Today is a popular day in team history for lefty relievers, plus we also have a player who took part in the first game in franchise history.
Gregory Polanco, outfielder for the 2014-21 Pirates. Polanco signed with the Pirates at 17 years old as a tall/skinny outfielder out of the Dominican in 2009. He played in the Dominican Summer League his first year and batted .267 with 34 runs, no homers, 24 RBIs, 12 steals and a .727 OPS in 63 games. He moved up to the Gulf Coast League for the next two seasons and didn’t impress with his stats, but the tools started to show up in game action and he was considered to be a sleeper prospect by the end of 2011. Polanco hit .202/.245/.287 with three homers and 19 steals in 53 games in 2010. That was followed by a .229 average in 51 games in 2011, with 34 runs, 11 extra-base hits (three homers), 35 RBIs, a .669 OPS and 18 steals in 18 attempts. The Pirates bumped him up to State College of the short-season New York-Penn League for the final three games of the season. In 2012, Polanco was part of a high upside group of prospects at West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He became a top prospect that year by hitting .325 with 84 runs scored, 26 doubles, 16 homers, 85 RBIs, 40 steals and a .910 OPS in 116 games. He played winter ball in the Dominican that year, in a league filled with much older players who had Triple-A/MLB experience. In 2013, Polanco played at High-A Bradenton in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he hit .312 with 23 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 53 games. He moved up to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League mid-season and hit .263 with 21 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 68 games. At the end of the season, he got to play the final two games of the year in Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. For the season, he hit .285 in 127 games, with 66 runs, 30 doubles, 12 homers, 71 RBIs, 38 steals, 52 walks and a .791 OPS.
Polanco followed up his strong 2013 season at three levels by putting up a .331 average and a .922 OPS in 44 games of winter ball in the Dominican. He began the 2014 season in Indianapolis, but ended up spending more time in the majors, after he hit .329/.390/.504 in 69 games with Indianapolis. As a rookie for the 2014 Pirates, he hit .235 with 50 runs, nine doubles, seven homers, 33 RBIs and 14 steals in 89 games. In 2015, he batted .256 in 153 games, with 83 runs scored, 35 doubles, nine homers, 52 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, 55 walks and a .701 OPS. Polanco hit .258 in 144 games in 2016, with 79 runs, 34 doubles, 22 homers, 86 RBIs, 17 steals, 53 walks and a .786 OPS. His 2017 season was marred by multiple left hamstring strains. He was limited to 108 games, in which he hit .251 with 39 runs, 20 doubles, 11 homers, 35 RBIs and a .695 OPS. He was having a strong 2018 season until an awkward slide caused multiple injuries, including a shoulder problem that required surgery. He batted .254 that season, with 75 runs, 32 doubles, 23 homers, 81 RBIs, 12 steals, 61 walks and an .839 OPS in 130 games. His rehab work carried into the 2019 season, which was cut short even more by shoulder discomfort later in the year. Polanco hit .242/.301/.425 with 23 runs, eight doubles, six homers and 17 RBIs in 42 games.
The 2020 season was shortened due to the pandemic and Polanco struggled through it, hitting .153/.214/.325 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 50 games. He put up a .197 average and a .618 OPS in 21 winter ball games during the 2020-21 off-season. Those struggles continued throughout the 2021 season before he was released in late August. He hit .208 with 38 runs, 12 doubles, 11 homers, 36 RBIs and 14 steals in 15 attempts, over 107 games for the 2021 Pirates. Polanco signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays just days after being cut by the Pirates and spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .374/.436/.747 in 24 games. He signed to play in Japan for 2022, where he batted .245 in 119 games through early September, with 46 runs, 18 doubles, 19 homers and 49 RBIs. In 823 games in Pittsburgh, he hit .241 with 399 runs, 159 doubles, 96 homers, 362 RBIs and 98 steals.
Jerry Don Gleaton, lefty reliever for the 1992 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick in 1979 by the Texas Rangers, who went right to the majors for one game, before making his minor league debut. Despite that quick debut, Gleaton didn’t spend a full season in the majors until 1990 with the Detroit Tigers. He was originally drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles in 1976 in the second round, but he decided to attend the University of Texas, where he moved up to the 17th overall pick three years later. After his pro debut in the majors, in which he allowed three runs in three innings, he made five starts (4.89 ERA in 35 innings) for Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League, then returned to the Rangers in August for four more outings. He was with the Rangers in September, but his last appearance came on August 15th, and he went to the Fall Instructional League before the season ended. He ended up allowing seven runs in 9.2 innings during that first year in the majors. In 1980, Gleaton made 25 starts in Tulsa, going 13-7, 3.64, with 138 strikeouts in 178 innings. He made five relief appearances for the Rangers that year, allowing two runs in seven innings. In December of 1980, he was part of an 11-player trade with the Seattle Mariners.
Gleaton set a career high with innings during his first season in Seattle, though it was also his only year as a starter in the majors. He went 4-7, 4.75 in 85.1 innings over 13 starts and seven relief appearances during the strike-shortened 1981 season. He also made 13 starts for Triple-A Spokane of the Pacific Coast League, , posting a 4.15 ERA in 91 innings. He was still a starter in the minors during the 1982-83 seasons, but he only spent three games in the majors during that time, all in 1982, and all in relief. He went 15-7, 2.72, with 132 strikeouts in 182 innings at Double-A Lynn of the Eastern League in 1982. His big league time that year consisted of seven runs allowed in 4.2 innings. The next year was spent in Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 6.68 ERA in 137.1 innings. Gleaton started 1984 back in Salt Lake City, where he stayed until a June trade sent him to the Chicago White Sox. He had a 3.44 ERA in 18.1 innings over 11 outings (one start) for the White Sox in 1984, while posting a 4.65 ERA in 69.2 innings at Triple-A, split between Salt Lake City and Denver of the American Association. He actually did much better in the thin air of Denver, putting up a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.
Gleaton posted a 5.76 ERA in 29.2 innings over 31 appearances for the White Sox in 1985. He spent half of that year with Buffalo of the American Association, where he had an 8-2, 2.44 record in 55.1 innings. He spent all of 1986 in Buffalo, going 4-3, 3.22 in 46 games (three starts), with 77 strikeouts in 78.1 innings. Gleaton signed with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent after the 1986 season. Most of the 1987 season was spent in the majors, where he went 4-4, 4.26 in 50.2 innings over 48 appearances with the Royals. He also earned five saves that season. After making six appearances with Omaha of the American Association in 1987, Gleaton spent the first seven weeks of the 1988 season in Omaha before rejoining the Royals. He earned that trip back with a 1.45 ERA in 37.1 innings. He went 0-4, 3.55, with three saves in 38 innings over 42 big league outings that season. In 1989, he spent the majority of the season in Omaha, where he had a 1.11 ERA in 56.2 innings. He pitched 15 times for the Royals that year, posting a 5.65 ERA in 14.1 innings. The Royals traded him to the Detroit Tigers right before Opening Day in 1990 and that proved to be a bad decision short term. That season he posted a 2.94 ERA and saved 13 games in 82.2 innings over 57 relief appearances. His 56 strikeouts that year were his career high in the majors. Prior to that performance, he had appeared in majors during parts of nine seasons, compiling a 10-18, 4.72 record in 180 games, so the results were quite surprising at 32 years old.
Gleaton’s numbers slipped in 1991, down to a 4.06 ERA in 75.1 innings over 47 outings, and he was let go after the season. Pittsburgh signed him as a free agent just days after Opening Day in 1992, and he ended up pitching five games at Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association, and 23 games for the Pirates before being released on July 26th. He went 1-0, 4.26 in 31.2 innings at the big league level. His release was part of a youth influx for the Pirates, as they went for their third straight National League East pennant. Gleaton and Jeff Robinson were released, while Zane Smith was placed on the disabled list, which led to three rookies joining the team. Gleaton was signed by the San Francisco Giants for the rest of the 1992 season, but he didn’t pitch in the majors. He pitched for Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 3.26 ERA in 19.1 innings. He then inked a deal with the Florida Marlins in 1993, but his days in Pittsburgh would end up being his last Major League experience. Gleaton spent that 1993 season with Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League, going 3-1, 3.99 with seven saves in 65.1 innings over 46 appearances. He finished with a 15-23, 4.25 record in 307 appearances (16 starts), with 26 saves and 447.1 innings pitched over 12 seasons in the majors. Including his minor league stats, he made 113 starts and 521 relief appearances.
Frank Carpin, lefty reliever for the 1965 Pirates. He spent exactly one year with the Pirates and pitched well, but his Major League career lasted just ten more games elsewhere. He debuted in pro ball in 1959 at 20 years old in the New York Yankees farm system, playing for Class-B Carolina League with Greensboro, where he had a 12-9, 3.24 record in 175 innings, with 103 walks and 143 strikeouts. In 1960 he moved up to Binghamton of the Class-A Eastern League, where he went 11-8, 3.69 in 166 innings over 23 starts, with 86 walks and 88 strikeouts. From there it was to Richmond of the Triple-A International League in 1961. He had a 7-9, 3.52 record in 143 innings that season, improving to 92 strikeouts and 49 walks. The 1962 season was split between Richmond and Double-A Amarillo of the Texas League. He combined to go 3-14, 5.69 in 125 innings, with worse stats at the lower level. He had 71 walks and 104 strikeouts that season. In 1963, Carpin played for two teams in the Double-A South Atlantic League (Augusta and Lynchburg), going 15-9, 3.12 in 196 innings, with 142 strikeouts. He was back in Richmond in 1964 as a full-time reliever, where he had a 5-3, 2.78 record and 87 strikeouts in 97 innings over 69 appearances.
In the November 1964 Minor League draft, the Pirates picked Carpin up from the Yankees. The following November they lost him to the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 draft. During the 1965 season in Pittsburgh, he went 3-1, 3.18 in 39 games, throwing a total of 39.2 innings. He was also 4-0, 2.67 in 27 innings while with the Pirates Triple-A affiliate (Columbus of the International League) that season. He had some shaky control, walking 24 batters in his limited time with the Pirates, but he was still able to keep the damage to a minimum. Carpin was technically with Columbus when he was picked up by the Astros. The Pirates sold his contract to their Triple-A team on October 12th, and then he was lost in the draft six weeks later. With Houston in 1966, he had a 7.50 ERA in ten games, pitching a total of just six innings. He was with the team on Opening Day, staying for the first four weeks, then returned in mid-August. That would be the extent of his Major League time and he never pitched in pro ball after the 1966 season. He spent the rest of the 1966 season with Oklahoma City of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he went 3-5, 2.92 in 77 innings over 44 games. Carpin pitched eight seasons in the minors, going 60-57, 3.55 in 279 games, 113 as a starter. A sore arm ended his career, though he played semi-pro ball for a few years after his final pro game and considered a comeback in 1970. He turns 84 today.
Fred Green, lefty reliever for the 1959-61 and 1964 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1952, but it took him seven seasons to make it to the majors for the first time. Green started off in Class-D ball with Brunswick of the Georgia-Florida League, where he went 20-12, 2.54 in 269 innings, with 190 walks and 265 strikeouts. He moved up to Class-B Waco of the Big State League in 1953 and had a 13-8, 3.24 record in 203 innings, with 107 walks and 169 strikeouts. In 1954, he was in Class-A, playing for Williamsport of the Eastern League. He went 11-11, 4.30 in 180 innings that season, picking up 131 strikeouts. He continued his slow climb in 1955, going to New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association, where he had an 8-15, 5.02 record and 111 strikeouts in 174 innings. After getting a look at Spring Training with the Pirates in 1956, he moved up to Triple-A, going 5-4, 4.72 in 82 innings for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. He was a starter in each of his first four seasons, then moved to more of a relief role in 1956, making five starts and 28 relief appearances. He missed the entire 1957 season to military service, then went back to the Pacific Coast League for 1958, where he had a 10-8, 4.27 record in 137 innings in 22 starts and two relief appearances for Salt Lake City, after they acquired him from Hollywood. On September 29, 1958, the Pirates announced a huge deal with Salt Lake City. The Pirates acquired the rights of six of their players, in exchange for seven players being sent to Salt Lake City. They were an affiliate with the Pirates, though in some cases that meant that the Pirates had first crack at their players, depending on whether the players were optioned or sold outright to the team. Optioned players just needed to be recalled, while players sent there outright had to be reacquired.
Green made the Opening Day roster for the Pirates in 1959, though he didn’t last long before being sent down to Columbus of the Triple-A International League after just two relief appearances. He had a 3.46 ERA in 78 innings for Columbus that year. He ended up returning to the Pirates for the final two months of the 1959 season, pitching 17 big league games that year, while posting a 3.17 ERA in 37.1 innings. The World Series winning 1960 season ended up being his only full season in the majors. He went 8-4, 3.21 in 45 relief appearances, throwing 70 innings, while picking up three saves. Green got hit hard in the World Series, allowing ten runs in four innings. He struggled with the Pirates in 1961 before getting sent to the minors on June 29th after putting up a 4.79 ERA in 20.2 innings. He was eventually was put on waivers, where the Washington Senators picked him up on September 25, 1961. In between, he went 7-3, 4.77 in 66 innings for Columbus. Green threw five early season games for Washington in 1962, before spending the rest of his time in the minors prior to his May 1963 release. He gave up six runs over seven innings during his brief time with the Senators, then split the rest of the season, 79 innings over 36 games, between Jacksonville and Syracuse of the International League.
Green made five appearances for Toronto of the International League in 1963 before being released. He re-signed a short time later with the Pirates, then finished the year back in Columbus, where he made another 29 appearances. He had one more big league chance left in him. Green pitched well in eight early season appearances during the 1964 season with the Pirates, allowing one run and no walks in 7.1 innings, but he was still sent back to the minors in June. He ended up pitching in the Pirates system until the end of the 1965 season, which was his last year in pro ball. Green finished off the 1964 season with Columbus, going 7-9, 4.28 in 120 innings over ten starts and 26 relief appearances. In 1965, he went 1-4, 4.66 in 87 innings, pitching mostly in relief. He went 98-88 in 12 minor league seasons. With the Pirates, he had a 9-6, 3.33 record in 135.1 innings over 83 appearances (one start). His son Gary Green played five seasons in the majors and he managed five years (2006-10) in the Pirates minor league system. He’s been a coach in the Pirates system since 2011.
Don Williams, pitcher for the 1958-59 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1953, but after pitching 30 innings for Charleston of the Class-A South Atlantic League, he missed two full seasons to military service. Williams was a twin, and he was signed on the same exact day by the Pirates (June 18, 1953) as his brother Deward, who was also a pitcher. Don graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he had a 6-2 record in 1953. The twins were scouted by three scouts of the Pirates, including Frank Rickey (the brother of GM Branch Rickey) and Billy Meyer, whose number is retired by the Pirates. Don Williams was out of the military by June of 1955, but didn’t pitch that season due to a back injury. He pitched well for Lincoln of the Class-A Western League when he returned in 1956, going 11-8, 3.39, with 102 strikeouts in 122 innings, but he still returned to Lincoln for the next season. Williams went 15-6, 2.98 in 1957, pitching 142 innings over his 60 relief appearances, while racking up 135 strikeouts. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1958 and got cut just three days before Opening Day. He was assigned to Triple-A Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League on April 12, 1958 and had a strong season, going 8-5, 2.62 in 103 innings over 43 games, which earned him a call-up to the Pirates on September 8th. He pitched twice in relief for Pittsburgh over the final three weeks, allowing three runs over four innings of work.
Williams made six appearances for the Pirates early in the 1959 season, posting a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings. He spent the rest of the season with Columbus of the Triple-A International League, going 7-3, 2.67 in 81 innings over 47 appearances. He remained with Columbus for the entire 1960 season, putting up a 7-6, 3.50 record in 121 innings over 59 games. Williams began 1961 back in Columbus, before he was sold to the San Diego of the Pacific Coast League on May 17, 1961. He was actually traded by the Pirates to Columbus of the International League on April 8, 1960, four days before Opening Day of that World Series winning season, so the sale was from one minor league team to another. Williams finished the 1961 season with a combined 8-6, 4.50 record in 80 innings over 46 games. He made it back to the majors for a brief time in 1962, which consisted of three August appearances for the Kansas City Athletics. He gave up four runs over four innings in his last big league trial. The rest of the year and all of 1963 was spent with Dallas-Fort Worth, which was in the Triple-A American Association in 1962, before moving to the Pacific Coast League in 1963. Williams went 8-8, 4.17 in 138 innings with Dallas-Fort Worth in 1962, followed by a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings in his final year. His big league career amount to an 0-0, 7.20 record in 20 innings over 11 games. He had identical 6.75 ERAs in each of his two brief trials with the Pirates. His twin Deward pitched six seasons in the minors, and the pair were teammates during the 1953 and 1956-57 seasons.
Jake Goodman, first baseman for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the fifth-place hitter in the first game in franchise history. Goodman started his pro career in 1877 by playing for the first minor league team in baseball history, the Pittsburgh Allegheny (no “s” at the end like the Major League team five years later). That year he hit .176 in 19 games, with six runs and two doubles. He played two seasons in the majors, the first coming in 1878 with the Milwaukee Grays of the National League. That year he hit .246 with 28 runs scored, eight extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .564 OPS in 60 games, making 42 errors at first base, the most in the league at that position. It’s important to remember that there were no gloves of any kind then, and official scorers were brutal compared to today’s standards, but that was still a very high amount. He was the everyday first baseman, playing all but one game that season for a team that finished 15-45 (one tie). He originally signed to play for the Pittsburgh Allegheny for a $1,000 contract for the 1878 season, but he ended up in the majors instead.
Goodman played in the minors in 1879 with Rockford of the Northwestern League (no stats available), then next appeared in pro ball as the Alleghenys’ Opening Day first baseman on May 2, 1882. He was also the team captain at the time. There was word in September of 1881 that he had numerous offers from teams for the 1882 season, but by December the newly-formed Alleghenys were said to be after him. He was called at that time “the well-known player of the old Actives base ball club”. He did well in his limited time with the team, hitting .317/.349/.463 in ten games, but he was soon replaced by Chappy Lane, an outstanding fielder, who could barely hit. Goodman injured his knee in the fifth inning of his final game on May 29th and had to be removed, with Lane taking his place to finish the game. It was called a “severe cut on his knee while playing first base”. He never appeared in another Major League game, finishing his career off in the minors in 1886. He played for Trenton of the Interstate Association in 1883, where he hit .356 in 65 games, with 22 doubles and two triples. Goodman played for Lancaster of the Eastern League in 1884, where he hit .345 in 60 games, with 24 doubles, two triples and two homers. That was followed by splitting the 1885 season between Trenton and Lancaster, with both teams residing in the Eastern League. He hit a combined .221 with ten runs and two doubles in 28 games.
Goodman was playing his third season in a row in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa. during his final season in 1886, though Lancaster moved to the Pennsylvania State Association that season. He was released in late May of 1886 and never played pro ball again. Goodman, who is listed as being 6’1″, went by the nickname “Big Jake”. In the first Spring Training game for the 1882 Alleghenys, which was also their first ever game together as a team, Goodman missed hitting a double cycle by the second homer. In an eight-inning game, he had a homer, two triples, two doubles and three singles. The game was actually called in the ninth after the Alleghenys put up another nine runs, but those didn’t count in the boxscore. No account of how they scored those nine runs exists, so it’s possible that he had more than eight hits before the game was called, wiping away that final inning.