This Date in Pirates History: February 16

There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates who were born on this date. Combined they played just 60 games in a Pirates uniform, 51 coming from just one of the players and one of the others played their entire career in just one day.

Luis Figueroa (1974) second baseman for the 2001 Pirates. The Pirates signed him to his first pro contract out of Puerto Rico at the age of 23 in 1997. He split the season between the two A-ball teams batting .240 with 23 stolen bases. The next season he spent the entire year in AA. He hit .249 and drew 71 walks with just 46 strikeouts but his stolen bases saw a huge decline as he stole only six bases all year in 11 attempts. He repeated AA in 1999 and saw a slight improvement in his stats but still began the year back there in 2000. After hitting .284 in 94 AA games in 2000 he earned his first promotion to AAA. He would begin the 2001 season there and hit .300 through his first 92 games. In late June the Pirates called him up to the majors where he played four games off the bench, going 0-2 at the plate before being sent back down. Six weeks after being sent down he was put on waivers where he was picked up by the Mets. Luis finally made it back to the majors in 2006 with the Blue Jays. He also played for the Giants in 2007 and he is still an active player, last playing for the Mets in AAA in 2011. He has played 18 total major league games and 1617 minor league games. Figueroa is the cousin of Jose Hernandez who played shortstop for the Pirates in 2003 and 2006.

Jerry Hairston (1952) outfielder for the 1977 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick on the White Sox in 1970 and played for them until the Pirates purchased his contract on June 13, 1977. He played 51 games for the Pirates hitting .192 in 52 AB’s. His contract was sold to a team from the Mexican League in spring training of 1978. Hairston returned to the majors in 1981 with the White Sox and played until 1989, spending his entire 14 season major league career with the team except for those 51 games for the Pirates. He comes from a huge baseball family, one of a handful of three generation families in major league history. His dad played for the 1951 White Sox, his brother for the 1969 Cubs and his sons Jerry and Scott are still active major leaguers.

Ray Harrell (1912) pitcher for the 1940 Pirates. He pitched three games for the Pirates during his one season on the team, all in relief, all in losses and all came within a four day stretch in early May. He allowed five runs in 3.1 innings before being sent down to the minors where he posted a 6-23 record pitching for Portland in the Pacific Coast League. Usually when you see a player from the 40′s with a big gap in their major league career it is because they served during WWII but for Harrell he actually played in the minors the whole time until getting a brief shot with the 1945 Giants, his last season in the majors. Prior to joining the Pirates as a waiver pickup in January 1940, he played parts of four seasons in the majors with three different teams, compiling a 9-20 record in 104 games. He won 164 games during his 15 season minor league career.

Skip Dowd (1889) pitched for the Pirates on July 5,1910, his only major league game. Bill Powell started for the Pirates that day, his last start for the Pirates but he was able to pitch 15 games for the team before they gave up on him. Dowd came in to finish the 11-3 loss to the Cubs that day and those last four runs by Chicago were all scored off Skip, but none of them were earned runs. He pitched to 13 batters in his two innings, giving up four hits, two walks and he hit a batter. He would be sold to Indianapolis later that month of July and he spent the next five seasons in the minors before retiring as a player. The Pirates got him right after he graduated from Holy Cross College and he is one of 77 players from that school to make it to the majors, although none have appeared in a game since 1977.

John Sullivan (1873) catcher for the Pirates on September 5,1908. Sullivan had previously played 13 games for the Tigers in 1905, his only major league experience prior to coming in to catch the end of an 11-0 loss to the Cubs. It would be his only game for the Pirates. He went 0-1 at the plate and he threw out the only runner that tried to steal off him. Apparently it was okay to attempt a stolen base late in a blowout back then but Sullivan was a strong armed catcher. With the Tigers he threw out 18 of 35 would-be basestealers. He played in the minors from 1900 until 1910

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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.

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