Today in Pittsburgh Pirates history, we have five former players born on this date, plus one transaction of note. Two of the players from today were members of the 1971 World Series winning team.
Gaby Sanchez, first baseman for the 2012-14 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in the 15th round in 2002 by the Seattle Mariners. He decided to attend the University of Miami, where he became a fourth round pick of the Florida Marlins in 2005. He debuted in pro ball by tearing up the New York-Penn League, putting up a .355 average and 21 extra-base hits in 62 games. In 2006, he split the year between High-A and Low-A, but he was limited to 74 games due to suffering both a broken hand and broken foot in separate incidents. He combined to hit .288 with 15 homers, 50 RBIs and 56 walks. In 2007, Sanchez spent the entire season in High-A, playing in the Florida State League. He hit .279 with 89 runs scored, 40 doubles, 70 RBIs and 64 walks. He moved up to Double-A in 2008 and had a strong season, which led to a brief trial with the Marlins. He batted .314 with 42 doubles, 17 homers, 92 RBIs, 17 steals and 69 walks in 133 games. With Florida, he went 3-for-8 at the plate in five games. A knee injury caused him to miss time early in 2009, and most of the year was spent in Triple-A. In 21 games for the Marlins, he hit .238 with two homers in 23 plate appearances. Sanchez had the first base job during the entire 2010 season and he responded by hitting .273 with 37 doubles, 19 homers, 85 RBIs, 72 runs scored and 57 walks in 151 games, which earned him a fourth place finish for the Rookie of the Year award. Despite the solid offensive season, he finished with just 0.4 WAR on the season due to his -1.9 dWAR that year.
Sanchez made the All-Star team in 2011, when he hit .266 with 35 doubles, 19 homers, 78 RBIs, 72 runs scored and 74 walks in 159 games. It appeared that he was headed for stardom going into his prime years (he was 27 in 2011), but his career went downhill quickly from that point. He was acquired by the Pirates at the 2012 trading deadline in exchange for Gorkys Hernandez. At the time of the trade, Sanchez was batting just .202 in 55 games, with three homers and 17 RBIs, and he had spent some time back in Triple-A. In five seasons in Florida/Miami, he hit .260 with 43 homers and 184 RBIs in 391 games. Over the final 50 games in 2012 for the Pirates, he hit .241 with four homers and 13 RBIs. He has a platoon role at first base in 2013 and hit .254 with seven homers and 36 RBIs in 136 games total, 60 as a starter. He was used in the same capacity in 2014 and hit .229 with seven homers and 33 RBIs in 123 games, making 52 starts. In three playoff games during his time in Pittsburgh, he went 0-for-5 at the plate. Sanchez became a free agent after the 2014 season and signed to play in Japan. He returned to the U.S. in 2016 with the Seattle Mariners, but he was released during Spring Training and retired as a player. He finished his big league with a .254 average, 61 homers, 266 RBIs and 236 runs scored in exactly 700 games.
Yamid Haad, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on July 5, 1999. He was signed by the Pirates in 1994 as an amateur free agent out of Colombia. After spending his first two seasons of pro ball in the Dominican Summer League, Haad came to the U.S. in 1997 at 19 years old and played for Erie of the New York-Penn League, where he hit .290 in 43 games, though low walk/power numbers limited him to a .703 OPS. He skipped a level in 1998 to High-A, playing for Lynchburg of the Carolina League, where he batted .254 in 88 games, with a .633 OPS. Haad got his only chance with the Pirates when Jason Kendall suffered a gruesome season ending ankle injury. He was briefly called up and went in to pinch-hit for relief pitcher Scott Sauerbeck on July 5, 1999. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, a man on first base and Pittsburgh down 5-2, Haad grounded out to third base to end the inning. He was sent down shortly after that game, then came back again to Pittsburgh two weeks later after Keith Osik was injured. Haad never played in a game during that second brief stint. He wasn’t much of a prospect at the time. His big league experience came more due to need than earning the spot. During that 1999 season, he began the year at High-A Lynchburg, where he hit .253 with three homers during his second season with the team. When he went to Double-A later that season, he was over-matched, hitting .182 in 43 games.
Haad spent most of the 2001 season in Triple-A, hitting .257 with two homers in 51 games for Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. The Pirates let him go after the season and he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was released in July of 2002 by the Devil Rays and finished the season with the San Diego Padres, where he remained through the end of the 2004 season. He spent the entire 2002-04 seasons in the minors, which included some time back in Double-A in 2002-03. He had a strong 2004 season in Triple-A, batting .302 in 80 games, with 21 doubles and nine homers. Haad would finally make the majors again in 2005 with the San Francisco Giants, and that time it was an earned trip to the majors. After spending nearly the entire season at Triple-A, where he hit .282 with ten homers, he was recalled in August. Haad played 17 games and had his share of troubles at the plate, hitting .071 in 28 at-bats. During the 2006-09 seasons, he spent time in the minors with the Giants, Cleveland Indians, Padres and Seattle Mariners. He had a 16-year career in pro ball, playing his last season in 2010 down in the Mexican League.
Sean Lawrence, pitcher for the 1998 Pirates. He was taken by the Pirates in the sixth round of the 1992 draft out of the University of St Francis. He’s the last player drafted from his school to make the majors. He was originally drafted out of high school by the New York Mets in the 26th round four years earlier. Lawrence never dominated in the minors, with his best pitching coming during his second stint in High-A ball in 1994. He debuted with Welland of the New York-Penn League in 1992, where he went 3-6, 5.23 in 74 innings. He went to Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League for most of the 1993 season. Lawrence had a 6-8, 3.12 record in 121 innings over 22 starts. He also made four starts for High-A Salem of the Carolina League, posting a 10.20 ERA in 15 innings. He repeated Salem in 1994, where he went 4-2, 2.62 in 72 innings over 12 starts. Lawrence had a 5-8, 4.22 record in 111 innings with Lynchburg of the Carolina League in 1995, then switched to relief at the end of the season in Double-A, where he had a 5.48 ERA in 21.1 innings. He repeated Double-A in 1996 and posted a 3.95 ERA, while striking out 81 batters in 82 innings. After his fifth season of pro ball, he moved up to Triple-A for the first time in 1997, switching back to a starting role. Lawrence went 8-9, 4.21 in 143.1 innings over 26 starts. He repeated Triple-A in 1998 and went 12-9, 5.02 in 147 innings, once again making 26 starts.
The Pirates called Lawrence up for his Major League debut in late August of 1998 for a start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He allowed two runs over five innings and picked up the win. Five days later, he started against the Houston Astros and got knocked out in the fourth inning, with four earned runs over 3.1 innings. After a loss to the Chicago Cubs in his third start in which he allowed five runs over five innings, Lawrence moved to the bullpen for the rest of the year. He made four more appearances and allowed runs in three of them. He became a free agent after the season, and played another three years in the minors before retiring. He spent 1999 in Triple-A for the Oakland A’s, then spent the 2000 season in independent ball, where he had a 6.45 ERA in 44.2 innings. His final season saw his post a 3.55 ERA in 58.1 innings, while pitching for the Pacific Coast League affiliates of the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. He finished 2-1, 7.32 in 19.2 Major League innings.
Luke Walker, pitcher for the 1965-66 and 1968-73 Pirates. Walker was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1963, but after one season, he was taken by the Pirates in the 1963 First Year draft. In that first season, the 19-year-old Walker had a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings at A-Ball, and a 5.85 ERA in 40 innings at Double-A. The Pirates sent him to Double-A in 1964, where he went 8-12, 3.72 in 184 innings, with 164 strikeouts. He earned a trip to the majors in 1965 after he went 12-9, 2.43 in 189 innings, with 203 strikeouts, spending most of that time in Double-A. He threw five scoreless innings over two September appearances for the 1965 Pirates, but he still spent most of the next year in Triple-A. In 1966, he went 11-11, 2.77 in 172 innings over 25 starts at Triple-A, seeing a big dip in his strikeout rate, which dropped from 9.7 to 6.9 per nine innings. Walker began that year with the Pirates, before getting sent down in early May after displaying control problems in his six appearances. He came back in September for four more outings. He threw ten innings over ten appearances for the 1966 Pirates, allowing five runs and 15 walks. After making just 11 Triple-A starts in 1967 due to a June arm injury, Walker made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1968 and stayed around for the next six seasons.
In 1968, Walker was being used effectively out of the bullpen, posting a 2.02 ERA in 62.1 innings over 39 outings (including two starts). He struck out 66 batters and picked up three saves. For the next two seasons, he split his time between starting and relieving, throwing 73 games, 34 as a starter. He had a 3.64 ERA in 118.2 innings over 15 starts and 16 relief appearances in 1969. The 1970 season was the best of his career, winning a career high 15 games, while throwing 163 innings, with a 3.04 ERA. He finished tenth in the NL Cy Young voting and even received some MVP consideration. The Pirates won the 1971 World Series, and Walker started a career high 24 games that year. He was 10-8, 3.55, pitching a total of 159.2 innings. He really struggled in the playoffs, pitching once in each series, with a total of five runs allowed over 1.2 innings. He gave up three runs in the first inning of game four of the World Series, but Pittsburgh ended up winning the game 4-3, thanks to the brilliant relief work of Bruce Kison. Walker returned to the split role during his last two seasons in Pittsburgh, starting 12 of 26 games in 1972 and 18 of 37 games the next year. He did well in 1972, posting a 3.40 ERA in 95.2 innings, but that ERA jumped to 4.65 in 1973, when he threw 122 innings. He was sold to the Detroit Tigers in December of 1973, and finished his career there the next season with a 5-5, 4.99 record in 92 innings over 28 appearances (nine starts). With the Pirates, Walker went 40-42, 3.47 in 733.1 innings over 215 games, with 91 of those games coming as a starter. He threw seven shutouts and saved nine games.
Ben Sankey, shortstop for the 1929-31 Pirates. He spent the first two years of his career playing for Selma of the Class-B Southeastern League, before joining the Pirates at the end of the 1929 season. He batted just .206 with 11 extra-base hits in 106 games at 20 years old in 1928. He was much better in his second season, hitting .262 with 25 doubles and eight triples in 137 games. He was purchased from Selma on September 5, 1929 and told to report to Pittsburgh the following day, where he would get a tryout with the team. Sankey debuted on October 5, 1929 and played two games for the Pirates that year, starting both at shortstop, going 1-for-7 at the plate and making one error. Starting shortstop Dick Bartell was a holdout during spring of 1930, and Sankey was in a battle for the job, taking on Charlie Engle and Stu Clarke for the starting spot. Bartell ended up signing and starting Opening Day, while Sankey was optioned to Wichita of the Western League on April 21st, six days after Opening Day, though he didn’t appear in any games with the Pirates until later in the year. He was back by June for the rest of the year, although his playing time was sporadic. He hit .167 in 13 games, with no RBIs, making six starts at shortstop (with four errors) and two starts at second base. With Bartell gone in 1931, Sankey saw a lot more action, especially in September. He started 37 of his 57 games played that season at shortstop, where his fielding percentage was well below average for the time. He hit .227 with 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored, in what ended up as his last season in the majors. His baseball playing career was far from over at that point. The Pirates sold him to Mission of the Pacific Coast League, a team managed by Pirates scout Joe Devine, on December 7, 1932. Sankey played two seasons in the Pacific Coast League, then spent eight years in the International League, finishing up his career in 1941 with over 1,500 minor league games played. In his three years with the Pirates, he hit .213 with 14 RBIs and 21 runs scored in 72 games.
On this date in 1972, longtime Pirates pitcher Bob Veale, was sold to the Boston Red Sox, ending his 11-year career in Pittsburgh. From 1964 until 1970, Veale had double digits wins every season, topping out at 18 in 1964. By 1971, he had become a reliever, going 6-0, 6.99 in 37 appearances for the World Champs that year. In 1972, the big, hard-throwing, 36-year-old lefty, had spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he was being used as a starter. Veale’s last appearance for the Pirates came in late April, when he allowed four runs in three innings of relief work. The Red Sox threw him right into the bullpen, using him six times for a total of eight innings and he didn’t allow a single run. He pitched two more years in Boston before he retired, getting limited work each season. He had a 3.45 ERA in 57.1 innings with the Red Sox over those three years.