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Monday, January 30 2023 @ 08:50 am UTC
This Day in Pirate History - 2/22   
By 81omar_moreno

On this date in Pirates history in 1922 Frankie Zak was born. He spent his entire career with the Bucs during the war years from 1944-46. During his rookie year he was the opening day shortstop and he was named to the all-star team. The game was played at Forbes Field that year on July 11th and the Pirates had 4 players on the team, Vince Dimaggio, Rip Sewell and Bob Elliot along with Zak. Frankie was named to the team as a replacement for injured Reds shortstop Eddie Miller.

Although he was an all-star, by the end of the season he was a backup. Frankie Gustine (Feb. 20th article) became the regular SS, moving over from second where he had played since 1940. The SS from 1943, Pete Coscarart, moved over to 2B permanately for the first time since he played there in 1940 for the Dodgers. Zak finished the season hitting .300 in 87 games, but he had just 160 at-bats and 11 RBI's on the year. By the next year Frankie was in the minors, and in his last 2 years in the majors he played just 36 games total. At bat he went just 8-48 and he was used as a pinch runner half the time. He finished with 123 career games played, an almost impossible total for someone who was an all-star at any position besides pitcher.

Tom Griffin who was born in 1948 was a member of the 1982 Pirates. The right hander joined the team after spending 13 years with 4 different teams and he was used as a starter and reliever throughout his career (he started 191 of 401 games in his career). With the Bucs Tom struggled and lasted just 6 games, 4 as a starter, going 1-3 8.87 and giving up 22 runs in 22 1/3 innings. That would be his last year in the majors, ending with a 77-94 4.07 record. Tom had a great year in 1969 as a rookie, going 11-10 in 31 starts with 200 strikeouts, by far his highest SO total in his 14 years.

Born on this date in 1911 was Bill Baker, a teammate of Frankie Zak. A light hitting catcher, he joined the Bucs early 1941 from the Reds for whom he started his career the previous season. He played 35 games as a backup for future HOF'er Al Lopez and hit .224 with 6 RBI's. In 1942 Baker lasted just 18 games into the season because of a broken hand. Back as the regular backup for Lopez in 1943, Baker had his best season hitting .273 with 26 RBI's in 63 games. Bill missed all of 1944 and 1945 while serving in the military, but he returned in 1946 for one last season with the Bucs. He was 1 of 4 catchers to see significant time that year, but he hit just .239 in 53 games. He finished his career playing 2 more years for the Cardinals after spending all of 1947 in the minors. In 263 games he hit .247 with just 30 strikeouts, including 0 in 67 at-bats for the Bucs in 1941.

Finally, Roy Spencer who played for the Pirates from 1925-27 was born on this date in 1900. Roy was a 3rd string catcher behind Earl Smith and Johnny Gooch, and was a member of 2 World Series Pirates teams (1925,1927), but he had just 1 W.S. at-bat without a hit. In his 3 years with the Bucs he played in just 80 games, and he had no homers and 19 RBI's, but he did hit .395 in 43 at-bats in 1926. Roy was granted "free agency" after the 1927 season when Baseball comissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis said the Bucs were unfairly resctricting his playing time. Spencer lasted 9 more years in the majors, and was the starting catcher for the Senators from 1930-32. He also played for the Indians, Giants and Dodgers. He batted .247 career in 636 games.

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