Pittsburgh Pirates: Oldest Rookies in Franchise History

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Drew Maggi is one of the Pittsburgh Pirates oldest rookies. Let's take a look at the oldest rookies in team history.

Drew Maggi making his debut makes him one of the oldest "rookies" in Pittsburgh Pirates history. The Pittsburgh Pirates have certainly had their long line of notable rookies, but the ones I want to look at today are the oldest ones that made their debut. They didn't necessarily have to graduate rookie status.

Since 1947, there have only been six Pirate rookies to have made their debut at 33 years old or older. Maggi is one of them. The oldest position player rookie is Culley Rikard. Technically Rikard was a rookie in 1941 and also played a few games in 1942. That was his age-27 and 28 seasons. However, after not appearing in the major leagues for five seasons, including three years in the military, it wouldn't be until 1947 that Rikard finally broke his rookie status.

By this point, he was 33 years old. But that didn't stop Rikard from performing admirably in 1947. In 376 plate appearances, the outfielder batted .287/.384/.398. Rikard walked more often than he struck out, with a 13.3% walk rate and 10.4% strikeout rate. Defensive metrics for the time didn't paint him in a great light, but he had a 107 wRC+ as a hitter, making him 7% better than the league average. But 1947 would be the last year Rikard would spend in the big leagues. He bounced around between the Pirates, New York Yankees, and Washington Senators, as well as the Atlantic League, Pacific Coast League, and West Texas-New Mexico League.

The oldest post-1947 rookie pitcher is Diomedes Olivio. Olivio spent most his professional career in the Dominican Republic, and the right-hander didn't make his affiliated debut until his age-36 season. However, his first major league game wouldn't come until he was 41 years old. He is still the second oldest rookie to grace MLB, with Satchel Paige being the only player to make their debut at an older age.

Olivio's rookie season wouldn't come until he was 43 years old. Imagine if Rich Hill was a rookie starting pitcher for the Pirates this year. Olivio pitched in 62 games, including one start, and totaled 84.1 innings. Olivio had strong numbers, including a 2.77 ERA, 2.71 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP. He allowed just five home runs while only walking 7% of opponents and striking them out at an 18.8% rate. Olivio pitched poorly the next season in 1963 for the St. Louis Cardinals. If you want a full and in-depth biography on Olivio, the Society of American Baseball Research has an article on one of baseball's oldest rookies.

There are some other names I want to note. One is John Sullivan, the Pirates' oldest pre-1947 rookie. Sullivan appeared in 14 total MLB games; 13 with Detroit and one with the Pirates. He only came to the plate once in Black and Gold in 1944. The Pirates' oldest 21st Century rookie, and one of the more interesting names, is Masumi Kuwata. Kuwata pitched 20 seasons in Japan before going to the United States. Kuwata, at age-39, pitched 21 innings for the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing 22 earned runs on 15 walks, six home runs, and just 12 strikeouts.

After 2007, the Pirates gave Kuwata a contract to return to the Bucs. However, after being told he would not make the major league roster, they offered him a coaching position. While Kuwata declined, he would later return to coaching in Japan.

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