This Date in Pirates History: July 15

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date including one of just twenty players to hit over 100 homers in a Pirates uniform. We also have a player who was an unlikely hero for a Pirates World Series team and another who was a key member of another title winner in franchise history. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland has a recap of a classic extra innings battle that took place during the 1971 season.

Donn Clendenon (1935) First baseman for the Pirates from 1961 until 1968. He signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1957, spending his first two seasons in the low minors, where he put up nondescript stats. In 1959, Donn broke out, hitting a combined .358 with 62 extra base hits between two stops. He moved up to A-ball the next season and hit .335 with 28 homers and 109 RBI’s for Savannah of the South Atlantic League. Clendenon moved to AAA in 1961, where he hit .290 with 22 homers in 147 games. The Pirates called him up in September and he hit well in nine games, batting .314, while playing outfield. Donn saw limited time for most of 1962 with the Pirates, getting most of his playing time at the end of the year and playing more first base than outfield. Despite playing just 80 games, 21 off the bench, he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, due in part to his .302 average.

Donn became the starting first baseman in 1963, hitting .275 with 15 homers and 57 RBI’s in 154 games. He led the NL with 136 strikeouts, but also had the most putouts and assists among NL first baseman. Clendenon cut back the strikeouts the next year, hitting .282 with 12 homers and 64 RBI’s in 133 games. His next season he set many career highs, including games played(162), runs scored(89), hits(184), doubles(32) and triples(14) while batting .301 with 96 RBI’s. He ranked in the NL top ten in all of those categories except runs scored. That season however, did mark the start of a three year stretch in which he led NL first baseman in errors each year. The following year was still his best career though, finishing with a .299 average, career highs with 28 homers, 98 RBI’s and an .878 OPS. Donn’s numbers began to drop off in 1967 and in 1968, considered to be the “year of the pitcher”, he struck out 163 times, a dubious team record that stood until surpassed by Craig Wilson in 2004.

Clendenon was lost to the Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. He played just 38 games there, before moving on to the Mets, where he picked up a World Series ring. Donn played two more years in New York, before finishing his career with the 1972 St Louis Cardinals. With the Pirates, he hit .280 with 106 homers and 488 RBI’s in 982 games.

Anthony Claggett (1984) Pitcher for the Pirates on October 3,2009. He was originally an 11th round pick of the Tigers in 2005, going to the Yankees in a trade the following year. Anthony spent the 2009 season pitching mostly in relief at AAA for New York, going 7-7 3.07 in 82 innings. He was called up twice during the season and in his first appearance he really took one for the team. In a 22-4 loss to the Indians, he threw 60 pitches over 1.2 innings, allowing eight earned runs. His next outing was slightly better, giving up only two runs in his one inning of work. The Yankees put him on waivers in late September and the Pirates picked him up. He got into one game, giving up a home run in his only inning of work against the Reds on October 3rd. He was with the Pirates organization for two more years before being released last year. He has pitched this year in Independent ball, struggling with two different teams.

Enrique Romo (1947) Relief pitcher for the Pirates from 1979 until 1982. He pitched in Mexico until age 29, when the expansion Seattle Mariners signed him to his first contract. Romo skipped over minor league ball in the states, spending six years in the majors before returning to Mexico. He threw 114 games over two seasons for the Mariners, pitching over 100 innings each season. The Pirates acquired him on December 5,1978 in a six player deal. Romo immediately became a key member of the bullpen and manager Chuck Tanner used him often. He made 84 appearances in 1979, going 10-5 2.99 with five saves in 129.1 innings. His games pitched total that season in the sixth highest mark in team history. Enrique pitched twice in each post-season series and overall did not pitch well, allowing 13 baserunners in five innings of work, although he didn’t allow a run in either NLCS appearance. Romo would get his share of work again during the 1980 season, pitching 123.2 innings over 74 relief outings.

During the strike-shortened 1981 season, he missed some time in late August/early September and pitched poorly when he came back the last two weeks, watching his 3.86 ERA rise to 4.54 to end the year. Romo went 9-3 in 45 games for the 1982 Pirates but he was fined at the end of the year because he didn’t want to pitch the last week of the season. He was upset over the fine and failed to report to Spring Training the next year. The Pirates tried to trade him with no takers and Romo was finally placed on the voluntarily retired list, ending his major league career. He pitched 236 games over four season with the Pirates, going 25-16 3.56 in 381.1 innings.

Don Bosch (1942) Centerfielder for the 1966 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as a 17 year old in 1960, sending him to the lowest level of the minors, where he hit .210 in 63 games. His climb through the farm system was slow, with his first real sign of major league potential showing in 1963, when he hit .332 in 114 games while playing in the Carolina League. The switch-hitting Bosch then spent the next two years at AA, before moving up to AAA for the 1966 season. That year he hit .283 with 11 homers, 17 stolen bases and 72 walks. The Pirates called him up in September and he made his debut on the 19th as a pinch-runner. Three days later, he was a defensive replacement for Matty Alou in centerfield during a 14-1 loss to the Braves. After another two days on the bench, Don pinch hit for pitcher Tommie Sisk, in what would be his last game with the Pirates. That December, he would be traded to the Mets along with Don Cardwell for Dennis Ribant and Gary Kolb. Bosch played two years with the Mets and one with the Expos without much success at the plate. He hit .164 with 13 RBI’s in 146 career games. He spent the 1970 season in the minors before ending his playing career.

Red Oldham (1893) Pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He had 172 minor league victories over 15 seasons and won another 39 games over seven major league seasons. Oldham made his major league debut with the Tigers in 1914, pitching 26 games over two seasons. He was in the minors the next two years, then served in the Army during WWI. He returned to the minors in 1919, before coming back to the Tigers for three more seasons. From 1920-22, Oldham pitched over 210 innings each season, going a combined 29-40 with a high of 11 wins during the 1921 season. He was suspended from baseball for a short time after failing to report to the Tigers in 1924 and for a time he pitched in the minors under an assumed name. Red was still in the minors in 1925 when the Pirates decided they needed another lefty on their pitching staff. From the middle of August until the end of the season, he pitched 11 times, four as a starter, with three complete games. Oldham went 3-2 3.91 in 53 innings.

The Pirates went to the World Series that year and had a hard-fought seven game series against the Washington Senators. Oldham didn’t get to pitch during the first six games and it looked like he wouldn’t pitch game seven either. The Pirates trailed 7-6 going into the bottom of the eighth at home. Off the greatest pitcher ever, Walter Johnson, Pittsburgh scored three runs to take a 9-7 lead. Red was surprisingly called in to finish the game, and he did just that. He struck out two Hall of Famers, Sam Rice and Goose Goslin to secure the victory and second title for the Pirates franchise. The next year he was a bullpen arm for Pittsburgh until July, when he was sent to the minors, a move that ended his major league career. Red pitched another five years before retiring following the 1931 season.

Jolly Roger Rewind: July 15, 1971

Three times within two outs of losing to the Padres, the first-place Pirates tied the game in the ninth, thirteenth and sixteenth innings, before Roberto Clemente’s seventeenth-inning home run gave the Bucs a 4-3 victory at Three Rivers Stadium.

San Diego entered the contest with the worst record in the National League and the Pirates with the best mark, but lefthander Dave Roberts* baffled the Bucs through the first eight innings, striking out eight while scattering six hits and walking none. Manny Sanguillen’s passed ball on a seventh-inning Steve Blass pitch had allowed Cito Gaston to score the game’s sole run to that point.

With one out in the ninth, however, Bob Robertson drew the only Bucco walk off Roberts. Danny Murtaugh replaced Robertson with pinch-runner Vic Davalillo, and Jose Pagan singled Davalillo to third. Gene Alley’s sacrifice fly scored Davalillo to send the game to extra frames.

Dave Giusti and Bob Miller** waged a stalemated battle of the bullpens over the next three innings. But the Padres again gained the upper hand in the thirteenth inning when Ivan Murrell, batting for Miller, homered off Mudcat Grant for a 2-1 lead.

San Diego manager Preston Gomez called on his closer, Al Severinsen, to get the final three outs in the bottom of the thirteenth, and strikeouts to Gene Clines and Clemente put the game’s end one out away. Willie Stargell’s first five plate appearances had yielded four strikeouts and a foul popup, but something clicked on his sixth time up: Stargell connected on his thirty-first home run of the season to stave off extinction and tie the game 2-2.

Two more scoreless innings ensued, but the Padres seized their third lead of the night in the top of the sixteenth on Jim Nelson’s wild pitch, which scored Don Mason for the visitors’ third one-run lead of the night. That advantage, however, would last only one out into the home half of the sixteenth. After Danny Coombs, the fortieth player to take part in the game, induced Davalillo to ground out, Richie Hebner followed with the Bucs’ second game-tying extra-inning home run of the night—his fourteenth homer of the season—deadlocking the contest at 3-3.

Aided by a double play, Nelson kept the Padres off the scoreboard in the top of the seventeenth. The clock had passed midnight when Clemente stepped to bat against Coombs with one out in the bottom of the inning. The thirty-six-year-old rightfielder, batting .342 entering the game, had endured an 0-for-7 whitewashing through four hours and twelve minutes of play. But Clemente ensured that his prior at-bats would be forgotten by driving Coombs’ pitch over the fence for his ninth homer of the year, extending the Bucco winning streak to seven games.

Box score and play-by-play

* Roberts, who finished second in the NL with a 2.10 ERA that year, would show up in Pittsburgh eight years later as a solid member of the 1979 Bucs’ pitching staff.

** It is likely that someone on the Pirates’ side took notice of the well-traveled Miller’s three scoreless innings: twenty-six days later, Pittsburgh became the thirty-two-year-old righthander’s eighth major-league organization when he came over in a trade for Ed Acosta and Johnny Jeter.

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John Lease

Dave Roberts had been a Pirates minor leaguer lost in the expansion draft of the 1969 Padres. His great moment in the 1979 season was in another extra inning game against, the Padres! The famous ‘choke sign’ game from Dave Winfield.

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