Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, and the second biggest transaction in team history behind the deal that brought in Honus Wagner and company in 1899.
On this date in 1954, the Pirates selected 20-year-old outfielder Roberto Clemente with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft, taking him from the Brooklyn Dodgers. It’s considered to be the best Rule 5 pick in baseball history, but at the time most of the press put emphasis on the MLB players selected in that draft because he was a virtually unknown player. Clemente batted .255/.284/.382 in 124 games as a rookie in 1955. Prior to his selection by the Pirates, he had one year of pro experience, playing for Montreal of the Triple-A International League, where he hit .257 in 87 games. Many scouts saw him play more often in winter ball in Puerto Rico, so his overall abilities were known around the baseball inner circles, even if his game was still rough around the edges during his first season in Pittsburgh. Clemente of course went on to huge things in his Hall of Fame career, spent all with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It didn’t look like a huge loss for the Dodgers until he broke out on offense in 1960. His value during his first five seasons was pushed more by his defense, with his 1957-58 seasons accounting for 4.3 dWAR. The offense picked up in 1960 and continued for the rest of his career, leading to a .317 career average, 3,000 hits and a place in Cooperstown.
Dick Bartell, shortstop for the 1927-30 Pirates. He signed with the Pirates at 19 years old prior to the 1927 season and he needed just one year in the minors to convince them that he was big league ready. Playing for Bridgeport of the Class-A Eastern League, he hit .280 with 35 extra-base hits in 148 games. He debuted with the Pirates in the final game of the 1927 season, right before the Pirates went to take on the New York Yankees in the World Series. He went 0-for-2 with two walks that day. Bartell then hit .305 in 72 games during the 1928 season, finishing with 27 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs and a .763 OPS. He saw more time at second base than he did at shortstop in 1928, but that changed the next year. He saw regular playing time in 1929 and responded with a .302 average, 101 runs scored and 55 extra-base hits, including his first of three season with at least 40 doubles. He he 57 RBIs, a .766 OPS, and also set a career high with 13 triples, which he would tie the next season. Bartell put up a career best .845 OPS in 129 games during the 1930 season. He batted .320 in 129 games, with 69 runs scored, 45 extra-base hits and 75 RBIs.
Despite his success, the Pirates sent him to the Philadelphia Phillies on November 5, 1930 for infielder Tommy Thevenow and pitcher Claude Willoughby. The Pirates wanted to improve their defense and add depth to their pitching. It turned out to be a disaster for the Pirates, as Willoughby lasted 25.2 innings before being released, while Thevenow saw a slip in his defense after his first year, and his bat was very weak the entire time. The Pirates got a combined -2.4 WAR from their return, while Bartell had 35.9 WAR left in his career. He was also outplaying Thevenow on defense by 1932. We posted an in depth article on Bartell’s time with the Pirates here. In four seasons in Pittsburgh, he hit .308 with 197 runs, 117 extra-base hits and 168 RBIs in 348 games. He went on to play a total of 18 years in the majors and received MVP votes in six seasons. He also missed two years serving during WWII, which may have cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame.
Bartell had a down year in 1931, which made this trade seem okay for a short time. Even though he got mild MVP support (23rd place in the voting), his .717 OPS in 135 games was a career low at the time. He batted .289 that season in 135 games, with 88 runs, 43 doubles, seven triples and 34 RBIs, while going 6-for-17 in steals. Hee turned this trade around completely in 1932, partially due to the improved defense, but also because he hit .308 in 154 games, with 118 runs scored, a career high 48 doubles, 53 RBIs and 64 walks. He led the league with 35 sacrifice hits, and he finished with a .792 OPS. The first All-Star game was played in 1933, and Bartell was elected to the team. He hit .271 in 152 games, with 78 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, and he led the league with 37 sacrifice hits. His .675 OPS set a new low, but he still received mild MVP support, finishing 21st in the voting. He hit .310 in 146 games in 1934, with 102 runs scored, 30 doubles, 37 RBIs, 64 walks and a .757 OPS. On November 1, 1934, Bartell was traded to the New York Giants for four players and cash. He hit .262 in 137 games during his first season in New York, with 60 runs, 28 doubles, 53 RBIs, a .722 OPS, and a career high 14 homers. He received mild MVP support in 1936 (19th place finish in the voting) after hitting .298 in 145 games, with 71 runs scored, 31 doubles, eight homers, 42 RBIs and a .773 OPS. His 3.8 dWAR that season was a career best, and it’s tied for the 38th best defensive season all-time for any position.
Bartell had his best season in 1937. He hit .306 in 128 games, with 91 runs scored, 38 doubles, 14 homers, 62 RBIs and an .836 OPS. He was an All-Star for a second time and he had his best MVP finish, ending up sixth in the voting. His 6.6 WAR was a career best. He slipped to a .262 average in 127 games in 1938, with 67 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs, 55 walks and a .724 OPS. Bartell was shipped to the Chicago Cubs after the season in a six-player deal, with three players going each way. In his only season in Chicago, he hit .238/.335/.348 in 105 games, missing time due to multiple injuries. He had 37 runs, 29 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs. Exactly one year after acquiring him, the Cubs shipped him to the Detroit Tigers in December of 1939. Bartell hit .233 in 139 games in 1940, with 76 runs scored, 34 extra-base hits, 53 RBIs and a career high 76 walks. He barely had a 50% stolen base rate for most of his career and didn’t run a lot, but he went 12-for-14 in steals during that 1940 season. He received decent MVP support, finishing 12th in the voting. Despite what was considered a solid season, Detroit released him after five games in 1941. He was 2-for-12 with two walks at the time. He signed back with the Giants four days later and hit .303 in 104 games, with 44 runs, 20 doubles, five homers, 35 RBIs and a .791 OPS, while splitting time between third base and shortstop, which he also did for the next two seasons.
Bartell played 90 games in 1942, hitting .244 with 53 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs, 44 walks and a .692 OPS. He batted .270 in 99 games in 1943, with 48 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs and 47 walks. Bartell joined the war effort after the 1943 season and that may have cost him his Hall of Fame shot through the Veteran’s Committee. He was still an effective player going into 1944-45, and while he was getting up there in age, the talent level in the league was dropping due to all of the players serving in the war. So he likely would have been able to play regularly and compile more stats to pad his resume. When he returned to the Giants in 1946, he lasted just five games and then was released after the season. He was mostly serving as a coach at the time. He finished his career with 40.5 WAR according to Baseball-Reference. Bartell had six seasons in which he was among the top four defensive players (by dWAR) in the National League. He finished as a .284 hitter in 2,016 games, with 1,130 runs scored, 2,165 hits, 442 doubles, 71 triples, 79 homers, 710 RBIs, 109 steals and 784 walks.
Mike Benjamin, infielder for the 1999-2000 and 2002 Pirates. In three seasons in Pittsburgh (he was injured for all of 2001), he batted .239 in 311 games and played five different positions. He was a career .229 hitter, but his defense kept him around for 13 seasons in the majors. He was in San Francisco for seven seasons, though he high for at-bats was 186 during that time, and he had four seasons with fewer than 100 plate appearances. Benjamin passed on signing as a seventh round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1985, while attending Cerritos College. After he transferred to Arizona State, he was a third round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1987. He debuted in pro ball in Class-A ball with Fresno of the California League, where he batted .241 with 25 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and a .715 OPS in 64 games. He played 89 games with Shreveport of the Double-A Texas League in 1988, while also seeing 37 games with Phoenix of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Benjamin hit .236 with 48 runs, 30 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and 14 steals with Shreveport, but his average dropped to .170 with Phoenix. He put up a .628 OPS between both stops. His minor league season in 1989 was spent in Phoenix, where he hit .259 in 113 games, which came with a low walk rate and mediocre power, which led to a .667 OPS. It took him just two years to make the majors for the first time, though he had a very small bench role during his cup of coffee in 1989, batting six times in 14 games.
Benjamin had nearly an identical second season in 1990 with Phoenix, putting up a matching .667 OPS in 118 games. He hit .251, and had 61 runs, 33 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs and 13 steals. He batted .214/.254/.411 in 22 games with the Giants, finishing with seven runs, six extra-base hits and three RBIs. He saw more big league time in 1991, though he still played 94 games in Phoenix, where his OPS dropped to a .628 mark. In 54 big league games that year, he hit .123/.188/.208 in 120 plate appearances, with 12 runs, five extra-base hits and eight RBIs. He finally put up strong numbers in Phoenix in 1992, posting a .306 average and a .777 OPS in 31 games. He had a limited bench role with the Giants that year, hitting .173/.215/.267 in 82 plate appearances over 40 games. The 1993 season was spent in the majors, where he hit .199 with 22 runs, seven doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs in 63 games. Benjamin improved on offense during the strike-shortened 1994 season, though he continued the limited bench role. He hit .258/.343/.419 in 38 games that year. He played 68 games for the Giants in 1995, hitting .220 with low walk/power numbers that led to a .557 OPS. He managed to go 11-for-12 in steals that season, setting a career high for stolen bases, which ended up being exactly 1/4 of his career total in that category.
Benjamin was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1995 season. He played 35 games in 1996, missing time due to a wrist injury in Spring Training and a neck injury in July. He batted .223 in his limited time, with 13 runs, ten extra-base hits, 13 RBIs and a .724 OPS. He became a free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox, where he played 49 games in 1997, before he got his first real shot at playing full-time. He hit .233 that year, with 12 runs, ten extra-base hits and seven RBIs. He had a low .590 OPS due to drawing just four walks, while failing to hit a homer. Benjamin also spent over a month with Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League, where he had a .732 OPS in 33 games. At 32 years old in 1998, he played 124 games for the Red Sox, hitting .272 with 46 runs, four homers and 39 RBIs, which were all career highs. He also added 23 doubles, which was a career best at the time, and he finished with a .684 OPS.
The Pirates signed Benjamin for two years at $700,000 a year in November of 1998, then traded Tony Womack to make room at second base. It was a move that paid off for both players. Womack went on to win a World Series ring, while Benjamin played full-time (when healthy) and put up the better stats (2.4 WAR vs 0.8 WAR for Womack in 1999-2000 combined). The Pirates got better production for 1/3 of the cost. He played 110 games in 1999, hitting .247 with 42 runs scored, a career high 26 doubles, seven triples (nearly half of his career total), 37 RBIs and ten stolen bases in 11 attempts. He hit .270 in 93 games in 2000, with 28 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and a .704 OPS. The Pirates signed Benjamin to a two-year extension in August of 2000, but only got one year out of him. He had an elbow injury when he came to Spring Training in 2001 and tried to play through it, but he was shut down just before Opening Day and he had surgery in May, which cost him the entire season. He played 108 games in his final season, but he made just 23 starts and received a total of 130 plate appearances. Benjamin hit .150/.202/.183 that year, and his main role was replacing the defensively-challenged Aramis Ramirez at third base late in games. He retired after the 2002 season and he has recently (2015-18) managed for four season in the minors for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Benjamin hit .229 in 818 games in the majors, with 227 runs scored, 109 doubles, 15 triples, 24 homers, 169 RBIs and 44 steals.
John Morlan, pitcher for the 1973-74 Pirates. He was drafted four times before he signed, including twice in the first round by the Pirates. He was first drafted out of high school in 1965 by the Cleveland Indians in the eighth round. Two years later at Ohio University, the Pirates took him 12th overall, but could not reach an agreement to sign. The Cleveland Indians selected him in the fourth round in 1968, then the Pirates took him fifth overall in the amateur free agent draft over the 1968-69 off-season (called the January Secondary draft) and signed him to a deal for 1969. He was an outfielder at the time, but he made his mark in pro ball as a pitcher. Morlan had ties to the two teams that drafted him twice. His uncle was a scout for the Indians, and also played minor league ball for the Indians. His father also played in the minors, including time under Joe L Brown, who was the general manager of the Pirates both times that the younger Morlan was drafted. He played 25 games for Geneva in the short-season New York-Penn League in 1969, and another nine games for Salem of the Class-A Carolina League. He combined to hit .195 with 13 runs, two homers, ten RBIs and a .583 OPS. He hit .222 with 27 runs, six doubles, six homers and 30 RBIs in 1970 for Gastonia of the Class-A Western Carolinas League. He saw limited work at the plate over the rest of his career, and he finished with a .200 average in the minors and a .111 average during his brief big league time. After two years of poor results at the plate in the lower levels, Morlan switched to pitching in 1971. He split the year between Monroe of the Western Carolinas League and Niagara Falls of the New York-Penn League, combining to go 3-6, 5.50, with 67 strikeouts in 72 innings over 13 starts. He returned to Salem in 1972, where he went 4-3, 2.47 in 62 innings over ten starts, with 68 strikeouts. He threw three complete games and two shutouts.
Morlan’s limited work over his first four seasons was due to having a teaching job that caused him to miss the early part of the season each year. That practice ended in 1973 and paid off for him. He skipped right over Double-A in 1973, and it took him just three months to reach the majors. He made 17 starts with Charleston of the Triple-A International League, where he had an 11-5, 2.09 record in 125 innings, with 107 strikeouts. Morlan debuted with the Pirates on July 20, 1973. He went 2-2, 3.95 in 41 innings over seven starts and three relief appearances for the Pirates that year. He spent the entire 1974 season in the majors, making 39 relief appearances. He posted an 0-3, 4.29 record in 65 innings, with 48 walks and 38 strikeouts. In seven starts and 42 relief appearances with the Pirates, he had a 2-5, 4.16 record in 106 innings, which ended up being his entire big league career. Morlan spent the next three years in Triple-A with Charleston in 1975-76 and Columbus in 1977. He saw a huge drop in his effectiveness over those final three years. He had to have elbow surgery after the 1974 season and he was slow to return to form, which led to him being an early cut in Spring Training. He had a solid 1975 season, going 8-12, 3.43, with 85 strikeouts in 134 innings. That respectable ERA dropped down to 5.78 in 120 innings in 1976, when he made 16 starts and eight relief appearances. Morlan allowed 20 homers that year, which was nearly double any other season during his career. He also had more walks (75) than strikeouts (66). His time in Charleston was limited to just three games because he allowed 13 earned runs in five innings.
Walt Tauscher, pitcher for the 1928 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1924 at 22 years old, playing most of the year at Okmulgee of the Class-C Western Association. He went 12-4, 3.41 in 124 innings there, while also pitching 81 innings for Shawnee of the Class-D of the Oklahoma State League and another six innings for Oklahoma City of the Class-A Western League. He pitched a total of 36 games and had an 18-8 record that season. The next two full seasons were played with Williamsport of the Class-B New York-Penn League, where he had plenty of success. He went 20-11, 3.63 in 285 innings in 1925, then had a 17-15, 2.97 record in 297 innings. The Pirates purchased Tauscher from Williamsport on August 18, 1926. At the same time that they also purchased his teammate Adam Comorosky, who went on to big things in the majors. Tauscher remained with Williamsport through the end of their season. He was with the Pirates for Spring Training in 1927 and had some strong moments, but they sent him to Columbia of the Class-B South Atlantic League, where he went 12-19, 3.04 in 287 innings. He actually made the Opening Day roster, but didn’t pitch in a game before being shipping out on April 23rd, nine games into the season. Tauscher also returned on September 7th and didn’t appear in any of the final 26 games. So he spent a total of 37 days on the active roster of the National League champs, but he failed to make his big league debut that season.
Tauscher was with the Pirates for all of 1928, but often went 2+ weeks in a row without making an appearance. He was often used in a mop up role, with the Pirates losing 15 of his 17 appearances. He had very little to do with the two games they won. He pitched the final two innings of a one-sided win on August 3rd, then five weeks later he retired the only batter he faced in an 8-7 win. In 17 appearances as a 26-year-old rookie in 1928, he had a 4.91 ERA in 29.1 innings. His stats were a bit skewed by one bad outing in which he allowed six runs. He didn’t give up more than two earned runs in any other game. That was it for his time in Pittsburgh, and his only other big league experience was six relief appearances for the 1931 Washington Senators. Despite the brief big league career, he played a total of 23 seasons in the minors between 1924 and 1948. Tauscher went to Spring Training in 1929, but he was released to Dallas of the Class-A Texas League on April 8, 1929, ending his time with the Pirates as a player.
Tauscher went 9-10, 4.63 for Dallas in 204 innings in 1929. He then had a 13-16, 4.89 record in 254 innings for Dallas in 1930. That led to his shot with the Senators at the beginning of the 1931 season, but he made his final big league appearance on May 5th. He ended up spending most of the year with Chattanooga of the Class-A Southern Association. He went 1-0, 7.50 in 12 innings with Washington, then had a 9-9, 4.13 record in 174 innings with Chattanooga. He pitched for Baltimore of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time) in 1931-33, though only the 1932 season was a full year. Tauscher’s 1931 time in Baltimore was limited to a 1-2, 3.86 record in 21 innings. He had a 13-9, 5.67 record in 216 innings over 44 games in 1932. In his partial 1933 season in Baltimore, he went 1-2, 3.38 in 24 innings over nine games. He then joined Minneapolis of the American Association during the 1933 season and stayed there through the 1941 season. Tauscher finished 1933 with a 15-8, 5.46 record in 145 innings for Minneapolis. During the 1934 season, he had a 21-7, 3.89 record in 222 innings. He was 32 years old at the time, but he still had 13 more years left, pitching through the war years. Tauscher went 18-9, 4.38 in 226 innings over 28 starts and nine relief appearances in 1935. He followed that up with a 13-9, 5.11 record in 185 innings in 1936. He went 16-14, 4.88 in 260 innings in 1937, with 35 starts, 18 complete games and seven relief appearances. That was the last time he reached 200 innings in a season.
Tauscher posted a 9-11, 4.95 record in 189 innings in 1938. He went 13-6, 5.23 in 160 innings in 1939, making 12 starts and 29 relief appearances. He had a solid 1940 campaign, going 15-9, 4.04 in 167 innings, with ten starts and 43 relief outings. Tauscher followed that with a 13-6, 4.82 record in 155 innings over 14 starts and 27 relief appearances. That was his last double digit win season, and his last season with Minneapolis. He went 3-3, 5.12 in 65 innings over 24 games for Indianapolis of the American Association in 1942. His 1943 stats show a 0-0 record and 43 innings pitched over 20 games with Indianapolis. He moved on to St Paul of the American Association in 1944 and had a 6-7, 3.88 record in 139 innings. Tauscher pitched a lot in 1945, going 8-7, 3.98 in 104 innings over 61 games. His final season as a pitcher in 1946 shows an 0-3 record in 19 innings with Meridian of the Class-B Southeastern League. While no stats are available, he’s credited with playing for Greenville of the Class-D Alabama State League in 1948. He pitched a total of 23 years in pro ball and put together a 263-200 record in the minors, with 4,028 innings pitched over 865 games. Tauscher was a manager in the minors for five seasons, including four years (1948-51) in the Pirates system.