This Date in Pirates History: December 29
Born on this date in 1977 was Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, who played for the team from 2001 until 2009. Wilson was originally draft by the Cardinals in 1998. The Pirates acquired him on July 29, 2000 in exchange for pitcher Jason Christiansen. Jack started the 2001 season in the majors as the team’s starting shortstop, skipping over AAA. After hitting .155 through the first month he was sent to AAA where he tore up the league hitting .369 in 27 games, earning a promotion. He would hit just .223 with 25 RBIs that rookie season in 108 games, but he led the NL in sacrifice hits and he showed solid defense. The 2002 season he established himself as a solid everyday player who now provided above average defense. He raised his batting average to .256, took more walks, scored 77 runs and again led the league in sacrifice hits.
From 2002 to 2007 Jack played an average of 149 games a year. His best season came in 2004 when he played 157 games, recorded 201 hits, 41 doubles, a league leading 12 triples, 11 homers and a career high 82 runs scored. He hit .308 that year, earned his only All-Star appearance and won the Silver Slugger award. Wilson had a strong season in 2007 when he hit a career high 12 homers and posted a .791 OPS but he missed the beginning of the 2008 season with a calf strain and ended up playing just 87 games that year. In 2009 Wilson was traded to the Seattle Mariners on July 29th, exactly nine years to the day the Pirates acquired him. In his nine seasons in Pittsburgh he played 1159 games, hit .269 with 508 runs scored. He led NL shortstops in assists in both 2004-05 and putouts in 2004. He turned 255 double plays between the 2004-05 seasons.
Also born on this date, in 1974, was outfielder Emil Brown who played for the Pirates from 1997 to 2001. He was originally signed by the A’s who lost him to the Pirates in the 1996 Rule V draft. Brown spent the entire 1997 season in the majors as per the rules of the draft, getting just 112 plate appearances in 66 games. He hit .179 with five stolen bases and 16 runs scored. The following season he went to AA to get regular at-bats and hit .330 with 14 homers and 24 stolen bases, earning a late season call-up. He spent the 1999 season in AAA hitting .307 with 18 homers and 16 stolen bases and for a second straight season he received some playing time in September. He started the 2000 season back in AAA getting a few brief call-ups in May and June before coming up for good in late July. In 50 major league games he hit .218 with three homers and 16 RBIs. The next year he began the season in the majors but hit only .203 through 61 games so the Pirates traded him to the Padres for two minor leaguers. In took another four seasons before Brown had his first good season in the majors. With the Royals from 2005-07 he hit .279 with 229 RBIs and 196 runs scored in 410 games. He hit .205 in 196 games with the Pirates.
Born on this date in 1895 was Clyde Barnhart, who spent his entire major league career with the Pirates, playing from 1920 to 1928. He started his minor league career in 1915 and hit just .256 in D level ball then did not play the 1918-19 seasons so it was quite a jump to the majors for him in 1920. After hitting .322 in 131 games of A ball( a higher level back then, than it is now) he earned a late season look in which he hit .326 in 12 games. He was the everyday third baseman in 1921 but lost the job to a young Pie Traynor the following year. Barnhart moved to the outfield and hit .330 in 75 games in 1922 earning more playing time in 1923 and he responded with a .324 average and 72 RBIs in 114 games. He struggled in 1924 and lost his starting job for a second time and again to another future Hall of Famer, Kiki Cuyler. During the 1925 season Barnhart became the everyday left fielder and he had a big season hitting .325 with 114 RBIs helping the Pirates to their second championship in team history. He hit .250 in the World Series against the Senators, driving in five runs.
Barnhart had a knack for being replaced by great all-time Pirates and the 1926-27 seasons were no different, although he had himself to blame the next two times. He hit just .192 in 1926 and was never especially skilled in the outfield so the Pirates called upon rookie Paul Waner to take his place. The following season Barnhart was still around due to the loss of two outfielders and likely would’ve had the starting job if he came into camp into shape but he didn’t and rookie Lloyd Waner took the position from him, giving the Pirates an outfield to start the year of all future Hall of Famers, the Waners and Cuyler. Barnhart eventually did get plenty of time in 1927 when Cuyler was hurt and then benched. In the World Series that year, Clyde hit .313 against the Yankees. He was with the Pirates in 1928 and hitting well in limited time when they sent him to a minor league team in Indianapolis in exchange for Adam Comorosky. Barnhart played four minor league seasons before ending his pro career. He was a career .295 hitter in 814 games for the Pirates. His son Vic Barnhart was an infielder for the Pirates in 1944-46.
Other Pirates players born on this date include:
George Perez (1937) Pitcher for the 1958 Pirates. Perez played a total of four major league games, all before the age of twenty-one. He pitched for the Pirates early in the 1958 season, making his last appearance on May 6th. In four relief outings, he went 0-1, 5.40 with one save in 8.1 innings. The Pirates signed him as an 18-year-old in 1956 and he won 13 games for Douglas of the Arizona-Mexico League. He moved up to Lincoln of the Western League in 1957 and went 15-6, 2.96 in 204 innings. Perez stayed in the Pirates organization until 1961 before retiring.
Kevin Hart (1982) Pitcher for the 2009 Pirates. Hart came to the Pirates from the Chicago Cubs at the 2009 trading deadline. He was part of the return for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. Hart went 1-8, 6.92 in ten starts for the Pirates. In 2010, Hart started the season in the minors, then tore his labrum early in May and missed the rest of the year. He didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and attempted a brief comeback in Independent ball in 2012. Hart was an 11th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2004. He made his big league debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2007 and spent parts of three seasons with the team, going 5-3, 3.93 in four starts and 33 relief appearances.
Mike Brown (1959) Right fielder for the 1985-86 Pirates. Brown was one of six players involved in the August 2,1985 trade between the California Angels and Pirates, that sent John Candelaria and George Hendrick to California. Brown was the everyday right fielder after the trade and did well, hitting .332 with 25 extra-base hits in 57 games. In his only full season with the team in 1986, he struggled all year, hitting .218 in 87 games. At the end of Spring Training in 1987, Brown was released by the Pirates. He returned briefly to the Angels in 1988, his only major league experience after leaving Pittsburgh. He was originally a 7th round draft pick of the Angels in 1980 and prior to joining the Pirates, he played 153 games with California over three seasons.