Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7/19 Expo Park Era: HBD Bill, Jim, Jasper, Clint & Earl; Honus Debut; Game Stories

  • 1865 - RHP Bill Hart was born in Louisville. He played for Pittsburgh in 1895 and again in 1898, going 19-26/4.77. He also played some OF during his eight-year career, but was strictly a hurler for the Bucs. Bill hit .237, marking him as journeyman both on the rubber and at the dish. Hart was twice traded by the Pirates and landed a pair of very good players, IF Bones Ely in 1896 and then OF Ginger Beaumont after the ‘98 campaign, making him the tap root of a solid trade tree. 
  • 1865 - 3B Jim Donnelly was born in New Haven, Connecticut. The son of immigrants, Jim played pro ball at some level from the time he was 18 in 1884 until 1902 when he was 36. He spent parts of 11 seasons in the show, split into two eras: 1884-91, when he was a regular for a while, and then after a run in the minors, he returned as purely a bench guy from 1896-98. Jim spent part of that second stay with the Pirates in 1897, hitting just .193 before being shipped to the NY Giants in mid-season. He arrived in town with Steve Brodie from Baltimore as the O’s return for the Jake Stenzel trade. Neither Donnelly and Brodie made it to 1898 with the Bucs while Stenzel played on for three more seasons, batting .309 over that span. 
  • 1873 - OF/1B Harry “Jasper” Davis was born in Philadelphia. Jasper played early in his 22 year MLB stint for the Bucs, from 1896-98, and hit .278. His long career, mainly with his hometown Philadelphia A’s, had one break - in 1900, he quit baseball after five years to take a RR job. Obviously the call of the rails failed to lure him; he returned to baseball a year later and played for 17 more years. Fun fact: Jasper had a four year string of leading MLB in long balls from 1904-07, yet hit just 75 homers between 1895-1917. He never had more than 12 in a single season, and in fact finished with double-figure dingers only twice. His nickname dates back to his Girard College days, given to him by his schoolmates for reasons unknown. 
  • 1887 - Honus Wagner made his NL debut with the Louisville Colonels, owned by Barney Dreyfuss. He got a hit and stole a base in a 12-2 win over the Brooklyn Grays. In 1900, Dreyfuss bought the Pittsburgh franchise and maneuvered most of the Louisville club onto the roster, including the Flying Dutchman. 
Honus Wagner 1898 Ultimate
  • 1889 - RHP Francis Clinton “Clint” Rogge was born in Memphis, Michigan. The long-time minor league twirler (he beat the bushes from 1909-23) got his first big league (albeit in the Federal League) taste during the 1915 campaign when he was part of the Pittsburgh Rebels’ rotation. He held up fairly well against FL batters, slashing 17-11/2.55 with 31 starts and 254-1/3 IP. After that year, he started a long run with the Indianapolis Indians of the now minor-league American Association, getting one brief return to the show in 1921 with the Reds. 
  • 1891 - LHP Earl Hamilton was born in Gibson, Illinois. The little southpaw spent six of his 14 big league seasons (1918-23) as a Pirate, putting up a line of 55-55/3.35. He won 115 MLB games overall, tossing for four clubs. Earl had a couple moments in the sun - he spun a no-hitter for the St. Louis Browns in 1912 and went 16 scoreless frames for the Bucs in a 1920 start only to run out of gas and lose in the 17th. 
  • 1893 - From Charlton’s Baseball Chronology: “Pittsburgh used 19 hits –all singles– to win in Cleveland 10-6. Pittsburgh was further aided by the defense of LF Elmer Smith, whose use of green glasses to fend off the sun greatly helped him in his fielding.” It was a noteworthy win in that the game may be the first time that an outfielder donned shades. 
Elmer "Mike" Smith (photo via Uniondale Cemetery)
  • 1904 - The Pirates rallied for a pair of runs in the ninth off Giants ace Christy Mathewson to take a 2-1 victory at the Polo Grounds. Shut out on five hits going into the final frame, Honus Wagner tripled to left, and an out later Jimmy Sebring banged out another three-bagger, rapping a shot off the first base bag that rolled into the corner. Pinch hitter Claude Ritchey followed with a RBI knock, and Mike Lynch made it stand up in the bottom half, tossing a complete game four hitter against NY. After the game, manager John “Mugsy” McGraw and Mathewson got into a jawing match with the crowd, a verbal (and profane) sparring session that lasted until they got back to their hotel. The Pittsburg Press had a couple of juicy lines regarding the affair: “McGraw is not liked here...Some day he will carry things too far, and some husky Pittsburger will thump him” and then threw some shade at Christy: “ Matty... has to buy a cap a size larger after every victory…” 
  • 1905 - Pittsburgh pulled to within five games of New York by overcoming a 5-2 deficit at the Polo Grounds to rally past the Giants, 8-5. It was Pittsburgh’s third straight win against the defending champions. Umpire Bill Klem was the target of a barrage of tossed garbage from the New York fans after ejecting Dan McGann and “Turkey Mike” Donlin from the game. They yapped their way into Klem’s bad graces as the Pittsburg Press game story explained: “Umpire baiting was plentiful, with Taylor (the pitcher), McGann and Donlin the chief offenders of this style of play.” Sam Leever got the win, coming in as a second-inning reliever, while the offense was led by Otis Clymer’s three hits. The Bucs pounded out 15 knocks; five Pirates had multi-hit outings.

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