Sunday, December 20, 2015

12/20: HBD Jimmy, Branch, Spud & Jose; Holiday Dealing

  • 1876 - 2B Jimmy Williams was born. He only played two years in Pittsburgh, but made quite a splash. In his first year, 1899, Williams hit in 27 straight games, setting an MLB rookie record that wasn’t broken until 1987, and one that’s still a Pirates team standard. His 27 triples are also an MLB rookie record, and he ended the campaign with a .354 BA. But the next year he returned to reality, hitting .264, and then jumped leagues in 1901, joining the AL Baltimore Orioles and opening the door for Tommy Leach to take control of the hot corner.
Jimmy Williams - 1900 team photo
  • 1881 - Branch Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio. An innovator of things as diverse as the breaking the color line, a feeder minor league system and batting helmets, Rickey was the Pirate GM from 1950-55. His Pittsburgh teams were notoriously poor (“The Rickey-Dinks”), but his player development pipeline helped to form the core of the 1960 World Championship club.
  • 1904 - The Pirates traded 1B Kitty Bransfield, IF Otto Krueger and OF Moose McCormick to the Phillies for 1B Del Howard. In his first MLB season, Howard hit .292 for the Pirates and was included in the deal for P Vic Willis the following year. Kitty, a member of the Pirates first World Series club, stayed on for seven campaigns in Philadelphia, with a .269 BA. Moose, one of baseball’s earliest players to fill a pinch-hitter’s role, didn’t play again until 1908 after leaving the game to become, of all things, a salesman. Krueger hung around for one more year before leaving baseball.
  • 1904 - C Virgil “Spud” Davis (his uncle gave him the nickname as a youth because Virgil loved potatoes) was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He spent his last four seasons (1940-41, 1944-45) as a back-up catcher who hit .301 as a Bucco. From 1943-44 he coached before returning for a couple of seasons during the war years. He continued as a coach and a scout for the Pirates and briefly managed the team when manager Frankie Frisch resigned in September of 1946. Spud left baseball for good in 1950. Davis hit over .300 ten times in sixteen MLB seasons, and as of his retirement, his .308 career BA was second only to Mickey Cochrane all-time among major league catchers. At last look, it’s still in the Top Five.
Spud Davis - 1940 Play Ball
  • 1960 - RHP Jose DeLeon was born in Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic. After being taken in the third round of the 1979 draft, he reached Pittsburgh in 1983. He went 17-38 with a 4.02 ERA as a Buc before being traded to the White Sox in 1986. DeLeon lasted 13 seasons in the MLB, but never matched his promise with his performance.
  • 1984 - SS Tim Foli, OF Steve Kemp and cash were sent by the NY Yankees to the Pirates in exchange for SS Dale Berra, OF Jay Buhner and LHP Alfonso Pulido. Buhner went on to have a 15 year career with 310 homers, mostly with Seattle, while not much else was gotten out of the other guys involved in the deal.
  • 2001 - In a minor deal, the Bucs sent RHP Jose Silva (one day after his birthday) to the Reds for minor league RHP Ben Shaffar. Silva pitched one more year in the big leagues while Shaffar never made it to the show.
Jose Silva - 2001 Topps
  • 2002 - RHP Chris Young and minor leaguer Jon Searles were traded to the Montreal Expos for RHP Matt Herges. The 6’10” Young, a third round pick of the Bucs in 2000, went on to win 32 games between 2005-07 and landed an All-Star berth before injuries threw a series of speedbumps at his career, while the Pirates cut Herges in spring training.
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