This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 29th, Six Former Pirates Born on this Date

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Danny Kolb, relief pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in Illinois in the 17th round in 1993 by the Minnesota Twins, but he didn’t sign until 1995 when the Texas Rangers selected him in the sixth round out of Illinois State University. Kolb made the majors almost exactly four years to the day after he was drafted, but he didn’t see extended big league time until his fourth season in the majors. He was a starting pitcher throughout the minors, putting up strong numbers at the lower levels, including a 2.21 ERA in 53 innings as a rookie in pro ball in 1995. Despite that low ERA for the Gulf Coast League Rangers, he finished with a 1-7 record in 11 starts and one relief outing. That was followed by a 2.82 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 175.2 innings in 1996, spread out over three levels. Kolb made his first 20 starts for Charleston of the Low-A South Atlantic League, then had six starts for Port Charlotte of the High-A Florida State League and his final two starts came in Double-A with Tulsa of the Texas League. Despite the strong debut and quick movement in his second year, he hit a roadblock in the starting role at the upper levels, posting an ERA of 4.20 and higher during the next three years. He spent 1997 with Port Charlotte, pitching 133 innings there, while getting two starts for Tulsa. Kolb combined to go 4-12, 4.86, with 89 strikeouts in 144.1 innings. In 1998, he made 28 starts for Tulsa, going 12-11, 4.82 in 162.1 innings, with 76 walks and 83 strikeouts. He also threw one scoreless inning for Triple-A Oklahoma of the Pacific Coast League.

Kolb debuted with the Rangers in 1999, while splitting the minor league season between Tulsa and Oklahoma. He combined to go 6-5, 4.20 in 98.2 innings. The Rangers called him up as a reliever in June of 1999 and he had a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings over 16 games. He pitched just one big league game in 2000 and it did not go well. Kolb allowed five earned runs while recording just two outs. The rest of his time was spent in Oklahoma, where he had an 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings, before missing the remainder of the year after having Tommy John surgery on June 13th. After rehabbing for 39.2 innings over three levels of the minors, he made 17 big league appearances in 2001, resulting in a 4.70 ERA in 15.1 innings. While he spent the first half of 2002 injured with a rotator cuff partial tear, then rehabbed for 14.1 innings in the minors, he stepped into a regular relief role for the Rangers in July and pitched 34 games over the final three months. He had a 4.22 ERA in 32 innings. Kolb was released late in Spring Training in 2003 and quickly signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he turned his career around in a hurry after a dominating performance in the minors. He began the year with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League, where he had a 1.37 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39.1 innings. He joined the Brewers in mid-June and had a 1.96 ERA and 21 saves in 41.1 innings over 37 appearances.

Kolb followed up that breakout performance with a 2.98 ERA and 39 saves in 64 appearances in 2004, making the National League All-Star team. That success was quite impressive considering that he had just 21 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. The Brewers traded Kolb to the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2005 season, where he posted a 3-8, 5.93 record in 57.2 innings over 65 appearances. His WHIP went from 1.13 in 2004, to 1.85 in 2005. He was traded back to the Brewers in December of 2005 and failed to regain his form from the 2003-04 seasons. For the 2006 Brewers, he had a 4.84 ERA in 48.1 innings over 53 appearances. Kolb became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates in February of 2007. He spent most of the year in Triple-A (back in Indianapolis), while getting just three relief appearances with Pittsburgh in mid-June. In his brief time with the Pirates, he allowed three runs over three innings. He was designated for assignment on June 22nd and didn’t pitch after that point in 2007. He had a 3.15 ERA in Indianapolis over 20 innings. He became a free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox for 2008, pitching nine games in the minors before being released in late April, which effectively ended his career. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays a month later, but never pitched a game for them at any level. Kolb finished his nine-year big league career with an 11-23, 4.36 record in 286.2 innings over 290 appearances, recording 73 saves. His cousin Gary Kolb played for the 1968-69 Pirates, making them one of just 26 sets of relatives to play for the Pirates. During the 2003-04 seasons in Milwaukee, the Brewers had another pitcher in High-A ball named Dan Kolb.

Sean Lowe, pitcher for the 2002 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the St Louis Cardinals in 1992  out of Arizona State (selected 15th overall) and made his Major League debut with the Cardinals five seasons later. Lowe was originally drafted out of McLennan Community College, twice getting selected in the 43rd round. The Cincinnati Reds took him in 1989, followed by a selection by the Oakland A’s in 1990, so he really made a wise decision by returning to school.  He worked almost exclusively as a starting pitcher in the minors, but ended up mostly pitching in relief in the majors. Lowe debuted with a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings with Hamilton of the short-season New York-Penn League in 1992. He then got skipped to the High-A Florida State League in 1993, where he had a 4.23 ERA in 132.2 innings for St Petersburg, which was a high ERA for the pitcher-friendly league. He improved in 1994 while repeating the level, going 5-6, 3.47 in 114 innings, which led to a three-game stint in Double-A with Arkansas of the Texas League, where he had a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 innings. He stalled out a bit despite the nice debut at Double-A, spending all of 1995 and part of 1996 back in Arkansas. He went 9-8, 4.88 in 129 innings over 24 starts in 1995, then followed it up with a 6.00 ERA in 33 innings over six starts in 1996. Lowe spent the majority of the 1996 season in Triple-A with Louisville of the American Association, where he had a 4.70 ERA in 115 innings.

Lowe joined the Cardinals in late August of 1997, after going 6-10, 4.37, with 117 strikeouts in 131.2 innings for Louisville. He struggled in his first shot at the big league level, posting a 9.35 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances, totaling 17.1 innings. He had a strong 1998 season in Triple-A, as the Cardinals moved their affiliate to Memphis of the Pacific Coast League. Despite being in a higher-offense league, Lowe went 12-8, 3.18, with 114 strikeouts in 153 innings. His only big league time that year came in late May/early June and he had a 15.19 ERA in 5.1 innings over one start and three relief outings. After ten games in the majors between the 1997-98 seasons, he moved on to the Chicago White Sox, where he made 159 appearances over three season. The Cardinals traded him on February 9, 1999 for a minor league pitcher (John Ambrose) who never made the majors. Lowe instantly added value to the White Sox bullpen, pitching 64 games in 1999, posting a 3.67 ERA in 95.2 innings. He had a rough go of it in 2000 with a 5.48 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP in 70.2 innings over five starts and 45 relief appearances. He rebounded the next year while making 11 starts and 34 relief appearances. Lowe went 9-4, 3.61 in 127 innings in 2001. He set career highs in wins, innings and strikeouts (71) that season. He also picked up his only three career saves.

On December 13, 2001 the Pirates traded starting pitcher Todd Ritchie to Chicago in exchange for Lowe, Josh Fogg and Kip Wells. Lowe made 43 appearances (one start) for the Pirates before he was released in early September. In 69 innings for Pittsburgh, he had a 4-2, 5.35 record. He actually finished much better than he started the season. He had a 7.92 ERA through May 12th, but he posted a 3.89 ERA over his final 44 innings with the team. After being released, he finished that 2002 season with the Colorado Rockies, where he had an 8.71 ERA in 10.1 innings over eight appearances. Lowe then spent most of 2003 in the majors with the Kansas City Royals, where he had a 6.25 ERA in 44.2 innings over 28 outings. That was his last season in baseball, leaving him with a 23-15, 4.95 record in 440 innings over 248 career games, 22 as a starter.

Mike Kingery, outfielder for the 1996 Pirates. He made his Major League debut in 1986 with the Kansas City Royals, seven years after signing as an amateur free agent at 18 years old. Kingery started off slow in rookie ball (Gulf Coast League) in 1980, hitting .224 in 44 games, with a .610 OPS. He moved up to Class-A Charleston of the South Atlantic League in 1981 and posted a nice .713 OPS in 69 games, which included a .351 OBP, but his breakout year with 1982 when he repeated the level. Kingery hit .318 with 65 runs, 19 doubles, eight homers, 75 RBIs, 25 steals and 62 walks in 140 games, resulting in an .805 OPS. From then on he moved one level per year, though his numbers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (considered to be Advanced A-Ball, but still Class-A) in 1983 were not impressive, outside of stealing 31 bases. He batted .266 in 123 games for Fort Myers, with 68 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and 56 walks. The next year he batted .297 with Double-A Memphis of the Southern League, while drawing 93 walks in 139 games, leading to a .412 OBP. He had 65 runs, 19 doubles, 58 RBIs and 18 steals. In his first run through Triple-A, he had a .255 average and a .695 OPS in 132 games for Omaha of the American Association. He had 25 doubles and 61 walks, but for the first time his stole base percentage left something to be desired, going 16-for-28 in steals.

Kingery’s second year at Omaha was much better and led to his big league debut in July of 1986. before his debut with the Royals, he hit .332 with 25 extra-base hits,  22 steals and 39 walks in 79 games. In his first big league season, Kingery hit .258 in 62 games, with 25 runs and seven steals, while posting a .684 OPS. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in December of 1986, and then spent the entire 1987 season in the majors, something he would do just once before 1994. Kingery hit .280 in 120 games for the 1987 Mariners, with 25 doubles, nine homers and 52 RBIs. Despite solid stolen base numbers in the minors, he went 7-for-16 in steal attempts. Over the next five seasons, he bounced between the minors and majors. He hit just .203/.313/.276 in 57 big league games in 1988, while putting up an .857 OPS in 47 games for Triple-A Calgary of the Pacific Coast League. He then saw very limited big league action during the 1989 season, getting 84 plate appearances over 31 games. Kingery’s numbers even slipped a bit in the hitter-friendly Calgary, as his .789 OPS was three points below team average. He failed to make the Mariners out of Spring Training in 1990 and became a free agent. Kingery signed eight days later with the San Francisco Giants and began the year in Triple-A. He was called up in late May and provided some solid offense the rest of the season, hitting .295 in 105 games (41 starts), though low power/walk numbers led to a .673 OPS. He struggled in a deep bench role in 1991, batting .182 in 126 plate appearances over 91 games. A decent walk rate gave him a .280 OBP, but he had just four extra-base hits (no homers). Kingery signed with the Oakland A’s in 1992 and played just 12 big league games, hitting .107 in 28 at-bats, while spending the rest of the year with Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .306 in 99 games.

Kingery signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1993 and spent the entire season back with Omaha, where he had a .736 OPS in 116 games. He then signed with the Colorado Rockies and hit .349 with 39 extra-base hits in 105 games in 1994. At first glance, one would assume he was helped greatly by the thin air in Colorado, but he actually hit 29 points higher on the road that season. The following season his average dropped 80 points and his OPS plummeted 171 points. He batted .269 in 119 games, with career highs of 66 runs, 13 steals and 45 walks. The Rockies let him go via free agency at the end of the year and Kingery signed quickly with the Pirates, receiving a two-year contract. In 117 games in 1996, he hit .246 with three homers and 27 RBIs. He started 58 games all year and spent most of his time playing center field. He was released after the season and decided to retire from playing baseball to open a baseball school in Minnesota that he still runs to this day. He didn’t officially retire until after the season so he was still able to collect his 1997 paycheck from the Pirates. The Pirates said that Kingery was brought in to help with the defense in center field, but he ended up posting a -1.9 dWAR, which was easily the worst total of his career. Combined with the low offensive output, he finished with a -2.0 WAR on the season. In his ten seasons in the majors, he hit .268 with 30 homers, 219 RBIs, 292 runs scored and 45 stolen bases in 819 games.

Bob Steele, pitcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. He was born in Canada and made his pro debut in his home country in 1913 at 19 years old, playing for a team from Moose Jaw of the Western Canada League. He went 17-9 and pitched 243 innings during that first season of pro ball. He was playing for Victoria of the Northwestern League in 1914, where he went 18-13 (ERA isn’t available) in 295 innings, while picking up 188 strikeouts. He was acquired by the St Louis Cardinals after the season and spent the next year in the states with St Paul of the Double-A American Association, after going through Spring Training with the Cardinals. There was a story in the local St Louis papers on March 30, 1915 that he was looking for a wife so he could avoid going into military service in his home country, stating that he had a baseball career ahead of him and he didn’t know why Canada was involved in the war. He went 20-16, 2.48 in 316 innings in 1915 for St Paul, with 142 walks and 183 strikeouts. By the next season he was in the majors, playing for the Cardinals. Steele had a 3.41 ERA in his rookie season in 1916, a number that doesn’t sound bad, but was actually rather high for the time (the NL had a 2.61 league average in 1916). His record showed just how bad the team was that year, as he went 5-15 in 21 starts and eight relief appearances, throwing a total of 148 innings. In 1917, he began the year with the Cardinals, but in mid-June he was shipped to the Pirates in exchange for infielder Doug Baird. While it’s listed as a trade now, it technically wasn’t one. When the Cardinals picked up Baird off waivers on June 13th, Steele became available and the Pirates paid the $1,500 waiver fee to acquire him. So the two players traded roster places, but it was two waiver deals made one day apart. The Pirates finished with a 51-103 in 1917 and Steele went 5-11, despite a 2.76 ERA in 179.2 innings. On September 11th, he threw a complete game shutout against his old Cardinals teammates.

Steele began the 1918 season with the Pirates, going 2-3, 3.31 in 49 innings, before he was traded to Kansas City of the American Association as part of a deal to acquire pitcher Roy Sanders. Steele got to pitch in what was called a farewell game on June 30th and he took the loss, allowing two unearned runs in a complete game against St Louis.  He refused to report to Kansas City and instead he pitched for a team with the Delaware River Shipyard League on July 14th. Two days later, Kansas City sold his rights for $2,500 to the New York Giants. Steele threw a total of 17 innings without an earned run to end his time in Pittsburgh. He then threw 20.2 innings over his first three appearances with the Giants without allowing an earned run. That streak was snapped in the first inning of a game on July 31st against the Pirates. He pitched 12 games for the Giants that season, posting a 2.59 ERA in 66 innings, and then made one last appearance in April of 1919 before his Major League career ended. Steele was sold to a minor league team just days after his last appearance and he finished his baseball career later that year in the minors, going 6-9, 3.53 in 181 innings for Indianapolis of the American Association. He also pitched 12 games for an independent team from Oil City, Pa., winning ten times. He was then sold to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, but refused to report, even after they offered him a bonus to join the club. He remained in Oil City for the 1920-21 seasons and even opened up a business in town. He was barred from the majors at the time by Commissioner Kenesaw Landis, but he still found semi-pro work in 1922 in New York, then signed a three-year deal in 1923 for a team in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he decided to move. Steele went 16-38, 3.05 in 487.2 innings in the majors. He pitched 57 times as a starter and 34 times in relief, finishing with 28 complete games and four shutouts.

Duff Cooley, first baseman for the 1900 Pirates. He made the majors as a 20-year-old in 1893, and already had seven seasons in at the majors prior to the Pirates acquiring him for cash from the Philadelphia Phillies on April 30, 1900. Cooley was a .315 career hitter in 696 games at that point. Cooley burst onto the scene as a rookie, hitting .346 in 29 games for the St Louis Browns in 1893. He had just 21 games of pro ball experience before his debut, hitting .347 for Topeka of the Western Association. He played for St Joseph of the Western Association as well, but he put in good time in the majors. He hit .296 with 35 runs scored in 54 games in 1894, though it came with a low walk rate and just five extra-base hits. The 1894 season is at the top of the list for offense in baseball, so his .670 OPS was well below average for the league. Cooley was strong during the 1895 season, putting up a career year. He hit .342 in 133 games, with 108 runs scored, 194 hits, 20 triples, 27 stolen bases and 75 RBIs. Despite all of those triples, he had just 36 extra-base hits total. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the middle of the 1896 season and he finished the year with a .307 average in 104 games, hitting .307 in 40 games with St Louis and .307 in 64 games with the Phillies. He had 92 runs scored and stole 30 bases. In 1897, Cooley hit .329 and set a career high with 124 runs scored. He hit 14 doubles, 13 triples, four homers, 40 RBIs, 31 steals and 51 walks. He nearly matched that during the 1898 season, batting .312 with 123 runs scored in 149 games. He finished with 24 doubles, 12 triples, four homers, 55 RBIs, 17 steals and 48 walks.

In 1899, Cooley hit .276 with 15 doubles, eight triples, 31 RBIs and 75 runs scored in 94 games. That season was the first that he primarily played first base, after seeing more time at all three outfield positions in previous years. After being purchased by the Pirates just as the 1900 season starter, he played 66 games that year, hitting just .201 with 22 RBIs and 30 runs scored in 249 at-bats. Manager Fred Clarke kept him around for over a month after his final game, saying that he was good motivation for the other players to have on the bench. Cooley played his final game on July 21st and he was released on August 23rd, His only game during those five weeks was an exhibition game against a team from Atlantic City, NJ, which is where Cooley was sent after being released by the Pirates. While his defense was considered to be the best in the league, he wasn’t hitting well and he lost some speed, making him a detriment to the team whenever he could get on base. He began 1901 in the minors with Syracuse of the Eastern League, but he ended up playing another five seasons in the majors and even had a run of three solid seasons with the 1902-04 Boston Beaneaters.

After putting up a .258 average and a .639 OPS in 63 games during the 1901 season, Cooley hit .296 with 26 doubles, eight triples, 58 RBIs, 27 steals and 75 runs scored in 135 games in 1902. He batted .289 with 26 doubles, ten triples, 76 RBIs, 27 stolen bases and 70 runs scored in 138 games in 1903. He then had a .272 average, 30 extra-base hits and 70 RBIs in 122 games in 1904. During this time he mostly played left field, but still saw time each year at first base and occasionally played center field. He ended his big league career as a center fielder with the 1905 Detroit Tigers, hitting .247 in 97 games, with a .629 OPS. Cooley finished with a .294 career average, 224 stolen bases, 180 doubles, 102 triples, 557 RBIs and 849 runs scored in 1,317 games. After the 1905 season, he played another four seasons in the minors and managed for three years. At age 49 in 1922, he not only managed Topeka of the Southwestern League, he also pitched seven games. In 18 years of pro ball (minors and majors), he had over 2,000 career hits. His first name was actually Duff, one of two players with that first name in MLB history. The other was Duff Brumley for the 1994 Texas Rangers.

Hank Gastright, pitcher for the 1893 Pirates. He began his Major League career in the American Association in 1889, pitching for the Columbus Solons at 24 years old. He had one year of pro ball at the time, spending the 1888 season with Toledo of the Tri-State League (no stats are available). Gastright had a rough first season in the majors, going 10-16, 4.57 in 222.2 innings, but he really turned it around in 1890. That year he went 30-14, 2.94 in 401.1 innings, helping Columbus go from sixth place the previous season, to a second place finish. He completed 41 of his 45 starts, and threw four of his career six shutouts. His 199 strikeouts that year set a career high and placed him seventh in the league. He was helped out by the fact that the Player’s League was formed for the 1890 season, which spread out the talent around baseball, making the competition in the American Association much weaker for one year. In 1891 the Solons were back to a sixth place team and Gastright went 12-19, 3.78 in 283.2 innings over 33 starts, with 28 complete games. His ERA was just a few points above league average, so that record is indicative of his team’s performance.  The 1891 season was the final season for the American Association at the big league level, and Gastright joined the Washington Senators in the National League for the 1892 season, where he struggled with a 5.08 ERA in 79.2 innings over eight starts and three relief outings. He was signed by the Pirates on November 28th and they expected him to bounce back the next year because his arm was fine and the struggles were said to be due to illness.

Gastright got off to a good start for the Pirates in 1893, winning three of his first five starts. The Pirates also won another start he made, though he wasn’t around long enough to pick up the win. His last start came on June 1st and he made just two appearances over the next four weeks, both in relief. He was given ten days notice of his release on June 28th (a common practice back then) and he signed with the Boston Beaneaters on July 10th to finish the season. Despite a season ERA of 5.44 (It was 6.25 with the Pirates), Gastright had a 15-5 record, giving him the best winning percentage in the majors. He would pitch just 16 games in 1894 and one game in 1896 before his big league career was over. He had a 6.39 ERA in 93 innings for the Brooklyn Grooms in 1894. His final big league game was on June 5, 1896 when he pitched six innings in relief for the Cincinnati Reds and allowed six runs (three earned). During the 1895 season, he was said to be signing with minor league teams in Detroit, New Bedford and Providence, but he never pitched. That was due to him actually signing with New Bedford, then trying to back out when Providence gave him a better offer days later, but New Bedford held on to his rights. He was later stricken with typhoid fever, which kept him out of action until his one poor showing in 1896. He appeared to finish his pro career in the minors in 1897 with Hartford of the Class-B Atlantic League, where he went 13-7, 2.34 in 200.1 innings. However, he pitched briefly with Grand Rapids in the Class-B Central League six years later after doing well in practice. At the time, he was working as a police officer. Over seven big league seasons, he was 72-63, 4.20 in 1,301.1 innings, with 171 games pitched, 143 starts and 121 complete games.

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