A busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates history today, with six birthdays, two trades and a Jolly Roger Rewind from John Fredland. Earlier in the day, we covered one of the players born today in his own article, longtime Pirates catcher/manager, George Gibson. That article can be read here.
On this date in 2009, the Pirates traded Adam LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for two minor leaguers, shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland. LaRoche played three years in Pittsburgh, hitting .265 with 58 homers and 213 RBI’s in 375 games. Diaz played 22 games for the Pirates in 2010, hitting .242 in 33 AB’s. He currently plays at AAA for the Tigers, while Strickland is in AA for the Pirates, having missed most of 2010 and all of 2011 with elbow and shoulder problems. LaRoche played just six games for Boston before they dealt him to the Braves for Casey Kotchman. He is currently with the Washington Nationals.
On this date in 1988, the Pirates traded outfielder Darnell Coles to the Mariners in exchange for outfielder Glenn Wilson. Coles had been acquired by the Pirates the previous August for third baseman Jim Morrison. The 26 year old OF/3B hit .230 with 11 homers and 60 RBI’s in 108 games for the Pirates. He played eight years in the majors after the deal, spending time with seven different teams, never approaching the numbers he put up in 1986 with the Tigers(.273,20HR,86RBI). Wilson was a 29 year old outfielder, in his seventh season in the majors. He was hitting .250 with three homers in 78 games for the Mariners at the time of the deal. In 1985 for the Phillies, he drove in 102 runs and made the NL All-Star team. For the Pirates, he hit .274 with 11 homers and 64 RBI’s in 147 games before being traded to the Astros in August 1989 for Billy Hatcher.
Ryan Vogelsong (1977) Pitcher for the 2001 and then 2003-06 Pirates. He was originally a fifth round draft pick in 1998 of the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates acquired Vogelsong on July 30,2001, along with outfielder Armando Rios in exchange for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. At the time of the deal, he had pitched 13 games in relief for the Giants, with a 5.65 ERA in 28.2 innings. He had never pitched in relief in the minors, and when the Pirates got him, they sent him to AAA, putting him back in the starter role. Ryan made two September starts for the Pirates in 2001, failing to get past the third inning in each game. Worse than the two losses he picked up was the fact he needed elbow surgery that would cost him most of the following season. In 2003, he began the year in AAA as a starter, getting recalled by the Pirates three separate times during the season. Vogelsong made 26 minor league starts, going 12-8 4.29 with 146 strikeouts in 149 innings. For Pittsburgh, he went 2-2 6.55 in six games.
In 2004, Ryan made the Pirates out of Spring Training and would make 26 starts to go along with five relief appearances. He went 6-13 6.50, throwing a total of 133 innings. By the next season, he was throwing strictly out of the bullpen, making 44 appearances, with a 4.43 ERA in 81.1 innings. He resumed the role the next year but after limited success, he went sent to AAA, then released at the end of the season. Ryan pitched three years in Japan, the returned to the states in 2010 with the Phillies organization. In January of 2011, he resigned with his original organization and has made an incredible turnaround, going a combined 20-11, while making the 2011 NL All-Star team. For the Pirates, he went 10-19 6.00 in 103 games, 33 as a starter, with 280.1 innings pitched.
Denny Gonzalez (1963) Infielder for the 1984-85 and 1987-88 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1981 out of the Dominican Republic. He spent four seasons in the majors for the Pirates, although none of them were full seasons. He made just one Opening Day roster(1987), but that ended up being the year he played the least amount of games for Pittsburgh. All told, Gonzalez played 90 games for the Pirates, hitting an even .200 with four homers and 17 RBI’s. With Pittsburgh, he played 34 games at 3B, 25 at shortstop, 16 in left field and ten at second base. Denny was dealt to the Indians in November of 1988 along with a player to be named later, for a player to be named later. The rest of the deal turned out to be Felix Fermin going to the Indians, while Jay Bell returned to the Pirates. Gonzalez went to the minors for the Indians, coming up for eight September games, which would be the last major league games of his career. He was far from finished as a player. Denny played until 1998, spending time in the minors, then Japan, then playing out his career in Mexico. He is currently a trainer down in the Dominican.
R.C. Stevens (1934) First baseman for the Pirates from 1958 until 1960. He was a big (6″5 220) first baseman the Pirates signed in 1952 out of high school in Georgia. He began showing big power numbers in 1954 as a 19 year old in the Carolina League, where he hit 31 doubles and 25 homers. Pittsburgh moved him up the next year to the much tougher competition in the Pacific Coast League, where he struggled the first season, then came back with 27 homers and 72 RBI’s the following year. RC split the 1957 season between the PCL and the Pirates AAA team in the International League, batting a combined .256 with 19 homers and 81 walks. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1958 as a backup at first base, getting into 59 games throughout the year, which also included a trip to the minors in July. Stevens started 19 games for the 1958 Pirates, hitting .267 with seven homers and 18 RBI’s. He would see limited time in each of the next two seasons in the majors, playing a combined 12 games, before the Pirates dealt him to the Washington Senators on December 16,1960 in exchange for pitcher Bobby Shantz. RC played one year with Washington, before returning to the minors for good, playing his last game in 1963.
Sheldon Lejeune (1885) Center fielder for the 1915 Pirates. He was a strong minor league hitter, whose success never carried over to the majors. Sheldon batted .328 or higher in five of six seasons from 1910-1915, and he also did it with a bit of power, hitting as many as 25 homers in a season. His major league time was brief though, getting in six games for Brooklyn in 1911 and 18 games for the 1915 Pirates. His major league exploits weren’t much to talk about but he was well known at the time for one thing, Lejeune had the furthest official recorded throw of a baseball at the time. In 1910, he threw a ball over 426 feet in the air, breaking the old record by at least ten feet(the official record was 400 feet, but many “unofficial” throws had been made between 400 and 416, including one by Honus Wagner in 1898). For the Pirates, Sheldon batted just .169 with two RBI’s and four stolen bases. He recorded four outfield assists during his brief time, playing all 18 of his games with Pittsburgh as the center fielder. When the Pirates started the season slow, Lejeune was sent to the bench, and soon was back in the minors, where he would end his playing days the next season.
Jack Glasscock (1857) Shortstop for the 1893-94 Pirates. He was a star shortstop, who had a 17 year career in the majors that saw him hit .290 with over 200o hits to his credit. Jack began his pro career during the first year that minor league call existed(1877) and within two years he was in the majors. He was a strong hitter, fast baserunner and an even better defensive player, leading the league in fielding six times during his career, with five more second place finishes. In 1889 he led the league in hits and repeated that feat the next year, while also winning the NL batting title. When Pittsburgh acquired him in 1893, he was batting .287 in 48 games for the St Louis Browns.
He joined the Pirates on July 4,1893 just in time for a holiday doubleheader. The Pittsburgh crowd that day at Exposition Park was very excited to get the star shortstop and gave him a thunderous applause. Glasscock earned that reception all season, finishing with a .341 average over his 66 games with the team, driving in 74 runs. The 36 year old shortstop began to show his age the next season, batting .281 over 87 games, in a season that was at the top of the list for offense in baseball. The Pirates had a star filled lineup that year, one that hit .312 as a team. Jack played one more year in the majors, then hung around minor league ball for another six seasons before finally retiring.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 22, 1899
Ginger Beaumont parlayed six bunt singles into six runs scored, leading the Pirates to an 18-4 rout of the Philadelphia Quakers at Exposition Park.
The twenty-three-year-old rookie center fielder and leadoff hitter exploited a makeshift Philadelphia infield—featuring pitcher Chick Fraser playing third base* and Pearce Chiles** replacing injured star Nap Lajoie on second—with bunt hits in the first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings. “The novel feature of his record,” observed The Pittsburg Press, “was that he did not get the ball out of the infield once, but all of this bunts were clean and scientific. Beau*** had the Quakers guessing from the start. He worked hard every time he stepped to the place, and no two of his bunts went to the same place.” Beaumont came around to score after each hit, as the Bucs racked up nineteen hits and scored in every inning but the third.****
His sixth hit brought a measure of drama to the eighth inning of a 16-4 contest. “All interest centered in Beaumont in the eighth, but after two strikes were called it appeared the young man’s clean record would be spoiled,” noted the Press. “Beau swung hard at the next ball, and when he fouled it to the grand stand the Phillies’ infielders backed out, being convinced that he would not run the risk of striking out by attempting another bunt. That was where they made their mistake. The next ball was tapped toward first, and Beau had his sixth base hit.”
Beaumont’s fellow star rookie, second baseman Jimmy Williams, drove in three runs with a pair of triples. Williams tripled to the right field fence with two outs in the bottom of the second to score Beaumont and Jack McCarthy for a 5-2 Bucco advantage. His second triple, two innings later, drove in Beaumont to increase the margin to 10-2. Williams ultimately contributed three hits and scored four runs.
Jesse Tannehill went the distance for the victory, scattering eleven hits and striking out three. The Pirates would go on to sweep the five-game series from a strong Quaker team that would finish the season with a 94-58 record, good for third place in the twelve-team National League. (The Bucs would finish in fourth plate at 74-70.)
The Pittsburg Press game story
* The Press reported that Quakers acting manager Morgan Murphy had attempted to sign former Bucco Jim Gardner, whose four-season run with the team had ended earlier in the 1899 season, to fill in for regular third baseman Bill Lauder, but “while Murphy was in the East End Gardner was down town, and the two did not meet.”
** Pearce Chiles received the nickname “What’s The Use” for taunting opposing players with that phrase prior to catching their pop-ups. Two years after this game, he was convicted and sentenced to confinement in Texas for stealing money from another passenger on a train. One year after that, however, he escaped from prison and disappeared from the historical record.
*** According to his SABR biography, Beaumont, whose first name was Clarence, was known at “Clarry” or “Beau” at this time. He did not receive the nickname “Ginger” until Barney Dreyfuss bought a half-interest in the Pirates after the 1899 season and started calling him by that nickname.
**** The Press sang the praises of the red-headed rookie: “Beaumont, the boy who fought his way into the Pittsburg team, is there to stay, and he promises to be the find of the season. The fact that he has no bad habits, is intelligent, willing to learn and be criticized, are strong points in his favor. With Beaumont the all-important question is, ‘What is the score?’ and not ‘How many hits did I get?’ but despite his own willingness to sacrifice his own record any time to help his team he did some remarkable stick work last week, getting 14 hits for a total of 18 bases in the six games. He was on the circuit 23 times and scored 9 runs.”