This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 12th, Dock’s No-No

Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one transaction of note. We also have a special game of note.

The Game

On this date in 1970, Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter over the San Diego Padres on the road. The Pirates won 2-0, as Ellis struck out six batters, but managed to work around eight walks. It was the fourth no-hitter in team history that went at least nine innings, with two previous no-hitters ending early (though I personally think they should count). Ellis had said that he was on LSD during this game, while many of his teammates that day deny that story. It at least makes for a good tale. Here is the boxscore.

The Trade

On this date in 1946, the Pirates traded outfielder Johnny Barrett to the Boston Braves in exchange for outfielder Chuck Workman. Before joining the Braves in 1943, Workman played just nine games in the majors over his first six seasons in pro ball. In 1943, at age 28, he went from the minors to an everyday player, hitting .249 with ten homers and 67 RBIs in 153 games. With Major League baseball nearly depleted by players serving in the war during this time, Workman was able to see full-time duty with the Braves for three seasons. In 1944, he hit just .208, but the team stuck with him and they were rewarded with a strong 1945 season that saw him hit .274 with 25 homers and 87 RBIs. Barrett had a similar story, playing five seasons in the minors before coming up with the 1942 Pirates at age 26, moving into a full-time job throughout the war years. In 1944, he led the National League in triples and stolen bases, while scoring 99 times and driving in 83 runs. The next season, he hit a career high 15 homers, with 97 runs scored, 79 walks, 25 stolen bases and 67 RBIs. At the time of the deal, both outfielders were struggling, Workman hitting .167 in 25 games, Barrett batting .169 in 32 contests.

After the trade, the left-handed hitting Workman, was in a platoon role in right field with Bob Elliott, who batted righty. Workman hit .221 in 58 games with 16 RBIs. With the talent level back to normal in the majors by the start of 1947, he was back in the minors, where he finished his playing career five seasons later. Barrett played just 24 games for the Braves, missing nearly two months after tearing a muscle in his leg which required surgery. In 55 plate appearances, he hit .233 with 12 walks (just one strikeout) and six RBIs. Just like Workman, he returned to the minors, playing until 1951, without ever making it back to the big leagues.

The Players

Otto Knabe, infielder for the 1905 and 1916 Pirates. Prior to playing his first pro game in 1905, Knabe had played and managed local amateur ball near Pittsburgh. He began his career in the Western League in Colorado Springs, hitting .287 in 93 games. The Pirates drafted him on September 5th and brought him to the majors soon afterwards. They got him into the starting lineup for three games at third base, including both games of a doubleheader on October 3rd. On October 7th, the Pirates and Chicago Cubs agreed days ahead of time to start Hans Lobert (Cubs) and Knabe at third base in the game, two local kids, in what turned out to be a huge affair in the city, including a parade for the young players. After the 1905 season, Knabe was reserved for the 1906 season. He ended up being sold to Toledo of the American Association in mid-December, where he hit .282 in 149 games the following year. In late 1906, he was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 draft. While in Philadelphia, he was their everyday second baseman for seven seasons. He was one of the best bunters in the game, four times leading the league in sacrifice hits. Knabe was recognized as a valuable role player during the 1911-13 seasons, receiving MVP votes all three years.

Knabe played 129 games during the 1907 season, hitting .255 with 67 runs scored, 18 stolen bases and a league leading 40 sacrifice hits. He played a career high 151 games in 1908, batting .218 with 26 doubles, 27 steals and 63 runs scored. He led the league with a career best 42 sacrifice hits. In 1909, Knabe played 113 games, and he put up a .234 average. The next season he hit .261 in 137 games, with 73 runs scored. He batted just .237 in 1911, but it came with 94 walks, 23 steals and a career best 99 runs scored. That was the only year he had more than 55 walks in a season. Knabe put up his best average in 1912, hitting .282 with 56 runs and 46 RBIs. He set a career high in RBIs in 1913 with 53, while also scoring 70 runs.

When a third Major League named the Federal League was formed for the 1914 season, Knabe jumped to the new league. He became the player/manager of the Baltimore Terrapins for two seasons, which was the entire existence of the league at the Major League level. He hit .253 in 103 games in 1915, his lowest full-season game total in the majors. Going into the 1916 season, Knabe was without a job. He came to the Pirates in April after getting no offers and worked out with the team to get fit. Injuries forced the Pirates to sign him and insert him in the lineup at second base before he was in game-playing shape. Pittsburgh ended up sending him home on June 1st after hitting just .191 in 28 games. They said at the time that he was too out of shape to play good baseball. but didn’t blame him for the lack of effort. Knabe was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July and finished his big league career with 51 more games during that 1916 season. He was a .247 career hitter in 1,278 games over 11 seasons, scoring 572 runs and stealing 143 bases. He played minor league ball in 1917 and 1920-21 before retiring.

George Kontos, pitcher for the 2017-18 Pirates. He was in his seventh season in the majors when the Pirates picked him up off of waivers during the middle of 2017. Kontos played one year for the New York Yankees and six seasons for the San Francisco Giants. The Yankees drafted him in the fifth round in 2006 out of Northwestern University. He was strictly a reliever in the majors, but he debuted in the minors as a starter. In the New York-Penn League in 2006, he went 7-3, 2.64 in 78.1 innings. He skipped to High-A in 2007 and had a 4.02 ERA in 94 innings, while playing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He played winter ball in Hawaii, where he had a 3.71 ERA in 34 innings. In 2008, he made 27 starts and tossed 151.2 innings for Double-A Trenton. He posted a 6-11, 3.68 record that season. When the Pirates traded Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady to the Yankees in 2008, Kontos was originally listed as part of the deal, along with pitcher Phil Coke. The Pirates ended up with both pitchers, but not until 2017 for Kontos and 2016 for Coke. Kontos was limited to 13 starts in 2009, split between Trenton and Triple-A. He had a 3.15 ERA in 71.1 innings. He switched to relief in 2010 and he had a 3.60 ERA in 45 innings, split over three levels. The San Diego Padres selected him in the Rule 5 draft, but they returned him before the season started. The 2011 season was spent in Triple-A, where he had a 2.62 ERA in 89.1 innings. The Yankees called him up to the majors in September and he allowed two runs over six innings and seven appearances.

Kontos was traded to the Giants in 2012 for catcher (and former Pirate) Chris Stewart. Kontos split the next three seasons about 60/40 between the majors and Triple-A. He had a 2.47 ERA over 43.2 innings and 44 appearances in 2012 with the Giants. That was followed by a 4.39 ERA in 52 games and 55.1 innings. He was 4-0, 2.78 in 2014, though more time was spent in the minors that year, limiting him to 24 appearances and 32.1 innings with the Giants. Kontos set career highs with 73 games and 73.1 innings in 2015 and his 2.33 ERA was a career best. He was nearly as good in 2016, putting up a 2.53 ERA in 57 outings. Before joining the Pirates in 2017, he had a 3.83 ERA in 51.2 innings over 50 appearances with the Giants. He had a 1.84 ERA over 14.2 innings and 15 appearances with the Pirates in 2017 after making his team debut on August 7th. In 2018, Kontos struggled with a 5.03 ERA in 21 appearances and 19.2 innings. He was released at the end of May and ended up playing for both the Cleveland Indians and Yankees later that season, though that time amounted to a total of seven innings over seven appearances. He saw minor league time with an independent league team and the Washington Nationals in 2019, but hasn’t played since. Kontos had an 18-18, 3.10 career record over 357 innings and 350 outings, making all of his big league appearances in relief.