We have one Pittsburgh Pirates trade of note, two players born on this date, and in his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look back at the Pirates first interleague game.
On this date in 2001, the Pirates traded infielder Enrique Wilson to the New York Yankees in exchange for relief pitcher Damaso Marte. Wilson was in his second season with the Pirates. He had been acquired the previous year at the trading deadline for Wil Cordero. Enrique was 27 at the time, hitting .186 in 46 games, although he had hit much better in prior seasons. Marte was 26 at the time, with just five games of major league experience, coming with the 1999 Seattle Mariners. The lefty reliever was in AA for the Yankees, with a 3.50 ERA in 23 appearances.
After a brief stop in AAA, Damaso pitched 23 games for the Pirates in 2001, posting a 4.71 ERA in 36.1 innings. Less than a year after they acquired Marte, he was traded to the White Sox in exchange for Matt Guerrier. He would return in 2005, then get dealt back to the Yankees, along with Xavier Nady, at the 2008 trading deadline. Wilson hit .242 in limited action for the Yankees. He remained with the team for three more seasons, serving as their backup infielder. In 264 games for New York, he batted .216 with 69 RBI’s.
Darrell May (1972) Pitcher for the 1996 Pirates. He made it to the majors in 1995 with the Braves, despite being drafted in the 46th round just three years earlier. May had a rough start, getting hit hard in his first cup of coffee in the majors. He would be put on waivers at the end of Spring Training in 1996, getting picked up by the Pirates just after Opening Day. After going to the minors, Darrell got a spot start for the Pirates in early May, giving up five runs in five innings during a loss to the Padres. He returned to the team in late July and made three relief appearances over a five day stretch, then made another spot start the next day, which also didn’t go well. In September he was put on waivers, where the Angels picked him up. May pitched in Japan from 1998 until 2001, returning to the big leagues with the Royals in 2002. He had a strong 2003 season, going 10-8 3.77, but the next year Darrell led the AL with 19 losses. His big league career ended in 2005 with the Yankees, then he spent 2006 in the minors with the Reds before retiring.
John O’Connell (1904) Catcher for the 1928-29 Pirates. He made his major league debut for the Pirates on August 16, 1928 after the starting catcher, Charlie Hargreaves, got injured and backup catcher Rollie Hemsley got thrown out of the game. O’Connell was the third string catcher, and forced into action. While it was said that he did alright, the Pirates didn’t think he was ready for full-time work, so they went with Hemsley, who caught two straight doubleheaders the next two days. Rollie also caught the next five games, including another doubleheader, before Hargreaves returned. O’Connell didn’t make another appearance the rest of the season. Just prior to playing his first big league game, which was also his first professional game, O’Connell was playing semi-pro ball, joining the Pirates just a day before his debut.
In 1929, John was sent to the minors after he lost the third string catching spot to Bob Linton in Spring Training. O’Connell returned to the Pirates late in the season, playing his last two major league games in October, starting the final two games of the season. John went to the minors in 1930, playing for Fort Worth of the Texas League, where he was being groomed to be a backup for first baseman Gus Suhr. He never made it back to the majors, finishing his career three seasons later, playing for Harrisburg of the New York-Penn League. O’Connell went 1-8 at the plate in his big league career, with a double and a walk to his credit.
Jolly Roger Rewind: June 13, 1997
In the first interleague game in franchise history, the Pirates moved into sole possession of first place in the National League Central and evened their record at 32-32 with a 5-3 victory over the Royals at Three Rivers Stadium.
A transaction, six months to the day earlier, served as prelude to the contest: Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay, in one of a series of trades of established Buccos for less-proven players, had sent third baseman Jeff King and shortstop Jay Bell to Kansas City for third baseman Joe Randa and three pitchers.* At the time of their first visit to Pittsburgh in visiting uniforms, both King and Bell were enjoying solid seasons. Both continued that success against the Bucs: King gave the Royals a 2-0 lead with a first-inning home run off Francisco Cordova, and Bell broke a 2-2 tie with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly.
But the infielder whom Bonifay received in return would outdo both of them on this night. In the third inning, Randa led the Pirates’ counter to King’s home run by tripling home Jason Kendall and scoring on Mark Johnson’s sacrifice fly. He then answered Bell’s sacrifice fly with a fifth-inning home run to tie the score at 3-3. Finally, after Tony Womack gave the Bucs their first lead at 4-3 with a sixth-inning home run**, Randa provided an insurance tally with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.
Cordova shrugged off King’s homer to turn in a solid six and two thirds innings for the win. When he faltered in the seventh inning, Matt Ruebel took the ball and pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam, and Rich Loiselle closed out Kansas City in the ninth for the save. The victory returned the Pirates to .500 after a three game losing streak and gave them a one-game lead over the second-place Astros, who lost their own inaugural interleague game to the Twins.
* Upon making the trade, Kansas City general manager Herk Robinson, himself likewise presiding over a franchise’s slow decline, had tactfully remarked, “Hey, I like Joe Randa. But, uh, come on. Not to pat myself on the back, but this trade is unbelievable.”
** Womack’s home run came off of an undistinguished 28-year-old Royals reliever named Mike Williams, struggling through a brief stint in Kansas City after several largely unimpressive years in Philadelphia. Roughly a year later, Williams would wind up in the Pirates’ bullpen and enjoy the best season of his career; by opening day 1999, he was the Bucs’ closer.
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