Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a pitcher for the 1990 team that won the NL East and another that was one half of a family duo that played third base for the Pirates in the 1950’s. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps a home run barrage from the great Ralph Kiner, who is linked to one of the players listed below.
Franquelis Osoria (1981) Relief pitcher for the 2007-08 Pirates. He was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent in 1999 by the Dodgers. He made it to the majors in 2005 and had his best season, posting a career-low 3.94 ERA in 24 appearances, covering 29.2 innings. Osoria struggled badly with the Dodgers the next year, with a 7.13 ERA in his 12 outings. That December, the Pirates picked him up off waivers. He was pitching well at AAA until being recalled in early August. Franquelis pitched 25 times for the Pirates in 2007, compiling a 4.76 ERA in 28.1 innings. In each of his first three seasons in the majors, he finished with an 0-2 record. In 2008, Osoria pitched a career high 43 games, and while he had a 4-3 record, he did not pitch well for the most part, finished with a 6.08 ERA in 60.2 innings. He was released by the Pirates after the season, signing with the Royals a couple months later, although he never pitched again.
Mike Roesler (1963) Pitcher for the 1990 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the 17th round of the 1985 amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds. He was a starter his first two years in the Reds system, then moved to relieving in 1987, getting to the majors two years later. The Reds called him up in August of 1989, pitching him 17 times out of the bullpen. Mike was 0-1 3.96 in 25 innings over the last two months of the season. The Pirates acquired him on April 3,1990 along with infielder Jeff Richardson, in exchange for outfielder Billy Hatcher. During the first three weeks of the 1990 seasons, teams were allowed to carry 27 players on their roster due to the shortened Spring Training, which was caused by a lockout. Roesler and Tom Prince both made the team because of the new rule. In those three weeks before being sent back down on April 29th(day before rosters reduced to 25), Mike made five relief appearances, giving up two runs in six innings of work. He never returned to the majors, pitching in the Pirates system until late in the 1992 season. He finished that year with the Royals AAA club, then finished his career the next season in the Kansas City system.
Trench Davis (1960) Center fielder for the 1985-86 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1980 as an undrafted amateur free agent. As a twenty year old in 1981, the Pirates sent him to full-season ball with Greenwood of the South Atlantic League, where he put up strong numbers. He hit .298 with 73 RBI’s, 70 runs scored and 31 stolen bases in 141 games. Trench was moved up to AAA the next year, skipping two levels and still performed decent, hitting .268 with 80 runs scored and 42 stolen bases in 141 games. Despite that performance, he still ended up spending half of the next season in AA. From the time he joined AAA Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League in 1983, Davis would spend 3 1/2 seasons with the team, without getting much of a shot at the majors. He played two June 1985 games in center field, then returned the next season for 15 more games in May. In his 17 Pirates games, he hit .133 with an RBI and no walks, giving him a lower OBP than average due to one sacrifice fly. Trench became a free agent after the 1986 season, signing with the Atlanta Braves shortly after hitting the market. He played his last six major league games with the Braves in 1987, getting three pinch hit appearances and three pinch running spots. Davis went to Mexico to play in 1988, finishing his playing career four years later.
George Freese (1926) Third baseman for the 1955 Pirates. He was a member of four different organizations before joining the Pirates, playing just one major league game prior to his trade to Pittsburgh. George was originally signed by the Dodgers in 1948, staying with Brooklyn until the St Louis Browns took him in the December 1952 Rule V draft. From there he was purchased by the Detroit Tigers in early April of 1953, then sold to the Chicago Cubs a month later. The Pirates acquired George from the Cubs on June 4,1953 in the Ralph Kiner deal. He would remain in the minors until Opening Day in 1955, when he made the Pirates as a bench player. Sid Gordon(same link as Tom Prince above) was at third base to begin the year, but quickly lost the starting job due to a poor start. Freese would start every game for the Pirates, from April 24th until June 12th, at third base.
Two days after his last game, he was sent to the Pirates farm team in Hollywood, while the Pirates got back Cuban pitcher, Lino Donoso. At the same time, the Pirates also got back twin infielders Johnny and Eddie O’Brien. They had been serving in the Army prior to the season and were working their way back into shape, prior to rejoining the team. Freese finished with a .257 average and 22 RBI’s in 51 games. After the season ended, the Pirates lost him to the Cubs in the 1955 Minor League draft. George would go six seasons before he played in the majors again, making his last nine appearances with the 1961 Cubs. He then began to manage in the minors, the first three years as a player/manager, followed by another nine seasons as a minor league manager. George is the brother of Pirates infielder Gene Freese.
Jolly Roger Rewind: September 12, 1947
Ralph Kiner’s two home runs—capping a major-league record slugging spree of eight homers in four games—led the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Boston Braves at Forbes Field.
The twenty-four-year-old Bucco left fielder had commenced his assault on the record books two days earlier with two solo home runs against the New York Giants. Boston came to Pittsburgh for a doubleheader the next night, and Kiner crushed one homer in the first game and three in the nightcap, equaling the major-league record for most home runs in a twinbill.*
Kiner’s bat did not rest in the fourth game. Provoking, in the words of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a “tremendous ovation” from a “wildly cheering crowd of 21,012” every time he batted, Kiner carved out another niche in baseball history. With two outs in the fifth, he undid a 2-1 Braves’ lead by lifting a Red Barrett pitch over the left field wall to the right of the scoreboard for a two-run homer. Two innings later, Kiner provided an insurance tally by driving Barrett’s change-up against the clock on the scoreboard.**
With forty-nine home runs on the season, Kiner’s production now prompted comparisons with Babe Ruth’s twenty-year-old record of sixty homers. The Post-Gazette noted that Kiner “needs 11 homers in his remaining 14 games” and that the second-year slugger “was still six games behind the Bambino’s record-setting pace.” Kiner’s 121 RBI moved him ten behind Paul Waner’s 1927 team record.
Bucco starter Rip Sewell was the immediate beneficiary of Kiner’s homers. The forty-year-old right hander went the distance in his first start since July 12, to earn his sixth victory, limiting the Braves to seven hits.***
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story
* Stan Musial and Nate Colbert subsequently broke that record with five-homer doubleheaders in 1954 and 1972, respectively.
** The Post-Gazette noted that Kiner’s second home run provoked a mass exodus from the park: “They had seen what they came to see—Kiner’s homers—and it wouldn’t have mattered even had the Pirates lost.”
*** Both starting pitchers apparently worked efficiently in recording complete games; the contest lasted a mere 1:37.