Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note.
On this date in 1971, the Pirates traded pitcher Ed Acosta and outfielder Johnny Jeter to the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Bob Miller. Jeter was 26 years old at the time, coming off a season in which he served as a backup outfielder for the Pirates, hitting .238 with 12 RBIs and 27 runs scored in 85 games. He had also played briefly for the Pirates in 1969, but in 1971, he had spent the entire year in Triple-A, hitting .324 with 36 steals and 17 homers in 138 games. Acosta was a 27-year-old, tall righty, with only three games of Major League experience, those appearances coming with the 1970 Pirates. He was also in Triple-A in 1971 for the Pirates, with a 12-11, 2.72 record in 26 starts and one relief appearance. Miller was a 32-year-old righty reliever, in his 14th season in the majors. He was pitching well for the Padres, who had picked him up early in the season from the Chicago Cubs.
After going 7-3, 1.41 with seven saves in 38 appearances for San Diego, Miller went 1-2, 1.29 with three saves in 28 innings over 16 outings for the Pirates. He pitched 7.2 innings in the postseason, and while he was credited with the loss in game six of the World Series, the Pirates still went on to win their fourth title that year. Miller also spent the entire 1972 season with the Pirates and put up strong stats in a bullpen role. Jeter hit .320 over the last month of the 1971 season in the majors, then batted .221 with an 18:92 BB/SO ratio the next year as the Padres center fielder. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the 1972 season and played 95 games over his last two years in the majors. Just like Jeter, Acosta also performed well right after the deal, then had his problems in his only full season in San Diego. Unlike Jeter, Acosta never played in the majors after 1972, finishing his career with two seasons in the minors. He was 6-9, 3.87 in 135 innings over 54 games (eight starts) for the Padres.
Bob Porterfield, pitcher for the 1958-59 Pirates. After serving in the Army during WWII, he played his first minor league games at 22 years old in 1946, seeing time in Class-D ball, while spending part of the year in the Class-B Piedmont League for Norfolk. Porterfield went 8-8, 3.61 in 152 innings during his first season. He spent all of 1947 with Norfolk, going 17-9, 2.37 in 239 innings. The next year he jumped three levels to Triple-A Newark of the Eastern League, the affiliate of the New York Yankees. He had a 15-6, 2.17 in 178 innings that season, then joined the Yankees in August for 12 starts and four relief appearances. Porterfield went 5-3, 4.50 in 78 innings. He saw limited work, with mediocre, then poor results during the 1949-50 seasons. The Yankees won the World Series in 1950, but his contribution that year amounted to an 8.69 ERA in 19.2 innings. For the first three and a half years of his Major League career, he was a seldom used pitcher for the New York Yankees, going 8-9, 5.06 in 40 appearances. In the middle of 1951, Porterfield was traded to the Washington Senators, where he became an All-Star pitcher for a brief time. At the time of the deal, he had allowed six runs in three innings with the Yankees. After the trade, he finished off the 1951 season by going 9-8, 3.24 in 133.1 innings. The Yankees didn’t miss him, but they clearly gave up on him too soon. In 1952, he had a 13-14, 2.72 record in 231.1 innings, with the lowest home run rate in the American League.
In five seasons with Washington, Porterfield went 67-64, 3.38 in 1,041.2 innings over 146 games (138 as a starter). He was an All-Star selection in 1954, but his best season by far was in 1953, when he led the American League with 22 wins and nine shutouts. That 22-10, 3.35 record in 255 innings came with a team that finished with a .500 record, so they were not good when he wasn’t on the mound. Porterfield finished seventh in the MVP voting that season. During his lone All-Star campaign, he went 13-15, 3.32 in 244 innings, with a league leading 21 complete games. This season wasn’t much different from his 1953 season except that the Senators finished with a 66-88 record. His results dropped off the next year significantly, with a 10-17, 4.45 record in 178 innings. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in November of 1955.
Portfield struggled in Boston, while also seeing a decline in his time on the mound. He was 3-12, 5.14 in 126 innings in 1956. Pitching more in relief in 1957, he went 4-4, 4.05 in 102.1 innings. The Pirates purchased his contract in early May of 1958 after two relief appearances for the Red Sox. For the Pirates that season, he pitched 37 times (six starts), going 4-6, 3.27 with five saves in 87.2 innings. Porterfield began the 1959 season with the Pirates, throwing 5.1 innings over the first month of the season before he was released. He was picked up by the Chicago Cubs and got hit hard there in four appearances over a five-week stretch. Porterfield was put on waivers, where the Pirates picked him up and used him in a relief role for the rest of the season. He pitched 36 innings over 30 appearances, in what would end up as his last season in the majors. He ended up with a 5.29 ERA in 47.2 innings that season. Porterfield went on to pitch two more years in the minors before retiring. In 12 seasons, he finished with an 87-97, 3.79 record in 1,567.2 innings over 318 Major League games, 193 of those games came as a starter.
Elmer Jacobs, pitcher for the 1916-18 Pirates. He had a successful career as a minor league pitcher, but that strong pitching that led to 220 minor league wins over 13 seasons, never translated well to the majors. Jacobs was still able to last nine years in the big leagues, finishing with a 50-81 record. He began his career in the 1912 at 19 years old, pitching two years of minor league ball ,prior to spending the 1914 season with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was in Class-D ball both of those seasons, going 34-38, while throwing 582 innings total. With the Phillies, which was a tremendous jump in competition over the previous year, he went 1-3, 4.80 in 50.2 innings over seven starts and seven relief appearances. It was back to the minors in 1915, where he spent the entire year with Albany of the Class-B New York State League, where he posted a 10-16 record (full stats are unavailable). In December of 1915, the Pirates purchased his contract from the Phillies, though that wasn’t the plan of Philadelphia. They believed that he had a lot of promise, and tried to sneak him through waivers so he could be farmed out to Portland of the Pacific Coast League. The Pirates were the only team that claimed him and refused to give up that claim, so they were able to purchase him for the $1,500 waiver fee. Jacobs would switch between starting and relieving for Pittsburgh in 1916, being used 17 times in each role. He had a 6-10, 2.94 record in 153 innings. While it sounds like a strong ERA, it was actually just the fifth best on the team and 18 points higher than the combined team ERA (which ranked the Pirates sixth in the National League). The 1917 Pirates were one of the worst teams in franchise history. They went 51-103 while scoring only 464 runs all year. Jacobs would pitch often that season, making 25 starts and 13 relief appearances for a combined total of 227.1 innings. His 2.81 ERA ranked third on the team, but due to the lack of run support, his record stood at just 6-19 when the season was over.
In 1918, Jacobs struggled early, unable to get through five innings in any of his first four starts. The Pirates traded him to the Phillies on June 20, 1918 in exchange for pitcher Erskine Mayer. Jacobs would pitch well for Philadelphia that year, going 9-5, 2.41 in 123 innings. It would end up being his only winning season in the big leagues. He split the next year between Phillies and St Louis Cardinals, combining to go 9-16, 3.32 in 214 innings. He spent all of 1920 with St Louis and struggled, going 4-8, 5.21 in 77.2 innings. Jacobs pitched the 1921-23 seasons for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. He put together a 66-41 record during that time, topped by his 24-10, 3.13 mark in 312 innings in 1923. After his three-year stint in the minors, he returned to the majors with the 1924-25 Chicago Cubs. Jacobs went 11-12, 3.74 in 190.1 innings in 1924, followed by a 5.17 ERA in 55.2 innings in 1925, which he split between the Cubs and Los Angeles of the PCL. He won 20 games for Los Angeles in 1926, then the 1927 Chicago White Sox gave him his last chance in the majors. He was 2-4, 4.60 in 74.1 innings that season, making eight starts and 17 relief appearances. Jacobs spent the last five years of his pro career in the minors, playing the first four seasons with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. He went 50-81, 3.55 in 1,189.1 big league innings, with 133 starts and 117 relief appearances.
Pat Kilhullen, catcher for the Pirates on June 10, 1914. He was in his third season of minor league ball when the Pirates came calling, putting him into his only Major League game on June 10, 1914. He was with a team from Fitchburg, Mass. of the New England League, when he joined the Pirates as they played in Boston that day. He actually played the day before for Fitchburg, then traveled after the game to meet the team. Pirates scout Billy Murray saw him play that season and sent a favorable report to the management, so when the Pirates went east, they asked him to join the team in Boston. They gave him a tryout pre-game, then inserted him into the lineup in the eighth inning, with the score well out of hand. Kilhullen batted once and was robbed of a hit on a nice play up the middle by Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville. The one day scouting report on him by The Pittsburgh Press, was that he was a sturdy kid, who handled himself well, crowded the plate and had a strong throwing arm. The trial given to Kilhullen ended up being just that, a trial, because the asking price for his release from the Fitchburg ballclub turned out to be too high. When the Pirates left Boston, Kilhullen returned to his old team. It was said that the Pirates were given five days to decide if they wanted to keep him by Fitchburg manager Fred Lake. By June 15th, he was back in the Fitchburg lineup. He ended up playing minor league ball until 1922, when his career (and life) ended that October due to smallpox. The early part of his career, from 1912 at 21 years old, to 1916, was spent in the New England area. He went to the West Coast in 1917, then spent the 1918 season working a war job, while also playing baseball in the shipyard league. He didn’t return to the pro ranks until that fateful 1922 season. The name “Pat” was actually a nickname, and he mostly went by his first name Joseph (Joe), including during his brief time with the Pirates.
Truck Eagan, shortstop for the 1901 Pirates. He hit over 100 homers in the minors over 14 seasons, during an era when the Major League record for homers was 138 by Roger Connor. Truck’s career home run total is missing three full years of data, but he hit at least 105 homers during his minor league playing days. He spent most of his pro career playing on the west coast, but he played his entire Major League career in two cities well to the east, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Eagan’s stint in the majors lasted just one month, making his debut with the Pirates on May 1, 1901, and playing his last game on May 30th with the Cleveland Blues (Indians). Truck (his first name was Charles) played three games at shortstop for the Pirates, and one game off the bench as a pinch-hitter, while regular shortstop Bones Ely missed a week of action early in the season. When Ely returned on May 7th, it marked the end of Eagan’s time with the Pirates. He was released to a minor league team in Columbus, but he refused to report. A few weeks later, he played five games for the Blues at second base. Before he debuted with the Pirates, he played against them in an in-season exhibition game on April 26th, handling shortstop for a team of college players. His signing by the Pirates was actually announced on April 9th on the west coast, where he was playing winter ball that year prior to signing. He was practicing with the Pirates within a week, so that exhibition game actually came while he was a member of the Pirates and he just switched teams for the day. Truck finished with a .133 Major League average, with seven strikeouts in 31 plate appearances. He collected one single and two RBIs while with Pittsburgh. Over a seven-year stretch in the Pacific Coast League (1903-09), he played between 180 and 210 games each season. His nickname “Truck” came from his off-season job of pushing a hand truck, which helped make him stronger. The nickname pre-dates his pro career, which began in 1898, first showing up in print on August 30, 1897 while playing for a team called the Bushnell Alerts of Alameda. After his playing days, he picked up the nickname of the “Babe Ruth of the West Coast”. Ruth’s career didn’t begin until after Eagan retired.