There have been 12 former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major game of note.
Edgar Santana, pitcher for the 2017-18 Pirates. He signed very late out of the Dominican Republic because he attended school first, but once he got in the Pirates system, it didn’t take him long to get to the majors. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League at 22 years old in 2014 and had a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings over 13 appearances. In 2015, he moved up to the New York-Penn League with Morgantown, then spent a short time with West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Santana combined to go 1-0, 3.19 in 42.1 innings over 22 appearances. In 2016, he started at High-A Bradenton, quickly moved to Double-A Altoona, then finished the season with Triple-A Indianapolis. He had an 0.81 ERA in 22.1 innings with Bradenton, a 2.83 ERA in 41.1 innings with Altoona, and a 5.06 ERA in 16 innings in Triple-A. Santana went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and he threw 13.2 shutout innings, with 18 strikeouts. In 2017, he started to Indianapolis, but he had three stints with the Pirates, first coming up in July. In 18 innings over 19 games with the Pirates, he posted a 3.50 ERA. In 2018, he spent the entire year with the Pirates, going 3-4, 3.26 in 66.1 innings over 69 appearances. His career got sidetracked over the next two seasons. He missed 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and he missed the shortened 2020 season due to a PED suspension. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 2021, but they designated him for assignment, then sold him to the Atlanta Braves just after the season started. He spent some time in the minors, but most of the year was spent in Atlanta, where he finished with a 3.59 ERA in 42.2 innings over 41 appearances. He did not play during the 2022 season after being released by the Braves shortly after the 2021 season ended. His big league time over three seasons shows a 6-4, 3.40 record in 127 innings over 129 games, all relief appearances.
Matt Ruebel, pitcher for the 1996-97 Pirates. Ruebel was a third round draft pick of the Pirates in 1991 out of the University of Oklahoma. He had considerable trouble in his first four seasons of pro ball until a breakout year in Double-A in 1995. That 1991 season saw him start in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he had a 1.95 ERA in six starts for Welland. He moved up to the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he finished off the year with a 3.83 ERA in eight starts. In 1992, Ruebel split the season between Augusta and Salem of the High-A Carolina League. He did well in his return trip to Low-A, posting a 5-2, 2.78 record in 64.2 innings, but struggled in Salem, going 1-6, 4.71 in 78.1 innings. In 1993, he once again split between Augusta and Salem, except this time he was mainly pitching in relief. He had a 2.42 ERA in 63.1 innings with Augusta, but he had his issues in Salem again, with a 5.94 ERA in 33.1 innings. Ruebel finally had success in Salem in 1994 when he made 13 starts and eight relief appearances, going 6-6, 3.44 in 86.1 innings. When he got promoted to Carolina of the Double-A Southern League, he made three starts and three relief appearances, finishing with a 6.61 ERA in 16.1 innings.
During his breakout season in Carolina in 1995, Ruebel went 13-5, 2.76 in 169.1 innings over 27 starts, with a career best 136 strikeouts. Despite a 4.60 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP in Triple-A Calgary of the Pacific Coast League in 1996, he saw significant time with the Pirates during the season, pitching for a month in mid-May to mid-June, then rejoining the club in late July for the rest of the season. Ruebel matched his Triple-A numbers with a 4.60 ERA. He made seven starts and 19 relief appearances for the Pirates, throwing a total of 58.2 innings. He was with the Pirates for the entire 1997 and things didn’t go well, which led to somewhat limited usage. Ruebel had a 6.32 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP in 44 appearances (all relief). He had a 5.49 ERA in 121.1 innings over 63 relief appearances and seven starts in his two years in Pittsburgh. His only other big league time consisted of 8.2 innings for the 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was released after the 1997 season by the Pirates and signed with the Devil Rays. His big league career was over by July of 1998, but he played another two years in pro ball, spending time with three others MLB clubs in the minors. He was with the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets in 1999 and the Montreal Expos in 2000, when he also had a short stint in independent ball. Since retiring as a player, he has become a scout for the Pirates.
Josias Manzanillo, pitcher for the 2000-02 Pirates. He played a total of 11 seasons in the majors, seeing time with eight big league clubs. He was signed at 15 years old out of the Dominican Republic by the Boston Red Sox in 1983, back before rules required players to turn 16 before they signed. Boston sent him to the New York-Penn League, which was an advanced placement for any player, but Manzanillo is one of the youngest players in the league’s history. As you might have suspected, he struggled during his first year, posting a 7.98 ERA in 38.1 innings, with more walks than strikeouts. In 1984, he stayed in the same league, putting up a 5.26 ERA in 25.2 innings, with more walks than strikeouts. The Red Sox gave him a third year in the league, though he also saw brief time in Low-A, where he had a lot of trouble recording outs. Between both stops, he had a 5.23 ERA in 51.2 innings, with 54 walks and 53 strikeouts. After three years of poor results, he jumped to the Florida State League in 1986 and went 13-5, 2.27 in 142.2 innings. His progress came to a halt in his second start in Double-A in 1987. A shoulder injury caused him to miss the rest of the season and all of 1988. In 1989, he returned healthy and made 26 starts in Double-A, going 9-10, 3.66 in 147.2 innings.
In 1990, Manzanillo split the year between Double-A and Triple-A, combining to go 8-11, 4.54 in 156.2 innings, with 128 strikeouts. His ERA at the lower level was just over two full runs lower. In 1991, he had a 2.90 ERA in seven starts at Double-A, followed by a 5.61 ERA in 102.2 innings back at Triple-A. The Red Sox had him pitch one inning in the majors that year and he allowed two runs. In 1992, Mazanillo became a free agent and signed with the Kansas City Royals, where he spent the entire season in the minors, mostly in Triple-A. In 1993, he signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers, who traded him to the New York Mets in mid-June. He had a 9.53 ERA in 17 innings with the Brewers and a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings with the Mets. Most of the strike-shortened 1994 season was spent in the majors, where he had a 3-2, 2.66 record and two saves in 47.1 innings over 37 games. Manzanillo got off to a slow start with the 1995 Mets, posting a 7.88 ERA in 16 innings, before placing him on waivers, where he was picked up by the New York Yankees. He finished the year with a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings. He played in Taiwan in 1996, then signed with the Seattle Mariners in December of 1996. Manzanillo had a 5.40 ERA with the Mariners in 1997 before being released in July. He signed with the Houston Astros, but he finished the season in the minors. He signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 1998, staying there until he was released in July. The Mets re-signed him, but he ended up spending the entire year in the minors, before seeing big league time again in 1999.
The Pirates signed Manzanillo as a free agent after he posted a 5.79 ERA in 12 appearances for the 1999 Mets. He spent most of 2000 in the majors, putting up a 3.38 ERA in 58.2 innings over 43 appearances. He spent the entire 2001 season in the majors, making 71 appearances. In 79.2 innings, he had a 3.39 ERA and he recorded two saves. Despite the success and usage in 2001, it didn’t carry over into the next season. He spent half of the year in the minors and he was released on August 15th after posting a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings over 13 appearances. He had a 3.75 ERA in 151.1 innings over 127 relief appearances with the Pirates. Manzanillo pitched parts of two more seasons in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds and Florida Marlins, then finished his career with a season in Mexico. He had a 12.66 ERA in 10.2 innings over nine appearances with the Reds in 2003. He actually allowed 20 runs during that short time, but five were unearned. With the 2004 Marlins, Manzanillo went 3-3, 6.12 in 32.1 innings over 26 games. He pitched 267 games (one starts) in the majors, and had a 13-15, 4.71 record and six saves in 342 innings. His brother Ravelo Manzanillo pitched for the 1994-95 Pirates as part of his three-year career in the majors. Ravelo actually started his pro career with the Pirates, then suffered a shoulder injury right around the same time as his brother in 1987. His time with the Pirates came six years after they parted ways with him the first time. Their nephew Jerry Gil played two seasons in the majors, 2004 and 2007.
Billy Taylor, pitcher for 2001 Pirates. He didn’t make the majors until he was 32 years old in 1994, then ended up playing seven years in the big leagues. Taylor originally signed out of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College as a second round draft pick in 1980 of the Texas Rangers. That’s a college that produced two big league players through the draft, but hasn’t had a draft pick since 1997.He played 14 seasons before his first shot at the majors, and dealt with a heartbreaking decision 12 years into his career when the Toronto Blue Jays made him a Rule 5 pick, then cut him right before Opening Day. He also had to deal with missing the entire 1995 due to injury after finally making the majors a year earlier. During the 1996-99 seasons, he was the closer for the Oakland A’s, compiling exactly 100 saves in his career.
Taylor started in the Gulf Coast League in 1980 at 18 years old, but he made it to A-Ball before the season ended, though his 10.93 ERA in 14 innings showed that he was pushed quickly. He had the same split in 1981, with a 2.72 ERA in the GCL and a 4.64 ERA for Asheville of the South Atlantic League. He pitched for two teams in the Midwest League in 1982, making 37 appearances, with nine starts and 112 innings pitched. In 1983, Taylor spent most of the season with Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League, where he had a 6.87 ERA in 76 innings. He remained in Tulsa for the next 2 1/2 seasons, posting a 3.83 ERA while working mostly in relief in 1984, followed by a 3.47 ERA as a starter in 1985. He split the 1986 season between Tulsa and Oklahoma City of the Triple-A American Association. Taylor combined to go 8-12, 4.34 in 170 innings over 27 starts, with 132 strikeouts. He struggled in Oklahoma City for the next two seasons, with a 5.61 ERA in 168.1 innings in 1987, and a 5.49 ERA in 82 innings in 1988. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the San Diego Padres, where he had a 5.13 ERA in 79 innings of relief work for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League in 1989.
Taylor didn’t sign until August of 1990 and played sparingly in the minors that season for the Atlanta Braves. In 1991, he spent the entire season in Double-A as a closer for the Braves, putting up 22 saves and a 1.51 ERA in 77.1 innings. In 1992, he moved up to Triple-A and 2.28 ERA and 12 saves in 79 innings. The Toronto Blue Jays took him that December in the Rule 5 draft and ended up returning him to the Braves on April 3, 1993. He would spend that entire season in Triple-A, despite a 1.98 ERA and 26 saves. He signed with the Oakland A’s as a free agent for 1994 and won an Opening Day spot. He went 1-3, 3.50 in 46.1 innings over 41 games during that shortened season. He injured his knee at the start of Spring Training in 1995 and missed the entire season. Taylor returned in 1996 to go 6-3, 4.33, with 17 saves in 60.1 innings over 55 games. He improved to 3-4, 3.82, with 23 saves in 73 innings over 72 appearances in 1997. The next year saw him improve yet again, despite a 4-9 record. He had a 3.58 ERA in 73 innings over 70 games, while compiling a career best 33 saves.
Taylor had a 3.98 ERA and 26 saves for the A’s through the end of July in 1999 when he was traded to the New York Mets to help their playoff run. He struggled with his new team in a non-closer role, posting an 8.10 ERA in 13.1 innings over 18 appearances. While that ERA was bad, he ended up allowing just one run in his last seven appearances, covering 7.1 innings. Taylor signed with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent in 2000, but they released him during Spring Training. He signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a week later and spent most of the year in Triple-A. He had an 8.56 ERA in 17 appearances with the Devil Rays that season. His only appearance with the Pirates was his last big league game, when he gave up one run over two innings on April 8, 2001. The Pirates signed him as a minor league free agent in February of 2001 and he remained with the club in Triple-A until the end of the season, which ended up being his last season of pro ball. He had a 7.20 ERA with Triple-A Nashville that season. In the majors, he went 16-28, 4.21 in 342.2 innings over 317 appearances, with 100 saves. Taylor pitched 536 games in the minors, making 132 starts and saving 107 games.
Brian Harper, outfielder/catcher for the 1982-84 Pirates. As the third-string backup to Tony Pena, he mostly played outfield during his time in Pittsburgh, but he’s better known as being a catcher during his career. Harper was a fourth round draft pick of the California Angels in 1977 out of high school. The Pirates acquired him five years later in a trade for Tim Foli. At the time, he had five games of big league experience, one game in 1979 and four in 1981. Harper debuted in pro ball at 17 years old with Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League, where he .323 and drove in 33 runs in 52 games. In 1978, he hit .293 with Quad City of the Class-A Midwest League. In 129 games, he had 31 doubles, 24 homers, 101 RBIs and 80 runs scored. He moved up to El Paso in the Double-A Texas League in 1979 and hit .315 with 37 doubles, 14 homers, 90 RBIs and 85 runs scored in 132 games. The Angels called him up in September and he appeared in one game as a pinch-hitter. In 1980, Harper repeated El Paso and hit .283 with 38 extra-base hits in 105 games.
Harper moved up to Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League in 1981 and started playing outfield and first base along with catching, after only catching during the previous four years. It was a extreme park for offense in Salt Lake City, but Harper still did better than you would expect, hitting .350 with 45 doubles, nine triples, 28 homers, 122 RBIs and 99 runs scored in 134 games. He got called up in September and went 3-for-11 in four games. The Pirates acquired him on December 11, 1981 in an even up deal for Tim Foli. Harper spent most of 1982 in Triple-A, seeing 20 games with the Pirates. He hit .276 with two homers in 29 at-bats. He was with the club all season in both 1983 and 1984, though he played just 107 games total, topping out at 140 plate appearances in 1983, when he hit .221 with seven homers. A foot injury kept him out of action early in the 1984 season. He ended up hitting .259 with two homers in 46 games. After the 1984 season, he was part of a disastrous four-player deal with the St Louis Cardinals that saw the Pirates also give up John Tudor and get George Hendrick in return. Harper hit .243 with 11 homers in 127 games with the Pirates.
In his only season with the Cardinals Harper hit .250 in 43 games. Most of his time came off of the bench, and he saw playing time at five different spots. He was released at the end of Spring Training in 1986 and signed with the Detroit Tigers three weeks later. He batted .139 in 19 games with the Tigers that season, then got released in Spring Training in 1987. He played briefly for an independent minor league team in 1987, then was purchased by the Oakland A’s, where he hit .235 in 11 big league games, while spending the rest of the year in Triple-A. In 1988, he signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins, which turned his career around. After spending part of the season in Triple-A, Harper played 5 1/2 sold seasons with the Twins. He hit .295 in 60 games in 1988, then batted .325 with 24 doubles and eight homers in 126 games in 1989. He wasn’t much for walking or striking out, with a 13:16 BB/SO ratio in 412 plate appearances that season.
Harper hit .294 with 42 doubles,54 RBIs and 61 runs scored in 134 games for the 1990 Twins. Minnesota won the World Series in 1991 and he contributed a .311 average, with 28 doubles, ten homers, 69 RBIs and 54 runs scored in 123 games. He batted .278 in the ALCS and .381 in the World Series. Harper hit .307 with 25 doubles, nine homers and a career best 73 RBIs in 140 games in 1992. He matched that RBI total in 1993 when he hit .304 with 26 doubles and 12 homers in 147 games. He signed a free agent deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1994 and batted .291 with 19 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs in 64 games during that strike-shortened season. Harper finished up his career with the 1995 Oakland A’s, retiring after playing just two games. After his playing career ended, he managed for ten seasons in the minors. In 2000, he went to the Seattle Mariners for a coaching job, but got put into a Triple-A game when Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League was short two catchers due to injuries. His son Brett was drafted a month earlier by the New York Mets and ended up playing until 2016 without making the majors. Brian Harper was a .295 hitter, with 63 homers, 428 RBIs and 339 runs scored in 1,001 games during a 16-year career.
Len Yochim, pitcher for the 1951 and 1954 Pirates. He signed with Pittsburgh as an 18-year-old in 1947 and won 20 games and pitched 219 innings in the minors during his first season while pitching for New Iberia of the Class-D Evangeline League. The following year the young lefty went 14-4, 3.38 in 141 innings for Albany of the Class-A Eastern League. He moved up to New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association in 1949, where he had a 5-10, 4.44 record in 142 innings. The 1950 season saw him pitch between three levels, playing for both New Orleans and Albany again, while also seeing time with Class-A Charleston of the South Atlantic League. He had a 2.93 ERA in Charleston, but it went up to 5.94 in Albany, while his time in New Orleans was brief. In 1951, Yochim mostly pitched in Charleston, where he went 11-1, 2.50 in 115 innings. He made his Major League debut in late 1951 and won his first start on September 18th, despite giving up five runs and eight walks. He made one more start ten days later and couldn’t get out of the second inning, getting his first loss. He spent all of the next two seasons in the minors before making the 1954 team out of spring.
Yochim was one of the last cuts of the Pirates during Spring Training in 1952, getting optioned back to the minors on April 9th. He went 11-8, 5.09 in 122 innings over 15 starts and 16 relief appearances for New Orleans in 1952. In October of 1952, the Pirates sold Yochim to New Orleans. He remained there in 1953, where he had a 14-14, 3.59 record in 233 innings. On October 6, 1953, the Pirates purchased his contract back from New Orleans. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1954 and was used sparingly, posting a 7.32 ERA in 19.2 innings over ten games before being sent to the minors for good on June 23rd when he was released outright back in New Orleans. In his final big league game four days earlier, he threw four wild pitches in three innings of work. He spent the rest of 1954 and nearly the entire 1955 season in New Orleans. He split his final season (1956) between New Orleans and Atlanta, which was the affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves in the Southern Association at the time. Yochim had a 109-68 record in ten minor league seasons. After his playing days he scouted for the Pirates before eventually moving to a front office job in 1994 with the team. He remained in baseball until 2002. His brother Ray Yochim pitched two seasons for the St Louis Cardinals (1948-49).
Ed Bahr, pitcher for the 1946-47 Pirates. He was born in Canada and debuted there in 1938, playing for Vancouver of the Class-B Western International League. He moved down to Class-D ball in 1939, playing for two teams in two different league. Most of his time was spent with Big Spring of the West Texas-New Mexico League, where he went 14-9, 6.36 in 191 innings, with 154 walks. In 1940, Bahr played half of the season with Idaho Falls of the Class-C Pioneer League, and he was back in the Western International League, seeing time with a team from Wenatchee. He combined to go 9-9, 5.05 in 173 innings, with 113 walks. In 1941, he played for Idaho Falls and Augusta of the Class-B South Atlantic League. Bahr had a 5-6 record in 125 innings over 20 games. There’s no ERA available for his Idaho Falls time, but he put up a 3.26 mark in 91 innings for Augusta. He joined the war effort during WWII and missed the entire 1942-44 seasons before being discharged due to a back injury. He returned to baseball in 1945, going 12-9, 4.09 in 185 innings for Kansas City of the American Association. On August 24, 1945, the Pirates purchased him for an undisclosed amount of cash and a player to be named later. Bahr reported to the Pirates on September 11, 1945, but he didn’t appear in a game until 1946.
Bahr spent the entire 1946 season with the Pirates, going 8-6, 2.63 in 14 starts and 13 relief appearances, throwing a total of 136.2 innings. He was a bit of a holdout in signing his 1947 contract. Back then players were mailed contracts and if they thought the price wasn’t right, they would return them unsigned, which he did in January before signing a month later. Just a short time into Spring Training, an injury to his left hand (non-throwing) kept him out of action for a short time, but it was just the beginning of minor issues. He had a back injury and a leg injury during warm-ups for his first scheduled spring outing. Bahr started five games through May 20th in 1947, then got switched to long relief/mop-up work. He finished with a 3-5, 4.59 record in 82.1 innings. On July 10, 1947, the Pirates traded three players, including Bahr, to the New York Yankees for pitcher Mel Queen. Despite being a trade, the Pirates retained options on Bahr and pitcher Cal McLish, who were both farmed out to Yankees farm clubs.
Bahr went 2-3, 3.05 in 59 innings for Portland of the Pacific Coast League to finish out 1947. The Pirates recalled him at the end of the season and he went to Spring Training with them in 1948. He was optioned to Indianapolis of the American Association on April 9th, and the option was picked up again in September after he went 10-6, 4.20 in 148 innings. On January 29, 1949, Bahr was sold to Indianapolis. He pitched just five games there in 1949, then finished his career with 25 games for St Paul of the American Association in both 1949 and 1950. With the Pirates, he went 11-11, 3.37 in 219 innings over 25 starts and 21 relief appearances, throwing eight complete games. His first name was Edson, one of just two big league players ever with that first name.
Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck, pitcher for the 1945 Pirates. He played pro ball for 26 years total, beginning at 19 years old in the majors when he pitched one inning with the 1924 St Louis Browns. He then spent the next two full seasons in the minors before returning to the big leagues in 1927 with the Browns. Most of the 1925 season was spent in Class-D ball, quite a drop from his big league debut. While pitching in the Texas Association, Beck went 13-8, 2.12 in 174 innings. He spent some time two levels higher that season with Bloomington of the Three-I League, where he had a 2.00 WHIP in 29 innings. The 1926 season was spent with Tulsa of the Class-A Western League, where he went 18-17 and threw 304 innings, with 170 walks to his credit. In 1927, he spent most of the year back in Tulsa, while pitching once early in the season for the Browns, once in July, then one more time in October. He was with the Browns for all of 1928, though that amounted to 49 innings over four starts and 12 relief appearances. Beck then went five years before his next big league appearance.
Beck went 13-14, 3.54 in 206 innings in 1929 while playing with three different upper level teams. He then started a string of three straight full seasons with Memphis of the Class-A Southern Association, where he went 16-7, 3.83 in 228 innings in 1930. He went 19-12, 3.99 in 275 innings in 1931, then followed it up with 27-6, 3.20 record in 284 innings. That led to him joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, who threw him right into their rotation. In 1933, Beck led the National League with 35 starts, going 12-20, 3.54 in 257 innings. After struggling in 1934, partially due to some lost velocity, he ended up back in the minors to finish the season. He went 2-6, 7.42 in 57 innings for the Dodgers. Beck then had another five-year stretch between big league appearances. He spent the 1935-37 seasons playing for Mission of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 23-18, 4.07 in 354 innings in 1935. He followed that up with an 18-21, 3.73 record in 304 innings, then went 11-22, 4.22 in 226 innings. The 1938 season was split between two PCL clubs, seeing limited work, yet he still ended up back in the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1939. He switched between starting and relief, going 7-14, 4.62 in 181.1 innings over 16 starts and 18 relief outings.
Beck had the same role in 1940, making 15 starts and 14 relief outings, going 4-9, 4.31 in 129.1 innings. In 1941, he made seven starts and 27 relief appearances, going 1-9, 4.63 in 95.1 innings. The 1942 season saw him pitch sparingly in relief, posting a 4.75 ERA in 52 innings over 26 games. He spent part of the 1943 season back in the minors after pitching just four times in the first three months of the season. Beck was with the Detroit Tigers in 1944, going 1-2, 3.89 in 74 innings over 28 appearances (two starts). The Tigers released him in Spring Training of 1945 and he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. He stayed there until June 22nd, going 2-4, 3.40 in 47.2 innings. Two days later, the Pirates signed the 40-year-old Beck and released 39-year-old pitcher Ray Starr to make room on the roster. He finished his 12-year career in the majors in Pittsburgh, going 6-1, 2.14 in 63 innings during the 1945 season. During the rest of his career, he had a 32-68 record. Despite the poor overall big league record, he won 199 minor league games over 17 seasons. His final line shows a 38-69, 4.28 record in 1,032.2 innings over 101 starts and 164 relief appearances in the majors. Including his minor league time, he threw over 3,900 innings.
After his big league career ended, Beck was a player-manager for four seasons in the minors, then played his final pro season at 45 years old for Toledo of the American Association. His nickname “Boom Boom” came in the middle of his career when he angrily threw a ball that hit off of a tin fence and made a loud noise, which supposedly confused the outfielder (Hack Wilson), who wasn’t paying attention (he couldn’t be blamed, the manager came out to the mound) and threw the ball back in to second base in a hurry.
Bill Skiff, catcher for the 1921 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1916, playing his first two seasons for Hartford of the Class-A Eastern League. His available stats are limited, but we know that he hit .226 in 74 games as a rookie in pro ball, then batted .201 in 43 games for Hartford in 1921. In 1918, he played his first of three seasons with Bridgeport of the Eastern League. He’s credit with just 28 games in 1918, though most leagues shut down early that year due to the war, including the majors. In 1919, Skiff batted .304 in 92 games, with 14 doubles, three triples and a homer. The Pirates signed him after he hit .292 in 108 games for Bridgeport in 1920. He was mostly a singles hitter at the time, collecting just 14 extra-base hits all season. Skiff belonged to Little Rock of the Southern Association at the time, but he was a holdout. The Pirates had to compensate Little Rock to acquire him on March 27, 1921. The plan was to have him backup starting catcher Walter Schmidt. With the 1921 Pirates, Skiff hit .289 in 16 games, with 11 RBIs and seven runs scored. All of his games came between May 17th and June 27th. On July 4th, he was sold to Kansas City of the American Association, ending his time with the Pirates. His only other big league experience was six games for the 1926 New York Yankees, when he saw action in May, July and September.
Skiff’s time with the Pirates coincided with the team failing to get catcher Tony Brottem from the same Little Rock team before the year, then eventually getting him during the year. The Pirates thought they had acquired Brottem prior to signing Skiff, only to find out that he was awarded to the Washington Senators. So they signed Skiff instead. When Brottem was put on waivers by the Senators, he was claimed by the Pirates, who then dropped Skiff to make room on the active roster. Skiff played minor league ball until 1935, spending four of those seasons with Kansas City and another three years (1927-29) with Newark of the International League. He played in Los Angeles in 1930, then was back in the Eastern League in 1931. He was a player-manager in the Class-B Pioneer League for those final three years, then went on to manage another 11 years, which included six seasons with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. When Skiff signed with the Pirates, there was some major confusion over his name, which led to large headlines calling him George on the first two days with the team. He was soon being called William/Bill, although one paper gave him the nickname “Babe” right away.
Jake Kafora, catcher for the 1913-14 Pirates. He spent just two seasons in the majors, both with Pittsburgh. His 1913 big league time consisted of just one game, and it was the last game of the season. Kafora made his debut on October 5, 1913, going 0-for-1 off of the bench with a run scored and a hit-by-pitch. He joined the Pirates just one day earlier, which seems odd, but the game was in Chicago and he was returning home for the off-season. He was actually a popular semi-pro player in town before his pro debut and there was a large group of friends on hand for the game. He was a seldom used back-up in 1914, mostly finishing games on defense behind the plate. In 21 games, he went to the plate just 25 times, going 3-for-23 with two hit-by-pitches. He was supposed to be the fourth-string catcher, but Sam Brenegan had one of the worst debuts in big league history, quitting in the middle of an inning due to a finger injury. He never played again and Kafora moved up to the third-string spot behind starter George Gibson and backup Bob Coleman, though the Pirates ended up using nine catchers that season.
Kafora spent the first year of his pro career in 1911 with El Dorado of the Class-D Kansas State League at 22 years old. There are no stats available for that league. The next two seasons of his pro career were with the Butte Miners of the Class-D Union Association, where he batted .280 in 100 games in 1912. The Pirates signed him after he hit .313 over 105 games during the 1913 season. Scout Chick Fraser, the brother-in-law of Pirates manager Fred Clarke, was responsible for signing him, recommending him because of his offense and defense. Fraser actually pitched against Kafora while they were both playing semi-pro ball, so he knew him well. Kafora’s time with the Pirates ended when he was sold to Omaha of the Western League in January of 1915. The Pirates cut ties because they had seven catchers at the time. He finished his career back with Butte in 1917. He joined the Marines during WWI. He had the nickname Tomatoes, which supposedly came from the fact he ate tomatoes before every game. His actual first name was Frank, and that’s how he was referenced during his time with the Pirates. Jake, which is used most places online, comes from his middle name Jacob.
Fred Lake, first baseman for the 1898 Pirates. Lake played five years in the majors between 1891 and 1910. His stay in Pittsburgh was short. He went 1-for-13 with two walks and a run scored in five games in 1898. In his three starts at first base, he handled all 34 chances without an error, which was not a small feat during the 19th century. He was signed on July 19, 1898 when the Pirates were dealing with multiple injuries, and noted when he left the Pirates ten days later that he was not anxious to play first base again. Up to that point he had played a lot of catcher in the minors and briefly in the majors. Three of his seasons in the majors were spent with Boston of the National League, though none were consecutive years. The interesting part about Lake’s big league career was that after the Pirates released the 31-year-old first baseman, he went 12 seasons before he appeared in the majors again. There is an asterisk to his story, in 1910 Lake was the manager of the Boston Doves and he used himself twice as a pinch-hitter and once as a pinch-runner. His last Major League appearance came 19 years after he made his big league debut for that same Boston club, which was called the Beaneaters at the time. He also played for them in 1897 before being traded to the minors even up (with cash) for future Hall of Famer, and one-time Pirates pitcher, Vic Willis. Lake also played 16 games for Louisville in 1894. He played a total of 48 games over his five seasons in the majors, batting .232 with one homer, 16 RBIs and 12 runs scored. His one home run came off of Hall of Fame pitcher Kid Nichols in 1894. Lake managed the Boston Red Sox during the second half of the 1908 season, then led them to an 88-63 record (third place finish) in 1909. The Boston Doves had a 53-100 record in his only season there, which was also his last as a big league manager.
Lake played pro ball from 1891 until 1910, with his career starting and ending in the minors. He was a player/manager during the 1901-06 seasons in the New England League, then managed another three seasons after his last managerial gig in the majors. His records show that he played for at least 14 different minor league teams over the years, though many of the stats are incomplete. He played in Lowell of the New England League for five seasons, and spent three years (one full year) with Kansas City of the Western League. Before his time with the Pirates in 1898, he played with Syracuse of the Eastern League, where he hit .203 in 36 games, but right before he joined the Pirates, he was playing amateur ball in the Boston area. In a quote that’s interesting based on what we know now, Lake told the local papers on August 7, 1898, just over a week after he was let go by the Pirates, that he was anxious to get a shot in the majors and would rather retire than return to the minors. One Kansas City paper noted that he was almost the equal to any catcher in the game, when he set his mind to it.
George Strief, second baseman for the 1882 Alleghenys. He batted just .199 in 79 games during his one year in Pittsburgh, but he is forever written in team history. Leading off the top of the third inning on May 3, 1882, Strief hit the first home run in franchise history. He played five years in the majors and hit a total of five home runs. He has a bigger claim to fame than his Pittsburgh home run. On June 25, 1885, he set a Major League record that was tied once, but will never be broken, when he collected four triples in one game. He also set a record for most extra-base hits in a game with five. Just 2 1/2 months later, he played his final big league game. Strief began his pro career in the minors in 1877 in the International Association, which is considered to be the first minor league. He batted .213 with two doubles in 21 games. The next season he was with the Pittsburgh Allegheny (no S at the end) of the International Association. From there he played his first big league games with the 1879 Cleveland Blues of the National League. He hit .174 in 71 games, seeing most of his playing time in center field. He was playing semi-pro ball in 1880-81 in Ohio, seeing time with a teams called the Norwalks in 1880 and the Cleveland White Stockings in 1881.
After his time with the Alleghenys, Strief played for the St Louis Browns of the American Association, where he hit .225 with nine doubles, one homer, 22 RBIs and 22 runs scored in 82 games, spending most of his time at second base, though he played all three outfield spots. During the 1884 season when the National League and American Association were joined by the Union Association, making three Major Leagues all operating in the same year, Strief managed to play briefly in all three leagues. He was with the Browns for 48 games, then played 15 games each for the Kansas City Cowboys of the Union Association and the Chicago/Pittsburgh (mid-season move) team in the Union Association, before ending up with the Cleveland Blues for eight games. He batted .189 in 86 games that season, with 21 extra-base hits, 20 walks and 35 runs scored. In his final season in the majors, he hit .274/.310/.377 in 44 games for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. He was a career .208 hitter in 362 games, with 144 runs scored, 69 extra-base hits and 64 walks. He went to the minors in 1886 and played his final pro game in 1890. He umpired three games in the National League in 1880 and another 51 games during the 1890 season.
On this date in 1909 the Pirates won their first World Series Championship, defeating the Detroit Tigers at Bennett Park by a score of 8-0 in game seven of the series. Babe Adams started the game and won for the third time in the series. The Pirates were led by Honus Wagner, who batted .333 in the series with six stolen bases. Detroit had Ty Cobb on their side and this first meeting between the two hitting stars was a big deal back in the day. Cobb was considered by some as the better hitter. He won three straight batting titles and RBI titles during the 1907-09 seasons, but he failed to live up to the hype, hitting just .231 in the series.
Adams allowed six hits and a walk during his shutout win in game seven, and Wagner came through with the big hit of the game, a two-run triple in the sixth inning that he also scored on when the throw got away at third base. Rookie second baseman Dots Miller had two hits and two RBIs in the game. Tommy Leach went 2-for-3 giving him a .360 average for the series. Adams, who went 12-3 1.11 in 1909, also won games one and five in the series.