This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 3rd, Popular Day for 1987 Pirates

There have been six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and three of them played for the 1987 team.

Matt Joyce, outfielder for the 2016 Pirates. The Detroit Tigers selected him in the 12th round of the 2005 draft out of Florida Southern College. Joyce went to the New York-Penn League that year and hit .332 in 65 games, with 18 extra-base hits and 51 runs scored. In 2006, he spent the entire season in Low-A, where he batted .258 with 30 doubles, 11 homers and 86 RBIs in 122 games. He spent the entire 2007 season in Double-A, playing for Erie of the Eastern League. He hit .257 with 33 doubles and 17 homers in 130 games. He was promoted to Triple-A in 2008, but by early May he was making his big league debut. He didn’t stick right away, but Joyce played 92 games for the Tigers in 2008, hitting .252 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs. That December he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitcher Edwin Jackson. Joyce spent a majority of 2009 in Triple-A, while hitting .188 in his 11 big league games. The 2010 season saw him play 35 minor league games and 77 games with the Rays. He hit .241 with 15 doubles and ten homers for Tampa Bay that year. Joyce stuck in the majors in 2011 and had an All-Star season, the only one of his career. He hit .277 with 32 doubles, 19 homers, 75 RBIs and 13 steals (in 14 attempts) over 141 games. In 2012, he hit .241 with 17 homers and 59 RBIs in 124 games. He dropped down to a .235 average in 2013, with 18 homers, 47 RBIs and 59 walks in 140 games. He played 140 games in 2014 as well during his last season in Tampa Bay. He hit .254 that year, though his home run total was cut in half. His OPS went down every year after his high mark of .837 in 2011, but the worst was yet to come.

Joyce played the 2015 season with the Los Angeles Angels, where he hit .174 with five homers in 93 games. That was his eighth season in the majors and it was easily his worst performance at the plate. He signed as a free agent with the Pirates in Spring Training of 2016. Joyce started 44 games in the outfield for the Pirates and another four in the DH spot. He played 140 games total, coming off the bench in the other 92 games. He batted .220 with four homers, 15 RBIs and 21 walks in 81 pinch-hitting appearances. Joyce posted an .866 OPS in 293 plate appearances that year. He left via free agency after the season and signed with the Oakland A’s, where he set career highs with 33 doubles, 25 homers, 66 walks and 78 runs scored in 2017. The next year he hit .208 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 83 games. He signed with the Cleveland Indians as a free agent in 2019, but he was cut during Spring Training. The Giants signed him, but just four days later he was sold to the Atlanta Braves, where hit batted .295 in 129 games, mostly seeing time off of the bench. He had seven homers and 23 RBIs in 200 at-bats. Joyce signed with the Miami Marlins for the shortened 2020 season and he hit .252 with two homers in 46 games. He had a .100 average through 36 games in 2021 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Through late July of 2021, in 1,393 games over 13 seasons, he has a .242/.342/.426 slash line, with 149 homers and 502 RBIs.

Kevin Elster, shortstop for the 1997 Pirates. He was signed as a second round draft pick of the New York Mets in January of 1984 out of Golden West College. He debuted in pro ball at 19 years old with Little Falls of the New York-Penn League, where he hit .257 with 13 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 71 games. Elster split the 1985 season evenly between A-Ball and Double-A, playing 59 games at each level. He combined to hit .276 with 22 doubles and nine homers, with much better results at the lower level. In 1986 he spent the entire minor league season in Double-A, where he batted .269 with 24 extra-base hits and 61 walks in 127 games. Elster made his first appearance in the majors as a September call-up that year, batting .167 in 19 games. He was in Triple-A in 1987, where he established himself as a true prospect, hitting .310 in 134 games, with 33 doubles, seven triples, eight homers and 75 RBIs. He played five games that year in the majors, then he won the Mets starting shortstop job on Opening Day in 1988. He held the job until 1992, but he began to miss significant playing time with injuries, including the last 60 games of the 1990 season, and nearly all of the 1992-93 seasons.

Elster hit .214 with 21 extra-base hits in 149 games in his first full season in the majors. While the .594 OPS didn’t impress, he did make consistent contact, striking out just 47 times in 450 plate appearances. He improved the next year, batting .231 with 25 doubles and ten homers in 151 games. That year he led all National League shortstops in putouts. In 1990 he batted .207 with 20 doubles and nine homers in 92 games. A shoulder injury ended his season early. In 1991 he batted .241 with 24 extra-base hits in 114 games. His shoulder problems returned in 1992 and he played just six games, then was let go after the season by the Mets. He played briefly in the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers and he was with the Florida Marlins for a short time, but most of the 1993 season was spent at home. He signed with the San Diego Padres for 1994, but he got released during Spring Training. On May 1st he signed with the New York Yankees and spent most of the year in the minors, coming up for seven games in which he went 0-for-20 at the plate. He batted .118 in ten games for the 1995 Yankees before being released in June. He was signed by the Kansas City Royals, but his stay there was less than a full week and he didn’t see the majors. He then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he batted .208 in 26 games.

From the 1992 season through the end of 1995, Elster played just 49 Major League games, with almost no success, so his 1996 season came as quite a surprise. Finally healthy, he played a career high 157 games for the Texas Rangers, hitting .252 with 24 homers and 99 RBIs. The Pirates signed him in December of 1996 as a free agent. Elster was hitting .225 with seven homers and 25 RBIs through 39 games, when he broke his left wrist during a collision at first base on May 16th with Marlins’ pitcher Kurt Abbott. He would not return from that injury that season, marking the end of him brief time in Pittsburgh. Elster re-signed with the Rangers in 1998 and hit .232 with eight homers in 84 games. He didn’t play at all in 1999, then returned to finish his pro career with the 2000 Dodgers, where he batted .227 with 14 homers in 80 games. He was a .228 hitter in 940 Major League games over 13 seasons, hitting 88 homers and driving in 376 runs.

Mackey Sasser, catcher for the 1987 and 1995 Pirates. He was a fifth round draft pick in January of 1984 at 21 years old by the San Francisco Giants. He was a catcher in the majors, but didn’t start the position full-time until his third season. Sasser played first base, third base and outfield in 1984, while hitting .290 with 33 extra-base hits, 71 RBIs and 16 steals (in 18 attempts) in 134 games. He spent the entire 1985 season with Fresno of the California League, where he hit .338 with 27 doubles, 14 homers and 102 RBIs in 133 games. While he still played some first base and outfield in the Double-A Texas League in 1986, a majority of his time was spent behind the plate. He hit .293 with 39 extra-base hits in 120 games that season. The 1987 season started in Triple-A, before Sasser was called up to the majors in mid-July of 1987, where he went 0-for-4 in two games with the Giants. The Pirates acquired him on July 31, 1987 in exchange for pitcher Don Robinson.  Sasser went to Triple-A until September, joining the Pirates for the last month of the season, where he hit .217 with two RBIs in 23 at-bats. The Pirates traded Sasser to the Mets on March 26, 1988 in exchange for young first baseman Randy Milligan. Sasser spent five seasons in New York, batting .283 with 133 RBIs in 420 games. Sasser developed a mental block with the simple task of throwing the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch. He began to double and sometimes triple-clutch before making the throw. The Mets began using him at other positions to get his bat in the lineup, spending time at first base and outfield.

Serving as the backup to Hall of Famer Gary Carter in 1988, Sasser hit .285 with one homer and 17 RBIs in 60 games. Carter was injured for a time in 1989 and Sasser split playing time with Barry Lyons. Sasser hit .291 with one homer and 22 RBIs in 72 games. He played in a career high of 100 games during the 1990 season, hitting .307 with 14 doubles, six homers and 41 RBIs. That double total was a career high for him, which he would match in each of the next two seasons. In 1991, Sasser batted .272 with five homers and 35 RBIs in 96 games. He never drew many walks during his career, so it led to low runs scored totals, with a career high of 31 in 1990, and just 18 runs in 1991. That number got really low in 1992 when he batted .241 with two homers and seven runs scored in 92 games, though he was used mostly off of the bench. He had just three walks that year. Sasser signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in December of 1992 and hit .218 with one homer in 83 games in 1993. The next year he played just three big league games before he was released by Seattle in May. He signed with the San Diego Padres, although he never played in the majors for them. He also spent part of the season playing in Mexico. Sasser signed as a free agent with the Pirates in December of 1994. He played 14 games for Pittsburgh in 1995 before being released in mid-May after hitting .154 in 26 at-bats, with a double and no walks. He finished his playing career in the Mexican League the next season. He was a .267 hitter over his nine-year Major League career, with 16 homers, 156 RBIs and 103 runs scored in 534 games.

Sid Bream, first baseman for the 1985-90 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1981 out of Liberty University, who played 66 games for Los Angeles over parts of three seasons, before the Pirates acquired him in September of 1985 for Bill Madlock. Bream debuted in pro ball in the Florida State League in 1981, where he hit .327 with 47 RBIs in 71 games. He started the 1982 season back in the same league, but he was in Triple-A by the end of the year, quickly going through Double-A to get there. Bream hit .316 with 87 runs scored, 32 doubles, 13 homers and 95 RBIs in 136 games that season. In 1983, he hit .307 with 115 runs scored, 23 doubles, 32 homers and 118 RBIs in 138 games at Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League. He played 15 games for the Dodgers that September, but he received just 13 plate appearances. In 1984, Bream hit .343 with 20 homers and 90 RBIs in 114 games at Triple-A, while also batting .184 in 27 games with the Dodgers. He did even better in Triple-A in 1985, hitting .370 with 25 doubles, 17 homers and 57 RBIs in 85 games. With the Dodgers that season, he hit just .132 in 24 games. On September 9, 1985 he was sent to the Pirates along with Cecil Espy as the players to be named later in an August trade involving Bill Madlock.

After joining the Pirates, Bream stepped right in as the team’s starting first baseman, a job he would hold full-time until a 1989 injury caused him to miss all but 19 games of that season. He hit .284 in 26 games after the trade, with three homers and 15 RBIs. In 1986, he batted .268 with 37 doubles, 16 homers, 77 RBIs, 60 walks and 16 steals. During the 1987 season, he hit .275 with 25 doubles and 13 homers in 149 games. Bream batted .264 with 37 doubles and ten homers in 148 games in 1988. He injured his knee early in 1989 and had a brief comeback before undergoing season ending surgery. He hit just .222 with no homers in 19 games that year. He returned healthy in 1990 to have a Sid Bream-like season, batting .270 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 147 games. After batting .500 in the NLCS that year, with a homer and three RBIs, he signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves. He played three seasons in Atlanta and nothing interesting happened there, especially not in the playoffs. He batted .270 with 23 doubles, 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 147 games in 1991. That was followed by a .253 average and 11 homers over 91 games in the 1992 season. In 1993, Bream batted .260 with nine homers and 35 RBIs in 117 games. He moved on to the Houston Astros for the 1994 season, where he hit .344 in limited bench time. In six seasons in Pittsburgh, Bream hit .269 with 57 homers and 293 RBIs in 643 games. In his 12-year big league career, he hit .264 with 90 homers, 455 RBIs and 351 runs scored in 1,088 games.

Jim Gott, relief pitcher for the 1987-89 and 1995 Pirates. He was a draft pick of the 1977 St Louis Cardinals, taken in the fourth round out of high school at 17 years old. He pitched that first season in the Pioneer League and didn’t look like a future MLB veteran, posting a 9.55 ERA in 65 innings. Things turned around quickly though, as he had a 3.54 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 173 innings over two levels of A-Ball in 1978. However, his 1979 season, which was split over three levels, didn’t go well no matter where he played. His lowest ERA for those three teams that season was the 5.40 mark he had in Double-A. That left him back in A-Ball for the entire 1980 season, where he went 5-11, 4.60 in 137 innings in the Florida State League. He returned to Double-A in 1981 and had a 5-9, 3.44 record in 131 innings. Without any Triple-A experience, Gott made his debut as a starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent the entire 1982 season after they acquired him through the Rule 5 draft. He went 5-10, 4.43 in 136 innings as a rookie, making 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He went 9-14, 4.74 in 176.2 innings in 1983, then switched between starting and relief in 1984. That year Gott had a 7-6, 4.02 record in 109.2 innings over 12 starts and 23 relief appearances. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants in January of 1985 and went 7-10, 3.88 in 26 starts, covering 148.1 innings.

Gott started for most of his first four seasons in the majors, compiling a 28-40, 4.31 record. After 1985 however, he would make just five more starts over the last ten years of his career, none of those with Pittsburgh. He missed most of the 1986 season with a bicep injury, then started 1987 with a 4.50 ERA in 56 innings over 30 games. The Pirates acquired Gott off waivers from the Giants on August 3, 1987, which was his 28th birthday. After mediocre results in San Francisco that season, he finished strong in Pittsburgh as the team’s closer, with a 1.45 ERA and 13 saves in 25 games. In 1988, he saved 34 games, going 6-6, 3.49 in 67 games. He dealt with elbow pain in Spring Training of 1989 and his season lasted just one game before he was shut down. Gott became a free agent at the end of 1989 and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he spent five seasons. He occasionally closed in Los Angeles, going 19-22, 2.99 in 272 games, while picking up 38 saves.

Gott went 3-5, 2.90 in 62 innings over 50 appearances in 1990. He had a 4-3, 2.96 record in 76 innings over 55 outings in 1991. He saw more work and lowered his ERA in 1992, going 3-3, 2.45 in 88 innings over 68 games, with six saves. He moved into the closer role for the 1993 season and had his lowest ERA, going 4-8, 2.32 in 68 games and 77.2 innings pitched, while picking up 25 saves. He had a 5.94 ERA in 36.1 innings over 37 games during his last season with the Dodgers in 1994. Gott signed with the Pirates as a free agent the next April and was ineffective most of the year, with a 2-4, 6.03 record and three saves in 31.1 innings over 25 games. That would mark the end of his 14-year big league career, leaving him with a 56-74, 3.87 record in 1,120 innings over 554 games (96 starts).

Gus Getz, third baseman for the 1918 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, who began his pro career in 1908 with McKeesport of the Class-C Ohio-Pa. League. He batted .273 in 35 games during his first season, then batted .282 in 95 games for McKeesport in 1909. In August of 1909, the Boston Doves purchased his rights. Getz played in 40 of the last 51 games of the season, hitting .223 with nine RBIs, while getting most of his time in at third base. The Doves finished with a 45-108 record that season. The next year, he saw time at all three outfield spots and three infield positions (all but first base), hitting .194 with seven RBIs in 54 games. In November, Boston sold him to the minors, where he spent the next three seasons. Getz was a light-hitting infielder, who liked to put the ball in play. In 307 plate appearances with Boston, he had three extra base hits, seven walks and twenty strikeouts. He would improve on the power numbers slightly, but over his seven-year Major League career, he walked just 24 times in 1,172 plate appearances, with 56 strikeouts. Getz hit just two homers in his career, and amazingly they came just eight days apart. They both came against Philadelphia, one at home and one on the road.

In 1911, Getz hit .277 with 21 doubles in 118 games for Indianapolis of the American Association. He dropped down a level in competition in 1912, playing in the New York State League, where he hit .299 in 137 games for Elmira. From there he spent all of 1913 and part of 1914 with Newark of the International League. Getz hit .275 with 22 extra-base hits and 35 stolen bases in 137 games in 1913, then batted .289 with 16 doubles and 28 steals in 107 games in 1914. He returned to the majors in 1914 with the Brooklyn Robins, where he stayed for three seasons. He hit .248 with nine extra-base hits and nine steals in 55 games over the rest of the 1914 season. In 1915, Getz had his best season, hitting .258 with 46 RBIs in 130 games. It was the only season he played more than 55 games in a big league season. After hitting .219 over 40 games in 1916, he began to get moved around the majors and minors quickly. The Cincinnati Reds took him off waivers in April of 1917, though he was soon sent to Newark of the Eastern League. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians for the 1918, but he lasted just one month, hitting .133 in six games. The Pirates picked him up off waivers in early May, then played him seven times in two months, all off the bench. He went 2-for-10 at the plate, and played parts of two games at third base. On July 16, 1918, the Pirates traded Getz to Indianapolis of the American Association for shortstop Roy Ellam. Getz played in the minors off and on until 1927, managing for two years (1927-28) as well, before retiring from baseball. In his big league career, he hit .238 with 93 RBIs and 85 runs scored in 339 games. With his low average and low walk rate, he finished with a .257 OBP.