This Date in Pirates History: January 4
On this date in 1993, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent outfielder Lonnie Smith to a one year contract. Smith was 37 at the time of the deal, a veteran of 15 major league seasons who had hit .247 with 6 homers and 33 RBIs in 84 games for the Braves in 1992. He had stolen as many as 68 bases in a season, four times topping 40 but since stealing 25 bases in 1986, he had topped 10 steals just once in the last six seasons. He hit over .300 six times in his career with the last time coming in 1990 when he hit .305 for the Braves. With the Pirates Smith played left field and was used often as a pinch-hitter as well. In 94 games he hit .286 with six homers, 24 RBIs and 43 walks. In early September he was traded to the Orioles for two players to be named later, both ended up being career minor leaguers. Smith hit .288 career with 370 steals and 909 runs scored in 1613 games.
Also on this date, in 1996, the Pirates signed free agent catcher Lance Parrish to a one-year contract. Just two years prior, the Pirates bought his contract from the Detroit Tigers. In 1994 he hit .270 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 40 games for the Pirates. He spent the 1995 season in Toronto hitting just .202 in 70 games. Parrish, an eight time All-Star, was 40 years old at the time of his signing with the Pirates for 1996. He ended up not making the team that year and took a job in the Royals system, ending his playing career. He was a career .252 hitter with 324 homers and 1070 RBIs. Parrish won three Gold Glove awards and six Silver Slugger awards. He is 11th all-time in games caught and only four catchers have hit more homers while behind the plate.
Players born on this date include rule V draft pick John Raynor, who played for the Pirates during the 2010 season before being returned to the Florida Marlins. He was a 9th round draft pick of the Marlins in 2006 who worked his way up to AAA in 2009 one level per year. He hit .257 that season with SIX homers and 19 steals but he had hit 13 homers in each of the previous two seasons while stealing a combined 102 bases. The Pirates used him in 11 games off the bench, eight as a pinch hitter before deciding to return him to the Marlins on May 4th. He had two hits in the majors, both singles, in 10 at bats and he scored one run. He missed most of the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, playing just 43 minor league games for the Marlins. He went to camp with them in 2011 but didn’t make the team as asked for his release instead of reporting to minor league camp. He retired from baseball and went back to college at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington(the school he was drafted out of) where he also coached for their baseball team.
Also born on this date, in 1977, was pitcher Brian O’Connor who played for the 2000 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1995 out of high school. His minor league career got off to a great start as he posted a 1.88 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 43 innings of rookie ball as an 18-year-old but it was fleeting success as he posted an ERA over 4.00 in each season that followed up until 2003. He began the 2000 season repeating AA and went 12-4, 3.76 that year. On May 13th he was called up to the Pirates to make a spot start and while they ended up winning 11-8, O’Connor was pulled in the 3rd inning after allowing the first three batters to reach base. He gave up 6 total runs and was returned to the minors. The Pirates recalled him in September and he made five more relief appearances. He played in the minors until 2006, but never returned to the majors.
Finally, on a light day for birthdays and transactions, pitcher Jay Tibbs (1962) played for the 1990 Pirates. Tibbs was a second round draft pick by the Mets who made his major league debut in 1984. The Pirates acquired him mid-season 1990 from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later that turned out to be pitcher Dorn Taylor. Tibbs was just 2-7, 5.68 in 10 starts for the Orioles at the time of the deal. He pitched five games for the Pirates, all in relief, giving up two runs in seven innings pitched. He also pitched two games in AAA for the Bucs before a sore shoulder ended his season. He was invited to spring training the next season but did not make the team so he decided to retire. He had a 49-54, 4.20 record in seven major league seasons.