Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born today, plus a trade the Pirates made to help with a pennant run.
On this date in 1908, the Pirates traded pitchers Tom McCarthy and Harley Young to the Boston Doves for pitcher Irv Young. The Pirates were looking to add to their rotation to make a pennant run and Irv Young was a veteran pitcher who the lowly Boston Doves were willing to move. He had a 50-78, 3.15 record in 1,066.2 innings over 142 games (126 starts), during his four seasons with Boston. In each of his first two seasons (1905-06), the 30-year-old lefty led the National League in innings pitched. McCarthy and Harley Young were both young inexperienced pitchers who the Pirates thought highly of, but they believed that neither one was ready to pitch regularly for a pennant contender. Manager Fred Clarke said at the time of the deal that Irv Young would step into a regular spot in the rotation.
After the deal, Irv Young pitched well for the Pirates, but he didn’t last long in the rotation. He didn’t make a start during the last month and a half of the season. He finished with a 4-3, 2.01 record in seven starts and nine relief appearances, throwing 89.2 innings. The Pirates actually went 32-10 after his last start, so his presence wasn’t missed in the rotation. After the season, the Pirates sold his rights to a minor league team, though he made it back to the majors for two more seasons with the 1910-11 Chicago White Sox. Harley Young made just six more Major League appearances, two as a starter. The 1908 season was his only in the majors, finishing with an 0-3, 2.62 career record in 75.2 innings. He was also sold to the minors prior to the 1909 season. Tom McCarthy was thought to be the lesser of the two pitchers that Boston received, but he out-pitched both Youngs after the trade, at least during that first year. He went 7-3, 1.63 in 94 innings in 1908, then dropped to 0-5, 3.50 in 46.1 innings in 1909, before finishing his career in the minors.
The title here might sound misleading, but it’s not. A popular practice during the early years of baseball was to give players with the same last name, the same nickname. There are six players from the early years of baseball named Buck Freeman, and not one had the first name Buck. Irv Young was called Cy Young during his career quite often, it even ended up on baseball cards during his day, which still confuses people today into thinking that it’s a real Cy Young card (technically it is, but not the 511 win fella everyone wants). In fact, with the original Cy Young still pitching, they were often differentiated by “Old” and “New” added before their names. To make matters even crazier, the aforementioned Harley Young received the nickname “Cy Young the Third” as soon as he entered the majors. No pressure there, trying to keep up with a guy who had nearly 500 wins at the time. For the record, Harley Young finished with the same number of big league wins that I did, just 511 short of tying Old Cy Young.
JB Shuck, outfielder for the 2019 Pirates. Shuck was a sixth round pick of the Houston Astros out of Ohio State in 2008. He debuted in the New York-Penn League and did well, posting a .300 average, 51 runs, 35 walks and an .815 OPS in 65 games for Tri-City. He skipped to High-A in 2009, playing in the high-offense California League with Lancaster, which is one of the better hitter parks in the league. He batted .315 with 30 doubles, 11 triples, 18 steals and 98 runs scored in 133 games, finishing with an .803 OPS. The 2010 season was split between Double-A Corpus Christi of the Texas League and Triple-A Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League. Shuck combined to hit .292 with 22 extra-base hits, 62 walks and a .715 OPS in 137 games, showing better results in Double-A. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .350 in limited time. In 2011, he batted .297 with 60 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 56 walks and 20 steals in 108 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City of the PCL before joining the Astros in August. Shuck hit .272/.359/.321 in 37 games with Houston. Despite solid results, he spent the entire 2012 season back in Oklahoma City, where he put up a .298 average, 49 runs, 14 extra-base hits and a .726 OPS in 115 games. With 2 1/2 seasons and 259 games experience in the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League, Shuck failed to hit a single home run during that time. The Astros let him go after the 2012 season and he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Shuck spent all of 2013 in the majors, batting .293 with 60 runs scored, 20 doubles, two homers, 39 RBIs and a .697 OPS in 129 games. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He struggled in 2014, hitting just .167 in 22 games, and was sold to the Cleveland Indians later in the season after seeing plenty of time back in Triple-A. He did well in Triple-A with Salt Lake City of the PCL, which is a huge park for offense. Shuck had an .828 OPS in 102 games. Between the Angels and Indians that year, he batted .146/.168/.209 in 38 games. The Chicago White Sox picked him up off waivers after the 2014 season and he ended up playing a total of 159 games for them during the 2015-16 seasons. Shuck batted .266 in his first season in Chicago, finishing with 15 runs, ten extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 79 games (29 starts). His average dropped to .205 in 80 games, when he finished with a .547 OPS. He hit four homers that year, which ended up being half of his big league total. He signed with the Minnesota Twins for 2017, but he spent the entire year in Triple-A Rochester of the International League, posting a .693 OPS in 123 games. Shuck signed with the Miami Marlins for 2018 and split the year between Triple-A New Orleans of the PCL and the majors. He batted .192 in 70 games for the Marlins, getting 21 starts all season. He was a minor league free agent signing for the Pirates prior to the 2019 season. He played 27 games in Pittsburgh, hitting .213 with four runs scored and two RBIs in 57 plate appearances. Shuck spent the majority of the season in Triple-A Indianapolis, where he began to pitch in relief. He had a 3.79 ERA in 19 innings, with 23 strikeouts. He left via free agency after the season and signed with the Washington Nationals for 2020, though he was released without playing a game, which ended his career. Shuck put up a .243/.296/.314 slash line in 460 Major League games over seven season, finishing with 137 runs scored, 57 extra-base hits and 85 RBIs.
Ron Necciai, pitcher for the 1952 Pirates. The young fireballer joined the 1952 Bristol Twins of the Appalachian League after two unimpressive seasons to start his pro career. At 18-years-old in 1950, he had trouble throwing strikes in three appearances split over two Class-D affiliates of the Pirates (Salisbury of the North Carolina State League and Shelby of the Western Carolina League), allowing ten runs in three innings. In 1951, Necciai had a 5.70 ERA and 129 walks in 139 innings, seeing time with Salisbury again, and New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association. What he did during his short time in 1952 with Bristol , which was a Class-D team (lowest level of the minors), proved to Pittsburgh that he was not only ready to move up two levels in the minors, he was also given a trial with the Pirates at the end of the year. He made four starts and two relief appearances for Bristol, pitching a total of 42.2 innings. Necciai allowed just ten hits and two earned runs for an 0.42 ERA. The most impressive part was his strikeouts, which are broken down below:
1st outing: 9 IP 20 K
2nd: 9 IP 19 K
3rd: 4 IP 11 K
4th: 9 IP 27 K
5th: 2.2 IP 8 K
6th: 9 IP 24 K
Necciai was moved up to the Class-B Carolina League with Burlington-Graham, where he had a 1.57 ERA in 126 innings over 18 appearances. On August 7, 1952 the Pirates called him up to the majors and gave him his first big league start three days later. He was not sharp that day, giving up seven runs on 11 hits in six innings. Unbelievably, he pitched three innings the next day and struck out five of the ten batters he faced, with the only runner he allowed reaching base on a dropped third strike. Necciai had some rough outings the rest on the way, and until his last start, he was barely striking out anyone. On the last day of the season, he allowed two runs over seven innings, striking out eight batters.
The next year he was inducted into the Army in January. He was discharged after two months due to stomach ulcers, which had been bothering him for quite some time and caused him to lose about 30 pounds. Necciai reported to Burlington-Graham in late May of 1953, but he made just two appearances before the stomach ulcers caused him to return home in mid-July. He didn’t return to baseball until the 1954 season. In Spring Training that year he came down with a sore arm. He left the team and said he was quitting baseball. The Pirates still held his rights and released him to Waco of the Big State League, a Class-B team. Before he pitched for them, he was acquired by the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. In 1955, Necciai pitched three times for the Stars before being returned to Waco, where he made the last two appearances of his career. A rotator cuff injury ended his promising baseball career with 1-6, 7.08 record in 54.2 innings in the majors, finishing with 32 walks and 31 strikeouts. He turns 90 years old today.
Newt Halliday, first baseman for the Pirates on August 19, 1916. He was playing with Owensboro in the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League (referred to as the KITTY League) in 1916 when the league folded midway through their season. He played semi-pro ball in Chicago prior to 1916, but this was his first year of pro ball and he actually wasn’t doing to well at the plate, but his defense was praised and it was said that he had a strong arm. Local papers said that he was just a .200 hitter in 1916, but he made a decent amount of contact at the plate. His problem was that everything was hit in the air and without power. He was given a tryout by the Pirates, reporting to the team on August 9th, three days after he was signed. He was on the bench during a doubleheader on August 19, 1916, when backup infielder Joe Schultz pinch-hit for first baseman Doc Johnston in the bottom of the fifth inning of game two. Schultz remained in the game and went to play second base, while Halliday entered the game as the first baseman. He handled all four chances he had in the field without an error, and he struck out in his only at-bat. It was said about him in the local paper the next day that “he is a big rangy youth, who handles himself nicely on the bag”. The Pittsburgh Daily Post said that he was impressive in his debut and would be given other opportunities before the season was over. When the Pirates went on a road trip in September, he was left home to train at Forbes Field with some other young players, but he told his friends he expected to get some playing time during the last series of the season. Halliday never got into another game that season, and by the next year he was enlisted in the U.S. Navy during WWI. According to Halliday, his salary with the Pirates was “more than $100 per month”.
The Pirates sold Halliday to Kansas City of the Double-A American Association in January of 1917, and he even played at least one preseason game for them against the Cincinnati Reds before joining the war effort. During his training, he contracted Tuberculosis and became very ill by March of 1918. By early April he had also come down with pneumonia. On April 6, 1918, at the age of 21, he passed away. His early death makes him one of the youngest major leaguers to pass away, surpassed by as few as three players, all from the 19th century. He was called by his full first name (Newton) during his time in baseball. He was called a right-handed hitter during his time in Pittsburgh, but his local papers from his minor league team said that he was a switch-hitter.
Ben Shaw, first baseman/catcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. Shaw was a college graduate with two years in the minors when he made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1917 as their emergency catcher/ backup first baseman. He played 71 games for Houston of the Class-B Texas League in 1915, putting up a .244 average, five doubles, four triples and no homers. His online stats show that he dropped down one level to Macon of the Class-C South Atlantic League in 1916, but he didn’t join Macon until mid-season when his team from Clarksville of the Class-D KITTY League disbanded. Through 66 games with Clarksville, he was hitting .361 with 26 extra-base hits and 33 stolen bases. Shaw batted .308 in 16 games with Macon. He was selected by the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 draft that fall. He was picked up by the Pirates off of waivers from the Yankees on March 17th, just three weeks before the 1917 season started. It was said that he could fill the first base starting job in an acceptable manner if Bill Hinchman was unable to handle the job. The scouting report on him was that he was a promising catcher and a natural hitter. At the time of his acquisition, the Pirates had two catchers that were unsigned, both holding out for more money. As it turned out, the Pirates signed both holdouts and Shaw was returned to the minors after just two pinch hit at-bats.
Shaw went to Omaha of the Class-A Western League to finish the 1917 season, where he hit .313 with 13 doubles, seven triples and three homers in 102 games. He returned to the majors in 1918, taking up the role he was slated for during the prior season. He played 21 games for the 1918 Pirates, getting five starts total, four at first base and one as a catcher. Shaw hit .194 with a double, two RBIs and five runs scored in 40 plate appearances. That 1918 season was his last as a player in pro ball, although he later managed in the minors for two seasons (1927 and 1932). A salary dispute with the Pirates in 1919 caused him to jump to outlaw baseball, playing for a Pennsylvania team from Oil City with teammate Jake Pitler, which got Shaw blacklisted from pro ball until April 29, 1926, when he was reinstated and immediately released by the Pirates. It was said at the time that the two players retired to go into business, but they were still reserved by the Pirates, which prevented them from playing for any independent (outlaw) teams.