Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two players that are still active in the NL Central. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps a doubleheader from exactly 100 years ago.
Paul Maholm (1982) Pitcher for the Pirates from 2005 until 2011. He was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2003, taken eighth overall. It took just 212 minor league innings for him to make his way to the Pirates by August of 2005. He went 3-1 2.18 in six starts that first season in Pittsburgh. From that point on, he was a regular in the Pirates rotation, making at least 26 starts in each of his six full seasons with the team. Paul won between 8-10 games each year from 2006-10, dropping down to six wins last year despite posting his best full season ERA(3.66) with the team. With the Pirates, Paul pitched a total of 185 games, all as a starter, with a 53-73 4.36 record in 1143.2 innings. His 185 starts ranks 22nd in team history and his 705 strikeouts rank nineteenth. He is currently with the Chicago Cubs, signing a free agent deal with the team in January.
Aramis Ramirez (1978) Third baseman for the Pirates from 1998 until 2003. He was signed as an amateur free agent at age 16 in 1994, out of the Dominican Republic. Aramis worked his way to the majors by May of 1998, although he didn’t spend his first full season in the majors until 2001. That first full year in Pittsburgh was a big one though. After hitting .239 with 12 homers and 66 RBI’s in 163 games those first three years, Ramirez exploded for a .300 average with 40 doubles, 34 homers and 112 RBI’s. The next year his stats really dipped, going down to a .234 average(only 29 walks as well) with 18 homers and 71 RBI’s in 142 games. Through 96 games in 2003, Ramirez was batting .280 with 12 homers and a league leading 23 errors. The Pirates dealt him at the trading deadline to the Cubs, along with Kenny Lofton. It was a salary dump that netted the Pirates a half season from Jose Hernandez and 185 games from infielder Bobby Hill. Ramirez ended up playing nine years with the Cubs, batting .294 with 239 homers and 806 RBI’s in 1124 games. He became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2011 seasons, signing with the Brewers through 2014, with a 2015 option.
Alejandro Pena (1959) Pitcher for the 1994 Pirates. He played 15 seasons in the majors, pitching a total of 503 games. The Pirates signed him in December of 1992 after he had 15 saves and a 4.07 ERA in 41 appearances for the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, before Pena could even pitch a Spring Training game, he had to have elbow surgery, which cost him the entire 1993 season. He returned in 1994 and went 3-2 5.02 in 22 games with seven saves. Pena was released on June 30,1994 and didn’t sign with another team until April of the following year, partially due to the strike. He would go on to pitch for three teams during the shortened 1995 season, before finishing his career with the Marlins the following year. Alejandro won 56 games, saved 74 and had a 3.11 ERA over 1057.2 innings during his career. He was a starting pitcher early on with the Dodgers, winning 24 games with 7 shutouts between the 1983-84 seasons. The following year he missed most of the season with shoulder and abdominal issues, which forced an eventual move to the bullpen for him.
John Gelnar (1943) Pitcher for the 1964 and 1967 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of the University of Oklahoma in 1963, sending him to Asheville of the South Atlantic League, where he went 12-5 3.04 in 27 starts. The Pirates jumped him quickly in 1964, getting nine starts between AA/AAA before reaching the majors in early August. He was used seven times in relief over the rest of the season, pitching a total of nine innings. Gelnar would return to the minors in 1965, where he pitched the next four seasons for AAA Columbus. He made 100 starts during the 1965-68 seasons, going 41-30 with an ERA of 3.54 or less every year. The Pirates only called John up once during that stretch, giving him one start and nine relief appearances in 1967. He went 0-1 8.05 in 19 innings for Pittsburgh that year. Gelnar was sold to the Royals after the 1968 season. He pitched parts of three years in the majors, including 39 games for the Seattle Pilots during that team’s only season in 1969, and then 53 games the next year as the franchise moved to Milwaukee. He finished his career in the minors in 1972.
Ralph Erickson (1902) Left-handed pitcher for the 1929-30 Pirates. He was a college pitching star for Idaho State, the only major leaguer ever that attended that college. Ralph joined pro ball in 1927, pitching for Pocatello of the Utah-Idaho League, where he did not pitch well in his brief time. He remained in the league the next year, switching teams to play for the Boise Senators, where he went 8-5 and pitched 110 innings. Erickson was signed by the Pirates on September 15,1928 but never pitched for the team that season. He then made a big jump in 1929, as Pittsburgh sent him to the South Atlantic League to play for Columbia. He went 16-15 3.24 in 258 innings, earning a look from the Pirates in September. He made his debut on September 11,1929, pitching one inning in relief, allowing three runs. It would end up being his only appearances for Pittsburgh that season. The next year Ralph remained with the team through the middle of May, making seven more appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched a total of 14 innings, allowing 21 hits, ten walks and 11 runs. Erickson pitched in the minors until 1934 without making it back to the big leagues. He won 82 minor league games and finished with a 1-0 major league record. Ralph passed away at the age of 100, just two days after his birthday.
Bill Webb (1895) Infielder for the 1917 Pirates. He began his career in the minors in 1916, playing for Duluth of the Northern League. The next year he moved up to Class-A ball, spending the season with Birmingham of the Southern Association. Webb hit .279 in 132 games with 31 extra base hits. Four players from that Birmingham team all joined the Pirates after their season ended, Webb, along with infielder Howdy Caton, pitcher Elmer Ponder and catcher Red Smith. Bill made his Pirates debut on September 17, 1917(as did Caton and Smith), going 0-4 while playing second base. Bill went 3-15 with two walks and a run scored in his five games that season for the Pirates. He played four games at second base and one at shortstop. He spent the entire 1918 season serving in the Navy during WWI. Webb returned to the minors in 1919, playing until 1930 without making it back to the big leagues. He finished his career managing in the minors for six seasons, the first three as a player/manager.
Jolly Roger Rewind: June 25, 1912
The Pirates parlayed a 35-hit onslaught—a “mad carnival of slugging,” in the words of The (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times—into a resounding doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals, winning the first game 10-4 and the second 19-3 at Robison Field.
Max Carey led the path to victory in the opener with a third-inning grand slam into the bleachers in right centerfield off St. Louis starter Gene Dale.* The twenty-two-year-old leftfielder added an RBI single in a four-run sixth frame. Claude Hendrix, enjoying a breakout season at age twenty-three, scattered twelve hits to earn the complete-game triumph.
In the nightcap, the Bucs broke open a 2-2 game by scoring seventeen runs over innings five through seven. Rookie Stump Edington, purchased from Lexington, KY of the Class D Blue Grass League days earlier and bearing the reputation, according to The Pittsburg Press, of a “home run clouter,” highlighted the Pirates’ five-run fifth inning with a bases-loaded triple—although the Cardinals threw Edington out at the plate trying to stretch the hit into a grand slam. Two innings later, Chief Wilson** did one better in a ten-run outburst by following bases-loaded walks to Edington, Honus Wagner and Dots Miller with the second Bucco grand slam of the day, a blast that sailed “clear over the right field bleachers” and “was the longest home run ever made on the Cardinal grounds,” reported the Gazette Times.***
When the dust cleared in the second game, Carey had four hits and four runs scored, as well as an outstanding catch, and Wilson also had four hits. King Cole, obtained from the Cubs in the previous month as part of the return for Tommy Leach and Lefty Leifield, “pitched splendid ball,” according to the Gazette Times, to notch the victory. The Gazette Times asserted that this outing made “that deal with the Cubs look better than ever from a Pittsburgh angle.”****
Gazette Times game story
* The Gazette Times’s colorful play-by-play account described Carey’s grand slam in this way: “’Scoops’ Carey did the right thing. Of late he has been very unlucky in the pinches. This time he slammed the first ball pitched into the bleachers in right center for a clean home run. Three gray-shirted Pirates scored ahead of him.”
** Wilson hit no triples in the course of the doubleheader, but he would set a major-league record that season with 36 triples.
*** According to the Gazette Times, Wilson’s slam “cleared the deep bleachers, which structure is 25 feet high, and landed in a street outside the park.”
**** Unfortunately, Cole, whom the Gazette Times called the “blonde barber,” earned only one other victory in a Pirate uniform, and would be dead from tuberculosis within four years.