This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: July 7th, Billy Herman and the Signing of Jerry Reuss

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one transaction of note.

John Buck, catcher for the 2013 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick out of high school in 1998 by the Houston Astros. He hit .286 in 36 games in the Gulf Coast League during his first season. In 1999, Buck spent most of the year in the New York-Penn League, where he hit .245 with three homers in 63 games. He moved up to Low-A in 2000 and batted .282 with 33 doubles and ten homers in 109 games. Despite strong results, he remained in Low-A in 2001, albeit in a different league, as the Astros switched affiliates. Buck hit .275 with 24 doubles and 22 homers in 122 games. He skipped up to Double-A in 2002, where he batted .263 with 29 doubles and 12 homers in 120 games for Round Rock of the Texas League. The 2003 season was spent in Triple-A, though he played just 78 games. He hit .255 with two homers. He was still in Triple-A in 2004 when the Astros traded him to the Kansas City Royals as part of a five-player/three-team deal on June 24th. Buck went right to the majors with the Royals and he hit .235 with 12 homers in 71 games, earning mild Rookie of the Year support. In his first full season in 2005, he hit .242 with 21 doubles and 12 homers in 118 games. He had very similar results in 2006, hitting .245 with 21 doubles and 11 homers in 114 games. In 113 games in 2007, Buck batted .222 with 18 homers and 48 RBIs. The 2008 season was his worst in Kansas City, with a .669 OPS. He hit .224 with nine homers in 109 games. He lost his starting job in 2009 and missed all of June. He finished with a .247 average and eight homers in 59 games.

Buck became a free agent after 2009 and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for one year. He was an All-Star that season for the only time in his career. His .281 average was a career high, to go along with personal bests in doubles (25), homers (20) and RBIs (66). Buck signed with the Florida Marlins in 2011 and hit .227 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs over 140 games during his first year. He struggled the next season, batting just .192 with 12 homers in 106 games. In the off-season, he was part of a 12-player deal that sent him back to Toronto. However, a month later he was part of a seven-player deal with the New York Mets. He was in his tenth year in the majors, hitting .215 with 15 homers in 101 games, when the Pirates acquired him from the Mets on August 27, 2013 along with Marlon Byrd, in exchange for Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. Buck played just nine games with the Pirates before he was injured, hitting .333 with eight singles and two RBIs. He became a free agent after the season and played one more year in the majors before retiring during Spring Training of 2015. He signed with the Seattle Mariners in January of 2014 and was released that July. A few days later he signed with the Los Angeles Angels for the remainder of the season. He hit .225 with one homer in 32 games. That winter he signed with the Atlanta Braves, but he retired on March 26, 2015, ending his career. Buck was a .234 hitter in 1,090 big league games, with 134 homers and 491 RBIs.

Jerry Dybzinski, shortstop for the 1985 Pirates. He was a 15th round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1977 out of Cleveland State University. His debut in pro ball in the New York-Penn League was a mixed bag. He hit .218 with no homers in 58 games, but he stole 18 bases and drew 49 walks. Dybzinski moved up to Low-A in 1978 and hit .283 with 96 runs scored, 12 homers and 25 steals in 134 games. He skipped up to Triple-A in 1979, where he batted .254 with one homer and 25 steals in 132 games. He made the Opening Day roster of the Indians in 1980 and played 114 games, seeing plenty of time at shortstop and second base. He hit .230 with one homer and 23 RBIs. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, he was a bench player for the Indians, getting just 67 plate appearances in 48 games. Dybzinski played 80 games in 1982, getting 64 starts at shortstop. He hit .231 with no homers and 22 RBIs. Right before Opening Day in 1983, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he played for two years prior to being released at the end of Spring Training in 1985. He played 127 games his first year in Chicago, though he batted just 290 times, finishing with a .230 average, 32 RBIs and 11 steals. He batted .235 in 94 games in 1984, getting a total of 152 plate appearances. Dybzinski was a typical good-glove no-hit shortstop of the 1980’s, finishing with above average fielding stats, but also had just three career homers to go along with his perennial .230 average. The Pirates signed him ten days after Chicago released him in 1985 and he was used just once as a starter, going 0-for-3 during an April 21st loss to the St Louis Cardinals. Dybzinski was used twice as a pinch-runner and twice as a defensive replacement, before being sent to Triple-A to finish the season. After hitting .199 in 55 minor league games, the Pirates released him. He finished his playing career in the minors the following season with the Seattle Mariners. Dybzinski batted .234 with 93 RBIs and 32 steals in 468 big league games over six seasons.

Chuck Goggin, utility player for the 1972-73 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1964, before making his way to Pittsburgh in a deal for Jim Bunning five years later. Goggin debuted at 18 years old, playing Class-A ball during his first year. He hit .214 with a .641 OPS in 106 games split between two teams. In 1965, he played for Santa Barbara of the California League, where he hit .277 with 40 extra-base hits, 70 runs scored, 65 RBIs and 16 steals. He spent the 1966-67 seasons serving in the military and then played for Albuquerque of the Texas League when he returned in 1968. Goggin batted .247 in 106 games, with a .705 OPS. He moved up to Triple-A in 1969 and hit .318 in 71 games for Spokane of the Pacific Coast League. On August 15, 1969, he was part of a two-for-one (plus cash) deal by the Dodgers to acquire Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. It took Goggin three seasons after Pittsburgh acquired him to make his Major League debut. He saw limited playing time in 1970 in Triple-A, where he hit .214 with a .584 OPS. The next year was split between Triple-A and Double-A, and he did well at both levels, combining to hit .313 with 42 extra-base hits and 72 runs scored in 117 games. In Triple-A in 1972, Goggin hit .297 with 67 walks and 46 extra-base hits, which earned him a September call-up. The Pirates used him five times (once as a starter) and he went 2-for-7 with a walk. In 1973, Goggin played one game for the Pirates, catching the end of a blowout loss in the second game of a doubleheader on April 22nd. On May 5th he was sent back to Triple-A, and on May 24th he was sold to the Atlanta Braves, where he hit .289 in 64 games over the the rest of the 1973 season. He played five different positions that year for Atlanta. Despite the solid batting average and versatility, Goggin’s Major League career was over after just two more games for the 1974 Boston Red Sox. He retired after the season and managed in the minors for a few years before retiring from baseball. While serving in the military during the Vietnam War, Goggin was injured in a landmine explosion and had to work his way back through rehab, so it’s impressive that he even had a Major League career. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, among his many recognitions for his time in the service.

Red Nonnenkamp, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on September 6, 1933. He spent four seasons in the minors before he got his only chance with the Pirates. Nonnenkamp debuted in Class-D ball at 18 years old in 1930, where he hit .297 with 20 extra-base hits in 114 games. In 1931, he played 122 games spread over two teams in the Class-C Middle Atlantic League, where his stats are incomplete at this time. For a short time, his rights were held by the Pirates, who sent him to an affiliated club in Altoona. He was playing for Tulsa of the Western League in 1932, a team backed by the Pirates both financially and with players, when he broke a bone in his right foot, which limited him to 16 games that season. When the owner of the Tulsa team wanted to buy the team outright from Pittsburgh, they worked out a deal on August 26, 1933 in which the Pirates got Nonnenkamp, along with Cy Blanton, who went on the become a star pitcher for the Pirates. Nonnenkamp was seen (then recommended) by Pirates scout Carleton Molesworth while playing for El Dorado of the Dixie League, where he hit .336 in 63 games. He reported to the Pirates on September 2nd and it was noted that he likely wouldn’t see much playing time until the pennant race was settled. In the second game of a doubleheader on September 6, 1933, Nonnenkamp batted for pitcher Bill Swift in the ninth inning of a 9-1 game that the Pirates were losing. He would strike out against Giants pitcher Hal Schumacher.

Red (first name was Leo) never played again for the Pirates that season. They were fighting for second place, back when a second place finish came with added bonus money from the league, so they said that they couldn’t find time for Nonnenkamp to play when every game counted towards the standings.  On January 19, 1934, he was released to Little Rock of the Southern Association on an option. The Pirates recalled him in September (without reporting to the team), but on December 10th, he was released outright to Little Rock again. On November 7, 1935, he was sold to Little Rock, ending his time with the Pirates organization. Nonnenkamp was in the minors with Little Rock until the 1938 Boston Red Sox gave him his second chance at the big leagues. He batted .283 in 87 games for Boston that season, then had just 87 plate appearances over 58 games in 1939. He was with Boston for the first two months of the 1940 season, but he batted just eight times in nine games. He hit .263 in 154 games during the 1938-40 seasons, then returned to the minors, where he finished his playing career in 1946 after serving in the Navy during WWII. His final season was spent back in Little Rock.

Billy Herman, second baseman for the 1947 Pirates. By the time he reached the Pirates in 1947, his playing career was basically over. He was acquired by the Pirates from the Boston Braves in a six-player deal on September 30, 1946 and was named manager of the team. It would be his first managerial experience in the majors. Herman played sporadically during the season, getting 11 starts at second base and two at first base, only once playing more than two days in a row. After leading the team to a 61-92 record, Herman stepped aside as the manager on the last day of the season. He went on to become a player/manager in the minors for two seasons, then later managed the Boston Red Sox for three years. As a player, Herman was a .304 career hitter, with 839 RBIs  and 1,163 runs scored in 1, 922 games. Three times he led the league in games played, once in hits, once in doubles and once in triples. He hit over .300 seven times and missed two years during his prime while serving in WWII. Herman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, joining Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg as members of that 1947 Pirates team in the Hall.

Herman’s pro career began in 1928 at 18 years old. He hit .332 in Class-D ball that season and even got a four-game trial with Louisville of the American Association, one step from the majors. He batted .339 with 56 extra-base hits in Class-B in 1929, while also hitting .323 in 24 games for Louisville. The 1930 and 1931 seasons were both spent in Louisville, where he hit .305 with 40 doubles in 1930, then batted .350 in 118 games in 1931. He joined the Chicago Cubs in August, debuting in the majors shortly after his 22nd birthday. Herman batted .327 in 25 games for the Cubs to finish out the 1931 season. He led the National League with 154 games played and 723 plate appearances during his first full season in the majors. He batted .314 with 42 doubles, 102 runs scored and 206 hits, which helped him to a ninth place finish in the MVP voting. Herman hit just .279 the next year and saw his OPS drop to .675 in 153 games, though he played strong defense, which kept his value high that year. He led the league second basemen in putouts and double plays. He was an All-Star in 1934, hitting .303 with 79 runs scored in 113 games. The next year started a string of three big seasons.

In 1935, Herman led the league with 227 hits and 57 doubles. He also set career highs with a .341 average and 113 runs scored. He led all NL second basemen in fielding percentage, assists, putouts and double plays. He was an All-Star for the second time and he finished fourth in the MVP voting. He batted .333 in the World Series, which the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers. In 1936, he hit .334 with 101 runs scored, 211 hits and 57 doubles, while driving in 93 runs, which was his high up to that point. Once again he led the league in fielding percentage and putouts. He made his third All-Star team and had a career best third place finish in the MVP voting. In 1937, Herman batted .335 with 56 extra-base hits and 106 runs scored, which led to an All-Star appearance and ninth place in the MVP voting. He saw a large drop in his offense in 1938 (.875 OPS down to .701) and he hit just .188 in the World Series. He was still strong on defense, which helped him to an All-Star appearance. He led the league in putouts and fielding percentage again.

Herman bounced back on offense in 1939, hitting .307 with 111 runs scored, 34 doubles and a league leading 18 triples, while driving in 70 runs. He made his sixth straight All-Star game and received mild MVP support. In 1940, he batted .292 with 77 runs scored and 57 RBIs. In 1941, he hit .285 with 67 walks and 81 runs scored. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers early in the season and made his eighth straight All-Star appearance, while finishing 11th in the MVP voting.  Herman led the league with 155 games played in 1942. He hit just .256, but it came with 72 walks, 76 runs scored and 65 RBIs. He had an incredible 1943 season, batting .330 with 66 walks, 41 doubles and a career best 100 RBIs. He made his tenth straight All-Star appearance and finished fourth in the MVP voting. The next two years were lost to the war, before returning in 1946. The Dodgers traded him to Boston mid-season and he batted .298 in 122 games.

Art Merewether, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on July 10, 1922. He was a standout college athlete at Brown University, where he was scouted by a former Pirates pitcher and Brown alum, Mike Lynch. The Pirates signed Merewether on June 28th and would use him just once before sending him to the minors on August 5th when he was farmed out to Worcester of the Eastern League, which was managed by former Pirates player Jack Flynn. After signing with the Pirates he was told to report immediately to the team in Pittsburgh, where they were in the second day of a 26-day homestand (except Sundays games). In the first game of a doubleheader on July 10th in Pittsburgh, the Giants had a 19-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. He came up to bat for pitcher Bonnie Hollingsworth, who had just given up three runs in the top of the inning. In his only plate appearance of his big league career, Merewether grounded out to Hall of Fame shortstop Dave Bancroft. The outing was also the last for Hollingsworth in a Pirates uniform. Merewether was sent out on an option to Worcester, but never returned to the Pirates. He returned to college (MIT) and due to the different rules of the time, he was allowed to play college ball again. He would go on to play in the minors in 1926 for Lewiston of the New England League, and he played semi-pro ball after leaving school as well, spending time in 1924 with the Lewiston Outlaws of the Inter-State League among his many teams. While his name didn’t appear in print often during his brief time in Pittsburgh, one story noted that he was a talented ice skater and a good boxer, but his best skill was playing the piano, which he apparently did for the entertainment of the team. When he was sent to the minors, they noted that they didn’t think it would be long before he was big league ready.

The Transaction

On this date in 1990, the Pirates signed pitcher Jerry Reuss as a free agent. The 41-year-old lefty won 61 games over five seasons for the Pirates in the 1970s, but he was at the end of his 22-year career when he returned to Pittsburgh. Reuss signed in July, but he would pitch in the minors until September. He made three relief appearances for the Pirates, then got a start in the final game of the season. In his four appearances, he gave up three runs over 7.2 innings. He finished his career with 220 wins.