This Date in Pirates History: September 5th, Lefty Leifield and Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players were born on this date, including a Hall of Famer and a star pitcher for the 1909 World Series winning team.

Bill Mazeroski, second baseman for the 1956-72 Pirates. On October 13,1960, Mazeroski hit his famous World Series winning, walk-off homer. Not only was it the greatest single moment in Pittsburgh Pirates history, it ranks up there as the single greatest moment in baseball history. He is considered by many to be the greatest fielding second baseman in baseball history, as well as one of the overall best defensive players ever. His list of accomplishments is long. Two World Series rings, eight Gold Glove awards, ten All-Star selections and a Hall of Fame plaque in 2001. He played seventeen seasons and 2,163 games in Pittsburgh, making his Major League debut on July 7, 1956 and playing his last regular season game on October 4, 1972.

In the field, he earned those eight Gold Gloves by leading the National League in assists nine times, putouts six times, fielding range ten times and fielding percentage three times. Career he ranks fifth in assists at second base with 6,685 and seventh in put outs (4,974). In the modern metrics category called Total Zone Runs, which was devised to determine just how valuable a player was on defense at their position, Mazeroski ranked first overall among second baseman. In defensive WAR, he ranks first among all players who put on a Pirates uniform

Among Pittsburgh Pirates hitting categories, Mazeroski ranks fifth in games played behind Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Max Carey. He is sixth in both at-bats and plate appearances, going to the plate a total of 8,379 times. His 2,016 hits ranks eighth all-time in team history, trailing seven Hall of Famers. Maz has the eighth most total bases (2,848), eighth most doubles (294), tenth most homers (138) and sixth most RBIs with 853. Only eight Pirates have reached base more times than Mazeroski in a Pirates uniform, and all eight went on to make the Hall of Fame.

Before making his Major League debut, Mazeroski spent three seasons in the minors, playing a total of 308 games. He played for two teams, the Williamsport Grays of the Eastern League in 1954-55 and the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1955-56. Before being called up for his Pirates debut as a 19-year-old, he batted .306 in 80 games for Hollywood, with nine homers and 36 RBIs. Mazeroski was brought up to replace Spook Jacobs in the lineup, just 11 games after the Pirates had traded for the 30-year-old second baseman. He would hold onto that second base job full-time until 1969 when he started to miss some time and play less frequently, playing just 273 games over his final four seasons combined. Mazeroski hit .243 in 81 games as a rookie. In his first full season in the majors, he batted .283 with 42 extra-base hits in 148 games. He set a season high in batting average that year, as well as a high with 27 doubles.

He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner by 21 years old in 1958, when he hit .275 with 19 homers and 68 RBIs. He also had his highest MVP finish that season, ending up eighth in the voting. That home run total ended up being his career high for a season. In 1959, he hit .241 with seven homers in 135 games. He saw a 126 point drop in his OPS, but still played in both All-Star games that year, something that went on in the majors during the 1959-62 seasons when they played two mid-season classics. During his magical 1960 season, he batted .273 with 11 homers, 64 RBIs and 58 runs scored, while setting a high with 40 walks. He played in both All-Star games and won his second Gold Glove. Besides his all-time moment to end the series, Mazeroski had a strong overall postseason, hitting .320 with two doubles and two homers. He followed up his heroics with a .265 average, 21 doubles, 13 homers, 59 RBIs and a career high 71 runs scored in 1961. He didn’t make the All-Star team that year, but he won a third Gold Glove award.

Mazeroski batted .271 with 24 doubles, 14 homers and 81 RBIs in 159 games in 1962, while playing in both All-Star games. In 1963, he had a rough year at the plate, with a 104-point drop in his OPS, down to a .629 mark. He batted .245 with eight homers and 52 RBIs in 142 games. Despite the offensive struggles, he was still an All-Star and Gold Glove winner that year. In 1964, Mazeroski hit .268 with ten homers, 64 RBIs and 66 runs scored in 162 games. He added another All-Star game and Gold Glove to his resume. In 1965, he played just 130 games due to a Spring Training foot injury. He batted .271 with six homers, 54 RBIs and 52 runs scored that season. He missed the All-Star selection that year due to his late start, but he still picked up the Gold Glove award. Mazeroski led the National League in games played in 1966 and 1967, when he played all 325 games for the Pirates (they played 163 in 1967). He set a personal best with 82 RBIs in 1966, to go along with a .266 average, 22 doubles, seven triples and 16 homers. He also turned 161 double plays, which is a still-standing MLB record for a season by a second baseman. In 1967 he hit .261 with 37 extra-base hits, 77 RBIs and 62 runs scored.

Mazeroski saw a drop in his production in 1968, though that was going on all around baseball. He hit .251 with three homers and 42 RBIs in 143 games that year. The offense continued to drop and his playing time was limited over the last four seasons. He played 67 games in 1969, 112 in 1970, 70 in 1971 and 34 in his final season. The Pirates made the playoffs three straight times (1970-72), but he went 2-for-6 with two walks in that stretch. He had identical .229 averages during the 1969-70 seasons, then hit .254 in 1971, before finishing up his career with a .188 average. The next season he was the third base coach for the Pirates, a job he also later held with the Seattle Mariners. Mazeroski turns 85 today.

Lefty Leifield, pitcher for the 1905-12 Pirates. Before making it to the majors with the Pirates, Albert “Lefty” Leifield was a workhorse pitcher for Des Moines of the Western League. He pitched 616 innings between the 1904-05 seasons, finishing his second year with a 26-9, 2.11 record in 39 games. He made his debut with the Pirates on September 3, 1905, two days before his 22nd birthday, throwing a three-hit shutout in the second game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs. Before the season ended, he has compiled a 5-2, 2.89 record, giving him 31 wins on the season. He became a regular in the Pirates rotation the next season, a spot he would hold for six straight years. During that 1906 season, Leifield went 18-13 with a 1.87 ERA in 31 starts and six relief appearances. He record that season actually looks like he had some tough luck behind him, as teammate Sam Leever went 22-7 with a 2.42 ERA. On September 26, 1906, Lefty threw the first no-hitter in team history, a six-inning contest called due to darkness, during the second game of a doubleheader. He finished the season with eight shutouts, which is tied for the second highest total in team history for a season.

In 1907, Lefty won 20 games for the only time in his career. He made 33 starts and seven relief appearances, throwing a total of 286 innings. He had a 2.33 ERA and threw six shutouts. Leifield seemed to have tough luck follow him with the Pirates, especially in 1908, when he had a 15-14 record. His ERA was just 2.10 and the Pirates won 98 games that year. Teammate Nick Maddox went 23-8 with a 2.28 ERA, while Sam Leever was 15-7 with an identical 2.10 ERA. The Pirates won their first World Series title in 1909 and Leifield was again a strong presence in the rotation, going 19-8, 2.37 in 26 starts and six relief appearances. Pittsburgh had a ton of pitching depth start season, so they were able to give the better pitchers more rest than in previous years. In the World Series, Lefty started game four and was hit hard in his four innings, allowing five runs and taking the loss It was his only appearance of the seven-game series.

After going 15-13, 2.64 in 218.1 innings in 1910, Leifield was asked to step up in the rotation in 1911, setting career highs in starts (37), games pitched (42) and innings pitched (318), all of them team highs that season. The Pirates relied heavily on Babe Adams and Howie Camnitz as well, with the three pitchers accounting for 107 of the team’s 155 starts. Lefty finished the year 16-16, 2.63, another season in which he was hurt by run support. Camnitz went 20-15 with a 3.13 ERA that same year. Part of the problem with his win/loss record over the years, was the fact he seemed to match up against the other team’s best pitcher a lot. Included in those match-ups over the years, was a total of 17 starts from 1906-11 against Christy Mathewson, the best National League pitcher of that time and a noted Pirates killer, even during Pittsburgh’s best years.

The extra workload in 1911 seemed to take an effect on Leifield, who started off slow during the 1912 season. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with Tommy Leach, on May 30, 1912 in exchange for pitcher King Cole and outfielder Solly Hofman. Lefty went 7-2, 2.242 in 13 games for Chicago after the deal. In 1913, he started off poorly, then was sold to the minor leagues. He briefly retired instead of reporting to his new team. Leifield would return to baseball a short time later, going on to play two years for San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, then three years for St Paul of the American Association. In 1918, he returned to the major leagues with the St Louis Browns. He pitched well in limited use during the 1918-19 seasons, then was used just four times during the entire 1920 season. He had a 2.55 ERA in 67 innings in 1918, a season shortened due to the war. He pitched a little more in 1919, going 6-4, 2.93 in 92 innings. Lefty became a coach in the majors for some years before retiring from baseball. He finished his career with a 124-97, 2.47 record in 296 games, 216 as a starter. With the Pirates, he went 109-84 with a 2.38 ERA in 1,578 innings, throwing a total of 28 shutouts. His ERA ranks third in team history, trailing two teammates from those 1907-09 teams, Nick Maddox and Vic Willis. His shutout total ranks fifth in Pirates history.

Jason Martin, outfielder for the 2019-20 Pirates. He was an eighth round pick of the Houston Astros out of high school in 2013. Martin debuted in pro ball in the Gulf Coast League at 17 years old, where he hit .251 with no homers and 11 steals in 50 games. In 2014, he split the season between two short-season clubs, hitting .257 with one homer and 13 steals in 63 games. He moved up to Low-A Quad City of the Midwest League in 2015, where he batted .270 with eight homers, 57 RBIs and 65 runs scored in 105 games. He stole 14 bases, but that came with 15 caught stealing. In 2016, he moved up to Lancaster of the California League, which was a very hitter-friendly park/league. Martin hit .270 with 22 doubles, 23 homers, 75 RBIs, 70 runs scored and 55 walks in 110 games. He played in the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .194 in 11 games. In 2017, he started the year in High-A, then spent a little more than half of the season in Double-A, putting up similar results at each level. Martin combined to hit .278 with 35 doubles and 18 homers in 125 games. After the season, he was one of four players sent to the Pirates in the Gerrit Cole trade. In 2018, he played 68 games for Double-A Altoona and 59 for Triple-A Indianapolis, with significantly better results at the lower level. He had a .913 OPS in Altoona and a .589 OPS after his promotion. In 2019, Martin played 101 games in Triple-A, where the new baseballs were leading to a huge jump in offense. He hit .259 with 38 extra-base hits in 101 games. He was with the Pirates at the start of the seasons due to injuries, came back for a brief stop in June, then rejoined the team in September. His season was cut short due to a shoulder injury suffered while sliding into home plate in his first game back. In 20 games with the Pirates, he hit .250 with no homers and two RBIs. He played seven games for the Pirates during the shortened 2020 season and failed to get a hit in nine at-bats. Martin was let go in November of 2020 and he signed a deal with the Texas Rangers. Through late August, he was hitting .165 with four homers and ten RBIs in 46 games for the 2021 Rangers.

Pablo Reyes, utility fielder for the 2018-19 Pirates. He signed as an amateur international free agent out of the Dominican Republic at 18 years old in 2012. Reyes spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League despite strong stats in his first time through the league. He hit .284 with 18 doubles, 18 steals and a 23:12 BB/SO ratio in 59 games in 2012. The next year he batted .304 with 15 steals and 23 walks in 52 games. He moved up to Bristol of the Appalachian League in 2014, where he hit .272 in 46 games, with a .733 OPS. In 2015 he was in Low-A, hitting .268 with 24 doubles, 12 homers and 27 steals in 108 games for West Virginia of the South Atlantic League. In 2016, Reyes spent the season in Bradenton of the Florida State League, where he had a platoon role early on, in a move that was hard to explain at the time. He ended up hitting .265 with 26 extra-base hits in 89 games, in the pitcher-friendly league. After hitting .333 in 21 games of winter ball in the Dominican that off-season, he went to Double-A Altoona in 2017, where he hit .274 with 34 extra-base hits, 21 steals and 51 walks in 115 games. He mostly played shortstop early in his career, switched more to second base in 2014, then started playing more outfield along with 2B/SS in 2017. After a brief stint with Altoona in 2018, Reyes had a brief stint with Altoona to start the year, but the majority of the season was spent with Triple-A Indianapolis. He hit .289 with 32 extra-base hits and 13 steals with Indianapolis. He was set to become a minor league free agent at the end of the season, but the Pirates added him to the active roster in September, and he hit .293 with three homers in 18 games. Most of 2019 was spent in Pittsburgh in a utility role, playing all three outfield spots, as well as second base, shortstop and third base. He struggled as a bench player, hitting .203 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 71 games. Reyes was suspended for the 2020 season due to a positive PED test. The Pirates released him after the season and he signed a free agent deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. Through late August of 2021, he was hitting .214 with no homers and two RBIs in 38 games with the Brewers, seeing almost all of his time at third base.

Rod Barajas, catcher for the 2012 Pirates. He spent the final season of his 14-year career with the Pirates, where he hit .206/.283/.343 in 104 games, with 11 homers and 31 RBIs. Barajas signed a one-year deal as a free agent with the Pirates shortly after the 2011 World Series ended. He started 98 games behind the plate for the Pirates, split the catching duties with Michael McKenry.  Barajas signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2012 season, but he was released during Spring Training, which ended his career.

Barajas was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in 1996 at 21 years old by the Diamondbacks, and he spent the first five seasons of his big league career in Arizona. He played for Lethbridge of the Pioneer League in 1996, where he hit .337 with ten homers in 51 games. The next year was spent at High Desert of the High-A California League. That was a huge park for offense. Barajas hit .266 with seven homers in 57 games in 1997. He repeated the level in 1998 and hit .303 with 26 doubles, 23 homers and 81 RBIs in 113 games. He went to Double-A in 1999 and hit .318 with 41 doubles, 14 homers and 95 RBIs in 127 games. He got his first taste of the majors in late September and hit .250 with a homer in five games. The 2000 season had a similar split, with a full season in Triple-A, plus five more big league games. He struggled in Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League that year, posting a .633 OPS that was well below league average. His split in 2001 was fairly even between Triple-A and the majors. Barajas hit just .160, with three homers in 51 games for the Diamondbacks that year. In 2002, he spent nearly the entire season in the majors, where he batted .234 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 70 games. He finally had a full season in the majors in 2003 and hit .218 with three homers and 28 RBIs in 80 games.

Barajas became a free agent after the season and signed with the Texas Rangers, where he put up much better stats, albeit in a better park for hitters. He batted .249 with 26 doubles and 15 homers in 108 games in 2004. That was followed up by a .254 average, with 24 doubles, 21 homers and 60 RBIs in 120 games in 2005. In his final season in Texas, Barajas hit .256 with 20 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 97 games. He signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2007 and batted just .230 with four homers in 48 games. He then signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he hit .249 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 104 games in 2008. In 125 games in 2009, Barajas hit .226 with 19 homers and a career high 70 RBIs. He signed a free agent deal with the New York Mets for 2010 and hit .225 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs in 74 games before being sold to the Los Angeles Dodgers in late August. In 25 games with the Dodgers, Barajas hit .297 with five homers. He was with the Dodgers during the 2011 season before joining the Pirates. He hit .230 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs in 98 games that year. He was a career .235 hitter in 1,114 games, with 136 homers and 480 RBIs. He was considered to be above average defensively, though he never led the league in any categories on defense. He threw out 28% of runners attempting to steal, just below the 29% league average during his career. He briefly managed the San Diego Padres at the end of the 2019 season.

Chris Green, lefty pitcher for the 1984 Pirates. He was taken in the fourth round of the 1979 amateur draft by the Pirates out of high school in California at 18 years old. He debuted that year in the Gulf Coast League, where he had a 6.19 ERA in 32 innings. In 1980, he was in A-Ball, playing for Shelby of the South Atlantic League, where he had a 6-7, 4.26 record in 95 innings. Green looked like a prospect in 1981, going 15-7, 3.08 in 184 innings over 27 starts for Greenwood of the South Atlantic League. The next year he split the season between High-A and Double-A, and looked even better. He had a combined 16-6, 2.91 record in 27 starts, striking out 166 batters in 185.2 innings. While the results were strong, he had his share of control troubles during those two seasons, walking a total of 171 batters, with nearly identical walk rates each season. His stats really slipped off the next season, opening the year in Triple-A, before being sent down to Double-A, where he was used as a closer. Green went 0-9, 5.24 in his first season of Triple-A in 1983, making 12 starts and one relief appearance before being sent down. He was used strictly in relief in 1984, making 13 Triple-A appearances, with a 5.94 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched. Before he pitched a Triple-A game though, he was called up to the Pirates to replace an injured Rod Scurry. Green spent just over a month on the Pirates roster, yet he appeared in just three games, throwing a total of 2.1 innings. He was recalled in early August and this time he got into just one game over the rest of the season. He was not with the Pirates in September, getting sent down just prior to the rosters expanding. Green spent one more season at Triple-A for the Pirates, before moving on to the California Angels system in 1986, then the Baltimore Orioles organization the next year, where he spent part of the season back in Double-A. He never played in the majors again, ending with four appearances and two runs allowed in three innings.

Jimmy Knowles, first baseman for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He wasn’t the Opening Day first baseman for the Alleghenys on May 1, 1884, but one day later he would take over the position for 46 games, before moving on to the Brooklyn Atlantics to finish the season. Knowles hit .231 for Pittsburgh in 189 plate appearances, scoring 19 runs, while drawing just five walks, leaving him with a .259 OBP. He had 12 extra-base hits, which included seven triples and five doubles. His stats were very similar over 41 games with Brooklyn that year, hitting .235 with 19 runs scored and just three walks. On August 20th, he took part in a triple play, the ninth in American Association history. The 1884 season was watered down as far as talent went. The Union Association was formed that year, giving baseball three Major Leagues at the time, while the American Association expanded to 12 teams from eight the previous year. Basically, Major League baseball went from 16 teams (eight National League, eight AA) to 28 over the off-season, so it made room for a lot of players who weren’t Major League ready. It was just a one-year experiment though, and things returned to normal the next season.

Knowles was one of those players who returned to the minors in 1885, playing the year for the Washington Nationals of the Eastern League, where he hit .302 in 95 games. The next season the Nationals joined the National League and he remained with the team. The team was greatly over-matched all season, finishing with one of the worst records ever at 28-92, getting outscored by nearly 350 runs. Knowles hit .212 in 115 games, finishing with the sixth highest strikeout total in the league. He also committed the most errors in the league among all positions. He seemed to get jobs in the big leagues due more to needs of teams, rather than his own ability. In 1887 he played for New York of the AA, a team that went 44-89 on the season. He part .250 with six RBIs, six steals and 12 runs scored in 16 games.

After two years in the minors (1888-89), Knowles reappeared in the majors in 1890, playing for Rochester of the AA. The 1890 season was much like the 1884 season. There were three Major Leagues with the formation of the Player’s League, and the American Association was the worst of the leagues. Proof of that is evident when looking at Knowles’ stats for the season. He played 123 games, hitting .281 with 84 RBIs and 83 runs scored, adding 55 stolen bases and 59 walks. It was far and away his best season, yet when the PL ended after one year, he was back to the minors in 1891 playing for Buffalo of the Eastern League, where he scored 115 runs in 125 games. He played 16 more big league games in 1892, playing third base for the New York Giants. He hit .153 and made ten errors during his late season trial. It ended up being his last season in the majors, leaving him with a .241 average and .618 OPS in 357 Major League games. He played in the minors until 1897, serving part of that time as a player/manager for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association.