Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at a very bad day for baseball in Pittsburgh.
Brandon Inge, utility player for the 2013 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Tigers in 1998 out of VCU. He was a full-time catcher during his climb to the majors. He spent his first season with Jamestown in the short-season New York-Penn League and batted .230 with eight homers and a .730 OPS in 51 games. He moved up to A-Ball in 1999, where he hit .244 with 54 runs, 25 doubles, nine homers, 15 steals and a .723 OPS in 100 games for West Michigan of the Midwest League. Inge established himself as a prospect the next year with a season split between Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League and Triple-A Toledo of the International League. He batted .244 again, but this time he hit 34 doubles and 11 homers, resulting in an 85 point jump in his OPS. He also had 63 runs, 73 RBIs and 12 steals. Those stats helped him earn a spot on the Opening Day roster of the Tigers in 2001. Inge batted .180 with no homers in 79 games, while also spending some time back in the minors. He had 11 doubles and nine walks, resulting in a .453 OPS. The Tigers were a very bad team then, with 96 losses in 2001 and 106 losses the next season, so they were able to give time to a young player while they ironed out their game in the majors. He spent most of 2002 with the Tigers, hitting .202 with 27 runs, 15 doubles, seven homers and 24 RBIs in 95 games.
The 2003 season had a similar majors/minors split as the previous two years, with Inge hitting .203 with 32 runs, 15 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs in 103 games for Detroit. After averaging 101 losses in his first two seasons, the Tigers bottomed out at 119 losses in 2003, one of the worst seasons in baseball history. Inge became a utility player the next year, seeing most of his time at third base, while also catching and playing outfield. He hit .287 with 43 runs, 15 doubles, 13 homers, 64 RBIs and a .794 OPS in 131 games. He never approached that batting average again in the majors, though his OBP was nearly as high in 2005 when he set a career high with 63 walks. He hit .261 in 2005, with a career best 31 doubles, to go along with 16 homers, 72 RBIs, 75 runs and a .749 OPS. He played 160 games that year, mostly at third base. Inge only played third base in 2006 when he hit .253 with 83 runs, 29 doubles, 27 homers, 83 RBIs and a .776 OPS in 159 games. Those run a home run totals were career highs. In 2007, he hit .236 with 64 runs, 25 doubles, 14 homers, 71 RBIs and a .688 OPS in 151 games.
Inge moved back to catching in 2008, while also seeing time at third base and center field. His batting average dropped to .205 and he hit just 11 homers, leading to a .672 OPS in 113 games. In 2009, Inge led the league with 161 games played, and he also made his lone All-Star appearance. He tied his career best with 27 homers, while setting a high mark with 84 RBIs. He batted .230 that season, with 71 runs ,16 doubles and 54 walks, helping him to a .720 OPS. He made 157 starts at third base that season. In 2010, he hit .247 with 47 runs, 28 doubles, 13 homers and 70 RBIs in 144 games. That was followed by a .197 average and 15 extra-base hits in 103 games in 2011, when he finished with a lowly .548 OPS. Inge started the 2012 season with the Tigers, but he was released in late April after hitting .100 in nine games. The Oakland A’s picked him up and he batted .226 with 13 doubles, 11 homers and 52 RBIs in 74 games to finish out the season.
Inge signed with the Pirates early in Spring Training of 2013, after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. He was 36 years old at the time and had 12 season in the majors already. He was hit by a pitch during Spring Training and suffered a fracture of his right scapula, which landed him on the disabled list to begin the season, followed by a rehab assignment in the minors. He was a utility player with the Pirates, after mostly playing third base and catcher prior to 2013. He split most of his time between third base and second base in Pittsburgh, while also playing right field, first base and shortstop. Inge had a rough time with the Pirates, hitting .181 with one homer and two walks in 50 games, leading to a .442 OPS. He was released on August 1st and that marked the end of his pro career. He was a career .233 hitter in 1,532 big league games, with 228 doubles, 152 homers, 648 RBIs and 563 runs scored. Inge was known as a solid defense player, especially at third base. His career 14.4 WAR on defense ranks 128th all-time, and he’s third all-time in dWAR among Detroit Tigers.
Ed Whitson, pitcher for the 1977-79 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1974 out of high school in Tennessee. He went to the Gulf Coast League that first year, where he had a 1-4, 4.30 record in 44 innings over eight starts. Whitson moved up to A-ball the next year and really struggled with Charleston of the Western Carolinas League, especially with his control, walking 99 batters and 120 strikeouts in 142 innings. He went 8-15, 5.07 in 24 starts, with five complete games and one shutout. He completely turned things around the next season. Whitson cut his ERA in half, down to 2.53, and he issued just 65 walks in 203 innings with Salem of the Class-A Carolina League. He led the league that year with 15 wins and 186 strikeouts. That earned him a promotion to Columbus of the Triple-A International League in 1977, where he pitched well enough to get a September call-up to the Pirates. He had an 8-13 record for Columbus, but it came with a 3.34 ERA in 175 innings. Whitson got in five appearances for the Pirates that season, including the start in the last game of the year. Going up against the Cubs on October 2nd, he threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk. In his other four outings he gave up six runs over 9.2 innings.
Whitson began the 1978 season back in Columbus as a starter, making seven starts and posting a 3.71 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 51 innings. He was recalled at the end of May and sent to the Pirates bullpen. Whitson made 43 appearances in the majors that year, pitching a total of 74 innings with a 3.28 ERA. He actually pitched better than the ERA would indicate, as nearly half of the earned runs he allowed came during two of those appearances, which saw him give up 11 runs in 3.2 innings. Whitson’s ERA in the other 41 appearances was just 2.05 in 70.1 innings. In 1979, he made the Pirates out of Spring Training. He was being used as a spot starter during the first two months, then in June he made four starts. He had a 2-3, 4.37 record in 57.2 innings on June 28th when the Pirates traded him in a six-player deal to the San Francisco Giants that brought Bill Madlock to Pittsburgh. Whitson would end up pitching another twelve seasons in the majors, finishing with 126 career wins, with eight of those coming while he was with the Pirates.
After the trade to the Giants, he was put in the starting rotation, where he went 5-8, 3.95 in 100.1 innings to finish the 1979 season. In 1980, Whitson was an All-Star for the only time in his career, thanks to an 11-13, 3.10 in 211.2 innings over 34 starts. He wasn’t a workhorse type starter, completing a career high six games that season, two of those being shutouts. Because of that low complete game rate, he wouldn’t crack the 200+ innings mark again until 1987, then he ended up doing it four years in a row. He led the league with the lowest home run allowed rate in 1980, giving up seven homers all season for an 0.3 per nine inning rate. Whitson went 6-9, 4.02 in 123 innings over 22 starts during the strike-shortened 1981 season. A month after the season ended, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians even up for second baseman Duane Kuiper. Whitson mostly pitched in relief in 1982, making nine starts in his 40 appearances. He went 4-2, 3.26 in 107.2 innings. One year and four days after he joined the Indians, he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Whitson went 5-7, 4.30 in 144.1 innings over 21 starts and ten relief appearances in 1983. The Padres went to the World Series in 1984, and he had a 14-8, 3.24 record in 189 innings over 31 starts, with one complete game. He struck out 103 batters that season, the first time he cracked the century mark. He allowed one run over eight innings in his NLCS start that year, but he gave up three runs on five hits in the first inning of his only World Series start.
After the 1984 season, Whitson signed a five-year free agent deal with the New York Yankees, which did not go well during his time in New York, but ended up much better when he was traded back to the Padres during the 1986 season. With the Yankees in 1 1/2 years, Whitson went 15-10, 5.38 in 195.2 innings over 34 starts and ten relief appearances. His time in New York is best remembered for a hotel fight with manager Billy Martin. While he didn’t pitch well, Whitson did much better in 1985, going 10-8, 4.88 in 158.2 innings. Before the trade to San Diego in 1986, he was 5-2, 7.54 in 37 innings over four starts and ten relief appearances. After returning the the Padres, Whitson didn’t see true improvements until 1988. He went 1-7, 5.59 in 75.2 innings in 1986 after the trade, then had a 10-13, 4.73 record in 205.2 innings in 1987. In a true turnaround to his career, he led the league by allowing 36 homers. He also managed to set a career high with 135 strikeouts. That was the first of four straight seasons with 100+ strikeouts, something he did just once prior to 1987.
The 1988 season was the start of Whitson getting back on track. He went 13-11, 3.77 in 205.1 innings. Despite finishing with the same innings total (off by one out), he gave up just 17 homers in 1988, just under half of his previous season’s total. He improved to a 16-11, 2.66 record in 227 innings over 33 starts in 1989, then had a 14-9, 2.60 record in a career high 228.2 innings in 1990. He tied his career high with six complete games and he set a personal best with three shutouts. Those two seasons were worth a combined 13.5 pitching WAR. The absolute crazy part about his 1990 season is that he had the highest WAR for all National League pitchers, but didn’t get a single Cy Young vote. Whitson had a rough 1991 season due to multiple injuries, including one in his final start in September, which ended his career. He had a 5.03 ERA in 78.2 innings in his final season. Whitson finished 126-123, 3.79 in 15 seasons, with 2,240 innings pitched. He finished with exactly 2,240 hits allowed, giving him 1.00 per inning. He made 333 starts and 119 relief appearances, winding up with 35 complete games, 12 shutouts and eight saves.
Bud Culloton, pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He went to Columbia University for two years, then played minor league ball for two seasons (1919-20) before retiring and returning to college, the second time attending Fordham. With Norfolk of the Class-C Virginia League in 1919, Culloton went 15-11, while throwing 256 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he gave up 2.95 runs per nine innings. He remained with Norfolk in 1920, though the league was reclassified as Class-B. That year he went 12-9, 2.02 in 183 innings, with just 39 walks. After he graduated school in 1924, he played semi-pro ball in the Paterson Industrial League before he joined the Pirates on July 26th, although he did not pitch a regular season game that season. He did however pitch in exhibition games, including one right before he signed with the Pirates, a game in which he shutout Pittsburgh for nine innings before losing in the tenth. It was that game that convinced Pittsburgh to sign him. Culloton was put on the list of players eligible for the 1924 postseason but the Pirates failed to win the National League pennant. He was with the Pirates during the entire 1925 season, although he ended up pitching just 21 innings all year, with five of those innings coming during a start on the last day of the regular season. Culloton won a complete game over the Washington Senators on July 6th. It was an exhibition game, although the Senators were the defending champs at the time and it turned out to be a preview of the 1925 World Series. He was again eligible for the postseason in 1925, but never got into the seven-game series won by the Pirates.
Culloton was being used even less often in 1926, getting three appearances over the first two months, throwing a total of 2.2 scoreless innings. After an outing on June 11th in which he allowed four runs in one inning, the Pirates never used Culloton again, sending him to New Haven of the Class-A Eastern League on June 25th as partial payment in a trade for pitcher Chet Nichols, who ended up throwing 35.1 innings for the Pirates over two seasons. Culloton was sent to New Haven on option. He was returned to the Pirates in August of 1926 and they released him unconditionally on August 13th, ending his pro career. It was said that he planned to enroll back at Fordham to study law and retire from baseball. He was already 30 years old at the time. In May of 1927, Culloton visited the team and ended up throwing batting practice. Two months later he pitched an exhibition game for the semi-pro Kingston Colonels against the Pirates and won 6-1, while facing a lineup that had five future Hall of Famers (The Waners, Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler and Joe Cronin). A month later he defeated the Chicago White Sox in another exhibition game. He was often referred to in the press by his first name, Bernard. It was said that he had a nice fastball, but his curveball was below average.
May 19, 1890
This date in 1890 was a tough one for Pittsburgh baseball fans. Not only did the Alleghenys lose their game by an 18-2 score, but the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, lost their game 16-3. For the National League team, it was the beginning of their downward spiral that resulted in the worst season in franchise history. Up to that point, the team had an 8-10 record, so what happened the rest of the season couldn’t have been predicted even by the most pessimistic Pittsburgh fan. The 18-2 loss started an eleven-game losing streak that would’ve been a twenty-three game losing streak if the Alleghenys weren’t able to pull out a 9-8 win against Boston on May 31st. They actually finished their season with a 7-82 run (one tie) over their last 90 games.
The Burghers weren’t anywhere near as bad as their crosstown rival. They had an 8-10 record after this game, then went on to lose another seven games in a row. Their season got much better though, going 52-51 the rest of the way. That Player’s League team was basically the 1889 Pittsburgh National League team, with most of the lineup jumping to the new league. Jake Beckley, Ned Hanlon, Pud Galvin, Al Maul, Harry Staley, Ed Morris, Bill Kuehne, Jocko Fields and Fred Carroll all jumped from the NL to the PL that year. The first three are in the Hall of Fame and Galvin, Staley and Morris made a combined 108 starts for the 1889 Alleghenys. Al Maul made four of the team’s other 26 starts.
An interesting side note to that 9-8 Alleghenys win on May 31st that prevented a 23-game losing streak. That same day the Burghers lost 23-3, which was the biggest margin of defeat for either of the two teams that year.