Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. We start with the one who was also traded on his birthday.
John Smiley, pitcher for the 1986-91 Pirates. He was a 12th round draft pick of Pittsburgh in the 1983 amateur draft, who made his Major League debut in September of 1986. Smiley was drafted as an 18-year-old out of Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, PA. He is one of four players drafted out of that school, and the only one to make it to the majors. He did not have a great debut in pro ball during that 1983 season, posting a 5.92 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 65.1 innings over 12 starts in the Gulf Coast League. Things got a little better with Macon of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1984, despite a 5-11 record. Smiley had a 3.95 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 130 innings over 19 starts and two relief appearances. He remained with Macon for part of 1985, putting up a 3-8, 4.67 record in 88.2 innings over 16 starts. He spent the rest of the year with Class-A Prince William of the Carolina League, posting a 5.14 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in ten starts. Smiley had 115 strikeouts over 144.2 innings that year, going from a rate of 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 1984, up to 7.2 strikeouts per nine frames in 1985. The Pirates place him back with Prince William in 1986, where he pitched out of the bullpen. He had a 3.10 ERA in 90 innings, with a 1.16 WHIP, 93 strikeouts and 14 saves over 48 appearances. He made the jump to the majors that September, then never returned to the minors. Smiley had a 3.86 ERA and an 0.69 WHIP in 11.2 innings over 12 appearances during his first stint in the majors.
Smiley struggled through 63 relief appearances with the 1987 Pirates, putting up a 5.63 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP in 75 innings, with 50 walks and 58 strikeouts. He spent his first two seasons in the bullpen before moving to the starting role for 1988. Seemingly out of nowhere, Smiley went 13-11 in 1988, while posting a 3.25 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 205 innings. He made 32 starts, throwing five complete games, including one shutout. He also had 129 strikeouts, which was his high with the Pirates. He followed it up with a 12-8, 2.81 record in 205.1 innings over 28 starts in 1989, completing eight of those outings. He had 123 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP, which was the seventh best mark in the league. The Pirates won their first pennant in 11 seasons in 1990, but Smiley struggled on the mound. He went 9-10, 4.64, with 86 strikeouts and a 1.32 WHIP over 25 starts and one relief appearance. His innings dropped down to 149 that season, after topping the 200 mark two straight years. He missed six weeks mid-season when he slammed his hand in a car door on May 19th, breaking a bone in his pitching hand. He pitched two shutout innings in relief during the NLCS.
Pittsburgh won the National League East again in 1991, and this time Smiley was a big part of that team. He went 20-8, 3.08 in 207.2 innings, with 129 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP. That led to a third place finishing in the Cy Young voting, plus his first All-Star appearance. He also received mild MVP support, finishing 14th in the voting. He got hit hard in both of his NLCS starts against the Atlanta Braves, lasting a total of just 2.2 innings between both games, with eight runs allowed. With one year left on his contract before free agency, the Pirates traded him on his 27th birthday to the Minnesota Twins for Denny Neagle and Midre Cummings. Smiley won 16 games, posted a 1.12 WHIP, and pitched a career high 241 innings for the Twins, but the Pirates were still able to make the playoffs for a third straight time without him. The deal worked out great for them, as Neagle became a star pitcher for a time, and then he was used to acquire Jason Schmidt. Smiley had a 3.08 ERA in his only season with the Twins, while topping his previous strikeout high total with 163 strikeouts on the season. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent in 1993, then won 50 games over the next five seasons, before injuries ended his career.
Smiley’s time in Cincinnati got off to a rough start, going 3-9, 5.62 in 105.2 innings in 1993, before an elbow injury sidelined him for the rest of the season in early July. He had a 1.40 WHIP during his 18 starts that year. He did better during the strike-shortened 1994 season, going 11-10, 3.86, with 112 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP in 158.2 innings over 24 starts, before things were shut down. He also did well in the slightly shortened 1995 season, going 12-5, 3.46 in 176.2 innings, while making his second (and final) All-Star appearance. He had a 1.20 WHIP and 124 strikeouts that year. Smiley had a 13-14, 3.64 record in 217.1 innings in 1996, setting his career high with 171 strikeouts, while posting a 1.20 WHIP. He had 34 starts that year, including his final two career shutouts. He then saw his career come to a close late in the 1997 season after being traded to the Cleveland Indians. While warming up for a start in late September, he broke a bone in his arm near his shoulder. He was about to make his first appearance since August 30th, after missing three weeks due to tendinitis in his elbow and shoulder. Smiley went 11-14, 5.31 that year in 154.1 innings, doing slightly better work in his 20 starts with the Reds, before posting a 5.54 ERA in six starts with the Indians. He spent the entire 1998 and 1999 seasons rehabbing his injury, with hopes of playing in 2000. He signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in January of 2000, after throwing off the mound at Three Rivers Stadium, but two weeks later shoulder pain caused him to stop pitching. His deal with the Pirates was voided, ending his career. With the Pirates, he went 60-42, 3.57 in 854 innings over 196 games. He had a 126-103, 3.80 career record in 12 seasons, throwing 1,907.2 innings over 280 starts and 81 relief appearances. He finished with 1,284 strikeouts.
Raul Chavez, catcher for the 2008 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela at 17 years old in 1990 by the Houston Astros. It took Chavez six years before he made the majors with the Montreal Expos at the end of the 1996 season. He debuted in pro ball with the 1990 Gulf Coast League Astros, where he batted .323 in 48 games, with 23 runs, nine extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and a .745 OPS. He moved up to Burlington of the Class-A Midwest League in 1991, where he hit .257 in 114 games, with 54 runs, 17 doubles, three homers, 41 RBIs and a .631 OPS. Chavez was with Asheville of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 1992. He hit .285 that year in 95 games, with 37 runs, 22 doubles, two homers, 40 RBIs and a .691 OPS. He moved up to Osceola of the High-A Florida State League in 1993, and struggled with the jump to a pitcher-friendly league, hitting .228/.261/.264 in 58 games, with 13 runs, six extra-base hits and 16 RBIs. Chavez spent the 1994 season with Jackson of the Double-A Texas League, hitting .219 in 89 games, with 17 runs, eight extra-base hits (seven doubles) and 22 RBIs. Due to low power/walk numbers, he finished with a .532 OPS. That was followed by spending part of 1995 back in Jackson, along with a 32-game stint with Tuscon of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He put up slightly better results at the lower level, combining to hit .278 in 90 games, with 30 runs scored, 13 doubles, four homers, 35 RBIs and a .688 OPS. He was acquired by the Montreal Expos in a three-player trade in December of 1995.
Chavez spent most of 1996 with Triple-A Ottawa of the International League, where he hit .248/.291/.328 in 60 games, with 15 runs, ten doubles, two homers and 24 RBIs. His first shot at the majors saw him play just four games over four weeks. He received just one start during that time, which came on the final day of the season. He batted six times total, collecting one hit and one walk. Interestingly enough, he stole a base during that brief big league time, something he had not accomplished in the minors since one steal in 1994. Chavez made it back to the majors for two stints in 1997. He played a total of 13 games for the Expos, batting .269/.259/.269, with no extra-base hits or walks. His OBP was lower than his average due to a sacrifice fly. He hit .245/.293/.339 that year in 92 games with Ottawa. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in May of 1998, then played just one big league game for them in two years. He was 11 games into his third season with Ottawa at the time of the deal. Seattle sent him to Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .223 average and a .595 OPS in 76 games, playing in a very hitter-friendly park/league. His one game with the Mariners came on July 4, 1998 as a late replacement at catcher. He batted .268 in 102 games for Tacoma in 1999, with 39 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs and a .687 OPS.
Chavez signed as a free agent with the Astros in January of 2000. He remained there through the end of Spring Training in 2006, spending most of his first four seasons in Triple-A with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. He played 14 games for the Astros in 2000. He hit his first big league home run that year, to go along with a .256 average and a .670 OPS. He hit .244 over 99 games with New Orleans that season, collecting 31 runs, 13 doubles, two homers and 36 RBIs, to go along with a .632 OPS. He spent all of 2001 in New Orleans, hitting .302 in 85 games, with 38 runs, 17 doubles, eight homers, 40 RBIs and an .810 OPS. Almost all of 2002 was spent in New Orleans, where he batted .228 in 111 games, with 24 doubles, ten doubles, three homers, 36 RBIs and a .557 OPS that was 210 points below league average. Chavez returned to the big league level for two games in late September of 2002, going 1-for-4 at the plate, with a double and a run scored. He saw 19 big league games in 2003, hitting .270/.290/.432 in 38 plate appearances. He played two games in mid-April, then rejoined the Astros for the final five weeks of the season. He batted .273 over 101 games that year with New Orleans, finishing up the year with a .273 average, 47 runs, 28 doubles, six triples, 47 RBIs and a .724 OPS.
Chavez finally got an extended big league stay in 2004, when he played a career high 64 games over the course of the entire season. He hit .210 that year, with nine runs, eight doubles, no homers, 23 RBIs and a .515 OPS. Chavez was a backup for the Astros for most of 2005, though he hit just .172/.210/.263 in 37 games, with six runs, three doubles, two homers and six RBIs. The rest of the year was spent with Houston’s new Triple-A affiliate, Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .619 OPS in 34 games. He was picked up off of waivers by the Baltimore Orioles right before Opening Day in 2006. He hit .179/.207/.179 in 16 big league games in 2006, finishing with no extra-base hits and one walk. He was sent to Double-A that year, where he played for Bowie of the Eastern League. The 33-year-old Chavez had a .255 average and a .627 OPS in 52 games. He played winter ball in Venezuela during the 2006-07 off-season, putting up a .276 average and a .721 OPS in 37 games. He spent all of 2007 in Triple-A with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the New York Yankees. He batted .221 that year in 86 games, with 29 runs, 14 doubles, four homers, 31 RBIs and a .576 OPS. Chavez signed with the Pirates as a free agent on December 7, 2007. Prior to his one season in Pittsburgh, he had played 170 Major League games spread out over nine seasons.
Chavez started in Triple-A with Indianapolis of the International League, where he had a .306 average and an .846 OPS in 26 games. He was called to the majors when Ryan Doumit got hurt in early May, then he stayed there as Doumit’s backup in early June when a struggling Ronny Paulino was sent to Triple-A instead. Chavez hit .259 in 42 games for the Pirates, with 12 runs, four doubles, one homer, ten RBIs and a .606 OPS. He left via free agency following the 2008 season, then signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a strong winter in Venezuela over the 2008-09 off-season, putting up a .314 average and a .758 OPS in 49 games. He batted .258 over 51 games for Toronto in 2009, with ten runs, eight doubles, two homers, 15 RBIs and a .631 OPS. Chavez then spent his final two seasons of pro ball in the minors. He was with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate in 2010, playing for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. He had a .210 average and a .551 OPS in 55 games that year. His winter ball time that year amounted to 38 games, in which he hit .248/.307/.381 over 133 plate appearances. He spent 2011 with Buffalo of the International League, playing for the affiliate of the New York Mets. He batted .199/.214/.253 over 80 games that year. His final pro experience was winter ball in Venezuela during the 2011-12 off-season, where he had a .479 OPS in 17 games. It was his sixth year of playing winter ball in his home country. Chavez was a .231 hitter in 263 big league games, with 48 runs, 27 doubles, seven homers and 65 RBIs. He was never much of a minor league hitter, making it to the majors more because of his defense. In a career that lasted 21 years, he had a .252 average and 55 homers in 1,566 minor league games. He threw out 41% of base runners in his big league career during a time when catchers averaged a 28% caught stealing rate.
Rod Scurry, pitcher for the 1980-85 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the first round of the 1974 amateur draft, taken 11th overall out of Hug HS in Nevada at 18 years old. Despite the fact he made it to Double-A to start the 1976 season, he didn’t make his Major League debut until four years later. He debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League in 1974 with Niagara Falls, where he finished with a 5-6, 3.44 record in 89 innings, with a 1.45 WHIP and 102 strikeouts. He moved up to Salem of the Class-A Carolina League in his first full season. He went 9-12, 3.66 in 150 innings during that 1975 season, with 143 strikeouts and a 1.64 WHIP, which was high due to 118 walks. He had an 8-8, 3.88 ERA record in 123 innings over 24 starts for Double-A Shreveport of the Texas League in 1976, finishing the year with a 1.65 WHIP, as well as 83 walks and 83 strikeouts. Scurry did much better during a second season with Shreveport in 1977, putting up a 2.87 ERA in 18 starts, with a 1.28 WHIP, 48 walks and 111 strikeouts in 113 innings. Despite that low ERA, he had a 3-11 record. He was promoted late in the year to Columbus of the Triple-A International League, where he had a 4.62 ERA in eight starts, with a 1.68 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 37 innings. Scurry split the 1978 season between Shreveport and Columbus, and he struggled at both stops. He posted a combined 5.38 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP in 92 innings, while also seeing his first minor league relief work. He had 16 starts and five relief appearances that year. Despite the poor results, he still managed to pick up more than a strikeout per inning, finishing with 95 strikeouts on the year.
Scurry split 1979 between the bullpen and starting (15 starts and 20 relief appearances), spending the entire year at Portland, as the Pirates switched their Triple-A affiliate from the International League to the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. His 4.13 ERA in 122 innings was enough to get him a September call-up, though he didn’t pitch for the World Series champs until the 1980 season. He struck out 94 batters that season, showing a sharp decline over the 1978 season. He also had a 1.58 WHIP, so it was still a rough year despite getting called up to the majors. Scurry was a starter for most of his minor league career with the Pirates, but he was put in the bullpen full-time once he made it to the majors. He made just seven starts in his six years in Pittsburgh, all in 1981. He did well in his first year in the majors, posting a 2.15 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 37.2 innings over 20 appearances, seeing sporadic mound time for the last four months of the 1980 season. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Scurry went 4-5, 3.77 in 74 innings, picking up seven saves, to go along with 65 strikeouts and a 1.54 WHIP. He had a 4.33 ERA in his seven starts that year, and a 2.97 ERA in relief. He had a big year in 1982, posting a 1.74 ERA in 103.2 innings over 76 appearances. He set career highs with 14 saves and 94 strikeouts. Despite the great ERA, his 1.38 WHIP was seven points higher than league average. Scurry’s 1983 season was a major disappointment. His ERA ballooned to 5.56 in 61 appearances, and he walked 53 batters in 68 innings. His total of 67 strikeouts gave him a nice strikeout rate on the year, but he also had a 1.71 WHIP.
Scurry turned things around as far as his stats in 1984, but it was not a good year overall. He got his ERA down to 2.53, and his WHIP was 1.08 on the season, though he was limited to 46.1 innings due to disabled list stints for drug dependency issues in April, and an elbow injury in August. The Pirates sold him to the New York Yankees in September of 1985, after he posted a 3.21 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 47.2 innings over 30 appearances that season. He finished up 1985 strong with the Yankees, putting up a 2.84 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings He played in New York in 1986, though he missed two full months with a knee injury, which limited him to 39.1 innings for the season. He had a 3.66 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP in his 31 appearances that year. Scurry finished his big league career with the Seattle Mariners in 1988, after he spent the 1987 season in Triple-A with the San Francisco Giants. He had a 3-3, 3.77 record in 1987 for Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, with 57 strikeouts and a 1.58 WHIP in 59.2 innings. He went 0-2, 4.02, with a 1.60 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 31.1 innings over 39 games during his one season with the Mariners. Scurry spent part of that year with Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 4.07 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in 24.1 innings. In 257 games for the Pirates, he went 17-28, 3.15, with 34 saves in 377.1 innings pitched. He finished his eight-year career with a 19-32, 3.24 record in 460.2 innings, with 431 strikeouts, 39 saves and a 1.43 WHIP. Scurry passed away of a heart attack at 36 years old, just four years after his final game.
Cito Gaston, outfielder for the 1978 Pirates. He debuted in the majors with the Atlanta Braves at age 23 in 1967, three years after they signed him as an amateur free agent. He debuted in 1964 at Class-A ball, splitting the year between Greenville of the Western Carolinas League and Binghamton of the New York-Penn League. He hit .231 in 60 games that first year, with 16 runs, eight doubles, one homer, 20 RBIs, a .593 OPS and a 9:56 BB/SO ratio. He spent the 1965 season struggling with West Palm Beach of the Class-A Florida State League, hitting just .188 in 70 games, with 14 runs, five doubles, three triples, no homers, nine RBIs and a .548 OPS. He had a big seasons in the minors with Batavia of the Class-A New York-Penn League in 1966. He hit .330 in 114 games, with 84 runs, 18 doubles, 28 homers, 104 RBIs and a 1.001 OPS, prior to a late season push to Double-A Austin of the Texas League, where he went 3-for-10 with a double, triple and two walks in four games. He batted .305 for Austin in 1967, with 72 runs, 24 doubles, ten homers, 70 RBIs and an .801 OPS in 136 games, before getting his first chance with the Braves. Gaston saw just nine games in September during his first stint in the majors, hitting .120/.120/.200 in 27 plate appearances. He spent all of 1968 in the minors, with most of that time back in Double-A with Shreveport of the Texas League, while also playing 21 games for Richmond of the Triple-A International League. He combined to hit .273 in 117 games, with 58 runs, 19 doubles, eight homers, 65 RBIs and a .724 OPS.
Gaston resurfaced in the majors with the San Diego Padres during their first year of existence, after they selected him in the 1968 Expansion Draft. He didn’t do anything in 1969 that would make you think that his best big league season was on the horizon. He batted .230 during his first full season in the majors, with 20 runs, 11 doubles, seven triples, two homers, 28 RBIs and a .585 OPS in 129 games. Gaston was more of a fourth outfielder type performer for most of his career, but he had a big season in 1970 as a full-time player. That year he made his only All-Star appearance, while putting up a .318 average, 92 runs, 26 doubles, nine triples, 29 homers and 93 RBIs in 146 games. All of those stats were the high marks of his career. His .907 OPS that year was 143 points higher than his second best career mark. He received mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 24th in the voting. He quickly dropped back to earth after his All-Star season, batting .228 in 1971, with 57 runs, 13 doubles, nine triples, 17 homers, 61 RBIs and a .650 OPS in 141 games. That was followed .269 average in 1972, with 30 runs, 14 doubles, seven homers, 44 RBIs and a .674 OPS in 111 games.
Gaston had a .250 average over 133 games in 1973, with 51 runs, 18 doubles, 16 homers, 57 RBIs and a .686 OPS. He hit .213/.259/.322 in 1974, with 19 runs, 11 doubles, six homers and 33 RBIs in 106 games. The Padres traded him back to the Braves following the 1974 season. Gaston was a backup outfielder during his four seasons in Atlanta after the trade, starting just 93 games total, with a handful of starts at first base each year. He played between 56 and 69 games each season during that stretch. He hit .241/.321/.397 in 1975, with 17 runs, four doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 64 games. That was followed by his best season with the Braves, when he hit .291 in 1976, with 15 runs, four doubles, four homers, 25 RBIs and a .764 OPS in 69 games. He made just 25 starts that year. Gaston really took a bench role in 1977, getting 11 starts and 93 plate appearances in 56 games that year. He hit .271/.301/.424, with six runs, three homers and 21 RBIs.
Gaston was in his 11th year in the majors when the Pirates purchased his contract from the Braves on September 22, 1978. With ten games left in the season and the Pirates trailing the first place Philadelphia Phillies by just 1.5 games in the standings, the team acquired Gaston’s veteran bat to help off the bench. Pittsburgh ended up using him just twice, as the Phillies ended up the division. He went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and run scored. Before joining the Pirates, he was hitting .229/.244/.263, with one homer and nine RBIs in 124 plate appearances over 60 games for the Braves. He played two years in the Mexican League following that 1978 season, which ended up being the last year of his Major League career. He hit .324 over 40 games in the short-lived Inter-American League in 1979. His stats from Mexico are unavailable from the 1979 season, but he had a .238 average and a .610 OPS over 48 games in 1980 with Leon of the Mexican League. Gaston was a .256 hitter over 1,026 Major League games, with 314 runs scored, 106 doubles, 91 homers and 387 RBIs. In his career, he was a .254 hitter in 254 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, with seven homers and 42 RBIs. Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons (1989-97, 2008-10), leading them to World Series titles in 1992-93. He finished with an 894-837 record. During his first year as a manager, Toronto started the season 12-24, before Gaston took over and led them to a 77-49 record over the rest of the season. At the time, he was the team’s hitting coach.
Pete Reiser, outfielder for the 1951 Pirates. He originally signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 1937 at 18 years old, then became property of the Brooklyn Dodgers the next year when the Cardinals were forced to get rid of 74 of their minor league players because they violated rules about having multiple minor league affiliates in the same league. Reiser debuted in pro ball in Class-D ball, spending a large majority of his first season with Newport of the Northeast Arkansas League, where he hit .285 in 70 games, with 22 extra-base hits. He also spent some time with New Iberia of the Evangeline League, though no stats are available. He batted .302 during his first year in the Dodgers system, with 78 runs, 27 doubles, ten triples, 18 homers, 59 RBIs, 21 steals and a .920 OPS in 95 games for Superior of the Class-D Northern League. He then hit .301 after moving up three levels to Elmira of the Class-A Eastern League in 1939, though he was injured for a good portion of the year and played just 38 games. He had 15 extra-base hits in his limited time. Reiser was able to work his way to the majors by mid-season in 1940, after hitting .378 in 67 games for Elmira, with 15 doubles, 12 triples and seven homers. Once he reached the Dodgers, he hit .293 during his rookie season, with 34 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and a .755 OPS in 58 games.
Reiser quickly became a household name in 1941, winning a batting title with his .343 average, while also leading the league in run (117), doubles (39), triples (17), total bases (299), slugging (.558) and OPS (.964). He also added 14 homers and 76 RBIs. He led all National League center fielders with 355 putouts and 14 assists. He made his first All-Star appearance that year, and finished second in the MVP to teammate Dolph Camilli. Brooklyn had the top three spots in the MVP voting that year, with pitcher Whit Wyatt finishing third. Reiser batted .200 with three extra-base hits in the World Series that year, which the Dodgers lost to the New York Yankees. He batted .310 in 1942, with 89 runs, 33 doubles, ten homers, 64 RBIs and an .838 OPS. He made his second All-Star appearance that year, and he finished sixth in the MVP voting. He was a 23-year-old star when he enlisted in the military prior to the 1943 season. Reiser actually failed the physical to get into the Navy due to injuries he suffered playing baseball, before he was accepted into the Army. His time was mostly spent entertaining troops playing for the baseball team on base, but he still missed three years in the prime of his career.
Reiser returned to the Dodgers in 1946, when he made his third (and final) All-Star appearance. He batted .277 in 122 games that first year back, with 75 runs scored, 21 doubles, 11 homers, 73 RBIs and a league leading 34 stolen bases. He finished ninth in the MVP voting, which was the final time he received MVP support. Not only did he miss all of that time during the war, but he also had trouble staying healthy later in his career due to the hard-nosed play he showed on the field throughout his entire pro career. He batted .309 in 1947, though he was limited to 110 games, missing more than a month after he ran into the concrete wall at Ebbetts Field in a June 4th game against the Pirates. He actually did better after the injury, hitting .331 in the final 69 games. His .832 OPS that year was the third best of his career. He had 68 runs, 23 doubles, five homers, 46 RBIs and a career high 68 walks. In the World Series that year, he batted .250 with three walks and a run scored. The Dodgers lost to the New York Yankees in both years that Reiser appeared in the World Series.
Despite the strong finish to 1947, Reiser quickly fell off from that point. He hit just .236 in 64 games (33 starts) in 1948, though his .736 OPS that year was still better than league average. He had 17 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. That was followed by a trade to the Boston Braves after the 1948 season. Reiser had a solid first year in Boston, putting up a .271 average, 32 runs, eight homers, 40 RBIs, and an .812 OPS over 84 games in 1949. He was released by the Braves after batting just .205/.367/.269 in 1950, with 12 runs, two doubles, one homer and ten RBIs in 58 games. The injuries had taken their toll by the time the Pirates signed him in November of 1950, and he was limited to a backup role. Reiser played 74 games for Pittsburgh, with 49 of those games coming off the bench. He had a .271 average, with 22 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 140 at-bats, finishing with a strong .811 OPS. The Pirates released him following the season. He signed with the Cleveland Indians, where he finished his career in 1952 by hitting .136/.208/.364 in 34 games. Reiser had a .295 career average and an .829 OPS in 862 Major League games. He led the National League in stolen bases twice, though he finished with just 87 career steals, after attempting just 18 steals in his final five years combined. He finished up with 473 runs, 155 doubles, 41 triples, 58 homers and 368 RBIs.
Ralph Shafer, pinch-runner for the 1914 Pirates. The Pirates announced his signing on July 22, 1914, saying that he would report to the team within a few days, though he ended up showing up the next day. Shafer was in his first season of pro ball at the time, playing for Huntington of the Class-D Ohio State League, after previously playing college ball for the University of Cincinnati. That league was five levels below the majors at the time, or in other words, it was the equivalent of making the jump from short-season ball to the majors now. Shafer played his only Major League game three days after his signing was announced. In the 8th inning of a game on July 25th against the New York Giants, the Pirates trailed 4-2. With no one on and one out, Ham Hyatt collected a single off Christy Mathewson. Shafer was called off the bench to run for the slow-footed first baseman, who was pinch-hitting for pitcher Marty O’Toole. The next batter popped up the shortstop, then future Hall of Famer Max Carey struck out to end the inning. Shafer returned to the bench, having never left first base. Little did he know at the time, but his big league career was over. The Pirates traveled to Long Branch, NJ the next day to play an exhibition game, which was to be a tryout for a few young players who just joined the Pirates, among them being Shafer. The newspaper reported the next day that he played with a lot of energy during the exhibition game, but he was unlikely to play in the rest of the Giants-Pirates series.
On July 28th, it was reported that another young outfielder named John Collins seemed to be the better of the two new outfielders during pre-game fielding and batting practice. They said that if either saw any time it would be Collins, who made his debut just days later. The papers were correct, and Collins would end up playing 49 games that season for the Pirates. The Pirates played a doubleheader on August 1st, and it was said that if Shafer looked good in batting practice he would start one game. That obviously didn’t work out for him. Shafer and a pitcher were sent back to Pittsburgh two days later (after another exhibition game), while the rest of the team continued a road trip that had ten days left. Teams back in that era would leave lesser players at home to save on travel expenses, but the Pirates were doing so poorly during this period that they were trying new players almost daily. They used 30 different position players that season, despite the fact five of their players ended up playing over 140 games that year. Since he wasn’t playing, Shafer was allowed to return home to attend to some business matters. On August 5th, it was announced that he was released back to the Ohio State League because his rights didn’t actually belong to the Huntington club, so they didn’t have the authority to sell him. He ended up being assigned to the Lexington club and remained there through the end of the 1915 season. He also saw some time with the Newport/Paris club of the same league. His limited minor league stats available from that year show a .269 average in 122 games, with 15 doubles and five triples.
Shafer played with Lexington in 1915, where he hit .252 in 42 games. He was with Lexington for part of 1916 (no stats are available), but spent more time two levels higher with Terre Haute of the Class-B Central League, where he hit .196 in 49 games. He has no 1917-1920 minors league records, but he returned to pro ball for the 1921-22 seasons before retiring from baseball. He spent those final two seasons playing a total of 79 games for Kitchener of the Class-B Michigan-Ontario League. He hit .249 over 57 games in 1921, with 26 runs, eight extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and a .614 OPS. Shafer had a .211 average over 22 games in 1922, with 16 singles in 76 at-bats. I was able to track him down to play for Marshalltown of the Class-D Central Association in 1917. He became an athletic director at a high school in Evansville, Indiana, where he was working in 1918 until joining in the war effort. He then played semi-pro ball near his home in Cincinnati during the 1919-20 seasons, before returning to pro ball for two more years. After his final season of pro ball, he went into coaching in 1923.
Jesse Hoffmeister, third baseman for the 1897 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1896, playing for two different teams (Youngstown and Toledo) in the Class-C Interstate League. His moving around that year would be a sign of things to come. Hoffmeister also played for two teams in the Interstate League in 1897 (then classified as a Class-B level), spending part of the year with Youngstown, while also playing for Springfield. The Pirates paid Springfield $500 for his release on July 22, 1897 according to one source, while another said the purchase price was $1,000. He was called the toughest man ever to play in the Interstate League, with a cannon for an arm. He was leading the league in average at the time, while hitting 15 homers in half of a season (his stats are unavailable for 1896 and limited for 1897). If he stayed with the Pirates, the papers said that he would get a $1,900 salary for the season. He joined the Pirates on July 23, 1897, and he was in the lineup the next day. He held the third base job through the end of the season. The 20-year-old Hoffmeister made quite an impression on the 4,000 Pirates fans who witnessed his first game. He collected three hits (two singles and a triple), scored three times and drove home six runs in a 16-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, while garnering the nickname “Hoffy” that same day. It was said that he spent more than two hours after the game talking to fans of the Pirates who were at his first game. He continued his hot hitting the rest of the way, batting .309 in 48 games, with 33 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs and an .821 OPS. On September 28th, he had a single, triple and homer off of pitcher Dave Wright, who pitched just two big league games. Wright’s first game came two years earlier for the Pirates, when he allowed six runs in two innings.
Despite the strong performance on offense, Hoffmeister spent the rest of his ten-year pro career in the minors. His fielding was likely part of the cause, with 31 errors in those 48 games, including two in his first game. He had a .792 fielding percentage with the Pirates, which was exactly 100 points below a league average, which he had a hand in bringing down to that .892 mark. The Pirates traded for third baseman Bill Gray during the 1897-98 off-season, giving them a much better fielder than Hoffmeister. The move didn’t exactly work out, as Gray hit just .229 (with no homers) in 137 games during his only season with the Pirates. Hoffmeister signed his contract to play with the Pirates in early February of 1898. Hoffmeister was with the team through Spring Training, though he hand a finger injury on his throwing hand that severely affected his performance in the field. He stopped playing shortly after the injury, then became sick while remaining behind at the Spring Training spot in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Once healthy, he reported to Indianapolis of the Class-A Western League (highest level of the minors at the time) for the rest of the season, where he hit .297 in 64 games, with 43 runs, 18 extra-base hits and seven steals. He played for three different teams in 1899, including Kansas City and St Paul of the Western League (no stats available), as well as one game for Cedar Rapids of the Class-B Western Association. A beaning in early June knocked him out of the game for some time, with one paper saying “two physicians worked on him for 90 minutes before he showed signs of life”.
Hoffmeister played in the minors until 1906, seeing action with 14 different teams during that stretch from 1898 until 1906, and that’s with him being out of pro ball in 1900. While I was unable to track him down in 1900, it’s interesting to note that his name never showed up in print from the time of his 1899 beaning, until he was told to report to Spring Training in 1901, so it’s possible that the beaning, which was said to have hit him in the left temple, kept him out of action. It’s also interesting to note that his batting side is listed as unknown, but getting beaned in the left temple would suggest he was a right-handed hitter. He had a bit of an odd season in 1901, getting released by Terre Haute of the Class-D Three-I League, after hitting .233 in 11 games. That was followed by a .302 average in 86 games with Class-B New Orleans of the Southern Association. He batted .274 in 107 games for two different teams in the Southern Association in 1902, playing 72 games with Atlanta and 35 with Chattanooga. He had 29 extra-base hits that year, including 23 doubles. He then continued that trend of playing for two teams for each of the next four years. Hoffmeister hit .327 in 71 games for Crookston of the Class-D Northern League in 1903. He also batted .206 in nine games with Minneapolis of the Class-A American Association. He hit .250 in 34 games for Crookston in 1904, along with a .275 average in 26 games for Butte of the Class-B Pacific National League. His final two seasons were spent in the Class-D Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs. Hoffmeister is credited with hitting .196 in 87 games in 1905, splitting the year between Ottumwa and Waterloo. He batted .242 over 74 games in 1906, playing for Ottumwa and Oskaloosa. Until recent research uncovered the date, his birthday was unknown. He kept in shape in the off-season by bowling, a sport which he excelled in.
Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!