Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Mike Fetters, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001-02. He went to high school in Hawaii and he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1983. He decided to attend college at Pepperdine and the move paid off. He was a first round pick of the California Angels in 1986. He took just three years to make his big league debut, though his 1989 season with the Angels consisted of one rough outing in September. He debuted in pro ball with 12 starts for Salem of the short-season Northwest League, where he went 4-2, 3.38 in 72 innings, with 72 strikeouts. Fetters pitched for Palm Springs of the Class-A California League in 1987. He had a 9-7, 3.57 record in 19 starts that year, with 105 strikeouts in 116 innings. He spent most of 1988 with Midland of the Double-A Texas League, where he had an 8-8, 5.92 record in 114 innings over 20 starts. He also made two starts for Triple-A Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League that season and won both games, allowing three runs in 14 innings. Fetters made 26 starts for Edmonton in 1989, going 12-8, 3.80 in 168 innings, with 144 strikeouts, six complete games and two shutouts. He pitched one game for the Angels and allowed four runs in 3.1 innings.
Fetters spent the majority of the 1990 season with the Angels, after posting an 0.99 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 27.1 innings over five starts for Edmonton. He went 1-1, 4.12 in 67.2 innings over 26 games (two starts) with the Angels. The 1991 season was split between Edmonton and the Angels. He was 2-7, 4.87 in 11 starts for Edmonton. He went 2-5, 4.84 in the majors that season, with 44.2 innings spread over four starts and 15 relief appearances. Those starts were the last of his 16-year big league career. Fetters was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on December 10, 1991. He spent the entire 1992 season in the majors, going 5-1, 1.87, with an 0.99 WHIP and two saves in 62.2 innings over 50 appearances. He had a 3-3, 3.34 record in 59.1 innings over 45 games in 1993. He never put up huge strikeout numbers in the majors, but that year he managed to pick up just 23 strikeouts. He moved to the closer role in the strike-shortened 1994 season and picked up 17 saves, to go along with a 2.54 ERA in 46 innings over 42 outings. That was followed up by a 3.38 ERA and 22 saves in 1995, when he threw just 34.2 innings over 40 games. Despite his success in the closer role during the 1994-95 seasons, he combined for a 1-7 win/loss record those years.
Fetters went 3-3 in 1996, when he had a 3.38 ERA for the second straight season. He made 61 appearances, had 61.1 innings pitched, and he saved a career high 32 games, which was the fifth most in the league. In fact, he had just 26 more saves over his last eight seasons in the majors, so that was his peak season as a closer. Fetters went 1-5, 3.45 in 70.1 innings in 1997, finishing with six saves and 51 appearances. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians on December 8, 1997, but that same day he was traded to the Oakland A’s. The A’s would send him to the Anaheim Angels before the 1998 season ended. Fetters went 2-8, 4.30 in 58.2 innings that year between both stops, with better results and more work for Oakland. He pitched 60 games and had five saves. He signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent for the 1999 season, but he had a rough year, posting a 5.81 ERA and 22 walks in 31 innings over 27 games. He suffered a strained right elbow in early June and didn’t return until September. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2000 season and rebounded nicely, going 6-2, 3.24, with five saves in 50 innings over 51 appearances.
Fetters was in his 13th season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him from the Dodgers on July 31, 2001, along with Adrian Burnside, in exchange for Terry Mulholland. Fetters had a 6.07 ERA in 29.2 innings over 34 appearances for the Dodgers that season. He finished the year going 1-1, 4.58 in 17.2 innings over 20 games with the Pirates, recording eight saves. Fetters went 1-0, 3.26 in 32 games in 2002, before the Pirates traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in early July for reliever Duaner Sanchez. Fetters had a 5.11 ERA in 24.2 innings over 33 games to finish the season. He was limited in 2003 to five shutout appearances and six innings with the Minnesota Twins. He needed Tommy John surgery, which ended his season in early August, though he last pitched in late April. He came back for one final season with the Diamondbacks in 2004 and had an 8.68 ERA in 18.2 innings over 23 appearances. He finished with a 31-41, 3.86 record and 100 saves in 716.2 innings over 620 appearances. Despite the long career, his entire playoff record consisted of two outs recorded in the 2002 NLDS.
Jose Silva, pitcher for the 1997-2001 Pirates. He was born in Mexico, but he attended high school in California, where he was a sixth round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1991. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1992, going 6-4, 2.28 in 12 starts, with 78 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. Silva moved up to Low-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League in 1993. There he had a 12-5, 2.52 record in 24 starts, with 161 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. After the season, he was rated as the tenth best prospect in baseball. The next year saw him split the season between High-A with Dunedin of the Florida State League, and Knoxville of the Double-A Southern League. He had similar results at each spot, with a little more time at the higher level. Silva finished with a 4-10, 4.02 record in 134.1 innings, with 112 strikeouts. He was limited to three relief appearances for Knoxville in 1995. His season started late due to injuries suffered in a bad car accident in December of 1994. Those relief outings were rough, with six walks and three hits allowed in two innings. Healthy for most of 1996, he made six starts and 16 relief appearances for Knoxville, going 2-3, 4.91 in 44 innings, which led to his first big league trial. He joined the Blue Jays in September and gave up three runs in two innings over two appearances.
Silva came to the Pirates as one of the key pieces in a nine-player deal with the Blue Jays in November of 1996, with the Pirates sending three veterans to Toronto in exchange for six prospects. Silva spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, making 53 starts and 87 relief appearances. He had a 24-28, 5.44 record in 402 innings during that time. He joined the Pirates for the first time in late June of 1997, and spent about half of the final three months in the majors, going 2-1, 5.94 in 36.1 innings over four starts and seven relief appearances. The rest of the year was spent with Calgary of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he went 5-1, 3.41 in 66 innings over 11 starts and six relief appearances. Silva made a total of five starts for Nashville of the Pacific Coast League during the 1998-99 seasons, otherwise the entire time was spent in the majors. He went 6-7, 4.40 in 100.1 innings over 18 starts for the Pirates in 1998, posting his lowest season ERA that year. The next year he spent more time in the bullpen, making 12 starts and 22 relief appearances. He went 2-8, 5.73 with four saves in 97.1 innings. He went 11-9 in 19 starts and 32 relief appearances in 2000, though he amassed that winning record for a losing team while posting a 5.56 ERA in a career high 136 innings. After posting a 6.75 ERA in 32 innings over 26 relief appearances during the 2001 season, the Pirates traded Silva to the Cincinnati Reds for minor league pitcher Ben Shaffar, who never made the majors. That 2001 season for Silva was cut short on June 3rd when a line drive by Andruw Jones broke his leg.
Silva played one season for the Reds, which was his last year in the majors. He had a 4.24 ERA in 23.1 innings over 12 relief appearances. He played in the minors and Mexico until the winter of 2012-13 before retiring at 38 years old. After his final big league game, he moved around the minors without any success or long trials. The Oakland A’s signed him after the 2002 season, then released him in May of 2003, after he had a 5.04 ERA in 25 innings for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. He signed with the San Diego Padres a week later and he was released after exactly two months, posting a 5.54 ERA in 26 innings for Portland of the PCL during that time. He signed with the Chicago Cubs three days later, and got released 15 days later, after pitching 4.2 innings for Iowa of the PCL. Silva spent the final month of the 2004 season in the minors for the Arizona Diamondbacks, posting a 7.07 ERA in 42 innings with Tuscon of the PCL. He became a free agent after the season and spent 2005 in Mexico, where he went 4-6, 6.03 in 68.2 innings, with 17 saves. He signed with the Texas Rangers in late January of 2006, and got released in early May, after pitching just three games with Oklahoma of the PCL. Silva had an 0.82 ERA over 22 innings in Mexico that year. The rest of his career was spent in Mexico, including six seasons of winter ball.
Silva had an impressive 2007 season between winter and summer, combining to go 8-4, 2.16 with 23 saves and 67 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. He went 5-7, 3.56 in 73.1 combined innings in 2008, with 24 saves and 71 strikeouts. The full 2009 season saw him go 5-5, 2.83 in 98.2 innings, with 27 saves. He made 48 appearances during the summer of 2010, and another 26 in the winter. Combined he went 9-9, 3.23 in 75.1 innings, while accumulating 41 saves. Silva only played summer ball in 2011, when he had a 2-2, 4.05 record and 13 saves in 33.1 innings. His 2012 season was his last for summer and winter ball, and he did much better during the summer, putting up a 4.43 ERA in 20.1 innings. His brief time with two winter clubs saw him allow 15 runs in eight innings. Silva went 25-28, 5.41 in 427 big league innings. He had 53 starts, 101 relief appearances, two complete games and four saves. He went 95-101, 4.16 over all levels of pro ball, picking up 160 saves.
Tommy O’Brien, outfielder for the Pirates from 1943-45. He had spent three seasons in the minors before joining the Pirates for the 1943 season for his big league debut. His pro debut came in 1940, playing most of the season for Anniston of the Class-B Southeastern League. He also saw brief time with two other teams, Spartanburg/Charleston of the Class-B South Atlantic League, and Atlanta of the Class-A Southern League. Between all three stops, he combined to hit .290 with 20 doubles, five triples and 11 homers in 106 games. O’Brien spent the 1941 season with Savannah of the South Atlantic League, where he hit .285 with 23 doubles, three triples and 11 homers in 126 games. He had a strange route to get to the Pirates in 1943. O’Brien played for Atlanta in 1942, hitting .261 with 36 extra-base hits in 129 games. He refused to sign a contract with them the next year due to a salary dispute. Instead of going to Atlanta, he signed with the Pirates on April 16th. He joined the team three days later (two days before Opening Day), but it was only on a trial basis. The Pirates had upwards of a month to decide whether they would return him to Atlanta, or keep him, which they decided to do on May 21st. He played 89 games that rookie season for the Pirates, hitting .310 with 35 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs and an .801 OPS. During a doubleheader on June 6th, he went 5-for-5 in the first game, then collected hits in his first two at-bats in the second game, giving him hits in seven straight at-bats.
O’Brien got into 85 games for the 1944 Pirates, though he received just 178 plate appearances. He hit .250 that year, with 27 runs, six doubles, three homers, 20 RBIs, 21 walks and a .715 OPS. He hit .335/.374/.435 in 58 games during the 1945 season, but missed most of both June and July due to a stomach ailment that reportedly bothered him since he was a football player for the University of Tennessee five years earlier. On June 16, 1945, he was operated on for appendicitis. O’Brien did well as a bench player after his return, posting a .314 average in 51 at-bats, but he had to compete for a job during Spring Training in 1946 because the Pirates had a much stronger outfield. O’Brien was one of the first cuts of the spring, getting sent to Hollywood of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on March 21st. He spent the entire 1946 season in Hollywood, hitting .276 with 47 runs, 17 homers, 73 RBIs and an .815 OPS in 119 games. He was sold to the Rochester of the International League on December 30th, ending his time with the Pirates.
O’Brien hit just .239 with five homers, 42 RBIs and a .650 OPS in 105 games in 1947, then got demoted to Double-A Birmingham of the Southern Association, where he tore the cover off of the ball in 1948. O’Brien hit .359 with 131 runs scored, 51 doubles, 17 homers, 139 RBIs and a 1.011 OPS that season. He played in the majors in 1949 for the Boston Red Sox, getting into 58 games between the 1949-50 seasons, before playing his final three big league games with the Washington Senators in May of 1950. O’Brien hit .224/.336/.336 in 49 games for the 1949 Red Sox, finishing with 24 runs, eight extra-base hits and ten RBIs. He went 4-for-31 with three RBIs and three walks in nine games for the 1950 Red Sox, then went 1-for-9 with an RBI and a walk for the Senators. He finished that year with Louisville of the Triple-A American Association, where he also spent the 1951 season. He hit .263 with an .827 OPS in 93 games to finish out the 1950 season. O’Brien hit .277 in 110 games in 1951, with 55 runs, 28 extra-base hits, 61 RBIs and a .765 OPS. He played back in Birmingham for the 1952-53 seasons, with drastically different numbers. O’Brien hit .315 in 150 games in 1952, with 45 doubles, five triples and 19 homers. He then batted .254 in 75 games in 1953, with 39 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs. He then finished his career in Class-D ball with Orlando of the Florida State League, where he served as a player-manager, playing 64 games over the 1954-55 seasons. He batted .368 in 125 at-bats during that time. O’Brien hit .301 with 85 runs scored, 24 doubles, 14 triples, five homers and 64 RBIs in 232 games with the Pirates.
Lou Koupal, a pitcher for the World Series winning 1925 Pirates team. He debuted in pro ball in 1923 at 24 years old, playing for Hastings of the Class-D Nebraska State League, where he went 11-15 in 210 innings over 30 appearances. His ERA’s aren’t available for his early minor league seasons, but we know he allowed 4.97 runs per nine innings. The Pirates paid $40,000 for Koupal on December 13, 1924, and also had to include young pitching prospect Robert Burns Jr in the deal. That was a large sum of money for the day, but he had just posted a 22-10 record for Omaha of the Class-A Western League, while throwing 274 innings, with 4.04 runs per nine innings. This deal was part of a youth movement by the Pirates, who released 36-year-old pitcher Jeff Pfeffer at the same time, despite him posting a 3.07 ERA during the 1924 season. Koupal was used sparingly during the first two months of his Major League career, getting into a total of six games, all in relief. He pitched just nine innings during that time, giving up 14 hits, seven walks, and he failed to record a strikeout. The Pirates sent him to Kansas City of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) on June 20th, then transferred him to Des Moines of the Western League on August 11th. He finished the 1925 season in the minors, going 1-4, 4.09 in 55 innings for Kansas City, and 3-6 in 65 innings for Des Moines.
Koupal began the 1926 season in the minors, after being one of the last cuts during Spring Training. On April 7th, Pittsburgh announced that he was being sent to Buffalo of the International League, though he remained with the Pirates for four more days as they traveled east. After going 13-5, 4.76 in 155 innings for Buffalo, the Pirates brought him back to the majors on August 25th of that year. He made his first appearance one week later, and he went 0-2, 3.20 in 19.2 innings over six games, in what would be his last year with the Pirates. On November 23, 1926, Koupal was released to Indianapolis of the American Association as part of the return for pitcher Carmen Hill, who was acquired back on September 1st. Koupal played a total of six Major League seasons, also seeing time with the Brooklyn Robins (1928-29), Philadelphia Phillies (1929-30) and St Louis Browns (1937). He joined Brooklyn after going 14-15, 4.58 in 232 innings for Indianapolis in 1927. For the Robins in 1928, he went 1-0, 2.41 in 37.1 innings over 17 appearances, with one start. He had a 5.36 ERA in 40.1 innings with Brooklyn in 1929 before being traded to the Phillies on July 24th. After the deal, Koupal went 5-5, 4.78 in 86.2 innings over 11 starts and four relief outings. He went 0-4, 8.59 in 36.2 innings in 1930, before finishing the season with Baltimore of the Double-A International League, where he also spent the 1931 season. He went 7-4, 4.21 in 94 innings with Baltimore in 1930, then followed it up with a 7-8, 5.51 record in 129 innings in 1931.
Koupal went to the west coast and played for four different teams in the Double-A Pacific Coast League during the 1932-36 seasons. He had a 16-6 record and 183 innings pitched in 1932, splitting the year between Portland and Mission. He then went 16-9, 4.24 in 210 innings for Portland in 1933. He joined Sacramento in 1934, where he had an 11-15, 3.95 record in 212 innings. He remained in Sacramento in 1935, where he had a 12-19, 3.95 record in 239 innings. Before joining the Browns in 1937, he went 23-11, 2.69 in 1936 for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. In his final big league season, Koupal went 4-9, 6.56 in 105.1 innings over 13 starts and 13 relief outings. He returned to the PCL in 1938 and played for a fifth team in the league, spending the 1938-39 seasons with San Francisco. He went 9-16, 5.01 in 210 innings in 1938, followed by a 9-12, 3.86 record in 161 innings in 1939. Koupal won 175 minor league games, playing until the age of 42. His final two seasons were spent against lower competition, playing for Tacoma of the Class-B Western International League in 1940 and Merced of the Class-C California League in 1941. He went 3-4, 3.71 in 51 innings in 1940, then finished up with a 2-3, 4.75 record in 72 innings in 1941. In his big league time, he went 10-21, 5.58 in 335.1 innings over 34 starts and 69 relief appearances. He threw 12 complete games and had seven saves (not an official stat at the time). Koupal wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, and he showed a little wildness in the majors, finishing with a 156:87 BB/SO ratio.
Eddie Yount, pinch-hitter for the 1939 Pirates. Yount didn’t get much of a chance with the Pirates, striking out as a pinch-hitter in consecutive games. His only other Major League experience came with the 1937 Philadelphia A’s shortly after attending Wake Forest, and that was just four games, giving him a total of six big league games over two seasons. The interesting part about him appearing with the Athletics is that when Yount joined the Pirates, the local paper thought it was his Major League debut. He had some minor league experience for Salisbury/Mooresville of the independent Carolina League in 1936, then spent the majority of the 1937 season with Williamsport of the Class-A New York-Penn League, where he hit .293 with 80 runs, 32 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and a .740 OPS in 133 games. He debuted that year in the majors on September 9th and he went 2-for-7 with an RBI for the A’s. He played for three different teams at three different levels in 1938, including the aforementioned Williamsport, as well as Portsmouth of the Class-B Piedmont League, and Oakland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He combined to hit .271 with 21 doubles, six triples and 11 homers in 128 games, with a majority of the time coming with Portsmouth. He spent the 1939 season with Portsmouth, where he hit .350 with 68 runs, 27 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers and 74 RBIs in 137 games.
The Pirates purchased Yount from Portsmouth on July 29, 1939, paying a price that was said to be in the five-figures (later announced to be $15,000). He was also being pursued by the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators at the time. When the purchase was announced, they also said that Yount would remain with his Portsmouth team until early September. He finished with a .350 average that year, but the stats as of the date of his purchase said that he had a .380 average, so he slumped a little after being acquired by Pittsburgh. The Pirates believed that he was 22 years old at the time, though he was actually a year older. That happened quite often back in the day, as it made them look like better prospects if they were younger. Yount joined the Pirates on September 8th and the papers said that he was expected to break into the lineup immediately. His debut came on September 9th, when he led off the bottom of the ninth and struck out as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Bill Swift. The next day he struck out again in the ninth, this time pinch-hitting for pitcher Bill Clemensen. The next day the Pirates gave Yount permission to return home for the winter. He had a job offer that needed to be immediately filled.
Yount was with the Pirates during Spring Training in 1940 until March 19th, when he was optioned to Syracuse of the Double-A International League. After barely playing in Syracuse, the Pirates moved him to Oklahoma of the Class-A Texas League for 23 games and a .197 average, before he was transferred to Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association on June 5th. While he did poorly in five games with Syracuse and during his time with Oklahoma, he finished with a .259 average in 130 games, with 32 extra-base hits. He wasn’t recalled in September, but he rejoined the Pirates for Spring Training in 1941. He lasted until April 12th that year, three days before Opening Day, when he was shipped to Albany of the Eastern League. Eight days later, after refusing to report to Albany, he was sold to Toronto of the International League, ending his time with the Pirates. He spent the entire year with Toronto, hitting .225 in 96 games, with 39 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs. Yount split the 1942 season between Toronto (86 games) and Hamilton of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League, which was a drop of four levels. He combined to hit .227 in 139 games that year, with 22 doubles, one triple and no homers. While he improved after being demoted, it was only a slight improvement, and not what you would expect from a big league player in the lowest level of the minors.
Yount missed three years (1943-45) during WWII. He played in the International League before and after the war, with the league reclassifying from Double-A during his early stint, to Triple-A for the 1946-47 seasons. He was with Toronto for 19 games in 1946, and Buffalo for 69 games that year. He combined to hit .310 in 88 games, with 41 runs, 14 doubles, ten homers, 52 RBIs and a .904 OPS. He spent all of 1947 with Buffalo, hitting .267 in 101 games, with 34 runs, 24 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs. His last four seasons were spent as a player-manager for Newton-Conover of the Class-D Western Carolina League, where he hit at least .305 every season, topping out at a .420 average over 107 games in 1948. That year he played 107 games and finished with 30 doubles, seven triples and 43 homers. He hit .324 in 108 games in 1949, with 109 runs, 29 doubles, eight triples, ten homers, 78 RBIs, 34 steals and a .966 OPS. Yount batted .347 in 108 games in 1950, with 25 doubles, six triples and 26 homers. His final season saw him hit .305 in 51 games, with 16 extra-base hits. He was a manager for Hickory in the Western Carolina League in 1952. He was also referred to as Floyd Yount during his career, which is his given name, though most baseball sources call him Eddie. Yount was a .302 hitter in the minors over 1,326 games.
Ray Poat, pitcher for the 1949 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1939 at 21 years old, playing for a team named (no joke) the Leaksville-Draper-Spray Triplets of the Class-D Bi-State League. Poat went 15-4, 4.45 in 190 innings over 42 appearances. He then moved up to Cedar Rapids of the Class-B Three-I League for the 1940-41 seasons. In his first year, he went 12-8, 4.88 in 168 innings over 33 games. In 1941, he had a 17-6, 2.90 record in 211 innings over 31 games. He compiled a 44-18 record in the minors before joining the Cleveland Indians at the start of the 1942 season. After one start, he was sent to the minors, where he won 15 games and had a 2.86 ERA in 176 innings for Indianapolis of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors until 1946) before returning to Cleveland in September. He threw a complete game shutout in his first game back. He finished 1-3, 5.40 in 18.1 innings over four starts. Poat remained in the majors for all of 1943-44, then worked a war-effort job during the 1945 season. He went 2-5, 4.40 in 45 innings in 1943, with four starts and 13 relief appearances. He then had a 4-8, 5.13 record in 1944, with six starts, 30 relief appearances, and 80.2 innings pitched.
Poat returned to baseball in 1946, playing in the minors for Baltimore of the Triple-A International League, where he stayed until joining the Giants in August of 1947. He won 12 games for Baltimore in 1946, though it came with a 4.07 ERA in his 137 innings of work. He went 11-7, 2.44 in 162 innings with Baltimore in 1947 before joining the Giants. He made seven big league starts to finish out the 1947 season, going 4-3, 2.55 in 60 innings. In 1948, Poat had an 11-10, 4.34 record in 157.2 innings, with 24 starts, 15 relief appearances, seven complete games at three shutouts. He came to the Pirates in a mid-season trade (June 6, 1949) with the Giants that also sent Bobby Rhawn to Pittsburgh, with pitcher Kirby Higbe going the other way. Poat had only been used twice in the first two months of the season by the Giants and he got hit hard each time, allowing a total of six runs in 2.1 innings. He also saw limited time with the Pirates, getting two starts and nine relief appearances over the final four months of the season. He was 0-1, 6.25 in 36 innings with the Pirates. That would end up being his last season in the majors. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1950, but he injured his ankle early in camp, then injured his arm. He didn’t pitch at all before being sold outright back to Baltimore on April 14th. He played one more year in the minors with Baltimore before retiring, going 9-4, 4.63 in 107 innings in 1950. Poat pitched a total of six years in the majors, going 22-30, 4.55 in exactly 400 innings over 47 starts and 69 relief appearances. He picked up half of his career wins during the 1948 season with the Giants.
Art Butler, infielder for the 1912-13 Pirates. His pro career got started in 1909 with Worcester of the Class-B New England League (no stats available for that season). By 1910, he was playing in his hometown for Fall Rivers of the New England League. He hit .267 with 26 doubles, six triples and two homers in 116 games. That led to him joining the Boston Rustlers (Braves), where he stayed until late May of 1911, hitting .177/.263/.206 in 27 games during his first big league trial. He joined St Paul of the Class-A American Association (highest level of the minors until 1912) to finish out 1911, where he hit .259 with 23 extra-base hits in 115 games. Butler saw brief time back with Fall River and Worcester in 1912, but the majority of the season was spent back with St Paul, where he made a name for himself. The Pirates acquired him on August 13, 1912 in a trade with St Paul for infielder Bill McKechnie, the future Hall of Fame manager who had spent parts of four seasons in a Pittsburgh uniform. Butler was hitting .329 with 86 runs and 30 extra-base hits in 115 games at the time of the deal, and his 37 stolen bases ranked near the top of the league.
Butler was considered to be the best player in the American Association prior to the trade, and he came heavily recommended by Pirates scout Billy Murray. While the transaction to acquire him is listed as an even up deal for McKechnie now, the Pirates actually gave up five players to acquire him. Two moved prior to the deal and two after, but the Pirates gave up McKechnie on the same day that they received Butler from St Paul. Other teams made large offers to acquire him, so the Pirates needed to step up their offer as well. Despite being 10.5 games out of first place with 51 games left in the season before he joined them, the Pirates believed that Butler’s presence could help push them over the top. He was the Pirates everyday second baseman after the trade, playing 43 games in which he hit .273 with 19 runs, seven extra-base hits and 17 RBIs. The Pirates went 32-18 (one tie) after acquiring Butler, though they still finished ten games out of first place.
Butler backed up at both second base and shortstop in 1913, getting into 82 games, while hitting .280 with 40 runs scored. Following the season, he was part of a regrettable eight-player trade with the St Louis Cardinals on December 12, 1913 that also included Dots Miller and Chief Wilson. That deal went horribly wrong for the Pirates when Miller outplayed their big get in the deal, first baseman Ed Konetchy, who then jumped from the Pirates to the Federal League after one season. Another piece in the deal, third baseman Mike Mowrey, was released in August of 1914, making it a 5-for-1 deal after one year. Butler was a decent role player for three seasons in St Louis, then semi-retired in 1917, before returning full-time to pro ball in 1918. In his first year in St Louis, he hit .201 in 86 games, with 29 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs, 14 steals and 39 walks. He made 80 starts at shortstop. His best season was 1915, when he batted .254 in 130 games, with 73 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs, 26 steals, 47 walks and a .630 OPS. His average dropped down in 1916 to .209 in 86 games, as he served more of a utility role, playing six different positions and seeing lots of time off of the bench. He had 116 plate appearances total, finishing with nine runs, five doubles, seven RBIs and a .511 OPS.
After not playing in 1917, Butler went on to play 11 more years in the minors without making it back to the majors. He spent time with eight different teams, including a return to St Paul in 1918. His final five seasons were spent in the Class-A Eastern League, seeing time with four teams. He hit .235 in 61 games for St Paul, during a season that was shortened due to the war. Butler played for Milwaukee of the American Association in 1919, hitting .262 in 131 games, with 16 extra-base hits. He played 146 games for Milwaukee in 1920, finishing with a .299 average and 39 extra-base hits. He was with Kansas City of the American Association during the 1921 season, hitting .368 with 50 extra-base hits (35 doubles) in 122 games. He played with Buffalo of the Double-A International League in 1922, hitting .321 in 142 games, with 40 doubles among his 51 extra-base hits. Butler stayed in Buffalo in 1923, where he batted .255 in 111 games, with 22 extra-base hits. He played for Bridgeport of the Eastern League in 1924, putting up a .304 average, 27 doubles and nine triples in 131 games. He joined Albany of the Eastern League in 1925, hitting .323 in 153 games, with 29 extra-base hits. He stayed with Albany in 1926, batting .297 with 18 extra-base hits in 124 games. The 1927 season was split between Hartford and Providence of the Eastern League. Butler hit .337 with 33 doubles in 129 games. He finished up with Providence in 1928, ending with a .309 average and 14 extra-base hits in 103 games. In the majors, he hit .241 in 454 games, with 180 runs scored, 44 doubles, 98 RBIs and 54 steals. He hit just three homers in his career and the last was an inside-the-park homer off of Bob Harmon, who was the third piece going to Pittsburgh in the 1913 Pirates/Cardinals trade.