This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 28th, Rick Reuschel Signs with Pirates

There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one transaction of note.

The Transaction

On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 35-year-old Rick Reuschel as a free agent. He had pitched well earlier in his career, but Reuschel was coming off of a 5.17 ERA in 92.1 innings with the Chicago Cubs in 1984. He missed all of 1982 with rotator cuff surgery and struggled through the 1983 season, spending most of the year in the minors. Reuschel turned things back around with the Pirates, going 14-8, 2.27 in 194 innings for a team that lost 104 games. However, he actually began the year in the minors, where he pitched 54 innings before joining the big league team. His contract was a minor league deal and he told the papers that he almost decided to retire because it took so long to find a team that showed interest. The Pirates said that he was competing for a spot as the team’s long reliever, but he ended up making 26 starts that season. He made another 89 starts for the Pirates before being traded late in the 1987 season to the San Francisco Giants. He was an All-Star that final season, finishing third in the NL Cy Young voting, while leading the league in complete games, shutouts and WHIP. Reuschel won 214 games in his career.

The Players

Aaron Thompson, pitcher for the 2011 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2005, selected 22nd overall at 18 years old out of Second Baptist HS in Houston, Texas. He had an odd beginning to his career, pitching better that first year in the New York-Penn League (3.10 ERA in 20.1 innings) against college players than he did against players his own age in the Gulf Coast League (4.50 ERA in 32 innings). Thompson pitched at Low-A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League in 2006 and had an 8-8, 3.63 record and 114 strikeouts in 134 innings over 24 starts. He improved slightly to a 3.37 ERA in 115 innings in 2007 with Jupiter of the High-A Florida State League, though his strikeout rate dropped a little at the same time. He struggled with the jump to Double-A Carolina of the Southern League in 2008, putting up a 5.62 ERA in 81.2 innings, while issuing more walks than either previous full season when he saw much more work. Thompson missed a little time in 2008, which led to him going to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he had a 6.00 ERA in 15 innings. He made 20 starts with Jacksonville of the Southern League in 2009, posting a 4.11 ERA in 114 innings. He was traded to the Washington Nationals at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for Nick Johnson, and made another six starts in Double-A with Harrisburg of the Eastern League, where he had a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings.

Thompson spent the 2010 season in Harrisburg, where he had a 5.80 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP in 136.2 innings. He was put on waivers in December of 2010, where the Pirates picked him up. He was sent to Altoona of the Eastern League to start the 2011 season, and posted a 4-7, 5.16 record there in 83.2 innings over 28 games (12 starts). He moved up to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League on August 10th and allowed one run over 11.2 innings in three appearances, then got a call to the majors for his debut as a spot starter on August 24th. That day he pitched 4.1 shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. Thompson returned to Triple-A to end the minor league season, then made three more September appearances for the Pirates, this time allowing six runs over 3.1 innings. He was allowed to leave via free agency in November and signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins. After performing poorly in the Dominican winter league, he spent all of 2012 in Double-A with New Britain of the Eastern League, struggling along with a 5.23 ERA in 86 inning. He moved to relief full-time in 2013 and put up great stats at New Britain, allowing just one run over 14.2 innings. He then pitched 44 innings for Rochester of the International League, where he had a 3.48 ERA, six saves and 42 strikeouts.

After a rough 2013-14 winter in Venezuela, Thompson spent most of the 2014 season back with Rochester. He was called up to the majors in late August in 2014 and allowed two runs over 7.1 innings, which led to an Opening Day assignment in 2015. He had a 5.01 ERA in 41 appearances and 32.1 innings through July 5th, when he was sent to the minors for the rest of the season. Thompson was released by the Twins at the end of Spring Training in 2016, then he played that season for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. He capped off his pro career playing winter ball in Mexico during the 2016-17 off-season. He finished his three-year big league career with a 1-3, 4.94 record in 52 games (one start), with 47.1 innings pitched.

Lil Stoner, pitcher for the 1930 Pirates. He played three seasons of minor league ball before making the 1922 Detroit Tigers team out of Spring Training. He debuted in pro ball with Oklahoma City of the Class-A Western League in 1919 at 20 years old, where he went 12-15 and pitched 224 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but it’s known that he allowed 3.70 runs per nine innings that year. In 1920, he had a 4-13 record in 199 innings, allowing 4.61 runs per nine innings. His results got slightly worse in 155 innings with Oklahoma City in 1921, and he ended up spending part of the year with Okmulgee of the Class-D Western Association. He ended up going 17-13 that year, while throwing 312.1 innings, which helped earn him a big league spot for 1922. Stoner pitched poorly in his first shot with the Tigers, posting a 7.04 ERA in 62.2 innings through 17 games (seven starts), then was sent to the minors to finish the season. He ended the year by going 7-6, 2.97 in 109 innings for Birmingham of the Class-A Southern Association. He was with Fort Worth of the Class-A Texas League in 1923, where he went 27-11, 2.65 and pitched 302 innings. He was with the Tigers again in 1924 and lasted through the 1929 season, switching between starting and relieving. He had double figure win totals in three seasons and compiled a 50-57 overall record while with Detroit.

Stoner set a career high with 215.2 innings in 1924, when he compiled an 11-10, 4.72 record over 25 starts and 11 relief appearances. In 1925, he went 10-9, 4.26 in 152 innings spread over 18 starts and 16 relief appearances. He had a rough season in 1926, going 7-10, 5.47 in 159.2 innings over 22 starts and ten relief outings. His best season came in 1927 when he had a 3.98 ERA in 215 innings, though he finished with a 10-13 record. His teammate Rip Collins had a 4.69 ERA that same season and managed to post a 13-7 record, so there was some bad luck and poor support involved in Stoner’s win-loss total that year. The 1928 season saw him go 5-8, 4.35 in 126.1 innings, with 11 starts and 25 relief appearances. After going 3-3, 5.26 in 53 innings over 24 games(three starts) in 1929, he joined the Pirates for the 1930 season. Stoner was actually sent to Fort Worth of the Texas League in July of 1929 and he had a 1.98 ERA there over the rest of the season. The Pirates purchased his contract on September 12th and he was due to report the following spring. Stoner had his share of troubles during Spring Training in 1930, suffering a bad cold, followed by a sore arm that bothered him into the regular season. On May 13th, having pitched just 5.2 innings in relief over five appearances for the Pirates with three runs allowed, he was sent outright back to Fort Worth. Stoner pitched one more partial season in the majors with the 1931 Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 6.59 ERA in 13.2 innings, before returning to the minors in June, where he remained through the 1932 season. He played semi-pro ball at the age of 40 in 1939 in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma. He had an average fastball according to reports, but his curveball was above average and he had good control of his pitches. Stoner was not a strikeout pitcher, topping out at 66 during the 1924 season in Detroit. He finished with a 50-57, 4.76 record in 1,003.2 innings over 111 starts and 118 relief games. He had 45 complete games and one career shutout, along with a 374:299 BB/SO ratio. His real name was Ulysses Simpson Grant Stoner. The nickname “Lil” came from his younger sister who couldn’t pronounce Ulysses as a kid.

Terry Turner, third baseman for the 1901 Pirates. He had a 17-year big league career that started with two games for the 1901 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1900 at 19 years old, playing for Greenville of the Interstate League. He moved around a lot in 1901, first playing in an independent league, then playing for a team in Punxatawney. The Pirates picked him up in August of 1901 and gave him a brief trial while starting third baseman Tommy Leach was out of action for a week. He had three hits in seven at bats, but that wasn’t good enough for him to stick around. He had a nice showing during his debut that earned a spot in the local headlines. He collected three hits and handled all five chances in the field on August 25th against the Cincinnati Reds on the road. He had a bit of trouble in his second game, committing two errors and one misplay during a rundown play, while also going 0-for-3 at the plate. He was pinch-hitter for in the ninth by light-hitting backup catcher George Yeager. During his brief time with Pittsburgh, he was referred to as Clarence, while the crowd called him Cotton Top, a nickname that stayed with him. He was also said to have been playing for the Punxsutawney team and the independent Ashtabula team from Ohio, so there was definitely some mystery surrounding his brief time with Pittsburgh. A quick look at the records shows that he played third base for Punxatawney just two days before his big league debut. According to Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, Turner left the team after his second game, which was played at home in Exposition Park. It was said that he had trouble playing on the grass field because he was used to playing on an all dirt infield. It was later reported that he signed with Columbus of the Western Association on August 12th, making his contract with the Pirates no good, though owner Dreyfuss said that he wouldn’t give up his rights to Turner. Despite the objection, Columbus is where he ended up until his next trip to the show. Columbus moved to the American Association in 1902 and Turner hit .293 with 37 extra-base hits in 127 games. In 1903, he batted .310 in 126 games, with 70 runs, 24 doubles, nine triples, three homers and 23 steals.

Turner returned to the majors in 1904 with the Cleveland Indians (then called the Naps), and before he left town, he would play a still-standing team record of 1,619 games. He played 15 seasons in Cleveland before finishing his career in 1919 with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1904, he played 111 games as the team’s starting shortstop, hitting .235 with 41 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs. In 1905, Turner played a career high 155 games and put up a .265 average, to go along with 49 runs, 16 doubles, 17 steals, and career highs of 14 triples, four homers and 72 RBIs. In 1906, he batted .291 in 147 games, with career bests of 85 runs, 170 hits and 27 doubles, to go along with 65 RBIs and 27 steals. He followed that up with a 130-point drop in his OPS in 1907, as he hit .242 with 20 doubles, seven triples, no homers and 19 walks. He saw limited time in more of a utility role in 1908, then was starting at shortstop in 1909 when a broken finger in July caused him to miss the rest of the year. Just two games after his season ended, Neal Ball completed the second unassisted triple play in Major League history, and the first one in 31 years (Paul Hines), playing in place of Turner.

In 1910, Turner played 150 games, after getting into 113 games combined during the previous two years. He hit just .230 that season, with 71 runs, 33 RBIs, 31 steals and 53 walks. The stolen base total was his career high, while the walks were a career high at that time, but he would top that mark soon after. In 1911, he batted .252 in 117 games and split his time between third base, second base and shortstop. He had 59 runs, 16 doubles, nine triples and 29 steals. In 1912, Turner hit a career best .308 in 103 games, with 54 runs, 33 RBIs and 19 steals. An ankle injury that season cost him a month of time. In 1913, he batted .247 in 120 games, while seeing work at all three infield spots again. He scored 60 runs, had 44 RBIs and a career best 55 walks. In 1914, Turner hit .245 in 121 games, with 43 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs, 17 steals and 44 walks. He played just 75 games in 1915, hitting .252 with 35 runs, 14 doubles and 14 RBIs. Another broken finger cost him time that year, and it happened after going 0-for-9 in a 19-inning game. He reached triple digits in games for the final time in 1916, batting .262 in 124 games, with 52 runs, 15 doubles, 38 RBIs and 15 steals. In 1917, Turner hit just .206 in 69 games, with .507 OPS. He rebounded a bit in limited work in 1918, posting a .613 OPS in 74 games. During his lone season in Philadelphia with the A’s, he batted .189 in 38 games. He actually began the year with Cleveland as a utility infielder, but quit in early June without playing any games. He finished his career back in Columbus in 1920.

Turner was a career .253 hitter who finished with 699 runs scored and 1,499 hits. He hit just eight homers his entire career, with only one his final 13 seasons, and that one was an inside-the-park home run. He is credited with being one of the best defensive players of all-time, putting up 20.1 dWAR during his career, which ranks 52nd best among all players/positions. His 5.4 dWAR in 1906 is rated as the best defensive season in baseball history. He was a shortstop that season, but he also did well at third base and second base during his career. Turner made 728 starts at shortstop, 589 at third base and 238 at second base.

Moose McCormick, outfielder for the 1904 Pirates. McCormick debuted at an advanced level of pro ball, playing at 21 years old in the Class-A Eastern League, where he hit .308 in 44 games for Providence. He hit .363 with 105 runs, 24 doubles, 15 triples, five homers, 116 RBIs and 25 steals in 122 games during his second season of pro ball in 1903 while playing for Jersey City of the Eastern League. Moose (his real first name was Harry) was signed by the Giants for the 1904 season and played there through early August, hitting .266 in 59 games, with 15 extra-base hits. The Pirates acquired him in a three-team deal on August 8th that saw them give up young right fielder Jimmy Sebring. McCormick finished the year in Pittsburgh, playing the corner outfield spots, where he hit .290 with 25 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs in 66 games. On December 20, 1904, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a five-player deal. Before ever reporting to the Phillies, he retired from baseball for three seasons, though his possible retirement from baseball wasn’t completely unexpected at the time and it was factored in to the deal, which appeared at first to be a one-sided trade in favor of the Phillies. Despite announcing his retirement from baseball, he actually played during the 1905 season for an independent team, York of the Tri-State League, who paid him $300 for two weeks of work to help them try to win the league pennant. He also played for York for an even shorter time in 1906. He also played football and basketball during that time, which is one of the reasons the Pirates were said to have been eager to get rid of him, figuring he was going to get hurt at some point.

After not playing at all during the 1907 season, McCormick agreed during the 1907-08 off-season to return to the Phillies, where he hit .091 in 11 games through early July of 1908. He was then sold to the New York Giants, where he was to be used as a pinch-hitter. He ended up being more than that by the end of the year, hitting enough to play corner outfield regularly over the final 40 games of the season. McCormick hit .302 with 32 runs, 16 doubles and 31 RBIs in 73 games for the Giants that year. In 1909, he batted .291 with 32 extra-base hits, 49 walks and 68 runs scored in 121 games, then retired again for two more years. He returned to the Giants in 1912 for his final two seasons in the majors, seeing a limited bench role each year. He had a .909 OPS in 45 plate appearances over 42 games in 1912, then hit .275 with 15 RBIs in 86 plate appearances over 57 games in 1913. He was a good hitter at getting on base, but didn’t have any power or speed, and he played average defense. In his five seasons in the majors, which spanned a ten-year period, he was a .285 hitter over 429 games, with 165 runs, 94 extra-base hits and 132 RBIs. He finished his pro career with two seasons (1914-15) as the player-manager for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Class-A Southern Association. McCormick batted .332 with 36 extra-base hits in 113 games in 1914.

Jack Easton, pitcher for the 1894 Pirates. He played three seasons in the minors prior to making his Major League debut with the Columbus Solons of the American Association in September of 1889. At 22 years old, Easton went 14-10, 2.35 in 222 innings spread over three teams in the Ohio State League in 1887. One of those teams was in Sandusky, where he spent part of 1888 playing in the Tri-State League (no stats available). He also played in that same league for Lima in 1888, then stayed in league for the 1889 season with Springfield. While no stats are available for that season, the newspapers reported that he was considered to be the most promising pitcher in the Tri-State League when he accepted contract terms from Columbus on September 19, 1889 to finish out the season, which was later extended to agreeing to a deal for the following season as well. Easton made one start and three relief appearances in his first big league trial, pitching a total of 18 innings, while posting a 3.50 ERA. Despite that success, he walked 21 batters during that time, while picking up just seven strikeouts. It was still enough to keep him around, especially with more MLB jobs available in 1890 thanks to the addition of the Player’s League. Easton went 15-14, 3.52 in 255.2 innings in 1890 with the Solons, striking out a career high 147 batters. He threw 23 complete games and also finished off eight games in relief. He then had an 8-14, 4.59 record in 198 innings in 1891 pitching for two different teams, splitting his time between the Solons and the St Louis Browns of the American Association. He was actually released by Columbus in late July, then signed with St Louis about a week later and posted a 5.10 ERA in 47.2 innings. The Browns released him after a month and then he finished the season back in Columbus for two more starts.

The 1891 season proved to be the final year of the American Association, but Easton followed the Browns to the National League after he was transferred from the Columbus roster following the team folding. St Louis wasn’t planning on keeping him, but pitcher John O’Brien, who was expected to be one of their top starting pitchers, died on March 11, 1892 of pneumonia at 24 years old, so Easton was signed to fill his place. He won his only two decisions in 1892, starting twice and pitching three times in relief, before he was cut from the team in June. Easton returned to the minors for the rest of 1892 after being released, playing briefly for Minneapolis of the Class-A Western Association, while also seeing time at the lower level Wisconsin-Michigan League with Green Bay. He then spent the entire 1893 season with Chattanooga of the Class-B Southern Association, where he had a 5-3 record and pitched 15 games, while batting .155 in 38 games, seeing some outfield and infield starts as well. He returned to the majors with the Pirates for the 1894 season. Just days before he signed with the Pirates, it was announced that he was going to play second base and occasionally pitch for Grand Rapids of the Western League, but on May 29th he was signed and practicing with the Pirates, showing a strong fastball during that first day. He pitched just three games with Pittsburgh, losing his only start on June 19th. Three days earlier, the Pirates (who actually went by the name “Braves” in 1894) let Easton pitch for a local amateur team from Climax, PA. His final game came on July 7th when he pitched the last seven innings, allowing seven runs in a 12-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was released on July 14th, one of three pitcher let go by the Pirates/Braves that day. Easton pitched a total of 19.2 innings for Pittsburgh, in what would be his last time in the majors. He had a 4.12 ERA and just one strikeout.

Easton returned to the minors for three more years before retiring from baseball, playing for four teams in three leagues/levels during that time. His final big league stats in five seasons show a 26-29, 4.12 record in 522.1 innings. He completed 46 of his 57 starts, and also made 19 relief appearances. You can find his references back in the day mostly under his given name, John. According to Baseball-Reference’s similarity scores, the most similar pitcher all-time to Easton is Mike Dunne who came over from the Cardinals in the Tony Pena trade and went 13-6, 3.03 as a rookie for the Pirates in 1987.