This Date in Pirates History: February 6

Plenty of star power among former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date but we start with the current player celebrating a birthday today. Pedro Alvarez turns 27 today. He was the first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2008, second overall. Pedro split his first season between high-A and AA, hitting .288 with 27 homers and 95 RBIs. He moved to AAA for 2010 and in 66 games hit .277 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs. Alvarez made his major league debut on June 16,2010 and in 95 games he hit .256 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs, giving him 117 total runs batted in on the season. He struggled badly during the 2011 season, spent 50 days on the DL and was even optioned to the minors for part of the year. In 2012, Alvarez hit .244 with 30 homers and 85 RBIs. He also struck out 180 times, setting a franchise single-season record. In 2013, he won the NL home run crown with 36, which is the most for the Pirates since Brian Giles hit 38 in 2002. Alvarez drove in 100 runs, won his first Silver Slugger award and made his first All-Star team. He also struck out 186 times(breaking his own team record) and for the second straight year, he led all of baseball with 27 errors.

Pedro Alvarez

Other players born on this date include:

Richie Zisk (1949) outfielder for the Pirates from 1971 until 1976. He was a third round draft pick of the Pirates out of high school in the 1967 amateur draft. Zisk spent six seasons in the minors, hitting .300 with 129 homers before earning an opening day job in the majors. He played 24 games with the Pirates between the 1971-72 seasons. In 1973 he was the everyday right fielder for the last two months of the season. He played 103 games that year, hitting .324 with 54 RBIs and finishing 9th in the Rookie of the Year voting. The 1974 season would see him finish 9th in the MVP voting  as he drove in 100 runs with a .313 batting average, the sixth highest total in the NL. He hit .290 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs in 1975, helping the Pirates to the playoffs for the second straight year. They would lose both years in the NLCS but Zisk hit a combined .400 in what would end up being the only playoffs of his 13 year career.

In 1976 Richie scored a career high 91 runs and hit 35 doubles, also a career high. He hit 21 homers, his high while with the Pirates and drove in 89 runs. With one season left before he hit free agency and a need for pitching help, plus the emergence of Omar Moreno left the outfield crowded, the Pirates traded Zisk to the White Sox for Goose Gossage and Terry Forster on December 10,1976. That trade was covered here. Zisk went on to hit 30 homers and drive in 101 runs in his only year in Chicago, making the all-star team for the first time. He signed a five year deal with the Texas Rangers, playing three seasons of that deal before he was traded to the Mariners, where he finished his career in 1983. He was a career .287 hitter with 792 RBIs in 1453 games.

Bill Koski (1932) pitcher for the 1951 Pirates. He was rushed to the majors as a 19-year-old after just ten minor league games in 1950 at the low levels. He opened the 1951 season on the Pirates opening day roster and started his career with a three inning appearance in relief in which he did not allow a hit. That earned him a start a week later as he picked up his only career decision in a loss to the Giants. He was with the Pirates through early June before returning to the minors. He came back up in September and had two more relief outings in what would be his only season in the majors. He struggled with his control, walking 28 batters in 27 innings with just six strikeouts. Koski spent 1952 in the minors, then served in the Korean War before returning to minor league baseball for four more seasons.

Smoky Burgess (1927) catcher/pinch hitter for the Pirates from 1959 until 1964. He came to the Pirates in January 1959 from the Reds as part of the Harvey Haddix/Don Hoak trade that was covered here. Burgess had batted .283 in each of the previous two seasons, both as a part-time player. Prior to that he was an all-star in both the 1954 and 1955 seasons. Smoky hit .297 with 59 RBIs in 377 at-bats in 1959 for the Pirates. He had an OPS of .834 thanks to 44 extra base hits in his limited at-bats.  He also made the all-star team for the first of three consecutive seasons. He hit .294 in 1960, helping the Pirates to the World Series where he hit .333(6-for-18) and Pittsburgh won their third World Series title. Burgess hit .303 with 52 RBIs in 323 at-bats in 1961 and topped his 1959 OPS with an .851 mark but he would be even better the following season.

In 1962 Smoky had 360 at-bats and batted .328 with 13 homers and 61 RBIs, his high in all three triple crown categories while with the Pirates. His playing time decreased in 1963 as his average dropped to .280 and by early September the following season he was put on waivers by the Pirates, finishing the year with the White Sox. In 18 major league seasons he hit .295 with 126 homers and 673 RBIs in 1691 games. He pinch hit 551 times in his career, hitting .278 with 138 RBIs in that role.

Dale Long (1926) first baseman for the Pirates in 1951 and then again in 1955-57. He was in the minors for seven seasons before he got his first chance at the majors for the Pirates in 1951. He was taken in the December 1950 rule V draft, making the Pirates his fifth organization. He played just ten games before he was put on waivers where he was picked up by the St Louis Browns. There he lasted 34 games before being released. Long would spend the next three seasons in the minors, resigning with the Pirates in 1953. In 1955 they gave him his second chance with the team and he excelled. He hit .291 with 79 RBIs and led the NL in triples with 13, playing a total of 131 games. He made his only all-star appearance in 1956 when he slugged 27 homers and drove in 91 runs. That season from May 19- May 28 he homered in eight straight games setting a still standing(since tied) record for consecutive games with a home run.

In early 1957 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a four player deal that did not work out well for the Pirates. Long was productive through the 1962 season while the two returning players, Dee Fondy and Gene Baker only had value through the end of the 1957 season. The Pirates also sent Lee Walls in the deal and he too outmatched the returning players on his own. Long finished his career in 1963 with a .267 average and 132 homers in 1013 games.

Glenn Wright (1901) shortstop for the Pirates from 1924 until 1928. He had played three seasons of minor league ball before the Pirates purchased his contract from the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. Wright had an outstanding rookie season in 1924, finishing third in the NL in RBIs with 111, third in triples with 18 and he led the league in at-bats with 616. He also set a record for assists by a shortstop with 601, a total that has been topped only once since, by Ozzie Smith in 1980 and he had a longer schedule to help him. Glenn would finish 11th in the NL MVP voting that season. His second season was even better than his first. He hit .308 and drove in 121 runs while scoring a career high 97 runs. He collected 60 extra base hits, led NL shortstops again in assists and this time finished fourth in the NL MVP voting. The Pirates went to the World Series that year and Wright struggled in the series, hitting .185 but the Pirates still took the series in seven games.

In 1926 Glenn played just 119 games, missing some time in August after suffering an injury during a clubhouse scuffle. Prior to the injury he was hitting .324 but upon returning after three weeks, his average dropped down below .300, only coming back to .308 by going 6-for-8 in the last two games of the season. Healthy for the 1927 season, he hit .281, a low mark in his five years with the Pirates but he drove in 105 runs, topping the century mark for a third time in four years. He led all NL shortstops in games played, putouts and also errors. The Pirates again made the World Series and again Wright had his postseason troubles, hitting .154 as the Pirates lost in four games. He played just 108 games in 1928, missing some time with off-field problems and he was now in the managers doghouse. After the season the Pirates traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in exchange for pitcher Jesse Petty and a backup infielder named Harry Riconda. Wright would be injured almost all of 1929, come back in 1930 to hit .321 with 22 homers and 126 RBIs before injuring his leg, an injury that would effectively end his days as a star shortstop. He was a career .294 hitter with 723 RBIs in 1119 games.

John Dreker

Author: 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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  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    The Pirate minor league system of the early 1970′s really DID have waves of talent coming thru.  Richie and Joe Orsulak gave the Pirates two outfielders who went to high school in Parsipanny NJ, but went to different schools.