This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 25th, Pirates Acquire a Legend from Puerto Rico

Only two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus we have two minor transactions of note.

The Players

Dan Serafini, pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1992 out of high school in California. He averaged just over a strikeout per inning his first three seasons of pro ball, though he never dominated at any level on his way up the Minnesota system. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1992, where he had a 3.64 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. He jumped up to Fort Wayne of the Class-A Midwest League in 1993, where he went 10-8, 3.65 in 140.2 innings over 27 starts, with 147 strikeouts. He posted a 1.42 WHIP for a second straight season. Despite strong results in 1993, he stayed at Fort Wayne for the 1994 season. Serafini went 9-9, 4.61 in 136.2 innings, with 130 strikeouts during his second run in the Midwest League. His best ERA in five seasons before his big league debut was the 3.46 mark he put up during the 1995 season, spent mostly in Double-A with Hardware City of the Eastern League. He made 27 starts for Hardware City, and one relief appearance for Salt Lake City of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League that season. Despite compiling his best results, Serafini saw a sharp decrease in his strikeout rate that year, picking 127 in 166.2 innings, after picking up 310 strikeouts in his first 306 innings. He struggled with Salt Lake City  in 1996, posting a 7-7, 5.58 record, a 1.70 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 130.2 innings. Serafini still got a call-up to the majors that year, making a mid-season spot start on June 25th that resulted in a loss and five earned runs over 4.1 innings.

Serafini did just slightly better during his second full season in Triple-A during the 1997 season, going 9-7, 4.97 ERA in 152 innings, with 118 strikeouts and a 1.45 WHIP. His main area of improvement was control, going from 4.0 BB/9IP in 1996 to 3.3 in 1997. He was a September roster addition for the Twins that year, where he posted a 2-1, 3.42 record in 26.1 innings over six games, four of them being starts. Serafini began the 1998 season back in Salt Lake City, but he received an early June recall, then remained with the Twins for the rest of the year. He had a 3.71 ERA in 53.1 innings for Salt Lake City at the time of his recall. He pitched 28 big league games (nine starts), going 7-4, 6.48 in 75 innings, with 46 strikeouts and a 1.65 WHIP. The Twins sold Serafini to the Chicago Cubs just before Opening Day in 1999. He set his big league high with 42 appearances that season, though the results were not good. He had a 6.93 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 65.1 innings. He had just 17 strikeouts, along with 32 walks. Serafini was then traded to the San Diego Padres on December 22, 1999. He lasted just three early April 2000 games with the Padres before being sent to the minors. He gave up six runs over three innings during that brief time, then had a 6.88 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP in 51 innings with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. The Pirates acquired him on June 28, 2000 for a player to be named later (minor league pitcher Andy Bausher).

After posting a 2.68 ERA in 47 innings over seven starts with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, Serafini went 2-5, 4.91 in 62.1 innings over 11 starts with the Pirates, which included a win in his first start on August 5th, and then 7.1 shutout innings in a no-decision against the Padres on September 1st. He was released by the Pirates late in Spring Training 2001. During that 2001 season, he spent time in Triple-A with the San Francisco Giants (Fresno of the Pacific Coast League), New York Mets (Norfolk of the International League) and Milwaukee Brewers (Indianapolis of the International League), but he didn’t see any big league time. He combined to go 8-5, 4.99 in 83 innings split over six starts and 41 relief appearances. Serafini was signed by the Anaheim Angels after the 2001 season ended, but once again he was cut late in Spring Training. He pitched briefly in China in 2002, giving up ten runs in 4.2 innings, then spent the 2003 season with the St Louis Cardinals in Triple-A (Memphis of the Pacific Coast League), as well a team from Mexico (Monterrey), plus some big league time. He had a 9.00 ERA over eight innings with Memphis, then posted a 10-2, 1.59 record in 96.1 innings with Monterrey. He then made it back to the majors with the Cincinnati Reds, where he had a 5.40 ERA in 30 innings over four starts and six relief appearances. Serafini then spent the next 3 1/2 years in Japan before returning to the U.S. with the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

Serafini went 5-4, 4.13 in 80.2 innings in Japan with Chiba Lotte in 2004, with ten starts and 21 relief appearances. He had an 11-4, 2.91 record in 151.1 innings in 2005 for Chiba Lotte, with 22 starts and five relief appearances. He then went 0-4, 9.97 in 21.2 innings in 2006, while playing for Orix. Despite the poor results, he was back with Orix in 2007, where he went 2-5, 5.40 in 45 innings. He then returned to the U.S. with Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League, the affiliate of the Rockies. He went 0-1, 3.48 in 20.2 innings before returning to the majors in September. He saw his last big league time that year and it did not go well. He made three brief appearances and allowed two runs while recording one out, resulting in a 54.00 ERA. He didn’t give up any hits, but all three batters that reached against him (two walks and a hit batter) came around to score. That was also his last shot at affiliated ball, but he ended up playing another six years, mostly in Mexico, before retiring. He also played six years of winter ball during his career, mostly in Mexico.

Serafini went 6-2, 3.48 in 54.1 innings over nine starts in Mexico in 2008. He went 3-3, 4.31 in 48 innings over nine starts and a relief appearance in 2009. He pitched with Bridgeport of the independent Atlantic League in 2010, going 4-1, 3.42 in 50 innings. He was back in Mexico in 2011, posting a 7-5, 4.88 record in 118 innings over 19 starts and two relief appearances. He was back with Bridgeport in 2012, going 5-3, 4.02 in 80.2 innings. He also saw time with two teams in Mexico that season, going 4-3, 7.88 in 48 innings. His final season in Mexico ended after four starts in which he allowed 18 earned runs in 13.2 innings. Serafini went 15-16, 6.04 in 263.2 big league innings, making 33 starts and 71 relief appearances. He is credited with 149 wins and 2,354.2 innings during his entire pro career, which spanned 22 seasons.

Buddy Pritchard, infielder for the 1957 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in February 1957 directly out of college for a $30,000 bonus. The Pirates were one of 12 Major League clubs to put in an offer to Pritchard, back when there were only 16 teams. He had one more year of eligibility left at USC, and planned to remain there until the college was banned from the national tournament that year. Under the rules of the day, any amateur player signing for a large amount fell under the “Bonus Baby” rule, which meant he had to spend the entire 1957 season on the Pirates big league roster. It was meant to keep teams with money from stockpiling all the best amateur talent, but in reality, it was usually bad for the player signing the contract in the long run. Most players who signed those big bonus contracts sat on the end of their team’s bench and Pritchard was no different. Despite being on the roster for the entire 1957 season, he played in just 23 games, and only came up to bat 12 times. He started two games all year and did not play one complete nine-inning game. He batted .091 (1-for-11), though his first (and only) big league hit came off of the great Don Newcombe.  Both of his starts came at shortstop, where he played ten times for a total of 30 innings. He also played second base three times, seeing five innings total. Pritchard handled 19 of his 20 chances in the field cleanly. He did not play after September 1st, partly because he left on September 12th to serve a six-month stint in the Army. He was slightly late to Spring Training in 1958, joining the club straight from his Army service on March 11th. He was cut from the Spring Training roster 16 days later and assigned to Salt Lake City of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

If Pritchard had signed his contract a year earlier, he would’ve had to spend two full seasons in the majors. The Bonus Baby rule was rescinded in 1958, so he was able to be shipped to the minors. He would end up playing eight seasons in the minors for the Pirates before he retired as a player, never making it back to the majors. Pritchard played most of the 1958 season with Lincoln of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .268 in 97 games, with 42 runs, 22 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and a .692 OPS. He also played 11 games for Salt Lake City, where he had a .111 average. On September 29th, the Pirates announced a deal where they acquired the contracts of seven players from Salt Lake City, in exchange for six players, including Pritchard in the latter group. So while he remained a member of the Pirates farm system during the rest of his career, his contract belonged to the minor league affiliates. He played just 652 games over those eight seasons in the minors, only breaking the century mark in games played three times. He spent 1959 with Salt Lake City, hitting .249 in 69 games, with 29 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and a .663 OPS. An ankle injury in early May cost him nearly seven weeks of the season.

Pritchard played for Savannah of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1960. He had a .253 average in 115 games, with 51 runs, 14 doubles, 12 homers, 51 RBIs and a .697 OPS. He spent the 1961-63 seasons with Columbus of the Triple-A International League. He batted .252 in 1961, with 38 runs, 17 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .633 OPS. A knee injury in early 1962 required surgery and caused him to miss a good portion of the season. He hit .275/.314/.344 in 72 games that year, with 27 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs. Pritchard hit .230 over 80 games in 1963, with 23 runs, five extra-base hits, 15 RBIs and a .572 OPS. He moved on to Asheville of the Double-A Southern League for his final two seasons. He batted .304 in 47 games in 1964, with 17 runs, four doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs and an .813 OPS. He was playing semi-pro winter ball in California before and after his time that season with Asheville, though he season was mostly shortened that year due to the birth of his child in August. Pritchard batted .228/.325/.297 in 58 games for Asheville in 1965. He didn’t begin to play until late June of that last season. He finished with a .256 average, 30 homers and a .665 OPS in his minor league career. He would later manage for the Pirates in the Gulf Coast League for two seasons, as well as do some scouting for the team before moving on to a job as an MLB scout. His first name is Harold, but he was usually referred to in print as Buddy (sometimes just “Bud”). He turns 87 years old today.

The Trade

On this date in 1979, the Pirates traded minor league pitcher John Stuper to the St Louis Cardinals for infielder Tommy Sandt. It gave the Pirates a long-time manager and coach, but it also helped the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series. Stuper was an 18th round draft pick in 1978 out of Point Park University. He didn’t make the majors until 1982, but it turned out to be a magical rookie season. He went 9-7, 3.36 in 21 starts and two relief outings, throwing a total of 136.2 innings. He did that despite issuing more walks (55) than strikeouts (53). He started three games in the postseason and the Cardinals won all three, including a complete game in game six of the World Series, saving St Louis from elimination and setting up their victory the next day. Sandt never played in the majors with the Pirates. He was a player until 1981, then took over as a minor league manager for the Pirates in 1982. He even played a handful of games during the 1983-84 seasons. He managed two years in Double-A (1982-83) and then three years for Triple-A Hawaii. He later became a Major League coach with the Pirates for a total of 13 years, including the 1990-92 playoff run. Stuper had a solid 1983 season, but he was out of baseball by the end of the 1985 season, finishing with a 32-28, 3.96 record in 495 innings.

The Transaction

On this date in 1947, the Pirates purchased the contract of pitcher Hi Bithorn from the Chicago Cubs. The transaction had a little more significance before Major League Baseball changed the status of the 1920-48 Negro Leagues to a Major League level of play. Before that new ruling, Bithorn was the first player from Puerto Rico to play in the majors, debuting in 1942. However, he is now the 11th player from his country to play in the majors, 16 years after Gacho Torres debuted as the first for the Newark Stars. Bithorn didn’t last long with the Pirates. He was taken off waivers for the $10,000 fee, and it was said that he had a lame arm at the time. Without pitching an inning of Spring Training, he was sold on waivers to the Chicago White Sox on March 22, 1947. He made his final two big league appearances with the White Sox during the 1947 season, throwing two innings of shutout ball. It was reported six days prior to the waiver sale that he had a torn ligament in his arm and was soon visiting a doctor, with one paper saying “he will miss ten days to two weeks”. Bithorn has a stadium named after him in Puerto Rico, where they Montreal Expos played some of their home games during the 2003-04 seasons. His life came to a tragic ending when he was shot by a police officer in Mexico during winter ball in 1951.