This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 7th, Dick Stuart, Kris Benson, Todd Ritchie

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a slugger from the 1960 World Series champs.

Dick Stuart, first baseman for the 1958-62 Pirates. He hit 117 homers over his five seasons in Pittsburgh, including 23 for the 1960 champs. His best season was 1961 when he batted .301 with 35 homers and 117 RBIs. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in November of 1962 and hit 42 homers and 118 RBIs during his first season, which led the league. Stuart then played for five teams over his next four seasons in the majors. He hit 228 homers over ten seasons during his career. Known just as much for his poor defense as his power, he led the league in errors for seven straight seasons at first base.

The Pirates signed Stuart as an amateur free agent before the 1951 season at 18 years old. He batted just .229 with four homers in 61 games during his first year as a pro. In 1952, he batted .313 with 31 homers in 129 games. He then spent the next two years serving in the Army, though he was able to play plenty of baseball during that time as well, as each base he was stationed at had their own teams. Stuart returned to the Pirates in 1955 and after some poor play, he ended up back with his 1952 team (Billings of the Pioneer League). He hit .309 with 32 homers and 104 RBIs in 101 games. He was promoted to Lincoln of the Western League in 1956 and had a crazy year, hitting .298 with 66 homers and 158 RBIs in 141 games. Stuart had 88 walks and 171 strikeouts. He moved up to the Pacific Coast League by the end of the 1957 season, which was another big year spread out over three levels. He hit .251 with 45 homers and 122 RBIs  in 143 games. Stuart had 84 walks and 180 strikeouts.

Stuart had 31 homers in 80 games for Salt Lake City of the PCL when he was called up to the Pirates in July of 1958. He added another 16 homers in 67 games as a rookie. Stuart did well in 1959, batting .297  in 118 games, with 27 homers and 78 RBIs. He saw just slightly more playing time in 1960, when he hit .260 with 23 homers and 83 RBIs in 122 games. He had a rough World Series, going 3-for-20, with all singles, no walks, runs or RBIs. During his big 1961 season, he was named to the All-Star team for the first time (they played two All-Star games that year). Stuart dropped down to .228 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs in 1962, before he traded to the Red Sox in a four-player deal. He played in Japan during the 1967-68 seasons before playing one final season in the majors with the California Angels.

Kris Benson, pitcher for the Pirates from 1999 until 2004. Benson was the first overall pick in the 1996 draft and debuted in the majors three years later. He had a 43-49, 4.26 record in 126 starts with the Pirates before he was traded to the New York Mets. He won 70 big league games over nine years in the majors. The Pirates drafted Benson out of Clemson on June 4, 1996 and he signed in mid-August, which was too late to get into any minor league games that year. He split the 1997 season between two levels, doing much better in Low-A (2.58 ERA) than in High-A (4.98). Despite the poor results at the higher level, he was skipped over Double-A in 1998 and struggled in Triple-A. In 28 starts in Nashville, he went 8-10, 5.37 in 156 innings. Somewhat surprisingly, he made the Pirates on Opening Day in 1999 and made 63 starts over the next two seasons. After posting a 4.07 ERA in 196.2 innings as a rookie (he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting), he had his best big league season in 2000. Benson threw 217.2 innings, putting up a 3.85 ERA and a career high 184 strikeouts, a number that he never approached again in a season.

Before the 2001 season, Benson needed elbow surgery, which would cost him the entire year. He returned in 2002 to make 25 starts. He went 9-6, 4.70 in 130.1 innings. In 2003, his ERA went up to 4.97 and he was able to make just 18 starts. He had shoulder issues that ended his season in mid-July. The Pirates traded Benson the following July to the Mets in a five-player deal that brought Jose Bautista and Ty Wigginton to Pittsburgh. He pitched for the Mets (2004-05), Baltimore Orioles (2006), Texas Rangers (2009) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2010). He missed 2007 due to shoulder surgery and 2008 was spent in the minors with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Todd Ritchie, pitcher for the 1999 to 2001 Pirates. He won 15 games during his first season in Pittsburgh after pitching two seasons in relief for the Minnesota Twins. Ritchie went 35-32, 4.29 in three seasons with the Pirates before being traded to the Chicago White Sox. He went 6-19 in three seasons after leaving Pittsburgh. He was drafted out of high school in 1990, taken 12th overall in the first round by the Minnesota Twins. It took him seven years to make the majors, debuting shortly after Opening Day in 1997. Ritchie pitched 42 times in relief, posting a 4.58 ERA in 74.2 innings. He spent more time in Triple-A than the majors in 1998, then was released days after the season ended. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 1998 and put him right in their rotation. He went 15-9, 3.49 in 172.2 innings in 1999, then struggled a bit in 2000, going 9-8, 4.81 in 187 innings over 31 starts. Ritchie improved slightly in 2001, going 11-15, 4.47 in 207.1 innings. After the season, he was traded to the White Sox in a five-player deal that brought back Kip Wells and Josh Fogg to Pittsburgh. He did very poorly in his only year in Chicago, going 5-15, 6.06 in 133.2 innings. Ritchie finished his career with brief stints for the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers and 2004 Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He made a brief comeback with the Colorado Rockies in 2008, but he lasted just five minor league games.

Dave Wainhouse, pitcher for the 1996-97 Pirates. In two seasons in Pittsburgh, he made 42 appearances and posted a 6.97 ERA in 51.2 innings. In seven seasons in the majors, he had a 7.37 ERA in 105 innings over 85 relief appearances. He was born in Canada and the Montreal Expos selected him in the first round (19th overall) of the 1988 draft. He was in the majors with the Expos by 1991, though his stay was short (two games) and he spent all of 1992 in the minors. After the 1992 season, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners, where he made three appearances during the 1993 season. Wainhouse was injured in 1994 and released by the Mariners.  In 1995 he spent time in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays and Florida Marlins, then signed with the Pirates as a free agent in January of 1996. He had a 5.70 ERA in 23.2 innings over 17 appearances in 1996, then an 8.04 ERA in 28 innings over 25 outings in 1997. The Pirates let him go after the 1997 season and he finished his big league time with two years with the Colorado Rockies (1998-99) and St Louis Cardinals (2000). He had a total of 38 appearances after leaving the Pirates. His pro career ended after the 2001 season, spent with the Chicago Cubs in Triple-A.

Andy Tomberlin, outfielder for the 1993 Pirates. As a rookie in 1993, he batted .286 in 45 plate appearances over 27 games. He played for five teams over six seasons in the majors, batting .233 in 191 games. Tomberlin was a non-drafted free agent signing by the Atlanta Braves in 1985. After spending seven seasons in their minor league system, he became a free agent and signed with the Pirates in November of 1992. He spent most of the 1993 season in Triple-A. Tomberlin debuted with the Pirates on August 12, 1993 and was mainly used off of the bench. Just six of his 27 games came as a starter, and he was used strictly as a pinch-hitter in September/October, after making four starts in the final week of August. The Pirates let him go after the season and he signed with the Boston Red Sox. Tomberlin played 18 games for the 1994 Red Sox, 46 games for the 1995 Oakland A’s, then a career high 63 games for the 1996 New York Mets. He also saw time with the Mets in 1997 and finished his big league career with the 1998 Detroit Tigers. He played two more years in the minors before retiring.

Bill Brubaker, third baseman for the Pirates from 1932 until 1940. He saw very limited time during each of his first four seasons, then started full-time in place of Pie Traynor in 1936 and drove in 102 runs. In his other eight seasons in Pittsburgh combined, he had 122 RBIs. He was a .262 hitter in 466 games. Brubaker played a total of 18 games for the 1932-35 Pirates, though he saw action all four years. He was purchased by the team on September 2, 1932, shortly after he graduated from the University of California. His debut came just six days later as a late inning replacement during a one-sided game. His next appearance was 13 days later, when the Pirates decided to put him at third base for the final six games of the season. In 1933, he played one April game and one September game, both off of the bench. In between, he spent the year with Toronto of the International League. Brubaker hit .291 with 49 extra-base hits in 135 games for Albany of the International League in 1934. He joined the Pirates in September and played three games.

Despite success at a high level in 1934, he was back in the minors in 1935 and did well for Kansas City of the American Association. In 133 games, he hit .293 with 63 extra-base hits. His time that year with the Pirates came in April/May, where he went 0-for-11 in six games. Brubaker’s big 1936 season was truly out of nowhere. He was on the bench for the first 11 games of the season, but got off to a hot streak once he got a chance to play. He was an iron man that season, playing almost every inning of the last 145 games of the season, only leaving two games early, which were both one-sided contests. In one of those games, he went 5-for-5 before leaving in the seventh inning. He never came close to approaching his 102 RBIs in 1936, topping out at 48 during the 1937 season when he was the starting third baseman for most of the year. The Pirates sold him to the St Louis Cardinals after the 1940 season and he spent the next two seasons in the minors. Brubaker saw his only other Major League time with the 1943 Boston Braves, playing 13 games in what ended up being his last year of pro ball. His grandson Dennis Rasmussen pitched 12 seasons in the majors.

Ed Mensor, outfielder for the 1912-14 Pirates. He was a backup for three seasons, playing all three outfield spots and even a few games in the infield in 1913. Mensor hit .221 with one homer in 127 games in the majors, all spent with the Pirates. His best seasons was his rookie year in 1912 when he hit .263 in 39 games, with ten stolen bases and 23 walks. He’s one of the smaller players in big league history, listed at 5’6″, 145 pounds, though it appears that he was lighter at times. An article in 1912 called him the smallest player in baseball and listed his weight at 125 pounds. Mensor was active in pro ball from 1910 until 1918, returning for a brief time in 1921, with most of his minor league action coming on the west coast (he was a native of Oregon). The Pirates noted from the start that he would be used as an extra outfielder, with his best tools being above average speed, patience at the plate and a very strong arm. He began the 1912 season with Portland, joining the Pirates on July 8th when his contract was purchased for $3,000. He was scouted by George Van Haltren, a star player with Hall of Fame credentials, who had two stints as a player with the Pirates. During Spring Training of 1915, he was the first player cut by the Pirates. On March 11th, they sold his contract to Columbus of the American Association, though he never played for that team. On his way out to his new team, Mensor’s last words to reports were “I will be back in the Major League again”. That did not come to fruition.

The Only Nolan, pitcher for the 1883 Alleghenys. He wasn’t the best pitcher out there, but he thought he was at times. Edward Nolan is forever known as “The Only Nolan” with the most widely accepted origin of the name being that he had a desire to be the only pitcher for his team. Research for this article has uncovered a story printed four days after his big league debut that states that he team owner had very large photographs of Nolan and his catcher Silver Flint printed up and hung in store windows all around town. The photo for Nolan was labeled “The Only Nolan” and he gained instant fame from it, but not in a good way. The press thought that he was undeserving of the name and started throwing about “The Only” nicknames for everyone else as a joke. It apparently stuck with him. For the first 22 games of the 1878 season, he was the only pitcher used by his team, but it’s unlikely that he could request such a thing at such a young age, with just one season of minor league experience to his credit. He first played with the League Alliance team in Indianapolis in 1877, which became an NL team the following season.

He had a pro career that spanned ten years, with five seasons in the majors for five teams. Back when pitchers finished what they started and their win/loss record told a better story, he went 23-52, including losses in all seven starts for the 1883 Alleghenys. Nolan had a lot of trouble with staying out of trouble during his career. He was suspended during his first season, suspected of throwing a game in June, then he refused to pitch a game in August. He claimed that his brother had died, but there was no proof of that happening. The league expelled him and he played the next two years in California. Nolan also quickly gained a bad reputation for hitting batters that he didn’t want to face (or as the papers put it, batters who made him nervous).

Nolan returned to the majors in 1881 with Cleveland and he went 8-14, 3.05 in 180 innings. Late in the season, he umpired two games. He was out of baseball in 1882 and ran a saloon in his hometown, then came back in November of 1882 to sign with Pittsburgh. His time with the Alleghenys was very brief. On May 16th, he was fined $10 by manager Al Pratt for not going to bed on time. According to the papers, he thought that was ridiculous and decided to give the team a better reason to fine him. He went out drinking and put the drinks on the team’s tab, which earned him a suspension. He would return to the team in June, but only for two final games before being released. Despite all of his troubles, he still found big league jobs in 1884 with Wilmington of the Union Association (a league that lasted just one year) and the Philadelphia Quakers (NL) in 1885. He played his final season in the minors in 1886.