Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. We start with the one who was also traded on his birthday.
John Smiley, pitcher for the 1986-91 Pirates. He was a 12th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in the 1983 amateur draft, who made his Major League debut in September of 1986. Smiley was drafted as an 18-year-old out of Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, PA. He is just one of four players drafted out of that school and the only one to make it to the majors. He did not have a great debut in pro ball, posting a 5.29 ERA in 12 starts in the Gulf Coast League in 1983. Things got a little better with Macon of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1984, despite a 5-11 record. Smiley had a 3.95 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 130 innings over 19 starts and two relief appearances. He remained with Macon for part of 1985, putting up a 3-8, 4.67 record in 88.2 innings over 16 starts. He spent the rest of the year with Class-A Prince William of the Carolina League, posting a 5.14 ERA in ten starts. Smiley had 115 strikeouts in 144.2 innings that year, going from a rate of 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 1984, up to 7.2 strikeouts per nine frames in 1985. The Pirates place him back with Prince William in 1986 and put him in the bullpen, where he had a 3.10 ERA and 14 saves in 90 innings, over 48 appearances. He made the jump to the majors that September and never returned to the minors. Smiley had a 3.86 ERA in 11.2 innings during his first stint in the majors.
In 1987, Smiley made 63 relief appearances with the Pirates and did not do well, putting up a 5.63 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP in 75 innings, with 50 walks and 58 strikeouts. He spent his first two seasons in the bullpen before moving to the starting role for 1988. Seemingly out of nowhere, Smiley went 13-11 in 1988, while posting a 3.25 ERA in 205 innings. He made 32 starts, threw five complete games, one by shutout. He also had 129 strikeouts, which was his high with the Pirates. He then followed it up with a 12-8, 2.81 record in 205.1 innings over 28 starts in 1989, completing eight of those outings. He had 123 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP, which was the seventh best mark in the league. The Pirates won their first pennant in 11 seasons in 1990, but Smiley struggled on the mound. He went 9-10, 4.64, and his innings dropped down to 149 that season, after topping the 200 mark two straight years. He missed six weeks mid-season when he slammed his hand in a car door on May 19th, breaking a bone in his pitching hand. He pitched two shutout innings in relief during the NLCS.
In 1991, Pittsburgh won the National League East again and this time Smiley was a big part of it. He went 20-8, 3.08 in 207.2 innings, with 129 strikeouts again. That led to a third place finishing in the Cy Young voting, and he made his first All-Star appearance. He also received mild MVP support, finishing 14th in the voting. He got hit hard in both of his NLCS starts against the Atlanta Braves, lasting a total of just 2.2 innings between both games, with eight runs allowed. With one year left on his contract before free agency, the Pirates traded him on his 27th birthday to the Minnesota Twins for Denny Neagle and Midre Cummings. Smiley won 16 games and pitched a career high 241 innings for the Twins, but the Pirates were still able to make the playoffs for a third straight time without him. The deal worked out great for them, as Neagle became a star pitcher for a time, and then he was used to acquire Jason Schmidt. Smiley had a 3.08 ERA in his only season with the Twins, while topping his previous strikeout high total with 163 strikeouts on the season.
Smiley signed with the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent in 1993 and he won 50 games over the next five seasons, before injuries ended his career. His time in Cincinnati got off to a rough start, going 3-9, 5.62 in 105.2 innings in 1993 before an elbow injury sidelined him for the rest of the season in early July. He did better during the strike-shortened 1994 season, going 11-10, 3.86 in 158.2 innings over 24 starts before things were shut down. He also did well in the slightly shortened 1995 season, going 12-5, 3.46 in 176.2 innings, while making his second (and final) All-Star appearance. Smiley had a 13-14, 3.64 record in 217.1 innings in 1996, setting his career high with 171 strikeouts. He then saw his career come to a close late in the 1997 season after being traded to the Cleveland Indians. While warming up for a start in late September, he broke a bone in his arm near his shoulder. He was about to make his first appearance since August 30th, missing three weeks due to tendinitis in his elbow and shoulder. Smiley went 11-14, 5.31 that year in 154.1 innings, doing slightly better work in his 20 starts with the Reds, before posting a 5.54 ERA in six starts with the Indians. He spent the entire 1998 and 1999 seasons rehabbing his injury, with hopes of playing in 2000. He signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in January of 2000 after throwing off the mound at Three Rivers Stadium, but two weeks later shoulder pain caused him to stop pitching and his deal with the Pirates was voided, ending his career. With the Pirates, he went 60-42, 3.57 in 854 innings over 196 games. He had a 126-103, 3.80 career record in 12 seasons, throwing 1,907.2 innings.
Raul Chavez, catcher for the 2008 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela at 17 years old in 1990 by the Houston Astros. It took Chavez six years before he made the majors with the Montreal Expos at the end of the 1996 season. He debuted in pro ball with the 1990 Gulf Coast League Astros, where he batted .323 with a .745 OPS in 48 games. In 1991, he moved up to Class-A, playing with Burlington of the Midwest League, where he hit .257 in 114 games, with 54 runs, 17 doubles, three homers and a .631 OPS. In 1992, Chavez was with Asheville of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He hit .285 that year in 95 games, with 22 doubles, two homers and 40 RBIs. He moved up to Osceola of the High-A Florida State League in 1993 and struggled with the jump to a pitcher-friendly league, hitting .228 with a .525 OPS in 58 games. In 1994, Chavez spent the season with Jackson of the Double-A Texas League, hitting .219 in 89 games. Due to low power/walk numbers, he finished with a .532 OPS. That was followed by spending part of 1995 back in Jackson, along with a 32-game stint in Triple-A, with Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League. He put up slightly better results at the lower level, combining to hit .278 in 90 games, with 30 runs scored, 13 doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs. He was acquired by the Expos in a three-player trade in December of 1995.
Chavez spent most of 1996 with Triple-A Ottawa of the International League, where he hit .248 in 60 games, with ten doubles, two homers and 24 RBIs. His first shot at the majors saw him play just four games over four weeks and get just one start, which came on the final day of the season. He batted six times total and had one hit and one walk. Interestingly enough, he stole a base during that brief time, something he had not accomplished since one steal in 1994. Chavez made it back to the majors for two stints in 1997, playing a total of 13 games, in which he batted .269 with no extra-base hits or walks. His OBP was actually lower than his average due to a sacrifice fly. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in May of 1998 and played just one game for them in two years. He was 11 games into his third season with Ottawa at the time of the deal. Seattle sent him to Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .595 OPS in 76 games, playing in a very hitter-friendly park/league. His one game with the Mariners came on July 4, 1998 as a late replacement at catcher. In 1999, he batted .268 in 102 games for Tacoma, with 24 extra-base hits, 39 runs scored and 40 RBIs.
Chavez signed as a free agent with the Astros in January of 2000 and remained there through the end of Spring Training in 2006, spending most of his first four seasons in Triple-A with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. He played 14 games for the Astros in 2000 and hit his first home run, to go along with a .256 average and a .670 OPS. He spent all of 2001 in New Orleans, then returned to the big league level for two games in late September of 2002. He saw 19 big league games in 2003, hitting .270 with a .722 OPS in 38 plate appearances, then finally got an extended big league stay in 2004 when he played a career high 64 games. That year he hit .210 with no homers and 23 RBIs. Chavez was a backup for the Astros for most of 2005, but he hit just .172 in 37 games, with a lowly .472 OPS. Right before Opening Day in 2006, he was picked up off of waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. He hit .179 in 16 big league games in 2006, finishing with no extra-base hits and one walk. After spending all of 2007 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the New York Yankees, he signed with the Pirates as a free agent.
Prior to his one season in Pittsburgh, he had played 170 Major League games spread out over nine seasons. Chavez was called to the majors when Ryan Doumit got hurt in early May, then he stayed there as Doumit’s backup in early June when a struggling Ronny Paulino was sent to Triple-A instead. Chavez hit .259 with four doubles, one homer and ten RBIs in 42 games for the Pirates. He left via free agency following the 2008 season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He played 51 games for Toronto in 2009, batting .258 with eight doubles, two homers and 15 RBIs. Chavez then spent his final two seasons of pro ball in the minors, spending 2010 with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate (Las Vegas of the PCL) and 2011 at Triple-A Buffalo of the International League with the New York Mets. His final pro experience was winter ball in Venezuela during the 2011-12 off-season. It was his sixth year of playing winter ball in his home country. Chavez was a .231 hitter in 263 big league games, with 48 runs, 27 doubles, seven homers and 65 RBIs. He was never much of a minor league hitter, making it to the majors more because of his defense. In a career that lasted 21 years, he played 1,566 minor league games and he hit .252 with 65 homers. He threw out 41% of base runners in his big league career during a time when catchers averaged a 28% caught stealing rate.
Rod Scurry, pitcher for the 1980-85 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the first round of the 1974 amateur draft, taken 11th overall out of Hug HS in Nevada at 18 years old. Despite the fact he made it to Double-A to start the 1976 season, he didn’t make his Major League debut until four years later. He debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League in 1974, pitching 89 innings for Niagara Falls, finishing with a 5-6, 3.44 record and 102 strikeouts. He moved up to Salem of the Class-A Carolina League in his first full season in 1975 and he went 9-12, 3.66 in 150 innings, with 143 strikeouts. In Double-A Shreveport of the Texas League in 1976, he had a 3.88 ERA in 123 innings over 24 starts, with 83 walks and 83 strikeouts. He was back in Shreveport in 1977, where he did much better, putting up a 2.87 ERA in 18 starts, with 48 walks and 111 strikeouts in 113 innings. He was promoted late to Triple-A Columbus of the International League and had a 4.62 ERA in eight starts. Scurry split the 1978 season between the Double-A/Triple-A levels and struggled at both, posting a combined 5.38 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP in 92 innings, while also seeing his first minor league relief work. He split 1979 between the bullpen and starting (15 starts and 20 relief appearances), spending the entire year at Triple-A Portland, as the Pirates switched their affiliate from the International League to the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. His 4.13 ERA in 122 innings was enough to get him a September call-up, though he didn’t pitch for the World Series champs until the 1980 season.
Scurry was a starter for most of his minor league career with the Pirates, but once he made it to the majors, he was put in the bullpen full-time. He made just seven starts in his six years in Pittsburgh, all in 1981. He did well in his first year in the majors, posting a 2.15 ERA in 37.2 innings over 20 appearances, seeing sporadic mound time for the last four months of the season. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Scurry went 4-5, 3.77 in 74 innings, picking up seven saves. He had a 4.33 ERA in his seven starts, and a 2.97 ERA in relief. He had a big year in 1982, posting a 1.74 ERA in 76 appearances covering 103.2 innings, as he racked up a career high 14 saves. As good as his 1982 season was, his 1983 season was a major disappointment. His ERA ballooned to 5.56 in 61 appearances, and he walked 53 batters in 68 innings. Scurry turned things around in 1984, getting his ERA down to 2.53 and his WHIP was 1.08 on the season, though he was limited to 46.1 innings due to disabled list stints for drug dependency issues in April and an elbow injury in August. In September of 1985 the Pirates sold him to the New York Yankees after he posted a 3.21 ERA in 30 appearances that season. He finished up 1985 strong with the Yankees, putting up a 2.84 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings He played in New York in 1986, though he missed two full months with a knee injury, which limited him to 39.1 innings for the season. He had a 3.66 ERA in his 31 appearances that year. Scurry finished his big league career with the Seattle Mariners in 1988, after he spent the 1987 season in Triple-A with the San Francisco Giants. He went 0-2, 4.02 in 31.1 innings over 39 games in his one season with the Mariners. In 257 games for the Pirates, he went 17-28, 3.15 with 34 saves and 377.1 innings pitched. He finished with a 19-32, 3.24 record in 460.2 innings, with 431 strikeouts. Scurry passed away of a heart attack at 36 years old, just four years after his final game.
Cito Gaston, outfielder for the 1978 Pirates. He debuted in the majors with the Atlanta Braves at age 23 in 1967, three years after they signed him as an amateur free agent. He debuted in 1964 in Class-A ball, splitting the year between Greenville of the Western Carolinas League and Binghamton of the New York-Penn League. In 60 games that first year, he hit .231 with one homer, 20 RBIs and a 9:56 BB/SO ratio. In 1965, he spent the year struggling with West Palm Beach of the Class-A Florida State League, hitting just .188 in 70 games, with no homers and a .548 OPS. While it was considered to be a demotion, he had a big seasons in the minors with Batavia of the New York-Penn League in 1966, hitting .330 with 28 homers and 104 RBIs, prior to a late season push to Double-A Austin of the Texas League. The next year he batted .305 with 24 doubles, ten homers and an .801 OPS in 136 games with Austin before getting his first chance with the Braves. Gaston saw just nine games in September during his first stint in the majors, hitting .120 in 25 at-bats. He spent all of 1968 in the minors, with most of that time back in Double-A, then resurfaced with the San Diego Padres in their first year of existence after they selected him in the 1968 Expansion Draft. He didn’t do anything in 1969 that would make you think that his best big league season was on the horizon. Gaston batted .230 with 11 doubles, seven triples, two homers and 28 RBIs in 129 games as a rookie in 1969.
For most of his career, Gaston was more of a fourth outfielder type performer, but he had a big season in 1970 as a full-time player. That year he made his only All-Star appearance, hitting .318 with 92 runs, 26 doubles, nine triples, 29 homers and 93 RBIs in 146 games. All of those stats were the high marks of his career. His .907 OPS that year was 143 points higher than his second best mark. He received mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 24th in the voting. After his All-Star season, he quickly dropped back to earth, batting .228, with 17 homers, 61 RBIs and a .650 OPS in 141 games in 1971. That was followed .269 average, seven homers and 44 RBIs in 111 games in 1972, seeing a slight uptick in his OPS over the previous year. Gaston had a .250 average in 133 games, with 51 runs, 18 doubles, 16 homers and 57 RBIs in 1973. After hitting just .213 with 11 doubles, six homers and 33 RBIs in 106 games in 1974, the Padres traded him back to the Braves. Gaston was a backup during his four seasons in Atlanta, starting just 93 games total, with a handful of starts at first base each year. He played between 56 and 69 games each season during that stretch. In 1975, he hit .241 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 64 games. That was followed by his best season with the Braves, when he hit .291 with four homers, 25 RBIs and a .764 OPS in 69 games. He made just 25 starts that year. In 1977, Gaston really took the bench role, getting 11 starts and 93 plate appearances in 56 games that year. He hit .271 with three homers and 21 RBIs.
Gaston was in his 11th year in the majors when the Pirates purchased his contract from the Braves on September 22, 1978. With ten games left in the season and the Pirates trailing the first place Philadelphia Phillies by just 1.5 games in the standings, the team acquired Gaston’s veteran bat to help off the bench. Pittsburgh ended up using him just twice as the Phillies took the division. He went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and run scored. Before joining the Pirates, he was hitting .229 with one homer and nine RBIs in 124 plate appearances over 60 games. He played two years in the Mexican League following that 1978 season, which ended up being the last year of his Major League career. Gaston was a .256 hitter over 1,026 Major League games, with 314 runs scored, 106 doubles, 91 homers and 387 RBIs. In his career, he was a .254 in 254 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, with seven homers and 42 RBIs. Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons (1989-97, 2008-10) and he led them to World Series titles in 1992-93. He finished with an 894-837 record. During his first year as a manager, Toronto started the season 12-24 before Gaston took over and led them to a 77-49 record over the rest of the season. At the time, he was the team’s hitting coach.
Pete Reiser, outfielder for the 1951 Pirates. He originally signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 1937 at 18 years old, then became property of the Brooklyn Dodgers the next year when the Cardinals were forced to get rid of 74 of their minor league players because they violated rules about having multiple minor league affiliates in the same league. Reiser debuted in pro ball in Class-D ball, spending a large majority of his first season with Newport of the Northeast Arkansas League, where he hit .285 with 22 extra-base hits in 70 games. In his first year with the Dodgers, he batted .302, with 27 doubles, ten triples and 18 homers in 95 games for Superior of the Class-D Northern League. He then hit .301 after moving up three levels to Elmira of the Class-A Eastern League in 1939, though he was injured for a good portion of the year and played just 38 games. He was able to work his way to the majors by mid-season in 1940, after hitting .378 with 15 doubles, 12 triples and seven homers in 67 games for Elmira. Once he reached the Dodgers, he hit .293, with 34 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs in 58 games as a rookie. Reiser quickly became a household name in 1941, winning a batting title with his .343 average, while also leading the league in doubles (39), triples (17), total bases (299) and runs scored (117). In the outfield, he led all National League center fielders with 355 putouts and 14 assists. He made his first All-Star appearance and finished second in the MVP to teammate Dolph Camilli. Brooklyn had the top three spots in the MVP voting that year, with pitcher Whit Wyatt finishing third. He batted .200 with three extra-base hits in the World Series that year. Reiser batted .310 in 1942, with 33 doubles, ten homers, 64 RBIs and 89 runs scored. He made his second All-Star appearance that year and finished sixth in the MVP voting. He was a 23-year-old star when he enlisted in the military prior to the 1943 season. Reiser actually failed the physical to get into the Navy due to injuries he suffered playing baseball, before he was accepted into the Army. His time was mostly spent entertaining troops playing for the baseball team on base.
Reiser missed three years in the prime of his career, returning in 1946 to make his third (and final) All-Star appearance. He batted .277 in 122 games that first year back, with 75 runs scored, 73 RBIs and a league leading 34 stolen bases. He finished ninth in the MVP voting, the final time he received MVP support. Not only did he miss all of that time during the war, but he also had trouble staying healthy later in his career due to the hard-nosed play he showed on the field throughout his entire pro career. He batted .309 in 1947, though he was limited to 110 games, missing more than a month after he ran into the concrete wall at Ebbetts Field in a June 4th game against the Pirates. He actually did better after the injury, hitting .331 in the final 69 games. His .832 OPS that year was the third best of his career. In the World Series, he batted .250 with three walks and a run scored. The Dodgers lost to the New York Yankees in both years that Reisder appeared in the World Series.
Despite the strong finish to 1947, Reiser quickly fell off from that point. He hit just .236 in 64 games (33 starts) in 1948, though his .736 OPS that year was still better than league average. That was followed by a trade to the Boston Braves after the season. Reiser had a solid first year in Boston, putting up a .271 average, 32 runs, eight homers, 40 RBIs, and an .812 OPS over 84 games in 1949. He was released by the Braves after batting just .205 with one homers in 58 games in 1950. By the time the Pirates signed him in November of 1950, the injuries had taken their toll, and he was limited to a backup role. Reiser played 74 games for Pittsburgh, with 49 of those games coming off the bench. He hit .271 with 22 runs and 13 RBIs in 140 at-bats, finishing with a strong .811 OPS. The Pirates released him following the season and he signed with the Cleveland Indians, where he finished his career in 1952 by hitting .136 in 34 games. Reiser had a .295 career average and an .829 OPS in 862 Major League games. He led the National League in stolen bases twice, though he finished with just 87 career steals, after attempting just 18 steals in his final five years combined. He hit 58 homers, had 368 RBIs and he scored 473 runs.
Ralph Shafer, pinch-runner for the 1914 Pirates. The Pirates announced his signing on July 22, 1914, saying that he would report to the team within a few days, though he ended up showing up the next day. Shafer was in his first season of pro ball at the time, playing for Huntington of the Ohio State League, after previously playing college ball for the University of Cincinnati. That league was five levels below the majors at the time, or in other words, it was the equivalent of making the jump from short-season ball to the majors now. Shafer played his only Major League game three days after his signing was announced. In the 8th inning of a game on July 25th against the New York Giants, the Pirates trailed 4-2. With no one on and one out, Ham Hyatt collected a single off Christy Mathewson. Shafer was called off the bench to run for the slow-footed first baseman, who was pinch-hitting for pitcher Marty O’Toole. The next batter popped up the shortstop, then future Hall of Famer Max Carey struck out to end the inning. Shafer returned to the bench, having never left first base. Little did he know at the time, but his big league career was over. The following day the Pirates traveled to Long Branch, NJ to play an exhibition game, which was to be a tryout for a few young players who just joined the Pirates, among them being Shafer. The newspaper reported the next day that he played with a lot of energy during the exhibition game, but he was unlikely to play in the rest of the Giants-Pirates series.
On July 28th, it was reported that another young outfielder named John Collins seemed to be the better of the two new outfielders during pre-game fielding and batting practice. They said that if either saw any time it would be Collins, who made his debut just days later. The papers were correct and Collins would end up playing 49 games that season for the Pirates. On August 1st the Pirates played a doubleheader and it was said that if Shafer looked good in batting practice he would start one game. Two days later, after another exhibition game, Shafer and a pitcher were sent back to Pittsburgh while the rest of the team continued a road trip that had ten days left. Teams back in that era would leave lesser players at home to save on travel expenses, but the Pirates were doing so poorly during this period that they were trying new players almost daily. They used 30 different position players that season, despite the fact five of their players ended up playing over 140 games that year. Since he wasn’t playing, Shafer was allowed to return home to attend to some business matters. On August 5th, it was announced that he was released back to the Ohio State League because his rights didn’t actually belong to the Huntington club, so they didn’t have the authority to sell him. He ended up being assigned to the Lexington club and remained there through the end of the 1915 season.
Shafer played with Lexington in 1915 and hit .252 in 42 games. He was with Lexington for part of 1916, but spent more time two levels higher with Terre Haute of the Class-B Central League, where he hit .196 in 49 games. He has no 1917-1920 minors league records, but he returned for the 1921-22 seasons before retiring from baseball. He spent those final two seasons playing a total of 79 games for Kitchener of the Class-B Michigan-Ontario League. I was able to track him down to play for Marshalltown of the Central Association in 1917, a Class-D level of play. He became an athletic director at a high school in Evansville, Indiana, where he was in 1918 until joining in the war effort. He then played semi-pro ball near his home in Cincinnati during the 1919-20 seasons, before returning to pro ball for two more years, then went into coaching in 1923.
Jesse Hoffmeister, third baseman for the 1897 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1896, playing for two different teams (Youngstown and Toledo) in the Class-C Interstate League. His moving around that year would be a sign of things to come. Hoffmeister also played for two teams in the Interstate League in 1897 (the classified as a Class-B level), spending part of the year with Youngstown, while also playing for Springfield. The Pirates paid Springfield $500 for his release on July 22, 1897 according to one source, while another said the purchase price was $1,000. He was called the toughest man ever to play in the Interstate League, with a cannon for an arm. He was leading the league in average at the time, while hitting 15 homers in half of a season. If he stayed with the Pirates, the papers said that he would get a $1,900 salary for the season. He joined the Pirates on July 23, 1897 and was in the lineup the next day. He held the third base job through the end of the season. The 20-year-old Hoffmeister made quite an impression on the 4,000 Pirates fans who witnessed his first game. He collected three hits (two singles and a triple), scored three times and drove home six runs in a 16-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, while garnering the nickname “Hoffy” that same day. It was said that he spent more than two hours after the game talking to fans of the Pirates who were at his first game. He continued his hot hitting the rest of the way, batting .309 with 36 RBIs in 48 games. On September 28th, he had a single, triple and homer off of pitcher Dave Wright, who pitched just two big league games, with the first coming two years earlier for the Pirates, when he allowed six runs in two innings. Despite the strong performance on offense, Hoffmeister spent the rest of his ten-year pro career in the minors. His fielding was likely part of the cause, with 31 errors in those 48 games, including two in his first game. He had a .792 fielding percentage with the Pirates, which was exactly 100 points below a league average, which he had a hand in bringing down to that .892 mark.
In the 1897-98 off-season, the Pirates traded for third baseman Bill Gray, who was a much better fielder than Hoffmeister. The move didn’t exactly work out, as Gray hit just .229 with no homers in 137 games during his only season with the Pirates. Hoffmeister signed his contract to play with the Pirates in early February of 1898 and he was with the team through Spring Training, though he hand a finger injury on his throwing hand that severely affected his performance in the field. He stopped playing shortly after and became sick while remaining behind at the Spring Training spot in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Once healthy, he reported to Indianapolis of the Class-A Western League for the rest of the season, where he hit .297 with 18 extra-base hits and 43 runs in 64 games. He played for four different teams in 1899, including three in the Western League. Hoffmeister played in the minors until 1906, seeing action with 14 different teams during that stretch from 1898 until 1906, and that’s with him being out of pro ball in 1900. He had an odd season in 1901, getting released by Class-D Terre Haute of the Three-I League after hitting .233 in 11 games, followed by a .302 average in 86 games with Class-B New Orleans of the Southern Association. He batted .274 in 107 games for two different teams in the Southern Association in 1902, then continued that trend of playing for two teams for each of the next four years. His final two seasons were spent in the Class-D Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs. Until recent research uncovered the date, his birthday was unknown. He kept in shape in the off-season by bowling, a sport which he excelled in.
Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!