Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.
Donald Veal, pitcher for the 2009 Pirates. Before joining the Pirates, he was a hard-throwing minor leaguer for the Chicago Cubs, who always had control issues. He was originally drafted in the 12th round in 2003 by the Chicago White Sox out of high school, but he decided to attend college instead. Two years later, the Cubs selected him in the second round out of Pima Community College. Veal debuted in short-season ball in 2005, pitching briefly with two teams. He had a combined 3.18 ERA in 39.2 innings, with 20 walks and 48 strikeouts. In 2006, he pitched in Low-A and High-A, making 14 starts at each level, with better results at the higher level. He combined to go 11-5, 2.16 in 154.1 innings, with 174 strikeouts. He moved up to Double-A in 2008 and had an 8-10, 4.97 record in 130.1 innings, with 73 walks and 131 strikeouts. He didn’t show any improvements repeating the level, going 5-10, 4.52 in 145.1 innings, with 81 walks and 123 strikeouts. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and gave up 12 runs in nine innings over ten relief appearances. He was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Pirates in 2008, who pitched 19 times for the 2009 Pirates. He had a 7.16 ERA in 16.1 innings, with 20 walks and 16 strikeouts during his time in Pittsburgh.
After the 2009 season, the Pirates sent Veal to the Arizona Fall League, where he worked as a starter. He was still with the Pirates in 2010-11, but he was injured for part of that time and never made it back to the majors. He was limited to nine starts in Triple-A in 2010, and then threw a total of 32 innings over four levels in 2011, with most of that work being rehab games. After leaving the Pirates via free agency after the 2011 season, Veal signed with the Chicago White Sox and pitched three years in their bullpen, with stints in Triple-A each season. He was great as a lefty specialist in 2012, posting a 2.08 ERA in the minors, followed by a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings over 24 appearances for the White Sox. In 2013, he spent most of the year in the majors, where he had a 4.60 ERA in 29.1 innings over 50 appearances. The next year his big league time was limited to seven appearances in which he allowed five runs over six innings. After pitching winter ball in the Dominican over the 2014-15 off-season, Veal signed with the Atlanta Braves and gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings over five outings in 2015. He also spent time in Triple-A and independent ball that season. His career ended with another winter in the Dominican in which he threw a total of 5.1 innings in 17 appearances. In his big league career, he had a 3-3, 5.48 record in 69 innings over 105 appearances.
Jody Gerut, outfielder for the 2005 Pirates. He was a 1998 second round pick of the Colorado Rockies out of Stanford University. Gerut debuted in pro ball in 1999, hitting .289 with 55 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 133 games for Salem of the Carolina League. In 2000, he moved up to Double-A, playing for Carolina of the Southern League. He hit .285 that year, with 38 extra-base hits and 74 walks in 109 games. A knee injury sidelined him for the 2001 season, but right in the middle of the year he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. He returned in 2002 and split the year evenly between Double-A and Triple-A, combining to hit .298 with 36 extra-base hits, 20 steals and 57 walks in 120 games. He started 2003 in Triple-A, but he was up in the majors by late April. Gerut hit .279 with 33 doubles, 22 homers and 75 RBIs in 127 games as a rookie in 2003, which helped him to a fourth place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 2004, he hit .252 with 31 doubles, 11 homers and 52 RBIs in 134 games.
Gerut began the 2005 season with the Cleveland Indians, hitting .275 with one homer in 44 games. He was dealt to the Chicago Cubs on July 18th, just 13 days before the Pirates acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for Matt Lawton. Gerut hit .222 and drove in two runs before he injured his knee in his fourth game with the Pirates, which ended his season. He appeared to be fine in Spring Training in 2006, but then he complained about the knee injury again when the Pirates tried to send him to Triple-A to begin the season. It caused a grievance between the two sides, which resulted in Gerut agreeing to go to Extended Spring Training. A month later, it was decided that he needed surgery and that put him out for the rest of the 2006 season. He was released by the Pirates during Spring Training in 2007 and didn’t play again until winter ball in Venezuela during the 2007-08 off-season. He came back strong after missing two full seasons, hitting .390 in 40 games, with a 1.055 OPS. He signed with the San Diego Padres for the 2008 season and hit .296 with 14 homers in 100 games. He saw a dip in his production in 2009, splitting the year between the Padres and Milwaukee Brewers. In 122 games between the two teams, he batted .230 with nine homers and a .654 OPS. Gerut played briefly for the Brewers in 2010, hitting .197 with two homers in 32 games, which ended up being his final experience in pro ball. In six seasons in the majors, he hit .262 with 59 homers, 226 RBIs and 246 runs scored in 574 games.
Roger Mason, pitcher for the 1991-92 Pirates. He signed with the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent out of college in 1980 at 23 years old. It took four years before he made his debut, and it was with the 1984 World Series winning Tigers. He debuted in pro ball in 1981 as a starter in Low-A, playing for Macon of the South Atlantic League. He went 10-10, 3.89 in 148 innings during that first season. Mason moved up to the Florida State League in 1982 and had a 7-7, 3.46 record in 132.2 innings over 22 starts. In 1983, he split the season between Double-A (17 starts) and Triple-A (11 starts), combining to go 12-9, 2.89 in 205.1 innings. His stats were actually significantly better at the lower level, seeing his ERA double after the promotion. In 1984, Mason made 25 starts in Triple-A, going 9-7, 3.80 in 151.2 innings. He debuted in the majors that year as a September call-up for the World Series champs and made two starts and three relief appearances, posting a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings. Right before Opening Day in 1985, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants. He remained there for three seasons (four years) before becoming a free agent after the 1988 season.
In 1985, Mason spent most of the year in Triple-A, though he excelled during his shot in the majors, putting up a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings. In 1986, he made 11 starts for the Giants and didn’t have much success, going 3-4, 4.80 in 60 innings. He saw him big league time drop down to five starts again in 1987, when he had a 4.50 ERA in 26 innings. Mason pitched just two big league games during the 1988-90 seasons, with both appearances coming in relief for the 1989 Houston Astros. That 1990 season was spent at Triple-A for the Pirates, where he went 3-5, 2.10 in 77 innings, while working mostly in relief. In 1991, he split the year between Triple-A and the majors, making a total of 15 starts and 43 relief appearances between the two levels. His 3.03 ERA in 29.2 innings over 24 appearances with the Pirates that year earned him a spot on the 1992 club on Opening Day. Mason made 65 relief appearances, posting a 5-7, 4.09 record in 88 innings, while picking up eight saves. He finished with just 13 career saves. During the two postseasons with the 1991-92 Pirates, he threw a total of 7.2 scoreless innings. Mason was released after the 1992 and played for the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies over his final two years (1993-94) in the majors. He did almost identical work for the Padres and Phillies in 1993, making 34 appearances with 50 innings in San Diego, while pitching 34 times in Philadelphia with 49.2 innings. Mason combined to go 5-12, 4.06 that season, with much a much better ERA with the Padres, despite an 0-7 record. In 1994, he struggled in six games with the Phillies and then had a 3.51 ERA in 51.1 innings over 41 games with the Mets. He had shoulder surgery over the off-season and tried to make a comeback with the Pirates, but his return lasted one game in the Gulf Coast League before he retired. Mason had a 3.82 ERA in 117.2 innings over 89 appearances with the Pirates. In his nine-year big league career, he went 22-35, 4.02 in 416.1 innings over 23 starts and 209 relief appearances.
Ken Brett, pitcher for the 1974-75 Pirates. During the second ever amateur draft in June of 1966, Brett was the fourth overall pick by the Boston Red Sox. At 17 years old in short-season ball that year, he had a 5.81 ERA in 62 innings. The next season he made his big league debut. Brett split the 1967 season between A-Ball and Double-A, going 14-11, 1.95 in 189 innings, with 219 strikeouts. He pitched two innings during the final week of the season with the Red Sox. Due to injuries and a player being lost to the service, the Red Sox were able to add him to the postseason roster and he threw 1.1 scoreless innings in the World Series shortly after his 19th birthday. Brett had to serve six months in the military in 1968, which limited him to 29 innings in Triple-A that year. In 1969, he had a 3.28 ERA in 129 innings in Triple-A and a 5.26 ERA in eight starts with the Red Sox. He spent the entire 1970 season in the majors, making 14 starts and 27 relief appearances. He went 8-9, 4.07 in 139.1 innings, with 155 strikeouts. In 1971, Brett was mainly used in relief, where he posted a 5.34 ERA in 59 innings. In October of 1971, he was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in a ten-player trade.
Brett had a 7-12, 4.53 record in 133 innings during his only season in Milwaukee. Almost exactly one year after they acquired him, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a seven-player deal. He basically spent the exact same amount of time in Philadelphia, staying there just long enough to go 13-9, 3.44 in 211.2 innings over 25 starts and six relief appearances. The Pirates acquired Brett from the Phillies in a straight up deal for Dave Cash after the 1973 season. Brett had a 3.30 ERA in 191 innings and won 13 games for the 1974 Pirates. He also batted .310 with two homers and 15 RBIs. Those stats helped lead to his only All-Star Game appearance. The next year he had a 9-5, 3.36 record over 118 innings, making 16 starts and seven relief appearances. In the playoffs during his time in Pittsburgh, he pitched 2.1 innings in relief each year, allowing two runs in 1974 and throwing shutout ball in 1975. After the 1975 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees in the disastrous Doc Medich deal, which including Dock Ellis and a young Willie Randolph also going to New York.
Brett was traded shortly after joining the Yankees, but he had a strong season with the Chicago White Sox and continued on to pitch five more years in the majors. He went 10-12, 3.28 in 26 starts in 1976, with 203 innings pitched and 16 complete games. He split the 1977 season between the White Sox and California Angels, combining to go 13-14, 4.53 in 34 starts, with a career high 224.2 innings pitched. He spent the entire 1978 season with the Angels, where he had ten starts and 21 relief appearances. In 100 innings, he had a 3-5, 4.95 record. The 1979 season started with the Minnesota Twins, who signed him to a free agent deal after he was released by the Angels shortly before Opening Day. After just nine appearances with the Twins, he was released on June 4th and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers a week later. Brett went 4-3, 3.45 in 47 innings over 30 appearances with the Angels. He was released in Spring Training in 1980 and then signed with the Kansas City Royals in August. He played his final two seasons in the majors with the Royals, throwing 13.1 shutout innings to round out the 1980 season, followed by 4.18 ERA in 32.1 innings during the strike-shortened 1981 season. In his 14-year career, Brett posted an 85-89, 3.93 record in 1,526.1 innings over 184 starts and 163 relief appearances. He is the brother of Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. They were teammates on the Royals in 1980-81.
Harvey Haddix, pitcher for the 1959-63 Pirates. He won 45 games for the Pirates and 136 games during his 14-year career, though he is best known for a game he didn’t win. Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against the Braves on May 26, 1959, but he lost the game in the 13th inning. The boxscore can be found here. He debuted in pro ball in 1947 at 21 years old, playing for Class-C Winston-Salem of the Carolina League. Haddix went 19-5, 1.90 in 204 innings during that first season. The next three years were spent four levels higher with Columbus of the American Association. He went 11-9, 4.79 in 186 innings in 1948, followed by a 13-13, 3.49 record in 219 innings in 1949. During the 1950 season, he had an 18-6, 2.70 record in 217 innings. Haddix missed the 1951 season and most of 1952 serving in the Army. When he returned, he went right to the majors for the St Louis Cardinals. He had a 2-2, 2.79 record in 42 innings in 1952. In his first full season in the majors in 1953, Haddix went 20-9, 3.06 in 253 innings. His 163 strikeouts ranked fourth in the National League. He led the league with six shutouts, was named to the All-Star team, finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and 17th in the MVP voting.
In 1954, Haddix had an 18-13, 3.57 record in 259.2 innings, with 35 starts and eight relief appearances. He made his second All-Star appearance and he struck out a career high 184 batters, which was good for second in the NL. He made his third straight All-Star appearance in 1955 when he had a 12-16, 4.46 record in 208 innings. You would assume that he pitched much better prior to the All-Star break with those numbers, but he actually had a 5.43 ERA during the first half of the season, and a 3.33 ERA during the second half. In 1956, Haddix was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a five-player deal after just four starts that season. He went 13-8, 3.67 in 230.1 innings that season. In 1957, he had a 10-13, 4.06 record in 170.2 innings. That winter he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in an even up deal for slugging outfielder Wally Post.
Haddix spent one season with the Reds. In 1958, he went 8-7, 3.52 in 184 innings and won his first of three straight Gold Glove awards. He joined the Pirates in a seven-player deal with the Reds prior to the 1959 season. His best season with the Pirates was 1959 when he had a 12-12, 3.13 record in 224.1 innings. He went 11-10, 3.97 in 172.1 innings for the 1960 champs. In the World Series, Haddix won game five as a starter, and he was the winning pitcher in the epic game seven victory. After a 10-6, 4.10 record in 156 innings in 1961, and a 9-6, 4.20 record in 141.1 innings in 1962, Haddix was moved to the bullpen in 1963. He excelled in the role, posting a 3.34 ERA in 70 innings over 45 appearances. He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles following the 1963 season and spent his last two year of pro ball in the Baltimore bullpen. He had a terrific 1964 season at 28 years old, putting up a 2.31 ERA in 89.2 innings over 49 appearances. In his final season, Haddix went 3-2, 3.48 in 33.2 innings over 24 games. He finished up his 14-year career with a 136-113, 3.63 record in 2,235 innings. He threw 99 complete games and had 20 shutouts and 20 saves. After retiring as a player, he returned to the Pirates as a coach, first in the minors, then years later as the big league pitching coach, returning to Pittsburgh in 1979 for six years.
Heinie Groh, third baseman for the 1927 Pirates. Signed mid-season, he played the last 14 games of his 16-year career with the Pirates. Groh started a stretch of games at third base in July, then only played two games over the final two months of the season. He debuted with the Pirates just hours after he signed a contract on July 2nd. He was a superb fielding third baseman, who could also hit, batting .292 in his career. He led league twice in OBP, twice in doubles, once in runs and once in hits. Groh was a key contributor on four teams that went to the World Series and he also got an at-bat in the 1927 series with the Pirates. He compiled 48.1 WAR during his career, putting up positive WAR numbers on both offense and defense during each of his 12 full seasons in the majors. He led the National League in fielding percentage five times at third base and he led the league in double plays at third base seven times, including six years in a row from 1915 through 1920. He also led the league in putouts at third base during the 1917-19 seasons.
Groh debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1908 with Oshkosh of the Wisconsin-Illinois League. He spent three years in Oshkosh, which was considered to be Class-D during the 1908-09 seasons and Class-C in 1910. His 1908 records are incomplete, but they show him hitting .161 that season in 416 at-bats. He batted .297 in 113 games in 1909, then hit .297 again in 100 games the next year. He split the 1911 season between Class-B Springfield of the Three-I League and Buffalo of the Class-A Eastern League. He hit .285 in 81 games that season. Groh was a seldom-used bench player for the 1912 New York Giants, getting into 27 games all season, with 12 starts total at three positions. In 1913, he was one of three players (plus cash) sent to the Cincinnati Reds for veteran pitcher Art Fromme. Groh played four games for the Giants prior to the trade, then saw regular action at second base with the Reds after the deal. He hit .281 with 27 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 51 runs scored in 121 games. In 1914, he batted .288 with 64 walks and 59 runs scored in 139 games. He received mild MVP support that season for the only time in his career.
In 1915, Groh led the league with 160 games played. He batted .290 with 32 doubles, nine triples, 50 RBIs and 72 runs scored. In 1916 he batted .269 with 24 doubles, 14 triples, 85 runs scored and 84 walks, which was a career high and it led the league in free passes. In 1917, Groh led the league with 156 games, 685 plate appearances, 182 hits (career high), 39 doubles (career high) and a .385 OBP. He hit .304 with 71 walks that season. In 1918, he led the league in doubles (28), runs scored (86) and OBP (.395). He batted .320 with 54 walks. He also briefly managed the Reds for ten games that season, putting together a 7-3 record during his only big league managerial experience. Groh led the league in OPS (.823) in 1919 thanks to a .310 average, 56 walks and 33 extra-base hits in 122 games, helping push the Cincinnati Reds to a title. He batted .298 with 60 walks, 86 runs scored, 28 doubles and 12 triples in 145 games in 1920. In his last season with the Reds in 1921, he hit a career high .331 in 97 games. After the season, he was traded to the Giants for two players and $150,000 cash.
When the Giants won the 1922 World Series, Groh hit .474 in the postseason and scored four runs in the five-game series. His regular season performance that year was down from normal. He hit .265 with a .703 OPS in 115 games. In 1923, the Giants returned to the World Series for the third straight time during a four-year run of NL pennant wins. Groh hit .290 with 60 walks, 91 runs scored and 48 RBIs that season. He batted just .182 in the series, though he contributed to five runs. In 1924, he hit .281 with 32 doubles and 82 runs scored in 145 games. A knee injury put him on the bench during the postseason, where he got a hit in his only at-bat. Before joining the Pirates in 1925, he hit .229 in 35 at-bats with the Giants, then hit .286 in 35 at-bats for the Pirates. He finished his career with a .292 average, 566 RBIs, 308 doubles and 918 runs scored in 1,676 games. Groh never came close to getting elected to the Hall of Fame, but he did get votes in eight different years. His brother Lew Groh played for the 1919 Philadelphia Athletics.