This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 13th, Dale Berra and Two Big Trades

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and one of them was involved in one of the two big trades made on December 13th.

The Trades

On this date in 1996, the Pirates and Royals hooked up for a six-player trade that involved four Jeff’s and all six players first name started with the letter J. The Pirates sent shortstop Jay Bell and third baseman Jeff King in exchange for third baseman Joe Randa and pitchers Jeff Granger, Jeff Martin and Jeff Wallace. One year after the trade, only Wallace was still with the Pirates. King had two good years with the Royals, combining for 52 homers and 205 RBIs between the 1997-98 seasons, but he retired abruptly after just 21 games in the 1999 season, citing lost passion and a recurring back problem as the reason. Bell played one year with the Royals before reaching free agency. He hit .291 with 21 homers and 92 RBIs. Randa had a nice season for the Pirates, batted .302 with 43 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs in 126 games. On November 18, 1997, he was lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft. Wallace pitched three seasons in Pittsburgh, posting a 4.67 ERA in 90 appearances and 86.2 innings. Martin never made the majors, while Granger gave up ten runs over five innings with the 1997 Pirates, then never pitched in the majors again.

On this date in 2001 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded starting pitcher Todd Ritchie and minor leaguer Lee Evans to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitchers Josh Fogg, Kip Wells and Sean Lowe. The White Sox got one very poor season out of Ritchie (5-15, 6.06) and Evans didn’t make the majors. The Pirates cleaned up on the deal, with Fogg lasting four seasons, Wells pitching five, and Lowe canceling out Ritchie with a rough 2002 season (5.35 ERA in 69 innings) before he was released. While neither pitched great for more than a short stint at a time, Fogg and Well combined to make 247 starts for the Pirates. Their win-loss records show have tough those stats are for judging pitchers. Fogg went 39-42 with a 4.79 ERA. Wells comparatively had a much better ERA (4.20), but he had a 36-53 record.

The Players

Dale Berra, infielder for the Pirates from 1977 to 1984. He is the son of Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. The younger Berra was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 1975 out of Montclair HS in New Jersey, selected 20th overall. He earned a late season promotion in 1977 at 20 years old and hit .175 in 17 games. He bounced between the majors and minors over the next two seasons, hitting .209 with nine homers in 100 combined games at the big league level. Berra played 44 games for the 1979 World Series champs, but he didn’t see any postseason action. He finally spent the entire season in the majors in 1980, splitting his time between third base and shortstop. In 93 games he hit .220 with 31 RBIs. He got a chance to play more often when Tim Foli was injured in May/June. In 1981, he got time in at second base as well as the other spots, playing at least 18 games at each position. He hit .241 with a career high 11 stolen bases during that strike-shortened season. Berra became the team’s regular shortstop starting in 1982 and continuing through the 1984 season. That first year he set career highs in nearly every category, hitting .263 with ten homers, 61 RBIs and 63 runs scored. In 1983 he played a career high 161 games. In 1984 his average dropped to .222 in 136 games. Following the season the Pirates traded him to the New York Yankees in a five-player deal that brought Tim Foli back to Pittsburgh. That deal ended up going sour when the minor leaguer in the deal (Jay Buhner) turned into an All-Star slugger seven years later in Seattle. Berra hit .230 in New York over two seasons, playing just 90 games total. He finished his career with the 1987 Houston Astros, where he hit .178 in 19 games. In 744 games with the Pirates he hit .238 with 255 RBIs. He made exactly 30 errors in each of his three full seasons at shortstop in Pittsburgh, though modern defensive metrics credits him with a very impressive 5.0 dWAR over that stretch.

Josh Fogg, pitcher for the 2002-05 Pirates, who came to the team on his 25th birthday in the five-player trade mentioned above that included Todd Ritchie going to the Chicago White Sox and Kip Wells coming back to Pittsburgh. Fogg had just 13.1 innings of big league time prior to joining the Pirates. In 11 relief appearances with Chicago, he posted a 2.03 ERA. He was a third round draft pick of the White Sox in 1998 and it took him just three years to make the majors. The Pirates immediately put him in the rotation and he stayed there for four years. He had a 39-42, 4.72 record in 684 innings over 119 starts and six relief appearances. His first year was his best season. He had a 4.35 ERA and set career highs with 33 starts and 194.1 innings. He had a 10-9 record in 2003, despite a 5.26 ERA. He followed that up with an 11-10, 4.64 record. Fogg was granted free agency after the 2005 season and went to the Colorado Rockies, where he continued his crazy ability to pick up wins without the ERA to back them up. He went 11-9, 5.49 in 2006 and 10-9, 4.94 in 2007. He pitched poorly for the Cincinnati Reds in 2008, then finished his career back with the Rockies in 2009 as a reliever. Fogg finished up 62-69, 503 over 1,194 big league innings. He finished his pro career with three poor starts for the Philadelphia Phillies Double-A team in 2010.

Jeff Robinson, pitcher for the Pirates from 1987-89. The Pirates got Robinson from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitcher Rick Reuschel. He was 19-26, 3.81 in 169 games (34 starts) with the Giants. After the trade, he pitched out of the pen for the Pirates and went 2-1, 3.04 in 18 games. The following year he was used often, pitching 75 games and 124.2 innings, all in relief, going 11-5, 3.03 with nine saves. The Pirates used Robinson out of the pen again to start the 1989 season, but by late June they moved him to a starting role, where he went 4-7 in 18 starts. After the season he was traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for catcher Don Slaught. Robinson is often confused with Jeff Robinson, another right-handed pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. This Jeff Robinson was originally drafted in the 14th round out of college by the Detroit Tigers in 1982. He decided not to sign, which paid off with a second round pick in 1983 by the Giants. He was in the majors as a full-time starter just ten months after being drafted. Robinson went 7-15, 4.56 in 33 starts (one relief appearance) and 171.2 innings as a rookie in 1984. Despite that quick ascent to the majors, he spent almost all of 1985 in Triple-A, where he made 29 starts, before coming back to the majors in September as a reliever. Robinson did well as a full-time reliever in 1986, going 6-3, 3.36 in 64 appearances and 104.2 innings, while picking up eight saves. When he was picked up by the Pirates, he had a 2.79 ERA in 96.2 innings over 63 appearances for the Giants. He picked up a total of 14 saves in that season, four with Pittsburgh. After leaving the Pirates, he pitched for the 1990 Yankees, the 1991 California Angels and the 1992 Chicago Cubs. In his nine-year career, he went 46-57, 3.79 in 62 starts and 392 relief appearances. He threw a total of 901.1 innings.

Dave Hamilton, pitcher for the 1978 Pirates. Hamilton wasn’t with the Pirates long. He was purchased from the St Louis Cardinals in late May of 1978 and was a free agent at the end of the season. He pitched 16 games out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 3.42 in 26.1 innings. The Pirates used him just four times after July 22nd, all in one-sided losses. His first appearance with the Pirates came just hours after he arrived at the stadium following the trade, and he ended up taking the loss in the 14th inning on a bases loaded walk-off walk. He was drafted in the fifth round out of high school in 1966 by the Kansas City A’s. Hamilton began his big league career as a starter for the Oakland A’s in 1972, going 19-14 over his first three seasons. He had a 2.93 ERA in 101.2 innings as a rookie, then put up a 3.15 ERA in 117 innings in 1974. He moved on to the Chicago White Sox in a trade during the middle of the 1975 season, then on to the St Louis Cardinals in another trade on August 31, 1977. In Chicago, he pitched strictly in relief and had a 3.37 ERA in 227.1 innings. He made just 14 appearances with the Cardinals and had a 6.43 ERA. Hamilton finished his nine-year career back in Oakland in 1980. He actually signed free agent deals with the A’s prior to the 1979, 1980 and 1981 seasons, though his final year consisted of just four relief appearances in Triple-A. He had a 39-41, 3.85 record in 301 big league games (57 as a starter), with 31 saves.

Joe Christopher, outfielder for the Pirates from 1959 to 1961. He was signed by the Pirates as a 19-year-old prior to the 1955 season and he became the first MLB player who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Christopher hit .329 in 140 games that first year in the minors, playing for three different teams. He worked his way through the system, hitting for a high average at every level, before making his debut for Pittsburgh in late May of 1959. He spent approximately seven weeks with the Pirates that season and played 15 games, while going 0-12 at the plate. His big league debut came on May 26th in the famous Harvey Haddix game in which Haddix threw 12 perfect innings. Christopher was used sparingly the next season, playing 50 games but getting just 61 plate appearances. Interestingly, he started ten games and the Pirates won all of them. Christopher didn’t pick up his first base hit until June 30th, one year, one month and four days after his big league debut. A decent portion of his plate time came in one game when he went 5-for-7 with a walk on September 27th, in a game that lasted 16 innings. In the 1960 World Series he pinch-ran twice and was used as a pinch-hitter in another game, scoring two runs and getting hit by a pitch. In 1961 he was used more often, getting into 76 games, 44 as a starter. He hit .263 with 14 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Following the season he was selected by the New York Mets in the expansion draft. He spent four seasons in New York and had the best year of his career there in 1964 when he hit .300 with 16 homers and 76 RBIs. The next season he saw a 176 point drop in his OPS, then he moved on to the Boston Red Sox in 1966, where he played his final 12 big league games. Christopher played in the minors through the end of the 1968 season.

Bill Windle, first baseman for the 1928-29 Pirates. His big league career lasted one calendar year, making his debut on September 27, 1928 and playing his last game exactly one year later. In between, he only played one other game. Windle got two at-bats during his career, hitting a double in his first plate appearance and striking out in his last. His only hit came off Lou Koupal, who was a member of the 1925 World Champion Pirates team. Koupal was making his first start since leaving the Pirates after the 1926 season. Windle’s first game came as a defensive replacement at first base in the sixth inning when the Pirates went down 6-0 early in the game. He ended up scoring their only run in the 8-1 loss. He pinch-hit and played first base late in a one-sided win on September 20, 1929, then played first base late without getting an at-bat in his final big league game.

Windle’s pro career began in 1927, and he played minor league ball until 1937, the last year as a player-manager. The Pirates purchased his contract from Salisbury of the Piedmont League on September 10, 1927. He was going to join them a few days later, but an operation for appendicitis ended his season early. Before joining the Pirates in 1928, he played for Columbia of the South Atlantic League, where he hit .306 in 126 games. The Pirates optioned him to Columbia on January 28, 1928. He rejoined the Pirates on September 17th, ten days before his MLB debut. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1929, but he was among the last players cut on April 6th. During the 1929 season, he spent the year with Omaha of the Western League, where he hit .342 with 21 homers. He rejoined the Pirates on September 17th, though the original plans called for him to return home after the Omaha season instead. Windle asked the Pirates for permission to join the club and they agreed. On November 4, 1929, he was sold to the Newark Bears of the International League, ending his time with the Pirates. Despite that strong season and a terrific 1930 season for Newark (.331 average and 53 extra-base hits), he never got another big league shot.

William “Buckshot” May, pitcher for the Pirates on May 9, 1924. The Pirates bought him out of the minors in December 1, 1923 after he went 18-15 in 51 games for Seattle of the Western League. In the 22nd game of the 1924 season, the Pirates took on the Boston Braves at Forbes Field. With the team down 10-6 going into the 9th inning, and having already used four pitchers, Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie called on May to make his Major League debut. He allowed two hits, but threw a shutout frame, striking out fellow pitcher Joe Genewich to end the inning. Buckshot returned to the minors soon after his only big league game, where he pitched until 1935. In 13 minor league seasons he went 178-136 in 490 games. The Pirates traded him to Oklahoma City of the Western League on September 13th, along with cash, for pitchers Don Songer and Joseph Brown. Two days before his first and only big league game, May helped the Pirates in a different way. He threw an extremely long batting practice session to Pie Traynor and Clyde Barnhart, who were both in early season slumps. Traynor hit .421 over the next nine games. May remained with the Pirates from Opening Day until June 2nd, before he was optioned to Oklahoma City. On May 26th, he pitched a complete game in an exhibition contest against Penn State. The Pirates won 11-1 and May struck out nine batters.

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