Born on this date in 1953 was a longtime pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, John Candelaria. He was a big 6’7″ lefty taken in the 2nd round of the 1972 amateur draft by the Pirates. He shot through the minors quickly for his age, going 28-11 before getting called on June 8,1975 at just 21 years old. Four starts into his career he struck out 13 Cubs during a 5-2 complete game win. Candelaria finished 8-6, 2.76 in 18 starts his rookie season, with the Pirates also winning all four games that he got a no decision. In the playoffs against the Reds, with the Pirates down 2-0 in a best of five series, Candelaria took the ball in game three and threw 7.2 innings, allowing three runs while striking out 14 hitters, but the Pirates lost in 10 innings.
He was in the rotation for the entire season in 1976 and the Pirates went 20-11 in his starts which included one very special game. On August 9 he no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing just one walk, while two other runners also reached base due to fielding errors. All three runners reached in the third inning but he kept them from scoring. It is still the last Pirates no-hitter thrown by a single player, with the Ricardo Rincon, Francisco Cordova combined no-hitter than only other one since. In 1977 Candelaria had an amazing season, going 20-5, 2.34, leading the NL in ERA and winning percentage. He only finished 5th in the Cy Young voting despite the great season. He got elected to the all-star game in what would end up being the only all-star selection of his career and he did not appear in the game. That 20-win season would end up being a career high and it would take him until 1983 to win as many as 15 games again in one year.
During the 1979 season Candelaria helped pitched the Pirates to the playoffs by going 14-9, 3.22 in 30 starts. He pitched well in game one of the NLCS against the Reds getting a no-decision after allowing two runs in 7 innings. In the WS he pitched poorly in game three taking the loss but rebounded nicely in game six when he went six shutout innings for the win. He was a starter for the Pirates through the 1984 season, posting three more winning seasons including a 15-8 mark in 1983. In 1985, Candelaria was moved to the bullpen and even saved nine games before the Pirates traded him to the California Angels in a six player deal in early August. He returned as a free agent for the 1993 season but was released in July after posting an 8.24 ERA in 24 games, thus ending his career. Candelaria won 124 games for the Pirates, the 11th highest total in franchise history.
Also on this date in 1930, the Pirates traded shortstop Dick Bartell to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for shortstop Tommy Thevenow and pitcher Claude Willoughby. The move proved the be very one-sided in favor of the Phillies. Bartell played 14 more seasons in the majors while Willoughby was gone before June and Thevenow was nowhere near the quality player that Bartell was at shortstop. The lucky part for the Pirates though was that the shortstop position was soon to be filled in Pittsburgh by the man who still ranks as the best since Honus Wagner at the position, Arky Vaughan.
Bartell had started his career with the Pirates in late 1927 and in his three full seasons he batted over .300 in each of them. He did not get along well with the owner Barney Dreyfuss, so following the 1930 season the Pirates shipped him to the Phillies. He hit .295 with 386 runs scored in four seasons in Philadelphia before they traded him for four players and cash. Thevenow was strictly a strong glove man who didn’t embarrass himself at the plate. He didn’t hit a single homer in his six seasons in Pittsburgh and stolen only three bases. He hit .251 but didn’t take many walks leading to a a .285 career OBP. He actually hit just two homers in his 15 year career, five days apart from each other, and both inside the park homers. Willoughby posted a 6.31 ERA in 25.2 innings which should’ve came as no surprise since he had a 7.59 ERA in 1930 in 153 innings pitched. He was sent to the minors and never returned to the big leagues, retiring in 1938.
Other Pirates players born on this date include:
Bob Addis (1925) Pinch hitter for the 1953 Pirates. Was part of the Ralph Kiner trade.
Adam LaRoche (1979) First baseman for the 2007-09 Pirates. Hit .265 with 58 homers and 213 RBI’s in 375 games. His brother Andy also played for Pirates
Matt Skrmetta (1972) Relief pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. Went 2-2, 9.64 in 9.1 innings over eight appearances.
Don Wengert (1969) Pitcher for the 2001 Pirates. Went 0-2, 12.38 in four starts.
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.