Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major trade of note.
Vic Aldridge, pitcher for the 1925-27 Pirates. He broke into pro ball in 1915 at 21 years old. He pitched for three teams that season, though a large majority of his time was spent with Erie of the Class-B Central League, where he went 19-9, 1.62 in 228 innings. He also pitched one game with Denver of the Class-A Western League, and he went 2-2 in six games with Indianapolis of the Double-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. Aldridge spent the 1916 season with Indianapolis, posting a 16-14, 2.40 record in 263 innings. He joined the Chicago Cubs in 1917 and mostly did bullpen work, going 6-6, 3.12 in 106.2 innings over six starts and 24 relief outings. He was with the Cubs again in 1918, but he only made three mid-season relief appearances, posting a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings. His signed late that year due to a salary dispute, then left early to join in the war effort. The 1919-21 seasons were spent with Los Angeles of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, where he had three strong seasons, getting better each year. Aldridge went 15-10, 2.89 in 221 innings in 1919, followed by an 18-15, 2.88 record in 296.2 innings in 1920. He went 20-10, 2.16 in 283 innings in 1921, which led to him rejoining the Cubs in 1922. That first season back in the majors saw him go 16-15, 3.52 in 258.1 innings, with 20 complete games and two shutouts to his credit. In 1923, Aldridge went 16-9, 3.48 in 217 innings over 30 starts, with a complete game performance in exactly half of those outings. In his final season in Chicago, he had a 15-12, 3.50 record in 244.1 innings, with 20 complete games in 32 starts.
Aldridge only spent three seasons in Pittsburgh, but twice he helped the Pirates to World Series appearances. The Pirates acquired him after the 1924 season as part of a six-player trade with the Chicago Cubs that saw Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville and the Pirates all-time wins leader Wilbur Cooper go to Chicago. Aldridge won 47 games in his last three seasons with the Cubs, and he didn’t miss a beat with the 1925 Pirates, going 15-7, 3.63 in 213.1 innings, helping his new team to their third World Series appearance. He had 14 complete games, one shutout and a career high 88 strikeouts. He went 2-0 in the series, although he couldn’t get out of the first inning of game seven, allowing four runs before being removed. The Pirates came back to win against Walter Johnson in one of the greatest World Series games ever. Aldridge had a down year in 1926, going 10-13, 4.07 in 190 innings over 26 starts and four relief outings. He bounced back in 1927, once again helping the Pirates to the World Series by winning 15 games (with ten losses). He actually put up his highest ERA to that point (4.25 in 239.1 innings), but had a better offense to help him. He lost his only start of the 1927 series, in what ended up being his last game for the Pirates.
Just prior to Spring Training of 1928, the Pirates traded Aldridge to the New York Giants straight up for Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes, in a deal that worked out great for the Pirates. Aldridge won four games and had a 4.83 ERA in 119.1 innings during the 1928 season, his last in the majors, while Grimes won 25 games that year and would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. After his time with the Giants ended, Aldridge spent part of the 1928 season with Newark of the Double-A International League, going 4-0, 2.91 in 34 innings over four starts. He pitched for Newark briefly during the 1929 and 1931 seasons, going 2-1, 3.00 in 36 innings in 1929, followed by an 0-3, 4.29 record over 21 innings in 1931, before being released on July 6th, ending his pro career. He was a holdout in early 1929 and then hurt his arm in May and didn’t pitch again. There was a popular story passed around newspapers that said he pitched 42 innings in 1929 (not 36, as his stats show today) and Newark paid him $10,000 salary for the season and $20,000 to acquire his rights. Newark sold him to Toledo of the American Association prior to the 1930 season, but Aldridge believed he should be a free agent because he said Newark didn’t pay him his full 1929 salary, so he never reported to Toledo, which eventually led to the deal being reversed. After being released in 1931, he finished up his pitching in semi-pro ball. He tried to pitch during the 1932 season, but couldn’t get his arm in shape to play. Aldridge finished his big league career with a 97-80, 3.76 record in 1,600.2 innings over 205 starts and 43 relief appearances, finishing with 102 complete games and eight shutouts. With the Pirates, he went 40-30, 3.99 in 642.2 innings, completing 43 of his 86 starts.
Nanny Fernandez, third baseman for the 1950 Pirates. He debuted at pro ball in 1939 at 20 years old, playing for Yakima of the Class-B Western International League, where he hit .295 with 23 doubles, 12 triples and 15 homers in 145 games. He split the 1940 season between Yakima and San Francisco of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. Fernandez hit .320 with 42 doubles, ten triples and seven homers in 154 games, doing well at both stops. He spent the entire 1941 season with San Francisco, hitting .327 with 107 runs, 46 doubles, 16 triples, 19 homers, 129 RBIs and an .883 OPS in 177 games. He joined the Boston Braves in 1942 and saw action in left field and third base. He batted .255 with 63 runs scored, 38 extra-base hits, 55 RBIs, 15 steals and a .650 OPS. After playing 145 games as a rookie in 1942, Fernandez missed the next three seasons due to service in the Army during WWII. Playing for the Armed Forces team in 1943, he ran a consecutive hit streak over 40 games. He also won a contest for fastest time circling the bases, going home-to-home in 14.6 seconds. Fernandez returned for two years with Boston in 1946-47, then got in one final big league season with the Pirates three years later.
Fernandez matched his rookie average by hitting .255 again in 1946, this time with 37 runs scored, 19 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs, a .635 OPS and just one steal in five attempts, while playing 115 games. Most of his time was at third base, but he also started 12 games at shortstop and 11 in left field. Almost all of his starts in 1947 were at shortstop. He hit .206 in 83 games that year, with 16 runs, four doubles, two homers, 21 RBIs, two steals and a .535 OPS, exactly 100 points lower than the previous season. Fernandez spent the 1948 season with Milwaukee of the Triple-A American Association, where he hit .318 with 96 runs, 29 doubles, 23 homers, 124 RBIs, 18 steals, 76 walks and a .910 OPS in 152 games. The next season was split between Indianapolis and St Paul of the American Association. The Pirates acquired him in a trade with the Brooklyn Dodgers in May of 1949, five months after the Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Braves. He had .312 average, 107 runs, 62 extra-base hits, 128 RBIs and 72 walks during the 1949 season, which helped earn him a final trip back to the majors. Fernandez hit .258/.326/.404 with 23 runs, 11 doubles, six homers and 27 RBIs in 65 games with Pittsburgh. He started each of the first 32 games of the season at third base, but ended up playing just 33 more games, despite starting 11 consecutive games at one point in May/June. One day after his final game in Pittsburgh on July 9th, he was released unconditionally to Indianapolis so the Pirates could call up young infield phenom Danny O’Connell. Fernandez never returned to the majors, playing out his career in the minors over the next five seasons.
Fernandez hit .300 with 29 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs in 61 games for Indianapolis to finish out the 1950 season. He played for Indianapolis in 1951, before moving to the Pacific Coast League for his final four seasons, split between Seattle and Sacramento. He hit .259 in 147 games in 1951, with 77 runs, 20 doubles, 15 homers and 76 RBIs. With Seattle in 1952, he hit .269 in 164 games, with 81 runs, 35 doubles, eight triples, nine homers and 68 RBIs. He played 63 in 1953 and had a .226 average. Fernandez split 1954 between Seattle and Sacramento, hitting .255 in 138 games, with 61 runs, 24 doubles, 12 homers, 62 RBIs and 67 walks. In his final season in 1955, he hit .204 in 27 games for Sacramento. He played a total of 14 years in pro ball, finishing his big league career with .248 average in 408 games, with 139 runs, 59 doubles, 16 homers and 145 RBIs. Despite that speed mentioned above from his war days, he stole just 64 bases during his pro career. His actual first name was Frolian.
Pete Mikkelsen, pitcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Yankees at 18 years old prior to the 1958 season. His saw limited work with three different low level teams during his first season in pro ball, including Modesto of the Class-C California League and Auburn of the Class-D New York-Penn League. A majority of his time that year was spent with Kearney of the Class-D Nebraska State League, where he went 0-4, 5.11 in 37 innings, with 38 walks and 38 strikeouts. He pitched for both Modesto and Auburn in 1959 as well, though almost all of the season was spent with Auburn, where he went 9-9, 4.44 in 142 innings. He was 1-0 in five games with Modesto. He moved up to Fargo-Moorhead of the Class-C Northern League in 1960, where he had a 13-10, 4.43 record in 181 innings, with 118 walks and 113 strikeouts. Mikkelsen advanced to A-Ball in 1961, pitching most of the year with Binghamton of the Eastern League, though he also saw time one level higher in the Double-A Texas League with Amarillo. He went 5-11, 3.49 in 134 innings that season between both stops. He moved to relief work in 1962 and spent most of the year in the Class-A South Atlantic League with Augusta, though he saw brief time in Amarillo again. Mikkelsen went 3-5, 3.46 in 91 innings over 47 games that season, then returned to Augusta for all of 1963, when a change in his delivery and the addition of a sinker, turned his career around. He went 11-6, 1.47 in 110 innings over 49 appearances that year, with just 32 walks, ten of which were intentional. With that success, he then jumped right to the majors in 1964.
As a rookie for the 1964 Yankees, Mikkelsen went 7-4, 3.56 in 86 innings over 50 games, with 12 saves. He followed that up by going 4-9, 3.28 in 82.1 innings over 41 games in 1965. He saw some brief time as a starter with Triple-A Toledo of the International League that season, going 3-2, 1.93 in 28 innings. After two seasons with the Yankees to begin his Major League career, Mikkelsen joined the Pirates on December 10, 1965 in a trade for long-time pitcher Bob Friend. Mikkelsen had a strong first season in Pittsburgh, winning nine games, picking up 14 saves (career high), and posting a 3.07 ERA in 126 innings. He set the team record for most appearances in a season (71), topping the old mark of 68 by Elroy Face, who reached that number twice in his career. That games pitched record stood until 1977. Mikkelsen struggled a bit for the Pirates in 1967, posting a 4.31 ERA in 56.1 innings over 32 games, before he was lost to the Chicago Cubs on waivers in early August. He gave up six runs over seven innings with the Cubs that season. He split the 1968 season between the Cubs and St Louis Cardinals, though most of the year was spent back in the minors, where he had an outstanding 16-4, 1.91 record in 184 innings for Tulsa of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Mikkelsen allowed four runs in 4.2 innings with the Cubs in 1968, and he gave up two earned runs in 16 innings with the Cardinals, who acquired him in an April 22nd, four-player trade. Shortly after the 1968 season ended, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he spent his final four seasons.
Mikkelsen went 7-5, 2.77 in 81.1 innings over 57 games with the Dodgers in 1969. He was just as good the next year, though with slightly less work. He went 4-2, 2.76 in 62 innings over 33 games. The stats began to slip a bit in 1971, as he had an 8-5, 3.65 record in 74 innings and 41 appearances. In his final season, he was down to 5-5, 4.06 in 57.2 innings over 33 games. Mikkelsen occasionally got work as a closer during this time, picking up 20 saves total, with no more than six in a season during that four-year span. In nine big league seasons, he went 45-40, 3.88 with 48 saves, pitching 653.1 innings over 364 appearances during his career. He made three big league starts, all with the 1965 Yankees. He went 10-10, 3.46 in 182.1 innings over 103 games with the Pirates.
Danny Darwin, pitcher for the 1996 Pirates. In a 21-year career, he had seven seasons with 10+ wins, and three of those seasons were spent as a reliever, but the Pirates signed him after his worst year in the majors. Darwin was one of the best U.S.-born non-drafted free agent signings since the draft began in 1965. The Texas Rangers signed him after college in 1976, and he debuted in the majors just two years later. He played for a total of eight teams during his long big league career, while also spending two separate stints with the Rangers and Houston Astros. Darwin debuted in 1976 with Asheville of the Class-A Western Carolinas League, where he went 6-3, 3.62 in 102 innings over 16 starts. He pitched for Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League in 1977, where he went 13-4, 2.51 in 154 innings over 23 starts, while picking up 129 strikeouts. He moved up to Tuscon of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1978. He went 8-9, 6.26 in 23 starts, with 126 strikeouts in 125 innings. The Rangers gave him two relief appearances and one start in September of 1978. He had a 4.15 ERA and eight strikeouts in 8.2 innings. He rejoined the Rangers in June of 1979 after 13 starts with Tuscon, where he went 6-6, 3.60 in 95 innings. Darwin had a 4-4, 4.04 record in six starts and 14 relief appearances for the 1979 Rangers, throwing a total of 78 innings. He pitched in relief for the Rangers during the entire 1980 season, going 13-4, 2.63 with eight saves and 104 strikeouts in 109.2 innings over 53 appearances (two starts). During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Darwin was used strictly as a starter, going 9-9, 3.64 in 146 innings over 22 starts, with six complete games and two shutouts.
Darwin went back to relief work for the Rangers in 1982 for one season. He posted a 10-8, 3.44 record and seven saves in 89 innings over 56 games (one start). The next year saw him go 8-13, 3.49 in 183 innings over 26 starts, with nine complete games and two shutouts. He had a similar season in 1984, going 8-12, 3.94 in 223.2 innings over 32 starts and three relief appearances. He had five complete games, one shutout and set a personal high with 123 strikeouts, though he would top that number multiple times. In January of 1985, Darwin was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in a four-team trade that included six players. In his first season with the Brewers, he went 8-18, 3.80 in 217.2 innings. His 11 complete games that year (in 29 starts) set a career high. His 125 strikeouts were also a high to that point, but it would be exceeded. Darwin split the 1986 season between the Brewers and the Houston Astros, who acquired him on August 15th. He combined to go 11-10, 3.17 in 184.2 innings. He made 22 starts and 17 relief appearances, finishing with six complete games and one shutout. He ended up signing with the Astros as a free agent and remained there for the next four seasons.
Darwin went 9-10, 3.59 in 195.2 innings in 1987, setting a career high with 134 strikeouts. The 1988 season was split between 20 starts and 24 relief outings. He had an 8-13, 3.84 record in 192 innings, with 129 strikeouts. Darwin pitched full-time in relief in 1989, going 11-4, 2.36 in 122 innings over 68 games, with 104 strikeouts. He picked up seven saves, which was one short of his career high. In 1990, he led the league with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. He finished with an 11-4 record in 162.2 innings, with 17 starts and 31 relief appearances. Darwin became a free agent after the 1990 season and signed for four years with the Boston Red Sox, which did not go well, despite a strong 1993 season. He went 3-6, 5.16 in 68 innings over 12 starts in 1991, before a shoulder injury ended his season after his start on July 4th. He had a 9-9, 3.96 record in 15 starts and 36 relief appearances in 1992, totaling 161.2 innings. He had one strong season in Boston, going 15-11, 3.26 in 1993 when he threw a career high 229.1 innings, while striking out 130 batters. Darwin had seven seasons in which he finished between 120 and 134 strikeouts. He had just two complete games in 34 starts that season. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, he went 7-5, 6.30 in 75.2 innings over 13 starts.
Darwin split 1995 between the Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, posting a 7.45 ERA in 99 innings, with nearly identical results in both spots. He was a free agent in 1996 until the Pirates inked him to a deal in early February. He was joining the Pirates at 40 years old. He went 7-9, 3.02 in 122.1 innings over 19 starts with Pittsburgh before being traded to the Astros at the July trading deadline for pitcher Rich Loiselle. The Pirates traded Darwin at the right time, as he put up a 5.95 ERA in 32.1 innings after the deal. He split the 1997 season between the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants, pitching as a starter and reliever in both stops. He went 5-11, 4.35 in 157.1 innings that season, making 24 starts and seven relief appearances. He spent his final big league season (1998) with the Giants, where he went 8-10, 5.51 in 148.1 innings over 25 starts and eight relief appearances. Darwin went 171-182, 3.84 in 3,016.2 innings over a 21-year career in the majors, with 371 starts and 345 relief appearances, 53 complete games, nine shutouts, 32 saves and 1,942 strikeouts. His younger brother Jeff Darwin debuted in the majors in 1994, spending one season with the Seattle Mariners and two years with the Chicago White Sox (1996-97). Danny also pitched for the 1997 White Sox, though they were never teammates at the big league level. Jeff was called up two weeks after Danny was traded.
J.J. Davis, outfielder for the 2002-04 Pirates. He was a first round pick out of high school, drafted by the Pirates eighth overall in 1997. Davis signed quickly, getting in a full season in the Gulf Coast League, before a late promotion to Erie of the short-season New York-Penn League. He was a power hitter, putting up four season in the minors with at least 19 homers. He was also considered to be one of the top prospects in the system during part of his time in the minors. During that first season in pro ball, he hit .242 with 20 runs, ten doubles, one homer, 18 RBIs and a .637 OPS in 49 games. He played at two levels in 1998, seeing time back with Erie, along with 30 games for Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Davis combined to hit .245 with 36 runs, 18 doubles, 12 homers, 50 RBIs and a .738 OPS in 82 games, with much better results at the lower level. The 1999 season was spent back in the South Atlantic League with Hickory, where he batted .265 with 58 runs, 26 doubles, 19 homers, 65 RBIs, 44 walks and an .893 OPS in 86 games. He was rated as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball prior to the 2000 season. He moved up to High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League in 2000, where he batted .243 with 77 runs, 36 doubles, 20 homers, 80 RBIs and a .765 OPS. There was a sign of potential struggles in the future, as he struck out 171 times, which is one of the highest totals in Pirates minor league history. Davis didn’t handle the jump to Double-A in 2001 well, putting up a .250 average and a .704 OPS in 67 games with Altoona of the Eastern League. He asked to be a pitcher during that season because his hitting was so poor, but nothing came off it. That proved to be a good decision, as his hitting turned around the next season.
Davis hit .287 with 51 runs, 17 doubles, 20 homers, 62 RBIs and an .877 OPS in 101 games with Altoona in 2002, which earned him his first trip to the majors that September. He went 1-for-10 in 11 games with the Pirates that season, getting his first career hit off of Ryan Dempster. The next year he hit .284 at Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, with career highs of 26 homers and 23 stolen bases. He also added 68 runs, 29 doubles, 67 RBIs and an .896 OPS in his 122 games that year. He earned an August promotion to Pittsburgh, where he hit .200/.263/.286 in 38 plate appearances over 19 games, collecting the only home run of his big league career. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 2004, but he hit just .143/.225/.171 in 40 plate appearances. Davis was with the Pirates until a sprained a finger on May 13th landed him on the disabled list. He then returned to play from late June until mid-July. He pulled a muscle while running in his final game with the Pirates on July 11th. He played just 46 games total that season, 19 in the majors and 27 games at Nashville. He was traded to the Washington Nationals in November of 2004 for minor league outfielder Antonio Sucre, who never made it out of A-Ball. Davis batted .231/.286/.231 in 14 big league games for the Nationals in 2005, which turned out to be his final season in the majors. On July 13, 2005, he was one of two players (and cash) traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Preston Wilson. Davis finished his career in 2005 in the Rockies system, putting up a .698 OPS in 21 games with Colorado Springs of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In his four partial big league seasons, he hit .179 with one homer and nine RBIs in 67 games. He was a .263 hitter in the minors, where he homered 127 times.
On this date in 1972 the Pirates traded pitcher Gene Garber to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Jim Rooker. Garber joined the Pirates organization in 1965 when he was taken in the 20th round of the amateur draft. He made his Major League debut in June of 1969 when he was used as a starting pitcher during a doubleheader. He made just two appearances that year, 14 in 1970 and then another four in 1972, but never stuck in the majors with the Pirates due to ineffectiveness. Garber went on to have a long career, mostly as a reliever, but he didn’t even last two years in the Royals system before being sold to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Prior to the trade, the 29-year-old Rooker had a 21-44, 3.93 record in 106 games (68 as a starter) over five seasons. While with the Pirates, Rooker would turn his record around. He went from four straight losing seasons prior to joining the Pirates to five straight winning seasons, all of them consisting of double-digit win totals. However, his biggest start for the Pirate came during his worst season. During the 1979 World Series, with the Pirates down 3-1 in the series, Chuck Tanner went with Rooker in a surprise start. He would throw five solid innings, helping the Pirates to a win that day, and then the eventual comeback to win the entire series. Earlier in the series, Rooker threw 3.2 shutout innings in relief. He was just 4-7, 4.60 that year and he won only two of his last 14 starts during the regular season. In his eight years in Pittsburgh he went 82-65, 3.29 in 187 starts and 26 relief appearances.
This was a fairly even deal, but the Royals did not get value from the trade because they gave up on Garber too soon. He put up 15.4 WAR after being sold to the Phillies, while Rooker had 15.3 WAR for the Pirates.