This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 1st, Two-Time Catcher Milt May

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one manager.

Freddy Garcia, corner Infielder/outfielder for the 1995, and 1997-99 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1991 at 18 years old out of the Dominican Republic, three years before the Pirates picked him up as a 1994 Rule 5 draft pick. He spent his first two seasons (1991-92) in the Dominican Summer League (no stats available), then jumped to the U.S. in 1993, playing that season with Medicine Hat of the short-season Pioneer League. Garcia batted .239 with 47 runs, eight doubles, 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 72 games. The next year he played for St Catharines of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he led the league with 13 homers and he drove in 40 runs, while batting .285/.366/.489 in 73 games. The Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft that December and he had to skip four levels to make their Major League squad on Opening Day. Garcia spent the entire season with the Pirates in 1995 (as per the rules of the Rule 5 draft), seeing playing time at third base and left field. He hit .140 with five runs, one RBI and a .439 OPS in 42 games, batting a total of 66 times. The Pirates sent him to the minors in 1996, where he played the entire year in High-A ball at Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Garcia hit .306 with 79 runs, 39 doubles, 21 homers, 86 RBIs and an .892 OPS that season in 129 games. He split the 1997 minor league season between Double-A Carolina of the Southern League and Triple-A Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, hitting .275 with 68 runs, 23 doubles, 24 homers, 74 RBIs and an .858 OPS in 108 games, with much better results at the lower level. He had two stints with the Pirates in 1997, one in late May until early June, then again in September. He hit .150/.191/.400 in 42 plate appearances over 20 games, connecting on his first three big league homers.

Garcia was back in Triple-A (Nashville of the PCL) for most of 1998, where he hit .270 with 24 doubles, 22 homers and an .897 OPS in 88 games. He began that year with the Pirates, but was sent down after hitting .167 through the end of April. He returned in August and hit well, finishing the year with a .256 average, 27 runs, 11 doubles, nine homers and 26 RBIs in 55 games. He remained with the Pirates through September of 1999, when he was dealt to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitcher Greg Dukeman. While with Pittsburgh during that 1999 season, Garcia was playing both corner infield positions, and both corner outfield spots, hitting .231 with five doubles, six homers, 23 RBIs and a .660 OPS in 55 games. He had just four walks, which led to a .252 OBP during that time. He played just two games for Atlanta after the trade, homering on the first pitch he saw in a Braves uniform, then he batted just two more times. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds during Spring Training of 2000, though he never played any games for them in the minors or majors before being released on April 5th. Garcia signed two weeks later with the Boston Red Sox and spent the season with Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League, before finishing his playing career in Japan in 2001, though he did play some winter ball in the Dominican after that point. With the Pirates, he hit .221 with 18 doubles, 18 homers, 55 RBIs and 52 runs scored in 173 games.

Milt May, catcher for the Pirates from 1970-73 and 1983-84. He was signed by the Pirates as an 11th round draft pick in 1968, selected out of high school in Florida two months before his 18th birthday. May worked his way quickly through the minors. He batted .241 with four doubles (no homers or triples) and a .622 OPS in 52 games with the Gulf Coast League Pirates in 1968, though that low offensive output came with a 30:13 BB/SO ratio. He moved up to A-Ball in 1969, playing for Gastonia of the Western Carolinas League, where he hit .289 with 58 runs, 17 doubles, 11 homers, 57 RBIs and an .844 OPS in 86 games. May made it to Triple-A by age 19 in 1970, where he hit .280 with 49 runs, 14 doubles, 21 homers, 86 RBIs and an .823 OPS in 111 games with Columbus of the International League. He was a September call-up that year and never returned to the minors. He played just five games off of the bench in 1970, going 2-for-4 at the plate, but it was enough to keep him in the majors. He hit .278 with 15 runs, six homers, 25 RBIs and a .750 OPS in 49 games during the 1971 season. He pinch-hit three times that postseason, including an RBI single in game four of the World Series.

In 1972, May batted .281 with 12 runs, no homers and 14 RBIs in 57 games. He hit just one double during the 1971 season, but came back with ten in 1972. May was the backup catcher to Manny Sanguillen in 1971-72. With the tragic passing of Roberto Clemente after the 1972 season, Sanguillen moved to the outfield for most of the first half of the 1973 season, with May seeing full-time action behind the plate. That season, he hit .269 with 28 runs, eight doubles, seven homers, 31 RBIs and a .727 OPS in 101 games. May was traded to the Houston Astros on October 31, 1973 in exchange for pitcher Jerry Reuss. From 1974 until 1983, he played for the Astros, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants, six times playing over 100 games in a season.

May played a career high 127 games in his first year in Houston. He hit .289 with 17 doubles, seven homers and a career best of 54 RBIs. He also set a career high with 39 walks, and his .751 OPS was the second best of his career. He led all National League catchers that year with a .993 fielding percentage. In 1975, he hit .241 with 29 runs, 20 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs in 111 games. His OPS dropped 148 points to a .603 mark that season. He led all NL catchers in assists and runners caught stealing. He was part of a seven-player trade with the Tigers that December, but an ankle injury on April 20, 1976 cost him nearly the entire season (he played just six games). He was healthy in 1977 and set a career high with 12 homers. He batted .249 with 32 runs, nine doubles and 46 RBIs in 115 games that year. In 1978, May hit .250 with 24 runs, nine doubles, ten homers and 37 RBIs in 105 games. His devilishly mediocre .666 OPS was just three points lower than his OPS from the previous season. Lance Parrish took over the bulk of the catching in Detroit. and after playing just six games in 1979, May was sold to the Chicago White Sox. Between both stops, he hit .254 with 15 doubles and seven homers in 71 games that year.

May became a free agent after the 1979 season. He signed with the San Francisco Giants for 1980 and batted .260 with 27 runs, 16 doubles, six homers and 50 RBIs in 111 games. The next year he played 97 games during the strike-shortened season, hitting .310 with 20 runs, 17 doubles, two homers and 33 RBIs. His .759 OPS was a career high that season. Those results earned him mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 24th in the voting. In 1982, May hit .263 in 114 games, with a career best 19 doubles, to go along with 29 runs, nine homers, 39 RBIs and a .691 OPS. He played 66 games for the Giants in 1983, hitting .247 with six homers, 20 RBIs and a .700 OPS. May was reacquired by the Pirates on August 19, 1983 from the Giants in exchange for catcher Steve Nicosia. May was the backup to Tony Pena until the end of the 1984 season, when he called it quits. He batted .250 in seven games for the 1983 Pirates, finishing the year with a .691 OPS equal to his 1982 mark. He then hit .177 with one homer and eight RBIs in 50 games (22 starts) for the 1984 Pirates. He played in a total of 1,192 Major League games, hitting .263 with 313 runs, 147 doubles, 77 homers and 443 RBIs. He caught 1,034 games in his career, and never played a single inning at another position during that time. Milt’s father Pinky May was an All-Star third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1939-43 seasons, before his career was cut short due to military service.

Pep Rambert, pitcher for the 1939-40 Pirates. He had a long career in the minors, seeing action with numerous teams, but his Major League career consisted of just a handful of games over two seasons with the Pirates. Rambert was an outfielder for most of his career, though he did pitch 260 games in the minors and made it to the majors as a pitcher. He debuted in pro ball in 1937 at 20 years old and played for three different teams during the season, splitting his time between outfield and pitching (91.2 innings). Most of the time was spent in the Class-D Florida State League, split between St Augustine and Leesburg. He settled in with Savannah of the Class-B South Atlantic League in 1938 after playing 12 games there in 1937. Rambert went 10-9, 4.37 in 173 innings, while hitting .253 in 46 games. He played for Knoxville of the Class-A Southern Association in 1939, where he went 11-8 ,4.82 in 153 innings and batted .317 with ten extra-base hits in 74 games. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 31st under the privileges of the working agreement with Knoxville. At the time the talk was about his .347 batting average, which led the league, but once he joined the Pirates it was noted that he would be a pitcher. He was allowed to finish the season in the minors before joining the Pirates on September 11th. He got into two relief outings over the final three weeks of the 1939 season. He had his troubles in those games, allowing two runs in each, giving up seven hits and a walk in 3.2 innings total.

Pep (first name was Elmer) returned to the minors in 1940, moving up to play for Syracuse of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time), where he had a 7-13, 3.77 record in 160 innings. He returned to Pittsburgh again in September, this time pitching twice in relief without allowing a run. On September 29th, the Pirates let Rambert start the last game of the season again the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed three runs through the first four innings, then ran into a wall, giving up five runs without recording an out in the fifth inning. For Rambert, that game would mark the end of his Major League career. He was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers the following January. From 1941 until his retirement in 1952, Rambert bounced around the minors, missing two years (1944-45) during the war. For five of those seasons, he served as a player/manager. He pitched just 18 innings with the Dodgers Double-A affiliate (Montreal of the International League) in 1941, before moving on to Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association through the 1943 season. He put together a strong 1942 season, going 14-13, 3.33 in 219 innings, but he struggled a bit before joining the war effort, going 6-10, 4.19 in 129 innings in 1943.

Rambert returned to baseball as a hitter/manager and dropped all the way down to Class-D for Cairo of the KITTY League, where he dominated the younger competition, hitting .374 in 96 games, with 95 runs, 28 homers, 87 RBIs and 33 steals. He was just as good the next year, playing for Federalsburg of the Class-D Eastern Shore League, where he hit .376 in 97 games, with 19 homers and 100 RBIs. To highlight the difference in competition, Rambert jumped to Class-A in 1948 with Charleston of the South Atlantic League and hit just .239 with a .731 OPS that was over 300 points lower than the previous year. He spent part of that season in Class-B with Hagerstown of the Interstate League, then stayed at that level in 1949 with Ft Lauderdale of the Florida International League, where he put up a .693 OPS in 100 games. Rambert played for Portsmouth of the Class-B Piedmont League in 1950, then was a player/manager again for Eastman of the Class-D Georgia State League, where he hit .344 in 103 games. His last season was spent back where he started, in Class-D ball in the Florida State League, where the average age of players in the league was 13 years younger than he was at the time (35 years old).

Roy Sanders, pitcher for the 1918 Pirates. He was one of two Major League pitchers in 1918 named Roy Sanders. The other was pitching for the New York Yankees at the time. The Roy Sanders who played for the Pirates, spent the first three years (1915-17) of his pro career pitching for the Kansas City Blues of the Double-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He debuted with a 9-10, 3.34 record in 193.2 innings at 22 years old in 1915. At the time of his pro debut, he was called “the former Kansas City semi-pro pitcher”. In 1916, he went 20-18 in 54 appearances, with 302 innings pitched (ERA isn’t available). Sanders began the 1917 season with the Cincinnati Reds, but didn’t last long, making just two starts. Control problems did him in, as he issued ten walks during his debut and another six over eight innings in his second game, a 2-0 loss. He was returned to Kansas City on April 30th by Reds manager Christy Mathewson, who said he regretted giving him up, but he needed better control before returning to the majors. Both of his pitching performances that year for the Reds were against the Pirates, who must’ve been impressed with Sanders despite the lack of control. In August of that season, he was acquired from Kansas City by the Pirates for a player to be named later.

Sanders never pitched for the Pirates over the last month of the 1917 season. In 1918, he was used often, pitching 14 times in relief and 14 times as a starter during a season that was shortened due to the ongoing war. Sanders went 7-9, 2.60 in 156 innings that year. While his ERA was good, it ranked him fourth on the team, as they finished with the second best pitching in the National League. Sanders never returned to the Pirates (he was a holdout in 1919) or pro baseball, choosing instead to play semi-pro ball back home in Kansas City. Casey Stengel was also a holdout during that 1919 season, though he chose to sign eventually. Stengel and Sanders were working out together in Kansas City through the early part of the year (spring/April) and both were said to be in good shape. Sanders got a job selling railroad tickets shortly after the season started, but by August he was playing semi-pro ball in Kansas City with Stengel, who refused to report to the Philadelphia Phillies after a mid-season trade. On January 5, 1920, the Phillies claimed Sanders from the Pirates via waivers, but he refused to report there as well. In May, the Chicago Cubs tried to acquire him, but Sanders said that he made more money working his railroad job and playing independent ball on the weekends, than he would in the majors. He gave the Cubs a price for his services, but nothing ever came of the deal. Sanders continued to pitch independent ball in 1921, and late that year the local Kansas City paper noted that he had a 39-6 record with 540 strikeouts in 45 starts. He continued to pitch semi-pro ball regularly until 1928.

The Manager

Pete Mackanin, manager of the 2005 Pirates. After playing nine seasons in the majors, Mackanin became a minor league manager and coach. He managed two seasons in the minors for the Pirates, helping Lynchburg to the 2002 Carolina League title. He became the bench coach for the Pirates in 2003 and took over the managerial position from Lloyd McClendon in September of 2005. Mackanin went 12-14 to finish the season, then was replaced by Jim Tracy for the 2006 season. He managed the GCL Pirates in 2006, before moving on to big league managerial jobs with the 2007 Cincinnati Reds and 2015-17 Philadelphia Phillies. As a manager in the majors, he went 227-291. As a player, he was a utility infielder, who hit .226/.263/.339 in 548 games, spread over four teams.

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