This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 31st, Carson Bigbee and the DiMaggio Trade

One trade of note and four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

The Trade

On this date in 1945, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded veteran outfielder Vince DiMaggio to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Al Gerheauser. DiMaggio spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, where he hit .255 with 79 homers and 367 RBIs in 670 games. He was 32 years old at the time and coming off a 1944 season in which he hit .240 with 50 RBIs in 109 games. Gerheauser was a 27-year-old left-hander with two years of Major League experience. He had a record of 8-16 with a 4.58 ERA in 182.2 innings in 1944. The Pirates would get two seasons out of their new pitcher before trading him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in December of 1946. Gerheauser went 7-12, 3.93 in 67 games for the Pirates, 17 of those appearances coming as a starter. DiMaggio ended up hitting .257 with 19 homers and 84 RBIs for the Phillies in 1945, but by the middle of the 1946 season his big league career was done. He finished up with six seasons in the minors.

The Players

Carson Bigbee, left fielder for the Pirates from 1916 until 1926. He attended the University of Oregon where he played baseball and ran track, before making his pro debut in 1916 with Tacoma of the Northwestern League. After hitting .360 with 50 stolen bases in the first three months of the season, the Pirates purchased his contract for $5,000. He was called “the next Ty Cobb”, which was as high of a praise as you could get at the time. The Pirates were bidding against the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs at the time. Bigbee was purchased on July 27th, but the deal called for him to remain with Tacoma until the end of the Northwestern League season. He ended up joining the Pirates a little earlier, playing his first game on August 24th, just hours after he arrived in Pittsburgh. Bigbee would stick on the Pirates roster until the end of the 1926 season, which was also the end of his Major League career. He hit .250 that rookie season in 43 games, splitting his time between second base and left field. His first full year in the big leagues in 1917 saw him hit .239 with 21 RBIs in 133 games for a Pirates team that finished with a 51-103 record. From that season on, his average went up in each of the next five years to a high point of .350 in 1922. Bigbee saw 81 starts during the 1918 season, which was shortened a month due to the ongoing war. He batted .255 in 92 games, with 47 runs scored and a 42:10 BB/SO ratio. He was a full-time player for the first time in 1919, batting .276 in 125 games, with 31 steals and 61 runs scored. He saw just a slight improvement in the average/OBP in 1919, while stealing 31 bases again, but he hit with some power for the first time. Bigbee had a .391 slugging percentage, 63 points above his mark from the previous season.  He hit .280 with 78 runs scored and 15 triples. His 1921 season was even better, as he topped 200 hits for the first time, scored 100 runs, had 17 triples and a .323 batting average. He added another 36 points to his slugging percentage, while posting a .791 OPS.

In 1922, Bigbee had his biggest year. He hit .350 with 215 hits, a team leading 99 RBIs and he scored 113 runs. We posted a detailed recap of that season here in our Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons series. Just like his career slowly rose to one peak season, it declined each year down to a low point in 1926. Each year after 1922 he saw his batting average and his playing time decrease. He sill had a good season in 1923, hitting .299 with 54 RBIs and 78 runs scored, but by 1926 he was just a seldom-used bench player, hitting .221 and battling injuries. During the World Series winning season in 1925, he hit .238 in 66 games, with a career worst .572 OPS. He was used off of the bench four times in the World Series, including game seven when his eighth inning pinch-hit double tied the score 7-7 off of the great Walter Johnson. Bigbee would score the go ahead run three batters later.

After being released by the Pirates in August, 1926, he played two more seasons in the minors before retiring. He was part of the ABC Affair as it became known in the following days. The Pirates veterans had a lot of trouble with Fred Clarke being on the bench and acting as a second manager, sending mixed signals to the team. The team had a secret vote to oust Clarke, but once word got out that Bigbee, Babe Adams and Max Carey were the ringleaders, all three of them were let go immediately. Carey and Adams had been with the team even longer than Bigbee, so it was a major shakeup and extremely unpopular with the fanbase. Bigbee finished his Pirates career with a .287 average over 1,147 games. He stolen 182 bases, drove in 324 runs and scored 629 times.  Three times (1920-22) he led NL left fielders in assists and in 1921 he led them in fielding percentage as well. His older brother Lyle was a pitcher for the Philadelphia A’s in 1920 and the Pirates in 1921.

Tom Sheehan, pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He had a short minor league career, playing partial seasons in 1913 and 1915, before making his big league debut in July of 1915. He had a 4-9, 4.15 record in 102 innings as a 21-year-old rookie for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1915. He then went 1-16 for an A’s team that had a 36-117 record in 1916. Sheehan didn’t even have the worst record for that team. Fellow starter Jack Nabors, went 1-20 in 40 appearances, thirty as a starter. That team actually got 29 wins from just two pitchers, while the other 18 hurlers that took the mound that year combined for a 7-70 record. Sheehan didn’t pitch bad either, posting a 3.69 ERA in 188 innings. He returned to the minors, and except for 12 games and 33 innings with the 1921 New York Yankees, he spent the rest of the next seven seasons down on the farm. He served in the military in 1918, then went 17-3, 1.68 in 182 innings for Atlanta of the Southern Association in 1919. With Atlanta again in 1920, he had a 26-17 record and pitched 375 innings. After his stint with the Yankees, he joined St Paul of the American Association. During the 1922 season, he went 26-12, 3.01 in 332 innings. In 1923, he went 31-9, 2.90 in 335 innings for St Paul, earning another shot at the majors. Sheehan pitched all of 1924 for the Cincinnati Reds, going 9-11, 3.24 in 166.2 innings over 14 starts and 25 relief appearances. He returned to Cincinnati for the following season, but pitched poorly by posting an ERA of 8.03 in 29 innings over ten games. On May 30th, the Pirates traded for him, giving up first baseman Al Niehaus. Sheehan finished the year pitching 23 times in relief for the Pirates with a 2.67 ERA in 57.1 innings. The Pirates won their second World Series title that year, although he didn’t appear in the series against the Washington Senators. In 1926, he started off slow, and on June 5th the Pirates released him outright to Kansas City of the American Association. He would spend the next 8 1/2 years pitching in the minors before retiring as a player. His first full season back in the minors (1927) he went 26-13, 3.62 and threw 331 innings. At age 40 in 1934, he threw 234 innings for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. Sheehan later managed eight years in the minors and one season in the majors (1960 San Franscisco Giants). He also did coaching and scouting work over the years. He won 259 minor league games and another 17 in the majors. The Pirates had another Tom Sheehan in their history who was no relation. The original Tom Sheehan was a third baseman who played for the 1906-07 Pirates.

Chick Brandom, pitcher for the 1908-09 Pirates. He started in the minors as an 18-year-old in 1905, playing for the Muskogee Reds of the Missouri Valley League. Three years later he had pitched well enough to get a shot with the Pirates as a September call-up. He played for three different teams during the 1906-07 seasons, and one of those teams played in two different leagues during his time with the club. For Kansas City of the American Association in 1908, Brandom went 17-13, pitching 252 innings. His contract was purchased by Pittsburgh for a hefty price at the time ($5,000) on August 4, 1908. A week prior to his purchase, Brandom out-pitched Hall of Famer Rube Marquard in two games, which earned him the title as the best pitcher in the American Association. Brandom was allowed to finish the season with Kansas City before joining the Pirates, which he did on September 2nd, one day before his big league debut. In that first game, he allowed one run in a complete game victory over the Cincinnati Reds. It ended up being his only start that season for the Pirates. He pitched five innings of relief on September 7th, then threw another three innings on the 18th. Brandom allowed just one earned run in 17 innings pitched for the Pirates that season. In 1909, he pitched well when he got his chances, but he was far down on the depth chart of a very strong Pirates pitching staff. He had a 1.11 ERA in 40.2 innings, making two starts and 11 relief appearances. The Pirates went on to win their first World Series title, although he didn’t pitch in the series against the Detroit Tigers. It was later reported that the Pirates were in the middle of working out a deal to sell him to a minor league team in August of 1909, only to have manager Fred Clarke need him to start a game on August 7th, which he won 2-1 over Boston, throwing a complete game. Clarke reportedly wired owner Barney Dreyfuss and told him not to sell Brandom. He ended up pitching just three times in relief after that day. Brandom returned to Kansas City of the American Association on April 9, 1910, after failing to make the club out of Spring Training. He remained there for two seasons, going 20-15 in 337 innings, before struggling badly in 1911 with a 1-14 record. His ERA numbers for those years aren’t available, but he allowed nearly twice as many runs per nine innings during the latter season. He pitched sparingly during the 1912 season, appearing with Kansas City before an early season sale to a team from New Orleans of the Southern League. He pitched two seasons in the International League (Jersey City in 1913 and Buffalo in 1914) before finishing his career in the Federal League in 1915, which was considered to be a Major League at the time. He went 1-1, 3.40 in 16 appearances and 50.1 innings for Newark. He later managed one year in the minors. His ERA with the Pirates during his two season was 0.94 in 57.2 innings, and he had a 2-0 record. Brandom was a knuckleball and spitball pitcher, who was known as a top notch fielding pitcher. His first name was Chester.

Fred Kommers, outfielder for the 1913 Pirates. In his first year in the minors, Kommers appeared briefly with Little Rock of the Southern Association. That was a Class-A club, just two levels away from the majors at the time. By the next year, he was playing Class-D ball (lowest level at the time) in the Illinois-Missouri League, where he hit .349 in 114 games. He remained in that same league the next year, changing clubs from the Havana Pefectos to the Beardstown Infants. Kommers hit .319 in 118 games that next season, but he still couldn’t advance beyond the lowest levels. He was with Galesburg of the Central Association in 1910, before finally moving to a Class-B team from Springfield, IL for the 1911 season. He batted just .254 in 131 games that first year, then improved to a .287 average over 130 games in 1912. Kommers was in his third season with that team in 1913 and he was hitting .355 after 61 games when the Pirates traded for him. They originally sent cash and the loan of outfielder Everett Booe for the remainder of the season, but there was an issue getting Booe through waivers to be sent to the minors (he was claimed by St Paul of the American Association), so the Pirates substituted outfielder Maurice Farrell instead, a new recruit who never signed with or played for the Pirates. Kommers made his big league debut on June 25th in center field during a 9-1 loss in St Louis. He would play 40 games that season for the Pirates, all in center field, and he hit .232 with 22 RBIs and 14 runs scored. On August 11th, five days after his final game with the Pirates, he was released to Columbus of the American Association as partial payment for pitcher George McQuillan, who joined the Pirates a month earlier. When the Federal League became classified as a Major League in 1914, Kommers was one of several players to jump their contract with Columbus to join the new league. He spent 1914 playing for two different teams in the league. He hit .294 in 92 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. Kommers played two more years in the minors (1917 and 1921) before retiring as a player. He had to play independent ball in 1915 because no team was willing to sign him after jumping his contract the previous year. It was a problem that kept him from playing minor league ball during many of those missing years from 1915-1921.