Eight birthdays and three transactions of note, including one of the biggest controversies in Pirates history.
Jonah Bayliss, pitcher for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was a seventh round pick in 2002 by the Kansas City Royals out of Trinity College. He’s the only draft pick from that school to make it to the majors. He debuted in the short-season Northwestern League as a starter, going 4-8, 5.35 in 70.2 innings. The next year he was in Low-A with Burlington of the Midwest League, where he went 7-12, 3.86 in 140 innings over 26 starts, with 133 strikeouts. In 2004, Bayliss moved up to High-A, where in 24 starts he went 6-6, 4.93 in 111.1 innings for Wilmington of the Carolina League. He moved to the bullpen the next year and shot to the majors. He spent most of the year with Double-A Wichita of the Texas League, where he made 30 appearances, posting a 2.84 ERA and eight saves in 57 innings. Bayliss made it to the majors by June of 2005, staying in Kansas City for two weeks before returning to the minors. He came back to Kansas City in August, pitching a total of 11.2 innings in 11 appearances for the Royals that season, posting a 4.63 ERA. The Royals sent him to the Arizona Fall League after the 2005 season, where he had a 4.98 ERA in 21.2 innings. On December 7, 2005, the Pirates traded Mark Redman to the Royals in exchange for Bayliss and minor league pitcher Chad Blackwell. For Bayliss, his first season in Pittsburgh was extremely similar to his 2005 season. He came up in June for three games, then returned to the minors until late August, finishing with 11 games pitched again. He had a 4.30 ERA in 14.2 innings and he picked up his first career win during his last game of the season.
Bayliss made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 2007 and was in the majors until late June. He was sent down after posting a 7.53 ERA in 34.2 innings over 38 outings. He went to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League and didn’t fare well there either, with a 7.06 ERA in 16 outings. He was called up for one game in August, gave up six runs in three innings, and that turned out to be his last game in the majors. Bayliss was with the Pirates until June of 2008, before being sent to the Toronto Blue Jays organization. He played with Toronto through the start of 2009, then finished the season in Japan. He had a 6.00 ERA in Indianapolis in 2008 before the Pirates gave up on him. After joining Toronto, Bayliss had a 3.40 ERA in 39.2 innings for Syracuse of the International League. The Blue Jays moved their affiliate to the high offense of Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League in 2009 and he had a strong season, going 7-2, 3.96 in 50 innings over 38 games, with five saves and 48 strikeouts. In Japan that year, he had a 3.18 ERA in 22 appearances. Bayliss spent 2010 in Triple-A with the Houston Astros, posting a 3.58 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 65.1 innings for Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League. He then played his final two seasons of pro ball in the independent Atlantic League, posting a 3.54 ERA and 18 saves in 40.2 innings for Lancaster in 2011, followed by a 4.88 ERA in 101.1 innings for Bridgeport in 2012. In three big league seasons, he went 5-4, 6.75 in 64 innings over 61 appearances.
Tom Prince, catcher for the 1987-93 Pirates. He played 17 years in the majors as a backup catcher, never topping the 66 games he played during his last season in Pittsburgh. Prince was selected by the Pirates in the fourth round of the January portion of the 1984 amateur draft out of Kankakee Community College. It’s a school that has produced ten draft picks since 1970, but Prince is the only one to make the majors. It was the third time he was drafted. The first two times were by the Atlanta Braves, taken in the eighth round of the January 1983 draft, and the fourth round of the June 1983 draft. He made it to the Pirates within three years of being drafted, but the 1993 season was the only season with the team that he didn’t spend at least part of the year in the minors. Prince hit just .214 with three homers and a .640 OPS in 41 games during his first season of pro ball, splitting the year between two short-season clubs in the Gulf Coast League and Watertown of the New York-Penn League. He moved up to Macon of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1985 and his average dropped to .206, but his overall stats improved greatly. That’s because he hit 20 doubles, ten homers and walked 96 times, giving him a .740 OPS. He moved up to Prince William of the Carolina League (considered to be Advanced-A) in 1986 and hit .253 in 121 games, with 34 doubles and ten homers. His walk rate was nearly cut in half (50 walks in 1986), but his OPS went up 26 points over the previous season. In 1987, he played 113 games in Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League, where he batted .307 with 31 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs, 51 walks and an .832 OPS. Prince debuted with the Pirates in late September of 1987 and played four games, going 2-for-9 with a double and a homer.
Prince spent a majority of the 1988 season was spent in Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association, where he had 16 doubles, 14 homers and a .776 OPS in 86 games. He joined the Pirates at the end of July and remained with the club for the rest of the season, hitting .176/.218/.203 in 80 plate appearances over 29 games. The 1989 season was the opposite for him, with all of his big league time coming in the first two months of the season. He played 21 games with the Pirates and posted a .135/.220/212 slash line in 59 plate appearances. He struggled in the minors that year as well, putting up a .202 average in 65 games with Buffalo. The Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years in 1990 and Prince played a very small part with that team. He was with the club at the beginning of the year and the very end, yet he played just four games total and had one hit. In between he hit .225 in 94 games with Buffalo, putting up a .671 OPS. He saw a little more time during the 1991-92 playoff seasons, but he was still the third-string catcher during that entire time. Prince put up an .846 OPS in 42 plate appearances over 26 games in 1991, while getting into 80 games with Buffalo. In 1992, he batted .091 in 27 games for the Pirates, going 4-for-44 at the plate. He actually did well in Buffalo that year, with a .776 OPS in 75 games. He didn’t appear in any playoff games during that three-year stretch.
Through his first six years in Pittsburgh, Prince played just 111 games and hit a combined .161 in 223 at-bats. In 1993, Mike Lavalliere was released early in the year and Prince became the backup to Don Slaught for the rest of the season. He hit .196 that year, with 14 doubles, two homers and 24 RBIs in 179 at-bats. Prince became a free agent after the 1993 season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he spent five years as a backup to Mike Piazza. He basically saw the same type of usage he did with the Pirates, and even saw Triple-A time (Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League) during the 1994-96 seasons. In fact, he played just three big league games during the strike-shortened 1994 season. His 1995 season saw him bat .200 in 18 games, though half of his hits went for extra-bases, so he had a .644 OPS. Prince batted .297/.365/.438 in 40 games during the 1996 season. In 1997, he spent the entire season in the majors, hitting .220 with five doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs. He threw out 15 of the 21 base runners who attempted to steal against him that season. Prince had a 34% caught stealing rate during his career. In his last year with the Dodgers (1998), he hit .185/.267/.272 in 37 games. In Los Angeles, he had 333 plate appearances over 145 games, hitting .227 with five homers and 35 RBIs.
Prince played with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1999-2000 seasons. His 1999 season was limited to four big league games and 23 games on rehab over three levels of the minors. He suffered a wrist injury late in Spring Training that required surgery. In 2000, he batted .238 with a .682 OPS in 46 games for the Phillies. Prince then spent the next three years with the Minnesota Twins. He batted .219 in 2001, though he set career highs with 215 plate appearances, 19 runs scored and seven homers. He had a better OPS in 2002 (.709 vs .641 in 2001), while getting 148 plate appearances in 51 games. His final season in 2003 saw him split the year between the Twins and Kansas City Royals, while also playing 29 games in Triple-A for the Royals between those two stops. Prince had a .200 average and a .719 OPS in 24 games for the 2003 Twins. His time with the Royals consisted of eight September games and two hits over eight at-bats. In his 17 years in the majors, he hit .208 with 113 runs, 66 doubles, 24 homers and 140 RBIs in 519 games. The Pirates hired him as a minor league manager in 2005 and he was around until 2019, when he got to manage the final game of the MLB season after Clint Hurdle was let go. Prince spent much of that time with the Pirates as the manager of their Gulf Coast League team.
Jeff Ballard, pitcher for the 1993-94 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles out of Stanford University in 1985. He was previously drafted twice, originally going to the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round in 1981 out of high school. He passed on signing for Stanford, and then the Orioles selected him in the 27th round in 1984, one year prior to taking him 20 rounds higher. Ballard debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League with Newark and dominated, as you would expect from a four-year major college player. He went 10-2, 1.41 in 96 innings, with 91 strikeouts. In 1986, he jumped to the Advanced-A Carolina League with Hagerstown to start the year, but he was in Triple-A by the end. He had a 1.85 ERA in 17 starts in Hagerstown, then a 3.32 ERA in ten starts in Double-A Charlotte of the Southern League, followed by a 7.11 ERA in two starts with Rochester of the Triple-A International League. Between all three stops, he went 14-9, 2.57 in 178 innings, with 157 strikeouts. In 1987, Ballard made 23 starts for Rochester and 14 with the Orioles. He was 13-4, 3.09 in 160.1 innings in the minors and 2-8, 6.59 in 69.2 innings with Baltimore.
Ballard did well in a short time in Hagerstown in 1988, going 4-2, 2.97 in 60.2 innings, and then ended up making 25 starts for the Orioles that year. He went 8-12, 4.40 in 153.1 innings. Ballard had some strong strikeout rates in the minors, but he managed just 41 strikeouts in that majors that season. He had a career year in 1989, going 18-8, 3.43 in 215.1 innings, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young award voting. It was the only season in Baltimore that he had over a .400 winning percentage. He was strong despite picking up just 62 strikeouts that year in 35 starts. His performance dropped off tremendously after his big season. He followed it up by going 2-11, 4.93 in 133.1 innings in 1990. Ballard lost his starting job during the year and ended up making 27 relief appearances, to go along with 17 starts. He spent part of 1991 back in the minors (4.41 ERA in seven stats with Rochester) and saw another dip in his big league production, going 6-12, 5.60 in 123.2 innings.
Ballard spent the entire 1992 season in the minors with the St Louis Cardinals and pitched well, going 12-4, 2.82 in 24 starts for Louisville of the Triple-A American Association. He was then signed by the Oakland A’s as a free agent, but they released him during Spring Training. The Pirates signed Ballard at the end of April in 1993 and sent him to Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association, where he went 6-1, 2.29 in 12 starts. He was called up in early July, and came within one out of pitching a complete game in his first start, a 10-3 victory over the Houston Astros. Ballard went 4-1, 4.86 in 25 games (five starts) for the Pirates in 1993. He began the 1994 season with the Pirates, though he went sent to Buffalo in early July, after posting a 6.66 ERA in 24.1 innings over 28 relief appearances. That ended up being his last season in baseball. As mentioned, he wasn’t much of a strikeout guy during his career, compiling a total of 244 strikeouts in 773.1 innings, with a high of 62 K’s during his 18-win season. He finished up with a career 41-53, 4.71 record in 118 starts and 79 relief appearances over seven seasons. Ballard threw ten complete games, with two shutouts and two saves.
Mudcat Grant, pitcher for the 1970-71 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1954 and had an incredible first season with Fargo-Moorhead of the Class-C Northern League. Grant went 21-5, 3.40 in 217 innings, with 174 strikeouts. He moved up to the Class-B Three-I League with Keokuk in 1955 and had a 19-3, 3.46 record in 190 innings, with 159 strikeouts. He moved up one level again in 1956, playing for Reading of the Class-A Eastern League. He had a 12-13, 3.72 record in 203 innings, with 125 strikeouts. From there it was one step away from the majors, spending 1957 with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a strong season, going 18-7, 2.31, with 178 strikeouts in 218 innings. He joined the Cleveland Indians in 1958 and saw an incredible amount of work for a rookie, making 28 starts and 16 relief appearances. Grant went 10-11, 3.84, with 111 strikeouts in 204 innings that year. He completed 11 games and he had five saves. He had a split role in each of the next two seasons as well. In 1959 he made 19 starts and 19 relief appearances, going 10-7, 4.14 in 165.1 innings. He made 19 starts and 14 relief appearances in 1960, finishing with a 9-8, 4.40 record in 159.2 innings. In 1961, he became a full-time starter, going 15-9, 3.86 in 35 starts, with 11 complete games, three shutouts and 146 strikeouts in 244.2 innings pitched. Grant hit a bit of a rough patch in 1962, ending up with a 7-10, 4.27 record in 149.2 innings. He missed some time mid-season due to military service, something he also did over the 1961-62 off-season. He bounced back great in 1963, making his first All-Star appearance, though his record was hurt by playing for a below .500 team. He went 13-14, 3.69 in 229.1 innings. His 157 strikeouts that year were a career high.
In 1964, Grant split the season between the Indians and Minnesota Twins. He was traded in June after posting a 5.95 ERA in 62 innings. The move paid off greatly, as he went 11-9, 2.82 in 166 innings over the rest of the season. In 1965, the Twins went to the World Series and Grant helped lead the way. He led the American League with 21 wins, a .750 winning percentage and six shutouts, while setting his career high with 14 complete games. He had 3.30 ERA and 142 strikeouts in a career high 270.1 innings, which led to a sixth place finish in the MVP voting and his second All-Star appearance. The Twins lost the World Series, but he won two of his three starts, including a game six win in which he went the distance and allowed just one run. In 1966, Grant actually put up a better ERA that the previous year (3.25), but he finished with a 13-13 record, while throwing 249 innings. He got off to a slow start in 1967, and then the Twins traded him after the season to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he once again improved greatly after a trade. Grant went 5-6, 4.72 in 95.1 innings over 14 starts and 13 relief appearances with the Twins in 1967. That was followed by a 6-4, 2.08 record in 95 innings with the 1968 Dodgers, where he made four starts and 33 relief appearances, collecting three saves. The Montreal Expos selected him in the Expansion Draft after the season, though they traded him to the St Louis Cardinals in early June. Between the two stops in 1969, he went 8-11, 4.42 in 114 innings over 13 starts and 28 relief outings. The Expos were using him as a starter, then he switched to relief and pitched better in St Louis.
By the time he reached the Pirates in 1970, Grant was already near the end of his 13th season in the majors. Mudcat (whose real first name was James) made 72 appearances for the 1970 A’s, putting up a 6-2, 1.82 record and 24 saves in 123.1 innings. The Pirates acquired him from Oakland on September 14, 1970 in exchange for Angel Mangual, who wasn’t sent to the A’s until five weeks later. Grant pitched eight times for the Pirates that season, picking up two wins and finishing with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. In 1971, he would make 42 appearances for Pittsburgh before being shipped back to Oakland in August. He went 5-3, 3.60 with seven saves in 75 innings for Pittsburgh that year, and had a 1.98 ERA in 15 outings with the A’s. Grant retired after pitching the entire 1972 season in the minor leagues as a full-time reliever for Iowa of the Triple-A American Association. He had a 145-119, 3.63 record in 2,442 innings in the majors over 14 seasons. He started 293 games in his career, with just 17 coming during his last four seasons (1968-71), and none during his last two years. He also had 278 relief appearances. Grant finished with 89 complete games, 18 shutouts and 54 saves. He had an outstanding 75-33 minor league record, giving him a total of 220 wins in pro ball.
Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, pitcher for the 1960-62 Pirates. Lefty pitcher who got his nickname from his hometown of the same name in Alabama. He had quite a run in the minors before starting his big league career. At 18 years old in 1949, he debuted with Albany of the Class-D Georgia-Florida League, going 12-3, 1.98 in 141 innings, with 175 strikeouts. The next year he moved up two levels to Winston-Salem of the Class-B Carolina League, where he went 17-7, 2.48 in 207 innings. He jumped another two levels in 1951, putting together a 16-14, 1.97 record in 238 innings with Houston of the Double-A Texas League. Mizell played for the 1952-53 St Louis Cardinals to start his Major League career, going 23-19 in 63 starts, with 17 complete games. As a rookie he had a 3.65 ERA in 190 innings over 30 starts, with seven complete games, two shutouts and 146 strikeouts, the fourth highest strikeout total in the National League. He followed that up with a 3.49 ERA in 224.1 frames in 1953, when he completed ten of 33 starts and struck out 173 batters, which ranked third in the league. Mizell led the NL with a strikeout rate of 6.9 per nine innings in each of his first two seasons.
Mizell spent two full seasons (1954-55) serving in the military, before returning to the 1956 Cardinals on Opening Day. That season he went 14-14, 3.62 in 208.2 innings over 33 starts, with 11 complete games and three shutouts. He ranked fifth in the league with 153 strikeouts, his last appearance in the top ten in strikeouts. While his record dropped to 8-10 in 1957, he still had a respectable 3.74 ERA in 149.1 innings. He made 21 starts and 12 relief appearances that year. The record didn’t improve in 1958, though the Cardinals were ten games below the .500 mark. Mizell went 10-14, 3.42 in 189.2 innings over 30 games (29 starts). In his first five seasons in the majors, all spent in St Louis, he was an amazingly consistent pitcher, posting an ERA between 3.42 and 3.74 each year, while averaging over 190 innings per season. His stats began to slide a little the next year, though he ended up making the All-Star team for the only time in his career. He finished the 1959 season with a 13-10, 4.20 record in 201.1 innings over 30 starts and one relief outing.
Mizell started off 1960 by going 1-3, 4.55 in 55.1 innings over nine starts. The Cardinals moved him to the Pirates on May 28, 1960 in a four-player deal that saw Julian Javier go to St Louis. Mizell immediately had a strong impact on the Pirates, going 13-5, 3.12 in 155.2 innings over 23 starts the rest of the way, helping the team to the World Series. His postseason did not go well, allowing four runs in 2.1 innings, but the Pirates still won their third World Series title. The next season, Mizell went 7-10, 5.04 in 17 starts and eight relief appearances, finishing with exactly 100 innings pitched. He remained with the Pirates through the first month of the 1962 season, before they dealt him to the New York Mets for first baseman Jim Marshall. Mizell lasted just three months in New York, posting a 7.34 ERA in 38 innings over 17 appearances. He had a 4.96 ERA in 16.1 innings with the Pirates at the time of the deal. He hoped to play in 1963, but retired after no teams offered him a job that season. In his nine-year big league career, he went 90-88, 3.85 in 1,528.2 innings. He had 230 starts, 38 relief appearances, 61 complete games and 15 shutouts.
Sid Gordon, third baseman/outfielder for the 1954-55 Pirates. He was a two-time All-Star, who switched between third base and left field for most of his career. From 1948 until 1952, Gordon received National League MVP votes in every season, reaching a minimum of a .284 average with 25 homers and 75 RBIs in all five years. He debuted in pro ball with a bang, playing in the Class-D Eastern Shore League with Milford at 20 years old in 1938. He batted .352 with 104 runs, 18 doubles, nine triples, 25 homers, 83 RBIs, 72 walks and a 1.071 OPS that season. He jumped up two levels to Clinton of the Class-B Three-I League in 1939, where he hit .327 with 46 extra-base hits, including 24 triples. He saw some brief time in Double-A Jersey City of the International League (highest level of the minors at the time) that year, and ended up playing there each of the next three seasons. Gordon hit .261 with 33 extra-base hits in 131 games in 1940. He followed that up with .304 average, 69 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 76 RBIs in 150 games in 1941, a year in which he had 80 walks and 23 strikeouts. He played nine late season games with the New York Giants that year, hitting .258/.378/.355 in 37 plate appearances. In 1942, he spent most of the year back in Jersey City, while once again joining the Giants late in the year. He had a .300 average and a .787 OPS in 145 games with Jersey City, while putting up a .316 average and an .830 OPS in 22 plate appearances over six games with the Giants.
After 15 big league games during the 1941-42 seasons, Gordon was a regular in the Giants lineup in 1943, though he moved around, seeing time at third base, first base and left field. He hit .251 with 50 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 63 RBIs and a .688 OPS in 131 games that year. Gordon then missed the 1944-45 seasons to military service during WWII. He returned to the Giants in 1946 and played left field and third base. He hit .293 in 135 games, with 64 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs, 60 walks and a .758 OPS. He was a left fielder in 1947 and hit .272 in 130 games, with 57 runs, 40 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs and 50 walks. Gordon bumped up his OPS 31 points to a .789 mark. His run of big success started in 1948 with a switch to mainly playing third base. He hit .299 with 26 doubles, 74 walks and 107 RBIs, while setting career highs with 30 homers and 100 runs scored. His .927 OPS was easily his career best to that point, but it wouldn’t remain as his high. He made his first All-Star appearance that year and finished fourth in the MVP voting. He was an All-Star again in 1949 when he hit .284 with 87 runs scored, 26 doubles, 26 homers, 90 RBIs and a .909 OPS in 141 games. That year he switched between third base and right field.
Before the 1950 season, Gordon was part of a six-player trade that sent him to the Boston Braves. He hit .304 with 78 runs, 33 doubles, 27 homers, 103 RBIs and 78 walks in 134 games during his first year in Boston, while playing more left field than anywhere else. His .960 OPS that season stood as his career high. In 150 games in 1951, he hit .287 with 96 runs scored, 28 doubles, 29 homers and an .883 OPS, while driving in a career best 109 runs. His 16th place finish in the MVP voting was the second best of his career. In 1952, Gordon batted .289 with 69 runs, 22 doubles, 25 homers, 75 RBIs and 77 walks in 144 games, leading to an .867 OPS. He batted .274 with 67 runs, 22 doubles, 19 homers, 75 RBIs and an .834 OPS in 140 games in 1953, as the Braves moved to Milwaukee that year. He was acquired by the Pirates on December 26, 1953 from the Braves as part of a six-player (plus cash) deal, for second baseman Danny O’Connell. Gordon split his time with the Pirates in 1954 between right field (61 starts) and third base (35 starts), hitting a career high .306, with 38 runs, 12 doubles, 12 homers, 49 RBIs 67 walks and an .844 OPS in 131 games. The Pirates sold him to the New York Giants a month into the 1955 season, after he hit .170/.204/.192 in 16 games. Gordon played out the year in New York, putting up a .793 OPS in 66 games, then finished his career in the minors the following season with Miami of the Triple-A American Association. In 1,475 Major League games, he hit .283 with 735 runs, 220 doubles, 202 homers and 805 RBIs. He had a career .843 OPS.
George Susce, catcher for the 1939 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, who played 146 Major League games over a 15-year time-frame. Susce began his pro career in the majors at age 21 with the 1929 Philadelphia Phillies, playing 17 games and compiling 19 plate appearances, which were spread out throughout the entire season. He managed to put up a 1.016 OPS because four of his five hits went for extra bases. He then went to the minors for two years, where he hit well at the upper levels, with the caveat that the 1930 season was huge for offense all around baseball. Susce put up a .304 average for Kansas City of the Double-A American Association in 1930 (highest level of the minors at the time), while also spending some time with Buffalo and Newark of the Double-A International League. That was followed by a .311 average and 41 extra-base hits for two teams during the 1931 season, with eight games spent with Kansas City and the rest for Springfield of the Class-B Three-I League, where he collected all of his extra-base hits. That success led to him making the 1932 Detroit Tigers roster on Opening Day. He ended up playing just two games for the Tigers as a late-inning defensive replacement behind the plate. Susce went back to the minors in May of 1932 and remained there through the end of the 1938 season, spending a majority of his time in the Class-A Texas League, though he played for nine different teams during that seven-year span.
Susce spent the rest of 1932 with Montreal of the International League, where he hit .234 with 15 extra-base hits in 71 games. He went to Beaumont of the Texas League in 1933 and batted .226 with eight extra-base hits in 67 games. The 1934 season saw him play for Beaumont, Milwaukee of the American Association and Hollywood of the Double-A Pacific Coast League. He combined to hit .320 with 17 extra-base hits in 78 games, with his worst results coming at the lower level. In 1935, Susce spent the entire season with Toledo of the American Association, hitting .302 in 72 games, with 24 extra-base hits. In 1936, he split the year between Kansas City (eight games) and Fort Worth of the Texas League, combining to hit .272 with 21 extra-base hits in 92 games. He was with Galveston of the Texas League in 1937, where he hit .273 with 30 extra-base hits in 125 games. The 1938 season was also spent in the Texas League, split between Tulsa and Shreveport, where incomplete stats credit him with a .223 average and 23 extra-base hits in 113 games. He was an All-Star during his last four seasons in the minors. Susce was brought into the Pirates camp in February of 1939 to compete with Ray Berres and Ray Mueller for the starting spot. His 1938 contract with Tulsa of the Texas League allowed him to sign elsewhere at the end of the season and he ended up coming to terms with the Pirates on February 15, 1939.
The Pirates starting catcher from 1938 was Al Todd, who was traded to the Boston Bees in the off-season. Mueller ended up winning the starting spot and Berres was his regular backup (that switched during the year), leaving Susce as a third-string catcher at the end of the bench and that’s where he stayed. His first actual game that season was on August 9th, when he caught the last inning of a loss to the St Louis Cardinals. Susce only got into a game because Berres was out of action for a month with an illness. His first start didn’t come until a week later, in the second game of a doubleheader. He ended up starting half the games from mid-August until the end of the season, finishing with a .227 average, five extra-base hits, four RBIs and 12 walks in 89 plate appearances. He was released by the Pirates during Spring Training in 1940, but he signed quickly with the St Louis Browns, where he played a career high 61 games in his only season with the club. He batted .212 that year with four doubles, 13 RBIs and a .530 OPS. Susce was a player/coach during his last four seasons in the majors with the Cleveland Indians, playing a total of just six games during the 1941-43 seasons. In 1944, with players being lost to WWII action, he ended up playing 29 games (16 starts), hitting .230 with four RBIs and a .500 OPS. Susce hit .228 in the majors, with 146 games spread out over eight seasons. He had 23 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and 25 walks. After his final season in the majors, he moved on to coaching in the minors and majors, sticking around baseball into the early 1970’s. His full name was George Cyril Methodius Susce. His son George played five seasons in the majors for the Tigers and Boston Red Sox.
Steve Swetonic, pitcher for the 1929-33 Pirates. He was a local kid, who played college ball at the University of Pittsburgh, so it was only natural that he spent his entire Major League career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His minor league career consisted of two seasons pitching for the Indianapolis Indians of the Double-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He debuted in 1927 at 23 years old, going 3-8, 4.69 in 140 innings. In 1928, he went 20-8, 3.00 in 40 games, pitching a total of 234 innings. In the off-season, his contract was purchased by the Pirates. It was said in early December that the price was $60,000 to acquire him from Indianapolis. It was actually reported two months earlier that he was already purchased by the Pirates, but those reports turned out to be false. His deal was completed on January 9, 1929, and it was one in which the Pirates gave up Clyde Barnhart, a pitcher to be named later and cash considerations. Swetonic was used often during his rookie season in 1929, getting occasional starts (12) among his 41 appearances. He went 8-10, 4.82 in his 143.2 innings of work. He pitched better in 1930, which was a huge year for offense around baseball. He was limited in his action after he came down with appendicitis and missed two months of action. He finished the year 6-6, 4.47 in 96.2 innings over six starts and 17 relief appearances. The next year he missed plenty of time after elbow surgery put him out until late June. When he returned, he saw limited time in a mop-up role. He finished the 1931 season with a 3.90 ERA in 27.2 innings over 14 appearances, all in relief.
Swetonic was healthy up until August of the 1932 season, and had a strong year, going 11-6, 2.82 in 162.2 innings over 19 starts and five relief appearances, while leading the National League with four shutouts. In 1933, he set career highs with 12 wins and 164.2 innings. He finished 12-12, 3.50 that year, with 21 starts, ten relief appearances, eight complete games and three shutouts. Over the 1933-34 off-season, he had hand surgery that left him unable to pitch. He was sold to the Boston Braves, then assigned to Albany of the Double-A International League, but never recovered enough to ever pitch again. On May 19, 1935, he was used as a pinch-runner by the Pirates. That was the only game of pro ball he played after the 1933 season. The Pirates signed him a month earlier as a pitcher, but he never got into a game on the mound. He finished his five-year big league pitching career with a 37-36, 3.81 record in 595.1 innings over 58 starts and 75 relief appearances. He threw 25 complete games, had eight shutouts and 13 saves (not an official stat at the time). He was an extreme contact pitcher, striking out just 154 batters in his career, as opposed to 212 walks, which wasn’t a bad walk rate. His game high for strikeouts was six, which happened in his first start of the 1930 season, in a game in which he lasted just 5.1 innings.
On this date in 1926 the Pirates made the decision to release pitcher Babe Adams and outfielder Carson Bigbee, while putting outfielder Max Carey on waivers and suspending him until he was picked up by another team. Adams won 194 games in a Pirates uniform, second most all-time. Carey is a Hall of Famer, who is among the top ten in many all-time categories in Pirates history. Bigbee played his entire 11-year big league career with the Pirates. The story about their departure from the Pirates was so big, that it became front page news in town for the next four days as fans wanted an explanation of what happened.
At the time of their departure, the Pirates weren’t a tight-knit group, despite being in first place. Many players thought the reason was that former manager Fred Clarke was on the bench coaching, and the team was being run by both Clarke and the current manager Bill McKechnie. Players said they were getting conflicting signals from Clarke and McKechnie during games. Clarke had words with players and soon players were getting fined or suspended left and right. The last straw for the veteran group was when Bigbee overheard Clarke tell McKechnie to get the struggling Carey out of the lineup and he didn’t care who he replaced him with, even the batboy could do better.
The team then held a player meeting (that McKechnie knew about) to vote on whether to get Clarke off the bench, with Max Carey saying that they couldn’t continue to play with two managers. The vote came back 18-6 in favor of keeping Clarke, but word of the vote got to the front office and they found out the six players were led by Adams, Bigbee and Carey. The other three votes were supposedly young rookies who were thought to have been swayed by the veteran trio. The group of veteran players were cut and it became known as the “ABC Affair” (the first letters of each of their last names).
The move was unpopular from the start with the fans. It got even worse as the Pirates dropped out of first place and Max Carey quickly came back to bite the Pirates in his first game with the Brooklyn Robins, scoring two runs in the first game of a three-game series, in a game won by Brooklyn. Two days later, he drove home a run in a 2-1 Robins win over the Pirates, which was the game that knocked them out of first place. The Pirates finished that 1926 season in third place, going 23-24 the rest of the way. Carey stuck around for four seasons with Brooklyn, but neither Bigbee nor Adams played in the majors again.
On this date in 1988, the Pirates traded pitcher Barry Jones to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitcher Dave LaPoint. Jones was a 25-year-old righty reliever, who had spent three seasons in Pittsburgh. In exactly 100 outings, all relief appearances, he went 6-9, 3.81 with six saves in 137 innings. LaPoint was a 29-year-old left-handed pitcher, in his ninth season at the Major League level. The 1988 White Sox were his sixth Major League team, and he had a 10-11, 3.40 record in 25 starts at the time of the trade. He had won as many as 12 games in a season (twice), but that was during the 1983-84 seasons. After the trade, LaPoint went 4-2, 2.77 in eight starts. The Pirates finished in second place, 15 games back of the New York Mets, and LaPoint became a free agent after the season. Jones pitched for Chicago until the end of the 1990 season, when he was part of a trade with the Montreal Expos that saw Tim Raines go to the White Sox. Jones went 11-4, 2.31 in 65 appearances during the 1990 season.
On this date in 1894, the Pirates traded pitcher George Nicol and cash to the Louisville Colonels for pitcher Jock Menefee. Nicol was struggling in 1894, just like most pitchers during that time, due to the pitching distance recently being moved back ten feet to it’s current distance, as well as rules that said where the pitchers had to stand when delivering the ball. He threw a slow curveball that he had to adjust for the new distance and he wasn’t doing well, posting a 6.22 ERA, with 39 walks in 46.1 innings with the Pirates that year. After the trade, Nicol made just two starts for the Colonels and they were both disastrous. Going the distance in each, he allowed 35 hits, 35 runs and 16 walks in 17 innings. He did however prove to be valuable as a hitter, playing right field for 26 games. He batted .339 with 19 RBIs during that time. Despite the hitting success, it still ended up being his last season in the majors. Menefee began his career with the Pirates in 1892, getting a one-game trial that didn’t go so well. He then pitched for Louisville in 1893-94, going a combined 16-24, 4.28 in 43 games. The 26-year-old righty would make 13 starts for the Pirates over the last two months of the 1894 season, going 5-8, 5.40 with 13 complete games. He made one start and one relief appearance for the 1895 Pirates before they got rid of him due to his eight runs and seven walks in 1.2 innings of work.