Today is a popular day in team history for lefty relievers, plus we also have a player who took part in the first game in franchise history.
Gregory Polanco, outfielder for the 2014-21 Pirates. Polanco signed with the Pirates at 17 years old as a tall/skinny outfielder out of the Dominican in 2009. He played in the Dominican Summer League his first year and batted .267 with no homers and 12 steals in 63 games. He moved up to the Gulf Coast League for the next two seasons and didn’t impress with his stats, but the tools started to show up in game action and he was considered to be a sleeper prospect by the end of 2011. Polanco hit .202 with three homers and 19 steals in 53 games in 2010, followed by a .229 average, with three homers and 18 steals (in 18 attempts) in 2011. The Pirates bumped him up to the New York-Penn League for the final three games of the season. In 2012, Polanco was part of a high upside group of prospects at West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He became a top prospect that year by hitting .325 with 26 doubles, 16 homers, 40 steals, 84 runs scored and 85 RBIs in 116 games. He played winter ball in the Dominican that year, in a league filled with players who had Triple-A/MLB experience. In 2013, Polanco played at High-A Bradenton in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he hit .312 with 23 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 53 games. He moved up to Double-A Altoona mid-season and hit .263 with 21 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 68 games. At the end of the season, he got to play the final two games of the year in Triple-A.
Polanco followed up his strong 2013 season at three levels by putting up a .331 average and a .922 OPS in 44 games of winter ball in the Dominican. He began the 2014 season in Triple-A, but ended up spending more time in the majors. As a rookie for the 2014 Pirates, he hit .235 with seven homers, 33 RBIs and 14 steals in 89 games. In 2015, he batted .256 in 153 games, with 35 doubles, nine homers, 83 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. Polanco hit .258 in 144 games in 2016, with 34 doubles, 22 homers, 86 RBIs and 17 steals. His 2017 season was marred by multiple left hamstring strains. He was limited to 108 games, in which he hit .251 with 20 doubles and 11 homers. He was having a strong 2018 season until an awkward slide caused multiple injuries, including a shoulder problem that required surgery. He batted .254 that season with 32 doubles, 23 homers, 81 RBIs, 12 steals and 61 walks in 130 games. His rehab work carried into the 2019 season, which was cut short even more by shoulder discomfort later in the year. Polanco hit .242 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 42 games. The 2020 season was shortened due to the pandemic and Polanco struggled through it, hitting .153 with seven homers in 50 games. Those struggles continued throughout the 2021 season before he was released in late August. He hit .208 with 11 homers and 14 steals in 15 attempts, over 107 games. Polanco signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays just days after being cut by the Pirates. In 823 games in Pittsburgh, he hit .241 with 96 homers, 362 RBIs, 98 steals and 399 runs scored.
Jerry Don Gleaton, lefty reliever for the 1992 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick in 1979 by the Texas Rangers, who went right to the majors for one game, before making his minor league debut. Despite that quick debut, Gleaton didn’t spend a full season in the majors until 1990 with the Detroit Tigers. He was originally drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles in 1976 in the second round, but he decided to attend the University of Texas, where he moved up to the 17th overall pick three years later. After his pro debut in the majors, he made five starts for Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League, then returned to the Rangers in August for four more outings. He was with the Rangers in September, but never pitched, and he went to the Fall Instructional League before the season ended. In 1980, Gleaton made 25 starts in Tulsa, going 13-7, 3.64 in 178 innings. He made five relief appearances for the Rangers that year, allowing two runs in seven innings. In December of 1980, he was part of an 11-player trade with the Seattle Mariners.
Gleaton set a career high with innings during his first season in Seattle, though it was also his only year as a starter in the majors. He went 4-7, 4.75 in 85.1 innings over 13 starts and seven relief appearances during the strike-shortened 1981 season. He was still a starter in the minors during the 1982-83 seasons, but he only spent three games in the majors during that time, all in 1982, and all in relief. He went 15-7, 2.72 in 182 innings at Double-A in 1982. The next year was spent in Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 6.68 ERA in 137.1 innings. Gleaton started 1984 back in Salt Lake City, where he stayed until a June trade sent him to the Chicago White Sox. He had a 3.44 ERA in 18.1 innings for the White Sox in 1984, then posted a 5.76 ERA in 29.2 innings over 31 appearances in the majors in 1985. Gleaton spent all of 1986 in the minors, then signed with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent. Most of the 1987 season was spent in the majors, where he went 4-4, 4.26 in 50.2 innings over 48 appearances with the Royals. He also earned five saves that season.
Gleaton spent the first seven weeks of the 1988 season in Triple-A before rejoining the Royals. He went 0-4, 3.55 in 38 innings over 42 big league outings that season. In 1989, he spent the majority of the season in Triple-A, where he had a 1.11 ERA in 56.2 innings. He pitched 15 times for the Royals (14.1 innings) in 1989, posting a 5.65 ERA. The Royals traded him to the Detroit Tigers right before Opening Day in 1990 and that proved to be a bad decision short term. That season he posted a 2.94 ERA and saved 13 games in 82.2 innings over 57 relief appearances. Prior to that, he had appeared in majors during parts of nine seasons, compiling a 10-18, 4.72 record in 180 games, so it was quite a surprising performance at 32 years old. His numbers slipped in 1991, down to a 4.06 ERA in 75.1 innings over 47 outings, and he was let go after the season. Pittsburgh signed him as a free agent just days after Opening Day in 1992 and he ended up pitching five games at Triple-A and 23 in the majors before being released on July 26th. He went 1-0, 4.26 in 31.2 innings at the big league level. His release was part of a youth influx for the Pirates as they went for their third straight National League East pennant. Gleaton and Jeff Robinson were released, while Zane Smith was placed on the disabled list, which led to three rookies joining the team. Gleaton was signed by the San Francisco Giants for the rest of the 1992 season, but he didn’t pitch in the majors. He then inked a deal with the Florida Marlins in 1993, but his days in Pittsburgh would end up being his last Major League experience. He finished with a 15-23, 4.25 record in 307 appearances (16 starts), with 26 saves and 447.1 innings pitched over 12 seasons in the majors.
Frank Carpin, lefty reliever for the 1965 Pirates. He spent exactly one year with the Pirates and pitched well, but his Major League career lasted just ten more games elsewhere. He debuted in pro ball in 1959 at 20 years old in the Class-B Carolina League with Greensboro, where he had a 12-9, 3.24 record in 175 innings, with 103 walks and 143 strikeouts. In 1960 he moved up to Binghamton of the Class-A Eastern League, where he went 11-8, 3.69 in 166 innings over 23 starts. From there it was to Richmond of the International League, just one step from the majors in 1961. He had a 7-9, 3.52 record in 143 that season. The 1962 season was split between Richmond and Double-A. He combined to go 3-14, 5.69 in 125 innings, with worse stats at the lower level. In 1963, Carpin played for two teams in the South Atlantic League (Double-A), going 15-9, 3.12 in 196 innings. He was back in Richmond in 1964 as a full-time reliever, where he had a 2.78 ERA in 97 innings over 69 appearances. In the November 1964 Minor League draft, the Pirates picked Carpin up from the New York Yankees. The following November they lost him to the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 draft. During the 1965 season in Pittsburgh, he went 3-1, 3.18 in 39 games, throwing a total of 39.2 innings. He was also 4-0, 2.67 in 27 innings while with the Pirates Triple-A affiliate that season. He had some shaky control, walking 24 batters in his limited time with the Pirates, but he was still able to keep the damage to a minimum. With Houston in 1966, he had a 7.50 ERA in ten games, pitching a total of just six innings. He was with the team on Opening Day for four weeks, then returned in mid-August. That would be the extent of his Major League time and he never pitched in pro ball after the 1966 season. Carpin pitched eight seasons in the minors, going 60-57, 3.55 in 279 games, 113 as a starter. A sore arm ended his career, though he played semi-pro ball for a few years after his final pro game and considered a comeback in 1970. He turns 83 today.
Fred Green, lefty reliever for the 1959-61 and 1964 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1952, but it took him seven seasons to make it to the majors for the first time. Green started off in Class-D ball with Brunswick of the Georgia-Florida League, where he went 20-12, 2.54 in 269 innings, with 190 walks and 265 strikeouts. He moved up to Class-B Waco of the Big State League in 1953 and had a 13-8, 3.24 record in 203 innings, with 107 walks and 169 strikeouts. In 1954, he was in Class-A, playing for Williamsport of the Eastern League. He went 11-11, 4.30 in 180 innings that season. He continued his slow climb in 1955, going to New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association, where he had an 8-15, 5.02 record in 174 innings. After getting a look at Spring Training with the Pirates in 1956, he moved up to Triple-A, going 5-4, 4.72 in 82 innings for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. He missed the entire 1957 season to military service, then went back to the Pacific Coast League for 1958, where he had a 10-8, 4.27 record in 137 innings for Salt Lake City, who acquired him from Hollywood. On September 29, 1958, the Pirates announced a huge deal with Salt Lake City in which the rights of six of their players in exchange for seven players being sent to Salt Lake City. They were an affiliate with the Pirates, though in some cases that meant that the Pirates had first crack at their players, depending on whether the players were optioned or sold outright to the team. Optioned players just needed to be recalled, while players sent there outright had to be reacquired.
Green made the Opening Day roster for the Pirates in 1959, though he didn’t last long before being sent down to Columbus of the International League. He ended up pitching 17 games for the Pirates that year, posting a 3.17 ERA in 37.1 innings. The World Series winning 1960 season ended up being his only full season in the majors. He went 8-4, 3.21 in 45 appearances, throwing 70 innings. Green got hit hard in the World Series, allowing ten runs in four innings. He struggled with the Pirates in 1961 before getting sent to the minors on June 29th after a 4.79 ERA in 20.2 innings. He was eventually was put on waivers, where the Washington Senators picked him up on September 25, 1961. Green threw five early season games for Washington in 1962, before spending the rest of his time in the minors prior to his May 1963 release. He re-signed a short time later with the Pirates and pitched well in eight early season appearances during the 1964 season, allowing one run and no walks in 7.1 innings, but he was still sent back to the minors in June. Green ended up pitching in the Pirates system until the end of the 1965 season, his last year in pro ball. He went 98-88 in 12 minor league seasons. With the Pirates, he had a 9-6, 3.33 record in 135.1 innings over 83 appearances. His son Gary Green played five seasons in the majors and he managed five years (2006-10) in the Pirates minor league system. He’s been a coach in the Pirates system since 2011.
Don Williams, pitcher for the 1958-59 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1953, but shortly thereafter (30 innings in 1953), he missed two full seasons to military service. Williams was a twin, and he was signed on the same exact day by the Pirates (June 18, 1953) as his brother Deward, who was also a pitcher. Don graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he had a 6-2 record in 1953. The twins were scouted by three scouts of the Pirates, including Frank Rickey (the brother of GM Branch Rickey) and Billy Meyer, whose number is retired by the Pirates. Don Williams was out of the military by June of 1955, but didn’t pitch that season due to a back injury. He pitched well for Lincoln of the Western League (A-ball) when he returned in 1956, going 11-8, 3.39 in 122 innings, but he still returned to the same level during the next season. Williams went 15-6, 2.98 in 1957, pitching 142 innings over his 60 relief appearances. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1958 and got cut just three days before Opening Day. He was assigned to Triple-A Salt Lake City on April 12, 1958 and had a strong season in the Pacific Coast League, going 8-5, 2.62 in 103 innings over 43 games, which earned him a call-up to the Pirates on September 8th. He pitched twice in relief for Pittsburgh over the final three weeks, allowing three runs over four innings of work. He made six appearances for the Pirates early in the 1959 season, posting a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings. After spending the rest of the 1959 season, and all of 1960 in Triple-A, Williams was sold to the San Diego of the Pacific Coast League on May 17, 1961. He was actually traded to Columbus of the International League on April 8, 1960, four days before Opening Day of that World Series winning season, so the sale was from one minor league team to another. The rest of his Major League career consisted of three appearances for the 1962 Kansas City Athletics. He gave up four runs over four innings in his last big league trial He had identical 6.75 ERA in each of his two brief trials with the Pirates. His twin Deward pitched six seasons in the minors, and the pair were teammates during the 1953 and 1956-57 seasons.
Jake Goodman, first baseman for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the fifth-place hitter in the first game in franchise history. Goodman started his pro career by playing for the first minor league team in baseball history, the Pittsburgh Allegheny (no “s” at the end like the Major League team five years later). He played two seasons in the majors, the first coming in 1878 with the Milwaukee Grays. That year he hit .246 with 27 RBIs and 28 runs scored in 60 games, making 42 errors at first base, the most in the league at that position. He was the everyday first baseman, playing all but one game that season for a team that finished 15-45 (one tie). He originally signed to play for the Pittsburgh Allegheny for a $1,000 contract for the 1878 season, but he ended up in the majors instead. Goodman played in the minors in 1879 with Rockford of the Northwestern League, then next appeared in pro ball as the Alleghenys’ Opening Day first baseman on May 2, 1882. He was also the team captain at the time. There was word in September of 1881 that he had numerous offers from teams for the 1882 season, but by December the newly-formed Alleghenys were said to be after him. He did well in his limited time with the team, hitting .317 in ten games, but he was soon replaced by Chappy Lane, an outstanding fielder, who could barely hit. Goodman injured his knee in the fifth inning of his final game on May 29th and had to be removed, with Lane taking his place to finish the game. It was called a “severe cut on his knee while playing first base”. He never appeared in another Major League game, finishing his career off in the minors in 1886. He played for Trenton of the Interstate Association in 1883, followed by splitting the 1884 season between Trenton and Lancaster, with both teams residing in the Eastern League. In his final season in 1886, he was playing his third season in a row in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa., though the team moved to the Pennsylvania State Association that season. He was released in late May of 1886 and never played pro ball again. Goodman, who is listed as being 6’1″, went by the nickname “Big Jake”.
In the first Spring Training game for the 1882 Alleghenys, which was also their first ever game together as a team, Goodman missed hitting a double cycle by the second homer. In an eight-inning game, he had a homer, two triples, two doubles and three singles. The game was actually called in the ninth after the Alleghenys put up another nine runs, but those didn’t count in the boxscore. No account of how they scored those nine runs exists, so it’s possible that he had more than eight hits.