Pittsburgh Pirates Farm System: Fifty Years Ago

In 1962 the Pittsburgh Pirates had seven minor league affiliates. The list of teams is as follows:

AAA: Columbus, International League
A: Asheville, South Atlantic League
B: Kinston, Carolina League
C: North Forks, Northern League
D: Burlington, Midwest League
D: Kingsport, Appalachian League
D: Batavia, New York-Penn League

All of those leagues still exist although the classification for some have changed. In 1963 the minor leagues changed to something closer to the current system, adding AA to the levels and getting rid of the B,C,D classes. Columbus is still a AAA team in the IL, currently an Indians affiliate. The Asheville team moved to AA in 1963, although it was still called the South Atlantic League which is now low-A ball. Kinston was in the Carolina League until 2011, a league that is now one level higher than the SAL. Burlington still has a team and has existed since that 1962 season in the Midwest League. Prior to that they played in the Illinois/Indiana/Iowa League, called the Three-I League for short.

The Northern League now exists as an Independent League and for awhile the league disbanded. Batavia is still in the NYPL, now a Cardinals affiliate and that league is now a short-season league. As for Kingsport, the Pirates left after the 1963 season, the city went six years without a team but since 1969 they have had a major league affiliation every year except 1983. They are currently a Mets farm club.

Grand Forks was in it’s seventh season as a Pirates affiliate in 1962. That year would be their last working together. They became an Indians team in 1963, then Dodgers in 1964 before going 31 years without a team. The town had a team in the Independent Prairie League for two years but nothing since. Besides Grand Forks, the Pirates also dropped Burlington in 1963, adding teams in Reno(California League) and Gastonia(Western Carolinas League) in their place.

The Players

The Columbus team was loaded with former and future Pirates players. Among the players that would move up to the majors, the biggest one would be Willie Stargell, a 22 year old outfielder that would hit 27 homers and drive in 82 runs that year. Other players of note include Gene Alley, Bob Bailey, Donn Clendenon, Tommie Sisk and Bob Veale. Of the 37 players for that team in 1962, twenty-nine of them played in the majors at some point.

Asheville also had Gene Alley for part of the season, as well as a 20 year old pitcher named Steve Blass. They also had nine other lesser known players who made major league appearances. One of the more notable ones was 45 year old Ray Hathaway, who was the manager. He played one game in 1962, going seven innings as a starting pitcher. He also pitched again in 1964 and 1965. His minor league career began in 1939 and his major league career consisted of just four games for the 1945 Brooklyn Dodgers.

Grand Forks had six major leaguers on it’s roster. The most notable had a lot in common with Hathaway. It was 40 year old outfielder Tom Saffell, who played four seasons for the Pirates(1949-51,1955). He played nine games and even took a turn on the mound. He also made appearances on the field in 1963 and 1964.

The only player from Burlington to make the majors was outfielder Jose Vidal. He played four seasons in the AL(1966-69) and batted under .200 each year. He was a member of the Seattle Pilots during their only season in the majors.

Kinston had seven future major leaguers on it’s roster. Blass spent most of the 1962 season there and longtime Yankee Gene Michael was there all season, his fourth year in the Pirates organization. Also there was pitcher Joe Gibbon, who pitched 248 games for the Pirates. The manager of Kinston was Hardy Peterson, who played four seasons for the Pirates and later became the team’s GM for nine years, including the 1979 season.

The only future major leaguer on Kingsport’s roster was 18 year old catcher Carl Taylor, who played three seasons for the Pirates and six years overall in the majors. He was six years away from his major league debut in 1962. The manager of that team was Albert Kubski, a man who played 16 years in the minors, managed for 14 seasons, yet never made the majors in either role.

Batavia was able to produce two major leaguers, Jerry May and Ron Woods. May was an 18 year old catcher in 1962, just two seasons away from his big league debut. He played parts of seven seasons with the Pirates. Woods took seven seasons to make the majors. He played six seasons, playing for three different teams starting with the 1969 Tigers, who acquired him from the Pirates three years earlier. Batavia’s manager that year was Bob Clear, a winner of 162 minor league games who never made the majors.

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.
  • CWPCWP

    It is honestly amazing how you find all of this ancient info, it is a great read.  You sir are a true historian.

    • JohnDreker

      Thanks. It’s a combo of having a lot of time on my hands and really liking what I’m writing about. When I see something I think someone else might find interesting, I either write something right away or make a note of it for a later day, maybe when it is more relevant to a subject from earlier in the day.

  • Lee Young

    I also liked this writeup on who was in the system 50
    years  ago.

     

    If I remember correctly, Sisk was a highly touted pitcher
    who seemed to always have 1st inn troubles.

     
     

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    When did the Pirates drop Roswell as a minor league team?  I seem to remember that was the first stop for Willie Stargell in the minors.

  • JohnDreker

    They played just that one season(1959) in Roswell and not even the entire year. The team moved from San Angelo,Texas during the season. San Angelo was affiliated with the Pirates first in 1958 so it was only around for two years in the Pirates farm system