This Date in Pirates History: March 3

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and just like yesterday, there is a player from the 2011 team. Starting with the newest player first, the list of former Pirates players includes:

Matt Diaz(1978) outfielder for the 2011 Pirates. He was originally a 17th round draft pick of the Devil Rays in 1999 and since 2003 has made at least a brief appearances in the majors each season. In 2010 he hit .250 with seven homers in 84 games for the Braves. The previous season he set career highs with 13 homers and 58 RBI’s while hitting .313 in 125 games. On December 14, 2010 he signed a two year contract with the Pirates. Diaz played exactly 100 games with Pittsburgh, hitting .259 with 19 RBI’s and no homers. On August 31st he was traded to the Braves for minor league pitcher Eliecer Cardenas.

Neal Heaton(1960) lefty pitcher for the Pirates from 1989 until 1991. He was a second round draft pick of the Indians in 1981 who made his major league debut just one season later. By 1983 he was already an 11 game winner in the majors who not only threw three shutouts but he also saved seven games. He moved into the starting role full-time the next two seasons and did not pitch well but was also hurt by some poor teams behind him. He posted a 21-32 record between 1984-85 with an ERA over 5.00 in 67 starts. Neal was traded to the Twins and then the Expos who kept him until late spring 1989 when he was shipped to the Pirates in exchange for 24 year old pitcher Brett Gideon. Heaton started 18 games for the Pirates in 1989 and pitched another 24 games out of the bullpen. He had a career best 3.05 ERA in 147.1 innings pitched. In 1990 he went 12-9 3.45 in 146 IP, helping the Pirates to their first division title since 1979. He also made his first and only all-star appearance that season. In 1991 he pitched out of the bullpen all year, posting a 4.33 ERA in 42 games. In 1992 the Pirates traded him during spring training to the Royals in exchange for Kirk Gibson. Heaton played in the majors until July 1993 and in 382 career appearances, he won 80 games and had a 4.37 ERA.

Ron Wotus(1961) middle infielder for the 1983-84 Pirates. He was originally a 16th round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1979 amateur draft. He didn’t hit much his first two years in the minors but in 1981 in A ball he hit .283 with 63 walks, 63 RBI’s and 72 runs scored. He improved upon those overall stats the next season, splitting the year between AA and AAA. In 1983 he hit .301 in AAA with ten homers and 94 runs scored in 125 games. He got a September call-up and in five games off the bench, he went 0-3 at the plate. Wotus started in AAA in 1984, then got a late June recall after Rafael Belliard fractured his fibula. He remained with the team through the end of the season but received very little playing time. At one point he went 34 games without an AB, getting into just three games as a late inning defensive replacement. Wotus ended up playing 27 games, hitting .218 in 64 plate appearances. He played in the minors with the Pirates through 1986 before playing three more seasons at AAA(Royals/Giants) without getting back to the majors. Ron managed for seven seasons in the minors before taking the helm of the San Francisco Giants for the 2006 season. He is currently the Giants bench coach.

Jesse Jefferson(1949) pitcher for the Pirates on October 3,1980. He was originally a 4th round draft pick in 1968 by the Orioles. Jesse made his major league debut in 1973 and had a 7-5 record through his first two seasons but by the time he joined the Pirates he had a career record of 36-77 in 210 games. He was a starting pitcher for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977 and in four years there, he went a combined 22-56 with a 4.75 ERA. The Blue Jays put him on waivers where he was picked up by the Pirates on September 11,1980. He pitched just one game for Pittsburgh, going 6.2 innings while allowing just one run and he got credit for the win. The Pirates allowed him to leave via free agency once the season ended and he played just one more year in the majors with the California Angels.

Aubrey Epps(1912) catcher for the Pirates on September 29,1935. He had a nine season minor league career, hitting .290 in 944 games but his major league career lasted just one game. He played with two teams during the 1935 minor league season, playing a combined 85 games with a .288 batting average. The Pirates called him to the majors in late September and let him catch the last game of the season, the second game of a doubleheader. He had an amazing debut at the plate, collecting three hits and driving in three runs but he was just the opposite in the field. He allowed three stolen bases on three attempts and committed two errors as the Pirates lost by a 9-6 score. Epps played in the minors until 1941.

Bill Brenzel(1910) catcher for the 1932 Pirates. He played five season in the minors before the Pirates gave him his first chance at the big leagues to start the 1932 season. He played nine games, six as a starter and the Pirates lost all six of those games. He had just one base hit in 24 at bats, an RBI double. Pittsburgh sold his contract to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League on July 4,1932. He played for the 1934-35 Indians before returning to the minors for another seven seasons. He also managed in the minors and was a longtime scout.

Ed Phelps(1879) catcher for the 1902-04 and 1906-08 Pirates. He spent five seasons in the minors before getting his first shot at the majors with the 1902 Pirates as a September call-up. In 1903 the Pirates won the NL pennant for a third time in a row and Phelps split the catching duties with Harry Smith that season. Ed hit .282 with 31 RBI’s in 81 games that year, then hit .231 in the World Series, getting into all eight games. In 1904 he caught a career high 91 games, hitting .242 with 28 RBI’s and just eight extra base hits. In February 1905 the Pirates traded Phelps to the Reds in exchange for veteran catcher Heinie Peitz. Ed played with Cincinnati until May of 1906 when the Pirates purchased his contract and had him backup George Gibson for three seasons. In 313 games with the Pirates, Phelps was a .247 hitter with 100 RBI’s. He played in the majors until 1913 and was in the minors until the 1915 season.

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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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