Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade that brought over a key part to the 1979 World Series run.
On this date in 1979, the Pirates completed a six-player deal with the San Francisco Giants that saw pitchers Fred Breining, Ed Whitson and Al Holland go to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Dave Roberts, infielder Lenny Randle and third baseman Bill Madlock. The key to the deal ended up being Madlock, a 28-year-old, two-time batting champ, who was hitting just .261 with the Giants prior to the deal. He exploded with the Pirates, batting .328 with 44 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 85 games. In the World Series he batted .350 with three RBIs as the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. Madlock remained with the Pirates into the 1985 season before being traded. He was a .297 hitter in 801 games with the Pirates, winning two more batting titles.
Roberts was a 34-year-old starter-turned-reliever, who pitched 21 games and 38.2 innings for the 1979 Pirates, posting a 5-2, 3.26 record. He faced just one batter in the playoffs. He was with the team early in 1980 before being sold to the Seattle Mariners. Randall never played in the majors for the Pirates. He was sold to the New York Yankees after five weeks. Breining was a minor leaguer at the time, making his MLB debut with the 1980 Giants. He spent four seasons in San Francisco, going 27-20, 3.37 in 136 games, 42 as a starter. Whitson was 24 years old, with parts of three seasons in the majors with the Pirates. He was 8-9, 3.73 in 67 appearances with Pittsburgh, nine of those games as a starter. The Giants put him into their rotation, where he went 22-30 over 2 1/2 seasons, before being traded to the Cleveland Indians. Whitson ended up winning 126 Major League games. Holland was 26 years old, with just two games of Major League experience at the time of the deal, both coming with the 1977 Pirates. He pitched four seasons for the Giants, but his real success came as a reliever for the 1983-84 Philadelphia Phillies, when he saved a total of 54 games. The Pirates reacquired him from Philadelphia early in the 1985 season for Kent Tekulve, although he was gone before the end of the year, getting traded to the California Angels in a six-player deal in August.
Michael Feliz, pitcher for the 2018-21 Pirates. He originally signed with the Oakland A’s as a 16-year-old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in early 2010. A month after signing, his contract was voided, and then he signed with the Houston Astros two months later. Feliz pitched just 12.2 innings during his first season in the Dominican Summer League, where he had 13 strikeouts and a 4.26 ERA. In 2011, he moved to the Gulf Coast League, where he had a 4.32 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 50 innings over ten starts and two relief appearances. In 2012, Feliz went 5-0, 1.64 with 35 strikeouts in 38.1 innings in the GCL, making three starts and four relief appearances. He then got promoted to the short-season Appalachian League, where he had a 5.13 ERA in 26.1 innings over six starts. He continued to move slowly through the system in 2013, going to the short-season New York-Penn League, where he had a 1.96 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 69 innings, over ten starts and four relief appearances. He moved up to Low-A in 2014, and he went 8-6, 4.03 in 102.2 innings over 19 starts and six relief appearances for Quad Cities of the Midwest League. Feliz split the 2015 season between High-A and Double-A, posting a 4.41 ERA in 32.2 innings in Lancaster of the California League (very hitter-friendly ballpark), and a 2.17 ERA in 78.2 innings at the upper level with Corpus Christi of the Texas League. He had 103 strikeouts in 111.1 innings that season. The Astros gave him two shots in the majors that year (May and September) and he allowed seven runs in eight innings over five appearances.
Feliz spent most of 2016 in the majors, where he went 8-1, 4.43 with 95 strikeouts in 65 innings over 47 appearances. He also spent most of the 2017 season in the majors, posting a 5.63 ERA in 48 innings over 46 games, this time picking up 70 strikeouts. After the season, he was part of a four-for-one deal to the Pirates that included Gerrit Cole going to the Astros. Feliz pitched nine games in Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League in 2018, and then the rest of the time was spent with the Pirates. He went 1-2, 5.66 with 55 strikeouts in 47.2 innings over 47 big league games. In 2019, he had a 1.20 ERA in ten games in Indianapolis, and a 3.99 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 56.1 innings over 58 appearances for the Pirates. He was injured for most of the shortened 2020 season, pitching just three games in which he allowed a total of six runs in 1.2 innings. Feliz had a 2.35 ERA through seven appearances with the Pirates in 2021 before they designated him for assignment on May 9th. He was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and had nine appearances before going on the injured list. When he returned, he ended up seeing brief time with both the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A’s. He played winter ball in the Dominican over the 2021-22 season, and has pitched in Triple-A with the Red Sox over the first two months of the 2022 season.His career stats through 2021 stand at 17-9, 5.33 record in 246.2 innings over 227 appearances, with 324 strikeouts.
Kevin Polcovich, shortstop for the 1997-98 Pirates. He was a 30th round pick of the Pirates in the 1992 amateur draft out of the University of Florida. Despite the fact that Polcovich played Double-A ball in 1992, he didn’t make his Major League debut until five seasons later. He put up a .696 OPS in 46 games at Low-A in 1992 with Augusta of the South Atlantic League, before getting sent to Double-A Carolina of the Southern League for 13 games to end the season. He combined to hit .245 in 59 games, with a .652 OPS. He failed to hit a homer and he was just 7-for-16 in steals. He once again spent time in Augusta and Carolina in 1993, but most of his time was spent in High-A at Salem of the Carolina League, where he hit .255 with one homer, 13 steals and a .707 OPS in 94 games. In 1994, Polcovich spent the entire year with Carolina, hitting .234 in 125 games, with 46 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and a .604 OPS. He earned his first promotion to Triple-A in 1995 after hitting .317/.369/.394 over 64 games for Carolina. He did well in Triple-A that year with Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, batting .282 with a .707 OPS in 62 games. In 1996, he put up similar numbers over a full season at Calgary, hitting .274 with 53 runs, 21 doubles, 46 RBIs and a .696 OPS in 104 games.
In May of 1997, Pirates shortstop Kevin Elster fractured his wrist, landing him on the 60-day disabled list. That opened a spot for Polcovich to make his big league debut, despite a strange start to his season. He put up an .886 OPS in 34 games before the call-up, but he actually spent exactly half of those games back in Carolina, where he had a 1.052 OPS. He hit .307 with a .743 OPS for Calgary before joining the Pirates. He would play 84 games that first season in the majors, hitting .273 with 37 runs, 16 doubles, four homers, 21 RBIs and a .746 OPS. He injured his ankle at the end of August and the Pirates acquired Shawon Dunston to take his place. Polcovich would make the Pirates 1998 Opening Day roster and get plenty of time at shortstop, but as the season wore on and his batting average remained near .200, he saw his time diminish. He ended up batting .189 with 18 runs, 12 doubles, no homers and 14 RBIs, while committing twenty errors in 54 games at shortstop, although his fielding was perfect in limited time as both second and third base. Polcovich spent 1999 in the minors for the Pirates, hitting .240/.307/.331 in 80 games at Triple-A (then Nashville of the Pacific Coast League). He was let go after the season. He signed with the Detroit Tigers, but he didn’t play in 2000 due to an injury. He ended up playing three more years of minor league ball before retiring, seeing time with the St Louis Cardinals (2001), New York Yankees (2002), Florida Marlins (2003) and a stint in independent ball with San Angelo of the Central League (2003). Polcovich didn’t play a lot during those three seasons, seeing 168 games total, which included just one game in 2002 with the Yankees before he was released in May. His son Kaden was drafted in 2020 by the Seattle Mariners with the 78th overall pick.
Orlando McFarlane, catcher for the 1962 and 1964 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958 as a free agent out of Cuba. The Pirates started the 20-year-old catcher off in the lowest levels of the minors, where he hit .311 with 21 extra-base hits and 26 steals in 68 games for Class-D Salem of the Appalachian League. The next year he added power to his game as he moved a level up mid-season, batting a combined .299 with 74 runs, 19 homers, 72 RBIs and a .955 OPS in 101 games for Dubuque of the Midwest League (Class-D) and Grand Forks of the Northern League (Class-C). In 1960, the Pirates had him in Class-B ball, three levels from the majors. He was playing third base/shortstop and occasionally catching for Burlington of the Three-I League. McFarlane’s numbers weren’t great like the previous years, hitting .264 with 82 runs, nine homers, 29 steals, 73 walks and a .791 OPS in 114 games, but he still moved up to Class-A in 1961. That year he batted .301 with 92 runs, 20 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs, 27 stolen bases and a .928 OPS as a catcher for Asheville of the South Atlantic League. That earned him an early season stint with the Pirates in 1962, where he caught eight games and put up an .087 average before being sent back to the minors. He batted .308 with 11 homers, 60 RBIs and an .855 OPS in 96 games for Triple-A Columbus of the International League over the rest of the season.
McFarlane spent all of 1963 with Columbus, getting more time at third base that year, after only catching the previous two seasons. He hit .257 with 75 runs, 21 doubles, 21 homers, 60 RBIs and an .825 OPS in 122 games that season. In 1964, he was with the Pirates for the entire season as a backup catcher. In 37 games (17 as a starter), he hit .244 with five doubles and one RBI in 78 at-bats. After spending all of 1965 in the minors splits between Asheville and Hawaii of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, batting a combined .265 with 27 homers and 84 RBIs in 119 games, Pittsburgh lost McFarlane in the 1965 Rule 5 draft to the Detroit Tigers. He spent all of the 1966 season with the Tigers, batting .254 with seven doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs and a .717 OPS in 54 games. He was then he was sold to the California Angels just as the 1967 season began. He spent parts of two seasons with the Angels, batting .264 over 30 games, before finishing his career out in the minors. McFarlane played just 12 games during that 1967 season, with an injury ending his season in early June. He did well in 18 games with a .290 average for the Angels, though all of his hits were singles, leading to a mediocre OPS. He started that season with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League and finished it on the disabled list after getting hurt in late August. He was with the Angels in Triple-A until the middle of the 1969 season, then finished that year and the 1970 season playing in Triple-A with the New York Mets. His final year of pro ball (1971) was spent in Mexico. In 124 big league games, he hit .240 with 22 runs, 12 doubles, five homers and 20 RBIs. McFarlane hit 129 minor league homers in 960 games. Despite some strong stolen base numbers in the minors, he never even attempted a steal in the majors.
Mike Lynch, pitcher for the 1904-07 Pirates. He was a star pitcher at Brown University, going undefeated, before he signed with the Pirates. While he was credited as being an amateur when he signed with the Pirates, records show that he played some pro ball during the 1898-1901 seasons in the northeast at the lowest levels of the minors. The Pirates through owner Barney Dreyfuss tried to sign Lynch in the fall of 1903, but he wanted to continue school, though he promised to sign with the Pirates once he was ready to leave. He came to Pittsburgh two months into the 1904 season as the team tried to find pitching help in their quest to repeat as National champs for a fourth straight season. Lynch provided that help, going 15-11, 2.71 as a rookie, completing all 24 of his starts, while throwing 222.2 innings. He threw his only career shutout that season. Despite his efforts and the team going 87-66 (with three ties), the Pirates finished in fourth place. His record improved in 1905 to 17-8, although he had the worst ERA (3.79) on the entire staff. For comparison, Patsy Flaherty had the second worst ERA at 3.50, and he finished with a 10-10 record. Lynch started 22 games this season and threw 13 complete games, after completing all of his starts during the previous year. He was also used 11 times in relief. He threw 206.1 innings, finished with a career high of 106 strikeouts, though it came with a career high of 107 walks.
After the Pirates acquired Hall of Famer Vic Willis prior to the 1906 season, and Lefty Leifield began to emerge as a star that same year, Lynch saw less time on the mound. He posted a strong 2.42 ERA in 1906, but only saw 119 innings of work, making 12 starts and six relief appearances. In 1907, his use was even more limited and the Pirates released him in June after just 36 innings and a 2.25 ERA. He asked for his release because he wasn’t getting enough work and the Pirates agreed to release him unconditionally, although one paper said that they did that with the assumption that he was retiring. He missed some time in the summer of 1906 due to illness and it was said (despite the results saying otherwise) that he wasn’t the same pitcher since missing time a year earlier. He signed with the New York Giants just one week later after a tempting financial offer to finish the year with John McGraw’s team that season. He had a 3.38 ERA in 72 innings with the Giants. As it turned out, that season was his last in pro ball. Lynch went into business for himself after the 1907 season, but still followed the Pirates closely despite being out of baseball. On June 8, 1910, he visited the Pirates manager Fred Clarke between games of a doubleheader in Boston. The team was struggling and Clarke was trying to make out a lineup to kick-start the offense. Lynch saw the manager having trouble and suggested that Clarke let him fill out the lineup, which he did. The Pirates won that game 3-2. In his four big league seasons with the Pirates, Lynch went 40-26, 3.01 in 584 innings.
Frank Scheibeck, shortstop for the 1894 Pirates. He had a Major League career that spanned over 20 seasons, yet he got into just 390 games. He first played in the majors in 1887 at 21 years old, getting into three games for the 1887 Cleveland Blues of the American Association. That was also his first year of pro ball. He spent most of that year with Duluth of the Northwestern League, where he hit .335 with 85 runs and 47 steals in 94 games. Scheibeck then played one game for the Detroit Wolverines of the National League in 1888, before spending the next full year in the minors with London of the International League, where he also spent most of the 1888 season. He hit .305 with 81 steals and 84 runs in 92 games for London in 1888, followed by a .272 average in 108 games, with 104 runs, 30 extra-base hits and 53 steals during the 1889 season. In 1890, there were three Major Leagues all in operation at the same time and Scheibeck played for the Toledo Maumees of the American Association. He was the team’s starting shortstop all season in the only year the franchise existed as a Major League team. It was the only time he played over 100 games in a season. He hit .241 with 19 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs, 57 stolen bases and 72 runs scored in 134 games. He led all AA shortstops in putouts, assists and errors.
Scheibeck then spent the next three full seasons in the minors, seeing time with five different teams in five different leagues, before reappearing with the 1894 Pirates. He played for Sioux City of the Western Association in 1891, hitting .250 with 79 runs, 30 extra-base hits and 39 steals in 122 games. In 1892, he played for Atlanta of the Class-B Southern Association and Omaha of the Western League, which became Class-A that season. He combined to hit .240 in 92 games, with 64 runs, 17 extra-base hits and 34 steals. In 1893, Scheibeck hit .313 with 120 runs scored in 101 games for Erie of the Eastern League. He also traversed out west to play 13 games for Los Angeles of the California League that season before joining the 1894 Pirates (then known as the Braves). He hit well during that high-offense season, batting .353/.421/.461 in 116 plate appearances, but the Pirates had a star-studded lineup that year, so playing time was scarce for Scheibeck, who played five different positions during his 28 games with the team. He had a poor week in early July, and without room for him in the lineup, he was released and moved on to Washington Senators to finish the season, hitting just .230/.381/.281 in 52 games as their starting shortstop. He remained with the Senators in 1895, hitting .180 in 49 games, with a .491 OPS. He ended up playing 15 games of minor league ball that year, split between three teams in the Western League.
Scheibeck spent 1896 with Indianapolis of the Western League (no stats available), then moved on to the Class-A Eastern League for three seasons, spending 1897 with Syracuse and 1898-99 with Montreal. He played 352 games over that time, but he was putting up mediocre stats on offense each year, with his best season being in the middle of that three-year stretch when he hit .251 with 79 runs and 39 extra-base hits in 116 games in 1898. After bouncing around the minors for parts of five season, he returned to the majors late in 1899 for Washington, where he hit .287/.368/.351 in 27 games. After returning to Montreal for all of 1900 and part of 1901, his next big league experience was in 1901 for Cleveland of the American League (the first year for the league at the Major League level). That season he batted .213 with 33 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 38 RBIs in 93 games. From there he played for Milwaukee and Toledo of the American Association in 1902, Denver of the Class-A Western League and Rochester of the Eastern League in 1903, St Joseph of the Western League in 1904, and Montgomery and Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association in 1905. He then got into three late season games in 1906 for the Detroit Tigers, which was his last season in pro ball at 41 years old. He also saw brief time that year with Troy of the Class-B New York State League. While his full minor league records are incomplete, Scheibeck collected over 1,500 minor league hits during his long career. In his 390 games at the majors spread out over eight seasons, he hit .235 with 213 runs, 37 doubles, 18 triples, two homers, 148 RBIs and 88 steals.