Posted: Friday, January 10, 2003
Former Pirates players born on this date include pitcher Bill Swift, who started his ML career with the Pirates in 1932 and pitched for them thru the 1939 season. Bill, born in 1908, was a 24 year old sidearm throwing starting pitcher when he made his debut on opening day, April 12, 1932. The Pirates lost that game 10-2 to the Reds, but Swift would go on to have a great rookie season going 14-10 3.61 with 4 saves. He had the lowest walk per inning ratio in the NL that year and finished 2nd on the team, to the staff ace Larry French, in wins and strikeouts. The Pirates would finish 2nd that year with an 86-68 record, just 4 games behind the Cubs.
In 1933, Swift would prove that his rookie season was no fluke as he again went 14-10, but this time with an ERA of just 3.13. The Pirates again would finish 2nd just 5 games behind the Giants. The 1934 Pirates finished below .500 and Swift suffered along with the team going just 11-13. In 1935 the team was again over .500 this time going 86-67 and Swift had his best season. He went 15-8 with a career low 2.70 ERA, which placed him 2nd in the league to teammate Cy Blanton.
Bill would set many career highs in 1936, but finished the season just 16-16 4.01. His career highs were in wins, games pitched, complete games, strikeouts and innings. He also batted .295 with 10 doubles and 15 RBI's, all career highs also. That season would be his last of 5 straight double digit win seasons and the last one of his 11 year career also. He won 9 games in 1937 followed by 7 and 5 wins his last 2 years with the team, but he amazingly pitched exactly 36 games all 3 years.
After the 1939 season the Bucs would trade Swift to the Braves in exchange for pitchers Johnny Tobin and Danny MacFaydan. He finished his career with a 95-82 3.58 record over 336 games with 91 of those wins coming in a Pirates uniform.
Cliff Chambers, born in 1922 was a left-handed starting pitcher for the Bucs from 1949 till being traded away in 1951. He was going into his second season when the Bucs acquired him from the Cubs along with Clyde McCullough for Cal McLish and Frank Gustine. He was coming off a rookie year where he went just 2-9 4.43. His first year for the Pirates though was very different from his first season in the majors as he went 13-7 despite playing for a 6th place team that finished 12 games under .500. He finished 1st on the team in wins that year and had the 3rd highest strikeout per inning ratio in the league.
After going 12-15 and pitching a career high 249+ innings in 1950 Cliff had an up and down season for the Bucs in 1951 before he was traded. First he compiled just a 3-6 5.58 record, but he had a career day on May 6th when he threw a no-hitter vs the Boston Braves. It was just the 2nd no-hitter in Pirates history with Nick Maddox throwing the first way back in 1907. Just over a month later on June 15th the Pirates shipped Chambers along with Wally Westlake to the Cardinals for Joe Garagiola, Ted Wilks, Dick Cole, Howie Pollett and Bill Howerton. Cliff went 11-6 the rest of the way for the Cards but won just 7 more games in his career after that.
Finally, George Strickland born in 1926 was a teammate of Chambers on the 1950-51 Pirates squad and Strickland would stick around for one more season after that. George made his ML debut on May 7th, 1950 and would serve as a backup shortstop for the Bucs. He batted just 27 times in 23 games that year and had just 3 hits, all singles. The next season with Danny O'Connell and Stan Rojek (the 1950 season starting shortstops) both gone, George was given the everyday job at short and he struggled. While playing in 138 games, he batted just .216 with 47 RBI's and didn't do much better in the field, making 37 errors.
George would spend the 1952 season splitting time between 2nd base and shortstop and he hit just .177 in 76 games before the Bucs unloaded him on the Indians, who were in need of a replacement for the injured Ray Boone. Strickland finished his career in 1960 and was a career .224 hitter, but improved his defense enough to make him a decent player. George turns 77 today.