Saturday, April 22, 2017

4/22 Through the 40s: Expo Openers; Crawford/Grays; HBD Jake, Terrible Ted & Mickey; Kiner Slam; Even Dozen; Deals,

  • 1891 - The Pirates played their first game at Exposition Park, located on the North Shore of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh not far removed from where PNC Park sits now. Pittsburgh lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-6. The Pittsburg Press printed a special “Sporting Edition” that included a game story and illustrations. The 16,000 seat yard featured 400-foot foul lines and a 450-foot center field fence and was their home field until 1909 when Forbes Field opened in Oakland.
Expo Park 1903 World Series (photo via Boston Public Library)
  • 1892 - The Pirates set a franchise record when they scored twelve times in the first inning against St. Louis at Expo Park to beat the Browns 14-3. The game provided this footnote: Pittsburgh OF Elmer Smith worked a pair of free passes in that opening frame, the first time a player was walked twice in one inning.
  • 1894 - 2B Jake Pitler was born in New York City. Jake’s major league career was spent in Pittsburgh between 1917-18. He played regularly the first season but got into just two games in the second, hitting .232 in his time as a Pirate. Pitler was raised in Pittsburgh and was a newspaper boy working the Forbes Field area. That piqued his interest in baseball and he played semi-pro, advancing to the minor-leagues. The Pirates were looking for stability at second base so he got his shot when the Bucs picked him up from Chattanooga. He lost out in 1918 when Pittsburgh acquired vet George Grantham to play second and sent Pitler to minor-league Jersey City. He didn’t report and instead returned to his indie league roots. He eventually caught on with the Brooklyn Dodgers after his playing days and served as a long-time minor-league manager and big league coach.
  • 1898 - Cincinnati's Ted Breitenstein tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates, winning easily by an 11-0 count at League Field. He struck out two, walked one, and another runner reached via error. All in all, the Pittsburg Press declared it “...a wonderful feat.”
Sam Leever 1902 (photo via The National Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1902 - The Pirates and their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, marched in a raucous parade from the downtown Monongahela House hotel to Exposition Park that was cheered on by thousands for the Home Opener, the Pittsburg Press wrote on the front page. The Bucs raised their 1901 pennant flag over the ballyard in front of a record 15,000 fans and then overcome an early three run deficit to edge the Reds 4-3. Tommy Leach scored the winning run in the eighth, singling and then advancing from first-to-third on a bunt. He scored on starting (and winning) pitcher Sam Leever’s sac fly.
  • 1903 - Theodore Roosevelt “Terrible Ted” Page was born in Glasgow, Kentucky. The speedy and gritty OF’er played for the Homestead Grays (1931-32) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-34). He grew up in Youngstown and turned down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State to focus on baseball. The lefty Page batted .335 for his career, but injured his knee in 1934, leading eventually to his retirement in 1937. He stayed in Pittsburgh and his sports focus switched. After baseball, Page ran bowling alleys, including Meadow Lanes (he was hired to work there by former teammate Jack Marshall), and wrote a bowling column for the Pittsburgh Courier. He met a tragic end, beaten to death at home during a robbery, and is buried at Allegheny Cemetery.
Terrible Ted 1932 (photo Teenie Harris/Carnegie Art Museum collection)
  • 1913 - Manager Fred Clarke was suspended for five days after a “run in” with umpire Brick Owens, who called strike three on a Red at Forbes Field for the final out of a Bucco win on 4/19, only to change his mind and decide it was a ball, after all. The Pirates had started to trot off the field, allowing a runner to scoot to third while the club was in disarray. It became a moot point when the Bucs held on for a 6-5 win over Cincinnati. Afterward, Clarke admitted that he had used “forceful language” in arguing his case, but given the circumstances, was still upset by the time off. First-place Pittsburgh was already missing injured stars SS Hans Wagner and C George Gibson and would shortly start a slide that dropped them out of contention.
  • 1918 - Mickey Vernon was born in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Vernon spent 1960 as the Bucs' first-base coach and was actually added at age 42 to the active roster in September, going 1-for-8 in nine games. He went on to manage the Washington Senators, returning to Pittsburgh as a coach in 1964. The 1B’s MLB career spanned four decades (1939-60) and after Pittsburgh he coached for the St. Louis Cardinals, LA Dodgers, Montreal Expos and NY Yankees. He managed at the AAA and AA levels of the minor leagues and served as a batting instructor in the Kansas City Royals and Yankees' farm system before retiring from baseball.
  • 1931 - RHP Bob Osborn was sold to the Pirates by the Cubs. The early season move was triggered because pitchers Ervin Brame, Remy Kremer and Steve Swetonic were all out of action at the time with various ailments. The Pirates used Osborn mostly as a short reliever (he started twice) and he ended the season with a slash of 6-1/5.01 with his six wins in relief tops in the NL. In 1932, he was sent to the Cards as part of the Bill Swift deal.
Cool Papa was one of the defections that doomed the Crawfords (2004 Topps Tribute)
  • 1937 - Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Truijillo signed several players from the Crawfords including Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige to his Dragones of Ciudad Trujillo squad. It was the blow that eventually brought down the Pittsburgh team as a powerhouse Negro League club. The Crawfords were sold in 1939 and moved to Toledo.
  • 1941 - Pitcher Mace Brown was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mace had spent seven years as a Pirate, doing everything from starting to closing, but with Brooklyn was converted to one of the first full-time relievers. He was fairly effective over the next three years, then lost 1944-45 to the war while serving in the Navy, and 1946 was his last MLB campaign.
  • 1949 - The Pirates won their home opener‚ beating the Reds 5-4 behind Ralph Kiner's third-inning grand slam. The Bucs had fallen behind 4-0 in the first, but Bill Werle tossed 7-2/3 frames of scoreless relief to claim the win.

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