Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one very memorable game of note. Before I get into the former players, current pitcher Chasen Shreve turns 31 years old today.
Lee Meadows, pitcher for the 1923-29 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1913, playing for Durham of the North Carolina State League, a Class-D level. He won 40 games in 1913-14, while pitching 577 innings. By 1915, he was in the starting rotation of the St Louis Cardinals, spending his first of 15 seasons in the majors. At 20 years old, Meadows went 13-11, 2.99 in 244 innings for St Louis. His sophomore season saw him pitch 51 games, including 36 starts. He went 12-23 in 289 innings, despite a 2.58 ERA. The Cardinals were much better in 1917 and it showed in his record. He improved to 15-9, with a 3.08 ERA in 265.2 innings. He had a bit of a down year in 1918, going 8-14, 3.59 in 165.1 innings. The ERA doesn’t sound bad, but they were deep into the deadball era at that time and the National League’s average ERA was 2.76 that season. He cut his ERA by exactly one full run in 1919, but it didn’t help his record. Meadows went 12-20, 2.59 in 250.1 innings over 29 starts and 11 relief appearances. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during the middle of that season for three players, but he was going from the seventh place team to the eighth place team.
For the 1920 Phillies, Meadows went 16-14, 2.84 in 247 innings. The team finished last with a 62-91 record. In 1921, offense was up due to new rules that favored hitters, including new baseballs being put in play more often and the elimination of pitches like the spitball, though some pitchers were grandfathered into the rule and allowed to continue to throw it. Meadows went 11-16, 4.31 in 194.1 innings. He went 12-18, 4.03 in 237 innings and 33 starts in 1922. He was already in the middle of his ninth big league season when the Pirates acquired him from the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player trade on May 23, 1923. While he began his career with eight straight seasons of 11+ wins, he was 1-3, 13.27 in five starts and three relief appearances at the time of the 1923 trade. He immediately turned things around with the Pirates, going 16-10, 3.01 in 2.27 innings over the last 4 1/2 months of the season. In 1924, he went 13-12, 3.26 in 229.1 innings. The Pirates went to the World Series in 1925 and Meadows was a big part of that team. He set a career high with 19 wins and he pitched 255.1 innings. He pitched well in game one of the World Series, but lost to the great Walter Johnson. Meadow’s career high mark for wins lasted just one season. In 1926, he posted a 20-9, 3.97 record in 226.2 innings, leading the National League in victories. That was followed by another Pirates World Series appearance in 1927 and he went 19-10, 3.40 in a career high 299.1 innings, while leading the league with 25 complete games. He pitched game three of the World Series and allowed seven runs in 6.1 innings. Meadows barely pitched during his final two seasons in the majors due to an arm injury and a sinus problem that hampered him for years, seeing just 12.2 innings total during the 1928-29 seasons combined. On May 21, 1929, the Pirates released him to Indianapolis of the American Association, which ended his big league career. He would play in the minors through the 1932 season before retiring. He finished his career with a 188-180, 3.37 record in 3,160.2 innings pitched. He went 88-52, 3.50 in 1,248.1 innings with the Pirates, and he had a 100-128 elsewhere, despite a better ERA outside of Pittsburgh.
Tom Gorzelanny, pitcher for the 2005-09 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick in 2003 by the Pirates out of Triton College. That’s a school that has produced 85 draft picks over the years, though only five have made the majors. Included in that small group is Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. Three years prior to being selected by the Pirates, Gorzelanny was taken in the 38th round by the Chicago White Sox out of high school. He signed early enough with the Pirates to get in eight starts in the NY-Penn League in 2003, posting a 1.78 ERA in 30.1 innings. He moved quickly through the minors, though his time in High-A ball was shaky, with a 4.85 ERA in ten starts in 2004. He did show signs of success during that time, striking out 61 batters in 55.2 innings, but the results paled in comparison to the 7-2, 2.23 record he had in 93 innings with Low-A Hickory. Gorzelanny moved up to Double-A in 2005, going 8-5, 3.26 with 124 strikeouts in 129.2 innings, earning a mid-September promotion for three games with the Pirates, without any Triple-A experience at the time. He gave up eight runs in six innings during his first cup of coffee in the majors. He began the 2006 season in Triple-A, and had a 2.35 ERA in 99.2 innings over 16 starts, before coming back up to the majors in July to make 11 starts. In his second run with the Pirates, he had a 3.79 ERA in 61.2 innings. Gorzelanny earned a spot in the 2007 rotation and had the best season of his career, going 14-10, 3.88 in 201.2 innings, making 32 starts. Things fell apart the next season, as he had a 6.57 ERA through 17 starts in early July, earning himself a demotion to the minors. He returned in mid-August for four starts and didn’t pitch any better. He finished with a 6.66 ERA in 105.1 innings.
In 2009, Gorzelanny spent most of the early season in the minors as a starter, though when he came up to the Pirates he was put in the bullpen. In nine appearances, he gave up five runs over 8.2 innings. At the trading deadline that year, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs, along with John Grabow, for Josh Harrison, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio. Gorzelanny made seven starts and six relief appearances with the Cubs that year, posting a 5.63 ERA in 38.1 innings. He mostly pitched as a starter in 2010, going 7-9, 4.09 in 136.1 innings. He was traded to the Washington Nationals for three minor league players and spent two seasons there before reaching free agency. Gorzelanny went 4-6, 4.03 in 105 innings in 2011, splitting his time between starting and relief. He was in the bullpen for all of 2012, putting up a 2.88 ERA in 72 innings over 45 appearances. He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for 2013 and made ten starts and 33 relief appearances. He went 3-6, 3.90 in 85.1 innings. He was injured for part of 2014, but pitched outstanding when he was healthy, allowing just two earned runs in 21 innings over 23 games. Gorzelanny struggled as a reliever for the Detroit Tigers in 2015, posting a 5.95 ERA in 39.1 innings over 48 games. In 2016, he got hit hard in seven early season outings with the Cleveland Indians. He finished his time in pro ball in the minors, spending the second half of 2016 with the Baltimore Orioles and the 2017 season with the New York Mets, though most of his final year was spent rehabbing a shoulder injury. Gorzelanny was 25-26, 4.79 in 383.1 innings over five seasons with the Pirates. He went 50-53, 4.40 in his 12-year career. He made 121 starts in the majors, with 193 relief appearances and 883.2 innings pitched.
Phil Dumatrait, pitcher for the 2008-09 Pirates. He was a first round draft in 2000 of the Boston Red Sox, selected out of Bakersfield College 22nd overall. Despite the high draft status out of college, he didn’t make it to the majors until 2007. Dumatrait was still 18 years old when he was drafted. He debuted well, albeit with some control issues at a low level. He had a 1.65 ERA in six starts in the Gulf Coast League in 2000. He remained in short-season ball in 2001, posting a 2.93 ERA in 43 innings, with 43 strikeouts, while cutting his walk rate to 1/3rd of the previous season’s rate. He spent most of the 2002 season in Low-A, moving up to High-A for four starts. Dumatrait had an 8-7, 2.88 record in 134.1 innings. He spent all of 2003 in High-A, though he switched leagues in July when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He finished the year 11-6, 3.11 in 142 innings. He missed the entire 2004 season due to Tommy John surgery, then spent most of 2005 in Double-A, where he had a 4-12, 3.17 record in 127.2 innings over 24 starts. The 2006 season saw him make ten starts in Double-A and 15 starts in Triple-A, combining to go 8-11, 4.33 in 137.1 innings, with much better results at the lower level. The 2007 season started in Triple-A, where he had a 3.53 ERA in 22 starts, and it ended in the majors. Dumatrait made six late season starts for the Cincinnati Reds with extremely poor results, going 0-4, 15.00 in 18 innings. The Pirates selected him off waivers on October 26, 2007 and he made the 2008 Opening Day roster.
Dumatrait made ten relief appearances in April for the 2008 Pirates, then moved to a starting role in May, making 11 starts. He went 3-4, 5.26 in 78.2 innings before a rotator cuff injury sidelined him for the rest of the season and part of the following year. Dumatrait returned to the Pirates in August of 2009 after a minor league rehab assignment. He made 15 relief appearances for Pittsburgh that season, going 0-2, 6.92 in 13 innings. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Detroit Tigers, where he made eight starts in Triple-A in 2010. He was released by Detroit in May of 2010, and spent the rest of the season pitching in Korea. He signed with the Minnesota Twins in November of 2010. Dumatrait pitched 45 games in relief, with a 3.92 ERA in 41.1 innings for the 2011 Twins. He re-signed with the Twins for 2012, but he had off-season surgery and announced his retirement from baseball in late May before pitching a game. In parts of four big league seasons, he went 4-13, 6.20 in 151 innings, with 17 starts and 70 relief appearances.
Brad Eldred, first baseman for the 2005 and 2007 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick in 2002 of the Pirates out of Florida International. Eldred began to hit homers in the minors at a fast pace, carrying him to the majors by the middle of the 2005 season. He had a modest total in his first season, batting .283 with ten homers and ten steals (in 11 attempts) for Williamsport of the New York-Penn League in 2002. In his first full season in the minors in 2003, he hit 28 homers and drove in 80 runs for Hickory. However, those totals came with a .250 average and a 38:142 BB/SO ratio. The next season, Eldred showed even more power as he split the year between High-A and Double-A, hitting 38 bombs, with a .301 average and 137 RBIs. He did even better at the higher level, putting up a blistering pace with the RBIs, by driving in 60 runs in 39 games for Altoona. He began the 2005 season in Double-A, but quickly moved up a level after 13 homers and 27 RBIs in 21 games. In 53 Triple-A games that year, he batted .284 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs, earning a promotion to the majors just after the All-Star break. In 55 games for the 2005 Pirates, Eldred hit .221 with 12 homers (40 total during the season) and 27 RBIs, striking out 77 times. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit .289 with seven homers in 25 games. He missed nearly the entire 2006 season after fracturing his thumb in a collision down in Triple-A, playing a total of 18 games. He went back to the Arizona Fall League that year and played another 18 games, though he hit just .231 with one homer. Returning healthy in 2007, Eldred added right field to his resume and made the Pirates out of Spring Training. He was used very little the first two months, getting ten starts and eight games off the bench before being sent back to the minors after getting just one at-bat during his final week with the team in mid-May. He returned in June for a brief stint that resulted in him playing one game.
The Pirates let Eldred go after the 2007 season ended. He hit .199 with 14 homers and 30 RBIs in 74 games for the Pirates, which proved to be a majority of his big league career. He also played 11 games for the 2010 Colorado Rockies and five games for the Detroit Tigers in 2012. Eldred hit 35 homers and drove in 100 runs for the Chicago White Sox in Triple-A in 2008. He spent 2009 in Triple-A for the Washington Nationals and most of 2010 was spent in Triple-A for the Rockies, where he hit 30 homers and drove in 84 runs in 106 games. He batted .250 with one homer in his 11 games for the Rockies. The 2011 season was spent in Triple-A for the San Francisco Giants, where he added another 23 homers to his resume. He hit .305 with 24 homers and 65 RBIs in 63 games for the Tigers in Triple-A in 2012, with a five-game stint as their DH in late April/early May. He was released by the Tigers in June of 2012 so he could sign with a team in Japan, where he played until retiring in 2018. During the 2014 season, he hit 40 homers and drove in 119 runs in 132 games. He hit 25+ homers during each of the next three seasons. Eldred hit 251 career homers in the minors, 163 more in Japan and 15 in the majors.
Dave Ricketts, catcher for the 1970 Pirates. He was born in Pottstown, Pa. and attended Duquesne University before signing with the St Louis Cardinals as an amateur in 1957 at 21 years old. Ricketts did well at a high level from the start. He batted .306 in 73 games for Rochester of the International League, just one step from the majors. However, his career got sidetracked a bit, as he spent the next two seasons serving in the military. He returned during the 1960 season and struggled back with Rochester, but had a big season two levels lower with Lancaster of the Eastern League, where he hit .332 in 84 games. Ricketts split the 1961 season between Double-A and Triple-A, with better results at the higher level. He combined to hit .282 with 26 extra-base hits in 138 games. All of his games at Triple-A were spent at third base, which turned out to be an experiment that was quickly ended. By 1962 he was catching full-time again, and never played another position during his final nine years in pro ball. He batted .292 with 30 extra-base hits in 110 games for Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1962. In 1963 he spent the year with Atlanta of the International League, where he hit .278 with 22 extra-base hits and 19 walks in 132 games. Ricketts made his Major League debut at the end of the 1963 season, playing three games for St Louis. After spending the entire 1964 season with Jacksonville of the International League, he got into another 11 games with the 1965 Cardinals. He then spent the 1966 season in the minors with Tulsa of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .327 in 116 games. With a low walk rate and very little power, he managed just a .763 OPS with that high average.
Ricketts finally caught his big break in 1967 season, serving as a backup catcher for the Cardinals for the first of three straight full season. He was seldom used behind Tim McCarver, who averaged 135 games played per season. Ricketts played a total of 116 games over his five seasons with the Cardinals, getting into 102 games during the 1967-69 seasons, with a total of 177 plate appearances. The Pirates acquired him, along with Dave Giusti, on October 21, 1969 in exchange for catcher Carl Taylor and minor leaguer Frank Vanzin. Ricketts would serve as the Pirates third-string catcher behind Manny Sanguillen and Jerry May during the 1970 season. He saw very little time that year, playing 14 games (all off of the bench), and going to bat just 12 times. He retired after the season and served as the Pirates bullpen coach for three years before moving on to the same role for the Cardinals, working with the team into the 1990’s. His brother Dick Ricketts was a pitcher for the 1959 Cardinals, and a teammate/batterymate during the 1957 and 1960 seasons with Rochester.
Johnny Wyrostek, utility fielder for the 1942-43 Pirates. He was originally signed by the St Louis Cardinals in 1937 at 17 years old, four years before coming over to the Pirates after they purchased his contract late in 1941 with no Major League experience. He played his first two season at Class-D Kinston of the Coast Plain League. He batted .332 in each of his first two seasons, playing 50 games in 1937 and 112 in 1938, when he also added 46 extra-base hits. In 1939, Wyrostek split the season between three levels, topping out with Rochester of the International League. He combined to hit .317 with 33 extra-base hits in 92 games. The entire 1940 season was spent with Tulsa of the Texas League, where he batted .305 with 30 doubles, eight triples and four homers in 156 games. He split the 1941 season between Rochester and New Orleans of the Southern Association. He batted .275 for the season in 134 games, with much better results at New Orleans (.316 average). After being acquired by the Pirates, Wyrostek spent the 1942 season playing for Toronto of the International League, where he hit .270 with 18 homers, 79 RBIs and 78 walks. He was a September call-up for the Pirates, hitting .114 (4-for-35) in nine games. He was with Pittsburgh all of 1942, playing 51 games, with a .152 average and one RBI in 83 plate appearances. Wyrostek started only nine games all year and played six different positions (all but SS/C/P). After the season, the Pirates traded him, along with pitcher Johnny Podgajny and cash, to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Preacher Roe. Wyrostek ended up having a productive Major League career, playing nine full seasons in the majors, split between the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds from 1946-54. He was a two-time All-Star, hitting .271 career in 1,221 games, with 525 runs scored and 481 RBIs.
After being traded to the Cardinals, Wyrostek hit well in 1944 for Columbus of the American Association, batting .358 with 50 doubles in 110 games. Before he could join St Louis, he was called into action during WWII, which cost him the entire 1945 season as well. He was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1946 season, which opened up playing time for him because the Cardinals had a loaded team. In his first year in Philadelphia, he hit .281 with 40 extra-base hits, 73 runs scored and 70 walks in 145 games. In 1947, Wyrostek batted .273 with 36 extra-base hits, 61 walks and 68 runs scored in 128 games. He batted .273 again in 1948 after being traded to the Reds, setting career highs with 17 homers and 76 RBIs. That earned him mild MVP support, finishing 20th in the voting. His numbers dipped a bit in 1949, with a .249 average and a .698 OPS in 134 games. He bounced back in 1950, batting .285 with 76 RBIs, 70 runs scored and a career high 34 doubles, earning his first All-Star appearance. His best season was 1951 when he finished 19th in the MVP voting and made his second All-Star appearance. Wyrostek hit .311 in 142 games that year, his only .300+ batting average season in the majors. He was sold back to the Phillies during the 1952 season, combining to hit .265 with 62 walks in 128 games between the two teams. In in 1953, he posted a .699 OPS in 125 games. His playing time slipped down to 92 games in 1954, and he hit .239 with 19 extra-base hits and 29 walks. He was released in April of 1955, which ended his pro career.
On this date in 1997, starter Francisco Cordova and reliever Ricardo Rincon held the Houston Astros hitless for ten innings before pinch-hitter Mark Smith hit a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth for a 3-0 Pirates victory. This game is the only combined and extra innings no-hitter in team history. Cordova tossed the first nine frames, while Rincon threw the tenth and got the win. The homer for Smith was just his third of the season. The Pirates had a 44-45 record at the end of play that day.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play
Here’s a replay of the game