This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 26th, The Sasser and Milligan Trade

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one trade of note.

The Trade

On March 26, 1988, the Pirates sent pitcher Tim Drummond and catcher Mackey Sasser to the New York Mets in exchange for first baseman Randy Milligan and minor league pitcher Scott Henion. The Pirates acquired Sasser at the 1987 trading deadline for pitcher Don Robinson. It was the first season in the majors for the 25-year-old catcher, who went 0-for-4 in two games for the San Francisco Giants, then hit .217/.217/.217 in 12 games for the Pirates. Drummond made his Major League debut in September of 1987, getting six relief appearances. The 23-year-old pitcher had a 2.97 ERA and ten saves in 46 appearances at Triple-A in 1987 before his call-up. However, that strong ERA hid a 1.65 WHIP in his 63.2 innings of work. Henion had just turned 22 years old prior to the trade. He was a reliever in Class-A ball, who was in his second year of pro ball. He had a 3.34 ERA and 12 saves in 70 innings over 54 games. Milligan was 26 years old at the time, coming off a Triple-A season that saw him hit .326 in 136 games, with 99 runs, 28 doubles, 29 homers, 103 RBIs and 91 walks. He was a 1981 first round draft pick of the Mets, who just saw his first big league action that September, which amounted to two plate appearances over three games.

The Pirates didn’t get much out of this trade. Henion pitched poorly in one year in High-A ball before moving on to the Montreal Expos organization for one last season of pro ball. Milligan made the Opening Day roster in 1988, but never got going with the bat. He had a .220 average and three homers in 40 games before being sent back to the minors. In November of 1988, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Pete Blohm, who never made the majors. Milligan ended up having a nice run of four seasons in the majors with the Orioles, where he put up 11.1 WAR due to a combo of solid power and high walk numbers. Sasser ended up playing five seasons in New York, hitting .283/.309/.403 in 420 games. He was a decent player during that time, but his value was somewhat limited (2.3 WAR total) due to lower homer/walk numbers and mediocre defense. He eventually made in back to Pittsburgh to finish his career in 1995, though that amounted to a .346 OPS in 14 games. Drummond never pitched for the Mets. He was one of the five pitchers that they sent to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Frank Viola at the 1989 trading deadline. He pitched parts of two seasons with the Twins before finishing his career in the minors in 1992. His big league career amounted to a 3-5, 4.29 record in 113.1 innings over four starts and 45 relief appearances.

The Players

Eric Hacker, pitcher for the 2009 Pirates. He was a 23rd round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2002 at 19 years old out of Duncanville HS in Texas. He is one of nine Major League players to get drafted out of that school. It’s a list that also includes one-time Pirates pitcher Todd Ritchie. Hacker spent seven seasons in the minors for New York, although he missed all of 2004 and 2006 with injuries. He also made just three relief appearances during his first season of pro ball after signing late. In fact, he pitched just 102 innings totals during his first five seasons of pro ball. He debuted in the rookie level Gulf Coast League in 2002 with 3.2 shutout innings over three games in his only action that season. He split the 2003 season between the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island of the short-season New York-Penn League, while spending the start of the season in Extended Spring Training. Hacker went 3-2, 2.41 in 37.1 innings, with 34 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP. His 2004 season was lost due to elbow surgery. He returned in 2005 to make ten starts for Charleston of the Low-A South Atlantic League, going 5-2, 1.60 in 62 innings, with 40 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP. It was a strong partial season, but then shoulder surgery followed, which kept him out of action for all of 2006. Hacker finally put in his first full season in 2007, and it went well at the start. He split the year between three levels, with most of his time spent back with Charleston. He had a 2.56 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 95 innings before moving up to Tampa of the High-A Florida State League. He struggled with the promotion, posting a 6.10 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP in 38.1 innings. He also saw one relief appearance for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the Triple-A International League, where allowed two runs in 2.2 innings. He combined for a 13-5, 3.64 record, a 1.32 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 136 innings.

Hacker did even better in 2008, while splitting the year between Tampa (nine starts) and Trenton of the Double-A Eastern League (17 starts), going 9-6, 2.43 in 144.1 innings over 26 starts, with 115 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP. He was not pitching well early in 2009, putting up a 7.88 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in three starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, along with a 4.41 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in three starts at Trenton. The Pirates acquired him on May 16, 2009 in exchange for pitcher Romulo Sanchez. Hacker reported to Indianapolis of the International League after the trade, where he went 5-5, 4.02 in 21 starts, with 82 strikeouts and a 1.56 WHIP in 116.1 innings. The Pirates called him up on September 8th, then he made his Major League debut two weeks later. He ended up pitching three times out of the bullpen, with all three being one-inning appearances. He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks, with one strikeout. Hacker was granted free agency after the season, then signed with the San Francisco Giants for 2010. He spent the full season in the minors, where he went 16-8, 4.51 in 29 starts for Fresno of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, with 129 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP in 165.2 innings. He signed with the Minnesota Twins for 2011, where he made two more relief appearances in the big leagues. Hacker allowed one unearned run over 5.1 innings, with four hits, four walks and two strikeouts. His minor league time that year saw him go 7-14, 6.10 in 135.2 innings for Rochester of the International League.

Hacker’s last Major League stint was with the 2012 Giants, where he made three relief appearances and his only big league start. He allowed six runs on 14 hits and two walks in 9.2 innings during that final big league season. The rest of the year was spent back with Fresno, where he went 12-6, 4.01 in 150.1 innings, with 103 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP. Hacker then pitched six seasons in Korea, last playing pro ball in 2018. He went 4-11, 3.63 over 178.1 innings in 2013, with 127 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. That was followed by an 8-8, 4.01 record in 2014, when he had 112 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP in 172.2 innings. During the 2015 season, he put together a 19-5, 3.13 record and threw 204 innings, finishing with an impressive 1.03 WHIP and a career best 164 strikeouts. Hacker posted a 13-3, 3.45 record over 23 starts in 2016, with 119 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP in 140.2 innings. He had a 12-7, 3.42 record in 2017, with 97 strikeouts and a 1.17 WHIP in 160.1 innings. His final season of pro ball saw him go 5-3, 5.20 in 79.2 innings, with 56 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP. Hacker went 61-37, 3.66 over 935.2 innings in Korea. He had a 71-50, 3.94 record in 982.2 innings in the minors. His big league career consisted of a 4.00 ERA in 18 innings over his three partial seasons.

Jack McCarthy, left fielder for the 1898-99 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1891 at 22 years old, playing for three different teams over two seasons in the New England League (no stats available), which was considered to be a Class-B league during the 1892 season. He was with Lynn and Manchester during the 1891 season, followed by joining Salem for 1892. McCarthy moved to the Class-B Southern Association to play for the Charleston Seagulls in 1893. He batted .310 in 85 games that year, with 24 doubles, six triples and seven homers, before getting his first shot at the majors in August. He spent parts of two seasons in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds (1893-94), batting .276/.351/.345 in 89 games, with 57 runs, 17 doubles, four triples, no homers and 43 RBIs. He had similar results each year, with a .282 average and a .709 OPS in 49 games in 1893, followed by a .270 average and a .683 OPS in 40 games in 1894. That second season was a disappointing number because offense was up all around baseball due to new rules put in place for pitchers in 1893 that heavily favored hitters. Offense started to go up in 1893, but it peaked in 1894, as pitchers took time to adjust. McCarthy spent part of 1894 back in the New England League with Brockton, his fourth different club for him from that league (no stats available). He mostly played for Indianapolis of the Western League that year after leaving the Reds. He hit .362 in 76 games for Indianapolis, with 51 extra-base hits, which included an astounding 24 triples. McCarthy played the entire 1895 season for Indianapolis. The Western League was then considered to be Class-A, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He hit .420 that year, with 146 runs, 64 extra-base hits and 54 steals in 121 games. Despite that season, he spent the next two seasons back in Indianapolis. His 1896 stats are missing, but he batted .350 over 85 games in 1897, with 86 runs, 43 extra-base hits and 23 steals.

The Pirates acquired McCarthy in a seven-player trade with the Reds on November 10, 1897, in which the Pirates gave up star outfielder Mike Smith and 30-game winner Pink Hawley, while getting back five players. Part of the reason that Pittsburgh wanted McCarthy back was that Indianapolis was managed by Bill Watkins, who took over the managerial reins for the Pirates for 1898, so he was bringing in two of his own men from the 1897 season (Bill Gray was the other). McCarthy took over in left field for Smith, and while he didn’t provide the total offense that Smith did, he still had a .289 average, with 75 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 78 RBIs and a .716 OPS in 137 games during his first year in Pittsburgh (Pirates went by the name Patriots in 1898). He improved on those numbers in 1899, hitting .306 in 139 games, with 109 runs scored, 22 doubles, 17 triples, 69 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a career best 39 walks, leading to a .782 OPS. When the Pirates completed the Honus Wagner trade with Louisville on December 8, 1899, they acquired Hall of Fame left fielder Fred Clarke, leaving no room for McCarthy. Honus Wagner was a right fielder at the time, and they already had Ginger Beaumont in center field. Four days after the Louisville trade, the Pirates sold McCarthy to the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) for $2,000. He would go on to play eight more seasons in the majors.

McCarthy batted .294 in 1900, with 68 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs, 22 steals and a .683 OPS in 124 games for Chicago. He then jumped to the American League for the 1901 season to play with the Cleveland Blues. He set career bests with a .321 average and a .784 OPS in 1901, though he played just 86 games, after a hit-by-pitch injured his knee so badly on August 10th that he missed the final two months. He had 60 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs at the time of the injury. McCarthy then hit .284 in 95 games during the 1902 season, collecting 45 runs, a career high 31 doubles, 41 RBIs and a .727 OPS. He missed time that year with a knee injury, as well as what was described as blood poisoning from a different injury. After starting off with a .265 average, 47 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs over 108 games in 1903, he was released by Cleveland. He then rejoined the Cubs, where he stayed until a trade after the 1905 season. He finished out the 1903 season by hitting .277/.305/.327 in 24 games with Chicago. That was followed by a .264 average over 115 games in 1904, with 36 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs, 14 steals and a .613 OPS. He completed three double plays from center field in a game against the Pirates on April 26, 1905, but he was soon on the bench for the rest of the season, seeing very few starts after May 5th. McCarthy ended up hitting .277 over 59 games that year, with 16 runs, seven extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and a .656 OPS.

McCarthy spent his final two seasons with the Brooklyn Suberbas (Dodgers) putting up vastly different results year-to-year. He spent part of the 1906 season with Providence of the Class-A Eastern League, though no stats are available. He hit .304 for Brooklyn in 1906, with 23 runs, 13 doubles, 35 RBIs and a .698 OPS in 91 games. He then dropped down to a .220 average and a .478 OPS over 25 games in 1907 to finish his big league career. He hit .339 over 49 games with Kansas City of the Class-A American Association to end the 1907 season. He played minor league ball until 1910, the final three seasons as a player-manager. He was a manager also during the 1911 season. McCarthy was with Springfield of the Class-B Three-I League in 1908, where he batted .278 in 116 games, with 50 runs and 27 steals. He played for Wausau of the Class-D Minnesota-Wisconsin League in 1909, hitting .314 in 56 games, with eight doubles and two triples. His final season as a player in 1910, saw him bat .222 in ten games with Danville of the Three-I League. McCarthy hit .287 in 1,087 big league games, with 551 runs, 171 doubles, 66 triples, eight homers, 476 RBIs and 145 stolen bases. All eight of his homers came while he was playing for the Pirates, despite having over 3,000 plate appearances after leaving Pittsburgh. He hit three homers at home during that time and all three were inside-the-park homers.

Morrie Critchley, pitcher for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He made his big league debut for the Alleghenys on May 8, 1882 at 32 years old. It was the fourth game in the history of the franchise, a team that started with the formation of the American Association that year. Critchley was facing a Cincinnati Red Stockings team that had just put 19 runs on the board one game earlier. He would allow seven hits and a walk but when the game ended, he had a shutout in his Major League debut. One month later, without pitching another official game, he was released by the Alleghenys. Critchley started a game on May 11th that was called due to wind/rain after four innings, with the Alleghenys leading 7-3 over the St Louis Brown Stockings. On May 18th the Alleghenys announced that he was “expelled” for visiting gambling places. The papers claimed that he was under medical treatment at the expense of the team and he frequently disobeyed the rules set up for baseball players at the time. Critchley was unable to play for any other team until his expulsion sentence was lifted. He joined the St Louis Brown Stockings in July, and made four starts for them with much different results than his game in Pittsburgh. Critchley went 0-4 and allowed 31 runs in 34 innings, striking out just two batters. Two of his starts came on back-to-back days in Pittsburgh against the Alleghenys, and each ended with a 6-1 loss. He never pitched in the majors again and has no known minor league records after 1882. He was found umpiring in the summer of 1883. By December of 1883, it was stated that he recovered from a lame arm and was practicing pitching at the time in Pittsburgh with former teammate Ed Swartwood, with hopes of landing a job in 1884. However, by May he was managing a semi-pro team in McKeesport, Pa.

Critchley was already 27 years old when organized minor league ball started in 1877. He was a member of a team from Auburn, NY of the League Alliance that season. He moved on to the Hornellsville Hornells of the International Association the next year. No stats are available from those first two seasons. When he joined St Louis in 1882, he was called “the once famous pitcher of the Albany nine”, a team he played for in the National Association during the 1879-1880 seasons. He gained some notoriety during his early time in Albany for his display of a curveball that he threw across the front of a building, with the late curve of the ball coinciding with the end of the building  and the ball disappearing from sight. Critchley reportedly pitched and won five games in one day, which was called a world record. He also played with Baltimore of the National Alliance in 1880. His Baltimore time credits him with going 2-4, 2.21 in 53 innings over six complete game starts. His Auburn time has batting records available that show a .180 average and 18 runs in 49 games. He went 1-for-20 at the plate in Baltimore.

Critchley has no records of playing in 1881, but he could be found umpiring minor league games during the season, and a March article said that he was working as a bartender. He was secured by the Alleghenys by Christmas Eve, with his name first appearing attached to the team in the Christmas Day issue of the 1881 St Louis Globe-Democrat. His obituary said that he also played for teams in Rochester and “many other places”. After his playing days, he umpired a handful of Major League games during the 1884-85 seasons in the American Association. In fact, he umpired an exhibition game between the Alleghenys and Louisville Eclipse on May 30, 1882 in Pittsburgh, while still under expulsion from the team. With his birth date of 3/26/1850, he is the earliest born pitcher in franchise history. Only two position players, Bob Ferguson and Deacon White, were born prior to Critchley. He is one of just four pitchers in Pirates franchise history to win his only game pitched for the team. He passed away in Pittsburgh in 1910, and currently resides at Calvary Cemetery in town.