This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 25th, Vic Aldridge and the Rooker/Garber Trade

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major trade of note.

Vic Aldridge, pitcher for the 1925-27 Pirates. He only spent three seasons in Pittsburgh but twice he helped the Pirates to World Series appearances. The Pirates acquired him after the 1924 season as part of a six-player trade with the Chicago Cubs that saw Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville and the Pirates all-time wins leader Wilbur Cooper, go to Chicago. Aldridge won 47 games in his last three seasons with the Cubs and he didn’t miss a beat with the 1925 Pirates, going 15-7, 3.63 in 213.1 innings, helping his new team to their third World Series appearance. He went 2-0 in the series, although he couldn’t get out of the first inning of game seven, allowing four runs before being removed. The Pirates came back to win against Walter Johnson in one of the greatest World Series games ever. Aldridge had a down year in 1926, going 10-13, 4.07 in 190 innings, but he bounced back in 1927 and again helped the Pirates to the World Series by winning 15 games. He actually put up his highest ERA to that point (4.25 in 239.1 innings), but had a better offense to help him. He lost his only start of the 1927 series, in what ended up being his last game for the Pirates. Just prior to Spring Training  of 1928, the Pirates traded Aldridge straight up for Burleigh Grimes. Aldridge won four games that year, his last in the majors, while Grimes won 25 and would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. Aldridge finished his career with a 97-80, 3.76 record in 1,600.2 innings.

Nanny Fernandez, third baseman for the 1950 Pirates. After playing 145 games as a rookie in 1942 for the Boston Braves, he missed the next three seasons due to service in the Army during WWII. Playing for the Armed Forces team in 1943, he ran a consecutive hit streak over 40 games. He also won a contest for fastest time circling the bases, going home-to-home in 14.6 seconds. Fernandez returned for two years with Boston in 1946-47, then got in one final big league season with the Pirates three years later. He hit .258 with six homers in 65 games with Pittsburgh. The Pirates acquired him in a trade with the Brooklyn Dodgers in May of 1949, five months after the Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Braves. One day after his final game in Pittsburgh, he was sent to Indianapolis so the Pirates could call up young infield phenom Danny O’Connell. Fernandez never returned to the majors, playing out his career in the minors over the next five seasons. He played a total of 14 years in pro ball. Despite that speed mentioned above, he stole just 64 bases during his pro career. His actual first name was Frolian.

Pete Mikkelsen, pitcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. After two seasons with the New York Yankees to begin his Major League career, he joined the Pirates in 1966 in a trade for Bob Friend. Mikkelsen had a strong first season in Pittsburgh, winning nine games, picking up 14 saves (career high), and posting a 3.07 ERA in 126 innings. He set the team record for most appearances in a season (71), topping the old mark of 68 by Elroy Face, who reached that number twice in his career. That record stood until 1977.  Mikkelsen struggled for the Pirates in 1967, posting a 4.31 ERA in 56.1 innings, and was lost to the Chicago Cubs on waivers in early August. He pitched nine seasons in the majors, spending his last four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 45-40, 3.88 with 48 saves, pitching 653.1 innings over 364 appearances during his career. He originally signed at 18 years old prior to the 1958 season.

Danny Darwin, pitcher for the 1996 Pirates. He joined the Pirates at 40 years old and went 7-9, 3.02 in 19 starts before being traded to the Houston Astros at the July trading deadline for pitcher Rich Loiselle. Darwin won 171 games over a 21-year career in the majors, spending nearly half of that time as a relief pitcher. He made a total of 716 appearances and pitched over 3,000 innings. In 1991 with the Houston Astros, he led the league with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Darwin had seven seasons with 10+ wins, and three of those seasons were spent as a reliever. The Pirates signed him after his worst year in the majors. He split 1995 between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, posting a 7.45 ERA in 99 innings. He was a free agent in 1996 until the Pirates inked his deal in early February. Darwin was one of the best U.S.-born non-drafted free agent signings since the draft began in 1965. The Rangers signed him after college in 1976 and he debuted in the majors just two years later. He played for a total of eight teams, including two separate stints with the Rangers and Astros. His younger brother Jeff Darwin debuted in the majors in 1994, spending one season with the Seattle Mariners and two years with the Chicago White Sox (1996-97). Danny also pitched for the 1997 White Sox, though they were never teammates at the big league level. Jeff was called up two weeks after Danny was traded.

J.J. Davis, outfielder for the 2002-04 Pirates. He was a first round pick out of high school, drafted by the Pirates eighth overall in 1997. Davis signed quickly, getting in a full season in the Gulf Coast League, before a late promotion to A-ball. He was a power hitter, putting up four season in the minors with at least 19 homers. He was also considered to be one of the top prospects in the system during part of his time in the minors. In 2002, he hit .287 with 20 homers in 101 games in Double-A , which earned him his first trip to the majors. Davis went 1-for-10 in his limited time with the Pirates that season (11 September games), getting his first career hit off of Ryan Dempster. The next year he hit .284 at Triple-A with 26 homers and 23 stolen bases, both career highs. He earned an August promotion to Pittsburgh, where he hit .200 in 35 at-bats, collecting his only career home run. In 2004, he made the Opening Day roster, but hit just .143 in 35 at-bats. Davis was with the Pirates through mid-May until he was injured, then returned from late June until mid-July. He pulled a muscle while running in his final game with the Pirates. He was traded to the Washington Nationals in November of 2004 and finished his career in 2005 in the Colorado Rockies system.

The Trade

On this date in 1972 the Pirates traded pitcher Gene Garber to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Jim Rooker. Garber joined the Pirates organization in 1965 when he was taken in the 20th round of the amateur draft. He made his Major League debut in June of 1969 when he was used as a starting pitcher during a doubleheader. He made just two appearances that year, 14 in 1970 and then another four in 1972, but never stuck in the majors with the Pirates due to ineffectiveness.  Garber went on to have a long career, mostly as a reliever, but he lasted less than two years in the Royals system before being sold to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Prior to the trade, the 29-year-old Rooker had a 21-44, 3.93 record in 106 games (68 as a starter) over five seasons. While with the Pirates, Rooker would turn his record around. He went from four straight losing seasons prior to joining the Pirates to five straight winning seasons, all of them consisting of double-digit win totals. However, his biggest start for the Pirate came during his worst season. During the 1979 World Series, with the Pirates down 3-1 in the series, Chuck Tanner went with Rooker in a surprise start. He would throw five solid innings, helping the Pirates to a win and an eventual comeback to win the entire series. He was just 4-7, 4.60 that year and had won only two of his last 14 starts. In his eight years in Pittsburgh he went 82-65, 3.29 in 187 starts and 26 relief appearances.