the Reds, hitting .279 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs, then spent part of 1937 playing 17 games for the Detroit Tigers, before going to the minors. From 1937 until 1944, he batted at least .307 every season, spending the 1939-44 seasons playing for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. After an eight-year absence from the majors, Herman returned with the Dodgers in 1945 as a pinch-hitter, playing 37 games off the bench, in what would be his last season as a player. He was a career .324 hitter in 1,552 big league games, with 399 doubles, 110 triples, 181 homers, 997 RBIs and 882 runs scored. Including his minor league stats, he had over 3,000 hits and nearly 1,200 extra-base hits.
Elmer Ponder, pitcher for the 1917 and 1919-21 Pirates. He spent five years in the minors before getting his first chance with the 1917 Pirates. He began in pro ball before his 20th birthday in 1913, pitching for Class-B Dallas of the Texas League, where he had a 10-8 record and threw 157 innings. His ERA isn’t available during his first five season, but he allowed just 2.69 runs per nine innings in 1913. He moved to Grand Rapids of the Central League (Class-B), where he went 6-11 and he threw 147.1 innings, while giving up 4.95 runs per nine innings. He returned to the Texas League in 1915 and had a 12-8 record in 174 innings. He repeated that record in 1916 for Birmingham of the Southern Association, throwing 182 innings, with 3.41 runs allowed per nine innings. Ponder went 19-16 in 266 innings for Birmingham during the 1917 season, then got the call in September from the Pirates along with numerous teammates. In his Major League debut on September 18th, he allowed just one run over eight innings, though he picked up the loss. Four days later he made sure he wouldn’t lose, throwing a two-hit shutout over the New York Giants. Ponder would miss the 1918 season serving in the military during WWI. He was an aviator during the war, earning a medal for bravery after being injured. He returned to baseball in July of 1919, pitching nine games over the second half of the season, going 0-5, 3.99 in 47.1 innings. Ponder made 23 starts and ten relief appearances during the 1920 season for the Pirates, going 11-15, 2.62 in 196 innings. He was seeing limited action through the first day of July in 1921, when the Pirates traded him to the Chicago Cubs for Dave Robertson. Ponder was with Chicago through January of 1922, before being dealt to Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. He went 3-6, 4.74 in 89.1 innings with the Cubs to finish out the 1921 season. He played in the minors until 1928 without appearing in the majors again. He spent those six seasons (he didn’t play in 1926 due to a salary dispute) pitching in the Pacific Coast League, where he had five double-digit win campaigns and four times he topped 200 innings in a season. In four years in the majors, he was 17-27, 3.21 in 378.2 innings. Ponder was a spitball pitcher before the pitch was banned in baseball in 1920.