This Date in Pirates History: January 26
On this date in 1895 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Ad Gumbert to the Brooklyn Grooms for catcher Tom Kinslow. Gumbert was just 26 at the time of the trade, a native of Pittsburgh who had a 106-79 career record already. For the Pirates he had gone 15-14 in 1894, sporting a 6.08 ERA which seems very high but 1894 was near the very top of high offense years in baseball history. The Pirates that season had a 5.62 team ERA and there were still three teams that were worse than them in that category. Kinslow had just turned 29 prior to the trade, see earlier article here. He was a platoon catcher for Brooklyn the last four seasons, playing an average of 67 games a year and posting drastically fluctuating averages those seasons: 1891: .237 1892: .305 1893: .244 1894: .305
After the trade, Kinslow played just 19 games for the Pirates. He hit .226 with five RBIs and while his catching skills were never more than average, his arm seemed to get worse overnight as he allowed 33 steals in 44 attempts in 18 games behind the plate. After the Pirates released him he had just 25 major league games left in his career, spread out over three different teams. Gumbert stuck around a little longer with his new team but he had an 11-16 record in 1895 for a Brooklyn team that went 71-60 overall, so he didn’t exactly make this trade a win for the Grooms. The somewhat amazing thing about his poor record was the fact he was a much better hitter than the average pitcher of the day. Gumbert hit .361 that year with 13 RBIs in 105 plate appearances. He went 0-4 with Brooklyn in 1896 before moving on to the Phillies to finish his career later that season.
Only two former Pirates born on this date, pitchers who joined the team 100 years apart. Josh Sharpless (1981) was a 24th round draft pick of the Pirates in 2003. He had an incredible strikeout ratio in 2004 with Hickory(low-A) posting 104 K’s in only 74.1 innings. He pitched less in 2005 but somehow improved on his 13.2 K/9 ratio by striking out 59 batters in 36.1 innings, splitting the season between high-A and AA. In 24 total games that year he had a 4-0, 0.74 record with five saves. He began the 2006 season in AA and dominated with 30 K’s in 21 innings and an 0.86 ERA. He moved up to AAA and pitched well, earning his first major league call-up on August 1st. He pitched for just over a week before injuring his ankle, forcing him to miss nearly a month. He returned in September to finish the season with a 1.50 ERA in 14 major league games.
In 2007 he began the year back in AAA but was called up to the Pirates by late May. He did not pitch well, allowing runs in four of his six relief outings before being sent back to the minors. In 2008 he was an early cut from the major league camp in spring training, then was released prior to the start of the season. He pitched two more years in the minors before retiring as a player.
Also born on this date, in 1874, was Kaiser Wilhelm, who pitched for the 1903 Pirates. He began his minor league career two seasons earlier in Birmingham Alabama, going a combined 29-27 over the 1901-02 seasons. As a 29 year old rookie he became a starter for the 1903 Pirates when the departures of Jack Chesbro and Jesse Tannehill left two rotation spots open. Wilhelm would make nine starts, complete seven of them and throw one shutout. He also pitched three times in relief and finished with a 5-3, 3.24 record in 84 innings for a Pirates team that not only won their third straight NL title but went on to play in the first modern World Series. He was released just prior to the start of the 1904 season, signing with the Boston Beaneaters where he went a combined 17-43 the next two seasons.
After spending two years in the minors he returned to the majors with the Brooklyn Superbas in 1908 and lost 20 games for the third straight time in the majors. He played three seasons for Brooklyn, went to the minors for three more seasons, returned for two years when the Federal League sprouted up in 1914 then back to the minors for two years but he wasn’t done. In 1920 at the age of 46 he pitched for Jersey City of the International League going 12-12, 3.09 in 236 innings. That was followed up in 1921 with another shot at the majors, throwing four games for the Phillies, although he was the manager so that probably had more to do with it than actual playing ability. Then two years later at the age of 49 he made his last pitching appearance in the minors with Rochester. Wilhelm managed three years in the minors, as well as guiding the 1921-22 Phillies.