We have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who can be considered the best of the worst. We also have one transaction of note.
Matt Capps, reliever for the 2005-09 Pirates. He was a seventh round pick in 2002 by the Pirates out of high school. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2002 and allowed one earned run in 13 innings. In 2003, Capps was a starter in the GCL, going 5-1, 1.87 in 62.2 innings before getting a promotion to High-A for one final start. He split the 2004 season between Low-A and the New York-Penn League, combining to go 5-8, 6.90 in 107 innings, with much better results at the lower level. He switched to relief at Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League in 2005 and had a 2.52 ERA in 53.2 innings, with 14 saves in 35 appearances. He jumped to Double-A Altoona, where he put up a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings over 17 games. Capps went from pitching in Double-A during the second half of 2005, right to the majors as a September call-up, without ever playing at Triple-A. He pitched four innings over four appearances for the Pirates, and allowed two runs. As a rookie in 2006, he was used 85 times out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh, going 9-1, 3.79 in 80.2 innings with one save. Capps began closing games in June of 2007, replacing Salomon Torres in that role. He finished the year 4-7, 2.28 in 79 innings over 76 games, with 18 saves. He missed nearly two months of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury. Capps finished that season with 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 53.2 innings over 49 appearances.
In 2009, everything went downhill for Capps, as he struggled to get outs and finished with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP in 54.1 innings over 57 games. He was able to convert 27 of 32 save chances that year. The Pirates cut ties with him after the season, deciding to go with veteran Octavio Dotel as their closer, a move that eventually landed them James McDonald and Andrew Lambo in a 2010 deadline deal with the Dodgers. Capps signed with the Washington Nationals as a free agent, then was traded to the Minnesota Twins mid-season, where he was asked to replace All-Star closer Joe Nathan. Capps went 3-3, 2.74 with 26 saves in 47 appearances for the Nationals prior to the trade. After the deal, he had a 2.00 ERA and 16 saves in 27 outings with the Twins. The Pirates gave up on him just one year too soon. In 2011, he went 4-7, 4.25 with 15 saves in 65.2 innings over 69 outings. Capps missed much of 2012 due to a rotator cuff injury, which limited him to 29.1 innings over 30 games. He pitched well when healthy, posting a 3.68 ERA, while picking up 15 saves. He then spent his last four in pro ball in the minors, seeing time with the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks during that time, as well as a winter in Puerto Rico. He finished with a 29-33, 3.52 record, picking up 138 saves in 439.2 innings over 444 games. With the Pirates, he was 19-19, 3.61 with 67 saves in 271 games. He is currently an announcer for the Pirates.
Juan Perez, lefty reliever for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1998 out of the Dominican Republic, reaching free agency before he ever pitched for the team in the majors. He debuted in 1999 in the Dominican Summer League, then moved to the U.S. in 2000, where he had a 2.36 ERA in 34.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League. Then next year was spent in Low-A, with Augusta of the South Atlantic League, where Perez went 8-8, 3.58 in 125.2 innings, with 113 strikeouts. He moved up to Sarasota of the Florida State League (High-A) and missed part of the year, which led to him switching to a relief role. He had an 0-6, 3.78 record in 66.2 innings over 14 starts and two relief appearances that season. In 2003, he made 33 appearances with Sarasota, posting a 2.37 ERA and 18 saves in 38 innings. He spent the other part of the year in Double-A, putting up a 3.82 ERA in 30.2 innings, though he didn’t have any saves. In 2004, Perez spent the entire season in Double-A. He had a 5-1, 4.14 record, with six saves in 78.1 innings over 46 games. In his final season with the Red Sox, he spent the year with Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League. He had a 4-5, 5.50 record in 62 innings, with 40 appearances.
Perez signed with the New York Mets in October of 2005 and pitched for their Triple-A club during the 2006 season. He had a 2.86 ERA over 63 innings and 43 appearances prior to being put on waivers near the end of August. He was taken by the Pirates and sent to Triple-A, where he threw seven scoreless innings in four appearances before being called up to Pittsburgh for his big league debut. Perez appeared in seven games, posting an 8.10 ERA in 3.1 innings. He made the 2007 Opening Day roster and was unscored upon during his first seven outings. He was sent back to Triple-A on April 22nd with his 0.00 ERA after the Pirates activated John Grabow off of the disabled list. Perez would not rejoin the Pirates until September, when he made another nine appearances, which didn’t go as well as his early season time. He finished with a 4.38 ERA in 12.1 innings that season. He would spend all of 2008 in the minors, before being let go by Pittsburgh. He spent the 2009-10 seasons in the minors with the Atlanta Braves (2009) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2010), while also playing winter ball each year in the Dominican. Perez made it back to the big leagues in June of 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies for eight relief appearances. He allowed just one hit over five innings, giving up two runs. In 2012, he pitched ten games for the Milwaukee Brewers, giving up four runs over seven innings. He then he had 19 appearances with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays after posting an 0.86 ERA in Triple-A. He had a 3.69 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Blue Jays. Perez pitched just one partial season in the minors after 2013, playing nine games at Triple-A for the Texas Rangers in 2015. However, he played winter ball every year up until the 2019-20 off-season, his 14th straight season of winter ball. In 61 Major League games, he went 2-4, 4.25 in 59.1 innings pitched.
Dave Clark, outfielder for the 1992-96 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft in 1983 by the Cleveland Indians, taken 11th overall out of Jackson State University. Clark moved through the Indians system by hitting for average, with some power, while stealing bases and showing the ability to draw a decent amount of walks. He debuted in the Midwest League (A-Ball) in 1983, hitting .277 with a .778 OPS in 53 games. He repeated the level in 1984, though he jumped to Triple-A at the very end of the season. Clark hit .309 with 15 homers, 20 steals and 57 walks for Waterloo, then batted .179 in 17 games for Buffalo of the International League. In 1985 he played the entire year in Double-A, going from Waterloo to Waterbury of the Eastern League. In 132 games that season, he hit .302 with 24 doubles, 12 homers, 27 steals and 86 walks. He moved up to Triple-A for the 1986 season and hit .279 with 19 homers and 52 walks. He made it to the majors as a September call-up in 1986, although he didn’t stick for good in Cleveland until two years later. Clark’s first big league stint saw him hit .276 with three homers in 18 games. He struggled during his 1987 trial in the big leagues, batting .207 with three homers in 29 games, then went to the minors and hit .340 with 30 homers in 108 games. Despite those stats, slightly inflated by the high offense of the Pacific Coast League, he was back in the minors for part of the 1988 season. With the Indians that year, Clark hit .263 with three homers in 63 games. He spent all of 1989 in the majors, batting .237 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 102 games.
Clark moved on to the Chicago Cubs in November of 1989 in a trade for Mitch Webster, who would go on to play for the 1991 Pirates. Clark hit .275 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 84 games for the 1990 Cubs, making just 35 starts all year. He was released at the end of Spring Training in 1991 and signed with the Kansas City Royals, where he spent most of his time at Triple-A. He played just 11 big league games and all of them were off of the bench. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in January of 1992 and again, he spent most of the year in the minors. The 1992 Pirates went to the playoffs, and for a six-week stretch in the middle of the season, then again in September, Clark was a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter. He hit .212 in 23 games with seven RBIs. In 1993, he saw his most playing time with the Pirates, getting into 110 games, 75 as a starter. He batted .271 that year, while setting career highs with 11 homers, 46 RBIs, 43 runs scored and 38 walks. He played 86 games in the 1994 and had an output on offense very similar to the prior season. He drove in 46 runs both years, hitting 11 doubles each season, while finishing with ten homers in 1994. He was actually playing just as frequently, but his game total was lower due to the strike that ended the season in early August. His .296 average was a career high, though he would top it after he left Pittsburgh.
Clarke maintained a strong average in 1995, batting .281, but his production dropped off, hitting four homers and driving in 24 runs in 77 games. He was with the Pirates until August 31, 1996, when he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Carl South. Prior to the trade, he was hitting .275 with eight homers and 35 RBIs in 92 games. After the deal, he had 18 plate appearances in 15 games for the Dodgers, collecting three singles and three walks. Clark would play two more years in the majors before retiring, spending 1997 back with the Cubs as a free agent. He batted .301 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 102 games that year, though most of his work came off of the bench. His last season in the majors was spent with the Houston Astros, where he hit .206 with no homers and four RBIs in 92 games, making a total of 16 starts all year. He played in Triple-A for the Dodgers in 1999 before retiring as a player. He served as a hitting coach for the Pirates in the majors and minors during the 2000-01 seasons, then served as minor league manager during the 2002-03 seasons. Since then he has held numerous coaching jobs, including positions with the Detroit Tigers from 2013 to 2020. In 2009, he briefly managed the Astros at the end of the season. Clark finished with a .264 average, 62 homers and 284 RBIs in 905 games. For the Pirates, he hit .278 with 35 homers and 158 RBIs in 388 games. Despite being a stolen base threat in the minors, he had just 19 Major League steals.
Ed Konetchy, first baseman for the 1914 Pirates. He had a strong and somewhat under-appreciated 15-year career in the majors, hitting .281 with 992 RBIs, 972 runs scored, 2,150 hits and 182 triples, which is the 15th highest total ever. On top of the offensive stats, he was an even better defensive player at first base. He led the league five times in putouts, five times in assists, five times in range and six times in fielding percentage. Right in the middle of his career, he spent one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Konetchy debuted in pro ball in 1905 at 19 years old, playing his first of three seasons for La Crosse of the Class-D Wisconsin State League, which was his hometown team. He started off slowly with a .222 average in 106 games during his first year. He improved slightly to .277 in 116 games in 1906, though the power numbers dropped from an already low standard. He had a breakout start to 1907, hitting .359 in 39 games, which led to a spot with the St Louis Cardinals. Konetchy hit .251 in 91 games as a rookie, with a solid (for the deadball era) .673 OPS. In 1908, he played 154 games and hit .248 with 36 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs. While the Pirates were winning the World Series in 1909, Konetchy was hitting .286 with 80 RBIs and 88 runs scored in 152 games. His .762 OPS was rated seventh best in the league.
In 1910, Konetchy had an .822 OPS, which ranked him fifth best in the league. He hit .302 with 42 extra-base hits, 78 RBIs and 87 runs scored in 144 games. He had another strong season in 1911, batting .289 with 57 extra-base hits and 88 RBIs. He led the league with 158 games and with 38 doubles. The doubles represented a career high, as did his 90 runs scored, 27 steals and 81 walks. It was the first of three seasons that he stole 27 bases. In 1912 he batted .314 with 47 extra-base hits, 82 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 143 games. That led to a 12th place finish in the MVP voting. During the 1913 season, he hit .276 with 68 RBIs and 75 runs scored in 140 games.
He came to Pittsburgh in an eight-player deal on December 12, 1913 from the St Louis Cardinals, in exchange for a five-player group highlighted by Dots Miller and Chief Wilson. The deal was a disaster and came about mainly because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss had a man-crush on Konetchy, who he talked highly of and had tried to acquire multiple times before. Konetchy played just one season for the Pirates, jumping to the Federal League team in Pittsburgh (Rebels) before the start of the 1915 season. He hit .249 in 154 games for the Pirates, scoring 56 runs, while adding 51 RBIs. The batting, runs and RBI totals, represented his lowest marks since his first full season (1908) in the big leagues. Konetchy did his job on defense though, leading the National League in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he was supposed to be the key to this deal and he was outplayed by Dots Miller at first base for St Louis. The year after leaving the Pirates, Konetchy set a career high with 93 RBIs and tied his high batting average with a .314 mark. The Federal League was done after the 1915 season and he was sold to the Boston Braves.
In his first season in Boston, Konetchy led the league with 158 games played, while hitting .260 with 45 extra-base hits, 76 runs scored and 70 RBIs. In 1917 he hit .272 in 130 games, with 34 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs and 56 runs scored. He saw his average drop to .236 in 119 games in 1918, then was sold to the Brooklyn Robins right before the 1919 season started. He rebounded in Brooklyn, batting .298 with 24 doubles, nine triples and 47 RBIs in 132 games. That was followed by a .308 average, with 39 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs in 131 games in 1920. Brooklyn put him on waivers in the middle of the 1921 season, despite a .269 average and a .732 OPS. He was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies, where he finished his big league career that season. He went out strong too, hitting .321 with 59 RBIs in 72 games. Konetchy went to the minors in 1922 and played another six seasons. In 1925, playing for the Fort Worth Panthers of the Texas League, he hit .345 with 41 doubles and 41 homers at 39 years old. He had 1,123 minor league hits, giving him 3,273 hits as a pro. All-time he ranks third in putouts by a first baseman, behind Hall of Famers Jake Beckley and Cap Anson.
Harry Decker, catcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He has the claim to fame of having the highest batting average on one of the worst teams in baseball history. Decker started his pro career and Major League career in 1884 at 19 years old, splitting his season between Indianapolis of the American Association and Kansas City of the Union Association, a Major League that lasted just that one season. He batted just .167 with three extra-base hits in 27 games between the two stops. He also had a brief stint in the minors that season. Decker spent 1885 in the minors, although his only listed record that year is one game for Kansas City of the Western League. That may have to do with the fact that he was caught cashing a forged check in January, though I was able to find him playing semi-pro ball in August. Decker’s skills must have been highly thought of despite the legal trouble and poor batting in 1884, because he split the 1886 season between two National League team, the Detroit Wolverines and the Washington Nationals, while once again spending part of the season in the minors. He batted .221 with seven RBIs in 21 games between his two big league stops. After that second brief trial, he went to the minors, spending the 1887-88 seasons with Toronto of the International Association. He returned to the majors in 1889 with the Philadelphia Quakers (now the Phillies) after hitting .313 with 26 extra-base hits in 79 games for Toronto in 1888. Decker hit .100 in 11 games that first year in Philadelphia, giving him a .173 career average through his first 59 games.
Decker began the 1890 season with the Phillies (new name in 1890), playing just five games over the first six weeks of the season. In early June, the Alleghenys purchased his contract and he would become the regular catcher after joining the team in Cincinnati on June 5th, going behind the plate 70 times over the rest of the season. When he wasn’t catching he still saw regular action in the field, playing five other positions, although most of his other time was spent at first base. The 1890 Alleghenys, decimated by a mass exodus of star players to the newly formed Player’s League, finished with a 23-113 record, hitting .230 as a group. Decker hit a team high .274, with 38 RBIs and 52 runs scored. In September he had to leave the team for a time to take care of a lawsuit involving a woman suing him for $10,000 for backing out of a marriage. When the Player’s League ended after one season, most of the Alleghenys’ players returned, leaving no room for Decker. He was on the team’s reserve list for 1891, which was released in February of that year, but he was gone before the season started. The Alleghenys/Pirates paid him $60 advanced money during the off-season, which ended up being all they asked in return for a team to take his services. In March of 1891 he was arrested for forgery and larceny, with the specific details saying he wrote three bad checks that totaled $75 and stole a “suit of clothes” from a man. He was released after he paid everyone back and finished his career in the minors that year playing for New Haven of the Eastern League, the same town where he was arrested. He was wanted for forgeries again in 1892 and then in 1893 he was sent to an insane asylum, where they said that he believed he was extremely wealthy and there was no malicious intent behind his forged checks. Decker could have been wealthy because he held patents for catcher mitts that he designed, but his life of criminal activity kept him from ever having money. His final whereabouts are unknown and the latest I could track him is in jail in Illinois in 1897 for forgery.
On this date in 1971, the Pirates added depth to their playoff run by purchasing catcher/outfielder Carl Taylor from the Kansas City Royals. Taylor was originally with the Pirates during the 1968-69 seasons. After the trade with the Royals, he played seven games, going 2-for-12 at the plate. He got one start in right field in place of Roberto Clemente. During the middle of Spring Training in 1972, Taylor was sold back to the Royals, where he finished his career two years later.