This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 29th, Steven Brault and The First Sunday Home Game

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one game of note.

The Players

Steven Brault, pitcher for the 2016-21 Pirates. He was selected in the 11th round of the 2013 draft by the Baltimore Orioles out of Regis University. He’s the only draft pick from that school to make the majors and no one has been selected out of that school since. He debuted in pro ball in short-season ball with Aberdeen of the New York-Penn League, where he went 1-2, 2.09 in 12 starts, with 38 strikeouts in 43 innings. In 2014, he spent the majority of the year with Delmarva of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he went 9-8, 3.05 in 130 innings, with 115 strikeouts. He made three starts with Frederick of the High-A Carolina League and allowed one run in 16.1 innings. On February 20, 2015, he was traded to the Pirates, along with pitcher Stephen Tarpley, in exchange for Travis Snider. Brault went to Bradenton of the High-A Florida State League in 2015, where he had a 4-1, 3.02 record in 65.2 innings over 13 starts. He moved up to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League mid-season and did even better, finishing 9-3, 2.00 with 80 strikeouts in 90 innings and 15 starts. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the season and had a 4.91 ERA in five starts.

In 2016, Brault spent most of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, going 2-7, 3.91 in 71.1 innings, with 81 strikeouts. He debuted with the Pirates in July and had three separate stints with the team, going 0-3, 4.86 in 33.1 innings over seven starts and one relief appearance. Brault was outstanding with Indianapolis in 2017, going 10-5, 1.94 in 120.1 innings, with 109 strikeouts. He went 1-0, 4.67 in 34.2 innings for the Pirates, making four starts and seven relief appearances. He spent almost all of 2018 in the majors, putting up a 6-3, 4.61 record in 91.2 innings, with five starts and 40 relief appearances. He was back in a starting role for most of 2019 and had a 4-6, 5.16 record and 100 strikeouts in 113.1 innings over 19 starts and six relief outings. During the shortened 2020 season, Brault made ten starts and one relief appearance, going 1-3, 3.38 with 38 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. His 2021 season was interrupted by a left lat strain twice, which limited him to seven big league starts and some minor league rehab games. He went 0-3, 5.86 in 27.2 innings with the Pirates. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Chicago Cubs, where he opened the 2022 season on the injured list. During his time in Pittsburgh, he went 12-18, 4.77 in 343.1 innings spread over 52 starts and 55 relief appearances.

Rookie Davis, pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. He was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in 2011, taken in the 14th round out of Dixon HS in North Carolina. He signed too late to debut in 2011, then put up a 2.65 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17 innings during the 2012 season, while spending the season in the Gulf Coast League. Davis had a terrific season in 2013, mostly pitching with Staten Island in the short-season New York-Penn League. He had a 1.90 ERA in 13 starts and 52 innings pitched. That number included ten shutout innings over two starts with Low-A Charleston of the South Atlantic League. He remained with Charleston in 2014, where he went 7-8, 4.93 in 25 starts and two relief appearances, finishing with 106 strikeouts in 126 innings. The next year he split the season between High-A Tampa of the Florida State League (19 starts) and Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League (five starts, one relief outing), combining to go 8-7, 3.86 in 130.2 innings, with 129 strikeouts. After the 2015 season, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-for-one swap for Aroldis Chapman. Davis spent the majority of the 2016 season in Double-A with Pensacola of the Southern League, where he went 10-3, 2.94 in 101 innings. He made four starts and a relief appearance with Louisville of the Triple-A International League, posting a 7.50 ERA in 24 innings.

Despite having no success in Triple-A, Davis made his Major League debut for the 2017 Reds on April 6th, just a few days after making the Opening Day roster. He was injured three different times during the season and spent more than half of the year back in the minors, where he made 16 starts over three levels. For the Reds, he made six starts and one relief appearance, posting an 8.63 ERA in 24 innings. He made five of those appearances in the first month of the season, then returned for two September outings, before a hip injury ended his season early and cost him most of 2018. His only work in 2018 came in the minors during the second half of the season, putting up a 6.49 ERA over 26.1 innings (five starts and four relief appearances) split between three levels. Davis was signed as a minor league free agent by the Pirates on February 18, 2019. He made five big league appearances in the middle of the 2019 season, starting one of those games. He had a 6.75 ERA in 10.2 innings. Davis missed about half of the season due to multiple injuries, and spent the rest of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he had a 5.64 ERA in 52.2 innings. He left via free agency in October of 2019 and has since retired to run his own baseball academy in North Carolina. His real first name is William.

Tony Armas, pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He was a highly rated prospect, who never quite reached his potential in the majors. Armas spent his first eight seasons in the majors with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, going 48-60, 4.45 in 151 starts. He was signed out of Venezuela as an amateur free agent at 16 years old in 1994 by the New York Yankees. He debuted in 1995 and spent that season and most of 1996 in the Gulf Coast League. He allowed one run in 14 innings during the 1995 season, then had a 4-1, 3.15 record and 45 strikeouts in 45.1 innings for the GCL Yankees in 1996. He finished that season with Oneonta of the New York-Penn League, where he had a 5.74 ERA in three starts. Armas made it to High-A ball in 1997 before he was traded mid-season to the Boston Red Sox. At the time of the deal had put up a 1.05 ERA in nine starts with Greensboro of the Low-A South Atlantic League, followed by a 3-1, 3.33 record in 46 innings over nine starts for Tampa of the High-A Florida State League. His stay in Boston lasted just three starts with Sarasota of the Florida State League. Four months after acquiring him, he was traded to the Montreal Expos in a deal for Pedro Martinez.

Armas spent all of 1998 in High-A with Jupiter of the Florida State League, going 12-8, 2.88 in 153.1 innings over 27 starts, with 136 strikeouts. He moved up to Double-A in 1999, where he went 9-7, 2.89 with 106 strikeouts in 149.2 innings for Harrisburg of the Eastern League. He ended up making one spot start for the Expos that season in August, taking the loss, despite allowing one earned run over six innings. Armas pitched briefly in the minors in 2000 (five starts spread over two teams), spending the rest of his time with Montreal, where he went 7-9, 4.36 in 17 starts and 95 innings. His best season came in 2001, when he recorded 176 strikeouts in 196.2 innings and posted a 4.03 ERA in 34 starts. He had a 9-14 record that season, which was in line with the team’s 68-94 record. The Expos turned things around in 2002 and posted a winning record, which helped out Armas. He went 12-12, 4.44 in 164.1 innings over 29 starts, finishing with 131 strikeouts. He made just five starts in 2003 before a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery ended his season. He had a 2-1, 2.66 record in 31 innings at the time. He didn’t return to the majors until June of 2004 after five rehab starts. Armas had a rough season for the Expos, going 2-4, 4.88 in 72 innings over 16 starts. He was actually doing much better until his final two starts added over a full run to his season ERA. Armas missed the start of 2005 with a groin strain and he was out for the final month with shoulder inflammation. In between he went 7-7, 4.97 in 101.1 innings over 19 starts. He missed a month of 2006 with a strained forearm, but still managed to pitch 154 innings over 30 starts, going 9-12, with a 5.03 ERA.

The Pirates signed Armas as a free agent on February 1, 2007. He started off very slowly in Pittsburgh, going 0-3, 8.46 in seven starts before he was moved to the bullpen. In August, Armas moved back to a starting role and won four of his eight starts. He finished with a 4-5, 6.03 record in 31 games, 15 as a starter, with 97 innings pitched on the year. Following the season, he signed as a free agent with the New York Mets, where he pitched three games in the majors during that 2008 season. Those games would be the last of his big league career. Armas last pitched for the Atlanta Braves in the minors during the 2009 season before he was released in late July. His pro career finished that winter playing ball in Venezuela, where he played during four off-seasons throughout his career. Armas finished up with a 53-65, 4.65 record in 925.2 innings. He never pitched a complete game in 167 Major League starts. His father, who was also named Tony, began his career with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1971. He played four games for the 1976 Pirates before being traded away in a nine-player deal with the Oakland A’s in March of 1977. The younger Tony also had an uncle named Marcos Armas, who played for the 1993 A’s.

John Vander Wal, outfielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. He was originally an eighth round pick of the Houston Astros in 1984 out of high school, but he decided to attend Western Michigan University instead. Three years later, the Montreal Expos selected him in the third round. Vander Wal had a huge pro debut with Jamestown in the short-season New York-Penn League, which led to a quick promotion to High-A ball (West Palm Beach of the Florida State League) to finish the 1987 season. He batted .478 with 18 extra-base hits in 18 games in Jamestown, then hit .286 with 15 extra-base hits and a .775 OPS in 50 games after the promotion. He split the 1988 season evenly between West Palm Beach and Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League, hitting .269 with 72 runs, 29 doubles, 13 homers, 14 steals and a .778 OPS in 120 games. He spent the entire 1989 season in Jacksonville, though he only played 71 games, hitting .253 with six homers and a .719 OPS. It appeared as if he stalled at that level, but a third attempt in 1990 proved to be just what he needed. Vander Wal batted .303 with 36 extra-base hits in 77 games for Jacksonville, earning a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, where he batted .296/.358/.385 in 51 games. He had a big season in Indianapolis in 1991, which earned him a September look with the Expos. Vander Wal hit .293 with 36 doubles, eight triples, 15 homers and 79 walks in 133 games for Indianapolis that year, then batted .213 with one homer, one walk and a .583 OPS in 21 games for the Expos.

Vander Wal spent the entire 1992 season in the majors as a part-time left fielder (40 starts) and he received heavy usage off of the bench, which would become his calling card throughout his career. He batted .239 with 21 runs, four homers, 20 RBIs and a .669 OPS in 105 games that first full season in the majors. Vander Wal had a very similar role in 1993, though most of his playing time was at first base. He hit .233 with 34 runs, five homers, 30 RBIs and a .692 OPS in 106 games. He moved on to the Colorado Rockies in 1994 and didn’t see much of an improvement while switching to a high offense environment. His OPS went up for a third straight season, as he hit .245 with five homers, 15 RBIs and a .766 OPS in 91 games (127 plate appearances) during the strike-shortened season. Vander Wal finally hit his stride during the 1995 season, hitting .347 in 105 games, which led to a 1.026 OPS. He started just five games all season and batted 118 times. He received slightly more playing time in 1996, but his numbers regressed back to 1992-94 standards, as he hit .252 with five homers and 31 RBIs in 151 at-bats over 104 games. Vander Wal struggled so badly during the 1997 season that he spent a month back in the minors, where he hit .408 in 25 games for Colorado Springs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He hit .174 with one homer in 76 games that year for the Rockies, finishing with a .483 OPS in 102 plate appearances. His hitting returned in 1998 and he batted .288 with five homers and a .928 OPS in 89 games before the San Diego Padres acquired him on August 31st to help with their playoff run. He hit .240/.387/.360 in 20 games for the Padres, though he failed to collect an RBI. They ended up going to the World Series that year and Vander Wal was valuable in the playoffs, going 6-for-15 with a double, triple and a homer.

Vander Wal hit .272 with 18 doubles, six homers and 41 RBIs in 246 at-bats over 132 games in 1999. Up to that point that was easily his most playing time, but he would surpass that total in a big way over the next two seasons. The Pirates acquired him as one of three players they received from the Padres in a trade for outfielder Al Martin on February 23, 2000. The Pirates used Vander Wal often in right field in 2000, but he also saw time at first base, left field and was used frequently as a pinch-hitter. He had a career year at the plate in 2000, hitting .299 with 74 runs, 29 doubles, 24 homers, 94 RBIs, 72 walks and a .972 OPS in 461 plate appearances. His best home run total prior to 2000 was the six he hit during the 1999 season, and he had just 31 career homers going into that first season with the Pirates. He was used in the same role the following season, hitting .278 with 22 doubles, 11 homers and 50 RBIs through the end of July when he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants, along with Jason Schmidt, in return for Ryan Vogelsong and Armando Rios. Vander Wal ended up playing three more seasons, for three different teams, before retiring after the 2004 season. He didn’t do a lot for the Giants after the trade, hitting for a .744 OPS in 49 games, but the Giants won that trade easily due to the contributions of Schmidt. Vander Wal had a bench role for the New York Yankees in 2002, hitting .260 with 17 doubles, six homers and 20 RBIs in 84 games. He had a slightly expanded role with the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers, hitting .257 with 50 runs, 25 doubles, 14 homers, 45 RBIs and 46 walks in 117 games. He finished his career with the 2004 Cincinnati Reds, used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter. He struggled in that role, batting .118 in 42 games, while also seeing some minor league time. Vander Wal had a career average of .261 in 1,372 games, with 374 runs, 170 doubles, 97 homers, 430 RBIs and a .792 OPS. He pinch-hit over 600 times in his career, collecting 129 hits and 17 homers. His total of 28 pinch-hits in 1995 is a Major League record. His big 2000 season was worth 3.0 WAR, which was nearly half of his 6.2 career total for 14 seasons.

1934: First Sunday Game

While long-time Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was alive, he refused to play baseball in the city of Pittsburgh on a Sunday, citing state Blue Laws of the day which did not allow pro games to be played that day. After Dreyfuss passed in 1932, the Philadelphia Phillies and Pirates appealed to the state to allow Sunday baseball, and in 1934 the law was repealed. The first Sunday home game was scheduled for April 29, 1934. On that day, the Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a 9-5 score in front of 20,000 fans at Forbes Field. On the mound that day for Pittsburgh was Red Lucas, making his Pirates debut against the team that traded him during the off-season. The Pirates lineup had four Hall of Fame players at the top, including their entire outfield. Pie Traynor was on the bench at this time, limited to pinch-hitting duties due to an arm injury.

Lloyd Waner, CF
Paul Waner, RF
Freddie Lindstrom, LF
Arky Vaughan, SS
Gus Suhr, 1B
Cookie Lavagetto, 2B
Tommy Thevenow, 3B
Pat Veltman, C
Red Lucas, P

The Pirates collected twelve hits during the game, including three each by Lloyd Waner and Gus Suhr. Paul Waner and Suhr both homered, and the latter drove in four runs. The Waner brothers each had two RBIs apiece. The Reds that day had two future Hall of Fame hitters in their lineup, Jim Bottomley at first base and Chick Hafey in center field. The also had two more come in as substitutes that day, catcher Ernie Lombardi pinch-hit and veteran pitcher Dazzy Vance, who began his career with the 1915 Pirates, finished off the game on the mound.