On a busy date for Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays, we have a Hall of Fame first baseman, one of the best sluggers of the 1950’s and a player from the 1909 World Series champs, plus a local kid who made good.
Chad Kuhl, pitcher for 2016-18, 2020-21 Pirates. He was a ninth round pick in 2013 out of the University of Delaware. He spent his first season of pro ball with Jamestown of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he went 3-4, 2.11 in 13 starts, with six walks and 33 strikeouts in 55.1 innings. In 2014, Kuhl went to Bradenton of the High-A Florida State League, where he had a 13-5, 3.46 record in 28 starts, with 100 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. He went to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League in 2015 and posted an 11-5, 2.48 record in 152.2 innings, with 101 strikeouts. He began the 2016 season with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League, putting up a 6-3, 2.37 record in 83.2 innings over 16 starts. The Pirates called him to the majors in late June and he made 14 starts, going 5-4, 4.20 in 70.2 innings, with 53 strikeouts. Kuhl spent the entire 2017 season in the majors, making 31 starts. He went 8-11, 4.35 in 157.1 innings, with 142 strikeouts.
Kuhl made 16 starts in 2018 before a forearm injury shut him down. He tried doing rehab, but it did not work, and he ended up having Tommy John surgery, which cost him the entire 2019 season. Before the injury, he had a 5-5, 4.55 record in 85 innings, with 81 strikeouts. During the shortened 2020 season, Kuhl made nine starts and two relief appearances, going 2-3, 4.27 in 46.1 innings, with 44 strikeouts. In 2021, he missed five weeks early in the season due to a shoulder injury. He split his time evenly between starting and relief, with 28 appearances and 14 starts. He went 5-7, 4.82 in 80.1 innings, with 75 strikeouts. With one year left before free agency, the Pirates released Kuhl. He signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies for 2022, where he has 6-7, 5.17 record in 21 starts, with 80 strikeouts and a 1.51 WHIP in 108 innings through late August. On June 27th, he pitched a complete game shutout, which was not only his first career shutout, it was also his first complete game. Through late August of 2022, Kuhl has a 31-37, 4.58 record in 547.2 innings over 105 starts and 16 relief appearances.
Phillip Evans, utility player for 2020-21 Pirates. He was a 15th round draft pick out of high school by the New York Mets in 2011. He played just nine games his first season, but he ended up spending time with all three short-season teams of the Mets, playing in the Gulf Coast League, the Appalachian League with Kingsport, and the New York-Penn League with Brooklyn. He .294/.351/.412 in 37 plate appearances between those stops. In 2012, Evans spent the entire season with Brooklyn, where he hit .252 in 73 games, with 32 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 29 RBIs and a .665 OPS. He moved up to Savannah of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 2013 and hit .203 in 106 games, with 35 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and a .531 OPS. In 2014, Evans played for St Lucie of the High-A Florida State League. In 111 games that year, he batted .247 with 34 runs, 16 doubles, four homers, 39 RBIs and a .633 OPS. He repeated the level in 2015 and hit .234 in 77 games, with 19 runs, 14 doubles, no homers, 32 RBIs and a .614 OPS. In 2016, he did poorly in nine games with St Lucie, but had a breakout season with Binghamton of the Double-A Eastern League. In 96 games at the upper level, he hit .335 with 50 runs, 30 doubles, eight homers, 39 RBIs and an .859 OPS. He played winter ball in Puerto Rico during the 2016-17 off-season and hit .311 in 19 games, with an .831 OPS.
Evans spent the majority of the 2017 season in Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League, which is a very hitter-friendly park and league. He hit .279 in 127 games, with 58 runs, 26 doubles, 11 homers, 56 RBIs and a .760 OPS. He ended up playing 19 games with the Mets that season, hitting .303/.395/.364 in 38 plate appearances. In 2018, Evans spent about half of the season with Las Vegas, where he had a .256/.327/.493 slash line in 62 games. He had two stints with the Mets, but his season ended on August 1st when he fractured his left tibia. He had a .143/.217/.143 slash line in 21 plate appearances over 15 games with the Mets before the injury. The Mets released him in November of 2018 and he signed a month later with the Chicago Cubs. Evans spent the entire 2019 season with Iowa of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, hitting .283 in 130 games, with 79 runs, 30 doubles, 17 homers, 61 RBIs, 57 walks and an .841 OPS. He signed a free agent deal with the Pirates during the 2019-20 off-season and then played 11 games for the 2020 Pirates during the shortened season. He had a .359 average and a .932 OPS in 45 plate appearances before missing the end of the season with a concussion. In 2021, Evans made the Opening Day roster for the Pirates, but his season was interrupted twice by a hamstring injury and a concussion, before he was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. He still ended up playing 76 games for the Pirates that year, hitting .206 with 23 runs, five doubles, five homers, 16 RBIs and a .611 OPS. Pittsburgh released him after the season and he signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees in March of 2022. Through late August of 2022, he’s hitting .242 with 16 doubles, nine homers, 26 RBIs and a .705 OPS in 84 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the Triple-A International League. In his four partial big league seasons, he has a .231 average in 121 games, with 34 runs, nine doubles, six homers and 27 RBIs.
Neil Walker, second baseman for the 2009-15 Pirates. He was a first round pick in 2004 out of Pine-Richland HS by the Pirates, drafted as a catcher. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League and saw brief time in the short-season New York-Penn League with Williamsport during his first year, combining to hit .276 with 30 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs in 60 games. In 2005, he spent most of the year in Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League, before getting a late promotion to High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Walker hit .298 that season in 129 games, with 82 runs scored, 35 doubles, 12 homers, 80 RBIs and a .769 OPS. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .265/.315/.388 with two homers in 17 games. In 2006, he missed a small part of the season due to injury, but still played 72 games in Lynchburg and ten games in Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League. He also made a second trip to the Arizona Fall League. Walker hit .271 with 38 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and a .733 OPS during the season, and .290 with a .697 OPS in 18 games in the fall. He was a catcher for each of his first three seasons, then moved to third base in 2007. Walker played 117 games for Altoona in 2007 and another 19 games at Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He batted .277 with 84 runs, 33 doubles, 13 homers, 66 RBIs, 55 walks and a .784 OPS, with much better results at the lower level. He played winter ball in Mexico that off-season, where he hit .268 with nine doubles, four homers and a .724 OPS in 38 games.
In 2008, Walker spent the entire season in Indianapolis, hitting .242 with 69 runs, 25 doubles, seven triples, 16 homers, 80 RBIs and a .694 OPS in 133 games. Another minor injury kept him out of action briefly in 2009, when he played 95 games in Indianapolis and eight rehab games in the Gulf Coast League, followed by a 17-game trial with the Pirates in September. He hit .264/.311/.480 with 31 doubles and 14 homers in Indianapolis, then had a .194 average and .497 OPS in 40 plate appearances with the Pirates. Walker played in Venezuela over the 2009-10 winter and had an .819 OPS in 34 games. He started the 2010 season at third base in Indianapolis before moving to second base, making the switch right before joining the Pirates in late May of 2010. At the time he had a .321 average and a .951 OPS in 43 games. He wasn’t seeing regular playing time with the Pirates in 2009, but once he returned to the team the following May, he became the starting second baseman. He hit .296 with 57 runs, 29 doubles, 12 homers, 66 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 110 games as a rookie in 2010, finishing fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. In his first full season in 2011, Walker batted .273 with 76 runs, 36 doubles, 12 homers, 83 RBIs, 54 walks and a .742 OPS in 159 games. In 2012, he hit .280 with 62 runs, 27 doubles, 14 homers, 69 RBIs and a .768 OPS in 129 games, while missing three weeks late in the year with a back injury.
In 2013, Walker batted .271 with 62 runs, 24 doubles, 16 homers, 53 RBIs and a .757 OPS, while having his best season of his career on defense (0.3 WAR). However, he also missed time with a finger injury and an oblique strain, limiting him to 133 games. He had the best offensive year of his career in 2014 when he hit .271 with 74 runs, 25 doubles, 23 homers, 76 RBIs and an .809 OPS in 137 games. That output earned him his only career Silver Slugger award. Walker had a typical Walker year in 2015, batting .269 with 69 runs, 32 doubles, 16 homers, 71 RBIs and a .756 OPS. After the season, with one year before he hit free agency, he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Jon Niese. Walker hit .272 with 405 runs, 174 doubles, 93 homers and 418 RBIs in 836 games with the Pirates. In his first season in New York, he hit .282 in 113 games, with career highs of 23 homers and an .823 OPS, to go along with 57 runs, nine doubles and 55 RBIs in 113 games. He remained with the Mets for the 2017 season, though he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in August. He combined to hit .265 with 59 runs, 21 doubles, 14 homers, 49 RBIs and a career high 55 walks, playing in 111 games.
Walker signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees in 2018. He took a utility role, playing five different positions, hitting .219 with 48 runs, 12 doubles, 11 homers and 46 RBIs in 113 games. He signed a free agent deal with the Miami Marlins in 2019 and mostly played first base. He hit .261 with 37 runs, 19 doubles, eight homers and 38 RBIs in 115 games. In 2020, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he saw sporadic work during the shortened season, hitting .231/.244/.308 in 18 games. Walker retired after the 2020 season with a .267 career average in 1,306 games over 12 seasons, with 238 doubles, 149 homers, 609 RBIs and 611 runs scored. He is the son of Major League pitcher Tom Walker (1972-77) and the nephew of Chip Lang, pitcher for the 1975-76 Expos. He’s also the brother-in-law of Don Kelly, who played briefly with the Pirates in 2007.
Chad Hermansen, outfielder for the 1999-2002 Pirates. He was a first round pick of the 1995 Pirates, selected tenth overall out of high school. He was a highly rated prospect at the time, getting ranked by Baseball America among their top 54 prospects five times from 1996 through 2000. Coming up through the minors he was always young for the level, but he struck out a lot and never hit for a high average, so the hype was more potential/tools than just results based. He debuted at 17 years old, splitting his time between the Gulf Coast League and the short-season New York-Penn League with Erie. Hermansen hit .284 with 44 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and an .848 OPS in 68 games that season. In 1996, he split his time between the two A-Ball levels, playing for Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League and Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League, combining to hit .264 with 81 runs, 22 doubles, six triples, 24 homers, 87 RBIs, 67 walks, an .851 OPS and 16 steals in 128 games. He spent 1997 in Double-A with Carolina of the Southern League, hitting .275 with 87 runs, 31 doubles, 20 homers, 70 RBIs and 18 steals. He set a minor league high with 69 walks, but also struck out 136 times. His .851 OPS matched his mark from the previous season. In 1998, Hermansen spent the entire season in Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, hitting .258 with 81 runs, 26 doubles, 28 homers, 78 RBIs, an .854 OPS, 21 steals and 50 walks, though he also had 152 strikeouts in 126 games.
Hermansen spent the entire 1999 minor league season in Triple-A Nashville, hitting .270 with 89 runs, 27 doubles, 32 homers, 97 RBIs, 19 steals and an .851 OPS, while cutting down his strikeouts to 119, though his walks also dropped to 35 in 125 games. He joined the Pirates in September and hit .233/.324/.333 with one homer in 19 games. In 2000, Hermansen was with the Pirates on Opening Day through late May, then returned for a short time in July. The rest of the time was spent in Nashville, where he had a .225 average and a .688 OPS in 78 games. In 33 games with the Pirates, he hit .185 with 12 runs, four doubles, two homers and a .522 OPS in 117 plate appearances, with 37 strikeouts. In 2001, his big league time consisted of 22 games in which he hit .164/.179/.291 with two homers in 56 plate appearances. He struck out a total of 172 times that season, with 154 coming while with Nashville, where he hit .246 in 123 games, with a .751 OPS.
In 2002, Hermansen finally got an extended big league look, playing 65 games through the end of July, before he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Darren Lewis. He hit .206/.272/.381 with seven homers and seven steals with the Pirates, then finished that season with the Cubs by hitting .209/.292/.349 with one homer in 35 games. Hermansen then played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, hitting .160/.222/.220 in 11 games over two stints with the team. He tore up Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League that year, batting .353 in 68 games, with a .945 OPS. He played his last Major League season with the 2004 Toronto Blue Jays, where he got into four early season games, going 0-for-7 at the plate. He played in the minors until 2007, finishing with 192 minor league homers. Hermansen didn’t play a lot over his final four seasons of pro ball. After the Blue Jays sent him to the minors, he played 42 games for Syracuse of the Triple-A International League that year. In 2005, he played 11 games in Mexico. His 2006 season was spent in independent ball with Sioux Falls of the American Association. He signed with the Florida Marlins for 2007, who sent him mid-season to the New York Mets to finish the year and his career. He spent that entire year in Triple-A, hitting .281 in 116 games, with 19 doubles, 11 homers and 57 RBIs. For the Pirates, he hit .199 in 139 games, with 12 homers and 29 RBIs. He was a .195 hitter in 189 big league games, with 49 runs, 23 doubles, 13 homers, 34 RBIs and nine steals.
Bob Garber, pitcher for the 1956 Pirates. He signed with the Pirates as an amateur in 1948, pitching well in the low levels of the minors for three years before serving in the military during the Korean War, missing all of the 1951-52 seasons. He debuted at 18 years old with Greenville of the Class-D Alabama State League League, going 14-7, 3.48 in 155 innings, with 138 strikeouts. The next year he started in Greenville, then moved up to Class-B Davenport of the Three-I League mid-season. He combined to go 20-11, 2.63 in 240 innings, with 207 strikeouts. In 1950 he moved up to the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he had a 15-9, 4.11 record for Charleston in 219 innings. When he returned in 1953, Garber pitched for three different teams over three different levels. He pitched a total of 106 innings, with solid results in Charleston (3.18 ERA in 51 innings), but a 6.83 ERA in 29 innings with New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association. He also played briefly that year for Waco/Longview of the Class-B Big State League. He returned to form the next year, going 19-8, 3.18, with 173 strikeouts in 221 innings for Denver of the Class-A Western League. Garber pitched three games for New Orleans that season as well. He was moved up to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1955 and won 20 games, posting a 2.84 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 291.2 innings, but he didn’t pitch with the Pirates until the following season. Pirates manager Bobby Bragan was asked in August of 1955 if Garber would join the Pirates soon and he said that Hollywood was competing for the playoffs, while the Pirates were in last place, so he would remain in the minors to help with the playoff push.
Garber had a sore arm during Spring Training in 1956, as he competed for a job with the Pirates. He pitched winter ball that year and it was said that he pitched about 700 total innings over 1954-55, when winter ball stats were figured into the mix. He appeared in two game for the 1956 Pirates, both in relief, and both games ended up being suspended and finished at a later date. The first was in May, when he threw one scoreless inning during a blowout loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on May 13th. He was optioned to Hollywood three days later, and had an 11-6, 3.77 record in 129 innings over 17 starts and seven relief appearances before rejoining the Pirates. The other big league game he pitched came on September 23rd, when Garber threw the final three innings against the Brooklyn Dodgers, allowing one run on a solo homer. In that second contest, he was pitching when the game was suspended, then finished off the outing the next day. That was his last big league game. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1957, but on March 31st he was traded to Hollywood along with infielder Spook Jacobs in exchange for catcher Hardy Peterson. Garber pitched at Hollywood in 1957, where he went 10-8, 3.56 in 154 innings over 15 starts and 27 relief outings. He then split his final pro season (1958) between affiliates of the Cincinnati Reds (Seattle) and Chicago Cubs (Portland) organizations in the Pacific Coast League. Garber pitched 51 games that year, posting a 5-10 record in 119 innings. He finished with 117 minor league wins.
Brandy Davis, outfielder for the 1952-53 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of Duke University in 1951 at 23 years old, and it didn’t take long for Davis to make the majors. He spent all of 1951 in the minors, splitting his time between three different teams while batting .313 with 23 doubles, five triples and 16 homers in 130 games. A majority of that season was spent with Bartlesville of the Class-D Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League, where he hit .342 in 87 games. He also saw 17 games with Hutchinson of the Class-C Western Association, and 26 games with New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association. Despite most of his first season being spent in the lowest level of the minors, Davis made the Pirates 1952 Opening Day roster. He would be sent to the minors in early June, going to Waco of the Class-B Big State League. He hit .307 with 21 extra-base hits in 66 games for Waco, before returning to the Pirates two months later for the rest of the season. Brandy (real name was Robert Brandon Davis) started 21 of the 55 games he played that season for the Pirates, seeing time at all three outfield spots. He hit .179/.264/.211 with 14 runs scored and one RBI in 108 plate appearances. He was batting .214 with six singles and six walks in 28 at-bats before he was sent to the minors, then hit .164 after he returned.
Davis went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1953, but he was among a group of cuts eight days before Opening Day. He spent 1953 with New Orleans of the Southern Association, where he hit .272 with 86 runs, 25 doubles, four homers, 36 steals and 67 walks in 136 games. He came back to the Pirates as a September call-up and hit .205/.205/.256 in 12 games, which ended up being his last big league experience. He went to Spring Training again in 1954, but he was cut right before the season opener on April 13th. He was called back on April 26th after ten games with Charleston of the Triple-A American Association, only to be optioned to Burlington-Graham of the Class-B Carolina League six days later. He hit .288 in 106 games that season, with 55 runs, 14 doubles, four triples, no homers, 25 steals, 59 walks and a .733 OPS. Davis played for Pirates affiliates until 1956, and he remained in the minors until 1960, finishing with a .292 minor league average in 911 games. He went down to Williamsport of the Class-A Eastern League for the 1955-56 seasons, where he batted .278/.386/.395 in 127 games in 1955, and .272/.380/.350 in 139 games in 1956. Combined those years he had 185 runs, 58 steals and 170 walks. Davis played just one game in 1957 due to a fractured wrist, then moved down in competition for his last three seasons, playing for Columbus of the Class-D Alabama-Florida League in 1958, Great Falls of the Class-C Pioneer League in 1959, and Orlando of the Class-D Florida State League in 1960. He was a player/manager during those last three seasons, and he had three others years of managerial experience after he retired. Davis batted .187 with 19 runs, three doubles, three RBIs and nine steals in 67 big league games.
Ted Kluszewski, first baseman for the 1958-59 Pirates. He started his Major League career in 1947 with the Cincinnati Reds, and 11 years later he had amassed a .302 average with 251 homers and 886 RBIs. Kluszewski was a four time All-Star from 1953-56, hitting at least 35 homers and driving in over 100 runs each season. He debuted in pro ball in 1946 at 21 years old, playing for Columbia of the Class-A South Atlantic League. It didn’t take him long to make the majors. He debuted with a .352 average, 40 extra-base hits, 87 RBIs and a .964 OPS in 90 games. In 1947, he hit .377 with 80 runs, 48 extra-base hits, 68 RBIs and a .963 OPS in 115 games for Memphis of the Southern Association. He got a look with the Reds that year, though he went 1-for-10 in nine games. In his first full season in 1948, Kluszewski hit .274 with 49 runs, 23 doubles, 12 homers, 57 RBIs and a .758 OPS in 113 games. The next year he hit over .300 for the first of seven times in the majors. In 136 games in 1949, he hit .309 with 63 runs, 26 doubles, eight homers, 68 RBIs and a .743 OPS. He finally grew into his power in 1950, when he hit .307 with 76 runs, 37 doubles, 25 homers, 111 RBIs and an .863 OPS in 134 games. That showing earned him mild MVP support (18th place finish), but he dropped off significantly the next year. In 1951, Kluszewski hit .259 with 74 runs, 35 doubles, 13 homers, 77 RBIs and a .688 OPS in 154 games. The high average returned in 1952, but the big power was still one year away. He hit .320 with 62 runs, 24 doubles, 11 triples, 16 homers, 86 RBIs and an .892 OPS in 135 games in 1952, which led to a 17th place finish in the MVP voting.
Kluszewski broke out in a big way in 1953 and put together an incredible four-year run. He batted .316 with 97 runs, 25 doubles, 40 homers, 108 RBIs and a .950 OPS in 1953, which helped him to a seventh place finish in the MVP voting and his first All-Star appearance. In 1954, he led the National League in homer (49) and RBIs (149) while hitting .326, which was the fifth highest average in the league. All three of those totals were career highs, as were his 78 walks and his 1.049 OPS. He had 104 runs, 187 hits and 28 doubles. He finished second in the MVP voting that year behind Willie Mays, and he made his second straight All-Star appearance. In 1955, Kluszewski hit .314 with 25 doubles, 47 homers, 113 RBIs, 66 walks, a .967 OPS, and a career high 116 runs scored. His 192 hits were also a career high, and that total led the National League. He finished sixth in the MVP voting that season and made his third All-Star appearance. During his fourth straight All-Star year in 1956, he hit .302 with 91 runs, 14 doubles, 35 homers, 102 RBIs and an .898 OPS. He had mild MVP support that year, finishing 14th in the voting. The amazing part of his 1953-56 streak of 35 home run seasons, was the fact he had more home runs than strikeouts in all four seasons, piling up 171 homers and 140 strikeouts.
Before coming to Pittsburgh, Kluszewski began to suffer back problems that really limited his power. It showed in his 1957 stats when he hit .268 with seven doubles, six homers, 21 RBIs and a .765 OPS in 69 games. The Pirates acquired Kluszewski from the Reds on December 28, 1957 in exchange for first baseman Dee Fondy. Pittsburgh didn’t get the power hitting first baseman they hoped to get in that deal. Kluszewski played 160 games for the Pirates over two seasons, hitting .284 with just 40 runs, 23 doubles, six homers and 54 RBIs. He was able to hit .292 over 100 games during the 1958 season, but his .408 slugging percentage was well below his career mark. The Pirates traded him to the Chicago White Sox on August 25, 1959 in exchange for outfielder Harry Simpson and a minor leaguer. Prior to the trade, Kluszewski was hitting .262/.291/.410 in 60 games for the Pirates. He batted .297/.351/.396 with two homers and ten RBIs in 31 games after the trade in 1959. Kluszewski played with the White Sox until 1960, batting .293 with 20 runs, nine doubles, five homers and 39 RBIs in 81 games during his only full season with the team. He then finished his big league career with the 1961 Los Angeles Angels, an expansion team that year. He hit 15 homers in 1961, more than he had hit the previous three seasons combined. He had a .243 average in 107 games, with 32 runs, 12 doubles, 39 RBIs and a .764 OPS. In his 15-year career, he hit .298 with 848 runs, 290 doubles, 279 homers, 1,028 RBIs and an .850 OPS in 1,718 games. Even with poor defensive numbers every season, his career was worth 31.4 WAR.
George Kelly, first baseman for the 1917 Pirates. He saw limited time with the New York Giants for parts of three years before the Pirates purchased his contract in early August of 1917. He had a total of 240 minor league games before joining the Giants, debuting at 18 years old and spending parts of two seasons in the Class-B Northwestern League. His minor league stats are incomplete, but he’s credited with hitting .250 in 141 games in 1914, with 45 runs, 22 doubles, two triples, seven homers and eight steals. Kelly split that season between Spokane and Victoria, then played the 1915 season with Victoria before debuting with the Giants in mid-August. He was hitting .296 with 44 extra-base hits in 99 games before heading to New York. He played 18 big league games that season, hitting .158/.180/.237 in 40 plate appearances. The entire 1916 season was spent on the bench with the Giants, where he hit .158/.220/.211 in 84 plate appearances over 49 games.
Kelly had barely played for the 1917 Giants before joining the Pirates, going 0-for-5 in nine games. He also spent part of that season in the minors, hitting .300 with 19 extra-base hits in 32 games for Rochester of the Double-A International League. Pittsburgh was having injury problems at the time and they needed the 21-year-old Kelly to fill in for Honus Wagner at first base. They also had two other injuries that created a need for a player and Kelly was at the end of the bench for the Giants when they were at Forbes Field for a five-game series. For Pittsburgh in eight starts at first base, he went 2-for-23 with a triple and nine strikeouts. When Wagner was ready to play again, Kelly was sent back to the Giants. Despite returning him to New York right away, the Pirates had been high on Kelly for quite some time. The decision to return him ended up being a bad one, Kelly went on to have a Hall of Fame career. From 1920 until 1925, he averaged 108 RBIs per season, twice leading the league. From 1921 until 1926, he batted over .300 every season.
Kelly’s success in New York didn’t come right away after leaving the Pirates. He was barely used after he got returned to New York in 1917, going 0-for-3 in two games to finish out the season. He then spent the 1918 season in the military due to WWI. He went back to Rochester when he returned in 1919 and hit .346 with 72 runs, 50 extra-base hits and 23 steals in 103 games before joining the Giants in August. Over 32 games with the 1919 Giants, he hit .290/.315/.411 with 12 runs, nine extra-base hits and 14 RBIs. That led to a full-time job in 1920 at first base. During that 1920 season, Kelly led the league with 155 games played and 92 strikeouts. However, he also led the league with 94 RBIs, while batting .266 with 69 runs, 22 doubles, 11 triples and 11 homers. In 1921, the Giants started a four-year run of World Series appearances, in which they picked up titles during the 1921-22 seasons. He contributed greatly to those teams, starting in 1921 when he hit .308 in 149 games, with 95 runs, 42 doubles, nine triples, a league leading 23 homers and 122 RBIs. His .884 OPS was the seventh best in the league. In 1922, he batted .328 with 96 runs, 33 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, 107 RBIs and an .860 OPS in 151 games. During the 1923 season, Kelly hit .307 with 82 runs, 23 doubles, 16 homers, 103 RBIs and an .814 OPS in 145 games. In the final year of the pennant run, he hit .324 with 91 runs, 37 doubles, nine triples, 21 homers, a league leading 136 RBIs and a career best .902 OPS. He finished sixth in the MVP voting that year. What’s most interesting about that RBI total is that it would be a Pirates single-season record. Despite the regular season success, he had a .580 OPS in 26 World Series games.
In 1925, Kelly hit .309 in 147 games, with 87 runs, 29 doubles, 20 homers, 99 RBIs and an .821 OPS. That led to his best finish in the MVP voting (third place). In 1926, he hit .303 in 136 games, with 70 runs, 24 doubles, 13 homers, 80 RBIs and a .797 OPS. He received mild MVP support, finishing 23rd in the voting. The Giants traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in February of 1927, in a deal for fellow Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Rousch. Kelly hit .270/.308/.446 in 1927, though he played just 61 games due to a late May appendicitis operation that kept him out of action until August. In 1928, he hit .296 with 46 runs, 43 extra-base hits, 58 RBIs and a .780 OPS in 116 games. He played 147 games in 1929 and drove in 103 runs, while putting up a .293 average, 73 runs, 45 doubles, nine triples, five homers and a .760 OPS. Kelly was released by the Reds in 1930, then went to the minors with Minneapolis of the Double-A American Association, then joined the Chicago Cubs later in the year. It was said that the Reds released him because they were making a youth movement and the 34-year-old Kelly didn’t fit their plans. They also noted that they tried to trade him and put him through waivers with no takers. Despite the release/demotion, he finished the big league season with a .308 average and a .768 OPS in 90 games. He played with Minneapolis in 1931 and hit .320 with 34 doubles and 20 homers in 155 games. He then returned to the majors for 64 games with the Brooklyn Robins, which ended up being his last season in the majors. Kelly had a .243 average, 23 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs for Brooklyn. He played for Jersey City of the International League for part of 1932, and he saw some brief time with Oakland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1933 before retiring.
Kelly was a career .297 hitter in 1,622 games, with 819 runs, 337 doubles, 76 triples, 148 homers and 1,020 RBIs. His home run total doesn’t sound like a lot, but when he was six seasons into his big league career, the all-time home run record was 138 at the time. He was a fine fielding first baseman, leading the league in assists three times, putouts three times, range four times and fielding percentage twice. Late in that 1917 season, after being returned to the Giants, Kelly pitched for the only time in his career, throwing five shutout innings in a win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He came from a big baseball family with Major League ties. His uncle was Bill Lange, a .330 career hitter in seven seasons during the 1890’s. George’s brother Ren Kelly pitched for the 1923 Athletics and his cousin Rich Chiles played six years in the majors during the 1970’s. We posted a full article here on Kelly’s time with the Pirates. His nickname “High Pockets” came from the fact that he was 6’4″ back in the 1920’s when not many players reached that height.
Kid Durbin, pinch-runner for the Pirates on June 30, 1909. When the Pirates traded for Durbin on May 28, 1909, they sent pitcher Ward Miller to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal that included the stipulation that said if Miller played good for the Reds, Cincinnati would send money back to the Pirates. As it turned out, all Pittsburgh received from the player part of the deal was one pinch-running appearance by Durbin. On June 30, 1909, during the first game ever at Forbes Field, the Pirates trailed 3-2 in the ninth inning. Catcher George Gibson walked to start the inning, he was replaced on the bases by Durbin, who was sacrificed to second base, then moved to third base on an infield error. That is where he would stay, as a shallow fly ball and ground out to shortstop ended the game. Not only did Durbin not play for the Pirates again, he never played in the majors again. On July 7th, he was sold to Scranton of the Class-B New York State League.
Durbin debuted in pro ball at 17 years old in 1904, in what did not look like the start of a career that would lead to three seasons in the majors. Playing for Fort Scott of the Class-C Missouri Valley League, he had a .194 average, which was actually better than his 5-26 record as a pitcher. He spent the majority of the 1905 season with Joplin of the Class-C Western Association, where he had a 13-18 record in 293 innings (no batting stats are available). He also saw brief time with St Joseph of the Class-A Western League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He remained in Joplin for 1906, where he hit .277 in 58 games and posted an incredible 32-8 record as a pitcher. The Chicago Cubs drafted him from Joplin in September and he debuted in the majors in 1907. Kid (first name was Blaine) played two years with the Cubs, seeing very limited playing time (25 games combined, five as a pitcher). He had a 5.40 ERA in 16.2 innings for the 1907 Cubs, while hitting.333 in 18 at-bats, getting three starts in the outfield. The next year he played 14 games total, all of them coming in June/July, though he was healthy and with the team for the entire season. When the Cubs won the World Series that year, he received just a 1/3 share of the prize money. which amount to $500. He started eight games in the outfield that year, hitting .250/.323/.286 in 32 plate appearances. He did not pitch that season.
In January of 1909, Durbin was traded to the Reds, who used him six times as a pinch-hitter before the trade to the Pirates. He played in the minors until 1912 before he retired. The Cubs won the World Series in each of his first two seasons and the Pirates won during his third year, so he was a member of three World Series winning teams, though he never played a postseason game. With Scranton after being let go by the Pirates, Durbin put up a .219 average in 66 games. In 1910, he played semi-pro ball in the Kansas-Oklahoma area for multiple teams, including one from Fort Scott, where his pro career started. He returned to pro ball in 1911 and he pitched again, going a combined 15-18 for Omaha and Topeka of the Class-A Western League. He was just 25 years old during his final season of pro ball, which was spent with the Double-A Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 4-5, 2.61 in 100 innings and put up a .293 average in 15 games. Durbin played semi-pro ball in Kansas and California in 1913, remained out west in 1914, then went to Oklahoma to play semi-pro ball in 1915-16 before retiring. He had the nickname “Danny Dreamer” while in Chicago.
On this date in 1934, the Pirates had a lineup with six future Hall of Famers. Lloyd Waner, Freddie Lindstrom, Paul Waner, Arky Vaughan and Pie Traynor were batting in the top five spots, while Waite Hoyt was on the mound. There was a seventh Hall of Famer who came into the game later for the Pirates, and he picked up a significant achievement for his career. Here’s the Game Rewind with all of the details.