On this date in Pittsburgh Pirates history, two teammates from the 2001-02 Pirates celebrate birthdays. Starting off with Adrian Brown (1974) who was a 48th round draft pick by Pittsburgh in the 1992 amateur draft that played for the team from 1997 until 2002. As a low draft pick he worked his way slowly through the minors, not making it to AA until the middle of his fifth season in pro ball. He hit .306 that season with 45 stolen bases then followed in up with a season split between AA/AAA in which he hit .313 in 99 games. The Pirates had called him up for five weeks that year, starting in late May but he struggled and was returned to the minors until September. In 1998 he returned to AAA until August, then hit .283 in 41 games after being recalled, earning a job for 1999. He was on the Opening Day roster but began the year slow hitting .178 through 24 games, then spent a month down in AAA before coming back to finish the year batting .270.
In 2000 Brown had his best season in the majors, hitting .315 in 104 games with 64 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. He seemed primed to have a big season in 2001 but an injured shoulder cause him to miss all but 8 major league games and 15 rehab games in the minors. He would hit .337 in 51 AAA games in 2002 but just .216 in 91 games with the Pirates, who released him at the end of the season. He played pro ball until 2006, playing another 40 major league games spread out over three seasons with three different teams. Brown spent a total of 15 years in pro ball and played in the minors during each of those seasons, a total of 1141 minor league games and 447 in the majors
His teammate for two years, Humberto Cota (1979) was a catcher for the Pirates from 2001 until 2007. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Braves in 1995 then released by them two years later. The Devil Rays picked him up then eventually traded him to the Pirates on July 23, 1999 in the Joe Oliver/Jose Guillen deal. Cota was a September call-up each of his first two seasons in the majors and in 2003 he played with the team from late July until mid-August. He had a total of 24 games played between his first three seasons in the majors with just 44 plate appearances. He spent the 2004 season as the backup to Jason Kendall, receiving very little playing time throughout the season but it was his first full season in the majors. When Kendall was traded in the off-season Cota took over and had his best year in the majors, playing 93 games, hitting .242 with 7 homers and 43 RBIs. In 2006 rookie Ronny Paulino emerged, hitting .310 in 129 games and taking over the regular catcher spot. Cota played briefly for the Pirates in 2007 before being granted free agency. He has played minor league ball since, catching in the Mexican League until 2012 and he played briefly at AA in 2013 for the Diamondbacks.
Also born on this date was Spike Shannon (1878) an outfielder for the 1908 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh,Pa who spent his first six seasons of pro ball in the minors, starting at age 20. Spike was a September 1903 rule 5 draft by the Cardinals. He became their starting right fielder and hit .280 in 134 games that rookie season while playing outstanding defense, leading all NL outfielders in fielding percentage. In 1906 the Cardinals traded him mid-season to the Giants. Shannon would lead the league in both games played and plate appearances that year. In 1907 he led the league in plate appearances, runs scored with 104 and times on base, so his drop off in 1908 was unexpected. With the Giants he hit .224 in 77 games before being picked up by the Pirates on July 22nd off waivers. In 32 games for Pittsburgh he hit .197 in what would be his last time in the majors. He spent four seasons in the minors, one as a player/manager before becoming an umpire.
Juan Pizarro (1937) Pitcher for the 1967-68 and 1974 Pirates. He played 18 years in the majors, compiling a 131-105, 3.43 record in 488 games, 245 as a starter. In his three seasons with the Pirates, Pizarro went 10-12, 3.55 in 69 games, 11 as a starter. Most of those stats came during the 1967 season, when he pitched 107 innings over 50 games. He was 8-10, 3.95 and picked up a career high nine saves. The Pirates picked Pizarro up as part of the ill-fated Wilbur Wood deal in November of 1966. He was sold to the Red Sox during the 1968 season. In 1974, he was signed as a free agent to help with a pennant push. After signing in late August, he went 1-1, 1.88 in 24 innings and pitched shutout ball in his only playoff appearance. From 1961 until 1964, Pizarro was selected to two All-Star teams and won 61 games for the White Sox, picking up at least 12 wins each season.
Felipe Montemayor (1928) Outfielder for the 1953 and 1955 Pirates. The Pirates purchased him in 1951 for $20,000 from a team in the Sunset League played in Mexico. Montemayor spent parts of two seasons in the majors with the Pirates and five seasons playing for their New Orleans affiliate in the Southern Association. He played a total of 21 seasons in the minors. For Pittsburgh, he started 36 of the 64 games he played, seeing time at all three outfield positions and he pinch-hit often. Montemayor batted .173 with two homers and ten RBIs in 150 at-bats. He actually played much better during his second stint, posting a .689 OPS in 36 games, compared to .391 in 28 games during the 1953 season. Prior to the 1956 season, the Pirates returned him to the Mexican League in a deal with the Mexico City Tigers.
Bill Steinecke (1907) Catcher for the 1931 Pirates. His entire big league career consisted of four mid-September games off the bench for the 1931 Pirates. He came in to catch his first game and pinch-hit in the other three contests, going 0-for-4 at the plate. That 1931 season, he hit .361 with 41 doubles for Binghamton of the New York Penn League.While his big league career was extremely brief, his pro baseball career was not. Steinecke played 23 seasons in the minors, getting into 1886 games total and he fell just short of a .300 career average. He nearly matched his playing days as a manager, spending 22 years at the helm of various minor league teams between 1937 and 1964. His first season as a manager was for Savannah of the South Atlantic League, which was a Pirates affiliate at the time.
Charlie Jackson (1894) Outfielder for the 1917 Pirates. Jackson’s only other big league experience besides his one season with the Pirates, was a pinch-hit at-bat for the 1915 White Sox, which ended in a strikeout. With the Pirates, he played 41 games, splitting his time between left field and right field. Jackson hit .240 in 41 games and managed to collect just one RBI in 134 plate appearances. The 1917 Pirates were a bad group, going 51-103 and they scored only 464 runs. Jackson got on base 41 times, yet he scored just seven times. He played eight seasons in the minors, hitting .268 in 2601 at-bats. Prior to joining the Pirates in early August of 1917, Jackson hit .313 in 297 at-bats during the first four months of the season for Spokane of the Northwestern League.
John Fox (1859) Pitcher for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association. Fox came to the majors in 1881, playing pitcher, first base and outfield for the Boston Red Stockings of the National League. He went 6-8, 3.33 in 124.1 innings and hit .178 in 30 games total. He had 21 singles and no walks, giving him an identical .178 mark in slugging and on base as well. After not playing in the majors in 1882, Fox played for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association the following year. He went 6-13, 4.03 and hit .152 in 23 games. He joined the Alleghenys in 1884 and was the Opening Day starter. His time with the team didn’t last long. Fox started seven of the first 28 games and went 1-6, 5.64 in 59 innings. After playing in the minor leagues in 1885, he finished his big league career with one start for the 1886 Washington Nationals.
Finally, we get to Mike Jordan (1863) who played for the worst team in franchise history, the 1890 Alleghenys. The team went 23-113 on the season and late in the year they were desperate for anyone who knew how to play ball just so they could finish out the season. Jordan definitely fell into that class, he had played minor league ball since 1884 but never made the majors before signing with the Alleghenys in late August 1890. They threw him into left field(occasionally he played center field) for the last 37 games of the season and while he played strong defense, his offense set a franchise futility record. He came to the plate 143 times and no other position player in Pirates history had more plate appearances with a lower average, in fact no other position player came to the plate more than 53 times with a worse average. He hit .096, collecting 11 singles and a double and the Alleghenys record during his time with the team was just 4-35. That was the only major league experience for Jordan, who played in the minors until 1893.
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.