On this date in 1989 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Jeff Robinson and minor leaguer Willie Smith to the New York Yankees in exchange for catcher Don Slaught. The trade was a one-sided win for the Pirates as Slaught spent six seasons in Pittsburgh, including three years in which the Pirates won the NL East while Robinson pitched just one year out of the Yankees bullpen before leaving via free agency and Smith played just one partial season in the majors and that wasn’t until 1994 with the St Louis Cardinals.
Prior to the trade, Slaught had already played eight seasons in the majors and at age 30 he had just played 117 games, the second highest total of his career. He batted .251 with five homers in 1989 but he was a career .269 hitter and only once had batted less than .250 in a season. Robinson started 19 games for the Pirates in 1989 and pitched another 31 in relief. In his six year career he had started more games in a season just once, his rookie season when he made 33 starts. He was 7-13 4.58 in 1989 with 141.1 innings pitched. Smith was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1986 and by the end of 1989 he was in AA and considered a top ranked prospect.
Smith pitched for the Yankees for two seasons, topping out at AAA but just prior to the 1992 season the Yankees released him. He signed with the Indians and struggled in stints in AA and AAA. He then signed with the Rangers for 1993 but was injured the entire season. He then signed with the Cardinals for 2004, pitched well in relief, got a cup of coffee in the majors pitching eight games before going back to the minors for good in early May. Robinson was used mostly in relief, he made four starts and 50 relief appearances, going 3-6 3.45 in 88.2 innings. He signed with the Angels for 1991 and then ended his career with the White Sox in 1992.
Slaught became the platoon catcher with Mike Lavalliere and he hit .300 in 84 games in 1990. He had just one hit in 11 playoff at-bats while Lavalliere went 0-6 in the series. In 1991 Slaught got a little less of the playing time behind the plate, getting into just 77 games while hitting .295 in 220 AB’s. He hit .235 in the playoffs but for the third straight postseason series(he also made the playoffs with 1984 Royals) he failed to score a run, covering a total of 44 plate appearances. In 1992 Slaught picked up a little more playing time and he hit great in the 255 AB’s he got, hitting a career high .345 while posting a career high .866 OPS. He carried his hot hitting into the playoffs where he hit .333 with 6 walks, 5 runs and 5 RBI’s.
With Lavalliere gone in 1993 Slaught became the regular catcher and set career highs in hits and RBI’s while batting .300 over 116 games. He was again the starter in the strike shortened 1994 season, getting the majority of the playing time over eight time all-star Lance Parrish. He missed most of the 1995 season, playing just 35 games while hitting .304 in his last year with the Pirates. Overall in six seasons he hit .305 with 184 RBI’s in 475 games for the Pirates. He played just 96 games the next two seasons before retiring as a player.
On this date in 1973 the Pirates traded pitcher Nelson Briles and infielder Fernando Gonzalez to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Ed Kirkpatrick, utility player Kurt Bevacqua and minor leaguer Winston Cole. Briles was the key part of the deal, he was 30 years old at the time and was coming off back-to-back 14 win seasons for the Pirates. Gonzalez was just 23 at the time of the trade and had just 51 major league AB’s over two seasons. He had hit .333 with 86 RBI’s in AA in 1972. Bevacqua, a third year player, played a career high 99 games in 1973, hitting .257 with 40 RBI’s. Kirkpatrick was just 29 at the time of the trade but had already spent parts of 12 seasons in the majors. He was a .238 career hitter with 73 homers, 341 RBI’s and 335 runs in 953 games. Cole was just 19 at the time of the trade and had played just one season in the low minors.
Gonzalez lasted just one month for the Royals before he was sold to the New York Yankees. He was resigned by the Pirates in 1975 and played for them from 1977-78 in the majors. Briles lasted two years with the Royals going 11-13 4.14 in 42 games and he won just 32 games total after leaving the Pirates. Bevacqua lasted just 18 games with the Pirates before they traded him back to the Royals. He played with the Pirates again, rejoining them late 1980 and lasting through the end of the 1981 season. Kirkpatrick played 116 games for the Pirates in 1974 batting .247 with 51 walks and 38 RBI’s. He played mostly 1B but appeared at five positions during the season. He lasted with the Pirates until a 1977 trade to the Rangers for Jim Fregosi. He hit .236 for the Pirates with 74 RBI’s in 309 games. Cole never made it to the majors, spending four years in the minors with the Pirates topping out at A ball.
There have been two Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. Starting with 1920 pitcher, Johnny Meador. His entire big league career consisted of two starts and ten relief appearances for the 1920 Pirates. Meador was 27-years-old at the time, a veteran of five minor league seasons. He was the back of the bullpen pitcher for the Pirates, getting his first major league appearance eight games into the season. He threw five shutout innings in relief during his debut, then didn’t pitch until a week later. He was used just four times in the month of May, four times in June and three times in July. Meador did not fare well in his two starts, allowing a total of 12 runs in 9.1 innings. In relief, he had a 1.67 ERA over 27 innings. His last major league game in mid-July proved to also be his last game as a pro.
Jerry D’Arcy (1885) Center fielder for the 1911 Pirates. He played just two games as a major leaguer, one in center field and one as a pinch-hitter. D’Arcy joined the team in late September and went 0-for-6 at the plate and according to the local newspaper, looked well in the field with some fine catches. He was playing for the Gadsden Steel Makers of the Southeastern League at the time the Pirates signed him. That team was a Class D ballclub, equal to making the jump from Class-A ball to the majors now. D’Arcy played pro ball until at least 1916 and passed away at the age of 38. He was referred to as “Dorsey” during his time in Pittsburgh.
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.