Today we have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. There are also two transactions of note, one involving a Hall of Fame pitcher.
On this date in 1990, the Pirates traded 1989 first round pick Willie Greene, pitcher Scott Ruskin and a player to be named later, to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Zane Smith. Eight days later, they sent Moises Alou to the Expos to complete the deal. Smith was a 29-year-old lefty, in his seventh season in the majors. He was acquired to help the Pirates make a pennant run and he did just that, going 6-2, 1.30 in 76 innings over the last two months of the season. After the deal, he remained in Pittsburgh another four seasons, then returned for a final year in 1996, finishing with 47 wins for the Pirates. Greene had a nine-year career in the majors, but his first good season didn’t come until six years after this deal, and by then he was with the Cincinnati Reds. Ruskin pitched two years for Montreal, appearing 87 times out of the bullpen, with a 3.65 ERA and six saves. Both he and Greene were dealt to the Reds following the 1991 season. Ruskin pitched two years in Cincinnati with very minimal success. Alou went on the have an outstanding career, making six All-Star teams and hitting .303 with 332 career homers. Short-term the deal didn’t hurt the Pirates, as they had no outfield spot for Alou at the time and he was injured during the entire 1991 season.
On this date in 1934, the Pirates sign 40-year-old pitcher Burleigh Grimes, who was joining the Pirates for the third time in his career. The Pirates were his first team in the majors, though they gave up on the young pitcher too soon, trading him to Brooklyn after two seasons. They did well to reacquire him in 1928, when he won 25 games, and then followed it up with a 17-7 record the next year. A high salary demand in 1930 caused his second departure from the Pirates. Grimes was nearly done as a player by the time he reached the team for a third time. He made four starts and four relief appearances, going 1-2, 7.24 in 27.1 innings. His only win was the 270th and last of his Major League career. Grimes went on to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964
Ross Ohlendorf, pitcher for the Pirates from 2008 until 2011. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004, taken in the fourth round out of Princeton University. He made seven starts his first year in short-season ball, posting a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings. In 2005, he spent the entire year in the Low-A Midwest League, where he had an 11-10, 4.53 record in 157 innings, with 144 strikeouts. Ohlendorf made 27 starts in Double-A in 2006 and one Triple-A start. He had a 10-8, 3.25 record in 182.2 innings. Despite better results and pitching 25.2 innings more than the previous year, he saw his strikeouts drop to 129 that season. Ohlendorf was one of the four players sent to the New York Yankees when Arizona acquired Randy Johnson on January 9, 2007. He was a starter for most of his time in the minors, but with the Yankees, they used him more often in relief over the 2007-08 seasons. He debuted in the majors during the 2007 season after posting a 5.02 ERA in Triple-A that year. In six September big league games, he had a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings. He then attended the Arizona Fall League. In 2008, he made five Triple-A starts and pitched 25 times in relief for the Yankees, putting up a 6.53 ERA in 40 innings.
On July 26, 2008, Ohlendorf was traded to the Pirates, along with Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. Ohlendorf went to the minors after the deal, before coming up to Pittsburgh in September for five starts, in which he went 0-3, 6.35, failing to get past the fifth inning in each of the last four starts. Despite that poor trial with the Pirates, he made the Opening Day rotation the next year, going 11-10, 3.92 in 176.2 innings over 29 starts. His 2010 season was marred by injury and lack of run support when he did pitch. He hurt his back early in the year, took a line drive off the head in July and missed the end of the year with a shoulder strain. Ohlendorf finished the season with a 1-11, 4.07 record in 108.1 innings over 21 starts. Even with the poor win/loss record and time missed, Ohlendorf won a substantial raise in arbitration over the 2010-11 off-season. When he returned the next year, he fell well short of earning his pay. He went 1-3, 8.15 in 38.2 innings over nine starts, pitching nearly as many innings in the minors on rehab as he did in the majors. He was released in December and signed with the Boston Red Sox, who released him in June of 2012after ten minor league starts. Ohlendorf signed with the San Diego Padres for the rest of 2012 and did poorly, with a 7.77 ERA in 48.2 innings.
Despite the rough times during the 2011-12 seasons, Ohlendorf had some mild big league success ahead of him. He put up solid stats for the Washington Nationals in 2013, going 4-1, 3.28 in 60.1 innings over seven starts and nine relief appearances. The 2014 season was limited to just rehab work in the minors due to injuries. Ohlendorf appeared as a reliever for the 2015 Texas Rangers and 2016 Cincinnati Reds. He had a 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings over 21 appearances in 2015, then posted a 5-7, 4.66 record in 65.2 innings over 64 outings in 2016. He finished his pro career in Japan in 2017. In nine big league seasons, he went 30-41, 4.82 ERA over 586.1 innings, making 80 starts and 129 relief appearances. He went 13-27, 4.60 in 346.1 innings with the Pirates. No pitcher (excluding players currently with the team) in Pirates franchise history has made more starts (64) without pitching a complete game. His actual first name is Curtis. Ross is his middle name.
Brett Gideon, pitcher for the 1987 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the eighth round in 1983 by the Houston Astros out of Coastal Bend College. He transferred to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and was a sixth round draft pick in 1985 by the Pirates. Gideon is one of just two draft picks from that school to make the majors. He began as a starter in the minors, but quickly moved to a relief role. He went right to Low-A after being drafted and had a 4-7, 4.15 record in 82.1 innings. In 1986, Gideon pitched in three different levels, from Low-A up to Double-A. He combined to go 6-8, 4.06 in 115.1 innings, with his best results coming in Low-A. He spent all of his minor league time in 1987 playing in Double-A, where he posted a 1.98 ERA and 12 saves, with 39 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. Despite never pitching in Triple-A, Gideon was called up to the majors in July of 1987. He pitched 29 games in relief that year for Pittsburgh, posting a 1-5, 4.66 record in 36.2 innings. He was back in Double-A the following season, where he again pitched great, with a 1.36 ERA in 39.2 innings. Gideon also made 24 appearances in Triple-A, posting a 3.64 ERA and nine saves in 42 innings. However, he didn’t make it back to the majors that season. He was traded to the Montreal Expos on March 28, 1989 in exchange for veteran pitcher Neal Heaton. Gideon pitched four games for the Expos in 1989, giving up one run in 4.2 innings. The rest of the year was spent in Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had a 2.26 ERA in 71.2 innings. He made the Montreal Opening Day roster in 1990, but that season was short-lived. One appearance into the year, he needed elbow surgery, which effectively ended his Major League career. He would pitch just 23 times over the 1991-92 seasons in the minors before retiring. His 1991 season was limited to five innings in High-A, then he signed with the Cleveland Indians for 1992, where he spent the year in Double-A, putting up a 3.75 ERA in 24 innings over 19 appearances.
Mark Ross, pitcher for the 1987 and 1990 Pirates. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1979 as a seventh round pick out of Texas A&M. Ross played small parts of three seasons in Houston, from 1982 until 1985, pitching a total of 14 games. He was a relief pitcher in all but one season (1988) during his 13-year career in pro ball. He debuted in pro ball in the lowest level, getting in just seven innings in the Gulf Coast League in 1979. The next year was spent between the Florida State League, where he had a 1.71 ERA in 58 innings, and Double-A, where he had a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings. In 1981, Ross spent the year back with Columbus of the Double-A Southern League, going 8-10, 2.25, with 22 saves in 116 innings over 59 appearances. He moved up to Triple-A Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League in 1982 and had a 4.88 ERA in 83 innings. Ross made four September appearances with the Astros and allowed one run in six innings. After struggling through a 1983 season that included a demotion to Double-A, he bounced back in 1984 to post a 2.93 ERA in 92 innings in Tuscon, along with two scoreless appearances for the Astros. He saw more big league time in 1985, putting up a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings over eight relief outings. During the 1986 season, he spent the entire year in Triple-A, posting a 4.17 ERA with eight saves in 48 appearances. Ross became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates in December. He spent most of 1987 pitching for Vancouver, the Pirates Triple-A affiliate. There he went 5-6, 3.02 in 32 games, pitching 89.1 innings. He pitched one game in 1987 for the Pirates, on August 16th, allowing one run in one inning on a homer by Hall of Famer Tim Raines. Ross signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after the season and spent two years in their organization, making three Major League appearances during the 1988 season. Following the 1989 season, he re-signed with the Pirates and ended up seeing more work in 1990 than he did any other season in the majors, though that amounted to nine games. He was called up in June and then again in August, throwing a total of 12.2 innings, with a 3.55 ERA. He also picked up one of two big league wins during his career. He pitched in the minors in 1991 for the Atlanta Braves before retiring. In 42.1 innings over 27 big league games, he had a 3.83 ERA.
Clise Dudley, pitcher for the Pirates on September 15, 1933. Three pitchers in franchise history have failed to record an out while allowing earned runs, leaving them with and infinite ERA (designated as .inf). Of any pitcher in franchise history who has recorded an out, 946 in all (as of 7/28/2021), not one has a higher ERA than Clise Dudley. He pitched eight seasons in the minors, finishing with a 63-71 record, which should give an indication of how his Major League career went. He debuted in pro ball in 1924 at 20 years old and spent his first four seasons playing for Class-B Greenville of the South Atlantic League, along with a brief stop with Spartanburg (same league) in 1926. He had a 4.75 ERA in 72 innings his first season, then went 13-12, 4.87 in 220 innings in 1925. He had a 16-10 record (no ERA available) and threw 215 innings in 1926. Dudley improved to 14-12, 3.71 in 194 innings in 1927. The next year he played one level higher for Atlanta of the Southern Association, where he went 11-15, 3.23 in 220 innings.
As a rookie in 1929, Dudley went 6-14, 5.69 in 156.2 innings for the Brooklyn Robins. The ERA sounds very high, but the 1929-30 seasons were huge years for offense in baseball. The next year he went 2-4,6.35, pitching a total of 66.2 innings with a 1.95 WHIP. He made seven starts and 14 relief appearances. After the season, he was part of a five-player/cash deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Dudley pitched much better in 1931, but the Phillies ended up in sixth place and he finished with an 8-14, 3.52 record in 179 innings. Dudley’s 1932 season did not go well, as he was a seldom used mop-up pitcher, making 13 appearances with a 7.13 ERA in 17.2 innings. He spent the 1933 season pitching for two teams in the Southern Association, where he had a 5.52 ERA in 132 innings. He was a free agent at the end of the season due to an arm injury that put him out of action. On September 12th he reported to the Pirates without a contract, asking for a chance to prove that his arm was healthy. The Pirates signed him on September 14th and then used him the next day when starter Hal Smith couldn’t get out of the third inning. Dudley recorded the final out of the third, then when he came out for the fourth inning, he was unable to retire a batter before he was pulled, leaving him with five earned runs and a 135.00 ERA. Dudley was released by the Pirates on November 2, 1933, marking the end of his big league career in the process. He pitched ten minor league games in 1934 before retiring. His real first name was Elzie, but Clise was his middle name and he preferred to use that instead.
Billy Gumbert, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys and 1892 Pirates. He made his Major League debut on June 19, 1890, pitching the first game of a doubleheader that day. In game two, George Ziegler pitched his only Major League game. The Alleghenys decided to keep Gumbert in their rotation and release Ziegler immediately after the game. Ziegler owed his big league debut to Gumbert, because the stated plan going into the day was that Ziegler would only pitch if Gumbert won the opening game, which he did by a 9-2 score over Cleveland. Gumbert was a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, who pitched locally in the minors and amateur/semi-pro ball. In fact, just two days before his big league debut, he pitched against the Alleghenys in an exhibition game. The Alleghenys won just 12 of their last 94 games that season, yet he was able to pick up four wins in ten starts. The reason he made only ten starts that year was because he only pitched home games, due to business ventures in town that left him unable to travel with the team. When Pittsburgh started drawing poorly at home, they began to reschedule their games as road games, because the visiting team share of the profits greatly exceeded what they made at home, leaving Gumbert with fewer chances to pitch. The team’s total attendance for forty home dates that year is listed at 16,064 (my own research says it was only slightly higher), due in part to their extremely poor play, and also due to the better play of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, playing often on the same days at home just a few miles away.
On July 26, 1890, Gumbert out-dueled Hall of Fame pitcher John Clarkson in a 4-3 win. After the game, it was announced that he finally signed a contract with the Alleghenys. Prior to that day, he was getting paid $15 per game pitched. Since he was still playing only home games, the only thing that changed was that he was officially signed by the team. He still received $15 per start. Gumbert’s next start was a loss to Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. His final start of the 1890 season was against Clarkson again and he Gumbert was once again victorious. He was scheduled to pitch one more time before the season ended, but it was rained out, costing him $15. Gumbert pitched again for the Pirates in 1892, again only playing home games, going 3-2, 1.36 in six games. His only other Major League game came as a member of the 1893 Louisville Colonels, and as one might expect, it was a game played in Pittsburgh. He allowed two hits, walked five and couldn’t make it out of the first inning, in a game that was won 11-10 by Louisville. His only minor league experience includes 55 innings in 1887 at 21 years old, and one game in the Pennsylvania State League in 1892. His brother Ad Gumbert won 123 Major League games and pitched for the Pirates for two season (1893-94). His great-nephew Harry Gumbert won 143 games and pitched for the 1949-50 Pirates.