This Date in Pirates History: July 23

In a busy day for trades as we near the trading deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made four trades of note on this date. We also have three players to cover, including a star center fielder for the best three year stretch of Pirates teams in franchise history. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps a doubleheader from 1930 with two very different scores, yet they both ended the same way.

The Trades

On this date in 2003, the Pirates traded outfielder Kenny Lofton and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, plus cash, to the Chicago Cubs for infielder Jose Hernandez, minor league pitcher Matt Bruback and a player to be named later, which turned out to be infielder Bobby Hill. A trade that was made as a salary dump, turned out to be even worse than it originally looked on paper. Ramirez wasn’t playing well(mostly defensively with 23 errors already) for the 2003 Pirates but the young third baseman was only 25 years old and 1 1/2 years removed from his monster 2001 season in which he hit .300 with 34 homers and 112 RBI’s. Jose Hernandez and Kenny Lofton canceled each other out in the deal, both were pending free agents and the 2003 Pirates were going nowhere with a 44-53 record at the time of the deal. Unfortunately, Bruback and Hill, who came over in mid-August, did nothing to ease the pain of losing Ramirez, who was rejuvenated with his new team in a pennant race. Bruback never made the majors and Hill spent just one full season on the roster, hitting .267 with 38 RBI’s in his 185 games for the Pirates, before being traded to the Padres in November of 2005. Ramirez spent nine seasons in Chicago, hitting .294 with 239 homers and 806 RBI’s.

On this date in 1999, the Pirates traded outfielder Jose Guillen and pitcher Jeff Sparks to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for catchers Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota. Guillen was just 23 at the time, in his third season with the Pirates. He had shown power during his first two years, hitting 14 homers each season at a young age. However, in 1999 he had hit just one homer in 40 games and was back in AAA at the time of the deal. The Pirates gave up on him too soon, though he didn’t really break out until the 2003 season with the Reds, two years removed from his time with the Devil Rays.  The Pirates signed the 27 year old Sparks out of Independent Ball in 1999 and he was a AAA reliever at the time of the deal. He ended up pitching 23 games over two seasons in Tampa, his only time in the majors. Cota was around with his new team longer than anyone on this list, although in his seven seasons in Pittsburgh(2001-07), he played a total of 196 games. Oliver provided immediate help behind the plate, as the Pirates looked for someone to replace the injured Jason Kendall, who would miss the rest of the year with a severe ankle injury. Oliver provided a veteran presence, but he hit just .201 in his 45 games. He left via free agency after the season.

On this date in 1996, the Pirates dealt pitcher Danny Darwin to the Houston Astros in exchange for minor league pitcher Rich Loiselle.  Darwin was 40 years old at the time, in his 19th season in the majors. He had signed with the Pirates as a free agent that February and had made 19 starts for Pittsburgh, going 7-9 3.02 in 122.1 innings. He struggled with Houston, posting a 5.95 ERA in six starts and nine relief appearances. Loiselle, a 24 year old righty with no major league experience, would come up to the Pirates that September, making three starts and two relief appearances. Over the next five seasons, he pitched 198 games for the Pirates, all in relief, finishing with a 9-18 4.38 record in 224 innings. He saved 49 ballgames, with 29 of them coming in 1997 as a rookie, when he made a career high 72 appearances.

In another deal that worked out for the Pirates, on this date in 1986, they sent pitcher Jose DeLeon to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Bobby Bonilla. DeLeon was a 25 year old righty, who came up in 1983 and looked good for his first two years, before leading the NL with 19 losses in 1985 and pitching even worse in 1986, which earned him a trip down to AAA. Bonilla was originally with the Pirates, but they lost him in the 1985 Rule V draft to the White Sox. He had hit .269 with two homers in 75 games for Chicago prior to the trade. DeLeon lasted in the majors until 1995 and had some effective seasons, though his overall record after leaving Pittsburgh was just 69-81, with his best season coming in 1989 for the Cardinals when he went 16-12 3.05 and led the NL with 201 strikeouts. Bonilla went on to become a star for the Pirates, driving in 483 runs during his five full seasons with the team. From 1988 until 1991, he was named to four All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top 16 in NL MVP voting each year, with a second place finish in 1990, followed by third place the next year.

The Players

Mack Hillis (1901) Second baseman for the 1928 Pirates. He had played just one major league game prior to joining the Pirates, a mid-September 1924 game for the Yankees, in which he came off the bench during a 16-1 win. Hillis had one AB and scored one run, finishing the game at second base. He had begun his pro career two years earlier with Rochester of the International League and in 1924, he had spent the season with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. Mack spent the next three years bouncing around the minors, prior to landing in 1928 with Columbia of the South Atlantic League. While there, he hit .348 with 53 extra base hits in 111 games. Hillis got his chance to play for the Pirates when regular second baseman Dick Bartell injured him ankle. Making his Pittsburgh debut on August 15,1928, Mack hit an inside-the-park homer in his second AB with the team and he handled all eight chances sent his way without an error. He ended up playing another ten games for the Pirates, hitting .250 with seven RBI’s and six runs scored. When the season ended it was back to the minors for Hillis, where he played three more years, then managed for a season, without a return trip to the big leagues.

Ed Holley (1899) Pitcher for the 1934 Pirates. He was a right-handed submarine pitcher, who spent the first five years of his pro career(1923-27) pitching for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. In 1928, Ed got his first chance at the majors, while with the Chicago Cubs. He was seldom used during the season, getting into 13 games, all but one in relief. Holley returned to the minors for three more years, this time with Reading of the International League for one year, then Kansas City of the AA. He was signed by the 1932 Phillies and had a regular spot in their rotation for the next two seasons, going 11-14 3.95 in 228 innings the first year, followed by a 13-15 record in 1933 for a seventh place team. Philadelphia was even worse in 1934 and Ed was no help, going 1-8 7.18 in 13 starts and two relief appearances. On July 12,1934, the Pirates purchased Ed from the Phillies off waivers and by the next day he was with the team pitching in relief. The Pirates at the time were desperate for veteran pitching, but Holley was of no help to them. He made four starts and failed to get past the third inning in all of them, before the Pirates finally gave up on him. He was 0-3 15.43 in his five outings with a total of just 9.1 innings pitched. Ed returned to the minors for good the next season with Buffalo of the IL and he finished his career the following season(1936), right back where it started with Louisville.

Ginger Beaumont (1876) Center fielder for the Pirates from 1899 until 1906. His minor league career was very brief, playing the last month of the 1898 seasons for Milwaukee of the Western League with great success. The Pirates gave up two players to get Beaumont from Milwaukee during that off-season, third baseman Bill Gray and pitcher Bill Hart. It ended up being a one-sided deal in Pittsburgh’s favor. Ginger became the Pirates everyday centerfielder shortly after the season began and he had a remarkable rookie season, batting .352 in 111 games, with 90 runs scored. His average dropped well off the next season, although it was still a respectable .279 mark and he scored 105 runs, batting at the top of the lineup. In 1901, the Pirates won their first NL pennant and Beaumont was a big part of that team. He led Pittsburgh with 120 runs scored and finished second on the team to Honus Wagner with his .332 average.

The 1902 Pirates had the best winning percentage in team history(.741) and Beaumont led the way, topping the NL with his .357 average, while scoring 100 runs for the third straight season. He also led the league in hits for the first time. As good as he was in the 1902 season, Ginger may have been better the next year as the Pirates took their third straight NL pennant, on their way to the first ever modern day World Series. Beaumont hit .341 with 68 RBI’s from the leadoff spot and led the league in games played, plate appearances, runs scored, hits and total bases. His 137 runs scored that season ranks sixth highest in team history. In the WS against Boston, Ginger hit .265 and scored six runs.

In 1904, Ginger played a career high 153 games, leading the league in plate appearances again and for a third straight time, he had the most hits. By 1906 though, a knee injury limited his playing time and severely cut into his speed, which made him such as effective player. Beaumont had stolen at least 21 bases in each of his first seven seasons, but in his last year with the Pirates, he managed just one stolen base all year. The Pirates traded him to the Boston Doves on December 11,1906  in a three-for-one deal to get Ed Abbaticchio. They assumed the knee injury that slowed down Beaumont would end his effectiveness but it didn’t, at least not right away. Ginger had one more big season left in him, leading the NL in hits for a fourth time in 1907, when he batted .322 over 150 games. He played another three seasons in the majors and one in the minors before retiring. For the Pirates, Ginger hit .321 with 757 runs scored in 989 games, collecting 1292 hits. His batting average ranks him eighth in team history between Hall of Famers Arky Vaughan and Pie Traynor. For more on Ginger Beaumont, check out the bio we posted here.

Jolly Roger Rewind: July 23, 1930

Pie Traynor hit final-inning, game-deciding home runs in both games of a doubleheader, leading the Pirates to 2-1 and 16-15 victories over the Phillies at the Baker Bowl.

In the opener, Bucco starter Heinie Meine and Philadelphia rookie Snipe Hansen squared off in an uncharacteristic-for-1930-at-the-Baker-Bowl pitchers’ duel, with both teams’ single fourth-inning tallies serving as the only scoring through eight frames. Traynor, however, led off the top of the ninth with, in the words of The Pittsburgh Press, “a hard drive to left, which struck in fair territory, bounced into foul and caromed off the screen there into the stands.” Under National League rules then in effect, Traynor received credit for a home run*, and Meine set down the Phillies in the bottom of the inning to clinch the victory.

The nightcap, by contrast, was highly representative of the offensive orgy that was big-league baseball in 1930.** In thirteen innings of twice-rain-delayed action, the Bucs and Phillies set two all-time major league records, tied a third, and challenged several others. Their combined 117 charged at-bats shattered a forty-seven-year-old major league record. Their combined 83 total bases broke the old record of 79, set in a St. Louis-Philadelphia game seven years earlier. The teams combined for 45 assists to tie a record that dated to 1905. And they narrowly missed major league records for longest game time (3:41 was nine minutes shorter than the Brooklyn-Boston twenty-six-inning game of ten years earlier); combined hits (50 was one below the record) and extra-base-hits (17 was one below the record); and combined pitchers used (ten was one below the record).

The Pirates jumped to a 7-0 advantage through four and a half innings, only to see the Phillies slowly chip away with what ultimately turned out to be a 27-hit attack. Philadelphia finally drew even at 10-10 on Bernie Friberg’s eighth-inning home run off Bucco reliever Steve Swetonic.

Paul Waner, like Traynor in the opener, put the Bucs back ahead with a solo home run in the top of the ninth, but Lefty O’Doul answered with a game-tying homer off Swetonic in the home half of the inning. The teams somehow managed consecutive scoreless frames to start extra innings, and the game moved to the twelfth inning tied at 11-11.

Two offense-filled innings followed. The Pirates pushed across two runs in the top of the twelfth on a Friberg error and Dick Bartell sacrifice fly. Once again, however, Swetonic could not hold the lead, as singles by Chuck Klein, Don Hurst, Pinky Whitney and Tommy Thevenow—referred to by the Press as “those gentlemen of swat”—tied the game.

With two on and two out in the thirteenth inning, Traynor blasted Les Sweetland’s pitch high into the left field bleachers for a three-run homer—his fifth hit of the nightcap—and a 16-13 Bucco lead. Larry French, who had relieved Swetonic in the previous inning, started the bottom of the frame with strikeouts of the first two Philadelphia batters. But the Phillies, who had a team batting average of .315 in 1930, were not finished: singles by O’Doul and Klein and a double by Hurst cut the margin to one run and put the tying run on second. Whitney followed with a hard grounder up the middle, but French gloved it and threw to first to end the game.***

Game One box score

Game Two box score

The Pittsburgh Press game story

* Had Traynor’s blast come in an American League contest, it would have counted as a book-rule double; the AL had changed its rule on this type of hit in the previous off-season. The NL would follow suit on December 12, 1930.

** For the Phillies, it was one of thirteen games played in 1930 where both teams scored in double figures. The Pirates had seven such games that season.

*** Observed the Press: “Fans may scoff at a 16-15 score, but some 6,000 Philly fans clung to their seats until the last man was out.”

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.
  • blackmax

    Another eventful day in Pirates’ history. Thanks again! I still can’t believe that the Pirates allowed themselves to get into a place where they had to dump Ramirez’s salary. I also can’t believe that MLB would LET them move their only good young player for financial reasons. But hats off to Heine Meine for holding the Phils to one run in Baker Bowl. It’s amazing how much baseball changed between 1930 and 1932 (and nothing reflects that more than the record of Phillie pitching during that era).

    • http://twitter.com/jfredland jfredland

      You’re welcome! In thirty years of rooting for the Pirates, no single event has made me want to turn in my fan card more than the Ramirez deal. I was at a concert and saw details of the trade flash on television, and I hoped that it was just a rumor.

      As for 1930, looking through the game results is pretty unreal: several football scores like 16-15 and 19-14, surrounded by many 12-8s and 10-8s.