This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 8th, Kirby, Butters, Reddy and Smiling Pete

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Brian Burres, pitcher for the 2010-11 Pirates. He started his career as a 31st round selection in the 2000 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants, selected out of Mount Hood Community College. It’s a school that has produced four Major League players, but Burres is the only one who has been drafted since 1989. He was a draft-and-follow player, who signed shortly before the signing deadline in May of 2001. He split his first two seasons of pro ball between starting and relief work. He debuted with Salem-Keizer of the short-season Northwest League, going 3-1, 3.10 in 40.2 innings, with 38 strikeouts. Despite a 5-10, 4.75 record for Hagerstown of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2002, he had 119 strikeouts in 119.1 innings. He moved up to San Jose of the High-A California League in 2003 and pitched strictly in relief (39 games), posting a 3.86 ERA in 60.2 innings, with 64 strikeouts. He switched to a starting role during the 2004 season for San Jose and had his breakout season in the hitter-friendly league. Burres went 12-1, 2.84 in 123.2 innings, with 114 strikeouts, making 15 starts and 21 relief appearances. He moved up to the Double-A Eastern League in 2005 with Norwich and had a 9-6, 4.20 record in 128.2 innings over 24 starts and two relief outings, finishing with 105 strikeouts. Burres then got hit around in the Arizona Fall League after the season, posting an 8.24 ERA in six starts. After five seasons in the minors, he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles. That first season with Baltimore, he went 10-6, 3.76 in 26 Triple-A starts for Ottawa of the International League, picking up 110 strikeouts in 139 innings. He then had a successful Major League debut, posting a 2.25 ERA in eight innings over 11 relief appearances as a September call-up.

Burres spent most of the 2007-08 seasons in the majors with the Orioles, pitching 250.2 innings over that time, with a 13-18, 6.00 record. Putting up similar stats/work each year. In 2007 he went 6-8, 5.95 in 121 innings, making 17 starts and 20 relief appearances. In 2008, he went 7-10, 6.04 in 129.2 innings, with 22 starts and nine relief appearances. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him up off waivers in February 2009 and he made just two big league starts for Toronto, losing both, while giving up 12 runs in 6.1 innings. For Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League that year, he went 6-7, 4.76 in 107.2 innings. Burres signed with the Pirates as a free agent on December 31, 2009 and would end up making 13 starts and seven relief appearances with Pittsburgh in 2010. He went 4-5, 4.99 in 79.1 innings during that first season with the Pirates. He went 5-4, 4.50 in 82 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League that year. He re-signed with the Pirates for 2011 and went 5-9, 4.66 in 129.1 innings for Indianapolis before getting a September call-up. Burres made two starts and three relief appearances that September, going 1-0, 3.86 in 14 innings. He signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants for 2012 and he had a 5.40 ERA in 19 starts for Fresno of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He pitched until 2016 without making it back to the majors. He spent the 2013 season in China, then played in Triple-A for the Colorado Rockies for part of the 2014 season. Burres spent his final 2 1/2 seasons of pro ball playing for Southern Maryland of the independent Atlantic League. He also played one year of winter ball in Mexico and one year in Venezuela. In the majors, he had an 18-25, 5.75 record in 358.1 innings over 56 starts and 50 relief appearances.

Tom Butters, pitcher for the 1962-65 Pirates. It took him six full seasons after signing with the Pirates before he reached the majors in September of 1962. In his pro debut at 19 years old in 1957, Butters played for two low level teams, pitching a total of 111 innings, while posting a 5.35 ERA and issuing 103 walks. He had nearly identical records/workloads with both teams, but his control was much better (but still not good) with Jamestown of the Class-D New York-Penn League, where he walked 41 batters in 59 innings. He walked 62 in 52 innings with Aguascalientes of the Central Mexican League. His 1958 season was very similar, playing for two low level teams, while showing the wildness that held him back. However, he had much better results, putting up a 3.59 ERA in 158 innings, with 114 walks and 141 strikeouts. Once again he showed much better control at the lower level, finishing with 67 walks in 113 innings for Clinton of the Class-D Midwest League, and 47 walks in 45 innings for San Jose of the Class-C California League. Butters moved up to Wilson of the Class-B Carolina League in 1959, where he went 8-5, 4.79 in 92 innings, with 70 walks and 71 strikeouts. The 1960 season saw him play at three different levels, and he had a lot of success with Class-B Burlington of the Three-I League, but he struggled with two higher level clubs in limited work. His combined record for the year was 8-6, 3.35 in 129 innings, but he had a 1.43 ERA in 88 innings with Burlington. He had an 8.33 ERA in 27 innings for Low-A Savannah of the South Atlantic League, and a 5.79 ERA in 14 innings for Salt Lake City of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

During the 1961 season, Butters was loaned to the Minnesota Twins organization for the entire year. Pitching for Charlotte of the South Atlantic League, he had a 2.93 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 93.1 innings. He returned to the Pirates in 1962 and pitched well in the minors, posting a 1.80 ERA in 75 innings with Asheville of the South Atlantic League and a 2.86 ERA in 22 innings with Columbus of the Triple-A International League. Pittsburgh called him up in September and he pitched well in four games, allowing one run in six innings, but he still spent most of the 1963 season at Columbus before getting his second September trial. Butters had a 6-5, 2.69 record in and 128 strikeouts in 127 innings before getting his second big league shot. The Pirates used him six times in 1963, giving him his first big league start with just four games left in the season. He had a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings. He made the Opening Day roster in 1964, getting four starts and 24 relief appearances during the year. He spent most of the season with the Pirates, although he was sent to Triple-A in mid-July for a short time. In 64.1 big league innings that year, he had a 2-2, 2.38 record with 58 strikeouts. During Spring Training of 1965, he got into a car accident that left him with severe whiplash and it basically ended his career. Butters pitched five times for the 1965 Pirates before being released, allowing eight runs in nine innings. He tried to make comeback in  Spring Training of 1966 with the Pirates before retiring. He went 2-3, 3.10 in 95.2 innings with the Pirates, making five starts and 38 relief appearances. Despite possessing nice velocity on his fastball, he also often mixed in a knuckleball during games. After his playing days, he made a bigger name for himself as the Athletic Director at Duke from 1977 until 1997. He began working at Duke shortly after his baseball career ended.

Kirby Higbe, pitcher for the 1947-49 Pirates. He had a rough introduction to pro ball at 18 years old in 1933. Playing in the Class-A Western League with Wichita, which was a bit advanced for a young pitcher with no experience, Higbe gave up 38 runs in 34 innings, while walking 36 batters. He pitched just 14 innings in 1934 with Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association and didn’t do much better, posting an 8.36 ERA. He then saw regular mound time for the first time in 1935 while playing for Portsmouth of the Class-B Piedmont League. That year he went 10-13, 3.93 in 206 innings. He split the 1936 season, pitching for Portsmouth again, as well as Columbia of the Class-B South Atlantic League. Higbe went 11-12, 5.20 in 187 innings between both stops. In 1937, he pitched for Moline of the Class-B Three-I League, where he went 21-5 in 215 innings (ERA isn’t available for this league). That earned him his first big league cup of coffee, and it was just one cup, getting a five-inning relief appearance for the Chicago Cubs on October 3, 1937. The Cubs sent him to Birmingham of the Southern Association in 1938, where he went 15-10, 3.96 in 218 innings. That performance led to two September starts for the Cubs and an Opening Day spot in 1939. He gave up six runs over ten innings during those 1938 starts, and did not receive a decision in either game.

Higbe went 2-1, 3.18 in 22.2 innings in 1939 before the Cubs traded him on May 29th to the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished the rest of the year by going 10-14, 4.85 in 187.1 innings over 26 starts and eight relief appearances. For the 1940 Phillies, Higbe had a 14-19, 3.72 record in 36 starts and five relief appearances. He led the league with 137 strikeouts, though he also led with 121 walks. He pitched 20 complete games and he threw 283 innings. He was elected to the All-Star game that year for the first time and he received mild MVP support, finishing 21st in the voting. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for three players and cash after the 1940 season ended. Higbe took full advantage of pitching for a better team, going 22-9, 3.14 in 298 innings. He led the league in wins, starts (39) and games pitched (48), but also led in earned runs, walks and wild pitches. He finished seventh in the MVP voting. He started game four of the World Series and got a no decision. That turned out to be his only postseason start. Higbe went 16-11, 3.25 in 221.2 innings in 1942, then followed that up by going 13-10, 3.70 in 185 innings in 1943. The Dodgers won 104 games in 1942, but they missed the World Series, as the St Louis Cardinals won 106 games.

Higbe missed all of the 1944-45 seasons while he was serving in the military during WWII. In his first year back from the war in 1946, he went 17-8, 3.03 in 210.2 innings, making the NL All-Star team for the second time in his career. He was in his ninth season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him on May 3, 1947 in a six-player deal with the Dodgers. He started off the 1947 season 2-0 with the Dodgers, but he had a 5.17 ERA and couldn’t make it through six innings in any of his three starts. For the 1947 Pirates, Higbe went 11-17, 3.72 in 225 innings. He made 30 starts, 16 relief appearances, and he picked up five saves. He lost five of his first seven starts and ended up leading the league in walks. He returned for 1948 in a relief role, pitching 56 games (eight starts) and finishing with an 8-7, 3.36 record in 158 innings. He got off to a slow start in 1949 and would be dealt to the New York Giants on June 6th for Ray Poat and Bobby Rhawn. He had a 13.50 ERA in 15.1 innings with the Pirates at the time of the deal, and then he posted a 3.47 ERA in 80.1 innings in 37 appearances (two starts) with the Giants. Higbe would finish his big league career in 1950 with a 4.93 ERA in 34.2 innings over 18 appearances. He spent the next three seasons pitching in the minors before retiring. In his final season (1953) he had 18 wins and threw 249 innings at 38 years old, though he played nearly half of that year with Forest City of the Class-D Tar Heel League, six levels below the majors. In his 12-year big league career, he had a 118-101, 3.69 record in 1,952.1 innings, with 238 starts and 180 relief appearances. He threw 98 complete games and 11 shutouts, while picking up 24 saves (not an official stat at the time). Higbe had control issues during his entire career, four times leading the league in walks. He ended up with 979 career base on balls, while recording 971 strikeouts. His actual first name was Walter, but he went by Kirby during his baseball days.

Reddy Grey, left fielder for the Pirates on May 28, 1903. On a trip to Boston on May 26, 1903, Pittsburgh found themselves short on players and in need of an outfielder. They used star pitcher Deacon Phillippe in left field on May 27th in place of a sick Fred Clarke. They also didn’t have third baseman Tommy Leach, who returned home to be with his ill son. On May 28th, the Pirates got 28-year-old Reddy Grey on loan from the Worcester Riddlers, a local minor league team from the Boston area. He belonged to Rochester up until just a few days before playing for the Pirates, and the local papers said that he was due to report in Worcester on May 28th (Worcester was off that day, traveling back from a road trip). Grey left Rochester during the middle of the 1902 season without any notice. They held on to his rights for a time until they decided to give him to Worcester, so his game with the Pirates was actually his 1903 season debut. Grey played left field during the Pirates 7-6 win. He collected a single, a walk, two RBIs (he’s only credited with one now, but recaps from the day credit him with two) and he scored a run. He had just one ball hit his way and handled it cleanly. He was referred to as “Gray” in the papers and the Pittsburgh Press said “Gray proved to be no slouch. Wonder who he really is?”. When the Pirates left to go to Pittsburgh the next day, Grey joined his minor league team as the lead-off hitter playing center field, officially ending his big league career. He hit .310 with 25 runs and 12 extra-base hits in 56 games. The 1903 season was his last year in pro ball, ending his nine-year baseball career. He was a consistent .300 hitter in the minors and spent seven seasons in the Eastern League, a top minor league at the time, but his Major League career lasted just one day.

Grey’s full minor league stats are incomplete, but it’s known that he debuted at age 20 in 1895, splitting the season between Jackson of the Class-B Michigan State League and Findlay of the Interstate League. In 1896, he played for Fort Wayne of the Interstate League (classified as Class-C that year). Grey hit .309 in 133 games for Buffalo of the Eastern League in 1897, finishing with 118 runs, 29 doubles, 11 triples, two homers and 19 stolen bases. He followed it up by batting .300+ in back-to-back seasons for Toronto of the Eastern League in 1898-99. In 1898 he hit .320 in 122 games, with 110 runs, 24 doubles, nine triples, four homers and 21 steals. The next year he batted .317 in 112 games, with 90 runs, 15 doubles, nine triples, nine homers and 33 steals. There are no stats available for his time in Toronto in 1900, but a recap said that he got injured mid-season and struggled as he played through it the rest of the year. Toronto released him and he ended up playing for Buffalo early in 1901 and then latched on with Rochester of the Eastern League to finish the season, and remained there until he left the club on his own in 1902 after hitting .250 in 46 games. It was said that he decided to go to dentistry school after leaving Rochester. He ended his career as a pitcher, despite having no known prior pitching records.  His real name was Romer Carl Grey, making him the only player with the name Romer to play in the majors. The nickname “Reddy” came from his hair color. Prior to his final season of pro ball, it was announced that he inherited a considerable sum of money and he was taking up a course in dentistry. His older brother was Zane Grey, a famous author, who was also his teammate with the 1895 Findlay Sluggers during Reddy’s first year of pro ball.

Pete Daniels, pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He went by the nickname “Smiling Pete”, but he probably wasn’t smiling much while pitching for the Alleghenys in 1890, a team that finished 23-113 on the season. He spent 14 seasons in the minors, winning 20 games at least five times and collecting at least 176 wins. Minor league records from that era are incomplete (he has two full seasons missing all stats) so his totals in both categories could be higher. Daniels debuted in pro ball at 23 years old in 1887 and pitched for Wichita and St Joseph of the Western League, combining to go 2-11, 4.50 in 124 innings, while putting up a .285 batting average. Despite that record, he had his first chance at the majors in the spring of 1888, when the Louisville Colonels of the American Association signed him to a deal. He failed to make the club and pitched in the minors with Danville of the Central Interstate League. That trial likely helped him in the future, as one of his fellow pitchers that spring was Guy Hecker. Daniels had a 20-20 record for Dallas of the Texas League in 1889. Ted Sullivan, who was a scout for the Alleghenys, signed Daniels in late October of 1889 after seeing the 25-year-old lefty pitch nine times during the season.

Two months before the 1890 season started, new Alleghenys manager Guy Hecker noted that Daniels was a pitcher with a lot of potential. Daniels was a late arrival to Spring Training (along with two other players) getting there 17 days into the preseason. His first exhibition start was a crazy game, with the Alleghenys putting up 34 runs against a minor league team from McKeesport. Daniels got some praise from the local papers, who were impressed at how hard he threw. He got two more spring starts, then he got the call on Opening Day and led the Alleghenys to a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Spiders. He then started the last game of the four-game series with Cleveland and got pulled early after pitching poorly, but the Alleghenys walked away with a 20-12 victory. After losing his next two games, his Pittsburgh career was over. He last pitched on May 9th, then got released seven days later, just a day after the team left him home (along with two other players) while they went on a road trip to Brooklyn. The last mention of him noted that he was paid up until his final day with the team before being released unconditionally. He went 1-2, 7.07 in 28 innings with the Alleghenys. He has no records for the 1890 season after being released, but I was able to track him down to playing for Washington of the Atlantic Association through August, then Olean of the New York-Penn League to finish the year. The Washington club was managed by Ted Sullivan, the scout who recommended him to Pittsburgh, so it’s no surprise that he ended up there until the team disbanded. Those stats have been mistakenly given to a man named Charles Daniels for some reason, an old pitcher who would have been playing for the first time in 12 years at age 41.

Daniels spent the next seven seasons in the minors before being purchased by the St Louis Browns (Cardinals) for the 1898 season. In 1891, he went 29-10, 0.79 in 321 innings for Quincy of the Illinois-Iowa League. He spent the next two years pitching for Mobile of the Class-B Southern Association, where he won a total of 42 games (28 losses). He threw 355 innings in 1892. He had an incredible pitching performance during the 1894 season for Kansas City of the Western League, where he went 37-14, 3.53, while throwing 444 innings. The next year he went 20-17, 4.05 and threw 331 innings for Kansas City, when the Western League became a Class-A minor league during his second season with the club (it wasn’t classified in 1894). He split the 1896 season between Kansas City and Columbus, also of the Western League, though no stats are available. In 1897, Daniels spent the season with Columbus, going 12-3, 2.16 in 149.2 innings over 16 starts and seven relief appearances. At the end of the season, the St Louis Browns purchased his contract. His first start in 1898 was a 10-5 loss to Cy Young. A month later he lost by the same score to Hall of Famer Amos Rusie. Daniels went 1-6, 3.62 in 54.2 innings over six starts and four relief appearances through the end of May before being released, ending his big league career. He lost all six of his starts. Daniels finished his minor league career four seasons later, moving around a lot during that time. He pitched one game for Omaha of the Western League in 1898, then played for two teams in 1899 and two more in 1900. During those two seasons, he played for three different teams in the Class-B Interstate League. His final years were spent with Fort Wayne of the Class-A Western Association (1901) and Decatur of the Class-B Three-I League in 1902.

John Peters, shortstop for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his Major League career in the National Association in 1874, the only major league that predates the National League. Peters played two years for the Chicago White Stockings in the NA, batting .287 in 124 games, with 79 runs scored and 59 RBIs. The league played much shorter schedules with lots of exhibition games mixed in. Peters played 55 of 59 games in 1874 and he played all 69 games in 1875. Modern defensive metrics rank him as the best defensive player at any position in 1875. When the National League was formed in 1876, he played two seasons for a team by the same name, which is the current day Cubs franchise. From 1876-78 he batted over .300 each season, finishing in the top ten in batting all three years. He peaked at a .351 average in 1876, when he scored 70 runs and drove in 47 runs in 66 games (the season was 66 games long that year). He batted .317 in 60 games in 1877, with 45 runs and 41 RBIs. He played for the Milwaukee Grays in 1878 and put up a .309 average in 55 games, with 33 runs and 22 RBIs. That turned out to be the only season for that Milwaukee franchise, and Peters returned to the White Stockings for the 1879 season. His batting skills quickly went downhill after 1878, batting under .250 each of the next three years, but his defense at shortstop was still above average.

Peters hit .245 for Chicago in 1879, finishing with 45 runs and 31 RBIs in 83 games. He’s credited with walking just one time at season. That’s a little misleading without knowing that walks took eight balls at the time and the league leader had 29 walks. Peters then moved on to the Providence Grays for 1880, where he .228 and had just five extra-base hits (all doubles) in 86 games. He scored 30 runs and he had 24 RBIs. He played for the Buffalo Bisons in 1881 and hit .214 in 54 games, with 21 runs and 25 RBIs. When Pittsburgh joined the American Association in 1882, Peters signed as their everyday shortstop. He hit .288 with 46 runs scored and 11 extra-base hits in 78 games (the team played 79 games that year). His batting average ranked him seventh in the league and third highest on the Alleghenys. Over the next two seasons (his last two in baseball) he played just nine games with Pittsburgh, going 3-for-32 at the plate. Eight of those games came early in 1883 when he went 3-for-28 at the plate with three singles. In 1884, American Association teams had reserve teams at the start of the year. Those clubs were basically minor league clubs that allowed them to keep extra players around in case they were needed for the season, but the idea only lasted until late May because the reserve teams weren’t drawing big enough crowds to make financial sense to keep them. Peters played for the reserve club before joining the Alleghenys for his final big league game on June 11th. Two days later he was released, with manager Bob Ferguson saying that Peters had too many ideas of his own and he (Ferguson) intended on running the team his own way. Peters played minor league ball for the first time during the 1883 season with Springfield of the Northwestern, while also serving as the team’s manager. He was also a player-manager in the same league with Stillwater, which was his only other minor league experience. He was a .278 career hitter, with 373 runs scored and 107 extra-base hits in 615 games over 11 seasons in the majors.