This Date in Pirates History: December 9
On this date in 1980 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Bert Blyleven and catcher Manny Sanguillen to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Gary Alexander and pitchers Victor Cruz, Bob Owchinko and Rafael Vasquez. Blyleven was the key piece to the deal, he was unhappy in Pittsburgh, where he went 34-28 over three seasons while helping them win the 1979 WS. For the Indians he went 11-7 2.88 in 20 starts during the strike shortened 1981 season then missed most of the 1982 season with an elbow injury. He struggled at times in the 1983 season, going 7-10 3.91 but put it all together for Cleveland in 1984, winning 19 games for a 75 win team and finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting. The Indians traded him away the following season to the Twins for four players. Bert won 287 career games and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011
Sanguillen, the long time Pirates catcher, was released just two months after the trade while Vasquez, who was previously Pirates property for four years, never pitched in the majors for them. Cruz pitched well in his only season in Pittsburgh,posting a 2.65 ERA in 22 games out of the bullpen. He was traded away for Nelson Norman in 1982. Owchinko was traded to the A’s before he could ever play for the Pirates although he also rejoined the team later on during the 1983 season, only to pitch to two batters in his only game for the Pirates. Alexander played just 21 games in 1981 for the Pirates, his last season in the majors, leaving Blyleven as the only player with his new team in 1982.
On this date in 1957 the Pirates traded pitcher Bob Purkey to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Don Gross. Purkey was 28 at the time of the trade and had gone just 16-29 4.52 in 100 games over four seasons with the Pirates. Gross was two years younger and had a 3.69 ERA in 79 games with the Reds over three seasons. After the trade Gross pitched 66 games for the Pirates, almost all in relief and he won just six while recording nine saves. Purkey on the other hand, broke out for the Reds, winning 103 games over seven seasons including a 23-5 record in 1962. He returned to the Pirates to finish his career, going 0-1 1.37 in 10 games in 1966.
Born on this date in 1948 was pitcher Doc Medich, who came to the Pirates in exchange for Dock Ellis, Ken Brett and a rookie second baseman named Willie Randolph. Doc started his career with the Yankees in 1972 and went 49-40 in three full seasons. He won 19 games in 1974 and went 16-16 3.50 in 37 starts in 1975 with 15 complete games. The Pirates traded three players for the young workhorse pitcher on December 11,1975(there will be much more about this trade on the 11th) and he went 8-11 3.52 in 26 starts and three relief appearances. He pitched nearly 100 less innings than he did the prior season and he finished 3-0 in his last eight games to get his record to that 8-11 mark. From June 17 to August 14 he went 0-6 in eight starts. Just prior to the 1977 season the Pirates traded him away in a nine player deal to the Oakland A’s, with six players going the other way including Tony Armas and Dave Giusti, while the Pirates got Phil Garner in return. In Medich’s 11 year career he won 124 games playing for seven different teams
Also born on this date, in 1905, was Pirates outfielder Adam Comorosky, who played for the team from 1926 to 1933. Following the 1933 season he was traded to the Reds along with Tony Piet in exchange for Red Lucas and Wally Roettger in a trade that was covered here. In his eight seasons in Pittsburgh he hit .293 over 627 games with 363 RBI’s. He led the NL in triples in 1930 with 23, a season in which he scored 112 runs and drove in 119, while also picking up 47 doubles and a .313 batting average. He drove in 97 runs and batted a career high .321 in 1929.
Finally, born on this date in 1871 was outfielder Joe Kelley, who played for the 1892 Pirates before they traded him away in September of that year for star outfielder George Van Haltren. Kelley signed his first pro contract at age 19 in 1891 and was given a major league tryout later that year by the Boston Beaneaters. Despite the youth and pro inexperience they released him after just 12 games. In 1892 he signed with Omaha of the Western League, a top minor league of the day. He hit .316 in 58 games prompting the Pirates to purchase him from Omaha in early July. In 56 games for Pittsburgh he hit .239 with 28 RBI’s and eight stolen bases. In September of that year the Pirates traded Kelley for outfielder George Van Haltren from the Baltimore Orioles. The deal was done to help the Orioles out financially(they were last in the NL in attendance) as they got rid of the bigger salary and also got cash back in the deal but the young Kelley helped ease the pain of losing a star player for an unproven rookie by becoming a star player in his own right the very next season.
Kelley would play six full seasons in Baltimore(plus 10 games in 1892). He scored 768 runs there, drove in 653 and hit .351 with 290 stolen bases, helping lead them to three straight NL pennants in 1894-96. He finished his 17 year career with a .317 average, 1194 RBI’s and 1421 runs scored which got him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971. Van Haltren had similar career numbers hitting .316 career in 17 years. He had less RBI’s with 1015 total but scored over 200 more runs and he stole 583 bases, 140 more than Kelley. Van Haltren didn’t have the defensive skill Kelley had but he did have a better arm which allowed him to pick up 349 outfield assists, fourth most all-time and over 200 more than Kelley. The part that is hard to believe is that Kelley has been in the HOF for 40 years now while Van Haltren hasn’t got any HOF support since 1936. It should also be noted that George started his career as a pitcher and went 40-31 before moving to the outfield and the most similar player to him all-time? The Pirates Hall of Fame outfielder, Fred Clarke.