This Date in Pirates History: December 15

On this date in 1967 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded four players to the Philadelphia Phillies for Hall of Fame pitcher, Jim Bunning. Going to Philly in the deal were pitcher Woody Fryman, minor league third baseman Don Money and two minor league pitchers, Bill Laxton and Harold Clem. Bunning  was thirty-six at the time of the trade with a career mark of 192-133, 3.07 in 13 seasons. In 1967 he went 17-15, 2.29 and led the league in games started, innings pitched and strikeouts while finishing second in the Cy Young voting. His career success did not carry over into Pittsburgh. He went just 4-14, 3.88 in 1968, battled some injuries and his 160 innings pitched was his lowest total since 1956 when he spent most of the year in AAA. His record improved the following season, going 10-9, but his ERA was still high for him at 3.81 in 25 starts through the middle of August. The Pirates traded him on August 15th to the Dodgers for two players.

Money would become an all-star third baseman but not until he left the Phillies for Milwaukee. He was a good defender who had some pop in his bat, hitting 176 homers and driving in 729 runs during his 16 seasons in the majors, all of them coming after the trade. Fryman spent two seasons in Pittsburgh going 15-17 3.91, mostly as a starter and he didn’t make his major league debut until he was 27 years old. He played another 16 seasons after the trade, winning 126 more games for five other teams. He lost 155 career games and did not have a winning record for any of the six teams he played for. He made the 1968 all-star team, posting a 2.78 ERA in 32 starts that year. Clem never made the majors and Laxton pitched just two games for the Phillies and won just three games with a 4.73 ERA over parts of five major league seasons.

Willis was elected to the HOF in 1995

Also on this date, in 1905 , the Pirates traded infielder Dave Brain, first baseman Del Howard and pitcher Vive Lindaman to the Boston Beaneaters in exchange for Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis. Howard had hit .292 in 123 games as a rookie with the Pirates in 1905 but he was 27 years old that season. Lindaman was a minor leaguer who went 24-7 but he was also 27 at the time and he had no prior major league experience. Brain was in his third full season in the majors in 1905 when the Pirates acquired him mid-season from the Cardinals. He hit .247 with 63 RBI’s that year and had driven home 72 runs the previous season. Willis had an unimpressive 151-147 record at the time of the trade but he had a 2.82 career ERA and he was a workhorse who was pitching for a bad Boston club. He led the NL in losses the two prior seasons but that was due more to the team than his pitching

Willis made this trade a major win for the Pirates despite playing just four seasons in Pittsburgh. He won over 20 games each season while averaging 302 innings pitched per year and he had a 2.08 ERA in his 160 games. Lindaman pitched four seasons in Boston, his only four years in the majors and while he had a strong 2.92 ERA, his record was just 36-60 and he lost 23 games his first year. Howard was moved to the outfield and couldn’t match his numbers with the Pirates. Boston traded him to the Cubs in mid- 1907 and by 1909 his major league career was over. Brain would lead the NL in homers in 1907 while still with Boston but by the next season he would hit just .125 in 27 games split between the Reds and Giants, his last season in the majors.

Born on this date in 1946 was longtime major league manager Art Howe, who began his baseball career with the Pirates in 1971 when he was signed as an amateur free agent. Howe hit .348 with 12 homers his first season in baseball at A ball then was moved up to AAA, a level he was spent parts or all of the next five seasons. The Pirates called him up in 1974 after he was hitting .338 in 60 games at Charleston. He played 29 games his rookie season, mostly as a third baseman and he hit .243 with 10 runs scored and 5 RBIs. He was with the Pirates for most of the 1975 season, getting 162 plate appearances in 63 games but he hit just .171 with 10 RBIs. Following the season the Pirates traded him to the Astros for veteran second baseman Tommy Helms. Howe became an everyday player in 1977 and he hit .269 in seven seasons in Houston. He has 1129 wins as a major league manager.

Nig Clarke (1882) Catcher for the 1920 Pirates. He played just three games for the Pirates, but Clarke had a long career with three very interesting footnotes. Clarke came to the Pirates as a waiver claim in November of 1919 from the Philadelphia Phillies. He hit .242 in 26 games for the Phillies in 1919 and for the Pirates, he went 0-for-7 with two walks in two starts behind the plate and one pinch-hit appearance. That was the end of his big league career, but he continued on in the minors another five seasons. Clarke was not a power hitter, belting six homers in his nine year big league career. In his last eight seasons of minor league ball, he hit a total of eight homers. So this may come as a huge surprise to most, but he holds the single game record for homers.

On June 15,1902 while playing for Corsicana in the Texas League, Clarke came to the plate eight time and hit eight homers. The story goes, that his team wanted to play on Sunday, so to avoid Blue Laws, they moved their game to a High School field out of town. Everyone on his team hit well that day on the smaller field, but no one else came close to what Clarke did. Clarke’s second claim to fame was the fact that he caught a perfect game in 1908 thrown by Hall of Famer Addie Joss. The third footnote for him wasn’t as enviable as the first two feats. He was in the majors from 1905 until 1911, then went eight years before he played big league ball again. In 506 career games, he hit .254 with 127 RBIs.

Finally, born on this date in in 1884 was Pirates first baseman Joe Nealon, who played for Pittsburgh in 1906-07. Joe played three seasons out in California, his home state, prior to the Pirates signing him just before his 21st birthday. As a rookie in 1906 he was the only player on the team to play in all 154 games and he would lead the NL in RBIs with 83 to go along with 82 runs scored and a .255 batting average. He hit .257 in 105 games the following year, then became ill and returned to his home. He played the next two seasons in the minors in California but contracted typhoid fever and passed away at the age of 25 in April of 1910.

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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.

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