There have been four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, two pitchers and two outfielders. The list includes a Hall of Famer, a player from the first team to win the World Series in franchise history, and a player for the team with the best record in club history. John Fredland recaps a game from another great team in franchise history, the 1960 World Series champs.
Goose Gossage (1951) Relief pitcher for the 1977 Pirates. He came up to the majors in 1972 with the White Sox and during his first three seasons, he wasn’t the dominating pitcher he was later in his career. Gossage went 11-11 4.93 with three saves in 95 games from 1972-74. He broke out during the 1975 season, leading the AL with 26 saves and he posted a 1.84 ERA in 141.2 innings of relief work. The White Sox moved him to a starting role in 1976 and he did not do well, especially after June, although he was named to the All-Star team for the second time. Goose went 9-17 3.94 in 224 innings, throwing 15 complete games. On December 10,1976, the Pirates traded away outfielder Richie Zisk in a four player deal to acquire Gossage. He moved back to a bullpen role and pitched outstanding for Pittsburgh, posting a 1.62 ERA in 72 appearances, with 11 wins and 26 saves. Gossage made the All-Star team for the third straight year and he set a career high with 151 strikeouts(in 133 innings). He became a free agent after the season, signing a six year deal with the Yankees. Goose ended up pitching 22 seasons in the majors, playing for nine different teams over that time. He finished with nine All-Star selections, 124 wins, 310 saves and 3.01 ERA in 1002 appearances. Gossage was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, his ninth time on the ballot.
Beals Becker (1886) Outfielder for the 1908 Pirates. He came up to the majors in 1908 as an outfielder, but in 1906 Becker won 25 games on the mound while playing for Wichita of the Western Association. His hitting became more valuable than his pitching the following year for Wichita, going 5-5 on the mound while hitting .310 in 97 games. He was signed by the Pirates for 1908, making the Opening Day roster. In limited action for Pittsburgh, he batted .154 with no RBI’s in twenty games, 17 of those games in right field. Beals was soon sent to Little Rock of the Southern Association, where he hit .305 in 53 games. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Doves on August 18,1908 as the two teams played each other in Pittsburgh. Becker went on to play seven more years in the majors, twice batting over .300 to finish with a .276 average, 292 RBI’s and 367 runs scored in 876 games. His major league career was over by 1915, but he was far from done as a player, hanging around until 1925 in the minor leagues.
Ward Miller (1884) Outfielder for the 1909 Pirates. He spent three years in class-D ball, the lowest level of the minors and didn’t hit well until the third season(1908) when he really broke out while playing for Wausau of the Wisconsin-Illinois League. That year he batted .382 in 124 games, an average that was 128 points higher than the next best regular on the team. The Pirates signed him for the 1909 season and he played center field 14 times through the end of May. He was hitting .143 at that point, when Pittsburgh dealt him to the Reds for outfielder/pitcher Kid Durbin and cash considerations(If Miller was doing well after 30 days, the Reds would pay the Pirates). Ward ended up hitting .310 over the rest of the season, then stuck around Cincinnati one more year before returning to the minors for the 1911 season. After hitting .332 for Montreal of the Eastern League, Miller returned to the majors in 1912 with the Cubs, playing two years in Chicago, followed by two years in the Federal League for the St Louis Terriers, then he spent his last two seasons with the St Louis Browns. It was back to the minors in 1918, playing three more years before retiring. Ward was a .278 career hitter in 769 games, with 322 runs scored and 221 RBI’s.
Harvey Cushman (1877) Pitcher for the 1902 Pirates. At the end of the 1902 season, the Pirates played 13 doubleheaders over the last 53 days. The team had a 76-26 record going into play on August 24th, when Cushman would make his major league debut. Over a 13 day stretch, the team went 10-5 with four of those losses coming while Harvey was on the mound. Those would be the only four games of his major league career. He played two more seasons of pro ball after 1902, spending them with Des Moines of the Western League. In his first major league game, he lost 9-4 and pitched a complete game despite the fact he gave up all nine runs in the third inning. The catcher for Cushman, once the game got out of hand, was Mike Hopkins. During the time Cushman got his two week trial, the Pirates were battling injuries and both Hopkins and an outfielder named Bill Miller were amateurs who played their only game in pro ball at this time, Miller on August 23rd and Hopkins on the 24th. Things got so bad with injuries that pitcher Jesse Tannehill was in left field during both games of the doubleheader played on the 24th, yet Pittsburgh still finished with a 103-36 record that season.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 5, 1960
The first-place Pirates parlayed late-game power hitting, a game-saving outfield assist, and a bullpen cameo from a starting pitcher into a 5-4 ten-inning victory over the second-place Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium.
When Hank Aaron’s eighth-inning sacrifice fly drove in Bill Bruton to increase Milwaukee’s lead to 2-0, only three outs separated the Bucs from a six-hit shutout at the hands of Carl Willey and a narrowing of their National League lead to two and a half games. As was the case frequently for the 1960 Pirates, however, a stirring comeback lay just around the corner.*
Rocky Nelson started the rally by leading off the ninth inning with a home run into the right field bleachers. One out later, Hal Smith worked Willey for a walk. Don Hoak followed with a two-run homer over the left field fence to give the Buccos a 3-2 advantage.
To protect the lead, Danny Murtaugh called on Elroy Face for the third day in a row**, but the Pirate closer could not seal the deal; he allowed a one-out single to Johnny Logan and a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Eddie Haas. Murtaugh then made platoon-advantage-seeking pitching changes against consecutive batters, bringing in left hander Joe Gibbon to face the lefty-swinging Bruton and right hander Paul Giel against Del Crandall. Both moves ultimately backfired: Bruton drew a walk to load the bases, and Crandall’s line-drive single to left field drove in the tying run. Only Bob Skinner’s throw home to cut down Haas at the plate preserved the tie and sent the game into extra innings.***
With two outs in the top of the tenth, two of the Bucs’ ninth-inning heroes made the most of the reprieve. Skinner beat out an infield single off Joey Jay, and Nelson drove the ball down the right-field line for his second home run in as many innings, giving the Pirates their second lead of the game at 5-3.
Still, the Braves would not go away easily. Giel started the home half of the tenth by retiring Eddie Mathews on a pop-up and striking out Aaron****, but Aaron reached first base on a wild pitch and moved to second on another wild pitch. Murtaugh went to the bullpen again, summoning Bob Friend—who had pitched into the eighth inning in the first game of the previous day’s doubleheader and had not appeared in relief since July 1957—to pitch to Felix Mantilla. Friend induced Mantilla to ground out, but heightened the tension by allowing an RBI single to Joe Adcock. The home squad would get no closer, though; Friend retired Logan on a ground ball to clinch the victory.
The Pirates left Milwaukee with their fourteenth come-from-behind triumph of the season and a four-and-a-half game lead over the Braves.
* On June 18, for example, the Pirates had been down to their final strike with nobody on base before rallying from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Los Angeles.
** Face would ultimately pitch on five consecutive days, from July 3-7.
*** According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Skinner’s assist came with a degree of difficulty; he had to “make a back-hand stab of the ball, straighten and throw to the plate.”
**** Jack Heron’s Post-Gazette game story reported that a Milwaukee newspaper had quoted Aaron that day as “saying the Braves would pass the Pirates ‘like a jet.’” He noted that Hoak had clipped the article and posted it on the mirror in the Bucs’ clubhouse.
Box score and play-by-play
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 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.