Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a key piece of the 1990-92 playoff teams and the franchise’s last batting champion.
Andy Van Slyke, outfielder for the 1987-94 Pirates. He came to the Pirates from the St Louis Cardinals along with catcher Mike Lavalliere and pitcher Mike Dunne on April 1, 1987 in a trade for All-Star catcher Tony Pena. He was a solid player who took it to the next level with the Pirates. He was a first round draft pick in 1979, taken sixth overall out of high school by the Cardinals. Van Slyke debuted in pro ball in 1980 with Gastonia of the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .270 in 126 games, with 62 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits, 70 walks and 19 steals in 20 attempts. In 1981, he played for St Petersburg of the Class-A Florida State League, where he batted just .220 in 94 games, and saw an 89-point drop in his slugging percentage. The next year he moved up to Arkansas of the Double-A Texas League and hit .279 in 123 games, with 83 runs scored, 40 extra-base hits, 70 RBIs, 37 steals and 61 walks. In 1983 he played for Louisville of the Triple-A American Association to start the season and hit .368 with 31 extra-base hits and 52 runs scored in 54 games.
Van Slyke debuted in the majors in mid-June of 1983 at 22 years old and spent four seasons in St Louis, hitting .259 with 41 homers and 104 stolen bases in 521 games. The Cardinals had him in more of a utility role, giving him time in all three outfield spots, as well as third base and first base. Despite coming up late during his rookie year, he still managed to get into 101 games in 1983, hitting .262 with 28 extra-base hits, 21 steals and 46 walks. In 1984 he hit .244 in 137 games, with 27 extra-base hits, 28 steals and 63 walks. That was followed up by a .259 average in 146 games in 1985, with 61 runs scored, 25 doubles, 13 homers, 55 RBIs, 34 steals (in 40 attempts) and 47 walks. In his final season with St Louis, Van Slyke had his best year with the team. He hit .270 in 137 games, with 43 extra-base hits, 61 runs and 21 steals. The trade turned out to be a huge steal for the Pirates, as Pena posted just 2.3 WAR total in 11 seasons after leaving Pittsburgh, while Van Slyke blew that out of the water by himself, and LaValliere was easily the better catcher after the deal. Even Mike Dunne gave the Pirates one strong season. The Pirates were trading for three years of Van Slyke before free agency, but he ended up staying an extra five seasons on top of that. After compiling 10.2 WAR with the Cardinals, he surpassed that total during his second season in Pittsburgh.
In 1987, Van Slyke hit .293 with 34 stolen bases and set career highs in doubles (36), triples (11), homers (21), RBIs (82), runs (93) and OPS (.866). He would surpass all of those totals in Pittsburgh, many of them in the next season. Van Slyke hit .288 with 25 homers, 100 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, 15 triples (led the league) and 101 runs scored during the 1988 season. He was an All-Star for the first time that season, while also picking up his first Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger award. He finished fourth in the MVP voting as well, tied for his best career finish in that category. He saw a down year in 1989 just like the Pirates, hitting just .237 with nine homers in 130 games. On the plus side, he won his second Gold Glove award. His .677 OPS that year was a 174 point drop from the previous season, but he would bounce back in a big way. In 1990, Van Slyke helped lead the way towards the Pirates first pennant since 1979 by hitting .284 with 26 doubles, 17 homers, 77 RBIs, 66 walks and 14 steals, while playing stellar defense in center field, winning his third straight Gold Glove. He also received mild MVP support. Van Slyke had some playoff experience while in St Louis, though he ended up hitting .091 in each round of the playoffs with them. In 1990 for the Pirates, he hit .208 with three RBIs and three runs scored in the NLCS.
Van Slyke helped the Pirates to a second straight title in 1991 by driving in 83 runs and scoring 87 times. He batted .265 with 24 doubles, 17 homers and a career high 71 walks, while playing 138 games. He also won his fourth Gold Glove. He struggled in the playoffs, hitting .160 with three runs, a homer, two RBIs and five walks. The 1992 season would see the Pirates make the playoffs for a third straight time and Van Slyke had his best overall season, as he hit .324 with 12 triples, 14 homers, 58 walks, 103 runs scored and 89 RBIs. He led the National League in hits (199) and doubles (45), and he made his second All-Star team, won his fifth Gold Glove, won his second Silver Slugger award and finished fourth in the NL MVP voting again. Van Slyke had his best playoff performance this year, batting .276 with four RBIs.
Van Slyke hit .310 in 1993, but he was limited to 83 games due to a spring knee surgery and a broken collarbone in June. He had a .698 OPS in 105 games during the strike-shortened 1994 season, finishing with a .246 average, 41 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs. In 1,057 games with the Pirates, Van Slyke hit .283 with 117 homers, 134 stolen bases, 564 RBIs and 598 runs scored. He became a free agent after the 1994 season and signed with the Baltimore Orioles in April after the strike was settled. Mid-season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he finished his career that year. Combined that season, he hit .224 with six homers and 24 RBIs in 80 games. In each of his final two seasons, he went 7-for-7 in stolen bases/attempts. In his career he was a .274 hitter with 293 doubles, 91 triples, 164 homers, 792 RBIs, 835 runs scored and 245 stolen bases. He finished with a strong total of 41.3 WAR in his career. Somewhat surprisingly, he had just 2.9 WAR on defense in his career. His first two Gold Glove seasons were strong, but his final three were -0.4 dWAR combined, with a single positive season. His son Scott Van Slyke played six years in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Freddy Sanchez, infielder for the 2004-09 Pirates. He was originally a 30th round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves out of high school in 1996. He chose school and became an 11th round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2000 out of Oklahoma City University, the third college he attended. Sanchez split his first season of pro ball between short-season Lowell of the New York-Penn League, and Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He combined to hit .295 with 20 doubles and 41 runs scored in 64 games. In 2001, he split the season between High-A Sarasota of the Florida State League and Trenton of the Double-A Eastern League. Sanchez combined to hit .334 with 39 doubles and 65 runs scored in 113 games, with similar results at both levels. He batted .328 in 80 games with Trenton to start the 2002 season, then hit .301 with a .782 OPS in 45 games for Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League. That led to 12 late-season games for the Red Sox in which he put up a .188 average. Sanchez played briefly in the majors in 2003 as well, hitting .235 in 20 games, while posting a .341 average in 58 games for Pawtucket.
Sanchez was traded to the Pirates along with relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez in exchange for pitchers Brandon Lyon and Jeff Suppan on July 31, 2003, though Sanchez wasn’t in the original deal between the two teams. Eight days earlier, the two teams hooked up on a five-player trade that had Lyon and Gonzalez going opposite ways in the deal. Lyon was injured, so the trade was revised and Sanchez was included. After the deal, an ankle injury ended his season after just one game at Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. He had off-season surgery on his foot, which led to a late start to the 2004 season. Sanchez played just nine games for the Pirates in 2004, going 3-for-19 with three singles and no walks. He struggled a bit at Nashville as well, putting up an empty .264 average in 44 games. After the season, he attended the Fall Instructional League. He started the 2005 season in the majors and ended up hitting .291/.336/.400, with 54 runs scored and 35 extra-base hits in 132 games, splitting most of his time between third base and second base, while also getting some turns at shortstop.
Sanchez wasn’t the starting third baseman in 2006. That spot actually belonged to Joe Randa, but when Randa got hurt in early May, Sanchez took over and set the world on fire. He won the National League batting crown on the last day of the 2006 season by going 2-for-4 to finish with a .344 average. He also led the league in doubles with 53, and he scored 85 runs and drove in 85 runs. He was selected to the All-Star game and even got some mild MVP support. In 2007, Sanchez became the everyday second baseman and would make his second straight All-Star appearance, as he hit .304 with 77 runs scored, 42 doubles, 11 homers and 81 RBIs. He struggled in 2008 (though he still had 1.2 WAR), hitting a career low .271 in 145 games, which came along with a .298 on base percentage. He still managed to score 75 runs, to go along with 37 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs. Back on his game in 2009, Sanchez made his third All-Star appearance. He was sent to the San Francisco Giants at the July 31st trading deadline that year after hitting .296 with a .776 OPS in 86 games for the Pirates. The Pirates received top pitching prospect Tim Alderson, who failed to reach the majors. After the trade, he hit .284 in 25 games and spent time on the disabled list.
Sanchez missed part of the 2010 season as well due to injuries. He played 111 games for the Giants that year, hitting .292 with 55 runs scored, 22 doubles, seven homers and 47 RBIs. In 2011, he was limited to 60 games, batting .289 with 19 extra-base hits and 21 runs scored. He finished his career with three minor league games in 2012, as injuries took a toll on his effectiveness during that time and limited him to 196 games with the Giants in 2 1/2 seasons. He batted .297 in 904 big league games, including a .301 average in 676 games with the Pirates. He finished with 434 runs scored, 215 doubles, 48 homers and 371 RBIs. He stole 24 bases in 30 attempts during the 2002 minor league season, but he attempted just 22 steals (13 times successfully) in the majors.
John Hope, pitcher for the 1993-96 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Pirates in 1989 out of Stranahan High School in Florida. After pitching a total of 15 innings in the Gulf Coast League in 1989, he missed the entire 1990 season due to Tommy John surgery. He saw somewhat limited work over three levels in 1991, starting with three starts in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he allowed one run in 17 innings. In Low-A, he had a 3.50 ERA in seven starts, but that ERA jumped to 6.18 over 27.2 innings with Salem of the High-A Carolina League. Hope threw 176.1 innings during the 1992 season in Salem, going 11-8, 3.47 in 27 starts. He spent most of 1993 in Double-A with Carolina of the Southern League, where he had a 9-4, 4.37 record in 111.1 innings. His Triple-A time that season was brief with Buffalo of the American Association, posting a 6.33 ERA in four starts. Despite the major setback early in his brief career, and limited/poor time in Triple-A, he made it to the majors that season, debuting on August 29, 1993. He went 0-2, 4.03 in 38 innings over seven late-season starts for the Pirates that year.
During the next two seasons in Pittsburgh, Hope saw limited time out of the bullpen, pitching a total of 12 games. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, he was with the Pirates from early May until mid-June, making nine relief appearances, in which he gave up 12 runs in 14 innings. In Buffalo that year, he was used as a starter, going 4-9, 3.87 in 100 innings. In 1995, he had three appearances in July with the Pirates and allowed at least two runs in all three games, while throwing just 2.1 innings total. Hope finished with an unsightly 30.86 ERA that year. He had strong results in Triple-A (then Calgary of the Pacific Coast League) that season, going 7-1, 2.79 in 13 starts. In 1996, he was used as a starter with the Pirates and struggled, going 1-3, 6.98 in 19.1 innings over four starts and one relief outing. Hope also had a rough go in Triple-A that year as well, posting a 4.82 ERA in 125 innings. He debuted that season with the Pirates on April 25th and pitched his final game for them 19 days later. That was also the end of his Major League career. The Pirates released him after the season and he signed as a minor league free agent with the Colorado Rockies in January of 1997. Hope spent the next three years in the minors, one year for the Rockies in Triple-A and the last two years in Independent ball, before retiring in 1999. He finished 1-5, 5.99 in 73.2 innings in the majors, with 11 starts and 13 relief appearances.
Danny Kravitz, catcher for the 1956-60 Pirates. Kravitz was a local kid, signed as an amateur at 18 years old by the Pirates in 1949 after attending a tryout with hundreds of other players. It took seven years before he made the majors, though he spent the entire 1952-53 seasons serving in the Marines. Kravitz put up strong results at the lower levels over his first three seasons. He started with Greenville of the Class-D Alabama State League, where he hit .279 in 122 games, with 75 runs scored, 35 extra-base hits, 72 RBIs, 39 steals and 55 walks. In 1950, he remained in Class-D ball with Mayfield of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League, where he batted .306 with 25 doubles and 17 homers in 112 games. Most of the 1951 season was spent with Waco of the Big State League, where he hit .294 with 33 extra-base hits in 99 games. After two seasons of military service, he was pushed to the upper levels when he returned, playing for New Orleans of the Double-A American Association in 1954. He played well, hitting .292 with 11 homers in 82 games in his first season back. Kravitz then batted .298 with 63 runs scored, 19 homers and 88 RBIs for New Orleans in 1955.
In 1956, Kravitz was the starting catcher for the Pirates on Opening Day. By May 22nd, he lost his starting job, and on June 28th, he was hitting .265 when he played his last game of the season for the Pirates. On July 4th, the Pirates made wholesale changes, sending four players to their affiliate Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League, while bringing Bill Mazeroski to Pittsburgh for his big league debut. Kravitz was in that group of players. In 1957, Kravitz once again had an Opening Day job, but he lost it in May after batting .120 in his first 13 games. He was optioned to Columbus of the International League on May 15th, where he hit .249 in 105 games, before returning for six games in September with the Pirates. He hit just .146 in 19 games that year in the majors.
Kravitz stuck with the Pirates for all of 1958, though most of his playing time came during the final nine days of May and the first half of August. In those combined four weeks, he had 62 of his 100 at-bats on the season. He hit .240 with one homer and five RBIs that season in 45 games. The 1959 season was very similar. He had a three-week stretch of starts in July that resulted in 67 of his 162 at-bats. Kravitz had a .545 OPS during that stretch, then barely played after August 1st. He hit .253 with three homers and 21 RBIs that year. He had some poor timing with Pittsburgh, getting traded during the World Series winning 1960 season, after spending 11 years in the organization (including the military years). On June 1st, after six at-bats in eight games, Kravitz was sent to the Kansas City A’s in a trade for catcher Hank Foiles. Kravitz went 0-for-6 with the Pirates, then hit .234 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 59 games with the A’s. He would finish out that season with the A’s, then play the last three years of his pro career in the minors, seeing time with three different clubs in the International League. Over his five seasons in Pittsburgh, Kravitz hit .236 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 156 games.
Bill Werle, pitcher for the Pirates from 1949 until 1952. He pitched the first five seasons of his pro career for San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, while also missing the 1945 season due to service during WWII. He attended the University of California at Berkeley before starting his pro career in 1943 at 22 years old. He pitched just 26 innings over nine games that first year. In 1944, he had a 14-19, 4.05 record in 289 innings over 36 games, with 24 complete games. After his year of military service, he went 12-8, 2.26 in 175 innings. In 1947, Werle had a 12-12, 3.29 record in 205 innings. The Pirates acquired him on September 22, 1948 from San Francisco in exchange for three future players and cash. Five days after the sale, San Francisco got pitcher Steve Nagy. Four months later, they got catcher Roy Jarvis. Another two months passed before pitcher Elmer Singleton was announced as the third piece of the deal. At the time of his purchase, Werle had a 15-7 record. He was allowed to finish the 1948 season with the Seals and he went 17-7, 2.74 in 250 innings.
As a 28-year-old rookie in 1949, Werle went 12-13, 4.24 in 221 innings over 29 starts and six relief appearances for the Pirates. His 106 strikeouts that season were a career high. His big league debut was 7.2 shutout innings in a win over the Cincinnati Reds. He ended up throwing two complete game shutouts later in the season, which ended up being his only two career shutouts in the majors. The next season, he went 8-16, 4.60, but proved to be a valuable asset, by making 22 starts and 26 relief appearances, throwing a total of 215.1 innings. In 1951, he was able to put together an 8-6 record in nine starts and 50 relief appearances, despite posting a 5.65 ERA in 149.2 innings for a team that went 64-90. Werle got into five games for the 1952 Pirates before they sent him to the St Louis Cardinals on May 3rd in exchange for pitcher Red Munger. After the deal, Werle went 1-2, 4.85 in 39 innings over 19 appearances to finish out the 1952 season. He pitched in the majors until 1954, spending parts of his final two seasons with the Boston Red Sox, while seeing most of his time during the 1953-54 seasons with Louisville of the American Association. He had a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 innings over five early-season games with the 1953 Red Sox, then he pitched from Opening Day until late June with the 1954 Red Sox, posting a 4.38 ERA in 24.2 innings over 14 appearances.
That stint in 1954 with Boston was the end of Werle’s big league career, but he stuck around in the minors until 1963, with all of that time spent on the west coast. He went back to the PCL for the 1955-61 seasons, playing for four different teams. He finished up with Tacoma of the California League in 1963 after not pitching in 1962. He finished with a 29-39, 4.69 big league record in 665.1 innings over 60 starts and 125 relief appearances. He had 15 saves and 18 complete games. Werle had 147 minor league wins, and he threw over 3,000 innings during his pro career.
Pete Scott, outfielder for 1928 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 22 years old in 1920, splitting the year between Vancouver of the Pacific Coast International League (Class-B) and Double-A Kansas City of the American Association. He hit .312 in 99 games with Vancouver, but only batted .153 when he moved up two levels. Scott would stay at Kansas City for the next five seasons, although it took until his final year before he played over 100 games in a season. He hit well every year though, starting in 1921 when he batted .325 in 87 games, with 21 extra-base hits. In 1922, he hit .330 with 29 extra-base hits in 97 games. Scott had a .311 average in 1923, with 23 extra-base hits in 76 games. He followed that up with .319 average and 30 extra-base hits in 1924, while playing 76 games again. In his final season before making the majors, he batted .314 in 119 games, with 16 doubles, six triples and four homers. The Chicago Cubs purchased his contract in September and he reported to them during the following spring. Back in 1924, the Washington Senators tried to purchased his contract mid-season and he refused to go unless he got $2,500 of the $25,000 purchase price. His stubbornness cost him big, as he not only lost a larger salary in the majors, the Senators made the 1924-25 World Series and he would have got his share of the postseason money. One writer estimated that he cost himself about $15,000 over the 1924-25 seasons by trying to get $2,500.
Scott was a very good hitter, but he is remembered most for being one of the two players returning to the Pirates in the lopsided Kiki Cuyler deal (veteran infielder Sparky Adams was the other). While Cuyler went on to make the Hall of Fame, Scott played just one season for the Pirates. In his first two seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs (1926-27), he hit .299 over 148 games, with 55 RBIs and an .802 OPS. He wasn’t much of a power hitter, but he provided solid on base skills, albeit with poor defense that dragged down his overall value. The Cubs used him at all three outfield spots. Despite his limited MLB time, he was already three weeks shy of 30 years old at the time of the deal with the Pirates. After the trade, Scott hit .311 in 60 games for the Pirates, scoring 33 runs and driving in 33 runs. He was seldom used at the beginning of the year and then missed all of August with an awful injury. On July 26th, he ran headfirst into a concrete wall at the Polo Grounds while trying to make a play. He was rushed to the hospital and the papers the next day reported his injury as a broken neck, though they said it wasn’t a severe injury. He missed a total of 39 days, returning on September 4th to hit .192 over ten games played in the last four weeks of the season. He played left field, right field and first base with the Pirates.
Despite hitting well when he played, Scott returned to the minors in 1929 and never played in the majors again, retiring after the 1933 season. On December 13, 1928, the Pirates sold him outright to Mission of the Pacific Coast League, with the understanding that they could buy him back at the end of the 1929 season if he proved that he was fully healthy after his injury. He ended up batting .335 in 105 games, but he never returned to Pittsburgh. In 1930 for Reading of the International League, Scott hit .349 with 34 doubles and 32 homers. He never hit more than 12 homers in any other season. His final three seasons were split between three Pacific Coast League teams. He played a total of 14 years in pro ball, only batting under .300 twice. He was a .303 big league hitter in 208 games, with 95 runs scored, 41 doubles and 88 RBIs. Scott finished with a .320 minor league average in 1,073 games. His actual first name was Floyd.
Warren Gill, first baseman for the 1908 Pirates. Gill played a total of 12 seasons in the minors as a light-hitting defensive-minded first baseman. Two of those seasons he served as a player-manager. Early in his career, he also pitched three seasons for Cedar Rapids of the Class-B Three-I League. He debuted in 1902 at 23 years old with Fort Scott of the Class-D Missouri Valley League (no stats available). In 1903, he joined Cedar Rapids and hit .237 in 74 games, while pitching 19 games (limited stats are available from this league). In 1904, he hit .268 in 62 games, while seeing more time on the mound, with 34 games pitched. In his final season with Cedar Rapids, Gill hit .256 in 63 games, while going 12-10 in 22 games pitched. He moved down a level in 1906, playing for Austin of the Class-C South Texas League, where he hit .276 with 27 doubles, three triples and two homers in 91 games. The Pirates picked up Gill on December 20, 1907 after he hit .289 in 133 games for Oklahoma City of the Western Association.
The Pirates kept Gill around during Spring Training in 1908 and he played plenty of third base. Just three days before Opening Day on April 12th, a local paper ran the headline that he might be the starting third baseman for the Pirates in the first game. A different paper noted that he wasn’t hitting the ball hard during the spring, popping it up often or hitting it on the ground. A third local paper (this is all true) noted that he was sent to Grand Rapids the previous night, but might finish dental school before playing his first game of the season. As a side note, Gill had the nickname “Doc” because he was a doctor. He reported to Grand Rapids of the Central League, where he was said to be the best first baseman in the league. When the Pirates regular first baseman Alan Storke struggled, the Pirates brought back Gill and kept him in the lineup for most of the remainder of the season. In a sign of the times, one of Gill’s strong points according to the local press was his constant chatter during games, encouraging his pitcher. He debuted on August 26th and played his final game on September 29th. There was word as early as August 12th that the Pirates were offering a bonus and a player to get Gill back from Grand Rapids before the end of the season (September 8th), but the Grand Rapids management wasn’t budging. Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss even visited Grand Rapids multiple times before finally securing him on August 23rd to return to Pittsburgh. His big league career consisted of just 27 late season games for the 1908 Pirates. He hit .224 with 11 walks and 14 RBIs, while playing flawless defense at first base. After the season, Gill was sold to Minneapolis of the Class-A American Association on January 13, 1909.
Gill’s pro career lasted another five seasons (1909-13) before he retired. The first four years were spent with Minneapolis and he was remarkably consistent during that time. His lowest average during that time was .243, while he topped out at a .263 average. His slugging percentage ranged from .283 to .327 during that time, and he averaged 144 games played per year, with at least 123 games each season. Surprisingly, his best season was 1912 when the American Association was reclassified from A-Ball to Double-A. His career finished up in 1913 when he hit .183 in 20 games for Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. Gill was also the manager during his season in Fort Scott and his 1906 season in Austin.