This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 2nd, Luke Walker; Pirates Part Ways with Bob Veale

Today in Pittsburgh Pirates history, we have five former players born on this date, plus one transaction of note. Two of the players from today were members of the 1971 World Series winning team.

The Players

Gaby Sanchez, first baseman for the 2012-14 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in the 15th round in 2002 by the Seattle Mariners. He decided to attend the University of Miami, where he became a fourth round pick of the Florida Marlins in 2005. He debuted in pro ball by tearing up the New York-Penn League, putting up a .355 average, 21 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and an .888 OPS in 62 games with Jamestown. In 2006, he split the year between Low-A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League and High-A Jupiter of the Florida State League, but he was limited to 74 games due to suffering both a broken hand and broken foot in separate incidents. He combined to hit .288 with 57 runs, 16 doubles, 15 homers, 50 RBIs, a .967 OPS and 56 walks. He made up for some lost time by playing 29 games in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .279 with seven doubles, two homers, 20 RBIs and 19 walks. Sanchez spent the entire 2007 season in Jupiter, where he hit .279 with 89 runs scored, 40 doubles, 70 RBIs, 64 walks and an .803 OPS in 133 games. He moved up to Double-A Carolina of the Southern League in 2008 and had a strong season, which led to a brief trial with the Marlins. He batted .314 with 42 doubles, 17 homers, 92 RBIs, 17 steals and 69 walks in 133 games with Carolina. With Florida, he went 3-for-8 at the plate in five games. A knee injury caused him to miss time early in 2009, and most of the year was spent in Triple-A New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League, where he had an .849 OPS in 85 games. In 21 games for the Marlins, he hit .238/.305/.524 with two homers in 23 plate appearances.

Sanchez held the first base job for the Marlins during the entire 2010 season, and he responded by hitting .273 with 37 doubles, 19 homers, 85 RBIs, 72 runs scored and 57 walks in 151 games, which earned him a fourth place finish for the Rookie of the Year award. Despite the solid offensive season, he finished with just 0.4 WAR on the season due to his -1.9 dWAR that year. He made the All-Star team in 2011, when he hit .266 with 35 doubles, 19 homers, 78 RBIs, 72 runs scored and 74 walks in 159 games. It appeared that he was headed for stardom going into his prime years (he was 27 in 2011), but his career went downhill quickly from that point. He was acquired by the Pirates at the 2012 trading deadline in exchange for Gorkys Hernandez. At the time of the trade, Sanchez was batting just .202/.250/.306 in 55 games, with three homers and 17 RBIs. He had also spent some time back in Triple-A that year. In five seasons in Florida/Miami, he hit .260 with 43 homers and 184 RBIs in 391 games. Over the final 50 games in 2012 for the Pirates, he hit .241 with 18 runs, six doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs and a .720 OPS. He has a platoon role at first base in 2013 and hit .254 with 29 runs, 18 doubles, seven homers and 36 RBIs in 136 games total, 60 of those were as a starter. He was used in the same capacity in 2014 and hit .229 with 31 runs, 18 doubles, seven homers and 33 RBIs in 123 games, making 52 starts. In three playoff games during his time in Pittsburgh, he went 0-for-5 at the plate.

Sanchez became a free agent after the 2014 season and signed to play in Japan, where he hit .252 in 100 games, with 35 runs, 21 doubles, 12 homers and 35 RBIs. He returned to the U.S. in 2016 with the Seattle Mariners, but he was released during Spring Training and retired as a player. He finished his big league with a .254 average, 61 homers, 266 RBIs and 236 runs scored in exactly 700 games. With the Pirates, he hit .241 in 309 games, with 78 runs, 42 doubles, 18 homers and 82 RBIs. He had a .755 OPS with the Marlins and a .722 mark with the Pirates.

Yamid Haad, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on July 5, 1999. He was signed by the Pirates at 17 years old in December of 1994 as an amateur free agent out of Colombia. After spending his first two seasons of pro ball in the Dominican Summer League (stats aren’t available), Haad came to the U.S. in 1997 at 19 years old and played for Erie of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .290 in 43 games, though his totals of 11 extra-base hits and seven walks limited him to a .703 OPS. He skipped a level in 1998 to High-A, playing for Lynchburg of the Carolina League, where he batted .254 in 88 games, with 32 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 34 RBIs and a .633 OPS. Haad got his only chance with the Pirates when Jason Kendall suffered a gruesome season ending ankle injury. He was briefly called up and went in to pinch-hit for relief pitcher Scott Sauerbeck on July 5, 1999. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, a man on first base and Pittsburgh down 5-2, Haad grounded out to third base to end the inning. He was sent down shortly after that game, then came back again to Pittsburgh two weeks later after Keith Osik was injured. Haad never played in a game during that second brief stint. He wasn’t much of a prospect at the time, though he was on the 40-man roster going into the season, so the Pirates clearly thought he had potential. His big league experience came more due to need and the fact that he was on the 40-man roster already, rather than earning the spot. During that 1999 season, he began the year back with Lynchburg, where he hit .254/.354/.388 in 59 games. When he went to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League later that season, he was over-matched, hitting .182/.280/.336 in 43 games.

Haad spent most of the 2001 season in Triple-A, hitting .257 with 14 runs, five doubles, two homers and ten RBIs in 51 games for Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. The Pirates let him go after the season and he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was released in July of 2002 by the Devil Rays after he hit below .200 with both Triple-A Durham of the International (.171 in 20 games) and Orlando of the Double-A Southern League (.185 in 29 games). He finished the season with the San Diego Padres, where he remained through the end of the 2004 season. Haad spent the rest of 2002 with Mobile of the Southern League, where he hit .283 in 18 games. He had a .792 OPS in nine games with Mobile in 2003, while spending the rest of the year with Portland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he hit .233/.278/.407 in 80 games. He had a strong 2004 season in Portland, batting .302 in 80 games, with 47 runs, 21 doubles, nine homers, 35 RBIs and an .802 OPS. Haad would finally make the majors again in 2005 with the San Francisco Giants, and that time it was an earned trip to the majors. After spending nearly the entire season at Triple-A Fresno of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .282/.310/.491 with 13 doubles, ten homers and 34 RBIs, he was recalled in August. Haad played 17 games for the Giants and had his share of troubles at the plate, hitting .071/.156/.107 in 32 plate appearances.

After his final big league game, Haad spent time in the minors with the Giants, Cleveland Indians, Padres and Seattle Mariners. He had a 16-year career in pro ball, playing his last season in 2010 down in the Mexican League. In 2006, he batted just .182 in 58 games over three levels for the Giants. His season was initially interrupted by a knee injury, but he then received a 50-game suspension for failing a PED test. He played with Buffalo of the Triple-A International League for the Indians during the 2007-08 seasons, seeing limited time each year. He batted .301 in 35 games in 2007, and he hit .167 in 40 games in 2008. He originally signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the 2007 season, and was competing for a big league spot, but he was let go in April and quickly signed with Cleveland. He was with the Mariners in Double-A to start 2009, before they sent him to the Padres, where he finished the season in Triple-A, where he put up the better results that year. Haad was released in November of 2009 and finished his career in Mexico.

Sean Lawrence, pitcher for the 1998 Pirates. He was taken by the Pirates in the sixth round of the 1992 draft out of the University of St Francis. He’s the last player drafted from his school to make the majors. He was originally drafted out of high school by the New York Mets in the 26th round four years earlier. Lawrence never dominated in the minors, with his best pitching coming during his second stint in High-A ball in 1994. He debuted with Welland of the short-season New York-Penn League in 1992, where he went 3-6, 5.23 in 74 innings over 15 starts, with 71 strikeouts. He went to Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League for most of the 1993 season. Lawrence had a 6-8, 3.12 record and 96 strikeouts in 121 innings over 22 starts for Augusta. He also made four starts for High-A Salem of the Carolina League, posting a 10.20 ERA in 15 innings. He repeated Salem in 1994, where he went 4-2, 2.62, with 66 strikeouts in 72 innings over 12 starts. Lawrence had a 5-8, 4.22 record in 111 innings over 20 games (19 starts) with Lynchburg of the Carolina League in 1995, then switched to relief at the end of the season in Double-A, where he had a 5.48 ERA in 21.1 innings with Carolina of the Southern League. He repeated Double-A Carolina in 1996 and posted a 3.95 ERA, while striking out 81 batters in 82 innings. After his fifth season of pro ball, he moved up to Triple-A for the first time in 1997, switching back to a starting role with Calgary of the Pacific Coast League. Lawrence went 8-9, 4.21 in 143.1 innings over 26 starts, with 116 strikeouts. He repeated Triple-A with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League in 1998 and went 12-9, 5.02, with 126 strikeouts in 147 innings, once again making 26 starts.

The Pirates called Lawrence up for his Major League debut in late August of 1998 for a start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He allowed two runs over five innings and picked up the win. Five days later, he started against the Houston Astros and got knocked out in the fourth inning, with four earned runs over 3.1 innings. After a loss to the Chicago Cubs in his third start in which he allowed five runs over five innings, Lawrence moved to the bullpen for the rest of the year. He made four more appearances and allowed runs in three of them. He became a free agent after the season, and played another three years in the minors before retiring. He spent 1999 in Triple-A for the Oakland A’s, going 2-2, 4.81 in 39.1 innings over 25 appearances with Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League. He then spent the 2000 season in independent ball, where he had a 6.45 ERA in 44.2 innings for Schaumburg of the Northern League Central. His final season saw him post a 3.55 ERA in 58.1 innings, while pitching for the Pacific Coast League affiliates of the Arizona Diamondbacks (Tuscon) and San Diego Padres (Portland). He finished 2-1, 7.32 in 19.2 Major League innings.

Luke Walker, pitcher for the 1965-66 and 1968-73 Pirates. Walker was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1963, but after one season, he was taken by the Pirates in the 1963 First Year draft. In that first season, the 19-year-old Walker had a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings at A-Ball with Waterloo of the Midwest League, and a 5.85 ERA in 40 innings at Double-A with Reading of the Eastern League. The Pirates sent him to Double-A Asheville of the Southern League in 1964, where he went 8-12, 3.72 in 184 innings, with 164 strikeouts. He earned a trip to the majors in 1965 after he went 12-9, 2.43 in 189 innings, with 203 strikeouts, spending most of that time in Asheville, though he had two unsuccessful starts with Columbus of the Triple-A International League. He threw five scoreless innings over two September appearances for the 1965 Pirates, but he still spent most of the next year in Triple-A. In 1966, he went 11-11, 2.77 in 172 innings over 25 starts at Columbus, seeing a big dip in his strikeout rate, which dropped from 9.7 to 6.9 per nine innings. Walker began that year with the Pirates, before getting sent down in early May after displaying control problems in his six appearances. He came back in September for four more outings. He threw ten innings over ten appearances for the 1966 Pirates, allowing five runs and 15 walks. After a June arm injury limited him to just 11 starts for Columbus in 1967, Walker made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1968 and stayed around for the next six seasons.

In 1968, Walker was being used effectively out of the bullpen, posting a 2.02 ERA in 62.1 innings over 39 outings (including two starts). He struck out 66 batters and picked up three saves. For the next two seasons, he split his time between starting and relieving, throwing 73 games, 34 as a starter. He had a 4-6, 3.64 record in 118.2 innings over 15 starts and 16 relief appearances in 1969. The 1970 season was the best of his career, setting highs for wins, innings, strikeouts and complete games. Walker went 15-6, 3.04 in 163 innings, with 124 strikeouts, five complete games, three shutouts and three saves. He finished tenth in the National League Cy Young voting and even received some MVP consideration, finishing 25th in the voting. The Pirates won the 1971 World Series, and Walker started a career high 24 games that year. He was 10-8, 3.55, pitching a total of 159.2 innings. He really struggled in the playoffs, pitching once in each series, with a total of five runs allowed over 1.2 innings. He gave up three runs in the first inning of game four of the World Series, but Pittsburgh ended up winning the game 4-3, thanks to the brilliant relief work of Bruce Kison. Walker returned to the split role during his last two seasons in Pittsburgh, starting 12 of 26 games in 1972 and 18 of 37 games the next year. He did well in 1972, posting a 3.40 ERA in 95.2 innings, but that ERA jumped to 4.65 in 1973, when he threw 122 innings. He was sold to the Detroit Tigers in December of 1973, and finished his big league career there the next season with a 5-5, 4.99 record in 92 innings over 28 appearances (nine starts). He spent the 1975 season with Iowa of the Triple-A American Association, going 7-7, 4.33 in 106 innings. With the Pirates, Walker went 40-42, 3.47 in 733.1 innings over 215 games, with 91 of those games coming as a starter. He threw seven shutouts and saved nine games. He was an awful hitter during his big league career, going 11-for-188, with 107 strikeouts and a .174 OPS.

Ben Sankey, shortstop for the 1929-31 Pirates. He spent the first two years of his career playing for Selma of the Class-B Southeastern League, before joining the Pirates at the end of the 1929 season. He batted just .206 with 11 extra-base hits in 106 games at 20 years old in 1928. He was much better in his second season, hitting .262 with 25 doubles and eight triples in 137 games. He was purchased from Selma on September 5, 1929 and told to report to Pittsburgh the following day, where he would get a tryout with the team. Sankey debuted on October 5, 1929 and played two games for the Pirates that year, starting both at shortstop, going 1-for-7 at the plate and making one error. Starting shortstop Dick Bartell was a holdout during spring of 1930, and Sankey was in a battle for the job, taking on Charlie Engle and Stu Clarke for the starting spot. Bartell ended up signing and starting Opening Day, while Sankey was optioned to Wichita of the Class-A Western League on April 21st, six days after Opening Day, though he didn’t appear in any games with the Pirates until later in the year. He hit .257 in 18 games with Wichita and .256 in 13 games with Bridgeport of the Class-A Eastern League. He was back by June for the rest of the year, although his playing time was sporadic. He hit .167/.219/.167 in 13 games for the Pirates, with six runs and no RBIs, while making six starts at shortstop (with four errors) and two starts at second base.

With Bartell gone in 1931, Sankey saw a lot more action, especially in September. He started 37 of his 57 games played that season at shortstop, where his fielding percentage was well below average for the time. He hit .227/.301/.318 with 14 RBIs, 14 walks and 14 runs scored, in what ended up as his last season in the majors. His baseball playing career was far from over at that point. The Pirates sold him to Mission of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, a team managed by Pirates scout Joe Devine, on December 7, 1931. Sankey played two seasons in the Pacific Coast League, then spent eight years in the Double-A International League, finishing up his career in 1941 with over 1,500 minor league games played. In his three years with the Pirates, he hit .213 with 14 RBIs and 21 runs scored in 72 games.

In his first season in the Pacific Coast League, Sankey split the season between Mission and Portland. He batted .250 with 29 doubles and six triples in 138 games. The 1933 season was spent with Portland, where he hit .261 with 30 extra-base hits in 157 games. With Montreal in the International League in 1934, he hit .264 with 21 doubles and five triples in 151 games. Sankey played 155 games in 1935, hitting .269 with 33 doubles, 11 triples and three homers. He batted .243 in 150 games in 1936, with 52 runs, 25 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs. He hit .264 with 28 extra-base hits in 149 games in 1937, then followed it up with a .278 average in 139 games in 1938. That year he had 63 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs. In 1939, Sankey split the season between Montreal and two other International League clubs, Baltimore and Syracuse. He’s credit with hitting .274 in 109 games, with 15 extra-base hits. He played for Baltimore during his final two seasons of pro ball, batting .305 in 76 games in 1940, and .160 in 70 games in 1941.

The Transaction

On this date in 1972, longtime Pirates pitcher Bob Veale, was sold to the Boston Red Sox, ending his 11-year career in Pittsburgh. From 1964 until 1970, Veale had double digits wins every season, topping out at 18 in 1964. By 1971, he had become a reliever, going 6-0, 6.99 in 37 appearances for the World Champs that year. In 1972, the big, hard-throwing, 36-year-old lefty, had spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he was being used as a starter. Veale’s last appearance for the Pirates came in late April, when he allowed four runs in three innings of relief work. The Red Sox threw him right into the bullpen, using him six times for a total of eight innings over the rest of the season, and he didn’t allow a single run. He pitched two more years in Boston before he retired, getting limited work each season. He had a 3.45 ERA in 57.1 innings with the Red Sox over those three years.

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