Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one quick transaction of note at the bottom.
Paul Maholm, pitcher for the 2005-11 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2003, taken eighth overall out of Mississippi State. Maholm was originally drafted in the 17th round in 2000 out of high school by the Minnesota Twins. It took just 212 minor league innings for him to make his way to the Pirates by August of 2005. He debuted with Williamsport in the New York-Penn League in 2003, where he had a 1.83 ERA in 34.1 innings over eight starts. A line drive to the face caused him to miss much of the 2004 season. He had a 1.84 ERA in eight starts with Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League before the injury, but then he struggled in his rehab starts at the end of the year with Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League, allowing 14 runs in 12.1 innings. The next season, Maholm had a 3.20 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 82.1 innings over 16 starts at Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League. He then posted a 3.53 ERA in 35.2 innings over six starts in Triple-A with Indianapolis of the International League, before moving to the majors at the end of August to finish out the season. He went 3-1, 2.18 in 41.2 innings over six starts during that first season in Pittsburgh. From that point on, he was a regular in the Pirates rotation, making at least 26 starts in each of his six full seasons with the team.
Maholm went 8-10, 4.70 in 30 starts and 176 innings in 2006. He dropped down to a 10-15, 5.02 record in 177.2 innings over 29 starts the next season, though he improved his WHIP, going from 1.61 in 2006, down to 1.42 in 2007. He threw two complete games and his first shutout that year. In 2008, he went 9-9, 3.71 in 31 starts, while setting a career high with 206.1 innings. His season was worth 4.0 WAR that year, which is nearly double the value of any other season during his career. He made 31 starts again in 2009, but he wasn’t as effective as the previous year. Maholm was 8-9, 4.44 in 194.2 innings that season. He set a career high with 32 starts in 2010, but his ERA took another big hit. He went 9-15, 5.10 in 185.1 innings. His 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings rate was the lowest of his career up to that point. In his final season in Pittsburgh, he had a 6-14 record, despite his best season ERA (3.66). He made 26 starts and threw 162.1 innings. He missed the last six weeks of the season with a shoulder strain.
With the Pirates, Maholm pitched a total of 185 games, all as a starter, with a 53-73, 4.36 record in 1,143.2 innings. His 185 starts ranks 22nd in team history and his 705 strikeouts rank 21st. He left the Pirates via free agency after the 2011 season and signed with the Chicago Cubs. Maholm went 9-6, 3.74 through July of 2012, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. He finished off the season with a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts for Atlanta. Combined that year, he was 13-11, 3.67 in 189 innings, finishing with a career high of 140 strikeouts, one more than his 2008 mark for the Pirates. He went 10-11, 4.41 in 153 innings over 26 starts with the 2013 Braves before being becoming a free agent that October. A wrist injury that year cost him a month of the season. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he finished his big league career in 2014, making more relief appearances that year than starts. He went 1-5, 4.84 in 70.1 innings, then missed the final two months with an ACL tear in his knee. While the injury wasn’t career threatening, it did mark the end of his big league career. Maholm signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds in 2015, but he was released on March 30th when he couldn’t earn a spot on the big league roster. He had a 77-100, 4.30 career record in 1,556.1 innings, making 250 starts and 26 relief appearances.
Aramis Ramirez, third baseman for the 1998-2003 and 2015 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent at age 16 in 1994 out of the Dominican Republic. Ramirez worked his way to the majors by May of 1998, although he didn’t spend his first full season in the majors until 2001. He spent his first season in pro ball (1995) in the Dominican Summer League. The next year he jumped to the short-season New York-Penn League, where he batted .305 with 14 doubles, nine homers and a .928 OPS in 61 games for Erie, and then received a late promotion to Low-A Augusta of the South Atlantic League. Despite playing just six games in Low-A, Ramirez spent the entire 1997 season in High-A with Lynchburg of the Carolina League, where he batted .278 with 85 runs, 24 doubles, 29 homers, 114 RBIs and 80 walks in 137 games, leading to a .907 OPS. The Pirates aggressively promoted him to Triple-A to start 1998, then gave him just 47 games there before he reached the majors. He had a .274 average and a .796 OPS with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League that year, then hit .235 with nine doubles, six homers and a .646 OPS in 72 games with the Pirates. Most of the 1999 season was spent back in Nashville, where Ramirez hit .328 with 92 runs, 35 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs, 73 walks and a .971 OPS in 131 games. He joined the Pirates in September for 18 games, and hit .179 with three extra-base hits and a .504 OPS.
In 2000, Ramirez batted just .167 for the Pirates through late April before being sent to the minors. He returned in June and hit .284 in 55 games before a shoulder injury ended his season in late August. He finished the year with a .256/.293/.402 slash line in 73 games. After hitting .239 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs in 163 games during those first three years with the Pirates, Ramirez exploded for a .300 average with 83 runs, 40 doubles, 34 homers, 112 RBIs and an .885 OPS in 158 games in 2001. The next year his stats really dipped, going down to a .234 average (only 29 walks as well) with 26 doubles, 18 homers and 71 RBIs in 142 games. His OPS dropped 219 points down to a devilishly bad .666 mark. Through 96 games in 2003, Ramirez was batting .280 with 25 doubles, 12 homers, 67 RBIs and a league leading 23 errors. The Pirates dealt him at the trading deadline to the Chicago Cubs, along with Kenny Lofton. It was a salary dump (supposedly league mandated due to team debt) that netted the Pirates a half season from veteran infielder Jose Hernandez and 185 games from infielder Bobby Hill, who was supposed to be the big piece in the deal. They also received minor league pitcher Matt Bruback in the deal, though he never made the majors. The Cubs were trading for 2 1/2 years of contract control, but Ramirez ended up staying in Chicago after becoming a free agent following the 2006 season, playing a total of nine years with the Cubs, where he batted .294 with 239 homers and 806 RBIs in 1,124 games.
Ramirez hit .259 with 15 homers in 2003 following the trade to the Cubs. Combined that season, he batted .272 in 159 games, with 75 runs, 32 doubles, 27 homers and 106 RBIs. In 2004, he batted .318 with 99 runs scored, 32 doubles, 36 homers and 103 RBIs, which earned him mild MVP support, resulting in a tenth place finish in the voting. His .951 OPS that year was a career best. He missed some time in 2005, playing just 123 games, but he hit great when he was healthy, batting .302 with 72 runs, 30 doubles, 31 homers and 92 RBIs. He also made the All-Star team for the first time. In 2006, Ramirez hit .291 with 93 runs scored, 38 doubles, 38 homers, 119 RBIs and a .912 OPS in 157 games. He set career highs with homers and RBIs that season and once again received mild MVP support, finishing 17th in the voting. He batted .310 in 132 games in 2007, with 35 doubles, 26 homers, 101 RBIs and a .915 OPS. He finished 13th in the MVP voting. The 2008 season was his second All-Star campaign. Ramirez hit .289 with 44 doubles, 27 homers, 111 RBIs and 74 walks, leading to an .898 OPS. He never drew more than 50 walks in any other season during his 18-year career. He finished tenth in the MVP voting that season. Ramirez was limited to 82 games in 2009 due to a shoulder injury. He batted .317 with 14 doubles, 15 homers, 65 RBIs and a .905 OPS in his limited time. In 2010, he had his worst season since 2002, posting a .745 OPS in 124 games, yet he still managed to drive in 83 runs and collect 47 extra-base hits. He bounced back in 2011, batting .306 with 80 runs, 35 doubles, 26 homers, 93 RBIs and an .878 OPS. He won his only Silver Slugger award that season.
Ramirez became a free agent again at the conclusion of the 2011 seasons, then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers through 2014, with a 2015 option. He played 3 1/2 seasons in Milwaukee, starting with a high point in 2012 when he batted .300 with a league leader 50 doubles, to go along with 92 runs, 27 homers, 105 RBIs and a .901 OPS. He finished ninth in the MVP voting, which was his best career finish. His stats slowly declined each year until the Pirates picked him up at the trade deadline in 2015. Multiple injuries limited him to 92 games in 2013, yet he still managed an .831 OPS due to a .283 average and 30 extra-base hits. His power numbers really dropped in 2014, as he hit .285 that season, but he was down to a .757 OPS in 133 games. He still made his third (and final) All-Star appearance that year. He was batting .247 with 11 homers at the time of the deal that sent him to Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Yhonathan Barrios on July 23, 2015. Ramirez hit .245 in 56 games with the Pirates, with six homers and 33 RBIs, putting up a .712 OPS during that time. In his career, he had a .283/.341/.492 slash line, with 1,098 runs scored, 495 doubles, 386 homers and 1,417 RBIs. For the Pirates, he hit .261 in 615 games, with 240 runs, 130 doubles, 82 homers and 349 RBIs. He was eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2020, but he received just 1% of the votes and dropped off of the ballot. Ramirez compiled 41.9 WAR on offense during his career, but poor defensive numbers knocked him down to a career 32.4 WAR.
Bobby LaFromboise, pitcher for the 2014-15 Pirates. He signed with the Seattle Mariners as an eighth round pick in 2008 out of the University of New Mexico. It was the third time that he was drafted, also going to the Chicago White Sox as a 23rd round pick in 2005 out of Rio Hondo College, and in 2007 to the Arizona Diamondbacks out of New Mexico. LaFromboise was a starter at the beginning of his pro career, debuting with a 3.46 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 41.2 innings in the short-season Northwest League with Everett. He moved up to Low-A in 2009 and had an 8-9, 4.03 record and 119 strikeouts in 138.1 innings with Clinton of the Midwest League. He made 19 starts and 14 relief appearances in 2009, then did the opposite with 14 starts and 19 relief appearances in 2010. That 2010 season was spent in the ultra high-offense environment of High Desert in the High-A California League, where his 10-5, 4.51 record in 113.1 innings made him one of the better pitchers on the team. LaFromboise moved to relief full-time in 2011, putting up a 3.10 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 61 innings over 49 appearances in Double-A with Jackson of the Southern League. He split the 2012 season between Jackson and Tacoma of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and had great results at both levels, combining for a 1.36 ERA, six saves and 70 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. He followed that up with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where he had a 5.54 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings over 13 appearances. LaFromboise debuted with the Mariners during the 2013 season, making ten appearances, with a 5.91 ERA in 10.2 innings. He had stints with the team in April, July and September. The rest of the year was spent in Tacoma, where he went 6-0, 3.39 in 45 games, with five saves and 63 strikeouts in 61 innings
LaFromboise was picked up off of waivers by the San Diego Padres on April 2, 2014, though he never pitched for them in the majors. He was in the minors when the Pirates acquired him via waivers in August of 2014. At the time, he had a 4.75 ERA, three saves and 45 strikeouts in 53 innings with El Paso of the Pacific Coast League. After joining the Pirates, he had a brief stint with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he made five scoreless relief appearances. Lafromboise was called up to the majors and made six appearances for the 2014 Pirates, allowing one run in 3.2 innings. He spent part of 2015 in the majors as well, giving up one run over eight innings and 11 appearances. Most of that year was spent back in Indianapolis, where he had a 2.98 ERA in 54.1 innings over 54 outings. That 2015 season ended up being his last time spent in the majors. He played minor league ball until 2017 before retiring, spending the first two months of the 2016 season in the Philadelphia Phillies system. He signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers in 2017, but an injury kept him out until August when he finished up his pro career with two scoreless outings in rookie ball. In the majors over three years, he was 0-1, 3.63 in 22.1 innings over 27 appearances.
Alejandro Pena, pitcher for the 1994 Pirates. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers at 19 years old in 1978 out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted in A-Ball with Clinton of the Midwest League in 1979, working mostly as a reliever, putting up a 4.18 ERA in 71 innings over five starts and 16 relief appearances. The next year he went 10-3, 3.21 with eight saves in 73 innings in the Florida State League with Vero Beach, making three starts and 32 relief appearances. In 1981, Pena was skipped to Triple-A, where he had a 1.61 ERA in 56 innings over 38 appearances, with 22 saves for Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League. The Dodgers brought him to the majors in August after the mid-seasons strike ended, and he had a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings, helping them to a World Series title. He made two scoreless postseason appearances, totaling 2.1 innings. He struggled in both the majors and Triple-A in 1982, posting a 4.79 ERA in 35.2 innings with the Dodgers, while walking more batters (21) than he struck out (20). He had a 5.34 ERA during his time with Albuquerque that year. Considering his 1982 results as a reliever, he had a strange move occur during the next season, which ended up working out well.
Pena was a starting pitcher in the majors during a large majority of the 1983-84 seasons, and he excelled in the role. He went 12-9, 2.75 in 177 innings in 1983 with the Dodgers over 26 starts and eight relief outings, finishing with four complete games and three shutouts. He followed that up with a 12-6, 2.48 record in 199.1 innings over 28 starts in 1984. He pitched a total of 12 complete games during those two seasons and seven of those games were shutouts. The following year he missed most of the season with shoulder and abdominal issues, which forced an eventual move back to the bullpen. Pena pitched just 4.1 innings in 1985, then had a 4.89 ERA in ten starts and 14 relief appearances in 1986. He had 30 relief outings and his final seven big league starts in 1987, posting a 2-7, 3.50 record in 87.1 innings, with 11 saves. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1988 and he had a 1.91 ERA in 94.1 innings over 60 games, with 12 saves. In the postseason, he allowed two runs over 9.1 innings. He had a strong 1989 season as well, putting up a 4-3, 2.13 record in 76 innings over 53 appearances, with five saves.
Pena was traded to the New York Mets in the off-season and his 1990 numbers were almost exactly the same in five categories, despite posting a 3.20 ERA (1.07 higher). He had a 3-3 record in 76 innings over 52 appearances, with five saves, falling one win and one game short of matching those numbers exactly from 1989. He was having a strong 1991 season when the Mets traded him to the Atlanta Braves in August. He had a combined 8-1, 2.40 record and 15 saves in 82.1 innings over 59 games that year. In the playoffs, he had four scoreless appearances against the Pirates, but the Braves lost in the World Series to the Minnesota Twins. After he had 15 saves and a 4.07 ERA in 42 innings over 41 appearances for the 1992 Braves, Pena signed a free agent deal with the Pirates that September. He did not appear in the postseason that year against the Pirates. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, before he could even pitch a Spring Training game, he had to have elbow surgery, which cost him the entire 1993 season. He returned in 1994 and went 3-2, 5.02 in 28.2 innings over 22 games with seven saves during the strike-shortened season. Pena was released on June 30, 1994 and didn’t sign with another team until April of the following year, partially due to the strike. He would go on to pitch for three teams during the slightly shortened 1995 season, posting a combined 2.61 ERA in 31 innings for the Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves. The Braves won the World Series and he picked up his third World Series ring that year. Pena finished his career with the Marlins in 1996, making four appearances in April before going on the disabled list for the rest of the season. He played 15 seasons in the majors, pitching a total of 503 games. He won 56 games, saved 74 and had a 3.11 ERA and 839 strikeouts over 1,057.2 innings during his career.
John Gelnar, pitcher for the 1964 and 1967 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of the University of Oklahoma in 1963, sending him right to Asheville of the Double-A South Atlantic League, where he went 12-5, 3.04 in 27 starts, with 134 strikeouts in 169 innings. That strikeout total was one that he never approached again during any season in pro ball. The Pirates jumped him up the system quickly in 1964, getting nine starts between Asheville and Columbus of the Triple-A International League before reaching the majors. His year actually started off rough, allowing seven runs in three innings with Columbus through mid-May, before returning to Asheville, where he went 3-1, 3.53 in 51 innings. He joined the Pirates on July 30th and was used seven times in relief over the rest of the season, pitching a total of nine innings, with five runs allowed. After the season ended, he was sent to the Fall Instructional League, back when the league kept stats. He had a 6-1, 1.89 record in 38 innings. Gelnar would return to the minors in 1965, where he pitched the next four seasons for Columbus. He made a total of 100 starts during the 1965-68 seasons, averaging 175 innings per year. The Pirates only called him up once during that stretch, giving him one start and nine relief appearances in August/September of 1967.
In 1965, Gelnar had a 9-7, 2.84 record in 190 innings over 28 starts. He went to Spring Training for the Pirates that year, and ended up getting sent to Columbus on April 13th, one day after the 1965 season started. He followed that up with a 12-9, 3.54 record in 183 innings over 27 starts in 1966. That year he was cut from Spring Training on April 11th, the day before Opening Day. In 1967, Gelnar lasted in big league camp until April 4th. He went to Columbus, where he was 10-4, 2.80 in 184 innings before getting his second call to the majors. The Pirates made roster room by placing pitcher Pete Mikkelsen on waivers. Gelnar struggled in his second chance. He went 0-1, 8.05 in 19 innings for Pittsburgh that year. He served six months in the National Guard over the 1967-68 off-season, then was in Spring Training camp for just over two weeks before being cut. He went to Columbus, where he went 10-10, 3.10 in 183 innings.
Gelnar was sold to the expansion Kansas City Royals after the 1968 season. On April 1, 1969, the Royals traded him to the expansion Seattle Pilots in a two-for-one deal for Lou Piniella. Gelnar pitched 39 games (ten starts) for the Pilots during that team’s only season, going 3-10, 3.31 in 108.2 innings. The franchise moved to Milwaukee (Brewers) after one year and he pitched 53 games in relief for the team in 1970, going 4-3, 4.19 in 92.1 innings. He pitched two early season games for the Brewers in 1971 before being traded to the Detroit Tigers. Gelnar never made it back to the majors. He spent the rest of 1971 in Triple-A with Toledo of the International League, then played the 1972 season for Tacoma of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. That marked the end of his pro career. During his five seasons in the majors, he went 7-14, 4.18 in 230.1 innings over 111 games, with 11 starts and seven saves.
Ralph Erickson, left-handed pitcher for the 1929-30 Pirates. He was a college pitching star for the University of Idaho for four years, one of nine big league players from that school. Erickson joined pro ball in 1927, though he played semi-pro and independent ball during his college career before signing his first pro deal. It was also said that he was given a contract to tryout with the Chicago White Sox in 1925, but nothing ever came of that chance. He was also a star basketball player during his day. He pitched for Pocatello of the Class-C Utah-Idaho League after school ended in 1927, where he did not pitch well in his brief time, going 1-4, 6.08 in 53.1 innings. He remained in the league the next year, switching teams to play for the Boise Senators, where he went 8-5 and pitched 110 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he gave up 5.15 runs per nine innings, which was two runs lower than his 1927 mark (7.09). Erickson finally stepped out of the state of Idaho when he was signed by the Pirates on September 15, 1928, but he didn’t pitch for the team that season. Pirates scout Chick Fraser was able to sign him as a free agent without compensation to Boise because Erickson refused to sign for more than a year with Pocatello/Boise, which was very rare for the day that teams would agree to those type of deals. It was said that Fraser first scouted him during the 1923-24 seasons, five years before Erickson signed with the Pirates.
Pittsburgh sent Erickson to the Class-B South Atlantic League to play for Columbia in 1929. He went 16-15, 3.24 in 258 innings, earning a look from the Pirates in September. He made his big league debut on September 11, 1929, pitching one inning in relief, allowing three runs. It would end up being his only big league appearance that season. The next year he remained with the team through the middle of May, making seven more appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched a total of 14 innings, allowing 21 hits, ten walks and 11 runs. His last appearance was on May 31st, and then three days later he was released outright back to Columbia. Erickson went 9-9, 3.41 in 153 innings for Columbia, while also posting a 3-0 record in brief time with Wichita of the Class-A Western League. He pitched in the minors until 1934 without making it back to the big leagues, spending most of that time with Dallas of the Class-A Texas League, though he spent part of his final season with St Paul of the Double-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. During the 1933 season, he went 13-15, 3.24 in 228 innings for Dallas. He won 82 minor league games and finished with a 1-0, 8.40 Major League record in 15 innings. He passed away at the age of 100, just two days after his birthday. His middle name was Leif, like the famous explorer with the same sounding (slightly different spelling) last name. Being a southpaw, he had the nickname Lefty.
Bill Webb, infielder for the 1917 Pirates. He began his career in the minors in 1916 at 20 years old, playing for Class-C Duluth of the Northern League. He hit .264 in 110 games that first season. The next year he moved up to Class-A ball, spending the season with Birmingham of the Southern Association. He hit .279 in 132 games with 31 extra-base hits. Four players from that Birmingham team all joined the Pirates after their season ended. Besides Webb, the groups also included infielder Howdy Caton, pitcher Elmer Ponder and catcher Red Smith. The Pirates completed a deal on August 15th to acquire a total of six players, which also included pitchers Carmen Hill and Marcus Milligan, though those two didn’t appear in a game that season for the Pirates. One day after he reported to the team, Webb made his Pirates debut on September 17, 1917 (as did Caton and Smith), going 0-for-4 while playing second base. He went 3-for-15 with two walks and a run scored in his five games that season for the Pirates. He played four games at second base and one at shortstop. He spent the entire 1918 season serving in the Navy during WWI, still property of the Pirates, listed as voluntarily retired. Webb returned to the minors in 1919, and played until 1930 without making it back to the big leagues. He finished his career managing in the minors for six seasons, the first three as a player/manager. His 1920-29 seasons were spent in the Double-A International League, playing for Akron (1920), Newark (1921-22), Buffalo (1923-26) and Toronto (1927-29).
It’s a bit surprising that Webb never got a second chance in the majors after debuting at a young age. From 1920-26 he batted over .300 each season. He returned to Birmingham for the 1919 season and hit just .221 with 19 extra-base hits in 103 games. It was after that point that he put together an impressive resume. In 1920, he hit .330 in 135 games for Akron, with 102 runs, 39 doubles, 15 triples, seven homers and 20 steals. With Newark in 1921, Webb batted .309 in 148 games, with 30 doubles, 18 triples and five homers. In 1922, he hit .305 in 127 games, with 31 doubles and 11 triples. That was followed by a .313 average in 122 games, with 33 doubles, five triples and 22 homers, which was his high for a season. In 1924, Webb hit .310 in 167 games, with 40 doubles, 13 triples and 14 homers. His best season was 1925 when he played 107 games and hit .336 with 27 doubles and 19 homers. His .583 slugging percentage was the highest of his career. He batted .318 in 60 games in 1926, which was his last season with a .300+ average. He still had a solid season in 1927 with a .280 average and 37 extra-base hits, but his playing time and success dropped from that point on as he was more of a manager than a player. He final season as a player was in Class-B, with Binghamton of the New York-Penn League.
On this date in 1981, the Pirates signed infielder Denny Gonzalez as a 17-year-old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He would spend parts of four seasons with the Pirates (1984-85 and 1987-88) before being traded to the Cleveland Indians for Jay Bell. He was a .200 hitter in 90 games with the Pirates. You can read more about Gonzalez in our Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates feature.