April 30, 1979: An Off-Day for the Bucs and Some More Where-They-Came-From

The Pirates were off on the last day of April.  They finished the month with a record of 7-11, in last place in the NL East.  They were 6.5 games behind the first-place Phillies and Expos.

With no action from the Bucs, let’s look at where they found their outfield.

Matt Alexander:  Baseball’s all-time premier pinch runner wasn’t another Herb Washington.  Alexander was an actual ballplayer.  The Cubs drafted him in 1968 in the second round out of Grambling.  He played second, third and outfield in the minors, and hit decently.  After he posted an .825 OPS in class A in 1969, he went in the Navy to avoid the draft and missed 1970-71.  He reached the majors in 1973 and, after a trade to Charlie Finley’s A’s, settled into a pinch running role.  After Alexander caught hepatitis in Mexico, Finley released him at the beginning of the 1978 season.  Late in the season, Alexander followed a suggestion to call Chuck Tanner and it got him a contract with the Pirates.

Mike Easler:  The Astros drafted the Hit Man out of Cleveland State University in the 14th round in 1969.  He hit well in the minors, but wasn’t good defensively.  Easler got only brief chances in the bigs from 1973-75, just 27 at-bats, and had only one hit.  Starting in June 1975, Easler went to St. Louis, California and Pittsburgh in a series of minor deals.  He went 8-for-18 for the Pirates in 1977, but he spent all of 1978 in the minors and, after the season, the Bucs sold him to Boston.  Just five and a half months later, on March 15, 1979, the Pirates got him back in exchange for a couple random minor leaguers.

Lee Lacy:  Lacy was a second round pick of the Dodgers out of Laney College in 1969.  He made his way quickly through the minors and, when he was batting .372 at mid-season in AA in 1972, the Dodgers called him up.  He got established quickly as a utility player with LA, playing mainly second and the outfield.  After the 1975 season, the Dodgers included Lacy in a six-player deal with Atlanta that brought Dusty Baker to LA.  After just half a season in Atlanta, Lacy found himself headed back to LA with Elias Sosa for Mike Marshall.  Lacy played two more years for the Dodgers, then became a free agent and signed with the Pirates prior to the 1979 season.

John Milner:  Milner was chosen in the 14th round out of a Georgia high school by the Mets in 1968.  He didn’t take long to solve minor league pitching, putting up a .953 OPS in his first full season and .924 with 20 home runs in AA in 1970.  He got a late-season callup in 1971, then played semi-regularly at first for the Mets in 1972.  Milner was a solid hitter in his seven years with the Mets, with an OPS+ during that time of 113 and two seasons of 20 or more homers.  He never quite broke through as a star, though, and after the 1977 season he was included in a trade that involved four teams and ten players.  The Pirates’ end had Milner and Bert Blyleven coming and Al Oliver going.

Omar Moreno:  Yet another Herb Raybourn signing out of Panama, Moreno was 16 when the Pirates signed him in 1969.  He took a while to get going, not making it out of short season ball until partway through his fourth season.  In 1973, though, he started a string of three seasons in which he hit for average, drew a lot of walks (something he generally didn’t do in the majors) and stole bases at a prolific rate.  Moreno made a few appearances with the Pirates in 1975, then came up to stay in mid-1976.  He became the everyday center fielder in 1977 and, with Chuck Tanner taking over as manager, the Pirates stole 260 bases, 73 more than any other team.

Dave Parker:  The Cobra was a three-sport star in high school in Cincinnati, but a knee injury ended his football career.  The Pirates drafted him in the 14th round in 1970.  According to Parker’s SABR bio, it wasn’t the knee that caused him to last that long, it was doubts about whether he’d hit.  In his first full year, though, he put up a .972 first-half OPS in low class A, prompting the Pirates to jump him up to AA.  He struggled there and went back to high A in 1972, hitting well there and in AAA in 1973.  The Pirates called him up in July 1973 when Gene Clines got hurt.  With Willie Stargell, Richie Zisk and Al Oliver in the outfield, though, Parker was the fourth outfielder in 1974, becoming a regular only when Stargell moved to first in 1975.  He quickly became the team’s best player.

Bill Robinson:  Robinson signed with the Milwaukee Braves in 1961, four years before the draft was instituted.  Born in McKeesport, he went to high school in Elizabeth, PA.  He had some big years in the minors for the Braves and made his major league debut in 1966.  After the season, though, he was traded to the Yankees for Clete Boyer.  The Yankees were struggling by then and Robinson was expected to take over for Roger Maris in right field and turn things around for the team.  He had a reputation as a worrier, though, and New York probably wasn’t a good environment for him.  He struggled badly for three years, then got traded in minor deals to the White Sox and Phillies.  He didn’t play in the majors at all in 1970-71, then spent half of 1972 with the Phillies.  He had a strong season for them in 1973, with 25 home runs and an .855 OPS.  After he slumped to a .626 OPS in 1974, though, the Phillies traded him to the Pirates for right-hander Wayne Simpson, who’d been struggling for four years to stay healthy after an outstanding rookie season with the Reds.  Robinson had a solid year as a part-timer in 1975, then finally became a regular for good at age 32 in 1976.  Playing first, third and all three outfield positions, he got some MVP votes in both 1976 and 1977.

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