This Date in Pirates History: January 10
A light day for Pittsburgh Pirates history, no notable transactions and just two former players born on this date. George Strickland, born in 1926, was an infielder for the Pirates from 1950 until 1952. He was signed as a 17-year-old in 1943 by the Brooklyn Dodgers and played just three minor league games before joining the service during WWII. When he returned he was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization and he reported to the minors to play for a team from New Orleans, his hometown. He spent four seasons in the minors for the Red Sox before the Pirates took him in the 1949 rule 5 amateur draft.
Strickland played just 23 games that entire 1950 season, six as a starter, going 3-27 at the plate. Despite that lack of playing time his rookie year, he was the Pirates starting shortstop during the 1951 season. He played 138 games, hitting .216 with 65 walks, 47 RBI’s and 59 runs scored. The Pirates starting shortstop from the 1950 season, Danny O’Connell, was serving the first of two years in the military, which opened the door for Strickland to play everyday. He had the starting job in 1952 as well but he hit just .177 in 76 games before the Pirates traded him to the Cleveland Indians in a four player deal on August 18, 1952. Strickland played until 1960 with the Indians, hitting .233 in 734 games. While with the Pirates he hit .199 in 237 games. He later managed the Indians in 1964 and 1966 and coached for three different teams before retiring from baseball.
Also born on this date, in 1922, was left-handed pitcher Cliff Chambers, a teammate of Strickland who played for the Pirates from 1949 until 1951. He originally signed with the Chicago Cubs as a 20-year-old in 1942 and spent that first year in the minors, going 6-7 2.01 in 15 games for Tulsa of the Texas League. He also pitched two scoreless innings for Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. Chambers missed all of the next three seasons while serving in the Air Force during WWII. When he returned he reported to Los Angeles and went 18-15 3.02 with 215 strikeouts in 268 innings. Back in the PCL again for the 1947 season, he went 24-9 but the rest of his numbers were slightly down from the previous season. Los Angeles was a better team in 1947 winning 106 games that year when they played a 187 game schedule.
Chambers started the 1948 season with the Cubs and early on he was used often as a starter before being moved to the bullpen, getting an occasional start from June 9th until the end of the year. He went 2-9 4.43 in 29 games, 12 as a starter. On December 8, 1948 the Cubs traded Chambers and catcher Clyde McCullough to the Pirates in exchange for infielder Frankie Gustine and pitcher Cal McLish in a deal that was covered here. Chambers started the 1949 season for the Pirates as a starter but he was moved to the bullpen after three starts despite winning two of those games. He spent a month in the pen, then missed three weeks, returning in a long relief role which led to him being put back in the rotation. He had an impressive 13-7 record for a Pirates team that went just 71-83 on the season.
In 1950, Chambers set a career high in games started with 33 and innings pitched with 249.1 while throwing 11 complete games, two of them shutouts. He posted a 4.30 ERA and a 12-15 record for a Pirates team that lost 96 games. The Pirates were just as bad in 1951 and Chambers didn’t pitch well during his 10 starts except for one big exception. On May 6th during the second game of a doubleheader against the Boston Braves, Chambers pitched the second complete game no-hitter in Pittsburgh Pirates history and the first since Nick Maddox in 1907. Despite that start, Chambers was just 3-6 5.58 in 10 starts when the Pirates traded him to the St Louis Cardinals along with outfielder Wally Westlake in exchange for four players, among them was catcher Joe Garagiola. He went 13-6 for the Cardinals in 1951, then pitched two more seasons for them before finishing his pro career back in the PCL for the 1954 season.