This Date in Pirates History: May 7

We have two Pittsburgh Pirates trades on this date, two former players and one very special game to cover from 1925, with something you don’t see everyday. If you missed it from late last night, we posted a truly special piece of Pirates history, part one of an interview with Mike Sandlock. He was a catcher for the 1953 Pirates and he is the oldest living former Pirates player at 96 years of age.

The Trades

On this date in 1941, the Pirates traded future Hall of Fame center fielder Lloyd Waner, to the Boston Braves for pitcher Nick Strincevich. Waner had been with the Pirates since 1927, but he was coming off of his worst season in 1940, when he hit .259 in 72 games with just three RBI’s. At age 35, he had played just three games with the Pirates in 1941. Strincevich  was a 25 year old rookie in 1940 for the Braves. He went 4-8 5.53 in 32 games, 14 as a starter, throwing a total of 128.2 innings. Nick had pitched poorly in 1941 for Boston, allowing five runs in 3.1 innings over his three relief appearances.

The trade worked out well for the Pirates, although not right away. Waner never returned to his Hall of Fame form of years past. He hit well for Boston, batting .412 in 19 games, but they quickly traded him to the Reds. By June of 1944, after being released by the Dodgers, Waner resigned with the Pirates and was used off the bench for the rest of that season and the 1945 season. Strincevich didn’t pitch much for the Pirates between 1941-42 and he spent all of 1943 in the minors, but the Pirates were rewarded for sticking with him. He won forty games from 1944 until 1946 and pitched nearly 600 innings. He fell off in 1947 and was sold to the Phillies a month into the 1948 season.

On this date in 1962, the Pirates traded pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell to the New York Mets for first baseman Jim Marshall. Mizell was in his ninth season in the majors and third with the Pirates during the 1962 season. He was a hard-throwing lefty with a 90-86 career record, six times winning in double digits. At the time of the trade, the 31 year old had a 1-1 4.96 record in four games, three as a starter. Marshall was just shy of his 31st birthday at the time, playing well for the expansion Mets. In his four previous seasons, he never hit above .252 and topped out at 11 homers. He was hitting .344 with three homers in 17 games for New York.

After the trade, Marshall really fell off at the plate, hitting .220 with two homers for the Pirates in 55 games. At the end of the season they released him and he never played in the majors again. Mizell was no better, he in fact was worse than Marshall. He pitched 17 games for the Mets, a total of 38 innings, finishing with a record of 0-2 with a 7.34 ERA. New York would release him in early August, ending his big league career.

The Players

Mark Smith (1970) Outfielder for the 1997-98 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1991, and he made his major league debut three seasons later. Smith played parts of three years with the Orioles, getting into a total of 67 games before they shipped him to the San Diego Padres in January of 1997. Just two months later, the Pirates acquired Mark, along with Hal Garrett, in exchange for Trey Beamon and Angelo Encarnacion. Smith began the season in the minors, getting called up in mid-June for good after getting a one game shot in May. He would hit .285 with nine homers and 35 RBI’s for the Pirates. None of those homers would be more dramatic than the one he hit on July 12th against the Astros. He came to bat as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning with no score and two men on base. With two outs and an 0-1 count, Mark took a pitch from the Astros John Hudek and deposited it over the left field wall for a walk-off homer. Smith was batting for Ricardo Rincon, who just threw the Pirates 10th no-hit frame in the top of the inning. Francisco Cordova threw nine no-hit innings before he was pulled. The next season, Smith struggled at the plate, hitting just .195 with two homers in 59 games and the Pirates let him leave via free agency after the season. After leaving Pittsburgh, he played for the 2000 Marlins, 2001 Expos and 2003 Brewers before finishing his career in Korea in 2005.

Dave Barbee (1905) Left fielder for the 1932 Pirates. He played briefly in the minors in 1925 after graduating from Oglethorpe University, a school that has produced nine major league players but none have appeared in the majors since the 1950 season.  The next year Barbee played 90 games for the Greensboro Patriots of the Piedmont League before joining the Philadelphia Athletics in late July. He hit .372 with 29 homers for Piedmont that year but the success didn’t carry over into the majors. In 19 games for the Athletics, he hit .170 with one homer. He returned to the minors and surprisingly didn’t make it back until the Pirates came calling six years late. Dave hit 41 homers in the Pacific Coast League in 1930 but that didn’t earn him a big league job so he hit .332 with 47 homers the next year. For the 1932 Pirates, Barbee saw plenty of time in left field, playing alongside Lloyd and Paul Waner. He hit .257 with five homers and 55 RBI’s in 97 games. Pittsburgh ended up selling him to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 1933 season but he never made the majors again. He ended up playing the next three years in the minors, then after a seven year layoff, he played one more minor league season.

The Play

On this date in 1925, the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the St Louis Cardinals in what turned out to be a slugfest at Forbes Field. The Pirates had, what seemed to be, a comfortable lead going into the eighth inning. St Louis turned that 9-4 lead into a one run deficit and they held the Pirates scoreless in the bottom of the inning. In the ninth inning, the Cardinals looked to add on to the score and they were getting help from the Pirates pitcher, Vic Aldridge.  St Louis shortstop Jimmy Cooney, walked to open the inning. Vic then walked one of the greatest hitters ever, Rogers Hornsby. That brought up future Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley and he worked the count to 2-2, when major league history happened. Bottomley hit a line drive that looked like it was sure hit and the runners took off on the play. The Pirates shortstop that day was Glenn Wright and he made a magnificent leaping catch, then ran towards second base and touched the bag, then tagged out Hornsby as he reached the base. The crowd sat in a stunned silence, not knowing what had just happened because it transpired so quickly. That was until the players started running off the field, then Forbes Field erupted in cheer. It was just the fifth unassisted triple play in baseball history(sixth if you count Paul Hines, which I do).

The ironic part of that triple play was the fact the first runner, Jimmy Cooney, was the next major league player to turn an unassisted triple play, and he did it against the Pirates two seasons later. Unfortunately for the Pirates that day, they still lost 10-9 to the Cardinals but the 1925 season ended well with their second World Series title.

** Just a note on the odd coincidence with the links for Strincevich and Hines above. Both players were born on the same date so both links take you to the same page.

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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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    Jolly Roger Rewind: May 7, 2004

    The difference between immortality and mere excellence can be slim.  For Dodgers’ pitcher Wilson Alvarez in a 4-0 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park, it came down to this: “Hernandez, shading Stynes towards second, got a glove on the ball with a dive in the hole between first and second but didn’t make a throw on what clearly was a hit.

    Chris Stynes’ sixth-inning infield single provided the Pirates’ only baserunner against Alvarez and relief pitcher Guillermo Mota, denying the visitors what would have been only the seventeenth perfect game in major league history.  (Arizona’s Randy Johnson, as it turned out, pitched perfect game #17 against Atlanta just eleven days later.)  When Stynes came to bat, Dodgers bench coach Jim Riggleman had motioned for Jose Hernandez, the once and future Pirate whose two home runs provided most of the night’s offense for both sides, to shade Stynes closer to second base, a tactical move that may have been the difference between a hit and a groundout.  Overall, Alvarez, a veteran starter whose previous 2004 outings had been from the bullpen, and Mota combined to breeze through 28 Pirate batters on 104 pitches.

    Portentous off-field news accompanied the Bucs’ dismal on-field effort.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that outfielder Raul Mondesi, like Stynes signed as a free agent during the previous winter, had departed for the Dominican Republic to address a “personal issue.”  “He’s going home to be with his family, and we support that decision,” Pirates’ general manager Dave Littlefield told the Post-Gazette.*

    * The rest of the Mondesi saga: vowed he would sit out the rest of the season (5/11/04), contract terminated by Pirates (5/18/04), signed with Anaheim Angels (5/30/04), played 49 unproductive games with Anaheim and Atlanta before retiring (2004-05), elected to Dominican Republic’s Chamber of Deputies (5/06), inspired long-running Pittsburgh sports website (2006-11), elected mayor of San Cristobal, DR (5/10).

    Box score and play-by-play:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PIT/PIT200405070.shtml

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story:
    http://tinyurl.com/csq2t5w