This Date in Pirates History: July 31

A busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates history that includes seven birthdays and 17 trades of note, all listed below. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps the major league debut of Tim Wakefield, twenty years ago today.

The Players

J.J. Furmaniak (1979) Middle infielder for the 2005 Pirates. He was originally a 22nd round draft pick in 2000 out of Lewis University, by the Padres. He played in the San Diego minor league system until July 28,2005, when the Pirates acquired him in exchange for David Ross. Furmaniak went to AAA Indianapolis, where he hit .288 in 36 games with 21 RBI’s and an alarming 4/32 BB/K ratio. The Pirates called him up in September and he hit .192 in 13 games, seeing time at both shortstop and second base. J.J. spent all of 2006 with Indianapolis, hitting just .213 in 114 games, 109 as the team’s shortstop. He became a free agent in October of 2006, signing weeks later with the Oakland A’s. Furmaniak played 16 games with the 2007 A’s, hitting .176 and seeing time at five different positions. He played minor league ball up until 2011, getting into 1237 games over his 12 season career in the minors.

Mike Bielecki (1959) Pitcher for the 1984-7 Pirates. Mike was a first round draft pick in 1979 by the Pirates. He worked his way slowly through the minors, reaching AA in his fourth season, but needing to repeat the level the next year. That next season(1983) would be his breakout year. He went 15-7 3.19 in 25 starts, striking out 143 batters. Jumping to AAA in 1984, Mike was even better, going 19-3 2.97 in 28 starts, with 162 strikeouts. He made his major league debut that September, throwing four scoreless relief appearances. The next year, Bielecki made the Opening Day roster, then struggled through the middle of May, returning to AAA until September. He was finally in the big leagues for a full season in 1986, responding with a 6-11 4.66 record in 27 starts and four relief outings. It was back to AAA to start the 1987 season, rejoining the Pirates in late August for eight starts. Just prior to Opening Day in 1988, the Pirates sent Bielecki to the Cubs for minor league pitcher Mike Curtis. For the Pirates, the deal looked horrible short-term. By 1989, Bielecki was winning 18 games for the Cubs, however, in his next eight seasons he had a combined 40-46 record. He jumped around the majors, including three stints with the Atlanta Braves, winding up his 14 year career after the 1997 season, with a final line of 70-73 4.18 in 347 games, 178 as a starter. For the Pirates, Mike went 10-17 4.57 in 55 games.

Frank Brosseau (1944) Pitcher for the 1969 and 1971 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick by the Pirates in 1966 out of the University of Minnesota. It was the third time he was drafted, second by the Pirates, who took him five months earlier in the January portion of the amateur draft. He was originally drafted as a hitter, not making his first appearance on the mound until his third season. It didn’t take long for him to reach the majors after he made the transition. Brosseau went 4-4 1.88 in 91 innings in 1968, making ten starts and ten relief appearances. That year he was still being used as a position player, batting a career high .232, though by the next year he was strictly a pitcher. Frank was in AA in 1969, playing for York of the Eastern League, where he went 10-3 1.90 in 123 innings. He was a September call-up, pitching two games with vastly different results. His first game he gave up two runs on two hits and two walks while recording two outs. His second appearance two weeks later was a scoreless inning in which he struck out two batters.

Brosseau was back in the minors in 1970, going 4-8 4.65 with AAA Columbus in 16 starts and three relief outings. The next season, he began and finished the year in AAA, making one appearance for the Pirates in June. That day he threw two scoreless innings in a win over the Cardinals. Frank had a 5.31 ERA over 83 innings in the minors that season and did not return to pro ball in 1972.

Vic Davalillo (1936) First baseman/outfielder for the 1971-73 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Reds in 1958, though he never played for Cincinnati. By the time he reached the Pirates, Vic had spent eight years in the majors, playing for the Indians, Angels and Cardinals.  He was an All-Star in 1965 when he hit .301 for the Indians, and a year earlier he won the Gold Glove award for his outstanding play in center field. The Pirates acquired him from St Louis in a four player deal on January 29,1971 after he hit .311 in 111 games in 1970, mostly playing off the bench. The Pirates used Davalillo during that World Series winning season at all three outfield spots as well as seeing time at first base. He hit .285 in 99 games, scoring 48 runs and adding 33 RBI’s. He played three WS games, going 1-3 with a run scored. In 1972, Vic saw plenty of playing time at both corner outfield positions. In 117 games, he hit .318 with 59 runs scored and 14 steals in 15 attempts. Davalillo had his problems at the plate in 1973, batting just .181 in limited time through the end of July. On his 37th birthday, the Pirates sold Vic to the Oakland A’s. He played in Oakland until 1974, then went to the Mexican League to play, coming back in 1977 to be a bench player for four seasons with the Dodgers. He was a .279 hitter in 1458 major league games. His brother Pompeyo “Yo-Yo” Davalillo played in the majors with the 1953 Washington Senators.

Elmer Riddle (1914) Pitcher for the 1948-49 Pirates. He had a great start to his career but an arm injury sidelined him in his prime and derailed a possibly great career. In his first full season in the majors, playing for the 1941 Reds, Riddle went 19-4, leading the NL with a 2.24 ERA. Two years later, he led the NL with 21 wins. In 1944, four games into the season, he began to experience arm troubles, missing the rest of the year. He pitched 29.2 innings in 1945, posting an 8.19 ERA. Elmer took off from baseball in 1946, returning briefly to the Reds the following year, where he had a similar record to two years earlier, with an 8.31 ERA in 30.1 innings. The Pirates acquired him off waivers in the off-season, and he made a strong comeback in 1948, going 12-10 3.49 in 191 innings. His second stint of success was short-lived. In 1949, a leg injury limited his effectiveness and after a 1-8 5.33 season, he returned to the minors, where he played until the end of the 1952 campaign. Riddle finished with 65 major league wins, 40 of them coming during his two big years with the Reds. His brother Johnny Riddle was a catcher in the majors for seven years, spending time as Elmer’s teammate in Cincinnati and in 1948 with the Pirates.

Erv Kantlehner (1892) Pitcher for the 1914-16 Pirates. He made his pro debut as a 19 year old in 1912, pitching for 14 games Victoria of the Northwestern League. The next year, he put himself on the baseball map, going 23-16 in 49 appearances, with a total of 337 innings pitched. Pittsburgh signed him and in his major league debut on April 17,1914, Kantlehner threw a four hit shutout, albeit with seven walks, including three in the first inning. Despite that strong first outing, Erv made just four more starts, working out of the bullpen in his other six games. He went 3-2 3.09 in 67 innings his rookie year. The next season he was used in a similar role, just pitching more often that the previous year. Kantlehner made 18 starts and 11 relief appearances in 1915, with a 5-12 record, despite a strong 2.24 ERA. His record slipped even further down in 1916 with the sixth place Pirates. In 21 starts and 16 relief outings, he went 5-15 3.16 in 165 innings. He was sold to the Phillies in September of 1916, pitching his last three major league games with Philadelphia that year. Erv returned to the minors in 1917, pitching three more seasons before retiring. His major league ERA in three seasons was 2.84, yet his record stood at 13-29 when he was done.

Joe Sugden (1870) Catcher for the Pirates from 1893 until 1897. He played two years of minor league ball in Charleston, SC  before making his major league debut with the 1893 Pirates. Joining the team in July, Sugden hit .261 in 27 games with 20 runs scored, splitting time behind the plate with the great Connie Mack.  The 1894 season was an extremely high offense year in baseball due to the pitcher’s box(pre-mound days) being moved back to it’s current distance, and pitchers having trouble adjusting to it at first. Joe was the back-up to Mack, playing 39 games with a .331 average and a 14:2 BB/K ratio. The league batting declined slowly over the next couple years and Joe showed a similar regression in his batting. He hit .304 in 1895 and followed it with a .296 season. Early in that 1895 season, Sugden hit his third career homer(his first came off Cy Young the previous year), he would play the rest of that year and another nine full seasons in the majors without hitting another home run. Joe platooned with Bill Merritt for the better part of three seasons in Pittsburgh, the last occurring in 1897 when he hit just .222 in 84 games.

The Pirates dealt him to the St Louis Cardinals in the off-season for veteran catcher Morgan Murphy. That move, along with his switching of teams in 1899, would put him on two of the worst teams ever. Sugden played for the 1898 Cardinals, who went 39-111, then moved to the Cleveland Spiders for 1899, a team that went 20-134, the worst team in baseball history. Joe played his last major league game on May 18,1912 for the Detroit Tigers, a famous game in baseball history and his first major league game in seven seasons. In short, Ty Cobb had been suspended at that time and his Tiger teammates refused to play that day unless Cobb played. The Tigers had a bunch of sandlot players ready to play just in case, to go along with two coaches who played that day as well, Deacon McGuire and Sugden. The Tigers ended up losing 24-2 and Joe went 1-4, while playing first base. Cobb’s suspension was reduced and things were back to normal the next day, officially ending Sugden’s playing career.

Pirates transactions at the July 31st trading deadline

2011: Acquire Ryan Ludwick from the Padres.

2010: Closer Otavio Dotel is dealt to the Dodgers for current starting pitcher James McDonald and minor league outfielder Andrew Lambo

2010: Lefty specialist Javier Lopez is traded to the Giants for outfielder John Bowker and pitcher Joe Martinez

2009: Reliever D.J. Carrasco, shortstop Bobby Crosby and outfielder Ryan Church are sent to the Diamondbacks for catcher Chris Snyder and minor league shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.

2008: Jason Bay is sent to the Red Sox as part of a three-way deal with the Dodgers, that saw the Pirates acquire third baseman Andy LaRoche, outfielder Brandon Moss, relief pitcher Craig Hansen and minor league starter Bryan Morris.

2007: Pirates obtain pitcher Matt Morris from the Giants in exchange for outfielder Rajai Davis and minor league pitcher Stephen MacFarland.

2006: Pirates sent Sean Casey to the Tigers for minor league pitcher Brian Rogers. In a separate deal, they trade outfielder/first baseman Craig Wilson to the Yankees in exchange for pitcher Shawn Chacon.

2006: Pittsburgh sends pitchers Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez to the Mets for outfielder Xavier Nady. The Pirates also traded pitcher Kip Wells to the Rangers for minor league pitcher Jesse Chavez.

2005: Pirates ship outfielder Matt Lawton to the Cubs. In return they get outfielder Jody Gerut and cash.

2003: Pitchers Anastacio Martinez, Brandon Lyons and Jeff Suppan, all get sent to the Red Sox for infielder Freddy Sanchez and reliever Mike Gonzalez.

2002: Pirates give up outfielder Chad Hermansen, to get outfielder Darren Lewis from the Cubs. Lewis retired instead of reporting to the Pirates.

2001: Pirates send closer Mike Williams to the Astros for pitcher Tony McKnight.

2001: Pitcher Terry Mulholland is sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for reliever Mike Fetters and minor league pitcher Adrian Burnside.

1993: Reliever Stan Belinda is sent to the Kansas City Royals for pitchers Jon Lieber and Dan Miceli.

1987: Pirates sent pitcher Don Robinson to the Giants for catcher Mackey Sasser and cash.

Jolly Roger Rewind: July 31, 1992

Tim Wakefield started his major league career spectacularly, pitching a complete game and striking out ten in the first-place Pirates’ 3-2 victory over the Cardinals at Three Rivers Stadium.

Entering the four-game weekend series with St. Louis, the Bucs had lost eight of their last ten games to turn a five-game lead in the National League East into a deadlock with Montreal. But Danny Jackson and Bob Patterson shut out the Cardinals in Thursday’s opener, and Wakefield*, pitching two days before his twenty-sixth birthday, baffled the visitors with a 146-pitch effort—approximately eighty percent of which were knuckleballs—on Friday.

Wakefield allowed two unearned runs in the fifth inning, but pitched out of two-on-and-less-than-two-out jams in the second and third, stranded the bases loaded in the fifth, and limited the Cardinals to a single and a walk over the last four innings. ‘When they got guys in scoring position, he stuck with his knuckleball and threw it for strikes,” said catcher Don Slaught, selected by Jim Leyland for a rare start against a righthanded pitcher because of his experience catching knuckleballs. ”He made some great pitches when he had to.”

The Pirates gave Wakefield all the runs he would need on a pair of home runs off former Bucco Jose DeLeon: Barry Bonds’ two-run shot in the first inning and Jay Bell’s solo blast in the third.

Coupled with Montreal’s loss to Philadelphia, the victory put the Bucs back in sole possession of first place, with a full game’s lead over the Expos.**

Box score and play-by-play


* Wakefield had replaced an injured Zane Smith in the Pirates’ starting rotation. He was the fourth pitcher to make his major-league debut with the Bucs that week, following Paul Wagner (July 26) and Blas Minor and Steve Cooke (July 28).

** The Pirates remained alone in first place for the remainder of the season. This victory over the Cardinals came in game two of what turned out to be an eleven-game winning streak, spurring the Bucs to a division-race-deciding 41-15 spurt.

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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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