This Date in Pirates History: January 16

On this date in 1948 the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased third baseman Eddie Bockman from the Cleveland Indians. He had started his career in the minors in 1939 but before he could make his major league debut he spent three years serving in the military during WWII. When he returned he played briefly for the 1946 Yankees who traded him to the Indians after the season. In 46 games with Cleveland in 1947 he hit .258 with 14 RBIs in just 66 at-bats. He started 44 games at third base for the Pirates in 1948 and while his fielding was above average his hitting was not. He hit .239 with 4 homers and 23 RBIs in 176 at-bats. The following season was more of the same, good defense but he hit just .223 in 220 at-bats. Bockman spent the 1950 season in the minors for the Pirates, then played another nine seasons without making it back to the majors. After he retired as a player he managed and later scouted for many years.

Whitney pictured in an 1887 Alleghenys uniform

Born on this date in 1970 was relief pitcher Ron Villone, who played for the 2002 Pirates. The Pirates are actually just one of the twelve teams Villone pitched for in his 15 year major league career. Villone signed with the Pirates as a free agent on February 16, 2002 after he went 6-10, 5.89 in 53 games, 12 as a starter, in 2001 playing for both the Rockies and Astros that season. For the Pirates he began the year as a starter and had a 2-4, 6.81 record after seven games so he was switched to the bullpen for the rest of the season. He went a combined 4-6, 5.81 in 93 innings over 45 total games. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Diamondbacks, who released him before he pitched a game for them. He was picked up by the Astros and continued playing until 2009 in the majors. He spent 2010 in AAA for the Nationals and in 2011 he played Independent ball. In his 15 year major league career he went 61-65, 4.73 in 717 games.

Alfredo Amezaga (1978) Shortstop for the 2005 Pirates. He played 584 major league games over nine seasons and three of those games came while he was with the Pirates. They acquired him as a waiver wire pickup on April 20,2005 from the Colorado Rockies. Amezaga had played two games that season before being put on waivers. His stay in Pittsburgh was just as short. He played three games in 15 days, all off the bench and he put in four innings at shortstop. Amezaga went 0-for-3 at the plate, drew a walk and stole a base. From 2006-08, he saw regular playing time with the Florida Marlins, getting into at least 125 games all three seasons. He split the 2013 season between AAA for the Dodgers and the Mexican League. Amezaga was born in Mexico, but attended school in the United States and he was drafted three times before signing, twice by the Rockies, though it was the Angels that finally signed him. Aside from being drafted twice by Colorado and playing for them in 2005, he also had a brief stay with them during the 2011 season.

Also born on this date, in 1890, was pitcher Erskine Mayer who played for the 1918-19 Pirates. He started his career with the Phillies in 1912 and went 76-61, 2.81 in seven seasons before they traded him to the Pirates for pitcher Elmer Jacobs on June 20, 1918.  Mayer went 9-3, 2.26 in 14 starts and a relief appearance to finish the season. He was part of one of the best regular season games in Pirates history during that season. On August 1st, Mayer started against the Boston Braves and pitched 15.1 scoreless innings before being relieved by Wilbur Cooper, who then followed with 5.2 scoreless innings. Art Nehf was the hard luck loser in that game, pitching all 21 innings for the Braves. He allowed two runs in the 21st inning and the Braves had no answer in the bottom of the inning. In 1919, he had a good record at 5-3 in 18 games(ten starts) but his ERA was just 4.48 in 88.1 innings. The Pirates put him on waivers, where he was taken by the Chicago White Sox, the team known as the Black Sox because they threw the 1919 World Series.  That was his last season in pro ball. Mayer’s brother Sam played one season in the majors with the 1915 Washington Senators

Finally, born on this date in 1858 was third baseman Art Whitney who played for the 1884-86 Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association, then remained with the team through the 1887 season as they joined the National League. Whitney played three years in the NL with three different teams from 1880-82. He spent all of 1883 and part of 1884 in the minors before joining the Alleghenys near the end of the year. In 23 games he hit .298 and played strong defense at third base, earning a full time job for the next season. He was the team’s shortstop for the 1885 season and he led all AA shortstops in fielding percentage with a .918 mark, 39 points above league average. He was strong enough defensively that he still played everyday despite a .233 average with no power or speed. Moved back to third base for 1886, he only hit .239 but again led his position in fielding percentage, this time 57 points above the league average.

In the NL in 1887, he hit .260 which was the second highest average of his 11 year career. Even in the NL he was well above average in the field, winning his third straight fielding title at his position. He held out the beginning of the 1888 season over his contract and the Alleghenys traded him to the Giants for third baseman Elmer Cleveland on June 16,1888. Art played 368 games for Pittsburgh and hit .248 with no homers in his 1541 plate appearances. His brother Frank also played in the majors spending one season with the 1876 Boston Red Stockings

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.

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