Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, two were teammates in the early 2000’s and one played for the first team in franchise history to win the World Series. We also have one trade to discuss and John Fredland, in his Jolly Roger Rewind, looks back on a game with a similar story line as an infamous one that would happen 63 years later between the same two teams
On this date in 1969, the Pirates traded pitcher Ron Kline to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitcher Joe Gibbon, who had pitched previously for Pittsburgh. Kline had begun his career with the Pirates, playing six seasons in Pittsburgh before he was dealt to the Cardinals in 1959. He was two years into his second stint with the team, now at age 37, with a 1-3 5.81 record in 20 relief appearances. Gibbon also began his career with six seasons in Pittsburgh, leaving the team for the Giants in the Matty Alou trade made after the 1965 season. Joe was 34 years old at the time of the deal, with a 1-3 3.60 record in 20 innings over 16 relief appearances. Kline was a right-handed pitcher, while Gibbon threw lefty.
After the deal, Kline pitched just seven games for the Giants before they sold him to the Red Sox. He pitched a total of 28 games, 34.1 innings after leaving the Pirates. Gibbon was a solid member of the Pittsburgh bullpen in 1969, going 5-1 1.93 in 51.1 innings with nine saves. He pitched 41 games in 1970, although his ERA was 4.83 in 41 innings. After the season, he was released. Joe played two more years in the majors, split between the Reds and Astros, before retiring.
Carlos Rivera (1978) First baseman for the 2003-04 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 10th round of the 1996 draft. He hit well enough that first year in rookie ball to move to full season ball in 1997 as a 19 year old. Carlos spent three seasons in low-A, breaking out in 1999, when he hit .322 with 13 homers and 86 RBI’s. Rivera missed half of the 2000 season, then struggled in his first try at AA the next year. In 2002, he put himself back on the prospect map, batting .302 with 22 homers and 84 RBI’s for Altoona. Carlos began 2003 in AAA, getting his first call to the majors in late-June. He would be used mostly off the bench by Pittsburgh, getting into 78 games with only 107 plate appearances. He hit .221 with three homers and ten RBI’s. In 2004, he was back in AAA, getting a brief recall to the majors in late April. Rivera played seven games for the Pirates before being sent back down, his last major league action. He was released by the Pirates after the season, signing a minor league deal with the Astros. Carlos is still an active player in the Mexican League, recently hitting his 200th career homer, driving in his 1000th run and he is also closing in on 2000 hits.
Pokey Reese (1973) Second baseman for the 2002-03 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick in 1991 by the Reds and a top prospect in the minors for five years as he worked his way from a High School draft pick to the big leagues. Reese debuted his strong glove and above average speed in the majors on Opening Day in 1997 for the Reds. He was a shortstop by trade, although he was blocked in Cincinnati by Barry Larkin. In 1997, Reese saw plenty of time at that shortstop position, as Larkin missed most of the second half of the season. He hit just .219 with 25 stolen bases in 128 games. The next year, Pokey played 56 games for the Reds, most of them spent at third base. He would break through in 1999 as the everyday second baseman. He hit .285, stole 38 bases and won the Gold Glove.
After winning another Gold Glove in 2000, Pokey’s hitting began to drop off and Cincinnati traded him in the off-season, setting off a strange string of events. He was dealt to the Rockies in mid-December, who traded him to the Red Sox the next day, only to get released two days later. Reese signed with the Pirates in January 2002 and became the team’s starting second baseman. He would hit .264 with 50 RBI’s in 119 games that year, while playing Gold Glove caliber defense. Pokey would play just 37 games for the Pirates in 2003 before a thumb injury, similar to one he had in 1998, put him out for the season. He left the Pirates via free agency, signing with the Red Sox, where he was a member of their 2004 World Series winning team. That would be his last season in the majors, he finished his career in the minors in 2008.
Hank Foiles (1929) Catcher for the Pirates from 1956 until 1959. He was signed by the Yankees out of High School in 1947, but didn’t make the majors until 1953 and wasn’t a regular until the 1955 season. Foiles made his big league debut in 1953 with the Reds, who had acquired him in the Rule V draft. After just a couple weeks, he was sold to the Cleveland Indians, playing seven games there before returning to the minors for the rest of the 1053 season and all of 1954. Hank hit .261 in limited AB’s over 62 games in 1955, then after playing one game over the first month of 1956, the Pirates acquired him for Preston Ward, who Pittsburgh had acquired in the Ralph Kiner trade. Foiles didn’t hit much that first year, but played good defense, with a strong arm. In 1957, his defense, plus a .270 average in 109 games, got him elected to his only All-Star team. His average dropped to .205 in 1958, though his defense kept him in the lineup, led by a league leading 50% caught stealing rate, with only 34 runners testing him all year. Hank was a backup in 1959, then was traded to the Kansas City A’s in the off-season. The Pirates reacquired him in June of 1960, but it was for just one day as he was sent back to Cleveland for outfielder John Powers the next day. Foiles played until 1964, finishing his career with a .243 average in 608 games. He hit .230 with 27 homers and 95 RBI’s in 345 games for the Pirates.
Johnny Podgajny (1920) Pitcher for the 1943 Pirates. He pitched two seasons in the low minors for the Phillies, going 18-7 2.57 in class-C ball in 1940, before getting his first call to the majors. Johnny made four September starts for Philadelphia that season, then was a regular in their rotation the next two seasons. In 1943, he was splitting his time between starting and relieving, when the Pirates traded pitcher Dutch Dietz to get him in mid-June. Podgajny had a 20-33 4.14 career record at the time of the deal. For the Pirates that season, he went 0-4 4.72 in five starts and ten relief appearances, losing each of his first four starts. At the end of the season, Johnny would be dealt to the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Preacher Roe. Podgajny would pitch just six more major league games, all in 1946 for the Indians, before finishing his career in the minors four years later. He compiled 104 minor league wins, but never won in the majors after the Phillies traded him.
Danny MacFayden (1905) Pitcher for the 1940 Pirates. He never played a day in the minors, going right from Prep School and Summer League ball, to the majors with the 1926 Red Sox. He pitched for Boston until June of 1932, going 52-78 4.23 in 185 games before he was dealt to the Yankees. Danny had a 1-10 5.10 record at the time but the Red Sox were still able to get two players and a large amount of cash from the Yankees in the deal. He pitched in New York until 1934, getting sold to the Reds in the off-season. Cincinnati let him go less than two months into the season, sending him back to the Yankees, who put him on waivers, where he was picked up by the Boston Braves. MacFayden made a name for himself there, winning 48 games from 1936-38, with an ERA under 3.00 each season. After a down year in 1939 for Danny, the Pirates sent pitcher Bill Swift and cash to acquire him from Boston. MacFayden made eight starts and 27 relief appearances for the 1940 Pirates, going 5-4 3.55 in 91.1 innings. He was released after the season and would pitch just 15 more major league games, five for the 1941 Senators and ten for the Braves in 1943, before retiring. Danny had a 132-159 career record in 465 games, 334 as a starter.
Jap Barbeau (1882) Third baseman for the 1909 Pirates. When he joined the Pirates prior to the 1909 season, Barbeau had played 53 major league games, although his last two full seasons were spent in the minors. Jap played for the Cleveland Naps during the 1905-06 seasons, hitting .211 in 166 AB’s. He was a shortstop for Toledo of the American Association during those next two years in the minors, hitting .295 and .282 during those seasons. He was known more for his glove and the Pirates signed him to play third base, as shortstop was manned at the time by Honus Wagner. Barbeau was described as a weak hitter, standing just 5″5 140 lbs and his major league stats prove that fact, as he hit .225 in 199 games with no homers. He was able to hit his share of homers in the minors, hitting 11 one season for Kansas City, no small feat during the deadball era. Playing out of position for the 1909 Pirates, Barbeau struggled at the plate and in the field, hitting .220 in 91 games with 29 errors. In mid-August, as the team geared up for their playoff run, Jap(first name was William) was traded to the St Louis Cardinals, along with Alan Storke, for Bobby Byrne, a strong fielding third baseman. Barbeau played with St Louis through May of 1910, before returning to the minors for good, playing another ten seasons.
Jolly Roger Rewind: June 10, 1926
Nearly sixty-three years to the day before the Pirates infamously squandered a 10-0 first inning lead in Philadelphia, the Bucs suffered a similar collapse in the City of Brotherly Love, as a last-place Phillies squad rallied from nine runs down for a 13-9 win at the notoriously hitter-friendly Baker Bowl.
The defending World Champions entered the game having won 24 of their last 34 to seize a share of first place for the first time all season, and they seemed intent on extending their occupancy when they battered Phillies starter Claude Willoughby for five runs in the second inning. Wayland Dean replaced Willoughby in the third, but did little better: the Buccos posted another big inning, with Carson Bigbee’s two-run homer capping off a four-run outburst for a 9-0 advantage.
With two outs in the third, Phillies manager Art Fletcher, in what would be his fourth and final season of managing significantly sub-.500 Philadelphia squads, called lefthander Clarence Mitchell from the bullpen. Mitchell retired Glenn Wright to end the inning, and proceeded to shut out the Pirates’ predominantly lefthanded lineup over the final six and a third frames.*
Still, the Bucs had staked Lee Meadows, arguably their most consistent starting pitcher from 1923-27, to a sizeable lead. Everything appeared to be going as planned through four innings, but Meadows cracked in the bottom of the fifth and allowed the Phillies seven runs to tighten the contest.
The big lead reduced to two runs, Bucs manager Bill McKechnie turned to reliever Red Oldham, who recorded the final out of the fifth inning. Oldham, however, surrendered a two-run homer to Phillies catcher Butch Henline to tie the game 9-9 in the sixth.
Another call to the bullpen brought in Babe Adams, and the venerable 44-year-old, pitching in the nineteenth and final season of his major league career, picked up the final two outs to preserve the tie into the seventh. Like Meadows and Oldham before him, Adams’ fortunes ran out in his second inning: the Phillies snapped the tie with a three-run outburst. They added another run off Don Songer in the bottom of the eighth for their final margin.**
The loss again exiled the Pirates to second place; they would have to wait six more weeks before returning to the top spot.
* The Beaver Falls Times spewed vitriol over Bill McKechnie’s refusal to leverage the platoon advantage against Mitchell: “After amassing nine markers in three innings, the Pittsburgh strategists showed bush-league tendencies by allowing five left-stickers to stay in the lineup against Lefty Mitchell.”
** Mused the Pittsburgh Press, “[t]here are times when a ball club takes an unexpected thumping. On such occasions the game apparently is in, but something happens to reverse the result, much to the chagrin of the expectant victors.”
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.