On this date in 1996 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded veteran reliever Dan Plesac, infielder Carlos Garcia and 1B/OF Orlando Merced to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Jose Silva and minor leaguers Brandon Cromer and Jose Pett plus three players to be named later. On December 11th the Pirates received infielder Abe Nunez, catcher/outfielder Craig Wilson and pitcher Mike Halperin. Silva lasted five seasons in Pittsburgh going 24-28 5.44 in 140 games. Nunez lasted eight seasons with the Pirates hitting .238 over 630 games and Wilson was around for six years, playing 634 games with 94 homers and a .268 batting average. The other three players failed to make the major leagues with Pett losing two full seasons due to injury.
On this date in 1947 the Pirates purchased seldom used shortstop Stan Rojek from the Brooklyn Dodgers. His first season in Pittsburgh, Rojek led the NL in games played, plate appearances and at bats. He also finished 10th in the MVP voting, thanks in part to a .290 average with 85 runs scored. Rojek would play two more full seasons in Pittsburgh and part of 1951 before they traded him to the St Louis Cardinals for Rocky Nelson and Erv Dusak.
Born on this date in 1967 was pitcher Paul Wagner, who pitched for the Pirates from 1992-97. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 12th round of the 1989 amateur draft and made his debut as a spot starter in July of 1992. He was recalled in September, finishing with a 2-0 0.69 record in six games that year. In 1993 he went 8-8 4.27 in 17 starts and 27 relief appearances. He made 17 starts again in 1994 while also pitching some relief, finishing the strike shortened season with a 7-8 4.59 record. In 1995 he led the NL in losses, posting a 5-16 record and for a third straight season his ERA increased, this time to a 4.80 mark. He continued that trend in 1996, going 4-8 5.40 in 15 starts. He pitched in the minors in 1997 and struggled, posting an ERA over 10.00 in 12 games in AA. He pitched 14 games out of the Pirates bullpen as well before he was released in late August. He finished with a 26-40 4.58 record with the Pirates
Also born on this date, in 1978, was 1B/RF Xavier Nady who played for Pittsburgh from 2006-08. He was acquired from the Mets at the 2006 trade deadline in exchange for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. Nady hit .300 in 55 games that season for the Pirates. In 2007 he played in 125 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .278 with 20 homers and 72 RBI’s. He hit .330 in 89 games for the 2008 Pirates before being traded to the Yankees along with Damaso Marte in exchange for Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Jose Tabata. Nady played for the Diamondbacks in 2011, split 2012 between the Giants and Nationals and spent 2013 in the minors. While he was with the Pirates he hit .301 with 152 RBI’s in 269 games.
On a busy day for Pirates players birthday’s, we go to the 1800’s for six more players. The most recent one of the group being Claude Willoughby, born in 1898, who pitched briefly for the Pirates following his acquisition in November 1930. Claude was part of the Dick Bartell for Tommy Thevenow trade covered here. He had a 38-56 record in six seasons for the Phillies prior to the trade and he was coming off his worst season in Philadelphia, when he went 4-17 7.59 in a combined 24 starts and 17 relief appearances. With the Pirates Claude lasted less than two months, pitching 25.2 innings over nine games, two as a starter. He went 0-2 6.31 in what was his last major league season. He played until 1937 in the minors.
Joe Leonard, who was born on this date in 1893, played third base for the 1914 Pirates. He spent his first two seasons in pro ball as a teenager with the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League. In 1913 he hit .277 over 154 games which led the Pirates to sign him for the 1914 season. He hit just .198 in 53 games and was returned to the minors following the season. Leonard split the 1916 season between the minor leagues, three games with the Cleveland Indians and 42 games for the Washington Senators. He played for the Senators in 1917,1919 and finished his career with one game in 1920. He was a .226 career hitter in 269 games.
Fred Carisch, who played for the first World Series team in Pirates history, was born on this date in 1881. He made his pro debut with the 1903 Pirates on the last day of August, which made him eligible to play in the World Series but he did not appear in a postseason game. He was the third string catcher for the 1904 Pirates, getting into 37 games and he hit .248 in 125 at-bats. He was the backup catcher early in 1905 before the Pirates added George Gibson to the team pushing him to the third string role again, Gibson went on to catch over 1,000 games in a Pirates uniform. Carisch played four games in 1906 before returning to the minors until 1912 when he reappeared in the majors with the Indians for three seasons. Fred caught two games for the 1923 Tigers to end his career, he played parts of 8 seasons in the majors, although it took 21 years from start to finish. He had a .229 average in 78 games for the Pirates.
Jim Wallace, a right fielder for the 1905 Pirates, was born on the same day as Carisch. His big league career lasted all of six days, but he got into seven games during that brief stretch. Wallace went 6-for-29 at the plate with three RBI’s and a .523 OPS. He also picked up three outfield assists. Wallace never played in the majors again, but he had a decent minor league career spent solely in the Northeast. He was born in Massachusetts and spent most of his nine year career in his home state. His best minor league season was that 1905 campaign, when he hit .314 in the New England League, then got a brief trial in the Eastern League, which was one of the top leagues at the time. Wallace batted lead-off in both games of a doubleheader in his first day in the majors and collected three hits. The lineup behind him during those games was pretty formidable, Fred Clarke, Tommy Leach and Honus Wagner. When the Pirates returned home from a short trip on August 31st, they had a new outfielder that they wanted to try out, Bob Ganley. Manager Fred Clarke said that Wallace was a good player that needed more seasoning in the minors, but that turned out to be his only big league time.
Sam Gillen (1867) was a shortstop for the 1893 Pirates and a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh. He spent most of his nine year pro career in the minors, playing three games for the Pirates in 1893 and 75 for the Phillies four years later, as his only time in the majors. He made his major league debut on August 19th, playing both games of a doubleheader against the first place Boston Beaneaters. It was said that he held his own at shortstop, though he made an error and wasn’t able to collect a hit. Despite the good play, it was questioned in the newspaper as to why the Pirates would use Gillen in a big situation over Jim Gray, a veteran baseball player from Pittsburgh. The next three games of the Boston series ended up getting rained out and Gillen would play just one more game with the Pirates, coming in as a defensive replacement seven days later during a blowout loss. With the Pirates, he finished 0-for-6 at the plate and he made two errors.
Finally, Otto Schomberg played first base for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Born in 1864, he was a well sought after minor league hitter, who was weak in the field when the Alleghenys signed him in July of 1886. He became the everyday first baseman and hit well, batting .272 with 57 walks in just 72 games. After the season he was traded along with cash to the St Louis Maroons for first baseman Alex McKinnon. Schomberg had a strong season at the plate in 1887 but he led all 1B in errors. His major league career was derailed by injuries and health problems in 1888 and he finished his career in the minors. McKinnon hit .340 in his first 48 games for the 1887 Alleghenys but came down with typhoid fever in late June and passed away a month later. More of McKinnon can be read here.
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.