Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born today, plus a trade the Pirates made to help with a pennant run.
On this date in 1908, the Pirates traded pitchers Tom McCarthy and Harley Young to the Boston Doves for pitcher Irv Young. The Pirates were looking to add to their rotation to make a pennant run and Irv Young was a veteran pitcher who the lowly Boston Doves were willing to move. He had a 50-78, 3.15 record in 142 games, 126 as a starter, over his four seasons with Boston. In each of his first two seasons, the 30-year-old lefty led the NL in innings pitched. McCarthy and Harley Young were both young inexperienced pitchers who the Pirates thought highly of, but neither were ready to pitch regularly for a pennant contender. Manager Fred Clarke said at the time of the deal that Irv Young would step into a regular spot in the rotation.
After the deal, Irv Young pitched well for the Pirates, but he didn’t last long in the rotation. He didn’t make a start during the last month and a half of the season. He finished with a 4-3, 2.01 record in seven starts and nine relief appearances. The Pirates actually went 32-10 after his last start, so his presence wasn’t missed in the rotation. After the season, the Pirates sold his rights to a minor league team. The other Young made just six more Major League appearances, two as a start. The 1908 season was his only in the majors, finishing with an 0-3 career record. He was also sold to the minors prior to the 1909 season. Tom McCarthy was thought to be the lesser of the two pitchers that Boston received, but he outpitched both Youngs after the trade, at least that first year. He went 7-3, 1.63 in 94 innings in 1908, then dropped to 0-5 in 1909, before finishing his career in the minors.
The title here might sound misleading, but it’s not. A popular practice during the early years of baseball was to give players with the same last name, the same nickname. There are six players from the early years of baseball named Buck Freeman, and not one had the first name Buck. Irv Young was called Cy Young during his career quite often, it even ended up on baseball cards during his day, which still confuse people today into thinking that it’s a real Cy Young card (it is, but not the 511 win fella). In fact, with the original Cy Young still pitching, they were often differentiated by “Old” and “New” added before their names. To make matters even crazier, the aforementioned Harley Young received the nickname “Cy Young the Third” as soon as he entered the majors. No pressure there, trying to keep up with a guy who had nearly 500 wins at the time. For the record, he finished with the same number of big league wins as I did, just 511 short of tying Old Cy Young.
JB Shuck, outfielder for the 2019 Pirates. Shuck was a sixth round pick of the Houston Astros out of Ohio State in 2008. He debuted in the New York-Penn League and did well, posting a .300 average and an .815 OPS in 65 games. He skipped to High-A in 2009, playing in the high-offense California League, where he batted .315 with 30 doubles, 11 triples, 18 steals and 98 runs scored in 133 games. The 2010 season was split between Double-A and Triple-A. Shuck combined to hit .292 with 62 walks and 22 extra-base hits in 137 games, showing better results in Double-A. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .350 in limited time. In 2011, he batted .297 with 56 walks and 20 steals in 108 games at Triple-A before joining the Astros in August. Shuck hit .272 in 37 games with Houston. Despite solid results, he spent the entire 2012 season in Triple-A, where he put up a .298 average. With 2 1/2 seasons and 259 games experience in the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League, Shuck failed to hit a single home run during that time. The Astros let him go after the 2012 season and he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. He spent all of 2013 in the majors, batting .293 with 60 runs scored in 129 games. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Shuck struggled in 2014 and was sold to the Cleveland Indians late season after seeing plenty of time back in Triple-A. Between the Angels and Indians that year, he batted .145 in 38 games. The Chicago White Sox picked him up off waivers after the 2014 season and he ended up playing a total of 159 games for them during the 2015-16 seasons. Shuck batted .266 in his first season in Chicago, then dropped to .205 in 80 games. He hit four homers that year, which ended up being half of his big league total. He signed with the Minnesota Twins for 2017, but he spent the entire year in Triple-A, posting a .693 OPS in 123 games. Shuck signed with the Miami Marlins for 2018 and split the year between Triple-A and the majors. He batted .192 in 70 games for the Marlins. He was a minor league free agent signing for the Pirates prior to the 2019 season. He played 27 games in Pittsburgh, hitting .213 with four runs scored and two RBIs in 57 plate appearances. Shuck spent the majority of the season in Triple-A Indianapolis, where he began to pitch in relief. He had a 3.79 ERA in 19 innings, with 23 strikeouts. He left via free agency after the season and signed with the Washington Nationals, though he was released without playing a game. Shuck put up a .243/.296/.314 slash line in 460 Major League games over seven season.
Ron Necciai, pitcher for the 1952 Pirates. The young fireballer joined the 1952 Bristol Twins of the Appalachian League after two unimpressive seasons to start his pro career. In 1950 at 18-years-old, he had trouble throwing strikes in three appearances split over two Class-D affiliates of the Pirates, allowing ten runs in three innings. In 1951, Necciai had a 5.70 ERA and 129 walks in 139 innings, seeing time with two different clubs. What he did during his short time in 1952 with Bristol , which was a Class-D team (lowest level of the minors), proved to Pittsburgh that he was not only ready to move up two levels in the minors, he was also given a trial with the Pirates at the end of the year. He made two starts and four relief appearances for Bristol, pitching a total of 42.2 innings. Necciai allowed just ten hits and two earned runs for an 0.42 ERA. The most impressive part was his strikeouts, which are broken down below:
1st outing: 9 IP 20 K
2nd: 9 IP 19 K
3rd: 4 IP 11 K
4th: 9 IP 27 K
5th: 2.2 IP 8 K
6th: 9 IP 24 K
Necciai was moved up to the Carolina League, where he had a 1.57 ERA in 126 innings. On August 7, 1952 the Pirates called him up to the majors and gave him his first big league start three days later. He was not sharp that day, giving up seven runs on 11 hits in six innings. Unbelievably, he pitched three innings the next day and struck out five of the ten batters he faced, with the only runner he allowed reaching base on a dropped third strike. Necciai had some rough outings the rest on the way, and until his last start, he was barely striking out anyone. On the last day of the season, he allowed two runs over seven innings, striking out eight batters.
The next year he was inducted into the Army before the season started. He was discharged after a short time due to stomach ulcers, which had been bothering him for awhile. Necciai didn’t return to baseball until the 1954 season. In Spring Training that year he came down with a sore arm. He left the team and said he was quitting baseball. The Pirates still held his rights and released him to Waco of the Big State League, a Class-B team. Before he pitched for them, he was acquired by the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. In 1955, Necciai pitched three times for the Stars before being returned to Waco, where he made the last two appearances of his career. A rotator cuff injury ended his promising baseball career with 1-6 7.08 record in 54.2 innings in the majors. He turns 89 years old today.
Newt Halliday, first baseman for the Pirates on August 19, 1916. He was playing in the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League (referred to as the KITTY League) in 1916 when the league folded midway through their season. He played semi-pro ball in Chicago prior to 1916, but this was his first year of pro ball and he actually wasn’t doing to well at the plate, but his defense was praised and it was said that he had a strong arm. Local papers said that he was just a .200 hitter in 1916, but he made a decent amount of contact at the plate. His problem was that everything was hit in the air and without power. According to Halliday, his salary with the Pirates was “more than $100 per month”. He was given a tryout by the Pirates, reporting to the team on August 9th, three days after he was signed. He was on the bench during a doubleheader on August 19, 1916, when backup infielder Joe Schultz pinch-hit for first baseman Doc Johnston in the bottom of the fifth inning of game two. Schultz remained in the game and went to play second base, while Halliday entered the game as the first baseman. He handled all four chances he had in the field without an error, and he struck out in his only at-bat. It was said about him in the local paper the next day that “he is a big rangy youth, who handles himself nicely on the bag”. The Pittsburgh Daily Post said that he was impressive in his debut and would be given other opportunities before the season was over. When the Pirates went on a road trip in September, he was left home to train at Forbes Field with some other young players. Halliday never got into another game that season, and by the next year he was enlisted in the U.S. Navy during WWI. The Pirates sold him to Kansas City of the American Association in January of 1917 and he even played at least one preseason game for them against the Cincinnati Reds before joining the war effort. During his training, he contracted Tuberculosis and became very ill by March of 1918. By early April he had also come down with pneumonia. On April 6, 1918, at the age of 21, he passed away. His early death makes him one of the youngest major leaguers to pass away, surpassed by as few as three players, all from the 19th century. He was called by his full first name (Newton) during his time in baseball. He was called a right-handed hitter during his time in Pittsburgh, but his local papers from his minor league team said that he was a switch-hitter.
Ben Shaw, first baseman/catcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. Shaw was a college graduate with two years in the minors when he made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1917 as their emergency catcher/ backup first baseman. He played 71 games for Houston of the Texas League in 1915, putting up a .244 average. He dropped down one level to Macon of the South Atlantic League in 1916, where he was credited with just 16 games played. He didn’t join Macon until mid-season when his team from Clarksville of the KITTY League disbanded. Through 66 games, he was hitting .361 with 26 extra-base hits and 33 stolen bases. He was picked up by the Pirates off of waivers from the New York Yankees just three weeks before the season started. It was said that he could fill the first base starting job in an acceptable manner if Bill Hinchman was unable to handle the job. The scouting report on him was that he was a promising catcher and a natural hitter. At the time of his acquisition, the Pirates had two catchers that were unsigned, both holding out for more money. As it turned out, the Pirates signed both holdouts and Shaw was returned to the minors after just two pinch hit at-bats. He went to Omaha of the Western League to finish the season, where he hit .313 in 102 games. He returned to the majors in 1918, taking up the role he was slated for the prior season. He played 21 games, getting five starts, and he hit .194 with two RBIs and five runs scored in 40 plate appearances. That 1918 season was his last as a player in pro ball, although he later managed in the minors for two seasons. A salary dispute with the Pirates in 1919 caused him to jump to outlaw baseball, playing for a Pennysylvania team from Oil City with teammate Jake Pitler, which got him blacklisted from pro ball until 1925, when he was reinstated. It was said at the time that the players retired to go into business, but they were still reserved by the Pirates, which prevented them from playing for any independent (outlaw) teams.