Only two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one minor transaction of note.
Dan Serafini, pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1992 out of high school in California. He averaged just over a strikeout per inning his first three seasons of pro ball, though he never dominated at any level on his way up the Minnesota system. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1992, where he had a 3.64 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. In 1993, he jumped up to Fort Wayne of the Class-A Midwest League, where he went 10-8, 3.65 in 140.2 innings over 27 starts, with 147 strikeouts. Despite strong results, he stayed at Fort Wayne for the 1994 season. Serafini went 9-9, 4.61 in 136.2 innings, with 130 strikeouts. His best ERA in five seasons before his big league debut was the 3.46 mark he put up during the 1995 season, spent mostly in Double-A with Hardware City of the Eastern League. Serafini also saw a sharp decrease in his strikeout rate that year, picking 127 in 166.2 innings, after compiling 310 strikeouts in his first 306 innings. He struggled with Salt Lake City in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1996, posting a 5.58 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 130.2 innings. Serafini still got a call-up to the majors that year, making a mid-season spot start on June 25th that resulted in a loss and five earned runs over 4.1 innings.
Serafini did just slightly better during his second time around in Triple-A in 1997, going 9-7, 4.97 ERA in 152 innings, with 118 strikeouts. His main area of improvement was control, going from 4.0 BB/9IP in 1996 to 3.3 in 1997. He was a September roster addition for the Twins, where he posted a 2-1, 3.42 record in six games, four of them starts. In 1998, Serafini began back in Salt Lake City, but he received an early June recall and remained with the Twins for the rest of the year, pitching 28 total games, nine as a starter. Despite a strong 7-4 record, his ERA was 6.48 in 75 innings. Just before Opening Day in 1999, the Twins sold Serafini to the Chicago Cubs. He set a big league high with 42 appearances that season, though the results were not good. He had a 6.93 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 65.1 innings. Serafini was then traded to the San Diego Padres, where he lasted just three early April games before being sent to the minors, giving up six runs over three innings. The Pirates acquired him on June 28, 2000 for a player to be named later (minor league pitcher Andy Bausher).
With the Pirates, Serafini went 2-5, 4.91 in 11 starts, which included a win in his first start on August 5th and 7.1 shutout innings in a no-decision against the Padres on September 1st. He was released by the Pirates late in Spring Training 2001. During that 2001 season, he spent time in the minors with the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers, but he didn’t see any big league time. After the season ended, he was signed by the Anaheim Angels, but once again he was cut late in Spring Training. He pitched briefly in China in 2002, then spent the 2003 season with the St Louis Cardinals in Triple-A, as well a team from Mexico, then made it back to the majors with the Cincinnati Reds, where he had a 5.40 ERA in 30 innings. Serafini then spent the next 3 1/2 years in Japan before returning to the U.S. with the Colorado Rockies in 2007. He saw his last big league time that year and it did not go well. He made three brief appearances and allowed two runs while recording one out, resulting in a 54.00 ERA. He didn’t give up any hits, but all three batters that reached against him (two walks and a hit batter) came around to score. That was also his last shot at affiliated ball, but he ended up playing another six years, mostly in Mexico, before retiring. He also played six years of winter ball during his career, mostly in Mexico. Serafini went 15-16, 6.04 in 263.2 big league innings, making 33 starts and 71 relief appearances. He is credited with 2,354.2 innings during his entire pro career, which spanned 22 seasons.
Buddy Pritchard, infielder for the 1957 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in February 1957 directly out of college for a $30,000 bonus. The Pirates were one of 12 Major League clubs to put in an offer to Pritchard, back when there were only 16 teams. He had one more year of eligibility left at USC and planned to remain there until the college was banned from the national tournament that year. Under the rules of the day, any amateur player signing for a large amount fell under the “Bonus Baby” rule, which meant he had to spend the entire 1957 season on the Pirates big league roster. It was meant to keep teams with money from stockpiling all the best amateur talent, but in reality it was usually bad for the player signing the contract in the long run. Most players who signed those big bonus contracts sat on the end of their team’s bench and Pritchard was no different. Despite being on the roster for the entire season, he played in just 23 games and only came up to bat 12 times. He started two games all year and did not play one complete nine inning game. He batted .091 (1-for-11), though his first (and only) big league hit came off of the great Don Newcombe. Both of his starts came at shortstop, where he played ten times for a total of 30 innings. He also played second base three times, seeing five innings total. Pritchard handled 19 of his 20 chances in the field cleanly. He did not play after September 1st, partly because he left on September 12th to serve a six-month stint in the Army. He was slightly late to Spring Training in 1958, joining the club straight from his Army service on March 11th. He was cut from the Spring Training roster 16 days later and assigned to Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League.
If Pritchard had signed his contract a year earlier he would’ve had to spend two full seasons in the majors, but the Bonus Baby rule was rescinded in 1958 and he was shipped to the minors. He would end up playing eight seasons in the minors for the Pirates before he retired as a player, never making it back to the majors. Pritchard played most of the 1958 season with Lincoln of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .268 in 97 games, with 42 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and a .692 OPS. He also played 11 games for Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League and had a .111 average. On September 29th, the Pirates announced a deal where they acquired the contracts of seven players from Salt Lake City, in exchange for six players, including Pritchard. So while he remained a member of the Pirates farm system during the rest of his career, his contract belonged to the minor league affiliates. He played just 652 games over those eight seasons in the minors, only breaking the century mark in games played three times. A knee injury in early 1962 required surgery and caused him to miss a good portion of the season. He finished with a .256 average and 30 homers in his minor league career. Pritchard would later manage for the Pirates in the Gulf Coast League for two seasons, as well as do some scouting for the team before moving on to a job as an MLB scout. His first name is Harold, but he was usually referred to in print as Buddy. He turns 86 years old today.
On this date in 1979, the Pirates traded minor league pitcher John Stuper to the St Louis Cardinals for infielder Tommy Sandt. It gave the Pirates a long-time manager and coach, but it also helped the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series. Stuper was an 18th round draft pick in 1978 out of Point Park University. He didn’t make the majors until 1982, but it turned out to be a magical rookie season. He went 9-7, 3.36 in 21 starts and two relief outings, throwing a total of 136.2 innings. He did that despite issuing more walks (55) than strikeouts (53). In the postseason, he started three games and the Cardinals won all three, including a complete game in game six of the World Series, saving St Louis from elimination and setting up their victory the next day. Sandt never played in the majors with the Pirates. He was a player until 1981, then took over as a minor league manager for the Pirates in 1982. He even played a handful of games during the 1983-84 seasons. He managed two years in Double-A (1982-83) and then three years for Triple-A Hawaii. He later became a Major League coach with the Pirates for a total of 13 years, including the 1990-92 playoff run. Stuper had a solid 1983 season, but he was out of baseball by the end of the 1985 season, finishing with a 32-28, 3.96 record in 495 innings.
On this date in 1947, the Pirates purchased the contract of pitcher Hi Bithorn from the Chicago Cubs. The transaction had a little more significance before Major League Baseball changed the status of the 1920-48 Negro Leagues to a Major League level of play. Before that new ruling, Bithorn was the first player from Puerto Rico to play in the majors, debuting in 1942. However, he is now the 11th player from his country to play in the majors, 16 years after Gacho Torres debuted as the first for the Newark Stars. Bithorn didn’t last long with the Pirates. He was taken off waivers for the $10,000 fee, and it was said that he had a lame arm at the time. On March 22nd, without pitching an inning of Spring Training, he was sold on waivers to the Chicago White Sox, where he made his final two big league appearances during the 1947 season, throwing two innings of shutout ball. It was reported six days earlier that he had a torn ligament in his arm and was soon visiting a doctor, with one paper saying “he will miss ten days to two weeks”. Bithorn has a stadium named after him in Puerto Rico, where they Montreal Expos played some of their home games during the 2003-04 seasons. His life came to a tragic ending when he was shot by a police officer in Mexico during winter ball in 1951.