Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one one trade of note and some noteworthy games from the past.
On this date in 1960, the Pirates traded minor leaguers Julian Javier and Ed Bauta to the St Louis Cardinals for veteran pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell and infielder Dick Gray. Mizell was 29 years old at the time of the trade, coming off a season in which he went 13-10, 4.20 in 201.1 innings over 30 starts for the Cardinals. He pitched over 200 innings that season for the third time in his career. Before the trade, he made nine starts for the 1960 Cardinals, going 1-3 with a 4.55 ERA in 55.1 innings. Gray was a 28-year-old infielder with three years of Major League experience. He hit .233 in 57 games in 1959, spending most of his time at third base. Javier was 23 years old, in his fifth season in the Pirates system, and second year at Triple-A. He was a light-hitting second baseman, who had a .274 average, with 17 walks and 103 strikeouts in 135 games in 1959. Bauta was 25 years old, a relief pitcher, who just like Javier, was in his fifth season in the Pirates system and second year at Triple-A. He had an 0.95 ERA in 12 appearances at the time of the trade
Both Javier and Bauta went right to the majors with the Cardinals. Bauta was seldom used, relegated to the back of the bullpen, and he spent part of his time with St Louis back in Triple-A. They traded him to the New York Mets near the end of the 1963 season. He pitched 97 games in the majors, throwing 149 innings, with a 4.35 ERA. Javier became a solid role player with the Cardinals, helping them to the World Series three times during the 1960’s. He played a total of 13 seasons in the big leagues (12 with St Louis) and twice made the National League All-Star team. He put up 13.8 WAR in his career, topping out at 2.6 WAR in two seasons. Gray never played in the majors again, spending the last three years of his career at Triple-A with the Pirates. Mizell served his purpose by helping the Pirates get to the 1960 World Series with his 13-5, 3.12 record in 155.1 innings over 23 starts. His production began to drop of the next season and his Major League career was done by the end of the 1962 season. The Pirates traded Mizell to the Mets on May 7, 1962 for first baseman Jim Marshall.
Alex Hernandez, first baseman/outfielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1995 out of high school in Puerto Rico. Hernandez signed right away and reported to the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .269 with 24 runs, one homer, 17 RBIs and a .674 OPS in 49 games. He played for Erie of the short-season New York-Penn League in 1996, hitting .289 with 38 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs in 61 games. He was skipped to high-A ball 1997, hitting .290 with 37 doubles, four triples, five homers, 68 RBIs and 75 runs scored for Lynchburg of the Carolina League. He finished with a .730 OPS, but he had a very poor walk to strikeout ratio (27:140). Hernandez then spent two full seasons in Double-A, while also starting a third season there in 2000. The Pirates affiliate was in Carolina of the Southern League in 1999. He hit .259 with 62 runs, 37 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 115 games that year. He improved his BB/SO ratio greatly in that second season, drawing more walks in slightly less time, while striking out 81 times. The Pirates Double-A affiliate moved to Altoona of the Eastern League in 1999 and that year he batted .257 with 76 runs, 26 doubles, 15 homers, 63 RBIs, 54 walks and 11 steals in 126 games. Despite batting two points lower, his OPS went up 44 points in 1999.
Hernandez broke out in 2000, hitting .337 with 28 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs in 50 games with Altoona. He moved up to Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, where he batted .275 with 27 extra-base hits and 37 RBIs in 76 games, earning a September call-up to the Pirates. He played twenty games for Pittsburgh that year, getting 60 at-bats, in which he hit .200 with one homer and five RBIs. He made 11 starts at first base, one in right field and he played three games in left field off of the bench. In 2001, Hernandez got called up in August and played his last seven Major League games. He went 1-for-11 at the plate and started two games in right field. He spent the rest of the year in Nashville, where he hit .295 with 25 extra-base hits and a .743 OPS in 88 games. He was released after the season and signed with the Cincinnati Reds for 2002. After spending all of 2002 in the minors, with most of that time spent in Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League, he played independent ball in 2003 with Somerset of the Atlantic League. He didn’t play pro ball in 2004-05, but he returned in 2006 after playing winter ball in Puerto Rico to play 20 games for Lancaster of the Atlantic League. That ended up being the end of his pro career. The low walk rate early during his time in the minors was a sign of things to come with Hernandez. He did not draw a single walk in his 71 plate appearances while with the Pirates. He batted .183 in 27 big league games, with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs.
Kirk Gibson, outfielder for the 1992 Pirates. He was signed as a first round pick in 1978 by the Detroit Tigers, selected 12th overall out of Michigan State. He would make it to the majors by the end of the following season, but it took five seasons in the majors before he reached his potential. Gibson went right to the Class-A Florida State League out of college at hit .240 with eight homers, 13 steals and a .780 OPS in 54 games for Lakeland. He played in Triple-A the next year with Evansville of the American Association, hitting .245 with 50 runs, 13 doubles, nine homers, 20 steals and a .724 OPS in 89 games before getting called up to the majors in September. He played 12 games for the Tigers during that first trial, hitting .237 with three doubles and a homer. Gibson spent the entire 1980 season in the majors, hitting .263 with nine homers in 51 games. A sprained wrist ended his season in mid-June. The home runs boosted him to a .743 OPS, but he had just 12 extra-base hits total, ten walks and he was 4-for-11 in steals. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, he hit .328 with 41 runs, 11 doubles, nine homers, 40 RBIs and 20 steals in 83 games. For that offense, he finished 12th in the American League MVP voting. In 1982, he hit .278 with 34 runs, 16 doubles, eight homers and nine steals in 69 games before his old wrist injury ended his season again, this time finishing him on July 8th. Gibson was healthy in 1983, but saw his average dip to a .227 mark in 128 games. He hit 12 doubles, nine triples, 15 homers and stole 14 bases in 17 attempts. He also walked 53 times, which was more than twice as many walks as any previous season.
During the 1984 season, Gibson helped the Tigers to the World Series by hitting .282 in 149 games, with 92 runs, 23 doubles, ten triples, 91 RBIs, and he just missed out on the 30/30 HR/SB club, with 27 homers and 29 steals. He finished sixth in the MVP voting. He hit .417 in the ALCS, then followed that with a .333 average and seven RBIs in the World Series, as the Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in five games. He homered twice in game five, including his second most famous homer, which came off of Hall of Famer Goose Gossage. Gibson approached the 30/30 HR/SB club three seasons in a row, but never reached it. In 1985, he hit .287 with 96 runs, 37 doubles, 29 homers, 97 RBIs, 30 steals and 71 walks. He set career highs in doubles, homers and RBIs that season, while finishing 18th in the MVP voting. In 1986, he hit .268 with 28 homers and 34 steals. He could have approached the 40/40 club that season if he was healthy all year, but he was limited to just 119 games. Despite the missed time, he still finished with 84 runs scored and 86 RBIs. In 1987, Gibson hit .277 with 25 doubles, 24 homers, 26 steals, 71 walks and 95 runs scored in 128 games. In his last four seasons during his first stint with the Tigers, he posted OPS numbers of .879, .882, .863 and .861.
Gibson moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent in 1988, where he forever became part of baseball history. After having an MVP regular season, an injured Gibson hobbled to the plate in game one of the World Series and hit one of the most memorable homers in baseball history, a walk-off shot against Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. It was his only plate appearance of the series. He won the MVP award and his only career Silver Slugger award by hitting .290 with 28 doubles, 25 homers and 31 steals. He scored 106 runs, the only time he topped 100 runs during his career. His 76 RBIs that year were his lowest total in five seasons, but the highest total over his final eight seasons in the majors. Gibson saw his stats drop off as he was barely healthy during his final two seasons with the Dodgers. He hit .213 with nine homers and a .679 OPS in 71 games in 1989, then batted .260 with eight homers during the next season, though he finished with a respectable .745 OPS and he managed to steal 26 bases in 28 attempts.
Gibson moved on to the Kansas City Royals for one year, signing a free agent deal after the 1990 season. He played 132 games in 1991, hitting .236 with 81 runs, 17 doubles, six triples, 16 homers, 55 RBIs, 69 walks and 18 steals. On March 10, 1992, the Pirates traded veteran pitcher Neal Heaton to the Royals in exchange for Gibson. His stay in Pittsburgh was a short one, just 16 games with a .196 average and .541 OPS before being released. He retired, but it was only temporary as he came back for three more seasons with the Tigers before his playing career ended, seeing a majority of his time in the DH spot. Gibson batted .261 with 62 runs, 18 doubles, 13 homers and 15 steals in 116 games in 1993. He hit 23 homers and drove in 72 runs, while playing just 98 games during the strike-shortened 1994 season. His .906 OPS that season was the highest of his career. In his final season, he batted .260 with nine homers and an .808 OPS in 70 games. Gibson had a lifetime average of .268 with 985 runs scored, 260 doubles, 255 homers, 875 RBIs, 718 walks, 284 steals and an .815 OPS in 1,635 games. Despite some very strong seasons during his career, he was never voted to the All-Star game. After his playing days, Gibson was the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks for five years, including winning NL Manager of the Year award in 2011. He compiled a 353-375 record during that time.
Bob Kuzava, pitcher for the 1957 Pirates. He originally signed with the Cleveland Indians as an 18-year-old in 1941. He spent that first year pitching Class-D ball in Mansfield of the Ohio State League, where he had a 5-7 record and threw 100 innings. The next year with Class-C Charleston of the Middle Atlantic League, he won 21 games (with six losses), while posting a 1.72 ERA in 235 innings. Kuzava then served in the military during WWII, missing three full seasons before returning in 1946. He went back to the minors upon his return, going 14-6, 2.36 in 217 innings for Wilkes-Barre of the Class-A Eastern League before joining the Indians in September for two starts. He went 1-0, 3.00 in 12 innings during that first trial, although he walked 11 batters. Kuzava was also a September call-up in 1947 after going 14-13, 3.17 in 214 innings for Baltimore of the Triple-A International League. That second cup of coffee saw him put up a 4.15 ERA in 21.2 innings over four starts. He had better control during his second trial with the Indians, walking nine batters. He spent the entire 1948 campaign in the minors with Baltimore and struggled, going 9-16, 4.83 in 192 innings, with 113 walks and 154 strikeouts.
Kuzava was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the 1948 season, where he was able to get his first real shot at pitching full-time in the majors. The Indians at the time were a much better team than Chicago, winning the World Series title in 1948, while the White Sox finished 51-101 in last place. They were only slightly better in 1949 and Kuzava made 18 starts and eleven relief appearances for them that season. He went 10-6, 4.02 in 156.2 innings that year. That performance earned him a fourth place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. He started off slow in 1950, then was dealt to the Washington Senators at the end of May. He was 9-10, 4.33 in 199.1 innings between the two teams that season. He set a career high in innings and strikeouts (105), though he also set a high with 102 walks. He caught a big break in the middle of the 1951 season when he was traded to the New York Yankees. While there, Kuzava was able to collect three World Series rings in his first three seasons. He went 11-7, 3.61 in 134.2 innings in 1951, doing much better after the trade. He was 3-3, 5.80 in eight starts with the Senators, then had an 8-4, 2.40 record in 82.1 innings over eight starts and 15 relief appearances. That was followed by an 8-8, 3.45 record in 133 innings in 1952, when he made 12 starts and 16 relief appearances. The 1953 season saw him put up a 3.31 ERA in 92.1 innings over six starts and 27 relief appearances. He saved a total of 12 games during that stretch with the Yankees. He pitched just one time each year (1951-53) in the World Series, ending up with one run allowed over 4.1 innings.
Between 1954-55, Kuzava was a member of four different organizations. He started the 1954 season with the Yankees, before being lost on waivers to the Baltimore Orioles in August. He combined to go 2-6, 4.97 in 63.1 innings over seven starts and 17 relief appearances. The Philadelphia Phillies selected him off waivers in May of 1955, where he finished out the season, before being sold to the Kansas City Athletics. He went 1-1, 6.25 in 1955, with 44.2 innings pitched over five starts and 18 relief appearances. Kuzava then spent the entire 1956 season in the minors, going 10-8. 3.57 in 169 innings for Columbus of the Triple-A International League. The Pirates signed him prior to the 1957 season after he made the Opening Day roster by pitching on a trial basis, but he didn’t last long. Kuzava made four relief appearances before being sold outright back to Columbus. In his brief time with the Pirates, he allowed two runs in two innings of work. In the middle of September, Columbus sold him to the St Louis Cardinals, where he pitched his last three Major League games, giving up one run in 2.1 innings. Kuzava played three more years in the minors, the last as a player/manager, before retiring at 37 years old. In ten seasons in the majors, he went 49-44, 4.05 in 862 innings, making 99 starts and 114 relief appearances. He had 34 complete games, seven shutouts and 13 saves.
Steve Nagy, pitcher for the 1947 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942, but after one season in the minors, he spent the next three years serving in the military during WWII. He was already 23 years old before his pro debut and he pitched part of that first season playing for Montreal of the Double-A International League, just one step from the majors (Triple-A didn’t exist until 1946). Combined with his time in Class-B that year with Durham of the Piedmont League, he had an 11-6, 2.16 record in 121 innings in 1942. Nagy returned to baseball in 1946, going 17-4, 3.01 in 214 innings for the Montreal, which was then a Triple-A club. Right after the 1946 season ended, the Pirates purchased his contract on October 1st from Montreal, where he was still playing in the league’s championship series. They were able to purchase him after the Dodgers released him outright to Montreal earlier that season. Nagy made three relief appearances over the first month of the 1947 season for the Pirates, allowing runs in all three games. He was optioned to Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association on May 14th. At the time, teams could carry extra players to start the year, but they couldn’t have more than 25 active players after May 15th, until rosters expanded in September. After spending 3 1/2 months in Triple-A where he had a 4.43 ERA in 132 innings, Nagy returned to Pittsburgh in September, where he made another three appearances. In the next to last day of the season, he got his only start, going eight innings in a 3-1 loss to the St Louis Cardinals. He went 1-3, 5.79 in 14 innings for the 1947 Pirates.
Nagy pitched in the minors for the Pirates before they traded him (along with cash) to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League for pitcher Bill Werle in September of 1948. Nagy had a sore arm that prevented him from pitching during much of Spring Training that year. He briefly went to Indianapolis, but he played the large majority of the 1948 season for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, going 5-10, 3.56 in 149 innings, with a 74:56 BB/SO ratio. With San Francisco in 1949, he went 15-14, 2.66 in 244 innings, with 117 walks and 123 strikeouts. Just months after the season, Nagy was picked up by the Washington Senators in the 1949 Rule 5 draft. He would make nine starts for the 1950 Senators, going 2-5, 6.58 in 53.1 innings before being sent back to San Francisco. He pitched another eight years in the minors before retiring, finishing with 121 minor league wins over 14 seasons. He wound up with 2,012 innings in pro ball. Nagy played four full seasons for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League (1951-54), then he finished his career with three years for Buffalo of the International League (1956-58). Before going pro, Nagy pitched at Seton Hall, where he coach and pitching mentor was Al Mamaux, pitcher for the 1913-17 Pirates.
King Brady, pitcher for the 1906-07 Pirates. Brady made his debut in pro baseball with the 1905 Philadelphia Phillies, making two late season starts in which he went 1-1, 3.46 in 13 innings. He was already 24 years old at the time and he had experience pitching semi-pro ball in the Philadelphia area. In 1906, he went 14-24 in 39 games (the only available stats) for the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association. That was a Class-A league, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. The Pirates took him in the 1906 Rule 5 draft and brought him right to the majors. He got two late season starts, both during a six-game series in Brooklyn. On September 28th in the first game of a doubleheader, King (first name was James, sometimes referred to as “Jeems”) went seven innings, allowing five runs on 12 hits in a 5-4 loss. He won his second game, throwing a complete game in a 5-1 win. The papers said he pitched well and the run was only because of an error by Honus Wagner. However, he gave up 12 hits for the second game in a row and he also walked three batters, leaving Brooklyn with 14 runners left on base. For the 1907 Pirates, Brady pitched two innings in relief in his only game played that season on May 30th. Before a game on May 21st, he was hit in the temple with a pitch and knocked out, which required a hospital visit. Two days earlier he pitched a complete game in a 5-3 exhibition loss to Newark of the Eastern League.
Brady spent the rest of the 1907 season with Johnstown of the Class-B Tri-State League, who purchased him on June 9th with the understanding that the Pirates could purchase him back during the season. He was with Johnstown again in 1908, going 20-10 in 41 games. In the 1908 Rule 5 draft, he was chosen by the Boston Red Sox. He threw a shutout over the New York Highlanders on October 5th, in what ended up being his only game with the Red Sox. Brady spent the next three years in the minors, before finally getting another shot in the majors during the 1912 season with the Boston Braves. In 1909, he spent the season with Newark of the Class-A Eastern League, going 10-8 in 160 innings, while allowing 3.99 runs per nine innings (ERA isn’t available). The 1910 season was spent with Wilkes-Barre of the Class-B New York State League, where no stats are available. Brady then had a 17-8 record for Albany of the New York State League in 1911, before getting his final shot at the majors. In his only outing for the Braves on April 13th, he allowed six runs in 2.2 innings of relief work. He soon joined Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association, where he had a 10-13 record. He wen 8-6 in 105 innings for Atlanta in 1913. Brady retired after playing for three different teams in the New York State League during the 1914-15 seasons. Despite the fact he played five years in the majors for four different teams, he appeared in just eight Major League games. He had a 3.08 ERA in 49.2 innings.
On this date in 1956, Pirates slugger Dale Long sets a Major League record that still stands by homering in his eighth consecutive games. Here’s our Game Rewind article for that record setting day against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On this date in 2004, the Pirates and Chicago Cubs hooked up to play a doubleheader on what is now known as Rob Mackowiak Day. Here’s our Game Rewind article looking at his amazing day.