This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 8th, Burleigh Grimes, and the Zane Smith Trade

Today we have five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. There are also two transactions of note, one involving a Hall of Fame pitcher.

The Transactions

On this date in 1990, the Pirates traded 1989 first round pick Willie Greene, pitcher Scott Ruskin and a player to be named later, to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Zane Smith. Eight days later, they sent Moises Alou to the Expos to complete the deal. Smith was a 29-year-old lefty, in his seventh season in the majors. He was acquired to help the Pirates make a pennant run and he did just that, going 6-2, 1.30 over the last two months. After the deal, he remained in Pittsburgh another four seasons, then returned for a final year in 1996, finishing with 47 wins for the Pirates. Greene had a nine-year career in the majors, but his first good season didn’t come until six years after this deal, and by then he was with the Reds. Ruskin pitched two years for Montreal, appearing 87 times out of the bullpen, with a 3.65 ERA and six saves. Both he and Greene were dealt to the Reds following the 1991 season. Ruskin pitched two years in Cincinnati with very minimal success. Alou went on the have an outstanding career, making six All-Star teams and hitting .303 with 332 career homers. Short-term the deal didn’t hurt the Pirates, as they had no outfield spot for Alou at the time and he was injured during the entire 1991 season.

On this date in 1934, the Pirates sign 40-year-old pitcher Burleigh Grimes, who would play for the Pirates for the third time in his career. The Pirates were his first team in the majors, though they gave up on the young pitcher too soon, trading him to Brooklyn after two seasons. They did well to reacquire him in 1928, when he won 25 games, and then followed it up with a 17-7 record the next year. A high salary demand in 1930 caused his second departure from the Pirates. Grimes was nearly done as a player by the time he reached the team for a third time. He made four starts and four relief appearances, going 1-2, 7.24 in 27.1 innings. His only win was the 270th and last of his Major League career. Grimes went on to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964

The Players

Ross Ohlendorf, pitcher for the Pirates from 2008 until 2011. He was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2004, taken in the fourth round. Ohlendorf was one of the four players sent to the Yankees when Arizona acquired Randy Johnson. He was a starter for most of his time in the minors, but with the Yankees, they used him 31 times in relief over the 2007-08 seasons. On July 26, 2008, he was traded to the Pirates, along with Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. Ohlendorf went to the minors after the deal, coming up to Pittsburgh in September for five starts, in which he went 0-3, 6.35, failing to get past the fifth inning in the last four starts. Despite that poor trial with the Pirates, he made the Opening Day rotation the next year, going 11-10, 3.92 in 29 starts. His 2010 season was marred by injury and lack of run support when he did pitch. He hurt his back early in the year, took a line drive off the head in July and missed the end of the year with a shoulder strain. Ohlendorf finished the season with a 1-11, 4.07 record in 21 starts. Even with the poor win/loss record and time missed, Ohlendorf won a substantial raise in arbitration over the 2010-11 off-season and when he returned the next year, he fell well short of earning his pay. He went 1-3, 8.15 in nine starts, pitching nearly as many innings in the minors on rehab as he did in the majors. He was released in December and signed with the Red Sox, who released him after ten minor league starts.

Ohlendorf signed with the Padres for 2012 and did poorly, then put up solid stats for the Washington Nationals in 2013. He also appeared as a reliever for the 2015 Texas Rangers and 2016 Cincinnati Reds. He finished his career with a 4.82 ERA over 586.1 innings, making 80 starts and 129 relief appearances. No pitcher in Pirates franchise history has made more starts (64) without pitching a complete game.

Brett Gideon, pitcher for the 1987 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick in 1985 by the Pirates. He began as a starter in the minors, but quickly moved to a relief role. In 1986, Gideon pitched in three different levels, from low-A up to Double-A. He spent all of his time in the minors in 1987, playing in Double-A, where he posted a 1.98 ERA and 12 saves, with 39 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. Despite never pitching in Triple-A, Gideon was called up to the majors in July of 1987, pitching 29 games in relief that year for Pittsburgh. He had a 1-5, 4.66 record in 36.2 innings. He was back in Double-A the following season, where he again pitched great. Gideon also made 24 appearances in Triple-A, posting a 3.64 ERA and nine saves in 42 innings. He was traded to the Expos on March 28, 1989 in exchange for Neal Heaton. Gideon pitched four games for the Expos in 1989, then made the Opening Day roster in 1990. Unfortunately, that season was short-lived. One appearance into the year, he needed elbow surgery, which effectively ended his Major League career. He would pitch just 23 times over the 1991-92 seasons in the minors before retiring.

Mark Ross, pitcher for the 1987 and 1990 Pirates. He was originally drafted by the Astros in 1979 as a seventh round pick. Ross played small parts of three seasons in Houston, from 1982 until 1985, pitching a total of 14 games. He was a relief pitcher in all but one season (1988) during his 13-year career. During the 1986 season, he spent the entire year in Triple-A, posting a 4.17 ERA with eight saves in 48 appearances. Ross became a free agent after the season, signing with the Pirates in December. He spent most of 1987 pitching for Vancouver, the Pirates Triple-A affiliate. There he went 5-6, 3.02 in 32 games, pitching 89.1 innings. He pitched one game in 1987 for the Pirates, on August 16th, allowing one run in one inning on a homer by Tim Raines. Ross signed with the Blue Jays after the season, spending two years in the Toronto organization, making three Major League appearances. Following the 1989 season, he re-signed with the Pirates and ended up seeing more work in 1990 than he did any other season in the majors, pitching nine games. He was called up in June and then again in August, throwing a total of 12.2 innings, with a 3.55 ERA and he picked up a win. He pitched in the minors in 1991 for the Braves before retiring. In 42.1 innings over 27 big league games, he had a 3.83 ERA.

Clise Dudley, pitcher for the Pirates on September 15, 1933. Three pitchers in franchise history have failed to record an out while allowing earned runs, leaving them with infinite (designated as .inf) ERA’s. Of any pitcher in franchise history who has recorded an out, 919 in all (as of 7/26/2020), not one has a higher ERA than Clise Dudley. He pitched eight seasons in the minors, finishing with a 63-71 record, which should give an indication of how his Major League career went. As a rookie in 1929, Dudley went 6-14, 5.69 for the Brooklyn Robins. The next year he went 2-4 and his ERA rose to 6.35, pitching a total of 66.2 innings with a 1.95 WHIP. In 1931 he actually pitched much better, but he was with the sixth place Phillies and finished with a 6-14 record. Dudley’s 1932 season did not go well, as he was a seldom used mop-up pitcher, making 13 appearances with a 7.13 ERA in 17.2 innings. He spent the 1933 season pitching for two teams in the Southern Association, where he had a 5.52 ERA in 132 innings. The Pirates signed him on September 14th that year, using him the next day when starter Hal Smith couldn’t get out of the third inning. Dudley recorded the final out of the third, then when he came out for the fourth inning, he was unable to retire a batter before he was pulled, leaving him with five earned runs and a 135.00 ERA. Dudley was released after the season, without pitching another game, marking the end of his big league career in the process. He pitched ten minor league games in 1934 before retiring. His real first name was Elzie, but Clise was his middle name that he preferred.

Billy Gumbert, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys and 1892 Pirates. He made his Major League debut on June 19, 1890, pitching the first game of a doubleheader that day. In game two, George Ziegler pitched his only Major League game. The Alleghenys decided to keep Gumbert in their rotation and release Ziegler immediately after the game. Gumbert was a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, who pitched locally in the minors and amateur/semi-pro ball. The Alleghenys won just 12 of their last 94 games that season, yet Gumbert was able to pick up four wins in ten starts. The reason he made only ten starts that year was because he only pitched home games, due to business ventures in town that left him unable to travel with the team. When Pittsburgh started drawing poorly at home, they began to reschedule their games as road games, because the visiting team share of the profits greatly exceeded what they made at home, leaving Gumbert with fewer chances to pitch. The team’s total attendance for forty home dates that year is listed at 16,064 (my own research says it was only slightly higher), due in part to their extremely poor play, and also due to the better play of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, playing often on the same days at home just a few miles away.

Gumbert pitched again for the Pirates in 1892, again only playing home games, going 3-2, 1.36 in six games. His only other Major League game came as a member of the 1893 Louisville Colonels, and as one might expect, it was a game played in Pittsburgh. He allowed two hits, walked five and couldn’t make it out of the first inning, in a game that was won 11-10 by Louisville. His brother Ad Gumbert won 123 Major League games and pitched for the Pirates for two season (1893-94). His great-nephew Harry Gumbert won 143 games and pitched for the 1949-50 Pirates.