Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one trade of note.
On this date in 1935, the Pirates traded pitcher Jack Salveson to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Bud Hafey. The Pirates were getting a 22-year-old with only two games of Major League experience, both as a pinch-runner. Despite the young age, Hafey actually had five seasons in at the minor league level already. He played four season in the Pacific Coast League, making his debut at age 17 with the Mission Reds. At the time of the deal, he was in the International League, where he was hitting .230 with six homers in 25 games. Salveson was even younger than Hafey, 21 years old, with parts of three seasons in at the majors. He went 3-3, 3.65 in 69 innings for the 1933-34 Giants, before coming to the Pirates in December of 1934 in exchange for veteran pitcher Leon Chagnon. At the time of the deal, Salveson had pitched five games in relief for the Pirates, allowing 12 runs in seven innings.
After the deal, Salveson pitched 20 games for the White Sox, posting a 1-2, 4.86 record in 66.2 innings. He then went to the minors for seven seasons, returning to the big leagues finally in 1943 for the Cleveland Indians. He got a wartime job and missed the 1944 season, returning to the Indians during the middle of the 1945 season. Salveson only won nine Major League games, but he was a much better pitcher than that fact would indicate. He spent 18 seasons pitching in the minors, playing the last 15 in the Pacific Coast League, where he won 204 games. Many star players of the day, especially ones that were from the west coast, chose to play in the PCL over the Major Leagues, which never expanded west of the St Louis during the early years of the league. Some of the better players actually made more money in the PCL, so they never left the league, making it a close second talent-wise to the majors.
Hafey played two years for the Pirates and his bat never came around. He hit .222 with ten homers in 97 games before being traded traded in December of 1937 to the St Louis Cardinals. The Pirates got him back the next July, although he was in the minors until being dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for three players in the following July. He played his last 24 big league games during that 1939 season. He got into 123 Major League games total, which was 45 more than his brother Tom, but well short of what his cousin Chick Hafey accomplished en route to his Hall of Fame career.
Dave Parker, outfielder for the 1973-83 Pirates. He was a seven-time All-Star during his 19-year Major League career. He also won three Gold Glove awards, three Silver Sluggers, and he was named the National League MVP in 1978. Parker was drafted in the 14th round out of high school by the Pirates in 1970. He did well in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League at 19 years old, batting .314 with 41 RBIs in 61 games. He moved up to A-Ball the next year and did great, with a .358 average, 11 homers and 18 steals in 71 games. However, the Pirates aggressively pushed him to Double-A that season and he hit .228 with no homers in 30 games. Parker played for Salem of the Carolina League in 1972, where he hit .310 with 30 doubles, 22 homers, 101 RBIs and 38 stolen bases. The next year he skipped right over Double-A and he hit .317 with an .871 OPS in 84 games at Triple-A. The Pirates called him up in July and he hit .288 with four homers in 54 games. He was a platoon player in 1974 when he batted .282 with four homers in 73 games. He started just three games against left-handed pitchers that season, but the Pirates gave him a full-time role the next year and he proved his worth. Parker was a star in Pittsburgh in 1975 when he hit .308 with 25 homers and 101 RBIs. He led the league in slugging and finished third in the National League MVP voting. He hit .313 in 1976, with 13 homers, 90 RBIs and 19 steals, which earned him mild MVP support. In 1977, he led the NL with 215 hits, 44 doubles and a .338 average. He hit 21 homers, drove in 88 runs and he scored 107 runs, his first of three straight seasons with 100+ runs. Parker did well on the bases in 1976, but he was thrown out stealing in 19 of his 36 attempts in 1977. He made his first All-Star appearance in 1977, while also winning his first Gold Glove. He finished third in the MVP voting.
Parker won back-to-back batting crowns with his .334 average in 1978. He hit 30 homers, stole 20 bases, drove in 117 runs and scored 102 runs. He led the league with a .585 slugging percentage and a .979 OPS. He won his second Gold Glove and he was named as the NL MVP. Despite that great season, he wasn’t part of the All-Star game. That was because he was injured in a home plate collision on June 30th, which kept him out of action until after the All-Star break was over. During the 1979 season, he set career highs with 109 runs scored and 45 doubles, while also stealing 20 bases in 24 attempts. That’s to go along with a .310 average, 25 homers and 94 RBIs. Parker then batted .333 in the NLCS and .345 during the World Series. He finished tenth in the MVP voting and made his second All-Star appearance.
In 1980, Parker hit .295 with 31 doubles, 17 homers and 79 RBIs. He hit .258 with nine homers during the strike-shortened 1981 season, but he was elected to the All-Star game for a third straight year. That was followed up by playing just 73 games in 1982 when he hit .270 with six homers. Between the 1981-82 seasons, he had four separate injuries that cost him playing time. In 1983, Parker hit .279 with 12 homers and 69 RBIs in 144 games. He reached the end of a five-year contract and signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds in 1984. He hit .285 with 16 homers and 94 RBIs during his first season in Cincinnati, then followed that up with a huge year. Parker batted .312 with career highs of 34 homers and 125 RBIs. He led the NL in RBIs and doubles (42), which helped earn him his first Silver Slugger award, his fifth All-Star appearance and a second place finish in the MVP voting. He hit .273 with 31 homers and 116 RBIs in 1986, earning him another Silver Slugger, another All-Star appearance, and a fifth place finish in the MVP voting. In his final season with the Reds, he hit .253 with 26 homers and 97 RBIs. Despite previous health issues, Parker played in all but 17 games over his four years in Cincinnati.
Parker was traded to the Oakland A’s after the 1987 season. He helped Oakland get to the World Series during both of his seasons with the team. Playing mostly as a DH, he hit .257 with 12 homers in 101 games in 1988, then batted .264 with 22 homers and 97 RBIs in 144 games in 1989. He homered three times in the playoffs, as the A’s won the World Series title in 1989. He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1990, hitting .289 with 21 homers and 92 RBIs. He won his third Silver Slugger award, made his final All-Star appearance, and even received some mild MVP support. The Brewers traded him to the California Angels during Spring Training in 1991. Parker batted .232 with 11 homers in 119 games before being released in September. A week later, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he played his final 13 big league games.
Parker finished his career with a .290 average, 339 homers and 1,493 RBIs, to go along with 526 doubles, 2,712 hits and 1,272 runs scored. Despite the strong stats and numerous awards and recognitions during his career, Parker never garnered serious Hall of Fame consideration. The highest he finished was with 24.5% of the votes his second year on the ballot, well below the 75% needed to gain induction. While with Pittsburgh, he hit .305 with 166 homers and 758 RBIs in 1,301 games. He is sixth in team history in homers, ninth in slugging and tenth in RBIs.
Bill Virdon, outfielder for the 1956-65 and 1968 Pirates. He spent four seasons in the minors for the New York Yankees before being traded to the St Louis Cardinals. Virdon debuted in 1950 at 19 years old and he hit .267 with 45 extra-base hits in 119 games for Class-D Independence. He also played 14 games and hit .341 for Kansas City of the American Association, just one step below the majors. He wasn’t on the fast track though. Virdon played for Class-B Piedmont in 1951, three levels lower than the American Association. He hit .286 with 30 extra-base hits in 118 games. He moved up one level in 1952, playing for Binghamton of the Eastern League, where he hit .261 with 24 extra-base hits in 122 games. The 1953 season saw him play for Double-A Binrmingham and back with Kansas City. He combined to hit .261 with 35 extra-base hits and 51 walks in 137 games that season. He was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1954 season and played the year at Rochester of the International League, where hit batted .333 with 28 doubles, 11 triples and 22 homers in 139 games. Virdon made the Cardinals Opening Day roster in 1955 and had a solid year, batting .281 with 17 homers and 68 RBIs in 144 games. After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1955, the Cardinals traded Virdon to the Pirates just 24 games into the 1956 season. He was hitting .211 at the time with two homers. The Pirates gave up two players, Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield, but it turned out to be a great deal. Virdon would bat .334 over the final 133 games of the season with the Pirates. For ten straight seasons, he served as the everyday center fielder for the Pirates, playing strong defense, combined with a decent bat.
Virdon hit .251 in 1957, with 28 doubles, 11 triples and eight homers in 144 games. He played 144 games in 1958 as well, when he batted .267 with 44 extra-base hits and 75 runs scored. The 144-game mark was popular for Virdon, who finished with the same number of games for three straight seasons. He had a .254 average and a .684 OPS in 1959. Virdon hit .264 with 60 runs scored in 120 games during the 1960 season, then batted .241 with five RBIs during the World Series. He batted .260 with 58 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 1961. In 1962 he led the NL with ten triples and won his only Gold Glove award. He also set a career high with 82 runs scored that season. Virdon hit .269 with 36 extra-base hits and 58 runs scored in 1963, then had his toughest season at the plate in 1964 when he finished with a .585 OPS in 145 games. He bounced back a bit in 1965, hitting .279 with a .692 OPS in 135 games. The Pirates ended up releasing him after the season and he retired, though he played six more big league games in 1968 for the Pirates after they ran low on players in July.
Virdon spent a total of 12 seasons in the majors, playing 1,583 games. He was a career .267 hitter with 735 runs scored, 1,596 hits and 502 RBIs. He is 11th all-time on the Pirates games played list with 1,415, four games ahead of Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan, and one spot behind Hall of Fame outfielder Fred Clarke. He led National League center fielders in fielding three different times with the Pirates. He took up coach after his playing days, though his last six games in 1968 came after he began his coaching career. Virdon had a 163-128 record as the Pirates manager during the 1972-73 seasons. He managed 1,918 Major League games, going to the playoffs three times and winning 995 games. He also served as a bench coach with the Pirates in the 1980s and has served to this day as a special instructor during Spring Training. He turns 90 today.
Julio Gotay, infielder for the 1963-64 Pirates. He came to the Pirates in the November 1962 trade that sent Dick Groat to the St Louis Cardinals. Gotay signed with St Louis in 1957 at 18 years old out of Puerto Rico, and he made the majors just three years later. He didn’t have a strong debut in pro ball though, hitting just .229 over 52 games in the lowest level of the minors in 1957. He took just one year to put himself on the prospect map. Moving up to Class-C ball in 1958, he hit .323 with 24 homers, 95 RBIs, 96 runs scored, 17 steals and 57 walks. Gotay jumped over two levels in 1959 to Double-A Tulsa of the Texas League. He batted .284 with 17 homers, 64 RBIs and 88 runs scored. The next year was split between Tulsa, Triple-A Rochester and three games with the Cardinals after joining the club in August. He did much better in Tulsa, hitting .302 with 13 homers, than he did in Rochester, where he batted .224 in 49 games. Gotay batted .307 in 115 games at Triple-A in 1961, while spending a brief time with the Cardinals in June, when he got into ten games over an eight-day span due to three doubleheaders. He played just 13 games with the Cardinals between 1960-61, before playing full-time in 1962, when he hit .255 with 27 RBIs and 47 runs scored in 127 games, with 120 games played at shortstop. The Pirates also acquired pitcher Don Cardwell in the deal for Groat, while giving up reliever Diomedes Olivo.
Gotay would be on the Pirates bench to start 1963, and that is where he stayed for the better part of the first month, as Dick Schofield and Bill Mazeroski manned the middle infield positions everyday. In May, Gotay was sent to the minors, where he hit .250 in thirty games. He would hit well in Spring Training during the 1964 season, but he received just three pinch-hit at-bats during the regular season before being sent to the minors again. Early in 1965, the Pirates traded him to the California Angels for outfielder Bob Perry. While Perry never played in the majors again, Gotay played parts of five more seasons in the big leagues, the last four with the Houston Astros. He batted .247 in 40 games for the Angels in 1965, then spent the first half of 1966 in the minors before being traded to Houston for a minor league player. The Astros had him up for just four games in 1966, but he saw significant bench time over the next two seasons. Gotay batted .282 with a .697 OPS in 77 games in 1967, making a total of 52 starts around the infield. The next year he hit .248 in 75 games, with all 35 of his starts coming at second base. He started just 11 games in 1969 when he batted .259 with 88 plate appearances over 46 games.
Gotay finished his Major League career with a .260 average and 106 runs scored in 389 games, spread out over ten seasons. He spent his last three years of pro ball in the minors, playing a total of 998 games down on the farm. His time with the Pirates was limited to seven games (all off of the bench) and he played in the field just once for two innings.