Posted: Friday, January 17, 2003
On this date in 1947, the Pirates bought Hank Greenberg from the Tigers. He at first decided to retire, but eventually signed a one year contract with the Pirates for $100,000 becoming the first NL player to reach that level. The Pirates in turn, built a bullpen in left field for him to help shorten the home run distance at Forbes Field. The new bullpen was quickly named "Greenberg Gardens". When Hank retired it was renamed Kiner's Korner.
Although Hank didn't put up his usual stats, he served his purpose with the team well. He was a hitting instructor and mentor to Ralph Kiner who was playing in just his second season. Not only did Kiner's stats improve, but attendance improved dramatically. The Bucs had their first season of over million fans in attendance, and it marked a 50% improvement over the previous season. Greenberg batted .249 with 25 homers and 74 RBI's in 1947, his last season in the majors. Overall in a 13 year career, interrupted by 4 full seasons in the military during his prime, Greenberg hit .313 with 331 homers and 1276 RBI's.
Only two former players born on this date. First, Eddie Moore, born in 1899, played for the Pirates from 1923-26. Moore was a late season call up for the Bucs in 1923 and made his ML debut on September 25th during a 18-5 win over the Phillies. He would play 6 games that year, all at shortstop and he hit .269 with an RBI while also scoring 6 runs. The next season he would be used as a right fielder in 35 games, and also made appearances at 3b,2b and LF. In 72 games total he batted .359 and struck out just 12 times in 209 at-bats. If he kept his avg and on base %(.437) the same over the full season, he would've finished 3rd in the league in each category.
In 1925, Moore became the everyday second baseman replacing future Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville and he had his best season of his career. In 142 games, he scored 106 runs (good for 7th in the league) while batting .298 and driving in 77 runs. He finished 3rd in the NL in walks (77), 7th in stolen bases (19) and 4th in sacrifice hits with 19. That season would mark the only time in his 10 year career he would finish in the top-10 in any offensive categories. The Pirates also made the World Series that year. Moore batted just .231 in the 7 game series, but he did score 7 runs in helping the Bucs win 4 games to 3 over Washington.
In 1926, Moore started the season with the Bucs, but he would be sold to the Braves midseason to make room for Hal Ryne. The Pirates had high hopes for Hal, but he did not fulfill his potential, lasting just 2 seasons with the Bucs. Moore batted .227 in 43 games before being sold and finished the year hitting .250. Over 10 seasons he batted .285 in 748 games.
Laurin Pepper, who turns 72 today, played for the Pirates from 1954-1957. As a right-handed pitcher, he was used as a starter and reliever and had 4 fairly unsuccessful stints with the team. In his career, spent all with the Bucs, he had a record of just 2-8 7.06 in 44 games. He started 17 games, but did not complete any. His major downfall was his control as he walked 98 batters in 109 innings career. His best season was 1956 when he went 1-1 3.00 in 11 games, but he still walked 25 batters in 30 innings with just 12 strikeouts.
Laurin was an outstanding football player, drafted by the Steelers, but he signed with the Bucs instead when they offered him $35,000. In his defense, Pepper played with some very bad teams as the Bucs averaged over 90 losses a season during his 4 years. Also, the rules of the time didn't allow players who were originally signed to bonus contracts to be sent to the minors till they had 2 full seasons, so the Bucs had to keep him on the roster the whole season in both 1954 and 1955. Despite that fact, he only pitched 14 games each year. He made his ML debut on July 4th at Forbes Field during a 9-2 loss to the Giants. He wore #18 his first year, #23 the next 2 seasons and ended with #31 in 1957.