Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one team makes a trade for another pennant run. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps an exciting game from a team that went on to win the World Series.
On this date in 1992, the Pirates traded third baseman Steve Buechele to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for pitcher Danny Jackson. With the Pirates fighting to stay over .500 in July after winning the NL pennant two years in a row, they moved third baseman Buechele to the Cubs for a veteran pitcher and slid Jeff King over to a full-time role at third base for the rest of the season. Jackson was a thirty year old lefty, who had won 23 games for the 1988 Reds team that won the World Series. He was also a key pitcher for the 1985 Royals WS winning team. At the time of the deal, he was 4-9 4.22 in 19 starts with the Cubs. Buechele was also thirty years old, in his eighth season in the majors, second with the Pirates. He was hitting .249 with eight homers and 43 RBI’s in 80 games at the time of the deal. His 1991 season was his best, one split between the Pirates and Rangers. He hit .262 with 22 homers and 85 RBI’s in 152 games. He was a mainstay in the lineup, three times with the Rangers he played more games in a season than he did during the 1991 campaign.
After the deal, Buechele raised his average to .276 with Chicago, although he didn’t hit for any power, with just one homer in 65 games. He ended up playing three more seasons with the Cubs, prior to finishing his career back with the Rangers in July of 1995. In 1993, he led all NL third baseman in fielding percentage. For the Pirates, Jackson went 4-4 3.36 in 15 starts. He started game two of the NLCS and took the loss after giving up four runs in the second inning. The Pirates lost him to the Marlins in the November 1992 expansion draft. Danny ended up with the Phillies before the 1993 season started and in two seasons in Philadelphia, he went 26-17, helping them to the 1993 WS. He signed with the Cardinals in 1994 and his last three seasons were a disaster, going 5-22 combined.
Javier Lopez (1977) Relief pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was originally a fourth round draft pick of the Diamondbacks in 1998, making it to the majors for the first time while with the Rockies five years later. Lopez split his time between the minors and majors, each season from 2004 until 2007. He became a regular in the Red Sox bullpen during their 2007 World Series winning season and he had a strong 2008 to follow, posting a 2.43 ERA in 70 appearances. His 2009 season though was tough. He started off slowly in April, seemed to rebound at the end of the month, then had four straight poor outings, which led to him being sent to the minors for the rest of the year. He was granted free agency in October of 2009 and the Pirates picked him up two months later. Javier became the Pirates lefty specialist, pitching a total of 38.2 innings in 50 appearances, with a 2-2 2.79 record. On July 31,2010, the Pirates traded Lopez to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for outfielder John Bowker and pitcher Joe Martinez. He helped the Giants to a World Series win that season and has been with the team since, currently with a 4.00 ERA in 38 outings this year, pitching just 18 innings over those games.
Ed Ott (1951) Catcher for the Pirates from 1974 until 1980. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 23rd round of the 1970 draft out of high school. Ed made it to the majors during the 1974-75 seasons, playing a total of 12 games with ten AB’s. His was with the Pirates during the entire 1976 season, although his time was very limited, hitting .308 in 39 AB’s with just five starts the whole year. In 1977, Pittsburgh had traded away Manny Sanguillen in exchange for Chuck Tanner and Ott became the starting catcher. In 104 games, he batted .264 with seven homers and 38 RBI’s, throwing out 42% of would-be basestealers. Ed saw slightly more time the following season, going to bat 63 more times(410 total) and finishing with a .269 average, and again he had 38 RBI’s. He had a little trouble defensively, committing a league high 15 errors behind the plate. His defense improved greatly the next year and he had his best year at the plate, as the Pirates took the 1979 World Series. Ott finished second in fielding percentage among NL catchers and drove in a career high 51 runs. In the WS, he hit .333 with three RBI’s, catching three of the seven games. He played a career high 120 games in 1980, batting .260 with 41 RBI’s. On April 1,1981, the Pirates traded Ott, along with pitcher Mickey Mahler, to the California Angels in exchange for Jason Thompson. He played 75 games during the strike-shortened 1981 season, then missed all of 1982 with rotator cuff surgery. During a comeback attempt in Spring Training of 1983, Ott reinjured his throwing shoulder and missed all but two games(minors) of the season. Ed played 14 games at AAA in 1984 before deciding to retire.
Hal Gregg (1921) Pitcher for the 1948-1950 Pirates. He was signed by the Dodgers in 1941, making his major league debut two years later. Gregg was a good pitcher, albeit with a lack of control on his pitches at most times. He led the NL in walks during his first two full seasons, yet still won 18 games during the 1945 season. In 1946, he showed the best control of his career and ended up with a 2.99 ERA in 117.1 innings. His numbers fell off the next season, posting a 5.87 ERA in 104.1 innings. He actually made 16 starts and 21 relief appearances, so he had trouble going deep in games. On December 8,1947, the Pirates acquired Gregg in a six player deal with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He saw limited action in 1948, making eight starts and 14 relief appearances, going 2-4 4.60 in 74.1 innings. Hal would then split the next two seasons between the minors and majors, pitching a total of 13 games for the Pirates. At the end of 1950, Gregg was lost in the minor league draft. He would make it back to the majors in 1952, playing 16 games for the Giants, before finishing his career in the minors the next season. He had a 40-48 4.54 record in 200 major league games, going 3-6 4.85 in 35 games for the Pirates.
Harry Wolter (1884) Pitcher for the Pirates on June 17,1907. He made his major league debut during the 1907 season with the Reds, playing four games in the outfielder before moving on to Pittsburgh. For the Pirates, he made just one appearance and it was as a pitcher. On June 17,1907, Wolter pitched the last two innings of a 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed two runs(one earned) on three hits and two walks. Two weeks later, Harry was playing for the Cardinals, where he started three games and played all three outfield positions during his 16 games with the team. He spent all of 1908 in the minors, playing in California, where he hit .339 and won 25 games. Wolter returned to the majors in 1909 with the Red Sox, then joined the Highlanders(Yankees) in 1910, playing two years as their full-time right fielder. In 1911, Harry hit .304 with 78 runs scored, 15 triples and 62 walks. He got off to a fast start in 1912, but early in the year, he broke his leg when his spike got caught as he started a slide. Wolter spent the entire 1913 season with the Yankees(new name that season) and his numbers were down. He returned to the minors in 1914, making it back to the big leagues for one more season(1917 Reds) before finishing out his career in 1927 as a player/manager.
Pop Schriver (1865) Catcher for the Pirates from 1898 until 1900. He had a long career in pro ball, playing his first game as a teenager in 1885 and last playing as a 42 year old in 1907. Pop even managed in the minors into the mid-1920’s after his playing career was over. He played eight games in the majors during his first season in 1886, going 1-21 at the plate for an .048 average. That led to him spending all of 1887 back in the minors, returning to the big leagues with the Phillies(also known as the Quakers) as a platoon catcher for three years. In 1891, he moved on to the Chicago Colts(Cubs) for four seasons, the played briefly with the 1895 New York Giants. After spending all of 1896 in the minors, he made the 1897 Reds roster, hitting .303 with 30 RBI’s in 61 games. On November 10,1897, the Pirates and Reds hooked up on a seven player deal that saw star pitcher Pink Hawley, and star outfielder Elmer “Mike” Smith go to Cincinnati for five players, Schriver included among them. During his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, Pop split the catching duties with Frank Bowerman. In 1900, the Pirates acquired Chief Zimmer and Jack O’Connor, giving the team three catchers that were all at least 34 years old, and all three were better than average players during their prime. Pop ended up playing 224 games for the Pirates, batting .260 with two homers and 93 RBI’s. In his career, he threw out 40% of would-be basestealers, a total of 575 runners caught stealing over his 656 games caught.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 11, 1925
Two outs from squandering a five-run lead and falling into a first-place tie with the New York Giants, the Pirates rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth inning and defeated the Brooklyn Robins 7-6 at Ebbets Field.
Through seven and two thirds innings, Bucco starter Lee Meadows had shut out the Robins on one hit—a third inning Milt Stock triple—but starting pitcher Burleigh Grimes’ two-out single triggered a six-run offensive eruption in the home half of the eighth, highlighted by Zack Wheat’s* bases-loaded triple and Jack Fournier’s two-run homer. When the dust cleared, home plate umpire Bill Klem had ejected Pirate manager Bill McKechnie** for disputing the ball called on the two-strike pitch before Wheat’s triple, the home fans had thrown their straw hats on the field in celebration***, and the Robins had a 6-5 advantage.
But the Bucs were not finished. With one out in the ninth and Grimes still on the mound, Clyde Barnhart tripled off the right field fence after narrowly missing striking out on a foul tip. Pie Traynor made it back-to-back triples and a tie game by dropping a “Texas League” bloop hit down the right field line and reaching third when rookie right fielder Dick Cox misplayed the ball.
Glenn Wright followed with a bouncer to shortstop Hod Ford. Traynor broke for the plate and appeared a likely out, but catcher Zack Taylor dropped Ford’s throw for an error, allowing the Pirates to take a 7-6 lead.
The Buccos turned to some inspired defense in the bottom of the ninth to close out their fortieth win in their last fifty-seven games. Dick Loftus was on first base with one out when Taylor’s fly ball to short left field fell between Traynor, Wright and Barnhart. Loftus—referred to as “the speedy Loftus” in The (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times—attempted to move to third, but Traynor hustled back to the bag, caught Barnhart’s throw, and tagged Loftus for the second out. Pinch hitter Cotton Tierney then hit a fly ball to deep center that Max Carey ran down to end the game.
The win gave the Pirates a 47-28 record, good for one game ahead of the second-place Giants.****
Gazette Times game story
* Wheat was serving in what turned out to be a two-week stint as Brooklyn’s player-manager. According to his SABR biography: “When [Robins owner Charles] Ebbets died [on April 18] 1925, new team president Ed McKeever pushed [manager Willard] Robinson into the front office and named Wheat as player-manager. Newspapers confirm that he managed the Dodgers for two weeks. But McKeever caught pneumonia at Ebbets’ funeral, died soon afterward, and Robinson returned to the helm. . . . To add insult to injury, Wheat’s 1925 managerial stint never made it into the official records.”
** The two men were old adversaries: The Gazette Times’ game story referred to Klem as McKechnie’s “pet aversion in baseball.”
*** The Gazette Times observed that the Brooklyn rally “caused Flatbush fans to throw away enough straw hats to supply the population of a good-sized village.”
**** National columnist Frederick G. Lieb was bullish on the Bucs: “Somehow, I do not expect to see this Pirate team blow up as did some of the other Pittsburgh aggregations of the past. For one thing, this present Pirate club is by far the strongest team that has been sent out of Pittsburgh in many years.” The Gazette Times’ Charles J. Doyle noted increased optimism: “Pirate fandom has been ‘het up’ annually for the last five years, but, although the interest was intense in the previous four races, there has been nothing to match present conditions in the point of untarnished fervor. In the Pittsburgh neighborhood the highest fever figures naturally are available, yet there is a deep nation-wide interest in the fascinating club representing the Steel City in the 1925 competition.”
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.