Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2002
On this date in Pirates history, they made 2 separate trades to acquire future Hall of Fame pitchers. First in 1905, they acquired Vic Willis in a trade with the Boston Braves. Going to the Braves were Del Howard, Dave Brain and Vive Lindaman.
Vic Willis would be a great pickup for the Bucs as he won at least 20 games all 4 years he spent with the team, including 1909 when the Pirates won their first World Series title ever. Willis finished in the top 4 in the league in wins all 4 years and won 89 all together with just 46 losses. In 1906 he posted an ERA of 1.73. He never finished higher than 2.34 for any season with the Pirates.
Vic was among the top-10 every year in games started, innings, complete games and shutouts. He ranks 19th all-time in both complete games and shutouts while ranking 43rd in career wins despite playing for some of the worst teams as a member of the Braves. During the 1909 season Willis won 22 games, but couldn't pull off a win in the W.S. as he started just one game (game 6). He came in during the 3rd inning of game 2 where he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings to finish the game.
Vive Lindaman never played in the majors for the Pirates, but went on to play 4 years for the Braves as a mediocre pitcher. Dave Brain played just part of one season with the Bucs as he came over during the 1905 season from the Cardinals. He batted .257 with 46 RBI's over 85 games while spending most of his time playing 3rd base.
Del Howard was a rookie in his only season for the Bucs in 1905. He batted .292 with 63 RBI's and 19 steals in 123 games. Del played 90 games at 1b and 28 in outfield, He even got a game in as a pitcher, throwing 6 innings and getting a no decision while allowing 0 earned runs and just 4 hits.
Also on this date in 1967, the Bucs traded Woody Fryman, Bill Laxton, Harold Clem and Don Money to the Phillies for pitcher Jim Bunning. Jim struggled his first year with the Bucs after winning 74 games the previous 4 seasons. He went just 4-14 with a 3.88 ERA. Despite never striking out less than 177 batters the previous 11 seasons, he struck out just 95 batters in 1968. Bunning rebounded the next season, but it was obvious his best seasons were behind him. He went 10-9 3.81 in his last year with the Pirates. Bunning won 224 games total and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Don Money never played for the Pirates, but was an 4 time all-star third baseman over his 16 year career. Bill Laxton played 5 years in the majors as a pitcher, but never appeared in a game as a Pirate and Harold Clem never made it to the majors. Woody Fryman pitched 2 years for the Bucs, making his ML debut on his 26th birthday. He went 12-9 with a 3.81 ERA his rookie season before dropping to just 3-8 his last year. Despite not making it to the majors till he was 26, Fryman played 18 years and won 141 games over 625 games, with just more than half as a starter.
On this date in 1998, the Pirates signed free agent Ed Sprague. Ed hit .267 with 22 homeruns 81 RBI's and made his only career All-Star appearance. A late season slump and a hand injury in September, which forced him to miss the rest of the season, ended his Pirates career.
Former Bucs players born on this date include J.J "Nig" Clarke, who was born in 1882 and played for the 1920 Pirates to finish his career. Nig had played from 1905-1911 for 3 teams and only once was a regular starter. He went 7 seasons without appearing in the majors till joining the Phillies in 1919. The next year, he appeared in 3 games for the Pirates, all as a catcher and went 0-7 with 4 strikeouts.
Jim Nealon, born in 1884, won the Pirates 1st base job in spring training of 1906 as a 21 year old rookie and played all 154 games that year. He batted .255 and drove in 83 runs to lead the team. He played 105 games the next season, batting .257 with 47 RBI's in what would be his last ML experience. He died at age 25 of typhoid fever.
Finally, Jim Leyland was born on this date in 1944. He managed the Pirates from 1986 after taking over from Chuck Tanner till 1996. He led the Bucs to 3 straight first place finishes (1990-1992) and won 851 games total. Despite the 3 straight titles, he had just 4 winning seasons in his 11 years and finished below .500. The year after leaving the Bucs, he led the Marlins to their only W.S. title. He was replaced by Gene Lamont in Pittsburgh.