On a busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates history, we have nine birthdays plus a quick look at some trades of note. Before we get into that, current infielder Erik Gonzalez turns 29 today.
On this date in 2011, the Pirate sent outfielder Matt Diaz to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later. Twenty days later they acquired minor league pitcher Eliecer Cardenas, who was injured to start the season, then released in June before he ever appeared in a game.
On this date in 1997, the Pirates acquired Shawon Dunston from the Chicago Cubs to help with their playoff run. He would hit .394 with five homers, 16 RBIs and 14 runs scored in 18 games for the Pirates. Despite his efforts, the Pirates missed the playoffs and Dunston left via free agency after the season.
On this date in 1985, the Pirates traded Bill Madlock to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three players to be named later. Three days later, they received outfielder R.J. Reynolds. Six days after that, they acquired both outfielder Cecil Espy and first baseman Sid Bream. Madlock still had two years left on a free agent deal that he signed in 1982. He hit .285 with 15 homers and 82 RBIs in 166 games with the Dodgers before being released.
On this date in 1981, the Pirates acquired Johnny Ray and two players to be named later, in exchange for Phil Garner. Nine days later, Pittsburgh got two pitchers, Randy Niemann and Kevin Houston. Garner ended up signing two free agent deals with the Astros and sticking around for six more years after the trade. Ray ended up as the regular second baseman for the Pirates for just as long, while Kevin Houston never made the majors and Niemann struggled through 49 innings for the 1982-83 Pirates.
On this date in 1968, the Pirates sold Elroy Face to the Detroit Tigers, ending his 15 years of service with the team, in which he picked up 100 wins and 188 saves. Face pitched just two games for Detroit, mostly because their starting pitchers were constantly throwing complete games. He played his final season with the Montreal Expos in 1969.
On this date in 1953, the Pirates sold knuckleball pitcher Johnny Lindell to the Philadelphia Phillies. Lindell started his career as a pitcher, moved to outfield for ten years, then back to pitching to finish his career. He actually did better as a hitter with the Pirates, batting .286 in 109 plate appearances, compared to a 5-16, 4.71 record.
Juan Nicasio, pitcher for the 2016-17 Pirates. He played four years for the Colorado Rockies and one season with the Los Angeles Dodgers before signing a free agent deal with the Pirates. Nicasio had some starting experience, but was used more in relief prior to signing. The Pirates gave him a shot to win a starting rotation spot in Spring Training and he did. That didn’t last long, as he ended up with 12 starts on the season and 40 relief appearances. Nicasio went 10-7, 4.50 in 118 innings. In 2017, he was pitching strictly in relief. He had a 2.85 ERA in 65 appearances and 80 innings pitched, but he was let go via waivers late in the season. He has bounced around since leaving the Pirates, going from Philadelphia, to St Louis, to Seattle, to Philadelphia again, to the Texas Rangers in 2020. Nicasio had a 6.00 ERA in 46 appearances in 2018 and a 4.75 mark in 47 outings last year.
Morris Madden, pitcher for the 1988-89 Pirates. He was originally a 24th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979, spending eight seasons in the minors before he made his Major League debut with the 1987 Detroit Tigers. Madden pitched two games in June for Detroit, allowing three runs in 1.2 innings. The Pirates acquired him as the player to be named later in the August 7, 1987 Jim Morrison for Darnell Coles trade. Morris pitched one game for the Pirates in August of 1988, then came back for four more as a September call-up. He had an odd pitching line of no runs allowed in 5.2 innings, despite giving up five hits and seven walks. In 1989, he pitched six games with the Pirates through early May, then came back from Triple-A in mid-June as a starter and did not do well in any of his three starts. His last outing, which ended up being his final Major League game was the worst, a hit and three walks before he was pulled from the game after just four batters. The Pirates released Madden after the season and he ended up pitching one more year at Triple-A for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He pitched 325 minor league games, 189 as a starter, finishing with an 82-87, 3.96 record in 1,355.2 innings.
Ramon Hernandez, lefty reliever for the 1971-76 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1959, but it took twelve years for him to actually play his first game in Pittsburgh. The Pirates sold him to the Los Angeles Angels after the 1961 season, though it was still six years before he even made his Major League debut. In 1967, Hernandez threw 46 games for the Atlanta Braves, who took him in the Rule 5 draft during the previous fall. He was then lost in the 1967 Rule 5 draft to the Chicago Cubs, who used him in eight games before being sold to the St Louis Cardinals. Hernandez never made it to the majors in St Louis, instead he was released and he signed to play in Mexico. The Pirates picked him up in February of 1971 from the Mexico City Reds in exchange for longtime minor league pitcher Danilo Rivas. Hernandez pitched ten games for the 1971 Pirates team that won the World Series. He had a two game stint in June, followed by eight September appearances, not allowing a run until his last outing.
Hernandez would spend the entire 1972 season with the Pirates and he was outstanding out of the bullpen. He went 5-0, 1.67 in 53 games, with a career high 14 saves. In the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, he allowed one hit over 3.1 innings in three appearances, though it was a solo home run. He continued to be a strong relief option for the Pirates for the next three seasons, pitching a total of 163 games, with a 16-9 record, 18 saves and an ERA under 3.00 each year. In the 1974 NLCS against the Dodgers, he threw 4.1 scoreless innings over two outings. The Pirates won the NL East again the following year, but this time Hernandez didn’t do so well in the playoffs. He lost his only appearance, giving up two 10th inning runs in a 5-3 loss during game three. He remained with the Pirates until September of 1976, when he was sold to the Cubs. Hernandez played one more season in the majors before retiring. For Pittsburgh, he was 23-12, 2.51 in 263 relief appearances, picking up 39 saves and pitching a total of 347.2 innings. He pitched 74 games total outside of Pittsburgh and finished with a 3.03 career ERA.
Ray Berres, catcher for the 1937-40 Pirates. On June 14, 1940, Berres was traded to the Boston Bees (Braves), along with cash, for All-Star catcher and Hall of Famer Al Lopez. The trade was ironic in that when Berres came to the majors in 1934 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was the backup catcher to Lopez. It wouldn’t be the last time the two crossed paths. Berres had played five years of minor league ball before being taken in the Rule 5 draft in October of 1933 by the Dodgers. That first season, he hit .215 in 39 games, sticking around for his defense and arm more than his bat, something that was true for most of his playing career. He spent the entire 1935 season in the minors, then came back to Brooklyn in 1936 and played 105 games. Berres was back in the minors for almost the entire 1937 season, getting into just two games for the Pirates, who purchased his contract late in the year from Louisville of the American Association. He caught a break when the Pirates traded catcher Tommy Padden in the 1937-38 off-season, leaving him as the backup catcher to Al Todd. Using just the two catchers the entire year, Berres got into 40 games.
The next year, Al Todd was traded for catcher Ray Mueller, and Mueller would split the catching duties with Berres for the entire year. Berres hit .229 with 16 RBIs in 81 games, finishing with the second highest fielding percentage in the NL. He caught another 21 games with the Pirates in 1940 before the trade for Lopez. Berres remained in the majors until 1945, spending his last four years as a seldom used backup for the New York Giants. He became a coach as soon as his career ended, sticking around until the early 1970’s, and at one point, he was the pitching coach for Al Lopez, when he managed the Chicago White Sox. Berres hit .225 with no homers and 24 RBIs in 144 games for the Pirates.
Wally Rehg, outfielder for the 1912 Pirates. He played his first two years of pro ball for the Hartford Senators of the Connecticut State League, showing enough improvements in his second year to draw the interest of the Pirates. In 1912, he made the Opening Day roster, making his first appearance as a pinch-hitter. He would play just eight games for the Pirates, getting into two games in the field, one in right field and one in center. Rehg went 0-for-9 at the plate, though he did score a run when he pinch-ran for Dots Miller. He was with the Pirates through the end of June, before returning to the minors to finish the season with St Paul of the American Association. Rehg remained there until being picked up by the Boston Red Sox in August of the following season. He played 123 games for the Red Sox between the 1913-15 seasons, then he played 127 games for the crosstown Boston Braves during the 1917-18 seasons. He finished his Major League career in 1919 with the Cincinnati Reds. In 263 Major League games, Rehg hit .250 with two homers and 66 RBIs. He had a long and successful minor league career, hitting .300 over 2,125 games, taking part in 19 seasons.
Syd Smith, catcher for the 1914-15 Pirates. He spent two full seasons and parts of three other years in the majors, while also playing over 1,500 minor league games. Smith hit .196 in 73 games as a rookie in 1908, splitting the season between the Philadelphia Athletics and the St Louis Browns. After spending the 1909 season in the minors, he was taken by the Cleveland Naps (name changed to Indians in 1915) in the September 1, 1910 Rule 5 draft and joined the team right away. He spent the entire 1911 season with the Naps and played well, hitting .299 in 58 games, with 21 runs scored. Despite the decent offensive numbers, Smith was back in the minors for three seasons, finally coming back in 1914 with Pittsburgh. He joined the Pirates at the end of the season and got into three games when starting catcher George Gibson was excused from making the last road trip. Over the off-season, Smith took up a job as the baseball coach for the University of South Carolina, and the Pirates gave him permission to forego the beginning of Spring Training as long as he stayed in shape, instructing him to join the team on the first of April. He played just one game for the Pirates in 1915, coming in as a pinch-hitter and leaving for a pinch-runner after reaching base. That would be his last Major League game. Smith soon returned to the minors, playing for three different teams that year. After stops in Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, he settled down in Shreveport, managing the team at the end of 1915, and each of the next two seasons. He played 146 big league games, hitting .247 with two homers and 40 RBIs.
Monte Cross, Pirates shortstop during the 1894-95 seasons. He spent 15 years as a shortstop in the majors, despite a .234 career average, lack of power and a high strikeout total, twice leading the league in K’s during seasons in which he hit just one home run. Cross was kept around for his glove, though even that part of his game came with some flaws. He led the league in putouts for six straight years (1898-1903) but he also led the league in errors during the first three years of that streak, and he never led the league in fielding percentage or range for shortstops. After a brief trial with the 1892 Baltimore Orioles, Cross spent the 1893 and 1894 seasons in the minors, coming up to the Pirates in September of 1894, after his season was done. He impressed the Pirates with his bat, an outstanding feat considering how bad he hit during his career. In 13 games for Pittsburgh that year, he hit .442 with 13 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
Cross was the Pirates starting shortstop for most of 1895, hitting .254 with 54 RBIs, 67 runs scored and 39 stolen bases in 109 games. He would be dealt in the off-season to the St Louis Browns, along with pitcher Bill Hart and cash, for shortstop Bones Ely. Cross played two years in St Louis, then spent his last ten years in Philadelphia, the first four with the Phillies, then the last six with the Athletics. His career consisted of 1,684 Major League games, and over 1,000 minor league games. He stole 328 bases in the majors. As mentioned, Cross wasn’t much of a power hitter, but he had an interesting Pirates theme to his six homers during the 1899-1900 seasons. They all came off top pitchers, who at one time starred for the Pirates, two off Deacon Phillippe, two off Hall of Famer Vic Willis and one each of Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro, and Pink Hawley, a 31-game winner for the 1895 Pirates.
Red Ehret, pitcher for the 1892-94 Pirates. He began his Major League career with four seasons in the American Association, the last three with his hometown Louisville Colonels, before moving on to the NL in 1892 with the Pirates when the AA folded. Red (first name was Philip) won 25 games in 1890, though it comes with the huge asterisk that the American Association was a watered down league that year, with the best players of the day, playing either in the newly-formed Player’s League or the National League. Ehret was a solid pitcher for the Pirates for his three seasons, finishing 53-59, 3.79 in 109 starts and 15 relief outings. The 1894 season was a huge year for offense in the majors and it skewed many pitching stats, so that overall ERA is quite impressive. His 16-20 record in 1892 came with a 2.65 ERA, which was nearly the same as Adonis Terry (2.51) had, yet the latter finished with an 18-7 record that year for the Pirates. On January 17, 1895, the Pirates trade Ehret and cash, to the St Louis Browns for pitcher Pink Hawley. Red didn’t do so well in his only year in St Louis, going 6-19 with a 6.02 ERA. He would be traded to the Cincinnati Reds in November of 1895, and there he had a strong season, going 18-14, 3.42 in his first year with the club. Ehret’s stats dropped off in 1897 and he moved back to Louisville (now in the NL) for his last season (1898), finishing his career with 139-167, 4.02 record in 309 starts and 53 relief appearances. Five times during his career, he topped the 300 inning mark in a season, but he had just two winning seasons, 1890 with Louisville and 1896 with the Reds.
Duke Farrell, third baseman/outfielder for the 1892 Pirates.He was known as a catcher during his long career in the majors, and he is one of the few backstops from the early days of the game to catch over 1,000 games, but in 1892 the Pirates played him 152 times without putting him behind the plate. Duke (first name was Charles) played for the Boston Reds of the American Association in 1891, the last championship winner in the league’s ten-year history. He was a key to their success, leading the league with 12 homers, 110 RBIs, and leading all third baseman with a .918 fielding percentage. After the AA folded, Farrell latched on with the Pirates, and would play all but three of the team’s games that year. His average slipped way off from .302 in 1891, down to .215 in 1892, though he did finish second on the team with 77 RBIs. On March 21, 1893, the Pirates traded Farrell and cash, to the Washington Senators for pitcher Frank Killen, who reached thirty wins in a season twice with the Pirates. Duke still had 13 seasons left in his career after the trade, and while he was a strong catcher, he never approached the numbers he put up during the 1891 season. He hit over .300 for three straight years (1897-99) and finished his career with a .277 average and 916 RBIs in 1,565 games. Farrell is one of a few players, who competed in four different major leagues, the AA, NL, the Player’s League in 1890 and the AL from 1903 until 1905 with Boston. He ranks fourth all-time in runners caught stealing, throwing out 1,156 basestealers during his career.