This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 8th, The DiMaggio-for-Rizzo Deal

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one major trade from 1940.

The Trade

On this date in 1940, the Pirates traded left fielder Johnny Rizzo to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Vince DiMaggio. The headlines of the Pittsburgh Press that day declared “Straight swap of players brings strikeout king of majors here.” DiMaggio was the brother of Joe and Dom, who were star players of their time, but Vince was a fine ballplayer as well. He was a defensive wizard with a strong arm, which is why the Pirates acquired him. He played two years with the Boston Braves, leading the league in strikeouts each season, before being traded to the New York Yankees in 1939. They sent him to the minors until a trade in August brought the 26-year-old back to the National League with the Cincinnati Reds. He hit just .111 in ten games with Cincinnati, split between the end of 1939 and the beginning of the 1940 season. Rizzo, as a 25-year-old rookie in 1938 hit .301 with 111 RBIs, while setting the Pirates single season home run mark with 23 round trippers. His numbers took a huge dip in 1939, and he started off the 1940 season slow, hitting .179 in nine games.

After the trade, Rizzo lasted just over a month with the Reds before they dealt him to the Philadelphia Phillies. In Philadelphia he hit twenty homers in 103 games, but that was followed by two down years, three years serving in the military during WWII, and then four seasons in the minors when he returned. DiMaggio became an All-Star player for the Pirates, spending five seasons in Pittsburgh and making two All-Star teams. The strikeouts were still there (three times he led the National League), but he played strong defense in center field and he hit 79 homers in 670 games. He also drove in 100 runs during the 1941 season. Right before the 1945 season started, he was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Al Gerheauser. DiMaggio put up 11.2 WAR in his five seasons in Pittsburgh.

The Players

Jason Davis, pitcher for the 2008 Pirates. He was a 21st round pick of the Cleveland Indians out of Cleveland State CC (which is in Tennessee) in the 1999 draft. That’s a school that has produced four Major League players through the draft, but also three (out of three) first round picks who didn’t make the majors. Davis was a draft-and-follow player back when teams had longer to sign draft picks. He didn’t sign with the Indians until May 18, 2000. He did not get off to a great start in pro ball, putting up a 4.40 ERA, 35 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP over 45 innings with Burlington in the short-season Appalachian League. That quickly changed the next year in Low-A with Columbus of the South Atlantic League, where he had a 14-6, 2.70 record and 115 strikeouts in 160 innings over 27 starts. Davis had an odd 2002 season, where his results got better as he moved up. He had a 4.15 ERA in 99.2 innings over 17 starts at High-A Kinston of the Carolina League. That was followed by a 3.51 ERA in 59 innings over ten starts at Double-A Akron of the Eastern League. Then he had a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings as a September call-up to Cleveland. Davis spent all or part of six seasons in the big leagues with the Indians before they traded him in May of 2007 to the Seattle Mariners. His only full season in the majors was 2003, when he went 8-11, 4.68 with 85 strikeouts in 165.1 innings over 27 starts. He made nine starts in Triple-A in 2004, going 3-2, 3.00 in 54 innings for Buffalo of the International League. Davis spent the rest of the year in the majors, where he went 2-7, 5.51 in 114.1 innings over 19 starts and seven relief appearances with the Indians.

Davis spent more than half of the 2005 season in Buffalo, where he made 16 starts and had an 8-5, 4.61 record. With Cleveland that year, he went 4-2, 4.69 in 40.1 innings, making four starts and seven relief appearances. The next year he switched to full-time relief and dominated in Triple-A, allowing one earned run in 16.2 innings. In the majors over 39 appearances and 55.1 innings, Davis posted a 3.74 ERA, one save and 37 strikeouts. He allowed six runs over 11.1 innings for the Indians in 2007 before his previously mentioned trade to the Mariners. After the deal, he had 6.31 ERA in 16 relief appearances and he also made five starts in Triple-A. Combined between two big league stops that year, he went 2-0, 5.84 in 37 innings. Davis became a free agent following the 2007 season and he signed with the Texas Rangers, who ended up releasing him at the end of Spring Training. He signed with the Pirates the next day and began the year in the minors with Indianapolis of the International League, where he went 6-9, 4.41 in 116.1 innings over 20 starts and one relief outing. Davis joined the Pirates in late July as a reliever. He eventually got four starts among his 14 total appearances in the majors that year. He went 2-4, 5.29 in 34 innings for the Pirates. The Pirates re-signed him to a minor league contract for 2009 and he pitched in Indianapolis all season, where he went 0-8, 6.06 in 62.1 innings in a swing-man role, making seven starts and 28 relief appearances. He was released following the season, which ended his playing career at 29 years old. In seven big league seasons, he went 22-26, 4.82 in 461 innings over 56 starts and 88 relief appearances.

Orestes Destrade, first baseman for the 1988 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1981. It took until 1987 before he made his MLB debut and he was blocked at first base during that time by All-Star Don Mattingly. Destrade had a good walk rate and showed power in the minors, hitting 122 homers before reaching the big leagues. Born in Cuba, he was actually a 23rd round pick of the California Angels in 1980 out of high school, but did not sign. He inked a free agent deal with the Yankees 11 months later and started his career in the Appalachian League with Paintsville, where he hit .274 with 51 runs, 12 doubles, 14 homers, 46 RBIs and 48 walks in 63 games. He struggled the next year while splitting his season between Low-A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League and Oneonta of the short-season New York-Penn League, combining to hit .212 with 16 doubles, five homers, 65 walks and a .667 OPS in 107 games. Destrade moved up to High-A Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League in 1983 and batted .292 with 24 doubles, 18 homers, 74 RBIs and 82 walks, finishing with a .406 OBP and a .905 OPS. He split the 1984 season between Fort Launderdale (95 games) and Double-A Nashville of the Southern League (35 games), hitting a combined .226 with 20 doubles, 18 homers, 69 RBIs and 79 walks, while putting up similar results at each level. Destrade spent 1985 in Double-A (Albany-Colonie of the Eastern League), where he had 82 runs, 24 doubles, 23 homers, 72 RBIs and 86 walks, to go along with a .253 average in 136 games. The 1986 season was spent in Triple-A with Columbus of the International League, where he .276 in 98 games, with 59 runs, 44 extra-base hits, 56 RBIs, 40 walks and an .861 OPS. That wasn’t enough to get him his first big league shot.

In 1987, Destrade had a .256 average, with 76 runs, 26 doubles, 25 homers, 81 RBIs, 79 walks and an .854 OPS for Columbus. He then he hit .263 in nine September games for the Yankees, getting two starts at first base and two at DH. The Pirates were able to acquire him at the end of Spring Training in 1988 in exchange for pitcher Hipolito Pena. Destrade began the 1988 season in Triple-A with Buffalo of the American Association, hitting .271 with 12 homers and an .840 OPS through 77 games when the Pirates called him up to the majors. He was used mostly in a pinch-hitting role for the rest of the season, batting .149 in 36 games, with 53 plate appearances. After getting off to a poor start in Buffalo in 1989, the Pirates sold him to Japan. He was hitting .230 with one homer in 33 games at the time. He had instant success in Japan, showing more power, to go along with the high walk totals. Destrade had a 1.006 OPS in 83 games with the Seibu Lions in 1989, then racked up 42 homers and 106 RBIs the next season in 130 games. Over the next two seasons combined, he hit 80 homers and walked 195 times over 258 games. After four seasons overseas, he returned as the starting first baseman for the 1993 Florida Marlins in their first year of existence. He hit .255 with 61 runs, 20 doubles, 20 homers, 87 RBIs, 58 walks and a .730 OPS in 153 games that year. It ended up being his only big league success. Destrade played for the Marlins in 1994 and hit just .208 in 39 games, then finished his career in Japan in 1995, where he hit .245 with six homers. In his 15-year pro career, he hit a total of 321 homers and drove in 996 runs. In his four seasons in the majors, he hit .241 in 237 games, with 80 runs, 25 doubles, 26 homers and 106 RBIs.

Bill Powell, pitcher for the 1909-10 Pirates. His pro career began in 1905 with Homestead of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League. He spent 1906 in the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League with East Liverpool (Ohio), which is where he ended up living after his playing days. Powell played for two different teams (Fairmont and Greensburg) in the Class-D Western Pennsylvania League in 1907 before he had a breakout season in 1908. There are no stats available from his first three years, and he also played briefly for Baltimore of the Union Association in 1908, before he established himself as a prospect. After going 20-8 in 1908 for the Springfield Ponies of the Class-B Connecticut State League, Powell joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1909 season. He was taken in the Rule 5 draft and the Pirates hoped to get him in September of 1908, but Springfield wouldn’t let him go early because they were fighting for the pennant at the time. For a time it was suggested that he may end up playing first base for the 1909 Pirates because he had success with the position in the minors, especially on the defensive side. At 6’2″, he was a big target at first base for the day. Powell had the nickname “Big Bill”, which is a bit ironic because the man who played first base full-time for the 1909 Pirates was Bill Abstein, who also had the nickname “Big Bill”. The 24-year-old Powell was with the Pirates during the 1909 World Series but never got into a game. In fact, he pitched just three games all year and one was as the starter in game three of the regular season. Powell was very wild during that first game, taking the loss to the Cincinnati Reds by giving up three hits in five innings, with five walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch. In an outing nearly a month later it was said that he had nothing on the mound. He walked a batter in relief, forcing home a run before serving up a pitch that was hit hard, but right at a fielder. He pitched a total of 7.1 innings that season.

Powell must’ve shown great improvements during the next season because he made nine starts and three relief appearances before he was sold to the Kansas City Blues of the Class-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) on July 26th. He went 4-6, 2.40 in 75 innings with the Pirates that season, with four complete games and two shutouts, which came in his first two starts of the season. It was said at the time of his sale that he was very inconsistent on the mound, and wasn’t noted for the effort he put forth, but more for his carelessness in the way he played. The paper also noted “his disposition was always against him.” Powell ended up pitching just two more games in the majors, one for the 1912 Chicago Cubs and one for the 1913 Reds.

Powell had success with Kansas City in the minors, going 19-12 in 249 innings in 1911, followed by 27-12 record and 174 strikeouts in 340.1 innings in 1912, when the American Association was reclassified as Double-A. His lone game with the Cubs came on September 30, 1912 and he gave up two runs in two innings to the Pirates. His only game with the Reds was at the beginning of the 1913 season and as a starter against the St Louis Cardinals, he retired just one of the five batters he faced before being pulled. He split the rest of the season between Kansas City and Milwaukee of the American Association. Powell went 5-9, 4.00 in 99 innings for Milwaukee in 1914, then had a 4-7, 3.80 record in 94.2 innings for Lincoln of the Class-A Western League in 1915. At 31 years old in 1916, he pitched his final games for Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association, going 2-4 in 33 innings over six outings. Powell was said to be a star basketball player during his time with the Pirates. Prior to the 1909 off-season, basketball teams in the Central League were bidding for his services, and he was called the best player in the league.

Eddie Boyle, catcher for the 1896 Pirates. He last caught for the Pirates on September 16, 1896 during the first game of a doubleheader. Connie Mack was the manager and he replaced starting catcher Bill Merritt with Boyle late in a blowout loss. The amazing part about that game was the fact that Mack pinch-hit for Boyle in the ninth inning of an 11-0 loss. It was not only his last game for the Pirates, it was his last Major League game. It was noted years later that he couldn’t play anymore in 1896 due to an ankle injury. He played in the minors during 1897 with Minneapolis of the Western League, but there is no record of him playing after that season. He was taken by the Pirates after the 1897 season in the Rule 5 draft, but refused to sign for 1898, forcing him to sit out the entire year. He decided to return with the Pirates in 1899 and actually made the Opening Day roster, but never got into a game. He was released on May 12th, after sitting for 21 games. Platoon catchers Frank Bowerman and Pop Shriver were both doing so well that the Pirates decided that they didn’t need a third catcher, so they released Boyle.

Boyle, who was 22 years old when he first joined the Pirates, had two years of minor league experience before making his big league debut. He played for two teams during the 1894 season, seeing most of his time with Atlanta of the Class-B Southern Association, where he batted .249 with eight extra-base hits in 57 games. He also hit .304 with no extra-base hits in 15 games with Sioux City of the Western League. He spent the 1895 season back in the Class-A Western League, this time with St Paul, where he hit .283 with 20 extra-base hits and 60 runs scored in 84 games. Boyle began the 1896 season with the Louisville Colonels of the National League, getting into three games before he was traded to the Pirates on May 1st, along with Joe Wright (the guy who pinch-hit for him in his final game) in exchange for infielder Billy Clingman. Boyle went to the Class-A Eastern League, where he played with the Toronto/Albany team (mid-season city transfer) for the majority of the year, returning to the Pirates in September. In his first game in Pittsburgh, he batted ninth and failed to get a hit, but he did throw out the legendary Cap Anson, who tested his arm early with a stolen base attempt. In Boyle’s five-game Major League career, he went 0-for-14 at the plate, reaching base twice via walks. His brother Jack Boyle was a catcher in the majors for thirteen seasons (1886-98). Eddie Boyle was very big for the era, standing in at 6’3″, 200 pounds. His brother was actually an inch taller, making him one of the tallest players/catchers of the 19th century.

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