This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 26th, The Sasser for Milligan Trade

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one trade of note.

The Trade

On March 26, 1988, the Pirates sent pitcher Tim Drummond and catcher Mackey Sasser to the New York Mets in exchange for first baseman Randy Milligan and minor league pitcher Scott Henion. The Pirates acquired Sasser at the 1987 trading deadline for pitcher Don Robinson. It was the first season in the majors for the 25-year-old catcher, who went 0-for-4 in two games for the San Francisco Giants, and then hit .217 in 12 games for the Pirates. Drummond made his Major League debut that previous September, getting six relief appearances. The 23-year-old pitcher had a 2.97 ERA and ten saves in 46 appearances at Triple-A in 1987 before his call-up. Henion had just turned 22 years old prior to the trade. He was a reliever in Class-A ball in his second year of pro ball. He had a 3.34 ERA and 12 saves in 54 games. Milligan was 26 years old at the time, coming off a Triple-A season that saw him hit .326 with 29 homers, 103 RBIs and 91 walks. He was a 1981 first round draft pick of the Mets, who just saw his first big league action that September.

The Pirates didn’t get much out of this trade. Henion pitched poorly in one year in High-A ball before moving on to the Montreal Expos organization for one last season. Milligan made the Opening Day roster but never got going with the bat, hitting .220 with three homers in 40 games before being sent back to the minors. In November of 1988, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Pete Blohm, who never made the majors. Milligan ended up having a nice run of four seasons in the majors with the Orioles, where he put up 11.1 WAR due to a combo of solid power and high walk numbers. Sasser ended up playing five seasons in New York, hitting .283 in 420 games. He was a decent player during that time, but his value was somewhat limited (2.3 WAR total) due to lower homer/walk numbers and mediocre defense. He eventually made in back to Pittsburgh to finish his career in 1995. Drummond never pitched for the Mets. He was one of the five pitchers sent to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Frank Viola at the 1989 trading deadline. He pitched parts of two seasons with the Twins before finishing his career in the minors in 1992.

The Players

Eric Hacker, pitcher for the 2009 Pirates. He was a 23rd round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2002 at 19 years old out of Duncanville HS in Texas. He is one of nine Major League players to get drafted out of that school, a list that also includes one-time Pirates pitcher Todd Ritchie. Hacker spent seven seasons in the minors for New York, although he missed all of 2004 and 2006 with injuries. He also made just three relief appearances during his first season of pro ball after signing late. In fact, he pitched just 102 innings totals during his first five seasons of pro ball. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2002 with 3.2 shutout innings over three games in his only action that season. In 2003, he split the year between the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island of the New York-Penn League, while spending the start of the season in Extended Spring Training. Hacker went 3-2, 2.41 in 37.1 innings, with 34 strikeouts. His 2004 season was lost due to elbow surgery. He returned in 2005 to make ten starts for Charleston of the Low-A South Atlantic League, going 5-2, 1.60 in 62 innings, with 40 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP. It was a nice short run, but then shoulder surgery followed, which kept him out of action for all of 2006.

In 2007, Hacker finally put in his first full season, and it went well at the start. He split the year between three levels, with most of his time spent back with Charleston. He had a 2.56 ERA in 95 innings before moving up to Tampa of the High-A Florida State League and had a 6.10 ERA in 38.1 innings. He also saw one relief appearance for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League and allowed two runs in 2.2 innings. He combined for a 13-5, 3.64 record and 79 strikeouts in 136 innings. He did even better in 2008 while splitting the year between Tampa (nine starts) and Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League (17 starts), going 9-6, 2.43 in 144.1 innings over 26 starts, with 115 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP. He was not pitching well early in 2009, putting up a 7.88 ERA in three starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and a 4.41 ERA in three starts at Trenton. The Pirates acquired him on May 16, 2009 in exchange for pitcher Romulo Sanchez.

Hacker reported to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he went 5-5, 4.02 in 21 starts, with 82 strikeouts and a 1.56 WHIP in 116.1 innings. The Pirates called him up on September 8th and he made his Major League debut two weeks later. He ended up pitching three times out of the bullpen, with all three being one-inning appearances. He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks, with one strikeout. Hacker was granted free agency after the season, then signed with the San Francisco Giants for 2010. After spending a full season in the minors, where he went 16-8, 5.05 in 29 starts for Fresno of the Pacific Coast League, he signed with the Minnesota Twins for 2011 and made two more relief appearances in the big leagues. His last MLB stint was with the 2012 Giants, where he made three relief appearances and his only big league start. Hacker then pitched six seasons in Korea, last playing pro ball in 2018. During the 2015 season, he put together a 19-5 record and threw 204 innings. In Korea, he went 61-37, 3.66 in 935.2 innings. He had a 71-50, 3.94 record in 982.2 innings in the minors. His big league career consisted of a 4.00 ERA in 18 innings over his three partial seasons.

Jack McCarthy, left fielder for the 1898-99 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1891 at 22 years old, playing for three different teams over two seasons in the New England League (no stats available), which was considered to be a Class-B league during the 1892 season. McCarthy moved up to the Southern Association to play for the Charleston Seagulls in 1893. He batted .310 in 85 games before getting his first shot at the majors that August. He spent parts of two seasons in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds (1893-94), batting .276 with 43 RBIs in 89 games. He had similar results each year, with a .709 OPS in 49 games in 1893 and a .683 OPS in 40 games in 1894. That second season was a disappointing number because offense was up all around baseball due to new rules for pitchers that heavily favored hitters as pitchers took time to adjust. McCarthy spent part of 1894 back in the New England League with Brockton, a fourth different club for him from that league. He mostly played for Indianapolis of the Western League after leaving the Reds, where he hit .362 in 76 games, with 51 extra-base hits, which included an astounding 24 triples. McCarthy played the entire 1895 season for Indianapolis (then considered to be Class-A), hitting .420 with 146 runs, 64 extra-base hits and 54 steals in 121 games. Despite that season, he spent the next two seasons back in Indianapolis. His 1896 stats are missing, but he batted .350 in 85 games in 1897, with 86 runs, 43 extra-base hits and 23 steals.

The Pirates acquired McCarthy in a seven-player trade with the Reds on November 10, 1897, in which the Pirates gave up star outfielder Mike Smith and 30-game winner Pink Hawley, while getting back five players. Part of the reason that Pittsburgh wanted McCarthy back was that Indianapolis was managed by Bill Watkins, who took over the managerial reins for the Pirates for 1898, so he was bringing in two of his own men from the 1897 season (Bill Gray was the other). McCarthy took over in left field for Smith, and while he didn’t provide the total offense that Smith did, he still hit .289 with 29 extra-base hits, 78 RBIs and 75 runs scored in 137 games during his first year in Pittsburgh (Pirates went by the name Patriots in 1898). In 1899, he improved on those numbers, hitting .306 with 109 runs scored, 69 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and 17 triples, leading to a .782 OPS. When the Pirates completed the Honus Wagner trade with Louisville on December 8, 1899, they acquired Hall of Fame left fielder Fred Clarke, leaving no room for McCarthy. Honus Wagner was a right fielder at the time and they already had Ginger Beaumont in center field. Four days after the Louisville trade, the Pirates sold McCarthy to the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) for $2,000. He would go on to play eight more seasons in the majors.

McCarthy batted .294 with 68 runs and 48 RBIs in 124 games for Chicago, then jumped to the American League for the 1901 season to play with the Cleveland Blues. He set career bests with a .321 average and a .784 OPS in 1901, though he played just 86 games after a hit-by-pitch so badly injured his knee on August 10th that he missed the final two months. McCarthy then hit .284 in 95 games during the 1902 season, collecting 45 runs, 41 RBIs and a career high 31 doubles, though he missed time with a knee injury and what was described as blood poisoning from a different injury. After starting off with a .265 average and 28 extra-base hits in 108 games in 1903, he was released by Cleveland and then rejoined the Cubs, where he stayed until a trade after the 1905 season. He finished out the 1903 season by hitting .277 with a .631 OPS in 24 games. That was followed by a .264 average in 115 games in 1904, with 36 runs, 51 RBIs and a .613 OPS. He completed three double plays from center field in a game against the Pirates on April 26th, but he was soon on the bench for the rest of the season, seeing very few starts after May 5th. McCarthy spent his final two seasons with the Brooklyn Suberbas (Dodgers) putting up vastly different results year-to-year. He hit .304 with a .698 OPS in 91 games in 1906, then dropped down to a .220 average and a .478 OPS in 25 games in 1907 to finish his career. McCarthy hit .287 in 1,087 big league games, with 171 doubles, 66 triples, eight homers, 476 RBIs, 551 runs and 145 stolen bases. All eight of his homers came while he was playing for the Pirates, despite having over 3,000 plate appearances after leaving Pittsburgh. He hit three homers at home during that time and all three were inside-the-park homers. He finished the 1907 season in the minors and played minor league ball until 1910, the final three seasons as a player-manager. He was a manager also during the 1911 season.

Morrie Critchley, pitcher for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He made his big league debut for the Alleghenys on May 8, 1882 at 32 years old. It was the fourth game in the history of the franchise, a team that started with the formation of the American Association that year. Critchley was facing a Cincinnati Red Stockings team that had just put 19 runs on the board one game earlier. He would allow seven hits and a walk but when the game ended, he had a shutout in his Major League debut. One month later, without pitching another official game, he was released by the Alleghenys. Critchley started a game on May 11th that was called due to wind/rain after four innings, with the Alleghenys leading 7-3 over the St Louis Brown Stockings. On May 18th the Alleghenys announced that he was “expelled” for visiting gambling places. The papers claimed that he was under medical treatment at the expense of the team and he frequently disobeyed the rules set up for baseball players at the time. Critchley was unable to play for any other team until his expulsion sentence was lifted. He joined the St Louis Brown Stockings in July, and made four starts for them with much different results than his game in Pittsburgh. Critchley went 0-4 and allowed 31 runs in 34 innings, striking out just two batters. Two of his starts came on back-to-back days in Pittsburgh against the Alleghenys and each ended with a 6-1 loss. He never pitched in the majors again and has no known minor league records after 1882. He was found umpiring in the summer of 1883 and by December it was stated that he recovered from a lame arm and was practicing pitching at the time in Pittsburgh with former teammate Ed Swartwood, with hopes of landing a job in 1884. However, by May he was managing a semi-pro team in McKeesport, Pa.

Critchley was already 27 years old when organized minor league ball started in 1877. He was a member of a team from Auburn, NY of the League Alliance that season. He moved on to the Hornellsville Hornells of the International Association the next year. When he joined St Louis in 1882, he was called “the once famous pitcher of the Albany nine”, a team he played for in the National Association during the 1879-1880 seasons. He gained some notoriety during his early time in Albany for his display of a curveball that he threw across the front of a building, with the late curve of the ball coinciding with the end of the building  and the ball disappearing from sight. Critchley reportedly pitched and won five games in one day, which was called a world record. He also played with Baltimore of the National Alliance in 1880. He has no records of playing in 1881, but he could be found umpiring minor league games during the season and a March article said that he was working as a bartender. He was secured by the Alleghenys by Christmas Eve, with his name first appearing attached to the team in the Christmas Day issue of the 1881 St Louis Globe-Democrat. His obituary said that he also played for teams in Rochester and “many other places”. After his playing days, he umpired a handful of Major League games during the 1884-85 seasons in the American Association. In fact, he umpired an exhibition game between the Alleghenys and Louisville Eclipse on May 30, 1882 in Pittsburgh, while still under expulsion from the team. With his birth date of 3/26/1850, he is the earliest born pitcher in franchise history. Only two position players, Bob Ferguson and Deacon White, were born prior to Critchley. He is one of just four pitchers in Pirates franchise history to win his only game pitched for the team.