Five former Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note
Johnny Morrison, pitcher for the 1920-27 Pirates. He started his career in the minors in 1915, but he didn’t make a name for himself until 1920 when he went 26-13 in 319 innings for Birmingham of the Class-A Southern Association. During his first season of pro ball, he pitched in Southern Association for Memphis, which was an advanced placement for someone that age with no experience. He spent more time that year with Anniston of the Class-D Georgia-Alabama League, where he also played during the 1916-17 seasons. After posting a 2-5 record in nine games (limited stats are available) in 1915, Morrison went 3-11, 2.10 in 133 innings for Anniston in 1916. His 1917 season saw him go 2-0 for Anniston and 1-4 in 43 innings over nine games for Hanover of the Class-D Blue Ridge League. He spent the 1918 season serving in the Army during WWI, before returning to baseball with Birmingham in the spring of 1919. Morrison went 12-15, 3.00 in 261 innings during that 1919 season. While there’s no ERA available for his 26-13 record in 1920, he allowed just 2.91 runs per nine innings. He gave up six fewer runs than the previous season while throwing 58 more innings.
The Pirates purchased Morrison and teammate Whitey Glazner from Birmingham on August 18, 1920. Glazner had a very good 1921 season for the Pirates, but Morrison was considered to be the better prospect and that’s how things worked out in their career. He was called the best curveball pitcher in his league, and he was also said to have a pretty good fastball. The two were allowed to finish the season with Birmingham before joining the Pirates on September 21st. His brother Phil was also with him at the time on trial, but he wouldn’t join the Pirates until late in the 1921 season. Johnny Morrison made his Major League debut with the Pirates later that season, pitching one inning of relief on September 28th. On the last day of the season four days later, he pitched the third game of the last tripleheader in MLB history. He threw a complete game shutout for his first career win, although the game went just six innings. After starting the 1921 season back with Birmingham, Morrison joined the Pirates rotation for good in late June and he would go on to pitch over 200 innings each of the next four seasons. He went 9-7, 2.88 in 144 innings for the 1921 Pirates, with 17 starts and four relief appearances. On July 6th, he allowed one earned run over 13 innings in a complete game win. He also threw three shutouts over the final six weeks of the season, giving him the league lead in shutouts for the season.
Morrison was strong in 1922, but he would be even better the next year. He had a 17-11, 3.43 record in 1922, throwing 286.1 innings over 33 starts and 12 relief appearances. He tossed 20 complete games and led the league with five shutouts. He would have his best season the following year when he went 25-13, 3.49 for the third place Pirates. He was second in the league in wins and no Pirates pitcher has won more than 25 games in a season since. He threw 301.2 innings that year, making 37 starts, with 27 complete games. Morrison led the National League in games pitched in 1924, but he slipped to an 11-16, 3.75 record in 237.2 innings. He threw 41 games that season, making 25 starts and 16 relief appearances. He finished that season much strong than it started, going 7-6, 2.89 in his final 131 innings. In 1925, the Pirates won the National League pennant and he led the NL in games pitched again. The pitching staff had five pitchers who won at least 15 games, with Morrison going 17-14 3.88 in 211 innings over his 26 starts and 18 relief appearances. In the World Series he pitched three games in relief, totaling 9.1 innings in which he allowed three earned runs. He helped the Pirates in game seven to a series win with 3.2 innings in relief when starter Vic Aldridge couldn’t get out of the first inning.
Morrison was pitching well in 1926 until the end of May, but he began to have problems. He claimed he was injured and left the team, but the Pirates suspended him claiming it was personal problems. He pitched to just one batter between June 1st and August 22nd ( June 27th during a 16-0 loss) before returning to the team for the last month and a half. In his final season in Pittsburgh he was used sparingly, then after his July 2nd appearance he left the team, claiming he was injured again. When the Pirates told him to rejoin the team and he didn’t, he was suspended for good. He was suspended by baseball until March of 1928 when he was reinstated by Commissioner Judge Landis. The Pirates sold Morrison to Montreal of the International League on March 31st, but when he couldn’t come to terms with them, he was returned to the Pirates two weeks later, and they immediately released him outright to Kansas City of the American Association on April 17th. Morrison stayed in Kansas City for all of 1928 and the first two months of 1929, before getting his second chance in the majors. He pitched the 1929-30 seasons with the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) before returning to the minors for two final seasons. He went 13-7, 4.48 in 136.2 innings in 1929, then had 5.45 ERA in limited use as a reliever in 1930. Morrison finished his Pirates career with an 89-71 record in 242 games, posting a 3.52 ERA in 1,363.2 innings. He ranks 22nd in team history in wins, complete games and innings pitched.
Wilbur Wood, pitcher for the 1964-65 Pirates. Before he became the durable knuckleball pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, winning 163 games over 12 seasons, Wood was in the Pirates organization. His big league career started with the Boston Red Sox in 1961 at 19 years old, and his pro career began one year earlier in the lower level of the minors. Wood didn’t spend much time in the minors before his big league debut, but he was there a long time before he became successful in the majors. He had a 3.61 ERA over 97.1 innings in his first season, mostly spent with Raleigh of the Class-B Carolina League. He was in the Carolina League for part of 1961 as well, going 8-5, 3.15 in 111.1 innings for Winston-Salem. The rest of the season was spent with Johnstown of the Eastern League, where he was 3-7, 4.62 in 74 innings. His big league time that season amounted to a 5.54 ERA in 13.1 innings. The 1962 season was spent with York of the Eastern League, where Wood had a 15-11, 2.84 record in 219 innings, with 178 strikeouts. He pitched once for the Red Sox that year, allowing three runs over 7.2 innings. In 1963, he had a 1.13 ERA in eight starts with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. He was with Boston for the rest of the year, making six starts and 19 relief appearances. He went 0-5, 3.76 in 64 innings.
Wood spent most of 1964 with Seattle, going 15-8, 2.30 in 211 innings. He gave up 11 runs in 5.2 innings with the Red Sox before he was sold to the Pirates in September. He made two starts and a relief appearance for the Pirates that year, going 0-2, 3.63 in 17.1 innings. The next year he was a reliever for the Pirates, going 1-1, 3.16 in 51.1 innings over 34 games (one start). Wood spent all of 1966 in the minors, going 14-8, 2.41 in 31 starts at Triple-A Columbus of the International League. Right after the season ended, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Juan Pizarro. He was a fastball/curve pitcher in his early years, then developed a knuckleball thanks to Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. Wood also had a deceptive short delivery, where he would be able to mix in his fastball and curve occasionally to unsuspecting hitters.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, Wood became an excellent relief pitcher for four seasons in Chicago, back when good relievers regularly pitched over 100 innings. Then he was put into the starting rotation in 1971 and he won 20+ games four years in a row. During that stretch, he pitched at least 320 innings each season, nearly totaling 1,400 innings. In 1967, Wood had a 2.45 ERA in 95.1 innings over 51 appearances. He went 13-12, 1.88 in 1968, with 16 saves. He pitched 88 times to lead the American League, and he threw 159 innings. In 1969, he went 10-11, 3.01 with 15 saves in 119.2 innings, leading the league with 76 appearances. He pitched the most games in 1970 as well, going 9-13, 2.81, with a career high 21 saves in 121.2 innings over 77 games.
Wood switched to starting in 1971 and he was an instant workhorse. He had an outstanding first season in the new role, going 22-13, 1.91 in 334 innings over 42 starts, with 22 complete games. He sent a career high with 210 strikeouts. He made his first All-Star appearance, finished third in the Cy Young voting, and ninth in the MVP voting. In 1972, Wood allowed the most hits and most earned runs in the league, but that only shows you just how durable he was at the time. That’s because he went 24-17, 2.51 in 376.2 innings over 49 starts. He led the league in wins, innings and starts. He struck out 193 batters. He was an All-Star again, finished second in the Cy Young voting, and he ended up seventh in the MVP voting. In 1973, Wood went 24-20, 3.46 in 359.1 innings, with 48 starts and 199 strikeouts. He once again led the league in wins, innings, starts, hits allowed and earned runs. He finished fifth in the Cy Young voting.
Wood had his fourth consecutive 20-win season in 1974 and he made his third (and final) All-Star appearance. He went 20-19, 3.60 in 320.1 innings over 42 starts. He completed 22 games, giving him four straight years with 20+ complete games. In 1975, he had a 16-20, 4.11 record in 291 innings, leading the league in starts (43) for the fourth straight season. He was injured by a line drive that hit his knee early in 1976 and ended up making just seven starts. In 1977, Wood went 7-8, 4.99 in 122.2 innings over 18 starts and six relief outings. The next year saw him go 10-10 and make 27 starts, but his ERA dropped to 5.20 in 168 innings. He retired after the 1978 season with 164 wins, recording one with the Pirates/Red Sox and 163 in Chicago. He had a 3.24 ERA in 2,684 innings, with 114 complete games, 24 shutouts and 57 saves. He put up 11.7 WAR during the 1971 season and 10.7 WAR in 1972. That 11.7 WAR has been topped just three times in the last 50 years.
Keith Osik, catcher for the 1996 to 2002 Pirates. He was the backup in Pittsburgh for seven seasons, playing a high of 66 games in 1999. Osik was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 47th round out of high school in 1987. He decided to go to college (LSU), where he moved up to a 24th round pick of the Pirates in 1990. He moved quickly through the lower levels, then stalled out in the upper levels. He played two full years and one partial season in Double-A, then two full seasons at Triple-A before making his big league debut. In 1990, he played 28 games in the New York-Penn League for Welland, where he hit .278 with one homer. In 1991, Osik spent most of the year in High-A ball with Salem of the Carolina League, where he hit .270 with 19 extra-base hits in 87 games. He moved up to Double-A that year and hit .302 in 17 games. In 1992, he batted .259 with 17 doubles, five homers and 52 walks in 129 games for Carolina of the Double-A Southern League. Staying with Carolina in 1993, he improved to a .280 average in 103 games, with 21 doubles and ten homers. He jumped up to Triple-A in 1994 for two seasons, spending the first year with Buffalo of the American Association, then the Pirates affiliate switched to Calgary of the Pacific Coast League. Osik hit .212 with 16 doubles and five homers in 83 games in 1994. He made a huge jump in production in 1995, batting .336 in 90 games, with 25 doubles, ten homers and 59 RBIs.
Osik opened the 1996 season with the Pirates and did well in his backup role to Jason Kendall, batting .293 with 14 doubles in 156 plate appearances over 48 games. Osik saw sporadic playing time in 1997-98, playing a total of 88 games with 233 plate appearance, before he got a bigger role in 1999 when Jason Kendall broke his ankle. Unfortunately for Osik, he also missed time with an injury and hit just .186 on the season in 66 games, with a .490 OPS. He saw the same backup role over the next three years, before leaving the Pirates via free agency after the 2002 season. Despite the lack of playing time in 2000, he hit .293 with 22 RBIs in 46 games. His .843 OPS that season was easily the best mark of his career, topping his .790 OPS from his rookie season. In 2001, Osik dropped down to a .208 average in 56 games. He finished with a .591 OPS and nine runs scored all season. That run total dropped to six in 55 games in 2002, when he hit .160 with five extra-base hits and six walks. While he was primarily a catcher, he also made 21 big league starts at third base and played everywhere else except shortstop and center field. He even pitched twice for the Pirates.
Osik was a .231 hitter with 74 runs scored, 11 homers and 87 RBIs in 359 games with the Pirates. He also played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, adding another 97 games to his career total before retiring. The Brewers signed him as a free agent for 2003 and he hit .249 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 80 games. He reached free agency again and signed with the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit .080 in 11 games before being released in 2004. He next (and last) big league experience came with the Nationals in 2005, but in between he was also with the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His time in Washington amounted to six games, four plate appearances and no hits. His son Tyler was drafted out of college by the Pirates in 2017, but he decided to return to school, where he was drafted and signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2019.
Brian Bixler, infielder for the 2008-09 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick by the Pirates in 2004 out of Eastern Michigan University. Bixler put up mediocre stats in the lower levels during his first two pro seasons, despite being draft out of college and starting low in the minors. He hit .276 with a .663 OPS and 14 steals in 59 games for Williamsport of the short-season New York-Penn League. In 2005, he spent the entire season in Low-A with Hickory of the South Atlantic League. In 126 games, he batted .281 with 23 doubles, nine homers, 74 runs scored, 21 steals and a 38:134 BB/SO ratio. In 2006, Bixler batted .302, while splitting the season in half between High-A and Double-A. In 133 games total, he had 82 runs, 29 doubles, eight homers and 24 steals. He improved his walk rate and his strikeout rate to more acceptable numbers. He played in the Hawaii Winter Baseball league after the season, which was a league for prospects similar to the Arizona Fall League, except the AFL usually got the more advanced prospects. Bixler hit .304 there in 17 games. In his first season at Triple-A in 2007, he hit .274 /.368/.396 in 129 games, with 77 runs scored, 23 doubles, ten triples and 28 steals in just 32 attempts. Despite not seeing the majors in 2007, he was with the Pirates in April of 2008, debuting in the sixth game of the season. He was given regular playing time until the end of May, when he was sent back to Triple-A with a .175 average and .441 OPS. Bixler returned for one game in July, then returned in September, hitting .111 over 15 games in the final month of the season. He had three stints with the Pirates in 2009, coming up in late April for two weeks, late August for one week and mid-September for the final two weeks. He batted .227 in 18 games, with five of his ten hits being doubles. There was a definite red flag in his big league time that year, with two walks and 26 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances.
During the 2009-10 winter while he was playing in Mexico, Bixler was traded to the Cleveland Indians for minor league infielder Jesus Brito. Bixler would be sent back to the Pirates in July of 2010 after only appearing in Triple-A. Not even a month later, he was sold to the Washington Nationals. He didn’t appear in the majors with any of his three teams that season. In 2011, he served as a utility player off of the bench for the Nationals for most of the season. He played 79 games and saw time at six different positions. He had a .205 average and a .532 OPS in 94 plate appearances. Bixler was taken off of waivers by the Houston Astros in November of 2011. He spent his final time in the majors in 2012, hitting .193 with two homers and seven RBIs in 36 games for the Astros. He signed with the New York Mets as a free agent in 2013 and spent the season in Triple-A. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2014, but he was released before playing any games. He then finished his pro career that same season with the San Diego Padres, struggling along with a .545 OPS in 87 games in Double-A that year. In 183 big league games, he hit .189 with 41 runs scored, two homers, 14 RBIs and nine steals.
Alen Hanson, infielder for the 2016-17 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 2009 as an international free agent at 16 years old out of the Dominican. He was a top second base prospect in the minors, but the Pirates handled him poorly in the majors, never giving him a chance to play regularly, despite the fact that he played during two below .500 seasons for the team. Hanson debuted in pro ball in the Dominican Summer League in 2010, where he hit .324 in 68 games, with 19 extra-base hits and 20 steals. In 2011, he moved up to the Gulf Coast League and hit .263 with 22 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 52 games. The next year saw him jump to Low-A as a teenager, where he played shortstop full-time and hit .309 with 33 doubles, 13 triples, 16 homers, 35 steals, 99 runs scored and 55 walks in 124 games. He moved up to High-A Bradenton in 2013 and .281 with 38 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 92 games, while playing in a pitcher-friendly league. He moved up to Double-A Altoona later in the year and batted .255 in 35 games, with a .679 OPS. Hanson played in the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .253 in 21 games, then played winter ball in the Dominican. In 2014, he spent the entire season in Altoona and hit .280 with 21 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers and 25 steals in 118 games, then played Dominican winter ball again. The 2015 season was the start of the Pirates misuse with their prospect, who moved to second base full-time that season. He batted .263 with 35 extra-base hits and 35 steals in 117 games, playing much better defense at his new position.
The Pirates had a chance to call Hanson up in September of 2015 when he was already on the 40-man roster to help with their playoff run, but they passed on it, explaining it away by saying that they didn’t want a crowded bench. Hanson was back in Triple-A for most of the 2016 season, getting a brief mid-season call-up to the Pirates, followed by a return in late August. He put up a .707 OPS in Indianapolis that year, then he was used almost exclusively off of the bench in Pittsburgh, starting just four games total, which happened to be the final four games of the season. In 36 days on the active roster that year, he batted just 33 times, despite the Pirates being a 78-83 team. In 2017, he was out of options and needed to make the Opening Day roster. He saw slightly more use than the previous year, but they were also moving him around the infield and outfield, with only nine total starts spread out over two months. On June 9th, he was lost on waivers to the Chicago White Sox. He batted .205 in 64 games with the Pirates over his two seasons.
Hanson moved into a regular role in Chicago and hit .231 with four homers and nine steals in 69 games to finish out the season. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he played 110 games, hitting .252 with 29 extra-base hits, seven steals and 36 runs scored. Hanson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2018 season and played just 18 big league games in 2019, batting .163 in 43 at-bats. He signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent for 2020, but he was released when action was shut down due to COVID. After playing winter ball, he re-signed with the Mariners for 2021, and put up a .793 OPS, but he was limited to 40 games due to injury. In 261 big league games, he’s a .232 hitter, with 12 homers, 55 RBIs, 82 runs scored and 21 steals.
On this date in 1974 the Pirates traded outfielder Gene Clines to the New York Mets in exchange for catcher Duffy Dyer. The day after the trade, the Pirates released backup catcher Mike Ryan. The Pirates got four seasons out of Dyer, who mostly served as a backup. His best season was 1977 when he played 94 games, hit .241, and led all National League catchers in fielding percentage. In 269 games with the Pirates, he hit .227 with nine homers. After spending five seasons with the Pirates, Clines had one rough season in New York before he was traded away for a backup outfielder prior to the 1976 season. He had a .554 OPS in 82 games with the Mets, then lasted another four seasons in the majors (just ten games in his final year).