A very busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays. Ten in all, with some interesting (and tragic) stories among the group.
Rick Reed, Pirates pitcher from 1988 until 1991. He was signed by the Pirates in 1986 as a 26th round draft pick out of Marshall University. It didn’t take him long to make the majors, despite the fact he spent the entire 1987 season pitching in Low-A ball strictly as a reliever. He had a 3.56 ERA in 30.1 innings in 1986, spending most of his time in the Gulf Coast League. Playing for Macon of the South Atlantic League in 1988, he went 8-4, 2.50 with seven saves in 93.2 innings over 46 appearances. Reed made a huge jump in 1988, plus he made the move to a starting role. He began the year in High-A, playing for Salem of the Carolina League. Within four months he moved up to Double-A, on to Triple-A, then into the majors. He had a 12-4, 2.07 record in 165.1 minor league innings and got better at each level as he went up the ladder. For the Pirates that year, he was 1-0, 3.00 in two starts. Even with the strong start to his big league time, Reed never fully got established in Pittsburgh, splitting each of the next three seasons between Triple-A and the majors. In 1989, he went 1-4, 5.60 in 54.2 innings over seven starts and eight relief appearances in Pittsburgh. When the Pirates broke their playoff drought in 1990, he had a 2-3, 4.36 record in 53.2 innings, split over eight starts and five relief outings. In his four years with the Pirates, Reed went 4-7, 4.98 in 124.2 innings over 31 games, with just one of those games coming during the 1991 season, when he gave up six runs in 4.1 innings. The Pirates released him in April of 1992, just before Opening Day.
Reed bounced around between three teams over the next four years, unable to find success. He pitched decent for the 1992 Kansas City Royals, though it didn’t show in his record. He went 3-7, 3.68 in 100.1 innings, making 18 starts. In 1993 he pitched just once for the Royals and played two games with the Texas Rangers, spending the rest of the year in Triple-A. The Rangers gave him three starts and a relief appearance in 1994. He had a 5.94 ERA in 16.2 innings. His 1995 season saw him have almost the same results, just with the Cincinnati Reds. He once again made three starts and a relief appearance and each year he gave up 11 earned runs. His ERA was 5.82, because he recorded one extra out, going 17 innings. Reed spent the entire 1996 season in the minors with the New York Mets. That was the first time since 1987, that he didn’t play at all in the majors and it seemed to turn him career around. As a starter for the Mets and the Minnesota Twins over the next seven years, he went 84-61. That was after he picked up just nine wins from 1988 until 1996. That run of success began in 1997 when he went 13-9, 2.89 in 208.1 innings with the Mets. He followed that up with a 16-11, 3.48 record in 212.1 innings over 31 starts in 1998. He set a career high with 153 strikeouts. He made his first of two All-Star appearances this season. The next year saw his performance drop a bit, but the record was still strong. He went 11-5, 4.58 in 149.1 innings over 26 starts in 1999. The ERA went down a bit in 30 starts in 2000, but the record stayed the same. Reed finished 11-5, 4.11 in 184 innings. He also made his second (and final) All-Star appearance. The Mets went to the World Series that year and he made one start in each of the three rounds of the postseason, putting up mixed results, with no wins, but decent outings in the NLDS and World Series. In his NLCS start he allowed five runs over 3.1 innings.
Reed split the 2001 season between the Mets and Twins. He had an 8-6, 3.48 record in 20 starts with the Mets, then dropped down to a 4-6, 5.19 record in 12 starts with Minnesota. He was strong in 2002 when he helped the Twins to the playoffs. That year he finished 15-7, 3.78 in 188 innings. The 2003 season didn’t go as well and ended up being his last year in the majors. Reed went 6-12, 5.07 in 135 innings. He re-signed with the Pirates in January of 2004, but didn’t make the team out of Spring Training due to some late injuries. He decided to retire in early April, rather than pitch in Triple-A. In his 15-year big league career, Reed finished up 93-76, 4.03 in 1,545.2 innings.
Al Holland, pitched for the 1977 and 1985 Pirates. He was drafted two times without signing, then eventually signed with the Pirates in June of 1975 as an amateur free agent. The Texas Rangers took him in the 30th round in the 1974 draft out of North Carolina A&T State University. In the January portion of the 1975 draft, he moved up to the fourth round with the San Diego Padres. After signing with the Pirates, he spent the year with two short-season clubs, making a total of 11 starts, going 6-4, 1.92 in 89 innings, with 89 strikeouts. In 1976 Holland spent the year with Salem of the Carolina League, where he put up a 4-2, 2.96 record in 76 innings, with four starts and 35 relief appearances. He dominated in Double-A in 1977, with a 1.25 ERA in 36 innings. In Triple-A that year, he had a 6-4, 3.56 record in 86 innings, making eight starts and 19 relief appearances. Holland made two September relief outings in 1977 for the Pirates, giving up two runs in 2.1 innings. The entire 1978 season was spent with Columbus of the International League, where he had a 5.34 ERA in 91 innings as a starting pitcher. The Pirates Triple-A affiliate was in Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1979 and Holland spent the first three months of the season there. Exactly four years after he signed with Pittsburgh, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in the deal that brought Bill Madlock back to Pittsburgh. Holland went to Triple-A first, before getting three September appearances with the Giants in which he threw seven shutout innings. By 1980 he was a regular in the bullpen for San Francisco and he pitched well over four seasons, going 19-11, 2.56 with 19 saves in 162 appearances.
Holland had a strong 1980 season, going 5-3, 1.75 with seven saves in 82.1 innings over 54 appearances, which earned him mild support for the Rookie of the Year award. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, he went 7-5, 2.41 in 100.1 innings over 47 games, while picking up another seven saves. In 1982, he went 7-3, 3.33 while mainly pitching in long relief, compiling 129.2 innings over 58 outings. Holland then moved on to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he made a name for himself during the 1983-84 seasons. He was part of a December 1982 trade that also included Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan headed to Philadelphia. Holland went 8-4, 2.26 in 91.2 innings over 68 outings, with 25 saves. That performance earned him a sixth place finish in the Cy Young voting and a ninth place finish in the MVP voting. He helped the Phillies to the 1983 World Series, then pitched outstanding in the postseason, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings over four appearances, allowing two hits and no walks. In 1984, Holland set a career high with 29 saves. He went 5-10, 3.39 in 98.1 innings over 68 appearances. After three appearances in 1985, the Pirates reacquired him on April 20, 1985 in exchange for longtime closer Kent Tekulve. After going 1-3, 3.38, with four saves in 38 games in Pittsburgh, Holland was traded away from the Pirates a second time on August 2, 1985 in a six-player deal with the California Angels. The Pirates gave up three veterans, including John Candelaria and George Hendrick, for three young players, Pat Clements, Mike Brown and Bob Kipper. Holland finished the season with the Angels, posting a 1.48 ERA in 24.1 innings over 15 outings. He then spent parts of two seasons with the New York Yankees as a free agent signing before retiring. He had a 5.09 ERA in 25 outings in 1986, then lasted just three August games in 1987 with New York, spending the rest of the year in Triple-A. In ten big league seasons, Holland had a 34-30, 2.98 record in 646 innings over 384 games, with 78 saves.
Curt Roberts, second baseman for the 1954-56 Pirates. He was the first African-American player for the Pirates. He began his baseball career in the Negro Leagues, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. Negro League stats from 1947-48 are now officially Major League stats, so his big league debut moved up seven years, when he was just 17 years old. Roberts played 18 games that rookie season and put up a .328 average. In 1948, he hit just .232 in 43 games. The 1949-50 seasons were also spent with the Monarchs, though the league isn’t recognized as a Major League during those season. Roberts then played three years (1951-53) of minor league ball for Denver of the Western League, where he was picked up by the Pirates. In 1951 he batted .281 with 34 extra-base hits in 132 games. He followed that up with a .280 average in 129 games, with 33 extra-base hits, basically repeating his stats from the previous year. In 1953, he hit .291 with 46 extra-base hits in 151 games. He was a strong fielder, who set a modern league record for assists during that 1953 season. The Pirates purchased his contract from Denver on October 8, 1953. In 1954, Roberts made the Opening Day roster and played 134 games that year, 131 of those games were at second base. He hit .232 with 55 walks, 47 runs scored and he committed the second most errors in the National League among second baseman. Roberts would spend most of the 1955 season playing for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .321 in 123 games. He played just six early season games for the Pirates, going 2-for-17 (.118) at the plate before being sent down. In 1956, he again had his troubles at the plate in Pittsburgh, batting .177 through 31 games. On June 23, 1956, the Pirates traded Roberts, along with pitcher Jack McMahan, to the Kansas City A’s, in exchange for second baseman Spook Jacobs. After the deal, he played in the minors until 1963, never making it back to the big leagues. He ended up back in Denver for the 1957-58 seasons and then skipped around to five different teams over his final five season. His life ended all too soon, as he was struck down while on the side of the road changing a tire at 40 years old.
Gene Woodling, outfielder for the 1947 Pirates. He had a 17-year career in the majors, and that was despite the fact he lost two seasons due to military service (1944-45). Woodling began his big league career with the 1943 Cleveland Indians, three years after they signed him as an amateur free agent. He began his career in Class-D ball at 17 years old, but moved up quickly after hitting .398 in 85 games with Mansfield of the Ohio State League. In Class-C ball in 1941, he batted .375 with 45 extra-base hits in 105 games. He had a down year for Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League in 1942, batting .192 in 39 games for the Class-A club. He spent the 1943 season back with Wilkes-Barre, where he hit .344 with 43 extra-base hits, 91 runs scored and 87 walks in 128 games. He joined the Indians in late September and hit .320 in eight games. After serving during WWII, he returned to the Indians in 1946, batting .188 in 61 games. On December 7, 1946, the Pirates traded veteran catcher/HOF manager Al Lopez to the Indians in exchange for Woodling. He played just two early season games for the Pirates before being sent to the minors. He was recalled in September and he went right into the starting center field job, finishing the year with .266 average and ten RBIs in 22 games. In September of 1947, he was one of three players (plus $100,000 cash) the Pirates sent to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League for pitcher Bob Chesnes. While the deal didn’t work out for the Pirates, it was great for Woodling, who was soon picked up New York Yankees, a team that won five World Series titles during his first five seasons in New York.
Woodling hit .385 with 55 extra-base hits, 107 RBIs, 121 runs scored and 95 walks in 146 games for San Francisco in 1948. He received regular playing time right away with the Yankees, hitting .270 with 25 extra-base hits and 52 walks in 112 games in 1949. In the World Series he hit .400 with three walks and four runs scored. He batted .283 with 36 extra-base hits, 70 walks and 81 runs scored in 122 games in 1950, then batted .429 during the World Series. Woodling played 120 games in 1951, hitting .281 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs. He had his only poor postseason showing that year, hitting .167 in six games, though he still managed to score six runs. In 1952 he batted .309 in 122 games, with 37 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs. He hit .348 in the World Series that year, which went seven games. Woodling batted .306 in 1953, while leading the league with a .429 OBP, thanks to 82 walks in 125 games. He set a career high with 26 doubles and also added ten homers. During the World Series, he put up a .300 average with six walks and five runs scored. While he never played in the World Series again, he finished with a .318 average and a .972 OPS in 26 World Series games.
In 1954, Woodling hit .250 and was limited to 97 games. He was part of a huge 17-player trade between the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles after the season. Woodling struggled in Baltimore, hitting .221 in 47 games before being traded mid-season to the Cleveland Indians. He turned things around there, batting .278 with a .769 OPS over the final 79 games. He had an average season in 1956, getting on base a lot thanks to a .262 average and 69 walks in 100 games. He then had a big season in 1957, setting career highs with a .321 average, 19 homers and 78 RBIs. Baltimore gave him another shot in 1958, acquiring him as part of a five-player deal that also included Hall of Famer Larry Doby. Woodling hit .276 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 13 games in 1958. He followed that up with his only All-Star season, though it fell a little short of some of his earlier work. He hit .300 in 1959, with 14 homers, 77 RBIs and 78 walks. In his final season in Baltimore in 1960, he batted .283 in 140 games, with a career high of 84 walks.
Woodling was taken by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft after the season. He hit .313 with ten homers and 57 RBIs in 110 games in 1961. During the 1962 season, he was sold to the New York Mets. He batted .276 with ten homers and 40 RBIs in 125 games between the two stops. The Mets released him in 1963, which ended his playing career. Woodling finished up his big league career with a .284 average in 1,796 games, hitting 147 homers, with 830 runs, 830 RBIs, and 921 walks. He received mild MVP support in six different seasons during his career, finishing as high as 15th (1957).We wrote an article covering the unfortunate trade of Woodling and how it hurt the Pirates.
Tiny Bonham, pitcher for the 1947-49 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball with a strong first season, mostly spent in the Class-C Middle Atlantic League. He went 16-11, 3.66 in 209 innings that year at 22 years old. In 1937 he moved up to Oakland of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 17-16, 4.27 in 278 innings. The next three years were spent one step from the majors with Kansas City of the American Association, which was an affiliate of the New York Yankees at the time. Part of the 1938 season was also spent with Newark of the International League, a powerhouse team during this era. Bonham went 11-6, 3.75 in 161 innings in 1938. The next year, spent all with Kansas City, saw him go 10-9, 3.18 in 198 innings. He started the 1940 season by going 10-4, 2.32 in 124 innings before joining the Yankees in August. He would end up pitching with the Yankees from 1940 until 1946, twice making the All-Star team (1942-43). Bonham had a strong final two months of the 1940 season in the majors, going 9-3, 1.90 in 12 starts, with three shutouts and 99.1 innings pitched. In 1941, he went 9-6, 2.98 in 126.2 innings spread over 14 starts and nine relief appearances. He started game five of the World Series and threw a complete game in a 3-1 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers, which clinched the series. During his 1942 season, Bonham went 21-5, 2.27 in 226 innings, leading the AL in winning percentage, complete games and shutouts. He finished fifth in the MVP voting that year. He took the loss as a starter in game two of the World Series, then allowed one run over three innings as a reliever in game four of the series. The following year he went 15-8, 2.27 in 225.2 innings, basically putting up the exact same ERA/innings total that he had in 1942. He was in the World Series for a third straight season and he lost game two as a starter. He was able to pick up two World Series rings during his time in New York.
Most players got better as the level of play dropped during the war years, but Tiny (first name was Ernest) progressively went downhill a little each year from 1944 until 1946. His 1944 season was still strong, it just wasn’t up to previous high standards. He went 12-9, 2.99 in 213.2 innings that year. In 1945 he went 8-11, 3.29 in 180.2 innings. The next season saw him go just 5-8, 3.70 in 14 starts and four relief appearances. On October 24, 1946, the Pirates acquired Bonham from the Yankees in exchange for pitcher Cookie Cuccurullo. For the Pirates, he went 11-8 that first year, but his ERA continued to slowly rise, going up to a 3.85 mark in 149.2 innings. He made 18 starts and 15 relief appearances that season. In 1948, he was 6-10, 4.31 in 135.2 innings, with 20 starts and two relief outings. The next year he planned ahead of time for it to be his last and it was, albeit for the wrong reason. He was pitching slightly better than the previous year, going 7-4, 4.25 in 89 innings through the end of August when he began to feel sick and tired all the time. He went to the hospital for an appendectomy and there it was found out that he had intestinal cancer. Less than three weeks after his last game, he passed away at 36 years old. His career ended with a 103-72, 3.06 record in 1,551 innings. His Tiny nickname was more of a joke because Bonham was 6’2″, 215 pounds and extremely strong from jobs early in his life that required a lot of heavy lifting.
Andy Bednar, pitcher for the 1930-31 Pirates. He pitched just five Major League games, all in relief, and he did not fare well in any of them. His pro career began at 17 years old with Marshalltown of the Mississippi Valley League, where he allowed 41 runs in 43 innings. His next pro experience came three years later and drew the attention of scouts. In 1929, he went 21-4, 2.97 in 230 innings for the Class-D McCook Generals of the Nebraska State League, his first full season in pro ball. On August 8, 1929, the Pirates purchased Bednar and teammate John Stoneman for a reportedly $5,500 fee. The Pirates brought Bednar to Spring Training the next year, then sent him to Wichita of the Western League, when he didn’t make the big league club. He went 18-7, 3.83 in 221 innings with Wichita before rejoining the Pirates in September. He pitched twice for Pittsburgh, debuting in the ninth inning on September 6th in a 19-14 loss. He recorded two outs while allowing three runs. There was actually some bad luck in there as a line drive to left fielder Adam Comorosky off of the bat of Hall of Famer Hack Wilson, hit Comorosky’s shin hard and caromed off for an inside-the-park homer. Three batters later, Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler scored all the way from second base on a wild pitch. Bednar’s other outing came 17 days later during a doubleheader and he allowed a ninth inning run in an 8-0 loss. His big league stats are actually listed wrong, as he recorded 1.2 innings that year, but he’s currently credited with 1.1 innings, which, if fixed, would help that 27.00 ERA he currently has listed. In 1931, Bednar made the team out of Spring Training, but was seldom used and only in mop-up duty. In his three appearances through early May, he allowed five runs in four innings. He was sent to the Texas League, where he split the season between Galveston and Fort Worth. The Pirates sent him to Fort Wayne with a 48-hour recall option, though he never returned to the majors. He allowed runs in all five brief appearances in the big leagues. Bednar won 22 games for Tulsa of the Western League in 1932, but an early season arm injury/surgery ended his season after seven appearances and he never pitched again in pro ball, though he continued in semi-pro ball until his untimely passing. He died in 1937 at the age of 29, a victim of a car accident.
Bill Keen, first baseman/pinch hitter for the 1911 Pirates. He began his career with Clarksville of the KITTY League in 1910, then moved on to the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association to finish the season, seeing limited time there with very little success. He batted .339 with Class-D Clarksville in 54 games and .124 in 28 games with Class-A Indianapolis. The next season he was with the Springfield Reapers of the Ohio State League, where he hit .339 in 66 games, before being acquired by the Pirates. Keen was playing well early in the year, but in mid-June it was reported that he broke his leg sliding. What happened next was very interesting. It was said that the Pirates had a deal to purchase him for over a month before finally closing the deal on August 7th. He was supposed to report to the Pirates trainer “Bonesetter” Reese to get his injury looked at, but he ended up playing that next day instead. Keen made his Major League debut on August 8th at first base and lasted just five innings, leaving after reinjuring his leg while running the bases. Over the last two months of the season, he was used as a pinch-hitter five times, never seeing time in the field again. In eight plate appearances total over six games, he failed to collect a hit, going 0-for-7 with a walk and four strikeouts. For a time, he was being saved as a backup catcher while Mike Simon was nursing an injury. The local paper was rather harsh on Keen after he pinch hit in the last inning of the season saying “Rebel (his nickname) Keene (sic?) got another chance as a pinch-hitter yesterday, and as usual he failed to connect”.
That at-bat on the last day of the year was once thought to be the last at-bat of his pro career. There was some confusion between a 1911 story on him and his career stats for a while. In the 1911 story he claimed that his name is Brown “Rebel” Keene and he was born on the same date in 1891 (one year earlier than his current birth year). A later story, that refers to him being reserved for the 1912 season, calls him “W.B. Keene”. The Pittsburgh Press, during his time with the team, always called him either Rebel or Brown Keene, but his real name is now recorded as William Brown Keen, which would be the reason that he’s listed as “Bill” now, though it appears that “Brown” or “Rebel” would be more appropriate. There’s no explanation for the spelling difference with the last name. In December of 1911, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss said that he expected Keen to cover first base for the Pirates in 1912. However, he came down with malaria in March of 1912 and on April 9th he was sold back to Springfield when he couldn’t win a big league job. Keen played minor league ball until 1914, spending three more years playing for Springfield.
Hank Robinson, pitcher for the 1911-13 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1909 at 21 years old, playing briefly for Class-D Jonesboro of the Arkansas State League. In 1910, he went 14-8 for Class-C El Reno of the Western Association. In 1911, Robinson went 28-7 for Fort Worth of the Texas League, pitching 300 innings. No ERA is available, but he allowed just 1.65 runs per game. The Pirates purchased his contract for $4,000 on July 19th, with the stipulation that he was allowed to remain with Fort Worth through September 5th. He ended up leaving earlier when the Pirates wanted him to help them towards a hopeful World Series push. He would need to be with the club before September 1st to be eligible to play in the World Series, so he left for Pittsburgh after making his final Fort Worth start on August 27th. He made his Major League debut on September 2nd, allowing two runs in his one inning of work. He ended up pitching five times in relief that year, posting a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. The next season he was a regular on the pitching staff, pulling starting and relieving duty. He started 16 games, came out of the bullpen 17 times, going a combined 12-7, 2.26 in 175 innings. Although not a tracked stat at the time, his WHIP that season (1.01) was the best in the National League. In 1913 he saw even more action and performed just as well. In 196.1 innings, he went 14-9, 2.38, with 22 starts and 21 relief outings. On December 12, 1913, he was sent to the Cardinals along with Dots Miller and Chief Wilson, in an eight-player deal that did not work out well for the Pirates.
Robinson wasn’t quite the same in St Louis, though he still sported a strong ERA, though it was the middle of the deadball era, so the numbers sound better now than they were compared to the league at the time. He went 7-8, 3.00 in 126 innings in 1914, and 7-8, 2.45 in 143 innings in 1915. Robinson made 31 starts in St Louis and 27 relief appearances. The next two seasons were spent in Little Rock of the Southern Association, where he had an 11-1 record in 1916, followed by a 21-17 mark in 1917. After not pitching in the majors in 1916-17, he briefly returned with the Yankees in 1918 for one last season, joining them in July/August after opening the year with Little Rock. Despite being done with the majors at the time, it was far from the end of his playing career. Robinson went on to win 255 minor league games, to go along with his 42 major league wins. He is a Little Rock legend, a hometown boy who pitched 13 seasons for the team in the Southern Association, four times winning over twenty games in a season. He played for them for ten seasons between 1919-28 (he played briefly with New Orleans in 1923), before finishing his career with the Atlanta club in the Southern Association.
Gene Steere, shortstop for the 1894 Pirates. Back when Brown University was a powerhouse for baseball, Steere became the 11th player from that school since 1879 to make the majors. He is credited with playing just one minor league game in 1894, reportedly joining Binghamton of the Eastern League on June 20th after his season wrapped up at Brown. He was signed by the Pirates on August 28, 1894 by manager Al Buckenberger, and it was reported that he was playing for a team from Bedford at the time, which was a semi-pro team that became a minor league club in 1895. A later report in 1895 said that he played for New Bedford during the 1892-94 seasons, so while he had almost no pro experience before joining the Pirates at 22 years old, he starred in college and semi-pro ball up until that time. Steere joined the Pirates right away and played that first game at shortstop on August 29th. He went hitless, with the local paper saying “the college boy was evidently nervous” during his debut. The next day he played both games of a doubleheader, committing an error, but also collecting three hits. After an off-day he made his debut in Pittsburgh and played another doubleheader. The Pittsburgh Press called him “Little” Steere and said he impressed in the field, showing great range and was very lively. Despite the praise, he made an error in each game and collected just one hit. After another off-day, he was too sick to play a Monday contest on September 4th, but traveled with the team after the game for New York. The Pirates did quite well without him, winning 22-1 that day. After sitting out at the start of the Giants series, Steere played five games over the next nine days, ending with a quiet game at the bat and in the field on September 15th. On the 11th, he started a 6-3-4-2 triple play. In ten games with the Pirates, he hit .205 with four RBIs and five errors. He remained with the club through the end of the season and noted after leaving that he thought a batting style change he made at the request of the team hurt his batting in the majors.
Steere went back to Brown University after the season to complete his studies. It was reported in The Sporting Life that he had enough of big league ball and would return to the minors. In 1895, Steere rejoined New Bedford of the New England League. He saw plenty of action in 1896, but just a handful of games over his last two seasons of pro ball there. He has no minor league records from 1899-1901, then he reappeared in 1902 for one final season of pro ball, spent with two different clubs in the New England League. His bio is missing a lot of info, such as his height/weight and throwing/batting (whether he was a lefty or righty). His real first name was Frederick and he can often be found listed as “Fred” in old newspaper articles.
Willie Clark, first baseman for the 1898-99 Pirates. He was a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, a left-handed first baseman, who spent one year and one day with the Pirates. Clark put up some big minor league stats, including a .338 average, but he was known more for his strong fielding. He played minor league ball throughout Pennsylvania before making his big league debut. Clark hit .298 in 101 games in 1893 at 22 years old, while splitting his time between Allentown and Danville of the Pennsylvania State League. In 1894 he played in the same league with Hazelton, where he hit .354 in 94 games, with 39 extra-base hits. He batted .391 in 1895 with Scranton of the Class-A Eastern League, before joining the New York Giants in June. As a rookie in the majors, Clark hit .261 in 23 games. He saw more time in 1896, batting .291 with 33 RBIs and 38 runs scored in 71 games. His best big league season came in 1897 when he played 117 games and hit .280 with 30 extra-base hits, 75 RBIs and 18 steals. He spent three seasons in New York, hitting .281 with 124 RBIs in 210 games.
Clark had not played at all during the 1898 season, when the Giants sold him to the Pirates in early August. He had contract negotiations stall in the off-season and New York held on to his rights, so all he was able to do was play semi-pro ball while he waited for something to happen with his contract. He played 57 games over the last two months of the 1898 season with the Pirates, batting .306 with 31 RBIs and playing strong defense, something the Pirates were sorely lacking at first base. He was even better defensively the next season, leading the league with a .989 fielding percentage. In 81 games through early August, he batted .283 with 44 RBIs and 49 runs scored, before being released on August 5th. His release came as a surprise to most, as he was hitting well at the time after struggling early, and his defense was as strong as ever. The Pirates had two quality catchers, plus they were about the sign another, so they decided to move Frank Bowerman to first base for the rest of the season. Clark would end up playing just one season of minor league ball before retiring. It was said that he was possibly released due to a poor decision to bunt days earlier, when the Pirates lost two games in a row to a team they’ve should’ve beaten easily. The papers were very harsh about the bunt decision, saying that whoever’s decision it was to bunt in that spot should be fined. Another guess on his release was just to save on travel expenses during a long eastern trip. The move didn’t look bad in the long run though, as Clark’s big league career ended with his release, and his minor league time was very brief in 1900 before retiring. His release came unconditionally, so he was free to sign with any team right away, but he only ended up playing some local semi-pro ball instead.