This is our second article in a new series called A Snapshot in Time, where we take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates roster on a specific date. The first article looked at an early February roster for the 1944 Pirates, the team that had the best record for the Pirates during that long period of time between their World Series appearances in 1927 and 1960. The 1927 Pirates won the National League pennant by 1.5 games over the St Louis Cardinals and two games over the New York Giants. It was the team’s sixth pennant since moving from the American Association to the NL in 1887. They were a team with three future Hall of Famers in the outfield and two others in the infield, yet it was not a club that experienced future success.
Today’s article looks at their roster that was posted in numerous papers in early March of that 1927 season. What we do here is look at the 1927 contributions from every player listed on that roster, and then how they helped the Pirates after they left the team. It shows immediate impact during the pennant winning season and then the value those players had for the team long before free agency was a thing. Some played out their big league time with the Pirates, others were traded away and continued to help the Pirates after they were gone, while you’ll always find examples of players who didn’t make the club when looking at any early Spring Training roster.
Here’s the 35-man roster at the time, followed by each player’s individual look:
I have listed the players in the same exact order as found above. I’m using their recognized names, so they might not match up exactly. An example would be Ray Kremer, whose first name was Remy, but he was mostly referred to as Ray. I also note that the stats for “W. Guy Morrison” actually belong to the player below him, Johnny Morrison, and vice versa. They were not brothers, though Johnny’s brother Phil played briefly for the 1921 Pirates.
Vic Aldridge – He went 15-10, 4.25 in 239.1 innings in 1927 as part of a four-man rotation that saw occasional spot starts from others. Aldridge was traded even up after the season for Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes, who won 42 games in two years with the Pirates. Grimes was traded for Percy Jones (and cash), who lasted nine games with the Pirates before he was released in June of 1930.
Joe Bush – Bullet Joe was done after 6.2 rough innings in 1927. He was released unconditionally on June 15th. He won 196 games in the majors
Mike Cvengros – He had a 3.35 ERA in 53.2 innings in 1927, making four starts and 19 relief appearances. On December 3, 1927, he was traded to Wichita Falls of the Texas League for pitcher Fred Fussell, who pitched two years for the Pirates before being sold outright to the minors on December 12, 1929.
Carmen Hill – Hill was the co-ace of the pitching staff in 1927, going 22-11, 3.24 in 277.2 innings. He won 16 games in 1928 and had a total of 11 wins over his other eight seasons in the majors. He was lost on waivers to the St Louis Cardinals in August of 1929.
Ray Kremer – Hill was the team leader in wins, but Kremer had a much better ERA. He just fell short of the big inning total from Hill. Kremer went 19-8, 2.47 in 226 innings. He would last with the Pirates through 1933, winning 143 games total. He was released unconditionally on July 7, 1933.
Roy Mahaffey – He had one start and one relief appearance in 1927, allowing eight runs in 9.1 innings. He was optioned to the minors on May 20th and remained with the Pirates until April 8, 1929, though he never pitched with them in the majors during that stretch. He was part of a large deal to get pitcher Larry French from Portland of the Pacific Coast League, with $50,000 in cash and three players being included. French was a very good pitcher for the Pirates until 1934 and did better after he was traded. I could go along with this trade tree, but Mahaffey was a small part of the deal to get French, and the trade of French also included Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom, so it’s a stretch to say Mahaffey was the gift that kept on giving. For the record though, his trade tree ends on January 20, 1938 when Jim Weaver was sold to the St Louis Browns.
Lee Meadows – Meadows was basically a third ace on the team, going 19-10, 3.40 in 299.1 innings. He won 19 games for the 1925 World Series champs and managed a 20-win season in between the two World Series appearances. He already had about 3,700 innings as a pro at that point and his arm gave out in 1928. By 1929 he was done, He was released by the Pirates on July 3, 1929.
Guy Morrison – He was a minor league pitcher who got a tryout with the Pirates after a strong showing in the lower levels of the minors. Already 31 years old at the time with 101 minor league wins to his credit, he failed to make the Pirates. However, he debuted in the majors with the Boston Braves later in 1927 and also made an appearance with Boston in 1928. The Pirates got nothing for him when he was sent outright to the minors on April 2nd.
Johnny Morrison – He went 3-2, 4.19 in 53.2 innings over two starts and 19 relief appearances. Morrison won 25 games in 1923 and had 17 wins during the 1925 season, but he fell off a bit in 1926 and was used sporadically in 1927 due to several reasons, including a suspension for a time. He wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh and was shipped off to the minors in 1928. Long story, better saved for another time.
Chet Nichols – He had a 5.86 ERA in 27.2 innings over eight relief appearances, with his last appearance coming in July. He was released to the minors on September 15, 1927 as part of the deal to acquire pitcher Erv Brame, who pitched five years for the Pirates before being sold to the Detroit Tigers in February of 1933. Brame won 52 games for the Pirates.
Red Peery – He pitched one inning for the 1927 Pirates, appearing in relief on September 22nd. He made the club out of Spring Training in 1928, but was sent to the minors on May 5th without appearing in a game. He would be purchased from his minor league team by the Boston Braves in early 1929 and he pitched nine more big league games.
Don Songer – He pitched two games early in the season and allowed ten runs over 4.2 innings, then was put on waivers, where he was picked up by the New York Giants. He was with the Pirates since 1924, but 1926 was his only full season.
By Speece – He was another pitcher with the team on tryout and he failed to make the club out of Spring Training. He had three partial seasons of MLB experience already, and also pitched in the majors in 1930, but he never played for the Pirates. He was released to the minors on April 13th.
Walt Tauscher – Tauscher pitched for the 1928 Pirates, but in 1927 he was sent to Columbia of the South Atlantic League on April 24th, which was ten games into the season. On April 7, 1929, he was released to Dallas of the Texas League.
Emil Yde – He won 33 games for the 1924-25 Pirates, but by the start of 1927 he was nearly done with his big league career. In nine appearances, he had a 9.71 ERA in 29.2 innings. He lasted the whole season before he was sold to Indianapolis of the American Association on December 15, 1927.
Ike Danning – He played two Major League games, coming with the St Louis Browns in 1928. Danning was one of five catchers to make the Opening Day roster, though two of them never got into a game. One was Thomas Farr (see below), while Danning was the other. He got sent to New Haven of the Eastern League on May 6th, already 18 games into the season. The Pirates sold him to Wichita Falls of the Texas League in December 3, 1927 as part of the deal for pitcher Fred Fussell (see Mike Cvengros above).
Thomas Farr – He never played in the majors and has no known stats after 1927, when he was 21 years old. He actually made the Pirates out of Spring Training, but he was shipped to Columbia of the South Atlantic League on April 25th, the same day the Pirates played their 11th game.
Johnny Gooch – He was a platoon starter in 1925 and then saw a majority of the time behind the plate in 1927. Gooch hit .258 with 48 RBIs in 101 games in 1927. By June 8, 1928, he was traded to Brooklyn with Joe Harris (see below) for catcher Charlie Hargreaves. The Pirates got a .273 average over 192 games from Hargreaves during the 1928-30 seasons before being sold to Buffalo of the International League on June 11, 1930.
Bob Linton – His entire big league career consisted of 17 games and 18 at-bats for the 1929 Pirates. After that, he played another 14 seasons in the minors. He was sent to the minors on April 7th as the first catcher cut of the spring. Just like Thomas Farr, Linton was sent to Columbia. He spent all of 1927-28 in the minors before playing for the 1929 Pirates. He would later be sold to Baltimore of the International League for the 1930 season.
Earl Smith – Smith saw more playing time than Gooch during the 1925 season, then the two switched roles in 1927. Smith hit .270 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 66 games during the 1927 season. He was sold to the St Louis Cardinals on July 10, 1928, just two weeks after they got rid of Gooch.
Roy Spencer – He was the third-string catcher in 1927 and did well in the role, hitting .293 in 38 games. He was sold along with pitcher Emil Yde to Indianapolis of the American Association on December 15, 1927. If you’re keeping track here, the six Spring Training catchers for the 1927 Pirates were all gone by July of 1928.
Dick Bartell – He played one game for the 1927 Pirates, his big league debut on October 2nd. He remained with the Pirates through 1930, then was traded for Tommy Thevenow and Claude Willoughby. Thevenow put up -2.0 WAR in five seasons in Pittsburgh before being sold to the Cincinnati Reds. Willoughby was done in the majors by May of 1931. Bartell put up 40.5 WAR during his career, mostly compiled after he left Pittsburgh. We wrote an article on his Pittsburgh time here.
Joe Cronin – Cronin hit .227 in 12 games for the Pirates in 1927. He was sold to the minors on April 1, 1928 and he went on to have a Hall of Fame career split between the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox. The Pirates had Cronin and Bartell, both very young at this time, and their return amounted to two below average players and some cash. We wrote an article on Cronin’s time with the Pirates here.
George Grantham – In 151 games, he put up an .850 OPS, which was actually his worst single-season OPS in seven seasons with the Pirates. He remained with the Pirates until February of 1932 when he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. We posted an article here about Grantham’s accomplishments with the Pirates, including a .901 OPS over his seven seasons.
Hal Rhyne – He had a .274 average in 62 games with the 1927 Pirates, though it came with a low .633 OPS. He was sold to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League on February 12, 1928.
Pie Traynor – Traynor hit .342 with 106 RBIs and 93 runs scored during the 1927 season, which was his best season on offense according to WAR. He retired with the Pirates and in 1969 was voted as the best third baseman in the first 100 years of baseball, so yeah, he had value before and after this season.
Glenn Wright – He was a star shortstop for the Pirates for five seasons. The 1927 season was his fourth year and he hit .281 with 105 RBIs and 78 runs scored. The Pirates traded him after the 1928 season for a very mediocre return, getting veteran pitcher Jesse Petty and infielder Harry Riconda from Brooklyn. Riconda played eight games for the Pirates before being sold to the minors. Petty went 12-16, 4.55 in 225.2 innings before being sold to the Chicago Cubs in August of 1929. Wright was limited by injuries, so the deal didn’t look as bad, though the return should have been much better.
Clyde Barnhart – He hit .319 in 108 games with the 1927 Pirates, picking up 54 RBIs, while scoring 65 runs. He played his entire nine-year career with the Pirates, finishing up in 1928 when he was released to Indianapolis of the American Association on August 31st. He played until 1932 in the minors.
Fred Brickell – He was with the Pirates for most of the 1927 season, but he had just 21 at-bats over 32 games, with one start all season. In the middle of the 1930 season, Brickell was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Denny Sothern. It was technically a waiver wire deal, with both players being placed on waivers before switching teams. Sothern played 17 games for the Pirates before being sent to the minors. We wrote up an in depth article on Brickell’s time with the Pirates here.
Adam Comorosky – He hit .230 in 18 late-season games for the 1927 Pirates. Comorosky had a big 1929 season and even better in 1930, then dropped out before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal that brought back Red Lucas and Wally Roettger. Lucas had a nice five-year run as a pitcher/pinch-hitter for the Pirates before being released prior to the 1939 season. Roettger played his final 47 big league games with the 1934 Pirates and then retired.
Kiki Cuyler – Cuyler was benched late in the 1927 season and traded right afterwards for a very mediocre return on Sparky Adams and Pete Scott. Cuyler hit .309 with 20 steals and 60 runs scored in 85 games in 1927. He went on to a Hall of Fame career and Scott had an injury-filled one season in Pittsburgh, while Adams hit .272 in 209 games, then got sold to the St Louis Cardinals.
Joe Harris – He did great as the primary first baseman, hitting .326 with 73 RBIs in 129 games in 1927. During the 1928 season, he was included in the Charlie Hargreaves/Brooklyn trade mentioned above under Johnny Gooch.
Herman Layne – In his only big league season in 1927, Layne went 0-for-6 with a walk and three runs scored in 11 games, playing his final game on May 31st. He was optioned to Indianapolis of the American Association immediately after the last game and never returned. On February 4, 1928, he was released outright to Indianapolis, ending his Pirates time.
Lloyd Waner – As a rookie in 1927, he batted .355 and led the NL with 133 runs scored. Waner remained with the Pirates until early 1941 when he was traded for pitcher Nick Strincevich, who pitched seven seasons for the Pirates before being sold to the Phillies in 1948. We wrote an article on Strincevich here, detailing his time with the Pirates. Waner obviously went on to Cooperstown along with his brother…
Paul Waner – He was the NL MVP in 1927 with a league leading .380 average. He also led with 237 hits, 18 triples and 131 RBIs. The RBI and hit totals are both Pirates single-season records. We wrote about his 1927 season here. Waner played for the Pirates until 1940 before being released.
With this recap you can simultaneously see why the won the NL in 1927 and why they didn’t repeat afterwards. The Cuyler trade was absolutely awful, but so was the Wright deal, even though injuries limited his effectiveness outside of Pittsburgh. They also gave away future stars in Bartell and Cronin for nothing. The only really good trade here was Aldridge for Grimes, but the trade of Grimes for Jones two years later was a terrible deal. It also didn’t help future Pirates teams that Lee Meadows dropped completely off after 1927 and Carmen Hill wasn’t far behind him.
If you look just three years in the future to the 1930 Pirates, a decent team with an 80-74 record, they had just nine players from this group, including only one pitcher. That was before free agency too. They also only had six of the players acquired through deals with these players, with the asterisks that a mid-season trade accounted for two of the players in this group of 15 players (Brickell-for-Sothern).