This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 2nd, Orlando Merced, Frenchy, and a One-Game Player from 1979

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two transactions from the 1942 season.

Orlando Merced, 1B/RF for the 1990-96 Pirates. He played on three straight NL East championship teams, though his best seasons came with the 1993-96 clubs. Merced was signed as an amateur free agent out of Puerto Rico by the Pirates in 1985 and he struggled his first two seasons of pro ball before missing most of 1987, getting into just eight games. That first year was spent as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League, where he batted .228 with 16 runs, one homer, 13 RBIs and a .575 OPS in 40 games. He played 65 games in Low-A with Macon of the South Atlantic League, and 27 games in the short-season New York-Penn League with Watertown in 1986, combining to hit .191 with 32 runs, five homers, 33 RBIs, 11 steals and a .547 OPS in 92 games. He hit below .200 at each level, so the move up in competition didn’t exactly affect his performance. Due to multiple injuries, Merced played just four early season games in Macon and four mid-season games in Watertown in 1987, though he made up for some lost time by playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. The 1988 season was split between Augusta of the South Atlantic League and High-A Salem of the Carolina League, with more time spent at the upper level. Merced combined to hit .283 in 117 games, with 66 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs and 15 steals, putting up better numbers with Salem. In 1989, he put up mediocre stats in Double-A with Harrisburg of the Eastern League (.670 OPS in 95 games), then moved up to Buffalo of the Triple-A American Association, where he hit .341/.372/.450 in 35 games, with 18 runs scored and 16 RBIs.

Merced started 1990 in Buffalo, before getting a late June call-up to the big leagues. He was sent down after one month, then returned for the end of the season. He played in 25 games that year for the Pirates, all of them as a pinch-hitter, batting .208/.240/.250 with one walk and one double. He batted .262 in 101 games for Buffalo, with 52 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits, 55 RBIs, 46 walks and a .738 OPS. In 1991, Merced finished second to Jeff Bagwell in the Rookie of the Year voting, getting the only first place vote that Bagwell didn’t receive. He played in 120 games that year, batting .275 with 83 runs, 17 doubles, ten homers, 50 RBIs, 64 walks and a .772 OPS. He went 2-for-9 in the playoffs that postseason, hitting a home run in game three for his only RBI. The 1992 season saw Merced get into 134 games, with a slight dip in overall production from his rookie year. He batted .247 with 50 runs scored, 28 doubles, 60 RBIs and 52 walks, leading to a .717 OPS. He struggled again in the playoffs, going 1-for-10, giving him a .158 average in the playoffs with the Pirates. Merced hit a career high .313 with 68 runs scored, 26 doubles, eight homers, 70 RBIs and 77 walks in 1993. His .857 OPS was a career best. He slipped a little during the strike season of 1994, hitting .272 with 48 runs, 33 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and a .755 OPS in 108 games, but he came back strong in 1995 playing almost everyday. Merced hit .300 that season, with career highs of 29 doubles and 83 RBIs. He also scored 75 runs and set a career high with 15 homers, though that would soon be topped. His .833 OPS was the second best mark of his career.

The 1996 season was just as strong for Merced, who hit .287 with 69 runs scored, 24 doubles, a career high 17 homers, 80 RBIs and an .814 OPS in 120 games. With one year left before free agency, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on November 14, 1996, along with Dan Plesac and Carlos Garcia. The Pirates received six players back, the best among them being Craig Wilson, Jose Silva and Abraham Nunez. After leaving the Pirates, Merced jumped around a lot to finish his big league career. He spent one season in Toronto, then split the 1998 season between the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins. He spent 1999 with the Montreal Expos, played in Japan in 2000, then served as a bench player for the 2001-03 Houston Astros. He hit .266 with 45 runs, 23 doubles, nine homers, 40 RBIs and a .765 OPS in 98 games with the Blue Jays in 1997, with his season ending at the end of July due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. Despite all of the moving around in 1998, he hit .278 with 40 RBIs and a .749 OPS in 84 games. During his time in Boston that season, he went 0-for-9 in nine games, though he did have two walks and two RBIs.

During his one season in Montreal, Merced did even better in his part-time role, batting .268 with 12 doubles, eight homers and an .817 OPS in 93 games. However, he burned bridges there by refusing a three-day rehab assignment after a June calf injury cost him a month, and his stats suffered after he returned. His time in Japan was brief, and he spent part of that year back in the U.S., playing in Triple-A (New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League) for the Astros. He had a .609 OPS in 23 games in Japan, and a .663 OPS in 17 games with New Orleans. Back in the majors in 2001, Merced hit .263/.333/.453 in 153 plate appearances over 94 games, with 20 starts all season, all of them in the outfield. He saw some extra playing time in 2002, making 46 starts in the outfield and six at first base. He hit .287 in 123 games, finishing with 35 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs in 281 plate appearances. In his final season in the majors, he batted .231 in 123 games, with 20 runs, 17 doubles, three homers, 26 RBIs and a .655 OPS. Despite playing the same amount of games as the previous season, he had 51 fewer plate appearances. After his Major League career was over, he played two winters in his native Puerto Rico to finish out his playing career. In 13 seasons, Merced hit .277 in 1,391 big league games, with 564 runs, 229 doubles, 103 homers and 585 RBIs. He hit .283 with 396 runs, 146 doubles, 65 homers and 394 RBIs in 776 games with the Pirates.

Gary Hargis, pinch-runner for the 1979 Pirates. He played the smallest part on the 1979 World Series winning Pirates team, coming into a game on September 29th as a pinch-runner for Tim Foli in the 13th inning of the next-to-last game of the season. There were two outs at the time and Hargis moved up to second base on a Dave Parker infield single. Willie Stargell then struck out, and that was his entire big league career. Hargis lasted eight year in the Pirates system after being drafted in the second round of the 1974 draft out of high school. A majority of his time came at shortstop, but his saw plenty of action at second base, as well as stints at third base and in the outfield. He debuted at 17 years old in pro ball, playing that first season (1974) in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .295 in 62 games, with 26 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs, 20 steals and a .704 OPS. He also had one at-bat in his only game in the Gulf Coast League. He spent the 1975 season with Salem of the Class-A Carolina League. He hit .268 in 134 games, with 66 runs scored, 27 doubles, 53 RBIs, 17 steals and a .639 OPS. Hargis hit .272 in 130 games for Shreveport of the Double-A Texas League in 1976. He had 51 runs scored, 21 doubles, 39 RBIs and 19 steals. His OPS stood at just .630 on the season due to having one triple, three homers and 14 walks all season. He moved up to Triple-A Columbus of the International League in 1977, where he batted .252 in 104 games, with 39 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and 13 steals in 15 attempts. His OPS ended up just four points higher than the previous season.

Hargis repeated Columbus in 1978, where he hit .283 with 45 runs, 33 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs in 107 games. He set a career high with ten homers, which ended up being twice as many as he hit in any other season. However, he stole just four bases all year and had a shockingly low total of five walks in 388 plate appearances. In Spring Training of 1979, Hargis was the last man cut by the Pirates before Opening Day. Prior to joining the Pirates late in 1979, he hit .277 with 52 runs, 32 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and a .689 OPS in 103 games for the Pirates new Triple-A affiliate, Portland of the Pacific Coast League. He was called up to the Pirates on September 1, 1979, exactly four weeks before his only game. He was one of seven players called up that day and four of them never got into a game that season. Three of them played in the majors at other points, but catcher Harry Saferight spent a month of the bench without a game that season, and never played a big league game. Hargis had minor elbow surgery in November of 1979, which was described as nothing serious, but it could have been a sign of things to come. He was cut four days before Opening Day in 1980. An arm injury after a move to the outfield likely cost him a shot at a second chance in the majors that September. He batted .278 in 84 games that year for Portland, with 36 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 43 RBIs and a .705 OPS. After spending all of 1981 in the minors, which included 57 games with Portland and a stint back in Double-A (Buffalo of the Eastern League), Hargis vetoed a trade to the Kansas City Royals in April of 1982 and asked for his release instead. He never played pro ball again. He had a .622 OPS in 87 games during his final season. After the Pirates won the World Series in 1979, they split up the playoff shares, giving out 31 full shares that were worth $28,236 each. A total of eight players, including Hargis, received $250 cash grants for their part on the team.

Frenchy Genins, utility player for the 1895 Pirates. He had a long career in pro ball, playing from 1887 until 1909, though he only played 149 games in the majors. Genins began his pro career at 20 years old in 1887. He spent his first five seasons in the minors, four of those years in Sioux City of the Western Association, which was one of the top minor leagues at the time. It is a little surprising that it took him that long to make the majors after he debuted with a .320 average, 79 runs, 11 doubles, one homer and 14 steals in 98 games for Omaha of the Western League, which was also an upper level of competition at the time in the minors. He played 73 games for Sioux City in 1888 and hit .226 with seven extra-base hits and 35 steals.He also played part of that year with Denver of the Western League, though no stats are available. Genins improved to a .267 average in 121 games with Sioux City in 1889, finishing with 99 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits and 49 steals. There are no stats available for the 1890 season, but his 1891 season shows a .231 average in 117 games, with 77 runs scored, 18 extra-base hits and 23 steals. He debuted in the majors in 1892 with the St Louis Browns, playing one game. He would then play for the Cincinnati Reds for 35 games, before returning to St Louis later in the season. He also saw some brief minor league time. Genins batted .186/.247/.217 in 50 big league games in 1892, with 17 runs scored and ten steals. Illness kept him out of baseball during the second half of 1892, and he played semi-pro ball in St Louis during the 1893 season.

Genins was much better in 1894 and managed to hit .374 in 126 games for Sioux City of the Western League (the team moved leagues for the 1894 season). His numbers that season are amazing, though the offense was up all around baseball in 1894 due to new rules against pitchers that moved the distance back and limited their movement before pitches. He scored 166 runs that year, while collecting 67 extra-base hits and 86 stolen bases. The Pirates had him signed to an 1895 contract by November of 1894. They acquired him from Sioux City late in the 1894 season, though he was allowed to stay with his team until the end of their season, which was approximately the same time the season ended in Pittsburgh. The 1895 season in Pittsburgh was his best in the majors, as he batted .250 with 43 runs scored, eight doubles, two homers, 24 RBIs, 19 steals and a .621 OPS in 73 games. He played every position that year except pitcher and catcher. The Pirates used just four outfielders that entire season and Genins served as the backup for the three starters.

The Pirates sent Genins to the minors in 1896, first playing for Grand Rapids of the Western League, before being sent to Columbus of the Western League (stats aren’t available for that season). He was still with Columbus in 1897 when he was once again purchased by the St Louis Browns, though he didn’t appear with the them in the majors. He batted .310 in 132 games with Columbus that year, with 117 runs, 32 extra-base hits and 24 steals. In 1898, Genins hit .252 in 133 games, with 91 runs, 22 doubles, five triples and 29 steals. He was with Columbus in 1899. That franchise relocated to Grand Rapids mid-season. There are no stats from the league available that year. He remained in the minors until 1901, when he got a job with the Cleveland Blues (Indians) in the first year of the American League as a Major League. He was actually with Cleveland in the American League in 1900 as well. That was the first year of the league, which was classified as a Class-A minor league for one season, which was the top level of the minors at the time. He hit .293 with 84 runs scored, 28 doubles, four triples and 21 steals in 140 games during that 1900 season. During the 1901 season, Genins batted .228/.284/.277 in 26 games, in what ended up being his final big league time. He remained in the minors until 1909 without another chance.

Genins spent three of those minor league seasons back in Omaha, but he slowly worked his way down the minor league ladder, finishing up with a .233 average in 99 games with Racine of the Class-D Wisconsin-Illinois League in 1909. In modern terms, imagine a player who spent three years in the majors, finishing his pro career by struggling in Low-A for a full season at 42 years old. His minor league stats from 1901-1909 are very limited and missing in some cases, such as his time in 1901 with Omaha. He remained there for 1902-03, hitting .244 in 131 games in 1902, and .252 in 121 games in 1903. He played for New Orleans of the Class-A Southern Association in 1904, hitting .251 in 138 games. In 1905, Genins saw time with New Orleans, Oklahoma City of the Class-C Western Association, and Meridian of the Class-D Cotton States League. Only his Oklahoma City stats are available, and they show a .282 average in 38 games. He played for St Joseph/Hutchinson of the Western Association in 1906, hitting .238 with 15 doubles and a triple in 140 games. In 1907, he played for Dubuque of the Class-B Three-I League for the first of two straight seasons. He hit .193 in 116 games in 1907, and .234 with 20 runs and nine steals in 42 games in 1908. He then finished his career with the previously mentioned stint in Racine.

After his playing career, Genins had a brief attempt at umpiring in the minors and also managed for three years. He was dismissed during his first season in 1910, then got run out of the game by angry fans in June of 1911, who tried to drown him in a pond after a series of bad calls (seriously). Genins was a .226 hitter in 149 big league games, with 18 doubles, two homers, 44 RBIs, 75 runs scored and 32 steals. The name Frenchy was rarely used in print, but an 1891 article points out that it was his cognomen (I just learned that word from that article) in baseball circles. He mostly went by his middle name Frank, while research has indicated that his first name starts with “C”, but the rest is unknown. Despite playing so long, his batting side is listed as unknown. However, two 1888 baseball cards show him standing as a right-handed batter.

The Transactions

On this date in 1942, the Pirates selected pitchers Wally Hebert and Ed Albosta in the Rule 5 draft. Hebert was playing in the minors at the time, nine years removed from a three-season stint with the St Louis Browns. He had quite a comeback season to the majors, going 10-11, 2.98 in 184 innings for the 1943 Pirates. Despite the success, he retired after that one season. Albosta ended up missing three years due to WWII before he ever played for the Pirates. He returned in 1946 and went 0-6, 6.13 in six starts and 11 relief appearances. Prior to being selected by the Pirates, his big league career consisted of two starts with the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers. He played minor league ball until 1951, but he never played in the majors after his stint with the 1946 Pirates.