Eight Pittsburgh Pirates players and one manager born on this date, plus a plethora of recent trades.
Mickey Mahler, lefty pitcher for the 1980 Pirates. He had a forgettable career with the Pirates, two games, one inning, seven runs allowed, resulting in a 63.00 ERA. Prior to his brief time in Pittsburgh, Mahler pitched three year for the Atlanta Braves, the team that drafted him in 1974 in the tenth round out of Trinity University. Out of 12 players drafted from that school, he’s the only one to make the majors. Mahler debuted in the Double-A Southern League with Savannah in 1974, going 8-1, 1.29 in 77 innings, with 62 strikeouts. His younger brother Rick Mahler pitched 13 years in the majors, mostly with the Braves, winning 96 career games. The young Mahler also attended Trinity and he joined his brother in the Braves system in 1975 as a non-drafted free agent. Mickey Mahler went 6-14, 3.85 in 166 innings in 1975, playing for Triple-A Richmond of the International League.He had 26 starts, eight complete games, two shutouts and 129 strikeouts. He went 8-14, 4.80 the next year, when he spent part of the season back Savannah. He had a 5.79 ERA in 84 innings at Richmond that year, and a 3.23 ERA in 53 innings with Savannah.
Mahler established himself as a big league prospect in 1977 at 24 years old in Richmond, going 13-10, 3.53 in 217 innings. He had 31 starts, 14 complete games and 145 strikeouts. He threw a no-hitter against Toledo on June 1st that year. The Braves called him up in September for five starts and he had a 6.26 ERA in 23 innings. He switched between roles in 1978 with the Braves, going 4-11, 4.68 in 134.2 innings, with 21 starts and 13 relief appearances. That was his career high for innings pitched, as was his 92 strikeouts. Mahler went 5-11, 5.85 in 100 innings in 1979, with 18 starts and eight relief outings. Over those three seasons (1977-79), he went 10-24, 5.27 in 65 games, 44 as a starter, with two complete games. The Pirates signed him as a free agent on April 10, 1980, just twelve days after he was released by the Braves near the end of Spring Training. Mahler went to Triple-A for the Pirates, where he went 14-8, 2.65 in 173 innings for Portland of the Pacific Coast League. His two appearances for Pittsburgh both came during blowout losses in September, and they happened 24 days apart. Just before Opening Day in 1981, the Pirates shipped him to the California Angels, along with catcher Ed Ott, in exchange for first baseman Jason Thompson.
Mahler pitched 12 games for the Angels over two seasons, allowing just one run in 14.1 innings, with six appearances each season. He gave up one hit over 6.1 innings in 1981, yet he recorded just eight innings the next year when he allowed that lone run. While his ERA was high each of those two seasons in the minors, he was playing for two teams in high offense stadiums in the Pacific Coast League, posting a 10-4, 4.96 record in 127 innings for Salt Lake City in 1981, and a 9-7, 5.68 record in 134.2 innings for Spokane in 1982. Mahler was a late cut during Spring Training and was sent to Edmonton of the PCL, as the Angels switched affiliates again. He went five innings and allowed two runs in his first start, then a shoulder injury that was bothering him during spring ended his season in late April without another appearance. He was released by the Angels, then signed with the New York Mets, who released him during Spring Training. He signed with the St Louis Cardinals, where he spent the entire season in Triple-A Louisville of the American Association, going 8-12, 4.28, with 142 strikeouts in 153.1 innings.
After spending all of 1984 in the minors, Mahler returned for two more partial years in the majors, seeing time with the Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. He had a 3.00 ERA in 69 innings in 1985, splitting his time between Montreal (48.1 innings) and a 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings with the Tigers. He also played for the Triple-A clubs of both teams that year. He had a 4.08 ERA in 64 innings in 1986, with all but one of those innings coming for the Rangers, who also had him in Triple-A for a short time. He was sold to Toronto on September 1st and debuted the next day. In his first appearance with the Blue Jays, he hit Brett Butler with his first pitch, then was removed from the game. He pitched his only other game for Toronto 26 days later when he threw a scoreless inning. Mahler spent his last year of pro ball (1987) in the minors with the Triple-A affiliate of the Cardinals, going 4-6, 6.57 in 61.2 innings. He was actually out of pro ball to start the year until the Cardinals needed a pitcher due to injury in April. He was sidelined twice during the season, with his career ultimately ending due to a pulled muscle in his side, though at the time he said he planned to pitch in 1988. In the majors, he went 14-32, 4.68 in 406 innings over 58 starts and 64 relief appearances. He threw three complete games, had one shutout and four saves.
Vic Davalillo, first baseman/outfielder for the 1971-73 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1958 at 18 years old out of Venezuela, though he never played for them in the majors. By the time he reached the Pirates, Davalillo had spent eight years in the majors, playing for the Cleveland Indians, California Angels and St Louis Cardinals. He debuted in the low levels of the minors, playing 34 games and batting just 26 times during his first season, which was split between Visalia of the Class-C California League and Palatka of the Class-D Florida State League. He was with Palatka for all of 1959, batting .291/.325/.456 in 85 plate appearances over 73 games. In 1960, Davalillo moved up to Class-B for Topeka of the Three-I League, where he batted .271 with a .705 OPS in 164 plate appearances over 84 games. He also got six at-bats over six games for Havana/Jersey City of the Triple-A International League. He was mostly a bench player again in 1961, batting just 137 times in 81 games, while seeing time with Topeka and Jersey City again, while adding Columbia of the Class-A South Atlantic League to the mix. He batted .238/.276/.341 between all three stops.
Davalillo didn’t get his big break until 1962 after he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. They assigned him to Jacksonville of the International League that year and he played full-time for the first time. After collecting a total of 387 at-bats during his first four seasons combined, he had 578 at-bats during the 1962 season. Davalillo hit .346 with 99 runs, 27 doubles, 18 triples, 11 homers, 69 RBIs, 24 steals and a .903 OPS in 150 games that year. He didn’t play for the Indians that year, but he was there for the entire 1963 season, and for all of the next four years as well. As a rookie in 1963, he hit .292 with 44 runs, 30 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs and a .746 OPS in 90 games. He was the everyday center fielder in 1964 and won the Gold Glove award, while batting .270 with 64 runs, 34 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs, 21 steals and a .663 OPS. He set a career high with 26 doubles that year. He was an All-Star in 1965 when he hit .301 with 67 runs scored, 25 extra-base hits,40 RBIs and a .716 OPS. His 25 stolen bases that season (in 33 attempts) set a career high. He received mild MVP support that year, finishing 21st in the voting. In 1966, Davalillo hit .250 in 121 games and saw his OPS drop 102 points down to a .614 mark. He finished with 42 runs, 13 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs in 344 at-bats.
Davalillo rebounded from his down year in 1966 by batting .287 with 47 runs, 24 extra-base hits and a .686 OPS in 139 games in 1967. He was traded in the middle of the 1968 season to the California Angels. He combined to hit .277 with 49 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, 25 steals (in 41 attempts) and a .656 OPS in 144 games, with much better results in California. Davalillo would be traded again mid-season in 1969, playing for the Angels and St Louis Cardinals that year, batting just .219/.279/.290 in 96 games between the two stops. Once again he did much better with his new team. After he hit .311 in 183 at-bats over 111 games in 1970, the Pirates acquired Davalillo from St Louis in a four-player deal on January 29, 1971. The Pirates used him during that World Series winning season at all three outfield spots, as well as seeing time at first base. He hit .285 with 21 extra-base hits in 99 games, scoring 48 runs and adding 33 RBIs. He played three World Series games, going 1-for-3 with a run scored. In 1972, he saw plenty of playing time at both corner outfield positions. In 117 games, he hit .318 with 59 runs scored, 25 extra-base hits and 14 steals in 15 attempts. Davalillo had his problems at the plate in 1973, batting just .181 in 83 at-bats over 59 games through the end of July. On his 37th birthday, the Pirates sold him to the Oakland A’s.
Davalillo played in Oakland until 1974, though he was in a limited bench role. After leaving Pittsburgh in 1973, he hit .188 in 64 at-bats over 38 games. In 1974, he batted 26 times total in 17 games, finishing with no runs or extra-base hits. He then went to the Mexican League to play during the 1974 season and managed to hit .329 in 71 games that season. He stayed in Mexico and did great, putting up a .355 average in 114 games in 1975, followed by a .333 average in 123 games in 1976. Davalillo was even better in 1977, batting .384 in 135 games, which led to him coming back to the majors that year to be a bench player for four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He batted .297 in 135 games for the Dodgers, though he only received 164 plate appearances and he started just 11 games total during that four-year stretch, which also included some Triple-A time and a return to Mexico in 1980. Most of Davalillo’s playing time with the Dodgers came in 1978 when he hit .312 in 77 at-bats over 75 games. He was a .279 hitter in 1,458 Major League games, with 510 runs, 160 doubles, 36 homers, 329 RBIs and 125 stolen bases. He had exactly 800 plate appearances with the Pirates, finishing with a .290 average and a .708 OPS. His brother Pompeyo “Yo-Yo” Davalillo played in the majors with the 1953 Washington Senators.
Bill Hall, catcher for the Pirates in 1954, 1956 and 1958. Originally signed by the Pirates in 1947 as an amateur free agent, Hall played over 1,200 minor league games during his 13-year pro career, spent entirely in the Pittsburgh organization. His big league career included three stints with the Pirates, two of them very brief. At 18 years old in 1947, he played for three lower level teams. His full stats aren’t available from that year, but his most time came with Leesburg of the Class-D Florida State League, where he hit .264 with ten extra-base hits in 50 games. He also played for Keokuk of the Class-C Central Association and Bartlesville of the Class-D Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League. The entire 1948 season was spent back in Leesburg. That year he batted .282 with 27 doubles and four triples in 111 games. Hall missed the 1949 season while serving in the Army. He returned in 1950 to play 105 games, mostly with Class-C Hutchinson of the Western Association, where he hit .307 with 33 extra-base hits in 102 games. He hit just .200 with seven extra-base hits in 59 games for Charleston (where he played three games in 1950) of the South Atlantic League in 1951, while missing part of the year back with the Army. He returned to Charleston in 1952 and hit .260 in 121 games, with 13 doubles, a triple and three homers. In October of 1952, the Pirates purchased his contract. He was optioned out to New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association in 1953 and hit .281 in 69 games, with ten extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and 23 runs. Hall made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1954, going 0-for-7 in five games before being returned to the minors in early May. The Pirates had six catchers at the time on their 25-man roster, though two were Bonus Baby players who rarely saw game action. He batted .150 in 12 games for New Orleans after being sent down, and also hit .249/.351/.302 in 67 games for Williamsport of the Class-A Eastern League that season.
Hall spent all of 1955 with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .257 in 119 games, with 30 runs, 17 doubles, nine triples, one homer and 47 RBIs. He then he made the Pirates Opening Day roster again in 1956, but he saw even less playing time in his second cup of coffee. His only game in 1956 was on April 27th, when he came in during the second inning to replace catcher Danny Kravitz, who was having trouble catching pitcher Ron Kline. Hall finished the game, going 0-for-3 at the plate. He returned to Hollywood and hit just .198 with a .533 OPS in 91 games over the rest of the 1956 season. He was back in Hollywood for all of the 1957 season after the Pirates sold his contract to their farm team on September 22, 1956. That third year in the PCL saw him hit .276 in 132 games, with 53 runs, 30 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs and a .712 OPS.
Hall was in the minors to begin the 1958 season, but after hitting .344/.417/.544 over 40 games during the first two months of the season while playing for Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, the Pirates purchased his contract and gave him plenty of playing time to finish out the season. He stuck around until the end of the season, playing a total of 51 games, with a .285 average, 15 runs scored, 15 RBIs, 15 walks and a .729 OPS. Hall went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1959, but he was cut from the team on April 2nd. He played two more years in the minors before retiring. He spent all of 1959 with Triple-A Columbus of the International League, where he hit .247 in 94 games, with 35 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs. His final season was split between Columbus and Salt Lake City. Hall hit .243 in 118 games, with a .606 OPS. He batted .262 with 15 runs, six doubles, one homer and 15 RBIs in 57 big league games.
Johnny Rizzo, outfielder for the 1938-40 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1931 at 18 years old, and after just two seasons, he had already played for four teams, plus two of those teams relocated during the season. His stats are extremely limited during those two years due to the moving around. He hit .276 in 28 games for Galveston of the Class-A Texas League in 1931, along with seeing time with Corpus Christi of the Class-D Rio Grande Valley League. Rizzo played part of 1932 back in Galveston, but the majority of the year has him playing for Muskogee and Bartlesville of the Class-C Western Association. Incomplete stats show him hitting .341 with 58 extra-base hits and 92 RBIs in 129 games. He finally settled into one spot in 1933 in the St Louis Cardinals farm system, playing for Elmira of the Class-A New York-Penn League, where he hit .307 with 22 doubles, 17 triples and seven homers in 133 games. Most of 1934 was spent back in Elmira and he did even better, batting .379 with 48 extra-base hits in 106 games. He also played 35 games for Houston of the Texas League, where he hit .305 with nine extra-base hits. Rizzo remained in Houston for the next two full seasons. He batted .312 with 53 extra-base hits in 158 games in 1935, then hit .307 with 84 runs, 50 extra-base hits, 84 RBIs and 62 walks in 144 games in 1936. Rizzo spent 1937 playing for Columbus of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time), where he hit .358 with 38 doubles, 18 triples and 21 homers . It was his seventh season in the minors without a trip to the big leagues.
The Pirates acquired Rizzo after the 1937 season in a three-for-one deal with the Cardinals, who received backup outfielder Bud Hafey, backup catcher Tom Padden and a minor leaguer from Pittsburgh. It turned out to be a one-sided trade for the Pirates, who also gave up cash in the deal. The Pirates made the 25-year-old Rizzo their starting left fielder in 1938 and he had one of the best rookie seasons in team history. He hit .301 with 97 runs, 31 doubles, nine triples, 23 homers, 111 RBIs, 54 walks and an .882 OPS. That home run total was a team record that stood until surpassed by Ralph Kiner nine years later. Rizzo finished sixth in the National League MVP voting that year. His stats fell off in 1939, hitting .261 with 49 runs, 23 doubles, six homers, 55 RBIs and a .752 OPS in 94 games. He lost his starting job late in the year and batted just three times over the final 29 games of the season. Rizzo was with Pittsburgh to start the 1940 season, but on May 8, 1940, the Pirates traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Vince DiMaggio. Rizzo was hitting .179 in nine games at the time of the deal.
Rizzo remained in the majors through the end of the 1942 season, also seeing time with the Philadelphia Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers during those final three years. After the trade to the Reds, he batted .282 with four homers, 17 RBIs and an .808 OPS in 31 games. Just 38 days after being acquired from the Pirates, Cincinnati shipped him to the Phillies. Rizzo ended up hitting 24 homers during the 1940 season, with the last twenty coming after the trade to Philadelphia. He batted .292 with 53 runs and 53 RBIs in 103 games with the Phillies that year. In 1941, he batted .217 with four homers, 24 RBIs and a .618 OPS in 99 games. He was sold to the Dodgers that December and he hit .230 with 31 runs, four homers and 27 RBIs in 78 games in 1942. In 1943, he joined the Navy and missed three seasons of baseball, before returning in 1946 to play out his career in the minors. He did well too, but never got a shot at the majors after the war. He hit .298 with 32 extra-base hits and 88 RBIs in 110 games for St Paul of the Triple-A American Association 1946. The next year he batted .298 with 18 doubles, 19 homers and 74 RBIs in 113 games for Sacramento of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He played briefly for Sacramento in 1948, but spent the majority of the year with Chattanooga of the Double-A Southern Association, where he hit .309 with a .974 OPS. He ended his career in 1949 with Lakeland of the Class-B Florida International League at 36 years old, hitting .311 with an .857 OPS. In five big league seasons, Rizzo hit .270 in 557 games, with 268 runs, 90 doubles, 61 homers, 289 RBIs and a .781 OPS.
Hal Finney, catcher for the 1931-34 and 1936 Pirates. He got his start in baseball after high school began in a semi-pro league in 1926, followed by playing for a team of college All-Stars in 1927, even though he didn’t go to college. He debuted in pro ball in 1928 at 22 years old, playing for Talladega of the Class-D Georgia-Alabama League, where he hit .307 with 12 extra-base hits in 70 games. He remained in the same league with Gadsden in 1929, hitting .333 with 24 extra-base hits in 81 games. His contract was purchased by the Pirates on August 12, 1929, and he reported to the team in September, though he only played in an exhibition game. After attending Spring Training with the 1930 Pirates, he moved up to Class-B in the minors, playing for Columbia of the South Atlantic League. Finney hit .251 in 67 games, with nine doubles, a triple and a .296 slugging percentage. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1931, but all he had by August 1st was four pinch-hit at-bats. He was then sent out to the Class-B New York-Penn League and hit .279 with six extra-base hits in 44 games for Hazleton, before rejoining the Pirates in September. He made six starts at the end of the season and hit .308/.333/.346 in 27 plate appearances in ten games total that year.
Finney was with the Pirates for all of the 1932 season, but through the end of August, he had no official at-bats. He was hit by a pitch in his only time up to the plate prior to September and had his arm fractured in the process. From mid-June until the end of August he was used twenty times, all as a pinch-runner, and that’s despite stealing just one base during his Major League career. He ended up starting nine games over the final two weeks of the season, finishing the year with a .212/.297/.303 slash line in 38 plate appearances. Most of Finney’s big league damage came during the 1933 season, when he hit .233 with his only homer (which came as a pinch-hitter) and 18 RBIs, playing a career high 56 games. He started 30 games that season spread throughout the year. He played just five early season games for the Pirates in 1934, all of them coming as a pinch-runner, though he did remain in one game at catcher and got an at-bat. He spent the rest of the season in the International League with Albany, where he hit .279 with 12 doubles and two homers in 100 games. An off-season farming accident left him with a fractured skull and poor vision, which caused him to retire during the 1935 season.
In 1936, Finney played 21 games for the Pirates, going 0-for-35 at the plate, without reaching base once, leaving him with a .000 OPS. It was the most at-bats in a season without a hit (by a position player), until broken in 2011 by Eugenio Velez of the Giants. Finney was brought on that season as a bullpen catcher and was forced into action when starter Al Todd was injured mid-season. So you could see how that hitless streak came about, between the time off, his injury and his role on the team. On December 5, 1936, his contract was sold outright to Oklahoma City of the Texas League, ending his big league career and also his pro career, as he never played after 1936. He caught during five seasons for the Pirates (not including his time with the team in 1930), though he played just 123 Major League games, with 54 of those coming as a starter. Finney was a .203 big league hitter, with 39 runs, eight doubles, one homer and 27 RBIs. His brother Lou Finney played 15 years in the majors, spending all but four of his 1,270 games in the American League.
Chuck Ward, shortstop for the 1917 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1912 at 17 years old, playing in the Class-D Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas (MINK) League, where he hit .264 with 13 doubles and two triples in 288 at-bats for the Falls City Colts. The next two seasons were spent with Grand Island of the Class-D Nebraska State League, where he hit .270 in 66 games in 1913 and .305 in 86 games in 1914 (stats are very limited for those two years). Ward split the 1915 season between Aberdeen of the Class-B Northwestern League and Portland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time). He combined to hit .259 with 31 extra-base hits in 173 games, with similar results at each level. He was with Portland for the 1916 season as well, batting .235 in 168 games, with 22 doubles and four triples. Despite the low offensive numbers, he was considered to be a future big league player due to his strong defense. On January 19, 1917, the Pirates traded infielders Paddy Siglin and Jack Farmer to Portland in exchange for Ward, who then had the unenviable task of being a rookie who was replacing the great Honus Wagner at shortstop for the Pirates.
For the 1917 season, Wagner shifted over to first base for most of the year, which was his last year in the majors. Ward hit .236 with 25 runs, 15 extra-base hits 43 RBIs and a .581 OPS in 125 games that season. He was a big difference from Wagner both in the lineup and in the field, hitting no homers and committing 50 errors, though his overall defense was rated just slightly below average. The Pirates traded Ward to Brooklyn in the 1917-18 off-season, in a deal that included two Hall of Famers, with Burleigh Grimes going to Brooklyn and Casey Stengel, then an outfielder, coming back to Pittsburgh. Ward played a total of 111 games over five seasons in Brooklyn, 14 fewer games than he played in his one year with the Pirates. His 1918 season wasn’t ended before it started, when he was inducted into the Army during WWI, leaving during Spring Training. Ward played two mid-season games in 1918 during a brief leave from service. He would have played a third game, but he arrived late to the ballpark and sat on the bench.
Ward saw his most playing time for Brooklyn in 1919, when he hit .233 in 45 games, with seven runs, eight RBIs and a .543 OPS. In 1920, he played 19 games through June 7th, then didn’t play for the rest of the season due to a problem at the time that was described as a charley horse, but was later called a lower spinal injury. He was hitting just .155/.200/.169 at the time. Ward was thought to be healthy going into spring of 1921, but he ended up missing nearly the entire season due to his previous injury. He returned to the team in late August and looked so rough in his one start that he was pulled mid-game and took three weeks before he started playing again, getting into 11 games during the final three weeks of the season. Ward hit .275/.320/.352 in 33 games during the 1922 season. He was doing well at one point, but a broken finger in a fight led to a suspension by the team and he played just one game over the final two months, which ultimately led to his departure. Ward returned to the minors in 1923 to play two more years before retiring. He batted .249 in 97 games for Reading of the Double-A International League in 1923, and his final 11 games with Toledo of the Double-A American Association in 1924. He went to the plate 847 times during his career and did not hit a single home run. He had just four minor league homers, three of them coming during one season. He finished as a .228 hitter in 236 games, with 52 runs, 20 doubles, six triples and 72 RBIs.
Casey Stengel, outfielder for the 1918-19 Pirates. Known more for being the Hall of Fame manager who won 1,905 games and led the New York Yankees to seven World Series titles, he was also a fine ballplayer during his day. Stengel spent the first six years of his big league career (1912-17) playing outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers/Robins. He debuted in pro ball in 1910 at 19 years old and didn’t do well in his first season. While playing for three different teams, two of them Class-D clubs (Kankakee of the Northern Association and Shelbyville of the Blue Grass League), he batted .237 with 27 extra-base hits in 132 games. He also played four games for Kansas City of the Class-A (highest level of the minors until 1912) American Association that year. He would return there to manage 35 years later. Stengel played for Aurora of the Class-C Wisconsin-Illinois League in 1911, where he hit .352 with 33 extra-base hits in 121 games. He moved up to Class-A Montgomery of the Southern Association in 1912 and hit .290 with 20 doubles, 13 triples and a homer in 136 games. In September of 1912, he joined the Dodgers and batted .316 in 17 games, with nine runs, 13 RBIs and 15 walks.
During the 1913 season, Stengel was the primary center fielder for Brooklyn. He hit .272 with 60 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits, 43 RBIs and 56 walks in 124 games. He stole 19 bases that year, though he was caught 17 times. In 1914, he hit .316 in 126 game and led the National League with a .404 OBP. He had 55 runs, 27 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs, 19 steals and 56 walks. His .829 OPS was good enough for fifth in the National League. He switched from center field to right field that year and remained in his new spot until 1922. His stats dropped well off in 1915, batting .237 in 132 games, with 20 doubles, 12 triples, 50 RBIs and 52 runs scored. He had 19 steals in each of the previous two years, then went 5-for-15 in steals in 1915. While his .647 OPS appears to be low, it was actually seven points above league average during that deadball era year. The next year saw him bat .279 with 66 runs scored, 43 extra-base hits, 53 RBIs and a .753 OPS in 127 games. That OPS was ninth best in the league. Brooklyn lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox that season and Stengel hit .364 during the series in four games. He played a career high 150 games in 1917, batting .257 with 23 doubles, 12 triples and 18 stolen bases. He set career highs with 60 walks, 73 RBIs and 69 runs scored.
On January 9, 1918, the Pirates acquired Stengel, along with second baseman George Cutshaw, in exchange for pitchers Burleigh Grimes, Al Mamaux and infielder Chuck Ward. Both Grimes and Stengel would go on to make the Hall of Fame. Stengel’s time in Pittsburgh was rough. He was always asking for more money to play during his career, and during the 1918 season he took a job doing wartime work until the war ended. He played just 39 games for the Pirates that year, batting .246 with 18 runs scored, 12 RBIs and a .663 OPS. He returned to the Pirates in 1919, but he didn’t last the entire year. On August 9, 1919, the Pirates traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Possum Whitted. Stengel was batting .293 in 89 games, with 38 runs, 24 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs at the time of the deal. He asked the Phillies for a raise before reporting and when it wasn’t given to him, he went home for the winter. He reported to the Phillies the following spring and hit .292 with 40 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs and 53 runs scored in 129 games.
Stengel split the 1921 season between Philadelphia and the New York Giants, joining them in a July 1st trade. He hit .284/.341/.358 that year in 89 plate appearances over 42 games, getting bench work for both teams. Stengel did much better in a part-time role in 1922, hitting .368 in 84 games, with 25 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 48 runs scored. While he didn’t play enough to qualify for league leaders, his 1.000 OPS was the third best in the league for anyone with at least 250 at-bats. In a similar role in 1923, he batted .339 in 75 games, with 39 runs and 43 RBIs. He had a .905 OPS that season, which was tenth best in the league for anyone with 200+ plate appearances. In November of 1923, Stengel was traded to the Boston Braves in another deal that included Hall of Famers going each way, except this time it was three future Cooperstown inductees. That 1923 deal included former Pirates outfielder Billy Southworth and infielder Dave Bancroft.
Stengel played two more seasons in the majors after the trade, hitting .280 with 57 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits and 39 RBIs in 131 games in 1924. He went 1-for-13 at the plate in 12 games in 1925 before being released. He became a player-manager in the minors and remained in that role until his last games in 1931, spending most of that time with Toledo of the Double-A American Association. He managed for a total of 37 seasons in pro ball, spending time with both the Dodgers (1934-36) and Braves (1938-43) before joining the Yankees, where he won seven World Series and ten American League titles. His time with the Yankees ended on the Bill Mazeroski walk-off homer in the 1960 World Series. Stengel finished his managerial career by taking the heln of the Mets for their first four season. With Pittsburgh, he hit .280 with 55 RBIs and 56 runs scored in 128 games. In his 14-year big league career, he hit .284 with 182 doubles, 89 triples, 60 homers, 535 RBIs, 575 runs scored and 131 stolen bases in 1,277 games.
Bill Merritt, catcher for the 1894-97 Pirates. His first known pro experience came during the 1891 season at 20 years old, the same year that he debuted in the majors with the Chicago Colts (Cubs). He hit .214 in 11 big league games that season, and he spent time with Woonsocket of the New England League. His 1892 season was split between the majors and minors as well, with a 46-game stint with the Louisville Colonels in which he batted .196 with 22 runs, one homer, 13 RBIs and .508 OPS. Merritt saw time in the minors that season with Memphis of the Class-B Southern Association (batted .167 in 12 games) and Columbus of the Class-A Western League (hit .224 in 40 games), which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He had his contract purchased by the Boston Beaneaters for the 1893 season and had an incredible turn around with the bat, albeit in a small sample size and a year where offense was up due to new rules for pitchers that favored the hitters. Merritt hit .348/.403/.497 in 39 games that year, with 26 RBIs and 30 runs scored. He began the 1894 season with Boston, but he was released after just ten games. The Pirates picked him up right after, though he stayed around for just under three months before being released again. In 36 games, he batted .275, with a .712 OPS, though it should be noted that the 1894 season was a huge year for offense in baseball, so those numbers were mediocre. He was a backup catcher to Connie Mack with the 1894 Pirates before being let go in August. Merritt moved on quickly to the Cincinnati Reds and hit .325 in 30 games to finish out the 1894 season. Between his three big league stops that season, he hit .294 in 76 games, with 38 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs and a .753 OPS.
Connie Mack took over the managerial spot in Pittsburgh and brought Merritt back during the 1895 season to be his platoon catcher with Joe Sudgen. Merritt was hitting .177 in 22 games with the Reds when he was purchased by the Pirates on June 22nd, as they were in a hunt to find a good catcher and pitcher to help them for a pennant run. He played 67 games over the rest of the season and hit .285 with 27 RBIs and 32 runs scored. Despite the solid average, low power/walk totals led to a .654 OPS for the 1895 Pirates. In 1896, he hit .291 with 26 runs, 11 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and a .680 OPS in 77 games. The next year he played 62 games and posted a .263 average with 21 runs, eight extra-base hits, 26 RBIs and a .613 OPS. The Pirates actually released him in August, only to re-sign him 11 days later due to the help of an old rule. Players were given a ten-day release back then in which they still belonged to the team. Usually they didn’t play with the club during that time, but occasionally they returned if an injury led to a shortage. In his case, he played well during that ten-day period and then re-signed with the team once the release expired. Merritt was a decent hitting catcher for the era, who could be used at other positions on the field when he needed to be given a rest from catching duties. He was also league average in throwing out base runners. In his four years in Pittsburgh, he hit .280 with 113 RBIs in 280 games. He played a total of 401 Major League games over eight seasons, hitting .272 with 182 runs, 60 extra-base hits and 196 RBIs.
Merritt played just one Major League game after 1897, catching the final game of the year for the 1899 Boston Beaneaters, but his pro career lasted until 1905 in the minors. His final five seasons were all spent in the New England League. The Pirates released Merritt to Kansas City of the Western League in January 1898 and he decided to retire instead of report due to the $1,200 salary limit in the league, though he returned for that one game for Boston in 1899, and then came back for five seasons starting in 1901.
Clint Hurdle, manager for the 2011-19 Pirates. Hurdle played ten years in the majors and then managed the Colorado Rockies for eight seasons before coming to the Pirates. He had just one year over a .500 record, but he led the Rockies to their only World Series appearance in 2007. Hurdle took over a poor Pittsburgh team in 2011 and had them in the playoffs just two years later, which was their first postseason appearance in 21 years. They returned to the playoffs in each of the next two seasons as well. Hurdle was around until the 161st game of the 2019 season. He compiled a 735-720 record for the Pirates, posting a winning record in four of his nine seasons. He ranks fourth in team history in wins, and his 1,269 career wins ranks him 40th all-time. He went 534-625 with the Rockies. As a player, Hurdle hit .259 in 515 games, with 162 runs, 81 doubles, 32 homers and 193 RBIs. Injuries limited his playing career. He debuted in the majors not long after his 20th birthday.
Due to the number of trades and most of them being recent, I’ll keep these brief. Some have been expanded on already in our Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History section.
2016: Pirates trade Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals for Felipe Vasquez (technically for Felipe Rivero) and Taylor Hearn. This trade was paying off huge for a time, as Melancon was becoming a free agent at the end of the season and the Pirates weren’t in the pennant chase. We all know about the rise and tremendous fall of the pitcher formerly known as Felipe Rivero, while Hearn was used to acquire Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers. Hearn got injured in his big league debut in 2019, but was healthy in 2020 when he made 14 relief appearances. He has been seeing regular work for the Rangers in the last two years, but so far his big league WAR stands at -0.8 in parts of four seasons.
2015: Pirates trade JaCoby Jones to the Detroit Tigers for Joakim Soria. The Pirates were giving up a prospect here for a rental and Soria did as well as you could hope. He had a 2.03 ERA in 26.2 innings over 29 appearances, then threw a scoreless inning in the playoffs, striking out three batters. Jones spent parts of six seasons with the Tigers, hitting .212 with 32 homers and 29 stolen bases in 352 games through 2021. He has not played in the majors in 2022. He has put up 1.1 WAR during his career. Soria had 0.7 WAR during his brief time in Pittsburgh.
2012: Pirates traded Brad Lincoln to the Toronto Blue Jays for Travis Snider. Lincoln was a former first round pick who never reached his peak, partially due to injury. He was a starter, who struggled as a reliever after the deal, lasting just 62.2 innings in the majors after the trade. He even returned to the Pirates as a minor league player after the deal. Snider struggled for the 2012-13 Pirates, but he had a hot streak during the 2014 season, which led to the Pirates trading him to the Baltimore Orioles for Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley in a deal that worked out much better for the Pirates.
2011: Pirates trade minor league first baseman Aaron Baker to the Baltimore Orioles for veteran first baseman Derrek Lee. Another deal where the Pirates gave up a prospect for a veteran on an expiring contract. Lee hit well for the Pirates before getting injured, batting .337 in 28 games, with seven homers and 18 RBIs. The Pirates were interested in signing him for the 2012 season, but he retired after the season instead. Baker never made the majors. Lee had 0.9 WAR during his brief time in Pittsburgh, despite some below average defensive numbers.
2009: Pirates send pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Josh Harrison and pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio. Harrison was the key piece here, outperforming everyone else combined after the deal. Hart and Ascanio provided very little for the Pirates, while Harrison spent eight seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a 14.5 WAR during that time. He was a two-time All-Star, who batted .277 with 52 homers, 75 steals, 269 RBIs and 363 runs scored in 842 games for Pittsburgh. Hart went 1-8, 6.92 in ten starts during his brief time with the Pirates. Ascanio gave up seven earned runs over ten relief appearances while with the Pirates. Grabow pitched well during the rest of the 2009 season, posting a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings, but the Cubs re-signed him as a free agent and he had a rough time during the 2010-11 seasons, posting a combined 5.52 ERA over 88 innings. Gorzelanny had a 4.43 ERA in 174.1 innings in Chicago before being traded to the Washington Nationals for three minor league players who didn’t play a single game with the Cubs (they combined for seven big league games total). He had a 5.63 ERA in 2009 after the trade, then posted a 4.09 ERA in 136.1 innings in 2010. He pitched in the majors until 2016.
2004: Pirates trade pitcher Kris Benson and infielder Jeff Keppinger to the Mets in exchange for Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista and minor league pitcher Matt Peterson. None of these players worked out for their new team, but Keppinger, Bautista and Wigginton went on to have varying levels of success with other teams. Benson went 14-12, 4.23 in 39 starts for the Mets, which was the closest thing to success in this deal. Keppinger hit .284 in 33 games for the Mets before being traded in 2006. While he had some solid seasons elsewhere, he finished his career with 1.1 WAR. Peterson was a top pitching prospect, but he never made the majors. Wigginton was the Pirates starting third baseman for the rest of 2004 and the 2005 season, though he ended up playing just 115 games with Pittsburgh. He finished his career with a .261 average and 169 homers, though his poor defense kept his value down to 2.8 WAR in 12 seasons. Bautista hung around Pittsburgh through 2008, showing flashes of potential. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008 and didn’t do much until 2010 when he had a huge breakout season, which he credited to a change made by his hitting coach Dwayne Murphy. He ended up as a six-time All-Star, but his contribution in Pittsburgh was minimal.
2001: Pirates deal pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder John Vander Wal to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Ryan Vogelsong and outfielder Armando Rios. This deal didn’t work out at all for the Pirates. Both players they got back were injured shortly afterwards, while Schmidt went on to win 78 games for the Giants. Vogelsong had two stints with the Giants and put up decent overall stats. He had two stints with the Pirates and struggled both times. Rios had a .655 OPS in 78 games for the Pirates over two seasons. Vander Wal batted .252 with three homers in 49 games after the deal. It should be pointed out that the last place Pirates were trading both players with two months remaining on their contract before free agency, so it wasn’t as one-sided as it appears. The problem was that they didn’t get any real value back in return for two big trade pieces.