This Date in Pirates History: January 18
On this date in 1947 the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased all-star first baseman Hank Greenberg from the Detroit Tigers for $75,000. He had led the AL in both homers and RBI’s in 1946 at the age of 35 but the Tigers put him on waivers anyway where he was picked up by the Pirates. Not only did the pay a high price for him but he was paid $100,000 for the season, the first player to reach that six figure salary level. He would hit just .249 with 25 homers and 74 RBI’s for the Pirates but he was able to lead the NL in walks with 104 despite missing 29 games throughout the season. That was his only year for the Pirates as he retired after the season, although he was able to help the team for years to come thanks to his help with a young Ralph Kiner, who credited Greenberg with making him a better hitter. For more on Greenberg, please check out the article we posted on his birthday which can be found here.
Born on this date in 1899 was utility fielder Eddie Moore who played for the 1925 World Series winning Pirates team. He started his pro career in the minors in 1922, playing two full seasons before the Pirates made him a September call-up, getting him into six late seasons games. He made the 1924 Pirates opening day roster but he was seldom used until the Pirates decided to bench a struggling Pie Traynor. In a move that ultimately helped the Pirates, Moore got injured in the middle of a hot streak allowing Traynor to get back in the lineup and he of course went on to have a Hall of Fame career. In 72 games in 1924 Moore hit .359 with 47 runs scored. The next season he was the starting second baseman. The Pirates went on to the World Series and Moore did his part with a .298 average, 77 walks, 77 RBI’s and 106 runs scored. In the WS he hit .231 with a homer and five walks.
In 1926 he was hitting .227 through 43 games when the Pirates sold him to Boston Braves. It seemed like they were giving up on him quickly but he was not well liked among the Pirates management for poor play, an argument with longtime Pirate Fred Clarke, who was a bench coach at that time, and also they didn’t like the way he handled his contract signing. He was a .301 hitter in 263 games with the Pirates and finished his nine year career with a .285 average in 748 games
Also born on this date, in 1931, was pitcher Laurin Pepper who played for the Pirates from 1954 until 1957. He was a bonus baby signing, as the Pirates paid $35,000 for him to keep him from playing in the NFL where he was drafted by the Steelers. Under the rules of the time, a bonus baby signing had to spend two years on the major league roster before he could be sent to the minors. Pepper rarely pitched those first two seasons getting in a total of 70.2 innings over 28 games, nine as a starter. He pitched poorly mostly due to a lack of control. He had a combined 1-6 8.66 record those 1954-55 seasons with 68 walks and just 24 strikeouts. In 1956 he made four minor league starts and had better overall major league results but the control problems were still an issue. He allowed 25 walks in 30 innings and while his ERA was a respectable 3.00, those 30 innings were over seven starts and four relief appearances so his walks definitely shortened his outings. He pitched with the Pirates for one month during the 1957 season, his last year in the majors. He had an 8.00 ERA over nine innings. Pepper finished his pro career in the minors in 1963.
Finally, born on this date in 1984 was lefty relief pitcher Justin Thomas who played for the Pirates in 2010. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2005 amateur draft. He began his pro career as a starter, switching to the bullpen permanently in 2009 while in AAA. He made his major league debut in 2008 for the Mariners, pitching eight times in relief as a September call-up. He had a 6.75 ERA in four innings with nine hits and two walks allowed in his brief time with Seattle. On October 29, 2009 he was selected off waivers by the Pirates. During the 2010 season he had a few different stints with the Pirates, making a total of 12 appearances in which he compiled a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings. In AAA that season he was 5-0 2.48 in 40 appearances. He spent all of 2011 in AAA, pitching 63 games with an 8-2 3.89 record in 69.1 innings. In late November he signed with the Boston Red Sox.