This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 31st, The Jerry Reuss-for-Milt May Trade

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on Halloween, plus there is a trade of note.

Hardie Henderson, pitcher for the 1888 Alleghenys.  He was the team’s third starter at the beginning of the 1888 season, with Ed “Cannonball” Morris and Pud Galvin in the top two spots. Henderson won his first game with the Alleghenys on April 28th, but they would lose his next four starts, and then he was quickly dropped from the team. He last started on May 24th, and wasn’t released until June 19th, but he never pitched during that stretch…at least not in a regular season game. On June 7th, he pitched against a minor league team from Lowell in an exhibition and lost 16-10, giving up 14 earned runs. The Alleghenys went with just two starters for a month, although they went to OF/1B Al Maul for a start instead of Henderson on June 11th. That brief time in Pittsburgh was the end of Henderson’s Major League career. He had a 5.35 ERA in 35.1 innings. In his big league career, he went 81-121, 3.50 in 206 starts (and four relief outings) over six seasons, with 197 complete games, 1,788.1 innings pitched and 930 strikeouts. He led the league in walks twice and wild pitches once during his brief career. His minor league career was also brief, debuting with Philadelphia of the League Alliance in 1882, then finishing with Sioux City of the Western Association in 1890, with no stats available for either stop.

He began his big league career at age 20 in 1883 with very little success, going 10-33, 4.39 in 367.1 innings over 43 starts, with 39 complete games. He ranked sixth in the league with 145 strikeouts. His Major League pitching debut was not one he would like to remember. On May 3, 1883, pitching for the Philadelphia Quakers (Phillies), he lost 24-6 to the Providence Grays. Henderson pitched the entire game, allowed 19 earned runs and 26 hits. It would be his last game for the Quakers, who also gave him a start in left field one day earlier. The rest of his first season was spent with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association, where he stuck around for three more years, despite going 10-32, 4.02 in his first year. He made 42 starts for the Orioles that season, which was the same amount as the second and third most often used pitchers on Baltimore combined that season. In 1884, Hardie (His name was James Harding Henderson) went 27-23, 2.62, with 346 strikeouts 439.1 innings. That strikeout total ranked second in the league and it stands as the 21st highest for a single season in baseball history. Henderson went 25-35, 3.19 in 539.1 innings in 1885, finishing with 263 strikeouts, which ranked third in the league. He made 61 starts and completed 59 games. That innings total is unfathomable by today’s standards, but it was topped 40 times in the early years of baseball. His 61 starts were 12 more than the rest of the pitchers on the team combined. In pitching that much for a bad team (they went 16-33 in the other 49 games), he ended up leading the league in losses, hits allowed, earned runs allowed, walks and wild pitches. His 51 wild pitches are the 12th highest total ever.

Henderson started off the 1886 season by going 3-15, 4.62 in 171.1 innings for Baltimore. He made his last start on August 5th, then a few days later, the Brooklyn Grays of the American Association purchased his release for $650. He debuted in Brooklyn on August 19th and made 14 starts over the rest of the season, going 10-4, 2.90 in 124 innings. Henderson spent the 1887 season with Brooklyn, going 5-8, 3.95 in 111.2 innings. Pittsburgh negotiated a deal to sign him over telegraph shortly after New Year’s Day in 1888. Henderson stood 5’10” and weighed 216 pounds in 1887, but he lost 20 pounds prior to the 1888 season to get into shape for his brief time in Pittsburgh. Shortly before signing with the Alleghenys, a team from Manchester NH of the New England League passed on signing him because his $1,800 salary asking price for the season was too high.

Harry Smith, catcher for the Pirates from 1902 until 1907. He debuted in pro ball in 1895 at 20 years old, seeing time in the Class-C Iron and Oil League for a team from Warren, Pa., while also playing for Canton of the Interstate League. He jumped up to Buffalo of the Class-A Eastern League (highest level of the minors at the time) in 1896 and stayed there two years. No stats are available from his first two seasons, but we know he batted .292 with 13 runs in 25 games for Buffalo in 1897. In 1898, he played for Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League, where he hit .225 with 30 runs and 15 extra-base hits in 76 games. Wilkes-Barre remained a Class-A team in 1899, but the team was in the Atlantic League that season. Smith hit .273 with 11 runs, seven extra-base hits and 11 steals in 35 games. He played for Connie Mack’s Milwaukee team in the Class-A American League in 1900, which was the only year that the league wasn’t considered to be a Major League. Smith batted .260 with 25 runs and 15 extra-base hits in 80 games that year. He was originally acquired by the Pirates in a trade for veteran infielder Heinie Reitz at the end of the 1900 season, but before he could play a game in a Pirates uniform, Smith jumped to the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. He batted .324/.378/.353 for the Athletics in 1901, though he played just 11 games total, all of them in July. He was ill for most of the season. After one season in the AL, he returned to the Pirates, where he would be the backup catcher for three seasons.

The Pirates kept Smith on their reserve list for the 1901 season and into the off-season, but a late September story said that none of the “jumpers” would ever play in the National League again. Two weeks later it was announced by Barney Dreyfuss that Smith signed his 1902 contract. During that 1902 season, he batted .189 in 50 games, with 14 runs, 12 RBIs and a lowly .432 OPS. The Pirates did just fine without his contributions on offense, finishing with their best winning percentage ever that season. Smith was known more for his above average defense and strong arm. He threw out 48% of base runners during his big league career. That’s why he stayed around after the 1903 season, despite hitting .175 in 61 games, with a .430 OPS. He had 15 runs scored and a career high 19 RBIs. It helped Smith’s case that the Pirates won the National League pennant both of those years. He started game two of the World Series and went 0-for-3 at the plate in his only postseason work. Smith showed a little more at the plate in 1904, hitting .248 in 47 games, though he had a .284 slugging percentage, due to collecting just four extra-base hits in 141 at-bats. He spent three more years in Pittsburgh, but he played just 20 games total over the 1905-07 seasons.

Smith injured his arm in 1904 and rehabbed it during the winter, doing a lot of work to get it ready for the 1905 season, but the pain returned during a mid-March Spring Training game. He ended up playing one game in August for the Pirates and that was it for the 1905 season. He actually went home after the injury to rest his arm, and he was managing a minor league team for a short time. He rejoined the Pirates in early June and went home after a very brief time because his arm still wasn’t right. He came back in August, but played just the one game. In 1906, Smith played one early season game and then missed the rest of the year. His arm looked fine in the spring, and he was getting plenty of praise for his work, but after making a few throws during a game on April 19, 1906, he was removed and he retired the next day, asking and getting his released from the Pirates unconditionally. He said that he didn’t want to draw a salary for subpar work.

Smith’s retirement lasted until the winter of 1906-07, although he played some semi-pro ball during the summer in 1906 and didn’t last long. He rejoined the Pirates and served as their third catcher in 1907, playing sparingly behind starter George Gibson and backup Ed Phelps. Smith hit .263/.364/.289 in 18 games. He was with the Pirates in early 1908 until they sold him to the Boston Doves, though he never actually reported to Pittsburgh. He remained at home, reserved to the club, but the emergence of backup Paddy O’Connor meant that the Pirates didn’t need Smith at the time. He was put on waivers, where he was claimed by Boston. He played three years in the majors with Boston, one as a player/manager, before spending four seasons in the minors as a player. Despite reporting to Boston nearly two months into the 1908 season, he batted .246 in 41 games, with 13 runs, 16 RBIs, and he collected his first big league homer. He batted .168/.203/.221 in 43 games in 1909, finishing with nine runs and four RBIs. In his final season in the majors, Smith hit .238 with eight runs, four doubles, one homer and 15 RBIs in 70 games. For the Pirates, he hit .202 with 50 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs in 178 games. In his nine years in the majors, he finished with a .213 average, 83 runs, 22 doubles, seven triples, two homers and 89 RBIs in 343 games. Smith ranks sixth in games played among players born in England.

Smith was a minor league player/manager for two of those four seasons he played after his final big league game, and then he spent one year just as a manager. He had quite a drop in competition from his final big league season in 1910. He went down three levels to play for Danville of the Class-C Virginia League, where he batted .261 in 73 games. In 1912, he moved up to Newark of the Double-A International League (1912 was the first year that Double-A existed). He hit .326 with 13 extra-base hits in 68 games that season. He remained in Newark as their manager for the 1913-14 seasons. Smith hit .237 in 38 games in 1913, then played 34 games during the 1914 season. After managing Newark in 1915, he manager Wheeling of the Class-B Central League in 1916. His online stats credit him with playing for Dallas of the Texas League that season, but they are not his stats. He’s also credited with playing for Galveston of the Texas League in 1917, but he was managing South Bend of the Central League at that same time. Those stats belong to a different player named Harry Smith, though the “Harry” part might just be a nickname, because he’s identified as “P. Smith” in the boxscores.

Ray O’Brien, outfielder for the 1916 Pirates. He played 16 mid-season games in 16 days for the 1916 Pirates at age 21, which ended up being his only big league experience. He hit .211 with three doubles, two triples and a walk, leading to a .557 OPS. His minor league career was slightly more impressive. He was a career .308 hitter over 20 seasons, collecting 3,152 hits in 2,780 games. He had 642 doubles and 186 triples. O’Brien batted over .300 in each of his final ten seasons in pro ball. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old in 1913, playing for Texarkana of the Class-D Texas-Oklahoma League, where he hit just .175 in 43 games, with six doubles and three triples. He moved up to Class-B Davenport of the Three-I League in 1914, where he hit .212 in 136 games, with 21 doubles, 12 triples and seven homers. The next season he improved to a .273 average in 128 games with Davenport, though the power numbers were down a bit, with 27 extra-base hits. Before and after joining the Pirates in 1916, he batted .287 with 22 doubles, 12 triples and one homer in 109 games. He got to play a farewell game for his Davenport team on the day before joining the Pirates. He hit a two-run triple to tie that game in the eighth inning, then hit a walk-off single in the ninth for the 6-5 victory.

The Pirates scouted O’Brien for several weeks before purchasing him from Davenport on June 22nd, including sending scout Chick Fraser (brother-in-law of Fred Clarke) to follow the team for seven days straight before finalizing the deal. It was actually a 15-day optional agreement between the two teams, where he had a set amount of time to audition for the Pirates and if they decided that they wanted to keep him, then they would pay the agreed upon price or return him. The Pirates/Fraser were also interested in pitcher Al Gould, who ended up spending two seasons in the majors with the Cleveland Indians. When the Pirates returned O’Brien to his Davenport team, owner Barney Dreyfuss said that the team had an immediate need for players who were big league ready and he thought that O‘Brien needed more seasoning in the minors. It turns out that 16 more seasons weren’t enough to get him back there. He actually got injured while still with the Pirates on July 9th in an an exhibition game in Canton during a home plate collision with the catcher. Then he was too ill to play on July 10th, which looking back on it now, seems like he was suffering from a concussion. He pinch-hit on July 12th, in what ended up being his final big league game. He was released on July 15th back to Davenport.

It’s a bit surprising that O’Brien never made it back to the majors, because he played so well for Denver of the Class-A Western League during the 1922-31 seasons. It’s not surprising that he didn’t immediately return though. O’Brien played for Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association in 1917, where he hit .260 with 36 extra-base hits in 153 games. He hit .233 in 54 games for Nashville during the war-shortened 1918 season. In 1919, he joined Fort Worth of the Class-B Texas League for the first of two seasons. He hit .248 with 24 extra-base hits in 132 games in 1919, followed by a .270 average and 35 extra-base hits in 153 games in 1920.  The 1921 season was spent with Omaha of the Western League, where he hit .338 with 42 doubles and ten homers in 152 games. He split 1922 between Denver and Wichita Falls of the Texas League, combining to hit .286 in 161 games, with 33 doubles, 13 triples and ten homers.  He stayed with Denver for the next nine full seasons. O’Brien hit .339 in 169 games in 1923, with 49 doubles, seven triples and 13 homers. In 1924, he hit .348 in 168 games, with 52 doubles, 16 triples and 15 homers. That was followed by a .360 average in 1925, with 32 doubles, 23 triples and 17 homers in 164 games. He had a career best 233 hits that season. In 1926, he batted .360 in 165 games, with 42 doubles, 11 triples and 17 homers.

O’Brien continued his streak of success in 1927, batting .311 in 153 games, with 39 doubles, 11 triples and six homers. In 1928, he hit .328 in 165 games, with 65 extra-base hits (55 doubles). He batted .348 in 154 games in 1929, with 50 doubles, 13 triples and nine homers. During the 1930 season, O’Brien hit .348 with 45 extra-base hits in 129 games. In his final season in Denver, he hit .305 in 144 games, with 43 extra-base hits. His final season of pro ball was spent with St Joseph of the Western League, where he hit .309 in 146 games during the 1932 season, finishing with 49 doubles among his 61 extra-base hits.

Dee Fondy, first baseman for the 1957 Pirates. Fondy signed as an amateur free agent after college in 1946 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played in their system until 1950, before debuting with the Chicago Cubs at 26 years old in 1951. The Cubs acquired in him a trade in October of 1950 in a deal that included Chuck Connors, who went on to become a famous actor. Fondy was the full-time first baseman for the Cubs from 1952 until his trade to the Pirates in early 1957. As a 21-year-old rookie in pro ball in 1946, he hit .335 with 34 runs, 19 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs in 59 games for Santa Barbara of the Class-C California League. He moved up to Newport News of the Class-B Piedmont League in 1947, where he batted .337 with 109 runs, 39 doubles, 13 triples, 14 homers, 99 RBIs and 37 steals in 136 games. Fondy jumped up two levels to Fort Worth of the Double-A Texas League in 1948, where he hit .328 with 92 runs, 40 extra-base hits, 86 RBIs, 62 walks and 34 steals in 153 games. Most of the 1949 season was spent back in Double-A, playing for Mobile of the Southern Association, where he hit .294 with 83 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 74 RBIs and 107 walks in 128 games. He also posted a .669 OPS in 16 games with Montreal of the Triple-A International League that season, while seeing very brief time back in Fort Worth. Fondy was back in Fort Worth for the entire 1950 season, hitting .297 with 22 doubles, nine triples and five homers in 141 games. The 1951 season was split between the Cubs and Los Angeles of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he hit .376 with 33 extra-base hits and a 1.021 OPS in 70 games. For the Cubs, he batted .271 in 49 games, with 23 runs, 20 RBIs and a .707 OPS.

Fondy batted .300 in 145 games for the Cubs during the 1952 season, with 69 runs, 21 doubles, nine triples, ten homers, 67 RBIs and a .759 OPS. His best season came in 1953 when he hit .309 with 79 runs, 24 doubles, 11 triples, 18 homers, 78 RBIs and an .835 OPS in 150 games. In 1954, he hit .285 in 141 games, with career highs of 30 doubles and 20 steals. He had a .725 OPS and scored 77 runs. His average dropped 20 more points in 1955, but his OPS saw the slightest uptick due to more power (he walked 35 times in both years). He batted .265 with 69 runs, 23 doubles, eight triples and 17 homers, 65 RBIs and a .729 OPS. Fondy hit .269 in 137 games in 1956, but the power (40 extra-base hits) and walks (20) both dropped, so he finished the year with a .682 OPS.

During his brief time in Chicago in 1957, Fondy was batting .314/.314/.412 in 11 games with the Cubs. He joined the Pirates on May 1, 1957 from the Cubs in a four-player deal, but didn’t stick around long. He hit .313 with 42 runs, 17 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs and a .744 OPS in 95 games with the Pirates in 1957, then was dealt in the off-season to the Cincinnati Reds in an even up swap for slugger Ted Kluszewski. The Pirates used Fondy full-time at first base until August 4th. After that point, he made just one more start and pinch-hit 15 times. Despite being benched, he was batting .316 at the time. Frank Thomas took over at first base on August 6th and started 49 of the final 50 games there. In his final season in the majors, Fondy hit .218 with one homer, 11 RBIs and a .512 OPS in 89 games for the 1958 Reds. Before retiring, he spent the 1959 season playing in the Pacific Coast League, splitting the year between Seattle and San Diego. He hit .257 with 22 extra-base hits in 140 games that season. In his eight-year big league career, he hit .286 with 437 runs, 144 doubles, 47 triples, 69 homers, 373 RBIs and 84 steals in 967 games. He finished with exactly 1,000 career hits. Modern metrics rate him as a below average defensive player during all eight of his seasons in the majors, but his hitting pushed him to a 5.8 career WAR.

Yamaico Navarro, utility fielder for the 2012 Pirates. He played 79 games in the majors over four seasons, seeing time with four different teams. Navarro signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2005 at 17 years old as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He made it to the majors within five years of signing, but he could never stick. He started in the Dominican Summer League in 2006, hitting .279 with 21 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and a .782 OPS in 53 games. Navarro played for Lowell of the New York-Penn League in 2007, where he batted .289 with 16 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 12 steals and a .766 OPS in 62 games. He split the 2008 season between Low-A and High-A, combining to hit .204 with 79 runs, 27 doubles, six triples, 11 homers and 77 RBIs in 125 games. He had much better results at the higher level, though he was going from a neutral-offense park in Greenville of the Low-A South Atlantic League, to a very hitter-friendly park in Lancaster of the High-A California League. He played in the Hawaiian Winter League that off-season and hit .207/.283/.253 in 22 games. Navarro’s 2009 season was split between High-A Salem of the Carolina League (an affiliate switch) and Double-A Portland of the Eastern League, though he missed some time during the year and rehabbed back at Lowell for five games. He combined to hit .240 with 27 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .703 OPS in 67 games, then saw some brief action in the Dominican winter league that off-season. Healthy in 2010, Navarro spent a majority of the year putting up a .781 OPS in 88 games for Portland. He also had an .867 OPS in 16 games at Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League, then batted .143/.174/.143 with four runs and five RBIs in 20 games with the Boston Red Sox.

Navarro played 16 games in Boston in 2011 before being traded to the Kansas City Royals in the middle of the season. He saw time with the Triple-A clubs of both the Royals (Omaha of the Pacific Coast League) and Red Sox (Pawtucket) that season, as well as six games in the majors with Kansas City. He batted .250/.303/.350 in 22 big league games that year, collecting three doubles and a homer. He combined to hit .264 in 59 Triple-A games, with 36 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and a .780 OPS. The Pirates acquired him in December of 2011 for two minor league players, Diego Goris and Brooks Pounders. Navarro played winter ball in the Dominican that off-season and had a .635 OPS in 24 games. He made the Opening Day roster for the 2012 Pirates, but he was in the minors by the end of May. He returned to Pittsburgh for a week in August, before being sent back down without a return trip when the rosters expanded. Navarro hit .160/.232/.220 in his 29 games with the Pirates, while playing five different positions. He batted .279 with an .857 OPS in 66 games that season for Indianapolis of the International League.

Navarro was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Jhondaniel Medina after the season. He played his final eight big league games for the Orioles in the early part of 2013, putting up a .690 OPS in 31 plate appearances. He hit .267 in 108 games with Norfolk of the International League that season, with 59 runs, 21 doubles, 12 homers, 53 RBIs, 53 walks and a .772 OPS. He originally signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees for the 2014 season, but he ended up going to Korea instead. Navarro had an .890 OPS in 45 games that winter in the Dominican, then hit .308 with 118 runs, 27 doubles, 31 homers, 98 RBIs, 25 steals, 96 walks and a .969 OPS in 125 games in 2014. He followed that up with a .287 average in 140 games in 2015, with 126 runs, 19 doubles, 48 homers, 137 RBIs, 22 steals, 93 walks and a .988 OPS. He played in Japan in 2016 and had a .747 OPS in 108 games. He only played winter ball over the next three seasons/off-seasons, then returned to summer ball in Mexico in 2019, where he hit .294 in 109 games, with 84 runs, 16 doubles, 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 80 walks and a .974 OPS. Navarro batted .206 with 19 runs, three, doubles, two homers, 20 RBIs and a .524 OPS in 79 big league games. He is still active in baseball, currently spending the 2022-23 winter playing in the Dominican. His last summer action was 2021 in Mexico.

The Trade

On this date in 1973, the Pirates traded catcher Milt May to the Houston Astros for pitcher Jerry Reuss. This ended up being a one-sided deal that worked out three times for the Pirates. They got 61 wins and 1,005 innings out of Reuss before trading him for Rick Rhoden, who would put in 79 wins and eight seasons in Pittsburgh, before he was dealt to the Yankees for Doug Drabek. If you add in the wins from Drabek, you get a total of 232 wins with the Pirates from the trio. May was a decent catcher in the majors over 15 years, who had played four years in Pittsburgh at the time of the deal, and then he returned to the team in 1983 in a trade for Steve Nicosia to finish his career. Manny Sanguillen was the starting catcher at the time of the 1973 trade, so the Pirates were trading from a strength, while adding a key piece to their starting rotation. It also helped May get more playing time than he would have seen in Pittsburgh. Reuss paid almost immediate dividends for the Pirates, helping them to National League East titles during the 1974-75 seasons. He put up 10.2 WAR during his time in Pittsburgh, while May had 6.3 WAR over the same time, so it was mostly the trade value that made it one-sided.

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