With eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and a few transactions of note, including a huge change in Pirates history on one particular date, we will break today’s article up into two separate pieces. The first deals strictly with the players. Later today, we will have the transactions, as well as a Jolly Roger Rewind from John Fredland. Part two can be viewed here.
Jonah Bayliss (1980) Pitcher for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was originally a seventh round pick in 2002 by the Royals. Bayliss made it to the majors by June of 2005, staying in Kansas City for two weeks, before returning to the minors. Jonah came back in August, pitching a total of 11.2 innings in 11 appearances on the season, with a 4.63 ERA. On December 7,2005, the Pirates traded Mark Redman to the Royals in exchange for Bayliss and minor league pitcher Chad Blackwell. His first season in Pittsburgh was extremely similar to his 2005 season. Jonah came up in June for three games, then returned to the minors until late August, finishing with 11 games pitched again. He pitched 14.2 innings, with a 4.30 ERA, picking up his first career win during his last game of the season. Bayliss made the Opening Day roster in 2007, lasting with the Pirates until late June. He was sent down after posting a 7.53 ERA in 34.2 innings over 38 outings. Jonah went to AAA and didn’t fare well there either, with a 7.06 ERA in 16 outings. He was called up for one game in August, a six run in three inning outing, that unfortunately turned out to be his last game in the majors, at least to this point. He still plays pro ball, currently pitching in Independent ball. Bayliss was with the Pirates until June of 2008, pitching at AAA, when he was then sent to the Blue Jays organization.
Tom Prince (1964) Catcher for the Pirates from 1987 until 1993. He played 17 years in the majors as a backup catcher, never topping the 66 games he played during his last season in Pittsburgh. Tom was taken and signed by the Pirates in the fourth round of the 1984 amateur draft. It was the third time he was drafted, the first two were by the Atlanta Braves. He made it to the Pirates within three years of being drafted, but that 1993 season was the only season with the team that he didn’t spend at least part of the year in the minors. Through his first six years in Pittsburgh, he played just 111 games and hit a combined .161 in 223 AB’s. In 1993, Mike Lavalliere was released early in the year and Prince became the backup to Don Slaught for the rest of the season. Tom hit .196 that year, with two homers and 24 RBI’s in 179 AB’s. He became a free agent and signed with the Dodgers, spending five years as a backup there. Prince also played with the Phillies, Royals and Twins during his last five years in the majors. The Pirates hired him as a minor league manager in 2005 and since 2007, he has managed the Pirates Gulf Coast League team. Despite playing on three pennant winners with the Pirates, Tom never played in the postseason.
Jeff Ballard (1963) Pitcher for the 1993-94 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick of the Orioles, and spent five seasons(1987-91) in Baltimore, where he posted a 36-51 record. The amazing part about that record, is that in 1989, he went 18-8, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young award voting. It was the only season in Baltimore that he had over a .400 winning percentage. Jeff spent the entire 1992 season in the minors with the Cardinals and pitched well, going 12-4 2.82 in 24 starts. He was then signed by the A’s as a free agent, but they released him during Spring Training. The Pirates signed Ballard at the end of April, sending him to AAA, where he went 6-1 2.29 in 12 starts. He was called up in early July, and came within one out of pitching a complete game in his first start, a 10-3 victory over the Astros. Jeff went 4-1 4.86 in 25 games, five as a starter, for the Pirates that year. He began the 1994 season with the Pirates, though he went sent to AAA in early July, after posting a 6.66 ERA in 28 appearances. That ended up being his last season in baseball. He wasn’t much of a strikeout guy during his career, compiling a total of 244 strikeouts in 773.1 innings, with a high of 62 K’s during his 18 win season.
Mudcat Grant (1935) Pitcher for the 1970-71 Pirates. By the time he reached the Pirates in 1970, he was already near the end of his 13th season in the majors. He was a two time All-Star, had once won 21 games in a season(1965) and eight times won in double digits. He started 293 games in his career, with just 17 coming during his last four seasons(1968-71) and none during his last two years. Mudcat (whose real first name was James) made 72 appearances for the 1970 Oakland A’s, with a 6-2 1.82 record and 24 saves in 123.1 innings. The Pirates acquired Grant from Oakland on September 14,1970 in exchange for Angel Mangual, who wasn’t sent to the A’s until five weeks later. Mudcat pitched eight times for the Pirates that season, picking up two wins and finishing with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. In 1971, he would make 42 appearances for Pittsburgh, before being shipped back to Oakland in August. Grant went 5-3 3.60 with seven saves in 75 innings for Pittsburgh that year, and had a 1.98 ERA in 15 outings with the A’s. He retired after pitching the entire 1972 season in the minor leagues. Mudcat had a 145-119 3.63 record in 2442 innings. He also had an outstanding 75-33 minor league record, which included 21 wins as an 18 year old in his first year of pro ball.
Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell (1930) Pitcher for the 1960-62 Pirates. Lefty pitcher who got his nickname from his hometown of the same name in Alabama. Mizell played for the 1952-53 Cardinals to start his major league career, going 23-19 in 63 starts, with 17 complete games. He then spent two full seasons serving in the military, before returning to the 1956 Cardinals on Opening Day. That season he went 14-14 3.62 in 33 starts, with three shutouts. In his first five seasons of major league ball, all spent in St Louis, he was an amazingly consistent pitcher, posting an ERA between 3.42 and 3.74 each year, while making between 29 and 33 starts. His stats began to slide a little the next year(though he still had a 13-10 record in 1959) and the Cardinals moved him to the Pirates on May 28,1960 in a deal for two minor leaguers. Wilmer immediately had a strong impact on the Pirates, going 13-5 3.12 the rest of the way, helping the team to the World Series. His post-season did not go well, allowing four runs in 2.1 innings, but the Pirates still won their third WS title. The next season, Mizell went 7-10 5.04 in 17 starts and eight relief appearances. He remained with the Pirates through the first month of the 1962 season, when they dealt him to the Mets for first baseman Jim Marshall. Wilmer was out of the majors within three months of the trade, retiring with a 90-88 record.
Sid Gordon (1917) Third baseman/outfielder for the 1954-55 Pirates. He was a two-time All-Star, who switched between third base and left field for most of his career. From 1948 until 1952, Gordon received NL MVP votes in every season, reaching a minimum of a .284 average with 25 homers and 75 RBI’s all five years. Three times he drove in over 100 runs in a season and in 1948 with the Giants, Sid reached a career high 30 homers. In 1953, while playing for the Braves, he batted .274 with 19 homers and 75 RBI’s in 140 games. He was acquired by the Pirates on December 26,1953 as part of a six player, plus cash deal, for second baseman Danny O’Connell. Gordon split his time with the Pirates in 1954 between right field(61 starts) and third base(35 starts), hitting a career high .306 with 12 homers and 49 RBI’s in 131 games. The Pirates sold him to the Giants a month into the 1955 season, after he hit .170 in 16 games. Gordon played out the year in New York, then finished his career in the minors the following season. In 1475 major league games, he hit .283 with 202 homers and 805 RBI’s.
George Susce (1907) Catcher for the 1939 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, who played 146 major league games over a 15 year time frame. George began his pro career in the majors with the 1929 Phillies, playing 17 games with 19 plate appearances, spread out throughout the entire season. He then went to the minors for two years, prior to making the 1932 Detroit Tigers roster. He ended up playing just two games for the Tigers as a late inning defensive replacement behind the plate. Susce went back to the minors in May of 1932 and remained there through the end of the 1938 season, spending a majority of his time in the Texas League. He was a minor league All-Star during his last four seasons in the minors, brought into the Pirates camp in February of 1939 to compete with Ray Berres and Ray Mueller for the starting spot.
The Pirates starting catcher from 1938 was Al Todd, who was traded to the Boston Bees in the off-season. Mueller ended up winning the starting spot and Berres was his regular backup(that switched during the year), leaving Susce as a third string catcher at the end of the bench and that’s where he stayed. His first actual game that season was on August 9th, when he caught the last inning of a loss to the Cardinals. George only got into a game because Berres was out of action for a month with an illness. His first start didn’t come until a week later, in the second game of a doubleheader. George ended up starting half the games from mid-August until the end of the season, finishing with a .227 average and four RBI’s in 89 plate appearances. He was released by the Pirates during the next Spring Training, quickly signing with the St Louis Browns, where he played a career high 61 games that year. Susce was a player/coach during his last four seasons in the majors with the Indians. He then moved on to coaching in the minors and majors, sticking around baseball into the early 1970’s. George’s full name was George Cyril Methodius Susce. His son George played five seasons in the majors for the Tigers and Red Sox.
Steve Swetonic (1903) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1929 until 1933. He was a local kid, who played college ball at the University of Pittsburgh, so it was only natural that he spent his entire major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His minor league career consisted of two seasons pitching for the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association. In 1928, he went 20-8 3.00 in 40 games, pitching a total of 234 innings. In the off-season, his contract was purchased by the Pirates. Steve was used often during his rookie season in 1929, getting occasional starts among his 41 appearances. He went 8-10 4.82 in his 143.2 innings of work. He pitched better in 1930, a high offense season in baseball. The problem was in late May, he came down with appendicitis and missed two months of action. The next year he missed plenty of time after elbow surgery put him out until late June. When he returned, he saw limited time in a mop-up role. Swetonic was healthy up until August of the 1932 season and had a strong year, going 11-6 2.82 in 162.2 innings, leading the NL with four shutouts. In 1933, he set career highs with 12 wins and 164.2 innings pitched. Over the Winter, he had hand surgery that left him unable to pitch. He was sold to the Boston Braves, then assigned to Albany of the International League, but never recovered enough to ever pitch again. On May 19,1935, he was used as a pinch runner by the Pirates, the only game of pro ball he played after the 1933 season.