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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

This Date in Pirates History: February 18

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and we start with the man who pitched for the last two World Series teams in Pirates history. Bruce Kison (1950) was a 14th round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1968 amateur draft. He shot through the minors out of high school, going 30-9 over his two full and two partial seasons. Prior to being called up by the Pirates in 1971 he went 10-1 2.86 in 12 starts at AAA. That rookie season in Pittsburgh he went 6-5 3.40 in 18 games, 13 as a starter. He was used three times in relief during the playoffs that year, allowing just three hits and no runs in 11 combined innings. His first full season in the majors in 1972 he went 9-7 3.26 in 152 innings, starting 18 of his 32 games pitched. In the 1972 playoffs he had two more scoreless outings, running his total to 13.1 innings of scoreless relief in the playoffs.

Kison spent most of 1973 in the minors despite the early success he had in the majors. He made 20 AAA starts before coming back to Pittsburgh in September for seven starts. In 1974 he went 9-8 3.49 in 129 innings, making 24 relief appearances and 16 starts. He started game three of the NLCS against the Dodgers and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings but the Pirates lost the series. Finally in 1975 they used him in the starting role all season and he responded with 12 wins that year and a 14-9 record the following season, his best in Pittsburgh. For the 1979 Pirates he went 13-7 3.19 in 172.1 innings although in his only postseason start he got hit very hard and was unable to make it out of the first inning. After that season he left the Pirates as a free agent, signing a five year contract with the California Angels. Kison went 115-88 in his 15 year career with 81 of those wins coming while with the Pirates.

Other former Pirates players born on this date include:

Bob Miller (1939) pitcher and teammate of Kison on the 1971-72 Pirates. He pitched 18 seasons in the majors, most of that time as a reliever, pitching a total of 694 games for 10 different teams. The Pirates acquired him from the Padres on August 10,1971 in exchange for minor leaguers Johnny Jeter and Ed Acosta. Miller had a 7-3 1.41 record in 63.2 innings for the Padres prior to the trade. With the Pirates he pitched 16 games and posted a 1.29 ERA in 28 innings. In the playoffs that year he pitched three innings in the game two win over the Giants in the NLCS then pitched in three games during the World Series win over the Orioles. Miller pitched 36 games for the 1972 Pirates going 5-2 2.65 with three saves and then he threw a scoreless inning in the NLCS against the Reds that postseason. He was released by the Pirates just prior to the start of the 1973 season. In his career, which ended after 1974, he went 69-81 3.37 with 51 saves.

Dal Maxvill (1939) shortstop for the 1973-74 Pirates. He was a strong fielding, light hitting shortstop nearing the end of his career when the Pirates purchased his contract from the A’s on July 7,1973. Dal had won a Gold Glove with the Cardinals in 1968 and also batted .253 that season, the only year during his 14 season big league career he hit over .250 and the only time he scored more than 50 runs(51) in a season. Maxvill provided the Pirates with strong defense in 1973, playing 74 games at shortstop but he hit just .189 with no homers and 17 RBI’s. He was released eight games into the 1974 season and signed back with the A’s where he finished his career in 1975. Dal finished his career with a .217 average and just six homers and seven stolen bases in 1423 games.

Manny Mota (1938) outfielder for the 1963-68 Pirates. He hit .176 in limited playing time with the 1962 Giants, who traded him to the expansion Houston Colt .45’s in the offseason. The Pirates acquired him on April 4,1963 before he played a game in Houston, giving up outfielder Howie Goss in the deal. Mota didn’t play much his first season but from 1964-68 he saw plenty of time at all three outfield positions, playing at least 111 games each season. He would hit .332 in 1966 followed by a .321 season in 1967, getting a total of 671 AB’s between the two seasons. The Pirates lost him to the Montreal Expos during the 1968 expansion draft. Manny played parts of 20 seasons in the majors, last getting an AB in 1982 for the Dodgers. He was a .304 career hitter and also the all-time leader in pinch hits, breaking the record of former Pirate Smoky Burgess in 1979 before losing the record to Lenny Harris in 2001. His sons Andy and Jose Mota each played in the majors as well as his cousin Jose Baez.

Cal Neeman (1929) catcher for the 1962 Pirates. He was in his sixth season in the majors when the Pirates purchased his contract from the Phillies on May 9,1962. Neeman played 24 games for the Pirates, hitting .180 with five RBI’s in 50 at bats. Prior to spring training in 1963 they traded him to the Cardinals in exchange for Bob Burda, a rookie 1B/OF in 1962. Cal went on to play for three organizations that season, his last year in the majors. In seven seasons he was a .224 hitter, playing in 376 games. As a rookie in 1957 for the Cubs he hit .258 with 10 homers in 122 games and led all NL catchers in putouts and runners caught stealing

Luis Arroyo (1927) pitcher for the 1956-57 Pirates. He didn’t make the majors until age 28 in 1955 but was able to make the all-star team his rookie season while playing for the Cardinals. Early the next season the Pirates acquired him for Max Surkont, a veteran pitcher who was nearing the end of his major league career. Arroyo pitched 18 games for the Pirates, mostly in relief and went 3-3 4.71 in 28.2 innings. In 1957 he was used often, pitching 54 total games, ten as a starter and he went 3-11 4.68 in 130.2 innings pitched. After spending all of 1958 in the minors, the Pirates traded Arroyo to the Reds for minor leaguer Nino Escalera. Luis pitched one season for the Reds, then four for the Yankees including the 1961 season when he won 15 games, saved 29 and finished sixth in the AL MVP voting. He pitched against the Pirates in the 1960 World Series and during his only appearance he allowed an RBI single to Roberto Clemente in game five that helped the Pirates to victory that day

Sherry Smith (1891) pitcher for the 1911-12 Pirates. After his first season in the minors in 1910 the Pirates picked him up in the rule 5 draft that September. He made his major league debut on May 11,1911 during a 19-10 loss to the Phillies. Smith faced seven batters, retired two, while allowing four hits and a walk before he was pulled. All five base runners would score, four of them earned runs. The Pirates quickly decided he wasn’t ready for the majors and sent him to play for the Greenwood Scouts of the Cotton States League. The following season, he moved up two levels in the minors and won 18 games, earning another look from the Pirates. He pitched in three games, allowing three runs over four innings of work. He next appeared in the majors in 1915 when he won 14 games for Brooklyn in back to back seasons. He went on to play in 14 total seasons in the majors, finishing with a 114-118 career record.

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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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