Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two games of note.
Ty Wigginton, infielder for the 2004-05 Pirates. He played 12 years in the majors, seeing time with eight different teams. Wigginton was drafted out of college by the New York Mets in the 17th round in 1998 out of UNC-Asheville. He went to the New York-Penn League that season and hit .239 with 26 extra-base hits in 70 games. He skipped a level to St Lucie of the Florida State League in 1999 and hit .292 in 123 games, with 23 doubles, 21 homers and 56 walks, after posting a very low walk rate during his first season. He moved to Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League in 2000, where he hit .285 with 27 doubles, 20 homers and a major drop in his walks, with 24 in 122 games. The 2001 season was spent mostly in Triple-A, though an injury limited him to 89 games and led to 11 games at the lower levels on rehab. Wigginton hit .250 with seven homers in 78 games that season for Norfolk of the International League. He started 2002 back in Norfolk before joining the Mets for a time in May. He ended up playing 104 games in Norfolk, posting a .796 OPS, while playing 46 games with the Mets, where he hit .302 and had an .880 OPS.
Wigginton hit .255 with 11 homers, 12 stolen bases and 71 RBIs as the Mets everyday third baseman in 2003. His 73 runs scored and 156 games played were both his career high. He was batting .285 with 12 homers in 86 games when the Pirates acquired him in the five-player deal at the 2004 trading deadline, one which sent pitcher Kris Benson to New York. Wigginton was given the third base job with the Pirates and his average dipped to .220 over the rest of the season, finishing with five homers in 58 games in Pittsburgh. He spent half of the 2005 season in Triple-A, while batting .258 with seven homers in 57 games for the Pirates. Wigginton was released after the 2005 season and he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he put together a strong season in 2006. He ended up also spending time with the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies and St Louis Cardinals over his last seven season in the majors.
In 2006, Wigginton hit .275 in 122 games, with 55 runs scored, 25 doubles, and career highs with 24 homers and 79 RBIs. He split the 2007 season between the Devil Rays and Houston Astros, combining to hit .278 with 71 runs scored, 22 homers, 67 RBIs, and a career high 33 doubles. He was with the Astros in 2008, where he batted .285 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs in 111 games. Wigginton signed a free agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles for 2009-10 and hit .273 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 122 games his first year, while seeing playing time at five positions. He played 154 games in 2010 and made his only All-Star appearance. He saw regular playing time at first base, second base and third base, finishing with a .248 average, 63 runs scored, 29 doubles, 22 homers, 76 RBIs and a career high 50 walks. Wigginton signed with the Rockies for 2011 and hit .242 with 21 doubles, 15 homers, 47 RBIs and 52 runs scored in 130 games, during his only season in Colorado. From there he went to the Phillies, where he hit .235 in 125 games, with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 2012. He had a limited bench role with the 2013 Cardinals, hitting .158 in 47 games before being released in July. He signed with the Miami Marlins for 2014, but he retired after being released during Spring Training. Wigginton hit .237 with 12 homers in 115 games for the Pirates, and was a .261 hitter with 169 homers, 594 RBIs and 558 runs scored in 1,362 career games.
Shane Youman, pitcher for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was a 43rd round draft pick, who made the majors five years later. The Pirates drafted him out of LSU in 2001, four years after he was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school in the 45th round. He signed too late to debut in 2001, but had a strong first pro season in the New York-Penn League with Williamsport in 2002, going 4-0, 1.45 in 37.1 innings, with five saves and 48 strikeouts. Youman moved up to Hickory of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2003, where he went 6-3, 4.65 in 50.1 innings over 40 appearances, collecting 12 saves. In 2004 he went to the High-A Carolina League with Lynchburg, where he had a 4-2, 3.16 record in 74 innings over 47 appearances. He was in Double-A Altoona in 2005, where he made some starts to go along with his long relief work. Youman went 8-6, 3.92 in 101 innings over 44 games (five starts). He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and had a 5.96 ERA in 22.2 innings. He moved into a bigger starting role in 2006 and it worked out well. He went 7-2, 1.51 in 95.1 innings for Altoona, then had a 4-0, 4.04 record in 42.1 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Youman debuted with the Pirates in September of 2006 and posted a solid 2.91 ERA in 21.2 innings, though his ten walks and five strikeouts both sent up red flags. During the 2007 season, he joined the club in early July and remained in the majors throughout the rest of the season. His first seven appearances were as a starter and he posted a 5.18 ERA. In mid-August, he had a string of four straight relief appearances, giving up seven runs in 8.1 innings. He got his final big league start on September 1st and surrendered eight runs in two innings. Over the final 29 days of the season, he had four relief appearances and he threw seven shutout innings on two hits and one walk. The Pirates lost him via waivers to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2007 season, though he never pitched in the majors again. Youman pitched through the winter of 2016-17, spending time in China, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Korea, Mexico, the Dominican and independent ball in the U.S. He played for 15 seasons total, plus five years of winter ball. The Phillies were his final team in affiliated ball and he lasted just 22.1 innings, with an 11.28 ERA, before they cut ties in the middle of the 2008 season. His best success came in Korea, where he went 13-7, 2.55 in 179.2 innings in 2012, followed by a 13-4, 3.54 record in 193.1 innings in 2013. He went 3-7, 5.13 in 79 innings over 11 starts and ten relief appearances during his time with the Pirates.
Wayne Osborne, pitcher for the 1935 Pirates. He pitched four seasons in the Pacific Coast League before making his big league debut with the Pirates, and he went on to play another nine seasons in the PCL afterwards. He debuted in pro ball in 1931 at 18 years old with Portland of the PCL and saw limited work, going 1-0, 5.63 in 24 innings over eight games. He pitched for Portland and the Mission Reds in 1932, combining to go 2-6 (no ERA available) in 100 innings over 20 appearances. He went 2-7, 5.24 in 146 innings for Mission in 1933, then got noticed for his 1934 season. Osborne went 16-19, 3.65 in 266 innings over 45 games. The Pirates purchased him from Mission on July 27, 1934, but they let him play out the season in the PCL, before joining the Pirates during the following spring. He lasted just two early season games for the Pirates, twice coming on for short relief stints in April during one-sided losses. In his Pirates debut on April 18, 1935, Osborne was called on to get the team out of the sixth, already trailing 8-2 with two outs. He needed just one pitch to retire the side, then was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the inning. In his second and final outing, he allowed one run on one hit in one inning of work. He actually played a third game as a pinch-runner on April 29th, which ended up being his final game in Pittsburgh. He was released two dats after his pinch-running appearance and was back with his Mission club on May 7, 1935. He had a strong season with Mission after returning, going 18-11, 3.56 in 253 innings. He pitched briefly for the Boston Braves at the start of the 1936 season, going 1-1, 5.85 in five games, three as a starter, but he ended up back with Mission by May. In between his time in Pittsburgh and Boston, he belonged to the Brooklyn Dodgers for a short time. Osborne won 131 games in his minor league career.
There are two very interesting details about Osborne from before his pro career, both shaping his career in different ways. The first one is that he was missing part of his right thumb and part of the right middle finger due to a firecracker incident as a child. He had the nickname “four-finger” and often got comparisons to Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. He said that the unique grip he used helped him develop a curveball that he used often, mostly because he didn’t throw hard. The second detail was how he got started in pro ball. He was pitching semi-pro ball and a strong team came in to face his club. His manager wasn’t going to let him pitch, but Osborne’s father, who he called “a baseball nut”, was willing to bet $10 with the manager that if he started his son, he would win the game. Osborne got the start, won the game, and it just happened to be in front of the Portland manager, who signed him after the game. Osborne told old stories that he had no interest in playing pro ball until that point, but quickly changed his mind after joining Portland.
Buttercup Dickerson, outfielder for the 1883 Alleghenys. His real name was thought to beLewis Pessano, and many people don’t know it, but he was the first Italian-American baseball player in the majors leagues…..possibly. Another former Pirates player, Ed Abbaticchio, who made his debut in 1897 (which was 19 years after Dickerson’s first season) is sometimes identified as the first Italian baseball player because Dickerson’s Italian heritage has been questioned. Despite the surname (sometimes spelled Pisano), research that included interviews with his direct descendants has said that his last name actually is Dickerson, and the Pessano name came as a tribute to the doctor that delivered him. In what may be an ironic twist, Buttercup is actually in the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. The nickname came from the famous Gilbert & Sullivan play, which came out in 1878. It started showing up in print while Dickerson was on the 1879 Cincinnati Reds and it was often written as “Sweet little Buttercup” or just “Little Buttercup”.
Whatever the story is on his heritage, he was still an interesting player in baseball history. Dickerson, just 23 years old at the time, was blacklisted from the National League after the 1881 season along with nine other players for questionable play or actions on or off the field. Many of the players were accused of throwing games for money, but Dickerson was banned for “chronic drunkenness”. When he was reinstated in 1883, he joined the Alleghenys, while they were still in the American Association. He actually signed with both Boston and Pittsburgh, but he was awarded to the Alleghenys on February 17th. Dickerson hit .249 over 85 games in 1883 while playing five different positions for a team that finished with a 31-67 record. He played just seven seasons in the majors, but he managed to play for eight different teams in three different Major Leagues. He batted .300 in three seasons yet was still out of the majors by age 26. He played five more seasons in the minors after his big league days were over, retiring in 1890.
Dickerson debuted in pro ball during the first season of minor league ball, playing for three different teams in the League Alliance in 1877. One of those teams was the Binghamton Crickets, which played in the International Association in 1878, where Dickerson played until making his big league debut. He batted .309 in 29 games for the 1878 Reds at age 19. He played all 81 games in left field for the 1879 Reds, hitting .291 with 57 RBIs and 73 runs scored. He led the league with 14 triples. He split the 1880 season between Troy and Worcester, doing poorly for the Troy Trojans (.450 OPS in 30 games), but better for Worcester (.742 OPS in 31 games). Before being blacklisted in 1881, he hit .316 with 18 doubles, 31 RBIs and 48 runs in 80 games. After being out of the pro game in 1882 and playing for the Alleghenys in 1883, he split the 1884 season between three teams and two leagues, seeing his most time with the St Louis Maroons of the Union Association, a one-year Major League. He hit .365 in 46 games with the Maroons, but he batted just .190 in 21 games for two American Association clubs. His big league career ended with five games for Buffalo of the National League in 1885. He went 1-for-21 during that brief stint. He was a career .284 hitter in 408 games, finishing with exactly 500 hits.
On this date in 1972, the Pirates lost game five of the NLCS to the Cincinnati Reds by a 4-3 score. Not only was it the end to their season, it was also the end of a baseball career. This was the last game played by the great Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash less than three months later. Clemente went 1-for-3 with a walk in the game. He collected his last career hit in the first inning, a single to center field off Don Gullett. In his last plate appearance he was intentionally walked. The Great One played his entire 18-year career with the Pirates, made 15 All-Star teams and collected 3,000 hits while batting .317 over 2,433 games.
On this date in 1909, the Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers in game three of the World Series by an 8-6 score. The game was played in front of 18,277 fans at Bennett Park in Detroit, and with the victory the Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the series. Honus Wagner went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while Ty Cobb collected two hits and drove in two runs of his own. The Pirates were led by pitcher Nick Maddox, who threw a complete game with just one of those six runs allowed being an earned run. Detroit’s starter Ed Summers lasted just six batters, as his defense made three errors behind him, leading to five unearned runs and just one out recorded.