Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one news item of note.
On this date in 1975, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman/manager Billy Herman was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a player by the Veteran’s Committee. He was joined that year by manager Bucky Harris, Cleveland Indians star Earl Averill, Negro Leaguer Judy Johnson, and also Pirates outfielder Ralph Kiner, who was elected earlier by the baseball writers. Herman was the Pirates manager in 1947, staying with the team until the last day of the season when he was replaced by Bill Burwell, who managed his only career game that day. Herman actually didn’t play much, getting into 15 games throughout the entire season. He was a career .304 hitter over 15 seasons and he was elected to ten straight All-Star games from 1934-43. He becomes the third member of the 1947 Pirates to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Along with Kiner, the other one was Hank Greenberg, who had been elected by the baseball writers 19 years earlier. Just like Herman, Greenberg only played with the Pirates during the 1947 season.
Austin Davis, pitcher for 2020-21 Pirates. He was a 12th round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014 out of CSU-Bakersfield. Davis started his pro career in the Gulf Coast League, where he had a 2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings, with 27 strikeouts. He moved up to Lakewood of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2015, where he went 5-6, 3.76 in 95.2 innings over 11 starts and 22 relief outings. In 2016, he missed the early part of the season due to injury, and then after rehabbing in the GCL, he split the season between Lakewood and Clearwater of the High-A Florida State League. Davis had a 2.51 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 32.1 innings that year. In 2017, he had a 2.01 ERA in 22.1 innings with Clearwater, and a 2.87 ERA in 47 innings for Reading of the Eastern League. The 2018 season saw him pitch four times four Reading, 24 times for Lehigh Valley of the Triple-A International League, and 32 times for the Phillies. During his first big league stint, he went 1-2, 4.15 in 34.2 innings, with 38 strikeouts. In 2019, Davis spent most of the year with Lehigh Valley, where he had a 2.75 ERA in 52.1 innings. He played 14 games with the Phillies, putting together a 6.53 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 20.2 innings. During the shortened 2020 season, he saw brief time with the Phillies and Pirates. He gave up seven runs in three innings in Philadelphia, then after the Pirates acquired him via trade in late August for minor league pitcher Joel Cesar, Davis allowed one run in 3.2 innings over five outings. He missed some time in 2021 due to injury. He pitched ten times for the Pirates, posting a 5.59 ERA in 9.2 innings. The Pirates sent him to the Boston Red Sox at the trading deadline for infielder Michael Chavis. After the deal, Davis had a 4.86 ERA in 16.2 innings over 19 appearances. Through his four partial seasons, he has a 2-4, 5.50 record in 88.1 innings over 84 games.
Joe Coleman, pitched for the 1979 Pirates. During the first amateur draft in baseball in 1965, Coleman was the third overall pick, taken out of high school by the Washington Senators. He was just 18 years old at the time, but he debuted in the majors later that same year. In fact, he made two starts and pitched complete games victories in both games. The rest of his first season was spent with Burlington of the Class-A Carolina League, where he went 2-10, 4.56 in 75 innings over 12 starts. The next year he was limited to one start for Washington and it too was a complete game victory. He pitched the regular season with York of the Double-A Eastern League, suffering through a 7-19 record, despite a 3.75 ERA in 199 innings. Coleman saw regular mound time for the next four seasons in Washington. He made four starts for York in 1967, then spent the rest of the year in the majors, where he went 8-9, 4.63 in 134 innings over 22 starts and six relief appearances. In 1968, he had a 12-16, 3.27 record in 33 starts, with 12 complete games, two shutouts and 223 innings pitched. In 1969, Coleman posted a 12-13 record, while matching his 3.27 ERA from the previous season. He threw 247.2 innings over 36 starts (four relief outings), with 12 complete games and four shutouts. His 182 strikeouts that year ranked fifth in the American League. In 1970, he had an 8-12, 3.58 record in 218.2 innings, with 29 starts and ten relief appearances.
Coleman went 43-50, 3.51 in 850.1 innings in six seasons for the Senators, before being traded to the Detroit Tigers just days after the 1970 season ended. The change of scenery, and going to a better team, really paid off. Coleman pitched 280+ innings in each of his first four years in Detroit, while putting together a 76-50 record during that stretch. He went 20-9, 3.15 in 1971, with a career best 236 strikeouts, which ranked third in the American League. He set a career high with 16 complete games (38 starts) and he threw 286 innings. He was an All-Star in 1972 (his only mid-season classic), when he put together a 19-14, 2.80 record in 280 innings over 39 starts, with 222 strikeouts. Coleman won a career high 23 games in 1973, yet he didn’t get a single Cy Young vote, though he saw mild MVP support. He finished the year 23-15, 3.53 in 40 starts, with a career high 288.1 innings pitched and 202 strikeouts. During the 1974 season, he went 14-12, 4.32 in a career high 41 starts. He threw 11 complete games, two shutouts and 285.1 innings pitched.
Coleman had a rough 1975 season, going 10-18, 5.55 in 201 innings over 30 starts, then played for six teams over the next four years. He had brief stints with the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants and then the Pirates. The 1976 season was split between 12 starts with the Tigers and 39 games (four starts) with the Cubs. He combined to go 4-13, 4.45 in 143.2 innings. The A’s acquired him in a 1977 Spring Training trade and he remained there for the entire season, going 4-4, 2.96 in 127.2 innings over 12 starts and 29 relief appearances. The A’s released him in May of 1978 after going 3-0, 1.37 in ten games. He signed on with the Blue Jays and remained there for the rest of the year, going 2-0, 4.60 in 60.2 innings over 31 games. He signed with the Giants on April 1, 1979, but his entire stay there lasted just 20 days, despite a 0.00 ERA in five appearances. Even though he was in his 15th season in the majors, he was just 32 years old when he joined the Pirates on May 8, 1979. While with the Pirates, he went to the minors for the first time since 1967, then was called up in late July and pitched ten games in relief over the remainder of the season, posting a 6.10 ERA. That 1979 season would be the end of his MLB career. He pitched three more seasons in the minors with Spokane of the Pacific Coast League (where he also coached) before retiring as a player. He finished with a 142-135, 3.70 record in 2,569.1 innings. He started 340 games, pitched 144 times in relief, ending up with 94 complete games, 18 shutouts and seven saves. Coleman is the son of Joe Coleman who pitched for ten seasons in the majors between 1942 and 1955 (missed three years serving during WWII). He is the father of pitcher Casey Coleman, who spent parts of four seasons in the majors. That makes them one of just a few three-generation families in MLB history, and the only one to include only pitchers. Joe Coleman (the middle one) turns 75 years old today.
Freddie Toliver, pitcher for the 1993 Pirates. He pitched in the majors for four different teams between 1984 and 1989, then reappeared in the majors four years later with the Pirates. Toliver was drafted in the third round by the New York Yankees out of high school in 1979. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old with Oneonta of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he went 10-2, 2.10 with 71 strikeouts in 77 innings over 13 starts. In 1980, he spent most of the year with Greensboro of the Class-A South Atlantic League, going 6-8, 2.86 in 126 innings over 20 starts. He also made three starts with Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League, where he allowed 15 runs in eight innings. The 1981 season was spent back with Greensboro, where he had a 5-3, 3.49 record in 80 innings. The Yankees traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in December of 1981 for Ken Griffey Sr. Toliver spent most of 1982 with Cedar Rapids of the Class-A Midwest League. He had a 6-7, 4.23 record and 117 strikeouts in 115 innings before joining Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association for four starts. He had a 3.92 ERA in 20.2 innings with Indianapolis in 1982, then spent the entire 1983 season there, going 8-10, 4.54 in 166.2 innings over 26 starts. In 1984, Toliver spent the year with the new Cincinnati affiliate in Wichita of the American Association, where he went 11-6, 4.83 in 164 innings, with 116 walks and 113 strikeouts in 23 starts and nine relief appearances.
Toliver made his big league debut three years after being acquired by the Reds, giving up one run over ten innings during a September trial in 1984. He spent most of 1985 in Triple-A for the Reds, before he was traded on August 27th to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he spent the majority of his big league time. He played parts of three seasons in Philadelphia, before the third trade of his career sent him to the Minnesota Twins. Toliver made three starts and eight relief appearances for the 1985 Phillies, going 0-4, 4.68 in 25 innings. His 1986 season was limited to six starts in Triple-A (Portland of the Pacific Coast League) and five starts for the Phillies, where he went 0-2, 3.51 in 25.2 innings. He suffered a fracture in his arm when he was hit by a pitch in late May. Toliver made four starts and six relief appearances with the 1987 Phillies, going 1-1, 5.64 in 30.1 innings. The rest of the year was spent in Triple-A as a starting pitcher with Maine of the International League. The Phillies traded him to the Twins in February of 1988 for a minor league catcher (Chris Calvert) who never made it to the majors.
Toliver had his best big league season in 1988, going 7-6, 4.24 in 114.2 innings over 19 starts and two relief appearances. In June of 1989, he was traded to the San Diego Padres for veteran reliever Greg Booker. Toliver combined to go 1-3, 7.53 in 43 innings over five starts and 11 relief appearances, with poor results in both spots. On September 27, 1989, he was traded back to the Yankees. Despite two stints in New York, he never pitched in the Bronx. He was let go during Spring Training in 1990 and spent the next two years playing minor league ball for the California Angels, which included time in High-A ball. The Pirates purchased his contract from an independent minor league team (Salinas of the California League) on July 23, 1992 and sent him to Double-A Carolina of the Southern League, where he worked out of the bullpen for the rest of the season. He began the 1993 season in the minors with Carolina, but in late May he was called up to the Pirates for a five-week stretch that saw him mostly work mop-up duties in long relief. He was replacing an injured Randy Tomlin on the roster. Toliver had a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings with the Pirates before being sent back down to the minors, returning to Carolina, before ending up with Buffalo of the Triple-A American Association. He pitched the next three years in China, then briefly made a comeback in the U.S. in 1998, pitching seven games in the independent Western League. In seven seasons in the majors, he had a career record of 10-16, 4.73 in 270.1 innings, which were spread out of 37 starts and 41 relief appearances.
George “Live Oak” Taylor, center fielder for the 1884 Alleghenys. Before joining Pittsburgh, he had played briefly in the majors with the Hartfords of Brooklyn in 1877 (two games) and the Troy Trojans in 1879 (24 games), both National League teams. He went 3-for-8 at the plate during his first trial in 1877, and then hit .216 with ten runs and eight RBIs in 97 at-bats while playing in Troy. In 1884 there were three Major Leagues all running at the same time. Besides the National League, the American Association and the Union Association also existed. In addition to the extra league (the Union Association only existed in 1884), the American Association also expanded to 12 teams from eight, so there were a lot of extra big league jobs and it led to watered down talent. It allowed Taylor to return to the majors with the Alleghenys, where he hit .211 with 22 runs, four doubles and a triple in 41 games. He was a left fielder originally, but struggled in center field with Pittsburgh, making 19 errors, giving him a fielding percentage well below league average.
Taylor started Spring Training in 1884 as one of the reserve players for the Alleghenys, which was sort of like having a Triple-A team play in town against the reserves of other American Association clubs and also some semi-pro/amateur teams in town to keep them in game shape. It was an idea that didn’t last long because the reserves failed to draw crowds big enough to cover their salaries. Taylor got released by the team on July 10th (along with pitcher Frank Beck), then rejoined the team two weeks later when Jimmy Woulfe was said to be having problems with his eyes. Taylor played his final game in Pittsburgh on July 30th and was released the next day, along with fellow outfielder Jimmy Woulfe, who requested his own release. The two releases left the Alleghenys with 12 players signed to contracts on August 1st. Taylor played some minor league ball after his big league career was done, but he didn’t live long after his playing days, passing away from consumption in 1888 at the age of thirty-seven. He lived in San Francisco, California and played most of his pro ball there, where most of the statistical records are impossible to find. Taylor was actually fairly famous as a ballplayer in California and was often referred to just as “Live Taylor”, or by his middle name, Edward. He was often singled out for his amazing defensive plays. In his obituary, he was called “the best left fielder in the state (California)”. A benefit game for his family played three weeks after his passing netted his wife and child $2,000. Taylor was a .218 career hitter in 67 Major League games. There is no known explanation for the Live Oak nickname, though it was usually just a name given to someone with a hot bat. It was not used often throughout his career, especially compared to the shorter “Live” nickname.