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Friday, December 9, 2022

This Date in Pirates History: January 30

On this date in 1959 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Whammy Douglass, outfielders Jim Pendleton and John Powers and third baseman Frank Thomas to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for catcher Smoky Burgess, third baseman Don Hoak and pitcher Harvey Haddix. Starting with Burgess, he was just about to turn 32 at the time of the trade, a backup left-handed hitting catcher who got plenty of pinch-hitting appearances. In 1958 he hit .283 with 6 homers in that role but had hit as many as 21 homers in a season and batted over .300 twice in his career. Haddix was a 33 year old lefty pitcher who went 8-7, 3.52 in 184 innings in 1958. He won a combined 38 games for the 1953-54 Cardinals. Hoak was just shy of his 31st birthday and had hit .261 with 50 RBIs in 1958, a down year compared to his 1957 season when he led the NL with 39 doubles and hit .291 with 19 homers and 89 RBIs.

Burgess pinch hit 551 times in his career

The Reds were getting a 29-year-old slugger in Thomas who had at least 23 homers with the Pirates in each of the last six seasons. Douglass was just 23 and went 16-10, 3.35 in AAA in 1958. He pitched briefly for the Pirates in 1957, his only major league experience. Pendleton spent nearly all of 1958 in the minors. He was a 35-year-old outfielder with only 262 games of major league experience. Powers was 29 and had just 90 games in the majors, all with the Pirates spread out over four seasons and he was a .190 hitter. He would  go on to play 43 games for the Reds, almost all off the bench(47 plate appearances total) before they sold him after the 1959 season. Douglass never made the majors again anywhere and Pendleton played just 65 games in Cincinnati before he was sold to the expansion Houston Colt 45’s leaving Thomas as the only good piece in the trade for the Reds, at least you would think. He hit .225 with a career low 12 homers and they shipped him off for three marginal players after the season.

As for the Pirates return they got more value out of each players than the Reds got out of all four combined. Burgess ended up playing six seasons in Pittsburgh, making three all-star games, hitting .296 with 265 RBIs and more walks than strikeouts. Haddix pitched five seasons for the Pirates, going 45-38, 3.73 in 166 games, 100 as a starter. Hoak put in just four years with the Pirates but finished 2nd in the MVP voting to his teammate Dick Groat during the 1960 season when the Pirates won the World Series and it goes without saying that this deal helped them greatly to get to that level.

Players born on this date include:

Hipolito Pena (1964) pitcher for the 1986-87 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brewers in 1981 but they released him by mid-season 1983 and nearly a year later he signed with the Pirates. He pitched ten games in the Gulf Coast League in 1984 then split the 1895 season between the two full season A-ball teams, pitching 45 games total, seven as a starter. He went 7-4, 3.55 at AA in 1986, earning a September call-up. In ten games for the Pirates he went 0-3, 8.64 in 8.1 innings. He began 1987 in AAA but he would be up with the big club by late April for a month, then make two more brief stops in Pittsburgh before finishing the year in the minors. He went 0-3, 4.56 in 16 games. Right before the start of the 1988 season he was traded to the Yankees in exchange for first baseman Orestes Destrade. Pena pitched 16 games in relief for the Yankees in 1988, then finished him career in the minors, last playing in Independent ball in 1996.

Matt Alexander (1947) pinch runner/outfielder for the 1978-81 Pirates. He spent nine seasons in the majors, played in 374 games but came to the plate only 195 times in his career. He was actually a decent minor league hitter over the years, batting .288 total but in the majors he hit .214 with no homers and four total RBIs over those 195 plate appearances. It is a little odd the Pirates never gave him a chance to bat more because he hit .444(12-27) for them over those four seasons he was in Pittsburgh. He specialty was speed and he actually stole more bases(30) than he had at-bats(27) with the Pirates. He has the odd career stat line of 36 hits with 111 runs scored and 103 stolen bases. In his nine season career he played a total of just 17 complete games and his name was in the starting lineup only 37 times.

Vin Campbell (1888) outfielder for the 1910-11 Pirates. He had played just one major league game, for the 1908 Cubs, prior to being purchased by the Pirates in late July 1909 out of the minors. He didn’t play a game for the World Championship team that year but the next season he received plenty of playing time. He would go on to hit .326 in 97 games with 42 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. He was poor defensively, especially early in his career due to changing positions often so he had trouble finding decent playing time on a strong Pirates team. In 1911 he hit .312 in 42 games, half of them as a pinch-hitter. Campbell’s problem was that he was a business man as well as a baseball player, something that would severely shorten his career. After the 1911 season he was traded to the Boston Braves in exchange for Mike Donlin, a 34-year-old who was a .333 career hitter but just like Campbell, he was also known to just leave baseball on a whim for long periods at a time. Campbell would play three more seasons in the majors, batting .310 career before retiring.

Charlie Heard (1872) pitcher/outfielder for the 1890 Alleghenys. He was just 18 years old at the time Pittsburgh brought him to the majors on July 14,1890. The team was horrible, on a ten-game losing streak that put their record at 16-51, but things would get worse and Heard had a hand. He made six starts before August ended and lost all six games. His first four starts all took place in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa., and he never actually pitched in Pittsburgh. He also played another six games in the outfield and hit .186 with no RBIs in 43 at-bats. Heard had a sore arm after his third start and stayed home to rest. When the Alleghenys returned to Philadelphia, he rejoined the team and pitched the first game of the series. There were rumors that he was released, but he was just given time to recover according to the Pittsburgh owner, J. Palmer O’Neil. Just over a week later, he played his last game, a 7-3 loss to the New York Giants. The team finished with a 23-113 record and Heard was never heard from again in baseball. He played the early part of the 1890 season for the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western Association. There is an unknown player from 1891 with the last name Heard that played in the New York-Penn League, who might also be Charlie Heard, but other than the 1890 season, he has no known pro experience.

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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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John Lease

I always enjoy these.  You need to fix Don Hoak, I’m sure he didn’t hit 39 triples in one season, the record is held by a Pirate and it was in the high 20’s I believe.


Thank you for that. It was supposed to(and now will) say 39 doubles. The record for triples is held by a Pirate, 36 by Owen “Chief” Wilson in 1912. His last triple was actually in his last game of the season when he got thrown out at home plate trying to score an inside-the-park home run.

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