This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 20th, Rob Mackowiak and Gary Varsho

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note.

The Trade

On this date in 1918, the Pirates traded pitcher Elmer Jacobs to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Erskine Mayer. Erskine Mayer was a 28-year-old righty, in his seventh season in the majors, all spent with Philadelphia. He had a 76-61, 2.81 career record with the Phillies, and in 1918 he was 7-4, 3.12 in 13 starts. Jacobs had a 3.03 ERA in 403.2 innings with the Pirates, though his record stood at 12-30 at the time of the deal. The 25-year-old righty began his Major League career with the 1914 Phillies, pitching 14 games there prior to being sold to the Pirates.

After the deal, Mayer pitched great for the 1918 Pirates, going 9-3, 2.26 in 123.1 innings. He had his share of troubles in 1919, with a 4.48 ERA in 88.1 innings. The Pirates put him on waivers in August, where he was picked up by the Chicago White Sox, the team that threw the 1919 World Series months later. Jacobs had a similar tale as Mayer after the deal, although he pitched in the majors off-and-on until 1927, outlasting Mayer by eight years in the majors. Jacobs pitched well in 1918, then went 6-10, 3.85 for the 1919 Phillies before they dealt him to the St Louis Cardinals, just weeks before the Pirates gave up on Mayer.

The Players

Rob Mackowiak, utility player for the 2001-05 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as a 53rd round draft pick in 1996, one year after getting picked in the 30th round by the Cincinnati Reds. Mackowiak (pictured above, credit: Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel) had a slow climb through the minors, spending time at all six levels, playing parts of two seasons at both High-A and Double-A. His best season was 2000, playing for Altoona, where he hit .297 with 13 homers, 87 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. Mackowiak made his debut on May 19, 2001. He played 83 games his rookie season, getting starts at both corner outfield spots and second base. He also played third base and first base off of the bench. In 2002, he started over twenty games at three different positions, right field, center fielder and third base. Mackowiak hit .244 with 16 homers, 48 RBIs and 57 runs scored in 136 games that year. He was playing the super utility role in 2003 until June, where his average dropped to .183, earning him a demotion to Triple-A until late August.

Mackowiak bounced back in 2004 to have his best career season, setting highs with 17 homers, 75 RBIs and 155 games played. He started 51 games at third base and 71 games in the outfield split between all three spots. The 2005 season saw him hit .272 in 142 games, his highest average while with Pittsburgh. He also added second base back into his playing time, getting 17 starts there. After the season, the Pirates traded him to the White Sox for pitcher Damaso Marte. Mackowiak played another three seasons in the majors, spending time with three different teams, before finishing his career in 2009 in the minors. With the Pirates, he played 593 games, hitting .258 with 52 homers and 221 RBIs.

Gary Varsho, outfielder for the Pirates in 1991-92 and 1994. He was a fifth round draft pick in 1982 by the Chicago Cubs. Varsho spent 6 1/2 seasons in the minors before making his big league debut in in July of 1988. He would split each of his first three seasons in the majors jumping between Triple-A and Chicago. At the end of Spring Training in 1991, the Pirates acquired Varsho in exchange for outfielder Steve Carter. He would spend the entire 1991 season with the Pirates, getting the majority of his games in as a pinch-hitter, although he hit just .220 in that role. On the year, the left-handed hitting Varsho batted .273 with four homers, 23 runs scored and 23 RBIs in 99 games.

In 1992, he started just 27 of the 103 games he played, once again getting a lot of pinch-hitting chances with limited success (.236). For the season, he batted .222, with four homers, 22 runs and 22 RBIs. Varsho was put on waivers after the season, where he was picked up by the Reds. After one season in Cincinnati, he was released, re-signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent. He played 67 games in 1994, nine as a starter, hitting .256 with five RBIs. Varsho became a free agent after the season and finished his playing career in Philadelphia the next year. He took up a managing position in the Phillies minor league system before moving up to the majors as a coach. In 2004, he managed the last two games of the season for the Phillies. He was then the Pirates bench coach from 2007 until 2010. He became a scout for the Los Angeles Angels, before returning to the Pirates as a pro scout in 2016, which is still his current position.

Clem Koshorek, infielder for the 1952-53 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1946, spending six seasons in their minor league system before being picked up by the Pirates in the 1951 Rule 5 draft. He was a light-hitting shortstop, who spent three years playing for Flint of the Central League, before playing for Little Rock of the Southern Association in 1951, where he hit .261 with three homers in 153 games. Koshorek was the starting shortstop through the first day of June for the 1952 Pirates, until he missed the next three weeks due to an injured right toe, which occurred while sliding. When he returned, he went through stretches of starting at second base, then third base, then back to second. He finished the year batting .261 with no homers, 15 RBIs and 27 runs scored in 98 games, 81 of them as a starter. Koshorek was the smallest Major Leaguer at the time, listed at 5’4″, 165 pounds. His defense was considered to be above Major League average at shortstop, with good range. In 1953, he would get just one at-bat for the Pirates before being sent to the minors, a strikeout as a pinch-hitter on Opening Day. On October 6, 1953 he was sold to New Orleans of the Southern Association. He would go on to play the last six seasons of his career in the minors, the final year as a player/manager.

Bill Clemensen, pitcher for the Pirates in 1939, 1941 and 1946. He came without invitation to the Pirates Spring Training in 1937 and impressed the team enough that they signed him and sent him to the minors. Clemensen pitched two full seasons down on the farm before spending the 1939 season with the Pirates. He was a mop-up pitcher all year, making 12 appearances with the first 11 all being in relief during one-sided Pirates losses. Pittsburgh let him start game one of a doubleheader on the last day of the season. Clemensen picked up the loss that day, allowing seven runs in 6.1 innings. The Pirates sent him to Syracuse of the International League for 1940, where he pitched just 65 innings all season. In 1941, he pitched 101 innings in the minors, splitting the year between Albany of the Eastern League and St Paul of the American Association. He was a September call-up that year, getting into two games before the year ended. On the last day of the season, he threw a 3-2 complete game win over the Reds. Clemensen looked to be ready for a full-time spot in the majors in 1942, but he was inducted into the Army to serve during WWII. He missed four seasons of pro ball before returning to the Pirates in 1946. He pitched two scoreless innings early in the season for the Pirates in 1946, before returning to the minors, where he stayed until his retirement during the 1947 season.

Ed Warner, pitcher for the 1912 Pirates. He attended Brown University, a popular school for Major Leaguers prior to WWII, with 36 former big league players before the war. Only former Pirates player Bill Almon has made it to the majors since. The Pirates signed Warner right out of college with no minor league experience. He made his Major League debut on July 2, 1912, pitching the ninth inning of a 9-2 loss to the Cubs. He was described as having a wondrous fastball and a good changeup (then called a slowball), although he was wild at times. He threw from the left side with “free arm movement” and a “puzzling crossfire” delivery. The Pirates gave him three starts that year, two in July and one in early August. In his second start, Warner threw five scoreless innings before allowing six runs in the sixth inning. In his last start, he threw a 3-0 shutout against the Braves, allowing 11 base runners in the game. He threw a total of 11 games, pitching 45 innings with a 1-1, 3.60 record. In December of 1912, Pittsburgh sent him to the minors to play for Columbus of the American Association, but Warner decided to retire from baseball, rather than not play in the Major Leagues. He quickly became a successful business man and never returned to the game.

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