In part one of today’s Pittsburgh Pirates history, we cover seven former players that were born on this date. Later on, we will cover a Hall of Famer who played for the Pirates, as well as recap some trades of note and we will have another installment of John Fredland’s, Jolly Roger Rewind. Part two can be read here.
Tyler Yates (1977) Relief pitcher for the 2008-09 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Oakland A’s in 1998 as a 23rd round draft pick. It took Tyler six years to make the majors, doing it as a member of the Opening Day roster of the 2004 New York Mets. He was acquired in December of 2001 by New York in exchange for Dave Justice, who the Mets picked up a week earlier for Robin Ventura. Yates went 2-4 6.36 in seven starts and 14 relief appearances for the Mets in 2004, spending half the season back in the minors. Tyler then missed all of 2005 with rotator cuff surgery. It was his second major operation, missing most of 2002 after Tommy John surgery.
He was released by the Mets after the 2005 season, signing with the Orioles, who released him before the end of 2006 Spring Training. Yates signed with the Braves a month later and made it back to the majors after just seven AAA outings. He made 56 appearances for Atlanta that year, going 2-5 3.96 in 50 innings. The next year, he was used often, but his numbers regressed. In 75 outings, he had a 5.18 ERA, throwing a total of 66 innings. Near the end of Spring Training in 2008, the Pirates traded minor league pitcher Todd Redmond to the Braves to acquire Yates. Tyler made 72 appearances in 2008 for Pittsburgh, throwing a total of 73.1 innings, with a 6-3 4.66 record. In 2009, he pitched 15 times before he was shutdown, needing a second Tommy John surgery. He attempted a comeback in 2010 but never pitched again.
Steve Kemp (1954) Left fielder for the 1985-86 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Tigers in 1976, making it to the majors after just 125 minor league games. Steve was a regular in the Detroit lineup for five seasons, hitting .284 with 82 homers and 422 RBI’s in 684 games over that time. While there he made his only career All-Star appearance during the 1979 season, when he hit .318 with 105 RBI’s. He was traded to the White Sox in November of 1981, playing one season in Chicago prior to signing with the Yankees in December of 1982 for five years. His time in New York did not go well, lasting just two years and 203 games there. The Pirates acquired Kemp from the Yankees, along with Tim Foli, on December 20,1984 in exchange for Dale Berra, Al Pulido and minor league outfielder Jay Buhner. By 1985, he was a shell of his former self, all power was gone from his offensive game. Kemp hit .250 with two homers and 21 RBI’s in 92 games during the disastrous 1985 season, when the Pirates went 57-104, finishing 43.5 games out in the standings. He would make the 1986 Pirates team out of Spring Training, but he was released a month into the season after hitting .188 in 13 games. Steve spent the better part of the 1986 season and the next two years in the minors, briefly reappearing with the 1988 Texas Rangers for 16 games before retiring.
Jim Sadowski (1951) Pitcher for the 1974 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1970 as an amateur free agent. Sadowski was a starting pitcher during his first two seasons in the minors, moving into a spot starter/long man role in 1972, when he repeated High-A ball in the Carolina League. In 1973, Jim moved up to AA, going 11-5 3.34 in 124 innings, making seven starts and 32 relief appearances. He began 1974 in AAA, but was quickly up with the big club. Jim pitched four games for the Pirates, from the end of April, until the middle of May that season. He gave up six runs on seven hits and nine walks in nine innings. It would end up being his only major league experience. Jim pitched in the Pirates system until 1977, then finished his career with one year in the Royals system. Three of his uncles(all named Sadowski) played in the majors. Bob won twenty games over four seasons with the Braves and Red Sox. Ted pitched 43 games over three years with the Senators/Twins. Ed was a catcher for the Red Sox, Angels and Braves, hitting .202 in 217 games.
Jerry McNertney (1936) Catcher for the 1973 Pirates. He was originally signed by the White Sox in 1958, making his major league debut with Chicago six seasons later. After missing most of the 1965 season, Jerry returned to the majors in 1966 for eight more years. He spent three years(1966-68) as the backup catcher for the White Sox, prior to his selection in the 1968 expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots. There, McNertney got his most playing time, catching 122 games in 1969, then 94 games the next year, plus some time at first base, as the team moved to Milwaukee after one year. Jerry was traded to St Louis just after the 1970 season ended, serving as the backup catcher for the Cardinals for two seasons. After being released following the 1972 season, he was signed by the A’s, where he played back in the minors for the first time in eight years. Less than a month into the season, the Pirates purchased his contract. McNertney served as the backup to Milt May, as Manny Sanguillen attempted to play right field, following the tragic death of Roberto Clemente. In July, Sanguillen moved back to catching full-time and Jerry was released, playing nine games for the Pirates, one as the starting catcher, the rest off the bench. His release by the Pirates would mark the end of his baseball playing career. He hit .237 with 27 homers and 163 RBI’s in 590 big league games.
Les Fleming (1915) First baseman for the 1949 Pirates. He had a 16 year minor league career, that saw him bat over .300 with 280 homers. Fleming didn’t have as much success in the majors, playing a total of 434 games, including 156 in 1942 with the Indians, when he led the AL in games played. Immediately following that season, he missed all of the 1943-44 seasons, plus most of 1945 serving in the military during WWII. Les returned to Cleveland in August of 1945 and hit .329 over the last 42 games. He spent the next two years serving as a platoon player at first base, playing a total of 202 games over that time. The Pirates acquired Fleming on December 4,1947 in exchange for first baseman Elbie Fletcher. He spent the entire 1948 season playing at AAA Indianapolis, where he hit .323 with 26 homers and 143 RBI’s in 151 games. Les made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1949, and was used mainly as a pinch hitter, making three starts over the first two months of the season, his last time in the big leagues. In 24 games, he hit .258 with seven RBI’s and six walks in 38 plate appearances. He was returned to the minors, where he played until 1956, serving as a player/manager during the 1954 season, while in the Cubs system.
Adonis Terry (1864) Pitcher for the 1892-94 Pirates. He burst onto the minor league scene as an 18 year old in 1883, going 16-9 1.38 for the Brooklyn Greys of the Interstate League. By 1884, he was a big league starter, spending the next 14 years in the majors, winning a total of 197 games. Terry remained in Brooklyn, playing for the Atlantics/Grays of the American Association for six years, then following the team in 1890 as it shifted to the National League. He did not have a good rookie season, as Brooklyn was a ninth place team and Adonis was thrown into the fire often, going 19-35, while pitching 476 innings. He finished his eight years in Brooklyn with a 126-139 record, twice winning over twenty games. He was released by Brooklyn in June of 1892, after not pitching during the first two months of the season. He signed quickly with Baltimore and lost the only game he pitched there, giving up seven runs in a complete game. The Pirates acquired Terry on June 17,1892, for second baseman Cub Stricker, who they acquired three days earlier for Hall of Fame pitcher Pud Galvin.
Terry pitched great for the Pirates, going 18-7 2.51 in 240 innings over the last four months of the 1892 season. He struggled a bit in 1893, going 12-8 4.45 in 19 starts and seven relief outings. On April 28,1894, Adonis made his first start of the season, in the seventh game of the year for the Pirates. It was also his last start for the team. He allowed five runs in the first inning, unable to record three outs before he was removed from the game. A month later, he was a regular member of the Chicago Colts(Cubs) rotation, finishing his big league career there three years later. Terry played his last two seasons in the minors for Milwaukee of the Western League, where his manager was Connie Mack, his regular catcher in Pittsburgh. After retiring as a player, Adonis briefly took up umpiring in the majors, though that didn’t last long.
Jim Gray (1862) Infielder for the 1884 and 1890 Alleghenys, and 1893 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, who kept popping up with the local teams every so often. His minor league records are spotty at best, showing parts of three(1887-88,1898) seasons. His entire major league career consisted of six games, and included three stints with the Pirates franchise and two games for the Pittsburgh Burghers in 1890, a team from the Player’s League. In 1893, he was called up to substitute for Jack Glasscock for two days and collected two hits in each game. Gray was able to hold his own at the plate, batting .304 with a homer in his 23 career AB’s, but he had his share of problems in the field, making nine errors in his six games. He was referred to in The Pittsburgh Press as the “local County League boy” whenever he showed up in a major league game. In his six game career, he played third base, second base and shortstop.