This Date in Pirates History: March 20

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and we start for the one that spent nine seasons in a Pirates uniform. Walter Schmidt(1887) was a catcher for the Pirates from 1916 until 1924. It took him eight seasons of minor league ball before he made his big league debut with the Pirates in 1916 at 29 years old. He had spent the 1911-15 seasons playing for San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. Schmidt hit just .190 his first season with two homers in 184 AB’s. Both home runs had significance though, the first came off the great Christy Mathewson, while the second one would be his last home run until late in the 1924 season, two weeks away from the end of his Pirates career. Following his rookie year, his hitting improved to the point he never hit less than .238 in any season.

He was a strong defensive catcher with a good arm. He threw out 51% of runners attempting to steal during his career and would lead NL catchers in games caught twice, assists twice, caught stealing percentage twice, fielding percentage once and putouts once. During Spring Training in 1922, he held out from signing his contract, looking for a two year deal but the Pirates owner, Barney Dreyfuss, wouldn’t budge on the contract he sent Schmidt to sign, so Walter ended up missing the first 99 games of the season before finally rejoining the team. In 729 games with the Pirates, he hit .257 with 225 RBI’s. Walter finished his major league career as a backup for the 1925 Cardinals, unfortunate timing on his part twice as the Pirates won the 1925 World Series and the Cardinals won it all in 1926. He played in the minors for four more seasons before retiring. His brother Charles “Boss” Schmidt, played six seasons in the majors with the Tigers and was the opposing catcher to the Pirates during the 1909 World Series

Blas Minor(1966) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1992 until 1994. He was drafted four times, twice by the Phillies, before he finally signed with the Pirates in 1988. He was a closer his first year in rookie ball, then jumped to the Carolina League for his first full season in 1989, pitching 86.2 innings with a 3.63 ERA. Blas spent the 1990 at AA, where he had 38 appearances, six as a starter with a 3.06 ERA and five saves in 94 innings. He struggled his first time at AAA but in 1992 he put it all together, posting a 2.45 ERA in 45 games, seven as a starter, with 18 saves in 96.1 innings.

During the middle of that 1992 season, he made his major league debut, pitching two innings on July 28th. That would be his only big league appearance that year but the following season, he made the Pirates opening day roster out of Spring Training. In 65 games, all in relief, Minor went 8-6 4.10 with two saves and 94.1 innings pitched. He had a strong BB/K ratio, striking out 84 while walking just 26 batters. In 1994, he pitched extremely poor, lasting only nine games before being sent back to AAA. He was recalled in mid-June but again was demoted after just one month and never returned to the Pirates. Blas was put on waivers that November, where he was picked up by the Mets. He pitched in 74 games from 1995-97 for three different teams before returning to the minors for good, where he finished his career in 2000.

Rick Langford(1952) Pitcher for the 1976 Pirates. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 1971 and Indians in 1972 but did not sign with either club. The Pirates signed Langford as an amateur free agent in June 1973 and he pitched just ten innings that year in the Gulf Coast League. He moved up to A-ball in 1974 and had a record of 11-7 with a 2.69 ERA in 174 innings. Rick split 1975 between AA and AAA, winning 12 games against just four losses. He began 1976 at AAA, making 16 starts and winning nine, with a 3.20 ERA. Langford was called-up in June to make his debut, pitching ten games before he was returned to the minors. He returned in September for two more appearances. During Spring Training 1977, the Pirates traded him, along with five other players, to the Oakland A’s in exchange for Phil Garner and two lesser players. Langford would go on to play ten seasons in Oakland, posting a 73-105 record in 248 games.

Pete McShannic(1864) Third baseman for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1888. He began his pro career in the minors in 1885 and by 1887, at age 23, he was a player/manager for a team from Johnstown,Pa that played out of the Pennsylvania State Association. He had the same job the following season, playing for the Zanesville Kickapoos of the Tri-State League. At the end of the season, he latched on with the Alleghenys, playing his first major league game on September 15,1888. He played 26 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .194 with five RBI’s in 98 AB’s. McShannic played all 26 of his games at third base and he was an above average fielder. Pete played two more seasons in the minors before retiring from baseball. Despite spending just one month with the Alleghenys in 1888, when the franchise opened up Forbes Field 21 years later, the Pirates invited McShannic back as a guest of the team, along with a handful of other former players, to witness the opening of the new stadium.

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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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