Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a member of the first World Series winning team in franchise history.
Gary Redus, first baseman/outfielder for the 1988-92 Pirates. He played five years in Pittsburgh, including all three NL East pennant winning seasons in the early 90’s. He was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 17th round in 1977, but he decided to return to the college ranks for one more year. Redus got his pro career off to an amazing start, hitting .462 in 68 games with Billings of the Pioneer League in 1978 after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 15th round of the amateur draft that year. He had a 1.346 OPS, with 100 runs scored, 17 homers and 42 steals. Despite that quick start it still took him four more full seasons to make the majors. He spent most of 1979 with Greensboro of the Western Carolinas League, where he batted .278 with 16 homers and 41 steals in 83 games. He spent a short time in Double-A that year and batted .174 with no homers in 36 games. In 1980, Redus played for Tampa of the Class-A Florida State League, where he hit .301 with 16 homers and 50 steals in 128 games. He moved up to Double-A Waterbury of the Eastern League in 1981. He batted .249 that season, with 26 doubles, 20 homers, 48 steals and 82 walks. In 1982, Redus was in Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, where he batted .333 in 122 games, with 112 runs scored, 29 doubles, nine triples, 24 homers, 93 RBIs and 54 steals in 59 attempts. He made it to the majors in September and batted .217 in 20 games, with 11 steals and 12 runs scoed.
Redus hit .247, with 20 doubles, nine triples, 17 homers, 39 steals, 71 walks and 90 runs scored in 125 games in 1983 for the Reds, finishing fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. That would be his best overall season prior to joining the Pirates in a 1988 mid-season trade. In 1984, Redus batted .254 in 123 games, with 69 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits, 48 steals and 52 walks. He played 101 games during the 1985 season, hitting .252 with 51 runs scored, 24 extra-base hits, 48 steals and 44 walks. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 1985 in a four-player deal. Redus hit .247 with 22 doubles, 11 homers, 25 steals and 62 runs scored in 90 games with the 1986 Phillies. He would be traded to the Chicago White Sox near the end of Spring Training in 1987. He hit .236 that season in 130 games, with 78 runs scored, 44 extra-base hits, 69 walks and a career high of 52 steals. In 1988, Redus hit .263 in 77 games with Chicago, stealing 26 bases in 28 attempts. The White Sox sent him to the Pirates on August 19, 1988 in exchange for Mike Diaz. The latter played just 40 more Major League games after the trade, so it turned out to be a major win for the Pirates, though that was only true because they were able to sign him twice as a free agent after the trade.
Redus was a key utility player with the Pirates during their three playoff runs, though he was never a full-time player for any long stretch during that time. He played all three outfield positions and first base, but never had more than 279 at-bats in a season. Redus provided the team with speed besides his versatility. He stole 69 bases while with the Pirates and had 322 steals total in his career. Things didn’t go well in 1988 after the deal. He posted a .197 average in 30 games to finish out the season. In 1989, he batted .283 in 98 games, with 42 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits, 25 steals and 40 walks. In 1990, he helped the Pirates back to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years by putting up a .759 OPS in 96 games. The next year he batted .246 in 98 games, with 45 runs scored, 17 steals and a .717 OPS. Redus saw his least amount of time during the 1992 season, hitting .256 in 76 games, with a .702 OPS. In the postseason, he struggled in the 1991 playoffs hitting just .158 (3-for-19), then came back the next year to hit .438 with four runs scored and three RBIs. In his five seasons in Pittsburgh he batted .255 with 96 RBIs in 398 games. He left the Pirates via free agency after the 1992 season and spent his last two years with the Texas Rangers. He had a solid 1993 season in a limited role, batting .288 in 77 games, with an .810 OPS. He played sparingly in his final season, batting .273 in 18 games during the strike-shortened 1994 season. After his playing days, he took up coaching, including seven years in the Pirates minor league system, starting in 2001. Redus was a .252 hitter in 1,159 games, with 591 runs scored, 90 homers and 352 RBIs.
Miguel Dilone, outfielder for the 1974-77 and 1983 Pirates. He had two stints with the Pirates covering five seasons, yet it amounted to 69 at-bats. Dilone was signed as an amateur free agent in 1972 by the Pirates and he hit well enough in high-A ball as a 19-year-old in 1974 to earn his first promotion to the big leagues that year. He debuted in pro ball with Niagara Falls of the short-season New York-Penn League in 1972, where he hit .224 with 41 steals, 38 walks and 50 runs scored in 61 games. He moved up to Charleston of the Western Carolinas League in 1973, where he hit .272 with 61 walks, 94 runs scored and 95 steals (in 113 attempts) in 115 games. Dilone moved to Salem of the Class-A Carolina League in 1974 and batted .333 in 132 games, with 27 doubles, nine triples, 106 runs scored, 73 walks and 85 steals in 108 attempts. He played 12 games for the Pirates, but most as a pinch-runner, getting just three plate appearances. He spent most of the next two years at Triple-A, but got brief call-ups to the Pirates as well. He couldn’t approach those big numbers on offense with Charleston of the International League in 1975, hitting just .217 with a .561 OPS and 48 steals. The Pirates still brought him up for 18 games and this time he batted just six times.
Dilone’s second season with Charleston was a success. He hit .336 in 100 games, with 61 steals and 63 runs scored. That led to a slight increase in at-bats, but only compared to his first two seasons in the majors. He batted 17 times in 16 games and stole five bases. In 1977, Dilone stole 34 bases and scored 28 runs in 38 games in Triple-A. He was with the Pirates to start the year and end the year, but it amounted to just 29 games played and only seven starts. He batted .136 with a .310 OPS, but he was able to go 12-for-12 in steals. Just prior to the 1978 season the Pirates traded Dilone to the Oakland Athletics, along with two other players in exchange for Manny Sanguillen. In November of 1976 the Pirates had traded Sanguillen (and cash) to the A’s in exchange for manager Chuck Tanner. Dilone saw plenty of time with the A’s in 1978, playing 135 games, 71 of those coming as a starter. He batted .229 with 50 stolen bases, though he led the league with 23 caught stealing. He split the 1979 season between the A’s and Chicago Cubs, hitting just .187 in 30 games before being sold on July 4th. After moving to Chicago, he put up a .306 average and 15 steals in 43 games, which were mostly off of the bench.
Dilone was sold to the Cleveland Indians in May of 1980 and ended up having a career year out of nowhere. He batted .341 in 132 games, getting 566 plate appearances. He scored 82 runs, had 30 doubles, nine triples and 61 steals (in 79 attempts). He even received mild MVP support that season. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, he batted .290 in 72 games, with 33 runs scored and 29 steals. It was a solid overall season, but also a 127 point drop in his OPS. Dilone batted .235 in 104 games in 1982, with 50 runs scored and 33 steals. He saw limited usage in 1983, and batted just .191 with the Indians before they traded him to the Chicago White Sox on September 1st. Dilone played just four games off of the bench before being reacquired by the Pirates from the White Sox in on September 7, 1983 in exchange for pitcher Randy Neimann. Dilone was used solely as a pinch-runner during his second stint in Pittsburgh, getting into seven games. He was declared a free agent following the season and signed with the Montreal Expos, where he played 88 games in 1984, finishing with a .278 average and 27 steals in 29 attempts. He batted 91 times in 51 games for the 1985 Expos and posted a .190 average before being released in July. He signed with the San Diego Padres two weeks later and hit .217 with ten steals in 27 games.
Dilone played a total of 82 games for the Pirates over five seasons without recording an extra-base hit or an RBI. In fact, he had just 75 plate appearances over that time with ten singles to his credit. He stole 23 bases with the Pirates, and 267 in his Major League career. He had a total of 399 stolen bases in the minors, giving him a lucky 666 steals during his pro career. Dilone was a .265 career hitter in 800 MLB games, with 98 extra-base hits, 129 RBIs and 314 runs scored.
Robert “Ham” Hyatt, outfielder/first baseman for the 1909-10 and 1912-14 Pirates. He was a rookie on the first Pirates team to win the World Series in 1909. Hyatt spent his first two seasons of pro ball playing in Vancouver of the Class-B Northwestern League before joining the Pirates. He hit .300 with 32 extra-base hits in 115 games in 1907 at 22 years old. He did better in 1908, batting .323 with 21 doubles, ten triples, 15 homers and 46 steals in 149 games. He was taken by the Pirates in the 1908 Rule 5 draft, one of ten players selected by the Pirates in late August. Hyatt was used mainly as a pinch-hitter in 1909, playing just eight games in the field all year. Despite being a rookie, he was able to hit .299 for the season in that role, though he did better as a starter (.375 vs .256 off the bench). He played almost all of game seven in the World Series after lead-off hitter Bobby Byrne left the game following a first inning hit-by-pitch. He drove in the first run of the game on a second inning sac fly and it turned out to be the go ahead run of the game, as the Detroit Tigers were shutout 8-0.
In 1910, Hyatt got his most playing time while in Pittsburgh, starting 38 games at first base while also getting his share of pinch-hit at-bats again. He hit .263 with 30 RBIs in 175 at-bats. Ham spent the entire 1911 season in the minors getting into 166 games with the Kansas City Blues, after the Pirates released him on option to the Blues on February 18, 1911. He batted .327 with 58 extra-base hits and 159 runs scored for Kansas City. He was recalled by the Pirates after the season and had his same occasional start/pinch-hitting role for three more years in the majors. In 1912, he hit .281 with 21 RBIs in 97 at-bats over 46 games. In 1913 he played just ten games in the field all year, but he was still able to hit .333, with four homers and 16 RBIs in 81 at-bats over 63 games. Hyatt struggled in his pinch-hitting role in 1914, hitting .215 in 74 games, getting a total of 90 plate appearances all season. The Pirates put him on waivers following the 1914 season, where he was picked up by the St Louis Cardinals. Over his five seasons in a Pirates uniform, he batted .277 in 306 games with 90 RBIs in 499 at-bats. He had a .268 average, 46 RBIs and a .714 OPS in 106 games with St Louis in 1915, then spent the next two full seasons in the minors with Chattanooga of the Southern Association. In 1917, he hit .334 with 51 extra-base hits in 149 games. After opening the year with Little Rock of the Southern Association, Hyatt saw his last big league action in 1918 with 53 games for the New York Yankees. He batted .229 with two homers and ten RBIs for the Yankees. He played pro ball until retiring after the 1923 season, seeing time with Toledo of the American Association (1919-20) and Vernon of the Pacific Coast League (1920-23). He batted over .300 in each of his final five seasons. The “Ham” nickname came from his middle name, Hamilton.
Larry French, pitcher for the Pirates from 1929-34. He pitched three years in the minors prior to joining the Pirates. During that time, he had a losing record plus a high 4.65 ERA. French actually saw his winning percentage get worse each year, while his ERA improved each season. He debuted at 18 years old in 1926 in the Utah-Idaho League with Ogden, where he went 8-7, 5.91 in 134 innings. He also pitched briefly for Portland of the Pacific Coast League (Double-A) that season, then spent the next two years there. In 1927, French went 11-12, 4.77 in 181 innings. Before joining the Pirates, he had an 11-17, 4.05 record during the 1928 season, with 251 innings pitched. He was purchased from Portland in December of 1928 in a deal that also included three players going to Portland, with the final two pieces being sent there in April of 1929. Once in the majors in 1929, he started out in the bullpen before the Pirates let him get his first start on May 7th. He threw a 10-inning complete game 3-2 win over the New York Giants. He also pitched complete game wins in his next two starts, although it took exactly three months for him to pick up his fourth career win. He finished his rookie season 7-5, 4.90 in 30 games, 13 as a starter, with 123 innings pitched. The 1930 season was one of the biggest years for offense in baseball and French posted a 17-18, 4.36 record. The ERA might sound high but teammates Ray Kramer (20-12, 5.02) and Erv Brame (17-8 4.70) obviously got much more run support than French, who actually led the National League in losses that year. He threw 274.2 innings, with three shutouts and a career high 21 complete games.
In 1931 French started a stretch of three straight seasons in which he not only posted a better winning percentage each year but also lowered his ERA each year. He 4.90 rookie ERA, and 4.36 sophomore mark, dropped down to 3.26 in 1931. He went 15-13 and pitched 275.2 innings that season. He had a crazy coincidence with his 1932 season. In both year (1931-32) he led the league with 301 hits allowed, and he also gave up 127 runs each season. He improved his record in 1932 to 18-16, 3.02 in 274.1 innings, with 20 complete games and three shutouts. He led the league with 47 games pitched, with 33 starts and 14 relief appearances. While it wasn’t an official stat at the time, he led the league with four saves. French gave up 290 hits in 1934, which led the league for the third straight year. However, it was a strong season, with an 18-13, 2.72 record in a career high 291.1 innings. He led the league with 35 starts, matched his career high with 21 complete games, and he tossed five shutouts. He finished 15th in the MVP voting that season. French went 12-18, 3.58 in 263.2 innings for the 1934 Pirates, a team that finished in fifth place, one season after going 87-67 for a second place finish. Following the season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom, for Guy Bush, Babe Herman and Jim Weaver. French played the best among the whole group after the trade going 95-84 over seven seasons for his new team. While with the Pirates, French had an 87-83, 3.50 record in 1,502.2 innings.
With the 1935 Cubs, French went 17-10, 2.96 in 246.1 innings, with a league leading four shutouts. The Cubs went to the World Series that year and he picked up two losses, though he had a 3.38 ERA in the series. He had his best record in Chicago in 1936, going 18-9, 3.39 in 252.1 innings. He started 28 games and led the league with four shutouts. In 1937, French went 16-10, 3.98 in 208 innings. That was a large drop in innings (44.1) despite making 28 starts in both years (1936-37) and pitching 15 times in relief in 1936 and 14 times in relief in 1937. In 1938, the Cubs returned to the World Series, edging out the Pirates late in the year for first place. Even though they won it all with an 89-63 record, he went 10-19, 3.80 in 201.1 innings. Fellow Chicago starter Tex Carleton had a 10-9 record with a 5.42 ERA, so there was clearly some bad luck involved in French’s record. He pitched in relief in the World Series, allowing one run in 3.1 innings. In 1939, French went 15-8, 3.29 in 194 innings, with 21 starts and 15 relief appearances. In 1940, he posted a 3.29 ERA for the second straight year, this time in 246 innings. Despite the matching ERA, his record dropped to 14-14 that season, though his solid pitching was rewarded with an All-Star appearance.
French pitched most of 1941 with the Cubs, but they put him on waivers in August after posting a 5-14, 4.63 record in 134 innings. He was picked up by the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he gave up six runs in 15.2 innings over the rest of the season. He got to pitch in the World Series again and he tossed one scoreless innings over two outings in relief. In 1942, he went 15-4, 1.83 in 14 starts and 24 relief outings, throwing a total of 147.2 innings. He threw four shutouts. Even though he had a very successful 1942 season at 34 years old, his baseball career ended there. He enlisted in the Navy and never returned to the majors. He ended up staying in the Navy until 1969. He finished his 14-year career with a 197-171, 3.44 in 383 starts and 187 relief appearances. He had 199 complete games, 40 shutouts (ranks 44th all-time) and 3,152 innings pitched. Despite all of that success, he never had a 20-win season and he made just one All-Star appearance.
Eddie Williams, first baseman for the 1997 Pirates. His travel through baseball is a long list (get ready for it). Williams was drafted in the first round (fourth overall pick) in 1983 by the New York Mets out of high school. Almost a year to the day he was drafted, the Mets traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. Then 18 months later, the Cleveland Indians selected him in the Rule 5 draft. He received three trials (1986-88) with the Indians, but failed to hit over .200 in any season. He was then traded to the Chicago White Sox, who released him after one season. He signed with the San Diego Padres in 1990 and played four big league games. Williams was purchased by a team in Japan and spent the 1991 season overseas. Over the next two seasons, he bounced around the minors with the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and two stints in Mexico. He finally made it back to the majors in 1994, but continued to bounce around, playing for the Padres, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, before joining the Pirates in an August 9, 1997 deal for a minor league player. After the season ended, Williams was released by the Pirates. He signed with the Padres for a third time, finishing his big league career with 17 games in 1998. He spent 1999 in the minors with the Minnesota Twins. Williams played in Mexico, Korea and independent ball over the next three seasons before retiring.
Before he made his tour of the majors and overseas, Williams debuted in the minors at 18 years old in 1983, hitting .263 with six homers, 28 RBIs and 30 runs scored in 50 games for Little Falls of the New York-Penn League. In 1984, he played in A-Ball with Columbia of the South Atlantic League (Mets) and Tampa of the Florida State League (Reds). He combined to hit .217 with 40 RBIs, 37 runs and 40 walks in 93 games. In 1985, he spent the season with Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League, where he batted .261 with 20 homers, 83 RBIs and 62 walks in 119 games. Williams played for Waterbury of the Double-A Eastern League in 1986, hitting .238 in 62 games. He played five early season games for the Indians, going 1-for-7 at the plate. He had a strong season in Triple-A in 1987 with Buffalo of the American Association. He hit .291 with 90 runs scored, 29 doubles, 22 homers and 85 RBIs in 131 games. He played 22 games for Cleveland and hit .172 with one homer. In 1988, Williams hit .301 with 39 extra-base hits in 101 games for Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League (new Triple-A affiliate of the Indians). He batted .190 in ten games with the Indians.
Williams split the 1989 season between the White Sox and Triple-A, batting .274 with three homers in 66 games in the majors. Most of the 1990 season was spent in Triple-A for San Diego. In the majors that year, he batted .286 with three homers in 14 games. The next three years were spent in the minors, Japan and Mexico. In 1994, he hit well in Triple-A for the Padres, batting .352 with 20 homers in 59 games. He did almost as well in the majors, batting .331 with 11 homers and a .986 OPS in 49 games. The strike that year ended his season early. When they returned in 1995, Williams hit .260 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs in 97 games. He struggled in 1996 with the Tigers, batting .200 with six homers in 77 games. Before joining the Pirates in 1997, he played eight big league games for the Dodgers, all as a pinch-hitter. He also spent three months in Triple-A before being acquired in an August 9th trade for minor league pitcher Hal Garrett. Williams hit .277 with three homers in 30 games during his short time in Pittsburgh. The Pirates let him go after the season and he finished his big league time by hitting .143 in 17 games for the 1997 Padres. He was a .252 hitter, with 146 runs scored, 39 homers and 150 RBIs in 395 games spread over ten seasons in the majors. He played his final pro game in 2002 in independent ball. Williams is credited with 255 homers and 980 RBIs in pro ball, though two years of Mexican League stats are missing.
Howie Goss, outfielder for the 1962 Pirates. He debuted in the minors at 18 years old in 1953. He would soon become a member of the Pirates organization, though it took him a total of nine minor league seasons before he reached the majors. He was held back by high strikeout numbers, especially for the era when 100+ strikeout seasons weren’t common. Goss played for Visalia of the Class-C California League in 1953, hitting .247 with 18 homers in 86 games. That led to him getting a look with the Pirates during Spring Training in 1954, when manager Billy Meyer said that he was the most intriguing player in camp early on, but he was more of a player of the future, who could one day be a star. In 1954, he played for two other Class-C teams, combining to hit .266/.331/.416 in 123 games. The next year saw him played most of the year with Salinas of the California League, where he spent part of the 1954 season. He also got time in Class-B ball, with Waco of the Big State League. He combined to hit .300 with 96 runs scored, 39 doubles, 14 triples, 27 homers, 118 RBIs and 34 steals in 146 games. In 1956, Goss saw his batting average drop to .231 as he advanced to Lincoln of the Class-A Western League for most of the year. However, he still managed to hit 27 homers and drive in 86 runs. He played winter ball over the 1956-57 off-season in Mexico and put on a power display there, with 15 homers in his first 42 games. In 1957, he played for Columbus of the Triple-A International League for the entire season. He batted .258 with 40 extra-base hits and 67 RBIs in 131 games. He returned to Columbus in 1958, where he hit just .239 with 49 extra-base hits in 149 games. He had 29 walks and 123 strikeouts that season. In 1959, Goss saw most of his playing time in A-Ball, though he played for a time in Triple-A with Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. He hit just .218 with five homers in 88 games, which obviously wasn’t a good sign during a season he dropped down in competition.
In 1960, Goss was with Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League, hitting .262 with 27 doubles and 29 homers in 143 games. After hitting .299 with 93 runs, 27 homers and 100 RBIs in Vancouver in 1961, the Pirates acquired the contract of Goss from San Diego of the Pacific Coast League in exchange for pitcher Curt Raydon on October 14, 1961. Goss made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1962 at 27 years old. He was on the bench for the first 15 games, then started both ends of a doubleheader in place of Roberto Clemente. In late May he had another string of starts in right field, then moved over to center field when Clemente returned, before serving as a defensive replacement in left field for the next three weeks. Goss had just four starts total in June/July because he had to contend with an outfield of Clemente, Bill Virdon and Bob Skinner ahead of him. From August 6 through September 27, he made four starts total. Then over the final three days of the season, he started once at each outfield spot. He hit .243 with two homers, ten RBIs and 19 runs scored in 89 games. He was traded to the Houston Colt .45s on April 4, 1963 in exchange for Manny Mota, which turned out to be a one-sided deal for the Pirates. Goss lasted one more season in the majors, while Mota hit .297 over six seasons with the Pirates. For Houston in 1963, he batted .209 with 18 doubles, nine homers, 44 RBIs, 37 runs scored and a .592 OPS in 133 games. He spent the 1964 season in the Pacific Coast League, then retired.
Clarence Berger, right fielder for six late-season games with the 1914 Pirates. The Pirates purchased him on August 21, 1914 from Richmond of the Virginia League for $2,500, which was said to be one of the highest purchase amounts from that league at the time. Berger was allowed to stay with his team in Richmond until the end of their season. He batted .298 in 136 games, though he had just 16 walks all season, so his OBP was .319 for the season. At the time of his purchase, he was leading the league in batting average (said to be .318) and fielding percentage (for outfielders). He had 28 extra-base hits and stole 34 bases. It was Berger’s first season of pro ball after playing college ball at Richmond College. There was an interesting note from the start of that season that said he was on the bench to begin the year due to being nervous about getting into games, but they thought he would need just a few days to get settled in and play well. He didn’t start hitting until June, beginning the year with an average that was around the .200 mark, but within two months of his first game, it was said that 2-3 big league teams were already showing interest. According to him manager in an article released 18 days before he signed with the Pirates, Berger hit like a Major League player for two months straight, batting around .320 during that stretch.
Just before he joined the Pirates, it was announced that Berger had already signed a deal for the rest of 1914 and for the 1915 season. The Pirates gave him a pinch-hit appearance on September 23rd, seven days after he reported to the team, then he went nine straight games without playing. That was followed by three starts and two bench appearances in the final five days of the season. He was 19 years old at the time that he joined the Pirates and it ended up being his only big league experience. Berger went 1-for-13 with a single and a walk, and somehow managed to get just two chances in the outfield over his five games played on defense. The Pirates released Berger on February 13, 1915, sending him back to his Richmond team. Two months later, he was sent to a team from Newport News. That’s the end of his pro career according to Baseball-Reference, but I was able to track him down playing in Norfolk in the second half of 1915, and then he joined a team from Rocky Mount, NC in 1916.
Earl Blackburn, catcher for the 1912 Pirates. His big league debut was catching the final inning on September 17, 1912, as the third catcher used by the Pirates that day. In fact, the 19-year-old Blackburn was pinch-hit for in the ninth inning, so he didn’t even get a chance to bat. He played just one more game in 1912, but it came as a member of the Cincinnati Reds six days later. The Reds were short on catchers and purchased Blackburn from the Pirates on September 22nd. He also saw limited big league time with the Reds in 1913, Boston Braves in 1915-16 and Chicago Cubs in 1917. His only significant playing time came in 1916 when he hit .273 with a .710 OPS in 47 games. In five big league seasons, he hit .262 with ten RBIs and 13 runs scored in 71 games. All eight of his career extra-base hits came during the 1916 season. The Pirates purchased his contract in August of 1912 from Springfield of the Class-B Central League, where they also picked up three of his teammates. Blackburn batted .274 in 74 games for Springfield. The players joined the Pirates after their season ended and the first mention of Blackburn with the Pirates occurred on September 9th when he was part of a “large group” of 25 players going on a road trip with the team.
The 1912 season wasn’t the first time that Blackburn was with the Pirates. He joined the team on June 10, 1911 with no prior pro experience. The only information on him on the day he signed was that he was from Massillon, Ohio and he came to the Pirates highly recommended. His local papers announced his signing and said that he was a three-sport star (football and basketball) and still in high school at the time at age 18 with one year left before graduating. There were mentions of his name with the team through October 3rd, but he never actually played a game until he rejoined the team in 1912. He was basically used as a bullpen catcher during his first stint in Pittsburgh. In January of 1913, Blackburn became ill with diphtheria and his local papers even went as far as saying he was expected to die, but he was in Spring Training with the Reds and he played 17 games as their third-string catcher. He split the 1914 season between two high level minor league clubs, seeing time with Lincoln of the Western League and Indianapolis of the American Association. He combined to hit .252 in 113 games, with a .737 OPS. He was with Indianapolis again in 1915, batting .238 in 81 games before joining Boston for three late-season games. Despite 1916 being his biggest season in the majors, half of the year was spent with Providence of the International League. After spending almost all of 1917 with the Cubs while getting just two pinch-hit appearances (one in April, one in July), he finished his pro career with Kansas City of the American Association in 1918.
Mike Hopkins, catcher for the Pirates on August 24, 1902. His only big league game was also his only game as a pro. Hopkins was an amateur player in Pittsburgh, who Honus Wagner recommended should get a tryout. He got more than that on August 24th when he went into a one-sided game for the final four innings and went 2-for-2 at the plate. He was credited with an error that day, and it was still listed in the team stats later that season, though for some reason it’s no longer part of his career records. One paper from Cincinnati notes that one of his singles was lost in the sun by first baseman Jake Beckley, then they also noted that Hopkins tried to score from second base on a single by Fred Clarke and he got thrown out at the plate. Hopkins got his shot because catcher Jack O’Connor was suspended the day before and third-string catcher Harry Smith broke a toe days earlier, plus the Pirates had a doubleheader in Cincinnati. The Pirates took just 13 players total to Cincinnati for that one-day trip. When the second game got out of hand early, starter Chief Zimmer was pulled and Hopkins got his one big league game. The game was called after seven innings due to the Pirates needing to catch the train to get back home for a game the next afternoon. Hopkin’s debut/lone game was also the big league debut of pitcher Harvey Cushman, who went 0-4 for a 1902 Pirates team that finished with a 103-36 record. The Pirates were able to test Cushman and Hopkins in this game because they were up 20 games in the standings with just 37 games left in the schedule. In the papers the next day, Hopkins was called the “Carnegie boy” who played for the local McCullough Railroad team, and has been playing for local teams for many years. On June 28th, he made the local papers by throwing out six runners attempting to steal in one game. By August 27th, Harry Smith was back in the lineup playing with his injury and Hopkins was gone without another mention. He was playing for a club called Idlewood by September. Hopkins was born in Glasgow, Scotland, while Harry Smith was born in England.