12/20: Young-Herges; Berra-Foli, Kitty-Del Deals; '04 Arbs, Loiselle, Peters Sign; In the Black; HBD Bryse, Jose, Paul, Spud, Joe, Branch & Jimmy
- 1876 – 2B Jimmy Williams was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He only played two years in Pittsburgh, but made quite a splash. In his first year, 1899, Williams hit in 27 straight games, setting an MLB rookie record that wasn’t broken until 1987, and his mark is still a Pirates team standard. His 27 triples are also an MLB rookie record, and he ended the campaign with a .354 BA. But the next year he returned to reality, hitting .264, and then jumped leagues in 1901, joining the AL Baltimore Orioles and opening the door for Tommy Leach to take control of the hot corner.
|Jimmy Williams – 1902 image/The Sporting Life|
- 1881 – Branch Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio. An innovator of things as diverse as the breaking the color line, a feeder minor league system and batting helmets, Rickey was the Pirate GM from 1950-55. His Pittsburgh teams were notoriously poor (“The Rickey-Dinks”), but his player development pipeline helped to form a nucleus for the 1960 World Championship club. New York sportswriter Tom Meany gave him the nickname “Mahatma,” per Lee Lowenfish in “Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman,” because he reminded him of Gandhi with his combination of almost religious fervor combined with Tammany Hall backroom tactics. He was also called “The Brain” for his innovative work & eye for players, and “El Cheapo” by some players for his tight-fisted contract dealings.
- 1885 – OF Joe Wilhoit was born in Hiawatha, Kansas (although SABR’s Bob Rives notes that “Wilhoit’s age appears to have been more closely guarded than the Coca-Cola formula. In various publications, his date of birth ranges from 1885 to 1891 and his birthplace varies from Los Angeles to Illinois to Kansas.” Our place and DOB are consensus but uncertain.) He played for four MLB seasons, and called three teams home in 1917, one being Pittsburgh where he went 2-for-10 before joining the NY Giants. Joe’s claim to fame: Playing for the Western League’s Wichita Jobbers’, he put together pro baseball’s longest hit streak of 69 games and ended the season with a .422 average. Per baseball lore, he was given a gift hit to reach 63 games when a third baseman ate his bunt rather than make a play (a credit to Wilhoit’s popularity among the players). When his streak ended at home, the fans passed a hat and filled it with $600 to reward Joe’s feat.
- 1904 – The Pirates traded 1B Kitty Bransfield, IF Otto Krueger and OF Moose McCormick to the Phillies for 1B Del Howard and RF Otis Clymer. In his first MLB season, Howard hit .292 for the Pirates and was then part of the deal for P Vic Willis the following year. Clymer was a reserve for three years, hitting .284, before he was sold to the Senators in 1907. Kitty, a member of the Pirates first World Series club, stayed on for seven campaigns in Philadelphia, with a .269 BA. Moose, one of baseball’s earliest full-time pinch-hitters, didn’t play again until 1908 after leaving the game to become a salesman. Krueger hung around for one more year before leaving baseball.
|Spud Davis – 1940 Play Ball|
- 1904 – C Virgil “Spud” Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He spent his last four seasons (1940-41, 1944-45) as a back-up catcher who hit .301 as a Bucco. From 1943-44 he coached before returning for a couple of seasons during the war years. He continued as a coach and a scout for the Pirates and briefly managed the team when manager Frankie Frisch resigned in September of 1946. Spud left baseball for good in 1950. Davis hit over .300 ten times in 16 MLB seasons, and as of his retirement, his .308 career BA was second only to Mickey Cochrane all-time among major league catchers. At last peek, it’s still in the Top Five. Per Andy Sturgill of SABR: The nickname was given to Davis by an uncle in his childhood. “I liked potatoes so much early in life that I was nicknamed Spud,” Davis explained. “But I loved baseball more than potatoes, so I cut them out.”
- 1953 – RHP Paul Moskau was born in St. Joseph, Missouri. After climbing the hill for five years with the Reds, he joined the Bucs in 1983, getting into 13 games (five starts). Paul’s Pittsburgh line was 1-3/4.37 and he finished his MLB tour the following year as a Chicago Cub.
- 1960 – RHP Jose DeLeon was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. After being taken in the third round of the 1979 draft, he reached Pittsburgh in 1983. He went 17-38 with a 4.02 ERA as a Buc before being traded to the White Sox in 1986. DeLeon lasted 13 seasons in the MLB, winning 86 games while tossing for five teams and posting a workmanlike 3.76 ERA.
- 1984 – In a deal that was in the makings for a couple of weeks, SS Tim Foli, OF Steve Kemp and cash were sent to the Pirates by the NY Yankees in exchange for SS Dale Berra, OF Jay Buhner and LHP Alfonso Pulido. The move freed Berra from the Bucco doghouse, and did the same for Kemp who was in George Steinbrenner’s bad graces. The deal was held up by the Commissioners Office until a work-around for the cash sent to Pittsburgh was struck, with Pulido tossed into the pot as a separate cash transaction. Kemp hit .246 w/2 HRs & was released in May of 1986; Foli was released in June ‘85 w/.189 BA. Buhner went on to have a 15-year career with 310 homers, mostly with Seattle, while Berra spent two years in NY, batting .230.
|Dale Berra – 1984 All Star insert|
- 1988 – Big day for the Bucco bank account: the team announced that the Pirates posted an operating profit of $2,850,660 during the 1988 season, the first time since 1971 the Bucs ended the year in the black. The team set a club home attendance record of 1,866,713, an increase of more than 700,000 over the previous year when Pittsburgh had an operating loss of $1,756,838.
- 1997 – RHP Bryse Wilson was born in Durham, North Carolina. He was a fourth round pick of the Braves in 2016 out of Orange HS and debuted for Atlanta in 2018. Wilson got into 22 games (14 starts) over four years with a 5-4/5.45 slash. At the 2021 deadline, he was traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Richard Rodriguez deal and joined the rotation, starting four days later. His combined line for the year was 3-7/5.35, with the long ball giving him fits. Fun fact: His first start was against the Pirates. Wilson pitched five innings and earned the victory in the Braves’ 1–0 win to become the youngest pitcher to win his debut by that score. Bryse was part of the rotation in ‘22, starting 20 games and slashing 3-9/5.52, crossing the 100+ IP threshold for the first time in the MLB.
- 1999 – The Pirates signed RHP Rich Loiselle and LHP Chris Peters to one-year deals; both were arb-eligible and had missed the previous season with arm woes. Loiselle agreed to $400K while Peters took home $550K. Rich got into 40 games and went 2-3/5.10; he would pitch 18 big league games in 2001, which would be his last of six campaigns in the show. Peters worked 18 games, going 1-0/2.18, then closed out his MLB stay in Montreal the following season after six years of service. They also bulked up by adding a pair of depth catchers via minor league deals, Tim Laker and Randy Knorr.
- 2001 – In a minor deal, the Bucs sent RHP Jose Silva, one day after his birthday, to the Reds for minor league RHP Ben Shaffar. Silva spent the season with Cincy to finish out his MLB at seven campaigns (all but his first and last with the Pirates) while Shaffar never made it to the show.
|Chris Young – 2002 Upper Deck Minor League|
- 2002 – RHP Chris Young and minor leaguer Jon Searles were traded to the Montreal Expos for RHP Matt Herges. The 6’10” Young, a third round pick of the Bucs in 2000 who was given a $1.65M bonus to lure him from basketball, went on to win 32 games between 2005-07 and landed an All-Star berth before injuries threw a series of speed bumps at his career, while the Pirates cut Herges in spring training and lost him to the Padres. He went on to make over 350 more appearances in the next six years as a journeyman middle reliever.
- 2004 – The Pirates tendered all seven of their arb-eligible players: SS Jack Wilson, OF/1B Craig Wilson, 1B Daryle Ward, UT Rob Mackowiak, and P’s Josh Fogg, Kip Wells and Brian Meadows. All seven played for the Bucs throughout the 2005 campaign. They had signed RHP Salomon Torres earlier in the off season to a two year/$2.6M deal to avoid arbitration.
- 2011 – The Bucs took a chance with RHP Ryota Igarashi, the fastest pitcher in Japan featuring a 98-MPH heater and with two years as a Met under his belt, by signing him to a minor league deal with an invite to camp. He was sent to the minors in March and told the media he was “shocked” by the demotion (even though he had surrendered nine runs in 9-1/3 spring innings). The Bucs sold their disgruntled reliever to the Toronto Blue Jays the next day; he eventually returned to Japan in 2013 after getting into just four more MLB outings. The Pirates also inked Jeff Clements to the non-roster invitee list. He started at Indy and made it to Pittsburgh in late August, but hit just .136 to end his Buccaneer days.
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