This Date in Pirates History: January 23
On this date in 1921 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded infielder Walter Barbare, outfielders Billy Southworth and Fred Nicholson, along with $15,000 to the Boston Braves in exchange for shortstop Rabbit Maranville. It was a lot to give up for one player, Southworth was an everyday outfielder who hit .284, Nicholson batted .360 in 99 games, Barbare was a solid backup infielder and all three were in their mid-20’s. Maranville was a top-notch defensive shortstop though and he was a decent hitter with some speed. The trade ended up helping both teams, giving the Pirates a much needed defensive upgrade in the infield, plus Maranville had his best offensive seasons while in Pittsburgh. For the Braves they replaced one regular player with two everyday players and Nicholson also saw plenty of time off the bench, plus the team really needed the cash as well. They saw their team in one season go from 92 losses to a winning record while the Pirates won 90 games in 1921 and finished in second place.
Maranville would play four seasons with the Pirates before he was traded to the Cubs in a deal that was covered here. He had a 23 year career and in 1954 the Baseball Writers of America(BBWAA) would induct him into the Hall of Fame. Although he wasn’t inducted as a player, Billy Southworth also made the Hall of Fame in 2008, getting elected by the Veteran’s Committee as a manager
Former Pirates players born on this date include:
Victor Cole (1968) pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. He was a 14th round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals that came to the Pirates on May 3,1991 in exchange for OF/1B Carmelo Martinez. Cole was in AAA for the first time in his career at the time of the trade. With the Pirates he split the 1991 season between AA and AAA. In 1992 they returned him to the starting role for the first time since 1989 and he went 11-6, 3.11 in 19 starts at Buffalo(AAA). In between those starts in AAA the Pirates called him up in June and over a five week span he pitched four times in relief, then made four starts, finishing with an 0-2, 5.48 record in 23 innings. Back in the minors for 1993 he struggled badly posting a 7.21 ERA and the Pirates cut him before the end of the season. He was just as bad in 1994, posting a 7.24 ERA and by 1995 he was playing Independent ball. After a stint in Taiwan in 1997 he returned to the minors for four more years before retiring, never making it back to the majors after his 1992 stint.
Benny Distefano (1962) first baseman and outfielder for the Pirates in 1984,1986 and 1988-89. Benny was drafted three times before he finally signed with the Pirates after they made him their 2nd round draft pick in 1982. In 1983 he hit 25 homers and drove in 92 runs in AA. His success in 1983 helped lead to him getting called up just over a month into the 1984 season. The Pirates gave him only 86 plate appearances over a nearly three month span though, before sending him back to the minors in early August and then they didn’t recall him in September. The lack of playing time in the majors may have hurt his progress as the next year, spent all in AAA, he hit .238 in 136 games. He would spend the majority of the 1986-88 seasons in AAA for the Pirates, getting just 82 total plate appearances in the majors over that three year time period. His best season in the majors would be 1989 when he played 96 games but even then, 50 of those games were as a pinch hitter. He hit .257 with 15 RBIs that year in 154 at-bats. That season he caught in three major league games, and to this day he is still the last left-handed throwing catcher in major league history. Benny was released by the Pirates after that 1989 season and he appeared in the majors just one following year, 52 games in 1992 for the Astros
Alfonso Pulido (1957) lefty pitcher for the 1983-84 Pirates. He was pitching in the Mexican League when the Pirates purchased his contract in September 1983 and brought him right to the majors. He pitched one game that year for Pittsburgh, allowing three runs in two innings as a starter. In 1984 he was a starter in AAA and went 18-6, 2.54 in 216 innings. He again got a September call-up and again pitched just one game and two innings. He allowed two runs in relief during an 8-3 loss to the Cardinals. Following the season the Pirates traded him to the Yankees along with Dale Berra and Jay Buhner for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli in a trade that was covered here. Pulido pitched just ten games for the Yankees in 1986, otherwise he spent the rest of his career in the minors.
Kurt Bevacqua (1947) utility fielder for the 1974 and 1980-81 Pirates. He spent 15 seasons in the majors for six different teams, was drafted three times and traded six times yet he played just 970 total games despite the fact it seemed like everyone wanted him on their team. In his three seasons with the Pirates he played a total of only 69 games and hit .171 in 121 plate appearances with an amazingly low total of four runs scored. His 1973 trade from the Royals to the Pirates was covered here. The Pirates traded him back to the Royals seven months later. They got him from the Padres in 1980 in a four player deal, then when they released him after the 1981 season he signed back with the Padres. Kurt spent most of his late career as a pinch hitter but in the 1984 World Series he got 18 plate appearances and hit .412 with two homers. He was a career .236 hitter but as a pinch hitter, he hit .258 in 376 games.
Sam Jethroe (1917) outfielder for the 1954 Pirates. He began his career in the Negro Leagues, signing his first minor league contract when he was 31 in 1948 with the Dodgers. In 1949 he hit .326 with 154 runs scored, 70 extra base hits and 89 stolen bases for Montreal of the International League. Brooklyn traded him to the Braves in the off-season and at age 33 he would win the NL Rookie of the Year award. He would score 100 runs and lead the NL in stolen bases in each of his first two seasons before slumping down to a .232 average in 1952. Following the 1953 season that he spent in the minors, the Braves traded him and five other players, as well as $100,000 cash to the Pirates in exchange for Danny O’Connell who was covered two days ago here and this particular trade was covered here as well. Jethroe played just two games for the Pirates, getting into two early season contests in 1954 in which he went 0-for-1 at the plate and played two innings in the outfield. He was sent to the minors in mid-April and finished his playing career five seasons later, never making the majors again.
Jack Saltzgaver (1903) second baseman for the 1945 Pirates. He began his pro career back in 1925 and when he finally made the majors in 1932, he was lucky to get another shot. That year for the Yankees in 20 games he hit just .128 in 47 at-bats. He spent all of 1933 back in the minors where he never hit less than .288 in his first nine seasons. That particular year he hit .305 with 11 homers for Newark, his fifth straight season batting over .300 with a double digit home run total. He had his most productive major league season in 1934, hitting .271 with 64 runs scored in 94 games for the Yankees. He played another three seasons in New York but got less playing time each year compared to the prior season. He was still Yankees property from 1938-1945 but spent the entire time in the minors until the Pirates acquired him in mid-May 1945 at age 42 to play second base. He remained with the team for the rest of the year but played rarely after May 31, starting just nine games the rest of the way. Despite the lack of playing time, he hit .325 in his 117 at-bats. The Pirates released him following the season and he returned to the minors to manage until 1950. He finished with a .304 average in 2036 minor league games.
Bill Regan (1899) second baseman for the 1931 Pirates. He didn’t make the majors until age 27, when the Red Sox signed him after he hit .318 in 38 games for Columbus of the American Association. The lifelong native of Pittsburgh hit .263 in 108 games that rookie season. In 1927 and 1928 he would receive MVP support after playing a solid 2B while driving in a combined 141 runs for a Boston team that lost 199 total games between those two seasons. He had his best hitting season in 1929, batting .288 with a .735 OPS but he played just 104 games that year. The 1930 season was a very high offense year in the majors and Regan’s stats dropped off from the previous season, so an otherwise decent .266 average probably hid the fact his skills were in decline. The Red Sox, who had lost 102 games in 1930, put Regan on waivers where he was picked up by the Pirates in January of 1931. For the Pirates that year he hit only .202 in 28 games with nine errors, earning a trip back to the minors where he would finish his playing days in 1935.
Ed Barney (1890) outfielder for the 1915-16 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1913 and by 1914 he was hitting .326 in 118 games for Hartford of the Eastern Association. In 1915 he moved up to Jersey City of the International League where he hit .335 in 62 games to earn a major league job with the New York Yankees. He signed with them on July 20th but after hitting .194 in 11 games they put him on waivers where he was picked up by the Pirates. He hit .273 in 32 games to finish the 1915 season and he earned a spot on the 1916 Pirates. He would play 45 games that season, drawing 23 walks and stealing eight bases but he hit just .197 with only four extra base hits, all doubles. He was sent to the minors after playing his last major league game on July 2, 1916. He played minor league ball until 1924 then managed for one season.