This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 23rd, Five Obscure Former Pirates Born on This Date

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Starting with the most recent first.

Dave Davidson, pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He was a tenth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2002 out of Denis Morris HS in Canada, though he signed too late to get into games during the 2002 season. Davidson had a rough intro to pro ball. He spent the 2003-04 seasons in the Gulf Coast League, where he debuted with a 12.91 ERA and a 2.21 WHIP in 7.2 innings over seven games during his first year at 19 years old. That was followed by a 3.41 ERA, a 1.64 WHIP and 24 strikeouts over 18.1 innings in 2004. He had only reached Low-A ball for ten games by the end of his third season in the minors, and did not pitch well while he was there. Davidson posted a 9.78 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP in 19.1 innings for Hickory of the South Atlantic League. He had 21 walks and 23 strikeouts in that limited time. He spent the rest of that year with Williamsport of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he had a 3.18 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 17 innings. Davidson picked up a total of 46 strikeouts in his 36.1 innings that year. Things turned around in a big way in 2006 when he worked his way from Hickory up to Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League. He went 3-2, 2.01 in 42 appearances that year, with a 1.13 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 76 innings. He had a 1.93 ERA in 27 games for Hickory, then needed just five relief outings with Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League, before advancing to Altoona. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League after the season, posting a 5.17 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 15.2 innings.

Davidson spent most of 2007 in Altoona. He got a brief stop at Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League, then a late September recall to the majors. He had a 4.22 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 59.2 innings with Altoona. He then managed a 1.17 ERA in six appearances with Indianapolis, finishing his minor league season with a combined 4-1, 3.88 record in 67.1 innings, with 64 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP. He pitched two games for the 2007 Pirates, and both were relief appearances in blowout losses. He allowed four runs in one inning of work during his big league debut on September 6th, three days after he joined the team. He gave up two runs in his only inning of work ten days later. He reported to the Arizona Fall League again after the 2007 season. He had ten fall appearances, allowing one run in 9.1 innings. He spent all of 2008 back in Altoona, where he had a 3.34 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 64.2 innings over 35 games, Davidson pitched winter ball in Mexico during the 2008-09 off-season, where he had a 3.38 ERA in nine appearances. His time with the Pirates in 2009 didn’t last long. He was put on waivers after making just three appearances with Indianapolis, in which he allowed two runs in 4.1 innings. He was picked up by the Florida Marlins, who then sent him to New Orleans of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Davidson sent some parting shots after being waived by the Pirates, noting how much better things were in his new organization. Those words look very bad for him in hindsight. He was recalled by the Marlins on May 21st, four weeks after they claimed him off waivers. He was doing well at the time, with a 2.53 ERA, 14 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP in 10.2 innings with New Orleans. He came in to pitch in relief for the Marlins on May 22nd, when he faced 11 batters in his only inning of work. He ended up throwing 52 pitches before getting the final out. Davidson was put on waivers right after the game, then got picked up by the Baltimore Orioles. He was injured at the time from his long inning (shoulder injury), so he was returned to the Marlins, who had to place him on the 60-day disabled list for the rest of the season. Davidson was released at the end of the 2009 season. He did not pitched in 2010, then spent 2011 in independent ball with Edmonton of the North American League before retiring. He went 1-1, 6.12 in 32.1 innings over 34 appearances during that final season of pro ball. His big league time over his two cups of coffee consisted of 11 runs (ten earned) on ten hits and six walks in three innings.

Ron Blackburn, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1958-59 seasons. He was originally signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1953. Blackburn pitched five seasons in the minors before getting his first chance with Pittsburgh. He split his first pro season among two teams at 18 years old, including Burlington-Graham of the Class-B Carolina League, which was close to his home. That assignment was done to allow for an easier transition into pro ball. Blackburn had a 3.84 ERA in 68 innings during that 1953 season, with most of his mound time coming with Fond du Lac of the Class-D Wisconsin State League. He pitched the 1954 season in Canada with St Jean of the Class-C Provincial League. He had a rough sophomore season, going 5-14, 5.81 in 158 innings, with a 1.89 WHIP, 99 walks and 115 strikeouts. His best season in the minors came for the Phoenix Stars of the Class-C Arizona-Mexico League in 1955, when he went 16-6, 3.48 in 197 innings, with a 1.31 WHIP and 161 strikeouts. He actually spent part of that year back near home with Burlington-Graham, where he posted a 10.80 ERA in 20 innings, so it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Blackburn moved up in competition the next season, splitting the year between New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association and Williamsport of the Class-A Eastern League. He went 6-7, 3.64 in 131 innings. He pitched 116 of those innings for Williamsport, where he had 67 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP.

Blackburn went 9-13, 4.30 in 1957, with a 1.36 WHIP and a 61:101 BB/SO ratio in 199 innings for Triple-A Columbus of the International League. That was enough to earn him a big league look for the first time. The Pirates purchased his contract on October 1, 1957, adding him to their protected roster for the off-season. Blackburn pitched out of the Pirates bullpen all season in 1958, appearing in 38 games (two starts), while pitching a total of 68.2 innings. He went 2-1, 3.39, with three saves, a 27:31 BB/SO ratio and a 1.38 WHIP. He was in the bullpen again in 1959 until the end of July. He made 26 appearances that second year, finishing with a 3.65 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. The Pirates sent him to the minors on July 31st and recalled pitcher Fred Green. The latter originally made the team out of Spring Training, but got sent to the minors after two games. Blackburn never made it back to the majors, spending the next five seasons pitching for affiliates of the Pirates in the minors. He pitched well to finish off the 1959 season with Columbus, putting up a 2.75 ERA in 59 innings. He competed for a spot on the 1960 Pirates, but he was among the final cuts on April 7th, five days before Opening Day. He spent that season split between Columbus and Salt Lake City of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, with better results in Salt Lake City. He had a combined 6-10, 4.55 record in 93 innings over seven starts and 36 relief outings, with 40 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP.

On May 3, 1961, Blackburn’s contract was sold outright to Macon of the Double-A Southern Association, which was a Pirates affiliate at the time. He spent almost all of that season with Dallas-Fort Worth of the Triple-A American Association, where he went 13-11, 3.91 in 122 innings, with 71 strikeouts and a 1.41 WHIP. He pitched just six innings that year for Macon. He spent the entire 1962 season back in Columbus, going 10-6, 3.10 in 154 innings, with 94 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP. That was followed in 1963 by another full season in Columbus, where he had a 6-4, 3.35 record in 102 innings over 36 relief appearances, with 61 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. He finished out his career in 1964 by pitching 12 games for Columbus and 22 games for Asheville of the Southern Association, going 3-5, 3.32, with a 1.17 WHIP in 65 innings between both stops. His final big league stats show a 3-2, 3.50 record in 108 innings over 64 games (two starts), with 50 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP. Back when teams used to get money for finishing among the top four teams in the league, Blackburn received a 3/4 share of the pot in 1959, which earned him an extra $441.75 in October. When the Pirates finished second in 1958, and he remained in the majors all season, he received a full share valued at $1,507. He had an 84-80, 4.09 record in 379 minor league games over 12 years in pro ball. His brother Gerald Blackburn was a minor league pitcher for five seasons (1950-51, 53-55)

Ray Starr, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1944-45 seasons. He debuted in pro ball with Danville of the Three-I League at 20 years old in 1926, posting a 6.60 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP in 90 innings. Danville was considered to be a Class-B level of play, so when Starr pitched for Marshalltown of the Class-D Mississippi Valley League in 1927, he was actually dropping two levels in competition. He compiled an 11-10 record and a 1.35 WHIP for Marshalltown, while throwing 182 innings. His ERA isn’t available for that year, but he allowed 4.15 runs per nine innings. He was back with Danville for 55 innings in 1928, while spending the rest of the year with Topeka of the Class-C Western Association. Starr had an 11-8, 4.12 record and a 1.59 WHIP in 190 innings between the two stops. He had a huge year for Shawnee of the Western Association in 1929, going 24-13, 2.78 in 295 innings, with a 1.43 WHIP. Four years after he debuted, he was back with Danville for a third stint in 1930, where he had a 17-11, 3.89 record in 245 innings, finishing with a 1.49 WHIP. Starr moved up to Rochester of the Double-A International League in 1931, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He went 20-7, 2.83, with a 1.36 WHIP in 217 innings. He also pitched seven innings over three games for Houston of the Class-A Texas League that year.

Starr had a rough time back in Rochester in 1932, going 9-12, 5.08 in 186 innings, with a 1.51 WHIP. That ERA ranked eighth on the team among the eight regular pitchers for the club that year. Despite that high mark, he still received his first shot at the majors that September with the St Louis Cardinals. He had a 2.70 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 20 innings, with a 10:6 BB/SO ratio. That performance earned him a big league spot for the next year. Starr split the 1933 season between the New York Giants and Boston Braves, putting up a 4.35 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 41.1 innings over three starts and 12 relief appearances. The Giants acquired him in a six-player trade right after the 1932 season ended. The Braves purchased him in mid-June, then sold him off to the minors during Spring Training in 1934. He wouldn’t reappear in the majors again until 1941. Starr had 120 minor league wins from 1934 through September of 1941, while compiling six seasons with 250+ innings. He spent 1934 with Minneapolis of the Double-A American Association, going 16-17, 5.23 in 260 innings, with a 1.61 WHIP. He split the 1935 season between five starts with Minneapolis and 52 innings over 11 games with Toronto of the International League. He combined to go 5-5, 5.26 in 77 innings, with a 1.74 WHIP. Starr split 1936 between Syracuse of the International League and Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association, going 15-12, 3.80 in 251 innings, with 128 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP. He remained in Nashville for the 1937-38 seasons, going 19-12, 3.52 in 276 innings in 1937, with 150 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP. That was followed by a 14-20, 4.63 record in 270 innings over 17 starts and 30 relief appearances in 1938. He had 132 strikeouts and a 1.53 WHIP that year.

Starr had a 19-11, 2.88 record and a 1.35 WHIP over 231 innings during the 1939 season. He actually pitched poorly for Nashville that year, posting a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings. He had strong results for Fort Worth of the Class-A Texas League, going 18-7, 2.34 in 204 innings. He split the 1940 season between Fort Worth and Dallas of the Texas League, posting a 12-17 record (no ERA available) over 265 innings pitched. Starr went 20-15, 3.43 over 273 innings in 1941 for Indianapolis of the American Association. He had 145 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. The Cincinnati Reds brought him up to the majors that September for the first time in eight years. He had a 2.65 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 34 innings to finish off the year. His best season in the majors came in 1942, when he went 15-13, 2.67 in 276.2 innings over 33 starts and four relief appearances for Cincinnati. He threw 35 complete games in his big league career and 17 came during the 1942 season. He had a solid 1.21 WHIP, though his 106:83 BB/SO ratio left something to be desired. He basically had the same usage in 1943, but he was much less effective, leading to a large drop in innings pitched. Making 33 starts and three relief appearances in 1943, Starr went 11-10, 3.64 in 217.1 innings, with a 1.34 WHIP and a very rough 91:42 BB/SO ratio. The Pirates purchased the contract of Starr from the Reds on May 27, 1944. He had not pitched yet that season due to signing late, then developing a sore arm once he started training, but they team believed it wasn’t anything serious.

Starr ended up pitching 27 games for the Pirates in 1944, with twelve of those games coming as a starter. He went 6-5, 5.02 in 89.2 innings, with 25 strikeouts and a 1.70 WHIP. He pitched just four times for the Pirates through the first two months of the 1945 season. Starr was suspended by the Pirates for leaving the team without permission on June 21st, deciding to go home before a doubleheader, when the team had said he could leave immediately after the games that same day. When he didn’t show up for a series three days later, he was suspended by the team. He was then sold to the Chicago Cubs two days later for the $7,500 waiver price. At the time, the Pirates replaced the 39-year-old Starr with the 40-year-old Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck. Starr allowed seven runs over 6.2 innings with the 1945 Pirates, then had a 7.43 ERA in 13.1 innings with the Cubs, which ended up being his last appearance in pro ball. His Major League career didn’t amount to much despite his one big year in 1942, but he stuck around long enough to win 251 games in pro ball, including 214 during his 15-year minor league career.  He finished with a 37-35, 3.53 record in 699 Major League innings, making 88 starts and 50 relief appearances. In his pro career, he threw over 3,700 innings. Starr was known for his strong curveball.

Connie Walsh, pitcher for the 1907 Pirates. He pitched just one inning for the Pirates in his only big league game on September 16, 1907. That game was a significant one in Pirates history. They lost 5-1 to the St Louis Cardinals in the second game of a doubleheader, but the starter that day was Babe Adams, making his first start in a Pirates uniform. It was the beginning of an 18-year career for Adams in Pittsburgh. He pitched the first five innings and allowed four runs, before giving way to Walsh. He finished the game, though it only went 6 1/2 innings before being called on account of darkness. Walsh faced five batters in his only inning of work, allowing one hit, one walk and one run. He had played two seasons in the minors prior to his only Major League game, then he would return to the minors for another seven seasons before he retired as a player. He also managed for three seasons in the minors, two of them while he was still playing.

Walsh didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 24 years old in 1906. He previously only played semi-pro ball in his hometown of St Louis, which is where he pitched his one big league game. Walsh ran off a streak of 21 straight wins in 1905, which was broken when the opposing pitcher threw a one-hitter. He made his pro debut for the St Joseph/Hutchinson franchise in the Class-C Western Association in 1906, where he put up a 10-13 record in 34 games pitched (full stats aren’t available for most of his career). He pitched for Seattle of the Class-B Northwestern League in 1907, posting a 7-10 record in 18 appearances. When he was released in late August of 1907, he received word that he would get a tryout with the Pirates, which he waited to get while at his home in St Louis. He joined the Pirates on September 15th, when they arrived to St Louis for three days. He practiced with the team all three days. It was said that manager Fred Clarke was impressed with him, so he would join the Pirates for Spring Training in 1908. However, Walsh was also left behind in St Louis when the Pirates departed to return home on September 18th. As it turns out, he did not attend Spring Training with the Pirates in 1908. It was announced in April of 1908 that he was let go by the Pirates. He was reportedly signing with St Paul of the Class-A American Association, but he ended up spending the year with Cedar Rapids of the Class-B Three-I League.

Walsh remained in the Three-I League for the rest of his career, though he played for five different teams in the league over the 1908-14 seasons. His minor league stats are extremely limited, and include a 10-14 record in 27 games during his 1908 season with Cedar Rapids. He also had a 13-5 record over 167 innings in 1909 with Peoria. Walsh went 7-18 between Peoria and Bloomington in 1910, appearing in a total of 28 games. He then had a 5-11 record over 22 games split between Peoria and Danville in 1911. He remained in Danville for the next two seasons, where he put together his best year in 1912. He had a 16-11 record and a 1.20 WHIP in 222 innings pitched that season. His ERA isn’t available, but we know that he allowed 3.81 runs per nine innings. He struggled for Danville in 1913, finishing with a 3-8 record, a 1.49 WHIP and 6.84 runs allowed per nine innings over 98.2 innings. Walsh then finished off his career by going 5-5 for Davenport and Danville/Moline in 1914. He pitched a total of 92.2 innings over 13 season that season.

Bob Ganley, right fielder for the 1905-06 Pirates. He spent eight seasons in the minors prior to making his Major League debut as a 30-year-old with the Pirates on September 1, 1905. Ganley played for 12 different teams in nine different leagues before his first big league game. He debuted in 1898 with New Haven of the Class-F (lowest level at the time) Connecticut State League at 23 years old, though records show that he lasted just three days with the team. He played for Albany of the Class-C New York State League and Brockton of the Class-F New England League in 1899. He batted over .300 in both stops, combining to hit .307 in 105 games, with 83 runs, 32 doubles, six triples and 34 stolen bases. Ganley spent the entire 1900 season with Albany (no stats available for the league that year). He split his 1901 season between Columbus, Toledo and Marion, all three of the Class-A Western Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time.  His stats are incomplete, but they show a .279 average and 36 extra-base hits in 122 games. He then batted .290 in 109 games for Schenectady of the New York State League in 1902, which was bumped up to Class-B by that year. The 1903 season was split between Milwaukee and Kansas City of the Class-A American Association. Stats from both stops show a .299 average in 124 games, with 72 runs, 24 doubles, four triples and 30 steals. Ganley went out to the west coast in 1904 to play for Oakland of the Class-A Pacific Coast League. In that league’s extended schedule, he hit .271 in 218 games, with 30 doubles and ten triples. Online records also show him briefly playing for Johnstown of the Pennsylvania League in 1904, though He was with Oakland from March through November, so that appears to be an error.

Ganley hit .316 in 123 games for the Des Moines Underwriters of the Western League during the 1905 season before joining the Pirates. The Pirates tried to purchase Ganley and pitcher Lefty Leifield from Des Moines during the season for $4,000 total, but they settled for just Leifield at a cost of $2,500. The Pirates eventually landed Ganley, though they had to outbid the New York Giants and St Louis Browns for his services. He was highly sought after at the time because he was recognized as the best outfielder in the Western League, with the ability to beat out bunts for hits and his speed led to plenty of stolen bases. He played with Des Moines up until three days before his big league debut, then was inserted right into the lineup on the day he arrived with the Pirates. He hit lead-off and played right field in his first game in the majors, going 0-for-4, though the Pittsburgh Press noted that he looked good at the plate. Ganley would play 32 games for the Pirates that season, hitting .315/.356/.354 over 143 plate appearances, with 12 runs, three extra-base hits, seven RBIs and no errors in the field. He was the Pirates starting right fielder for the 1906 season, hitting .258 in 137 games, with, 63 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, 41 walks and 19 stolen bases. He had a .611 OPS that was 99 points below the mark he put up in 1905. On December 31, 1906, the Pirates sold his contract to the Washington Senators. He would played three years in the American League before returning to the minors to finish his career.

Ganley hit .276 in 154 games for the Senators in 1907, setting career highs with 73 runs scored, 40 stolen bases and 167 hits. He had 16 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs. His .651 OPS that year was his best mark over a full season. He was below average defensively according to modern metrics, but it was the deadball era, so those stats on offense helped him to a 3.0 WAR that year. He batted .239 over 150 games in 1908, with career highs of 19 doubles and nine triples, while stealing 30 bases. He had 63 runs, 36 RBIs, 45 walks and a .610 OPS. That season was worth 2.5 WAR. Ganley split the 1909 season between the Senators and Philadelphia Athletics, hitting just .208/.271/.240 in 99 games. He was batting .254/.266/.302 in 19 games with the Senators before being put on waivers in mid-May, where he was picked up by the A’s. The Senators cut bait at the perfect time, as he hit just .197 the rest of the way, finishing his time in Philadelphia with a .498 OPS. Ganley batted .254 in 572 big league games, with 246 runs, 70 extra-base hits, 123 RBIs and 112 stolen bases.  He hit just two big league homers, both with the Senators, and both were inside-the-park homers. Ganley had a .236 average and 11 extra-base hits in 114 games for Newark of the Class-A Eastern League in 1910. He batted .227 over 21 games for Haverhill of the New England League before a knee and arm injury led to his release. He finished out the year in semi-pro ball, then played for Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association in 1912, hitting .228 in 34 games. He played until 1913, plus he managed for two seasons in the minors, including 1913 when he was the player-manager for Fredericton of the New Brunswick-Maine League. At 38 years old that season, he put up a .336 batting average in 60 games.