This Date in Pirates History: May 29

On a busier than normal day for transactions, we have two trades and a signing to cover. Also two former players born on this date, as well as a recap of a managerial milestone from John Fredland in his Jolly Roger Rewind.

The Transactions

On this date in 1987, the Pirates sent veteran infielder Bill Almon to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league outfielder Scott Little and shortstop Al Pedrique. Almon was a former first overall pick in the 1974 draft, who had previously played for the Mets during the 1980 season. He was in his 14th season in the majors at the time of the trade, barely playing with the Pirates, getting 21 plate appearances in 19 games. Pedrique was 27 and had played his first five games in the majors with the Mets that season. He had been in their organization since 1978, spending the last seven seasons split between AA and AAA. Little was 24 years old, in his fourth season in the Mets system, struggling at AA. Scott was a 7th round draft pick in 1984, and had reached AA the prior season.

After the trade, Little reported to single-A ball and worked his way though the minors, reaching Pittsburgh for three games in the middle of the 1989 season. He remained in the Pirates system as a player through 1991, then began managing for the organization in the minors until 1999. Pedrique played 88 games for the Pirates in 1987, hitting .301 with 27 RBI’s. His success at the majors was short-lived. He was back in the minors in 1988 after hitting .198 through the beginning of June. He returned in August but his average fell to .180 by the end of the season and he was released. Almon was used almost exclusively off the bench for the defending champs. He started just four games, batting 62 times in 49 games with a .241 average. He resigned with the Mets as a free agent after the season but was traded to the Phillies during Spring Training.

On this date in 1931, the Pirates traded catcher Rollie Hemsley to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Earl Grace and cash. The Pirates were able to deal Hemsley due to the emergence of catcher Eddie Phillips, and the day after Phillips drove in seven runs, this deal was consummated. Grace was a 24 year old backup for the Cubs, in his second season in the majors. He played the entire 1930 season in the minors. Hemsley was also 24, a platoon catcher for the Pirates with a decent bat and a strong arm. He was hitting just .171 at the time of the trade and seeing limited action. After the deal, Hemsley hit .309 in 66 games for the Cubs. His average dropped well off the next year and Chicago dealt him to the Reds, who in turn traded him to the St Louis Browns. It was there that Hemsley became at all-star, making the AS team five times over a ten year span. He ended up catching 1482 career games, 1230 after leaving Pittsburgh. Grace hit well for the Pirates, then took over the catching spot in 1932, playing 115 games. He was the primary catcher the next two years before giving way to Tom Padden in 1935. The Pirates traded Grace, along with pitcher Claude Passeau, to the Phillies in exchange for Al Todd on November 21,1935. With Pittsburgh, Earl hit .275 in 427 games. In 1932, he had a .998 fielding percentage, making just one error the entire year.

On this date in 1925, the Pirates signed 34 year old veteran free agent first baseman Stuffy McInnis. He was a star player for the Philadelphia A’s in the early 1910’s, beginning his major league career as an 18 year old in 1909. Stuffy had hit .291 in 1924 with the Boston Braves. He had batted over .300 ten times in his career including all three seasons prior to 1924. He started off as a bench player for the Pirates, getting just three starts in the first four weeks, but in late June he began to see more time at first base. McInnis saw his average drop to .263 near the end of July but from July 29th on, he went on a tear. He batted .468 the rest of the season, helping Pittsburgh to their third World Series appearance. He hit .286 with an RBI in the series. The next year Stuffy was the starting first baseman through the end of May but took a very limited bench role after that point, finishing with a .299 average in 47 games. He played just one more major league game in 1927 with the Phillies.

The Players

Charlie Hayes (1965) Third baseman for the 1996 Pirates. He was originally a fourth round pick of the Giants in the 1983 draft. Charlie made his major league debut in September of 1988. The next June, he was dealt to the Phillies, where he spent three seasons trying to replace the recently retired Mike Schmidt. Hayes then played for the 1992 Yankees, two year(1993-94) for the expansion Rockies, before returning to the Phillies in 1995. That year he hit .276 with 85 RBI’s in 141 games, finishing 16th in the NL MVP voting. Charlie also led all NL 3B in putouts, while finishing second in assists and fourth in fielding. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates just after Christmas. For Pittsburgh in 1996, Charlie hit .248 with 62 RBI’s in 128 games. Just before the rosters were set for the postseason, the Pirates traded him to the Yankees for minor league pitcher Chris Corn. Hayes played in the majors until 2001, finishing with a .262 average, 144 homers, 740 RBI’s and 580 runs scored in 1547 games.

Jim Stroner (1901) Third baseman for the 1929 Pirates. Early in his 13 year pro career, Jim got his one and only shot at the majors leagues, making the 1929 Pirates as a bench player. He had hit .380 with 19 homers in 1927, playing for Rock Island of the Mississippi Valley League. In 1928 he moved up to Wichita of the Western League, where he hit .367 with 42 doubles and 42 homers. Despite the fact he played just six games for the Pirates in 1929, the team had big plans for him, including one that had Pie Traynor moving to shortstop, while Stroner started at third base. Unfortunately for Jim, he had his appendix removed in January and was limited in his activities, so he was behind when the season started. Traynor stayed at third base while 21 year old Dick Bartell took over at shortstop and played well. Stroner was with the team until June 7th, starting just one of the team’s 42 games. Pittsburgh sent him to Indianapolis, then eventually traded him to Baltimore of the International League, along with another player and cash, for catcher Al Bool. Jim spent five years with Baltimore, then another six years bouncing around the minors before retiring.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 29, 1983

Richie Hebner’s seventh-inning bunt single scored Bill Madlock with the go-ahead run in an 8-5 Pirates victory in Cincinnati, the 1000th victory of Chuck Tanner’s managerial career.

Tanner became the 35th member of the 1000-win club despite a sloppy effort by the Pirates: three Bucco errors yielded two unearned Reds runs, and the two-run seventh inning rally that put the Bucs ahead to stay represented a bit of an underachievement, given that two of the outs involved baserunners erased after making overly wide turns. Still, the persistent beat of a fifteen-hit, six-walk offense eventually allowed the Pirates to put up seven runs over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings—with ten of the hits and five of the walks coming in those frames—and drain the life out of the Reds.

Tony Pena, who came into the game mired in a 5-for-41 slump, raised hopes of a return to form with a four-hit afternoon, including a two-run triple in the sixth inning to trigger the Pirates’ late-game offensive surge. Larry McWilliams picked up his sixth victory against three defeats, and Manny Sarmiento earned a three-inning save.

“I’m serious when I say that I’m looking forward to 2,000,” an ever-Panglossian Tanner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette afterwards.*

* Tanner’s 1352nd and final major league victory would come nearly five years to the day later (on 5/22/88), in a 6-4 win for his Braves over the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story

  • Billy Almon playing short for the mid-80’s Pirates was a sign of how weak the farm system had become. Something the current day Pirate system knows a LOT about. I believe the year before was the Johnnie LeMaster era at short…