This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 9th, Opening Day at PNC Park and the Pirates Trade a Hall of Fame Pitcher

One trade of note, a signing, a game of note, and one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date.

The Transactions

On this date in 1930, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes to the Boston Braves in exchange for veteran pitcher Percy Jones and cash. It was the second time that they had traded away Grimes. The Pirates reacquired Grimes in February of 1928 for pitcher Vic Aldridge and it worked out well. In 1928, he led the National League in wins (25) innings pitched (330.2) complete games (28) and shutouts with four. He went 17-7, 3.13 in 232.2 innings in 1929. Grimes was 36 years old at the time of the 1930 trade, while Jones was 30 years old. Jones had pitched eight season in the majors prior to 1930. In 1929 he went 7-15, 4.64 for the last place Braves. The year before, he had a 10-6, 4.03 record for the Chicago Cubs. Grimes was a holdout that season, as he demanded a two-year deal worth $20,000 per season, and the Pirates were unwilling to spend that much. They believed Jones could be a good pitcher on a better team and noted that the Cubs tried to change his pitching style to include mostly off-speed pitches and he was a better fastball pitcher, so they would encourage him to go with his strength.

This trade didn’t work out well for the Pirates except for the cash part of the deal I’d guess. It wasn’t announced how much they received, but it was said to be the second largest amount paid by the Braves behind the $100,000 they gave up in a trade a year earlier. Grimes wasn’t a star pitcher anymore, but Jones lasted just two months in Pittsburgh and never pitched in the majors again. In nine games, two as a starter, he went 0-1, 6.63 in 19 innings. Grimes lasted another five years, although he had just two good seasons left in him. He won 16 games in 1930, then 17 the next year, but was 12-23 the last three season combined. The last eight games of his career were spent with the Pirates in 1934. The Braves only got three wins from Grimes before they shipped him to the Cardinals for two pitchers in June of 1930.

On this date in 1992, the Pirates tried to help their bullpen for a third straight pennant run by signing veteran lefty Jerry Don Gleaton as a free agent. He was released a day earlier by the Kansas City Royals, who signed him as a free agent in January. The 34-year-old Gleaton was coming off of a season in which he posted a 4.06 ERA in 75.1 innings over 47 appearances with the Detroit Tigers. For the Pirates, they got what they should have expected, but still ended up released Gleaton at the end of July. He had a 4.24 career ERA in 11 seasons before joining the Pirates, then posted a 4.26 ERA in 31.2 innings over 23 appearances while in Pittsburgh. The Pirates also released pitcher Jeff Robinson on the same day as Gleaton and neither one of them pitched in the majors again.

The Player

Claude Passeau, pitcher for the Pirates on September 29, 1935. He pitched four seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut for the Pirates on the last day of the 1935 season. The 26-year-old Passeau pitched for Des Moines of the Western League that year, going 20-11 in 244 innings. The Pittsburgh paper at the time referred to him in the game recap and boxscore as Passo, saying he also goes by the name Passeau. The 6″3 righty lasted just three innings before he was chased from the game. He took the loss, allowing seven hits, four runs, two walks and he struck out one batter. Shortly after the season ended, the Pirates traded him, along with catcher Earl Grace, to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Al Todd. The deal would not work out well for the Pirates. Passeau had 162 wins in his career, including ten straight seasons with double digit win totals. He ranks sixth among pitchers in most wins after leaving the Pirates. The leader in that category is the aforementioned Burleigh Grimes.

Passeau was a solid pitcher from the start after the deal, though it didn’t show in his record because the Phillies average 99 losses per season during his three full seasons with the team, which was a little worse back then with 154-game schedules. He went 11-15, 3.48 in 217.1 innings in 1936. That was followed by a 14-18, 4.38 record in 1937, when he led the league with 34 starts and 292.1 innings pitched. Passeau went 11-18, 4.52 in 239 innings in 1938. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs early in the 1939 season and that turned things around for him. He went 2-4, 4.22 in eight starts before the deal, then finished the season by going 13-9, 3.05 the rest of the way. He finished as the league leader with 137 strikeouts.  In 1940, he 20-13, 2.50 in 280.2 innings, with 20 complete games. It was his only 20-win season, and up to that point, his best ERA. He received mild MVP support. Passeau went 14-14, 3.35 in 1941, and he made his first of three straight All-Star appearances. He had a strong season in 1942, going 19-14, 2.68 in 278.1 innings, with a career high of 24 complete games. He finished tenth in the MVP voting. He remained consistent over the next four seasons, while seeing a slight decline in his work as he got older.

In 1943, Passeau posted a 15-12, 2.91 in 257 innings. He went 15-9, 2.89 in 227 innings in 1944, then matched that inning total in 1945, when he had a 17-9, 2.46 record. He threw five shutouts that season, which led the National League. In 21 starts in 1946, the 37-year-old Passeau went 9-8, 3.13 in 129.1 innings. He made his fourth an final All-Star appearance that year. Slowed by a back injury, he didn’t make his first appearance in 1947 until late June, and he struggled throughout the remainder of the year. He went 2-6, 6.25 in six starts and 13 relief appearances. Passeau finished his pro career with two seasons in the minors as a player-manager. He had a 162-150, 3.32 big league record in 2,719.2 innings. He hit 15 homers during his career and he was known as an excellent fielder, once going four straight seasons without an error, handling 264 chances during that time.

More on Passeau later today.

The Game

On this date in 2001, the Pirates opened up PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds. They had spent the last thirty-one seasons playing their home games at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates opened the 2001 season by going 3-3 on the road before coming home for their season opener in Pittsburgh. On that Monday afternoon, 36,954 fans showed up to see the Pirates lose to the Cincinnati Reds by an 8-2 score. Chris Reitsma and three relievers shutdown the Pirates that day. Pittsburgh would win their first game at the new stadium two nights later, coming back from 3-0 and 5-3 deficits to win 6-5. The mood wasn’t all festive before the opening game. Earlier that day Willie Stargell passed away at age 61.

The Pirates lineup that day was:

Adrian Brown CF

Derek Bell RF

Jason Kendall C

Brian Giles LF

Aramis Ramirez 3B

Kevin Young 1B

Pat Meares 2B

Jack Wilson SS

Todd Ritchie P

Here’s the boxscore courtesy of Baseball-Reference.