Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus three transactions.
On this date in 1987, the Pirates sent veteran infielder Bill Almon to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league outfielder Scott Little and shortstop Al Pedrique. Almon was the first overall pick in the 1974 draft, who had previously played for the Mets during the 1980 season. He was in his 14th season in the majors at the time of the trade, barely playing with the Pirates, getting 21 plate appearances in 19 games. Pedrique was 27 years old and had played his first five games in the majors with the Mets that season. He had been in their organization since 1978, spending the last seven seasons split between Double-A and Triple-A. Little was 24 years old, in his fourth season in the Mets system, struggling at Double-A. He was a seventh round draft pick in 1984, and he reached Double-A in 1986.
After the trade, Little reported to single-A ball and worked his way though the minors, reaching Pittsburgh for three games in the middle of the 1989 season. He remained in the Pirates system as a player through 1991, then began managing for the organization in the minors until 1999. Pedrique played 88 games for the Pirates in 1987, hitting .301 with 27 RBIs. His success at the majors was short-lived. He was back in the minors in 1988 after hitting .198 through the beginning of June. He returned in August, but his average fell to .180 by the end of the season and he was released. Almon was used almost exclusively off of the bench for the defending World Series champs. He started just four games, while batting 62 times in 49 games with a .241 average. He re-signed with the Mets as a free agent after the season, but was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during Spring Training.
On this date in 1931, the Pirates traded catcher Rollie Hemsley to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Earl Grace and cash. The Pirates were able to deal Hemsley due to the emergence of catcher Eddie Phillips. The day after Phillips drove in seven runs in a seven-inning game, this deal was consummated. Grace was a 24-year-old backup for the Cubs, playing in his second season in the majors. He spent the entire 1930 season in the minors. Hemsley was also 24 years old, a platoon catcher for the Pirates with a decent bat and a strong arm. He was hitting just .171 at the time of the trade and seeing limited action.
After the deal, Hemsley hit .309 in 66 games for the Cubs. His average dropped off the next year and Chicago dealt him to the Cincinnati Reds, who in turn traded him to the St Louis Browns. It was there that Hemsley became an All-Star, making the mid-season classic five times over a ten-year span. He ended up catching 1,482 career games, 1,230 after leaving Pittsburgh. Grace hit well for the Pirates, then took over the catching starting spot in 1932, playing 115 games. He was the primary catcher the next two years before giving way to Tom Padden in 1935. The Pirates traded Grace, along with pitcher Claude Passeau, to the Phillies in exchange for Al Todd on November 21, 1935. With Pittsburgh, Grace hit .275 in 427 games. In 1932, he had a .998 fielding percentage, making just one error the entire year. The Pirates received 3.3 WAR from Grace over his five seasons in Pittsburgh. Despite Hemsley being an All-Star five times and he was also an above average defensive catcher, he was worth just 4.7 WAR over 15 1/2 seasons after the deal, so it was a fairly even trade.
On this date in 1925, the Pirates signed 34-year-old veteran free agent first baseman Stuffy McInnis. He was a star player for the Philadelphia A’s in the early 1910’s, beginning his major league career as an 18-year-old in 1909. Stuffy hit .291 in 1924 with the Boston Braves. He had batted over .300 ten times in his career including all three seasons just prior to 1924. He started off as a bench player for the Pirates, getting just three starts in the first four weeks, but in late June he began to see more time at first base. McInnis saw his average drop to .263 near the end of July, then from July 29th until the end of the season, he went on a tear. He batted .468 the rest of the season, helping Pittsburgh to their third World Series appearance. He hit .286 with an RBI in the series. The next year McInnis was the starting first baseman through the end of May, but took a very limited bench role after that point, finishing with a .299 average in 47 games. After leaving the Pirates, he played just one more Major League game in 1927 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ka’ai Tom, outfielder for the 2021 Pirates. He was born in Hawaii and drafted by the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Kentucky in the fifth round in 2015. Tom, whose actually first name is Blaze (Ka’ai is his middle name), began his pro career in the short-season New York-Penn League with Mahoning Valley. He hit .283 in 66 games, with 38 runs, 18 doubles, three homers, 29 RBIs, 14 steals and a .777 OPS. He went to Lake County of the Low-A Midwest League in 2016, where he batted .323 in 28 games, with an .881 OPS, before an injury in early June ended his season. In 2017, Tom went to Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League, where he hit .254 in 126 games, with 68 runs, 31 doubles, seven triples, ten homers, 65 RBIs, 23 steals and 59 walks. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the 2017 season and hit .275 with three doubles, two homers and ten walks in 11 games. He played for Akron of the Double-A Eastern League in 2018, batting .245 in 121 games, with 60 runs, 21 doubles, 12 homers, 64 RBIs and 13 steals, though he was caught stealing ten times. The Indians sent Tom to Akron for the first three months of the 2019 season. He hit .285 in 81 games, with 50 runs, 32 extra-base hits and 43 walks, before getting promoted to Triple-A Columbus of the International League. Over the final two months of 2019, he hit .298 in 51 games, with 33 runs, 15 doubles, nine homers, 44 RBIs and a .934 OPS.
Despite the success in Triple-A, and a season in which he had 60 extra-base hits, 64 walks and a .912 OPS, Tom did not play during the shortened 2020 season, then was left available in the Rule 5 draft after the season. He was taken by the Oakland A’s and made their Opening Day roster in 2021, though they gave up on him quickly after he went 1-for-16 with no walks in nine games. The Pirates picked him up on waivers on April 21, 2021 and he hit .152 in 39 games, with five extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and 17 walks, giving him a .569 OPS. The Pirates designated him for assignment in mid-August and released him a month later after he hit .190 in 23 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. He was quickly signed by the San Francisco Giants, who let him finish out the 2021 season in Triple-A. He remained with the Giants, playing for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League to start 2022. He joined the Giants for one day in April and appeared as a pinch-hitter late in a one-sided game. As of mid-May, he was still with Sacramento.
Charlie Hayes, third baseman for the 1996 Pirates. He was a fourth round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 1983 draft at 18 years old out of high school in Mississippi. He hit .261 in 34 games with no homers and a .644 OPS, while playing for Great Falls in the Pioneer League during his first season. In 1984, Hayes played with Clinton of the Class-A Midwest League, where he batted .245 with 17 doubles, two homers, 51 RBIs and a .619 OPS in 116 games. He moved up to the high-offense California League (considered to be Advanced-A) in 1985 and hit .283 with 73 runs, 17 doubles, four homers, 68 RBIs and 56 walks in 131 games with Fresno. He spent the next two years in Double-A, playing for Shreveport of the Texas League. Hayes batted .247 with 52 runs, 23 doubles, five homers and 45 RBIs in 121 games in 1986. He broke out the next season at 22 years old, batting .304 with 66 runs, 33 doubles, 14 homers and 75 RBIs in 128 games. His OPS went from .636 in 1986, to .809 in 1987. He spent the 1988 season playing for Triple-A Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League, where he batted .307 in 131 games, with 71 runs, 37 extra-base hits and 71 RBIs. Hayes made his Major League debut in September of 1988, getting into seven games for the Giants, going 1-for-11 at the plate, with no walks and a single. The next June, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he spent three seasons trying to replace the recently retired Mike Schmidt. Hayes played just three more games for San Francisco before the deal, then hit .258 with 15 doubles, eight homers and 43 RBIs in 84 games after the trade. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Hayes hit .258 in 152 games in 1989, with 56 runs, 20 doubles, ten homers, 57 RBIs and a .641 OPS. He led all National League third basemen in assists, and he finished third in fielding percentage. He saw his average drop to .230 in 1991, while hitting 23 doubles and 12 homers in 142 games. He finished with a lowly .257 OBP due to 16 walks in 480 plate appearances, but his OPS only dropped 21 points versus the previous season. He was traded to the New York Yankees in February of 1992. Hayes batted .257 with 52 runs, 19 doubles, 18 homers and 66 RBIs in 142 games for the Yankees, who then lost him in the Expansion Draft to the Colorado Rockies. Hayes had a great first year in Colorado, setting career highs with his .305 average, 25 homers, 45 doubles, 98 RBIs and 86 runs scored. He led the NL in doubles that year. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, he hit .288 with 46 runs, 23 doubles, ten homers and 50 RBIs in 113 games. Hayes returned to the Phillies in 1995 as a free agent on a one-year deal. That year he hit .276 with 30 doubles, 11 homers, 85 RBIs and 50 walks in 141 games, finishing 16th in the NL MVP voting. He also led all NL third basemen in putouts, while finishing second in assists and fourth in fielding.
Hayes became a free agent after the 1995 season and signed with the Pirates just after Christmas. For Pittsburgh in 1996, he hit .248 with 51 runs, 21 doubles, ten homers and 62 RBIs in 128 games. Just before the rosters were set for the postseason, the Pirates traded him to the Yankees for minor league pitcher Chris Corn. Hayes hit .284/.294/.418 in 20 games after the deal, then struggled in the playoffs, going 5-for-28 at the plate, but the Yankees won the World Series and Hayes is known for catching the final out of the series. He hit .258 with 16 doubles, 11 homers and 53 RBIs in 100 games for the 1997 Yankees. He was traded to the Giants after the season and spent the next two years back where he started. Hayes hit .286 with 39 runs, eight doubles, 12 homers and 62 RBIs in 111 games in 1998. His .770 OPS was his highest mark outside of Colorado. He then saw his average drop to .205 and his OPS fall to .607 in 95 games in 1999. He became a free agent and signed with the New York Mets in January of 2000, though they released him two months later in the middle of Spring Training. Hayes signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he hit .251 in 121 games, with 46 runs, 17 doubles, nine homers, 46 RBIs and a career high 57 walks. He signed with the Houston Astros in 2001, but they released him in July after he hit .200 with two doubles in 31 games. Hayes played 14 years in the majors, finishing with a .262 average, 251 doubles, 144 homers, 740 RBIs and 580 runs scored in 1,547 games. His son Ke’Bryan is a third baseman for the Pirates. The younger Hayes wears #13, which his dad wore with with four different teams in the majors, though Charlie Hayes wore #17 with the Pirates.
Jim Stroner, third baseman for the 1929 Pirates. Early in his 14-year pro career, he got his one and only shot at the Majors Leagues, making the 1929 Pirates out of Spring Training as a bench player. Stroner played semi-pro ball in Chicago prior to 1923 when he got a chance to tryout for the Boston Red Sox during Spring Training. He didn’t make the team, but he briefly played in the minors in 1923 for Scranton of the Class-B New York-Penn League, where he hit .174 with two homers in six games. He has no pro records for the 1924-26 seasons. Stroner was playing for a semi-pro team called the Chicago Cermacks at that time, where he got a reputation as a home run hitter. He hit .380 with 31 doubles, seven triples and 19 homers in 117 games in 1927, while playing for Rock Island of the Class-D Mississippi Valley League. In 1928 he moved up to Wichita of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .367 with 42 doubles, ten triples and 42 homers in 166 games. On September 8th, the Pirates announced that they had purchased Stroner and his teammate Carl Frey for cash and the rights to third baseman George Gottleber. The deal turned out to be minor, as Stroner had a short career in the majors and neither of the other two players ever played at the big league level.
Despite the fact that Stroner played just six games for the Pirates in 1929, the team had big plans for him. One included Pie Traynor moving to shortstop, while Stroner started at third base. Unfortunately for Stroner, he had his appendix removed in January and was limited in his activities during Spring Training, so he was behind when the season started. Traynor stayed at third base and 21-year-old Dick Bartell took over at shortstop, where he played well. Stroner was with the team until June 7th, starting just one of the team’s 42 games. Pittsburgh sent him to Indianapolis of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) on June 7th with a clause that he could be recalled on 48 hours notice. He never came back and they traded him on September 9, 1929 to Baltimore of the Double-A International League, along with another player and cash, for catcher Al Bool. He went 3-for-8 with a double and a walk during his time with the Pirates. Between both stops in the minors that season, he hit .281 in 100 games, with 25 extra-base hits.
Stroner spent five years with Baltimore (1929-33), then another six years bouncing around the minors before retiring. He played for two teams in the Pacific Coast League (1934-35) and three different teams in the Texas League (1935-38), before finishing his career at 38 years old playing Class-D ball for Williamston of the Coastal Plain League. When offense was up all around baseball in 1930, he hit .331 with 36 doubles and 27 homers in 158 games. Offense started to normalize the next season and Stroner hit .277 with 44 extra-base hits in 128 games. He batted .320 in 1932, though he only played 35 games. In his last season with Baltimore, he hit .294 with 26 doubles and 16 homers. He batted .295 with 38 extra-base hits in 1935, but he did much better after dropping from the Double-A PCL, down to the Single-A Texas League. The 1936 season is his last year where full stats are available. He hit .285 in 151 games, with 111 runs, 24 doubles, 27 homers and 103 RBIs for Dallas of the Texas League.