This Date in Pirates History: December 20
On this date in 1984 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Dale Berra, Al Pulido and Jay Buhner to the New York Yankees for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. Berra and Foli were teammates on the Pirates for three seasons, with Berra backing up Foli when he wasn’t his double play partner. Pulido was almost 28 and had pitched just two games for the Pirates, one in 1983 and one in 1984 and he struggled in both games. Buhner was just a minor leaguer at the time,a 2nd round pick in the January 1984 draft who hit .323 in short-season A ball. Kemp was a strong hitter with the Tigers for five seasons and one year with the White Sox but his numbers dropped his two years in New York. He hit just 19 homers with the Yankees after hitting 108 his first six seasons including the strike shortened 1981 season. The Pirates also received cash in the deal.
The trade did not work out well for either team, Buhner would become a star but not until 1991, well after he was traded to the Mariners. Pulido pitched just ten games in the majors in 1986 with the Yankees, spending three full seasons at AAA before retiring as a pro. Berra was seldom used by the Yankees, playing just 90 games over two years, hitting .230 in 217 AB’s. He played one final year for the Astros before he retired. Kemp really didn’t work out for the Pirates, he hit just two homers in 92 games his first year and the Pirates released him a month into the 1986 season when he was hitting .188 in 13 games. He went to the minors for the better parts of three seasons, getting one more taste of the majors with the Rangers in 1988 for 16 games. Foli played just 19 games with the Pirates in 1985, hitting .189 before they released him, ending his major league career
Also on this date in 1904 the Pirates traded first baseman Kitty Bransfield, infielder Otto Krueger and outfielder Moose McCormick to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league first baseman Del Howard. For details on this trade, please check out our article we posted here.
Born on this date in 1960 was Pirates pitcher Jose DeLeon, who played for the team from 1983-86. Jose was a 3rd round pick of the Pirates out of high school in 1979. He climbed quickly through the minors, reaching AA at age 20 where he went 12-6 3.11 in 25 starts. He had a poor first season at AAA posting a 5.97 ERA but rebounded in 1983 and received a promotion to the majors at the end of July and pitched well in his 15 starts going 7-3 2.83 in 108 innings. In his first full season he threw nearly 200 innings and posted a respectable 3.74 ERA but the Pirates lost 87 games that year and his 7-13 record was the only losing record among the team’s five starters.
The 1985 Pirates were a very bad team, they lost 104 games that year and DeLeon had a tough season, going 2-19 4.70. He was even moved to the bullpen late in the year to avoid 20 losses but a late season loss in relief shut him down for the year with the NL lead in losses, a feat he would repeat in 1990 with the Cardinals. Teammate Larry McWilliams posted that same 4.70 ERA as DeLeon but was able to pick up seven wins in less starts so while Jose pitched poorly he also didn’t have much help behind him. The next season Jose really struggled and after posting an 8.27 ERA in nine games, the Pirates traded him to the White Sox for Bobby Bonilla, who was a rule V pick the Pirates lost in December 1985. DeLeon had a 17-38 4.02 record with the Pirates and a career record of 86-119 3.76 in 415 games, 264 as a starter.
Also born on this date, in 1904, was Pirates catcher Spud Davis who played for the team from 1940-41 and again from 1944-45. The 35 year old Davis was purchased by the Pirates from the Phillies shortly after the 1939 season ended. He was in his 12th season and had just hit .307 in 89 games. From 1929 to 1935 Davis had hit over .300 in each season, playing at least 80 games behind the plate each year with a high of 132 in 1933.
For the Pirates in 1940 Spud played 99 games and hit .326 with 39 RBI’s. He shared the catching duties with future Hall of Famer Al Lopez all four seasons he played in Pittsburgh. In 1941 Davis saw his batting average dip down to .252 and the strong defense of Lopez took playing time away from Spud. In 1942 Davis became a full-time coach but he would return to the playing field two years later when the war created a need for players and he hit .301 in 54 games. He played another 23 games at the age of 40 in 1945 before returning to the coaching role full-time. Davis managed the Pirates for the last three games of the 1946 season and also returned to an active playing role in the minors for the 1947-48 seasons.
Finally, born on this date in 1876 was third baseman Jimmy Williams, who played for the Pirates from 1899-1900. He hit .354 as a rookie in 1899, driving in 116 runs while scoring 126 times. A more in depth story on Williams can be read here.