This Date in Pirates History: July 29

Four trades, five players and a game recap on a busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates history. Two trades involved shortstop Jack Wilson, while the other one included two veteran All-Star type players on the downside of their careers. Jon Fredland takes a look back at a game from the 1915 season in his Jolly Roger Rewind.

The Trades

On this date in 2009, the Pirates traded away Jack Wilson, Ian Snell and Freddy Sanchez in two separate deals, bringing back six players, including Ronny Cedeno and Jeff Clement, who have played for the Pirates, as well as Aaron Pribanic and Tim Alderson, who are both in AA right now. They also got back Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock, two players lost in the last two Rule V drafts, although Lorin brought back current Pirates minor league pitcher Robby Rowland in a deal with the Diamondbacks, made so Arizona didn’t have to return Lorin to the Pirates. Brett is now pitching in AA, switching between starting and relieving. Clement also remains with the Pirates, playing as a 1B/DH in AAA. Snell has retired, while both Wilson(who was hitting .169 in 40 games for the Braves) and Sanchez are out with injuries. Freddy has played just 196 games since the trade.

Nine years prior to trading Jack Wilson, the Pirates traded for him, sending pitcher Jason Christiansen to the Cardinals in a straight up deal for Jack. This deal was one-sided for the Pirates, who got nine seasons and 1159 games out of Wilson. The Cardinals got just 29.1 innings and a 4.91 ERA from Christiansen, who was being used as the lefty specialist out of the pen.

On this date in 1916, the Pirates traded veteran second baseman Otto Knabe and catcher Art Wilson to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for veteran outfielder Frank Schulte and catcher William Fischer. Knabe was nearing the end of his career and was actually sent home by the Pirates prior to this trade because the veteran second baseman wasn’t in good enough shape to play everyday. He was once considered an All-Star caliber player, who could field his position and handle the bat well. Wilson was a thirty year old backstop, in his first season with the Pirates, ninth year overall. He had played in Chicago the two years prior, playing in the Federal League. He was hitting .258 in 53 games for Pittsburgh, throwing out 37% of base runners, below average for the day. The catcher coming back to the Pirates in the deal, Fischer, was the youngest player of the group at 25 years old. He was the opposite of Wilson that year, having success on defense, but he was hitting below .200, well below his .329 the previous season. The odd thing about these two being traded for each other was the fact they platooned behind the plate for the Chicago Federal League team the previous year. Schulte, just like Knabe, was a star nearing the end of his career. He was the 1911 MVP, when he had the first ever 20-20-20-20 season, hitting 31 doubles, 21 triples, 21 homers and stealing 23 bases. Frank was hitting .296 over 72 games at the time of the trade, but it was obvious he was slowing down.

After the deal, Knabe played out the season in Chicago, then finished his career in the minors the following year. Schulte hit .239 with no homers in 85 games for Pittsburgh, before they put him on waivers in June of 1917, where he was picked up by the Phillies. Fischer played well after the deal, sticking with the Pirates through the end of the following year. Despite hitting .286 over 95 games that last season, the Pirates went with Walter Schmidt the next year as their starter. Fischer went to the minors, where he played off and on the next ten years. Wilson stuck around the majors the longest of the group, playing until 1921. His time with Chicago wasn’t that good though, with a .206 average and a high error total, over 117 games played.

The Players

Mike Williams (1968) Closer for the Pirates from 1998 until 2003. He began his career with five seasons for the Phillies, the last(1996) spent as a starting pitcher, going 6-14 5.44 in 167 innings. After pitching just ten games in the majors in 1997 with the Royals, the Pirates were able to sign Williams as a free agent that December. He didn’t become the team’s closer until his second year, but that first year he was a lights out reliever, posting a 1.94 ERA, with 59 strikeouts in 51 innings. Mike closed for the 1999-2001 Pirates, saving between 22-24 games each year, although he accomplished part of that with a 5.09 ERA the first season. On July 31,2001, the Pirates traded Williams to the Astros for pitcher Tony McKnight. Pittsburgh resigned him in the off-season as a free agent, putting him back in the closer role, where he responded with an All-Star season. Mike pitched 59 times, with a 2.93 ERA and a team record 46 saves, that still stands. He made the 2002 All-Star team as well, although his stats were nowhere near the previous season. Williams had a 1-3 6.27 record with 25 saves for the 2003 Pirates. Pittsburgh traded him to the Phillies on July 21,2003 in exchange for minor league pitcher Frank Brooks. For Williams, his struggles continued in Philadelphia, and he never pitched in the majors again after the 2003 season. He ranks third in Pirates history in saves, trailing only Elroy Face and Kent Tekulve.

Tommy Gregg (1963) Outfielder for the 1987-88 Pirates. He was drafted by Pittsburgh in the seventh round of the 1985 draft. It was the third time he was drafted, with the first two times being done by the Cleveland Indians in 1981 and 1984. Gregg hit well in low-A ball that first season, batting .313 in 72 games. He jumped to AA the next year and posted average numbers, causing the Pirates to repeat him at the level. Tommy broke out in 1987 playing for Harrisburg, hitting .371 with 84 walks, 82 RBI’s, 35 stolen bases and 99 runs scored. Pittsburgh brought him up that September, giving him ten games off the bench. He went 2-8 at the plate and played all three outfield positions during his brief stay. Gregg began 1988 at AAA, earning a promotion at the beginning of July. He hit .200 in 14 games, two as a starter. Tommy was sent back to the minors, then on September 1st, he was sent to the Braves in exchange for Ken Oberkfell. He ended up playing parts of seven more seasons in the majors, finishing with a .243 average, 20 homers and 88 RBI’s in 446 games.

Dave LaPoint (1959) Lefty pitcher for the 1988 Pirates. He began his major league career in 1980 with the Brewers and by the time he reached the Pirates eight years later, he had already played for five other teams in the majors. LaPoint had won as many as 12 games in a season prior to 1988, both times(1983-84) coming with the Cardinals. Now with the White Sox, he got off to a good start, going 10-11 3.40 in 25 starts for Chicago. In early August of that season, the Pirates sent pitcher Barry Jones to the White Sox in exchange for LaPoint. Dave made eight starts for the Pirates, going 4-2 2.77, with 52 innings pitched, giving him a career high 14 wins on the year. He became a free agent at the end of the season and signed with the Yankees, spending two years in New York, before finishing his career with the 1991 Phillies. LaPoint had a career record of 80-86 4.02 in 227 starts and 67 relief appearances over 12 seasons.

Erv Dusak (1920) Outfielder for the 1951-52 Pirates. He originally signed with the Cardinals in 1938, though prior to the 1946 season, he had played just 18 major league games, partially due to time missed during the war. From 1946 until 1948, he played at least 100 games each season for the Cardinals, although his average slipped to near .200 the last year. Erv spent all but one game of the 1949 season in the minors, then was buried at the end of the Cardinals bench the next year. He began pitching in July and would make two late season starts, finishing 0-2 3.72 in 36.1 innings, while getting just 12 plate appearances the entire season. On May 17,1951, the Pirates sent shortstop Stan Rojek to the Cardinals to get Dusak and Rocky Nelson. He was being used as a mop-up pitcher exclusively in 1951 until he reached Pittsburgh. The Pirates used him almost everywhere, albeit with little playing time. Erv played 21 games, seeing time at six different positions, including three games on the mound, one as a starter. He was with the Pirates for the first two months of 1952, only seeing limited action in the outfield. He went to the minors in June and remained there for the next three years before retiring.

George Cutshaw (1886) Second baseman for the Pirates from 1918 until 1921. Cutshaw played college ball at Notre Dame, then spent six seasons with Brooklyn, before joining the Pirates in a big trade that involved two future Hall of Famers. On January 9,1918, the Pirates sent infielder Chuck Ward and pitchers, Burleigh Grimes and Al Mamaux to the Robins in exchange for Cutshaw and outfielder Casey Stengel. Cutshaw was a slick fielding second baseman, leading the NL five times in putouts, four times in assists and twice in fielding percentage during his career. He was a .260 hitter, with 360 RBI’s and 350 runs scored while with Brooklyn. In his four seasons with Pittsburgh, he batted .275 with 219 RBI’s and 204 runs scored in 494 games. George hit .285 with 68 RBI’s that first season with the Pirates, but his big year was actually his last. In 1921, Cutshaw hit .340 in 98 games, missing some time in August. The Pirates decided to part ways with the 35 year old second baseman in the off-season, sending him to the Tigers for the cost of a waiver pickup. Cutshaw almost retired before the 1921 season, then asked to be released following the year, figuring a change in scenery would be good for him.  George had one decent season in Detroit, before his numbers tailed off in 1923, his last season in the big leagues. He played three years in the minors before retiring from baseball

Jolly Roger Rewind: July 29, 1915

Honus Wagner broke open a close game with an eighth-inning inside-the-park grand slam, leading the Pirates to an 8-2 victory over the Brooklyn Robins at Forbes Field.

On a rain-soaked afternoon, the Bucs led 4-2 entering the bottom of the eighth inning when Zip Collins singled against losing pitcher Ed Pfeffer. Doc Johnston walked and Bill Hinchman drew a hit batsman to load the bases for Wagner. The forty-one-year-old shortstop then drove Pfeffer’s pitch to deep left center and beat the relay throw home for the grand slam, “cover[ing] himself in glory and Forbes field loam,” in the words of The (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times. “It required an extraordinary thrill to enliven the damp spirit of the crowd, but Wagner’s punch did the work,” noted the Gazette Times.*

Erving Kantlehner scattered nine hits while going the distance for the win. The Gazette Times praised the twenty-two-year-old second-year pitcher for “show[ing] great effectiveness whenever the Flatbush attack threatened to bombard,” stranding nine Brooklyn runners on base. He benefitted from a seventh-inning unassisted double play by right fielder Hinchman, who caught Hi Myers’ line drive and raced to first base to double off Pfeffer.

The (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times game story

* Several sources erroneously refer to Wagner as the oldest player to hit a grand slam. Cap Anson was forty-two years old, almost a full year older than Wagner, when he hit a grand slam for the Chicago Colts on August 1, 1894.

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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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