This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 28th, Pirates Strengthen Their 1979 Squad

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade that brought over a key part to the 1979 World Series run.

The Trade

On this date in 1979, the Pirates completed a six-player deal with the San Francisco Giants that saw pitchers Fred Breining, Ed Whitson and Al Holland go to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Dave Roberts, infielder Lenny Randle and third baseman Bill Madlock. The key to the deal ended up being Madlock, a 28-year-old, two-time batting champ, who was hitting just .261 with the Giants prior to the deal. He exploded with the Pirates, batting .328 with 44 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 85 games. In the World Series he batted .350 with three RBIs as the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. Madlock remained with the Pirates into the 1985 season before being traded. He was a .297 hitter in 801 games with the Pirates, winning two more batting titles.

Roberts was a 34-year-old starter-turned-reliever, who pitched 21 games and 38.2 innings for the 1979 Pirates, posting a 5-2, 3.26 record. He faced just one batter in the playoffs. He was with the team early in 1980 before being sold to the Seattle Mariners. Randall never played in the majors for the Pirates. He was sold to the New York Yankees after five weeks. Breining was a minor leaguer at the time, making his MLB debut with the 1980 Giants. He spent four seasons in San Francisco, going 27-20, 3.37 in 136 games, 42 as a starter. Whitson was 24 years old, with parts of three seasons in the majors with the Pirates. He was 8-9, 3.73 in 67 appearances with Pittsburgh, nine of those games as a starter. The Giants put him into their rotation, where he went 22-30 over 2 1/2 seasons, before being traded to the Cleveland Indians. Whitson ended up winning 126 Major League games. Holland was 26 years old, with just two games of Major League experience at the time of the deal, both coming with the 1977 Pirates. He pitched four seasons for the Giants, but his real success came as a reliever for the 1983-84 Philadelphia Phillies, when he saved a total of 54 games. The Pirates reacquired him from Philadelphia early in the 1985 season for Kent Tekulve, although he was gone before the end of the year, getting traded to the California Angels in a six-player deal in August.

The Players

Michael Feliz, pitcher for the 2018-21 Pirates. He originally signed with the Oakland A’s as a 16-year-old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in early 2010. A month after signing, his contract was voided and he signed with the Houston Astros two months later. Feliz pitched just 12.2 innings during his first season in the Dominican Summer League. In 2011, he moved to the Gulf Coast League, where he had a 4.32 ERA in 50 innings. In 2012, Feliz went 5-0, 1.64 in 38.1 innings in the GCL, then got promoted to the Appalachian League, where he had a 5.13 ERA in 26.1 innings. He continued to move slowly, going to the New York-Penn League in 2013, where he had a 1.96 ERA in 69 innings. He moved up to Low-A in 2014 and he went 8-6, 4.03 in 102.2 innings over 19 starts and six relief appearances. Feliz split the 2015 season between High-A and Double-A, posting a 4.41 ERA in Lancaster of the California League (very hitter-friendly ballpark), and a 2.17 ERA in 78.2 innings Corpus Christi of the Texas League. The Astros gave him two shots in the majors that year and he allowed seven runs in eight innings. The 2016 season was spent mostly in the majors, where he went 8-1, 4.43 in 65 innings over 47 appearances. He also spent most of the 2017 season in the majors, posting a 5.63 ERA in 48 innings over 46 games. After the season, he was part of a four-for-one deal that included Gerrit Cole going to the Astros.

Feliz pitched nine games in Triple-A in 2018 with the Pirates and the rest of the time was spent in the majors. He went 1-2, 5.66 in 47.2 innings over 47 games. In 2019, he had a 1.20 ERA in ten games in Triple-A and a 3.99 ERA in 56.1 innings over 58 appearances. He was injured for most of the shortened 2020 season, pitching just three games in which he allowed a total of six runs in 1.2 innings. Feliz had a 2.35 ERA through seven appearances with the Pirates in 2021 before they designated him for assignment on May 9th. He was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and had nine appearances before going on the injured list at the time of this write-up. His career stats through mid-June of 2021 stood at 17-9, 5.38 record in 241 innings over 222 appearances.

Kevin Polcovich, shortstop for the 1997-98 Pirates. He was a 30th round pick of the Pirates in the 1992 amateur draft out of the University of Florida. Despite the fact that Polcovich played Double-A ball in 1992, he didn’t make his Major League debut until five seasons later. He put up a .696 OPS in 46 games at Low-A in 1992, before getting sent to Double-A Carolina for 13 games to end the season. In 1993, he once again started at Low-A and ended in Double-A, but most of his time was spent in High-A at Salem of the Carolina League, where he hit .255 with one homer and 13 steals in 94 games. In 1994, Polcovich spent the entire year in Double-A, hitting .234 in 125 games. He earned his first promotion to Triple-A in 1995 after hitting .317 over 64 games for Double-A Carolina. He did well in Triple-A, batting .282 with a .707 OPS in 62 games. In 1996, he put up similar numbers over a full season at Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, hitting .274 with a .696 OPS in 104 games. In May of 1997, Pirates shortstop Kevin Elster fractured his wrist, landing him on the 60-day disabled list. That opened a spot for Polcovich to make his big league debut. He would play 84 games that first season, hitting .273 with four homers and 21 RBIs. He injured his ankle at the end of August and the Pirates acquired Shawon Dunston to take his place. Polcovich would make the Pirates 1998 Opening Day roster and get plenty of time at shortstop, but as the season wore on and his batting average remained near .200, he saw his time diminish. He ended up batting .189 with no homers and 14 RBIs, committing twenty errors in 54 games at shortstop, although his fielding was perfect in limited time as both second and third base. Polcovich spent 1999 in the minors for the Pirates, hitting .240 in 80 games at Triple-A, then was let go after the season. He signed with the Detroit Tigers, but he didn’t play in 2000 due to an injury. He ended up playing three more years of minor league ball before retiring, seeing time with the St Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Florida Marlins and a stint in independent ball. His son Kaden was drafted in 2020 by the Seattle Mariners with the 78th overall pick.

Orlando McFarlane, catcher for the 1962 and 1964 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958 as a free agent out of Cuba. The Pirates started the 20-year-old catcher off in the lowest levels of the minors, where he hit .311 in 68 games for Class-D Salem of the Appalachian League. The next year he added power to his game as he moved a level up mid-season, batting a combined .299 with 19 homers in 101 games for Dubuque of the Midwest League (Class-D) and Grand Forks of the Northern League (Class-C). In 1960, the Pirates had him in Class-B ball, three levels from the majors. He was playing third base/shortstop and occasionally catching. McFarlane’s numbers weren’t great, hitting .264 with nine homers in 114 games, but he still moved up to Class-A in 1961 and batted .301 with 21 homers and 27 stolen bases as a catcher. That earned him an early season stint with the Pirates in 1962, catching eight games with an .087 average before being sent back to the minors. He batted .308 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs in 96 games for Triple-A Columbus over the rest of the season. McFarlane spent all of 1963 in Triple-A, getting more time at third base after only catching the previous two seasons. He hit .257 with 21 homers in 122 games that season for Columbus. In 1964, he was with the Pirates for the entire season as a backup catcher. In 37 games, 17 as a starter, he hit .244 with one RBI in 78 at-bats. After spending all of 1965 in the minors, where he batted .265 with 27 homers and 84 RBIs in 119 games, Pittsburgh lost McFarlane in the 1965 Rule 5 draft to the Detroit Tigers. He spent all of the 1966 season with the Tigers, batting .254 with five homers in 54 games, then he was sold to the California Angels just as the 1967 season began. He spent parts of two seasons with the Angels, batting .264 over 30 games, before finishing his career out in the minors. He was with the Angels in Triple-A until the middle of the 1969 season, then finished that year and the 1970 season playing in Triple-A with the New York Mets. His final year of pro ball (1971) was spent in Mexico. In 124 big league games, he hit .240 with five homers and 20 RBIs. McFarlane hit 129 minor league homers in 960 games.

Mike Lynch, pitcher for the 1904-07 Pirates. He was a star pitcher at Brown University, going undefeated, before he signed with the Pirates. He came to Pittsburgh two months into the 1904 season as the team tried to find pitching help in their quest to repeat as National champs for a fourth straight season. Lynch provided that help, going 15-11, 2.71 as a rookie, completing all 24 of his starts, while throwing 222.2 innings. Despite his efforts and 87 wins back during a 154-game schedule (they played 156 games due to ties), the Pirates finished in fourth place. His record improved in 1905 to 17-8, although he had the worst ERA (3.79) on the entire staff. For comparison, Patsy Flaherty had the second worst ERA at 3.50 and he finished with a 10-10 record. Lynch started 22 games this season and threw 13 complete games, after completing all of his starts during the previous year. He was also used 11 times in relief. After the Pirates acquired Hall of Famer Vic Willis prior to the 1906 season, and Lefty Leifield began to emerge as a star that same year, Lynch saw less time on the mound. He posted a strong 2.42 ERA in 1906, but only saw 119 innings of work, making 12 starts and six relief appearances. In 1907, his use was even more limited and the Pirates released him in June after just 36 innings and a 2.25 ERA. He asked for his release because he wasn’t getting enough work and the Pirates agreed to release him unconditionally, although one paper said that they did that with the assumption that he was retiring. He missed some time in the summer of 1906 due to illness and it was said (despite the results saying otherwise) that he wasn’t the same pitcher since missing time a year earlier. He signed with the New York Giants just one week later after a tempting financial offer and finished the year (and his career) with John McGraw’s team that season. He had a 3.38 ERA in 72 innings with the Giants. Lynch went into business for himself after the 1907 season, but still followed the Pirates closely despite being out of baseball. On June 8, 1910, he visited the Pirates manager Fred Clarke between games of a doubleheader in Boston. The team was struggling and Clarke was trying to make out a lineup to kick-start the offense. Lynch saw the manager having trouble and suggested that Clarke let him fill out the lineup, which he did. The Pirates won that game 3-2. In his four big league seasons with the Pirates, Lynch went 40-26, 3.01 in 584 innings.

Frank Scheibeck, shortstop for the 1894 Pirates. He had a Major League career that spanned over 20 seasons, yet he got into just 390 games. He first played in the majors in 1887 at 21 years old, getting into three games for the 1887 Cleveland Blues of the American Association. That was also his first year of pro ball. Scheibeck then played one game for the Detroit Wolverines of the National League in 1888, before spending the next full year in the minors with London of the International League, where he also spent most of the 1888 season. In 1890, there were three Major Leagues all in operation at the same time and Scheibeck played for the Toledo Maumees of the American Association. He was the team’s starting shortstop all season in the only year the franchise existed as a Major League team. It was the only time he played over 100 games in a season. He hit .241 with 57 stolen bases and 72 runs scored in 134 games. He led all AA shortstops in putouts, assists and errors. Scheibeck then spent the next three full seasons in the minors, seeing time with five different teams in five different leagues, before reappearing with the 1894 Pirates. He hit well (.353) during that high-offense season, but the Pirates had a star-studded lineup that year, so playing time was scarce for Scheibeck, who played five different positions during his 28 games with the team. He had a poor week in early July, and without room for him in the lineup, he was released and moved on to Washington Senators to finish the season, hitting just .230 in 52 games as their starting shortstop. He remained with the Senators in 1895, hitting .180 in 49 games. After bouncing around the minors for parts of five season, he returned to the majors in 1899 for Washington, where he hit .287 in 27 games. His only other big league experience was 93 games 1901 for Cleveland of the American League (the first year for the league at the Major League level) and three games in 1906 for the Detroit Tigers, which was his last season in pro ball at 41 years old. While his full minor league records are incomplete, Scheibeck collected over 1,500 minor league hits during his long career. In his 390 games at the majors spread out over eight seasons, he hit .235 with two homers, 148 RBIs and 88 steals.