Most of the previous Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates articles deal with players who were around before a very large majority of our readers were born, so no one remembers them. They are obscure because they don’t get mentioned often when talking about team history. However, most of them deserve a bit more recognition. There are probably a handful of readers who remember Dick Hall. He played for the Pirates from 1952 until 1959, but there were some partial seasons in there, a lost season due to illness, as well as a major position change that required some extra minor league time. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll know a lot more about why I thought that he was worth featuring here among other Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hall was highly regarded coming out of college, where all 16 Major League teams were reportedly showing interest. He was great athlete, who excelled in numerous sports and had very little baseball experience prior to college. He also stood 6’6″, so he was an imposing figure back when you didn’t see many MLB players that tall. The problem with him at the time was that teams were split on using him as a position player or pitcher, but they all knew that he needed to concentrate on one spot, then make up for the lost playing time before he could show his true potential. Hall signed with the Pirates in late 1951 for a $25,000 bonus.
Hall played third base for the 1952 Pirates at the start of the season, then moved to the bench after just five games. It was later noted that he played just one exhibition game at third base before making his pro debut at the position. Hall was playing first base all spring until two days before the season started. He remained with the Pirates for nearly a month before being sent to the minors. Hall returned to Pittsburgh in September and was given the starting center field spot for nearly two weeks, before finishing the season on the bench. He batted just .138 in 26 games.
In 1953, Hall spent the season in the minors and struggled at the plate, hitting .237 at the lower levels of the minor league system. He rejoined the Pirates in late September and they had him start the final seven games of the season at second base. He went 4-for-24 with four singles and one walk. He was playing outfield during Spring Training and most of the minor league season, so his move to second base was another experiment to find him a spot.
Hall was with the Pirates for all of 1954 and started 84 games that season, splitting his time between all three outfield spots, with his early season work mainly being done in center field. He hit better than before, but it still left something to be desired. In 351 plate appearances over 112 games, he hit .239/.303/.311 with two homers and 37 RBIs. It was time to make a career change.
While playing winter ball in Mexico over the 1954-55 off-season, Hall spent some time pitching and did well. He went there to work on his hitting, but this opened up a new avenue. He was sent to the minors to start 1955, where the Pirates decided to see what they had on the mound, though he was still playing outfield on his days off just in case the pitching didn’t work out.
Hall was sent to Lincoln of the Western League, where he went 12-5, 2.24 in 153 innings, while hitting .302 with 13 homers in 91 games. The Pirates decided to bring him back to the majors in mid-July and he put up a 3.91 ERA in 94.1 innings, making 13 starts and two relief appearances. That was quite a workload for someone who last pitched four years earlier. Hall struck out 11 batters in his first start, which would be his high with the Pirates. In fact, he had one game with 12 strikeouts in 1962, which ended up being the only other double digit strikeout game of his career.
In 1956, Hall split his time between starting and relief, posting a 4.76 ERA in 62.1 innings. The limited workload was due to arm soreness. He reportedly hurt his arm working out a second pitch over the winter because he only had a great fastball in his first season and nothing else. You would have to believe that nearly 250 regular season innings in 1955, plus pitching in winter ball, probably led to his injury and limited work. Between May 13th and August 9th, he made just one appearance, facing three batters in relief on June 9th. The Pirates placed him on the disabled list on June 20th, with what was described as a strained tendon.
The 1957 season was a disaster for Hall. He was pitching in relief up until early May when he went on the disabled list for 30 days. He was added back to the roster on June 9th, but that stay lasted just two appearances. His last big league game of the season was on June 14th. He had a 10.80 ERA in ten innings. He went to the minors and played first base, before resuming pitching. His hitting left a lot to be desired in the minors, batting .139 in 29 games, with a .331 OPS, so there was no thought about giving him another shot as a position player. He had a 4.15 ERA in 91 innings for Columbus of the International League. As an interesting side note, while he was on the disabled list, with what was reported as a sore arm, he actually pitched some batting practice for the Pirates.
Hall missed the entire 1958 season, though it wasn’t arm related. It was a Spring Training illness that took him down and caused him to voluntarily retire. He pitched for Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League in 1959 and posted an 18-5, 1.87 record in 217 innings. The Pirates recalled him in early September, though they allowed him to finish his season in Salt Lake City before reporting. Hall pitched twice for the Pirates in what would be his final two games for the team.
In December of 1959, Hall would be one of three players sent to the Kansas City Athletics for catcher Hal Smith. That proved to be a great day for Hall, despite the fact that he missed out on the World Series season with the Pirates.
This article could have been used in our series titled The One Who Got Away. The second reason I didn’t put it there instead is because Hall was 29 years old and showed very little in the way of encouraging progress over his time in Pittsburgh. The main reason is that Hal Smith was a big part of the World Series win and the Pirates would probably make that trade again in a heartbeat. That being said, Hall had an impressive career after leaving the Pirates. His mound time in Pittsburgh resulted in a 4.57 ERA in 175.1 innings over 23 starts and 21 relief appearances. His career totals show a 3.32 ERA in 1,259.2 innings, with 74 starts and 421 relief outings.
The real team he got away from was Kansas City. They traded him to the Baltimore Orioles after one season, for very little in return. In Baltimore, he went 65-40, 2.89, with 60 saves in 770 innings. Hall’s last big league game was game two of the 1971 World Series, throwing a scoreless inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As a batter, Hall hit .210 with four homers and 56 RBIs in 821 career plate appearances. With the Pirates, he batted .218 with three homers and 34 RBIs in 211 games.
He began his career as an inexperienced batter without a true position, switched to pitching in his fourth season and injuries held him back for the next three years. Hall made a brief cameo with the 1959 club, his seventh season with the Pirates. He went on to become a strong relief pitcher, who ended up playing 19 seasons in the majors. He was with the Pirates for a long time, but he’s a fairly obscure player now. That would have likely changed if he stayed around for the 1960 season, though the chance to make 28 starts that year for Kansas City helped him towards his later career success.