On this date in 1998 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Ricardo Rincon to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Brian Giles. The trade was a one-sided win for the Pirates as Giles was an all-star outfielder and Rincon was a lefty reliever, who pitched 207 games for the Indians but only amassed 154.1 innings over four seasons and his last two years there his ERA was well over 4.00. Rincon had spent two seasons in the Pirates pen, his first big league experience. He was 28 years old and had a 3.17 ERA with 18 saves in 122 games at the time of the trade. Giles was 27 years old and had played two partial seasons and two full seasons with the Indians. In 299 games for them he had a .284 average with 39 homers and 157 RBI’s.
Giles broke out right away with the Pirates, hitting .315 with 39 homers, 115 RBI’s, 95 walks and 109 runs scored in 1999. He followed that up by hitting .315 again in 2000 with a career high 123 RBI’s and 114 RBI’s along with his first all-star appearance. In 2001 Giles made his second straight all-star team, hit .309 with 111 runs scored, 90 walks and 95 RBI’s. Giles just missed hitting .300 for a fourth straight year in 2002, batting .298 but he walked 135 times, the second highest single season total in Pirates history. He was traded away during the following season for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez. With the Pirates Giles hit .308 with 501 runs scored and 506 RBI’s in 715 games. His 1.018 OPS is the highest in team history.
Also on this date in 1947 the Pirates traded pitcher Al Lyons, outfielder Jim Russell and catcher Bill Salkeld to the Boston Braves in exchange for outfielder Johnny Hopp and infielder Danny Murtaugh. Lyons had played parts of four seasons in the majors, pitching 32 games total, all but one in relief and he had a 6.08 ERA at the time of the trade. For the Pirates he had pitched 13 games in 1947 with a 7.31 ERA after coming over from the Yankees in early August. Salkeld had a strong rookie season in 1945, hitting .311 with 15 homers. He hit .294 in a backup role the next season then really struggled in 1947 hitting just .213 in 47 games. Russell was the only significant player the Pirates traded away, he was a regular from 1943-47 playing 718 games over those five seasons with 412 runs scored and 288 RBI’s.
The Pirates got a 31 year old outfielder with a .297 career average in Johnny Hopp. He hit .288 with 58 walks and 74 runs scored in 1947 and prior to that he had three seasons in which he hit .300 or more. Murtaugh was a regular for three seasons from 1941-43 but after serving in the war, he was unable to get a regular job in the majors, playing just nine games between 1946 and 1947. Murtaugh had two strong seasons for the Pirates, in 1948 and 1950 but the true value in the trade was getting him in the organization. He eventually made his way to the major league manager role, winning two World Series titles and 1115 games total. Hopp hit .310 over three seasons with the Pirates. Lyons pitched just seven games with the Braves while Salkeld and Russell each lasted two seasons in Boston with neither putting up big numbers giving the Pirates the advantage in the trade even without considering what Murtaugh did for the team after his playing career ended.
Finally, born on this date in 1924 was outfielder Rocky Nelson who had two stints with the Pirates, first in 1951 and then again from 1959-61. He began his pro career in 1942 with the Cardinals but did not make the majors until 1949. He was a part time player for St Louis until they traded him to the Pirates along with Erv Dusak for Stan Rojek on May 17,1951. Nelson played 71 games with the Pirates, hitting .267 with 14 RBI’s before they put him on waivers in September, where he was picked up by the White Sox. He played briefly with the 1952 Dodgers then between 1953 and 1955 Nelson played just 4 games in the majors,all during the 1954 season with the Indians. In 1956 Rocky started a pattern of returning to old teams, splitting the season between the Dodgers and Cardinals. He spent the 1957-58 seasons in the minors when the Pirates picked him up again in the rule V draft on December 1,1958.
Nelson had his best seasons his first two years back with the Pirates in a backup first baseman-pinch hitting role. In 1959 he hit .291 with six homers and 32 RBI’s in just 175 AB’s. In 1960 he hit a career high .300 with seven homers and 35 RBI’s in 200 AB’s. In game seven of the World Series that season, Nelson hit a two run homer in the first inning, giving the Pirates an early lead on their way to a 10-9 win and their third championship in team history. Rocky played one more season with the Pirates, hitting .197 in 75 games in 1961. That was his last season in the majors, he played one more year in the minors before retiring.