Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2003
On this date in Pirates history the man with the ESPN award named after was born. Cecil Espy (ok, the award wasn't really named after him) turns 40 today. Cecil, a switch hitter, played outfield for the Pirates from 1991-1992. He was originally a member of the Pirates after coming over from the Dodgers in 1985 in a trade for Bill Madlock, but never made it to the majors with them in his first stint with the team. He rejoined the Bucs in 1991 after hitting just .127 in 52 games with the Rangers the previous season. Cecil spent most of the 91' season in the minors, but was recalled on august 1st of that year and hit .244 with 11 RBI's in the last 44 games. He was used at all 3 outfield positions, spending most of his time in center field. In the postseason he pinch hit twice, striking out both times.
In 1992, Cecil spent the whole season with the team, playing in 112 games, but batted just 194 times. He hit .258 with 20 RBI's and the Pirates again made the playoffs. He played in 4 games this time going 2 for 3 with two singles. During the season he again played all 3 outfield positions, this time spending most of the time in right field. Espy would play just one more season, as a member of the Reds and he retired with a career batting average of .244 in 546 games over 8 seasons. He also stole 78 bases from 1988-89, but while with the Bucs he stole just 10 bases total.
Carl Taylor, born in 1944, was a member of the Pirates in 1968-69 and then again in 1971. As a catcher, he made his ML debut on April 11,1968 and he would play 44 games that year, batting 71 times and hitting .211 with 7 RBI's. The next year he would play 1b/lf/rf and pinch hit, and he had success, hitting .348 with 33 RBI's. During the offseason he was traded along with Frank Vanzin to the Cardinals for Dave Giusti and Dave Ricketts.
After playing a full year for the Cardinals in 1970, Carl started the season in 1971 with the Royals, but struggled hitting just .179 before rejoining the Bucs to finish the season. Being used as a pinch hitter, except for one game in right field, Taylor went just 2-12 in 7 games. He would rejoin the Royals again where he would finish his career in 1973 as a .266 hitter in 411 games. Carl is the step-brother of Orioles great, Boog Powell.
Sam Jethroe played just 2 games for the Pirates in 1954, going 0-1 and making a brief appearance in right field. Born, in 1918, Jethroe was a standout player in the Negro Leagues before making it to the majors in 1950 with the Braves when he won the NL Rookie of the Year award. To this day, he is still the oldest player to win the ROY award. He came to the Pirates as part of one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. On Dec. 28, 1953, the Bucs sent Danny O'Connell (who finished 3rd to Jethroe in the ROY voting in 1950) to the Braves for 6 players, including Sid Gordon and Jethroe and also $100,000. After his short stay with the Bucs, Sam went on to play 6 more seasons in the minor leagues, but never appeared in the majors again.
Denny Sothern, born in 1904, played 17 games for the 1930 Pirates. Coming over from the Phillies at the end of the season, he hit just .176 in 17 games, being used mainly as a center fielder. Sothern played just 19 more games the next season for the Dodgers ending his career as a .280 hitter over 5 years. Before he dropped off, he was known as a fast base runner and an above average center fielder. He led the NL in assists in 1928 and hit a career high .306 the next year.
Finally, Jesse Gonder, born in 1936, played 2 unspectacular seasons in 1966-67 as the Pirates backup catcher. A member of the 1960 Yankees that lost to the Bucs in the World Series, Gonder played 59 games for the Bucs in 1966 and he hit .225 with 7 HR's and 16 RBI's. He was a backup to Jim Pagliaroni his first season. In 1967, Jerry May was the everyday starter with Pagliaroni and Manny Sanguillen also seeing time behind the plate. Gonder hit just .139 in 22 games that year, in what would be his last season in the majors. He retired as a .251 hitter in 8 seasons over 395 games.