First Pitch: 1/20/20

We did a three-part series this weekend, looking at the big things we wish we knew about prospects ten years ago. If you missed it, here are the installments:

Wilbur Miller (in Q&A comments)

John Dreker

Tim Williams

As a bonus installment, I’ve learned that when there’s nothing write about, or when you don’t have an article idea fully thought out or completed, it’s best not to rush it. Some of my worst articles have come trying to fill no-news weeks during a Pirates offseason.

So rather than writing a bad or rushed article about the Pirates, I’m going to share some great quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. for everyone’s reading and philosophical enjoyment on this MLK day.

The Letter From Birmingham Jail


Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.


There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness. A nation or a civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.


Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.


Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.


I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous, but Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity.


When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”





By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one who holds a major team record.

Brian Giles, outfielder for the 1999-2003 Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1989, who didn’t make his Major League debut until six years later. He played four seasons in Cleveland, hitting .284 with 39 homers in 299 games before they traded him to the Pirates on November 18, 1998 in exchange for Ricardo Rincon. Giles immediately became a star for the Pirates, hitting ,315 with 95 walks, 39 homers, 115 RBIs and 109 runs scored in his first season. He followed that up with his first All-Star season in 2000, hitting .315 again, while breaking the century mark in walks (114) RBIs (123) and runs scored (111). His RBI total that season is tied for the seventh highest single season total in franchise history.

In 2001 Giles made his second All-Star team, hitting .309 with 37 homers and a career high 116 runs scored. In 2002 he hit 38 homers, batted .298 and walked 135 times, falling just short of Ralph Kiner‘s team record of 137 walks set in 1951. During the 2003 trading deadline, the Pirates traded Giles to the San Diego Padres for Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and Corey Stewart. He has the highest OPS in team history with his 1.018 mark and three of his single season home run totals are among the top ten in Pirates history. He hit .308 with 501 runs scored, 506 RBIs and 519 walks in 715 games with Pittsburgh. Overall in his 15-year career he hit .291 with 1,121 runs scored, 1,078 RBIs and 1,183 walks in 1,847 games.

Cecil Espy, outfielder for the 1991-92 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the White Sox in 1980, taken eighth overall. Before he could play a game for Chicago, he was traded to the Dodgers and made a brief 20-game appearance for them in 1983. He was traded to the Pirates in September 1985 along with Sid Bream in exchange for Bill Madlock. The following season, Pittsburgh lost him to the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. After four seasons in Texas in which he hit .241 with 91 steals in 331 games, he was allowed to leave via free agency. He signed with the Pirates on February 11, 1991 and hit .244 in 43 games in Pittsburgh, spending most of the year in Triple-A. In 1992 Espy got into 112 games, mostly off the bench, and he hit .258 in 194 at-bats. He played four games during the NLCS against the Braves that year and went 2-for-3 at the plate. After the season he was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Reds. He played one season for Cincinnati and another in the minors before retiring. In 546 major league games he hit .244 with 103 stolen bases.

Carl Taylor, catcher for the 1968-69 and 1971 Pirates. Taylor was signed by the Pirates in early 1962 as an amateur free agent. It took him five full minor league seasons before he made the majors with the Pirates as a member of the 1968 Opening Day roster. He spent the entire season on the Major League roster, but he only played 44 games and received just 82 plate appearances. The following season he hit .348 in 104 games, playing first base, outfield and was often used as a pinch-hitter. Right after the 1969 season ended, the Pirates traded Taylor to the Cardinals in a four-player deal that got them longtime reliever Dave Giusti in return. Taylor played one year for St Louis before they trade him to the Brewers, who in turn traded him to the Royals. On September 3, 1971 the Pirates bought him from the Royals and he went 2-for-12 in seven games to finish the season. Just prior to the start of the 1972 season the Pirates sold him back to Kansas City, where he finished his playing career in 1973. He was a .266 hitter in 411 major league games.

Jesse Gonder. catcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. He started his Major League career with the team that the Pirates beat in the 1960 World Series, but he was originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a teenager. He played parts of two seasons for the Yankees before they traded him back to the Reds prior to the 1962 season. He was traded to the Mets during the 1963 season, then traded for a fourth time to the Braves during the 1965 season. The Pirates picked him up in November 1965 during the Rule 5 draft. He had played only 314 games during his first six seasons in the majors prior to joining Pittsburgh. In 1966 he played 59 games, 52 of them behind the plate, and he hit .225 with seven homers. He spent half of the 1967 season in the minors, getting into 22 games with the Pirates before he was sent down after hitting .139 in 36 at-bats. He played two more seasons in the minors before retiring as a player.

Denny Sothern, outfielder for the 1930 Pirates. A .322 hitter in seven minor league seasons, Sothern made his MLB debut for the Phillies in 1926, then spent 1927 in the minors, before becoming their regular center fielder for the 1928 season. He played 90 games with them in 1930 before they traded him to the Pirates on August 7,1930 in exchange for 23-year-old outfielder Fred Brickell. Denny was hitting .280 at the time of the trade but in 17 games with the Pirates, he hit just .176, going 9-for-51 at the plate. He played 19 games with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following season, but after hitting .161 that year his Major League career was over. He finished his playing career in 1933 and later managed in the minors.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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