This Date in Pirates History: May 4

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one that played one game for the first Pirates team to go to the World Series. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland covers the other end of the spectrum, a memorable game from the last Pirates team to go to the playoffs.

Jason Michaels (1976) Outfielder for the 2008 Pirates. He was in his eighth season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him from the Indians four days after his 32nd birthday. Michaels was hitting .207 with no homers and nine RBI’s in 21 games for Cleveland prior to the deal. With Pittsburgh he played 102 games, seeing time at all three outfield positions. He hit .228 with eight homers and 44 RBI’s in 228 AB’s for the Pirates. On June 2nd, he hit a game-tying pinch hit grand slam in the seventh inning against the Cardinals, a game won 5-4 by the Pirates. In his next at-bat, three days later, he hit a three run home run. Following the season he left via free agency. He signed with Houston and played three seasons for the Astros before signing with the Nationals this past off-season. Jason is currently playing in AAA. He is a career .263 hitter in the majors with 299 RBI’s and 332 runs scored in 1031 games.

Ken Oberkfell (1956) Infielder for the 1988-89 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him from the Braves on August 28,1988 in exchange for young outfielder, Tommy Gregg. Oberkfell was in his 12th season in the majors in 1988, spending the first 7 1/2 with the Cardinals before being dealt to the Braves in June of 1984. Atlanta was using him at third base in 1988 but he had seen plenty of time at second base throughout his career. When he got to Pittsburgh, they ended up using him at all four infield positions, with most of his time spent at second base. After hitting .277 with 40 RBI’s in 120 games for the Braves, Ken hit .222 with two runs batted in for the Pirates. In 1989 he was being used at both 1B/2B through the first 31 games of the season, when Pittsburgh dealt him to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Roger Samuels. Oberkfell was hitting only .125 at the time of the deal. He ended up playing through the 1992 season, finishing his 16 year career with a .278 average and 1354 hits in 1602 games. Twice during his career he led NL third baseman in fielding percentage, something he also accomplished once(1979) at second base.

Zip Collins (1892) Outfielder for the 1914-15 Pirates. On July 21, 1914 the Pirates purchased Collins from San Antonio of the Texas League. According to Pirates scout, Howard Earle, Zip(first name was Edgar) was the best player in the Texas League at the time. Ten days after being purchased by Pittsburgh, Collins played his first major league game. He collected one hit and impressed the crowd with his speed in the field and on the bases as well as with his heads up play and strong throwing arm. Zip played 49 games that season, hitting .242 with 15 RBI’s. He failed to hit a home run and only stole three bases. In 1915, Collins hit .294 but he was a singles hitter, who wasn’t using his speed on the basepaths, going six for thirteen in stolen base attempts. He also made a high amount of errors, finishing with the fifth most in the league despite playing just 89 games for the Pirates. In early September of 1915, he was sold to the Boston Braves. Collins played 107 games over parts of three seasons with Boston, returned to the minors until the end of 1918, then came back to the majors in August of 1921 to finish the season with the Phillies, his last season in pro ball. He was one of three major league players that were born on 5/4/1892.

Vic Saier (1891) First baseman for the 1919 Pirates. From 1911 until 1916, Saier was a strong first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, twice earning MVP votes. He didn’t hit for a high average but he had real good power for a dead-ball era player and he took his share of walks. Early in the 1917 season he broke his leg, did not return until the very end of the season and then was released by the Cubs to make room for another player on the roster. The Pirates put in a claim on his contract which was disputed by the Cubs, but Pittsburgh finally acquired him on December 24, 1917. After all that effort by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss to get him, he ended up quitting baseball during the 1918 season to help with the war effort. When the war ended, he returned with the Pirates in 1919 as their regular first baseman. It was said at the time the Pirates officially acquired him, that due to his age(27) and the fact he lived a clean life, he should still be assured a long career.  He ended up playing just 58 games for the Pirates, hitting .223 with 17 RBI’s before being released in early August, marking the end of his baseball career.

Lou Gertenrich (1875) Right fielder for the Pirates on July 21, 1903. With both Fred Clarke and Jimmy Sebring unable to play, the Pirates called upon Gertenrich to step in as the right fielder. He batted second and went hitless in four trips to the plate and caught both balls hit his way. Two years earlier he played two games for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League, the original name of the current Baltimore Orioles franchise. Those three games were the extent of his major league career. He was an amateur and semi-pro player from the Chicago area, occasionally playing for a minor league team along the way. The reason he was able to play one game for the Pirates was because they were playing local(Chicago) that day, Clarke had an arm injury days earlier and Jimmy Sebring, the regular right fielder had left to get married. Pittsburgh played two exhibition games the next two days and they used pitchers in RF until Sebring returned. After his playing days, Gertenrich owned a candy company that advertised on the back of baseball cards in 1922.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 4, 1992

Tying the franchise’s post-1900 mark for most runs scored in an inning, the Pirates’ eleven-run sixth inning rallied them to a 12-5 victory over Cincinnati at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Bucs had returned to Pittsburgh from a series in Houston at 2:43 that morning. They initially seemed to suffer from the irregular night, falling behind 5-1 when Chris Sabo hit a three-run homer off Zane Smith in the fifth.

But the contest changed suddenly and decisively in the bottom of the sixth. Sixteen Pirates batted against four Cincinnati pitchers and recorded nine hits and four walks. Three Buccos—Jeff King, Jose Lind and Cecil Espy—recorded two hits in the inning. Seven of the runs came after two outs. When the dust settled, the Pirates had an insurmountable lead and their biggest inning since scoring eleven runs in the sixth inning against St. Louis on September 7, 1942. (The Bucs managed a pair of twelve-run innings in the nineteenth century, against St. Louis in 1892 and Boston in 1894.)

The win gave the Pirates a 17-7 record and a two-game lead in the NL East.

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Press game story

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Randy Linville

I never thought Ken Oberkfell was very good. Out of all the seasons where he was a regular player, he never once drove in 50 runs for a full season. It wasn’t like he was batting lead off. He just didn’t seem to produce in that way.

F Lang

Oberkfell was a tweener. No speed at 2nd, no power at 3rd, not enough range at SS. He could get on base, especially earlier in his career…and he could really handle the bat. Hardly ever struck out. Had a really good career for a guy with no power or speed. They were different times where guys like him could actually start. He’d probably be a bench guy/super util now.

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