This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 5th, Claude Ritchey, Plus the Pirates Acquire a Strong Pitcher

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on this date, plus we have one transaction of note.

Claude Ritchey, second baseman for the Pirates from 1900 until 1906. He was part of the biggest trade in team history in December of 1899 when the Pirates acquired most of the star players from the Louisville Colonels, including Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and Rube Waddell. Ritchey was a strong player at the time as well, and still early in his career. He debuted in pro ball in 1895 at 21 years old, splitting his time between Warren of the Iron and Oil League in Pennsylvania, and the Akron franchise of the Interstate League. The next year he played for Buffalo of the Eastern League. There are no minor league stats available for him, but he did well enough to catch the eye of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who took him in the Rule 5 draft after the 1896 season, though he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before he played a game in Brooklyn. Ritchey hit .282 as a rookie in 101 games, seeing most of his time at shortstop. He had 41 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 42 walks. He was traded to Louisville in February of 1898 and hit .254 with 65 runs scored, 51 RBIs and 19 steals in 151 games. In his second season with the Colonels, he switched to second base and batted .300 with 73 RBIs, 21 steals and 66 runs scored. That average was his career best, as was his .747 OPS, and he did that while playing solid defense in the middle of the diamond. His defense would get better as he got older and stayed at second base more often. He was the top fielding second baseman during four of his seven seasons with the Pirates. Ritchey led the National League in fielding percentage five times (four times in Pittsburgh). He also led multiple times in double plays and games played, while consistently ranking near the top in putouts.

After the trade to Pittsburgh, Ritchey batted .292 in his first season with the Pirates, with 67 RBIs, 62 runs and 18 stolen bases in 123 games. His walk rate wasn’t great with 29 base on balls that year, but he struck out just eight times all season. He topped that first season batting average with a .296 mark in 1901, while also setting a career high with 74 RBIs, in addition to 66 runs scored in 140 games. That helped the Pirates to their first National League title. In 1902, the Pirates had their best season ever with a 103-36 record. He played 115 games that season, hitting .277 with 53 walks, 55 RBIs and 54 runs scored. In 1903, the Pirates went to the first World Series and he contributed a 4.4 WAR season, with above average offense and defense. Ritchey hit .287 with 28 doubles, ten triples, 55 walks, 59 RBIs and 66 runs scored in 138 games. He batted just .148 during the World Series, with four walks, two runs and two RBIs. In 1904, he led the NL with 156 games played. He batted .263 with career highs of 12 triples and 79 runs scored. Ritchey hit 22 doubles, walked 59 times and drove in 51 runs that season.

In 1905, Ritchey hit .255 in 153 games, with 51 walks, 52 RBIs and 54 runs scored. That offense was slightly above average for the era, but his 1.4 WAR on defense helped make it a strong season. In his final season in Pittsburgh, he hit .269 with a career high of 68 walks, to go along with 62 RBIs and 46 runs scored. After the season, the Pirates traded Ritchey as one of three players sent to the Boston Doves (Braves) to acquire second baseman Ed Abbaticchio. Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss had an affinity for Abbaticchio and thought having the first Italian-American baseball player on his team would help the crowds as well. The problem was that Abbaticchio was only a slightly above average player and he sat out the entire 1906 season. He put up just 6.1 WAR after the trade in four seasons, while Ritchey himself was worth 6.6 WAR during the 1907-08 seasons, and he wasn’t even the top player in the deal. That honor belonged to Ginger Beaumont. The third player was Patsy Flaherty, who put in two solid seasons in the Boston rotation, throwing 461 innings during that time.

Ritchey had a typical first season in Boston, hitting .255 with 50 walks, 51 RBIs and 45 runs scored. He led all NL second basemen with a .971 fielding percentage, a mark that was only topped three times in the previous 36 seasons of Major League ball. He played 121 games in 1908, hitting .273 with 50 walks, 36 RBIs and 44 runs scored. Those stats don’t sound impressive, but they were well above average for the year. He struggled in 1909 at 35 years old and was released to the minors after 30 games. He played pro ball until 1912, playing his final season in Pittsburgh with a team from the United States League. At the plate with the Pirates, he hit .277 over 977 games, with 420 RBIs and 427 runs scored, while recording more than twice as many walks (362) as strikeouts (177). He played a total of 13 seasons in the majors, hitting .273 in 1,672 games, with 607 walks and 290 strikeouts. Ritchey stole 155 bases and scored 709 runs. He posted a career 34.7 WAR, with 25.2 coming with the Pirates.

Onix Concepcion, shortstop for the 1987 Pirates. He was signed out of Puerto Rico by the Kansas City Royals at 18 years old in 1976. His rookie season in pro ball had an odd split, with 18 games in the Gulf Coast League and five games in Double-A. At the time, the Royals only had four minor league affiliates, so he was actually only skipping one level. Concepcion played the 1977 season in the Gulf Coast League, hitting just .186 in 28 games. That doesn’t sound like the second season of a future big league player, but he was in the majors just three years later. He played the 1978 season with Fort Myers of the Florida State League (Class-A), where he hit .235 with a .591 OPS in 79 games. He played for Bakersfield of the California League in 1979, which was basically the same level of play as the Florida State League at the time. That year he hit .300 with 25 doubles, 14 homers, 75 RBIs, 17 steals and 60 walks in 127 games. In his first three years combined he had 11 extra-base hits and all of them were doubles. In 1980, Concepcion split the season between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting .304 with 22 doubles, 16 homers, 78 RBIs and 27 steals in 132 games. He played 12 games for the Royals that season and went 2-for-15 at the plate. He was on the World Series roster and was used as a pinch-runner three times.

Concepcion spent almost all of 1981 at Triple-A, where he hit .256 with 32 steals and 23 extra-base hits in 118 games. He played just two games for the Royals and didn’t get to bat once. In 1982, he spent the entire season in the majors, hitting .234 with a .544 OPS in 74 games. He made 42 starts at shortstop and 11 at second base. In 1983 he was a utility infielder, starting 19 times at shortstop, 19 times at second base and 26 times at third base. He batted .242 in 80 games, with 20 RBIs, 22 runs scored and ten steals. In 1984, Concepcion batted .282 in 90 games, setting career highs in average, runs (36) and RBIs (23), while stealing nine bases. All but four of his 83 starts that season were at shortstop. In the playoffs that season he went 0-for-7 at the plate. The Royals won the World Series in 1985 and Concepcion made 109 starts at shortstop. He hit just .204 with 20 RBIs and 32 runs scored, but he played solid defense. He lost his starting job by the time the playoffs started and ended up batting just once in his seven postseason games. Despite playing a career high of 131 games for the 1985 Royals, he spent the entire 1986 season in Triple-A. After spending six seasons with the Royals, Concepcion played one game for the Pirates on April 7, 1987 and collected a single in a pinch-hitting appearance. While running out that single, he strained a left hamstring and was placed on the disabled list. He played six minor league rehab games, but never made it back to Pittsburgh. He was released by the Pirates on June 15, 1987, which ended his pro baseball career. Concepcion was a career .239 hitter with three homers and 80 RBIs in 390 games. He played 13 postseason games without collecting a hit or walk during his career. He is a cousin of former Pirates second baseman Jose Lind, making them one of 25 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates.

Jim Bagby Sr., pitcher for the 1923 Pirates. He began his pro career at 20 years old in 1910, pitching for Hattiesburg of the Class-D Cotton States League, where he went 5-11 in 19 appearances. Bagby spent the next season with Hattiesburg, while also getting four starts for Montgomery of the Class-A Southern Association. He combined for a 25-17, 2.27 record in 348.2 innings. He began his big league career with the 1912 Cincinnati Reds, but didn’t pitch in the majors again until the 1916 season. He spent most of 1912 with Montgomery, going 4-6, 4.04 in 84.2 innings. With the Reds, he was 2-1, 3.12 in 17.1 innings. The 1913-15 seasons were spent back in the Southern Association, playing for a time in 1913 for Montgomery, before spending the rest of the time with New Orleans. He won 20 games in 1914, and another 19 in 1915, while combining to pitch over 500 innings between those two seasons. That earned him a trip back to the majors with the 1916 Cleveland Indians. Bagby went 16-17, 2.61 in 1916, pitching 272.2 innings over his 27 starts and 21 relief appearances. He wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher during his career. His 88 strikeouts in 1916 was a career high, and he finished his career with more walks (458) than strikeouts (450), and that’s coming from a pitcher with excellent control.

Bagby was even better on the mound in 1917, with a 23-13, 1.99 record in 320.2 innings, with 37 starts and 12 relief outings. He finished third in the American League in wins and fourth in innings pitched that season. During the 1918 season, which was shortened due to the war, he was 17-16, 2.69 in 271.1 innings. He made 31 starts and led the league with 45 games pitched. Bagby had a 17-11, 2.80 record in 1919, with 32 starts, three relief outings and 241.1 innings. His 1920 season was phenomenal and helped the Indians to the World Series. He went 31-12, 2.89 in 38 starts and ten relief outings, with 30 complete games and 339.2 innings pitched. He led the league in wins, complete games and innings. The Indians won the World Series, as he lost game two and won game five. Bagby was on the mound when Bill Wambsganss turned the only unassisted triple play in World Series history during that fifth game. In 1921, Bagby had a rough season, going 14-12, 4.70 in 191.2 innings over 26 starts and 14 relief outings.

Bagby went 4-5, 6.32 in 98.1 innings in 1922, making ten starts and 15 relief appearances.  By the time he reached the Pirates three years after his 31-win season, he was in his last year in the majors. Bagby was selected off waivers by the Pirates after the 1922 season. The Pirates let him start three times in May of 1923 and he allowed 15 runs in 16 innings. His last three starts later that season all came during doubleheaders and he won two of them. By the end of the season, Bagby was barely being used, pitching three times over the final 47 games. He made six starts and 15 relief appearances, posting a 5.24 ERA in 68.2 innings. He was released on September 9, 1923 and finished the season with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. While his big league career was over at that point, he pitched in the minors until 1930, seeing time with seven different teams over those final seven season. In nine big league seasons, he finished with a 127-89, 3.11 record in 1,821.2 innings, with 208 starts and 108 relief appearances. He had a total of 259 wins between the majors and minors. Bagby is the father of Jim Bagby Jr, who also finished his career with the Pirates (1947) after excelling as a pitcher with the Indians.

The Transaction

On this date in 1937, the Pirates drafted minor league pitcher Bob Klinger from the St Louis Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft. He would go on win 62 games over the next six seasons with the Pirates, including a 12-5, 2.99 record as a rookie in 1938. Klinger didn’t debut until he was two months shy of his 30th birthday. He spent nine seasons in the minors prior to his debut, winning 115 games down on the farm. He would have contributed more during his time with the Pirates, but he missed the 1944-45 seasons while serving during WWII.