This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 8th, Gerrit Cole and a Clemente Highlight

We have seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. We also have a Game Rewind from a September 8th game highlighted by Roberto Clemente’s hitting.

The Players

Gerrit Cole, pitcher for the 2013-17 Pirates. He was the first overall pick by the Pirates in the 2011 draft out of UCLA. Three years earlier out of high school, the New York Yankees selected him 28th overall. Cole began his pro career in fall ball due to signing late. He had a 3.00 ERA in five Arizona Fall League starts. He started the 2012 season in High-A ball and worked his way up to Triple-A, finishing with a combined 9-7, 2.80 record in 132 innings and 26 starts. After making 12 Triple-A starts in 2013, he was called up to the majors on June 11th for his big league debut. Cole won ten of his 19 starts and finished with a 3.22 ERA over 117.1 innings, piling up 100 strikeouts. In 2014, he went 11-5, 3.65 in 22 starts and 138 innings, missing time in June and then in July/August with injuries.

Cole had his best season in Pittsburgh in 2015 when the team won 98 games. He went 19-8, 2.60 in 208 innings. He was an All-Star, finished fourth in the Cy Young voting and even got mild MVP support. He also struck out 202 batters, making him one of just two right-handed pitchers in Pirates history to reach the 200-strikeout mark. Cole struggled in 2016 and made only 21 starts. He finished with a 3.88 ERA and his highest career WHIP to date (1.44). His ERA rose to 4.26 in 203 innings in 2017 and he allowed 31 homers. With two years remaining before free agency, Cole was traded to the Houston Astros on January 13, 2018 for four players. He went 15-5, 2.88 in 201.1 innings in 2018, with 276 strikeouts. He followed that up with a 20-5, 2.50 record in 212.1 innings in 2019, piling up 326 strikeouts. He led the league in ERA and strikeouts, which led to a second place finish in the Cy Young voting. He was also an All-Star and received some MVP support. Cole went 4-1 during the postseason that year, helping the Astros to a World Series victory, though the team was found guilty of cheating through signal stealing, so that title comes with a major asterisk. That was the first of two major scandals on his record.

Cole signed a large free agent deal with the New York Yankees in 2020 that could run through the 2029 season. His first year was the strike-shortened 2020 season, which saw him go 7-3, 2.84 in 73 innings, with 94 strikeouts. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. Through the end of August in 2021, he had a 13-6, 2.80 record in 148 innings. He was one of the main people who admitted to using illegal substances on a baseball when MLB cracked down on it in June of 2021. That cheating likely dated back to his first season in Houston, when he began to show significant spin rate increases on his pitches, followed by his unreal season in 2019 which he improved even more. His career record stands at 114-61, 3.15 in 1,416 innings over 228 starts.

Mike Dyer, pitcher for the 1994-95 Pirates. He was originally a fourth round pick in January 1986 at 19 years old by the Minnesota Twins out of Citrus College. Since 1965, that school has produced 74 draft picks, with nine making the majors and Dyer with his career 0.5 WAR is the best of the group, which has compiled -1.2 WAR. Dyer debuted in pro ball in the Appalachian League, where he had a 5-7, 3.48 record in 72.1 innings. The next year he moved up to A-Ball, in the Midwest League, where he had a 16-5, 3.07 record in 167 innings, with 163 strikeouts. He was in Double-A by 1988, pitching for Orlando of the Southern League. He had an 11-13, 3.99 record in 162.1 innings that season. Dyer began the 1989 season in Triple-A, but he made it to the majors by the end of June, getting 12 starts and four relief appearances for Minnesota. He went 4-7, 4.82 in 71 innings, throwing one complete game. It took another five years before he would pitch another Major League game.

Dyer lasted just two games in Triple-A in 1990, before shoulder soreness and numbness in his pitching hand kept him out for the entire season. In 1991, he was out for the entire season due to surgery after rehab failed. He pitched in Triple-A in 1992, going 7-6, 5.06 in 105 innings, before being released shortly after the season ended. He signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs and pitched in Triple-A as a reliever for two months before being released. He signed with the Cleveland Indians two weeks later and finished the season in Double-A. Dyer signed with the Pirates in January of 1994. He started that 1994 season at Triple-A Buffalo, going 3-3, 2.34 in 29 games, compiling 12 saves. Pittsburgh called him up in late June, getting him into 14 games before the 1994 strike ended his season early. He had a 5.87 ERA in 15.1 innings, picking up four saves. When baseball resumed in 1995, he was a regular in the bullpen for Pittsburgh, making 55 appearances. He went 4-5, 4.34 in 74.2 innings, though he didn’t pick up any saves.

Near the end of 1996 Spring Training, Dyer was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Montreal Expos. His big league career came to a strange ending. He pitched 70 games for Montreal in 1996, then was released after the season. He went 5-5, 4.40 in 75.2 innings, with two saves. He was signed by the Colorado Rockies six days after being released. Dyer was the last cut from the Rockies Spring Training roster, just days before Opening Day. He was signed by the Atlanta Braves a short time later and sent to Triple-A, where he pitched until June, before an injury ended his season. After 1997, Dyer pitched just nine more games, coming as a member of the 2000 Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds, an independent league team. So he ended up making 70 appearances at age 29 in his final big league season. His career stats show a 14-18, 4.60 record in 236.2 innings over 13 starts and 142 relief appearances.

Jim Smith, infielder for the 1982 Pirates. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1976, Smith played just one season in the majors, coming six years later with the Pirates. He was a light-hitting shortstop (career .245 hitter in minors), who spent four full seasons at Triple-A, before making the Pirates 1982 Opening Day roster. He was a sixth round pick out of Long Beach State, who spent his first season with Bluefield of the Appalachian League, where he put up a .290 average in 70 games, with 46 runs scored, 20 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs. Smith was known for his strong defense, so when he hit well as a rookie in pro ball, that earned him a longer look by the Orioles during Spring Training. It ended up being a one-year peak, as the next season he hit .200 with 14 doubles and ten homers in Double-A, which was quite a leap in competition from the previous year. In 1978, he moved up to Triple-A Rochester, where he hit .221 in 102 games, with a .617 OPS. He remained at Rochester in 1979, hitting .238 with 21 extra-base hits in 130 games. The problem in Baltimore was that the Orioles had Mark Belanger at shortstop, one of the greatest defensive players ever, so no one was going to knock him out of his spot unless they provided more than defense. Cal Ripken Jr. soon came along, which left no spot for Smith, who was loaned to the New York Mets affiliate in Tidewater for the 1980 season. Smith was hobbled by a knee injury early in the year, and he was limited to 89 games in 1980. At the end of Spring Training in 1981, he was sold to the Pirates.

Smith spent all of 1981 at Triple-A for the Pirates, where he hit .251 with 31 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs in 129 games. He then got his Opening Day spot in 1982 after the Pirates traded away backup infielder Vance Law two weeks before the season opener. Smith nearly won the starting shortstop job by out-hitting Dale Berra during Spring Training by 100 points, while also playing much better defense. As it ended up, Smith saw very little playing time for the Pirates, getting into 42 games all year, with just 11 coming as a starter at shortstop. He also got into a few games between third base and second, though none were starts. He was the backup for both Dale Berra and Johnny Ray, but Ray ended up starting all 162 games. He didn’t play at all between July 4th and August 2nd because Berra went on a hot streak. On August 7th, Smith was able to get two starts due to Berra being sent home due to illness. Smith hit .238 in 52 plate appearances with four RBIs and made seven fielding errors in his limited playing time. He was also used 14 times as a pinch-runner and once as a pinch-hitter. On November 5, 1982, Smith was dropped from the 40-man roster. The Pirates sent him to the Chicago White Sox later that off-season and he spent all of 1983 in the minors behind Vance Law on the depth chart. That ended up being his last year in pro ball.

Jim Bagby Jr., pitcher for the 1947 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball the Class-B Piedmont League in 1935 at 18 years old. He went 13-9, 5.00 in 218 innings that season for Charlotte, then switched teams in the league to Rocky Mount in 1936, where he had a 9-12, 5.11 record in 169 innings. In 1937, Bagby pitched for Hazleton of the Class-A New York-Penn League. He had a 21-8, 2.71 record in 239 innings, which led to his first big league job. He spent the first nine years of his career in the American League with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. Bagby won 15 games as a rookie for Boston in 1938, while posting a 4.21 ERA in 198.2 innings. He spent part of 1939 back in the minors after a poor showing early in the season. He went 5-5, 7.09 in 80 innings for the Red Sox in 1939. In 1940, Bagby had a 10-16, 4.73 record over 182.2 innings, with 21 starts and 15 relief appearances. He was traded to the Indians on December 12, 1940 in a six-player deal. His time in Cleveland lasted exactly five years, returning to the Red Sox on December 12, 1945 in a much smaller trade. During his first season with the Indians, he went 9-15, 4.04 in 200.2 innings.

Bagby had his best seasons in Cleveland when baseball was watered down due to a large number of Major Leaguers serving in WWII. He won 17 games during both the 1942 and 1943 seasons, leading the league in games started each year. He pitched a total of 543.2 innings, leading the league in innings in 1943, while making the AL All-Star squad each year. His 2.96 ERA in 1942 was the best of his career, while his 3.10 mark in 1943 ended up being the second best. He then spent part of the 1944 season in the Merchant Marines and wasn’t the same pitcher when he came back. He went just 19-22 over the 1944-46 seasons, during a time when the talent in baseball was at it’s lowest. He had a 4.33 ERA in 79 innings in 1944. That was followed by a 3.73 ERA in 159.1 innings in 1945, then a 3.71 ERA in 106.2 innings over 11 starts and ten relief appearances in 1946. He spent that last season back with Boston, who sold him to the Pirates the following February. Bagby was used most in relief during his only season in Pittsburgh, pitching 31 times out of the pen, with six starts. He went 5-4, 4.67 in 115.2 innings pitched. It turned out to be his last season in the majors, though he was still with the Pirates organization in the minors the next year. He ended up pitching two more years before retiring, finishing with a 97-96, 3.96 career Major League record in 1,666.1 innings over 198 starts and 105 relief appearances. His father Jim Bagby Sr pitched for the 1923 Pirates. The younger Bagby’s claim to fame, is that he was the pitcher on the mound for the last out of the game that ended Joe DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting.

Val Picinich, catcher for the 1933 Pirates. He played 18 seasons in the majors as a catcher, yet never played more than 96 games in a season. For five seasons in Washington, he was the backstop for Walter Johnson, catching 86 of his starts. In 1,037 career games, he hit .258, finishing with strange stat line of 26 homers and 26 triples, and 298 RBIs and 298 runs scored. Picinich debuted in pro ball in the majors with the Philadelphia A’s in 1916 at 19 years old. He hit just .195 in 40 games during that first season for Connie Mack’s team. He spent the 1917 season with Atlanta of the Southern Association before returning to the A’s for two late season games. In 1918, he started the year back in Atlanta, then returned to the majors with the Washington Senators in late May. Picinich hit .230 with 12 RBIs in 47 games that season. The 1919 season was his first full year in the majors. He batted .274 with 18 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in 80 games. In 1920, he hit .203 in 48 games, with a lowly .605 OPS. He rebounded a bit on offense in 1921, hitting .277 in 45 games. The offense dropped again in 1922, as he finished with a .615 OPS and a .229 average in 76 games. On February 10, 1923, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox.

In his first year in Boston, Picinich hit .276 with 31 RBIs and 33 runs scored, which set a career high in runs that he would later tie. He also set career highs with 46 walks and a .770 OPS. The next season he batted .273 in 69 games, with a decent walk rate that led to a .394 OBP, which was the best of his career. His .760 OPS was the third best of his career, just ten points off of the previous season. Picinich hit .255 with 25 RBIs and 31 runs scored in 90 games in 1925. Exactly three years after they acquired him, the Red Sox sold Picinich to the Cincinnati Reds. He batted .263 with 31 RBIs and 33 runs scored over 89 games in 1926. The next year he .254 in 65 games, with no homers and 12 RBIs. His best year came in 1928 with the Reds, when he hit .302 with a career high 35 RBIs, while setting a high with 96 games played. At the start of the 1929 season, he was traded to the Brooklyn Robins (renamed Dodgers in 1932) for two players, including one-time Pirates catcher Johnny Gooch. Picinich hit .260 with 26 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 93 games in 1929. The 1930 season was a huge one for offense all around baseball. He was a backup that year though, playing just 23 games behind Hall of Famer Al Lopez, another one-time Pirates catcher. Picinich saw very limited playing time during the 1931-32 seasons as well. He played a total of 88 games during that three-year stretch, making 29 starts. He had a total of 175 plate appearances.

Picinich began his last season in the majors (1933) with the Dodgers, playing six games before he was released in mid-May. He signed on with the Pirates a month later and finished the year as one of the backups to Earl Grace. Picinich played 16 games for Pittsburgh, mostly being used during the second game of doubleheaders. He hit .250 with seven RBIs in his 60 plate appearances. He caught in the minors in 1934, then was a player/manager in 1935, before finishing his career with three more years of minor league managing. His career fielding stats were below average, especially his 37% caught stealing rate, which was 7% below league average during his career.

Rosie Rosebraugh, lefty pitcher for the 1898-99 Pirates. He played two years in the minors for the Dayton Old Soldiers of the Interstate League, before joining the 1898 Pirates in September. No records are available for the 1897 season, but during the 1898 season, he went 23-11 for Dayton. His contract was purchased on September 8th, but he was allowed to stay with Dayton for a short time longer. His final game with the team came on September 18th in which he won 4-1 in the first game of a doubleheader. He said goodbye to his teammates before the second game started and headed to Pittsburgh. Four weeks earlier, he pitched 20 innings during a doubleheader in which he won one game and tied the second. He made his Pirates debut on September 21, 1898, with one inning of relief work. He started his first game for the Pirates six days later and took a tough 5-4 loss. His second (and last) start of the season came 11 days later and the Pirates gave him no support on offense or defense in an 8-1 loss. He finished that first year 0-2, 3.32 in four games, two of them complete games. In 1899, he made two starts, but lasted just six innings total. The Pirates lost both games, one was credited to Rosebraugh.

He pitched the rest of the season back in the Interstate League for the Mansfield Haymakers, the same league and team he finished his baseball career with the next year. The Pirates loaned him to Mansfield on July 9, 1899 and had the option to bring him back at any time, but he never returned. It is possible that he played in 1901 with New Orleans of the Southern Association. An unknown player for that team was listed as “E. Rosebrough”. Rosie’s last name was constantly misspelled during his career and his real first name was Eli. He also went by the nickname “Zeke”. He was highly regarded before coming to the Pirates as a pitcher with good speed, but little control. He once struck out eight batters and walked eight in the same game. He threw a no-hitter as well. His life came to a tragic ending at age 54, the victim of a self-inflicted gun shot.

Russ McKelvy, right fielder for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on August 24, 1882. He began his pro career in 1877, playing in Pittsburgh for the first minor league team in baseball history. He was an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Allegheny (no “s” at the end) of the International Association. McKelvy played every game that season, hitting .200 in 19 games with eight runs scored. The pitcher for that team was Pirates’ great, Jim “Pud” Galvin, who made all but one start for Pittsburgh, with McKelvy getting the other starting assignment. The next year, McKelvy moved on to the majors, playing for the Indianapolis Blues. He was one of five players on that team to lead the NL with 63 games played. He hit .225 with a team high 36 RBIs (not a stat at the time), hitting two of the team’s three homers on the season. He started 62 games in center field and one as a pitcher. In 1879, he was the catcher for a semi-pro team in Salt Lake City called the Deserets.

McKelvy’s playing career records are spotty after 1878, except for his one game in right field for the 1882 Alleghenys. He went 0-for-4 without a play in the field on August 24th, as Pittsburgh moved to 27-31 on the season with a 7-2 win over the St Louis Brown Stockings. Oddly enough, he batted fourth in the lineup during his only game. In May, McKelvy umpired a game between the Alleghenys and Red Stockings when Cincinnati refused to use the originally scheduled umpire due to past experiences. McKelvy also did some umpire work around the Pittsburgh area in 1881.

There is a player known only as “McKelvy”, who played for the 1883 Pittsburgh Enterprise of the Western Interstate League. That is likely Russ, as no other player with the last name McKelvy has ever played minor/major league ball. There are two players named McKelvy who played for a Pittsburgh amateur team named the “CH Kelleys” in 1882, both shortly after his one game for the Alleghenys. You would assume that one of them was Russ. McKelvy was playing for a local team called the Braddocks in June of 1882. After his playing days, he moved to Omaha, where he became a wealthy businessman late in life. He was referred to as “the famous ballplayer” in a Sporting Life article from 1894. He was apparently very fast, as a 1879 article notes that he won an amateur 100-yard dash race.

The Game

On this date in 1958, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a 4-1 score. Roberto Clemente tied a team record that day by collecting three triples. That also stands as the post-1900 record for triples in the game, which was topped just twice before 1900. Here’s a Game Rewind article detailing the win over the Reds and Clemente’s feat.