Only two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and they played with the team nearly 100 years apart from each other. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland covers an important doubleheader from the last World Series champs in team history.
Enrique Wilson (1973) Infielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Twins in 1992 as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Wilson made his debut five years later as a member of the Cleveland Indians. He spent parts of four seasons there, seeing plenty of time at SS/3B/2B, prior to being traded to the Pirates the day after his 27th birthday, in exchange for Wil Cordero. With Cleveland, Wilson played 190 games, hitting .287 with 49 RBI’s and 72 runs. For Pittsburgh, he played 40 games in 2000, again seeing time at all three infield spots. Enrique hit .262 with 15 RBI’s and a .723 OPS. In 2001, he was seeing most of his time at shortstop and struggling with the bat, hitting just .186 with eight RBI’s through 46 games. On June 13,2001, the Pirates traded Wilson to the Yankees in exchange for pitcher Damaso Marte. Enrique played with the Yankees through the end of the 2004 season, then finished his big league career with the 2005 Cubs, before retiring after playing one last season in the minors. He was highly rated coming through the minors, three times making Baseball America’s top 100 list, but his career didn’t quite pan out. Wilson was a .244 hitter over 555 major league games. He played in five postseasons, two with Cleveland, three with Yankees, coming up short of a World Series ring each time.
Irish McIlveen (1880) Pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. The Pirates signed the left-handed throwing, native of Ireland, directly out of Penn St, where he was a star athlete. After joining Pittsburgh in early July of 1906, he played five games, two as a pitcher and three off the bench. Six days after his major league debut on July 4th, he made his only start, losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers by a 7-6 score. Irish, whose real name was Henry, and who went by the name “Lefty” in college, returned to school to coach during the 1907 and 1908 seasons. He also played some pro ball those two seasons, the first year he played 58 games for a minor league team from Steubenville and the next year he split his time between Newark of the Eastern League and the New York Highlanders(Yankees) in the majors. McIlveen played 48 games for the Highlanders between the 1908-09 seasons, seeing time at all three outfield spots, but he never pitched in New York. He played his last major league game on May 6,1909 and never played in the minors after that point either. There have been 48 major league players that were born in Ireland. Only four began their career after McIlveen, one of them being Paddy O’Connor, the backup catcher for the first Pirates team(1909) to win the World Series.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 27, 1979
The Pirates closed to within one half-game of the National League East lead by sweeping division-leading Montreal in a doubleheader, 5-4 and 9-1, at Olympic Stadium.
Having occupied first place since June 13, the Expos entered the twinbill with a 31-12 home record. The biggest crowd yet to witness a major league baseball game in Canada—59,260—showed up in hopes of seeing those trends continue. But the Bucs pulled out a close win in the opener and crushed the home team in the nightcap to equal their closest approach to the top spot all season.*
In the opener, the Pirates jumped to 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 leads, only to see the Expos rally to tie the score all three times. The Buccos finally went ahead to stay in the eighth inning, when Phil Garner’s single off Elias Sosa on a 3-2 pitch—two pitches after home plate umpire Charlie Williams had caused controversy by ruling that Garner’s certain-out bouncer in front of the plate had hit the Bucs’ infielder for a foul ball—drove in Dave Parker from second base. Kent Tekulve, Grant Jackson and Enrique Romo recorded the final six outs to secure the victory.
The Bucs left no room for debate in the second game. During the previous September, Expos’ rookie Scott Sanderson had thrown a three-hit shutout against the Buccos, slowing their desperate pennant charge. On this night, however, the Pirates knocked Sanderson out of the box with five runs in three innings, highlighted by John Milner’s three-run third-inning homer.
Bert Blyleven, who scattered five hits and went the distance to improve his record to 9-3, would not require further scoring, but the Buccos continued the attack against Montreal’s bullpen. Garner finished with three hits, including a double and triple, and four runs scored. Parker added three runs scored.**
“Winning is tough to do here,” Milner told The Pittsburgh Press afterwards. “It sweeps all the momentum over to our side. We just played good, hard baseball, that’s all.”
Game One box score and play-by-play
Game Two box score and play-by-play
The Pittsburgh Press game story
* The Bucs had stood seven and a half games out of first place just twenty days earlier.
** Parker also contributed some angry words after being hit by pitches in both games of the doubleheader. “You’d think our pitcher would pick up on this,” he indicated to the Press. “The next thing you know, somebody will get hit in the face, and his career, maybe his life, is over.”