This Date in Pirates History: January 3
There were eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date but by far the most important one was first baseman Gus Suhr, who was born on this date in 1906. Suhr is considered by some as the best first baseman in team history and he manned the position in Pittsburgh for ten seasons from 1930 to 1939. Suhr was signed by the Pirates after hitting .381 with 51 homers, 62 doubles and 299 hits for San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League in 1929. Those totals are obviously extremely impressive but a little bit misleading. The PCL was a high offense league and they played approximately 200 games per year with Suhr playing in 202 during that season.
The 1930 season was one of the highest offense seasons in major league history so Suhr broke in at the right time. He hit .286 during his rookie campaign with 80 walks, 93 runs scored and 107 RBIs. A leg injury cost him part of the 1931 seasons and his numbers really suffered hitting only .211 in 87 games. After that season he was a mainstay in the lineup, averaging 152 games played per season over the next seven years. Three times he led the NL in games played. He drove in 103 runs during the 1934 season and two years later he had a career year, hitting .312 with 95 walks, 111 runs scored and 118 RBIs. He made his only all-star appearances that 1936 season. During each of his eight full seasons in a Pirates uniform, Suhr finished in the top six in the NL in both walks and triples, although surprisingly despite that accomplishment, he never led the league in either category.
In ten seasons in Pittsburgh he hit .278 with 789 RBIs and 689 runs scored over 1365 games. He ranks 8th in Pirates history in runs batted in and 7th in walks with 679, placing him as the highest non-Hall of Famer in each category. The Pirates traded Suhr to the Phillies in the middle of the 1939 season in exchange for pitcher Max Butcher, who was just 28-46 career at the time of the trade. Despite the stats seemingly making this a one-sided trade, the Pirates actually got the better of the deal as Butcher went 67-60 in seven seasons in Pittsburgh while Suhr played 70 games for the Phillies before they released him. He returned to the minors, playing off and on until 1948.
Other birthdays on this date include:
Dick Colpaert (1944) who pitched for the 1970 Pirates. He was only in the majors for three weeks, pitching 10.2 innings over eight relief appearances, but he was actually in the Pirates system for ten seasons. He was drafted by the Pirates from the Orioles in November 1962 during the first year draft(which does not exist anymore) and he stayed around until November 1972 when he was sold to the Royals. He spent 13 seasons in the minors, going 76-60 3.37 in 546 games. Colpaert’s only win came when he pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Braves in his second game. The Pirates were trailing 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth and they were able to take the lead with three runs. Dave Giusti came in for the ninth inning and saved the game. Colpaert ended up going 12-3, 2.28 in 46 relief appearances at AAA during that 1970 season. Two years later he won 14 games and picked up 21 saves in 61 relief outings.
Harry Fisher (1926) was a pitcher for the 1951-52 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1947 as an amateur free agent and his first year he won a career high 17 games pitching for the Tallahassee Pirates. He was a decent pitcher who could really swing the bat, occasionally he played the outfield during his minor league career. He was called up late in 1951 and never actually took the mound but he did pinch hit three times. The following season he pitched eight games, three as a starter and while he fared poorly going 1-2 6.87, he was actually used seven times as a pinch hitter and hit .333 on the season going 5 for 15. He returned to the minors where he finished out his career in 1959 with a 65-79 record in 264 games. His real minor league highlights though were his back to back seasons in which he hit .397 and .423 in 1949-50. Those weren’t just very limited seasons as he record 89 hits in 214 AB’s over the two seasons.
Kirby White (1884) was a pitcher for the 1910-11 Pirates. The Pirates acquired White early in the 1910 season for two players who spent the majority of their careers in the minors and were seldom used by the Pirates, pitcher Sam Frock and first baseman Bud Sharpe. White had a 3.23 ERA in 148.1 innings his rookie season in 1909 and three starts into the 1910 season he was 1-2, 1.38 for the Boston Doves. For the Pirates he had a 10-9, 3.46 record in 21 starts and nine relief appearances to finish the 1910 season. He wasn’t able to pitch until May of the 1911 season due to an arm injury and when he finally made a start May 24th he was ineffective, getting pulled from the game early and taking the loss. That was his last major league game, just days later the Pirates sold him to a minor league team in Indianapolis. He finished his pro career playing four seasons(1912-15) for the Sioux City Indians of the Western League.
Luis Sojo (1965) Infielder who played 61 games for the 2000 Pirates. Sojo signed with the Pirates as a free agent in January of 200. He hit .284 with five homers and 20 RBIs for the Pirates before being traded to the Yankees in early August for pitcher Chris Spurling. He played more second base and shortstop during his career, but with the Pirates, all but one game he played in the field was at third base. Sojo played a total of 848 major league games over 13 seasons, hitting .261 with 261 RBIs. He won three World Series titles while with the Yankees and drove in 15 runs in 43 playoff games. Sojo has managed for the last seven seasons in the Yankees minor league system.
Mark Dewey (1965) relief pitcher for the 1993-94 Pirates. In 66 games for the Pirates, he had a 3-3, 3.23 record with eight saves. He pitched 205 career games in the majors, all in relief and those eight saves with the Pirates were all that he recorded during his career. Dewey made a comeback in 2001 after five years of retirement, pitching 11 games for the Pirates AAA team in Nashville. He next played six years later in Independent ball in 2007(he was also the team’s pitching coach), but he lasted just 18 games before cutting his last comeback short. The Pirates picked Dewey up off waivers from the New York Mets in May of 1993. He became a free agent after the 1994 season and signed with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants had drafted him in the 23rd round of the amateur draft seven years earlier. Dewey has been a pitching coach coach off and on since 2000.
Michael Restovich (1979) Outfielder who played 52 games for the 2005 Pirates. He hit .214 with two homers and five RBIs in 84 at-bats for Pittsburgh. He then spent the next two seasons bouncing between the minors and majors, seeing time with the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. Restovich spent 2008 in Japan, then played another three years in the minor leagues without making it back to the majors. The Pirates picked him up from the Colorado Rockies in May of 2005 for future considerations. He was released following the 2005 season. Restovich had a .239/.313/.377 line in 152 major league games over six seasons. He was a second round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 1997 draft.
Carlos Maldonado (1979) Catcher who played 21 games for the Pirates during the 2006-07 seasons. He hit .163 with two homers in 43 at-bats for Pittsburgh. Maldonado was in the Pirates system from 2005 through 2008, splitting his time between Altoona and Indianapolis. After leaving the Pirates in 2009, he spent one season in the minors for the Boston Red Sox. Since then, Maldonado has spent four seasons with the Washington Nationals, briefly appearing in the majors in both 2010 and 2012, playing four games each year. Prior to joining the Pirates, he spent nine seasons in the minor leagues with the Mariners, White Sox and Astros. Maldonado was signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela by the Mariners in 1995.