Today is a popular date for former Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays, nine players have been born on this date, including a player who was replaced by one Hall of Famer, then replaced another. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland covers a bad break for the 1960 Pirates.
Frank Brooks (1978) Pitcher for the 2004 Pirates. He was originally a 13th round pick in the 1999 draft by the Phillies, that came to the Pirates on July 21,2003 in exchange for closer Mike Williams. Before he pitched a game for the Pirates, Brooks went on a tour of baseball teams around the leagues. He was picked up by the Mets in the Rule V draft in December of 2003, then traded to the Oakland A’s. The A’s put him on waivers during Spring Training, where he was picked up by the Red Sox. Less than two weeks later, he came back where he started three months earlier, getting returned to Pittsburgh. Brooks started the year at AAA, where he made eight starts and 34 relief appearances, going 6-3 4.10 in 83.1 innings. He was called up to the Pirates in late August, making one start and ten relief appearances. His start didn’t go well, allowing five runs in one inning, before being pulled. As a reliever, he had a 2.76 ERA in 16.1 innings, with 17 strikeouts. The Pirates put Frank on waivers that December, where he was picked up by the Dodgers. Just after the 2005 season started, he was put on waivers again, where he was selected by the Braves. Brooks pitched to one batter with the Braves, giving up an RBI single to Dave Roberts, who was caught stealing right afterwards. He returned to the minors shortly after that game, where he finished his career three years later.
Derrek Lee (1975) First baseman for the 2011 Pirates. He had a 15 year career in the majors that saw him hit 331 homers, score 1081 runs and accumulate 1078 RBI’s. That career ended with one partial season in Pittsburgh after he came over from the Orioles in a trading deadline deal for minor league first baseman Aaron Baker. Derrek was brought in to help the Pirates playoff run, but he ended up playing just 28 games due to a wrist injury that landed him on the disabled list. In his brief time in Pittsburgh, he hit .337 with seven homers and 18 RBI’s. Lee was a two-time All-Star during his career, who also took home two Gold Glove awards. In 2005 with the Cubs, he finished third in the NL MVP voting, leading the league in average(.335), doubles(50) and hits with 199, while also hitting 46 homers, scoring 120 times and driving in 107 runs. In 2009, while still with Chicago, he hit .306 with 35 homers and 111 RBI’s. Derrek was the starting first baseman for the 2003 Florida Marlins team that won the World Series. Nine times in his career he hit over twenty homers and 11 times he reached 70 RBI’s in a season. Lee batted over .300 three times, en route to a .281 career average.
Mike York (1964) Pitcher for the 1990 Pirates. He was originally a 40th round draft pick of the Yankees in 1982, who was cut after just one season. He signed with the White Sox nearly a year later, and didn’t last long there either. Two months later, he signed with the Tigers, who waited just over a year to become the third team to cut him. Mike signed with the Pirates in October of 1986, and had a big first season in their system. Pitching for Macon of the South Atlantic League, he won 17 games and recorded 169 strikeouts in 165.2 innings. The next year, York made 13 starts in High-A, and 13 more in AA. His AA stats weren’t bad, with a 3.72 ERA, but he won nine games prior to his promotion, and none after. Mike pitched much better during his second AA trial, going 11-5 2.81 in 18 starts, prior to being promoted to AAA. Just like his first shot at AA, York struggled initially with the jump in levels. In 1990, he went 8-7 4.20 for AAA Buffalo, earning a mid-August promotion to the Pirates. His major league debut was an emergency start on August 17,1990 against the Reds in the first game of a doubleheader. York threw seven shutout innings that day, then was returned to the minors for two weeks. When he came back in September, he pitched just three times in relief, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings. The next May, while in the minors, Mike was dealt to the Indians for outfielder Mitch Webster. He pitched 14 games for Cleveland, four as a starter, in what turned out to be his last season the big leagues. After not pitching during the 1993-94 seasons, he returned to baseball for three more years of minor league ball before retiring.
Vince DiMaggio (1912) Center field for the Pirates from 1940 until 1944. He was a strong defensive outfielder, who hit for some power and struck out a lot for his era. Vince led the league in strikeouts six times in his career, including his last three seasons in Pittsburgh. Despite that lack of contact, he was still an All-Star during the 1943-44 seasons, when the league was watered down due to the ongoing war. DiMaggio played two full seasons for the Boston Bees(Braves) in 1937-38, prior to being traded to the Yankees. Before he could play a major league game for New York, they dealt him to the Reds, who brought him back to the majors that September. Vince would play just eight late season games in 1939 for the Reds and two games for them over the first month of the 1940 season. On May 8,1940, the Pirates traded outfielder Johnny Rizzo to the Reds in exchange for DiMaggio. Pittsburgh put him into center field for the rest of 1940 and each of the next four years as well.
His first full season in Pittsburgh was his best. He batted .267, which was 18 points over his career average, with career highs in home runs with 21 and he reached the century mark in RBI’s. Vince finished 21st in the NL MVP voting that year, but it wasn’t until two years later that he made his first All-Star team. In 1943, he led the league with 157 games played, making 156 starts in center field. He batted .248 with 15 homers, 88 RBI’s and 41 doubles, the only season that he topped thirty doubles during his ten year career. His stats were rather pedestrian his second All-Star season, hitting .240 with a .707 OPS in 109 games. He drove in 50 runs, scored 41 times and struck out an NL high 83 times. The Pirates traded him to the Phillies on March 31,1945 in exchange for pitcher Al Gerheauser. Vince had one good season after the deal, driving in 84 runs on 19 homers in 127 games. In 1946 he would see a huge dip in his performance and be returned to the minors, where he stayed for the next five seasons, until his retirement. DiMaggio finished his career with a .249 average, 125 homers and 584 RBI’s in 1110 games. For the Pirates, he hit .255 with 79 homers and 367 RBI’s in 670 games. He played over 1500 minor league games. Vince led NL center fielders in putouts and assists four times apiece. His brother Joe is the Hall of Fame outfielder for the Yankees, while his other brother Dom, was a seven time All-Star for the Boston Red Sox.
The other players
Pat Meares (1968) Shortstop/second baseman for the Pirates from 1999 until 2001. He played six seasons for the Minnesota Twins(1993-98) before signing with the Pirates as a free agent. Before even playing with the team, he signed a four year extension for $15mil, added to his one year contract. A Spring Training injury to his hand, plus two other hand injuries before the end of May, caused him to miss nearly the entire 1999 season. In 2000, he played the only full season of his five year contract. That year he hit .240 with 13 homers and 47 RBI’s in 132 games. In 2001, he switched over to second base and played 87 games, batting just .211 with a .548 OBP. Meares ended up missing all of 2002 with his injured hand, then the Pirates reached a settlement with him, that he would spend all of 2003 on the disabled list, so he got his pay, but he wouldn’t travel with the team. He contended at the time he was healthy enough to play. Eventually the Pirates received some of the money they paid out to Meares, back through their insurance company. Pat never returned to baseball, ending his career with .258 average, 58 homers and 382 RBI’s in 982 games. For the Pirates, he played a total of 240 games, hitting .238 with 17 homers and 79 RBI’s.
Jack Phillips (1921) First baseman for the Pirates from 1949 until 1952. On August 6,1949, the Pirates purchased Phillips from the New York Yankees. He was in his third season in the majors, all with the Yankees, a team that won two World Series titles during those three years. He was coming to a Pirates team that was on a downswing, losing 83 games in 1949, then 90 or more each of the next three seasons, ending with a 112 loss 1952 season. Phillips played 158 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .264 with five homers and 49 RBI’s. He saw limited time during his two full seasons(1950-51) with the team, and the 1950 season was easily his best. He hit .293 in 69 games, hitting all five of his Pirates’ homers and driving in 34 runs. He was not a home run hitter by any means, in fact, in his nine year major league career, he hit a total of nine homers. After playing just one April game in 1952, he was sent to the minors, where he would remain for the Pirates until a September 4,1954 trade sent him to the White Sox. Phillips ended up playing parts of three seasons(1955-57) for the Tigers, then he finished his career in 1959 in the minor leagues. While Phillips did appear in the majors during nine different seasons, he played one game in three of those years, 1948 for the Yankees, 1952 for the Pirates and 1957 for the Tigers.
Johnny Lanning (1910) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1940 until 1943, then again during the 1945-46 seasons. He pitched the first four years of his career for the Boston Bees(Braves), going 25-31 3.67 in 129 games, 55 as a starter. His lowest ERA came during his last season in Boston, when he went 5-6 3.42 in 129 innings. On December 6,1939, the Pirates traded pitcher Jim Tobin to the Bees to acquire Lanning. Johnny was used mostly in relief during his time in Pittsburgh, starting 49 of his 146 games with the team. His best season with the Pirates though, came when he was used 23 times as a starter. In 1941, he went 11-11 3.13, with a career high 175.2 innings pitched. Lanning started off 1943 by going 4-1 2.33 in 12 games(two starts) through the end of June, when he was called into active duty during WWII. He missed all of 1944 and most of 1945, returning for one game, in which he gave up eight earned runs in two innings of work. In 1946, he went 4-5 3.07 in nine starts and 18 relief outings. Johnny was released during Spring Training in 1947, leading to him signing back in Boston with the Braves for his last season. With the Pirates, he went 33-29 3.44 in 530.2 innings.
Tommy Thevenow (1903) Infielder for the Pirates from 1931 until 1935, then again in 1938. He was the definition of a light-hitting middle infielder, with just two major league homers to his credit, over his 15 year career. Both of those homers came in the same season(1926 for the Cardinals), both were inside-the-park homers and they occurred just five days apart. He went another 12 seasons without another home run, including all 1837 plate appearances for the Pirates. Like many players from that era, he had his best season on offense during the 1930 campaign, when baseball was at one of it’s top three highest points for offense. Thevenow batted .286 that year, well over his career average, with a season high 78 RBI’s. Tommy led all NL shortstops in putouts and assists, although he also led the league in errors. Following that season, the Pirates acquired Thevenow on November 6,1930, along with pitcher Claude Willoughby from the Phillies for shortstop Dick Bartell. He would try to replace Bartell at shortstop, and while the bat fell well short, Thevenow was better defensively, especially in 1931 when Bartell would lead the league in errors. Tommy hit .213 with a .513 OPS in 120 games.
His batting was slightly better the next year, but he lost his starting spot to a rookie named Arky Vaughan. In 1933-34, Thevenow spent most of his time at second base. He was able to hit .312 in 73 games during 1933, though it was an empty average, as his OPS was .660, with just six extra base hits and three walks. With Pie Traynor slowing down in 1935, Thevenow got 82 starts at third base when Pie didn’t play. Tommy hit .238 with 47 RBI’s and a career high nine triples that season. That December, he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. He had a typical Thevenow year in 1936 for the Reds, then moved on to Boston, where he barely played for the Bees. After being released in February of 1938, he signed back with the Pirates, playing 15 games over the entire season, his last in the majors. Tommy hit .251 with 201 RBI’s in 499 games for the Pirates.
Bill Gleason (1894) Second baseman for the 1916-17 Pirates. He played four years in the minors before getting a shot with the Pirates. Bill was drafted by the Pirates on September 15,1916 from his minor league team from Lynn, Massachusetts, after he hit .271 in 124 games. He played just one game over the last two weeks of the 1916 season for the Pirates and didn’t even start. On September 25,1916, he came in to play the second half of the game at second base, replacing Paddy Siglin, who only played 23 games for the Pirates over parts of three seasons. Gleason went 0-for-2 at the plate and cleanly handled his only two plays in the field. In 1917, he was with the team through the end of May, before being sent to Chattanooga of the Southern Association. Bill hit .167 in 13 games, scoring three runs, but failing to drive in a run for the Pirates. After missing the 1918 season during WWI, Gleason returned to baseball in 1919, remaining in the minors for nearly all of the next 13 seasons. He had one other trial in the majors, 26 games for the 1912 St Louis Browns. Bill played nearly 2000 minor league games and had over 2000 hits during his 19 years down on the farm.
Jolly Roger Rewind: September 6, 1960
Dick Groat’s broken left wrist overshadowed yet another comeback victory by the first-place Pirates, a 5-3 triumph over the Milwaukee Braves at Forbes Field.
Groat, called by The Pittsburgh Press “a prime candidate for Most Valuable Player honors,” suffered the broken wrist when Lew Burdette’s pitch hit him in the first inning. The Bucs’ twenty-nine-year old shortstop, leading hitter with a .325 batting average, and team captain remained in the game until the third inning, when, unable to grip a bat without pain, he departed in favor of Dick Schofield.* It would be the first time that Groat had missed even an inning of a contest that season. X-rays revealed the break, and the Press reported a dire prognosis from Dr. Joseph Finegold, the team physician:
“It takes about a month for a fracture of this type to heal and the [World Series] is scheduled to begin Oct. 5,” Dr. Finegold said. “I put a cast on the wrist and now we can only wait and hope for the best.”
Back on the field, the Bucs answered a three-run Braves’ rally in the top of the eighth—highlighted by Hank Aaron’s two-run single off reliever Clem Labine—with a game-deciding three-run surge of their own in the bottom of the inning against Warren Spahn, in the game to protect Burdette’s lead. Dick Stuart started the inning by hitting Spahn’s third pitch of the inning off the wall in left-center for a double. Two pitches later, Roberto Clemente tied the game with an RBI double down the left-field line. Smokey Burgess followed by hitting Spahn’s first pitch—and sixth pitch of the appearance—into center field to score Clemente with the go-ahead run.
Given a two-run advantage when pinch-hitter Mickey Vernon singled home pinch-runner Joe Christopher, Elroy Face closed out the Braves in the top of the ninth. With twenty-one games remaining in the season, the Pirates had a seven-game lead over second-place St. Louis and a seven-and-a-half-game lead over third-place Milwaukee.
Box score and play-by-play
The Pittsburgh Press game story
* In Groat’s absence, the twenty-five-year-old Schofield—already a veteran of eight major-league seasons as a reserve—had three hits in three at-bats and started a spectacular double play. The Press noted that Schofield “should be able to handle matters at shortstop the rest of the way.”