We have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one that can be considered the best of the worst. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps a walk-off win from the 1978 season.
Matt Capps (1980) Reliever for the Pirates from 2005 until 2009. He was a seventh round pick in 2002 by the Pirates out of high school. Matt went from pitching in AA during the second half of 2005, right to the majors as a September call-up, without ever playing at AAA. In 2006, he was used 85 times out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh, going 9-1 3.79 in 80.2 innings with one save. Capps began closing games in June of 2007, replacing Salomon Torres in that role. Matt finished the year 4-7 2.28 in 76 games, with 18 saves. He missed nearly two months of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury. Capps finished that season with 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 49 appearances. In 2009, everything went downhill for Matt, who finished with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. The Pirates cut ties with him after the season, deciding to go with veteran Octavio Dotel as their closer, a move that eventually landed them James McDonald in a 2010 deadline deal with the Dodgers. Capps signed with the Nationals, then was traded to the Twins, where he has tried to replace Joe Nathan with minimal success. Matt has not pitched since mid-July due to a rotator cuff injury. He is 29-33 3.53 with 138 saves in 443 games. With the Pirates, he was 19-19 3.61 with 67 saves in 271 games.
Juan Perez (1978) Lefty reliever for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1998, reaching free agency before he ever pitched for the team. Juan signed with the Mets in October of 2005 and pitched for their AAA club during the 2006 season. He had a 2.86 ERA over 63 innings, in 43 appearances prior to being put on waivers near the end of August. He was taken by the Pirates and sent to AAA, where he threw seven scoreless innings in four appearances before being called up to Pittsburgh for his big league debut. Perez appeared in seven games, posting an 8.10 ERA in 3.1 innings. He made the 2007 Opening Day roster and was unscored upon during his first seven outings. Juan was sent back to AAA on April 22nd with his 0.00 ERA after the Pirates activated John Grabow off the disabled list. He would not rejoin the Pirates until September, when he made another nine appearances. Perez finished with a 4.38 ERA in 12.1 innings that season. He would spend all of 2008 in the minors, before being let go by Pittsburgh. Juan spent the 2009-10 seasons in the minors, making it back to the big leagues in June of 2011 with the Phillies. This season he has pitched ten games for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 42 major league games, he is 1-2 4.88, with 27.2 innings pitched.
Dave Clark (1962) Outfielder for the Pirates from 1992 until 1996. He was originally a first round draft in 1983 by the Cleveland Indians. Clark moved fairly quick through the Indians system, by hitting for average with power, while stealing bases and showing the ability to draw a decent amount of walks. He made it to the majors as a September call-up in 1986, although he didn’t stick for good in Cleveland until two years later. Dave struggled during his 1987 trial in the big leagues, then went to the minors and hit .340 with 30 homers in 108 games. Despite those stats, slightly inflated by the high offense of the Pacific Coast League, he was back in the minors during the 1988 season. Clark moved on to the Cubs in 1990, then the Royals the next year, a season in which he spent most of his time at AAA. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in January of 1992 and again, he spent most of the year in the minors. That 1992 Pirates team went to the playoffs, and for a six week stretch in the middle of the season, then again in September, Clark was a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter. He hit .212 in 23 games with seven RBI’s.
In 1993, he saw his most playing time with the Pirates, getting into 110 games, 75 as a starter. He played 86 games in the 1994 and had an output on offense very similar to the prior season. He drove in 46 runs both years, hitting 11 doubles each season, while finishing with 11 homers in 1993 and then ten the next year. He maintained a strong average in 1995, batting .281, but his production dropped off, hitting four homers and driving in 24 runs in 77 games. He was with the Pirates until August 31,1996, when he was dealt to the Dodgers for minor league pitcher Carl South. Dave would play two more years in the majors before retiring, finishing with a .264 average, 62 homers and 284 RBI’s in 905 games. For the Pirates, he hit .278 with 35 homers and 158 RBI’s in 388 games. Despite being a stolen base threat in the minors, he had just 19 major league steals.
Ed Konetchy (1885) First baseman for the 1914 Pirates. He had a strong, under-appreciated 15 year career in the majors, hitting .281 with 992 RBI’s, 972 runs scored, 2150 hits and 182 triples, the 15th highest total ever. On top of the offensive stats, he was an even better defensive player at first base. He led the league five times in putouts, five times in assists, five times in range and six times in fielding percentage. Right in the middle of his career, he spent one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came to Pittsburgh in an eight player deal on December 12, 1913 from the St Louis Cardinals, in exchange for a five player group highlighted by Dots Miller and Chief Wilson. Konetchy played just one season for the Pirates, jumping to the Federal League team in Pittsburgh(Rebels) before the start of the 1915 season. He hit .249 in 154 games for the Pirates, scoring 56 runs, while adding 51 RBI’s. The batting, runs and RBI totals, represented his lowest marks since his first full season(1908) in the big leagues. Ed did his job on defense though, leading the NL in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. The year after leaving the Pirates, he set a career high with 93 RBI’s and tied his high batting average with a .314 mark. Konetchy played in the majors until 1921, then went to the minors and played another six seasons. In 1925, playing for the Fort Worth Panthers of the Texas League, he hit .345 with 41 doubles and 41 homers at the age of thirty-nine. He had 1123 minor league hits, giving him 3273 hits as a pro.
Harry Decker (1864) Catcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He has the claim to fame of having the highest batting average on one of the worst teams in baseball history. The 1890 Alleghenys, decimated by a mass exodus of star players to the newly formed Player’s League, finished with a 23-113 record, hitting .230 as a group. Decker started his major league career in 1884, splitting his season between Indianapolis of the American Association and Kansas City of the Union Association, a major league that lasted just that one season. Harry spent 1885 in the minors, then split the 1886 season between two National League team, Detroit and Washington. After that second brief trial, he went to the minors, returning to the majors three years later with Philadelphia(then called the Quakers). Decker hit .100 in 11 games that year, giving him a .173 career average through his first 59 games. He began the 1890 season with the Phillies(new name in 1890), playing just five games over the first six weeks of the season. In early June, the Alleghenys purchased him from Philadelphia and he would become the regular catcher, going behind the plate 70 times over the rest of the season. When he wasn’t catching he still saw regular action in the field, playing five other positions, although most of his time was spent at first base. Decker hit a team high .274, with 38 RBI’s and 52 runs scored. When the Player’s League folded, the Alleghenys became the Pirates and most of their players returned, leaving no room for Decker. He finished his career in the minors the next year playing for New Haven of the Eastern League.
Jolly Roger Rewind: September 3, 1978
Dale Berra’s three-run, ninth-inning, walk-off home run off Gene Garber gave the surging Pirates to their nineteenth win in their last twenty-two games, 6-3 over the Braves at Three Rivers Stadium.
With the game tied 3-3, Garber started the ninth inning by hitting Willie Stargell with an 0-2 fastball. Matt Alexander, appearing in his second game after signing as a free agent two days earlier, ran for Stargell and stole second as Ed Ott struck out.
First-year Braves manager Bobby Cox ordered an intentional walk to Bill Robinson to bring up Berra, who had entered in the eighth inning as part of a defensive upgrade. Bucco manager Chuck Tanner called for the hit-and-run on the first pitch to Berra, but the twenty-one-year-old Hall of Fame scion fouled the pitch off. Two balls later, Garber threw Berra a change-up, and Berra drove it over the wall in left-center to complete the sweep of the four-game weekend series.
Through six innings, Atlanta’s Eddie Solomon had limited the Pirates to a Bert Blyleven single, allowing the Braves to maintain a 2-0 lead. But Cox replaced Solomon with Craig Skok in the bottom of the seventh, and Stargell led off with his 2,000th career hit, a single to left. Skok retired the next two Buccos, but walked John Milner. Cox again called to his bullpen, bringing in Garber to face Phil Garner. Garner’s drive to center cleared the wall and leaping center fielder Rowland Office’s glove by about a foot, giving the Bucs a 3-2 lead.
The lead lasted only two batters into the top of the eighth: Joe Nolan tripled off Blyleven and scored on Cito Gaston’s sacrifice fly against Kent Tekulve. Tekulve, however, held Atlanta scoreless in the eighth and ninth—pitching out of a bases-loaded, one out jam in the ninth—to set the stage for Berra’s big hit.
When the Pirates had awakened three Sundays earlier, they stood ten games under .500 and eleven and a half games behind first-place Philadelphia. Now, the Bucs had won six more games than they had lost, and the Phillies’ edge had fallen to a mere two games.
Box score and play-by-play
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story