Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including one of the best players in baseball history, and the team’s all-time leader in wins. Before we get into the former players, current relief pitcher Robert Stephenson turns 30 years old today.
Honus Wagner, shortstop for the 1900-17 Pirates. Of all the players mentioned on this site, Wagner should need no introduction. He is one of the all-time greats in baseball history, who just happened to play the last 18 years of his career with the Pirates. He led the league in OPS eight times between 1900 and 1911. He led the league in average eight times during that period. Four times he had the highest OBP, and six times he led in slugging. Wagner had five stolen base titles, four RBI titles, seven times he led the league in doubles, three times in triples and twice each in runs and hits. Nine times he led the league in offensive WAR, and he ranks 44th all-time in defensive WAR. Wagner was in the original group of five Hall of Famers elected in 1936. He ranks third all-time in triples, eighth in hits, tenth in doubles and tenth in stolen bases. He’s the Pirates all-time leader in runs scored, triples, games played (tied with Roberto Clemente) and times on base.
Wagner’s career began in the minors in 1895 at age 21 when he played for four different teams in three different leagues. While no stats are available, we know he played with Lima and Steubenville of the Interstate League, Warren of the Class-C Iron and Oil League, and Adrian of the Class-B Michigan State League. He played for Paterson of the Class-A Atlantic League (highest level of the minors at the time) in 1896, where he hit .313 in 109 games, with 113 runs, 25 doubles, 21 triples, six homers and 43 stolen bases. Wagner was with Paterson (then a Class-B level of play) until July of 1897. He had a .375 average, with 63 runs, 18 doubles, 14 triples, ten homers and 21 steals in 75 games, before joining the Louisville Colonels of the National League. As a rookie in 1897, he batted .335 in 62 games, with 38 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs, 20 stolen bases and an .843 OPS. He broke the 100-RBI mark during his first full season in 1898, when he hit .299 in 151 games, with 80 runs, 29 doubles, ten homers, 105 RBIs, 27 stolen bases and a .751 OPS. He spent most of his time on defense switching between first base and third base. Wagner had a strong 1899 season, hitting .341 in 148 games, with 100 runs scored, 45 doubles, 13 triples, 114 RBIs and 37 steals. His .895 OPS that year ranked him seventh in the NL. He would finish higher than seventh among the league leaders in OPS in each of the next 13 seasons.
After the 1899 season, the National League decided to go from 12 teams down to eight teams. One of those teams being bought out was the Colonels. Their owner Barney Dreyfuss bought into the Pittsburgh Pirates, and with that deal came the famous Honus Wagner trade that changed the face of the Pirates franchise forever. The original deal brought 13 players to Pittsburgh, including Wagner, Fred Clarke, Rube Waddell, Claude Ritchey, Tommy Leach and Deacon Phillippe going to the Pirates. The Colonels got six players and $25,000 in cash, but the Pirates later got a bigger pool of players when Louisville officially folded, with most of the extra players being sold off before the start of the 1900 season.
In his first year in Pittsburgh, Wagner won his first batting title with a .381 average, which ended up being his career high. That was an impressive number considering that the level of player in the majors was at a high during his career, with just eight big league teams for the only time. Wagner also led the league with 45 doubles, 22 triples, a .573 slugging percentage and career best 1.007 OPS. He surpassed 200 hits for the first time, scored 107 runs, picked up 100 RBIs and he stole 38 bases. The Pirates won their first NL title in 1901 and Wagner was a big part. He hit .353 that season, and led the league with 126 RBIs, which stood as a Pirates record for 26 years until Paul Waner set the still-standing record. Wagner scored 101 runs and secured his first stolen base title with 49. He also had 37 doubles, 11 triples and six homers, leading to a .911 OPS. The Pirates had their best season ever in 1902, going 103-36. Wagner batted .330 in 136 games, while leading the league in both runs (105) and RBIs (91). He also led the NL with 30 doubles, 42 steals, an .857 OPS and a career high 14 hit-by-pitches. He had 16 triples that year, which he topped five times in his career. The last time a Pirates player hit more than 16 triples in a season was 1944. Wagner posted a 7.3 WAR that year, tops in the NL for position players.
The World Series was created during the 1903 season, when Wagner helped the Pirates to their third straight NL title. He won his second batting title with a .355 average, and he led the league with 19 triples. He had 97 runs, 30 doubles, 101 RBIs, 46 stolen bases and a .931 OPS. Wagner hit just .222/.323/.259 in the World Series, with two runs, three RBIs, three steals and three walks. The 1903 season was his first full season at shortstop. He played 105 games there during the 1901-02 seasons, but he played 115 games in the outfield during those years, while also getting in 31 starts at first base. Many people who saw him play said that he was the best defensive player wherever he played. Wagner had a huge year in 1904. He led the NL with a .349 average, .423 OBP, .520 slugging, a .943 OPS, 45 doubles and 53 stolen bases. It was the first of four times that he led the league in all three slash line categories (AVG, OBP, Slugging). He added 97 runs, 75 RBIs, and his 59 walks were a career high at the time. As good as all of his seasons were prior, Wagner had a better season in 1905, compiling 10.2 WAR, which was the second highest mark of his career. It was the fifth time he led the league in WAR for position players. While that stat was obviously unknown at the time, he was already considered by many to be the best player in the game. Wagner batted .363 in 147 games, with 114 runs scored, 32 doubles, 14 triples, 101 RBIs, 57 steals and a .932 OPS. His 2.7 WAR on defense was the second best mark of his career, though it was his best at the time.
Wagner picked up his fourth batting title in 1906, putting up a .339 average. He led the league with 103 runs scored, 38 doubles and an .875 OPS. He added 71 RBIs, 53 steals and 58 walks. He finished with nine triples that season, the only time during an 11-year stretch (1899-1909) that he didn’t reach double digits in triples. While this season doesn’t really stand out among his greatness, it was the first time that he led the league in WAR (9.3). The first five times he led all position players in that category, he was topped by at least one pitcher. He led in all three slash line categories again in 1907, hitting .350, with a .408 OBP, a .513 slugging percentage and his .921 OPS. He also led the league with 38 doubles and set a career high with 61 steals, which was the second highest mark in team history to that point. He had 98 runs, 14 triples, six homers and 82 RBIs. His 9.0 WAR gave him a second straight season in which he topped the entire league. The 1908 season ended up being the best in his career, compiling 11.5 WAR, which is a team record for position players. Wagner led the NL with 201 hits, 39 doubles, 19 triples, 109 RBIs, 53 steals, a .354 average, a .415 OBP, a .542 slugging and a .957 OPS. His 205 OPS+ is a team record. He didn’t lead the league in runs, but he still had 100 runs scored that season.
The Pirates went to the World Series in 1909, and Wagner once again led the team. He was the league leader with a .339 average, .420 OBP, .489 slugging, .909 OPS, 100 RBIs and 39 doubles. He also added 92 runs, 35 steals and 66 walks. That was his third straight season in which he led the league in all three triple slash categories. Possibly the most amazing part of his season is that he skipped Spring Training, though he was staying in shape by playing for a basketball team in the Pittsburgh area. Wagner got some heat for his hitting during the first World Series, but he made up for that in 1909. He batted .333/.467/.500 in the seven-game series, with six RBIs and six steals, as the Pirates won their first World Series title. The 1909 season marked the end of Wagner’s decade-long utter dominance over the NL, but he still had his final batting title ahead of him. He hit .320 in 1910, while leading the league with 178 hits, to go along with 90 runs, 34 doubles, 81 RBIs, 24 steals, 59 walks and an .822 OPS. Wagner won his eighth batting title with a .334 mark in 1911, while also leading the league with a .903 OPS. He had 87 runs, 48 extra-base hits, 89 RBIs, 20 steals and a career high 67 walks. He hit .324 in 1912, while cracking the 100 RBI mark (101) for a ninth time. He added 91 runs, 35 doubles, 20 triples, 26 steals and 59 walks. His 3.0 dWAR was the best of his career. He also finished second in the NL MVP voting, an award that was only around at the end of his career. His .891 OPS was the 14th straight season he surpassed an .800 OPS during the deadball era. It was also his last season reaching that mark.
Wagner hit .300 (finished exactly .300) for the final time in his career in 1913. He topped out at a .287 mark over his final four seasons. In addition to his 16th .300+ season at the plate, he also had 51 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 56 RBIs, 21 steals and a .734 OPS in 114 games. His played just one game out of the first 20 games of the season in 1913 due to a knee injury. He still managed to finish eighth in the MVP voting. In 1914 at age 40, Wagner batted .252 in 150 games, with 60 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs, 23 steals, 51 walks and a career low .634 OPS. He hit .274 over 156 games in 1915, with 68 runs, 32 doubles, 17 triples, 78 RBIs, 22 steals, a .747 OPS and a 5.6 WAR. That last number was helped by his defense and the fact that it was the peak of the deadball era, so those hitting numbers were actually well above league average. That year was his 19th straight season with at least 20 stolen bases. Wagner batted .287 in 123 games during the 1916 season, with 45 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs and a .721 OPS. Near the end of his career, he moved over to first base, as injuries took their toll during his final year at 43 years old. He played just 74 games that year and put up a .265/.337/.304 slash line in 264 plate appearances.
Wagner hit .328 in 2,433 games for the Pirates, collecting 2,967 hits, 1,521 runs scored, 551 doubles, 232 triples, 82 homers, 1,474 RBIs and 639 steals. Including his time in Louisville, he had a .328 average, with 3,420 hits, 1,739 runs scored and 1,732 RBIs. After his playing days, he was a long-time coach for the Pirates. The #33 he wore as a coach was retired by the team in 1956. His brother Albert Wagner played in the majors in 1898, and had a long career in minor league ball. He’s known as Butts Wagner for an unknown reason, and my own extensive searches couldn’t find a single reference to that nickname until long after he passed away.
Wilbur Cooper, pitcher for the Pirates from 1912 until 1924. He began his pro career one year prior to joining the Pirates. Playing for three different teams and three different levels in Ohio at 19 years old, Cooper went 20-14, while pitching 43 games. Most of that year was spent with Marion of the Class-D Ohio State League, where he went 17-11. He pitched one game for Mansfield of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and he threw 45.1 innings over eight games for Columbus of the Class-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He began 1912 back with Columbus (then a Double-A team after the level was added to the minors in 1912), where he went 16-9, 2.76 with a 107:117 BB/SO ratio in 218.2 innings over 31 games, before being brought to Pittsburgh in late August to make his big league debut. The deal at the time between Columbus and Pittsburgh, which was made on August 24, 1912, also included Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler (then a pitcher), who never ended up with the Pirates. Cooper was required to join the Pirates immediately, but the payment for the two players would be a group of players who would join Columbus at a later date. The local papers reported that eight teams made cash offers for Cooper, but Columbus wanted players. Cooper made quite an impression during his first five weeks with Pittsburgh at the end of the 1912 season, going 3-0, 1.66 in 38 innings. He pitched mostly out of the pen in 1913, throwing a total of 30 games (nine starts) and 93 innings, while putting up a 5-3, 3.29 record. He moved to a starting role in 1914 and never looked back during his final 11 seasons in Pittsburgh.
Cooper went 16-15, 2.13 in 1914, with 34 starts, 19 complete games and 266.2 innings pitched. He had 102 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP. He put up a poor showing with a 5-16, 3.30 record in 1915, while throwing 185.2 innings. He made 20 starts and 18 relief appearances that year. That 3.30 ERA sounds good, but it was the deadball era, so he was actually 55 points above league average. The Pirates finished with a 65-89 record in 1916, and Cooper posted a mediocre 12-11 record, though it came with a terrific 1.87 ERA, which ranked fourth in the league. That year he made 23 starts and 19 relief appearances, compiling 246 innings pitched. He had 16 complete games, two shutouts, 111 strikeouts and a 1.07 WHIP. The 1917 season was the beginning of the peak of his career. He would win 17 games that year, which was a total he would meet or exceed in each of the next seven years. The Pirates as a team finished with just 51 wins that year. Cooper had a 17-11 record, while the team was 34-92 in all other decisions. He had a 2.36 ERA and threw a career high (at the time) 297.2 innings. His seven shutouts that year were a career high. He had 23 complete games, 99 strikeouts and a 1.11 WHIP.
Cooper went 19-14, 2.11 in 1918, throwing 273.1 innings and the Pirates improved to a 65-60 record. He lost out on a chance for 20 wins because the season ended early due to WWI. He completed 26 of his 29 starts that season, while throwing two shutouts. He had 117 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP. He had a similar season in 1919, going 19-13, 2.67 in 286.2 innings, with a league leading 27 complete games. He had 106 strikeouts and a 1.06 WHIP. Despite a strong season on paper, he led the National League in earned runs allowed, homers and hit batters. His ERA that season was still five points below league average, so it wasn’t a poor showing by any means, more of a product of a large workload, as he finished third in the league in innings pitched. Cooper won a career high 24 games (with 15 losses) in 1920 for a team that finished just over the .500 mark. He had a 2.39 ERA in a career high 327 innings. He made 37 starts, seven relief appearances, and he threw 28 complete games. He had a 1.10 WHIP and 114 strikeouts. He followed that up with an National League leading 22 wins in 1921. He also led the league in games started with 38, and he set a career high with 29 complete games and 134 strikeouts. Cooper finished with exactly 327 innings pitched for the second straight season. His ERA jumped to 3.25 that year, but that was a by-product of the end of the deadball era. Spitballs and other pitches that affected the look/feel of baseballs were outlawed, while MLB decided also not to keep baseballs in play as long, which led to much better offense. His 1.29 WHIP that season was the highest of his career up to that point.
Cooper went 23-14, 3.18, with a 1.33 WHIP over 294.2 innings in 1922, while throwing a league leading 27 complete games. While his 129 strikeouts fell short of his season high set the previous year, his strikeout rate actually improved that season. He had a strange season as far as his win-loss record in 1923. Cooper finished 17-19, 3.57 in 294.2 innings, leading the league in losses and games started (38). The Pirates finished 87-67 that year, and his ERA was 42 points below league average, yet he somehow ended up with a losing record. His 1.36 WHIP was his highest mark while with the Pirates. He had a very odd career stat line for innings that showed him finish with 327 innings for two straight season (1920-21) and 294.2 innings for two straight seasons (1922-23). He reached the 20-win mark in 1924 for the fourth time in his career, finishing 20-14, 3.28 in 268.2 innings, with a league leading four shutouts. After the 1924 season, the Pirates decided to ship the 32-year-old to the Chicago Cubs in a six-player deal, which actually worked out great for the team, despite the Pirates giving up the three biggest names at the time. Charlie Grimm and Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville both went to Chicago, while George Grantham, Vic Aldridge and Al Niehaus came back to Pittsburgh.
Cooper pitched just two more seasons in the majors after leaving Pittsburgh, winning a total of 14 games over that time. He went 12-14, 4.28 in 212.1 innings for the 1925 Cubs. He joined the Detroit Tigers mid-season in 1926 via waivers after posting a 4.42 ERA in eight starts for the Cubs. He went 0-4, 11.20 in eight games (three starts) with Detroit, then finished the year in the minors. It wasn’t unusual for MLB stars to continue on in the minors because often times their salary wasn’t much lower in the minors, since they were a star attraction for their teams. Cooper ended up pitching until 1930, ending his career with 296 wins as a pro over 20 seasons. In the majors over 15 seasons, he went 216-178, 2.89 in 3,480 innings, with 406 starts, 279 complete games and 35 shutouts. He pitched 111 times in relief and he saved 14 games. Among the Pirates all-time leaders, he ranks first in both wins with 202, and complete games with 263. He’s second to Bob Friend in both innings pitched and games started, third in strikeouts and fourth in shutouts. Cooper ranks 86th all-time in wins, tied with Charlie Hough and Curt Schilling. He ranks 85th in ERA for pitchers who played at least ten seasons in the majors. Cooper was a decent hitting pitcher, batting .239/.269/.309 with six homers during his career, while keeping in mind that he mostly played during the deadball era. He didn’t hit a single homer during his first ten seasons, then belted four in the 1922 season, including an inside-the-park homer on August 23rd. He hit .346 during the 1924 season, which was well above his second best season in that category. Cooper’s actual first name was Arley. Wilbur was his middle name.
After being let go by Detroit in 1926, Cooper played out the season with Toledo of the American Association. He went 2-5, 4.25 in 55 innings. He played for Oakland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League during the 1927-28 seasons. He went 15-12, 3.35 in 231 innings during the 1927 season. He followed that up with a 10-16, 3.48 record over 212 innings in 1928. Cooper dropped down to Shreveport of the Class-A Texas League in 1929, where he posted a 17-9, 4.27 record in 232 innings over 30 starts. His final season of pro ball was split between Shreveport and San Antonio of the Texas League. He had a 3-11 record that year in 104 innings, with 13 starts and 11 relief appearances.
Bronson Arroyo, pitcher for the Pirates from 2000 until 2002. He was a third round draft pick of the Pirates in 1995 at 18 years old out of Hernando HS in Florida. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 1995, going 5-4, 4.26 in 61.1 innings, with nine walks and 48 strikeouts. He went 8-6, 3.52 in 135.2 innings over 26 starts in 1996 with Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He had 107 strikeouts and a 1.17 WHIP. Arroyo went 12-4, 3.31 in 24 starts during the 1997 season, with 121 strikeouts and a 1.17 WHIP in 160.1 innings with Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League. He struggled the next season in his first try at Double-A with Carolina of the Southern League, going 9-8, 5.46 in 127 innings over 22 starts (and one relief outing), finishing with 90 strikeouts and a 1.65 WHIP. Arroyo was able to win 15 games while repeating the level in 1999, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A for three starts. The Pirates Double-A affiliate switched to Altoona of the Eastern League in 1999, where he went 15-4, 3.65 in 153 innings, with 100 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP. His Triple-A time with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League did not go well that year, finishing up with a 10.38 ERA in 13 innings. Arroyo was pitching well through 13 starts in 2000 at Nashville, going 8-2, 3.65 in 88.2 innings, when the Pirates called him up and put him in the rotation. After pitching poorly, he was moved to the bullpen, although he ended up making three September starts. Arroyo finished 2-6, 6.40 in 71.2 innings over 12 starts and eight relief appearances for the 2000 Pirates. He had 50 strikeouts and a 1.73 WHIP.
Arroyo opened up the 2001 season in the majors, but after his ERA rose to 6.24 in June, he was sent to Nashville. He returned to Pittsburgh for a spot start in July, then came back in August, pitching better to finish out the season. He had a 5-7, 5.09 record and a 1.51 WHIP in 88.1 innings for the 2001 Pirates. His time with Nashville that year amounted to a 6-2, 3.93 record in 66.1 innings. He spent most of 2002 with Nashville, where he went 8-6, 2.96 in 143 innings, with 116 strikeouts and a 1.08 WHIP. He got called up three different times throughout the season, twice for just one game. He ended up making four starts and five relief appearances for the 2002 Pirates, posting a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings. Arroyo was put on waivers just prior to Spring Training in 2003, where he was picked up by the Boston Red Sox. He would end up winning 139 games after leaving Pittsburgh. After spending most of 2003 in the minors with Pawtucket of the International League, he established himself as a reliable everyday starter in 2004. Arroyo went 12-6, 3.43 in 24 starts for Pawtucket in 2003, with 155 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP in 149.2 innings. He did well in six relief appearances for the 2003 Red Sox, posting a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings. However, he really began to establish himself the next year in Boston. He had a 10-9, 4.03 record, a 142 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP in 173.1 innings in 2004, with 29 starts and three relief appearances. He started a string of six straight seasons with 200+ innings in 2005. He missed nine straight years of 200+ innings by throwing “just” 199 innings for the 2011 Cincinnati Reds.
Not only did the Pittsburgh give up on Arroyo too soon, but so did the Red Sox. Despite throwing 205.1 innings in 2005, while posting a 14-10 record, his personal success was more a product of the team’s success. He had a 4.51 ERA that season for a team that won 95 games. He still had an acceptable 1.30 WHIP, but he struck out 100 batters that season, despite cracking the 200 inning mark for the first time. Arroyo was traded to the Reds prior to the 2006 season, and he responded with a 14-11, 3.29 record and a 1.19 WHIP in 240.2 innings, while leading the National League with 35 starts. His 184 strikeouts that season set a career high. He made his only All-Star appearance that year, and he got his only MVP votes as well, finishing 23rd in the voting. Arroyo saw his ERA go up to 4.23 in 2007 and 4.77 in 2008. He had a 9-15 record, a 1.40 WHIP and 156 strikeouts, while throwing 210.2 innings over 34 starts in 2007. He led the league with 34 starts in 2008, when he had a 15-11 record and exactly 200 innings pitched. His 163 strikeouts that year gave him his best strikeout rate of his career (7.7 per nine innings), but his WHIP went up to a 1.44 mark. Arroyo was better in 2009, when he put up a 15-13, 3.84 record in 220.1 innings, though that year began a decline in his strikeout rate. After average 168 strikeouts per season over the 2006-08 seasons, he topped out at 129 strikeouts in a season (2012) during the rest of his career. He improved to a 1.27 WHIP, which was just the start of his improved pitching from the 2007-08 seasons.
Arroyo went 17-10, 3.88 in 215.2 innings during the 2010 season, with a 1.15 WHIP and 121 strikeouts. He received mild Cy Young support, finishing 12th in the voting. He also won the Gold Glove award for the only time in his career. He dropped down to a 9-12, 5.07 record and a 1.37 WHIP in 2011, which caused him to miss that 200 inning mark for the only time during the 2005-13 stretch. That 2011 season was a rough year at 34 years old, but he still two more solid years left with the Reds. Arroyo had a 12-10, 3.74 record in 202 innings in 2012, with 129 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP. He then went 14-12, 3.79 in 2013, while throwing 202 innings for a second consecutive season. He had 124 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP that season. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for 2014, where he lasted 14 games before needing Tommy John surgery. At the time, he had a 7-4, 4.08 record in 86 innings. The timing of the injury and subsequent surgery caused him to miss the entire 2015 season.
Arroyo had elbow and shoulder problems in 2016, which limited him to just two minor league starts, as he attempted to come back. He was back with Reds again in 2017, going 3-6, 7.35 in 14 starts over 71 innings, which ended up being his final time in pro ball. In between his time with the Diamondbacks and his return to Cincinnati, Arroyo was also a member of the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, though the only action he saw with those teams was two rehab games for the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He finished with a 148-137, 4.28 record in 2,435.2 innings, with 383 starts, 16 complete games, six shutouts and 1,571 strikeouts. With the Pirates, he had a 9-14, 5.44 record in 187 innings over 29 starts and 24 relief appearances.
Clarence “Steamboat” Struss, pitcher for the Pirates on September 30, 1934. His only Major League game was a start in game two of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs at the end of the 1934 season. The Pirates lost the opener 8-2, which dropped them a game below .500 with a 74-75 record. Struss faced off against another rookie making his first start named Charlie Wiedemeyer during the second game. It is doubtful that either pitcher knew that would be their last game in the majors that day. Steamboat would pitch seven innings, allowing six runs on seven hits and six walks, while picking up the loss that day. Five of the runs he allowed were earned, and he struck out three batters. Struss actually made his debut in a Pirates uniform 25 days earlier, pitching and losing 4-3 in an exhibition game against a team from Hazelton, PA. He pitched a total of ten seasons in the minors, retiring after the 1941 season with a 76-88 record in the minors. His first two seasons of pro ball were spent with Rock Island of the Class-D Mississippi Valley League, where he debuted at 22 years old in 1931. He had an 8-13, 4.59 record in 208 innings that year, while issuing 143 walks, which led to a 1.69 WHIP. He improved to a 15-13 record in 1932. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed two fewer runs per nine innings that year (4.46) over the previous season (6.45). Struss had major control issues that season as well, walking 170 batters in 238 innings, which led to a 1.60 WHIP. He pitched for Peoria of the same league in 1933, though it was reclassified that year to a Class-B level of play. He went 12-4, 3.37 in 147 innings, with 105 walks and a 1.62 WHIP.
Struss had a 14-18, 4.36 record in 266 innings for Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association during the 1934, season before joining the Pirates. His walks were still high (141 free passes), but he lowered his WHIP to a 1.41 mark. He was sold to the Pirates on July 26th, which came as a surprise to the locals, who already thought he was property of the Pirates. The Little Rock team cleared up the misunderstanding by stating that they (Little Rock) purchased him outright on recommendation from a scout of the Pirates. He joined the Pirates after pitching his final game for Little Rock on August 30th. Struss was a fastball pitcher, who Pirates scout Carleton Molesworth expected big things from during the 1935 season. During his first day with the club, they said that he was known as “the strikeout king of the dixie”, though his minor league strikeout numbers are mostly missing at this point. The Pirates released Struss on option to Kansas City of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time) on February 16, 1935. He was slowed that minor league season by a Spring Training illness, and an arm injury mid-season. While he still managed to pitch 217 innings, he finished with a 12-12, 5.17 record. A low hit rate helped him to a 1.16 WHIP. He was with the Pirates during Spring Training in 1936, and he was actually with the team for the first nine days of the regular season, but he was sold outright to Los Angeles of the Double-A Pacific Coast League on April 23, 1936.
Struss saw limited time once he reached Los Angeles in 1936, and he was mostly ineffective over the 1936-39 seasons. He had a 5.19 ERA in 52 innings in 1936, then spent the next three years playing in the Class-A Texas League, joining a new team each year. He had a 1-5, 4.10 record over 90 innings for Tulsa in 1937. That was followed by a 6.53 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 73 innings for Dallas in 1938. He had a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings for Fort Worth in 1939, posting an 0-6 record and a 2.05 WHIP. He played semi-pro ball in Texas in 1940, followed by finishing up his pro career in 1941 with two different teams, spending most of the year with Waterloo of the Class-B Three-I League, where he went 10-10, 3.15 in 160 innings. He’s also credited with 11 innings over seven appearances with St Paul of the Double-A American Association. He was back in the semi-pro circuits (in Indiana) in 1942, and was still making headlines as late as 1944 for his pitching work. He had the nickname Steamboat in the minors, but was referred to as “Steamer” more in the majors.
Earl Grace, catcher for the Pirates from 1931 until 1935. Grace debuted in the minors in 1925 at 18 years old, seeing time with Little Rock of the Southern Association and Lincoln of the Western League, both Class-A leagues at the time. No stats are available for that season. He dropped down to Muskegee of the Class-C Western Association in 1926, where he had a .298 average in 69 games, with 20 extra-base hits. He played for the independent Phoenix Senators in 1927, which was a club that would become a minor league team during the 1928 season in the Arizona State League. Grace hit seven homers in 1927, which led the league and earned him a $50 wristwatch. He returned to Little Rock during the 1928 season, where he batted .336 in 90 games, with 14 extra-base hits. He began his big league career in 1929 with the Chicago Cubs, making the Opening Day roster. He played 27 games that season, hitting .250/.333/.338, with two homers and 17 RBIs. He was sent to Reading of the Double-A International League (highest level of the minors at the time) in late June, where he stayed through the end of the 1930 season. He had a .255 average and 21 extra-base hits over 65 games for Reading in 1929. He then improved to a .324 average over 137 games in 1930, with 34 doubles, six triples and ten homers. Offense was up all around baseball that year, so those numbers don’t really stand out as much as they would most years.
After spending all of 1930 in the minors, Grace made the Cubs Opening Day roster again in 1931. He played just seven games over the first month of the season, hitting .111/.385/.111 in 14 plate appearances, before Chicago sent him to the Pirates in exchange for catcher Rollie Hemsley on May 29th. In was swap of 24-year-old catchers, although Hemsley had much more Major League experience at the time. Grace would hit .280 for the Pirates that year, collecting eight runs, eight extra-base hits and 20 RBIs in 47 games, while striking out just five times in 167 plate appearances. The following season saw him catch a career high 114 games. He led the league with a .998 fielding percentage, which was a Major League record for catchers at the time. He batted .274 that season, with 41 runs, 17 doubles, five triples, eight homers, 55 RBIs and a .710 OPS. He split the catching duties over the next three seasons, mostly with Tom Padden, getting about half the games behind the plate. Grace set a career high with a .720 OPS in 1933. He batted .289 in 93 games, with 22 runs, 17 extra-base hits and 44 RBIs. He hit .270 over 95 games in 1934, with 27 runs, 17 doubles, four homers, 24 RBIs and a .694 OPS. Grace saw his average and playing time slip in 1935, finishing with a .263 average over 77 games, though his .704 OPS was in line with his production during his time in Pittsburgh. He had 19 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs that season.
Shortly after the 1935 season ended, Grace was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, along with rookie pitcher Claude Passeau, in exchange for catcher Al Todd. It turned out to be an awful trade, though the swap of catchers had little to do with that outcome. Passeau was a solid pitcher for a long time after the deal. Grace hit .275 for the Pirates, with 117 runs scored, 19 homers and 172 RBIs in 427 games. He would play two seasons for the Phillies in a platoon role, hitting .230/.332/.349, with 43 runs, 21 doubles, ten homers and 61 RBIs, while posting a 67:35 BB/SO ratio. He played 86 games in 1936, then got into 80 games in 1937. Grace received 257 plate appearances in his final year with the Pirates, then had 257 and 258 plate appearances during his two seasons in Philadelphia. He hit just .211 during the 1937 season, finishing with a career low .658 OPS. He was then sent to the minors to finish out his pro career three years later. He played for Minneapolis of the Double-A American Association during all three seasons, though he also saw times with other clubs in both 1938 (Columbus of the American Association) and 1939. Grace combined to hit .233 over 117 games in 1938, with 38 runs, 13 doubles, 11 homers and 50 RBIs. He played a total of 65 games in 193, putting up a .229 average and 11 extra-base hits. He had a .726 OPS during his time with Minneapolis that season. His 1940 season consisted of one game. He finished up his big league career with a .263 average in 627 games over eight seasons, with 169 runs, 83 doubles, 31 homers and 251 RBIs. He stole just one base in his big league career, but he was caught five times.