Today we have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. There are also two transactions of note, one involving a Hall of Fame pitcher.
On this date in 1990, the Pirates traded 1989 first round pick Willie Greene, pitcher Scott Ruskin and a player to be named later, to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Zane Smith. Eight days later, they sent Moises Alou to the Expos to complete the deal. Smith was a 29-year-old lefty, in his seventh season in the majors. He was acquired to help the Pirates make a pennant run and he did just that, going 6-2, 1.30 in 76 innings over the last two months of the season. After the deal, he remained in Pittsburgh another four seasons, then returned for a final year in 1996, finishing with 47 wins for the Pirates. Greene had a nine-year career in the majors, but his first good season didn’t come until six years after this deal, and by then he was with the Cincinnati Reds. Ruskin pitched two years for Montreal, appearing 87 times out of the bullpen, with a 3.65 ERA and six saves. Both he and Greene were dealt to the Reds following the 1991 season. Ruskin pitched two years in Cincinnati with very minimal success. Alou went on the have an outstanding career, making six All-Star teams and hitting .303 with 332 career homers. Short-term the deal didn’t hurt the Pirates, as they had no outfield spot for Alou at the time and he was injured during the entire 1991 season. Long-term he put up 39.9 career WAR. While the Pirates never would have spent for his free agent deal after the 1996 season to keep him around, he would have had much more trade value after he finished third in the MVP race during the shortened 1994 season.
On this date in 1934, the Pirates sign 40-year-old pitcher Burleigh Grimes, who was joining the Pirates for the third time in his career. The Pirates were his first team in the majors, though they gave up on the young pitcher too soon, trading him to Brooklyn after two seasons. They did well to reacquire him prior to the 1928 season when he won 25 games, and then followed it up with a 17-7 record the next year. A high salary demand in 1930 caused his second departure from the Pirates. Grimes was nearly done as a player by the time he reached the team for a third time in 1934. He made four starts and four relief appearances, going 1-2, 7.24 in 27.1 innings. His only win was the 270th and last of his Major League career. Grimes went on to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964
Ross Ohlendorf, pitcher for the Pirates from 2008 until 2011. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004, taken in the fourth round out of Princeton University. He made seven starts his first year in short-season ball, posting a 2.79 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29 innings with Yakima in the Northwest League. In 2005, he spent the entire year in the Low-A Midwest League with South Bend, where he had an 11-10, 4.53 record in 157 innings over 27 games (26 starts), with 144 strikeouts. Ohlendorf made 27 starts in Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League in 2006 and one Triple-A start with Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League. He had a 10-8, 3.25 record in 182.2 innings. Despite better results and pitching 25.2 innings more than the previous year, he saw his strikeouts drop to 129 that season. Ohlendorf was one of the four players sent to the New York Yankees when Arizona acquired Randy Johnson on January 9, 2007. He was a starter for most of his time in the minors, but with the Yankees, they used him more often in relief over the 2007-08 seasons. He debuted in the majors during the 2007 season after posting a 5.02 ERA over 66.1 innings in Triple-A that year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League. In six September big league games, he had a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings. He then attended the Arizona Fall League, where he allowed three runs over 7.2 innings and six appearances. In 2008, Ohlendorf made five Triple-A starts and pitched 25 times in relief for the Yankees, putting up a 6.53 ERA in his 40 big league innings.
On July 26, 2008, Ohlendorf was traded to the Pirates, along with Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. Ohlendorf went to the minors after the deal, before coming up to Pittsburgh in September for five starts. He went 4-3, 3.47 in 46.2 innings over seven starts with Indianapolis of the International League. In his time with the Pirates that year, he went 0-3, 6.35 in 22.2 innings, failing to get past the fifth inning in each of the last four starts. Despite that poor trial with the Pirates, he made the Opening Day rotation in 2009, going 11-10, 3.92 in 176.2 innings over 29 starts. He had 109 strikeouts that year, which was his career high. His 2010 season was marred by injury and lack of run support when he did pitch. He hurt his back early in the year, took a line drive off the head in July and missed the end of the year with a shoulder strain. Ohlendorf finished the season with a 1-11, 4.07 record in 108.1 innings over 21 starts. Even with the poor win/loss record and time missed, Ohlendorf won a substantial raise in arbitration over the 2010-11 off-season. When he returned the next year, he fell well short of earning his pay. He went 1-3, 8.15 in 38.2 innings over nine starts in 2011, pitching nearly as many innings in the minors on rehab as he did in the majors. He was released in December and signed with the Boston Red Sox, who released him in June of 2012 after ten minor league starts. Ohlendorf signed with the San Diego Padres for the rest of 2012 and did poorly in his big league time, finishing with a 7.77 ERA in 48.2 innings over nine starts and four relief appearances.
Despite the rough times during the 2011-12 seasons, Ohlendorf had some mild big league success ahead of him. He put up solid stats for the Washington Nationals in 2013, going 4-1, 3.28 in 60.1 innings over seven starts and nine relief appearances. The 2014 season was limited to just rehab work in the minors due to injuries. Ohlendorf appeared as a reliever for the 2015 Texas Rangers and the 2016 Cincinnati Reds. He had a 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings over 21 appearances in 2015, then posted a 5-7, 4.66 record in 65.2 innings over 64 outings in 2016. He finished his pro career in Japan in 2017, posting a 5.82 ERA in 65 innings. In nine big league seasons, he went 30-41, 4.82 ERA over 586.1 innings, making 80 starts and 129 relief appearances. He went 13-27, 4.60 in 346.1 innings over 64 starts with the Pirates. Only one pitcher in Pirates franchise history has made more starts without pitching a complete game (Chad Kuhl, 84). His actual first name is Curtis. Ross is his middle name.
Brett Gideon, pitcher for the 1987 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the eighth round in 1983 by the Houston Astros out of Coastal Bend College. He transferred to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and was a sixth round draft pick in 1985 by the Pirates. Gideon is one of just two draft picks from that school to make the majors. He began as a starter in the minors, but quickly moved to a relief role. He went right to Low-A after being drafted and had a 4-7, 4.15 record in 82.1 innings with Macon of the South Atlantic League. In 1986, Gideon pitched for three different teams, making it up to Double-A Nashua of the Eastern League. He combined to go 6-8, 4.06 in 115.1 innings, with his best results coming in his time with Macon, where he had a 2.63 ERA in 48 innings. He went 1-6, 5.50 in 26 appearances (one start) for Prince William of the Carolina League (considered to be Advanced-A), and he had a 3.09 ERA in 11.2 innings with Nashua. He spent all of his minor league time in 1987 playing in Double-A (Pirates affiliate switched to Harrisburg of the Eastern League), where he posted a 1.98 ERA and 12 saves, with 39 strikeouts in 36.1 innings over 26 appearances. Despite never pitching in Triple-A, Gideon was called up to the majors in July of 1987. He pitched 29 games in relief that year for Pittsburgh, posting a 1-5, 4.66 record in 36.2 innings.
Gideon was back in Harrisburg in 1988, where he again pitched great, with a 1.36 ERA in 39.2 innings. He also made 24 appearances in Triple-A with Buffalo of the American Association, posting a 3.64 ERA and nine saves in 42 innings. However, he didn’t make it back to the majors that season. He was traded to the Montreal Expos on March 28, 1989 in exchange for veteran pitcher Neal Heaton. Gideon pitched four games for the Expos in 1989, giving up one run in 4.2 innings. The rest of the year was spent in Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, where he had a 2.26 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 71.2 innings. He made the Montreal Opening Day roster in 1990, but that season was short-lived. One appearance into the year, he needed elbow surgery, which effectively ended his Major League career. He would pitch just 23 times over the 1991-92 seasons in the minors before retiring. His 1991 season was limited to five innings in High-A for the Expos. He then signed with the Cleveland Indians for 1992, where he spent the year in Double-A, putting up a 3.75 ERA in 24 innings over 19 appearances for Canton-Akron of the Eastern League. Gideon finished his big league career going 1-5, 4.46 in 42.1 innings over 34 appearances. His actual first name is Byron. Brett is his middle name.
Mark Ross, pitcher for the 1987 and 1990 Pirates. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1979 as a seventh round pick out of Texas A&M. Ross played small parts of three seasons in Houston, from 1982 until 1985, pitching a total of 14 games. He was a relief pitcher in all but one season (1988) during his 13-year career in pro ball. He debuted in pro ball in the lowest level, getting in just seven innings over two appearances in the Gulf Coast League in 1979. The next year was spent between the Class-A Florida State League with Daytona Beach, where he had a 1.71 ERA in 58 innings, and Double-A Columbus of the Southern League, where he had a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings. He showed outstanding control that year, walking 15 batters in 85 innings. In 1981, Ross spent the year back with Columbus, going 8-10, 2.25, with 22 saves in 116 innings over 59 appearances. He moved up to Triple-A Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League in 1982 and had a 4-3, 4.88 record and seven saves in 83 innings over 43 games (one start). Ross made four September appearances with the Astros and allowed one run in six innings. He struggled through a 1983 season that included time back in Columbus. He would have made the Astros Opening Day roster, but instead he was shelved late in spring with tendinitis. He ended up 2.63 ERA in 27.1 innings with Columbus, while allowing ten runs in 6.1 innings with Tuscon. Ross bounced back in 1984 to post a 2.93 ERA and 20 saves in 92 innings in Tuscon, along with two scoreless appearances for the Astros in early September.
Ross saw more big league time in 1985, putting up a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings over eight relief outings during the months of May and June. The rest of the year was spent back in Tuscon, where he went 8-5, 3.62 in 77 innings, with 11 saves in 46 appearances. During the 1986 season, he spent the entire year in Tuscon, posting a 4.17 ERA with eight saves in 48 appearances, with 73.1 innings pitched. Ross became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates in December. He spent most of 1987 pitching for Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League, the Pirates Triple-A affiliate for one season. There he went 5-6, 3.02 in 32 games, pitching 89.1 innings. He pitched one game in 1987 for the Pirates on August 16th, allowing one run in one inning on a homer by Hall of Famer Tim Raines. Ross signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after the season and spent two years in their organization, making three Major League appearances during the 1988 season in which he allowed six runs in 7.1 innings. The rest of his time was spent with Syracuse of the Triple-A International League, where he had a 3.61 ERA in 99.2 innings in 1988, and a 2.94 ERA in 95 innings in 1989. Following the 1989 season, he re-signed with the Pirates and ended up seeing more work in 1990 than he did any other season in the majors, though that amounted to nine games. He was called up from Buffalo of the Triple-A American Association in June, and then again in August, throwing a total of 12.2 innings, with a 3.55 ERA. He also picked up one of two big league wins during his career. He pitched in the minors in 1991 for the Atlanta Braves before retiring, posting a 3.50 ERA in 82.1 innings with Richmond of the International League. In 42.1 innings over 27 big league games, he had a 3.83 ERA.
Clise Dudley, pitcher for the Pirates on September 15, 1933. Three pitchers in franchise history have failed to record an out while allowing earned runs, leaving them with and infinite ERA (designated as .inf). Of any pitcher in franchise history who has recorded an out, 973 in all (as of 7/28/2021), not one has a higher ERA than Clise Dudley. He pitched eight seasons in the minors, finishing with a 63-71 record, which should give an indication of how his Major League career went. He debuted in pro ball in 1924 at 20 years old and spent his first four seasons playing for Class-B Greenville of the South Atlantic League, along with a brief stop with Spartanburg (same league) in 1926. He had a 1-4, 4.75 record in 72 innings over 11 games during his first season, then went 13-12, 4.87 in 220 innings in 1925. He had a 16-10 record (no ERA available) and threw 215 innings in 1926. Dudley improved to 14-12, 3.71 in 194 innings in 1927. The next year he played one level higher for Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association, where he went 11-15, 3.23 in 220 innings over 43 games. That led to his first shot in the majors. As a rookie in 1929, Dudley went 6-14, 5.69 in 156.2 innings over 20 starts and 15 relief appearances for the Brooklyn Robins. The ERA sounds extremely high, but the 1929-30 seasons were huge years for offense in baseball and the league finished with a 4.71 ERA, which rose to 4.97 in 1930. The next year he went 2-4, 6.35, pitching a total of 66.2 innings with a 1.95 WHIP. He made seven starts and 14 relief appearances.
After the 1930 season, Dudley was part of a five-player/cash deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched much better in 1931, but the Phillies ended up in sixth place and he finished with an 8-14, 3.52 record in 179 innings over 24 starts and six relief appearances. Dudley’s 1932 season did not go well, as he was a seldom used mop-up pitcher, making 13 appearances with a 7.13 ERA in 17.2 innings. He spent a small part of that season with Columbus of the Double-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He spent the 1933 season pitching for two teams in the Southern Association (Atlanta and Chattanooga), where he had a 5.52 ERA in 132 innings. He was a free agent at the end of the season due to an arm injury that put him out of action. On September 12th he reported to the Pirates without a contract, asking for a chance to prove that his arm was healthy. The Pirates signed him on September 14th and then used him the next day when starter Hal Smith couldn’t get out of the third inning. Dudley recorded the final out of the third, then when he came out for the fourth inning, he was unable to retire a batter before he was pulled, leaving him with five earned runs and a 135.00 ERA. Dudley was released by the Pirates on November 2, 1933, marking the end of his big league career in the process. He pitched ten minor league games in 1934 split between Montreal and Baltimore of the Double-A International League before retiring. His real first name was Elzie, but Clise was his middle name and he preferred to use that instead.
Billy Gumbert, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys and 1892 Pirates. He made his Major League debut on June 19, 1890, pitching the first game of a doubleheader that day. In game two, George Ziegler pitched his only Major League game. The Alleghenys decided to keep Gumbert in their rotation and release Ziegler immediately after the game. Ziegler owed his big league debut to Gumbert, because the stated plan going into the day was that Ziegler would only pitch if Gumbert won the opening game, which he did by a 9-2 score over Cleveland. Gumbert was a lifelong native of Pittsburgh (he’s still there in Homewood Cemetery), who pitched locally in the minors and amateur/semi-pro ball. In fact, just two days before his big league debut, he pitched against the Alleghenys in an exhibition game. The Alleghenys won just 12 of their last 94 games that season, yet he was able to pick up four wins in ten starts during that time. The reason he made only ten starts that year was because he only pitched home games, due to business ventures in town that left him unable to travel with the team. When Pittsburgh started drawing poorly at home, they began to reschedule their games as road games, because the visiting team share of the profits greatly exceeded what they made at home, leaving Gumbert with fewer chances to pitch. The team’s total attendance for forty home dates that year is listed at 16,064 (my own research says it was only slightly higher), due in part to their extremely poor play, and also due to the better play of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, playing often on the same days at home just a few miles away.
On July 26, 1890, Gumbert out-dueled Hall of Fame pitcher John Clarkson in a 4-3 win. After the game, it was announced that he finally signed a contract with the Alleghenys. Prior to that day, he was getting paid $15 per game pitched. Since he was still playing only home games, the only thing that changed was that he was officially signed by the team. He still received $15 per start. Gumbert’s next start was a loss to Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. His final start of the 1890 season was against Clarkson again and he Gumbert was once again victorious. He was scheduled to pitch one more time before the season ended, but it was rained out, costing him $15. Gumbert pitched again for the Pirates in 1892, again only playing home games, going 3-2, 1.36 in six games. His only other Major League game came as a member of the 1893 Louisville Colonels, and as one might expect, it was a game played in Pittsburgh. He allowed two hits, walked five and couldn’t make it out of the first inning, in a game that was won 11-10 by Louisville. Gumbert’s final big league stats show a 7-8, 4.06 record in 119.2 innings over 17 games, with 14 starts and ten complete games. His only minor league experience includes 55 innings in 1887 at 21 years old, and one game in the Pennsylvania State League in 1892 with a team from Wilkes-Barre that moved to Pittsburgh mid-season. His 1887 time was split between Zanesville of the Ohio State League, where he went 4-1, 1.76 in 46 innings, and Johnstown of the Pennsylvania State Association, where he gave up seven runs in his only start and took the loss, though only one run was earned. His brother Ad Gumbert won 123 Major League games and pitched for the Pirates for two season (1893-94). His great-nephew Harry Gumbert won 143 games and pitched for the 1949-50 Pirates. They are one of 26 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates. The Gumberts are one of only two groups out of that 26 that includes more than two players.