This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 30th, Frank Killen and Craig Wilson

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two transactions of note.

The Transaction

On this date in 1950, the Pirates signed 32-year-old outfielder Pete Reiser as a free agent. He was a three-time All-Star, a batting champ and a two-time stolen base champ with the Brooklyn Dodgers prior to joining the Pirates. The 1950 season was easily his worst. Reiser batted .205 with one homer and one stolen base in 53 games for the Boston Braves. He lasted just one season in Pittsburgh, hitting .271 in 74 games, with an .811 OPS. He injured his shoulder during a game of pepper in mid-August and missed the last six weeks of the season. He signed with the Cleveland Indians for the 1952 season and had just 34 big league games left in his career after leaving the Pirates.

On this date in 1972 the Pirates traded outfielder Dick Sharon, their first round draft pick from 1968, to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitchers Jim Foor and Norm McRae. Sharon was a minor leaguer all five years with the Pirates, while Foor and McRae each pitched briefly in the majors with little success. Following the trade Sharon played three years in the majors, two for the Tigers, where he hit .231 in 151 games. He spent the 1975 season with the San Diego Padres, hitting just .194 in 91 games. McRae never suited up for the Pirates organization. He played in the Mexican League for five years before retiring as a player. Foor pitched just three games for the Pirates in 1973, facing a total of eight batters, and then never pitched in the majors again. The Pirates traded him away during the following Spring Training.

The Players

Kyle Crick, pitcher for the 2018-21 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick, taken 49th overall out of high school in 2011 by the San Francisco Giants. He debuted in pro ball in the Arizona Summer League in 2011, where he gave up eight runs in seven innings of relief work. Crick was a starter in 2012 for Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he went 7-6, 2.51 in 111.1 innings, with 128 strikeouts. He moved up to San Jose of the High-A California League in 2013 and posted a 3-1, 1.57 record in 14 starts, with 95 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He missed about two months with a strained oblique, but he made up for some lost time by going to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he had a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings. In 2014, he spent his first of three straight seasons with Richmond of the Double-A Eastern League. Crick had a 6-7, 3.79 record in 90.1 innings, with 111 strikeouts, in 2014. The next year saw him go 3-4, 3.29 in 63 innings, as he made 11 starts and 25 relief appearances. In 2016, he had a 4-11, 5.04 record in 109 innings.

Crick moved up to Triple-A in 2017 with Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. He also moved to relief work full-time and it paid off. He had a 2.76 ERA in 24 appearances, while also pitching 30 times for the Giants, where he had a 3.06 ERA in 32.1 innings. Over the off-season, he was traded to the Pirates with Bryan Reynolds in exchange for Andrew McCutchen. Crick pitched briefly with Indianapolis of the International League (Triple-A) in 2018, otherwise the rest of the season was spent in the majors, where he went 3-2, 2.39 in 60.1 innings over 64 appearances. He struggled a bit in 2019, putting up a 3-7, 4.96 record in 49 innings over 54 games. During the shortened 2020 season, Crick was limited to seven games due to multiple trips to the injured list. That was the same story as his 2021 season (his 2019 season also ended early due to hand surgery), when he placed on the injured list twice before being designated for assignment on July 19th. He had a 4.44 ERA in 24.1 innings over 27 games at the time. He signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox, but they released him just over a month late, despite allowing one run in 10.1 innings at Triple-A, while striking out 15 batters. In five seasons in the majors, he has a 7-11, 3.51 record in 171.2 innings over 180 appearances.

Craig Wilson, outfielder/first baseman for the 2001-06 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school in 1995. The Pirates acquired him in December of 1996 in a nine-player deal, with six players headed towards Pittsburgh. Wilson wasn’t the biggest piece for the Pirates in the deal, but he ended up being the best. He debuted in pro ball with Medicine Hat of the short-season Pioneer League, where he hit .283 in 49 games, with seven homers, 35 RBIs and an .851 OPS. At the time of the trade, he just completed a season in Low-A ball, where he hit .261 in 131 games for Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League, with 27 doubles, 11 homers, 70 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He moved up to High-A in 1997 and hit .264 with 26 doubles, 19 homers and 69 RBIs in 117 games for Lynchburg of the Carolina League. In 1998, he split the season between Lynchburg and Double-A Carolina of the Southern League. That year he batted .294 with 23 doubles and 17 homers in 106 games, with slightly better results at the upper level. Wilson hit .268 with 21 doubles, 20 homers and 69 RBIs in 1999, as the Pirates moved their Double-A affiliate to Altoona of the Eastern League. He moved up to Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League in 2000 and hit .283 in 124 games, with 83 runs scored, 24 doubles, 33 homers and 86 RBIs.

Wilson played just 11 games in Triple-A in 2001 before getting the call to the majors at 24 years old. He made his Pirates debut on April 22nd and ended up playing 88 games as a rookie, batting .310 with 13 homers and a .979 OPS. He was an everyday player in 2002, hitting .264 with 16 doubles, 16 homers and 57 RBIs in 131 games. He had a similar 2003 season with a .262 average, 15 doubles, 18 homers and 48 RBIs in 116 games, before his breakout season in 2004. He played a career best 155 games that season, while setting personal bests with 97 runs scored, 36 doubles, 29 homers and 82 RBIs, all numbers that he never approached in any other season. Despite those career highs, his OPS was actually 19 points higher in the previous season (.872 vs .853). Multiple injuries limited him to 59 games in 2005, and he hit .264 with five homers and 22 RBIs that year. Wilson was hitting .267 with 13 homers in 85 games before his trade to the New York Yankees for Shawn Chacon on July 31, 2006.

Wilson played just 64 big league games after being traded away from the Pirates. He hit .212 with four homers in 40 games for the Yankees to finish out the 2006 season, then batted .172 in 24 games for the 2007 Atlanta Braves, who released him in mid-May. He signed with the Chicago White Sox a few days later, but he hit just .180 in 15 games at Triple-A. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in February of 2008, but they released him after two weeks.. He finished his career in the minors in 2008, with the first part of the season spent with the Pirates in Triple-A, before he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Wilson hit 22 homers during his final season of pro ball. In 634 games with the Pirates, he hit .268 with 282 runs scored, 94 doubles, 94 homers and 282 RBIs. He split his time fairly evenly between first base and right field, but he also played some left field and even caught in 40 games during his career. He ranks 28th all-time in Pirates history in homers. His .846 OPS in 15th all-time.

Matt Lawton, outfielder for the 2005 Pirates. The Pirates were one of three teams he played for during the 2005 season, which was his 11th year in the majors. Lawton was a 13th round draft pick in 1991 by the Minnesota Twins at 19 years old, though he signed too late to play that season. He was selected out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. It took him four years to make the majors, debuting in September of 1995. He debuted in pro ball in the Gulf Coast League in 1992, where he hit .260 in 53 games, with two homers and 20 steals in 21 attempts. He moved up to Fort Wayne of the Class-A Midwest League in 1993, where he hit .285 in 111 games, with 33 extra-base hits. He stole 23 bases, but he was caught stealing 15 times. In 1994, he was in High-A with Fort Myers of the Florida State League. Lawton hit .300 in 122 games, with 31 doubles, seven homers, 42 steals (in 61 attempts) and 80 walks. In 1995, he played 114 games for Hardware City of the Double-A Eastern League. He hit .269 with 75 runs scored, 37 extra-base hits, 26 steals and 56 walks. He played 21 games for the Twins in September and hit .317 with an .881 OPS. He started 1996 in the majors, but after hitting .205 in April, he was sent to Triple-A for almost two months. He returned in late June and ended up hitting .258 with six homers and 42 RBIs in 79 games.

Lawton was the starting right fielder for the Twins for most of 1997. He hit .248 with 74 runs scored, 29 doubles, 14 homers, 60 RBIs and 76 walks in 142 games. He had a poor success rate in steals during his first three seasons and didn’t run often, but that started to change in 1998 when he went 16-for-24 in steals, while hitting .278 in 152 games, with 91 runs scored, 36 doubles, 26 homers, 77 RBIs and 86 walks. In 1999, he saw a drop in his production, posting a .708 OPS in 118 games, which was 156 points lower than the previous year. The one highlight to his stats was that he went 26-for-30 in steals. Lawton rebounded in 2000 and made his first All-Star appearance. He set career highs with 156 games played, a .305 average, 44 doubles, 88 RBIs and 91 walks. He also scored 84 runs, hit 13 homers and he went 23-for-30 in steals. He started off strong during the 2001 season, putting up an .835 OPS, 71 runs scored, 19 steals and 63 walks in 103 games before he was traded to the New York Mets to finish out the 2001 season. After the deal, he had a .718 OPS in 48 games. Lawton set a career high with 29 steals that season, while putting up 95 runs scored, 36 doubles and 85 walks. He played seven seasons for the Twins, hitting .277 with 72 homers and 96 steals in 771 games.  Lawton got traded to the Cleveland Indians over the 2001-02 off-season and remained there for three seasons, though he missed time due to injuries in two of those seasons.

Lawton hit .236 in 114 games in 2002, with 19 doubles, 15 homers, 57 RBIs, 59 walks and 71 runs scored. After having so much success in recent years with steals, he went 8-for-17 that season in stolen base attempts. He played 99 games in 2003 and hit .249 with 15 homers and 57 RBIs. He made his second All-Star appearance in 2004 when he hit .277 with 25 doubles, 20 homers, 77 RBIs, 74 walks and 23 stolen bases. He set a career high with 109 runs scored that season. The Pirates acquired him in December of 2004 from the Indians for pitcher Arthur Rhodes. Lawton’s stay in Pittsburgh lasted just under eight full months and nearly half of that was the off-season. He batted .273 in 101 games, with 53 runs scored, 28 doubles, ten homers, 44 RBIs, 16 steals and 58 walks. He was shipped to the Chicago Cubs at the July 31st trade deadline for outfielder Jody Gerut and cash. Lawton would end the 2005 season with the New York Yankees and then finish his career with 11 games for the 2006 Seattle Mariners. He batted .244 with one homer in 19 games for the Cubs, .125 with two homers in 21 games for the Yankees, then .259 with one RBI for the Mariners. Lawton was a career .267 hitter over 12 seasons in the majors, finishing with 756 runs, 267 doubles, 138 homers, 631 RBIs and 165 stolen bases. He also had more walks (681) than strikeouts (613). His brother Marcus Lawton played one season in the majors for the 1989 Yankees.

Tacks Latimer, catcher for the 1900 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Latimer as part of the famous Honus Wagner trade made during the 1899-1900 off-season. He was one of 12 players going to Pittsburgh in the original deal, though the Pirates ended up with more players after Louisville was one of four teams dropped from the National League before the 1900 season. He played just four games in Pittsburgh, going 4-for-12 at the plate. Latimer’s time with the Pirates didn’s start off well, as he suffered from malaria in the spring. He was the third-string catcher, but saw time  early in the year due to an injury to Pops Shriver. His debut was April 27th as a mid-game replacement for Chief Zimmer in a one-sided contest. On May 3rd, he caught Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell. Latimer then caught Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro on May 18th and had two hits to help the Pirates to an 11-4 win. His final game was on May 20th when he went 0-for-3 in a loss against Frank Killen, who shares a birthday with him (see below). On May 25th, Latimer was sent to Syracuse of the Eastern League after the Pirates acquired veteran catcher Jack O’Connor. The Pirates still held the rights to Latimer, but he never returned. He signed with New Castle of the Interstate League on June 10th. He played parts of five seasons in the majors, with a different team each year, and lasted just 27 games total. He played for 30 different teams in 13 seasons of pro ball.

His pro career began in 1895 at 19 years old, playing for three different teams in three different leagues. He has no pro ball records in 1896, but he was playing for a team called the Pennsylvanias in late May. His 1897 records show just seven games for Minneapolis of the Western League, so he likely played a lot of semi-pro ball during the 1896-97 seasons. He batted .297 with 30 extra-base hits in 83 games in the minors in 1898, splitting his time between two teams. In October he joined the New York Giants and played his first five big league games. The 1899 season was spent in the Class-B Interstate League, where he also saw brief time in 1895 and 1898. He played nine big league games with Louisville and hit .276 with four RBIs. After his season with the Pirates, Latimer played for two Class-A minor league teams in 1901, while also playing one game with the Baltimore Orioles (now the New York Yankees…I know sources now says that they were different franchises, but that is wrong). In 1902, he hit .246 in 65 games for Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association, and he played eight big league games with the Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers), where he went 1-for-24 at the plate, with an .083 OPS. That was the end of his big league career, but he still had six more seasons and plenty of moving around. He played for two teams in 1903, two more in 1904, then played for three teams in 1905. Latimer played for five different teams in 1906, including three clubs in the Tri-State League. His 1907 season was spent with just two teams in the Southern Association, then he finished up in 1908 with 13 games in the Ohio State League. He only played for one team that year, but that team ended up moving mid-season and played in two different towns.

Latimer’s real first name was Clifford. The nickname Tacks was given to him by a teammate, who liked to give everyone nicknames and there was no real reason behind it. The nickname first showed up in print in October of 1898. After his playing days, he scouted for the Pirates for a time, but ended up in trouble and served six years in prison for a second degree murder, which he claimed was self-defense.

Frank Killen, lefty pitcher for the 1893-98 Pirates. He’s the last 30-game winner in team history. Killen was a Pittsburgh native, who played with local amateur teams through 1889. He got his start in pro ball in 1890 at 19 years old, going 3-1 in four starts for Grand Rapids of the International Association. He went 18-13, 3.00 in 275.2 innings for Minneapolis of the Western Association in 1981. He was in the majors by late August of 1891, posting a 1.68 ERA in 11 starts for Milwaukee of the American Association, where he added another 96.2 innings to his season total. Killen moved on to Washington of the National League in 1892 and he went 29-26, 3.31 in 459.2 innings, which was his career high, though in a sign of the times, he was only fourth in the league with that total. He made 52 starts that year and completed 46 games. The Pirates acquired him for catcher Duke Farrell, who refused to catch in Pittsburgh and wanted to play third base, which wasn’t an option for the Pirates in 1893. Killen had an $1,800 per year contract with Washington, but Pittsburgh signed him for $2,400 after the trade and got their money’s worth and more in his first season. During the 1893 season, he went 36-14, 3.64 in 415 innings, leading the Pirates to their best season in franchise history (12 years) up to that point. He led the NL in wins that season, and he was fourth in innings.

Injuries in both 1894 and 1895 limited Killen to a total of 299 innings (seriously, that was very limited for him). He went 14-11, 4.50 in 205 innings in 1894. The ERA sounds high, but the league ERA that season was 5.33, during one of the best seasons of offense in MLB history. In 1895, Killen went 5-5, 5.49 in 95 innings over 11 starts and two relief outings. He was healthy in 1896 and bounced back, putting together what was unknowingly at the time, the last 30-win season in franchise history. During that season, he went 30-18, 3.41 for a team that went 36-45 in the rest of their games that season. He led the league in wins, games started (50), complete games (44), innings pitched (432.1) and shutouts (five). Killen went 17-23, 4.46 in 337.1 innings in 1897, leading the league once again in complete games (38). He had a 10-11, 3.75 record in 23 starts (all complete games) during the first 3 1/2 months of 1898, then got unconditionally released on August 1st after the Pirates couldn’t find any takers in trade talks.

Killen re-signed with Washington on August 11th to finish the 1898 season. He went 6-9, 3.58, and finished the year with 306 innings pitched. He then saw action with three different teams during the 1899-1900 seasons, getting two starts with Washington in 1899, 12 starts with the Boston Beaneaters (Braves) in 1899, and his final six starts with the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) in 1900. Killen finished his pro career three years later in the minors. He had a 112-82, 3.97 record in 1,661.1 innings for the Pirates, and he won 164 games in his ten-year career. He made exactly 300 starts during his career and he threw 253 complete games, with a3.78 ERA in  2,511.1 innings pitched. He was also quite the hitter during his day for a pitcher, batting .241 with 11 homers, 127 RBIs and 131 walks.