On this date in 1973 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded catcher Milt May to the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Jerry Reuss. May had been drafted by the Pirates in the 11th round of the amateur draft in 1968 and he made his major league debut on September 8, 1970. He was used as a pinch hitter five times that September, his only five appearances. In 1971 he made the opening day roster and was the backup to Manny Sanguillen all season. May played in 49 games, hit .278 with 6 homers and drove in 25 runs in just 126 at bats. In the playoffs he drove in the go ahead run in the 7th inning of game four to tie up the series.
Milt reprised the same role the next season and played slightly more, getting into 57 games. He wasn’t as productive as 1971, despite hitting .281 he drove in just 14 runs and did not hit a homer in 139 AB’s. When Roberto Clemente passed during the off-season the Pirates moved Sanguillen to his spot in right field and made May the starting catcher. That lasted until mid-June when Sanguillen moved back behind the plate thus moving May to the bench despite the fact he was hitting .283 at the time. He finished the year hitting .269 in 101 games. May would finish his career with the Pirates in 1984 after being reacquired the previous August.
Reuss was a 24 year old lefty coming off a 16-13 3.74 season with an NL leading 40 starts. He made his debut with the 1969 Cardinals, joined the Astros in 1972 and had a 47-48 career record at the time of the trade. In his first season in Pittsburgh he posted his best record up to that point, going 16-11 while also posting a career low 3.50 ERA. In the playoffs he lost two games in the NLCS to the Dodgers including the elimination game. He did pitch well in game one, allowing just one run in 7 innings but the Pirates were shutout by Don Sutton.
In 1975 Jerry had his best season in a Pirates uniform with an 18-11 record and again set a career low with his 2.54 ERA. He was elected to his first all-star game as well. The Pirates made the playoffs again and Reuss again started game one with much different results than the previous year. Against the Reds this time, he gave up 4 runs in just 2.2 innings giving him three losses in his only three playoff starts with the Pirates. Reuss pitched well again in 1976 going 14-9 but struggled in 1977 going 10-13 while posting his first ERA over 4.00 with the Pirates. He had shoulder troubles in 1978 and over the off-season he was traded to the Dodgers for Rick Rhoden, a trade that worked out well for both teams. Like Milt May, Reuss would finish his career in a Pirates uniform, rejoining the team in 1990.
Born on this date in 1874 was Pirates catcher Harry Smith who played for the team from 1902-07. He was originally acquired in a trade for Heinie Reitz during the end of the 1900 season but before he could play a game in a Pirates uniform he jumped to the Philadelphia Athletics of the newly formed American League. After one season in the AL he returned to the Pirates where he would be the backup catcher for three seasons. After 1904 Smith spent three more years in Pittsburgh but he played just 20 games total. He was with the Pirates in early 1908 until they sold him to Boston(NL) in June. He played three years in the majors with Boston, one as a player/manager, before spending seven seasons in the minors, five as a manager. While with the Pirates he hit .202 in 178 games. Smith is one of just 34 players born in England to play in the majors with only five of them playing more games in the majors than Smith and none since 1909.
Finally, born on this date in 1862 was Hardie Henderson, who pitched for the 1888 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He was the team’s third starter at the beginning of the year along with Ed “Cannonball” Morris and Pud Galvin. Henderson won his first game but the Alleghenys would lose his next four starts and he was dropped from the team. The Pirates went with just two starters for a month, although once they went to outfielder/ first baseman Al Maul for a start. That was the end of Henderson’s major league career, one that saw him go 81-121 in six seasons. In 1884, Hardie went 27-23 2.62 with 346 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. He began his career one season earlier with very little success, going 10-33, 4.19 in 43 starts, though he did stick around to finish 39 of those games. His major league pitching debut was not one he would like to remember. On May 3,1883, pitching for the Philadelphia Quakers(Phillies), he lost 24-6 to the Providence Grays. Henderson pitched the entire game, allowed 19 earned runs and 26 hits. It would be his last game for the Quakers, who also gave him a start in left field one day earlier.
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.