One major trade and four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
On this date in 1979 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Jerry Reuss to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Rick Rhoden. Reuss was a 29-year-old starting pitcher with ten season in the majors, five with the Pirates, at the time of the trade. He had won 48 games between the 1974-76 season, but his last two years with Pittsburgh weren’t up to previous standards. He went 10-13 in 1977, and then pitched only 82.2 innings in 1978. He had shoulder problems in 1978 and was unhappy about his role for 1979, so he asked for a trade. Rhoden was a 25-year-old, with a 42-24, 3.40 record in 118 games (91 as a starter) over three full and two partial seasons in Los Angeles.
Rhoden got off to a slow start with the Pirates, needing shoulder surgery in 1979 after just one outing. He finally came back healthy for an entire season in 1981 and won 72 games over his six full seasons in Pittsburgh. After the 1986 season, the Pirates traded Rhoden to the New York Yankees in a six-player deal that brought a young Doug Drabek back to Pittsburgh. The trade worked out just as well for the Dodgers, as they got 86 wins and 1,407 innings pitched out of Reuss over nine seasons. He made five starts during the 1981 playoffs, the last one being a complete game win over the Yankees in game five of the World Series.
Bobby Del Greco, outfielder for the Pirates in 1952 and 1956. He was a Pittsburgh, Pa. native, who signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1950 as a 17-year-old. He had a quiet debut season playing for Salisbury of the North Carolina State League, where he batted .251 in 64 games. The next season he hit .302 with 37 doubles in 123 games playing Class C ball for the Hutchinson Elks of the Western Association. The Pirates brought him right up to the majors to start the 1952 season, playing him 90 times in center field that year. He hit .217 with 20 RBIs, 38 walks and 34 runs scored in 385 plate appearances for a team that finished with a 42-112 record. Del Greco spent six weeks of the season (August/September) playing for Toronto of the International League, before returning to the Pirates for the last two weeks of the season. He spent the next three seasons in the minors before making the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1956. In 1953, he played the entire year for Toronto and hit .237 in 129 games, though his 74 walks gave him a .372 OBP. The 1954 season was spent with three different affiliates of the Pirates. He struggled with the two upper level teams (New Orleans and Hollywood) but he did well for Williamsport of the Eastern League, putting up a .308 average in limited time. Del Greco spent the entire 1955 season with Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .287 in 159 games, with 43 extra-base hits, 21 stolen bases, 70 walks, 73 RBIs and 86 runs scored, leading to his return to the Pirates in 1956. He played just 14 games during that return to Pittsburgh prior to being traded to the St Louis Cardinals in mid-May, along with pitcher Dick Littlefield, in exchange for young center fielder Bill Virdon. Del Greco was a regular for the Cardinals during that 1956 season, but during the next three years, he played a total of 40 Major League games. He hit .215 in 102 games for the Cardinals, who traded him to the Chicago Cubs in April of 1957. Del Greco split the 1957 season between the Cubs and New York Yankees, hitting .234 in 28 games. The Yankees used him sparingly off the bench in April/May of 1958, giving him six plate appearances in 12 games. After spending all of 1959 in the minors, he was a regular with the Kansas City A’s and Philadelphia Phillies from 1960-63, playing at least 100 games each season. He never hit for a high average, but due to a strong walk rate and a little power, he managed to put up a .772 OPS during the 1960 season with the Phillies and the 1962 season with the A’s. After spending all of 1964 in the minors, Del Greco got into another eight games with the 1965 Phillies, his last season in the majors. His pro career ended the next year when he split the 1966 season between two Pacific Coast League teams. In nine big league seasons, Del Greco played 731 games, hitting .229 with 271 runs scored, 42 homers, 169 RBIs and 271 walks. He played over 2,000 games during his 17 seasons of pro ball.
Jack Ferry, pitcher for the 1910-13 Pirates. He was the first graduate of Seton Hall University to play in the Major Leagues since John Hayes in 1876. Ferry debuted in pro ball in 1909, seeing limited time with the Jersey City Skeeters of the Eastern League. He was purchased by the Pirates in August 1910 from Jersey City, where he had an 8-11 record in 203 innings. Owner Barney Dreyfuss went to see Ferry pitch on the recommendation of scout Bill Murray, then completed to deal to sign him on August 15th. Ferry was supposed to finish the season with Jersey City, but the Pirates sent for him on August 31st. He made three starts and three relief appearances in 1910 for the Pirates, posting a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings. The 1911 season was his best in the majors. Ferry went 6-4, 3.15 in eight starts and 18 relief appearances, pitching a total of 85.2 innings. He pitched just 11 games in 1912 and had control problems with 23 walks, compared to just ten strikeouts, although his record didn’t show that as he went 2-0, 3.00 in 39 innings. Ferry allowed four runs while recording just one out in his season debut on May 4th, then pitched a total of five innings over the next 3 1/2 months. When he finally got a chance to pitch somewhat regularly at the end of the season, he responded with a 2.18 ERA in 33 innings. That included a complete game shutout of the Cincinnati Reds on August 31st. Ferry was used only four times in relief early in 1913 before he was sent to the minors, and he never returned to the big leagues. He ended up winning 14 games and throwing 224.2 innings for Columbus of the American Association in 1913, despite not joining the team until being released to them on June 14th. At the time of his departure, the local papers quoted multiple sources who said that Ferry had the greatest curveball in the game at the time, but his problem was stamina related and he wasn’t strong enough to pitch deep into games regularly. There was also word that the Pirates would get a player back from Columbus for Ferry, which eventually turned out to be veteran pitcher George McQuillan. In the end, the Pirates also had to give up pitcher Eddie Eayrs and outfielder Fred Kommers to get McQuillan. Ferry also spent the 1914-15 seasons in Columbus, before he finished his playing career in 1916 with the Shreveport Gassers of the Texas League. He went 10-6, 3.02 record in 160.2 innings over 47 games (14 starts) for the Pirates. His brother Cy Ferry, pitched two seasons (1904-05) in the majors.
Art Weaver, catcher for the 1903 Pirates. Weaver began his pro career in 1901, splitting the season between Omaha of the Western League and Cedar Rapids of the Three-I League, where he played 108 games and had a .228 average. He remained in Cedar Rapids in 1902 and hit .278 in 118 games. He made his Major League debut for the St Louis Cardinals that September, hitting .182 in his 11 late season games. He was purchased by Pittsburgh from the St Louis Cardinals in June of 1903 after hitting .245 over 16 games as their backup catcher. He would play 11 games behind the plate for the Pirates and five games at first base. The Pirates acquired him on June 3, 1903 to help replace injured catcher Harry Smith. Weaver joined the club on June 4th, but he didn’t play his first game until June 26th when he took over for starter Ed Phelps late in a one-sided loss. When Phelps was injured on a slide late in the first game of a doubleheader on July 4th, Weaver took over for the rest of the day. Just two days later, he was starting at first base for five games in a row when the Pirates were down to eight healthy position players for a short time. He was with the team until the end of the season, but did not participate in the World Series. The Pirates actually let him go home for the winter on September 26th at his own request after the final regular season game. He played just two games after August 10th, catching the second game of doubleheaders on September 19th and September 21st, with both games being limited to six innings, both called early on account of darkness. Weaver hit .229 in 16 games for the Pirates, with three RBIs and eight runs scored. He was released by the Pirates on February 20, 1904, and it was said at the time that he would play with the Chicago Cubs, who only had one catcher on their payroll at the time. He ended up spending the season in the minors playing for Minneapolis of the American Association. Weaver’s only other big league experience was 28 games for the 1905 St Louis Browns and 15 games for the 1908 Chicago White Sox. He had a rough time in St Louis at the plate, batting .120 with a .292 OPS. He did just slightly better with the White Sox, batting .200 in 35 at-bats. He played a total of 11 seasons in the minors, finishing his pro career in 1914. He is currently listed as being 6’1″, but there were claims at the time (circa 1903) that he was over 6’2″ and the tallest player in baseball. Despite the height, he was listed at 160 pounds. That slim frame showed in his power, with just three homers (all in the minors) credited to him in over 1,000 pro games.
John Ganzel, first baseman for the 1898 Pirates. Two seasons after making his pro debut in the minors in 1896, he made his Major League debut with the 1898 Pirates. His stay with the team wasn’t long, because a month into the schedule he was sold to the Detroit Tigers of the Western League. For Pittsburgh, Ganzel hit .133 in 45 at-bats, although he struck out just one time in 50 plate appearances. He had six singles, four walks and five runs scored. When he was released to Detroit on May 27th, the local papers noted that he was hampered by a Spring Training injury, but he could return to the Pirates in 1899. On September 25th, it was noted that he was rejoining the team with 12 games left. It was noted a week later that Detroit paid $600 to acquire him, with the understanding that the Pirates could buy him back for $400 at the end of the season, which they did, though he never played for them at the end of the year. The Pirates acquired Jimmy Slagle and Jimmy Williams from Kansas City of the Western League at the end of the 1898 season and they agreed to send three players back to Kansas City. Ganzel was eventually named as one of those three players, along with pitcher Charlie Hastings and young infielder Jesse Hoffmeister. Ganzel made it back to the majors in 1900 with the Chicago Orphans (Cubs), then played for the 1901 New York Giants, 1903-04 New York Highlanders (Yankees) and 1907-08 Cincinnati Reds. Ganzel batted .275 in 78 games during the 1900 season. The Cubs sent him to the Giants in a three-for-one deal in January of 1901. He hit .215 with 66 RBIs in 138 games in his only season with the Giants. After batting .366 in 124 games with Louisville of the American Association in 1902, he ended up back in New York in the rival American League. Ganzel had his best season in the majors in 1903, batting .277 with 71 RBIs and 62 runs scored in 129 games. He batted .260 in 130 games in 1904, with a .686 OPS. The next two years he was a player-manager for Grand Rapids of the Central League. He batted .254 with 64 RBIs and 61 runs scored in 145 games for the Reds in 1907. He led the National League with 16 triples. Ganzel managed the Reds in 1908 and also played 112 games, hitting .250 with 53 RBIs. His only other big league managerial job was with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League in 1915 when he took over at the end of the year and led them to a 17-18 record during his tenure at the helm. Ganzel also spent another 14 seasons managing in the minors. He played his last minor league game at age 44 in 1918, and 21 years later he managed his last game. He had a brother Charlie, who played 14 seasons in the majors and a nephew named Babe Ganzel, who played two years (1927-28) for the Washington Senators