This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 2nd, Seven Former Pirates

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Jeff Suppan, pitcher for the 2003 Pirates. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the second round in 1993 out of high school. He was rated as a top 60 prospect in baseball prior to the 1995-97 seasons. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League, going 4-3, 2.18 in 57.2 innings, with 64 strikeouts. The next season was spent with Sarasota of the High-A Florida State League, which was quite a jump in one season for a teenager. Suppan went 13-7, 3.26 in 174 innings, with 173 strikeouts in 27 starts. He threw four complete games and had two shutouts. He made 15 starts for Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League in 1995, where he had a 2.36 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 99 innings. He then struggled over seven starts with Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League, posting a 5.32 ERA in 45.2 innings, but he still debuted with the Red Sox that season. He had a 5.96 ERA in 22.2 innings over three starts and five relief appearances. Suppan made 22 starts for Pawtucket in 1996, going 10-6, 3.22 in 145.1 innings, with 142 strikeouts. He pitched eight times with the Red Sox (four starts) that season, and he had a 7.54 ERA, while once again throwing 22.2 innings. He had a 3.71 ERA in nine starts for Pawtucket in 1997, while going 7-3, 5.69 in 22 starts (one relief outing) for the Red Sox. He was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1997 Expansion draft and had a rough 1998 season, going 1-7, 6.68 in 66 innings over 13 starts. He did well in Triple-A for a high offense team/league, putting up a 4-3, 3.63 record and 62 strikeouts in 67 innings with Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League. Things turned around for Suppan when he was purchased by the Kansas City Royals at the end of the 1998 season. He made four late-season appearances for the Royals and allowed one run in 12.1 innings.

Suppan went 10-12, 4.53 in 208.2 innings over 32 starts for Kansas City in 1999. That was followed up by a 10-9, 4.94 record in 2000, when he made 33 starts (two relief outings) and threw 217 innings. His total of 128 strikeouts that season was a career high. He went 10-14, 4.37 during the 2001 season, throwing a career high 218.1 innings over 34 starts. He finished that year with 120 strikeouts. The 2002 season was a bit rough compared to the previous three seasons. He went 9-16, 5.32 in 208 innings over 33 starts. Suppan signed a one-year contract with the Pirates as a free agent on January 31, 2003, and he remained with the team until the trading deadline later that year. He went 10-7, 3.57 in 141 innings over 21 starts for the Pirates, equaling his career high in wins up to that point, which he reached three straight seasons with the Royals (1999-2001). He threw three complete games and two shutouts. At the end of July, the Pirates traded Suppan to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that brought back Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez. Suppan finished the season with a 3-4, 5.57 record in 63 innings with Boston. He signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 2004, and helped them get to the World Series by going 16-9, 4.16 in 188 innings over 31 starts. He won two games during the postseason.

Suppan had a 16-10, 3.57 record in 194.1 innings over 32 starts in 2005. That was followed up by a typical season in which he went 12-7, 4.12 in 190 innings over 32 starts for the 2006 Cardinals. He signed a multi-year free agent deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, and had a 12-12, 4.62 record in 206.2 innings during the 2007 season. The next year he went 10-10, 4.96 in 177.2 innings over 31 games. In 2009, Suppan posted a 7-12, 5.29 record in 161.2 innings over 30 starts. He began the 2010 season in Milwaukee, but he was released in June after putting up a 7.84 ERA in 31 innings, while mostly pitching in relief. He signed a short time later with the Cardinals, where he finished out the season with a 3-6, 3.84 record in 70.1 innings over 13 starts and two relief games. He signed with the San Francisco Giants for 2011, but they released him at the end of Spring Training. Suppan spent the entire 2011 season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Omaha of the Pacific Coast League for the Royals. He went 11-8, 4.78 in 165.2 innings. He signed a deal for 2012 with the San Diego Padres and split the season between a brief stint in Triple-A Tuscon (nine runs in 6.2 innings), and six starts in the majors. He finished up his pro career with a 2-3, 5.28 mark in 30.2 innings for those 2012 Padres. Suppan had a 140-146, 4.70 record in 2,542.2 innings over 417 starts and 31 relief appearances. He completed 16 games and threw five shutouts. His career was worth 17.1 WAR.

Bill Wagner, catcher for the 1914-17 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1914 at 20 years old. He bounced between the minors and majors for his first three years, getting into a total of just 27 games with the Pirates through the end of the 1916 season. He had very little experience in pro ball before joining the 1914 Pirates, going 4-for-25 at the plate in 11 games for Waterloo of the Class-D Central Association. Before that point, he was playing independent ball in Sumner, Iowa during the 1913 season. Scout Chick Fraser found him in Waterloo while scouting another player and signed him to a contract. He joined the Pirates on June 30, 1914, and remained with the club for the rest of the year, despite not getting any starts. Wagner debuted July 16th with the Pirates, seeing a total of three games off of the bench as a defensive replacement behind the plate that season. He played his second game on July 21st, and his last on September 7th. He recorded just one at-bat. Wagner spent most of the 1915 season playing for Youngstown of the Class-B Central League, where he hit .250 in 124 games, with 45 runs, 40 extra-base hits and a .674 OPS. He was sent down to the minors on April 3rd that season, which was near the end of Spring Training. On June 20th, the Pirates played Youngstown and he went 0-for-4 with a walk and two errors. The Pirates released backup catcher Bobby Schang on August 25, 1915, which led to Wagner rejoining the team. He played five games that season off of the bench, going 0-for-5 at the plate.

Wagner spent the 1916 season with Terre Haute of the Central League, where he hit .290 in 125 games. He was with the Pirates for the first ten games of the season without playing, before getting shipped off to Terre Haute on April 24th. The Pirates recalled him on September 11, 1916, and he was immediately given the starting job for the rest of the season. He got his first big league start on September 13th, when he collected the first three hits of his career, including a triple. Wagner batted .237/.326/.342 in 44 plate appearances over 19 games. He finally spent the entire season in the majors in 1917, playing 53 games in which he hit .205 with 15 runs, nine extra-base hits, nine RBIs and a .542 OPS in 170 plate appearances. Most of his time was spent at catcher, but he also made nine starts at first base. Right after the 1917 season ended, the Pirates sold him to the Boston Braves, where he finished his Major League career in 1918. He began the 1918 season with Columbus of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time), then joined Boston in August. In 13 games for the Braves, he hit .213/.275/.277, with two runs, seven RBIs and his only big league homer. He played two more minor league seasons before retiring from pro ball, both spent back with Columbus. Wagner hit .265 in 1919, with 34 extra-base hits in 141 games. He finished up with a .305 average and ten extra-base hits over 25 games in 1920. He was no relation to Honus Wagner, his teammate for all four seasons in Pittsburgh. Bill Wagner batted .205/.272/.282 in 80 total games with the Pirates. He had a career .207 average, with 19 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs.

Jesse Altenburg, outfielder for the 1916-17 Pirates. He originally joined the Pirates in December of 1914 when they drafted him from Ludington of the Class-D Michigan State League. In his pro debut with Ludington in 1913, he hit .339 in 29 games, with two doubles and two triples. He hit .279 in 116 games for Ludington in 1914, finishing with 67 runs, 22 extra-base hits (no homers), 55 stolen bases and a .696 OPS. He was reported to be just 19 years old at the time that the Pirates purchased him, but it was later determined that he was two years older. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1915, and stayed with the team until April 22nd. He was then shipped to Youngstown of the Class-B Central League, where he spent the rest of the season. While he didn’t get into any games that year for the Pirates, he at least made it to Opening Day (April 14th) with the club. He was actually away from the team for a few days in between Opening Day and being sent down while attending the funeral of his mother. On June 20th, the Pirates played Youngstown in an exhibition game and lost. Altenburg batted lead-off, going 1-for-4 with a double. During that season with Youngstown, he hit .281 in 114 games, with 58 runs scored, 19 extra-base hits, 27 steals and 59 walks. He rejoined the Pirates in September, only to be sent home almost right away due to manager Fred Clarke saying that he wasn’t going to use him over the final month. Altenburg attended Spring Training in 1916 and stayed around until April 7th, when he was shipped to Wheeling of the Central League.

Altenburg played four seasons in the minors before getting his first chance at the majors after hitting .321 in 109 games for Wheeling in 1916. On September 15, 1916, the local Pittsburgh papers reported that he signed with a minor league team in the Interstate League for the remainder of the season. However, he made his MLB debut just four days later in New York as a pinch-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader. The Pirates brought Altenburg to the majors for the last two weeks of the 1916 season, and he hit .429/.467/.643 in eight games, going 6-for-14 with a double and triple. He started the 1917 season with the Pirates, but was let go after just a month due to a .176/.176/.176 slash line in 18 plate appearances. His 11 appearances with the Pirates in 1917 were spread out over the first five weeks of the season, and he made just three starts during that time. His final big league game occurred on May 17th. Two days later, it was announced that the Pirates were sending him to Toronto of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time) soon and Altenburg was refusing to go, saying he would retire first. His final game with the Pirates was actually an exhibition game played on May 20th in Jersey City, NJ. Altenburg batted lead-off and played left field, where he went 0-for-4. He quickly changed him mind about going to the minors, accepting the assignment the next day. On August 14th, he was released to Kansas City of the Double-A American Association, ending his time with the Pirates. He never returned to the majors, finishing his playing career in the minors in 1924.

Altenberg batted .306 with 12 extra-base hits in 80 games with Toronto in 1917. He followed that up by hitting .219 with four extra-base hits in 40 games with Kansas City. Most of his minor league time after leaving the Pirates was spent in the International League, where he saw action with three different teams. He finished his career with one full year and one partial year with Albany of the Class-A Eastern League. He also managed for four seasons in the minors. Altenburg hit .309 with 25 runs and 13 steals in 50 games for Birmingham of the Class-A Southern Association in 1918. He batted .324 in 99 games with Reading of the International League in 1919. He had 51 runs, 13 doubles, 12 triples, two homers and 24 steals that season. He batted .280 for Reading in 1920, finishing with 109 runs, 35 extra-base hits and 26 steals in 141 games. Altenburg returned to Toronto in 1921. He put up a .346 average in 148 games, with 18 doubles, 14 triples and nine homers. He played for Newark of the International League in 1922, where he hit .312 in 105 games, with 18 doubles and five triples. His 1923 season was split between Newark (11 games) and the aforementioned Albany. He hit .277 in 119 games for Albany, while collecting 19 extra-base hits. His 1924 season was limited to six games. In one of his final games, he was thrown out after getting into a fistfight with the opposing catcher. A few games later, his playing career came to a close after suffering a leg injury while sliding into a base on the final play of the game.

George Boehler, pitcher for the 1923 Pirates. Prior to his time in Pittsburgh in 1923, he got limited playing time in the majors, pitching 37 games for the Detroit Tigers over five seasons, before spending the next three years in the minors. He returned to the majors with the St Louis Browns in 1920, but pitched just four games over two seasons. That was the extent of his big league experience. He debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1911 with Springfield of the Class-D Ohio State League, where he went 12-6 in 28 appearances. Boehler remained in same league with Newark in 1912 and had a huge season, going 27-17, while throwing 364 innings. His ERA isn’t available for either season, but it’s known that he allowed 3.71 runs per nine innings in 1912 with Newark. That September he debuted with the Tigers and had a 6.47 ERA in 32 innings over four starts and a relief appearance. He pitched with St Joseph of the Class-A Western League in 1913, going 27-13, 2.32 in 345 innings over 55 games. He pitched once for the Tigers that season and allowed nine runs in eight innings on April 15th. The entire 1914 season was spent in Detroit, where he pitched 63 innings over 18 appearances (six starts), and he had a 3.57 ERA, though it came with a 48:37 BB/SO ratio. Boehler was with the Tigers for all of 1915, but he had just eight relief appearances spread out over the season. He gave up ten runs in 15 innings, though just three runs were earned all year. The 1916 season saw him pitch five times for the Tigers early in the year and allow eight runs in 13.1 innings, before ending up with Syracuse of the Class-B New York State League. He had a 4-4 record in his eight minor league games that season.

Boehler had a 9-5, 2.54 record in 145 innings for Denver of the Class-A Western League in 1917. He spent the 1918 season with Joplin of the Western League, though he was limited to 31 innings. He had a 1-3, 6.10 record in his six games that season, which was shortened due to the war. The following year he went 3-6 in 12 appearances for Joplin, throwing 91.2 innings. Boehler saw full-time work with Joplin in 1920, going 20-17 in 334 innings over 39 appearances. He allowed 3.34 runs per nine innings that season. He finished the year with the St Louis Browns, where he allowed ten runs in seven innings during three September games. His 1921 season with the Browns consisted of one scoreless inning in the third game of the season. He finished the year with Tulsa of the Western League, where he had a 4-20 record in 193 innings over 31 games. His ERA isn’t available for that season, but it’s known that he allowed 4.34 runs per nine innings.

Boehler spent the entire 1922 season in the minors, though he did all he could do to earn another shot in the majors. He pitched 62 games for Tulsa that year, throwing a total of 441 innings. He’s credited with a 38-13 record and 4.16 runs per nine innings. The Pirates purchased his contract for $30,000 from Tulsa on December 11, 1922, and he joined the team during Spring Training three months later.  He not only made the team, he started the second game of the year, giving up seven runs to the Chicago Cubs in a loss. After just one more start, he was moved to the bullpen where he was used sparingly, making just eight appearances between April 24 and July 16. On July 28th, he was released on option to Omaha of the Western League. The local paper called him “the $30,000 warm-up pitcher” and said that he had streaks of wildness that kept him from being an effective pitcher for the Pirates. The Pirates reportedly tried to trade Boehler and $5,000 to Des Moines for 20-year-old pitcher Charles Olsen, who never ended up making the majors. On December 12, 1923, the Pirates sent Boehler to the Oakland Oaks of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time) as part of the large package they gave up to acquire Ray Kremer. Boehler went 1-3, 6.04 in 28.1 innings with the Pirates, issuing 26 walks.

Boehler was a workhorse for Oakland during the 1924-25 seasons. He went 26-21, 4.00 in 396 innings over 53 appearances in 1924. He had a 23-25, 4.10 record in 417 innings over 58 games in 1925. Boehler got one more trial in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1926 before finishing his career in the minors in 1930. He pitched ten times all season with Brooklyn, mostly in a mop-up role, getting buried in the bullpen. He was 1-0, 4.10 in 34.2 innings. He went back to Oakland for the 1927 season, where he had a 22-12, 3.10 record in 296 innings. He remained there for all of 1928 and part of 1929, which he also split with Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. Boehler went 17-14, 4.10 in 257 innings in 1928. He was limited to a 2-6 record and 62 innings over 19 games in 1929. He finished his career by going 6-11, 5.80 in 135 innings for Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association in 1930. He won 248 games over 17 seasons in the minors and he went 6-12, 4.71 in 202.1 innings over 61 Major League games, which included 18 starts and seven complete games. He was said to throw very hard, with a hard curve to go along with his fastball.

Jack Neagle, pitcher/outfielder for the 1883-84 Alleghenys. Neagle made his major league debut in 1879 with the Cincinnati Reds and went 0-1, 3.46 in 13 innings over two starts. He also played twice in the outfield and went 2-for-12 with two RBIs. He didn’t pitch in the majors again until four years later, and he had a crazy season. He started in Philadelphia and went 1-7, 6.90 in 61.1 innings over eight games. He then moved to Baltimore, where he went 1-4, 4.89 in 46 innings over six games. Neagle then came to Pittsburgh, where he was 3-12, 5.84 in 114 innings over 16 starts, with 12 complete games. In his three stops that season, he combined for a 5-23, 5.94 record in 221.1 innings. He played a total of 32 games in the outfielder that season, though he finished with a .196 average and a 4.55 OPS in 54 games total. In a sign of the times, when he made his Pittsburgh debut on July 28th, one of the local papers questioned why they needed a fourth pitcher, saying “Neagle pitched for the Alleghenys, (John) Driscoll, (Bob) Barr and (Billy) Taylor being for some reason, unfit for effective work”. The Alleghenys kept all four pitchers through the end of the season, though Taylor was more of an outfielder, who occasionally started, and also saw work when the starting pitcher couldn’t finish.

Neagle had a much better ERA in 1884, but the record barely improved. He went 11-26, 3.73 in 326 innings over 38 starts. He threw 37 complete games and two shutouts. His 85 strikeouts that year were his high during his brief career. Pittsburgh finished that season 30-78, so they were actually a little better with him in the pitcher’s box. He actually began the year playing for their Reserves team, which was a team of backups that played games against local amateur teams and the Reserves from other American Association teams. It was basically like having a Triple-A team in the city in case they needed extra players, though the idea didn’t last long because the team wasn’t making money. Neagle took some turns in the outfield when he wasn’t pitching for the Alleghenys, playing there 15 times in 1883 and another six times the next year. He wasn’t much of a hitter though, batting .165 in 70 games with the Alleghenys and .176 with no homers in 369 career at-bats. His career record in the majors was 16-50, 4.59 in 560.1 innings. He finished 60 of his 68 starts.

On October 15, 1884, it was announced that Neagle and Fleury Sullivan were both released by Pittsburgh. The pair started 89 of the team’s 110 games in 1884. The move effective ended Neagle’s big league career. He didn’t have a long pro career. His brief time in Cincinnati is his first known pro experience, though he was 21 years old and minor league ball started just two years earlier, so there weren’t many opportunities for pro ball any earlier. He played for the New York Metropolitans of the Eastern Championship Association in 1881, which was as close as you could get to the majors at the time. His team was stacked with former and future MLB players, with 24 of the 25 players used that season being Major Leaguers at one time. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies of the League Alliance in 1882, which was basically on the same level as his New York team from the previous season. Of their 20 players, 17 made the majors (either before and/or after), including Ed Morris, who holds most of the Pirates single-season pitching records. After leaving the Alleghenys, Neagle’s only other known time in pro ball came with Macon of the Southern League in 1885, when he made two starts after joining the team in May. He actually signed to play with Louisville of the American Association for the 1885 season, but they released him before he played a game.

Sam Crane, middle infielder for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He was a light hitter with an average glove who bounced around between 1880 and 1889, playing in the majors during six of those ten years, with six different teams in three different leagues. He debuted in pro ball during the first year of organized minor league ball, playing the 1877 season at 23 years old with Lowell of the League Alliance. The 1878 season was spent with Rochester of the International Association (no stats are available from his first two seasons). In 1879, Crane played for two teams in the National Association, playing 33 games with the Springfield club, and the other two with Worcester. Limited stats show a .200 average and 25 runs scored. His big league debut came on May 1, 1880 for the Buffalo Bisons, where he hit .129/.156/.129 in ten games as the team’s player-manager. They finished with a 24-58-3 record. He didn’t play pro ball in 1881-82, but he could be found playing shortstop for a team from Holyoke during the latter season. He signed with the New York Metropolitans of the American Association for the 1883, where he hit .235 in 96 games, with 57 runs, 13 extra-base hits and a .549 OPS. There was word late in the season that he was taking a semi-pro job for 1884, which would have him working for the railroad, while playing for the railroad team. However, the Union Association was formed for that one season and Crane played for the Cincinnati club of the league, where he hit .233 in 80 games, with 56 runs, 13 extra-base hits and a .551 OPS. He was the team manager for the latter part of the season and led them to a 49-21 record.

Crane spent part of the 1885 season in the minors with Indianapolis of the Western League, and the rest of the year was spent with the Detroit Wolverines of the National League. He had a .246 average, 31 runs and three doubles in 32 games with Indianapolis. He batted just .192/.233/.269 in 68 games with Detroit, finishing with 23 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. That was still enough to earn him an 1886 spot in Detroit, though they moved on from him mid-season when he hit .141/.176/.189 in 47 games. He finished the season with another National League team, playing 39 games for the St Louis Maroons, where he hit .172/.256/.216, with ten runs, four extra-base hits, seven RBIs and six steals. Crane bounced around in 1887 with three minor league teams and a brief stint in the majors with the Washington Nationals of the National League, where he hit .300/.323/.400 in seven games. He hit .344 in 22 games for Kansas City of the Western League that season, while playing two games for Lynn of the New England League, and an unknown amount of time with Scranton of the International Association.

Crane played in the minors with Scranton of the Central League in 1888 (no stats available), then was playing independent ball in New York in 1889, which was a rough year for him. He eloped with a married woman from Scranton and dealt with legal trouble and an arrest in August over the matter. When the Player’s League was formed for the 1890 season, it created eight more Major League teams and the need to fill those rosters, so Crane returned to the majors with the New York Giants. After two games, he moved on to Pittsburgh, where he played 22 games, hitting .195/.205/.232 with three runs and three RBIs, while playing second base and shortstop. He debuted for the team on May 30th,when he played both games of a doubleheader. He was released after a game on June 28th, in which he committed three errors at shortstop in the eighth inning that helped turn a 1-1 tie into a 9-1 loss. Prior to that day, the local press said that Crane lacked range, but he could handle everything hit to him. Not even a full week after he was released, Crane filled in as an umpire for a game between the two teams he played for that season. It was his last of eight appearances as an umpire, with his first one coming during the 1879 season before his Major League debut. He finished his playing career back with the New York Giants, playing two more games for them in 1890. He also saw brief time that year with Troy of the New York State League. In his career he hit .203 with 183 runs scored and 45 RBIs in 373 games. Crane went on to become a famous sportswriter after his playing career ended. He served as a manager for two seasons in the majors and one season in the minors. Crane was 6’0″ and strong, but he hit just three homers in his career. Two of those homers were hit off of pitcher Charlie Sweeney, coming one year apart.

Ed Wolfe, pitcher for the 1952 Pirates. Wolfe was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1949. He spent three seasons working his way up the minor league ladder before making the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1952. At 20 years old in 1949, he split the season between Modesto of the Class-C California League and Bartlesville of the Class-D Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League. Wolfe had a 5.87 ERA in 46 innings with Modesto, and a 4.60 ERA in 94 innings with Bartlesville. He finished with an 11-6 record, along with a 96:76 BB/SO ratio in his 140 innings. He spent the 1950 season with Bartlesville, where he had a 15-8, 2.98 record in 193 innings. While playing for Charleston of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1951, Wolfe went 11-10, 3.10, with 139 strikeouts in 186 innings over 21 starts and 12 relief appearances. He made all of his big league appearances within a seven-day stretch for the 1952 Pirates. In his debut against the Cincinnati Reds on April 19th, he gave up two runs on two hits and a hit batter in 2/3 of an inning. The next day, he gave up one run on four hits over two innings. Wolfe made his last appearance five days later, throwing a scoreless inning against the St Louis Cardinals, though he did allow a hit and two walks. He was returned to the minors shortly thereafter on April 29th. He went 15-13, 4.45 in 186 innings for New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association that season. His final big league line included three runs over 3.2 innings.

Wolfe went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1953, but he was part of a large group sent to the minors on April 6th (eight days before Opening Day), and he didn’t get the call to the majors during the season. He ended up pitching just ten games during the 1953 season. He became a sports writer after the 1953 season for his hometown paper. He was at Pirates Spring Training in 1954 as well, though this time he was sent to the minor league camp in late March. The Pirates actually sold him to New Orleans unconditionally in January of 1954, so he was property of their affiliate at the time. Wolfe played in the minors until 1955, spending his entire seven-year pro career in the Pirates system. He spent part of 1954 with New Orleans and pitched poorly, going 4-6, 5.73 in 55 innings. He did well after being sold in mid-June to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League that year, posting a 2.64 ERA in 92 innings. His career ended with four games for Hollywood in 1955. Hollywood tried to sell his contract to a team from Mexico City in early May of 1955, but he decided to retire instead. He was a gifted athlete in high school, playing baseball, basketball, football and track for his school. After graduating high school, he entered the service, then attended college, before signing his first pro deal.