Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a pair of teammates from the 1949 team. We also have a recent trade of note and John Fredland recaps a big game from a Pirates great, that happened against Pittsburgh after the player left the team.
On this date in 2008, the Pirates acquired outfielder Jose Tabata and pitchers, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf from the New York Yankees in exchange for relief pitcher Damaso Marte and outfielder Xavier Nady. Four years after the deal, three of the players still remain in the Pirates organization, although only Jeff Karstens is in the majors as of right now, McCutchen and Tabata are in AAA. Nady still plays,currently as a Washington National. He hasn’t been with the Yankees since an early season elbow injury ended his 2009 seasons. Marte pitched poorly for the Yankees in 2008, then signed a three year contract with the team following the season. He pitched even worse during the 2009 season, posting a 9.45 ERA in 21 outings. In the playoffs, he threw four scoreless innings over eight outings. Damaso was injured during the second half of the 2010 season, then spent the entire 2011 season on the DL. He has not pitched this year. Ohlendorf is with the Padres now after being released by the Pirates this past December. In between Pittsburgh and San Diego, he was with the Boston Red Sox organization. Ross has a 3-0 record this year, though he is doing that with a high WHIP and a 5.16 ERA.
Jose Martinez (1942) Infielder for the 1969-70 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent out of Cuba in 1960, and it wasn’t until nine years later that he finally made his major league debut. Jose began as a shortstop, but by the time he made it to the majors, he was spending most of his time at third base. He had shown power during three stops in the minors, including twenty homers for Asheville in 1964. By the time he reached AAA in 1965, the power numbers were gone. Between the 1965-66 and 1968 seasons(he didn’t play in 1967), Martinez hit just 14 homers. In 1969, Jose went from a light-hitting third baseman, who was demoted to AA for the entire 1968 season, to the Pirates backup infielder. He played 77 games that year, getting 34 starts at second base in a season that Bill Mazeroski played just 67 games all year due to injury. Martinez hit .268 with one homer, 16 RBI’s and twenty runs scored. His homer that year was a ninth inning grand slam that came during a 2-2 ballgame. In 1970, Jose made the Opening Day roster and was with the team through the end of May, playing 19 games, four as a starter. He went 1-20 at the plate before being sent back to AAA, where he spent the next two years for the Pirates. Pittsburgh sold him to the Royals in Spring Training of 1972 and he spent the next three years in their system at AAA, prior to his retirement from playing. Jose went on to become a longtime coach with the Cubs and Royals after his playing days.
Tom Saffell (1921) Outfielder for the Pirates from 1949 until 1951, then again in 1955. He played minor league ball in 1941, then missed the next four years, first with a knee injury, then while serving in the military during WWII. Tom returned to the minors in 1946 and hit over .300 each of his first two seasons, earning a spot on the Pirates AAA team in Indianapolis for the 1948 season. The speedy lefty played center field and batted leadoff most of his minor league career. With Indianapolis in 1948, he hit .299 with 22 stolen bases and 119 runs scored. The Pirates called Saffell up midway through the 1949 season and he played well, hitting .322 in 73 games with 36 runs scored. He made the Opening Day roster the next year but struggled to hit and was sent down at the end of May. Coming back up in mid-August, Tom finished the year batting .203 in 67 games. The next season was more of the same. Saffell was a seldom used bench player the first month, then got sent down in May, eventually coming back up and finishing with a .200 average in 49 games.
Tom spent all of the next three seasons in the minors, then got one more shot with the Pirates as their 1955 Opening Day center fielder. He remained with the team until his release in mid-September, batting .168 in 73 games. He finished the season with the Kansas City A’s, his last major league team. Tom played four more seasons in the minors before retiring as a player. After his playing career ended, Saffell was a longtime manager in the minors, a few of those seasons spent in the Pirates organization, He then spent even more time as the president of the Gulf Coast League, staying active in baseball into his late 80’s, only recently retiring. Tom is the fifth oldest living former Pirates player, one day younger than Marv Rackley, who was featured here yesterday.(Update: Saffell passed away five months after this article was written in December, 2012)
Eddie Bockman (1920) Third baseman for the 1948-49 Pirates. He originally signed as an 18 year old in 1939, though he didn’t make the majors until seven years later, partly due to missing three full seasons while serving in the military during WWII. Bockman came back from the war in 1946 and hit .303 with 78 walks, 95 RBI’s and 29 stolen bases for Kansas City of the American Association. He had a brief trial in September with the Yankees, then was traded to the Indians right after the season ended. For Cleveland in 1947, Eddie hit .258 in 46 games, getting just 71 plate appearances all season. On January 16,1948, the Pirates purchased Bockman from the Indians. In his two seasons with the Pirates, he started 100 games, all at third base. He was the team’s regular 3B at the end of the 1948 season and the first two months of the 1949 season, but he didn’t hit much and lost the job to Pete Castiglione. Eddie hit .230, with ten homers and 42 RBI’s in 149 games for Pittsburgh. He went to the minors in 1950 and ended up playing another nine seasons, the last four as a player/manager, before retiring.
Jimmy Bloodworth (1917) Second baseman for the 1947 Pirates. A common theme among the three players from today that played in the 1940’s is they all missed significant time in their prime while serving in the military during WWII. Bloodworth, unlike the previous two players, was already an established major leaguer when he missed his time. He was the everyday second baseman for the Detroit Tigers in 1942-43, and held the same spot with the Washington Senators over the three prior seasons. Jimmy missed all of 1944-45, returning during the next season and taking over his 2B job in Detroit again. The Pirates purchased his contract in December of 1946, exactly five years after the Tigers traded to get him. For Pittsburgh in 1947, Jimmy started 82 games at second base, playing 88 games total, and he hit .250 with seven homers and 48 RBI’s. He began the year with the team, but was quickly sent down to the minors until returning on July 4th, so all of his 82 starts actually came over the last 88 games of the season. Almost a year after they acquired him, the Pirates traded Bloodworth to the Dodgers in exchange for Monty Basgall. Jimmy never played for the Dodgers in the majors, but returned to the big leagues in 1949 for three seasons, first with the Reds, then the Phillies. He played in the minors until 1955 and from 1952-54, he took up pitching, while also serving as a player/manager. He was a .248 hitter with 451 RBI’s in 1002 major league games. In 1940, he had the best fielding percentage among AL second baseman, and in five other seasons, he finished in the top three in the same category.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 26, 1943
Former Pirate great Arky Vaughan haunted his former team with a tenth-inning inside-the-park grand slam, leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the Bucs at Forbes Field.
In the ninth inning, Vaughan*, who had been traded from the Pirates to the Dodgers a year and a half earlier, had scored the tying run on Augie Galan’s two-out single off Max Butcher, denying the Bucco starter a complete game win. When Vaughan came to bat in the tenth, the score remained 6-6, reliever Bill Brandt had relieved Butcher, and Dodgers occupied all three bases with two outs.
The thirty-one-year-old shortstop took a strike from Brandt and, according to Dick Fortune of The Pittsburgh Press, “protested [the call] vigorously.” He then drove Brandt’s pitch to the light standard in center field and circled the bases—with three teammates crossing the plate in front of him—before the Bucs could even return the ball to the infield.
Having opened the four-game series with three victories by an aggregate 20-3, the Pirates seemed intent on sweeping the series and seizing second place in the National League from the visitors when they rolled to a 5-2 lead through three innings. But the Dodgers tied the game with three runs in the top of the sixth, and, after Vince DiMaggio’s second home run of the contest restored a one-run Bucco lead in the bottom of the sixth, knotted matters again in the ninth, setting the stage for Vaughan’s big hit. **
The Pittsburgh Press game story
* Vaughan was not the only Pirate great to see action for the Dodgers. In the sixth inning, Brooklyn pinch-hit forty-year-old Paul Waner, now in the journeyman phase of his career, for third baseman Bobby Bragan (who himself would become manager of the Pirates thirteen years later). Waner, however, flied out against Butcher.
** “Yesterday’s contest will have to be put in the ‘Should Have Won’ column, though no pennants are won in that league,” observed Fortune in the Press.
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.