This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 21, Pirates Sign Hall of Fame Pitcher

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date. We also have a transaction involving a Hall of Fame pitcher.

The Transaction

On this date in 1933 the Pittsburgh Pirates signed pitcher Waite Hoyt, two months after he was released by the New York Giants. He was 33 years old at the time and had a career record of 195-141, 3.71 in 15 seasons, ten of them with the Yankees. Hoyt would go on to pitch four full seasons with the Pirates, posting an ERA under 3.00 in three of them. His best season was 1934 when he went 15-6, 2.93 in 40 games, 17 as a starter. In 190.2 innings that year he struck out a career high 105 batters. In 1937 he had a 1-2, 4.50 record in 11 games before Pittsburgh sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 21st. Hoyt had a 35-31, 3.08 record in 156 games for the Pirates. Overall in his career he was 237-182, 3.59 in 21 seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 by the Veterans Committee despite never receiving more than 19.2% of the votes from the writers. Hoyt’s career record was helped greatly by pitching most of it with the Ruth/Gehrig era Yankees, where he went 157-98, as opposed to the 80-84 record he had while pitching for other teams.

The Players

Chase d’Arnaud, infielder for the 2011-12 and 2014 Pirates. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2008 out of Peppedine. Three years earlier, the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him in the 44th round out of high school. In 2009, d’Arnaud hit .293 with 60 walks and 31 stolen bases, split between low-A and high-A ball. He hit .247 with 91 runs scored for Altoona in 2010, then hit .264 with 20 steals for Indianapolis in 2011 before being called up by the Pirates in late June. He would hit .217 with 12 steals in 48 games for the Pirates, splitting his time between shortstop (29 games) and third base (12 games). In 2012, d’Arnaud played eight games for the Pirates, going 0-for-6 at the plate, with two runs scored and an RBI. He spent all of 2013 in the minors, hitting just .231 over 67 games and three levels. His playing time was limited due to multiple injuries. In 2014, he returned to the Pirates in September for the playoff run and played eight games without a plate appearance. He pinch-ran seven times and finished one game on defense at shortstop. After the season, d’Arnaud signed as a minor league free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent most of the year in Triple-A, getting called up in mid-September, where he hit .176 in 11 games. He signed with the Atlanta Braves for the 2016 season and had his best year in the majors. In 84 games, d’Arnaud hit .245 with 21 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He began 2017 with the Braves, playing 11 games before he was lost on waivers to the Boston Red Sox. He played just two games in Boston before the San Diego Padres picked him up on waivers. For the 2017 season, he hit .175 in 33 games. After the season, d’Arnaud signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he played 42 games in 2018 and put up a .215 batting average. He split the 2019 season in the minors, seeing time in Triple-A with the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals. He did not play in 2020. He has played 236 MLB games over seven seasons, split between six teams. His brother Travis d’Arnaud has played eight seasons in the majors, mostly spent with the New York Mets.

Wil Ledezma, relief pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was a seven-year Major League veteran when he signed with the Pirates as a free agent in November 2009. He had a combined record of 15-22, 5.07 in 160 games (40 as a starter), prior to signing with Pittsburgh. Ledezma pitched most of the 2010 season in Triple-A, where he posted a 0.94 ERA in 35 relief appearances. The Pirates called him up in late July and he went 0-3, 6.86 in 27 games, striking out 22 batters in 19.2 innings. He was selected off of waiver by the Toronto Blue Jays in early 2011 and pitched poorly during his brief time in the majors that season, allowing ten runs in six innings. It ended up being his last seasons at the big league level. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2012 and pitched poorly in Triple-A, posting a 6.99 ERA in 38 appearances. Ledezma pitched in Japan in 2013, then played summer ball in Mexico during the 2014-17 and 2019 seasons. He is still active in baseball and has pitched winter ball in Venezuela for 14 seasons, including each of the last eight years. He finished his big league career with 99 straight appearances without a win, which immediately followed three straight relief appearance victories with the Detroit Tigers from April 11-17, 2007. Ledezma was signed as an international amateur free agent at 17 years old by the Boston Red Sox in 1998. He was a Rule 5 draft pick in 2002 and debuted in the majors with the Tigers in 2003. He remained there through the start of the 2007 season. After that point, he pitched for the 2007 Atlanta Braves, 2007-08 San Diego Padres, 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks and 2009 Washington Nationals, prior to joining the Pirates. Over all levels of pro ball, including winter league action, he has made a total of 777 appearances, including 164 starts.

Jeff McCurry, pitcher for the 1995 and 1998 Pirates. He signed as a 14th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1990 out of San Jacinto College. At the same school a year earlier, the Pirates selected him in the 20th round. He was a reliever at the time and he started just three games (all in the minors) during his nine-year career in pro ball. The Pirates began his career in the Gulf Coast League at age 21. He split the 1992 season between Low-A and High-A, combining for a 3.01 ERA in 92.2 innings over 49 appearances. He was back in High-A to start 1993, but moved to Double-A mid-season. McCurry made 64 appearances and picked up 22 saves that year, while posting a 3.45 ERA in 73 innings. He spent all of 1994 in Double-A, going 6-5, 3.21 in 81.1 innings, with 11 saves. He played just three games in Triple-A before making his big league debut. As a rookie in 1995, he went 1-4, 5.02 in 55 relief appearances, pitching 61 total innings. The Pirates put him on waivers following the season where he was taken by the Detroit Tigers. McCurry pitched just two mid-July games for the Tigers, retiring the only batter he faced in his season debut, before giving up nine runs over three innings in his last game. He was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the 1996 minor league draft and after one season in Colorado, he was granted free agency. While there, he had a 4.43 ERA in 40.2 innings over 33 appearances. The Pirates signed McCurry on December 18, 1997 as a free agent. In 16 relief appearances during the 1998 season, he went 1-3, 6.52 in 19.1 innings. He spent the rest of the year in Triple-A, where he had a 4.96 ERA in 45.1 innings. He signed with the Houston Astros for the 1999 season, his last in the majors. He gave up eight runs over four innings in five big league games, then spent the rest of the season in Triple-A. At the time of McCurry’s Major League debut, he was just the sixth player in Major League history who was born in Japan.

Danny O’Connell, infielder for the 1950 and 1953 Pirates. He played four years in the minors for the Brooklyn Dodgers before the Pirates acquired him on October 1, 1949 in exchange for minor league second baseman Jack Cassini and $50,000. O’Connell batted between .292 and .327 while playing 121+ games during those four seasons with Brooklyn. As a rookie with the Pirates in 1950, the 21-year-old O’Connell hit .292 with 32 RBIs and 39 runs scored in 79 games, earning himself a third place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He debuted on July 14th after hitting .351 for Triple-A Indianapolis. O’Connell took the starting spot at third base, then soon switched over to shortstop, where he started 65 games. He then spent the next two years in the Army during the Korean War before returning to the Pirates for the 1953 seasons. O’Connell played 149 games that year, hitting .294 with 55 RBIs and 88 runs scored. He made 104 starts at third base and 45 at second base. On December 26, 1953, the Pirates traded him to the Milwaukee Braves for six players and $100,000. Outside of the huge sum of money by 1953 standards, the Pirates received very little for their return. O’Connell played another eight seasons in the majors, finishing his career with a .260 average, 39 homers, 320 RBIs and 527 runs scored in 1,143 games. The Pirates dealt him at his peak offensively, though he became a strong defender at second base, which helped add value. He had a .764 OPS while with the Pirates, and he topped out at a .688 mark during his eight seasons after the trade. That came in 1957 when he was traded (along with two other players) mid-season to the New York Giants in exchange for Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst. O’Connell spent the 1960 season in the minors, then returned to the big leagues as a member of the expansion Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers). He played his final big league season in 1962, then finished his career in the minors the next year.

Fern Bell, outfielder for the 1939-40 Pirates. Bell spent eight seasons in the minors, playing for nine different teams, before he got his first shot in the majors at 26 years old with the 1939 Pirates. He split the 1938 season between Louisville of the American Association (129 games) and Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League (44 games),  hitting a combined .321 with 37 doubles, 17 triples and 14 homers in 173 games. Those big numbers drew the attention of the Pirates during the National League draft held on October 4, 1938 and helped earn him an Opening Day spot in 1939 for the Pirates. That 1939 season, Bell hit .286 with 42 walks and 44 runs scored in 83 games, playing all three outfield positions, with most of his time coming in center field. He began the 1940 season with the Pirates, but after playing only six games during the first three weeks, he was sold outright to Toronto of the International League on May 6th. Teams were allowed to carry 30 players to start the season that year, but they had to be down to 25 players by May 15th. Bell was the first cut to get from 30 down to 25. While with the Pirates that season, he went 0-for-3 with a walk, pinch-hitting four times and pinch-running twice. Bell never played in the majors again. He spent the next four seasons in the minors before he joined the Navy during WWII, which in turn ended his baseball career. In the winter between his two seasons with the Pirates, he worked as a post office clerk in Los Angeles. He came into pro ball as an inconsistent power hitter, though he started with a bang, belting 24 homers as an 18-year-old in 1931. The next two years while with Memphis of the Southern Association, he hit just two homers each year. That was followed by a .350 average and 28 homers in 1934. He then combined for 21 homers over the next three seasons, spent mostly in the Pacific Coast League. His name Fern was just a shortened version of his first name (Fernando).