This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 31st, Reuss/May Trade

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on Halloween, plus there is a trade of note.

Hardie Henderson, pitcher for the 1888 Alleghenys.  He was the team’s third starter at the beginning of the 1888 season, with Ed “Cannonball” Morris and Pud Galvin in the top two spots. Henderson won his first game with the Alleghenys, but they would lose his next four starts, and he was quickly dropped from the team. He last pitched on May 24th and wasn’t released until June 19th, but he never pitched during that stretch. At least not a regular season game. On June 7th, he pitched against a minor league team from Lowell in an exhibition and lost 16-10, giving up 14 earned runs. The Alleghenys went with just two starters for a month, although they went to OF/1B Al Maul for a start instead of Henderson on June 11th. That brief time in Pittsburgh was the end of Henderson’s Major League career. He went 81-121, 3.50 in 206 starts (and four relief outings) over six seasons. He led the league in walks twice and wild pitches once during his brief career.

In 1884, Hardie (His name was James Harding Henderson) went 27-23, 2.62 with 346 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. He began his career one season earlier with very little success, going 10-33, 4.19 in 43 starts, though he did stick around to finish 39 of those games. His Major League pitching debut was not one he would like to remember. On May 3, 1883, pitching for the Philadelphia Quakers (Phillies), he lost 24-6 to the Providence Grays. Henderson pitched the entire game, allowed 19 earned runs and 26 hits. It would be his last game for the Quakers, who also gave him a start in left field one day earlier. The rest of his first season was spent with Baltimore, where he stuck around for three more years, despite going 10-32 in his first year. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, Henderson spent parts of two season with Brooklyn of the American Association. He pitched briefly in the minors after being released by the Alleghenys. Pittsburgh negotiated a deal to sign him over telegraph shortly after New Year’s Day in 1888. Henderson stood 5’10” and weighed 216 pounds in 1887, but he lost 20 pounds prior to the 1888 season to get into shape for his brief time in Pittsburgh.

Harry Smith, catcher for the Pirates from 1902 until 1907. Smith played sparingly with the Pirates over his six seasons, hitting .202 over 178 games. He played a total of ten years in the majors, hitting .213 with two homers in 343 games. Smith threw out 48% of base runners during his career. He was originally acquired in a trade for Heinie Reitz at the end of the 1900 season, but before he could play a game in a Pirates uniform, he jumped to the Philadelphia Athletics of the newly formed American League. After one season in the AL he returned to the Pirates, where he would be the backup catcher for three seasons. After 1904, Smith spent three more years in Pittsburgh, but he played just 20 games total. He was with the Pirates in early 1908 until they sold him to Boston (NL) in June. He played three years in the majors with Boston, one as a player/manager, before spending seven seasons in the minors as a player. Smith was a minor league player/manager in four of those years and then he spent one year just as a manager. Smith is one of just 35 players born in England to play in the majors with only five of them playing more games in the majors than Smith, all of them before 1909.

Ray O’Brien, outfielder for the 1916 Pirates. He played 16 mid-season games in 16 days for the Pirates at age 21, which ended up being his only big league experience. He hit .211 with three doubles and two triples. His minor league career was slightly more impressive. He was a career .308 hitter over 20 seasons, collecting 3,152 hits in 2,780 games. He had 642 doubles and 186 triples. O’Brien batted over .300 in each of his final ten seasons in pro ball. He got to play a farewell game for his Davenport team on the day before joining the Pirates. He hit a two-run triple to tie that game in the eighth inning, then hit a walk-off single in the ninth for the 6-5 victory. The Pirates scouted him for several weeks before purchasing him from Davenport, including sending scout Chick Fraser (brother-in-law of Fred Clarke) to follow the team for seven days straight before finalizing the deal. When the Pirates returned O’Brien to his Davenport team, owner Barney Dreyfuss said that the team had an immediate need for players who were big league ready and he thought that ‘Brien needed more seasoning in the minors. It turns out that 16 more seasons weren’t enough to get him back there.

Dee Fondy, first baseman for the 1957 Pirates. He joined the team mid-season from the Chicago Cubs in a four-player deal, then was dealt in the off-season to the Cincinnati Reds in an even up swap for slugger Ted Kluszewski. Fondy hit .313 in 95 games with the Pirates and .286 with 69 homers in 967 games over eight big league seasons. He finished with exactly 1,000 career hits. Fondy originally signed as an amateur free agent after college in 1946 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played in their system until 1950, before debuting with the Chicago Cubs at 26 years old in 1951. The Cubs acquired in him a trade in October of 1950 in a deal that included Chuck Connors, who went on to become a famous actor. Fondy was the full-time first baseman for the Cubs from 1952 until his trade to the Pirates in early 1957. His best season came in 1953 when he hit .309 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs. The Pirates used Fondy full-time at first base until August 4th. After that point, he made one start and pinch-hit 15 times. Despite being benched, he was batting .316 at the time.

Yamaico Navarro, utility fielder for the 2012 Pirates. He hit .160 in 29 games with Pittsburgh, while playing five different positions. He played 79 games in the majors over four seasons, seeing time with four different teams. Navarro signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2005 at 17 years old as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He made it to the majors within five years and played 36 games in Boston before being traded to the Kansas City Royals in the middle of the 2011 season. The Pirates acquired him in December of 2011 for two minor league players. Navarro made the Opening Day roster, but he was in the minors by the end of May, returning for a week in August, before being sent back down. He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles after the season, where he played his final eight big league games. He was still active in baseball as of this past winter. Since his final big league game, he has played in Korea, Japan, Mexico and the Dominican.

The Trade

On this date in 1973, the Pirates traded catcher Milt May to the Houston Astros for pitcher Jerry Reuss. This ended up being a one-sided deal that worked out three times for the Pirates. They got 61 wins and 1,005 innings out of Reuss before trading him for Rick Rhoden, who would put in 79 wins and eight seasons in Pittsburgh, before he was dealt to the Yankees for Doug Drabek. May on the other hand, was a decent catcher in the majors over 15 years, who played four years in Pittsburgh at the time of the deal and returned to the team in 1983 to finish his career. Manny Sanguillen was the starting catcher at the time of the trade, so the Pirates were trading from a strength.

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