One major trade and four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date. Before we get into that stuff, current Pirates infielder/outfielder Hoy Park turns 26 today. He will get a bio when he’s a former player.
On this date in 1979 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Jerry Reuss to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Rick Rhoden. Reuss was a 29-year-old starting pitcher with ten season in the majors at the time of the trade, the last five with the Pirates. He won 48 games between the 1974-76 season, but his last two years with Pittsburgh weren’t up to previous standards. He went 10-13 in 1977, and then pitched only 82.2 innings in 1978. He had shoulder problems in 1978 and was unhappy about his role for 1979, so he asked for a trade. Rhoden was a 25-year-old, with a 42-24, 3.40 record in 118 games (91 as a starter) over three full and two partial seasons in Los Angeles.
Rhoden got off to a slow start with the Pirates, needing shoulder surgery in 1979 after just one outing. He finally came back healthy for an entire season in 1981 and won 72 games over his six full seasons in Pittsburgh. After the 1986 season, the Pirates traded Rhoden to the New York Yankees in a six-player deal that brought a young Doug Drabek back to Pittsburgh. The trade worked out just as well for the Dodgers, as they got 86 wins and 1,407 innings pitched out of Reuss over nine seasons. He made five starts during the 1981 playoffs, the last one being a complete game win over the Yankees in game five of the World Series, which was won by the Dodgers. As far as value by WAR, the Pirates got 20.5 out of Rhoden in eight seasons (includes his one game in 1979), while the Dodgers got 18.4 out of Reuss in nine seasons, making it a fairly even deal, though the Dodgers got nothing by releasing Reuss, while Rhoden brought back a Cy Young winner.
Bobby Del Greco, outfielder for the Pirates in 1952 and 1956. He was a Pittsburgh, Pa. native, who signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1950 as a 17-year-old. He had a quiet debut season playing for Salisbury of the Class-D North Carolina State League, where he batted .251 with 12 extra-base hits in 64 games. The next season he hit .302 with 37 doubles, six triples and four homers in 123 games playing Class-C ball for the Hutchinson Elks of the Western Association. The Pirates brought him right up to the majors to start the 1952 season, playing him 90 times in center field that year. He hit .217 with 20 RBIs, 38 walks and 34 runs scored in 385 plate appearances for a team that finished with a 42-112 record. Del Greco spent six weeks of the season (August/September) playing for Toronto of the Triple-A International League, before returning to the Pirates for the last two weeks of the season. He spent the next three seasons in the minors before making the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1956. In 1953, he played the entire year for Toronto and hit .237 in 129 games, though his 74 walks gave him a .372 OBP. He had 64 runs, 15 doubles, ten triples, six homers, 48 RBIs and nine steals. The 1954 season was spent with three different affiliates of the Pirates. He struggled with the two upper level teams (New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association and Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League), but he did well for Williamsport of the Eastern League, putting up a .308 average in limited time. He combined to hit .244 in 93 games, with 42 runs, 20 extra-base hits and 40 walks.
Del Greco spent the entire 1955 season with Hollywood (The PCL was equivalent to Triple-A at the time, but not classified that way). While there he hit .287 in 159 games, with 43 extra-base hits, 21 stolen bases, 70 walks, 73 RBIs and 86 runs scored, leading to his return to Pittsburgh in 1956. He played just 14 games for the 1956 Pirates prior to being traded to the St Louis Cardinals in mid-May, along with pitcher Dick Littlefield, in exchange for young center fielder Bill Virdon. Del Greco hit .200 with two homers before the trade. He was a regular for the Cardinals immediately after the trade, but during the next three years, he played a total of 40 Major League games. He finished off the 1956 season by hitting .215, with 29 runs, 23 extra-base hits and 32 walks in 102 games for the Cardinals, who then traded him to the Chicago Cubs in April of 1957. Del Greco split the 1957 season between the Cubs and New York Yankees, hitting .234 in 28 games. He ended up playing 123 games for Montreal of the International League that season, where he put up an .807 OPS. The Yankees used him sparingly off of the bench in April/May of 1958, giving him six plate appearances in 12 games. He spent the rest of the year with Richmond of the International League, posting a .796 OPS in 100 games. He played for his fourth International League team in 1959 after being purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Yankees. He hit .286 with 48 doubles, 21 homers and an .898 OPS in 152 games for Buffalo. That performance proved that he was ready to be a regular contributor in the majors.
After spending all of 1959 in the minors, Del Greco was a regular with the Kansas City A’s and Philadelphia Phillies from 1960-63, playing at least 100 games each season. He never hit for a high average, but due to a strong walk rate and a little power, he managed to put up a .772 OPS during the 1960 season with the Phillies and the 1962 season with the A’s. He hit just .237 in 100 games in 1960, but it came with 16 doubles, four triples, ten homers and 54 walks. In 1961, he batted.259 with five doubles and two homers in 41 games for the Phillies before being traded to the A’s, where he hit .230 in 74 games, with 34 runs, 20 extra-base hits and 30 walks. In 1962, Del Greco played a career high 132 games, hitting .254 with 61 runs, 21 doubles, nine homers, 38 RBIs and 49 walks. He slumped in 1963, batting .212 in 121 games, with 40 runs, 16 extra-base hits and 40 walks, leading to a .631 OPS. He spent the 1964 season back with Toronto, where he hit .255 in 134 games, with 19 doubles, 17 homers and 97 walks. After spending all of 1964 in the minors, Del Greco got into another eight games to start the season with the 1965 Phillies, which ended up being his last season in the majors. He went 0-for-4 at the plate during that stint, then spent the rest of the year with Arkansas of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he had an .851 OPS in 120 games. His pro career ended the next year when he split the 1966 season between two Pacific Coast League teams (Indianapolis and San Diego). In nine big league seasons, Del Greco played 731 games, hitting .229 with 271 runs scored, 95 doubles, 42 homers, 169 RBIs and 271 walks. He played over 2,000 games during his 17 seasons of pro ball.
Jack Ferry, pitcher for the 1910-13 Pirates. He was the first graduate of Seton Hall University to play in the Major Leagues since John Hayes in 1876. Ferry debuted in pro ball in 1909 at 22 years old, seeing limited time with the Jersey City Skeeters of the Class-A Eastern League (highest level of the minors at the time). He had a 1-5 record in seven games and 38 innings pitched that season. He was purchased by the Pirates in August 1910 from Jersey City, where he had an 8-11 record in 203 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but it’s known that he allowed 3.55 runs per nine innings. Owner Barney Dreyfuss went to see Ferry pitch on the recommendation of scout Bill Murray, then completed to deal to sign him on August 15th. Ferry was supposed to finish the season with Jersey City, but the Pirates sent for him on August 31st. He made three starts and three relief appearances in 1910 for the Pirates, posting a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings. The 1911 season was his best in the majors. Ferry went 6-4, 3.15 in eight starts and 18 relief appearances, pitching a total of 85.2 innings. On August 8th, he gave up ten hits and a walk in a complete game shutout, as the Pirates beat the Philadelphia Phillies 13-0 that day. He pitched just 11 games in 1912 and had control problems with 23 walks, compared to just ten strikeouts, although his record didn’t show those issues, as he went 2-0, 3.00 in 39 innings. Ferry allowed four runs while recording just one out in his season debut on May 4th, then pitched a total of five innings over the next 3 1/2 months. When he finally got a chance to pitch somewhat regularly at the end of the season, he responded with a 2.18 ERA in 33 innings. That included a complete game shutout of the Cincinnati Reds on August 31st.
Ferry was used only four times in relief early in 1913 before he was sent to the minors, and he never returned to the big leagues. He allowed three runs over five innings during his final big league time. He ended up winning 14 games and throwing 224.2 innings for Columbus of the Double-A American Association in 1913, despite not joining the team until being released to them on June 14th. At the time of his departure, the local papers quoted multiple sources who said that Ferry had the greatest curveball in the game at the time, but his problem was stamina related and he wasn’t strong enough to pitch deep into games regularly. There was also word that the Pirates would get a player back from Columbus for Ferry, which eventually turned out to be veteran pitcher George McQuillan. In the end, the Pirates also had to give up pitcher Eddie Eayrs and outfielder Fred Kommers to get McQuillan. Ferry also spent the 1914-15 seasons in Columbus, before he finished his playing career in 1916 with the Shreveport Gassers of the Texas League. He is credited online with pitching briefly for Columbus of the Nebraska State League in 1914, but those stats belong to a pitcher named Guy Ferry. Jack Ferry had an 8-8, 3.83 record in 138.2 innings in 1914, followed by a 7-11, 2.68 record in 157.2 innings in 1915. His 1916 stats are limited, and show him with a 5-5 record in 13 games. He went 10-6, 3.02 record in 160.2 innings over 47 games (14 starts) for the Pirates. His brother Alfred “Cy” Ferry, pitched two seasons (1904-05) in the American League.
Art Weaver, catcher for the 1903 Pirates. Weaver began his pro career in 1901, splitting the season between Omaha of the Class-A Western League and Cedar Rapids of the Class-D Three-I League, where he played 108 games and had a .228 average. He remained in Cedar Rapids (then a Class-B level) in 1902 and hit .278 in 118 games. He made his Major League debut for the St Louis Cardinals that September, hitting .182 in his 11 late season games. He was purchased by Pittsburgh from the St Louis Cardinals in June of 1903 after hitting .245, with a .547 OPS in 16 games as their backup catcher. He would play 11 games behind the plate for the Pirates and five games at first base. The Pirates acquired him on June 3, 1903 to help replace injured catcher Harry Smith. Weaver joined the club on June 4th, but he didn’t play his first game until June 26th, when he took over for starter Ed Phelps late in a one-sided loss. When Phelps was injured on a slide late in the first game of a doubleheader on July 4th, Weaver took over for the rest of the day. Just two days later, he was starting at first base for five games in a row when the Pirates were down to eight healthy position players for a short time. He was with the team until the end of the season, but did not participate in the World Series. The Pirates actually let him go home for the winter on September 26th at his own request after the final regular season game. He played just two games after August 10th, catching the second game of doubleheaders on September 19th and September 21st, with both games being limited to six innings, both called early on account of darkness. Weaver hit .229 in 16 games for the Pirates, with three RBIs and eight runs scored.
Weaver was released by the Pirates on February 20, 1904, and it was said at the time that he would play with the Chicago Cubs, who only had one catcher on their payroll at the time. He ended up spending the season in the minors playing for Minneapolis of the Class-A American Association (highest level at the time), where he hit .245 with 14 doubles and one triple in 106 games. Weaver’s next big league experience was 28 games for the 1905 St Louis Browns, where he was on Opening Day, but he ended up back in the American Association with Minneapolis and Indianapolis to finish the season. He had a rough time in St Louis at the plate, batting .120 with a .292 OPS. Weaver played 20 games for Indianapolis in 1906, and another 110 games Terre Haute of the Class-B Central League. He batted .247 with 12 doubles and four triples that year. In 1907, he played for his hometown Wichita Jobbers of the Class-C Western Association. He hit .280 in 119 games that year. That performance led to another shot at the majors, as he went to Spring Training trying to win a job with the 1908 Chicago White Sox.
Weaver played 15 games for the 1908 White Sox, and he did just slightly better than his previous big league stint, batting .200 in 35 at-bats. He debuted in early June that year and played his final game in early September, but almost all of his playing time came during a three-week stretch in July. That ended up being his final season in the majors. He played a total of 11 seasons in the minors, finishing his pro career in 1914. He played for five different teams during his final six seasons in the minors, though he never played for more than one team in any season. His online stats are missing 1911 when he was with Denver of the Class-A Western League twice. He had to leave the team early in the season due to asthma, which was said to hamper his play in the majors at times, but he returned as a backup later in the year. He is currently listed as being 6’1″, but there were claims at the time (circa 1903) that he was over 6’2″ and the tallest player in baseball. Despite the height, he was listed at 160 pounds. That slim frame showed in his power, with just three homers (all in the minors) credited to him in over 1,000 pro games. While I couldn’t find it referenced in online newspapers, he is said to have had the nickname “Six O’Clock” because of his tall skinny frame looking like the hands on a clock at six o’clock.
John Ganzel, first baseman for the 1898 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball with New Castle of the Class-C Interstate League in 1896 at 22 years old. No stats are available from that year, but the season earned him a promotion two levels in 1897 to play for the Grand Rapids Bob-o-links of the Class-A Western League. That year he hit .322 in 125 games, with 87 runs, 25 doubles, ten triples and eight homers. Two seasons after making his pro debut, he made his Major League debut with the 1898 Pirates. The Pirates purchased his contract on September 15, 1897 on the same day they acquired Sam Leever, one of the greatest pitchers in team history. Ganzel’s stay with the Pirates wasn’t long, because a month into the schedule he was sold to the Detroit Tigers of the Western League. For Pittsburgh, Ganzel hit .133 in 45 at-bats, although he struck out just one time in 50 plate appearances. He had six singles, four walks and five runs scored. When he was released to Detroit on May 27th, the local papers noted that he was hampered by a Spring Training injury, but he could return to the Pirates in 1899. On September 25th, it was noted that he was rejoining the team with 12 games left. It was said a week later that Detroit paid $600 to acquire him, with the understanding that the Pirates could buy him back for $400 at the end of the season, which they did, though he never played for them at the end of the year. The Pirates acquired Jimmy Slagle and Jimmy Williams from Kansas City of the Western League at the end of the 1898 season and they agreed to send three players back to Kansas City. Ganzel was eventually named as one of those three players, along with pitcher Charlie Hastings and young infielder Jesse Hoffmeister.
Ganzel stayed with Kansas City until May of 1900 when he made it back to the majors with the Chicago Orphans (Cubs), coming to the team in a trade for three players. He batted .275, with 29 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs in 78 games during the 1900 season. The Cubs sent him to the New York Giants in a three-for-one deal in January of 1901, with Jack Doyle going back to Chicago. Ganzel hit .215, with 42 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 66 RBIs in 138 games (out of 141 team games) in his only season with the Giants. After batting .366, with 37 doubles, 15 triples and seven homers in 124 games with Louisville of the American Association in 1902, he ended up back in New York with the Highlanders in the rival American League. Ganzel had his best season in the majors in 1903, batting .277, with 35 extra-base hits, 71 RBIs and 62 runs scored in 129 games. He batted .260, with 50 runs, 32 extra-base hits and 48 RBIs in 130 games in 1904 for the Highlanders, finishing with a .686 OPS that was 28 points lower than the previous year.
Ganzel spent the next two years as a player-manager for Grand Rapids of the Central League, before making it back to the majors again. In 1906, he hit .323 with 27 doubles, 11 triples and 13 homers in 138 games, which earned him a job with the Cincinnati Reds. He batted .254 with 38 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs and 61 runs scored in 145 games for the Reds in 1907. He led the National League that year with 16 triples. Ganzel managed the Reds in 1908 and also played 112 games, hitting .250, with 32 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs. His only other big league managerial job was with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League in 1915 when he took over at the end of the year and led them to a 17-18 record during his tenure at the helm. Ganzel also spent another 14 seasons managing in the minors. After leaving the Reds in 1909, he was a player-manager for two seasons with Rochester of the Eastern League. He remained with the team through early 1915, but only played during the 1912 season. He’s credited online with playing for two Class-D teams in 1914, but he was with Rochester all season and those stats belong to a player named Wes Ganzel. He played his last minor league game at age 44 in 1918, and 21 years later he managed his last game. In seven big league seasons, he hit .251 in 747 games, with 281 runs, 104 doubles, 50 triples, 18 homers, 336 RBIs and 48 stolen bases. He had a brother Charlie, who played 14 seasons in the majors, and a nephew named Foster “Babe” Ganzel, who played two years (1927-28) for the Washington Senators.