Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one transaction of note.
On this date in 1969, the Pirates signed 16-year-old Omar Moreno as an amateur free agent out of Panama. It took him six years to make his debut in the majors, and he was a starter for the Pirates by 1977. He was a big part in the 1979 World Series winning season by playing all 162 games, while scoring 110 runs and stealing 77 bases. He also batted .311 in the postseason that year, with seven runs scored, two doubles, a triple and three walks. He played eight seasons with the Pirates, and a total of 12 years in the majors. In 944 games with Pittsburgh, he batted .255 in 944 games for Pittsburgh, finishing with 530 runs, 115 doubles, 59 triples, 25 homers, 263 RBIs and 412 stolen bases. Moreno tied the team record for steals in 1979, then set the team record with 96 stolen bases in 1980. He led the National League in steals during the 1978 and 1979 seasons. He ranks third in team history in steals, only trailing Hall of Famers Max Carey and Honus Wagner.
Jake Marisnick, outfielder for the 2022 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick out of high school by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009. He was traded to the Miami Marlins in a blockbuster deal after the 2012 season, with 11 players and cash included in the deal. Marisnick opened up his pro career in 2010, after signing too late to play in 2009. He split his first season evenly between the rookie level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, and Lansing of the Class-A Midwest League. He hit .253 in 69 games, with 33 runs, 20 doubles, four homers, 26 RBIs, 23 steals and a .733 OPS, with significantly better results at the lower level. He spent all of 2011 in Lansing, hitting .320 in 118 games, with 68 runs, 27 doubles, six triples, 14 homers, 77 RBIs, 37 steals and an .888 OPS. Marisnick split the 2012 season between Dunedin of the High-A Florida State League, and New Hampshire of the Double-A Eastern League. He combined to hit .250 in 120 games, with 66 runs, 29 doubles, ten triples, eight homers, 50 RBIs, 24 steals and a .719 OPS. His results in Dunedin were significantly in better in nearly equal time. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit .314/.380/.457 in 19 games. Marisnick spent about half of 2013 with Jacksonville of the Double-A Southern League after joining the Marlins. The rest of the year (except three games in High-A), was spent in the majors. He batted .294/.358/.502 in 67 games with Jacksonville. He hit .184/.231/.248 in 40 games for the Marlins, with six runs, four extra-base hits and five RBIs.
Marisnick spent a majority of the 2014 season with New Orleans of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He had a .277 average in 89 games, with 50 runs, 16 doubles, ten homers, 40 RBIs, 24 steals and a .761 OPS. He hit .167/.216/.167 in 14 games with the Marlins, before he was sent to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. He spent the rest of the year in the majors, hitting .272/.299/.370 in 51 games, with 18 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. Outside of three games for Fresno of the Pacific Coast League in 2015, the entire season was spent with the Astros. Marisnick hit .236 in 133 games, with 46 runs, 15 doubles, nine homers, 36 RBIs, 24 steals and a .665 OPS. He played seven games for Fresno in 2016, then the rest of the year was spent in Houston, where he batted .209 in 118 games, with 40 runs, 18 doubles, five homers, 21 RBIs, ten steals and a .588 OPS. He had a .244 average in 2017, with 50 runs, ten doubles, 16 homers, 35 RBIs and an .815 OPS in 106 games. Marisnick spent 19 games with Fresno in 2018, where he put up a .343 average and a 1.074 OPS. He spent some time on the disabled list as well that year. His big league time in 2018 saw him hit .211 in 103 games, with 34 runs, eight doubles, ten homers, 28 RBIs and a .674 OPS. He finally played a full season in the majors in 2019, playing 120 games, in which he had a .233 average, 46 runs, 16 doubles, ten homers, 34 RBIs, ten steals and a .700 OPS.
Marisnick was traded to the New York Mets in December of 2019. He played 16 games during the shortened 2020 season, hitting .333/.353/.606 in 34 plate appearances. His missed time that year twice with hamstring injuries. He became a free agent after the 2020 season, then signed with the Chicago Cubs, who traded him to the San Diego Padres in July of 2021. Between both stops that season, he batted .216 in 99 games, with 21 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and a .661 OPS. He had a .473 OPS in 34 games with the Padres that year. Marisnick signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers for 2022, but he was released before Opening Day. The Pirates signed him on April 7, 2022. He hit .234/.272/.390 in 31 games for the Pirates, with 22 of those games coming before he injured his thumb in early May, then spent the next two months injured, including his rehab time with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League. Marisnick played nine games for the Pirates once he returned in July, before getting released. He signed with the Atlanta Braves on August 30th, though he spent the rest of the year with Gwinnett of the International League. He signed a free agent deal with the Chicago White Sox for the 2023 season. He has a .228 career average in 831 games over ten seasons, with 277 runs, 93 doubles, 63 homers, 213 RBIs and 79 steals.
Dan Runzler, pitcher for the 2017 Pirates. He pitched four seasons for the San Francisco Giants, twice playing on World Series winning teams. Runzler was 32 years old and five years removed from his last big league appearance when he signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent prior to the 2017 season. He was originally drafted in the 17th round in 2006 by the Seattle Mariners out of the University of California Riverside. He decided to return to school, where he moved up to a ninth round pick of the Giants in 2007. He played short-season ball his first season of pro ball, seeing almost all of his time in the rookie level Arizona League, where he had a 3.44 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 18.1 innings over 15 appearances. Runzler made one appearance that year for Salem-Keizer of the Northwest League, allowing a run in his only inning of work. He had a 2.10 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 30 innings with Salem-Keizer in 2008, but he struggled that year with a promotion to Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League, posting a 5.47 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP in 24.2 innings over 20 appearances. Despite that high ERA/WHIP, he was just a year away from making an incredible leap through the Giants system. Runzler pitched for all four full-season affiliates of the Giants in 2009, followed by a September trial in the majors. His ERA was under 1.00 with all four teams, though his time with Double-A (Connecticut of the Eastern League) and Triple-A (Fresno of the Pacific Coast League) amounted to eight games in which he gave up one run over 11.1 innings. He pitched 19 times for Augusta that year, and 19 more for San Jose of the High-A California League. He had an 0.76 ERA and an 0.80 WHIP, with 83 strikeouts in 59 innings over 47 appearances in the minors between all four stops. After joining the Giants, he gave up one run in 8.2 innings over 11 outings in the majors.
Despite a high walk rate, Runzler had a strong 2010 season in San Francisco as a lefty specialist. He posted a 3.03 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 32.2 innings over 41 games. He dislocated his knee in a game in early July and missed exactly two months of the season, before returning in early September. His season also included a total of eight rehab appearances for three minor league teams. Runzler made three scoreless appearances in the Arizona Fall League followed the 2010 season. He ran into a rough patch in 2011, when he had a 6.26 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 27.1 innings over 31 games. He spent half of the season in Triple-A with Fresno of the Pacific Coast League, getting time as a starting pitcher. He went 2-3, 3.98 in 52 innings, with 59 strikeouts and a 1.52 WHIP. He made just 15 starts in his 13-year pro career and ten came during that stint in the minors. Runzler played a bit part during their 2012 World Series winning season, getting into six games in September without allowing a run. He had a 6.00 ERA in the minors that year, mostly pitching for Fresno, where he made 29 of his 32 appearances. Despite playing for two World Series winning teams, he never pitched in the postseason. Runzler was actually playing in the Arizona Fall League while the Giants were in the World Series. He had a 3.33 ERA and 11 strikeouts in eight innings over ten appearances that fall. He played with Fresno for all of 2013 and 2014, with poor results the first year, putting up a 5.68 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP in 52.1 innings. That was followed by a solid 3.30 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 46.1 innings in 2014. Part of that 2014 season was spent in Japan, where he had a 4.50 ERA in six appearances with Orix.
Runzler spent the 2015-16 seasons seeing time in independent ball with Sugar Land of the Atlantic League, and Triple-A for the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks. In 17.1 innings over 19 appearances for Sugar Land in 2015, he posted an 0.52 ERA, an 0.87 WHIP and 20 strikeouts. The rest of that year was spent with Reno of the Pacific Coast League (Diamondbacks), where he had a 5.26 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP in 37.2 innings. Runzler made 33 appearances for Sugar Land in 2016, going 0-1, 1.95 in 27.2 innings, with 29 strikeouts and a 1.66 WHIP. The rest of the year was spent with Rochester of the International League (Twins), where he posted a 5.82 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP in 21.2 innings. He signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent on November 2, 2016, then spent the 2017 season with Indianapolis. He put up a 3.05 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in 41.1 innings over 40 games, before getting a surprise call up in September. He made eight appearances with the 2017 Pirates, giving up four runs (two earned) in four innings. Runzler spent the next two seasons pitching back in Sugar Land, while also seeing time in 2019 with Pawtucket of the International League (Boston Red Sox affiliate). He went 4-2, 2.81 in 48 innings for Sugar Land in 2018, picking up 58 strikeouts that year. He had a 5.40 ERA in 26.1 innings with Pawtucket in 2019, along with a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings with Sugar Land. He also signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for a time, but never appeared in a game for them. He did not play during the 2020 season, officially ending his career. In five big league seasons, he had a 4-2, 3.89 record, a 1.55 WHIP and 82 strikeouts in 76.1 innings over 97 games.
Mike Johnston, pitcher for the 2004-05 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 1998 amateur draft, taken out of Garrett Community College in Maryland. To this date, he’s the last player from that school to get drafted and the only one to make the majors. Johnston began his minor league career as a reliever, switching to the starting role full-time in 2001, and then for part of 2002. He had a 3.41 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP over 31.2 innings at 19 years old in 1998, mostly pitching in the Gulf Coast League. He moved up to Erie of the short-season New York-Penn League to end the 1998 season, then remained in the league with Williamsport in 1999, where he went 3-2, 4.25 in 42.1 innings over two starts and 12 relief appearances. He had a 1.51 WHIP and 30 strikeouts that year. He pitched for Hickory of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2000, where he struggled in a long relief role, putting up a 6.22 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 25 appearances, though he did have 52 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. That was followed by the move to the starting rotation, which paid off for him. Between 16 starts in Hickory, plus another ten with Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League (plus one relief appearance), Johnston had an 8-9, 3.36 record, a 1.42 WHIP and 124 strikeouts in 155.1 innings. He spent the entire 2002 season in Lynchburg, though he was limited to ten starts and five relief appearances. He had a 3.63 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 57 innings. Those would be his final career starts in pro ball.
Johnston made his Double-A debut with Altoona of the Eastern League in 2003, where he had a 2.12 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 72.1 innings over 46 relief appearances. He was added to the 40-man roster after the season. The Pirates skipped him over Triple-A, right to the majors to open up the 2004 season. He didn’t allow a run in his first nine outings, while posting a 1.84 ERA through his first two months. Things went downhill from there as his ERA rose to 4.37 three weeks later, before he was returned to the minors, where he put up an 8.40 ERA in 19 appearances for Nashville of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Johnston pitched well with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League in 2005 (Pirates changed affiliates), but he gave up four runs on four hits (two home runs) in one inning during his only big league game on June 24th. He went 2-1, 2.97 over 57.2 innings with Indianapolis in 2005, finishing with 52 strikeouts, a 1.27 WHIP and 57 appearances. He pitched with Indianapolis in 2006, putting up a 5.74 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 42.1 innings, before being released by the Pirates. He missed the entire 2007-08 seasons with a torn labrum, then made a brief comeback in the Chicago White Sox system in 2009, allowing just one run in 16.1 innings, but that wasn’t enough to get him back to the majors. He had a final comeback in 2012 with Lancaster of the independent Atlantic League, where he had a 4.13 ERA in 24 innings. Johnston worked with a hard fastball that routinely hit 95+ MPH, along with a strong slider as his secondary pitch. He suffered from Tourette’s syndrome, which caused him to drop out of high school, but the condition was less severe as he got older. He had to play American Legion ball and get a GED so he could attend college, where he was drafted four years after leaving high school.
James “Ripper” Collins, first baseman for the 1941 Pirates. He played seven seasons in the minors before getting his first chance at the big league level. He played just 13 games total in 1923, split between two Class-B teams. He had a .239 average, one double, one triple and one homer in 46 at-bats, seeing time with York of the New York-Penn League and Wilson of the Virginia League. He didn’t play in the minors in 1924. In his first full season of minor league ball in 1925 at 21 years old, Collins hit .327 in 99 games for Johnstown of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League, finishing with 30 doubles, nine triples and 15 homers. He basically matched those stats during the 1926 season while still in Johnstown, hitting .313 in 102 games, with 25 doubles, nine triples and 14 homers. He also saw four games for Rochester of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time) that year, where he had an identical .313 average in his short time. His 1927 stats are incomplete, as he bounced around playing for three different teams. It’s known that he had a .246 average and six extra-base hits in 45 games for Rochester, but his specific stats from his stints with Jacksonville and Savannah of the Class-B Southeastern League are unknown. He combined between all three stops to hit .272 in 141 games, with 17 doubles, 16 triples and six homers. Collins spent most of 1928 playing for Danville of the Class-B Three-I League, where he hit he hit .388 in 124 games, with 28 doubles, 15 triples and 19 homers. He also spent 14 games with Rochester, where he hit .375 in 32 at-bats, with four extra-base hits (all homers).
Collins finally stuck with Rochester in 1929, when he responded with a .315 average in 154 games, finishing with 38 doubles, 12 triples and 38 homers. Offense was up all around baseball due to new baseballs being used, so while those are big numbers, they didn’t earn him a shot until after he had another big season for Rochester. Collins hit .376 in 1930, with 34 doubles, 19 triples and 40 homers in 167 games. He had twice as many homers as his nearest teammate Pepper Martin, who went on to become a four-time All-Star. The St Louis Cardinals brought Collins to the majors for the first time in 1931. While he hit .301 in 89 games, he didn’t show any of the home run power he had the previous two seasons in the minors. He still finished with an .838 OPS, partially due to 20 doubles and ten triples, but he hit just four homers. Collins had 34 runs and 59 RBIs as a rookie. The Cardinals won the World Series that year. He went 0-for-2 in the postseason. That lack of power changed in 1932, when he hit 21 homers and drove in 91 runs. Despite adding those extra homers, he saw a drop in his OPS down to an .802 mark. He batted .279 in 149 games, with 82 runs, 28 doubles and eight triples. He saw most of his time at first base that year, but saw plenty of time in right field and left field as well. His performance led to a 21st place finish in the MVP voting. Collins hit .310 in 132 games as the regular first baseman for the 1933 Cardinals. He had 66 runs, 26 doubles, seven triples, ten homers, 68 RBIs and an .816 OPS. That led up to his best season in the majors. He hit a league-leading 35 homers in 1934, while adding a .333 average, 116 runs, 40 doubles, 12 triples and 128 RBIs. He also led the National League with 154 games played, a .615 slugging percentage, 369 total bases, and a 1.008 OPS. He finished sixth in the MVP voting. The Cardinals won their second World Series with Collins in 1934. He was a big part of their postseason success, going 11-for-30, with four runs and three RBIs.
Collins couldn’t keep up those big numbers from 1934 for long, but he followed it up with another strong season. He hit .313 in 1935, with 109 runs, 36 doubles, ten triples, 23 homers, 122 RBIs and a career high 65 walks, while making the NL All-Star team for the first time (the first All-Star game was played just two years earlier). He also finished 21st in the MVP voting. While his .915 OPS that year was a large drop from his big season, it was still the sixth best mark in the league. His production was down just slightly in 1936, then really dropped off each of the next two seasons, although he did make the All-Star team again in 1936 and 1937. Collins batted .292 in 1936, with 15 doubles, three triples and 13 homers in 103 games. He finished with the odd stat line of 48 runs, 48 RBIs and 48 walks. He was actually healthy all season, but his games were limited after a slow start to the year, followed by him moving to a pinch-hitting role during the second half of the season. He still managed to put up a .908 OPS that year. He followed that season up with a .274 average in 1937 for the Chicago Cubs, joining his new team in a three-player deal completed just days after the 1936 season ended. He collected 77 runs, 16 doubles, five triples, 16 homers and 71 RBIs in 115 games that year. His .765 OPS was the worst of his career to that point. Collins batted .267 for the Cubs in 1938, with 78 runs, 22 doubles, eight triples, 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 143 games, finishing with a .768 OPS. Chicago made the World Series, where they got swept by the New York Yankees. He went 2-for-15 that postseason, with two singles and no walks.
Collins was returned to the minors in 1939 at age 35, spending two seasons in the Double-A Pacific Coast League as a member of the Cubs affiliate in Los Angeles. He hit .334 in 1939, with 40 doubles, nine triples, 26 homers and 128 RBIs in 172 games. He then followed it up with .327 average, 42 doubles, five triples, 18 homers and 111 RBIs in 174 games during the 1940 season. The Pirates purchased his contract on March 25, 1941 for $5,000. He was used as a bat off of the bench for much of that 1941 season. The Pirates reportedly brought him in an insurance for first baseman Elbie Fletcher, who had a knee injury earlier in his career. Collins himself helped broker the deal, in part because Los Angeles tried to cut his salary from $1,100 a month down to $800 a month. It also helped that Pirates manager Frankie Frisch was his manager for four season in St Louis, when Collins was at his peak. He started just six games all year with the Pirates, two of them in right field during a doubleheader in May. Collins batted .210/.279/.307 in 70 plate appearances over 49 games with the Pirates, collecting five runs, four extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. He was released by Pittsburgh in November of 1941 under his own request, so he could take a player-manager job for Albany of the Class-A Eastern League. That was a position he held for five seasons. His big league stats show a .296 average in 1,084 games, with 615 runs, 205 doubles, 65 triples, 135 homers and 639 RBIs over nine seasons.
Collins managed a total of ten seasons in the minors. He was 38 years old when he joined Albany in 1942. He hit .276 in 118 games that year, with 16 doubles, two triples and three homers. He batted .312 over 82 games in 1943, finishing up with 37 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 11 steals and an .818 OPS. He batted .396 over 100 games in 1944, as more players joined in wartime service. He had 62 runs, 40 doubles, eight triples, three homers, 77 RBIs and a 1.083 OPS. Collins batted .336 in 1945, with 49 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 61 RBIs and a .920 OPS. He struck out ten times in 338 plate appearances, which was actually a slightly worse strikeout rate than the 1944 season, when he went down 11 times in 386 plate appearances. During his final season with Albany in 1945, he had a .336 average in 43 games, with 17 runs, 11 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and an .868 OPS. He played his final games at 43 years old in 1947 for San Diego of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, though no stats are available. While his minor league stats aren’t completely known, it is known that he had over 2,900 hits in pro ball, while hitting over 300 homers.
Hal Rhyne, infielder for the 1926-27 Pirates. He played four seasons for San Francisco of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time) before the Pirates acquired him for 1926. Rhyne debuted in pro ball with Des Moines of the Class-A Western League in 1921 at 22 years old. He hit .311 in 111 games that year, with 28 doubles, five triples and no homers. He moved up to San Francisco in 1922, where he hit .285 in 189 games (they played extended schedules in that league). He had 39 doubles and eight triples, but he was still looking for his first home run going into 1923. He batted .296 over 168 games in 1923, with 26 doubles, four triples and five homers. Rhyne batted .298 in 1924, with 224 hits, 34 doubles, two triples and two homers in 196 games. That was followed up by his best year in 1925, when he hit .315 in 188 games, with 228 hits, 48 doubles, three triples and three homers. After that big season, the Pirates swung a cash deal for Rhyne and Hall of Famer Paul Waner, which reportedly cost them $100,000 on October 12, 1925. They completed the deal on the same day as game five of the World Series, which was won by the Pirates.
Rhyne had his doubters among scouts, who all praised his strong defense at shortstop, but they said that he had trouble hitting a curve ball, and therefore wouldn’t hit in the majors. He was said to have average speed and no power, but he was a very smart player. He played 66 games at second base and 44 at shortstop for the Pirates as a rookie in 1926. He hit .251 that year, with 46 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs and a .649 OPS in 366 at-bats. He was the Pirates starting second baseman during the first three weeks of the 1927 season, then sat on the bench until Pie Traynor got injured, allowing Rhyne more playing time. He was the starting second baseman again for most of August, but he then played only five of the last 39 games, getting just four plate appearances during that stretch. He batted .274 in 62 games, with 21 runs, five doubles (no triples or homers), 17 RBIs and a .633 OPS. He started at second base in game three of the World Series, going 0-for-4 at the plate. Rhyne beat out 20-year-old Joe Cronin for the second base job during Spring Training of 1927, which turned out to be an awful decision on the part of the Pirates. Cronin would play just 12 games all season with the Pirates, then moved on to the Washington Senators in 1928, where he would turn himself into a Hall of Fame player.
Rhyne was sold back to the San Francisco Seals on February 9, 1928. He spent the 1928 season with San Francisco, hitting .312 in 185 games, with 216 hits, 37 doubles and six homers. He then returned for five more season in the majors, spending that time with the Boston Red Sox (1929-32) and Chicago White Sox (1933). Rhyne batted .251 over 120 games in 1929, with 41 runs, 24 doubles, five triples and 38 RBIs and a .659 OPS, while seeing most of his playing time at shortstop. The 1930 season was a huge year for offense in baseball, but Rhyne managed to hit just .203 in 107 games. His .533 OPS that year was 239 points below league average, which left him with a -0.7 WAR for the season, despite above average defensive numbers. He had 35 runs, 13 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs that year. He had his best big league season at the plate in 1931, which combined with his strong defense, led to a 14th place finish in the MVP voting. Rhyne hit .273 in 147 games, with 75 runs, 34 doubles, 51 RBIs and 57 walks. He had a .685 OPS that year, which stood as his career high. He led all American League shortstops in assists and fielding percentage that season.
Rhyne’s hitting dropped off the next year, down to a .227 average in 71 games, though the OPS drop was just 41 points due to a comparable slugging percentage. He had 26 runs, 12 doubles, five triples and 14 RBIs. He then he played just 39 games for the 1933 White Sox over the course of the entire season, batting .265/.315/.301, with nine runs and ten RBIs in 91 plate appearances. He returned to San Francisco in 1934, then spent the last seven seasons of his career in the minors on the west coast. Rhyne batted .258 over 184 games in 1934, with 34 doubles and seven triples. He followed that up with a .295 average in 1935, with 34 doubles, two triples and one homer in 150 games. He batted .255 in 1936, when he had 75 runs, 22 doubles, 53 RBIs and 11 steals in 137 games. He played his final full season in San Francisco in 1937. He had a .255 average that year in 121 games, with 53 runs, 23 extra-base hits (22 doubles) and 46 RBIs. He played five games for San Francisco in 1928. From 1938 to 1940, Rhyne was a player/manager for Tacoma of the Class-B Western International League. He had a .285 average over 43 games in 1938, with 21 runs, eight extra-base hits, seven RBIs and a .745 OPS. He hit .387 over 42 games in 1939, with 12 extra-base hits in 93 at-bats. He finished up by going 4-for-15 with a double in 11 games during the 1940 season. During his seven-year big league career, he was a .250 hitter in 655 games, with 252 runs, 98 doubles, 22 triples, 192 RBIs and a .641 OPS. Rhyne hit just two big league homers, both with the Pirates in his rookie season, and both were inside-the-park homers. He played 1,730 minor league games, and had over 1,800 hits, along with a .291 average.
Ed Sicking, second baseman for the 1927 Pirates. He was an accomplished minor league player, who was never able to put together a strong showing in the majors. Sicking had over 2,500 minor league hits during a 16-year career, but his Major League career barely lasted 200 games. He played one game for the 1916 Chicago Cubs, debuting in the majors as a 19-year-old pinch-hitter on August 26th. That season was also his first year in pro ball. He spent the year in the Class-C Virginia League with Norfolk, where he hit .267 in 96 games, with 20 extra-base hits. Sicking spent all of 1917 in the minors with San Antonio of the Class-B Texas League, where he hit .277 in 160 games, with 17 doubles, 12 triples and three homers. He was with San Antonio for part of 1918 before returning to the majors. He had a .308 average and 18 extra-base hits in 63 games before joining the New York Giants mid-season. He hit .250 in 46 games in New York in 1918, splitting his time between third base and second base. He finished with a .563 OPS due to low walk/power numbers, finishing the year with nine runs, four extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. He played six games with the Giants early in 1919, before being purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies on May 4th, after the Giants tried to send him to Rochester of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time). He would have needed to clear waivers to be sent down, but the Phillies purchased him instead, with the understanding that the Giants could get him back. The Phillies didn’t want to return him mid-season, so by a ruling of a league meeting, it was decided that he would be returned to the Giants at the end of the season.. Sicking hit .216 in 61 games for the 1919 Phillies, with 16 runs, two doubles, one triple, 15 RBIs and eight walks, resulting in a .490 OPS. He was back with the Giants in 1920, but after hitting .172/.235/.209 in 46 games, he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds in early July. He finished the year with the Reds, hitting .268/.338/.293 in 37 games. He then spent all of 1921-26 in the minors playing for the Indianapolis Indians of the Double-A American Association.
Sicking hit between .285 and .320 each season with Indianapolis, but it took until 1927 for him to get another shot at the majors. He averaged 158 games per year with Indianapolis, showing a decent amount of doubles and triples, but he homered just 12 times during those six years. He hit .285 over 167 games in 1921, with 34 extra-base hits, including 29 doubles. He had a .290 average in 1922, with 22 extra-base hits in 169 games. Sicking batted .290 again in 1923, with 20 doubles, 12 triples and three homers in 162 games. His 1924 season saw him bat .320 in 167 games, with 32 doubles, ten triples and one homer. He played 120 games during the 1925 season, finishing with a .316 average, 27 doubles, four triples and a homer. He batted .300 in 1926, with 27 doubles, seven triples and one homer in 162 games. He had a higher slugging percentage in each of his three previous seasons, but that was the year that helped him get back to the majors. The 1927 Pirates went on to win the National League pennant, but Sicking was around for just the first three weeks, getting seven at-bats in eight games before returning to the minors.
Just like the aforementioned Hal Rhyne, Sicking played second base for the 1927 Pirates. In fact, Sicking was acquired early in the season because the Pirates wanted a veteran presence to take turns at second base, forcing the 20-year-old Joe Cronin to a deep bench spot. Pirates new manager Donie Bush spent the 1924-26 seasons managing Indianapolis, where Sicking was his everyday second baseman all three seasons. The Pirates purchased his contract on April 6th from Indianapolis, just eight days after naming Hal Rhyne the starting second baseman. Sicking couldn’t play regularly with the Pirates due to an arm injury. The Pirates asked waivers on him on May 8th, but before his ten days were up, he was told to report back to the Pirates by May 23rd. He did just that, though nine days later he was outright released to Indianapolis without playing another game, ending his big league career. He ended up batting eight times in six games with the Pirates, going 1-for-7 with a walk. He made just two starts, which ended up being his final two big league games.
From 1927 until 1931, Sicking batted over .300 every season in the minors, while playing one step from the majors in the American Association, yet he never got another big league chance. He split the rest of the 1927 season between Louisville and Indianapolis, hitting .303 in 118 games, with 31 extra-base hits, including 25 doubles. He had a .368 average in 168 games for Louisville in 1928, with 114 runs, 38 doubles, 14 steals, 55 walks and an .860 OPS. He batted .310 in 1929, with 22 doubles, eight triples and two homers in 148 games. The 1930 season was split between Louisville and Minneapolis. He hit .312 in 148 games, with 36 doubles, five triples and four homers. He had a .323 average for Minneapolis in 1931, with 28 doubles, two triples and five homers in 142 games. He batted .275 for Minneapolis in 1932 over 84 games, collecting just six extra-base hits. Sicking then dropped down to Class-B Keokuk of the Mississippi Valley League, where he hit .321 in his final season, with 33 doubles, eight triples and a homer in 115 games. He retired after 1933 with a .306 minor league batting average in 2,189 games. In his five seasons in the majors, he hit .226 in 203 games, with 51 runs, 13 doubles, two triples, no homers, 59 RBIs and 14 steals. Modern defensive metrics credit his as being slightly above average. He played 85 games at second base, 56 at shortstop and 54 at third base.
Dutch Meier, outfielder/shortstop for the 1906 Pirates. He was a well-known football and baseball player from Princeton, who never played pro ball until the Pirates convinced him to sign in November of 1905. It was said in the newspaper on the day Meier signed that he had already played for the Pirates “last Summer” under as assumed name. Those appearances were in exhibition games (teams used to play those during the season), and he went by the name Koch. The local paper later surmised that “Koch” was believed to be Meier. He played his first exhibition game with the Pirates on September 14, 1905, against a team from Springfield of the Class-B Three-I League. He failed to collect a hit, while playing the entire game in left field. A local Pittsburgh paper the next day called him “the recruit from nobody-knows-where”. By his next game, there were already rumors that Koch was Dutch Meier. Against a minor league team from Newark, NJ on September 18th, Koch/Meier started at shortstop, where he had two hits, while also getting robbed of another hit. The next day in Youngstown, Ohio, Meier hit a home run that was the highlight of the 6-0 Pirates win. The crowd was initially disappointed that Honus Wagner wasn’t starting at shortstop, but Meier delighted the crowd in Wagner’s place, playing shortstop and hitting third. The Pirates played another exhibition game the very next day, and Wagner returned. Meier heading over to first base, where he failed to get a hit against the local semi-pro Braddock team, but he handled all eight plays in the field without issue.
Dutch (his first name was Arthur) was with the Pirates for the entire 1906 season, getting into 82 games, splitting his time between each of the three outfield positions and some shortstop. He had a .256 average, with 32 runs, 11 doubles, four triples, no homers, 16 RBIs, four stolen bases and a .624 OPS. He was above average defensively in the outfield, but his .899 fielding percentage at shortstop was well below average. Meier got a stretch of 17 straight starts in left field beginning on May 16th, after Fred Clarke injured his shoulder making a catch. That one season with the Pirates ended up being Meier’s only pro experience, minors or majors. On February 7, 1907, it was said that he signed with a semi-pro team in Chicago called the Spaldings (a team named after Hall of Famer Al Spalding), which would have got him banned from baseball for jumping his contract. However, four days later, he sent a note to the Pirates saying that he was retiring from professional baseball. In a letter to owner Barney Dreyfuss, Meier said that his relatives talked him out of playing professional baseball, and the life of a Major League player wasn’t for him, but he would still play semi-pro ball. He had previously played with the Spaldings before joining the Pirates. Before his time with the Spaldings, Meier played college ball at Princeton, where he was heavily recruited by a handful of Major League teams. He eventually took up coaching at Princeton after leaving the Pirates. He was very hesitant to play pro ball from the start due to family objections, so it is no surprise that he only played one season. It took the persuasion of his college teammate Homer Hillebrand (who was with the Pirates) to convince him to finally play. Meier was still reserved for the 1908 season at one point, which effectively meant that if he decided to return to pro ball, he was still property of the Pirates.
George Van Haltren, outfielder for the 1892-93 Pirates. While with the Pirates, he was a member of one of the deepest, most talented outfields the team ever had. The 1893 Pirates had Jake Stenzel, Elmer Smith and Patsy Donovan in the outfield, and all three were star players of the day. They were alongside Van Haltren, who was the best of the bunch as far as careers go. He was involved in three trades with the Pirates, and all three of them went poorly. Full details of the trades can be read here (highly recommended click), but the quick summary shows that they traded Van Haltren in 1887 for veteran pitcher Jim McCormick, who had 252 wins over nine seasons, then watched McCormick struggle in his lone season with Pittsburgh, while Van Haltren turned into a strong outfielder for the Chicago White Stockings. The Pirates then reacquired Van Haltren very late in the 1892 season in exchange for young outfielder Joe Kelley, who eventually turned into Hall of Famer Joe Kelley. The final deal was the sale after the 1893 season for $2,500, which was even meager by 1893 standards for a player sale. Van Haltren went on to put up 25.0 WAR with the New York Giants after the deal. If the Pirates held on to him, then the deal for Kelley wouldn’t have been so one-sided.
Van Haltren started out as a pitcher on the west coast and signed with the Alleghenys just prior to the 1887 season. His only pro experience came at 19 years old in 1885 for Oakland of the California State League (no stats available), though he did pitch in 1886. Pittsburgh manager Horace Phillips noted that even though he was only 20 years old, he was a very smart pitcher, who had good control of his pitches and plenty of speed. Phillips went as far as saying that his inexperience was actually a good thing, as he didn’t have a lot of wear on his arm. However, shortly after signed, Van Haltren received a higher offer and attempted to back out of his deal with Pittsburgh. When he didn’t report, he was traded to Chicago for McCormick, who was also holding out at the time. Just 21 years old at the time, Van Haltren was acquired for his arm, but he soon turned into a quality outfielder. He went 11-7, 3.86 over 161 innings in 1887, while batting .203/.271/.279 in 45 games, with 30 runs, three homers, 17 RBIs and 12 steals. He went 13-13, 3.52 over 245.2 innings in 1888, when he completed all 24 of his starts, including four shutouts. He batted .283 in 81 games that year, with 57 of those games coming as an outfielder (six games he played both pitcher and outfield). He had a 46 runs, 27 extra-base hits, including 14 triples, 34 RBIs, 21 steals and a .767 OPS.
Van Haltren moved full-time to the outfield in 1889, seeing most of his time in left field, before switching more to center field for the rest of his career in 1892. He hit .322 in 1889, with 126 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 81 RBIs, 28 steals and 82 walks. His .862 OPS ranked seventh in the league. He jumped to the Player’s League in 1890, playing for Brooklyn, where he put up a .335 average, with 84 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs, 35 steals and an .849 OPS in 92 games, while also going 15-10, 4.28 in 223 innings, after not pitching at all during the 1889 season. He had a 1.62 WHIP, while also hitting 21 batters. The 1890 season was the last time that he saw regular pitching work, though he pitched another 15 games in the majors split over six seasons. Van Haltren played for Baltimore of the American Association in 1891, after the Player’s League ceased operations after just one season. He hit .318 that year, with 136 runs, 14 doubles, 15 triples, nine homers, 83 RBIs, 71 walks, 75 stolen bases and an .841 OPS. He pitched 23 innings that year, which was his highest total after 1890. Baltimore moved to the National League in 1892. He hit .302 that year, with 105 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 49 stolen bases, 70 walks and an .801 OPS in 135 games.
The Pirates acquired Van Haltren for Kelley at the end of the 1892 season. He batted .200/.279/.309 in 13 games, with no strikeouts in 61 plate appearances. He was a .338 hitter during his only full season with the Pirates, before their poor decision to sell him off to the Giants. That year saw a spike in offense that peaked in 1894 due to the new rules for pitchers that limited their movement and slightly increased the distance to home plate. They used to pitch from inside a box laid out on the ground, but they had to throw from a pitching rubber instead. The distance was said to be increased 10 1/2 feet to the current 60 foot 6 inch distance, but the old 50 foot distance was measured from the front of the box to the middle of the plate, while the current distance is pitching rubber to the back of the plate. Since they had to deliver pitches from inside the box before, the stride towards the plate off the rubber (plus plate measuring differences) didn’t make it as big of a difference as it seems. Along with his high average in 1893, Van Haltren had 129 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 79 RBIs, 37 stolen bases, 75 walks and an .846 OPS. Van Haltren wasn’t known as the best fielder, even though he covered a lot of ground and had a strong arm. He did not have reliable hands in the outfield, which is one of the reasons that the Pirates wanted to move on from him. The other was the crowded outfield situation.
Van Haltren had a .331 average in his first year for the Giants, with 109 runs, 33 extra-base hits, 43 steals, 55 walks and a career best 105 RBIs. He also led the league with 139 games, the first of three times he led the league in that category. Those seem like great numbers, but his .827 OPS was just slightly over league average due to the uptick in offense around baseball. He was better the next year, which was actually much better by league standards due to offense around baseball starting to trend back to normal numbers. He hit .340 that year, with 113 runs scored, 23 doubles, 19 triples, eight homers, 103 RBIs, 32 steals and 57 walks in 1895. Van Haltren set a career high with a .911 OPS that season. The next year he set career highs with a .351 average and 21 triples, with the latter leading the league. He also tied a career high with 136 runs scored. He had 18 doubles, five homers, 74 RBIs, 39 steals, 55 walks and an .894 OPS. Van Haltren led the league in at-bats during each of the next two seasons. He hit .329 in 1897, with 119 runs scored, 34 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 50 steals, 42 walks and a .791 OPS in 566 at-bats. He then batted .312 in 1898, with 129 runs scored, 28 doubles, 16 triples, 68 RBIs, 36 steals, 59 walks and a .785 OPS in 654 at-bats. He also led the league with 722 plate appearances, which was a Major League record that lasted one season. He set a career high with 204 hits that year, while leading the league with 156 games played.
Van Haltren hit .301 in 1899, with 118 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs, 31 steals, 75 walks and a .737 OPS in 152 games. He batted .315 in 1900, with 114 runs scored and a league best 45 stolen bases, winning his first and only stolen base crown at 34 years old. Van Haltren also set a career high with 30 doubles, in addition to adding 51 RBIs and 50 walks, leading to a .769 OPS. He hit .335 during the 1901 season, while “only” scoring 82 runs, breaking a string of ten straight 100+ runs scored seasons. He had 30 extra-base hits, 47 RBIs, 24 steals and 51 walks. His .801 OPS was the highest of his final seven seasons in the majors. League OPS was down to .669 that season as the deadball era was kicking in, so he was actually well above league average at the time. He began the 1902 season off slow, before he suffered a broken leg/ankle while sliding into second base on May 22nd. It ended his season and he wasn’t the same when he returned in 1903. Vab Haltren was hitting .250 at the time in 1902, with a .665 OPS in 26 games. He then finished his career by hitting .257 over 84 games in 1903, with 42 runs, seven extra-base hits, 28 RBIs, 14 steals and a .613 OPS. While his big league career was done, he was far from done as a player. He spent the next six seasons playing in the Class-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time), retiring at 43 years old.
Van Haltren played 222 games for Seattle during the 1904 season, back when the west coast leagues played longer seasons, plus there were winter ball leagues during that time for even more chances to play. He hit .270 that year, with 252 hits, 35 doubles, ten triples and four homers. His final five seasons were spent with Oakland, where he hit .250 in 1905, with 216 hits, 19 doubles, ten triples and two homers in 221 games. Van Haltren played 169 games in 1906, hitting .252 that year, with 22 doubles, ten triples and one homer. He’s credited with a .269 average over 193 games in 1907. After three straight seasons with exactly ten triples, all 26 of his extra-base hits in 1907 were doubles. He batted .242 over 186 games in 1908, with 80 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 30 steals. He finished up with a partial season in 1908. He hit .219 in 55 games, with three doubles and a triple.
In 17 seasons in the majors, Van Haltren was a career .316 hitter in 1,990 games, with 1,642 runs scored, 2,544 hits, 1,015 RBIs and 583 stolen bases. He ranks 38th all-time with 161 triples. He had 871 walks, versus 498 strikeouts. He also had over 1,000 hits in the minors, giving him over 3,500 career hits in pro ball. It’s hard to figure out why he hasn’t received more attention for the Hall of Fame, especially when you add in the three decent seasons of pitching stats. He finished his big league pitching career with a 40-31, 4.05 record in 689.1 innings. His defensive numbers probably hurt his overall value, though he led the league three times in outfield assists, and his 349 career assists ranks fourth all-time. After his playing days were over, he became a west coast scout for the Pirates, and once went over five years without signing a single player. He was actually praised for his scouting work because he told the Pirates not to sign numerous players who came highly recommended and ended up going nowhere. However, his string of non-signings ended with a deal for pitcher Walter Nagle, who lasted just eight games with Pittsburgh.
Tom Burns, third baseman for the 1892 Pirates. He played twelve seasons with the Chicago White Stockings before joining the Pirates for one last season in the majors. His pro career began during the first season of minor league ball in 1877. He has only partial stats for his three seasons of minors, which were spent at 20 years old in 1877 with Auburn of the League Alliance, followed by Hornellsville of the International Association in 1878, and Albany of the National Association in 1879. That final year he hit .262 in 49 games, with 51 runs scored. Burns debuted in the majors as a shortstop in 1880 at 23 years old. He moved to second base for a time, then back to shortstop, before playing third base for his final seven seasons, including his lone year with the Pirates. He debuted with a .309 batting average in 1880, which ended up being his career high. In 85 games that year, he had 47 runs, 17 doubles, three triples, 43 RBIs and a .712 OPS. Burns hit .278 over 84 games in 1881, with 41 runs, 20 doubles, three triples, four homers, 42 RBIs and a .695 OPS. He saw his average drop to .248 in 1882, though his run production was better, with 55 runs, 23 doubles, six triple and 48 RBIs. He finished with a .625 OPS that year, which was his low mark for his first eight seasons. His best overall season at the plate came in 1883, when he hit .294 in 97 games, while setting career highs with 37 doubles and a .750 OPS. He also had 69 runs scored and 67 RBIs, which were high marks up to that point, though he would soon top both marks, as the league expanded the schedule to include more games.
The White Stockings saw a jump in their offense during the 1884 season because the ground rules in their smaller park changed, counting balls hit over the fence as homers for the first time. It was just 180 down the left field line and 196 down the right field line, though a very high fence/netting kept a lot of balls in the park down the right field line. Burns watched his teammates succeed as a group that year (and it hurt their pitchers) but he only put up a .631 OPS, which was well below the team’s .770 mark. He had a .245 average, with 54 runs, 23 extra-base hits and 44 RBIs in 83 games. With the regular rules in place for 1885 (balls over the fence counted as doubles), Burns had a .272 average, with 82 runs, 23 doubles, nine triples, seven homers, 71 RBIs and a .701 OPS in 111 games. He hit .276 over 112 games in 1886, with 64 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, a .681 OPS and 15 steals (stolen base totals aren’t available prior to 1886). He hit .264 over 115 games during the 1887 season, with 57 runs, 20 doubles, ten triples, 60 RBIs, 32 steals and a .700 OPS. He wasn’t much for drawing walks early in his career, then he set a high with 34 in 1887. Part of that was due to the fact that a pitcher had to throw eight balls, then six balls for a walk early in his career. It was down to five by 1885, and then the standard four by 1888. He hit just .238/.281/.306 during that 1888 season, but he drove in 70 runs and stole 34 bases. He also added 60 runs and 21 extra-base hits. Surprisingly, his walks dropped to 26 that year, while also playing more. He played 134 of the team’s 136 games in 1888, then led the National League with 136 games played in 1889, followed by a league-leading 139 games in 1890. In an era where players didn’t wear gloves, and third basemen saw a lot more work than they get now, he managed to play all but two games over a three-year period.
Burns hit .257 in 1889, with 64 runs scored, 27 doubles, six triples, four homers, 66 RBIs, 18 steals, 32 walks and a .657 OPS. He remained with the White Stockings during that 1890 season, as one of the few big name players not to jump to the Player’s League. He set career highs with 86 runs, 86 RBIs, 44 steals and 57 walks. His .707 OPS was the highest of his final seven seasons in the majors. Burns hit .226/.288/.280 in 1891, with 36 runs, ten extra-base hits, 17 RBIs and 18 steals in 59 games, which his worst season in the majors up to that point. It was also his final season with the White Stockings. Burns hit .266 in 1,239 games for Chicago, with 715 runs and 679 RBIs. The Pirates purchased his contract on May 17, 1892. He played just 12 games for them over a two-month span. He didn’t get into any early season games with Chicago due to an arm injury that kept him behind in his training. It was still bothering him at the time of the deal with the Pirates, but as part of the agreement, it was said that he signed a binding three-year deal that would allow him to manage the team and make player transactions, which was a fairly common practice for managers back then. In his brief playing time with Pittsburgh, Burns hit .205/262/.205 in 42 plate appearances, with seven runs, eight singles and four RBIs. He played eight games at third base, where he made nine errors.
The Pirates made Burns the manager during most of his short stint with the team, taking over for Al Buckenberger, who started the year with a 15-14 record. After Burns went 27-32 at the helm, the team replaced him with Buckenberger, who worked in the front office when he wasn’t managing that season. Just days later on July 29th, Burns was outright released. It was said that he was clearly done as a player (his final game came seven days earlier), and the team was out of control off of the field with him in charge. Burns went to the minors in 1893, where he was a player/manager for the Springfield Ponies of the Eastern League for three seasons, before only managing during the 1897 season. He batted .267 over 68 games in 1893, with 60 runs, 13 extra-base hits and six steals. Burns had a .308 average in 1894, with 27 runs and 13 extra-base hits in 36 games. He played for the team during the 1896 season, though stats aren’t available. He then managed the Chicago Colts (new name for the White Stockings/Cubs) for two seasons (1898-99), before managing two more seasons (1900-01) in the minors. Burns passed away suddenly during the 1901-02 off-season from a heart attack and age 45. As a big league manager, he had a 187-170 record. He was known as a strong defensive player and it shows in modern metrics, which give him positive defensive WAR numbers during every season in Chicago. During the 1888-89 seasons, he led all National League third basemen in both put outs and assists each year, though he also led the league in errors in 1889.
In January of 1893, the Pirates were forced to pay Burns $1,500, an amount that was said to be owed to him for the previous season. The court case revealed that the Pirates only took on Burns because Pittsburgh owner/president William Temple worked out a five-year deal for $15,000 a year with Cap Anson that would start during the 1893 season. As part of the agreement, Temple agreed to pay Burns $4,500 during the 1892 season. Anson obviously never joined the Pirates, though the report never said whether or not he backed out on the deal, or Temple did due to the high salary for the time. Burns talked about a lawsuit against the team before the Pirates even released him, because he was insistent that his three-year contract was binding, whether he remained with the team or not. Guaranteed contracts were almost unheard of back then.