This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 23rd, Ray Kremer and Elmer Smith

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including one of the team’s best pitchers ever.

Ray Kremer, pitcher for the 1924-33 Pirates. He spent his entire ten-year big league career with the Pirates, twice helping them to the World Series. Kremer had two 20-win seasons and twice led the league in ERA. In 1925 when they won their second World Series title, he had a 17-8 record and won two more games in the series, pitching a complete game in game six, followed by four innings of relief in game seven two days later.  Kremer didn’t get his start in the majors until he was already 29 years old. He was born in Oakland, California  and played seven straight seasons (1917-23) for his hometown Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. Before he joined Oakland, Kremer debuted in the Pacific Coast League with Sacramento at 19 years old in 1914. He had a bit of a rough time in his first season, though the PCL was an advanced placement for a pro debut. He went 2-8, 5.20 in 136.2 innings. The next year he dropped down to Class-B ball, playing for Vancouver of the Northwestern League. There he went 7-5, 3.14 in 109 innings. Kremer played for Rochester of the International League in 1916 after a failed tryout with the New York Giants in Spring Training. He posted a 5.20 ERA in limited work that season. That was followed by his seven-year run with Oakland. Kremer established himself as a star pitcher in the PCL by 1919, and he was also a workhorse on the mound. During his final five seasons in Oakland before making it to the majors, he averaged 325 innings per year. He had 20 wins and a 2.78 ERA in 1922, followed by 25 wins and a 3.08 ERA in 1923.

On December 12, 1923, the Pirates acquired Kremer from Oakland for three players and a large sum of cash. Pittsburgh sent Earl Kunz, Spencer Adams and George Boehler to the Oaks. Boehler was an interesting inclusion in the deal because the Pirates paid a heavy price to acquire him just one year earlier. Kremer was considered to be the best pitcher in the PCL at the time and he wasted no time showing the Pirates that he was ready for the majors. As a 29-year-old rookie in 1924, he went 18-10, 3.19 in 259.1 innings. He led the NL with 41 games pitched (30 were starts) and four shutouts. Along with his 17-8 record during the magical 1925 season, Kremer put up a 3.69 ERA in 214.1 innings. His best years were yet to come. The Pirates failed to win the NL title in 1926, but Kremer did all he could to get them back to the World Series. He led the league with 20 wins and a 2.61 ERA. He had just six losses all year, while pitching 231.1 innings over 37 appearances (26 starts). Those stats earned him a third place finish in the MVP voting. The Pirates won the NL pennant again in 1927 and Kremer had another big season. He won his second straight ERA crown with a 2.47 mark. He had a 19-8 record and he threw 226 innings. He finished ninth in the NL MVP voting.

Kremer saw a deep decline in his effectiveness, though that was partially due to offense improving during this stretch. He had a 4.64 ERA in 219 innings in 1928, though that was still good enough to compile a 15-13 record. He went 18-10, 4.26 in 1929, throwing 221.2 innings. Kremer won 20 games in 1930 and led the league with 276 innings pitched, but offense peaked in this season and he did all of that with a 5.02 ERA, which was five points above league average at the time. While the 11-15 record tells a different story, Kremer actually had a strong 1931 season. He posted a 3.33 ERA in 230 innings. That was the end of his effectiveness. He saw limited time in 1933, putting up a 4.29 ERA in 56.2 innings, missing time due to neuritis. He was a mop up pitcher in 1933, posting a 10.35 ERA in 20 innings, before the Pirates let him go in July, allowing him to get work wherever he wanted, rather than selling him to a minor league team. He would end up returning to Oakland, where he pitched through the 1934 season. Kremer finished his big league career with a 143-85 record and a 3.76 ERA in 307 games, 247 as a starter. His 143 wins ranks him tied for seventh all-time in Pirates franchise history with Rip Sewell. Kremer also ranks tenth on the team’s all-time list with 1,954.2 innings pitched.

Johnny Logan, third baseman/shortstop for the 1961-63 Pirates. He spent 11 years with the Braves prior to joining the Pirates during the 1961 season in a trade for outfielder Gino Cimoli. Logan was a four-time All-Star with a .270 average in 1,351 games for the Braves. While with the Pirates he was mostly used as a backup, playing 152 games over his 2 1/2 seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1962 he hit .300 in 44 games, but still received just 90 plate appearances. In 1963 he hit .232 in 81 games, then moved on to Japan for one unsuccessful season in 1964 before retiring as a player. He twice led the National League in games played, once led in doubles and six straight seasons from 1952-57 he received MVP votes.

Logan debuted in the majors with the Boston Braves in 1951, four years after they signed him as an amateur free agent. He took a surprising amount of time to spend a full season in the majors, doing that for the first time in 1953 at 27 years old. His first season in pro ball was at the Class-B level, equal to Low-A ball now. Logan’s debut was a major success, hitting .331 in 127 games, with 51 extra-base hits, 95 runs scored, 82 RBIs, 14 steals and 55 walks. He moved up to Triple-A Milwaukee of the American Association in 1948 and played parts/all of six straight seasons with the team. He debuted in the majors after batting .296 during the 1950 season. Logan was with the Braves on Opening Day, but a .219 average with no homers in 62 games earned him a trip back to the minors. He began 1952 back in Milwaukee, returning to Boston in June. He would go on to hit .283 in 117 games, with a .702 OPS. On defense, he led NL shortstops with a .972 fielding percentage. Now with the Opening Day shortstop job in 1953, he put in a full season at the big league level and rewarded the Braves for their patience. Logan hit .273 with 46 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs and 100 runs scored in 150 games. He led at NL shortstops in putouts and fielding percentage. The interesting part here is that even though he spent the entire season in the majors, he couldn’t get away from Milwaukee. The Braves moved there in 1953, so Logan actually played 15 straight seasons in the city by the time he moved on to the Pirates in 1961.

In 1954 and 1955, Logan started all 308 games at shortstop for the Braves. He put up a .712 OPS in 1954, leading shortstops in assists for the first time, and fielding percentage for a third straight time. It was a strong season, but his best was on the horizon. Logan became an All-Star for the first time in 1955 by hitting .297 with 95 runs scored and a league leading 37 doubles. His .802 OPS that year would end up being the best of his 13-year career. He followed that up by batting .281 with a career best 15 homers in 1956, while leading the league with 31 sacrifice hits. Logan wasn’t selected for the All-Star game that year, but he made it each of the next three years, even though he saw a significant drop-off in his production in 1958. The Braves won the World Series in 1957 and Logan homered in game two, helping Milwaukee to a 4-2 win. During the regular season, he put up a .720 OPS in 129 games. The 1958 season was a rough one, though Milwaukee made it back to the World Series. Logan saw his batting average dip to .226 in 145 games, leaving him with a .620 OPS. He rebounded in 1959, hitting .291 with 13 homers. His .780 OPS was the second best of his career, but it was a one-year return to previous standards. He had a .643 OPS in 136 games in 1960, and he was hitting just .105 through 18 games when the Pirates acquired him on June 15, 1961. He played just 27 games over the rest of the season with the Pirates, splitting his limited time in the field between third base and shortstop. During the 1962 season, he only saw time at third base, then shifted back to shortstop for his final year. Logan was a .268 hitter in 1,503 career games. He hit 93 homers, drove in 547 runs and scored 651 runs. He had a career 14.0 WAR on defense, which ranks as the 137th best total in big league history. With the Pirates, he hit .249 with one homer, which was a grand slam on July 16, 1962, with the Pirates trailing 2-1 at the time.

Cy Slapnicka, pitcher for the 1918 Pirates. He pitched 15 seasons in the minors, winning at least 146 games, yet got just two brief trials in the majors. In 1911, after going 26-7 for the Rockford Wolverines of the Wisconsin-Illinois League, he got two late season starts and a relief appearance for the Chicago Cubs. It was then another seven seasons before the Pirates came calling in 1918. He made six mid-season starts and one relief appearance, finishing with a 1-4, 4.74 record in 49.1 innings. He had 22 walks and just three strikeouts. That was the end of his Major League career. Slapnicka pitched two more seasons in the minors before taking over various front office/scouting roles throughout the years, which he did until retiring for good in 1961. His main claim to fame is signing Bob Feller for the Cleveland Indians. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old and his pro career lasted from 1906 until 1923, playing that final season as a player/manager after a two-year layoff from the pro ranks. His career totals are incomplete, with stats missing from the 1906-07 seasons, his first two years in pro ball. At one point he had 167 wins to his credit in the minors, which were likely originally part of the 1906-07 stats, so that’s why it says “at least 146” wins up top. Slapnicka has something in common with the aforementioned Johnny Logan. He also played six straight seasons (1912-17) for Milwaukee of the American Association. Slapnicka won 25 games during the 1913 season, while pitching 321 innings. The Pirates received his services in 1918 because the league he was playing in (the Southern Association) was shutting down early that year due to WWI. On June 17th, the Pirates purchased Slapnicka, along with pitcher Ralph Comstock and outfielder (and Hall of Fame manager) Billy Southworth from Birmingham. Slapnicka and his teammates joined the Pirates on July 1st  and he debuted on July 2nd. He played his final game on August 8th, giving up eight runs in a complete game loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the second game of a doubleheader. When the big league season ended on September 2nd (early finish due to the war), he got a job at a local war plant, which had a semi-pro team that he played for as well. On January 31, 1919, the Pirates released Slapnicka (and Ralph Comstock) outright back to Birmingham, ending his time with the team.

Danny Moeller, outfielder for the 1907-08 Pirates. He had a rough debut in pro ball in 1905, batting just .229 in 57 games for a Class-D team in Burlington, Iowa. Moeller got on track quickly, batting .340 for Troy of the New York State League in 1906. After hitting .333 in 77 games for Troy in 1907, the Pirates brought the 22-year-old outfielder to the majors for the first time, giving him an 11-game trial at the end of the year.  The local papers on September 22nd noted that Moeller, who debuted two days later, was heavily sought after by the Boston Red Sox, but the Pirates ended up securing him instead. They also mentioned that he wasn’t playing recently due to injury, but he was ready to go once he got to Pittsburgh. In his first game, he batted lead-off and faced the all-time great Christy Mathewson. He collected an infield single in his third at-bat, finishing the day 1-for-4. He hit .286 in 42 at-bats and earned a spot on the 1908 team. Moeller had great speed, but he also struck out a lot, especially during a time when the 100-strikeout mark in a season was an almost unheard of feat. With the Pirates in 1908, he had trouble putting the bat on the ball and could not properly utilize his speed. He hit just .193 in 36 games that year. He had just 19 at-bats in the final 118 games of the season, last seeing regular work on June 3rd. Moeller went to Spring Training with the 1909 Pirates and was still around for nine days after Opening Day, before being released to Jersey City of the Eastern League. He would spend the next three seasons in the minors before returning to the big leagues in 1912 with the Washington Senators. Moeller scored at least 83 runs in each of his first three seasons in Washington and he stole a total of 118 bases, though he twice led the AL in strikeouts, topping the 100 mark both times. He remained with the Senators through mid-August of 1916, when he was part of a four-player trade with the Cleveland Indians, which included a young outfielder named Elmer Smith (remember that name). Moeller’s big league career came to an end when he hit .067 in 25 games for the Indians. He remained in the minors until retiring after the 1921 season. Moeller hit .243 in 704 Major League games with 192 RBIs, 379 runs scored, and 171 stolen bases.

Elmer “Mike” Smith, outfielder for the 1892-97 Pirates. He began his Major League career as an 18-year-old pitcher in 1886, the same year that he debuted in pro ball. Playing for the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association, he went 4-4, 3.72 in nine September starts, while putting up a .286 batting average. Smith was a popular player throughout his career in Pittsburgh because he was born and lived in town (technically he’s still there, in his eternal resting place at Union Dale Cemetery). The Alleghenys missed out on signing him, but that didn’t directly hurt them at the time because he was playing in a different league for his first three full season in the majors. At 16 years old in 1884, Smith was pitching for a local amateur team in Pittsburgh and he was recommended to the owner and manager of the Alleghenys, who passed on giving him a trial because they thought he wasn’t good enough to pitch in the majors at the time. It was something that was brought up by the team as a deep regret when they finally signed him to play in 1892. Smith could have provided those 1887 Alleghenys some help in the pitching department during their first year in the National League. He went 34-17, 2.94 in 447.1 innings, leading the AA in ERA. He was even more effective the next year, posting a 2.74 ERA in 348.1 innings, while winning 22 games. He couldn’t keep up that early pace and his pitching career was nearly over by age 21, after going 9-12, 4.88 in 203 innings in 1889. He returned to the minors for the 1890-91 seasons, where he began to play outfield. Smith did a solid job at the plate during his time in Cincinnati, including a .277 average in 1889. He was a much better hitter after concentrating on the outfield in the minors. Smith’s arm was said to be gone at the time, but he was quoted as saying that he didn’t pitch in the minors because a minor league manager would work him to death if they knew he could still pitch. There were some thoughts going into 1892 that he could still pitch effectively.

The Pirates signed him for the 1892 season on December 29, 1891, despite the fact that Kansas City of the Western Association claimed to own his rights. National League President Nick Young ruled in mid-January that his contract with Pittsburgh was legal. While he occasionally pitched with success in 1892, Smith became a star outfielder for the team by the 1893 season. He batted .274 in 138 games in 1892, with 63 RBIs, 82 walks and 86 runs scored. In 1893, he batted .346, setting a career high with 107 RBIs and 23 triples (fifth highest total in franchise history), while adding 121 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. The 1894 was a huge year for offense in baseball and Smith got better along with the rest of the league. He hit .357 and set a career high with a .979 OPS, which is tied for the 19th best single-season OPS mark in franchise history. He had 58 extra-base hits, 34 steals, 68 walks (with just 12 strikeouts), while scoring 128 runs (11th highest season total in franchise history) in 126 games. Offense began to drop in 1895, but Smith dropped quickly than most. He still hit .302 that season and scored 89 runs in 125 games, but he finished with a .768 OPS. That season was followed up by a great 1896 campaign, which saw him hit .362 with 74 walks, 94 RBIs and 121 runs scored in 122 games. He topped 30 steals for the third straight season. That batting average is the tenth best single season mark in team history (his .357 average in 1894 ranks 13th). His .454 OBP ranks tied for fourth best in a single season for the Pirates. His two 121-run seasons rank at the 18th highest season total in team history. Smith had another solid year in 1897, batting ..310 with 70 walks and 99 runs scored in 123 games.

After the 1897 season, the Pirates made an unpopular trade, giving up Smith and pitcher Pink Hawley (along with cash) for five players. The trade didn’t go well short-term (1898-99), but neither Smith nor Hawley were effective for long in Cincinnati and the Pirates got a little value from their return. Smith hit .342, with an .858 OPS, in 123 games during the 1898 season. He batted .294 in 88 games in 1899, then split the 1900 season between the Reds and New York Giants, putting up a .706 OPS in 114 games. He rejoined the Pirates briefly as a free agent in 1901, going 0-for-4 with two walks in four games. He finished the season and his big league career with the Boston Beaneaters, hitting .175 in 16 games. He played another five seasons in the minors before his pro career came to an end. Smith hit .323, .329 and .313 in his final three seasons. He retired with a .310 lifetime average, 913 runs scored and 223 steals in 1,231 games, while also picking up 75 wins as a pitcher. His .398 career OBP ranks 67th best in baseball history.  His .325 average with the Pirates is the sixth best in team history, and his .415 OBP is tied with Arky Vaughan as the third best in franchise history. His .881 OPS in the 11th best in Pirates history. He also ranks 12th with 99 triples and 14th with 174 steals. He has the nickname “Mike” now (it’s his main name on his Baseball-Reference page), but it is a name that has only a handful of references over the years (almost all in 1901), and 99.9% of his mentions called him Elmer.

Farmer Weaver, catcher/shortstop for the 1894 Pirates. He had spent seven seasons with the Louisville Colonels prior to joining the Pirates at the end of the 1894 season. He was mainly used as an outfielder during his career, occasionally catching, but prior to joining Pittsburgh he had played just two games at shortstop. He hit well in his 30 games for the Pirates, playing 14 games as a catcher and 12 as a shortstop, while batting .348 with 24 RBIs. He got the starting shortstop job for a brief time when starter Jack Glasscock was injured, and his replacement, 21-year-old Gene DeMontreville, failed to impress in a two-game trial. Despite those hitting numbers with the Pirates, he was released during the next spring, which ended his Major League career. Weaver debuted in the majors at 23 years old in mid-September of 1888 after three seasons in the minors. He batted .250 for Louisville in 26 games during his first trial. That was enough to earn a full-time spot and he responded with a .291 average and 60 RBIs in 124 games in 1889. He was even better in 1890, though the American Association was watered down that year due to the emergence of the Player’s League. Weaver hit .289 with 101 runs scored, 67 RBIs and 45 stolen bases. After the Player’s League ended, the American Association wasn’t far behind. That league ended in 1891, when Weaver hit .282 with 30 steals and 74 runs scored in 133 games. Louisville moved to the National League for 1892 and Weaver batted .254 in 138 games. His .611 OPS was the lowest full-season mark during his career. Offense around baseball saw an uptick during the 1893-95 seasons due to new rules that pitchers took some time to adjust to, leading to big numbers at the plate. Weaver batted .292 in 106 games, and his .724 OPS was a career best. The 1894 season was the best for offense, but he had big issues that year, which ended his time in Louisville. Weaver had a .544 OPS in 64 games prior to joining the Pirates. He was released by the Colonels in August and debuted with the Pirates on August 23rd, collecting three hits in his first game.

Weaver played in the minors until 1910, when he was 45 years old. He hit .341 with Milwaukee of the Western League in 1895, followed by a .342 average for Milwaukee in 1896. At 39 years old, Weaver batted .334 while playing for Boise of the Pacific National League. He was a .278 hitter in 751 big league games, with nine homers, 342 RBIs, 421 runs scored and 162 stolen bases. His first name was William.