Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus we have a transaction of note, that involved a future Hall of Fame manager. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland covers a Pirates no-hitter from 36 years ago.
On this date in 1919, the Pirates traded outfielder Casey Stengel to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for utility fielder Possum Whitted. Stengel was not popular in Pittsburgh, his high salary demands and crazy antics didn’t get him on the good side of Pirates owner, Barney Dreyfuss. Casey was a good player though, hitting .280 with 55 RBI’s and 51 walks in his 128 games with the Pirates. Whitted was a 29 year old in his eighth season in the majors, batting .249 with 32 runs scored and 32 RBI’s at the time of the deal. He had played every position in the majors at some point, except catcher and pitcher. Whitted hit .389 in 35 games after the trade, then spent the next two years as a solid regular in the Pirates lineup, before they sold him to Brooklyn during the Spring of 1922. He batted .286 with a .733 OPS and 158 RBI’s in 277 games with Pittsburgh. Stengel refused to report to Philadelphia after the deal, demanding a salary raise, a common occurrence during his career. He reported to the team in 1920 and hit .294 in 153 games before being dealt to the Giants during the 1921 season. Casey hit .368 in limited time in 1922, then batted .339 in 79 games the next year.
Matt Morris (1974) Starting pitcher for the 2007-08 Pirates. At one time, Morris was an All-Star pitcher for the Cardinals, winning 22 games in 2001 at the age of twenty-six. However, by the time he reached the Pirates in July of 2007, he was coming off a season in which he posted his highest season ERA at 4.98 with the Giants. During the 2007 season with San Francisco, he was 7-7 4.35 in 21 starts. He also had a low strikeout rate, in fact, Matt had seen a decline in his K/9 rate every season since 2001, slowly dropping from 7.7 per nine, down to 4.8 at the time of the trade that brought him to Pittsburgh. On July 31, 2007, the Pirates gave up outfielder Rajai Davis and a minor league pitcher to acquire Morris. He would make 11 starts for Pittsburgh in 2007 and pitch poorly, going 3-4 6.10 in 62 innings pitched. The next season turned out to be a disaster. Despite being owed just over $10mil for the season, the Pirates pulled the plug on Morris after five starts. He went 0-4 9.67 with a 2.15 WHIP. With his release from Pittsburgh, Matt’s career was over, finishing with a 121-92 record over 11 seasons.
Pat Mahomes (1970) Relief pitcher for the 2003 Pirates. He was once a highly rated pitcher in the Twins system, who couldn’t put it together in the majors during his first trial. During the 1997 season, Pat went to Japan to pitch, playing there until the end of the next year. His major league record at the time stood at 21-28 5.88 in 135 games, 51 as a starter. When he returned to the states in 1999, Mahomes signed with the Mets, where he went 8-0 3.68 in 39 relief appearances. His ERA rose to 5.46 in 2000, then 5.70 in 2001 while with the Rangers. In 2002, he spent part of the year with the Chicago Cubs, posting a 3.86 ERA in 32.2 innings over 16 appearances. Pat signed with the Pirates as a free agent for the 2003 season, pitching most of the year out of the bullpen with AAA Nashville. For the Pirates, he pitched nine times, once as a starter, going 0-1 4.84 in 22.1 innings. He left via free agency after the season, briefly returning to the Pirates minor league system at the end of 2004, finishing that season with Nashville. Mahomes never returned to the majors after his time with the Pirates in 2003, pitching minor league ball until 2009, with his last four years spent mostly in Independent ball. He went 42-39 in the majors, won 139 minor league games, and pitched over 800 games in pro ball during his 22 year career.
Roman Mejias (1930) Outfielder for the Pirates in 1955 and then again from 1957 until 1961. He was signed by the Pirates in 1953 as an amateur out of Cuba. Mejias hit well his first year of pro ball, playing Class-D ball, batting .322 with 48 extra base hits in 117 games. Moving up to Class-B the next season, he did even better, hitting .354 with 76 extra base hits in 139 games. That earned him a spot with the 1955 Pirates. Roman was a part-time player during his rookie season, getting most of his playing time either off the bench or in left field. He hit .216 in 71 games, with a .585 OPS and 21 RBI’s. The next season he spent the entire year at AAA, playing for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. Mejias would make the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1957, spending most of the season in the majors(he played 28 games at AAA). He batted .275 in 58 games for Pittsburgh that year, his highest average while with the team.
Over the next two seasons, Roman would serve as the team’s backup outfielder at all three spots. He hit .268 in 76 games in 1958, then saw his most action with the Pirates in 1959, when he played in 96 games, hitting .238 with seven homers, 28 RBI’s and 28 runs scored. Mejias would spend most of the next two seasons in the minors, but during the 1960 season, when the Pirates won the World Series, he was briefly a member of that team. During a span of a week in May, he pinch ran twice and pinch hit once, scoring one run and striking out in his only AB. He played four games for the Pirates in 1961, again striking out in his only plate appearance. In October of 1961, the Pirates lost him to the Houston Colt .45’s in the expansion draft. Roman played full-time that season and hit .286 with 24 homers and 76 RBI’s. He would be traded to the Red Sox that off-season and in two years in Boston, he hit .229 with 13 homers in 176 games. Mejias finished his career with a year in the minors, followed by spending 1966 playing in Japan. With the Pirates, he hit .245 with 17 homers and 83 RBI’s in 308 games.
Jolly Roger Rewind: August 9, 1976
John Candelaria pitched the Pirates’ first no-hitter in Pittsburgh in sixty-nine years, shutting down the Dodgers 2-0 at Three Rivers Stadium.
The twenty-two-year-old left hander* faced only three batters over the minimum, all reaching base in the third inning: Steve Yeager on a walk, Davey Lopes on a Frank Taveras error and Ted Sizemore on a Bill Robinson error. But Candelaria induced Bill Russell to hit into a forceout to end that threat, and then finished the game by retiring the final eighteen Dodgers in a row.
Writing in The Pittsburgh Press, Bob Smizik noted an indicator of Candelaria’s dominance: “there were no spectacular defensive plays necessary, only a handful of good ones.” Notably, Al Oliver tracked down Lopes’ first-inning drive in the left-center gap** and Frank Taveras’ perfect positioning neutralized Sizemore’s sixth-inning liner.*** In the eighth inning, Lee Lacy’s grounder up the middle hit Candelaria’s size-thirteen shoe and fell harmlessly at his feet, allowing him to retire Lacy at first.
With two outs in the ninth and an ABC Monday Night Baseball regional television audience and 15,131 eyewitnesses looking on, Candelaria faced Russell. By then, the Pirates held a 2-0 lead, thanks to Robinson’s two-run double off starter Doug Rau in the fifth inning. Russell lofted a fly ball to center, and Oliver hauled it in to complete the first Bucco no-hitter since Nicholas Maddox no-hit the Brooklyn Superbas—the Dodgers’ ancestors—at Exposition Park in September 1907.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have a bigger thrill, unless we win the World Series,” said Candelaria, who improved his record to 11-4 with the victory.****
Box score and play-by-play
The Pittsburgh Press game story
* Candelaria’s major-league debut had come just fourteen months earlier. In the previous October’s National League Championship Series, he struck out fourteen Reds in a game.
** “That was the best play of the game,” said Candelaria afterwards.
*** “That was their hardest-hit ball,” observed Candelaria.
**** Candelaria’s performance inspired Smizik to compose a dramatic lede: “Many times before he had come in this direction. And why should he not have? His fast ball could be a blur, his curve a vast deception. When he was right, the hitters were always in trouble. Last night he was right. True, the overwhelming fast ball, the one that sometimes makes him a double digit strikeout pitcher, was not there. But there was still enough. What it lacked in pure speed, it made up for in dancing movement. And the curve was splendid, going where he wanted it to go.”
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.