The Date in Pirates History: June 4- Part Two

On a busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates history, we have part two of today’s article. Part one, which can be read here, covers two of the better Pirates players born on this date, catcher Tony Pena and pitcher Bob Klinger. In this article, we have one major trade, three birthdays and a game recap from John Fredland in his Jolly Roger Rewind.

The Trade

On this date in 1953, the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off one of the more significant trades in team history with the Chicago Cubs. In a deal that involved a total of ten players, six coming to Pittsburgh, along with $150,000 going to the Pirates, the team gave up All-Star outfielder Ralph Kiner. Pittsburgh also gave up catcher Joe Garagiola, outfielder George Metkovich and pitcher Howie Pollet. They got back outfielder Bob Addis, catcher Toby Atwell, third baseman George Freese, outfielder Gene Hermanski, pitcher Bob Schultz and first baseman Preston Ward.

Kiner by far was the best player in the deal, which not only brought a surplus of money to the Pirates, but also cut Kiner’s large salary from the payroll. The Pirates went 42-112 in 1952 and were on their way to another 100 loss season. The following is a brief summary of every player before and after the trade, with age(at the time of the deal) in parenthesis.

Kiner(30) Five time all-star, 301 homers, seven straight home run titles, five straight(1947-51) seasons of 100 runs and 100 RBI’s. After deal, he played three seasons, hitting 68 homers and driving in 214 runs. Retired early due to bad back.

Garagiola(27) In 8th season, hit .273 with 50 walks and 54 RBI’s in 118 games in 1952. Batting .233 at time of deal. Afterwards he played 142 games between 1953-54. Hit .272 in 1953 and .280 in limited AB’s in 1954.

Metkovich(32) In his 9th season in the majors, hitting just .146 in 26 games at time of deal. In 1952, he hit .271 over 125 games with seven homers. Afterwards, hit .234 in 61 games for 1953 Cubs, then .276 in 68 games(142 plate appearances) for 1954 Braves

Pollet(31) Two time 20 game winner with Cardinals(1946,1949) went 13-26 for 1951-52 Pirates, has a 10.66 ERA a time of deal. Afterwards, went 17-19 4.19 in three years with Cubs, before splitting 1956 with White Sox and Pirates.

Addis(28) Played 204 major league games over four seasons. Hit .295 in 93 games for 1952 Cubs, was hitting .167(2-12) for 1953 Cubs. Afterwards, he pinch hit three times(0-3) and pinch ran once for Pirates before finishing his career in the minors.

Atwell(29) All-Star catcher as a rookie in 1952, hitting .290 in 107 games. Batting .230 at the time of the deal. Afterwards, played 232 games for Pirates over four seasons, hitting .250 with 104 walks and 64 RBI’s. Finished career in 1956 with Braves.

Freese(28) Minor leaguer at the time, had one major league game with Detroit Tigers in April,1953. Played for Pirates in 1955, hitting .257 with 22 RBI’s in 51 games. Only other major league experience was nine games for 1961 Cubs.

Hermanski(33) In ninth season, hit .282 in 506 games for Dodgers, then .258 in 192 games for Cubs. Hitting .150 in 18 games at time of deal. For Pirates, played 41 games, mostly off the bench, hitting .177 with four RBI’s. Played in minors in 1954 before retiring.

Ward(25) Played in majors in 1948 and 1950, before spending two years in military. Was playing center field and hitting .230 in 33 games for 1953 Cubs. Played 305 games in Pittsburgh over four seasons, hitting .240 with 11 RBI’s, mostly playing at first base. Played another 284 games after leaving Pirates.

Schultz(29) Was 9-11 4.69 in 53 games for Cubs over three seasons. At time of trade, was 0-2 5.40 in 11.2 innings. Went 0-2 8.20 in 18.2 innings for Pirates. Spent 1954 in minors, sold to Detroit in December 1954, pitched one game for 1955 Tigers. Spent 1956 in minors before retiring.

In summary, three of the players the Pirates got back were done with the team before the 1954 season started. Freese played just 51 games, but not until 1955 and Ward and Atwell were role players for four seasons. Only because of the fact Kiner dropped off so much and was done by the end of the 1955 season, did this deal not hurt the Pirates. Cubs didn’t get much out of the other two players while Pollet was a decent pitcher for three seasons for them.

The Players

Larry Demery (1953) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1974 until 1977. He was drafted by the Royals in the 22nd round of the 1971 amateur draft, although he chose not to sign. The next year the Pirates took him 15 rounds earlier and they were able to get him signed. Larry made 24 starts in A-ball as a 19 year old in 1972, compiling a 10-6 3.91 record. Moving up to Salem of the Carolina League the next season, Demery improved his ERA to 2.82 in 182 innings, earning a late promotion to AAA. It took just six starts in AAA in 1974, before the Pirates decided he was ready for the big leagues. Larry made 15 starts and four relief appearances, as the Pirates went to the postseason that rookie year. He had a 6-6 4.25 record in 95.1 innings during the regular season, but was hit hard in his two playoff appearances, allowing four runs in one inning of work. In 1975, he was used mostly out of the pen and pitched well, posting a 2.90 ERA in 45 games and 114.2 innings. He again had playoff troubles, this time allowing four runs in two innings.

Larry had his best season in 1976, going 10-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 145 innings. He started off poorly in 1977, then won three straight starts in May before a string of five bad outings. Demery finished in the bullpen, making his last start in mid-June. He was put on waivers in March of 1978, getting picked up by the Blue Jays, who immediately returned him when it was discovered he had a sore arm. Larry was put back on waivers with no takers, returning to the minors instead. He stuck around for three more seasons but pitched a total of just nine games in the minors during that time, retiring in 1980.

Herb Kelly (1892) Pitcher for the 1914-15 Pirates. He played minor league ball in 1911, then spent three years attending Notre Dame , where he was the team captain, before returning to pro baseball with the 1914 Pirates. He joined the roster on June 18th but didn’t make his major league debut until September 25th, when he was on the losing end of a 3-2 score against Brooklyn. Kelly was asked to start four days earlier but couldn’t loosen up his arm, although anxious to make his debut, he said he was ready to pitch. It was said at the time that he was going to be a great pitcher someday, possessing the arsenal, strong nerves and talent to be a star in the league. Kelly pitched three times in relief over the next week, then started the last game of the season, a 4-1 loss to the Reds. Herb pitched for Atlanta of the Southern Association in 1915, returning to the Pirates late in the season. He made four relief appearances and lost his only start, a 7-1 victory by the Cardinals, although he did pick up his only major league win in relief that year. Kelly returned to the minors for two more seasons before his pro career was over.

George Yeager (1873) Catcher for the 1901 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1894, playing in the New England League for his first three seasons. In September of 1896, George got a trial with the Boston Beaneaters(current day Atlanta Braves). He would play parts of four seasons in Boston before spending the end of 1899 and all of 1900 back in the minors. Yeager was in the American League in 1900, the last year the league was considered a minor league. When the AL gained major league status in 1901, Yeager was a member of the Cleveland Blues(Indians), spending the first four months with the team, hitting .223 in 39 games. He was released in late July and picked up by Pittsburgh a week later. George played 26 games for the Pirates over the last two months, twenty of those games behind the plate, four at third base and one across the diamond. He hit .264 with ten RBI’s and nine runs scored in 100 plate appearances. Yeager signed with the New York Giants for 1902, then after being released in July, finished his major league career with the Baltimore Orioles(current day Yankees) later that season. George returned to the minors in 1903, playing seven more seasons before retiring. He was a .238 career hitter in 218 major league games.

Jolly Roger Rewind: June 4, 1940

The Pirates celebrated the first night game in Forbes Field history with a 14-2 rout of the Boston Bees.*

Aiming, less than three weeks from the longest day of the year, to play the game entirely under the floodlights, the Bucs scheduled a start time of “as soon as darkness arrives, about 8:45,” but ultimately delayed the first pitch until 9:28 pm.** Neither the uncertain commencement hour nor the unusually late time frame appeared, however, to impair the Pirates’ batting attack, which posted eleven hits and nine walks.

The Buccos rolled to a 4-1 lead in the third inning when centerfielder Bob Elliott, playing in his first full major league season, tripled home two runs and scored on a balk by Boston reliever George Barnicle, who had entered the game after Elliott’s triple. Barnicle rebounded to hold the Pirates hitless over the next three innings, but the Bucs broke the streak in the seventh inning when leftfielder Maurice Van Robays and second baseman Frankie Gustine, also in their first full major league seasons, came through with, respectively, a bases-clearing double and an RBI single. A six-run eighth inning—featuring four hits, two walks and three Boston errors, including two on the same play—then made the game a laugher.

On the night, Van Robays drove in four runs, and Gustine had three hits and three RBI. First baseman Elbie Fletcher, who would lead the National League in free passes that year, drew four walks. Joe Bowman was the beneficiary of the Pirates’ offensive eruption, allowing five hits to pick up the complete-game victory.

Witnessing the inaugural night game—along with Commissioner of Baseball Kennesaw Mountain Landis and NL President (and future Commissioner) Ford Frick—were 20,319 spectators; in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Havey Boyle estimated that the seventh-place Bees and eighth-place Pirates “would not have drawn in daylight yesterday one-tenth of the crowd on hand last night.” Boyle also observed that “quite a few, having night jobs in the mills laid off to see the pleasant and well-dressed event” and that “[t]here were more women in the paid section than the town has seen in a long time, lured, as were their husbands, and boy friends, by the novelty.”

* Forbes Field became the seventh major league ballpark to host night baseball; the first night game had been at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, just over five years earlier.

** The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted that “the night may come when a game will be started earlier—in daylight—and finished under the lights.”

Box score

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story