With seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, we split the daily article into two today. For the first one, we take a look at two of the better players in team history, Jason Kendall and Bill Robinson. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look at a game involving Jason Kendall, that had a memorable stolen base from an unlikely source.
Jason Kendall (1974) Catcher for the Pirates from 1996 until 2004. He was drafted by the Pirates out of High School in the first round of the 1992 amateur draft. After playing 33 games in the Gulf Coast League his first year, Kendall moved up to Augusta of the South Atlantic League. In 1993, he hit .276 with 40 RBI’s in 102 games. Jason showed great contact, with just 30 strikeouts but also walked only 22 times and hit one homer all year. In 1994, he moved up to Salem of the Carolina League and had a breakout season. Kendall batted .318 with an .843 OPS and 14 stolen bases, earning a late season promotion to AA. He would spend the entire 1995 season playing for Carolina in AA, batting .326 with 71 RBI’s and 81 runs scored in 117 games. He had an impressive 56 walks with just 22 strikeouts.
The Pirates decided to keep Kendall in 1996, skipping him over AAA and making him their everyday starter. The move proved to be the right one as Jason finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting and made the NL All-Star team. He batted an even .300 on the season in 130 games, driving in 42 runs and scoring 54 times. Jason caught 142 games in 1997, batting .294 with 36 doubles and 18 stolen bases. His 1998 season would be even better. He played 149 games, hitting .327 with 75 RBI’s, 94 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. He made his second All-Star team and led all NL catchers with 1015 putouts. It looked like his 1999 season would be even better, but a freak ankle injury ended his season early.
On July 4,1999 Kendall tried to bunt for a hit against the Brewers and in a close plate at 1B, he hit the bag awkward, breaking his right ankle. It was a gruesome injury, one that caused him to miss the rest of the year but he returned healthy in 2000 and didn’t miss a beat. Jason played 152 games that year, hitting .320 with a career high 14 homers and 112 runs scored. He made the All-Star team for the third time and led all NL catchers in games caught, assists and putouts.
The Pirates decided in 2001 to give their catcher a break, yet keep his bat in the lineup by playing him in the outfield on occasion. There was talk of moving him full-time to outfield but that never happened. His hitting suffered in 2001, despite the breaks from catching. He batted .266 and his OPS dropped nearly 200 points from the previous season. The outfield experiment ended in 2002 but his hitting didn’t return to form until the following year.
In 2003, Jason hit .325 with 191 hits and 84 runs scored in 150 games. He caught 146 games on the year, the fifth time he caught the most games in the NL. His 2004 season was just as good, batting .319 with 86 runs scored in 147 games. After the 2000 season, Kendall signed a six year $60mil extension with the Pirates that would’ve kept him around until 2007. The contract by 2004 was a large portion of the Pirates payroll and they decided to move him.
On November 27,2004, the Pirates traded Kendall to the Oakland A’s for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. He played 2 1/2 years for the A’s, before getting traded to the Cubs during the middle of the 2007 season. Jason then spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Brewers, before playing his last year in the majors in 2010 with the Royals. He was signed for 2011 but missed the entire season after shoulder surgery.
While with the Pirates, Kendall set the team record in games caught. He played 1252 in a Pittsburgh uniform, batting .306 with 1409 hits. He ranks 15th in team history in games, 16th in runs and hits, 13th in doubles and 17th in stolen bases. Kendall caught 2025 games in his career, the fifth highest total ever. He led the league in games caught eight times, assists five times, putouts four times and runners thrown out five times. He collected 2195 hits, scored 1030 runs, stole 189 bases and finished with a .288 career average. Jason’s father Fred Kendall, was a catcher in the majors for 12 seasons.
Bill Robinson (1943) Pirates infielder/outfielder from 1975 until 1982. He was originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves as a free agent in 1961. Bill had a slow start, hitting .239 with two homers, playing 67 games in Class-D ball. He repeated the level the next year and showed a huge improvement, batting .304 with eight homers, earning a late promotion to Class-C ball. Robinson worked his way slowly through the minors, playing two straight seasons of A-ball and doing well each year. He hit .316 with ten homers in 1963, then followed it with a .346 season in which he hit 18 homers.
The Braves AAA team in 1965 was in Atlanta, which would change the next season when the major league team moved to the city. Robinson spent that 1965 season in AAA, where he hit .268 with ten homers in 133 games. He would repeat the level the next year, earning himself a late season call-up with his .312 average and twenty homers. After the season, Bill was traded to the New York Yankees for Clete Boyer. The Yankees would put him in the lineup and let him play through his struggles for three seasons. From 1967-69, Robinson played 310 games in New York, hitting .206 with a .582 OPS.
In 1970, Bill spent the entire year in the minors for the Yankees, then got traded to the White Sox. After spending all of 1971 in the minors, he was dealt to the Phillies, spending the first two months of the 1972 season at AAA. He was called up at the end of June and hit .239 in 82 games, seeing time at all three outfield positions. Robinson had his first big season in 1973 when he hit .288 with 32 doubles and 25 homers. He played 14 games at third base and at least 15 games at all three outfield spots. His inconsistencies returned the next year, hitting .236 with 17 walks and five homers, resulting in a low .626 OPS.
Just before Opening Day in 1975, the Pirates pulled off a trade that turned out to be a steal. They gave up minor league pitcher Wayne Simpson in exchange for Robinson. Simpson won seven major league games after the deal, while Robinson played eight seasons in a Pirates uniform. That first year in Pittsburgh, Bill was a backup outfielder and he was used often as a pinch hitter. He got 200 AB’s in 92 games and hit .280 with 33 RBI’s.
In 1976 he began to see more regular time and Robinson would have his best season, at least up to that point. He batted .303 with 21 homers and 64 RBI’s, seeing playing time at five different positions, adding 1B to his resume. Robinson was valuable enough to the team that NL MVP voters took notice, as he received votes for the first time. His 1977 season would be even better, the best of his career. He set career highs with a .304 average, 26 homers, 104 RBI’s and 74 runs scored. Bill finished 11th in NL MVP voting, the second highest finish on the team to Dave Parker, who finished third.
Bill’s average dropped to .246 in 1978 but he drove in 80 runs and scored 70 times, while also setting a career high with 36 doubles. The Pirates won the NL East in 1979 and Robinson contributed 24 homers and 75 RBI’s. In the playoffs, he went 0-3 in the NLCS but got more time in the World Series, where he batted .263 with two runs and two RBI’s in 22 plate appearances. In 1980, Robinson moved to a bench role, getting 272 AB’s with a .287 average and 36 RBI’s. He saw even less time during the strike-shortened 1981 season, playing 39 games. He missed time due to a heel injury that occurred just a week into the season. Bill played 31 games for the Pirates in 1982, batting .239 with four homers and 12 RBI’s.
On June 15,1982, the Pirates traded Robinson to the Phillies for Wayne Nordhagen. He remained in Philly until June of 1983, when he was released, ending his career. Bill played a total of 1472 games in the majors, hitting .258 with 166 homers and 641 RBI’s. While with the Pirates, he hit .276 with 109 homers and 412 RBI’s. He worked in baseball, mostly as a coach, from 1984 until his untimely passing in 2007.
Jolly Roger Rewind: June 26, 2001
Aramis Ramirez’s two-out, two-run homer tied the game in the bottom of the eleventh and Rob Mackowiak completed the walk-off win an inning later by singling in Kevin Young, but the Pirates’ dramatic 7-6 victory over Milwaukee will long be remembered for the aftermath of a humble seventh-inning groundout.
Jason Kendall, celebrating his twenty-seventh birthday, opened the bottom of the seventh in a 4-4 game by hitting a ground ball to Brewers shortstop Jose Hernandez. Hernandez threw to first, and first base umpire Rick Reed called Kendall out. Reed’s ruling notwithstanding, replays revealed that Kendall had beaten the throw to first.
First-year Bucco manager Lloyd McClendon had left the dugout in the first inning to challenge Reed’s call that Abraham Nunez was out on a grounder. This time, McClendon again came out to argue, but Reed ejected him quickly.
McClendon did not go away quietly. As the Associated Press reported, “McClendon continued to argue in the face of Reed before walking away and kicking up some dust. On his way off the field, he pulled first base from its moorings and took it into the runway to the clubhouse to an ovation from the 24,120 on hand at PNC Park.”
Their manager’s “stolen base” did not immediately reverse the Pirates’ fortunes. The Brewers, who had rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the bottom of the sixth on a Jeromy Burnitz RBI single and Hernandez two-run homer off Bucco starter Jimmy Anderson, surged ahead in the top of the eleventh when Tyler Houston and Devon White hit back-to-back home runs against Mike Williams. But Milwaukee reliever Ray King allowed a two-out single in the bottom of the frame to Brian Giles, and Ramirez then tied the game by driving a 2-0 pitch into the third row of the left field stands for his fourteenth homer of the season.
An inning later, the Bucs were winners, when Young doubled off King and Mackowiak came through with his RBI single to right field. The victory left the Pirates twenty games under .500, but they had created one of the enduring highlights of PNC Park’s first season.
Box score and play-by-play
Associated Press game story