This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 16th, Pirates Make Two Trades and a Signing of Note

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two trades of note and a minor league signing that turned out well.

The Transactions

On this date in 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 1B/OF Garrett Jones as a minor league free agent. What seemed like a footnote signing at the time, turned into a lot more for the Pirates. He was already 27 years old at the time and had just 31 games of big league experience, all coming during the 2007 season. In 2008, he spent the year in Triple-A, where he hit .279 with 33 doubles, 23 homers and 92 RBIs in 138 games. He spent the first three months of the 2009 season in Triple-A for the Pirates before joining the big league squad in time for his July 1st debut. Jones hit .293 with 21 doubles and 21 homers over 82 games for the 2009 Pirates. He would be a regular during the 2010-13 seasons, averaging 147 games per season. In his five seasons with Pittsburgh, he hit .256 with 269 runs scored, 100 homers and 325 RBIs.

On this date in 1960 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded three players to the Washington Senators for veteran pitcher Bobby Shantz. Just two days prior to the trade the Senators chose Shantz in the expansion draft off the New York Yankees roster. The Pirates sent pitcher Bennie Daniels, first baseman RC Stevens and utility fielder Harry Bright to Washington in the deal. The Pirates and Senators made a prearranged deal prior to the expansion draft that if Washington took Shantz, the Pirates would share their American League scouting reports with the Senators so they could be better prepared in the draft. After the trade Shantz lasted just one year in Pittsburgh before he was lost to the Houston Colt 45’s in the 1961 expansion draft. He went 6-3, 3.22 in 43 games for the Pirates, six as a starter. He won his fifth straight Gold Glove, handling all 31 chances he had that season without an error. Daniels pitched five years in Washington, going 37-60, 4.14 in 821.1 innings. He actually had a winning record (12-11) during the team’s first season, which is an accomplishment on a team that finished 61-100. Stevens hit .129 in 33 games in 1961, then never played in the majors again. Bright hit .263 with 21 homers in 185 games over two seasons in Washington before being traded.

On this date in 1938 the Pirates traded catcher Al Todd and outfielder Johnny Dickshot along with cash to the Boston Bees for catcher Ray Mueller. Boston got the best of the deal, but not by much. Todd lasted one season and outperformed Mueller, while Dickshot was sold right away to the New York Giants, so Boston just got more cash out of the deal. Mueller hit .233 with 18 RBIs in 86 games for the Pirates in 1939. He played only four Major League games in 1940, spending the rest of that season and the entire 1941 season in the minors, before the Pirates sold him to the St Louis Cardinals. Todd had his two best career seasons with the 1937-38 Pirates, so they were trading him at his peak, though he was already 36 years old at the time. Mueller ended up putting his best career stats together with the Cincinnati Reds during the 1943-44 and 1946 seasons when he compiled 10.2 WAR.

The Players

Fred Crolius, right fielder for the 1902 Pirates. His time with the Pirates was very short and he had an odd deal with the team. Before joining the 1902 Pirates, his only other pro action came during the 1901 season for the Boston Beaneaters, when he hit .240 in 49 games before being released at the end of July, two weeks after his final game. Crolius didn’t play his first game of minor league ball until three years after his big league debut. He went right from Dartmouth College, where he was the team captain, to signing with Boston a month before the 1901 season started. The 1902 Pirates were the best team in franchise history, finishing with a 103-36 record. They did that despite suffering a massive amount of injuries in August. Back when teams regularly kept no more than 15-20 players active, the Pirates had seven players injured. Fred Crolius got his chance to play during this time and he didn’t do the team any favors in his first game. In the fourth inning of a doubleheader on August 22, 1902, Crolius collided with second baseman Claude Ritchey and knocked him out of action. The Pirates were actually approached by Crolius to play to outfield, with the understanding that he was only playing until they were healthy enough for him to leave the team. He was a star athlete, who also excelled at football, but he preferred to run his own business rather than play sports full-time. The local papers said that he could have had a big league job at any point that season if he wanted one. Crolius played a total of nine games over a nine-day period with the Pirates, hitting .263 with seven RBIs. After his last game on August 30th, he never played another MLB game.

After his big league career was over, Crolius was busy in the Pittsburgh area in 1903, working at the University of Pittsburgh, coaching football and playing some baseball for a team made up of former college players. He returned to pro ball in 1904 and played three minor league seasons. He was also the manager during those three seasons, so he had no trouble staying in the lineup, though his bat kept him in just the same. His first season was played as far as you could get from the majors, spending the season with Norwich of the Class-D Connecticut State League, where he hit .338 in 114 games. The league reclassified as Class-B in 1905 and he hit .348, while splitting the season between Norwich and Springfield. In his final year of pro ball, Crolius played in the independent Tri-State League for Lancaster, where he hit .326 in 90 games. He played semi-pro ball in 1907 and did more football coaching. He ended up coaching the Villanova football team for seven seasons, though they had very little success during that time, going 11-35.

Jeff Granger, lefty pitcher for the 1997 Pirates. He was originally at 14th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins out of high school in 1990. Granger was a first round draft pick out of Texas A&M by the Kansas City Royals in 1993 and made it to the majors that same season. He made quite a jump, going from Eugene of the short-season Northwest League, right to the majors. He had a 3-3, 3.00 record in 36 innings, with ten walks and 56 strikeouts for Eugene. He debuted on September 16th and allowed three runs in one inning, in what turned out to be his only game of the season. Prior to the 1994 season, he was ranked as the 19th best prospect in baseball. Granger went to Double-A in 1994, where he had a 7-7, 3.87 record in 139.2 innings over 25 starts. In his brief time in the majors that season, he gave up eight runs over 9.1 innings, while making two starts in May. Those games ended up being his only two big league starts and only games that year. He spent all of 1995 in Double-A as a starter and he had a 5.93 ERA in 95.2 innings over 18 appearances. Granger made it back to the majors briefly in 1996, posting a 6.61 ERA in 16.1 innings over 15 relief appearances. He had a solid run with Triple-A Omaha of the American Association that year, putting up a 2.34 ERA in 77 innings over 45 appearances.

After pitching parts of three years in the majors with no success, Granger was dealt to the Pirates on December 13, 1996 in a six-player deal that sent Jeff King and Jay Bell to Kansas City. He made the Opening Day roster in 1997 and pitched a shutout inning of relief in his Pittsburgh debut, but things went downhill after that. He allowed at least one run in six of his last eight appearances. He was sent to the minors after his last appearance on April 25th and he never pitched in the majors again, finishing out his career in 2000 when he played for four different teams. The Pirates sent Granger to Triple-A Calgary of the Pacific Coast League in 1997, where he went 1-7, 5.55 in 82.2 innings over 12 starts and 18 relief appearances. The Pirates removed him from the 40-man roster in August, then released him after the season. He signed a minor league deal for the Texas Rangers, where he had a 4.67 ERA in 129 innings, with splitting his time between starting and relief for Oklahoma of the Pacific Coast League. In 1999, he spent the season with Louisville of the Triple-A American Association, which was the affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers at the time. Granger went 1-6, 4.73 in 59 innings over 56 appearances. His final season saw him play for two affiliates of the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers (Triple-A), and Long Island of the independent Atlantic League. In 27 games in the big leagues, Granger finished 0-1, 9.09 in 31.2 innings.

Bill Otey, lefty pitcher for the 1907 Pirates. In his pro debut with the Pirates on September 27, 1907, Otey came close to picking up a complete game win, but finished with a no-decision in a game that was called a tie after 11 innings due to darkness. Otey took a 5-1 lead into the 9th inning against the Boston Doves and couldn’t finish the game off, getting knocked around while picking up just one out. Howie Camnitz came on for the save, but Boston was able to tie the score off him and send it to extra innings. Otey got his only other start nine days later in the second game of a doubleheader, pitching a complete game in a 4-1 loss to the Reds that was called after seven innings. His only other appearance for the Pirates was a one inning relief appearance. Pittsburgh purchased Otey from Norfolk of the Class-C Virginia League for $1,500 on August 20, 1907. He joined the Pirates in September after he went 22-10 and threw 327 innings. He had seven starts with three or fewer hits allowed, including one no-hitter. It was his second season in pro ball. In 1906 for Norfolk, he won 19 games and pitched 276 innings as a 19-year-old.

Otey returned to the minors in 1908 when the Pirates released him to Rochester of the Class-A Eastern League on February 22nd. He ended up spending most of that 1908 season back in the Virginia League playing for Roanoke, where he had a 9-13 record. He also saw time with Wheeling of the Class-B Central League. Otey was back with Norfolk during the 1909 season, where he put up an 18-15 record. His ERA isn’t available from that season, but it’s known that he allowed 2.93 runs per nine innings, and he threw 292 innings that year. He pitched with Norfolk at the start of 1910, going 5-5 in 95 innings over 14 games before joining the Washington Senators, where he debuted in early August. He pitched parts of two seasons for the Senators, going 1-4, 5.12 in 84.1 innings. After his final big league game on June 24, 1911, Otey joined his hometown team, playing for Dayton of the Central League. He went 8-8 and threw 126 innings during the second half of the 1911 season, then had a 13-13 record and threw 224 innings in 1912. He allowed 3.90 runs per nine innings that season. He was supposed to pitch in 1913, but he became sick for an extended time and couldn’t get into pitching shape by the time the season rolled around. He declared that he was ready late in the year, but his pro career from that point on amounted to two starts for Dayton in 1914. He played semi-pro ball for the rest of 1914 and all of 1915 before retiring. He won 96 games in the minors.

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