This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 11th, Dock Ellis Leads a Quiet Day

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one transaction of note that ties into yesterday’s history.

The Transaction

One day after trading relief pitcher Neal Heaton to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Kirk Gibson, the 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent veteran pitcher Dennis Lamp. The 39-year-old Lamp had 15 seasons of MLB experience at the time, pitching the previous four seasons for the Boston Red Sox. He was still a strong bullpen option in 1989, when he posted a 2.32 ERA in 112.1 innings, but he saw a decline in his performance during the 1990-91 seasons before joining the Pirates. Lamp had a 4.68 ERA in 1990 in 105.2 innings, followed by a 4.70 ERA in 92 innings in 1991. He didn’t do well during his time in Pittsburgh, though the results were skewed a bit by his final outing. Lamp was released in early June after giving up five earned runs over 3.2 innings on June 6th. That gave him a 5.14 ERA in 28 innings over 21 appearances. He had a 4.07 ERA going into that final game, which also ended up being his last big league game. He finished with a 96-96, 3.93 record in 163 starts and 476 relief appearances, throwing a total of 1,830.2 innings.

The Players

Dock Ellis, pitcher for the 1968-75 and 1979 Pirates. The Pirates signed him at 18 years old as an amateur free agent in January of 1964. They sent him to Batavia of the Class-A New York-Penn League, where he made 16 starts during his first season, going 6-7, 3.20 in 121 innings, with 130 strikeouts and a 1.38 WHIP. He then moved to Kinston of the Class-A Carolina League for 1965, going 14-8, 1.98 in 186 innings, with 149 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP. He tossed 15 complete games that year. That earned him a promotion to Columbus of the Triple-A International League for one start, in which he threw three shutout innings. Ellis pitched in Double-A with Asheville of the Southern League in 1966, where he had a 10-9, 2.76 record, a 1.14 WHIP and 145 strikeouts in 24 starts and 13 complete games, totaling 160 innings. He struggled in his first extended stint at Triple-A Columbus in 1967, going 5-7, 4.59 in 100 innings over 17 starts and three relief outings. He had 77 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP. He also made three starts that year for Macon of the Southern League, posting a 2.81 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 16 innings. Ellis moved to the Columbus bullpen in 1968. He pitched 19 times, posting a 2.35 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 innings, before getting called up to the majors. Once he got to the majors he was there for good, getting in 12 seasons before he retired after the 1979 season.

Ellis made ten starts and 16 relief appearances for the 1968 Pirates. He went 6-5, 2.50 in 104.1 innings, with 52 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP. He was moved to a full-time starting role in 1969, then would make just 12 more relief appearances over the rest of his career. The 1969 Pirates had an 88-74 record, but Ellis managed to post a record of just 11-17, despite a respectable 3.58 ERA in 218.2 innings pitched (league ERA was 3.59 that year). He set a career high with 173 strikeouts that season, while posting a 1.29 WHIP. He turned that record around in 1970, going 13-10 while lowering his ERA to 3.21 in 30 starts and 201.2 innings pitched.  He had 128 strikeouts and a 1.39 WHIP. He threw nine complete games and a career high four shutouts that season, including a special one mentioned below. The Pirates won the World Series in 1971, and Ellis helped get them there with his 19-9, 3.06 record and 11 complete games in 31 starts. He led the team in wins and was second in innings pitched to Steve Blass with 226.2, which was his career high for a season. Ellis had 137 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. He won his only NLCS start, but was hit hard in the opener of the World Series, then didn’t pitch again. He started the All-Star game for the National League that year, which ended up being his only All-Star appearance. He also finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.

Ellis had a strong 1972 season, going 15-7, 2.70 in 25 starts and 163.1 innings, with 96 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP. He allowed just four homers that season, giving him the lowest home run rate for all National League pitchers. Despite the lower innings total, he was pitching regularly throughout the year, never going more than 18 days without a start at any point of the season. Ellis finished the year throwing shutout ball in his final three outings, totaling 21.2 innings. He lost his only start in the NLCS that year, despite not allowing an earned run during his five innings of work. He followed up that strong season with a 12-14 record in 1973, although his ERA was just 3.05 in 192 innings. While his ERA was well below team average, the Pirates finished with an 80-82 record that year. Ellis had 122 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He started off really slow in 1974, going 3-8, 4.54 through his first 15 starts. His last 11 starts saw him go 9-1 while cutting his ERA down to 3.16 by the end of the season. His year ended early when he got hit in the pitching hand by a line drive. He finished up with 91 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP in 176.2 innings. He was not the same pitcher in 1975, going 8-9, 3.79 in 140 innings over 24 starts and three relief outings, with 69 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP. The Pirates traded him in a three-for-one deal to the New York Yankees that brought back Doc Medich. That trade turned out to be a disaster for the Pirates, as Medich ended up being the third best pitcher in the deal behind Ellis and Ken Brett, and the Pirates also gave up 21-year-old Willie Randolph, who put up a career that deserves a Hall of Fame look.

Ellis has a big year with the Yankees in 1976, helping them to the World Series by going 17-8, 3.19, with a 1.28 WHIP in 211.2 innings. Despite his success that year, he finished with more walks (79) than strikeouts (65), something he never came close to doing in the majors before. He won his only ALCS start, but lost his only World Series start against the Cincinnati Reds. Ellis split the early part of the 1977 season between the Yankees and Oakland A’s, where he was sent in an April 27th trade. He had a 1.83 ERA in three starts with the Yankees, who looked like they moved on at the right time, but Ellis turned his season around after another move. He went 1-5, 9.69 in seven starts with Oakland, who sold him to the Texas Rangers on June 15th. There he had a 10-6, 2.90 in 167.1 innings. Between all three stops that year, he went 12-12, 3.63 in 213 innings, with 106 strikeouts and a 1.29 WHIP. He made 22 starts for the 1978 Rangers, going 9-7, 4.20 in 141.1 innings, with a 1.25 WHIP and a 46:45 BB/SO ratio. His time with the Rangers lasted exactly two years. On June 15, 1979, he was traded to the New York Mets after going 1-5, 5.98 in 46.2 innings to start the season.

Ellis had a brief stint with the Mets, before returning to the Pirates in late September of 1979. He struggled in New York, posting a 6.04 ERA in 85 innings over 14 starts and three relief appearances. He was acquired for the last ten days of the season to help the Pirates bullpen as they trailed by a half game in the standings to the Expos with 11 games left. Pittsburgh ended up winning the division by two games, then went on to win the World Series. Ellis gave up two runs over seven innings during his brief final stint in Pittsburgh. When teams split up the playoff bonus pool, Ellis received $250 from the Pirates. He also got a check for $193.07 from the Texas Rangers, who didn’t make the playoffs, but their third place finish earned them a small payout. He went to Spring Training with the Rangers in 1980, but they let him go in late March after some rough outings. He finished with a career 138-119, 3.46 record in 345 games, including 317 starts. He had 1,136 strikeouts and a 1.29 WHIP in 2,128 innings. He won 96 games in a Pirates uniform, the 19th highest total in team history. Only John Candelaria has won more games for the Pirates since Ellis made his debut in 1968.

On June 12, 1970, Ellis became just the fourth pitcher in Pirates history to throw a complete game no-hitter when he performed that feat against the San Diego Padres in the first game of a doubleheader. He walked eight batters and hit another, facing 36 batters in the game. It’s a game made famous by his later claim that he did it while on LSD, though his teammates all denied the story, so it’s unlikely to be true, but it still makes a good story. The Pirates have thrown just two no-hitters since this game. John Candelaria tossed one in 1976, then Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined for a 10-inning no-hitter in 1997.

Salomon Torres, pitcher for the 2002-07 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Francisco Giants in 1989 out of the Dominican Republic. He made his MLB debut four seasons later, getting eight late season starts for the 1993 Giants. He debuted in pro ball in the Dominican Summer League in 1990 (no stats available). He became a top ranked prospect after going 16-5, 1.41 in 28 starts with Clinton of the Class-A Midwest League as a 19-year-old in 1991. That year he had an 0.93 WHIP and 214 strikeouts in 210.1 innings of work, which would be an overheard of innings total for a teenager now. Torres spent 1992 with Shreveport of the Double-A Texas League, where he had a 6-10, 4.21 record in 162.1 innings, with 151 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP. The 1993 seasons saw him go 14-8, 3.15, with a 1.12 WHIP in 26 starts, split between Shreveport (2.70 ERA in 12 starts) and Triple-A Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League (3.50 ERA in 105.1 innings), prior to making his big league debut in late August. Torres had 166 strikeouts in 188.2 innings before adding to those totals with the Giants. In that first big league trial, he went 3-5, 4.03 in 44.2 innings, with a 1.43 WHIP, 27 walks and 23 strikeouts.

Torres was in the minors each of the next four seasons (1994-97), struggling in the big leagues when he got his chances. He got a longer look with the Giants in the strike-shortened 1994 season, though he finished with a 2-8, 5.44 record and a 1.53 WHIP in 84.1 innings, making 14 starts and two relief appearances. His time with Phoenix that year saw him go 5-6, 4.22 in 79 innings over 13 starts. Torres was traded mid-season in 1995 to the Seattle Mariners. He saw his stats slip again, dropping down to a 3-9, 6.30 record in 80 innings over 14 starts and six relief appearances between both stops. He had a 9.00 ERA in eight innings with the Giants before the deal. He made just one appearance that year with Phoenix, but he ended up going 1-1, 3.21 in 28 innings with Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League after the trade.  While his ERA improved in 1996, his playing time at the big league level with the Mariners was limited. He posted a 4.59 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 49 innings, which was actually an improvement on the 5.29 ERA and 1.50 WHIP he had in 134.1 innings with Tacoma that year. Torres was placed on waivers in mid-April of 1997 after giving up ten runs in 3.1 innings for the Mariners. He was picked up by the Montreal Expos, where he didn’t fare much better, posting a 7.25 ERA in 22.1 innings. He retired after 1997 to coach, before returning to organized ball in 2001. He played briefly that first year back in the Korea, where he allowed 12 earned runs over 5.1 innings.

The Pirates signed Torres as a free agent in December of 2001. He started the 2002 season in Triple-A, where he posted an 8-5, 3.83 record, a 1.28 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 162.1 innings for Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. He was called up by the Pirates in September, where he pitched well in five starts, putting up a 2.70 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 30 innings. He made 16 starts and 25 relief appearances for the Pirates in 2003, posting a 7-5, 4.76 record in 121 innings, with a 1.40 WHIP, 84 strikeouts and two saves. He was moved to the bullpen full-time following that season. From 2004 until 2006, Torres averaged 85 appearances a year, making a total of 256 appearances during that stretch. He went 7-7, 2.64 in 92 innings over 84 games in 2004, finishing third in the league in games pitched. He had a 1.18 WHIP and 62 strikeouts. He had a 5-5, 2.76 record and three saves in 94.2 innings over 78 games during the 2005 season, making the fourth most appearances in the league. He had a 1.18 WHIP again, but his strikeouts dropped to 55 for the season, despite slightly more work. Torres led the league with 94 games pitched in 2006, when he went 3-6, 3.28 in 93.1 innings. He moved to the closer role in late 2006 and picked up 12 saves, but lost the job after pitching poorly through early June of 2007. He had a 1.46 WHIP that season, while showing an improved strikeout rate, finishing with 72 strikeouts on the year.

Torres had a 5.47 ERA, a 1.41 WHIP, 45 strikeouts and 12 saves in 52.2 innings over 56 appearances during the 2007 season. He had two stints on the disabled list that year due to elbow soreness. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 2007  for two minor league pitchers, Kevin Roberts and Marino Salas. Only Salas made the majors, and he lasted just 13 games in 2008 during his only big league season. Torres pitched one season for the Brewers before retiring, though it was an impressive season for a last year in the majors. He had a 3.49 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 80 innings over 71 appearances, with 28 saves. In six seasons with the Pirates, he had a 26-28, 3.63 record in 358 games (21 starts) with 29 saves. His 94 appearances in 2006 tied Kent Tekulve (1979) for the most single season games pitched in franchise history. For his career, he went 44-58, 4.31 in 847.1 innings, with 57 saves in 497 appearances, including 64 starts.

Ed Fernandes, catcher for the 1940 Pirates. Despite being just 22 years old when he made his Major League debut with the 1940 Pirates, he was already in his sixth season of pro ball. He had hit .300 in five of his first six seasons in the minors, including a .333 average and ten extra-base hits in 55 games for Portland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1940 (the highest level of the minors at the time), before the Pirates acquired him. Fernandes debuted at 17 years old in 1935 with Butler of the Class-D Pennsylvania State League, where he hit .305 in 66 games, with seven doubles, 11 triples and five homers. He remained in the same league for part of 1936 with Monessen, while also seeing 12 games a level higher with Zanesville of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League. He hit .336 that year, with 35 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs and a .990 OPS in 36 games. He hit .305 in 129 games for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League during the 1937 season. That year he had 58 runs, 22 doubles, five triples, nine homers and 57 RBIs. Fernandes batted .282 over 112 games for Seattle in 1938, finishing with 40 runs, 17 doubles, three triples, four homers and 34 RBIs. He moved to Portland of the Pacific Coast League for the 1939 season, where he hit .329 in 111 games, with 20 doubles and two homers.

On May 31, 1940, Fernandes was the player to be named later in a trade made two weeks earlier, with the Pirates sending veteran pitcher Roy Harrell and cash to Portland. Fernandes was the backup catcher over the rest of the season for the Pirates, usually catching the end of blowout games. He had 40 plate appearances in 29 games, with 20 of those trips to the plate coming in the last two weeks of the season. He hit .121/.275/.152 for the 1940 Pirates, collecting seven walks, one double and two RBIs. The Pirates sold him to the Chicago White Sox during Spring Training of 1941. His big league career consisted of just 14 more games after leaving the Pirates, all for the 1946 White Sox. With that type of gap, you might expect a long stint serving in the military during WWII, but Fernandes spent the 1941-44 seasons in the minors, playing for three different teams in three different leagues. He spent the 1941 season with St Paul of the Double-A American Association, hitting .269 in 102 games, with 33 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 89 walks, leading to a .458 OBP and an .843 OPS. He struggled with Toronto of the Double-A International League in 1942, hitting .216 over 79 games, with 26 runs, 16 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs. However, his 68 walks led to a .443 OBP and an .814 OPS.

Fernandes was actually property of an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs in 1943-44 (Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League), but the White Sox got him back in the minor league draft in November of 1944. Los Angeles tried to trade him to Macon of the South Atlantic League in early 1943, but he didn’t want to play on the east coast, then the league shut down due to WWII anyway. He ended up hitting just .189/.339/.208 in 30 games in 1944, seeing limited time due to his performance. He hit .280 over 130 games in 1944, with 69 runs, 30 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 85 walks and a .782 OPS, which led to his second big league chance. Before he played a game for the White Sox, he entered the service and missed all of 1945. Fernandes returned to the White Sox during Spring Training in 1946, then served as the team’s backup catcher through early July. His final game with the team was an exhibition game played on July 9th, but he remained with the club through the end of the year. He batted just 40 times in 14 games that season, hitting .250/.400/.313 with eight walks. His big league time officially ended on December 6, 1946, when he was sold to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League. He played in the minors until 1954, playing for nine teams over his last seven seasons, never staying anywhere more than one year.

Fernandes played for Los Angeles and Sacramento during the 1947 season, combining to hit .285 in 55 games, with 17 runs, nine extra-base hits, 16 RBIs and 29 walks. He played for Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in 1948, hitting .297 in 62 games, with 12 runs, eight extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and a .910 OPS. He had a .274 average over 57 games for Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1949. He had 13 runs, five extra-base hits, 12 RBIs, 43 walks and an .819 OPS. Fernandes played for Nashville of the Double-A Southern Association in 1950, where he hit just .192 over 50 games, with one double and one homer, but 36 walks helped him to a .407 OBP and a .640 OPS. He split the 1951 season between Stockton of the Class-C California League, and Tijuana of the Class-C Southwestern International League. He hit .284 in 74 games, with 29 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 40 RBIs, 57 walks and an .805 OPS. During his final two seasons of pro ball, he served as a player/manager in the Class-C Pioneer League. He had a .250 average and a .933 OPS for Pocatello in 1952. He walked 63 times in 61 games that year. His final season in 1954 saw him play for Boise, where he had 45 plate appearances in 36 games, finishing with a .267/.511/.267 slash line. He was a .285 career hitter in 1,190 minor league games over 17 seasons.