Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a trade of note. We start with one of the best pitchers in the last 40 years for the Pirates.
John Candelaria, pitcher for the 1975-85 Pirates, who then returned to finish his career in 1993. He was a 6’7″ lefty taken in the second round of the 1972 amateur draft by the Pirates out of high school. He shot through the minors quickly for his age, going 28-11 before getting called on June 8, 1975 at just 21 years old, and that was with him debuting the year after he was drafted. Candelaria pitched for Charleston of the Class-A Western Carolinas League in 1983, where he went 10-2, 3.79 in 95 innings. He pitched for Salem of the Class-A Carolina League in 1984, going 11-8, 3.68 in 154 innings, with 147 strikeouts. He got one start for Charleston of the Triple-A International League and pitched 11 innings, allowing two runs, with ten strikeouts. He was back in Charleston to start 1975, posting a 7-1, 1.77 record in 61 innings before joining the Pirates. Four starts into his big league career, he struck out 13 Chicago Cubs during a 5-2 complete game win. Candelaria finished 8-6, 2.76 in 120.2 innings over 18 starts during his rookie season, with the Pirates also winning all four games that he got a no-decision. In the playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds, with the Pirates down 2-0 in a best-of-five series, Candelaria took the ball in game three and threw 7.2 innings, allowing three runs while striking out 14 hitters, though the Pirates lost in ten innings.
Candelaria was in the rotation for the entire season in 1976 and the Pirates went 20-11 in his starts which included one very special game. On August 9th he no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing just one walk, while two other runners also reached base due to fielding errors. All three runners reached in the third inning, but he kept them from scoring. It is still the last Pirates no-hitter thrown by a single player, with the Ricardo Rincon, Francisco Cordova combined no-hitter the only other one since. He finished the season with a 16-7, 3.15 record in 220 innings, with 138 strikeouts, which ranks as his second best season mark in the strikeout department. In 1977, Candelaria had an amazing season, going 20-5, 2.34 in 230.2 innings, leading the National League in ERA and winning percentage. He only finished fifth in the Cy Young voting despite the great season. He got elected to the All-Star game in what would end up being the only All-Star selection of his career, but he did not appear in the game. That 20-win season would end up being a career high and it would take him until 1983 to win as many as 15 games again in one year. He received mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 18th in the voting. Candelaria went 12-11, 3.24 in 189 innings in 1978.
During the 1979 season, Candelaria helped pitched the Pirates to the playoffs by going 14-9, 3.22 in 207 innings over 30 starts. He pitched well in game one of the NLCS against the Reds, getting a no-decision after allowing two runs in seven innings. In the World Series he pitched poorly in game three, taking the loss, then rebounded nicely in game six when he went six shutout innings for the win. The following year saw him go 11-14, 4.01 in 233.1 innings. It was a career high for innings, but also his worst full season with the Pirates. Candelaria was limited to just six starts during the strike-shortened 1981 season. His last start was six shutout innings on May 10th, in which he suffered a torn left bicep in the third inning on what was described as a cold wet day, which Candelaria said afterwards that they should have never been playing in those conditions. He returned healthy in 1982 and had a strong season, going 12-7, 2.94 in 174.2 innings over 30 starts. In 1983, he went 15-8, 3.23 in 197.2 innings, with a career high 157 strikeouts. He was just as good in 1984, posting a 12-11, 2.72 record in 185.1 innings.
In 1985, Candelaria was moved to the bullpen and saved nine games, while posting a 3.64 ERA in 54.1 innings, before the Pirates traded him to the California Angels in a six-player deal in early August. The bullpen move was toyed with in 1984, but with lefty Rod Scurry struggling in Spring Training in 1985, manager Chuck Tanner decided to make the move. Candelaria had been effective in limited bullpen work before, but he was very unhappy in Pittsburgh, and he had bonuses in his contract tied to starting pitcher work, so that made things worse with the team and led to his trade. The Angels threw him right in the rotation and he had a 3.80 ERA in 13 starts. In 1986, he went 10-2, 2.55 in 16 starts, missing three months due to minor elbow surgery. In 1987, he had a 4.71 ERA in 20 starts with the Angels, who traded him to the New York Mets late in the season, where he made three starts before becoming a free agent. He faced the Pirates in his first start and got roughed up, allowing five runs in 1.1 innings. He then gave up three runs over 11 innings in the next two games, winning both contests.
In 1988, Candelaria signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees. He had a strong first year, going 13-7, 3.38 in 157 innings, but he struggled with a 5.14 ERA in 1989 before being traded to the Montreal Expos, where he finished the season with a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings of relief work. In 1990, Candelaria signed with the Minnesota Twins, who traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in July. He combined to go 7-6, 3.95 in 79.2 inning. He spent the next two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he went to the bullpen full-time as a lefty specialist. Candelaria had a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings over 59 appearances in 1991, followed by a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings over 50 games in 1992. He returned to the Pirates as a free agent for the 1993 season, but he was released in July after posting an 8.24 ERA in 24 games, ending his career. Candelaria won 124 games for the Pirates, the 11th highest total in franchise history. He finished with a 177-122, 3.33 record in 2,525.2 innings over 19 years in the majors, and he ended up playing for eight different teams. Over the last 63 seasons, no one has won more games in a Pirates uniform. Candelaria turns 68 today.
Adam LaRoche, first baseman for the 2007-09 Pirates. He was drafted twice by the Florida Marlins, 1998 out of high school (18th round) and 1999 out community college (42nd round), before signing with the Atlanta Braves after the drafted him in the 29th round in 2000. It took him four seasons to make the majors, debuting in 2004 at 24 years old. LaRoche made his pro debut in the short-season Appalachian League with Danville, where he hit .308 with 23 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs in 56 games. He moved up to Myrtle Beach of the High-A Carolina League in 2001, skipping Low-A ball. There he hit .251 with 31 doubles and seven homers in 126 games. In 2002, he hit .317 with 26 doubles, 13 homers and 72 RBIs, while splitting the year between Myrtle Beach and Double-A Greenville of the Southern League. The 2003 season was split between Greenville and Triple-A Richmond. LaRoche combined to hit .290 with 33 doubles and 20 homers in 133 games.
LaRoche made the Opening Day roster for the Braves in 2004 and hit .278 with 27 doubles and 13 homers in 110 games that season, but he missed five weeks mid-season with a shoulder injury. In 2005, he hit .259 with 28 doubles, 20 homers and 78 RBIs in 141 games. He continued to improve in 2006, batting .285 with 89 runs scored, 38 doubles, 32 homers and 90 RBIs. The Pirates acquired him in January of 2007 in a four-player deal, which saw closer Mike Gonzalez head to Atlanta. LaRoche hit .272 in 152 games, with 71 runs scored, a career high 42 doubles, 21 homers and 88 RBIs during his first season in Pittsburgh. He put up similar results in 2008, batting .270 with 66 runs scored, 32 doubles, 25 homers and 85 RBIs in 136 games. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox mid-season in 2009, but not before he picked up 25 doubles and 12 homers in 87 games. LaRoche spent just nine days in Boston, then got traded to the Atlanta Braves. Between the three stops that season, he hit .277 in 150 games, with 38 doubles, 25 homers, 83 RBIs and 69 walks. He would go on to play for Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent signing in 2010, where he hit .261 with 37 doubles, 25 homers, 100 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 151 games. That led to back-to-back two-year deals with the Washington Nationals.
In 2011, LaRoche played just 43 games due to a shoulder injury that required season ending surgery in June. Even when he was playing, he wasn’t healthy, which resulted in a .172 average. In 2012, he bounced back with his best season in the majors, hitting .271 with 35 doubles, 33 homers, 100 RBIs and 67 walks in 154 games, which led to his only All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger award and a sixth place finish in the MVP voting. His numbers dropped off in 2013 when he hit .237 in 152 games, with 19 doubles, 20 homers and 62 RBIs. He set a career best with 72 walks, which he would top in 2014 (with 82) when he hit .259 in 140 games, with 19 doubles, 26 homers, 92 RBIs and 73 runs scored. He signed with the Chicago White Sox in 2015 and hit .207 with 21 doubles and 12 homers in 127 games. He was signed for 2016, but retired and walked away from $13M contract because the White Sox had issues with his son spending so much time with the team during Spring Training. LaRoche hit .265 with 58 homers and 213 RBIs in 375 games in Pittsburgh. During his 12-year big league career, he was a .260 hitter over 1,605 games, 752 runs scored, 340 doubles, 255 homers and 882 RBIs. His brother Andy LaRoche was his teammate on the 2008-09 Pirates and his father Dave LaRoche pitched 14 seasons in the majors.
Matt Skrmetta, relief pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He played a total of 15 years in pro ball, including two seasons in Japan. Skrmetta was originally drafted out of high school in 1990 by the Chicago White Sox, who took him in the 41st round. He decided to go to college (Jacksonville) where he was a 26th round pick three years later by the Detroit Tigers. He debuted in pro ball with Bristol of the short-season Appalachian League, where he went 2-3, 4.89 in 35 innings. In 1994, he remained in short-season ball, moving up to Jamestown of the New York-Penn League. Skrmetta went 5-3, 3.17 in 93.2 innings that season. In 1995, he spent the season with Fayetteville of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he pitched in relief and had a 9-4, 2.71 record in 89.2 innings over 44 games, with 105 strikeouts. Most of the 1996 season was spent in High-A with Lakeland of the Florida State League. Skrmetta went 5-5, 3.93 in 52.2 innings over 40 appearances. He made it to Double-A with the Tigers in 1996 for a short time before he was traded to the San Diego Padres during the following Spring Training. The Padres split his first seasons between High-A and Double-A, and he did much better at the lower level, with a 1.59 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League, compared to a 5.23 ERA in the neutral Southern League.
Skrmetta spent 1998 back in the Southern League with Mobile, where he went 9-2, 3.35 in 51 appearances, with 77 strikeouts in 78 innings. Despite solid results, he was back in Mobile for half of 1999, posting a 6.27 ERA in 25 games, along with a 3.45 ERA in 20 games with Las Vegas of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which wasn’t a pitcher-friendly environment. Skrmetta became a minor league free agent after the 1999 season and signed with the Montreal Expos. He made his Major League debut that June and made six relief appearances, then got traded to the Pirates for minor league infielder Jarrod Patterson in August. After a stint with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, he joined the Pirates a month later and won his first game with 1.1 scoreless innings. His next five appearances saw him give up 12 runs over 5.1 innings, allowing at least one run in all five games. He went 2-2, 9.64 in 9.1 innings over eight appearances in his short time in Pittsburgh. Skrmetta was let go by the Pirates shortly after the season ended and he played another seven seasons in pro ball without another trip to the majors. He spent time in five different organizations, Japan and independent ball during those final seven years. He was with the Cincinnati Reds (2001), Kansas Royals (2002), Los Angeles Dodgers (2002), Expos (2004) and Chicago White Sox (2006).
Don Wengert, pitcher for the 2001 Pirates. He was originally a 60th round draft pick out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 1988. He decided to attend college, where the Oakland A’s picked him in the fourth round in 1992 out of Iowa State. Wengert started his pro career in the short-season Northwest League in 1992, posting a 1.46 ERA in 37 innings. He then moved up to the Class-A Midwest League, where he had a 3.38 ERA in 40 innings. In 1993, he started back in the Midwest League with Madison, before moving up to High-A Modesto of the California League. He combined to go 9-11, 3.39 in 149 innings, with better results at the lower level. In 1994, he had a 2.95 ERA in 42.2 innings with Modesto, and a 6-4, 3.26 record in 99.1 innings with Huntsville of the Double-A Southern League. The 1995 season was split between Edmonton of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and the A’s, and that was despite a 7.38 ERA in 39 innings with Edmonton. Wengert’s best season in the majors was his rookie season with the A’s in the strike-shortened 1995 campaign. He made 19 appearances, throwing a total of 29.2 innings, while posting a 3.34 ERA. He switched between starting and relieving in the majors over the next two season. In 1996, he went 7-11, 5.58 in 161.1 innings, with 25 starts and 11 relief outings. In 1997, he made 12 starts and 37 relief appearances, going 5-11, 6.04 in 134 innings.
After leaving Oakland following the 1997 season, Wengert bounced around, spending time in the majors with the San Diego Padres (1998), Chicago Cubs (1998), Kansas City Royals (1999) and Atlanta Braves (2000) over the next three seasons. He was also a member of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros during that time, though he didn’t make any big league appearances with either team. Wengert had a 5.93 ERA in 13.2 innings over ten appearances with the Padres. Later that year, he went 1-5, 5.07 in six starts and 15 relief appearances for the Cubs, throwing a total of 49.2 innings. With the Royals in 1999, he had a 9.25 ERA in 24.1 innings over 11 games. For the 2000 Braves, he had a 7.20 ERA, with ten innings pitched and ten appearances. Wengert joined the Pirates as a minor league free agent in January of 2001 and he made four starts for the team in May, while spending the rest of the year with Triple-A Nashville of the PCL, where he had a 4.10 ERA in 18 starts. The Pirates won two of those games, though he received a no-decision both times. He went 0-2, 12.38 in 16 innings during his brief time in Pittsburgh, which ended up being his final big league season. He left via free agency after the season and spent 2002 in Triple-A for the Boston Red Sox before retiring. In seven years in the majors, he played for six different teams, going 14-32, 6.01 in 48 starts and 112 relief appearances, totaling 438.2 innings.
Bob Addis, pinch-hitter for the 1953 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Yankees as an outfielder at 17 years old in 1943. He hit .265 with 21 extra-base hits and 41 runs scored in 53 games for Wellsville of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League during the first season in pro ball. After one season in the minors, he was drafted into service, spending the next two years in the Marines, before returning to baseball in 1946. He hit .376 in brief time during the 1946 season, splitting the year between Wellsville, where he hit .412 in 34 games, and Binghamton of the Eastern League (Class-A), hitting .235 in 11 games. Addis then hit .313 with 29 doubles, 12 homers, 77 RBIs, 16 steals and 91 runs scored in 135 games during the 1947 season, which was mostly (120 games) spent with Norfolk of the Class-B Piedmont League. He was then taken in the minor league draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers and spent two seasons in their system before being traded to the Boston Braves after the 1949 season. Addis did well in 1948 at the highest level of the minors, hitting .314 with 88 runs scored and 39 extra-base hits in 126 games for St Paul of the Triple-A American Association. In 1949, he spent most of the year back in St Paul, while also seeing time with Montreal of the Triple-A International League. He was even better than the previous year, hitting .345 with 55 extra-base hits, 100 runs scored, 80 RBIs and 73 walks in 139 games.
After joining the Braves, Addis went to Milwaukee of the American Association, where he hit .323 in 136 games in 150, with 51 extra-base hits, 80 runs scored and 76 RBIs. He made his big league debut on September 1, 1950 and hit .250 in 16 games. In 1951, he .276 in 85 games, with a .634 OPS. He started 40 games that season, seeing at least seven starts at all three outfield spots. Right after the season ended, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. In 1952, Addis split his playing time between right field and center field, while hitting .295 with 16 extra-base hits and 38 runs scored in 93 games. He was hitting .167 in ten games in 1953 when he was part of the famous ten-player Ralph Kiner trade with the Chicago Cubs on June 4th. Addis played just four big league games after the deal, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He played those four games with the Pirates between June 5th and June 12th, then was sold to Toronto of the International League on June 13th along with infielder Clem Koshorek. Addis remained in pro ball through the end of the 1956 season, seeing time with four Triple-A teams during the 1954-56 seasons. In his 208 big league games, he batted .281 with two homers, 47 RBIs and 70 runs scored. On the day the Pirates sold Addis to Toronto, they said that they had too many left-handed hitting outfielders and one had to go. The next day they acquired left-handed hitting outfielder Hal Rice.
On this date in 1930, the Pirates traded shortstop Dick Bartell to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for shortstop Tommy Thevenow and pitcher Claude Willoughby. The move proved the be very one-sided in favor of the Phillies. Bartell played 14 more seasons in the majors, while Willoughby was gone before June and Thevenow was nowhere near the quality player that Bartell was at shortstop. The lucky part for the Pirates was that the shortstop position was soon to be filled in Pittsburgh by the man who still ranks as the best since Honus Wagner at the position, Arky Vaughan. We posted a large article on Bartell here, covering his time with the Pirates. He finished his career with 41.7 WAR, with 36.8 coming after he left the Pirates. Thevenow contributed -1.4 WAR before being sold to the Cincinnati Reds following the 1935 season. Willoughby had a 6.31 ERA in 25.2 innings with the Pirates (-0.5 WAR).