Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date including one of the better pitchers from the franchise’s early years.
Jesse Tannehill, pitcher for the 1897-1902 Pirates. He made his pro debut for the Cincinnati Reds in 1894 shortly before his 20th birthday, going right from amateur ball in Cincinnati to the majors. After five games for the Reds in which he had a 7.14 ERA in 29 innings, he went to the minor leagues, where he was a star pitcher for Richmond of the Virginia League. Tannehill won 49 games and pitched 621.1 innings between the 1895-96 seasons, which drew the attention of the Pirates, who took him in the 1896 Rule 5 draft. In 1896, he had a 27-14, 1.93 record in 349.1 innings, throwing complete games in 38 of his 41 starts. His first year with the Pirates was average, though the team saw potential in the young lefty. He went 9-9, 4.25 in 142 innings in 1897, with 16 starts and five relief appearances. In 1898 he became a regular in the rotation and had a great season, going 25-13, 2.95 in 326.2 innings. He made 38 starts, threw 34 complete games and tossed five shutouts. Tannehill was just as strong in 1899, posting a 24-14, 2.82 record in 322 innings, with 33 complete games in 36 starts. He put together his third straight 20+ win season in 1900, going 20-9, 2.88 in 234 innings. In 1901, Tannehill went 18-10 as the Pirates won their first ever pennant in the franchise’s 20th season of existence. He led the National League in ERA that year at 2.18, just .04 ahead of his teammate, Deacon Phillippe. Tannehill threw 252.1 innings, tossing complete games in 25 of his 30 starts, while throwing four shutouts.
The 1902 Pirates had the best record in franchise history and Tannehill was part of a five-man rotation that went 99-32 on the year, and pitched all but 65 of the team’s innings that season. He finished that year with a 20-6 record and a team best, 1.95 ERA, which ranked third in the NL. After the season, he jumped to the American League, signing with the New York Highlanders. There was word that he accepted money to make the jump before the 1902 season was over and on October 4th, the Pirates paid him up until October 15th and released him. In his one season in New York, Tannehill went 15-15, 3.27 in 239.2 innings. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox, the World Series champs in 1903, on December 20, 1903. He went 21-11, 2.04 in 281.2 innings during his first season in Boston. In 1905, he had a 22-9, 2.48 record in 271.2 innings, throwing a career best six shutouts. That was his eighth straight season with over 200 innings, but that streak was just barely snapped in 1906. He went 13-11, 3.16 in 196.1 innings that year. His workload dropped substantially from that point. In 1907, he went 6-7, 2.47 in 131 innings. He made one start for Boston in 1908, then was traded to the Washington Senators, where he stayed through the middle of the 1909 season. With Washington, he went 3-5, 3.69 in 92.2 innings. He went to the minors in 1909 and ended up returning for just one more big league game back where he started, pitching for the Reds on April 12, 1911. He played his final pro game in 1913.
Tannehill finished his 15-year big league career with a 197-117, 2.80 record in 2,759.1 innings. For the Pirates, he went 116-58, posting a 2.75 ERA in 1,508 innings pitched. He is 13th in team history in ERA, tied for 12th in wins and his win/loss percentage is the best among pitchers with at least 65 decisions. He was an excellent hitter and occasionally played the field on off-days, hitting .255 with 142 RBIs and 190 runs scored in 507 games. He put up a .336 batting average during the 1900 season. His brother Lee played ten seasons for the Chicago White Sox.
Jack Leathersich, lefty relief pitcher for the 2017 Pirates. He was a fifth round pick of the New York Mets in the 2011 draft, selected out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He had a strong debut in limited work while pitching for Brooklyn of the New York-Penn League. Leathersich allowed one run in 12.2 innings while recording 26 strikeouts. He split the 2012 season between Low-A and High-A, posting an 0.75 ERA at the lower level, only to see it go up to 4.13 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. In 2013, he split the year between Double-A and Triple-A, once again seeing much better results at the lower level. He had a 1.53 ERA in 29.1 innings for Binghamton of the Eastern League, and a 7.76 ERA in 29 innings while playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League for Las Vegas. In 2014, Leathersich once again split the season between Double-A and Triple-A and had similar splits to the 2013 campaign. He had a 2.93 ERA with Binghamton and 5.40 with Las Vegas. He matched that 5.40 ERA for Las Vegas in 2015, but he made his way to the majors for the first time that season. Leathersich pitched 11.2 innings over 17 appearances for the 2015 Mets, before he missed the rest of the season due to a late-July Tommy John surgery. He was selected off waivers after the season by the Chicago Cubs and spent all of 2016 in the minors, though he was limited to 26 appearances due his surgery. He made one appearance for the 2017 Cubs and allowed two runs while recording two outs. The rest of the 2017 season was spent in Triple-A until he was picked up by the Pirates via waivers on September 4, 2017. With the Pirates, he made six September appearances in relief, throwing shutout ball over 4.1 innings. He was lost via waivers to the Cleveland Indians in Spring Training of 2018 and spent the entire season in Triple-A. Leathersich did not pitch during the 2019 season after being released by the Texas Rangers in late spring.
Jose Hernandez, infielder for the 2003 and 2006 Pirates. He was signed by the Texas Rangers as an amateur free agent at 17 years old out of Puerto Rico in January of 1987. He played his first two seasons in the Gulf Coast League and hit .160 in 1987 and .173 in 1988. Despite the lack of success, he moved up to Low-A in 1989 and batted .219 with one homer in 91 games. Texas promoted him in 1990 to High-A, where he hit .255 with one homer in 121 games. In 1991, he began the year in Double-A and ended up in the majors. It was quite a rush to the big leagues because he didn’t have success in Double-A that season. Hernandez predictably struggled in the majors, putting up a .432 OPS in 43 games. The Cleveland Indians selected him off of waivers prior to the 1992 season and he played just three games that year in the majors, going 0-for-4 at the plate. The rest of the season was spent in Double-A. Hernandez began 1993 back in Double-A, before being traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he split the second half of the season between Double-A and Triple-A. He returned to the majors with the Cubs in 1994 and hit .242 with one homer in 52 games. In 1995, he batted .245 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs in 93 games. The 1996 season saw Hernandez hit .242 with ten homers and 41 RBIs in 131 games. He played 121 games in 1997, but he batted just 199 times, hitting .273 with seven homers. He had his first big season in 1998, while seeing playing time at seven different positions (everything except catcher and pitcher). Hernandez hit .254 with 23 doubles, 23 homers and 75 RBIs in 149 games that year. In 1999, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves mid-season. Between the two teams, he batted .266 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 147 games, mostly playing shortstop and center field.
Hernandez signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent and spent three seasons there, establishing himself as the strikeout king in the majors. He batted .244 with 11 homers in 124 games during his first season, then batted .249 with 26 doubles, 25 homers and 78 RBIs in 152 games. He had 185 strikeouts, batting just twice in the final four games of the season to avoid the Major League record of 189 at the time (Bobby Bonds). The next year Hernandez sat out the final four games of the season and four games from the previous week as well, which left him with 188 strikeouts. He was an All-Star for the only time in his career that year, thanks to a .288 average with 23 doubles, 23 homers and 78 RBIs. He began the 2003 season with the Colorado Rockies before getting traded to the Cubs in June. He batted .237 with eight homers for the Rockies, then hit .188 in 23 games in Chicago. The Pirates acquired the veteran infielder in the Aramis Ramirez trade with the Cubs at the 2003 trading deadline. After the deal to the Pirates, he took over for Ramirez at third base and hit .223 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 58 games. Pittsburgh released him at the end of the season, though he came back to the team in January of 2006 as a free agent. He went the 2004 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he hit .289 with 13 homers in 95 games. He played for the Indians in 2005, hitting .231 with six homers in 84 games. Hernandez hit .267 with two homers in 67 games for 2006 Pirates, prior to being sold to the Philadelphia Phillies in August, where he batted .250 with one homer in 18 games. He played all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots for the Pirates that year. Hernandez re-signed with the Pirates again for 2007 and spent the entire year at Triple-A. He finished his pro career with two seasons in the Mexican League. In 1,587 Major League games, he hit .252 with 168 homers and 603 RBIs
Earl Francis, pitcher for the 1960-64 Pirates. The Pirates signed him in 1954 at 18 years old, but after one season in the minors, he spent the next four years serving in the Air Force. Francis went 11-9, 3.10 in 180 innings for Clinton of the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League in 1954. Returning to baseball in 1959, he went to Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League and posted a 3.33 ERA in 154 innings. Francis split the 1960 season between starting in Triple-A and pitching out of the Pirates bullpen. He was with Pittsburgh during the middle of the season, but was optioned to the minors in mid-August when the Pirates signed veteran reliever Clem Labine. Francis did not pitch again for the Pirates that year, as they went on to win their third World Series title in franchise history. He had a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings over seven outings during his first trial in the majors. In 1961, he began the year at Triple-A, joining Pittsburgh in early June for the rest of the season. He went 2-8, 4.21 in 15 starts and eight relief appearances for the Pirates, pitching a total of 102.2 innings. He had the best year of his career in 1962, going 9-8, 3.07 in 176 innings, with 23 starts and 13 relief outings. On August 25th, he threw a three-hit shutout over the St Louis Cardinals, which ended up being the only shutout of his big league career. He was the Pirates Opening Day starter in 1963 and took the loss after giving up four runs in the first two innings. Francis pitched 12 more times as a starter that year and 20 times out of the bullpen, where he had more success. He went 4-6, 4.53 in 97.1 innings, with a 3.86 ERA in relief and a 4.91 mark as a starter. He spent the 1964 season in the minors, pitching just twice with the Pirates as a September call-up, giving up seven runs in 6.1 innings. In December, he was part of a four-player trade between the Cardinals and Pirates. His last big league experience was two September games in relief for the 1965 Cardinals. Francis played one more season of minor league ball before retiring. With the Pirates, he had a 16-23, 3.75 record in 400.1 innings over 101 games (52 starts).
Bob Purkey, pitcher for the 1954-57 and 1966 Pirates. He was a Pittsburgh native, who the Pirates signed in 1948 out of South Hills HS. As an 18-year-old, he was sent to the Alabama State League, class-D ball, to play for Greenville. Purkey went 19-8, 3.01 in 224 innings that rookie year in pro ball. He moved up two levels the next season and did even better, going 17-6, 2.94 in 31 games and 205 innings for Davenport of the Three-I League. Purkey again skipped over a level the next year, though he didn’t have quite the success he did his first two seasons, going 12-12, 4.78 in 196 innings for New Orleans of the Southern Association. His baseball career was put on hold for two seasons (1951-52) while he served in the military. Returning in 1953, he went back to New Orleans and pitched better despite the layoff, posting a 3.41 ERA in 198 innings. The Pirates kept him in the majors for the entire 1954 season, giving him 11 starts and 25 relief appearances. Purkey went 3-8, 5.07 in 131.1 innings, walking 62 batters, while picking up just 38 strikeouts. He split the next two years between the minors and majors, making 14 total appearances for the Pirates. He was with the Pirates in 1955 from Opening Day through late June, posting a 2-7, 5.32 record in 67.2 innings. He didn’t return to the Pirates until late September of 1956, giving up one run over four innings in two relief appearances. Purkey was with the Pirates for all of 1957 and was used often. He made 21 starts and 27 relief appearances, going 11-14, 3.86 in 179.2 innings.
On December 9, 1957, Pittsburgh traded Purkey to the Reds in exchange for pitcher Don Gross. It was a trade that did not work out well. Gross lasted just 26 relief appearances for the Pirates, while Purkey went on to become a star pitcher for Cincinnati immediately, winning 17 games and making the All-Star team his first year with the team. He had a 3.60 ERA in 250 innings for the 1958 Reds. He received mild MVP support that year, finishing 19th in the voting. The next year he went 13-18, 4.25 in 218 innings. He won 17 games again in 1960, in a season that almost mirrored his first year in Cincinnati. Both years saw the same exact 17-11, 3.60 records, except in 1960 he pitched 2.2 more innings (252.2 total). Purkey won another 16 games in 1961 as he made the All-Star team again and helped the Reds to the World Series, where they lost in five games. He had a 3.73 ERA in 246.1 innings that year. In 1962, Purkey went 23-5, 2.81 in 288.1 innings. He set career highs with 37 starts and 18 complete games. He finished third in the Cy Young award voting, eighth in the MVP voting and he made the All-Star team again. He was a five-time All-Star, though that was back in 1961-62 when they played two All-Star games and the same people played each game. Purkey saw a large drop in his results in 1963, going 6-10, 3.55 in 137 innings over 21 starts, as he was limited due to an early season arm injury. He was healthy in 1964, going 11-9, 3.04 in 195.2 innings. He won 103 games for the Reds over seven seasons, prior to moving on to the St Louis Cardinals in a December 1964 trade. After going 10-9, 5.79 in 124.1 innings with St Louis in 1965, the Pirates purchased his contract from the Cardinals in 1966 just before Opening Day. Purkey made ten relief outings for Pittsburgh, and while he pitched well (1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings), he was barely used after mid-May and was released in early August, ending his baseball career. He went 16-30, 4.36 in 402.1 innings with the Pirates, and in his 13-year career he finished 129-115, 3.79 in 2,114.2 innings over 276 starts and 110 relief appearances.
Jack Farmer, utility player for the 1916 Pirates. He is one of just three players from Cumberland University in Tennessee who made it to the majors, and it took nearly 100 years for the second player (Luis Martinez, 2011 San Diego Padres) to join him. Farmer played three years in the minors before making his Major League debut with the 1916 Pirates in early July. He debuted in pro ball in 1914 at 21 years old, playing for Selma of the Class-D Georgia-Alabama League, where he batted .301 with 18 steals and 51 runs scored in 69 games. In 1915 he jumped to Class-A, playing for Nashville of the Southern Association, where he hit .263 with 27 doubles, nine triples and three homers in 157 games. In 1916, he was hitting .253 over 48 games for Louisville of the American Association, prior to joining Pittsburgh in a trade on July 3rd for outfielder Ed Barney. Farmer debuted on July 8th and played 55 of the team’s last 80 games, seeing starts at second base, both corner outfield spots and shortstop. He hit .271 with 14 RBIs and ten runs scored. While the average was decent, his fielding wasn’t that good at any position. He also drew just seven walks, without showing any power or speed. Farmer returned to the minors when the Pirates traded him and Paddy Siglin (plus cash) to Portland of the Pacific Coast League for infielder Chuck Ward on January 19, 1917. He batted .286 in 193 games (yes, 193) for Portland in 1917, with 50 doubles, 12 triples, eight homers and 50+ stolen bases. He briefly reappeared in the majors with the 1918 Cleveland Indians for seven games, but he played the majority of that season back in the Pacific Coast League with Salt Lake City. He returned to Portland in 1919 and finished out his career as a player in 1920 with Nashville of the Southern Association. He went by “Jack” but his actual name was Floyd Haskell Farmer.
Joe Conzelman, pitcher for the 1913-15 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of Brown University in the summer of 1912, though he didn’t make his pro debut until May of the following season. He was sought after by numerous MLB clubs, but the Pirates were able to sign Conzelman with the help of former pitcher Mike Lynch, who was also a graduate of Brown University. The Pirates won him over with a contract that called for a $3,600 salary. He made it known when he started playing pro baseball that he was only going to play a few years before moving on to “his real life work”. The Pirates thought he could be a good pitcher someday and worked with him as he continued post-graduate studies at Columbia University in the off-season after his rookie campaign. He spent a majority of the 1913 season with Atlanta of the Southern Association, where he went 11-4 and had 75 strikeouts in 165 innings. Conzelman had an impressive first full season in the majors in 1914, going 5-6, 2.94 in 101 innings, making nine starts and 24 relief appearances. On August 15th, he threw his only career shutout, winning 2-0 over the Cincinnati Reds at Forbes Field. After the season he moved to the Pittsburgh area and took up a job as a civil engineer. Conzelman returned to the Pirates in 1915 and was used out of the bullpen for most of the season. He went 1-1, 3.42 in 18 games (one start), pitching a total of 47.1 innings. The Pirates sold him to Indianapolis of the American Association in August, and after going 4-4, 2.04 in 75 innings over the final month of the season, he retired from baseball to pursue his career as a civil engineer. He would have played in the majors for his larger salary, but he was able to make more as a civil engineer than he would get in the minors, so he retired. It was said by Conzelman that he paid off his school costs and still had $6,000 left of his three years of MLB salary when he moved on from baseball.