On this date in 1974 the Pirates traded outfielder Gene Clines to the New York Mets in exchange for catcher Duffy Dyer. The day after the trade the Pirates released backup catcher Mike Ryan. Dyer, 29 years old at the time he joined the Pirates, had spent his entire major league career with the Mets, making his debut in 1968. He was a light hitting backup his first two seasons in Pittsburgh but in 1977 he split the time behind the plate with Ed Ott, tying a career high with 94 games played and he led all National League catchers in fielding percentage. In his final season in Pittsburgh, Dyer backed up Ott, getting into 58 games while hitting .211 in 175 AB’s. He was declared a free agent following the season and he signed with the Expos. He finished his 14 year career in 1981 with the Tigers. While with the Pirates he hit .227 in 269 games. For more on Gene Clines, please check out our October 6th article on him.
Born on this date in 1968 was former Pirates catcher Keith Osik who played for the team from 1996-2002. He was drafted in the 24th round in 1990 by the Pirates and played six seasons in the minors before making his major league debut on April 5, 1996. He would hit .293 with 14 RBI’s in 48 games his rookie season but he was backing up Jason Kendall who hit .300 that year as a rookie. Osik would serve as his backup all seven season in Pittsburgh and when Kendall got hurt during the 1999 season, Osik got his most playing time, getting into 66 games that year. In his Pirates career he hit .231 in 359 games. He played three more seasons for three different teams, retiring after the 2005 season to coach college baseball.
Also born on this date was Wilbur Wood, who spent parts of two seasons in the majors with the Pirates. Before he became the durable knuckleball pitcher for the White Sox, winning 163 games over 12 seasons, Wood was in the Pirates organization. Between 1964-65, he pitched 37 games for Pittsburgh, three of those games were as a starter. He was 1-3, 3.28 in 68.2 innings. Wood spent all of 1966 in the minors, going 14-8, 2.41 in 31 starts at AAA. Right after the season ended, he was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Juan Pizarro. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Wood became an excellent relief pitcher for three seasons in Chicago, back when good relievers regularly pitched over 100 innings. Then he was put into the starting rotation and he won 20 or more games, four years in a row. He retired after the 1978 season with 164 wins, one with the Pirates and 163 in Chicago. Pittsburgh originally acquired him late in the 1964 season, purchasing him from the Boston Red Sox.
Finally, born on this date in 1895 was Pirates pitcher Johnny Morrison who played for the team from 1920-1927. He started his career in the minors in 1915 but didn’t make a name for himself until 1920 when he went 26-13 in 319 innings for Birmingham of the Southern Association. He made his major league debut with the Pirates pitching one inning of relief on September 28th. Four days later on the last day of the season he pitched the third game of a tripleheader, pitching a complete game shutout for his first career win, although the game went just 6 innings.
After starting the 1921 season back with Birmingham, Morrison joined the Pirates rotation for good in late June and he would go on to pitch over 200 innings each of the next four seasons. After going 17-11 in 1922, Johnny would have his best season the following year when he went 25-13 3.49 for the 3rd place Pirates. He was 2nd in the league in wins and no Pirates pitcher has won more than 25 games in a season since. Morrison led the NL in games pitched in 1924 but slipped to an 11-16 record.
In 1925 the Pirates won the National League pennant and Johnny led the NL in games pitched again. The pitching staff had five pitchers who won at least 15 games and Morrison went 17-14 3.88 that year. In the World Series he pitched three games in relief totaling 9.1 innings in which he allowed three earned runs, helping the Pirates in game seven to a win when starter Vic Aldridge couldn’t get out of the first inning. In 1926 Morrison was pitching well until the end of May but he began to have problems, he claimed he was injured and left the team but the Pirates suspended him claiming it was personal problems. He pitched to just one batter between June 1-August 22( June 27 during a 16-0 loss) before returning to the team for the last month and a half. In his final season in Pittsburgh he was used sparingly, then after his July 2nd appearance he left the team claiming he was injured again. When the Pirates told him to rejoin the team and he didn’t, he was suspended for good. He pitched two seasons with Brooklyn before returning to the minors for two final seasons. He finished his Pirates career with an 89-71 record in 242 games.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.