Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major trade of note.
On this date in 1953, the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off one of the most significant trades in team history with the Chicago Cubs. In a deal that involved a total of ten players, six coming to Pittsburgh, along with $150,000 going to the Pirates, the team gave up All-Star outfielder Ralph Kiner. Pittsburgh also gave up catcher Joe Garagiola, outfielder George Metkovich and pitcher Howie Pollet. They got back outfielder Bob Addis, catcher Toby Atwell, third baseman George Freese, outfielder Gene Hermanski, pitcher Bob Schultz and first baseman Preston Ward.
Kiner by far was the best player in the deal, which not only brought a surplus of money to the Pirates, but also cut Kiner’s large salary from the payroll. The Pirates went 42-112 in 1952 and were on their way to another 100-loss season. The following is a brief summary of every player before and after the trade, with age (at the time of the deal) in parenthesis.
Kiner (30) Five time All-Star, 301 homers, seven straight home run titles, five straight (1947-51) seasons of 100 runs and 100 RBIs. After deal, he played three seasons, hitting 68 homers and driving in 214 runs. Retired early due to bad back.
Garagiola (27) In his eighth season, he hit .273 with 50 walks and 54 RBIs in 118 games in 1952. He was batting .233 at time of deal. Afterwards he played 142 games between 1953-54. Hit .272 in 1953 and .280 in limited at-bats in 1954.
Metkovich (32) In his ninth season in the majors, hitting just .146 in 26 games at time of deal. In 1952, he hit .271 over 125 games with seven homers. Afterwards, hit .234 in 61 games for 1953 Cubs, then .276 in 68 games (142 plate appearances) for 1954 Braves
Pollet (31) Two time 20-game winner with St Louis Cardinals (1946 and 1949) went 13-26 for 1951-52 Pirates and had a 10.66 ERA a time of deal. Afterwards, went 17-19, 4.19 in three years with Cubs, before splitting 1956 with Chicago White Sox and Pirates.
Addis (28) Played 204 Major League games over four seasons. Hit .295 in 93 games for 1952 Cubs, was hitting .167 (2-for-12) for 1953 Cubs. Afterwards, he pinch-hit three times (0-for-3) and pinch-ran once for Pirates before finishing his career in the minors.
Atwell (29) All-Star catcher as a rookie in 1952, hitting .290 in 107 games. Batting .230 at the time of the deal. Afterwards, played 232 games for Pirates over four seasons, hitting .250 with 104 walks and 64 RBIs. Finished career in 1956 with Milwaukee Braves.
Freese (28) Minor leaguer at the time, had one Major Meague game with Detroit Tigers in April, 1953. Played for Pirates in 1955, hitting .257 with 22 RBIs in 51 games. Only other big league experience was nine games for 1961 Cubs.
Hermanski (33) In ninth season, hit .282 in 506 games for Brooklyn Dodgers, then .258 in 192 games for Cubs. Hitting .150 in 18 games at time of deal. For Pirates, played 41 games, mostly off the bench, hitting .177 with four RBIs. Played in minors in 1954 before retiring.
Ward (25) Played in majors in 1948 and 1950, before spending two years in military. Was playing center field and hitting .230 in 33 games for 1953 Cubs. Played 305 games in Pittsburgh over four seasons, hitting .240 with 111 RBIs, mostly playing at first base. Played another 284 games after leaving Pirates.
Schultz (29) Was 9-11, 4.69 in 53 games for Cubs over three seasons. At the time of the trade, he was 0-2, 5.40 in 11.2 innings. Went 0-2, 8.20 in 18.2 innings for Pirates. Spent 1954 in minors, sold to Detroit Tigers in December 1954 and pitched one game for them in 1955. Spent 1956 in minors before retiring.
In summary, three of the players the Pirates got back were done with the team before the 1954 season started. Freese played just 51 games, but not until 1955, and Ward and Atwell were role players for four seasons. Only because of the fact Kiner dropped off so much and was done by the end of the 1955 season, did this deal not hurt the Pirates. Cubs didn’t get much out of the other two players while Pollet was a decent pitcher for three seasons for them.
Tony Pena, catcher for the 1980-86 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican in 1975, shortly after his 18th birthday. Pena spent most of his first season (1976) in the Gulf Coast League, but he made it to A-Ball before the season ended. In 1977 he split the season between the two A-Ball clubs, hitting .262 with ten homers in 113 games. He moved up to Shreveport of the Texas League (Double-A) in 1978, where he batted just .230 in 104 games, with a low walk rate that resulted in a .259 OBP. He repeated Double-A in 1979, as the Pirates affiliate moved to the Eastern League. Pena hit .313 with 34 homers and 97 RBIs in his second season at the level. He played for Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1980, hitting .327 with 46 extra-base hits. Pena made the majors in 1980 as a September call-up and hit .429 in eight games. He platooned in 1981 for the Pirates, batting .300 in 66 games during the strike-shortened season. In 1982, he was the full-time starter and batted .296 in 138 games, while making his first All-Star appearance. That was followed by a strong 1983 season that saw him bat .301 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 151 games. He won his first Gold Glove award and finished 12th in the MVP voting. In 1984, Pena matched his career high with 15 homers and set a personal best with 78 RBIs. He won his second Gold Glove and made his second All-Star appearance. His numbers dropped off in 1985 (.645 OPS), but he picked up his third Gold Glove and third All-Star appearance. He rebounded on offense in 1986 with a .288 average and a career high 53 walks, and he made his fourth All-Star game. Right before the 1987 season, the Pirates traded him to the St Louis Cardinals for Andy Van Slyke, Mike Lavalliere and Mike Dunne.
Pena played until 1997, though he had just one All-Star appearance and one Gold Glove left over his final 11 seasons. He batted just .214 with five homers in 114 games during his first season in St Louis. He batted .263 with ten homers in 1988. It was his only double-digit home run season after leaving Pittsburgh, where he hit 10+ homers five years in a row (1982-86). In 1989, Pena hit .259 with four homers in 141 games and he made his final All-Star appearance. He became a free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox for the next four seasons. In 1990 he batted .263 with seven homers and 56 RBIs in 143 games. His batting average dropped to .231 and he had a .612 OPS in 1991, but the defense was good enough to earn him a Gold Glove. Pena saw his offense drop each of the next two seasons, with a .589 OPS in 1992 and a dismal .502 OPS in 1993 when he had a .181 average in 126 games. That was his final season as a starter. He played 40 games for the Cleveland Indians during the strike-shortened 1994 season, though he managed a .295 average. He batted .262 in 95 games for the Indians in 1995, but his average dropped to .195 in 67 games the next year. His final season was split between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros, as he hit .174 with no homers in 40 games. Pena was a .260 hitter with 107 homers and 708 RBIs in 1,988 career games. He hit .286 with 63 homers and 340 RBIs in 801 games with the Pirates. He caught 1,950 games during his career, seventh most all-time. Pena led the league in games caught five times, putouts five times and caught stealing three times. His son Francisco Pena caught for parts of five seasons in the majors. His other son Tony was a shortstop for four seasons. His brother Ramon Pena was a pitcher for the 1989 Detroit Tigers.
Bob Klinger, pitcher for the 1938-43 Pirates. His pro career started in 1929 at age 21, but he didn’t debut in the majors until weeks before his 30th birthday. Klinger had a strong first year in pro ball for Shawnee of the Western Association (Class-C), with a 14-8, 2.79 record in 184 innings. He moved up one level to Danville of the Three-I League in 1930 and he went 12-9, 4.38 in 184 innings. Offense was up all around baseball that year, so the ERA jump wasn’t unexpected. However, he had a worse ERA for Danville during the 1931 season, putting up a 4.50 mark in 174 innings. Klinger combined for an 8-13 record and pitched a total of 190 innings for four different teams in 1932. He spent the 1933 campaign in the New York-Penn League, considered to be Class-A ball, where he went 16-12, 3.08 in 234 innings. He moved up to Columbus of the American Association in 1934, where he was 15-13, 4.76 in 189 innings. He had a better 1935 season for Columbus, going 14-14, 4.27 in 255 innings, with 34 starts and 15 relief appearances. The next year was split between Columbus and Rochester, and saw him get more relief work. Klinger went 9-9, 4.66 in 168 innings. He played for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League in 1937 and had a huge season, going 19-13, 3.77 in 279 innings.
The Pirates took Klinger in the Rule 5 draft that October and he hit the ground running in Pittsburgh. He burst onto the scene in 1938 with a 12-5, 2.99 record in 159.1 innings, making 21 starts and seven relief appearances. He didn’t have a great follow up season in 1939 when he had a 14-17, 4.36 record in 225 innings and led the National League in losses. That was followed by another down year in 1940, which he split between 22 starts and 17 relief outings.He was 8-13, 5.39 in 142 innings. Klinger bounced back the next three seasons, improving his ERA each year. He dropped it to 3.93 in 1941 when he pitched 116.2 innings, seeing more relief work (26 appearances) than starts (nine). He knocked that ERA down to 3.24 in 1942, despite an 8-11 record. He pitched 152.2 innings, with 19 starts and 18 relief appearances. Klinger had a career best 2.72 ERA in 1943, when he pitched 195 innings over 25 starts and eight relief outings. He lost the next two years to service during the war, then he was released shortly after the 1946 season started. He finished his career with two seasons for the Boston Red Sox, putting up a 2.37 ERA in 57 innings in 1946, followed by a 3.86 ERA in 47 innings in 1947. With the Pirates, he was 62-58, 3.74 in 990.2 innings over 129 starts and 80 relief outings. Klinger finished his career with three seasons in the minors. He won 115 minor league games and pitched over 3,000 innings of pro ball.
Larry Demery, pitcher for the 1974-77 Pirates. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 22nd round of the 1971 amateur draft out of high school in California, although he chose not to sign. The next year in the January draft the Pirates took him 15 rounds earlier out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and they were able to get him signed. Demery made 24 starts in A-ball as a 19-year-old in 1972, compiling a 10-6, 3.91 record in 145 innings. Moving up to Salem of the Carolina League the next season, he improved his ERA to 2.82 in 182 innings, earning a late promotion to Triple-A for one start. It took just six starts (4-2, 2.81 in 48 innings) in Triple-A in 1974 before the Pirates decided he was ready for the big leagues. Demery made 15 starts and four relief appearances, as the Pirates went to the postseason during his rookie year. He had a 6-6, 4.25 record in 95.1 innings during the regular season, but was hit hard in his two playoff appearances, allowing four runs in one inning of work. In 1975, he was used mostly out of the pen and pitched well, posting a 2.90 ERA in 45 games and 114.2 innings. He again had playoff troubles, this time allowing four runs in two innings. Demery had his best season in 1976, going 10-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 145 innings. He started off poorly in 1977, then won three straight starts in May before a string of five bad outings. He finished in the bullpen, making his last start in mid-June. He was put on waivers in March of 1978, getting picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, who immediately returned him to the Pirates when it was discovered he had a sore arm. Demery was put back on waivers with no takers and returned to the minors instead. He stuck around for three more seasons, but pitched a total of just nine games in the minors during that time and none in the majors. He retired in 1980 with a record of 29-23, 3.72 in 445.1 innings over his four seasons with the Pirates.
Herb Kelly, pitcher for the 1914-15 Pirates. He played minor league ball in 1911, then spent three years attending Notre Dame , where he was the team captain, before returning to pro baseball with the 1914 Pirates. During the 1911 season, he played for Johnson City of the Appalachian League (Class-D), where he posted a 17-10 record and pitched 228 innings. Kelly was announced as signed by the Pirates on June 13, 1914 and joined the roster on June 18th, but didn’t make his Major League debut until September 25th, when he was on the losing end of a 3-2 score against Brooklyn. Kelly was asked to start four days earlier, but couldn’t loosen up his arm. It was said at the time that he was going to be a great pitcher someday, possessing the arsenal, strong nerves and talent to be a star in the league. Kelly pitched three times in relief over the next week, then started the last game of the season, a 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. He made the Opening Day roster in 1915, but before he pitched a game, he was optioned to the minors on May 6th. He pitched for Atlanta of the Southern Association in 1915 and posted a 12-12 record in 212 innings, before returning to the Pirates late in the season. He made four relief appearances and lost his only start, a 7-1 victory by the St Louis Cardinals, although he did pick up his only Major League win in relief that year. He was released by the Pirates on March 6, 1916. Kelly returned to the minors for two more seasons before his pro career was over. He had a 2.78 ERA in 220 innings for Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1916, then went 12-6 for New Orleans of the Southern Association in 1917. He only batted 11 times in the majors, but impressed the local scribes on one occasion when he ran out a triple on a ball he hit off of the fence in left field, then scored on a sacrifice fly. He had a 2.95 ERA in 36.2 innings with the Pirates.
George Yeager, catcher for the 1901 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1894, playing in the New England League (Class-B) for his first three seasons. Stats aren’t available for the first two years, but he hit .345 with 36 steals in 1896 with Pawtucket. In September of 1896, Yeager got a trial with the Boston Beaneaters (current day Atlanta Braves). He would play parts of four seasons in Boston before spending the end of 1899 and all of 1900 back in the minors. He saw a majority of his playing time during the 1898 season when he batted .267 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 68 games. The other three years combined, he played 35 games for Boston. He did well back in the minors, hitting .316 with 43 extra-base hits in 90 games for Worcester of the Eastern League in 1899. Yeager was in the American League in 1900, the last year the league was considered a minor league. He played 25 games for Milwaukee, a team managed by Connie Mack. Yeager hit .388 with seven doubles and a triple during his brief time with the team. When the AL gained Major League status in 1901, Yeager was a member of the Cleveland Blues (Indians), spending the first four months with the team, hitting .223 in 39 games. He was released in late July and picked up by Pittsburgh a week later. He played 26 games for the Pirates over the last two months, twenty of those games behind the plate, four at third base and one across the diamond. He hit .264 with ten RBIs and nine runs scored in 100 plate appearances. Barney Dreyfuss announced on October 15, 1901 that the Pirates signed 18 of their 19 players for the following season, with the lone exception being Yeager, who was given his release. Yeager signed with the New York Giants in February of 1902, then after being released in July, finished his big league career with the Baltimore Orioles (current day New York Yankees) later that season. He returned to the minors in 1903, playing seven more seasons, seeing time with six different teams, before retiring. He was a .238 career hitter in 218 big league games, with five homers, 73 RBIs and 90 runs scored.