This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 31st, Carson Bigbee, and the Pirates Trade for DiMaggio

One trade of note and four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

The Trade

On this date in 1945, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded veteran outfielder Vince DiMaggio to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Al Gerheauser. DiMaggio spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, where he hit .255 with 79 homers and 367 RBIs in 670 games. He was 32 years old at the time of the trade and coming off a 1944 season in which he hit .240 with 50 RBIs in 109 games. Gerheauser was a 27-year-old left-hander, with two years of Major League experience. He had a record of 8-16 with a 4.58 ERA in 182.2 innings in 1944 for a Phillies team that went 61-92. The Pirates would get two seasons out of their new pitcher before trading him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in December of 1946. Gerheauser went 7-12, 3.93 in 67 games for the Pirates, 17 of those appearances coming as a starter. DiMaggio ended up hitting .257 with 19 homers and 84 RBIs for the Phillies in 1945, but by the middle of the 1946 season his big league career was done. He finished up with six seasons in the minors. Both teams got 2.2 WAR from their new players, and minimal trade value, making it an even swap.

The Players

Carson Bigbee, left fielder for the Pirates from 1916 until 1926. He attended the University of Oregon where he played baseball and ran track, before making his pro debut in 1916 with Tacoma of the Northwestern League. After hitting .360 with 50 stolen bases in the first three months of the season, the Pirates purchased his contract for $5,000. He was called “the next Ty Cobb”, which was as high of a praise as you could get at the time. The Pirates were bidding against the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs to acquire the talented 21-year-old outfielder. Bigbee was purchased on July 27th, but the deal called for him to remain with Tacoma until the end of the Northwestern League season. He ended up joining the Pirates a little earlier, playing his first game on August 24th, just hours after he arrived in Pittsburgh. Bigbee would stick on the Pirates roster until the end of the 1926 season, which was also the end of his Major League career. He hit .250 that rookie season in 43 games, splitting his time between second base and left field. He scored 17 runs and had just three RBIs in 164 at-bats (178 plate appearances). His first full year in the big leagues in 1917 saw him hit .239 with 21 RBIs and 19 steals in 133 games for a Pirates team that finished with a 51-103 record. From that season on, his average went up in each of the next five years to a high point in 1922.

Bigbee saw 81 starts during the 1918 season, which was shortened a month due to the ongoing war. He batted .255 in 92 games, with 47 runs scored and a 42:10 BB/SO ratio. He played five different positions in 1917, but he was almost exclusively in left field during the 1918 season. He was a full-time player for the first of five straight seasons in 1919, batting .276 in 125 games, with 31 steals and 61 runs scored. He saw just a slight improvement in the average/OBP in 1920, while stealing 31 bases again, but he hit with some power for the first time. Bigbee had a .391 slugging percentage that year, 63 points above his mark from the previous season.  He hit .280 with 78 runs scored, 19 doubles, 15 triples, four homers and 45 walks. His 1921 season was even better, as he topped 200 hits for the first time, scored 100 runs, had 17 triples and a .323 batting average. He added another 36 points to his slugging percentage, while posting a .791 OPS. He stole 21 bases that year, but he was caught stealing 20 times. Bigbee struck out 19 times in 684 plate appearances, then improved on that strikeout rate the next year.

In 1922, Bigbee had his biggest year. He hit .350 with 215 hits, a team leading 99 RBIs and he scored 113 runs. He set career highs with 29 doubles, five homers and 56 walks, while adding 15 triples. He struck out just 13 times in 691 plate appearances. We posted a detailed recap of that season here in our Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons series. Just like his career slowly rose to one peak season, it declined each year down to a low point in 1926. Each year after 1922 he saw his batting average and his playing time decrease. He sill had a good season in 1923, hitting .299 with 54 RBIs, 43 walks 78 runs scored and a .718 OPS in 123 games, but that was his last season seeing regular time. He played 89 games in 1924, hitting .262 with 42 runs, 15 RBIs and 15 steals, while collecting just five extra-base hits (four doubles and a triple). During the World Series winning season in 1925, he hit .238 in 66 games, with a career worst .572 OPS. He was used off of the bench four times in the World Series, including game seven when his eighth inning pinch-hit double tied the score 7-7 off of the great Walter Johnson. Bigbee would score the go-ahead run three batters later. In his final season, he hit .221 in 42 games, putting up a .646 OPS in 72 plate appearances without a single strikeout (he ended his career with 93 straight plate appearances without a strikeout).

After being released by the Pirates in August, 1926, he played two more seasons in the minors before retiring. He was part of the ABC Affair as it became known in the following days. The Pirates veterans had a lot of trouble in 1926 with Fred Clarke being on the bench and acting as a second manager, sending mixed signals to the team. The team had a secret vote to oust Clarke, but once word got out that Bigbee, Babe Adams and Max Carey were the ringleaders, all three of them were let go immediately. Carey and Adams had been with the team even longer than Bigbee, so it was a major shakeup and extremely unpopular with the fanbase. Bigbee finished his Pirates career with a .287 average over 1,147 games. He stolen 182 bases, drove in 324 runs and scored 629 times. He led National League left fielders in assists three times (1920-22), and in 1921 he led them in fielding percentage as well. His older brother Lyle was a pitcher for the Philadelphia A’s in 1920 and the Pirates in 1921, making them one of 26 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates.

Tom Sheehan, pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He had a short minor league career, playing partial seasons in 1913 and 1915, before making his big league debut in July of 1915. He is credit for going 1-3 in 49.1 innings over eight games, with 40 runs allowed, while playing for the Streator Boosters of the Class-D Illinois-Missouri League in 1913 at 19 years old. He tried to catch on with Des Moines of the Western League in March of 1914, but they shipped him to Dubuque of the Class-B Three-I League, and then they released him in late April. He was with Peoria of the Three-I League to start 1915, going 6-5, 2.94 in 104 innings before making his Major League debut in mid-July. He had a 4-9, 4.15 record in 102 innings as a 21-year-old rookie for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1915, making 13 starts and two relief appearances, with eight complete games and a shutout. He then went 1-16 for an A’s team that had a 36-117 record in 1916. Sheehan didn’t even have the worst record for that team. Fellow starter Jack Nabors, went 1-20 in 40 appearances, thirty as a starter. That team actually got 29 wins from just two pitchers, while the other 18 hurlers that took the mound that year combined for a 7-70 record. Sheehan didn’t pitch bad either, posting a 3.69 ERA in 188 innings, with eight complete games in 17 starts (and 21 relief outings).  He returned to the minors in 1917, and except for a brief stint with the 1921 New York Yankees, he spent the rest of the next seven seasons down on the farm.

Sheehan joined Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association in 1917, where he went 15-10 and threw 239 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed 3.28 runs per nine innings. He served in the military in 1918 during WWI, then went 17-3, 1.68 in 182 innings for Atlanta in 1919. With Atlanta again in 1920, he had a 26-17 record and pitched 375 innings, while allowing 2.54 runs per nine innings. He joined the Yankees and made 12 appearances through late June, posting a 5.45 ERA in 33 innings. He went six weeks without pitching before he was sent to St Paul of the Double-A American Association as part of a three-team trade that also included the Boston Red Sox. Sheehan went 5-for-8 with three runs at the plate for the Yankees. He finished the season by going 7-9, 3.19 in 110 innings for St Paul, where he also spent the next two full seasons. During the 1922 season, he went 26-12, 3.01 in 332 innings. In 1923, he went 31-9, 2.90 in 335 innings, earning another shot at the majors. Sheehan pitched all of 1924 for the Cincinnati Reds, going 9-11, 3.24 in 166.2 innings over 14 starts and 25 relief appearances. He returned to Cincinnati for the following season, but pitched poorly by posting an ERA of 8.03 in 29 innings over ten games. The Pirates traded for him on May 30, 1925, giving up first baseman Al Niehaus. Sheehan finished the year pitching 23 times in relief for the Pirates with a 2.67 ERA in 57.1 innings. The Pirates won their second World Series title that year, although he didn’t appear in the series against the Washington Senators.

Sheehan started off slow in 1926, before the Pirates released him outright to Kansas City of the American Association on June 5th. He was 0-2, 6.68 in 31 innings over two starts and seven relief appearances. He would spend the next 8 1/2 years pitching in the minors before retiring as a player, including four full seasons and two partial seasons with Kansas City. He finished out the 1926 season going 9-11, 3.89 in 162 innings. In his first full season back in the minors (1927) he went 26-13, 3.62 and threw 331 innings. He won 21 games and threw 271 innings in 1933 during his second season with Hollywood of the Double-A Pacific Coast League. Then at age 40 in 1934, he threw 234 innings for Hollywood, in what would end up as his last season as a player. Sheehan later managed eight years in the minors and one partial season in the majors, going 46-50 for the 1960 San Francisco Giants. He also did coaching and scouting work over the years. He won 259 minor league games and another 17 in the majors. The Pirates had another Tom Sheehan in their history who was no relation. The original Tom Sheehan was a third baseman who played for the 1906-07 Pirates.

Chick Brandom, pitcher for the 1908-09 Pirates. He started in the minors as an 18-year-old in 1905, playing for the Muskogee Reds of the Class-C Missouri Valley League. He had an 8-11 record in 172 innings over 22 appearances, allowing 4.71 runs per nine innings (ERA isn’t available). He played for three different teams during the 1906-07 seasons, and one of those teams played in two different cities during his time with the club. The 1906 season was split between two teams in the Class-D Kansas State League, a drop in competition. He went 16-5 and threw 173 innings in 23 games between the two stops, which led to him moving up three levels for the next season. For Kansas City of the Class-A American Association in 1907, Brandom went 6-7 in 18 appearances (available stats are limited). He then had a 17-13 record in 1908, while pitching 252 innings. His contract was purchased by Pittsburgh for a hefty price at the time ($5,000) on August 4, 1908. A week prior to his purchase, Brandom out-pitched Hall of Famer Rube Marquard in two games, which earned him the title as the best pitcher in the American Association.

Brandom was allowed to finish the 1908 season with Kansas City before joining the Pirates, which he did on September 2nd, one day before his big league debut. In that first game, he allowed one run in a complete game victory over the Cincinnati Reds. It ended up being his only start that season for the Pirates. He pitched five innings of relief on September 7th, then threw another three innings on the 18th. Brandom allowed just one earned run in 17 innings pitched for the Pirates that season. In 1909, he pitched well when he got his chances, but he was far down on the depth chart of a very strong Pirates pitching staff that had seven strong starters and threw a lot of complete games. He had a 1.11 ERA in 40.2 innings, making two starts and 11 relief appearances. The Pirates went on to win their first World Series title, although he didn’t pitch in the series against the Detroit Tigers. It was later reported that the Pirates were in the middle of working out a deal to sell him to a minor league team in August of 1909, only to have manager Fred Clarke need him to start a game on August 7th, which he won 2-1 over Boston, throwing a complete game. Clarke reportedly wired owner Barney Dreyfuss and told him not to sell Brandom. He ended up pitching just three times in relief over the rest of the season after that start.

Brandom returned to Kansas City of the American Association on April 9, 1910, after failing to make the Pirates out of Spring Training. He remained there for two seasons, going 20-15 in 337 innings, before struggling badly in 1911 with a 1-14 record. His ERA numbers for those years aren’t available, but he allowed nearly twice as many runs per nine innings during the latter season. He pitched sparingly during the 1912 season, appearing with Kansas City before an early season sale to a team from New Orleans of the Southern League. He pitched two seasons in the Double-A International League (Jersey City in 1913 and Buffalo in 1914) before finishing his pro/big league career in the Federal League in 1915, which was considered to be a Major League at the time. Brandom had an 8-16 record in 227.2 innings with Jersey City, allowing 4.63 runs per nine innings. With Buffalo, he went 10-10 in 187.1 innings and allowed 4.47 runs per nine innings, which helped him get his last big league shot. It also helped that there were 24 big league teams instead of 16 at the time. He went 1-1, 3.40 in 16 appearances and 50.1 innings in his one season for Newark, mostly getting used in a mop up role during one-sided losses. He managed one year in the minors with Corpus Christi in 1926. His ERA with the Pirates during his two season was 0.94 in 57.2 innings, and he had a 2-0 record. Brandom was a knuckleball and spitball pitcher, who was known as a top notch fielding pitcher. His first name was Chester.

Fred Kommers, outfielder for the 1913 Pirates. In his first year in the minors, Kommers appeared briefly with Little Rock of the Southern Association (no stats available). That was a Class-A club, just two levels away from the majors at the time. By the next year, he was playing Class-D ball (lowest level at the time) in the Illinois-Missouri League, where he hit .349 with 75 runs in 114 games. He remained in that same league the next year, changing clubs from the Havana Pefectos to the Beardstown Infants. Kommers hit .319, with 64 runs, 20 doubles, 11 triples, two homers and 34 steals in 118 games that next season, but he still couldn’t advance beyond the lowest level of the minors. He was with Galesburg of the Class-D Central Association in 1910, hitting .268 with 17 doubles and four homers in 107 games. He finally moved up to Class-B in his fifth season of pro ball, spending 1911 with Springfield/Decatur of the Three-I League. He batted .254 in 131 games in 1911, then improved to a .287 average over 130 games in 1912. Kommers  was hitting .355 after 61 games for Springfield in 1913 when the Pirates traded for him. They originally sent cash and the loan of outfielder Everett Booe for the remainder of the season, but there was an issue getting Booe through waivers to be sent to the minors (he was claimed by St Paul of the American Association), so the Pirates substituted outfielder Maurice Farrell instead, a new recruit who never signed with or played for the Pirates.

Kommers made his big league debut on June 25th in center field during a 9-1 loss in St Louis. He would play 40 games that season for the Pirates, all in center field, and he hit .232 with five doubles, four triples, 22 RBIs and 14 runs scored. He is credited with going 1-for-7 in stolen base attempts. On August 11th, five days after his final game with the Pirates, he was released to Columbus of the Double-A American Association as partial payment for pitcher George McQuillan, who joined the Pirates a month earlier. Kommers hit just .214 in 20 games with Columbus to finish out the season. When the Federal League became classified as a Major League in 1914, he was one of several players to jump their contract with Columbus to join the new league. He spent 1914 playing for two different teams in the league, seeing time with St Louis Terriers (76 games) and the Baltimore Terrapins (16 games). He hit .294, with 38 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs in 92 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. He made starts in all three outfield spots that year. Kommers played two more years in the minors (1917 and 1921) before retiring as a player. He had to play independent ball in 1915 because no team was willing to sign him after jumping his contract the previous year. It was a problem that kept him from playing minor league ball during many of those missing years from 1915-1921. His final big league records show a .272 average in 132 games, with 52 runs, 15 doubles, 12 triples, four homers and 64 RBIs.

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