This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 18th, Pirates Pitching Great, Babe Adams

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Babe Adams, pitcher for the 1907, 1909-16 and 1918-26 Pirates. In Pirates franchise history, he ranks tied for second with Sam Leever in wins with 194, trailing only Wilbur Cooper. He is third in innings pitched (2991.1) behind Cooper and Bob Friend. He ranks sixth in strikeouts, fourth in games started, sixth in complete games and first in shutouts with forty-four. Adams walked just 430 batters in his career, four times leading the league in lowest walks per inning and best strikeout per walk ratios. Adams is best known for his exploits during the 1909 season. He went 12-3, 1.11 in 130 regular season innings, then won all three starts during the World Series, including a shutout performance in game seven over the Detroit Tigers. He is the only player who was a member of the 1909 and 1925 World Series champs. Adams led the NL in WHIP (not a stat during his time obviously) five times. His 0.85 WHIP in 1909 is a Pirates team record. His 1.11 ERA in 1909 is also a Pirates single season record. His only big league game without the Pirates was one start for the 1906 St Louis Cardinals.

Adams debuted in pro ball in 1905 with Parsons of the Class-C Missouri Valley League at 23 years old. He won 21 games and had a 2.05 ERA in 276 innings. That helped earn him an Opening Day spot with the Cardinals in 1906, but he lasted one game and allowed eight runs in four innings. He finished the season in the minors, going 9-10, 3.01 in 176 innings with Denver of the Class-A Western League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. In 1907, he spent the season with Denver, going 24-13, 1.99 in 325.2 innings. The Pirates decided to go big with adding talent in the Rule 5 draft and through player purchases as the 1907 season came to a close. They picked up 15 new players, including Adams, with all of the deals approved by baseball’s National Commission on August 31st, though the purchase for Adams was completed back on August 9th between the Pirates and Denver. Adams met the Pirates in St Louis for their series on September 15th and he pitched game two of a doubleheader the next day, giving up four runs in five innings. He made three more starts before the season ended, including a rough outing on the final day of the season when he gave up 16 hits and 13 runs in a game called in the seventh inning due to darkness. He allowed 25 runs in 22 innings for the Pirates that season. Adams spent 1908 in the minors, winning 22 games and throwing 312 innings for Louisville of the Class-A American Association. He went through Spring Training with the Pirates that year, but got cut from the team on April 12th, just three days before Opening Day. The Pirates picked up his option in the spring ($1,000 price tag) and he went to Spring Training with the club in 1909.

Adams made the 1909 Opening Day roster, but he was part of a loaded pitching staff that included veterans Sam Leever, Deacon Phillippe, Vic Willis, as well as younger strong pitchers in Howie Camnitz, Lefty Leifield and Nick Maddox. Adams saw somewhat limited work throughout the season because of those players, but he was still able to put together a big season, which helped keep him popular in Pittsburgh for years to come. He wasn’t getting regular starts until late August, going into that first game in which he was permanently in the rotation on August 28th with an 8-1 record, mostly brought along by strong long relief outings. He pitched 63 of his 130 innings over the final five weeks of the season. I mentioned his strong game seven performance in the World Series, but he also started off the series with a 4-1 complete game win in game one of the series. His game five performance wasn’t up to par with the other two outings, but the Pirates put up eight runs, so his four runs (three earned) in a complete game was more than enough for an easy win. He scattered six hits and a walk in game seven, just three days after pitching the Pirates to a game five victory.

That World Series performance landed Adams a starting role full-time in 1910. He had an 18-9, 2.24 record in 245 innings that season. He completed 16 of his 30 starts and threw three shutouts. He won 22 games (with 11 losses) during the 1911 season, which ended up being his career high. He had a 2.33 ERA in 293.1 innings and he completed a career best 24 games, while throwing six shutouts. Adams had a 1.01 WHIP that season, best in the National League. He had 133 strikeouts, which ranked eighth in the league. He received mild MVP support that season. He saw a bit of limited use in June and July of 1912, though he pitched three games each month. He went 11-9, 2.91 in 170.1 innings that season over 20 starts and eight relief appearances, then had an incredible 1913 season. He won 21 games that year and posted a 2.15 ERA, while setting a career high with 313.1 innings pitched. His 144 strikeouts were also a season high, and good enough for fifth most in the league, his best finish in that category. Adams completed 24 of his 37 starts, finishing with four shutouts. That performance led to him receiving mild MVP support for the second (and final) time in his career, though they didn’t vote for MVPs during most of his career. The Pirates dropped below .500 in 1914 and his record suffered along with the team. Adams went 13-16, 2.51 in 283 innings. His 1.03 WHIP was the best in the league. He completed 19 of 35 starts, throwing three shutouts. He was 14-14, 2.87 in 245 innings in 1915. He had 30 starts, ten relief appearances, 17 complete games and two shutouts. His record that year had a bit of good luck, as the Pirates were a below .500 team, and his ERA that looks solid, was actually 16 points above league average during the peak of the deadball era.

Adams had a shocking downturn in 1916. He was a strong starting pitcher for seven seasons before going 2-9, 5.72 in 72.1 innings. That ERA is made worse by the fact that the league ERA dropped to 2.61 that season. That wasn’t the worst of it. On August 3rd, he was given his unconditional release and said that he could retire to farming in Missouri. Luckily for him, he decided to return to baseball in 1917 and he went 20-13, 1.75 in 313 innings for St Joseph/Hutchinson of the Class-A Western League. The next year he posted a 14-3 record for Kansas City of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at that time) before the league shut down early due to the ongoing war. Adams became a free agent and quickly signed with the Pirates, where he put up a 1.19 ERA in 22.2 innings. A line drive off of his hand in his third start ended his season early, but he had a regular spot back with the team.

In 1919, Adams went 17-10, 1.98 in 263.1 innings, leading the league with an 0.90 WHIP. He completed 23 of his 29 starts and he had six shutouts. In 1920, Adams went 17-13, 2.16 in 263 innings. He led the league with an 0.98 WHIP and with eight shutouts. He made 33 starts that year and had 18 complete games. His 14-5 record in 1921 led to a league best winning percentage for pitchers. He had a 2.64 ERA in 160 innings, with a league best 1.08 WHIP. He completed 11 of 20 starts, with two shutouts. Adams saw a down tick in his stats in 1922, though that was league wide with new rules that favored hitters, such as outlawing certain pitches and new baseballs in play more often. He went 8-11, 3.57 in 171.1 innings, with 12 complete games in 19 starts. He pitched another four seasons, but he recorded the final four shutouts of his career that year at 40 years old. His ERA went up to 4.42 in 1923, but he still managed a 13-7 record. Adams played three more seasons for the Pirates, but his work was limited each year. He had a strong stretch during the 1924 season after pitching just one game (recording one out) before the final week of August. Over the last five weeks of the season, he had an 0.91 ERA in 39.1 innings. An arm injury, described as both elbow and shoulder pain, had kept him out of action and he was sent home for a time during the year. He returned in mid-August and slowly worked his way back into the lineup.

The Pirates won their second World Series in 1925 and Adams was used as a spot starter and reliever throughout the season. He tossed 101.1 innings and put up a 5.42 ERA in ten starts and 23 relief outings. He pitched one scoreless inning in the World Series against the Washington Senators. In 1926, Adams was a 44-year-old reliever, mostly doing mop-up work. He had a 6.14 ERA in 36.2 innings when he got caught up in a major team issue. The club was upset about having Fred Clarke on the bench as a coach because he was acting as a second manager and players were receiving mixed signals between Clarke and Bill McKechnie, which led to some player fines. On August 13th it was announced that the Pirates were parting ways with veterans Carson Bigbee, Max Carey and Adams, in what became known as the ABC Affair (the first letters of their last name). There was a team vote to get rid of Clarke and it received just six votes against him, with three of the players deemed to be young players who felt obligated to vote due to veteran pressure. Clarke received word of the meeting and demanded that the three veteran “ringleaders” be let go, which is what happened. It was extremely unpopular with the local fans, who voiced their opinions vigorously on the subject, but to not avail. Adams was released immediately and he finished his pro career in the minors in 1927, seeing brief time with two different Class-C teams. He finished with a 194-140, 2.76 record in 354 starts and 128 relief appearances, with 205 complete games, 44 shutouts and 16 saves (not an official stat at the time). He threw 2,995.1 innings total and finished with 1,036 strikeouts. Adams was a decent hitting pitcher, batting .212 in his career with 49 extra-base hits, with a majority of his at-bats coming during the deadball era.

Joakim Soria, pitcher for the 2015 Pirates. He was signed out of Mexico at 17 years old in 2001 by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was released after the 2004 season, pitching just five innings total during the 2002-04 seasons due to missing a large chunk of time after Tommy John surgery. All of those innings came in 2002 in the Gulf Coast League. A year after being released, he signed with the San Diego Padres, after going 5-0, 4.48 in 66.1 innings over five starts and 25 relief appearances in Mexico that year. Soria pitched seven games for Fort Wayne of the Low-A Midwest League in 2006, but a majority of his season was spent back on loan in Mexico, where he had a 3.89 ERA and 15 saves in 37 innings over 39 appearances. He played winter ball in Mexico that year as well, going 9-1, 2.41 in 13 starts, with 79 strikeouts in 78.1 innings. The Padres lost him in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2006 to the Kansas City Royals, which completely changed his career path. Soria slid right into a Major League bullpen role, despite limited lower level experience in the minors. He posted a 2.48 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 69 innings over 62 appearances with the Royals in 2007, picking up 16 saves. He earned a seventh place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Soria became a dominant closer in 2008, posting a 1.60 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 67.1 innings over 63 appearances, with 42 saves (second most in the American League) and his first All-Star appearance. In 2009 he had a 2.21 ERA and 30 saves in 53 innings over 47 appearances. He then put together another dominant season in 2010. That year he had a 1.78 ERA and 43 saves. Soria pitched 66 times, striking out 71 batters in 65.2 innings.He made his second (and final) All-Star appearance and received Cy Young and MVP votes for the only time in his career. His career fell off quickly in 2011. He still had 28 saves, but his ERA shot up to 4.03 in 60.1 innings over 60 games. Soria became a free agent after the 2012 season, which was spent on the disabled list due to his second Tommy John surgery. He signed a deal with the Texas Rangers for 2013 and returned to action in July. Soria posted a 3.80 ERA in 23.2 innings over 26 appearances that season. He didn’t get any work as a closer that year, but he slipped back into the role for most of 2014. He started off that 2014 season strong, putting up a 2.70 ERA and 17 saves through 35 outings, before being sent to the Detroit Tigers to help their playoff run. After the deal, he had a 4.91 ERA in 13 appearances. In the playoffs, he allowed five runs in his only inning of work. Between both stops, he combined to go 2-4, 3.25 in 44.1 innings, with 18 saves.

Soria had a 2.85 ERA and 23 saves in 41 innings/43 games with the Tigers in 2015. He joined the Pirates on July 30, 2015 in a trade with Detroit for minor leaguer JaCoby Jones. Soria posted a 2.03 ERA and one save over 26.2 innings and 29 appearances with the Pirates. He then tossed a scoreless inning in the playoffs. Between both teams in 2015, he combined to set a career high with 72 appearances. He was let go via free agency after the season, and then spent the next two years back with the Royals. He went 5-8, 4.70 in 70 appearances in 2016, with 68 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. That was followed up by a 4-3, 3.70 record in 2017, with 64 strikeouts in 56 innings over 59 games. He had one save each season with the Royals. Soria split the 2018 season between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. He did much better in Chicago at the start of the year, posting a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 innings, while picking up 16 saves. After a July trade, he had a 4.09 ERA and no saves with the Brewers in 22 innings. He struck out 75 batters in 60.2 innings that season. In the NLCS that year, he allowed four runs in two innings of work. In 2019, he signed with the Oakland A’s and spent two seasons there. He had a 4.30 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 69 innings over 71 appearances in 2019. During the shortened 2020 season, Soria posted a 2.82 ERA in 22 appearances and 22.1 innings. He had another rough time in the playoffs, which left him with a 10.13 postseason ERA over 14 outings.

Soria spent the start of his 14th seasons in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2021 season. He went 1-4, 4.30 in 29.1 innings, with six saves, before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 30th. He struggled there, posting a 7.88 ERA in ten appearances. He announced his retirement in November of 2021. In 773 big league appearances (one start), he put up a 36-45, 3.11 record, with 229 saves and 831 strikeouts in 763 innings pitched. At the time of his retirement, he ranked 42nd all-time in saves.

Nelson Figueroa, pitcher for the Pirates during the 2003-04 seasons. He was drafted by the Mets in the 30th round of the 1995 draft out of Brandeis University. He is the only big league player ever drafted out of that school. Figueroa debuted with Kingsport in the short-season Appalachian League, where he had a 3.07 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 76.1 innings over 12 starts. He moved up to Low-A Capital City of the South Atlantic League in 1996 and went 14-7, 2.04 in 185.1 innings, racking up 200 strikeouts. He had four shutouts and eight complete games in 25 starts. That led to him skipping High-A in 1997, though he struggled a bit in Double-A that year, posting a 4.34 ERA in 143 innings with Binghamton of the Eastern League. He struck out 116 batters, though it was a large drop in his strikeout rate from the previous season. He repeated Double-A in 1998, going 12-3, 4.66 in 21 starts, with 116 strikeouts in 123.2 innings, before being traded on July 31st to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a four-player/cash deal. He finished the year in Triple-A with Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 3.70 ERA in 41.1 innings over seven starts. In 1999, Figueroa went 11-6, 3.94, with 106 strikeouts in 128 innings for Tuscon. He made his Major League debut on June 3, 2000, taking the loss in a game in which he allowed four runs in 6.1 innings.. He made just three starts for the Diamondbacks before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-for-one deal for Curt Schilling on July 26, 2000. Figueroa spent the rest of the 2000 season in Triple-A after the trade.

Figueroa spent most of the 2001 season with the Phillies, going 4-5, 3.94 in 89 innings over 13 starts and six relief appearances. He had a 2.47 ERA in 87.1 innings with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that season. Philadelphia lost him on waivers to the Milwaukee Brewers right before Opening Day in 2002. He would go 1-7, 5.03 in 11 starts and 19 relief appearances, while setting a career high with 93 innings. Milwaukee released him in October of 2002 and he signed with the Pirates three months later. Figueroa spent most of the 2003 season at Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 12-5, 2.97 in 151.1 innings over 23 starts. He was called up by the Pirates in August of 2003 and he went 2-1, 3.31 in 35.1 innings over 12 outings, the first three of those came as a starter, before moving to the bullpen for the rest of the season. His 2004 season was very similar to the previous one, though he didn’t pitch as well. He pitched one more inning with Nashville, posting a 12-8, 4.19 record in 152.1 innings over 23 starts. He was again called up by the Pirates in August and made three starts. The results were not good during his limited big league time in 2004. He went 0-3, 5.72 in 28.1 innings.

Figueroa was released by the Pirates in October of 2004, then underwent off-season rotator cuff surgery, which caused him to miss all of the 2005 season. He moved around a lot before making it back to the majors. He spent 2006 with the Washington Nationals in Triple-A (New Orleans of the PCL), while also playing some independent ball and winter ball in the Dominican. In 2007, he played summer ball in Mexico and China, then winter ball in Mexico. Between summer/winter ball, he won 14 games and pitched 217.2 innings. In 2008, he signed with the New York Mets and made the team out of Spring Training, though a majority of the season (May-September) was spent in Triple-A, back with New Orleans. He had a 4.57 ERA in 45.1 innings with the Mets, making six starts and ten relief appearances. In 2009, he had a 4.09 ERA in 70.1 innings over ten starts and six relief outings with the Mets, though he still spent half of the year in Triple-A with Buffalo of the International League. Figueroa returned to the Phillies in 2010 as a waiver pickup at the start of the year. In mid-July, he was lost to the Houston Astros on waivers. He went 7-4, 3.29 in 93 innings between the two stops, making 11 starts and 20 relief appearances.

Figueroa had a rough go of things early in 2011 with the Astros, posting an 8.69 ERA in 29 innings over five starts and three relief appearances. He was released by the Astros in August and never pitched in the majors again, though he remained in pro ball through 2014, spending his final two seasons in China. During the 2012 calendar year, he was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, but only played minor league ball. He saw some brief time in Triple-A for the Diamondbacks in 2013, before going to China to finish his career. Figueroa had a 20-35 career record in nine big league seasons, with a 4.55 ERA in 499 innings. He made 65 starts and 80 relief appearances, finishing with one complete game, one shutout and one save. In all levels of pro ball, he won 194 games and threw 2,948.1 innings.

Ken Hamlin, shortstop for the 1957 and 1959 Pirates. He signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in June of 1957 out of Western Michigan and went right to the majors. Usually that treatment was reserved for high bonus players (Bonus Baby rule), but Hamlin didn’t get a large enough bonus to qualify. The Pirates weren’t forced to keep him in the majors, though he did sign a big league deal with the club. He signed on June 4th and reported to the team 11 days later. He made his Major League debut as a pinch-runner on June 17th, two days after joining the team. Three days later he got his first at-bat as a pinch-hitter. Hamlin was then sent to the minors on June 25th, going to Lincoln of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .254 in 84 games, with 16 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and an impressive total of 61 walks. He spent all of 1958 in the minors and didn’t return to the Pirates until September of 1959. Hamlin was with the Columbus Jets of the Triple-A International League for part of 1958, hitting .295 in 34 games, with a .772 OPS. He spent the rest of the year in Mexico, where he hit .261 with 48 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs in 84 games for Mexico City. He rejoined the Pirates in 1959 after he hit .251 with 19 doubles, ten triples, ten homers, 69 RBIs and 54 walks in 148 games for Columbus. Hamlin returned to the majors on September 14th after Columbus made a playoff run. He pinch-ran in his first appearance for the Pirates on September 22nd, then started the last two games of the season at shortstop. He batted lead-off in his first start, and collected a ninth inning single off of former Pirate Bob Purkey for his first big league base hit. He also turned an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play with Bill Mazeroski in the third inning. The next day he went 0-for-3 with two walks, in what ended up being his final game with the Pirates.

Hamlin was traded on December 9, 1959 to the Kansas City A’s, along with two other players, in exchange for catcher Hal Smith. Hamlin would play five seasons in the majors after the deal, with his last year coming in 1966. He played a career high 140 games in 1960 with the A’s, hitting .224 with 51 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs, 44 walks and a .568 OPS. He started 127 games at shortstop that year. After the season, he was lost in the expansion draft to the Washington Senators (Texas Rangers version), then immediately traded to the Los Angeles Angels, who were also in their first season. In 1961, he hit .209/.298/.275 in 42 games for the Angels before being traded to Toronto of the Triple-A International League. He finished off the season by hitting .267 in 97 games, with 22 extra-base hits and a .681 OPS. Hamlin ended up returning to the majors with the Senators in 1962, hitting .253 in 98 games, with 22 walks, 22 RBIs and 29 runs scored. He played for Rochester of the International League in 1963, hitting .249 in 151 games, with 63 runs, 29 doubles, eight triples, 13 homers, 50 RBIs, 13 steals and a .690 OPS. He was back in Toronto in 1964, batting .232 in 144 games, with 31 extra-base hits, 44 RBIs and a .607 OPS. Despite seeing a slip in his minor league stats, he returned to the majors for his final two seasons of pro ball, which were both spent with the Senators. Hamlin hit .273 with 45 runs and 26 extra-base hits in 117 games in 1965, making 62 starts at second base and 31 at shortstop. In 1966, he hit .215 in 66 games, with 40 starts at second base. He had a .558 OPS that year, which was a 146 point drop from the previous year. He was traded to the Minnesota Twins on February 16, 1967, but he retired from baseball in April of 1967 to begin teaching the sport to kids at a summer camp near his home. Hamlin finished with a .241 average in 468 career games over seven seasons, with 143 runs, 54 doubles, 11 homers and 89 RBIs. His big league defense fluctuated between good and below average according to modern metrics, which gives him a 0.3 dWAR for his career, with three seasons of 0.6-0.8 dWAR ratings.

Bill Batsch, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on September 9, 1916. He was a graduate of Bethany College in West Virginia, one of just four Major League players who attended that school, and none have played in the majors since 1957. Batsch was signed on June 21, 1916, with the understanding that he would join the Pirates after Labor Day. At the time he was playing the season for the Pittsburgh Collegians, a team composed of former college stars. He reported to the Pirates on September 5th, and got into his first game four days later. In the first game of a doubleheader on September 9, 1916, the Pirates were losing to the Cubs 2-0 in the 8th inning. The lead-off batter reached base, bringing up the pitcher’s spot in the order. The Pirates pulled Erv Kantlehner and sent up Bill Batsch (spelled Batch in the papers) to make his Major League debut. He drew a walk off of Hippo Vaughn. He moved to second on a bunt play, with the out being recorded at third base. Hall of Fame center fielder Max Carey then came to the plate and hit one back to Vaughn, who bobbled the ball. His throw to first base was also bobbled and Batsch rounded third, then was sent home by the third base coach. He was out at the plate, keeping the Pirates off the board, in what ended as a 3-0 loss. Those chain of events were the entire extent of Batsch’s big league career.

The local papers in Pittsburgh said that Batsch went with the Pirates on their final eastern road trip of the 1916 season, which included 23 games over 18 days, including eight doubleheaders and a seven-game series against the Boston Braves. Despite the tough schedule, he was never put into a game. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1917 and didn’t make the team, getting released to the Springfield Reapers of the Central League on April 10th (the day before Opening Day) along with teammate Joe Coffindaffer, who ended up never making the majors. Batsch was with the team through late May, but there are no stats available from that time, though he was playing some games in the outfield. He was one of four players released on May 22nd when the team had to get down to a lower roster limit per league rules. Batsch was in the service during WWI in 1918. He signed with a team from Akron in 1920, but when they tried to transfer his rights to the Joplin Miners of the Class-A Western League, he asked for his unconditional release. He declared he would rather play semi-pro ball than accept his transfer to the Western League. That decision ended his pro career, though he continued to play semi-pro ball.