There have been nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Richard Rodriguez, pitcher for the 2018-21 Pirates. He was signed by the Houston Astros as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 at 20 years old. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League, where he had a 2.00 ERA in five starts. In 2011, Rodriguez pitched just four games in the Gulf Coast League, where he allowed four runs in 3.2 innings. In 2012, he pitched for Greeneville of the short-season Appalachian League, posting a 3.90 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. He also made one start for Lexington of the Low-A South Atlantic League, giving up one run in three innings. The 2013 season was split between Quad Cities of the Low-A Midwest League and Tri-City of the short-season New York-Penn League. He made 30 appearances that year, all in relief, finishing with a 4.47 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. He was much better at the lower level, putting up a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings, compared to a 7.33 mark with Quad Cities. In 2014, Rodriguez played for High-A Lancaster of the California League, Double-A Corpus Christi of the Texas League, and Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League. He combined to go 2-2, 3.62 with 67 strikeouts in 59.2 innings over 34 appearances. He made five appearances in the Dominican winter league that off-season. He started off 2015 with Fresno of the PCL (an affiliate change), going 5-0, 2.57 in 42 innings over 23 games. He was sold to the Baltimore Orioles mid-season, and split the rest of the year between Double-A Bowie of the Eastern League (1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings) and Triple-A Norfolk of the International League (3.54 ERA in 20.1 innings). He pitched briefly in the Dominican again that winter.
In 2016, Rodriguez spent the entire season with Norfolk, where he went 6-2, 2.53 with 81 strikeouts in 81.2 innings over 48 appearances. That winter he had a 2.13 ERA in the Dominican, with 24 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. In 2017, he spent the majority of the season with Norfolk again, compiling a 2.42 ERA, ten saves and 80 strikeouts in 70.2 innings over 42 outings. He pitched five September games for the Orioles and allowed nine runs in 5.2 innings. Rodriguez signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent that winter, while he was posting a 4.22 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 21.1 innings in the Dominican. Except for five scoreless innings with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, the entire 2018 season was spent with the Pirates in the majors. He had a 4-3, 2.47 record in 63 appearances, with 88 strikeouts in 69.1 innings. In 2019, Rodriguez went 4-5, 3.72 in 65.1 innings, with 63 strikeouts and 72 appearances. He ranked eighth in the National League in games pitched. In the shortened 2020 season, he went 3-2, 2.70 with four saves and 34 strikeouts in 23.1 innings over 24 games. He was the closer for the Pirates until the trading deadline in 2021, going 4-2, 2.82 with 14 saves in 38.1 innings. The Pirates traded him to the Atlanta Braves on July 30, 2021 in exchange for Bryse Wilson and minor league pitcher Ricky DeVito. Rodriguez had a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings over 27 games of middle relief work. Despite some success and two years remaining before free agency, he was allowed to leave via free agency at the end of the year. He has not signed as of yet for 2022.
Cory Luebke, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was drafted three times before he finally signed. The first time was by the Pirates, who took him out of high school in the 18th round in 2004. The Texas Rangers selected Luebke in the 22nd round two years later out of Ohio State. He then moved up to the 63rd overall pick in 2007 (still considered a first round pick that year), taken by the San Diego Padres. He signed quickly and split that season over three levels between short-season ball and High-A, combining for a 3.07 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over nine starts and six relief outings. Luebke went 6-9, 5.12 in 128.1 innings in 2008 while splitting the year between Fort Wayne of the Low-A Midwest League and High-A Lake Elsinore of the California League. Despite the overall record, he did well with Fort Wayne with a 2.89 ERA in ten starts. Things went downhill in the California League, which is very hitter-friendly. He had a 6.84 ERA there in 72.1 innings. He completely turned things around in 2009, playing the year between Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League. He had a 2.78 ERA in 129.2 innings, despite spending more than half of the year in the California League, where he had a 2.34 ERA in 14 starts. Luebke started off 2010 with a 2.40 ERA in San Antonio over eight starts and two relief appearances. He moved up to another high offense league with Portland of the Pacific Coast League, where he posted a 5-0, 2.97 record in nine starts. That led to a September call-up to the Padres, and a 4.08 ERA in 17.2 innings.
Luebke spent the entire 2011 season with the Padres, making 17 starts and 29 relief appearances. In 139.2 innings, he went 6-10 with a 3.29 ERA and 154 strikeouts. At the end of Spring Training in 2012, he signed a four-year deal for $12,000,000, which turned out to be a great decision on his part, though that’s only true due to very bad luck that came his way shortly after signing. Luebke did great in five April starts in 2012, posting a 2.61 ERA in 31 innings, before his career was completely derailed. He missed the rest of the season with a strained elbow, followed by two Tommy John surgeries and another injury, that combined cost him all of 2013, 2014 and most of 2015. His 2015 season consisted of seven rehab appearances, which totaled seven innings pitched, giving him a total of 38 innings pitched over the four years of his contract. The Pirates signed him as a minor league free agent in February of 2016 and he made the Opening Day roster as a reliever. A hamstring injury quickly put him out of action, and then he was released on June 26th after pitching 11 games with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. In nine appearances with the Pirates, he allowed nine runs over 8.2 innings. He finished the 2016 season in the minors for the Miami Marlins, after signing there on July 7th. Luebke actually lasted just four games and six scoreless innings before his season wrapped up on July 16th. He then signed with the Chicago White Sox for 2017, before retiring in May of 2017 after pitching five innings in Triple-A. In his big league career, he had a 10-13, 3.52 record in 197 innings over 25 starts and 39 relief appearances.
Michael McKenry, catcher for the 2011-13 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2006 out of Middle Tennessee State, and he made his Major League debut in September of 2010. McKenry had a rough debut in short-season ball with Tri-City of the Northwest League, hitting .216 in 66 games in 2006, though 21 extra-base hits helped push him up to a .642 OPS. He moved up to Low-A with Asheville of the South Atlantic League in 2007 and had an outstanding year, hitting .287 with 79 runs, 35 doubles, 22 homers, 90 RBIs and 66 walks in 113 games. McKenry played in the Hawaiian winter league after the season and hit .281 with nine doubles and five homers in 26 games. He moved up to High-A Modesto in 2008, where he hit .258 with 28 doubles, 18 homers, 75 RBIs and 55 walks in 111 games, while playing in the high-offense California League. He tore up the Arizona Fall League after the season, putting up a .369 average and a 1.216 OPS in 28 games. McKenry had a similar season with Double-A Tulsa of the Texas League in 2009, batting .279 with 25 doubles, 12 homers, 50 RBIs and 54 walks in 102 games. He struggled in winter ball that off-season in the Dominican, posting a .405 OPS in 15 games. He then had average stats in Triple-A the next year, while playing in a hitter-friendly park for Colorado Springs. He batted .265 in 99 games, with 23 doubles, ten homers and 49 RBIs. McKenry went 0-for-8 at the plate in six games for the Rockies that September, during his first big league trial.
McKenry was traded to the Boston Red Sox prior to the start of the 2011 season. He played in Triple-A with Pawtucket of the International League, before the Pirates picked him up in early June after a rash of injuries depleted their catching ranks. He was hitting .274 with five doubles and three homers in 29 games before joining Pittsburgh in a cash deal. McKenry caught 58 games for the 2011 Pirates. He hit .222 with 12 doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in 180 at bats. He remained with the team for two more seasons and served in a platoon role in 2012. That year he hit .233 with 25 runs, 14 doubles, 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 88 games. He had a similar role through late July of 2013, before a knee injury ended his season and his time with the Pirates. In his final game with the Pirates, he collected four hits and drove in two runs. He was not doing well prior to that game, finishing up the 2013 season with a .217 average and a .610 OPS, which went up 53 points in that final game. In three seasons in Pittsburgh, he finished with a .226 average, 51 runs, 32 doubles, 17 homers and 64 RBIs in 187 games.
McKenry became a free agent after the 2013 season and rejoined Colorado for two more seasons. He batted .315 in 57 games in 2014, with 23 runs, nine doubles, eight homers and 22 RBIs. In 2015, he hit .205 in 58 games, with 20 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 17 RBIs. McKenry played his final three big league games for the 2016 St Louis Cardinals. His 2016 season was a wild ride. He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers in February, then got released in May. He signed with the Cardinals and spent two months there before being released. On July 23rd, he signed with the Atlanta Braves, who sold him to the Milwaukee Brewers. Before the calendar year was up, he became a free agent and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for 2017. McKenry spent the entire 2017 season in Triple-A, before retiring as a player. He is currently an announcer for the Pirates. He was a .238 hitter in 311 big league games, with 94 runs, 48 doubles, 29 homers and 103 RBIs. He hit three triples in his big league career and all of them came within an 11-day span in 2015.
Bruce Aven, outfielder for the 2000 Pirates. He was a 30th round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of Lamar University in 1994, who made it to the majors by August of 1997 season. Aven batted .332 with 24 extra-base hits in 61 games after signing, while playing in short-season ball with Watertown of the New York-Penn League. He then put up big power numbers during his next two seasons. He hit 23 homers for Kingston of the High-A Carolina League in 1995, to go along with a .261 average, 70 runs, 23 doubles, 69 RBIs and 15 steals in 130 games. He then hit .304 with 96 runs, 31 doubles, 24 homers, 81 RBIs, 22 steals and a .911 OPS in 1996, while spending a large majority of the season with Double-A Canton-Akron of the Eastern League. In 1997, he began the year at Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association, where he batted .287 with 27 doubles, 17 homers, 77 RBIs and 50 walks in 121 games. Aven debuted with the Indians on August 27, 1997 and he hit .211 in 13 games. He missed all but five Triple-A games during the 1998 season due to elbow surgery. He spent 1999 with the Florida Marlins after being selected off waivers on October 28, 1998. He hit .289 with 19 doubles, 12 homers, 70 RBIs and 44 walks in 137 games during his only season with Florida.
In December of 1999, the Marlins traded Aven to the Pirates in exchange for outfielder Brant Brown. Aven hit .250 with 11 doubles, five homers and 25 RBIs in 72 games for the Pirates, seeing time at all three outfield spots, before they shipped him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in early August. He played just nine games with the 2000 Dodgers, where he hit .250 with two homers. He made brief appearances for the Dodgers in 2001 (21 games) and Indians in 2002 (seven games) before finishing his career in the minors in 2003 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was also briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies in the minors during the 2002 season after the Indians traded him for pitcher Jeff D’Amico on June 25th. Aven did well during his limited time in 2001, putting up a .333 average and a .926 OPS for the Dodgers. Surprisingly, he didn’t do so well in the minors that year while playing in a high offense park/league, putting up a .726 OPS in 86 games with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. He went 2-for-17 with four walks during his brief time in the majors in 2002. In his big league career, he hit .273 with 85 runs, 33 doubles, 20 homers and 103 RBIs in 259 games. Aven stole just six bases in the majors and only attempted ten steals total. In the minors, he had 59 steals over his first four years, then stole just 13 bases over his last five seasons.
Brian Hunter, first baseman for the 1994 Pirates. He was an eighth round pick in 1987 at 19 years old, selected by the Atlanta Braves out of Cerritos College in California. It’s a school that has produced 16 big league players from the draft, but just one (Joel Adamson in 1990) since the 1987 draft when Hunter and Bret Barberie both made it. Hunter didn’t have the best start to his pro career, batting .231 with a .295 OBP in the short-season Appalachian League with Pulaski during his first season. However, he put up big numbers when moved up to A-ball in 1988, spending a large majority of the year with Burlington of the Midwest League, as well as 13 games with Durham of the Carolina League. That year he hit .268 with 20 doubles, 25 homers, 80 RBIs and 52 walks, while putting up an .819 OPS in 130 games. He was in Double-A by 1989, hitting .253 with 19 doubles, 19 homers and 82 RBIs in 124 games with Greenville of the Southern League. Hunter remained in Greenville for more than half of the 1990 season, hitting .241 with 14 homers. He added another five homers in Triple-A, but it came with a .197 average in 43 games with Richmond of the International League. He earned a trip to the majors with a decent start to the 1991 season in Richmond, batting .260 with ten homers and 30 RBIs in 48 games. For the 1991 Braves, Hunter batted .251 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 97 games. He finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He batted .333 with a homer in the NLCS against the Pirates that year, then he hit just .190 in the World Series, which was won by the Minnesota Twins.
In 1992, Hunter hit .239 with 34 runs, 13 doubles, 14 homers and 41 RBIs in 102 games. The Braves made it to the World Series again in 1992 and he went 1-for-5 in both the NLCS and the World Series, which they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays. Hunter struggled in 1993, hitting .138 with a .353 OPS in 37 games, which caused him to spend part of the season back in the minors with Richmond. The Pirates acquired him in November of 1993 in exchange for minor league infielder Jose Delgado. Hunter played 76 games with the Pirates, hitting .227 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs, prior to being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in late July for minor league outfielder Micah Franklin. The trade happened shortly before the strike ended the season, so Hunter played just nine games for the Reds that year. He finished as the Pirates team leader in home runs that season. Hunter hit .215 with one homer in 40 games for the 1995 Reds, who then released him early in Spring Training of 1996. He signed with the Seattle Mariners nearly two full months later and batted .268 with seven homers in 75 games during the 1996 season.
Hunter was released at the end of the 1996 season and signed with the Cincinnati Reds, who kept him at Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association in 1997, despite a .281 average, with 36 doubles and 21 homers. After spending the entire 1997 season in the minors, he reemerged in the majors with the 1998 St Louis Cardinals, where he hit .205 with four homers in 62 games. He ended up back with the Atlanta Braves in 1999, hitting .249 with six homers and 30 RBIs, while playing a career high 114 games. He came off of the bench in 74 of those contests. He went 2-for-18 in the playoffs, as the Braves lost the World Series to the New York Yankees that year. He began the 2000 season with the Atlanta Braves, but after just two games, he was lost on waivers to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he hit .210 with seven homers in 85 games. That ended up being his final big league season. Hunter played in the minors until 2002, seeing time in Mexico and independent ball during that time. He hit 142 homers over 13 seasons in the minors. He was a .234 Major League hitter with 187 runs, 90 doubles, 67 homers and 259 RBIs in 699 games. He attempted just 13 stolen bases in the majors and he was successful only four times. During most of Hunter’s career, there was another National League outfielder named Brian Hunter. They were never teammates, but they both played for Seattle, Philadelphia and Cincinnati during the same time period.
Mel Queen, pitcher for the Pirates in 1947-48 and 1950-52. He was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1938 and he spent most of his first seven seasons of pro ball in the minors. He pitched just 33 Major League games for New York over parts of four seasons. He debuted at 20 years old, pitching a total of 44 innings for two Class-D clubs, spending most of the time with Dover of the Eastern Shore League. He had a 4.50 ERA that first year. In 1939, Queen spent the entire year with Amsterdam of the Canadian-American League, where he went 14-9, 3.15 in 186 innings. He stayed in Class-C ball for almost all of 1940 and had success with Akron of the Middle Atlantic League, going 18-8, 2.70 in 210 innings. When he pitched for Class-B Augusta of the South Atlantic League that year, he had a 12.38 ERA in three games. In 1941, Queen put up a strong showing for Class-A Binghamton of the Eastern League, with a 14-5, 1.69 record in 165 innings. He also pitched briefly in Double-A (the highest level at the time) with Newark of the International League and Kansas City of the American Association, combining for a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings. In 1942, he played for the same three teams, but also threw in 5.2 scoreless innings for the Yankees over four appearances in April. He didn’t return later because he didn’t do so well in the minors that year, finishing with a 4.67 ERA in 108 innings. The 1943 season was split between Kansas City and St Paul, also of the American Association. Queen’s stats are incomplete that year, but the available ones show a 7-12, 3.43 record in 160 innings, with more walks (100) than strikeouts (90). Despite those results, he was back in the majors in August of 1944 for a bigger trial.
Queen spent the early part of 1944 back with Newark, where he went 9-7, 3.18 in 133 innings before joining the Yankees in August. He went 6-3, 3.20 in 81.2 innings over the final two months of the 1944 big league season, completing four games, including a 14-0 shutout over the Philadelphia Athletics on September 4th. That performance would have likely led to more during the 1945 season, but he was inducted into the Army in February of 1945 and wasn’t released until June of 1946. Queen went right back to the majors in the second half of the 1946 season, and he had a 6.43 ERA in 30.1 innings over 14 appearances. In five early season appearances for the 1947 Yankees, he had a 9.45 ERA in 6.2 innings. The Pirates purchased his contract that July and put him in the starting rotation, where he went 3-7, 4.01 in 74 innings over the rest of the season. In 1948, he spent most of the year in the Pirates bullpen and struggled. In 25 games (eight starts), he had a 6.65 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched. Queen spent the entire 1949 season in Triple-A, where he won 22 games for Indianapolis of the American Association. The Pirates put him in their rotation for 1950 and stuck with him most of the way, despite a final record of 5-14, with a 5.98 ERA in 120.1 innings. In 1951, he set career highs in wins (seven), innings pitched (168.1) and games pitched (39), with 21 of those appearances in the starting role. Queen had two very poor outings to start the 1952 season and then was sent to the minors, where he pitched another four years before retiring. His final big league game on May 1st saw him give up seven runs over two innings. Later that same day, the Pirates released him to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League.
At 36 years old in 1954 with Hollywood, Queen went 16-8, 3.20 in 200 innings, then ended up pitching just three more games in 1955, getting released in late May after allowed five home runs in six innings of work. With the Pirates in five seasons, he went 19-36, 5.33 in 432.1 innings over 64 starts and 49 relief appearances. He was 8-4, 4.27 in 124.1 innings during four years with the Yankees. He won 134 games during his minor league career. His son, Mel Queen Jr., pitched seven seasons in the majors and held numerous other jobs in baseball up until his passing in 2011.
Clyde McCullough, catcher for the 1949-52 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1935 at 18 years old and made his Major League debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1940. McCullough did well in the lower levels, debuting with a .263 average and 42 extra-base hits in 130 games during his first season while playing with Lafayette of the Evangeline League. He batted .306 with 32 extra-base hits in 71 games in 1936, playing all but one game that year with Akron of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League. He put up a .329 average and 21 extra-base hits in 72 games for Binghamton of the Class-A New York-Penn League in 1937. McCullough moved up to Double-A (top level at the time) in 1938, seeing time with Newark of the International League and Kansas City of the American Association, along with 16 games back with Binghamton. He combined between the three stops to hit .234 in 90 games, with 17 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs. Before joining the Cubs late in 1940, he hit .277 with 38 extra-base hits in 108 games for Kansas City in 1939. He made the Cubs Opening Day roster in 1940, but his first big league stint did not last long. With Chicago, McCullough pinch-hit once in April, then returning mid-September for eight more games, finishing with a .154 average and a .483 OPS in 31 plate appearances. He put up big numbers between his big league stints that year, batting .324 with 53 extra-base hits in 145 games for Buffalo of the International League.
McCullough earned a spot with the Cubs in 1941 and he hit .227 with nine homers and 53 RBIs in 125 games. That ended up being his career high for games, homers and RBIs during his 15-year big league career. He batted .282 in 109 games in 1942, with a career high 22 doubles, along with five homers, 31 RBIs and .729 OPS. He saw his average drop to .237 in 1943, while his work was limited to 87 games. He finished that year with a .596 OPS. After playing four seasons in the majors, he enlisted in the Navy and missed the 1944-45 seasons, although he was back in time to play in the 1945 World Series, where he struck out in his only plate appearance. In his first season back from the war, McCullough hit .287 in 95 games, with 18 doubles, five triples, four homers and 38 RBIs. His .755 OPS was a career high for the first nine years of his career. In 1947, he batted .252 in 86 games, with 19 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs. He was named to the 1948 All-Star game despite playing just 69 games that year, while compiling a .209 batting average and seven RBIs in 188 plate appearances. The Pirates acquired him in a four-player deal during December 1948, with two players going each way.
McCullough played four seasons in Pittsburgh, catching about 60% of the games over the 1949-51 seasons. He had a .237 average and a .665 OPS in 91 games during his first season with the team. In 1950, he hit .254 with 16 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs in 103 games. It was the only time in his final 12 seasons that he topped 100 games. In 1951, he hit a career high .297 with 39 RBIs. His .806 OPS was also his best, but it didn’t lead to future success. McCullough batted .233 with one homer in 66 games in 1952. His OPS dropped 233 points from the previous year. Pittsburgh traded him back to the Cubs after the 1952 season in exchange for pitcher Dick Manville and cash. McCullough made the All-Star team in 1953 again, this time playing just 77 games all year, while hitting .258 with six homers and 23 RBIs. He played with the Cubs until 1956, playing a total of 89 games over his final three seasons, which included 49 total starts. He did well in his limited time in 1954, hitting .259 with a .767 OPS, but he followed that by hitting .198 with no extra-base hits in 81 at-bats in 1955. His final season saw him bat just 22 times in 14 games. McCullough finished his pro career in the minors in 1957. While with the Pirates he hit .258 in 352 games with 19 homers and 109 RBIs. In his career, he hit .252 with 308 runs, 121 doubles, 52 homers and 339 RBIs in 1,098 games. He was a solid defensive catcher, who threw out 44% of base runners during his career.
Dazzy Vance, pitcher for the Pirates on April 16, 1915. He would eventually go on to win 197 games and make the Hall of Fame in 1955, but during his Major League debut with the Pirates he did not pitch well. Vance started the third game of the 1915 season, lasting just 2.2 innings against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up three runs on three hits and five walks before being pulled. Later that same season, he was picked up by the New York Yankees, where he went 0-3 in eight games. He next pitched in the majors in 1918 with the Yankees and did not fare well in two games. He wouldn’t pick up his first win until 1922 with the Brooklyn Robins when he was 31 years old. In his first 11 seasons with Brooklyn he won a total of 186 games, three times topping 20 wins. Vance led the National League in strikeouts for seven straight seasons (1922-28) and thrice led the league in ERA. He pitched in the majors until 1935 and including his minor league win totals, he won 330 pro games. Vance had the second most wins of any pitcher in Pirates history after they left the team, trailing only Burleigh Grimes. We posted a One Who Got Away article detailing Vance’s time with the Pirates.
Vance debuted in pro ball in 1912 at 21 years old, playing with York of the Class-D Nebraska State League, where he went 11-15 in 36 appearances. In 1913, he played in the same league with Superior, where his limited available stats show a similar season to 1912, going 11-14 in 35 appearances. He was in the same league in 1914 with Hastings, where he went 17-4 with 194 strikeouts, before joining St Joseph of the Class-A Western League. He finished off the year by going 9-8, 2.96 in 134 innings, with 108 strikeouts, giving him 302 strikeouts on the year. Vance went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1915 and made a strong first impression in a Pirates vs Pirates exhibition game, which is basically all they played for most of that spring. He tossed three shutout innings in his spring debut. The next game didn’t go as well, and he was facing the younger hitters on the team, seeing players who were vying for bench spots. Vance gave up seven runs on 14 hits in five innings. He gave up one run over four innings on March 24th versus the starting lineup players, but he was also helped by an outstanding triple play that was inches away from breaking the game open. Just two days later, he pitched five more innings and allowed three runs against the younger players. Jumping teams again, he faced the starting lineup again on March 29th and somehow allowed just one run in four innings, despite five hits and five walks. On April 3rd he pitched against a minor league team from Nashville and threw a complete game, limiting them to two runs. Ten days later in the final exhibition game of the spring, which was just three days before his lone Pirates start, he pitched a complete game against a minor league team from Indianapolis, losing 2-1.
Five days after Vance lost his lone start for the Pirates, they optioned him to St Joseph. It turned out that he was only with the Pirates on tryout, with the team having the option to purchase him for $5,000 from St Joseph. After his first game big league game, St Joseph’s owner asked the Pirates to either pay the amount of return Vance, which they did. The Pirates still held the option to purchase him for the same amount later that same season, but they never did. In his first game back in the minors, Vance threw a three-hit shutout on April 25th. In between his time with the Pirates and Yankees, he was reportedly purchased by the Chicago White Sox, but never made an appearance for them. It turned out that the announcement was made prematurely and he ended up being purchased by the Yankees a week later on July 31st. After going 17-15, 2.93 in 264 innings back with St Joseph, he debuted with the Yankees on August 28th. He lost all three of his starts in New York, but he didn’t give up an earned run in his five relief appearances. Vance had a 4.50 ERA in 50 innings for Columbus of the Double-A American Association in 1916. He remained in the American Association with Toledo in 1917, though he ended up spending a little more time that year with Memphis of the Class-A Southern Association. He combined to go 8-14, 2.19 in 193 innings.
In 1918, Vance compiled an 11-11 record while playing with Memphis and Rochester of the International League. He also saw time with the Yankees, who let him pitch two games in July. He allowed five runs in 2.1 innings during his third trial in the majors. In 1919, Vance moved to the Pacific Coast League, where he pitched for Sacramento, posting a 10-18, 2.82 record in 294 innings. The 1920 season was split between Memphis and New Orleans of the Southern Association, which resulted in a 16-17 record and 284 innings pitched over 45 appearances. With New Orleans in 1921, Vance had a 21-11, 3.52 record in 253 innings. Brooklyn purchased his contract in September of 1921 and he joined the team in 1922. At 31 years old, Vance finally established himself in the majors, going 18-12, 3.70 in 245.2 innings. He led the National League with five shutouts and 134 strikeouts. He was even better in 1923, putting up an 18-15, 3.50 record in 280.1 innings, with a league leading 197 strikeouts. Those were strong years, but Vance blew them out of the water in 1924 when he went 28-6, 2.16 in 308.1 innings, picking up 262 strikeouts. He led the league in ERA, while setting career highs and leading the league in wins, complete games (30), strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP. He also set a career high in innings. He had 127 more strikeouts than the next highest total in the league (Burleigh Grimes). That season earned him the league MVP award.
In 1925, Vance went 22-9, 3.53 in 265.1 innings. He led the league with four shutouts and 221 strikeouts, while finishing fifth in the MVP voting. In 1926, he dropped down to a 9-10, 3.89 record in 169 innings, yet he still led the league with 140 strikeouts. In 1927, Vance rebounded a bit for a 16-15, 2.70 record in 273.1 innings. He led the league with 25 complete games and 184 strikeouts. The 1928 season was another outstanding effort. He went 22-10, 2.09 in 280.1 innings. The ERA was his career best and led the league as well, while he also led the league with four shutouts and 200 strikeouts. In 1929, Vance went 14-13, 3.89 in 231.1 innings. His 126 strikeouts ranked third in the league, breaking his string of seven straight strikeout titles. Offense was up all around baseball in 1930 to near record levels. Vance went 17-15, 2.61 in 258.2 innings. He led the league in ERA and shutouts (four). His ERA that year was 2.36 runs better than league average, and he finished second with 173 strikeouts.
Vance began to show his age in 1931 at 40 years old, but he was still effective. He went 11-13, 3.38 in 218.2 innings, with 150 strikeouts. He went 12-10, 4.20 in 1932, with 103 strikeouts in 175.2 innings. He was traded to the St Louis Cardinals prior to the 1933 season, then put together a 6-2, 3.55 record in 99 innings over 11 starts and 17 relief outings. The Cincinnati Reds selected him off of waivers in February of 1934, but he ended up back with the Cardinals mid-season after they took him off of waivers. He went 1-3, 4.56 in 77 innings that year, with six starts and 19 relief appearances. The Cardinals released him during Spring Training in 1935 and he re-signed with the Dodgers to finish his career later that year. He had a 4.41 ERA in 51 innings over 20 appearances. Vance ended with a 197-140, 3.24 record in 2,966.2 innings over 349 starts and 93 relief appearances. He pitched 217 complete games and he had 29 shutouts and 2,045 strikeouts. His first name was Charles, sometimes listed as Arthur Charles, but he had the Dazzy nickname (for his dazzling fastball reportedly) before he made the majors.
Jeff Pfeffer, pitcher for the 1924 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1909 at 21 years old, playing for La Crosse of the Class-D Minnesota-Wisconsin League, where he put together an 18-12 record. In 1910, he moved up to Fort Wayne of the Class-B Central League for two seasons. He went 13-16, 2.25 in 252 innings in 1910, followed by a 16-5, 2.65 record in 180 innings in 1911. Pfeffer debuted in the majors in 1911 with the St Louis Browns, who moved on from him after just two relief appearances in late April, which turned out to be a very poor decision, despite his 7.20 ERA in ten innings. He struggled with Denver of the Class-A Western League in 1912, posting a 6.66 ERA in 24.1 innings. He did much better back in the Central League that year, this time with Grand Rapids, where he went 9-9, 3.16 in 154 innings. He went 25-8 with 232 strikeouts in 290.1 innings with Grand Rapids in 1913 before returning to the big leagues with the Brooklyn Robins in late August of that season. He did better in his second big league trial, posting a 3.33 ERA in 24.1 innings, but much better things were soon ahead.
Pfeffer had a strong three-year run with the Brooklyn Robins from 1914 through 1916, though he still put up solid stats after that point. In 1914, he went 23-12, 1.97 in 315 innings over 34 starts and nine relief outings. He pitched 27 complete games and tossed three shutouts, while picking up a career high 135 strikeouts. The impressive part about that 1914 season is that Brooklyn finished the season 75-79, or in other words, they went 52-67 when he didn’t get the decision in a game. In 1915, Pfeffer had a 19-14, 2.10 record in 291.2 innings, with 26 complete games and six shutouts in 34 starts. He set a career high in wins and innings in 1916, going 25-11, 1.92 in 328.1 innings. In 36 starts, he threw 30 complete games and six shutouts. The Robins went to the World Series and he had a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings, though he was the losing pitcher in game five, which ended the series in a win for the Boston Red Sox. During the 1917 season, he went 11-15, 2.23 in 266 innings over 30 starts, with 24 complete games and three shutouts. His record shows some tough luck that season, as Hall of Fame teammate Rube Marquard had a 19-12 record with a 2.55 ERA. Pfeffer pitched just one game in 1918 after he was called into service for the Navy. He actually enlisted in December of 1917, but the call didn’t come until April. His only big league game came in July and he tossed a two-hit shutout while on a day off from Naval training. He returned to Brooklyn in 1919 and had a 17-13, 2.66 record in 267 innings, with 30 starts, 26 complete games and four shutouts.
In 1920, Brooklyn went to the World Series after a 93-win season. Pfeffer went 16-9, 3.01 in 215 innings, but he pitched just three innings in relief in the postseason, allowing one run. Brooklyn traded him to the St Louis Cardinals on June 18, 1921. At the time he was 1-5, 4.55 in 31.2 innings. For the 1921 Cardinals, Pfeffer went 9-3, 4.29 in 98.2 innings over 13 starts and five relief appearances. In 1922, he rebounded with a 19-12, 3.58 record in 261.1 innings. The 1923 season saw him go 8-9, 4.02 in 152.1 innings over 18 starts and eight relief appearances. He spent the first half of the 1924 season with the Cardinals, going 4-5, 5.31 in 78 innings over 12 starts and four relief appearances. The Pirates picked him up on waivers on July 17, 1924 after he was released by the Cardinals. Pfeffer went 5-3, 3.07 in 58.2 innings for Pittsburgh in what turned out to be his last Major League experience. He made four starts for the Pirates and 11 relief appearances. On December 13, 1924, the Pirates released him unconditionally. He played in the minors for the next five seasons until retiring at 41 years old after the 1929 season, spending the first year with San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, followed by four seasons with Toledo of the American Association. Pfeffer finished his big league career with a 158-112 record, plus he won another 130 minor league games. His career 2.97 ERA ranks 97th all-time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings in at the big league level, and he’s 47th among all pitchers who put in more than ten seasons (including partial years) in the majors. Knowing that, it’s probably a little surprising that he had just four seasons in which he finished among the top ten in the league in ERA. He put up those impressive stats despite missing all but one game during the 1918 season, right in the middle of his prime.
Pfeffer’s nickname has an odd story behind it. His older brother, who played six years in the majors, was also known as Jeff Pfeffer, though he was referred to as “Big Jeff”. The odd part about both brothers having the same name is that neither of them was named Jeff. The older Pfeffer was named Francis Xavier Pfeffer, while the young Jeff was actually named Edward Joseph Pfeffer. The local press from the day he was acquired by the Pirates off waivers said that “Big Eddie Pfeffer, who goes by the nickname Jeff like all members of the Pfeffer family…”.