This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 25th, Big Jim Weaver

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date

Octavio Dotel, relief pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He played 15 seasons in the majors, making 758 appearances and picking up 109 saves. Dotel played for 13 different teams, although he spent five seasons with the Houston Astros. He was originally signed as an international amateur free agent by the New York Mets at 19 years old in 1993. Despite signing late for an international player, he spent his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He came to the U.S. in 1995 and had a 2.18 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 74.1 innings for the Gulf Coast League Mets. He also pitched eight innings in the High-A Florida State League, though the 1996 season was spent in the Low-A South Atlantic League with Capital City, where he went 11-3, 3.59 in 115.1 innings, with 142 strikeouts. In 1997, Dotel played in both High-A and Double-A, getting 12 starts at the latter level with Binghamton of the Eastern League. He combined to go 8-6, 4.07 in 115 innings, seeing a huge drop in his strikeout rate, going from 142 to 86 strikeouts in the same amount of work. The strikeouts returned in a big way in 1998, with 200 in 167.2 innings spread over ten starts at Binghamton and 16 starts with Norfolk of the Triple-A International League, where he went 8-6, 3.45 in 99 innings. Dotel made 13 starts for Norfolk in 1999, but spent more time in the majors with the Mets, where he went 8-3, 5.38 in 85.1 innings, with 85 strikeouts.

After one season in the majors as a starting pitcher, Dotel was traded to the Houston Astros in a five-player deal on December 23, 1999. He was a starter for part of his first season in Houston, then moved to relief for good in July of 2000. By his second relief appearance, he was put in the closer role. He had his best career run during the 2001-03 seasons as a long reliever, average 96 innings per year. Dotel went 3-7, 5.40 in 125 innings in 2000, with 142 strikeouts, 16 starts and 16 saves. He had a strong season in 2001, going 7-5, 2.66 in 105 innings over 61 games, with a career high 145 strikeouts. In 2002, he went 6-4, 1.85 in 97.1 innings, with a career high 83 appearances. He was 6-4 again in 2003, this time with a 2.48 ERA in 87 innings over 76 games. The 2004 season saw him move to a closer role and it started his constant moving around, with his longest stay being the 2008-09 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

In 2004, Dotel was traded to the Oakland A’s in late June in a three-team deal that included five players. He combined to go 6-6, 3.69 in 85.1 innings over 77 games, with 36 saves and 122 strikeouts. He was limited to just 15 early season games in 2005 due to a strained elbow. He became a free agent and signed with the New York Yankees in 2006, but he didn’t return to the majors until mid-August, then had a 10.80 ERA in 14 games. He had a long rehab, making appearances over five different levels in the minors before getting to the Yankees. He signed with the Kansas City Royals for the 2007 season, then got traded to the Atlanta Braves on July 31st. He had a combined 4.11 ERA in 30.2 innings over 33 appearances, with 11 saves. Dotel signed with the White Sox on January 22, 2008 and had a 4-4, 3.76 record in 67 innings over 72 games.

The Pirates signed Dotel as a 36-year-old free agent after he had a 3.32 ERA in 62.1 innings over 62 appearances for the 2009 White Sox. He remained with the Pirates until July 31, 2010, when he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo. Dotel would get traded again later that season, finishing the year with the Colorado Rockies. He had a 3.38 ERA in 18.1 innings with the Dodgers, then a 5.06 ERA in eight games with the Rockies. During his one season with the Pirates, he went 2-2, 4.28 in 41 appearances, with 21 saves. In 2011, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent, then got traded to the St Louis Cardinals in late July. He combined to go 5-4, 3.50 in 54 innings over 65 games, with three saves. Dotel picked up a World Series ring with the Cardinals that year, while making five appearances during the World Series and 12 total appearances in the playoffs. During the regular season in 2012 with the Detroit Tigers, he went 5-3, 3.57 in 58 innings over 57 games. In the playoffs with the Tigers, he had six appearances without a hit or run. Dotel retired after the 2013 season. That year he pitched just six games before missing time with an elbow injury. During his rehab work in late August, he was injured when he got hit by a line drive and never returned. In 15 seasons, he went 59-50, 3.78 in 951 innings, with 1,143 strikeouts, 109 saves and 758 appearances.

Mike Ryan, catcher for the 1974 Pirates. He originally signed as amateur with the Boston Red Sox at 18 years old in 1960. He debuted in 1961 with Olean of the Class-D New York-Penn League, where he hit .185 with three homers in 45 games. In 1962, he hit .215 with ten homers in 117 games for Waterloo of the Class-D Midwest League. Ryan jumped up four levels in 1963 to Double-A Reading of the Eastern League, where he played for two seasons. In 1963, he hit .229 in 121 games, with ten homers, 45 RBIs and 52 walks. In 1964, he improved to a .248 average in 110 games, while drawing 50 walks. His OPS didn’t improve though, as the power numbers slipped to five homers. He made the majors in 1964 for one game on October 3rd, and remained in Boston through the end of the 1967 season, though part of 1965 was spent in Triple-A. With the 1965 Red Sox, Ryan hit .159 with three homers in 33 games. He saw regular time in 1966, hitting .214 with 27 runs scored, 20 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs in 116 games. During his final season in Boston, he batted .199 with two homers and a .543 OPS in 79 games.

Ryan was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 15, 1967, where he played until his trade to the Pirates. During the 1968 season, he hit .179 with one homer in 96 games. His .434 OPS was his career low for a full seasons, so what happened next was unexpected. Ryan set career highs in nearly every offensive category in 1969 when he batted .204 with 41 runs scored, 17 doubles, 12 homers, 44 RBIs and 30 walks in 133 games. Despite the improvements, he still finished with a .588 OPS, then saw a drop in both production and playing time in 1970 and beyond. During that 1970 season, Ryan hit .179 with two homers in 46 games. The next year he hit just .164 in 43 games. He connected on three homers, but finished with six RBIs. In 1972, he hit .179 with two homers and ten RBIs in 46 games.

Ryan saw his playing time diminish down to just 28 games during the 1973 season. The Pirates acquired him from the Phillies in an even up trade for Jackie Hernandez on January 31, 1974. He hit .100 over 15 games with the Pirates, in what ended up being his last big league season. Ryan was with the Pirates for the entire season, though he started just ten games all year. Manny Sanguillen made 147 starts that season, leaving little time for the three other players who took turns behind the plate in 1974. Ryan was released after the season and spent the next two years as the manager of the Pirates affiliate in the Class-A Western Carolinas League, where he even got into a handful of games each season.  He moved onto the Phillies organization as a manager for the 1977-78 seasons. He was a .193 hitter over 636 games and 11 seasons in the majors. Known for his strong arm, he threw out 44% of base runners in his career.

Cholly Naranjo, pitcher for the 1956 Pirates. He played a total of ten seasons in the minors and had a very brief big league career. He was originally signed by the Washington Senators in 1952 at 17 years old, then joined the Pirates two years later in the 1954 minor league draft. That first season saw him pitch mainly for Richmond of the Piedmont League, where he had a 6-6, 3.49 record in 98 innings. He also pitched seven innings that season with Chattanooga of the Double-A Southern Association. In 1953 he got to play in Cuba for the Havana Cubans of the Florida International League (Class-B). He had an 8-6, 3.77 record in 148 innings that year. Naranjo went to Spring Training with the Senators in 1954 and was with the team on Opening Day, with stories saying that he sat next to President Dwight Eisenhower to protect him from any possible foul balls. His 1954 stats are limited, but he still must have impressed the Pirates scouts. He pitched 23 games total between Chattanooga and Charlotte of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Technically, he was picked up by Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League on November 30, 1954 from Charlotte for a $6,000 price tag. Hollywood was an affiliate of the Pirates at the time, and Naranjo went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1955.

Naranjo split the 1955 season between Lincoln of the Western League and Hollywood, posting a combined 7-14, 4.06 record in 177.1 innings. He began 1956 back in Hollywood, where he went 8-6, 3.05 in 118 innings over 16 starts and three relief appearances. The Pirates called him up on July 4th and he debuted four days later. He was one of three players who joined the Pirates that day from Hollywood. Fred Waters also brought pitching help, while a 19-year-old infielder named Bill Mazeroski also got his call to the majors that day. Naranjo remained with the team through the end of the season, though he didn’t pitch during any of the final 14 games. After the season ended, he played winter ball in his home country of Cuba, along with 11 other players from the Pirates. Naranjo put up solid stats in Triple-A Columbus over the next two seasons, but never pitched for the Pirates again. He went 1-2, 4.46 in three starts and 14 relief appearances at 21 years old for the 1956 Pirates, in what turned out to be his only big league time. On April 21, 1959, he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds, who sent him to their farm team in Nashville (Double-A Southern Association), where he pitched the next two seasons. Naranjo finished his pro career in 1961, spending part of the year down in Class-A ball for Jacksonville of the South Atlantic League. He turns 87 years old today. His full name is Lazaro Ramon Gonzalo Naranjo.

Jim Waugh, pitcher for the 1952-53 Pirates. He’s one of the youngest players in team history, debuting five months after his 18th birthday. His big league career was done before he turned 20 years old. He pitched a total of six seasons in the minors for the Pirates and was out of pro ball by age 22.  The Pirates signed Waugh to a $30,000 bonus on June 20, 1951 after he had tryouts with four different teams. Waugh reportedly chose the Pirates because he and his parents were impressed with Branch Rickey’s plan for him, which included arrangements for a college education. He pitched 137 innings over two levels of the minors in 1951 at 17 years old. He did well at Class-D ball, going 10-8. 3.40 in 119 innings for Brunswick of the Georgia-Florida League, but he did even better in his short stint with New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association (four levels higher), posting a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings. Waugh did well during the early part of Spring Training in 1952, impressing manager Billy Meyer with his velocity, which got him an extended look and he made the Opening Day roster in 1952. While he ended up spending about half of that first season in the minors, he still managed to get in seven starts and ten relief appearances with the Pirates, with most of that time coming in August/September when he returned from three months in the minors. The big league stats weren’t pretty, with a 1-6, 6.36 record in 52.1 innings, but he was the youngest player in the majors that season.

Waugh had a similar split in 1953, pitching five games early in the season before headed to the minors, except this time he returned in early July and remained in Pittsburgh for the rest of the season. Waugh went 4-5, 6.48 in 90.1 innings in 1953, with a 56:23 BB/SO ratio. He finished with a 5-11, 6.43 record in 142.2 innings for the Pirates, making 18 starts and 28 relief appearances. He began to suffer from arm soreness in 1953 and it never went away fully, so he retired in early 1957, though he still pitched for a team near his hometown of Lancaster, OH. while he attended college. During the 1954-56 seasons, he pitched with two Pirates affiliates each year, playing at all five levels from Class-D to Double-A (New Orleans). His final season shows a 1-8, 6.37 record for Kinston of the Class-B Carolina League.

Ben Wade, pitcher for the 1955 Pirates.   He began his pro career in 1940 at 17 years old. He played three seasons in the minors before spending the next three years serving during WWII. In 1940, he pitched just 29 innings total, seeing time with two different teams and two different levels. Despite mostly playing Class-D ball in 1940, he jumped up four levels to Double-A in 1941, where he went 4-5, 2.83 in 127 innings over 32 games (nine starts) for Indianapolis of the American Association. He pitched for Syracuse of the Double-A International League in 1942 and struggled with a 2-11, 5.86 record in 86 innings. He joined the Army shortly before Spring Training in 1943 and missed three full season. He returned to pro ball in 1946 and dropped down to Class-B, playing for Anniston of the Southeastern League, where he went 15-4, 2.48 in 160 innings, with 151 strikeouts. He also saw time that year with Birmingham of the Double-A Southern Association, where he went 1-7, 6.32 in 47 innings. He stayed in the Southern Association with Nashville in 1947 and had a 17-11, 4.33 record in 239 innings. He debuted in the majors early in 1948 for the Chicago Cubs, but he lasted just five innings over two games. Wade’s next big league appearance came in 1952 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Wade finished out the 1948 season back with Nashville, going 14-10, 4.92 in 194 innings. With Nashville in 1949, he had an 8-8, 3.86 record in 217 innings. He moved on to Hollywood of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1950 and remained there through the end of the 1951 season. Wade went 14-13, 3.67 in 248 innings in 1950. He then had a 16-6, 2.61 record in 200 innings in 1951, which got him his second shot at the majors, this time with the Dodgers. He spent the entire 1952 season in the majors, where he went 11-9, 3.60 in 24 starts and 13 relief appearances, throwing a total of 180 innings. In 1953, he was pitching in relief all season for the Dodgers, going 7-5, 3.79 in 90.1 innings over 32 appearances. Wade struggled in 1954 and split the season between the Dodgers and St Louis Cardinals, posting a 7.28 ERA in 68 innings. He did better with St Louis after they claimed him off of waivers in August. He had an 8.20 ERA at the time, then posted a 5.48 ERA in 13 appearances to finish out the season.

The Pirates acquired Wade and cash from the Cardinals on January 11, 1955 in a trade for pitcher Paul LaPalme. Wade was with the Pirates through June 15th when he was sent to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. He had an odd salary during his time in Pittsburgh. He got paid $3,500 in 1954, then the Pirates cut his salary 25% in 1955, but if he remained with the club after May 15th, his old salary would kick in again. So for one month, he got the pro-rated $3,500 salary before being sent to the minors. He pitched until 1961 in the Pacific Coast League, seeing time with five different teams, without returning to the majors. He made one start and ten relief appearances for the Pirates, posting a 3.20 ERA in 28 innings. He had a 19-17, 4.38 record over five seasons in the majors, with 371.1 innings pitched in 25 starts and 93 relief appearances. His brother Jake Wade pitched eight seasons in the majors, playing with six different American League clubs back when there were only eight teams in each league. They had a brother named Charlie Wade who played minor league ball.

Jim Weaver, pitcher for the 1935-37 Pirates. He spent a total of eight years in the majors, seeing time with six different teams. He debuted in pro ball at 24 years old in 1928 with Chattanooga of the Class-A Southern Association, and he was in the majors by the end of the season, pitching three games for the Washington Senators. One news article said that he already had seven years of pro experience at the time, while another mentioned that he did his pitching in college at Bowling Green, which turned out to be true. His time with the Senators was brief and he didn’t pitch in the majors again until 1931, returning with the 1931 New York Yankees for 17 games. He had another three year stretch before he got his third chance in the majors, splitting the 1934 season between the St Louis Browns and Chicago Cubs. Weaver started off tough, so it’s no surprise that he saw more minor league time. He went 3-12, 4.48 in 191 innings over 49 games with Chattanooga. He gave up just one earned run in six innings with the Senators, though he walked six batters. At that time they called him “Bullet Jim Weaver” and said that he was the best fastball pitcher for the Senators since Walter Johnson came along. In 1929, he went 14-5, 3.28 in 203 innings for New Haven of the Class-A Eastern League. In 1930, he joined Baltimore of the Double-A International League, where he had a 19-11, 3.36 record in 236 innings. Weaver pitched briefly for Baltimore in 1931, but most of the year was spent with the New York Yankees, where he had a 5.31 ERA in 57.2 innings. The next two years were spent with Newark of the International League, where he had plenty of success.

Weaver went 15-6, 3.83 in 160 innings in 1932, then followed with a 25-11, 2.72 record in 268 innings in 1933, which led to a shot with the Browns, who selected him off of waivers. His stay in St Louis was short, before going back to the Yankees, who in turn sent him to the Cubs on waivers. Weaver had a 6.41 ERA in 19.2 innings with the Browns, then did much better with the Cubs that year, going 11-9, 3.91 in 159 innings. In November of 1934, the Pirates acquired him in a five-player deal that included a lot of big names at the time, with Weaver being the clear fifth player in the deal as far as recognition. The Pirates sent Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom and starter Larry French to Chicago for Weaver, Guy Bush and Babe Herman. It was Weaver who ended up providing the most value for the Pirates with three solid seasons.

Weaver made 22 starts and 11 relief appearances for the 1935 Pirates. He went 14-8, 3.42 in 176.1 innings, while leading the league with four shutouts. He repeated that 14-8 record in 1936 when he saw more mound time. He had a 4.31 ERA that season in 225.2 innings over 31 starts and seven relief appearances. He moved into more of a relief role in 1937, going 8-5, 3.20 in 109.2 innings over nine starts and 23 relief outings. He was shipped to the St Louis Browns in January of 1938 in a cash deal when the Pirates decided to go for more of a youth movement with their pitching staff and the 34-year-old Weaver was the old man on the staff. They got rid of him one year too soon. The Browns parted ways with him after just one start in which he allowed seven runs, but the Cincinnati Reds purchased him in late April and got some good results. He had a 3.43 ERA in 136.1 innings in 1938 (he went 6-4, 3.13 with the Reds). Despite the solid results, he was basically done at that point, at least in the majors. Weaver played just three games with the 1939 Reds, before finishing his career in the minors, playing two seasons for Louisville of the American Association. He finished his big league career with a 57-36, 3.88 record in 893.1 innings, with 108 starts and 81 relief opportunities. He threw a total of 511.2 innings with Pittsburgh, going 36-21, 3.76 in 62 starts and 47 relief appearances. Weaver was known as “Big Jim” during his career because he was 6’6″, 230 pounds (at least), which is large by today’s standards, but even bigger by 1930 standards. On the 1937 Pirates, the next tallest player was 6’3″, and no one else weighed over 200 pounds, so he earned that nickname. He was an excellent football player and did coaching in a few sports during his time. While his early success was credited to his fastball, later papers called him a forkball pitcher.

Jimmy Woulfe, outfielder for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. When he signed with the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1884, it was said that he was sought after by Cincinnati third baseman Hick Carpenter for quite some time, and Woulfe received a “handsome salary” to sign. Carpenter played with Woulfe in an exhibition game against Cincinnati in February of 1883 and the 23-year-old Woulfe got some big attention for easily beating Ned Williamson in a 100-yard race. While Williamson is unknown to most baseball fans now, he was considered to be among the best players in the game for a time in the 1880s. The article regarding Woulfe’s signing expected good things from his during his rookie year in the majors, but he was released after hitting .147 in eight games. He was their extra fielder on a 14-man team that included three pitchers and three catchers. The Alleghenys signed him soon after and he batted .113 in 15 games, scoring seven runs, despite collecting six hits and no walks. He debuted with Pittsburgh on July 2nd and made 14 starts in center field and one game in right field. He was taking the place of George “Live Oak” Taylor, who was out due to illness. The local papers praised Woulfe’s defense often, though they never got his name right, spelling it Woulffe. In a sign of the times, he made three errors in 28 chances, so even that strong defense well below average compared to modern standards (the lack of gloves back then had a lot to do with that). He would play his final game in Pittsburgh on July 23rd, then get released eight days later under his own request, when he wasn’t playing anymore. The interesting part is that Taylor returned from his illness, but he played his final big league game on July 30th, so the Alleghenys lost both of their outfielders.

Woulfe had no other big league experience and his time in minor league ball was brief, with only one other known team in 1886, though he played plenty of baseball with amateur teams prior to his big league stint. After being release by Cincinnati, a Philadelphia paper predicted that he would sign with either Washington or Indianapolis. He played for a team from New Orleans (his hometown) in 1886 called the Robert E. Lee’s of the Gulf League. He was playing with that team in 1885 as well, but it wasn’t considered to be a minor league team at the time.

A 1913 article from New Orleans called him New Orleans most famous player from the 1880s, and said that he was a product of the vacant lots and a star of amateur clubs. They go on to note that he played for the Robert E. Lee’s in 1883, where he earned a reputation as the best hitter and he was a fast outfielder, with a “deadly accurate” throwing arm that cut down plenty of runners. It was that performance that earned him spot with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. That story claimed that he went home in 1884 after playing with the Alleghenys and played a game for the Robert E Lee’s in which he collected a triple in his first at-bat, then struck out in each of his next four at-bats and decided to quit the game that day.  While he is listed as playing in 1886 (no stats are available), it helps explain why his career basically ended in the majors. There is a bit of a tall tale in his performance in the majors in this article, which noted that he put up a good record with both the Red Stockings and Alleghenys, and so that helped draw a large crowd to the 1884 game, as he was basically a baseball hero returning home.