Today we have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two pitchers for the 1987 team, as well another two pitchers who hold dubious team records. There are also two transactions of note, one involving a Hall of Fame pitcher. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland covers a game from the 1995 season, in which the Pirates batters tie two team records for home runs.
On this date in 1990, the Pirates traded 1989 first round pick Willie Greene, pitcher Scott Ruskin and a player to be named later, to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Zane Smith. Eight days later, they sent Moises Alou to the Expos to complete the deal. Smith was a 29 year old lefty, in his seventh season in the majors. He was acquired to help the Pirates make a pennant run and he did just that, going 6-2 1.30 over the last two months. After the deal, he remained in Pittsburgh another four seasons, then returned for a final year in 1996, finishing with 47 wins for the Pirates. Greene had a nine year career in the majors, but his first good season didn’t come until six years after this deal, and by then he was with the Reds. Ruskin pitched two years for Montreal, appearing 87 times out of the bullpen, with a 3.65 ERA and six saves. Both he and Greene were dealt to the Reds following the 1991 season. Scott pitched two years in Cincinnati with very minimal success. Alou went on the have an outstanding career, making six All-Star teams and hitting .303 with 332 career homers. Short-term the deal didn’t hurt the Pirates, as they had no outfield spot for Alou at the time and Moises was injured during all of the 1991 season.
On this date in 1934, the Pirates sign 40 year old pitcher Burleigh Grimes, who would play for the Pirates for the third time in his career. The Pirates were his first team in the majors, though they gave up on the young pitcher too soon, trading him to Brooklyn after two seasons. They did well to reacquire him in 1928, when he won 25 games, and then followed it up with a 17-7 record the following year. A high salary demand in 1930, caused his second departure from the Pirates. Burleigh was nearly done as a player by the time he reached the team for a third time. He made four starts and four relief appearances, going 1-2 7.24 in 27.1 innings. His only win was the 270th and last of his major league career. Grimes went on to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964
Ross Ohlendorf (1982) Pitcher for the Pirates from 2008 until 2011. He was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2004, taken in the fourth round. Ross was one of the four players sent to the Yankees when Arizona acquired Randy Johnson from New York. He was a starter for most of his time in the minors, but with the Yankees, they used him 31 times in relief over the 2007-08 seasons. On July 26,2008, he was traded to the Pirates, along with Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. Ohlendorf went to the minors after the deal, coming up to Pittsburgh in September for five starts, in which he went 0-3 6.35, failing to get past the fifth inning in the last four starts. Despite that poor trial with the Pirates, Ross made the Opening Day rotation the next year, going 11-10 3.92 in 29 starts. His 2010 season was marred by injury and lack of run support when he did pitch. He hurt his back early in the year, took a line drive off the head in July and missed the end of the year with a shoulder strain. Ohlendorf finished the season with a 1-11 4.07 record in 21 starts. Even with the poor win/loss record and time missed, Ross won a substantial raise in arbitration over the 2010-11 off-season and when he returned the next year, he fell well short of earning his pay. He went 1-3 8.15 in nine starts, pitching nearly as many innings in the minors on rehab, as he did in the majors. Ross was released last December, signing with the Red Sox, who have since released him after ten minor league starts. He signed with the Padres and is currently pitching poorly for San Diego, despite pitching in a very pitcher friendly home ballpark. No pitcher in Pirates franchise history has made more starts without pitching a complete game.
Brett Gideon (1963) Pitcher for the 1987 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick in 1985 by the Pirates. Brett began as a starter in the minors, but quickly moved to a relief role. In 1986, he pitched in three different levels, from low-A up to AA. He spent all of his time in the minors in 1987, playing in AA, where he posted a 1.98 ERA and 12 saves, with 39 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. Despite never pitching in AAA, Gideon was called up to the majors in July of 1987, pitching 29 games in relief that year for Pittsburgh. He had a 1-5 4.66 record in 36.2 innings. Brett was back in AA the following season, where he again pitched great. He also made 24 appearances in AAA, posting a 3.64 ERA and nine saves in 42 innings. He was traded to the Expos on March 28,1989 in exchange for Neal Heaton. Gideon pitched four games for the Expos in 1989, then made the Opening Day roster in 1990. Unfortunately for Brett, that season was short-lived. One appearance into the year, he needed elbow surgery, which effectively ended his major league career. He would pitch just 23 times over the 1991-92 seasons in the minors before retiring.
Mark Ross (1954) Pitcher for the 1987 and 1990 Pirates. He was originally drafted by the Astros in 1979 as a seventh round pick. Ross played small parts of three seasons in Houston, from 1982 until 1985, pitching a total of 14 games. Mark was a relief pitcher in all but one season during his 13 year career, that was in 1988, in between stops in Pittsburgh. During the 1986 season, he spent the entire year in AAA, posting a 4.17 ERA with eight saves in 48 appearances. Ross became a free agent after the season, signing with the Pirates in December. He spent most of the 1987 season pitching for Vancouver, the Pirates AAA affiliate. There he went 5-6 3.02 in 32 games, pitching 89.1 innings. Mark pitched one game in 1987 for the Pirates, on August 16th, allowing one run in one inning on a homer to Tim Raines. He signed with the Blue Jays after the season, spending two years in the Toronto organization, making three major league appearances. Following the 1989 season, Ross resigned with the Pirates and ended up seeing more work in 1990 than he did any other season in the majors, pitching nine games. He was called up in June and then again in August, throwing a total of 12.2 innings, with a 3.55 ERA and he picked up a win. Mark pitched in the minors in 1991 for the Braves before retiring.
Clise Dudley (1903) Pitcher for the Pirates on September 15,1933. Three pitchers in franchise history have failed to record an out while allowing earned runs, leaving them with infinite(designated as .inf) ERA’s. Of any pitcher in franchise history who has recorded an out, 813 in all, not one has a higher ERA than Clise Dudley. He pitched eight seasons in the minors, finishing with a 63-71 record, which should give an indication of how his major league career went. As a rookie in 1929, Dudley went 6-14 5.69 for the Brooklyn Robins. The next year he went 2-4 and his ERA rose to 6.35, pitching a total of 66.2 innings with a 1.95 WHIP. In 1931 he actually pitched much better, but he was with the sixth place Phillies and finished with a 6-14 record. Clise’s 1932 season did not go well, as he was a seldom used mop-up pitcher, making 13 appearances with a 7.13 ERA in 17.2 innings. He spent the 1933 season pitching for two teams in the Southern Association, where he had a 5.52 ERA in 132 innings. The Pirates signed him on September 14th that year, using him the next day when starter Hal Smith couldn’t get out of the third inning. Dudley recorded the final out of the third, then when he came out for the fourth inning, he was unable to retire a batter before he was pulled, leaving him with five earned runs and a 135.00 ERA. Clise was released after the season, without pitching another game, marking the end of his big league career in the process. He pitched ten minor league games in 1934 before retiring.
Billy Gumbert (1865) Pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys and 1892 Pirates. He made his major league debut on June 19,1890, pitching the first game of a doubleheader that day. In game two, George Ziegler pitched his only major league game, as the Alleghenys decided to keep Gumbert in their rotation and release Ziegler immediately after the game. Billy was a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, who pitched locally in the minors and amateur/semi-pro ball. The Alleghenys won just 12 of their last 94 games that season, yet Gumbert was able to pick up four wins in ten starts. The reason he made only ten starts that year was because he only pitched home games, due to business ventures in town that left him unable to travel with the team. When Pittsburgh started drawing poorly at home, they began to reschedule their games as road games, because the visiting team share of the profits greatly exceeded what they made at home, leaving Gumbert with less chances to pitch. The team’s total attendance for forty home dates that year is listed at 16,064, due in part to their extremely poor play, and also due to the better play of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, playing often on the same days at home.
Gumbert pitched again for the Pirates in 1892, again only playing home games, going 3-2 1.36 in six games. Billy’s only other major league game came as a member of the 1893 Louisville Colonels, and as one might expect, it was a game played in Pittsburgh. He allowed two hits, walked five and couldn’t make it out of the first inning, in a game that was won 11-10 by Louisville. His brother Ad Gumbert won 123 major league games and pitched for the Pirates for two season(1893-94). His great-nephew Harry Gumbert won 143 games and pitched for the 1949-50 Pirates.
Jolly Roger Rewind: August 8, 1995
Jeff King became the first Pirate in 101 years to hit two home runs in an inning, leading the Bucs to a nine-run second frame and 9-5 victory over the Giants at Candlestick Park.
With San Francisco ahead 2-0 on Barry Bonds’ two-run first-inning homer off Denny Neagle, King led off the top of the second by hitting a Sergio Valdez pitch over the left-field wall. Eight batters later, six more Bucco runs had crossed the plate, the two most recent on Orlando Merced’s homer off Valdez, and Giants manager Duty Baker had summoned Terry Mulholland to the mound.
The change failed to slow King, as he greeted Mulholland with a line drive over the fence in left center, making the thirty-year-old third baseman the first Bucco to homer twice in an inning since Jake Stenzel did it in Boston in June 1894. For good measure, Midre Cummings followed King with a long home run over the right field wall; the triumvirate of Merced, King and Cummings had the first back-to-back-to-back homers in franchise history since Bob Robertson, Willie Stargell and Jose Pagan turned the trick in Atlanta in August 1970. The four-home-run inning tied a club record, also set in the 1894 game when Stenzel homered twice in the same frame.
Working with the big lead, Neagle—who had aided his own cause in the big second inning with a two-run single—labored through eight innings, throwing 128 pitches, allowing five runs, and striking out nine to improve his record to 11-4.
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.
Mark Ross! Always rooted for that guy, a definitive AAAA player.