This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 10th, Russ Bauers, Pirates Acquire Oberkfell

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one trade of note.

The Players

Tony Alvarez, outfielder for the 2002 and 2004 Pirates. The Pirates signed Tony as a 16-year-old and he spent his first two seasons of pro ball playing in the foreign summer leagues. He came to the states in 1999 and had a decent season in the pitcher-friendly Gulf Coast League, posting a .688 OPS in 50 games, but he really broke out the following year. Playing for Williamsport of the NY-Penn League in 2000, he hit .321 with a .510 slugging percentage and 38 steals in 58 games. He moved to full-season ball the next year at Hickory and hit .285 with 25 doubles, 15 homers and 52 steals in 118 games. The Pirates moved him quickly through high-A ball the next year after a .344 start in the first 25 games, sending him to Double-A to finish the season. In 67 games at Altoona he batted .319 with 17 stolen bases and an .820 OPS. Alvarez spent the 2002 season at Altoona, hitting .318 with 15 homers and 29 steals, earning a September call-up to the majors. He impressed the Pirates, hitting .308 in 14 games, but an early season suspension in 2003, followed by an injury, kept him in Triple-A during the entire season. That season with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, he hit .298 with 27 doubles, nine homers and 22 steals. In 2004, he began the year in Triple-A, then came up to Pittsburgh in late June for a month, before returning to the minors. He finished the Triple-A season with a .290 average, 14 homers and 19 steals in 99 games. He then returned to Pittsburgh in September when the rosters expanded. He ended up hitting .211 in 24 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. The Pirates released him in December of 2004 and he played two more seasons in the minors, first with the 2005 Chicago White Sox, then in 2006 with the Baltimore Orioles. His 2005 season was limited to five games due to an early season elbow injury. Alvarez spent part of the 2006 season back in Double-A. He played in China in 2007 and he was active in winter ball in Venezuela through the 2012-13 off-season.

Pete Schourek, pitcher for the 1999 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the New York Mets out of high school in 1987. He had a 3.68 ERA in 78.1 innings in the Appalachian League in 1987, but he needed Tommy John surgery afterwards, which cost him the entire 1988 season. He returned in 1989 and pitched mostly in Low-A Columbia, where he had a 2.85 ERA in 136 innings. The 1990 season saw him start in High-A and end in Triple-A. He went a combined 16-5, 2.57 in 175.1 innings. Schourek started the 1991 season in the majors, spending all but four starts at the big league level that year. He finished the season with a 5-4, 4.27 record in 86.1 innings over eight starts and 27 relief appearances. He made 21 starts for the Mets in 1992, going 6-8, 3.64 in 136 innings. Schourek split the 1993 season between starting and relief, finishing with a 5-12, 5.96 record in 128.1 innings over 18 starts and 23 relief appearances. The Mets lost him on waivers to the Cincinnati Reds, where he put up a 7-2, 4.09 record in 81.1 innings in 1994. He had an outstanding 1995 season, possibly missing out on a 20-win season due to the shortened season after the players returned from the strike in late April. Schourek went 18-7, 3.22 in 29 starts and 190.1 innings. He finished second in the Cy Young voting to Greg Maddux, who received every first place vote. It ended up being a one-year peak for Schourek, who went 4-5, 6.01 in 12 starts in 1996 and 5-8, 5.42 in 84.2 innings in 1997.

Schourek played for the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros during 1998, going a combined 8-9, 4.43 in 23 starts and two relief appearances. He had eight seasons in at the Major League level when the Pirates signed him to a two-year contract on December 18, 1998.  For the Pirates in 1999, he went 4-7, 5.34 in 17 starts and thirteen relief appearances. He was a starter through the end of May, then moved to the bullpen for two months, before making five more starts in a row. He had a minor shoulder injury that caused him to miss two weeks, sending him back to the pen. He made one last start at the end of the season. The Pirates released Schourek during Spring Training of 2000 and he signed back with the Red Sox. He pitched two years in Boston, one as a starter and one as a reliever. He went 3-10, 5.11 in 21 starts in 2000, then had a 4.55 ERA in 30.1 innings over 33 appearances in 2001. Schourek then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in early 2002, but did not make the team, ending his career. He had a career record of 66-77, 4.59 in 1,149 innings over 288 games, 176 as a starter. He was a .164 hitter during his career, which included an 0-for-25 skid while with the Pirates, which is a franchise high for the most at-bats without a hit.

Russ Bauers, pitcher from the 1936-41 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1935 at 21 years old, but he was declared a free agent after one season by MLB commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Bauers made a name for himself in high school when he struck out 19 batters in a seven-inning game. Before joining the Phillies, he had previous experience pitching the 1932-33 seasons in independent ball and then spending the 1934 season playing semi-pro ball in Chicago, but the 1935 season was his first shot in the minors. Bauers didn’t do bad in that one season, posting a 2.53 ERA in 32 innings in the New York-Penn League, which was considered to be three levels below the majors at the time. Landis ruled that he was a free agent on February 3, 1936 and the Pirates signed him four days later. He was said to be a quiet kid, who had nice velocity and a good curveball, along with broad shoulders on his 6’3″ frame. Bauers was considered to be very tall back then, with only one player on the Pirates who was bigger at the time (pitcher Jim Weaver).

The Pirates took him to Spring Training in 1936 and had him up in the majors by August, despite some mediocre minor league results that saw him post a 4.74 ERA in 106.1 innings in A-Ball. He spent the final six weeks of the season with the Pirates, but he pitched one game during that time and it was a forgettable one. Bauers got the start on August 20th against the Chicago Cubs and recorded just four outs, giving up five runs before being pulled. He was saved the loss by a Pirates offense that pulled out an 8-7 victory. He also threw in an in-season exhibition game on September 21st against the Cleveland Indians and gave up 11 runs on 16 hits in 6.1 innings. Despite that poor start to his big league career, Bauers was a big part of the 1937 Pirates. He began the year in the rotation, then was used sparingly in May, made a few starts the next two months, before finally landing a full-time rotation spot in mid-August. In his first start back in the rotation, he threw a 4-0 shutout on the road over the St Louis Cardinals. He ended up going 9-3 over his last 13 outings, and finished with a 13-6, 2.88 record in 187.1 innings. In 1938, he started off slow, mostly due to poor run support. Bauers finished strong though, turning a 2-7 record at the end of June into a final record of 13-14 with a 3.07 ERA. He made 34 starts, six relief appearances, and pitched a total of 243 innings.

In 1939, Bauers saw limited time due to a sore shoulder that was first hurt during a friendly scuffle with a teammate, then re-injured in an automobile accident. He pitched just 15 times, spread out from May until August, when he finally shut things down after a start that saw him face just four batters on August 18th. In 1940 he was pushed to the back of the bullpen, being used mostly in blowout losses. Of his 15 appearances in 1940, the Pirates won just one game and that was during one of his two starts. After July 15th, he faced a total of seven batters over four appearances. It was said of Bauers at the time, that he didn’t take baseball serious and he was labeled a bust since his rookie season. He seemed to change his attitude during the 1941 off-season and came to camp more serious, but after four poor starts and a tough time in the bullpen, the Pirates sent him to the minors on June 11th. It was assumed he would return to the Pirates at some point, but he was released to Albany of the Eastern League on September 11, 1941 in order to make room on the roster for new outfielder Culley Rikard.

Bauers spent all of 1942 in the minors with Albany, then got repurchased by the Pirates on September 14th. He had a sore arm to begin the 1943 season and he was a contract holdout while working a defense plant job, then was inducted into the Army in June. Bauers was released from the service in December of 1945 and came back to the Pirates in 1946, but he was released midway through Spring Training. He signed with the Chicago Cubs two months later and got into 15 games for them that year, going 2-1, 3.53 in 43.1 innings. Bauers ended up playing another eight seasons of pro ball after 1946, though he got into just one more Major League game, an early season outing for the 1950 St Louis Browns. After going 13-6 in 1937, looking like a promising 23-year-old starter, he pitched just 94 more big league games and finished his career with a 31-30, 3.53 record in 597 innings. Bauers was never considered a workhorse type pitcher, especially for the era. The only time he reached the 200-inning mark in his 16-year pro career was in 1938 with the Pirates. Between the majors and minors, he threw a total of 1,704.1 innings. As a hitter in the majors, he batted .242 in 207 at-bats.

Al Rubeling, utility fielder for the 1943-44 Pirates. He played six seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut with the 1940 Philadelphia A’s. Rubeling spent his first two seasons as the lowest level, playing Class-D ball, where he put up solid numbers. He hit .290 with 27 extra-base hits in 106 games for Jeannette of the Pennsylvania State Association 1934 at 21 years old, then moved to the Monessen team of the same league in 1935, where he batted .312 with 34 extra-base hits in 110 games. He was still in Class-D in 1936, but not for long. He batted .434 in 26 games for DeLand of the Florida State League. Rubeling spent the rest of the year two levels higher with Macon of the South Atlantic League, where he hit .291 in 100 games. He spent the entire 1937 season with Macon, hitting .325 in 139 games, with 28 doubles and 12 triples. He played the next two seasons for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, where he followed up a rough 1938 season with a .328 average and 46 extra-base hits in 128 games in 1939. That last season earned him an Opening Day spot with the 1940 A’s.

Rubeling played 108 games that rookie year, with most of his playing time spent at third base. He hit .245 with 38 RBIs and 49 runs scored. Despite a decent rookie season, he spent most of 1941 in the minors, coming back to Philadelphia for six games in September. He spent the majority of that 1941 season with Toronto of the International League, which is where he spent all of 1942 and the beginning of the 1943 season. On July 20, 1943 the Pirates purchased his contract from Toronto for cash, plus the use of pitcher Harry Shuman until the minor league season ended. The Pirates needed Rubeling because infielder Huck Geary had quit the team and gone home. Rubeling hit .262 in 47 games for the Pirates, starting 43 of those games at second base. During the 1944 season, he spent limited time at four different positions, playing at least nine games at second base, third base and the two corner outfield spots. Rubeling hit .245 in 92 games with 30 RBIs. He missed the 1945 season due to the war and returned to the minors in 1946 playing for Syracuse of the International League. The Pirates sold his contract to Syracuse on December 6, 1945, officially ending his time with the team. He spent five seasons in Syracuse as their regular third baseman, then finished his pro career with two more partial seasons, spending part of 1951 back with the Atlanta Crackers, the ending up with Ottawa of the International League in 1952 at 39 years old. He was a .279 hitter in 1,707 minor league games, with 241 doubles, 101 triples and 122 homers. Rubeling was a .249 hitter at the big league level in 253 games.

The Trade

On this date in 1989, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded third baseman Ken Oberkfell to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Roger Samuels. The Pirates had acquired Oberkfell from the Atlanta Braves the previous August in exchange for outfielder Tommy Gregg. The veteran infielder hit just .222 in twenty games during the end of the 1988 season, then started the 1989 season even slower, batting .125 in 14 games. Samuels was 28 years old at the time of the trade. The big lefty reliever had one season in at the majors (1988 Giants), posting a 3.47 ERA in 15 appearances. After the trade, Samuels made five appearances for the Pirates (9.82 ERA in 3.2 innings) before being sent to the minors. He pitched just one more season after 1989, spending the following year in Triple-A, before retiring from baseball. Oberkfell played well after the trade, hitting .319 in 83 games. He was a free agent at the end of the year and played three more seasons in the majors before retiring.

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