This Date in Pirates History: May 10

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the one with the most plate appearances in team history without collecting a base hit. Also we have one trade of note to mention. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland goes back to a long chilly night, 46 years ago at Forbes Field.

Tony Alvarez (1979) Outfielder for the 2002 and 2004 Pirates. The Pirates signed Tony as a 16 year old and he spent his first two seasons of pro ball playing in the foreign summer leagues. He came to the states in 1999 and had a decent season but he really broke out the following year. Playing for Williamsport of the NY-Penn League, he hit .321 with a .510 slugging percentage and 38 steals in 58 games. He moved to full-season ball the next year at Hickory and hit .285 with 15 homers and 52 steals. The Pirates moved him quickly through high-A ball the next year after a .344 start in the first 25 games. In 67 games at Altoona(AA) he batted .319 with 17 stolen bases. Tony spent the 2002 season at Altoona, hitting .318 with 15 homers and 29 steals, earning a September call-up. He impressed the Pirates, hitting .308 in 14 games but an early season suspension in 2003, followed by an injury, kept him in AAA during the entire season. In 2004, he began the year in AAA, came up in late June for a month, then returned in September when the rosters expanded. He ended up hitting .211 in 24 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. The Pirates released him in December of 2004 and he played two more seasons in the minors, first with the White Sox, then in 1996 with the Orioles. He is still an active player in Winter ball leagues down in the Carribean.

Pete Schourek (1969) Pitcher for the 1999 Pirates. He had eight seasons in at the major league level when the Pirates signed him to a two year contract on December 18,1998. Pete played for the Red Sox and Astros during 1988, going a combined 8-9 4.43 in 23 starts and two relief appearances. For the Pirates in 1999, Schourek went 4-7 5.34 in 17 starts and thirteen relief appearances. He was a starter through the end of May, then moved to the bullpen for two months before making five more starts in a row. He had a minor shoulder injury that caused him to miss two weeks, sending him back to the pen. At the end of the season, he made one last start. During Spring Training of 2000, the Pirates released Schourek and he signed with the Red Sox. He pitched two years in Boston, then signed with the Phillies in early 2002, but did not make the team, ending his career. He had a career record of 66-77 4.59 in 288 games, 176 as a starter.

Russ Bauers (1914) Pitcher from the Pirates from 1936 until 1941. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Phillies in 1935 but was released after one season. The Pirates signed him in early 1936 and had him up in the majors by August. He pitched one game during the 1936 season and it was a forgettable one.  Russ got the start on August 20th against the Cubs and recorded just four outs, giving up five runs before being pulled. He was saved the loss by a Pirates offense that pulled out an 8-7 victory. Despite that poor start to his major league career, Bauers was a big part of the 1937 Pirates. He began the year in the rotation, then was used sparingly in May, made a few starts the next two months, before finally landing a full-time rotation spot in mid-August. In his first start back in the rotation, he threw a 4-0 shutout over the Cardinals in St Louis. Russ ended up going 9-3 over his last 13 outings. In 1938, he started off slow, mostly due to poor run support. Bauers finished strong though, turning a 2-7 record at the end of June into a final record of 13-14 with a 3.07 ERA.

In 1939 Russ saw limited time due to a sore shoulder that was first hurt during a friendly scuffle with a teammate, then re-injured in an automobile accident. He pitched just 15 times, spread out from May until August, when he finally shut things down after a start that saw him face just four batters on August 18th. In 1940 he was pushed to the back of the bullpen, being used mostly in blowout losses. Of his 15 appearances in 1940, the Pirates won just one game and that was during one of his two starts. It was said of Bauers at the time, that he didn’t take baseball serious and he was labeled a bust since his rookie season. He seemed to change his attitude during the 1941 off-season and came to camp more serious but after four poor starts and a tough time in the bullpen, the Pirates sent him to the minors. It was assumed he would return to the Pirates at some point but he spent all of 1942 in the minors, had a sore arm to begin the 1943 season, then was inducted into the army. Russ finally came back in 1946 but was released midway through Spring Training. He signed with the Cubs two months later and got into 15 games for Chicago that year. Bauers ended up playing another eight seasons of pro ball after 1946 but got into just one more major league game, an early season outing for the 1950 St Louis Browns. After going 13-6 in 1937, looking like a promising 23 year old starter, he pitched just 94 more games and finished his career with a 31-30 record.

Al Rubeling (1913) Utility fielder for the 1943-44 Pirates. He played six seasons in the minors before making his major league debut with the 1940 Philadelphia A’s. Al played 108 games that rookie year, with most of his playing time spent at third base. He hit .245 with 38 RBI’s and 49 runs scored. Rubeling spent most of 1941 in the minors, coming back to Philadelphia for five games in September. He had spent that 1941 season with Toronto, which is where he spent all of 1942 and the beginning of the 1943 season. On July 20, 1943 the Pirates purchased his contract from Toronto for cash, plus the use of pitcher Harry Shuman until the minor league season ended. The Pirates needed Rubeling because infielder Huck Geary had quit the team and gone home. Al hit .262 in 47 games for the Pirates, starting 43 of those games at second base. During the 1944 season, he spent limited time at four different positions, playing at least nine games at 2B/3B/LF/RF. Rubeling hit .245 in 92 games with 30 RBI’s. He missed the 1945 season due to the war and returned to the minors in 1946 playing for Syracuse of the International League. Al spent five seasons there, then played another two seasons in the minors before retiring.

The Trade

On this date in 1989, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Ken Oberkfell to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Roger Samuels. The Pirates had acquired Oberkfell from the Braves the previous August in exchange for outfielder Tommy Gregg. The veteran infielder hit just .222 in twenty games during the end of the 1988 season, then started the 1989 season even slower, batting .125 in 14 games. Samuels was 28 years old at the time of the trade. The big lefty reliever had one season in at the majors, 1988 for the Giants when he had a 3.47 ERA in 15 appearances. After the trade, Roger made five appearances for the Pirates(9.82 ERA in 3.2 innings) before being sent to the minors. He pitched just one more season after 1989, spending the following year in AAA, before retiring from baseball. Oberkfell played well after the trade, hitting .319 in 83 games. He was a free agent at the end of the year and played three more seasons in the majors before retiring.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 10, 1966

The first-place Giants pushed across a run in the top of the fifteenth inning to beat the second-place Pirates 2-1 on a chilly night at Forbes Field.

San Francisco catcher Tom Haller led off the fifteenth with a single against Bob Purkey. Two ill-fated bunt plays later—a failed attempt to cut down the lead runner and a swinging single against a bunt defense—the visitors had loaded the bases. Purkey recovered to recover Tito Fuentes on a shallow fly ball, but Haller scored when the Pirates failed to convert Len Gabrielson’s slow grounder into a double play.

The Buccos attempted to rally in the bottom of the inning, starting with Matty Alou’s leadoff single off winning pitcher Frank Linzy. Gene Alley grounded into a force out, but Roberto Clemente’s single advanced Alley to third. With Willie Stargell due up, Giants manager Herman Franks replaced Linzy with lefthander Joe Gibbon, who had spent the previous six seasons with the Buccos. This move prompted Pirates manager Harry Walker to replace Stargell—who struggled with lefthanded pitching early in his career*—with journeyman righthanded pinch-hitter Andre Rodgers. Rodgers grounded Gibbon’s second pitch into a double play, ending the game at 12:14 AM. (The Pittsburgh Press reported that the temperature at that time had dipped to 39 degrees; the article noted that “[a]t one time there were eight fires burning in the left field bleachers and also one in the Giants bullpen” and included a photograph of San Francisco’s bullpen fire.)

The Pirates’ lack of offense against four Giants’ pitchers wasted a strong outing from 24-year-old starting pitcher Steve Blass, reemerging in the rotation after his 1965 demotion to AAA. Blass allowed a single run on seven hits over ten innings, with San Francisco’s sole tally coming when Fuentes singled home starting pitcher Bobby Bolin (who had tripled, and wound up pitching into the tenth inning himself) in the fifth inning.

Behind Blass, the Buccos employed a defensive wrinkle that fans of the 2012 squad would find familiar. According to Lester J. Biederman’s account in the Press, “The Pirates tried something new on Willie Mays. They placed three infielders between second and third and with Donn Clendenon stationed near first base, Mays had 85 feet of open territory. He wasn’t able to take advantage of it but he will.”

* Acccording to SABR’s Baseball Biography Project: “Early in his career Stargell was nearly helpless against left-handed pitching, so much so that his managers often benched him against tougher southpaws. . . . Through 1968, in nearly 500 career at-bats against lefties, Stargell batted a puny .192 with only 13 home runs.”

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Press game story