This Date in Pirates History: March 18

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players and a manager were born on this date. Starting with the most recent player first, we have Brian Fisher(1962) who pitched for the Pirates from 1987 until 1989. Fisher spent two years in the Yankees bullpen before the Pirates acquired him in the six player deal on November 26,1986 that also brought Doug Drabek back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates moved Fisher to a starting role and he responded with an 11-9 4.52 record in 185.1 innings. He had similar results the following season, going 8-10 4.61 but his strikeout total dropped from 117 to 66(he threw 39 less innings) and his WHIP went up. Fisher started 1989 on the disabled list then pitched poorly when he returned, went on the DL again, which prompted the Pirates to send him to AAA to finish the year when he returned. Following the season he was released. Fisher pitched in pro ball until 1993 but he had just 26 major league games left in his career at that point.

Dick Littlefield(1926) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1954 until 1956. The Pirates acquired Littlefield from the Baltimore Orioles on May 25,1954 in exchange for veteran outfielder Cal Abrams. It was the fifth time Littlefield was traded since 1950. Prior to joining the Pirates, he had 12 career wins in 93 games, 32 as a starter. For the Orioles in 1954 he had a 10.50 ERA in three relief appearances. Littlefield nearly equaled his career win total in his first four months in Pittsburgh, going 10-11 3.60 in 155 innings. The record was impressive because the Pirates lost 101 games that year back during the days of the 154 game schedule. Like most of the Pirates pitchers in 1955, he struggled on the mound, posting a 5-12 5.12 record. Three other regular pitchers on that staff had ERA’s higher than he did and only Bob Friend(14-9) had a winning record.

Early the next year, the Pirates traded Littlefield and young outfielder Bobby Del Greco to the Cardinals for Bill Virdon. Littlefield played in the majors until May 1958, then returned to the minors where he finished his career in 1962. He had a 91-69 minor league record but he manage to go only 33-54 in the majors. He was involved in ten trades during his nine year career including being traded from the Giants to the Dodgers for Jackie Robinson. Robinson refused to report to the Giants, instead deciding to retire and the deal was voided.

Elbie Fletcher(1916) First baseman for the Pirates from 1939 until 1943 and then again in 1946-47. The Pirates acquired him from the Boston Bees(Braves) in exchange for infielder Bill Schuster on June 15,1939. Fletcher would end up playing 916 games in Pittsburgh while the Bees got just two games out of Schuster. Fletcher stepped right into the starting first baseman role and hit .303 with 71 RBI’s in 102 games that first year. In 1940 he started a streak of three straight seasons with over 100 walks, while leading the NL in OBP each season. He not only walked 119 times in 1940 to lead the league, he also drove in 104 runs and scored 94 times. In 1941 he had an NL leading 118 walks, scored 95 runs and drove in 74 while hitting a career high 13 triples and 29 doubles. After a .289 average and 105 walks in 1942, Elbie made his only all-star appearance in 1943. That year he led all NL first baseman in assists, putouts and fielding percentage.

Fletcher would lose the next three years while serving in the military during WWII, returning to the Pirates in 1947 and picking up where he left off. He drew 111 walks, drove in 66 runs and scored 72 times. His numbers and playing time dropped in 1948 and following the season, he was traded to the Indians in exchange for another veteran first baseman named Les Fleming. Elbie spent the 1948 seasons in the minors before getting one more year at the big league level right back where he started, spending the 1949 season with the Braves. He finished his career in the minors in 1950. For the Pirates, Fletcher hit .279 with 625 walks and 464 RBI’s in 916 games.

Nixey Callahan(1874) Manager for the Pirates during the 1916-17 seasons. He started as a pitcher in 1894 with the Phillies, then spent two years in the minors before spending the next nine seasons in Chicago, four with the Cubs then five with the White Sox. He was one of the better hitting pitchers in baseball which led to more playing time in the field on his days off from pitching. After the 1905 season he would purchase a semi-pro team and take five years off from the majors. Due to the fact his team was considered an outlaw team, he was put on the major league ineligible list. To clear his name he had to pay a heavy fine so he could play again when the 1911 White Sox came calling.

Despite the long layoff, and the fact he was 37 years old at the time, Callahan hit .281 with 60 RBI’s and 45 stolen bases. He retired after 1913 with a .273 batting average in 923 games and a pitching record of 99-73 in 195 games pitched. Nixey was a player/manager for the White Sox in 1903-04 and 1912-14. He had a 309-329 record over those five seasons. Callahan worked in the White Sox front office in 1915 then took over the Pirates managerial job to start 1916. Under Nixey, the Pirates went from fifth place in 1915 down to sixth place in 1916. Pittsburgh was even worse in 1917 and after a 20-40 start, Callahan was replaced by Honus Wagner. It was the last job in baseball for Nixey, who became a successful contractor later in life.

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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