This Date in Pirates History: March 29

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Starting with the most recent one first we have, Danny Kolb(1975) relief pitcher for the 2007 Pirates. He struggled in parts of four seasons with the Rangers before moving on to Milwaukee, where he turned his career around. In 2003 he had a 1.96 ERA and 21 saves in 37 appearances, then followed that up with a 2.98 ERA and 39 saves in 2004, making the NL all-star team. The Brewers traded Danny to Atlanta, where he pitched poorly, posting a 5.93 ERA in 65 appearances. He was traded back to the Brewers and failed to regain his form from the 2003-04 seasons. He was released by the Brewers and signed with the Pirates in February 2007. He missed time during the season and spent most of the year in AAA, getting just three relief appearances with Pittsburgh in mid-June. Kolb was released after the season and signed with the Red Sox for 2008, pitching nine games in the minors before being released, ending his career. His cousin Gary Kolb, played for the 1968-69 Pirates.

Sean Lowe(1971) Pitcher for the 2002 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Cardinals in 1992 and made his debut with St Louis five seasons later. After ten games in the majors between the 1997-98 seasons, he moved on to the White Sox, where he made 159 appearances over three season. On December 13, 2001 the Pirates traded Todd Ritchie to Chicago in exchange for Lowe, Josh Fogg and Kip Wells. Lowe made 43 appearances for the Pirates before he was released in early September. In 69 innings he had a 4-2 record and a 5.35 ERA. He finished that season with the Rockies, then spent most of 2003 in the majors with the Royals. That was his last season in baseball, leaving him with a 23-15 4.95 record in 248 career games.

Mike Kingery(1961) Outfielder for the 1996 Pirates. He made his major league debut in 1986 with the Royals, seven years after signing as an amateur free agent. From 1986 until 1992 he split six seasons between the majors and AAA, with his only full season in the majors coming in 1987 with the Mariners. After spending all of 1993 in the minors, he signed with the Rockies and hit .349 in 105 games in 1994. At first glance, one would assume he was helped greatly by the thin air in Colorado but he actually hit 29 points higher on the road that season. The following season his average dropped 80 points and the Rockies let him go via free agency at the end of the year. Kingery signed quickly with the Pirates and in 117 games in 1996, he hit .246 with three homers and 27 RBI’s. He started 58 games all year and spent most of his time in the field playing center field. He was released after the season and decided to retire from playing baseball to open a baseball school in Minnesota that he still runs to this day.

Bob Steele(1894) Pitcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. He was born in Canada and made his pro debut in the states in the majors, playing for the 1916 St Louis Cardinals. They were a very poor team, finishing last in the league in runs scored and they had the worst ERA, leaving them with a 60-93 record. Steele had a 3.41 ERA in his rookie season, a number that doesn’t sound bad but was actually rather high for the time. His record showed just how bad the team was, as he went 5-15 in 21 starts and eight relief appearances. In 1917, he began the year with the Cardinals, who were a much improved team, but in mid-June he was shipped to the Pirates in exchange for infielder Doug Baird. The Pirates in 1917 were even worse than the 1916 Cardinals. They finished with a 51-103 and Steele went 5-11 despite a 2.76 ERA. That team had six starters who combined for a 33-87 record, while the franchise’s all-time wins leader, Wilbur Cooper, somehow pulled off a 17-11 record. Steele began the 1918 season with the Pirates, going 2-3 3.31 in 49 innings before he was sold to the Giants on June 20th. He pitched 12 more games for the Giants that season and one last appearance in 1919 before his major league career ended. Steele was sold to a minor league team just days after his last appearance and he finished his baseball career that year in the minors.

Duff Cooley(1873) First baseman for the 1900 Pirates. He made the majors as a 20 year old in 1893 and already had seven seasons in at the majors prior to the Pirates acquiring him for cash from the Phillies on April 30, 1900. Cooley was a .315 career hitter in 696 games at that point. In 1899 for the Phillies he hit .276 with 31 RBI’s and 75 runs scored in 94 games. That season was the first that he primarily played first base, prior to that he played more games at all three outfield positions than he did at first base. For the Pirates, he played just 66 games and easily had the worst season of his career at the plate. Duff hit .201 with 22 RBI’s and 30 runs scored in 249 AB’s. His career was far from over though, he ended up playing another five seasons in the majors and from 1902-04 he was a solid regular for the Boston Beaneaters. Cooley finished with a .294 career average and 849 runs scored in 1317 games. After the 1905 season, he played another four seasons in the minors and managed for three years. In 1922, at age 49, he not only managed Topeka of the Southwestern League, he also pitched seven games.

Hank Gastright(1865) Pitcher for the 1893 Pirates. He began his major league career in the American Association in 1889, pitching for the Columbus Solons. Hank had a rough first season, going 10-16 but he really turned it around in 1890. That year he went 30-14 2.94 in 401.1 innings, helping Columbus go from sixth place the previous season, to a second place finish. In 1891 the Solons were back to a sixth place team and Gastright went 12-19 in 33 starts. The American Association folded after the 1891 season and Hank joined the Washington Senators, where he struggled with an ERA over 5.00 in limited time. He joined the Pirates to start 1893 and won three of his five starts in the first month. The Pirates also won another start of his but he wasn’t around long enough to pick up the win. A month after his last start, he was released and he signed with the Boston Beaneaters to finish the season. Despite a season ERA of 5.44(It was 6.25 with the Pirates), Gastright had a 15-5 record, giving him the best winning percentage in the majors. Hank would pitch just 16 games in 1894 and one game in 1896 before his big league career was over. He finished his pro career in the minors in 1897.

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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.
  • cocktailsfor2

    Man, I love this stuff. Keep it up, dude!

    • JohnDreker

      I plan to, although the amount of articles will go down a little during the minor league season as I switch my focus to those games,doing the daily schedule, scouting games and taking notes for the prospect guide. I’d like to have the history section to the point that any player/team/season you want to know about, people come here for the information. Will probably takes many years to get there but for now I’m noticing an increase in past articles I can include as relevant links such as the ones above for Gary Kolb, Wilbur Cooper and the Fogg,Wells/Ritchie trade. Should only get better in that regard as time goes on.

      • cocktailsfor2

         I know you’re workin’ hard and doin’ your best, sir – I look forward to these, and whatever “improvements” you make can only enhance the experience.

        Cheers!

  • Lee Young

    John……you are invoking my teenage years. My college years were 70-74, so you KNOW I had a good time going to the games. :)

    I still remember ‘real’ doubleheaders. I still remember when I could sit through 2 games! lol

  • JohnDreker

    Glad you enjoy them and hopefully the Pirates at some point will be as good as these players remember them being. Poor Duff Cooley leaves right before a three year run of NL pennant titles!