Before I get to the former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, there is one current player celebrating a birthday today.Chris Leroux(1984) has pitched for the Pirates since September 2010. The Pirates picked him up on waivers after he posted an 8.03 ERA in 22 relief appearances between 2009-10 for the Marlins. After making six appearances for Pittsburgh in 2010, Leroux began the 2011 season in AAA. He was recalled in July, appearing in 23 games for the Pirates with a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings. He is currently on the 60 day DL with a strained right pectoral muscle.
John Van Benschoten(1980) Pitcher for the Pirates from 2004 until 2008. He was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2001, the 8th overall pick in the draft. John hit 31 homers his last season of college, the most in the country, but he was drafted as a pitcher. He spent his first full season at low-A ball, playing for Hickory, where he went 11-4 2.80 in 27 starts, striking out 145 batters in 148 innings. JVB split the 2003 season between high-A and AA, going 13-6 3.17 in 26 starts, striking out 127 in 139 innings. After 23 AAA starts in 2004, he was called up to the majors for the first time that August. He made five starts for the Pirates and one relief appearance. John went 1-3 6.91 in 28.2 innings. Against the Astros on September 10th, he allowed just one run in eight innings, picking up his first career win.
John had to have surgery on his throwing shoulder and then his left shoulder in 2005 and missed the entire season. He had to have left shoulder surgery again in 2006 and didn’t make his debut until August in the minors. He began 2007 in AAA, going 10-7 2.56 in 19 starts. JVB made nine starts and two relief appearances for the Pirates with extremely poor results. He went 0-7 10.15 in 39 innings with a 2.15 WHIP. He began 2008 in the minors, getting recalled for the first time in late April. After one start and three relief appearances, he was sent back to AAA. The Pirates called John up for a second time in late June, giving him four starts before sending him down again. Pittsburgh let him go after the season and he signed with the White Sox, spending the 2009 season in the minors. He spent 2010 in the minors with the Yankees and 2011 at AAA with the Padres. John was released by the Padres during the end of Spring Training this year.
Bill Luhrsen(1884) Pitcher for the 1913 Pirates. He was a spitball pitcher who began his career in the minors in 1908. Bill was picked up by the Pirates from Albany of the South Atlantic League in August of 1913 after going 17-8 between two teams. He made his major league debut during the second game of a doubleheader on August 23,1913, coming on in the second inning after the starter Wilbur Cooper allowed four runs in the first. Luhrsen would pick up the victory that day when the Pirates ended up scoring 13 runs. He pitched eight innings, allowing four runs. He got his first start ten days later, winning 5-2 over the Reds. Four days later he beat the Cardinals for his third straight win, before picking up a loss a week later against the Giants with Christy Mathewson on the mound. Bill lasted just two innings that game due to wildness, in what would be his last major league game. Just days later, his contract was sold to Columbus of the American Association. Luhrsen played two more years in the minors before retiring.
George Merritt(1880) Outfielder/Pitcher for the 1901-03 Pirates. He had a 15 year career in the minors, splitting his time between the outfielder and the pitcher’s mound. The Pirates brought him to the majors for the first time when they purchased his contract from the Utica Pentups of the New York State League in early September of 1906. He made his debut on September 6th during the second game of a doubleheader and won 13-4 over the Giants, getting two hits including a triple. Despite making a strong impression on the mound, after a shaky first inning, Merritt did not make another start for 18 days. His first appearance was the last game of three straight doubleheaders the Pirates played and the team was in a pennant race at the time. When he next started on the 24th, the Pirates had a nine game lead with 11 to go in the season. George would throw a complete game over the Giants in his second start, winning 14-9, although he didn’t pitch as bad as nine runs would sound. The fielding behind him was described as “sloppy once the Pirates had a big lead.” His third start of the year came in the final game of the season against the Chicago Orphans(Cubs), exactly one month after his debut. Merritt improved his record to 3-0 thanks to nine runs by the Pirates and nine errors by the Orphans.
Merritt would spend the 1902 season in the minors, rejoining the Pirates with just five games left in the schedule. He started in left field on September 27th and collected three hits. He only got into the game because the regular left fielder/manager Fred Clarke, was visiting his sister, who was ill. When Tommy Leach couldn’t play due to his own illness and regular first baseman Kitty Bransfield got injured before the game, the Pirates had to empty the bench just to play the game, which they still ended up winning 13-6. The next day the Pirates were also without regular second baseman Claude Ritchey, so they went even further down the bench, this time losing 3-2 to the Reds. Merritt went 0-4 and didn’t play the last three games of the year. The next year George was with the Pirates as a backup outfielder early in the year. He would hit just .148 in nine games and he made one appearance on the mound in relief, allowing one earned run in four innings. He was returned to the minors in late May and never returned to the majors. Despite the fact he played just 15 major league games, he was a member of three NL pennant winners. His minor league career ended 12 years after his last major league game.
Finally, on this date in 1925, the Pirates opened up their season in Chicago with an 8-2 loss. Emil Yde, who went 16-3 in 1924, made the start for the Pirates while 38 year old Grover Alexander made the start for the Cubs. For Alexander, it was the 301st win of his career. Pittsburgh would go on to win the NL pennant and the World Series that 1925 season. The Pirates lineup that day featured three Hall of Famers:
LF Carson Bigbee
CF Max Carey
2B Eddie Moore
3B Pie Traynor
RF Kiki Cuyler
1B George Grantham
SS Glenn Wright
C Earl Smith
P Emil Yde