This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 12th, Dock Ellis No-Hitter

Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one transaction of note. We also have a special game of note.

The Game

On this date in 1970, Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter over the San Diego Padres on the road. The Pirates won 2-0, as Ellis struck out six batters, but managed to work around eight walks. It was the fourth no-hitter in team history that went at least nine innings, with two previous no-hitters ending early (though I personally think they should count). Ellis had said that he was on LSD during this game, while many of his teammates that day deny that story. It at least makes for a good tale. Here is the boxscore.

The Trade

On this date in 1946, the Pirates traded outfielder Johnny Barrett to the Boston Braves in exchange for outfielder Chuck Workman. Before joining the Braves in 1943, Workman played just nine games in the majors over his first six seasons in pro ball. In 1943, at age 28, he went from the minors to an everyday player, hitting .249 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs in 153 games. With Major League baseball nearly depleted by players serving in the war during this time, Workman was able to see full-time duty with the Braves for three seasons. In 1944, he hit just .208, but the team stuck with him and they were rewarded with a strong 1945 season that saw him hit .274 with 25 homers and 87 RBIs. Barrett had a similar story, playing five seasons in the minors before coming up with the 1942 Pirates at age 26, moving into a full-time job throughout the war years. In 1944, he led the NL in triples and stolen bases, while scoring 99 times and driving in 83 runs. The next season, he hit a career high 15 homers, with 97 runs scored, 79 walks, 25 stolen bases and 67 RBIs. At the time of the deal, both outfielders were struggling, Workman hitting .167 in 25 games, Barrett batting .169 in 32 contests.

After the trade, the left-handed hitting Workman, was in a platoon role in right field with Bob Elliott, who batted righty. Workman hit .221 in 58 games with 16 RBIs. With the talent level back to normal in the majors by the start of 1947, he was back in the minors, where he finished his playing career five seasons later. Barrett played just 24 games for the Braves, missing nearly two months after tearing a muscle in his leg which required surgery. In 55 plate appearances, he hit .233 with 12 walks (just one strikeout) and six RBIs. Just like Workman, he returned to the minors, playing until 1951, without ever making it back to the big leagues.

The Players

Otto Knabe, infielder for the 1905 and 1916 Pirates. Prior to playing his first pro game in 1905, Knabe had played and managed local amateur ball near Pittsburgh. He began his career in the Western League in Colorado Springs, hitting .287 in 93 games. The Pirates brought him to the majors late that year and got him into the starting lineup for three games at third base. After the 1905 season, Knabe was sent to Toledo, where he hit .282 in 149 games the following year. In late 1906, he was picked up by the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft. While in Philadelphia, he was their everyday second baseman for seven seasons. He was one of the best bunters in the game, four times leading the league in sacrifice hits. Knabe was recognized as a valuable role player during the 1911-13 seasons, receiving MVP votes all three years.

When a third Major League named the Federal League was formed for the 1914 season, Knabe jumped to the new league. He became the player/manager of the Baltimore Terrapins for two seasons, the entire existence of the league. He hit .253 in 103 games in 1915, his lowest full-season game total in the majors. Going into the 1916 season, Knabe was without a job. He came to the Pirates in April after getting no offers and worked out with the team to get fit. Injuries forced the Pirates to sign him and insert him in the lineup at second base before he was in game-playing shape. Pittsburgh ended up sending him home on June 1st after hitting just .191 in 28 games. They said at the time that he was too out of shape to play good baseball. but didn’t blame him for the lack of effort. Knabe was traded to the Cubs in July and finished his big league career with 51 more games during that 1916 season. He was a .247 career hitter in 1,278 games, scoring 572 runs and stealing 143 bases.

George Kontos, pitcher for the 2017-18 Pirates. He was in his seventh season in the majors when the Pirates picked him up off of waivers during the middle of 2017. Kontos played one year for the Yankees and six seasons for the San Francisco Giants. He had a 1.84 ERA over 14.2 innings and 15 appearances with the Pirates in 2017. In 2018, Kontos struggled with a 5.03 ERA in 21 appearances and 19.2 innings. He was released at the end of May and ended up playing for both the Cleveland Indians and Yankees later that season. He saw minor league time with both the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals last year. Kontos has a 3.10 career ERA over 357 innings and 350 outings, all in relief.