Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, three very recent players and a fourth from the middle of last century. Starting with the youngest first:
Ronny Paulino(1981) Catcher for the Pirates from 2005 until 2008. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent in late December of 1997. It took him eight seasons in the minors before he made his major league debut on September 25, 2005. Ronny spent parts of three seasons with both Lynchburg and Altoona. In 2006, he took over regular catching duties for the Pirates and batted .310 with 55 RBI’s in 129 games. He committed a league leading 11 errors behind the plate, but also threw out more runners than any other NL catcher. In 2007, he played a career high 133 games, hitting .263 with 55 RBI’s for the second consecutive season. He also struck out 79 times in each season. Ronny did not play well early in the 2008 season and by June he was back in the minors. He was recalled in September but his days with the Pirates were numbered. On December 10, 2008 he was traded to the Phillies in exchange for Jason Jaramillo. Before ever playing another he game, he was dealt to the Giants then the Marlins, where he spent two seasons. After playing for the Mets in 2011, he signed with the Orioles for 2012.
Jack Taschner(1978) Relief pitcher for the Pirates in 2010. He pitched a combined 202 games between the 2005-08 Giants and 2009 Phillies before joining the Pirates. In a strange coincidence, the Phillies acquired him from the Giants in exchange for Ronny Paulino. Jack was signed by Pittsburgh as a free agent, to a minor league deal, on December 23, 2009. He made the team out of Spring Training and in 17 appearances, he went 1-0 6.05, pitching a total of 19.1 innings. He was designated for assignment in early June and refused to report to AAA, making him a free agent. Jack signed with the Dodgers, making three appearances before being released. He retired just one of the six batters he faced while with Los Angeles. He retired following the 2010 season.
Kip Wells(1977) Pitcher for the Pirates from 2002 until 2006. He was originally a first round draft pick of the White Sox in 1998 and made it to the majors in just one year. In three seasons with the White Sox, Wells went 20-21 5.14 in 47 starts and 20 relief appearances. Kip joined the Pirates on December 13, 2001 along with Josh Fogg in exchange for Todd Ritchie. Wells moved right into the Pirates rotation and had a strong first season, posting a 12-14 3.58 record in 198.1 innings, recording 134 strikeouts. He was even better his second season with the club, going 10-9 3.28 in 197.1 innings with a career high 147 strikeouts. His 2004 season didn’t go so well, as he missed time with numbness in his pitching hand and he was able to make just 24 starts, winning only five, while posting a 4.55 ERA. Thing got even worse in 2005 for Kip, as he led the NL in losses with 18 and walks allowed with 99, all while running his ERA up over five runs per nine innings. He missed the first two months of the 2006 season and made seven starts before the Pirates dealt him at the trading deadline to the Texas Rangers for minor league pitcher Jesse Chavez. Since leaving the Pirates, Wells has gone 11-25, pitching for six different teams. After not pitching in 2011, he is trying to make a comeback, although shortly after signing with the White Sox earlier this month, the two sides mutually agreed to part ways.
Stan Rojek(1919) Shortstop for the Pirates from 1948 until 1951. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1939. It took him four years to make the majors and when he did, he got into one late September 1942 game as a pinch runner, before missing the next three seasons while serving in the military during WWII. When Stan returned, he played two seasons in Brooklyn as a backup infielder before being sold to the Pirates along with Ed Stevens on November 14, 1947. His first season in Pittsburgh was the best of his career. He started as shortstop and led the league in games played, at-bats and plate appearances. Stan also set career highs in walks(61), RBI’s(51), runs scored(85), doubles(27) and stolen bases with twenty-four. In 1949, Rojek hit .244 with 72 runs scored in 144 games. He saw his playing time dip down to 76 games in 1950, starting only five of the last 60 games of the season. Early in 1951, the Pirates dealt him to the St Louis Cardinals for Rocky Nelson and Erv Dusak. Stan played just 60 more major league games after leaving Pittsburgh, and another four seasons in the minors before retiring from baseball.
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.
On this date in 1991…
In arguably the most memorable regular season game of the 1990-92 NL East championship seasons, the Pirates twice rallied from five-run deficits to beat the Cubs 13-12 in eleven innings at Three Rivers Stadium.
What had looked like an unremarkable Sunday afternoon through seven innings began its candidacy for “Strange But True Baseball Stories” when the Cubs parlayed a Jay Bell throwing error into a four-run eighth inning and a 7-2 lead. The Bucs answered in the bottom of the eighth with four runs of their own off Paul Assenmacher, thanks to a two-run Orlando Merced triple and two-run Bobby Bonilla homer.
A Gary Varsho pinch-hit double with two outs in the ninth drove in Jeff King to tie the game at 7-7, but the Cubs reasserted themselves in the top of the eleventh. Doug Dascenzo’s bases-loaded single off Bob Patterson put Chicago back in the lead, and Andre Dawson’s second grand slam of the weekend then gave the Cubs a 12-7 advantage.
Dawson’s prior grand slam had, in fact, triggered a walk-off Pirate victory; it turned a 3-0 ninth-inning Bucco lead during the Friday game into a 4-3 Chicago edge, but the Buccos had responded with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. This time, Dawson’s slam led to even more dramatic results. A walk and two singles off Heathcliff Slocumb loaded the bases, and the Cubs turned to former Pirate Mike Bielecki to put out the fire.
Bell greeted Bielecki with a two-run double, and Andy Van Slyke’s sacrifice fly narrowed the margin to 12-10. Bonilla then drew a walk, and Barry Bonds’ RBI single–Bonds had snapped an 0-for-22 slump earlier in the game–made it a one-run game again.
Pinch-hitter Gary Redus walked to reload the bases, and Don Slaught drove a Bielecki pitch over centerfielder Jerome Walton’s head to score Bonilla and Bonds for the victory. On the airwaves, Lanny Frattare gushed about how it was “Memorial Day all over again,” referrring to an equally-thrilling ninth-inning rally against the Dodgers during the previous May.
The game did not escape national notice. Writing an account of attending a St. Louis Cardinals game that day in Bill James’ “The Baseball Book 1992,” a young Rob Neyer observed that “[t]he scores of other games were constantly flashing on two auxiliary scoreboards . . . I was able to follow the wild Cubs-Pirates game . . . and I thought maybe the scoreboard guy was hanging out with the off-duty beer guys until I watched Sportscenter that night.”
Here’s the box score and play-by-play:
Here’s the Post-Gazette’s game story: