This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 11th, Dock Ellis

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one transaction of note that tied into yesterday’s history.

The Transaction

One day after trading relief pitcher Neal Heaton to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Kirk Gibson, the 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent veteran pitcher Dennis Lamp. The 39-year-old Lamp had 15 seasons of MLB experience at the time, pitching the previous four seasons for the Boston Red Sox. He was still a strong bullpen option in 1989, when he posted a 2.32 ERA in 112.1 innings, but he saw a decline in his performance during the 1990-91 seasons before joining the Pirates. Lamp had a 4.68 ERA in 1990 in 105.2 innings, followed by a 4.70 ERA in 92 innings in 1991. He didn’t do well during his time in Pittsburgh, though the results were skewed a bit by his final outing. Lamp was released in early June after giving up five earned runs over 3.2 innings on June 6th. That gave him a 5.14 ERA over 28 innings and 21 appearances. He had a 4.07 ERA going into that final game, which ended up being his last big league game. He finished with a 96-96, 3.93 record in 163 starts and 476 relief appearances, throwing a total of 1,830.2 innings.

The Players

Dock Ellis, pitcher for the 1968-75 and 1979 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in January 1964 and sent him to Batavia of the New York-Penn league where he made 16 starts his first season, going 6-7, 3.20 and throwing 120 innings. He then moved to the Carolina League for 1965, going 14-8, 1.98 in 186 innings and earning a promotion to Triple-A for one start. Ellis pitched in Double-A in 1966 with a 10-9, 2.76 record in 24 starts and 160 innings. He struggled in his first extended stint at Triple-A in 1967, then moved to the bullpen for 1968 when he pitched 19 times with a 2.35 ERA before getting called up to the majors. Once Ellis got to the majors he was there for good, getting in 12 seasons before he retired after the 1979 season.

For the 1968 Pirates, Ellis made ten starts and 16 relief appearances. He went 6-5, 2.50 and got in 104.1 innings. He was moved to a full-time starting role in 1969 and would make just 12 more relief appearances over the rest of his career. The 1969 Pirates had an 88-74 record, but Ellis managed to post a record of just 11-17, despite a respectable 3.58 ERA. He turned that record around the next season, going 13-10 while lowering his ERA to 3.21 in 30 starts. He threw a career high four shutouts that season, including a special one mentioned below. In 1971 the Pirates won the World Series and Ellis helped get them there with his 19-9, 3.06 record and 11 complete games in 31 starts. He led the team in wins and was second in innings pitched to Steve Blass. In the postseason he won his only NLCS start but was hit hard in the opener of the World Series and didn’t pitch again. That year he started the All-Star game for the NL, his only All-Star appearance. He also finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.

Ellis had a strong 1972 season, going 15-7, 2.70 in 25 starts, then followed it with a 12-14 year in 1973, although his ERA was just 3.05 in 192 innings. He started off really slow in 1974, going 3-8, 4.54 through his first 15 starts. His last 11 starts saw him go 9-1 while cutting his ERA down to 3.16 by the end of the season. His year ended early when he got hit in the pitching hand by a line drive. He was not the same pitcher in 1975 and the Pirates traded him in a three-for-one deal to the New York Yankees that brought back Doc Medich. That trade turned out to be a disaster for the Pirates, as Medich ended up being the third best pitcher in the deal and the Pirates also gave up 21-year-old Willie Randolph, who put up a career that deserves a Hall of Fame look.

Ellis won 17 games with the Yankees in 1976, then moved on to the Oakland A’s mid-season in 1977, followed by 2 1/2 years with the Texas Rangers and a brief stint with the 1979 New York Mets, before returning to the Pirates in late September of 1979. Ellis struggled with the Mets, posting a 6.04 ERA 85 innings. He was acquired for the last ten days of the season to help the Pirates bullpen as they trailed by a half game in the standings to the Expos with 11 games left. Pittsburgh ended up winning the division by two games and went on to win the World Series. Ellis finished with a career 138-119 record in 345 games, 317 as a starter, while posting a 3.46 ERA in 2,128 innings. . He won 96 games in a Pirates uniform, the 19th highest total in team history and only John Candelaria has won more games for the Pirates since Ellis made his debut in 1968.

On June 12, 1970 Ellis became just the fourth pitcher in Pirates history to throw a complete game no-hitter when he performed that feat against the San Diego Padres in the first game of a doubleheader. He walked eight batters and hit another, facing 36 batters in the game. It’s a game made famous by his later claim that he did it while on LSD, though his teammates all denied the story, so it’s unlikely to be true.

Salomon Torres, pitcher for the 2002-07 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Francisco Giants in 1989 out of the Dominican Republic. He made his MLB debut four seasons later, getting eight late season starts for the Giants. He became a top ranked prospect after going 16-5, 1.41 in 28 starts in low-A ball as a 19-year-old in 1991. The 1993 seasons saw him go 14-8, 3.15 in 26 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A prior to making his big league debut in late August. Torres was in the minors each of the next four seasons, struggling in the big leagues when he got his chances. He had a 4.03 ERA in 44.2 innings in 1993. He got a longer look in the strike-shortened 1994 season, though he finished with a 2-8, 5.44 record in 84.1 innings. Torres was traded mid-season in 1995 to the Seattle Mariners. He saw his stats slip again, dropping down to a 3-9, 6.30 record in 80 innings over 14 starts and six relief appearances. While his ERA improved in 1996, his playing time at the big league level was limited. He posted a 4.59 ERA in 49 innings. Torres was placed on waivers in 1997 after giving up ten runs in 3.1 innings. He was picked up by the Montreal Expos, where he didn’t fare much better, posting a 7.25 ERA in 22.1 innings. He retired after 1997 to coach, before returning to organized ball in 2001, playing briefly in the Korea. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in December 2001 and sent him to Triple-A, where he posted an 8-5, 3.83 record in 162.1 innings. He was called up in September and pitched well in five starts, putting up a 2.70 ERA in 30 innings. He made 16 starts in 2003 and posted a 4.76 ERA in 121 innings, before being moved to the bullpen full-time.

From 2004 until 2006, Torres averaged 85 appearances a year and posted ERA’s of 2.64, 2.76 and 3.28, while throwing between 92 and 94.2 innings each season, while making a total of 256 appearances. He moved to the closer role in late 2006 and picked up 12 saves, but lost the job after pitching poorly through early June of 2007. He had a 5.47 ERA in 52.2 innings over 56 appearances during that 2007 season. That December he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for two minor league pitchers, Kevin Roberts and Marino Salas. Only Salas made the majors, and he lasted just 13 games in 2008 during his only big league season. Torres pitched one season for the Brewers before retiring, though it was an impressive season for a last year in the majors. He had a 3.49 ERA in 80 innings over 71 appearances, with 28 saves. In six seasons with the Pirates, he had a 26-28, 3.63 record in 358 games (21 starts) with 29 saves. His 94 appearances in 2006 tied Kent Tekulve (1979) for the most single season games pitched in franchise history. For his career, he went 44-58, 4.31 in 847.1 innings.

Ed Fernandes, catcher for the 1940 Pirates. Despite being just 22 years old when he made his Major League debut with the 1940 Pirates, he was already in his sixth season of pro ball. He had hit .300 in five of his first six seasons in the minors, including a .333 average in 55 games for Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1940, when the Pirates acquired him. Fernandes was the player to be named later in a trade made two weeks earlier, with the Pirates sending veteran pitcher Roy Harrell and cash the other way. Fernandes was the backup catcher the rest of the season, usually catching the end of blowout games. He had 40 plate appearances over 29 games, with 20 of those times up coming in the last two weeks of the season. He hit .121 for the Pirates, collecting seven walks. The Pirates sold him to the Chicago White Sox during Spring Training of 1941. After 1940, his big league career consisted of just 14 more games, all for the 1946 White Sox. With that type of gap, you might expect a long stint serving in the military during WWII, but Fernandes spent the 1941-44 seasons in the minors, playing for three different teams in three different leagues (International League, American Association and the Pacific Coast League). He was actually property of the Chicago Cubs in 1944, but the White Sox got him back in the minor league draft that November. Before he played a game for the White Sox, he entered the service and missed all of 1945. Fernandes returned to the White Sox during Spring Training in 1946 and served as a backup catcher through early July. His final game with the team was an exhibition game played on July 9th, but he remained with the club through the end of the year. His big league time officially ended on December 6, 1946 when he was sold to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. He played in the minors until 1954 and was a .285 career hitter in 1,190 minor league games. During his final two seasons of pro ball, he served as a player/manager.