Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a transaction of note. Before we get into them, current infielder Colin Moran turns 29 today.
Vance Law, infielder for the 1980-81 Pirates. He’s the son of all-time Pirates great Vern Law. The younger Law played parts of two seasons for the Pirates before they traded him to the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1982 season. . The Pirates drafted him in the 39th round of the 1978 draft out of BYU. Despite the long wait in the draft, his wait to get to the majors was very short. Law debuted with the Pirates on June 1, 1980, not even two full years to the day that he was drafted. He played one game in the Gulf Coast League, then 60 games for Salem of the Carolina League during the 1978 season. He hit .319 with 22 extra-base hits and 42 walks in those 61 games. The Pirates had him in Triple-A to start the 1979 season, where he batted .310 in 131 games. He batted .295 with 33 extra-base hits in 96 games at Triple-A in 1980, with more walks than strikeouts. The Pirates had him up in early June, late July and mid-September, getting him into a total of 25 games during those three stints. He saw slightly more time in the strike-shortened 1981 season, beginning the year with the Pirates before the strike, then rejoining them when the rosters expanded in September. He hit .184 with six RBIs and 12 runs scored in 55 games for the Pirates over his two seasons. After the trade to the White Sox, Law started a string of eight straight seasons with 112+ games played. He spent three years in Chicago, the next three with the Montreal Expos, followed by two more with the Chicago Cubs.
Law hit .281 with 20 doubles, 54 RBIs and 40 runs scored in 114 games in 1982 with the White Sox. He followed that up with .243 average in 1983, with 55 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits, 55 walks and 42 RBIs in 145 games. He was more of a utility player in 1982, but the 1983 season saw him get most of his time at third base. In 1984, he batted .252 in 141 games, with 18 doubles, a career high 17 homers, 60 runs scored and 59 RBIs. In December of 1984, he was traded to the Expos for pitcher Bob James. Law hit .266 in 147 games in 1985, seeing most of his playing time at second base. That year he set career highs with 75 runs scored, 30 doubles and 86 walks. The next year saw his stats drop off greatly, as did his playing time. He posted a .623 OPS in 112 games, 150 points lower than the previous year. In 1987, Law rebounded with a .273 average, 27 doubles, 12 homers, 56 RBIs and a .769 OPS. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Cubs. He was an All-Star in 1988 when he hit .293 with 73 runs scored, 29 doubles, 11 homers and career high 78 RBIs. In 1989, he batted .235 in .130 games, with a .651 OPS. After spending the 1990 season in Japan, he finished his career with the 1991 Oakland A’s, where he batted .209 in 74 games. Law was a .256 hitter in 1,212 games over 11 seasons in the majors. He played 700 games at third base, 391 at second base, 109 at shortstop, 58 games at first base and 14 in the outfield, split over all three spots. He even pitched seven times in the majors, giving up three earned runs in eight innings.
Chuck Hiller, second baseman for the 1968 Pirates. He signed with the Cleveland Indians prior to the 1957 season as a 22-year-old amateur free agent. His first year was spent in Class-D, playing for Cocoa of the Florida State League, where he hit .293 with 41 extra-base hits, 99 runs scored and 78 walks in 133 games. The next year he moved up to Class-C, playing with Minot of the Northern League. He batted .281 with 43 extra-base hits, 89 runs scored and 90 walks in 120 games. After the season ended, the San Francisco Giants selected him in the minor league draft. Hiller played the 1959 season for Eugene of the Class-B Northern League. He hit .341 that year in 139 games, with 46 extra-base hits, 77 RBIs and 92 runs scored. He skipped a level to Double-A, playing in the Texas League in 1960, where he batted .334 in 144 games, with 47 doubles, 89 runs scored and 74 RBIs. He started and finished the 1961 season in the majors with the Giants, though he still spent 2 1/2 months in Triple-A during most of the second half of the season. Hiller batted .238 with 12 doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs in 70 games during his rookie season.
Hiller was an average player during his career, who had one big season. In 1962, he helped the Giants to the World Series by hitting .276 with 94 runs scored in 161 games. That season was worth 2.8 WAR, while the rest of his career combined had him at -0.1 WAR. In 1963, he hit .223 with 18 extra-base hits and 44 runs scored in 111 games. His playing time really dropped in 1964 when he hit .180 in 80 games, with a .487 OPS. Hiller was sold to the New York Mets one month into the 1965 season. He batted .235 with 11 doubles, six homers and 25 runs scored in 107 games that year. He spent all of 1966 in New York, seeing more time off of the bench than as a starter. He hit .280 with 12 extra-base hits, 25 runs scored and 14 RBIs in 108 games. The Mets traded Hiller to the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1967 season. He combined to hit .186 that year, but he did much better with the Phillies (.302 average) than the Mets (.093 average).
Hiller’s stay in Pittsburgh was brief. He joined the Pirates as a Rule 5 draft pick in the winter of 1967, despite the fact that he already had seven seasons of big league experience. He batted .385 in 11 games, which were spread out from mid-April to early June. That ended up being his last stint in the majors. Hiller finished the 1968 season in the minors, then retired from baseball as a player. He went right to managing, spending the 1969 season at the helm of Salem, the High-A affiliate of the Pirates. In 1970 he moved on to a job with the New York Mets and ended up managing off and on in the minors until 1986. In his eight seasons in the majors, he hit .243 with 20 homers, 152 RBIs and 253 runs scored in 704 games.
Jim Russell, outfielder for the Pirates from 1942 until 1947. The Pirates acquired him via the minor league draft in 1941, and they traded him for a key piece to two of their World Series championships in 1947. Russell began his minor league career in 1938 at 19 years old, playing for two teams in the Class-D Pennsylvania State Association. His stats are incomplete from that year, but he’s credited with 31 extra-base hits in 77 games. He stayed in Class-D in 1939, playing for Mayfield of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League, where he hit .333 in 115 games, with 32 doubles, nine triples and seven homers. The next year he played 109 games total for two teams in different leagues, both classified as Class-C teams. Russell hit .266 with 20 doubles and 17 homers that year. He spent most of the 1941 season with Meridian of the Class-B Southeastern League, where he hit .363 with 52 doubles, eight triples and ten homers in 125 games. He also played 24 games for Memphis of the Class-A Southern Association that year and hit .383 with 14 more extra-base hits.
The Pirates selected Russell in the October 1941 minor league draft and he spent most of the 1942 season with Toronto of the International League, where he hit .295 with 23 extra-base hits in 99 games. He played five games with the Pirates that season after joining the club in September. Despite going 1-for-14 at the plate, he was a regular for the next five seasons. In 1943, he hit .259 with 34 extra-base hits, 77 walks and 79 runs scored in 146 games, spending most of his time in left field. He received mild MVP support in 1944 when he set career highs with a .312 average, 109 runs scored, 34 doubles, 14 triples and 79 walks. In 1945, he hit .284 with 71 walks, 88 runs scored, 24 doubles and career highs with 12 homers and 77 RBIs. The next year Russell batted .277 with 67 walks, 68 runs scored and 43 extra-base hits. In his last year with the Pirates, he hit .253 with 39 extra-base hits, 63 walks and 68 runs scored.
After the 1947 season, he was part of the five-player deal with the Boston Braves that brought Danny Murtaugh (the player) back to Pittsburgh. In his six years in Pittsburgh, Russell hit .277 with 40 homers, 288 RBIs, 358 walks and 414 runs scored in 723 games. He hit .264 over 89 games in his first year in Boston, with 18 doubles, nine homers and 54 RBIs. He played 130 games in 1949, the only time he broke the century mark in games outside of Pittsburgh. He hit .231 with 22 doubles, eight homers, 54 RBIs, 57 runs scored and 64 walks. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers on Christmas Eve in 1949. During the 1950 season, Russell hit .229 with ten homers and 32 RBIs in 77 games. He was in the minors for most of 1951, then served as a bench player late in the year for the Dodgers, getting just one start one start. He went 0-for-13 with four walks in 16 games. Russell played a total of ten seasons in the majors, hitting .267 with 67 homers in 1,035 games. Despite having just 59 stolen bases in his big league career, he led the National League in caught stealing three times with the Pirates. After his final big league game, he spent another two years in the minors before retiring. Russell was featured here in an Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article that covers his career in detail.
Carmen Hill, pitcher for the Pirates for parts of eight years from 1915 until 1929. In his first five seasons with the Pirates, he pitched a total of 26 games, then broke out for 22 wins during the 1927 season, helping the Pirates to the World Series. That was followed up by a 16-win season in 1928. In his other eight seasons in the majors, he won a total of 11 games. He is known for being one of two players to wear glasses during his early time in the majors. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1914, where he is credited with six games for Warren of the Class-D Interstate League. On March 3, 1915, the Pirates purchased his contract and had him report to Spring Training, where he made a great impression, but was still sent to the minors on April 3rd. It was said during Spring Training that Hill possessed a very deceptive curveball, along with good velocity on his fastball and a solid changeup. He moved up to Youngstown of the Class-B Central League, where he had a 19-12, 2.29 record in 291 innings. He was going to remain with that team until the end of the season, but the Pirates were desperate for pitching and recalled him on August 20th. Hill debuted in the majors four days later at 19 years old, making three starts and five relief appearances for the 1915 Pirates. It was an outstanding first look, as he posted a 1.15 ERA in 47 innings. Despite the success, it didn’t guarantee him anything for the following season.
Hill pitched twice in relief for the Pirates early during the 1916 season, then spent the rest of the year in the minors, where he went 14-16, 1.92 in 258 innings for Rochester of the International League. He was sold to Rochester on May 20th, though the Pirates still held an option on him. On January 6, 1917, the Pirates released Hill outright to Birmingham of the Southern Association as partial payment for Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes. Hill spent the entire 1917 season with Birmingham, where he won 26 games and had a 2.19 ERA in 320 innings. He was reacquired by the Pirates on August 15th and allowed to stay in Birmingham until the end of the season. He reported to Pittsburgh with 17 games left on the schedule, but didn’t appear in any games. Hill went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1918, but a back injury sidelined him for a month, so he was sent back to Birmingham on April 5th, where he stayed for two months, before finishing his minor league season with Kansas City of the American Association. He rejoined the Pirates on July 27th and spent the last two months of the 1918 season in Pittsburgh, where he posted a 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings. Despite the success, he was used sparingly as a reliever in 1919, getting into four games total between May and early July. He spent the rest of the year going 14-9, 2.92 in 182 innings for Indianapolis of the American Association.
Hill played in an outlaw league in 1920, then served a one-year suspension before he was allowed back into pro ball. The New York Giants signed him out of the minors in 1922 and he pitched 28.1 innings for New York that season, posting a 4.67 ERA. That was followed by three full seasons back in Indianapolis, as well as most of the 1926 season, before rejoining the Pirates. From 1922-26 in the minors, Hill won 81 games. On August 31, 1926, the Pirates paid $40,000, plus added two players to be named later, to acquire Hill again. He made six starts for the 1926 Pirates, going 3-3, 3.40 in 39.2 innings, then had a his first full-time big league job in 1927 and responded in a big way. He went 22-11, 3.24 in 277.2 innings. He made 31 starts, 12 relief appearances and he pitched 22 complete games. Hill started game four of the 1927 World Series against the great New York Yankees club. He left after six innings with a 3-3 tie, in what ended up as his only postseason game. Hill had a strong 1928 season as well, going 16-10, 3.53 in 237 innings, with 31 starts and 16 complete games. His effectiveness quickly dropped off in 1929 and the Pirates lost him on waivers in August to the St Louis Cardinals. In 87.2 innings over 30 games (four starts) that season, he had a 4.41 ERA. Hill played until 1930 in the majors, pitching 14.2 innings with the Cardinals that year, then finished his pro career two years later in the minors. He won 190 games in the minors, not including his outlaw league stats. His final big league stats show a 49-33, 3.44 record in 787 innings over 85 starts and 62 relief appearances.
Bobby Cargo, shortstop for the 1892 Pirates. His minor league records are spotty before his brief big league time. They show that he played two games in 1887 at 18 years old for Steubenville of the Ohio State League. His next minor league game was just that, one game for Easton of the Eastern Interstate League in 1891. Cargo joined the Pirates in October of 1892 after playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Pittsburgh team of the Pennsylvania State League. He also spent part of that year with Missoula of the Montana State League. His only records show a .333 average, one double and two triples in 87 at-bats. Before Cargo’s first game, Pirates manager Al Buckenberger said that he had received numerous requests and recommendations to give Cargo a tryout that he did just that.
He played just two games with the Pirates and showed some rookie jitters during his second game. His debut on October 6th was in the second game of a doubleheader that was called after seven innings due to darkness. Cargo only got to play at the end of that game because Duke Farrell suffered a hip injury in the sixth inning and Cargo went in to play shortstop, while shortstop Doggie Miller moved over to cover third base. He had one chance in the field and didn’t get to bat. Farrell started the next day, but the injury he suffered the previous day forced him out of the game in the second inning. Cargo replaced him in the batting order, once again going to shortstop while Miller slid over to third base. Cargo went 1-for-4 at the plate with a single, while making a total of four errors in ten chances (one source says five errors in 11 chances). He’s currently credited with 12 innings in the field, but all records from the day show that he played nine innings on defense total. In fact, those nine innings that Cargo played were the only nine innings all season that Duke Farrell didn’t play. It was announced on October 17, 1892 that Cargo signed an 1893 contract with the Pirates, but he was released during Spring Training on April 11th, 16 days before Opening Day. He was reportedly set to receive $175 per month. That same day the Pirates played an exhibition game against a picked nine of current/former big league player in a benefit for Pud Galvin, who was retiring from baseball that season. Cargo played shortstop and had three hits and no errors against former Pittsburgh pitching great Ed Morris.
The ironic part about his fielding woes in the majors was that he was known for his strong glove. Despite being just 23 years old, the Pittsburgh, PA. native never played in the majors again. Outside of his minor league play, he was well-known in Pittsburgh for his play with local amateur/semi-pro teams. He lasted until 1903 in the minors and was scheduled to play in Atlanta for the 1904 season, but shortly before Opening Day, he contracted pneumonia and passed away at the age of thirty-five. Until recent research solved the mystery, his actual birthday was unknown. He now has an October 1, 1868 birthday listed.
On this date in 1949, the Pirates released 42-year-old pitcher Rip Sewell, ending his big league career. In 12 seasons with the Pirates, he posted a 143-97 record. He is tied for seventh in team history in wins, ranks seventh in innings pitched, tenth in complete games and tenth in shutouts. Sewell went 6-1, 3.91 in six starts and 22 relief appearances in 1949, throwing a total of 76 innings.