This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 21st, Manny Sanguillen

Two trades for the Pittsburgh Pirates and three former players born on this date. One of the players stands out in Pirates history.

The Players

Manny Sanguillen, catcher for the 1967, 1969-76 and 1978-80 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in October 1964  at 20 years old out of Panama. Sanguillen didn’t hit much his first season in the low minors, batting .235 with six homers in 99 games for Batavia of the New York-Penn League. He quickly turned things around in 1966 after making the jump to High-A. He had a .328 average in 115 games for Raleigh of the Carolina League, before getting promoted to Triple-A late in the year, skipping right over Double-A in the process. He repeated Triple-A to start 1967, hitting .258 through 71 games before getting his first chance in the majors in July. Sanguillen played 30 games for the Pirates that year, hitting .271 in 96 at-bats. He showed a strong arm behind the plate, going 8-for-14 throwing out runners. Despite those numbers, he spent the entire 1968 season in Triple-A, where he hit .316 with 60 RBIs in 105 games.

He became the everyday catcher for the Pirates in 1969 and hit .303 with 57 RBIs in 129 games. He had a little bit of trouble behind the plate, making a league leading 17 errors, but he still threw out 44% of attempted base stealers. Sanguillen followed that up with a .325 average over 128 games in 1970, helping the Pirates to the playoffs for the first time in ten seasons. He had 61 RBIs and 63 runs scored. He finished 11th in the NL MVP voting that year, one spot ahead of Roberto Clemente. His average ranked him third among National League hitters. The 1971 season would be a magical one for Sanguillen and the Pirates. He hit .319 with 81 RBIs in 138 games. He made his first All-Star appearance and finished eighth in the MVP race. The Pirates won their fourth world championship and Sanguillen had 11 hits in the World Series. His 2.2 WAR on defense was the highest of his career for a season, and he threw out exactly 50% of attempted base stealers.

The 1972 season saw him make his second All-Star appearance, thanks to his strong defense and .298 average with 71 RBIs. The Pirates again made the playoffs and he hit .313 in the NLCS. The Pirates suffered the tragedy of losing Clemente in the off-season and Sanguillen tried to take his spot in right field in 1973. It didn’t work out defensively and he was moved back behind the plate after two months. He would hit a career high 12 home runs that season, while driving in 65 runs. In 1974 he caught a career high 151 games, again helping the Pirates to the playoffs.He had a .287 average and set a career high with 77 runs scored.  Sanguillen made his third (and final) All-Star appearance in 1975, hitting a career high .328 that year. He received mild MVP support and he finished third in the league in batting average. He played just 114 games in 1976 and he led NL catchers in errors, but he still managed to put up a .290 average. The Pirates traded Sanguillen (and cash) on November 5, 1976 to the Oakland A’s in exchange for manager Chuck Tanner. He only played one season in Oakland before the Pirates acquired him back for three players just before Opening Day in 1978. He played in a career high 152 games with the A’s, though they gave him 57 starts as the DH, along with some outfield and first base work. He batted .275 with 58 RBIs.

With the return to Pittsburgh, his catching days were all but over. Sanguillen caught just 26 games over his final three seasons and spent more time at first base and in the pinch-hitting role. He saw decent time in 1978, hitting .264 in 85 games. His playing time dropped the next two seasons, playing a total of 103 games, with 133 plate appearances. The Pirates won the World Series again in 1979 and he had the game-winning pinch-hit in the ninth inning of game two to tie the series up one game apiece. On December 9, 1980 Sanguillen was traded to the Cleveland Indians, along with Bert Blyleven. He was released by the Indians two months later, having played 1,448 career games in 13 seasons. He had a .299 average with Pittsburgh in 1,296 games, scoring 524 runs and driving in 527 runners in 4,491 at-bats. He finished with exactly 1,500 career hits.

Shawon Dunston, shortstop for the 1997 Pirates. He was the first overall pick in the 1982 draft, getting selected by the Chicago Cubs at 19 years old out of Thomas Jefferson HS in Brooklyn, NY. Dunston was an instant success in the minors, hitting .321 with 32 steals in 53 games of rookie ball in 1982. He moved up to Low-A in 1983 and hit .310 with 58 stolen bases in 117 games. By age 21, he was splitting the 1984 season between Double-A and Triple-A, doing much better at the lower level. He hit .329 in 73 games at Double-A and .233 in 61 games with Iowa of the American Association. Despite the struggles at the upper level, he was in the majors on Opening Day in 1985, though he didn’t last the entire season. In 74 games with the Cubs, he put up a .698 OPS, which was better than the .651 OPS he had in 73 games at Iowa. Dunston spent the entire 1986 season in the majors and hit 37 doubles and 17 homers, which would stand as his career highs for a season when he retired 14 years later. Due to a low walk rate and a .250 average, he had just a .278 OBP. Dunston saw his offense slide over the next two seasons, though he made the All-Star team for the first time in 1988. After putting up a .626 OPS in 95 games in 1987, he had a .627 OPS in a career high 155 games in 1988. He also set a career best with 30 stolen bases. He got more recognition for his defense, specifically his strong arm, which was as good or better than anyone else in the infield at the time (and most other times).

Dunston had a steady performance over the next three years, showing a slight bump in his OPS each year, while averaging 142 games played. He was an All-Star again in 1990, though it wasn’t his best year during that three-year stretch. However, he tied his career high with 17 homers and he stole 25 bases. Dunston was putting together a solid career until the 1991-92 off-season hit. He injured his back prior to the 1992 season and was limited to 25 games over the 1992-93 seasons. He returned during the strike-shortened 1994 season and set a personal best with a .748 OPS in 88 games, only to top that in 1995 when he batted .296 with 30 doubles and 14 homers, giving him a .788 OPS. He signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent in 1996, staying there one year before rejoining the Cubs in 1997. Dunston ended up batting exactly .300 in each season (1996-97).

The 34-year-old Dunston was in his 13th season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him on August 31, 1997 from the Cubs. After play on the date, the Pirates had a 68-69 record, but they trailed the first place Houston Astros by just 2.5 games in the standings. Dunston was hitting .284 with nine homers, 41 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 114 games for the Cubs prior to the trade. For the Pirates he stepped right into the starting shortstop role and hit .394 with five homers and 16 RBIs, collecting at least one hit in 17 of the 18 games he played for Pittsburgh. Despite his hot hitting, the Pirates went just 11-14 the rest of the way, ending the season five games back in the standings. Dunston became a free agent at the end of the season, playing five more years in the majors before he retired as a player. He moved around a lot during the 1997-99 season, splitting each year between two teams. He played for the Cleveland Indians for 62 games in 1998, before finishing the season back with the Giants. In 1999, he played 62 games (apparently a magic number) with the St Louis Cardinals, before finishing the year with the New York Mets. Dunston was back with the Cardinals for all of 2000, then played his final two seasons with the Giants, his third stint with the team. He was a .269 hitter with 150 homers, 668 RBIs, 736 runs and 212 stolen bases in 1,814 games. He didn’t take many walks during his career, just 203 total in 18 years, and 44 of them were intentional. Dunston finished with exactly 1,000 strikeouts.

Bill Brandt, pitcher for the Pirates from 1941 until 1943. He signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1938 at 23 years old and pitched over 200 innings each season in the minors from 1938 until 1942, winning at least 13 games each year. Brandt debuted in pro ball with Hutchinson of the Western Association, going 13-13, 3.78 in 207 innings. He repeated the level (considered to be Class-C ball) and he went 13-12 in 216 innings. His ERA isn’t available for that year, but he allowed 12 fewer runs over the previous season in nine more innings. He moved up to Gadsden of the Southeastern League (Class-B) in 1940 and he went 17-11, 3.66 in 229 innings. He stayed at the same level in 1941, though he moved to Harrisburg of the Interstate League, where he went 15-8, 3.00 in 231 innings. In his final start that season, he won the league title for Harrisburg by throwing a three-hit shutout on September 16th. Brandt was a September call-up in both 1941 and 1942, pitching a total of five games, four as a starter, with 23.1 innings pitched. Pie Traynor was among the scouts sent to see him before the Pirates agreed to purchase his rights from Harrisburg. He made his debut on September 20, 1941 in relief against the Cincinnati Reds, retiring all six batters he faced. Six days later against the same Reds team, he started and allowed three runs over five innings in a loss. The Pirates moved him up to Toronto of the International League in 1942 and he responded with a big season, going 15-11, 3.08 in 216 innings. He got three starts between September 13th and 27th with the Pirates, throwing nine innings in the second game, while picking up the win in the finale. Two of his starts were in the second game of a doubleheader. In 1943, Brandt spent the entire season on the Pirates roster, pitching 29 games, three as a spot starter. He threw 57.1 innings and had a 4-1 record with a 3.14 ERA. Brandt then spent the next two years serving in the military during WWII, before returning to the minors in 1946. He was actually with the Pirates for the first 12 days of the 1946 season, before being released outright to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. After playing for two minor league teams in 1946, he would retire from baseball for two years before returning for one final season in 1949, playing his last season in independent ball at 34 years old. Brandt had a 3.57 ERA in 80.2 innings with the Pirates.

The Trades

On this date in 1982, the Pirates traded infielder Vance Law and pitcher Ernie Camacho to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitchers Ross Baumgarten and Butch Edge. The trade really only benefited the White Sox, as Baumgarten pitched just 12 games in Pittsburgh, going 0-5 with a 6.55 ERA. He was released during the next Spring Training. Prior to the trade he had been in the White Sox rotation for parts of four seasons. Edge was the sixth overall pick in the 1974 amateur draft. He had previously pitched in the majors with the 1979 Toronto Blue Jays, but that would end up being all of his Major League experience. With the Pirates, he spent two seasons in Triple-A before he retired. Camacho pitched seven games in 1981 for the Pirates, his second season playing in the majors. After the trade he played parts of eight more years in the big leagues, but for Chicago he spent just one season in the minors before being released. Law, the son of Pirates great Vernon Law, played three seasons in Chicago before they traded him to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Bob James. In 1982, Law hit .281, then he followed that up in 1983 with 17 homers and 59 RBIs in 151 games, helping the White Sox make the playoffs.

On this date in 1893, the Pirates acquired pitcher Frank Killen from the Washington Senators in exchange for catcher Duke Farrell and $1,500 cash. Killen would go on to post two 30-win seasons with the Pirates, finishing with a 112-82 record over 5 1/2 seasons. Despite the success in Pittsburgh, his two best seasons for ERA were his first two years as a pro in 1891 and 1892. Part of that comes from the fact that offense in baseball peaked from 1893-95 due to new rules that temporarily limited the effectiveness of pitchers while they adjusted. Killen had a 29-26, 3.31 record in 459.2 innings in 1892. After the deal, he went 36-14, 3.64 in 415 innings, leading the National League in wins. He missed parts of the 1894-95 season, then led the NL again with 30 wins in 1896. He ended up back in Washington after being released mid-season in 1898. Farrell was a major disappointment in his only season with the Pirates. They signed him after he led the American Association with 12 homers and 110 RBIs in 1891. The Pirates had Connie Mack behind the plate, so Farrell was signed as a third baseman, a position he played previous for part of one year. He hit just .215 in 152 games with Pittsburgh and managed a .590 OPS for the season. His defense also wasn’t up to prior standards either when he was one of the best defensive players in the game at any position. After the trade for Killen, he had a strong 1893 season, then was traded to the New York Giants for two players and cash. Farrell would end up playing 13 seasons in the majors after the trade.