This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 20th, The Kent Tekulve Trade

One Pittsburgh Pirates trade of note, followed by three former players born on this date.

The Trade

On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded longtime reliever Kent Tekulve to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Al Holland and minor league pitcher Frankie Griffin. Tekulve was 38 years old at the time and had pitched just three games for the Pirates in 1985, allowing seven runs in 3.1 innings. He pitched well in 1984, posting a 2.66 ERA in 72 games. Holland was originally signed by the Pirates and pitched two games for the team during the 1977 season. He was 32 years old at the time of the trade and he pitched 68 games for the Phillies in 1984, compiling 29 saves and a 5-10 record in 98.1 innings. Griffin was a 25-year-old minor league reliever who had a 1.60 ERA in 38 games at Double-A.

Holland would end up pitching a total of 58.1 innings for the Pirates over 38 relief appearances. He went 1-3 with four saves and a 3.38 ERA. He would be traded to the California Angels in a six-player deal on August 2, 1985 that also sent George Hendrick and John Candelaria to California. Griffin never made it above Double-A in his only season with the Pirates, which was also the final year of his career. Tekulve would end up pitching four seasons for the Phillies, appearing in 291 games with a 3.01 ERA. He won 24 games, saved 25 and twice pitched over 100 innings in a season. In 1987 he led the National League with 90 games pitched.

The Players

Chris Duffy, outfielder for the 2005-07 Pirates. He was an eighth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2001 out of Arizona State. He was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 43rd round in 2000 out of South Mountain Community College, but transferred to Arizona State instead of signing. Duffy hit .317 in short-season ball that first year, then jumped to high-A ball for 2002, where he hit .301 with ten homers and 22 stolen bases. He spent the next two seasons at Altoona, scoring 84 runs in each season while stealing a total of 64 bases. During the 2004 season, he batted .309 in 113 games. Duffy made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 2005, but was quickly sent down to Triple-A after hitting .167 in his first seven games. He was hitting .308 with 55 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits and 17 steals through 77 games with Indianapolis when he was recalled in mid-July. Duffy had his average up to .341 with 22 runs scored through 39 games, when he got injured in late August. The next season he started off really slow, but the Pirates stuck with him through mid-May before sending him down with a .194 average in 31 games. He was briefly suspended by the team for not reporting to Triple-A, but he eventually did and hit great with Indianapolis (.349 average in 26 games), earning a recall on August 1st. Duffy finished the season strong and he was 26-of-27 in stolen base attempts with the Pirates. For the season, he had a .255 average in 84 games. He was the starting center fielder through the end of June in 2007, batting .249 with 13 steals in 70 games, before injuries and surgery ended his season. Duffy was released after playing just 30 games in the minors in 2008, including a stint in Double-A. He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009 and hit .125 in 19 games. He was demoted to Triple-A in late May, but he left the team after just three games for personal reasons. Duffy signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010 and hit .243 in 91 games. He batted .269 in 193 games for the Pirates, with 41 steals in 48 attempts. All but once inning that he played with the Pirates on defense was spent in center field.

Mike Mowrey, third baseman for the 1914 Pirates. Very recent research has updated his birthday to March 24th. He was covered in that day’s This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History article.

Steamer Flanagan, outfielder for the 1905 Pirates. The Pirates purchased the release of 24-year-old Flanagan from Springfield of the Connecticut State League on August 30, 1905 for $1,500. He was in his fifth season of pro ball at the time and he finished the year with a .335 average in 115 games. Flanagan was allowed to finish his season with Springfield before joining the Pirates. He joined the team on September 9th and was scheduled to play in a game three days later only to find out that his sale to the Pirates was deemed to be illegal according to baseball rules and the time and Flanagan was subject to the MLB draft (recognized as the Rule 5 draft now, but under different rules than the current Rule 5 draft), though the case was eventually settled. The Pirates had some open dates in their September schedule and they played some exhibition games on those off-days. This allowed Flanagan to make his debut with the team before his actual recognized debut, since these games didn’t count as official games. He ended up playing his first game with the Pirates in an exhibition game against a team from Sparta on September 13th. The next day he played against his Springfield teammates, manning center field and batting second. The Pirates took on Newark on September 18th and he collected two hits and a run scored. The Pirates played Youngstown on September 19th, and he collected two more hits in the game, while playing in left field. As a side note, the shortstop during three of these games was an unknown player named “Koch”, who turned out to be college star Dutch Meier, who didn’t want to ruin his college eligibility, so he played under an assumed name. Meier ended up signing with the Pirates for 1906.  The day before his Major League debut (9/25/1905) Flanagan started another exhibition game for the Pirates in right field and did well, collecting two hits and scoring two runs against Columbus of the American Association.

Flanagan was used as a pinch-hitter in his first big league game, batting for Deacon Phillippe and against Christy Mathewson, who retired him on a line drive. He sat the next few games as the Pirates had a slim chance to get back into the pennant race, but once they were eliminated with a week left in the season he began to start in center field. The newspapers were impressed with his play in the field and said he ran the bases awkward, but he was very quick. Flanagan hit .280 with seven runs scored in seven games (five as a starter) and he was flawless in the field in his 19 chances. That wasn’t enough to keep him around on a strong Pirates team for the next season. He ended up playing a total of ten seasons in the minors, never returning to the majors again. After the 1905 season, the Pirates went on a barnstorming tour for a week and Flanagan was part of that group. That was usually a good sign because players received all of the money from the tour and they usually wouldn’t split the gate with a new player who they didn’t expect to be around next year. The Pirates originally brought him along to help replace the injured Ginger Beaumont, who wasn’t assured to play in 1906, so it was expected that Flanagan could handle right field to start the season. However, Beaumont was deemed fit to go in January and Flanagan was released on January 3, 1906. Some of his minor league stats are incomplete, but it’s known that he played over 1,000 games during his 13-year pro career (1901-13) and he had over 1,110 hits. His real name was James, which is how he was referred to most of the time, though the Steamer nickname was used often.

Sam Nicholl, outfielder for the 1888 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He hit .331 in 92 games for Wheeling of the Ohio State League in 1887 during his first season of pro ball. He played for Wheeling again the next season as the team moved to the Tri-State League. His manager that season was Al Buckenberger, the Pirates manager from 1892-1894. The Alleghenys signed Nicholl and teammate Henry Yaik on September 26, 1888. They were able to do so without any added cost because Wheeling had disbanded. Nicholl made his debut on October 5th, while Yaik played each of the two previous days, then never played in the majors again. Nicholl would have debuted earlier, but he dislocated a finger while playing catch with Doggie Miller before a game on September 29th. The Alleghenys had five players out with injuries late in the season and only a 16-man roster, forcing Nicholl into full-time duty the last week of the season. He hit just .045 in eight games as the center fielder. During the following April he was still with Pittsburgh and they said they expected better things from him because he was slowed by his hand injury and had trouble batting during his 1888 trial. It never worked out though. He made the team out of Spring Training, but didn’t get into a game before being released on May 1st, just over a week into the season. That was five days after manager Horace Phillips said that no other man besides John Coleman (who was released on April 26th) would be released for at least two months. Nicholl returned to the minors, playing another ten seasons before he retired, with his only other Major League experience coming during the 1890 season when he played 14 games for the Columbus Solons of the American Association, who were managed by the aforementioned Al Buckenberger. He hit just .161 with nine singles, two walks, seven runs scored and four RBIs during his second big league trial. Nicholl ran off a streak of .300 hitting seasons after his big league career that surprisingly didn’t get him another chance. In 1894 with Kansas City of the Western League, he batted .376 with 65 extra-base hits and 140 runs scored. That followed two straight .300+ seasons and then he followed it up with a .338 average in 1895. Averages aren’t available for 1896, but his 1897 stats show a .328 average. While with Pittsburgh, he was referred to by the last name “Nichols” in the papers. Nicholl was among a group of old local players invited by the Pirates to the opening of Forbes Field in 1909.

Update: Sam Nicholl’s birthday was determined to be April 18th according to new research from myself and a fellow historian. His birth year also changed from 1869 (currently recognized) to 1865, which would have made him 23 years old when he played for the Alleghenys, not 19 years old. I left him in the April 20th article for now in case anyone searches for him based on his current listed birthday. There will be more on him later.