This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 16th, Kevin Young and Pete Coscarart

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note.

The Players

Kevin Young, first baseman for the 1992-95 and 1997-2003 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick of the Pirates in 1990 out of the University of Southern Mississippi. He debuted in the New York-Penn League and put up a .244 average, 23 extra-base hits and a .732 OPS in 72 games with Welland. Young started his first full season in High-A with Salem of the Carolina League, batting .313 with 22 extra-base hits in 56 games. He made it to Double-A Carolina of the Southern League by the middle of 1991, where he hit .342 in 75 games. He then finished the year in Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association during the final week of the season. He combined that year to hit .328 in 135 games, with 75 runs, 32 doubles, ten triples, nine homers, 63 RBIs and an .884 OPS. Young hit .314 with 91 runs scored, 43 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 67 walks and an .853 OPS in 137 games at Triple-A in 1992, earning a ten-game trial with the Pirates. He batted just nine times for the 1992 Pirates, but he went 4-for-7 with four RBIs and two walks. He was the Opening Day first baseman in 1993, playing 141 games that year. He had a .236 average, with 38 runs, 24 doubles, six homers, 47 RBIs and a .643 OPS. The 1994 and 1995 seasons were split almost evenly between Triple-A (Pirates affiliate switched to Calgary of the Pacific Coast League in 1995) and the majors. For the Pirates, he hit .205 with one homer, 11 RBIs and a .577 OPS in 59 games in 1994. He then batted .232 with six homers, 22 RBIs and a .649 OPS in 56 games in 1995. He had a 1.060 OPS in 45 games with Calgary that year.

Young spent 3+ years with the Pirates during his first time with the team, but was never able to hit well. His highest OPS during the 1993-95 seasons was that .649 mark during that last year. He had over 800 plate appearances with only 13 homers to show for it. Pittsburgh released him at the end of Spring Training in 1996 and he signed on with the Kansas City Royals six days later. Young hit .242 with eight homers, 23 RBIs and a respectable .770 OPS in 55 games for Kansas City in 1996. He also spent half of the season with Triple-A Omaha of the American Association, where he had a .944 OPS in 50 games. Despite strong stats in the minors and a solid big league season, he was released in the off-season. Pittsburgh re-signed Young at the end of Spring Training in 1997, almost one year to the day they released him. He started the year as a bench player, but began to see regular time in the middle of May. He played first base mainly, although he also saw time at third base and the corner outfield spots. An early August injury cost him six weeks of the 1997 season. Young finished with a .300 average that year, with 59 runs, 18 doubles, 18 homers, 74 RBIs and an .867 OPS in 97 games. Despite the limited playing time, he finished 19th in the MVP voting, the only year he received MVP support. The next year he moved into the starting first base role, a spot he would hold for the next five years.

Young had two strong back-to-back years in 1998-99. That first year he hit .270 with 88 runs, 40 doubles, 27 homers, 108 RBIs and an .809 OPS in 159 games. He was even better in 1999, hitting .298 with 103 runs, 41 doubles, 26 homers, 106 RBIs, 75 walks, 22 stolen bases and a career best .909 OPS. Young led all National League first baseman in putouts during both of these seasons. His numbers began to slowly decline in 2000, though he still had 77 runs, 27 doubles, 20 homers and 88 RBIs in 132 games that season. He had a career best OPS in 1999, then saw it drop 165 points to a .744 mark in 2000. He hit .232 with 53 runs, 33 doubles, 14 homers and 65 RBIs in 2001, finishing with a .708 OPS. He then batted .246 with 60 runs, 26 doubles, 16 homers and 51 RBIs over 146 games in 2002. Young was batting .202 with seven RBIs through the end of June in 2003 when the Pirates released him. He finished his career in Pittsburgh with a .259 average, 516 runs, 136 homers and 583 RBIs in 1,150 games. He ranks 24th in team history in games played, 17th with 229 doubles, 18th in extra-base hits, 11th in homers and 18th in RBIs. He has been a coach/special assistant with the Pirates since 2014 and he took up a broadcasting job with the team in 2021. Including his year in Kansas City, he hit .258 in 1,205 games, with 536 runs, 1007 hits, 235 doubles, 144 homers and 606 RBIs. He finished with 5.9 career WAR, with 5.6 coming during his 1999 season.

Arquimedes Caminero, pitcher for the 2015-16 Pirates. He was signed as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic at 17 years old in 2005 by the Florida Marlins. He debuted in 2005 and spent his first three seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He had a 5.54 ERA in 26 innings, with nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. He posted a 7.36 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 22 innings in 2006, followed by a 2.83 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 47.2 innings in 2007. Caminero had just four starts during his entire pro career and all of them came in 2007. He moved to the Gulf Coast League in 2008 and worked his way up to A-Ball, playing at three levels that year. He had a 1.56 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League, then he gave up seven runs over 10.1 innings at the higher levels. He played at three levels in 2009, topping out in High-A. He had a combined 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings that season, with a majority of his time coming with Jamestown of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he also played briefly in 2008. In 2010, he spent the entire season in Low-A with Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, going 5-2, 3.01 with 97 strikeouts in 74.2 innings over 48 outings. Caminero had an elbow injury in 2011 that limited him to one rehab game that year. In 2012, he posted an 0.44 ERA in 19 appearances in High-A Jupiter of the Florida State League, then had a 3.06 ERA in 12 games at Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League. On the year, he had 44 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. He impressed in winter ball that year, with a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 innings over 20 outings.

The 2013 season for Caminero started in Double-A Jacksonville and ended in the majors, with just one game at Triple-A New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League in between. In both minor league stops combined, he had a 6-2, 3.48 record, five saves and 69 strikeouts in 54.1 innings over 43 games. He debuted in the majors on August 16th and pitched 13 times, putting up a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings. He was with the Marlins in April of 2014 for five games, then returned in late May for one more game, but he spent the rest of the season in New Orleans, where he had a 4.86 ERA in 63 innings, though it came with ten saves and 79 strikeouts. The Pirates purchased the hard-throwing right-hander from the Marlins prior to the start of the 2015 season. For the Pirates that year, he made 73 relief appearances, going 5-1, 3.62 in 74.2 innings, with 73 strikeouts. In 2016, Caminero had a 3.51 ERA through 39 games and 41 innings, when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for two minor league pitchers (Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez) on August 6th. He put up a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings over 18 appearances in Seattle after the trade. Caminero pitched the 2017-18 seasons in Japan, then split 2019 between Triple-A for the New York Mets and a stint in Mexico. He saw time in Mexico in 2021 and he pitched winter ball in the Dominican each of the last three years. He has played a total of nine seasons of winter ball. He had a 7-5, 3.83 record and 143 strikeouts in 149 appearances and 155 innings in the majors. Between all of his pro work, he has pitched a total of 609 games.

Chris Gomez, infielder for the 2008 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in the 37th round by the California Angels in 1989. He decided to attend Cal State Long Beach, where the Detroit Tigers selected him in the third round in 1992. Gomez flew through the minors, playing 64 games at Double-A in 1992 and 87 games at Triple-A in 1993. He didn’t put up huge stats, so his quick jump to the majors was a bit surprising. He hit .268 with one homer, 19 RBIs and a .697 OPS for London of the Eastern League in 1992, then batted .246 with 12 doubles, no homers, 20 RBIs and a .611 OPS for Toledo of the International League to start 1993. Gomez played 46 games for the 1993 Tigers, debuting in the majors just 11 months after being drafted. He hit .250 with a .625 OPS that first year, splitting his time between shortstop and second base. He did the same thing defensively the next year when he hit .257 with 19 doubles, eight homers and 53 RBIs in 84 games during the strike-shortened season. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. His .738 OPS that year was his career best for any season in which he had at least 150 plate appearances.

Gomez saw his average drop to .223 in 1995, when he hit 20 doubles, 11 homers and drove in 50 runs over 123 games. His OPS dropped 91 points from the previous season. He played strictly at shortstop in 1996 when he was part of a mid-season deal with the San Diego Padres that included five players. Between both stops, he hit .257 with 53 runs, four homers, 45 RBIs and 57 walks in 137 games, putting up slightly better results after the trade. Gomez was the everyday shortstop for the Padres during the 1997-98 seasons, playing a total of 295 games. He hit .253 with 62 runs, 26 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs and 53 walks in 1997, finishing with a .652 OPS. He struck out 114 times that year, the only time he topped the century mark, though he also set career highs with 150 games and 589 plate appearances. He then had a .267 average in 1998, when he set a career high with 32 doubles, to go along with 55 runs, 51 walks and a .725 OPS. His .980 fielding percentage that year was the best for all National League shortstops. Injuries limited him to 109 games during the 1999-2000 seasons, with most of that missed time coming in the latter year when he had 64 plate appearances in 33 games. Gomez hit .252 in 76 games in 1999, with 20 runs, ten extra-base hits and 15 RBIs.

Gomez was released by the Padres in the middle of 2001, though he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays just five days later. He batted .259 in 98 games that season, with much better results in Tampa, where he hit .302 in 58 games. He had a .458 OPS with the Padres and an .845 OPS with Tampa. He was the starting shortstop for the 2002 Devil Rays, hitting .265 with 51 runs, 31 doubles, ten homers, 46 RBIs and a .715 OPS in 130 games. Gomez signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins for 2003 and he hit .251 with one homer and a .633 OPS in 58 games. He was a backup from the start of the season, though he did miss a month in the middle of the year with a knee injury. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004 and took a utility role, hitting .282 with 15 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 109 games. He moved on to the Baltimore Orioles in 2005 and played there for 2 1/2 seasons, seeing time at all four infield spots each year. He hit .279 in 89 games in 2005, with 27 runs, 11 doubles, one homer, 19 RBIs and a .701 OPS. He then batted .341 over 55 games and 132 at-bats in 2006, when he put together an .827 OPS. He saw more time at first base that year than anywhere else. Gomez split the 2007 season between the Orioles and Cleveland Indians, hitting a combined .297 in 92 games, with 21 runs, 4 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and a .699 OPS. He had a .729 OPS in his 73 games with Baltimore, but after being selected off waivers by the Indians in early August, he posted a .599 OPS in 19 games.

Gomez already had 15 seasons in at the Major League level when the Pirates signed him as a free agent in December of 2007.  With the Pirates, he played 90 games, getting multiple starts at all four infield spots. He hit .273 in 200 plate appearances, with a .655 OPS, 26 runs scored, eight doubles, one homer and 20 RBIs. After the season, he was granted free agency and he signed back with the Orioles. Baltimore cut him at the end of Spring Training, ending his 16-year Major League career. Gomez was a .262 career hitter, with 234 doubles, 60 homers, 487 RBIs and 517 runs scored in 1,515 games, spending time with eight different teams. His defense was below average for most of his career, leading to a -5.4 dWAR according to modern metrics. He didn’t run much and had a near 50% success rate for steals, going 35-for-68 during his career. His final career WAR sits at -1.4, though he had many seasons on offense that were just above the replacement level mark.

Max Surkont, pitcher for the 1954-56 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1938 at 16 years old and he threw 158 innings that year for Cambridge of the Class-D Eastern Shore League, where he went 9-10, 3.13 with 137 strikeouts. At age 17 he threw 218 innings at Class-C ball with Portsmouth of the Middle Atlantic League. He had a 14-13, 3.63 record that year, though he walked 163 batters. He pitched 234 innings the next year, when he went 19-5, 2.50 for Decatur of the Class-B Three-I League. Despite the slight bump in innings, he walked just 94 batters that year, showing a huge improvement over his 1939 season. Surkont was in Double-A with Rochester of the International League during the 1941-42 seasons, just one step from the majors. He did well in 1941 with a 10-6, 3.20 record in 163 innings, but his ERA rose to 5.04 in 193 innings in 1942, when he had more walks (107) than strikeouts (94). After spending five years in the minors, the next three years were spent serving in the military during WWII. He returned to baseball in 1946 for three more years in the minors, all spent with Rochester (then considered to be Triple-A), where he pitched 606 innings and had a 39-38 record during the 1946-48 seasons. Surkont’s first year back was rough, going 9-17, 5.47 in 176 innings, with 109 walks and 81 strikeouts. He improved greatly in 1947, when he went 15-10, 3.55 in 190 innings, though he still had more walks (109) than strikeouts (102). He finally got over that hill in 1948, with 15-11, 4.16 record in 240 innings, when he had 142 strikeouts and 109 walks (for the third straight season).

Eleven years after his pro debut, Surkont made the majors with the 1949 Chicago White Sox. He went 3-5, 4.78 in 44 games (two starts), pitching 96 innings. He returned to the minors to start 1950, before getting his big break in August of 1950 when the Boston Braves purchased him from Chicago. He went 18-13, 2.96 with 159 strikeouts in 255 innings for Sacramento of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League that year before joining Boston. He spent four years with the Braves, going 40-36, 3.90 in 105 games, 92 as a starter. Surkont had a 3.23 ERA in 55.2 innings to finish out 1950, then set a career high with 237 innings in 1951, when he had a 12-16, 3.99 record. He made 33 starts, pitched four times in relief, threw 11 complete games and two shutouts. In 1952 he went 12-13, 3.77 in 215 innings over 29 starts and two relief outings. He improved to 12 complete games and three shutouts. That was followed by an 11-5, 4.18 record in 170 innings during the team’s first season in Milwaukee. Surkont started 24 of his 28 games, ending with 11 complete games and two shutouts.

Surkont was acquired by the Pirates on December 26, 1953 as one of six players (and cash) they got in return for infielder Danny O’Connell. He went into the rotation of a team that would lose 195 games over the 1954-55 seasons. Surkont went 9-18, 4.41 in 208.1 innings his first season in Pittsburgh, making 29 starts and four relief appearances, finishing with 11 complete games. He then followed it up with a 7-14, 5.57 record over 166.1 innings the next year when he started 22 of his 35 appearances. On May 5, 1956, the Pirates traded him to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Luis Arroyo. Surkont had made just one relief appearance for the 1956 Pirates before the trade. He would go on to pitch five games and allowing six runs in 5.2 innings for the Cardinals, who then sold him to the Boston Red Sox a month later. After spending two months in the minors, he was purchased by the New York Giants. He pitched 13 games in New York over the 1956-57 season, and had a 9.95 ERA in 6.1 innings, ending his Major League career in May of 1957 when he was sent to the minors. Max (his real name was Matthew) ended up pitching minor league ball until age 41 in 1963, spending his last five years with Buffalo of the International League, after spending the first 1 1/2 years in the Pacific Coast League. He pitched over 2,500 innings in the minors and won 160 games. During his nine seasons in the majors, he went 61-76, 4.38 in 1,194.1 innings, with 149 starts, 87 relief appearances, 53 complete games, seven shutouts and eight saves.

Pete Coscarart, infielder for the 1942-46 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 21 years old in 1934, hitting .253 with eight doubles and a homer in 58 games for Portland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. That was an advanced placement for a minor league debut and Coscarart dropped down to A-Ball in the Western League in 1935, where he batted .272 with 17 extra-base hits in 81 games for St Joseph. He played two games that year with Portland and was back with them for the entire 1936 season, hitting .233 in 170 games, with 71 runs, 32 doubles, three homers and 58 RBIs. He improved a small amount in 1937, batting .253 with 25 extra-base hits, while adding 19 points to his slugging percentage, though he did it in 47 fewer games. Coscarart spent four seasons in the minors before making his debut with the 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers on April 26th, getting into 32 games, while putting up a .152 average and a .446 OPS. He ended up spending part of the year back in the minors, hitting .315 in 66 games for Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association. Coscarart had a strong second season with the Dodgers as their starting second baseman in 1939, finishing with a .277 average, 59 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 43 RBIs and .721 OPS in 119 games, while garnering some MVP votes along the way, finishing 25th in the voting. In 1940, he made his only All-Star appearance, although his batting average was just .237 in 143 games played. He had 55 runs, 24 doubles, nine homers, 53 walks, 58 RBIs and a .664 OPS that year. The next year his batting really dropped off and he was forced to the bench, getting only nine starts and 71 plate appearances all year. He had just eight hits in 62 at-bats and just one double, giving him a .145 slugging percentage and a .363 OPS.

Coscarart was acquired by the Pirates from the Dodgers on December 12, 1941, as part of the return for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan. Coscarart immediately became the starting shortstop in Vaughan’s place, hitting .228 with 57 runs scored, 19 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs in 133 games. He stole two bases and led the league with ten caught stealing. He was asked to replace one of the greatest shortstops ever, but he finished that 1942 season with -0.5 WAR according to modern metrics. He moved to second base the next year, playing 133 games again. He batted .242 with 19 doubles, six triples and 48 RBIs, while scoring 57 runs for a second straight year. The 1944 season was his best in Pittsburgh, but it was also a low point for talent in the game, with many players serving in the military during WWII. He scored a career high 89 runs that year, while putting up a .264 batting average and a season high 30 doubles. He had 42 RBIs, 41 walks and he went 10-for-13 in steals, an impressive turn around in that category from two years earlier. Coscarart hit .242 in 123 games 1945 and posted a .699 OPS, his best OPS mark while with the Pirates. He had 59 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and 55 walks.

After playing just three games over the six weeks of the 1946 season, Coscartart was sold to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League on June 1, 1946. He initially balked at playing there, saying he could still play big league ball, but he ended up reporting and staying there through the end of the 1948 season. He didn’t help his case when he batted just .215 with a .587 OPS in 76 games to finish out the 1946 season. He improved slightly the next year, but never got a big league chance. He had a .669 OPS in 142 games in 1947, then dropped to a .569 OPS in 114 games in 1948. Coscarart played for three different west coast teams during the 1949-50 seasons before retiring, dropping down to Yakima of the Class-B Western International League to finish out his career. He was a .243 hitter in 864 big league games, with 28 homers, 269 RBIs and 399 runs scored. With the Pirates in five seasons, he hit .245 in 531 games, with 262 runs scored, 79 doubles, 16 triples, 15 homers, 157 RBIs and a .638 OPS. He put up 5.0 career WAR, with 3.3 coming while in Pittsburgh. His brother Joe was a Major League infielder for two seasons with the Boston Braves.

Fritz Mollwitz, first baseman for the 1917-1919 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1910, playing for Green Bay of the Class-C Wisconsin-Illinois League, where he stayed at until making his Major League debut in late September of 1913 with the Chicago Cubs. Mollwitz has very limited stats available from those four seasons with Green Bay. He hit .213 in 114 games in 1910, at 20 years old. In 1911, he batted .233 in 108 games. There’s nothing available for the 1912 season, but he put up a .311 average in 126 games with Green Bay in 1913 before playing two games for the Cubs in late September. He remained with Chicago for the start of 1914, but it wasn’t a long stay and did not go well. Early in the 1914 season, Mollwitz was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he would have his best season after struggling through the rest of 1914. He hit .150 in 13 games for the Cubs that year, then batted .162 in 32 games for the Reds. He combined to post a .367 OPS, with 12 runs and six RBIs. In 1915, Mollwitz played a career high 153 games, leading all National League first baseman in fielding percentage and in putouts. He drove in a career high 51 runs, but it was his glove that kept him around. He had an empty .259 batting average, with low walks/power totals leading to a .597 OPS, though in his defense, this was the deadball era peak and that OPS was only 43 points below league average.

In the middle of 1916, Mollwitz was sold back to the Cubs, who in turn sold him to Kansas City of the American Association during the next spring. Between the two big league stops in 1916, he batted .236 in 98 games, with 13 runs, ten extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .562 OPS. Pittsburgh picked him up from Kansas City in August for Ray Miller and a package of players to be determined (the amount depended on the quality of the players chosen). Mollwitz was hitting .303 with 25 extra-base hits for Kansas City through 123 games before joining the Pirates. He took over first base from Honus Wagner, who was retiring at season’s end, and batted .257 in 36 games, with 15 runs, 12 RBIs and a .597 OPS. The 1918 season was his only full year in Pittsburgh. He played 119 games, hitting .269 with 43 runs, 12 doubles, seven triples, 45 RBIs, 23 steals and a career best .634 OPS. He finished third in the NL among first baseman in assists, putouts and fielding percentage that year. He was with the Pirates through the beginning of August in 1919, leading the league in fielding percentage that year, but having a horrible season at the plate. Mollwitz was hitting .173/.249/.232 through 56 games played, when the Pirates sold him to the St Louis Cardinals. He hit .229 with three doubles, five RBIs and seven walks in 25 games for the Cardinals. His Major League career ended that year, though he played seven more seasons in the minors, the last as a player/manager.

Mollwitz played five of those seasons for Sacramento of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (the highest level of the minors at the time), where he averaged 164 games played per season during that stretch. He batted over .280 in four of those seasons, and he averaged 32 doubles per year during that five-year stretch. In 1925 he hit .284 with 33 doubles in 163 games for St Paul of the Double-A American Association. Mollwitz was a .241 career hitter in 534 big league games, with 137 runs, 50 doubles and 158 RBIs. In 1,907 Major League plate appearances, he hit just one homer, which was an inside-the-park home run. His real name was Frederick and he often went by Fred, though Fritz is how he is known now. He is one of 42 MLB players who were born in Germany.

Ralph Capron, pinch-runner for the Pirates on April 25, 1912. He was a star athlete at the University of Minnesota, the first player from that school to make the majors. When he signed with the Pirates on March 18, 1912, it was said that he played in the Pacific Coast League in 1910, but they were confusing him with a played named George Capron, who retired in 1910 and was his older brother. That’s not surprising because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss sent George a blank contract in January of 1912 and told him to fill out his terms, but George decided to remain retired, selling real estate in Oregon instead. When George didn’t sign, the Pirates went after his younger brother, who was the quarterback at Minnesota in 1911, along with a track star and a baseball player. Ralph Capron’s one appearance for the Pirates was his Major League and pro debut, coming in with two outs in the ninth to pinch-run for Alex McCarthy. Pittsburgh was down 1-0 at home, when McCarthy singled to keep the game alive. Ham Hyatt came in to hit for George Gibson, and Capron came in to run for McCarthy. Hyatt struck out and Capron never left first base. It was said that the crowd was anxious to see him run because he was known for his great speed.

Capron was sent to the minors on May 1st for the rest of the year, where he split the season between two Double-A American Association clubs, St Paul and Milwaukee. His available stats are limited, but he’s credited with a .276 average in 88 games, with 48 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 22 steals. On February 3, 1913, he was released to St Paul outright as part of a previous deal in which the Pirates acquired pitching phenom Marty O’Toole. Capron was with the Philadelphia Phillies for Opening Day in 1913 and got into five games, one as a defensive replacement in left field and the other four games as a pinch-runner. He went 0-for-1 at the plate (his only big league at-bat), and he scored two runs. The Phillies purchased his contract because of his speed and strong defense, getting him before the New York Yankees could close a deal. He was sent to the minors right after the game on May 15th and never returned. He hit .258 with 23 runs, five extra-base hits and 15 steals in 43 games for Baltimore of the American Association that season. Capron played briefly for three different teams (the same three minor league teams he previously played with) in 1914 before retiring from baseball. His stats are incomplete, but they show a .205 average in 69 games, with 26 runs, six extra-base hits and seven steals between all three stops. He was a track star in college who tried out for the Olympics before signing with the Pirates. He also played pro football briefly in 1920.

Marr Phillips, shortstop for the 1885 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He had a minor league career that spanned from the first year of organized minor league ball in 1877, until 1899. Over that 22-year stretch, Phillips played 198 Major League games, with the majority of them coming in 1884 and 1890, which were the two seasons that three separate Major Leagues were all playing at the same time. He hit well for most of his time in the minors and he had a strong hands at shortstop (literally hands, fielders didn’t wear gloves during the early part of his career, except for catchers). Phillips was a Pittsburgh native, born there (in Allegheny) and passed away there at age 70 in 1928. He also rests in Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh. He played just four games for his hometown team. His minor league time before his 1884 debut is spotty, and no stats are available. He played for three teams in the League Alliance in 1877 at 20 years old, seeing time with Erie, Winona and Buffalo. In 1878, he played for Lynn/Worcester of the International Association. Then there’s a gap in his pro career that lasts until 1883 when he played for Fort Wayne of the Northwestern League. A February 1883 article credits him with playing for Braddock, Allegheny City and CS Browns, which were all strong semi-pro teams from the day. While there are no years listed for each club, those three probably make up the majority of his missing time from 1879-1882.

Phillips debuted in the majors with Indianapolis of the American Association in 1884, where he played shortstop full-time and hit .269 in 97 games, with 18 doubles, eight triples and 41 runs scored. He began the 1885 season with Detroit of the National League. After hitting .209/.209/.245 in 33 games, he was let go. He hooked on with the Alleghenys in the American Association and started four games at shortstop, going 4-for-15 at the plate with two RBIs. It was said on July 17th (one day after his debut with Pittsburgh) that he would take over shortstop, while Art Whitney would play third base and Bill Kuehne would be released. An arm injury, that was said to have left him nearly disabled, quickly ended Phillips’ time with Pittsburgh, though they gave him some time to rest/heal before finally releasing him. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they made the decision to get rid of infielder John Richmond instead of Kuehne, who ended up staying with the team through the end of the 1889 season. Phillips played with Augusta and Charleston of the Class-B (two steps from the majors at the time) Southern Association in 1886, hitting .311 in 85 games, with 22 extra-base hits. In 1887-88, he played for Hamilton of the International Association. No 1887 stats are available, but he played 101 games in 1888, hitting .301 with 69 runs, 31 extra-base hits and 54 steals. In 1889, he moved on to Rochester of the International League, which helped him get a big league job the next year. Phillips hit .291 in 108 games that year, with 54 runs, 33 extra-base hits and 37 steals.

Phillips next saw Major League time with the 1890 Rochester Broncos of the American Association, in what would end up being his final big league season. His 1889 team moved into a new spot that opened up in the majors. In 64 games in 1890, he had a .206 average, with 18 runs, eight doubles and 34 RBIs, leading all AA shortstops in fielding percentage with a .918 mark, which was 33 points above the league average. Most of his remaining minor league time was spent playing either in Troy (1891-95) or Hamilton, Ontario, where he played during the 1887-88 and 1896-99 seasons. Phillips did well in his first season in Troy after his big league career had unknowingly ended. He batted .299 in 118 games, with 72 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 37 steals. The team was in the Class-A Eastern Association at the time, one step below the majors. That Troy team played in three different leagues during his five seasons with the club. His obituary says that his career actually started in 1876 with Erie at 19 years old, which was probably true because his pro debut came in 1877 with Erie. It also says that he played in Hamilton until 1901, although no records are credited to him after 1899. Many of his minor league stats in later years are missing, though he is credited with batting .337 for Troy in 1893, and .351 for Hamilton in 1897 at 40 years old, when the team was part of the Canadian League.

The Trade

On this date in 1888, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys acquired third baseman Elmer Cleveland from the New York Giants in exchange for third baseman Art Whitney. Cleveland had been in the minors for three seasons, after making his Major League debut in the Union Association in 1884. The 25-year-old had played just nine games with New York prior to the trade. Whitney was 30 years old at the time, a veteran of four seasons with Pittsburgh, dating back to the American Association days. He was holding out for more money at the time, after batting .260 with 51 RBIs in 1887. He led all third baseman in fielding percentage for a second straight season. After the trade, Cleveland played just 30 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .222, with well below average fielding at third base. He would go back to the minors, before returning briefly to the big leagues in 1891 with the Columbus Solons of the American Association for one last season. The trade didn’t end up hurting the Alleghenys, who had no choice but to move the hold out. Whitney hit just .218 with New York over two seasons and his defense wasn’t up to the standards of his previous two seasons. In the four seasons he played after the trade, his highest average was .220 in 1888. According to modern metrics, his 1888-91 seasons were worth -2.0 WAR. He put up 5.5 WAR during his four seasons in Pittsburgh.

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