This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 29th, The Hit Man Mike Easler

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a member of the 1979 World Series champs. We also have two transactions of note.

The Players

Mike Easler, outfielder for the 1977 and 1979-83 Pirates. He was traded nine times during his career, including four straight deals that involved the Pirates. Easler didn’t become a starter in the majors until his seventh season. He was drafted out of high school in the 14th round in 1969 by the Houston Astros. It took him four years to make the majors, though during three seasons in Houston, he played just 26 games total and had 27 at-bats. He started his career at 18 years old in the short-season Appalachian League, where he hit .319/.384/.416 in 33 games for Covington. He batted .252 with 30 runs, 11 doubles, one homer, 24 RBIs and a .636 OPS in 96 games for Cocoa in the Class-A Florida State League in 1970. He played in Cocoa in 1971 as well, where he hit .293 in 109 games, with 61 runs, 14 doubles, 11 homers, 68 RBIs and a .786 OPS, while going 16-for-17 in steals. Easler never stole more than 12 bases in any of his other 20 seasons in pro ball. He moved up to Columbus of the Double-A Southern League in 1972, where he batted .269 with 52 runs, 11 doubles, 13 homers, 46 RBIs and a .748 OPS in 106 games. He played 48 games for Columbus, and another 48 games for Denver of the Triple-A American Association during the 1973 season. He combined to hit .297 with 51 runs, 22 doubles, 13 homers, 58 RBIs and an .855 OPS in 96 games, with slightly better results at the lower level. That earned him a September look with the Astros, though that cup of coffee amounted to nine plate appearances without a hit in six games.

Easler hit .283 in 100 games for Denver in 1974, with 75 runs, 18 doubles, eight triples, 19 homers, 63 RBIs and an .897 OPS. He got a longer look with the Astros, but that was in May/June, and all 15 of his games were pinch-hitting appearances. He went 1-for-15 with a single. He had five pinch-hitting appearances in April of 1975, then the rest of the season was spent in Triple-A, split between Iowa and Tulsa of the American Association. Easler hit .313 in 113 games that year, with 69 runs, 31 doubles, 15 homers and 69 RBIs. He was traded to the St Louis Cardinals in June of 1975 and remained there until September of 1976.

Easler never appeared in a game for the 1976 Cardinals, despite batting .352 with 75 runs, 31 doubles, 26 homers, 77 RBIs and a 1.068 OPS in 118 games with Tulsa that season. He was traded to the California Angels on September 3, 1976, where he made it into 21 September games that year. After going 1-for-27 in his three stints with the Astros, he hit .241/.259/.296 in 59 plate appearances for the Angels. The Angels traded him to the Pirates right before Opening Day in 1977. Easler batted .302 with 83 runs scored, 29 doubles, 18 homers, 75 RBIs, 76 walks and a .911 OPS for Triple-A Columbus of the International League after joining the Pirates. He then hit .444/.421/.722 in 19 plate appearances over ten September games for the 1977 Pirates. However, that wasn’t enough to earn him a job the next season. He spent the 1978 season back in Columbus, where he batted .330 with 84 runs scored, 26 doubles, 18 homers, 84 RBIs, 75 walks and a .947 OPS in 126 games. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Red Sox in October of 1978, then traded to get him back five months later, though all they gave up was two minor league players who never played in the majors.

Easler was mainly used as a pinch-hitter during the 1979 season, hitting .278/.371/.444 in 62 plate appearances spread out over 55 games. He started just three games all year and never played a full game. He pinch-hit three times in the postseason and went 0-for-2 with a walk. The bat was never an issue with Easler, but his defense kept him from playing regularly in the majors. However, he was hitting so well during the 1980 season that he forced his way into the lineup more often. That year he hit .338 with 66 runs, 27 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs and a .978 OPS in 132 games, which included 110 starts split between left field and right field. His hitting that year earned him mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 20th in the voting. He made his only All-Star appearance in 1981, when he batted .286 with 43 runs, 30 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and a .759 OPS in 96 games during that strike-shortened season. Easler batted .276 in 142 games in 1982, with 52 runs, 27 doubles, 15 homers, 58 RBIs and a .773 OPS. He hit .307 in 115 games in 1983, with 44 runs, 17 doubles, ten homers, 54 RBIs and a .790 OPS. After the 1983 season, the Pirates traded him to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher John Tudor. That would have been a solid deal for the Pirates if they didn’t trade Tudor one year later for a poor return from the Cardinals. In six seasons with the Pirates, Easler hit .302 with 216 runs, 92 doubles, 56 homers, 244 RBIs and an .828 OPS in 549 games.

Easler had a big first season with the Red Sox in 1984, batting .313 in 156 games, with career highs of 87 runs scored, 31 doubles, 27 homers and 91 RBIs. He posted an .892 OPS that year. He was able to play every day as the DH in the American League. He saw his numbers slide the next season in 155 games, batting .262 with 71 runs, 29 doubles, 16 homers and 74 RBIs. His OPS dropped 155 points over the previous season. He was shipped to the New York Yankees for Don Baylor at the end of Spring Training in 1986. Easler hit .302 with 64 runs scored, 26 doubles, 14 homers, 78 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 146 games in 1986. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the off-season, then reacquired by the Yankees in June of 1987, finishing his big league career there that season. That last year saw him hit .282 with 20 runs, ten doubles, five homers and 31 RBIs in 98 games between both stops. Easler went to Spring Training with the Yankees in 1988 and didn’t make the team, then declined to report to their Triple-A affiliate. He then agreed to a minor league deal with Portland of the Pacific Coast League, only to show up four days later with Oklahoma City of the American Association, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Easler went 5-for-7 with two doubles in two games, then left the team. He played his final two years (1988-89) of pro ball in Japan before retiring as a player. He put up a .304 average and a .907 OPS in 97 games in 1988, followed by a .296 average and an .875 OPS in 45 games in 1989. His last pro experience came after the 1989 season in the Senior Professional Baseball Association, which was a short-lived league that played 1 1/2 years in Florida over the off-season and had minimum ages for players (35, except catchers could be as young as 32). He took up a career in coaching and has had numerous jobs over the years for many organizations at all levels. In his 14-year career in the majors, he was a .293 hitter in 1,151 games, with 465 runs, 189 doubles, 118 homers, 522 RBIs and an .804 OPS.

Paul Pettit, lefty pitcher for the 1951 and 1953 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates for $100,000 as an 18-year-old in early 1950. He went 2-7, 5.17 in 94 innings, with 76 walks for New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association in 1950, which was an advanced placement for someone his age/experience. Despite the mediocre results, he made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1951, although he lasted just two games before being optioned to Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association on May 14th. He allowed one run over 2.2 innings for the Pirates. When he was sent down, the Pirates noted that they were expecting to lose him to the service during the Korean War, since he just recently took his Army physical. That didn’t happen, though he played just nine games total after being sent down. A knee injury limited his mound time, causing him to miss most of the summer. Besides his six innings pitched over four games with Indianapolis, he also played very briefly with New Orleans again, as well as Charleston of the Class-A South Atlantic League. After the 1951 season, Branch Rickey called out Pettit without mentioning him by name, saying that once a young player gets a big bonus and has a yearly salary guaranteed, he won’t pitch as hard as he used to for fear of injury. Pettit went 15-8, 3.70 in 197 innings, with a 99:74 BB/SO ratio, for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in 1952, which earned him an Opening Day roster spot with the Pirates in 1953. He pitched seven games with the Pirates through the end of May in 1953, then spent most of the year back in the minors, only returning to Pittsburgh for three more appearances in September. On the season, he had a 7.71 ERA in 28 innings for the Pirates. Pettit spent some of his 1953 minor league time back with Charleston, where he had a 2.94 ERA in 49 innings, though it came with a 36:16 BB/SO ratio. He also had a 3-5 record in ten appearances with New Orleans.

Pettit never played in the majors again after 1953, spending eight more seasons in the minors, with most of that time coming as an outfielder. While the $100,000 bonus back in 1950 obviously gave him some comfort, it was also a tag that followed him throughout his career because it was the biggest signing bonus ever at that time. When his name showed up in print, the bonus amount almost always followed. He pitched all the way down in Class-C ball in 1954, playing for Salinas of the California League, where he went 8-7, 3.61 in 132 innings and actually showed control improvements. Despite that fact, he pitched just seven more games in his career after 1954. Pettit took up hitting during that 1954 season, and did well in his new role, batting .324 with 24 doubles, 20 homers and 103 RBIs. He played most of 1955 in Mexico, with a team that had a working agreement with the Pirates. It was a high offense league and he hit .382 with 1.097 OPS in 78 games. However, when he played for Hollywood that same season, he had a .508 OPS in 17 games. The Pacific Coast League had an Open classification, but it was basically Triple-A still. He spent the 1956-57 seasons with Hollywood, posting a .236 average and a .725 OPS in 114 games in 1956, followed by a .284 average, 31 doubles, 20 homers, 102 RBIs, 85 walks and an .838 OPS in 158 games in 1957.

That big 1957 season wasn’t enough to get Pettit back to the majors. He would end up splitting the 1958 season between two Triple-A clubs (Columbus of the International League and Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League). He posted an .831 OPS in 118 games that season, finishing with a .267 average in both places. He had 51 runs, 37 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs and 63 walks. He split the 1959 season between two PCL clubs, as Salt Lake City dropped him early in 1959, then he joined Seattle, where he remained through the end of 1960. Pettit hit .253 in 130 games that season, with 65 runs, 24 doubles, 16 homers, 68 RBIs and 57 walks. He hit .255 in 93 games in 1960, with 31 runs, nine doubles, five homers and 30 RBIs. He pitched once during that 1960 season, allowing two runs in three innings. He playing career ended with two games with Seattle in 1962, after he sat out the 1961 season to go to school. All that the Pirates received from him was a 7.34 ERA in 30.2 innings. He went 2-for-9 with two walks at the plate during his brief big league time. His actual first name was George. Paul was one of his two middle names.

Pettit’s famous bonus figure was a bit misleading. He got paid $10,000 when he signed, then got ten more bonuses every January 1st from 1950 through 1959, and they were $5,000 each. For his first three years, he was given a $6,000 salary as part of the bonus amount. The rest went to his agent, his father and he got another $750 that was given to him for his honeymoon. The total came up to $100,000, but $18,000 was salary, and $21,250 went to his agent and dad. The bonus payment every January 1st helps explain why he remained in the Pirates system through the 1959 season. It was said after his time finally ended with the Pirates that he was never the same pitcher they saw in high school, and they followed him since his sophomore year, so they had plenty of looks from multiple scouts. His fastball was better in high school than it was in pro ball, which was likely due to an injury that kept him from reaching his potential.

Ed Leip, second baseman for the 1940-42 Pirates. His only other big league experience outside of three partial years with the Pirates was nine games for the 1939 Washington Senators. Leip began his career in 1936 at 25 years old, playing for York/Trenton of the Class-A New York-Penn League, where he played just 18 games during that first season. He had a .206/.265/.222 slash line and drove in seven runs. He moved down to the Class-D Eastern Shore League in 1937, where he played two full seasons for Salisbury. During that first season, he batted .284 with 20 extra-base hits in 95 games. He also received a lot of praise for his defense at third base, with lofty comparisons made to Pie Traynor. Leip hit .289 in 109 games in 1938, with 100 runs, 32 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs, 45 steals, 92 walks and an .839 OPS. His time with the 1939 Senators began in mid-September after he hit .322 with 27 doubles, 17 triples and two homers for Greenville of the Class-B South Atlantic League. In his two weeks with Washington, he batted .344/.382/.375 with four runs and two RBIs in nine games. Leip joined the Pirates on April 4, 1940 off waivers from the Senators, which cost the Pirates a $7,500 fee. It was said at that time that he was expected to be sent to the minors, and that’s just what happened before he could get into a game for the Pirates. Ten days after being acquired, he was shipped to Syracuse of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) for the season. He batted .228 with 34 extra-base hits in 163 games as the team’s everyday second baseman, then rejoined the Pirates in late September and played three games (one start), going 1-for-5 with a single and two runs scored.

Leip spent 1941 with Albany of the Class-A Eastern League, where he hit .281 with 27 extra-base hits in 131 games. He joined the Pirates in early September and saw slightly more playing time than the previous year, getting into 15 games, including five starts. He put up a .200/.231/.360 slash line in 26 plate appearances. His big league time in 1942 consisted of three April pinch-running appearances. He was sent down on May 3rd and then recalled late in the year, but never rejoined the club because he was inducted into the Army on September 28th. Leip batted .229 that year in 117 games for Toronto of the Double-A International League. He had 56 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs, 33 steals, 54 walks and a .599 OPS. He played 21 games over his three seasons with the Pirates, hitting .200/.226/.333 with three runs, two triples and three RBIs in 31 plate appearances.  He spent three seasons in the military  (1943-45) and another five years in the minors before retiring as a player after the 1950 season.  Leip went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1946, but he was cut on April 12th, getting sent back to Albany, where he hit .244 with 49 runs, nine doubles, ten triples, 49 RBIs, 59 walks, 18 steals and a .664 OPS in 122 games. The Pirates let him return to Salisbury as a player-manager in 1947, and he put up big numbers with the drop to Class-D, hitting .302 with 74 runs, 86 walks, 38 steals and an .856 OPS in 101 games. He was a player-manager for Leesburg of the Class-D Florida State League in 1948, hitting .295 with 65 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs, 68 walks and .785 OPS in 106 games. His final two seasons of pro ball were spent as a player for Danville of the Class-B Carolina League, where he hit .264 with 105 runs, 32 doubles, 57 RBIs, 77 walks and a .718 OPS in 135 games in 1949, followed by a .256 average and 25 extra-base hits in 152 games in 1950. His last name is pronounced “leap”.

Marc Campbell, shortstop for the 1907 Pirates. There wasn’t much of a need at shortstop for the Pirates in 1907 due to that Honus Wagner fella, but the 22-year-old Campbell got two games in at the end of the season and he went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. That ended up being his only big league experience. Wagner missed the last nine days of the 1907 season with a broken hand, opening up playing time at shortstop. Campbell played four seasons in the minors, finishing up in 1911 with the Fond du Lac Mudhens of the Class-C Wisconsin-Illinois League. He debuted with the Pirates on September 30th, batting seventh and playing shortstop. He collected an RBI hit and handled six plays in the field without any issues. He actually got into an exhibition games against Youngstown the day before and went hitless while committing an error. Campbell (his first name was spelled “Mark” in the papers) was called the former Interstate League player. There was no mention of him after his game on October 1st, so it’s very likely that he didn’t accompany the team to Cincinnati for the final six games of the season. They played three doubleheaders in three days, so he would have likely played if he was still with the team. Back then teams traveled light for road trips to save on travel costs.

Campbell doesn’t have any minor league stats on Baseball-Reference prior to his MLB debut, but he played at least one year with a team from Punxsutawney (his hometown) before joining the Pirates, as well as some college ball at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. A January 1907 article has Campbell signing with a team from Uniontown for that season, along with noting that he played shortstop for an independent team from Cambridge Springs in 1906. In late March of 1907, it was said that he was released by Uniontown and he would be playing for Lancaster of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League, yet there’s no record of him there. Instead he showed up with Punxsutawney, despite also signing a deal with Dubois of the same league, who refused to play a game against Punxsutawney when they had Campbell in their lineup. His performance with Punxsutawney was praised enough that it earned him a shot with the Pirates. After his brief time with the Pirates, he played for Rochester of the Class-A Eastern League (highest level of the minors at the time) in 1908, though he hit just .139 with no extra-base hits in 15 games. It was said that he signed with Rochester under the advice of Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. In late June of 1908, it was said that he signed with New Castle of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, though no records show him playing there. It’s possible that his time was very brief, as a lot of old stats for the minor leagues often don’t include players who got into fewer than ten games. An April 1909 article said that he was recently playing in the Texas League. In 1909, he played for Erie of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, where he hit .278 in 91 games. He was drafted by Zanesville of the Central League after the season, but he lasted just 13 games there in 1910, hitting .250 during that time. His last two pro seasons were spent with Fond du Lac, where he hit .321 in 86 games in 1910, followed by a .259 average in 93 games in 1911. His nickname was “Hutch”.

Bill Sowders, pitcher for the 1889-90 Alleghenys. He debuted in pro ball in 1886 with Minneapolis of the Northwestern League at 21 years old (no stats available), but made his mark the next season in the same league with St Paul, where he had a 34-17, 2.14 record in 441 innings, with 266 strikeouts, 49 starts and 48 complete games. He also batted .308 with 64 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 79 games, seeing some time in the outfield and first base when he wasn’t pitching. He debuted in the majors in 1888 with the Boston Beaneaters and went 19-15, 2.07 in 317 innings during his first season, but he was out of the big leagues just two years later. He completed 34 of his 35 starts in his rookie season, including his only two big league shutouts. Sowders didn’t get much of a chance with Boston after his strong rookie season at 23 years old. The next season he pitched seven games for the Beaneaters before being sold to Pittsburgh for $1,000 on July 19th. The local papers weren’t impressed with the deal, saying that Boston was in need of pitching at the time, so if they were willing to let him go, then he must not be any good. Things didn’t go well in his 11 starts and two relief appearances in Pittsburgh. Sowders had a 6-5 record, but it came with a 7.35 ERA in 52.2 innings. The 1890 Alleghenys are the worst team in franchise history, and while he pitched much better than he did in 1889, Sowders had a 3-8 record, with a 4.42 ERA in 106 innings over 11 starts and four relief appearances.

Many of the 1889 Alleghenys jumped to the 1890 Pittsburgh team in the newly-formed Player’s League, and Sowders went back-and-forth between the two teams during the off-season before ending up back with the Alleghenys. He was supposed to get $100 bonus payments during the off-season to stay in the National League after originally joining the Player’s League. He said in February that he would be joining the Player’s League again because of a missed payment, but days later his loyalty was back to the Alleghenys. On June 23rd, he was traded to Milwaukee of the Western Association for pitcher Charlie Heard. That move ended his big league career with a 29-30, 3.34 record in 517.2 innings, with 55 complete games in 61 starts. In two seasons in Pittsburgh, he went 9-13, 5.39 in 22 starts and six relief appearances, throwing 158.2 innings.  He would play in the minors until 1892, then returned to pro ball for the 1896 season, when he played for three teams (Saginaw, Washington and New Castle) in the Interstate League. Sowders played for eight minors league teams during his final four seasons of pro ball. Besides Milwaukee, he also saw time with Omaha of the Western Association in 1890. He then played for Fort Wayne of the Northwestern League and Joliet of the Illinois-Iowa League. He has no known pitching records after the 1891 season when he made his final two starts for Joliet and allowed 12 runs in 11 innings. He played for Jacksonville of the Illinois-Iowa League in 1892. He was playing in Indiana during the 1893-94 seasons, but the papers were critical of his past performances and said they didn’t think he could play pro ball anymore. At one point in 1894, he stated that he was willing to play on trial without pay to prove his worth. He had two brothers, Len and John Sowders, who each played in the majors. Len passed away of typhoid fever in November of 1888.

The Transactions

On this date in 1989, the Pirates signed veteran right-handed pitcher Walt Terrell as a free agent. He won at least 15 games each season with the Detroit Tigers from 1985 through 1987, while averaging 230 innings per year. Terrell’s record slipped in 1988, going 7-16, though his 3.97 ERA in 206.1 innings was slightly lower than in 1987 when he went 17-10. He split 1989 between the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees, finishing 11-18, 4.49 in 206.1 innings over 32 starts. The Pirates were getting a guy who threw 200+ innings for six straight seasons, but his time with the team was not good. He went 2-7, 5.88 in 82.2 innings over 16 starts, then was released at the end of July. He finished the 1990 season back in Detroit, then remained there through the end of the 1992 season, before retiring. Terrell finished his career with a 111-124, 4.22 record over 11 seasons. He had a career 10.7 WAR, though his brief time took down his value with a -1.5 WAR.

On this date in 1967, the Pirates acquired catcher Chris Cannizzaro from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for minor league OF/1B Mike Derrick, who was signed by the Pirates out of high school in 1962, and spent six years in the farm system. Cannizzaro ended up hitting .241/.343/.397 for the Pirates over 25 games in 1968. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres in Spring Training of 1969 in a four-player deal that went poorly for the Pirates. He was an All-Star in his first season with the Padres, then put up better offensive stats in 1970. Derrick ended up briefly making the majors in 1970 with the Boston Red Sox, but he spent the rest of his 11-year pro career in the minors. This trade would have went better if they held on to Cannizzaro, but the Pirates were good behind the plate at the time with a young Manny Sanguillen just establishing himself, and Jerry May serving as a capable backup.