Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including two Hall of Famers, one of them being the great Roberto Clemente. There are also two trades of note. There will be more on Clemente later.
On this date in 1989, the Pirates traded outfielder Glenn Wilson to the Houston Astros for outfielder Billy Hatcher. Wilson had been with the Pirates just over one year, coming over the previous July from the Mariners in exchange for Darnell Coles. Wilson was hitting .282 with nine homers and 49 RBIs in 100 games at the time of the deal. After the trade, he batted just .216 for the Astros, then ended up coming back to Pittsburgh in 1993, after being out of the majors for two seasons. Hatcher played just 27 games for the Pirates before getting traded in the off-season to the Cincinnati Reds, where he won a World Series ring, hitting .333 against Pittsburgh in the NLCS. Prior to the trade, he was hitting .228 in 108 games for the Astros, with 22 steals.
On this date in 1952, the Pirates traded infielder George Strickland and pitcher Ted Wilks to the Cleveland Indians for veteran infielder Johnny Berardino, minor league pitcher Charles Sipple and cash. It was an odd move for the Pirates, who released Berardino two years earlier. They were in a rebuilding mode and neither player they received fit the mode, though the cash in return had to help as they struggled near the bottom of the league in attendance. Berardino finished the year with the Pirates, then never played again, while Sipple, at age 32 already, never played in the majors. Wilks was a steady 36-year-old reliever, nearing the end of his career and pitching well for Pittsburgh at the time. He made seven appearances for the 1952 Indians, with a 3.86 ERA in 11.2 innings, then he lasted just four games in 1953 before his big league career was over. Strickland was just 26 years old and ended up playing eight years in Cleveland, leading the American League in fielding in 1955 at shortstop and 1959 at third base. He batted .233 with 22 homers and 213 RBIs in Cleveland, though it was the strong defense that earned him his playing time.
Roberto Clemente, Hall of Fame outfielder for the 1955-72 Pirates. The Pirates picked up Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft, just nine months after he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. His only minor league experience was 87 games with Montreal of the International League in 1954, and he didn’t do much during that time, hitting .257 with ten extra-base hits and one steal. The Pirates were a bad team in 1955, which gave them a chance to play Clemente regularly. He hit just .255 with five homers in 124 games during his rookie season. While he batted .311 in his second season, he didn’t really break out until the 1960 season, which coincided with the success of the Pirates. That 1956 season saw him finish with a .761 OPS, which was well below his career mark, but also his best mark during his first five seasons. His defense and cannon for an arm is what made him valuable during the early years. Clemente struggled a bit in 1957, hitting .253 in 111 games, with 28 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and 42 runs scored. In 1958, he hit .289 with 40 extra-base hits and 69 runs scored. That was followed by a .296 average in 105 games in 1959. He drove in 50 runs for a second straight season, and finished with 60 runs scored.
In their World Series winning 1960 season, Clemente hit .314 with 89 runs, 16 homers and 94 RBIs in 144 games. He then batted .310 during the World Series, though they were all singles and no walks, so he had identical .310 OBP and slugging. Clemente was an All-Star for the first time in 1960, and he would go on to make the All-Star team in 11 of his final 12 seasons. He also finished eighth in the MVP voting.
Clemente won his first of four batting titles in 1961 by hitting .351, while scoring 100 runs for the first time and reaching 200 hits (201) for the first time as well. He had 30 doubles, ten triples, 23 homers and 89 RBIs. He made the All-Star game again, back when they played two games each year (1959-62), and he finished fourth in the MVP voting. He also won his first Gold Glove award.
In 1962, Clemente hit .312 with 47 extra-base hits, 95 runs scored and 74 RBIs in 144 games. He played in the two All-Star games, finished 17th in the MVP voting, and he won his second Gold Glove. In 1963 he batted .320 with 48 extra-base hits, 76 RBIs, 77 runs scored and a career high 12 stolen bases. He added another All-Star appearance and Gold Glove to his resume, with finishing 14th in the MVP voting.
He won the batting title again in 1964 with a .339 average and led the league with 211 hits, which ended up being his single season high. He also set a high with 40 doubles, while adding 95 runs and 87 RBIs. He checked off another All-Star game and a fourth Gold Glove, while finishing ninth in the MVP voting.
Clemente made it back-to-back batting titles in 1965 with a .329 average. He set a career best with 14 triples, scored 91 runs, had 65 RBIs and he went 8-for-8 in steals. He added his sixth All-Star selection (nine games total to that point), won a fifth Gold Glove, and he had an eighth place finish in the MVP voting.
In 1966, Clemente hit 29 homers and drove in 119 runs, while scoring 105 runs. All three were career bests and it led to him winning the 1966 NL MVP award. He batted .317 and collected 202 hits. As you may have assumed, he added to both his All-Star and Gold Glove resume.
In 1967, Clemente had perhaps his best season. He won his fourth batting title with a career best .357 average, while leading the league with 209 hits. He hit 23 homers, picked up 110 RBIs and scored 103 runs. Those stats led to a third place finish in the MVP voting, to go along with a Gold Glove and an All-Star appearance. While he failed to win another batting title after 1967, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. From 1969 until 1971, he hit .345, .352 and .341 during those three seasons. He finished second, eighth and fourth in batting those years. The 1968 season was a down one for offense all around baseball, so while it looks like he had a down year for his standards with a .291 average, he actually finished tenth in the league in hitting.
His 1969 season was a solid year besides the .345 average. He scored 87 runs, had 91 RBIs and he had 51 extra-base hits, including a league leading 12 triples. In 1970 he had 22 doubles, ten triples and 14 homers in 108 games. After batting .341 with 82 runs scored and 86 RBIs during the 1971 season, Clemente continued to hit in the postseason. He batted .333 during the NLCS, then hit .414 with two homers in the World Series. The Pirates won their fourth title and Clemente was named as the World Series MVP. In his final season before his tragic passing, Clemente had a .312 average in 102 games. He collected his 3,000th hit in his final at-bat of the season, though it’s a common misconception that it happened during his final game. He was a defensive replacement three days later, after sitting out during the previous game. That game tied him with Honus Wagner for first on the Pirates all-time list, though at the time it was thought that he tied Wagner in his previous game due to a statistical error for Wagner. Clemente’s final career at-bats came in the postseason that year, where he hit .235 with a homer in five games.
Clemente put up tremendous career stats on offense, but his defense was just as much of a highlight producer. He led all right fielders in assists six times, which was tough to do when people knew not to test him. He has the 17th most outfield assists all-time, but ranks first among all outfielders in the last 100 years.
Among Pirates all-time stats, he ranks tied for first in games, first hit hits, first in total bases, third in homers, third in doubles, third in runs scored, third in triples, third RBIs, third in times on base and fourth in extra-base hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, as they waived the standard five-year waiting period due to the circumstances of his death. Clemente was a 15-time All-Star and he won 12 Gold Glove awards. The Roberto Clemente award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Baseball also holds an annual Roberto Clemente Day in September to celebrate the great player.
Burleigh Grimes, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Pirates in 1916-17, 1928-29 and 1934. He debuted at 18 years old in pro ball and played five seasons in the minors before he got his first shot at the big league level. Grimes had a 3.52 ERA in 69 innings in 1912, playing Class-D ball. He spent some time back in Class-D in 1913, while also spending part of the year with Class-A Chattanooga of the Southern Association. He combined to go 12-9 that year in 182 innings, with better results at the lower level. A large majority of the 1914 season was spent with Richmond of the Class-C Virginia League, where Grimes had great results. His ERA isn’t available, but he went 23-13 in 296 innings, allowing 3.44 runs per nine innings. He spent a small part of that season with Birmingham of the Southern Association, which is where he played for all of 1915-16. He went 17-13, 2.04 in 296 innings in 1915, then finished 20-11, 2.02 in 276 innings in 1916. On August 24th, the Pirates announced the acquisition of Grimes, along with the fact that Birmingham would be affiliated with the Pirates in 1917. The two deals were said to be separate, but the Pirates said that they would turn over a number of good players to Birmingham in exchange for Grimes.
Grimes did not start off well during his first time around with the Pirates, going a combined 5-19 over two season, though it should be pointed out that the 1917 Pirates were one of the worst teams in franchise history. It was the middle of the deadball era, so he 3.53 ERA was actually 52 points higher than the team ERA, which contributed to a 3-16 record. On January 9, 1918, the Pirates traded Grimes in a five-player deal with Brooklyn that brought outfielder Casey Stengel back to Pittsburgh. The move worked out well for Brooklyn and Grimes, who went 158-121 in nine seasons there, winning 21+ games during four of those years. He was strong from the start, going 19-9, 2.13 in 270 innings in 1918. In 1919, he had a 10-11, 3.47 record in 181.1 innings. The 1920 season saw an uptick in offense, as baseball got rid of pitches that were determined to be illegal, though they allowed a group of players grandfathered into the rule to continue to throw the spitball. Grimes was one of those pitchers and years later he became the last legal spitball pitcher in the majors. MLB also decided to put new baseballs in play more often, which was especially true after Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was killed with a pitch that hit him in the head. Grimes showed no effect from the new rules in 1920, going 23-11, 2.22 in 303.2 innings. He pitched three times in the World Series that year, winning game two, but he lost game seven to fellow Hall of Famer Stan Covaleski. The next year he was 22-13, 2.83 in 302.1 innings, leading the league in wins and strikeouts, setting a career high with 136 that season.
Grimes saw a drop in his production in 1922, as he went 17-14, 4.76 in 259 innings. He would end up leading the league in innings pitched during each of the next two seasons. In 1923 he went 21-18, 3.58 in 327 innings. In 1924, he had a 22-13, 3.82 record in 310.2 innings. He finished with 135 strikeouts that year, one short of his career high. He also put up a .298 average in 124 at-bats. Grimes struggled in 1925 as the Pirates were busy winning the World Series. He went 12-19, 5.04, leading the National League in losses. In his final season in Brooklyn in 1926, he had a 12-13, 3.71 record in 225.1 innings. He was traded to the New York Giants in 1927 and went 19-8, 3.54 in 259.2 innings during his only season there. On February 11, 1928, the Pirates gave up pitcher Vic Aldridge to get Grimes back. His 1928 season turned out to be a spectacular one, leading the NL with 25 wins, 28 complete games and 330.2 innings pitched. He posted a 2.99 ERA that year and he threw four shutouts. He had a strong 1929 season as well, going 17-7, 3.13 in 232.2 innings. On April 9, 1930, the Pirates traded away Grimes to the Boston Braves for pitcher Percy Jones and cash, in a trade made necessary by a high salary demand from Grimes.
Grimes had a string of three straight World Series appearances, which started in 1930. He had a 7.35 ERA in 49 innings with the Braves before they traded him to the St Louis Cardinals in mid-June. He went 13-6, 3.01 in 152.1 innings with the Cardinals. He made two starts against the Philadelphia Athletics and lost them both to fellow Hall of Famer Lefty Grove, though Grimes allowed just two runs in a complete game during the second contest. In 1931 he went 17-9, 3.65 in 212.1 innings during the regular season, then won both of his World Series starts, including a game three win over Grove, and a game seven victory. Grimes was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the off-season and he struggled there, going 6-11, 4.78 in 141.1 innings. He pitched twice in relief during the World Series, but he ended up allowing seven runs in 2.2 innings. His final two seasons included a lot of moving around. He split 1933 between the Cubs and Cardinals, going 3-7, 3.78 in 83.1 innings. He pitched briefly with both the Cardinals and New York Yankees in 1934, before his third stint in Pittsburgh. He re-signed with the Pirates on August 8, 1934, in what ended up being his last season in the majors. He made four starts and four relief appearances over the final two months, posting a 7.24 ERA in 24.1 innings. Grimes won 270 games in the majors, and completed 314 games, both rank 33rd all-time in baseball history. He finished 270-212, 3.53 in 4,180 innings, which ranks 36th all-time. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1964, one of six players (one manager) they put in that year.
Justin Wilson, pitcher for the 2012-14 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of Fresno State. The Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the 37th round out of high school in 2005, but he decided to attend college. Wilson didn’t play in 2008, then went directly to High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League in 2009. He went 6-8, 4.50 in 116 innings over 26 starts that year. In 2010 he moved up to Double-A Altoona and had a strong season, going 11-8, 3.09 in 142.2 innings, with 134 strikeouts. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and had a 4.41 ERA in six starts. Wilson spent the entire 2011 season in Triple-A, making 21 starts and nine relief appearances. He had a 10-8, 4.13 record in 124.1 innings. He started off the 2012 season back in Triple-A, where he went 9-6, 3.78 in 135.2 innings, with 139 strikeouts. He made 25 starts and four relief appearances.
Wilson worked his way through the minors as a starter, but he made it to the majors as a reliever and hasn’t started a single game in ten big league seasons. He was a late-season call-up in 2012 and managed to allow just one run in 4.2 innings, despite giving up ten hits and three walks. He made 58 appearances in 2013 and had a 2.08 ERA in 73.2 innings, with a 1.06 WHIP. Wilson struggled a bit in more of a short relief role in 2014, posting a 4.20 ERA, while throwing just 60 innings in 70 appearances, though he had 61 strikeouts. In the 2014-15 off-season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli. Wilson spent one season with the Yankees, going 5-0, 3.10 in 61 innings over 74 appearances. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in December of 2015 and went 4-5, 4.14 in 58.2 innings over 66 games in 2016. In 2017, he split the season between Detroit and the Chicago Cubs. He had a 2.68 ERA and 13 saves in 40.1 innings with the Tigers, then struggled in Chicago, posting a 5.09 ERA in 17.2 innings. He was solid in 2018 with the Cubs, going 4-5, 3.46 in 54.2 innings over 71 games. He became a free agent after the season and signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets. Wilson went 4-2, 2.54 in 39 innings over 45 games in 2019, then during the shortened 2020 season, he had a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings over 23 appearances.
Wilson signed with the Yankees for the 2020 season and stayed there until the trading deadline when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. In an ironic twist, he was sent to the Reds with pitcher Luis Cessa, who the Yankees got when they traded Wilson to Detroit. Wilson had a 7.50 ERA in 18 innings for the Yankees, then opened his Reds career with four scoreless innings through early August. In the middle of his tenth big league season, he has a 33-23, 3.41 record and 18 saves in 450.2 innings over 503 appearances.
Mike Lavalliere, catcher for the 1987-93 Pirates. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981 as an amateur free agent, going undrafted out of high school and college. He went right to Low-A his first season and hit .268 with 31 walks in 39 games. He moved up to the Carolina League in 1982 and hit .275 in 66 games. The next year saw him go to Double-A, where he established himself as a prospect. Lavalliere hit .294 in 81 games and showed a little power, which was completely missing from his first two seasons. He improved even more in that category in 1984 when he split the year between Double-A and Triple-A, putting up better stats at the higher level. He combined to hit .279 with 11 homers and 51 walks. That was the only year in his entire pro career that he hit more than four homers, and he actually accomplished that at both levels (six in Double-A, five in Triple-A). The Phillies gave him a six-game trial that year and he went 0-for-7 at the plate. He became a free agent after the season, with a little catch in between. The St Louis Cardinals traded for him, only to cancel the trade after finding out that he had knee surgery. He ended up being released by the Phillies and signed with the Cardinals one month later. Lavalliere spent most of 1985 in Triple-A, playing just 12 games with the Cardinals, and hit .147, after failing to collect a hit in his brief 1984 big league stint. In 1986, he was the starting catcher for the Cardinals, mostly due to his defense. Lavalliere hit .234 with a .668 OPS in 110 games that season.
On April 1, 1987, the Pirates acquired Lavalliere, along with pitcher Mike Dunne and outfielder Andy Van Slyke, from the Cardinals for Tony Pena. Prior to the deal, Lavalliere had played 128 games with the Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies over parts of three seasons. With Pittsburgh, he immediately stepped in and did a nice job of replacing the All-Star Pena, batting .300 in 121 games in 1987, while winning the Gold Glove. He led the National League with 45.2% of runners caught stealing that year. He batted .261 in 120 games in 1988, with career highs of 47 RBIs and 50 walks. A knee injury during the 1989 season limited him to 68 games, but he hit well when he played, batting .316 that year. Known as “Spanky”, the lefty hitting Lavalliere platooned with the righty batting Don Slaught behind the plate, and the combo helped the Pirates to three straight National League East titles from 1990 until 1992. Lavalliere hit .258 with 31 RBIs and 44 walks (compared to just 20 strikeouts) in 96 games during the 1990 season. In 1991, he batted .289 with 41 RBIs in 108 games. Behind the plate, he committed one error all season, giving him an NL leading .998 fielding percentage. In 1992, he hit .256 with 44 walks and 21 strikeouts in 95 games, while throwing out 38% of base runners. Lavalliere was released by Pittsburgh after one game in 1993, leading him to sign with the Chicago White Sox for his last three seasons in the majors.
Lavalliere was a backup in Chicago, playing a total of 142 games (103 starts). He had some big success throwing out runners with the White Sox, including cutting down 24 of 32 attempts in 1993 in just 37 games. During the 1995 season, he threw out 53%, though runners stopped testing him as much. He ended up batting .263 with 51 RBIs during his time in Chicago. In his seven season with Pittsburgh, he played 609 games, hitting .278 with 207 RBIs and 499 hits. Lavalliere had his share of problems during the Pirates three playoff appearances. He went 4-for-22 at the plate, with four singles and one RBI in his nine games. In his 12-year big league career, he batted .268 with 18 homers, 294 RBIs and 321 walks in 879 games.
Paul Popovich, middle infielder for the 1974-75 Pirates. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs out of college in 1960 and before making it to the Pirates 14 years later, he played parts (or all) of nine seasons in the majors with Chicago and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had an advanced placement at 19 years old to begin his career, starting in the Double-A Texas League in 1960, where he hit .248 with 12 extra-base hits in 77 games. The next year he put up nearly identical numbers, with a .252 average and a one point drop in his OPS (.645 to .644), but he played 127 games. In 1962 Popovich dropped down to the Class-B Northwest League, where he hit just .227 in 83 games. A move like that usually doesn’t lead to the majors, but he was back in the Texas League in 1963, where he hit .313 with 37 doubles and 17 homers in 139 games. He had more extra-base hits in 1963 (56) than he did in his previous three seasons combined (49). Popovich made his big league debut in April of 1964, picking up a hit in his first at-bat. It would end of being his only game and at-bat of the season. He didn’t make it back to the majors until September of 1966, getting in just two games that season. He spent the rest of 1964 and all of 1965 in Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit just .204 in 79 games in 1964 and .251 with 12 homers in 121 games the next year. Before returning to the majors in 1966, he hit .243 with 21 doubles and 11 homers in 142 games for Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League. He spent all of 1967 in the majors, hitting .214 with two RBIs in 49 games. On November 30, 1967, he was part of a two-for-one trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Lou Johnson.
Popovich bounced around the infield during his career, seeing most of his time at second base, but also getting in time at shortstop and third base. He was a part-time player for eight of the nine full seasons he spent in the majors, with the lone exception being the 1968 season for the Dodgers, when he played 134 games. He batted .232 that season, with career highs of eight doubles, 35 runs scored and 29 walks. In 1969 he split the year between the Dodgers and Cubs, who reacquired him through the Montreal Expos. Popovich was part of a four-player deal on June 11th between the Dodgers and Expos, which included Manny Mota, Maury Wills and Ron Fairly. That same day the Expos sent him to Chicago for two players. Popovich batted .284 in 88 games that season, a batting mark that he didn’t approach in any other season during his career. In 1970 he hit .253 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 78 games. In 89 contests the next year, he hit just .217, but he set a career high with 28 RBIs. Popovich saw both his batting and playing time drop in 1972. He hit .194 and had just 142 plate appearances in 58 games. He rebounded a bit in 1973, hitting .236 in 99 games. He wasn’t much of a runner during his career, stealing four base in 14 attempts, with three of those steals coming in 1973.
On April 1, 1974, the Pirates gave up pitcher Tom Dettore and cash to acquire Popovich. He would be the backup at shortstop and second base for a year and a half, seeing most of his time as a pinch-hitter, an odd usage of a career .233 hitter, who didn’t take many walks or hit for any power. He had 90 plate appearances over 59 games in 1974, hitting .217 with five RBIs. He batted 44 times over 25 games in 1975 and had a .200 average, with one RBI. Popovich was released at the end of July in 1975, ending his playing career. He hit .211 in 84 games for the Pirates, getting 14 starts and 134 plate appearances. We wrote a full article on his time with the Pirates here. In his 11-year career, he was a .233 hitter in 682 games, with 65 extra-base hits, 134 RBIs and 176 runs scored.
Roger Bowman, pitcher for the 1953 and 1955 Pirates. He was signed by the New York Giants as a free agent in 1946 at 18 years old. He began his minor league career by playing briefly for Trenton of the Class-B Interstate League and Jersey City of the Triple-A International League during the 1946 season. In 1947 he spent the entire year with Trenton, going 17-8, 3.56 in 197 innings, with 175 strikeouts. The 1948 season was spent with Sioux City of the Class-A Western League. He went 11-8, 3.31 that year, with 182 strikeouts in 174 innings. The lefty-throwing Bowman made the majors for the first time in September of 1949 after going 15-9, 3.39 in 194 innings for Jersey City of the International League. He made two starts for New York and lasted a combined 6.1 innings due to control problems, though he only allowed three earned runs. After spending all of 1950 back with Jersey City, where he went 16-11, 3.71 in 233 innings, Bowman made the 1951 Giants out of Spring Training. He was a starter early, but got hit hard and then moved to the bullpen. The Giants would send him down to the minors at the end of June, after using him just twice during his last month with the team, both times as a starter during a doubleheader. Control problems got to him again that year. He allowed 22 walks in 26.1 innings, en route to a 2-4, 6.15 record. Bowman pitched just two games for the 1952 Giants, not faring well in his three innings of work. The rest of the season was split between two minor league teams, where he combined to go 9-7, 3.65 in 133 innings.
Bowman was picked up on waivers by the Pirates on May 12, 1953, without appearing in a game that year for the Giants. He was put in the Pirates bullpen, where he cut his walk rate in half. In 30 games (two as a starter) he went 0-4, 4.82 in 65.1 innings. After going 22-13, 2.51 in 258 innings for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1954, he was back with Pittsburgh for Opening Day in 1955, where he had a rough time. In seven appearances, he went 0-3, 8.64 with a 2.10 WHIP. Bowman was sold to Hollywood on May 26, 1955, ending his time with the Pirates. He stayed in the minors for the rest of 1955, as well as next six seasons before retiring. He finished with over 130 minor league wins, but he picked up just two Major League victories. In his five big league seasons, he went 2-11, 5.81 in 117.2 innings over 12 starts and 38 relief appearances.
Bernie Duffy,pitcher for the 1913 Pirates. He joined the Pirates shortly after his 20th birthday, making his debut on September 20th as a starter in game two of a doubleheader. In his first season of pro ball (1913), Bernie (referred to a majority of the time as “Barney” in the newspapers) played for Great Falls of the Union Association, where he went 23-11 in 270.1 innings. It was said that he won 15 straight games before joining the Pirates. In that first game, Duffy went four innings, giving up nine hit and three runs, before being pulled from the game. In his only other start, which came exactly a week later, Duffy allowed three runs in 5.1 innings, leaving with the bases loaded. Marty O’Toole came in and was able to retire all 11 batters he faced to keep more damage off the board, and to also pick up the win in the 4-3 game. In between his two starts for the Pirates, he pitched two innings of relief in his only other Major League game, allowing one run. It was already planned out, that after the game, Duffy would return home for the winter while the Pirates left St Louis to head for Cincinnati. He never returned to the majors, finishing out his career a few years later in the minors. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1914 and even stayed around for the first 24 days of the season before being sent to the minors without appearing in a game. He was originally sent to St Joseph of the Western League, but his stay there was short. After going 8-11, 4.91 in 165 innings for Des Moines of the Class-A Western League in 1914, he dropped down to Youngstown of the Class-B Central League in 1915. That year he went 18-19, 1.91 in 321 innings. Duffy spent two months with Grand Rapids of the Central League to start the 1916 season, then pitched for the Wheeling Stogies in the second half of 1916 and did so well that his contract was purchased again by the Pirates on August 30th. It was said that he would join the club at the end of the season. Just three days later he pitched both games of a doubleheader, saying that he was disappointed he lost the first contest, so he asked to pitch the second game. He threw a shutout in that game. That wasn’t odd for him, as on August 13th, he won both games of a doubleheader. On March 22, 1917, without pitching for the Pirates during his second stint, he was sold to Montreal of the International League, where he went 9-17, 3.54 in 224 innings. That turned out to be his final year in pro ball.
Wally Gerber, shortstop for the 1914-15 Pirates. His career opened up with two season with Akron of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League, debuting in 1910 at 18 years old. He hit just .199 in 83 games during his first year, then improved greatly in 1911, batting .264 in 116 games, with a 107 point increase in his slugging percentage. He moved up to Double-A Columbus of the American Association in 1912. Gerber hit .234 with 31 extra-base hits and 63 runs scored in 166 games that year. He stayed with Columbus two more seasons, hitting .260 with 38 extra-base hits in 167 games in 1913, followed by a .258 average in 1914, when he scored 96 runs in 161 games. When the Pirates purchased his contract, Wally (who went by Walter) was described as the best young shortstop in baseball, with quickness and a strong arm, though his hitting was just average. That doesn’t sound like the player he turned out to be in the majors. In June of 1914, it was said that the Philadelphia Phillies might purchase his contract, despite the Pirates having first shot at him because of their working agreement at the time with Columbus. As it turned out, his sale to the Pirates was announced on September 15th, with the note that he would finish his minor league season before reporting on September 23rd. Gerber ended up playing 17 games with the 1914 Pirates, hitting .241 with five runs scored and five RBIs. In 1915, he played 56 games throughout the year, seeing more time earlier in the season. He hit just .194 with seven RBIs and eight runs scored.
He is an unfortunate case for the Pirates, a young player they gave up too soon on, who went on to become a solid long-time Major League player. The part that made it worse for the Pirates was that Honus Wagner would move off shortstop for his last season in 1917 and the Pirates went through a revolving door of players trying to replace him. All they needed to do was hold on to Gerber, but they released him back to Columbus on February 5, 1916. He did not do well in his limited time with the Pirates, so keeping him would’ve required some foresight. In 73 games over his two seasons in Pittsburgh, he hit .207 with no homers, 12 RBIs and 13 runs scored. His defense also wasn’t the greatest, never finishing higher than third among his league’s shortstops in fielding any season, and that high of third happened just once. However, Gerber could hit better than most middle infielders of the era. As I said up top, his minor league scouting report turned out to be completely opposite to what he showed in the majors. In fact, at one time he was called better than Dave Bancroft while they were in the minors. If that name isn’t familiar to you, it should be. Bancroft is in the Hall of Fame and he rates as one of the best defensive players ever.
After leaving the Pirates following the 1915 season, Gerber spent two years in the minors, reappearing at the end of 1917 with the St Louis Browns for 14 games. That was the start of a 12-year relationship. He hit .240 in a part-time role in 1918, then batted .227 with 49 walks in 140 games in 1919. In 1920, he led the league with 154 games played, and batted .279 with 58 walks, 60 RBIs and 70 runs scored. Gerber hit .278 in 114 games in 1921, followed by a .267 average in 153 games in 1922, with 81 runs scored, 22 doubles and 51 RBIs. In 1923 he batted a career high .281 in 154 games, with career bests of 85 runs scored, 26 doubles and 62 RBIs. Gerber batted .272 with 61 runs scored and 55 RBIs in 1924, then batted .272 in 1925 as well, though he was limited to 72 games due to a broken bone in his foot/ankle in early June. He returned healthy in 1926 and hit .270 in 131 games, though he showed almost no power, collecting eight extra-base hits all season, all doubles. His average dropped off in 1927, as he hit .224 in 142 games, but that came with 13 doubles and nine triples, so his slugging percentage actually went up. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox just six games into the 1928 season. In 12 seasons with St Louis, Gerber hit .264 in 1,284 games, drawing more walks than strikeouts and three times picking up MVP votes, finishing as high as fourth during the 1923 season. He finished his career with two seasons with the Red Sox, ending up with 1,522 games played in the majors. He batted .202 in 165 games with Boston. In his career, he was a .257 hitter with seven homers, 465 walks, 477 RBIs and 558 runs scored. Four of his career homers were inside-the-park home runs. He actually hit more homers at Yankee Stadium (three) in 61 games than he did in St Louis (two) in 656 games.