This Date in Pirates History: December 14
On this date in 1998 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Jon Lieber to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Brant Brown. Lieber started his career with the Pirates in 1994 and went 38-47, 4.36 in 151 games, 104 as a starter. He was 8-14, 4.11 for the Pirates in 1998. Brown was in his third season with the Cubs in 1998 but at age 27 it was his first full season. He hit .291 with 14 homers and 48 RBIs in 124 games. Brown played just one season in Pittsburgh. Hee played a career high 130 games, hitting 16 homers with 58 RBIs but he batted just .232 and struck out 114 times while taking just 22 walks. He was traded to the Marlins after the season ended. Lieber played four seasons in Chicago, having marginal success his first two years, but breaking out in 2001 when he went 20-6, 3.80 and finished third in the Cy Young voting. He injured his arm during the 2002 season and missed all of 2003 due to Tommy John surgery. Lieber finished his career in 2008 with a 131-128 record.
On this date in 1963 the Pirates traded pitcher Harvey Haddix to the Orioles in exchange for minor league shortstop Dick Yencha and cash. Haddix was 38 at the time of the trade and had been moved to the bullpen for the first time in his career in 1963. He had a career 128-106 record at that point and with the Pirates in five seasons he went 45-38, 3.73 in 100 starts and 66 relief appearances. Yencha was a 21-year-old SS who just hit .308 in 114 games of A ball. After the trade Yencha really struggled, hitting just .183 in 74 games, mostly in A ball(he hit .067 in 11 AA games), and the Pirates got rid of him after just one season. He played two more seasons in the minors before retiring, never having reached AA again. Haddix pitched 73 games over two seasons for the Orioles, all in relief, going 8-7, 2.63 in 123 innings. He retired as a player following the 1965 season
On this date in 1898 the Pirates traded three players to the Washington Senators in exchange for star second baseman Heinie Reitz. For more information on this trade and the career of Reitz, please check out this article that we posted about him here.
Yesterday I wrote about Jeff Robinson, who pitched for the Pirates in 1987-89. Well today just happens to be the birthday of Jeff Robinson, who pitched for the Pirates in 1992. This Jeff didn’t do as well as the other in his major league career. He had a 44-39 career record when the Pirates took him off waivers from the Rangers in June of 1992. He made seven starts and a relief appearance, going 3-1, 4.46 before the Pirates released him in late July, a move that ended his major league career. He finished the season in AAA for the Tigers, the team he started his career with, but struggled badly and retired after the season.
Also born on this date, in 1943, was catcher Jerry May, who played for the Pirates from 1964 to 1970. May was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1961. He made his major league debut in September 1964 but played just 57 games with Pittsburgh during his first three seasons combined. He got the starting catcher job in 1967 and played 110 games, hitting .271 with 22 RBIs and a .993 fielding percentage. The following season he played a career high 137 games but managed to hit just .219 with 33 RBIs in 416 at-bats. Manny Sanguillen took over the regular catching duties in 1969 with May returning to the backup role for two more seasons before he was traded to the Royals in December 1970 in a six player deal that was posted here. May hit .237 with 100 RBIs in 417 games in Pittsburgh
Born on this date in 1923 was pitcher Paul LaPalme, who spent four seasons with the Pirates from 1951 to 1954. The Pirates got him from the Braves in December 1949 during the minor league draft. He went 10-7 3.00 in the minors in 1950, reaching AAA ball. By late May of 1951 he was in the majors being used as both a starter occasionally and as a reliever. The Pirates were bad that year and in LaPalme’s 22 appearances they were just 2-20. He went 1-2, 6.29 in 54.1 innings. The next year he was used out of the pen and did better, posting a 3.92 ERA in 31 games.. Paul pitched a career high 176 innings in 1953 and although his ERA of 4.59 was well below the average of the rest of the pitchers, he went just 8-16 for a Pirates team that won just 50 games. He struggled in 1954, going 4-10, 5.54 and after the season the Pirates traded him to the Cardinals.
Born on this date in 1896 was catcher Charlie Hargreaves, who played for the Pirates from 1928 to 1930. The Pirates acquired Charlie in May of 1928 from Brooklyn in exchange for their longtime catcher Johnny Gooch and 37-year-old veteran 1B/OF Joe Harris. Hargreaves was 31 at the time and had played just 231 games over six seasons in Brooklyn. With the Pirates, he got into 79 games and hit .285 with 32 RBIs but struggled defensively, leading NL catchers in errors and allowing the third most stolen bases in the league. He played a career high 102 games the following season, hitting .268 with 44 RBIs, which was also a career high. In 1930 the Pirates went with a young catcher named Rollie Hemsley and Hargreaves played just 11 games before going to the minors, where he played until his retirement in 1934.
Finally, we get to a player from the first season in team history, the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association. The Pirates moved to the National League in 1887 and didn’t use the Pirates nickname until four years later. For the first five season the franchise existed, they were in the American Association, a major league that lasted from 1882-91. On that first team, they had a local 20-year-old named Ren Wylie. He was an outfielder that got one chance to play in the majors. On August 11,1882 Pittsburgh took on the Baltimore Orioles and lost 1-0, dropping their record to 21-27. Wylie was in center field that day and went 0-for-3 at the plate. He didn’t make any catches in center field, but he did throw out a runner. Minor league records from back then are spotty and there is no other known pro experience for Wylie. Not much else is known about him except that he lived out a long life in the Pittsburgh area, passing away in 1951, the last player from that first team to pass away. He is buried in Pittsburgh.