This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 7th, Triple Play and a Hall of Fame Trade

We have two Pittsburgh Pirates trades on this date, three former players, and one very special game to cover from 1925, with something you don’t see everyday.

The Trades

On this date in 1941, the Pirates traded future Hall of Fame center fielder Lloyd Waner to the Boston Braves for pitcher Nick Strincevich. Waner had been with the Pirates since 1927, but he was coming off of his worst season in 1940, when he hit .259 in 72 games with just three RBIs. At age 35, he had played just three games with the Pirates in 1941. Strincevich was a 25-year-old rookie in 1940 for the Braves. He went 4-8, 5.53 in 32 games, 14 as a starter, throwing a total of 128.2 innings. He had pitched poorly in 1941 for Boston, allowing five runs in 3.1 innings over his three relief appearances.

The trade worked out well for the Pirates, although not right away. Waner never returned to his Hall of Fame form. He hit well for Boston, batting .412 in 19 games, but they quickly traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. By June of 1944, after being released by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Waner re-signed with the Pirates and was used off of the bench for the rest of 1944 and 1945. Strincevich didn’t pitch much for the Pirates between 1941-42 and he spent all of 1943 in the minors, but the Pirates were rewarded for sticking with him. He won a total of 40 games from 1944 until 1946, and pitched nearly 600 innings. He fell off in 1947 and was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies a month into the 1948 season. You can read more about him in our Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates feature.

On this date in 1962, the Pirates traded pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell to the New York Mets for first baseman Jim Marshall. Mizell was in his ninth season in the majors and third with the Pirates during the 1962 season. He was a hard-throwing lefty with a 90-86 career record, six times winning in double digits. At the time of the trade, the 31-year-old had a 1-1, 4.96 record in four games, three as a starter. Marshall was just shy of his 31st birthday at the time, playing well for the expansion Mets during their first season in existence. In his four previous seasons, he never hit above .252, and he topped out at 11 homers. He was hitting .344 with three homers in 17 games for New York at the time of the deal.

After the trade, Marshall really fell off at the plate, hitting .220 with two homers for the Pirates in 55 games. At the end of the season they released him and he never played in the majors again. Mizell was no better. He pitched 17 games for the Mets, a total of 38 innings, finishing with a record of 0-2 with a 7.34 ERA. New York would release him in early August, ending his big league career. A trade that seemed to be significant at the time turned out to be nothing for either team.

The Players

Keon Broxton, outfielder for the 2015 Pirates. Broxton was acquired by the Pirates as a minor leaguer in 2014 from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a cash deal. Arizona signed him as a third round draft pick in 2009 out of Santa Fe Community College. The year before he was selected in the 29th round oout of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies. Broxton debuted in pro ball in the Pioneer League, where he showed big power numbers, but also had huge strikeout numbers as well, leading to a low average/OBP. He moved up to Low-A in 2010 and had the same issues, hitting .228 with 172 strikeouts in 133 games, but he managed to collect 19 triples. Strikeouts were a major concern in 2011 at High-A (with a brief stop in Low-A) but he drew 69 walks and stole 33 bases. On the flip side though, his second straight 172-strikeout season was accompanied by a .248 average and 28 extra-base hits in 130 games. The power seemed to be a major issues because he was playing in the hitter-friendly California League. He repeated High-A for the entire 2012 season and hit .267 with 19 homers and 21 stolen bases. In 2013, he moved up to Double-A and hit .231 in 101 games, with just five steals and a .655 OPS. He played winter ball in Australia and put up nearly identical average/OPS numbers in 31 games. In 2014, Broxton joined the Pirates and went to Double-A Altoona. He hit .275 with 46 extra-base hits, 59 walks and 25 steals in 127 games. He batted .302 in a brief stint at Altoona in 2015, then played 88 games with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had a .776 OPS and 28 steals, earning a trip to the majors in September.

Broxton played just seven games with the Pirates, seeing brief time at all three outfielder spots, while going 0-for-2 at the plate. He was used as a pinch-runner six times and scored three runs. After the 2015 season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he split three seasons between Triple-A and the majors. In 2016 he put up a .784 OPS and 23 steals in 75 games for Milwaukee. Most of the 2017 season was spent in the majors, and he played full-time as well, hitting .220 with 20 homers and 21 steals in 143 games, though he also struck out 175 times in 463 plate appearances.  He hit just .179 in 53 games during the 2018 season. Broxton played for three different teams in 2019, seeing time with the New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. Between all three stops, he had a .167 average and a .517 OPS. He then re-signed with the Brewers as a free agent during the 2019-20 off-season and the Minnesota Twins for the 2021 season, but has not appeared in the majors since 2019. He’s a career .209 hitter in 376 games, with 39 homers and 60 steals.

Mark Smith, outfielder for the 1997-98 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1991, taken ninth overall out of USC. and made his Major League debut three seasons later. Smith began his pro career by playing 38 games in High-A during his draft season. He was in Double-A to start his first full season in pro ball, where he hit .288 with 32 doubles, 15 steals and 62 RBIs in 128 games. He moved up to Triple-A the next year and put up solid starts, hitting .280 with 40 extra-base hits in 129 games, but he didn’t get a shot at the majors. He repeated Triple-A for most of the strike-shortened 1994 season, hitting .247 with 27 doubles and 19 homers in 114 games. He had a brief stint with the Orioles in May, getting into his first three big league games. Most of the 1995 season was spent in Triple-A, though he played 37 games with the Orioles and hit .231 with three homers. Smith was injured for part of 1996 and played 73 games total between the majors and three levels of the minors, which included rehab stints at lower levels after taking a foul ball off of his left shin. The foul ball ended his big league time for the season.

Smith played a total of 67 games with the Orioles before they shipped him to the San Diego Padres in January of 1997. Just two months later, the Pirates acquired him, along with Hal Garrett, in exchange for Trey Beamon and Angelo Encarnacion. Smith began the season in the minors, getting called up in mid-June for good after getting a one-game shot in May. He would hit .285 with nine homers and 35 RBIs in 71 games for the Pirates. None of those homers would be more dramatic than the one he hit on July 12th against the Astros. He came to bat as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning with no score and two men on base. With two outs and an 0-1 count, Smith took a pitch from the Astros John Hudek and deposited it over the left field wall for a walk-off homer. Smith was batting for Ricardo Rincon, who just threw the Pirates 10th no-hit frame in the top of the inning. Francisco Cordova threw nine no-hit innings before he was pulled. The next season, Smith struggled at the plate, hitting just .195 with two homers in 59 games and the Pirates let him leave via free agency after the season. After leaving Pittsburgh, he spent 1999 in Japan. Smith played for the 2000 Florida Marlins, where he hit .245 with five homers in 104 games. He was with the Montreal Expos in 2001 for 80 games, hitting .242 with six homers. He played for the Marlins in Triple-A in 2002, then played his 33 big league games with the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers. Smith played in Triple-A for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004, before finishing his pro career in Korea in 2005. In eight big league seasons, he hit .243 with 32 homers and 130 RBIs in 414 games.

Dave Barbee, left fielder for the 1932 Pirates. He played briefly in the minors in 1925 after graduating from Oglethorpe University, a school that has produced nine Major League players, but none have appeared in the majors since the 1950 season. The next year, Barbee played 90 games for the Greensboro Patriots of the Piedmont League before joining the Philadelphia Athletics in late July. He hit .372 with 29 homers for Piedmont that year, but the success didn’t carry over into the majors. In 19 games for the Athletics, he hit .170 with one homer. That’s not a big surprise, as the Piedmont League was considered to be Class-C ball, which would be like making the jump from Low-A to the majors now. Barbee returned to the minors and surprisingly didn’t make it back until the Pirates came calling six years later, despite spending each year one step from the majors. He hit .262 with 14 homers for Reading of the International League in 1927, then moved to the Pacific Coast League in 1928. The full PCL stats aren’t available from that season, but they show that he had 32 doubles, 11 triples and 16 homers. In 1929, he played for Seattle of the PCL, where he hit .316 with 42 doubles, ten triples and 22 homers in 180 games.

Barbee hit 30 doubles and 41 homers in the PCL in 1930, yet that didn’t earn him a big league job, so he hit .332 with 47 homers the next year playing for Hollywood of the PCL. The Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft on September 30, 1931. For the 1932 Pirates, Barbee saw plenty of time in left field, playing alongside Lloyd and Paul Waner. He was the everyday left fielder from May 6th through July 24th, starting 66 of 71 games during that time. He had zero starts in the first 19 games of the season and he started just ten of the team’s final 64 games. Barbee hit .257 with five homers and 55 RBIs in 97 games. It was said that he didn’t show the bat to stick in the majors, but even if he hit 40 points higher, his defense was still subpar. Modern metrics give him a 0.6 WAR for the season, with 0.0 on defense. Pittsburgh sent him to Toronto of the Double-A International League on option on February 14, 1933. Then in September, after he played half of the season with Tulsa of the Class-A Texas League, they decided not to pick up that option, which made him a free agent. Barbee ended up playing the next three years in the minors, then after a seven year layoff from pro ball (he played/managed semi-pro ball instead), he played one more minor league season at Class-D ball in 1942.

The Play

On this date in 1925, the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the St Louis Cardinals in what turned out to be a slugfest at Forbes Field. The Pirates had a comfortable lead going into the eighth inning. St Louis turned that 9-4 Pittsburgh lead into a one-run deficit and they held the Pirates scoreless in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the ninth inning, the Cardinals looked to add on to the score and they were getting help from Pirates pitcher Vic Aldridge. St Louis shortstop Jimmy Cooney walked to open the inning. Aldridge then walked one of the greatest hitters ever, Rogers Hornsby. That brought up future Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley and he worked the count to 2-2. That’s when some Major League history happened.

Bottomley hit a line drive that looked like it was sure hit and the runners took off on the play. The Pirates shortstop that day was Glenn Wright and he made a magnificent leaping catch, then ran towards second base and touched the bag, then tagged out Hornsby as he reached the base. The crowd sat in a stunned silence, not knowing what had just happened because it transpired so quickly. That was until the players started running off the field, then Forbes Field erupted in cheer. It was just the sixth* unassisted triple play in baseball history (*After researching it, I believe the one by Paul Hines in 1878 to be legit, but some sources don’t count it).

The ironic part of that triple play was the fact the first runner, Jimmy Cooney, was the next big league player to turn an unassisted triple play, and he did it against the Pirates two seasons later. Unfortunately for the Pirates that day in 1925, they still lost 10-9 to the Cardinals, but the 1925 season ended well with their second World Series title.