This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 4th, The Hall of Fame Pitcher Who Got Away

There have been nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Richard Rodriguez, pitcher for the 2018-21 Pirates. He was signed by the Houston Astros as an international amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 at 20 years old. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League, where he had a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings over five starts. Rodriguez pitched just four late-season games in the Gulf Coast League in 2011, where he allowed four runs in 3.2 innings. He pitched for Greeneville of the short-season Appalachian League in 2012, posting a 3.90 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. He also made one start for Lexington of the Low-A South Atlantic League, giving up one run in three innings. The 2013 season was split between Quad Cities of the Low-A Midwest League and Tri-City of the short-season New York-Penn League. He made 30 appearances that year, all in relief, finishing with a 4.47 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. He was much better at the lower level, putting up a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings, compared to a 7.33 mark with Quad Cities. Rodriguez played for three teams in 2014, starting with High-A Lancaster of the California League. He also bounced between Double-A Corpus Christi of the Texas League and Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League. He combined to go 2-2, 3.62, with 67 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP in 59.2 innings over 34 appearances. He made five appearances in the Dominican winter league that off-season, though that amounted to 3.2 innings.

Rodriguez started off 2015 with Fresno of the Pacific Coast League (new Astros affiliate that year), going 5-0, 2.57 in 42 innings over 23 games. He was sold to the Baltimore Orioles mid-season, then split the rest of the year between Double-A Bowie of the Eastern League (1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings) and Triple-A Norfolk of the International League (3.54 ERA in 20.1 innings). He pitched briefly in the Dominican again that winter, putting in 2.2 innings over two appearances. Rodriguez spent the entire 2016 season with Norfolk, where he went 6-2, 2.53 with 81 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP in 81.2 innings over 48 appearances. That winter he had a 2.13 ERA in the Dominican, with 24 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. He spent the majority of the 2017 season with Norfolk again, compiling a 2.42 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, ten saves and 80 strikeouts in 70.2 innings over 42 outings. He pitched five September games for the Orioles, where he allowed nine runs in 5.2 innings. Rodriguez signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent that winter. At the time, he was in the middle of posting a 4.22 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 21.1 innings in the Dominican. Except for five scoreless innings and nine strikeouts over two appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, the entire 2018 season was spent with the Pirates in the majors. He had a 4-3, 2.47 record in 63 appearances, with 88 strikeouts and a 1.07 WHIP in 69.1 innings.

Rodriguez went 4-5, 3.72 in 65.1 innings for the 2019 Pirates, with 63 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP in 72 appearances. He ranked eighth in the National League in games pitched that year. Despite the workload and success in the majors, he still played winter ball that year, which amounted to five shutout innings. During the shortened 2020 season, he went 3-2, 2.70 with four saves, and 0.86 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 23.1 innings over 24 games. He was the closer for the Pirates until the trading deadline in 2021, going 4-2, 2.82 with 14 saves, an 0.83 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. The Pirates traded him to the Atlanta Braves on July 30, 2021, in exchange for Bryse Wilson and minor league pitcher Ricky DeVito. Rodriguez had a 3.12 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 26 innings over 27 games of middle relief work. Despite some success and two years remaining before free agency, he was allowed to leave via free agency at the end of the year. He didn’t sign a deal until June of 2022, then ended up only pitching in the minors for the New York Yankees that year, going 3-1, 3.96 in 25 innings, with 26 strikeouts and an 0.96 WHIP. He made 17 of his 18 appearances with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League that year. He pitched winter ball in the Dominican during the 2022-23 off-season, posting a 3.22 ERA and 11 saves in 22.1 innings, but has yet to sign for the 2023 season.

Cory Luebke, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was drafted three times before he finally signed. The first time was by the Pirates, who took him out of high school in the 18th round in 2004. The Texas Rangers selected Luebke in the 22nd round two years later out of Ohio State. He then moved up to the 63rd overall pick in 2007 (still considered a first round pick that year), taken by the San Diego Padres. He signed quickly and split that season over three levels between short-season ball and High-A, combining for a 3.07 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 61 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over nine starts and six relief outings. He went 3-0, 1.46 in 24.2 innings with Eugene of the short-season Northwest League. He then went 1-2, 3.33 in 27 innings over five starts with Fort Wayne of the Low-A Midwest League. He finished up with six runs over seven innings with Lake Elsinore of the California League Luebke went 6-9, 5.12 over 128.1 innings in 2008, while splitting the year between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. Despite the overall record, he did well with Fort Wayne, where he had a 2.89 ERA in ten starts. Things went downhill in the California League, which is a very hitter-friendly league/park. He had a 6.84 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP there in 72.1 innings. He completely turned things around in 2009, dividing the year between Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League. He had a 2.78 ERA in 129.2 innings, despite spending more than half of the year back in the California League, where he had a 2.34 ERA in 14 starts. He went 11-4 that season, with 112 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP.

Luebke started off 2010 with a 2.40 ERA in San Antonio over eight starts and two relief appearances. He moved up to another high offense league with Portland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he posted a 5-0, 2.97 record in nine starts. He finished the year by going 10-1, 2.68 in 114 innings, with an 0.98 WHIP and 88 strikeouts. That led to a September call-up to the Padres, where he put up a 4.08 ERA, 18 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP in 17.2 innings. Luebke spent the entire 2011 season with the Padres, making 17 starts and 29 relief appearances. He went 6-10, 3.29 in 139.2 innings, with a 1.07 WHIP and an impressive total of 154 strikeouts. He signed a four-year deal for $12,000,000 at the end of Spring Training in 2012, which turned out to be a great decision on his part, though that’s only true due to very bad luck that came his way shortly after signing. Luebke did great in five April starts in 2012, posting a 2.61 ERA in 31 innings, before his career was completely derailed. He missed the rest of the season with a strained elbow. That was followed by two Tommy John surgeries and another injury, which combined cost him all of 2013, 2014 and most of 2015. His 2015 season consisted of seven rehab appearances, which totaled seven innings pitched, giving him a total of 38 innings pitched over the four years of his contract.

The Pirates signed Luebke as a minor league free agent in February of 2016. He made the Opening Day roster as a reliever. A hamstring injury quickly put him out of action after just three appearances. He then pitched one big league game in May, then five more in June. He was released on June 26th.   In nine appearances with the Pirates, he allowed nine runs over 8.2 innings. He also pitched 11 games for Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League while with the Pirates, where he had a 2.45 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. He finished the 2016 season in the minors for the Miami Marlins, after signing there on July 7th. Luebke actually lasted just four games and six scoreless innings before his season wrapped up on July 16th. He played for three different affiliates during that brief time. He then signed with the Chicago White Sox for 2017, though he missed the first month of the season on the disabled list. He retired in May of 2017 after pitching five innings in Triple-A with Charlotte of the International League. In his four-year big league career, he had a 10-13, 3.52 record in 197 innings over 25 starts and 39 relief appearances. Luebke had a 1.19 WHIP and 204 strikeouts.

Michael McKenry, catcher for the 2011-13 Pirates. He was a seventh round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2006 out of Middle Tennessee State. He made his Major League debut in September of 2010. McKenry had a rough pro debut in short-season ball with Tri-City of the Northwest League, hitting .216 over 66 games in 2006, though 21 extra-base hits helped push him up to a .642 OPS. He had 28 runs, 16 doubles and 23 RBIs. He moved up to Low-A with Asheville of the South Atlantic League in 2007, where he had an outstanding year. He hit .287 in 113 games, with 79 runs, 35 doubles, 22 homers, 90 RBIs, 66 walks and a .931 OPS. McKenry played in the Hawaiian winter league after the season, which existed for a time for prospects who were younger/inexperienced than the players sent to the Arizona Fall League. He hit .281 in Hawaii, with 17 runs, nine doubles, five homers, 15 RBIs and an .889 OPS in 26 games. He moved up to Modesto of the high-offense, High-A California League in 2008, where he hit .258 in 111 games, with 59 runs, 28 doubles, 18 homers, 75 RBIs, 55 walks and an .827 OPS. McKenry tore up the Arizona Fall League after the season, putting up a .369 average and a 1.216 OPS in 28 games. He had a solid season with Double-A Tulsa of the Texas League in 2009, batting .279 in 102 games, with 52 runs, 25 doubles, 12 homers, 50 RBIs, 54 walks and an .831 OPS. He struggled in winter ball that off-season in the Dominican, posting a .405 OPS in 15 games.

McKenry had average stats in Triple-A during the 2010 season, while playing in a hitter-friendly park for Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League. He batted .265 in 99 games, with 44 runs, 23 doubles, ten homers, 49 RBIs and a .752 OPS. He went 0-for-8 at the plate in six games for the Rockies that September. McKenry was traded to the Boston Red Sox prior to the start of the 2011 season. He played with Pawtucket of the Triple-A International League, before the Pirates purchased his contract in early June, after a rash of injuries depleted their catching ranks. He was hitting .274/.369/.421 through 29 games before joining Pittsburgh, collecting five doubles and three homers. McKenry caught 58 games for the 2011 Pirates. He hit .222/.276/.322 in 201 plate appearances, with 17 runs, 12 doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs. He remained with the team for two more seasons, serving in a platoon role most of that time. He hit .233 in 2012, with 25 runs, 14 doubles, 12 homers, 39 RBIs and a .762 OPS in 88 games. He had a similar role through late July of 2013, before a knee injury ended both his season and his time with the Pirates. He collected four hits and drove in two runs during his final game with the Pirates. He was not doing well prior to that game, finishing up the 2013 season with a .217 average and a .610 OPS, with the latter going up 53 points in that final game. He had a .226 average in three seasons for the Pirates, with 51 runs, 32 doubles, 17 homers and 64 RBIs in 187 games.

McKenry became a free agent after the 2013 season, then rejoined Colorado for two more seasons. He batted .315 in 57 games in 2014, with 23 runs, nine doubles, eight homers, 22 RBIs and a .910 OPS. He actually spent part of that year back with Colorado Springs, where he put up .313 average and an .864 OPS in 23 games. He hit .205 over 58 games during the 2015 season, with 20 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 17 RBIs and a .731 OPS. McKenry played his final three big league games for the 2016 St Louis Cardinals. He batted twice during that brief stint, striking out and picking up a sacrifice hit. His 2016 season was a wild ride. He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers in February, then got released in May. He signed with St Louis, where he spent two months before being released. On July 23rd, he signed with the Atlanta Braves, who soon sold him to the Milwaukee Brewers. Before the calendar year was up, he became a free agent and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for 2017. McKenry played just 65 minor league games that year, yet he put up a .285 average and a .926 OPS during that time. He played for three Pacific Coast League teams, Round Rock (Rangers), Memphis (Cardinals) and Colorado Springs. He also saw time with Gwinnett of the Triple-A International League. He spent the entire 2017 season in Triple-A with Durham of the International League, before retiring as a player. He batted .209/.338/.324 over 74 games that season. McKenry is currently an announcer for the Pirates. He was a .238 hitter in 311 big league games, with 94 runs, 48 doubles, 29 homers and 103 RBIs. He hit three triples in his big league career. All of them came within an 11-day span in 2015, and he collected them at three different parks.

Bruce Aven, outfielder for the 2000 Pirates. He was a 30th round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of Lamar University in 1994, who made it to the majors by August of 1997 season. Aven had a .332 average during the 1994 season, with 49 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs, 12 steals and a .918 OPS in 61 games, while playing in short-season ball with Watertown of the New York-Penn League. He then put up big power numbers during his next two seasons. He hit 23 homers for Kingston of the High-A Carolina League in 1995, to go along with a .261 average, 70 runs, 23 doubles, 69 RBIs, 15 steals and an .809 OPS in 130 games. He then hit .304 in 1996, with 96 runs, 31 doubles, 24 homers, 81 RBIs, 22 steals and a .911 OPS in 134 games, while spending a large majority of the season (131 games) with Double-A Canton-Akron of the Eastern League. He also put in three games with Buffalo of the American Association. Aven began the 1997 season with Buffalo, where he batted .287 in 121 games, with 69 runs, 27 doubles, 17 homers, 77 RBIs, 50 walks and an .853 OPS. He debuted with the Indians on August 27, 1997. He hit .211/.250/.263 in 20 plate appearances over 13 games. He missed all but five Triple-A games during the 1998 season due to elbow surgery. He had an .895 OPS in 21 plate appearances with Buffalo. Aven spent 1999 with the Florida Marlins, after being selected off waivers on October 28, 1998. He hit .289 that year, with 57 runs, 19 doubles, 12 homers, 70 RBIs, 44 walks and an .814 OPS in 137 games, in what ended up being his only season with Florida.

The Marlins traded Aven to the Pirates in exchange for outfielder Brant Brown in December of 1999. Aven hit .250 in 72 games for the Pirates, with 18 runs, 11 doubles, five homers, 25 RBIs and a .700 OPS. He saw time at all three outfield spots, before they shipped him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in early August. The deal was said to be for a player to be named later, but no return was even announced. He played just nine games with the 2000 Dodgers, where he hit .250/.348/.550 in 23 plate appearances. He hit two homers during that brief time. He was originally sent to Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League after the deal, then strained his side not long after being recalled. Aven made brief appearances for the Dodgers in 2001, and Indians in 2002, before finishing his career in the minors in 2003 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was also briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies in the minors during the 2002 season, after the Indians traded him for pitcher Jeff D’Amico on June 25th.

Aven did well during his limited time in 2001, putting up a .333 average and a .926 OPS for the Dodgers, though he batted just 26 times in 21 games. Surprisingly, he didn’t do so well in the minors that year while playing in a high offense park/league, putting up a .260 average and a .726 OPS in 86 games with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. He went 2-for-17, with two singles and four walks over seven games, during his brief time with the 2002 Indians. The rest of the year was spent with Buffalo (Indians) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies) of the International League. He combined to hit .259/.375/.429 in 94 games that year. Aven’s 2003 season was spent with Syracuse of the International League, where he hit .214/.309/.287 in 56 games. In his five-year big league career, he hit for a .273 average, with 85 runs, 33 doubles, 20 homers and 103 RBIs in 259 games. Aven stole just six bases in the majors, and only attempted ten steals total. He had 59 steals over his first four years in the minors, then stole just 13 bases over his last five seasons.

Brian Hunter, first baseman for the 1994 Pirates. He was an eighth round pick in 1987 at 19 years old, selected by the Atlanta Braves out of Cerritos College in California. It’s a school that has produced 16 big league players from the draft, but just one (Joel Adamson in 1990) since the 1987 draft when Hunter and Bret Barberie both made it. Hunter didn’t have the best start to his pro career, batting .231/.295/.383 over 65 games in the short-season Appalachian League with Pulaski during his first season. He had 38 runs, ten doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs. He put up big numbers when moved up to A-ball in 1988, spending a large majority of the year with Burlington of the Midwest League, as well as 13 games with Durham of the Carolina League. That year he hit .268 in 130 games, with 71 runs, 20 doubles, 25 homers, 80 RBIs and 52 walks, while putting up an .819 OPS. He was in Double-A by 1989, hitting .253 that season, with 57 runs, 19 doubles, 19 homers, 82 RBIs and a .738 OPS in 124 games with Greenville of the Southern League. Hunter remained in Greenville for more than half of the 1990 season, hitting .241 over 88 games, with 13 doubles and 14 homers. He added another five homers in Triple-A, but it came with a .197 average in 43 games with Richmond of the International League. Between both stops, he had a .228 average, 58 runs, 17 doubles, 19 homers, 71 RBIs, 61 walks and a .713 OPS. He earned a trip to the majors with a decent start to the 1991 season in Richmond, batting .260/.301/.464 in 48 games, with 28 runs, seven doubles, ten homers and 30 RBIs. Hunter batted .251 for the 1991 Braves, with 32 runs, 16 doubles, 12 homers, 50 RBIs and a .746 OPS in 97 games. He finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He batted .333/.333/.611 with a homer in the NLCS against the Pirates that year, then he hit just .190/.182/.381 in the World Series, which was won by the Minnesota Twins.

Hunter hit .239 for the 1992 Braves, with 34 runs, 13 doubles, 14 homers, 41 RBIs and a .780 OPS in 102 games. The Braves made it to the World Series again in 1992. He went 1-for-5 in both the NLCS and the World Series, which they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays. Hunter struggled as a bench player in 1993, putting up a .138 average and a .353 OPS in 37 games, which caused him to spend part of the season back in the minors with Richmond. He had a .242 average in 30 games for Richmond, but it came with an .825 OPS. The Pirates acquired him in November of 1993 in exchange for minor league infielder Jose Delgado. Hunter played 76 games with the 1994 Pirates, compiling a .227 average, with 28 runs, 15 doubles, 11 homers, 46 RBIs and a .712 OPS, prior to being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in late July for minor league outfielder Micah Franklin. The trade happened shortly before the strike ended the season, so Hunter played just nine games for the Reds that year, though he managed to put up a 1.216 OPS during that time. He finished as the Pirates team leader in home runs that season. Hunter hit .215/.312/.329 in 40 games for the 1995 Reds, who then released him early in Spring Training of 1996. A hamstring injury caused him to miss some time that season. He signed with the Seattle Mariners two months after being released, then batted .268 in 75 games, with 21 runs, ten doubles, seven homers, 28 RBIs and a .752 OPS during the 1996 season. He spent part of the year with Triple-A Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .348 average and a 1.057 OPS in 25 games.

Hunter was released by the Mariners at the end of the 1996 season. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds, who kept him at Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association in 1997, despite a .281 average, with 74 runs, 36 doubles, 21 homers, 85 RBIs and an .828 OPS. After spending the entire 1997 season in the minors, he reemerged in the majors with the 1998 St Louis Cardinals, where he hit .205/.258/.411 over 123 plate appearances with four homers in 62 games. A small part of that season was spent with Calgary of the Pacific Coast League, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. He ended up back with the Atlanta Braves in 1999, putting up a .249 average that year, with 28 runs, 12 doubles, six homers, 30 RBIs and a .792 OPS, while playing a career high 114 games. He came off of the bench in 74 of those contests, resulting in him getting just 223 plate appearances. He went 2-for-18 in the playoffs, as the Braves lost the World Series to the New York Yankees that year. He began the 2000 season with the Atlanta Braves, but after just two games, he was lost on waivers to the Philadelphia Phillies. He had a .210 average for the Phillies, with 13 runs, five doubles, seven homers, 22 RBIs and a .709 OPS in 85 games. That ended up being his final big league season.

Hunter played in the minors until 2002, seeing time in Mexico and independent ball during that time. He split the 2001 season between Atlantic City of the independent Atlantic League, and Syracuse of the International League, which was the affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Hunter had a .238 average and a .721 OPS in 30 games with Syracuse, compared to a .327 average and a 1.065 OPS in 42 games with Atlantic City. He was with Durham of the International League for part of 2002, playing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the time. He batted just .198 in 28 games. He also spent nine games in Mexico, where he had a 1.189 OPS. He hit 142 homers over 13 seasons in the minors. He was a .234 Major League hitter, with 187 runs, 90 doubles, 67 homers and 259 RBIs in 699 games. He attempted just 13 stolen bases in the majors, and he was successful only four times. During most of Hunter’s career, there was another National League outfielder named Brian Hunter. They were never teammates, but they both played for Seattle, Philadelphia and Cincinnati during the same time period.

Mel Queen, pitcher for the Pirates in 1947-48 and 1950-52. He was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1938. He spent most of his first seven seasons of pro ball in the minors. He pitched just 33 Major League games for New York over parts of four seasons. He debuted at 20 years old, posting a 4.50 ERA in 44 innings for two Class-D clubs. He spent most of that time with Dover of the Eastern Shore League, while also seeing brief time with Butler of the Pennsylvania State Association. Queen spent the entire 1939 season with Amsterdam of the Class-C Canadian-American League, where he went 14-9, 3.15 in 186 innings, with a 1.34 WHIP. He stayed in Class-C ball for almost all of 1940, where he had success with Akron of the Middle Atlantic League, going 18-8, 2.70 in 210 innings, with a 1.26 WHIP. He also pitched for Augusta of the Class-B South Atlantic League that year, where he had a 12.38 ERA in three games. Queen put up a strong showing for Binghamton of the Class-A Eastern League in 1941, with a 14-5, 1.69 record and a 1.13 WHIP in 165 innings. He also pitched briefly in Double-A (the highest level at the time) with Newark of the International League and Kansas City of the American Association, combining for a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings. He played for the same three teams in 1942, but also threw in 5.2 scoreless innings for the Yankees over four appearances in April. He didn’t return later because he didn’t do so well in the minors that year, finishing with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 108 innings. The 1943 season was split between Kansas City and St Paul, also of the American Association. Queen’s stats are incomplete that year, but the available ones show a 7-12, 3.43 record in 160 innings, with more walks (100) than strikeouts (90). Despite those results, he was back in the majors in August of 1944 for a bigger trial.

Queen spent the early part of 1944 back with Newark, where he went 9-7, 3.18, with a 1.26 WHIP in 133 innings, before joining the Yankees in August. He went 6-3, 3.20 in 81.2 innings over the final two months of the 1944 big league season, completing four games, including a 14-0 shutout over the Philadelphia Athletics on September 4th. That performance would have likely led to more during the 1945 season, but he was inducted into the Army in February of 1945, then wasn’t released from the service until June of 1946. Queen went right back to the majors in the second half of the 1946 season, where he had a 6.53 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP in 30.1 innings over 14 appearances. In five early season appearances for the 1947 Yankees, he had a 9.45 ERA in 6.2 innings. The Pirates purchased his contract that July, then put him in the starting rotation, where he went 3-7, 4.01 in 74 innings over the rest of the season. He had a 1.64 WHIP, with more walks (51) than strikeouts (34). He spent most of 1948 in the Pirates bullpen and struggled. In 25 games (eight starts), he had a 6.65 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP in 66.1 innings pitched. Queen spent the entire 1949 season in Triple-A, where he went 22-9, 2.57 in 266 innings for Indianapolis of the American Association. He had 178 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP that season.

The Pirates put Queen in their rotation for 1950, and stuck with him most of the way, despite a final record of 5-14, with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in 120.1 innings. He set career highs in wins (seven), innings pitched (168.1) and games pitched (39) in 1951, with 21 of those appearances in the starting role. He finished 7-9, 4.44, with a 1.47 WHIP. Queen had two very poor outings to start the 1952 season, then was sent to the minors, where he pitched another four years before retiring. His final big league game on May 1st saw him give up seven runs over two innings. Later that same day, the Pirates released him to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, which was an Open level of play at that time, though basically Triple-A. Queen did well over the rest of 1952, going 14-9, 2.41 in 205 innings, with 131 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP. He had an 8-7, 3.69 record in 1953, with a 1.47 WHIP in 144 innings. At 36 years old in 1954 with Hollywood, he went 16-8, 3.20 in 200 innings. It looked like he had plenty left in the tank, but he ended up pitching just three more games in 1955, getting released in late May after allowed five home runs in six innings of work. In five seasons with the Pirates, he went 19-36, 5.33 in 432.1 innings over 64 starts and 49 relief appearances. He was 8-4, 4.27 in 124.1 innings during four years with the Yankees. He won 134 games during his minor league career. His son, Mel Queen Jr., pitched seven seasons in the majors and held numerous other jobs in baseball up until his passing in 2011.

Clyde McCullough, catcher for the 1949-52 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1935 at 18 years old. He made his Major League debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1940. McCullough did well in the lower levels, debuting with a .263 average and 42 extra-base hits in 130 games during his first season, which was played with Lafayette of the Class-D Evangeline League. He batted .306 in 1936, with 32 extra-base hits in 71 games, while playing all but one game that year with Akron of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League. He put up a .329 average and 21 extra-base hits in 72 games for Binghamton of the Class-A New York-Penn League in 1937. McCullough moved up to Double-A (top level of the minors at the time) in 1938, seeing time with Newark of the International League and Kansas City of the American Association, along with 16 games back with Binghamton. He combined between the three stops to hit .234 in 90 games, with 39 runs, 17 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs and a .674 OPS.  Before joining the Cubs late in 1940, he had a .277 average, 55 runs, 38 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and an .880 OPS in 108 games for Kansas City in 1939. He made the Cubs Opening Day roster in 1940, but his first big league stint did not last long. McCullough pinch-hit once in April for the Cubs, then returning mid-September for eight more games, finishing with a .154 average and a .483 OPS in 31 plate appearances. He put up big numbers between his big league stints that year, batting .324 for Buffalo of the International League, with 21 doubles, five triples and 27 homers in 145 games.

McCullough earned a spot with the Cubs in 1941. He hit .227 that year, with 41 runs, nine doubles, nine homers, 53 RBIs and a .612 OPS in 125 games. That ended up being his career high for games, homers and RBIs during his 15-year big league career. He batted .282 over 109 games in 1942, with a career high 22 doubles, along with 38 runs, five homers, 31 RBIs and .729 OPS. He saw his average drop to .237 in 1943, while his work was limited to 87 games. He finished that year with 20 runs, nine extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and a .596 OPS. He enlisted in the Navy after the 1943 season, which caused him to miss the 1944-45 seasons, although he was back in time to play in the 1945 World Series, where he struck out in his only plate appearance. In his first season back from the war, McCullough hit .287 in 95 games, with 38 runs, 18 doubles, five triples, four homers and 38 RBIs. His .755 OPS was a career high over the first nine years of his career. He batted .252 in 86 games during the 1947 season, with 25 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .690 OPS. He was named to the 1948 All-Star game, despite playing just 69 games that year. He had a .209 batting average, ten runs, seven extra-base hits, seven RBIs and a .546 OPS in 188 plate appearances. The Pirates acquired him in a four-player deal in December of 1948, with two players going each way.

McCullough played four seasons in Pittsburgh, catching about 60% of the games over the 1949-51 seasons. He had a .237 average and a .665 OPS in 91 games during his first season with the team. He had 30 runs that year, with 16 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs. He hit .254 in 1950, with 28 runs, 16 doubles, six homers, 34 RBIs and a .745 OPS in 103 games. It was the only time in his final 12 seasons that he topped 100 games. He hit a career high .297 in 1951, with 26 runs, nine doubles, eight homers and 39 RBIs. His .806 OPS that season was his best, but it didn’t lead to future success. McCullough batted .233 over 66 games in 1952, with ten runs, seven extra-base hits and 15 RBIs. His OPS dropped 233 points from the previous year. Pittsburgh traded him back to the Cubs after the 1952 season in exchange for pitcher Dick Manville and cash. McCullough made the All-Star team in 1953 again, this while time playing just 77 games all year. He had a .258 average that year, with 21 runs, six homers, 23 RBIs and a .670 OPS. He played with the Cubs until 1956, playing a total of 89 games over his final three seasons, which included 49 total starts. He did well in his limited time in 1954, hitting .259/.310/.457 in 87 plate appearances over 31 games. He followed that by hitting .198/.272/.198, with no extra-base hits in 81 at-bats in 1955. His final season saw him bat just 22 times in 14 games, finishing with a .463 OPS. McCullough ended his pro career in the minors in 1957, where he had a .215 average and a .633 OPS in 88 games for Miami of the International League. He hit .258 in 352 games during his time with the Pirates, finishing with 19 homers and 109 RBIs. He had a .252 average in his 15-year career, with 308 runs, 121 doubles, 52 homers and 339 RBIs in 1,098 games. He was a solid defensive catcher, who threw out 44% of base runners during his career.

Dazzy Vance, pitcher for the Pirates on April 16, 1915. He would eventually go on to win 197 games and make the Hall of Fame in 1955, but he did not pitch well during his Major League debut with the Pirates. Vance started the third game of the 1915 season, lasting just 2.2 innings against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up three runs on three hits and five walks before being pulled. Later that same season, he was picked up by the New York Yankees, where he went 0-3, 3.54 in 28 innings over eight games. He next pitched in the majors in 1918 with the Yankees, and didn’t fare well in two games. He wouldn’t pick up his first win until 1922 with the Brooklyn Robins when he was 31 years old. He won a total of 186 games over his first 11 seasons with Brooklyn, three times topping 20 wins. Vance led the National League in strikeouts for seven straight seasons (1922-28) and thrice led the league in ERA. He pitched in the majors until 1935, and including his minor league win totals, he won 330 pro games. Vance had the second most wins of any pitcher in Pirates history after they left the team, trailing only Burleigh Grimes. We posted a One Who Got Away article detailing Vance’s time with the Pirates.

Vance debuted in pro ball in 1912 at 21 years old, playing with York of the Class-D Nebraska State League, where he went 11-15 in 36 appearances. He played in the same league with Superior in 1913, where his limited available stats show a similar season to 1912, going 11-14 in 35 appearances. He was in the same league in 1914 with Hastings, where he went 17-4 in 26 games, with 194 strikeouts, before joining St Joseph of the Class-A Western League. He finished off the year by going 9-8, 2.96 in 134 innings, with 108 strikeouts, giving him 26 wins and 302 strikeouts on the year. Vance went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1915, where he made a strong first impression in a Pirates vs Pirates exhibition game, which is basically all they played for most of that spring. He tossed three shutout innings in his spring debut. The next game didn’t go as well, and he was facing the younger hitters on the team, seeing players who were vying for bench spots. Vance gave up seven runs on 14 hits in five innings. He gave up one run over four innings on March 24th versus the starting lineup players, but he was also helped by an outstanding triple play that was inches away from breaking the game open. He pitched five more innings just two days later, and allowed three runs against the younger players. Jumping teams again, he faced the starting lineup again on March 29th and somehow allowed just one run in four innings, despite five hits and five walks. He pitched against a minor league team from Nashville on April 3rd, and threw a complete game, limiting them to two runs. In the final exhibition game of the spring on April 13th, which was just three days before his lone Pirates start, he pitched a complete game against a minor league team from Indianapolis, losing 2-1.

Five days after Vance lost his lone start for the Pirates, they optioned him to St Joseph. It turned out that he was only with the Pirates on tryout, with the team having the option to purchase him for $5,000 from St Joseph. After his first game big league game, St Joseph’s owner asked the Pirates to either pay the amount of return Vance, which they did. The Pirates still held the option to purchase him for the same amount later that same season, but they never did. Vance threw a three-hit shutout during his first game back in the minors on April 25th. In between his time with the Pirates and Yankees, he was reportedly purchased by the Chicago White Sox, but never made an appearance for them. It turned out that the announcement was made prematurely, and he ended up being purchased by the Yankees a week later on July 31st. After going 17-15, 2.93 in 264 innings back with St Joseph in 1915, he debuted with the Yankees on August 28th. He lost all three of his starts in New York, but he didn’t give up an earned run in his five relief appearances. Vance had a 4.50 ERA in 50 innings for Columbus of the Double-A American Association in 1916, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He remained in the American Association with Toledo in 1917, though he ended up spending a little more time that year with Memphis of the Class-A Southern Association. He combined to go 8-14, 2.19, with a 1.13 WHIP in 193 innings.

Vance compiled an 11-11 record over 25 appearances in 1918, while playing with Memphis and Rochester of the International League. He also saw time with the Yankees, who let him pitch two games in July. He allowed five runs in 2.1 innings during his third trial in the majors. Vance moved to the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1919, where he pitched for Sacramento, posting a 10-18, 2.82 record and a 1.17 WHIP in 294 innings. The 1920 season was split between Memphis and New Orleans of the Southern Association, which resulted in a 16-17 record and 284 innings pitched over 45 appearances. Vance had a 21-11, 3.52 record and a 1.21 WHIP in 253 innings with New Orleans in 1921. Brooklyn purchased his contract in September of 1921, and he joined the team in 1922. Vance finally established himself in the majors at 31 years old in 1922, going 18-12, 3.70 in 245.2 innings over 31 starts and five relief appearances. He led the National League with five shutouts and 134 strikeouts, while compiling 17 complete games. Despite the strong results, he had a 1.44 WHIP. He was even better in 1923, putting up an 18-15, 3.50 record and a 1.29 WHIP in 280.1 innings, with a league leading 197 strikeouts. He completed 21 of his 35 starts, while tossing three shutouts. Those were solid years, but Vance blew them out of the water in 1924. He went 28-6, 2.16 in 308.1 innings that year, picking up 262 strikeouts. He led the league in ERA, while setting career highs and leading the league in wins, complete games (30), strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP. He also set a career high in innings. He had 127 more strikeouts than the next highest total in the league (Burleigh Grimes). That season earned him the league MVP award.

Vance went 22-9, 3.53, with a 1.18 WHIP in 265.1 innings during the 1925 season. He completed 26 of his 31 starts that year. He led the league with four shutouts and 221 strikeouts, while finishing fifth in the MVP voting. He dropped down to a 9-10, 3.89 record over 169 innings in 1926, yet he still led the league with 140 strikeouts. He had a 1.36 WHIP, while completing 12 of his 22 starts. He didn’t miss any time that year, but some rough outings caused his starts to be spaced out more than usual. Vance rebounded a bit in 1927 for a 16-15, 2.70 record in 273.1 innings. He led the league with 25 complete games and 184 strikeouts. He had two shutouts and a 1.14 WHIP. The 1928 season was another outstanding effort. He went 22-10, 2.09, with a 1.06 WHIP in 280.1 innings. The ERA was his career best (led the league as well), while he also led the league with four shutouts and 200 strikeouts. Vance went 14-13, 3.89 in 231.1 innings during the 1929 season. His 126 strikeouts ranked third in the league, breaking his string of seven straight strikeout titles. He completed 17 of 27 starts that year, while posting a 1.26 WHIP. Offense was up all around baseball in 1930 to near record levels. Vance went 17-15, 2.61 in 258.2 innings that year. He led the league in ERA and shutouts (four). His ERA that year was 2.36 runs better than league average. He had a 1.14 WHIP, and he finished second with 173 strikeouts.

Vance began to show his age in 1931 at 40 years old, but he was still effective. He went 11-13, 3.38, with a 1.25 WHIP in 218.2 innings, finishing with 150 strikeouts. He completed 12 of his 29 starts, including two shutouts. He went 12-10, 4.20 in 1932, with 103 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP in 175.2 innings. He had nine complete games that year, breaking a string of ten straight years with double-digit complete game totals. He was traded to the St Louis Cardinals prior to the 1933 season, then put together a 6-2, 3.55 record that year, in 99 innings over 11 starts and 17 relief outings. The Cincinnati Reds selected him off of waivers in February of 1934, but he ended up back with the Cardinals mid-season after they took him off of waivers. He went 1-3, 4.56 in 77 innings that year, with six starts and 19 relief appearances. He showed significantly better results in St Louis that season. The Cardinals released him during Spring Training in 1935, then he re-signed with the Dodgers to finish his career later that year. He had a 4.41 ERA in 51 innings over 20 appearances in 1935. Vance ended with a 197-140, 3.24 record in 2,966.2 innings over 349 starts and 93 relief appearances. He pitched 217 complete games and he had 29 shutouts and 2,045 strikeouts. His first name was Charles, sometimes listed as Arthur Charles, but he had the Dazzy nickname (for his dazzling fastball reportedly) before he made the majors.

Jeff Pfeffer, pitcher for the 1924 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1909 at 21 years old, playing for La Crosse of the Class-D Minnesota-Wisconsin League, where he put together an 18-12 record in 33 games. He then moved up to Fort Wayne of the Class-B Central League for two seasons. He went 13-16, 2.25, with a 1.04 WHIP over 252 innings in 1910, followed by a 16-5, 2.65 record and a 1.14 WHIP over 180 innings in 1911. Pfeffer debuted in the majors in 1911 with the St Louis Browns, who moved on from him after just two relief appearances in late April. That turned out to be a very poor decision, despite his 7.20 ERA in ten innings. He struggled with Denver of the Class-A Western League in 1912, posting a 6.66 ERA and a 2.05 WHIP in 24.1 innings. He did much better back in the Central League that year, this time with Grand Rapids, where he had a 9-9, 3.16 record and a 1.37 WHIP in 154 innings. He went 25-8 with a 1.09 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 290.1 innings with Grand Rapids in 1913, before returning to the big leagues with the Brooklyn Robins in late August of that season. His ERA isn’t available from that season, but we know that he allowed 3.10 runs per nine innings. He did better in his second big league trial, posting a 3.33 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP in 24.1 innings, but much bigger things were soon ahead.

Pfeffer had a strong three-year run with the Brooklyn Robins from 1914 through 1916, though he still put up solid stats after that point as well. He went 23-12, 1.97 in 315 innings over 34 starts and nine relief outings. He pitched 27 complete games and tossed three shutouts, while picking up a career high 135 strikeouts. His 1.13 WHIP was strong that year, but it got better. The impressive part about that 1914 season is that Brooklyn finished the season 75-79. In other words, they went 52-67 when he didn’t get the decision in a game. Pfeffer had a 19-14, 2.10 record in 291.2 innings during the 1915 season, with 26 complete games and six shutouts in 34 starts. He dropped down to 84 strikeouts, while also dropping down to a 1.09 WHIP. He set a career high in wins and innings in 1916, going 25-11, 1.92 in 328.1 innings. In 36 starts, he threw 30 complete games and six shutouts. He had 128 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP. The Robins went to the World Series that year, where he had a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings, though he was the losing pitcher in game five, which ended the series in a win for the Boston Red Sox. During the 1917 season, he went 11-15, 2.23 in 266 innings over 30 starts, with 24 complete games and three shutouts. He had 115 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP. His record shows some tough luck that season, as Hall of Fame teammate Rube Marquard had a 19-12 record with a 2.55 ERA. Pfeffer pitched just one game in 1918 after he was called into service for the Navy. He actually enlisted in December of 1917, but the call didn’t come until April. His only big league game came in July, and he tossed a two-hit shutout while on a day off from Naval training. He returned to Brooklyn in 1919, where he had a 17-13, 2.66 record in 267 innings, with 30 starts, 26 complete games and four shutouts. He had a 1.19 WHIP and 92 strikeouts, which was his high mark after the war.

Brooklyn went to the World Series in 1920 after a 93-win season. Pfeffer went 16-9, 3.01 in 215 innings, but he pitched just three innings in relief in the postseason, allowing one run. He completed 20 of 26 starts and had a 1.26 WHIP. Brooklyn traded him to the St Louis Cardinals on June 18, 1921. At the time he was 1-5, 4.55 in 31.2 innings. For the 1921 Cardinals, Pfeffer went 9-3, 4.29 in 98.2 innings over 13 starts and five relief appearances. He finished the year with a 4.35 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. He rebounded in 1922 with a 19-12, 3.58 record and a 1.32 WHIP in 261.1 innings. He completed 18 of 32 starts, while also pitching 12 times in relief. The 1923 season saw him go 8-9, 4.02 in 152.1 innings over 18 starts and eight relief appearances. He always had good control, but that 1923 season saw him issue more walks (40) than strikeouts (32), which is something he would repeat the next year. He spent the first half of the 1924 season with the Cardinals, going 4-5, 5.31 in 78 innings over 12 starts and four relief appearances. The Pirates picked him up on waivers on July 17, 1924, after he was released by the Cardinals. Pfeffer went 5-3, 3.07 in 58.2 innings for Pittsburgh, in what turned out to be his last Major League experience. He made four starts for the Pirates and 11 relief appearances. He finished the year with a 4.35 ERA in 136.2 innings, with a 1.59 WHIP and a 47:39 BB/SO ratio.

The Pirates released Pfeffer unconditionally on December 13, 1924. He played in the minors for the next five seasons until retiring at 41 years old after the 1929 season, spending the first year with San Francisco of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, followed by four seasons with Toledo of the Double-A American Association (Double-A was the highest level of the minors at the time). He went 15-15, 5.27 in 193 innings with San Francisco. Pfeffer had a 11-8, 3.71 record and a 1.22 WHIP in 143 innings for Toledo during the 1926 season. He went 9-9 in 1927, with 4.67 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. He followed that up with an 8-10, 3.18 record in 1928, with a 1.32 WHIP in 170 innings. He finished up his career by going 6-5, 5.10 in 1929, with a 1.64 WHIP in 97 innings. Pfeffer finished his big league career with a 158-112 record, plus he won another 130 minor league games. His career 2.97 ERA ranks 97th all-time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings in at the big league level, and he’s 47th among all pitchers who put in more than ten seasons (including partial years) in the majors. Knowing that, it’s probably a little surprising that he had just four seasons in which he finished among the top ten in the league in ERA. He put up those impressive stats despite missing all but one game during the 1918 season, right in the middle of his prime.

Pfeffer’s nickname has an odd story behind it. His older brother, who played six years in the majors, was also known as Jeff Pfeffer, though he was referred to as “Big Jeff”. The odd part about both brothers having the same name is that neither of them was named Jeff. The older Pfeffer was named Francis Xavier Pfeffer, while the young Jeff was actually named Edward Joseph Pfeffer. The local press from the day he was acquired by the Pirates off waivers said that “Big Eddie Pfeffer, who goes by the nickname Jeff like all members of the Pfeffer family…”.