Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one game of note. Before we get into those players, current Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz turns 24 today.
Shea Spitzbarth, pitcher for the 2021 Pirates. He was a non-drafted free agent, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in July of 2015 at 20 years old, after playing at Molloy College in New York for three years. He played for two short-season teams during his first year of pro ball, getting into eight games with the rookie level Arizona League Dodgers, and another seven games with Ogden of the Pioneer League. In those 15 relief appearances, he had a 2.75 ERA, 28 strikeouts and three saves in 19.2 innings. He allowed one run in nine innings, while striking out 15 batters for Ogden in 2016. The rest of the season was spent with Great Lakes of the Low-A Midwest League, where he had a 1.91 ERA, six saves and 43 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. Before those games, he pitched one game for Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League, allowing five runs in 2.1 innings. In 2017, Spitzbarth dominated with Ranco Cucamonga of the High-A California League, allowing one run in 15.2 innings, while striking out 27 batters. He also played with Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League that season, going 3-4, 3.00 with 50 strikeouts and three saves in 54 innings over 32 appearances.
In 2018, Spitzbarth spent most of the year with Tulsa, where he went 3-4, 4.10 in 38 games, with three saves and 84 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. He also pitched twice for Oklahoma City and allowed three runs in three innings. In 2019, he split the season more even between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, with drastically different results. He had a 2.05 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 44 innings with Tulsa. He had an 8.18 ERA in 22 innings over 20 appearances, while striking out 29 batters. Spitzbarth played winter ball in the Dominican over the 2019-20 off-season, but did not play again until 2021 due to the canceled 2020 minor league season. The Pirates selected him in the minor league portion of the December 2020 Rule 5 draft. He spent a majority of 2021 with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he 3-3, 2.12 in 42 games, with two saves and 41 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. The Pirates called him up on August 2nd for three days, then he returned on August 14th for one day. He would come back two more times, finally staying for an extended stay from September 7th through the 30th. Spitzbarth pitched five times, finishing with two runs over five innings. He became a free agent after the season and signed in April of 2022 with the Detroit Tigers. He has split the 2022 season between Erie of the Double-A Eastern League and Toledo of the Triple-A International League, combining to go 6-0, 3.14 in 48.2 innings, with one week left in the season at the time of this write-up. On July 13, 2022 with Toledo, he made his first career start in his 245th game of pro ball.
Joe Boever, pitcher for the 1996 Pirates. He was signed by the St Louis Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent in 1982 out of college and made it to the majors with them in 1985. He ended up going to three different colleges and signed when he was 21 years old. He did well in his first pro season, mostly pitching in short-season ball with Erie of the New York-Penn League, with a late stint in A-Ball with Springfield of the Midwest League, combining to go 2-3, 1.96 with nine saves and an incredible total of 70 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. He moved up to St Petersburg of the Florida State League in 1983 (still Class-A, but considered to be more advanced, though the Low/High-A distinction wasn’t made yet at this time). Boever went 5-6, 3.02 in 80.1 innings over 53 appearances, with 26 saves and a huge drop in his strikeout rate, going from 17.2 in 1982 to 6.4 per nine innings in 1983. In 1984, he spent most of the year back in St Petersburg, with an eight-game stint in Double-A Arkansas of the Texas League as well. Between both stops, he went 6-5, 3.65 in 88.2 innings over 56 games, with 17 saves and 93 strikeouts. His 1985 season was split fairly evenly in the minors between Arkansas and Triple-A Louisville of the American Association, with success at both levels. He had a combined 1.60 ERA, 82 strikeouts and ten saves in 73 innings over 48 outings. He ended up pitching 13 games for the Cardinals that season, posting a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings.
In 1986, Boever spent a majority of the season in Louisville, going 4-5, 2.25, with fave saves and 75 strikeouts in 88 innings. He pitched 11 games for the Cardinals that season and had a 1.66 ERA in 21.2 innings. Boever was traded to the Atlanta Braves during the middle of the 1987 season. Despite his previous big league success and solid Triple-A numbers, he spent a large majority of the year in the minors. His big league time didn’t go well, with a 7.36 ERA in 18.1 innings over 14 games with the Braves. He had a 3.04 ERA, 22 saves and 87 strikeouts in 68 innings in Triple-A that year, playing for Lousville and Richmond of the International League. In 1988, he had a 2.14 ERA, 22 saves and 71 strikeouts in 77.1 innings over 48 appearances in Richmond. He also had a 1.77 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP in 20.1 innings over 16 games with the Braves. He played parts of four seasons in the majors before finally sticking full-time in 1989 with the Braves. That season saw him go 4-11, 3.94 with 21 saves and 68 strikeouts in 82.1 innings over 66 games. He started off poorly in 1990 and was traded mid-season to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he had much better results. Between the two stops, he went 3-6, 3.36 with 14 saves and 75 strikeouts in 88.1 innings over 67 appearances. Boever was taken out of the closer role in 1991 with the Phillies and saw his most work to that point, while working in middle relief. He went 3-5, 3.84 in 98.1 innings over 68 games, with a career high 89 strikeouts. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Houston Astros. In his lone season in Houston, he led the National League with 81 pitching appearances. He had a 2.51 ERA and pitched a career high 111.1 innings.
Boever signed as a free agent with the Oakland A’s in 1993, but they released him mid-season and he finished the year with the Detroit Tigers. He went 6-3, 3.61 in 102.1 innings over 61 appearances between both stops. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, he was 9-2, 3.98 in 81.1 innings over 48 games for the Tigers. His performance really dropped off the next season. Boever had a 6.39 ERA in 98.2 innings over 60 games for the 1995 Tigers. He picked up three saves in each of his three seasons with the Tigers. The Pirates picked him up on waivers in April of 1996. At the end of his 12-year career, he made 13 appearances for the Pirates and posted a 5.40 ERA in 15 innings. He spent most of that season in Triple-A with Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, where he managed to compile a 12-1 record as a reliever. He pitched in the minors in 1997 before retiring, splitting the Triple-A season between Calgary and Edmonton (A’s affiliate) in the Pacific Coast League. He went 10-8, 4.99 in 92 innings that season. Boever pitched 516 games in the majors, all of them as a reliever. He started just three of his 941 games in pro ball and they all came during his brief stint with Edmonton at the end of his career. In 12 big league seasons, he went 34-45, 3.93 in 754.1 innings, with 49 career saves. Despite debuting in the majors in July in 1985 for a team that went to the World Series, Boever never pitched a postseason game during his career.
Billy Hatcher, 1989 outfielder for the Pirates. He was drafted three times before he eventually signed a deal as a sixth round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1981. He actually passed on signing in 1980 after the Houston Astros selected him in the second round, then ended up spending a good portion of his career in Houston. He was originally drafted in the 30th round in 1979 by the Montreal Expos out of high school, but decided to go to Yavapai College, where he improved his draft stock. Hatcher debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League with Geneva in 1981 at 20 years old. He hit .280 in 75 games, with 57 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs, 13 steals, 36 walks and a .768 OPS. He moved up to the Class-A California League in 1982, hitting .311 with 92 runs, 34 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs, 84 steals and a .782 OPS in 138 games. He had a great 1983 season in the Double-A Texas League with Midland, hitting .299 with 132 runs, 33 doubles, 11 triples, ten homers, 80 RBIs, 56 steals (in 64 attempts), 65 walks and an .838 OPS in 135 games. Hatcher went to Triple-A Iowa of the American Association in 1984, where he had a .276 average in 150 games, with 94 runs, 27 doubles, 18 triples, 59 RBIs, 56 steals and a .767 OPS. He played eight September games with the Cubs and went 1-for-9 with a walk in ten plate appearances.
In 1985, Hatcher split the season between the majors and Triple-A Iowa. He had a .280 average and a .758 OPS in 67 games with Iowa, and he hit .245 with 24 runs, 12 doubles, two homers, ten RBIs and a .658 OPS in 53 games with the Cubs. After all of his minor league success in steals, he went 2-for-6 in stolen bases during that first extended stay in the majors. He was in the majors for good in 1986 after being traded to the Astros. That season he hit .258 with 55 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs and 38 steals in 127 games. He had a .658 OPS for a second straight season. Hatcher then had his best year in 1987 when he hit .296 in 141 games, with career highs of 96 runs, 28 doubles, 11 homers, 63 RBIs and 53 steals. His .767 OPS was also a career best. He mostly played center field early in his career, then saw more time in left field from 1988 through 1992. He batted .268 in 145 games during the 1988 season, with 79 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and 32 steals. He started off the 1989 season with the Astros by hitting .228/.281/.304 with 49 runs and 22 steals in 108 games. Hatcher was a late season acquisition by the 1989 Pirates, who hit .244/.253/.326 with a homer and seven RBIs in 27 games with Pittsburgh. He led all National League outfielders with a .997 OPS that season. The Pirates acquired him on August 18th for outfielder Glenn Wilson. Hatcher was traded to the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 1990 season for infielder Jeff Richardson and pitcher Mike Roesler.
Hatcher didn’t have a great regular season for the 1990 Reds, but he made quite a name for himself in the playoffs. He batted .276 with 68 runs, 28 doubles, five homers, 25 RBIs, 30 steals and a .708 OPS in 139 games during the season. He hit .333/.333/.600 in four games against the Pirates in the NLCS, then hit .750 in a four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s in the World Series. All told, he had 14 hits and eight runs scored in the eight playoff games. In 1991, Hatcher hit .262 with 45 runs, 25 doubles, 41 RBIs, 11 steals and a .671 OPS in 138 games for the Reds. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in the middle of the 1992 season and he combined to hit .249 with 47 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and a .618 OPS in 118 games, with slightly better results prior to the trade. With the Red Sox in 1993, he moved back to center field and hit .287 with 71 runs scored, 24 doubles, nine homers, 57 RBIs, 14 steals and a .735 OPS in 136 games. The strike-shortened 1994 season saw him split the year between Boston and the Philadelphia Phillies, with a majority of his playing time in right field. He had very similar playing time and results in both spots, finishing the year with a .245 average, 39 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs and a .618 OPS in 87 games. Hatcher signed with the Texas Rangers at the start of the 1995 season, but he lasted just three weeks and six games before being released. He went 1-for-12 with a walk. He signed with the Kansas City Royals three weeks later, finishing his career in the minors 26 games later with Omaha of the American Association. Hatcher was a career .264 hitter in 1,233 big league games, with 586 runs, 210 doubles, 54 homers, 399 RBIs and 218 steals. He played 12 seasons in the majors, just like the aforementioned Joe Boever, who was also born on the same day in 1960.
Red Munger, pitcher for the 1952 and 1956 Pirates. He won a total of 229 games in pro ball, but just three of those wins came with the Pirates during his two seasons with the team. Munger played a total of 21 seasons in pro ball, with ten seasons of big league experience. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1937 and spent the season with Class-D New Iberia of the Evangeline League. He went 19-11, 3.42 in 284 innings. He also added another 11 innings three levels higher in the Texas League with Houston, giving him nearly 300 innings when he was still a high school student age. In 1938, he played for the same two teams, with 131 innings for New Iberia and 68 innings for Houston. He combined to go 12-11, 2.98 with 137 strikeouts in 199 innings, with better results at the lower level. In 1939, Munger played the entire season with Asheville of the Class-B Piedmont League, where he had a 16-13 record in 236 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed 4.39 runs per nine innings. He moved up to Sacramento of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time) for the 1940-41 seasons. That first year saw him go 9-14, 3.17 in 190 innings. The next year he went 17-16, 3.07, with 159 strikeouts in 261 innings. Despite being one level from the majors and having strong results each year, he still spent the entire 1942 season in the minors with Columbus of the Double-A American Association. Munger had a 16-13, 3.52 record and 140 strikeouts in 243 innings that season.
Munger spent the entire 1943 season in the majors with the St Louis Cardinals. He went 9-5, 3.95 in 93.1 innings, with nine starts and 23 relief appearances. He had his baseball career somewhat derailed by WWII. He was called into service during his sophomore season in 1944. At the time, he had an outstanding 11-4, 1.34 record in 121 innings for the Cardinals, and he was named to the All-Star team for the first time. He missed the end of the 1944 season, all of 1945, and most of 1946 before returning to the Cardinals. The lowest ERA he could put up after returning was the 3.33 mark he had during the partial 1946 season when he pitched 48.2 innings over seven starts and three relief appearances. Munger had a strong 1947 season, going 16-5, 3.37 in 224.1 innings, making 31 starts and nine relief appearances. He set career highs in wins, innings, complete games (13), shutouts (six) and strikeouts (123), while making his second All-Star appearance. Munger’s numbers slipped in 1948 when he made 25 starts and 14 relief appearances, putting up a 10-11, 4.50 record in 166 innings. He rebounded a bit in 1949 and was selected to his third (and final) All-Star game. He had a 15-8, 3.87 record in 188.1 innings. He had 28 starts, seven relief appearances, 12 complete games and two shutouts.
Munger made 20 starts and 12 relief appearances in 1950, going 7-8, 3.90 in 154.2 innings. He saw less work in 1951, with 11 starts and 12 relief outings. He finished with a 4-6, 5.23 record in 94.2 innings. His time with the Cardinals ended with one start in the 1952 season in which he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings. The Pirates acquired him from the Cardinals on May 3, 1952 in an even up exchange for pitcher Bill Werle. Munger went 0-3, 7.18 in 26.1 innings for the 1952 Pirates, making four starts and one relief appearances before being sold to Hollywood of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on June 14th. He went 4-3, 2.67 in 64 innings to finish out the 1952 season, then remained in Hollywood through the end of the 1955 season. In 1953, he went 12-10, 3.66 in 166 innings. That was followed by a 17-8, 2.31 record in 1954, when he pitched 218 innings and threw five shutouts. In 1955, Munger went 23-8, 1.85 in 272 innings, with 25 complete games and five shutouts. Since the Pirates had a working agreement with Hollywood, they were able to add him to the 40-man roster on October 8, 1955. He returned to the majors in 1956 and had a 3-4, 4.04 record in 107 innings, making 13 starts and 22 relief appearances. That ended up being his final big league season, but it worked out well for him because he qualified for his ten-year pension on August 6th of that season. Local papers noted that he was working more as a pitching coach for the team later in the year. The Pirates released him unconditionally after the season, so he could seek a coaching position, though he ended up continuing to play. He pitched minor league ball during the 1957-58 seasons before retiring, playing for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League in 1957 and San Antonio of the Double-A Texas League in 1958. He finished his big league career with a 77-56, 3.83 record in 1,228.2 innings, making 161 starts and 112 relief appearances, with 53 complete games, 13 shutouts and 11 saves. Munger’s real first name was George.
Jim Gardner, pitcher/infielder for the 1895, 1897-99 Pirates. He was a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, who attended the University of Pittsburgh. His life had a tragic ending, which was assumed to be related to a baseball injury. He began his first season of pro ball with New Castle of the Iron and Oil League, where he pitched until June 15th. He was considered to be the best pitcher in the league, which was quoted in the local papers just three days before he joined the Pirates. He was in a Pirates uniform for the first time four days after his last start in New Castle, and he was with the team on a trial basis. If he pitched well he would be signed by the Pirates. He gave up nine runs in his debut, but it was a blowout win for the Pirates and not all of the runs were earned, so manager Connie Mack was satisfied enough with the results. Gardner had an odd deal with the Pirates during his first season, at least by current day standards. He never traveled with the team during the 1895 season, making all ten starts and one relief appearance in Pittsburgh. Gardner pitched well, especially considering the high offense in the National League that season. He went 8-2, 2.64 in 85.1 innings, completing eight of his ten starts. After not playing pro ball (he played local amateur ball) during the 1896 season due to focusing on his law studies, he returned to the Pirates in 1897. He said he would pitch for the Pirates if they were desperate during the 1896 season, but he was planning to retire from the game for good instead.
Gardner changed his tune in 1897, returning to the majors, where he went 5-5, 5.19 in 95.1 innings over 14 games, with 11 starts and eight complete games. He made his first appearance on the road in July of that season. He also occasionally took turns at third base and in both corner outfield spots. Despite getting extra time in the field, he had a .158/.264/.250 slash line in 89 plate appearances. Gardner was a regular in 1898 when they changed the team name to the Patriots for the season. He had a 10-13, 3.21 record in 185.1 innings, in what was his only full season in the majors. He completed 19 of his 22 starts, while throwing his only career shutout. He was released after a few poor performances in the 1899 season, attributed partially to a severe beaning the previous season. He played his final game on June 26th and was let go on June 30th, finishing with a 7.52 ERA in 32.1 innings. He played five games with Worcester of the Class-A Eastern League after being released, with Class-A being the highest level of the minors at the time.
Gardner spent the 1900 season in the Class-A American League with Indianapolis, one season before the league was considered to be a Major League level of play. He had an 8-8 record and threw 157 innings. He pitched for Hartford of the Eastern League in 1901 and posted an 11-7 record. He also spent time with Columbus of the Western Association that season. Gardner made the majors one other time briefly, making three starts for the 1902 Chicago Orphans (Cubs) at the beginning of the year, going 1-2, 2.88 in 25 innings. He finished the year back in the Eastern League in Toronto where he had a 19-4 record. Gardner played back in Toronto for a short time in 1904, then in April of 1905, he passed away at age 30 from an ear abscess and subsequent brain infection from it. A teammate after his passing claimed that the severe beaning he took years earlier, resulted in a fractured skull and played a part in his untimely death. His time with the Pirates showed a 24-20, 3.91 record in 398.1 innings over 46 starts and ten relief outings. Gardner finished 35 of those games and tossed one shutout. He was a .178 hitter in 79 games with the Pirates, finishing with 29 runs, seven extra-base hits and 14 RBIs. He played 14 games at third base, three games in both left field and right field, and two games at second base.
On this date in 1903, Deacon Phillippe and the Pirates won 5-4 over the Boston Americans in game four of the World Series. It was the third win of the series for Phillippe. The team was short-handed at the time with Sam Leever nursing an injury and Ed Doheny leaving the team right before the series due to personal reasons (he went crazy, literally). Phillippe had to take the brunt of the workload and he won game one, game three and game four over a six-day span. Here’s the boxscore for game four.