Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002
Former Pirates players born on this date include 2 players named King who had much different success with the team. First Jeff King, who was the 1st overall draft pick in the 1986 draft, was a member of the Pirates from 1989-1996.
Jeff made his ML debut June 2nd, 1989, but struggled in his first stint with the team though he got plenty of playing time. He saw action in 75 games while hitting just .195, with 5 HR's and 19 RBI's. He played mostly first base that year with some time at each of the other 3 infield positions. In his sophomore season he would play 127 games hitting .245 14HR 53RBI's while playing almost solely at third base. In the playoffs he would go just 1-10, with 5 strikeouts.
In 1991, Jeff would miss most of the season, including the playoffs, with a back injury. He hit .239 in just 33 games. The Pirates acquired Steve Buechele to help fill in while King was injured, but the next season after King started at first base most of the time, the Bucs traded Buechele to make room for King to move back to 3rd base. King would hit just .231, but hit 14HR and 65 RBI's and in the playoffs he would hit .241 with 2 RBI's and score 4 runs.
In 1993, King would hit a career high .295 and drive in 98 runs, he also played 158 games and had 180 hits, good for 9th in the NL. Jeff would be a consistent, if not spectacular, player the next 2 seasons before really breaking out in 1996. He batted .271 with 30 homeruns, 111 RBI's, 15 stolen bases and he scored 91 runs. That offseason King, along with Jay Bell were traded to the Royals for Joe Randa and 3 pitchers named Jeff (check Dec 13th article for more on this trade). Jeff was born in 1964.
The other player named King, Lee King, played outfield for the Bucs from 1916-1918. He was a late season addition to the team and he got into just 8 games going 2-18 with an rbi. In 1917, Lee would get into a career high 111 games, batting .249 with 35 RBI's while playing mostly in right field. In 1918, he would play just 36 games, mostly in left field this time and hit .232. From 1919-1922, he would play for the Giants, then the Phillies, then the Giants again finishing his 7 year career with a .247 average over 411 games. Lee was born in 1892.
John "Bonnie" Hollingsworth pitched 9 games as a rookie for the 1922 Pirates. He pitched his 1st game on May 30th during a doubleheader vs the Reds. Bonnie would get into 9 games, all as a reliever and he would have no record with an ERA of 7.90 over 13 2/3 innings. He allowed 25 base runners in his limited time. In his brief career he would pitch 17 games for Washington in 1923, 3 for Brooklyn in 1924 and finished career with the Braves, pitching 7 games in 1928. He was born on this date in 1895.
The last player born on this date was probably the most famous player known for his futility. Mario Mendoza of the "Mendoza line" fame, turns 52 today. Known for batting under .200 almost every year during his career. He actually hit .221 in his rookie season in 1974. He played 87 games at shortstop that year. During the NLCS vs the Dodgers, he went 1-5 in 3 games. The next 3 seasons in limited time he would hit .180, .185 and .198 respectively earning his dubious distinction of having that futility mark named after him.
In his last year with the team he hit .218 over 57 games. In his 5 seasons with the Pirates he would play 324 games with just 441 at-bats and 36 RBI's. Mario would play 4 more seasons in the majors, twice hitting under .200, but finished his career hitting .215. Although some people say the Mendoza line should be .215, it was really originated by George Brett to be exactly a .200 average and more precise it was actually meant to be his (Mendoza's) current average at the time.
Finally, although not a member of the Pirates, he is my all-time favorite player so I have to send out birthday wishes to Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk who turns 55 today. Happy birthday Pudge!