This Date in Pirates History: December 1

On this date in 1966 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded 3B/LF Bob Bailey and shortstop Gene Micheal to the Los Angeles Dodgers for all-star shortstop Maury Wills. Bailey started his career with the Pirates in 1962 and hit .257 with four straight seasons of double figure home run totals. Michael was 28 at the time of the trade but he had just played his first season in the majors in 1966, hitting .152 in 30 games. Wills was a former MVP, a five time all-star and two time gold glove winner who had led the NL in stolen bases every season from 1960-65.

Wills stole 104 bases in 1962

Following the trade Bailey struggled for the Dodgers, hitting .227 in his two seasons in Los Angeles with a total of just 12 homers. Michael played just one year for the Dodgers, hitting .202 in 98 games with just seven RBI’s. He was sold to the Yankees following the season. Wills played two seasons for the Pirates hitting .302 in 1967 with 92 runs scored in 149 games although he stole just 29 bases. He would steal 52 bases in 1968, the second highest total in the NL. He hit .278 and scored 76 runs in 153 games, his last season in Pittsburgh. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft in October 1968.

Exactly one year prior to the Wills trade, the Pirates traded pitcher Joe Gibbon and 3B/C Ozzie Virgil to the Giants for outfielder Matty Alou. Gibbon was a rookie on the 1960 world champion Pirates team and in six seasons he went 39-45 including a 13-10 record in 1961. Virgil was 33 at the time of the trade and spent most of his time in the minors, playing just 281 major league games spread out over seven seasons. He played one year for the Pirates, hitting .265 in 39 games in 1965. Alou was 26 at the time of the trade and had been with the Giants since 1960, hitting .260 in 453 games.

Virgil played 42 games for the Giants in 1966, hitting .213 in 89 at-bats. He spent the next two years in the minors, then got one at-bat in 1969 when he was a coach for the Giants. Gibbon pitched for them for four years mostly as a reliever going 12-13 3.07 in 110 games. He rejoined the Pirates in a June 1969 trade for pitcher Ron Kline. Alou turned his career around with the Pirates, hitting .342 his first year, winning the NL batting title and finishing 9th in the MVP voting. He would hit over .330 each season from 1967-69 twice making the all-star team and in 1969 he led the NL in hits with 231 and doubles with 41. He dropped down to .297 in 1970 but still scored 97 runs and had 201 hits. Following the season he was traded to the Cardinals in exchange for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo.

Born on this date in 1967 was Pirates outfielder Reggie Sanders who played for the team in 2003. He signed with the Pirates in March of 2003 after hitting .250 with 23 homers and 85 RBI’s for the Giants in 2002. Sanders hit .285 with 31 homers, 15 stolen bases and 87 RBI’s in 130 games for the Pirates. He left the team as a free agent following the season and signed with the Cardinals. He played 17 seasons in the majors, scored 1037 runs, drove in 983 and is a member of the 300 stolen base/ 300 home run club.

Also born on this date, in 1925, was pitcher Cal McLish who played for the Pirates in 1947-48. The Pirates acquired him in May of 1947 in a trade with the Dodgers. He played just one game, giving up two runs in one inning. He spent most of 1948 in the minors, posting a 12-9 4.13 record in AAA. For the Pirates he pitched one inning in April then made one start in late September, allowing five runs in four innings and getting a no decision. Following the 1948 season he was traded to the Cubs. He had a career record of 92-92 4.01 in 15 seasons. McLish has likely the most interesting name in baseball history, his full name is Calvin Coolidge Julius Caeser Tuskahoma McLish.

Born on this date in 1912, was infielder Cookie Lavagetto, who played for the Pirates from 1934-36. He played 2B his rookie season, getting into 87 games in which he hit .220 with 46 RBI’s and 41 runs scored. Cookie played both 2B and 3B in 1935, hitting .290 in 78 games. He received even less playing time the following year hitting .244 in 60 games. Following the season the Pirates traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers for veteran starting pitcher Ed Brandt. Cookie broke out with the Dodgers, making four straight all-star teams before leaving to serve in WW2. He missed four full seasons, returning for two more years with the Dodgers before finishing his career in the minors.

Mike Cvengros (1900), who pitched for the 1927 Pirates team that made the World Series. Cvengros was a small lefty, standing just 5’8″ and weighing in at 159 pounds. He was a Rule V draft pick by the Pirates in 1926 and they traded him away after the 1927 season. With the Pirates, he went 2-1, 3.35 in 19 relief appearances and four starts. Cvengros pitched twice during the World Series, giving up one run over 2.1 innings. That one run came on a home run by Babe Ruth. Cvengros pitched a total of six years in the majors, going 25-40, 4.59 in 144 games. He won 159 games in the minors.

Born the same day as Cvengros was Eppie Barnes, who played first base for the 1923-24 Pirates. Barnes came to the Pirates right out of Colgate University and played two games in September of 1923, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Barnes went to the minors early in the 1924 season, hitting .261 with no homers in 110 games for Dallas of the Texas League. He played one game with the Pirates in early May and then came back in September for another game. He went 0-for-5 at the plate. That proved to be the end of his pro career. He played semi-pro ball for years, then played basketball and later went back to Colgate, where he was the baseball coach. He was on the Baseball Hall of Fame special committee set up in 1971 to vote on Negro League baseball players for the HOF.

Jake Miller (1895) right fielder for the 1922 Pirates. His big league career lasted three days, July 15-17, 1922. Miller went 1-for-11 with a stolen base and two walks. His only big league hit was a single in his first major league at-bat. Miller’s hit came off Dutch Ruether, who won 21 games that season. In the field, he made one error in nine chances. His off and on minor league career lasted from 1919 until 1930, but he never made the majors again. Miller was a .303 career hitting in the minors and batted over .300 in five of his eight seasons.

Finally, born on this date in 1868, was George Fox, a first baseman/catcher for the 1899 Pirates. Fox had a long stretch between his two short stints in the majors, eight years to be exact. He made his major league debut in July of 1891 for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. Fox played six games at third base for them and showed well in the field, but he had his troubles at the plate. He went 2-for-19, with a triple and two RBI’s. He then spent the next nine seasons playing all over minor league teams in Pennsylvania. In fact, he made his pro debut in 1889 with a team from Lebanon, Pa, then eventually his career took him to teams in Hazelton, Lancaster, Reading, Danville, Allentown, Shamokin, Pottsville and even Philadelphia. Fox joined the Pirates late in 1899 and played nine games at first base and three games at catcher. He hit .244 in 13 games, with a homer and three RBI’s. He returned to the minors in 1900, his last season of pro ball.

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.

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