Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2003
Former Bucs players born on this date include Gene Freese, born in 1934,who started his ML career with the 1955 Pirates, played with them till mid-1958 and then rejoined them for the 1964-65 seasons. Gene had a good rookie season as a 21 year old splitting his playing time between 2nd base and 3rd base. In 134 games, he hit .253 with 14 HR's and 44 RBI's. He also finished 8th in the league in triples with 8 and 2nd to the Cubs Gene Baker in sacrifice hits with 16. Freese also split 3rd base duties with his brother George who started 50 games there in his only season with the Bucs. Neither one of the brothers were much defensively and Gene by far had the best career.
In his second season, Gene slumped at bat and combined with his shaky defense he ended up not playing much, even for a team that finished in 7th place that year. After hitting just .208 in 1956, he came back to hit a career high .283 in 1957. In 1958 Freese lasted just 17 games into the season with the Bucs before being traded to the Cardinals. He would play for 3 different teams after leaving the Cardinals that offseason. Despite hitting between .268-.277,17-23 homers and 70-87 RBI's each year, he wouldn't last in each town for long. He was also a member of the 1961 Reds W.S. team that lost to the Yankees. Freese batted just .062 in his 5 postseason games.
After a severe leg injury in 1962, Gene's best years were behind him when he rejoined the Bucs to start the 1964 season. In 99 games that year, he batted just .225 with 40 RBI's while splitting 3rd base duties with Bob Bailey. The next year, Gene wouldn't last the season with the Pirates,going to the White Sox mid-season (the second time he had played with them too). While with the Bucs in 1965 he batted .262 in 43 games, with about half of those games played as a pinch hitter. Gene turns 69 today.
Walker Cooper, a catcher who played for the Bucs in 1954, was born on this date in 1915. He was 39 and in his 15th season when he joined the Pirates to start the 1954 season. He played just 14 games with the team that year, with 2 coming as a catcher and 12 as a pinch hitter. Walker went 3-15 with 2 doubles and an RBI before moving on to the Cubs to finish the season. He would go on to play 3 more years and finish with a .285 avg, 173 HR's and 812 RBI's over 1473 games in 18 years. He is the brother of Mort Cooper, who was an all-star pitcher for the Cardinals. They were even battery mates at one point in their career. Walker himself made 8 All-Star teams in a 9 year period between 1942-1950.
Marv Rickert, who played briefly for the 1950 Pirates, was born on this date in 1921. He was a 5 year veteran outfielder when he joined the team, missing 3 full seasons to the war. He was coming off a year in which he hit .292 with 49 RBI's in 100 games with the Braves. While with the Bucs, he lasted just 17 games, playing only 3 in the outfield and being used as a left-handed bat off the bench the rest of the time. Marv hit just .150( 3-20), but drove in 4 runs. He would go to the White Sox and finish his career later that season. Rickert was a .247 hitter over 402 games.
The last former Buc born on this date was John Gilbert, born way back in 1864, who played for the 1890 Pittsburgh team, then known as the Alleghenys. The 1890 Pittsburgh team was the worst in franchise history, going 23-113 on the year. Most of the teams players were lost to the upstart Players League, which folded after just one year. Gilbert made his debut on June 23rd as a shortstop and lasted just 1 more game after that going 0-8 total. That would be his only ML experience. That 1890 team would use 46 different players, including 10 at shortstop, in a time when most teams would use 20 or less for the whole season (The 1st place Dodgers used just 17 that year). The 10 shortstops the Alleghenys used that year combined for 119 errors, but Gilbert was the only one who didn't commit a miscue. John was a lifelong resident of Pottstown, Pa when he died at the age of 39 in 1903.
Finally, current Pirates relief pitcher, Brian Boehringer turns 34 today. He pitched 70 games for the Bucs last year in his first season with the team. His record stood at 4-4 3.39 with 1 save in 79 2/3 innings. He was signed by the Bucs as a free agent on Jan 25, 2002. Happy Birthday Brian!