Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at a very bad day for baseball in Pittsburgh. Before we get into them, current Pirates first baseman Ji-Man Choi turns 32 today.
Brandon Inge, utility player for the 2013 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Tigers in 1998 out of VCU. He was a full-time catcher during his climb to the majors. He spent his first season with Jamestown in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he batted .230 in 51 games, with 24 runs, ten doubles, eight homers, 29 RBIs and a .730 OPS. He moved up to A-Ball in 1999, where he hit .244 in 100 games for West Michigan of the Midwest League, with 54 runs, 25 doubles, nine homers, 46 RBIs, 15 steals and a .723 OPS. Inge established himself as a prospect the next year with a season split between Jacksonville of the Double-A Southern League and Toledo of the Triple-A International League. He batted .244 again, but this time he hit 34 doubles and 11 homers, resulting in an 85 point jump in his OPS. He also had 63 runs, 73 RBIs and 12 steals. Those stats helped him earn a spot on the Opening Day roster of the Tigers in 2001. Inge batted .180/.215/.238 in 79 games, while also spending some time back in the minors, though part of that time was rehabbing a mid-season injury. He had 13 runs, 11 doubles, no homers, 15 RBIs and nine walks, resulting in a .453 OPS. The Tigers were a very bad team at that time, with 96 losses in 2001, followed by 106 losses during the 2002 season. They were able to give time to a young player while they ironed out their game in the majors. He spent most of 2002 with the Tigers, hitting .202 in 95 games, with 27 runs, 15 doubles, seven homers, 24 RBIs and a .599 OPS. He had a .934 OPS in 21 games that year with Toledo.
The 2003 season had a similar majors/minors split as the previous two years, with Inge hitting .203 in 103 games for Detroit, with 32 runs, 15 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs. He had a .771 OPS in 39 games with Toledo. After averaging 101 losses in his first two seasons, the Tigers bottomed out at 119 losses in 2003, giving them one of the worst seasons in baseball history. Inge became a utility player in 2004, seeing most of his time at third base, while also catching and playing outfield. He hit .287 in 131 games, with 43 runs, 15 doubles, 13 homers, 64 RBIs and a .794 OPS. He never approached that batting average again in the majors, though his OBP was nearly as high in 2005 when he set a career high with 63 walks. He hit .261 in 2005, with a career best 31 doubles, to go along with 75 runs, 16 homers, 72 RBIs and a .749 OPS. He played 160 games that year, mostly starting at third base. Inge played only third base in 2006, when he had a .253 in 159 games, with 83 runs, 29 doubles, 27 homers, 83 RBIs and a .776 OPS. Those run scored and home run totals were career highs. He hit .236 in 2007, with 64 runs, 25 doubles, 14 homers, 71 RBIs and a .688 OPS in 151 games.
Inge moved back to catching in 2008, while also seeing time at third base and center field. His batting average dropped to .205 that season, and he hit just 11 homers, leading to a .672 OPS in 113 games. He also had 41 runs, 16 doubles and 51 RBIs. Inge led the league with 161 games played during the 2009 season, when he made his lone All-Star appearance. He tied his career best with 27 homers, while setting a high mark with 84 RBIs. He batted .230 that season, with 71 runs ,16 doubles and 54 walks, helping him to a .720 OPS. He made 157 starts at third base that year. He hit .247 in 2010, with 47 runs, 28 doubles, 13 homers, 70 RBIs and a .718 OPS in 144 games. That was followed by a .197 average and 15 extra-base hits over 103 games in 2011, when he finished with a lowly .548 OPS. He ended up playing 29 games for Toledo that year, putting up a .907 OPS in 126 plate appearances. Inge started the 2012 season with the Tigers, but he was released in late April after hitting .100/.100/.300 in nine games. The Oakland A’s picked him up a short time later. He batted .226 for the A’s, with 31 runs, 13 doubles, 11 homers and 52 RBIs in 74 games to finish out the season.
Inge signed with the Pirates early in Spring Training of 2013, after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. He was 36 years old at the time, and he had 12 season in the majors already. He was hit by a pitch during Spring Training and suffered a fracture of his right scapula, which landed him on the disabled list to begin the season. That was followed by a rehab assignment in the minors, where he had a .150 average in 18 games for Indianapolis of the International League. He was a utility player with the Pirates, after mostly playing third base and catching prior to 2013. He split most of his time between third base and second base in Pittsburgh, while also playing right field, first base and shortstop. Inge had a rough time with the Pirates, hitting .181/.204/.238 in 50 games, with five runs, three doubles, one homer, seven RBIs and two walks. He was released on August 1st, which marked the end of his pro career. He was a career .233 hitter in 1,532 big league games, with 563 runs, 228 doubles, 152 homers and 648 RBIs. Inge was known as a solid defense player, especially at third base. His career 14.4 WAR on defense ranks 128th all-time. He’s third all-time in dWAR among Detroit Tigers behind Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker.
Ed Whitson, pitcher for the 1977-79 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1974 out of high school in Tennessee. He went to the rookie level Gulf Coast League that first year, where he had a 1-4, 4.30 record in 44 innings over eight starts, with 25 strikeouts and a 1.36 WHIP. Whitson moved up to A-ball the next year and really struggled with Charleston of the Western Carolinas League, especially with his control. He walked 99 batters in 142 innings, which led to a 1.68 WHIP. He went 8-15, 5.07 in 24 starts, with 120 strikeouts, five complete games and one shutout. He completely turned things around just one season later. Whitson cut his ERA in half, bringing it down to 2.53 in 203 innings with Salem of the Class-A Carolina League. He led the league that year with 15 wins and 186 strikeouts, while dropping down to 65 walks, which helped him to a 1.15 WHIP. That earned him a promotion to Columbus of the Triple-A International League in 1977, where he pitched well enough to get a September call-up to the Pirates. He had an unimpressive 8-13 record for Columbus, but it came with a 3.34 ERA, 120 strikeouts and a 1.39 WHIP in 175 innings. Whitson got in five appearances for the Pirates that season, including the start in the last game of the year. He threw six shutout innings against the Cubs on October 2nd, allowing two hits and one walk. In his other four outings combined, he gave up six runs over 9.2 innings.
Whitson began the 1978 season back in Columbus, where he made seven starts. He posted a 3.71 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 51 innings. He was recalled at the end of May, and sent to the Pirates bullpen. Whitson made 43 appearances in the majors that year. He had a 3.28 ERA, 64 strikeouts and a 1.39 WHIP in 74 innings. He actually pitched better than the solid ERA would indicate, as nearly half of the earned runs he allowed came during two appearances, which saw him give up 11 runs in 3.2 innings. Whitson’s ERA in the other 41 appearances was just 2.05 in 70.1 innings. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training during the magical 1979 season. He was being used as a spot starter during the first two months, then he made four starts in June. He had a 2-3, 4.37 record in 57.2 innings, with 31 strikeouts and a 1.54 WHIP. The Pirates traded him in a six-player deal to the San Francisco Giants on June 28th that brought Bill Madlock to Pittsburgh. While the deal worked out great for the Pirates, Whitson would end up pitching another twelve seasons in the majors, finishing with 126 career wins, with eight of those victories coming while he was with the Pirates.
Whitson was put right into the Giants starting rotation, where he went 5-8, 3.95 in 100.1 innings to finish the 1979 season. Between both stops that season, he had a 7-11, 4.10 record in 158 innings, with 93 strikeouts and a 1.43 WHIP. Whitson was an All-Star for the only time in his career in 1980, thanks to an 11-13, 3.10 in 211.2 innings over 34 starts, finishing with 90 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. He wasn’t a workhorse type starter over his career, completing a career high six games that season, with two of those being shutouts. Because of that low complete game rate, he wouldn’t crack the 200+ innings mark again until 1987. However, he then ended up doing it four years in a row. He led the league with the lowest home run allowed rate in 1980, giving up seven homers all season for an 0.3 per nine inning rate. Whitson went 6-9, 4.02 in 123 innings over 22 starts during the strike-shortened 1981 season. He had 65 strikeouts and a 1.44 WHIP. A month after the 1981 season ended, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians even up for second baseman Duane Kuiper. Whitson mostly pitched in relief for the 1982 Indians, making just nine starts in his 40 appearances. He went 4-2, 3.26 in 107.2 innings, with 61 strikeouts and a 1.38 WHIP. One year and four days after he joined the Indians, he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Whitson went 5-7, 4.30 in 144.1 innings over 21 starts and ten relief appearances in 1983, with 81 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP. The Padres went to the World Series in 1984, when he had a 14-8, 3.24 record in 189 innings over 31 starts, with a 1.18 WHIP and one complete game. He struck out 103 batters that season, which was the first time he cracked the century mark. He allowed one run over eight innings in his NLCS start that year, but he gave up three runs on five hits in the first inning of his only World Series start.
Whitson signed a five-year free agent deal with the New York Yankees after the 1984 season. That deal did not go well during his time in New York, but ended up much better when he was traded back to the Padres during the 1986 season. In his 1 1/2 years with the Yankees, Whitson went 15-10, 5.38 in 195.2 innings over 34 starts and ten relief appearances. His time in New York is best remembered for a hotel fight with manager Billy Martin. While he didn’t pitch well either season, Whitson did much better in 1985, going 10-8, 4.88 in 158.2 innings, with 89 strikeouts and a 1.54 WHIP. Before the trade to San Diego in 1986, he was 5-2, 7.54 in 37 innings over four starts and ten relief appearances. He had 27 strikeouts and a 2.08 WHIP at the time. Whitson didn’t see true improvements in his return to the Padres until 1988. He went 1-7, 5.59 in 75.2 innings in 1986 after the trade, making 12 starts and five relief appearances for San Diego. He then had a 10-13, 4.73 record and a 1.27 WHIP over 205.2 innings in 1987. In a true turnaround to his career, he led the league by allowing 36 homers. He also managed to set a career high with 135 strikeouts. That was the first of four straight seasons with 100+ strikeouts, something he did just once prior to 1987.
The 1988 season was the start of Whitson getting back on track. He went 13-11, 3.77 in 205.1 innings, with 118 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. Despite finishing with almost exactly the same innings total as the previous season (off by one out), he gave up 17 homers in 1988, which was just under half of his 1987 season’s total. He improved to a 16-11, 2.66 record in 227 innings over 33 starts in 1989, finishing with a 1.08 WHIP and 117 strikeouts. Whitson then had a 14-9, 2.60 record in a career high 228.2 innings during the 1990 season, ending up with a 1.15 WHIP and 127 strikeouts. He tied his career high with six complete games, while setting a personal best with three shutouts. Those two seasons were worth a combined 13.5 pitching WAR. The absolute crazy part about his 1990 season is that he had the highest WAR for all National League pitchers, but didn’t get a single Cy Young vote. Whitson had a rough 1991 season due to multiple injuries, including one in his final start in September, which ended his career. He had a 5.03 ERA in 78.2 innings during his final season, with 40 strikeouts and a 1.40 WHIP. Whitson finished 126-123, 3.79 in 15 seasons, with a 1.31 WHIP and 1,266 strikeouts over 2,240 innings pitched. He finished with exactly 2,240 hits allowed, giving him 1.00 per inning. He made 333 starts and 119 relief appearances, winding up with 35 complete games, 12 shutouts and eight saves.
Bud Culloton, pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He went to Columbia University for two years, then played minor league ball for two seasons (1919-20), before retiring and returning to college. He attended Fordham University during his second stint in college. Culloton went 15-11 with Norfolk of the Class-C Virginia League in 1919, while posting a 1.13 WHIP in 256 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he gave up 2.95 runs per nine innings that year. He remained with Norfolk in 1920, though the league was reclassified as Class-B. He went 12-9, 2.02 in 183 innings that year, with a 1.18 WHIP and 39 walks. He played semi-pro ball in the Paterson Industrial League after he graduated school in 1924, before joining the Pirates on July 26, 1924, although he did not pitch a regular season game that season. He did however pitch in exhibition games, including one right before he signed with the Pirates. It was a game in which he held Pittsburgh scoreless for nine innings, before losing in the tenth. It was that game that convinced Pittsburgh to sign him. Culloton was put on the list of players eligible for the 1924 postseason, but the Pirates failed to win the National League pennant. He was with the Pirates during the entire 1925 season, although he ended up pitching just 21 innings all year, with five of those innings coming during a start on the last day of the regular season. Culloton won a complete game over the Washington Senators on July 6th. It was an exhibition game, although the Senators were the defending champs at the time. It also turned out to be a preview of the 1925 World Series. He was again eligible for the postseason in 1925, but never got into the seven-game series won by the Pirates.
Culloton was being used even less often in 1926, getting three appearances over the first two months. He threw a total of 2.2 scoreless innings during that time. After an outing on June 11th, in which he allowed four runs in one inning, the Pirates never used Culloton again. He was sent to New Haven of the Class-A Eastern League on June 25th as partial payment in a trade for pitcher Chet Nichols, who ended up throwing 35.1 innings for the Pirates over two seasons. Culloton was sent to New Haven on option, where he went 4-7, 4.71 in 84 innings, with a 1.32 WHIP. He was returned to the Pirates in August of 1926, and then they released him unconditionally on August 13th, which ended his pro career. It was said that he planned to enroll back at Fordham to study law and retire from baseball. He was already 30 years old at the time. Culloton visited the Pirates in May of 1927, and he ended up throwing batting practice. He pitched an exhibition game two months later for the semi-pro Kingston Colonels against the Pirates. He won 6-1 that day, while facing a lineup that had five future Hall of Famers (The Waners, Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler and Joe Cronin). He then defeated the Chicago White Sox in another exhibition game one month later. He was often referred to in the press by his first name, Bernard. It was said that he had a nice fastball, but his curveball was below average. He went 0-1, 3.28 in 24.2 innings during his big league career, with a 1.18 WHIP and just four strikeouts to his credit. Two of his career strikeouts came in back-to-back match-ups with Bubbles Hargrave, a .310 career hitter, who never struck out more than 23 times in a season during his 12-year career. He actually set that high mark during Culloton’s start on the final day of the 1925 season, going into the day with one fewer strikeout than he had during the 1923 season.
May 19, 1890
This date in 1890 was a tough one for Pittsburgh baseball fans. Not only did the Alleghenys lose their game by an 18-2 score, but the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League lost their game 16-3. For the National League team, it was the beginning of their downward spiral that resulted in the worst season in franchise history. Up to that point, the team had an 8-10 record, so what happened the rest of the season couldn’t have been predicted even by the most pessimistic Pittsburgh fan. The 18-2 loss started an eleven-game losing streak that would’ve been a twenty-three game losing streak if the Alleghenys weren’t able to pull out a 9-8 win against Boston on May 31st. They actually finished their season with a 7-82 run (one tie) over their last 90 games.
The Burghers weren’t anywhere near as bad as their crosstown rival. They had an 8-10 record after this game, then went on to lose another seven games in a row. Their season got much better though, going 52-51 the rest of the way. That Player’s League team was basically the 1889 Pittsburgh National League team, with most of the lineup jumping to the new league. Jake Beckley, Ned Hanlon, Pud Galvin, Al Maul, Harry Staley, Ed Morris, Bill Kuehne, Jocko Fields and Fred Carroll all jumped from the National League to the Player’s League that year. The first three are in the Hall of Fame and Galvin, Staley and Morris made a combined 108 starts for the 1889 Alleghenys. Al Maul made four of the team’s other 26 starts.
An interesting side note to that 9-8 Alleghenys win on May 31st that prevented a 23-game losing streak. That same day the Burghers lost 23-3, which was the biggest margin of defeat for either of the two teams that year.