Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Jason Kendall, catcher for the 1996-2004 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates out of high school in the first round of the 1992 amateur draft. After hitting .261 with a .596 OPS in 33 games in the Gulf Coast League during his first year, Kendall moved up to Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League for 1993. He hit .276 with 43 runs, 17 doubles and 40 RBIs in 102 games that season. He showed great contact, with just 30 strikeouts but also walked only 22 times and hit one homer all year. In 1994, he moved up to Salem of the High-A Carolina League and had a breakout season. Kendall batted .318 with 68 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 66 RBIs, an .843 OPS and 14 stolen bases in 101 games, earning a late season promotion to Double-A Carolina of the Southern League for 13 games, where he had a .571 OPS. He would spend the entire 1995 season playing for Carolina, batting .326 with 26 doubles, eight homers, 71 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 117 games. He had an impressive BB/SO ratio of 56 walks with just 22 strikeouts. The Pirates decided to keep Kendall in the majors in 1996, skipping him over Triple-A and making him their everyday starter. The move proved to be the right one as he finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting and made the National League All-Star team. He batted .300 in 130 games, driving in 42 runs and scoring 54 times. He had a solid .773 OPS, though that would end up being his lowest OPS during his first five seasons in the majors.
Kendall caught 142 games in 1997, batting .294 with 71 runs, 36 doubles, 49 RBIs, 49 walks and 18 stolen bases, finishing with an .825 OPS. His 1998 season would be even better. He played 149 games, hitting .327 with 94 runs, 36 doubles, 12 homers, 75 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, 51 walks and an .884 OPS. He made his second All-Star team and led all NL catchers in putouts. It looked like his 1999 season would be even better, but a freak ankle injury ended his season early. On July 4, 1999 Kendall tried to bunt for a hit against the Brewers. On a close plate at first base, he hit the bag awkward, breaking his right ankle. He was batting .332 with 31 extra-base hits and a .939 OPS in 78 games at the time. The injury caused him to miss the rest of the year, but he returned healthy in 2000. He played 152 games that year, hitting .320 with 33 doubles, 58 RBIs, 22 steals, an .882 OPS and career highs of 14 homers, 79 walks and 112 runs scored. He made the All-Star team for the third time and led all NL catchers in games caught, assists and putouts. After the season, the Pirates signed him to a six-year contract extension that kicked in after the 2001 season. Until 2022 (Ke’Bryan Hayes), it was the largest contract handed out by the Pirates.
The Pirates decided in 2001 to give their catcher a break, yet keep his bat in the lineup by playing him in the outfield on occasion. His hitting suffered that year, despite the breaks from catching. He batted .266 and his OPS dropped nearly 200 points (down to .693) from the previous season. He played a career high 157 games that year and managed to score 84 runs, but he lost significant points in both his OBP and slugging. The outfield experiment ended in 2002, but his hitting didn’t return to form until the following year. He batted .283 in 2002, and had a nice 49:29 BB/SO ratio, but his low power output (three homers) led to a .706 OPS. His average was up 17 points over the previous year, but his slugging still dropped two points. In 2003, Kendall hit .325 with 191 hits and 84 runs scored in 150 games. He had 29 doubles, six homers, 58 RBIs and an .815 OPS. He caught 146 games on the year, the fifth time he led the NL in games caught. He hit .319 with 86 runs scored, 32 doubles, three homers, 51 RBIs, 60 walks and a .789 OPS in 147 games in 2004. Kendall’s contract extension with the Pirates would’ve kept him around until 2007, but by 2004 it was a large portion of the Pirates payroll and they decided to move him.
On November 27, 2004, the Pirates traded Kendall to the Oakland A’s for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. He played 2 1/2 years for the A’s before getting traded to the Chicago Cubs during the middle of the 2007 season. The first year after the deal, he hit .271 with 70 runs, 28 doubles, no homers, 53 RBIs and a devilishly mediocre .666 OPS in 150 games. He improved to .295 over 143 games in 2006, but the lower power numbers, 23 doubles, no triples and one homer, led to a slugging percentage (.342) lower than his OBP (.367). At the time of his trade to Chicago, he was hitting just .226/.261/.281 in 80 games. After the deal, Kendall batted .270 with ten doubles, one homer and 19 RBIs in 57 games. He became a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for the next two seasons. He hit .246 with 46 runs, 30 doubles, two homers, 49 RBIs and 50 walks in 151 games in 2008. He then hit .241 with 48 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 43 RBIs and a .636 OPS in 134 games during the next season. Kendall played his last year in the majors in 2010 with the Kansas City Royals, hitting .256, with 39 runs, 18 extra-base hits (all doubles) and 37 RBIs in 118 games, with a .615 OPS. He was signed for 2011, but missed the entire season after shoulder surgery and never played again, except for a few minor league rehab games in 2012.
While with the Pirates, Kendall set the team record in games caught. He played 1,252 in a Pittsburgh uniform, batting .306 with 1,409 hits. He ranks 19th in team history in games, 15th in batting average, 17th in runs and hits, 14th in doubles and 19th in stolen bases. Kendall caught 2,025 games in his career, the sixth highest total ever. He led the league in games caught eight times, assists five times, putouts four times and runners thrown out five times. He ranks third all-time in putouts. He collected 2,195 hits, scored 1,030 runs, stole 189 bases and finished with a .288 career average, to go along with 394 doubles, 75 homers, 744 RBIs and more walks (721) than strikeouts (686). He recently (June 2022) rejoined the Pirates as a minor league coach. Kendall’s father Fred Kendall was a catcher in the majors for 12 seasons.
Bill Robinson, infielder/outfielder for the 1975-82 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves as an amateur free agent in 1961, fresh out of high school, just a few days short of his 18th birthday. Robinson had a slow start to his pro career, hitting .239 with 15 doubles, two homers and a .660 OPS, while playing 67 games in Class-D ball with Wellsville of the New York-Penn League. He repeated the level the next year and showed a huge improvement, batting .304 with 46 runs, eight homers, 37 RBIs and a .902 OPS for Dublin of the Georgia-Florida League. He also played 23 games that season for Eau Claire of the Class-C Northern League and put up a .143 average. Robinson worked his way slowly through the minors, playing two straight seasons of A-ball and doing well each year. He remained in the Georgia-Florida League in 1963, though the league was reclassified to three levels higher. That year he hit .316 in 113 games for Waycross, with 69 runs, 18 doubles, ten triples, ten homers, 62 RBIs, 29 steals and an .854 OPS. Those 29 steals are more than double his best season total in the majors. In 1964, Robinson hit .348 in 104 games for Yakima of the Northwest League, with 81 runs, 24 doubles, 18 homers, 81 RBIs and a .968 OPS.
Robinson skipped over Double-A and spent the 1965 season in Triple-A with Atlanta of the International League, where he hit .268 with 41 runs, 17 doubles, ten homers and a .685 OPS in 133 games. He would repeat the level the next year, earning himself a late season call-up with his .312 average, 86 runs, 30 doubles, 20 homers, 79 RBIs and an .857 OPS in 139 games for Richmond of the International League. He was called up to the majors in September and went 3-for-11 in six games for the Braves, who moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta for the 1966 season. After the season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for veteran third baseman Clete Boyer. The Yankees would put him in the lineup and let him play through his struggles for three seasons. From 1967-69, Robinson played 310 games in New York, hitting .206 with a .582 OPS. He hit .196 in his rookie season, with 31 runs, six doubles, seven homers and 29 RBIs in 381 plate appearances over 116 games. His stats actually improved quite a bit in 1968, while getting the exact same amount of at-bats (342) in 107 games. He hit .240 with 16 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 40 RBIs. His .674 OPS was 135 points higher than the previous season. Robinson saw a major drop in production in 1969, and his playing time went down as well. He hit .171 in 87 games, with 11 doubles, three homers, 21 RBIs and a .505 OPS.
In 1970, Robinson spent the entire year in the minors for the Yankees, where he hit .258 in 115 games for Syracuse of the International League, finishing with 68 runs, 20 doubles, 13 homers, 43 RBIs and a .756 OPS. He then got traded to the Chicago White Sox on December 3, 1970. After spending all of 1971 in the minors, where he posted a .275 average, 53 extra-base hits and a .770 OPS in 133 games for Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 13, 1971. After spending the first two months of the 1972 season at Triple-A Eugene of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .957 OPS in 65 games, he was called up to the majors at the end of June and hit .239/.258/.426 in 82 games for the Phillies. Robinson had his first big season in 1973 when he hit .288 with 62 runs, 32 doubles, 25 homers, 65 RBIs and an .855 OPS in 124 games. He played 14 games at third base and at least 15 games at all three outfield spots. His inconsistencies returned the next year, hitting .236 with 17 walks and five homers in 100 games, resulting in a low .626 OPS.
Just before Opening Day in 1975, the Pirates gave up minor league pitcher Wayne Simpson in exchange for Robinson. Simpson won seven Major League games after the deal, while Robinson played eight seasons in a Pirates uniform. Robinson was a backup outfielder during that first year in Pittsburgh, and he was also used often as a pinch-hitter. He got 200 at-bats in 92 games and hit .280 with 20 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and a .763 OPS. He began to see more regular time in 1976, which would lead to his best season up to that point. He batted .303 with 55 runs, 22 doubles, 21 homers, 64 RBIs and a career best .864 OPS in 122 games, seeing playing time at five different positions, while adding first base to his resume. Robinson was valuable enough to the team that National League MVP voters took notice, as he received votes for the first time, finishing 21st in the voting. His 1977 season would be the best of his career. He set career highs with a .304 average, 26 homers, 104 RBIs and 74 runs scored, while playing 137 games. He also collected 32 doubles, which was a career best at the time, and his .862 OPS was just two points off of his career high. Robinson finished 11th in NL MVP voting that year, the second highest finish on the team to Dave Parker, who finished third overall.
Robinson’s average dropped to .246 and his OPS was down to .707 in 1978, but he drove in 80 runs and scored 70 times, while also setting a career high with 36 doubles. That was in addition to his 14 homers and career high 14 steals. The Pirates won the NL East in 1979 and Robinson contributed 59 runs, 17 doubles, 24 homers, 75 RBIs and an .805 OPS, while playing in a career high 148 games. In the playoffs, he went 0-for-3 in the NLCS, but got more time in the World Series, where he batted .263 with two runs and two RBIs in 22 plate appearances. In 1980, Robinson moved to a bench role, getting 272 at-bats, while finishing with a .287 average, 28 runs, 23 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs. He saw even less time during the strike-shortened 1981 season, playing 39 games. He missed time due to a heel injury that occurred just a week into the season. In 94 plate appearances, he had a .216 average and a .576 OPS. Robinson played 31 games for the Pirates in 1982, batting .239 with four homers and 12 RBIs. On June 15, 1982, the Pirates traded him to the Phillies for Wayne Nordhagen. Robinson remained in Philly until June of 1983, when he was released, ending his career. He played just 35 games in 1982 after the trade and then ten games in his final season, all of them off of the bench in 1983. He played a total of 1,472 games in the majors, hitting .258 with 536 runs, 229 doubles, 166 homers and 641 RBIs. While with the Pirates, he hit .276 with 109 homers and 412 RBIs. Robinson worked in baseball, mostly as a coach, from 1984 until his untimely passing in 2007.
Howie Pollet, pitcher for the 1951-53 and 1956 Pirates. He was part of two big trades in Pirates history. He came to the Pirates in the seven-player deal on June 15, 1951 with the St Louis Cardinals, that saw Wally Westlake and Cliff Chambers go to St Louis for five players. Two years later, Pollet would be sent to the Chicago Cubs in the ten-player Ralph Kiner trade. While with St Louis, Pollet won 97 games over nine seasons, all while missing two years due to WWII service. He debuted in pro ball in 1939 shortly before his 18th birthday. Pitching mostly in the Class-D Evangeline League that year with New Iberia, he went 15-6, 2.70 in 190 innings. He also saw time three levels higher that season (and the next two full years) in the Class-A Texas League with Houston, posting a 4.67 ERA in 27 innings. In 1940, Pollet went 20-7, 2.88 in 228 innings. The next year he went 20-3, 1.16 in 194 innings, which earned him a look with the Cardinals in August. He went 5-2, 1.70 in 73 innings over the final six weeks of the big league season. In 1942, he split his time between starting (13 games) and relief (14 appearances), going 7-5, 2.88 in 109.1 innings. He won the league ERA crown with a 1.75 mark in 1943, going 8-4 in 118.1 innings, while making the All-Star team for the first time in his career. He made his final start on July 10th, then was called into action in WWII, serving in the Air Force.
Pollet returned to baseball at the start of 1946 and it didn’t take him long to get back to the pitcher who was leading the league in ERA when he left 2 1/2 years earlier. He went 21-10, 2.10 in 266 innings over 32 starts and eight relief appearances in 1946, leading the league in wins, ERA and innings pitched. He set a career high with 22 complete games, while finishing with four shutouts and five saves. He finished sixth in the league with 107 strikeouts. He was an All-Star again that season, and he finished fourth in the National League MVP voting. Despite the triumphant return, the next two seasons were rough. Pollet went 9-11, 4.34 in 176.1 innings in 1947, making 24 starts and 13 relief appearances. He then had a 13-8 record in 1948, despite a 4.54 ERA in 186.1 innings. He made 26 starts and ten relief appearances that year. He bounced back in 1949 with his second (and last) 20-win season. He went 20-9, 2.77 in 230.2 innings, leading the league with five shutouts. He completed 17 of his 28 starts, and he made an additional 11 relief appearances. Pollet finished sixth in the league with 108 strikeouts. He made his third (and final) All-Star appearance that season, and he finished 11th in the MVP voting.
Pollet had a solid 1950 season, going 14-13, 3.29 in 232.1 innings, with a career high of 117 strikeouts. Despite finishing sixth twice in strikeouts with lower totals, he did not place in the top ten that season. Prior to his mid-season trade to the Pirates in 1951, he was 0-3, 4.38 in 12.1 innings over two starts and four relief appearances. With the Pirates in 1951, Pollet went 6-10, 5.04 in 128.2 innings over in 21 starts, with more walks (51) than strikeouts (47). The next year he got 30 starts (and one relief outing), pitching 214 innings. He went 7-16 with a 4.12 ERA for a team that went 42-112 that year. Before the trade to the Cubs in 1953, Pollet was 1-1 with a 10.66 ERA in 12.2 innings. After the Kiner deal, he went 5-6, 4.12 in 111.1 innings for the 1953 Cubs, making 16 starts and nine relief appearances. He was strictly a starter in 1954, going 8-10, 3.58 in 128.1 innings over 20 starts, with four complete games and two shutouts. The next year Pollet was switched mainly to relief, going 4-3, 5.61 in 61 innings, split over seven starts and 17 relief appearances. He was released by the Cubs after the season, but stayed in town, signing a free agent deal with the Chicago White Sox. He would return to the Pirates in July of 1956 as a free agent. He was released by the White Sox, after he went 3-1, 4.10 in 26.1 innings. He went 0-4, 3.09 in 23.1 innings over 19 relief appearances that season for the Pirates, in what would be his last season in the majors. Pollet finished his 14-year big league career with a 131-116, 3.51 record in 2,107.1 innings. He made 277 starts and 126 relief appearances, finishing with 116 complete games, 25 shutouts and 18 saves. He was 14-31, 4.59 in 378.2 innings with the Pirates.
Elmer Singleton, pitcher for the 1947-48 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Yankees in 1940, but he didn’t make his Major League debut until 1945 with the Boston Braves. He debuted at 22 years old in the Class-B Western International League with Wenatchee, where he went 5-10, 7.69 in 165 innings, with 111 walks. Singleton moved down a level to the Class-C Pioneer League in 1941, where he had a 3.21 ERA in 70 innings for Idaho Falls. In 1942, he split the year between Oklahoma City of the Class-A Texas League and Portland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time), combining to go 12-17, 3.09 in 224 innings. He took 1943 off to help in the war effort, though he played for a team called the Brigham City Peaches, an industrial league baseball club. Returning to pro ball in 1944, he spent most of the year with Kansas City of the Double-A American Association, where he went 7-11, 4.38 in 150 innings. He also pitched five games for Newark of the Double-A International League. He was back in Kansas City for most of 1945, before being traded to the Braves in August. At the time, he went 7-6, 2.43 in 115 innings. Singleton spent two seasons with Boston, going 1-5, 4.31 in 22 games, seven as a starter. He was 1-4, 4.82 in 37.1 innings in 1945, followed by an 0-1, 3.74 record in 33.2 innings in 1946, when he also spent part of the season with Indianapolis of the Triple-A (new level in 1946) American Association.
The Pirates acquired Singleton in a six-player deal with the Braves just as the 1946 season was ending. The key to the deal was player/manager Billy Herman, a Hall of Fame second baseman at the end of his career, but the Pirates gave up Bob Elliott in the deal, and he put up huge stats after the trade. Singleton was used mostly out of the pen in 1947 for the Pirates, making 36 appearances, three as a starter. He went 2-2, 6.31 in 67 innings. He had a similar role in 1948, going 4-6, 4.97 in 38 outings, five as a starter, with 92.1 innings pitched. On March 28, 1949, the Pirates released him to San Francisco of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, as the third player in an earlier trade for pitcher Bill Werle. Singleton went 8-14, 4.02 in 188 innings for San Francisco in 1949. In June of 1950, he was traded by San Francisco to the Washington Senators for former Pirates pitcher Steve Nagy. Singleton would pitch 21 games for the 1950 Senators, going 1-2, 5.20 in 36.1 innings. He then spent the next six seasons in the minors, before returning to the big leagues at the age of 39 in 1957 to pitch parts of three years with the Chicago Cubs.
From 1952 through 1956, Singleton averaged 245 innings per season, throwing at least 213.1 innings each year. He split 1951 between San Francisco and Toronto of the Triple-A International League, going 5-8, 4.42 in 116 innings. His streak of success started with San Francisco in 1952 when he went 17-15, 2.67 in 276 innings, with 170 strikeouts. In 1953, Singleton went 15-17, 3.24 in 253 innings for San Francisco, where he stayed for the 1954 season, when he had a 13-13, 3.00 record in 213 innings. He played for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League in 1955 and posted a 19-12, 2.20 record in 249 innings, with 150 strikeouts. He went 18-8, 2.55 for Seattle in 1956, throwing 226 innings. He was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds after the season, but a month later he was part of a six-player deal with the Chicago Cubs, which also included Don Hoak. Singleton pitched just 60 innings over three years with the Cubs, with a majority of that time coming in his final season (1959). He made five appearances in 1957, allowing 11 runs in 13.1 innings, before he had to have arm surgery that cost him three full months. In 1958, he pitched 4.2 scoreless innings for the Cubs, while spending the rest of the year with Portland of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 13-12, 3.34 in 197 innings. Singleton briefly played with Fort Worth of the Triple-A American Association in 1949, but the rest of the year was spent with the Cubs, where he was 2-1, 2.72 in 43 innings. The rest of his pro career was spent in the Pacific Coast League, where he played for Spokane, Sacramento, Vancouver and Seattle during that time. He pitched his final pro game at 45 years old in 1963. Singleton went 11-17, 4.83 in 327.1 innings over 145 big league games, with 19 starts, two complete games and four saves. He had a 184-186 record in twenty minor league seasons. He threw over 3,000 innings during his pro career. His actual first name was Bert, but he went by his middle name, Elmer.
Debs Garms, third baseman/outfielder for the 1940-41 Pirates. He played five seasons in the minors before making his Major League debut with the St Louis Browns in August of 1932. He debuted in 1928 at 21 years old in the Class-D West Texas League, where he hit .317 in 83 games for Abilene. The next year was split between two teams in the Class-B South Atlantic League (Augusta and Spartanburg), where he played 129 games. Full stats aren’t available for that year, but he’s credited with a .290 average and 21 extra-base hits. From there it was to the Class-A Western League during the 1930 season. He played part of the year back with Augusta, hitting .347 with 24 extra-base hits in 55 games, while also batting .298 with 11 extra-base hits in 70 games that season for Topeka. Garms spent the 1931-32 seasons playing for Wichita Falls of the Texas League. He hit .298 with 31 doubles, 13 triples and three homers in 123 games during the first year, then batted .344 with 41 extra-base hits in 118 games the next year. That second season earned him a trial with the Browns in August. He hit .284 with 20 runs scored and 17 walks in 34 games to finish out the 1932 season.
Garms batted .317 for the Browns in 1933, with 35 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and 30 walks in 78 games, seeing most of his time off of the bench. He got more playing time in 1934, mostly seeing action in left field, hitting .293 with 25 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 93 games. He played just ten games during the 1935 season for the Browns, going 4-for-15 with two walks, before spending the rest of the year and all of 1936 back in the Texas League, this time playing for San Antonio. Garms spent four seasons with the Browns, hitting .298 with 63 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 213 games. For San Antonio in 1935, he batted .294 in 119 games, with 22 doubles, 18 triples and a homer. In 1936, he hit .316 in 150 games, with 105 runs scored, 203 hits, 31 doubles, 15 triples, four homers, 70 RBIs, 48 walks and a .794 OPS. Debs (which was his real first name) was selected in the September 1936 Rule 5 draft by the Boston Bees, where he played during the 1937-39 seasons.
Garms hit .259 in 125 games in 1937, with 60 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and a .653 OPS. He played third base and all three outfield spots that year. In 1938, Garms hit .315 with 20 extra-base hits (19 doubles), 47 RBIs and 62 runs scored in 117 games, once again moving around the field often. That performance earned him mild MVP support, as he finished 21st in the voting. He hit .298 in 1939, while playing a career high 132 games. He also finished with 24 doubles and nine triples, which were both career highs, to go along with 68 runs and a .742 OPS. The Pirates purchased his contract in March of 1940, just in time for him to have his best season.
Garms would hit a league leading .355 that season, although the batting title came with some controversy. He had just 385 plate appearances all year, which many people thought shouldn’t be enough to win the batting title. The National League President at the time (Ford Frick) declared that Garms just had to play 100 games to be considered the batting champ, and he played 103 games, so the at-bats/plate appearances didn’t matter. His .895 OPS was his career high, as were his 76 runs scored and 57 RBIs. Perhaps most impressive is that he struck out just six times all year. He finished 13th in the MVP voting that year, his best career finish. He would see his playing time drop the next year as his average fell to .264 in 83 games. He drove in 42 runs in his limited time, as his .703 OPS was still a respectable number. In December of 1941, the Pirates sold him to the St Louis Cardinals.
Garms played in the minors in 1942 with Sacramento of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time). He batted .314 in 160 games, with 86 runs, 47 extra-base hits and 96 RBIs. He then reappeared in the majors with the St Louis Cardinals in 1943 for three more seasons as a part-time player. He started 102 of 237 games with the Cardinals, while failing to connect on a homer during his 612 plate appearances. He hit .257/.299/.313 in 90 games in 1943, which was the most work he saw during his stay in St Louis. The Cardinals won 105 games that year and went to the World Series, but lost to the New York Yankees. Garms went 0-for-5 in two postseason games. His average went down to a career low of .201 in 1944, when he played 73 games and posted a .487 OPS. The Cardinals won the World Series that year over his former Browns team, though he went 0-for-2 in the series, leaving him without a postseason hit to his credit. Garms got his average up to .336 in 1945, though he had just 180 plate appearances, in what ended up being his final big league season. Garms was released in December of 1945 and finished his career in 1946 with San Diego of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. In 1,010 Major League games, he was a .293 career hitter, with 141 doubles, 39 triples, 17 homers, 328 RBIs and 438 runs scored.
Babe Herman, outfielder for the 1935 Pirates. He started his Major League career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1926 and for seven seasons there, he was one of the best hitters the franchise has ever seen. Herman batted .339 overall in Brooklyn, with a .381 average in 1929 and a .393 mark the next year. His pro career began shortly before he turned 18 years old in 1921, playing for Edmonton of the Class-B Western Canada League, where he hit .330 in 107 games, with 24 doubles, 18 triples and seven homers. The next year was mostly spent with Class-A Omaha of the Western League, where he put up a .416 average and 50 extra-base hits in 92 games. He also saw a bump up to the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time) that year, playing eight games for Reading. Despite that impressive hitting display with Omaha, he still had to put in some significant minor league time before his big league debut. He was property of the Detroit Tigers at the time, then went to the Boston Red Sox after the 1922 season in a six-player/cash deal. Herman spent the 1923 season in the Class-A Southern Association, where his incomplete stats show that he had a .339 average and at least 59 extra-base hits in 145 games split between Memphis and Atlanta. The 1924 season saw him split time between the Southern Association (Little Rock) and the Class-A Texas League (San Antonio), hitting a combined .326 with 29 extra-base hits in 90 games. The 1925 season saw him play one step from the majors in the Double-A Pacific Coast League, where he hit .316 with 52 doubles, 13 triples and 15 homers in 167 games for Seattle.
Herman was with the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day in 1926 and he had a big rookie season, batting .319 in 137 games, with 64 runs, 35 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers, 81 RBIs and an .875 OPS. That led to mild MVP support for the first of four times in his career, finishing 16th in the voting that year. Herman saw his batting average drop to .272 in 1927, though he still had 65 runs, 49 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs and an .817 OPS in 130 games. He played more first base than anything else during his first two years, then moved to right field in 1928, where he put up a .340 average, 64 runs, 37 doubles, 12 homers, 91 RBIs and a .904 OPS in 134 games. That OPS was his high up to that point, but his best was still yet to come. Herman hit .381 in 1929, with 105 runs scored, 217 hits, 42 doubles, 13 triples, 21 homers, 113 RBIs and 55 walks in 146 games. His 1.047 OPS was the fifth best in the league, and that production led to an eighth place finish in the MVP voting. Those stats were all career highs at the time, but he would surpass all of them except triples in 1930, though that would fall too before he left Brooklyn.
Herman hit .393 in 1930, finishing second in the batting race for a second straight season. He ended up with 143 runs scored, 241 hits, 48 doubles, 11 triples, 35 homers and 130 RBIs. He also set a career high with 66 walks, and his 1.132 OPS was the second best in the league. In 1931, he hit .313 with 93 runs scored, 43 doubles, 16 triples, 18 homers and 97 RBIs. His OPS dropped to .890 that year, but offense was also down all around baseball, so he still finished ninth in the league in that category Babe (real first name was Floyd) would be dealt to the Cincinnati Reds on March 14, 1932, in a six-player deal that also included Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi. In his only season in Cincy, Herman hit .326 with 38 doubles, a league leading 19 triples, 16 homers and 87 RBIs, leading him to a .930 OPS that ranked sixth in the league. He finished 12th in the MVP voting. In the off-season, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs for a package of four players, including former Pirates catcher Rollie Hemsley.
Herman hit .289 with 77 runs, 36 doubles, 12 triples, 16 homers and 93 RBIs during his first season in Chicago, finishing with an .855 OPS that ranked him fifth in the league. It was his last season with a top ten OPS. In 1934, he hit .304 with 65 runs, 34 doubles, 14 homers and 84 RBIs in 125 games, which earned him a 14th place finish in the NL MVP voting. He came to the Pirates in November of 1934, as part of a five-player trade that saw Pittsburgh give up future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom. Herman’s stay in Pittsburgh didn’t last long. He would be sold to the Cincinnati Reds in June after playing just 26 games with a .235 average and seven RBIs. He began to hit as soon as he got to Cincinnati, batting .335 with 58 RBIs in 92 games with the Reds that year. He had a .635 OPS before the deal, and he put up a .912 mark with the Reds.
Herman played one more year for the Reds, hitting .279 with 59 runs, 25 doubles, 13 homers, 71 RBIs and an .806 OPS in 1936. He then spent part of 1937 playing 17 games for the Detroit Tigers, before going to the minors for the rest of the season. He hit .348 with 53 extra-base hits for Toledo of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) to finish out the 1937 season. He then played for Jersey City of the Double-A International League in 1938, hitting .325 in 145 games, with 40 doubles, 18 homers and 93 RBIs. From 1937 until 1944, Herman batted at least .307 every season, spending the 1939-44 seasons playing for Hollywood of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, where he topped out at a .354 average in 1943, though he was a bench player during his final three seasons in the league. He had a career .325 average in ten seasons at the highest level of the minors. After an eight-year absence from the majors, Herman returned with the Dodgers in 1945 as a pinch-hitter, playing 37 games off the bench, in what would be his last season as a player. He was a career .324 hitter in 1,552 big league games, with 399 doubles, 110 triples, 181 homers, 997 RBIs, 882 runs scored and a .915 OPS. Including his minor league stats, he had over 3,000 hits and nearly 1,200 extra-base hits.
Elmer Ponder, pitcher for the 1917 and 1919-21 Pirates. He spent five years in the minors before getting his first chance with the 1917 Pirates. He began in pro ball before his 20th birthday in 1913, pitching for Class-B Dallas of the Texas League, where he had a 10-8 record and threw 157 innings. His ERA isn’t available during his first five season, but he allowed just 2.69 runs per nine innings in 1913. He moved to Grand Rapids of the Central League (Class-B), where he went 6-11 and he threw 147.1 innings, while giving up 4.95 runs per nine innings. He returned to the Texas League in 1915 with San Antonio and had a 12-8 record in 174 innings, allowing 2.93 runs per nine innings. He repeated that win/loss record in 1916 for Birmingham of the Class-A Southern Association, throwing 182 innings, with 3.41 runs allowed per nine innings. Ponder went 19-16, with 3.05 runs per nine innings in 266 innings for Birmingham during the 1917 season, then got the call in September from the Pirates along with numerous teammates. In his Major League debut on September 18th, he allowed just one run over eight innings, though he picked up the loss. Four days later he made sure he wouldn’t lose, throwing a two-hit shutout over the New York Giants. Ponder would miss the 1918 season serving in the military during WWI. He was an aviator during the war, earning a medal for bravery after being injured.
Ponder returned to baseball in July of 1919, pitching nine games (five starts) over the second half of the season for the Pirates, going 0-5, 3.99 in 47.1 innings. Ponder made 23 starts and ten relief appearances during the 1920 season for the Pirates, going 11-15, 2.62 in 196 innings, with 14 complete games and two shutouts. He was seeing limited action through July 1st in 1921, when the Pirates traded him to the Chicago Cubs for slugging outfielder Dave Robertson. Ponder was with Chicago through January of 1922, before being dealt to Los Angeles of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time). He went 3-6, 4.74 in 89.1 innings with the Cubs to finish out the 1921 season. He played in the minors until 1928 without appearing in the majors again. He spent those six seasons (he didn’t play in 1926 due to a salary dispute) pitching in the Pacific Coast League, where he had five double-digit win campaigns and four times he topped 200 innings in a season. His best success came during that first year in 1922, when he went 10-2, 2.14 in 122 innings. His best record came with Salt Lake City in 1925, when he went 17-9, though he had a 5.09 ERA in 244 innings that year. In four years in the majors, he was 17-27, 3.21 in 378.2 innings over 42 starts and 27 relief appearances. He threw 21 complete games and three shutouts. Ponder was a spitball pitcher before the pitch was banned in baseball in 1920.