This Date in Pirates History: August 18

On a day that the great Roberto Clemente would’ve turned 78(more on him later), we have two trades to discuss, six other players born on this date(including another Pirates HOF player), and a Jolly Roger Rewind from John Fredland.

The Trades

On this date in 1989, the Pirates traded outfielder Glenn Wilson to the Astros for outfielder Billy Hatcher. Wilson had been with the Pirates just over one year, coming over the previous July from the Mariners in exchange for Darnell Coles. Glenn was hitting .282 with nine homers and 49 RBI’s in 100 games at the time of the deal. After the trade, he batted just .216 for the Astros, then ended up coming back to Pittsburgh in 1993, after being out of the majors for two seasons. Hatcher played just 27 games for the Pirates, getting traded in the off-season to the Reds, where he won a World Series ring, hitting .333 against Pittsburgh in the NLCS. Prior to the trade, Billy was hitting .228 in 108 games for the Astros, with 22 steals.

On this date in 1952, the Pirates traded infielder George Strickland and pitcher Ted Wilks to the Cleveland Indians for veteran infielder Johnny Berardino, minor league pitcher Charles Sipple and cash. It was an odd move for the Pirates, who released Berardino two years earlier. They were in a rebuilding mode and neither player they received fit the mode, though the cash in return had to help as they struggled near the bottom of the league in attendance. Johnny finished the year with the Pirates, then never played again, while Sipple, at age 32 already, never played in the majors. Wilks was a steady 36 year old reliever, nearing the end of his career and pitching well for Pittsburgh at the time. Strickland was just 26 and ended up playing eight years in Cleveland, leading the AL in fielding in 1955 at shortstop and 1959 at third base.

The Players

Burleigh Grimes (1893) Hall of Fame pitcher for the Pirates in 1916-17, 1928-29 and 1934. His career did not start off well his first time around with the Pirates, going a combined 5-19 over two season, though it should be pointed out that the 1917 Pirates were on of the worst teams in franchise history. On January 9,1918, the Pirates traded Grimes, in a five player deal with Brooklyn, that brought outfielder Casey Stengel back to Pittsburgh. The move worked out well for Brooklyn and Grimes, who went 158-121 in nine seasons there, winning twenty-one or more games during four of those years. Burleigh was traded to the Giants in 1927 and went 19-8 in his only season there. On February 11,1928, the Pirates gave up pitcher Vic Aldridge to get Grimes back. His 1928 season turned out to be a spectacular one, leading the NL with 25 wins, 28 complete games and 330.2 innings pitched. He had a strong 1929 season as well, going 17-7 3.13 in 232.2 innings. On April 9,1930, the Pirates traded away Grimes to the Boston Braves for pitcher Percy Jones and cash, a trade made necessary by a high salary demand from Grimes. He resigned with the Pirates on August 8,1934, finishing his career in Pittsburgh at the age of forty. Grimes won 270 games in the majors, and completed 314 games, both rank 33rd all-time in baseball history. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1964, one of six players(one manager) they put in that year. Check the links on each transaction date listed above for more info on Grimes, all four deals involving the Pirates have been covered.

Mike Lavalliere (1960) Catcher for the Pirates from 1987 until 1993. On April 1,1987, the Pirates acquired Mike, along with pitcher Mike Dunne and outfielder Andy Van Slyke for Tony Pena. Prior to the deal, Lavalliere had played 128 games with the Cardinals and Phillies over parts of three seasons. With Pittsburgh, he immediately stepped in and replaced the All-Star Pena well, batting .300 in 121 games, while winning the Gold Glove. Known as “Spanky”, the lefty hitting Lavalliere platooned with the righty batting Don Slaught  behind the plate, and the combo helped the Pirates to three straight NL East titles from 1990 until 1992. In his seven season with Pittsburgh, Mike played 609 games, hitting .278 with 207 RBI’s and 499 hits. A knee injury during the 1989 season limited him to 68 games, but he hit well when he did play, batting .316 that year. Mike had his share of problems during the Pirates three playoff appearances. He went 4-22 at the plate, with four singles and one RBI in his nine games. Lavalliere was released by Pittsburgh after one game in 1993, leading him to sign with the White Sox for his last three seasons in the majors. In 1987, he led the NL with 45.2% of runners caught stealing and in 1991, he committed one error all season, giving him an NL leading .998 fielding percentage.

Paul Popovich (1940) Middle infielder for the 1974-75 Pirates. He was signed by the Cubs out of college in 1960 and before making it to the Pirates 14 years later, he played parts or all of nine seasons in the majors with Chicago and the Dodgers. Popovich made his debut in April of 1964, picking up a hit in his first AB. It would end of being his only game and at-bat of the season. He didn’t make it back to the majors until September of 1966, getting in just two games that season. He bounced around the infield his career, seeing most of his time at second base but also getting in time at shortstop and third base. Paul was a part-time player for eight of the nine full seasons he spent in the majors, with the lone exception being the 1968 season for the Dodgers, when he played 134 games. On April 1,1974, the Pirates gave up pitcher Tom Dettore and cash to acquire Popovich. He would be the backup at shortstop and second base for a year and a half, seeing most of his time as a pinch-hitter, an odd usage of a career .233 hitter that didn’t take many walks or hit for any power. Paul was released at the end of July in 1975, ending his playing career. He hit .211 in 84 games for the Pirates, getting 14 starts and 134 plate appearances.

Roger Bowman (1927) Pitcher for the 1953 and 1955 Pirates. He was signed by the New York Giants as a free agent in 1946 out of high school. The lefty Bowman made the majors for the first time in September of 1949 after going 15-9 3.39 for Jersey City of the International League. He made two starts for New York and lasted a combined 6.1 innings due to control problems. After spending all of 1950 back with Jersey City, Roger made the 1951 Giants out of Spring Training. He was a starter early, but got hit hard and then moved to the bullpen. The Giants would send him down to the minors at the end of June, using him only two times during his last month with the team, both times as a starter during a doubleheader. Control problems got to him again that year, allowing 22 walks in 26.1 innings, en route to a 2-4 6.15 record. Bowman pitched just two games for the 1952 Giants, not faring well in his three innings of work. He was picked up on waivers by the Pirates early in the 1953 season. Roger was put in the Pirates bullpen, where he cut his walk rate in half. In 30 games(two as a starter) he went 0-4 4.82 in 65.1 innings. After winning 22 games for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1954, he was back with Pittsburgh for Opening Day in 1955, where he had a rough time. In seven appearances, he went 0-3 8.64 with a 2.10 WHIP. Roger was back in the minors by June and there he stayed for the next six seasons. He finished with a 131-119 minor league record, but he picked up just two major league wins in parts of five seasons.

Bernie Duffy (1893) Pitcher for the 1913 Pirates. He joined the Pirates shortly after his 20th birthday, making his debut on September 20th as a starter in game two of a doubleheader. In his first season of pro ball(1913), Bernie(referred to as Barney in the newspaper while with the Pirates) played for Great Falls of the Union Ass0ciation, where he went 23-11 in 270.1 innings. It was said that he won 15 straight games before joining the Pirates. In that first game, Duffy went four innings, giving up nine hit and three runs, before being pulled from the game. In his only other start, which came exactly a week later, Duffy allowed three runs in 5.1 innings, leaving with the bases loaded. Marty O’Toole came in and was able to retire all 11 batters he faced to keep more damage off the board, and to also pick up the win in the 4-3 game. It was already planned out, that after the game, Duffy would return home for the Winter while the Pirates left St Louis to head for Cincinnati. He never returned to the majors, finishing out his career a few years later in the minors. In between his two starts for the Pirates, he pitched two innings of relief in his only other major league game, allowing one run.

Wally Gerber (1891) Shortstop for the 1914-15 Pirates. He is an unfortunate case for the Pirates, a young player they gave up too soon on, who went on to become a solid long-time major league player. The part that made it worse for the Pirates was that Honus Wagner would move off shortstop for his last season in 1917 and the Pirates went through a revolving door of players trying to replace him. All they needed to do was hold on to Gerber. He did not do well in his limited time with the Pirates so keeping him would’ve required some foresight. In 73 games over his two seasons in Pittsburgh, he hit .207 with no homers, 12 RBI’s and 13 runs scored. His defense also wasn’t the greatest, never finishing higher than third among his league’s shortstops in fielding any season, and that high of third happened just once. Gerber could however, hit better than most middle infielders of the era. After leaving the Pirates following the 1915 season, he spent two years in the minors, reappearing at the end of 1917 with the St Louis Browns. In 12 seasons with St Louis, he hit .264 in 1284 games, drawing more walks than strikeouts and three times picking up MVP votes, finishing as high as fourth during the 1923 season. He finished his career with two seasons with the Boston Red Sox, ending up with over 1500 games played in the majors.

Jolly Roger Rewind: August 18, 1974

The surging Pirates capped a three-game sweep of the National League West-leading Dodgers with a 10-3 victory at Three Rivers Stadium.

From the fifth and sixth positions in the Bucco batting order, Richie Zisk and Bob Robertson led a seventeen-hit attack that netted the Bucs’ eleventh win in their past thirteen games.* Zisk extended his hitting streak to twelve games with four hits, including his thirteenth home run of the season, and scored three runs. Robertson, the lefty-swinging half of the Bucco first base platoon, drove in four runs with a pair of doubles and his twelfth home run. Rennie Stennett and Manny Sanguillen added three hits apiece.

Twenty-one-year-old rookie right-hander Larry Demery shut down Los Angeles over eight-innings of six-hit ball to win his fourth consecutive decision. Demery’s most pivotal out came when he retired Bill Buckner, who entered the game with a .311 average, on a pop-up with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Pirates clinging to a 3-1 advantage. The Bucs responded to this reprieve in the bottom of the frame by scoring four runs against two Los Angeles relief pitchers to build an insurmountable lead.

Five weeks earlier, the Pirates had languished twelve games under .500 and seven games back in the National League East. The Bucs now stood three games over .500 and trailed first-place St. Louis by just two and a half games.**

Box score and play-by-play


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story


* “And then there were the Pirates,” gushed Bob Smizik in The Pittsburgh Press afterwards. “Here was a team playing as though Lamont Cranston—the Shadow—had clouded their minds with absurd thoughts of winning. They bore no resemblance to the Pirates of the previous season and a half. Not only were all the intangibles there—for surely this is a team that can resurrect those wonderful feelings from recent days gone by—but so were the tangibles. This team can hit (lately), field (usually) and pitch (almost always).”

** “It is easy for the Pirates to react in such a positive manner,” opined Smizik. “They are winners. They are currently the good guys. They’ve redeemed themselves from a ghastly future of mediocrity and less to once again become a cherished ball club.”

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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