There have been six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Elroy Face, pitcher for the 1953, 1955-68 Pirates. He joined the Pirates in December of 1952 after he was taken in the Rule 5 draft. He had played four seasons in the minors with the Philadelphia Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers, winning at least 14 games every year. He had a 69-27 record during that time, averaging over 210 innings per year. Half of that time was spent at the lowest level of the minors, debuting in 1949 at 21 years old with Bradford of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League for the first of two seasons. He went 14-2, 3.32 in 141 innings, with 124 strikeouts in 1949. He followed that up with an 18-5, 2.58 record in 209 innings in 1950. Face’s best season came in 1951 when he won 23 games (vs nine losses) for Pueblo of the Class-A Western League. He had a 2.78 ERA in 265 innings that year. The Dodgers acquired via the minor league draft prior to that year, while the Pirates selected him in the Major League portion of the draft after the 1952 season. The second time he was picked by General Manager Branch Rickey, who was previously the GM of the Dodgers. Face went 14-11, 2.83 in 226 innings for Fort Worth of the Double-A Texas League in 1952.
In his rookie season in 1953, Face pitched 40 games, getting 13 starts from June 17th until the end of the year. He was clearly not ready for the majors, but as a Rule 5 pick he had to stay. In 119 innings, he posted a 6-8 record and a 6.58 ERA. He spent the entire 1954 season in the minors, where he developed his famous forkball and also worked on a slider. Prior to that he was throwing a fastball and curveball. He went 12-11, 4.45 in 192 innings for New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association in 1954, making 25 starts and 15 relief appearances. Face returned to the majors for 1955 and cut his ERA to 3.58, down exactly three runs. He threw 125.2 innings, making ten starts and 32 relief appearances. He threw four complete games and picked up five saves (not an official stat at the time). By 1956 he was being used strictly out of the bullpen. After making 23 starts his first two seasons, he started just four more games his entire career (none after 1957). In 1956 he threw 135.1 innings and led the league with 68 games pitched, which set a team record for appearances at the time. He had a 12-13, 3.52 record and added four more saves. Face didn’t see as much work in 1957, but he saw improvements in his ERA for a third straight season. In 93.2 innings over 59 appearances, he went 4-6, 3.07 with ten saves. In 1958 he posted a 2.89 ERA in 84 innings over 57 games, while recording 20 saves, which was tops in the National League. In 1959 Face compiled an amazing 18-1, 2.70 record in 93.1 innings over his 57 appearances. He made his first of three straight All-Star appearances and finished seventh in the MVP voting. We covered that season in depth here.
During the 1960 season, the Pirates won the World Series and Face contributed with ten wins, 24 saves and a league leading 68 appearances. He pitched 114.2 innings during the season and another 10.1 innings in the series, picking up saves in games one, four and five. In 1961, Face led the league in saves (17) for a second time and he was an All-Star for a third straight season. He’s actually credited with six All-Star appearances, as they played two All-Star games during the 1959-61 seasons. He went 6-12, with a 3.82 ERA, so his performance was a bit of a drop-off from previous seasons, but he would bounce back quickly, even if it was a temporary rise. Face had perhaps his best season in 1962. In 91 innings over 63 games, he posted a career low 1.88 ERA and career high 28 saves, which led the NL. According to WAR, his 4.0 mark that year was the best of his career. He failed to make the All-Star team that year, despite the strong stats.
Face began to see less work in 1963, which was still a solid season, despite a 3-9 record. He had a 3.23 ERA and 16 saves in 69.2 innings over 56 games. His ERA climbed to a 5.20 mark in 79.2 innings in 1964 at the age of 36, but he rebounded for four more strong seasons. He had just four saves that year and then didn’t pick up any during the 1965 season. That year he was limited to 16 appearances and 20.1 innings due to a knee injury suffered while running in the outfield. He was out from early May until late August. He went 5-2, 2.66 in his limited work. In 1966, Face went 6-6, 2.70, with 18 saves in 70 innings over 54 games. That 1967 season was another strong performance, with a 7-5, 2.42 record and 17 saves in 74.1 innings over 61 games.
Before his sale to the Detroit Tigers in late August of 1968, the Pirates kept Face long enough so that he could tie Walter Johnson’s record for most games pitched with one team, getting his 802nd appearance on the same day he was shipped to Detroit. He was performing well prior to the deal, posting a 2-4, 2.60 record and 13 saves in 52 innings over 43 games. Among the Pirates all-time leaders he ranks first in games pitched and first in saves with 186. He went 100-93, 3.46 in 1,314.2 innings with the Pirates. The 1968 Tigers won the World Series and Face was brought in to help their bullpen, but they ended up using him just two times, pitching a total of one inning. That was mostly because their starting pitchers were finishing a lot of their games. Face finished his Major League career with 44 appearances and a 3.94 ERA in 59.1 innings for the Montreal Expos in 1969. He then pitched briefly in the minors in 1970 before retiring. Face came around too early as a reliever to get Hall of Fame consideration. He would get a lot more respect now for consistently going 3+ innings (75 times in his career) and coming in when the Pirates needed him, regardless of the inning, as opposed to the one-inning relievers who are currently getting into the Hall of Fame based on save stats alone.
Frankie Gustine, infielder for the 1939-48 Pirates. He played 1,176 games with the Pirates, the 21st highest total in franchise history. The Pirates signed him as a 17-year-old amateur and sent him to the low minors in 1937, where he split the season between Class-C Hutchinson of the Western Association and Class-D Paducah of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League. Gustine combined to hit .256 that year in 118 games, with 20 doubles and two triples. He did well in 1938, spending the whole season with Hutchinson, where he batted .295 in 134 games, with 36 doubles, 11 triples and two homers. He was even better in 1939 in Class-B ball with Gadsden of the Southeastern League, where he hit .300 in 137 games, with 20 doubles, 11 triples and eight homers. That earned him a September call-up for the Pirates and he stayed around for ten seasons. Gustine batted just .186 in 22 games during the 1939 season for the Pirates, seeing all of his time at third base. By 1940, he was their everyday second baseman, hitting .281 in 133 games, with 59 runs, 32 doubles, seven triples and 55 RBIs. He had a rough time on the bases, going 7-for-23 in steals. He was never a speed threat, but he was much more successful over the rest of his career, with 53 steals and 36 caught stealing.
Gustine hit .270 in 121 games during the 1941 season, with 46 runs, 32 extra-base hits and 46 RBIs. He then tried to enlist in the military after the season, but he was denied due to a hernia, so he remained in baseball during that time when teams lost many of their best young players. Gustine had a poor 1942 season, batting just .229 in 115 games, with a .580 OPS that was the lowest of his career over a full season. He turned things around the next year by hitting .290 in 112 games, with 40 runs, 21 doubles, 43 RBIs and a career best 12 steals. That season he played more shortstop than second base. He was the regular shortstop in 1944-45 and struggled the first year with a .230 average and a .591 OPS in 127 games, before he hitting .280 with 67 runs, 27 doubles and 66 RBIs in 128 games in 1945. Back to second base for 1946, he made his first All-Star team by hitting over .300 for most of the first half of the season. On July 20th, Gustine was batting .306 through 79 games. Over the remainder of the season, he hit just .193 in 52 games. He finished up with a .259 average in 131 games, with 60 runs, 23 doubles, six triples, eight homers and 52 RBIs. He also got mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 28th in the voting.
Gustine moved to third base in 1947 and made the All-Star team again while leading the league in games played with 156. That year he set career highs in batting average (.297), runs scored (102), RBIs (67) and walks (63). He finished with 30 doubles, six triples and nine homers, which was a career high he would later tie. He made his third straight All-Star appearance in 1948 before the Pirates shipped him to the Chicago Cubs on December 8, 1948 in a four-player deal that netted them pitcher Cliff Chambers, who would throw a no-hitter in 1951. The 1948 season was similar to 1946, when a hot start got him the All-Star selection and a poor finish made the season look average. He was even more impressive early in 1948 though, holding a .411 average at the end of play on May 29th. While he was still hitting over .300 by the time the All-Star game came around, his drop-off began on May 30th and lasted the rest of the season. He batted .209 over his final 98 games and he was getting limited starts during the second half of September. He finished with a .267 average in 131 games, with 68 runs, 19 doubles, nine homers, 42 RBIs and 42 walks.
The decision to move on from Gustine seemed like good timing for the Pirates, despite making three straight All-Star appearances and being two months shy of his 29th birthday at the time. In his only season with the Cubs, he hit .226 with a .631 OPS in 76 games, and he played below average defense, resulting in a -0.5 WAR for the season. He was selected by the Philadelphia Athletics off waivers after the season, then traded to the St Louis Browns in a six-player deal two months later. His last season in the majors saw him hit .158 over nine games for the 1950 Browns before being released on May 22nd. Gustine has the dubious distinction of leading the league in errors at three different positions, second base in 1940, shortstop in 1945 and third base in 1947. While with the Pirates, he hit .268, with 1,152 hits, 523 runs and 451 RBIs. Gustine hit 34 homers for the Pirates, with 26 of them coming during his three All-Star seasons. Part of that was due to the left field fence being moved in at Forbes Field in 1947. He had five homers at Forbes over his first seven seasons, then hit 12 in the next two years. For good measure, his final big league homer came at Forbes while as a member of the Cubs.
Tony Menendez, pitcher for the 1993 Pirates. He was born in Cuba, but he became a first round pick of the Chicago White Sox in the 1984 draft, selected at 19 years old out of American HS in Miami, Florida. It took him eight years and four organizations before he finally made the majors in 1992, when he pitched three mid-season games over a two-week stretch for the Cincinnati Reds that year. Menendez debuted in pro ball in the Gulf Coast League in 1984, where he had a 3-2, 3.16 record in 37 innings. He moved up to A-Ball in 1985, pitching for Appleton of the Midwest League. He had a 13-4, 2.74 record in 148 innings. The White Sox gave him one start in Triple-A with Buffalo of the American Association, and he allowed five runs on nine hits in 2.1 innings. Menendez saw his career stall at Double-A for quite some time, pitching four straight seasons (1986-89) for Birmingham of the Southern Association. He played part of the 1986 season with Peninsula of the Class-A Carolina League, going 4-4, 4.57 in 63 innings. With Birmingham that year, he had a 7-8, 5.70 record in 96.1 innings over 17 starts. In 1987, he went 10-10, 4.83 in 27 starts, with 102 strikeouts in 173.1 innings. That was followed by a 6-11 record in 1988, which hid the fact that he lowered his ERA to 3.94 in 153 innings, while striking out 112 batters. He made 18 starts and nine relief appearances in 1989, while improving his strikeout rate again. Menendez went 10-4, 3.19 in 144 innings, with 115 strikeouts.
Menendez spent the entire 1990 season at Triple-A (Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League), going 2-5, 3.72 in 72.2 innings over nine starts and 15 relief appearances. He then became a minor league free agent at the end of the year and signed with the Montreal Expos, but they released him right before Opening Day in 1991. He was picked up by the Texas Rangers, where he had a 5.20 ERA in 116 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City of the American Association. The Reds signed him as a free agent and gave him his brief big league trial in June/July, which went well, with one hit and one run in 4.2 innings. However, the bulk of the year was spent with Nashville of the American Association, where he pitched 50 times (two starts) and threw 106.2 innings. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in November of 1992 and sent him to Triple-A Buffalo in 1993, where he worked as the team’s closer. He was briefly called up in July, making his Pittsburgh debut in long relief against the Reds. After two games he was sent back to the minors, where he compiled a 2.42 ERA and 24 saves in 54 games. The Pirates recalled Menendez in September and used him often out of the pen, getting 12 appearances in the final month of the season. His final stat line for the Pirates showed a 3-0, 3.00 record in 21 innings. He left via free agency after the season and signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he played two seasons (mostly in Triple-A). Menendez pitched terrific in relief in Triple-A (Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League) in 1994, posting a 2.22 ERA in 28.1 innings over 28 appearances. He earned another cup of coffee in the majors (actually two brief stints) and saw very poor results, with eight runs over 3.1 innings in his six appearances. After a 3.92 ERA and 13 saves in 50 appearances and 64.1 innings with Phoenix in 1995, he went on to play in Mexico in 1996, which was his final season of pro ball. A majority of his pro career was spent as a starting pitcher, but all 23 of his Major League appearances came in relief. His final big league stats showed a 3-1, 4.97 record in 29 innings.
Jack Rafter, catcher for the Pirates on September 24, 1904. He played 13 seasons in the minors beginning in 1894, yet he managed to get into just one big league game. At 19 years old in 1894, he split his time between three teams, seeing action with two clubs in the Eastern League and also Albany of the Class-B New York State League. Many of his stats are incomplete during his early years, partially due to the moving around, back when stats for players who played fewer than ten games were often left off of team recaps for space reasons. Rafter spent the 1895 season back with Syracuse of the Eastern League (reclassified at Class-A that year), where he hit .279 with 29 runs and ten extra-base hits in 44 games. In 1896, he played briefly for Syracuse and also saw time for four other teams, including two clubs in the Class-B Pennsylvania State League. His 1897 records show just three games for Philadelphia of the Class-B Atlantic League. He next played with Albany of the Class-C New York State League, where he signed in 1899, and hit .299 with 69 runs, 15 doubles, five triples and 30 steals in 105 games. He was with Albany in 1900 as well, but by June 1st he was suspended from the team.
Rafter played for the Troy Trojans of the New York State League for four seasons prior to playing for the Pirates. The league was a Class-C level in 1901 and moved up to Class-B for his next three seasons. He hit .282 in 105 games in 1901, then batted .262 in 105 games in 1902. He was consistent during his four seasons in Troy, hitting .275 in 120 games in 1903 and .284 in 116 games in 1904. During the 1902-04 seasons he was the catcher for Chick Robitaille, who also made his Major League debut in September 1904 for the Pirates. Not surprisingly, when Rafter played his only game in the majors, Robitaille was on the mound. During a 3-1 loss in New York to the Giants, Rafter went 0-for-3 at the plate and was flawless in the field while throwing out one of the two runners who attempted to steal off him. The scouting report on him said that he was the best defensive catcher in the New York State League. He actually gave up catching for a time to play outfield, before switching back while in Troy and established himself as a strong defensive player. The Pirates threw him right into the fire, as a note out of Troy said that he left to join the Pirates on September 22nd, and then he was playing two days later. The day after his only big league game, he caught an exhibition game against a minor league team from Newark and failed to pick up a hit, while committing an error and a passed ball. The next day he was allowed to leave for home for the winter while the Pirates headed to Boston for a series. They wanted to give time to a young catcher named Jimmy Archer. The decision between the two catchers came down to the fact that Archer was signed to a contract and Rafter never actually signed with the Pirates. He returned to the minors in 1905 and played three more seasons before retiring in May of 1908, so he could stay at home and run his business in Troy.
Rafter almost didn’t make a the majors. He had to retire for a time due to injuries suffered in an accident, which took a long time to heal according to a report published the day he joined the Pirates. It was said the accident happened eight years earlier, which would have been during the 1896 season when he moved all around, then played just three games over the next two seasons, though it was said that he was going to sign with a team from Auburn in 1897 after he was released by Philadelphia in early May. Rafter is one of 60 players who attended Fordham University to make the majors, but only eight have started their career since 1950. He was a railroad inspector in the off-season back when most baseball players needed to supplement their salary over the winter.
Tom O’Brien, infielder for the Pirates in 1898 and 1900. He was a member of the Pirates three different times, although he was traded before he played his first game for the team. In that trade on November 11, 1896, the Pirates also gave up Jake Stenzel (their all-time batting leader) in exchange for star outfielder Steve Brodie. The Pirates originally signed O’Brien after he wrote them a letter in late December 1895 saying that he wanted to play for them. He previously had an offer to play for the Boston Beaneaters (current day Atlanta Braves), but he refused to join the team. He debuted in pro ball at 22 years old in 1895 and played for three different teams, including both Canton and Wheeling of the Interstate League. The Pirates saw O’Brien first-hand on September 10, 1895 when they played (and lost to) his New Castle team from the Class-C Iron and Oil League. Manager Connie Mack visited his at his home after January 1, 1896 and signed an agreement, noting that he didn’t have a blank contract, but the deal was still good. On January 20, 1896, the Pirates loaned O’Brien to Newark of the Atlantic League, though he ended up playing for the Toronto/Albany franchise of the Class-A Eastern League that season. No stats are available from his first two seasons. His season ended in mid-September due to a broken ankle, two months before his trade to Baltimore.
O’Brien played one full season and part of 1898 before the Pirates purchased his contract back in June. In 1897, he hit .252 with 25 runs, six doubles and 32 RBIs in 50 games, splitting his time between first base and the two corner infield spots. Prior to rejoining the Pirates in 1898, he was hitting .217 in 18 games, with no extra-base hits and a .555 OPS. After joining the Pirates, he would hit .259 in 107 games with 19 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs and 53 runs scored to finish out the year. In 1899, the Pirates loaned him to the New York Giants, in a move that seems crazy to do now, but it occasionally happened back in the day. O’Brien would have his best season in the majors with the Giants, hitting .296 with 101 runs scored, 22 doubles, ten triples, six homers, 77 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. When the season ended he was returned to the Pirates. In 1900, he hit .290 with 61 runs scored, 22 doubles, six triples, three homers and 61 RBIs in 102 games. O’Brien would’ve likely played a big role on the 1901 Pirates, the first team to win a pennant in franchise history, but in early February that year he died of pneumonia at the age of 27. It was said that he became ill in the previous fall while on a baseball tour to Cuba, where he was told that drinking sea water helped prevent seasickness. O’Brien apparently took that advice to heart and became very ill, losing 40 pounds and suffering with lung issues before the pneumonia came on while he was in Arizona attempting to recover. There was talk of possibly trading him to New York in December of 1900, but talks died down when his condition became more serious. He finished his career as a .278 hitter in 428 games, with 249 runs, 94 extra-base hits, 229 RBIs and 55 steals.
Harry Raymond, third baseman for the 1892 Pirates. He didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 25 years old in 1887, and even then it was an odd start to his career. He’s credited with 24 games played that year, but he saw action with three different teams from the Western League. The next year he played for San Antonio in the Texas-Southern League and the Texas League. He began his big league career as a September addition for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association in 1888. He wasn’t much of a hitter in his four seasons in Louisville. Raymond batted .243 with two homers in 299 games during that time. His debut with the team saw him bat .211 in 32 games, with a lowly .445 OPS, thanks to two extra-base hits (both doubles) and one walk. In 130 games in 1889, he hit .239 with 58 runs scored, 12 doubles, nine triples, 47 RBIs and 19 steals. His best season came when the talent in the league was watered down in 1890 due to the fact three Major Leagues were running at the time. That season he batted .259 in 123 games, with 91 runs scored, 13 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and 18 steals. The next year he lasted just 14 games with Louisville before playing out the rest of the season in the minors. He batted .203 with a .525 OPS for Louisville, then played a total of 93 games for two teams in the Western Association.
Raymond was a strong fielder at third base during an era when defense at the position was much more important than it is today. When the American Association closed shop after the 1891 season, it left the National League as the only Major League, but that didn’t prevent him from getting a job. Raymond signed with the Pirates on March 22, 1892, and at the time he was called the best man who ever manned the third base position for Louisville. He would serve as the backup in Pittsburgh to Duke Farrell, who ended up starting 133 games at third base for the 1892 Pirates. Raymond played just 12 games for the Pirates that season, hitting .082 in 49 at-bats before being released on June 3rd. Back then when players were released, teams still held their rights for ten days. The Pirates worked out a deal with the Washington Senators on June 13th to release Raymond to them, while outfielder Patsy Donovan was then released to the Pirates. It was a deal that worked out tremendously. Donovan put in eight seasons for the Pirates and was a .307 hitter with speed, scoring 842 runs in 982 games. The Senators gave up on Raymond after just four games and an .067 batting average. Raymond’s defense wasn’t up to par with either team, committing 11 errors in 68 chances at third base. He finished the year in the minors, then would go on to play another seven seasons of minor league ball before retiring. From 1893-99, he played with 11 different minor league teams, two of them as a player/manager. He put up strong numbers for Detroit of the Western League in 1894-95, but offense was up all around baseball at the time due to new rules for pitchers that helped the batters. Raymond hit .342 with 46 extra-base hits in 86 games for Detroit in 1894, followed by a .290 average and 46 extra-base hits in 121 games in 1895.