This Date in Pirates History: June 3

Two Pittsburgh Pirates trades made on this date, 103 years apart but with similar results for the team that was giving up the veteran in exchange for the prospects. John Fredland in his Jolly Roger Rewind, covers a brilliant pitching performance from the 1988 season.

The Trades

On this date in 2009, the Pirates traded All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. In what initially was an unpopular trade, now just three years to the day, Nate has been released by the Pirates while all three players acquired are still at the top of the Pirates system. McLouth was coming off an all-star season in 2008, one in which he hit .276 with 113 runs scored, 26 homers, 23 stolen bases, a league leading 46 doubles and 94 RBI’s. He also won the Gold Glove in center field. When the Pirates wanted to call up Andrew McCutchen, at the time their center fielder of the future, Nate balked at the position move, which in part caused the trade. He was hitting .256 with nine homers and 34 RBI’s in 45 games when the deal was made. All three players received were highly rated prospects at some time, only Morton had major league experience though. Locke was a second round pick in 2006, who was struggling in High-A ball. Hernandez was 21, hitting .316 in AA. Prior to the season, he was the 62nd ranked prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Morton was 25 years old, at AAA coming off a season in which he went 4-8 6.15 in 74.2 innings for the Braves.

Since the deal, Morton has been a regular in the Pirates rotation, showing signs of pitching well after a horrible 2010 season that saw him get demoted to the minors. He had made 73 starts for Pittsburgh, going 19-37 with a 4.85 ERA. Locke was a September call-up in 2011, making his major league debut. This season he is pitching well at AAA, getting a brief recall in May, although he didn’t make an appearance before returning to Indianapolis. Hernandez made his debut this May, taking over for McLouth on the bench. Nate hit .229 with 21 homers and 76 RBI’s in 250 games for the Braves before they cut ties with him at the end of the 2011 season. He signed with Pittsburgh this year to be a backup outfielder but after hitting .140 with two RBI’s in 34 games, he was put on waivers, then released.

On this date in 1906, the Pirates traded pitcher Ed Karger to the St Louis Cardinals for pitcher Chappie McFarland. This move is the exact opposite of the one above, Pittsburgh dealt a young prospect in exchange for a veteran pitcher. Karger, at age 23, had made his major league debut exactly seven weeks earlier. He was pitching well for the Pirates but they wanted a veteran to help for their playoff run. As it turned out, they had no chance that season with the Cubs setting a major league record with a 116-36 record. Karger had a 2-3 1.93 record at the time of the deal, making two starts and four relief appearances. McFarland had pitched well for some very poor St Louis Cardinals teams. At age 31, he was coming off three straight seasons of throwing at least 229 innings. With St Louis, he had a 33-57 record with a 3.33 ERA.

After the trade McFarland didn’t last long in Pittsburgh. He went 1-3 2.55 in six games, five as a starter. The Pirates put him on waivers, where he was picked up by Brooklyn on August 1st. He made just one start for them before returning to the minors for the last three years of his pro career. Karger pitched in the majors until 1911 and while his career record was just 48-67, he retired with a 2.79 ERA. For St Louis he had a 2.72 ERA in 191.2 innings in 1906, then pitched 314 innings in 1907, posting a 2.04 ERA to go along with 29 complete games. His record was just 15-19, but the rest of the Cardinals pitching staff went 37-82.

The Player

Nelson Liriano (1964) Second baseman for the 1995-96 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur in 1982, making his major league debut five years later with Toronto. Nelson had his best year in 1989, hitting .263 with 26 doubles, 53 RBI’s and 16 stolen bases in 132 games. He hit .429 that postseason with three stolen bases in the Blue Jays’ ALCS loss to the Oakland A’s. The next season Liriano started off slow, then was dealt to the Twins in July for John Candelaria. After finishing the year in Minnesota, Nelson spent most of 1991 in the minors, getting in just ten games with the Royals in May, although he did manage to hit .409 in 22 AB’s. He signed with the Indians for 1992, spending the entire year in the minors, then signed with the expansion Colorado Rockies for the 1993 season. Liriano hit .305 in limited time, playing in the thin Colorado air. He hit .330 at home that year.

After batting .255 in 87 games during the 1994 season, the Pirates picked Nelson up off waivers in October. In 1995, he platooned at second base with Carlos Garcia. Liriano also got plenty of pinch hitting AB’s, finishing the season with a .286 average and 38 RBI’s in 107 games. The following year, he saw less starting time and more time in the pinch hitting role, getting 234 plate appearances over 112 games played. Nelson hit .267 with 14 doubles and 30 RBI’s. He was put on waivers after the season ended, where he was picked up by the Dodgers. Liriano had a limited bench role with Los Angeles in 1997, before finishing his career back in Colorado in 1998. The last three years, he has managed the Royals rookie league affiliate in Burlington, North Carolina.

The Drafts

With just two transactions and one former player born on this date, we go a little different here. The 2012 amateur draft is about to take place, beginning tomorrow. The Pirates have drafted some well-known players in recent team history on this date. Among them are Ryan Doumit in the second round of 1999, the same year they took J.R. House in the fifth round. In 1996 the Pirates pulled off some late round magic, taking Dave Williams, Joe Beimel, Jeff Bennett and Mike Johnston in consecutive rounds, 17th through 20th, will all four pitchers making the major leagues. Pittsburgh took Mickey Morandini in the seventh round in 1987, although they were unable to sign him. They did however sign Paul Miller in the 53rd round, and he pitched parts of three seasons in the majors for the Pirates. In 1986 they had the first overall pick in the draft, selecting Jeff King. In the tenth round that same year, they took Stan Belinda. Fifteen rounds later they took current bench coach Jeff Banister, owner of a 1.000 career batting average in the majors. One round later they got pitcher Rick Reed, and while he pitched four years for the Pirates, he went just 4-7 with Pittsburgh, 89-69 after being released at the end of Spring Training in 1992.

Jolly Roger Rewind: June 3, 1988

John Smiley pitched a complete-game one-hitter, but the Pirates required some late-game clutch hitting from Jose Lind, Mike LaValliere and Mike Diaz to seize a 2-1 victory over the Expos at Three Rivers Stadium.

Smiley, whom the Pirates had moved to the rotation after pitching exclusively in relief as a rookie in 1987, limited Montreal to one hit and two walks through nine innings, while recording eight strikeouts. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old lefthander, the sole Expos hit, a two-out, fourth-inning Tim Wallach bloop triple on which right fielder R. J. Reynolds failed to make a shoestring catch, had led to a run when Smiley separated his hands in the set position for a balk. Worse yet for Smiley and the Pirates, rookie starter John Dopson had made that run stand up with a stellar performance of his own, blanking the Buccos on five hits and two walks through seven and a third innings.

Five outs from victory, however, Dopson faced Buc second baseman Lind. Lind’s previous 402 major-league plate appearances had yielded no home runs, but he lined Dopson’s 2-1 pitch over the leftfield wall for a game-tying home run.*

It remained tied with one out in the bottom of the ninth, when LaValliere pulled a double to right-center.** Jim Leyland made two substitutions, sending in John Cangelosi to pinch-run for LaValliere and Mike Diaz to pinch-hit for Rafael Belliard. Dopson got ahead of Diaz with a strike, but Diaz lined his next pitch down the left-field line to score Cangelosi with the winning run.***

* The remainder of Lind’s career underscored the rarity of this occurrence: he would bat 4001 times in the major leagues and hit only nine home runs.

** Afterwards, LaValliere, who hit two doubles that night, praised hitting coach Milt May’s support: “Miltie threw some batting practice, and we looked at some tape. He noticed my hands were too close to the plate, so we made an adjustment, and it worked.”

*** Leyland lauded Diaz’s pinch-hitting approach: “That guy’s ready. That guy wants to be up there in those situations. Psychologically, that’s a big lift. He wants to be a hero—and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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