Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two games of note.
Ty Wigginton, infielder for the 2004-05 Pirates. He played 12 years in the majors, seeing time with eight different teams. Wigginton was drafted out of college by the New York Mets in the 17th round in 1998 out of UNC-Asheville. He went to the short-season New York-Penn League that season and hit .239 with 39 runs, 26 extra-base hits, 29 RBIs and a .692 OPS in 70 games with Pittsfield. He skipped a level to St Lucie of the High-A Florida State League in 1999 and hit .292 in 123 games, with 69 runs, 23 doubles, 21 homers, 73 RBIs and an .875 OPS. He had 56 walks that season, after posting a very low walk rate (5.5%) during his first season. He moved to Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League in 2000, where he hit .285 with 64 runs, 27 doubles, 20 homers, 77 RBIs, an .809 OPS and a major drop in his walks, with 24 in 122 games. The 2001 season was spent mostly in Triple-A Norfolk of the International League, though an injury limited him to 89 games total, including 11 games at the lower levels on rehab. Wigginton hit .250 with 29 runs, 12 doubles, seven homers, 24 RBIs and a .700 OPS in 78 games that season for Norfolk. He started 2002 back in Norfolk, before joining the Mets for two weeks in May, followed by returning in early August for the rest of the season. He ended up playing 104 games in Norfolk that year, posting a .300 average, 35 extra-base hits and a .796 OPS. He played 46 games with the Mets, where he hit .302 and had 18 runs, eight doubles, six homers, 18 RBIs and an .880 OPS.
Wigginton hit .255 in 2003, setting career highs with 156 games, 73 runs and 36 RBIs, to go along with 11 homers, 71 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and a .714 OPS, spending the year as the Mets everyday third baseman. He finished eighth in the Rookie of the Yea voting. He was batting .285 with 46 runs, 23 doubles, 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 86 games when the Pirates acquired him in the five-player deal at the 2004 trading deadline, one which sent pitcher Kris Benson to New York. Wigginton was given the third base job with the Pirates and his average dipped to .220 over the rest of the season, finishing with seven doubles, five homers, 24 RBIs and a .647 OPS in 58 games in Pittsburgh. He spent half of the 2005 season in Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he hit .293 in 72 games, with 18 doubles, 14 homers and an .897 OPS. He batted .258 with 20 runs, nine doubles, seven homers, 25 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 57 games for the Pirates. Wigginton was released after the 2005 season ended and he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he put together a strong season in 2006. He ended up also spending time with the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies and St Louis Cardinals over his last seven season in the majors.
In 2006, Wigginton hit .275 in 122 games, with 55 runs scored, 25 doubles, an .828 OPS, and career highs with 24 homers and 79 RBIs. He split the 2007 season between the Devil Rays and Houston Astros, combining to hit .278 with 71 runs scored, 22 homers, 67 RBIs, a .792 OPS and a career high 33 doubles. He was with the Astros in 2008, where he batted .285 with 50 runs, 22 doubles, 23 homers, 58 RBIs and an .876 OPS in 111 games. Wigginton signed a free agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles for 2009-10 and hit .273 with 44 runs, 19 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 122 games his first year, while seeing playing time at five positions. He played 154 games in 2010 and made his only All-Star appearance. He saw regular playing time at first base, second base and third base, finishing with a .248 average, 63 runs scored, 29 doubles, 22 homers, 76 RBIs and a career high 50 walks, leading him to a .727 OPS. Wigginton signed with the Rockies for 2011 and hit .242 with 52 runs, 21 doubles, 15 homers, 47 RBIs and a .731 OPS in 130 games, during his only season in Colorado. From there he went to the Phillies, where he hit .235 in 125 games, with 40 runs, 11 doubles, 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 2012. He had a limited bench role with the 2013 Cardinals, hitting .158/.238/.193 in 47 games before being released in July. He signed with the Miami Marlins for 2014, but he retired after being released during Spring Training. Wigginton hit .237 with 12 homers in 115 games for the Pirates. He was a .261 hitter with 558 runs, 245 doubles, 169 homers and 594 RBIs in 1,362 career games.
Shane Youman, pitcher for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was a 43rd round draft pick, who made the majors five years later. The Pirates drafted him out of LSU in 2001, four years after he was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school in the 45th round. He signed too late to debut in 2001, but he had a strong first pro season in the New York-Penn League with Williamsport in 2002, going 4-0, 1.45 in 37.1 innings, with five saves and 48 strikeouts. Youman moved up to Hickory of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2003, where he went 6-3, 4.65 in 50.1 innings over 40 appearances, collecting 12 saves and 58 strikeouts. In 2004, he went to the High-A Carolina League with Lynchburg, where he had a 4-2, 3.16 record in 74 innings over 47 appearances, with 62 strikeouts and two saves. He was in Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League in 2005, where he made a few starts to go along with his long relief work. Youman went 8-6, 3.92 in 101 innings over 44 games (five starts), with two saves and 77 strikeouts. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and had a 5.96 ERA in 22.2 innings. He moved into a bigger starting role in 2006 and it worked out well. He went 7-2, 1.51 in 95.1 innings for Altoona, making 11 starts and 12 relief appearances. He then had a 4-0, 4.04 record in 42.1 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he started seven of his eight appearances. He finished with a 2.29 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 137.2 innings.
Youman debuted with the Pirates in September of 2006, making three starts and two relief appearances. He posted a solid 2.91 ERA in 21.2 innings, though his ten walks and five strikeouts both sent up red flags. He pitched winter ball in Venezuela over the 2006-07 off-season, but only lasted two starts, giving up eight runs in three innings. During the 2007 season, he joined the Pirates from Triple-A in early July and remained in the majors throughout the rest of the season. His first seven appearances were as a starter and he posted a 5.18 ERA. In mid-August, he had a string of four straight relief appearances, giving up seven runs in 8.1 innings. He got his final big league start on September 1st and surrendered eight runs in two innings. Over the final 29 days of the season, he had four relief appearances and he threw seven shutout innings on two hits and one walk. He finished the year 3-5, 5.97 in 57.1 innings. With Indianapolis that season, he went 4-6, 4.70 in 82.1 innings. The Pirates lost him via waivers to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2007 season, though he never pitched in the majors again.
Youman pitched through the winter of 2016-17, spending time in China, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Korea, Mexico, the Dominican and independent ball in the U.S. He played for 15 seasons total, plus five years of winter ball. The Phillies were his final team in affiliated ball and he lasted just 22.1 innings for Double-A Reading of the Eastern League, putting up an 11.28 ERA, before they cut ties in the middle of the 2008 season. He finished the year with Lancaster of the independent Atlantic League, where he went 4-4, 5.51 in 13 starts. The 2009 season was spent in the Atlantic League with Bridgeport and York, combining for a 1-7, 4.01 record in 74 innings. In 2010, Youman pitched for York and Newark of the Atlantic League, going 6-5, 4.54 in 127 innings between both stops. The 2011 season saw him do well in China and with Long Island, another Atlantic League team. He was 5-1, 2.15 in China and 7-1, 0.66 in 54.1 innings with Long Island. His best success came in Korea, where he went 13-7, 2.55 in 179.2 innings in 2012, followed by a 13-4, 3.54 record in 193.1 innings in 2013. That ERA went up to 5.93 in 151.2 innings in 2014. He made 17 starts in Korea in 2015, going 4-6, 4.52 in 91.2 innings. Youman’s last summer action was spent in Mexico, though he lasted just one start during the 2016 season. His last action came that winter in Venezuela, where he had a 2-3, 4.15 record in 60.2 innings over 13 starts. He went 3-7, 5.13 in 79 innings over 11 starts and ten relief appearances during his time with the Pirates.
Wayne Osborne, pitcher for the 1935 Pirates. He pitched four seasons in the Double-A Pacific Coast League before making his big league debut with the Pirates, and he went on to play another nine seasons in the PCL afterwards. He debuted in pro ball in 1931 at 18 years old with Portland of the PCL and saw limited work, going 1-0, 5.63 in 24 innings over eight games. He pitched for Portland and the Mission Reds in 1932, combining to go 2-6 (no ERA available) in 100 innings over 20 appearances. He went 2-7, 5.24 in 146 innings for Mission in 1933, then got noticed for his 1934 season. Osborne went 16-19, 3.65 in 266 innings over 45 games that year. The Pirates purchased him from Mission on July 27, 1934, but they let him play out the season in the PCL, before joining the Pirates during the following spring. He lasted just two early season games for the Pirates, twice coming on for short relief stints in April during one-sided losses. In his Pirates debut on April 18, 1935, Osborne was called on to get the team out of the sixth, already trailing 8-2 with two outs. He needed just one pitch to retire the side, then was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the inning. In his second and final outing, he allowed one run on one hit in one inning of work. He actually played a third game as a pinch-runner on April 29th, which ended up being his final game in Pittsburgh. He was released two days after his pinch-running appearance and was back with his Mission club on May 7, 1935.
Osborne had a strong season with Mission after returning, going 18-11, 3.56 in 253 innings. He pitched briefly for the Boston Braves at the start of the 1936 season, going 1-1, 5.85 in five games, three as a starter, but he ended up back with Mission by May. On May 1st, he threw seven shutout innings against the Pirates in a 6-4 win, before giving up two runs to start the eighth inning, which ended his day. All five of his appearances in 1936 were on the road. In between his time in Pittsburgh and Boston, he belonged to the Brooklyn Dodgers for a short time. Osborn went 12-9, 3.98 in 172 innings for Mission in 1936. He struggled there in 1937, posting a 3-9, 5.25 record in 120 innings over 31 games. In 1938, he joined Hollywood, where he stayed through the middle of 1942. He went 12-18, 5.01 in 246 innings in 1938, then followed it up with a 16-17, 4.61 record in 277 innings over 36 starts and six relief outings. In 1940, he had an 18-17, 4.05 record in 262 innings. Osborne went 12-12, 4.22 in 207 innings in 1941. He split the 1942 season between Hollywood and Portland, combining to go 10-14 in 175 innings worth of work. His final season at age 30 was with Portland in 1943, when he went 9-5, 2.48 in 127 innings. Osborne won 131 games in his minor league career.
There are two very interesting details about Osborne from before his pro career, both shaping his career in different ways. The first one is that he was missing part of his right thumb and part of the right middle finger due to a firecracker incident as a child. He had the nickname “four-finger” and often got comparisons to Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. He said that the unique grip he used helped him develop a curveball that he used often, mostly because he didn’t throw hard. The second detail was how he got started in pro ball. He was pitching semi-pro ball and a strong team came in to face his club. His manager wasn’t going to let him pitch, but Osborne’s father, who he called “a baseball nut”, was willing to bet $10 with the manager that if he started his son, he would win the game. Osborne got the start, won the game, and it just happened to be in front of the Portland manager, who signed him after the game. Osborne told old stories that he had no interest in playing pro ball until that point, but quickly changed his mind after joining Portland. He was inducted into the Army at the end of the 1943 season, but he was quickly discharged due to a back injury. He was going to play in 1944 for Portland, before deciding to quit to go into radio broadcasting.
Buttercup Dickerson, outfielder for the 1883 Alleghenys. His real name was thought to be Lewis Pessano, and many people don’t know it, but he was the first Italian-American baseball player in the majors leagues…..possibly. Another former Pirates player, Ed Abbaticchio, who made his debut in 1897 (which was 19 years after Dickerson’s first season) is sometimes identified as the first Italian baseball player because Dickerson’s Italian heritage has been questioned. Despite the surname (sometimes spelled Pisano), research that included interviews with his direct descendants has said that his last name actually is Dickerson, and the Pessano name came as a tribute to the doctor that delivered him. In what may be an ironic twist, Buttercup is actually in the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. The nickname came from the famous Gilbert & Sullivan play, which came out in 1878. It started showing up in print while Dickerson was on the 1879 Cincinnati Reds and it was often written as “Sweet little Buttercup” or just “Little Buttercup”.
Whatever the story is on his heritage, he was still an interesting player in baseball history. Dickerson, just 23 years old at the time, was blacklisted from the National League after the 1881 season along with nine other players for questionable play or actions on or off the field. Many of the players were accused of throwing games for money, but Dickerson was banned for “chronic drunkenness”. When he was reinstated in 1883, he joined the Alleghenys, while they were still in the American Association. He actually signed with both Boston and Pittsburgh, but he was awarded to the Alleghenys on February 17th. Dickerson hit .249/.285/.297 with 62 runs, 15 doubles and a career high 18 walks over 85 games in 1883, while playing five different positions for a team that finished with a 31-67 record. He played just seven seasons in the majors, but he managed to play for eight different teams in three different Major Leagues. He batted .300 in three seasons yet was still out of the majors by age 26. He played five more seasons in the minors after his big league days were over, retiring in 1890.
Dickerson debuted in pro ball during the first season of minor league ball, playing at 18 years old for three different teams in the League Alliance in 1877. One of those teams (along with Erie and Buffalo) was the Binghamton Crickets, a team that played in the International Association in 1878, where Dickerson stayed until making his big league debut on July 15, 1878. He batted .309/.309/.366 with 17 runs and nine RBIs in 29 games for the 1878 Reds. He played all 81 games of the season in left field for the 1879 Reds, hitting .291 with 73 runs, 57 RBIs and a .737 OPS. He had 18 doubles, two homers (half of his career total) and led the league with 14 triples. He split the 1880 season between Troy and Worcester of the National League, doing poorly for the Troy Trojans (.450 OPS in 30 games), but better for Worcester (.742 OPS in 31 games). Dickerson combined that season for a .246 average, with 37 runs, ten doubles, eight triples and 30 RBIs. Before being blacklisted in 1881, he hit .316 with 48 runs, 18 doubles, 31 RBIs and a .737 OPS in 80 games with Worcester.
After being out of the pro game in 1882 and playing for the Alleghenys in 1883, Dickerson split the 1884 season between three teams and two leagues, seeing his most time with the St Louis Maroons of the Union Association, a one-year Major League. He hit .365/.388/.445 in 46 games with the Maroons, but he batted just .190 in 21 games for two American Association clubs that year, seeing time with Baltimore and Louisville. Combined he batted .315 during that 1884 season, with 64 runs, 17 doubles, four triples and a homer. His big league career ended with five early season games for Buffalo of the National League in 1885. He went 1-for-21 during that brief stint. He was a career .284 hitter in 408 games, finishing with exactly 500 hits, to go along with 302 runs, 84 doubles, 34 triples and four homers. RBI totals aren’t available for his 1883-84 seasons, so his career total of 127 is missing two years.
After his final big league game, Dickerson played five more seasons in the minors. He saw very brief time with Norfolk of the Eastern League during that 1885 season. In 1886, he played 50 games for Chattanooga of the Class-B Southern Association, hitting .279 with 21 runs and eight doubles. He also played two games for Syracuse of the International League that year. The 1887 season was spent with Portland of the New England League, where he starred at the plate, batting .386 in 98 games, with 127 runs, 28 doubles, six triples, nine homers, 60 steals and a .936 OPS. Dickerson played for London the next two seasons, one in the International Association and the other (1889) in the International League. He hit .346 in 98 games in 1888, with 64 runs and 30 extra-base hits. He played 31 games in 1889, batting .252 with 16 runs and ten extra-base hits. His final season at 31 years old in 1890 saw him hit .196 in 13 games for New Haven of the Atlantic Association.
On this date in 1972, the Pirates lost game five of the NLCS to the Cincinnati Reds by a 4-3 score. Not only was it the end to their season, it was also the end of a baseball career. This was the last game played by the great Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash less than three months later. Clemente went 1-for-3 with a walk in the game. He collected his last career hit in the first inning, a single to center field off Don Gullett. In his last plate appearance he was intentionally walked. The Great One played his entire 18-year career with the Pirates, made 15 All-Star teams and collected 3,000 hits while batting .317 over 2,433 games.
On this date in 1909, the Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers in game three of the World Series by an 8-6 score. The game was played in front of 18,277 fans at Bennett Park in Detroit, and with the victory the Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the series. Honus Wagner went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while Ty Cobb collected two hits and drove in two runs of his own. The Pirates were led by pitcher Nick Maddox, who threw a complete game with just one of those six runs allowed being an earned run. Detroit’s starter Ed Summers lasted just six batters, as his defense made three errors behind him, leading to five unearned runs and just one out recorded.