This Date in Pirates History: February 26

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and no transactions so we get right into the players starting with the most recent first.

Joe Martinez (1983) pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was a 12th round draft pick of the Giants in 2005 that made his major league debut for the team in 2009. Joe went 3-2 7.50 in nine games that season for the Giants, five as a starter. In his second game in the majors on April 9, 2009 he was hit in the head by a liner from Mike Cameron that caused him to miss nearly half the season. He spent most of the first four months of the 2010 season in the minors, pitching four games for the Giants during three separate stints with the team. At the July 31 trading deadline, he was sent to the Pirates along with John Bowker in exchange for relief pitcher Javier Lopez. He first reported to AAA, then joined the Pirates when the rosters expanded in September, posting a 3.12 ERA in five relief appearances. He was traded to the Indians after the season and pitched at AAA all of 2011. Martinez signed with the Diamondbacks for the 2012 season.

George Kopacz (1941) first baseman for the 1970 Pirates. He signed his first pro contract in 1960 yet prior to joining the Pirates he had just six games of major league experience, all with the 1966 Atlanta Braves. Pittsburgh acquired him in July 1969 in exchange for outfielder Shaun Fitzmaurice, who had nine career major league games to his credit, all coming in 1966. In AAA in 1970 Kopacz hit .310 with 29 homers, 110 RBI’s and 100 runs scored, winning the International League MVP and earning a September call-up. He went 3-16 in 10 games, two as a starter at 1B, the rest as a pinch hitter. He returned to the minors in 1971 and played three more seasons, two as a member of the Pirates organization.

Vic Janowicz (1930) catcher for the Pirates in 1953-54. He was a Heisman winner in College at Ohio State who the Pirates signed as a bonus baby, meaning his high bonus amount dictated that the Pirates had to keep him on their major league roster for two full seasons before he could be sent to the minors or they would lose the rights to his contract. He saw limited playing time during his two seasons despite the fact the Pirates lost over 100 games each season. He was a catcher his first season, then saw most of his playing time in 1954 at third base. In 83 career games he hit .214 with two homers and ten RBI’s. After the season the Pirates released him and he played two seasons in the NFL before a car accident ended his sports playing career.

Preacher Roe (1916) lefty pitcher for the Pirates from 1944 until 1947. He was originally signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1938 and pitched one game in the majors that season. It would be six years later before he reached the majors again. On September 30,1943 the Pirates sent two players and cash to the Cardinals for Roe. He had pitched the previous five seasons in the high level minors, getting into 150 games, 85 as a starter although he never topped 167 innings pitched. For the Pirates in 1944 he went 13-11 3.11 in 39 games, 25 as a starter with 185.1 innings pitched. He would win 14 games the following year, upping his innings pitched to 235 thanks in part to 15 complete games. He led the NL in strikeouts with a career high of 148 and his 2.87 ERA ranked sixth in the league. An off-season fight prior to 1946 led to a skull fracture that severely hampered his last two seasons in Pittsburgh. He went a combined 7-23 between 1946-47 with an ERA over 5.00 each season. In December 1947 he was traded to the Dodgers in a six player deal detailed here. Roe would pitch seven seasons in Brooklyn, going 93-37 for a team that would make three World Series appearances during his time there.

Jack Hammond (1891) second baseman for the 1922 Pirates. He first played minor league ball in 1909 before attending Colgate University. Hammond returned to the minors in 1914, then signed with the Indians, making their 1915 opening day roster out of spring training. In 35 games that season he hit .214 with four runs batted in. He returned to the minors until 1922 when he again played for the Indians, this time for just one game in late April. Three weeks later the Pirates purchased his contract, His was used sparingly, getting just two AB’s and five pinch running appearances the first month he was there. Beginning on June 14, he started three straight games at second base, going 1-3 in each game and he made every play hit his way in the field. Those games would be his last in the majors and he finished his playing career the next season in the minors. He is one of just 13 graduated of Colgate to ever play in the majors and out of that group, Hammond is the leader in games played with 45 and his 13 runs scored are five more than the other 12 players scored combined. No Colgate graduate has played in the majors since the 1963 season.

Sam LaRocque (1863) infielder for the Pirates/Allegehenys in 1890-91. He played in the minors from 1884 until 1907, getting in just three seasons of major league experience along the way. He played his first two games in the majors in 1888 for the Detroit Wolverines, hitting .444(4 for 9) but also making four errors. He next appeared with the 1890 Alleghenys team that would finish 23-113 on the year. Sam played 111 games that year, hitting .242 with 27 steals and 59 runs scored. In 1891 he played one game at 3B for the newly named Pirates, going 0-4 with two errors before they released him. LaRocque moved on to Louisville of the American Association where he hit .314 in 10 games, his last time in the big leagues.

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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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