This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 8th, Don Robinson and a Deal with the Brooklyn Robins

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade from 1928.

The Trade

On this date in 1928, the Pirates traded catcher Johnny Gooch and first baseman Joe Harris to the Brooklyn Robins for catcher Charlie Hargreaves. At 30 years old, Gooch was in his eighth season in Pittsburgh. He had a .286 average in 551 games, with 443 of those games coming as the starting catcher. At the time of the trade, he was hitting .238/.265/.288 in 31 games. Harris was 37 years old at the time. He was hitting well, although he was barely playing. He was a .317 career hitter in his tenth season in the majors. He was batting .391/.500/.565 over 28 plate appearances in 1928. Hargreaves was 31 years old, with six seasons in the majors with Brooklyn. He was a back-up catcher with a strong arm. He played a total of 231 games prior to the trade, posting a .267 average, with two homers and 61 RBIs.

Harris played 55 games (14 starts) for the 1928 Robins, hitting .236/.340/.360 over 104 plate appearances, with eight runs, eight extra-base hits and eight RBIs. It was his last season in the majors, though he played another three in the minors. Gooch hit .317/.361/.366 over 42 games for Brooklyn to finish out the 1928 season. He was sent to the Cincinnati Reds after playing just one game for the Robins during the 1929 season. He hit .272/.335/.352 over 174 games with the Reds. He then spent two years in the minors, before returning for one season with the 1933 Boston Red Sox.

Hargreaves batted slightly above his norm during the rest of that 1928 season, hitting .285/.319/.342 in 79 games, with 15 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs. The downside to his strong arm was the fact he led all National League catchers in errors in 1928, committing 11 of his 13 miscues while with Pittsburgh. He caught 101 games in 1929, when he had a .268 average, with 33 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 44 RBIs and a .651 OPS. He played 11 games for the Pirates in 1930, then spent the rest of that season and the next four in the minors, retiring in 1934. As for value received in the deal, Hargreaves was above average defensively in Pittsburgh, but that was off-set by his offense, resulting in -0.4 WAR. The Robins got 0.0 from both players, though Gooch had a little positive value after leaving Brooklyn, so the Pirates would have been better off keeping him.

The Players

Scott Ruskin, pitcher for the 1990 Pirates. He was signed as a third round draft pick in 1986 by the Pirates out of the University of Florida, although it was the fifth time he was drafted. He was originally a 14th round pick in 1981 by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school, but he decided to attend Florida. He was then was drafted in the fourth round by the Texas Rangers in 1984, followed by a third round by the Cleveland Indians in 1985, and finally (before the Pirates took him) he was a first round pick of the Montreal Expos in the January 1986 draft. He was a pitcher in the majors for four seasons, but Ruskin was originally an outfielder/first baseman. After signing with the Pirates, he hit .355/.364/.387 in 1986, with a double and a walk in 11 games for the Gulf Coast League Pirates, which was his only action that first year. He then hit .298 in 1987, with 53 runs, 12 doubles, 12 homers, 53 RBIs, 17 steals (in 17 attempts) and an .832 OPS, while splitting the season between the two Class-A levels, seeing time with Macon of the South Atlantic League and Salem of the Carolina League (considered to be the higher level). He put up a .292 average and an .897 OPS in 26 games with Salem to start the 1988 season, then moved up to Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League. He really struggled with the jump, hitting .223/.278/.317 in 90 games, with 27 runs, 20 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs and 99 strikeouts. He stole 17 bases again, though he was caught eight times. Those stats in Salem looked promising, but he was already 25 years old at the time, so it wasn’t a good sign to see him struggle that bad in Double-A at that age.

Ruskin was a pitcher when he came to camp in 1989, starting his season off back with Salem. After posting a 2.23 ERA in 84.1 innings, with a 1.23 WHIP and 92 strikeouts, he was moved up to Harrisburg. He had a 4.86 ERA, with 56 strikeouts and a 1.52 WHIP in 63 innings over the rest of the season. He went from never pitching in pro ball (he pitched in college), to making a total of 23 starts and three relief appearances in 1989. He had five complete games and 147.1 innings that year. Despite the lack of pitching experience, Ruskin made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1990. His minor league manager at Salem (Rocky Bridges, who had 22 years of managerial experience) said that while he didn’t throw hard, he had the best curveball that he has even seen, and his changeup was nearly as good, plus he threw both for strikes. Ruskin would make 44 relief appearances for the 1990 Pirates, going 2-2, 3.02 in 47.2 innings, with two saves, 34 strikeouts and a 1.64 WHIP. The Pirates made the playoffs that year, but he was dealt to the Montreal Expos in early August, along with Willie Greene and Moises Alou, in exchange for starting pitcher Zane Smith. Ruskin pitched another 23 games for Montreal in 1990, finishing his rookie season with a 2.75 ERA, 57 strikeouts and a 1.50 WHIP in 75.1 innings over 67 appearances.

Ruskin pitch 64 games for the 1991 Expos, posting a 4.24 ERA, six saves, a 1.37 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 63.2 innings, before being traded (along with Willie Greene again) to the Cincinnati Reds on December 11, 1991. With the trades to both Montreal and Cincinnati, he ended up going to two teams that originally drafted him, but couldn’t get him signed. He pitched two years with the Reds, spending most of the 1993 season in the minors. Ruskin went 4-3, 5.03 in 53.2 innings over 57 appearances during the 1992 season, with 43 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP. He then made four appearances for the 1993 Reds, though that time amounted to one inning and two runs allowed. The rest of the year was spent with Indianapolis of the Triple-A American Association, where he had a 5.14 ERA, 41 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP in 56 innings, though it came with 28 saves. He signed with the Kansas City Royals for 1994, but after being a late cut in Spring Training, he never played again at any level. In his big league career, Ruskin went 11-9, 3.95 in 193.2 innings over 192 appearances, all in relief. He had 146 strikeouts, a 1.45 WHIP and eight saves.

Don Robinson, pitcher for the 1978-87 Pirates. He was a third round pick of the Pirates during the 1975 draft out of high school in West Virginia. As an 18-year-old in 1975, he made ten starts in the Gulf Coast League. He struck out 70 batters in 66 innings, while posting a 2-3, 2.45 record and a 1.24 WHIP. He had a 12-9, 3.24 record, a 1.22 WHIP and 132 strikeouts over 172 innings in 1976 with Charleston of the Class-A Western Carolinas League. The Pirates quickly moved Robinson through the system in 1977, skipping him over Advanced-A completely, going right to Shreveport of the Double-A Texas League. They gave him a start at Triple-A before the year was over. He went 7-6, 4.06 in 113 innings with Shreveport, with 103 strikeouts and a 1.36 WHIP. He then threw five shutout innings for Columbus of the International League, in what would turn out to be the only Triple-A game of his career. Robinson had a strong rookie season as a starting pitcher for the 1978 Pirates. He went 14-6, 3.47 in 228.1 innings, completing nine of his 32 starts. He had a 1.14 WHIP and 135 strikeouts, which ended up being his second highest strikeout total in a season. He finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting and eighth in the Cy Young voting.

The Pirates won the World Series in 1979, and Robinson was in their starting rotation all season. He made 25 starts and four relief appearances, finishing with an 8-8, 3.87 record, a 1.39 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 160.2 innings. That .500 record on a first place team doesn’t tell the whole story. Pittsburgh had an 18-7 record in games that Robinson started that year. He pitched six times in relief during the playoffs, with four of those appearances coming in the World Series. He gave up three runs over seven innings in the postseason. The Pirates dropped to 83-79 in 1980, with Robinson being part of the problem. He had a 7-10, 3.99 record, 103 strikeouts and a 1.26 WHIP in 160.1 innings, while the team went 11-14 in his starts. He wasn’t much of a workhorse (for the era) during the 1979-80 seasons, completing a total of seven games in 49 starts. He missed most of the 1981 season with shoulder problems, twice going on the disabled list. When he came back, it was as a reliever, making just 16 appearances total during that strike-shortened season. He finished the year with a 5.87 ERA, a 1.83 WHIP and a 23:17 BB/SO ratio in 38.1 innings. Robinson returned healthy in 1982, winning a career high (and team best) 15 games, though it came with a 4.28 ERA and a league-leading 26 home runs allowed. One season after pitching just 38.1 innings, he threw 227 innings over 30 starts and eight relief appearances. He had a 1.39 WHIP, six complete games and he struck out a career high 165 batters. That was a number that he never approached over the rest of his career. He also won his first Silver Slugger award that year, putting up a .282 average, with two homers and 16 RBIs.

The extra work for Robinson in 1982 was too much, as the shoulder problems reappeared in 1983. He was limited to 36.1 innings for the season, not including two minor league rehab starts. He finished with a 4.46 ERA, 28 strikeouts and a 1.76 WHIP over six starts and three relief outings. He came back as a reliever in 1984, settling into a role his would stay in the rest of his time with Pittsburgh. Robinson made 187 appearances from 1984 until 1987, picking up 29 wins and 39 saves during that time. He had a 5-6, 3.02 record, 110 strikeouts, a 1.21 WHIP and ten saves in 122 innings over 51 games (one start) in 1984.  He went 5-11, 3.87 in 95.1 innings during the disastrous 1985 season, when the Pirates went 57-104. He started in six of his 44 appearances that year, finishing up with three saves, 65 strikeouts and a 1.44 WHIP. He had a 3.38 ERA over 69.1 innings during the 1986 season, with 53 strikeouts, a 1.27 WHIP and 14 saves in 50 games. Through the first four months of 1987, he had a 3.86 ERA over 42 games, with 53 strikeouts, a 1.35 WHIP and 12 saves in 65.1 innings. On July 31, 1987, the Pirates cut ties with Robinson after 13 years in their system, sending him to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for young catcher Mackey Sasser and cash. Over his ten seasons with the Pirates, Robinson had a 65-69, 3.85 record in 1,203 innings pitched, with 217 relief appearances, 126 starts, 22 complete games, three shutouts and 43 saves.

Robinson would go on to play five more full seasons in the majors after leaving Pittsburgh, finishing his career up with the 1992 Philadelphia Phillies. He was strong with the Giants after the trade, putting up a 5-1, 2.74 record and seven saves in 42.2 innings over 25 games. He allowed three runs over three innings in the playoffs that year. Robinson made 19 starts and 32 relief appearances for the 1988 Giants, going 10-5, 2.45 in 176.2 innings, with 122 strikeouts, a 1.14 WHIP, six saves and two shutouts. He was a full-time starter in 1989, going 12-11, 3.43 in 197 innings, with 96 strikeouts and a 1.12 WHIP. He made 32 starts, including five complete games and his final career shutout. Despite a .185 average, he won his second Silver Slugger award, thanks in part to hitting three homers. His production slipped off a bit after that year, though he remained in the starting rotation for all of 1990 when he went 10-7, 4.57 in 157.2 innings over 25 starts and one relief outing. He had 78 strikeouts and a 1.36 WHIP. He won the Silver Slugger award again, this time with a .143 average, two homers and a .397 OPS. The Giants went to the World Series that year against the Oakland A’s. He got the start in the deciding game four, losing after allowing four runs in 1.2 innings. During his final year in San Francisco, Robinson had a 5-9, 4.38 record, 78 strikeouts and a 1.43 WHIP in 121.1 innings over 16 starts and 18 relief appearances. He failed to complete a game, but he picked up his last career save. His final season was split between the California Angels and Phillies, making a combined total of 11 starts. He finished the year with a 5.10 ERA, 26 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP in 60 innings. His final career stats over 15 years saw him go 109-106, 3.79 in 1,958.1 innings, with 295 relief appearances, 229 starts, 34 complete games, six shutouts and 57 saves. He had 1,251 strikeouts and a a 1.30 WHIP.

Robinson finished with a .231 career average, 23 doubles, 13 homers and 69 RBIs in 631 at-bats, while occasionally being used as a pinch-hitter. His most impressive feat may have been in 1983, while rehabbing in the Florida Instructional League after the regular season ended. He pitched every five days, then played right field on his off-days. Robinson hit .313 that fall, while leading the league with nine homers and 35 RBIs. His average was higher than the league leader, but he was just four at-bats short of winning the Triple Crown.

George Brunet, pitcher for the 1970 Pirates. He first made the majors in 1956, then spent the better part of his next eight seasons moving between the minors and majors. Brunet debuted in Class-D ball at 18 years old in 1953, and did not do well during his first two seasons. He had an 8.05 ERA over limited time in 1953 with Shelby of the Tar Heel League,. He then posted a 6.37 ERA, a 1.93 WHIP and a 132:123 BB/SO ratio over 171 innings in 1954 with Seminole of the Sooner State League. That all happened at the lowest level of the minors, so it’s a bit surprising that he ended up playing so long in the majors. Brunet improved his control in 1955 while back with Seminole. He went 8-9, 4.59 in 157 innings, with a 102:141 BB/SO ratio and a 1.81 WHIP. He also saw brief time for Class-C Hot Springs of the Cotton States League that year, putting together a 3-2 record in nine appearances (limited stats are available). He split the 1956 season between three levels in the minors, then saw time with the Kansas City Athletics in September. His stats with Crowley of the Class-C Evangeline League were impressive that season, going 7-2, 2.17 in 11 starts, with a 1.11 WHIP and 114 strikeouts in 87 innings. His complete minor league stats aren’t known from that year with Abilene of the Class-B Big State League (he went 2-3 in ten appearances), but we known he went 0-6, 3.86 in 56 innings over ten starts for Columbia of the Class-A South Atlantic League, which was his highest level in the minors that year. Brunet allowed eight runs and walked 11 batters in nine innings with the 1956 A’s. It was quite a jump through the minors that year, but it helped that the A’s had a 52-105 record that season.

Brunet was a September call-up again in 1957, after going 14-15, 3.42, with a 1.36 WHIP and 235 strikeouts in 213 innings for Little Rock of the Double-A Southern Association. During his second cup of coffee with the A’s, he allowed seven runs in 11.1 innings over two starts and two relief appearances. He spent all of 1958 and most of 1959 back in the minors, seeing just two appearances during that time with Kansas City. He split 1958 between Little Rock and Buffalo of the Triple-A International League, combining to post a 9-13, 4.34 record, a 1.45 WHIP and 156 strikeouts over 191 innings. He was with Portland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1959, where he went 5-13, 3.78 in 138 innings over 20 starts and eight relief appearances, with 116 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP. He was with the A’s at the start of the season, before being sent down after allowed nine runs over 4.2 innings. Brunet spent most of the 1960 season in the majors, seeing time with the A’s and Milwaukee Braves. He combined to go 2-2, 4.95 in 60 innings over eight starts and 12 relief appearances, with 43 strikeouts and a 1.62 WHIP. He also had an 0.78 ERA in 46 innings for Louisville of the Triple-A American Association that year. His big league time was limited to five relief appearances with the Braves during the 1961 season. He allowed three runs over five innings during that brief time. The rest of the year was spent with Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 5-4, 3.81 record in 104 innings.

Brunet made 11 starts and six relief appearances for the expansion Houston Colt .45’s during the 1962 season, going 2-4, 4.50 in 54 innings, with 36 strikeouts and a 1.54 WHIP. The rest of the year was split between Oklahoma City of the American Association, and Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League. He combined to go 9-9, 3.21 over 143 innings during his minor league time in 1962. He spent about half of the 1963 season in the majors, playing with Houston to start the season, then the Baltimore Orioles, after they purchased his contract on July 14th. Brunet went 0-4, 6.06 in 32.2 innings over 21 outings (two starts) between both stops, with 24 strikeouts and a 1.96 WHIP. He pitched well over the rest of the season with Oklahoma City in 1964, going 8-3, 2.07 in 87 innings, with 96 strikeouts and a 1.08 WHIP. Houston purchased him back from Baltimore in May of 1964, but his only big league time that year was with the Los Angeles Angels, who purchased his contract on August 18th. He went 2-2, 3.61 in 42.1 innings over seven starts and three relief appearances for the Angels. The rest of the year was spent back with Oklahoma City, though he did pitch two innings for Rochester of the International League. Brunet had a 10-7, 3.10 record between his two minor league stops, with 121 strikeouts and a 1.32 WHIP in 125 innings.

Brunet played in the big leagues every season from 1956-1964 (except 1958), yet had just 85 games in at majors by age 29 at the end of that 1964 seasons. At the time he had a 6-13, 5.01 record in 219 innings. He finally earned a full-time spot with the California (name changed between 1964-65) Angels in 1965, making a career high of 41 appearances (26 starts) that year. He had a 9-11, 2.56 record in 197 innings, with 141 strikeouts, a 1.11 WHIP, eight complete games, three shutouts and two saves. Brunet would win 37 games from 1966-68, but the team didn’t give him the best run support during that time frame, as he lost a total of 49 games, while twice leading the American League in losses (1967 and 1968). He pitched a total of 707.1 innings during that stretch, which was nearly half of his career innings in the majors over his 15-year career. He went 13-13, 3.31 in 212 innings over 32 starts and nine relief appearances in 1966. He had eight complete games, two shutouts, a 1.36 WHIP and 148 strikeouts. He had an identical 3.31 ERA in 1967, but it came with an 11-19 record. He set career highs with 250 innings and 165 strikeouts, while finishing the year with a 1.17 WHIP. Brunet had a 13-17, 2.86 record in 36 starts and three relief appearances during the 1968 season. He had 132 strikeouts, a 1.06 WHIP, eight complete games and a career high five shutouts.

Brunet played for two teams in 1969, starting with the Angels, before being sold to the expansion Seattle Pilots on July 31st. He went 6-7, 3.84 in 100.2 innings with the Angels, then finished up 2-5, 5.37 in 63.2 innings with the Pilots. He had a combined 4.44 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP and 93 strikeouts. He started 1970 with the Washington Senators, after going there in a December 4, 1969 trade. By that time it was the Milwaukee Brewers making the deal, as the Pilots relocated after just one season. He had an 8-6, 4.42 record, a 1.46 WHIP and 67 strikeouts in 118 innings with the Senators through the first five months of 1970. The Pirates traded minor league pitcher Denny Riddleberger and cash for Brunet on August 31, 1970. He would make 12 appearances over the last month with Pittsburgh, pitching a total of 16.2 innings. He finished with 17 strikeouts, a 1.68 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA. Brunet was included in the Matty Alou for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo deal made with the St Louis Cardinals in January of 1971. He pitched seven games for St Louis, allowing six runs in 9.1 innings. He then went to the minors, where he pitched until 1973. He had a 4.09 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 66 innings, while finishing the 1971 season back with Hawaii. Brunet remained with Hawaii for all of 1972, going 14-9, 3.99 in 169 innings, with 119 strikeouts and a 1.39 WHIP. He played briefly for Eugene of the Pacific Coast League in 1973, going 2-1, 5.00 over 36 innings for the affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 15 big league seasons, Brunet went 69-93, 3.62 in 1,431.2 innings, making 213 starts and 111 relief appearances. Between the minors and majors, he pitched nearly 700 games, and almost 500 were as a starter. Brunet won 181 total games, although he also lost 208 times. That wasn’t his entire pro career though. He went to Mexico in 1973, where he continued to pitch regularly until he was 49 years old in 1984, though he made some appearances after that time as well. His full stats aren’t known, but he is credited with over 4,600 innings and over 3,500 strikeouts, and both numbers could be much higher. Brunet had a 1.38 ERA over 26 innings with Poza Rica of the Mexican League in 1973. He remained with Poza Rica through the end of the 1978 season. He went 13-13, 2.48 over 218 innings in 1974, finishing with a 1.19 WHIP and 166 strikeouts. He followed that up with a 17-9, 2.62 record in 1975, with 147 strikeouts over 230 innings. Brunet had a 10-12, 3.30 record over 172 innings in 1976. He had a 1.26 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 1977, though he pitched just 100 innings. His final season with Poza Rica saw him go 15-14, 2.67 in 246 innings, with a 1.25 WHIP and 208 strikeouts. He played for two teams in Mexico during the 1979 season, though stats are unavailable. Brunet was with Veracruz for most of 1980, but he dominated in seven starts with Coatzacoalcos. He had 164 strikeouts over 239 innings that year, while combining for a 14-13, 2.30 record.

Brunet has no stats available from 1981 with Veracruz. He went 14-9, 2.67 over 168.2 innings in 1982, with 108 strikeouts and a 1.36 WHIP. He combined to go 9-12 over 168.1 innings during the 1984 season, splitting the year between Veracruz and Aguascalientes. His 1984 stats split between Saltillo and Monterrey show a 6-9 record over 121.2 innings. He’s credited with playing for Mexico City at 50 years old in 1985, though no stats are available. Brunet changed his jersey number often during his big league time, including six different numbers with the Kansas City A’s and two numbers (22 and 4) during his brief time in Pittsburgh. He also wore two numbers during his partial season with the Seattle Pilots.