This Date in Pirates History: January 14

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date as well as a manager who never played for the team but he did go on to have his jersey retired by the Pirates. With so many people to cover I’ll keep the descriptions brief and start with the most recent player first.

Meyer managed in the Yankees farm system from 1932-47

Steve Cooke (1970) pitcher for the Pirates from 1992 until 1997. He was a 35th round draft pick by the Pirates in 1989 but he didn’t sign until right before the deadline in 1990 back when teams could draft and follow players. It took him just over two seasons to work his way up from low-A ball to the majors where he made his debut in late July 1992. He went 2-0, 3.52 in 11 games, all as a reliever, earning a job for the 1993 season. As a starter that first full year he went 10-10, 3.89 in 32 games, pitching 210.2 innings with 132 strikeouts. He struggled during the strike-shortened 1994 season, going 4-11, 5.02 then missed the entire 1995 seasons and half of 1996 due to shoulder surgery. Recovered and back in the rotation for 1997 he made 32 starts going 9-15, 4.30 before being released following the season. He signed with the Reds, made one start then missed the rest of the season with elbow problems. He pitched until 2000 in the minors

Joe Redfield (1961) third baseman for the 1991 Pirates. He was drafted by the Mets in 1982, taking until June 4,1988 to make his major league debut with the Angels. He played just one game before returning to the minors. After spending the next two full seasons in the minors, the Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 1990.  They called him up to the majors in the middle of June and in 11 games he hit .111 with four walks. He returned to AAA in early July to finish the season and the Pirates resigned him for the 1992 season, his last year in pro ball. He played for six organizations in his 11 year which included the 1987 season when he .321 with 30 homers and 108 RBIs for Midland of the Texas League, the Angels AA team that year.

Terry Forster (1952) relief pitcher for the 1977 Pirates. Forster played six seasons for the White Sox before they traded him in December 1976 along with Goose Gossage to the Pirates in exchange for Richie Zisk in a trade covered here. Forster went 6-4, 4.43 in 33 games, 6 as a starter, in his only season with the Pirates. He was granted free agency and signed a five year contract with the Dodgers. Terry pitched in the majors until 1986, finishing his career in the minors the following year. In 16 big league seasons, he went 54-65, 3.23 in 614 career games with 127 career saves.

Hank Gornicki (1911) pitcher for the Pirates from 1942-43 and 1946. He made his pro debut in 1936 and despite his advanced age and a 90-57 record over five seasons, he didn’t make his major league debut until age 30, pitching a total of five games between stops with the Cardinals and Cubs in 1941. He was taken by the Pirates off waivers in December of 1941 and made their opening day roster in 1942. He went 5-6, 2.57 in 25 games that year, 14 as a starter, pitching a total of 112 innings. The next year he went 9-13, 3.98 in 42 games, 18 as a starter. He then served in WWII before returning to baseball during the 1946 season. In seven games for the Pirates that year, he posted a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings. He finished his career in the minors in 1947.

Billy Meyer (1893) manager for the Pirates from 1948 until 1952. He was a catcher in the majors for three seasons between 1913 and 1917 but spent the majority of his playing days in the minors where he played from 1910 until 1928. He began as a player-manager in 1925 and would go on to manage for 20 seasons before the Pirates gave him his first major league managerial job. He took over a Pittsburgh club that went 62-92 in 1947 and led them to a 21 game turn around the following year, a fourth place finish but just 8.5 games back in the standings. The turnaround was short-lived and the Pirates were much worse by the end of his tenure, going just 42-112 in 1952, his last season at the helm. He was a very popular manager, especially with the media. He became a scout for the Pirates until a stroke in 1955 left him unable to return to baseball. The Pirates retired his #1 uniform number in 1954. He finished with a 317-452 record in the majors as a manager, all spent with the Pirates.

John Shovlin (1891) infielder for the Pirates in 1911. He started his minor league career in 1910 playing for a team in Erie,Pa before the Pirates bought his contract in June 1911. He lasted just two games, one as a pinch hitter and one as a pinch runner before the Pirates sent him to the minors. He struck out in his only at bat with Pittsburgh. It took eight years in the minors before he got another chance in the majors with the St Louis Browns. He played 16 games with them between the 1919-20 seasons. He didn’t play any pro ball again until the 1928 season when he returned to play for a team in Binghamton,NY for four more seasons.

Art Madison (1871) infielder for the 1899 Pirates and one of the four players sent to Louisville in the Honus Wagner trade covered here.  Madison made his major league debut with the Phillies in 1895 and in 11 games he hit .353 with eight RBIs and four stolen bases. Despite the brief success he spent the next three full seasons in the minors. He signed with the Pirates for the 1899 season and in 42 games he hit .271 with 19 RBIs playing 19 games at 2B and 15 at shortstop. Madison was involved in the Wagner trade in December of 1899, going to Louisville in the deal. The Louisville team folded shortly after that and in March his contract was returned to the Pirates. Just six days later the Pirates sold him to Indianapolis of the American League, a minor league at the time. He played six more seasons in the minors before ending his playing career.

John Newell (1868) third baseman for the 1891 Pirates. He started his pro career in the minors in 1889 playing for four different teams before the Pirates bought his contract from Portland of the New England League in July of 1891. He made his major league debut on July 22nd and ten days later he played his last major league game. The local newspaper said that Newell looked like a ballplayer and could handle himself in the field, though he made a lot of high throws. In five games for the Pirates he hit .111 with two RBIs and made two errors in 13 total chances. Less than a month later he was released and sent back to the minors. Newell bounced around the minors for seven more seasons including the 1896 season in which he hit .413 with 74 stolen bases for Wilmington of the Atlantic League. He and Joe Redfield, mentioned above, both went 2-for-18 at the plate while with the Pirates.

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John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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