Born on this date in 1950 was Tim Foli, who played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1979 to 1981, then returned in 1985 to finish his career. Foli was drafted first overall in the 1968 amateur draft by the Mets and he made his major league debut in late 1970 with them. He played just one full season there before being traded to the Montreal Expos, where he played until 1977 when he was traded to the Giants. The Giants sold him to the Mets, who would trade him to the Pirates in early April 1979 for shortstop Frank Taveras. Foli was a decent major leaguer at the time, he provided good defense and made contact at the plate well (he struck out just 399 times over 16 seasons) but he far from lived up to the standards of a first overall pick.
The 1979 season would be his best, not only because the Pirates won the World Series but because he hit a career high .288 with 65 RBI’s and 70 runs scored, both of those totals were also career highs. Foli hit .333 with 3 RBI’s in each series of the postseason as the Pirates defeated the Orioles for their 5th title. In 1980 Foli hit .265 with 61 runs scored in 127 games. He led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage that year with a .981 mark. He hit .247 in 86 games during the strike shortened 1981 season then in December he was traded to the Angels for catcher Brian Harper. The Pirates reacquired him in a December 1984 trade with the Yankees that had Steve Kemp joining him in Pittsburgh while Dale Berra and minor leaguer Jay Buhner went to New York. Foli was injured for a time and played just 19 games before being released in June of 1985. He was a career .251 hitter with 501 RBI’s and 576 runs scored in 1696 games played.
Also born on this date in 1971 was outfielder Adam Hyzdu, who played for the Pirates from 2000 to 2003. He was originally drafted in the 1st round by the San Francisco Giants back in 1990 but it took him 10 seasons to make his major league debut and he made quite an impression when he did. Hyzdu was in AA with Altoona in 2000 and put together a great season hitting .290 with 94 walks, 96 runs scored, 39 doubles, 31 homers and 106 RBI’s. The Pirates made him a September call-up and he hit .389 in 12 games. He started 2001 in AAA, again hit well and earned a mid-season promotion. He would hit four homers in his first 14 AB’s but go on to hit just one more in the next 45 games while finishing with a .208 average.
The 2002 season was much like the previous year. Hyzdu again started the year in the minors and again was called up midseason and again started off well. Ten games into his major league season that year he and the Pirates faced off against the Cardinals in Pittsburgh. Between July 19th and the 20th the Pirates would score 27 runs, winning both games and Adam would go a combined 7 for 10 with three homers and 11 RBI’s. He finished that year with a career high 155 AB’s while hitting 11 homers and driving in 34 runs. During his seven year career he never even reached half that many AB’s in any other season. He hit .206 in 51 games in 2003 for the Pirates before leaving via free agency. In 173 games with the Pirates he hit .231 with 18 homers and 55 RBI’s. He finished with a .229 career average and hit just one more major league homer. In the minors Hyzdu hit 280 homers and drove in 1024 runs in 1750 games
Going back to 1894, born on this date was outfielder Walter Mueller, who spent his entire major league career with the Pirates, from 1922-24 and 1926. Mueller started his major league career with a bang, hitting the first pitch he saw from star pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (HOF pitcher with 373 career wins) for a three run inside the park homer making him the first known player to homer on the first major league pitcher he saw. He hit .273 in 43 games his first season. The following seasons the Pirates had plenty of depth in the outfield and as the fifth outfielder on the team, Mueller barely played until late in the year, getting into just 10 games through the end of July. He finished with a career high .306 average in 40 games. In 1924 the Pirates outfield got more crowded with Kiki Cuyer added to the mix and Mueller started just eight games all season. He hit .260 in 30 games.
Mueller played another 19 games in 1926 for the Pirates and 19 other minor league games in 1928 but that was the extent of his pro career. He did not play at all in 1925 or 1927, the two years the Pirates went to the World Series. Mueller would hit one other home run in his career, just four days after his debut and this one would come against Brooklyn pitcher Ray Gordinier, who won 372 less games than Alexander did. His brother Heinie Mueller played 11 seasons in the majors and Walter’s son Don played 12 seasons in the majors.
Finally, born on this date in 1867 was John “Tun” Berger, who was a member of the worst team in franchise history, the 1890 Alleghenys and also one of the few holdovers from that team to stick around for the 1891 Pirates team. A lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, Berger played seven different positions in his rookie year in 1890, everything but first base and pitcher. He had 104 hits in 104 games, both the third highest totals on the team that went just 23-113. His 40 RBI’s and 64 runs scored both ranked second on the team and he hit .266 which was 36 points higher than the team’s combined average. Berger again was versatile in the field for Pittsburgh in 1891 playing five different positions and he hit .239 with 14 RBI’s in 43 games. That year he hit his only major league home run off 328 game winner John Clarkson, who is in the Hall of Fame. Berger played one more season in the majors and another six in the minors.