This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 2nd, Orlando Merced and a One-Game Player from 1979

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two transactions from the 1942 season.

Orlando Merced, 1B/RF for the 1990-96 Pirates. He played on three straight NL East championship teams, though his best seasons came with the 1993-96 clubs. Merced was signed as an amateur free agent out of Puerto Rico by the Pirates in 1985 and he struggled his first two seasons of pro ball before missing most of 1987, getting into just eight games. That first year was spent as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League, where he batted .228 with one homer and a .575 OPS in 40 games. He played 65 games in Low-A (Macon of the South Atlantic League) and 27 games in the New York-Penn League (Watertown) in 1986, combining to hit .191 with five homers and a .547 OPS in 92 games. He hit below .200 at each level. Due to multiple injuries, Merced played just four early season games in Low-A and four mid-season games in the NYPL in 1987, though he made up for lost time by playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. The 1988 season was split between Low-A (Augusta of the South Atlantic League) and High-A (Salem of the Carolina League), with more time spent at the upper level. Merced combined to hit .283 in 117 games, with 36 extra-base hits and 15 steals. In 1989, he put up mediocre stats in Double-A with Harrisburg of the Eastern League (.670 OPS in 95 games), then moved up to Buffalo of the Triple-A American Association, where he hit .341 in 35 games, with 18 runs scored and 16 RBIs.

Merced started 1990 in the minors again, but got a late June call-up to the big leagues. He was sent down after one month, then returned for the end of the season. He played in 25 games that year for the Pirates, all of them as a pinch-hitter, batting .208 with one walk and one double. He batted .262 in 101 games for Buffalo, with 52 runs scored, 55 RBIs and 46 walks. In 1991 Merced finished second to Jeff Bagwell in the Rookie of the Year voting, getting the only first place vote that Bagwell didn’t receive. He played in 120 games that year, batting .275 with 17 doubles, ten homers, 50 RBIs, 83 runs and 64 walks. He went just 2-for-9 in the playoffs that postseason, hitting a home run in game three for his only RBI. The 1992 season saw Merced get into 134 games, with a slight dip in overall production from his rookie year. He batted .247 with 50 runs scored, 28 doubles, 60 RBIs and 52 walks. In the playoffs he struggled again, going 1-for-10 and giving him a .158 average in the playoffs with the Pirates. Merced hit a career high .313 with 68 runs scored, 26 doubles, 77 walks and 70 RBIs in 1993. His .857 OPS was a career best. He slipped a little during the strike season of 1994, hitting .272 with 33 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs in 108 games, but he came back strong in 1995 playing almost everyday. Merced hit .300 that season, with career highs of 29 doubles and 83 RBIs. He also scored 75 runs and set a career high with 15 homers, though that would soon be topped. The 1996 season was just as strong, hitting .287 with 69 runs scored, 24 doubles, a career high 17 homers, and 80 RBIs in 120 games. With one year left before free agency, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on November 14, 1996, along with Dan Plesac and Carlos Garcia, in exchange for six players, the best among them being Craig Wilson, Jose Silva and Abraham Nunez.

After leaving the Pirates, Merced jumped around a lot to finish his big league career. He spent one season in Toronto, then split the 1998 season between the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins. He spent 1999 with the Montreal Expos, played in Japan in 2000, then served as a bench player for the 2001-03 Houston Astros. He hit .266 with 23 doubles, nine homers and 40 RBIs in 98 games with the Blue Jays in 1997. Despite all of the moving around in 1998, he hit .278 with 40 RBIs and a .749 OPS in 84 games. During his one season in Montreal, Merced did even better in his part-time role, batting .268 with 12 doubles, eight homers and an .817 OPS in 93 games. His time in Japan was brief, and he spent part of that year back in the U.S., playing in Triple-A for the Astros. Back in the majors in 2001, Merced hit .263 in 94 games, with 20 starts all season, all of them in the outfield. He saw some extra playing time in 2002, making 46 starts in the outfield and six at first base. He hit .287 in 123 games, with 22 extra-base hits, 35 doubles and 30 RBIs. In his final season in the majors, he batted .231 in 123 games, with a .655 OPS. Despite playing the same amount of games, he had 51 fewer plate appearances. After his Major League career was over, he played two winters in his native Puerto Rico. In 13 seasons, Merced hit .277 in 1,391 big league games, with 564 runs, 229 doubles, 103 homers and 585 RBIs. He hit .283 with 65 homers, 394 RBIs and 396 runs scored in 776 games with the Pirates.

Gary Hargis, pinch-runner for the 1979 Pirates. He played the smallest part on the 1979 World Series winning Pirates team, coming into a game on September 29th as a pinch-runner for Tim Foli in the 13th inning of the next-to-last game of the season. There were two outs at the time and Hargis moved up to second base on a Dave Parker infield single. Willie Stargell then struck out, and that was his entire big league career. Hargis lasted eight year in the Pirates system after being drafted in the second round of the 1974 draft out of high school. He debuted at 17 years old in pro ball, playing that first season (1974) in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .295 in 62 games, with 20 steals and a .704 OPS. In 1975, he spent the season with Salem of the Class-A Carolina League. He hit .268 in 134 games, with 66 runs scored, 27 doubles, 53 RBIs and 17 steals. In 1976, Hargis hit .272 in 130 games for Shreveport of the Texas League. He had 51 runs scored, 21 doubles and 19 steals. His OPS stood at just .630 on the season due to one triple/three homers and 14 walks all season. He moved up to Triple-A Columbus of the International League in 1977, where he batted .252 in 104 games, with 25 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 15 attempts. His OPS ended up just four points higher than the previous season.

In 1978, Hargis repeated Columbus, where he hit .283 in 107 games. He set a career high with ten homers, which ended up being twice as many as he hit in any other season. However, he stole just four bases all year and had a shockingly low total of five walks in 388 plate appearances. In Spring Training of 1979, Hargis was the last man cut by the Pirates before Opening Day. Prior to joining the Pirates in 1979, he hit .277 with 52 runs scored in 103 games for the Pirates new Triple-A affiliate, Portland of the Pacific Coast League. He was called up to the Pirates on September 1, 1979, exactly four weeks before his only game. He was one of seven players called up that day and four of them never got into a game that season. Three of them played in the majors at other points, but catcher Harry Saferight spent a month of the bench without a game, and never played a big league game. Hargis had minor elbow surgery in November of 1979, which was described as nothing serious, but it could have been a sign of things to come. In 1980, he was cut four days before Opening Day. An arm injury after a move to the outfield likely cost him a shot at a second chance in the majors that September. He batted .278 in 84 games that year for Portland, with a .705 OPS. After spending all of 1981 in the minors, which included a stint back in Double-A, Hargis vetoed a trade to the Kansas City Royals in April of 1982 and asked for his release instead. He never played pro ball again. After the Pirates won the World Series in 1979, they split up the playoff shares, giving out 31 full shares that were worth $28,236. A total of eight players, including Hargis, received $250 cash grants for their part on the team.

Frenchy Genins, utility player for the 1895 Pirates. He had a long career in pro ball, playing from 1887 until 1909, though he only played 149 games in the majors. Genins began his pro career at 20 years old in 1887. He spent his first five seasons in the minors, four of those years in Sioux City of the Western Association. It is a little surprising that it took him that long to make the majors after he debuted with a .320 average in 98 games for Omaha of the Western League, which was an upper level (not the top) of competition at the time in the minors. He played 73 games for Sioux City in 1888 and hit .226 with six extra-base hits and 35 steals. In 1889, Genins improved to a .267 average in 121 games, with 99 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits and 49 steals. There are no stats available for the 1890 season, but his 1891 season shows a .231 average in 117 games, with 77 runs scored, 18 extra-base hits and 23 steals. He debuted in the majors in 1892 with the St Louis Browns, playing one game. He would then play for the Cincinnati Reds, before returning to St Louis, while also seeing some brief minor league time. Genins batted .186 in 50 games, with 17 runs scored and ten steals. Illness kept him out of baseball during the second half of 1892 and he played semi-pro ball in St Louis during the 1893 season.

Genins was much better in 1894 and managed to hit .374 in 126 games for Sioux City of the Western League (team moved leagues). His numbers that season are amazing, though the offense was up all around baseball in 1894. He scored 166 runs, while collecting 67 extra-base hits and 86 stolen bases. The Pirates had him signed to an 1895 contract by November of 1894. They acquired him from Sioux City late in the 1894 season, though he was allowed to stay with his team until the end of their season, which was approximately the same time the season ended in Pittsburgh. The 1895 season in Pittsburgh was his best in the majors, as he batted .250 with 43 runs scored, 24 RBIs and 19 steals in 73 games. He played every position that year except pitcher and catcher. The Pirates used just four outfielders that entire season and Genins served as the backup for the three starters.

The Pirates sent him to the minors in 1896, first playing for Grand Rapids, before being sent to Columbus of the Western League. He was still with Columbus in 1897 when he was once again purchased by the St Louis Browns, though he didn’t appear with the them in the majors. He remained in the minors until 1901, when he got a job with the Cleveland Blues (Indians) in the first year of the American League as a Major League. He was actually with Cleveland in the American League in 1900 as well, the first year of the league, which was classified as a minor league at the time. He hit .293 with 84 runs scored, 28 doubles and 21 steals in 140 games. During the 1901 season, Genins batted .228 in 26 games, in what ended up being his final big league time. He remained in the minors until 1909 without another chance. He spent two of those seasons back in Omaha, but he slowly worked his way down the minor league ladder, finishing up with a .233 average in 99 games with Racine of the Class-D Wisconin-Illinois League. In modern terms, imagine a player who spent three years in the majors, finishing his pro career by struggling in Low-A for a full season at 42 years old. After his playing career, he had a brief attempt at umpiring in the minors and also managed for three years. He was dismissed during his first season in 1910, then got run out of the game by angry fans in June of 1911, who tried to drown him in a pond after a series of bad calls (seriously). Genins was a .226 hitter in 149 big league games, with 18 doubles, two homers, 44 RBIs, 75 runs scored and 32 steals. The name Frenchy was rarely used in print, but an 1891 article points out that it was his cognomen (I just learned that word from that article) in baseball circles. He mostly went by his middle name Frank, while research has indicated that his first name starts with “C”, but the rest is unknown.

The Transactions

On this date in 1942, the Pirates selected pitchers Wally Hebert and Ed Albosta in the Rule 5 draft. Hebert was playing in the minors at the time, nine years removed from a three-season stint with the St Louis Browns. He had quite a comeback season to the majors, going 10-11, 2.98 in 184 innings for the 1943 Pirates. Despite the success, he retired after that one season. Albosta ended up missing three years due to WWII before he ever played for the Pirates. He returned in 1946 and went 0-6, 6.13 in six starts and 11 relief appearances. Prior to being selected by the Pirates, his big league career consisted of two starts with the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers. He played minor league ball until 1951, but he never played in the majors after his stint with the 1946 Pirates.