This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 11th, Don Slaught

We have six players born on this date, including three players who went to the postseason with the Pirates. Before we get into the former players, current pitcher Nik Turley turns 31 years old today.

Don Slaught, catcher for the 1990-95 Pirates. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, Slaught played eight years in the majors, hitting a combined .269 with 50 homers and 256 RBIs in 756 games. During the 1989 season for the New York Yankees, he hit .251 with 38 RBIs in 117 games, his second highest games played total during his 16-year career. He was a solid catcher, slightly below average in throwing out runners, and early on he had some error troubles, leading AL catchers in 1988 with 11 miscues. On December 4, 1989, the Pirates acquired Slaught from the Yankees in exchange for pitchers Jeff Robinson and Willie Smith.

During the Pirates three years of NL East pennants, Slaught was the righty in the L/R platoon behind the plate with Mike Lavalliere. His batting average during his Pirates years was much better than they hoped for, as he compiled a .305 mark in his six seasons in Pittsburgh. He hit .300 his first year and never batted below .288 with the team. He reached .300 in four of his seasons and topped out at .345 in 1992. Slaught started 179 games during the 1990-92 run of pennants, while also getting into another 47 games behind the plate from off the bench. In 1993 when the Pirates got rid of Lavalliere, Slaught became the everyday catcher and hit .300 with ten homers and 55 RBIs in 116 games. He missed most of 1995 with shoulder and hamstring injuries, then was allowed to leave via free agency after the season. Slaught played two more seasons in the majors before retiring. With the Pirates he hit .305 in 475 games, with 21 homers and 184 RBIs. In the postseason, he went just 5-for-28 between the 1990-91 games, before breaking out in 1992, hitting .333 with six walks and five RBIs.

Dave Roberts, pitcher for the 1979-80 Pirates. He had a 13-year career in the majors that saw him go 103-125, 3.78 in 277 starts and 168 relief appearances. Before reaching the Pirates, he was already in the middle of his 11th season and had made the conversion to a relief role. Roberts was part of an important trade in Pirates history. He came to the Pirates, along with Bill Madlock, from the San Francisco Giants on June 28, 1979. It was a six-player deal with three players going each way. Not only did Madlock help with the World Series run, Roberts went 5-2, 3.26 in 21 appearances. He appeared in one playoff game, allowing a walk to the only batter he faced in the NLCS. He began the 1980 season with the Pirates, though he was sold to the Seattle Mariners after just two appearances. Roberts played in the majors until 1981. He was with the New York Mets until May, then pitching briefly in the minors for the Giants before retiring. While it is true that Roberts didn’t pitch for the Pirates until 1979, he was actually a member of the organization twice before that. He was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost him on waivers to the Pirates in 1964. In 1966, he was taken by the Kansas City Athletics in the Rule 5 draft, then returned to Pittsburgh in 1967, right before Opening Day. The Pirates then lost him to the San Diego Padres in the 1968 Expansion draft, and that’s where he made his Major League debut during the 1969 season.

Jackie Hernandez, shortstop for the 1971-73 Pirates. He was a light-hitting, error-prone shortstop for nine seasons in the majors, but during the 1971 postseason, he started ten of 11 playoff games, helping the Pirates to their fourth World Series title. On December 2, 1970, the Pirates acquired Hernandez from the Kansas City Royals in a six-player deal, with three players going each way. He was six seasons into his Major League career at that point, only once seeing regular playing time. That came with the expansion Royals team during their first season. Hernandez played 145 games in 1969, hitting .222 with 17 RBIs and he led the entire AL in errors. In 1970, he hit .231 in 83 games, with a .563 OPS. For the 1971 Pirates, Hernandez started 65 games at shortstop and occasionally played third base. He hit just .206 with 26 RBIs in 88 regular season games, then he hit .226 (seven singles in 31 at-bats) with two RBIs in the postseason. As his batting average sank to .188 in 1972, his playing time also diminished, but he still managed to commit 22 errors at shortstop in 68 games. Hernandez made just 22 starts in 1973, batting .247 in 78 plate appearances. On January 31, 1974, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for catcher Mike Ryan. Hernandez ended up being released by the Phillies and he was re-signed by the Pirates in April, spending the entire 1974 season at Triple-A. He played the next two years in the Mexican League before retiring. For the Pirates, he hit .205 in 214 games, with 48 RBIs. Despite stealing 17 bases in 1969, he never stole a base with the Pirates. He was a career .208 hitter in 618 games.

Glenn Spencer, pitcher for the 1928 and 1930-32 Pirates. He made his debut on Opening Day in 1928, coming into a 12-5 game in the sixth inning, giving up two unearned runs in 2.2 innings. The Pirates had injuries to two of their better pitchers, Lee Meadows and Carmen Hill, so a spot opened up for Spencer. He pitched just four times prior to the return of Meadows in late June, all in relief, throwing a total of 5.2 innings. He finished that season pitching for Columbia in the South Atlantic League, then was moved to Wichita of the Western League to get more experience the next year. Spencer responded with a 24-win season, while throwing 252 innings. In 1930, he was back with the Pirates, getting occasional starts, but most pitching in relief, closing out 22 games. He pitched 41 times, 30 in relief, going 8-9, 5.40 in 156.2 innings. The ERA sounds extremely high, but it was a booming year for offense in baseball. The Pirates as a team finished with a 5.24 ERA.

Spencer would pitch the fourth most innings on the team in both 1930 and 1931, throwing a total of 186.2 innings during that 1931 season. That year he made 18 starts and 20 relief appearances, going 11-12, 3.42, for a team that finished four games under the .500 mark. His numbers slipped the next season, down to a 4.97 ERA in 137.2 innings, and the Pirates moved him in the off-season. On December 12, 1932, he was sent to the New York Giants as part of a five-player/three-team deal, which also involved the Philadelphia Phillies. In return, the Pirates got back Hall of Fame 3B/OF Freddie Lindstrom. Spencer ended up pitching just 17 games for the Giants in 1933, then he was traded to the Cincinnate Reds and sent to the minors. His Major League career was over at that point, but he pitched another eight seasons of minor league ball before retiring. With the Pirates, he was 23-29, 4.48 in 122 appearances, 42 as a starter.

Frank Moore, pitcher for the Pirates on June 14, 1905. At 6’4″ back in 1905, Moore was referred to as “the Giant”, yet had the usual nickname of Peggy. He pitched just once for the Pirates, coming into the June 14th game with Pittsburgh down 5-0 in the sixth inning. The opposing pitcher was Hall of Famer (and future Pirates at the time) Vic Willis. Moore was recruited out of Ohio by Pirates oft-injured catcher, Harry Smith. When Moore went in to make his one appearance, it marked another unusual occurrence. Homer Hillebrand went behind the plate to catch at the same time. Hillebrand was a lefty, making one of his three Major League appearances at the position. Moore ended up pitching the last three innings of the game and looked good, allowing two hits, no runs, no walks and he struck out a batter. He played pro ball until 1912, the last year as a player/manager, before retiring as a player. He went on to manage for two more seasons. Moore spent the last seven years of his baseball career playing/managing for teams in Ohio, which was his home state.

Steve Brodie, center fielder for the 1897-98 Pirates. He was a strong defender in center field and he had some big seasons on offense for the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s. Baltimore won the NL pennant three years in a row (1894-96) and Brodie averaged 106 runs scored and 111 RBIs during those seasons. On defense, he led all outfielder in fielding percentage once and had the second best percentage five times (twice finishing third as well). On November 11, 1896, the Pirates acquired Brodie from the Orioles, along with third baseman Jim Donnelly, for Jake Stenzel, and three other players. In Stenzel, the Pirates were giving up the player with the highest batting average in team history. While his defense was as strong as ever in Pittsburgh (leading the NL in fielding in 1897), Brodie’s offense left something to be desired, at least compared to his career stats. In 142 games with the Pirates, he hit .283 with 74 RBIs and 62 runs scored.

The Pirates released Brodie on June 11, 1898 despite the fact he was playing well at the time. The reason was due to finances. Cuts had to be made to team spending and Brodie, along with third-string catcher Morgan Murphy, were both released outright. The Pirates went with a smaller roster and he was free to sign with any other team. He ended up signing back with Baltimore, where he hit .306 in 23 games in 1898, then batted .309 with 87 RBIs in 1899, the last year of the Baltimore NL franchise. When Baltimore became a Major League city again in 1901 in the AL, Brodie reappeared in the majors, playing two more seasons. His 12-year big league career was over, but his minor league career lasted another eight seasons, before finally retiring in 1910. He was a .303 big league hitter in 1,438 games, with 900 RBIs, 289 stolen bases and 886 runs scored. He set a record with 727 consecutive games played, which stood into the 20th century.

Brodie is one of the examples of how hard it is for defensive metrics to rate 19th century players. He was highly regarded for his defense during his day, but somehow he has a career -3.9 dWAR, with only two seasons in which he was slightly above average.