In a very busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates history, we split up the daily article into three separate articles to properly cover everything that happened on this date. Specifically, it is a big date for birthdays, ten former Pirates players in all, including two very good pitchers. Part one was posted earlier, covering the entire career of Bill Swift, star pitcher for the Pirates during the 1930′s. That can be read here. Part two will cover six players born on this date, with part three coming later this afternoon.
Dusty Brown (1982) Catcher for the 2011 Pirates. He was originally a 35th round pick of the Red Sox in the 2000 amateur draft. It took ten seasons in the Boston system before he finally got his first shot at the majors in June of 2009. It was a short-lived first cup of coffee, as he caught the ninth inning of a blowout loss before being sent back to the minors after just four days. Brown came back in September, going 1-3 in six games, with his first major league hit being a home run. Brown got two more brief call-ups with the Red Sox during the 2010 season, getting into seven games. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Pirates a month later. Dusty would play 54 games for Indianapolis in 2011, hitting .285 with 28 RBI’s. He was called up to the Pirates at the end of May, playing 11 games over three weeks. At the plate, he went 3-28(.107) with three singles and two runs scored. He became a free agent at the end of the year, signing with the Rangers. He currently plays for the Round Rock Express in AAA.
Willis Roberts (1975) Pitcher for the 2004 Pirates. He originally signed with a Tigers as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic. It took seven years for him to make the majors and in his only appearance with Detroit, which occurred on July 2,1999, Roberts gave up four runs in 1.1 innings. Willis was released by the Tigers in early 2000,signing with the Reds and spending the entire season in the minors. After being released again, he signed with the Orioles and made their 2001 Opening Day roster. After playing just one major league game over his first nine seasons, Roberts spent three full years in the majors with the Orioles. He would pitch a total of 138 games, with 18 starts(all coming in 2001) and a record of 17-15 4.57 in 246.1 innings. Willis became a free agent after the 2003 season, signing with the Pirates in January of 2004. He began the year in AAA, going 6-3 5.87 in 35 relief appearances before being called up in July. For the Pirates, Roberts would make nine appearances out of the bullpen, giving up seven runs in 12 innings of work. He didn’t allow a run during his first six outings, then gave up six runs during a blowout loss to the Padres. Shortly after his last game for the Pirates in mid-August, he was released. Willis pitched the next two years in the Mexican League before retiring.
Doug Mientkiewicz (1974) First baseman for the 2008 Pirates. He was drafted by the Twins in 1995 and spent seven seasons in Minnesota at first base to begin his major league career. From 1998 until 2004 with the Twins, Doug hit .275 over 643 games, twice batting .300 and in 2001, he won the Gold Glove award. He was traded to the Red Sox at the 2004 trading deadline, helping them to their first World Series title since 1918. He would spend the next five years jumping from team to team each season. Doug spent 2005 with the Mets, 2006 with the Royals, 2007 with the Yankees, 2008 in Pittsburgh and finally, 2009 with the Dodgers. In his one season in Pittsburgh, he became more of a utility player than in the past. He played 33 games at third base and ten games in right field, two positions he had played a combined total of four times during his first 11 seasons. Doug hit .277 with 30 RBI’s in 125 games for the Pirates. He was used 53 times as a pinch-hitter that year, excelling in the role with a .326 average and seven RBI’s. In his career, he batted .271 in 1087 games, with 405 RBI’s and 422 runs scored. He has a career .996 fielding percentage at first base, the fifth highest of all-time and the best among anyone who played more than ten seasons in the majors.
Butch Davis (1958) Outfielder for the 1987 Pirates. He was originally a 12th round pick of the Royals in 1980 out of East Carolina University, one of just 13 major leaguers that attended that school. One of the other players from that school was his teammate on that 1987 Pirates team, Bob Patterson, although they were only in AAA at the same time during the season. Butch spent parts of two seasons in the majors with the Royals, hitting .344 with 18 RBI’s in 33 games at the end of 1983, then making the 1984 Opening Day roster. That year he really struggled, getting sent down in early May for six weeks, then last just over a month his second trial. He was not recalled in September. Davis struggled in AAA in 1985, then at the end of Spring Training of 1986, he broke his right fibula, missing the entire year. Butch was released by the Royals in October of 1986 and signed with the Pirates two months later. He spent most of that 1987 season playing for Vancouver in AAA, where he batted .271 with 57 RBI’s and 22 stolen bases in 111 games. Davis was called up to the Pirates for three weeks in June, going 1-7 at the plate with three runs scored. He was granted free agency following the season, signing with the Orioles. From 1988 until 1994, he spent parts of five seasons in the majors, playing for three different teams. Butch played a total of 166 major league games, batting .243 with 50 RBI’s. Since retiring, he has been a manager, coach and instructor in the Baltimore Orioles system.
Johnnie LeMaster (1954) Shortstop for the 1985 Pirates. He was drafted in the first round by the Giants in 1973 and would spend 11 seasons in a San Francisco uniform. Johnnie played 986 games for the Giants, staying in the lineup due to his solid defense, more than for his bat. He was a .225 hitters with 21 homers, never batting higher than .254 or slugging more than .335 in a season. After stealing 37 bases through his first eight seasons, LeMaster stole a career high 39 bases in 1983. In 1985, he played 12 games for the Giants, going 0-16, before they dealt him to the Indians in early May. Cleveland held on to him for only 11 games, trading him to the Pirates at the end of May for Scott Bailes. For Pittsburgh, Johnnie played 22 games, hitting .155 with six RBI’s. He was injured in June running out an infield hit, spraining his ankle. While rehabbing, he required minor knee surgery due to fluid buildup and missed nearly the entire rest of the season. LeMaster was released by the Pirates at the end of Spring Training in 1986, signing with the Expos two months later, although he lasted just a month in the minors before being released again. He finished his career in 1987, hitting .083 in 20 games for the Oakland A’s. Johnnie had the dubious distinction of playing for three teams in 1985 that lost 100 games.
Fernando Gonzalez (1950) Third baseman for the 1972-73 and 1977-78 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Seattle Pilots before the franchise played their first game. Fernando was released in April of 1970 without making it to the majors, signing with the Pirates in January of the following year. He hit .308 in the Carolina League during his first year with the Pirates, then followed it up with a big season playing for Sherwood of the Eastern League. In that 1972 season, Gonzalez batted .333 with 42 doubles and 86 RBI’s, earning a September call-up. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1973, being used mainly in a pinch-hitting role. He was with the team until early July, going to AAA until getting recalled in September. Fernando played 37 games that year, the last 24 were off the bench. He made four starts at third base during the first two months. On December 4,1973 he was traded to the Royals.
Gonzalez played nine games in Kansas City before being sold to the Yankees. Ten months later, he was released during Spring Training, going to the Mexican League to play. The Pirates resigned him in July and he spent the rest of 1975, and all of 1976 in the minors. Fernando made the 1977 Pirates Opening Day roster, spending the first half of the year in a limited bench role. He began to play regularly in August, finishing the year with a .276 average and 27 RBI’s in 80 games. He played nine games for the 1978 Pirates before being put on waivers, where he was picked up by the Padres. Gonzalez spent two season in San Diego, seeing regular time at second base, where he hit .233 with 11 homers and 63 RBI’s in 215 games. He finished his playing career back in the Mexican League. For the Pirates, he was a .257 hitter in 129 games.