Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a Hall of Famer.
Fred Clarke, player manager for the 1900-1915 Pirates. He is in the Hall of Fame as a left fielder, but he could just as easily be in as a manager. He was already a star before joining the Pirates in 1900. He hit .334 in his first six seasons with the Louisville Colonels, the last three years as the manager. Clarke then hit .299 over 1,479 games with the Pirates, four times leading them to a National League title and once to a World Series title. He scored 1,622 runs during his career and hit 220 triples, which ranks seventh all-time. As a manager, he had a 1,602-1,181 record in 19 years.
Clarke began his pro career in 1893 at 20 years old, playing 20 games for St Joseph of the Western Association, where he hit .346 with seven doubles, two homers and eight steals. He played 35 games that season for Montgomery of the Class-B Southern Association and hit .306 with five doubles and five triples. He was with Savannah of the Southern Association in 1894 until his big league debut on June 30th with Louisville. In 54 games, he hit .311 with 21 steals and 16 extra-base hits. In Louisville in 1894, he hit .274 with 25 extra-base hits and 26 steals in 76 games. It wasn’t that strong of a debut, considering that 1894 was a huge season for offense in baseball due to the new pitching rules that pitchers had trouble adjusting to until 1896 when offense returned to normal standards. Clarke had strong first full season in the majors, batting .347 in 132 games in 1895. He had 30 extra-base hits, 40 steals, 82 RBIs and 96 runs scored. In 1896, he hit .325 in 131 games, with 42 extra-base hits, including 18 doubles. He also had 34 steals, 79 RBIs and 96 runs scored.
In 1897, Clarke put up a .390 average that was his best season ever in that category. He finished second in the batting race because Hall of Famer Willie Keeler had a mind-blowing .424 average, which is what happens when you “hit them were they ain’t”. During the 1897 season, Clarke had 49 extra-base hits, a career best 59 steals and he scored a career high 122 runs (which he would soon tie) in 130 games. His .992 OPS was second best in the league. He saw a major drop-off in 1898, yet he still batted .307 with 40 steals and 116 runs scored in 149 games. During his final season in Louisville, he hit .340 with 122 runs scored, a career high 206 hits, 70 RBIs and 49 steals in 149 games. After the 1899 season, Louisville traded all of their best players to Pittsburgh as part of a deal that also included cash and owner Barney Dreyfuss leaving his Louisville ownership to take over control of the Pirates. Clarke was in the deal, along with Honus Wagner, Rube Waddell, Deacon Phillippe and Tommy Leach. It’s usually listed as a 12-for-4 deal with the Pirates getting the 12 players, but the initial deal was 5-for-14, with the Pirates eventually getting control of more players once Louisville folded as a franchise.
In his first year as the player-manager for Pittsburgh, Clarke hit .276 in 106 games, with 84 runs scored and 21 steals. It was a disappointing debut considering his previous success. The Pirates won the National League pennant in 1901 and Clarke hit .324 with 45 extra-base hits and 118 runs scored in 129 games. It was their first pennant in 20 years as a franchise. In 1902, the Pirates had their best season in team history, finishing with a 103-36 record. They even faltered at the end of that year due to numerous injuries, including Clarke, who missed nine games in the final few weeks. He hit .316 with 27 doubles, 14 triples, 53 RBIs, 29 steals and 103 runs scored. His .850 OPS was second best in the league. The Pirates played in the first World Series in 1903 and Clarke helped them get there by hitting .351 with 70 RBIs and 88 runs scored in 104 games. He led the league with a career high 32 doubles, as well as his .532 slugging percentage and .946 OPS. He lost out on the batting title that year by four points to Honus Wagner. Clarke hit .265 in the postseason, with two RBIs and three runs scored in eight games.
In 1904, Clarke hit .306 in 72 games, missing 2 1/2 months due to a leg injury suffered in July. He was healthy in 1905 when he .299 with 51 RBIs and 95 runs scored in 141 games. His .309 average in 1906 was the seventh best in the league, and he led the league with 13 triples, despite being slightly limited to 118 games. The 1907 season was a down year for offense, as evident by his eighth place finish in the batting race with a .289 average. Clarke played 148 games that year, with 97 runs scored, 59 RBIs, 68 walks and 37 steals, which was his high during his time in Pittsburgh. In 1908, he batted .265 with 65 walks, 83 runs scored, 18 doubles and 15 triples in 151 games. The Pirates won the World Series in 1909 and Clarke played a career high of 152 games that season. He batted .287, which was ninth best in the league. He scored 97 runs, drove in 68 runs, stole 31 bases and he led the league with 80 walks. His .756 OPS was eighth best in the league. He hit just .211 in the World Series, but his hits were timely and big, with seven RBIs and seven runs scored.
Clarke hit .263 in 1910, with 63 RBIs and 57 runs scored in 123 games. He had a solid 1911 season, but at 38 years old he was entering his final days as a regular player. He batted .324 with 43 extra-base hits in 110 games. He didn’t play at all in 1912, then saw sporadic at-bats over the next three seasons, once taking over in left field for a short time in 1913 while the Pirates were desperate for outfielders. He played two games each during the 1914-15 seasons, sticking to his managerial duties during that time. Clarke often scouted players in-season during his career, so he wasn’t always around for all of those managerial wins (and losses) credited to him. He finished up as a player with a .312 average in 2,246 games, with 1,622 runs, 2,678 hits, 361 doubles, 220 triples, 67 homers, 1,015 RBIs and 509 steals, as well as 875 walks, compared to 511 strikeouts. During his 16 years as a manager of the Pirates, he had four first place finishes, five second place finishes, and he finished in the top half of the division in each of his first 14 seasons, which was a big deal back then when the top four teams each received player shares of a bonus pool at the end of the season.
Bob Skinner, outfielder for the Pirates in 1954, then again in 1956-63. The Pirates signed Skinner three years before he made his pro debut. He played junior college ball for one year before signing with Pittsburgh at 19 years old in 1951. He played over two levels in 1951, including a .472 average in 29 games for Mayfield of the KITTY League. Skinner then spent the next two years in the Marines during the Korean War. When he returned, he played well enough in Spring Training in 1954 to make the Pirates, hitting .249 with 32 extra-base hits in 132 games as a rookie. Despite the full-time play, he spent 1955 in the minors, where he hit .346 with 38 extra-base hits and 62 RBIs in 86 games for New Orleans of the American Association. Skinner returned to the Pirates in 1956 and began to see more time later in the season, playing all four corner spots, with most of his time in left field and at first base. He batted just .202 with a .609 OPS in 113 games, but the experience helped him out the next year. At 25 years old in 1957, Skinner batted .305 with 13 homers in 126 games, seeing a large majority of his time in left field, which was his main position through the 1963 season. That was followed by his first All-Star season in 1958, hitting .321, with 13 homers, 70 RBIs and a career best 93 runs scored in 144 games. He received mild MVP support, finishing 15th in the voting
In 1959, Skinner batted .280 with 67 walks, 61 RBIs and 78 runs scored in 143 games. He would set a career high with 86 RBIs during the 1960 season, helping the Pirates to the World Series, where they won their third title. He was an All-Star that season, batting .273 in 145 games, with a career high 33 doubles, to go along with 15 homers and 83 runs scored. He played just two games in the World Series, going 1-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. In 1961, Skinner batted .268 in 119 games, with 61 runs scored, 42 RBIs and 51 walks. He then he batted .302 and slugged a career high 20 homers in 1962. He had 75 RBIs, 87 runs scored and set a high with 76 walks. He received mild MVP support that year. The Pirates traded him to the Cincinnati Reds during the early part of the 1963 season for Jerry Lynch. It was a well-timed deal for the Pirates, as he clearly fell off at that point. He hit .259 in 106 games, with 43 runs scored and 25 RBIs that season, with slightly better results with the Pirates. In 1964, he started playing more right field, while splitting the season between the Reds and St Louis Cardinals. He hit .254 in 80 games, with a .680 OPS. Skinner had a nice season off the bench for the 1965 Cardinals, hitting .309 in a limited role, getting 164 plate appearances in 80 games. He was done as a player by the next year, seeing all 49 games played that year in a pinch-hitting role, without any time in the outfield. He hit .156 with one homer during that 1966 season.
Skinner was a manager for the Philadelphia Phillies for the final 107 games of the 1968 season and the first 108 games of the 1969 season. He also had one game as the manager for the 1977 San Diego Padres. Besides managing after his playing days, he also had numerous coaching spots, with the highlight being the batting coach for the 1979 Pirates, when they won their fifth World Series title. Skinner hit .280, with 90 homers, 574 runs scored and 462 RBIs in 1,100 games with the Pirates. He played a total of 12 years in the majors, finishing with a .277 average and 103 homers in 1,381 games. His son Joel Skinner played nine years in the big leagues. Bob Skinner turns 90 today and is among the oldest living former Pirates.
Kevin Kramer, infielder for the 2018-19 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the 25th round in 2011 out of high school by the Cleveland Indians. He decided to attend UCLA, where he moved up to a second round pick. He split his first season in pro ball between Morgantown of the New York-Penn League and West Virginia of the South Atlantic League, combining to hit .291 with 13 extra-base hits and 12 steals in 58 games. He moved up to Bradenton of the Florida State League in 2016, where he hit .277 with 29 doubles,57 RBIs, 56 runs scored and 48 walks in 118 games. In 2017, Kramer moved up to Double-A Altoona and got off to an outstanding start until a hand injury from a hit-by-pitch put him out of action for two months. He hit .297 with 26 extra-base hits in 53 games that season for Altoona. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .200 with two homers in 16 games. Kramer went to Triple-A Indianapolis for the 2018 season. He batted .311 with 35 doubles, 15 homers and 13 steals in 129 games. He got his first call to the majors that September and hit .135 in 21 games, with a .310 OPS. In 2019, he batted .260 with 30 doubles and ten homers in Triple-A, while hitting .167 in 22 games with the Pirates. Kramer was injured during the shortened 2020 season, and has spent the 2021 season split between the Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers in Triple-A. The Pirates traded him on July 4th and the Brewers released him on August 17th.
Phil Gosselin, infielder for the 2017 Pirates. He was a fifth round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2010 out of the University of Virginia. He spent most of his debut season in Low-A with Rome of the South Atlantic League, where he hit .294 with 24 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 57 games. After a brief stint in High-A to end the 2010 season, he spent all of 2011 back at the level with Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Gosselin hit .264 with 36 extra-base hits, 63 RBIs and 60 runs scored in 115 games. In 2012, he moved up to Double-A, playing for Mississippi of the Southern League. He batted .242 with a .637 OPS in 128 games, which caused him to repeat the level at the start of 2013. Gosselin had an odd 2013 season, which was split evenly in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A, with mediocre results at both levels, but he still earned a trip to the majors. He had a .617 OPS in 117 minor league games, and he played four late-season games with the Braves. The next year he tore up Triple-A in 96 games, hitting .344 with an .866 OPS, which led to an extended stint with the Braves. Gosselin hit .266 with one homer, three RBIs and 17 runs scored in 42 games for Atlanta that year. In 2015, he was traded mid-season to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a salary dump trade for Bronson Arroyo and pitching prospect Touki Toussaint. Gosselin batted .311 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 44 games that season between both stops. He played 122 games during the 2016 season, getting a total of 240 plate appearances. He hit .277 with 26 runs scored, 12 doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs that season.
Gosselin was acquired by the Pirates right before Spring Training in a trade with the Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher Frank Duncan. Gosselin hit .190 in 28 games for the 2017 Pirates, seeing most of his time at second base and off of the bench. Gosselin spent part of the season in Triple-A with the Pirates. In August, he was lost via waivers to the Texas Rangers. He had just eight at-bats over 12 games in the final two months with Texas. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019 was a valuable utility player for them during the 2020 season after mostly seeing bench time in 2019. He hit .262 in 44 games in 2019, getting just 68 plate appearances. During the shortened 2020 season, he hit .250 with three homers, 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored in 39 games. He signed with the Los Angeles Angels in February of 2021 and has played 93 games through late September, hitting .264 with six homers, 40 RBIs and 33 runs scored, which are career highs in each of the three latter categories. As of this writing, he is a .262 career hitter in 452 games, with 124 runs scored, 16 homers and 94 RBIs. He has made big league starts at six different positions, all around the infield and both corner outfield spots.
Alex Ramirez, outfielder during the 2000 season for the Pirates. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in July of 1991 at 16 years old out of Venezuela. He played his first season (1992) in the Dominican Summer League, then jumped to the U.S. in 1993, where he hit .270 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs in 64 games with Burlington of the Appalachian League. Ramirez spent the 1994 season in the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .258 with 23 doubles and 18 homers in 125 games. In 1995, he spent most of the season in the High-A California League, getting a 33-game stint in Double-A to end the season. He combined to hit .304 with 45 extra-base hits in 131 games, showing much better results at the lower level. In 1996, Ramirez spent the entire season in the Double-A Eastern League, where he batted .329 with 28 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers, 85 RBIs and 18 steals in 131 games. He moved up to Triple-A in 1997, playing for Buffalo of the American Association. He hit .286 with 38 extra-base hits in 119 games in 1997, then repeated the level in 1998, batting .299 with 21 doubles, eight triples, 34 homers and 103 RBIs in 121 games. Ramirez got a five-game trial with the Indians that season.
Ramirez split the 1999 season between Triple-A and the majors, posting an .847 OPS in 75 games at Buffalo, followed by an .801 OPS in 48 games for the Indians, which included a .299 average, three homers and 18 RBIs. He split the 2000 season fairly evenly between the Indians and Pirates. Before the trade that brought him to Pittsburgh, he hit .286 with five homers in 41 games. He hit .209 with four homers in 43 games after joining the Pirates. Just 25 years old at the time, the Pirates gave him the starting right field job after he joined the team, but he lost that spot in September, making just one start over the final 17 games. It would be his last MLB experience, but far from the end of his career. His overall time with the Pirates was very brief. The Cleveland trade happened on July 28, 2000 and he was sold to Yakult (Japan) on November 1, 2000. Ramirez played in Japan for 13 seasons, where he was a star player. He also managed for five seasons after retiring. In pro ball, he hit a total of 505 homers between 1993 and 2013 (his 1992 stats aren’t available). From 2003 until 2010, he had eight straight seasons with 103+ RBIs. In 2010, he set career highs with 49 homers and 129 RBIs. Besides the impressive amount of homers as a pro, Ramirez also finished with 3,017 hits and 1,796 RBIs.
Wil Cordero, left fielder for the 2000 Pirates. Prior to playing one partial season in Pittsburgh, he spent four years with the Montreal Expos, two years with the Boston Red Sox, one year with the Chicago White Sox and one season with the Cleveland Indians. Cordero signed as an international free agent with the Expos in May of 1988 out of Puerto Rico at 16 years old. He debuted that year in the New York-Penn League, an extremely advanced placement for his age. He hit .258 with three doubles and two homers in 52 games that season. In 1989, he started in the Florida State League, but he was in Double-A by the end of the season at 17 years old. He batted .259 with 30 extra-base hits and 45 walks in 117 games between the two stops. In 1990, Cordero spent the entire season in Double-A, hitting .234 in 131 games, with a devilishly average .666 OPS. He jumped up to Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association in 1991, where he batted .261 with 11 homers and a .734 OPS in 98 games. He had an .850 OPS in 52 games in 1992 at Indianapolis before joining the Expos in July for his big league debut. That rookie season saw him hit .302 with two homers and eight RBIs in 45 games.
In 1993, Cordero was the starting shortstop for the Expos. He finished the previous season just under the maximum limit for Rookie of the Year eligibility, which allowed him to finish seventh in the voting in 1993. He hit .248 with 32 doubles, ten homers, 58 RBIs and 12 steals in 138 games. He was an All-Star and Silver Slugger winner for the only time in his career during the strike-shortened 1994 season. Cordero hit .294 with 65 runs scored, 30 doubles, 15 homers, 63 runs scored and 16 steals in 110 games. The next year saw him hit .286 with a career high 35 doubles. He also had ten homers, 49 RBIs and 64 runs scored in 131 games. He was traded to the Red Sox in January of 1996 and he moved to second base. In his first season in Boston, he hit .288 with three homers and 37 RBIs in 59 games. He had his leg broken on May 20th that year and didn’t return until late August. He was healthy in 1997 and hit .281 in 140 games with the Red Sox, setting career highs with 18 homers, 72 RBIs and 82 runs scored. He was released at the end of the season and signed with the White Sox for 1998, where he batted .267 with 58 runs scored, 18 doubles, 13 homers and 49 RBIs in 96 games, during his only season with the team. He left via free agency, signing with the Indians. He batted .299 in 54 games with Cleveland in 1999, missing three full months due to a broken wrist mid-season, then became a free agent after the season.
Cordero signed with the Pirates in December of 1999, and he was traded during the 2000 season, so his total time with the club was brief. He batted .282 with 16 homers in 89 games with the Pirates before being traded to the Indians for some guy named Alex Ramirez (see above). After the deal, he hit .264 with no homers in 38 games. He was a utility player during the 2001 season, hitting .250 with four homers, 21 RBIs and 30 runs scored in 89 games. The Indians released him after six games in 2002 and he signed with the Expos for the remainder of the season. In 72 games that year, he hit .267 with six homers and 30 RBIs. Cordero saw regular playing time in 2003, hitting .278 with 27 doubles, 16 homers and 71 RBIs in 130 games. He played with the Florida Marlins in 2004 and struggled, hitting just .197 in 27 games. For his final season in the majors, he returned to the Montreal franchise, except they had moved to Washington by then. He hit .118 with no homers in 28 games for the Nationals. Cordero played 1,247 games over 14 seasons in the majors, finishing with a .273 average, with 587 runs scored, 122 homers and 566 RBIs. He saw extensive time at left field, first base and shortstop during his career, but all of his time in Pittsburgh was in left field.
Manny Martinez, outfielder for the 1998 Pirates. The Pirates were one of four teams he played for during his three-year career in the majors. Martinez signed with the Oakland A’s as an international free agent out of the Dominican in 1988 at 17 years old. His first two seasons were spent in the Dominican Summer League (no stats are available). He jumped to the U.S. in 1990 and played in the short-season Northwest League, where he hit .246 with two homers and 36 runs scored in 66 games. In 1991, Martinez moved up to Modesto of the High-A California League for the first of two seasons with that club. He hit .271 with 32 doubles and 73 runs scored in 125 games in 1991, stealing 29 bases, though he was caught 19 times. In 1992, he batted .253 with 33 extra-base hits, 70 runs scored and 17 steals (in 30 attempts) in 121 games. His .667 OPS was 22 points lower than the previous year. Martinez began 1993 back in the California League (affiliate moved to San Bernardino) and did so well that he finished the year in Triple-A. He combined to hit .320 with 28 doubles, 12 homers and 97 runs scored in 129 games. He had 30 steals, but he was caught 24 times. He spent the 1994 season with Triple-A Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .256 with 39 extra-base hits and 76 runs scored in 137 games. Any chance for a late-season call-up to the majors that year ended with the mid-August strike.
Martinez reached minor league free agency at the end of the 1994 season and signed with the Chicago Cubs, where he batted .290 with a .760 OPS in 122 games at Triple-A. He became a free agent again at the end of 1995 and signed with the Seattle Mariners. He played briefly for both the Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies in 1996, seeing time in the minors and majors with both clubs. He got into 22 big league games total, batting .226 in 53 at-bats. Martinez signed with the Pirates after the 1996 season and spent 1997 in Triple-A, where he hit .331 with 34 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBIs, 17 steals and 78 runs scored in 109 games. He played just 22 games in Triple-A in 1998, and spent the rest of the season in the majors with the Pirates. Martinez hit .250 in 73 games, with six homers, 24 RBIs and 21 runs scored during his time in Pittsburgh. The Pirates lost him on waivers to the Montreal Expos in December of 1998. He played 137 games during the 1999 season in the majors, batting .245 with 21 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs, 48 runs scored and 19 stolen bases. After that, he played another nine seasons of pro ball without seeing big league time. He was in Triple-A for the Florida Marlins during the 2000 season, his last year in affiliated ball. Martinez played in Korea (2001-03), Mexico (2004-08) and in independent ball (2005). In his 19 seasons of pro ball, he had over 2,100 hits, 1,200+ runs and 1,000+ RBIs. He has managed for three seasons in the Dominican Summer League for the New York Mets, including the 2021 season.
Jack Lamabe, pitcher for the 1962 Pirates. He spent his first year of pro ball in the Philadelphia Phillies system, posting a 2.75 ERA in 85 innings for Wilson of the Class-B Carolina League. He then signed with the Pirates in early 1957. Lamabe actually spent time with the Phillies in the majors at the end of 1956, though he didn’t play. After the season, commissioner Ford Frick declared him to be a free agent and the Pirates quickly signed him. It was said that he violated a major league college baseball rule in signing with the Phillies. He apparently signed a deal on completion of his sophomore year at the University of Vermont, which wasn’t allowed at the time. Despite being a big deal at the time, plus the fact that he joined the Phillies late in 1956, it still took five seasons before he made it to Pittsburgh. Lamabe did well during his first season with the Pirates with Class-A Lincoln of the Western League, where he had a 13-7, 3.18 record in 167 innings. The next year was spent just one step away from the majors with Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. He went 5-7, 6.70 in 86 innings. In 1959, Lamabe spent most of the year back in A-Ball, going 5-15, 3.95 in 130 innings in the South Atlantic League. He remained at that level in 1960, posting a 15-10, 3.50 record in 195.1 innings, with 145 strikeouts.
Lamabe was with Columbus of the Triple-A International League in 1961. He pitched mostly in relief, going 3-4, 2.88 in 76 innings over 36 appearances. The following spring he made the Pirates Opening Day roster. He had a 2.88 ERA over 78 innings in his only season with the Pirates. In the off-season, he was traded with Dick Stuart to the Boston Red Sox. Lamabe played seven years in the majors, seeing time with seven different teams. He had a nice first season in Boston, going 7-4, 3.15 in 151.1 innings, which were almost all in relief. He pitched 65 times that season, with two starts. He made 25 starts and 14 relief appearances in 1964. He had a 9-13, 5.89 record in a career high 177.1 innings, with 109 strikeouts, which was also a career best. He split the 1965 season between Boston and the Houston Astros, while also seeing time back in the minors. Lamabe combined for an 0-5, 6.87 record in 38 innings in the majors that year. The 1966 season was spent with the Chicago White Sox. He made 17 starts and 17 relief appearances, posting a 7-9, 3.93 record in 121. innings. He played for the White Sox, New York Mets and St Louis Cardinals in 1967, combining for a 3-7, 3.29 record in 79.1 innings over three starts and 36 relief outings. His final season in the majors was spent with the Chicago Cubs, where he had a 4.30 ERA in 60.2 innings over 42 appearances. His career numbers show a 33-41, 4.24 record and 16 saves in 711 innings, with 49 starts and 236 relief appearances. His pro career ended in 1969 with one final year in the minors.
Frank Kalin, outfielder for the 1940 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1938, splitting the season between two Class-D teams. His stats are available that year from his time with McKeesport of the Pennsylvania State Association, where he hit .346 with 38 extra-base hits in 81 games. He spent the 1939 season playing for Gadsden of the Class-B Southeastern League, hitting .316 with 59 extra-base hits in 137 games. Kalin actually had a better season for Gadsden in 1939, but the 1940 season earned him a shot at the majors. The year he hit .320 in 135 games. The Pirates brought him to the majors at the end of the 1940 season and he debuted on September 25th. His big league career consisted of an 0-for-3 in three games for the Pirates (he had two walks and an RBI) and an 0-for-4 in four pinch-hitting appearances for the 1943 Chicago White Sox. He failed to make the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1941, and ended up hitting .295 in 94 games for St Paul of the American Association. On January 30, 1942, Kalin was sold to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League as partial payment for outfielder Johnny Barrett. Kalin hit .304 that season with 22 doubles, 11 triples and 13 homers. He was sold to the White Sox on September 28, 1942 and made the team out of Spring Training in 1943. His brief time with the White Sox ended on May 12, 1943 when the Army came calling. He served nearly three full years in the military, then played out his pro career in the minors for another nine seasons, spending most of that time with the Pirates affiliates in Hollywood (1946) and Indianapolis of the American Association (1947-52). The Pirates purchased his contract from Hollywood on August 30, 1946 and he attended Spring Training with the 1947 Pirates before being released to Indianapolis on April 5, 1947. His final 2 1/2 seasons were spent with San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. He batted over .300 during each of the 1946-49 seasons.
Johnny Riddle, catcher for the 1948 Pirates. He played just ten games with the Pirates in the last of his seven years in the majors. He has a bit of a footnote in team history, as his younger brother Elmer Riddle was a pitcher for the 1948-49 Pirates. Despite spending the whole season together, with Johnny as a seldom-used third-string catcher, they were the battery for just two batters all year and both opposing batters ended up hitting home runs. Johnny Riddle played his seven big league seasons over a 19-year time span. He debuted in pro ball at 21 years old in 1927, playing 22 games of Class-D ball. He moved up quickly, splitting the 1928 season between 48 games in the Class-B Three-I League and 11 games for Double-A Indianapolis of the American Association. He batted .276 with 14 extra-base hits in 59 games. In 1929, he spent the year in Indianapolis, hitting .271 with nine doubles and a homer in 60 games. Most of the 1930 season was spent in Indianapolis, where he hit .359 in 41 games. Riddle debuted in the majors 1930 with the Chicago White Sox, hitting .241 in 25 games. He didn’t play in the majors again until 1937.
Riddle returned to Indianapolis and stayed there until his next big league trial. He played at least 82 games every season from 1931 through 1937 with Indianapolis, hitting .283 or better each year. He batted .326, .325 and .328 during the final three seasons of that stretch. Just when it looked like he was a career lifer in the minors, he made it back for the first seven in seven seasons in 1937, splitting that year between the Washington Senators and Boston Bees (Braves). Riddle combined to play just ten games between those two stops, but he kept that big league job over the winter. He spent a majority of 1938 as a backup with the Bees, hitting .281 in 19 games (14 starts). He returned to the minors in August, going to Kansas City of the American Association, where he spent all of 1939 and 1940. He then played for the Cincinnati Reds in 1941 in a seldom used bench role, making four starts and getting ten at-bats all season in ten games. After playing for Birmingham of the Southern Association for the 1942-44 seasons, he rejoined the Reds in September of 1944 and stayed there through the end of the 1945 season. Riddle played one game off of the bench in 1944 without an at-bat, and then he batted .178 in 23 games for the 1945 Reds. At 40 years old in 1946, he was back in Indianapolis for two more seasons. He signed with the Pirates as a bullpen coach in 1948, but he got into action on June 20th and ended up playing ten games, hitting .200 in 15 at-bats. He was added to the roster as a backup when an injury to catcher Clyde Kluttz had the Pirates down to one healthy catcher. Riddle spent a total of 19 seasons in the minors (22 years in pro ball), hitting .297 in 1,552 games. He batted .238 with 11 RBIs and 18 runs scored in 98 big league games.