Today we have six former Pittsburgh Pirates players that were born on this date. Earlier this morning we dedicated a full bio to one of the better pitchers in team history, Lee Meadows, a star for two Pirates World Series teams. That can be read here. In this article we have five more players, plus a Jolly Roger Rewind from John Fredland.
Tom Gorzelanny (1982) Pitcher for the Pirates from 2005 until 2009. He was a second round draft pick in 2003 by the Pirates. Three years prior, he was taken in the 38th round by the Chicago White Sox. Tom signed early enough to get in eight starts in the NY-Penn League in 2003, posting a 1.78 ERA. He moved quickly through the minors, though his time in High-A ball was shaky, with a 4.85 ERA in ten starts. He did show signs of success during that time, striking out 61 batters in 55.2 innings. Tom moved up to AA the next year, going 8-5 3.26 with 124 strikeouts in 129.2 innings, earning a mid-September promotion for three games with the Pirates. He began the 2006 season in AAA, coming back up to the majors in July to make 11 starts. Gorzelanny earned a spot in the 2007 rotation and had his best season of his career, going 14-10 3.88 in 201.2 innings, making 32 starts. Things fell apart the next season, as he had a 6.57 ERA through 17 starts in early July, earning himself a demotion to the minors. He returned in mid-August for four starts and didn’t pitch any better. In 2009, Tom spent most of the early season in the minors as a starter, though when he came up to the Pirates he was put in the bullpen. At the trading deadline, he was sent to the Cubs along with John Grabow for Josh Harrison, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio. Since then, Gorzelanny has pitched for the Cubs in 2010 and the Nationals the last two years, this season strictly as a reliever.
Phil Dumatrait (1981) Pitcher for the 2008-09 Pirates. He was a first round draft in 2000 of the Boston Red Sox. Phil didn’t make it to the majors until 2007, when he made six starts for the Cincinnati Reds, with extremely poor results, going 0-4 15.00 in 18 innings. The Pirates selected him off waivers on October 26,2007 and he made the 2008 Opening Day roster. Dumatrait made ten relief appearances in April, then moved to a starting role in May, making 11 starts. He went 3-4 5.26 in 78.2 innings before a rotator cuff injury sidelined him for the rest of the season and part of the following year. Phil returned to the Pirates in August of 2009 after a minor league rehab assignment. He made 15 relief appearances for Pittsburgh, going 0-2 6.92 in 13 innings. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Tigers. He was released by Detroit in May of 2010, signing with the Twins six months later. Dumatrait pitched 45 games in relief, with a 3.92 ERA for the 2011 Twins, then just recently he announced his retirement from baseball after not pitching yet this year.
Brad Eldred (1980) First baseman for the 2005 and 2007 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick in 2002 of the Pirates. Brad began to hit homers in the minors at a fast pace, carrying him to the majors by the middle of the 2005 season. In his first full season in the minors in 2003, Eldred hit 28 homers for Hickory. The next season, he showed even more power as he split the year between High-A and AA, hitting 38 bombs, with a .301 average and 137 runs driven in. Brad began the 2005 season in AA, but quickly moved up a level after 13 homers in 21 games. In 53 AAA games, he batted .284 with 15 homers and 48 RBI’s, earning a promotion to the majors just after the All-Star break. In 55 games for the Pirates, Brad hit .221 with 12 homers(40 total during the season) and 27 RBI’s, striking out 77 times. He missed nearly the entire 2006 season after fracturing his thumb in a collision down in AAA. Returning healthy in 2007, Eldred added right field to his resume and made the Pirates out of Spring Training. He was used very little the first two months, getting ten starts and eight games off the bench before being sent back to the minors. The Pirates let him go after the season ended and he has since played 11 games for the 2010 Rockies and five games for the Tigers this year. He was released by the Tigers this June so he could sign with a team in Japan. Brad has hit 251 career homers in the minors, including 24 in 63 games this year.
Dave Ricketts (1935) Catcher for the 1970 Pirates. He signed with the Cardinals as an amateur in 1957, spending the next two seasons serving in the military before returning during the 1960 season. Dave made his major league debut at the end of the 1963 season, playing three games for St Louis. Two years later, he got into another 11 games, then spent the 1966 season in the minors. During the next three years, Ricketts served as a backup catcher for the Cardinals, playing a total of 116 games over his five seasons with the team. The Pirates acquired Ricketts, along with Dave Giusti on October 21,1969 in exchange for catcher Carl Taylor and a minor leaguer. Hey would serve as the Pirates third string catcher behind Manny Sanguillen and Jerry May. Ricketts saw very little time that season, playing 14 games, all off the bench, and going to bat just 12 times. He retired after the season and served as the Pirates bullpen coach for three years before moving on to the same role for the Cardinals, working with the team into the 1990’s. His brother Dick Ricketts was a pitcher for the 1959 Cardinals.
Johnny Wyrostek (1919) Utility fielder for the 1942-43 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Cardinals in 1937, coming over to the Pirates after they purchased his contract late in 1941 with no major league experience. Johnny spent the 1942 season playing for Toronto of the International League, where he hit .270 with 18 homers, 79 RBI’s and 78 walks. He was a September call-up for the Pirates, hitting .114(4-35) in nine games. He was with Pittsburgh all of 1942, playing 51 games, with a .152 average and one RBI in 83 plate appearances. He started only nine games all year and played six different positions, all but SS/C/P. After the season, the Pirates traded him, along with pitcher Johnny Podgajny and cash, to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Preacher Roe. Wyrostek ended up having a productive major league career, playing nine full seasons in the majors, split between the Phillies and Reds from 1946-54. He was a two time All-Star(1950-51), hitting .271 career in 1221 games, with 525 runs scored and 481 RBI’s.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 12, 1997
Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon held the Astros hitless through ten innings, and Mark Smith’s three-run, walk-off, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the tenth gave the Pirates a thrilling 3-0 victory at Three Rivers Stadium.
Two nights earlier, Houston had rolled into town for the post-All Star break series one game behind the upstart Bucs in the National League Central; two victories by an aggregate 17-0 margin later, the Astros had turned the one-game deficit into a one-game advantage. But a crowd of 44,119—the Pirates’ first non-opening-day regular season home sellout in over twenty-one years*—filled Three Rivers on Saturday night, and they saw Cordova became the first Bucco pitcher since John Candelaria in August 1976 to throw nine no-hit innings. The twenty-five-year-old righthander, pitching in his first full season as a starter after joining the rotation for the final month of his 1996 rookie campaign, dazzled the Astros on 121 pitches. He struck out ten, missed a perfect game by only two walks and a hit batsman, and did not permit a runner to reach second base.**
Keeping Cordova from the winner’s circle was a similarly strong performance from Astros rookie Chris Holt. No Bucco baserunner made it within two bases of home plate until Cordova’s infield single moved Lou Collier to second with two outs in the eighth. Houston manager Larry Dierker responded to this approximation of a scoring threat by summoning Billy Wagner from the bullpen; Wagner struck out Tony Womack to end the inning, and then sent the game to extra innings by fanning Jermaine Allensworth, Al Martin and Kevin Young in order in the bottom of the ninth.
With the game heading to extra frames, Gene Lamont replaced Cordova—who had pitched a complete-game two-hit victory in Houston nineteen days earlier—with Rincon. The twenty-seven-year-old rookie lefthander, like Cordova a Mexican import, allowed a one-out walk to Derek Bell, but made it through the top of the tenth with the no-hitter intact.
Dierker called in John Hudek for the home half of the tenth. Hudek surrendered a one-out walk to Jason Kendall and a two-out walk to Turner Ward, putting two runners on for the pitcher’s spot. Looking to his bench, Lamont sent up Mark Smith, who had been acquired from San Diego in a minor trade on the season’s eve. Hudek got ahead of Smith with a strike and then threw a belt-high fastball. Smith pulled it over the left field fence to clinch what stands as the franchise’s most memorable victory of the past twenty years.
The win left the Pirates a mere .001 behind the Astros in the NL Central—with the Cardinals trailing the front-runners by only a game—even though both teams were one game under .500.
Box score and play-by-play
Houston Chronicle game story
* Prior to this game, the most recent Three Rivers sellout after opening day had come on June 6, 1976, for a Sunday afternoon Jacket Day promotion against the Padres. Starting in the 1993 season, the Pirates covered the outfield upper-deck seating with tarpaulins, significantly reducing Three Rivers’ seating capacity.
** Observed Carlton Thompson in the Houston Chronicle: “Cordova made the Astros look like a mechanic trying to work on a foreign car without the owner’s manual. They didn’t have a clue. When the righthander wasn’t baffling them with mysterious movement on his pitches—as he did when he recorded five swinging strikeouts in a row—he simply had the hitters guessing if they would get rubbed out by his fastball, slider, sinker or change-up. It didn’t seem to matter which pitch he threw; they all worked.”