This Date in Pirates History: January 27
Only one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date and no major transactions so Otis Clymer, right fielder for the 1905-07 Pirates, takes center stage today. He was born in 1876 and didn’t make his major league debut until 1905 when the Pirates signed him away from the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League. His minor league career up to that point consisted of just that 1904 season despite the advanced age. He hit .294 in 126 games for Buffalo that year.
Clymer was on the 1905 opening day roster for Pittsburgh and playing regularly until a stomach bug sidelined him in June. In early May, just three weeks into his major league career, he had endeared himself to his new teammates by standing up for Honus Wagner after he got bumped on the basepaths by Cliff Blankenship of the Reds. Clymer, at his first chance for retaliation, went spikes first hard into Blankenship who was playing first base and the two players ended up fighting. Less than a month later though, Clymer’s teammates weren’t as sure of his loyalty to the team due to a report in the Pittsburgh Press that claimed he was going to desert the team. He denied the reports, claiming he had only asked for time off to get better. The Pirates sent him to a physician who diagnosed the stomach problems and provided treatment that helped him get back on the field quicker but prior to that he was playing through the pain and weakness and his stats were suffering.
Clymer finished that 1905 season playing a total of 96 games. He hit .296 with 23 stolen bases and 74 runs scored. The Pirates had planned for him to be their regular right fielder in 1906 and he started the season at the spot but just 11 games into the schedule he broke his leg sliding into a base and would be forced to miss the entire season. The blow was a difficult one for the Pirates who were already missing their star center fielder Ginger Beaumont, who was also out due to a leg injury. Clymer returned healthy for the 1907 season although he did have some problems with a charley horse in his previously injured leg during spring training. He was said to be fine a week prior to the start of the season.
Clymer had trouble regaining his 1905 form and wasn’t playing everyday when the Pirates decided to sell him to the Washington Senators on June 26, 1907. The move wasn’t unexpected, the Pirates had three players taking turns in right field and none of them were playing well so someone had to be moved. Teams back then rarely carried more than a few extra players except at the catch position due to a much higher injury rate behind the plate back then. The Pirates seemed to give up on Clymer too soon that 1907 season as he finished the year hitting .316 in 57 games in Washington. He was also able to steal 18 bases, proving that his leg problems were behind him.
He would go on to play two more seasons for the Senators, playing well in 1908 but struggling badly at the plate in 1909, hitting .196 through 45 games before he was sent to the minors to play for Minneapolis. Clymer would play the next three seasons for the team known as the Millers and hit over .300 each year, topping out at .342 in 1911 while also hitting 48 doubles. He was taken by the Cubs in the rule V draft following the 1912 season, signifying a return to the majors at age 37 after a 3 1/2 year absence. He would last only 30 games with the Cubs before they sold him to the Boston Doves. Clymer hit .324 with six RBIs in 14 games for the Doves but they released him in early August anyway. He finished his career with two more seasons with Minneapolis before retiring. While with the Pirates he hit .282 in 129 games and overall he batted .267 in 385 major league games. He retired to the Minneapolis area but died tragically at the age of 50 after his car went off the road and plunged more than 70 feet.
Since this article was written in 2012, one more player born on this date has played for the Pirates. In 2013, reliever Mike Zagurski (1983) pitched six innings over six appearances for Pittsburgh. He was signed by the Pirates during the 2012-13 off-season and started the year with Indianapolis. In AAA, he had a 2.14 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 21 innings before being called up to the Pirates in late May. He allowed ten runs on ten hits and eight walks in his six innings. Zagurski was released in late June and signed with the Yankees, who released him later in the year. He finished the season with the Yankees after making a brief stop with the A’s. Zagurski signed with the Indians as a free agent in November. Prior to joining the Pirates, he pitched parts of two seasons with the Phillies and one with the Diamondbacks. In 89 major league appearances, he is 1-0, 7.05 in 75.1 innings.