This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 12th, Bad Trades, but a Phenomenal Player

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a few major trades of note, two that did not go well. Before we get into that stuff, current Pirates pitcher Yerry De Los Santos turns 25 today. He debuted in the majors in 2022, going 0-3, 4.91 in 25.2 innings.

The Trades

On this date in 1941, the Pirates traded away superstar shortstop Arky Vaughan to the Brooklyn Dodgers in exchange for catcher Babe Phelps, pitcher Luke Hamlin, infielder Pete Coscarart and outfielder Jimmy Wasdell. The only reason this trade didn’t look so bad was that Vaughan retired for three years (1944-46) before coming back to play two more seasons as a part-time player. The best value they got (by far) in return for the second greatest shortstops in baseball history was Coscarart, who hit .245 with 262 runs scored in 531 games for Pittsburgh. The Pirates were worried about losing players to the war effort, so they felt it was best to get four players to fill out holes in their roster, as opposed to getting upside for their 29-year-old All-Star shortstop. Hamlin had one mediocre year before he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics. The 1943 season was one of the most watered down due to talent lost to the war, but Hamlin still spent the entire season in the minors. Babe Phelps played one season in Pittsburgh before he was traded for Babe Dahlgren in a deal that worked out well for the Pirates. Wasdell hit .266 in 126 games before being sold to the Philadelphia Phillies in April of 1943, meaning that 16 months after this deal was made, only Pete Coscarart was still with the Pirates. Vaughan hit .305 in 1943, leading the league in runs scored and stolen bases. The Pirates got 4.1 WAR in nine combined seasons from their players, while Vaughan gave Brooklyn 10.4 WAR in four years, though 8.4 came from the first two years before he retired to work in a wartime job. If he played through the watered down competition in the 1944-46 seasons, he might actually get the recognition he deserves, but also this deal would have been one of the worst (meaning top 3/4 worst) in team history.

On this date in 1913, the Pirates traded pitcher Hank Robinson, outfielders Chief Wilson and Cozy Dolan and infielders Art Butler and Dots Miller to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Bob Harmon, first baseman Ed Konetchy and third baseman Mike Mowrey. The local Pittsburgh papers were rather sure when this deal was made that it would work out for the Pirates, but it went south in a hurry. Owner Barney Dreyfuss had a long-time man-crush on Konetchy that he didn’t hide, and he gave up way too much to get him. He was a target of the Pirates for many years before this deal. In fact, this deal was so bad that Dots Miller alone outperformed that combined value of the three players Pittsburgh got in return. Chief Wilson played well for his first two (of three) seasons in St Louis, and the other three players in the deal all were regulars with the Cardinals. The Pirates went through a down stretch from 1914 until the early 1920s. The Cardinals added 30 wins in 1914 over their 1913 total, while the Pirates went from 78-71 to 69-85 in one year due in part to the poor return from this deal.

Konetchy rewarded Dreyfuss by jumping to the Federal League after one down season with a .634 OPS, while Miller also played first base and finished fifth in the NL MVP voting in 1914. Mowrey played just 79 games with the Pirates before he was released in August of 1914. He then had two of his better seasons in 1915-16. Harmon provided the most/only value to the Pirates with a 2.60 ERA in 769.2 innings over four seasons, though it was the height of the deadball era and he had a losing record each year. An example of the deadball era effect is shown in his 1916 season when his 2.81 ERA was only the fourth best for starters on the team that finished sixth out of eight teams in ERA. With Konetchy jumping teams, Harmon retiring and Mowrey being released, the Pirates got no future value from any of those three players. The Cardinals sold off three players and traded two others, getting trade value from all five pieces.

On this date in 1932, the Pirates traded pitcher Glenn Spencer and outfielder Gus Dugas, in exchange for future Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom. It was a three-team trade that also involved the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies. This trade worked out for the Pirates, as neither player they gave up amounted to much after the deal, while Lindstrom put in two solid seasons before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a deal that didn’t work out as well, but not due to Lindstrom’s production, as he put up -0.3 WAR after the trade. He hit .302 with 129 runs scored and 104 RBIs in 235 games for the Pirates. Spencer had a 5.13 ERA in 47.1 innings for the 1933 Giants, which ended up being his final big league season. Dugas hit .139 in 37 games for the Phillies in 1933, then he went 1-for-19 in 24 games for the Washington Senators in 1934. In comparison, the Pirates got 5.0 WAR from Lindstrom, while giving up two players who combined for -2.3 WAR. Then they were able to trade him (along with Larry French) for three solid players following the 1934 season.

The Players

Jose Osuna, outfielder/infielder for the 2017-2020 Pirates. Osuna signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela at 16 years old in 2009, and he was famously known by the last name “Ozuna” during his first season in the system. It took him until the middle of his eighth season before he debuted in the majors. He debuted in the Venezuelan Summer League, where he hit .251 with 33 runs, 16 doubles, ten homers, 43 RBIs and a .790 OPS in 64 games in 2010. He moved up to the Gulf Coast League in 2011, and hit .331 with 28 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs and a .911 OPS in 48 games. He also played two games that season for State College of the short-season New York-Penn League. He was in Low-A ball in 2012, playing for West Virginia of the South Atlantic League, where he hit .280 in 126 games, with 68 runs, 36 doubles, 16 homers, 72 RBIs and a .779 OPS. The 2013-14 seasons were spent entirely with Bradenton in the High-A Florida State League. Osuna batted .244 in 2013, with 47 runs, 25 doubles, eight homers, 48 RBIs and a .655 OPS in 123 games. He stole 18 bases that season, which is 11 more than his next highest season total at any level. He hit .296 in 97 games during the 2014 season, finishing with 47 runs, 23 doubles, ten homers, 57 RBIs and an .804 OPS. He played winter ball in Venezuela after both seasons with Bradenton, though he saw limited time each year.

Osuna started the 2015 season back in Bradenton, before he hit his way to Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League mid-season. He hit nearly identical in each spot, posting a .764 OPS in 44 games with Bradenton, and a .763 OPS in 85 games with Altoona. Combined that year, he hit .286 in 129 games, with 69 runs, 32 doubles, 12 homers and 81 RBIs. Osuna got a chance to play full-time in Venezuela in the 2015-16 off-season and he put up huge numbers, batting .330 in 59 games, with 13 doubles, nine homers and a .914 OPS. He split the 2016 season between Altoona (70 games) and Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League (63 games). He combined to hit .279 that year, with 66 runs, 37 doubles, 13 homers, 69 RBIs and a .788 OPS. He played a full season of winter ball again and his stats regressed, with a .279 average, 15 doubles, three homers and a .748 OPS in 60 games. He began 2017 back in Indianapolis, but after a short stint that saw him put up a .730 OPS in 41 plate appearances, he was in the majors for the rest of the season. In 104 games as a rookie, Osuna had a .233 average, with 31 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .697 OPS. He split the 2018 season between the Pirates and Triple-A. He had a .321 average and an .875 OPS in 82 games with Indianapolis. He hit .226 with 14 runs, nine doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in 51 games for the Pirates. He played a half season of winter ball that off-season and dominated, hitting .368 in 18 games, with a .971 OPS. Osuna saw his most big league time during the 2019 season, hitting .264 in 95 games, with 41 runs, 20 doubles, ten homers, 36 RBIs and a .766 OPS. That was followed by a .205 average, six runs, three doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs in 26 games during the shortened 2020 season.

In 660 at-bats over 276 games with the Pirates, Osuna hit .241 with 92 runs, 45 doubles, 24 homers and 88 RBIs. He was a solid defender at first base, but the Pirates also used him at third base and in both corner outfield spots. On July 6, 2017, he threw out three runners at second base while playing left field. While he provided decent offense despite a low OBP (.280 career), his defense was below average every season. His best year for WAR was 2018 when he had a 0.1 mark, and his total over four years was -0.8 WAR. His .641 OPS in 26 games during the shortened 2020 season was his lowest season mark. After being let go by the Pirates following the 2020 season, Osuna signed to play in Japan for the 2021 season, where he helped lead his team to a league title. He hit .261 in 123 games that year, with 44 runs, 25 doubles, 14 homers and 61 RBIs. He stayed in Japan for 2022, hitting .272 in 138 games, with 49 runs, 19 doubles, 20 homers, 74 RBIs and a .751 OPS.

John Gammon, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1884 when they were in the American Association and then again when they were in the National League in 1890. His birth name was John Gammon but he is better known in baseball history as Phenomenal Smith. He got the nickname from a reporter after an amazing 16-strikeout performance while in the minors in 1885, and the name stuck despite the fact he posted just a 54-74 record over eight Major League seasons. During his first stint with Pittsburgh he lost his only game 10-5 to the Richmond Virginias, a franchise that won just 12 games total in their history. He debuted in pro ball that season with the Philadelphia Athletics on August 14th and lost his only start by giving up six runs on 14 hits. His lone start for the Alleghenys came 18 days later. As an interesting side note to that start, it was actually started by pitcher Bill Nelson making his big league debut, but he suffered a hand injury while batting in the top of the first, so he didn’t pitch at all. Smith pitched the entire game in his place. Smith made one start for Brooklyn of the American Association in 1885, and one start for the Athletics. Just like in the previous year, he lost both starts, this time by giving up 27 runs over 12 innings of work. The rest of his year was spent with Newark of the Eastern League, where he picked up his famous nickname and had a 9-8, 0.84 record, with 212 strikeouts in 171.1 innings.

Smith spent most of 1886 with Newark, going 22-10, 0.74 in 292 innings, with 317 strikeouts. He got a brief chance that year with the Detroit Wolverines of the National League in October. He had one win, one loss and one tie in three complete games. Smith never had a winning record during any of his eight seasons in the majors, though he did win 25 games for Baltimore of the American Association in 1887. He finished up 25-30, 3.79 in 491.1 innings, with 176 walks and 206 strikeouts. He completed 54 of his 55 starts that season. He went 14-19, 3.61 in 292 innings with Baltimore in 1888, then had his third stint with the Athletics, going 2-1, 2.86 in three starts. Smith completed 34 of 35 starts that year between both stops, while finishing with 147 walks and 171 strikeouts in 314 innings pitched. He stayed with Philadelphia for the start of the 1889 season, going 2-3, 4.40 in 43 innings over five starts, before joining Hartford of the Atlantic League (no stats available). He returned to Philadelphia to start 1890, but this time it was with the Phillies in the National League. He had an 8-12, 4.28 record in 204 innings, before he was released on September 10th.

Smith returned to the Alleghenys in mid-September 1890, near the end of the worst season in franchise history. He pitched five games, lost three of them and one ended in a tie. In the 136th game of the year for the Alleghenys, he beat the Phillies 10-1 for Pittsburgh’s 23rd win of the year. His signing with the Alleghenys was a bit confusing right before it happened. Just three days after his release from the Phillies, it was said that he would sign for $500 for the rest of the season, but Pittsburgh owner J. Palmer O’Neill was satisfied with his team’s pitching at the time (and who wouldn’t be on a 113-loss team) and he was looking for hitters instead. The very next day, it was announced that Smith signed. After his brief stint with the team in 1890, which also included some postseason exhibition games, Smith was still reserved for the 1891 season. However, when the Player’s League folded after one season, the Alleghenys were strengthened by returning players and pirated players from other teams, so they no longer needed Smith’s services. He went through part of Spring Training with Pittsburgh, but didn’t make the team.

Smith went back to the Phillies in early 1891, for what turned out to be his final three big league games. He had a 4.26 ERA in 19 innings. His big league time ended there, but his career in pro ball was far from over though. Part of that 1891 season was spent with Milwaukee of the Western Association, where he went 5-1, 2.34 in 50 innings over seven starts. He played for Green Bay of the Wisconsin-Michigan League in 1892 (no stats available), then played for Reading and Pottsville of the Pennsylvania State League during the 1893-95 seasons. His time with Reading in 1893 was short, with 13 runs over 6.1 innings, though only three runs were earned. He batted .400 with seven runs and two extra-base hits in nine games. He allowed nine earned runs in 9.1 innings the next season with Pottsville, while batting .355 with 18 runs and ten extra-base hits in 26 games. He hit .351 in 23 games with Pottsville in 1895, while struggling as a pitcher, with 22 runs (13 earned) in nine innings. He also played for Millville of the South New Jersey League for part of that season, though no stats are available.

Smith’s career moved around a lot after that 1895 season, and he made the full-time switch from pitching to becoming a position player during that time. In fact, he ended up putting in more time as a position player, despite the fact that he’s known only for his pitching today. He played until age 41 in 1906, with much of that time spent as an outfielder for Manchester of the Class-B New England League. After his final big league game in 1891, until he settled down in Manchester in 1901, Smith played for 11 different minor league teams (12 if you count Manchester) in eight different leagues. He was a player-manager for six of those teams, including four seasons with Manchester. He also managed briefly in 1906 and 1909 in the minors, giving him a total of 13 seasons as a minor league manager. Smith is credited with a 4.19 ERA in 19.1 innings with Pawtucket of the New England League in 1896. He was mostly a position player that year, hitting .405 with 102 runs, 33 extra-base hits and 21 steals in 89 games. He batted .339 with 51 runs in 63 games for Pawtucket in 1897. His only available stats from 1898 are with Fall River of the New England League, but he also played with Newark and Hartford of the Class-B Atlantic League that year. Smith hit .263 with 34 runs, 12 doubles and seven steals in 43 games for Fall River. He also pitched three scoreless innings in two relief appearances.

Smith played for Portland of the New England League in 1899, when the league was reclassified and Class-F ball. He hit .382 with 69 runs, 32 doubles, three triples and 13 steals in 85 games. He also allowed nine runs over eight innings pitched. He spent all of 1900 with Norfolk of the Class-D Virginia League, and part of 1901 with Norfolk of the Class-C Virginia-North Carolina League. No stats are available from either season. The rest of 1901 was the start of his six seasons with Manchester of the New England League, where he finished out his career. He batted .363 in 73 games to finish out 1901. Smith hit .369 with 29 extra-base hits in 106 games in 1902. He then batted .280 with 11 extra-base hits in 1903. The next season saw him hit .243 with five doubles in 57 games. Smith pitched again in 1905, posting an 11-7 record. He also hit .262 in 41 games. He has no stats available for his final season. He ended up living out his life in Manchester, passing away in 1952 as one of the last players who played during the 19th century. As a big league pitcher, he went 54-74, 3.89 in 1,169.1 innings over 129 starts with 123 complete games. Technically his one start with the Alleghenys in 1884 should be a relief appearance, even though he pitched the entire game (it should also count as Bill Nelson’s debut, but records don’t show that).

Bill Howerton, outfielder for the 1951-52 Pirates. He signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1943 at 21 years old. He was playing semi-pro ball on the west coast before signing his first affiliated pro contract. While he didn’t serve during WWII, he was in minors during that time, and even well beyond the end of the war, debuting with the Cardinals in September of 1949. He debuted at a high level for someone who took so long to make the majors. Howerton played for Scranton of the Class-A Eastern league in 1943, hitting .303 with 71 runs scored, 25 doubles, eight triples, 69 RBIs, 82 walks and an .812 OPS in 139 games. He moved up to Double-A Louisville of the American Association in 1944, which was the highest level of the minors until Triple-A came along in 1946. That year he hit .252 in 133 games, with 62 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and a .681 OPS. He split the 1945 season between Louisville and Scranton, while also seeing brief time in the Class-B Piedmont League with Richmond (no stats available). He combined to hit .247 at the two upper levels in 116 games, with 60 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits and 49 RBIs. Howerton joined Columbus of the American Association (then a Triple-A level) in 1946, where he stayed for the next four seasons. Columbus was an affiliate of the St Louis Cardinals, who acquired Howerton late in the 1946 season. In his first season in Columbus, he hit .302 in 73 games, with 44 runs, 40 RBIs, an .891 OPS and he had exactly 30 extra-base hits for the third straight season. He hit .246 in 150 games in 1947, with 76 runs scored, 29 doubles, 17 homers, 86 RBIs, 85 walks and a .763 OPS. He improved in 1948 to a .299 average in 150 games, with 104 runs scored, 33 doubles, 25 homers, 114 RBIs, 66 walks and an .883 OPS. He was even better in 1949, which finally earned him his shot at the majors at 27 years old. That year for Columbus, he batted .329 in 148 games, with 101 runs scored, 43 doubles, 21 homers, 111 RBIs and 91 walks, resulting in a .963 OPS.

Howerton batted .308/.308/.385 in nine games for the Cardinals to finish out the 1949 season. He put up solid stats in 1950 as a regular, hitting .281 with 50 runs, 38 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs, 47 walks and an .867 OPS in 110 games. Howerton was part of a big seven-player deal between the Cardinals and Pirates in mid-1951 that sent five players to Pittsburgh, while Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake headed to the Cardinals. At the time of his acquisition by the Pirates, he was batting .262/.360/.400 in 24 games, with a homer and four RBIs. With Pittsburgh to finish out 1951, Howerton hit .274 in 80 games, with 29 runs, 12 doubles, 11 homers, 37 RBIs and an .839 OPS. He was put on waivers during the 1952 season and he was picked up by the New York Giants. He was batting .320/.452/.440 through 13 games at the time he was lost on waivers. During the 1952 season, teams started the year with 30 active players, but they needed to cut that down to 25 by May 15th. Howerton was the first cut on May 7th. He played only 11 games in New York, going 1-for-15 with a double and three walks, and then never played in the majors again.

Howerton finished out the 1952 season with Minneapolis of the American Association, where he put up big numbers in 67 games. He had a .307 average, with 57 runs, 24 homers, 61 RBIs and 52 walks, leading to a 1.127 OPS. He played a total of 11 seasons in the minors, finishing out his career in 1955. He spent the 1953-54 seasons with Oakland of the Pacific Coast League and really excelled the first year, hitting 32 homers, while driving in 106 runs. He had an .830 OPS in 159 games. The next season saw him hit .258 in 74 games, with 27 runs, ten extra-base hits and 18 RBIs. In his final season of pro ball, Howerton played 27 games for Beaumont of the Double-A Texas League, where he had a .268 average and a .725 OPS. He hit 145 homers in the minors and had three seasons with 100+ RBIs. In his four big league seasons, he hit .274 in 247 games, with 95 runs scored, 39 doubles, 12 triples, 22 homers and 106 RBIs. While he had 29 steals over his first three seasons in the minors, Howerton finished with one big league stolen base.

Clyde Kluttz, catcher for the 1947-48 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1938 at 20 years old, playing for Johnson City of the Class-D Appalachian League. He batted .318 with 41 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .795 OPS in 79 games that season. Kluttz moved up to Kilgore of the Class-C East Texas League in 1939, where he hit .316 in 110 games, with 31 extra-base hits. He played for two Class-B teams in 1940, splitting the season between Decatur of the Three-I League and Columbus of the South Atlantic League. In a total of 92 games, he hit .248 with 32 extra-base hits (25 doubles). The next year was split between 15 games at Decatur and 83 games for Sacramento of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. Kluttz hit .327 that year with 21 extra-base hits. He had a .797 OPS at the higher level. That strong performance for Sacramento led to him being taken by the Boston Braves in the September 1941 Rule 5 draft. As a rookie in 1942, he hit .267 in 72 games, with 21 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs and a .632 OPS. He had just seven walks and 13 strikeouts all season. He played 66 games in 1943, hitting .246 with 13 runs and 20 RBIs. He had seven extra-base hits (all doubles) and a 15:9 BB/SO ratio. Kluttz hit .249 in 81 games during the 1944 season, with 20 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and a .694 OPS. During the 1945 season, he had a nice feather in his cap moment when he was traded to the New York Giants in a deal for Hall of Famer Joe Medwick. To top things off, the Giants threw in another player in the 2-for-1 deal. Medwick was nearly the end of his great career, but it still looks good on your resume to get traded for a Hall of Fame player (and a second player). Kluttz hit .284 during the 1945 season between both stops, with 34 runs scored, 23 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 98 games.

Kluttz started 1946 with the Giants, but he ended up with the St Louis Cardinals on May 1st. He was actually traded to the Philadelphia Phillies that day, then they turned around and sent him to the Cardinals. Kluttz hit .251 in 57 games that year, with seven extra-base hits (all doubles), 15 RBIs, a .638 OPS and eight runs scored all season. The Pirates purchased Kluttz from the Cardinals in December of 1946. He ended up having the best season of his nine-year career in 1947, hitting .302 with 26 runs, nine doubles, six homers, 42 RBIs and a .790 OPS in 73 games. He also threw out 56.1% of stolen base attempts. A home plate collision on June 8th caused him to miss five weeks with a hand injury. His batting dropped off significantly in 1948. He played 94 games that year and hit .221 with 26 runs, 12 doubles, four homers and 20 RBIs, while watching his OPS drop from .790 in 1947 to .600 in 1948. He still played strong defense according to modern metrics, which credits him with a career best 0.9 dWAR. He also threw on 54% of base runners.

Kluttz ended up spending the entire 1949 season in the minors, hitting .248/.307/.326 in 46 games with Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association. He played for Baltimore of the Triple-A International League in 1950, hitting .291 in 96 games, with 46 runs, 13 doubles, 11 homers and 56 RBIs. He then joined the St Louis Browns near the end of the 1950 season, though he didn’t play in the majors again until 1951. He actually had a lot of movement to get from Pittsburgh to St Louis in a short time. The Pirates released him outright to Indianapolis on January 29, 1949. They had a working agreement with the Pirates at the time, but some of the players were also their own property. Baltimore then purchased his contract on December 6, 1949 from Indianapolis, before the Browns claimed him in September of 1950 under a working agreement with the Orioles. Kluttz played just four games for the Browns in 1951, then moved on to the Washington Senators, where he played the final 111 games of his MLB career over the 1951-52 seasons. He put up strong numbers in 1951, hitting for a .313 average in 57 games, with 17 runs, ten doubles, 23 RBIs and a .787 OPS. His 1952 season saw him hit .229 in 58 games, with seven runs, six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. He played back in Baltimore in 1953, hitting just .192/.216/.253 in 42 games, then he finished his pro career as a manager in 1954-55 for Savannah of the South Atlantic League. Kluttz played two games in 1954. He was a .268 hitter in 656 career big league games, finishing with 172 runs, 90 doubles and 212 RBIs. He hit 19 homers in his career, with more than half (ten) coming while with the Pirates. His career mark for throwing out runners was 50.3%, which ranks as the 14th best percentage all-time.

Joe Rickert, left fielder for the 1898 Pirates. He played just two games for Pittsburgh at the end of the 1898 season, going 1-for-6 at the plate. Three years later, he got his only other chance in the majors, playing 13 games for the Boston Beaneaters. He went 10-for-60 at the plate with them, giving him a .167 average in both of his big league stints. Rickert spent time with the 1899 Pirates, but he never got into any games. He played over 1,800 minor league games from 1898 until he retired in 1915 (his first two years of stats from 1896-97 are unknown, so he actually played more). Rickert was lucky to get into a game when he did for Pittsburgh. The Pirates had three of their last four games rained out, so when he was used during a doubleheader on October 12th, it ended up being the only day he played for the team. He was said to be weak at the plate, but he performed well in the field, catching all ten balls hit his way. His scouting report before joining the Pirates basically said the same thing, with his fielding being as good as anyone, including big league players, but his hitting lagged behind. However, one local paper noted that he was hitting around .400 over the last two months of the season, so there was hope that it was the start of things to come. Rickert’s first career hit came off of Cy Young. In July of 1898, it was said that the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) were in pursuit of him. Later the Boston Beaneaters were also said to be after him, but he ended up being purchased by the Pirates two months later, partially because they were also willing to purchase his teammate Whitey Guese as a package deal.

Rickert debuted in pro ball at 18 years old with Warren of the Iron and Oil League, where he was teammates of Honus Wagner (these stats don’t show up under Rickert’s online stats). He was in the Class-C Interstate League in 1896, and ended up playing for three different teams in the league that year, seeing time with Wheeling, Fort Wayne and New Castle. He spent the 1897 season with a fourth Interstate League team, playing the full year for the Youngstown Puddlers. The league was reclassified as a Class-B level of play that year. Rickert returned to New Castle in 1898, where he hit .277 with 113 runs scored, 41 extra-base hits  and 55 stolen bases in 149 games, before joining the Pirates on September 30th. He was one of three players picked up that day, along with Tully Sparks, who shares his birthday (see below). The Pirates loaned Rickert to Worchester of the Class-A Eastern League for the 1899 season and he returned to the majors on September 12, 1899 while the Pirates were playing in Brooklyn. It was said that he might play some games in left field for the Pirates over the last four weeks of the season, but he never played in any of the final 26 games. He had a strong minor league season that year in the highest level of the minors at the time (Double-A came along in 1912). He hit .293 in 112 games, with 111 runs, 31 extra-base hits and 39 steals.

Rickert was back in Worchester for the 1900 season, and stayed there until joining the Boston Beaneaters for the final three weeks of the 1901 season. There are no stats available from the league for the 1900 season, but we know he did well in 1901, hitting .289 with 39 extra-base hits in 112 games. After his brief time in Boston, he returned to Worcester and stayed there into the 1903 season. Rickert hit .272 with 26 extra-base hits in 127 games in 1902. From there, he played for New Orleans of the Class-A Southern Association during the 1903-04 seasons, while also seeing time with Montreal/Worcester of the Eastern League in 1903. He had a combined .334 average in 95 total games in 1903, hitting over .300 in both spots, but he had much better results with New Orleans. Rickert had a .274 average in 135 games in 1904. He split the 1905 season between Atlanta of the Southern Association and Kansas City of the Class-A American Association, and struggled in both spots. He combined for a .224 average in 134 games. He had 12 doubles and a homer in 56 games with Kansas City. He then returned to New Orleans for the 1906-08 seasons. His limited available 1906 stats show a .254 average in 127 games. He then had a .252 average, 39 runs and 25 steals in 81 games in 1907. Rickert’s final season in New Orleans showed a .230 average in 137 games, with 70 runs and 41 steals.

Rickert dropped down to Class-C ball in 1909, playing for Chattanooga of the South Atlantic League. He had a .231 average in 121 games that season. Rickert was with Danville of the Class-C Virginia League in 1910. That season he had a .247 average and 24 extra-base hits (20 doubles) in 105 games. He struggled at the plate at the lower competition level in 1909-10, then moved up to Topeka of the Class-A Western League and batted much better during the 1911-12 seasons. He had a .281 average and 35 extra-base hits in 152 games in 1911. The Western League was the top level of play in 1911, but with the addition of Double-A in 1912, the league actually dropped down a level, while still staying as a Class-A league. Rickert hit .282 with 18 extra-base hits in 70 games that year. He was released in July and ended up playing 16 games for Manhattan of the Class-D Central Kansas League, where he had a .224 average. He played some local ball in New Orleans in 1913, then decided to retire to go into business in 1914. It was said that he had a strong offer to play in Richmond that season, but turned it down. After not playing in the minors during the 1913-14 seasons, he finished his pro career in the Class-B Texas League with Shreveport in 1915 at 38 years old. He had a .233 average and six doubles in 23 games that season. He was known as “Diamond Joe”, and it was said that he always played winter ball down south, so he was always in great baseball shape. A famous local story from New Orleans told of the time he climbed the ladder they had in the outfield for the scoreboard to rob a home run, and then doubled off a runner.

Tully Sparks, pitcher for the 1899 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1895, playing for Montgomery of the Class-B Southern League (no stats available). He remained in that same league in 1896, splitting the season between Birmingham and Mobile. Sparks went 15-17 that year, with 32 complete games in 34 starts, and 278.1 innings pitched. He’s credited with 160 strikeouts. He played for two teams in the Class-C Texas League, seeing time with Fort Worth and Galveston (no stats available). He made his Major League debut at 22 years old with the Philadelphia Phillies in September of 1897, getting hit hard in his only game with the team. Sparks allowed nine earned runs on 12 hits and four walks in eight innings. He spent the 1898 season in the minors with Richmond of the Atlantic League (no stats available) before being purchased by the Pirates on September 30th, the same day as Joe Rickert, who shares his birthday (see above). There was word that Sparks could appear in one of the remaining games, but he didn’t debut with the Pirates until 1899. He would make 17 starts and 11 relief appearances during the 1899 season, going 8-6, 3.86 in 170 innings.  He had eight complete games, 82 walks and 53 strikeouts. The Pirates sold him prior to the 1900 season to their former catcher/manager Connie Mack, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League, which was a minor league at the time. The Pirates completed the 19-player “Honus Wagner” trade with Louisville in December of 1899, which led to many of the holdover 1899 Pirates being sold off, released or traded.

Sparks spent all of 1900 in Milwaukee, posting a 16-12 record, while throwing 261 innings. He then pitched with the Brewers (current day Baltimore Orioles) in the first season that the American League was considered to be a Major League in 1901. That year he went 7-17, 3.51 in 210 innings, with 18 complete games in 26 starts. Sparks split the 1902 season between the Boston Americans (Red Sox) and the New York Giants, combining to go 11-19, 3.79 in 265.2 innings, with similar results in each stop. He completed 27 of his 29 starts that season. He ended up back with the Phillies for a second time in 1903, and this time he stuck with them for eight seasons and 95 wins. He had an 11-15, 2.72 record in 28 starts in 1903, finishing with 248 innings pitched and 27 complete games. He followed that up in 1904 with a 7-16, 2.65 season in 200.2 innings. He completed 19 of 25 starts and threw three shutouts, after collecting a total of two shutouts in his previous big league time. The Phillies finished 52-100 that season, so his record was in line with the team’s performance. In 1905, Sparks went 14-11, 2.18 in 259.2 innings. He had 20 complete games and once again he record three shutouts. He had his busiest season in 1906, posting a 19-16, 2.16 record in 316.2 innings. He had 37 starts, five relief appearances, 29 complete games, six shutouts and three saves. He also had a career high 114 strikeouts that year, the only time he cracked the century mark in a season. His best season was 1907, when he went 22-8, 2.00 in 265 innings, with 24 complete games and three shutouts in 31 starts. The Phillies finished 83-64 that season.

Sparks had a 16-15, 2.60 record in 263.1 innings in 1908. He completed 24 of 31 starts for the second straight season, and he pitched in relief twice each year as well. That was his last of eight straight seasons with 200+ innings. In 1909, he went 6-11, 2.96 in 121.2 innings over 16 starts and eight relief outings. He pitched three times in the first two months of the 1910 season, before finishing the year in the minors, with Chattanooga of the Class-A Southern Association (highest level of the minors at the time), where he went 8-2 in 11 appearances. He was 0-2, 6.00 in 15 innings for the Phillies that year. He pitched for Montgomery of the Southern Association during the 1911 and 1913 seasons before retiring. He had an 18-12 record in 1911. He was reserved for 1912, but he retired instead, though he came back in 1913 and went 0-3 in 21 innings. Sparks went 121-137 over his 12-year career, posting a 2.82 ERA over 2,343.2 innings. He made 270 starts, completed 203 games and he tossed 19 shutouts. He also pitched 44 times in relief during his career. His actual first name was Thomas, and went by that name most often. A search of “Tully Sparks” during his career didn’t pull up a single reference to that nickname.