This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 28th, Pirates Sign Rick Reuschel

There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one transaction of note.

The Transaction

On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 35-year-old Rick Reuschel as a free agent. He had pitched well earlier in his career, but Reuschel was coming off of a 5.17 ERA in 92.1 innings with the Chicago Cubs in 1984. He missed all of 1982 with rotator cuff surgery and struggled through the 1983 season, spending most of the year in the minors. Reuschel turned things back around with the Pirates, going 14-8, 2.27 in 194 innings for a team that lost 104 games. However, he actually began the year in the minors, where he pitched 54 innings before joining the big league team. His contract was a minor league deal and he told the papers that he almost decided to retire because it took so long to find a team that showed interest. The Pirates said that he was competing for a spot as the team’s long reliever, but he ended up making 26 starts that season. He made another 89 starts for the Pirates before being traded late in the 1987 season to the San Francisco Giants. He was an All-Star that final season, finishing third in the NL Cy Young voting, while leading the league in complete games, shutouts and WHIP. Reuschel won 214 games in his career.

The Players

Aaron Thompson, pitcher for the 2011 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2005, selected 22nd overall at 18 years old out of Second Baptist HS in Houston, Texas. He had an odd beginning to his career, pitching better in the New York-Penn League (3.10 ERA) against college players than he did against players his own age in the Gulf Coast League (4.50 ERA). Thompson pitched at Low-A in 2006 and had a 3.63 ERA in 134 innings over 24 starts. He improved to a 3.37 ERA in 115 innings in 2007. He struggled with the jump to Double-A in 2008, pitching poorly, missing some time, followed by a 6.00 ERA in the Arizona Fall League after the season. He made 20 starts for the Marlins in Double-A in 2009, posting a 4.11 ERA in 114 innings. Thompson was traded to the Washington Nationals at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for Nick Johnson. He was put on waivers following the 2010 season that he spent in Double-A Harrisburg, where he had a 5.80 ERA in 136.2 innings. The Pirates picked him up in December 2010 off of waivers and sent him to Double-A Altoona to start the 2011 season. He posted a 4-7, 5.16 record there in 28 games, 12 as a starter. He moved up to Triple-A on August 10th and allowed one run over 11.2 innings in three appearances, then got a call to the majors for his debut as a spot starter on August 24th and pitched 4.1 shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. Thompson returned to Triple-A to end the minor league season, then made three more September appearances for the Pirates, this time allowing six runs over 3.1 innings. He was allowed to leave via free agency in November and signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins. He spent all of 2012 in Double-A, struggling along with a 5.23 ERA. He moved to relief full-time in 2013 and put up average stats at Double-A, before allowing just one run over 14.2 innings at Triple-A. Thompson made a total of 48 appearances with the 2014-15 Twins to finish out his big league career. He was called up in late August in 2014 and allowed two runs over 7.1 innings, which led to an Opening Day assignment in 2015. He had a 5.01 ERA in 41 appearances and 32.1 innings through July 5th, when he was sent to the minors for the rest of the season. Thompson was released by the Twins at the end of Spring Training in 2016 and he played that season for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. He finished his pro career playing winter ball in Mexico during the 2016-17 off-season.

Lil Stoner, pitcher for the 1930 Pirates. He played three seasons of minor league ball before making the 1922 Detroit Tigers team out of Spring Training. Stoner pitched poorly, posting a 7.04 ERA through 17 games and was sent to the minors to finish the season. In 1923, pitching for Fort Worth of the Texas League, he won 27 games and pitched 302 innings. He was with the Tigers again in 1924 and lasted through the 1929 season, switching between starting and relieving. He had double figure win totals in three seasons and compiled a 50-58 overall record while with Detroit. He set a career high with 215.2 innings in 1924 and compiled an 11-10 record, despite a high 4.72 ERA. His best season came in 1927 when he had a 3.98 ERA in 215 innings, though he finished with a 10-13 record. His teammate Rip Collins had a 4.69 ERA that same season and managed to post a 13-7 record, so there was some bad luck and poor support involved in Stoner’s win-loss total that year. After going 3-3, 5.26 in 53 innings (three starts and 21 relief appearances) in 1929, he joined the Pirates for the 1930 season. Stoner was sent to Fort Worth of the Texas League in July of 1929 and he had a 1.98 ERA there over the rest of the season. The Pirates purchased his contract on September 12th and he was due to report the following spring. Stoner had his share of troubles during Spring Training in 1930, suffering a bad cold, followed by a sore arm that bothered him into the regular season. On May 13th, having pitched just 5.2 innings in relief over five appearances for the Pirates, he was sent outright back to Fort Worth. Stoner pitched one more season in the majors with the 1931 Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 6.59 ERA in 13.2 innings, before returning to the minors in June, where he remained through the 1932 season. He played semi-pro ball at the age of 40 in 1939 in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma. He had an average fastball according to reports, but his curveball was above average and he had good control of his pitches. His real name was Ulysses Simpson Grant Stoner and the nickname “Lil” came from his younger sister who couldn’t pronounce Ulysses as a kid.

Terry Turner, third baseman for the 1901 Pirates. He had a 17-year big league career that started with two games for the 1901 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1901 at 20 years old, first playing in an independent league, then playing for a team in Punxatawney. The Pirates picked him up in August of 1901 and gave him a brief trial while starting third baseman Tommy Leach was out of action for a week. He had three hits in seven at bats, but that wasn’t good enough for him to stick around. He had a nice showing during his debut that earned a spot in the local headlines. He collected three hits and handled all five chances in the field on August 25th against the Cincinnati Reds on the road. He had a bit of trouble in his second game, committing two errors and one misplay during a rundown play, while also going 0-for-3 at the plate. He was pinch-hitter for in the ninth by light-hitting backup catcher George Yeager. During his brief time with Pittsburgh, he was referred to as Clarence, while the crowd called him Cotton Top, a nickname that stayed with him. He was also said to have been playing for the Punxsutawney team and the independent Ashtabula team from Ohio, so there was definitely some mystery surrounding his brief time with Pittsburgh. A quick look at the records shows that he played third base for Punxatawney just two days before his big league debut. According to Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, Turner left the team after his second game, which was played at home in Exposition Park. It was said that he had trouble playing on the grass field because he was used to playing on an all dirt infield. It was later reported that he signed with Columbus of the American Association on August 12th, making his contract with the Pirates no good, though owner Dreyfuss said that he wouldn’t give up his rights to Turner. Despite the objection, Columbus is where he ended up until his next trip to the show. Turner returned to the majors in 1904 with the Cleveland Indians, and before he left town, he would play a still-standing team record of 1,619 games. He played 15 seasons in Cleveland before finishing his career in 1919 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Turner was a career .253 hitter who finished with 699 runs scored and 1,499 hits. He hit just eight homers his entire career, with only one his final 13 seasons, and that one was an inside-the-park home run. He is credited with being one of the best defensive players of all-time, putting up 20.1 dWAR during his career, which ranks 52nd best among all players/positions. His 5.4 dWAR in 1906 is rated as the best defensive season in baseball history. He was a shortstop that season, but he also did well at third base and second base during his career. Turner made 728 starts at shortstop, 589 at third base and 238 at second base.

Moose McCormick, outfielder for the 1904 Pirates. McCormick debuted at an advanced level of pro ball, playing at 21 years old in the Eastern League, where he hit .308 in 44 games for Providence. He hit .363 with 116 RBIs during his second season of pro ball in 1903 while playing for Jersey City of the Eastern League. Moose (his real first name was Harry) was signed by the Giants for the 1904 season and played there through early August, hitting .266 in 59 games, with 15 extra-base hits. The Pirates acquired him in a three-team deal on August 8th that saw them give up young right fielder Jimmy Sebring. McCormick finished the year in Pittsburgh, playing the corner outfield spots, where he hit .290 with 23 RBIs in 66 games. On December 20, 1904, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a five-player deal. Before ever reporting to the Phillies, he retired from baseball for three seasons, though his possible retirement from baseball wasn’t completely unexpected at the time and it was factored in to the deal, which appeared at first to be a one-sided trade. Three years later he returned to the Phillies for the 1908 season and hit .091 in 11 games through early July, then was sold to the New York Giants, where he was to be used as a pinch-hitter. He ended up being more, hitting enough to play corner outfield regularly over the final 40 games of the season. McCormick hit .302 in 73 games for the Giants that year He played the entire 1909 season, batting .291 with 49 walks and 68 runs scored in 121 games, then retired again for two more years. He returned for two final seasons in the majors playing for New York in 1912-13, seeing a limited bench role each year. He was a good hitter at getting on base, but didn’t have any power or speed, and he played average defense. In his five seasons in the majors, which spanned a ten-year period, he was a .285 hitter over 429 games. He finished his pro career with two seasons (1914-15) as the player-manager for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association.

Jack Easton, pitcher for the 1894 Pirates. He played three seasons in the minors prior to making his Major League debut with the Columbus Solons of the American Association in September of 1889. He made one start and three relief appearances, pitching a total of 18 innings, while posting a 3.50 ERA. Despite that success, he walked 21 batters during that time, while picking up just seven strikeouts. It was still enough to keep him around, especially with more MLB jobs available in 1890 thanks to the addition of the Player’s League. Easton went 15-14, 3.52 in 255.2 innings in 1890 with the Solons. He threw 23 complete games and also finished off eight games in relief. He then had an 8-14, 4.59 record in 1891 pitching for two different teams, splitting his time between the Solons and the St Louis Browns. The 1891 season proved to be the final year of the American Association, but Easton followed the Browns to the National League. He won his only two decisions in 1892, starting twice and pitching three times in relief, before he was cut from the team in June. Easton returned to the minors for the rest of 1892 after being released, then spent the entire 1893 season down on the farm. He returned to the majors with the Pirates for the 1894 season. Just days before he signed with the Pirates, it was announced that he was going to play second base and occasionally pitch for Grand Rapids of the Western League, but on May 29th he was signed and practicing with the Pirates, showing a strong fastball during that first day. He pitched just three games with Pittsburgh, losing his only start on June 19th. Three days earlier, the Pirates (who actually went by the name “Braves” in 1894) let Easton pitch for a local amateur team from Climax, PA. His final game came on July 7th when he pitched the last seven innings, allowing seven runs, in a 12-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was released on July 14th, one of three pitcher let go by the Pirates/Braves that day. Easton pitched a total of 19.2 innings for Pittsburgh, in what would be his last time in the majors. He returned to the minors for three more years before retiring from baseball. According to Baseball-Reference’s similarity scores, the most similar pitcher all-time to Easton is Mike Dunne who came over from the Cardinals in the Tony Pena trade and went 13-6, 3.03 as a rookie for the Pirates in 1987.