Just one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date and two minor transactions of note. We also take a look at the Pirates 1893 Opening Day.
Paul Miller, pitcher for the 1991-93 Pirates. He was a 53rd round draft pick of the Pirates in 1987 at 22 years old out of Carthage College in Wisconsin. Just 11 players have been drafted out of that school, and he is the only one from that group to make the Major Leagues. The Cincinnati Reds took him in the 27th round of the 1986 amateur draft, but he decided to return to Carthage. Miller debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1987, pitching 70.1 innings over 12 starts, while putting up a 3.20 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 62 strikeouts. He spent his first full season of minor league ball pitching for Augusta in the Class-A South Atlantic League. He went 6-5, 2.89 in 15 starts during that 1988 season, with 51 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP in 90.1 innings. He moved up a level to Salem of the Carolina League (considered to be Advanced-A) in 1989. He had his share of struggles that year, going 6-12, 4.17 in 133.2 innings, with 82 strikeouts and a 1.51 WHIP. That forced the Pirates to repeat him at that level to start the next year. He went 8-6, 2.45 over 22 starts for Salem in 1990, finishing with 83 strikeouts and a 1.18 WHIP over 150.2 innings. He was moved up to Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League to finish the year, where he had a 2.19 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 37 innings over five starts. He threw a total of 187.2 innings that season, which is an almost unheard of innings total now in the minors. Miller had a breakout season in 1991, splitting the minor league season between Carolina of the Double-A Southern League and Buffalo of the Triple-A American Association. He had a 12-4, 2.01 record in 25 starts between both stops, with a 1.11 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 156.1 innings. On July 30, 1991, he earned a promotion to the majors to make a spot start. He allowed three runs on four hits, three walks and two strikeouts in five innings against the Braves. It ended up being his only big league appearance that season.
Miller started the 1992 season on the Pirates Opening Day roster, but he was quickly placed on the disabled list three days into the season (without an appearance), when he injured his side swinging a bat. He made a brief rehab stop in Buffalo before being recalled in early May when the Pirates released veteran outfielder Kirk Gibson. Miller made six relief appearances, putting up a 2.38 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 11.1 innings. He was optioned to the minors in late May when the Pirates called up veteran pitched Jerry Don Gleaton, who was signed the same day that Miller got injured at the start of the season. Miller made just a few more starts with Buffalo before going on the disabled list again, this time with a shoulder issue that required surgery That put him out for the rest of the season. He made 16 starts between Carolina and Buffalo in 1993, going 5-3, 3.77, with 58 strikeouts and a 1.26 WHIP in 90.2 innings, before getting called up to the majors in September. He made two starts and a relief appearance for the 1993 Pirates, allowing six runs in ten innings of work. Miller was dropped from the 40-man roster on October 8, 1993. He was granted free agency, though he chose to re-sign with the Pirates in January of 1994. He made 13 appearances (nine starts) with Buffalo in 1994, finishing with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP in 51.1 innings, in what would be his last season of pro ball. He had a 47-46, 3.11 record in eight seasons in the minors. He went 1-0, 4.10 in ten games (three starts) for the Pirates, with a 1.37 WHIP and nine strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
On this date in 1985, the Pirates sent minor league catcher Steve Herz to the Philadelphia Phillies for Mike “Rambo” Diaz, who split his time between catching, first base and outfield. This turned out to be a one-sided deal for the Pirates, partially due to the trade value for Diaz three years later. Herz was a minor league veteran, who was done with baseball by the end of the 1985 season, without ever appearing in the majors. Diaz had a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox in 1983. He remained in the minors for all of 1985, before becoming a useful role player. He was with the Pirates for all of 1986-87 and part of 1988 before they traded him for Gary Redus, which also worked out well for the Pirates. Diaz was a .250 hitter during his time in Pittsburgh, with 28 homers and 89 RBIs in 247 games. He saw time at five different positions, as well as significant time off of the bench.
On this date in 1993, the Pirates signed veteran pitcher Jeff Ballard as a free agent. He spent five seasons with the Baltimore Orioles (1987-91), going 36-51, 4.63 in 695.1 innings over 113 starts and 31 relief appearances. He spent the 1992 season in Triple-A with the St Louis Cardinals, posting a 12-8, 2.52 record in 160.1 innings over 24 starts. Ballard split the 1993-94 seasons with the Pirates evenly between Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association and the majors, working as a starter in the minors, and mostly in relief with the Pirates. He went 4-1, 4.86 in 53.2 innings over five starts and 20 relief outings in Pittsburgh in 1993. He then had a devilishly poor 6.66 ERA in 28 appearances for the Pirates during the strike-shortened 1994 season. The Pirates left him leave via free agency during the 1994-95 off-season.
1893 Opening Day
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Spiders opened up the 1893 season on April 27th, the latest that Pittsburgh opened their season in the years between the 1887 and 2020 seasons. Cleveland went with 26-year-old starter Cy Young, a 36-game winner in 1892, who had a league leading 1.93 ERA. The Pirates had 22-year-old lefty named Frank Killen on the mound. He was an off-season acquisition from the Washington Senators. The Spiders ended up winning that day with a lineup that included two other future Hall of Fame players besides Young. Catcher Buck Ewing played right field this game, and the left fielder was Jesse Burkett. The also had Chief Zimmer (who caught for the Pirates from 1900-02), as well as one of the better double play combos in baseball history, and one that most people couldn’t name either player involved. Ed McKean played shortstop for 12 years in Cleveland, hitting for a .304 average and 1,084 RBIs. His double play partner was Cupid Childs, who had a .318 average, 541 RBIs and 758 walks in eight seasons alongside McKean.
Young went the distance,allowing two runs on six hits, with both runs coming in the first inning. The Spiders put four runs on the board in the first inning, then took the game by a 7-2 score. The attendance that day was considered strong at nearly 5,000, despite the cold weather. It was the first time in two weeks that the sun was out in Pittsburgh according to the local paper. The lineup that day for Pittsburgh, which included two Hall of Famers in Jake Beckley and Connie Mack, as well as two fringe Hall of Fame candidates in George Van Haltren and Elmer Smith, was as follows:
Patsy Donovan, rf
George Van Haltren, cf
Frank Shugart, ss
Elmer Smith, lf
Jake Beckley, 1b
Denny Lyons, 3b
Louis Bierbauer, 2b
Connie Mack, c
Frank Killen, p
The bench that day had the man who holds the team’s all-time record for career batting average. Jake Stenzel was a .360 hitter for the Pirates over five seasons with the team, but that outfield of Donovan, Van Haltren and Smith was one of the best trios in team history.
Also from April 27th, check out our Game Rewind article for a 23-4 Pirates win over the Cincinnati Reds on this date in 1912.
We have also posted a Game Rewind article from April 27, 1938 in which a Hall of Famer does damage against the Chicago Cubs.