This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: July 21st, Mike Williams Deal with Phillies

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one trade of note. Before we get into that stuff, current Pirates pitcher Max Kranick turns 24 today.

The Trade

On this date in 2003, the Pirates traded closer Mike Williams to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league pitcher Frank Brooks. Williams was in his second tour with the Pirates as their closer. He had originally been with the Pirates from 1998 until the 2001 trading deadline, when they sent him to the Houston Astros for pitcher Tony McKnight. He re-signed with the Pirates after the season and had an All-Star year in 2002, saving 46 games, which was a team record until topped by Mark Melancon in 2015. In 2003, Williams made the All-Star team again, although he was chosen solely because every team needed a representative. At that point, he had a 1-3, 6.27 record in 40 games, with 25 saves at the time of the trade. Brooks was a 24-year-old lefty reliever, who was taken in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft by the Phillies. At the time of the deal, he had a 2.30 ERA in 34 appearances, with 71 strikeouts in 58.2 innings, while playing at Double-A.

After the deal, Williams continued to struggle for the Phillies, going 0-4, 5.96 in 28 games with three saves. He was let go via free agency after the season and never played in the majors again, ending his career with his only two All-Star appearances coming in his last two seasons. Brooks went to Double-A for one game, then went to Triple-A, where he had a 2.54 ERA in 16 outings. He was taken in the 2003 Rule 5 draft, but eventually came back to the Pirates after changing hands three times. He went to Triple-A until late August in 2004, when the Pirates called him up for his Major League debut. Brooks pitched 11 games with Pittsburgh, going 0-1, 4.67 in 17.1 innings. He was taken off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers after the season completed and he ended up pitching just one more game in the big leagues, walking the only batter he faced in that contest.

The Players

Dick Smith, infielder for the Pirates from 1951 until 1955. The Pirates signed him in 1949 as an amateur free agent out of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, one of just three players from that school to make the majors. Smith moved quickly through the minors due to his bat, hitting .315 in 1949 at Class-D Greenville of the Alabama State League, then .321 the next year in 129 games split between two levels. That was followed by a .330 average in 139 games in 1951 while playing for Charleston of the Class-A South Atlantic League. He was a September call-up to the Pirates that season, batting .174 in 12 games, which were all starts at third base. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1952, although he was seldom used and ended up back in the minors by mid-June, getting recalled in September. He saw 11 starts and third base and two each at shortstop and second base, finishing the year with a .106 average in 29 games. Smith must’ve felt déjà vu the next two years, as he was a September recall in 1953, then made the Opening Day roster again in 1954, only to be sent down after a short time. He batted .163 in 13 games in 1953, spending all of his time at shortstop. In 1954, he hit just .097 in 12 games and only played third base.

Smith had his fifth and final stint with the 1955 Pirates, making his third Opening Day roster, but this time he was barely given a chance to play. He walked in his only plate appearance, while appearing another three times as a pinch-runner. On May 4, 1955, three days after his final big league game, Smith was sold outright to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. The officially marked the end of his time with the Pirates, though as an affiliate of the Pirates at the time, Pittsburgh would have had first chance to buy him back from Hollywood. In his five seasons, he hit .134 with 11 RBIs in 70 games. That .174 average during his first chance in 1951, would be his highest average in a season with the Pirates. Smith played 37 games at third, 18 at shortstop and four at second base, starting a total of 47 games in the majors. He played in the minors until 1960 without a return trip to the big leagues, spending most of that time in the Pacific Coast League. On Opening Day in 1957 with Hollywood, Smith had a nasty head-on-head collision with infielder and former Pirates player Spook Jacobs, with both players suffering major head injuries. Despite that rough start to the season, he put up his best year in the Pacific Coast League, batting .299 in 121 games.

Irv Young, pitcher for the 1908 Pirates. He was a very good pitcher for a very bad Boston Beaneaters/Doves team from 1905 until the time the Pirates traded for him. Young led the National League in innings pitched as a rookie, then repeated the feat in 1906, throwing a combined total of 736.1 innings. Pittsburgh had tried to purchase him after his rookie season and they were willing to pay a high price, but Boston would not sell their star hurler. It was unfortunate for Young, who finished his time in Boston with a 50-78 record, despite a solid 3.15 ERA and 15 shutouts. He went 20-21, 2.90 in 1905, playing for a team that had a 51-103 record. He threw 378 innings that year and completed 41 of his 42 starts. Boston won just 49 games in 1906 and his record suffered more, with a 16-25 mark, while posting a 2.91 ERA. In 1907, he saw a dip in his effectiveness, which led to less time. Young went 10-23, 3.96 in 245.1 innings. While that ERA is more than acceptable now, 1907 was the middle of the deadball era and the league had a collective 2.46 ERA that season. Through the first two months of the 1908 season, he went 4-9, 2.86 in 85 innings.

The Pirates acquired Young on June 18, 1908 in exchange for two rookie pitchers named Tom McCarthy and Harley Young. A popular trend at the time was giving a nickname to a player just because they had the same last name as a previous player. Sometimes it worked out bad for that player, as in the case with both Irv Young and Harley Young. They gained the nicknames, “Cy the Second” for Irv and “Cy the Third” for Harley, although neither were anywhere near the great Cy Young as far as talent or career accomplishments. In fact, Irv Young for a time went by Cy Young in the papers and the original Cy Young was called Old Cy Young (he also had the nickname “Farmer” throughout his career).  Irv Young pitched well for the 1908 Pirates, going 4-3, 2.01 in 89.2 innings over seven starts and nine relief outings. Prior to the 1909 season, he was sold to Minneapolis of the American Association and spent the entire season in the minors, putting up a 23-18 record in 335 innings. He pitched two more years in the majors for the Chicago White Sox (1910-11) before finishing his career with another five seasons in the minors. Young went 4-8, 2.72 in 135.2 innings in 1910, followed by a 5-6, 4.37 record in 92.2 innings in 1911. He made 28 starts and 23 relief appearances in Chicago. His final big league stats show a 63-95, 3.11 record in 1,384.2 innings over 161 starts and 48 relief appearances. He threw 120 complete games and 21 shutouts. It was a bit surprising that he didn’t get another MLB chance. In 1914-15, when the Federal League came along and started taking some MLB talent, Young had back-to-back 20-win seasons for Milwaukee of the American Association, which was basically Triple-A at the time. He had a 2.87 ERA in 1914 and a 2.62 mark in 1915, throwing a total of 596 innings.

Despite debuting in the majors at 27 years old, he had almost no pro experience before joining Boston in 1905. His pre-1905 records on Baseball-Reference show just 12 games in the Pacific Coast League in 1903, though he pitched for Concord of the New England League in 1904 and at the time it was said that he had ten years of pitching, which was likely semi-pro ball. He pitched for a team in Belmont in 1895 and there was one year with a team referred to as “Whitefield”, where he was full in on baseball for the season. An article written up when he signed with Boston said that Young concentrated more on his work with the Boston & Maine Rail Road than he did on baseball, which explains his late start in the majors.