This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 6th, John Candelaria

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a trade of note. We start with one of the best pitchers in the last 40 years for the Pirates.

John Candelaria, pitcher for the 1975-85 Pirates, who then returned to finish his career in 1993. He was a 6’7″ lefty taken in the second round of the 1972 amateur draft by the Pirates. He shot through the minors quickly for his age, going 28-11 before getting called on June 8, 1975 at just 21 years old. Four starts into his career he struck out 13 Cubs during a 5-2 complete game win. Candelaria finished 8-6, 2.76 in 18 starts during his rookie season, with the Pirates also winning all four games that he got a no decision. In the playoffs against the Reds, with the Pirates down 2-0 in a best-of-five series, Candelaria took the ball in game three and threw 7.2 innings, allowing three runs while striking out 14 hitters, though the Pirates lost in ten innings.

He was in the rotation for the entire season in 1976 and the Pirates went 20-11 in his starts which included one very special game. On August 9th he no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing just one walk, while two other runners also reached base due to fielding errors. All three runners reached in the third inning, but he kept them from scoring. It is still the last Pirates no-hitter thrown by a single player, with the Ricardo Rincon, Francisco Cordova combined no-hitter the only other one since. In 1977 Candelaria had an amazing season, going 20-5, 2.34, leading the NL in ERA and winning percentage. He only finished fifth in the Cy Young voting despite the great season. He got elected to the All-Star game in what would end up being the only All-Star selection of his career, but he did not appear in the game. That 20-win season would end up being a career high and it would take him until 1983 to win as many as 15 games again in one year.

During the 1979 season Candelaria helped pitched the Pirates to the playoffs by going 14-9, 3.22 in 30 starts. He pitched well in game one of the NLCS against the Reds, getting a no-decision after allowing two runs in seven innings. In the World Series  he pitched poorly in game three, taking the loss, then rebounded nicely in game six when he went six shutout innings for the win. He was a starter for the Pirates through the 1984 season, posting three more winning seasons including a 15-8 mark in 1983. In 1985, Candelaria was moved to the bullpen and saved nine games before the Pirates traded him to the California Angels in a six-player deal in early August. He returned as a free agent for the 1993 season, but he was released in July after posting an 8.24 ERA in 24 games, ending his career. Candelaria won 124 games for the Pirates, the 11th highest total in franchise history. He finished with 177 career wins in 19 years and ended up playing for eight different teams. Over the last 62 seasons, no one has won more games in a Pirates uniform. Candelaria turns 67 today.

Adam LaRoche, first baseman for the 2007-09 Pirates. He hit .265 with 58 homers and 213 RBIs in 375 games in Pittsburgh. During his 12-year big league career, he was a .260 hitter over 1,605 games, with 255 homers and 882 RBIs.  LaRoche was drafted twice by the Florida Marlins, 1998 out of high school (18th round) and 1999 out community college (42nd round), before signing with the Atlanta Braves after the drafted him in the 29th round in 2000. It took him four seasons to make the majors, debuting in early 2004. He hit .278 with 13 homers in 110 games that season. In 2005, he hit .259 with 20 homers and 78 RBIs in 141 games. He continued to improve in 2006, batting .285 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs. The Pirates acquired him in January of 2007 in a four-player deal, which saw closer Mike Gonzalez head to Atlanta. LaRoche hit .272 with 42 doubles, 21 homers and 88 RBIs during his first season in Pittsburgh. He put up similar results in 2008, batting .270 with 25 homers and 85 RBIs in 136 games. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox mid-season in 2009, but not before he picked up 25 doubles and 12 homers. LaRoche spent just nine days in Boston, then got traded to the Atlanta Braves. He would go on to play for Arizona Diamondbacks (2010), Washington Nationals (2011-14) and Chicago White Sox (2015). His brother Andy LaRoche was his teammate on the 2008-09 Pirates and his father Dave LaRoche pitched 14 seasons in the majors.

Matt Skrmetta, relief pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He went 2-2, 9.64 in 9.1 innings over eight appearances in his short time in Pittsburgh. His only other big league experience was six relief appearances for the 2000 Montreal Expos. He played a total of 15 years in pro ball, including two seasons in Japan. Skrmetta was originally drafted out of high school in 1990 by the Chicago White Sox, who took him in the 41st round. He decided to go to college (Jacksonville) where he was a 26th round pick three years later by the Detroit Tigers. He made it to Double-A with the Tigers in 1996 (also in Jacksonville) before he was traded to the San Diego Padres during the following Spring Training. Skrmetta became a minor league free agent after the 1999 season and signed with the Montreal Expos. He made his Major League debut that June, then got traded to the Pirates for minor league infielder Jarrod Patterson in August. He joined the Pirates a month later in the majors and won his first game with 1.1 scoreless innings. His next five appearances saw him give up 12 runs over 5.1 innings, allowing at least one run in all five games. Skrmetta was let go shortly after the season ended and he played another seven seasons, spending time in six different organizations, Japan and independent ball.

Don Wengert, pitcher for the 2001 Pirates. He went 0-2, 12.38 in four starts during his brief time in Pittsburgh, which ended up being his final big league season. In seven years in the majors, he played for six different teams, going 14-32, 6.01 in 48 starts and 112 relief appearances, totaling 438.2 innings. Wengert’s best season in the majors was his rookie season with the Oakland A’s in the strike-shortened 1995 campaign. He made 19 appearances, throwing a total of 29.2 innings, while posting a 3.34 ERA. He never came close to approaching those numbers, with his second best ERA (5.26) coming three years later. After leaving Oakland following the 1997 season, he spent time in the majors with the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves over the next three seasons. He was also a member of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros during that time, though he didn’t make any big league appearances with either team. Wengert joined the Pirates as a minor league free agent in January of 2001 and he four starts came in May. The Pirates won two of those games, though he received a no-decision both times. He left via free agency after the season and spent 2002 in Triple-A for the Boston Red Sox before retiring.

Bob Addis, pinch-hitter for the 1953 Pirates. He was part of the famous ten-player Ralph Kiner trade with the Chicago Cubs during the 1953 season, then played just four big league games after the deal, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He played four years in the majors, with his best season coming when he batted .295 over 93 games with the 1952 Cubs. Addis originally signed with the New York Yankees at 17 years old in 1943. After one season in the minors, he was drafted into service, spending the next two years in the Mariners, before returning to baseball in 1946. He hit .376 in brief time during the 1946 season, then hit .313 over the 1947 season. He was then taken in the minor league draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers and spent two seasons in their system before being traded to the Boston Braves after the 1949 season. Addis hit .273 over 101 games during the 1950-51 seasons, then got traded to the Chicago Cubs. Prior to joining the Pirates during the 1953 season, he hit .167 in ten games. He played four games with the Pirates between June 5th and June 12th, then was sold to Toronto of the International League on June 14th. Addis remained in pro ball through the end of the 1956 season.

The Trade

On this date in 1930, the Pirates traded shortstop Dick Bartell to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for shortstop Tommy Thevenow and pitcher Claude Willoughby. The move proved the be very one-sided in favor of the Phillies. Bartell played 14 more seasons in the majors, while Willoughby was gone before June and Thevenow was nowhere near the quality player that Bartell was at shortstop. The lucky part for the Pirates was that the shortstop position was soon to be filled in Pittsburgh by the man who still ranks as the best since Honus Wagner at the position, Arky Vaughan. We posted a large article on Bartell here, covering his time with the Pirates.