Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, among them a pitcher who failed to retire the only two batters he faced and a two game player, who was part of the first brother combo in franchise history. We also have two players from the 1991 team that won the NL East.
Before we get to the former players, we have one current player celebrating a birthday today. Josh Harrison turns 25 today. He was originally drafted by the Cubs, coming to the Pirates along with Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow at the 2009 trading deadline. Josh played 65 games as a rookie in the majors last year, hitting .272 with 16 RBI’s, spending most of his time at third base. This season he has played 52 games at five different positions, hitting .230 with two homers and nine RBI’s.
John Bowker (1983) Outfielder/First baseman for the 2010-11 Pirates. Bowker was a third round pick in the 2004 draft by the Giants. He made it to the majors in 2008 with San Francisco, hitting .255 with ten homers and 43 RBI’s in 111 games as a rookie. John began 2009 in the minors, getting called up two different times(July/September) for a total of 31 games with a .194 average, two homers and seven RBI’s. He made the Giants Opening Day roster in 2010, playing 41 games with a .207 average, three homers and eight RBI’s before being sent down in the beginning of June. The Pirates acquired Bowker at the trading deadline, along with pitcher Joe Martinez in exchange for Javier Lopez. The Pirates sent him to AAA, where he hit .319 in 25 games, earning a September call-up. Bowker spent most of 2011 in AAA, where he batted .306 with 15 homers and 76 RBI’s in 106 games. He played 19 games for the Pirates in April, all were as a pinch-hitter. At the end of August, John was sold to the Phillies. After being released this January, he signed to play in Japan. He hit .233 with two homers and 15 RBI’s in 45 games for the Pirates.
Rosario Rodriguez (1969) Pitcher for the 1991 Pirates. He was a lefty reliever the Pirates acquired off waivers in December of 1990 from the Reds . Rodriguez signed with Cincinnati in 1987, making the majors in 1989 shortly after his 20th birthday. In parts of two seasons with the Reds, Rosario went 1-1 5.52 in 16 relief appearances. He spent most of 1991 in AAA for the Pirates, where he made 48 relief appearances, pitching a total of 51 innings. He was called up in late August and used often, making 18 appearances, with a 1-1 4.11 record and six saves in 15.1 innings. Rodriguez pitched once in the postseason, allowing three runs in his only inning of work. He missed most of the 1992 season due to injury and was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training in 1993, but didn’t make the roster.
Bob Kipper (1964) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1985 until 1991. He was a first round draft pick in 1982 of the Angels, taken eighth overall. Bob reached the majors by age twenty, making the Angels 1985 Opening Day roster, although he was sent back to the minors after just two appearances. On August 16,1985, the Pirates acquired Kipper as the player to be named later in a six player deal made two weeks earlier. After pitching five games for the 1985 Pirates, Kipper made the 1986 Opening Day roster. He made 19 starts, going 6-8 4.03 in 114 innings. Both his win total and innings pitched that season would end up being his career highs. Bob started twenty times in 1987, while also making four relief appearances. He went 5-9 5.94 in 110.2 innings, and he had the best outing of his career that year. On April 16th, he threw a four hit shutout, with eight strikeouts over the Cubs.
In 1988, Kipper was moved to the bullpen, a role he would fill for the next four seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1989, he had a career high 52 appearances, posting a 2.93 ERA with four saves in 83 innings. After finishing the 1990 season with a 5-2 3.02 record and three saves in 41 games, Bob had a down year in 1991. He had his highest ERA(4.65) in the bullpen role, pitching 60 innings over 52 appearances. In the playoffs, Kipper pitched two innings in the game three loss to the Braves, allowing one run. After the season, he was released, signing with the Twins as a free agent. Bob missed the entire 1993 season with a tear in his throwing shoulder, then attempted a comeback with the Mets in 1994 that lasted just seven games before he retired. With the Pirates, Kipper was 24-33 4.22 in 244 games, 44 as a starter.
John Powers (1929) Outfielder for the 1955-58 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Red Sox in 1949, but just a year later he was acquired by the Pirates. He played that first season in the Pittsburgh organization with Waco of the Big State League, where he hit .311 with 39 homers in 144 games. Powers moved up a level to Charleston in 1951, batting .255 that year with 17 homers in 139 games. He spent the next two seasons serving in the military, returning to baseball in 1954. For the Pirates, John was a September call-up in both 1955 and 1956, playing a total of 13 games. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1957, but was sent down to the minors in May. Powers was again called up in September and finally spent the entire season in the majors in 1958, hitting .183 with two RBI’s, both coming on solo homers. He played 57 games that year, just 12 as a starter. On January 30,1959, the Pirates traded Powers, along with three other players to the Reds for Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak. John played 43 games for the 1959 Reds, then split the 1960 season between the Indians and Orioles before returning to the minors for five more years. Powers was a .270 hitter in 1534 minor league games, hitting 298 homers.
Jay Parker (1874) Pitcher for the Pirates on September 27,1899. In his major league debut, Jay Parker started the second game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Orphans(Cubs) after the Pirates lost the opener game by a 4-1 score. Rookie pitcher Chummy Gray, pitched a complete game in the first game and Parker was set to make his debut in the second game. Jay was so erratic against the first two batters he faced that he was pulled right away and Gray went in the finish the second game. Parker walked both batters and both runners scored, leaving him with the “inf” designation for his ERA, standing for infinite. He played and managed a few seasons in the minors but his major league career was done after his one start, which was over almost as soon as it began. His brother Doc Parker was a pitcher in the majors for four partial season. Doc’s last start was almost as bad as his brother’s only game. On June 21,1901, he threw a complete game for the Reds against Brooklyn, giving up 21 runs on 26 hits, facing 51 batters without a strikeout.
Harry Gilbert (1868) Second baseman for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on June 23,1890. The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys were the worst team in franchise history and that led to some interesting stats and happenings during that season. One such instance was Harry Gilbert, a semi-pro player from Pottsville, Pa manning second base alongside his double play partner and older brother, John Gilbert. Neither had played in the majors prior to June 23,1890 and neither would play in the majors after that day either. The Alleghenys had a doubleheader that day against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Gilbert’s played both games. The Phillies won the opener 11-0 but Pittsburgh took the second game by a 12-8 score, just their 13th win of the season. Harry went 2-8 at the plate, with two singles and one run scored. Both he and his brother played flawless defense that day, each turning one double play.
Hank O’Day (1862) Pitcher for the 1885 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. As a rookie for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884, Hank pitched 326.1 innings, making 40 starts, losing 28 games. In 1885, the Toledo franchise had folded and O’Day hooked on with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He was the team’s second starter behind Ed “Cannonball” Morris, losing five straight games to open the season, while Morris won five of his six starts. Hank got plenty of run support from his teammates over the next six games and they won five of them, scoring a total of 64 runs. He made just one more start(an 8-0 loss) before the Alleghenys released him. He finished the year in the minors, pitching for Washington of the Eastern League. The next season O’Day won 26 games in the minors, earning a spot in the National League with Washington. Hank lost 49 games over the 1887-88 seasons, playing for a team that went 94-162 over that time. In his last season in the majors(1890), Hank went 22-13 for New York of the Player’s League.
Hank pitched in the minors during the 1891-93 seasons before retiring as a player. He had a seven year career as a pitcher in the majors, but he made his name in baseball history as an umpire. He umpired in parts of 35 seasons in the majors and he is one of the leading candidates for the Hall of Fame voting among the Veteran’s Committee. He was an umpire in ten different World Series, including the 1903 WS that involved the Pirates. Hank also managed for two seasons in the majors.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 8, 1950
Jack Phillips’ pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning rallied the Pirates to a 7-6 victory over the Cardinals at Forbes Field.
The first-place Cardinals, who entered the day eighteen and a half games ahead of the eighth-place Pirates, seemed poised to avenge the previous day’s 9-1 loss when they took a 6-3 lead into the ninth. But Wally Westlake led off the inning by drawing a walk off Breechen, who had held the Bucs to two hits and no runs in three and a third innings of relief. One out later, Pete Castiglione and pinch-hitter Hank Schenz singled to load the bases.
Bucco manager Billy Meyer called for Phillips to pinch-hit for winning pitcher Murry Dickson. Phillips took a strike and then drove Breechen’s second pitch towards the Pirates bullpen in left center. Cardinal left fielder Stan Musial pursued the ball and attempted a leaping catch near the 376-foot-mark, but the ball grazed off the top of his glove and cleared the eight-foot-high fence.
To observers and the Bucco baserunners, reported The Pittsburgh Press, Musial initially looked to have caught the ball. Once news of the home run reached the diamond, the four Pirates were able to circle the bases in the proper order, triggering a celebration at home plate.*
Until Phillips’ ninth-inning heroics, St. Louis’ trio of future Hall of Famers appeared to have tipped the contest in the visitors’ favor. Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter and Musial combined for nine hits in fifteen at-bats—including a five-for-five showing by Schoendienst—with four runs scored, and five RBI. The Pirates’ own future Cooperstown inductee, Ralph Kiner, smashed his National League-leading 24th home run of the season off starter Red Munger to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning.**
* Les Biederman of the Press noted that Phillips “was met by a delegation that resembled a committee awaiting a man who had just won a pennant with his homer.”
** Kiner’s blast, his sixth homer in eight games, was a 450-foot shot over the left-field wall. The Press observed that Kiner “now is in the comfortable position of being eight games and five days ahead of his 1949 home run schedule,” when he led all of baseball with 54 home runs.
Box score and play-by-play
Pittsburgh Press game story