This Date in Pirates History: March 5

Before I get to the former Pittsburgh Pirates player that stands out from the rest on this date, I will mention the current player celebrating a birthday who hasn’t pitched a regular season game for them as of yet. Pitcher Eric Bedard turns 33 today. He went 5-9 3.62 in 24 starts last year, splitting the season between the Mariners and Red Sox. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in early December 2011. Eric has a 56-50 3.70 record in eight seasons in the majors. As for the player that stands out above the rest today, longtime closer Kent Tekulve turns 65 today. He played for the Pirates from 1974 until 1985 and still currently sits in second place on the team’s all-time list of games pitched and saves, trailing only Elroy Face in both categories.

Kent signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1969 and it took him seven seasons and 255 appearances before he established himself as a big leaguer. After making eight appearances with the Pirates in 1974, Tekulve was recalled by the Pirates in late June 1975 and he stuck in the majors for good. He pitched 56 innings over 34 games for Pittsburgh, posting a 2.25 ERA. The next two seasons saw him win 15 total games, accumulate 16 saves and pitch over 100 innings each year.

In 1978 Kent set team records with 91 appearances and 31 saves. He pitched 135.1 innings in relief, posting a 2.33 ERA with eight wins. Those numbers earned him MVP and Cy Young Award votes. The Pirates won their fifth World Series title in 1979 and Tekulve was a big part of that team. He topped his games pitched record, appearing on the mound 94 times and he tied his saves record with 31, while also winning ten games. Kent pitched twice in the NLCS and five times in the WS, saving three games including game seven. For a second straight season he received MVP and Cy Young Award votes.

In 1980 Tekulve posted his highest single season ERA with the Pirates but managed to make the only all-star appearance of his career. He had another big season in 1982, leading the NL with 85 games pitched. He won 12 games that year, saved another 20 and threw 128.2 innings. Kent remained with the Pirates until early in the 1985 season when he was traded to the Phillies for Al Holland and a minor leaguer. He played another four seasons before retiring in 1989. He pitched 1050 games in his career, all in relief and was second on the all-time list for games pitched to Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm when he retired. He currently ranks 8th in that category. While with the Pirates he pitched 722 games, saving 158, winning 70 and throwing a total of 1017.1 innings with a 2.68 ERA.

Other former Pirates born on this date include:

Larry Elliot(1938) outfielder for the 1962-63 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1958. His first two seasons he led his team in homers, 1958 with 16 for the Clinton Pirates and 1959 with 25 for the Wilson Tobs. In 1961 he played his first full season at AAA, hitting 16 homers with 67 RBI’s in 134 games. The next season he started the year with the Pirates but was returned to AAA after just ten AB’s. He spent the rest of the season in the minors where he batted just .235 but hit 23 homers, trailing only Bob Bailey(28) and a 22 year old kid named Willie Stargell who hit 27 homers that year. He made the opening day roster again in 1963 but was sent to the minors after just four pinch hit appearances, three of them resulting in strikeouts. In December 1963 his contract was purchased by the New York Mets. Elliot hit nearly 200 homers in his pro career(15 in the majors) but his first big league hit was a bunt single off future Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry.

Del Crandall(1930) catcher for the 1965 Pirates. He already had 14 years in the majors before the Pirates acquired him from the San Francisco Giants for Bob Burda and Bob Priddy on February 11, 1965. Del was an outstanding defensive catcher, a four time Gold Glove winner despite the fact the award didn’t exist his first six seasons in the majors. He was also named to the NL all-star team 11 times while with the Braves. He wasn’t much of a hitter for average(.254 career,only four seasons over .260) but from 1953 until 1960 he hit at least 15 homers every season. He was on the downside of his career by the time the Pirates traded for him, he played just 69 games in 1964 for the Giants, hitting .231 with three homers. His offensive numbers slipped even more during his only season with the Pirates. He hit .214 with two homers and ten RBI’s in 60 games but on defense he made just one error and threw out 57% of would be basestealers. Pittsburgh released him following the season and he finished his playing career the next year with the Indians. Crandall took up managing following his playing days, spending 17 years as a manager in the pros, six in the big leagues.

Harry Shuman(1915) pitcher for the 1942-43 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1936 and two years later began a string of five straight seasons with at least 11 wins, topping out with 18 victories for the Harrisburg Senators of the Interstate League in 1941. In 1942 he went 12-11 3.18 for Toronto of the International League, earning a September look with the Pirates, his first chance in the majors. On September 14, he pitched the last two innings of a 6-1 loss to the Giants, giving up a walk but no runs or hits and he struck out one batter. In 1943 he was used in a mop-up role, making 11 relief appearances, all in losses, many of them one-sided games. He was eventually returned to Toronto for the last half of the season. Shuman was with the Pirates for the first three months of 1944 but did not pitch and was put on waivers where he was picked up by the Phillies. He pitched 18 games for Philadelphia, all in relief, posting a 4.05 ERA in what would be his last season in the majors. He pitched briefly in the minors in 1946 before retiring

Earl Browne(1911) first baseman/outfielder for the 1935-36 Pirates. He started his pro career at the age of 17 in 1928, playing eight seasons in the minors before getting his first shot in the big leagues in September 1935 with the Pirates. He started as a pitcher but switched to the outfield in 1933. Browne had hit .345 with 19 triples and 13 homers during the 1935 season for Little Rock of the Southern Association. He played nine games for Pittsburgh that year and hit .250 with six runs scored and six RBI’s. He returned to the minors for 1936, this time playing for Minneapolis of the American Association. In 155 games he hit .328 with 35 homers, earning another September promotion. This time he hit .304 in eight games for the Pirates. Just four days prior to opening day in 1937, Pittsburgh traded him to the Phillies in exchange for pitcher Joe Bowman. Browne ended up playing 105 games that season for the Phillies, hitting .292 with 52 RBI’s. The next season he was the regular first baseman the first 19 games of the season, then moved to left field for two games, then to the bench for three games before he was sold to the Cardinals who sent him to the minors. He played another 12 seasons without returning to the majors. Browne also managed for five seasons in the minors, the last three as a player/manager

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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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