Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one that was related to a United States President. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look back at a game from 1978 with a big hit from Scrap Iron.
Rich Robertson (1968) Lefty reliever for the 1993-94 Pirates. He was a ninth round pick by the Pirates in the 1990 draft out of Texas A&M. Rich was drafted 23 rounds later by the Padres in 1989 but chose not to sign. He was a starter in the minors during all but one season(1999), but when he came to the Pirates in both 1993 and 1994, it was in a relief role. Robertson pitched two early season games for Pittsburgh in 1993, making his debut on April 30th. He was then recalled in September, pitching another seven times. He threw a total of nine innings, with six runs allowed. In 1994, Rich was called up in mid-July and saw more time on the mound, getting extended outings during blowout games. In eight appearances through early August, he threw 15.2 innings, giving up 12 runs on twenty hits and ten walks. The Pirates put him on waivers in November and he was picked up by the Twins. Robertson pitched four more years in the majors, two of them as a regular in the Twins rotation. He made 57 starts between the 1996-97 seasons, going 15-29 with an ERA well over 5.00, though he did lead the AL in shutouts(three) that first year. Rich finished his career in the minors in 2000, briefly making an unsuccessful return to the Pirates system during the 1999 season.
Dennis Moeller (1967) Lefty reliever for the 1993 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Moeller from the Royals along with pitcher Joel Johnston on November 19,1992 in exchange for Jose Lind. He pitched ten games in relief for Pittsburgh, getting hit hard in five of those games. Dennis lasted with the Pirates from Opening Day until the end of May, finishing with a 9.92 ERA in 16.1 innings. He was let go by Pittsburgh after the season and resigned with the Royals but never made the majors again. Before joining the Pirates, his only major league experience was five games(four starts) for the 1992 Royals. He went 0-3 7.00 in 18 innings. The Royals had drafted him the 17th round of the 1986 amateur draft. While Moeller didn’t pick up a win in Kansas City and his brief time in Pittsburgh went poorly, he was able to pick up his only major league win on April 15th, throwing two scoreless innings against the Padres in the Pirates 5-4, 13 inning victory.
Dave Pagan (1949) Reliever for the Pirates on September 27,1977. The Pirates acquired Pagan on July 27,1977 in exchange for pitcher Rick Honeycutt. Dave ended up pitching just one more major league game, while Honeycutt began his major league career that August and it lasted 21 seasons. Pagan’s one appearance for the Pirates came in the sixth inning of a late-season game the Pirates were losing 7-1 to the Mets. In his first inning, he struck out the side, then punched out the first batter he saw in the seventh inning. Pagan finished the game by retiring five of the last six batters he faced, allowing just a single to Lee Mazzilli. That three inning scoreless appearances ended up being his last game. Dave remained in the Pirates system until 1979, his last year of pro ball. Prior to joining the Pirates, he pitched parts of five seasons(1973-77) in the majors, appearing with the Yankees, Orioles and Mariners. Pagan went 4-9 4.96 in 85 major league games, 18 as a starter.
Fritz Ostermueller (1907) Lefty pitcher for the 1944-48 Pirates. The Pirates purchased him on June 1,1944 from Syracuse of the International League. Fritz had been with the Dodgers to start the season, but he was sold to Syracuse after Brooklyn put him on waivers and no one put a claim on him. He refused to report and was put back on the market, where Pittsburgh was able to purchase his contract. Ostermueller was in his 11th season in the majors, with a record standing at 65-73, four times winning at least ten games in a season, the last coming during the 1939 season. He went right in the Pirates rotation and pitched the best ball of his career over the rest of the 1944 season. Fritz went 11-7 2.73, throwing 204.2 innings. He missed three months of the 1945 season after he was called into service during WWII. He returned to the Pirates in August of 1945, and while that season finished slow, he was back to his 1944 form the next year. Ostermueller went 13-10 2.84 in 1946, leading the Pirates in wins, as they went just 63-91 on the season. The Pirates were just as bad in 1947, but Fritz still finished 12-10, again leading the team in wins. At the age of 40 in 1948, he went 8-11 4.42 in 134.1 innings. The Pirates released him at the end of the season, ending his playing career. He went 49-42 3.48 in 118 games for the Pirates, finishing his major league career with 114 wins. He also won 110 minor league games.
Elmer Cleveland (1862) Third baseman for the 1888 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. On June 16,1888 the Pirates traded third baseman Art Whitney to the Giants for Cleveland. Whitney was a holdout that season, so the Pirates had to move him or they would’ve ended up getting nothing. In thirty games for Pittsburgh, Elmer hit .222 with nine RBI’s and ten runs scored. His defense was well-below average, making 14 errors. On August 29th, he hit two homers against Mark Baldwin of the Chicago White Stockings, his only two homers while with the team. It was the second and third time he homered off Baldwin that year, with the first one coming in early May, which was also his first major league homer. The odd part about that was the fact Cleveland only hit four career home runs. He returned to the minors in 1889, playing two seasons before finishing his major league career in 1891 with the Columbus Solons of the American Association. Cleveland’s only other major league experience came in 1884 for the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of the Union Association, a short-lived major league that was well below the level of competition that the AA or NL provided. He hit .322 that year, with 24 runs scored in 29 games. Elmer was the cousin of U.S. President Grover Cleveland.
Jolly Roger Rewind: September 15, 1978
Phil Garner’s first-inning grand slam—his second slam in as many games—led the Pirates to their seventeenth consecutive home victory, a 6-1 triumph over the Expos.
With one out in the first, Omar Moreno doubled to left field off former Bucco Woodie Fryman and moved to third when Dave Parker beat out a chopper to shortstop for a single. One out later, Willie Stargell walked to load the bases.
Garner worked the count full, and then drove a Fryman slider over the wall in left center for an insurmountable 4-0 lead. A day earlier, the Bucco third baseman had broken open a close game with a sixth-inning grand slam against St. Louis’ Bob Forsch. Garner’s slam against the Expos made him the eighth player in major-league history—and the first National Leaguer in seventy-seven years—to hit grand slams in consecutive games.
The quick-strike offense gave Bruce Kison all the scoring he would need. Kison kept the Expos scoreless until the eighth inning, when four singles in a row produced a run and loaded the bases with one out. But Ed Whitson entered the game and struck out Gary Carter and Lance Parrish to end the inning. When Whitson, in turn, opened the ninth by allowing back-to-back singles, Chuck Tanner called on Kent Tekulve for his eighty-second appearance of the season. Tekulve, rebounding from a shaky outing the night before, retired all three Montreal batters he faced to close out the victory.
The Pirates, winners of four in a row after a five-game losing streak, moved to three games back of first-place Philadelphia, with all eyes on a four-game season-closing series at Three Rivers between the intrastate rivals, two weeks away.
Box score and play-by-play
The Pittsburgh Press 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.
This is the last of the blog posts on Pirates Prospects but the Pirates history will continue on facebook at this address:
Thanks for the link, John. I just added it to my favorites.
If you have a facebook page and want to contribute history Randy, let me know. Won’t be just me on there, John Fredland is there too.