Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Two of them were very good starting pitchers from the 1980’s while the other two were not only teammates on the 1991 team, but they also shared the same birthday. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland talks about a surprisingly good start from an unlikely source.
Mitch Webster (1959) Pirates outfielder in 1991. On his 32nd birthday, the Pirates acquired Webster from the Indians in exchange for pitcher Mike York. He was in his ninth season in the majors at the time and hitting just .125 through 13 games with Cleveland. Webster’s stay in Pittsburgh was a short one, 48 days after the trade, he was dealt to the Dodgers for outfielder Jose Gonzalez. The ironic part about those two being swapped is they played for the same three teams that season, just in reverse order. Mitch played 36 games in Pittsburgh, mostly in right field, hitting .175 with nine RBI’s. He remained with the Dodgers until 1995, ending his 13 year major league career with a .263 average, 342 RBI’s, 160 stolen bases and 504 runs scored in 1265 games. He was originally a 23rd round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1977 but he was taken in the minor league draft by the Blue Jays in 1979 before he played in Los Angeles. In 1986 while with the Expos, Mitch led the NL in triples with 13 and the following season he scored 101 runs.
Bob Patterson (1959) Pirates pitcher in 1986-87 and then from 1989 until 1992. He was a 21st round draft pick of the Padres in 1982 and he made his major league debut in San Diego three years later. The Pirates acquired him just before the start of the 1986 season in exchange for Marvell Wynne. In 1986, Bob was with the Pirates for two weeks, beginning at the end of April, before being sent down. He returned in September and made five starts. In 1987, he was the Opening Day starter and hung around Pittsburgh for the first five weeks of the season before being sent to the minors. Just like the previous year, he returned in September, although this time Patterson was a reliever. Bob was one of the last cuts during Spring Training of 1988, then missed most of the season with an army injury, making just four AAA starts. In 1989, he went 12-6 3.35 in 177.1 innings at AAA before getting recalled in September. He pitched often for the Pirates over the last month, three starts and nine relief appearances.
Patterson finally spent a full season in the majors in 1990 and he helped the Pirates get to the playoffs with a 2.95 ERA in 94.2 innings, picking up five saves and eight wins. In the NLCS, he had two scoreless appearances, although he did allow three of the five batters he faced to reach base. Bob wasn’t as effective in 1991, posting a 4.11 ERA in 54 appearances, but the Pirates made the playoffs again and he threw two shutout innings against the Braves. The 1992 season was a strong one for Patterson as he posted a 2.92 ERA in 60 games, winning six times and saving nine other games. In the playoffs, he made two appearances, allowing one run in 1.2 innings. The Pirates released him following the season and he signed with the Rangers. Bob pitched in the majors until 1998, finishing with 559 appearances and a 4.08 ERA in 617.1 innings pitched.
Rick Rhoden (1953) Pirates pitcher from 1979 until 1986. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1971. He made it to the majors in 1974 and by the 1976 season, he was an All-Star, going 12-3 2.98 on the year. Rick won 16 games the next season, then the year before coming to Pittsburgh, he went 10-8 3.66 in 164.2 innings. The Pirates acquired him on April 7,1979 in exchange for pitcher Jerry Reuss. Rick did not have a good start in a Pittsburgh uniform, needing shoulder surgery after just one start, which caused him to miss the rest of the 1979 season. He began the year in the minors in 1980, making ten starts before being recalled by the Pirates. Rhoden went 7-5 that season, then improved to 9-4 during the strike-shortened 1981 campaign.
The 1982 season saw him set a then career high, with 230.1 innings pitched and he made 35 starts, the first of three times he reached that number while in Pittsburgh. His record was just 11-14 for a Pirates team that finished six games over the .500 mark. In 1983, Rick upped his innings pitched to 244.1, making 35 starts again and he finished 13-13 on the year, with a 3.09 ERA. He also picked up his only career save during his one relief appearance on the year. The Pirates went 75-87 in 1984 but Rhoden was able to post a 14-9 record. His 2.72 ERA ranked fourth in the NL. The strange thing about that season was that four of the Pirates five starting pitchers had winning records, yet the team finished well below the .500 mark.
Rick saw his ERA rise to 4.47 in 1985 and with the Pirates winning just 57 games all year, his 10-15 record was actually a better winning percentage than the team’s overall number. He bounced back to have a big season in 1986, going 15-12 2.84 in 253.2 innings. He was the only Pirates pitcher to win in double figures and his ERA ranked fourth in the NL. On November 26, 1986, Rick was dealt to the Yankees along with Pat Clements and Cecilio Guante in return for Doug Drabek, Logan Easley and Brian Fisher. He pitched two years in New York and one in Houston before retiring.Rick finished with 151 career wins, 79 while as a member of the Pirates. He was known as a strong hitting pitcher, three times winning the Silver Slugger award and once while in NY, he was used as a DH. He had a .238 career average with nine homers and 75 RBI’s.
Rick Reuschel (1949) Pirates pitcher from 1985 until 1987. He had 12 seasons of major league experience already, when the Pirates signed him as a free agent on February 28,1985. Rick pitched for the Cubs in 1984, going 5-5 5.17 in 19 games, 14 as a starter. From his rookie season in 1972 until 1980, Reuschel won at least ten games every season, 125 victories in all. For the 1985 Pirates, Rick had an amazing season. No one could’ve expected 14 wins from him when he signed, not after his 1984 season and also due to the fact he had just 14 wins since the 1980 season ended. The second part of the equation is even more amazing, the Pirates team he pitched for in 1985, went 57-104 on the year. Reuschel did it by posting a 2.27 ERA and completing seven of his wins. He threw a total of seven straight complete games from August 15th until September 15th, winning five of those games. Rick won his first of two Gold Glove awards that season.
In 1986, the Pirates were slightly better as a team but Reuschel saw his ERA slip to 3.96 and his record(9-16) suffered. He began the 1987 season in Pittsburgh, winning eight of his 25 starts before he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants in August for pitchers Jeff Robinson and Scott Medvin. Before he left, Rick was a representative of the Pirates in the All-Star game, his first selection in ten seasons. He also won his second Gold Glove and led the league with 12 complete games and four shutouts. Reuschel would win 36 games over the next two seasons with the Giants, where he pitched until 1991. He finished with 214 career wins and he ranks 34th all-time in games started with 529.
Jolly Roger Rewind: May 16, 1989
One of the most unexpectedly effective starting pitching performances in franchise history led the Pirates to a 5-0 win over the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.
Randy Kramer had stalled in the Rangers’ system when Syd Thrift obtained him in a minor trade in 1986. After an undistinguished five-game debut in late 1988, Kramer returned from AAA in late April ’89, contributed two middling starts, and then found himself on the sidelines (with the help of a few rainouts) for the next eleven days.
On the twelfth day, however, Kramer took the mound at Riverfront and threw a masterpiece. The 28-year-old old rookie held the home team hitless until Ron Oester’s double into the leftfield corner with two outs in the eighth inning. While falling short of the Pirates’ first no-hitter since John Candelaria in 1976, Kramer retired the final four Reds batters after Oester’s hit to wrap up a one-hit, one-walk complete-game shutout. (Cincinnati also put two men on base from late-game Pirate errors: Herm Winningham on Sid Bream’s seventh-inning error and Jeff Reed on Jose Lind’s error, one batter before Oester spoiled the no-hit bid.)
Unfortunately for Kramer, his brush with glory in the Queen City represented the apex of his big league career. When he next took the ball, four days later, it was as a relief pitcher; his next start did not come until June 10. Kramer remained on the major league roster for the balance of the ’89 season, but the majority of his 35 appearances came from the bullpen (including a brief stint as the Bucco closer), and his overall performance was unexceptional (85 ERA+). He pitched in twelve games for the 1990 Pirates before being shipped to Chicago in another minor trade, and his career ended shortly thereafter.
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Pittsburgh Press game story
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.