This Date in Pirates History: January 16
On this date in 1948 the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased third baseman Eddie Bockman from the Cleveland Indians. He had started his career in the minors in 1939 but before he could make his major league debut he spent three years serving in the military during WWII. When he returned he played briefly for the 1946 Yankees who traded him to the Indians after the season. In 46 games with Cleveland in 1947 he hit .258 with 14 RBI’s in just 66 AB’s. He started 44 games at third base for the Pirates in 1948 and while his fielding was above average his hitting was not. He hit .239 with 4 homers and 23 RBI’s in 176 AB’s. The following season was more of the same, good defense but he hit just .223 in 220 AB’s. Bockman spent the 1950 season in the minors for the Pirates, then played another nine seasons without making it back to the majors. After he retired as a player he managed and later scouted for many years.
Born on this date in 1970 was relief pitcher Ron Villone, who played for the 2002 Pirates. The Pirates are actually just one of the twelve teams Villone pitched for in his 15 year major league career. Villone signed with the Pirates as a free agent on February 16, 2002 after he went 6-10 5.89 in 53 games, 12 as a starter, in 2001 playing for both the Rockies and Astros that season. For the Pirates he began the year as a starter and had a 2-4 6.81 record after seven games so he was switched to the bullpen for the rest of the season. He went a combined 4-6 5.81 in 93 innings over 45 total games. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Diamondbacks, who released him before he pitched a game for them. He was picked up by the Astros and continued playing until 2009 in the majors. He spent 2010 in AAA for the Nationals and in 2011 he played Independent ball. In his 15 year major league career he went 61-65 4.73 in 717 games.
Also born on this date, in 1890, was pitcher Erskine Mayer who played for the 1918-19 Pirates. He started his career with the Phillies in 1912 and went 76-61 2.81 in seven seasons before they traded him to the Pirates for pitcher Elmer Jacobs on June 20, 1918. Mayer went 9-3 2.26 in 14 starts and a relief appearance to finish the season. In 1919 he had a good record at 5-3 in 18 games(ten starts) but his ERA was just 4.48 in 88.1 innings. The Pirates put him on waivers where he was taken by the Chicago White Sox, the team known as the Black Sox because they threw the 1919 World Series. That was his last season in pro ball. Mayer’s brother Sam played one season in the majors with the 1915 Washington Senators
Finally, born on this date in 1858 was third baseman Art Whitney who played for the 1884-86 Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association, then remained with the team through the 1887 season as they joined the National League. Whitney played three years in the NL with three different teams from 1880-82. He spent all of 1883 and part of 1884 in the minors before joining the Alleghenys near the end of the year. In 23 games he hit .298 and played strong defense at 3B earning a full time job for the next season. He was the team’s shortstop for the 1885 season and he led all AA shortstops in fielding percentage with a .918 mark, 39 points above league average. He was strong enough defensively that he still played everyday despite a .233 average with no power or speed. Moved back to third base for 1886, he only hit .239 but again led his position in fielding percentage, this time 57 points above the league average.
In the NL in 1887, he hit .260 which was the second highest average of his 11 year career. Even in the NL he was well above average in the field, winning his third straight fielding title at his position. He held out the beginning of the 1888 season over his contract and the Alleghenys traded him to the Giants for third baseman Elmer Cleveland on June 16,1888. Art played 368 games for Pittsburgh and hit .248 with no homers in his 1541 plate appearances. His brother Frank also played in the majors spending one season with the 1876 Boston Red Stockings