Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Only three former Bucs players born on this date. First one and most prolific of the bunch is Art Whitney. Born on this date in 1858, he played for the Pirates just one year, but was a member of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association from 1884-1886, and the Alleghenys in turn became the current Pirates franchise.
Whitney had a rough start to his career. As a 22 year old rookie, he was a third baseman for the Worchester Ruby Legs and he batted .222 in 76 games. The next year, playing for the Detroit Wolverines, he batted just .182 in 58 games. It got worse in 1882 playing for first the Providence Grays, then back to the Wolverines he batted .155 total in 42 games. The season before joining the Alleghenys he spent the whole year in minor league ball.
The struggling started to pay off the next year when in 23 games for the Alleghenys he batted a career high .298 in 23 games. The next season he would move over to shortstop and hit just .233 in 90 games with 28 RBI's.
In 1886, which would be the last for Pittsburgh in the American Association, Whitney split between 3B and SS and also played in a career high 136 games. He batted .239 with 55 RBIs and the team finished in 2nd place. He also pitched 6 innings of a game, giving up just 2 runs with no decision. When they moved to the National League the next year, Whitney along with the manager and 10 other players, followed.
The Pirates were still known as the Alleghenys after they moved to the NL, and they still played in the same park, named Recreation Park, as they did with the AA. The team finished 55-69 in 6th place and Whitney would hit .260 (his highest total in the National League) in 119 games, played all at 3rd base. He drove in 51 runs, just 3 behind the team leader ,and walked 55 times, which led the team and placed him 9th in the NL.
Whitney went on to play for the NY Giants the next 2 years. Then he joined the NY Giants of the Players League and when that league folded he moved back to the AA.In his 11 year career he hit .223 in 978 games. He hit just 6 homers and drove in 349 runs career.
Erskine Mayer, born in 1889 was a right handed pitcher for the Pirates in 1918-1919. He joined the Bucs from the Phillies in midseason during 1918. While with the Phils he had two 20 win seasons, 1914-15 and was 7-4 at the time of the trade. He finished the season going 9-3 2.26 in 15 games for the Pirates and the Bucs finished 65-60 on the year, good for 4th place. The next year Mayer went 5-3 4.48 in 18 games before being sent to the White Sox to finish the year.
Mayer would pitch one inning in the World Series that year,giving up no runs. That's the series made famous by the White Sox, who had a number of players accept money to throw the W.S. (the famous 1919 Black Sox scandal) Erskine was not one of the players involved in the fix. He did not appear in the majors after that year, finishing with a career 91-70 2.96 record. Mayer's brother Sam played 11 games for the 1915 Senators.
Finally, Ron Villone who pitched for the Pirate this last season turns 33 today. The opening day starter, he went 4-6 5.81 total in 45 games, 7 as a starter. Villone was signed as a free agent and had previously pitched for the Astros, Rockies, Reds, Indians, Brewers, Padres and Mariners. His career record stands at 33-37 5.04 in 319 games.