Five former Pirates born on this date, including one who started as a player and then became a manager. Before we get into them, current Pirates pitcher Colin Holderman turns 27 today.
Danny Murtaugh, second baseman for the 1948-51 Pirates, manager for the Pirates for 15 seasons between 1957 and 1976. He started his baseball career as a player, spending nine seasons in the majors between 1941 and 1951. Murtaugh debuted in pro ball in 1937 at 19 years old, playing his first two seasons in Class-D ball for Cambridge of the Eastern Shore League. He hit .297 with 24 extra-base hits in 94 games during his first season. The next year he batted .312 in 112 games, with 87 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs, 38 steals and an .811 OPS. He made a huge jump in competition in 1939, playing with Columbus of the Double-A American Association (111 games) and Rochester of the Double-A International League (22 games), with Double-A being the highest level of the minors at the time. He combined to hit .268 with 24 extra-base hits. Murtaugh dropped down a level to Houston of the Class-A Texas League in 1940, and remained there for the better part of two seasons. He hit .299 with 24 doubles and eight triples in 155 games in 1940, then followed it up with a .317 average, 16 doubles and six triples in 69 games before making his first big league appearance. He didn’t homer in either of those seasons, and he had just seven homers of his first five seasons of the minors.
Murtaugh made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in July of 1941 as a 23-year-old second baseman. He led the league in stolen bases (18), despite hitting .219/.275/.248, and playing just 85 games. He scored 34 runs and had nine extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. He was a regular for the 1942-43 seasons, but like many players from that era, he missed time due to serving his country during WWII. He hit .241 with 48 runs, 20 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs, 13 steals and 49 walks in 144 games in 1942. That season he played 30+ games at second base, shortstop and third base. He was the starting second baseman in 1943, hitting .273 with 65 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs, 57 walks and a .692 OPS in 113 games. He hit his first big league home that season, connecting on May 31st against Dick Barrett, who ended up as his teammate a month later. Murtaugh returned from service for the 1946 season and spent most of that year and the next in the minors. His big league time consisted of six games for the 1946 Phillies and three games with the 1947 Boston Braves. He spent the 1946 season back in Rochester (then a Triple-A club in the same league), where he hit .322 in 139 games, with 73 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs and a .763 OPS. He had a .211/.286/.421 slash line in 21 plate appearances for the Phillies. Murtaugh spent the majority of the 1947 season with Milwaukee of the Triple-A American Association, hitting .302 in 119 games, with 96 runs, 15 doubles, five triples, seven homers, 49 RBIs, 76 walks and an .812 OPS. He never hit more than three homers in any other season of pro ball. He went 1-for-8 with a walk in his brief time with Boston.
The Pirates acquired Murtaugh from the Braves in November of 1947 as part of a five-player trade. While with the 1948 Pirates, he hit .290 with 56 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits, 71 RBIs, 60 walks and a .721 OPS as the everyday second baseman. He led the league in assists, putouts and double plays for second basemen. He impressed the baseball writers, finishing ninth in the MVP voting. He struggled with the bat during the 1949 season, hitting just .203 in 75 games, with 16 runs, 11 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and a .566 OPS. After a strong year on defense in 1948, he was considered to be league average in 1949. He returned to form in 1950, batting a career high .294 in 118 games, with 34 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 47 walks and a .768 OPS. Murtaugh slumped in 1951 hitting just .199/.284/.265 in 77 games, with 33 starts all season. That would be the end of his big league playing career. He spent the next two seasons as a player-manager for the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association, a Double-A affiliate for the Pirates. He batted .212 in 57 games in 1952, then played just three games in 1953. Murtaugh retired with a .254 Major League average over 767 games, with 263 runs scored, 97 doubles, 21 triples and 219 RBIs. He stole 49 bases, but he was also caught 46 times. His first home run with the Pirates was a walk-off grand slam. The next one came ten months later off of Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. Murtaugh homered eight times in his career, four times against the New York Giants.
In 1954, Murtaugh spent his first season strictly as a manager, staying with New Orleans. The following season he was promoted to the Pirates Triple-A affiliate in Charleston. In 1956 he began serving as a coach for the Pirates and held that job until taking over the Major League managing position from Bobby Bragan, who was fired on August 3, 1957. The Pirates went 26-25 under Murtaugh to finish the season, despite starting the year 36-67 under Bragan. In his first full season as a manager in 1958, the Pirates had their first winning season since 1948. They went 84-70, good for a second place finish. After slipping a little in 1959 down to 78 wins, the 1960 Pirates won the National League crown for the first time since 1927.
The 1960 Pirates brought the city of Pittsburgh its first World Series title in 35 seasons. For Murtaugh, he was just beginning to cement his place in team history. He retired from managing following the 1964 season due to health problems, but remained in a front office role with the team. He managed again for 78 games in 1967, following the firing of his replacement, Harry Walker. He returned to the front office for the next two years. In 1970, Murtaugh again went back down to the field and led the Pirates to an NL East crown. The following year he went one step further, taking the team to the World Series, where he became the only manager to win two World Series titles with the Pirates.
Murtaugh stepped down again after the 1971 season. He returned for a fourth stint at the end of 1973 and led the Pirates to two more NL East crowns in 1974 and 1975, giving him five first place finishes in 12 full seasons on the Pirates bench. He retired for the last time following the 1976 season and passed away in December of that same year. The Pirates retired his #40 jersey during Opening Day in 1977. Murtaugh finished with a 1,115-950 record as a manager. He ranks second in team history in wins to Fred Clarke, and only Clarke has managed more games and seasons for the team.
Robbie Erlin, pitcher for the 2020 Pirates. He was drafted in the third round in 2009 by the Texas Rangers out of high school at 18 years old. He pitched just four innings in short-season rookie ball during that first year, while playing for the Arizona League Rangers. He then moved up to Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League in 2010. He started 17 games and pitched in relief 11 times, going 6-3, 2.12 in 114.2 innings, with 125 strikeouts. Erlin made nine starts with Myrtle Beach in the High-A Carolina League in 2011, followed by ten more starts with Frisco of the Double-A Texas League. He was traded to the San Diego Padres during the 2011 season and finished the year in the Texas League with San Antonio. Between all three stops, he went 9-4, 2.99 in 147.1 innings, with 154 strikeouts. He was back in Double-A in 2012, though he ended up missing part of the season, while also rehabbing at a lower level for three starts. In 11 games with San Antonio, he had a 2.92 ERA in 52.1 innings. He was able to make up for missed time in the Arizona Fall League, where he had a 2.28 ERA in 23.2 innings. In 2013, Erlin had an 8-3, 5.07 record and 84 strikeouts in 99.1 innings over 20 starts for Triple-A Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League. He debuted in the majors in April and pitched at least once every month, finishing with a 3-3, 4.12 in 54.2 innings over nine starts and two relief appearances with the Padres.
Erlin spent most of the 2014 season in the majors, though elbow soreness had him on the sidelines for two months and caused him to make six rehab appearances. He went 4-5, 5.99 in 61.1 innings that season with the Padres, making 11 starts and two relief appearances. Most of the 2015 season was spent back in the minors, though he also spent three weeks on the disabled list. Erlin made 24 starts in Triple-A with El Paso of the Pacific Coast League, going 7-6, 5.60 with 105 strikeouts in 125.1 innings. He also made three starts with the Padres, posting a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings. His 2016 season ended in May due to Tommy John surgery, which ultimately cost him all of 2017 due to a slow recovery. Erlin had a 4.02 ERA in 15.2 innings before the injury.
Erlin returned in 2018 and spent the entire season in the majors, going 4-7, 4.21, with 88 strikeouts in 109 innings over 12 starts and 27 relief appearances. Most of 2019 was spent in the majors, though he was sent down to the minors mid-season. Erlin had a 5.86 ERA in 55.1 innings over 37 appearances that year, his last in San Diego. His minor league time was rough that year, with an 8.05 ERA in 19 innings. In six seasons with the Padres, he went 13-20, 4.57 in 313 innings, making 38 starts and 68 relief appearances. He was a minor league free agent signing by the Pirates prior to the shortened 2020 season. He pitched just two games in late July, allowing two runs in 3.1 innings. He was placed on waiver in early August, where he was picked up by the Atlanta Braves. Erlin had an 8.49 ERA in 23.1 innings with the Braves before being released on September 14th. He signed to play in Japan for the 2021 season, where he went 2-4, 3.71 in 53.1 innings over 16 appearances. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him for the 2022 season, which was mostly spent with Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League. He had a 5-4, 7.01 record in 77 innings, making 14 starts and seven relief appearances. He pitched twice for the Dodgers in early May, throwing shutout ball in one inning on May 8th, then giving up two runs over one inning on May 9th. Through eight big league seasons, he has a 13-20, 4.87 record in 341.2 innings over 43 starts and 74 relief appearances.
Ed Kirkpatrick, utility player from the 1974-77 Pirates. He played six different positions during his time in Pittsburgh, while hitting .236 in 309 games. He made a 16-year career out of versatility, batting .238 in 1,311 games. The only positions he didn’t play in his career were shortstop and pitcher. The bulk off his success came with the Kansas City Royals, where he posted a 9.3 WAR in five seasons. In his other seven seasons, he had a -1.2 WAR. Kirkpatrick signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a 17-year-old amateur free agent in 1962. He tore up the minors that season, hitting .375 with 43 runs, 13 doubles, 12 homers, 69 RBIs and a 1.103 OPS in 64 games between two stops in the lower levels, putting up similar results in 45 games for Quad Cities of the Class-D Midwest League and 19 games for San Jose of the Class-C California League. He also played three games for the Angels before his 18th birthday, going 0-for-6 at the plate. The next year in the minors was split between Double-A Nashville of the South Atlantic League and Triple-A Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League, putting up a combined .326 average in 96 games, with 44 runs, 11 doubles, 14 homers, 61 RBIs and a .938 OPS. He also played 34 games with the Angels that season, hitting .195/.259/.338 with two homers and seven RBIs. In 1964, Kirkpatrick split the year between Hawaii and the majors. He put up a .217 average and a .709 OPS in 45 games for Hawaii, and he hit .242 with 20 runs, 13 doubles, two homers, 22 RBIs and a .671 OPS in 75 games with the Angels. The 1965 season was spent mostly with Seattle in the Pacific Coast League. Kirkpatrick had a .291 average, 29 doubles, 20 homers and an .856 OPS in 141 games with Seattle, and he hit .260/.290/.452 with three homers and eight RBIs in 19 games with the Angels.
Kirkpatrick spent his first full season in the majors in 1966. He hit .192 with 31 runs, seven doubles, nine homers, 44 RBIs, 51 walks and a .640 OPS in 117 games. The following season was spent almost all in the minors, with just three big league games, going 0-for-8 at the plate. He was with Seattle for most of the season, putting up a .227 average and a .710 OPS in 120 games. He also played 17 games for Jacksonville of the International League, hitting just .140 with a .514 OPS. Kirkpatrick played 89 games with the Angels in 1968, hitting .230/.332/.273 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 189 plate appearances. He was traded to the expansion Kansas City Royals after the season and got a chance to play regularly with his new team. In 1969, he hit .257 with 40 runs, 11 doubles, 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 120 games. He put up a career best .799 OPS that season. The next season was spent mostly in the catching role, after playing more outfield than anything else. He batted .229 in 1970, while setting career highs with 134 games, 18 homers, 62 RBIs and 55 walks. Kirkpatrick saw a slip in his production in 1971, batting .219 with 46 runs, 12 doubles, nine homers, 46 RBIs and 48 walks. His .640 OPS was an 84-point drop from the previous season and down 159 points from his career year two years earlier.
Kirkpatrick turned that drop around in 1972, hitting for a career high .275 average, with 43 runs, 15 doubles, nine homers, 43 RBIs and a .761 OPS in 113 games. In his final season with the Royals, he hit .263 with six homers, 45 RBIs and a .708 OPS in 126 games. He set career bests that year with 61 runs scored and 24 doubles. The Pirates acquired Kirkpatrick from the Royals in December of 1973 in a five-player deal that included Nelson Briles. Most of his time with the Pirates was spent at first base, though he played off of the bench even more often. He batted .247 with 32 runs, nine doubles, six homers, 38 RBIs, 51 walks and a .714 OPS in 117 games in 1974. His playing time dropped to 89 games in 1975 and his plate appearances were cut in half. He batted .236 with five homers and a .694 OPS in 164 plate appearances. His time was almost identical in 1976, with 83 games and a .233 average, though he failed to connect on a home run. His OPS dropped down to a .589 mark. Kirkpatrick hit .143/.324/.321 in 21 games for the 1977 Pirates. His splits during the 1974 season were very odd. When he started games, the Pirates went 40-26. When he came off the bench, they went 15-35. They were almost as extreme in 1975, going 16-8 as a starter, 24-41 as a bench player. That would have been an interesting footnote, had he not had the same results in 1976, with a 19-6 record as a starter, while the team went 22-36 in his bench appearances. In his four seasons in Pittsburgh, the Pirates were 77-42 when he started and 68-122 when he came off the bench. He went 0-for-11 in the playoffs during his time in Pittsburgh, his only postseason time.
In June of 1977, Kirkpatrick was traded to the Texas Rangers even up for Jim Fregosi. After 20 games, the Rangers traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers. In ended up being his final season in the majors. He hit .188/.250/.208 in 52 plate appearances with the Rangers, and he hit .273/.364/325 in 29 games with the Brewers. He played part of the 1978 season with the Angels Triple-A affiliate (Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League), putting up an .859 OPS in 69 games. He also saw time in Mexico, where he had a 1.017 OPS in 20 games. Kirkpatrick finished up his career with a .238 average, 411 runs, 143 doubles, 85 homers and 424 RBIs in 1,311 games. He was caught stealing more than 50% of the time in the majors, going 34-for-73 in steals.
George Metkovich, outfielder/first baseman for the 1951-53 Pirates. He played 19 seasons in pro ball, debuting in 1939 at 18 years old. Metkovich played a total of 1,055 games over ten seasons in the majors, seeing his most time during the 1943-46 seasons while many MLB players were off serving in WWII. His first pro season was spent in Class-D ball for Fulton of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League, where he hit .313 in 126 games, with 40 doubles, ten triples and 12 homers. He also played three games without a hit that year for Henderson of the Class-C East Texas League. The next 2 1/2 seasons were spent with Evansville of the Class-B Three-I League. Metkovich hit .227 with nine extra-base hits in 66 games in 1940. He batted .287 the next year with 30 doubles, ten triples and six homers in 124 games. He hit .308 in 35 games in 1942, while also seeing 90 games with Hartford of the Class-A Eastern League, where he .238 with 14 extra-base hits. The first half of the 1943 season saw him hit .325 with 43 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and an .857 OPS in 71 games with San Francisco of the Double-A Pacific Coast League. At 22 years old in July of 1943, he joined the Boston Red Sox and hit .246 with 34 runs scored, 23 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .656 OPS in 78 games. In 1944, he hit .277 in 134 games for the Red Sox, and set career highs with 94 runs scored, 28 doubles, eight triples, nine homers and 223 total bases. He had 59 RBIs that season, as well as a .725 OPS that was one point off of his career best.
Most of Metkovich’s playing time during his first two seasons came in center field, but he played more first base in 1945. That year he hit .260 in 138 games, with 65 runs scored, 24 doubles, a .677 OPS and career highs of 62 RBIs, 19 steals and 51 walks. Metkovich saw most of his time in right field in 1946, though he played just 86 games all season. He hit .246 with 46 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and a .689 OPS. He was sold to the Cleveland Indians in April of 1947 and he became their regular center field. He hit .254 with 68 runs, 34 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs and a .664 OPS in 126 games. The next two seasons were spent with Oakland of the Pacific Coast League (by then a Triple-A level), where he batted .336 with 23 homers and a .966 OPS over 134 games in 1948, followed by a .337 average, 14 homers, 50 RBIs and a .980 OPS over 77 games in 1949. He joined the Chicago White Sox in mid-June of 1949 and batted .237 with 50 runs, nine doubles, five homers and 45 RBIs in 93 games. The Pirates acquired him as a Rule 5 pick after the 1950 season, which he spent back with Oakland, where he hit .315 in 184 games, with 152 runs, 24 homers, 141 RBIs and an .860 OPS.
Matkovich hit a career high .293 in 120 games for the 1951 Pirates, with 50 runs, 21 doubles, three homers, 40 RBIs and a .717 OPS. He then received mild MVP support for his 1952 season, when he set a career high with a .726 OPS in 125 games, finishing with a .271 average, 41 runs, 18 doubles, seven homers and 41 RBIs. Early in 1953, he was part of the Ralph Kiner trade with the Chicago Cubs, which saw four players go to Chicago and six players (and a lot of cash) return to the Pirates. In 271 games over those three seasons in Pittsburgh, he batted .276 with 97 runs, 57 extra-base hits, 88 RBIs and a .711 OPS. Metkovich batted .234/.326/.355 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 61 games after joining the Cubs. He was sold to the Milwaukee Braves after the season and the 1954 season was his last year in the majors. He batted .276 in 68 games, mostly off of the bench, putting up a .710 OPS in 142 plate appearances. His last three years of playing were spent in the minors. Metkovich returned to Oakland in 1955 and had a .335 average and an .871 OPS in 151 games. He played for Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League in 1956, hitting .295 in 132 games, with a .753 OPS. With San Diego of the PCL in 1957, he was a player/manager, hitting .267 in 24 games. He remained as the San Diego manager for the next three seasons. He had over 2,300 hits as a pro. In ten big league seasons, he hit .260 with 476 runs, 167 doubles, 36 doubles, 47 homers, 373 RBIs in 1,055 games. He had a career total of 5.9 WAR.
Tom Colcolough, pitcher for the 1893-95 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball with Atlanta of the Class-B Southern Association at 21 years old in 1892, where he had a 5-8 record (No ERA available) in 127 innings, completing all 14 of his starts (included a tie game). The next year he went 16-11 for his hometown Charleston Seagulls of the Southern Association, prior to making his Major League debut on August 1, 1893 for the Pirates. He appeared briefly with Charleston in 1892 as well, though not stats are available from that time. On July 14, 1893, the Pirates purchased Cocolough and his catcher Joe Sugden from Charleston. It was said that Colcolough was the best pitcher in the league at the time and he had thrown two no-hit games that season. The pair joined the Pirates three days later, but Sugden, who remained with the Pirates until 1897, debuted 12 days prior to his batterymate. Colcolough went 1-0, 4.12 in 43.2 innings over eight games (three starts) during that rookie season with the Pirates. His results were good despite bouts of extreme wildness, leading to a 32:7 BB/SO ratio. The next season, offense was up across the league due to the pitching distance being moved back and new rules restricting deliveries, which benefited the hitters. As a result, Colcolough was hit hard. He made 14 starts and nine relief appearances, posting a 7.23 ERA in 150.2 innings. He was still a bit wild and not much of a strikeout pitcher, issuing 72 walks, with just 29 strikeouts to his credit. Despite all those numbers, he still managed to finish with an 8-5 record on a .500 team.
Colcolough didn’t last long during the 1895 season. After a poor pitching performance on June 1st, he was back in the minors, where he spent the 1895-98 seasons playing for Wilkes-Barre of the Class-A Eastern League. Colcolough went 1-1, 6.65 in 43.1 innings for the 1895 Pirates. He was released on June 3rd and pitched for New Castle of the Iron and Oil League for a short time before joining Wilkes-Barre in July. He finished up the year by going 10-11, 3.12 in 187.2 innings. There are no 1896 stats available. He had a 6-4, 2.28 record in 87 innings in 1897, followed by a 5-3 record in 66 innings over eight starts in 1898. His only big league experience outside of Pittsburgh was 14 games for the 1899 New York Giants. He went 4-5, 3.97 in 81.2 innings that year. He spent part of that 1899 season with Bridgeport of the Connecticut State League. That was a Class-F League, which was as far as you can get from the majors while still playing pro ball. He had a 2-1 record in three starts for Bridgeport. While there are no stats available, he’s credited with finishing his pro career in 1900 with Wilmington of the North Carolina Association. Colcolough finished 10-8, 6.55 in 237.2 innings over 38 games for the Pirates, with 23 of those games coming as a starter. There were multiple stories that spelled his last name “Coakley”, with others saying it was pronounced that way. During his time in Wilkes-Barre, it was said that he decided to change the spelling to make it easier on everyone.