On a very busy day of birthdays for former Pittsburgh Pirates players, we have 11 player bios below, plus two trades of note.
On this date in 1956, the Pirates traded outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield to the St Louis Cardinals for outfielder Bill Virdon. As a 24-year-old in 1955, Virdon won the National League Rookie of the Year award by putting up a .281 average, with 17 homers and 68 RBIs. He was hitting .211/.269/.324 in 24 games at the time of the trade. Del Greco was just 23 years old at the time, hitting .200/.304/.500 in 24 plate appearances over 14 games for the Pirates. He played 99 games as a rookie for Pittsburgh in 1952, but then spent the next three years in the minors, before resurfacing in 1956. At 30 years old, Littlefield was the veteran of the group. He had been with the Pirates since 1954, and in the majors since 1950. He had no record and a 4.26 ERA in two starts and four relief appearances with the 1956 Pirates. He went 5-12, 5.12 in 130 innings during the 1955 season, splitting his time between starting and relieving.
Littlefield pitched three games for the Cardinals after the trade, before being included in a nine-player deal that St Louis made with the New York Giants. He pitched in the majors until 1958, getting into 86 total games after leaving Pittsburgh, 11 of those were as a starter. Del Greco hit .215/.308/.344 in 102 games for the Cardinals over the rest of 1956. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs early in the 1957 season, then spent parts of seven seasons in the majors after that deal. He was a career .229 hitter in 731 games, finishing with a .682 OPS. Virdon became a star for the Pirates immediately, putting up a .334 average and 39 extra-base hits in 133 games for the 1956 Pirates. He would play center field for ten seasons in Pittsburgh, helping them to the 1960 World Series along the way. He hit .266 during his time in Pittsburgh, with 667 runs scored, 217 doubles, 75 triples, 72 homers and 425 RBIs in 1,415 games. He led the National League in triples during the 1962 season, while also winning the Gold Glove award. Virdon managed the Pirates during the 1972-73 seasons. He put together 18.2 WAR during his 11 seasons with the Pirates.
Exactly five years prior to the Virdon deal, the Pirates and Cardinals hooked up on a different three-player deal. Pittsburgh sent shortstop Stan Rojek to St Louis in exchange for outfielder Erv Dusak and first baseman Rocky Nelson on May 17, 1951. Rojek was 32 years old at the time of the trade, coming off a season in which he hit .257/.313/.317 in 76 games. He finished tenth in the National League MVP voting in 1948, after hitting .290 in 156 games, with 85 runs, 36 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and 24 steals for the Pirates. He led the league in games played, at-bats and plate appearances that year. However, he was just 3-for-16 in eight games during the 1951 season prior to the trade. Dusak was 30 years old at the time of the deal. He had played just 29 games in the majors since seeing full-time work during the 1948 season. Nelson was 26 years old, playing in his third season in the majors in 1951. He was a .234 hitter during the 1949-50 season, with five homers and 52 RBIs in 158 games. He was hitting .222/.263/.278 in nine games prior to the trade.
Many people remember Nelson’s heroics in the 1960 World Series, but that was actually during his second stint with the team. He was put on waivers during the 1951 season, where he was taken by the Chicago White Sox. He had a .267 average, with 29 runs, 12 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in 71 games for the 1951 Pirates. Dusak played just 41 games for the Pirates, spread out over the 1951-52 seasons, which were his last years in the majors. He had 71 plate appearances during that time, putting up a .273/.324/.409 slash line. He also pitched three games, including a start, but that did not go well. He allowed ten runs in a total of 6.2 innings. Rojek would play just 51 games for the Cardinals before he was put on waivers. His Major League career was done by the 1952 season. He hit .274 in St Louis, with 21 runs, ten extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.
Ben Gamel, outfielder for the 2021-22 Pirates. He was a tenth round draft pick of the New York Yankees out of high school in 2010. He played just seven games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees during that 2010 season, putting up a .677 OPS in 28 plate appearances. He spent the 2011 season with Staten Island of the short-season New York-Penn League. He batted .290 over 55 games, with 20 runs, 19 doubles, two homers, 30 RBIs and an .804 OPS. Gamel was with Charleston of the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2012, where he had a .306 average in 110 games, with 56 runs, 23 doubles, two homers, 61 RBIs, 19 steals and a .737 OPS. He split the 2013 season between 96 games with Tampa of the High-A Florida State League, and 16 games with Trenton of the Double-A Eastern League. He batted .267 between both stops, with 55 runs, 40 extra-base hits (32 doubles), 54 RBIs, 22 steals, 52 walks and a .730 OPS. Gamel spent all of 2014 with Trenton, where he had a .261 average in 131 games, with 58 runs, 31 doubles, 51 RBIs and a .648 OPS. He moved up to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the Triple-A International League in 2015. He batted .300 in 129 games, with 77 runs, 28 doubles, 14 triples, ten homers, 64 RBIs, 13 steals and an .830 OPS. Gamel played winter ball in Venezuela during the 2015-16 off-season, hitting .253/.327/.402 in 25 games. Most of the 2016 season was spent back with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he had a .309 average in 116 games, with 80 runs, 26 doubles, six homers, 51 RBIs, 19 steals and a .785 OPS. He debuted with the Yankees in early May, then returned in August for one game. Gamel was traded to the Seattle Mariners on August 31, 2016. He went right to the majors, where he hit .200/.289/.325 in 47 plate appearances over 27 games. He went 1-for-8 during his brief time that year with the Yankees.
Gamel played a career high 134 games for the 2017 Mariners. He had a .275 average, with 68 runs, 27 doubles, five triples, 11 homers, 59 RBIs and a .735 OPS. He batted .272 over 101 games in 2018, with 37 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and a .728 OPS. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 2018. Gamel hit .248 over 134 games in 2019, with 47 runs, 18 doubles, seven homers, 33 RBIs and a .710 OPS. While he matched his career high for games that year, he batted 194 more times during the 2017 season. He played 40 games during the shortened 2020 season, when he put up a .237/.315/.404 slash line in 127 plate appearances, with 13 runs, 12 extra-base hits and ten RBIs. Gamel signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Indians in 2021, but they put him on waivers after just 11 games. He hit .071/.235/.143 in 17 plate appearances. He was picked up by the Pirates, who used him at all three outfield spots, as well as a little first base. He hit .255 over 111 games for the 2021 Pirates, with 42 runs, 17 doubles, eight homers, 26 RBIs and a .750 OPS. He played 115 games during the 2022 season, finishing with a .232 average, to go along with 42 runs, 20 doubles, nine homers, 46 RBIs and a .693 OPS. He became a free agent at the end of the year and signed a free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for the 2023 season. Through early May, he hit .253/.386/.458 in 24 games for Durham of the International League. Gamel has played 679 games over seven big league seasons, with 259 runs, 107 doubles, 40 homers and 198 RBIs.
Jose Guillen, Pirates outfielder from 1997 until 1999. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 in 1992. After spending the 1993 season in the Dominican Summer League (stats not available), he made the jump to the U.S. in 1994. Guillen played in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, where he hit .264 in 30 games, with 17 runs, four doubles, four homers, 11 RBIs and a .769 OPS. He played 66 games in the short-season New York-Penn League during the 1995, as well as ten games with Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Guillen combined to bat .305 that year, with 47 runs, 18 doubles, 14 homers, 52 RBIs and an .885 OPS. He hit .322 over 136 games in 1996, with 78 runs, 30 doubles, 21 homers, 94 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and an .855 OPS for Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League. Without ever playing Double-A or Triple-A, the Pirates put him in right field for Opening Day in 1997. Guillen played 143 games that year, finishing with a .267 average, to go along with 58 runs, 20 doubles, 14 homers, 70 RBIs and a .712 OPS. He had a very similar season in 1998, finishing with the same .267 batting average, 14 homers and .712 OPS as his rookie season. He also had 60 runs, 38 doubles and 84 RBIs in a career high 153 games. After putting up a .267 average and one home run through 40 games in 1999, Guillen was sent to Nashville of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in mid-June. He did well there, hitting .333/.378/.523 in 33 games. He was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on July 23, 1999, along with pitcher Jeff Sparks, in exchange for two catchers, Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota. The Pirates were desperate for catching at the time due to Jason Kendall’s season-ending ankle injury. After the deal, Guillen hit .244 in 47 games, with two homers, 13 RBIs and a .651 OPS.
Guillen hit .253 over 105 games in 2000, with 40 runs, 16 doubles, ten homers, 41 RBIs and a .750 OPS. That was followed by a .274 average over 41 games in 2001, with 14 runs, five doubles, three homers, 11 RBIs and a .695 OPS, which was low due to drawing just six walks. He ended up playing 33 games in the minors that season, putting up a .294/.307/.546 slash line with Durham of the Triple-A International League. He was released after the season, then signed three weeks later with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit .229/.277/.351 in 2002, with four homers and 15 RBIs through 54 games with Arizona, before getting released in August. Guillen finally reached his potential four years after leaving the Pirates, while playing for his fourth organization. The Cincinnati Reds signed him four weeks after he was released by Arizona, though he played five games in Triple-A for the Colorado Rockies in between leaving Arizona and joining Cincinnati. He didn’t do much better to finish out 2002, hitting .248/.299/.385 in 31 games for the Reds, but things changed in 2003. He hit .337 that year for Cincinnati, with 52 runs, 21 doubles, 23 homers, 67 RBIs and a 1.013 OPS in 91 games, before they traded him to the Oakland A’s on July 30, 2003. He hit .265 over 45 games after the deal, with 25 runs, seven doubles, eight homers and 23 RBIs. He finished the year with a career high 31 homers. Between both stops, he hit .311 in 136 games, with 77 runs, 28 doubles, 86 RBIs and a .928 OPS. Guillen signed a free agent deal with the Anaheim Angels in 2004. He hit .294 in 148 games that year, with 88 runs, 28 doubles, 27 homers, 104 RBIs and an .849 OPS. That would be the only 100-RBI season of his career.
Guillen was traded to the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season. He hit .283 over 148 games in 2005, with 81 runs, 32 doubles, 24 homers, 76 RBIs and an .817 OPS. He led the league in hit-by-pitches with 19, which was a career high. He remained in Washington for the 2006 season, though he batted just .216/.276/.398 in 169 games, with 28 runs, 15 doubles, nine homers and 40 RBIs. He needed season-ending elbow surgery in July. He was back healthy in 2007, signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent. He batted .290 that year, with 84 runs, 28 doubles, 23 homers, 99 RBIs and an .813 OPS in 153 games. His 41 walks that season were his career high. He signed with the Kansas City Royals in 2008, then hit .264 over 153 games, with 66 runs, 42 doubles, 20 homers and 97 RBIs. A low walk rate led to a .738 OPS. Guillen suffered a mid-July knee injury in 2009 that limited him to 81 games. He batted .242 that year, with 30 runs, eight doubles, nine homers, 40 RBIs and a .681 OPS. He split his final big league season between the Royals and San Francisco Giants, joining the latter team after an August trade. He hit .258 in 148 games between both stops, with 55 runs, 22 doubles, 19 homers, 77 RBIs and a .730 OPS.
Guillen batted .270 over 1,650 Major League games, with 748 runs, 305 doubles, 214 homers and 887 RBIs. Despite stealing 24 bases in the minors in 1996, he stole a total of just 31 bases over his entire Major League career, while being thrown out stealing 26 times. He batted .267 for the Pirates, with 136 runs, 64 doubles, 29 homers and 172 RBIs in 336 games. He had a strong throwing arm, which was one of the best in baseball. A throw he made with the Pirates was recently rated the best of all-time by MLB Network. On July 27, 1998, Neifi Perez of the Rockies hit a ball to the right field wall that Guillen couldn’t catch. He picked up the ball near the warning track and threw out Perez, who was going for a triple. The ball reached third base on the fly. His overall defense was very poor, which kept down his value, even at his peak. Guillen finished his career with 6.4 WAR in 14 seasons. Considering that in his two best seasons (2003 and 2005) he had 8.4 WAR total, that tells you something about the majority of his career. He was hit by 145 pitches during his career, which ranks 25th all-time. He played just four postseason games in his career, coming in 2003 with the A’s, when he went 5-for-11 with three walks in the series loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Pascual Perez, pitcher for the 1980-81 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an 18-year-old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 1976 season. Perez began his career in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, posting a 4.66 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 56 innings over ten starts, with 35 walks and 34 strikeouts. He then moved up to full-season ball in 1977, going 10-5, 3.98, with 96 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP in 156 innings over 25 starts for Charleston of the Class-A Western Carolinas League. Perez pitched well during the 1978 season in advanced A-Ball with Salem of the Carolina League, going 11-7, 2.61, with 126 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP in 152 innings over 24 starts. That earned him a late season promotion to Columbus of the Triple-A International League, where he threw five scoreless innings. He struggled in his first full season of Triple-A in 1979 (Pirates affiliate moved to Portland of the Pacific Coast League), putting up a 9-7, 5.50 record in 103 innings, though it was a high offense league and Portland had a 5.18 team ERA. He had 51 strikeouts and a 1.63 WHIP. Perez showed enough improvement during the 1980 season to earn an early season spot start for the Pirates, followed by a late season recall. He went 12-10, 4.05 in 160 innings for Portland that year, with 105 strikeouts and a 1.38 WHIP. He allowed five earned runs over 12 innings with the Pirates.
Perez began 1981 with Portland, before joining Pittsburgh in mid-May after five starts. He didn’t exactly do well during that time, posting a 4.94 ERA, a 1.74 WHIP and a 14:11 BB/SO ratio in 31 innings. In that strike-shortened season with the Pirates, he went 2-7, 3.96 in 13 starts and four relief appearances, finishing with 46 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP in 86.1 innings. He was back in Portland in 1982, until a June trade sent him to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for pitcher Larry McWilliams. Perez had a 4-9, 4.82 record, 59 strikeouts and a 1.39 WHIP in 109.1 innings before the trade, with ten starts and nine relief appearances. He went to Richmond of the Triple-A International League after the deal, but a 5-0, 1.26 record in five starts got him to the majors quickly. He went 4-4, 3.06 in 79.1 innings for the 1982 Braves over the final 2 1/2 months of the season, posting a 1.29 WHIP, though he had just 29 strikeouts. He had a terrific first full season in the majors in 1983, going 15-8, 3.43 in 215.1 innings over 33 starts, finishing with 144 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP. He also made his lone All-Star appearance that season. Perez backed it up with another solid performance in 1984, going 14-8, 3.74 in 211.2 innings over 30 starts. His BB/SO ratios were almost identical in those two seasons, finishing with a 51:144 mark in 1983, followed by a 51:145 mark in 1984. His WHIP was almost identical as well, with a 1.226 mark in 1983 and a 1.224 mark in 1984.
Things came crashing down for Perez in 1985, when he went 1-13, 6.14 in 22 starts, throwing a total of just 95.1 innings. He had 57 strikeouts and a 1.80 WHIP. His season started with a removal of a cyst from his right cheek. He had a 15-day disabled list stint in May due to shoulder tendinitis. He had a rotator cuff problem in June that cost him some time. He was suspended and fined by the team for violating team rules in August. The shoulder injury also returned for a short time that same month, though through it all, he still made seven starts over the last month. Perez was released by the Braves just prior to the 1986 season. After not pitching at all that year, he had to work his way back to the majors by pitching at Triple-A for the 1987 Montreal Expos. He went 9-7, 3.79 that year for Indianapolis of the American Association, with 125 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP in 133 innings. Perez was called up to the majors in August, then finished the season with a 7-0, 2.30 record in 70.1 innings over ten starts, with 58 strikeouts and an 0.97 WHIP. He had a strong 1988 season in Montreal, going 12-8, 2.44, with 131 strikeouts and an 0.94 WHIP in 188 innings over 27 starts. He pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter that season on September 24th against the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing one walk in five innings, while striking out eight batters.
Perez went 9-13, 3.31 in 198.1 innings during the 1989 season, posting a 1.12 WHIP, while setting a career high with 152 strikeouts. he became a free agent after the season, then signed with the New York Yankees. He strained his shoulder on April 25th in his third start, then didn’t pitch again all season, except one rehab season in the minors. He had a 1.29 ERA in his first 14 innings. The shoulder injury, which required surgery, kept him out until May of 1991. His return lasted just four starts, before stiffness in the shoulder kept him out until August. Perez went 2-4, 3.18 in 73.2 innings that season, with 41 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP. He made a total of 17 starts in two seasons with the Yankees, then got suspended for the 1992 season due to two positive tests for cocaine. That basically ended his pro career, with his only other pro experience coming in China during the 1996 season. He lasted just five starts there, though he pitched well, putting up a 4-1, 1.80 record in 35 innings. Perez finished his 11-year career with a 67-68, 3.44 record in 1,244.1 innings. He had 193 starts, 14 relief appearances, 21 complete games and four shutouts. He ended up with 822 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP. Perez had two brothers, Carlos and Melido, who also pitched in the majors. Melido pitched four years with the Yankees during his nine-year career, starting in 1992 when his brother was suspended by the team. He also pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter, two seasons after his brother. His lasted six innings and included four walks and nine strikeouts. It came against the Yankees, during Pascual’s first season with the team. Carlos went 40-53 in the majors, spending half of his five-year career with the Expos. The family also had three brothers who played minor league ball.
Ozzie Virgil, catcher for the 1965 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1953 out of the Domincan Republic. He made his big league debut three years later after working his way up from Class-C ball to Triple-A. Until Major League Baseball recently reclassified Negro League ball from 1920 through 1948 as Major League ball, Virgil was the first Major League player to be born in the Dominican. He is now the eighth player from his country to make the majors. He started his pro career by hitting .259 over 118 games in 1953, with 63 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs, 50 walks and a .693 OPS with St Cloud of the Class-C Northern League. He then hit .291 in 1954, with 78 runs, 50 extra-base hits, 68 RBIs and a .769 OPS in 137 games for Danville of the Class-B Carolina League. Virgil was with Dallas of the Double-A Texas League in 1955, where he hit .295 in 159 games, with 86 runs, 31 doubles, 17 homers, 79 RBIs and a .786 OPS. A large majority of his minor league time was spent at third base, including most of his early work. His big league time was split over seven positions (not center field or pitcher), but he still played more third base than anywhere else.
Virgil put up a .265 average for Minneapolis of the Triple-A American Association in 1956. He had 66 runs, 28 doubles, ten homers, 67 RBIs, 16 steals and a .702 OPS in 152 games that year, before getting a September trial with the Giants. He went 5-for-12 in three games during his first cup of coffee in the majors. He spent the entire 1957 season with the Giants, seeing playing time at four spots, plus a lot of bench work. Virgil hit .235 in 96 games, with 26 runs, four homers and 24 RBIs, setting career highs in each of the latter four categories. He had 226 at-bats that season without hitting a double. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1958, where he put in three partial seasons, while spending all of 1959 in the minors. He hit .244 over 49 games in 1958, with 19 runs, ten doubles, three homers and 19 RBIs. He played 47 games that year for Charleston of the Triple-A American Association, where he put up a .294/.345/.462 slash line. The entire 1959 season was spent with Charleston, where he hit .269 in 154 games, with 57 runs, 29 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs and a .675 OPS. Virgil then batted .227/.248/.356 in 62 games over a half season for the 1960 Tigers, with 16 runs, nine extra-base hits and 13 RBIs. He destroyed minor league pitching that year with Denver of the American Association, posting a .381/.409/.599 slash line in 59 games. Virgil caught for the first time in 1959, though he played just one game at the position with the 1960 Tigers. Detroit dealt him to the Kansas City Athletics during the 1961 season. Between the two stops that year, he batted .137/.154/.196 in 31 games. His only extra-base hit that year was a solo homer, which also accounted for his only RBI. He didn’t play in the minors that season, so he was seeing sporadic time with both clubs.
Virgil was sold to the St Louis Cardinals after the 1961 season. However, he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 draft just six weeks later. He only played one early season game for the Orioles in 1962, walking in his lone plate appearance. He then spent the rest of the season and the next two full years in the minors. He hit .269 over 104 games for Rochester of the Triple-A International League in 1962, with 60 runs, 14 doubles, 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .739 OPS. Virgil remained there for the 1963 season, when he hit .307 in 149 games, with 71 runs, 41 extra-base hits, 75 RBIs and a .773 OPS. He switched to Toronto of the International League in 1964, then batted .270 in 150 games, with 80 runs, 45 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and a .697 OPS. The Pirates acquired him in the 1964 minor league draft from the Washington Senators. Virgil played 39 games for the 1965 Pirates, starting just seven games, despite being with the team for the entire season. It was the first full year he spent in the majors since 1961, and just the third time (1957 as well) overall that he spent the entire year in the big leagues. He caught a career high 15 games that season, though only three were starts. He had a .265/.294/.367 slash line in 53 plate appearances.
The Pirates traded Virgil, along with pitcher Joe Gibbon, to the San Francisco Giants on December 1, 1965. They received outfielder Matty Alou in the deal. It turned out to be a one-sided deal in favor of Pittsburgh. Virgil put up a .213/.245/.303 slash line over 95 plate appearances. for the 1966 Giants, while spending part of the year back in the minors. He had a .288 average and a .767 OPS in 39 games for Phoenix of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League during that 1966 season. After spending two more years in the minors with Phoenix, he played one final Major League game in 1969, pinch-hitting on June 27th. He was a coach for the Giants that season, and continued to coach until 1988. Virgil did well in Phoenix in 1967, hitting .319 in 117 games, with 58 runs, 19 doubles, four homers, 61 RBIs and a .755 OPS. His stats dropped off during the 1968 season, with a .258 average and a .608 OPS in 106 games, which led to him moving into the coaching ranks. He played a total of 324 games in the majors over nine seasons, finishing with a .231 batting average, 75 runs, 19 doubles, 14 homers and 73 RBIs. His son, who was also named Ozzie Virgil, caught 11 seasons in the majors (1980-90), and made two All-Star appearances. The elder Virgil turns 91 today.
Harry Riconda, shortstop for the 1929 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1916, but when the Pirates acquired him 13 years later in a major trade, he had just 234 games in at the Major League level spread out over four seasons. Riconda debuted in pro ball at 19 years old with Springfield of the Class-B Eastern League, where he spent his first two seasons, while also seeing time with New Haven of the same league in 1917. Stats are extremely limited from these two seasons, showing a .199 average over 115 games in 1916, followed by a .205 average in 52 games split between his two 1917 teams. He played independent ball in 1918 in Brooklyn, while also playing basketball in the off-season. He remained in independent ball (and basketball) until the 1921 season when he returned to New Haven to play, with the Eastern League reclassifying to Class-A by then. It was there in 1922 that he earned his first big league call (1921 stats are unavailable). Riconda hit .335 during the 1922 season for New Haven, with 27 doubles, nine triples and nine homers in 116 games. He debuted in the majors in 1923 with the Philadelphia A’s, batting .263 as a rookie, with 23 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 12 RBIs, and a .689 OPS in 55 games. He saw most of his playing time at third base. He played 83 games in 1924 (71 starts at third base), when he had a .253 average, with 34 runs, 20 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and a .664 OPS.
Riconda spent the entire 1925 season in the minors, where he had a .320 and 39 extra-base hits in 141 games with Portland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. He then played four games for the Boston Braves in 1926. Three of those games came in April, followed by one in August. He broke his leg in a home plate collision on April 15th. He was forced into action mid-game on August 21st, but never played again that year after going 0-for-2 with two errors. The entire 1927 season was spent with Milwaukee of the Double-A American Association, where he had a huge season. He hit .353 that year in 168 games, with 86 extra-base hits, collecting 57 doubles, 18 triples and 11 homers. That earned him a trip back to the majors, where he got his longest look. Riconda hit .224 for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928, with 22 runs, 22 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs in 92 games. He saw time at second base, shortstop and third base. His .623 OPS that year was 118 points below average for the league. The Pirates traded star shortstop Glenn Wright to the Dodgers an December 11, 1928, getting Riconda and pitcher Jesse Petty in return. It was an awful deal that was only saved from going extremely bad when Wright got hurt and saw limited action after the trade.
Riconda spent two months with the 1929 Pirates, but rarely saw the field. He got into eight of the first 51 games, with four off those games coming off of the bench. He went 7-for-15 at the plate in his limited time, but that couldn’t keep him from being sent to the minors to finish the year. On June 26th, he was sold outright to Kansas City of the American Association. He did well after being sent down, hitting .320 in 79 games, with 34 extra-base hits. He played three more seasons before retiring from baseball. His only other big league experience was one early season at-bat for the Cincinnati Reds in 1930, before being returned to Kansas City. He did very well during his minor league time in 1930, though that was a big year for offense all around baseball. Riconda also played for Minneapolis of the American Association during the 1930 season, combining with his time in Kansas City to hit .332 in 106 games, with 39 doubles, seven triples and five homers. He spent part of 1931 with Minneapolis, while also seeing time with Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association, and Montreal of the International League during that final season. He combined to hit .266 in 123 games, with 26 doubles and three homers. His final season was a partial one spent with New Haven of the Eastern League, though no stats are available. He finished out the year with a traveling exhibition team called the Bushwicks, made up of many former pro players. Riconda hit .247 in 243 big league games, with 83 runs, 44 doubles, 11 triples, four homers and 70 RBIs.
Hal Carlson, pitcher for the 1917-23 Pirates. He spent three years in the minors prior to his Major League debut with the 1917 Pirates. He pitched for Rockford of the Class-C Wisconsin-Illinois League in 1914, where he went 13-10, with 183 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP in 220 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed 3.19 runs per nine innings. He saw time with Grand Rapids of the Class- B Central League and Rockford in the Class-B Three-I League during the 1915 season. He had similar results at both stops, finishing the year with an 8-16, 3.03 record and a 1.26 WHIP in 217 innings. Carlson had a 23-13, 2.94 record and a 1.15 WHIP in 1916, as a 24-year-old for Rockford. He pitched 291 innings that season, which was his third straight year eclipsing the 200+ inning mark. He was one of four players the Pirates acquired via the old Rule 5 draft at the end of the 1916 season. Carlson had a solid rookie season in 1917, while playing for a 103-loss Pirates team. He went 7-11, 2.90 in 161.1 inning. He had a 1.17 WHIP, 68 strikeouts, and he didn’t allow a single home run. He made 17 starts and 17 relief appearances, finishing nine of those starts, with one shutout to his credit. The ERA sounds great for a rookie, but that was the end of the deadball era, and he was actually above league average. He pitched just 12 innings over three games in 1918 before taking up active military duty in WWI. He returned in 1919 to go 8-10, finishing with a career best 2.23 ERA over 141 innings. He had a 1.09 WHIP and 49 strikeouts. He once again managed to go an entire season without giving up a home run, though he did give up a homer during his brief time in 1918. His 1919 season consisted of 14 starts, eight relief appearances, seven complete games and one shutout.
Carlson had his best season in a Pirates uniform in 1920, going 14-13, 3.36 in 246.1 innings, with 62 strikeouts and a 1.32 WHIP. He made 31 starts, throwing 16 complete games and three shutouts. He pitched eight times in relief, picking up three saves (not an official stat at the time). His numbers began to drop off in 1921, going 4-8, 4.27 in 109.2 innings, with 37 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. He was moved to the bullpen for most of the year, where he made 21 of his 31 appearances that season. He started 18 games and pitched 21 times in relief during the 1922 season. He went 9-12, 5.70 in 141.2 innings that year, with 64 strikeouts and a 1.73 WHIP. Carlson was sent to the minors just weeks into the 1923 season, after being used just four times in relief, giving up nine runs in 13.1 innings. It was said that his numbers dropped because he was a spitball pitcher, and he wasn’t allowed to throw the pitch after 1920, due to the rule baseball implemented making the pitch illegal. Teams had a limited number of players who they could grandfather into the rule, so some players suffered due to that cutoff. The leagues also decided to use newer baseballs more often in games, which led to more offense. On May 21, 1923, it was announced that he was being sent to Dallas of the Class-A Texas League, but Carlson balked at that move. Just days earlier it was said that the Pirates were trying to trade him to the Philadelphia Phillies. Two days after not wanting to play in Dallas, he agreed to be sold to Wichita Falls of the Texas League. Despite not joining the team until the end of May, Carlson won 20 games for Wichita Falls that year, finishing with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 238 innings.
Carlson was drafted by the Phillies for the 1924 season, just months after the trade talks to Philadelphia surfaced. He pitched in Philadelphia until a 1927 trade sent him to the Chicago Cubs. He went 8-17, 4.86 in 203 innings over 24 starts and 14 relief appearances during the 1924 season. He had a 1.58 WHIP and 66 strikeouts. He went 13-14, 4.23 in 1925, with a 1.42 WHIP over 234 innings. He led the league with four shutouts. He also threw 18 complete games that year, which was a personal high that he would top in each of the next two seasons. He was never much of a strikeout pitcher, but he set a personal high with 80 that year. Carlson had the best season of his career in 1926. He went 17-12, 3.23 in 267.1 innings, with 55 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP. He set personal highs in wins, starts (34), innings and complete games (20), while also throwing three shutouts. In his final season with Philadelphia, he had a 5.23 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 63.2 innings, before his trade to Chicago. After the deal, he went 12-8, 3.17, with a 1.24 WHIP in 184.1 innings, posting solid numbers despite racking up just 27 strikeouts. Between both stops, he completed 19 of 31 starts.
Carlson saw his workload drop significantly during the 1928 season, making just four starts in his 20 appearances. He threw 56.1 innings all season, while putting up a 3-2, 5.91 record and a 1.58 WHIP. He went 11-6 in 1929, despite a 5.16 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 111.2 innings. Offense was on a rise in 1929, so his ERA that year was a bit better than it sounds, but it was still 45 points above league average. He was pitching for the Cubs in 1930 when his health began to decline. On May 28, 1930, he complained of feeling ill, then died suddenly in his hotel room with teammates by his side. He was just 38 years old. He had a 4-2, 5.05 record and a 1.59 WHIP in 51.2 innings at the time of his passing. With offense peaking that year, his ERA was basically at league average at the time. Carlson finished with a 114-120, 3.97 record in 2,002 big league innings over 14 seasons. He made 236 career starts and 141 relief appearances. He threw 121 complete games, finishing up with 17 shutouts and 19 saves. With the Pirates, he was 42-55, 3.64 in 829.1 innings over 92 starts and 80 relief appearances. His full name was Harold Gust Carlson, giving him a middle name that is unique in baseball history as a middle or first name (there was an Ernie Gust who played for the 1911 St Louis Browns).
Elmer Steele, pitcher for the Pirates during the 1910-11 seasons. He began his pro career in 1906 in the minors, before making his Major League debut in September of 1907. At 22 years old, he debuted in pro ball in his hometown with Poughkeepsie of the Class-C Hudson River League. Only a few hitting stats are available from that year, showing him with a .201 average in 139 at-bats. He batted just .150 the following season, but luckily he wasn’t relying on his bat to get him to the majors. He moved up to the Class-B New England League in 1907, where he put together a 24-11 record for the Lynn Shoemakers. Steele debuted with the Boston Red Sox that September, pitching 11.1 innings over four appearances, with ten strikeouts and an 0-1, 1.59 record. He began the 1908 season back in the minors with Scranton of the Class-B New York State League, before rejoining Boston in July. The only available pitching stat during his time in Stanton is his 20 games pitched. He had a strong return to the majors, posting a 1.83 ERA and an 0.83 WHIP in 118 innings, though it came with a 5-7 record. He made 13 starts and pitched three times in relief, finishing with nine complete games and one shutout.
Steele spent most of the 1909 season with the Red Sox, going 4-4, 2.85 in 75.2 innings over eight starts and eight relief appearances, with a 1.19 WHIP. He was sold to St Paul of the Class-A American Association on July 18, 1909, where he had a 10-6 record to finish out the season (this team is missing from his online stats). Class-A was the highest level of the minors at the time. Steele spent the 1910 season pitching for Providence of the Class-A Eastern League, where he went 19-11 in 294 innings. His ERA isn’t available, but he allowed 2.69 runs per nine innings, while posting an 0.95 WHIP. The Pirates picked him up on September 15, 1910, because owner Barney Dreyfuss wanted someone who could give the team innings, calling Steele a “willing worker”. He made three starts for the 1910 Pirates, losing all three games, although he pitched well. He had a 2.25 ERA and allowed 22 base runners in 24 innings. He switched between starting and a bullpen role for the 1911 Pirates, making 16 starts and 15 relief outings. He went 9-9, 2.60 in 166 innings, with 52 strikeouts and a 1.11 WHIP. He was lost on waivers to Brooklyn mid-September of 1911. He made five appearances with his new club before the season ended, posting a 3.13 ERA in 23 innings. The Pirates placed Steele on waivers with the intention of selling him to the minors. They could have kept him once Brooklyn claimed him, but they decided to let him go for the waiver price.
Steele never returned to the majors after 1911, and he only played three more season in the minors, including the 1913 season when he was back in Poughkeepsie, playing Class-D ball. He played first base and hit .339 in 90 games that season. He played for three different teams during the 1914 season. His only pitching records from that year show him going 5-6, with a 1.23 WHIP in 101 innings for Memphis of the Class-A Southern League. Double-A was created in 1912, so Class-A was no longer the highest level by this time. Steele also played for Beaumont and Houston of the Class-B Texas League in 1914. His next pro stats show him splitting the 1917 season evenly between Gettysburg and Chambersburg of the Class-D Blue Ridge League. He played 18 games in each spot, combining for a .211 average and five extra-base hits. His pro career finished in 1917, although it was said he played baseball into his 50’s, and was active in the sport in his hometown for many years. He went 18-24, 2.41 in 418 innings over five seasons in the majors. He made 43 starts, 32 relief appearances, and finished with 20 complete games, three shutouts and three saves. He had a 9-12, 2.56 record in 190 innings for the Pirates.
Fred Woodcock, pitcher for the 1892 Pirates. He was slated to make his Major League debut against the Cleveland Spiders on May 14, 1892 , just one day after Cy Young shut the Pirates down. That game was rained out, so he finally made his debut three days later against the Chicago Colts, and made a little history along the way. The 24-year-old Woodcock became the first pitcher to make his debut as a starter on his birthday, something that didn’t happen again in the majors for another 67 years. He was a highly touted prospect, who pitched at Dartmouth University and Brown University prior to signing with the Pirates. While he had no known previous pro experience, there was word that he may have pitched under the name “Gleason” for the Woonsocket club of the Class-B New England League in 1891, which would have been done to keep his college eligibility. The Pirates announced his signing on November 13, 1891, saying that he made a name for himself by pitching well for Dartmouth during the 1889 season. The Pirates lost 7-5 in his big league debut, although it was said that he pitched a remarkably good game, but he was hurt by five Pittsburgh errors. It seemed as if he had a bright future, but it quickly dimmed.
Woodcock’s second start was said to be fair, although he was hit hard at times. There was poor fielding behind him again, with five errors committed. He didn’t start again for two weeks, then lost his third start by a 6-2 score. He made his last start in the majors two weeks later. He gave up five first innings runs to Cleveland, before he was replaced. His final big league game came exactly one month after his debut. He would pitch just one minor league game in 1893 for Brockton of the New England League. His lone game in 1893 shows that he allowed seven runs in eight innings, but none of the runs were earned. He served as a coach in the college/school ranks during the 1894 season. He’s credited with playing for the Fort Worth Panthers and Galveston Sandcrabs of the Texas Southern League in 1895, but that was an outfielder with the last name Woodcock (first initial H). Fred Woodcock was playing semi-pro ball in the northeast at the same time.
It was said that Woodcock refused to pitch games on Sunday. He also almost didn’t join the Pirates. It was reported on April 5, 1892 by the local papers that he returned his advanced money to the Pirates. He decided to continue his studies in college, although it was later said that he would join Pittsburgh on June 15th instead. He received praise on April 24th for defeating Harvard by a 4-3 score. Exactly one month after the returned payment announcement was made, it was announced that he agreed to join the Pirates on May 15th. A week after his final game, he was given his ten days release. Back then it meant that the team paid a player for ten more days, and occasionally that player ended up staying with the team if he services became necessary. Woodcock was said to be unhappy at the time with his treatment, so he requested his release. He was involved in baseball as a coach in Massachusetts for quite some time after his playing career ended.
Frank Mountain, pitcher/first baseman for the 1885-86 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1880, pitching for the Troy Trojans of the National League. Mountain has no known minor league stats, so it appears that his entire career was spent in the majors. He made just two starts during that first season, going 1-1, 5.29 in 17 innings. He then had seven starts for the 1881 Detroit Wolverines of the National League, going 3-4, 5.25 in 60 innings, with a 1.63 WHIP. When he signed with Detroit, he was referred to as the sensational Union College pitcher, which was a school located in Schenectady, NY. The 1882 season was split between Worcester of the National League and Philadelphia of the American Association, during the first year of the new Major League rival to the National League, which started six years earlier. He combined to go 4-22, 3.76 in 213 innings, with similar results in both spots, though he pitched about twice as much with Worcester. He had a 1.42 WHIP that year, while completing 24 of his 26 starts. Mountain threw 503 innings for Columbus of the American Association in 1883, starting 59 of the team’s 97 games. He completed 57 of those games, including four shutouts. He went 26-33, 3.60 and led the league in losses, hits allowed, earned runs and walks, though he had a decent 1.33 WHIP that was slightly higher than league average. He had a career high 159 strikeouts, which ranked fifth in the league. His manager that year was Horace Phillips, who would be his manager for two seasons in Pittsburgh.
Mountain went 23-17, 2.45 in 1884, with a 1.02 WHIP over 360.2 innings. He posted a much better strikeout rate than he did in 1883, by nearly equaling his previous season’s total with 153 strikeouts, despite pitching in 142.1 fewer innings. He completed 40 of 41 starts that season, while throwing five shutouts. On June 5, 1884, he pitched a no-hitter and hit a home run in an 11-0 win over the Washington Nationals. Columbus folded after the 1884 season, when the American Association went from twelve to eight teams. The Alleghenys purchased ten of their players for the 1885 season, including Mountain. He was joining a Pittsburgh team that used nine different starting pitchers during that 1884 season. Mountain was used as an extra pitcher in 1885, making just five starts over the entire season, appearing twice in May, twice in June and once in July. He went 1-4, 4.30 in 46 innings, with a 1.74 WHIP and a rough 24:7 BB/SO ratio. He made one start early in the 1886 season, and one late in the year, while being used as a first baseman 16 times. He went 0-2, 7.88 in 16 innings, finishing with 14 walks and two strikeouts. He had a .145 average and two extra-base hits in his 18 games that year, although a total of 13 walks gave him a .319 OBP. He went 1-6, 5.23 in 62 innings between his two seasons in Pittsburgh. His Major League career ended after that 1886 season, then he went on to manage in the minors in 1888.
On October 19, 1886, it was reported that Mountain asked for his release from the Alleghenys because he feared that his injured arm wouldn’t allow him to ever pitch again. That turned out to be true, at least as far as any professional games. Mountain came to Spring Training that year saying that his arm felt better than ever, but a month later he was dealing with a sore arm, which he tried to treat with a salt and sulfur bath. That resulted in blood poisoning, which kept him from pitching again for three months. A sprained ankle in June kept him out until one final game in late August, which did not go well. His final career record was 58-83, 3.47 in 1,215.2 innings. He made 142 starts and completed 137 games. Mountain threw nine career shutouts, all of them coming during the 1883-84 seasons with Columbus.
Henry Oberbeck, first baseman for the 1883 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He spent two seasons in the majors, playing for four different teams in two different leagues, getting into just 66 games total. Oberbeck spent time at six different positions in the majors, seeing time at all three outfield spots, first base, third base and brief work as a pitcher. A year before his big league debut, the 24-year-old St Louis native was listed as joining a team called the St Louis Reds, which was managed by someone else with the last name Oberbeck. He was their starting pitcher. On January 3, 1883, local St Louis papers noted that he signed to play with Pittsburgh as their first baseman, a position he never played before, but he would be valuable to the team as one of their extra pitchers. It was also noted at the time that John Peters, shortstop for the Alleghenys, was his foster-brother and also the designated captain of the team, so he was able to sign Oberbeck. The two were teammates for a brief time in a postseason series played by a team called the St Louis Browns (not the Major League team at the time). He began his pro career with the Alleghenys on May 7, 1883, in the team’s third game of the season. He lasted just two games in Pittsburgh at first base, going 2-for-9 at the plate, while handling all 25 chances in the field flawlessly. That was actually a somewhat impressive feat in the pre-glove era. He would play four games for the St Louis Browns of the American Association after signing with them on May 24th (15 days after his final game with Pittsburgh). It was said by the St Louis papers that his release by Pittsburgh seemed to be personal and not performance related, but he ended up going 0-for-14 at the plate with the Browns.
It was announced after the 1883 season that Oberbeck had a lawsuit against the Browns for failing to pay his full salary, as he was still owed $481.12. The dispute was over whether or not he signed a normal American Association contract, or one called an “iron clad” contract, which allowed the manager to rescind the contract at any time. In April of 1885 it was announced that he won the judgement against the team. His original contract with St Louis called for him to get paid $785 for the remainder of the season.
A third major league was formed in 1884 called the Union Association. Oberbeck played 33 games at the start of the year for the Baltimore Monumentals of the UA, hitting .184/.203/.216 in 128 plate appearances, with 19 runs, four doubles and three walks. He spent most of his time in right field, but he also played eight games at third base, got one start as a pitcher and played once in left field. He allowed three runs (two earned) over his six innings pitched. He then moved on to the Kansas City Cowboys of the Union Association to finish the year. Oberbeck hit .189/.247/.222 in 27 games with Kansas City, with seven runs, three doubles and seven walks. He went 0-5, 5.76 in 29.2 innings over four starts and two relief appearances with Kansas City. He also umpired three October 1884 games in the Union Association at the end of his career. In between his time with Pittsburgh and St Louis during the 1883 season, he spent a brief time with Peoria of the Northwestern League, but his online records show nothing before or after his wild 1883-84 ride through the majors. He was doing some umpiring in fall/winter ball after the 1884 season, then I was able to track him down to playing for Youngstown of the Interstate League in 1885, followed by a semi-pro teams called the Prickly Ash from St Louis, and the Belleville Nationals. Oberbeck was referred to a few times in 1885 among a group of players who were blacklisted from the American Association, likely for jumping to the Union Association, though I’m sure his lawsuit against a team in the league didn’t do him any favors. He was back to playing for Belleville for a time during the 1886 season with his foster-brother John Peters. The two played together again in 1889 for a semi-pro team near their home in St Louis called the Western Athletic. Oberbeck was also found playing with the Prickly Ash team in St Louis at least once in 1888. He was a .176 hitter over 66 games in the majors, with 27 runs, ten walks and eight extra-base hits, which were all doubles.
Billy Reid, left fielder for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his big league career in 1883, playing for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. Reid played 23 games at second base and made 23 errors. He also played one other game at shortstop and made one error there. He hit .278 in 24 games for the Orioles, with 14 runs scored, three extra-base hits (all doubles) and four walks, giving him a .616 OPS. Reid finished the year in the minors playing for a team from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Northwestern League. He remained in that league to start the 1884 season, this time playing for the Minneapolis Millers. He hit .279 for Minneapolis, with 66 runs, 11 doubles, eight triples and two homers in 80 games. Reid was signed by Pittsburgh on September 13th, then made his debut with the Alleghenys on September 16th. He played the final 19 games of the season, mostly in left field, starting 17 of his 19 games out there. He hit .243/.293/.271 over 75 plate appearances, with 11 runs scored, two extra-base hits (both doubles) and four walks. He also played one game at second base and one at third base, making one error at each position, keeping up his error per game pace at all three infield positions.
That 1884 season was Reid’s last season in the majors. The Alleghenys finished that yearwith a 30-78 record. When Horace Phillips took over mid-season, he made wholesale changes, bringing in numerous new players. Most of them didn’t last into 1885, because the Alleghenys purchased the roster from the Columbus American Association team, which dropped out of the league, despite a second place finish. Phillips was experimenting with his lineup to end the 1884 season. Reid hit lead-off for a short time, batted clean-up for a time, and moved down the lineup as well. He bounced around the minors in 1885, playing for three different teams. He batted .233 in 16 games with Cleveland of the Western League, then spent the rest of his time split between Toronto and London of the Canadian League (no stats available). He then went back to the Northwestern League for 1886, joining the Duluth Jayhawks (no stats available). His last known stop in pro ball was for the Sandusky Fish Eaters of the Tri-State League in 1888, where once again, no stats are available. Reid was umpiring in the International League in 1887. Most of his minor league stats are completely unknown at this time, or just missing full categories. His big league debut in 1883 was also his pro debut, playing his first professional game at 26 years old. However, his first game on a big league field happened in 1882, when he served as a National League umpire for six games.