This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 13th, Dale Berra and a Pair of Big Trades

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and one of them was involved in one of the two big trades made on December 13th.

The Trades

On this date in 1996, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals hooked up for a six-player trade that involved four Jeff’s and all six players first name started with the letter J. The Pirates sent shortstop Jay Bell and third baseman Jeff King in exchange for third baseman Joe Randa and pitchers Jeff Granger, Jeff Martin and Jeff Wallace. One year after the trade, only Wallace was still with the Pirates. King had two good years with the Royals, combining for 52 homers and 205 RBIs between the 1997-98 seasons, but he retired abruptly after just 21 games in the 1999 season, citing lost passion and a recurring back problem as the reason. Bell played one year with the Royals before reaching free agency. He hit .291 with 21 homers and 92 RBIs. Randa had a nice season for the Pirates, batted .302 with 43 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs in 126 games. On November 18, 1997, he was lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft. Wallace pitched three seasons in Pittsburgh, posting a 4.67 ERA in 90 appearances and 86.2 innings. Martin never made the majors, while Granger gave up ten runs over five innings with the 1997 Pirates, then never pitched in the majors again.

On this date in 2001 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded starting pitcher Todd Ritchie and minor leaguer Lee Evans to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitchers Josh Fogg, Kip Wells and Sean Lowe. The White Sox got one very poor season out of Ritchie (5-15, 6.06) and Evans didn’t make the majors. The Pirates cleaned up on the deal, with Fogg lasting four seasons, Wells pitching five, and Lowe canceling out Ritchie with a rough 2002 season (5.35 ERA in 69 innings) before he was released. While neither pitched great for more than a short stint at a time, Fogg and Well combined to make 247 starts for the Pirates. Their win-loss records show how tough those stats are for judging pitchers. Fogg went 39-42 with a 4.79 ERA. Wells comparatively had a much better ERA (4.20), but he had a 36-53 record.

The Players

Dale Berra, infielder for the Pirates from 1977 to 1984. He is the son of Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. The younger Berra was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 1975 out of Montclair HS in New Jersey, selected 20th overall. He debuted in pro ball with Niagara Falls of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .257 with three homers, 49 RBIs and nine steals in 67 games. In 1976, he moved up to Charleston of the Class-A Western Carolinas League, hitting .298 in 139 games, with 78 runs scored, 28 doubles, 16 homers and 89 RBIs. Berra skipped to Triple-A in 1977, playing for Columbus of the International League. He hit .290 in 125 games, with 18 doubles, seven triples, 18 homers, 54 RBIs and 12 steals. He earned a late season promotion in 1977 at 20 years old and hit .175 in 17 games. He bounced between the majors and minors over the next two seasons, playing 110 games in the majors and 155 in Triple-A. He hit .207 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 56 games for the 1978 Pirates, seeing almost all of his playing time at third base. Berra played 44 games for the 1979 World Series champs, but he didn’t see any postseason action. He hit .211 with three homers and 15 RBIs, while splitting his playing time evenly between shortstop and third base, playing 22 games at each spot.

Berra finally spent the entire season in the majors in 1980, splitting his time between third base and shortstop. In 93 games he hit .220 with 21 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits and  31 RBIs. He got a chance to play more often when Tim Foli was injured in May/June. In 1981, he got time in at second base as well as the other spots, playing at least 18 games at each position. He hit .241 in 81 games, with a career high 11 stolen bases during that strike-shortened season. Berra became the team’s regular shortstop starting in 1982 and continuing through the 1984 season. That first year he set career highs in nearly every category, hitting .263 with 25 doubles, ten homers, 61 RBIs and 63 runs scored in 156 games (150 starts). In 1983 he played a career high 161 games (160 starts), hitting .251 with 51 runs scored, 25 doubles, ten homers, 52 RBIs and a career high 61 walks, which was nearly double what he accumulated in any other season.

In 1984, Berra’s average dropped to .222 in 136 games, and his .591 OPS was the lowest of his career for any season in which he played 20+ games. Following the season the Pirates traded him to the New York Yankees in a five-player deal that brought Tim Foli back to Pittsburgh. That deal ended up going sour when the minor leaguer in the deal (Jay Buhner) turned into an All-Star slugger seven years later in Seattle. Berra hit .230 in New York over two seasons, playing just 90 games total. His time in 1985 was limited in the second half of the season due to the ugly drug trials that were going on in baseball at the time. In 1986, he was a bench player until being released in late July after hitting .231 with two homers in 42 games. A week after being released, he signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros. His dad was a bench coach in the majors for the Astros during the 1985-87 seasons. Dale Berra finished his big league career with the 1987 Astros, where he hit .178 in 19 games, while spending a majority of the season in Triple-A. His pro career ended in 1988 in Triple-A with the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit just .181 in 69 games. In 744 games with the Pirates he hit .238 with 255 RBIs. He made exactly 30 errors in each of his three full seasons at shortstop in Pittsburgh, though modern defensive metrics credits him with a very impressive 5.0 dWAR over that stretch. In his 11-year big league career, Berra hit .236 in 853 games, with 236 runs scored, 109 doubles, 49 homers and 278 RBIs.

Josh Fogg, pitcher for the 2002-05 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1998, and it took him just three years to make the majors. During that 1998 season, he pitched at three levels, starting in rookie ball, spending most of his time in Low-A, then making one relief appearance in High-A. He combined to go 2-4, 1.94 in 46.1 innings over eight starts and three relief outings. In 1999, Fogg split the season between 17 starts at High-A Winston-Salem of the Carolina League and ten starts for Birmingham of the Double-A Southern League. He had vastly different results, with a 10-5, 2.96 record in High-A and a 5.89 ERA in 55 innings with Birmingham. He managed to strike out 149 batters in 158.1 innings that season, but he was never a strikeout pitcher in the majors. In 2000, he spent the entire seasons with Birmingham, going 11-7, 2.57 in 192.1 innings over 27 starts. Prior to his big league debut in 2001, Fogg went 4-7, 4.79 in 114.2 innings for Charlotte of the Triple-A International League. He made 16 starts and 24 relief appearances.

Fogg had just 13.1 innings of big league time prior to joining the Pirates. In 11 relief appearances with Chicago in September/October 2001, he posted a 2.03 ERA. He came to the Pirates on his 25th birthday in a five-player trade that included Todd Ritchie going to the White Sox and Kip Wells coming back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates immediately put Fogg in their rotation and he stayed there for four years. His first year with the Pirates was his best season. He had a 12-12, 4.35 record and set career highs with 33 starts and 194.1 innings. He had 113 strikeouts that year, the only time he reached the century mark in a season. He had a 10-9 record in 2003, despite a 5.26 ERA in 142 innings over 26 starts. He followed that up with an 11-10, 4.64 record in 2004 in 178.1 innings over 32 starts. Fogg went 6-11, 5.05 in 2005 when he made 28 starts and six relief appearances, throwing a total of 169.1 innings. He had a 39-42, 4.72 record in 684 innings over 119 starts and six relief appearances during his time in Pittsburgh.

Fogg was granted free agency after the 2005 season and went to the Colorado Rockies, where he continued his crazy ability to pick up wins without the ERA to back them up. He went 11-9, 5.49 in 172 innings in 2006 and 10-9, 4.94 in 165.2 innings in 2007. He pitched poorly for the Cincinnati Reds in 2008, going 2-7, 7.58 in 78.1 innings over 14 starts and eight relief appearances. He then finished his career back with the Rockies in 2009 as a reliever, posting a 3.74 ERA in 45.1 innings. Fogg finished up 62-69, 5.03 over 1,159 big league innings, with 194 starts and 49 relief appearances. He finished his pro career with three poor starts for the Philadelphia Phillies Double-A team in 2010.

Jeff Robinson, pitcher for the Pirates from 1987-89. He is/was often confused with Jeff Robinson, another right-handed pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. This Jeff Robinson was originally drafted in the 14th round out of college by the Detroit Tigers in 1982. He decided not to sign, which paid off with a second round pick in 1983 by the San Francisco Giants. He was in the majors as a full-time starter just ten months after being drafted. He debuted with Fresno of the Class-A California League in 1983, where he went 7-6, 2.28 in 94.2 innings. Robinson made the big league Opening Day roster in 1984. He went 7-15, 4.56 in 33 starts (one relief appearance) and 171.2 innings as a rookie. Despite that quick ascent to the majors, he spent almost all of 1985 in Triple-A, where he made 29 starts and had a 5.14 ERA in 161 innings, before coming back to the majors in September as a reliever for eight games. Robinson did well as a full-time reliever in 1986, going 6-3, 3.36 in 64 appearances and 104.2 innings, while picking up eight saves. The Pirates got Robinson from the Giants in exchange for pitcher Rick Reuschel on August 21, 1987. When he was picked up by the Pirates, Robinson had a 2.79 ERA in 96.2 innings over 63 appearances for the Giants that year. He picked up a total of 14 saves in that season, including four with Pittsburgh. He was 19-26, 3.81 in 169 games (34 starts) with the Giants. After the trade, he pitched out of the pen for the Pirates and went 2-1, 3.04 in 18 games to finish out the 1987 season

Robinson was used often in 1988, pitching 75 games and 124.2 innings, all in relief, going 11-5, 3.03 with nine saves. The Pirates used him out of the pen again to start the 1989 season, but by late June they moved him to a starting role, where he went 4-7 in 18 starts. He finished the year with a 7-13, 4.58 record in 141.1 innings over 50 games. After the season he was traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for catcher Don Slaught.  After leaving the Pirates, he pitched for the 1990 Yankees, the 1991 California Angels and the 1992 Chicago Cubs. Robinson went 3-6, 3.45 in 88.2 innings over 54 games with the Yankees (four starts). With the Angels, he went 0-3, 5.37 in 57 innings over 39 games. In his year with the Cubs, he had a 4-3, 3.00 record in 78 innings over 49 appearances (five starts). He finished out his pro career in 1993 with the Houston Astros in Triple-A. In his nine-year career, Robinson went 46-57, 3.79 in 62 starts and 392 relief appearances. He threw a total of 901.1 innings.

Dave Hamilton, pitcher for the 1978 Pirates. He was drafted in the fifth round out of high school in 1966 by the Kansas City A’s. He debuted at 18 years old with Lewiston of the short-season Northwest League, where he went 6-6, 4.10 in 90 innings, with 103 strikeouts. In 1967, he played for Burlington of the Class-A Midwest League, where he posted a 3-5, 3.30 record in 60 innings over 15 starts. In 1968, Hamilton split the seasons evenly between two Class-A clubs, one in the Carolina League and the other in the Florida State League. He had an 0-7, 2.57 record in 63 innings in the FSL, while his Carolina League stop resulted in a 4.43 ERA in 67 innings. The 1969 season was spent with Lodi of the Class-A California League (22 starts) and Birmingham of the Double-A Southern League (five starts). He went 10-10, 3.66 in 160 innings, with 155 strikeouts, with much better results at the higher level. In 1970, Hamilton pitched at Birmingham, going 6-4, 2.42 in 106 innings over 14 starts and seven relief outings. From there he moved up to Iowa of the American Association (Triple-A) in 1971. He went 12-4, 3.79 in 121 innings over 17 starts and 13 relief appearances. In 1972 at Iowa, he was 5-1, 2.29 in eight starts before debuting in the majors on May 9th.

Hamilton began his big league career as a part-time starter for the Oakland A’s in 1972, going 6-6, 2.93 in 101.1 innings over 14 starts and 11 relief appearances. The A’s won the World Series that year, though he allowed four runs over 1.1 innings. He went 6-4, 4.39 in 69.2 innings over 11 starts and five relief outings for the 1973 A’s, who also won the World Series, though he didn’t pitch in the postseason. In 1974, Hamilton had a 7-4, 3.15 record in 117 innings spread over 18 starts and 11 relief appearances. The A’s won their third straight World Series title, but he was once again missing from the postseason play. He moved on to the Chicago White Sox in a trade during the middle of the 1975 season, where he saw mostly relief work. He had a 4.04 ERA in 35.2 innings before the deal, then a 2.84 ERA in 69.2 innings over 30 appearances. Hamilton made just one start total between the 1976-77 seasons, while appearing in 100 games. He went 6-6, 3.59 in 90.1 innings over 45 games, with ten saves during the 1976 season. In 1977, he was 4-5, 3.61 in 67.1 innings over 55 games, with nine saves. He moved on to the St Louis Cardinals in a trade on August 31, 1977. He made just 14 appearances with the Cardinals and had a 6.43 ERA.

Hamilton wasn’t with the Pirates long. He was purchased from the Cardinals in late May of 1978 and was a free agent at the end of the season. He pitched 16 games out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 3.42 in 26.1 innings. The Pirates used him just four times after July 22nd, all in one-sided losses. His first appearance with the Pirates came just hours after he arrived at the stadium following the trade, and he ended up taking the loss in the 14th inning on a bases loaded walk-off walk. Hamilton finished his nine-year career back in Oakland in 1980. He actually signed free agent deals with the A’s prior to the 1979, 1980 and 1981 seasons, though his final year consisted of just four relief appearances in Triple-A. He went 3-4, 3.70 in 82.2 innings in 1979, with seven starts and 33 relief outings. In 1980, he made 21 appearances and had an 11.40 ERA. Part of that season was spent in Triple-A. He had a 39-41, 3.85 record in 301 big league games (57 as a starter), with 31 saves and 704 innings pitched.

Joe Christopher, outfielder for the Pirates from 1959 to 1961. He was signed by the Pirates as a 19-year-old prior to the 1955 season and he became the first MLB player who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Christopher hit .329 in 140 games that first year in the minors, playing for three different teams, including two Class-A clubs. He worked his way through the system, hitting for a high average at every level, before making his debut for Pittsburgh in late May of 1959. In 1956, he hit .283 with 67 runs scored, 18 extra-base hits and 54 walks in 120 games for Williamsport of the Class-A Eastern League, where he played 28 games during the previous season. Christopher played for Mexico City in the Mexican League in 1957, while also seeing brief time with Columbus of the International League (Triple-A) and Lincoln of the Class-A Western League, where he saw time back in 1955. He had a .799 OPS in Lincoln, a .748 OPS in 64 games with Mexico City, and he went 1-for-10 at the plate in nine games with Columbus. The 1958 season was spent with Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, where he batted .327 in 132 games, with 71 runs, 33 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs and 57 walks. He played winter ball in Puerto Rico that 1958-59 off-season and hit .318 in 217 at-bats.

Christopher played most of 1959 in Columbus, where he hit .301 with 69 runs scored and 31 extra-base hits in 107 games. He spent approximately seven weeks with the Pirates that season and played 15 games, while going 0-12 at the plate. His big league debut came on May 26th in the famous Harvey Haddix game in which Haddix threw 12 perfect innings. Christopher was used sparingly by the Pirates during the next season, playing 50 games but getting just 61 plate appearances. Interestingly, he started ten games and the Pirates won all of them. Christopher didn’t pick up his first base hit until June 30th, one year, one month and four days after his big league debut. A decent portion of his plate time came in one game when he went 5-for-7 with a walk on September 27th, in a game that lasted 16 innings. In the 1960 World Series he pinch-ran twice and was used as a pinch-hitter in another game, scoring two runs and getting hit by a pitch. In 1961 he was used more often, getting into 76 games, 44 as a starter. He hit .263 with 14 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Following the season he was selected by the New York Mets in the expansion draft. He spent four seasons in New York including the best year of his career there in 1964.

In 1962, Christopher played 119 games for the Mets team that finished 40-120. He hit .244 with 36 runs scored, 18 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs, while also spending part of the season in Triple-A. In 1963, he played 85 games in Triple-A and 64 in the majors, where he hit .221 with one homer and eight RBIs. He was back in the majors full-time in 1964 and hit .300 with 78 runs scored, 26 doubles, eight triples, 16 homers and 76 RBIs in 154 games. The next season he saw a 176 point drop in his OPS, batting .249 in 148 games, with 26 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs. He then moved on to the Boston Red Sox in a November 1965 trade, where he played his final 12 big league games during the 1966 season. The Red Sox traded him to the Detroit Tigers on June 14, 1966, but he already played his final big league game five days earlier. Christopher played in the minors through the end of the 1968 season. During the 1967 season, he played briefly for Columbus of the International League, which was a Triple-A affiliate of the Pirates at the time. He hit .244 with one homer and 17 RBIs in 141 games for the Pirates. In his eight-year big league career, he hit .260 in 638 games, with 224 runs scored, 29 homers, 173 RBIs and 29 steals.

Bill Windle, first baseman for the 1928-29 Pirates. His big league career lasted one calendar year, making his debut on September 27, 1928 and playing his last game exactly one year later. In between, he only played one other game. Windle got two at-bats during his career, hitting a double in his first plate appearance and striking out in his last. His only hit came off Lou Koupal, who was a member of the 1925 World Champion Pirates team. Koupal was making his first start since leaving the Pirates after the 1926 season. Windle’s first game came as a defensive replacement at first base in the sixth inning when the Pirates went down 6-0 early in the game. He ended up scoring their only run in the 8-1 loss. He pinch-hit and played first base late in a one-sided win on September 20, 1929, then played first base late without getting an at-bat in his final big league game.

Windle’s pro career began in 1927, and he played minor league ball until 1937, the last year as a player-manager. The Pirates purchased his contract from Salisbury of the Class-C Piedmont League on September 10, 1927. He was going to join them a few days later, but an operation for appendicitis ended his season early. He batted .309 with 48 doubles, 12 triples and nine homers in 143 games that season. The Pirates optioned him to Columbia of the Class-B South Atlantic League on January 28, 1928. Before joining the Pirates in late 1928, he hit .306 with 29 extra-base hits in 126 games for Columbia.  He rejoined the Pirates on September 17th, ten days before his MLB debut. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1929, but he was among the last players cut on April 6th. During the 1929 season, he spent the year with Omaha of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .342 with 29 doubles, eight triples and 21 homers in 151 games. He rejoined the Pirates on September 17th, though the original plans called for him to return home after the Omaha season instead. Windle asked the Pirates for permission to join the club and they agreed. On November 4, 1929, he was sold to the Newark Bears of the Double-A International League, ending his time with the Pirates. Despite that strong season and a terrific 1930 season for Newark (.331 average and 53 extra-base hits), he never got another big league shot.

Windle played for Newark in 1931 and hit .269 with 28 extra-base hits in 117 games. The next season saw him play with three different teams, including two clubs in the International League and part of the time was spent in Class-B ball with York of the New York-Penn League. He noted in an article late in life that an injury from an awkward slide that season basically ended his effectiveness as a baseball player. Windle spent the 1933 season with Oklahoma City of the Class-A Texas League and hit .278 with 28 extra-base hits in 119 games. After not playing in 1934, he played Class-C ball for his final three seasons of pro ball, with some semi-pro ball mixed in during the 1935 season. He retired to run a tourist motel in Corpus Christi for the rest of his days, before passing away in 1981.

William “Buckshot” May, pitcher for the Pirates on May 9, 1924. He didn’t have a lot of minor league time before joining the Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1922 with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, though that experience was limited to eight innings over four games. He also played 12 games for Des Moines of the Class-A Western League that season, which is missing from his online records. The Pirates bought May out of the minors on December 1, 1923 after he went 18-15 in 294 innings over 51 games for Omaha of the Western League. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1924. In the 22nd game of that season, the Pirates took on the Boston Braves at Forbes Field. With the team down 10-6 going into the 9th inning, and having already used four pitchers, Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie called on the 24-year-old May to make his Major League debut. He allowed two hits, but threw a shutout frame, striking out fellow pitcher Joe Genewich to end the inning. Two days before his first and only big league game, May helped the Pirates in a different way. He threw an extremely long batting practice session to Pie Traynor and Clyde Barnhart, who were both in early season slumps. Traynor hit .421 over the next nine games. May remained with the Pirates from Opening Day until June 2nd, when he was optioned to Oklahoma City of the Western League. He made one more appearance for the Pirates before his return to the minors. On May 26th, he pitched a complete game in an exhibition contest against Penn State. The Pirates won 11-1 and May struck out nine batters. After going 15-10 in 225 innings over 42 games in the minors in 1924, the Pirates traded him to the Oklahoma City team he was already playing for at the time. He was traded (along with cash) on September 13th for pitchers Don Songer and Joseph Brown.

Despite never playing in the majors again, May was a successful minor league pitcher. We don’t have an ERA for him for many years (runs per nine innings are available), but we can see that he pitched often and posted strong records back when guys were throwing complete games most of the time. In 1925, he went 19-18 for Oklahoma City in 296 innings. He remained there in 1926 and had a 26-12 record and 304 innings pitched. He went to San Francisco of the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1927, where he went 20-16, 3.74 in 298 innings. He was there in 1928 as well, posting an 11-13, 4.74 record in 205 innings. In 1929, May played for Memphis of the Southern Association, where he posted a 7-4, 4.06 record in 122 innings. He had a 12-12 record while playing for two teams in the Class-A Western League in 1930, then returned to the Pacific Coast League in 1931, and saw time with two clubs. He then bounced back to the Western League, playing for St Joseph during the 1932-33 seasons. May went 16-11 in 249 innings in 1932, and 24-6 in 244 innings in 1933. An auto accident in California right before the 1934 season changed his plans and he mostly played semi-pro ball that year, but he returned to St Joseph for the 1935 season, which was his last in pro ball. He also saw some time with Minneapolis of the American Association that season. In 13 minor league seasons he went 178-136 in 490 games. It was said that his nickname was given to him by fans in the minors after seeing his “lightning fast delivery”, with the ball coming out of his hand like buckshot.