Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two trades of note. Before we get into them, current Pirates pitcher Bryse Wilson turns 24 years old today.
On this date in 1984 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Dale Berra, Al Pulido and Jay Buhner to the New York Yankees for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. Berra and Foli were teammates on the Pirates for three seasons, with Berra backing up Foli when he wasn’t his double play partner. Pulido was almost 28 years old and had pitched just two games for the Pirates, one in 1983 and one in 1984, and he struggled in both games. Buhner was just a minor leaguer at the time, a second round pick in the January 1984 draft- who hit .323 in short-season A-ball. Kemp was a strong hitter with the Detroit Tigers for five seasons, and one year with the Chicago White Sox, but his numbers dropped during his two years in New York. He hit just 19 homers with the Yankees, after hitting 108 his first six seasons, including the strike-shortened 1981 season. The Pirates also received cash in the deal.
The trade did not work out well for either team, Buhner would become a star, but not until 1991, well after he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Pulido pitched just ten games in the majors in 1986 with the Yankees, then spent three full seasons at Triple-A before retiring as a pro. Berra was seldom used by the Yankees, playing just 90 games over two years, hitting .230 in 217 at-bats. He played one final year for the Houston Astros before he retired. Kemp REALLY didn’t work out for the Pirates. He hit just two homers in 92 games during his first year in Pittsburgh, and then the Pirates released him a month into the 1986 season when he was hitting .188 in 13 games. Foli played just 19 games with the Pirates in 1985, hitting .189 before they released him, ending his Major League career
Also on this date in 1904 the Pirates traded first baseman Kitty Bransfield, infielder Otto Krueger and outfielder Moose McCormick to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league first baseman Del Howard. This was a very odd trade at the time, as the Pirates were in a good spot and gave up three players for a 27-year-old minor league player with zero big league experience. Howard lasted just one season in Pittsburgh, but this trade didn’t end up that bad when you consider that Howard was involved in the deal to acquire Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis. The latter trade worked out much better for the Pirates. Howard hit .292 with 63 RBIs in 123 games for the 1905 Pirates. The Pirates would later receive Otis Clymer from the Phillies to complete this deal, but that didn’t really help make it a closer trade. He hit .282 in 129 games over three seasons before being sold to the Washington Senators. Bransfield spent seven seasons in Philadelphia as a solid player during that time. He was a .269 hitter during that time, with 270 runs scored, 359 RBIs, and 105 stolen bases in 815 games. Krueger had one down year as a backup infielder for the Phillies, which ended up being his final season in the majors. McCormick was a solid young outfielder, but he decided to retire after the trade, only to return in 1908 (still as a member of the Phillies). Philadelphia immediately sold him to the New York Giants.
Jose DeLeon, pitcher for the 1983-86 Pirates. He was born in the Dominican, but attended school in New Jersey, where he was a third round pick of the Pirates out of high school in 1979. He debuted in pro ball in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 6.41 ERA in 59 innings, with more walks (38) than strikeouts (33). In 1980 he went to Shelby of the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he went 10-15, 4.82 in 168 innings over 26 starts, with improved strikeout/walk rates. DeLeon climbed quickly through the minors despite minimal success, reaching Double-A at age 20 in 1981, where he went 12-6, 3.11 in 25 starts. In 159 innings, he had 158 strikeouts. He had a poor first season at Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League, posting a 5.97 ERA over 119 innings, though his 10-7 record shows that the offense was high in that league. He did much better in 1983 after the affiliate moved to Hawaii of the PCL. He went 11-6, 3.04 in 127.1 innings, with 128 strikeouts, and received a promotion to the majors at the end of July. DeLeon pitched well in his 15 starts for the 1983 Pirates, going 7-3, 2.83 in 108 innings, with 118 strikeouts, giving him 246 strikeouts total on the season.
In DeLeon’s first full season in the majors, he posted a respectable 3.74 ERA in 192.1 innings (with 153 strikeouts), but the Pirates lost 87 games that year and his 7-13 record was the only losing record among the team’s five starters.The 1985 Pirates lost 104 games and DeLeon had a tough season, going 2-19, 4.70 in 162.2 innings, with 149 strikeouts. He was moved to the bullpen late in the year to avoid 20 losses, but a late season defeat in relief shut him down for the year, leaving him with the National League lead in losses, a feat he would repeat in 1990 with the St Louis Cardinals. Teammate Larry McWilliams posted that same 4.70 ERA as DeLeon had in 1985, but he was able to pick up seven wins in fewer starts. The next season DeLeon really struggled, and after posting an 8.27 ERA in nine games, the Pirates traded him to the Chicago White Sox on July 23rd for Bobby Bonilla. It was the Pirates reversing a decision not to protect Bonilla in the Rule 5 draft during the previous December. DeLeon turned things around in Chicago, posting a 2.96 ERA in 79 innings over 13 starts in 1986. He had an 11-12, 4.02 record in 1987, with 206 innings pitched. He was traded to the Cardinals prior to 1988 and had two strong seasons before he big loss season in 1990. DeLeon went 13-10, 3.67 in 225.1 innings, with 208 strikeouts, which ranked third in the league. In 1989, he had a 16-12, 3.05 record in 244.2 innings, with a league-leading 201 strikeouts. He finished third in the league in innings pitched and recorded three of his seven career shutouts. Despite playing six more years, he failed to record another shutout.
DeLeon went 7-19, 4.43 in 182.2 innings in 1990. Just like in 1985, he passed on making a run at 20 losses, though this was a bit different. He lost each of his last seven starts in 1985, then didn’t make his final start, which would have been on the final weekend of the season. In 1991, DeLeon had some bad luck, going 5-9, 2.71 in 28 starts, with 162.2 innings pitched. He began 1992 with the Cardinals, but he was released on August 31st after going 2-7, 4.57 in 102.1 innings over 15 starts and 14 relief outings. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies to finish the year and posted a 3.00 ERA in three starts. He began 1993 with the Phillies, who traded him to the White Sox in early August after he went 3-0, 3.26 in 47 innings, pitching mostly in relief. DeLeon had a 1.74 ERA in 11 relief appearances after the trade. He went 3-2, 3.36 in 67 innings over 42 games in the strike-shortened 1994 season, then had a 5-3, 5.19 record in 67.2 innings over 38 games for the 1995 White Sox before being traded to the Montreal Expos. He finished his career with the Expos at the end of the 1995 season, giving up seven runs in 8.1 innings. DeLeon had a 17-38, 4.02 record in 479.1 innings with the Pirates, and a career record of 86-119, 3.76 in 1,897.1 innings over 415 games, 264 as a starter.
Paul Moskau, pitcher for the 1982 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the fifth round in 1974 by the Cleveland Indians out of Arizona State. He transferred to Azusa Pacific University and the Cincinnati Reds took him in the third round in the 1975 draft. During that 1975 season, he went 10-1, 1.50 for Eugene of the short-season Northwest League. He also made one start for the Rookie level Billings club in the Pioneer League. Moskau jumped from short-season ball to Double-A Trois-Rivieres of the Eastern League the next season and didn’t miss a beat, going 13-6, 1.55 in 180 innings. He saw big league time and limited Triple-A work during each of the next three seasons, before finally sticking for good in 1980. Moskau went 6-6, 4.00 in 108 innings for the 1977 Reds, with 19 starts and a relief outing. In 1978, he made four minor league starts, and he had a 6-4, 3.97 record in 145 innings over 25 starts (one relief appearance) for the Reds. During the 1979 season, he had a 5-4, 3.89 record in 106.1 innings, with 15 starts and six relief outings. He minor league time that season was limited to two scoreless rehab starts. The 1980 season was his first full year, and he put up a 9-7, 4.01 record in a career high 152.2 innings, making 19 starts and 14 relief appearances. Moskau moved to the bullpen the next season and saw his ERA rise to 4.94 in 54.2 innings over 27 games during the strike-shortened season. The Pirates acquired him off of waivers on April 3, 1982 from the Baltimore Orioles, who traded for him two months earlier.
Moskau had a 28-22, 4.07 record in 79 starts and 48 relief appearances before coming to the Pirates right before Opening Day in 1982. It was an odd start for him with Pittsburgh, as he pitched a Spring Training game for the Pirates before he was actually a member of the team. It was said that the Pirates were waiting for him to clear waivers at the time, so they wouldn’t be stuck with his $175,000 contract for the year. If he cleared waivers, then the plan was to sign him to a contract as a free agent (some sources say that he actually cleared waivers). For Pittsburgh, Moskau went 1-3, 4.37 in five starts and eight relief appearances. He also made four rehab starts in Triple-A (Portland of the Pacific Coast League) and got hit hard, going 0-4, 10.32 in 11.1 innings. He was placed on the disabled list in late June due to shoulder soreness, then joined Portland in early August, before returning to the Pirates exactly two months after going on the injured list. He was released immediately after the season ended. Moskau finished up his big league career with the Chicago Cubs in 1983, posting a 6.75 ERA in eight starts. His pro career ended later that season after 11 more starts in Triple-A. He had a 32-27, 4.22 record in 633.2 innings over seven seasons, with 92 starts and 56 relief appearances.
Spud Davis, catcher for the Pirates from 1940-41 and again from 1944-45. He debuted in pro ball at 21 years old in 1926 with Gulfport of the Cotton States League (Class-D), where he hit .356 in 27 games. He jumped up four levels to Reading of the Double-A International League in 1927, hitting .308 in 137 games, with 31 extra-base hits. That was all of the minor league time that he needed. He started the 1928 season with the St Louis Cardinals, though after just two games he was part of a six-player trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. Davis hit .280 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 69 games as a rookie. In 1929, he batted .342 with 18 doubles, seven homers, 48 RBIs and 31 runs scored in 98 games. In 1930, Davis hit .313 in 106 games, with 41 runs scored, 16 doubles, 14 homers and 65 RBIs. The 1929-30 seasons were huge years for offense in baseball, before numbers started returning to normal numbers. However, Davis continued on at the same pace and still had his best season ahead of him. He hit .326 in 120 games in 1931, with a career high of 32 doubles, and 51 RBIs. In 1932 he hit .336 in 125 games, with 44 runs scored, 23 doubles, 14 homers and a career best 70 RBIs. His .921 OPS that year was the only time he topped the .900 mark in a season.
In 1933, Davis batted .349 in 141 games, with career highs of 51 runs and 173 hits. He had 28 doubles, nine homers and 65 RBIs. That was the only season in his career in which he received any MVP votes, finishing 25th in the voting. In November of 1933, he was dealt back to the Cardinals for catcher Jimmie Wilson, who was actually part of the trade to bring Davis to Philadelphia. Davis hit .300 in 107 games during his first year back in St Louis, with 45 runs scored, 22 doubles, nine homers and 65 RBIs. In 1935, he hit .317 in 102 games, with 24 doubles and 60 RBIs. That was his seventh straight season putting up a .300+ average. In 1936, Davis hit .273 in 112 games, with 32 extra-base hits and 59 RBIs. He was sold to the Cincinnati Reds in December of 1936. Davis batted .268 in 76 games in 1937, with 33 RBIs and a .709 OPS. In 1938, he was traded back to the Phillies after 12 games, though the traded didn’t happen until mid-June. He finished with a .235 average in 82 games, and saw his OPS drop to a .582 mark. He bounced back nicely in 1939, hitting .307 in 87 games, with a .740 OPS.
The 35-year-old Davis was purchased by the Pirates from the Phillies shortly after the 1939 season ended. He shared the catching duties with future Hall of Famer Al Lopez during all four seasons that he played in Pittsburgh. For the Pirates in 1940, Spud (his first name was Virgil) played 99 games and hit .326 with 39 RBIs. His .839 OPS was his best mark since 1933. In 1941, Davis saw his batting average dip down to .252, and the strong defense of Lopez took away his playing time. Whenever you see a break in the early 1940s for a player’s career, it’s usually due to them missing time while serving during WWII. However, it was just the opposite for Davis. In 1942, he became a full-time coach for the Pirates under manager Frankie Frisch. The Pirates released him at the end of 1941, with the intentions of bring him back in some capacity. He remained on as a coach for the 1942-43 season, but he would return to the playing field in 1944 when the war created a need for players. He hit .301 in 54 games during that first season back. He played another 23 games at the age of 40 in 1945, before returning to the coaching role full-time. Davis managed the Pirates for the last three games of the 1946 season and also returned to an active playing role in the minors for the 1947-48 seasons. In his 16-year big league career, which was spent all in the National League, he hit .308 in 1,458 games, with 388 runs scored, 244 doubles, 77 homers and 647 RBIs. He caught 1,282 games during his career and twice led the league in fielding percentage, including a 1.000 mark in 1939. With the Pirates, he hit .301 in 233 games, with 34 runs scored and 65 RBIs.
Joe Wilhoit, outfielder for the 1917 Pirates. He’s virtually unknown, especially during his time in Pittsburgh, but he owns one of the most impressive records in baseball history. He played college and semi-pro ball before finally going pro at 27 years old in 1913. He played most of the season for Stockton of the Class-D California State League, where he hit .322 with 36 extra-base hits in 120 games. He also played ten games for Venice of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, where he also saw time during the 1914 season. Most of that 1914 season was spent with Victoria of the Class-B Northwestern League, where he hit .316 with 24 extra-base hits and 25 steals. In 1915, he played for Venice (the team also played in Vernon that year) and hit .323 with 24 doubles, nine triples and three homers in 77 games. That led to his shot at the majors. Wilhoit played the 1916 season for the Boston Braves, hitting .230 in 116 games, with 19 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and 18 steals.
Wilhoit ended up playing for three different teams during that 1917 season. He started with the Braves and was put on waivers in early July, where he was picked up by the Pirates. He actually batted a respectable .274 in 54 games before being put on waivers. He played his final game for Boston on July 9th and then he pinch-hit in his debut for the Pirates three days later. Wilhoit played nine games for the 1917 Pirates, going 2-for-10 at the plate and seeing time at three different positions, left field, right field and first base. His only start for the Pirates came in right field on July 16th during the second game of a doubleheader on the road against the Boston Braves. Six of his games came on the road and Pittsburgh fans ended up seeing him bat just once at Forbes Field (while with the Pirates), singling as a pinch-hitter. He pinch-ran in his other two Forbes Field appearances, both times running for a 43-year-old Honus Wagner. Pittsburgh put him on waivers on July 28th and he finished the season with the New York Giants. It ended up being a poor short-term decision for the Pirates to get rid of him, as he hit .340 over the rest of the season. He also put up decent results at the plate as a part-time playing in 1918, hitting .274 in 64 games, though limited power numbers led to a .696 OPS. Over four seasons in the majors (1916-19), Wilhoit batted .257 in 283 games, with 73 RBIs and 93 runs scored. He hit three career homers and all three were inside-the-park homers.
Wilhoit played eight seasons in the minors and put up impressive stats that never quite carried over the the majors. He batted .336 over 1,101 games, which included a .422 average for Wichita of the Western League in 1919, which led to his final big league trial. He played six late-season games for the 1919 Boston Red Sox, going 6-for-18 at the plate. During the 1919 season, he set a still-standing pro record with base hits in 69 straight games, 13 games longer than Joe DiMaggio’s big league record. Wilhoit batted .300 for Toledo of the American Association in 1920, then joined Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League for his final three seasons, putting up averages of .339 in 1921, .317 in 1922, and .360 in 172 games in 1923.
Jimmy Williams, third baseman for the Pirates from 1899-1900, who had one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old with Pueblo of the independent Colorado State League in 1895. The next season was split between Pueblo and Indianapolis of the Class-A Western League. There are no stats available from those two seasons, but we know that he batted .288 with 109 runs scored, 28 doubles, eight triples, 31 homers and 25 steals for St Joseph of the Class-B Western Association in 1897. Before joining the Pirates, Wiliams hit .343 with 54 extra-base hits in 139 games for Kansas City of the Western League in 1898. The Pirates purchased four players from Kansas City on September 20, 1898, including Williams, who ended up being the only one to play for the Pirates. He hit .354 in 153 games as a rookie in 1899, driving in 116 runs while scoring 126 times. His 27-game hitting streak that year is still a Pirates team record. It’s one better than the second best streak in team history, which was put up by Williams earlier in that same season. The 22-year-old Williams also led the majors with 27 triples, a total that ranks seventh all-time for a single season and it’s been topped just once since 1899. He also had 28 doubles, nine homers and 26 stolen bases. His 220 hits that season are tied for the seventh most in a season for the Pirates. His runs scored total ranks 12th for a season in team history. His 329 total bases ranks 13th in team history.
Williams couldn’t come close to replicating those rookie numbers in 1900, hitting .264 in 106 games, with 32 extra-base hits, 73 runs scored and 68 RBIs. On March 26, 1901, it was announced that he jumped from the Pirates to the Baltimore Orioles of the upstart American League. There were plenty of rumors going around about John McGraw, manager of the Orioles, paying him extra money to sign. Pirates manager Fred Clarke said that Williams was paid the league limit of $2,400 in 1900, while also making money for the Pirates second place finish and added extra games played during the season where players received a split of the gate receipts. The papers noted that he was foolish to think he could make more money in Baltimore and that he owed the fans for backing him in a down year in 1900. There were reports a week later that Williams was back in Pittsburgh and could rejoin the Pirates. He spent a few days trying to decide between the two teams, only to return to the Orioles, with the Pirates finding out about his decision when he showed up in the Baltimore lineup on April 5th. Williams hit .317 in 130 games for Baltimore in 1901, with 113 runs scored, 26 doubles, a league leading 21 triples, 96 RBIs and 21 steals. He switched to second base that season and stayed there for the rest of his career.
Williams played for the Orioles for two seasons and remained with the franchise when it moved to New York in 1903 (I know the record books now call it two different franchises, but I disagree after doing the research, and Williams helps show that the franchise was the same). He hit .313 in 125 games in 1902, with 83 runs scored, 27 doubles, a league leading 21 triples and 83 RBIs. He remained in New York until he was traded to the St Louis Browns after the 1907 season. Williams hit .267 for New York in 1903, with 60 runs scored, 45 extra-base hits and 82 RBIs in 132 games. In 1904, he had a .263 average in 146 games, with a career high 31 doubles, to go along with 62 runs scored and 74 RBIs. In 1905, he had .228 average in 129 games, though a higher walk rate and more homers led to a similar OPS to the previous season. He had 34 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs and 54 runs scored. He had a much better season in 1906, hitting .277 in 139 games, with 35 extra-base hits, 61 runs scored and 77 RBIs, posting a .715 OPS that was his highest over his final six seasons in the majors. In 1907, Williams batted .270 in 139 games, with 53 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs. Williams finished up his big league career with the St Louis Browns in 1908-09. He hit .236 in 148 games in 1908, with 63 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs. His final season was a rough one, with a .195 average and a .492 OPS in 110 games.
Williams spent the six seasons (1910-15) playing for Minneapolis of the American Association before retiring as a player. He played 11 years in the majors and led the league in triples three times, including both years in Baltimore. He was a career .275 hitter, who had 242 doubles, 138 triples, 796 RBIs, 151 steals and 780 runs scored in 1,457 games. He had a career 32.6 WAR and finished among his league’s top ten position players in WAR during three season.