There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, two were involved in major trades in the franchise’s early history. We also have two trades of note.
On this date in 1996, the Pirates traded pitcher Denny Neagle to the Atlanta Braves for two minor leaguers and a player to be named later. The Pirates got first baseman Ron Wright and catcher Corey Pointer right away, then picked up Major League pitcher Jason Schmidt two days later. Neagle had his first strong season for the Pirates in 1995, going 13-8, 3.43, while leading the league in innings pitched, and making the All-Star team. In 1996, the 27-year-old left-hander went 14-6, 3.05 prior to the trade. Schmidt was a 23-year-old righty, with a 5-6, 6.45 record over two seasons, making 13 starts and nine relief appearances. Wright was a power-hitting 20-year-old, with 68 homers over two seasons in the low minors. Pointer was just 20 years old as well, showing signs of power at the plate, though it came with a low average.
After the deal, Pointer hit for power in the Pirates organization, slugging 33 homers between two seasons at High-A ball. His career stalled out due to a very low average, coupled with a very high strikeout rate. Wright was up with the Pirates at the end of 1997, but never played due to a wrist injury. A back injury then limited his playing time over the next two years, then a home plate collision nearly ended his career. He played just one Major League game for the 2002 Mariners, and it did not go well. He struck out, then hit into a triple play, followed by a double play, making six out in his three at-bats. Schmidt made up for the other two players though, winning 44 games for the Pirates, with 34 wins coming during the 1997-99 seasons. Neagle pitched very poorly right after the deal, then went 20-5 in 1997 for the Braves. He pitched well in 1998, then moved on to the Cincinnati Reds, before eventually signing a disastrous deal with the Colorado Rockies. After leaving Pittsburgh, Neagle went a combined 81-66, playing until 2003. He was signed for 2004, but he missed the entire year.
On this date in 1988, the Pirates acquired third baseman Ken Oberkfell from the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later. Four days later, Pittsburgh sent outfielder Tommy Gregg to Atlanta. The Pirates also received cash in this deal. Oberkfell was a decent hitting infielder, usually batted around .275 with good plate patience, but not much power. He was also a good glove man, three times leading his position in fielding. His time in Pittsburgh did not go well, and then early in the 1989 season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants. He played a total of 34 games for the Pirates, hitting .181 with four RBIs. Gregg, who had played 24 games for the Pirates over two seasons, had just turned 25 years old. He hit .345 with the Braves after the trade, then spent three seasons as a pinch-hitter, backup outfielder, occasionally playing first base. After 1991, Gregg played a total of 113 games in the majors spread out over the next six years, with the majority of his time coming for the 1995 Florida Marlins.
T.J. Beam, pitcher for the 2008 Pirates. He was originally a tenth round draft pick in 2003 by the New York Yankees, coming out of the University of Mississippi. Beam was a 6’7″ right-handed pitcher, who made it to the majors in 2006 with New York for twenty games. He pitched a total of 18 innings, all in relief, posting a 2-0, 8.50 record. He missed a small part of the 2007 season, spending the year playing four games of rookie ball on rehab, then 29 games at Triple-A. The Yankees granted him free agency at the end of the season, and six days later he signed with the Pirates. Beam began the 2008 season in Triple-A, throwing 43.2 innings over thirty relief appearances, with a 3.09 ERA and five saves. He joined the Pirates in late June, getting into a total of 32 games over the rest of the season. Beam had a 2-2, 4.14 record, with one save and 45.2 innings pitched. In February of 2009, the Pirates lost him on waivers to the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched affiliated ball in the minors until 2010, then spent the 2011 season in independent ball.
Mark Ryal, outfielder for the 1990 Pirates. He played parts of six seasons in the majors, spending time with five different teams. He was drafted in the third round in 1978 by the Kansas City Royals as a 17-year-old. He made in to the majors briefly for Kansas City in 1982, then saw his most Major League time while with the Chicago White Sox during the 1986-87 seasons. His second year in Chicago, he played a career high 58 games, although 41 of those games were off the bench. Ryal spent the 1989 season with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, getting into 29 big league games. He was granted free agency in October of 1989 and signed with the Pirates exactly three months later. Ryal spent most of the year in Triple-A, where he hit .334 in 109 games. He was called up for a week in early August, then came back in September for the last month of the season. He played nine games for the Pirates, going 1-for-12 at the plate, getting one start in left field. He went to Japan after the season, playing two years there, plus 12 games for the Rangers at Triple-A in 1992, before retiring. His son Rusty Ryal played two years for the Diamondbacks (2009-10).
Wally Roettger, outfielder for the 1934 Pirates. After a brief trial with the 1927 St Louis Cardinals, Roettger hit .341 with 44 RBIs in 68 games for the 1928 Cardinals. His numbers fell off the next season, then he began a tour of the National League over the next six years. He went to the New York Giants in 1930, then to the Cincinnati Reds in 1931, before going back to St Louis later that season. The Reds would then purchase him back from the Cardinals six months later. During the 1931 season, he hit .321 in 89 games. His average dropped to .239 in 1933 and he was seeing less playing time. The Pirates acquired him, along with pitcher Red Lucas on November 17, 1933 in exchange for outfielder Adam Comorosky and second baseman Tony Piet.
Roettger didn’t see much playing time with the Pirates, especially during the middle of the season. He started some early season games in right field, then finished with seven starts in left field during the final two weeks of the season. In between, from July 9th until September 20th, he didn’t make a single start, playing just 15 games off of the bench. He hit .245 with 11 RBIs in 47 games, in what turned out to be his final season of baseball. Roettger led all NL center fielders in fielding percentage in 1930, then two years later, he turned this same trick while playing left field. He had a brother named Oscar, who played parts of four seasons in the majors.
Charlie Grimm, first baseman for the 1919-24 Pirates. He had two brief trials in the majors, 1916 for the Philadelphia A’s and 1918 for the St Louis Cardinals, before finally catching on with the Pirates. Pittsburgh used Grimm for 14 games in September of 1919, and saw him hit .318 in 44 at-bats. The next year, he would be their starting first baseman, a job he would hold for the next five seasons. The Pirates stuck with Grimm, despite watching him hit .227 in 148 games during his first full season. His glove is what kept him around initially, though his bat would come around and make his a solid Major Leaguer for a long time. In his five full years with Pittsburgh, he led all NL first baseman in fielding percentage three times. The other two seasons, he finished second. His best season at the plate, came in 1923, when he hit .345 with 99 RBIs. That batting average ranked him sixth in the NL and he finished seventh in RBIs. For the Pirates, he hit .286 with 369 RBIs and 301 runs scored in 770 games. He played at least 148 games each year from 1920-24.
On October 27, 1924, the Pirates made a six-player deal with the Cubs, giving up the three biggest names in the trade. They sent Grimm to Chicago, along with Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville and Wilbur Cooper, the team’s all-time leader in wins. The Cubs made out big time with the acquisition of Grimm, getting 12 seasons out of their new first baseman. In 1,334 games, he hit .296 with 696 RBIs and 596 runs scored. He became the team manager during the 1932 season, sticking around for seven seasons in that role, winning two NL pennants. He returned to the Cubs helm in 1944 for another six seasons, winning another NL pennant. Grimm later managed the Boston/Milwaukee Braves for five years, then he briefly took over the Cubs again during the 1960 season. He had a 1,287-1,067 record as a manager and was a .290 hitter in 2,166 games, with 1077 RBIs.
Bill Stuart, shortstop for the 1895 Pirates. He was a local boy from Boalsburg, Pa., who attended Penn State University and played two seasons of minor league ball close to Pittsburgh, seeing time in the Iron and Oil League and the Pennsylvania State League during the 1894-95 seasons. Stuart joined the Pirates in the middle of August in 1895, stepping right into the starting shortstop position. He collected 19 hits in 19 games, batting .247 with ten RBIs. Star outfielder Patsy Donovan spoke highly of Stuart after his first week, saying that he was a natural hitter, who he expected among the league leaders within a couple years. Connie Mack spoke highly of his defense, commenting that he was a better fielder than they had seen in Pittsburgh in quite some time, although he arm wasn’t the strongest. Through his first eight games, he collected 12 of those 19 hits, batting .313 at the time. His ninth game was a rough one though, committing three errors. The next game he collected two hits, but was injured and was sent back to Pittsburgh, while the team continued on for another 11 days with their road trip.
Stuart rejoined the team when they got back to Exposition Park, going right back into his starting role at shortstop. About that time, flaws in his game arose, namely that he was timid during plays at the bag and he was too slow afoot. When the team returned to the road for their last nine games, they took just 12 players with them, leaving Stuart to go home for the winter. In 1896, he returned to minor league ball, where he would spend the next four seasons, one year as a player/manager. Stuart’s pro career ended in the majors (his only other big league game besides his time with the Pirates), playing a September 1899 game for the Giants at second baseman, going 0-for-3, with two strikeouts and a flawless day in the field. In a 1908 issue of The Sporting Life, they said that Stuart wanted to umpire during spring games, calling him “the millionaire umpire” due to the large wealth he accumulated in the oil industry since he stopped playing baseball.