This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 3rd, Matt Capps and Dave Clark

We have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who can be considered the best of the worst. We also have one transaction of note.

The Players

Matt Capps, reliever for the 2005-09 Pirates. He was a seventh round pick in 2002 by the Pirates out of high school. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2002 and allowed one earned run in 13 innings over seven appearances. In 2003, Capps was a starter in the GCL, going 5-1, 1.87 with 54 strikeouts in 62.2 innings over ten starts, before getting a promotion to High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League for one start in which he allowed three runs over five innings. He split the 2004 season between Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League and the short-season New York-Penn League with Williamsport, combining to go 5-8, 6.90, with a 1.74 WHIP in 107 innings over 19 starts and four relief outings, with much better results at the lower level. He switched to relief at Hickory in 2005 and had a 2.52 ERA in 53.2 innings, with 14 saves in 35 appearances. He jumped to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League, where he put up a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings over 17 games. Capps went from pitching in Double-A during the second half of 2005, right to the majors as a September call-up, without ever playing at Triple-A. He pitched four innings over four appearances for the Pirates, and allowed two runs. As a rookie in 2006, he was used 85 times out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh, going 9-1, 3.79 in 80.2 innings with one save. He walked just 12 batters all season. That games pitched total is tied for the fourth most in team history.

Capps began closing games in June of 2007, replacing Salomon Torres in that role. He finished the year 4-7, 2.28 in 79 innings over 76 games, with 18 saves. He walked 16 batters that year, though ten of those were intentional walks. He missed nearly two months of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury. Capps finished that season with 21 saves, a 39:5 SO/BB ratio and a 3.02 ERA in 53.2 innings over 49 appearances. In 2009, everything went downhill for Capps, as he struggled to get outs and  finished with a 4-8, 5.80 record and a 1.66 WHIP in 54.1 innings over 57 games. Despite the high ERA, he was able to convert 27 of 32 save chances that year. The Pirates cut ties with him after the season, deciding to go with veteran Octavio Dotel as their closer, which was a move that eventually landed them James McDonald and Andrew Lambo in a 2010 deadline deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Capps signed with the Washington Nationals as a free agent in January of 2010, then was traded to the Minnesota Twins mid-season, where he was asked to replace All-Star closer Joe Nathan. Capps went 3-3, 2.74 with 26 saves in 47 appearances for the Nationals prior to the trade. After the deal, he had a 2.00 ERA and 16 saves in 27 outings with the Twins. The Pirates gave up on him just one year too soon. In 2011, he went 4-7, 4.25 with 15 saves in 65.2 innings over 69 outings. Capps missed much of 2012 due to a rotator cuff injury, which limited him to 29.1 innings over 30 games. He pitched well when healthy, posting a 3.68 ERA, while picking up 15 saves. He then spent his last four in pro ball in the minors, seeing time with the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks during that time, as well as a winter in Puerto Rico. He also signed a deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2015, but never pitched for them. His work in 2014-15 was limited to just 12 innings over ten games with the Indians. He had rotator cuff surgery in June of 2013 and suffered a shoulder strain in Spring Training of 2014. He finished his eight-year big league career with a 29-33, 3.52 record, picking up 138 saves in 439.2 innings over 444 games. With the Pirates, he was 19-19, 3.61 with 67 saves in 271 games. He is currently an announcer for the Pirates.

Juan Perez, lefty reliever for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1998 out of the Dominican Republic, reaching free agency before he ever pitched for the team in the majors. He debuted in 1999 in the Dominican Summer League, then moved to the U.S. in 2000, where he had a 2.36 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 34.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League. Then next year was spent in Low-A, with Augusta of the South Atlantic League, where Perez went 8-8, 3.58 in 125.2 innings, with 113 strikeouts. He moved up to Sarasota of the High-A Florida State League and missed part of the year, which led to him switching to a relief role. He had an 0-6, 3.78 record in 66.2 innings over 14 starts and two relief appearances that season. In 2003, he made 33 appearances with Sarasota, posting a 2.37 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 18 saves in 38 innings. He spent the other part of the year in Double-A Portland of the Eastern League, putting up a 3.82 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 30.2 innings over 18 appearances. In 2004, Perez spent the entire season in Portland. He had a 5-1, 4.14 record, with six saves and 79 strikeouts in 78.1 innings over 46 games. In his final season with the Red Sox, he spent the year with Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League. He had a 4-5, 5.50 record and 74 strikeouts in 62 innings over 40 appearances.

Perez signed with the New York Mets in October of 2005 and pitched for their Triple-A club (Norfolk of the International League) during the 2006 season. He had a 2.86 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 63 innings and 43 appearances, prior to being put on waivers near the end of August. He was taken by the Pirates and sent to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he threw seven scoreless innings in four appearances before being called up to Pittsburgh for his big league debut. Perez appeared in seven games for the 2006 Pirates, posting an 8.10 ERA in 3.1 innings. He made the 2007 Opening Day roster and threw shutout ball during his first seven outings. He was sent to Indianapolis on April 22nd with his 0.00 ERA after the Pirates activated John Grabow off of the disabled list. Perez would not rejoin the Pirates until September, when he made another nine appearances, which didn’t go as well as his early season time. He finished with that season with a 4.38 ERA in 12.1 innings for the Pirates, and a 4.69 ERA in 55.2 innings for Indianapolis. He was competing for an Opening Day job in 2008, but an early Spring Training injury to his elbow sidelined him for the start of the season. The Pirates actually released him and signed him to a minor league deal. He would spend all of 2008 in the minors, before being let go by Pittsburgh at the end of the season. He had a 2.83 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.

Perez spent the 2009-10 seasons in the minors with the Atlanta Braves (2009) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2010), while also playing winter ball each year in the Dominican. In 2009, he went 2-4, 3.47 in 57 innings, with 59 strikeouts for Gwinnett of the International League. In 2010, he had a 2.96 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 45.2 innings for Albuquerque of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Perez made it back to the big leagues in June of 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies for eight relief appearances. He allowed just one hit over five innings, giving up two runs. In 2012,  he pitched ten games for the Milwaukee Brewers, giving up four runs over seven innings. He then he had 19 appearances with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays after posting an 0.86 ERA in 17 appearances at Triple-A Buffalo of the International League. He had a 3.69 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Blue Jays that season. Perez pitched just one partial season in the minors after 2013, playing nine games at Triple-A Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League for the Texas Rangers in 2015. However, he played winter ball every year up until the 2019-20 off-season, his 14th straight season of winter ball. In 61 Major League games, he went 2-4, 4.25 in 59.1 innings pitched. No included his unavailable stats for the 2000 season in the DSL, Perez pitched 841 games of pro ball, with 1,136 strikeouts in 1,066 innings.

Dave Clark, outfielder for the 1992-96 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft in 1983 by the Cleveland Indians, taken 11th overall out of Jackson State University. Clark moved through the Indians system by hitting for average, with some power, while stealing bases and showing the ability to draw a decent amount of walks. He debuted in the Class-A Midwest League in 1983 with Waterloo, hitting .277 with 20 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and a .778 OPS in 53 games. He repeated the level in 1984, though he jumped to Double-A at the very end of the season. Clark hit .309 with 74 runs, 16 doubles, 15 homers, 63 RBIs, 20 steals and 57 walks for Waterloo, then batted .179/.294/.357 in 17 games for Buffalo of the Eastern League. In 1985, he played the entire year in Double-A with Waterbury of the Eastern League. In 132 games that season, he hit .302 with 75 runs, 24 doubles, 12 homers, 64 RBIs, 27 steals and 86 walks, resulting in an .862 OPS. He moved up to Triple-A for the 1986 season and hit .279 with 56 runs, 17 doubles, 19 homers, 58 RBIs and 52 walks for Maine of the International League. He made it to the majors as a September call-up in 1986, although he didn’t stick for good in Cleveland until two years later. Clark’s first big league stint saw him hit .276/.349/.448 with three homers in 18 games. He struggled during his 1987 trial in the big leagues, batting .207/.225/.368 with three homers in 29 games. He then went to the minors and hit .340 with 83 runs, 22 doubles, 30 homers and 80 RBIs in 108 games for Buffalo of the Triple-A American Association. Despite those stats, he was back in the minors for part of the 1988 season, where he put up an .853 OPS in 47 games with Colorado Springs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. With the Indians that year, Clark hit .263 with four doubles, three homers, 18 RBIs and a .692 OPS in 63 games.

Clark spent all of 1989 in the majors, batting .237 with 21 runs, 12 doubles, eight homers, 29 RBIs and a .696 OPS in 102 games. He moved on to the Chicago Cubs in November of 1989 in a trade for Mitch Webster, who would go on to play for the 1991 Pirates. Clark hit .275 with 22 runs, four doubles, five homers, 20 RBIs and a .713 OPS in 84 games for the 1990 Cubs, making just 35 starts all year. He was released at the end of Spring Training in 1991 and signed with the Kansas City Royals, where he spent most of his time at Triple-A Omaha of the American Association, hitting .301 in 104 games, with 40 extra-base hits and an .846 OPS. He played just 11 big league games that season and all of them were off of the bench, going 2-for-10 with two singles and a walk. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in January of 1992, and he spent most of the year in the minors. The 1992 Pirates went to the playoffs, and for a six-week stretch in the middle of the season, then again in September, Clark was a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter. He hit .212/.325/.394 in 23 games with two homers and seven RBIs. In 1993, he saw his most playing time with the Pirates, getting into 110 games (75 starts). He batted .271 that year, while setting career highs with 11 homers, 46 RBIs, 43 runs scored and 38 walks. He played 86 games in the 1994 and had an output on offense very similar  to the prior season. He drove in 46 runs both years, hitting 11 doubles each season, while finishing with ten homers in 1994. He was actually playing just as frequently, but his game total was lower due to the strike that ended the season in early August. His .296 average and .844 OPS were both career highs to that point, though he would top it after he left Pittsburgh.

Clarke maintained a strong average in 1995, batting .281, but his production dropped off, hitting six doubles, four homers and driving in 24 runs in 77 games. He finished that season with a .731 OPS. He was with the Pirates until August 31, 1996, when he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Carl South. Prior to the trade, he was hitting .275 with 12 triples, eight homers, 35 RBIs and an .831 OPS in 92 games. After the deal, he had 18 plate appearances in 15 games for the Dodgers, collecting three singles and three walks, with one RBI and no runs scored. Clark would play two more years in the majors before retiring, spending 1997 back with the Cubs as a free agent. He batted .301 with 19 runs, eight doubles, five homers and 32 RBIs in 102 games that year, though most of his work came off of the bench, leaving him with 166 plate appearances all season. His .847 OPS was his career best. His last season in the majors was spent with the Houston Astros, where he hit .206 with no homers and four RBIs in 92 games, making a total of 16 starts all year. His OPS dropped exactly 300 points down to a .547 mark. He played in Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League for the Dodgers in 1999 before retiring as a player.

Clark served as a hitting coach for the Pirates in the majors and minors during the 2000-01 seasons, then served as minor league manager during the 2002-03 seasons. Since then he has held numerous coaching jobs, including positions with the Detroit Tigers from 2013 to 2020. In 2009, he briefly managed the Houston Astros at the end of the season. Clark finished with a .264 average, 248 runs, 81 doubles, 62 homers and 284 RBIs in 905 games. For the Pirates, he hit .278 with 35 homers and 158 RBIs in 388 games. Despite being a stolen base threat in the minors, he had just 19 Major League steals.

Ed Konetchy, first baseman for the 1914 Pirates. He had a strong and somewhat under-appreciated 15-year career in the majors, hitting .281 with 992 RBIs, 972 runs scored, 2,150 hits and 182 triples, which is the 15th highest total ever. On top of the offensive stats, he was an even better defensive player at first base. He led the league five times in putouts, five times in assists, five times in range and six times in fielding percentage. Right in the middle of his career, he spent one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Konetchy debuted in pro ball in 1905 at 19 years old, playing his first of three seasons for La Crosse of the Class-D Wisconsin State League, which was his hometown team. He started off slowly with a .222 average in 106 games during his first year, though it came with 22 extra-base hits. He improved that average 55 points to .277 in 116 games in 1906, but the power numbers were cut in half, with 11 extra-base hits in slightly more at-bats. He had a breakout start to the 1907 season, hitting .359 in 39 games, which led to a spot with the St Louis Cardinals for the rest of the season. Konetchy hit .251 with 34 runs and 30 RBIs in 91 games as a rookie, with a solid (for the deadball era) .673 OPS. In 1908, he played 154 games and hit .248 with 46 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs and a .663 OPS. While the Pirates were busy winning the World Series in 1909, Konetchy was hitting .286 with 88 runs, 24 doubles, 13 triples, 80 RBIs, 25 steals and 65 walks in 152 games. His .762 OPS was rated seventh best in the league.

In 1910, Konetchy had an .822 OPS, which ranked him fifth best in the league. He hit .302 with 87 runs, 42 extra-base hits, 78 RBIs, 18 steals and 78 walks in 144 games. He had another strong season in 1911, batting .289 with 57 extra-base hits and 88 RBIs. He led the league with 158 games and with 38 doubles. The doubles represented a career high, as did his 90 runs scored, 27 steals and 81 walks. It was the first of three seasons that he stole 27 bases. He finished 22nd in the MVP voting that season. In 1912, he batted .314 with 81 runs scored, 47 extra-base hits, 82 RBIs, 25 steals, 62 walks and an .844 OPS in 143 games. That led to a 12th place finish in the MVP voting. That OPS was a career best at the time, but he would top it by two points just a few years later. During the 1913 season, he hit .276 with 75 runs scored, 18 doubles, 17 triples, eight homers, 68 RBIs, 27 steals and a .779 OPS in 140 games. Konetchy came to Pittsburgh in an eight-player deal on December 12, 1913 from the St Louis Cardinals, in exchange for a five-player group highlighted by Dots Miller and Chief Wilson. The deal was a disaster and came about mainly because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss had a man-crush on Konetchy, who he talked highly of and had tried to acquire multiple times before.

Konetchy played just one season for the Pirates, jumping to the Federal League team in Pittsburgh (Rebels) before the start of the 1915 season. He hit .249 in 154 games for the Pirates, with 56 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs, 20 steals and a .634 OPS. The batting average, runs and RBI totals, represented his lowest marks since his first full season (1908) in the big leagues. His OPS was his lowest to that point in his career, and he would finish lower just once in his 15-year career. Konetchy did his job on defense though, leading the National League in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he was supposed to be the key to this deal and he was outplayed by Dots Miller at first base for St Louis. The year after leaving the Pirates, Konetchy set a career high with 93 RBIs and his .846 OPS, and he tied his high batting average with a .314 mark. In 152 games that year, he had 79 runs, 31 doubles, 18 triples, ten homers, 27 steals and he led the league with 278 total bases. The Federal League was done after the 1915 season and he was sold to the Boston Braves.

In his first season in Boston, Konetchy led the league with 158 games played, while hitting .260 with 76 runs, 45 extra-base hits, 70 RBIs and a .693 OPS. In 1917, he hit .272 in 130 games, with 34 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs and 56 runs scored, improving slightly over the previous season to a .710 OPS. He saw his average drop to .236 in 119 games in 1918, and his .598 OPS was the worst of his career. That season was shortened due to the war, so he was still playing regularly despite the lower games played total. Konetchy was then sold to the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) right before the 1919 season started. He rebounded in Brooklyn, batting .298 with 46 runs, 24 doubles, nine triples, 47 RBIs and a .733 OPS in 132 games. That was followed by a .308 average, with 62 runs, 39 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs in 131 games in 1920. Brooklyn put him on waivers in the middle of the 1921 season, despite a .269 average and a .732 OPS at the time. He was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies, where he finished his big league career that season. He went out strong too, hitting .321/.379/.504 with 59 RBIs in 72 games for the Phillies.

Konetchy went to the minors in 1922 and played another six seasons. He did well at the highest level in 1922, hitting .310 with 47 extra-base hits in 133 games for Toledo of the American Association. Despite the success, he dropped down a level of play in 1923, going to Omaha of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .307 in 156 games, with 50 doubles, eight triples and 22 homers. He dropped down again in 1924, playing for Petersburg of the Class-B Virginia League, where he batted .340 with 61 extra-base hits in 125 games. In 1925, playing for the Fort Worth Panthers of the Class-A Texas League, he hit .345 with 41 doubles and 41 homers at 39 years old. Konetchy batted .325 with 64 extra-base hits in 152 games in 1926 for Fort Worth, then finished his career there in 1927 with a .250 average in 11 games. He was a minor league manager for six seasons, finishing his career exactly how he started it, with three seasons with La Crosse in 1940-42. He had 1,123 minor league hits, giving him 3,273 hits as a pro. All-time he ranks third in putouts by a first baseman, behind Hall of Famers Jake Beckley and Cap Anson. Konetchy is credited with 46.5 career WAR.

Harry Decker, catcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He has the claim to fame of having the highest batting average on one of the worst teams in baseball history. He gained a bit of fame in his first year of semi-pro ball, playing for a strong team in Chicago. He played for a team in Evansville the next season, which was also considered to be a strong semi-pro club. Decker started his pro career and Major League career in 1884 at 19 years old, splitting his season between Indianapolis of the American Association and Kansas City of the Union Association, the latter being a Major League that lasted just that one season. He batted just .156/.208/.189 with nine runs and three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 27 games between the two stops. He also had a brief stint in the minors that season, playing five games for Evansville of the Northwestern League. Decker spent 1885 in the minors, although his only listed record that year is one game for Kansas City of the Western League. That may have to do with the fact that he was caught cashing a forged check in January, though I was able to find him playing semi-pro ball in August in Missouri. An 1889 article stated that he was blacklisted from baseball in 1885 and reinstated the next season. Decker’s skills must have been highly thought of despite the legal trouble and poor batting in 1884, because he split the 1886 season between two National League team, the Detroit Wolverines and the Washington Nationals, while once again spending part of the season in the minors. A majority of the year was spent with Macon of the Class-B Southern Association, where he hit .256 in 40 games before Detroit purchased his release in June. He batted .221/.250/.273 with two runs, three extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 21 games between his two big league stops.

After that second brief trial, Decker went to the minors, spending the 1887-88 seasons with Toronto of the International Association. No stats are available for 1887,but a later article stated that he finished second in the league in hitting. He batted .313 in 79 games for Toronto in 1888 with 65 runs, 26 extra-base hits and 37 steals. He returned to the majors in 1889 with the Philadelphia Quakers (now the Phillies), where he hit .100/.156/.100 in 11 games that first year in Philadelphia. Decker began the 1890 season with the Phillies (new name in 1890), playing just five games over the first six weeks of the season. In early June, the Alleghenys purchased his contract, and he would become the regular catcher after joining the team in Cincinnati on June 5th, going behind the plate 70 times over the rest of the season. When he wasn’t catching he still saw regular action in the field, playing five other positions, although most of his other time was spent at first base. The 1890 Alleghenys, decimated by a mass exodus of star players to the newly formed Player’s League, finished with a 23-113 record, hitting .230 as a group.  Decker hit a team high .274, with 14 doubles, five homers, 38 RBIs and 52 runs scored. In September he had to leave the team for a time to take care of a lawsuit involving a woman suing him for $10,000 for backing out of a marriage.

When the Player’s League ended after one season, most of the Alleghenys’ players returned, leaving no room for Decker. He was on the team’s reserve list for 1891, which was released in February of that year, but he was gone before the season started. The Alleghenys/Pirates paid him $60 advanced money during the off-season, which ended up being all they asked in return for a team to take his services. In March of 1891 he was arrested for forgery and larceny, with the specific details saying he wrote three bad checks that totaled $75 and stole a “suit of clothes” from a man. He was released after he paid everyone back and finished his career in the minors that year playing for New Haven of the Class-A Eastern Association, in the same town where he was arrested. He was wanted for forgeries again in 1892 and then in 1893 he was sent to an insane asylum, where they said that he believed he was extremely wealthy and there was no malicious intent behind his forged checks. Decker could have been wealthy because he held patents for catcher mitts that he designed, but his life of criminal activity kept him from ever having money. His final whereabouts are unknown and the latest I could track him is in jail in Illinois in 1897 for forgery, though he is known to have changed his name and lived until at least 1915. He went by Harry, but his actual first name was Earle, and he was often called E. Harry Decker.

The Transaction

On this date in 1971, the Pirates added depth to their playoff run by purchasing catcher/outfielder Carl Taylor from the Kansas City Royals. Taylor was originally with the Pirates during the 1968-69 seasons. After the trade with the Royals, he played seven games for the 1971 Pirates, going 2-for-12 at the plate. He got one start in right field in place of Roberto Clemente. During the middle of Spring Training in 1972, Taylor was sold back to the Royals, where he finished his career two years later.

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