Only three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, but we have a major transaction from over 100 years ago.
On this date in 1916, the Pirates purchased the contract of 21-year-old Carson Bigbee from the Tacoma Tigers of the Northwestern League. At the time of the deal, he was batting ,340 through 111 games in his first season of pro ball. Bigbee debuted a month later with the Pirates and hit .250 in 43 games that season. He would go on to spend his entire 11-year career in the majors with the Pirates, six times playing over 120 games in a season. His best season occurred in 1922, which was a subject of one of our Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons articles. He was a .287 hitter in 1,147 games in Pittsburgh, with 182 stolen bases and a 344/161 BB/SO ratio. When he retired, he was sixth on the Pirates all-time list of games played. Bigbee’s brother Lyle pitched for the 1921 Pirates.
Enrique Wilson, infielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1992 as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He was thought to be just shy of his 17th birthday at the time, but it was learned later than he was two years old. Wilson made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 1992, hitting .341 in 13 games. The next season he batted .289 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 58 games while playing in the Appalachian League. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians just prior to the start of the 1994 seasons. He spent that year in the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .279 with 50 extra-base hits and 21 steals in 133 games. He moved up to High-A the next season and batted .267 with 37 extra-base hits and 18 steals, though that was in 37 attempts. In 1996, Wilson hit .304 in Double-A. His power numbers dropped a bit, down to 27 extra-base hits, but he did a little better in the stolen base department, going 23-for-39 in steals/attempts. He moved up to Triple-A in 1997 and hit .306 in 118 games, with 20 doubles and 11 homers. That led to his first big league trial, where he went 5-for-15 in five late season games. The 1998 season was split between Triple-A and the majors, where he hit .322 in 32 games for the Indians. He split the entire 1999 season in the majors, seeing decent playing time at shortstop, third base and second base. Wilson hit .262 in 113 games, with a .663 OPS. He was hitting .325 in 40 games in 2000 prior to being traded to the Pirates in exchange for veteran infielder Wil Cordero on July 28th. With Cleveland, Wilson played 190 games, hitting .287 with 49 RBIs and 72 runs scored.
For Pittsburgh, Wilson played 40 games in 2000, seeing time at all three infield spots. He hit .262 with 15 RBIs and a .723 OPS. In 2001, he was seeing most of his time at shortstop and struggling with the bat, hitting just .186 with eight RBIs through 46 games. On June 13, 2001, the Pirates traded Wilson to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Damaso Marte. After the deal, Wilson batted .242 with one homer in 48 games. In 2002, he was a seldom-used bench player, hitting .181 with two homers in 60 games (20 starts). He saw a little more starting time in 2003, hitting .230 with three homers in 63 games. In 2004 he saw more time at second base and ended up hitting .213 with six homers in 93 games. Wilson left the Yankees via free agency after the 2004 season. He signed a deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but never played for them in the majors and he was released in May of 2005. He then finished his big league career with the 2005 Chicago Cubs, hitting .136 in 15 games. He played one last season in the minors in 2006 after signing with the Boston Red Sox. Wilson played winter ball for three seasons in the Dominican after retiring. He was highly rated coming through the minors, three times making Baseball America’s top 100 list, but his career didn’t quite pan out. Wilson was a .244 hitter over 555 Major League games. He played in five postseasons, two with Cleveland, three with Yankees, coming up short of a World Series ring each time.
Irish McIlveen, pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. The Pirates signed the left-handed throwing, native of Ireland, directly out of Penn St, where he was a star athlete. At the time of his signing on July 2, 1906, it was said that he had a verbal agreement in place since the summer of 1905 with Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss that if he decided to play pro ball, he would sign with the Pirates. There was actually word in late May of 1906 that he signed with the Pirates and would begin after the school season ended on June 14th, but it wasn’t officially announced until July 2nd. He had brief experience in pro ball in 1904, playing for Williamsport of the Tri-State League, otherwise he was fresh off of campus, where he was considered both a top class pitcher and hitter. It was also said at the time that he still had a year left at Penn State, where he was studying mining engineering. After joining Pittsburgh, he played five games over a three-week stretch, two as a pitcher and three off the bench. Six days after his Major League debut on July 4th, he made his only start, losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers by a 7-6 score. Ten days after his final big league game on July 25th, he was in the lineup for Washington of the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, where he was said to be the league’s leading hitting by late August. Irish, whose real name was Henry, and who also went by the name “Lefty” in college, returned to school to coach during the 1907 and 1908 seasons. He also played some pro ball during those two seasons. The first year he played 58 games for a minor league team from Steubenville and the next year he split his time between Newark of the Eastern League and the New York Highlanders (Yankees) in the majors. McIlveen played 48 games for the Highlanders between the 1908-09 seasons, seeing time at all three outfield spots, but he never pitched in New York. He played his last Major League game on May 6, 1909 and never played in the minors after that point either. There have been 49 Major League players who were born in Ireland. Only five began their career after McIlveen, one of them being Paddy O’Connor, the backup catcher for the first Pirates team (1909) to win the World Series.
Henry Jones, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys. When the Player’s League formed for the 1890 season, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys lost a large number of players to the new league. Just four players stayed from the 1889 season and only one pitcher. That opened up room for plenty of new players and Jones filled one of those spots. The Alleghenys carried a large roster for the times on Opening Day, with 20 men in uniform that day. Jones was one of six pitchers they had to start the season, seven if you include manager Guy Hecker, who wasn’t slated to pitch when the season began, but he was once a great pitcher and ended up making 12 starts before the season ended. Jones was introduced to the locals in a March newspaper article that said that he was well-known in the area because he was born and played in McKeesport, PA. There aren’t many stats from his minor league days available, but he reported started in 1884 at 23 years old for a team in McKeesport, where he also played the following season. After that he pitched for Duluth of the Northwestern League in 1886, he was in Rochester in 1887, Frederick, Maryland in 1888 and Granville, Michigan in 1889. Not all of that was minor league ball. The newspaper also said that he pitched for the Pittsburgh American Association team in 1886, but there’s no record of that time. Jones got noticed by the Alleghenys on October 18, 1889 when he allowed just one earned run over nine innings in an exhibition game between Pittsburgh and McKeesport. He signed with the Alleghenys four weeks later when they began to lose players for the 1890 season. Jones debuted in relief during the third game of the 1890 season and gave up four runs over six innings. He won his first start on May 2nd, though he is incorrectly credited with making his first start on May 1st, which was actually the pro debut of Kirtley Baker, who didn’t get credit for his first game.
Jones didn’t go with the team on a road trip to the east. There current records show that they played 24 straight games on the road, but that only happened because of a rain out at home on May 14th. When the team left to head east, Jones stayed back with two other pitchers to help save on travel costs. There was word that he would be released at that point, but instead he joined the team on the road trip just eight days later when they needed reinforcements. Jones started on May 26th, only to see the game called due to rain one out before it became an official game, though he would have lost if the Alleghenys didn’t score before that final out and he was the batter at the time. Two days later he lost the second game of a doubleheader to the Philadelphia Phillies, which was limited to six innings so the Alleghenys could catch their train. Jones was back in the box three days later in a match-up with Hall of Fame pitcher John Clarkson. The Alleghenys won 9-8, but Jones was knocked out in the second inning after allowing three runs. On an off-day on June 1st, the Alleghenys released Jones and two other players (one returned days later), which ended his big league career. He is credited with a 3.48 ERA in 31 innings now, but that includes the one start that he didn’t make on May 1st, which was a 4-3 loss. After being released, he signed on to play with McKeesport for the rest of the season, then followed his McKeesport manager to Erie of the New York-Penn League in 1891, before finishing his pro career in the Pennsylvania State League in 1892 with a team that split the season between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh.