This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 13th, Five Former Players and Some Elmer Smith Stuff

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at an interesting pitching match-up on this date from 131 years ago, and a transaction of note involving a player from that game.

The Players

Max Moroff, infielder for the 2016-18 Pirates. He was a 16th round draft pick out of high school in 2012, who required an over-slot bonus to sign. Moroff debuted in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, where he batted .343/.471/.433 in 23 games, with 17 runs, four extra-base hits, seven RBIs, 17 walks and seven stolen bases. He moved up to West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2013, where he hit .233 in 115 games, with 75 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs, 65 walks and a .680 OPS. He played for Bradenton of the High-A Florida State League in 2014, where he hit .244 over 130 games, with 57 runs, 30 doubles, 50 RBIs, 54 walks, a .665 OPS and 21 steals in 36 attempts. After homering eight times in 2013, Moroff had just one homer in 2014. He had a breakout season in 2015 with Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League, hitting .293 in 130 games, with 79 runs, 28 doubles, six triples, seven homers, 51 RBIs and 70 walks, leading to a .783 OPS. He once again had a rough time while being active on the basepaths, going 17-for-30 in stolen bases. Moroff was overly patient during his first two full seasons in pro ball, but he became much more aggressive early in the count during his big year. That plate patience was a one-year mirage, as he took too many pitches again in 2016 with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League. That led to a .230 average, along with a drop in his power. The flip side is that he drew 90 walks in 133 games, though it came with 129 strikeouts. He finished the year with 61 runs, 18 doubles, eight homers, 45 RBIs and a .716 OPS. Moroff was given a brief mid-season shot with the Pirates, where he struck out in his only two at-bats. He was a shortstop during his first two seasons of pro ball, then played second base in 2014-15. He became a utility infielder in 2016, adding third base to the mix.

Moroff spent more time in the majors during the 2017 season than he did in Indianapolis. He had a .254 average and .909 OPS in 51 games for Indianapolis, putting up ten doubles, 13 homers and 41 walks. He batted .200 over 56 games for the 2017 Pirates, with 19 runs, eight extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 16 walks and a .627 OPS in 140 plate appearances. He started 26 games in the majors that year, seeing time at second base, shortstop and third base. Moroff struggled in both Indianapolis and the majors during the 2018 season. He batted .186/.284/.356 in 67 plate appearances over 26 games for the Pirates, collecting seven runs, three homers and nine RBIs. He had a .223 average in 74 games for Indianapolis, with 38 runs, 14 doubles, eight homers, 38 RBIs, 43 walks and a .727 OPS. He was part of a five-player deal with the Cleveland Indians after the 2018 season, going to Cleveland with Jordan Luplow, in exchange for Erik Gonzalez and prospects. Moroff was limited to 61 games total during the 2019 season due to a shoulder injury in April, which led to 41 minor league games over three levels. He hit .125/.177/.250 in 35 plate appearances over 20 games for the Indians. He had a .239 average and a .781 OPS in the minors that year, spending most of his time with Columbus of the International League. Moroff became a free agent after the 2019 season. He spent 2020 with the New York Mets, participating in their Alternate Site Training camp, though he never saw big league action. He signed a minor league deal with the St Louis Cardinals for the 2021 season. He was up in the majors after just seven games for Triple-A Memphis in which he hit .539/.647/1.115 in 34 plate appearances, with four homers and six walks. He went 1-for-16 with St Louis in six games, before a left shoulder injury ended his season in late May. It also ended his pro career, as he has not signed with any team since. He hit .193 for the Pirates, with 26 runs, six homers, 30 RBIs and 23 walks in 84 games.

John Ryan Murphy, catcher for the 2020 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick of the New York Yankees out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton in 2009. Murphy played just nine games in the rookie level Gulf Coast League during his first season after signing late. He .333/.405/.485 in 37 plate appearances, with a homer and seven RBIs. He moved up to full-season ball in 2010, where he had a .255 average, 46 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs and a .703 OPS in 87 games for Charleston of the Low-A South Atlantic League. He spent most of 2011 back in Charleston, batting .297 in 63 games, with 31 runs, 23 doubles, six homers, 32 RBIs and an .800 OPS. He moved up late that season to Tampa of the High-A Florida State League, where had a .259 average and a .634 OPS in 23 games. Murphy split the 2012 season between Tampa and Trenton of the Double-A Eastern League, combining to hit .248 in 110 games, with 62 runs, 26 doubles, nine homers, 44 RBIs and a .702 OPS. He put up similar results at each level that year. He saw time in 2013 with Trenton, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the Triple-A International League and the Yankees. Murphy hit .269 in 108 minor league games that year, with 60 runs, 29 doubles, 12 homers, 46 RBIs 47 walks and a .773 OPS. He then hit .154/.185/.192 in 16 games (six starts) with the Yankees. He split the 2014 season evenly between starting in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and serving as a backup in the majors. He put up a .689 OPS over 51 minors league games. Murphy hit .284 for the Yankees that season, with seven runs, four doubles, a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games. He spent the entire 2015 season in the majors, hitting .277 in 67 games (43 starts), with 21 runs, nine doubles, three homers, 14 RBIs and a .734 OPS.

Murphy was traded to the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2016 season. He spent most of the year with Rochester of the International League, where he batted .236 in 83 games, with 24 runs, 14 doubles, three homers, 39 RBIs and a .609 OPS. He hit .146/.193/.220 in 90 plate appearances over 26 games during his only year in Minnesota. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of 2017, after hitting just .222/.298/.330 in 59 games with Rochester to start the season. Arizona called him up in September, after he hit .284/.351/.373 in 19 games with Reno of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He played five games (one start) for the 2017 Diamondbacks, going 1-for-7 at the plate. Murphy spent the entire 2018 season in the majors with the Diamondbacks, playing a career high 87 games. He had a .202 average, with 19 runs, nine doubles, nine homers and 24 RBIs, setting career highs in the latter two categories. Besides that low average, he also walked just 11 times and struck out 71 times in 223 plate appearances. He was sold to the Atlanta Braves after hitting .177/.250/.419 in 25 games for Arizona during the first half of the 2019 season. Despite the low average and limited play, he managed to homer four times in 62 at-bats. He joined the Braves in July of that season, though he played just one game for them in the majors. The rest of the year with spent with Gwinnett of the International League, though he didn’t see much action. Combined with 36 games that year for Reno, he had a .228 average, 31 runs, seven doubles, ten homers, 29 RBIs and a .735 OPS in 50 minor league games.

Murphy signed as a minor league free agent with the Pirates in January of 2020. He made the team as a backup after Luke Maile got injured for the season. Murphy hit .172/.226/.207 in 25 games for the Pirates during that shortened season, finishing with six runs, two doubles and two RBIs. He became a free agent after the season, and then decided to retire. He put up a .215 average in 284 big league games, with 69 runs, 32 doubles, 18 homers and 61 RBIs. He did not attempt a single stolen base in the majors. His last minor league stolen base attempt came in May of 2013 before his big league debut. He also finished with one big league triple, which he hit during the 2015 season.

Jack Shepard, catcher for the 1953-56 Pirates. He was heavily recruited while in college at Stanford, where he batted .399 during the 1953 season. Shepard decided to sign with the Pirates because he felt General Manager Branch Rickey had the team going in the right direction. The scout who recommended Shepard to the Pirates was Branch Rickey Jr, the son of the Pirates GM, who was scouting the College World Series for the Pirates. The Pirates signed Shepard on June 15th, then brought him right to the majors two days later. He debuted on June 19th off of the bench, then did the same six days late, going 1-for-4 at the plate. He was then sent to the minor leagues on June 26th when they called up pitcher Jim Waugh. Shepard went to Denver of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .324 in 84 games, with 48 runs, 21 doubles, nine homers, 63 RBIs, 46 walks and a .901 OPS. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1954, then had a strong rookie season platooning with Toby Atwell behind the plate. Shepard hit .304 in 82 games, with 24 runs, 13 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and a career best .766 OPS. He got even more playing time in 1955, although his batting was nowhere near as solid as his rookie season. He hit .239 in 94 games, with 24 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and a .639 OPS.

When Shepard was sent to the minors in 1953, it was said that he needed to work on his throwing to make himself a strong Major League player. He must’ve taken that to heart, as he threw out 52% of would-be base stealers in 1955. Shepard played a career high 100 games in 1956, when he had a .242 average, with 24 runs, 11 doubles, seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .691 OPS. He threw out 44% of base runners that year, and his .990 fielding percentage was the third best in the league for catchers. He made 71 starts behind the plate during both the 1955 and 1956 seasons, platooning with Atwell in 1955 and Hank Foiles in 1956. Shepard signed his contract to play for the Pirates in February of 1957, but less than a month later he retired from baseball to pursue a career in business. He managed briefly for the Pirates in winter league ball in 1959, but his entire professional baseball career consisted of 362 games over four seasons. He finished his big league career with a .260 average, 72 runs, 29 doubles, 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 278 games. In case you didn’t notice the pattern, he scored exactly 24 runs in each of his three full seasons in the majors. Of his 12 homers, the first eight he hit were on the road. His first homer at Forbes Field was hit off of Hall of Famer Warren Spahn on June 18, 1956. Shepard was a solid player on both sides of the ball, putting up positive WAR numbers on both offense and defense during each of his three seasons, though it resulted in 2.1 career WAR.

Frank Miller, pitcher for the 1916-19 Pirates. Despite winning twenty games for four straight seasons in the high levels of the minors, Miller didn’t make his big league debut until age 27 with the Chicago White Sox. He began pro ball in 1907 at 21 years old, pitching at the lowest level of the minors. Full stats are incomplete from his first three seasons, but he’s credit with a 12-20 record in 1907 for Houghton of the Class-D Northern-Copper Country League. His only stat available from 1908 shows 38 games pitched, which were split between Rockford and Green Bay of the Class-D Wisconsin-Illinois League. He jumped up three levels in 1909 to Des Moines of the Class-A Western League (highest level of the minors at the time), where he had a 24-16 record in 47 games pitched. From there it was on to the San Francisco Seals of the Class-A Pacific Coast League for the next three seasons. Miller went 20-15, 2.17 in 344.1 innings in 1910. The next two years were very similar, though his record suffered due to a lack of support from his teammates. He was 20-21, 2.07 in 378.1 innings in 1911, then 20-22, 2.09 in 335.1 innings in 1912, when the Pacific Coast League was reclassified as a Double-A league (it was the same level of play technically, they just added lower level teams). He did a great job of keeping runners off of base during all three seasons in San Francisco, posting a 1.09 WHIP in 1910, a 1.10 WHIP in 1911, and a 1.12 WHIP in 1912. The 1912 season saw his walk rate increase, but he cut back his hits allowed by an equal margin.

Miller was supposed to get a legit big league shot with the White Sox in 1913, but he became very sick over the off-season, then didn’t join the team until mid-season. The White Sox gave him one start on July 12, 1913. He pitched poorly in his big league debut, allowing five runs in 1.2 innings. He was sent home shortly after the game, then didn’t pitch again at any level until 1914 when he was fully recovered. Miller went back to the minors for two full seasons before he returned to the majors again with the 1916 Pirates. He played for Montreal of the Double-A International League during the 1914-15 seasons, going 9-13 over 188.1 innings in 1914, with 120 strikeouts and a 1.33 WHIP. He followed that up with a 15-6 record and a 1.29 WHIP over 182.2 innings in 1915. While ERA isn’t available for the league for either year, Miller allowed fewer runs per game in 1915 (4.48 in 1915, compared to 5.11 in 1914). The Pirates purchased Miller and outfielder Paul Smith from Montreal on August 27, 1915, though both players were allowed to finish their season with Montreal. Smith ended up playing ten big league games, all coming with the Cincinnati Reds in 1916. Miller went 7-10, 2.29 over 173 innings for the 1916 Pirates, getting twenty starts and ten relief appearances. He had 88 strikeouts and a 1.06 WHIP. That ERA sounds great, but 1916 was the height of the deadball era and the National League had a combined 2.61 ERA, so he was just slightly better than average.

The Pirates were awful in 1917, finishing in last place with a 51-103 record. Miller had a decent 3.13 ERA (league average was 2.70) in a career high 224 innings, but his record was just 10-19 in 28 starts and ten relief outings. He had a 1.23 WHIP and a career high of 92 strikeouts. He tossed five shutouts that year, including a ten-inning game against Brooklyn on August 20th. On September 17th, he went 15 innings in a complete game loss to Boston. Miller’s 1918 season was his best overall. He had an 11-8, 2.38 record and a 1.11 WHIP in 170.1 innings over 23 starts. He had 14 complete games, including two shutouts. His ERA ranked as the ninth best in the league. He had a career best 13 wins in 1919, to go along with a 3.08 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 201.2 innings. He set a personal best with 16 complete games, while recording three shutouts. Miller had a 12-12 record going into his final start of the 1919 season. He threw 11 innings that day to pick up the win, which pushed him over the .500 mark. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Braves in March of 1920, but he didn’t play for them until 1922. It was said he retired due to “family and business pressure”. He had a 11-13, 3.51 record and a 1.37 WHIP in 200 innings over 23 starts and eight relief appearances for the 1922 Braves. He then went 0-3, 4.58 in 39.1 innings over six starts and two relief appearances, before he was released unconditionally on August 9, 1923, ending his baseball career at 37 years old. For the Pirates, Miller went 41-49, 2.75 in 769 innings over 97 starts and 26 relief appearances. He threw 54 complete games during that time, including 12 shutouts.

Jimmy Archer, catcher for the 1904 and 1918 Pirates. He began his pro baseball career in the low levels of the minors in 1903, playing 20 games that first year with Fargo of the Class-D Northern League, where he posted a .225 average and three extra-base hits (all doubles). He established himself as a prospect during the 1904 season. He hit .299 in 72 games that year for Boone of the Class-D Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs. That was despite breaking his collarbone during the season. His calling card was a very strong throwing arm. The Pirates gave him a trial in the majors in September of 1904. He was secured just days earlier by scout Frank Haller, who saw Archer put on a hitting display during one of his scouting trips. He wasn’t going to join the Pirates right away, but on September 1st they needed a replacement for backup Harry Smith, who was injured with a month to go in the season. That left starter Ed Phelps as the lone catcher, with first baseman Kitty Bransfield serving as the emergency backup due to having catching experience early in his career. Archer left for the Pirates on September 1st, then arrived just a couple of days before his big league debut on September 6th. He played seven games for the 1904 Pirates impressing them on defense, though he hit .150/.150/.150 in 20 plate appearances. It was soon decided that he needed more seasoning, so he was sent to Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association (highest level of the minors at the time) for two years. The Pirates used him only in game two of doubleheaders for all seven games he caught, with the club noting that due to his inexperience, it was better that he caught the second games because they usually were called due to darkness before they could play nine full innings. As it turned out, he played just one nine-inning game during that stretch. He played every inning in the seven games he played, but he caught just 47 innings total due to the six shortened games.

Archer was originally placed on the Pirates reserve list following the 1904 season, but he was released to Atlanta on March 1, 1905. He batted .254 for Atlanta in 1905, with 21 extra-base hits (17 doubles) in 86 games. His average dropped down to .224 over 93 games in 1906, though he still collected 22 extra-base hits, including 18 doubles. He actually finished with 72 hits each year, including three triples and one homer each season, so the only difference in his hits between both years was that one single turned into a double. On September 1, 1906, Archer was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the Rule 5 draft. He played 18 games for the Tigers in 1907, batting .119/.196/.119 over 48 plate appearances, with no extra-base hits and four walks. He returned to the minors for the 1908 season, where he had a .208 average and ten extra-base hits in 82 games for Buffalo of the Class-A Eastern League. He was once again taken in the Rule 5 draft after the 1908 season, this time by the Chicago Cubs. He would become a solid player for the Cubs, spending nine seasons in Chicago before being released during the 1917 season.

Archer was slightly above average as a hitter during the deadball era, and his defense was also above average, so he was helping his team on both sides of the ball. He was still trying to get established on offense during the 1909 season. He hit .230 that year in 80 games, with 31 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs, finishing with a .558 OPS. He split his time in 1910 between catching and first base, though he excelled behind the plate in his backup role, throwing out a league best 57.8% of base runners attempting to steal. He batted .293 in 98 games, with 36 runs, 25 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs, while adding 105 points to his OPS. Archer caught over 100 games each year during a three-year span from 1911 through 1913. He received mild MVP support each season, starting with a 16th place finish in the voting in 1911, when he hit .253 in 116 games, with 41 runs, 27 extra-base hits 41 RBIs and .645 OPS. He set career highs in all three Triple Crown categories during the 1912 season, when he put up a .283 average, with five homers and 61 RBIs. He also set highs with 120 games, 109 hits and 20 doubles. He had a .715 OPS that year, which was the only time he cracked the .700 mark. Despite that being his best year, he finished 22nd in the MVP voting, which was his worst finish during that three-year span. His best MVP finished was 13th place in 1913, when he hit .266 in 111 games, with 38 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 44 RBIs and a .670 OPS. Archer led the league by throwing out 52% of base runners in 1913. He slipped into more of a platoon role over the next three years (1914-16), starting a total of 211 games behind the plate during that stretch. He batted .258 over 79 games in 1914, with 17 runs, 11 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and a .595 OPS. Archer saw a decent amount of playing time in 1915, batting .243 over 97 games, with 21 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .594 OPS that was one point lower than the previous season. He was down to a .220 average over 73 games in 1916, finishing with 11 runs, nine extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .552 OPS. The Cubs tried to cut his salary in 1917, which that led to him holding out at the beginning of the season. He ended up playing just two games off of the bench in late May and early June before being released.

The Pirates signed Archer as a free agent on March 9, 1918. He was 35 years old at the time, and 15 years of catching had worn him down by then, so he was well past his prime. He hit .155/.197/.241 in 24 games before Pittsburgh released him on July 15th. They noted that he provided excellent veteran leadership, but the Pirates brought back long-time outfielder/third baseman Tommy Leach a few weeks earlier, so he assumed that role for the young players. The Pirates also had catcher Fred Blackwell back from the Army as a capable backup, so he was filling that role ahead of Archer at the time. Archer played nine games later in 1918 for the Brooklyn Robins, then another nine games for the 1918 Cincinnati Reds, before he decided to call it a career. He hit much better in his limited time outside of Pittsburgh that year, putting up a .668 OPS with Brooklyn, followed by a .604 OPS for the Reds. He was a .249 hitter in 847 Major League games, with 247 runs, 106 doubles, 34 triples and 299 RBIs. He hit just 16 homers in his career, though at one point four of his homers came in a row off of Hall of Fame pitchers, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, Eppa Rixey and Rube Marquard. He had a 9.1 career WAR on defense according to modern metrics, with no negative seasons over 12 years in the majors. He ranks eighth all-time in caught stealing (51.8%), and none of the catchers ahead of him had more runners attempt steals. That makes him the leader among the 60 catchers in big league history who have had at least 1,200 runners attempt to steal against them.

The Game

The Pirates took on the Cleveland Spiders on May 13, 1892 with Elmer Smith doing the pitching. Smith was just one year away from becoming a star outfielder for the Pirates, but in 1892 he was trying to make a comeback to the majors as a pitcher. He won 34 games as a 19-year-old in 1887, yet three years later he was back in the minors for two full seasons (1890-91). The Pirates lost 6-1 on this day, although it could actually be considered a win, as Smith was hit hard. He would make just 11 more starts before becoming a full-time outfielder. Over the next five seasons for the Pirates, he would put up a .336 average, with 558 runs, 406 RBIs and 152 steals.

The starter for Cleveland that day was Denton True Young. The papers referred to him as Farmer Young back then, but he is more well-known as Cy Young. The Pirates made seven errors during this game. They had two Hall of Famers in their lineup, with Jake Beckley at first base and Connie Mack was Smith’s catcher. Ed Swartwood played right field and batted sixth that day for the Pirates in one of his last Major League games. He was the first batter in franchise history ten years earlier on May 2, 1882. He had returned to the team after an eight-year absence. He went hitless on the day, but he drew two walks. Center fielder Pop Corkhill got a lot of praise for three outstanding catches (two with multiple runners on base), which helped keep this game from being a blowout. He also drove in the only run for the Pirates.

The Transaction

On this date in 1901, the Pittsburgh Pirates released outfielder Elmer Smith due to the fact that they were forced to get their big league roster down to 16 players by May 14th. It was said that owner Barney Dreyfuss was hoping that the 16-man roster rule would be taken away, so he held on to Smith as long as he could before releasing him. At the time, the 33-year-old Smith was a bench player, who went 0-for-4 with two walks in four games through the first 17 games of the season. He would go on to play just 16 more big league games, all of them later that year with the Boston Beaneaters. He was signed by the Pirates as a free agent after third baseman Jimmy Williams decided to jump to the Baltimore Orioles (current day New York Yankees) of the American League, which went from minor league status to Major League status in 1901.