This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 14th, the Haddix and Lieber Trades

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two trades of note. Before we get into all that, Adam Frazier is celebrating his 29th birthday today.

The Trades

On this date in 1963 the Pirates traded pitcher Harvey Haddix to the Orioles in exchange for minor league shortstop Dick Yencha and cash. Haddix was 38 years old at the time of the trade and had been moved to the bullpen for the first time in his career in 1963. He had a career 128-106 record at that point. In five seasons with the Pirates he went 45-38, 3.73 in 100 starts and 66 relief appearances. Yencha never played in the majors, while Haddix pitched 73 games over two seasons for the Orioles, all in relief, going 8-7, 2.63 in 123 innings. He retired as a player following the 1965 season and years later returned to the Pirates as a pitching coach.

On this date in 1998 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Jon Lieber to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Brant Brown. Lieber started his career with the Pirates in 1994 and went 38-47, 4.36 in 151 games, 104 as a starter. Brown played just one season in Pittsburgh. He played a career high 130 games, hitting 16 homers with 58 RBIs, but he batted just .232 and struck out 114 times while taking just 22 walks. He was traded to the Florida Marlins after the season ended for outfielder Bruce Aven, who lasted just four months with the Pirates. Lieber played four seasons in Chicago, having marginal success his first two years, but breaking out in 2001 when he went 20-6, 3.80 and finished third in the Cy Young voting. He injured his arm during the 2002 season and missed all of 2003 due to Tommy John surgery. Lieber finished his career in 2008 with a 131-128 record.

The Players

Jeff Robinson, pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. He had a 44-39 career record when the Pirates took him off waivers from the Texas Rangers in June of 1992. He made seven starts and a relief appearance, going 3-1, 4.46 before the Pirates released him in late July, in a move that ended his Major League career. He finished the season in Triple-A for the Detroit Tigers, the team he started his career with, then retired after the season. His birthday is one day after pitcher Jeff Robinson, who was with the Pirates from 1987 until 1989 (covered in yesterday’s This Date article). This Jeff Robinson got his pro career started when he was a third round pick of the Tigers in the 1983 draft. He had already been drafted twice without signing, once with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round in 1979, then the San Diego Padres took him in the 40th round in 1980. It took him four years to make his big league debut, and he saw a lot of time during that first season, making 21 starts and eight relief appearances. Despite a 5.37 ERA in 127.1 innings, Robinson compiled a 9-6 record. His ERA matched his win/loss record much better in his second season when he went 13-6, 2.98 in 172 innings over 23 starts and one relief outing. He threw six complete games and recorded two shutouts. That success lasted just one year. His ERA dropped to 4.73 in 1989 and 5.96 in 26 starts in 1990. He pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991 and had a 5.18 ERA, then before joining the Pirates in 1992, he had a 5.76 ERA in 45.2 innings for the Rangers.

Jerry May, catcher for the Pirates from 1964 to 1970. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1961 at 18 years old,. He made his Major League debut in September 1964 after putting up a .690 OPS in 113 games for Asheville of the Southern League (Double-A). Despite debuting on September 19th, the Pirates got him into 11 games. May had a similar minor league season while moving up to Columbus in 1965. He had a .694 OPS in 101 games, then joined the Pirates for his second September stint, this time playing just four games. He was with the Pirates for the entire 1966 season, though he saw sporadic use and didn’t get his first start until the 32nd game of the season. He played just 57 games total with Pittsburgh during his first three seasons in the majors, but that changed the next year. He earned the starting catcher job in 1967 and played 110 games, hitting .271 with 22 RBIs and a .993 fielding percentage. The following season he played a career high 137 games, but managed to hit just .219 with 33 RBIs in 416 at-bats. Manny Sanguillen took over the regular catching duties in 1969, with May returning to the backup role for two more seasons before he was traded to the Kansas City Royals in December 1970, as part of a six-player deal. In his last season in Pittsburgh, he hit .209 in 51 games. His replacement in the backup role in 1971 was Milt May, who was not related. Jerry May hit .237 with 100 RBIs in 417 games in Pittsburgh. He stayed with the Royals through May of 1973 when he was purchased by the New York Mets. He was released after two months in New York, then returned to Pittsburgh 20 days later. He hit .222 in 27 games at Triple-A. The Pirates sold him to the Minnesota Twins in the off-season, but he never played again.

Paul LaPalme, pitcher for the Pirates from 1951 to 1954. The Pirates got him from the Boston Braves in December 1949 during the minor league draft. Just one year earlier, the Braves took him from the New York Giants in the same draft.  LaPalme debuted in pro ball at 17 years old in 1941. By 1943, he had joined in the WWII efforts and was out of baseball for three years. He returned to the Giants system in 1946 and put together a 20-2 record for Bristol of the Appalachian League. The Pirates acquired him after he went 14-13, 2.90 in 211 innings with Hartford of the Eastern League. In his first season with the Pirates, LaPalme went 10-7, 3.00 in the minors in 1950, reaching Triple-A. On May 22nd he was called up to the majors for the first time. He was being used as both a starter and a reliever, though he received sporadic work and he was even sent to the minors for a short time in August/September, before rejoining the club for two relief appearances. The Pirates were bad that year and in LaPalme’s 22 appearances they had a 2-20 record. He went 1-2, 6.29 in 54.1 innings. During his second trip to the minors, the Pirates had him change his delivery to help his effectiveness and it apparently worked for a short time. The next year he was used out of the pen and did better, posting a 3.92 ERA in 31 games. He pitched a career high 176 innings in 1953, although his ERA of 4.59 was well below the average of the rest of the pitchers. He went 8-16 for a Pirates team that won just 50 games that year. He struggled in 1954, going 4-10, 5.54 in 120.2 innings, making 15 starts and 18 relief appearances. After the 1954 season the Pirates traded him to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ben Wade and cash. LaPalme had a 2.75 ERA in 91.2 innings over 56 appearances with the Cardinals in 1955, then he was traded early in 1956 after allowing six runs over 2/3 of an inning in his only appearance. He finished out 1956 with the Cincinnati Reds and spent 1957 with the Chicago White Sox. He finished his pro career with two seasons in the minors. Over seven big league seasons, he was 24-45, 4.42 in 616.1 innings.

Charlie Hargreaves, catcher for the Pirates from 1928 to 1930. The Pirates acquired him in May of 1928 from the Brooklyn Dodgers in exchange for their longtime catcher Johnny Gooch and 37-year-old veteran 1B/OF Joe Harris. Hargreaves was 31 years old at the time and had played just 231 games over six seasons in Brooklyn. He was hitting .197 over 20 games at the time of the trade. With the Pirates in 1928, he got into 79 games and hit .285 with 32 RBIs, but struggled defensively, leading NL catchers in errors and allowing the third most stolen bases in the league. He played a career high 102 games the following season, hitting .268 with 44 RBIs, which was also a career high. Modern defensive metrics credit him with 0.5 dWAR in 1929, though he offense was below average for the league, so his overall WAR was -0.4 for the season. In 1930 the Pirates went with a young catcher named Rollie Hemsley and Hargreaves played just 11 games before being sold outright to Buffalo of the International League on June 11th. He remained in the minors until his retirement in 1934, spending most of that time with the Newark Bears of the International League. He briefly managed in the minors in 1949. Hargreaves didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 24 years old. It took him two seasons to reach the majors with Brooklyn. With the Pirates he hit .273 with two homers and 78 RBIs in 192 games. He made 178 starts behind the plate in 2+ years with the Pirates, while he received 137 starts with Brooklyn in 5+ seasons.

Ren Wylie, outfielder for the 1882 Alleghenys. On August 11,1882 Pittsburgh was at home taking on the Baltimore Orioles and lost 1-0, dropping their record to 21-27. Back when teams carried just a few extra players (the Alleghenys used 20 players all season in 1882), they had three players injured that day and needed to go the local route for a fill-in. On August 10th, they used pitcher Harry Salisbury in center field and he went 0-for-4 with an error. A 20-year-old named Ren Wylie was in center field the next day and he went 0-for-3 at the plate. He didn’t make any catches, but he did throw out a runner. The only thing written about him in the local papers the following day was that he was an East End amateur. The East End team in Pittsburgh was a strong amateur club at the time and numerous future Alleghenys/Pirates saw time with the team over the years. The Pittsburgh Daily Post called him “Patton” and said that he was a young amateur who played center in place of an injured John Driscoll. Somewhat confusing to that fact is that there was a young center fielder named Patton, who was a local amateur at that time in the Pittsburgh area, but research has determined that it was Wylie who played that day. On August 12th, the Alleghenys got Chappy Lane back from injury and he started in center field. Pittsburgh went on a ten-game road trip after an off-day and Wylie stayed in Pittsburgh, ending his time with the club. Minor league records from back then are spotty and there is no other known pro experience for Wylie. Not much is known about his baseball experience, but he lived out a long life in the Pittsburgh area, passing away in 1951, the last player from that first Pittsburgh team to pass away. He was involved in politics for a time, was a bank president and he was an insurance/real estate salesman. He is buried in Pittsburgh. He attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA. His first name was James. Ren comes from his middle name (Renwick).