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Monday, January 30 2023 @ 07:08 am UTC
This Day in Pirate History - 2/20   
By 81omar_moreno

Usually I start with any trades or signings or important news, but not today. I'm starting with players because the only signing is one most fans would like to forget and the players include one who is one of the best pitchers in team history. On this date in Pirates history in 1928 Elroy Leon Face was born. A member of the Bucs for 15 seasons, he is the all-time franchise leader in games pitched with 802 and in saves with 188. Signed by the Pirates in 1952 by Branch Rickey, Elroy joined the team in 1953 and went just 6-8 6.58 in 41 games, with 13 coming as a starter (just 1 less than he would start the rest of his career).

After not playing in the majors in 1954, Face came back in 1955 and would stay with the Bucs till right before the end of the 1968 season. He had 11 seasons with over 50 games pitched, twice leading the NL in appearances. Ten time he had double digit save totals, 3 times leading the NL including 1962 when he saved a career high 28 games. In 1959 Face had one of the best seasons for a reliever going 18-1 2.70 in 57 games, with 10 saves. He also was named all-star for the first of 3 straight seasons. His .947 win % in 1959 is the highest of any pitcher win more than 12 decisions in a season.

For the 1960 World Champion Pirates team he went 10-8 2.90 with 24 saves in 68 games and in the W.S. he saved games 1, 4 and 5. In 1962, Face posted a career low 1.88 ERA to go along with his career high 28 saves in 63 games. On August 31, 1968 Elroy tied Walter Johnson with the most pitching appearances with one team when he came in to get one out in the first inning of a 8-0 win over the Braves. Steve Blass started the game, but moved to left field while Face got the one out. Before the game was over the Pirates sold Elroy to the Tigers for whom he pitched just 2 games. He finished his career with the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969. Face won 104 career games, 100 as a member of the Pirates.

Born on this date in 1920 was Frank Gustine who played 10 years for the Pirates and went from 3B to 2B to SS back to 2B, and then finished where he started at 3B by the time he left the Bucs in 1948. He made his ML debut in 1939 as a teenager and in 22 games he hit .186. Despite the low average he earned a fulltime job the next season and hit .281 with 55 RBI's in 133 games. Over the next 5 years Frankie's average was up and down (hitting .270,.229,.290,230 and 280), but he played between 112 and 128 games each year.

Starting in 1946 Gustine made his 1st of 3 straight all-star appearances. Although in 1946 and 1948 he didn't perform any better than the previous seasons, in 1947 Frankie hit .297 and scored 102 runs, with 67 RBI's in 156 games, all career highs. He wasn't known for his defense his first 7 seasons with the Bucs, but by the time he was an all-star his fielding was much improved and even led the NL in a few fielding categories when he returned to 3B in 1947. Frankie was traded to the Cubs on Dec. 8, 1948 along with Cal McLish in exchange for Cliff Chambers and Clyde McCullough. In 1261 career games, he hit .265 with 480 RBI's.

Tom O'Brien who was born in 1873 played for the Bucs in 1898 and 1900, spending the year in between with the Giants. Tom started his career for Brooklyn in 1897 and hit .252 in 50 games, playing all 3 outfield positions and also 1st base. He started the 1898 season as Brooklyn's regular right fielder, but struggled and joined the Bucs after just 18 games.He hit .259 with 45 RBI's in 107 games and played every position except RF, catcher and pitcher. After having a great year in 1900 for the Giants, in which he hit .297 with 77 RBI's and 100 runs scored in 150 games, Tom rejoined the Bucs in the offseason. He was a platoon at first base and occasionally played 5 other positions while hitting .290 with 61 RBI's in 102 games.

Just when it seemed like Tom was going to be a great player for years to come tragedy struck. On an offseason trip to Cuba with other ML players from the Giants and Dodgers, he was beginning to get seasick. At the advice of others on the boat, he along with Kid Gleason (manager of the 1919 Black Sox) drank sea water, which they said would make him sick but would cure any further sea sickness. Tom became ill and never recovered from it, eventually dying on Feb 9, 1901 at the age of just 28. Career he hit .278 in 427 games.

Tony Menendez who was born in 1965, pitched one year for the Bucs in 1993. The righty reliever made his ML debut for the Reds in 1992 pitching 3 games. The next season he joined the Bucs, and in 14 games he went 2-0 3.00 in 21 innings. He finished his career the next year pitching 6 games for the Giants. While with the Bucs he struck out in his only career at-bat. Tony wore #67 while with the Pirates.

Harry Raymond who was born in 1862 was a 3B for the Pirates back in 1892, his last season in the majors. The regular 3B for the Louisville Colonels for the previous 3 seasons, Raymond was moved to Shortstop his 4th year with them when Ollie Beard was acquired in the offseason. Raymond was then sent to the Pirates to make room for rookie Hughie Jennings who went on to have a Hall of Fame career. While with the Bucs, Raymond lasted just 12 games and struggled at bat. He hit just .082 (4-49) with 2 RBI's and 4 runs scored. In the field he went back to 3B but made 6 errors in those 12 games. Raymond finished the season, and his career with the Senators later that year. In 315 games he hit .235 with 115 RBI's, with his best season being 1890 when he hit .259 with 91 runs scored.

Finally for the players, Jack Rafter is part of a select group of ML players who lasted just one game in the big leagues. Born in 1875, he played that one game on September 24,1904 for the Pirates as the 1st place Giants won the game 3-1 at the Polo Grounds. Rafter went 0-3 at bat but played flawless defense at catcher. The small right hander was a lifelong resident of Troy, NY.

On this date in 1999, the Pirates signed Pat Meares as a free agent away from the Minnesota Twins for whom he played all 6 of his years in the majors. Meares hit .308 his first season, but was injured almost the whole year playing just 21 games. The next year was his only full season, hitting .240 over 132 games with 47 RBI's. He hit just .211 in 87 games in 2001 and he missed all of 2002 with a hand injury that has probably ended his career. Total in 9 seasons he has hit .258 in 982 games.

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