There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, three of them played for the 1987 team. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look at a strong pitching performance from Doug Drabek, that came during the 1990 season.
Kevin Elster (1964) Shortstop for the 1997 Pirates. He was originally signed as a second round draft pick of the Mets in 1984 out of Golden West College, a school that has produced one other major league player, James McDonald. Elster made his first appearance in the majors as a September call-up in 1986, then again in 1987, before he won the Mets starting shortstop job the next season. He held the job until 1992, but Kevin began to miss plenty of playing time, including the last 60 games of the 1990 season, and nearly all of 1992-93. From the 1992 season through the end of 1995, Elster played just 49 major league games, so his 1996 season came as quite a surprise. Finally healthy, he played a career high 157 games for the Rangers, hitting .252 with 24 homers and 99 RBI’s. The Pirates signed him in December of 1996 as a free agent. Elster was hitting .225 with seven homers and 25 RBI’s through 39 games, when he broke his left wrist during a collision at first base on May 16th with Marlins’ pitcher Kurt Abbott. He would not return from that injury that season, marking the end of him brief time in Pittsburgh. Kevin resigned with the Rangers in 1998, didn’t play in 1999 and finished his career with the 2000 Dodgers. He was a .228 hitter in 940 major league games, hitting 88 homers and driving in 376 runs.
Mackey Sasser (1962) Catcher for the 1987 and 1995 Pirates. He was originally a fifth round draft pick in 1984 of the San Francisco Giants. Mackey was called up to the majors in mid-July of 1987, going 0-4 in two games with the Giants. The Pirates acquired Sasser on July 31,1987 in exchange for pitcher Don Robinson. He went to AAA until September, joining the Pirates for the last month of the season. Sasser hit .217 with two RBI’s in 23 AB’s. The Pirates traded Mackey to the Mets on March 26,1988 in exchange for Randy Milligan. He spent five seasons in New York, batting .283 with 133 RBI’s in 420 games. Sasser developed a mental block with the simple task of throwing the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch. He began to double,sometimes triple-clutch before making the throw. The Mets began using him at other positions to get his bat in the lineup, spending time at first base and outfield. Mackey signed with the Mariners as a free agent in December of 1992, playing 86 games there over parts of two seasons. He was released by Seattle in May of 1994, signing with the Padres, although he never played in the majors for San Diego. Sasser signed as a free agent with the Pirates in December of 1994, playing 14 games for Pittsburgh in 1995 before being released in mid-May. He finished his playing career in the Mexican League the next season. Sasser was a .267 hitter over his nine year major league career.
Sid Bream (1960) First baseman for the Pirates from 1985 until 1990. He was a second round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1981, who played 66 games for Los Angeles over parts of three seasons, before the Pirates acquired him in September of 1985 for Bill Madlock. Bream stepped right in as the team’s starting first baseman, a job he would hold full-time until a 1989 injury caused him to miss all but 19 games. From 1986 until 1988, Sid played at least 148 games each year, hitting between .264 and .275, with a combined total of 39 homers and 207 RBI’s. Twice during that time he led NL first baseman in both assists and errors. He returned healthy in 1990 to have a Sid Bream-like season, batting .270 with 15 homers and 67 RBI’s in 147 games. After batting .500 in the NLCS that year, with a homer and three RBI’s, Sid signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves. He played three seasons in Atlanta, before moving on to Houston for the 1994 season, where he hit .344 in limited bench time. In six seasons in Pittsburgh, Bream hit .269 with 57 homers and 293 RBI’s in 643 games.
Jim Gott (1959) Relief pitcher for the Pirates from 1987 until 1989 and then again in 1995. He was originally a draft pick of the 1977 Cardinals, who made his debut as a starting pitcher for the Blue Jays five seasons later. Jim started for most of the first four seasons he spent in the majors, compiling a 28-40 4.31 record. After 1985 however, he would make just five more starts over the last ten years of his career, none with Pittsburgh. The Pirates acquired Gott off waivers from the Giants on his 28th birthday. After posting a 4.50 ERA in San Francisco during that 1987 season, he finished strong in Pittsburgh as the team’s closer, with a 1.45 ERA and 13 saves in 25 games. In 1988, he saved 34 games, going 6-6 3.49 in 67 games. He dealt with elbow pain in Spring Training of 1989 and his season lasted just one game, before he was shut down. Gott became a free agent at the end of 1989, signing with the Dodgers, where he spent five seasons. Jim occasionally closed in Los Angeles, going 19-22 2.99 in 272 games there, picking up 38 saves. His last season in L.A. was not a good one, he had a 5.94 ERA in 37 games. Gott signed with the Pirates as a free agent the next April and was ineffective most of the year, with a 2-4 6.03 record and three saves in 25 games. That would mark the end of his 14 year big league career, leaving him with a 56-74 3.87 record in 554 games.
Gus Getz (1889) Third baseman for the 1918 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., who began his pro career in 1908 with McKeesport of the Ohio-Pa. League. In August of 1909, the Boston Doves purchased his rights, playing him in 40 of the last 51 games of the season. Getz hit .223 with nine RBI’s, getting most of his time in at third base, as the Doves finished with a 45-108 record. The next year, he saw time at all three outfield spots and three infield positions(all but 1B), hitting .194 with seven RBI’s in 54 games. In November, Boston sold him to the minors, where he spent the next three seasons. Getz was a light-hitting infielder, who liked to put the ball in play. In 307 plate appearances with Boston, he had three extra base hits, seven walks and twenty strikeouts. He would improve on the power numbers slightly, but over his seven year major league career, he walked just 24 times in 1172 plate appearances, with 56 strikeouts. Gus hit just two homers in his career, and amazingly they came just eight days apart. They both came against Philadelphia, in two different stadiums.
He returned to the majors with the 1914 with the Brooklyn Robins, playing there three years. In 1915, Getz had his best season, hitting .258 with 46 RBI’s in 130 games. It was the only season he played more than 55 games. After hitting .219 over 40 games in 1916, he began to get moved around the majors and minors quickly. The Reds took him off waivers in April of 1917, though he was soon sent to Newark of the Eastern League. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians for the 1918, but he lasted just one month, hitting .133 in six games. The Pirates picked him up off waivers in early May, playing him seven times in two months, all off the bench. He went 2-10 at the plate, and played parts of two games at third base. On July 16,1918, the Pirates traded Getz to Indianapolis of the American Association for shortstop Roy Ellam. Gus played in the minors off and on until 1927, managing for two years(1927-28) as well, before retiring from baseball.
Jolly Roger Rewind: August 3, 1990
Sil Campusano’s two-out, two-strike, ninth-inning single broke up Doug Drabek’s bid for the Pirates’ first no-hitter in fourteen years, but Drabek still accomplished a one-hit shutout in the Bucs’ 11-0 victory over the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.
Five days after snapping a four-game Bucco losing streak with a two-hit shutout of Philadelphia, Drabek was even more dominant, requiring only 110 pitches to finish off the cross-state rival. Through eight innings, John Kruk’s fifth-inning walk represented the sole baserunner against the twenty-eight-year-old righthander. Kruk had also come the closest to a hit, but Jose Lind’s diving stop of his hard-hit eighth-inning ground ball and Sid Bream’s scoop of Lind’s throw to first had kept the no-hitter alive.
Drabek started the ninth inning by retiring Charlie Hayes on a ground ball to shortstop and striking out Ricky Jordan. Campusano, batting .188 and playing only because Phillies manager Nick Leyva decided to rest Lenny Dykstra with the score so one-sided, stood as the final obstacle between Drabek and the first Bucco no-hitter since John Candelaria in August 1976.
With the count 3-2, however, Campusano lined a Drabek fastball over Lind’s head and into right field for a base hit.* The no-hitter gone, Drabek retired Darren Daulton for the final out to clinch his sixth consecutive victory and improve his record to 14-4. In The Pittsburgh Press, Bob Hertzel noted that Drabek was “blossoming into the premier pitcher in the National League” and “is in a two-way fight with the New York Mets’ Frank Viola for the Cy Young Award.”
The Bucco offense ensured that Drabek’s no-hitter quest would be the night’s sole drama by scoring in each of the first five innings to build an insurmountable advantage. Andy Van Slyke and Sid Bream led the attack: Van Slyke had three hits, including a home run and double, two runs scored, four runs batted in, and a stolen base; Bream added four hits, also including a home run and double, and three RBI.
The Pirates remained one game behind the first-place Mets in the National League East race.
Box score and play-by-play
The Pittsburgh Press game story
* “If he had a 10-foot vertical leap, maybe he could have got it but Chico . . . only has about 9 ½-foot leap,” Bream kiddingly told 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.