This Date in Pirates History: March 4

There have been six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and for a third day in a row, a player from the 2011 team celebrates a birthday, although unlike Matt Diaz and Brandon Wood, Michael McKenry is still around. McKenry (1985) was a 7th round draft pick of the Rockies in 2006 and had made his major league debut in September of 2010. He was traded to the Red Sox prior to the start of the 2011 season and the Pirates picked him up in early June after a rash of injuries depleted their catching ranks. McKenry caught 58 games for Pittsburgh and hit .222 with 11 RBI’s in 180 at bats. He is currently in spring training competing for the backup catcher job behind Rod Barajas.

Note: Article was written in 2012, McKenry is currently with the Rangers as of 3/4/16.

Other former Pirates players born on this date include:

Bruce Aven (1972) outfielder for the 2000 Pirates. He was a 30th round draft pick of the Indians in 1994 that made it to the majors by the 1997 season. He spent 1999 with the Florida Marlins where he hit .289 with 12 homers and 70 RBI’s in 137 games. In December of that year the Marlins traded him to the Pirates in exchange for outfielder Brant Brown. Aven hit .250 with 25 RBI’s in 72 games for the Pirates before they shipped him to the Dodgers in early August. He made brief appearances for the Dodgers in 2001 and Indians in 2002 before finishing his career in the minors in 2003.

Brian Hunter (1968) first baseman for the 1994 Pirates. He spent three season in the majors with the Braves prior to the Pirates acquiring him in November 1993 in exchange for minor league infielder Jose Delgado. Hunter played 76 games with the Pirates, hitting  .227 with 11 homers and 46 RBI’s prior to being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in late July. Brian played in the majors until 2000, except the 1997 season which was spent entirely at AAA. He played in the minors until 2002, hitting 142 homers over 13 seasons. He was a .234 major league hitter with 67 homers in 699 games.

Mel Queen (1918) pitcher for the Pirates in 1947-48 and 1950-52. He was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1938 and through July 1947 he had pitched just 33 major league games for New York. The Pirates purchased his contract that July and put him in the starting rotation where he went 3-7 4.01 the rest of the way. In 1948 he spent most of the year in the bullpen and struggled. In 25 games he made eight starts and had a 6.65 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched. Queen spent the entire 1949 season in AAA where he won 22 games. The Pirates put him in their rotation for 1950 and stuck with him most of the way despite a final record of 5-14 with a 5.98 ERA. In 1951 he set career highs in wins with seven, innings pitched with 168.1 and games pitched with 39, with 21 of those appearances in the starting role. Mel had two very poor outings to start the 1952 season and was sent to the minors where he pitched another four years before retiring. His son, Mel Queen Jr., pitched seven seasons in the majors and held numerous other jobs in baseball up until his passing last May.

Clyde McCullough (1917) catcher for the Pirates from 1949 until 1952. He began his pro career in 1935 and made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1940. After playing four seasons he enlisted in the Navy, missing the 1944-45 seasons although he was back in time to play in the 1945 World Series.  He played three more seasons for the Cubs and was even named to the 1948 all-star game despite playing just 69 games and compiling a .209 batting average. The Pirates acquired him in a four player deal during December 1948 which was detailed here. Clyde played four seasons in Pittsburgh, catching about 60% of the games over the 1949-51 seasons. In 1951 he hit a career high .297 with 39 RBI’s. Pittsburgh traded him back to the Cubs after the 1952 season in exchange for pitcher Dick Manville and cash. McCullough made the all-star team in 1953 again, this time playing just 77 games all year. He played with the Cubs until 1956 and finished his career in the minors in 1957. While with the Pirates he hit .258 in 352 games with 109 RBI’s.

Dazzy Vance (1891) pitcher for the Pirates on April 16, 1915. He would eventually go on to win 197 games and make the Hall of Fame in 1955 but during his major league debut with the Pirates he did not pitch well. Vance started the third game of the 1915 season, lasting just 2.2 innings against the Reds, giving up three runs on three hits and five walks before being pulled. The Pirates sold him shortly after that game to the New York Yankees where he went 0-3 in eight games. He next pitched in the majors in 1918 with the Yankees and did not fare well in two games. He wouldn’t pick up his first win until 1922 when he was 31 years old with the Brooklyn Robins. In his first 11 seasons with Brooklyn he won a total of 186 games, three times topping 20 wins. He pitched in the majors until 1935 and including his minor league win totals, he won 330 pro games. Vance had the second most wins of any pitcher in Pirates history after they left the team.

Jeff Pfeffer (1888) pitcher for the 1924 Pirates. He was in his 13th big league season when the Pirates signed him in July 1924 after he was released by the St Louis Cardinals. At one time he was considered one of the better pitchers in the league but by 1924 he was on the downside of his career. He would go 5-3 3.07 in 58.2 innings for Pittsburgh in what turned out to be his last major league experience. He played in the minors until retiring after the 1929 season. Pfeffer had the 11th highest win total of any pitcher prior to making their first appearance for the Pirates. He won 16 or more games in a season six times and twice he topped 20 wins. His two best seasons came in 1914 when he went 23-12 1.97 and in 1916 when he went 25-11 1.92. Jeff finished his career with a 158-112 record and he won another 130 minor league games.