This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 20th, Jose DeLeon and a Five-Players Trade with the Yankees

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two trades of note.

The Trades

On this date in 1984 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Dale Berra, Al Pulido and Jay Buhner to the New York Yankees for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. Berra and Foli were teammates on the Pirates for three seasons, with Berra backing up Foli when he wasn’t his double play partner. Pulido was almost 28 years old and had pitched just two games for the Pirates, one in 1983 and one in 1984, and he struggled in both games. Buhner was just a minor leaguer at the time, a second round pick in the January 1984 draft- who hit .323 in short-season A-ball. Kemp was a strong hitter with the Tigers for five seasons and one year with the White Sox but his numbers dropped his two years in New York. He hit just 19 homers with the Yankees after hitting 108 his first six seasons, including the strike shortened 1981 season. The Pirates also received cash in the deal.

The trade did not work out well for either team, Buhner would become a star, but not until 1991, well after he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Pulido pitched just ten games in the majors in 1986 with the Yankees, then spent three full seasons at Triple-A before retiring as a pro. Berra was seldom used by the Yankees, playing just 90 games over two years, hitting .230 in 217 at-bats. He played one final year for the Houston Astros before he retired. Kemp really didn’t work out for the Pirates. He hit just two homers in 92 games during his first year in Pittsburgh, and then the Pirates released him a month into the 1986 season when he was hitting .188 in 13 games. Foli played just 19 games with the Pirates in 1985, hitting .189 before they released him, ending his Major League career

Also on this date in 1904 the Pirates traded first baseman Kitty Bransfield, infielder Otto Krueger and outfielder Moose McCormick to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league first baseman Del Howard. This was a very odd trade at the time, as the Pirates were in a good spot and gave up three players for a 27-year-old minor league player. Howard lasted just one season in Pittsburgh, but this trade didn’t end up that bad when you consider that Howard was involved in the deal to acquire Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis. The latter trade worked out much better for the Pirates. Howard hit .292 with 63 RBIs in 123 games for the 1905 Pirates. The Pirates would later receive Otis Clymer from the Phillies to complete the deal, but that didn’t really help make it a closer trade. He hit .282 in 129 games over three seasons before being sold to the Washington Senators. Bransfield spent seven seasons in Philadelphia as a solid player during that time. Krueger had one down year as a backup infielder for the Phillies, which ended up being his final season. McCormick was a solid young outfielder, but he decided to retire after the trade, only to return in 1908, still as a member of the Phillies. They immediately sold him to the New York Giants.

The Players

Jose DeLeon, pitcher for the 1983-86 Pirates. He was a third round pick of the Pirates out of high school in 1979. DeLeon climbed quickly through the minors, reaching Double-A at age 20, where he went 12-6, 3.11 in 25 starts. He had a poor first season at Triple-A, posting a 5.97 ERA, but he rebounded in 1983 and received a promotion to the majors at the end of July. DeLeon pitched well in his 15 starts going 7-3, 2.83 in 108 innings. In his first full season he threw nearly 200 innings and posted a respectable 3.74 ERA but the Pirates lost 87 games that year and his 7-13 record was the only losing record among the team’s five starters.The 1985 Pirates lost 104 games and DeLeon had a tough season, going 2-19, 4.70. He was moved to the bullpen late in the year to avoid 20 losses, but a late season defeat in relief shut him down for the year, leaving him with the NL lead in losses, a feat he would repeat in 1990 with the St Louis Cardinals. Teammate Larry McWilliams posted that same 4.70 ERA as DeLeon had in 1985, but he was able to pick up seven wins in fewer starts.

The next season DeLeon really struggled, and after posting an 8.27 ERA in nine games, the Pirates traded him to the Chicago White Sox on July 23rd for Bobby Bonilla. It was the Pirates reversing a decision not to protect Bonilla in the Rule 5 draft during the previous December. DeLeon turned things around in Chicago, posting a 2.96 ERA in 13 starts in 1986. He had a 4.02 ERA in 1987, though he threw 206 innings. He was traded to the Cardinals prior to 1988 and had two strong seasons, going 13-10, 3.67 in 34 starts in 1988, followed by a 16-12, 3.05 record in 36 starts in 1989. He threw a total of 471 innings those two seasons. DeLeon lost 19 games in 1990 (with a 4.43 ERA), then bounced back with a 2.71 ERA in 1991, though his record (5-9) didn’t rebound. He would end up playing for the 1992-93 Philadelphia Phillies, before returning to the White Sox for 2 1/2 season. He finished his career with the Montreal Expos at the end of the 1995 season. DeLeon had a 17-38, 4.02 record with the Pirates and a career record of 86-119, 3.76 in 415 games, 264 as a starter.

Paul Moskau, pitcher for the 1982 Pirates. Moskau pitched seven years in the big leagues (1977-83), with the first five spent with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a 28-22, 4.07 record in 79 starts and 48 relief appearances before coming to the Pirates as a waiver pickup right before Opening Day in 1982. For Pittsburgh, Moskau went 1-3, 4.37 in five starts and eight relief appearances. He also made four starts in the minors and got hit hard, going 0-4, 10.32 in 11.1 innings. He was released immediately after the season ended. Moskau finished up his big league career with the Chicago Cubs in 1983, posting a 6.75 ERA in eight starts. His pro career ended later that season after 11 more starts in Triple-A. Moskau was originally drafted in the fifth round in 1974 by the Cleveland Indians out of Arizona State. He transferred to Azusa Pacific University and the Cincinnati Reds took him in the third round in the 1975 draft. During that 1975 season, he went 10-1, 1.50 for Eugene of the Northwest League. He jumped from short-season ball to Double-A the next season and didn’t miss a beat, going 13-6, 1.55 in 180 innings. He saw quality big league time and limited Triple-A work during each of the next three seasons,  before finally sticking for good in 1980, when he put up a 4.01 ERA in a career high 152.2 innings. Moskau moved to the bullpen the next season and saw his ERA rise to 4.94 in 54.2 innings. The Pirates actually acquired him off of waivers on April 3, 1982 from the Baltimore Orioles, who traded for him two months earlier.

Spud Davis, catcher for the Pirates from 1940-41 and again from 1944-45. The 35-year-old Davis was purchased by the Pirates from the Philadelphia Phillies shortly after the 1939 season ended. He was in his 12th season and had just hit .307 in 89 games. From 1929 to 1935 Davis hit over .300 in each season, playing at least 80 games behind the plate each year, with a high of 132 in 1933. For the Pirates in 1940 Spud (his first name was Virgil) played 99 games and hit .326 with 39 RBIs. He shared the catching duties with future Hall of Famer Al Lopez during all four seasons that he played in Pittsburgh. In 1941, Davis saw his batting average dip down to .252, and the strong defense of Lopez took away his playing time. Whenever you see a break in the early 1940s for a player’s career, it’s usually due to them missing time while serving during WWII. However, it was just the opposite for Davis. In 1942, he became a full-time coach for the Pirates under manager Frankie Frisch. The Pirates released him at the end of 1941, with the intentions of bring him back in some capacity. He remained on as a coach for the 1942-43 season, but he would return to the playing field in 1944 when the war created a need for players. He hit .301 in 54 games during that first season back. He played another 23 games at the age of 40 in 1945, before returning to the coaching role full-time. Davis managed the Pirates for the last three games of the 1946 season and also returned to an active playing role in the minors for the 1947-48 seasons. In his big league career, he hit .308 in 1,458 games, with 77 homers and 647 RBIs. He caught 1,282 games during his career and twice led the league in fielding percentage, including a 1.000 mark in 1939. Davis began his big league career in 1928 with the St Louis Cardinals and ended up with two stints in both St Louis and Philadelphia during his 16 seasons, all spent in the National League. He batted .300 with 65 RBIs in 1934, helping the Cardinals to a World Series title.

Joe Wilhoit, outfielder for the 1917 Pirates. He’s virtually unknown, especially during his time in Pittsburgh, but he owns one of the most impressive records in baseball history. Wilhoit played nine games for the 1917 Pirates, going 2-for-10 at the plate and seeing time at three different positions, left field, right field and first base. His only start for the Pirates came in right field on July 16th during the second game of a doubleheader on the road against the Boston Braves. Six of his games came on the road and Pittsburgh fans ended up seeing him bat just once, singling as a pinch-hitter. He pinch-ran in his other two Forbes Field appearances, both times running for a 43-year-old Honus Wagner. Wilhoit ended up playing for three different teams during that 1917 season. He started with the Braves and was put on waivers in early July, where he was picked up by the Pirates. He actually batted a respectable .274 in 54 games before being put on waivers. Wilhoit played his final game for Boston on July 9th and then he pinch-hit in his debut for the Pirates three days later. Pittsburgh put him on waivers on July 28th and he finished the season with the New York Giants. It ended up being a poor short-term decision for the Pirates to get rid of him, as he hit .340 over the rest of the season. He also put up decent results at the plate as a part-time playing in 1918, hitting .274 in 64 games. Over four seasons in the majors (1916-19), Wilhoit batted .257 in 283 games, with 73 RBIs and 93 runs scored. He played eight seasons in the minors and put up impressive stats that never quite carried over the the majors. Wilhoit batted .336 over 1,101 games, which included a .422 average for Wichita of the Western League in 1919, and then a .360 average during his last season in pro ball four years later. During the 1919 season, he set a still-standing pro record with base hits in 69 straight games.

Jimmy Williams, third baseman for the Pirates from 1899-1900, who had one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history. Before joining the Pirates, Wiliams, who was in his fourth minor league season in 1898, hit .343 with 54 extra-base hits in 139 games for Kansas City of the Western League. The Pirates purchased four players from Kansas City on September 20, 1898, including Williams, who ended up being the only one to play for the Pirates. He hit .354 as a rookie in 1899, driving in 116 runs while scoring 126 times. His 27-game hitting streak that year is still a Pirates team record. It’s one better than the second best streak in team history, which was put up by Williams earlier in that same season. The 22-year-old Williams also led the majors with 27 triples, a total that ranks seventh all-time for a single season and it’s been topped just once since 1899. He couldn’t come close to replicating those numbers in 1900, hitting .264 in 106 games, with 73 runs scored and 68 RBIs.

On March 26, 1901, it was announced that he jumped from the Pirates to the Baltimore Orioles of the upstart American League. There were plenty of rumors going around about John McGraw, manager of the Orioles, paying him extra money to sign. Pirates manager Fred Clarke said that Williams was paid the league limit of $2,400 in 1900, while also making money for the Pirates second place finish and added extra games played during the season where players received a split of the gate receipts. The papers noted that he was foolish to think he could make more money in Baltimore and that he owed the fans for backing him in a down year in 1900. There were reports a week later that Williams was back in Pittsburgh and could rejoin the Pirates. He spent a few days trying to decide between the two teams, only to return to the Orioles, with the Pirates finding out about his decision when he showed up in the Baltimore lineup on April 5th.

Williams played for the Orioles for two seasons and remained with the franchise when it moved to New York in 1903 (I know the record books now call it two different franchises, but I disagree after doing the research). He remained in New York until he was traded to the St Louis Browns after the 1907 season. Williams finished up his big league career with the Browns in 1909. He then spent the next six seasons playing for Minneapolis of the American Association. He played 11 years in the majors and led the league in triples three times, including both years in Baltimore. He was a career .275 hitter, who had 796 RBIs and 780 runs scored in 1,457 games.