Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus three transactions. Also, current Pirates outfielder Ka’ai Tom turns 27 today.
On this date in 1987, the Pirates sent veteran infielder Bill Almon to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league outfielder Scott Little and shortstop Al Pedrique. Almon was the first overall pick in the 1974 draft, who had previously played for the Mets during the 1980 season. He was in his 14th season in the majors at the time of the trade, barely playing with the Pirates, getting 21 plate appearances in 19 games. Pedrique was 27 years old and had played his first five games in the majors with the Mets that season. He had been in their organization since 1978, spending the last seven seasons split between Double-A and Triple-A. Little was 24 years old, in his fourth season in the Mets system, struggling at Double-A. He was a seventh round draft pick in 1984, and he reached Double-A in 1986.
After the trade, Little reported to single-A ball and worked his way though the minors, reaching Pittsburgh for three games in the middle of the 1989 season. He remained in the Pirates system as a player through 1991, then began managing for the organization in the minors until 1999. Pedrique played 88 games for the Pirates in 1987, hitting .301 with 27 RBIs. His success at the majors was short-lived. He was back in the minors in 1988 after hitting .198 through the beginning of June. He returned in August, but his average fell to .180 by the end of the season and he was released. Almon was used almost exclusively off of the bench for the defending champs. He started just four games, while batting 62 times in 49 games with a .241 average. He re-signed with the Mets as a free agent after the season, but was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during Spring Training.
On this date in 1931, the Pirates traded catcher Rollie Hemsley to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Earl Grace and cash. The Pirates were able to deal Hemsley due to the emergence of catcher Eddie Phillips. The day after Phillips drove in seven runs in a seven-inning game, this deal was consummated. Grace was a 24-year-old backup for the Cubs, playing in his second season in the majors. He spent the entire 1930 season in the minors. Hemsley was also 24 years old, a platoon catcher for the Pirates with a decent bat and a strong arm. He was hitting just .171 at the time of the trade and seeing limited action. After the deal, Hemsley hit .309 in 66 games for the Cubs. His average dropped well off the next year and Chicago dealt him to the Cincinnati Reds, who in turn traded him to the St Louis Browns. It was there that Hemsley became an All-Star, making the mid-season classic five times over a ten-year span. He ended up catching 1,482 career games, 1,230 after leaving Pittsburgh. Grace hit well for the Pirates, then took over the catching starting spot in 1932, playing 115 games. He was the primary catcher the next two years before giving way to Tom Padden in 1935. The Pirates traded Grace, along with pitcher Claude Passeau, to the Phillies in exchange for Al Todd on November 21, 1935. With Pittsburgh, Grace hit .275 in 427 games. In 1932, he had a .998 fielding percentage, making just one error the entire year.
On this date in 1925, the Pirates signed 34-year-old veteran free agent first baseman Stuffy McInnis. He was a star player for the Philadelphia A’s in the early 1910’s, beginning his major league career as an 18-year-old in 1909. Stuffy had hit .291 in 1924 with the Boston Braves. He had batted over .300 ten times in his career including all three seasons prior to 1924. He started off as a bench player for the Pirates, getting just three starts in the first four weeks, but in late June he began to see more time at first base. McInnis saw his average drop to .263 near the end of July, then from July 29th until the end of the season, he went on a tear. He batted .468 the rest of the season, helping Pittsburgh to their third World Series appearance. He hit .286 with an RBI in the series. The next year McInnis was the starting first baseman through the end of May, but took a very limited bench role after that point, finishing with a .299 average in 47 games. After leaving the Pirates, he played just one more Major League game in 1927 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Charlie Hayes, third baseman for the 1996 Pirates. He was a fourth round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 1983 draft at 18 years old out of high school in Mississippi. He hit .261 in 34 games with no homers, while playing in the Pioneer League during his first season. In 1984, Hayes played in Low-A ball, where he batted .245 with two homers in 116 games. He moved up to the high-offense California League in 1985 and hit .283 with four homers and 56 walks in 131 games. He spent the next two years in Double-A, playing for Shreveport of the Texas League. In 1986 he batted .247 with five homers in 121 games. He broke out the next season at 22 years old, batting .304 with 33 doubles and 14 homers in 128 games. He spent 1988 playing for Triple-A Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, where he batted .307 in 131 games, with 37 extra-base hits. Hayes made his Major League debut in September of 1988, getting into seven games for the Giants.. The next June, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he spent three seasons trying to replace the recently retired Mike Schmidt. He played just three more games for San Francisco before the deal, then hit .258 with eight homers in 84 games after the trade. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 1990, Hayes hit .258 again, this time with 20 doubles and ten homers in 152 games. He led all National League third basemen in assists and he finished third in fielding percentage. He saw his average drop to .230 in 1991, while hitting 23 doubles and 12 homers in 142 games. He was traded to the New York Yankees in February of 1992. Hayes batted .257 with 18 homers in 142 games for the Yankees, who lost him in the Expansion Draft to the Colorado Rockies. Hayes had a great first year in Colorado, setting career highs with his .305 average, 25 homers, 45 doubles, 98 RBIs and 86 runs scored. He led the NL in doubles that year. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, he hit .288 with 23 doubles and ten homers in 113 games.
Hayes returned to the Phillies in 1995 as a free agent on a one-year deal. That year he hit .276 with 85 RBIs in 141 games, finishing 16th in the NL MVP voting. He also led all NL third basemen in putouts, while finishing second in assists and fourth in fielding. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates just after Christmas. For Pittsburgh in 1996, Hayes hit .248 with 62 RBIs in 128 games. Just before the rosters were set for the postseason, the Pirates traded him to the Yankees for minor league pitcher Chris Corn. He hit .284 in 20 games after the deal, then struggled in the playoffs, going 5-for-28 at the plate, but the Yankees won the World Series and Hayes is known for catching the final out of the series. He hit .258 with 11 homers in 100 games for the 1997 Yankees. He was traded to the Giants after the season and spent the next two years there. Hayes hit .286 with 12 homers in 1998, then saw his average drop to .205 in 95 games in 1999. He batted .251 in 100 games for the 1999 Milwaukee Brewers, then ended his career with 31 games for the 2000 Houston Astros. Hayes played 14 years in the majors, finishing with a .262 average, 144 homers, 740 RBIs and 580 runs scored in 1,547 games. His son Ke’Bryan is also a third baseman and the best prospect in the Pirates system. The younger Hayes wears #13, which his dad wore with with four different teams in the majors, though Charlie Hayes wore #17 with the Pirates.
Jim Stroner, third baseman for the 1929 Pirates. Early in his 14-year pro career, he got his one and only shot at the Majors Leagues, making the 1929 Pirates out of Spring Training as a bench player. Stroner played semi-pro ball in Chicago prior to 1923 when he got a chance to tryout for the Boston Red Sox during Spring Training. He didn’t make the team, but he briefly played in the minors in 1923 for Scranton of the New York-Penn League. He has no pro records for the 1924-26 seasons. Stroner was playing for a semi-pro team called the Chicago Cermacks at that time, where he got a reputation as a home run hitter. He hit .380 with 19 homers in 1927, while playing for Rock Island of the Mississippi Valley League. In 1928 he moved up to Wichita of the Western League, where he hit .367 with 42 doubles and 42 homers. On September 8th, the Pirates announced that they had purchased Stroner and his teammate Carl Frey for cash and the rights to third baseman George Gottleber. The deal turned out to be minor, as Stroner had a short career in the majors and neither of the other two players ever played at the big league level. Despite the fact that Stroner played just six games for the Pirates in 1929, the team had big plans for him. One included Pie Traynor moving to shortstop, while Stroner started at third base. Unfortunately for Stroner, he had his appendix removed in January and was limited in his activities during Spring Training, so he was behind when the season started. Traynor stayed at third base and 21-year-old Dick Bartell took over at shortstop, where he played well. Stroner was with the team until June 7th, starting just one of the team’s 42 games. Pittsburgh sent him to Indianapolis on June 7th with a clause that he could be recalled on 48 hours notice. He never came back and they traded him on September 9, 1929 to Baltimore of the International League, along with another player and cash, for catcher Al Bool. Stroner spent five years with Baltimore, then another six years bouncing around the minors before retiring. He played for two teams in the Pacific Coast League (1934-35) and three different teams in the Texas League (1935-38), before finishing his career at 38 years old playing Class-D ball for Williamston of the Coastal Plain League.