Born on this date in 1931 was former Pirates pitcher, and Hall of Famer, Jim Bunning. He joined the Pirates in December of 1967 as part of a four for one trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, with Woodie Fryman, Don Money, Bill Laxton and Harold Clem leaving Pittsburgh. At the time, Bunning was 36 and coming off a season in which he led the NL in innings pitched, games pitched, shutouts and strikeouts. He had just a 17-15 record but his 2.29 ERA was 2nd in the NL. For his career up to that point he had a 192-133 record over 13 seasons with nine all-star game selections to his credit.
Bunning was the opening day starter for the 1968 Pirates and after a shaky first start he came back with a complete game shutout with 8 strikeouts over the Dodgers in his second game. Unfortunately for the Pirates that would be one of the few highlights of his season. He won just four of his 26 starts while losing 14 times and he completed just 3 games despite averaging over 12 complete games the previous 11 seasons combined. The 1969 Pirates were a better team and while Bunning pitched slightly better that season, he still had just a 10-9 record when he was traded for two minor leaguers and cash to the Dodgers in August of that year. He finished his career two years later with a 224-184 record and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Also born on this date was Lave Winham who pitched for the Pirates during their 1903 NL pennant winning season. He had pitched one game for Brooklyn in 1902 and started the 1903 season in the minors going 12-7 before the Pirates brought him back to the big leagues. In his first start with the team on August 25th he shutout the Phillies during the second game of a doubleheader. He won his next two starts as well before losing his final start of the season, well after the Pirates had already clinched the NL crown. He did not pitched during the World Series even though he was one of the few healthy, eligible pitchers they had available. Despite the fact he was just 21 at the time and had pitched well for the Pirates, Lave never played pro ball again. He is in the Pirates all-time record books for a dubious achievement. In his last game, he made four errors, still a record to this day for any Pirates pitcher in one game.
Born on this date in 1910 was Billy Sullivan Jr, a catcher/ pinch hitter for the 1947 Pirates. His time with the Pirates was interesting because he had not played pro ball since 1942 mostly due to World War II. His father was a major league catcher for parts of 16 seasons and Jr had a 12 year career as well. He was released by the Dodgers in mid-April 1947 and the Pirates signed him six days later. He hit .255 for the Pirates in 38 games before being released late in the season and that was the end of his career. He and his father were the first father-son combo to both play in the World Series.
Denny Bautista, who pitched 49 games for the 2008-09 Pirates, was born on this date in 1982. He made all of his appearances out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh, going 5-4, 5.89 in 55 innings. The Pirates acquired him in June of 2008 in exchange for minor league pitcher Kyle Pearson. Bautista pitched for six major league teams over a seven year career. Despite starting 19 games for the Royals, his five wins with the Pirates were more than twice what he had with any other team. He finished his career in 2010 with an 11-15, 5.88 record.
Finally, on this date in 1981, the Pirates bought pitcher Manny Sarmiento from the Boston Red Sox. He had spent the entire 1981 season in AA for the Red Sox but had some prior major league time with the Reds and Mariners. He started his pro career in 1972 and had played parts of five seasons in the majors but prior to 1982 he had made just 17 pro starts. He started the 1982 season as a reliever in the minors and when he was recalled in early May the Pirates used him in the same role. He was pitching well, so on June 7th they gave him a start and he went 8 innings with nine strikeouts in a Pirates win over the Mets. Just five days later he threw a complete game 9-2 win over the Phillies. He would end up equaling his total amount of starts the previous 9 seasons by the time the 1982 season was done. He went 9-4 on the year and ended up throwing three more complete games.
Manny was moved back to the relief role for the 1983 season and pitched well for the Pirates posting a 2.99 ERA in 52 games. Unfortunately for Manny he was injured after throwing just one inning of spring training in 1984 and missed the whole season, following surgery on his right elbow. He spent the 1985 season in AAA for the Pirates but never played again in pro ball after that.
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.