Today’s group of four former Pittsburgh Pirates players that were born on this date includes a six time All-Star, who played his first two games with the Pirates. It also has a player who was traded to Pittsburgh for a Hall of Famer, a pitcher for the 1927 team that went to the World Series and also a guy known by a name that doesn’t even closely resemble his actual name. It his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look back at a game from a quarter of a century ago.
Moises Alou (1967) Outfielder for the 1990 Pirates. He was a first round pick, taken second overall in the January 1986 amateur draft. By the end of the 1989 season, he was considered a top prospect in the minors. That year he hit .298 with 17 homers and 20 steals, splitting the year between High-A and AA ball. He began 1990 back in AA, making it to AAA after a month. He hit .273 with five homers in 75 games at AAA before getting the call to the majors in late July. Moises played two games for the Pirates, going 1-5 while playing left field. The Pirates sent him to the Montreal Expos on August 16,1990 as the player to be named later in a trade made eight days earlier, that brought Zane Smith back to Pittsburgh. The move helped the team short-term but long after Smith was gone, Alou was still a productive major leaguer. He played until 2008, finishing his career with a .303 average, 332 homers and 1287 RBI’s in 1942 games. Moises was a six time All-Star and he won two Silver Slugger awards. Twice in his career he finished third in NL MVP voting.
Luke Hamlin (1904) Pitcher for the 1942 Pirates. He didn’t make the majors until the age of 28, but Hamlin would go on to have a decent nine year career with 76 wins and a twenty win season to his credit. Hamlin’s first chance in the majors came with the 1933-34 Tigers, where he went 3-3 5.28 in 23 games and 92 innings. After spending the next two years in the minors, he returned with the 1937 Dodgers and would become a regular in their rotation for five seasons. In 1939, he went 20-13 3.64 in 269.2 innings, leading the NL in games started. In 1941, Luke went 8-8 4.24 in 136 innings, making twenty starts. The Pirates acquired him on December 12,1941 as part of a package in return for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan. For Pittsburgh, Hamlin had a 4-4 3.94 record, making 14 starts and nine relief appearances. He spent the 1943 season pitching for Toronto of the International League, posting a 21-8 2.14 record in 224 innings, yet didn’t get a call to the majors. The Philadelphia A’s traded for him in September of 1943 and Luke finished his big league career with the A’s that next season. He had a long successful minor league career, winning 213 games in 15 seasons, with four 20 win seasons, giving him a total of 289 wins in the pros.
Chet Nichols (1897) Pitcher for the 1926-27 Pirates. He got a late start to his pro career, beginning in 1925 with New Haven of the Eastern League at the age of twenty-seven. Nichols pitched 304 innings that first season, posting a 2.93 ERA. The next year, he was 13-6 2.37 through July when the Pirates gave him a shot at the majors. He made three relief appearances over a six day span and while the first one went well(1.2 scoreless innings) the other two didn’t go so well, allowing 11 runs in six innings. The Pirates kept him around, though he didn’t pitch for the rest of the season. Chet was with the team through the end of Spring Training, but didn’t make his season debut with Pittsburgh until the middle of May. He pitched 12 games during the 1927 season for New Haven, going 6-4 2.60 in 83 innings. For the Pirates he went 0-3 5.86 in eight relief appearances, pitching a total of 27.2 innings. His last appearance with the team was an in-season exhibition game and he did not take part in the World Series. Nichols would be taken by the Giants in the 1927 Rule V draft, and after leaving Pittsburgh, he pitched 33 more games in the majors over four seasons, finishing with a 1-8 7.19 record in 122.2 innings. His son Chet Nichols Jr, pitched nine seasons in the majors between 1951 and 1964.
Bunny Brief (1892) First baseman for the 1917 Pirates. He was one of the best home run hitters in the minor leagues ever. Brief hit 342 homers over a 19 year career that began during the deadball era. He wasn’t all power, he was also a pretty good hitter, batting .331 in the minors, which included ten straight .300 seasons to finish his career. His time in the majors though, matched his last name and he showed neither the average nor power he was famous for in the minors. Brief played the 1912-13 seasons with the St Louis Browns, playing a total of 100 games with a .230 average and one homer. He next appeared with the 1915 White Sox, batting .214 with two homers in 48 games. After hitting .314 with 33 homers in the Pacific Coast League in 1916, Brief got his last chance at the majors, making the 1917 Pirates. He would play 36 games before returning to the minor leagues, hitting .217 with two homers. The first home run he hit with Pittsburgh came off Grover Alexander, the Hall of Fame pitcher with 373 career wins. The next homer came the next day, off Erskine Mayer, who would go on to pitch for the Pirates the next season. Brief returned to the minors in June of 1917, and finished that season and the next 11 years down of the farm, without making it back to the majors. He is known in baseball history by the name Bunny Brief, but his actual given name is Anthony Grzeszkowski.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 3, 1987
Bobby Bonilla hit two home runs—one from each side of the plate—and drove in five runs to lead the Pirates to a 6-0 victory over the Dodgers at Three Rivers Stadium.
Bonilla’s big night started with an RBI groundout in the second inning against Fernando Valenzuela. An inning later, the twenty-four-year-old third baseman faced the Dodger lefthander with two on, two out, and a run in. Bonilla ripped Valenzuela’s pitch over the fence in left-center for a 5-0 advantage.
In the seventh inning, right-hander Ken Howell had replaced Valenzuela on the mound, and Bonilla relocated to the left side of the batter’s box. The move failed to curtail his power: Bonilla drove the ball into the center-field seats—about fifty feet from the destination of his first homer—to become the first player in franchise history to switch-hit home runs in a game.*
Bonilla’s ballistics proved more than enough run support for Rick Reuschel, who went the distance for his second consecutive complete-game shutout. Allowing just five hits and a walk, Reuschel lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.17.
* Nine months later in Philadelphia, Bonilla would again homer from both sides of the plate.
Box score and play-by-play
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story