This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 25th, Bob Johnson and Trevor Williams

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Cody Ponce, pitcher for the 2020-21 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015 out of Cal Poly. Ponce debuted in pro ball in the short-season Pioneer League with Helena for two starts, before finishing the season with Wisconsin of the Low-A Midwest League, where he had a 2.15 ERA in 46 innings over seven starts and five relief outings. In 2016, he spent the entire season with Brevard County of the High-A Florida State League. He had a 2-8, 5.25 record in 72 innings over 17 starts. Ponce played for Carolina of the High-A Carolina League for most of 2017, going 8-8, 3.38 in 120 innings over 22 starts. He also made three starts for Double-A Biloxi of the Southern League, posting a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings. In 2018, he spent the year with Biloxi, going 7-6, 4.36 in 95 innings over 11 starts and 18 relief appearances. Ponce was with Biloxi again to start 2019, posting a 3.29 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 38.1 innings over 27 relief appearances. The Pirates acquired him on July 29, 2019 in exchange for veteran pitcher Jordan Lyles. Ponce went to Altoona briefly for six innings over three games, then joined Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League for four starts in which he had a 5.30 ERA in 18.2 innings. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and had a 2.35 ERA and 27 strikeouts in five starts and 23 innings pitched. During the shortened 2020 season, he spent part of the year with the Pirates, going 1-1, 3.18 in 17 innings over three starts and two relief appearances. In 2021, he split the year between Indianapolis and the majors. He had a 4.71 ERA in 57.1 innings with Indianapolis, and an 0-6, 7.04 record in 38.1 innings over two starts and 13 relief outings with the Pirates. He was released in November of 2021 so he could sign to play in Japan in 2022.

Trevor Williams, pitcher for the 2016-20 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick in 2013 of the Miami Marlins out of Arizona State. The Marlins debuted him slowly, with one start in the Gulf Coast League, ten starts for Batavia of the short-season New York-Penn League, then a final outing in Low-A with Greensboro of the South Atlantic League. He combined to go 0-2, 2.38 in 12 starts, pitching just 34 innings total due to limited pitch counts. In 2014, he made 23 starts for Jupiter of the High-A Florida State League, where he went 8-6 2.79 in 129 innings.  He also made three starts for Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League, posting a 6.00 ERA in 15 innings. In 2015, Williams spent nearly the entire year in Jacksonville, going 7-8, 4.00 in 117 innings. He finished the year with three starts for New Orleans of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, posting a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. He went to the Arizona Fall League, but got traded to the Pirates in the middle of that league’s season. The Pirates acquired him for minor league pitcher Richard Mitchell, but the deal went down because the Marlins signed two front office personnel from the Pirates that off-season, which is usually frowned upon in the baseball circles. Williams was a much better prospect than Mitchell, who actually retired without notice when the Marlins didn’t assign him to a full-season team in 2016.

After Williams posted a 2.89 ERA in seven relief outings in the Arizona Fall League, the Pirates sent him to Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League to start the 2016 season. He went 9-6, 2.53 in 110.1 innings before joining the Pirates in September. He missed some time early in the season, then went to High-A Bradenton of the Florida State League for one start in which he threw five shutout innings. With the Pirates, Williams went 1-1, 7.82 in 12.2 innings over one start and six relief appearances. He spent all of 2017 with the Pirates, posting a 7-9, 4.07 record in 150.1 innings over 25 starts and six relief outings. In 2018, he went 14-10, 3.11 in 170.2 innings over 31 starts, with a career best 126 strikeouts. He threw a shutout on July 23rd against the Cleveland Indians that season, which is also his only career complete game going into 2022. That game comes with an asterisk, as the game got called after six innings due to weather. Williams struggled through 2019 and missed five weeks with a side strain. He went 7-9, 5.38 in 145.2 innings over 26 starts. In the shortened 2020 season, he had a 2-8, 6.18 record in 11 games. The Pirates let him go in November of 2020 and he signed with the Chicago Cubs, where he missed five weeks due to appendicitis, then got traded to the New York Mets on July 30, 2021. He went 4-2, 5.06 in 58.2 innings with the Cubs, and he had a 3.06 ERA in 32.1 innings over three starts and seven relief games for the Mets. He opened the 2022 season with the Mets. At the time of this write-up, he had a 35-40, 4.41 career record in 626.2 innings over 109 starts and 21 relief appearances.

Wei-Chung Wang, pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an international amateur free agent in October of 2011 at 19 years old out of Taiwan. It was determined that he needed surgery and the initial deal was voided, which set up something interesting following the 2013 season. Wang missed the 2012 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, then pitched in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, where he went 1-3, 3.23 in 47.1 innings, with 42 strikeouts. Since his initial deal was voided, he was eligible for the Rule 5 draft after one season instead of the usually four-year wait. The Milwaukee Brewers selected him and held on to him all year. He was clearly not ready for the majors at the time, with disastrous results in 17.1 innings over 14 games in 2014, finishing with a 2.19 WHIP and a 10.90 ERA. They put him on the disabled list to help him get through the season, so he was also able to post a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings over three levels of the minors. After the season, he made up more time by making six starts in the Arizona Fall League, putting up a 2.74 ERA in 23 innings. Wang spent the 2015 season with Brevard County of the High-A Florida State League, going 10-6, 3.54 in 139.2 innings. He also made one start for Colorado Springs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, throwing six shutout innings in that game.

In 2016, Wang spent most of the year with Biloxi of the Double-A Southern League, going 6-5, 3.52 with 91 strikeouts in 107.1 innings over 19 starts. He also made five starts with Colorado Springs and had a 4.85 ERA in 26 innings. In 2017, he switched to relief full-time and pitched 47 games for Colorado Springs, finishing with a 6-2, 2.05 record in 57 innings. He rejoined the Brewers for one game in July and then all of September, posting a 13.50 ERA in 1.1 innings over eight games. He faced just nine batters total. He played in Korea in 2018, returning to the starting role with a 7-10, 4.26 record in 141.2 innings over 25 starts. In 2019, he signed with the Oakland A’s and split the season between Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League and 20 games in the majors. He had a 3.33 ERA in 27 innings with the A’s. The Pirates picked him up off of waivers on August 31, 2019 and he finished off the season with five relief appearances, allowing three runs in four innings. Wang did not play in 2020, then spent 2021 in China, going 3-8, 2.78 in 100.1 innings for the Wei Chuan Dragons. In his big league career, he went 3-0, 6.52 in 49.2 innings over 47 relief appearances.

Brad Clontz, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1999-2000 seasons. He had played parts of four seasons in the majors prior to joining the Pirates. He was a tenth round draft pick out of Virginia Tech by the Atlanta Braves in 1992. He was a reliever from the beginning in the minors, pitching 734 pro games without a single start. He split his draft season between Pulaski of the short-season Appalachian League and Low-A Macon of the South Atlantic League. In 28.2 innings over 21 games, he had a 3.45 ERA, three saves and 25 strikeouts. Clontz moved up to High-A Durham of the Carolina League for his first full season of pro ball in 1993. He had a 1-7 record, but it came with ten saves and a 2.75 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. He may have made his big league debut in 1994 if it wasn’t for the strike that ended the season in early August. Clontz had a 1.20 ERA and 27 saves in 45 innings at Double-A with Greenville of the Southern League, followed by a 2.10 ERA in 25.2 innings over 24 appearances with Richmond of the Triple-A International League. He was with the Braves on Opening Day in 1995 and he went 8-1, 3.65 in 69 innings over 59 appearances. He had four saves and 55 strikeouts. In 1996, Clontz led the National League with 81 games pitched. That happened despite a 5.69 ERA in 80.2 innings. The ERA is just a bit misleading because one really bad week did a number on his season ERA. Over four games in late August, he allowed 11 runs in 3.2 innings, giving up multiple runs in each appearance. The rest of the season saw him put up a 4.67 ERA in his other 77 appearances. He went 5-1, 3.75 in 48 innings over 51 games in 1997, but he got cut at the end of Spring Training in 1998.

In 1998, Clontz split the season between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, seeing Triple-A and big league time with both clubs. In the majors that year, he had a combined 6.08 ERA in 23.2 innings over 20 appearances. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Boston Red Sox two months later, but they released him on April 6, 1999 just before the season started. The Pirates picked him up two days later and he ended up pitching 56 games out of the Pittsburgh bullpen, with a career best 2.74 ERA in 49.1 innings, while picking up two saves. He began that season with Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, but he joined the Pirates after picking up seven saves in 12 appearances over the first month of the season. In December 1999, the Pirates traded Clontz to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league pitcher Robert Manzueta, who never played in the majors. Clontz was released by Arizona at the end of Spring Training in 2000, and then he re-signed with the Pirates on April 6th. He ended up struggling with his control in five April outings before the Pirates sent him to the minors, where he saw time with both Nashville and Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League. He ended up allowing 11 walks and four runs in seven innings with the Pirates that season. He underwent elbow surgery that May, and pitched just 16.2 innings total that season. While he ended up returning in 2001 for 30 games pitched, and he played until 2006, he never returned to the majors. From 2001-06, he spent time with Colorado Rockies, Braves, San Diego Padres, Rockies again, Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins. He also spent time in 2005 in independent ball with Somerset of the Atlantic League. Clontz had a knack for picking up big league wins, going 22-8, 4.34 in 277.2 innings over 272 appearances in his six big league seasons.

Bob Johnson, pitcher for the 1971-73 Pirates. He was signed by the New York Mets in 1964 as an amateur free agent and made his Major League debut with the 1969 World Series champion Mets team. Johnson attended Bradley University before signing at 21 years old, one year before the MLB amateur draft came into place. Back when the New York-Penn League was still a full-season league, Johnson debuted in pro ball with Auburn and threw 172 innings in 1964, making 17 starts and 20 relief appearances. He went 10-9, 4.13 with 146 strikeouts. In 1965, he split the season between Auburn and Double-A Williamsport of the Eastern League, combining to go 10-2, 3.63 in 139 innings, with 20 starts and three relief appearances. Johnson spent the 1966 season with Williamsport and Triple-A Jacksonville of the International League. He went 9-6, 3.51 in 146 innings, while striking out 140 batters. He pitched as a starter for Williamsport, but all of his work with Jacksonville came in relief. He was pitching well early in 1967 with Williamsport when a motorcycle accident on June 2nd mangled his left leg. A newspaper article from the day said that the injury may end his career. While the injuries were serious, Johnson was able to return later that season. He finished 3-1, 1.02 with 53 strikeouts in 53 innings. While he didn’t lose as much time as feared in 1967, he missed all of the 1968 season serving a stint in the military. He was back to baseball in 1969, splitting the year between Double-A Memphis of the Texas League, where he pitched great, and a brief early season stint in Triple-A with Tidewater of the International League, which did not go well. In three starts and 11 relief appearances for Tidewater, he had a 6.00 ERA in 33 innings. He combined to go 13-5, 2.37 in 167 innings, with 161 strikeouts. The Mets called him up in September and he pitched 1.2 scoreless innings over two appearances.

Johnson was traded to the Kansas City Royals in December of 1969 in a one-sided deal that also included Amos Otis going to New York, while the Mets only received one year from veteran third baseman Jim Foy in the deal. Almost exactly a year later, the Pirates acquired him from Kansas City in a six-player deal that went well for both teams. Johnson spent all of 1970 in the majors and pitched over 200 innings with the Royals during his only season there, going 8-13, 3.07 in 26 starts and 14 relief appearances, while striking out 206 batters. After the trade, he became a part of the Pirates rotation during the World Series winning season in 1971. He made 27 starts (four relief outings) and had an overall record of 9-10, 3.45 in 174.2 innings. He started and won game three of the NLCS, going up against the great Juan Marichal. In the World Series, Johnson started game two and took the loss in Baltimore.

In 1972, Johnson started the year in the Pirates rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after an 0-3, 4.60 start in his first eight games. He thrived in the new role, going 4-1 with three saves the rest of the way while lowering his ERA to 2.96 in 115.2 innings by the end of the season. In 1973, he pitched 50 games (two starts), posting a 3.62 ERA and four saves in 92 innings. In the off-season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for a young outfielder named Bill Flowers, a second round pick in 1970 who never made the majors. Johnson ended up pitching half of the season for Cleveland in 1974, then went to the minors for the rest of the year after the Texas Rangers picked him up on waivers on July 1st. He went 3-4, 4.38 in 72 innings over ten starts and four relief appearances. He spent the next two seasons in the minors before finishing his Major League career with the 1977 Atlanta Braves. Johnson went 3-3, 5.21 in 57 innings for the New York Yankees Triple-A affiliate (Syracuse of the International League) in 1975, then spent 1976 back in the Royals system with Omaha of the Triple-A American Association, where he went 1-5, 5.18 in 66 innings.

Johnson had major issues with alcoholism, which started during his time in Pittsburgh, though he quit drinking in 1975 during a brief retirement from baseball and got his career back on track. A great stint in Venezuelan winter ball over the 1976-77 off-season earned him his final big league shot with the Braves. Johnson was released by the Braves after posting a 7.25 ERA in 22.1 innings over 15 appearances, and he finished his career later that season in the minors, seeing stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and back with the Pirates in Triple-A. In seven big league seasons, he went 28-34, 3.48 in 692.1 innings. He made 107 relief appearances, 76 starts, and threw 18 complete and two shutouts. He also added 12 saves. He turns 79 today.

Jimmy Brown, infielder for the 1946 Pirates. He didn’t debut in the majors until he was 27 years old, but from 1937 until 1943, Brown was a star infielder for the St Louis Cardinals, twice leading the league in at-bats and twice he was among the top six in MVP voting. By the time he reached the Pirates in 1946, he was nearing the end of his pro career. Brown debuted in pro ball at 23 years old in 1933, playing shortstop for Greensboro of the Class-B Piedmont League, where he hit .289 with 36 extra-base hits in 139 games. The next year he moved up to Double-A Rochester of the International League, where he spent the next three seasons just one step from the majors. Brown put up similar results during the 1934-35 seasons, then broke out in 1936. He hit .259 with 26 doubles, nine triples and a homer in 137 games in 1934. The next year saw him bat .241 in 151 games, with 20 doubles, 11 triples and three homers. During his big season in 1936, he hit .309 in 133 games, with 21 doubles, seven triples and five homers. The next year he debuted in the majors with the Cardinals, seeing most of his playing time at second base. He hit .276 in 138 games, with 31 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs and 83 runs scored. He started off on the bench, getting just two at-bats over the first 11 games, then played all but 11 games over the rest of the season after starting at shortstop on May 5th. Brown saw time at all three infield spots in 1938, hitting .301 in 108 games, with 50 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 27 walks, while striking out just nine times in 413 plate appearances. His .714 OPS was 41 points higher than the previous year, but he would do even better the next year.

Brown played a majority of his time at shortstop in 1939, leading the league with 645 at-bats, while finishing sixth in the MVP voting for the first time. He batted .298 with 42 extra-base hits and 88 runs scored. He set a career high with 192 hits. His OBP went down 15 points due to a lower walk rate, but his slugging went up 20 points, leading to the better OPS. In 1940, he went back to splitting his time at three infield spots (not first base), hitting .280 in 107 games, with 56 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs. He wasn’t much for stealing bases during his career, finishing with 39 steals, while having a success rate barely above 50%, but he went 9-for-12 during the 1940 season. Brown saw the majority of his time in 1941 at third base. He hit a career high .306 that season, with 81 runs scored, 28 doubles, nine triples, three homers and 56 RBIs. His .769 OPS was his career best, and he finished fourth in the MVP voting. He made the National League All-Star squad in 1942 for the only time, when he led the league with 606 at-bats  and set a career high with 71 RBIs. He had 75 runs, 28 doubles, 52 walks and 11 strikeouts that season. He finished 13th in the MVP voting. The Cardinals won the World Series that year over the New York Yankees and Brown hit .300 in five games, with two runs, an RBI and three walks.

Brown left for military duty in WWII after 34 games during the 1943 season and served until late 1945 before being discharged. At the time of his departure in 1943, he was hitting just .182 with a .479 OPS. The Pirates bought his contract from the Cardinals in early January of 1946. Brown played 79 games for the Pirates in 1946, starting 26 times at shortstop, 20 at second base and nine times at third base. He hit .241 with 23 runs scored, six extra-base hits (all doubles), 12 RBIs, 18 walks and he struck out only five times all season. He was released by the Pirates that November and finished his playing career two years later in the minors, playing a total of 85 games over his final two seasons with two affiliates of the Pirates. Brown also began a career in managing in 1947 and continued on through 1964, winning over 1,000 minor league games. He hit .237 in 66 games for Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association in 1947, while leading them to a 74-79 record. He had a .295 average in 19 games for New Orleans of the Double-A Southern League, finishing with a 70-83 record. In his big league career  over eight seasons, Brown hit .279 in 890 games, with 146 doubles, 42 triples, nine homers, 319 RBIs and 465 runs scored. He had 231 walks and 110 strikeouts in 3,835 plate appearances, giving him the 17th best career strikeout rate. Modern metrics give him 3.6 dWAR during his career, with his best number coming in 1939 (1.6) and he was slightly below average with the Pirates (-0.2).

Tom Quinn, catcher for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. The Alleghenys signed him on January 22, 1886 after winning a bidding war with two other clubs in Brooklyn and Rochester. It was said at the time that he was born and raised in Johnstown, PA, though modern research lists his birthplace as Annapolis, Maryland. The 22-year-old backstop spent the 1885 season with a semi-pro team from Frostburg, Maryland and another from McKeesport, PA, where he batted .344 in 15 games. He made his Major League debut on September 2, 1886 for the Alleghenys. Quinn played three games that season for Pittsburgh behind the plate, going 0-for-11 with a run scored and a stolen base. He was actually with the team during Spring Training (one of four catchers at the start) and saw some game action, but played his first game once the season started on August 13th in an exhibition game against Altoona, which the Alleghenys lost 3-0. He was 0-for-4 in his big league debut 20 days later, reaching on a grounder that went for an error, followed by his only stolen base. On defense he made an error and had five passed balls, though the local press gave him a pass by saying that Ed Morris was a tough first pitcher to catch and Quinn had very little practice during the season. He next caught 33 days later on October 5th, again for Morris, though this time the paper praised his defense. On October 12th, Quinn caught Hall of Famer Pud Galvin and the Alleghenys won 7-3. In the top of the eighth inning, Quinn collected a single, only to have it erased when the game was called due to darkness and the top of the eighth didn’t count in the boxscore. It would have been his only hit with Pittsburgh. The Alleghenys played a postseason series against the Detroit Wolverines of the National League and Quinn caught Galvin in a 4-4 tie on October 17th. He failed to pick up a hit that day, which turned out to be his last game with the Pirates.

Quinn spent the next two seasons playing minor league ball before coming back to the majors in 1889, when he played for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. He was with Binghamton of the International Association in 1887 (no stats available), then hit .206 with 25 runs, seven extra-base hits and 25 steals in 74 games with Albany of the International Association in 1888. He batted .175 with 18 runs, four extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 55 games during that season with the Orioles. Quinn spent the 1890 season playing for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, his last year in the majors. He batted .203 in 58 games, splitting the catching duties with Fred Carroll, who was the man he replaced in the lineup when he made his Major League debut four years earlier. Quinn finished his career by playing two more years in the minors, seeing time with Syracuse of the Class-A Eastern Association in 1891, and Indianapolis of the Class-A Western League in 1892. He batted .207 in 70 games with Syracuse, and had just four extra-base hits, resulting in a .228 slugging percentage. However, he managed to score 37 runs. In 1892, he hit .200 in 41 games, with 20 runs, five doubles and a triple. He was a .185 hitter in 116 Major League games, with 43 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs. Modern metrics rate him as a slightly above average fielder.