This Date in Pirates History: January 24
While today’s date is a busy one for former Pittsburgh Pirates players to be born, there aren’t any players who contributed significantly on the field. One player however, helped bring a key player back to the Pirates in a trade. Dave Brain (1879) was one of three players traded to the Boston Beaneaters in December 1905 in exchange for Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis, who helped the Pirates win their first World Series title in 1909. Brain began his career in 1900, playing for the Chicago White Stockings that year in the American League, which was still considered a minor league at the time. He remained with the team the following season when the league gained major league status but was released after just five games despite hitting .350 with 5 RBI’s. He played for Buffalo of the Eastern League in 1902, hitting .331 in 130 games, earning a spot on the St Louis Cardinals for the 1903 season.
Brain split his first season with the Cardinals between shortstop and third base, hitting .231 with 60 RBI’s and 21 stolen bases. The next season he played seven different positions, everything but pitcher and catcher, hitting .266 with a career high 72 RBI’s. In 1905 Dave struggled and in early July the Pirates were able to pick him up for a light hitting, good glove back up infielder named George McBride. Brain took over the third base job the second half of the seasons and played well, hitting .257 with 46 RBI’s and providing solid defense. Following the season he was traded to Boston along with minor league pitcher Vive Lindaman and first baseman Del Howard for Vic Willis. Brain would have two good seasons in Boston, he led the NL in homers in 1907 with ten. His career quickly went south in 1908, playing just 28 games the entire season, hitting .125 with no extra base hits. Willis would go on to play four seasons for the Pirates, winning at least 21 games each year including the 1909 season when he went 22-11 to help the Pirates get to the World Series which they would win over the Tigers.
The other players born on this date are as follows:
Ross Powell (1968) pitcher for the 1995 Pirates. He was originally a 3rd round draft pick of the Reds in 1989, making it to the majors for the first time with Cincinnati in 1993. They traded him to the Astros in April 1994 and they in turn sent him to the Pirates in late July of 1995. He would pitch 12 games for Pittsburgh, three as a starter and go 0-2 5.23 in 20.2 innings. Following the season he was granted free agency and he returned to the minors where he finished his career in 1996. He had a major league record of 0-5 5.40 in 48 games, four as a starter. Despite the poor overall record, he was able to post a 1.23 ERA in 12 relief appearances with the 1994 Astros.
Timothy Jones (1954) pitcher for the 1977 Pirates. He was a 4th round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1972 amateur draft. He worked his way slowly through the upper levels of the minors, pitching two full seasons in AA and then two more in AAA before getting his 1977 September call-up. The repeating of levels helped him greatly, at least with his pitching record as he went 16-6 in his second year of AA and 15-6 in his second season of AAA. He had been a starter all six seasons in the minors but the Pirates put him in the bullpen and used him only two times for a total of three innings the first month he was there.
On October 2nd, the last day of the season, they let him start game one of a doubleheader against the Cubs and he would throw seven shutout innings, picking up his first major league win. Right before the 1978 season started, the Pirates traded Jones to the Expos for relief pitcher Will McEnaney. He spent the 1978 season in AAA where he had a 6.35 ERA in 119 innings. The ERA seems very high but he pitched in Denver which was brutal for pitchers. The team had a 5.58 ERA despite having 13 former and future major leaguers on the pitching staff. Jones never pitched again, ending his major league career with a 1-0 0.00 record.
Wally Judnich (1916) outfielder for the 1949 Pirates. He spent five seasons in the minors putting up decent stats without a chance in the majors because he was Yankees property and couldn’t crack their outfield to earn a spot. When he was sold to the Browns in early 1940 they gave him the center field job and he excelled, hitting a combined .299 with 254 RBI’s in 415 games his first three seasons. He then lost three seasons of play to WWII, serving in the Air Force. He returned for the 1946 season and wasn’t nearly as good of a ballplayer as he was prior. After two seasons he was traded to the Indians, who would win the World Series that 1948 season, their last WS title to this date. He was picked up by the Pirates off waivers in February of 1949 and that year he would hit .229 in ten games, getting released a month into the season. He went to the Pacific Coast League where he would play until 1955, three times during his seven seasons there he would drive in over 100 runs in a single season.
Johnny Dickshot (1910) outfielder for the 1936-38 Pirates. Nicknamed “Ugly”, he was a strong hitter in the minors prior to making his major league debut with the 1936 Pirates. His last three seasons in the minors he hit .343, .309 and .359 and in limited time just prior to that in 1933, he had hit .315. He began that 1936 season with the Pirates, playing nine games off the bench before they sent him to the minors. In 1937 he played 82 games for the Pirates, playing about 1/3 of the team’s games in left field. He would hit .254 with 33 RBI’s and 42 runs scored that year.
The following season, he was with the team the entire year but he was used very sparingly, picking up just seven starts and getting into a total of only 28 games. After the season he was traded to the Boston Bees(Braves) in a deal that was covered here. He played ten games in 1939 with the Giants, then spent the next four seasons in the minors before returning during WWII when a shortage of quality players opened up jobs in the majors. He played two seasons for the White Sox(1944-45), then finished his career with another two years in the minors. He was a career .318 hitter in 1526 minor league games.
Stu Clarke (1906) infielder for the 1929-30 Pirates. He spent five seasons working his way up through the low levels of the minors before the Pirates signed him for the 1929 season. He was a backup infielder but got a decent amount of playing time when injuries, including one to Pie Traynor, opened up some playing time. He never hit more than .273 in the minors but was able to hold his own in the majors, hitting .264 with 21 RBI’s in 57 games. He had trouble in the field when he was forced to fill in at shortstop but played well at the hot corner, making just one error in his 15 games there. The following season he lasted just a few weeks before the Pirates sent him to the minors. In four games he hit .444, playing two games at second base and two off the bench. He was sent to the minors and remained there for the rest of his career, playing until the end of the 1933 season.