Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Today we stray from the usual “youngest player first” format to shine the spotlight on one of the better Pirates pitchers from the 1930’s, Cy Blanton. John Fredland recaps one of the longest games in Pirates history in his Jolly Roger Rewind.
Cy Blanton (1908) Pitcher for the 1934-39 Pirates. He spent five seasons in the minors before getting his first chance in a late season game for the 1934 Pirates. Blanton was with that team during Spring Training, labeled as the best rookie they had in camp before being sent to the International League, where he went 11-8 3.86 in 26 games for Albany. In 1933, he went 21-7, playing for St Joseph of the Western League, earning his long look during the following Spring. In his debut, Cy pitched well, giving up three runs over eight innings in the loss. He walked four batters in that game, a sign of the control problems that cost him a spot on the 1934 Opening Day roster, but he would overcome the wildness the next year, making the team out of Spring Training. Blanton had a terrific rookie season despite missing time right in the middle of it with appendicitis. He went 18-13, throwing four shutouts and he led the league in ERA with a 2.58 mark. He walked just 55 batters in 254.1 innings, posting the lowest WHIP(not a recognized stat at the time) in the NL.
In 1936, he pitched in some tough luck. The Pirates went 84-70 that year, but his record stood at just 13-15, despite a respectable 3.51 ERA. Cy made 32 starts and 12 relief appearances, pitching a total of 235.2 innings. He also threw four shutouts for a second season in a row, leading the league both years in that category. Blanton had a third straight solid season in 1937, this time making the NL All-Star team during a time in which the NL took only six pitchers to the game. He went 14-12, leading the NL with 34 games started. For the third straight year, he threw four shutouts.
During the 1938 season, Cy had a rough start, posting just one win over the first two months of the season. After not pitching for nearly a month, the Pirates used him in the second game of a doubleheader on June 19th and Blanton picked up the win. He wasn’t used again for another 11 days, yet won again that day too. He would end up making another nine starts in a row without losing, picking up the win in six of those games. He faded as the season came to a close and in 1939, he was out most of the year due to a sore arm. Blanton missed three months of the season, making just six starts and four relief appearances. He was sent to the minors in 1940, where he got hit hard in three starts prior to his release in May. Cy signed with the Phillies and ended up making 25 starts for them, going 6-13 4.51 in 163.2 innings.
After barely pitching in 1942, Blanton spent the next three seasons with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. In 1945 he was called into service during WWII but failed the physical. His health had become so bad at the time due to alcohol problems that he was sent to a hospital after the physical and he passed away a short time later at 35 years old. For the Pirates, he went 58-51 3.28 in 155 games, 129 as a starter, with 13 shutouts to his credit.
Omar Olivares (1967) Pitcher for the 2001 Pirates. Before joining Pittsburgh, Omar had played 11 seasons in the majors, spending time with seven different teams. Just two years prior to his only season in Pittsburgh, Olivares won a career high 15 games and thew over 200 innings for the only time in his career. He struggled the next season(2000), posting a 6.75 ERA in 16 starts and five relief appearances. The Pirates acquired Olivares from the Oakland A’s at the end of Spring Training in 2001 in exchange for a player to be named later. For Pittsburgh, Omar went 6-9 6.55 in 110 innings, making 12 starts and 33 relief appearances. He switched to the relief role after his June 8th start left him with a 2-7 7.21 record. He became a free agent after the seasons, signing with the Indians, where he finished his career in 2002 after two minor league starts. Olivares had a career record of 77-86 4.67 in 349 games, 229 as a starter.
Willie Randolph (1954) Second baseman for the 1975 Pirates.He was a seventh round draft pick of the Pirates in 1972 out of high school. Randolph spent that first season in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .317 in 44 games. He played well as an 18 year old in full-season ball in 1973, batting .280 with eight homers in 121 games. His average dropped to .254 at AA in 1974, but he drew 110 walks and stole 38 bases, to go along with 46 extra base hits. Willie fully established himself as a prospect the next season in AAA, hitting .339 in 91 games, earning a promotion to the majors at the end of July. In 30 games for the Pirates, he batted .164 with three RBI’s in 70 plate appearances. Randolph started 12 games at second base and one game at third base. His game at the hot corner would be a forgettable one, as he committed three errors, in what would turn out to be the only time in his 18 year career he played a position other than second base. On December 11,1975, the Pirates traded Randolph, along with Dock Ellis and Ken Brett, to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Doc Medich. The trade did not work out for the Pirates, as they gave up the 21 year old second baseman, who would go on to make six All-Star appearances during his career. Willie finished with .276 career average and a strong OBP due to 1243 walks. He stole 271 bases, collected 2210 hits and scored 1239 runs. He ended up playing another 2138 games at second base after leaving Pittsburgh.
Jason Thompson (1981) First baseman for the 1981-85 Pirates. He was originally signed as a fourth round draft pick in 1975 by the Tigers and made it to the majors as a full-time player by the next season. In his second full year(1977), Jason hit 31 homers and drove in 105 runs, making his first of two consecutive All-Star appearances. In 1978, he hit .287 with 74 walks, 26 homers and 96 RBI’s. After a slight dip in his numbers during the 1979 season and a slow start the following year, the Tigers traded him to the Angels. Despite the slow start, Thompson ended up hitting .288 with 21 homers, 90 RBI’s and 83 walks that year. On April 1,1981, the Pirates traded catcher Ed Ott and pitcher Mickey Mahler to the Angels in order to acquire Thompson. His first year in Pittsburgh was shortened by the strike and he never got the bat going but his second season would end up being his best with the team. Jason made his third All-Star appearances thanks to a .284 average, with 101 walks, 31 homers and 101 RBI’s. He maintained a strong walk rate during the next three seasons, though his average never reached the .260 mark and he topped out at 18 homers and 76 RBI’s, both coming during the 1983 season. On April 4,1986, the Pirates traded Thompson to the Expos for two minor league players. He would play just thirty games for Montreal before they released him, ending his career. For the Pirates, Jason hit .259 with 93 homers and 354 RBI’s in 671 games. He drove in the same exact number of runs during his five seasons in Detroit, albeit in 56 less games. He hit 208 career homers and drove in 782 runs.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 6, 1980
Omar Moreno’s twentieth-inning single off Dennis Lamp drove in Ed Ott with the winning run as the Pirates defeated the Cubs 5-4 in the longest game ever played at Three Rivers Stadium.
With the home line on Three Rivers’ scoreboard having displayed an unbroken string of fourteen zeros ever since the Bucs jumped ahead 4-2 with a three-run fifth inning, Ott led off the twentieth inning with an infield single off Lamp, Chicago’s eighth pitcher of the day. Dale Berra bunted Ott to second. After an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Willie Stargell, Moreno singled to left to score Ott and end the 5:31 marathon.
Moreno’s clutch hit overshadowed an exceptional performance by the Cubs’ bullpen. Starting when George “Heater” Riley replaced starter Rick Reuschel in the seventh inning, the combined forces of Riley, relief ace Bruce Sutter, Doug Capilla, Dick Tidrow, Willie Hernandez and Bill Caudill held the Pirates hitless for twelve straight innings, from the seventh to the eighteenth. This pitching allowed the Cubs to tie up the game on a pair of solo home runs off Bert Blyleven: Bill Buckner in the top of the eighth and Cliff Johnson with two outs and two strikes in the ninth.
The Pirates’ moundsmen likewise turned in some impressive work. Blyleven pitched the first ten innings, but wound up with a no-decision for his effort. In extra frames, two regular relievers (Kent Tekulve and Grant Jackson) and two regular starters (Rick Rhoden and Jim Bibby) put up ten scoreless innings. Bibby’s three-inning outing cost him the opportunity to start that Tuesday’s All-Star game, but he recorded his eleventh win against a single loss.
The victory sent the Bucs to the All-Star break with a 42-37 record, one-game off the pace in a tight National League East race.*
* A single game separated the first-place Expos (42-35), second-place Phillies (41-35) and third-place Pirates.
Box score and play-by-play
Beaver County Times game story