Tuesday, July 4, 2017

7/4 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: HBD Chuck & Jim, Satchel's No-No, Expo Flood, Brain Deal, Twin Bills...

  • 1902 - The Pittsburgh Press headline read “River Invades The Park.” During a doubleheader against Brooklyn, “...the Allegheny, which does not seem to know enough to keep its place, sneaked up…” gushed through a drain pipe and resulted in knee-deep water flooding Exposition Park’s outfield. A special ground rule was created for the day: all outfield hits into the water were singles. Players occasionally caught a ball and dove into the water to splash around, providing “a source of pleasure to the crowd,” with over 20,000 pleased fans in attendance. The Pirates swept the Superbas as Jesse Tannehill tossed a 3-0 two-hitter in the opener and Tommy Leach collected two of his three hits on the day. Jack Chesbro spun a four-hit, 4-0 win in the nitecap with Lefty Davis banging out three raps to extend the team’s winning streak to eight games.
Expo Park flooded regularly; this is a 1907 post card of another damp day, the infamous "Pumpkin Flood."
  • 1905 - The Pirates traded shortstop George McBride to the St Louis Cardinals for IF Dave Brain. Brain lasted in Pittsburgh until the end of the season (he hit .257 in 85 games), when he was packaged in the trade to get Vic Willis, who became a Bucco mainstay on the hill. McBride played for 14 more seasons in the majors. A good glove guy, he never batted higher than .235 during that time, with a lifetime .218 BA.
  • 1906 - The Cubs took two from the Pirates by 1-0 scores at Exposition Park. In the opener, Three Finger Mordecai Brown beat Lefty Leifield with both pitchers firing one-hitters. It was the second double one-hitter in history‚ the first occurring on August 20th‚ 1886. Leifield banged the only Buc hit off Brown while holding Chicago hitless until Jimmy Slagle's single in the ninth inning. The Cub came around on a sacrifice‚ error‚ and ground out. In the second game‚ Carl Lundgren won a duel against Vic Willis. The Pirates had only been shut out twice all season before the twinbill.
  • 1927 - The Pirates swept the World Champion Cardinals‚ 7-2 and 6-4, in a Forbes Field doubleheader. Lee Meadows took the opener behind Johnny Gooch’s bases loaded triple. The Cards rallied to tie the second game in the top of the eighth, but Clyde Barnhart answered with a two-run double in the bottom half for the win. Carmen Hill went the distance for the W.
  • 1928 - Pirate skipper Chuck Tanner was born in New Castle. He managed the Pirates for nine years (1977–1985, 711-685 record) and won the World Series in 1979. He was also skipper of the White Sox, Athletics and Braves. Tanner was traded for Manny Sanguillen to the Pirates in 1977 by Oakland, only the second manager-for-player trade in history. He returned to the Pirates in 2007 as a special assistant to GM Neal Huntington, a spot he held until he passed away in 2011 at age 82. The Rotary Club of Pittsburgh hands out two awards in his name, the annual Chuck Tanner Major & Minor Baseball Managers of the Year, and the Pirates created the Chuck Tanner We Are Family Fund. Ever the baseball optimist, Tanner gave his view of the game, “The greatest feeling in the world is to win a major-league game. The second greatest feeling is to lose a major-league game.”
Chuck Tanner (photo via The Hardball Times)
  • 1934 - Satchel Paige of the Pittsburgh Crawfords tossed a no-hitter against the Homestead Grays at Greenlee Field on Bedford Avenue with the only runners reaching via an error and a walk. He struck out 17, establishing the all-time Negro League record and matching what was then the MLB whiff record for a single game. Josh Gibson was his catcher, the only documented time in Negro league history in which no-hitter battery mates were both members of the Hall of Fame, something which has never happened in the majors.
  • 1947 - RHP Jim Nelson was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Jim had brief career but his fingerprints are all over the Bucco history books. Per Wikipedia: Nelson was a 31st round pick in the 1965 draft and made a dazzling debut in 1970. He relieved against the San Francisco Giants, struck out Willie Mays, and then got Willie McCovey to GIDP. Jim spun three perfect innings with four strikeouts and a slapped a single (he was a good hitter, batting .269). Nelson started his career with a 4-0 record (and the team won his first seven starts), a feat not equaled by a Pirates starting pitcher until Zach Duke in 2005. Nelson also was the last Pittsburgh hurler to win his first three career starts until Gerrit Cole matched the feat in 2013. More trivia: Nelson also was the starting and winning pitcher in the final game played at Forbes Field on June 28th, 1970, a 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. But the next season saw him develop serious control issues and he was shipped to the minors in mid-July. Jim refused to report (he was 2-2/2.34 with the team, but had made only 17 appearances) and it cost him as his teammates voted him a half-share of their 1971 World Series money but the FO stiffed him when handing out World Series rings. It was a sort of messy way to end a relationship, especially as he later had rotator cuff surgery and never got back to the majors. His lifetime line was 6-4/3.01 as a Buc from 1970-71. Nelson became a salesman after baseball, and used to hand out $5 bills to the homeless in his Sacramento community as Christmas gifts until he passed away at the age of 57.

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