This Date in Pirates History: May 28

We have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two of the ten oldest living Pirates players. There is also one trade of note as well as a game recap from John Fredland, covering one of his favorite games from the Pirates pennant runs of the early 1990’s.

The Trade

On this date in 1960, the Pirates traded minor leaguers, Julian Javier and Ed Bauta to the St Louis Cardinals for veteran pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell and infielder Dick Gray. Mizell was 29 years old at the time of the trade, coming off a season in which he went 13-10 4.20 in 30 starts for the Cardinals. He pitched over 200 innings that season for the third time in his career. Before the trade, he made nine starts for the Cardinals, going 1-3 with a 4.55 ERA and no complete games(he had at least seven every prior season). Gray was a 28 year old infielder with three years of major league experience. He hit .233 in 57 games in 1959, spending most of his time at third base. Javier was 23, in his fifth season in the Pirates system, second year at AAA. He was a light-hitting second baseman, who had a .274 average, with 17 walks and 103 strikeouts in 135 games in 1959. Bauta was 25, a relief pitcher, who just like Javier, was in his fifth season in the Pirates system and second year at AAA. He had an 0.95 ERA in 12 appearances at the time of the trade

Both Javier and Bauta went right to the majors with the Cardinals. Bauta was seldom used, relegated to the back of the bullpen, and he spent part of his time with St Louis, back in AAA. They traded him to the Mets near the end of the 1963 season. He pitched 97 games in the majors, 149 innings, with a 4.35 ERA. Javier became an all-star player with the Cardinals, helping them to the World Series three times during the 1960’s. He played a total of 13 seasons in the big leagues(12 with St Louis) and twice made the NL All-Star team. Gray never played in the majors again, spending the last three years of his career at AAA with the Pirates. Mizell served his purpose by helping the Pirates get to the 1960 WS with his 13-5 record in 23 starts. His production began to drop of the next season and his major league career was done by the end of the 1962 season. The Pirates traded Mizell to the Mets on May 7,1962.

The Players

Alex Hernandez (1977) First baseman/outfielder for the 2000-01 Pirates. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1995, signing right away and reporting to the Gulf Coast League. Alex was in high-A ball in 1997, hitting .290 with 68 RBI’s and 75 runs scored for Lynchburg. He had a very poor walk to strikeout ratio(27:140) but he also hit 37 doubles to go along with his high average. Hernandez then spent two full seasons in AA, starting a third season there in 2000. That year he broke out, hitting .337 with 34 RBI’s in 50 games. Alex moved up to AAA, hitting .275 in 76, earning a September call-up to the Pirates. He played twenty games for Pittsburgh, getting 60 AB’s, in which he hit .200 with one homer and five RBI’s. In 2001, Hernandez got called up in August, playing his last seven major league games. He was released after the season, signing with the Reds for 2002. After spending all of 2002 in the minors, Alex played Independent ball in 2003 and then again in 2006, his last season of pro ball. The low walk rate in the minors was a sign of things to come with Alex, he did not draw a single walk in his 71 plate appearances while with the Pirates.

Kirk Gibson (1957) Outfielder for the 1992 Pirates. He was signed as a first round pick in 1978 by the Tigers. Kirk would make it to the majors by the end of the following season but it took five seasons in the majors before he reached his potential. During the 1984 season, Gibson helped the Tigers to the World Series by hitting .282 with 91 RBI’s, 92 runs scored and just missing out on the 30/30 club. He hit .417 in the ALCS, then followed that with a .333 average and seven RBI’s in the World Series. After three more strong seasons in Detroit, Gibson moved on to the Dodgers, where he forever became part of baseball history. After having an MVP regular season, an injured Gibson hobbled to the plate in game one of the WS and hit one of the most memorable homers in baseball history, a walkoff shot against Dennis Eckersley.

Kirk played two more injury shortened years in Los Angeles, then moved on to Kansas City for one year. He played 132 games, hitting .236 with 16 homers, 55 RBI’s, 69 walks and 18 steals. On March 10,1992, the Pirates traded Neal Heaton to the Royals in exchange for Gibson. His stay in Pittsburgh was a short one, just 16 games with a .196 average and .541 OPS before being released. Kirk retired, but it was only temporary as he came back for three more seasons with the Tigers before his playing career ended. He had a lifetime average of .268 with 985 runs scored, 255 homers, 875 RBI’s and 284 steals in 1635 games. Gibson is currently in his third year as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, coming off a season in which he was named NL Manager of the Year.

Bob Kuzava (1923) Pitcher for the 1957 Pirates. He originally signed with the Indians at an 18 year old in 1941. The next year he won 21 games, posting a 1.72 ERA in 235 innings. After two seasons in the minors, Bob served in the military during WWII, missing three seasons before returning in 1946. He returned to the minors, going 14-6 2.36 in 217 innings before getting called up to the majors. Kuzava was also a September call-up in 1947, before spending the entire 1948 campaign in the minors. He was traded to the White Sox after the 1948 season and was able to get his first real shot at pitching full-time in the majors. The Indians at the time were a much better team than Chicago and Kuzava made 18 starts and eleven relief appearances for the White Sox during his first season. He went 10-6 4.02 in 156.2 innings that year. In 1950 he started off slow, then was dealt to the Senators at the end of May. He caught a big break in the middle of the 1951 season, getting traded to the New York Yankees. While there, Kuzava was able to collect three World Series rings in his first three seasons.

Between the 1954-55 seasons, Bob was a member of four different organizations. He then spent the entire 1956 season in the minors, going 10-8 3.57 in 169 innings. The Pirates signed him prior to the 1957 season and he made the Opening Day roster. Bob made four relief appearances before being sent back to the minors. In the middle of September, the Pirates sold him to the Cardinals, for whom he pitched his last three major league games. Kuzava played three more years in the minors, the last as a player/manager, before retiring. He turns 89 today.

Steve Nagy (1919) Pitcher for the 1947 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942, but after one season in the minors, he spent three years serving in the military during WWII. Nagy returned to baseball in 1946, going 17-4 for the Montreal Royals of the International League. Right after the season ended, the Pirates purchased his contract from Brooklyn. He made three relief appearances over the first month of the 1947 season for the Pirates, allowing runs in all three games. After spending three months in AAA, Steve returned to Pittsburgh in September, making another three appearances. In the next to last day of the season, he got his only start, going eight innings in a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals. He pitched two years in the minors for the Pirates before they traded him to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. Just months after the trade, Nagy was picked up by the Washington Senators in the 1949 Rule V draft. He would make nine starts for the Senators, going 2-5 6.58 before being sent back to the minors. Steve pitched another eight years in the minors before retiring, finishing with 121 minor league wins. He turns 93 today.

King Brady (1881) Pitcher for the 1906-07 Pirates. Brady made his debut in baseball with the 1905 Phillies, making two late season starts. In 1906, he went 14-24 in 39 games for the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association. The Pirates took him in the 1906 Rule V draft and brought him right to the majors. He got two late season starts, both during a six game series in Brooklyn. On September 28th in the first game of a doubleheader, King(first name was James, sometimes referred to as “Jeems”) went seven innings, allowing five runs on 12 hits in a 5-4 loss.  He won his second game, throwing a complete game in a 5-1 win. The papers said he pitched well and the run was only because of an error by Honus Wagner. However, he gave up 12 hits for the second game in a row and he also walked three batters, leaving Brooklyn with 14 runners left on base.

For the 1907 Pirates, Brady pitched two innings in relief, his only game played that season. He was with Johnstown in 1908, going 20-10 in 41 games. In the 1908 Rule V draft, King was chosen by the Boston Red Sox. In his only start for Boston, he threw a shutout over the New York Highlanders. Brady spent the next three years in the minors, finally getting another shot in the majors during the 1912 season with the Boston Braves. In his only outing, he allowed six runs in 2.2 innings. After four more years in the minors, Brady retired. Despite the fact he played five years in the majors for four different teams, King appeared in just eight major league games.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 28, 1990

Held to one hit through eight innings on a rainy Memorial Day afternoon, the first-place Pirates rallied for five runs in the bottom of the ninth for a dramatic 6-5 victory over the Dodgers at Three Rivers Stadium.

Entering the bottom of the ninth, the game seemed destined to be remembered for Los Angeles starter Tim Belcher’s stellar pitching (a third-inning hit-and-run single by Jose Lind had been the sole Bucco hit) and as the latest front in a multi-season beanball row between the teams.* The brushback skirmish, waged over three consecutive half innings in the middle of the game, had turned into a tactical defeat for the Pirates: Jim Leyland and Randy Kramer were ejected in the top of the sixth for Kramer’s alleged retaliation against Belcher, which had followed Belcher throwing behind Don Slaught and provoking both teams to leave their benches, which had followed Bob Walk hitting Los Angeles right fielder Hubie Brooks with a pitch. Meanwhile, the Dodgers had rolled to a secure-seeming 5-1 advantage by posting five runs in the fifth. (Adding to the tactical failure, Brooks had come around to score after the hit batsman.)

So secure did this lead seem that Belcher, having thrown 110 pitches, informed Los Angeles manager Tom Lasorda that he had “run out of gas.”** Lasorda replaced Belcher with lefthander Pat Perry to nail down the final three outs.

The substitution awakened the Pirate offense. Wally Backman opened the ninth with a single, and Jay Bell doubled him to third. A wild pitch, a walk and two outs later, the Dodgers’ edge had narrowed to 5-3, but the Buccos faced their last out, with Bobby Bonilla on first.

Third base coach Gene Lamont, managing in Leyland’s stead, let Sid Bream bat against the lefthander, and Bream came through with a single to center. Lamont then replaced Bream with pinch-runner Gary Redus. Lasorda called on closer Jay Howell, but Howell walked Slaught to load the bases for Lind.

The Bucco second baseman, better known for his glovework, worked the count full. With the runners going, Lind lined a single to right, beyond the reach of a diving Eddie Murray. Bonilla scored from third, and Redus, the potential tying run, headed homeward.

Brooks threw home in hopes of gunning down Redus. The throw sailed to the first-base side of the plate. Catcher Mike Scioscia reached out to make a game-saving sweep tag, but missed the ball. It rolled to the backstop, and Slaught came home with the winning run. The game would be remembered as one of the 1990-92 Bucs’ signature triumphs.***

* In July 1989, Los Angeles’ Tim Crews hit Redus in the face with a pitch in a game at Three Rivers. Four weeks before the Memorial Day game, Belcher had thrown close to Bonilla’s head, and Kramer had responded by drilling Belcher in retaliation.

** Belcher told the Pittsburgh Press afterwards that, “A hundred and 10 pitches, that’s plenty. I’d like to have gone out in the ninth, but when you feel you are losing it and have a four-run lead, why risk it?”

*** Epilogue: about eight weeks later, the Dodgers returned to Pittsburgh and Belcher again limited the Pirates to one hit through eight innings. This time, he took the mound in the ninth and recorded the final three outs for a 6-0 victory.

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Press game story