Tuesday, April 17, 2018

4/17 Through the 40s: Pitching Duels; Opening Days; HBD Bob

  • 1902 - Tommy Leach scored the game’s only run in the third inning as Deacon Phillippe won a 1-0 duel against the Cards Stan Yerkes on Opening Day at Robison Field in front of 6,000 fans. Leach singled, went to third after a Reds boot and scored when Cincy tried a tag ‘em out, throw ‘em out DP that was frustrated by the heady baserunning of Jack O’Connor, whose stop-and-go dance between bases eluded the tag. The Bucs were 103-36 that year and took the NL pennant, but there wasn’t a World Series until the following season because of animosity between the leagues. 
Tommy Leach 1911 (photo George Bain/Library of Congress)
  • 1903 - RHP Bob (His first name was John, but he was called by a simplification of his middle name of Bode) Osborn was born in San Diego, Texas. Osborn was sold by the Cubs to the Pirates after a hot start in late April of 1931 as the Bucs were short on the mound with pitchers Ervin Brame, Remy Kremer and Steve Swetonic out of action. Osborn was a swingman, but the Bucs used him mainly as a short reliever. He appeared in 27 games (64-⅔ IP) during the season, starting twice, with a record of 6-1/5.01. During the off season, Osborn was part of the Bill Swift deal and never made it back to the majors again. 
  • 1908 - Sam Leever tossed a three-hit, 3-0, shutout over the Cardinals at Robison Field to lead the Bucs to a series sweep. More importantly in the long run, though, was the signing of Honus Wagner, who had retired in March as a contract ploy. Barney Dreyfuss made him the highest paid player in baseball with a $10K deal, and The Flying Dutchman proved worth every penny. Bill James cited Wagner's 1908 campaign as the greatest single season ever for any player. Wagner hit .354 with 109 RBI in an era when half as many runs were scored as today. James wondered in his 2001 book Historical Baseball Abstract "if you had a Gold Glove shortstop like Wagner, who drove in 218 runs (109 x 2), what would he be worth?” 
  • 1920 - The Bucs Elmer Ponder and the Cards Jesse Haines carried a scoreless ballgame into the 13th inning at St. Louis’ Robison Park. The Pirates finally broke the ice with three runs in the lucky 13th, driven in by Max Carey and Billy Southworth, and Ponder finished up with an eight-hit goose egg. It was his first full big league season; Ponder was an airman in WW1, became an aerial ace, was wounded and received the French Croix de la Valeur Militaire (Cross of Military Valor). He’s thought to be the first ballplayer to win a medal in the war. 
Charlie Grimm 1923 (photo George Bain/Library of Congress)
  • 1923 - The Cubs opened newly remodeled Wrigley Field in front of 33,000 faithful but the Bucs took the match 3-2 on Charlie Grimm’s three-run, bases-loaded double in the fourth. The Pirates only had three hits, but Johnny Morrison made them stand up, working a complete game and giving up just a pair of unearned runs. 
  • 1939 - The Pirates trailed 5-2 on Opening Day before scoring four times in the eighth inning and eventually taking a 7-5 decision from the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field. Gus Suhr led the way offensively for the Pirates by collecting three RBI while Cy Blanton started and hung around long enough to earn the win with the save by Mace Brown. Suhr and Pep Young each collected three hits to lead the lineup. 
  • 1945 - The Bucs came out on the short end of the stick, losing 7-6 in 11 innings on Opening Day to the Reds in a game filled with improbabilities. With the Bucs up 2-0 in the fifth and two runners aboard‚ baserunner Frankie Zak called time to tie his shoe, and got it from the ump. But Reds pitcher Bucky Walters had his back to the play and delivered a pitch to Jim Russell. He knocked out of the park, but it didn’t count. (He followed with an RBI knock and later scored, so no harm done). Next, Cincy’s Dain Clay drilled a grand slam that was his only HR of the year in 700 plate appearances. Finally, the win went to forty-six-year old Hod Lisenbee‚ who had been out of the majors for the past nine years, after working two innings of hitless relief to earn the last W of his career. Pittsburgh manager Frankie Frisch presented Zak with a pair of spikes that buckled rather than laced up the next day. 
Shoeless Frankie Zak (photo via Find-A-Grave)
  • 1947 - Hank Greenberg connected on his first Pirate homer as the Bucs whupped the Cubs 7-1. Pirate starter Preacher Roe was on cruise control and didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning. Chicago starter Hank Wyse was victimized by back-to-back boots by SS Lennie Merullo in the seventh inning, allowing the Pirates to plate six unearned runs; the Bucs only had seven hits.
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