Getting close to the trading deadline, not only is today busy due to trades, we also have seven Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. John Fredland covers a game from the 1909 season, the first World Series winners in team history. Before I start in on the players, one non-player of note in Pirates history to mention, current manager Clint Hurdle turns 55 today.
Mickey Mahler (1952) Lefty pitcher for the 1980 Pirates. Mickey had a forgettable career with the Pirates, two games, one inning, seven runs allowed, resulting in a 63.00 ERA. Prior to his brief time in Pittsburgh, Mahler pitched three year for the Braves, the team that drafted him in 1974. Over those three seasons(1977-79), he went 10-24 5.27 in 65 games, 44 as a starter. The Pirates signed Mickey as a free agent on April 10,1980, just twelve days after he was released by the Braves. His two appearances for Pittsburgh both came during blowout losses in September, and they happened 24 days apart. Just before Opening Day the next year, the Pirates shipped him to the Angels, along with Ed Ott, in exchange for Jason Thompson. Mahler pitched 12 games for the Angels over two seasons, then after spending 1983-84 in the minors, he returned for two more years in the majors. Between the 1985-86 seasons, he pitched 43 games, playing for four different teams during that span. He spent his last year of pro ball in the minors. Mickey’s brother Rick, pitched 13 years in the majors, mostly with the Braves, winning 96 career games.
Bill Hall (1928) Catcher for the Pirates in 1954, 1956 and 1958. Originally signed by the Pirates in 1947 as an amateur free agent, Hall played over 1200 minor league games during his 13 year pro career, spent entirely in the Pittsburgh organization. His career included three stints with the Pirates, two of them very brief. In 1954, he made the team out of Spring Training, going 0-7 in five games before being returned to the minors in early May. Two years later, he was again around at the beginning of the year, but his playing time that year was even less. His only game in 1956 was on April 27th, when he came in during the second inning to replace catcher Danny Kravitz, who was having trouble catching pitcher Ron Kline. Hall finished the game, going 0-3 at the plate. In 1958, he was in the minors to begin the year, but after hitting .344 during the first two months of the season while playing for Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, the Pirates called Bill up and gave him plenty of playing time. He stuck around until the end of the season, playing a total of 51 games, with a .285 average, with 15 runs scored, 15 RBI’s and 15 walks. Hall played two more years in the minors before retiring.
Johnny Rizzo (1912) Outfielder for the 1938-40 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Rizzo after the 1937 season, in a three-for-one deal with the Cardinals, who received backup outfielder Bud Hafey from Pittsburgh. It turned out to be a one-sided trade for the Pirates, who also received cash in the deal. Rizzo spent 1937 in the minors, where he hit .358 with 21 homers playing for Columbus of the American Association. It was his seventh season in the minors, without a trip to the big leagues. The Pirates made the 25 year old Rizzo their starting left fielder in 1938 and he had one of the best rookie seasons in team history. Johnny hit .301 with 23 homers and 111 RBI’s. That home run total was a team record, that stood until surpassed by Ralph Kiner nine years later. Rizzo finished sixth in the NL MVP voting that year. His stats fell off the next year, hitting .261 with six homers in 94 games. He was with the Pirates to start the 1940 season, but on May 8,1940, the Pirates traded him to the Reds in exchange for outfielder Vince DiMaggio. Rizzo was in the majors through the end of the 1942 season, seeing time with the Phillies and Dodgers. In 1943, he joined the Navy, missing three seasons of baseball, before returning in 1946 to play out his career in the minors. Rizzo ended up hitting 24 homers during the 1940 season, with the last twenty coming after the Reds traded him to Philadelphia.
Hal Finney (1905) Catcher for the Pirates from 1931 until 1934, then again in 1936. He caught during five seasons for the Pirates, though he played just 123 major league games, 54 as a starter. Finney was a .203 major league hitter, with one homer and 27 RBI’s. Most of his damage came during the 1933 season, when he hit .233 with his only homer(as a PH) and 18 RBI’s, playing a career high 56 games. He was with the Pirates for all of the 1932 season, but through the end of August, he had no official AB’s. His only time up to the plate prior to September, he was hit by a pitch. From mid-June until the end of August he was used twenty times, all as a pinch runner, despite stealing just one base during his major league career. In 1936, Finney played 21 games for the Pirates, going 0-35 at the plate, without reaching base once, leaving him with a .000 OPS. It was the most AB’s in a season without a hit, by a position player, until broken last season by Eugenio Velez of the Giants. Hal’s brother Lou Finney played 15 years in the majors.
Chuck Ward (1894) Shortstop for the 1917 Pirates. He had the unenviable task of replacing the great Honus Wagner at shortstop for the Pirates. For the 1917 season, Wagner shifted over to first base for most of the year, his last year in the majors. Chuck hit .236 with 43 RBI’s in 125 games that season. He was a big difference from Wagner both in the lineup and in the field, hitting no homers and committing 50 errors. The Pirates traded Ward to Brooklyn in the off-season(see Stengel below). There he played a total of 111 games over five seasons, 14 less games than he played in his one year with the Pirates, and that was despite being with Brooklyn the entire time(no trips to the minors). Ward returned to the minors in 1923 to play two more years before retiring. He went to the plate 847 times during his career and did not hit a single home run.
Casey Stengel (1890) Outfielder for the 1918-19 Pirates. Known more for being the Hall of Fame manager, who won 1905 games and led the Yankees to seven World Series titles, Stengel was also a fine ballplayer during his day. He spent the first six years of his career (1912-17) playing for the Brooklyn Robins, first two years in center field, followed by a move to right field. In 1914, Casey hit .316 and led the NL with a .404 OBP. On January 9,1918, the Pirates acquired Stengel, along with second baseman George Cutshaw, in exchange for pitchers Burleigh Grimes, Al Mamaux and infielder Chuck Ward. Both Grimes and Stengel would go on to make the Hall of Fame. Stengel’s time in Pittsburgh was rough, he was always asking for more money to play during his career and during the 1918 season, he took a job doing wartime work, until the war ended. He returned to the Pirates in 1919 but he didn’t last the entire year. On August 9,1919, the Pirates traded Stengel to the Phillies in exchange for outfielder Possum Whitted. Casey lasted in the majors until 1925, having success as a part-time player with the Giants during the 1922-23 seasons, when he hit .368 and .339 in 159 total games. With Pittsburgh, Stengel hit .280 with 55 RBI’s and 56 runs scored in 128 games.
Bill Merritt (1870) Catcher for the Pirates from 1894 until 1897. He was a backup catcher to Connie Mack with the 1894 Pirates before being released near the end of the year. Mack took over the managerial spot in Pittsburgh a short time later and brought Merritt back in 1895 to be his platoon catcher with Joe Sudgen. Bill was a good hitting catcher, who could be used at other positions of the field when he needed to be given a rest from catching duties. He was also league average in throwing out base runners. In his four years in Pittsburgh, he hit .280 with 113 RBI’s in 280 games. He played a total of 401 major league games over eight seasons, hitting .272 with 196 RBI’s. Merritt played just one major league game after 1897, but his pro career lasted until 1905 in the minors.
Due to the number of trades and most of them being recent, I’ll keep these brief and include links where I can.
2011: Pirates trade minor league first baseman Aaron Baker to the Orioles for Derrek Lee. That trade was covered on this site in the link provided.
2009: Pirates send pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs in exchange for Josh Harrison and pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio. Harrison is the only one still with his new team. Gorzelanny is a bullpen pitcher for the Nationals, while the other three haven’t pitched this year.
2004: Pirates trade pitcher Kris Benson and infielder Jeff Keppinger to the Mets in exchange for Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista and minor league pitcher Matt Peterson. None of these players worked out for their new team, but Keppinger, Bautista and Wigginton went on to have varying levels of success with other teams. Benson went 14-12 4.23 in 39 starts for the Mets.
2001: Pirates deal pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder John Vander Wal to the Giants in exchange for Ryan Vogelsong and outfielder Armando Rios. This deal didn’t work out at all for the Pirates. Both players they got back were injured shortly afterwards, while Schmidt went on to win 78 games for the Giants. Vogelsong is now back with the Giants, pitching like the Pirates had hoped he would for them.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 30, 1909
Three first-inning runs proved decisive for the first-place Pirates in snapping Christy Mathewson’s thirteen-game winning streak and defeating the New York Giants 3-1 at Forbes Field.
Mathewson entered the game with a 15-2 record, but the Bucs jumped on him in their first at-bat with what the New York Times described as a “sharp fusillade of base hits.” Fred Clarke led off with a single to center and moved to third on Alan Storke’s double.* Tommy Leach then drove a Mathewson fastball to center for another double, scoring Clarke and Storke for a 2-0 lead.
Honus Wagner, struggling with an injury to his side that ultimately forced him to leave the game in the fourth inning**, sacrificed Leach to third. Dots Miller followed with an RBI single to give the Pirates their third and final run of the inning.***
The initial uprising provided all of the offense that Vic Willis needed. The Bucco starter scattered nine hits and two walks, allowing only a single run in the eighth inning and striking out five Giants. “New York did not seem able to hit the delivery of Willis when hits meant runs,” remarked the Times.
With the victory, the Pirates improved to 64-24, good for the best mark in baseball and a seven-game lead over the second-place Cubs.
* Less than three weeks later, the Pirates traded Storke and Jap Barbeau to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bobby Byrne, who solidified third base for the Bucs for the next few seasons. Sadly, Storke died of complications relating to influenza in March 1910, at the age of twenty-five. He was on the verge of receiving a degree from Harvard Law School.
** The Times noted that “[i]n the last half of the fourth, Wagner was forced to retire from the game through pain in his wretched side. Several days ago Wagner hurt himself and has not been able to bat freely since. He made two vicious swings at the ball in this inning, then dropped his bat and limped off the field, [Ed] Abbaticchio taking his place. This placed a sort of damper on the game, as the crowd did not know how bad Wagner was hurt, nor how soon he will be back in the game.”
*** Red Ames replaced Mathewson after the first inning and limited the Buccos to one hit over the final seven innings.