This Date in Pirates History: March 11

Born on this date in 1945 was Dock Ellis, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1968 until 1975, then again in 1979. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in January 1964 and sent him to Batavia of the New York-Penn league where he made 16 starts, going 6-7 3.20 and throwing 120 innings. He then moved to the Carolina League for 1965, going 14-8 1.98 in 186 innings and earning a promotion to AAA for one start. Ellis pitched in AA in 1966 with a 10-9 2.76 record in 24 starts and 160 innings. He struggled in his first extended stint at AAA in 1967, then moved to the bullpen for 1968 when he pitched 19 times with a 2.35 ERA before getting called up to the majors. Once Dock got to the majors he was there for good, getting in 12 seasons before he retired following the 1979 season.

For the 1968 Pirates, Ellis made ten starts and 16 relief appearances. He went 6-5 2.50 and got in 104.1 innings. He was moved to a full-time starting role in 1969 and would make just 12 more relief appearances over the rest of his career. The 1969 Pirates had an 88-74 record but Ellis managed to post a record of just 11-17 despite a respectable 3.58 ERA that was just below the team’s overall average. He turned that record around the next season, going 13-10 while lowering his ERA to 3.21 in 30 starts. He threw a career high four shutouts that season, including a special one mentioned below. In 1971 the Pirates won the World Series and Ellis helped get them there with his 19-9 3.06 record and 11 complete games in 31 starts. He led the team in wins and was second in innings pitched to Steve Blass. In the postseason he won his only NLCS start but was hit hard in the opener of the WS and didn’t pitch again. That year he started the All-Star game for the NL, his only AS appearance and he also finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.

Ellis had a strong 1972 season, going 15-7 2.70 in 25 starts, then followed it with a 12-14 year in 1973, although his ERA was just 3.05 in 192 innings. He started of real slow in 1974, going 3-8 4.54 through his first 15 starts but his last 11 starts saw him go 9-1 while cutting his ERA down to 3.16 by the end of the season. His year ended early when he got hit in the pitching hand by a line drive. He was not the same pitcher in 1975 and the Pirates traded him in a three-for-one deal that brought back Doc Medich which was covered here. That trade turned out to be a disaster for the Pirates. See the accompanying chart courtesy of David Kaleida at 6-4-3 putout for how this trade broke down, literally.

Dock won 17 games with the Yankees in 1976 then moved on to the A’s, Rangers and Mets before returning to the Pirates in late September of 1979. He was acquired for the last ten days of the season just to help the Pirates bullpen as they trailed by a half game in the standings behind the Expos with 11 games left. Pittsburgh ended up winning the division by two games and, of course, went on to win the World Series. Ellis finished with a career 138-119 record in 345 games, 317 as a starter. He won 96 games in a Pirates uniform, the 19th highest total in team history and only John Candelaria has won more games for the Pirates since Ellis made his debut in 1968. On June 12,1970 Ellis became just the fourth pitcher in Pirates history to throw a complete game no-hitter when he performed that feat against the San Diego Padres in the first game of a doubleheader. He walked eight batters and hit another, facing 36 batters in the game.

Other former Pirates players born on this date include:

Salomon Torres(1972) pitcher for the Pirates from 2002 until 2007. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Francisco Giants in 1989 and made his major league debut four seasons later. He became a top ranked prospect after going 16-5 1.41 in 28 starts in low-A ball as a 19 year old in 1991. The 1993 seasons saw him go 14-8 3.15 in 26 starts split between AA and AAA prior to making his major league debut in late August. His career never got going in the majors, playing in the minors each of the next four seasons and struggling in the big leagues when he got his chances. He retired after 1997 to coach, before returning to organized ball in 2001, playing briefly in the Korea. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in December 2001 and sent him to AAA where he posted an 8-5 3.83 record in 162.1 innings. He was called up in September and pitched well in five starts. He made 16 starts in 2003 before being moved to the bullpen full-time where he excelled for the Pirates.

From 2004 until 2006 he averaged 85 appearances a year and posted ERA’s of 2.64, 2.76 and 3.28 with his inning totals between 92 and 94.2 each season. He moved to the closer role in late 2006 picking up 12 saves but lost the job after pitching poorly through early June of 2007. That December he was traded to the Brewers for two minor league pitchers, Kevin Roberts and Marino Salas. Only Salas made the majors, briefly in 2008. Torres pitched one season for the Brewers before retiring. While with the Pirates he had a 26-28 3.63 record in 358 games with 29 saves. His 94 appearances in 2006 tied Kent Tekulve(1979) for the most single season games pitched in franchise history.

Ed Fernandes(1918) catcher for the 1940 Pirates. Despite being just 22 when he made his major league debut with the 1940 Pirates, he was already in his sixth season of pro ball. He had hit .300 in five of his first six seasons in the minors, including a .333 average in 55 games for Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1940 when the Pirates acquired him. Ed was the player to be named later in a trade made two weeks earlier, with the Pirates sending veteran pitcher Roy Harrell and cash the other way. Fernandes was the backup catcher the rest of the season, usually catching the ends of blowout games. He had 40 plate appearances over 29 games, with 20 of those times up coming in the last two weeks of the season. He hit .121 for the Pirates, collecting seven walks. The Pirates sold him to the Chicago White Sox during spring training of 1941. After 1940 his big league career consisted of just 14 more games, all for the 1946 White Sox, yet he played in the minors until 1954 and was a .285 career hitter.

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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.
  • notredamekid

    I really like the trade graphic that goes along with this story, good stuff from both of you. Keep it coming