Going to go a little different today and go with all transactions on this date, starting with the one that brought the Pittsburgh Pirates their last manager to win a World Series title. On this date in 1976 the Pirates traded catcher Manny Sanguillen and $100,000 to the Oakland A’s in exchange for Chuck Tanner. Tanner first managed in the majors for the Chicago White Sox, getting the job late in 1970 and he lasted there until the end of the 1975 season posting a 401-414 overall mark. He took over the A’s job from Al Dark, who won the World Series in 1974 and 98 regular season games in 1975. The 1976 A’s posted an 87-74 record for a 2nd place finish, not bad for most teams but that season broke a run of five straight AL West titles.
Tanner would have plenty of success in Pittsburgh winning 96 games his first year. He had two straight 2nd place finishes before leading the 1979 Pirates to the WS title. He was the Pirates manager for another six seasons, posting three winning seasons during that time including a 2nd place finish in 1983. He won 711 games in Pittsburgh, fourth highest total in franchise history behind Fred Clarke, Danny Murtaugh and Jim Leyland. Sanguillen’s stay in Oakland would be brief, just one full season before the Pirates reacquired him for three players just prior to the start of the 1978 season. Sanguillen would end up being a well used bat off the bench for Tanner during the 1979 season, he started just 10 games but played 56 total, 43 as a pinch hitter. He pinch hit three more times in the playoffs and drove in the winning run in the 9th inning of game two of the World Series.
On that very same date as the Tanner/Sanguillen trade, the Pirates and Athletics also made another transaction. The Pirates sold infielder Tommy Helms to the A’s, setting off a strange chain of events. The Pirates traded to get Helms back before he even played a game with the A’s and then after just 12 at-bats (without a hit) they released him. Helms had won the Rookie of the Year award, made two all-star appearances and won two gold gloves but he was nearing the end of his career when the Pirates traded Art Howe for him in January 1976. He was with the Pirates the entire 1976 season, but made just 16 starts, although he managed to hit .276 with 13 RBI’s in his 87 AB’s. The second trade that sent him back to Pittsburgh on March 15,1977 had many big names with Phil Garner, Tony Armas, Dave Giusti and Doc Medich among the nine total players involved.
Also on this date in 1922, the Pirates picked up 33-year-old righty pitcher, Jim Bagby off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Bagby was just two years removed from a 31 win season in 1920 when he helped lead the Indians to their first World Series title. He was worked hard that season, setting career highs and leading the league in innings pitched and complete games. He had a career 106-70 2.59 record going into 1921 but his last two years combined in Cleveland, he had an ERA over 5.00 and his inning totals dropped significantly. Bagby was with the Pirates the entire 1923 season, seeing limited innings and just six starts all year. He pitched just 68.2 innings and had an ERA of 5.24, He played another seven seasons in the minors retiring in 1930 with 151 minor league wins and 127 in the majors.
In a strange career twist over the era’s of baseball, Jim had a son named Jim who pitched in the big leagues. He too had some good seasons pitching for the Indians, one in which he led the AL in innings pitched. He also had two poor seasons with the Indians following that year with a big drop in innings. Jim Jr also finished his career with the Pirates(1947) and he started just six games,just like his pops,a career low total for both of them.
Finally, on this date in 1887 the Pittsburgh Alleghenys purchased second baseman Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap from the Detroit Wolverines. He was a good hitter with a strong glove, leading the league four times in assists by a 2B and fielding % by a 2B. He was also the start of a total of five star players from that Wolverines team that the Alleghenys would purchase over a 16 month period. Dunlap hit .262 hit first year in Pittsburgh and played just 82 games although his defense remained strong. In 1889 the batting average dropped to .235 but he was able to add strong defense to the team for 121 games that year and he did drive in 65 runs, 2nd on the team. He also briefly managed the team but they did not play well in his 17 games. Fred was one of the few players to stay with the Alleghenys when most of the league jumped to the Player’s League in 1890, but he lasted just 17 games and hit .172 before being released. He played just eight more major league games over two seasons before retiring.
Birthdays on this date include:
Harry Gumbert (1909) – Pitcher for the 1949-50 Pirates. Went 1-4, 5.83 in 17 relief appearances. Won 143 career games.
Ralph Birkofer (1908) – Lefty starter/reliever, went 31-26, 4.04 in 121 games for 1933-36 Pirates.
Jack Wisner (1899) – Pitcher for the 1919-20 Pirates. Went 2-3, 2.70 in 21 games.
Tom McNamara (1895) – Went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter on June 25, 1922, his only big league game.
Tommy Sheehan (1877) – Third baseman for 1906-07 Pirates. Hit .255 with 59 RBI’s in 170 games.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.