This Date in Pirates History: April 15

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one minor trade mentioned below. Starting with the most recent player first:

Jeromy Burnitz(1969) Right fielder for the 2006 Pirates. He already had 13 seasons of major league experience when the Pirates signed him to a one year contract on January 9,2006. He had played for five different teams over the five previous seasons at the time of the signing. In 2005 for the Cubs, Burnitz hit .258 with 24 homers and 87 RBI’s in 160 games. For the Pirates, he ended up hitting .230 with 16 homers and 49 RBI’s in 111 games. His first home run of the season was the 300th of his career, becoming just the third player(Stargell/Kiner) to hit his 300th homer while wearing a Pirates uniform. Jeromy retired following the 2006 season. For his career, he hit .253 with 315 homers, 981 RBI’s and 917 runs scored in 1694 games.

Mike Diaz(1960) Utility player for the 1986-88 Pirates. He was originally a 30th round draft pick of the Cubs in 1978, making it to the majors for the first time in 1983 for six September games. Chicago traded him to the Phillies prior to the 1984 season and he spent the entire year in AAA. Early in the 1985 season, the Pirates traded for Diaz, giving up minor league catcher Steve Herz. Mike spent the year at AAA Hawaii, then made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1986. In his first season, Diaz hit .268 with 12 homers and 36 RBI’s. He followed that up with a .241 average, 16 homers and 48 RBI’s in 103 games during the 1987 season. He was playing mostly off the bench through August of 1988, when the Pirates traded him to the Chicago White Sox for Gary Redus. Diaz was released at the end of the year and he spent the last four seasons of his playing career in Japan. While with the Pirates, Mike split the majority of his time between first place and left field, but he also saw time at right field, catcher and third base.

Bill Pierro(1926) Pitcher for the 1950 Pirates. He was a hard-thrower with strong minor league stats but his major league career was ended by illness shortly after it started. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1947 and struggled with his control in the low minors that first season. Bill turned it around quickly in D-ball in 1948, posting a 17-8 2.15 record in 230 innings. He was still wild but he was also very hard to hit, allowing just 114 hits all season. Pierro moved up to class B for the 1949 season and continued his success with the Waco Pirates. He went 18-11 2.96 in 255 innings that season. In 1950 Bill moved up to AAA with the Indianapolis Indians, going 8-3 2.60 in 25 games before getting called up to the Pirates in mid-July. He had a rough go with the Pirates, posting a 10.55 ERA in twelve games, three as a starter. He pitched 29 innings, gave up 33 hits and walked 28 batters. As the 1951 Spring Training schedule was wrapping up, Bill started complaining of a gastritis attack and dizziness. Just days later(on his birthday), he was rushed to the hospital with what turned out to be inflammation of the brain. He was listed in critical condition and the first few days it didn’t look good for him but he eventually recovered, although it marked the end of his baseball career. The Pirates released him in April of 1952.

King Cole(1886) Pitcher for the 1912 Pirates. He had an amazing rookie season, going 20-4 with a league leading 1.80 ERA.  Cole was almost as good his second season, going 18-7 3.13 in 221.1 innings. His pitching quickly went downhill in 1912, going 1-2 10.89 in eight games through the end of May. The Pirates and Cubs hooked up on a four player trade, with Tommy Leach and Lefty Leifield going to Chicago and Cole and Solly Hofman coming back to Pittsburgh. King(first name was Leonard) went 2-2 6.43 in 12 games for the Pirates, making five starts and pitching 49 innings. He spent the 1913 season pitching for the Columbus Senators of the American Association where he went 23-11 in 46 games, throwing a total of 341.2 innings. The Yankees took him in the 1913 rule 5 draft and he spent two seasons in New York. Late in 1915 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he passed away on January 6,1916 at the age of twenty-nine. Cole had a career record of 54-27 with a 3.12 ERA.

Ed Abbaticchio(1877) Middle infielder for the 1907-1910 Pirates. He made his debut with the 1897 Phillies, playing parts of two seasons in Philadelphia before spending the next four years in the minors. Ed returned to the majors with the Boston Beaneaters in 1903 and became the first Italian-American star in baseball, and possibly the first ever in the majors. Abbaticchio sat out the 1906 season to manage a hotel in Pittsburgh owned by his family. Boston traded him to Pittsburgh on December 11,1906 in a trade covered here. Ed was a shortstop with Boston but with Honus Wagner at shortstop in Pittsburgh, he moved to second base. In his first season he hit .262 with 82 RBI’s, 65 walks and 35 stolen bases. In the field he led the league in errors for second baseman. During the 1904 and 1905 seasons, he also led the NL in errors among shortstops, so what happened in 1908 was probably are surprise. Abbaticchio hit .250 with 61 RBI’s in 146 games that season, plus he had the best fielding percentage among NL second baseman. During Spring Training of 1909, Ed lost his starting job to rookie Dots Miller, forcing him to the backup middle infielder role. In 36 games, he hit .230 with 16 RBI’s and in the World Series, he saw just one AB. In 1910, Ed played just three games for the Pirates through the end of June, leading Pittsburgh to sell him back to Boston on July 1st. He would be released at the end of the season, ending his baseball career.

One minor deal to mention from this date. In 2009, the Pirates acquired Delwyn Young from the Dodgers for two players to be named later. The Pirates later sent minor leaguers, Eric Krebs and Harvey Garcia to Los Angeles to complete the deal. Young played 234 games for the Pirates during the 2009-10 seasons, hitting .255 with 14 homers and 71 RBI’s, while neither Krebs nor Garcia played for the Dodgers in the majors and both are out of baseball.

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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.
  • jfredland

    On this date in 1997…

    In an early manifestation of the flair for the bizarre that would cause broadcaster Greg Brown to dub the Pirates’ surprising contender the “Freak Show,” Tony Womack got hit in the head with a two-out, 0-2 pitch from San Diego left hander Sterling Hitchcock with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning at Three Rivers Stadium, giving the Pirates a 3-2 walk-off victory over the Padres.  Womack laid at home plate for two minutes before trainer Kent Biggerstaff helped him to first base to end the game.  “I’m one who will take one for the team, but not in the face,” Womack told the (Washington/Greene County) Observer-Reporter after the game.

    Bucco closer John Ericks “vultured” the victory from Jon Lieber by allowing a game-tying home run to Greg Vaughn in the top of the ninth, and then sticking around to be the pitcher of record upon Womack’s heroics.

    Here’s the box score and play-by-play:

    Here’s the Observer-Reporter’s account of the game:

  • JohnDreker

    I have almost no recollection of that 1997 season, I was working three jobs to pay off a 1969 Camaro I bought right out of HS. Wish someone told me back then to pay closer attention, the team might not be interesting again for awhile

    • jfredland

      I’ll be touching on many of the 1997 season’s highlights as the year goes on.  It’s one of my fondest-remembered years as a baseball fan.  I started off as a senior at Rice University, covering the baseball team for the school newspaper; the Owls, led by soon-to-be-first-round-draft-picks Lance Berkman and Matt Anderson, made the College World Series for the first time in school history.  After graduation in May, I moved back to Mt. Lebanon for a few months, and I wound up making many trips to Three Rivers with friends and family to see a Pirate team that was “relevant” for the first time in years.  In August, I started law school in Nashville, where I had a roommate who was really into sabermetrics, thereby introducing me to a lot of the cutting-edge internet work on the game.