Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one who holds a major team record.
Brian Giles, outfielder for the 1999-2003 Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a 17th round draft pick out of high school in California by the Cleveland Indians in 1989. He didn’t make his Major League debut until six years later. Giles was known in the majors as a power hitter, but he hit just eight home runs over his first four seasons in the minors combined. He connected on eight homers in 1993, then reached double digits in each of the next three seasons, topping out with 20 in 1996. He debuted in pro ball in 1989 in the short-season Appalachian League for Burlington, where he hit .310 in 36 games, with all seven extra-base hits being doubles. In 1990, Giles stayed in short-season ball, advancing to Watertown of the New York-Penn League, where he batted .289 in 70 games, with 18 extra-base hits (15 doubles), while posting an extremely impressive 48:23 BB/SO ratio. In 1991, he hit .310 in 125 games for Kinston of the High-A Carolina League. He had 14 doubles, four homers and 19 steals, along with 68 walks. He missed part of the 1992 season, while splitting time between Kinston and Double-A Canton-Akron of the Eastern League. He batted .248 in 65 games, with 13 extra-base hits and 48 walks. In 1993, Giles spent the full year with Canton-Akron, where he hit .327 in 123 games, with 31 extra-base hits, 18 steals and 57 walks. During the 1994 season, he played 128 games for Charlotte of the Triple-A International League, where he hit .313 with 74 runs, 18 doubles, 16 homers and 55 walks. The strike that season kept him from possibly making his big league debut as a September call-up.
In 1995, Giles spent the full season in Triple-A, with the Indians affiliate moving to Buffalo of the American Association. He batted .310 in 123 games, with 18 doubles, eight triples, 15 homers and 54 walks, which led to his first shot in the majors. He went 5-for-9 in six games during his late season debut in 1995, then batted .355 in 51 games for the Indians in 1996, getting called up to the majors right after the All-Star break. At the time of his recall, he was hitting .314 with 43 extra-base hits in 83 games. Giles spent the entire 1997 season in the majors, hitting .268 in 130 games, with 15 doubles, 17 homers, 61 RBIs, 13 steals and 63 walks. He saw time at Triple-A in 1998 and suffering a left ankle injury on May 30th that required a rehab stint. He hit .269 in 112 games for the Indians that season, with 19 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBIs and 73 walks. He played four seasons in Cleveland, hitting .284 with 39 homers in 299 games, before they traded him to the Pirates on November 18, 1998 in exchange for pitcher Ricardo Rincon.
Giles immediately became a star for the Pirates, hitting .315 with 95 walks, 33 doubles, 39 homers, 115 RBIs and 109 runs scored in his first season. He received mild MVP support, finishing 19th in the voting. He followed that up with his first All-Star season in 2000, hitting .315 again, while breaking the century mark in walks (114) RBIs (123) and runs scored (111). His RBI total that season is tied for the seventh highest single season total in franchise history. He had 37 doubles, seven triples and 35 homers. Once again, he finished 19th in the MVP voting. In 2001 Giles made his second All-Star team, hitting .309 with 37 doubles, seven triples, 37 homers, 95 RBIs, 90 walks and a career high 116 runs scored. He received mild MVP support again, this time finishing 24th in the voting. In 2002 he hit 38 homers, batted .298 and walked 135 times, falling just short of Ralph Kiner‘s team record of 137 walks set in 1951. He had 95 runs, 37 doubles, 103 RBIs and a career high 15 steals, which all led to a 13th place finish in the MVP race. At the 2003 trading deadline, the Pirates traded Giles to the San Diego Padres for Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and Corey Stewart. He was hitting .299 in 105 games, with 70 runs, 30 doubles, 16 homers, 70 RBIs and 80 walks before the deal. He finished out the season hitting .298 in 29 games, with a .904 OPS.
After the trade, Giles played 6 1/2 seasons with the Padres. He never approached his three biggest seasons in Pittsburgh, but that was partially due to the pitcher-friendly ballpark in San Diego. For his first three full seasons with the Padres, Giles missed just 11 games total. He hit .284 in 159 games in 2004, with 23 homers, 94 RBIs and 97 runs, which were all his best totals during his time with the Padres in those last three categories. In 2005, he led the National League with 119 walks, while batting .301 with 38 doubles and 92 runs scored. He finished ninth in the MVP voting that season, his highest finish during his career. In 2006, Giles hit .263 in 158 games, with 87 runs, 37 doubles, 14 homers, 83 RBIs and 104 walks. He missed a little time in 2007, which limited him to 121 games. He batted .271 with 42 extra-base hits, 72 runs and 64 walks. In 2008, he set a career best with 40 doubles, while also batting .306 in 147 games. He hit just 12 homers that season, but his .854 OPS was still a strong improvement over his previous two seasons (.771 and .777). He was limited to 61 games in 2009 due to a knee injury and he batted just .191 for the season, with two homers. Giles became a free agent after the season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though he decided to retire during the early part of Spring Training in 2010.
He has the highest OPS in Pirates franchise history with his 1.018 mark, and three of his single season home run totals are among the top ten in Pirates history. He hit .308 with 501 runs scored, 506 RBIs and 519 walks in 715 games with Pittsburgh. Overall in his 15-year career he hit .291 with 1,121 runs scored, 1,078 RBIs and 1,183 walks in 1,847 games. He had some issues in the playoffs over the years, batting .205 with no homers in 29 games. Giles posted 26.1 WAR in his five seasons with the Pirates and 17.4 WAR in seven seasons with the Padres. He had 7.6 WAR with the Indians. His only two All-Star appearances came while he was with the Pirates. He played 885 games in right field during his career, with 646 games in left field and 303 in center field. His brother Marcus spent seven seasons in the majors, including one year (2007) as his teammate in San Diego.
Cecil Espy, outfielder for the 1991-92 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1980, taken eighth overall out of high school. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .274 in 58 games, with 33 runs and 23 steals. In 1981, Espy started the season in A-Ball with Appleton of the Midwest League, but he ended up playing the second half back in the Gulf Coast League. He combined to hit .229 in 115 games, with nine extra-base hits and 20 steals, with much better results at the lower level. Before he could play a game for Chicago, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in March of 1982. Espy hit .317 in 131 games for Class-A Vero Beach of the Florida State League. He scored 100 runs that year and stole 74 bases in 89 attempts. The next year he moved up to San Antonio of the Double-A Texas League and batted .268 in 133 games, with 51 steals and 31 extra-base hits. He then made a brief 20-game appearance for the Dodgers at the big league level in 1983. He batted just 12 times, mostly serving as a defensive replacement.
Espy spent all of 1984-85 back with San Antonio. He put up solid numbers, though he never moved up to Triple-A. He had a .720 OPS in 133 games in 1984, with 48 steals. He followed that up with a .724 OPS in 124 games in 1985, with some issues on the bases. His stolen base total dropped to 20, but he was also caught 17 times. He was then he was traded to the Pirates in September 1985, along with RJ Reynolds and Sid Bream, in exchange for Bill Madlock. The following season, he hit .263 with 41 stolen bases in 106 games for Triple-A Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League. His .665 OPS was 33 points below the team average. After the season, the Pirates lost Espy to the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. He returned to the majors in September of 1987, after hitting .302 with 46 steals in 118 games. He batted just nine times in 14 games, and failed to get a hit during his second big league trial, but he stuck in the majors this time.
Espy was a regular for the Rangers during the 1988-89 seasons, then played sparingly in 1990. He hit .248 in 123 games in 1988, with a .637 OPS, 46 runs and 33 steals. In 1989, he hit .257 in 142 games, with 65 runs and 45 steals in 65 attempts. In 1990, he batted just .127 in 52 games and ended up spending over a month back in Triple-A. After four seasons in Texas in which he hit .241 with 91 steals in 331 games, Espy was allowed to leave via free agency. He signed with the Pirates on February 11, 1991 and hit .244 in 43 games in Pittsburgh, spending most of the year in Triple-A. He debuted in center field on August 1st and spent the rest of the season with the team, though he made just 17 starts in those 43 games. He struck out in two pinch-hit at-bats during the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. In 1992, Espy got into 112 games, mostly off the bench, and he hit .258 in 194 at-bats. He got starts at all three outfield spots (25 starts total), while seeing a lot of time as a defensive replacement in right field. He played four games during the NLCS against the Braves that year and went 2-for-3 at the plate. After the season he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds. He played one partial season for Cincinnati, batting 76 times in 40 games. He then spent 1994 in the minors with an independent team playing in the High-A California League, then went overseas to China in 1985, before retiring after spending the 1986 season in Mexico. In 546 Major League games over eight seasons, he hit .244 with seven homers, 108 RBIs, 160 runs scored and 103 stolen bases. He stole 358 bases in the minors.
Carl Taylor, catcher/outfielder for the 1968-69 and 1971 Pirates. Taylor was signed by the Pirates in early 1962 as an amateur free agent at 18 years old. It took him five full minor league seasons before he made the majors with the Pirates as a member of the 1968 Opening Day roster. He debuted in 1962 with Kingsport of the Class-D Appalachian League, where he hit .246 in 40 games. In 1963, he played for Batavia of the Class-A New York-Penn League and batted .294 in 120 games, with 79 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs and 70 walks. In 1964, Taylor hit .291 in 124 games for Kinston of the Class-A Carolina League. He had 75 runs, 26 extra-base hits and 84 walks, leading to a .793 OPS. In 1965, he played his first of two straight seasons with Asheville of the Double-A Southern League. He batted .251 in 111 games in 1965, with 19 doubles, four homers and 48 walks. He improved to a .292 average in 129 games in 1966, with 18 doubles, seven homers and 48 walks. Most of the 1967 season was spent back in Double-A, with the new affiliate in Macon of the Southern League. He hit .293 in 114 games, with 23 extra-base hits. Taylor saw brief Triple-A time, and after the regular season ended, he played 52 games in the Florida Instructional League, back when they kept stats for the league. He put up a .764 OPS in 52 games in that league, which featured players from all levels.
Taylor spent the entire 1968 season on the Major League roster, but he only played 44 games (17 starts) and received just 82 plate appearances. He was the backup catcher to Jerry May, who started 128 games that year. Taylor also saw some brief time in the corner outfield spots. He batted .211 with ten walks, and a double as his only extra-base hit. The following season he hit .348 with 15 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs in 104 games. He played first base, outfield and he was often used as a pinch-hitter, but he didn’t see any time at catcher, which was his natural position at the time. Manny Sanguillen took over the starting catcher spot that year and May became his backup, which pushed Taylor off of the spot. Right after the 1969 season ended, the Pirates traded Taylor to the St Louis Cardinals in a four-player deal that landed them longtime reliever Dave Giusti in return. Taylor played one year for St Louis, hitting .249 with 20 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs and 41 walks in 104 games, before they traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in October of 1970. The Brewers then traded him to the Kansas City Royals 3 1/2 months later. On September 3, 1971 the Pirates purchased his contract from the Royals to help them with their playoff push. He batted .362 in 73 Triple-A games for the Royals that year, but he hit just .179 in 20 big league games. Taylor went 2-for-12 in seven games for the Pirates to finish the season. Just prior to the start of the 1972 season, the Pirates sold him back to Kansas City, where he finished his playing career in 1973. He hit .228 in 69 games that final year. Taylor began in the majors as a catcher and he finished back behind the plate during his final two seasons. He didn’t catch in the majors during the 1969-71 seasons. He was a .266 hitter, with 113 runs, 31 doubles, ten homers and 115 RBIs in 411 Major League games over six seasons. He hit .309 in 155 games with the Pirates. He was a .291 hitter over 755 games in the minors.
Jesse Gonder. catcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. He started his Major League career with the team that the Pirates beat in the 1960 World Series, but he was originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a teenager. Gonder debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1955 with Ogden of the Class-C Pioneer League, where he batted .279 in 114 games, with 15 homers, 67 RBIs and 57 runs scored. He stayed in Class-C ball in 1956, playing for Wausau of the Northern League. In 119 games, he hit .296 with 23 doubles, 14 homers, 68 RBIs and 54 walks. In 1957 he played with three different Class-B teams affiliated with the Reds, playing between 27 and 41 games. He hit .326 with 83 runs, 30 doubles, 20 homers and 88 RBIs. In 1958, Gonder saw time in Mexico, Double-A (Texas League) and Triple-A (Pacific Coast League). He hit .321 in 67 games in the states, and he hit .298 with ten homers in 39 games in Mexico. With Havana of the Triple-A International League in 1959, Gonder hit .238 in 112 games, with 29 extra-base hits. He was traded to the New York Yankees in March of 1960, and spent most of the regular season with Richmond of the International League, where he hit .327 with 27 extra-base hits in 109 games. He made his big league debut in late September of 1960, just over a week before the World Series started. Gonder went 2-for-7 in seven games during his first big league trial.
In 1961, Gonder played 77 games for Richmond and 15 for the Yankees, going 4-for-12 with three walks during his second cup of coffee. He played just those parts of two seasons for the Yankees before they traded him back to the Reds prior to the 1962 season. Gonder played just four games in the majors in 1962, but he excelled in the minors, leading the Pacific Coast League with a .342 average and 116 RBIs. Through his first three big league trials, he played a total of 26 games and just one came as a starter. He was traded to the New York Mets during the 1963 season and began to see his first significant playing time in the majors. Prior to the deal, he batted 33 times in 31 games and had a .313 average. The Mets were in their second season, after going 40-120 in 1962. They were only slightly better in 1963, but that allowed Gonder to play regularly after the trade. In his first season in New York, he hit .302 in 42 games to finish out the 1963 season. In 1964, he batted .270 with seven homers and 35 RBIs, while playing 131 games. It was the only time in his career that he played over 100 games in a season. That opportunity for full-time play didn’t last long.
Gonder was traded for a fourth time in 1965, this time to the Milwaukee Braves mid-season. He batted .238 with four homers in 53 games before the deal, then hit .151 in 31 games after the trade. The Pirates picked him up in November of 1965 during the Rule 5 draft. He had played a total of 314 games during his first six seasons in the majors prior to joining Pittsburgh. He played 59 games for the 1966 Pirates, 52 of them behind the plate, and he hit .225 with seven homers. He spent half of the 1967 season in the minors, getting into 22 games with the Pirates before he was sent down in June after hitting .139 in 36 at-bats. That ended up being his final big league time. The Pirates left him off of their reserve roster following the 1967 season, then they traded his rights in April of 1968 for two minor league players. He was traded to the Yankees, but they had a deal to supply a player to the Braves, so he filled that role. Gonder played two more seasons in the minors before retiring as a player, seeing time with affiliates of the California Angels, Braves and San Francisco Giants. In eight seasons in the majors, he hit .251 with 26 homers and 94 RBIs in 395 games.
Denny Sothern, outfielder for the 1930 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at Martinsburg of the Class-D Blue Ridge League, where he hit .321 with 32 extra-base hits in 99 games. The next year was spent with three different teams, though the majority came with Martinsburg, where he hit .327 in 45 games. His other two clubs were at the Class-B level, including a .321 average in 27 games with Decatur of the Three-I League. A majority of the 1926 season was spent with Cumberland of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League, where he hit .374 with 40 doubles, 15 triples and 20 homers in only 95 games. Sothern made his MLB debut for the Philadelphia Phillies in September of 1926 at 22 years old and hit .245 with three homers in 14 games. He then spent 1927 in the minors with Class-A Pittsfield of the Eastern League, where he hit .308 with 35 doubles and 19 homers in 149 games. That led to him becoming Philadelphia’s regular center fielder for the 1928 season. He batted .285 in 141 games during his first full season, with 82 runs scored, 37 extra-base hits and 38 RBIs. He stole 17 bases, but he was caught 15 times.
Sothern followed up that rookie season with a .306 average, 52 runs and 29 extra-base hits in 76 games in 1929. He played 90 games with the Phillies in 1930 before they traded him to the Pirates on August 7, 1930 in exchange for 23-year-old outfielder Fred Brickell. The deal was technically two players claimed off waivers, with the Phillies wanting to get rid of Sothern because he was unhappy for quite some time playing in Philadelphia. They also wanted Brickell for a while, so when he became available, they put Sothern on waivers in order to have roster room to make the claim. Sothern was hitting .280 over 90 games at the time of the “trade”, but in 17 games with the Pirates, he hit just .176, going 9-for-51 at the plate. They gave him eight starts in center field in August, then he played just six of the final 25 games, four of those coming off of the bench. On September 3rd, he hurt his leg while rounding third base and his only appearance over the next two weeks was as a pinch-hitter on September 10th. On November 11, 1930, the Pirates sold his contract to the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. He remained there until he was purchased by the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) on August 3, 1931. He played 19 games with the Robins over the final two months of the season, but after hitting .161 during that time, his Major League career was over. He finished his playing career in the minors in 1933 and later managed for two years in the minors. Sothern batted over .300 in each of his first five seasons in the minors, including a .374 mark over two levels in 1926. During his final two minor league campaigns, he posted .256 and .252 averages. He was a .322 hitter in seven minor league seasons. In his big league career, he hit .280 in 357 games, with 219 runs scored, 19 homers and 115 RBIs. During his time in Pittsburgh, his last name was often spelled “Southern” in the local papers.