Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one of the all-time great pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.
Luis Tiant, pitcher for the 1981 Pirates. His time in Pittsburgh was short, but he won 229 games over a 19-year career, including four season with 20+ victories. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1959, pitching his first three seasons in the Mexican League for Mexico City, where he had a 34-35 record and average 170 innings per season. His first season did not go well, with a 5-19, 5.92 record, with 98 strikeouts in 184 innings. Tiant had a 17-7, 4.65 record and 107 strikeouts in 180 innings in 1960. In his final season with Mexico City, he went 12-9, 3.79, with 141 strikeouts in 145 innings. He pitched for Charleston of the Class-A Eastern League in 1962, where he went 7-8, 3.63 in 139 innings, with 99 strikeouts. He also pitched one scoreless inning with Jacksonville of the Triple-A International League that year. Tiant played for Burlington of the Class-A Carolina League in 1963. He had a 14-9, 2.56 record in 204 innings, with 207 strikeouts. The 1964 season started with Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 15-1, 2.04 in 137 innings, with 154 strikeouts. He joined the Cleveland Indians in mid-July and finished with a 10-4, 2.83 record in 127 innings. He had nine complete games, three shutouts, a 1.11 WHIP and 105 strikeouts.
In his first full season in the majors, Tiant went 11-11, 3.53 in 196.1 innings over 30 starts and 11 relief appearances for the 1965 Indians. He had ten complete games, two shutouts and 152 strikeouts, as well as a 1.18 WHIP. He had a 12-11, 2.79 record in 155 innings in 1966. He led the league with five shutouts, despite starting just 16 games. He pitched 30 times in relief and had eight saves. He finished with 145 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP. Tiant became a full-time starter in 1967. He went 12-9, 2.74 in 213.2 innings, with 219 strikeouts, which ranked fourth in the league. He had a true breakout season in 1968, going 21-9, 1.60 in 258.1 innings, with 264 strikeouts (third most in the league) and a league high nine shutouts. He won his first of two ERA crowns that season. He had a career low 0.87 WHIP, which was second best in the league. He was an All-Star for the first time that year, but he didn’t receive any Cy Young support. That was the year that Denny McLain won 31 games, and he got all of the first place votes for the Cy Young, back when they only voted for one player. Tiant finished fifth in the MVP voting that season.
Tiant’s fortunes turned around in 1969, and he finished 9-20, 3.71 in 249.2 innings. He led the league in losses, walks and home runs allowed. It was said that he lost his fastball all season, rendering him ineffective. In December of 1969, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in a six-player deal. He lasted just one season before being released near the end of Spring Training in 1971. Tiant went 7-3, 3.40 in 92.2 innings during his lone season in Minnesota. It was a strange season, as he was having trouble throwing strikes in Spring Training, then came out of the gate with a 6-0 record in ten starts before fracturing a bone in his shoulder in late May. He returned in August and had a rough time, including two starts in which he failed to go two innings. He signed with the Atlanta Braves for 1971 and got released before making a big league appearance. He then signed with the Boston Red Sox and had a 1-7, 4.85 record in 72.1 innings. Before debuting in the majors in June, he had a 3-5 record in Triple-A, split between Richmond (Braves) and Louisville (Red Sox) on the International League. Despite those numbers in the majors and minors, the Red Sox held on to him and then decision paid off.
Tiant went 15-6, 1.91 in 179 innings in 1972, leading the league in ERA for a second time. He had 123 strikeouts and six shutouts. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and eighth in the MVP voting. He had a 20-13, 3.34 record in 272 innings in 1973, finishing with 206 strikeouts. He completed 23 of 35 starts that season. His 1.085 WHIP was the best in the league, long before that was a known stat. During the 1974 season, Tiant set a career high in wins and innings, going 22-13, 2.92 in 311.1 innings, with a league leading seven shutouts. He set a personal high by completing 25 of his 38 starts. He made his second All-Star appearance, while finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting and 11th in the MVP voting. The Red Sox made it to the World Series in 1975 and he was a big part of that team. Tiant went 18-14, 4.02 in 260 innings. He had 18 complete games, two shutouts and 142 strikeouts. He then had a 3-0 record in four postseason starts. He went 21-12, 3.06 in 279 innings in 1976, with 19 complete games and three shutouts in 38 starts. He was an All-Star for the third (and final) time, while finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting. He also received mild MVP support, finishing 26th in the voting. Despite a solid 12-8 record in 1977, he had a 4.53 ERA in 188.2 innings. He completed just three of his 32 starts, but all three were shutouts. He bounced back in 1978, going 13-8, 3.31 in 212.1 innings, with 12 complete games and five shutouts. Tiant signed with the New York Yankees for 1979 and posted an identical 13-8 record, this time with a 3.91 ERA in 195.1 innings. He had five complete games in 30 starts, including his final career shutout. He pitched with the Yankees in 1980 as well, going 8-9, 4.89 in 136.1 innings over 25 starts.
The Pirates signed Tiant as a free agent in February of 1981 and he made 21 starts in Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League that season, going 13-7, 3.82 in 146 innings. He joined the Pirates after the mid-season player strike ended, debuting on August 13th. He made nine starts over the rest of the season, going 2-5, 3.92 in 57.1 innings.The Pirates released Tiant right after the season ended, and then he finished his big league career with the California Angels in 1982, where he had a 5.76 ERA in 29.2 innings over five starts and a relief appearance. He played in Mexico to finish out 1982, going 6-10, 2.34 in 18 starts with Tabasco. He played for Mexico City in 1983, 24 years after he debuted there. He also saw time with Yucatan, combining for an 8-6 record in 112.2 innings over 17 starts. In 19 big league seasons, he went 229-172, 3.30 in 3,486.1 innings. Tiant had 187 complete games in 484 starts, and 15 saves in 89 relief appearances. He ranks 21st all-time with 49 shutouts and 48th all-time with 2,416 strikeouts. He ranks 67th all-time in wins and 44th all-time for WAR among pitchers. His highest finish in the Hall of Famer balloting was 30.9% in his first year on the ballot. His father who is also named Luis Tiant, played ten years in the Negro Leagues from 1930-47, which is now considered to be Major League Baseball.
Jose Gonzalez, outfielder for the 1991 Pirates. He was signed out of the Dominican by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1980 before his 16th birthday. He made it to the majors five years later, though he had just 144 at-bats during his first four seasons combined. The Dodgers brought him to the U.S. in 1981 and he had a rough season playing for Lethbridge of the short-season Pioneer League, where he was clearly over his head against much older competition. He hit .136 in 34 games, with a .384 OPS in his first season. He repeated Lethbridge in 1982 and had an impressive season considering that he was still just 17 years old. He hit .301 in 55 games, with 35 runs, 14 doubles, four homers, 47 RBIs and 11 steals. His OPS more than doubled compared to his rookie season, finishing with a .783 mark. He moved up to Lodi of the Class-A California League in 1983, where he batted .294 with 48 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, 21 steals and a .780 OPS in 76 games. He remained in the same league in 1984, though the Dodgers switched their affiliate to Bakersfield. There he hit .221 with 86 runs, 26 doubles, 11 homers, 59 RBIs, 49 stolen bases and 58 walks. That low average dropped him down to a .655 OPS. Gonzalez moved up to San Antonio of the Double-A Texas League in 1985. He hit .306 in 128 games, with 82 runs scored, 41 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 34 steals, 60 walks and an .859 OPS. He saw his first trial with the Dodgers that September and got into 23 games, though he received just 12 plate appearances. He went 2-for-11 with six runs, two doubles and a stolen base.
Gonzalez had his first of four straight seasons that he split between the majors and Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League in 1986. During that time, he played 339 games in the minors and 208 games with the Dodgers. During that 1986 season, he hit .215 with 15 runs, five doubles, two homers and six RBIs in 57 games for the Dodgers. He batted .277 with a .740 OPS in 89 games for Albuquerque. The 1987 season was his best year in the minors during this four-year stretch, but it was also the season in which he saw the least time in the majors. He had a .280 average, 38 extra-base hits, 19 steals and an .863 OPS in 116 games with Albuquerque, and he batted .188/.222/.313 in 19 games with the Dodgers. He batted just 18 times, but he managed to go 5-for-5 in steals. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1988 and Gonzalez had a rough season as a bench player, mostly getting used as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner. More than half of the year was spent with Albuquerque, where he hit .306 in 84 games, with 57 runs, 44 steals and an .811 OPS. He hit .083/.154/.125 in 37 games for the Dodgers that season, though it was only 26 plate appearances. He played in nine of the 12 playoff games, and scored two runs, though he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in his only plate appearances.
Gonzalez finally played regularly in 1989 after joining the Dodgers from Albuquerque, where he hit .267/.337/.444 in 50 games. In 95 games with Los Angeles that year, he hit .268, with 31 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He played a career high 106 games in 1990, but he went from 286 plate appearances in 1989 down to 108 in 1990. His average dropped to .232, but better power numbers led to a nearly exact same OPS as the year before (.686 vs .684). Gonzalez began the 1991 season with the Dodgers and had some incredible bad luck at the plate. He played 42 games (just three starts) and went 0-for-28, with two walks. He joined the Pirates in a July 3, 1991 trade with the Dodgers, which saw Pittsburgh give up veteran outfielder Mitch Webster. Gonzalez went 2-for-20 at the plate for the Pirates with a home run in his 16 games with the team. Six weeks after joining the team, he was lost on waivers on August 15th to the Cleveland Indians. He hit .159/.284/.261 in 33 games with the Indians, though he was mostly starting, so a majority of his at-bats during that entire season came in the final six weeks. Over the full season, he batted .111/.205/.197 in 91 games. Gonzalez finished his big league career playing 33 games for the 1992 California Angels, where he hit .182/.270/.218 in 64 plate appearances. He played 26 games that season with Edmonton of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, while also playing 16 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League, the Triple-A team of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Gonzalez has very few stats after the 1992 season available, but he played through at least 2001. He spent seven seasons in Mexico, though his online records don’t show any teams/stats for those years. All that is listed is five games in China in 1995, and three brief appearances in independent ball in 2000-01, playing 17 games in 2000 for Rio Grande Valley of the Texas-Louisiana League, followed by 30 games for Long Island of the Atlantic League in 2001 and nine games that same season for Albany-Colonie of the Northern League East. An interview with the 36-year-old Gonzalez during his time in Long Island noted that they signed him after he failed a tryout with another team in the same league. He also said that he was still hoping to get back to the majors at that point, nine years after his final game. He did well there, hitting .280 with a .779 OPS. In eight big league seasons, he hit .213 in 461 games, with 95 runs scored, 30 doubles, seven triples, nine homers and 42 RBIs. He went 33-for-42 in stolen bases during his big league career, including an 8-for-8 mark during the 1991 season.
Dale Sveum, infielder for the 1996-97 and 1999 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982. He debuted with Pikesville of the short-season Appalachian League, where he hit .233 in 58 games, with 29 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and a .627 OPS. He played 135 games for Stockton of the Class-A California League in 1983, hitting .261 with 70 runs scored, 36 extra-base hits, 70 RBIs, a .653 OPS and 15 steals. He failed to reach double digits in steals during any of his other 17 seasons in pro ball, and he stole 50 bases total between the majors and minors. Sveum played for Double-A El Paso of the Texas League in 1984, where he hit .329 with 92 runs scored, 41 doubles, eight triples, nine homers, 84 RBIs and an .865 OPS. He moved up to Triple-A in 1985 to play for Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League. He hit just .236 in his first season at the level, finishing up with a .652 OPS. He had 42 runs, 16 doubles, seven homers and 48 RBIs. He improved to a .759 OPS in 28 games with Vancouver in 1986, which led to him debuting with the Brewers in mid-May. He put together a decent rookie season in 91 games, hitting .246 with 35 runs scored, 22 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs and a .682 OPS. He moved all around the infield that year, seeing decent time at third base, second base and shortstop. He then hit .252 with 86 runs scored, 27 doubles, 25 homers, 95 RBIs and a .757 OPS during his first full season in the majors in 1987. Those totals in runs, doubles, homers and RBIs set his career highs.
Sveum saw a major drop in production in 1988, hitting .242 with 41 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and a .627 OPS in 129 games. He suffered a broken leg late in the 1988 season and never fully regained his pre-injury success. The injury was so bad that it cost him nearly the entire 1989 season. His only playing time that year was 17 rehab games in the minors. Sveum split the 1990 season between Triple-A Denver of the American Association and the majors. He had a .289 average and a .762 OPS in 57 games for Denver, but he managed to hit just two home runs in a stadium that saw a lot of homers due to the thin air. For the Brewers that season, he hit just .197/.278/.282 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 48 games. He spent the entire 1991 season with the Brewers, where he batted .241 with 33 runs, 19 doubles, four homers and 43 RBIs in 90 games. The Brewers traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 1991, and the Phillies traded him to the Chicago White Sox on August 10, 1992. He combined to hit .197 in 94 games in 1992, with 13 doubles, four homers and the interesting trio of 28 runs, 28 walks and 28 RBIs. His stats were much better in 40 games with the White Sox after the deal, though he didn’t excel in either city.
Sveum became a free agent after the 1992 season and signed with the Oakland A’s, who released him in mid-June of 1993. Ten days after being let go, Sveum signed with the Seattle Mariners and remained there through the end of the 1994 season, though he mostly saw minor league time each year. In fact, he played just ten games in the majors during his year and three months with the Mariners. He hit .177/.316/.304 with 12 runs, two homers, six RBIs and 16 walks in his 30 games with the A’s. He did well in 45 minor league games in 1993, split between Tacoma and Calgary of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He had a .313 average and a .967 OPS during that time. He batted .185/.241/.296 in 29 plate appearances with the 1994 Mariners, while putting up a .282 average and an .880 OPS in 110 games with Calgary that season. In November of 1994, Sveum signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent. He ended up back in Calgary in 1995, joining the Pirates during the same year that Calgary switched affiliates to the Pirates. He hit .284 with 34 doubles, 12 homers and 70 RBIs in 118 games that season, but didn’t get a shot at the majors until the next year.
The Pirates signed Sveum as a free agent in February of 1996 and he hit .300 with 23 homers and 84 RBIs in 101 games for Calgary that year. He ended up playing 12 games with the Pirates in September of 1996 and hit .353/450/.588 in 40 plate appearances. His best season after his severe leg injury was with the 1997 Pirates, when he hit .261 with 30 runs, 20 doubles, 12 homers and 47 RBIs in 126 games. His .770 OPS was a career best, topping his 25-homer season from ten years earlier. He left the Pirates via free agency after the season and played part of 1998 for the New York Yankees, who won the World Series that season. He was released in August of 1998 and decided to retire when he cleared waivers. He remained with the Yankees in a coaching role. He decided to give baseball a shot again a short time later and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He remained there through early May of 1999, though he never played with them in the majors. Sveum hit just .155/.203/.155 in his 30 games with the Yankees. That was his entire season, as he was in a seldom-used backup role the entire season.
Sveum struggled in his return with the Diamondbacks, putting up a .209 average and a .508 OPS in 20 games with Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League. Eight days after being released in early May, he re-signed with the Pirates and hit .211/.279/.437 in 49 games, mostly off of the bench. He earned that trip back to the majors by hitting .344 with a .979 OPS in 42 games with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. On August 18, 1999, he homered from both sides of the plate, then managed to hit just one more career home run.That year was the end of his big league career. In three seasons with the Pirates, he hit .260 with 16 homers over 187 games. While he saw more time at shortstop during his career, he saw more time at third base while with the Pirates. In 862 games over 12 seasons in the majors, Sveum was a .236 hitter with 305 runs, 125 doubles, 69 homers and 340 RBIs. He managed in the minors for the Pirates during the 2001-03 seasons, taking the helm of the Altoona Curve during that time. He also managed in the majors with the 2008 Brewers and 2012-13 Chicago Cubs. He is a cousin of John Olerud, who played 17 seasons in the majors.
Rich Sauveur, pitcher for the 1986 Pirates. He saw MLB action over six seasons in his career, but he had only one set of back-to-back seasons in the majors. In his six years, he played for six different teams, seeing action with the 1986 Pirates, 1988 Montreal Expos, 1991 New York Mets, 1992 Kansas City Royals, 1996 Chicago White Sox and 2000 Oakland A’s. The Pirates originally drafted him in the 11th round of the 1983 January draft out of Manatee Community College (Now know as the State College of Florida). He decided to remain in college, but when the Pirates came calling again in June, he signed as a fifth round pick. It took him just three years to make the majors, though he was never able to stick for more than ten games in a season.He pitched a total of 34 games in the majors between 1986 and 2000. Sauveur debuted in pro ball in 1983 with Watertown of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he had a 2.31 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 93.2 innings over 12 starts and four relief outings. He moved up to Prince William of the Class-A Carolina League in 1984, posting a 3.13 ERA in ten starts, with 54 strikeouts in 54.2 innings. He also made ten starts that season for Nashua of the Eastern League, where he put up a 2.93 ERA in 70.2 innings. He combined to go 8-6, 3.02 in 125.1 innings, with 102 strikeouts. The entire 1985 season was spent with Nashua. He had a 9-10, 3.55 record in 157.1 innings, with 78 walks and 85 strikeouts.
Sauveur had a 1.18 ERA in 38 innings over five starts with Nashua in 1986. He also went 7-6, 3.03 in 92 innings for Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League that season. Combined he had 96 strikeouts, eight complete games and two shutouts. He made the majors that season, debuting on July 1st, though he played his final game with the Pirates just ten days later. He made three starts, posting a 6.00 ERA in 12 innings, with no decisions. Those three starts turned out to be the only three starts of his big league career. He spent the 1987 season in Double-A (Pirates switched affiliates to Harrisburg of the Eastern League that year), where he went 13-6, 2.86 in 195 innings. He had 160 strikeouts that season, which was 58 more than his second highest total in 18 seasons of pro ball. The Pirates lost him to the Expos in the 1987 Rule 5 draft. Sauveur switched to relief in 1988 and split the season between Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League, Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, and a brief shot at the majors, where he pitched three innings over four relief appearances. He had a combined 7-6, 2.56 record in the minors, with 11 saves and 66 strikeouts in 88 innings over 51 games. He was limited to just eight appearances in 1989, all in Indianapolis, where he allowed eight runs in 9.1 innings. He had elbow surgery on May 17, 1989 and missed the rest of the season.
Sauveur came back to Pittsburgh as a free agent signing in December of 1989, though he was cut at the end of Spring Training in 1990, so he never appeared in any minor league games for them that year. He re-signed with the Expos and spent most of the season back in Indianapolis, where he had a 1.93 ERA in 56 innings over seven starts and seven relief outings. He also pitched 40.2 innings that year for Miami of the High-A Florida State League. He signed with the Mets in 1991 and had a 2.38 ERA in 42 appearances at Triple-A Tidewater of the International League. He allowed four runs over 3.1 innings in six outings in the majors that year, joining the Mets for most of June. Sauveur signed with the Royals for 1992 and had a 3.22 ERA in 117.1 innings for Triple-A Omaha of the American Association, while posting a 4.40 ERA in 14.1 innings with the Royals. He didn’t pitch a lot, but he was with the club from mid-August through the end of the year in early October. He spent the next three seasons in Triple-A for the Cincinnati Reds, failing to get a big league shot despite an ERA between 1.82 and 2.82 during each of those three seasons. He was back in Indianapolis those years, as the team switched affiliates to the Reds since his last stint with the club. Sauveur had a 1.82 ERA in five starts with Indianapolis in 1993, after spending the start of the season in Mexico. He went 3-3, 2.82 with 12 saves and 65 strikeouts in 67 innings over 53 appearances in 1994. He went 5-2, 2.05 in 52 games in 1995, finishing with 15 saves and 47 strikeouts in 57 innings.
Sauveur signed with the White Sox for 1996 and had a 3.70 ERA in 61 appearances in Triple-A Nashville of the American Association, along with three outing in the majors that saw him allowing five runs in three innings. Those appearances came on three straight days (August 18-20), and his total time with the team was four days. The 1997 season was spent in Triple-A Iowa of the American Association with the Chicago Cubs, where he went 1-3, 3.38 in 45.1 innings over 39 games. Sauveur then he pitched briefly for the Reds again in Indianapolis in 1998. However, most of the 1998 season and all of 1999 was spent with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, which was the Triple-A affiliate of the Pirates. He had a 2.01 ERA, 11 saves and 49 strikeouts in 53.2 innings over 53 appearances in 1998. He then went 5-2, 1.95 in 1999, with seven saves and 61 strikeouts in 64.2 innings over 53 games. Sauveur signed with the A’s in 2000 and did some starting in the minors, where he had a 4.57 ERA in 82.2 innings for Sacramento of the PCL. He got his final big league shot that year in early May through mid-June and had a 4.35 ERA in 10.1 innings over ten relief outings. He threw shutout ball in his final four big league appearances. That was his final season in pro ball. He went 0-1, 6.07 in 46 innings over 34 games in the majors. While his big league time was mostly unsuccessful (other than making it in the first place), Sauveur certainly earned his big league looks over the years, posting a 2.91 ERA in 1,536.1 innings in the minors.
Grady Wilson, shortstop for the 1948 Pirates. His entire big league experience was 12 mid-season games for the 1948 Pirates. Wilson played a total of 12 seasons in the minors, beginning his career at age 23 in 1946, and playing until 1959. He also had six seasons of managing in the minors, including one season (1957) as a player-manager. He got a late start in pro ball due to his four years of service during WWII. Wilson began his pro career with the Boston Red Sox, but he moved on to the St Louis Cardinals after one season in the 1946 minor league draft. He hit .314 with 111 runs, 37 extra-base hits, 61 RBIs, 82 walks and 24 steals in 124 games for Milford of the Class-D Eastern Shore League during that 1946 season. He moved up to the Class-B Interstate League to play for Allentown in 1947, where he batted .304 with 100 runs, 42 doubles, 11 homers, 65 RBIs and 77 walks in 125 games. He also saw brief time with Houston of the Double-A Texas League that season, though no stats are available. Exactly one year after being selected by the Cardinals in the minor league draft, the Philadelphia Phillies picked up Wilson in the Rule 5 draft. He never played for the Phillies because the Pirates purchased his contract for $10,000 on April 5, 1948. He made the Opening Day roster, but he didn’t debut until May 15th in the 22nd game of the season. He had just one more appearance over the next 17 days and that was as a pinch-runner. Wilson played eight games in June and he had two pinch-running appearances in July, playing his final game on the 15th. On July 21st, he was sent to New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association. On September 28th, he was released to Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association. He went 1-for-10 at the plate with the Pirates, collecting a double as his only hit. He batted .234/.290/.349 in 20 games for New Orleans.
After leaving the Pirates, he played for four different teams during the 1949 season, including three Triple-A clubs. He was with Montreal of the International League for 17 games, Indianapolis for 21 games, St Paul of the American Association for 19 games, and Greenville of the Class-A South Atlantic League for 29 games. His combined stats show a .291 average, with 37 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs. His performance really slipped off in 1950 with Mobile of the Southern Association (Double-A), where he batted .194 with five extra-base hits in 71 games. He dropped down the minor league ladder again in 1951 and stayed there, spending four seasons in the South Atlantic League. His stats improved, but he was now three levels away from the majors, just three years after his time with the Pirates. Wilson hit .279 in 120 games with Montgomery in 1951, adding 56 runs, 32 extra-base hits and 49 RBIs. He remained in Montgomery in 1952, batting .267 in 117 games, with 25 extra-base hits. After two seasons with Montgomery, Wilson spent the 1953 season with Charleston, which was an affiliate of the Pirates, though he was property of Charleston, not the Pirates. He was named as an All-Star that season and hit .254 with 51 runs, 26 doubles, three homers and 51 RBIs. In an odd report, the only time he made the papers in Pittsburgh that season was when they announced in early July that he broke his leg and was out for the season, which didn’t actually happen. He played 115 games that year.
Wilson played four more years after 1953, but his only season with regular playing time was 1958. He played eight games for Jacksonville of the South Atlantic League, then finished the season playing semi-pro ball in Minnesota. He remained in semi-pro ball in Minnesota for the next two seasons. He returned to Jacksonville as a player-manager in 1957, then played his final full season in 1958 when he hit .250 with 32 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs in 111 games for Little Rock of the Double-A Southern Association. He wrapped up his minor league time with Shreveport of the Southern Association in 1959, where he hit .143 in his final 12 games. Wilson played some semi-pro ball in Florida in 1959 after being released by Shreveport on May 21st, and he was playing semi-pro ball in Alabama in 1960, before starting up a career as a minor league manager for five different teams over the next six seasons.
Clarence “Bubber” Jonnard, catcher for the 1922 Pirates. He played a total of six seasons in the majors from 1920 until 1935, only once playing in back-to-back seasons. He is one of ten pairs of twins to play in the majors. His brother Claude was a pitcher, who also played a total of six seasons in the majors from 1921 until 1929. Not only were they twins, but they were both given the nickname “Bubber” in the minors, making research confusing for the pair. Jonnard debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1917, playing for Talladega in the Class-D Georgia-Alabama League (no stats available). The next year he moved up to San Antonio of the Class-B Texas League, where he hit .175 in 35 games, with one extra-base hit. He moved down a level to Norfolk of the Class-C Virginia League in 1919. There he batted .216 in 82 games (only limited stats are available). Jonnard spent his first season with Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association in 1920. He hit .244 with 17 extra-base hits in 88 games. That earned him a late-season look with the Chicago White Sox, where he went 0-for-5 at the plate in two October games. He was in Nashville again in 1921, where he improved to a .277 average and 33 extra-base hits in 127 games.
The Pirates acquired Jonnard as a Rule 5 pick on October 15, 1921. A dispute over his contract kept him in the majors for all of 1922 with the Pirates. His contract was originally purchased in the draft from Nashville over the off-season. The Pirates tried to send Jonnard to the minors (Memphis of the Southern Association) in May, but Nashville blocked the deal, saying that if he was sent to the minors, he had to play for them. An article in early January confirmed this fact and showed that Nashville was already expecting the Pirates to attempt to send him elsewhere to play. Prior to May 1st, the Nashville owner offered to refund the Pirates $1,500 of their original purchase price ($4,000) if they would send Jonnard to them. Owner Barney Dreyfuss refused the offer when Nashville refused a stipulation saying that the Pirates could recall him at any time on a ten-day option. A short time later, the Pirates declared that they were keeping him all season, refusing a return of 75% of their purchase price in the process. He played just ten games with the 1922 Pirates, hitting .238 with a triple and two RBIs. Jonnard remained with the Pirates though May 28, 1923 before he was sent to Wichita Falls of the Class-A Texas League, where he would spend the next three seasons. Despite being a backup for the 1923 Pirates for the first 36 games of the season, he didn’t play a single game.
Jonnard remained in Wichita Falls through the end of the 1925 season. He improved on his prior Class-A stats, hitting for a slightly higher average, with a little more power. He hit .255 with six extra-base hits in 38 games in 1923. That was followed by a .284 average over 108 games in 1924, with 12 doubles, five triples and nine homers. During his final season with Wichita Falls, he hit .283 with 25 extra-base hits in 80 games. That led to a spot with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1926. That year he hit .118/.189/.147 in 19 games, getting just 38 plate appearances all season. He saw more time with the 1927 Phillies, hitting .294 in 53 games, with 18 runs, six doubles, 14 RBIs and a .662 OPS. He returned to the Texas League for the 1928 season with Houston, where he batted .286 in 42 games, with one double and one homer. He then came back to the majors for 1929 with the St Louis Cardinals. He had a similar role to his 1926 season in Philadelphia, hitting .097/.097/.097 in 31 at-bats over 19 games with the Cardinals. Jonnard played the next three years in the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time), mostly spent with Rochester. He batted .234 with eight doubles and one triple in 84 games in 1930, then followed it up with a .293 average, eight doubles and one homer in 81 games for Rochester in 1931. He split 78 games between Rochester and Jersey City in 1932, finishing with a .263 average and 12 extra-base hits.
Jonnard returned to the Texas League for a third time in 1933 with Dallas, where he was a player-manager for part of the season. He hit .220 in 119 games, with eight doubles and three triples. He stayed in the Texas League in 1934 with Fort Worth, where he’s credited with hitting .069 in 24 games, with four hits in 58 at-bats, including three doubles. His big league career ended with one at-bat for the Phillies as a late-inning replacement on May 15, 1935 in a 20-5 loss. He was basically a bullpen catcher/coach that season, but he had an odd highlight to the year when he had four hits in a mid-August exhibition game. He had two more hits two weeks later in another exhibition game. He also caught an exhibition game in June. On July 5th, he was removed from the active roster and remained on as a coach. He was officially released by the Phillies on January 12, 1936. He took up coaching that season in the Texas League, where he hit .254 in 46 games with Galveston. That was the end of his 20-year career, though he managed in the minors in 1940.
Jesse Petty, pitcher for the 1929-30 Pirates. He had a great story of perseverance that saw him pitch just nine innings in the majors before he turned 30 years old, but he ended up with a solid little big league career. Petty debuted in pro ball in 1916 at 21 years old, pitching for San Antonio of the Class-B Texas League, where he went 2-5 in nine games and pitched 64 innings. He saw most of his time in 1917 in the Texas League with Waco, where he went 6-9, 2.77 in 143 innings. He also threw 52 innings for New Orleans of the Class-A Southern Association, where he had a 3-3 record. Petty missed all of 1918 due to WWI, then he pitched just three games in 1919, seeing time with Milwaukee of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time). The next five seasons were mainly spent in the American Association with Indianapolis, where he had a 14-14, 3.17 record in 230 innings in 1920. The next year he had a 15-17, 3.80 record in 275 innings over 40 games. Petty joined the Cleveland Indians at the start of the 1921 season, but he lasted just four games before returning to Indianapolis. He threw shutout ball in his first three games, then allowed two runs in the fourth contest, finishing with a 2.00 ERA in nine innings. Since his big league time was prior to his 1921 stint at Indianapolis, he basically spent four full seasons in the minors between big league appearances.
Petty had a mediocre 11-12, 4.37 record in 212 innings back with Indianapolis in 1922. He then he improved to 19-18, 4.05 in 302 innings over 47 appearances in 1923. That wasn’t enough to get him back to the majors, but his 1924 season did the trick. That year he went 29-8, 2.93 in 328 innings over 47 games. He joined the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) in 1925 and stepped right into the rotation. That year he went 9-9, 4.88 in 153 innings over 21 starts and seven relief appearances. He had seven complete games and he record just 39 strikeouts all year. He had a strong 1926 season for a below .500 team, going 17-17, 2.84 in 275.2 innings over 33 starts and five relief outings. He had 23 complete games and set a career high with 101 strikeouts. That year he had the very strange combo of leading the league in losses and lowest hits per nine innings in the same season. In 1927, Petty went 13-18, 2.98 in 271.2 innings. As you might expect with that record/ERA combo, the Robins were well below .500 that season. He completed 19 of his 33 starts, including two shutouts. He also pitched nine times in relief. He had a 15-15, 4.04 record in 234 innings in 1928. Brooklyn improved to 77-76 that season, but his ERA drop led to the .500 record. He made 31 starts, nine relief appearances, compiling 15 complete games and two shutouts.
The Pirates gave up star shortstop Glenn Wright to acquire Petty from the Robins on December 11, 1928, in a deal that had very little chance of paying off for the Pirates. Petty was 34 years old at the time of the deal, with a 54-59, 3.52 in 934.1 innings over four seasons in Brooklyn, while Wright was a strong shortstop in his prime. The Pirates also got infielder Harry Riconda in the deal, but he lasted just eight games in Pittsburgh. Petty had an 11-10, 3.71 record in 184.1 innings for the 1929 Pirates, making 25 starts and 11 relief appearances. He had 12 complete games and one shutout. He went 1-6, 8.27 in 41.1 innings over seven starts and three relief outings in 1930 before being sold to the Chicago Cubs late in the season. His time with the Pirates started off rough, posting a 5.88 ERA though the end of July of 1929. Over the final two months, he had a 2.32 ERA in 112.1 innings, leaving hope for better things in 1930, which obviously didn’t work out. While he did well with the Cubs after being let go (2.97 ERA), he had just 39.1 innings left in his big league career after leaving the Pirates.
Petty spent the next five years in the minors before retiring, mostly playing for Minneapolis of the American Association. He went 15-16, 4.52 in 267 innings with Los Angeles of the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1931. He joined Minneapolis in 1932 and had a 16-10 record, with 236 innings over 52 appearances. Petty went 18-8, 4.65 in 234 innings in 1933. He put together a 19-7, 4.58 record over 220 innings in 1934. He pitched eight innings with Minneapolis in 1935, while spending a majority of the season with Chattanooga of the Class-A Southern Association, where he went 11-11, 3.37 over 211 innings, in what ended up being his final season of pro ball at 40 years old. He compiled a total of 253 wins in pro ball and pitched over 4,000 innings. He did all that despite missing approximately two full years during service in WWI. His final big league stats in seven seasons shows a 67-78, 3.68 record in 153 starts and 54 relief appearances, with 1,208.1 innings pitched, 76 complete games and six shutouts.
Chief Zimmer, catcher for the 1900-02 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1884 and was one of the games caught leaders early in his career, ranking as high as third all-time well after he retired. He’s second all-time in throwing out runners, with 1,208 caught stealing to his credit. He made the majors during his first year of pro ball at 23 years old in 1884. He played eight games for the Detroit Wolverines of the National League, going 2-for-29 at the plate. He spent the rest of the year playing for two teams in the Ohio State League, seeing time with Portsmouth and Ironton (no stats available for either stop). He retired during the 1885 season, but made the wise decision to return to baseball in 1886. That led to his second big league trial, this time seeing six games with the New York Metropolitans of the American Association. That stint didn’t go well, going 3-for-19 with three singles, but he would grab another big league job right away. Zimmer joined Cleveland of the American Association in 1887, and he remained there until the middle of the 1899 season, though the teams switched leagues during that time. He spent part of that 1887 season in the minors with Rochester of the International Association. During his big league time in 1887, he hit .231/.298/.327 in 14 games and scored nine runs. He saw more time in 1888, batting .241 in 65 games, with 27 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and 15 steals.
The Cleveland Blues became the Cleveland Spiders of the National League in 1889. Zimmer hit .259 with 47 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 14 steals and a .743 OPS in 84 games. He remained with the club in 1890 when many players were going to the newly-formed Player’s League. He got to play full-time for a very bad team that year, hitting .214 with 54 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 15 steals, a .594 OPS and career highs of 46 walks and 125 games. Cleveland went 44-88 that season, but they added a pitcher named Cy Young later in the year, and he would pitch to Zimmer during that year and each of the next nine seasons.
Zimmer hit .255 in 116 games in 1891, with 55 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 15 steals, a .653 OPS and a career high 69 RBIs. He batted .264 in 111 games during the 1892 season, setting career highs with 63 runs scored, 29 doubles, 13 triples and 18 stolen bases. He had 64 RBIs and a .732 OPS that year. He played just 57 games in 1893, as Cleveland had Jack O’Connor do most of the catching that year, after playing mainly outfield in 1892. Zimmer and O’Connor would be teammates every season from 1892-1898, then again for three years with the Pirates (1900-02). Zimmer hit .308 in 1893, with 27 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs and an .810 OPS that stood as his second best career mark. That was the year that MLB implemented new rules for pitchers, including limiting their movement and increasing the distance. It caused a three-year spike in offense, though 1893 was the lowest of the three years. He batted .284 in 90 games in 1894, with 55 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs and a .732 OPS. He led all catchers in fielding percentage for the first of three times in his career. Many players during that era had their best season in 1894 due to the new pitching rules that helped offense, but Zimmer had his best career year in 1895 when he hit .340 in 88 games, with 60 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 56 RBIs. His .884 OPS was his career best.
Zimmer batted .277 in 91 games during the 1896 season, with 46 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs and a .729 OPS, while leading all catchers in fielding percentage. He hit .316 in 1897, with 50 runs, 22 doubles and 40 RBIs and a .789 OPS in 80 games. , Zimmer was limited to 20 games due to an arm injury during his final full season with Cleveland in 1898. He had a .238 average and a .574 OPS that year. He split the 1899 season between Cleveland and the Louisville Colonels, which helped him avoid spending the entire year with the worst team ever. Cleveland finished 20-134 that season, but he was gone by early June, signing with Louisville one day after being released. He hit .307 with 52 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs in 95 games that season, while leading all catchers with a .978 fielding percentage. Zimmer was acquired by Pittsburgh in the 17-player “Honus Wagner trade” on December 8, 1899, which changed the face of the Pirates. Between the 1899 and 1900 seasons, the National League decided to go from 12 teams to eight teams and Louisville was one of the clubs dropped. Hall of Fame owner Barney Dreyfuss was the owner in Louisville, and then he became the owner in Pittsburgh going into 1900. The team then traded all of their best players to the Pirates for a lot of cash (for the time) and very little in return in the form of players, which ended up being only cash after Louisville’s remaining players were assigned to Pittsburgh early in 1900 before the season started.
Zimmer did well in his first year in Pittsburgh at 39 years old, which made him the oldest player in the league. He batted .295 in 82 games in 1900, with 27 runs scored, seven doubles, ten triples, 35 RBIs and a .756 OPS. He led all catchers in putouts that season. He played 69 games in 1901, helping the Pirates to their first National League crown. Zimmer hit .220 with 17 runs, ten extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and a .568 OPS that season. The Pirates put together their best record ever in 1902 and he was one of three catchers who all played between 42 and 50 games. He hit .268 with 13 runs, six extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in 42 games that year. On March 6, 1903, Zimmer was released to the Philadelphia Phillies. He saw sporadic playing time in his final season, though that was his own desire, as he was the manager of the team. In three seasons in Pittsburgh, he was a .262 hitter over 193 games, with 73 RBIs, though he failed to connect on a home run during his time with the Pirates. Zimmer was a .269 hitter in 1,280 games over 19 big league seasons, with 617 runs scored, 222 doubles, 76 triples, 26 homers, 625 RBIs and 151 stolen bases. He was a player-manager in the minors in 1906. His first name was Charles. His nickname came from when he was a manager in the minors of a team named the Indians. Zimmer invented a baseball board game in 1891 that was extremely popular then and is highly collectible today, receiving five-figure prices if it comes up for sale.