This Date in Pirates History: April 5

On this date in 1975, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Wayne Simpson to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Bill Robinson. Simpson, a 26 year old starting pitcher, played four seasons in the majors(1970-73) prior to the trade, going a combined 29-19 4.08 in 88 games, 79 as a starter. He was an all-star as a 21 year old rookie in 1970, going 14-3 3.02 in 26 starts, After coming over from the Royals in a March 1974 trade, he spent the entire 1974 season at AAA for the Pirates, where he went 9-10 3.32 in 160 innings. Robinson was 31 years old, coming off a 1974 season in which he hit .236 with five homers in 100 games. Just one season earlier, he had hit .288 with 25 homers for the Phillies.

Following the trade, Robinson played eight seasons for the Pirates. He saw plenty of time at 3B,1B,RF and LF over the years. In 805 games with Pittsburgh, he hit .276 with 109 homers and 412 RBI’s. In 1977, he hit .304 with 26 homers and 104 RBI’s, all three were career high numbers during his 16 seasons in the majors. Simpson pitched just seven games for the Phillies in 1975, then was sold to the Angels prior to the following season. After a full season in the minors, Simpson pitched 122 innings for the 1977 Angels, posting a 6-12 5.83 record. That was his last season in the majors.

Former Pirates players born on this date include:

Lastings Milledge (1985) Outfielder for the 2009-10 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Mets in 2003. After two seasons in the majors, New York traded him to the Washington Nationals. In 2008, Lastings played his first full season in the majors, hitting .268 with 14 homers, 24 stolen bases and 65 runs scored in 138 games. He was sent to the minors early in the 2009 season and the Pirates acquired him, along with Joel Hanrahan, in exchange for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett on June 30,2009. Milledge hit .291 with 20 RBI’s in 58 games for the Pirates in 2009. In 2010, he played 113 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .277 with a .712 OPS and 34 RBI’s. Lastings was granted free agency after the season, signing with the Chicago White Sox, where he played two games during the 2011 season. He signed to play in Japan for the 2012 season.

Rennie Stennett (1951) Second baseman for the Pirates from 1971 until 1979. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in 1969 and it took just two seasons for him to have an impact in the majors as a 20 year old. After coming up in early July 1971, he hit .353 in 50 games for the Pirates. In 1972, he saw time at five different positions(SS/2B/OF) and hit .286 in 109 games. The 1973 season saw Rennie play mostly 2B/SS, playing just five games in the outfield. He played 84 games at 2B and 43 at shortstop. He struggled at the plate, hitting .242 with only 16 walks in 128 games, although he did connect for a career high ten homers.

Stennett had a strong season in 1974 as the Pirates everyday second baseman. He played 157 games, hitting .291 with 84 runs scored and 196 hits. In the playoffs however, he hit .063 in a four game series against the Dodgers. The 1975 season was much like the prior year. He hit .286 with 62 RBI’s and 89 runs scored, helping the Pirates to the playoffs again. This time against the Reds, he went 3-14 with three singles and no runs or RBI’s. On September 16, 1975, the Pirates beat the Cubs 22-0 and Stennett went 7-7 at the plate with five runs scored. In 1977, Stennett finished second to teammate Dave Parker in the NL batting race. Rennie hit .336 with 28 stolen bases. It was the only season of his career that he batted over .300 and in each of his four seasons following 1977, he failed to reach the .250 mark.

Following the 1979 World Series, Stennett became a free agent and signed with the Giants, where he finished his career two seasons later. While with the Pirates he .278 with 458 runs scored and 1122 hits in 1079 games. In 1974 and 1976, he led all NL second baseman in putouts. He received MVP votes during the 1974 and 1977 seasons. Rennie played over 100 games in eight straight seasons with the Pirates.

Wid Conroy (1877) Shortstop for the 1902 Pirates. He played five seasons in the minors before making his major league debut with the 1901 Milwaukee Brewers(current day Orioles). He hit .264 with 64 RBI’s, 74 runs scored and 21 stolen bases in 131 games. Conroy jumped his contract at the end of the season to sign with the Pirates for 1902. Playing shortstop before it became Honus Wagner full-time position, Conroy hit .244 with 47 RBI’s and 55 runs scored in 99 games. He played strong defense, finishing third in fielding percentage among NL shortstops.  As soon as the season ended, he jumped from the Pirates back to the AL to join the New York Highlanders. He played another nine seasons in the majors, finishing with a .248 average, 605 runs scored and 262 stolen bases in 1374 games. After his major league career ended, he played another six seasons in the minors.

Bill Gray (1871) Third Baseman for the 1898 Pirates. He made his pro debut with the Phillies in 1890 as a teenager. After two seasons with Philadelphia, he spent three years in the minors. He returned to the majors with the Cincinnati Reds in 1895 and hit .304 in 52 games. The following season his average dropped down to .207, which would lead to him spending the 1897 season back in the minors. On November 10,1897 the Reds traded him, along with Billy Rhines, Pop Schriver, Jack McCarthy and Ace Stewart to the Pirates for Mike Smith and Pink Hawley. That trade was covered here. Gray was the every day third baseman for the Pirates in 1898 and he hit .229 with 67 RBI’s and 56 runs scored in 137 games. His defense was below average and he committed the second most errors among NL third baseman. It was his last season in the majors, the Pirates traded him that December to Milwaukee of the Western League in exchange for Ginger Beaumont, who went on to become a star center fielder for the Pirates for eight seasons. Gray finished his career two years later in the minors.

Chuck Lauer (1865) Outfielder/catcher for the Alleghenys in 1884 and 1889. A local kid from Pittsburgh, he opened up his pro career in 1883 playing for a minor league team called the Pittsburgh Liberty Stars, from the Western Interstate League. Lauer started playing for the Alleghenys during July of 1884 as an outfielder. At the end of the season, with his team near the bottom of the American Association standings, Lauer took the mound three times and allowed 25 runs in 19 innings, picking up two losses and a tie. Chuck hit just .114, going 5-44 with five singles that season. Five years later he reappeared in the majors with the Alleghenys and lasted just four games this time. He hit .188 with five strikeouts and five errors in his three games behind the plate. Chuck’s only other experience in the majors was with the 1890 Chicago Colts(Cubs) and even then he lasted only two games.

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