This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 24th, Jake Stenzel and a Big Game from Stargell

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date including the franchise’s all-time leader in batting average. There’s also a game of note from Pops.

The Players

Ken Reitz, third baseman for the 1982 Pirates. He was a 31st round draft pick out of high school by the St Louis Cardinals in 1969, making it to the majors after just three seasons due to his strong glove at third base. Reitz was a decent hitter during his big league career, batting .260 with occasional power. He only won one Gold Glove during his career, but he led the National League in fielding percentage six times over his nine full seasons in the majors. His career .970 fielding percentage is tied for tenth best all-time at third base. At 18 years old in his first season of pro ball, he hit .289/.313/.382 in 46 games, splitting his time between the Gulf Coast League and Cedar Rapids of the Class-A Midwest League. He moved up to the Florida State League in 1970, where he hit .290 with 51 runs, 33 doubles and 75 RBIs in 127 games for St Petersburg. Despite the average/doubles, his OPS was just .702 due to hitting six homers and walking just 17 times. The next year in Double-A, Reitz batted .279 with 48 runs, 29 doubles, seven homers and 53 RBIs in 131 games for Arkansas of the Dixie Association. Once again a very low walk rate (14 walks in 533 plate appearances) kept his OPS down, this time putting up a .663 mark. He moved up to Triple-A Tulsa of the American Association of 1972 and hit .279 with 26 doubles, 15 homers, 66 RBIs and a .748 OPS in 118 games. In September he got a shot with the Cardinals and batted .359/.370/.410 in 21 games, which helped earn him a job with 1973.

Reitz played 147 games as the starting third baseman in 1973, hitting .235 with 40 runs, 20 doubles and six homers, while drawing just nine walks for a .256 OBP and a .589 OPS. In 1974, he hit .275 with 48 runs, 28 doubles, seven homers and 54 RBIs in 154 games, improving his OPS to a .662 mark. He played 161 games in 1975 and won his lone Gold Glove award. He hit .269 with 43 runs, 25 doubles, five homers and 63 RBIs. Despite the award, modern metrics rate that as his worst season defensively during his career, and it’s not even close, giving him -1.4 dWAR. He had 3.0 dWAR in his other eight full seasons combined. In December of 1975, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Pete Falcone. Reitz hit .267 with 40 runs, 21 doubles, five homers, 66 RBIs and a .626 OPS in 155 games in 1976. Almost exactly one year to the day that they parted ways with him, he was traded back to the Cardinals for pitcher Lynn McGlothen.

Reitz had a strong season at the plate in his first year back in St Louis in 1977. He hit .261 with 36 doubles and set career highs with 58 runs, 17 homers and 79 RBIs. His .703 OPS was the best of his career. The next year he batted .246 with 41 runs, 26 doubles, ten homers and 75 RBIs. His 1.5 dWAR was the best mark of his career. In 1979, he set a career high with 41 doubles, while hitting .268 with 42 runs, eight homers, 73 RBIs and a .681 OPS. He made his only All-Star appearance in his final season in St Louis (1980), hitting .270 with 39 runs, 33 doubles, eight homers and 58 RBIs in 151 games. In the off-season he was part of a big trade with the Chicago Cubs, which included Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter. Reitz played eight years and 1,100 games in St Louis between 1972 and 1980. During the strike-shortened 1981 season with the Cubs, he hit .215 with two homers, 28 RBIs and career low .541 OPS. He was released by the Cubs at the end of Spring Training in 1982. Reitz signed with the Pirates on May 16th, then played seven games over three weeks before he was released. He made two starts at third base and went 0-for-11 at the plate. He played in the minors for the Cardinals in 1983, then after a year off, he spent the next three seasons in the minors, playing in Double-A for the Texas Rangers in 1985, followed by spending his last two years with San Jose of the California League, an unaffiliated Single-A team filled with ex-Major League players. Reitz was a .260 hitter with 366 runs, 243 doubles, 68 homers and 548 RBIs in 1,344 games.

Al Gerheauser, pitcher for the 1945-46 Pirates. He was a lefty pitcher who made a career out of pitching during the war years, when many MLB players were serving in the military during WWII. Gerhauser pitched eight seasons in the minors before getting his first shot at the majors with the 1943 Philadelphia Phillies. He began his pro career at 18 years old in 1935 playing for a team from Rogers, Arkansas, which was a Class-D club, playing in two different leagues (Arkansas State League and Arkansas-Missouri League) during his two full seasons there. Gerhauser had a 6-10, 4.53 record in 139 innings in 1935, then he went 12-14, 4.72 in 227 innings in 1936. He moved up to Joplin of the Western Association, a Class-C team affiliated with the New York Yankees. He spent two seasons there, going 10-11, 3.48 in 202 innings in 1937, followed by a 9-15, 4.26 record in 184 innings in 1938. From there he moved to Class-B Wenatchee of the Western International League, where he went 14-5, 3.46 in 177 innings. The next two years were spent with Kansas City of the Double-A American Association, which was one step from the majors. Gerhauser had a 3.22 ERA in 95 innings in 1940, working mostly out of the bullpen, with four starts and 30 relief appearances. He was back as a starter in 1941 when he went 8-11, 3.76 in 177 innings. From there it was on to Newark of the Double-A International League in 1942, where he put up a 14-12, 3.22 record in 201 innings. The Phillies acquired him in a trade with the Yankees during Spring Training in 1943 and he went right to the majors.

While it’s true that he shined during a down point for talent in the majors, Gerhauser clearly paid his dues and performed well for multiple years at the highest level of the minors. As a rookie for the 1943 Phillies, he went 10-19, 3.60 in 215 innings. He had 31 starts, seven relief outings, 11 complete games and two shutouts. He was second on the team in wins and first in innings, playing with a Philadelphia team that finished in seventh place that year. In 1944, Gerheauser slipped to an 8-16 record, finishing with a team high 4.58 ERA, while throwing 182.2 innings. He had 29 starts, ten complete games and two shutouts, while finishing with more walks (66) than strikeouts (65).  On March 31, 1945, the Pirates traded outfielder Vince DiMaggio to the Phillies to get Gerheauser. He would be used 14 times as a starter and 18 times in relief during the 1945 season, going 5-10, 3.91 in 140.1 innings. He was used more in a bullpen role the following season, making just three starts among his 35 outings. He went 2-2, 3.97 in 81.2 innings. Following the season, the Pirates traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers for infielder Eddie Basinski.

Gerheauser spent all of 1947 in the minors before finishing his Major League career with the St Louis Browns the following year. He went 15-12, 3.54 in 216 innings with Montreal of the Triple-A International League in 1947. That was followed by his time with the Browns, which included early season and late season games, while seeing time with Toledo of the Triple-A American Association in between. He went 0-3, 7.33 in 23.1 innings with the Browns. Gerhauser pitched in the minors until 1953, mostly playing in the Double-A Texas League, winning 146 games total over his 15 minor league seasons. He had a 14-13, 4.33 record in 235 innings with San Antonio in 1949, then pitched for Seattle of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1950, where he went 10-10, 4.39 in 164 innings. From there it was back to the Texas League with Oklahoma City, where he went 16-15, 4.71 in 239 innings. His last big season was with Oklahoma City in 1952, when he pitched 184 innings and had an 8-8, 4.21 record. Gerhauser pitched for three teams in two leagues during his final season and his full stats are incomplete from that year. His major league record was 25-50, 4.13 in 79 starts and 70 relief appearances, throwing a total of 643 innings, finishing with 27 complete games and four shutouts. He threw over 3,000 innings in pro ball.

Rollie Hemsley, catcher for the 1928-31 Pirates. He had a 19-year career in the majors, making the All-Star team five times along the way. Hemsley spent the first three years of his pro career playing for Frederick of the Blue Ridge League, a Class-D team. He batted .242 with seven extra-base hits at 18 years old in 1925. The next season saw him hit .256 with nine extra-base hits in 46 games. In 1927, he hit .310 in 98 games, with 22 doubles, nine triples and 12 homers, earning him a shot with the Pirates for the 1928 season. He played 50 games during his rookie season in the majors, batting .271 with 14 runs, five extra-base hits and 18 RBIs. In 1929, he became the platoon catcher with Charlie Hargreaves. Hemsley played 88 games, hitting a solid .289 with 31 runs, 13 doubles, seven triples and 37 RBIs, although those stats came with just 11 walks and no homers, leading to a .725 OPS. He got the majority of the work behind the plate in 1930, catching in 98 of the 104 games he played that year. He batted .253 with 45 runs, 19 doubles and 45 RBIs. That was a huge year in offense around baseball, so his .668 OPS was well below league average.The following year Eddie Phillips became the regular catcher, leaving Hemsley with very little playing time during the month of May. On May 29, 1931, he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Earl Grace. Hemsley would go on to play 1,593 big league games. He was strong defensively and led the league twice in assists, twice in caught stealing percentage and once in fielding percentage. He made his five All-Star appearances over a ten-year stretch from 1935-44, while as a member of three different teams.

Hemsley batted .171 in ten games for the 1931 Pirates, then hit .309 with 24 extra-base hits in 66 games for the 1931 Cubs after the trade. He saw part-time work during the 1932 season, hitting .238 with 17 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and a .710 OPS in 60 games. He made his only postseason appearances in 1932 and struck out in all three at-bats. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the off-season as part of a four-for-one deal for Babe Herman. His stay in Cincinnati was short, as they dealt him to the St Louis Browns mid-season. Hemsley hit .213 in 81 games in 1933 between both stops, putting up much better stats after the deal. He had a .488 OPS in 49 games for the Reds, and a .637 OPS in 32 games for the Browns. He put up a .309 average and a .782 OPS, with 40 extra-base hits and a career high 52 RBIs in 123 games during the 1934 season. He threw out 53% of attempting base stealers that season. He made his first All-Star appearance in 1935 when he set a career high with 144 games played. He hit .290 with a career high 32 doubles, to go along with 57 runs, seven triples, 48 RBIs and 44 walks. Hemsley finished ninth in the American League MVP voting, which ended up being his best career finish in the MVP voting. He made his second All-Star appearance in 1936, hitting .263 with 43 runs, 24 doubles, 39 RBIs and a career best 46 walks in 116 games. In 1937, he saw his average drop to .222, to go along with a .578 OPS, 30 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs, while playing 100 games.

Hemsley was traded on February 10, 1938 to the Cleveland Indians, where he was a backup for most of that 1938 season, getting into just 66 games, though he managed to put up a .296 average and a .776 OPS. He was back to a starting role in 1939, when he earned his third All-Star appearance. He hit .263 that year, with 23 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, and a career high 58 runs scored in 104 games. Hemsley led the American League with a 60% caught stealing rate and a .994 fielding percentage during the 1940 season, his fourth All-Star campaign. He batted .267 with 46 runs, 20 doubles and 42 RBIs in 119 games. He received mild MVP support, finishing 27th in the voting. He played 98 games in 1941, hitting .240 with 29 runs, 17 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs. Hemsley was sold to the Reds after the 1941 season, and for a second time they didn’t hold on to him for the full year. He was released in July and signed with the New York Yankees, where he served as a backup to Hall of Famer Bill Dickey during the 1942-43 seasons. Hemsley batted just .113 in 36 games for the 1942 Reds, then hit .294 in 31 games with the Yankees over the rest of the season. In 1943, he hit .239 in 62 games, with 11 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs.

In 1944, Hemsley was the starting catcher for the Yankees until mid-August when he was inducted into the Navy. He made his fifth All-Star appearance that year and he finished 26th in the MVP voting. He batted .268 with 23 runs, 19 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs in 81 games. He missed the 1945 season, then returned to play 51 games for the 1946-47 Philadelphia Phillies, though 49 of those games came in 1946, when he had a .223 average and a .536 OPS. Hemsley  returned to the minors at age 40 in 1947, where he caught until 1952. He played his last games at age 49 in 1956, when he managed Charlotte of the South Atlantic League. During his time with the Pirates, he hit .264 with two homers and 101 RBIs in 252 games. In his big league career, he batted .262 in 1,593 games, with 562 runs, 257 doubles, 72 triples, 31 homers and 555 RBIs. His actual first name was Ralston.

Kirtley Baker, pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. After pitching briefly for the Quincy Black Birds of the Central Interstate League in 1889, Baker was one of many inexperienced pitchers that the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys put in the pitcher’s box, hoping to find a hidden gem. On the way to their franchise worst 23-113 record that season, the 20-year-old right-hander made 21 starts, pitched four other times in relief and he won just three games. No pitcher in franchise history with twenty or more decisions has a worse winning percentage than the .136 mark that Baker put up. His three wins were actually the second most on the team, as Pittsburgh tried twenty different starting pitchers throughout the year. Baker led the team in starts with 21, but his 19 losses were eight more than anyone else. History has kept him from being a 20-loss pitcher that year. Baker made his big league debut on May 1st and lost 4-3, but modern sources credit pitcher Henry Jones with that game, possibly because one Chicago source out of many sources mistakenly listed Jones (who pitched the next day), even though the recap was about Baker. Despite not getting credit for his debut, and despite all of those losses, his season did have two highlights. The first one being a shutout over Cleveland on June 18th, followed two weeks later with a shutout against the Giants. His mound opponent during that second game was Hall of Fame pitcher and 300-game winner, Mickey Welch. Baker was suspended for the final six weeks of the season without pay due to an injured arm that kept him from pitching.

Baker went on to pitch parts of four other seasons in the majors, with things only getting slightly better, as he went 6-19 the rest of the way. He played for Aurora and Ottumwa of the Illinois-Iowa League during the 1891 season. In 1892, he was with Chattanooga of the Class-B Southern Association, where he put up a 22-18 record in 360 innings pitched. He resurfaced with the 1893 Baltimore Orioles, where he went 3-8, 8.44 in 91.2 innings, seeing time with the club early in the year and then from late August until the finish. In between, he was back in the Southern Association with New Orleans. The 1894 Orioles won the pennant, but he lasted just one game with the team and he gave up five runs without recording an out. He went four years without another big league appearance before joining the 1898 Washington Senators. Baker split the rest of the 1894 season between New Orleans and Milwaukee of the Western League, combining for a 20-16 record. In 1895, he went 14-22, 4.10 in 294 innings for Milwaukee. He has no available stats for 1896, but he was with Milwaukee and Minneapolis of the Western League that year. In 1897, Baker split the year between Minneapolis, and Columbus, another Western League club. He didn’t do well with his record, finishing 4-10, 2.83 in 136.2 innings.

Baker was with Toronto of the Class-A Eastern League (highest level of the minors at the time) in 1898. He went 17-10 and pitched 222 innings. In September, he joined the Washington Senators, where he went 2-3, 3.06 in 47 innings. That got him a job for 1899 with Washington, but he only lasted until June, posting a 1-7, 6.83 record in 54 innings. He won over 100 games in the minors, last pitching in 1900 for Springfield of the Eastern League. When he joined the Alleghenys, Baker was the most impressive pitcher early, earning praise from catcher George “Doggie” Miller, who said that he was the best young pitcher that he has ever caught. Baker also impressed in the preseason, putting together two games with 12 strikeouts apiece. During his time in Pittsburgh, his salary was $200 per month. His final big league record stands at 9-38, 6.28 in 371 innings, with 44 starts, 34 complete games and 14 relief appearances.

Jake Stenzel, outfielder for the 1892-1896 Pirates. He hit well and showed off tremendous speed in the minors but it took six seasons for Stenzel to get his first full-time job in the majors. He debuted in pro ball in 1887 with Wheeling of the Ohio State League, where he was a catcher. He batted .387 with 36 runs and eight extra-base hits in 41 games. Stats aren’t available for 1888, but he was back with Wheeling that year, this time playing in the Tri-State League, where his manager was Al Buckenberger. He remained in that league with Springfield in 1889 (also no stats), but only after he spent time with Buckenberger in the American Association with Columbus, though he was let go before he had a chance to make his big league debut. Stenzel made that Major League debut with Chicago in June of 1890, hitting .268/.286/.293 in 11 games. He spent most of the year with Galveston of the Texas League, where he hit .307 in 46 games, with 60 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 15 walks before the league disbanded, which led to him joining Chicago. He also played with Omaha of the Western Association that year. The 1891 season was spent with Spokane of the Pacific Northwestern League, where he batted .351 with 135 runs, 33 doubles, 11 triples, five homers and 68 stolen bases in 101 games. He moved to the Class-B Pacific Northwest League in 1892, playing for Portland. Stenzel hit .339 with 75 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 55 steals in 73 games. His team disbanded on August 28th and he had already signed with the Pirates five days earlier, but didn’t join them until a week later.

Stenzel got into three games for the 1892 Pirates without a hit. He was with the club for the final 38 games, but he didn’t play during the final four weeks. He was announced as a utility player for the team, and the papers noted that he played catcher, right field and first base over the previous two seasons out west. Despite that slow start with the team, he would go on to finish as the franchise’s all-time leader in batting average. Stenzel saw some time at the catching spot in 1893, but he mainly played outfield. He played 60 games that year, hitting .362 with 21 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 16 steals and 57 runs scored. His salary that season was $1,800, the lowest on the team among the players who signed over the 1892-93 off-season. In 1894, he had his first big season for the Pirates (who were knows as the Braves that year), hitting .352 with 39 doubles, 20 triples, 13 homers, 121 RBIs, 150 runs scored and 61 stolen bases, along with a 1.017 OPS. That total of 150 runs scored is the single season record in franchise history. His stolen base and RBI marks each still rank in the top ten in team history. In 1895, Stenzel batted .371, which ranks fifth in team history, trailing seasons by Paul Waner (two), Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan. Stenzel had 114 runs, 38 doubles, 13 triples, seven homers, 97 RBIs, 53 steals and 57 walks, leading to a .978 OPS. He batted .361 in 114 games, with 104 runs, 26 doubles, 14 triples, 82 RBIs and 57 stolen bases in 1896, leading to an .897 OPS. That was his third straight season with 100+ runs, 80+ RBIs, .350+ batting average and 50+ steals. He’s the only player in MLB history to reach all of those marks in the same season four times (1894-97) and he has more of those seasons than everyone else in Pirates history combined.

The Pirates looked to add defense to their strong hitting for 1897, dealing Stenzel and three other players to the Baltimore Orioles for Steve Brodie and Jim Donnelly. Brodie was an outstanding defensive center fielder, who could also hit, although not as well as Stenzel, who also possessed more speed. The trade was made one year too soon for the Pirates, as Stenzel had a huge 1897 season. He hit .353 with 113 runs, 116 RBIs and 69 stolen bases, while leading the league with 43 doubles. His play quickly dropped off after that season and by the middle of the 1899 campaign he was out of baseball for good. He played for the St Louis Browns for parts of 1898-99, and he finished his career with the Cincinnati Reds. Stenzel hit .254 in 35 games for Baltimore in 1898 before he was traded to St Louis on June 10th. He batted .282 in 108 games after the trade, finishing with a combined total of 97 runs, 34 extra-base hits, 55 RBIs and 25 steals. He batted .280 in 44 games in 1899 and was hitting .310 over nine games with the Reds before his career came to a sudden close. He decided to quit baseball in July that year because he purchased a saloon from former Pittsburgh Alleghenys player Jim Keenan. He told reporters that his time in St Louis ended immediately after he bunted into a double play, with his manager releasing him mid-game when he got back to the bench. He retired as a .338 hitter in 768 big league games, with 664 runs scored, 190 doubles, 71 triples, 32 homers, 533 RBIs and 292 stolen bases. He ranks 25th all-time in batting average. While with the Pirates, he batted .360 in 1,987 plate appearances. His .429 on base percentage is also the highest total in franchise history.

The Game

On this date in 1965, the Pirates won 13-3 over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, with Willie Stargell hitting three homers and a double, while driving in six runs. The first two homers came against Hall of Famer Don Drysdale. This was the first of four games in his career with three homers. The six RBIs were a career high at the time, one which he topped three years later in his second three-homer game. Roberto Clemente had three hits in the game. Here’s the boxscore.