This Date in Pirates History: February 10

There are ten former Pittsburgh Pirates who have been born on this date, two that were in the organization in 2014 that are briefly mentioned at the bottom. I will start with the three most recent ones. Luis Cruz (1984) played shortstop and second base for the 2008-09 Pirates. He came to the  Pirates as a minor league free agent following the 2007 season. Cruz played 22 games in his first season with the Pirates and 27 games the next year, starting a total of 32 games at shortstop. He hit .219 with five RBIs in 137 at-bats for Pittsburgh. After the 2009 season, he was picked up off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. He has played five seasons in the majors, batting .234 in 195 games. Cruz split the 2013 season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.

Cesar Izturis (1980) played for the 2007 Pirates and Ruben Mateo (1978) played for the 2004 Pirates. Both of them spent less than half the season with the team. Izturis joined the Pirates in July, coming over from the Cubs and Mateo began the 2004 season with the Pirates but was sold to the Royals on July 1st. Mateo played 19 games for Pittsburgh, getting 33 at-bats in which he hit .242 with three homers and seven runs batted in. He last played in the majors that 2004 season and his last appearance in pro ball was in 2009, playing in the Mexican League. Izturis hit .276 in 45 games for the Pirates, spending most of his time at shortstop. He was granted free agency after the season and this past 2011 season he played with the Orioles. He signed with the Brewers for 2012. Izturis played for the Reds in 2013 and signed with the Astros for the 2014 season.

Other players born on this date include:

Larry McWiliams (1954) lefty pitcher for the Pirates from 1982 until 1986. He was a first round draft pick of the Braves in 1974 and had pitched for them in the majors since 1978 when the Pirates traded for him on June 30,1982, sending Pascual Perez to Atlanta. Larry was a starter his first four seasons in the majors but was moved to the bullpen for 1982 and was struggling with a 6.21 ERA before the Pirates picked him up. He would be moved back to the starting role in Pittsburgh and excel, cutting his ERA in half with a 6-5, 3.11 record to finish the year. In 1983 he had his best major league season, going 15-8, 3.25 in 38 starts and finishing fifth in the NL Cy Young award voting. Hie ERA improved to 2.93 the following season but the Pirates were a sub .500 team and it showed in his record as he went 12-11. That year the Pirates had four pitchers win at least 12 games yet they still finished with a 75-87 record. McWilliams went downhill pretty quickly from there, he was moved to the bullpen late in 1985 and the following year he was went back and forth between the starting and relieving roles. He posted a 4.70 ERA in 1985 and a 5.15 in 1986. He was released by the Pirates following the 1986 season and went on to play for four teams over the next four seasons before retiring as a player.

Billy O’Dell (1933) lefty pitcher for the Pirates during the 1966-67 seasons. He had been a starter early in his career, four times winning at least ten games with a high of 19 in 1962. He was moved to a bullpen role in 1964 and the following year he won ten games with a 2.18 ERA and 18 saves in 62 games. He began the 1966 season with the Atlanta Braves before the Pirates acquired him on June 15 for reliever Don Schwall. O’Dell would pitch 37 games the rest of the year going 3-2, 2.78 in 71.1 innings. In the beginning of the 1967 season he was used as a starter and struggled in the role, posting a 6.18 ERA in 11 games before being moved back to the bullpen. He finished the season with a 5-6, 5.82 record in 86.2 innings. O’Dell retired after the Pirates released him following the 1967 season. He was a two time all-star who never played a single game in the minors.

Cotton Tierney (1894) second baseman for the 1920-23 Pirates. He played minor league ball for seven seasons before the Pirates gave him his first shot at the majors as a September call-up in 1920. Cotton was a regular on the 1921 Pirates, playing about half of the team’s games at second base while getting time in at three other positions. He hit .299 with 52 RBIs, a small sign of the success about to come for him. In 1922 he played 122 games and hit .345, good enough for fifth in the NL and second on the Pirates to outfielder Carson Bigbee. Early in the 1923 season he was traded to the Phillies in a four player deal that got the Pirates pitcher Lee Meadows, who was a key piece to the 1925 Pirates team that won the World Series. Tierney hit .312 in 1923 but by the end of 1925 his major league career was over. He played in the minors until 1930.

Bill Evans (1893) pitcher for the 1916-17 and 1919 Pirates. His contract was purchased by Pittsburgh on August 10, 1916 and just three days later he was making his major league debut. Evans pitched 13 games over the final seven weeks of the season, starting seven of those games and throwing three complete games. He had a 2-5, 3.00 record in 63 innings. In 1917 he went 0-4, 3.338 in eight appearances before joining the military to serve during WWI. He missed the entire 1918 season, returning the following year to go 0-4, 5.65 in seven early season games for the Pirates before returning to the minors. He played minor league baseball until 1928, three times winning at least 16 games in a season but never returned to the majors. He had a 2-13 record with the Pirates despite a 3.85 overall ERA. That winning percentage of .133 leaves him tied with John Van Benschoten(who had a 9.20 ERA) for the worst winning percentage in franchise history among pitchers with at least 15 decisions.

Jim Keenan (1858) Catcher for the first team in franchise history, the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Keenan caught the first pitch in franchise history. Prior to joining the Alleghenys, he had seven games of major league experience. He played five games in 1875 for New Haven of the National Association, which was a league that lasted five seasons before giving way to the National League in 1876. Keenan then caught two games for the 1880 Buffalo Bisons of the National League. In 1882 for Pittsburgh, he hit .209 with nine runs scored in 24 games. Keenan caught 22 games. After not playing major league ball in 1883, he finally established himself as a major league regular in 1884, playing one season for Indianapolis of the American Association and the next seven years were spent in Cincinnati. Keenan finished with a .240 average in 527 games. In 1888, he led all  American Association catchers with a .946 fielding percentage.

Finally, two Pittsburgh Pirates from 2014 celebrate birthdays today, both relief pitchers. Duke Welker turns 29, while Jeanmar Gomez turns 27. Gomez came to the Pirates in a preseason deal, while Welker was a 2007 draft pick of the Pirates.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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