Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on this date
Brandon Wood, third baseman/shortstop for the 2011 Pirates. He was a first round pick out of Horizon HS in Arizona, selected 23rd overall by the Anaheim Angels in 2003. Wood had two solid seasons to open up his pro career, then really broke out in High-A ball in 2005. At 18 years old, he debuted with the Arizona League Angels for 19 games, then played 42 more games for Provo of the short-season Pioneer League. He combined to hit .288 that first season, with 21 doubles, five homers and 44 RBIs. In 2004, he spent the entire season with Cedar Rapids of the Low-A Midwest League, hitting .251 in 125 games, with 65 runs, 30 doubles, 11 homers, 64 RBIs and 21 steals. Playing in the high-offense California League in 2005 with Rancho Cucamonga, he hit .321 with 109 runs, 51 doubles, 43 homers and 115 RBIs. He even earned a late promotion to Triple-A to finish the season, where he went 6-for-19 with two doubles and a triple, giving him 101 extra-base hits for the season in 134 games. Wood went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and he hit 14 homers in 29 games, giving him 57 homers in 163 games that year. After the season, Baseball America named him as the #3 prospect in all of baseball. In 2006, he spent the entire season with Arkansas of the Double-A Texas League, where he batted .276 with 71 extra-base hits, 19 steals, 54 walks and a .907 OPS. He was the #8 prospect in baseball after the 2006 season.
Wood moved up to Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League in 2007, where he hit .272 with 51 extra-base hits in 111 games, once again playing in a high-offense environment. His .835 OPS that year was just slightly above average for the league/park, and he struck out 120 times. The Angels called him up three different times, all brief stints, amounting to a .152 average over 13 games. After the season, he did poorly in a short stint in the Mexican winter league, batting .171 with no extra-base hits in 40 plate appearances. Wood began 2008 back in Triple-A, but he was up in the majors by the last week of April. He had a rough go, batting .125 through 29 games, when the Angels sent him back down in mid-June. He returned in late August and hit .256 with four homers in the final 26 games. He finished with a .200 average and a .551 OPS in 55 games. Wood tried winter ball again, this time in the Dominican, and again did very poorly in a short stint, posting a .509 OPS in 13 games. The 2009 season was similar to the previous two years. He did well in Triple-A (.910 OPS in 99 games), but it didn’t carry over to the majors (.559 OPS in 18 games). Wood missed some time in 2010 due to injury and spent a short time in Triple-A, but most of his healthy time was spent in the majors, where he put up some very rough numbers. In 81 games, he hit .146 with six extra-base hits and a 6:71 BB/SO ratio in 243 plate appearances. After the season, he played in the Arizona Fall League, as a rare player with MLB experience to see action in the league. He batted .341, but it comes with the caveat that he was basically playing Double-A level ball, with 167 games of big league experience.
Out of minor league options, Wood began the 2011 season in the majors and did poorly over six games. The Pirates took him off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on April 22, 2011. He had played parts of five seasons for the Angels, hitting .168 over 173 games, with 11 homers and a .455 OPS. In 764 minor league games over eight seasons (up to that point), he batted .284, with 222 doubles and 161 homers. For the Pirates he played 99 games and hit .220 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. He saw most of his playing time at third base, but he also saw time at shortstop, second base and first base. He was granted free agency in early November 2011 and signed with the Colorado Rockies two weeks later. Wood played pro ball until 2014 without making it back to the majors. He played all of 2012 in Triple-A for the Rockies, then spent 2013 with the Kansas City Royals first, followed by the Baltimore Orioles, who released him in late July. He signed with the San Diego Padres for 2014, but they released him late in Spring Training. Wood finished up in independent ball in 2014, hitting .098 in 25 games for the Sugar Land Skeeters. His career ended at 29 years old, with a total of 211 homers over 12 seasons of pro ball, but his big league career showed a .513 OPS in 272 games. His actual first name was Richard. Brandon was his middle name.
Don Schwall, pitcher for the 1963-66 Pirates. Schwall was a star basketball player at the University of Oklahoma, who wasn’t quite as good at baseball, but still drew the attention of scouts for his fastball and ability to throw strikes. He signed with the Boston Red Sox and debuted in pro ball at 22 years old in 1958. That year with Waterloo of the Class-D Midwest League, he went 7-5, 4.68 in 98 innings, with 106 strikeouts and 70 walks. After a decent first season, he played for Alpine of the Class-D Sophomore League in 1959 and put up a 23-6, 3.36 record in 228 innings, with 120 walks and 199 strikeouts. He made the huge jump from Class-D to Triple-A in one year, playing for Minneapolis of the American Association in 1960. Schwall went 16-9, 3.59 in 193 innings, though his strikeouts dropped to 109 for the season. He moved sideways to the Pacific Coast League to start 1961, making five starts for Seattle before getting the call to the majors. He had a terrific rookie season for the Boston Red Sox in 1961, going 15-7, 3.22 in 25 starts, completing ten games. He was named to the All-Star team and was also voted the AL Rookie of the Year. There were some red flags despite the success. In his 178.2 innings, he had 91 strikeouts and 110 walks. His sophomore season didn’t go as well as his rookie year, and those poor walk/strikeouts rates showed in his results. Schwall posted a 9-15, 4.94 record in 32 starts and 182.1 innings, with 121 walks and 89 strikeouts. The difference in the two seasons showed in his innings total comparison, pitching just 3.2 more innings in 1962, despite making seven more starts and one relief appearance.
The Pirates acquired Schwall in a four-player deal that included them giving up power hitting first baseman Dick Stuart in November of 1962. Schwall had a 3.33 ERA in 167.2 innings during his first season with the Pirates, but his record suffered from playing for a sub .500 team. He went 6-12 and didn’t win a game after July 16th, going 0-8 in nine starts and nine relief appearances over the last 71 games of the season. He completely turned around his control in one year, issuing a 74:86 BB/SO ratio for the Pirates, which included 13 intentional walks (after just two total intentional walks with Boston). He began the 1964 season in the majors, but ended up spending half of year (early May until mid-July) in the minors. Schwall went 4-3, 4.35 in 49.2 innings over nine starts and six relief appearances for the 1964 Pirates. He was in the majors for all of 1965 and pitched the entire season in relief, picking up nine wins and four saves, while posting a 2.92 ERA in 77 innings over 43 appearances. He had a 3-2, 2.16 record in 41.2 innings over 11 games (four starts) through the first two months of 1966, before the Pirates sent him to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for pitcher Billy O’Dell. Schwall finished the 1966 season by going 3-3, 4.37 in 45.1 innings over eight starts and three relief appearances with the Braves. He then pitched one game for Atlanta in 1967, which turned out to be his last appearance in the majors. He finished his pro career in the minors later that year. While with the Pirates he went 22-23, 3.24 in 336 innings over 102 games (38 starts). His career record stands at 49-48, 3.72 in 743 innings over 103 starts and 69 relief appearances.
Cal Abrams, outfielder for the 1953-54 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942, but due in part to serving three years in the Army during WWII, he didn’t make his Major League debut until 1949. Abrams was a strong minor league hitter, batting at least .331 every season from 1946-1950. He played just 19 games with Olean of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League before being inducted in the Army at 18 years old in January of 1943. He got out in January of 1946 and then went to Danville of the Class-B Three-I League, where he batted .331 with 86 walks, 100 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. Moving up two levels to Mobile of the Double-A Southern Association in 1947, he batted .345 with 124 walks, 56 extra-base hits and 134 runs scored in 154 games. Despite those great stats, he repeated the level for the entire 1948 season and put up similar results, albeit in 23 fewer games. He hit .337, with 120 runs, 23 doubles, ten triples, six homers and 154 walks. Abrams then went from Double-A to the majors for Opening Day in 1949, playing eight April games for the Dodgers before being sent to Fort Worth of the Double-A Texas League. He hit .336 with 137 walks and 116 runs in 120 games, putting up a .497 OBP. He got another look from Brooklyn in 1950, but still ended up spending half of the season in the minors, where he batted .333 in 58 games for St Paul of the Triple-A American Association. His big league time that year amounted to 54 plate appearances in 38 games. He hit .205 with a double and nine walks.
Abrams never got a chance to play full-time with the Dodgers during his four seasons in Brooklyn because they had a star packed lineup at the time. He hit .280 and had a .419 OBP in 1951, but from August 1st on, he was used strictly as a pinch-hitter, getting just 11 plate appearances over the last 60 games. He played 67 games that year and batted 167 times. The Dodgers traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in June 1952, then Cincinnati shipped him to Pittsburgh in October of that year as part of a three-for-one swap in exchange for Gus Bell. Abrams hit .274 with 21 walks and 13 extra-base hits in 81 games in 1952. For the Pirates, he played right field regularly in 1953, hitting .286 with 15 homers, 58 walks and 66 runs scored in 119 games. Just 17 games into the 1954 season, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for veteran pitcher Dick Littlefield. Abrams was batting .143 with ten walks in 52 plate appearances at the time of the deal. He hit .293, with 72 walks and 67 runs scored and an .821 OPS in 115 games for the Orioles that season. He followed that up with a .243 average and 21 extra-base hits in 118 games in 1955, though his 89 walks led to a .413 OBP. Despite stealing 20+ bases twice in the minors, he went 2-for-10 in steals that year and had just 12 steals in his entire big league career. The Orioles shipped him to the Chicago White Sox just two weeks after the 1955 season ended. By May of 1956 he was out of the majors, getting just five plate appearances over four games with Chicago. Abrams finished up as a .269 hitter in 567 big league games, with 257 runs, 64 doubles, 32 homers and 138 RBIs. He excelled at drawing walks, getting 304 free passes, which led to an impressive .386 OBP. He ended up playing the rest of the 1956 season and all of 1957 in the Triple-A International League (mostly with Miami), before retiring as a player.
Frank Colman, outfielder for the 1942-46 Pirates. Colman was born and raised in Canada, where he played amateur ball until signing his first pro deal in 1939. He hit .290 in limited time during his first season in pro ball, playing 33 of his 35 games for Batavia of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. He moved up two levels to Wilmington of the Class-B Interstate League in 1940, where he batted .361 with 16 extra-base hits in 73 games. Colman joined Toronto of the Double-A International League in 1941, and he batted .294 in 113 games, with 34 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs. In 1942, he hit .300 with 23 doubles, seven homers and 18 steals in 119 games for Toronto before joining the Pirates in September to make his Major League debut. The Pirates acquired him and teammate Jack Hallett on September 7, 1942 for what was described as “a sum of cash and several players to be named later”. Colman had a crazy debut with the Pirates on September 10, 1942, getting into a second inning collision with Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Murphy, which knocked Murphy out cold and he needed to be carried off the field in a stretcher. Murphy debuted in the majors that same day during the first game of a doubleheader. The collision happened in game two, which was called in the fourth inning due to the weather, so Colman’s first game in the majors didn’t actually make it to the record books. His recognized debut came two days later and he ended up batting .135 in ten games that year. Colman made the 1943 Opening Day roster, but through the first 82 games of the season, he played just 30 times and only started nine games, despite doing a decent job at the plate. He was limited by a leg injury suffered early in the season, which didn’t keep him from playing, but caused him to limp and receive treatment each day. He was sent back to Toronto one day after his final game on July 18th, where he finished the season. That year he hit .271 with a .731 OPS in 68 plate appearances for the Pirates.
The 1944 season was Colman’s first full season in the majors and he hit .270 with 30 runs, 20 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs in 99 games, spending most of his playing time in right field. He didn’t hit well the following season, hitting .209 in 77 games and 162 plate appearances. He set a career best with 11 doubles, but his OPS dropped 153 points from the previous season. Colman began the 1946 season with the Pirates before being sold to the New York Yankees on June 17, 1946. At the time of the deal, he was hitting .170 with one homer in 26 games for the Pirates. He played just five games for the 1946 Yankees, spending the rest of the year with Newark of the International League, which became a Triple-A level in 1946. Colman was a seldom-used bench player for the 1947 Yankees, getting 30 plate appearances in 22 games. After finishing up his big league career in August of 1947, he was sent back to Newark, where he spent the entire 1948 season. That was followed by two years in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with Seattle, then his final three seasons of pro ball were spent back with Toronto in the International League. In his five seasons with the Pirates, he hit .233 over 244 games, with 62 runs, 25 doubles 12 homers and 95 RBIs. He only attempted one stole base (unsuccessfully too) during his six seasons in the majors. Most of his playing time with the Pirates was spent in right field, but he also played 30 games at first base and 14 games in left field. He batted .163 with the Yankees, and all three of his extra-base hits were homers. He was a .304 career minor league hitter in 1,035 games. Colman was mostly a singles hitter early in his career, but in the later years, he reached double digits in home runs four times, topping out at 18 homers during the 1950 season. He had the distinction of wearing #3 during his two seasons in New York before they retired the number in 1948 for Babe Ruth.
Rip Wheeler, pitcher for the 1921-22 Pirates. He pitched just two games for the Pirates, one in each season with the team. His pro career began in 1916 at 18 years old, but he didn’t play again professionally until five years later according to his career stats. That first year saw him go 4-10 in 112 innings for Columbia of the Class-C South Atlantic League, where he allowed 5.38 runs per nine innings (ERA isn’t available). I was able to find him being acquired by Springfield of the Class-D Western Association from Louisville of the Double-A American Association during the middle of the 1920 season, but he has no stats available for either team. He also signed with Bay City of the Class-B Michigan-Ontario League 1919, but once again no stats are available, which sometimes means the player was only there for a short time and didn’t play enough to get included in the stats (some sources required ten games to get listed in final team stats). Wheeler played some semi-pro ball late in 1919, where he was called a well known first class pitcher.
Wheeler was back in pro ball in 1921, where he won 23 games and pitched 263 innings before he joined the Pirates late in the season. He began the year pitching for London of the Michigan-Ontario League, going 11-3, 3.02 in 125 innings, before getting his break when the Pirates let him throw batting practice during a tryout before an exhibition game on July 8th. He impressed manager George Gibson enough that the Pirates sent him to their affiliate (Birmingham of the Class-A Southern Association) to finish out the season. He joined the Pirates on September 19th and made his Major League debut on September 30, 1921 in relief of Hal Carlson, who gave up eight runs to the St Louis Cardinals through 4.1 innings. Wheeler pitched three innings, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk in the 12-4 loss. He returned to the minors in 1922, going 22-9, 3.35 in 263 innings for Wichita Falls of the Class-A Texas League. His one big league game that season came during the 13th game of the season and he pitched one scoreless inning, allowing a hit and two walks. On May 2nd, he was released on option to Rochester of the International League, though he was there for just one game before being sent to Wichita Falls. On December 16, 1922, the Pirates officially cut ties with him, releasing him outright to Wichita Falls.
Wheeler went 22-11, 3.61 in 274 innings for Wichita Falls in 1923, then made three September starts for the Chicago Cubs, earning his full-time big league job in 1924. He had a 4.88 ERA in 24 innings in 1923 with the Cubs. Wheeler spent the entire 1924 season with Chicago, which was also his last year in the majors. He went 3-6, 3.91 in 101.1 innings over 29 outings (four starts). He spent two more years with Wichita Falls (1925-26), then played for Evansville of the Three-I League in 1928. In 1939 at age 41, he pitched two innings for San Diego of the Pacific Coast League, 11 years after his previous final game of pro ball. His real name was Floyd and that is how he was most commonly referred to during his time in Pittsburgh and throughout his career. He had a sidearm delivery that was called puzzling for batters, and he was said to “scrape the grasstops” during his delivery.
William Fischer, catcher for the 1916-17 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1909 at the age of 18, playing for Fall Rivers in the Class-B New England League, where he batted .250 in 17 games. He spent the 1910-11 seasons playing with Binghamton of the Class-B New York State League, though he also saw time in the same league with Utica in 1910. After the 1910 season, he was drafted by the Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers). Fischer went to Spring Training with Brooklyn in 1911 and 1912, but failed to make the team each year. His stats aren’t available for his 87 games played in 1910, but it’s known that he hit .269 in 117 games in 1911 with Binghamton. At the beginning of 1912, he was traded to Toronto of the Double-A International League, the top level of the minor leagues at the time. He lasted just 34 games in Toronto, hitting .207 with no extra-base hits, before finishing the season back in the New York State League with Wilkes-Barre, where he hit .280 in 40 games. Brooklyn reacquired Fischer when they took him in the Rule 5 draft that September. He ended up playing two seasons (1913-14) in the majors for the Superbas. He hit .263 in 105 games, with one homer and 20 RBIs during that time. He did slightly better and saw more time in 1913, when he had a .700 OPS in 63 games. That OPS dropped to .615 in 43 games in 1914, despite just a three-point difference in his OBP.
Fischer broke his contract with Brooklyn and jumped to the Federal League for the 1915 season before returning to the National League to play for the Chicago Cubs in 1916. Fischer did outstanding in the Federal League with the Chicago Whales, hitting .329 with 23 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs in 105 games, but the league folded after just two years at the Major League level. With the 1916 Cubs, he hit .196 in 65 games, seeing a 301-point drop in his OPS compared to the previous year. The Pirates acquired him on July 29, 1916 in a three-player deal that appeared to be one-sided in favor of the Pirates, but neither team benefited much from the trade. Fischer would go on to play 42 games for Pittsburgh that season, hitting .257 with six RBIs in 113 at-bats, posting a solid .685 OPS for the deadball era. In 1917, he platooned at catcher for the Pirates with Walter Schmidt and Bill Wagner. It would be the last season in the majors for Fischer, and he hit .286 with 25 RBIs in 95 games. His time with the Pirates ended due to a contract hold out in 1918. He stayed at home to work during Spring Training and the early part of the season, until the Pirates agreed to release him to Binghamton of the International League on May 5, 1918.He ended up playing sporadically in the minors over the next 12 years, seeing action in 1918-19, 1924, 1927 and 1929. He hit just ten homers in his 412 Major League games, but twice he hit two homers in the same game. Fischer batted .274 in the majors, with 109 runs, 75 extra-base hits and 115 RBIs. He had 90 walks and 66 strikeouts in 1,224 plate appearances.
Chick Robitaille, pitcher for the 1904-05 Pirates. His career began in semi-pro ball in St Hyacinth, Canada before he went pro in 1901. He pitched 163 games for the Troy Trojans of the New York State League over four seasons before the Pirates purchased his contract in August of 1904. There are no records available for him other than games pitched during that time, but he was pitching well enough in 1902 that he was being pursued by the Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers) in the middle of the season. He also played some third base for Troy when he wasn’t pitching and the scouting report said that he was a fine fielder. The New York State League was considered to be Class-C when he debuted at 22 years old in 1901, then bumped up to Class-B in 1902, three steps from the majors. Robitaille was signed by the Pirates on August 30th and joined the team two days later, one day prior to his big league debut in Pittsburgh, which he won 2-1 over Brooklyn, allowing ten hits and a walk, while pitching a complete game. He made eight late season starts for the 1904 Pirates and had a 4-3, 1.91 record in 66 innings.
In 1905, Robitaille spent the entire season with Pittsburgh, making 12 starts and five relief appearances, posting a record of 8-5, 2.92 in 120.1 innings. He fell out of favor with manager Fred Clarke at a surprising time. He won a complete game 2-1 over St Louis on the road on June 28th. Robitaille didn’t pitch again until August 10th, and was even left home to practice on his own on July 10th while the team went on a 17-day road trip. On August 7th, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Pirates sold Robitaille to the Cincinnati Reds, going as far as patting themselves on the back for getting the scoop ahead of everyone else. The very next day it was reported that the St Louis Cardinals were after his services. Two days later he pitched five innings in relief and allowed just one run. Robitaille was left at home during another shorter road trip in September and he didn’t make a single appearance during the final 40 days of the season, yet the club still reserved him in September for the 1906 season.
Despite the success in the majors, Robitaille did not return with the Pirates in 1906, or with any other big league club. The Pirates acquired a strong starter in Vic Willis in the off-season and had a five-man rotation in place ahead of Robitaille. On January 18, 1906, the Pirates sold Robitaille and fellow pitcher Patsy Flaherty to Columbus of the American Association. He returned to the minors where he pitched eight more seasons, with the last six spent near his hometown in upstate New York. His minor league stats are far from completely known, but we do know that he won 21 games for Columbus of the Class-A American Association in 1907, and then matched that win total three years later with Utica of the New York State League. He pitched 298 innings in 1906 for Columbus and then followed with 297 innings during his 21-win season in 1907. His career finished at 34 years old with Bridgeport of the Class-B Eastern Association. His actual first name was Joseph, but was more commonly known as Chick during his baseball career. He was also referred to by his middle name Anthony at times. While in Pittsburgh, he was known by the name Robertaille, which was even phonetically written in the local papers as “rob-er-toy” as an introduction to the fans.