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Sunday, December 4, 2022

This Date in Pirates History: April 8

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Starting with the most recent one first.

Brian Burres(1981) Pitcher for the 2010-11 Pirates. He started his career as a 31st round selection in the 2000 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants. After five seasons in the minors, he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Orioles. That first season with Baltimore, he went 10-6 3.76 in 26 AAA starts, then had a successful major league debut in 11 games as a September call-up. Burres spent most of the 2007-08 seasons in the majors with the Orioles, pitching 250.2 innings over that time, with a 13-18 6.00 record. The Blue Jays picked him up off waivers in February 2009 and he made just two big league starts for Toronto, losing both. Brian signed with the Pirates as a free agent on December 31,2009 and would end up making 13 starts and seven relief appearances with Pittsburgh in 2010. He went 4-5 4.99 in 79.1 innings that first season with the Pirates. He resigned for 2011 and went 5-9 4.66 in 129.1 innings for AAA Indianapolis before getting a September call-up. Burres made two starts and three relief appearances last September, going 1-0 3.86 in 14 innings. He signed with the Giants for 2012 and is currently at AAA Fresno as a starter.

Tom Butters(1938) Pitcher for the 1962-65 Pirates. It took him six full seasons after signing with the Pirates before he reached the majors in September 1962. During the 1961 season, he was loaned to the Twins organization for the entire year. Butters returned to the Pirates in 1962 and pitched well in the minors, posting a 2.04 ERA in 97 innings. Pittsburgh called him up in September and he pitched well in four games but he still spent most of the season at AAA in 1963, before getting his second September trial that year. The Pirates used Tom six times in 1963, giving him his first big league start with just four games left in the season. He made the Opening Day roster in 1964, getting four starts and 24 relief appearances during the year. He spent most of the season with the Pirates, although he was sent to AAA in mid-July, and he came back in September. In 64.1 innings he had a 2-2 2.38 record with 58 strikeouts. During Spring Training of 1965, Tom got into a car accident that left him with severe whiplash and basically ended his career. He pitched five times for the 1965 Pirates before being released, then tried to make comeback in  Spring Training of 1966 with the Pirates before retiring.

Kirby Higbe(1915) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1947 until 1949. He was in his ninth season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him on May 3,1947 in a six player deal with the Dodgers. Higbe missed all of the 1944-45 seasons while he was serving in the military during WWII. He had won 22 games for Brooklyn in 1941, and his first year back from the war, he went 17-8 3.03 in 210.2 innings, making the NL all-star team for the second time in his career. Kirby started off the 1947 season 2-0 with the Dodgers, but he had a 5.17 ERA and couldn’t make it through six innings in any of his three starts. For the 1947 Pirates, Higbe went 11-17 3.72 in 225 innings. He lost five of his first seven starts and ended up leading the league in walks issued. He returned for 1948 in a relief role, pitching 56 games(eight starts) and finishing with an 8-7 3.36 record in 158 innings. Kirby got off to a slow start in 1949 and would be dealt to the Giants on June 6th for Ray Poat and Bobby Rhawn. He would finish his career in 1950 with a 118-101 3.69 record in 12 seasons. Higbe had control issues during his entire career, four times leading the league in walks and he ended up with 979 career base on balls, while recording 971 strikeouts.

Reddy Grey(1875) Left fielder for the Pirates on May 28,1903. On a trip to Boston on May 26, 1903, Pittsburgh found themselves short on players and in need of an outfielder. They used star pitcher Deacon Phillippe in left field on May 27th in place of a sick Fred Clarke and they didn’t have 3B Tommy Leach, who returned home to be with his ill son. On May 28th, the Pirates got Reddy Grey on loan from the Worcester Riddlers, a local minor league team from the Boston area. Grey played left field during the Pirates 7-6 win. He collected a single, a walk, an RBI and he scored a run. When the Pirates left to go to Pittsburgh the next day, Grey returned to his minor league team, ending his big league career. The 1903 season was his last year in pro ball, ending his nine year baseball career. Reddy was a .300 hitter in the minors and spent seven seasons in the Eastern League, a top minor league at the time, but his major league career lasted just one day.

Pete Daniels(1864) Pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He went by the nickname “Smiling Pete” but he probably wasn’t smiling much while pitching for the Alleghenys in 1890, a team that finished 23-113 on the season. He spent 14 seasons in the minors, winning 20 games at least five times and collecting at least 176 wins. Minor league records from that era are incomplete(he has two full seasons missing all stats) so his totals in both categories could be higher. The 1890 season was his first shot at the majors after three seasons of minor league ball. Daniels got the ball on Opening Day and led the Alleghenys to a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Spiders. He then started the last game of the four game series with Cleveland, pitching poorly and getting pulled early, but the Alleghenys walked away with a 20-12 victory. After losing his next two games, his Pittsburgh career was over. Pete spent the next seven seasons in the minors before being purchased by the St Louis Browns(Cardinals) for the 1898 season. He went 1-6 3.62 through the end of May before being released. Daniels finished his minor league career four seasons later.

John Peters(1850) Shortstop for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his major league career in the National Association in 1874, the only major league that pre-dates the National League. John played two years for the Chicago White Stockings in the NA, then when the NL was formed in 1876, he played two seasons for a team by the same name, the current day Cubs franchise. From 1876-78 he batted over .300 each season, finishing in the top ten in batting all three years. Peters batting skills quickly went downhill, batting under .250 each of the next three years but his defense at shortstop was still above average. When Pittsburgh joined the American Association, Peters signed as their everyday shortstop and he would hit .288 with 46 runs scored in 78 games. The team played 79 games that year and he played all but two of the team’s games at shortstop. His batting average ranked him 7th in the league and third highest on the Alleghenys. Over the next two seasons, his last two in baseball, he played just nine games with Pittsburgh, going 3-32 at the plate. John also played minor league ball for the first time during those two seasons. He was a .278 career hitter in 615 games over 11 seasons.


Happy Easter everyone!

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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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Pittsburgh’s baseball fans had April 8, 1986 circled on their calendars throughout the winter of 1985-86.  Between the drug trial, Bob Prince’s death, and the worst Bucco team in 31 years, the 1985 season had been an almost unmitigated disaster, but new ownership, a new GM and a new manager seemed to bring a new spark to the operation.  With a marketing campaign promising a team that would “play hardball,” our first chance to experience the Jim Leyland era would be on a Tuesday night at Three Rivers Stadium against the Mets.

The Mets, coming off two consecutive second place finishes in the NL East, scored twice against Rick Reuschel in the top of the first.  When Dwight Gooden got two quick strikes against Pirate leadoff hitter R. J. Reynolds, a twinge of despair hit at least one eleven-year-old member of the crowd of 48,962.  The twenty-one-year-old “Dr K.” had just completed a dominating 24-4 campaign in ’85, and his first two pitches suggested that he had not lost anything over the offseason.

Reynolds, however, surprised everyone by hitting the next pitch into the right field seats to cut the margin to 2-1.  Maybe there would be something to this new age of “hardball,” after all.

The starting pitchers settled down after the early salvos.  Reuschel wound up meeting the quality start threshold, with three runs allowed in six innings pitched.  Gooden allowed only one more Pirate run, and went into the ninth inning with a 4-2 lead.

The Bucs put up one last fight in the bottom of the ninth.  Joe Orsulak led off with a walk, and Johnny Ray singled him to second.  Sid Bream moved them up with a sacrifice bunt, a move that probably would have provoked tweets of “#Hurdled” had it happened a quarter-century later.  The tying run was on second, but Gooden struck out Steve Kemp for the third time that night and retired Tony Pena on a groundout to end the game.

The Mets beat the Pirates 17 times in 18 games that season, and survived Mike Scott, Dave Henderson, and their own excess to win the World Series.

Here’s the box score:


Here’s the Post-Gazette’s account of the game:


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