This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 14th, Steve Cooke and Billy Meyer

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date as well as a manager who never played for the team, but he did go on to have his jersey retired by the Pirates.

Dovydas Neverauskas, pitcher for the 2017-20 Pirates. The Pirates signed him at 16 years old out of Lithuania for $150,000 in 2009. He worked his way slowly through the minors as a starting pitcher with mediocre results, before he was moved to the bullpen, where he added velocity. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2010 and remained there for his first two seasons. Neverauskas made just six appearances in his first year and allowed six runs in ten innings. In 2011, he went 3-1, 3.24 in 25 innings over two starts and eight relief outings. In 2012, he played most of the year back in the GCL, getting one start at the end of the year in the New York-Penn League, where he allowed one run in four innings. With the GCL Pirates, he had a 4.08 ERA in 35.1 innings. In 2013, Neverauskas pitched for Jamestown of the New York-Penn League, where he went 4-4, 4.01 in 60.2 innings over 15 starts. He moved up to West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2014, finally making it to full-season ball. That year he went 6-12, 5.60 in 123.2 innings over 26 starts and one relief outing. In 2015, he made five starts in his 31 appearances, spending most of the year back with West Virginia, though he had a 1.62 ERA in 16.2 innings with High-A Bradenton of the Florida State League. In 2016, Neverauskas had a 2.57 ERA in 28 innings over 22 games with Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League, and a 3.60 ERA in 30 innings over 25 games with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League. That performance got him added to the 40-man roster after the season to avoid reaching minor league free agency.

On April 24, 2017, Neverauskas became the first player in Major League history who was born on Lithuania. It was just days before Gift Ngoepe became the first player born in Africa to make the majors. Both players would have likely made their debuts in the previous September, but a fight at a bar resulted in their arrests and a team suspension just days before the Triple-A season ended. Neverauskas had a 3.91 ERA in 25.1 innings over 24 appearances during his rookie season. He made just one appearance during his first call-up to the majors, returned for two games in early June, then got called up in early August and stayed with the team for the final two months. Despite solid rookie results, he wasn’t able to stick with the Pirates for a full season until the shortened 2020 campaign. He made 25 appearances in 2018, which resulted in an 8.00 ERA in 27 innings. Things went even worse in the majors in 2019, with a 10.13 ERA in 9.1 innings over ten outings. During the 2020 season, Neverauskas made 17 appearances and had a 7.11 ERA. He pitched just once over the final two weeks of the season, then got released in early November so he could sign to play in Japan for 2021. He had a 5.70 ERA in 36.1 innings over 15 appearances in Japan in 2021. His big league numbers currently sit at a 6.81 ERA in 80.2 innings over 76 appearances. He picked up his only career win in his sixth appearance.

Steve Cooke, pitcher for the 1992-97 Pirates. He was a 35th round draft pick by the Pirates in 1989 out of the College of Southern Idaho, but he didn’t sign until right before the deadline in 1990, back when teams could draft and follow players. Cooke was originally drafted out of high school in 1988 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 53rd round. Despite the late round pick, it took him just over two seasons to work his way up from low-A ball to the majors, where he made his debut in late July 1992. Cooke debuted in short-season ball with Welland of the New York-Penn League in 1990 and had a 2.35 ERA in 46 innings over 11 starts. He made 22 starts over three levels in 1991, topping out at Double-A Carolina of the Southern League. His combined record that season was 9-7, 2.78 in 129.1 innings, with 103 strikeouts. His best results actually came at Double-A, which led to him being ranked as the 52nd best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 1992 season. Cooke split the first half of 1992 between Double-A/Triple-A (Buffalo of the American Association), combining to go 8-5, 3.51 in 110.1 innings over 19 starts. He debuted in the majors on July 28th and went 2-0, 3.52 in 11 games for the first place Pirates, all as a reliever, earning a job for the 1993 season, though he did not pitch during the postseason.

As a starter that first full year in the majors in 1993, Cooke went 10-10, 3.89 in 32 games, pitching 210.2 innings with 132 strikeouts. He struggled during the strike-shortened 1994 season, going 4-11, 5.02 in 134.1 innings, then missed the entire 1995 seasons and half of 1996 due to shoulder surgery. Recovered and back in the rotation for 1997, he made 32 starts for the Freak Show squad, going 9-15, 4.30 in 167.1 innings. Cooke was released in mid-December and he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. He made one start in 1998, throwing six innings with one run allowed on April 2nd (the third game of the season), then missed the rest of the season with elbow problems. Cooke made two rehab starts that went extremely bad, allowing seven runs in a total of 1.2 innings. He pitched until 2000 in the minors, first for the San Diego Padres in 1999, then the rest of the 1999 season and 2000 for Zion of the independent Western League. While with the Padres in Triple-A, he made five relief appearances and allowed ten runs over three innings, while posting a 12:0 BB/SO ratio. In his five seasons with the Pirates, he had a 25-36, 4.34 record in 543.2 innings over 87 starts and 16 relief appearances.

Joe Redfield, third baseman for the 1991 Pirates. He was drafted by the New York Mets in 1982, taken in the ninth round out of the University of California. He debuted in pro ball in the short-season New York-Penn League with Little Falls, where he hit .286 with 27 extra-base hits, 44 runs, 11 steals and 57 RBIs in 54 games. Redfield split the 1983 season between Lynchburg of the Class-A Carolina League and Jackson of the Double-A Texas League. He struggled with both teams, combining to hit .201 in 98 games, with 22 extra-base hits and 39 RBIs. In 1984, he spent the entire season with Lynchburg. That year he hit .269 in 122 games, with 80 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs, 14 steals and 64 walks. He ended up playing at three different levels in 1985, seeing time with Lynchburg, Jackson and Triple-A Tidewater of the International League, where he played just four games. He combined to hit .209 with 13 doubles, four homers, ten steals and 49 walks in 84 games. Redfield was with the Mets until early 1986, playing 15 games for Jackson that year before getting traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He spent less than a year with the Orioles in Double-A, before they shipped him to the California Angels. He did well during that 1986 season, hitting .295 in 110 games, with 73 runs, 17 doubles, six triples, 14 homers, 52 RBIs, ten steals and 42 walks.

In 1987 with Midland of the Texas League (Double-A), Redfield hit .321 with 108 runs scored, 31 doubles, 30 homers, 108 RBIs, 17 steals and 67 walks. Redfield began 1988 in Triple-A with Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League and got off to a strong start, which led to his first big league chance. He made his Major League debut on June 4, 1988 with the Angels when they were down multiple players due to injuries. He played just one game over nine days with the team, going 0-for-2 before leaving for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. He saw a total of two pitches, hitting fly balls on the first pitch of each at-bat. Redfield was returned to the minors on June 10th. He ended up hitting just three homers during the entire 1988 season, but he received praise for his improved defense at third base, going two full months before he committed his first error. He did well besides the lack of homers, hitting .290 with 38 doubles in 118 games. After spending the next two full seasons in the minors, playing in Triple-A for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989 and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1990, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 1990. Redfield hit just .241 in 123 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League in 1989, with 28 extra-base hits and 21 steals. He followed that up with a .274 average in 137 games for Denver of the American Association in 1990. That was a much better ballpark for hitters and it showed, as he finished with 87 runs, 23 doubles, ten triples, 17 homers, 71 RBIs and 57 walks. His team let him run wild on the bases and he went 34-for-52 in steals that year. He never attempted more than 29 steals in any other season.

The Pirates started Redfield in Triple-A at Buffalo of the American Association. They called him up to the majors on June 13, 1991 when Jeff King went on the disabled list. In 11 games (five starts) for the Pirates, Redfield hit .111 with four walks. He returned to Triple-A on July 16th, remaining there for the rest of the season. When Redfield was sent down, John Wehner was called to the majors for the first time in his career. Redfield hit .275 in 105 games for Buffalo, with 60 runs, 21 doubles, six triples, seven homers, 50 RBIs, 21 steals and 54 walks. The Pirates re-signed him for the 1992 season, which ended up being his last year in pro ball. That year he batted .224 as a part-time player for Triple-A Buffalo, getting into 94 games, with most of his time spent at first base and second base. He played for six organizations in his 11-year career, hitting .267 with 674 runs, 111 homers, 580 RBIs and 170 stolen bases over his 1,173 minor league games.

Terry Forster, relief pitcher for the 1977 Pirates. Forster played six seasons for the Chicago White Sox before they traded him in December of 1976, along with Goose Gossage, to the Pirates in exchange for Richie Zisk and Silvio Martinez. Forster was a second round draft pick in 1970 out of high school, who made it to the majors at 19 years old, just ten months after being drafted. His only minor league time consisted of ten games (nine starts) with Appleton of the Class-A Midwest League, where he went 6-1, 1.33 in 54 innings, with 42 strikeouts. He spent all of 1971 with the White Sox, where he had a 3.99 ERA in 49.2 innings over 45 appearances (three starts). In 1972, he improved to a 2.25 ERA in 62 games, with 104 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched. He was also thrown into the closer role, picking up a career high 29 saves. Forster was used a lot in 1973, making 12 starts and 39 relief appearances. He pitched a total of 172.2 innings (career high), going 6-11, with a 3.23 ERA, a career high 120 strikeouts, and 16 saves. He led the American League with 24 saves in 1974, while going 7-8, 3.62, with 105 strikeouts in 134.1 innings over 59 games. An arm injury limited him to 37 innings in 1975. He had a 2.06 ERA on May 23rd, but he pitched just two innings after that point, one on July 1st and another on August 17th.

Forster followed up that injury-plagued season with a rough 1976 season, going 2-12, 4.37 in 111.1 innings. He pitched 29 games that year, with 16 of those outings coming as a starter. After joining the Pirates, he went 6-4, 4.43 in 87.1 innings over 33 games (six starts) during his only season in Pittsburgh. He was granted free agency after the season and signed a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Injuries limited him to 150 relief appearances over his five seasons in Los Angeles, with only two healthy seasons during that time. Forster was strong in his first year with the Dodgers, going 5-4, 1.93 in 47 appearances, with 65.1 innings pitched and 22 saves in 1978. It was downhill from there due to injuries, with a 5.51 ERA in 16.1 innings in 1979, and a total of 11.2 innings pitched in 1980. He was a bit better during the strike-shortened 1981 season, posting a 4.11 ERA in 30.2 innings over 21 games. He was healthy during the final year of his contract in 1982, and put together a 5-6, 3.04 record and three saves in 83 innings over 56 appearances.

Forster pitched in the majors until 1986, playing for the 1983-85 Atlanta Braves and 1986 California Angels, then finished his pro career in the minors the following year. He excelled with the Braves, putting together three strong seasons of middle relief, with occasional work as their closer. Forster had a 3-2, 2.16 record and 13 saves in 79.1 innings over 56 games in 1983. He missed some time in 1984, but pitched well when healthy. He had a 2-0, 2.70 record and five saves in 26.2 innings over 25 games.  He went 2-3, 2.28 in 59.1 innings over 46 games in 1985. During his final season in the majors, he had a 3.51 ERA in 41 innings over 41 games with the 1986 Angels. In 16 big league seasons, he went 54-65, 3.23 in 1,105.2 innings over 614 career games (39 starts), with 127 career saves. Forster was a .397 hitter in 86 career plate appearances. He went 9-for-26 at the plate with the Pirates.

Hank Gornicki, pitcher for the Pirates from 1942-43 and 1946. He made his pro debut in 1936, but didn’t make his big league debut until age 30, when he pitched a total of five games between stops with the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in 1941. Gornicki played his first pro game at 25 years old, playing at the lowest level (D-Ball) for Daytona Beach of the Florida State League. He had a strong debut though, going 16-9, 2.77 in 234 innings. He played with three different affiliates for the Cardinals in 1937, spending most of the year with Decatur of the Class-B Three-I League, where he pitched in 158 innings and allowed 4.10 runs per nine innings (ERA isn’t available). He won a total of 14 games that year, while throwing 213 innings. He spent time with Asheville of the Class-B Piedmont League during that 1937 season, then pitched there for all of 1938, going 17-13, 2.57 in 308 innings. He had a 9-0 record and 95 innings pitched for Asheville in 1939, while also pitching part of the year for Rochester of the Double-A International League, where he had a 5.16 ERA in 61 innings. Gornicki was back in Rochester for 1940 and he went 19-10, while posting a 3.21 ERA in 244 innings. His big league time in 1941 was limited to four games during the first month of the schedule with the Cardinals, then one September game with the Cubs. In between, he pitched for Rochester again, where he went 12-9, 2.83 in 181 innings. He combined for a 3.38 ERA in his 13.1 innings of big league time.

Gornicki was taken by the Pirates off of waivers in December of 1941 and made their Opening Day roster in 1942. He went 5-6, 2.57 in 25 games that year, 14 as a starter, pitching a total of 112 innings. The next year he went 9-13, 3.98 in 42 games, 18 as a starter, with 147 innings pitched. He then served in WWII for two full years before returning to baseball during the 1946 season. In seven games for the Pirates that year, he posted a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings. He began the season with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, before they returned him to the Pirates on May 19th after just two appearances. He didn’t pitch for the Pirates until June 17th, and he threw a total of just four innings before rosters expanded in September. Gornicki finished his career in the minors, playing the 1947 season in the Class-B Blue State League, making seven starts for the Gainesville Owls. He was sick during Spring Training in 1947 and became the first cut of the Pirates when he was sold outright to Indianapolis on March 10th. His final season of pro ball was 1948, when he pitched 26 innings for Florence of the Class-B Tri-State League. With the Pirates, he went 14-19, 3.38 in 271.2 innings, with three shutouts and six saves.

Billy Meyer, manager for the Pirates from 1948 until 1952. He was a catcher in the majors for three seasons between 1913 and 1917, but spent the majority of his playing days in the minors where he played from 1910 until 1928. Meyer got into one game for the 1913 Chicago White Sox and 112 games for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics during the 1916-17 seasons. He then played the next 11 seasons for Louisville of the American Association before retiring from playing. He put in over 1,400 minor league games in 17 seasons. He debuted on September 6, 1913 and singled in his first at-bat, and then it was downhill frome there. He got picked off, then threw a ball into center field on a double steal, before being replaced for a pinch-hitter, in what turned out to be his only game for Chicago. With Philadelphia, he batted .233 in 112 games, with 15 runs, one homer and 21 RBIs.

Meyer began as a player-manager in 1925 and would go on to manage for 20 seasons before the Pirates gave him his first Major League managerial job in 1948. He spent the prior 16 seasons managing affiliates of the New York Yankees. He won the International League title with the Newark Bears in 1945, then managed Kansas City to the best record in the American Association in 1947. He took over a Pittsburgh club that went 62-92 in 1947 and led them to a 21-game turnaround the following year. That resulted in a fourth place finish, just 8.5 games back in the standings. The turnaround was short-lived and the Pirates were much worse by the end of his tenure, going just 42-112 in 1952, his last season at the helm. They dropped below .500 in 1949, then lost 96 games in 1950 and 90 games in 1951. Despite the poor results, Meyer was a very popular manager, especially with the media. He became a scout for the Pirates until a stroke in 1955 left him unable to return to baseball. He passed away in March of 1957. The Pirates retired his #1 uniform number in 1954. He finished with a 317-452 record in the majors as a manager, all spent with the Pirates.

John Shovlin, infielder for the Pirates in 1911. He started his minor league career in 1910, playing for Erie of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League, before the Pirates bought his contract in June 1911. He started off slow at the plate, hitting .228 in 123 games, with 23 doubles, one triple and no homers. Shovlin hit .288 with 34 runs, seven doubles, one triple and 20 stolen bases in 49 games for Erie in 1911. On June 15th, the Pirates paid Erie $2,500 for his contract and had him report days later to Pittsburgh, joining the club at Forbes Field for a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on the 19th.The Pirates had three infielders unavailable that day, making Shovlin the only backup infielder. He lasted just two games in the majors that year, one as a pinch-hitter and one as a pinch-runner, before the Pirates sent him back to the minors. He struck out in his only at-bat with Pittsburgh, batting for the pitcher in the eighth inning of a 14-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 21st. His pinch-running appearance came five days later. When the Pirates went on a short road trip after their home game on June 28th, Shovlin was left behind to train at Forbes Field with five other players. After not playing in three home games on July 4-5, he was again left behind when the team went on a 17-day eastern road trip. On July 24th, Shovlin was told to join the Pirates for an exhibition game against his former Erie teammates. He started at shortstop that day, with Honus Wagner moving to first base. After the game, the Pirates sent him to Waterbury of the Class-B Connecticut State League for $1,000, though they held an option to recall him by August 20th. He batted just .187 in 42 games for Waterbury. After the season, he was then sent to Indianapolis, who sent him to Springfield, who then turned him over to Newark of the Class-D Ohio State League, all prior to the 1912 season.

It took eight years in the minors, playing for six different teams at four different levels, before Shovlin got another chance in the majors with the St Louis Browns. The 1912 season season was spent with Newark, which was quite the drop off in talent from being in the majors just nine months earlier. He batted .294 with 29 doubles in 135 games. He stayed in the same league with a team from Chillicothe in 1913, hitting .291 in 134 games, with 30 doubles, five triples and 19 homers. Most of 1914 was spent back with Chillicothe, where he hit .285 in 106 games, with 40 extra-base hits. He spent part of the season with Columbus of the Double-A American Association, a jump of four levels. Shovlin hit .228 in 17 games with Columbus, where he stayed for the 1915 season as well. That second year he hit .245 in 138 games, with 15 doubles and 12 triples. He spent the 1916 season with two teams (Springfield and Grand Rapids) of the Class-B Central League, then returned to Columbus for the 1917-19 seasons. He hit .269 in 139 games in 1917, with 26 doubles and seven triples. During the war-shortened 1918 season, Shovlin batted .226 with ten doubles and two homers in 65 games. Before joining the Browns in September of 1919, he hit .294 in 136 games, with 40 extra-base hits.

Shovlin played 16 games in St Louis between the 1919-20 seasons. He started all nine of his games at second base in 1919, then played all seven of his games in 1920 off of the bench. He batted .214 with nine hits (all singles), six runs and three RBIs in 43 at-bats. He didn’t play any pro ball again until the 1928 season when he returned to play for a team in Binghamton, NY for four more seasons. During that time away from pro ball, he was playing in outlaw leagues, which earned him a spot on MLB’s ineligible list. His big league career actually ended when he made the jump mid-season to an outlaw team. Despite not starting any games in 1920, he played four days in a row off of the bench before jumping the team after that fourth game. His last MLB at-bat resulted in a single and the game-winning run scored in a 5-4 win in ten innings. Shovlin was born in the small Pennsylvania town of Drifton, where he played for an amateur team for two years before beginning his pro career. His name showed up in the local Pittsburgh papers as “Shovelin” during his short time with the team.

Art Madison, infielder for the 1899 Pirates. He was one of the four players sent to the Louisville Colonels in the 19-player Honus Wagner trade following the 1899 season, which helped turn the Pirates into a powerhouse club during the first decade of the 1900s. Madison made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1895, at the end of his first season in pro ball at 24 years old. He debuted that season in the Class-B New York State League, seeing time with Albany and Johnstown. In 11 September games with the Phillies, he hit .353 with eight RBIs and four stolen bases. Despite the brief success, he spent the next three full seasons in the minors. The 1896 season was spent in Philadelphia, though he was playing minor league ball that year in the Class-A Atlantic League and the Class-B Pennsylvania State League. Madison batted .333 with 47 runs scored and 16 extra-base hits in 65 games. He was with Lancaster of the Atlantic League during the 1897-98 seasons. The 1898 stats are unavailable, but he batted .255 in 121 games in 1897, with 71 runs scored, 21 doubles, 11 triples and 21 steals. The Pirates picked Madison up without seeing him. Owner William Kerr said that he remembered him from his Philadelphia days and he was following him all season, then noticed his stats dropped off significantly late in the season. When asked about it, Kerr was told by an opposing manager (from the Atlantic League) that Madison’s wife died in August and he was no good as a player after that happened.

Madison signed with the Pirates on October 11, 1898 and joined the club in March to get ready for the 1899 season. In 42 games that year, he hit .271 with 19 RBIs, playing 19 games at second base and 15 at shortstop. He played his final game of the season on August 22nd. He came down with malaria and was hospitalized within a week of that last game. Madison was involved in the Wagner trade in December of 1899, going to Louisville in the deal. The Louisville team folded shortly after the deal and his contract was returned to the Pirates. Just six days later the Pirates sold him to Indianapolis of the American League, which was still considered to be a minor league at the time. With a roster loaded with talent from the trade, the Pirates had no room for Madison on the bench. He batted .265 in 98 games for Indianapolis in 1900, with 51 runs scored and 18 extra-base hits. He played five more seasons in the minors before ending his playing career after hitting .140 in 25 games for the 1906 Utica Pent-Ups. Madison played 105 games in 1901 split between Syracuse and Toronto of the Class-A Eastern League. He stayed in the same league with Worcester for the 1902 season and hit .275 in 56 games. He played the 1903 season with Worcester and Rochester (also Eastern League), then hit .333 in 35 games with Rochester in 1904. His final two seasons were spent with Utica, playing in the Class-B New York State League.

John Newell, third baseman for the 1891 Pirates. He started his pro career in the minors in 1889, playing for four different teams before the Pirates bought his contract from Portland of the New England League on July 19, 1891. At 21 years old in 1889, he debuted in the Middle States League, where he saw time with teams from Lancaster and York. He spent the 1890 season with Wilmington of the Atlantic Association, which was his hometown team, and a club he would later play for in another league. Newell batted .248 in 71 games during the 1890 season, with nine doubles, three triples, 28 runs and 27 steals. His stats for Portland in 1891 are unavailable from before he joined the Pirates, but the team received good scouting reports and it was said that he played a fine all-around game. One local paper noted that he was brought along to be a substitute player, which is the 19th century way of saying he would be a bench player. It was stated that he was in his fourth season of pro ball, but his first season (1888) was spent with Wilmington, and they weren’t at the pro level that year. He practiced with the team after arriving on July 21st and the local media was impressed, though his throws from third base left something to be desired, but there was an odd twist to what they wrote.

Newell made his Major League debut on July 22nd, then ten days later he played his last Major League game. When he joined the club, regular third baseman Charlie Reilly moved out to left field. The next day Reilly was back at third base and Newell didn’t play again until the 27th, with Reilly now in center field. Newell got praise for his play at third base on the 28th, then the next day he made a play on a hard grounder down the line that was the defensive highlight of the day. Unfortunately for Newell, he also made a wild throw that resulted in an error that cost the Pirates four runs. At the same time, Reilly made a bad play in the outfield that was also costly. The local newspaper said that Newell looked like a ballplayer and could handle himself in the field, though he made a lot of high throws. The twist I mentioned from his first day with the team is that all of his throws in fielding practice were coming in low, so he appeared to do the total opposite once he got into games. It was also noted that he threw the ball sidearm across the diamond. In five games for the Pirates he hit .111 with two RBIs and made two errors in 13 total chances. On August 20th, he was released and returned to the minors. The local papers noted that he still had rough edges and needed another season in the minors before he’d be ready for the big leagues. He did not play during his final 19 days with the Pirates, with the ax falling after he was left home while the team went on a road trip. Newell bounced around the minors for seven more seasons including the 1896 season in which he hit .413 with 74 stolen bases for Wilmington of the Atlantic League. He was nearly as good the previous season, hitting .360 with 50 steals for Indianapolis of the Western League. He and Joe Redfield (mentioned above) played third base for the Pirates 100 years apart and they each went 2-for-18 at the plate while with the team.