Born on this date in in 1956 was Gary Redus, who played five years for the Pittsburgh Pirates, including all three NL East pennant winning seasons in the early 90′s. Redus got his career off to an amazing start, hitting .462 in 68 games with Billings of the Pioneer League in 1978 after being drafted by the Reds in the 15th round of the amateur draft that year. Despite that quick start it still took him four more full seasons to make the majors. Redus hit 17 homers and scored 90 runs in 1983, finishing 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting. That would be his best overall season prior to joining the Pirates in a 1988 mid-season trade with the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Mike Diaz, who played just 40 more major league games after the trade.
Redus was a key utility player with the Pirates during their three playoff runs, he played all three outfield positions and first base but never had more than 279 AB’s in a season. Redus provided the team with speed besides his versatility. He stole 69 bases while with the Pirates and 322 total in his career. He struggled in the 1991 playoffs hitting just .158(3-19) but came back the next year to hit .438 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. In his five seasons in Pittsburgh he batted .255 with 96 RBI’s in 398 games. After his playing days, he took up coaching, including seven years in the Pirates minor league system starting in 2001.
Also born on this date in 1954 was Miguel Dilone, who had two stints with the Pirates. Dilone was signed as an amateur free agent in 1972 by the Pirates and he hit well enough in high-A ball as a 19 year old in 1974 to earn his first promotion to the big leagues that year. Each of the next three seasons he spent most of the year at AAA but got brief call-ups to the Pirates as well. Just prior to the 1978 season the Pirates traded Dilone to the Athletics, along with two other players in exchange for Manny Sanguillen. In November of 1976 the Pirates had traded Sanguillen to the A’s in exchange for manager Chuck Tanner, and cash.
Dilone played with four different teams before being reacquired from the White Sox in September 1983 in exchange for pitcher Randy Neimann. Miguel was used solely as a pinch runner, getting into 7 games. He was declared a free agent following the season and he played two more years in the majors. He played a total of 82 games for the Pirates over five seasons without recording an extra base hit or an RBI. In fact, he had just 75 plate appearances over that time with 10 singles to his credit. He stole 23 bases with the Pirates, 267 in his major league career and a high of 61 in 1980 for the Indians. He once stole 85 bases in a minor league season while with the Pirates.
Born on this date in 1884 was Robert “Ham” Hyatt, a member of the first Pirates team to win the World Series in 1909. Hyatt made his major league debut that 1909 season after spending his first two seasons in pro ball playing in Vancouver. He was used mainly as a pinch hitter, playing just eight games in the field all year but he was able to hit .299 in that role. He played almost all of game 7 in the World Series after leadoff hitter Bobby Byrne left the game following a first inning hit by pitch. He drove in the first run of the game on a second inning sac fly and it turned out to be the go ahead run of the game as the Tigers were shutout 8-0.
In 1910 Hyatt got his most playing time while in Pittsburgh, starting 38 games at first base while also getting his share of pinch hit AB’s again. He hit .263 with 30 RBI’s in 175 AB’s. Ham spent the entire 1911 season in the minors getting into 166 games with the Kansas City Blues. He returned to the Pirates the following season and reprised his occasional start/pinch hitting role for three more years. Over his five seasons in a Pirates uniform he batted .277 in 306 games with 90 RBI’s in 499 AB’s. In 1913 he played just ten games in the field all year but was still able to hit .333 over 63 games.
Finally, born on this date in 1907 was starting pitcher Larry French, who pitched for the Pirates from 1929-34. He pitched three years in the minors prior to signing with the Pirates and he had a losing record plus a high 4.65 ERA. He started in the bullpen in 1929 but the Pirates let him get his first pro start on May 7th and he threw a 10 inning complete game 3-2 win over the Giants. He also pitched complete game wins in his next two starts although it took exactly three months for him to pick up his fourth career win. He finished his rookie season 7-5 4.90 in 30 games, 13 as a starter. The 1930 season was one of the biggest years for offense in baseball and French posted a 17-18 4.36 record. The ERA might sound high but teammates Ray Kramer 20-12 5.02 and Erv Brame 17-8 4.70 obviously got much more run support than French, who actually led the NL in losses that year.
In 1931 French started a stretch of three straight seasons in which he not only posted a better winning percentage each year but also lowered his ERA, all the way down to 2.72 in 1933 when he had an 18-13 record. French went just 12-18 for the 1934 Pirates, a team that finished in 5th place, one season after going 87-67 for a 2nd place finish. Following the season he was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom for Guy Bush, Babe Herman and Jim Weaver. French played the best among the whole group after the trade going 95-84 over seven seasons for his new team. While with the Pirates French had an 87-83 3.50 record