This Date in Pirates History: February 4

On this date in Pittsburgh Pirates history six former players have been born. Starting with one of the newest former player first, relief pitcher Dan Plesac was born on this date in 1962. He was a lefty reliever with nine years experience already when the Pirates signed him as a free agent on November 9, 1994. He went 2-3, 4.61 in 54 games for the Cubs in 1994 and had been a closer with the Brewers for five seasons earlier in his career. Plesac went 4-4, 3.58 in 58 games for the Pirates in 1995, striking out 57 batters in 60.1 innings. In 1996, he led all Pirates pitchers in games pitched with 73 and had a 6-5, 4.09 record with 11 saves. Almost two years to the date they signed him as a free agent, the Pirates traded Plesac to the Blue Jays in a nine player deal that was mentioned here. He played another seven seasons in the majors, finishing with 1064 games pitched and 158 saves.

Other players born on this date include:

Dennis Konuszewski (1971) relief pitcher who threw his only career game with the 1995 Pirates. He was a 7th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1992 and spent his entire minor league career in their farm system, throwing 207 games from 1992 until 1997. Konuszewski actually played just four games above AA ball ever, three AAA games in 1996 and his one major league game on August 4,1995. He came into the game to start the 7th inning against the Astros with the Pirates down 3-2. He walked the first batter he faced, gave up a single, the a sacrifice bunt, then two more singles and two runs before being pulled from the game leaving him with a career 54.00 ERA and the only one out he recorded was given to him on the sac bunt. Koneszewski didn’t have much success in AAA either, allowing 13 hits, 11 runs and five walks in only 3.1 innings. He was also mentioned in an article here about one game wonders in Pirates history.

Whitted was a career .269 hitter

Steve Brye (1949) outfielder for the 1978 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Twins in 1967 and had played eight seasons in the majors already when the Pirates signed him as a free agent on April 4,1978. Brye played his first seven seasons with Minnesota and then one year with the Brewers in 1977 when he hit .249 in 94 games and played errorless ball in 83 games in the outfield. For the Pirates in 1978, he played 66 games, mostly off the bench and he split his time between all three outfield positions. He hit .235 with nine RBIs in 130 plate appearances. Brye was released shortly after the season ended and would go on to play one more season in AAA for the Padres before retiring as a player. He was a career .258 hitter in 697 major league games.

Possum Whitted (1890) utility fielder for the 1919-21 Pirates. Whitted(first name was George) was in his eighth season in the majors when the Pirates traded an outfielder named Casey Stengel of the Phillies for him on August 9,1919. Both players were 29 years old at the time and Stengel was also in his 8th major league season. Possum was hitting .249 in 78 games with Philadelphia prior to the trade and had never batted higher than .281 in a season, but in the last 35 games of the year for the Pirates he had 51 hits and a .389 batting average. He took over the Pirates third base job in 1920 and hit .261 with 74 RBIs in 134 games and he had as many triples(12) as doubles and homers combined. In 1921 he moved back to the outfield and hit .283 with 63 RBIs in 104 games. Despite the strong stats, the Pirates sold Whitted to Brooklyn prior to the 1922 season. They must have known his major league career was nearing the end because he lasted one pinch hit appearance before going back to the minors, where he played until age 41 in 1931.

Lefty Davis (1875) outfielder for the 1901-02 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1896 and wasn’t signed by a major league club until 1901 but in a three month span from late March of that year until the end of June he was a member of three different organizations. Davis signed with the Philadelphia Athletics early in 1901 as they prepared to play their first season in American League history(the league existed prior to 1901 but was not considered a major league). Before he ever played a game for the Athletics he jumped to the National League to play for the Brooklyn Superbas. After hitting .209 in 25 games he was released and quickly signed with the Pirates. He started in right field and hit .313 in 87 games with 87 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. The Pirates won their first NL title that season. Davis returned for 1902 and hit .280 with 52 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in 59 games as the Pirates not only won their second straight NL crown but they also posted their best record ever going 103-36. Prior to the start of 1903, Davis jumped to the New York Highlanders of the American League. He lasted just two more season in the majors and ended up playing another eight years in the minors while also managing for four seasons.

Finally, Doug Slaten, a relief pitcher who has pitched six seasons in the majors, four with Arizona and the last two with the Nationals, turns 34 today. He signed with the Pirates on January 11,2012 after going 0-2, 4.41 in 31 relief appearances during the 2011 season. He had a career record of 7-8, 3.60 in 137.2 innings over 206 appearances going into the 2012 season. For the Pirates, Slaten pitched ten games, going 0-0, 2.71 in 13 innings, with nine hits allowed, eight walks and he recorded six strikeouts. Slaten was let go via free agency following the season. He did not play in 2013.

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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Once again, a nice job. This sort of thing helps to make January bearable. On its own, the trade of Stengel for Whitted looks bad, but the 1920 Pirates didn’t have much punch from the right side, so I think the trade made sense.  One of the cool things about Whitted is that he was a member of the Miracle Braves.

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