Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a 30-game winner. We also have a trade of note from 1978.
Pink Hawley, pitcher for the 1895-97 Pirates. He played on some bad teams before joining the Pirates, going 30-58 with the St Louis Browns during the 1892-94 seasons, but he turned things around once he joined Pittsburgh. Hawley debuted in pro ball in 1892 in the majors at 19 years old. In 1891, he was playing amateur ball in Wisconsin until he got a job pitching for $100 per month for a semi-pro team. In 1892, he pitched for the Browns and had a 6-14, 3.19 record in 166.1 innings, with 18 complete games in 20 starts. Despite what seems like a decent amount of pitching, he didn’t debut until August 13th. He got a trial by the Chicago White Stockings during Spring Training, but ended up pitching with a team from Ft Smith, Arkansas for $130 a month. Hawley spent all of 1893 with the Browns and had a 5-17, 4.60 record in 227 innings over 24 starts and seven relief appearances. In 1894, he led the National League with 27 losses and had a 4.90 ERA in 392.2 innings, though that was a huge year for offense in baseball, so that ERA wasn’t actually as bad as it sounds. He won 19 games that year for a team that went 37-49 in their other decisions that season. Hawley didn’t get along well with St Louis owner Chris von der Ahe and wanted to be traded. The Pirates acquired Pink on January 15, 1895 in a very colorful trade from the Browns for pitcher Red Ehret and cash (green).
Hawley immediately turned things around with the Pirates in 1895, winning 31 games (22 losses), while leading the league in innings (444.1), games pitched (56) and shutouts (four). He completed 44 of his 50 starts. Hawley went 22-21, 3.57 in 378 innings in 1896, pitching alongside 30-game winner Frank Killen, to provide the Pirates with a strong 1-2 punch. He went 18-18, 4.80 in 1897 and saw a drop in his innings down to 311.1, before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a seven-player/cash deal. That deal worked out poorly for the Pirates short-term, as they gave up the best two players (outfielder Elmer Smith as well) and Hawley posted a 27-11 record in his first season with the Reds, while posting a 3.37 ERA in 331 innings. However, he began to slip in 1899, posting a 14-17, 4.24 record in 250.1 innings. He had a solid season in 1900 with the New York Giants, going 18-18, 3.53 in 329.1 innings, but he pitched poorly after jumping to the American League in 1901, which ended up being his final big league season. That season for the Milwaukee Brewers (current day Baltimore Orioles), he went 7-14, 4.59 in 182.1 innings. Hawley went 167-179, 3.96 over ten season in the majors, and he pitched 3,012.2 innings. He completed 297 of his 344 career starts. With the Pirates, he went 71-61, 3.76 in 1,133.2 innings. He is one of three 30-game winners in franchise history (Killen and Ed Morris are the others)He went to the minors in 1902 and played for three different teams that year, before seeing some time as a player/manager during the 1905-08 seasons with a team from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Pink wasn’t a nickname as you might expect, it was his middle name. His first name was Emerson. During three of his seasons in La Crosse as the player/manager, the team was known as the Pinks.
Frank Bowerman, catcher for the Pirates in 1898-99. He debuted in the majors at 26 years old in 1895 and didn’t see his first real steady playing time until three years later when he was purchased by the Pirates. He played 48 games over four seasons with the Orioles prior to the purchase. Most of that playing time came in 1897 when Baltimore had two catchers miss significant time with injuries. Bowerman debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1888, playing for Logansport of the Indiana State League. No stats are available from that time and he didn’t show up again in pro ball until 1894 with Detroit of the Western League. Before signing with Detroit in early 1894, a note in the local papers called Bowerman the Detroit Athletic Club amateur and said he was finally going pro. He was also playing college ball at the University of Michigan during that missing time in pro ball. In 1895, he played for Twin Cities of the Interstate League, before joining the Baltimore Orioles for one game on August 24th. The 1896 season saw Bowerman played for Scranton of the Class-A Eastern League, Norfolk of the Class-B Virginia League, and he got in another four games with the Orioles. He spent the 1897 season with Baltimore and hit .315 with 21 RBIs in 38 games. Early in 1898, he played another five games with the Orioles and hit .438 in 16 at-bats.
The Pirates bought Bowerman and Tom O’Brien from the Orioles for $2,500 on June 3, 1898. While with the Pirates, Bowerman hit .274 with 29 RBIs in 69 games in 1898. In 1899 he hit .260 with 53 RBIs in 110 games. He caught 80 games that year and led all NL catchers with 23 errors. His 111 hits that year were a career high and the only time in his 15-year career he reached the 100-hit mark. He also set career highs with 51 runs, 16 doubles, ten triples and three homers (later tied) On March 9, 1900, Bowerman was one of two players turned over to the New York Giants by National League President Nick Young. It was part of the settlement when the owners agreed to buy out four teams so they could go from a 12-team league in 1899 to an eight-team league for 1900. The Pirates already had three other catchers for the season and Bowerman would have been a platoon player with veterans Chief Zimmer and Pop Schriver. Bowerman had expressed a desire to be traded to New York because he faced some tough criticism for his defense at first base in 1899, despite playing just ten games at the spot over his first four seasons. He stayed in New York for eight seasons before moving on to the Boston Doves (Braves) for his final two years in the majors.
Bowerman batted .241 with 42 RBIs in 80 games in 1900. He led the league by throwing out 53% of runners attempting to steal. His offensive numbers slipped in 1901 down to a .199 average and a .492 OPS. He never put up a high OPS due to low walk/power numbers. In 1902, he played 109 games (99 starts at catcher) and hit .249 with 38 runs scored, 20 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs. During the 1903 season, Bowerman batted .276 in 64 games, with 22 runs scored and 31 RBIs. The next season saw him bat .232 in 93 games, with 38 runs scored and 27 RBIs. His .655 OPS in 1905 was his highest mark for a season, outside of 1897 when he played 38 games. He hit .269 in 98 games in 1905, with 37 runs scored and 41 RBIs. His OBP was helped out that year by getting hit with 11 pitches, which was a career high. In 1906, Bowerman batted .228 in 92 games, though his 42 RBIs matched his previous high with the Giants. In his last season in New York, he hit .260 in 96 games, with 31 runs scored and 32 RBIs. His 17 walks that year were a career high. In December of 1907, he was part of an eight-player trade between the Giants and the Boston Doves. Bowerman hit .228 in 86 games in 1908, with 25 RBIs, 16 runs scored and a .554 OPS.
At 40 years old in 1909, Bowerman served as a player-manager for Boston before being released in July. He batted .212 in 33 games and led the team to a 22-54 record. He finished the 1909 season in the minors and played for two more years, before managing London of the Canadian League during the 1912 season. He hit .250 over 1,037 career games, with 345 runs scored and 393 RBIs. He threw out 48% of base runners attempting to steal during his career, catching 816 runners, which ranks 21st all-time. According to defensive WAR, he was among the top ten defensive players in baseball during the 1900, 1904 and 1906 seasons. Bowerman rarely saw a pitch he didn’t like, walking just 130 times in 3,660 plate appearances, though he only struck out 242 times.
Snake Wiltse, pitcher for the 1901 Pirates. He made five starts and two relief appearances for the Pirates, going 1-4 4.26 in 44.1 innings before being release due to what was described as “a lame arm and disorder of the stomach”. He made his last Pirates appearance on June 26th, got released on June 30th, pitched games for a semi-pro team in Punxutawney on July 8th and the 11th, then returned home to Syracuse, where he agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Athletics on July 13th. He debuted with the A’s ten days later and he went 13-5 in 19 starts. The 1901 Pirates pitching staff was so deep with Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, that they were able to give up on a quality pitcher like Wiltse. They also won three straight NL pennants (1901-03) so they didn’t miss him, but he was still let go for nothing at the time so it turned out to be a bad move in that regard.
Wiltse was acquired by the Pirates from Syracuse on January 1, 1901 in the deal that included the Pirates shipping three players to the Eastern League club. One of those players was Patsy Flaherty, who ended up back in Pittsburgh in 1904 and won 19 games. There was said to be great interest in Wiltse around baseball and it took Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss four weeks to finally work out a sufficient deal. Wiltse threw a fastball and different variations of a curve ball, which impressed manager Fred Clarke, who credited his poor start with the big league club to nerves. He was already 29 years old at the time of his MLB debut, but he had minimal pro experience. He played at least five years of semi-pro ball before his first minor league game, debuting in the pro ranks in 1899 with Toledo of the Class-B Interstate League. In 1900 he spent time back with Toledo, as well as playing for Syracuse of the Class-A Eastern League. Wiltse played in the majors until 1903, finishing his career with the New York Highlanders (Yankees). He split the 1902 season between the Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, who are the current day Yankees (I know records show that to not be true now, but they are wrong). He combined to go 15-19, 5.13 that season in 302 innings. It was a rough season in which he led the league in hits allowed and earned runs. After Baltimore transferred to New York for the 1903 season, he was one of a few players that the new owners decided to keep. He didn’t last long though, going 0-3, 5.40 in 25 innings, while making his final big league appearance on May 18th.
Wiltse played pro ball until 1910 before retiring. He went back to Baltimore to finish out the 1903 season, playing in the Class-A Eastern League, where he stayed through part of 1905. He played for York of the Tri-State League in 1905-06, then moved around a lot before settling down with Syracuse of the Class-B New York State League in the middle of the 1908 season. In what amounted to two full years from mid-1906 in York to mid-1908 in Syracuse, Wiltse played for six different teams in four different leagues. He went 29-31, 4.59 in 537.1 innings over 62 starts and six relief appearances in the majors. He was called Snake (his first name was Lewis) because of his odd delivery that reminded people of a snake unwinding. He had a brother named Hooks Wiltse, who pitched 12 seasons in the majors. His nickname came from his fielding prowess.
Bill Rodgers, outfielder for the 1944-45 Pirates. He played three major league games, two late season appearances in 1944 and a pinch-hitting appearance the following April. He got his only big league start in the final game of the 1944 season, playing right field and batting second. Rodgers went 2-for-5 at the plate. He spent three seasons in the minors for the Pirates, hitting at least .310 each year, before he went to serve his country in WWII. After returning to baseball in 1946, he played one year in the minors for Pittsburgh and his final five years in the Yankees organization before retiring. Rodgers joined Hornell of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League right out of high school in 1942 and started as a pitcher/outfielder. He batted .310 in 59 games, while going 7-12, 4.55 in 166 innings. He was switched to outfield full-time during the 1943 season and finished second in the league with a .367 average, less than a full point behind the league leader. Before the full-time outfield switch, he had a 3.42 ERA in 92 innings, though that came with more walks (51) than strikeouts (46). Rodgers moved up three levels to Albany of the Eastern League in 1944, where he hit .330 in 100 games, with 78 runs scored, 19 doubles, 12 triples, 51 RBIs, 13 steals and 47 walks. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 30, 1944 from Albany. The Pirates had a working agreement with Albany at the time, which allowed the Pirates the rights to any player on their roster for an agreed upon price. Rodgers was one of four players purchased that day, including Vic Barnhart, the son of Pirates great from the 1920s Clyde Barnhart.
Rodgers was allowed to remain in Albany until the end of their season. He reported to the Pirates on September 21, 1944 and played in an exhibition game against Newark of the International League the next day. His MLB debut was five days later as a pinch-runner and he scored a run. His lone start came four days later in the second game of a doubleheader. Rodgers made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1945 and played his final game on April 21st. On May 6, 1945, he was sent to Kansas City of the American Association as part of a deal to acquire veteran infielder Jack Saltzgaver. As part of the deal, Rodgers had to stay with Kansas City through the end of their season before he could return to the Pirates. Manager Frankie Frisch said that he would bring Rodgers back at the end of the year, but before the end of the month, Rodgers was called into services, so he didn’t get that chance. He returned to Albany in 1946 and hit .255 in 82 games, while also making his final three appearances on the mound. Before his return to Albany, he spent brief time with the Pirates. He signed his 1946 contract on May 2nd, shortly after being discharged. He was told to join the Pirates the next day at Forbes Field, but before he got into any games, he was shipped to Albany on May 31st.
Albany sold Rodgers to Newark of the Triple-A International League before the 1947 season. He played half of the year with Newark and the rest with Binghamton of the Class-A Eastern League. He combined to hit .266 with a .714 OPS in 117 games that year. He played for Double-A Beaumont of the Texas League for all of 1948 and part of 1949. There he batted .244 with 53 runs and 50 RBIs in 144 games. Rodgers was back in Binghamton during the 1949 season and played out his career there, finishing up with 87 games during the 1951 season. He was just 28 years old when he played his final minor league game. He was 21 years old when he debuted with the Pirates.
Sam Khalifa, shortstop for the 1985-87 Pirates. He was the Pirates first round draft pick in 1982, the seventh overall pick in the draft. It took him three years to go from high school to the majors, debuting on June 25, 1985. He started off his pro career in the Gulf Coast League, going 2-for-25 in six games (.080 average). He moved up to Class-A for the rest of the season and hit .305 in 48 games for Greenwood of the South Atlantic League. In 1983, Khalifa batted .270 in 103 games for Alexandria of the Class-A Carolina League, with 42 runs scored, 49 RBIs and 26 extra-base hits. He also batted .200 in five games for Lynn of the Double-A Eastern League. The Pirates moved their Double-A affiliate to Nashua of the Eastern League in 1984 and Khalifa spent the season there, hitting .238 with one homer and a .612 OPS in 91 games. Prior to joining the Pirates mid-season in 1985, he hit .281 with one homer and 36 runs scored in 67 games for Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League. He played 95 games during his rookie season with the Pirates, hitting .238 with 34 walks and 31 RBIs.
Khalifa spent part of the 1986 season back with Hawaii, where he hit .315 in 50 games. He was with the Pirates from Opening Day through mid-June, then again for a brief time in early August when Rafael Belliard dislocated a finger. Khalifa sent down again two weeks later and didn’t play for the Pirates again until September 14th. That delayed return was because he sprained his right ankle on August 31st, right before he was supposed to leave to join the Pirates for the expanded rosters. He finished the year hitting .185 over 64 games with the Pirates. Khalifa returned to Triple-A for 1987 and batted .226 with no homers in 111 games. He played just five July games in the majors after getting called up to replace Felix Fermin, who suffered a fractured thumb. That ended up being Khalifa’s last time in the big leagues and the writing was on the wall just over a week before his final big league shot. The Pirates needed a shortstop and they called up Fermin from Double-A instead of Khalifa at Triple-A. He played two more years in the minors before retiring as a player, including time spent back in Double-A. His career ended when he left Triple-A Buffalo on August 2, 1989 due to personal issues, then came back when the team went on the road to pack his belongings and head home. He was a career .219 hitter with 39 runs and 37 RBIs in 164 Major League games. His entire eight-year pro career was spent as a member of the Pirates system.
On this date in 1978 the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners made a six-player trade with three players involved from each team. Pitchers Enrique Romo and Rick Jones, along with shortstop Tom McMillan, went to the Pirates in the deal. Seattle got pitchers Rafael Vasquez and Odell Jones, and shortstop Mario Mendoza. Romo was the only player who made a significant contribution with his new team. He pitched four years out of the Pirates bullpen, getting into 236 games. During the 1979 season when the Pirates won the World Series, Romo pitched 84 games, posting a 2.99 ERA with ten wins and five saves. With the Pirates, Romo had a 3.56 ERA with 25 wins and 26 saves.
Rick Jones had three big league seasons in prior to the trade, but never played in the majors after the deal. Tom McMillan played two big league games, both with the 1977 Mariners. Odell Jones struggled with Seattle in 1979, going 3-11, 6.07 in 118.2 innings. He was in the minors in 1980 and back with the Pirates by 1981. Rafael Vasquez pitched 16 innings at age 21 for the 1979 Mariners, then never played in the majors again. Mendoza hit .218 in 262 games with the Mariners, putting up a -2.3 WAR during that time.