There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a Hall of Fame pitcher. Also a Game Rewind link below featuring the greatest player of all-time.
Goose Gossage, relief pitcher for the 1977 Pirates. He was a ninth round draft pick out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in 1970. Gossage pitched well in a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League after signing, putting up a 2.81 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 16 innings. The White Sox then pushed him to A-Ball (Appleton of the Midwest League) to finish his rookie year and it did not go well, with a 5.91 ERA in 35 innings. In 1971 he returned to Appleton for the entire season. He was a starter then and had an incredible year, going 18-2, 1.83 in 187 innings, with 149 strikeouts, 15 complete games and seven shutouts. He made the jump to the majors in 1972 and had a great record, but mediocre overall results. He went 7-1, 4.28 in 80 innings over 36 appearances (one start), mostly pitching in long relief. Gossage spent part of the 1973 season back in the minors, putting up a 3.68 ERA in 71 innings with Iowa of the Triple-A American Association. While with Chicago that year, he had a 7.43 ERA in 49.2 innings, making four starts and 16 relief appearances. In 1974, he went 4-6, 4.13 in 89.1 innings over 39 outings (three starts). He broke out during the 1975 season, leading the American League with 26 saves and making his first All-Star appearance. He saw a ton of work as well, posting a 1.84 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 141.2 innings over 62 appearances, all in relief. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and 17th in the MVP voting.
The White Sox moved Gossage to a starting role in 1976 and he did not do well, especially after June, although he was named to the All-Star team for the second time. Goose (His real first name is Richard) went 9-17, 3.94 in 224 innings, throwing 15 complete games in 29 starts. On December 10, 1976, the Pirates traded away outfielder Richie Zisk in a four-player deal to acquire Gossage. He moved back to a bullpen role in Pittsburgh and pitched outstanding, posting a 1.62 ERA in 72 appearances, with 11 wins and 26 saves. Gossage made the All-Star team for the third straight year and he set a career high with 151 strikeouts (in 133 innings). According to a modern metric called Win Probability Added (WPA), Gossage has the best pitching season in team history. He became a free agent after the season and signed a six-year deal with the New York Yankees.
In his first year in New York, Gossage went 10-11, 2.01 in 134.1 innings over 63 appearances, with 122 strikeouts and a league leading 27 saves. He never approached that innings total over the rest of his career. He was an All-Star, finished fifth in the Cy Young voting and 13th in the MVP voting. The Yankees won the World Series that year and he tossed six shutout innings in the series. In 1979, Gossage was 5-3, 2.62 in 58.1 innings, with 18 saves in 36 appearances. He led the league in saves in 1980 (33) for the third and final time in his career. He had a 6-2, 2.27 record and 103 strikeouts that year in 99 innings (64 appearances), and he made his fifth All-Star appearance. He finished third in both the Cy Young voting and the MVP voting. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Gossage allowed just four earned runs all year. He had an 0.77 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 20 saves in 46.2 innings. He was an All-Star again, with a fifth place finish in the Cy Young voting and a ninth place finish in the MVP race. He was dominating in the playoffs as well, throwing a total of 14.1 shutout innings over eight appearances, as the Yankees lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made his seventh All-Star appearance over an eight-year stretch in 1982, going 4-5, 2.23 with 30 saves and 102 strikeouts in 93 innings over 56 outings. In his final season in New York in 1983, he went 13-5, 2.27 in 87.1 innings, with 22 saves and 90 strikeouts in 57 games.
Gossage signed a free agent deal with the San Diego Padres and remained there for four seasons. He was an All-Star for an eighth time during his first year with the Padres, while finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting and 13th in the MVP voting. It would be the final year that he received votes for either of those awards. He went 10-6, 2.90 with 25 saves in 1984, making 62 appearances, while pitching 102.1 innings. It was the only time that he pitched over 100 innings during the final 15 years of his career, after averaging 158 innings per season during the 1975-78 seasons. Goose’s strong playoff performance didn’t carry over to San Diego, as they lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers. He didn’t do well in the NLCS or the World Series, allowing six runs in 6.2 innings.
Gossage had a strong 1985 season, making his final All-Star appearance, while posting a 1.82 ERA and 26 saves in 79 innings over 50 appearances. His performance really slipped in 1986, with a 4.45 ERA in 64.2 innings. He still managed to pick up 21 saves, which would be the ninth and last time he topped the 20-save mark. He went 5-4, 3.12 in 52 innings, with 11 saves in 1987, his last year in San Diego. Prior to the 1988 season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he spent one season, putting up a 4.33 ERA and 13 saves in 43.2 innings over 46 appearances. He was released by the Cubs in 1989 and ended up splitting that season between the Yankees and San Francisco Giants. Gossage pitched well in both spots, putting up a 2.95 ERA in 58 innings. Despite his success with the Giants, they put him on waivers in August and he was picked up by the Yankees. He became a free agent and didn’t sign a big league deal until January of 1991 with the Texas Rangers. That’s because he decided to spend the 1990 season in Japan, where he had a 4.40 ERA in 47 innings. Gossage did well during his only year in Texas, finishing with a 4-2, 3.57 record and one save in 40.1 innings and 43 games pitched. He signed with the Oakland A’s in 1992 and had a 2.84 ERA in 30 appearances, throwing 38 innings. He didn’t do as well in Oakland in 1993, with a 4.53 ERA in 47.2 innings over 39 appearances. The A’s released him during Spring Training in 1994 and he signed with the Seattle Mariners. He had a 4.18 ERA in 47.1 innings, crossing over the 1,000 games pitched mark, while picking up his final career save in back-to-back appearances. His big league career ended that year, cut short by the strike in August.
Goose ended up pitching 22 seasons in the majors, playing for nine different teams over that time. He finished with nine All-Star selections, 124 wins, 310 saves, 1,502 strikeouts and 3.01 ERA in 1,809.1 innings over 1,002 appearances. Gossage was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, his ninth time on the ballot. We covered his one season with the Pirates in full detail here.
Beals Becker, outfielder for the 1908 Pirates. He came up to the majors in 1908 as an outfielder, but in 1906 Becker won 25 games on the mound while playing for Wichita of the Class-C Western Association. He was just 19 years old that season, in his second season of pro ball, after debuting with Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association in 1905. His pitching stats are very limited, but they show a 3-5 record with Little Rock, along with a .273 average in 29 games. Becker played briefly with Little Rock in 1906, but the year was mostly spent with Wichita, where his 25-15 pitching record, came with a .308 average and 14 extra-base hits in 79 games. His hitting became more valuable than his pitching for Wichita in 1907, going 5-5 on the mound while batting .310 in 97 games. He was purchased by the Pirates from Wichita on August 3, 1907, just a month after it was announced that the Detroit Tigers had secured an option on him. He was allowed to complete the 1907 season in Wichita and finished as the league’s leading hitter. Despite the fact that he batted over .300 both seasons in Wichita, his speed was said to be his best asset. He reported to the Pirates the following spring and made the 1908 Opening Day roster. In limited action for Pittsburgh, Becker batted .154 with no RBIs in twenty games, with 17 of those games as a right fielder. He was released on option to Little Rock on June 19th, where he hit .305 in 53 games. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Doves on August 18, 1908, while the two teams were playing each other in Pittsburgh. Becker went on to play seven more years in the majors, twice batting over .300.
Becker batted .275/.303/.304 in 43 games with Boston to finish out the 1908 season. In 1909, he played a career high 152 games and led the National League with 87 strikeouts. He hit .246, with 60 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits, a .631 OPS and 21 steals. Becker was traded to the New York Giants just before the start of the 1910 season. He was a bench player during his first two years in New York, hitting .286 in 80 games in 1910, when he put up a .794 OPS in 143 plate appearances. He then hit .262 in 88 games in 1911, batting a total of 200 times that year, finishing with a .713 OPS and 19 steals. He became a regular in 1912, when he hit .264 with 32 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 67 runs scored and 30 steals in 125 games. He was sold to the Cincinnati Reds in 1913, but his stay there was short. They traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies after 30 games. At the time, he had a .296 average, but he improved after the deal. Becker ended up with a strong 1913 season, hitting .316 with 46 extra-base hits and an .862 OPS in 118 games. That OPS was good enough for third best in the National League. He batted .325 with 39 extra-base hits in 138 games in 1914, and set career highs with 76 runs scored and 66 RBIs. His .816 OPS that year was seventh best in the league. While he set a career best with 11 homers in 1915, his average dropped nearly 80 points and his OPS dropped 100 points. He hit .246 in 112 games that season, which ended up being his last year in the majors. Becker helped his teams get to the 1911, 1912 and 1915 World Series, though he was on the losing end all three years and he failed to collect a postseason hit.
He finished his career with a .276 average, 114 doubles, 43 triples, 45 homers, 292 RBIs and 367 runs scored in 876 games. While Becker was known for his speed early in his career and he stole 129 bases in the majors, in all four seasons where caught stealing records are available, he was successful in fewer than 50% of his stolen base attempts. His big league career was over by 1915, but he was far from done as a player, hanging around until 1925 in the minor leagues. His full minor league stats are incomplete, but it is known that he batted over .300 in six of his seven seasons with Kansas City of the Double-A American Association between 1916 and 1924, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. That included a .367 average and 74 extra-base hits during the 1922 season. He finished his career out west, playing for three Pacific Coast League (Double-A) teams during the 1924-25 seasons. He had a bit of an odd career path in the minors, spending the 1920 season in an outlaw league after Kansas City tried to sell him to Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. That led to him being put on the ineligible list, which he appealed to get off of in 1921. He ended up playing semi-pro ball in California that year, then rejoined Kansas City in 1922 for his big season. He also ended up playing for Seattle during the 1924-25 seasons, so both teams involved in the 1920 deal that he denied ended up getting him over the next five years. His odd name “Beals” wasn’t a nickname, it was his middle name. His first name was David.
Ward Miller, outfielder for the 1909 Pirates. He spent three years in class-D ball, the lowest level of the minors and didn’t hit well until the third season (1908) when he really broke out while playing for Wausau of the Wisconsin-Illinois League. He debuted in 1906 with Waterloo of the Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs at age 21, where he hit .278 in 70 games. In 1907, Miller batted .237 in 81 games for Madison of the Wisconsin State League. With Wausau in 1908, he batted .382 in 124 games, putting up an average that was 128 points higher than the next best regular on the team. The Pirates signed him for the 1909 season and he played center field 14 times through the end of May. He was hitting .143/.213/.179 at that point, when Pittsburgh decided to deal him to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder/pitcher Kid Durbin and cash considerations (If Miller was doing well after 30 days, the Reds would pay the Pirates). Miller ended up hitting .310/.345/.354 in 43 games for the Reds over the rest of the season. In 1910, he hit .238 with 21 runs, six doubles and ten RBIs in 81 games (21 starts) for Cincinnati, seeing time at all three outfield spots. He returned to the minors for the 1911 season and hit .332 with 37 extra-base hits in 156 games for Montreal of the Class-A Eastern League.
Miller returned to the majors in 1912 with the Chicago Cubs. He played two years in Chicago as a part-time player with drastically different results. He hit .307/.377/.386 in 86 games in 1912, seeing most of his time in center field. In 1913 he batted .237/.349/.345 in 80 games and saw more time in left field. That was followed by two years in the Federal League for the St Louis Terriers, one of many big league players to jump to the newly-formed Major League. Miller batted .294 with 28 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs, 18 stolen bases and 59 walks over 121 games in his first year with the Terriers. He followed that up with his best big league season, hitting .306 with 29 extra-base hits, 63 RBIs, 33 steals, 79 walks and 80 runs scored in 154 games in 1915. The league folded after two seasons and he then spent his last two seasons in the majors with the St Louis Browns. He hit .266 in 146 games in 1916, with 23 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs, 72 walks and 72 runs scored. In 1917, he batted .207/.350/.281 in 43 games, playing his final big league game on July 15th. It was back to the minors in 1918 for Miller, where he played three more years before retiring. He batted .230 for Salt Lake City of the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1918 (highest level of the minors at the time), then played his final two years with Kansas City of the Double-A American Association, where he hit .318 in 148 games in 1919. He then dropped to a .275 average in 134 games at 35 years old during his final season of pro ball. He was a .278 career hitter in 769 games in the majors, with 322 runs scored, 79 doubles, 35 triples, eight homers, 221 RBIs and 128 stolen bases.
Harvey Cushman, pitcher for the 1902 Pirates. At the end of the 1902 season, the Pirates played 13 doubleheaders over the last 53 days. The team had a 76-26 record going into play on August 24th, when Cushman made his Major League debut. Over a 13-day stretch, the team went 10-5 with four of those losses coming while he was on the mound. Those would be the only four games of his Major League career. He had no previous pro experience prior to joining the Pirates shortly after his 25th birthday. He played college ball at the University of Maine. He was called the “Millville amateur” during his big league debut, which occurred one day after he joined the Pirates in an emergency role due to multiple injuries on the team. In his first Major League game, he lost 9-4 to the Cincinnati Reds and pitched a complete game (seven inning contest), despite the fact he gave up all nine runs in the third inning. The catcher for Cushman once the game got out of hand was Mike Hopkins. During the time Cushman got his two-week trial, the Pirates were battling injuries and both Hopkins and an outfielder named Bill Miller were amateurs who played their only game in pro ball at this time, Miller on August 23rd and Hopkins on the 24th. Things got so bad with injuries that pitcher Jesse Tannehill was in left field during both games of the doubleheader played on the 24th, yet Pittsburgh still finished with a 103-36 record that season. Cushman made his second start on August 29th against the Chicago Cubs and lost 9-3. That would be his only home start for the Pirates. On September 2nd in Brooklyn, he pitched well, but lost 3-0. His final outing came three days later in Boston and he was wild and got hit around in a 12-1 loss. He gave up ten runs before being pulled in the second inning and replaced by Honus Wagner, who threw 5.1 innings without an earned run.
Cushman actually pitched again for the Pirates three time after his final big league game, taking the ball in exhibition games against a strong local amateur team called Homestead, and a minor league teams from Utica and Rochester. He beat Utica 1-0 in ten innings, allowing just three hits and one walk on September 7th. He tossed a complete game in a 7-3 win over Homestead on September 19th and struck out 13 batters. He tied Rochester 3-3 in 11 innings, striking out 11 batters. He played four more seasons of pro ball after 1902, spending about half of that time with Des Moines of the Class-A Western League. Des Moines was said to have made Cushman and catcher Lee Fohl great offers through manager Fred Clarke as the 1902 regular season was ending for the Pirates. Stats are limited for Des Moines, but he’s credited with pitching 55 games during the 1903-04 season. He also spent time with Williamsport and Altoona of the Tri-State League in 1904. His career finished in Class-C ball in 1906, spending his final two year with the Braddock Infants of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1905, then they switched to the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League during the 1906 season. Cushman pitched for an independent local team in Natrona in 1907, which appears to be his final baseball experience.
Felipe Vazquez, pitcher for the 2015-19 Pirates. Vazquez has been suspended by baseball since 2019 due to his ongoing court cases and jail time. He was put on the restricted list by the Pirates due to his salary, which would have been due to him if they flat out released him instead. He was originally signed by the Tampa Bays Rays as a 17-year-old international free agent out of Venezuela. He was known as Felipe Rivero back then, but legally changed his last name to Vazquez prior to the 2018 season. He spent his first two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, where he had a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings over 16 appearances in 2009, followed by a 2.09 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 51.2 innings in 2010, when he made nine starts and five relief appearances. Rivero then jumped to the U.S. in 2011, and had a 4.62 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 60.1 innings in the short-season Appalachian League with Princeton. He was mostly a starter in Low-A in 2012 with Bowling Green of the Midwest League, going 8-8, 3.41 in 113.1 innings over 21 starts and six relief appearances. In High-A in 2013 with Charlotte of the Florida State League, he went 9-7, 3.40 in 127 innings over 25 games (23 starts). He pitched winter ball in Venezuela during the 2013-14 off-season, giving up five runs in 5.2 innings.
Rivero was traded to the Washington Nationals prior to the 2014 season. He missed part of the 2014 season due to injury and had to make up time in the Arizona Fall League. He had a 4.12 ERA in 43.2 innings over ten starts at Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League that year. He also made four rehab starts in which he threw ten innings without a run. He then had a 6.08 ERA in seven starts in the Fall. In 2015, Rivero began the year in Triple-A with Syracuse of the International League, but he quickly made the majors as a reliever, despite allowing five runs in 6.2 innings. He posted a 2.79 ERA, 43 strikeouts and two saves in 48.1 innings over 49 appearances for the Nationals as a rookie. In 2016, he had a 4.53 ERA and 53 strikeouts through 49.2 innings over 47 appearances, before he was traded to the Pirates for Mark Melancon. In 28 appearances with the Pirates that season, Rivero had a 3.29 ERA in 27.1 innings. He became the team closer in 2017, when he went 5-3, 1.67, with 88 strikeouts in 75.1 innings over 73 games, compiling 21 saves. Vazquez was an All-Star in both 2018 and 2019, posting a 4-2, 2.70 record and 37 saves during the first year. He threw 70 innings in 70 appearances that season, while picking up 89 strikeouts. That was followed by a 1.65 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 28 saves in 60 innings in 2019. It’s highly unlikely that he ever plays pro ball again, though winter ball in Venezuela down the line could be possible depending on how his ongoing case plays out and whether they are willing to accept him in the league if it is a possibility. His final big league stats show a 17-13, 2.61 record in 323 games (all in relief), with 89 saves and 330.2 innings pitched.
The Game Rewind
We did a Game Rewind article on a July 5, 1923 contest between the Pirates and New York Yankees at Forbes Field. Yes the date is correct and you can assume who starred in that game by the title of this post. There are also interesting notes about a young Lou Gehrig and it was a tough exhibition game for Pie Traynor.