Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one who holds a major team record.
Brian Giles, outfielder for the 1999-2003 Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a 17th round draft pick out of high school in California by the Cleveland Indians in 1989. He didn’t make his Major League debut until six years later. Giles was known in the majors as a power hitter, but he hit just eight home runs over his first four seasons in the minors combined. He connected on eight homers in 1993, then reached double digits in each of the next three seasons, topping out with 20 in 1996. He debuted in pro ball in 1989 in the short-season Appalachian League for Burlington, where he hit .310/.366/.364 in 36 games, with 18 runs, 20 RBIs and all seven extra-base hits being doubles. Giles stayed in short-season ball in 1990, advancing to Watertown of the New York-Penn League, where he batted .289 in 70 games, with 44 runs, 18 extra-base hits (15 doubles), 23 RBIs and a .781 OPS, while posting an extremely impressive 48:23 BB/SO ratio. He hit .310 in 125 games for Kinston of the High-A Carolina League in 1991. He had 71 runs, 14 doubles, four homers, 47 RBIs, 19 steals and 68 walks. He missed part of the 1992 season, while splitting time between Kinston and Double-A Canton-Akron of the Eastern League. He batted .248/.369/.341 in 65 games between both stops, with 34 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and 40 walks. Giles spent all of 1993 with Canton-Akron, where he hit .327 in 123 games, with 64 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 18 steals, 57 walks and an .861 OPS. He played for Charlotte of the Triple-A International League in 1994, where he hit .313 in 128 games, with 74 runs, 18 doubles, 16 homers, 58 RBIs, 55 walks and an .869 OPS. The strike in August of that season kept him from possibly making his big league debut as a September call-up.
Giles spent the full 1995 season in Triple-A, with the Indians affiliate moving that year to Buffalo of the American Association. He batted .310 in 123 games, with 67 runs, 18 doubles, eight triples, 15 homers, 67 RBIs, 54 walks and an .896 OPS, which led to his first shot in the majors. He went 5-for-9 in six games during his late season debut in 1995. He then batted .355/.434/.612 in 51 games for the 1996 Indians, getting called up to the majors right after the All-Star break. At the time of his recall, he had a .314 average, 43 extra-base hits and a .989 OPS in 83 games with Buffalo. Giles spent the entire 1997 season in the majors, hitting .268 in 130 games, with 62 runs, 15 doubles, 17 homers, 61 RBIs, 13 steals, 63 walks and an .827 OPS. He saw time at Buffalo in 1998 after suffering a left ankle injury on May 30th that required a rehab stint. He hit .269 in 112 games for the Indians that season, with 56 runs, 19 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBIs, 73 walks and an .856 OPS. He played a total of four seasons in Cleveland, hitting .284 in 299 games, with 150 runs, 48 doubles, 39 homers and 157 RBIs. The Indians traded him to the Pirates on November 18, 1998 in exchange for pitcher Ricardo Rincon.
Giles immediately became a star for the Pirates, hitting .315 in 1999, with 109 runs, 33 doubles, 39 homers, 115 RBIs, 95 walks and a 1.032 OPS in 141 games. He received mild MVP support, finishing 19th in the voting. He followed that up with his first All-Star season in 2000. He hit .315 again that year, while breaking the century mark in runs (111) RBIs (123) and walks (114). His RBI total that season is tied for the seventh highest single season total in franchise history. He had 37 doubles, seven triples, 35 homers and a 1.026 OPS. Once again, he finished 19th in the MVP voting. Giles made his second All-Star team in 2001, hitting .309 that year, with 37 doubles, seven triples, 37 homers, 95 RBIs, 90 walks, a .994 OPS and a career high 116 runs scored. He received mild MVP support again, this time finishing 24th in the voting. He hit 38 homers in 2001, when he walked 135 times, falling just short of Ralph Kiner‘s team record of 137 walks set in 1951. Giles had a .298 average, with 95 runs, 37 doubles, 103 RBIs, 15 steals (career high) and a 1.072 OPS, which all led to a 13th place finish in the MVP race. At the 2003 trading deadline, the Pirates traded Giles to the San Diego Padres for Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and Corey Stewart. Giles was hitting .299 in 105 games prior to the trade, with 70 runs, 30 doubles, 16 homers, 70 RBIs and 80 walks. He finished out the season by hitting .298 in 29 games, with a .904 OPS.
After the trade, Giles played 6 1/2 seasons with the Padres. The Pirates were trading away 2 1/2 seasons when they got rid of him. He never approached his three biggest seasons in Pittsburgh, but that was partially due to the pitcher-friendly ballpark in San Diego. He missed just 11 games total over his first three full seasons with the Padres. He hit .284 in 159 games in 2004, with 97 runs, 23 homers, 94 RBIs, which were all his best totals in those last three categories during his time with the Padres. He led the National League with 119 walks in 2005, while batting .301 in 158 games, with 92 runs, 38 doubles, 15 homers, 83 RBIs and a .905 OPS. He finished ninth in the MVP voting that season, his highest finish during his career. Giles hit .263 in 158 games during the 2006 season, with 87 runs, 37 doubles, 14 homers, 83 RBIs, 104 walks and a .771 OPS. He missed a little time in 2007, which limited him to 121 games. He batted .271 that year, with 72 runs, 42 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs, 64 walks and a .777 OPS. He set a career best with 40 doubles in 2008, while also batting .306 in 147 games. He hit just 12 homers that season, but his .854 OPS was still a strong improvement over his previous two seasons. Giles finished with 81 runs, 63 RBIs and 87 walks. He was limited to 61 games in 2009 due to a knee injury. He batted just .191 for the season, with 18 runs, ten doubles, two homers, 23 RBIs and a .548 OPS. Giles became a free agent after the season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though he decided to retire during the early part of Spring Training in 2010.
Giles has the highest OPS in Pirates franchise history with his 1.018 mark, and three of his single season home run totals are among the top ten in Pirates history. He hit .308 with Pittsburgh, finishing with 501 runs scored, 174 doubles, 165 homers, 506 RBIs and 519 walks in 715 games. He hit .291 over his 15-year career, with 1,121 runs scored, 411 doubles, 55 triples, 287 homers, 1,078 RBIs, 109 steals and 1,183 walks in 1,847 games. He had some issues in the playoffs over the years, batting .205 with no homers in 29 games. Giles posted 26.1 WAR in his five seasons with the Pirates and 17.4 WAR in seven seasons with the Padres. He had 7.6 WAR with the Indians. His only two All-Star appearances came while he was with the Pirates. He played 885 games in right field during his career, with 646 games in left field and 303 in center field. His brother Marcus spent seven seasons in the majors, including one year (2007) as his teammate in San Diego.
Cecil Espy, outfielder for the 1991-92 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1980, taken eighth overall out of high school. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .274 in 58 games, with 33 runs, ten extra-base hits, 26 RBIs, 23 steals and a .683 OPS. Espy started the 1981 season in A-Ball with Appleton of the Midwest League, but he ended up playing the second half back in the Gulf Coast League. He combined to hit .229 in 115 games, with 61 runs, nine extra-base hits, 35 RBIs, 20 steals and a .563 OPS, putting up much better results at the lower level. Before he could play a game for the White Sox, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in March of 1982. Espy hit .317 in 131 games for Class-A Vero Beach of the Florida State League in 1982. He scored 100 runs that year, with 22 extra-base hits, 34 RBIs, 58 walks, a .763 OPS and 74 stolen bases in 89 attempts. The next year he moved up to San Antonio of the Double-A Texas League, where he batted .268 in 133 games, with 88 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 51 steals and a .671 OPS. He played 20 games for the Dodgers that year. He batted just 12 times, while mostly serving as a defensive replacement. He had three hits, a double, RBI and a walk.
Espy spent all of 1984-85 back with San Antonio. He put up solid numbers, though he never moved up to Triple-A. He had a .273 average and a .720 OPS in 133 games in 1984, with 99 runs, 19 doubles, eight triples, eight homers, 64 RBIs, 48 steals and 54 walks. He followed that up with a .280 average and a .724 OPS in 124 games in 1985, with some issues on the bases. His stolen base total dropped to 20, but he was also caught 17 times. He had 64 runs, 32 extra-base hits and 49 RBIs. He was then he was traded to the Pirates in September 1985, along with RJ Reynolds and Sid Bream, in exchange for Bill Madlock. Espy hit .263 in 1986, with 49 runs, 26 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and 41 stolen bases in 106 games for Triple-A Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League. His .665 OPS was 33 points below the team average. The Pirates lost Espy to the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft after the 1986 season. He returned to the majors in September of 1987, after putting up a .302 average, with 76 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 46 steals and a .724 OPS in 118 games with Oklahoma City of the Triple-A American Association. He batted just nine times in 14 games for Texas, and failed to get a hit during his second big league trial. Despite the lack of hitting during his few chances, he stuck in the majors this time.
Espy was a regular for the Rangers during the 1988-89 seasons, then played sparingly in 1990. He hit .248 in 123 games in 1988, with 46 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs, 33 steals and a .637 OPS. He hit .257 in 142 games during the 1989 season, with 65 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, a .644 OPS and 45 steals in 65 attempts. He batted just .127/.235/.127 over 52 games in 1990, and ended up spending over a month back in Oklahoma City, where he had a .708 OPS in 34 games. After four seasons in Texas, in which he hit .241 with 91 steals in 331 games, Espy was allowed to leave via free agency. He signed with the Pirates on February 11, 1991. He hit .244/.281/.329 in 92 plate appearances over 43 games in Pittsburgh, while spending most of the year in Triple-A. He had a .312 average, 69 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 22 steals and an .810 OPS in 102 games with Buffalo of the American Association. He debuted with the Pirates in center field on August 1st, and spent the rest of the season with the team, though he made just 17 starts in those 43 games played. He struck out in two pinch-hit at-bats during the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Espy got into 112 games with the 1992 Pirates, mostly off the bench. He hit .258/.310/.340 in 211 plate appearances, with 21 runs, 20 RBIs and six steals. He got starts at all three outfield spots (25 starts total), while seeing a lot of time as a defensive replacement in right field. He played four games during the NLCS against the Braves that year, going 2-for-3 at the plate.
Espy was put on waivers after the 1992 season, where he was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds. He played one partial season for Cincinnati, batting 76 times in 40 games, putting up a .233/.368/.267 slash line. He struggled in Triple-A that year with Indianapolis of the American Association, putting up a .229 average and a .546 OPS. He then spent 1994 in the minors with an independent team, playing for San Bernardino of the High-A California League. Espy had a rough time there despite the drop in competition. He had a .187 average and a .524 OPS. He then went overseas to China in 1995, batting .263 with a .688 OPS in 49 games. He retired after spending the 1996 season in Mexico (no stats available). In 546 Major League games over eight seasons, he had a .244 average, with 160 runs, 43 doubles, 16 triples, seven homers, 108 RBIs and 103 stolen bases. He stole 358 bases in the minors.
Carl Taylor, catcher/outfielder for the 1968-69 and 1971 Pirates. Taylor was signed by the Pirates in early 1962 as an amateur free agent at 18 years old. It took him five full minor league seasons before he made the majors with the Pirates as a member of the 1968 Opening Day roster. He debuted in 1962 with Kingsport of the Class-D Appalachian League, where he hit .246/.348/.314 in 40 games. He played for Batavia of the Class-A New York-Penn League in 1963, where he batted .294 in 120 games, with 79 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs, 70 walks and an .840 OPS. Taylor hit .291 in 124 games for Kinston of the Class-A Carolina League in 1964. He had 75 runs, 26 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs and 84 walks, leading to a .793 OPS. He played his first of two straight seasons with Asheville of the Double-A Southern League in 1965. He batted .251 in 111 games that year, with 50 runs, 19 doubles, four homers, 43 RBIs, 48 walks and a .683 OPS. He improved to a .292 average in 129 games in 1966, with 56 runs, 18 doubles, seven homers, 35 RBIs, 48 walks and a .766 OPS. Most of the 1967 season was spent back in Double-A, with the new Pirates affiliate in Macon of the Southern League. Taylor hit .293 in 114 games that season, with 37 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 53 RBIs and a .776 OPS. He saw brief Triple-A time with Columbus of the International League that year, going 1-for-6 with a walk. After the regular season ended, he played 52 games in the Florida Instructional League, back when they kept stats for the league. He put up a .286 average and a .764 OPS in that league, which featured players from all levels.
Taylor spent the entire 1968 season on the Major League roster, but he only played 44 games (17 starts) and received just 82 plate appearances. He was the backup catcher to Jerry May, who started 128 games that year. Taylor also saw some brief time in the corner outfield spots. He batted .211/.309/.225 with ten walks, and a double as his only extra-base hit. Things got better rapidly for him in the majors. He hit .348 in 1969, with 30 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and an .889 OPS in 104 games. He played first base, outfield and he was often used as a pinch-hitter, but he didn’t see any time at catcher, which was his natural position at the time. Manny Sanguillen took over the starting catcher spot that year and May became his backup, which pushed Taylor off of the spot. Right after the 1969 season ended, the Pirates traded Taylor to the St Louis Cardinals in a four-player deal that landed them longtime reliever Dave Giusti in return. Taylor played one year for St Louis, hitting .249 in 1970, with 39 runs, 20 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs, 41 walks and a .745 OPS in 104 games. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in October of 1970. The Brewers then traded him to the Kansas City Royals 3 1/2 months later.
On September 3, 1971, the Pirates purchased Taylor’s contract from the Royals to help them with their playoff push. He batted .362/.470/.504 in 73 games for the Royals Triple-A affiliate (Omaha of the American Association) that year, but he hit just .179/.261/.179 in 20 big league games. Taylor went 2-for-12 in seven games for the Pirates to finish the season. Just prior to the start of the 1972 season, the Pirates sold him back to Kansas City, where he finished his playing career in 1973. He had a .783 OPS in 31 games with Omaha in 1972, while spending a majority of the seasons in the majors, where he had a .266 average in 63 games, with 17 runs, 11 RBIs and a .662 OPS. He hit .228/.363/.283 in 69 games during his final year. Taylor began in the majors as a catcher, and he finished back behind the plate during his final two seasons. He didn’t catch in the majors during the 1969-71 seasons, playing first base and outfield during that time. He was a .266 hitter, with 113 runs, 31 doubles, ten homers and 115 RBIs in 411 Major League games over six seasons. He hit .309 in 155 games with the Pirates. He was a .291 hitter over 755 games in the minors.
Jesse Gonder. catcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. He started his Major League career with the team that the Pirates beat in the 1960 World Series, but he was originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a teenager. Gonder debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1955 with Ogden of the Class-C Pioneer League, where he batted .279 in 114 games, with 57 runs, 12 doubles, eight triples, 15 homers, 67 RBIs and an .824 OPS. He stayed in Class-C ball in 1956, playing for Wausau of the Northern League. He hit .296 in 119 games, with 54 runs, 23 doubles, 14 homers, 68 RBIs, 54 walks and an .842 OPS. He played with three different Class-B teams affiliated with the Reds in 1957, playing between 27 and 41 games each with Clovis of the Southwestern League, Wenatchee of the Northwest League and Port Arthur/Temple of the Big State League. He hit .326 between all three stops, with 83 runs, 30 doubles, 20 homers, 88 RBIs and a .992 OPS in 95 games. He also played eight games in Mexico that season. Gonder saw time in Mexico, Double-A (San Antonio of the Texas League) and Triple-A (Seattle of the Pacific Coast League) during the 1958 season. He hit .321/.352/.508 in 67 games in the states, and he batted .298/.335/.550 in Mexico with ten homers in 39 games. With Havana of the Triple-A International League in 1959, Gonder hit .238 in 112 games, with 40 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and a .664 OPS. He was traded to the New York Yankees in March of 1960, then spent most of the regular season with Richmond of the International League, where he hit .327 in 109 games, with 44 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs and an .872 OPS. He made his big league debut in late September of 1960, just over a week before the World Series started. Gonder went 2-for-7 in seven games during his first big league trial.
Gonder played 77 games for Richmond in 1961, where he had a .226 average and a .652 OPS. He also played 15 games that season for the Yankees, going 4-for-12, with two runs, three RBIs and three walks. He played parts of two seasons for the Yankees before they traded him back to the Reds prior to the 1962 season. Gonder played just four games in the majors in 1962, but he excelled in the minors, leading the Pacific Coast League with a .342 average and 116 RBIs, while playing for San Diego. He also had 76 runs, 31 doubles, 21 homers and a .927 OPS. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts with the Reds. Gonder played a total of 26 games through his first three big league trials, and just one of those games came as a starter. He was traded to the New York Mets during the 1963 season, and began to see his first significant playing time in the majors. Prior to the deal, he batted 33 times in 31 games and had a .313 average for the 1963 Reds. The Mets were in their second season as a franchise, after going 40-120 in 1962. They were only slightly better in 1963, but that allowed Gonder to play regularly after the trade. In his first season in New York, he hit .302/.328/.405 in 42 games to finish out the 1963 season. He batted .270 in 1964, with 28 runs, 11 doubles, seven homers, 35 RBIs and a .698 OPS, while playing 131 games. It was the only time in his career that he played over 100 games in a season. That opportunity for full-time play didn’t last long.
Gonder was traded for a fourth time during the middle of the 1965 season, this time going to the Milwaukee Braves. He batted .238/.308/.391 with four homers in 53 games for the Mets before the deal. He then hit .151/.211/.245 in 31 games after the trade. The Pirates picked him up in November of 1965 during the Rule 5 draft. He had played a total of 314 games during his first six seasons in the majors prior to joining Pittsburgh. He played 59 games for the 1966 Pirates, 52 of them behind the plate. He hit .225/.287/.388 in 174 plate appearances, with 13 runs, three doubles, seven homers and 16 RBIs. He spent half of the 1967 season in the minors, getting into 22 games with the Pirates before he was sent down in June. Gonder was hitting .139/.279/.167 in 45 plate appearances prior to being sent down. That ended up being his final big league time. He went to Columbus of the International League for the rest of the season, where he hit .241 in 60 games, with 20 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs.
The Pirates left Gonder off of their reserve roster following the 1967 season, then they traded his rights in April of 1968 for two minor league players. He was traded to the Yankees, but they had a deal to supply a player to the Braves, so he filled that role. Gonder played two more seasons in the minors before retiring as a player, seeing time with affiliates of the California Angels, Braves and San Francisco Giants. He had a .267 average and a .702 OPS over 91 games during the 1968 season, splitting his time between Richmond of the International League and Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. He finished up with Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League in 1969, where he had a .233 average and a .632 OPS in 27 games. Gonder had a .251 average over eight seasons in the majors, with 73 runs, 28 doubles, 26 homers and 94 RBIs in 395 games.
Denny Sothern, outfielder for the 1930 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at Martinsburg of the Class-D Blue Ridge League, where he hit .321 in 99 games, with 18 doubles, four triples and ten homers. The next year was spent with three different teams, though the majority came with Martinsburg, where he hit .327 in 45 games. His other two clubs were both at the Class-B level, including a .321 average in 27 games with Decatur of the Three-I League, and five games for Wilkes-Barre of the New York-Penn League. A majority of the 1926 season was spent with Cumberland of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League, where he had a .374 average, with 40 doubles, 15 triples and 20 homers in only 95 games. He also had a .370 average, four doubles and two homers in 12 games with Asheville of the Class-B South Atlantic League. Sothern made his MLB debut for the Philadelphia Phillies in September of 1926 at 22 years old. He hit .245/.310/.434 with three homers and ten RBIs in 14 games. He then spent all of 1927 in the minors with Class-A Pittsfield of the Eastern League, where he hit for a .308 average, with 35 doubles, four triples and 19 homers in 149 games. That led to him becoming Philadelphia’s regular center fielder for the 1928 season. He batted .285 in 141 games during his first full season, with 82 runs scored, 37 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and a .701 OPS. He stole 17 bases, but he was caught 15 times.
Sothern followed up that rookie season with a .306 average in 1929, 52 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .793 OPS in 76 games. He played 90 games with the Phillies in 1930 before they traded him to the Pirates on August 7, 1930 in exchange for 23-year-old outfielder Fred Brickell. The deal was technically two players claimed off waivers, with the Phillies wanting to get rid of Sothern because he was unhappy for quite some time playing in Philadelphia. They also wanted Brickell for a while, so when he became available, they put Sothern on waivers in order to have roster room to make the claim. Sothern was hitting .280/.322/.404 over 90 games at the time of the “trade”. He didn’t do as well with the Pirates, hitting just .176/.222/.314 (9-for-51) in 17 games. They gave him eight starts in center field in August, then he played just six of the final 25 games, four of those coming off of the bench. He hurt his leg while rounding third base on September 3rd, and then his only appearance over the next two weeks was as a pinch-hitter on September 10th.
On November 11, 1930, the Pirates sold Sothern’s contract to the Baltimore Orioles of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time). He remained there until he was purchased by the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) on August 3, 1931. He had a .327 average in 101 games with Baltimore in 1931, with 22 doubles, six triples and 14 homers. He played 19 games with the Robins over the final two months of the 1931 season. His Major League career was over after hitting .161/.257/.194 during that time. It was said that the Dodgers paid $17,500 to purchase him from Baltimore, which was brought up from time-to-time years later. He finished his playing career in the minors in 1933, and later managed for two years in the minors. Sothern was a .322 hitter in seven minor league seasons, but he did not finish strong. He split the 1932 season between Jersey City of the International League and Hartford of the Eastern League, hitting .256 in 46 games, with six doubles and a homer. He ended his career with Jersey City in 1933, batting .252 in 38 games, with three doubles and a homer. He was just 29 years old at the time. In his big league career, he hit .280 in 357 games, with 219 runs scored, 80 doubles, 19 homers and 115 RBIs. During his time in Pittsburgh, his last name was often spelled “Southern” in the local papers.