On this date in 1978 the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners made a six player trade with three players involved from each team. Pitchers Enrique Romo and Rick Jones along with shortstop Tom McMillan went to the Pirates while Seattle got pitchers Rafael Vasquez, Odell Jones and shortstop Mario Mendoza. Odell Jones was 25 at the time of the trade, he had played parts of three seasons in the majors, all with the Pirates. He went 3-7 5.08 in 34 games in 1977 and pitched just 9 innings for the Pirates in 1978. Mendoza played 324 games over five seasons in Pittsburgh and he had a .204 batting average with one career homer. Vasquez was a 20 year old minor leaguer who went 14-9 3.23 with 150 strikeouts in AA. Rick Jones was 23 years old with a 6-9 4.02 record in 37 games over parts of three seasons. McMillan was 26 with just two games in the majors. He was a 2nd round draft pick in 1973. Romo was 31 with two seasons in the majors. As a reliever he not only picked up 26 saves but also had 19 career wins.
Of the players involved in the trade, McMillan and Rick Jones never played in the majors again which left Romo as the only return for the Pirates but he made up for the other two players. Vasquez lasted just one month and nine appearances in the majors, all with the Mariners in 1979. Odell Jones pitched 25 games for the Mariners going 3-11 with a 6.07 ERA. He rejoined the Pirates in 1980 and played briefly in the majors with them in 1981. Mendoza played 262 games for the Mariners in two years and hit .218 including a .198 mark in 148 games in 1979. Romo pitched four years out of the Pirates pen, getting into 236 games. During the 1979 season when the Pirates won the World Series, Romo pitched 84 games, posting a 2.99 ERA with 10 wins and five saves. With the Pirates Romo had a 3.56 ERA with 25 wins and 26 saves.
Born on this date in in 1963 was shortstop Sam Khalifa, who played for the Pirates from 1985-87. He was the Pirates first round draft pick in 1982, the seventh overall pick in the draft. He signed quickly and played 54 games that year, 48 of them in low-A ball where he hit .305. By the end of the 1983 season he was in AA although he returned to the level the next season and hit just .238 in 91 games while missing time twice during the year with a wrist injury. Promoted to AAA in 1985, Khalifa played well enough to be promoted to the majors by the end of June. He played 95 games his rookie season hitting .238 with 34 walks and 31 RBI’s.
In 1986 Sam made the opening day roster but struggled as he was hitting just .192 through the middle of June. He was sent down to AAA where he hit .315 in 50 games. He returned briefly in August when the new starting shortstop, Rafael Belliard was on the DL. Khalifa returned in September and finished the year hitting .185 over 64 games. He returned to AAA for 1987 playing just five July games in the majors, his last time in the big leagues. He played two more years in the minors before retiring as a player.
Also born on this date in 1871 was pitcher Lew “Snake” Wiltse, who made his major league debut for the 1901 Pirates. He didn’t establish himself as a prospect until he was 28 when the Pirates acquired him from a minor league team from Syracuse. He made just five starts and two relief appearances, going 1-4 4.26 in 44.1 innings before being release due to weakness in his pitching arm. He signed a month later with the Philadelphia Athletics and went 13-5 in 19 starts. The 1901 Pirates pitching staff was so deep with Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe that they were able to give up on a quality pitcher like Wiltse. He was called Snake because of his odd delivery that reminded people of a snake unwinding. He was one of three major leaguers born on December 4, 1871. He finished his major league career in 1903 with a 29-31 record but played in the minors until 1910.
Bill Rodgers (1922) Outfielder for the 1944-45 Pirates. He played just three major league games, two late season appearances in 1944 and a pinch-hitting appearance the following April. He got his only big league start in the final game of the 1944 season, playing right field and batting second. Rodgers went 2-for-5 at the plate, collecting his final hit off Paul Derringer, who won 223 games in his career. Rodgers spent three seasons in the minors for the Pirates, hitting at least .310 each year, before he went to serve his country in WWII. After returning to baseball in 1946, he played one year in the minors for Pittsburgh and his final five years in the Yankees organization before retiring.
Born on this date in 1868 was catcher Frank Bowerman, who played for the Pirates in 1898-99. The Pirates bought him from the Baltimore Orioles for $2500 in June of 1898. He played 48 games over four seasons with the Orioles prior to the purchase. While with the Pirates he hit .274 in 69 games in 1898. In 1899 he hit .260 with 53 RBI’s in 110 games. He caught 80 games that year and led all NL catchers in errors with 23. His 111 hits that year were a career high and the only time in his 15 year career he reached the 100 hit mark. Just prior to the next season, Bowerman was assigned to the New York Giants, where he stayed for the next eight seasons. He hit .250 over 1048 career games.
Finally, born on this date in 1872 was pitcher Emerson Pink Hawley, who played for the Pirates from 1895 to 1897. A write-up for him from this site 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.