This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 29th, The Johnny Ray Trade

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one with a rich family history in baseball. We also have a trade of note.

The Transaction

On this date in 1987, the Pirates traded second baseman Johnny Ray to the Angels for minor leaguers Bill Merrifield and Miguel Garcia. Ray played seven years in Pittsburgh, winning a Silver Slugger award and finishing second in the 1982 NL Rookie of the Year voting. In 931 games, he hit .286 with 391 RBIs and 414 runs scored. In 1987, the 30-year-old Ray was hitting .273 with 54 RBIs through 123 games before this trade. Twice while in Pittsburgh, he led the NL in doubles.

After the deal, Ray played in California until 1990, making his only All-Star appearance during the 1988 season, where he hit .306 with 83 RBIs and 75 runs scored. Garcia played three seasons with the Pirates, but he pitched just 13 games total. He was a 20-year-old left-handed reliever in 1987, who made one appearances for the Angels that year. He pitched a total of 18.2 innings for the Pirates, ending with a 7.71 ERA. He was actually sent to the Pirates on September 3rd as a player to be named later. Merrifield never made the majors and lasted just three games in the Pirates organization. He played the 1988 season for the Rangers Triple-A team, his last year in pro ball. He was a 25-year-old third baseman at the time of the deal, who was originally drafted in 1980 by the Pirates, but did not sign.

The Players

Billy Cox, shortstop for the 1941 and 1946-47 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1940, making it to the majors by the following September for ten games. Cox then missed four full seasons serving in the military during WWII, returning in 1946 to the Pirates. Despite all of that missed time. and the fact he had just ten games of Major League experience prior, Cox hit .290 in 121 games in 1946, though he did lead the league in errors at shortstop. He batted .274 with 15 homers in 1947, showing a huge improvement in the field, going from 39 errors, down to twenty, while accepting more chances. On December 8, 1947, Cox was part of a six-player deal with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with three players going each way. He would be moved to third base in Brooklyn, holding down the job for seven years, before finishing his career in 1955 with one season for the Baltimore Orioles. Cox never quite matched his offensive numbers from Pittsburgh while in Brooklyn. His .290 average in 1946 and 15 homers in 1947, remained his career highs. He was solid on defense though, finishing in the top three in fielding percentage at third base each year from 1949-53, twice leading the league. Cox finished as a career .262 hitter in 1,058 games.

Joe Schultz Jr, catcher for the 1939-41 Pirates. He was the son of Joe Schultz Sr, who played infield for the 1916 Pirates. He also had two cousins who played in the majors, Frank Lobert and Hans Lobert, who played for the 1903 Pirates. When Schultz’s father was a farm director in the Cardinals system, Joe Jr was signed to play pro ball at 17 years old. In 1939, Joe Sr was hired by the Pirates to run the minor league system, and his son’s contract came with the job. Joe Jr spent most of his early playing career in the minors, but from 1939 until 1941, he got to play each year in Pittsburgh, getting into a total of 22 games. The elder Schultz passed away in 1941 and his son was dealt to a minor league team, then eventually drafted by the St Louis Browns. Joe Jr spent four years as the Browns backup catcher. During the 1947-48 seasons, he took a pinch-hitting role on the team. It was literally all he did those two years, and both years he played exactly 43 games. In 240 career games, he got just 368 plate appearances, hitting .259 with one homer and 46 RBIs. In 1969, he served as the manager of the Seattle Pilots, and he also briefly managed the 1973 Tigers.

Pep Young, infielder for the 1933-40 Pirates. He played five seasons in the minors before making the 1933 Pirates Opening Day roster. Even though he spent the entire season with the team, Young played just 25 games and he didn’t get one start. He spent most of 1934 with the team as well, and received even less playing time, although he did make three starts. After two seasons of barely playing, and starting the 1935 season on the bench, Young became the Pirates starting second baseman on May 18th, and didn’t give up the spot. He hit .265 with 82 RBIs and 60 runs scored in 128 games, getting 106 starts at second base. Young’s offensive numbers were down slightly in 1936, but his defense was better and he made 123 starts at second base. The next year he served in the super utility infielder role, making at least thirty starts at second base, third base and shortstop.

Back to full-time second base duty in 1938, Pep (first name was Lemuel) had his finest season. He made 149 starts, batting a career high .278, while driving in 79 runs. He finished 14th in the NL MVP voting and led all NL second baseman in range and assists. He hurt his knee during the 1939 season and never fully recovered, seeing his playing time diminish the next year into a backup infielder role. On September 30, 1940, the Pirates traded Young to a minor league team for shortstop Alf Anderson. The rest of his Major League career consisted of six games in 1941 and 27 games during the 1945 season. Young finished his Pirates career with a .264 average, 343 RBIs and 267 runs scored in 697 games. We posted a full article on his Pirates career here.

Roy Wood, left fielder for the 1913 Pirates. He attended the University of Arkansas just prior to starting his pro career in 1913 with the Sioux City Packers of the Western League. He joined the Pirates in mid-June and would stick around the rest of the season, getting limited playing time. Wood hit .286 in 14 games for the Pirates, playing eight times in left field and once at first base. He was let go after the season and the Cleveland Naps picked him up to play first base. Right before the start of the 1914 season, he tore a muscle in his side and missed the start of the year. Wood ended up playing 72 games for the 1914 Naps (renamed Indians in 1915), then another 33 games in 1915 before he was released. He hit .225 with one homer and 18 RBIs for Cleveland. He returned to the minors to finish out the 1915 season, remaining in town, playing for the Cleveland Spiders of the American Association. He finished his playing career the next year playing for Toledo of the same league.

Ensign Cottrell, pitcher for the Pirates on June 21, 1911. He was a star pitcher for Syracuse University, who joined the Pirates on June 19th as they left Pittsburgh for Chicago. It was said that he would likely not pitch against the Cubs, unless they need a reliever. On June 21st, the Pirates needed that reliever. Down 7-1, with two pitchers already chased from the game, Cottrell pitched the seventh inning, giving up four runs on four hits and a walk. Just one of the runs was earned, as the Pirates ended up losing 14-1 that day. Ensign wouldn’t pitch again that season. He was in the minors in 1912 until the Cubs picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. He pitched one game for Chicago as well. In 1913, he pitched two games for the Philadelphia A’s, the eventual World Series Champs. The next year, he threw one inning for the Boston Braves, and they too won the World Series, giving him a title in each league, the first player to accomplish that feat. Ensign was on the Braves WS roster, despite the fact he played just that one game, although he didn’t get a chance to play during the Series. Cottrell played one more year in the majors, seeing time with the 1915 Yankees, his fifth different team in a five year stretch. He actually pitched seven games for New York, two more than he got in the previous four years combined.