This Date in Pirates History: March 8

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. To save on some time, I included links from previous articles we posted here, for two players, that already covered their career.

Jim Dougherty (1968) pitcher for the 1999 Pirates. He was a late round draft pick of the Astros that took five years to make the majors. He posted a 4.92 ERA in 56 relief appearances his rookie season of 1995. After that he had three unsuccessful stints in the majors, one year each with the Astros, A’s and Pirates. He had ERA’s (in very few appearances) of 9.00, 8.25 and 9.00 in those three seasons. He pitched just two innings for the Pirates. His first outing he gave up three runs, two of them earned, in two innings, then walked the only batter he faced in his other game before being sent to AAA for the rest of the season. He pitched 586 minor league games over 12 seasons without making a single start.

Joel Johnston (1967) pitcher for the 1993-94 Pirates. For more on Johnston, check out the article that covers the trade that brought him to the Pirates in exchange for Jose Lind.

Juan Jimenez (1949) pitcher for the 1974 Pirates. His big league career consisted of just four relief appearances for the 1974 Pirates, four innings total. He pitched six seasons in the minor leagues, the last three in the Pirates system where he pitched both in relief and as a starter. He had an ERA between 2.57 and 3.03 each of those three seasons. Juan spent all of 1975 in AAA before the Pirates sold him to a team from the Mexican League, where he finished his career. He began his career in 1967 in the Astros system as an infielder, switching to pitcher after just one year in rookie ball. An interesting note about his four games with the Pirates. They were spread out over a three week period and he faced four different teams, all on the road. The Pirates actually played more home games in September that year yet the home fans never saw him pitch.

Toby Atwell (1924) catcher for the Pirates from 1953 until 1956. The Pirates acquired him from the Cubs in the 10 player Ralph Kiner trade in 1953 and then traded him to the Cardinals during the 1956 season for Dick Rand, who was covered during yesterday’s “This Date” article. Atwell did not have much success behind the plate with his throwing. He led the NL in stolen bases allowed in both 1952 and 1954 and the season in between he led NL catchers in errors. He did make the all-star team as a rookie in 1952 due to his hitting. He batted .290 that year and in 1954 with the Pirates he hit .289 over 96 games. In his four seasons in Pittsburgh, he was a .250 hitter in 232 games. Toby spent six seasons catching in the Dodgers farm system before he made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1952. He was blocked in the Dodgers system by Hall of Famer Roy Campanella.

Al Gionfriddo (1922) outfielder for the 1944-47 Pirates. He is known by many baseball people as the man who robbed Joe DiMaggio in game six of the WS, a famous catch that is still shown often to this day but Gionfriddo actually played most of his playing career for the Pirates, not the Brooklyn Dodgers. Al spent three years in the minors before joining the Pirates and also had a brief stay in the military during WWII, missing the entire 1943 season. He hit between .329 and .348 each season, earning a late September call-up in 1944 to make his major league debut. In 1945 he was a regular in the Pirates outfield, playing 82 games in center field and 26 between LF/RF. He hit .284 with 60 walks and 74 RBI’s in 122 games that year. A rookie named Ralph Kiner emerged in 1946, taking playing time away from Gionfriddo. Early the next season he would be traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers along with $100k in cash in exchange for five players. He played just 37 regular season games in Brooklyn and only four of the seven post-season games, getting four PA’s total. Al was sent to the minors in 1948 and stayed there for nine seasons before retiring.

Bill Salkeld (1917) catcher for the Pirates from 1945-47. He played nine seasons in the minors before getting his first shot at the big leagues when the Pirates bought his contract from the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League in September 1944. Salkeld hit .313 with 15 homers and 52 RBI’s in 95 games during his rookie season. The following season the Pirates split the catching duties between four guys who all caught between 39 and 56 games. Bill played 69 games and got exactly 200 plate appearances on the year, hitting .294 with 39 walks. After a 1947 season that saw him slump down to .213 and also get a demotion to the minors, he was traded to the Boston Braves in a five player deal that brought Danny Murtaugh to Pittsburgh. That trade was covered here. Salkeld played three more seasons in the majors before returning to the minors where he finished his career in 1953. His grandson Roger Salkeld was a pitcher for two teams during the mid-90’s.

Ray Mueller (1912) catcher for the Pirates from 1939-40 and 1950. For more on Mueller, including the 1938 trade that brought him to Pittsburgh, check out the article posted here

Jim Hughey (1869) pitcher for the 1896-97 Pirates. He had a 12-18 record while with the Pirates but that was by far the best performance of his career. Hughey finished with a 29-80 record in the major leagues. In 1898 he went 7-24 for a St Louis Browns team that went 39-111 on the season. His luck got worse the next year as he pitched for the worst team in baseball history, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, a team that went 20-134 with Hughey contributing a 4-30 record. Despite going 17-72 in years when he wasn’t with the Pirates, he still had a higher ERA with Pittsburgh than all of his other five seasons combined, finishing with a 5.03 ERA for the Pirates and a 4.87 career ERA. Jim went a combined 46-27 in the minors between the 1894-95 seasons.