This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 3rd, A Popular Day for 1987 Pirates

There have been six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and three of them played for the 1987 team.

Matt Joyce, outfielder for the 2016 Pirates. The Detroit Tigers selected him in the 12th round of the 2005 draft out of Florida Southern College. Joyce went to the short-season New York-Penn League that year and hit .332 in 65 games, with 18 extra-base hits and 51 runs scored for Oneonta. In 2006, he spent the entire season in Low-A, where he batted .258 with 75 runs, 30 doubles, 11 homers and 86 RBIs in 122 games for West Michigan of the Midwest League. He spent the entire 2007 season in Double-A, playing for Erie of the Eastern League. He hit .257 with 61 runs, 33 doubles, 17 homers, 70 RBIs and a .787 OPS in 130 games. He was promoted to Triple-A in 2008, but by early May he was making his big league debut. He didn’t stick right away, but Joyce played 92 games for the Tigers in 2008, hitting .252 with 40 runs, 16 doubles, 12 homers, 33 RBIs and an .831 OPS. He had a .902 OPS in 56 games for Toledo of the International League that year. He played winter ball after the season and put up a .944 OPS in 35 games in Mexico. That December he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitcher Edwin Jackson. Joyce spent a majority of 2009 in Triple-A, where he hit .273 in 111 games for Durham of the International League, finishing with 73 runs, 35 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBIs and 67 walks. He batted .188/.270/.500 with three homers and seven RBIs in his 11 big league games that season.

The 2010 season saw Joyce play 35 minor league games and 77 games with the Rays. He hit .241 with 30 runs, 15 doubles, ten homers, 40 RBIs, 40 walks and an .837 OPS for Tampa Bay that year. Joyce stuck in the majors in 2011 and had an All-Star season, the only one of his career. He hit .277 with 69 runs, 32 doubles, 19 homers, 75 RBIs, an .825 OPS and 13 steals (in 14 attempts) over 141 games. In 2012, he hit .241 with 55 runs, 18 doubles, 17 homers, 59 RBIs and a .769 OPS in 124 games. He dropped down to a .235 average in 2013, with 61 runs, 22 doubles, 18 homers, 47 RBIs, 59 walks and a slightly lower .747 OPS in 140 games. He played 140 games in 2014 as well, during his last season in Tampa Bay. He hit .254 that year, though his home run total was cut in half down to nine. He had 51 runs, 23 doubles, 52 RBIs and 62 walks. His OPS went down every year after his high mark of .837 in 2011, down to .732 in 2014, but the worst was yet to come.

Joyce played the 2015 season with the Los Angeles Angels, where he hit .174 with 12 doubles, five homers, 21 RBIs and a .564 OPS in 93 games. That was his eighth season in the majors and it was easily his worst performance at the plate. He played winter ball in the Dominican over the off-season and had a .952 OPS in 27 games. He signed as a free agent with the Pirates in Spring Training of 2016. Joyce started 44 games in the outfield for the Pirates and another four in the DH spot. He played 140 games total, coming off the bench in the other 92 games. He batted .220 with four homers, 15 RBIs and 21 walks in 81 pinch-hitting appearances. Joyce posted a .242 average and an .866 OPS in 293 plate appearances that year, finishing with 45 runs and 42 RBIs. He left via free agency after the season and signed with the Oakland A’s, where he had an .808 OPS in 141 games and set career highs with 33 doubles, 25 homers, 66 walks and 78 runs scored in 2017. The next year he hit .208 with 34 runs, nine doubles, seven homers and 15 RBIs in 83 games for the A’s. He signed with the Cleveland Indians as a free agent in 2019, but he was cut during Spring Training. The Giants signed him, but just four days later he was sold to the Atlanta Braves, where hit batted .295/.408/.450 in 129 games, mostly seeing time off of the bench. He had 32 runs, ten doubles, seven homers and 23 RBIs in 200 at-bats. Joyce signed with the Miami Marlins for the shortened 2020 season and he hit .252 with 16 runs, four doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs in 46 games. He had an .091 average in 43 games (69 plate appearances) with the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies before being released late in the season. Joyce briefly played winter ball in the Dominican after the 2021 season, but he has not played since. In 1,400 games over 13 seasons, he has a .242/.342/.425 slash line, with 537 runs, 205 doubles, 149 homers and 503 RBIs.

Kevin Elster, shortstop for the 1997 Pirates. He was signed as a second round draft pick of the New York Mets in January of 1984 out of Golden West College. He debuted in pro ball at 19 years old with Little Falls of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .257 with 35 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs and 13 steals in 71 games. Elster split the 1985 season evenly between A-Ball with Lynchburg of the Carolina League and Double-A Jackson of the Texas League, playing 59 games at each level. He combined to hit .276 with 78 runs, 22 doubles, nine homers, 48 RBIs and a .746 OPS, with much better results at the lower level. In 1986, he spent the entire minor league season in Jackson, where he batted .269 with 69 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and 61 walks in 127 games, resulting in a .699 OPS. Elster made his first appearance in the majors as a September call-up that year, batting .167/.242/.200 in 33 plate appearances over 19 games. He was in Triple-A Tidewater of the International League in 1987, where he established himself as a true prospect, hitting .310 in 134 games, with 33 doubles, seven triples, eight homers, 75 RBIs and a .789 OPS. He played five games that year in the majors, collecting two doubles and two singles, then he won the Mets starting shortstop job on Opening Day in 1988. Elster held the job until 1992, but he began to miss significant playing time with injuries, including the last 60 games of the 1990 season, and nearly all of the 1992-93 seasons.

Elster hit .214 with 41 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 37 RBIs in 149 games in his first full season in the majors. While the .594 OPS didn’t impress, he did make consistent contact, striking out just 47 times in 450 plate appearances. He improved the next year, batting .231 with 52 runs, 25 doubles, ten homers, 55 RBIs and a .643 OPS in 151 games. That year he led all National League shortstops in putouts. In 1990, Elster batted .207 with 36 runs, 20 doubles, nine homers and 45 RBIs in 92 games. Despite the 24-point drop in his batting average, his OPS dropped just six points. A shoulder injury ended his season early. In 1991, he batted .241 with 33 runs, 24 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs in 114 games, finishing with a .669 OPS. His shoulder problems returned in 1992 and he played just six games all year, then was let go after the season by the Mets. He played briefly in the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1993, and he was with the Florida Marlins for a short time as well, but most of the season was spent at home. He signed with the San Diego Padres for 1994, but he got released during Spring Training. On May 1, 1994, he signed with the New York Yankees and spent most of the year in the minors, coming up for seven games in which he went 0-for-20 at the plate. He batted .118/.167/.177 in ten games for the 1995 Yankees before being released in June. He was signed by the Kansas City Royals, but his stay there was less than a full week and he didn’t see the majors. He then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he batted .208/.302/.377 in 26 games to finish out the season.

From the 1992 season through the end of 1995, Elster played just 49 Major League games, with almost no success, so his 1996 season came as quite a surprise. Finally healthy, he played a career high 157 games for the Texas Rangers that year, hitting .252 with 79 runs, 32 doubles, 24 homers, 99 RBIs and a .779 OPS. The Pirates signed him in December of 1996 as a free agent. Elster was hitting .225 with 14 runs, 16 doubles, seven homers and 25 RBIs through 39 games, when he broke his left wrist during a collision at first base on May 16th with Marlins’ pitcher Kurt Abbott. He would not return from that injury that season, marking the end of him brief time in Pittsburgh. Elster re-signed with the Rangers in 1998 and hit .232 with 33 runs, ten doubles, eight homers and 37 RBIs in 84 games. He didn’t play at all in 1999, then returned to finish his pro career with the 2000 Dodgers, where he batted .227 with 29 runs, eight doubles, 14 homers and 32 RBIs in 80 games. He was a .228 hitter in 940 Major League games over 13 seasons, finishing with 332 runs, 136 doubles, 88 homers and 376 RBIs. Despite stealing 13 bases in his pro debut, which was a half season, he stole just 14 bases in the majors. He was considered to be a solid defensive player, with positive defensive WAR numbers every year until his season with the Pirates.

Mackey Sasser, catcher for the 1987 and 1995 Pirates. He was a fifth round draft pick in January of 1984 at 21 years old by the San Francisco Giants. He was a catcher in the majors, but didn’t start the position full-time until his third season. Sasser played first base, third base and outfield in 1984, while hitting .290 with 65 runs, 33 extra-base hits, 71 RBIs and 16 steals in 134 games. He split the year between Clinton of the Class-A Midwest League (118 games) and Fresno of the Advanced-A California League (16 games). He spent the entire 1985 season with Fresno, where he hit .338 with 79 runs, 27 doubles, 14 homers, 102 RBIs and an .873 OPS in 133 games. While he still played some first base and outfield in the Double-A Texas League with Shreveport in 1986, a majority of his time was spent behind the plate. He hit .293 with 52 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 72 RBIs and a .768 OPS in 120 games that season. The 1987 season started in Triple-A Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, before Sasser was called up to the majors in mid-July of 1987, where he went 0-for-4 in two games with the Giants. The Pirates acquired him on July 31, 1987 in exchange for pitcher Don Robinson.  Sasser went to Triple-A Vancouver of the PCL until September, joining the Pirates for the last month of the season, where he hit .217/.217/.217 with two RBIs in 23 at-bats. He batted .318 in 115 games of Triple-A that year, with 24 doubles, three homers and 56 RBIs.

The Pirates traded Sasser to the Mets on March 26, 1988 in a four-player deal, with the main pieces being Sasser in exchange for young first baseman Randy Milligan. Sasser spent five seasons in New York, where he developed a mental block with the simple task of throwing the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch. He began to double and sometimes triple-clutch before making the throw, which would allow runners to take advantage of the yip. The Mets began using him at other positions to get his bat in the lineup, spending time at first base and outfield. Serving as the backup to Hall of Famer Gary Carter in 1988, Sasser hit .285 with one homer and 17 RBIs in 60 games, which included 30 starts behind the plate. Carter was injured for a time in 1989 and Sasser split the extra playing time with Barry Lyons. Sasser hit .291 with 17 runs, 14 doubles, one homer and 22 RBIs in 72 games that year. He played in a career high of 100 games during the 1990 season with Carter no longer around, hitting .307 with 14 doubles, six homers and 41 RBIs. That double total was a career high for him, which he would match in three consecutive seasons. He also set a career high with his .770 OPS.

In 1991, Sasser batted .272 with 14 doubles, five homers, 35 RBIs and a .714 OPS in 96 games. He never drew many walks during his career, so it led to low runs scored totals, with a career high of 31 in 1990, and just 18 runs in 1991. That number got really low in 1992 when he batted .241 with six doubles, two homers, 18 RBIs and seven runs scored in 92 games, though he was used mostly off of the bench that season. He had just three walks that year. Sasser signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in December of 1992 and hit .218 with 18 runs, ten doubles, one homer and 21 RBIs in 83 games in 1993. The next year he played just three big league games before he was released by Seattle in May. He signed with the San Diego Padres, although he never played in the majors for them. He also spent part of the 1994 season playing in Mexico. Sasser then returned to Pittsburgh, signing as a free agent with the Pirates in December of 1994. He played 14 games for Pittsburgh in 1995 before being released in mid-May after hitting .154/.154/.192 in 26 at-bats, with a double and no walks. He finished his playing career in the Mexican League the next season. He was a .267 hitter over his nine-year Major League career, with 69 doubles, 16 homers, 156 RBIs and 103 runs scored in 534 games. He went 16-for-18 in steals during his pro debut in 1984 and ended up stealing one base in the majors.

Sid Bream, first baseman for the 1985-90 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1981 out of Liberty University. He played 66 games for Los Angeles over parts of three seasons, before the Pirates acquired him in September of 1985 for Bill Madlock. Bream debuted in pro ball with Vero Beach in the Class-A Florida State League in 1981, where he hit .327 with 35 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs in 71 games. He started the 1982 season back in Vero Beach, but he was in Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League by the end of the year, going through Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League to get there. Bream hit .316 with 87 runs scored, 32 doubles, 13 homers, 95 RBIs and an .879 OPS in 136 games that season. In 1983, he hit .307 with 115 runs scored, 23 doubles, 32 homers, 118 RBIs, 93 walks and a .984 OPS in 138 games at Albuquerque. He played 15 games for the Dodgers that September, but he received just 13 plate appearances, going 2-for-11 with two walks and two singles. In 1984, Bream hit .343 with 82 runs, 25 doubles, 20 homers and 90 RBIs in 114 games at Albuquerque, while also batting .184/.263/.245 in 58 plate appearances over 27 games with the Dodgers. He did even better in Triple-A in 1985, hitting .370/.437/.647 with 25 doubles, 17 homers and 57 RBIs in 85 games. With the Dodgers that season, he hit just .132 in 24 games, putting up a .531 OPS in 63 plate appearances. On September 9, 1985, he was sent to the Pirates along with Cecil Espy as the players to be named later (RJ Reynolds) in an August trade involving Bill Madlock.

After joining the Pirates, Bream stepped right in as the team’s starting first baseman, a job he would hold full-time until a 1989 injury caused him to miss all but 19 games of that season. He hit .284/.355/.453 in 26 games for the 1985 Pirates, with three homers and 15 RBIs. In 1986, he batted .268 with 73 runs, 37 doubles, 16 homers, 77 RBIs, 60 walks, 16 steals and a .791 OPS in 154 games. During the 1987 season, he hit .275 with 64 runs, 25 doubles, 13 homers, 65 RBIs and a .747 OPS in 149 games. Bream batted .264 with 50 runs, 37 doubles, ten homers, 65 RBIs and a .737 OPS in 148 games in 1988. He injured his knee early in 1989 and had a brief comeback before undergoing season ending surgery. He hit just .222 with no homers in 19 games that year, though it came with a .417 OBP due to 12 walks. He returned healthy in 1990 to have a Sid Bream-like season, batting .270 with 39 runs, 23 doubles, 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 147 games, though he only started 100 games that year. After batting .500 in the NLCS that year, with a homer and three RBIs, he signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves.

Bream played three seasons in Atlanta and nothing interesting worth mentioning happened there, especially not in the playoffs. He batted .270 with 23 doubles, 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 147 games in 1991, which were impressive stats considering that he only started 72 games and often didn’t finish games, usually leaving late for a pinch-runner. That was followed by a .253 average, 25 doubles, 11 homers and 45 RBIs over 91 games in the 1992 season, when nothing of note happened in the playoffs, especially not against the Pirates. In 1993, Bream batted .260 with 33 runs, 14 doubles, nine homers and 35 RBIs in 117 games. He moved on to the Houston Astros for the 1994 season, where he hit .344/.429/.426 in limited bench time, getting 70 plate appearances in 46 games. In six seasons in Pittsburgh, Bream hit .269 with 57 homers and 293 RBIs in 643 games. In his 12-year big league career, he hit .264 with 191 doubles, 90 homers, 455 RBIs and 351 runs scored in 1,088 games. He put up a .785 OPS in 28 playoff games. He finished his career with 11.1 WAR, of which 8.9 came with the Pirates.

Jim Gott, relief pitcher for the 1987-89 and 1995 Pirates. He was a draft pick of the 1977 St Louis Cardinals, taken in the fourth round out of high school at 17 years old. He pitched that first season in the short-season Pioneer League and didn’t look like a future MLB veteran, posting a 9.55 ERA in 65 innings over 14 starts, with 83 walks and 60 strikeouts. Things turned around quickly though, as he had a 3.54 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 173 innings over two levels of A-Ball in 1978, playing for Gastonia of the Western Carolinas League (22 starts) and St Petersburg of the Florida State League (five starts). However, his 1979 season, which was split over three levels, didn’t go well no matter where he played. His lowest ERA for those three teams that season was the 5.40 mark he had in Double-A Arkansas of the Texas League. He also spent time with Gastonia and St Petersburg again, finishing with a 5-9, 5.76 record in 100 innings over 16 starts and nine relief appearances. That led to him being back in A-Ball for the entire 1980 season, where he went 5-11, 4.60 in 137 innings with St Petersburg, finishing with 113 walks and 103 strikeouts. He returned to Double-A Arkansas in 1981 and had a 5-9, 3.44 record in 131 innings over 19 starts and nine relief appearances. He managed to walk just 65 batters that season, which was easily his best walk rate up to that point.

Without any Triple-A experience, Gott made his big league debut as a starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent the entire 1982 season after they acquired him through the Rule 5 draft. He went 5-10, 4.43 in 136 innings as a rookie, making 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He went 9-14, 4.74, striking out a career high 121 batters in 176.2 innings over 34 games (30 starts) in 1983, then switched between starting and relief in 1984. That year Gott had a 7-6, 4.02 record in 109.2 innings over 12 starts and 23 relief appearances. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants in January of 1985 and went 7-10, 3.88 in 26 starts, covering 148.1 innings.

Gott started for most of his first four seasons in the majors, compiling a 28-40, 4.31 record. After 1985 however, he would make just five more starts over the last ten years of his career, none of those with Pittsburgh. He missed most of the 1986 season with a bicep injury and subsequent rotator cuff surgery, posting a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings over nine games (two starts). He then started 1987 with a 4.50 ERA in 56 innings over 30 games during the first four months of the season. The Pirates acquired Gott off waivers from the Giants on August 3, 1987, which was his 28th birthday. After mediocre results in San Francisco that season, he finished strong in Pittsburgh as the team’s closer, with a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings, with 13 saves in 25 games. In 1988, he saved 34 games, going 6-6, 3.49 in 67 games. That saves total was a Pirates record at the time, which lasted until surpassed by Mike Williams in 2002. Gott had 76 strikeouts that year in 77.1 innings. He dealt with elbow pain in Spring Training of 1989 and his season lasted just one game before he was shut down and had elbow surgery. Gott became a free agent at the end of 1989 and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he spent five seasons. He occasionally closed in Los Angeles, going 19-22, 2.99 in 272 games, while picking up 38 saves.

Gott went 3-5, 2.90 in 62 innings over 50 appearances in 1990. He had a 4-3, 2.96 record and 73 strikeouts in 76 innings over 55 outings in 1991. He saw more work and lowered his ERA in 1992, going 3-3, 2.45 in 88 innings over 68 games, with six saves. He moved into the closer role for the 1993 season and had his lowest ERA, going 4-8, 2.32 in 68 games and 77.2 innings pitched, while picking up 25 saves and 67 strikeouts. He had a 5.94 ERA in 36.1 innings over 37 games during his last year with the Dodgers in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Gott signed with the Pirates as a free agent the next April and was ineffective most of the year, with a 2-4, 6.03 record and three saves in 31.1 innings over 25 games. In August, he needed to have shoulder surgery, which ended his career on a down note, as he was just trying to get through his final season. That would mark the end of his 14-year big league career, leaving him with a 56-74, 3.87 record and 91 saves in 1,120 innings over 554 games (96 starts). Gott threw ten complete games and three shutouts. He hit four homers in his career, but he drove in just five runs total.

Gus Getz, third baseman for the 1918 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, who began his pro career in 1908 with McKeesport of the Class-C Ohio-Pa. League. He batted .273 in 35 games during his first season, then batted .282 in 95 games for McKeesport in 1909 (only limited stats are available for those years). In August of 1909, the Boston Doves purchased his rights. Getz played in 40 of the last 51 games of the season, hitting .223 with six runs, two doubles and nine RBIs in 153 plate appearances, while getting most of his time in at third base. The Doves finished with a 45-108 record that season. The next year, he saw time at all three outfield spots and three infield positions (all but first base), hitting .194 with 14 runs and seven RBIs in 154 plate appearances over 54 games. He had just one extra-base hit, which was a triple. Boston sold him to Indianapolis of the Class-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time), and he spent the next three seasons in the minors. Getz was a light-hitting infielder, who liked to put the ball in play. In 307 plate appearances with Boston, he had seven walks and twenty strikeouts, while putting together a .223 slugging percentage. He would improve on the power numbers slightly, but over his seven-year Major League career, he walked just 24 times in 1,172 plate appearances, while finishing with 56 strikeouts. Getz hit just two homers in his career (three if you include the minors), and amazingly they came just eight days apart. They both came against Philadelphia, one at home and one on the road.

In 1911, Getz hit .277 with 21 doubles and one triple in 118 games for Indianapolis. He dropped down a level in competition in 1912, though that was the year that Double-A became the highest level, so he was really three levels from the majors. He was playing in the New York State League, where he hit .299 in 137 games for Elmira. From there he spent all of 1913 and part of 1914 with Newark of the Double-A International League. Getz hit .275 with 49 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 35 stolen bases in 137 games in 1913, then batted .289 with 40 runs, 16 doubles and 28 steals in 107 games in 1914. He returned to the majors in 1914 with the Brooklyn Robins, where he stayed for three seasons. He hit .248 with 13 runs, nine extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and nine steals in 55 games over the rest of the 1914 season. In 1915, Getz had his best season, hitting .258 with 39 runs, 17 extra-base hits (including his only two homers) and 46 RBIs in 130 games. It was the only season he played more than 55 games in a big league season. After hitting .219/.291/.271 over 40 games in 1916, he began to get moved around the majors and minors quickly.

The Cincinnati Reds took Getz off waivers in April of 1917, though he was soon sent back to Newark, where he hit .300 with 18 extra-base hits in 126 games. He went 4-for-14 with three RBIs in seven games that year for the Reds. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians for the 1918, but he lasted just one month, hitting .133/.350/.200 in six games. The Pirates picked him up off waivers in early May, then played him seven times in two months, all off the bench. He went 2-for-10 at the plate, and played parts of two games at third base. On July 16, 1918, the Pirates traded Getz to Indianapolis for shortstop Roy Ellam. Getz played in the minors off and on until 1927, managing for two years (1927-28) as well, before retiring from baseball without coming back to the majors. Instead of playing for Indianapolis, Getz was with Toledo of the American Association in 1919. He was sold to Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association in January of 1920, but he was said to have a disinterest in playing baseball in the south and played semi-pro ball in New York that year instead, then played semi-pro ball in Pennsylvania in 1921. He hit .228 in 167 games for Reading of the International League in 1922, then batted .276 with 28 doubles and eight triples in 143 games for Jersey City of the International League in 1923. In was back to semi-pro ball for the 1924-26 seasons and he moved around during that time. He was back in the New York State League with Scranton as a player-manager in 1927, and a manager in 1928. In his big league career, he hit .238 with 33 extra-base hits, 93 RBIs, 41 steals and 85 runs scored in 339 games. With his low average and low walk rate, he finished with a .257 OBP.