This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 15th, Fritz and Elmer

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one who was related to a United States President.

Parker Markel, relief pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 32nd round in 2009 out of high school, but didn’t sign until 2010 when the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 39th round out of Yavapai College. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League, where he had a 1.74 ERA in seven appearances in 2010. In 2011, he moved up to the New York-Penn League, where he went 3-4, 3.14 in 57.1 innings over 13 starts. The next season was spent in the Low-A Midwest League. Markel had an 11-5, 3.53 record in 120 innings over 24 starts. He moved up to High-A in 2013 and struggled, going 4-7, 6.37 in 82 innings. He switched permanently to relief in 2014 and split the season between High-A and Double-A. Markel went 2-4, 4.82 in 65.1 innings over 45 appearances that season. In 2015, he spent most of the year in Double-A, posting a 3.23 ERA in 53 innings, along with a five-game stint in Triple-A, where he allowed four runs in 7.1 innings. Most of 2016 was spent in Triple-A, after putting up a 4.22 ERA during the first month in Double-A. He did better at the higher level that season, with a 2.52 ERA in 60.2 innings over 34 games. After becoming a minor league free agent in 2016, he signed to play in Korea, but decided to sit out the 2017 season. He signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in December of 2017, though he was released before Opening Day in 2018.

Markel played independent ball in 2018 and then signed with the Seattle Mariners over the off-season. He was picked up off of waivers by the Pirates on July 27, 2019 from the Mariners, where he made his big league debut earlier that season, pitching 4.2 innings over five appearances. He allowed nine runs on ten hits and four walks. After joining the Pirates, Markel made 15 appearances and threw 17.1 innings. He had a 5.71 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP, with 21 strikeouts. After the season, he was sold to the Los Angeles Angels, but he never pitched during the shortened 2020 season. He signed a free agent deal with the San Diego Padres in November of 2020, and he’s spent the entire 2021 season in Triple-A. Through early September 2021, he has a 7.77 ERA in 22 innings over 20 games in the majors.

Rich Robertson, lefty reliever for the 1993-94 Pirates. He was a ninth round pick by the Pirates in the 1990 draft out of Texas A&M. Robertson was drafted 23 rounds later by the San Diego Padres in 1989, but chose not to sign. He debuted in the New York-Penn League, where he had a 3-4, 3.08 record in 64.1 innings, with 80 strikeouts. He split the 1991 season evenly between Low-A and High-A, with extremely similar results at each level. He finished with a combined 6-11, 4.96 record in 119.2 innings. In 1992, Robertson made six starts in High-A and 20 in Double-A, with slightly better results at the higher level. He combined to go 9-7, 3.12 in 161.2 innings, with 134 strikeouts. He was always a starter coming up through the minors, but when he joined the Pirates he was switched to a relief role. Robertson pitched two early season games for Pittsburgh in 1993, making his debut on April 30th. He was then recalled in September, pitching another seven times. He threw a total of nine innings, with six runs allowed. In Triple-A that season, he went 9-8, 4.28 in 132.1 innings over 23 starts. In 1994, he was called up in mid-July and saw more time on the mound, getting extended outings during blowout games. In eight appearances through early August, he threw 15.2 innings, giving up 12 runs on 20 hits and ten walks. The rest of the season was canceled due to the strike, and the Pirates put him on waivers in November, where he was picked up by the Minnesota Twins.

Robertson pitched four more years in the majors after leaving Pittsburgh, two of them as a regular in the Twins rotation. He went 2-0, 3.83 in 51.2 innings over 21 relief appearances and four starts in 1995. The next year he had a 7-17, 5.12 record in 186.1 innings. He led the American League with 116 walks, but he also led with three shutouts. In 1997, Robertson went 8-12, 5.69 in 147 innings. He had more walks than strikeouts during both seasons as a starter for the Twins. He became a free agent and signed with the Anaheim Angels for 1998. He pitched his last five big league games that season, giving up 11 runs in 5.2 innings. He signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers for 1999, but ended up spending time with four different clubs in the minors, including a seven-game stint in Triple-A with the Pirates. He also spent time with the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds. Robertson finished his career in independent ball in 2000. He had a 17-30, 5.40 record in 114 big league games, with 61 starts and 415.1 innings pitched.

Dennis Moeller, lefty reliever for the 1993 Pirates. The Kansas City Royals drafted Moeller in the 17th round of the 1986 amateur draft at 18 years old out of Los Angeles Valley College. He went to the short-season Northwest League that year and posted a 4-0, 3.06 record in 61.2 innings, with 65 strikeouts. In 1987 he moved up to the Midwest League, for the first of two seasons with Appleton. He struggled mightily his first year, posting a 7.20 ERA in 55 innings over 13 starts and five relief appearances. The next year was a major turnaround, with a 3.18 ERA in 99 innings over 18 starts and two relief outings. Moeller had an outstanding 1989 season split between High-A, where he was 9-0, 1.77 in 11 starts, and Double-A, where he had a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings over five starts. He was in Double-A for the entire 1990 season and had a rough go of things, finishing with a 6.25 ERA in 67.2 innings over 14 starts. In 1991, Moeller had a fairly even split between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 2.55 ERA at the lower level, while bumping that up to a 3.22 ERA in 78.1 innings over 14 starts with Omaha of the American Association. He made his big league debut at the end of July in 1992. He had a 2.46 ERA in 120.2 innings that season with Omaha, while striking out just 56 batters.

Before joining the Pirates, his only Major League experience was five games (four starts) for the 1992 Royals. He went 0-3, 7.00 in 18 innings during that first cup of coffee. The Pirates acquired Moeller from the Kansas City Royals along with pitcher Joel Johnston on November 19, 1992 in exchange for Jose Lind. He pitched ten games in relief for Pittsburgh, getting hit hard in five of those games. Moeller lasted with the Pirates from Opening Day until the end of May, finishing with a 9.92 ERA in 16.1 innings. He went to Triple-A Buffalo for the rest of the season and had a 4.34 ERA in 76.2 innings. He was let go after the season and re-signed with the Royals but never made the majors again. After spending 1994 in Triple-A with the Royals, he signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and went to camp with them while the big league players were still on strike, though he refused to play exhibition games, partially due to shoulder tendinitis, which was keeping him out of action early. He was released due to the injury in late March of 1995 and was out of baseball until making a comeback attempt in independent ball during the 1998-99 seasons. He picked up his only big league win while with the Pirates on April 15, 1993. That day he threw two scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres, as the Pirates won 5-4 in 13 innings.

Dave Pagan, reliever for the Pirates on September 27, 1977. The Pirates acquired Pagan from the Seattle Mariners on July 27, 1977 in exchange for pitcher Rick Honeycutt. Pagan ended up pitching just one Major League game after the trade, while Honeycutt began his Major league career that August and it lasted 21 seasons. Pagan’s one appearance for the Pirates came in the sixth inning of a late-season game the Pirates were losing 7-1 to the New York Mets. In his first inning, he struck out the side, then punched out the first batter he saw in the seventh inning. Pagan finished the game by retiring five of the last six batters he faced, allowing just a single to Lee Mazzilli. That three-inning scoreless appearance ended up being his last game. He remained in the Pirates system until 1979, which was his last year of pro ball. Prior to joining the Pirates, he pitched parts of five seasons (1973-77) in the majors, appearing with the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and the Mariners. Pagan went 4-9, 4.96 in 85 big league games, making 18 starts.

Pagan was signed by the Yankees at 20 years old as a non-drafted free agent in 1970. He played two levels of short-season ball that year, going a combined 5-4, 3.68 in 83 innings. In 1971, he moved up to Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League, where he went 9-10, 4.12 in 155 innings. The next year he was with Kinston of the Carolina League, going 14-9, 2.53 in 26 starts. He had 12 complete games, four shutouts and 192 strikeouts in 185 innings. He excelled in Double-A and Triple-A in 1973, which led to a two-game trial with the Yankees in July, as well as a recall in September for two more games. He had a 2.84 ERA in 12.2 innings with the Yankees that season, to go along with a 2.03 ERA in 133 minor league innings. Most of 1974 was spent in the majors, where he made six starts and ten relief appearances, posting a 5.11 ERA in 49.1 innings. He had a fairly even split between Triple-A and the majors in 1975, putting up a 4.06 ERA in 31 innings over 13 games with the Yankees. He spent the entire 1976 season in the majors, going 1-1, 2.28 in 23.2 innings with the Yankees, followed by a 1-4, 5.98 record in 46.2 innings with the Baltimore Orioles after the two team completed a ten-player trade on June 15th. After the season ended, the Mariners selected him as the 29th pick in the 1976 expansion draft. Before joining the Pirates, he was 1-1, 6.14 in 66 innings over 24 appearances.

Fritz Ostermueller, lefty pitcher for the 1944-48 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1926 and retired 22 years later. He didn’t make the majors until 1934, despite some huge seasons in the minors. He pitched 169 innings for his hometown team, Quincy of the Class-B Three-I League, during his first two seasons of pro ball and put up mediocre results. In 1928, he played Class-C ball for Topeka of the Western Association, where he went 12-12, 4.05 in 211 innings. The next year he went 20-12, 2.74 in 279 innings for Shawnee, which was also in the Western Association. In 1930, Ostermueller struggled in stints in A-Ball and Double-A, combining for a 6.75 ERA in 128 innings. From there he dropped back down to Class-C, playing for Greensboro of the Piedmont League. He went 15-9 that season and threw 189 innings. The next year saw him stay in Greensboro, though the league was considered to be Class-B that year. He went 21-9, 3.35 in 271 innings and he walked 140 batters. He finally had success at a high level in 1933, going 16-7, 2.44 in 192 innings for Rochester of the International League, which led to his first big league chance.

Ostermueller went 10-13, 3.49 in 198.2 innings in 1934, with 23 starts and ten relief appearances for the Boston Red Sox, who purchased his contract from the St Louis Cardinals in September of 1933. He went 7-8, 3.92 in 137.2 innings in 1935, with 78 walks and 41 strikeouts. He struggled in 1936, going 10-16, 4.88 in 180.2 innings over 23 starts and 20 relief appearances. Ostermueller saw less work in 1937, mostly pitching in relief, going 3-7, 4.98 in 86.2 innings. During the 1938 season, he turned his record around, but the ERA was only slightly better. He finished the year 13-5, 4.58 in 176.2 innings. He lowered the ERA a bit more in 1939, going 11-7, 4.24 in 159.1 innings. In his final season in Boston, he had a 5-9, 4.95 record in 143.2 innings, making 16 starts and 15 relief appearances. He was sold to the St Louis Browns in December of 1940 and was used sparingly over the next two seasons, throwing a total of 89.2 innings over 25 appearances. He spent the early part of the 1942 season in the minors after being sold to Toledo of the American Association in March. Ostermueller was purchased back on July 27th and finished the season with the Browns. He was with St Louis until July 15, 1943 when he was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He had a 4.18 ERA in 56 innings between both stops that season.

The Pirates purchased Ostermueller on June 1, 1944 from Syracuse of the International League. He had been with the Dodgers to start the season, but he was sold to Syracuse after Brooklyn put him on waivers and no one put a claim on him. He refused to report and was put back on the market, where Pittsburgh was able to purchase his contract. Ostermueller was in his 11th season in the majors, with a record standing at 65-73, four times winning at least ten games in a season, the last time coming in 1939. He went right into the Pirates rotation and pitched the best ball of his career over the rest of the 1944 season. Ostermueller went 11-7, 2.73, throwing 204.2 innings. He missed three months of the 1945 season after he was called into service during WWII. He returned to the Pirates in August of 1945, and while that season finished slow, he was back to his 1944 form the next year. Ostermueller went 13-10, 2.84 in 1946, leading the Pirates in wins, as they finished with a 63-91 record that season. The Pirates were just as bad in 1947, but Ostermueller still finished 12-10, 3.84 in 183 innings, again leading the team in wins. At the age of 40 in 1948, he went 8-11, 4.42 in 134.1 innings. The Pirates released him at the end of the season, ending his playing career. He went 49-42, 3.48 in 118 games for the Pirates, finishing his big league career with 114 wins. He also won 110 minor league games.

Sadly, Ostermueller gained unwarranted notoriety long after he passed away when the movie 42 came out about Jackie Robinson, where he was portrayed by name as hitting Robinson in the head on purpose and then telling him he didn’t belong in the majors. That part was completely fictional and no way represented Ostermueller correctly. The only thing true about the scene was that the two teams played on that date, and it’s a shame that the makers of the movie took such unnecessary creative liberties, while using a real player by name, just to create something that didn’t happen.

Elmer Cleveland, third baseman for the 1888 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1883 in Johnstown, Pa., playing in the Western Interstate League. The next season was started in the Iron and Oil League, where he played for the team from Oil City, Pa. He would finish the season at a much higher level. Cleveland’s only Major League experience prior to his season with the Alleghenys came in 1884 for the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of the Union Association, a short-lived Major League that was well below the level of competition that the American Association or National League provided. He hit .322 that year, with 24 runs scored in 29 games. He played for Atlanta of the Southern Association in 1885, and then spent the 1886-87 seasons with St Paul of the Northwestern League. He earned a trip back to the majors during that 1887 season by hitting .379 with 32 doubles, eight triples and 16 homers in 106 games. He began the 1888 season with the New York Giants, though he played just nine games over the first seven weeks of the season.

On June 16, 1888, the Alleghenys traded third baseman Art Whitney to the Giants for Cleveland. Whitney was a holdout that season, so Pittsburgh had to move him or they would’ve ended up getting nothing. In 30 games for the Alleghenys, Cleveland hit .222 with nine RBIs and ten runs scored. His defense was well-below average, making 14 errors. On August 29th, he hit two homers against Mark Baldwin of the Chicago White Stockings, his only two homers while with the team. It was the second and third time he homered off Baldwin that year, with the first one coming in early May, which was also his first Major League homer. The odd part about that success against Baldwin was the fact that Cleveland only hit four career home runs. Cleveland’s time in Pittsburgh ended on September 13, 1888 when he asked for his release so he could go home early for the off-season, starting that he tired from the wear and tear of the season and not able to play up to his full potential. He asked for his release prior to the game that day, played the game, then the Alleghenys released him afterwards, immediately signing local player Pete McShannic to take his place for the final 26 games. Cleveland returned to the minors in 1889, playing two seasons before finishing his Major League career in 1891 with the Columbus Solons of the American Association. That was another brief trial, with a .171 average in 12 games. The 1892 season was his last in pro ball and he was right back where he started, playing and briefly managing for a team from Johnstown, Pa., though he final game came with the team from Danville in the same league (Pennsylvania State League). He finished with a .255 average, four homers and 52 runs scored in 80 big league games. Elmer was the cousin of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who was in officer during most of his pro career.