This Date in Pirates History: March 31

On this date in 1945, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded veteran outfielder Vince DiMaggio to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Al Gerheauser. DiMaggio spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, where he hit .255 with 79 homers and 367 RBI’s in 670 games. He was 32 at the time and coming off a 1944 season in which he hit .240 with 50 RBI’s in 109 games. Gerheauser was a 27 year old left-hander with two years of major league experience. He had a record of 8-16 with a 4.58 ERA in 182.2 innings in 1944. The Pirates would get two seasons out of their new pitcher before trading him to the Dodgers in December 1946. Gerheauser went 7-12 3.93 in 67 games for the Pirates, 17 of those appearances coming as a starter. DiMaggio ended up hitting .257 with 19 homers and 84 RBI’s for the Phillies in 1945 but by the middle of the 1946 season, his major league career was done. He finished up with six seasons in the minors.

Former Pirates players born on this date include:

Carson Bigbee(1895) Left fielder for the Pirates from 1916 until 1926. He attended the University of Oregon before making his pro debut in 1916 with Tacoma of the Northwestern League. After hitting .340 through 111 games, the Pirates brought him up to the majors in August of 1916. Carson would stick on the Pirates roster until the end of the 1926 season, which was also the end of his major league career. He hit .250 that rookie season in 43 games, splitting his time between second base and left field. His first full year in the big leagues saw him hit .239 with 21 RBI’s in 133 games for a Pirates team that finished with a 51-103 record. From that season on, his average rose each of the next five years to a high point of .350 in 1922. His first good season came in 1920 when he hit .280 with 78 runs scored, 15 triples and 31 stolen bases. His 1921 season was even better, he topped 200 hits for the first time, scored 100 runs, had 17 triples and a .323 batting average.

In 1922, Bigbee had his biggest year. He hit .350 with 215 hits, a team leading 99 RBI’s and he scored 113 runs. Just like his career slowly rose to one peak season, it declined each year down to a low point in 1926. Each year Carson saw his batting average and his playing time decrease. He sill had a good season in 1923, hitting .299 with 54 RBI’s and 78 runs scored but by 1926 he was just a seldom used bench player, hitting .221 and battling injuries. After being released by the Pirates in August, 1926, he played two more seasons in the minors before retiring. Bigbee finished his Pirates career with a .287 average over 1147 games. He stolen 182 bases, drove in 324 runs and scored 629 times.  Three times(1920-22) he led NL left fielders in assists and in 1921 he led them in fielding percentage as well. His older brother Lyle was a pitcher for the Pirates in 1921.

Tom Sheehan(1894) Pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He had a 4-9 record as a 21 year old rookie for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1915, then went 1-16 for an A’s team that had a 36-117 record in 1916. Sheehan didn’t even have the worst record for that team, fellow starter Jack Nabors, went 1-20 in 40 appearances, thirty as a starter. That team actually got 29 wins from just two pitchers while the other 18 hurlers that took the mound that year combined for a 7-70 record. Tom returned to the minors, and except for 12 games with the Yankees in 1921, he spent the rest of the next seven seasons down on the farm. In 1923, he won 31 games for St Paul of the American Association, earning another shot at the majors. Sheehan pitched all of 1924 for the Reds, returned there for the following season but pitched poorly, posting an ERA of 8.03 in ten games. On May 30th, the Pirates traded for him, giving up first baseman Al Niehaus. Sheehan finished the year pitching 23 times in relief for the Pirates with a 2.67 ERA. The team won it’s second World Series title that year, although Tom didn’t appear in the series against the Washington Senators.

In 1926, he started off slow and by the end of May the Pirates sent him to Kansas City of the American Association. He would spend the next 8 1/2 years pitching in the minors before retiring as a player. Sheehan later managed eight years in the minors and one season in the majors, 1960 for the Giants. He won 259 minor league games and another 17 in the majors. The Pirates had another Tom Sheehan in their history, a third baseman that played for the 1906-07 Pirates.

Chick Brandom(1887) Pitcher for the 1908-09 Pirates. He started in the minors as an 18 year old in 1905 and three years later, he pitched well enough to get a shot with the Pirates as a September call-up. For Kansas City of the American Association in 1908, Brandom went 17-13, pitching 252 innings. His contract was purchased by Pittsburgh for a hefty price at the time, $5,000 in August 1908. For the Pirates that September, he allowed just one earned run in 17 innings pitched. Chick won his major league debut by a 3-1 score over the Reds but he didn’t get another start the last month of the season. In 1909, he pitched well when he got his chances but he was far down on the depth chart of a very strong Pirates pitching staff. He had a 1.11 ERA in 40.2 innings, he made two starts and 11 relief appearances. The Pirates went on to win their first World Series title, although he didn’t pitch in the series against the Detroit Tigers. Brandom returned to Kansas City for two seasons, struggled badly in 1911 and didn’t play the following year. He returned for two more seasons before finishing his career in the Federal League in 1915. He later managed one year in the minors. Chick’s ERA with the Pirates during his two season was 0.94 and he had a 2-0 record.

Fred Kommers(1886) Outfielder for the 1913 Pirates. In his first year in the minors, playing Class D ball(lowest level at the time) he hit .349 in 114 games. He still played two more years of D ball before moving to a Class B team from Springfield, IL. Fred was in his third season with that team in 1913 and was hitting .355 after 61 games when the Pirates traded for him. He made his major league debut on June 25th in center field during a 9-1 loss in St Louis. Kommers would play 40 games that season for the Pirates, all in center field, and he hit .232 with 22 RBI’s and 14 runs scored. When the Federal League became classified as a major league in 1914, Kommers was one of several major leaguers to jump their contract to join the new league. He spent 1914 playing for two different teams in the league. He hit .294 in 92 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. Fred played two more years in the minors(1917,1921) before retiring as a player.

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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.

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