Three transactions of note, two games of note, plus one player born on this date.
Coot Veal, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on April 17, 1962. He was a light-hitting, strong fielding shortstop, who spent parts of six seasons in the majors. Veal was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1952, six years before he made his Major League debut. At 19 years old in 1952, he played at three different levels of the minors, seeing time in Class-A (Williamsport of the Eastern League), Class-B (Durham of the Carolina League) and Class-D ball (Jamestown of the PONY League). He played a total of just 41 games that year, getting into 11+ games with each team, and he put up a .283 batting average and eight extra-base hits. He played for Montgomery of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1953, though records show that he was limited to 21 games that season and a .562 OPS. Veal remained at that level in 1954, switching over to Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League, where he hit .231 in 119 games, with 33 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and 27 steals. He was back in the South Atlantic League in 1955 with Augusta, batting .227 with 70 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 62 walks in 129 games. Four years into his pro career, it didn’t look like he had a good chance of a big league future. That outlook changed a bit in 1956 when he did slightly better for Augusta at the plate, posting a .624 OPS in 104 games, while also putting up a .676 OPS in 20 games for Charleston of the Triple-A American Association. While that season was a step in the right direction, the 1957 season seemed to be a setback. He hit just .178 in 14 games with Charleston, while posting a .226 average and a .596 OPS in 119 games with Birmingham of the Double-A Southern Association.
A season like that 1957 campaign is usually a bad sign at 25 years old, but Veal was in the majors with the Tigers by the end of July in 1958. He hit .273/.332/.318 in 61 games with Birmingham, but couldn’t hit his weight (listed at 165 pounds) with Buffalo of the Triple-A International League, finishing with a .133/.264/.267 slash line in 19 games. Despite that Triple-A performance, he still finished the season in the majors and saw regular playing time, hitting .256 with 29 runs scored, 12 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 58 games as the starting shortstop for the Tigers. Veal was a bench player in 1959, who didn’t make his first start of the season until the 77th game. Over the next 39 games, he started 25 times, then didn’t get a single start the rest of the year. In 77 games total (104 plate appearances), he hit .202 with 12 runs, one double, one homer and 15 RBIs. While I don’t know if it was planned this way, he was pulled in the fourth inning on August 13th, right after he batting average dropped below .200 for the first time, and never started again. His 1960 season has the same odd twist, just with much better stats. He spent the first four months of the year in the minors with Buffalo and Denver of the American Association, before joining Detroit in August. Veal was getting regular starts and doing well until September. Then on September 23rd, he was pulled immediately after his batting average dropped below .300 for the first time. He played just one inning after that, playing shortstop to finish the final game on October 6th. He hit .297/.400/406 in 27 games for the Tigers that year. He spent three seasons in Detroit, hitting .250 with one homer and 39 RBIs in 162 games.
The Tigers lost Veal in the 1960 expansion draft to the Los Angeles Angels, who immediately traded him to the new Washington Senators. In 1961, Coot (first name was Orville) would get 252 plate appearances, his single-season career high. He hit just .202 with ten doubles, no homers, eight RBIs and 21 runs scored. He batted lead-off on Opening Day and singled, making him the first batter and giving him the first hit in Texas Rangers franchise history. The Pirates purchased Veal from Washington in late November and he would make the Opening Day roster in 1962. In the sixth game of the 1962 season, starting pitcher Tom Sturdivant allowed five first inning runs in Chicago. When his turn came up in the batting order during the top of the second inning, manager Danny Murtaugh sent up Veal to bat. Veal struck out looking to end the inning, but the Pirates still nailed down an impressive 10-6 come-from-behind win. After spending 19 straight days on the bench, the Pirates shipped Veal, along with Orlando McFarlane, to Columbus of the International League and recalled veteran catcher Cal Neeman. Coot would never play another game for Pittsburgh. A month later, the Pirates traded him to his original team, getting veteran minor league pitcher Albert Pehanick back in return. Veal finished the 1962 season back in Denver, then he would play 15 games for the Tigers in 1963, hitting .219/.297/.219 in 37 plate appearances, before finishing his career in the minors the following season. In six big league seasons, he hit .231 in 247 games, with 75 runs, 26 doubles, three triples, one homer and 51 RBIs. He went 2-for-11 in stolen base attempts.
On this date in 2009, the Pirates signed 16-year-old pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas as an amateur free agent. It took him eight years to make the majors, but on April 24, 2017 he became the first Lithuanian-born Major League player. He made 76 relief appearances for the Pirates over his four seasons with the team, posting a 6.81 ERA in 80.2 innings. The Pirates released him in November of 2020, allowing him to sign with a team from Japan.
On this date in 1993, the Pirates said goodbye to the Candy Man. The 39-year-old John Candelaria was released after posting an 8.24 ERA in 19.2 innings over 24 relief appearances that season. He pitched his final big league game two days earlier. Candelaria, who spent the 1975-85 seasons with the Pirates, signed as a free agent with the Pirates on December 16, 1992, after posting a 2.84 ERA in 50 appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers that year. He was being used as a lefty specialist at the time, throwing just 25.1 innings over those 50 games. The Pirates were using him in a regular relief role and right-handed batters had a 1.006 OPS against him in 1993.
On this date in 1953, 17-year-old catcher Nick Koback signed a bonus baby deal with the Pirates and was brought right to the majors. Due to his bonus being over $6,000 (reportedly between $15,000 and $20,000), he had to spend two full years in the majors before he could be sent to the minors. Koback debuted shortly after his 18th birthday and would play his final big league game before he celebrated his 20th birthday. Despite spending two full years (July 9, 1953 to July 9, 1955) in the majors, he played just 16 games and only started eight times. The Pirates sent him to the minors the first day he was eligible to be sent down. He played pro ball until 1960 without a return trip to the majors.
On this date in 1912, the Pittsburgh Pirates sent out their young pitching phenom Marty O’Toole to take on the Philadelphia Phillies and their young pitching phenom, Eppa Rixey. The Pirates won the battle that day, but they lost the war. Rixey picked up his first career loss, but he finished with 266 career wins and a spot in Cooperstown. Here’s the game recap.
On this date in 1934, a 60-year-old named Honus Wagner played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here’s the game recap and boxscore.
On this date in 1951, the Pittsburgh Pirates played a benefit game for former MLB player Moose Solters, who lost his vision years after being hit by a ball. That day the Pirates players from the 1951 team, took on a team of mostly ex-Pirates players. Here’s the game recap and boxscore from that day. One of the few opposing players that day who never played for the Pirates was Bob Feller.