This Date in Pirates History: December 28

On this date in 1957 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded first baseman Dee Fondy to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for first baseman Ted Kluszewski. Fondy was veteran the Pirates had acquired from the Cubs during the 1957 season. At age 32 he hit .313 in 95 games for Pittsburgh to finish out his only season with the team. He wasn’t the typical corner infielder, he had more speed and less power than you would normally see at that position and by 1956 he was on the downside of his career. Kluszweski was a big time slugger at one point in his career, hitting 171 homers from the left side over a four-year stretch from 1953-56. Unfortunately for him, he had hurt his back in 1957 and his power disappeared for the season. He hit just six homers in 69 games for the Reds that year but the Pirates were hoping he could regain his form.

Fondy lasted just one season in Cincinnati and he was mainly used off the bench, only starting 20 games all year. It would be his last seasons in the majors, he played in the minors in 1959 before retiring. Kluszewski failed to regain his power and while his .292 average in 100 games was strong, his four homers all year was not, especially not from a first baseman. The Pirates brought him back for the 1959 season, although he was traded away before the season ended. In 60 games with the Pirates that year he managed to hit two homers, giving him a total of six in his 160 games in Pittsburgh, a far cry from the slugger their pitchers faced since 1947 in Cincinnati.

   Born on this date in 1960 was pitcher Zane Smith, who pitched for the Pirates from 1990 to 1994 then again in 1996. Smith began his career in the Atlanta Braves system as a third round draft pick in 1982. He made his major league debut two years later and stayed in Atlanta until he was traded to the Expos on July 2, 1989. A year later the Pirates acquired him in a trade for pitcher Scott Ruskin, infielder Willie Greene and a player to be named later that unfortunately turned out to be Moises Alou. Smith went 6-2, 1.30 the rest of the way, helping the Pirates to the playoffs. His regular season success failed to carry over as he went 0-2, 6.00 in nine innings against the Reds in the NLCS. Zane set a career high in wins in 1991, going 16-10, 3.20 in 35 starts, helping the Pirates to their second straight playoff appearance. This time he pitched great in the playoffs against his old team, the Braves. In two starts he posted an 0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings, allowing just one run.

Milner pinch hit 39 times in 1980

  In 1992 Smith injured his throwing shoulder and made just two starts after July 11th which cost him a spot on the playoff roster. He was having a fine season up until the injury, posting a 3.06 ERA over 141 innings on the year. Zane had a rough season in 1993, starting the year on the disabled list and also missed the last month of the season. When he did pitch the results weren’t there, as he went 3-7, 4.55 in 83 innings. He pitched well in 1994 going 10-8, 3.27 but he was allowed to leave via free agency when the season ended. He signed with the Red Sox for 1995 and struggled badly in the AL, posting a 5.61 ERA in 21 starts and three relief appearances. The Pirates resigned him for 1996 early in spring training. He pitched poorly and was released by early July. He had a 47-41, 3.35 record in six seasons in Pittsburgh and overall he went 100-115, 3.74 in 13 major league seasons.

Also born on this date, in 1949, was 1B/LF John Milner who played for the Pirates from 1978 until 1982. He was originally draft by the New York Mets in 1968 and he spent seven seasons in the majors for them, hitting .245 with 94 homers and 338 RBIs in 741 games. The Pirates acquired him as part of a four team, 11 player trade in December of 1977 that was mentioned here. Milner was used mostly in left field his first season in Pittsburgh, starting 82 games while hitting .271 with eight homers and 34 RBIs. In 1979 he had his best season in Pittsburgh, playing 128 games and hitting .276 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs. He went hitless in the NLCS that year but hit .333 with two walks in the World Series won by the Pirates in seven games.

In 1980, Milner took on more of a bench role with the team, getting just 292 plate appearances in 114 games. He had a similar role in 1981 until the Pirates traded him to the Expos for Willie Montanez in August. After playing just under one full year with the Expos he was released and the Pirates resigned him to finish out the 1982 season. He was released just prior to opening day in 1983, ending his pro career.

Harry Sweeney (1915) First baseman for the 1944 Pirates. Sweeney played one game in the majors, going 0-for-2 and handling all ten plays he had at first base. His one game was the last game of the season, a doubleheader played on October 1st against the Philadelphia Phillies. Babe Dahlgren started the game at first place and after one at-bat, Sweeney came in to take his place. The 28-year-old Sweeney was coming off the best season of his nine-year minor league career when he joined the Pirates. Playing for York of the Interstate League that year, he hit .334 with 14 homers and 39 doubles in 129 games. Despite that strong season and his first trip to the big leagues, Sweeney played just 93 more games in his pro career before retiring.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

This Date in Pirates History: December 27

Next Story »

This Date in Pirates History: December 29

Latest Analysis

  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    1 day ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    3 days ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    4 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    5 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    7 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    1 week ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    2 weeks ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More