This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 10th, George Strickland and Cliff Chambers

Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and no transactions of note from January 10th, so this is a quiet day for Pirates history.

George Strickland, infielder for the 1950-52 Pirates. He was signed as a 17-year-old  by the New Orleans Pelicans of the Class-A Southern Association on September 4, 1943. He played the final three games of the regular season, including a doubleheader where he committed four errors at third base. Strickland missed the entirety of the 1944-45 seasons while serving in the Navy during WWII. He returned to New Orleans (then Double-A) for the 1946 season and hit .242 with 14 extra-base hits in 78 games. During the time he was gone, the Pelicans changed from being an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers to becoming an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. That gave Strickland a chance to go to Spring Training with the Red Sox, starting in 1947, though he ended up back in the minors every year for the next three seasons, playing for three different minor league teams. In 1947, he played with Scranton of the Class-A Eastern League and hit .235 with 31 extra-base hits, 70 runs, 77 walks and 71 RBIs in 134 games. The 1948 season was split between Scranton and Louisville of the Triple-A American Association. He combined to hit .225 with 20 extra-base hits, 58 runs, 49 RBIs and 71 walks in 140 games. He spent the 1949 season back in the Southern Association, this time with Birmingham. He hit .261 with 28 extra-base hits, 66 RBIs and 71 walks in 128 games that season. The Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 amateur draft on November 17, 1949 and he made their 1950 Opening Day roster, though his debut was delayed until early May due to an illness.

Strickland played just 23 games that entire 1950 season, six as a starter, going 3-for-27 at the plate. Most of his work came between May 7th (his debut) and June 1st. He played just seven games after June 1st, all of them off of the bench, and his final game came on July 22nd. The Pirates had ten infielders on their active roster at the time and he was glued to the bench for the remainder of the year. Despite that lack of playing time in his rookie year, he was the Pirates starting shortstop during the 1951 season. He played 138 games, hitting .216 with 65 walks, 47 RBIs and 59 runs scored. The Pirates starting shortstop from the 1950 season was Danny O’Connell, who was serving the first of two years in the military, which opened the door for Strickland to play everyday. Strickland committed 37 errors that season, nearly twice as many as he had in any other season during his ten-year big league career. He had the starting job in 1952 as well, but he hit just .177 in 76 games, before the Pirates traded him to the Cleveland Indians in a four-player deal on August 18, 1952. Strickland played until 1960 with the Indians, hitting .233 in 734 games. He was their starting shortstop for the 1953-55 seasons, then took up more of a utility role. After the deal in 1952, he finished the season by hitting .216 with one homer in 31 games with Cleveland.

In 1953, Strickland had his best season in the majors. He hit .284 in 123 games, with 43 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 47 RBIs and 51 walks. His .741 OPS was 90 points higher than his second best total. In 1954, he hit .213 in 112 games, with 42 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 25 walks. He played 130 games in 1955, though his stats continued to drop off. He batted .209 with 34 runs, 34 RBIs and 49 walks, putting up a .575 OPS. More than half of Strickland’s starts in 1956 were at second base, and he also saw some time at third base, a position he played just twice in his first six years. He hit .211 in 85 games that year, improving just slightly on that low OPS from 1955, adding 16 points to that total. In 1957, he batted .234 in 89 games, with 21 runs and 19 RBIs. Second base was once again his most frequent position, while also seeing time at shortstop and third base. Strickland retired during the 1958 season, but he returned for two final seasons before being released in August of 1960. He saw plenty of action at third base in 1959 when he played a total of 132 games, with .238 average, 20 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs, 51 walks and 55 runs scored. He played just 32 games in 1960, making ten starts all season. He had a .493 OPS in 47 plate appearances. While with the Pirates he hit .199 in 237 games. Strickland was a career .224 hitter in 971 games, with 305 runs, 36 homers, 284 RBIs and 361 walks. He became a scout for the Indians after his playing career ended, then later managed the Indians in 1964 and 1966. He also coached for three different teams before retiring from baseball after the 1972 season. Strickland’s middle name is Bevan, which was a family name. His cousin Hal Bevan was a big league third baseman, who played for three teams in the majors between 1952 and 1961.

Cliff Chambers, lefty pitcher for the 1949-51 Pirates. He originally signed with the Chicago Cubs as a 20-year-old in 1942 and spent that first year in the minors, going 6-7, 2.01 in 112 innings over 15 games for Tulsa of the Class-A Texas League. He also pitched two scoreless innings that season for Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. Chambers missed all of the next three seasons while serving in the Air Force during WWII. When he returned he reported to Los Angeles and went 18-15, 3.02 with 215 strikeouts in 268 innings. with Los Angeles again for the 1947 season, he went 24-9, 3.13 in 273 innings, this time striking out 175 batters. Chambers started the 1948 season in the majors with the Cubs. Early on he was used often as a starter, before being moved to the bullpen mid-June, though he still received occasional starts throughout the rest of the season. He went 2-9, 4.43 in 103.2 innings over 29 games, 12 of those appearances as a starter. On December 8, 1948 the Cubs traded Chambers and catcher Clyde McCullough to the Pirates in exchange for infielder Frankie Gustine and pitcher Cal McLish. Chambers began the 1949 season for the Pirates as a starter, but he was moved to the bullpen after just three outings. He spent a month in the pen, then sat for three weeks (he pitched an exhibition game), and was almost sent to the minors. The word from manager Billy Meyer was that the only reason he wasn’t sent to Indianapolis was because they didn’t have anyone better to send the Pirates in return. Chambers was given a chance in late June when the Pirates had some injuries and he pitched well, which led to him being put back in the rotation for the rest of the year. He had an impressive 13-7, 3.96 record in 177.1 innings for a Pirates team that went just 71-83 on the season. He struck out 93 batters, which was a career high that he would tie the following season.

In 1950, Chambers set a career high with 33 starts and 249.1 innings, while throwing 11 complete games, including two shutouts. He posted a 4.30 ERA and a 12-15 record for a Pirates team that lost 96 games. The Pirates were just as bad in 1951 and Chambers didn’t pitch well during his ten starts, though there was one big exception. On May 6th during the second game of a doubleheader against the Boston Braves, Chambers pitched the second nine-inning no-hitter in Pittsburgh Pirates history. The first one was by Nick Maddox 44 years earlier. Chambers’ shortstop that day was George Strickland, who shared his birthday (see bio above). Despite that one unforgettable outing, Chambers was just 3-6, 5.58 in ten starts when the Pirates traded him and outfielder Wally Westlake to the St Louis Cardinals on June 15th. The Pirates received four players in the deal, including Joe Garagiola. Chambers went 11-6, 3.83 in 129.1 innings for the Cardinals in 1951. In 1952, he made 13 starts and 13 relief appearances, putting together a 4-4, 4.12 record in 98.1 innings. He pitched mostly in relief in 1953, with eight starts in 32 games. He went 3-6, 4.86 in 79.2 innings. He finished his pro career back in the PCL (San Diego) for the 1954 season, and he was out of baseball for good at age 32, just three years after his no-hitter. He went 28-28, 4.33 in 486.1 innings for the Pirates. In his career, he went 48-53, 4.29 in 113 starts and 73 relief appearances, totaling 897.1 innings.