This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 11th, Don Slaught and Jackie Hernandez

We have seven players born on this date, including three players who went to the postseason with the Pirates.

Nik Turley, pitcher for 2020 Pirates. He was a 50th round draft pick in 2008 by the New York Yankees at 18 years old. Turley is a distant relative of Bob Turley, who starred for the Yankees on the mound in the 1950’s-60s, winning the MLB Cy Young award in 1958 before they gave out the award to the separate leagues. The younger Turley started out in the Gulf Coast League in late 2008, allowing one run in eight innings of work. He was back in the GCL in 2009, posting a 2.82 ERA in 54.1 innings. That was followed by 3.86 ERA in 72.1 innings of short-season ball in 2010. He finally made it to full-season ball in 2011, making 15 starts in Low-A and two more in High-A. He had a combined 4-6, 2.81 record in 89.2 innings, with 87 strikeouts. In 2012, Turley went 9-5, 2.89 in 112 innings at High-A Tampa of the Florida State League. He received one start in Double-A that year. The 2013 season had a similar theme to the previous year. He spent the season with Trenton of the Eastern League (Double-A), then made one start in Triple-A. He combined to go 11-8, 3.79 in 145 innings, with 141 strikeouts. Turley missed some time in 2014, as he was limited to 65 innings due to two separate trips to the disabled list. He had a 4.62 ERA in 60.1 innings at Triple-A that season. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the San Francisco Giants.

Turley was injured early in 2015, which led to a rehab start, before joining Triple-A Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League for 19 starts in which he went 7-8, 4.56 in 102.2 innings. In November of 2015, he signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox. He was released in Spring Training and ended up splitting the season between Double-A with the Boston Red Sox and a stint in independent ball. He played winter ball in the Dominican after the season, while also signing a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins right after the 2016 season ended. Turley jumped between Double-A and Triple-A for the Twins until June when he got a chance to pitch in the majors. He also saw a brief stint in August and then again in September. Those three chances amounted to an 11.21 ERA in 17.2 innings over three starts and seven relief appearances. The Pirates claimed him off of waivers in November of 2017, and two months later he was suspended by MLB for 80 games due to PEDs. While he was pitching at Pirate City to get ready for the season, he suffered an elbow injury that ended his season in June. Due to the timing of his surgery, he missed the entire 2019 season as well. During the shortened 2020 season, he joined the Pirates on Opening Day in late July and pitched in 25 of the 60 games, going 0-3, 4.98 in 21.2 innings. In January of 2021, he was traded to the Oakland A’s for cash considerations. Two months later he was claimed off of waivers by the Chicago White Sox. He has spent the 2021 season in Triple-A as of early September.

Don Slaught, catcher for the 1990-95 Pirates. He was a 20th round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers out of UCLA in 1979, but didn’t sign until the Kansas City Royals selected him in the seventh round in 1980. He debuted in pro ball in the Florida State League, hitting .261 with two homers in 50 games. In his first full season of pro ball, Slaught split the year between Double-A and Triple-A, combining to hit .329 with 35 extra-base hits in 118 games. He split the 1982 season between Triple-A and the majors, hitting .278 with three homers in 43 games for the Royals. In 1983, he hit .312 with no homers and 28 RBIs in 83 games. That was followed by a .264 average, 35 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs in 124 games. On January 18, 1985, he was part of a four-team trade that involved six players, with Slaught going to the Texas Rangers in the deal. He hit .280 with eight homers and 35 RBIs in 102 games in 1985. The next year he hit .264, with a career high 13 homers, along with 46 RBIs, playing in 95 games. He played 95 games in 1987 as well, hitting just .224 with eight homers and only 16 RBIs. Right after the season ended, the Rangers traded him to the New York Yankees. In his first season in New York, Slaught hit .283 with 25 doubles, nine homers and 43 RBIs in 97 games.

During the 1989 season, Slaught hit .251 with 38 RBIs in 117 games, which ended up being his second highest games played total during his 16-year career. On December 4, 1989, the Pirates acquired Slaught from the Yankees in exchange for pitchers Jeff Robinson and Willie Smith. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, Slaught played eight years in the majors, hitting a combined .269 with 50 homers and 256 RBIs in 756 games. He was a solid catcher, slightly below average in throwing out runners, and early on he had some error troubles, leading American League catchers in 1988 with 11 miscues.  During the Pirates three years of National League East pennants, Slaught was the righty in the L/R platoon behind the plate with Mike Lavalliere. His batting average during his Pirates years was much better than they hoped for, as he compiled a .305 mark in his six seasons in Pittsburgh. Slaught started 179 games during the 1990-92 run of pennants, while also getting into another 47 games behind the plate from off the bench.

In his first season in Pittsburgh, Slaught hit .300 in 84 games, with 25 extra-base hits in 230 at-bats. He went just 1-for-11 in the playoffs that year. In 1991, he hit .295 with 19 extra-base hits in 220 at-bats over 77 games. He went 4-for-17 in the playoffs, with four singles, no runs, one walk and one RBI. In 1992, Slaught batted a career best .345 in 87 games, with 24 extra-base hits and 37 RBIs. He finally had playoff success as well, hitting .333 with five runs and five RBIs. In 1993 when the Pirates got rid of Lavalliere, Slaught became the everyday catcher and hit .300 with ten homers and 55 RBIs in 116 games. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, he batted .288 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 76 games. He missed most of 1995 with shoulder and hamstring injuries that limited him to a .304 average in 36 games. He was allowed to leave via free agency after the season. Slaught played two more seasons in the majors before retiring. He split the 1996 season between the Chicago White Sox and California Angels, combining to hit .313 in 76 games. He lasted just 20 games with the 1997 San Diego Padres before being released in late May. With the Pirates he hit .305 in 475 games, with 21 homers and 184 RBIs. In his 16-year career, he hit .283 with 77 homers, 476 RBIs and 415 runs scored in 1,327 games. He caught 1,237 games.

Dave Roberts, pitcher for the 1979-80 Pirates. He had a 13-year career in the majors that saw him go 103-125, 3.78 in 277 starts and 168 relief appearances, throwing a total of 2,099 innings. Before reaching the Pirates, he was already in the middle of his 11th season and had made the conversion to a relief role. Roberts was part of an important trade in Pirates history. He came to the Pirates, along with Bill Madlock, from the San Francisco Giants on June 28, 1979. It was a six-player deal with three players going each way. Not only did Madlock help with the World Series run, Roberts went 5-2, 3.26 in 21 appearances. He appeared in one playoff game, allowing a walk to the only batter he faced in the NLCS. He began the 1980 season with the Pirates, though he was sold to the Seattle Mariners after just two appearances.

While it is true that Roberts didn’t pitch for the Pirates until 1979, he was actually a member of the organization twice before that. He was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost him on waivers to the Pirates in 1964. In 1966, he was taken by the Kansas City Athletics in the Rule 5 draft, then returned to Pittsburgh in 1967, right before Opening Day. The Pirates then lost him to the San Diego Padres in the 1968 Expansion draft, and that’s where he made his Major League debut during the 1969 season. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1963, going 9-3, 1.79 in 126 innings in the Class-A Western Carolinas League. He made it to Double-A for half of the 1964 season with the Pirates, combining with his A-Ball stats that year to go 8-10, 3.96 in 159 innings, with 153 strikeouts. In 1965 he pitched 132 innings in Double-A and made four starts in Triple-A. The Double-A time (2.93 ERA) went much better than the Triple-A time (10.13 ERA).

In 1966, Roberts pitched the entire year in Double-A, going 14-5, 2.61 in 190 innings, throwing 14 complete games and four shutouts. He had elbow surgery in 1967 and pitched just 62 innings, though he had a 2.18 ERA in Triple-A when he was healthy. Roberts surprisingly didn’t get a chance with the 1968 Pirates after going 18-5, 3.17 in 193 innings at Triple-A. After going to the Padres in 1969, he made his big league debut that July. In five starts and 17 relief appearances, he had a 4.81 ERA in 48.2 innings. He spent all of 1970 in the majors, with 21 starts and 22 relief outings. He had an 8-14, 3.81 record in 181.2 innings. In 1971, Roberts had an outstanding 2.10 ERA in 269.2 innings. However, the Padres finished 61-100, which led to a 14-17 record for him. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and received mild MVP support. In December of 1971, he was traded to the Houston Astros for three players.

In his first season in Houston, Roberts went 12-7, though his ERA ballooned to 4.50 in 192 innings. He rebounded in 1973 with a 17-11, 2.85 record in 249.1 innings. He threw six shutouts that season. The next year he went 10-12, 3.40 in 204 innings, while allowing just six homers all year. In 1975, he dropped down to an 8-14, 4.27 record in 198.1 innings. After the season, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a seven-player deal, with also included two-time Pirates catcher Milt May going to Detroit. For the 1976 Tigers, Roberts went 16-17, 4.00 in 252 innings. He completed 18 of his 36 starts and threw four shutouts. He was sold to the Chicago Cubs late in 1977. He combined for a 5-11, 4.59 record in 182.1 innings, with much better results in his limited time in Chicago. Roberts made 20 starts and 15 relief appearances for the Cubs in 1978, going 6-8, 5.25 in 142.1 innings. After the season, he signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent, where he had a 2.57 ERA in 42 innings before joining the Pirates. After leaving Pittsburgh, he went 2-3, 4.37 in 80.1 innings for the 1980 Mariners. He was with the New York Mets until May of 1981, posting a 9.39 ERA in 15.1 innings, then pitched briefly in the minors for the Giants before retiring.

Jackie Hernandez, shortstop for the 1971-73 Pirates. He was a light-hitting, error-prone shortstop for nine seasons in the majors, but during the 1971 postseason, he started ten of 11 playoff games, helping the Pirates to their fourth World Series title. Hernandez, who was born in Cuba, began pro ball in 1961 at 20 years old, playing at Class-D Dubuque of the Midwest League, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. He hit .274 with 25 extra-base hits in 108 games that season. He moved up to the Class-B Carolina League in 1962, where he hit just .221 with a .600 OPS in 125 games. Despite the poor numbers, he moved up two levels to the Eastern League in 1963, where he spent two seasons with Charleston. Hernandez hit .235 with 29 extra-base hits and 23 steals in 133 games in 1963, followed by a .260 average in 1964, when he went 27-for-28 in steals. The next year was split between two teams in the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .229 with five homers in 133 games. He made his big league debut that season with the California Angels, who signed him as a free agent mid-season. Hernandez played six late season games for the Angels in 1965, then played 58 games for them during the 1966 season, yet he batted just 27 times all year and he had one hit.

Hernandez was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1967 and spent most of the year in the minors, coming up for 30 plate appearances over 29 games. He saw more time in 1968, though he had very little success, hitting .176 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 83 games that season. He made 66 starts at shortstop that year. The expansion Kansas City Royals drafted him after the 1968 season and he saw regular action for the first time in his career. Hernandez played 145 games in 1969, hitting .222 with 17 RBIs and he led the entire AL in errors. In 1970, he hit .231 in 83 games, with a .563 OPS. On December 2, 1970, the Pirates acquired Hernandez from the Royals in a six-player deal, with three players going each way. For the 1971 Pirates, he started 65 games at shortstop and occasionally played third base. He hit just .206 with 26 RBIs in 88 regular season games, then he hit .226 (seven singles in 31 at-bats) with two RBIs in the postseason. As his batting average sank to .188 in 1972, his playing time also diminished to 186 plate appearances in 72 games. He committed 22 errors at shortstop in 68 games that year. Hernandez made just 22 starts in 1973, batting .247 in 78 plate appearances over the course of the season. On January 31, 1974, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for catcher Mike Ryan.

Hernandez ended up being released by the Phillies without playing a game. He was re-signed by the Pirates in April, but he spent the entire 1974 season at Triple-A. He played the next two years in the Mexican League before retiring. For the Pirates, he hit .205 in 214 games, with 48 RBIs. Despite stealing 17 bases in 1969 with the Royals, he never stole a base with the Pirates getting caught in his only two attempts. He was a career .208 hitter, with 12 homers, 121 RBIs and 153 runs scored in 618 games over nine big league seasons. Hernandez was a career -3.9 WAR player, but his only positive season came at the right time, when he put up 0.5 WAR for the 1971 Pirates.

Glenn Spencer, pitcher for the 1928 and 1930-32 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1926 with Binghamton of the Class-B New York-Penn League, getting into six games. The next year in Binghamton he went 10-8, 3.27 in 168 innings. The Pirates purchased his contract, along with his catcher Paul O’Malley, on July 25th. Both were allowed to finish the season with Binghamton and then join the Pirates during Spring Training in 1928. Spencer made his big league debut on Opening Day in 1928, coming into a 12-5 game in the sixth inning, giving up two unearned runs in 2.2 innings. The Pirates had injuries to two of their better pitchers, Lee Meadows and Carmen Hill, so a spot opened up for Spencer. He pitched just four times prior to the return of Meadows in late June, all in relief, throwing a total of 5.2 innings. He finished that season pitching for Columbia in the Class-B South Atlantic League, going 11-10, 3.40 in 159 innings, then was moved to Wichita of the Western League to get more experience the next year. Spencer responded with a 24-win season, while throwing 252 innings. In 1930, he was back with the Pirates, getting occasional starts, but most pitching in relief, closing out 22 games. He pitched 41 times, 30 in relief, going 8-9, 5.40 in 156.2 innings. The ERA sounds extremely high, but it was a booming year for offense in baseball. The Pirates as a team finished with a 5.24 ERA.

Spencer would pitch the fourth most innings on the team in both 1930 and 1931, throwing a total of 186.2 innings during that 1931 season. That year he made 18 starts and 20 relief appearances, going 11-12, 3.42, for a team that finished four games under the .500 mark. His numbers slipped the next season, down to a 4.97 ERA in 137.2 innings, and the Pirates moved him in the off-season. On December 12, 1932, he was sent to the New York Giants as part of a five-player/three-team deal, which also involved the Philadelphia Phillies. In return, the Pirates got back Hall of Fame 3B/OF Freddie Lindstrom. Spencer ended up pitching just 17 games for the Giants in 1933, posting a 5.13 ERA in 47.1 innings, before he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds and sent to the minors. His Major League career was over at that point, but he pitched another eight seasons of minor league ball before retiring. He saw time with eight different teams over those final eight seasons, despite spending three full years in Williamsport. Spencer had a 117-94 career record in the minors. With the Pirates, he was 23-29, 4.48 in 486.2 innings over 122 appearances, 42 as a starter.

Frank Moore, pitcher for the 1905 Pirates. At 6’4″ back in 1905, Moore was referred to as “the Giant”, yet had the usual nickname of Peggy. He pitched just once for the Pirates, coming into the game on June 14, 1905 with Pittsburgh down 5-0 in the sixth inning. The opposing pitcher was Hall of Famer (and future Pirates at the time) Vic Willis. Moore was recruited out of Ohio by Pirates oft-injured catcher, Harry Smith, who was scouting for the Pirates while recovering from an arm injury. The 28-year-old Moore had minimal minor league experience (in Class-D ball in 1902) prior to Smith seeing him pitch. He asked for a tryout with the Pirates and showed up to Forbes Field with Smith to workout in front of manager Fred Clarke and owner Barney Dreyfuss just two days before his big league debut. Moore told the local press after his first day that he had a minor league job lined up, but he wanted to see what he could do in the majors first and all he was asking for was a chance to show his stuff.

When Moore went in to make his one appearance, it marked another unusual occurrence. Homer Hillebrand went behind the plate to catch at the same time. Hillebrand was a lefty, making one of his three Major League appearances at the position. Moore ended up pitching the last three innings of the game and looked good, allowing two hits, no runs, no walks and he struck out a batter, yet he never pitched in the majors again. Eight days after his only big league game, he was sent back home, with manager Fred Clarke saying he thinks that Moore needs more minor league experience first before he’s ready for the majors. He played pro ball until 1912, the last year as a player/manager, before retiring as a player. He went on to manage for two more seasons after his playing career ended. After playing for three different teams in three different leagues in 1906, Moore spent the 1907 season with the Coffeyville Glassblowers of the Oklahoma-Arkansas-Kansas League. He then spent the last five years of his playing career with teams in Ohio, which was his home state.

Steve Brodie, center fielder for the 1897-98 Pirates. He was a strong defender in center field and he had some big seasons on offense for the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s. Brodie debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1887, hitting .323 in 78 games while splitting time between clubs from Altoona and Canton. He moved up to Wheeling of the Tri-State League in 1888 (no stats available) and then Hamilton of  the International League in 1889, where he hit .302 with 21 triples and 50 steals in 111 games. He debuted in the majors at 21 years old in 1890 with the Boston Beaneaters, where he hit .296 as a rookie, with 66 walks, 29 steals and 77 runs scored in 132 games. His average dropped down to .260 in 1891, but he had 78 RBIs and 84 runs scored in 133 games. Brodie moved on to the St Louis Browns in 1892, where he hit .254 with 60 RBIs and 85 runs scored in 154 games. During the 1893 season he was sold to the Baltimore Orioles, which changed his career path. He was doing well at the time, but did even better with the Orioles, finishing the season with a .325 average, 98 RBIs, 49 steals and 89 runs scored in 132 games.

Baltimore won the National League pennant three years in a row (1894-96) and Brodie averaged 106 runs scored and 111 RBIs during those seasons. On defense, he led all outfielder in fielding percentage once and had the second best percentage five times (twice finishing third as well). The 1894 season was a huge year for offense in baseball due to pitchers trying to adjust to the new rules/distance for the pitching rubber. Brodie’s 1893 stats were actually better compared to the league average, but he hit .366 with 134 runs scored, 113 RBIs and 42 steals in 1894. Offense began to drop down immediately in 1895, but he didn’t see that drop. He hit .348 with 134 RBIs in 131 games that year. His drop came in 1896, though he still put up solid stats with a .297 average, 87 RBIs and 98 runs scored in 132 games.

On November 11, 1896, the Pirates acquired Brodie from the Orioles, along with third baseman Jim Donnelly, for Jake Stenzel, and three other players. In Stenzel, the Pirates were giving up the player with the highest batting average in team history. The local papers didn’t like the deal, saying that Stenzel was better than the other two players combined, so there was no need to include anything else. The only area that Brodie got the advantage from the papers was in his defense. While that defense was as strong as ever in Pittsburgh (leading the NL in fielding in 1897), Brodie’s offense left something to be desired, at least compared to his career stats. In 142 games with the Pirates, he hit .283 with 74 RBIs and 62 runs scored. Mid-season there were reports that his arm gave out and his throwing was poor. He had 209 assists during his career, which ranks 43rd all-time. The Pirates released Brodie on June 11, 1898 despite the fact he was playing well at the time. The reason was due to finances. Cuts had to be made to team spending and Brodie, along with third-string catcher Morgan Murphy, were both released outright. The Pirates went with a smaller roster and he was free to sign with any other team.

Brodie ended up signing back with Baltimore, where he hit .306 in 23 games in 1898, then batted .309 with 87 RBIs in 1899, the last year of the Baltimore NL franchise. He played for Chicago of the American League in 1900, which was a minor league at the time. When Baltimore became a Major League city again in 1901 in the American League, Brodie reappeared in the majors, playing two more seasons. He batted .310 with 41 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 83 games in 1901, then moved on to the New York Giants in 1902, where he hit .281 in 110 games in 1902. His 12-year big league career was over at that point, but his minor league career lasted another eight seasons before finally retiring in 1910. He was a .303 big league hitter in 1,438 games, with 900 RBIs, 289 stolen bases and 886 runs scored. He set a record with 727 consecutive games played, which stood into the 20th century. While he is known now as Steve, his first name was Walter and it was used often during his playing days.

Brodie is one of the examples of how hard it is for defensive metrics to rate 19th century players. He was highly regarded for his defense during his day, but somehow he has a career -3.9 dWAR, with only two seasons in which he was slightly above average. That doesn’t line up with any scouting report from that era.