This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 15th, Al McBean and a Great Day from the Great One

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a great performance by the Great One.

The Players

Luis Oviedo, pitcher for the 2021 Pirates. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians on July 2, 2015 at 16 years old out of Venezuela. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, where he went 2-8, 4.00 in 14 starts, with 56 strikeouts in 63 innings. In 2017, he moved up to the rookie level Arizona League, where he had a 7.14 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 51.2 innings spread over seven starts and seven relief appearances. Oviedo spent most of his 2018 time in the short-season New York-Penn League with Mahoning Valley, where he was 4-2, 1.88 over nine starts, with 61 strikeouts in 48 innings. He made two starts for Lake County of the Low-A Midwest League as well, posting a 3.00 ERA in nine innings. In 2019, he spent the entire season in Lake County, going 6-6, 5.38 in 87 innings over 19 starts. He sat out the canceled 2020 minor league season, then pitched winter ball in Venezuela over the 2020-21 off-season. He gave up just one earned run over 14.1 innings that winter. The Pirates acquired him in the Rule 5 draft on December 10, 2020, though they had to work out a deal with the New York Mets to pick him with the ninth overall pick, then they purchased him from the Mets. He spent most of the season in the majors, seeing sporadic work, while they also placed him on the injured list at one point so he could go to the minors on a rehab assignment. For the 2021 Pirates, Oviedo went 1-2, 8.80 with 26 walks and 31 strikeouts in 29.2 innings over 22 appearances (one start). He suffered a minor ankle in Spring Training of 2022 and started the year on the injured list. After a few rehab appearances, he was placed on waivers, where he was picked up by Cleveland, returning him to his original team.

Justin Morneau, first baseman for the 2013 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick out of high school in Canada by the Minnesota Twins in 1999. Morneau batted .302 in 17 games in the Gulf Coast League in 1999, then repeated the level the next season and it was a record-breaking year. He put up a 1.143 OPS, which is the GCL record for OPS in a season over the league’s 54-season history. That league doesn’t exist anymore, so that record will stand. Morneau batted .402 with 21 doubles, ten homers and 58 RBIs in 52 games. He finished the season with six games in the short-season Appalachian League with Elizabethton. The 2001 season saw him dominate Low-A Quad Cities of the Midwest League for 64 games, putting up a .356 average and a 1.018 OPS. He then compiled strong stats in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (High-A) with Fort Myers, hitting .294 in 53 games, with 17 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs and an .821 OPS. He finished the season in Double-A, playing ten games for New Britain of the Eastern League. Between all three stops, Morneau hit .314 in 127 games, with 78 runs, 28 doubles, 16 homers, 97 RBIs and an .884 OPS. He spent the entire 2002 season in New Britain, where he hit .298 with 72 runs, 31 doubles, 16 homers, 80 RBIs and an .830 OPS in 126 games. Despite those numbers, he actually spent some brief time in Double-A in 2003, but by June he was up in the majors. He had a 1.004 OPS in 20 games with New Britain, and an .843 OPS in 71 games with Triple-A Rochester of the International League. Morneau, who was rated as a top 21 prospect in baseball three years in a row (2002-04), played 40 games for the 2003 Twins, hitting .226 with four homers, 16 RBIs and a .664 OPS.

Morneau split the 2004 season evenly between Rochester and the majors, but by mid-July he was up in the majors for good. He hit .306 with 23 doubles and 22 homers in 72 games for Rochester. In 74 games for the Twins that year, he hit .271 with 36 runs, 17 doubles, 19 homers and 58 RBIs. Between both stops he had 40 doubles and 42 homers. He played 141 games in 2005, hitting .239 with 62 runs, 23 doubles, 22 homers, 79 RBIs and a .741 OPS. Morneau had a huge breakout year in 2006 and he didn’t even play in the All-Star game. He hit .321 with 37 doubles, 34 homers, 130 RBIs and 97 runs, setting career bests in the latter three categories. He finished with a .934 OPS that was eighth best in the league. That led to the American League MVP award and his first of two Silver Slugger awards. The Twins lost in the ALDS, but in the three-game series, he hit .417 with two homers. In 2007, Morneau made the All-Star team for the first of four consecutive seasons, which would end up being his only four All-Star appearances. He hit .271 with 84 runs, 31 doubles, 31 homers, 111 RBIs, 64 walks and an .834 OPS, which earned him mild MVP support, finishing 20th in the voting. In 2008, he hit .300 with 97 runs, 23 homers, 129 RBIs and an .873 OPS, while setting a career highs with 47 doubles and 76 walks. He led the league with 163 games played, the only season he played every game. For his strong season, he had a second place finish in the MVP race and he won his second Silver Slugger award.

In 2009, Morneau had his last of four straight 100-RBI seasons, finishing exactly at the century mark. He hit .274 with 85 runs, 31 doubles, 30 homers and 72 walks.  He was on his way to a huge season in 2010, but it ended up being the downside of his career. He was hitting .345 with 25 doubles and 18 homers through 81 games when he suffered a season-ending concussion in early July. He received his fourth straight All-Star selection just before the injury. His 1.055 OPS was the highest of his career. The following season saw Morneau limited to 69 games due to multiple injuries. He batted just .227 with 16 doubles, four homers, 30 RBIs and a .618 OPS. He played 134 games in 2012 and he .267 with 63 runs, 26 doubles, 19 homers and 77 RBIs. He was healthy for all of 2013 and hit .259 with 56 runs, 32 doubles, 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 127 games before the Twins dealt him to the Pirates on August 31st for outfielder Alex Presley and pitcher Duke Welker. The Pirates made their first postseason appearance since 1979, and Morneau was picked up for the playoff push. He hit .260 in 25 games. He then hit .292 in the playoffs over six games. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he was hitting in the middle of the order and never came up in big spots. He batted 117 times total with the team (regular season and playoffs) and drove in three runs. He had just one hit with runners in scoring position during that time.

Morneau became a free agent after the 2013 season and signed with the Colorado Rockies, where he won the batting title with a .319 average, while hitting 32 doubles and 17 homers in 135 games. He scored 62 runs and had 82 RBIs. You would expect a huge split playing in Colorado, but his home stats were just slightly better than his road marks that year. Injuries limited him to 107 games over his final two seasons in the majors, spent with the 2015 Rockies and 2016 Chicago White Sox. He batted .310 with 16 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 49 games in 2015, followed by a .261 average, 14 doubles, six homers and 25 RBIs in 58 games for the White Sox. Morneau finished his 14-year big league career with a .281 average in 1,545 games, with 349 doubles, 247 homers, 985 RBIs, 772 runs scored and an .828 OPS. He posted a career 27.0 WAR, brought down a little by below average defense. His cousin Steve Sinclair pitched two seasons in the majors with the 1998-99 Toronto Blue Jays and 1999 Seattle Mariners.

Al McBean, pitcher for the 1961-68 and 1970 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958 out of the Virgin Islands for a $100 bonus, just the third Major Leaguer to be signed out of the Islands (the first pitcher). The second one was also a Pirates player, Joe Christopher, who debuted in the majors in 1959. With the recent reclassification of the 1920-48 Negro Leagues as Major Leagues, Alphonso Gerard pushed both players back from the top two spots. He played during the 1945-48 seasons. McBean went to a tryout run by the Pirates as a photographer in 1957, though he was encouraged by a friend to give the tryout a shot, since he had played sandlot ball. After seeing him run, field some grounders and make some strong throws, Pirates scout Howie Haak put him on the mound and agreed to sign after seeing him throw some fastballs and curves. McBean told the local papers in 1961 that his $100 bonus would be paid if he did well during Spring Training, which he did.

At 20 years old, McBean spent most of his first season in the Class-D Appalachian League, where he went 7-3, 3.09 in 99 innings over nine starts and 13 relief appearances. He also pitched six games for Clinton of the Class-D Midwest League that season. He moved up two levels to Class-B in 1959, and he had a 7-7, 4.28 record and 87 strikeouts in 124 innings over 17 starts and nine relief appearances for Wilson of the Carolina League. He moved up another level in 1960, playing with Savannah in the South Atlantic League, where he went 9-6, 3.93 in 116.2 innings, pitching mostly in relief (nine starts in 30 appearances). McBean was up in Triple-A with Columbus of the International League by the start of 1961, and in the majors for his big league debut on July 2nd. He had a 5-3, 2.14 record in 59 innings before getting promoted. He posted a 3-2, 3.75 record in 74.1 innings over 27 games during that rookie season. He made just two starts as a rookie, but the following season he was moved into the starting rotation.

McBean had a strong sophomore campaign, going 15-10, 3.70, finishing second on the team in wins to Bob Friend. He pitched 189.2 innings over 29 starts and four relief outings. His 119 strikeouts that year were his career high. Despite the strong stats, it was said that he wasn’t cut out for starting because he worried too much about his starts the whole previous night prior to the game, sometimes getting no sleep. He was moved to the relief role in 1963, getting just 16 starts during the 1963-67 seasons. He excelled in relief from the start, going 13-3, 2.57 in 111.1 innings over 55 appearances (seven starts) in 1963, with 11 saves to his credit. He went 8-3, 1.91 ERA in 58 games in 1964, throwing 89.2 innings, while setting a career high with 21 saves. In 1965, McBean went 6-6, 2.29 in 114 innings. He made a career high 62 appearances that year and he picked up 19 saves. The ERA slipped a bit in 1966, but it was still a solid performance. He went 4-3, 3.22 in 86.2 innings over 47 appearances. After picking up 51 saves over the previous three seasons, McBean had three saves in 1966. He would go on to save just nine more games in his final four seasons. In 1967, he had a 2.54 ERA in 131 innings, making 55 appearances, which included eight starts to end the season. He allowed one run over nine innings in three separate games, and another start saw him allow one run in eight innings.

In 1968, McBean was moved back to the starting role full-time and pitched two shutouts in his first five outings. He began to struggle as the year went on, and after two very poor outings in late August, he was moved back to the bullpen. He finished the year by going 9-12, 3.58 in a career high 198.1 innings, making 28 starts and eight relief appearances. He picked up nine of his 22 career complete games that year. McBean would be selected by the San Diego Padres that October in the expansion draft. He pitched one game for them before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had a tough 1969 season, going 2-7, 4.07 in 55.1 innings over 32 games (one start). After one appearance during the 1970 season, Los Angeles released McBean and he quickly signed back with the Pirates. His second stint with the team lasted less than a month before he was released, following an 8.10 ERA in seven outings. That release ended his big league career. He finished his pro career playing two more years in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. In 376 games (75 starts) for the Pirates, he had a 65-43, 3.08 record in 1,016 innings, with 59 saves.

Jimmy Wasdell, outfielder for the 1942-43 Pirates. His pro career began at age 21 in 1935, playing for Class-C Zanesville of the Middle Atlantic League. He batted .357 with 54 doubles, nine triples and ten homers in 125 games. He moved up two levels to the Class-A Southern Association in 1936, where he hit .336 with 22 doubles and 12 homers in 88 games for Nashville. He also played 12 games that year for Minneapolis of the Double-A American Association and hit .231, though he batted just 13 times. Wasdell spent 1937 with Chattanooga of the Southern Association, where he hit .319 in 118 games, with 15 doubles, eight triples and 12 homers. In September of 1937, he joined the Washington Senators and batted .255 with ten extra-base hits in 32 games. He spent a majority of the 1938 season with Washington, hitting .236 in 53 games, putting up a .603 OPS. He also saw time with Indianapolis of the American Association, where he had an .826 OPS in 36 games. The next year was once again split between the minors and majors, though most of the year was spent back with Minneapolis, where he hit .323 with 23 doubles and 29 homers in 102 games. He did well in his limited big league time that year, batting .303 in 29 games, with six extra-base hits and 13 RBIs. Wasdell hit .086 in ten games for the Senators in 1940 before they sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in late May. After the deal, he hit .278 in 77 games, with 35 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and a .746 OPS. In 1941, he started 56 games, mostly seeing time in right field. At 27 years old that season, he hit .298 with 39 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 48 RBIs in 94 games.

Wasdell was one of four players the Pirates acquired in the Arky Vaughan trade with the Dodgers on December 12, 1941. In parts of five seasons in the majors prior to the trade, he had a .270 average with 11 homers and 126 RBIs in 295 games. In 1942 for the Pirates, Wasdell saw plenty of action at the corner outfield positions, while also getting starts in center field and first base. He hit .259 with 44 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 47 walks and a .655 OPS in 122 games. Despite the fact he played fewer than 100 games in the outfield, he finished second among all National League outfielders with nine errors. His poor defense led to a 0.0 WAR for the season according to modern metrics. Wasdell wasn’t with the Pirates for long in 1943. After four pinch-hit appearances in the first week of the season, he was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies. He became a solid player in Philadelphia, playing there for 3 1/2 seasons, with his best season coming in 1945 when many of baseball’s top players were serving in WWII.

Over the rest of the 1943 season, Wasdell hit .261 in 141 games, with 54 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 67 RBIs and 47 walks. In 1944, he hit .277 in 133 games, with 47 runs scored, a career high 20 doubles, 40 RBIs, 45 walks and a .699 OPS. During his best year in 1945, he hit .300 with 60 RBIs in 134 games. He set career highs with 65 runs, eight triples, seven homers and 34 extra-base hits. That year, he struck out just eleven times in 541 plate appearances. He finished with 2.9 WAR in his career, and 1.8 of that total came during the 1945 season. His stats dropped off the next year and he had just 55 plate appearances in 26 games before he was released in mid-June. He signed with the Cleveland Indians two weeks later and combined with his Phillies stats to hit .261 with nine RBIs and eight runs scored in 58 games, starting just 14 of those games. He last played in the majors in 1947, getting one at-bat for the Indians that year before being released. He finished his pro career with three more seasons in the minors. Wasdell was a player/manager during his last season in the minors with Wellsville of the Class-D PONY League, then managed during the 1950 season. Over 11 seasons in the majors, he hit .273 in 888 games, with 109 doubles, 29 homers, 349 RBIs and 339 runs scored.

Jimmy Smith, shortstop for the 1916 Pirates. He was a light-hitting shortstop, who was a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. and an alumni of Duquesne University. There have been just ten players in Major League history who have attended that school and seven of them played with the Pirates. Without a day of minor league service, he spent the first two seasons of his big league career in the Federal League, considered an outlaw Major League at the time. Smith debuted at the end of the 1914 season and played just three games in his first year with the Chicago Chi-Feds. He was released after hitting .207 with 41 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs in 128 games in 1915, when he split the season between the Chicago Whales and Baltimore Terrapins. Since he never played organized ball before 1914, he didn’t have any ties to a pro (minors or majors) club after being released by the Federal League club. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent on February 6, 1916 and was described by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss as “young, fast and exciting”. He was with Pittsburgh at the beginning of the year, playing shortstop when Honus Wagner played first base, but by June 2nd he lost his starting job and played just two games as a pinch-runner over the rest of the month. Smith was sold to Toronto of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time) on June 28th under an optional agreement in which the Pirates could buy him back at any time. He hit .222 with 18 extra-base hits in 85 games before returning to the Pirates in September. The Pirates repurchased him on August 14th, but allowed him to finish the season in Toronto before returning to Pittsburgh on September 17th. In a total of 36 games for the Pirates that season, Smith hit .188 with five RBIs. He batted just .148 with 15 strikeouts in 17 games after returning. He started 16 of the final 18 games of the season at shortstop.

Smith was a holdout in spring of 1917, and then was sent back to Toronto after unrealistic salary demands (though he said the Pirates tried to cut his salary by $1,000 from the previous year). He was suspended by Toronto until the National Baseball Commission declared him a free agent in August. He soon signed with the New York Giants and hit .229/.295/.302 in 36 games to finish out the season. He was a utility player for the 1918 Boston Braves, hitting .225 in 34 games, while not getting his first start until June 17th. That was followed by a similar role with the 1919 Cincinnati Reds, who went on to win the World Series. Smith hit .275 in 40 at-bats over 28 games during the season, and he was limited to one pinch-running appearance in the World Series. He spent 1920 in the minors with Indianapolis of the Double-A American Association, hitting .242 with 38 extra-base hits in 146 games, then played 105 games over the next two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, which ended up being his final year (1922) in pro ball. In 1921, he hit .231 in 67 games, with 31 runs, 13 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs. He had a .219 average and a .513 OPS in 38 games in 1922, while also playing four games that season for Jersey City of the International League. Smith played eight seasons in the majors, getting into 370 games, with a .219 career average, 59 extra-base hits, 107 RBIs and 119 runs scored. Modern metrics rate him as an average defender, finishing with a 0.0 dWAR during his career. Not only was Smith born in Pittsburgh, he also passed away there in 1974, and currently resides peacefully at Calvary Cemetery in Pittsburgh.

Harry Salisbury, pitcher for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He attended Brown University from 1877 until 1879, then made his Major League debut for the Troy Trojans of the National League after graduating. Salisbury went 4-6 with a 2.22 ERA in ten starts that year for Troy. He tossed nine complete games and pitched 89 innings total. He had minimal prior pro experience, playing minor league ball with St Paul of the League Alliance in 1877, which was the first year that organized minor league ball existed. His next known baseball experience came for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, when he showed up on the roster one month into the season. The team started the season with a 6-5 record over the entire month of May (games played were sporadic due to travel and limited time to draw up the first schedule) and Salisbury made his debut on June 1st in an 11-4 win. He actually played an exhibition game against a team from Camden, NJ on May 28th and pitched a complete game in a 10-7 win.  The Alleghenys played a total of 79 games that year, and of the 68 played from June 1st on, he started 38 of those games. He also pitched a complete game in all 38 of those games, getting in a total of 335 innings. He is the first twenty-game winner in Pirates franchise history, finishing with a 20-18, 2.63 record. On July 10th he pitched his only career shutout in an 11-0 win over Baltimore, giving up just two hits. He then pitched the very next day in a 6-1 win over St Louis, with the opposing pitcher being Morrie Critchley, who threw the first shutout in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history just two months earlier. Salisbury finished the season with 135 strikeouts, which was the second most in the league behind Tony Mullane (170).

That 1882 season was Salisbury’s last in the majors and he played at least another three years in the minors afterwards. It was said that he had signed an 1883 contract to play for Louisville of the American Association before the 1882 season ended and some noise was made by Pittsburgh management about his last game in an Alleghenys uniform, which was a 20-6 loss to Louisville. He never played for Louisville or any other minor league team in 1883, though he was said to be playing for a team called Union Pacific along with 1882 Alleghenys teammate Russ McKelvy. Salisbury played for Omaha of the Western League during the 1885 and 1887 seasons. He also saw time with Denver and Leadville of the Colorado State League in 1885, and he played for Denver of the Western League in 1886. Notes between his 1879 season with Troy and his time with the Alleghenys show that he quit baseball for a time in 1880 for a bookkeeping job in Wisconsin, and he pitched for a team in Detroit during that time as well.

The Game

On this date in 1967, Roberto Clemente had the game of his career, yet the Pirates still lost to the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field by an 8-7 score. He went 4-for-5 with a double and three home runs. Clemente drove in all seven runs for the Pirates. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning off of Milt Pappas. Clemente repeated that feat in the fourth inning. In the seventh he brought in two runs with a double. He capped his night with a solo homer in the ninth inning. The Reds won in the bottom of the tenth on a walk-off double by Tony Perez, which scored Pete Rose from first base. Clemente would hit three homers in a game two years later, but he never drove in more than five runs in any other game.

Here’s the boxscore from Baseball-Reference.