Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, but we start with two transactions of note.
On this date in 1966 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded 3B/LF Bob Bailey and shortstop Gene Micheal to the Los Angeles Dodgers for All-Star shortstop Maury Wills. Bailey and Michaels performed poorly for the Dodgers following the deal, while Wills played two seasons for the Pirates, hitting .302 in 1967 with 92 runs and 29 stolen bases in 149 games. He would steal 52 bases in 1968, the second highest total in the National League. He hit .278 and scored 76 runs in 153 games that season. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft in October 1968. Michael hit .204 in his only season in Los Angeles before being sold to the New York Yankees. Bailey batted .227 in both years for the Dodgers, totaling 12 homers. He had 13 homers for the Pirates in 1966 before the trade. He ended up as a teammate with Wills in Montreal in 1969 and put up 18.3 WAR there over seven seasons. So while the Pirates won the deal short-term, it was the Montreal Expos who actually got the best of the Pirates/Dodgers trade.
Exactly one year before the Wills trade, the Pirates traded pitcher Joe Gibbon and 3B/C Ozzie Virgil to the Giants for outfielder Matty Alou. Prior to the deal, Alou was a .260 hitter over six season, but he turned his career around with the Pirates, hitting .342 his first year, winning the batting title and finishing ninth in the MVP voting. He would hit over .330 each season from 1967-69 twice making the All-Star team. In 1969 he led the NL with 231 hits and 41 doubles. He dropped down to .297 in 1970, but still scored 97 runs and had 201 hits. Following that season he was traded to the Cardinals in exchange for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo. Gibbon would actually return to the Pirates in 1969 after four solid seasons in San Francisco, where he had a 3.07 ERA in 223 innings. Virgil had just 43 games left in the majors after the trade. He was a fringe/AAAA player before the deal, playing a total of 281 games over seven seasons during a ten-year time period.
Reggie Sanders, outfielder for the 2003 Pirates. He was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of the 1987 draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College. It took him four years to make the majors, but he stayed around Cincinnati for his first eight seasons in the majors. Sanders had a streak of playing with a different team each year that stretched from 1998 until 2004. After playing his last year with the Reds in 1998, he played for the 1999 San Diego Padres, 2000 Atlanta Braves, 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, 2002 San Francisco Giants, 2003 Pirates and 2004 Cardinals. He remained in St Louis for two years, then finished his career with the 2006-07 Kansas City Royals.
Sanders debuted in pro ball with Billings of the Pioneer League in 1988, where he hit .234 with no homers in 17 games. In 1989, he moved up to A-Ball, playing for Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, where he hit .289 with nine homers and 21 steals in 81 games. He played for Cedar Rapids of the Class-A Midwest League in 1990 and batted .285 in 127 games, with 89 runs, 27 doubles, 17 homers, 40 steals and 59 walks. From there he moved up to Chattanooga of the Double-A Southern League, where he batted .315 in 86 games, with 50 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs and 15 steals. Sanders debuted in the majors that season, though he played just nine games and hit .200 with one homer. He remained in the majors to start the 1992 season. That year he hit .270 in 116 games, with 26 doubles, 12 homers, 16 steals and 62 runs scored. That was good enough for a fourth place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 1993, he hit .274 in 138 games, with 90 runs scored, 20 homers, 83 RBIs and 27 steals. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, Sanders batted .263 in 107 games, with 66 runs scored, 20 doubles, 17 homers and 21 steals.
Despite all of his career success, Sanders had just one All-Star appearance and it was also the only season that he received any MVP votes. In 1995, he batted .306 with 36 doubles, 28 homers, 99 RBIs and 36 stolen bases. All of those stats are career highs except the homers, which he topped in 2001 and 2003. Those numbers are made more impressive by the fact that the 1995 season was shortened due to the 1994 strike, with MLB getting a late start the following year. He finished sixth in the MVP voting that year. In 1996, Sanders hit .251 in 81 games, with 17 doubles, 14 homers and 24 steals. He was slowed by a back injury suffered in April that season, then re-injured it in April of 1997. That limited him to 86 games that season, as he hit .253 with 19 doubles, 19 homers and 13 steals. In 1998, he was able to play 135 games, which was a mark that he topped just twice in his career. He hit .268 that year with 83 runs scored, 18 doubles, 14 homers, 59 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. The Reds traded him to the Padres of February 2, 1999 in a five-player deal that included Greg Vaughn going the other way. Sanders played 133 games in 1999 and hit .285 with 24 doubles, 26 homers, 72 RBIs, 36 steals and 65 walks. His 92 runs scored that season were a career high.
In December of 1999, the Padres traded Sanders to the Atlanta Braves in a six-player deal. He slumped in his only season with the Braves, hitting .232 with 23 doubles, 11 homers and 21 steals in 103 games. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he won a World Series ring. Sanders batted .263 that season in 126 games, with 84 runs scored, 21 doubles, a career high 33 homers, and 90 RBIs. During the World Series, he hit .304 with an RBI and six runs scored. After hitting .250 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs for the Giants in 2002, while helping them to the World Series, Sanders signed with Pittsburgh in March of 2003. During his lone season in Pittsburgh, he hit .285 with 31 homers, 15 stolen bases and 87 RBIs in 130 games for the Pirates. He left the team as a free agent following the season and signed with the St Louis Cardinals.
In 2004, Sanders hit .260 with 27 doubles, 22 homers, 67 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. He played 93 games during the 2005 season and hit .271 with 21 homers, 54 RBIs and 14 steals. He missed time with a leg injury that season, in what was just the start of him missing time over his final three years. Despite the missed time late, he returned in time for the playoffs and drove in ten runs in three games during the NLDS. With the Royals in 2006, Sanders batted .246 in 88 games, with 23 doubles, 11 homers and 49 RBIs. His final season in 2007 was limited to just 24 games due to a hamstring injury. He played 17 seasons in the majors, hitting .267 in 1,777 games. He scored 1,037 runs, drove in 983 and is a member of the 300 stolen base/ 300 home run club, reaching both milestone marks 22 days apart during the 2006 season. He finished with 305 homers and 304 steals, and he had 706 extra-base hits during his career. Despite some postseason success, he got a reputation for disappearing in the playoffs. In 64 postseason games, he batted .195 with a .604 OPS.
Cal McLish, pitcher for the Pirates in 1947-48. He was originally signed by the Dodgers in 1944 at 18 years old and he pitched in the majors that season, though he struggled as a rookie that year. He went 3-10, 7.82 in 84 innings over 13 starts and ten relief appearances, with twice as many walks (48) as strikeouts (24). He missed all of 1945 and most of 1946 while serving in the military during WWII, then made one brief appearance in the majors in 1946, allowing two runs without recording an out in late August. The Pirates acquired him in May of 1947 as part of a five-for-one trade with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with Al Gionfriddo (and cash) being the lone player sent to Brooklyn. After joining the Pirates, he pitched just one big league game that 1947 season, giving up two runs in his only inning. The rest of the year was spent with Kansas City of the Triple-A American Association, where he had a 6-7, 4.40 record in 92 innings. McLish spent most of 1948 in the minors, posting a 12-9, 4.13 record in 172 innings in Triple-A for Indianapolis of the American Association. For the Pirates in 1948, he pitched one inning in April, then made one start in late September, allowing five runs in four innings. Following the 1948 season he was traded to the Chicago Cubs on December 8th in a four-player deal that also included Cliff Chambers and Frankie Gustine.
McLish saw brief big league time in 1949, posting a 5.83 ERA in 23 innings. He spent all of 1950 in the minors with Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 20-11, 3.60 in 260 innings. He then returned to the Cubs for a full season in 1951. That year he had a 4-10, 4.45 record in 145.2 innings, making 17 starts and 13 relief appearances. He didn’t stick in the majors from that point on though, returning to the minors for the next four seasons. All four years were spent in Los Angeles (with some time in San Diego of the PCL in 1955), and during that span, he went 56-53, and average 231 innings per season. When he returned to the big leagues in 1956, McLish had eight career wins and he was already 30 years old. He barely added to that total in his first season, winning two games for the Cleveland Indians, who used him in a relief role all season. However, from 1957 through 1963, he averaged 12 wins per season. In 1957, he went 9-7, 2.74 in 144.1 innings over seven starts and 35 relief appearances. In 1958, he had a 16-8, 2.99 record in 225.2 innings. He made 30 starts and nine relief appearances. That performance earned him a 14th place finish in the MVP voting.
In 1959, McLish had his best season in the majors. He went 19-8, 3.63 in a career high 235.1 innings. He received a little more MVP support that season, finishing 11th in the voting. That year was also his only All-Star season in the majors. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on December 15, 1959 as part of a three-for-one deal that brought All-Star second baseman Johnny Temple to Cleveland. McLish struggled with his new team, going 4-14, 4.16 in 21 starts and 16 relief outings, throwing a total of 151.1 innings pitched. After the season, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, along with reliever Juan Pizarro, in exchange for infielder Gene Freese. It was a deal that included three players who played for the Pirates, though Pizarro’s time in Pittsburgh was still ahead of him at that point. For Chicago, McLish went 10-13, 4.38 in 162.1 innings, with 27 starts and four relief appearances. During Spring Training in 1962, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he played his final three seasons in the majors. In 1962, he went 11-5, 4.25 in 24 starts and eight relief outings, throwing a total of 154.2 innings. McLish had a 13-11, 3.26 record in 209.2 innings in 1963, when all 32 of his appearances came as a starter. He was released in 1964 after just two appearances, barely playing due to an arm injury that ended his career. He immediately got into coaching and remained as a pitching coach well after his playing days were over.
McLish had a career record of 92-92, 4.01 in 15 seasons in the majors, with 1,609 innings pitched over 209 starts and 143 relief appearances. He also added 102 minor league wins over his 20-year pro career. McLish has likely the most interesting name in baseball history. His full name is Calvin Coolidge Julius Caeser Tuskahoma McLish.
Cookie Lavagetto, outfielder for the 1934-36 Pirates. The Pirates bought Lavagetto from the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League on September 13, 1933 for cash and a player to be named later. He was in his first season of pro ball at the time, hitting .312 that season with 44 extra-base hits in 152 games. He remained with the Oaks after the deal, joining the Pirates during the following Spring Training. He made the Opening Day roster in 1934 and played second base during his rookie season, hitting .220 with 46 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 87 games. At the time, he was believed to be 19 years old, though he was actually 21 and he “gained” those two years at some point after leaving the Pirates. He played both second base and third base in 1935, hitting .290 with 27 runs and 19 RBIs in 78 games. Lavagetto batted .244 with 21 runs scored, 15 doubles and 26 RBIs in 60 games in 1936, seeing very little time over the final three months of the season. He made just two starts in the final 88 games. Following the season, the Pirates traded him (and Ralph Birkofer) to the Brooklyn Dodgers for pitcher Ed Brandt. Cookie (his first name was Harry) broke out right away with the Dodgers, making four straight All-Star teams (1938-41) before leaving to serve in WWII.
In 1937, Lavagetto batted .282 in 149 games, with 64 runs scored, 40 extra-base hits, 70 RBIs, 13 steals and 74 runs scored. During his first All-Star season, he hit .273 in 137 games, with 68 runs scored, 36 doubles, 79 RBIs, 15 steals and 68 walks. He began to play third base full-time in 1938 and continued that until going into the war. In 1939 he batted .300 in 153 games, setting career highs with 93 runs scored and 87 RBIs. He also had 43 extra-base hits, 14 steals and 78 walks. All of that led to him getting mild MVP support for the first of two times. In 1940, Lavagetto hit .257 in 118 games, with 56 runs scored, 43 RBIs and 70 walks. In his final season before joining the war effort, he batted .277 in 132 games, with 75 runs, 78 RBIs and a career best 80 walks. He missed four full seasons during WWII, returning in 1946 for two more years with the Dodgers, before finishing his career in the minors. The missed time took its toll, with Lavagetto hitting .236 in 88 games, with 36 runs scored and 27 RBIs. In his final big league season, he batted .261 in 41 games. His final three seasons of pro ball (948-50) were spent with Oakland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he batted .291 in 371 games. He was a career .269 hitter in 1,043 games, with twice as many walks (485) as strikeouts (244). Lavagetto managed for five seasons in the majors after his career. He was the manager at the time of the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota in 1961. We posted a full-length feature article on Lavagetto’s time with the Pirates here.
Mike Cvengros, pitcher for the 1927 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball with Chickasha of the Class-D Western Association in 1921, where he won 17 games at 20 years old, but he also lost 22 games and walked 151 batters in 153.2 innings. He moved up to Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association and pitched well enough to get a start for the 1922 New York Giants on September 30th, just eight days before they won the World Series title. He went 17-14, 2.88 in 269 innings for Little Rock, then gave up five runs in a complete game loss for the Giants. Cvengros then pitched the next three seasons for the Chicago White Sox and saw plenty of work during the 1923 season. He went 12-13, 4.39 in 215.1 innings over 26 starts and 15 relief appearances. He had a rough 1924 campaign, going 3-12, 5.88 in 105.2 innings, with 15 started and 11 relief outings. In 1925, Cvengros went 3-9, 4.30 in 104.2 innings, with 11 starts and 11 relief appearances. He then spent the 1926 season with New Orleans of the Southern Association. He went 18-5, 3.68 in 220 innings, which gained the attention of the Pirates.
Cvengros was a small lefty, standing just 5’8″, 159 pounds. He was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Pirates in late 1926 and then they traded him away after the 1927 season, so his time in Pittsburgh was short. He saw sporadic playing time throughout the season in Pittsburgh, never pitching more than six times in any month. From July 29th through October 1st, he pitched just six innings total over eight appearances. Cvnegros got the start on the last day of the regular season and he threw five shutout innings. With the Pirates, he went 2-1, 3.35 in 19 relief appearances and four starts. He pitched twice during the World Series, giving up one run over 2.1 innings. That one run came on a home run by Babe Ruth. On December 3, 1927, it was announced that Cvengros and catcher Ike Danning were released to Wichita Falls of the Texas League as part of an earlier deal for pitcher Fred Fussell. Cvengros went 21-8, 3.26 for Wichita Falls in 1928, which helped earn him a trip back to the majors with the 1929 Chicago Cubs. In his final big league season, he went 5-4, 4.64 in 64 innings over four starts and 28 relief appearances. Cvengros pitched a total of six years in the majors, going 25-40, 4.59 in 145 games (61 starts), with 552.1 innings pitched. He won 159 games in the minors. He pitched eight seasons in the minors after his final big league game, including the last six years with Houston of the Texas League. He won 21 games in 1933 and had a 2.36 ERA in 272 innings. He averaged 206 innings per season during that stretch in Houston.
Eppie Barnes, first baseman for the 1923-24 Pirates. He was a multi-sport college star at Colgate, who got his career started in the Class-B Three-I League with the Peoria Tractors in 1922. That season he hit .289 with 25 extra-base hits in 73 games. In 1923 with Peoria, he batted .302 with 27 extra-base hits in 137 games. His runs total isn’t available for that season, but an article about his signing noted that he led the league in runs at the time. Another article said that he scored 100 runs and led the league in walks too. Barnes was purchased by the Pirates from Peoria on September 8, 1923 for what was said to be the highest price ever paid at the time for a player from that league (his local Brooklyn paper reported the price to be $50,000). He joined the Pirates two days later and played two games in September of 1923, going 1-for-2 with a single and a strikeout. His first appearance came as a pinch-runner on September 24th, then the next day he played the last four innings at first base of a game that the Pirates were winning 13-2 after five innings. He made the Opening Day roster in 1924, but he went to the minors on May 8th, joining Dallas of the Class-A Texas League, where he hit .261 with 22 doubles, three triples and no homers in 110 games. He played one game with the Pirates four days before being sent down, and then he got into another game in September, going 0-for-5 at the plate, in what turned out to be his final big league game. He likely would have played more during the latter stint, but a batting practice mishap led to a broken nose on September 3rd, which kept him from playing for the next 20 days. The Pirates called up Barnes on August 26th when starting first baseman Charlie Grimm was in a horrible slump at the plate. It was said that Barnes would play regularly unless Grimm turned things around immediately, but he started just the one game.
Barnes spent the 1925 season with Chattanooga of the Class-A Southern Association, after the Pirates optioned him there on January 28, 1925. He was actually sent back to the Pirates on April 12th because his price was too high according to the Chattanooga management, though things quickly changed and Barnes was in the Chattanooga lineup by April 18th. He hit .277 that year in 136 games, with 17 doubles, ten triples and four homers. That season was the end of his brief pro career, though he remained active as a player in semi-pro leagues long after his final pro game. His time with the Pirates officially ended on February 12, 1926 when his contract was sold to Buffalo of the International League. In the transaction note, it said that he was being sold as a pitcher.
Barnes went by the nickname Eppie quite often, but his actual first name was Everett. He was famous in his days after his brief career, helping form the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and he spent a long time back at Colgate as a coach and athletic director. He was also a key member in getting baseball included in the Olympics. During his college days he was considered to be a basketball star, but an article about his prowess on the court noted that he was even better at baseball and he was already getting offers from big league clubs two years before he signed with the Pirates. Barnes was born the same exact day as 1927 Pirates pitcher Mike Cvengros.
Jake Miller, right fielder for the 1922 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1919 with Mobile of the Class-A Southern Association. Miller hit .258 that season, with 19 extra-base hits in 140 games. In 1920, he joined Wichita Falls of the Class-B Texas League and hit .294 with nine doubles and seven triples in 71 games. He remained in Wichita Falls in 1921, as the league reclassified to A-Ball. He had a strong season, batting .324 with 35 doubles, eight triples and nine homers in 130 games. Through 96 games with Wichita Falls in 1922, he batted .316 with 29 doubles, three triples and four homers. On July 11, 1922, the Pirates acquired the 26-year-old Miller from Wichita Falls in a trade for pitcher John “Bonnie” Hollingsworth. Miller’s big league career basically lasted three days, July 15-17, 1922, though he was with the Pirates a little longer. He went 1-for-11 with a stolen base and two walks in his three games. His only big league hit was a single in his first Major League at-bat. In the field, he made one error in nine chances. The error was a costly one early in a game against Brooklyn, but a play he made in the fourth inning caused him more grief. He caught a deep foul ball with one out and a man on third, despite cries from his teammates to let it drop. The run came in to score to make it a 4-1 game in favor of Brooklyn. It’s interesting to note that manager Bill McKechnie was irate over the play and that ended up being Miller’s final game. On July 29th, he was sold to Toronto of the International League for the reported price of $5,000. His actual time spent with the Pirates was 16 days.
Miller’s off-and-on minor league career lasted from 1919 until 1930, but he never made the majors again. He batted .307 with 27 extra-base hits in 129 games for Birmingham of the Southern Association in 1923. He jumped to Double-A with Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1924, where he hit .291 in 89 games, with 21 extra-base hits. He played briefly for Jersey City of the International League in 1925 after being sold there by Portland (these records don’t show up in his online stats). He was managing a semi-pro team called the Miller All-Stars near his Baltimore home in 1926. His next time in pro ball was 1927 with York of the Class-B New York-Penn League, where he hit .312 with 41 extra-base hits in 139 games. He played semi-pro ball there before his pro career started, so he was familiar to the fans. He was found playing semi-pro ball in both 1928 and 1929, before returning to pro ball for one last year in 1930. In his final season, he hit .328 in 87 games while serving as a player-manager for the Hagerstown Hub of the Blue Ridge League. Miller was a .303 career hitting in the minors and batted over .300 in five of his eight seasons.
George Fox, 1B/C for the 1899 Pirates. He had an eight-year stretch between his only two short stints in the majors. He made his MLB debut in July of 1891 for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. Fox played six games at third base and went 2-for-19, with a triple and two RBIs. He then spent the next nine seasons playing all over minor league teams in Pennsylvania, with a brief stop in Pittsburgh near the end. He made his pro debut in 1889 with teams from Lebanon and Hazelton of the Middle States League. In 1890, he played for a team that played in both Lancaster and Allentown in the Eastern Interstate League. He has no other team listed for the 1891 season besides his short big league time, but when he signed with Louisville on July 13th, it said he was coming from a team in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. It was said at the time of the signing that he hit just .140 and fielded poorly for Allentown in 1890, so little was expected from him unless he improved greatly, but it was okay to give him a tryout because his salary was small. Fox spent the next five seasons in the Pennsylvania State League, playing for Danville in 1892, Reading in 1893-94, Pottsville in 1895 and Shamokin in 1896. He saw a nice rise in his stats during the 1893-95 seasons as new pitching rules went into effect that helped the batters. He hit .312 in 1893, then .281 with 25 extra-base hits in 71 games in 1894, followed by .338 average and 70 runs scored in 65 games in 1895.
During the 1897 season, Fox played his first of three straight seasons in the Class-B Atlantic League, playing for a different team each year. He hit .242 with 34 extra-base hits and 53 runs scored in 119 games for Philadelphia in 1897. In 1898, he played for Norfolk (no stats are available). Then in 1899 before he joined the Pirates, he played with Reading, where he hit .205 with four extra-base hits and 19 runs in 40 games. Fox joined the Pirates on August 7, 1899, and debuted as a pinch-hitter on August 10th. He was used as a defensive replacement on August 22nd behind the plate in both games of a doubleheader. Starting on August 29th, he played nine straight games as the starting first baseman. He played his final game on September 7th, but he was still part of the team for the final month of the season. As the third-string catcher, Fox was left at home to save on travel expenses when the team went on a 13-day Eastern road trip in mid-September. He ended up playing nine games at first base and three games at catcher. He hit .244 in 13 games, with a homer and three RBIs. Fox was one of the players traded to Louisville when the Pirates made the famous Honus Wagner trade. Louisville was one of the teams cut from the National League a short time later and Fox was returned to the Pirates in February, though he was released unconditionally on April 5th. He returned to the minors in 1900 and played pro ball until 1908, retiring at 39 years old. He was a player/manager during the 1901-02 seasons, and then again in 1908 for Lancaster of the Class-D Ohio State League. He remained on as the team manager in 1909, but has no managerial records after that point. He didn’t outlive his baseball career by long, passing away in May of 1914.