Today is a busy date for important trades in Pittsburgh Pirates history. Three big trades involving 18 players and two Hall of Famers, Freddie Lindstrom and Arky Vaughan. Starting with the best player first, in 1941 the Pirates traded away superstar shortstop Arky Vaughan to the Brooklyn Dodgers in exchange for catcher Babe Phelps, pitcher Luke Hamlin, infielder Pete Coscarart and outfielder Jimmy Wasdell. The only reason this trade didn’t look so bad was that Vaughan retired for three years(1944-46) before coming back to play two more seasons as a part time player. He also hit a career low .277 in 1942 but the return was pretty poor for a 29-year-old shortstop who had ten straight .300 seasons to start his career. He hit .291 in 406 games with the Dodgers.
Wasdell hit .259 in 122 games for the Pirates his first season in Pittsburgh. He started the 1943 season with the team but was sold to the Phillies after just four games. Hamlin pitched just one season for the Pirates going 4-4, 3.94 in 23 games. He won 21 games in the minors in 1943 then moved on to the Philadelphia A’s for one final season. Phelps was a three-time all-star with a .314 career average at the time of the trade. He hit .284 in 95 games for the Pirates but was done with baseball at age 34 once the season ended. Coscarart was the best return in the trade, he was the regular shortstop in 1942 then moved to second base for three seasons. He hit .245 with 262 runs scored in 531 games for Pittsburgh.
On this date in 1932 the Pirates traded pitcher Glenn Spencer and outfielder Gus Dugas in exchange for future Hall of Famer, Freddie Lindstrom. It was a three team trade that also involved the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates made out well in this deal as Dugas was just a backup outfielder who had 64 games of major league experience before the trade and afterwards he hit just .144 in 61 games. Spencer went 23-29 in four years with the Pirates and after the trade he pitched just 17 more major league games and did not record another win.
Lindstrom was just 27 at the time of the trade and had a .318 career average with 603 RBI’s in 1087 games. He batted .310 in 138 games for the Pirates in 1933 and along with Paul Waner and Lloyd Waner, they formed an outfield with three future Hall of Famers. Lindstrom hit .290 in 1934 for a team that finished with a 74-76 record despite the fact the lineup included five Hall of Famers (the Waners, Lindstrom, Pie Traynor and Vaughan) along with two HOF pitchers, Waite Hoyt and Burleigh Grimes. Lindstrom was traded to the Cubs following the 1934 season
On this date in 1913 the Pirates traded pitcher Hank Robinson, outfielders Chief Wilson and Cozy Dolan and infielders Art Butler and Dots Miller to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Bob Harmon, first baseman Ed Konetchy and third baseman Mike Mowrey. Miller played first base and hit .272 with 90 RBIs and 20 triples for the Pirates in 1913 while Wilson played a league high 155 games, driving in 73 runs and scoring 71 runs. In 1912 he set the still standing major league single season record with 36 triples. Robinson had 26 wins in 1912-13, his only two full seasons in the majors. Butler hit .280 as the backup outfielder while Dolan hit just .203 in 35 games after joining the Pirates from the Phillies in August.
Harmon had a 68-81, 3.78 record in his first five seasons in the majors, all with the Cardinals. He went 8-21 3.92 in 1913 for a St Louis team that lost 99 games. Konetchy played seven seasons with the Cardinals hitting .283 with 501 runs scored and 151 stolen bases. In 1913 he hit .276 with 68 RBIs and 75 runs scored. Mowrey already had 10 seasons in the majors by 1913 but he was still just 29-years-old. He hit .260 in 132 games in 1913, he didn’t hit for much power or steal bases but he was a strong defender at third base.
After the trade Mowrey and Konetchy played just one season with the Pirates before jumping to the Federal League for the 1915 season leaving them with just Harmon. He went 39-52 in four seasons with Pittsburgh but his ERA was under 3.00 every year. Miller played five seasons for the Cardinals with his best year coming in 1914 when he hit .290 with 88 RBIs and he finished 5th in the MVP voting. Wilson hit .258 with 144 RBIs over three seasons in St Louis. Robinson posted a 7-8 record in each of his seasons with the Cardinals. Dolan moved to the outfield, received more playing time and hit .257 with 59 steals in his two seasons in St Louis. Butler played three years with his new team, he batted just .201 in 1914 and .209 in 1916 but he still played 302 total games.
A few birthdays I have to mention on this date. Born on this date in 1864 was a man named John Gammon who played for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1884 when they were in the American Association and then again when they were in the NL in 1890. His birth name was John Gammon but he is better known as the pitcher named Phenomenal Smith. He got the nickname from a reporter after an amazing 16 strikeout performance while in the minors in 1885 and the name stuck despite the fact he posted just a 54-74 record over eight major league seasons. During his first stint with Pittsburgh he lost his only game 10-5 to the Richmond Virginias, a franchise that won just 12 games total in their history. Smith returned to the Alleghenys in mid-September 1890 near the end of the worst season in franchise history. He pitched five games, lost three, one ended in a tie and in game 136 of the year for the team, he beat the Phillies 10-1 for Pittsburgh’s 23rd win of the year.
Bill Howerton (1921) Outfielder for the 1951-52 Pirates. Howerton was part of a big seven player deal between the St Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-1951. The deal sent five players to Pittsburgh, including Joe Garagiola, while Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake headed to the Cardinals. With Pittsburgh, Howerton hit .279 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 79 games. He saw time at all three outfielder positions and even played a little third base. During the 1952 season, he was put on waivers and picked up by the New York Giants. He played only 11 games in New York and never played in the majors again. He played a total of 11 seasons in the minors, finishing out his career in 1955.
Clyde Kluttz (1917) Catcher for the 1947-48 Pirates. The Pirates purchased Kluttz from the Cardinals in December of 1946, after he hit .271 with no homers and 15 RBIs in 57 games that season. He ended up having the best season of his nine year career in 1947, hitting .302 with six homers and 42 RBIs in 73 games. He also threw out 56.1% of stolen base attempts. In 1948, his batting dropped off significantly, as he played 94 games that year. Kluttz ended up spending the entire 1949 season in the minors and was dealt to the St Louis Browns prior to the 1950 season. He was a .268 hitter in 656 career games.
Joe Rickert, left fielder for the 1898 Pirates, was born on this date in 1876. He played just two games for Pittsburgh, at the end of the season, going 1-for-6 at the plate. Three years later, he got his only other chance in the majors, playing 13 games for the Boston Beaneaters. He went 10-for-60 at the plate with them, giving him a .167 average in both of his big league stints. While his minor league stats aren’t all available(missing 1896-97), it’s know that he played in over 1800 games from 1898 until he retired in 1915. Rickert was lucky to get into a game when he did for Pittsburgh. The Pirates had three of their last four games rained out, so when he was used during a doubleheader on October 12th, it ended up being the only day he played for the team. He was said to be weak at the plate, but he performed well in the field, catching all ten balls hit his way. He first career hit(and only hit with the Pirates) came off of Cy Young.
Tully Sparks, pitcher for the 1899 Pirates, was born on this date in 1874. Sparks made his major league debut with the 1897 Phillies, getting hit hard in his only game. He spent the 1898 season in the minors before being picked up by the Pirates for the 1899 season. He would make 17 starts and 11 relief appearances for the Pirates that season, going 8-6, 3.86 in 170 innings. Prior to the 1900 season, the Pirates sold him to their former catcher/manager Connie Mack, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League. Sparks spent all of 1900 in the minors, then pitched with the Brewers in the first season that the American League was considered a major league in 1901. He eventually ended up with the Phillies for a second time, and this time he stuck with them for eight seasons and 95 wins. Sparks won 121 games total over his 12 season career, including 22 wins in 1907 for the Phillies. He posted a 2.82 ERA over 2343.2 innings in his career, but still finished 16 games under .500 with 137 losses.
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.