Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a key member of two World Series teams, an MVP and the oldest living former Pirates player.
Tommy Leach, third baseman/center fielder for the Pirates from 1900 until 1912, then again in 1918. He helped the Pirates to three straight pennants from 1901-03, then helped them to the 1909 World Series by leading the league with 126 runs scored. Leach played 1,574 games with the Pirates, scoring 1,009 runs, collecting 1,603 hits, 139 triples and 271 stolen bases. He ranks ninth in games played, at-bats and runs scored in Pirates history. He’s also seventh in triples and fifth in stolen bases.
Leach debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1896, playing a partial season in independent ball, and another 36 games with Petersburg/Hampton of the Class-B Virginia League, where he hit .250 with 18 runs scored and 12 extra-base hits. His next two years in the minors don’t have any stats available. He spent the 1897 season with Youngstown of the Interstate League, and 1898 with Auburn of the New York State League. At the end of the 1898 season, he made his big league debut with three games for the Louisville Colonels. In 1899, he played 106 games for Louisville, batting .288 with 75 runs scored, 19 steals and 57 RBIs. He mostly played third base that season, but also played 25 games at shortstop. The Pirates acquired Leach as part of the 17-player deal made in December of 1899 with Louisville that also brought Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, Rube Waddell and Deacon Phillippe back to Pittsburgh. He was a role player during the 1900 season, seeing time at five different positions, while playing 51 games total. He batted just .213 and at times he was left in Pittsburgh while the Pirates went on road trips, which was a common practice with extra players to help save on travel expenses. It took him just one season to go from part-time to key contributor.
In 1901, Leach made 92 starts at third base and he hit .305, with 64 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits and 16 steals in 98 games, helping the Pirates to their first National League championship. He played full-time in 1902 and ended up leading the league in both triples (22) and homers (six). In 135 games, he scored 97 runs and picked up 85 RBIs, while stealing 25 bases. The Pirates had their best season ever that year, going 103-36 for their second straight NL title. When the Pirates played the first World Series in 1903, Leach hit .298 that season with 97 runs scored, 17 triples, 22 steals and 87 RBIs. He hit .273 in the series with four triples and seven RBIs. Over the next five seasons, he would be a steady presence in the lineup, sometimes at third base, other times in center field, occasionally playing elsewhere if needed.
In 1904, Leach hit .257 as the full-time third baseman, with 92 runs scored, 56 RBIs and 23 steals. In 1905, he played six positions during the season, with his most time coming at third base, though he also started 52 games in center field. Leach hit .257 that year in 131 games, with 71 runs scored and 53 RBIs. He saw time at five positions in 1906, but it was still mostly third base and center field. He hit .286 with 66 runs scored and 21 steals. The 1907 season was a strong one for Leach. In 149 games, he batted .303 with 102 runs scored and 43 stolen bases, while mainly serving as the starting center field. He finished second in the league in runs, just two behind the leader. He also finished four in steals, 18 behind league leader Honus Wagner. In 1908, Leach batted .259 in 152 games, with 93 runs scored, 24 doubles, 16 triples, 24 steals and 54 walks, which was a personal best at the time. The Pirates won their first World Series in 1909 and he batted .261 with 66 walks, 43 extra-base hits, 27 steals and a league leading 126 runs. He hit .360 in the series against the Detroit Tigers and he scored eight runs.
In 1910, Leach batted .270 in 135 games, with 83 runs, 24 doubles, 52 RBIs and 18 steals. He saw a drop in his production in 1911 at 33 years old, batting .238 with a .646 OPS in 108 games. He started off 1912 by hitting .299 with 24 runs and 18 RBIs in 28 games. On May 30, 1912, Leach was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with Lefty Leifield, in a deal that wasn’t popular among fans and did not work out for the Pirates. They received young pitcher King Cole and veteran outfielder Solly Hofman and neither player worked out well in Pittsburgh. Leach hit .242 with 50 runs scored and 35 RBIs in 82 games with the 1912 Cubs. In 1913, he batted .287 with a league leading 99 runs scored and a career high 77 walks. He played 153 games in 1914 and led the league with 676 at-bats. Leach hit .263 that season and increased his career high with 79 walks. He scored 80 runs, collected 40 extra-base hits and drove in 46 runs.
Leach was released in February of 1915 and ended up playing for the Cincinnati Reds that season, hitting just .224 in 107 games, with 42 runs scored and 56 walks. He spent 1916-17 in the minors, then returned to the Pirates for 30 games during the 1918 season. He began that season with Chattanooga of the Southern Association, but when the league shutdown early due to the war effort, their players were sold off in late June, and Leach ended up back in Pittsburgh. He hit just .194 in his final big league season, mostly playing left field. He finished his playing career in the minors four years later at 44 years old. From 1911 until 1913, Leach led all NL outfielders in fielding percentage. Earlier in his career, he twice led all third baseman in assists, once in putouts, and three times he had the best range among NL players at the hot corner. He finished his 19-year big league career with 2,143 hits and 1,355 runs scored. He hit .269 with 820 walks, 812 RBIs, 361 steals and 172 triples, which ranks 23rd all-time in big league history. Leach managed for nine seasons in the minors, including four years as a player/manager. He put up a career 47.1 WAR, which put him one spot above Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler at 47.0, though Cuyler played nearly 300 fewer games to get to that mark.
Dick Groat, shortstop for the Pirates in 1952, then again from 1955 until 1962. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in June of 1952 out of Duke University and brought him right to the majors. He also played in the NBA that year as a first round draft pick. He hit .284 with 38 runs scored and 29 RBIs in 95 games that rookie season, which led to a third place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He missed all of the 1953-54 seasons to military service, then when he returned he focused just on baseball. From 1955-57 the Pirates were very bad teams and Groat was a decent everyday player, although his 1957 season earned him a 15th place finish in the NL MVP voting. He batted .267 with 45 runs, 28 doubles and 51 RBIs in 151 games in 1955. Modern metrics rate him as an above average defender that season, though he led the league with 32 errors at shortstop. On the positive side, he also led with 330 putouts. In 1956, he led the league again in errors (34), but again he rated above average on defense. He hit .273 in 142 games, with a .638 OPS. He had a solid season at the plate in 1957, batting .315 in 125 games, with 30 doubles, 58 runs scored and 54 RBIs.
Groat batted .300 in 151 games in 1958, with 67 runs scored, 36 doubles, nine triples and 66 RBIs. He made his first All-Star appearance in 1959 when he batted .275 with 34 extra-base hits, 74 runs scored and 51 RBIs. The 1960 season would be a career year for Groat. Not only did he win an MVP award and make his second All-Star appearance (technically his third and fourth appearances since they played two All-Star games), he also led the NL in hitting with a career high .325 average. His 85 runs scored that season set a career high. As most of you know, the Pirates also won a World Series title that year. That season rates as his best season on defense according to modern metrics, with a 2.6 dWAR. In 1961, Groat hit .275 in 148 games, with 37 extra-base hits, 71 runs scored and 55 RBIs. He made his third All-Star appearance (five total games) while with the 1962 Pirates and again he got some MVP attention, this time finishing 16th in the voting. He played 161 games that season, hitting .294 with 76 runs scored, 34 doubles and 71 RBIs. Shortly after the season ended, the Pirates traded him and pitcher Diomedes Olivo to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Don Cardwell and infielder Julio Gotay.
Groat’s first season in St Louis was a big year, with an All-Star appearance and a second place finish in the MVP voting, thanks to a .319 average, 85 runs scored and a league leading/career high 43 doubles. He also set personal bests with 201 hits, 11 triples, 73 RBIs, 56 walks and an .827 OPS. He would win a second World Series title in 1964 with the St Louis Cardinals, who also beat the New York Yankees that year. Groat batted .292 in 161 games that year, with 70 runs and 70 RBIs. He also made his final All-Star appearance that season. He didn’t have much postseason success, batting .204 with a .555 OPS in 14 games total. He saw a drop in his production in 1965, hitting .254 with 55 runs scored, 26 doubles, five triples, 52 RBIs and 56 walks. His .632 OPS was a low to that point, matching his rookie season total. Groat was traded after the season to the Philadelphia Phillies in a six-player deal that also included Bob Uecker and Bill White. In 1966, Groat batted .260 in 155 games, with 58 runs scored, 53 RBIs and a .631 OPS. He would be sold to the San Francisco Giants mid-1967, in what ended up being his final season. He combined to hit just .156 in 44 games that year.
Groat hit .290 over his nine seasons in Pittsburgh, with 554 runs, 30 homers and 454 RBIs in 1,258 games. In his 14-year career, he was a .286 hitter in 1,929 games, with 829 runs and 707 RBIs. Groat was successful on just six of his 27 stolen base attempts while with the Pirates. He led NL shortstops in errors six times during his career, while also leading in double plays five times and putouts four times. After his playing days, he announced college basketball for the University of Pitt for 40 years. He turns 91 years old today.
Eddie Basinski, second baseman for the 1946 Pirates. Basinski spent a total of 16 seasons in pro ball and played 2,165 games total, with 203 of those games coming in the majors. At age 99 today, he’s the oldest living former Pirates player and he’s the second oldest MLB player behind George Elder of the 1949 St Louis Browns. Basinski debuted in pro ball at 21 years old in the majors after only having limited semi-pro experience. He played his first two seasons in the majors (1944-45) with the Brooklyn Dodgers, hitting .261 in 147 games. He hit .257 in 39 games for the Dodgers in 1944, but they thought he needed some minor league experience. He saw some time with Montreal of the International League during the second part of the 1944 season, but the entire 1945 season was spent in the majors, where he hit .262 in 108 games. It was an empty average, with low power/walk numbers leading to a .606 OPS. Basinski was playing shortstop for the Dodgers at the time, a spot that was left vacant for three years when Hall of Fame Pee Wee Reese entered the military during WWII. When Reese returned, Basinski ended up spending the entire 1946 season in Triple-A with St Paul of the American Association, where he put up a .653 OPS in 136 games.
Basinski was traded to the Pirates in December of 1946 for pitcher Al Gerheauser. He was the everyday second baseman for the Pirates for 2 1/2 months, then spent the next week on the bench. On July 10th, the Pirates acquired pitcher Mel Queen from the New York Yankees and agreed to send Basinski to Newark of the International League, which was considered the farm team for the Yankees. After 12 games, he ended up playing out the season with Portland of the Pacific Coast League. Basinski batted .199 with four homers in 56 games during his time with the Pirates, which ended up being his last year in the majors. Despite playing his final big league game with the Pirates on July 4, 1947 at 24 years old, his pro career was far from over. He played his final pro game in 1959, spending 12 1/2 seasons in the Pacific Coast League. His highest batting average in a season of pro ball was .277 until he managed to hit .301 at age 38 in 1958 for the Seattle Rainiers. He played for Portland every season from 1947 through 1957, including nine full seasons (1948-56).
Spook Jacobs, second baseman for the 1956 Pirates. He got his nickname from his ability to hit weak bloopers just over infielders heads, which people called spooky because of how often he did it. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, but didn’t make his Major League debut until 1954 with the Philadelphia Athletics. His baseball career got a bit of a late start due to service in the Army during WWII. He debuted at 20 years old in 1946 with Thomasville of the Class-D North Carolina State League, where he hit .256 in 68 games. He moved up one level to Johnstown of the Middle Atlantic League, batting .318 in 125 games, with 114 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. Jacobs was in Class-B in 1948, playing for Asheville of the Tri-State League. He hit .328 in 137 games that season, with 111 runs scored, 92 RBIs and 47 steals. The 1949 season was the first of four straight year spent with Mobile of the Double-A Southern Association. He hit .265 with 60 runs scored in 99 games that year. In 1950, Jacobs batted .304 with 36 doubles in 150 games. The next year he hit .298 with 32 extra-base hits in 142 games. In 1952, he batted .316 in 120 games, while also seeing 17 games with St Paul of the American Association, in his first Triple-A experience. He returned to Double-A in 1953, playing for Fort Worth of the Texas League, where he hit .282 in 154 games, with 102 runs scored, 28 extra-base hits, 28 steals and 58 walks.
Jacob was taken by the Philadelphia A’s in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 1954 season, after spending eight years in the minors with affiliates of the Dodgers. That 1954 season would end up being his only full season in the majors. He hit .258 in 132 games, with 63 runs scored, 60 walks and 17 stolen bases. Those were decent stats for a second baseman at the time, plus he made a lot of contact at the plate, striking out just 22 times in 575 plate appearances. On the flip side, a lot of that contact was soft, collecting just 12 extra-base hits that season, with no homers. The next season the A’s moved to Kansas City and Jacobs played just 13 Major League games that year, spending the rest of the season in Triple-A with Columbus of the International League, where he put up a .316 average in 122 games. He hit .261 in his brief time with the A’s. Jacobs made the Opening Day roster in 1956, but was he sent to the minors in late May after hitting .216 in 32 games. On June 23, 1956 the Pirates traded pitcher Jack McMahan and second baseman Curt Roberts to the A’s to acquire Jacobs. He lasted just 11 days before being sent to the minors, where he spent the next 2 1/2 seasons with Pirates affiliates, followed by finishing his career in 1960 with Chattanooga of the Southern Association. Jacobs hit .162 during his short stay in Pittsburgh. His replacement at second base was a 19-year-old named Bill Mazeroski, who was getting called up for the first time.
Jacobs went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1957, but on March 30th he was sent outright to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League (along with pitcher Bob Garber) in exchange for catcher Hardy Peterson. Jacobs played a total of 188 Major League games over three season, hitting .247 with 87 runs scored, 80 walks, 33 RBIs and 22 steals. He played 1,735 minor league games and finished with a .300 average. He hit nine homers in pro ball, all of them coming in the minors during the 1946-52 seasons. While he wasn’t much of a big league player, but how could you not like a player named Spook Jacobs, especially when you find out his real name is Forrest Vandergrift Jacobs.
Logan Easley, pitcher for the 1987 and 1989 Pirates. He was a 20th round draft pick of the Yankees in 1981 out of the College of Southern Idaho. Easley spent 11 seasons in pro ball, including a brief stint in Mexico during his final season (1991). He spent his first two seasons of pro ball in Paintsville of the short-season Appalachian League. At 19 years old in 1981, he had a 3.91 ERA in 53 innings over 22 games. In 1982, he switched from relief to starting, where he went 7-4, 2.56 in 84.1 innings. Easley moved up to Greensboro of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1983. He had a 14-8, 4.04 record in 158.1 innings, with 116 strikeouts. The next year he pitched in the Class-A Florida State League with Fort Lauderdale, where he put together a 5-7, 3.85 record in 131 innings, with just 57 strikeouts. He made 19 starts and 13 relief appearances. The 1985 season was split between Fort Lauderdale and Albany-Colonie of the Double-A Eastern League, with most of his work coming in relief. Easley had a combined 6-4, 2.77 record in 104 innings. He spent the entire 1986 season with Albany-Colonie, getting plenty of work as the team’s closer. He went 8-7, 1.51 with 18 saves and 73 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. The Pirates acquired him in the six-player Doug Drabek/Rick Rhoden trade with the New York Yankees after the 1986 season.
Easley made the Opening Day roster for the Pirates in 1987 without any Triple-A experience, making his big league debut in the second game of the season. He was with the Pirates until the end of May. He was bothered by an elbow injury for much of 1987 and pitched sparingly after being sent to the minors. Easley had a 5.47 ERA in 26.1 innings over 17 appearances with the Pirates. He had an off-season operation and then only pitched 28 times in relief in Triple-A (Buffalo of the American Association) during the 1988 season, though he was doing some long relief work, throwing a total of 68.2 innings. Easley rejoined the Pirates shortly after the 1989 season started and he made his final ten big league appearances between April 22nd and May 28th. His last two outings consisted of two shutout innings on May 26th and three no-hit frames two days later. He was released in November of 1989 and never made it back to the big leagues. In his only two seasons in the majors, he had a 5.12 ERA in 38.2 innings over 27 appearances. Easley had a 4.28 ERA and 13 saves in 33.2 innings for Buffalo in 1989. He had trouble in the thin air in Denver in 1990, playing for the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, where he had a 5.79 ERA in 74.2 innings, with more walks (41) than strikeouts (39). He pitched briefly for the Cleveland Indians in Double-A in 1991, while also seeing time that season with an independent team in the California League, and a team from Mexico.
John Grabow, pitcher for the 2003-09 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick by the Pirates in 1997 out of high school, who topped 60 appearances each year with the Pirates from 2004 until 2009. He made 133 starts in the minors, including nine in 2003, before transitioning to a relief role before his first trip to the majors. He did not have a lot of success during his first four full seasons in the majors, but he eventually established himself for a short time as a solid reliever. He debuted in pro ball in the Gulf Coast League at 18 years old, going 2-7, 4.57 in 45.1 innings as a rookie. He moved up to the South Atlantic League (Low-A) in 1998, where he pitched for Augusta for one year, then Hickory the next when the Pirates switched affiliates. He had a 5.78 ERA in 71.2 innings in 1998, followed by a 3.80 ERA in 156.1 innings, with 164 strikeouts in 1999. The next year saw him advance to Altoona of the Eastern League (Double-A). Grabow had a 4.33 ERA in 145.1 innings that year, making 24 starts. The 2001 season was odd, with the year starting and ending in Altoona, but an elbow injury in May caused him to spend the middle part of the season doing six rehab starts in the Gulf Coast League and seven with High-A Lynchburg. He combined to go 3-9, 4.53 in 99.1 innings.
In 2002, Grabow spent the entire year in Altoona, posting an 8-13, 5.47 record in 146.1 innings. Most of 2003 was spent back in Altoona, as he made the mid-season change to relief. He had a 3.36 ERA in 83 innings before putting together a 4.74 ERA in 17 appearances in Triple-A. He finished the season in the majors with three runs over five innings in five games. Grabow spent the 2004 season with the Pirates, going 2-5, 5.11 in 68 games, with 64 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. In 2005, he had a 4.85 ERA in 52 innings over 63 games. His ERA improved in 2006 and he saw more mound time, going 4-2, 4.13 in 69.2 innings over 72 games. He slid back a bit in 2007, with a 4.53 ERA in 51.2 innings over 63 appearances. Grabow had his best year in the majors in 2008, posting a 2.84 ERA in 76 innings over 74 appearances. That year he picked up four of his six career saves. He was doing well in the middle of 2009 when the Pirates sent him to the Chicago Cubs in a five-player deal that brought Josh Harrison back to Pittsburgh.
Grabow had a 3.42 ERA in 45 games before the trade, then put up solid numbers over the rest of 2009 with the Cubs, with a 3.24 mark in 25 innings and 30 outings. He signed a two-year free agent deal with the Cubs in 2010 and really struggled during the first year, going 1-3, 7.36 in 25.2 innings. He sprained his left knee and didn’t pitch after June 28th. Grabow played his final big league season in 2011, going 3-1, 4.76 in 62.1 innings over 58 games. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2012, but he was released during Spring Training. In his 2 1/2 seasons in Chicago, he had a 5.02 ERA in 113 innings over 116 games. He made 390 relief appearances while with the Pirates, posting a 20-15, 4.09 record in 363.1 innings.
Chris Resop, pitcher for the 2010-12 Pirates. He spent eight years in the majors as a reliever, including three in Pittsburgh. Resop was a fourth round draft pick out of high school by the Florida Marlins in 2001. It took him four years to make the majors, though his first full season didn’t come until 2011 with the Pirates. While he is known as a pitcher, he was drafted as an outfielder. He hit just .124 in 28 games in short-season ball as a rookie in 2001, with 36 strikeouts in 99 plate appearances. In 2002, he hit .264 in 28 games in the Gulf Coast League, with a .686 OPS. He split the 2003 season between pitching and hitting with Low-A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League. He hit .191 in 37 games and had a 4.97 ERA in 12.2 innings. He was full-time pitching in 2004, returning to Greensboro, where he posted a 3-1, 2.11 record and 13 saves in 42.2 innings over 42 appearances. Resop struck out 71 batters in his limited time that year. In 2005, He moved up to Carolina of the Double-A Southern League, where he had a 2.57 ERA, 24 saves, and 56 strikeouts in 49 innings over 43 appearances. He ended up jumping over Triple-A to the majors that year and had an 8.47 ERA in 17 innings over 15 games. The 2006 season saw him post a 3.81 ERA in 49.2 innings over 40 games for Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League, and a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings over 22 appearances for the Marlins.
Resop was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in December of 2006 and he appeared in just four big league games during the 2007 season, spending the rest of the year in Triple-A with Salt Lake City of the PCL. He was selected off of waivers by the Atlanta Braves just after the 2007 season ended. He had a 5.89 ERA in 16 games with the Braves, while spending part of the year in Japan. Resop spent all of 2009 in Japan, then returned to the U.S. for the 2010 season back with the Braves. He spent most of that year in the minors, getting one appearance with the Braves in which he allowed five runs in two innings. The Pirates then took him off of waivers in August, and he finished the year by posting a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings over 22 games. In 2011, Resop went 5-4, 4.39 in 76 games, with 79 strikeouts in 69.2 innings. The next season saw him go 1-4, 3.91 in 61 games, with an alarming drop in his strikeouts, going from 10.2 per nine innings in 2011 ,down to 5.6 per nine innings in 2012. On November 30, 2012, he was traded to the Oakland A’s for minor league pitcher Zach Thornton. Resop had a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings over 18 games with the 2013 A’s, which ended up being his last big league experience. His career ended in the minor leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He had a 3.88 ERA in 162.1 innings over 159 appearances with the Pirates. He had a career 10-12, 4.62 record in 235 appearances, with 204 strikeouts in 243.1 innings.