Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and two games of note. The first game from 1934, was the first Sunday game ever played by the Pirates in the city of Pittsburgh. The second game is from contributor, John Fredland, who takes a look at an early season game from that magical 1990 season, when the Pirates franchise returned to glory of years past.
Tony Armas (1978) Pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He was a highly rated prospect, who never quite reached his potential in the majors. Tony spent his first eight seasons in the majors with the Expos/Nationals, going 48-60 4.45 in 151 starts. His best season came in 2001, when he recorded 176 strikeouts in 196.2 innings and posted a 4.03 ERA in 34 starts. The Pirates signed Armas as a free agent on February 1,2007. He started off very slowly in Pittsburgh, going 0-3 8.46 in seven starts before he was moved to the bullpen. In August, Armas moved back to a starting role and won four of his eight starts. He finished with a 4-5 6.03 record in 31 games, 15 as a starter, with 97 innings pitched on the year. Following the season, Tony signed as a free agent with the Mets, where he pitched three games in the majors during that 2008 season. Those games would be the last of his major league career. Armas last pitched for the Braves in the minors during the 2009 season before he was released in late July. He never pitched a complete game in 167 major league starts. His father, who was also named Tony, began his career with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1971. He played four games for the 1976 Pirates before being traded away in a nine played deal with the A’s in March of 1977. The younger Tony also had an uncle named Marcos Armas, who played for the 1993 A’s.
John Vander Wal (1966) Outfielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him as one of three players they got in return from the Padres in a trade for outfielder Al Martin on February 23,2000. John had hit .272 with 41 RBI’s in 246 AB’s for the Padres in 1999. The Pirates used him often in right field in 2000 but he also saw time at first base, left field and was used frequently as a pinch-hitter, a role he had been used in often during his career. Vander Wal had a career year at the plate in 2000, hitting .299 with 72 walks, 24 homers and 94 RBI’s in only 384 AB’s. He was used in the same role the following season, hitting .278 with 11 homers and 50 RBI’s through the end of July when he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants, along with Jason Schmidt, in return for Ryan Vogelsong and Armando Rios. John ended up playing three more seasons, for three different teams, before retiring after the 2004 season. He had a career average of .261 in 1372 games, with 97 homers and 430 RBI’s. He pinch hit over 600 times in his career, collecting 129 hits and 17 homers. His 28 pinch hits in 1995 is a major league record.
1934: First Sunday Game
While long-time Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was alive, he refused to play baseball in the city of Pittsburgh on a Sunday, citing state Blue Laws of the day which did not allow pro games to be played that day. After Dreyfuss passed in 1932, the Phillies and Pirates appealed to the state to allow Sunday baseball and in 1934 the law was repealed. The first Sunday home game was scheduled for April 29, 1934. On that day, the Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a 9-5 score in front of 20,000 fans at Forbes Field. On the mound that day for Pittsburgh was Red Lucas, making his Pirates debut against the team that traded him during the off-season. The Pirates lineup that day had four Hall of Fame players at the top, including their entire outfield.
Lloyd Waner, CF
Paul Waner, RF
Freddie Lindstrom, LF
Arky Vaughan, SS
Gus Suhr, 1B
Cookie Lavagetto, 2B
Tommy Thevenow, 3B
Pat Veltman, C
Red Lucas, P
The Pirates collected twelve hits during the game, including three each by Lloyd Waner and Gus Suhr. Paul Waner and Suhr both homered, the latter drove in four runs. The Waner brothers each had two RBI’s apiece. The Reds that day had two future Hall of Fame hitters in their lineup, Jim Bottomley at first base and Chick Hafey in center field. The also had two more come in as substitutes that day, catcher Ernie Lombardi pinch hit and veteran pitcher Dazzy Vance, who began his career with the 1915 Pirates, finished off the game on the mound.
Jolly Roger Rewind: April 29, 1990
The first-place Pirates won their sixth game in a row and capped a three-game sweep in San Diego by crushing the Padres, 10-1.
The Bucs, 14-6 on the season, deployed a ruthlessly efficient offense on a Sunday afternoon. Their eight hits included four home runs: Barry Bonds’ three-run shot in the fourth, Don Slaught’s solo blast in the sixth, Jay Bell’s three-run homer in the sixth (immediately following a two-out intentional walk to Bonds, who dominated San Diego pitching all weekend long with a 7-for-9, three home run barrage), and Bobby Bonilla’s two-run shot in the ninth. Gary Redus joined the festival of offensive efficiency by driving in the Pirates’ other run with a triple.
Doug Drabek benefited from all of the scoring, throwing six innings to win for the fourth time in the season’s first month. In the Pittsburgh Press, an unusually effervescent Bob Smizik gushed that “[s]ure, you can remember the Pirates playing better than this. It’s just that you’re having trouble remembering when. Here’s some help. Try 1979, or 1971, or 1960.”
Here’s the box score and play-by-play.
Here’s the Pittsburgh Press’s coverage.+ posts
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.