Only three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, but we have a major transaction from over 100 years ago.
On this date in 1916, the Pirates purchased the contract of 21-year-old Carson Bigbee from the Tacoma Tigers of the Class-B Northwestern League. At the time of the deal, he was batting .340 through 111 games in his first season of pro ball. Bigbee debuted a month later with the Pirates and hit .250 in 43 games that season. He would go on to spend his entire 11-year career in the majors with the Pirates, six times playing over 120 games in a season. His best season occurred in 1922, which was a subject of one of our Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons articles. He was a .287 hitter in 1,147 games in Pittsburgh, with 629 runs, 231 extra-base hits, 324 RBIs, 182 stolen bases and a 344/161 BB/SO ratio. When he retired, he was sixth on the Pirates all-time list of games played. Bigbee’s older brother Lyle pitched for the 1921 Pirates.
Enrique Wilson, infielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1992 as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He was thought to be just shy of his 17th birthday at the time, but it was learned later than he was two years old. Wilson made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 1992, hitting .341/.434/.364 in 13 games. The next season he batted .289 with 42 runs, 13 homers, 50 RBIs and a .920 OPS in 58 games while playing with Elizabethton in the short-season Appalachian League. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians just prior to the start of the 1994 seasons. Wilson spent that year in the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .279 with 82 runs, 50 extra-base hits, 72 RBIs, 21 steals and a .781 OPS in 133 games with Columbus. He moved up to Kinston of the High-A Carolina League in 1995 and batted .267 with 55 runs, 37 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and 18 steals, though that was in 37 attempts. In 1996, Wilson hit .304 with 70 runs, 50 RBIs and a .737 OPS in 117 games at Double-A with Canton-Akron of the Eastern League. His power numbers dropped a bit, down to 27 extra-base hits, but he did a little better in the stolen base department, going 23-for-39 in steals/attempts. He also played three games with Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association and went 4-for-8 with a double and a walk.
Wilson played for Buffalo (then in the Triple-A International League) in 1997 and hit .306 in 118 games, with 78 runs, 20 doubles, 11 homers, 39 RBIs and an .805 OPS. That led to his first big league trial, where he went 5-for-15 in five late season games. The 1998 season was split between Buffalo and the majors. He had a .728 OPS in 56 games with Buffalo, and he hit .322/.354/.456 in 32 games for the Indians. He spent the entire 1999 season in the majors, seeing decent playing time at shortstop, third base and second base. Wilson hit .262 in 113 games that year, with 41 runs, 22 doubles, two homers, 24 RBIs and a .663 OPS. He was hitting .325/.360/.453 in 40 games in 2000 prior to being traded to the Pirates in exchange for veteran infielder Wil Cordero on July 28th. With Cleveland, Wilson played 190 games, hitting .287 with 49 RBIs and 72 runs scored. For Pittsburgh that season, he played 40 games, seeing time at all three infield spots. He hit .262 with 11 runs, ten extra-base hits, 15 RBIs and a .723 OPS.
In 2001, Wilson was seeing most of his time at shortstop and struggling with the bat, hitting just .186/.203/.233 with eight RBIs through 46 games. On June 13, 2001, the Pirates traded Wilson to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Damaso Marte. After the deal, Wilson batted .242 with one homer, 12 RBIs and a .626 OPS in 48 games. In 2002, he was a seldom-used bench player, hitting .181 with 17 runs, two homers and 11 RBIs in 119 plate appearances over 60 games (20 starts). He saw a little more starting time in 2003, hitting .230 with 18 runs, three homers, 15 RBIs and a .639 OPS in 147 plate appearances over 63 games. He saw more time in 2004 at second base and ended up hitting .213 with 19 runs, nine doubles, six homers and 31 RBIs in 93 games. Wilson left the Yankees via free agency after the 2004 season. He signed a deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but never played for them in the majors and he was released in May of 2005. He then finished his big league career with the 2005 Chicago Cubs, hitting .136/.240/.227 in 15 games. He played one last season in the minors in 2006 after signing with the Boston Red Sox. Wilson played winter ball for three seasons in the Dominican after retiring. He was highly rated coming through the minors, three times making Baseball America’s top 100 list, but his career didn’t quite pan out. Wilson was a .244 hitter over 555 Major League games, with 155 runs, 73 doubles, 22 homers, 141 RBIs and a .638 OPS. With the Pirates, he hit .223 in 86 games, with 18 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs. He played in five postseasons, two with Cleveland, three with Yankees, coming up short of a World Series ring each time. He had a .500 OPS in 35 postseason plate appearances.
Irish McIlveen, pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. The Pirates signed the left-handed throwing, native of Ireland, directly out of Penn St, where he was a star athlete. At the time of his signing on July 2, 1906, it was said that he had a verbal agreement in place since the summer of 1905 with Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss that if he decided to play pro ball, he would sign with the Pirates. There was actually word in late May of 1906 that he signed with the Pirates and would begin after the school season ended on June 14th, but it wasn’t officially announced until July 2nd. He had brief experience in pro ball in 1904, playing for Williamsport of the Tri-State League, otherwise he was fresh off of campus, where he was considered both a top class pitcher and hitter. It was also said at the time that he still had a year left at Penn State, where he was studying mining engineering. After joining Pittsburgh, he played five games over a three-week stretch, two as a pitcher and three off the bench. Six days after his Major League debut on July 4th, he made his only start, losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers by a 7-6 score. McIlveen allowed six runs in seven innings as a pitcher, and he went 2-for-5 at the plate.
Ten days after his final big league game on July 25th, McIlveen was in the lineup for Washington of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, where he was said to be the league’s leading hitting by late August. Irish, whose real name was Henry, and who also went by the name “Lefty” in college, returned to school to coach during the 1907 and 1908 seasons. He also played some pro ball during those two seasons. The first year he played 58 games for a minor league team from Steubenville of the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, where he put up a .303 average and stole 16 bases. He also played 19 games for Akron of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League, where he had a .310 average and 16 runs scored. In 1908, he split his time between Newark of the Class-A Eastern League and the New York Highlanders (Yankees) in the majors. McIlveen played 48 games for the Highlanders between the 1908-09 seasons, seeing time at all three outfield spots, but he never pitched in New York or anywhere else in pro ball besides the Pirates. He batted .213 with 17 runs, six extra-base hits, eight RBIs and six steals in 1908. His 1909 time was limited to four pitch-hitting appearances. He played his last Major League game on May 6, 1909 and never played in the minors after that point either. He finished his big league career with a .215 average and a .545 OPS in 53 games. There have been 49 Major League players who were born in Ireland. Only five began their career after McIlveen, one of them being Paddy O’Connor, the backup catcher for the first Pirates team (1909) to win the World Series.
Henry Jones, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys. When the Player’s League formed for the 1890 season, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys lost a large number of players to the new league. Just four players stayed from the 1889 season and only one pitcher. That opened up room for plenty of new players and Jones filled one of those spots. The Alleghenys carried a large roster for the times on Opening Day, with 20 men in uniform that day. Jones was one of six pitchers they had to start the season, seven if you include manager Guy Hecker, who wasn’t slated to pitch when the season began, but he was once a great pitcher and ended up making 12 starts before the season ended. Jones was introduced to the locals in a March newspaper article that said that he was well-known in the area because he was born and played in McKeesport, PA. There aren’t many stats from his minor league days available, but he reportedly started in 1884 at 23 years old for a team in McKeesport, where he also played the following season. After that he pitched for Duluth of the Northwestern League in 1886, he was in Rochester in 1887, Frederick, Maryland in 1888 and Greenville of the Michigan State League in 1889. Not all of that was minor league ball, some was semi-pro. The newspaper also said that he pitched for the Pittsburgh American Association team in 1886, but there’s no record of that time. Jones got noticed by the Alleghenys on October 18, 1889 when he allowed just one earned run over nine innings in an exhibition game between Pittsburgh and McKeesport. He signed with the Alleghenys four weeks later when they began to lose players for the 1890 season. Jones debuted in relief during the third game of the 1890 season and gave up four runs over six innings. He won his first start on May 2nd, though he is incorrectly credited with making his first start on May 1st, which was actually the pro debut of Kirtley Baker, who didn’t get credit for his first game.
Jones didn’t go with the team on a road trip to the east. There current records show that they played 24 straight games on the road, but that only happened because of a rain out at home on May 14th. When the team left to head east, Jones stayed back with two other pitchers to help save on travel costs. There was word that he would be released at that point, but instead he joined the team on the road trip just eight days later when they needed reinforcements. Jones started on May 26th, only to see the game called due to rain one out before it became an official game, though he would have lost if the Alleghenys didn’t score before that final out and he was the batter at the time. Two days later he lost the second game of a doubleheader to the Philadelphia Phillies, which was limited to six innings so the Alleghenys could catch their train. Jones was back in the box three days later in a match-up with Hall of Fame pitcher John Clarkson. The Alleghenys won 9-8, but Jones was knocked out in the second inning after allowing three runs. On an off-day on June 1st, the Alleghenys released Jones and two other players (one returned days later), which ended his big league career. He is credited with a 3.48 ERA in 31 innings now, but that includes the one start that he didn’t make on May 1st, which was a 4-3 loss. After being released, he signed on to play with McKeesport of the Tri-State League for the rest of the season, then followed his McKeesport manager to Erie of the New York-Penn League in 1891, before finishing his pro career in the Class-B Pennsylvania State League in 1892 with a team that split the season between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh. Jones is credit with going 21-9 in 30 starts in 1891, with 30 complete games and three shutouts.