Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players and two trades of note on this date.
Austin Meadows, outfielder for the 2018 Pirates. The Pirates selected Meadows out of high school in Georgia with the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft, a compensation pick for being unable to sign pitcher Mark Appel the previous year. Meadows was a top prospect in baseball throughout his minor league career, though his progress was slowed significantly due to injuries, including numerous hamstring issues that took away his speed over the years. He had a great debut in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, putting up a .918 OPS in 43 games. That led to a late promotion to the short-season New York-Penn League, where he had a .529 average and two homers in five games with Jamestown. Between both stops, he finished with a .316 average in 48 games, with 37 runs, 11 doubles, five triples, seven homers, 22 RBIs and a .978 OPS. Meadows was limited to just 45 games in 2014, including seven rehab games at lower levels. He spent the rest of his time with West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He hit .317 that year, with 21 runs,20 extra-base hits, 16 RBIs and an .881 OPS. Meadows was healthy for the entire 2015 season. He hit .307 in 121 games, with 72 runs, 22 doubles, seven homers, 55 RBIs, 20 steals and a .764 OPS for Bradenton of the pitcher-friendly Double-A High-A Florida State League. He then moved up to Altoona of the Eastern League at the end of the year, where he put up a 1.109 OPS in six games. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit just .169/.194/.308 in 16 games, with one homer and 11 RBIs.
Meadows was limited to 87 games in 2016, though he did so well in his short time at Altoona (.976 OPS in 45 games), that he got promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He hit .214/.297/.460 in 37 games for Indianapolis. Combined that year between three stops (including lower-level rehab work), he had a .266 average, with 49 runs, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 17 steals and an .869 OPS. Meadows missed half of 2017, then struggled when he did play, putting up a .670 OPS in 72 games with Indianapolis. He also played five more rehab games, playing for Morgantown of the New York-Penn League for a second straight season. He also terrorized the Gulf Coast League for four games, in which he had a 1.648 OPS. Between all three stops, he finished the year with a .261 average over 81 games, with 53 runs, 22 doubles, five homers, 46 RBIs and a .707 OPS. He began the 2018 season with Indianapolis, before making his big league debut on May 18, 2018. Meadows did well over, though he had a hot start, then hit a slow patch, which resulted in a demotion to Indianapolis. He had a .712 OPS in 42 games for Indianapolis that year. He hit .292 in 49 games for the 2018 Pirates, with 16 runs, eight doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs and a .795 OPS.
Meadows was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Chris Archer deal on July 31, 2018. Meadows reported to Triple-A with the Rays, before returning to the majors in September for ten games. He had a 1.167 OPS in 27 games for Durham of the International League that year, then hit .250/.308/.417 for the Rays. He hit .291 in 2019, with 83 runs, 29 doubles, 33 homers, 89 RBIs, 12 steals and 54 walks in 138 games. That earned him an All-Star spot and mild MVP support, finishing 14th in the voting. He struggled throughout the shortened 2020 season, hitting .205/.296/.371 over 36 games, with 19 runs, eight doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs. Meadows had a solid year at the plate in 2021, which earned him a 20th place finish in the MVP voting, though his WAR finished low due to poor defense and a low average. He batted .234 in 142 games, with 79 runs, 29 doubles, 27 homers, 106 RBIs and 59 walks, giving him a .772 OPS. Meadows was considered to be a solid defensive center fielder in the minors, but losing speed over the years, along with a very weak arm, led to him becoming a below average left fielder, who was used at DH often. The defense has limited him to 6.4 WAR in the majors through the early part of 2023. That is despite his strong season at the plate in 2019, when he compiled 4.4 offensive WAR. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers just prior to the 2022 season for Isaac Paredes. Injuries and anxiety issues have derailed his time in Detroit. He hit .250/.347/.328 over 36 games in 2022, then went on the Injured List in April of 2023 with anxiety after just five games. Through April 21, 2023, Meadows is a career .259 hitter in 417 games, with 209 runs, 82 doubles, 70 homers and 238 RBIs.
Ivan Cruz, first baseman for the 1999-2000 Pirates. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 1989 amateur draft, taken in the 28th round at 21 years old out of Jacksonville University. Cruz didn’t make his Major League debut until eight years later while with the 1997 New York Yankees. He did well in his pro debut during the 1989 season, putting up a .274 average, 43 runs, 11 doubles, seven homers, 40 RBIs and a .792 OPS in 64 games, while playing for Niagara Falls in the short-season New York-Penn League. He skipped to the pitcher-friendly High-A Florida State League in 1990, where he posted a .794 OPS in 118 games with Lakeland. He hit .285 that season, with 61 runs, 23 doubles, 11 homers and 73 RBIs. Cruz struggled a bit the next year at Double-A with London of the Eastern League, posting a devilishly mediocre .666 OPS in 121 games. He received a brief trial in Triple-A with Toledo of the International League, where hit .138/.219/.241 in eight games. He hit .242 between both stops, with 48 runs, 21 doubles, ten homers and 51 RBIs. He would spend the entire 1992 season back in London, where he had a .273 average in 134 games, with 71 runs, 25 doubles, 14 homers, 104 RBIs and a .727 OPS. He batted .226 during his first full season for Toledo in 1993, with 44 runs, 18 doubles, 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 115 games, giving him a .672 OPS. Cruz was back with Toledo in 1994, hitting .248 that year, with 36 runs, 11 doubles, 15 homers, 43 RBIs and a .758 OPS in 97 games. He would end up spending most of 1995 back in Double-A with Jacksonville of the Southern League, where he had a .282 average, with 65 runs, 17 doubles, 31 homers, 93 RBIs, 60 walks and a .938 OPS. He had a .194 average and a .552 OPS in 11 games for Toledo that year. He became a free agent after the season, then signed a minor league deal with the Yankees.
Cruz batted .258 in 1996, with 84 runs, 26 doubles, 28 homers, 96 RBIs and an .839 OPS in 130 games with Columbus of the International League. The Yankees called him up to the majors twice in 1997. He made his debut in mid-July for two weeks, followed by a September recall. He went 5-for-20 in his time with the Yankees, collecting a double, three RBIs and two walks. He tore up Columbus that year, finishing with a .966 OPS in 116 games. That time was highlighted by 34 doubles, 25 homers and 95 RBIs. He played just 61 minor league games in 1998. He batted .280 between 56 games with Columbus and five rehab games in the Gulf Coast League. Cruz finished with 36 runs, 13 doubles, 14 homers, 41 RBIs and a .915 OPS. He was limited due to a knee injury. The Yankees then dropped him from the 40-man roster in late August. After spending three seasons in the Yankees system, and getting into just 11 big league games, Cruz signed with the Pirates on December 22, 1998. He began the year with Nashville of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he had a .338 average in 65 games, with 23 homers and 77 RBIs. He was called up by the Pirates on June 24th to take the place of Jose Guillen, who was sent to the minors. Less than two weeks after being called up, Cruz strained his oblique during batting practice, which landed him on the disabled list. He returned to Nashville briefly before going back on the disabled list again. He ended up going 4-for-10 in five games for the Pirates that season, with three runs, a homer and two RBIs.
Cruz began the 2000 season in Nashville, before getting recalled in mid-May. He had a .314 average in 36 games at the time, putting up 18 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs and a .970 OPS. After going 1-for-11 at the plate, the Pirates designated him for assignment. He finished the year in the Mexican League, where he hit .402/.449/.794 in 51 games. He then signed to play in Japan in 2001. He batted .234 in 70 games for Hanshin, with 19 runs, five doubles, 14 homers and 34 RBIs. Cruz played for the St Louis Cardinals in 2002, spending the year in Triple-A until being recalled in September when the rosters expanded. He batted .280 over 125 games with Memphis of the Pacific Coast League, finishing with 83 runs, 27 doubles, 35 homers, 100 RBIs and a .916 OPS. He went 5-for-14 during his last big league trial, with a homer and three RBIs in 17 games. He then spent his last season of pro ball (2003) in Japan, where he had a .222 average over 71 games for Chunichi, with 21 runs, eight doubles, 11 homers and 34 RBIs. Cruz hit 281 homers during his pro career, while finishing with 1,026 RBIs. His big league career amounted to 58 plate appearances over 41 games. He hit .273 during that time, with five runs,a double, two homers and eight RBIs.
Chris Cannizzaro, catcher for the 1968 Pirates. He was originally signed by the St Louis Cardinals in 1956 as an amateur free agent, shortly after his 18th birthday. He batted .212/.306/.240 in 40 games with Decatur of the Class-D Midwest League during his first season in pro ball. At that time, that was the lowest level of the minors. Cannizzaro put up decent stats in his second season, which was split between Ardmore of the Class-D Sooner State League and Billings of the Class-C Pioneer League. He ended up with a .257 average, 31 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, 39 walks and a .722 OPS in 78 games that year. He moved to the upper level of the minors in 1958, spending his first of two seasons with Omaha of the Triple-A American Association. Cannizzaro batted .272 in 1958, with 44 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs and a .714 OPS in 110 games. He hit .231 in 1959, with 23 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs in 101 games. His OPS dropped 102 points over the previous season, down to a .612 mark. Despite the poor showing at the plate, he was in the majors with the Cardinals at the beginning of 1960 as a backup catcher. He got into seven games over the first month of the season, before being sent to the minors for the rest of the year. Teams had bigger rosters to start the year back then, so that helped his case. He moved from Omaha to Rochester of the Triple-A International League in 1960, where he had a .251 average in 122 games, with 38 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 44 RBIs and 49 walks, leading to a .703 OPS.
Cannizzaro started the 1961 season in the minors, before coming back to St Louis during the second half of the season. He played just six games (all off the bench) from August 3rd through the end of the season. When he was called up on July 30th, he was replacing rookie Tim McCarver as the third-string catcher. Cannizzaro was not doing well in the minors that season, hitting .203 /.255/.263 in 41 games for Portland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He had just two at-bats for the Cardinals that year. He was selected by the New York Mets in the expansion draft held in October of 1961. It was a great break for him, as he played 59 big league games during the 1962 season. He batted .241/.336/.271 in 156 plate appearances, with nine runs, three extra-base hits and nine RBIs. Cannizzaro also led the National League with a 55.6% caught stealing rate. He spent most of the 1963 season in the minors with Buffalo of the International League, where he had a .266 average over 93 games, with 28 runs, 14 doubles, seven homers, 39 RBIs and a .736 OPS. He played just 16 games for the 1963 Mets, putting up a .242/.257/.273 slash line in 35 plate appearances. Despite his limited use in 1963, he was the backup for the Mets during the 1964-65 seasons. Cannizzaro batted .311 during the 1964 season, with 11 runs, ten doubles, then RBIs and a .739 OPS in 60 games. That led to more playing time in 1965, though his offense dropped off significantly. He hit just .183 during the 1965 season, with 17 runs, ten extra-base hits, seven RBIs and a .502 OPS in 114 games. He did well defensively that year, including a 52.5% caught stealing rate, which was the best in the National League.
Cannizzaro played in the majors for six straight years, before spending the next two years in the minors. During that time he was traded from the Mets to the Atlanta Braves, from the Braves to the Boston Red Sox, and from the Red Sox to the Detroit Tigers. The Pirates acquired him from the Tigers on November 29, 1967, in exchange for minor league player Mike Derrick. Cannizzaro batted .227 in 1966, with 23 runs, 13 doubles, eight homers, 41 RBIs and a .631 OPS in 101 games for Richmond of the International League. He then hit .255 in 1967, with 26 runs, ten doubles, eight homers, 36 RBIs and a .712 OPS in 98 games for Toledo of the International League. He spent most of the 1968 season with Columbus of the International League, before getting called up to the Pirates in August. He was hitting .243 at the time, with 29 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs and a .667 OPS in 88 games. Cannizzaro played 25 big league games that year, starting 18 of them behind the plate. He hit .241/.343/.397 over 70 plate appearances, with five runs, five extra-base hits and seven RBIs. He homered in his 11th at-bat after getting called up. It was significant due to the fact that he went 592 at-bats during his first six seasons in the majors without hitting a home run. On March 28, 1969, the Pirates traded Cannizzaro to the San Diego Padres in a four-player deal. He ended up playing in the All-Star game in 1969, and he lasted in the majors until 1974.
Despite being an All-Star in 1969, Cannizzaro didn’t have a big season at the plate. He had a .587 OPS in 134 games, finishing with a .220 average, 23 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 42 walks. He did much better in 1970, hitting .279 in 110 games, with 27 runs, 13 doubles, five homers, 42 RBIs, 48 walks and a .745 OPS. He got off to a slow start in 1971, then was traded to the Chicago Cubs in May. He hit .208 that year, finishing with a career best six homers in 92 games that season. He had a combined .633 OPS between both stops, with 20 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs and 29 walks. He was lost of waivers to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he spent the next two years. Cannizzaro had a .240 average over 73 games in 1972, with 14 runs, eight extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and a .641 OPS. His 1973 season was limited to 17 games (four starts) due to playing a third-string catcher role all year. He hit .191/.280/.191 in 25 plate appearances. After being released by the Dodgers following the 1973 season, he signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent for 1974. He was with Denver of the Triple-A American Association until August 1, 1974, when the Padres purchased his contract. He was hitting .216/.391/.318 through 40 games at the time of his purchase. Cannizzaro ended up back in the majors for two months, before finishing out his playing career with a brief stint in the minors in 1975. He batted .183/.258/.200 in 26 games for the 1974 Padres. He then played four games without a hit for Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League in 1975. He also played one game in 1979 while managing Salinas of the California League. He managed during the 1980-81 seasons in the California League. He hit .232 over 13 seasons in the majors, with 132 runs, 66 doubles, 18 homers and 169 RBIs in 740 games. He attempted twenty stolen bases at the Major League level, and he was successful just three times. He threw of 41% of runners attempting to steal during his career.
On this date in 1947, the Pirates traded outfielder Al Gionfriddo and $100,000 in cash (some sources say $125k), to the Brooklyn Dodgers for pitchers Cal McLish, Kirby Higbe, Hank Behrman, catcher Dixie Howell and infielder Gene Mauch. The deal was originally going to be a straight up purchase of the five players, but the Pirates threw Gionfriddo into the deal. The day before the trade, the newspapers were reporting that the Pirates were going to purchase just two players. As for the players after the trade, Behrman was returned to the Dodgers after giving up 25 runs in 24.2 innings for the Pirates. He had a great rookie season at 25 years old in 1946, posting a 2.93 ERA in 150.2 innings. With his return to Brooklyn, the Pirates recouped as much as $50,000 from the original sale price. Behrman had a 5.30 ERA over the rest of the season. Mauch was 21 years old at the time of the trade, with only five games of Major League experience. He ended up hitting .300/.432/.300 in 16 games for the Pirates, before being dealt back to the Dodgers in a six-player trade on December 8, 1947.
Dixie Howell was signed by the Dodgers in 1938, but never played a big league game for them. He hit .276 for the Pirates in 1947 as a 27-year-old rookie, with 23 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs in 76 games. Ten months after being acquired, he was one of the players the Pirates sent (along with plenty of cash) to the San Francisco Seals in exchange for highly touted pitcher Bob Chesnes. McLish was just 21 years old when the trade occurred, with 24 games of Major League experience over two seasons. He pitched three games for the Pirates over two seasons, before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. That trade was made exactly one year after the Mauch trade mentioned above. McLish eventually became a very good big league pitcher, but not until age 31, which was well after being dealt by the Pirates.
That left Higbe as the only player in the deal that was still with the team by the time 1949 rolled around. He was a serviceable pitcher for his two full seasons in Pittsburgh, pitching 102 games, including 38 starts. He had 19 wins and 15 saves between 1947-48, but he quickly went downhill in 1949. He was traded to the New York Giants by early June of 1949. Before the original deal, Higbe had a 70-38 record in five seasons in Brooklyn. Gionfriddo played 37 regular season games for the Dodgers in 1947, hitting .177/.346/.242 over 82 plate appearances, with ten runs and six RBIs. He also played four games in the World Series, where he made one of the most memorable catches of all-time, robbing Joe DiMaggio in game six to help the Dodgers send the series to a seventh game. That game six appearance ended up being his last game in the majors.
On this date in 1952, the Pirates traded pitcher Bil Werle to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for veteran pitcher Red Munger. Werle began his career in Pittsburgh and had been with the Pirates since 1949, going 28-35, 4.76 in 147 games, sixty as a starter. Munger at age 33 was just two years old than Werle, but he had nine seasons of Major League experience at that point, all with the Cardinals. He had a 74-49 record in 233 games, 144 as a starter. He was also a three time All-Star. Munger made one start for St Louis in 1952, two weeks prior to the trade, and he did not pitch well, giving up six runs in 4.1 innings. Werle had pitched five games in 1952, all out of the bullpen, and he too did not pitch well. In four innings, he gave up ten base runners and four runs.
After the trade Munger showed no signs of the All-Star pitcher he once was, going 0-3, 7.18 in four starts and a relief appearance. He ended up going to the minors for the rest of 1952 and all of the next three seasons. The Pirates brought him back in 1956 after he went 23-8, 1.85 in 1955 for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. He ended up making 13 starts and 22 relief appearances in 1956, posting a 3-4, 4.04 record in 107 innings, in what would be his last season in the majors. Werle pitched 19 games for the Cardinals (all in relief), before being put on waivers in October, where he was picked up by the Boston Red Sox. He pitched 19 games over two seasons in Boston (1953-54), before returning to the minors for good, although he was far from done. He last pitched pro ball at age 42 in 1963.