Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one with a rich family history in baseball. We also have a trade of note.
On this date in 1987, the Pirates traded second baseman Johnny Ray to the Angels for minor leaguers Bill Merrifield and Miguel Garcia. Ray played seven years in Pittsburgh, winning a Silver Slugger award and finishing second in the 1982 National League Rookie of the Year voting. In 931 games, he hit .286 with 391 RBIs and 414 runs scored. In 1987, the 30-year-old Ray was hitting .273 with 54 RBIs through 123 games before this trade. Twice while in Pittsburgh, he led the NL in doubles.
After the deal, Ray played in California until 1990, making his only All-Star appearance during the 1988 season, where he hit .306 with 83 RBIs and 75 runs scored. Garcia played three seasons with the Pirates, but he pitched just 13 games total. He was a 20-year-old left-handed reliever in 1987, who made one appearances for the Angels that year. He pitched a total of 18.2 innings for the Pirates, ending with a 7.71 ERA. He was actually sent to the Pirates on September 3rd as a player to be named later. Merrifield never made the majors and lasted just three games in the Pirates organization. He played the 1988 season for the Texas Rangers Triple-A team, his last year in pro ball. He was a 25-year-old third baseman at the time of the deal, who was originally drafted in 1980 by the Pirates, but did not sign.
Billy Cox, shortstop for the 1941 and 1946-47 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1940, making it to the majors by the following September for ten games. He played 120 games for Harrisburg of the Class-B Interstate League in 1940 at 20 years old, hitting .288 with 37 extra-base hits. He repeated Harrisburg in 1941 and did much better, batting .363 with 63 extra-base hits in 128 games. In his brief trial with the Pirates, he .270 with three doubles and a triple in 37 at-bats. Cox then missed four full seasons serving in the military during WWII, returning in 1946 to the Pirates. Despite all of that missed time. and the fact he had just ten games of Major League experience prior, Cox hit .290 in 121 games in 1946, though he did lead the league in errors at shortstop. He played well enough that season that he received mild MVP support. He batted .274 with 15 homers in 1947, showing a huge improvement in the field, going from 39 errors, down to twenty, while accepting more chances. On December 8, 1947, Cox was part of a six-player deal with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with three players going each way. He would be moved to third base in Brooklyn, holding down the job for seven years, before finishing his career in 1955 with one season for the Baltimore Orioles. Cox never quite matched his offensive numbers from Pittsburgh while in Brooklyn. His .290 average in 1946 and 15 homers in 1947, remained his career highs. He was solid on defense though, finishing in the top three in fielding percentage at third base each year from 1949-53, twice leading the league.
In his first season in Brooklyn, Cox hit .249 in 88 games, with a .711 OPS. That was lower than his OPS marks in all three seasons with the Pirates. He saw that OPS drop to .641 in 100 games in 1949, as he finished with a .233 average, 40 RBIs and 48 runs scored. The 1950 season was similar on overall offense, though he played 119 games that year. Cox hit .255 with a .668 OPS, 62 runs scored and 44 RBIs. The 1951 season was his best and it led to his most playing time in 11 big league seasons. He hit .279 with 38 extra-base hits, 62 runs scored and 51 RBIs in 142 games. While he received mild MVP support in 1952, his stats dropped off, with a .259/.301/.338 slash line in 116 games. Cox played just 100 games in 1953, but his .291 average and .806 OPS were both career highs. It ended up being a one year spike, as he batted .235 in 77 games in 1954, and then in his lone season with the Orioles, he hit .211 in 53 games. Cox finished as a career .262 hitter in 1,058 games, with 470 runs scored, 66 homers, 351 RBIs, and more walks (298) than strikeouts (218). He was a .302 hitter in 15 World Series games with the Dodgers, though they lost all three series to the New York Yankees.
Joe Schultz Jr, catcher for the 1939-41 Pirates. He was the son of Joe Schultz Sr, who played infield for the 1916 Pirates. He also had two cousins who played in the majors, Frank Lobert and Hans Lobert, with the latter playing for the 1903 Pirates. When Schultz’s father was a farm director in the Cardinals system, Joe Jr was signed to play pro ball at 17 years old in 1936. He hit .267 in 29 games for Albany of the Class-D Georgia-Florida League. In 1937, he played for three different teams, with most of the year spent with Kinston of the Coastal Plain League, where he had a .335 average in 72 games. In 1938, Schultz Jr. split the year evenly between Class-B Asheville of the Piedmont League and Columbus of the Double-A American Association. He hit .294 in 115 games, with better results at the lower level. In 1939, Joe Sr was hired by the Pirates to run the minor league system, and his son’s contract came with the job. Joe Jr spent most of his early playing career in the minors, but from 1939 until 1941, he got to play each year in Pittsburgh, getting into a total of 23 games (his career totals say 22, but one 1940 game is missing). He spent the 1939 regular season with Columbus and also Houston of the Texas League, hitting .310 in 64 games between both spots. He then joined the Pirates on September 22nd and played four games. Schultz Jr. spent the majority of the 1940 regular season with Portland of the Pacific Coast League, though he barely played due to a shoulder injury. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training and played ten games before being sent to the minors on May 31st as part of a deal to acquire catcher Ed Fernandes. Schultz Jr. was still property of the Pirates, being sent to Portland on option. He rejoined the Pirates on September 20th for seven games during the final week of September.
In 1941, Schultz Jr. played 86 games for Portland and two with the Pirates. He made the Opening Day roster again, before being sent on option to Portland on May 13th. The elder Schultz passed away in April of 1941, exactly one month before his son was cut by the Pirates. On October 1, 1941, the Pirates released Schultz Jr. to Memphis of the Southern Association, where he hit .330 in 113 games during the 1942 season, winning the league batting title. That led to him being taken in the Rule 5 draft by the St Louis Browns. Schultz Jr spent four years as the Browns backup catcher. He hit .239 in 46 games in 1943 with the Browns, then spent most of 1944 back in the minors, getting into just three big league games. In 1945 he batted .295 in 41 games, getting a total of 47 plate appearances. He hit .386 in 69 plate appearances over 42 games in 1946. During the 1947-48 seasons, he took a full-time pinch-hitting role on the team. It was literally all he did those two years, and both years he played exactly 43 games. He did not excel either season, batting .184 in 1947 and .189 in 1948. His only RBI in 1947 came on his only big league homer. In 240 career games over nine season, he got just 368 plate appearances, hitting .259 with one homer and 46 RBIs. In 1969, he served as the manager of the Seattle Pilots during their only season in existence. He also briefly managed the 1973 Detroit Tigers.
Pep Young, infielder for the 1933-40 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in the Eastern Carolina League in 1928, playing Class-D ball for Fayetteville at 20 years old. He hit .307 with 35 extra-base hits in 117 games that season. He played 122 games split between two Class-C Piedmont League teams in 1929, hitting at least 46 extra-base hits (full stats are incomplete). In 1930, Young moved up to Class-B with Columbia of the South Atlantic League, where he batted .283 in 128 games, with 18 doubles, 16 triples and five homers. In 1931, he moved up to Class-A Wichita of the Western League, where he batted .315 with 44 doubles, nine triples and 13 homers in 150 games. On September 12, 1931, owner Barney Dreyfuss announced the purchase of Young, who went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1932, but didn’t make the team. He remained in the Western League that year, but he moved to Tulsa, where he hit .284 with 45 extra-base hits in 144 games. Young played five seasons in the minors before making the 1933 Pirates Opening Day roster. Even though he spent the entire season with the team, he played just 25 games and he didn’t get one start. He spent most of 1934 with the team as well, and received even less playing time, although he did make three starts. After two seasons of barely playing, and starting the 1935 season on the bench, Young became the Pirates starting second baseman on May 18th, and didn’t give up the spot. He hit .265 with 82 RBIs and 60 runs scored in 128 games, getting 106 starts at second base. Young’s offensive numbers were down slightly in 1936, but his defense was better and he made 123 starts at second base. He hit .248 with 39 extra-base hits, 47 runs scored and 77 RBIs. The next year he served in the super utility infielder role, making at least thirty starts at second base, third base and shortstop. He batted .260 in 113 games in 1937, with 32 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs and 43 runs scored.
Back to full-time second base duty in 1938, Pep (first name was Lemuel, though he went by Floyd) had his finest season. He made 149 starts, batting a career high .278, while driving in 79 runs. He set career highs with 36 doubles, 40 walks and seven steals. He finished 14th in the National League MVP voting and led all NL second baseman in range and assists. He hurt his knee during the 1939 season and never fully recovered, seeing his playing time diminish the next year into a backup infielder role. He did well in 1939, putting up a .709 OPS in 84 games, and it didn’t really drop off the next year, despite the lack of playing time. He had a .702 OPS in 54 games in 1940. On September 30, 1940, the Pirates traded Young to Atlanta of the Southern Association for shortstop Alf Anderson. The rest of his Major League career consisted of six games in 1941 split between the Cincinnati Reds and St Louis Cardinals, and 27 games during the 1945 season with the Cardinals. A break in action like that would usually be due to service during WWII, but he was Columbus of the American Association during the 1942-45 seasons. He retired from playing after spending the 1946 season in the minors.Young finished his Pirates career with a .264 average, 343 RBIs and 267 runs scored in 697 games. We posted a full article on his Pirates career here.
Roy Wood, left fielder for the 1913 Pirates. He played college ball at the University of Arkansas just prior to starting his pro career in 1913 with Pirates. Hugo Bedzek was the Director of Athletics at Arkansas and a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, so he was able to convince Wood to go pro. The Pirates had played several exhibition games against Arkansas, so they got to scout Wood first-hand, and both owner Barney Dreyfuss and manager Fred Clarke were impressed with his play. Wood was a versatile fielder, who played seven different positions in college. He was said to be fast in the field and on the bases, with a solid bat. He joined Pittsburgh on June 7th and would stick around for over two months, getting limited playing time. He hit .286 in 14 games for the Pirates, playing eight times in left field and once at first base. He started eight days in a row in left field from June 16 through June 23rd, then didn’t get another start all season. The Pirates had him practicing daily at first base, but Dots Miller started every one of the final 83 games that season at first base. Wood was let go the Sioux City Packers of the Western League on August 20th. In 39 games with Sioux City, a team managed by Fred Clarke’s brother Josh, he batted .280 with 13 extra-base hits. Looking for a first baseman, the Cleveland Naps picked him in the Rule 5 draft after the 1913 season ended. Right before the start of the 1914 season, he tore a muscle in his side and missed the start of the year. Wood ended up playing 72 games for the 1914 Naps (renamed Indians in 1915), then another 33 games in 1915 before he was released. He hit .225 with one homer and 18 RBIs for Cleveland. He returned to the minors to finish out the 1915 season, remaining in town, playing for the Cleveland Spiders of the American Association, where hit .288 with 32 steals and 52 runs scored in 89 games. He finished his playing career the next year playing for Toledo of the same league, hitting .258 with 28 doubles, 12 triples and no homers in 148 games. His complete big league stats show a .231 average with 33 runs scored, one homer and 20 RBIs in 119 games.
Ensign Cottrell, pitcher for the Pirates on June 21, 1911. He was a star pitcher for Syracuse University, who made his pro debut in the majors. The Pirates agreed to terms with him on June 10th in a deal that called for a $350 per month salary. The papers noted that he would join the Pirates as soon as his college season was over (his final start came four days later). The Pirates had to outbid six other teams for his services. His eight college starts that season prior to him signing all had Major League scouts in attendance. He donned a Pirates uniform for the first time on June 17, 1911 as they played Brooklyn at home. It was said that he probably wasn’t going to play in the final game of the series because they wanted him to get settled in first, but he was with them when they left Pittsburgh for a road trip to play the Chicago Cubs two days later. That seems obvious now, but teams didn’t always take all of their players on road trips, partially to save on travel costs. It was said that he would likely not pitch against the Cubs, unless they need a reliever. On June 21st, the Pirates needed that reliever. Down 7-1, with two pitchers already chased from the game, Cottrell pitched the seventh inning, giving up four runs on four hits and a walk. Just one of the runs was earned, as the Pirates ended up losing 14-1 that day. Ensign (his actual first name) wouldn’t pitch again that season. On August 16, 1911, the Pirates released him unconditionally, with manager Fred Clarke saying that he showed nothing in practice and he couldn’t see keeping him on the payroll any longer because he wouldn’t be of any service to the team. Just over a week later, Cottrell signed on to play with Scranton of the New York State League
Cottrell was in the minors in 1912 until the Cubs picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. He pitched one game for Chicago as well. In 1913, he pitched two games for the Philadelphia A’s, the eventual World Series Champs. The next year, he threw one inning for the Boston Braves, and they too won the World Series, giving him a title in each league, the first player to accomplish that feat. Cottrell was on the Braves World Series roster, despite the fact he played just that one game, although he didn’t get a chance to play during the Series. He played one more year in the majors, seeing time with the 1915 New York Yankees, his fifth different team in a five-year stretch. He actually pitched seven games for New York, two more than he got in the previous four years combined. His big league record over five seasons was 1-2, 4.82 in 37.1 innings, with two starts and ten relief appearances.