Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including two Hall of Famers, one of them being the great Roberto Clemente. There are also two trades of note.
On this date in 1989, the Pirates traded outfielder Glenn Wilson to the Houston Astros for outfielder Billy Hatcher. Wilson had been with the Pirates just over one year, coming over the previous July from the Mariners in exchange for Darnell Coles. Wilson was hitting .282 with nine homers and 49 RBIs in 100 games at the time of the deal. After the trade, he batted just .216 in 28 games for the 1989 Astros. He spent all of 1990 in Houston, hitting .245 with 14 doubles, ten homers and 55 RBIs in 118 games, then ended up coming back to Pittsburgh in 1993, after being out of the majors for two seasons. Hatcher played just 27 games for the Pirates before getting traded in the off-season to the Cincinnati Reds, where he won a World Series ring, while hitting .333 against Pittsburgh in the NLCS. Prior to the trade, he was hitting .228 in 108 games for the Astros, with 22 steals. After the deal, he batted .244 with ten runs, five extra-base hits and seven RBIs for the 1989 Pirates. The return for him prior to 1990 was minor league infielder Jeff Richardson and pitcher Mike Roesler.
On this date in 1952, the Pirates traded infielder George Strickland and pitcher Ted Wilks to the Cleveland Indians for veteran infielder Johnny Berardino, minor league pitcher Charles Sipple and cash (said to be $50,000). It was an odd move for the Pirates, who released Berardino two years earlier. They were in a rebuilding mode and neither player they received fit the mode, though the cash in return had to help as they struggled near the bottom of the league in attendance. Berardino finished the year with the Pirates, then never played again, while Sipple, at age 32 already, never played in the majors. Wilks was a steady 36-year-old reliever, nearing the end of his career and pitching well for Pittsburgh at the time. He made seven appearances for the 1952 Indians, with a 3.86 ERA in 11.2 innings. He then lasted just four games in 1953 before his big league career was over. Strickland was just 26 years old and ended up playing eight years in Cleveland, leading the American League in fielding in 1955 at shortstop and 1959 at third base. He batted .233 with 22 homers and 213 RBIs in Cleveland, though it was the strong defense that earned him his playing time. He put up 6.8 WAR during his time in Cleveland. Wilks was -0.3 during his brief time with the Indians, while Berardino was a -0.4 WAR during his second stint with Pittsburgh.
Roberto Clemente, Hall of Fame outfielder for the 1955-72 Pirates. The Pirates picked up Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft, just nine months after he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. His only minor league experience was 87 games with Montreal of the International League in 1954, and he didn’t do much during that time, hitting .257 with 27 runs, ten extra-base hits, one steal and a .657 OPS. The Pirates were a bad team in 1955, which gave them a chance to play Clemente regularly. He hit .255 with 48 runs, 23 doubles, 11 triples, five homers and 47 RBIs in 124 games during his rookie season. While he batted .311 with 66 runs, 44 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs in his second season, he didn’t really break out until the 1960 season, which coincided with the success of the Pirates. That 1956 season saw him finish with a .761 OPS, which was well below his career mark, but also his best mark during his first five seasons. His defense and cannon for an arm is what made him valuable during the early years. Clemente struggled a bit in 1957, hitting .253 in 111 games, with 28 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and 42 runs scored, putting up a career low .637 OPS. In 1958, he hit .289 with 69 runs, 40 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs and a .736 OPS in 140 games. That was followed by a .296 average, 28 extra-base hits and a .718 OPS in 105 games in 1959. He drove in 50 runs for a second straight season, and finished with 60 runs scored.
In their World Series winning 1960 season, Clemente hit .314 with 89 runs, 22 doubles, 16 homers, 94 RBIs and an .815 OPS in 144 games. He then batted .310 during the World Series, though they were all singles and no walks, so he had identical .310 OBP and slugging. Clemente was an All-Star for the first time in 1960, and he would go on to make the All-Star team in 11 of his final 12 seasons. He also finished eighth in the MVP voting.
Clemente won his first of four batting titles in 1961 by hitting .351, while scoring 100 runs for the first time and reaching 200 hits (201) for the first time as well. He had 30 doubles, ten triples, 23 homers and 89 RBIs. His .949 OPS was his career high over his first 12 seasons in the majors, and it ranked him fifth in the National League in that category. He made the All-Star game again, back when they played two games each year (1959-62), and he finished fourth in the MVP voting. He also won his first Gold Glove award.
In 1962, Clemente hit .312 with 95 runs, 28 doubles, nine triples, ten homers, 74 RBIs and an .805 OPS in 144 games. He played in the two All-Star games, finished 17th in the MVP voting, and he won his second Gold Glove. In 1963 he batted .320 with 77 runs, 23 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, 76 RBIs, an .826 OPS and a career high 12 stolen bases. He added another All-Star appearance and Gold Glove to his resume, while finishing 14th in the MVP voting.
He won the batting title again in 1964 with a .339 average and led the league with 211 hits, which ended up being his single season high. He also set a high with 40 doubles, while adding 95 runs, seven triples, 12 homers, 87 RBIs and an .872 OPS. He checked off another All-Star game and a fourth Gold Glove, while finishing ninth in the MVP voting.
Clemente made it back-to-back batting titles in 1965 with a .329 average. He set a career best with 14 triples, scored 91 runs, had 21 doubles, ten homers, 65 RBIs, an .842 OPS and he went 8-for-8 in steals. He added his sixth All-Star selection (nine games total to that point), won a fifth Gold Glove, and he had an eighth place finish in the MVP voting.
In 1966, Clemente hit 29 homers and drove in 119 runs, while scoring 105 runs. All three were career bests and it led to him winning the 1966 NL MVP award. He batted .317 and collected 202 hits, 31 doubles, 11 triples and an .896 OPS. As you may have assumed, he added to both his All-Star and Gold Glove resume.
In 1967, Clemente had perhaps his best season. He won his fourth batting title with a career best .357 average, while leading the league with 209 hits. He hit 23 homers, picked up 110 RBIs and scored 103 runs. His .954 OPS was a new career high, but he would top it two times during the rest of his career. Those stats led to a third place finish in the MVP voting, to go along with a Gold Glove and an All-Star appearance. While he failed to win another batting title after 1967, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. From 1969 until 1971, he hit .345, .352 and .341 during those three seasons. He finished second, eighth and fourth in batting those years.
The 1968 season was a down one for offense all around baseball, so while it looks like Clemente had a down year for his standards with a .291 average, he actually finished tenth in the league in hitting. In 132 games that year, he had 74 runs, 18 doubles, 12 triples, 18 homers, 57 RBIs and an .838 OPS. He led the league with 27 intentional walks, , though he had just 51 walks total. He won a Gold Glove that year, but did not appear in the All-Star game for the only time during his final 13 seasons. His 1969 season was a solid year besides the .345 average. He scored 87 runs, had 91 RBIs and he had 51 extra-base hits, including a league leading 12 triples. His 56 walks were a career best, though he was helped out by 16 intentional walks. Clemente made the All-Star team, won a Gold Glove and finished eighth in the MVP voting. His .955 OPS was another career high, but his best was still yet to come.
In 1970, he had a .352 average, 65 runs, 22 doubles, ten triples, 14 homers and 65 RBIs in 108 games. His .963 OPS was a career high. He added a Gold Glove, an All-Star appearance and he finished 12th in the MVP voting. After batting .341 with 82 runs scored, 29 doubles, eight triples, 13 homers and 86 RBIs during the 1971 season, Clemente continued to hit in the postseason. He batted .333 during the NLCS, then hit .414 with two homers in the World Series. The Pirates won their fourth title and Clemente was named as the World Series MVP. He was an All-Star, Gold Glove winner and he finished fifth in the MVP voting.
In his final season before his tragic passing, Clemente had a .312 average, 68 runs, 36 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs in 102 games. He collected his 3,000th hit in his final at-bat of the season, though it’s a common misconception that it happened during his final game. He was a defensive replacement three days later, after sitting out during the previous game. That game tied him with Honus Wagner for first on the Pirates all-time list, though at the time it was thought that he tied Wagner in his previous game due to a statistical error for Wagner. Clemente’s final career at-bats came in the postseason that year, where he hit .235 with a homer in five games.
Clemente put up tremendous career stats on offense, but his defense was just as much of a highlight producer. He led all right fielders in assists six times, which was tough to do when people knew not to test him. He has the 17th most outfield assists all-time, but ranks first among all outfielders in the last 100+ years.
Among Pirates all-time stats, he ranks tied for first in games, first hit hits, first in total bases, third in homers, third in doubles, third in runs scored, third in triples, third in RBIs, third in times on base and fourth in extra-base hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, as they waived the standard five-year waiting period due to the circumstances of his death. Clemente was a 15-time All-Star and he won 12 Gold Glove awards. The Roberto Clemente award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Baseball also holds an annual Roberto Clemente Day in September to celebrate the great player. His nephew Edgard Clemente played three seasons (1998-2000) in the majors.
Burleigh Grimes, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Pirates in 1916-17, 1928-29 and 1934. He debuted at 18 years old in pro ball and played five seasons in the minors before he got his first shot at the big league level. Grimes had a 3.52 ERA in 69 innings in 1912, playing Class-D ball with Eau Claire of the Minnesota-Wisconsin League. He spent some time back in Class-D in 1913 with Ottumwa of the Central Association, while also spending part of the year three levels higher with Class-A Chattanooga of the Southern Association. He combined to go 12-9 that year in 182 innings, with better results at the lower level. A large majority of the 1914 season was spent with Richmond of the Class-C Virginia League, where Grimes had great results. His ERA isn’t available, but he went 23-13 in 296 innings, allowing 3.44 runs per nine innings, while striking out 190 batters. He spent a small part of that season with Birmingham of the Southern Association, which is where he played for all of 1915-16. He went 17-13, 2.04 in 296 innings in 1915, then finished 20-11, 2.02 in 276 innings in 1916. On August 24th, the Pirates announced the acquisition of Grimes, along with the fact that Birmingham would be affiliated with the Pirates in 1917. The two deals were said to be separate, but the Pirates said that they would turn over a number of good players to Birmingham in exchange for Grimes. He finished off the season in Pittsburgh, going 2-3, 2.36 in 45.2 innings over five starts and a relief appearance.
Grimes did not start off well during his first time around with the Pirates, going a combined 5-19 over two season, though it should be pointed out that the 1917 Pirates were one of the worst teams in franchise history. It was the middle of the deadball era, so he 3.53 ERA in 194 innings was actually 52 points higher than the team ERA, which contributed to him putting up a 3-16 record. On January 9, 1918, the Pirates traded Grimes in a five-player deal with Brooklyn that brought outfielder Casey Stengel back to Pittsburgh. The move worked out well for Brooklyn and Grimes, who went 158-121 in nine seasons there, winning 21+ games during four of those years. He was strong from the start, going 19-9, 2.13 in 270 innings in 1918. He finished fifth in the league in ERA and third in wins. He completed 19 of 30 starts and threw seven shutouts. His 113 strikeouts doesn’t sound like a lot, but that was back when everyone was a contact hitter and strikeouts were frowned upon, so he actually finished third in the league that year in strikeouts.
In 1919, Grimes had a 10-11, 3.47 record in 181.1 innings, completing 13 of 21 starts, while making four relief appearances. The 1920 season saw an uptick in offense, as baseball got rid of pitches that were determined to be illegal, though they allowed a group of players grandfathered into the rule to continue to throw the spitball. Grimes was one of those pitchers, and years later he became the last legal spitball pitcher in the majors. MLB also decided to put new baseballs in play more often, which was especially true after Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was killed with a pitch that hit him in the head. Grimes showed no effect from the new rules in 1920, going 23-11, 2.22 in 303.2 innings. He completed 25 of 33 starts, including five shutouts, plus he pitched seven times in relief. He pitched three times in the World Series that year, winning game two, but he lost game seven to fellow Hall of Famer Stan Covaleski. The next year he was 22-13, 2.83 in 302.1 innings, leading the league in wins, complete games (30 in 35 starts) and strikeouts, setting a career high with 136 that season.
Grimes saw a drop in his production in 1922, as he went 17-14, 4.76 in 259 innings. He completed 18 of 34 starts and led the league with 137 earned runs allowed. He would end up leading the league in innings pitched, games started and complete games during each of the next two seasons. In 1923, he went 21-18, 3.58 in 327 innings, with career highs of 33 complete games and 28 starts. In 1924, he had a 22-13, 3.82 record in 310.2 innings, completing 30 of 36 starts. He finished with 135 strikeouts that year, one short of his career high, which was good enough for second most in the league. He also put up a .298 average in 124 at-bats. That performance led to a 15th place finishing in the MVP voting. Grimes struggled in 1925 as the Pirates were busy winning the World Series. He went 12-19, 5.04, leading the National League in losses and earned runs. In his final season in Brooklyn in 1926, he had a 12-13, 3.71 record in 225.1 innings, completing 18 of his 31 starts. He was traded to the New York Giants in 1927 and went 19-8, 3.54 in 259.2 innings during his only season there. He finished 18th in the MVP voting.
On February 11, 1928, the Pirates gave up pitcher Vic Aldridge to get Grimes back. His 1928 season turned out to be a spectacular one, leading the NL with 25 wins, 28 complete games and 330.2 innings pitched. He posted a 2.99 ERA that year and he threw four shutouts. He not only led the lead with with 37 starts that year, he also pitched 11 times in relief. That led to a third place finish in the MVP race. He had a strong 1929 season as well, going 17-7, 3.13 in 232.2 innings, with 18 complete games and two shutouts. It was an up year for offense in baseball and he finished fourth in the MVP race (tops among pitchers), just ahead of teammate Lloyd Waner. On April 9, 1930, the Pirates traded away Grimes to the Boston Braves for pitcher Percy Jones and cash, in a trade made necessary by a high salary demand from Grimes.
Grimes had a string of three straight World Series appearances, which started in 1930. He had a 7.35 ERA in 49 innings with the Braves before they traded him to the St Louis Cardinals in mid-June. He went 13-6, 3.01 in 152.1 innings with the Cardinals in 19 starts and three relief appearances. He made two starts against the Philadelphia Athletics during the World Series and lost them both to fellow Hall of Famer Lefty Grove, though Grimes allowed just two runs in a complete game during the second contest. In 1931, he went 17-9, 3.65 in 212.1 innings during the regular season with the Cardinals, then won both of his World Series starts, including a game three win over Grove, and a game seven victory. Grimes was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the off-season and he struggled there, going 6-11, 4.78 in 141.1 innings over 18 starts and 13 relief appearances. He pitched twice in relief during the World Series, but he ended up allowing seven runs in 2.2 innings.
Grimes moved around a lot during his final two seasons. He split 1933 between the Cubs and Cardinals, going 3-7, 3.78 in 83.1 innings, with a total of ten starts and 11 relief appearances. He pitched briefly with both the Cardinals and New York Yankees in 1934, before his third stint in Pittsburgh. He re-signed with the Pirates on August 8, 1934, in what ended up being his last season in the majors. He made four starts and four relief appearances over the final two months, posting a 7.24 ERA in 24.1 innings. For the year he had a 4-5, 6.11 record in 53 innings. Grimes won 270 games in the majors, and completed 314 games, both rank 33rd all-time in baseball history. He finished 270-212, 3.53 in 4,180 innings, which ranks 36th all-time. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1964, one of six players (one manager) they put in that year. After his big league career ended, he was a long-time minor league manager, including 1935 when he put together a 10-5, 2.34 record in 119 innings for Bloomington of the Class-B Three-I League. Grimes managed until 1953 and often did dealings with the Pirates for his best players, including 1943-44 when his Toronto team had a working agreement with the Pirates.
Yu Chang, infielder for the 2022 Pirates. He was originally signed at 17 years old by the Cleveland Indians in 2013 as an international amateur free agent out of Taiwan. Chang debuted the next year in the rookie level Arizona League, where he batted .346 in 42 games, with 39 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and a .986 OPS. In 2015, he moved up to Lake County of the Low-A Midwest League, hitting .232 in 105 games that year, with 52 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and a .655 OPS. The next season was spent with Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League, where he hit .259 in 109 games, with 78 runs, 30 doubles, eight triples, 13 homers, 70 RBIs and a .795 OPS. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .304/.361/.393 in 15 games. Chang moved up to Double-A Akron of the Eastern League in 2017. He hit .221 that season in 106 games, with 72 runs, 24 doubles, 24 homers, 66 RBIs and a .774 OPS. The 2018 season was spent with Columbus of the Triple-A International League. He batted .256 in 127 games, with 56 runs, 28 doubles, 13 homers, 62 RBIs and a .742 OPS. He made a return trip to the Arizona Fall League that off-season, and hit .337 in 23 games, with 16 runs, four doubles, four homers and 17 RBIs.
Chang split the 2019 season between Columbus and Cleveland. He had two stints with the Indians, joining them briefly in late June, then returning for the rest of the season in late August. He batted .178/.286/.274 in 28 games with the Indians, and he had a .749 OPS in 68 games in Columbus. During the shortened 2020 season, Chang hit .182 in ten games with the Indians, getting a total of 13 plate appearances. In 2021, he played briefly for Columbus, while getting into 89 big league games. He hit .228 with 32 runs, 14 doubles, nine homers, 39 RBIs and a .693 OPS for the Indians. He began 2022 in Cleveland, but after going 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts in four games, he was sold to the Pirates. His stay in Pittsburgh lasted 36 days before he was taken off of waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays. In 18 games with the Pirates, Chang hit .167/.286/.262, while seeing time at second base and first base. Through his first month with Tampa Bay, he had a .324 average and a .743 OPS in 13 games. His career stats up to that point showed a .214 average in 162 games, with 49 runs, 19 doubles, 11 homers and 51 RBIs.
Justin Wilson, pitcher for the 2012-14 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of Fresno State. The Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the 37th round out of high school in 2005, but he decided to attend college. Wilson didn’t play in 2008, then went directly to High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League in 2009. He went 6-8, 4.50, with 94 strikeouts in 116 innings over 26 starts that year. In 2010, he moved up to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League and had a strong season, going 11-8, 3.09 in 142.2 innings, with 134 strikeouts. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and had a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings over six starts. Wilson spent the entire 2011 season in Triple-A with Indianapolis of the International League, making 21 starts and nine relief appearances. He had a 10-8, 4.13 record in 124.1 innings, with 94 strikeouts. He started off the 2012 season back in Indianapolis, where he went 9-6, 3.78 in 135.2 innings, with 139 strikeouts. He made 25 starts and four relief appearances.
Wilson worked his way through the minors as a starter, but he made it to the majors as a reliever and hasn’t started a single game in 11 big league seasons. He was a late-season call-up in 2012 and managed to allow just one run in 4.2 innings, despite giving up ten hits and three walks. He made 58 appearances in 2013 and had a 2.08 ERA in 73.2 innings, with a 1.06 WHIP and 59 strikeouts. Wilson struggled a bit in more of a short relief role in 2014, posting a 4.20 ERA, while throwing just 60 innings in 70 appearances, though he had 61 strikeouts. In the 2014-15 off-season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli. Wilson spent one season with the Yankees, going 5-0, 3.10, with 66 strikeouts in 61 innings over 74 appearances. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in December of 2015 and went 4-5, 4.14, with 65 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over 66 games in 2016. In 2017, he split the season between Detroit and the Chicago Cubs. He had a 2.68 ERA and 13 saves in 40.1 innings with the Tigers, then struggled in Chicago, posting a 5.09 ERA in 17.2 innings. Between both stops, he had a 3.41 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 58 innings. He was solid in 2018 with the Cubs, going 4-5, 3.46 in 54.2 innings over 71 games, while picking up 69 strikeouts. He became a free agent after the season and signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets. Wilson went 4-2, 2.54 in 39 innings over 45 games in 2019, then during the shortened 2020 season, he had a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings over 23 appearances. He had 67 strikeouts in his 58.2 innings with the Mets.
Wilson signed with the Yankees for the 2021 season and stayed there until the trading deadline when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. In an odd twist, he was sent to the Reds with pitcher Luis Cessa, who the Yankees got five years earlier when they traded Wilson to Detroit. Wilson had a 7.50 ERA in 18 innings over 21 appearances for the Yankees, then turned things around in Cincinnati, where he had a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings and 21 games. He pitched five early season games for the Reds in 2022 before an elbow injury sidelined him. On June 3, 2022, he had Tommy John surgery, which ended his season and will delay his 2023 return. In his 11th big league seasons, he has a 33-24, 3.41 record and 18 saves in 467 innings over 527 appearances.
Mike Lavalliere, catcher for the 1987-93 Pirates. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981 as an amateur free agent, going undrafted out of high school and college. He went right to Class-A his first season and hit .268 with 31 walks in 39 games for Spartanburg of the South Atlantic League. He moved up to the Carolina League (considered to be Advanced-A) in 1982 and hit .275 with a .715 OPS in 66 games with Peninsula. The next year saw him go to Double-A Reading of the Eastern League, where he established himself as a prospect. Lavalliere hit .294 in 81 games and showed a little power, which was completely missing from his first two seasons. His 22 extra-base hits were three more than his first two seasons combined, and he posted an .823 OPS. He improved even more in that power category in 1984 when he split the year between Reading and Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League, putting up better stats at the higher level. He combined to hit .279 with 12 doubles, 11 homers, 43 RBIs and 51 walks, helping him to an .862 OPS. That was the only year in his entire pro career that he hit more than four homers, and he actually accomplished that at both levels (six in Double-A, five in Triple-A). The Phillies gave him a six-game trial that year and he went 0-for-7 at the plate. He became a free agent after the season, with a little catch in between. The St Louis Cardinals traded for him, only to cancel the trade after finding out that he had knee surgery. He ended up being released by the Phillies and signed with the Cardinals one month later.
Lavalliere spent most of 1985 in Triple-A Louisville of the American Association, playing just 12 games with the Cardinals, and hit .147/.273/.177, after failing to collect a hit in his brief 1984 big league stint. He didn’t do much better in Louisville that year, hitting .204 with a .652 OPS. Despite the struggles, he remained in the majors. In 1986, he was the starting catcher for the Cardinals, mostly due to his defense. Lavalliere hit .234 with a .668 OPS in 110 games that season, scoring just 18 runs, while finishing with 15 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs. On April 1, 1987, the Pirates acquired Lavalliere, along with pitcher Mike Dunne and outfielder Andy Van Slyke, from the Cardinals for Tony Pena. Prior to the deal, Lavalliere had played 128 games with the Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies over parts of three seasons. With Pittsburgh, he immediately stepped in and did a nice job of replacing the All-Star Pena, batting .300/.377/.365 in 121 games in 1987, while winning the Gold Glove. He led the National League with 45.2% of runners caught stealing that year. He batted .261 in 120 games in 1988, with career highs of 47 RBIs and 50 walks. A knee injury during the 1989 season limited him to 68 games, but he hit well when he played, batting .316 that year, with an .806 OPS.
Known as “Spanky”, the lefty hitting Lavalliere platooned with the righty batting Don Slaught behind the plate, and the combo helped the Pirates to three straight National League East titles from 1990 until 1992. Lavalliere hit .258 with 27 runs, 15 doubles, 31 RBIs, 44 walks (compared to just 20 strikeouts) and a .706 OPS in 96 games during the 1990 season. In 1991, he batted .289 with 25 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs and a .711 OPS in 108 games. Behind the plate, he committed one error all season, giving him an NL leading .998 fielding percentage. In 1992, he hit .256 with 22 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 29 RBIs and 44 walks (21 strikeouts) in 95 games, while throwing out 38% of base runners. Lavalliere was released by Pittsburgh after one game in 1993, leading him to sign with the Chicago White Sox for his last three seasons in the majors.
Lavalliere was a backup in Chicago, playing a total of 142 games (103 starts). He had some big success throwing out runners with the White Sox, including cutting down 24 of 32 attempts in 1993 in just 37 games. During the 1995 season, he threw out 53%, though runners stopped testing him as much. He ended up batting .263 with 19 runs, 12 doubles, two homers and 51 RBIs during his time in Chicago. In his seven season with Pittsburgh, he played 609 games, hitting .278 with 146 runs, 83 doubles, 13 homers, 207 RBIs and 499 hits. Lavalliere had his share of problems during the Pirates three playoff appearances. He went 4-for-22 at the plate, with four singles and one RBI in his nine games. In his 12-year big league career, he batted .268 with 18 homers, 294 RBIs and 321 walks in 879 games. He had more walks than strikeouts in every season during his pro career until his last year, when he finished with nine walks and 15 strikeouts for the 1995 White Sox. Lavalliere finished with 13.9 career WAR, including a strong 10.0 mark on defense.
Paul Popovich, middle infielder for the 1974-75 Pirates. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs out of college in 1960, and before making it to the Pirates 14 years later, he played parts (or all) of nine seasons in the majors with Chicago and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had an advanced placement at 19 years old to begin his career, starting in the Double-A Texas League in 1960, where he hit .248 with 12 extra-base hits in 77 games with San Antonio. The next year he put up nearly identical numbers, with a .252 average and a one point drop in his OPS (.645 to .644), but he played 127 games and finished with 63 runs and 25 extra-base hits. In 1962 Popovich dropped down to the Class-B Northwest League with Wenatchee, where he hit just .227/.337/.292 in 83 games. A move like that usually doesn’t lead to the majors, but he was back in the Texas League in 1963, playing for Amarillo, where he hit .313 with 94 runs, 37 doubles, 17 homers, 60 RBIs and 64 walks in 139 games. He had more extra-base hits in 1963 (56) than he did in his previous three seasons combined (49). Popovich made his big league debut in April of 1964, picking up a hit in his first at-bat. It would end of being his only game and at-bat of the season. He didn’t make it back to the majors until September of 1966, and even that was just two games that season. He spent the rest of 1964 and all of 1965 in Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit just .204/.268/.261 in 79 games in 1964, followed by a .251 average in 1965, along with 57 runs, 19 doubles, eight triples, 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 121 games. His OPS went up 183 points over the previous season. Before returning to the majors in 1966, he hit .243 with 51 runs, 21 doubles, 11 homers, 55 RBIs and a .647 OPS in 142 games for Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.
Popovich spent all of 1967 in the majors, hitting .214 with 18 runs, four doubles and just two RBIs in 49 games. He had a .504 OPS in 173 plate appearances. On November 30, 1967, he was part of a two-for-one trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Lou Johnson. Popovich bounced around the infield during his career, seeing most of his time at second base, but also getting in decent time at shortstop and a little time at third base. The 1967 season was the only year in which he played more shortstop than second base. He was a part-time player for eight of the nine full seasons he spent in the majors, with the lone exception being the 1968 season for the Dodgers, when he played 134 games. He batted .232 that season, with career highs of eight doubles, 35 runs scored and 29 walks. Despite those career highs, his .551 OPS was just the fifth best of his career. In 1969, he split the year between the Dodgers and Cubs, who reacquired him through the Montreal Expos. Popovich was part of a four-player deal on June 11th between the Dodgers and Expos, which included Manny Mota, Maury Wills and Ron Fairly. That same day the Expos sent him to Chicago for two players. Popovich batted .284 in 88 games that season, a batting mark that he didn’t approach in any other season during his career. He didn’t hit for much power or draw many walks, but he still improved to a .675 OPS due to that high average.
In 1970, Popovich hit .253 with 22 runs, five doubles, four homers and 20 RBIs in 78 games. His .679 OPS was a career best. In 89 contests the next year, he hit just .217, but he set career highs with 12 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs. Popovich saw both his batting and playing time drop in 1972. He hit .194/.261/.271 and had just 142 plate appearances in 58 games. He finished with eight runs scored, six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. He rebounded a bit in 1973, hitting .236 in 99 games, with 24 runs and 24 RBIs. He wasn’t much of a runner during his career, stealing four base in 14 attempts, with three of those steals coming in 1973. On April 1, 1974, the Pirates gave up pitcher Tom Dettore and cash to acquire Popovich. He would be the backup at shortstop and second base for a year and a half, seeing most of his time as a pinch-hitter, which was an odd usage of a career .233 hitter, who didn’t take many walks or hit for any power. He had 90 plate appearances over 59 games in 1974, hitting .217 with nine runs and five RBIs. He batted 44 times over 25 games in 1975 and had a .200/.273/.225 slash line, with one RBI. Popovich was released at the end of July in 1975, ending his playing career. He hit .211 in 84 games for the Pirates, getting 14 starts and 134 plate appearances. We wrote a full article on his time with the Pirates here. In his 11-year career, he was a .233 hitter in 682 games, with 65 extra-base hits, 134 RBIs and 176 runs scored. Modern metrics give him a career -1.9 WAR, though his defense was 2.1 dWAR, falling slightly above average most years.
Roger Bowman, pitcher for the 1953 and 1955 Pirates. He was signed by the New York Giants as a free agent in 1946 at 18 years old. He began his minor league career by playing briefly for Trenton of the Class-B Interstate League and Jersey City of the Triple-A International League during the 1946 season. He’s credit with 30 runs over 32 innings in Trenton, and an 0-1 record in two appearances with Jersey City. In 1947, he spent the entire year with Trenton, going 17-8, 3.56 in 197 innings, with 175 strikeouts. The 1948 season was spent with Sioux City of the Class-A Western League. He went 11-8, 3.31 that year, with 182 strikeouts in 174 innings. The lefty-throwing Bowman made the majors for the first time in September of 1949 after going 15-9, 3.39 in 194 innings for Jersey City. He made two starts for the Giants and lasted a combined 6.1 innings due to control problems, though he only allowed three earned runs. After spending all of 1950 back with Jersey City, where he went 16-11, 3.71 in 233 innings, Bowman made the 1951 Giants out of Spring Training. He was a starter early, but got hit hard and then moved to the bullpen. The Giants would send him down to the minors at the end of June, after using him just twice during his last month with the team, both times as a starter during a doubleheader. Control problems got to him again that year. He allowed 22 walks in 26.1 innings, en route to a 2-4, 6.15 record. He went 6-6, 3.19 in 110 minor league innings that year, split between Minneapolis of the Triple-A American Association and Ottawa of the International League
Bowman pitched just two games for the 1952 Giants, not faring well in his three innings of work, with four runs on six hits and three walks. The rest of the season was split between Minneapolis and Oakland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he combined to go 9-7, 3.65 in 133 innings. Bowman was picked up on waivers by the Pirates on May 12, 1953, without appearing in a game that year for the Giants. He was put in the Pirates bullpen, where he cut his walk rate in half. In 30 games (two as a starter) he went 0-4, 4.82 in 65.1 innings for the 1953 Pirates. After going 22-13, 2.51 in 258 innings for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1954, he was back with Pittsburgh for Opening Day in 1955, where he had a rough time. In seven appearances, he went 0-3, 8.64 with a 2.10 WHIP. Bowman was sold to Hollywood on May 26, 1955, ending his time with the Pirates. He stayed in the minors for the rest of 1955, as well as next six seasons before retiring. He finished with over 130 minor league wins, but he picked up just two Major League victories. His record dropped down to 5-10, 3.71 in 131 innings with Hollywood in 1955. He split 1956 between Minneapolis and Buffalo of the International League, going 10-14, 3.99 in 169 innings. He played for Minneapolis and Louisville of the American Association in 1957, before joining Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League that year, where he stated through the middle of the 1960 season. He also played for Portland of the PCL in 1960 and Hawaii of the PCL in 1961. Bowman had a 16-25 record over his last five seasons, mostly pitching in relief. In his five big league seasons, he went 2-11, 5.81 in 117.2 innings over 12 starts and 38 relief appearances.
Bernie Duffy, pitcher for the 1913 Pirates. He joined the Pirates shortly after his 20th birthday, making his debut on September 20th as a starter in game two of a doubleheader. In his first season of pro ball (1913), Bernie (referred to a majority of the time as “Barney” in the newspapers) played for Great Falls of the Class-D Union Association, where he went 23-11 in 270.1 innings. It was said that he won 15 straight games before joining the Pirates. While that’s a great accomplishment, he was five levels below the majors at the time and a teenager for nearly the entire season. In that first game with the Pirates, Duffy went four innings, giving up nine hit and three runs, before being pulled from the game. In his only other start, which came exactly a week later, Duffy allowed three runs in 5.1 innings, leaving with the bases loaded. Marty O’Toole came in and was able to retire all 11 batters he faced to keep more damage off the board, and to also pick up the win in the 4-3 game. In between his two starts for the Pirates, he pitched two innings of relief in his only other Major League game, allowing one run. It was already planned out, that after the game, Duffy would return home for the winter while the Pirates left St Louis to head for Cincinnati. He never played another big league game, finishing out his career a few years later in the minors.
Duffy went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1914, and even stayed around for the first 24 days of the season before being sent to the minors without appearing in a game. He was originally sent to St Joseph of the Class-A Western League, but his stay there was short. After going 8-11, 4.91 in 165 innings for Des Moines of the Western League in 1914, he dropped down to Youngstown of the Class-B Central League in 1915. That year he went 18-19, 1.91 in 321 innings. Duffy spent two months with Grand Rapids of the Central League to start the 1916 season, then pitched for the Wheeling Stogies in the second half of 1916, and did so well that his contract was purchased again by the Pirates on August 30th. It was said that he would join the club at the end of the season. Just three days later he pitched both games of a doubleheader, saying that he was disappointed he lost the first contest, so he asked to pitch the second game. He threw a shutout in that game. That wasn’t odd for him, as on August 13th, he won both games of a doubleheader. On March 22, 1917, without pitching for the Pirates during his second stint, he was sold to Montreal of the International League, where he went 9-17, 3.54 in 224 innings. That turned out to be his final year in pro ball.
Wally Gerber, shortstop for the 1914-15 Pirates. His career opened up with two season with Akron of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League, debuting in 1910 at 18 years old. He hit just .199 with nine extra-base hits in 83 games during his first year, then improved greatly in 1911, batting .264 in 116 games, with 51 runs, 22 extra-base hits, and a 107 point increase in his slugging percentage. He moved up to Double-A Columbus of the American Association in 1912, the highest level of the minors at the time. Gerber hit .234 with 31 extra-base hits and 63 runs scored in 166 games that year. He stayed with Columbus two more seasons, hitting .260 with 38 extra-base hits in 167 games in 1913, followed by a .258 average in 1914, when he scored 96 runs in 161 games, and collected 25 extra-base hits and 57 walks. When the Pirates purchased his contract, Wally (who went by Walter) was described as the best young shortstop in baseball, with quickness and a strong arm, though his hitting was just average. That doesn’t sound like the player he turned out to be in the majors. In June of 1914, it was said that the Philadelphia Phillies might purchase his contract, despite the Pirates having first shot at him because of their working agreement at the time with Columbus. As it turned out, his sale to the Pirates was announced on September 15th, with the note that he would finish his minor league season before reporting on September 23rd. Gerber ended up playing 17 games with the 1914 Pirates, hitting .241/.281/.296 with five runs scored and five RBIs. In 1915, he played 56 games throughout the year, seeing more time earlier in the season. He hit just .194 with seven RBIs and eight runs scored, posting a .460 OPS.
Gerber is an unfortunate case for the Pirates, a young player they gave up too soon on, who went on to become a solid long-time Major League player. The part that made it worse for the Pirates was that Honus Wagner would move off shortstop for his last season in 1917 and the Pirates went through a revolving door of players trying to replace him. All they needed to do was hold on to Gerber, but they released him back to Columbus on February 5, 1916. He did not do well in his limited time with the Pirates, so keeping him would’ve required some foresight. In 73 games over his two seasons in Pittsburgh, he hit .207 with no homers, 12 RBIs and 13 runs scored. His defense also wasn’t the greatest, never finishing higher than third among his league’s shortstops in fielding any season, and that high of third happened just once. However, Gerber could hit better than most middle infielders of the era. As I said up top, his minor league scouting report turned out to be completely opposite to what he showed in the majors. In fact, at one time he was called better than Dave Bancroft while they were in the minors. If that name isn’t familiar to you, it should be. Bancroft is in the Hall of Fame and he rates as one of the best defensive players ever.
After leaving the Pirates following the 1915 season, Gerber spent two years in the minors back with Columbus, reappearing at the end of 1917 with the St Louis Browns for 14 games. That was the start of a 12-year relationship. He hit .237 with 18 doubles and nine triples in 159 games in 1916. In 1917 before joining St Louis, Gerber batted .266 with 28 extra-base hits in 148 games. During his brief time with the Browns in 1917, he had a .308 average and a .742 OPS. He hit .240 in a part-time role in 1918, finishing with a .579 OPS in 195 plate appearances over 56 games. Gerber then batted .227 with 43 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and 49 walks in 140 games in 1919. In 1920, he led the league with 154 games played, and batted .279 with 70 runs, 26 doubles, 60 RBIs, 58 walks and a .687 OPS. He never ran much during his career, except in 1920 when he went 4-for-17 in stolen base attempts. Gerber hit .278 in 114 games in 1921, with 55 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and a .697 OPS that was his career best. That year was followed by a .267 average in 153 games in 1922, with 81 runs scored, 22 doubles, 51 RBIs and 52 walks. In 1923, he batted a career high .281 in 154 games, with career bests of 85 runs scored, 26 doubles and 62 RBIs. He finished fourth in the MVP voting that season.
Gerber batted .272 with 61 runs scored, 20 doubles, four triples and 55 RBIs in 1924. That earned him a 17th place finish in the MVP voting. He then batted .272 again in 1925, though he was limited to 72 games due to a broken bone in his foot/ankle in early June. He had a .678 OPS that season, his sixth straight season finishing between .660 and .697 in OPS. He would not reach those numbers in his final four years. Gerber returned healthy in 1926 and hit .270 in 131 games, though he showed almost no power, collecting eight extra-base hits all season, all doubles, leading to a .629 OPS. He still received mild MVP support, finishing 23rd in the voting. His average dropped off in 1927, as he hit .224 in 142 games, but that came with 13 doubles and nine triples, so his slugging percentage actually went up. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox just six games into the 1928 season. In 12 seasons with St Louis, Gerber hit .264 in 1,284 games, drawing more walks than strikeouts and three times picking up MVP votes, finishing as high as fourth. He finished his career with two seasons with the Red Sox, ending up with 1,522 games played in the majors. He batted .202 in 165 games with Boston, putting up a .213 average in 101 games in 1928, followed by a .165 average in 61 games in 1929. In his career, he was a .257 hitter with 172 doubles, 46 triples, seven homers, 465 walks, 477 RBIs and 558 runs scored. Four of his career homers were inside-the-park home runs. He actually hit more homers at Yankee Stadium (three) in 61 games than he did in St Louis (two) in 656 games.