Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and the most recent one was born in 1917.
Len Gilmore, pitcher for the 1944 Pirates. He played pro ball from age 20 in 1938 until 1952, winning 110 minor league games (and many semi-pro games), but his big league career consisted of one game. He first season was spent in the Class-D Texas Valley League, where he went 5-4, 5.46 in 84 innings for a team from Refugio. He wasn’t in pro ball in 1939, then played for two teams in the Class-C Arizona-Texas League in 1940. He began 1941 in the same league with El Paso, then signed mid-season to play for a semi-pro team called the Gantt Jewelers of the International League (not the same as the Triple-A minor league). Gilmore remained there in 1942, before joining the Pirates system in 1943, playing for their affiliate in the Class-A Eastern League (Albany). He went 13-5, 2.90 in 174 innings in 1943. During the 1944 season, he went 21-5, 2.63 in 246 innings for Albany of the Eastern League. On August 30, 1944, he was one of four players the Pirates purchased from Albany. He reported to Pittsburgh after the minor league season ended, joining the Pirates on September 20th.
Gilmore’s lone game for the Pirates came on October 1, 1944. He threw a complete game, giving up seven runs in eight innings, while taking the loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He didn’t issue a walk or record a strikeout. No pitcher in team history has more innings pitched without a walk and without a strikeout, yet he did both in the same game. All 36 batters he faced put the ball in play. That game was the second game of a doubleheader and the final game of the season. Gilmore competed for a roster spot in Spring Training of 1945, but when he didn’t make the team, he was traded to Oakland in the Pacific Coast League on April 10, 1945, completing an earlier deal made for pitcher Ken Gables, which also included the Pirates sending cash to Oakland. Gilmore went 14-13, 4.46 in 220 innings for Oakland in 1945. He spent the next four years with Oklahoma City of the Texas League (Double-A), while also seeing brief time with two other teams during both the 1946 and 1949 seasons. He had a 2.32 ERA in 198 innings for Oklahoma City in 1946, then went 12-10, 3.75 in 204 innings in 1947. He played semi-pro ball in 1950, then spent his final two seasons in pro ball in the Sooner State League, which was the lowest level of the minors at the time (Class-D). He pitched 295 innings during the 1951 season.
Homer Summa, outfielder for the 1920 Pirates. He was destined to play baseball with the given name “Homer”. It didn’t translate to power though. After hitting .318 with no homers in ten games with the 1920 Pirates, he hit 18 homers total over nine big league seasons and 3,001 at-bats, split between the Cleveland Indians and the Philadelphia A’s. Homer never homered more than four times in a season.
Summa got a tryout with the St Louis Cardinals in Spring Training of 1919 before making his pro debut in the minors. He struggled his rookie year in the minors in 1919 at 20 years old, hitting just .192 over 113 games for Mobile of the Class-A Southern Association. He then struggled for a bit with Birmingham of the Southern Association in 1920, hitting .161 in 16 games, before he turned things around that same year, hitting .351 in 103 games for Norfolk of the Class-B Virginia League, which earned him a shot at the majors. The Pirates bought him contract on August 30, 1920 and he joined the club 14 days later, along with another minor leaguer named Pie Traynor. Summa made his Major League debut on September 13, 1920 (his first day with the team) for the Pirates, two days before Traynor made his debut. Summa had a 3-for-4 (got robbed on the fourth hit) game on September 17th, which got him a lot of press and pushed Traynor’s name to the footnote section. Summa hit .318 in his ten games with the Pirates, going 7-for-22 with three walks. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1921, though just a week later, without playing a game, he was released to the minors, with a return option. He played that season with Rochester of the Double-A International League, where he hit .333 with 36 doubles, 21 triples and 13 homers in 166 games.
Summa was still Pirates property into late December of 1921, though by the end of 1922 he was with the Cleveland Indians. He spent that 1922 season with Wichita Falls of the Class-A Texas League, who purchased his contract on March 13, 1922. The Pirates said at the time that they had too many outfielders to give him a fair chance to play, so they moved him contract to the highest bidder. He rewarded Wichita Falls by hitting .362 with 45 doubles, 11 triples and eight homers in 156 games.On September 1, 1922, it was announced that he was sold to the Indians for $17,500. He would end up playing seven seasons in Cleveland, including 12 games at the end of the 1922 season. In 1923, Summa hit .328 in 137 games, with 92 runs scored, 36 extra-base hits and 69 RBIs. He played 111 games in 1924, batting .290 with 21 doubles, six triples, 55 runs scored and 38 RBIs. Summa played just 75 games in 1925, but he did well in that time, hitting .330 with 25 RBIs and 28 runs scored. He struck out just six times in 246 plate appearances. That type of contact skill was impressive, but what he did the next year blew it out of the water. He hit .308 in 154 games, with 74 runs scored, 31 doubles, six triples and 78 RBIs. In 652 plate appearances, he had 47 walks and nine strikeouts…nine, all season. Summa batted .286 in 145 games in 1926, with a career high 41 doubles, to go along with 72 runs scored and 74 RBIs. In his final season in Cleveland, he batted .284 in 134 games, but lower power/walk numbers led to a .684 OPS.
Cleveland sold Summa to the Philadelphia A’s on January 5, 1929, and he assumed a bench role with his new team. He hit .272 in 37 games during the 1929 season, then batted .278 in 25 games in 1930. He struck out just two times total during those two seasons. He was actually sold to Portland in the Pacific Coast League prior to the 1930 season, then rejoined the A’s in August, only to be traded back to Portland after the season. He played minor league ball until 1933, spending his last three years in the PCL. Summa was a career .302 hitter in 840 big league games, with 413 runs scored, 363 RBIs and 168 walks, compared to 88 strikeouts. While his hitting was above average, he led all right fielders in his league in errors four times, which took away some of his overall value. He batted .316 over 1,040 minor league games.
Fred Hayner, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys. His big league career lasted one day and he was just 18 years old at the time. Hayner pitched in relief for the Alleghenys on August 19, 1890 and gave up seven runs over the final three innings of the game that they lost 18-3. He gave up four runs in the seventh, three in the eighth, then tossed shutout ball in the ninth. Those stats differ from what you will find online for him (nine runs in four innings), but through extensive research I was able to determine that he came into the game in the seventh inning, not sixth. Hayner pitched his only game for the Alleghenys in Chicago, which is where he played amateur ball at the time. His big league career was quite literally a one-day tryout and one paper reported that he wore his brother’s amateur team uniform onto the field, so he never actually wore a Pittsburgh Alleghenys uniform. To make matters slightly worse, he may have had some trouble convincing friends that he pitched in a big league game. Some of the boxscores called him either “Horner” or “Haymer”. The local papers were quite brutal to him considering that he was a teenage amateur player. It was said by one Chicago paper that he seemed to lack the ability to pitch or hit, but everything else went quite well. Hayner doesn’t have any other pro career stats listed, so that game on August 19, 1890 appears to be his entire career. He was pitching high school ball during the 1889 season. In 1891, he played college ball at Lake Forest College, where he was still seen in 1895, playing both baseball and football. He became a football referee first after college, then turned into a nationally known sportswriter after his playing days in Chicago. He was credited at one time for helping to come up with the nickname “Cubs” in 1903/04 for the Chicago Cubs, claiming that they needed a shorter name that worked better in print. His life came to a tragic ending when he died in a house fire in 1929 trying to save his dog.
Harry Staley, pitcher for the 1888-89 Alleghenys and 1891 Pirates. Staley helped fill the open spot in the Pittsburgh rotation left by the retirement of Jim McCormick after the 1887 season. The Alleghenys bought him from the St Louis Whites of the Western Association in June of 1888 after he posted a 9-11, 1.76 record in 20 starts. The also purchased Hall of Fame first baseman Jake Beckley at the same time. At 21 years old, that was Staley’s only pro experience before joining Pittsburgh. He made another 24 starts in the majors that year, completing all of them, with a 12-12, 2.69 record in 207.1 innings. He threw a total of 386.1 innings that season between St Louis and Pittsburgh. Staley posted a 21-26, 3.51 record over 420 innings during a high offense year in 1889, finishing sixth in the National League in ERA that season. He started 47 games and completed 46 of them, while compiling a career high of 159 strikeouts. He led the league in losses, despite having one of the best ERAs that year. Almost the entire Alleghenys team, along with most of the better players around baseball, jumped to the newly formed Player’s League for the 1890 season. The league folded after one year and all players were put back on their original rosters from 1889, as long as that team reserved them. Staley went 21-25, 3.29 in 396.2 innings for Pittsburgh in the lone season of the Player’s League in 1890. While it obviously wasn’t a tracked stat back then, his 1.21 WHIP in both 1889 and 1890 led his league.
The Pittsburgh Player’s League team and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys consolidated into one club in 1891 and replaced the Alleghenys in the National League on January 15, 1891. Staley returned to the Pirates/Alleghenys in 1891 and went 4-5, 2.89 in 71.2 innings over the first month before he was released. That turned out to be a poor decision by Pittsburgh. It was said that Pittsburgh had too many pitchers signed for 1891 and Staley was unhappy there with his treatment. He asked for his release and got it on May 26th, then immediately signed with the Boston Beaneaters (current day Braves). After joining Boston, he went 20-8, 2.50 in 252.1 innings in 1891. The next year saw him go 22-10, 3.03 in 299.2 innings. Offense was on the rise in 1893 with the new pitching rules and Staley saw his ERA jump to 5.13 in 263 innings, yet he still had an 18-10 record. He pulled off a winning season in 1894 as well, going 12-10, with a 6.81 ERA in 208.2 innings. Boston didn’t reserve him for 1895, allowing him to sign as a free agent with the St Louis Browns for 1895. It turned out to be his final season in the majors. He went 6-13, 5.22 in 158.2 innings. He finished the season in the minors, where he played through the 1899 season, seeing time with four different teams. Staley finished his big league career with a 136-119, 3.81 record in 2,278 innings. He completed 232 of his 258 starts. It was said that he had good velocity, various breaking balls and good command of his pitches.
Jim McCormick, pitcher for the 1887 Alleghenys. He went 13-23 in his only season in Pittsburgh, then turned down a rare (for the time) three-year deal, deciding to retire to go into his own business in town. He ended up regretting that decision, but never got back into baseball. It was a decision that cost him (so far) a spot in the Hall of Fame. McCormick won 265 games in ten seasons. Though obviously not a statistical category when he played, he led all pitchers in WAR three times between 1880 and 1884.
McCormick debuted in pro ball in the International Association in 1877, playing for Columbus. That league/year is considered to be the first minor league season, and they had a team from Pittsburgh in the league. He had a 6-6 record and he pitched 135 innings in 14 games. He made his Major League debut in 1878 for the Indianapolis Blues, a one-year franchise in the National League that finished in fifth place (out of six teams) that year. He went just 5-8 that year making his final career win total that much more impressive. Despite the losing record, he had a 1.69 ERA in 117 innings. The next year he was on the Cleveland Blues, a team that finished last in hitting. He started 60 of the team’s 82 games, completing all but one start. Despite a 2.42 ERA in 546.1 innings, he had a 20-40 record. He actually tied for the league lead in losses that year, putting up a mark that was only topped three times in baseball history, all in the 1880’s. His 1880 season is one of the best pitching seasons ever. While still on the Blues, McCormick posted a 1.85 ERA and won an National League leading 45 games. He also made 74 starts, completing 72 games, and he led the NL with 657.2 innings pitched. His totals in each of those last three categories ranks him in the top four all-time for single seasons. He had 260 strikeouts, which ranks as his second best season in that category. His 10.5 WAR from 1880 is tied for the 78th best pitching season ever, but it wasn’t even one of his best two seasons in that category.
In 1881, McCormick went 26-30, 2.45 in 526 innings. He completed 57 starts, which led the league. The other two starters for Cleveland went 10-18 that season. In 1882, he had a 36-30, 2.37 record in 595.2 innings. He led the league in wins, innings, games pitched (68), games started (67) and complete games (65), which was his third straight season leading the league in the latter category. Since he pitched so much that year, he also led the league in hits allowed, home runs and walks. In 1883, McCormick went 28-12, 1.84 in 342 innings. He had the best winning percentage in the league, the best ERA, and he allowed just one home run all season, which was hit by pitcher Stump Weidman, who hit one homer all season. His 1884 season has an incredible stat. He began the year with Cleveland, where he went 19-22, 2.86 in 359 innings. Mid-season he jumped to the newly-formed Union Association, where he did something amazing. He debuted on August 10th and ended up leading all pitchers in WAR by dominating in 24 starts. He went 21-3, 1.54 in 210 innings, with seven shutouts, giving him a total of ten shutouts on the season and 40 wins, as well as 569 innings pitched. He finished with a career high 343 strikeouts.
The two seasons prior to joining the Alleghenys, McCormick played for the Chicago White Stockings (Cubs). He actually started the 1885 season with Providence of the National League, but after four starts he was sold to Chicago. He had matching 2.43 ERAs with each team, but that resulted in a 1-3 record with Providence and a 20-4 record with Chicago. Chicago played the 19th century version of the World Series that year against the St Louis Browns, who won the American Association title. McCormick started five of the seven games and went 3-2, 2.00 in the series. He made 42 starts in 1886 and he went 31-11 with a 2.82 ERA in 347.2 innings. Chicago played St Louis again after the season, but McCormick just pitched one (and lost) in the series. The White Stockings decided to trade him due to contract reasons right before the start of the 1887 season, sending him to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, a team brand new to the NL that year. In exchange, they got cash and pitcher George Van Haltren, who Pittsburgh not only unloaded twice, but he turned out to be one of the best 19th century hitters not in the Hall of Fame yet (read much more on him here). McCormick struggled his only season in Pittsburgh going 13-23, with what was easily his highest season ERA at 4.30.
Despite the poor record, McCormick was offered a job for the 1888 season with Pittsburgh, albeit at a lesser salary. He refused, and walked away from baseball at age 30, just 35 wins short of the magical 300 mark that gets you into the Hall of Fame. Of course, he had no way of knowing that at the time and very little publicity went along with milestones back then. Only three pitchers who have won more career games than him have also put on a Pirates uniform (Pud Galvin, Bert Blyleven and Burleigh Grimes). His final career record stands at 265-214, 2.43 in 4,275.2 innings, with 485 starts and 466 complete games. His 76.0 career WAR as a pitcher is the 27th best mark in baseball history.