On a very busy day of birthdays for former Pittsburgh Pirates players, we have ten players, plus two trades of note. Before we get into all of them, current Pirates outfielder Ben Gamel turns 30 today. He will get a bio when he’s a former player.
On this date in 1956, the Pirates traded outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield to the St Louis Cardinals for outfielder Bill Virdon. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Virdon won the National League Rookie of the Year award with his .281 average and 17 homers with 68 RBIs. He was hitting .211 in 24 games at the time of the trade. Del Greco was just 23 years old at the time, hitting .200 in 14 games for the Pirates. He played 99 games for Pittsburgh in 1952, but then he spent the next three years in the minors prior to resurfacing in 1956. At 30 years old, Littlefield was the veteran of the group. He had been with the Pirates since 1954, and in the majors since 1950. He had no record and a 4.26 ERA in two starts and four relief appearances with the 1956 Pirates. The year before he went 5-12, 5.12 in 130 innings, splitting his time between starting and relieving.
After the trade, Littlefield pitched three games for the Cardinals before being included in a nine-player deal that St Louis made with the New York Giants. He pitched in the majors until 1958, getting into 86 total games after leaving Pittsburgh, 11 of those were as a starter. Del Greco hit .215/.308/.344 in 102 games for the Cardinals. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs early in the 1957 season and spent parts of seven seasons in the majors after that deal. He was a career .229 hitter in 731 games, finishing with a .682 OPS. Virdon became a star for the Pirates immediately, hitting .334 with 39 extra-base hits in 133 games for the Pirates in 1956. He would play center field for ten seasons in Pittsburgh, helping them to the 1960 World Series along the way. He hit .266 with 667 runs scored, 217 doubles, 75 triples, 72 homers and 425 RBIs in 1,415 games for the Pirates. In 1962, he led the National League in triples and won the Gold Glove award. Virdon also managed the Pirates during the 1972-73 seasons. He put together 18.2 WAR during his 11 seasons with the Pirates.
Exactly five years prior to the previously mentioned deal, the Pirates and Cardinals hooked up on a different three-player deal. Pittsburgh sent shortstop Stan Rojek to St Louis in exchange for outfielder Erv Dusak and first baseman Rocky Nelson on May 17, 1951. Rojek was 32 years old at the time of the trade, coming off a season in which he hit .257 in 76 games. Two years earlier, he finished tenth in the NL MVP voting after hitting .290 with 51 RBIs and 24 steals for the Pirates. He led the league in games played, at-bats and plate appearances during that 1948 season. However, he was just 3-for-16 in eight games during the 1951 season prior to the trade. Dusak was 30 years old at the time of the deal and had played just 29 games in the majors since seeing full-time work during the 1948 season. Nelson was 26 years old, and he was in his third season in the majors in 1951. He was a .234 hitter with five homers and 52 RBIs in 158 games during the 1949-50 seasons. He was 4-for-18 with a double in nine games prior to the trade.
Many people remember Nelson’s heroics in the 1960 World Series, but that was actually during his second stint with the team. He was put on waivers and taken by the Chicago White Sox before the 1951 season ended. He batted .267 with 29 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in 71 games for the 1951 Pirates. Dusak played just 41 games for the Pirates, spread out over the 1951-52 seasons, which were his last years in the majors. He had 71 plate appearances during that time, with a .273/.324/.409 slash line. He also pitched three games, including a start, but that did not go well. In a total of 6.2 innings, he allowed ten runs. Rojek would play just 51 games for the Cardinals before he was put on waivers, and his Major League career was done by the 1952 season. In St Louis, he hit .274 with 21 runs, ten extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.
Jose Guillen, Pirates outfielder from 1997 until 1999. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 in 1992. After spending the 1993 season in the Dominican Summer League (stats not available) he made the jump to the U.S. in 1994, playing in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .264 with four homers and a .769 OPS in 30 games. In 1995, he played 66 games in the short-season New York-Penn League and ten games in Low-A with Augusta of the South Atlantic League. Guillen combined to bat .305 with 47 runs, 18 doubles, 14 homers, 52 RBIs and an .885 OPS. He reached High-A ball in 1996, where he hit .322 with 78 runs, 30 doubles, 21 homers, 94 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and an .855 OPS in 136 games for Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Without ever playing Double-A or Triple-A, the Pirates put him in right field for Opening Day in 1997. Guillen played 143 games as a rookie that year, hitting .267 with 58 runs, 20 doubles, 14 homers, 70 RBIs and a .712 OPS. He had a very similar season the next year, in which he played a career high of 153 games. Guillen had the same batting average as the year before, and his .712 OPS was exactly the same as well. He also hit 14 homers again, this time with 60 runs, 84 RBIs and 38 doubles, which would remain his career high until 2008. After hitting .267 with one home run through 40 games in 1999, Guillen was sent to Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League in mid-June. He did well there, hitting .333 with five homers and a .900 OPS in 33 games. On July 23rd, he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, along with pitcher Jeff Sparks in exchange for two catchers, Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota. The Pirates were desperate for catching at the time due to Jason Kendall’s season-ending ankle injury. After the deal, Guillen hit .244 with two homers, 13 RBIs and a .651 OPS in 47 games for Tampa.
In 2000, Guillen hit .253 with 40 runs, 16 doubles, ten homers, 41 RBIs and a .750 OPS in 105 games. That was followed by a .274 average, 14 runs, five doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in 41 games in 2001, with a low OPS (.695) due to drawing just six walks. He ended up playing 33 games in Triple-A that season. He was released after the season and signed three weeks later with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2002, he hit .229 with four homers and 15 RBIs through 54 games with Arizona, then got released in August. Guillen finally reached his potential four years after leaving the Pirates, playing for his fourth organization. The Reds signed him three weeks after he was released by Arizona. He didn’t do much better in 2002, hitting .248 with four homers and a .684 OPS in 31 games, but that changed in 2003. He hit .337 with 23 homers for Cincinnati before they traded him mid-season to the Oakland A’s. He hit .265 with eight homers after the deal, finishing the year with a career high 31 homers. Between both stops, he hit .311 in 136 games, with 77 runs, 28 doubles, 86 RBIs and a .928 OPS. Guillen signed a free agent deal with the Anaheim Angels in 2004 and hit .294 in 148 games, with 88 runs, 28 doubles, 27 homers, 104 RBIs and an .849 OPS. That would be the only 100-RBI season of his career.
After the 2004 season, Guillen was traded to the Washington Nationals. He hit .283 in 148 games in 2005, with 32 doubles, 24 homers, 76 RBIs and 81 runs scored. He led the league in hit-by-pitches with 19, which was a career high. He remained in Washington for the 2006 season, though he batted just .216 with 15 doubles, nine homers and 40 RBIs in 69 games before having season-ending elbow surgery in July. He was back healthy in 2007, signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent, where he batted .290 with 84 runs, 28 doubles, 23 homers and 99 RBIs in 153 games. He finished with an .813 OPS and his 41 walks were his career high. He signed with the Kansas City Royals in 2008 and he hit .264 with 66 runs, 42 doubles, 20 homers and 97 RBIs in 153 games that season. A low walk rate led to a .738 OPS. Guillen suffered a mid-July knee injury in 2009 that limited him to 81 games. He batted .242 with eight doubles, nine homers and 40 RBIs that year. He split his final big league season between the Royals and San Francisco Giants after an August trade. He hit .258 with 55 runs, 22 doubles, 19 homers and 77 RBIs in 148 games that final year.
Guillen played a total of 1,650 Major League games, hitting .270 with 748 runs, 305 doubles, 214 homers and 887 RBIs. Despite stealing 24 bases in the minors in 1996, he stole a total of just 31 bases over his entire Major League career. With the Pirates, he batted .267 with 136 runs, 64 doubles, 29 homers and 172 RBIs in 336 games. He had a strong throwing arm, one of the best in baseball, and a throw he made with the Pirates was recently rated the best of all-time by MLB Network. On July 27, 1998, Neifi Perez of the Rockies hit a ball to the right field wall that Guillen couldn’t catch. He picked up the ball near the warning track, and on the fly, threw out Perez, who was going for a triple. His overall defense was very poor, which kept down his value, even at his peak. Guillen finished his career with 6.4 WAR in 14 seasons. Considering that in his two best seasons (2003 and 2005) he had 8.4 WAR total, that tells you something about the majority of his career. He was hit by 145 pitches during his career, which ranks 25th all-time. He played just four postseason games in his career, coming in 2003 with the A’s, when he went 5-for-11 with three walks in the series loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Pascual Perez, pitcher for the 1980-81 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an 18-year-old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 1976 season. Perez began his career in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 4.66 ERA in 56 innings over ten starts, with 35 walks and 34 strikeouts. He then moved up to A-ball in 1977, going 10-5, 3.98, with 96 strikeouts in 156 innings over 25 starts for Charleston of the Western Carolinas League. Perez moved up another level in 1978 to advanced A-Ball with Salem of the Carolina League and pitched well, going 11-7, 2.61, with 126 strikeouts in 152 innings over 24 starts. That earned him a late season promotion to Triple-A Columbus of the International League, where he threw five scoreless innings. He struggled in his first full season of Triple-A in 1979 (Pirates affiliate moved to Portland of the Pacific Coast League), putting up a 9-7, 5.50 record in 103 innings, though it was a high offense league and Portland had a 5.18 team ERA. Perez showed enough improvement during the next season to earn an early season spot start for the Pirates, followed by a late season recall. He went 12-10, 4.05 in 160 innings for Portland that year, and he allowed five earned runs over 12 innings with the Pirates.
Perez began 1981 in the minors, before joining Pittsburgh in mid-May after five starts. In that strike-shortened season, he went 2-7, 3.96 in 13 starts and four relief appearances for the Pirates, throwing 86.1 innings. He was back in Portland in 1982 until a June trade sent him to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for pitcher Larry McWilliams. Perez had a 4-9, 4.82 record in 109.1 innings, with ten starts and nine relief appearances before the trade. He went to Triple-A Richmond of the International League after the deal, but a 5-0, 1.26 record in five starts got him to the majors quickly. He went 4-4, 3.06 in 79.1 innings for the 1982 Braves over the final 2 1/2 months of the season. He had a terrific first full season in the majors in 1983, going 15-8, 3.43 in 215.1 innings over 33 starts. He also made his lone All-Star appearance that season. Perez backed it up with another solid performance in 1984, going 14-8, 3.74 in 211.2 innings. His BB/SO ratios were almost identical in those two seasons, finishing with a 51:144 mark in 1983, followed by a 51:145 mark in 1984. His WHIP was almost identical as well, with a 1.224 mark in 1983 and a 1.226 mark in 1984.
Things came crashing down for Perez in 1985 when he went 1-13, 6.14 in 22 starts, throwing a total of just 95.1 innings. His season started with a removal of a cyst from his right cheek. He had a 15-day disabled list stint in May due to shoulder tendinitis. He had a rotator cuff problem in June that cost him some time. He was suspended and fined by the team for violating team rules in August, and the shoulder injury returned for a short time that same month, though through it all, he still made seven starts over the last month. Perez was released by the Braves just prior to the 1986 season. After not pitching at all that year, he had to work his way back to the majors by pitching at Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association for the 1987 Montreal Expos. He went 9-7, 3.79 with 125 strikeouts in 133 innings. Perez was called up in August and finished the season with a 7-0, 2.30 record in 70.1 innings over ten starts.
Perez had a strong 1988 season in Montreal, going 12-8, 2.44, with 131 strikeouts in 188 innings over 27 starts. He pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter that season on September 24th against the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing one walk in five innings, while striking out eight batters. In 1989, he went 9-13, 3.31 in 198.1 innings, while setting a career high with 152 strikeouts. Perez became a free agent after the season and signed with the New York Yankees. He strained his shoulder on April 25th in his third start and didn’t pitch again all season except one rehab season in the minors. He had a 1.29 ERA in his first 14 innings. The shoulder injury, which required surgery, kept him out until May of 1991, and then his return lasted just four starts before stiffness in the shoulder kept him out until August. Perez went 2-4, 3.18 in 73.2 innings that season. He made a total of 17 starts in two seasons with the Yankees, then got suspended for the 1992 season due to two positive tests for cocaine. That basically ended his pro career, with his only other pro experience coming in China in 1996. Perez finished his 11-year career with a 67-68, 3.44 record in 1,244.1 innings. He had 193 starts, 14 relief appearances, 21 complete games and four shutouts.
Perez had two brothers, Carlos and Melido, who also pitched in the majors. Melido pitched four years with the Yankees during his nine-year career, starting in 1992 when his brother was suspended by the team. He also pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter, two seasons after his brother. His lasted six innings and included four walks and nine strikeouts. It came against the Yankees, during Pascual’s first season with the team. Carlos went 40-53 in the majors, spending half of his five-year career with the Expos. The family also had three brothers who played minor league ball.
Ozzie Virgil, catcher for the 1965 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1953 out of the Domincan Republic, and he made his big league debut three years later after working his way up from Class-C ball to Triple-A. Until Major League Baseball recently reclassified Negro League ball from 1920 through 1948 as Major League ball, Virgil was the first Major League player to be born in the Dominican. He is now the eighth player from his country to make the majors. He hit .259 in 118 games, with 63 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs and 50 walks during his first season with St Cloud of the Class-C Northern League, then moved to Class-B in 1954, where he hit .291 with 78 runs, 50 extra-base hits and 68 RBIs in 137 games for Danville of the Carolina League. Virgil was with Dallas of the Double-A Texas League in 1955, where he hit .295 with 86 runs, 31 doubles, 17 homers and 79 RBIs in 159 games. He improved his OPS each year during that stretch, going from a .693 mark in 1953, up to a .786 mark in 1955. A large majority of his minor league time was at third base, including most of his early work. His big league time was split over seven positions (not center field or pitcher), but he still played more third base than anywhere else.
In 1956, Virgil put up a .265 average, 66 runs, 28 doubles, ten homers, 67 RBIs, 16 steals and a .702 OPS in 152 games for Minneapolis of the Triple-A American Association, before getting a September trial with the Giants. He went 5-for-12 in three games. He spent the entire 1957 season with the Giants, seeing playing time at four spots, plus a lot of bench work. Virgil hit .235 with 26 runs, four homers and 24 RBIs in 96 games, setting career highs in each of the latter four categories. He had 226 at-bats that season without hitting a double. In 1958, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, where he put in three partial seasons and spent all of 1959 in the minors. He hit .244 in 49 games in 1958, with 19 runs, ten doubles, three homers and 19 RBIs. The 1959 season was spent with Triple-A Charleston of the American Association, where he hit .269 in 154 games, with 57 runs, 29 extra-base hits and 49 RBIs. Virgil then batted .227 with 16 runs, nine extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 62 games for the Tigers during the 1960 season. Virgil caught for the first time in 1959, though he played just one game at the position with the 1960 Tigers. During the 1961 season, Detroit dealt him to the Kansas City Athletics. Between the two stops, he batted .137 in 31 games. His only extra-base hit that year was a solo homer, which also accounted for his only RBI.
Virgil was sold to the St Louis Cardinals after the 1961 season, but just six weeks later, he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 draft. He only played one early season game for the Orioles in 1962 and walked in his lone plate appearance, then spent the rest of the season and the next two full years in the minors. He hit .269 with 29 extra-base hits in 104 games for Rochester of the Triple-A International League in 1962. Virgil remained there for the 1963 season, which saw him hit .307 in 149 games, with 71 runs, 41 extra-base hits, 75 RBIs and a .773 OPS. He switched to Toronto of the International League in 1964 and batted .270 in 150 games, with 80 runs, 45 extra-base hits and 48 RBIs. The Pirates acquired him in the 1964 minor league draft from the Washington Senators. In 1965, Virgil played 39 games for the Pirates. He started just seven games, despite being with the team for the entire season. It was the first full year he spent in the majors since 1961, and just the third time (1957 as well) overall that he spent the entire year in the big leagues. He caught a career high 15 games that season, though only three were starts. In 59 plate appearances, he had a .265 average and a .661 OPS.
On December 1, 1965, the Pirates traded Virgil, along with pitcher Joe Gibbon, to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Matty Alou, in what turned out to be a one-sided deal for Pittsburgh. Virgil got 89 at-bats for the Giants in 1966 and put up a .214 average and a .548 OPS. After spending two full years in the minors with Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, he played one final Major League game in 1969, pinch-hitting on June 27th. He was a coach for the Giants that season, and continued to coach until 1988. Virgil did well in Phoenix in 1967, hitting .319 with a .755 OPS in 117 games, but his stats dropped off during the 1968 season, with a .258 average and a .608 OPS in 106 games. He played a total of 324 games in the majors over nine seasons, with a .231 batting average, 75 runs, 19 doubles, 14 homers and 73 RBIs. His son, who was also named Ozzie Virgil, caught 11 seasons in the majors (1980-90) and made two All-Star appearances. The elder Virgil turns 90 today.
Harry Riconda, shortstop for the 1929 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1916, but when the Pirates acquired him 13 years later, he had just 234 games in at the Major League level spread out over four seasons. Riconda debuted in pro ball at 19 years old with Springfield of the Class-B Eastern League, where he spent his first two seasons, while also seeing time with New Haven of the same league in 1917. Stats are extremely limited from these two seasons, showing a .199 average in 115 games in 1916, followed by a .205 average in 52 games split between his two teams in 1917. He played independent ball in 1918 in Brooklyn, while also playing basketball in the off-season. He remained in independent ball (and basketball) until the 1921 season when he returned to New Haven to play, with the Eastern League reclassifying to Class-A by then. It was there in 1922 that he earned his first big league call (1921 stats are unavailable). Riconda hit .335 with 43 extra-base hits in 116 games during the 1922 season for New Haven, then debuted in the majors in 1923 with the Philadelphia A’s. As a rookie, he batted .263 with 23 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 12 RBIs, and a .689 OPS in 55 games, seeing most of his time at third base. He played 83 games in 1924 (71 starts at third base) and he hit .253 with 20 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and 34 runs scored. His OPS slipped 25 points from his rookie season.
Riconda spent the entire 1925 season in the minors, hitting .320 with 39 extra-base hits in 141 games with Portland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He then played four games for the Boston Braves in 1926. Three of those games came in April and one in August. He broke his leg in a home plate collision on April 15th. He was forced into action mid-game on August 21st, but never played again that year after going 0-for-2 with two errors. The entire 1927 season was spent with Milwaukee of the Double-A American Association, where he had a huge season. Playing 168 games that year, he hit .353 with 86 extra-base hits, collecting 57 doubles, 18 triples and 11 homers. That earned him a trip back to the majors, where he got his longest look. Riconda hit .224 with 22 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs in 92 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928, seeing time at SS/2B/3B. His .623 OPS was 118 points below average for the league.
On December 11, 1928, the Pirates traded star shortstop Glenn Wright to the Dodgers for Riconda and pitcher Jesse Petty. It was an awful deal that was only saved from going extremely bad when Wright got hurt and saw limited action after the trade. With the 1929 Pirates, Riconda spent two months with the team, but rarely saw the field. He got into eight of the first 51 games, four off the bench. He went 7-for-15 at the plate in his limited time, but that couldn’t keep him from being sent to the minors to finish the year. On June 26th, he was sold outright to Kansas City of the American Association. He did well after being sent down, hitting .320 in 79 games, with 34 extra-base hits. He played two more seasons before retiring from baseball. His only other big league experience was one early season at-bat for the Cincinnati Reds in 1930 before being returned to Kansas City. He also played for Minneapolis of the American Association during the 1930-31 seasons, and saw time with Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association, and Montreal of the International League during that final season. Riconda hit .247 in 243 big league games, with 83 runs, 44 doubles, 11 triples, four homers and 70 RBIs.
Hal Carlson, pitcher for the 1917-23 Pirates. He spent three years in the minors prior to his Major League debut with the 1917 Pirates. He pitched for Rockford of the Class-C Wisconsin-Illinois League in 1914, where he went 13-10, with 183 strikeouts in 220 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed 3.19 runs per nine innings. In 1915, he saw time with Grand Rapids of the Class- B Central League and Rockford in the Class-B Three-I League. He had similar results at both stops, finishing the year with an 8-16, 3.03 record in 217 innings. Carlson won 23 games and posted a 2.78 ERA in 1916 at 24 years old while playing for Rockford. He pitched 291 innings that season, his third straight year eclipsing the 200+ inning mark. He was one of four players the Pirates acquired via the old Rule 5 draft at the end of the 1916 season. Carlson had a solid rookie season, while playing for a Pirates team that 103 losses in 1917. He went 7-11, 2.90 in 161.1 inning and didn’t allow a single home run. He made 17 starts and 17 relief appearances, finishing nine of those starts, with one shutout to his credit. The ERA sounds great for a rookie, but that was the end of the deadball era and he was actually above league average. The next year he pitched just 12 innings over three games before taking up active military duty in WWI. He returned in 1919 to go 8-10 with a career best, 2.23 ERA over 141 innings, and once again he managed to go an entire season without giving up a home run, though he did give up a homer during his brief time in 1918. His 1919 season consisted of 14 starts, eight relief appearances, seven complete games and one shutout.
Carlson had his best season in a Pirates uniform in 1920, going 14-13, 3.36 in 246.1 innings. He made 31 starts, throwing 16 complete games and three shutouts. He pitched eight times in relief as well and saved three games (not an official stat at the time). His numbers began to drop off the next season, going 4-8, 4.27 in 109.2 innings. He was moved to the bullpen for most of the year, where he made 21 of his 31 appearances that season. In 1922, he started 18 games and pitched 21 times in relief. He went 9-12, 5.70 in 141.2 innings. Carlson was sent to the minors just weeks into the 1923 season after being used four times in relief, giving up nine runs in 13.1 innings. It was said that his numbers dropped because he was a spitball pitcher and wasn’t allowed to throw the pitch after 1920, due to the rule baseball implemented making the pitch illegal. Teams had a limited number of players who they could grandfather into the rule, so some players suffered due to that cutoff. The leagues also decided to use newer baseballs more often in games, which led to more offense. On May 21, 1923, it was announced that he was being sent to Dallas of the Class-A Texas League, but Carlson balked at that move. Just days earlier it was said that the Pirates were trying to trade him to the Philadelphia Phillies. Two days after not wanting to play in Dallas, he agreed to be sold to Wichita Falls of the Texas League. Despite not joining the team until the end of May, Carlson won 20 games for Wichita Falls that year, and he threw 238 innings, finishing with a 3.86 ERA.
Carlson was drafted by the Phillies for the 1924 season, just months after the trade talks to Philadelphia surfaced. He pitched in Philadelphia until a 1927 trade sent him to the Chicago Cubs. In 1924, he went 8-17, 4.86 in 203 innings over 24 starts and 14 relief appearances. In 1925, he was 13-14, 4.23 in 234 innings, while leading the league with four shutouts. He also threw 18 complete games that year, which was a personal high that he would top in each of the next two seasons. He was never much of a strikeout pitcher and that year he set a personal high with 80. In 1926, Carlson had the best season of his career. He went 17-12, 3.23 in 267.1 innings. He set personal highs in wins, starts (34), innings and complete games (20), while also throwing three shutouts. In his final season with Philadelphia, he had a 5.23 ERA in 63.2 innings before his trade to Chicago. After the deal, he went 12-8, 3.17 in 184.1 innings, posting solid numbers despite racking up just 27 strikeouts. Between both stops, he completed 19 of 31 starts.
Carlson saw his workload drop significantly during the 1928 season, making just four starts in his 20 appearances. He threw 56.1 innings all season, while putting up a 3-2, 5.91 record. He went 11-6 in 1929, despite a 5.16 ERA in 111.2 innings. Off was on a rise in 1929, so his ERA that year was a bit better than it sounds, but it was still 45 points above league average. He was pitching for the Cubs in 1930 when his health began to decline. On May 28, 1930 he complained of feeling ill and died suddenly in his hotel room with teammates by his side. He was 38 years old. He was 4-2, 5.05 in 51.2 innings at the time of his passing. With offense peaking that year, his ERA was basically at league average at the time. Carlson finished with a 114-120, 3.97 record in 2,002 big league innings over 14 seasons. He made 236 career starts and 141 relief appearances. He threw 121 complete games, finishing up with 17 shutouts and 19 saves. With the Pirates, he was 42-55, 3.64 in 829.1 innings over 92 starts and 80 relief appearances. His full name was Harold Gust Carlson, giving him a middle name that is unique in baseball history as a middle or first name (there was an Ernie Gust who played for the 1911 St Louis Browns).
Elmer Steele, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1910-11 seasons. He began his pro career in 1906 in the minors before making his Major League debut in September of 1907. At 22 years old, he debuted in pro ball in his hometown with Poughkeepsie of the Class-C Hudson River League. Only a few hitting stats are available from that year, and they show a .201 average in 139 at-bats. He batted just .150 the following season, but luckily he wasn’t relying on his bat to get him to the majors. He moved up to the Class-B New England League in 1907, where he put together a 24-11 record for the Lynn Shoemakers. Steele debuted with the Boston Red Sox that September, pitching 11.1 innings over four appearances, with ten strikeouts and an 0-1, 1.59 record. He began the 1908 season back in the minors with Scranton of the Class-B New York State League, before rejoining Boston in July. He had a strong return to the majors, posting a 1.83 ERA in 118 innings, though it came with a 5-7 record. He made 13 starts and pitched three times in relief, finishing with nine complete games and one shutout. Steele spent most of the 1909 season with the Red Sox, going 4-4, 2.85 in 75.2 innings over eight starts and eight relief appearances. On July 18th, he was sold to St Paul of the Class-A American Association, where he had a 10-6 record to finish out the season.
Steele spent the 1910 season pitching for Providence of the Class-A Eastern League, where he went 19-11 in 294 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed 2.69 runs per nine innings. The Pirates picked him up on September 15th because owner Barney Dreyfuss wanted someone who could give the team innings, calling Steele a “willing worker”. Steele made three starts for Pittsburgh that season, losing all three, although he pitched well. He had a 2.25 ERA and allowed 22 base runners in 24 innings. In 1911, he switched between the starting and bullpen role, making 16 starts and 15 relief outings for the Pirates. He went 9-9 with a 2.60 ERA in 166 innings. In the middle of September, he was lost on waivers to Brooklyn, where he made five appearances before the season ended, posting a 3.13 ERA in 23 innings. The Pirates placed Steele on waivers with the intention of selling him to the minors. They could have kept him once Brooklyn claimed him, but they decided to let him go for the waiver price. He never returned to the majors after 1911 and only played three more season in the minors, including the 1913 season when he was back in Poughkeepsie, playing Class-D ball. He played first base and hit .339 in 90 games that season. His pro career finished in 1917, although it was said he played baseball into his 50’s and was active in the sport in his hometown for many years. He went 18-24, 2.41 in 418 innings over five seasons in the majors. He made 43 starts, 32 relief appearances, and finished with 20 complete games, three shutouts and three saves. He had a 9-12, 2.56 record in 190 innings for the Pirates.
Fred Woodcock, pitcher for the 1892 Pirates. On May 14, 1892 Woodcock was slated to make his Major League debut against the Cleveland Spiders, just one day after Cy Young shut the Pirates down. That game was rained out, so three days later against the Chicago Colts he finally made his debut, and made a little history along the way. The 24-year-old Woodcock became the first pitcher to make his debut as a starter on his birthday, something that didn’t happen again in the majors for another 67 years. He was a highly touted prospect, who pitched at Dartmouth University and Brown University prior to signing with the Pirates. While he had no known previous pro experience, there was word that he may have pitched under the name “Gleason” for the Woonsocket club of the Class-B New England League in 1891, which would have been done to keep his college eligibility. The Pirates announced his signing on November 13, 1891, saying that he made a name for himself by pitching well for Dartmouth during the 1889 season. The Pirates lost 7-5 in his big league debut, although it was said that he pitched a remarkably good game, but he was hurt by five Pittsburgh errors. It seemed as if he had a bright future, but it quickly dimmed.
Woodcock’s second start was said to be fair, although he was hit hard at times. There was poor fielding behind him again with five errors committed. He didn’t start again for two weeks, then lost his third start by a 6-2 score. Two weeks later he made his last start in the majors. He gave up five first innings runs to Cleveland before he was replaced. His final big league game came exactly one month after his debut. He would pitch just one minor league game in 1893 for Brockton of the New England League, then finished his career playing for the Fort Worth Panthers and Galveston Sandcrabs of the Texas Southern League in 1895. He served as a coach in 1894 in the college/school ranks. It was said that Woodcock refused to pitch games on Sunday. He also almost didn’t join the Pirates. It was reported on April 5, 1892 by the local papers that he returned his advanced money to the Pirates and decided to continues his studies in college, although it was later said that he would join the team on June 15th instead. He received praise on April 24th for defeating Harvard by a 4-3 score. Exactly one month after the returned payment announcement was made, it was announced that he agreed to join the Pirates on May 15th. A week after his final game, he was given his ten days release. Back then it meant that the team paid a player for ten more days, and occasionally that player ended up staying with the team if he services became necessary. Woodcock was said to be unhappy at the time with his treatment and requested his release. He was involved in baseball as a coach in Massachusetts for quite some time after his playing career ended.
Frank Mountain, pitcher/first baseman for the 1885-86 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1880, pitching for the Troy Trojans of the National League. Mountain has no known minor league stats, so it appears that his entire career was spent in the majors. He made just two starts during that first season, going 1-1, 5.29 in 17 innings. He then had seven starts for the Detroit Wolverines of the NL in 1881, going 3-4, 5.25 in 60 innings. When he signed with Detroit, he was referred to as the sensational Union College pitcher, which was a school located in Schenectady, NY. The 1882 season was split between Worcester of the NL and Philadelphia of the American Association, during the first year of the new Major League (The NL started six years earlier). He combined to go 4-22, 3.76 in 213 innings, with similar results in both spots, though he pitched about twice as much with Worcester. Mountain threw 503 innings for Columbus of the American Association in 1883, starting 59 of the team’s 97 games. He completed 57 of those games and he threw four shutouts. He went 26-33, 3.60 and led the league in losses, hits allowed, earned runs and walks. He had 159 strikeouts, which ranked fifth in the league. His manager that year was Horace Phillips, who would be his manager for two seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1884, he went 23-17, 2.45 in 360.2 innings, posting a much better strikeout rate by nearly equaling his previous season’s total with 153 strikeouts, doing that in 142.1 fewer innings. He completed 40 of 41 starts that season, while throwing five shutouts. On June 5, 1884, he pitched a no-hitter and hit a home run in an 11-0 win over the Washington Nationals.
Columbus folded after the 1884 season when the American Association went from twelve to eight teams. The Alleghenys purchased ten of their players for the 1885 season, including Mountain. He was joining a Pittsburgh team that used nine different starting pitchers during that 1884 season. Mountain was used as an extra pitcher, making just five starts over the entire season, appearing twice in May, twice in June and once in July. He went 1-4, 4.30 in 46 innings. The next year he made one start early in the season and one late in the year, but was used as a first baseman 16 times. He hit just .145, although he drew 13 walks. He went 1-6, 5.23 in 62 innings between his two seasons in Pittsburgh. His Major League career ended that 1886 season and he went on to manage in the minors in 1888. On October 19, 1886, it was reported that he asked for his release from the Alleghenys because he feared that his injured arm wouldn’t allow him to ever pitch again, which turned out to be true, at least as far as any professional games. Mountain came to Spring Training that year saying that his arm felt better than ever, but a month later he was dealing with a sore arm, which he tried to treat with a salt and sulfur bath. That resulted in blood poisoning, which kept him from pitching again for three months, but a sprained ankle in June kept him out until one final game in late August, which did not go well. His final career record was 58-83, 3.47 in 1,215.2 innings. He made 142 starts and completed 137 games. Mountain threw nine shutouts, all of them coming during the 1883-84 seasons with Columbus.
Henry Oberbeck, first baseman for the 1883 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He spent two seasons in the majors, playing for four different teams in two different leagues and got into just 66 games. Oberbeck spent time at six different positions in the majors, seeing time at all three outfield spots, first base, third base and as a pitcher. A year before his big league debut, the 24-year-old St Louis native was listed as joining a team called the St Louis Reds, which was managed by someone else with the last name Oberbeck. He was their starting pitcher. On January 3, 1883, local St Louis papers noted that he signed to play with Pittsburgh as their first baseman, a position he never played before, but he would be valuable to the team as one of their extra pitchers. It was also noted at the time that John Peters, shortstop for the Alleghenys, was his foster brother and also the designated captain of the team, so he was able to sign Oberbeck. The two were teammates for a brief time in a postseason series played by a team called the St Louis Browns. He began his pro career with the Alleghenys on May 7, 1883, in the team’s third game of the season. He lasted just two games in Pittsburgh at first base, going 2-for-9 at the plate and handling all 25 chances in the field flawlessly, a somewhat impressive feat in the pre-glove era. He would play four games for the St Louis Browns of the American Association after signing with them on May 24th (15 days after his final game with Pittsburgh). It was said by the St Louis papers that his release by Pittsburgh seemed to be personal and not performance related, but he went 0-for-14 at the plate with the Browns.
After the 1883 season, it was announced that Oberbeck had a lawsuit against the Browns for failing to pay his full salary, as he was still owed $481.12. The dispute was over whether or not he signed a normal American Association contract, or one called an “iron clad” contract, which allowed the manager to rescind the contract at any time. In April of 1885 it was announced that he won the judgement against the team. His original contract with St Louis called for him to get paid $785 for the remainder of the season.
A third major league was formed in 1884 called the Union Association. Oberbeck played 33 games at the start of the year for the Baltimore Monumentals of the UA, hitting .184 with 19 runs, four doubles and three walks. He spent most of his time in right field, but he also played eight games at third base, and got a start as a pitcher and played once in left field. He then moved on to the Kansas City Cowboys of the Union Association to finish the year. Oberbeck hit .189 with seven runs, three doubles and seven walks in 27 games with Kansas City, while also going 0-5 as a pitcher in four starts and two relief appearances. He also umpired three October 1884 games in the Union Association at the end of his career. In between his time with Pittsburgh and St Louis during the 1883 season, he spent time with Peoria of the Northwestern League, but his online records show nothing before or after his wild 1883-84 ride through the majors.He was doing some umpiring in fall/winter ball after the 1884 season, then I was able to track him down to playing for Youngstown of the Interstate League in 1885, followed by a semi-pro teams called the Prickly Ash from St Louis, and the Belleville Nationals. Oberbeck was referred to a few times in 1885 among a group of players who were blacklisted from the American Association, likely for jumping to the Union Association, though I’m sure his lawsuit against a team in the league didn’t do him any favors. He was back to playing for Belleville for a time during the 1886 season with his foster brother John Peters. The two played together again in 1889 for a semi-pro team near their home in St Louis called the Western Athletic. Oberbeck was also found playing with the Prickly Ash team in St Louis at least once in 1888. He was a .176 hitter in 66 games in the majors, with 27 runs, ten walks and eight extra-base hits, which were all doubles.
Billy Reid, left fielder for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his big league career in 1883, playing for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. Reid played 23 games at second base and made 23 errors. He also played one other game at shortstop and made one error there. In 24 games for the Orioles, he hit .278 with 14 runs scored, three extra-base hits (all doubles) and four walks. Reid finished the year in the minors playing for a team from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Northwestern League. He remained in that league to start the 1884 season, this time playing for the Minneapolis Millers. He hit .279 with 66 runs, 11 doubles, eight triples and two homers in 80 games. Reid was signed by Pittsburgh on September 13th and made his debut with the Alleghenys on September 16th. He played the final 19 games of the season, playing mostly in left field, starting 17 of his 19 games out there. He hit .243 with 11 runs scored, two extra-base hits (both doubles) and four walks. He also played one game at second base and one at third base, making one error at each position, keeping up his error per game pace at all three infield positions.
That 1884 season was Reid’s last season in the majors. The Alleghenys finished with a 30-78 record that year, and when Horace Phillips took over mid-season, he made wholesale changes, bringing in numerous new players. Most of them didn’t last into 1885 because the Alleghenys purchased the roster from the Columbus American Association team, which dropped out of the league, despite a second place finish. Phillips was experimenting with his lineup to end the season and Reid hit lead-off for a short time, batted clean-up and moved down the lineup as well. Reid bounced around the minors in 1885, playing for three different teams. He batted .233 in 16 games with Cleveland of the Western League, then spent the rest of his time split between Toronto and London of the Canadian League. He then went back to the Northwestern League for 1886, joining the Duluth Jayhawks. His last known stop in pro ball was for the Sandusky Fish Eaters in 1888. He was umpiring in the International League in 1887. Most of his minor league stats are completely unknown at this time or missing full categories. His big league debut in 1883 was also his pro debut, playing his first professional game at 26 years old. However, his first game on a big league field happened in 1882 when he served as a National League umpire for six games.