This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 30th, A Trade of Babes

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a trade of note.

The Trade

On this date in 1943, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded catcher Babe Phelps to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman Babe Dahlgren. Phelps hit .284 in 95 games for the Pirates in 1942, but he did not play during the 1943 season, opting to voluntarily retire because he wasn’t sure that baseball would last during the ongoing war and he didn’t want to leave his off-season job. The Pirates also included cash in this deal, which ended up being all that the Phillies received.  Phelps never did play a game for the Phillies, continuing his voluntary retirement. The Pirates actually agreed to sell Phelps to the Phillies during the  early part of the 1943 season, but Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis wouldn’t allow the sale because Phelps was on the voluntary retired list.

Dahlgren played for six different teams from 1940-43. He settled in Philadelphia in 1943 and hit .287 with 50 walks and 56 RBIs in 136 games. Dahlgren played 158 games for the Pirates in 1944, which at the time was the highest game total in the majors in a single season since 1915. He hit .289 that year with 101 RBIs and a team leading 12 home runs, earning himself MVP support, finishing 12th in the voting. The following year he hit .250 with 75 RBIs in 144 games. The Pirates sold him to the St Louis Browns in the off-season and he hit just .175 in 28 games before being released, which ended his 12-year career. We posted an article here taking an in depth look at his 1944 season.

The Players

Jim Viox, infielder for the 1912-16 Pirates. Viox played three seasons in the minors for Lexington of the Blue Grass League before joining the Pirates at the beginning of the 1912 season. At 18 years old in 1909, he hit .242 in 41 games. The next year he had a .281 average in 127 games, with 23 doubles and 11 triples. In 1911, he batted .291 in 112 games, with 21 doubles, nine triples and four homers. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 22, 1911 from Lexington, though he was allowed to finish the season with his old team. He was called the best shortstop in the league at the time and one source reported his purchase price to be $600. There was word that he would show up in Pittsburgh after the minor league season ended, but there was no mention of him joining the team that September. The Pirates expected to give the 21-year-old a tryout during Spring Training and then farm him out to a better minor league team to get more experience. Viox had other plans though. He made the team on Opening Day and stayed around as a bench player. He played just 33 games that year, hitting .186 while playing some time at second, third, shortstop and right field.

Viox became the everyday second baseman the next year and did well, hitting .317 (third in National League) with 86 runs, 32 doubles, eight triples, 64 walks and 65 RBIs. He became the first Pirates starter other than Honus Wagner to lead the team in batting average since 1902. In 1914 his numbers slipped, although he played 143 games that year. He hit .265 with 52 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 63 walks and 57 RBIs. He finished 13th in the NL MVP voting during both the 1913 and 1914 seasons. Viox played a career high 150 games in 1915, drawing 75 walks, which was the third highest total in the National League. He batted .256 with 56 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs. Despite the amount of playing time he received in 1915, he only lasted until late July of 1916 before he was let go by the Pirates. He was hitting .250 in 43 games, with 17 RBIs and 17 walks. Viox received a $4,000 salary with the Pirates during the 1916 season. At the end of his time in Pittsburgh, he was nursing a sore left hip that was bothering him for some time and he didn’t play during his final three weeks with the Pirates. Viox was transferred to Toronto of the International League on option on August 13th. He returned to the minors and hit .313 in 42 games in 1916, then batted .315 in 92 games the following year with Kansas City of the American Association, but he never made it back to the majors.

Viox batted .212 in 50 games for Kansas City in 1918, then hurt his slim chances to ever return to the majors in 1919 when he refused to report to his minor league team, which got him suspended for the entire season. When he returned to pro ball in 1920, he was down in Class-B ball with Portsmouth of the Virginia League, where he spent three full seasons. He returned to the upper levels for the 1923-24 seasons with Louisville of the American Association, but he saw limited time those years. He finished his playing career in 1924 and also managed six seasons in the minors. He was a player-manager for a brief time in 1928 for Raleigh of the Piedmont League, where he hit .542 in 14 games. Viox had a .273 average in 506 career Major League games, with 214 runs scored, 107 extra-base hits, 190 RBIs and 222 walks. Six of his seven career homers were inside-the-park home runs.

Ovid Nicholson, left fielder for the 1912 Pirates. He just finished his third season in the minors when the Pirates called him up in mid-September 1912 to make his Major League debut. It turned out to be a very brief big league career. At 21 years old in 1910, he debuted in pro ball with Great Bend of the Class-D Kansas State League, where he hit .254 with 11 doubles and six triples in 92 games. In 1911, Nicholson spent the season with Frankfort of the Class-D Blue Grass League, where he batted .313 with 24 extra-base hits in 117 games. The Pirates acquired him via the Rule 5 draft from Frankfort  in early September of 1911 and announced that he would be with the team during the following spring. However, on January 25, 1912, he was sold outright to Springfield of the Central League. He ended up back in Frankfort and stole 112 (some sources say 116) bases that season before rejoining the Pirates. He was hitting .350 shortly before the season ended. Pittsburgh purchased him back from Frankfort on August 21st and expected him to join the team sooner, but Frankfort made the playoffs and kept him until the end of the season.

Nicholson debuted on September 17th and played six games over a ten-day stretch, hitting .455 in 11 at-bats with three RBIs. He played four games in left field and two off the bench. On December 14, 1912, Nicholson was released to Louisville of the Double-A American Association, ending his time with the Pirates. The word from the Pirates was that he was too small and inexperienced to play in the majors at the time. He was listed at 5’9″, 155 pounds. Nicholson returned to the minors where he finished out his playing days in 1917, though he did see brief action in 1926 as a player/manager. He later coached and managed in the minors, last taking the helm in 1935. He played just 32 games with Louisville in 1913, which was one step below the majors at the time (there was no Triple-A then). The rest of his pro career was spent in Class-A (1913-16) and Class-B (1916-17 and 1926). During the 1914 season with Wichita of the Western League, he hit .305 in 154 games, with 100 runs scored, 32 extra-base hits, 60 steals and 64 walks. He is the only player in Major League history with the name Ovid.

Sean Gallagher, pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was a 12th round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2004 at 18 years old out of high school in Florida. At one point before his big league debut, he was considered to be a top 100 prospect in baseball. Gallagher debuted in pro ball in the Arizona Summer League, where he went 1-2, 3.12 in 34.1 innings, with 44 strikeouts. In 2005, he spent all but one game with Peoria of the Low-A Midwest League, where he had a 14-5, 2.71 record in 146 innings, with 139 strikeouts. He made one start for Daytona of the High-A Florida State League and allowed one run in five innings. In 2006, Gallagher went 4-0, 2.30 in 13 starts for Daytona, then moved up to Double-A West Tennessee of the Southern League, where he had a 7-5, 2.71 record in 15 starts. He had 171 strikeouts in 164.2 innings that year. In 2007, he opened the year in Tennessee (team changed/same league), going 7-2, 3.39 in 11 starts. He played his first big league game in June of 2007 at 21 years old, but he spent most of the rest of the season in Triple-A, with Iowa of the Pacific Coast League. Gallagher allowed 15 runs in 14.2 innings with the Cubs that year. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the season and allowed two runs in 16 innings. He remained with the Cubs through the middle of the 2008 season when he was traded to the Oakland A’s as part of a deal to acquire Rich Harden.

Gallagher pitched 58.2 innings for the Cubs in 2008, and another 56.2 innings with the A’s. He combined to go 5-7, 5.15 in 115.1 innings, with 107 strikeouts. He made 21 big league starts in 2008, but just two other starts over his other three seasons in the majors. He spent just over a full year in Oakland, before being dealt to the San Diego Padres on July 28, 2009. Gallagher missed a little bit of time in 2009 and also played at Triple-A for both the A’s and Padres. During his big league time, he had an 8.16 ERA in 14.1 innings with the A’s and he made eight scoreless appearances for the Padres, though that amounted to 5.1 innings. He played with ball in Venezuela over the 2009-10 off-season, then split the early part of 2010 between Triple-A and the majors. Gallagher was purchased by the Pirates from the Padres on July 7, 2010, and he finished the season in the Pirates bullpen. He posted a 6.03 ERA in 34.1 innings over 31 appearances for the Pirates, after posting a 5.40 ERA in 15 games for the Padres earlier in the season. Gallagher pitched for the Pirates in Triple-A Indianapolis in 2011 and he went 5-12, 5.11 in 132 innings over 29 games (23 starts). He became a free agent after the season signed with the Cincinnati Reds for 2012, then ended up playing pro ball until 2016, seeing time with the Colorado Rockies, as well as playing winter/summer ball in Mexico, winter ball in Venezuela and four years in independent ball. However, his time with the 2010 Pirates ended up being his last big league action. He had a 10-10, 5.64 record in 91 games (23 starts), with 207.1 innings pitched over four seasons in the majors.

Tyler Anderson, pitcher for the 2021 Pirates. He was originally a 50th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2008, but he decided to go to college, which paid off for him. Three years later he was a first round pick of the Colorado Rockies out of the University of Oregon, selected 20th overall. He debuted in pro ball in 2012 with Low-A Asheville of the South Atlantic League, where he had a 12-3, 2.47 record in 120.1 innings over 20 starts. He was out for nearly half of the 2013 season, finishing up with three rehab starts in short-season ball and 13 starts for High-A Modesto of the California League, where he had a 3-2, 4.10 record in 74.2 innings. Anderson had an impressive season with Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League in 2014, going 7-4, 1.98 in 118.1 innings over 23 starts. However, he suffered a stress fracture in his pitching elbow, which cost him the entire 2015 season. A similar injury cost him time in 2013. He returned healthy in 2016 and ran through the minors in what amounted to rehab starts. Anderson pitched one game in High-A, two in Double-A, then did so well in Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League that he made the majors after three starts. Debuting on June 16th, he went 5-6, 3.54 in 19 starts, with 99 strikeouts in 114.1 innings.

In 2017, Anderson missed some brief time, and also spent a short time back in Triple-A. He finished the big league season with a 6-6, 4.81 record in 86 innings over 15 starts and two relief appearances. He was in the Colorado rotation for all of 2018, going 7-9, 4.55 in 176 innings over 32 starts. He had 164 strikeouts, though he also led the league with 30 home runs allowed. His 2019 season was limited to five starts due to a knee injury that required surgery in June. The Rockies put him on waivers, where he was picked up by the San Francisco Giants. Anderson went 4-3, 4.37 in 59.2 innings during the shortened 2020 season. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates. He remained in Pittsburgh through the 2021 trading deadline when he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners for prospects. Anderson went 5-8, 4.35 in 103.1 innings over 18 starts in Pittsburgh. After the deal, he had a 2-3, 4.81 record in 63.2 innings over 13 starts. Through six seasons in the majors, he has a 29-38, 4.62 record in 623.2 innings. He is currently a free agent.

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