This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 12th, Alex McCarthy, Evan Meek and Four Obscure Pirates

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Evan Meek, pitcher for the 2008-12 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2002 out of high school, who ended up being a draft-and-follow player, signing in May of 2003, right before the deadline to sign. Meek went to the Appalachian League during his first season, where he posted a 7-1, 2.47 record and 47 strikeouts in 51 innings for Elizabethton. He made eight starts and six relief appearances. He made three very poor starts in 2004 at Low-A Quad Cities of the Midwest League, allowing seven runs and 15 walks in 5.2 innings. The rest of the year was spent back in Elizabethton, where he also struggled throwing strikes, issuing over one walk per inning. He finished the year with an 8.68 ERA and 40 walks in 28 innings. In 2005, his season consisted of 11 relief appearances in Low-A (Beloit of the Midwest League), with 36 walks and a 10.00 ERA in 18 innings. He was released by the Twins, then the San Diego Padres came calling with a minor league deal. In 2006, Meek went 6-6, 4.98, with 113 strikeouts in 119.1 innings for Lake Elsinore of the High-A California League. He was traded in late August to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he stayed in the same league and allowed five runs in five innings for Visalia.

In his only full season with the Devil Rays, Meek went 2-1, 4.30, with 69 strikeouts in 67 innings over 43 relief appearances for Montgomery of the Double-A Southern League. He then pitched in the Arizona Fall League and posted an 0.93 ERA in nine relief appearances. Meek joined the Pirates in the winter of 2007 as a Rule 5 pick, though the Pirates made a deal with the Rays (“Devil” was dropped in November of 2007) in May to keep him without the Rule 5 draft restrictions. He gave up 11 runs in 13 innings during that first year in Pittsburgh, while also posting a 2.51 ERA in 57.1 innings split between Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League and Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. After the season, the Pirates sent him to winter ball in Mexico, where he had ten saves and a 2.93 ERA in 18 games. After a few weeks with Indianapolis in 2009, he made 41 appearances that year for the Pirates, going 1-1, 3.45, with 42 strikeouts in 47 innings. Meek was an All-Star during the 2010 season when he posted a 2.14 ERA in 80 innings over 70 appearances. All three of those numbers were career bests. He had a 5-4 record, with 70 strikeouts and the only four saves of his career.

Meek ended up on the disabled list twice in 2011 due to right shoulder issues. He had a 3.48 ERA in 20.2 innings over 24 appearances with the Pirates that season, and also ended up pitching ten times on rehab in the minors. He pitched poorly in early 2012 and spent the majority of the year back in Triple-A. He had a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings that year for the Pirates, and a 3.13 ERA in 46 innings with Indianapolis. The Pirates let him go via free agency after the season and he signed a deal with the Texas Rangers for 2013. In five seasons in Pittsburgh, he pitched 153 games, going 7-7, 3.22 with four saves in 172.2 innings. Meek spent all of 2013 in Triple-A, seeing some time as a starter for the first time in seven years. He went 6-9, 4.50 in 108 innings that year for Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League. His only other big league experience ended up being an 0-4, 5.79 record in 23 appearances and 23.1 innings for the 2014 Baltimore Orioles. After his stint with the Orioles, he split the 2015 season between Korea and Triple-A for the Washington Nationals. His career ended after splitting the 2016 season between two independent teams in the Atlantic League.

Josh Phelps, first baseman for the 2007 Pirates. He was one of those rare Rule 5 draft picks who already had big league experience before he was picked, and he had plenty of it. Phelps had over 350 games in at the majors and six seasons of big league experience, when the Baltimore Orioles signed him as a minor league free agent on November 10, 2006. Less than a month later, the New York Yankees selected him in the Rule 5 draft. He would hit .263 in 36 games in New York through the end of June. He was put on waivers, where the Pirates picked him up. Playing in 58 games, mostly off the bench, he hit .351 with five homers and 19 RBIs for the Pirates. He was even used as a catcher when Ryan Doumit went down with an injury, getting two starts at the position, which were his first big league starts behind the plate in six years. Despite his versatility and his strong hitting, the Pirates dropped him from the roster in November of 2007 when they picked up pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier off waivers. Phelps played just 19 more Major League games after leaving Pittsburgh, all with the 2008 St Louis Cardinals. He was active in pro ball until 2011, spending the 2009 season in the minors with the San Francisco Giants, splitting the 2010 season between Triple-A for the Cleveland Indians and independent ball, and the 2011 season was spent in Italy. His 1.113 OPS with the Pirates is the highest for anyone with more than seven plate appearances for the team.

Phelps began his pro career in 1996 after the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the tenth round out of high school in Idaho, which isn’t where he got his start. He is one of 12 big league players born in Alaska, and he’s the all-time leader in most categories for that group. He batted .241 with 28 runs, five homers, 29 RBIs and a .686 OPS in 59 games for Medicine Hat of the short-season Pioneer League. He spent the next two seasons at Low-A with Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League. He hit  .210 in 68 games in 1997, finishing with 26 runs, 17 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs. He then batted .265 with 48 runs, 24 doubles, eight homers, 44 RBIs and a .737 OPS in 117 games in 1998. Phelps had a breakout the next year playing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League with Dunedin, where he hit .328 with 72 runs, 27 doubles, 20 homers and 88 RBIs in 110 games. His .941 OPS was 204 points higher than his previous best. He had a strange season in 2000 after that big year. He spent part of the year back in Dunedin, did poorly in a trial at Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League, and he played one big league game in June. Phelps combined to hit .263 with 16 doubles, 21 homers and 62 RBIs in 86 games in the minors, with most of that production coming with Dunedin.

Phelps hit .297 with 95 runs, 36 doubles, 31 homers, 97 RBIs, 80 walks and a .968 OPS in Tennessee in 2001. His walk total was exactly double his previous high in a season. He then saw action in eight games as a September call-up to the majors, going 0-for-12 with two walks and an RBI. Phelps played parts of two seasons in the majors before he played his first game at Triple-A in 2002, when he split the season evenly between the minors and majors. While with Syracuse of the International League, he hit .292 in 70 games, with 50 runs, 20 doubles, 24 homers and 64 RBIs. With the Blue Jays that year, he hit .309 with 20 doubles, 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 74 games. Between both stops, he had 81 extra-base hits and 122 RBIs. Phelps was a catcher until about a month into the 2002 season with Syracuse, when he made the switch to first base full-time.  In 2003, he saw his most big league time in one season. He hit .268 with 57 runs, 18 doubles, 20 homers, 66 RBIs and an .827 OPS in 119 games. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians midway through the 2004 season. Between the two stops that year, he hit .251 with 51 runs, 19 doubles, 17 homers and 61 RBIs in 103 games. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In 47 games in 2005, Phelps hit .266 with ten doubles, five homers and 26 RBIs. He spent the entire 2006 season in Triple-A with the Detroit Tigers, where he batted .308 with 24 homers, 90 RBIs and a .903 OPS, before signing his free agent deal with the Yankees. Phelps was a .273 hitter in 465 big league games, with 198 runs, 74 doubles, 64 homers, 244 RBIs and an .815 OPS. His 64 homers makes him the leader for players born in Alaska, but the competition for that spot was weak. The other 11 Alaskan born players combined to hit 21 homers.

Johnny Hetki, pitcher for the 1953-54 Pirates. He began pro ball in 1942 at 20 years old, but missed the next two years due to military service. He looked like a potential future star that first season of pro ball, going 17-9, 2.22 in 235 innings. He pitched 185 innings that year with Ogden of the Class-C Pioneer League, while putting in the other 50 innings with Birmingham of the Class-A Southern Association, where he had a slightly better ERA. When he returned from the Army in 1945, Hetki pitched well in the minors, earning a September call-up to the Cincinnati Reds. He played with Birmingham that season, going 16-10, 2.97 in 218 innings. During his September trial with the Reds, he had a 3.58 ERA in 32.2 innings over two starts and three relief appearances. Hetki went 6-6, 2.99 in 126.1 innings over 32 games (11 starts) during his first full season in the majors in 1946, but he really struggled over the next two years. Pitching mostly in relief in 1947, he went 3-4, 5.81 in 96 innings over 37 games (five starts). He had more walks (48) than strikeouts (31). That was followed by allowing seven runs over 6.2 innings during the first month of the 1948 season. Hetki spent most of 1948 and all of 1949 in the minors before coming back up to the majors with the 1950 Reds as a bullpen arm. He reported to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League in 1948, where he went 8-12, 3.78 in 143 innings over 19 starts and six relief appearances. He spent all of 1949 with Syracuse, putting up a 16-14, 4.03 record in 250 innings, completing 23 of his 32 starts.

Hetki pitched 22 times (one start) for the 1950 Reds, posting a 5.09 ERA in 53 innings. He was mostly used in a mop-up role, but on July 16th he pitched six scoreless innings to pick up an extra innings win. The Reds took the loss in each of his other 21 appearances that year. He then spent most of the 1951-52 seasons pitching for Toronto of the International League, where he went 19-10, 2.85 in 256 innings in 1951, followed by a 13-7, 2.91 record in 195 innings in 1952. He also pitched three early season games for the 1952 St Louis Browns, including one start. Hetki gave up seven runs in 9.1 innings during that brief stint, though only four of those runs were earned. The Pirates picked him up in the 1952 Rule 5 draft in December of 1952, paying $10,000 for his rights. He would pitch two full seasons for Pittsburgh out of the bullpen, getting into a total of 112 games with 201.1 innings pitched. He went 7-10, 4.38 with 12 saves during that time. He had much better results in 1953, posting a 3.95 ERA in 118.1 innings over 54 games (two starts). Hetki had a 4.99 ERA in 58 appearances (one start) during his final season in the majors in 1954. He returned to Toronto in 1955 for two years there before retiring as a player. He combined to go 12-9 with 246 innings pitched during those final two seasons. In eight big league seasons, he went 18-26, 4.39 in 525.1 innings. He made 161 minor league starts over eight seasons, but he started just 23 games in the majors, with 11 of those outings coming during the 1946 season. He had eight big league complete games and 12 saves. He passed away in 2019 at 96 years old, making him one of the longest living Pirates players.

Hank Borowy, pitcher for the 1950 Pirates. He didn’t start pro ball until he was 23 years old, but he started at a high level, playing his first three years for Newark of the International League, an affiliate of the New York Yankees. That league was Double-A at the time, which was the highest level of the minors until 1946 when the top level became known as Triple-A. He went 9-7, 4.82 in 112 innings over 18 starts in 1939 during his first season in the minors. In 1940, he went 12-10, 3.71 in 182 innings over 26 starts and three relief appearances, then improved again in 1941 by going 17-10, 2.91 in 229 innings. His strikeout totals aren’t available from his first two years, but he had 111 in 1941, while also cutting his walk rate for a second straight season, dropping that year down to 2.6 per nine innings from 5.1 as a rookie. Borowy had an outstanding rookie season for the Yankees in 1942, going 15-4, 2.52 in 178.1 innings over 21 starts and four relief appearances. He tossed 13 complete games, including four shutouts. In the World Series, he started game four and allowed six runs over three innings. He finished 21st in the MVP voting that season, the first of three times he received MVP votes in his career. Borowy went 14-9, 2.82 in 217.1 innings in 1943, with 14 complete games (27 starts) and three shutouts. His 113 strikeouts that year were his career high, and that total placed him eighth among all American League pitchers. The Yankees made the World Series again and this time he allowed two runs over eight innings in a win during game three of the series. His workload increased in 1944 when he went 17-12, 2.64 in 252.2 innings over 30 starts and five relief appearances. He set a career high with 19 complete games, and also added three more shutouts to his resume. His 107 strikeouts ranked him eighth in the league. His was an All-Star for the first time that year and received very mild support for the MVP award.

Borowy won 21 games in 1945, while splitting the year between the Chicago Cubs and Yankees. The Cubs acquired him on July 27th for a price reported to be $97,000. He threw a career high 254.2 innings and he posted a 2.65 ERA, while completing 18 of his 32 starts. The Cubs made the World Series and he started three games, plus pitched in relief in another outing. He went 2-2, 4.00 in 18 innings. Despite getting elected to the American League All-Star team (no game played in 1945 due to war travel restrictions), he finished sixth in the National League MVP voting. In 1946, Borowy went 12-10, 3.76 in 201 innings, showing a downward trend that would continue for the next two years. He completed eight of 28 starts, his lowest total of complete games to that point. He was 8-12, 4.38 in 183 innings in 1947, making 25 starts and 15 relief appearances. He finished with seven complete games that year. He went 5-10, 4.89 in 127 innings over 17 starts and 22 relief appearances in 1948. He was part of a four-player deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 1948, with two players going each way.

Borowy made 28 starts for the Phillies in 1949, going 12-12, 4.19 in 193.1 innings, with 12 complete games and one shutout. That shutout gave him eight straight seasons with at least one shutout, though it was also his last big league shutout. He pitched just three times in relief over the first two months of the 1950 season, and was being used mostly as a batting practice pitcher. The Pirates picked him up off waivers in mid-June 1950 from the Phillies, paying the $10,000 fee for his rights. Borowy had a 104-76 career record at that point. For the Pirates, he was put into the starting rotation and got hit hard in his two starts, including one against the Phillies just ten days after he was acquired. He got one more start and eight relief appearances before the Pirates sold him to the Detroit Tigers for more than what they had paid to the Phillies 52 days earlier. He was 1-3, 6.39 in 25.1 innings for Pittsburgh. Borowy would pitch 39 games for the Tigers over the next two years, posting a 5.42 ERA in 78 innings, before he was released following the 1951 season. He pitched for Buffalo of the International League in 1952 before retiring from baseball. He finished his ten-year big league career with a 108-82, 3.50 record in 1,717 innings. He made 214 starts and 100 relief appearances, finishing with 94 complete games, 16 shutouts and seven saves.

Alex McCarthy, infielder for the 1910-17 Pirates. He was a teammate of Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey, playing for South Bend of the Class-B Central League when both players had their contracts purchased by the Pirates. McCarthy was in his first season of pro ball at the time, hitting .243 with 28 extra-base hits in 141 games. Pittsburgh let him play the last three games of the season at shortstop, with Honus Wagner moving over to first base to give the new 21-year-old kid a chance to play his normal position. On the final day of the season, he led off the game with a triple, though he also made two errors in the field and didn’t collect another hit. In 1911, he made the team out of Spring Training and was the backup middle infielder, getting into 33 games at shortstop and 11 at second base. He batted .240 with 18 runs, eight extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 50 games. The following year, the Pirates moved Dots Miller over to first base and McCarthy became the regular second baseman. He played a career high 111 games that year, hitting .277 with 17 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs, eight steals and 53 runs scored. He finished the year with the always lucky .666 OPS, which was the best of his career. In 1913, McCarthy struggled at the plate, so 22-year-old Jim Viox took over the second base job. Viox hit .317 to lead the team, while McCarthy hit .203 in 31 games. His only start after July 28th was the final game of the season on October 5th. The 1914 season was an even tougher one at the plate for McCarthy. He played strong defense in his 36 games at third base, but hit just .150 in 173 at-bats, finishing with a meager .371 OPS due to two extra-base hits and six walks. He was with the Pirates until September of 1915, when the team sold him to the Chicago Cubs. He was being used as the backup for all four infield positions for Pittsburgh that year, though he had played just 21 games all year, hitting .204 with one extra-base hit, three runs scored and three RBIs.

McCarthy was with the Cubs until July of 1916 when the Pirates reacquired him. He played a total of 60 games in Chicago, hitting .251 with 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored. He also had a combined .666 OPS during those two seasons in Chicago. After rejoining the Pirates, he saw plenty of time at shortstop over the end of the season, but hit just .199 in 50 games, with three extra-base hits and three RBIs. He missed the final two months of the 1917 season because he had rheumatism, which affected his legs and feet to a point that he could not walk. After hitting .219 with a .521 OPS in 49 games in 1917, he was traded to Kansas City of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time). McCarthy never returned to the majors. He played another ten seasons of pro ball before retiring, spending three years with Kansas City, five seasons in Milwaukee (American Association) and his last two years for Springfield (Illinois) of the Class-B Three-I League. He would also manage in the minors during three of those final ten seasons. His minor league stats were much better than the big league stats, though baseball also transitioned out of the deadball era during that time. From 1921-24 with Milwaukee, he hit between .283 and .306 each year, averaging 147 games played and he slugged .360 or better each year, a mark he never approached in the majors.

McCarthy played 372 games with the Pirates over eight seasons, hitting .229 with 34 doubles, 11 triples, five homers, 121 RBIs and 136 runs scored. During his big league career, he played 100+ games at second base, third base and shortstop. He was considered an above average defender and modern metrics give him positive defensive WAR numbers during each of his seven full seasons in the majors. We posted an Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article about McCarthy that has even more details about his time in Pittsburgh.

Harry Truby, second baseman for the 1896 Pirates. He began playing minor league ball as an 20-year-old in 1888 (his birth year has recently changed, making him two years older than originally thought), but didn’t make the majors until seven seasons later with the 1895 Chicago Colts (Cubs). Truby’s minor league stats have a lot of holes throughout the years, with almost nothing available prior to his big league debut. He missed the 1890 season due to being suspended by the Texas League for signing with two different teams. He played in eight different leagues during that time between his pro debut and big league debut. His limited stats for 1889 with Austin of the Texas League show a .231 average in 69 games, with 15 steals. With Rockford of the Illinois-Iowa League in 1892, Truby is credited with batting .246 in 81 games, with 66 runs, 31 extra-base hits and 12 steals. In 1893, he played 78 games in the Class-B Southern Association, seeing time with the Mobile and Nashville clubs. Incomplete stats from that year show a .248 average with 46 runs and 20 extra-base hits. In 1894, which was a huge year for offense in baseball due to new rules for pitchers, he batted .338 with 23 extra-base hits in 51 games for Memphis of the Southern Association. He also saw time that year with Richmond and Norfolk of the Virginia League. Truby started off 1895 strong, which led to his big league time. He hit .353 with 57 runs and 30 extra-base hits in 52 games for Rockford of the Class-B Western Association that year, while also batted .312 with 40 runs and 20 extra-base hits for Grand Rapids of the Class-A Western League.

Truby made his Major League debut in late August of 1895 with the Colts, playing 33 games at second base with a .336 average, 17 runs, 16 RBIs and a .763 OPS. He began the 1896 season back with the Colts, hitting .257 with 13 runs, six extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 29 games. On July 4th, the Pirates purchased his contract from Chicago. He made his debut three days later batting seventh and playing second base. Truby was said to likely be there only until the starting second baseman Louis Bierbauer recovered from a minor injury. He played poorly in his eight games, hitting .156 with five singles, and he made some poor plays in the field. When Bierbauer returned, Truby lost his spot in the lineup, and as it turned out, he never played in the majors again. He was sent to Toronto/Albany, a team in the Eastern League that the Pirates used as a farm team, where he played out the year. Truby played his final game on July 14th, then left for Albany that night. The Pirates were adding infielder Dick Padden from Toronto/Albany, so the two players switched spots. Truby saw his big league career end the day before Padden saw his only big league career begin.

Truby would be part of a fairly big trade for the Pirates in November of 1896. Pittsburgh gave up Jake Stenzel, the franchise leader with a .360 career average in Pittsburgh, along with three players from Toronto (including Truby), to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Steve Brodie and third baseman Jim Donnelly. Truby ended up playing another eight seasons in the minors before his playing career ended. He also managed for three seasons between 1899 and 1908. He played for 12 different teams in eight different leagues during his final six seasons in the minors. He put up some solid seasons in the minors after 1896, but no big years (according to available stats) and most of his work was done below Class-A ball, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. His best available stats show a .297 average and 25 extra-base in 1902 for Hartford of the Connecticut State League, which was Class-D ball at the time, equal to Low-A ball in the modern era. Truby’s final big league stats over two seasons show a .281 average in 70 games, with 31 runs, nine extra-base hits and 50 RBIs.