Thursday, February 14, 2019

2/14 Through the 1890’s: 1st Pgh Deal; NCBBL Formed; HBD Morgan, Harry, Admiral, Jack & Earl

  • 1867 - C Morgan Murphy was born in East Providence, Rhode Island. Murphy lasted for 11 seasons in the show, mostly as a reserve catcher. He spent five games of that career with Pittsburgh, going 2-for-16 after a trade with the Browns and was released after a month with Philadelphia claiming him. Murphy was best known a sign-stealer supreme, and was busted with the Phils in 1900 for running a telegraph wire underground from the third base box to the outfield wall, where he sat with binoculars to watch the catcher. He would then buzz a simple code to the coach who would feel the vibes through his feet. Tricky, but not tricky enough; it was found out during a game when an opponent tripped over a bit of the wire while rounding third. Prior to that, Murphy would sit behind an ad sign and reposition one of its letters to tip the batter. 
  • 1873 - P Harry Jordan was born in Titusville (or maybe Pittsburgh; there’s some disagreement among biographers). Pirates manager Connie Mack pulled him out of the New England League to help his short handed staff finish the 1894 season and then from the Iron and Oil League the following year, again to plug a pitching gap as the campaign neared the tape. Harry went 1-2/4.15 in his three career MLB starts, not a bad slash for a semi-pro hurler. 
Admiral Berry 2010 Tri-Star Obak
  • 1880 - C Claude “Admiral” Berry was born in Losantville, Indiana. He had a fairly undistinguished MLB career from 1904-07, playing three years and getting into 21 games. But when the Federal League started in 1914, the 35-year-old was apparently well rested - he signed on with the Pittsburgh Rebels and caught 221 games in the league’s two seasons, batting just .219 but throwing out 214-of-445 would-be base stealers, a 48% CS rate. In 1904, while playing for the Chicago White Sox, Claude became the first major league catcher to wear a protective cup. He also caught Frank Allen’s no-hitter against St. Louis in 1915. The Admiral closed out his career with a couple of years of AA ball. His family said that Berry got his nickname because he was a flashy dresser, with his outfits sporting enough bling to compete with an admiral’s dress uniform. 
  • 1884 - Utilityman Jack Lewis was born in Pittsburgh’s South Side. He had an 18 game audition with the Red Sox in 1911, then got back in the groove with the Filipinos/Rebels of the Federal League, playing five positions and batting .245 from 1913-15, earning a spot on the Fed All-Star team in 1913 when it was still an indie league. Jack did play a lot of ball in his day; his career in the bushes began in 1901 and he didn’t quit playing until after the 1921 season. He didn’t retire voluntarily, either - he hung ‘em up after being banged up in a car accident. 
  • 1884 - In the first transaction in franchise history, the Alleghenys sold RHP Bob Barr to the Washington Nationals for $100 after he slashed 6-18/4.38 in his rookie campaign. Bob would pitch four more scattered seasons and win 43 more games, notching 28 of those victories for Rochester in 1890, its only season in the American Association (they were a replacement team during the Player’s League year of existence and were relegated back to minor league status when the PL folded). The genie quickly escaped - Barr got four more starts the next year for the NY Giants to end his big league career. 
  • 1887 - Per Wikipedia, the National Colored Base Ball League, the first attempt at a professional Negro League, was organized at a meeting in Baltimore. Eight clubs were represented, including the original Pittsburgh Keystones. The league quickly folded (the Keystones finished 3-4), but set a foundation that would eventually allow the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays to enter the baseball scene. The Keystones went semi-pro, then were revived professionally from 1921-22 to play in the Negro National League. Their home field was Central Park (also known as Keystone Park or Chauncey Street Park), located in the Hill at the corner of Chauncey Street and Humber Way. The park was built by black architect Louis Bellinger, who would later design Greenlee Field for the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Earl Smith (image 1925 Pittsburgh Press)
  • 1897 - C Earl Smith was born in Sheridan, Arizona. Smith spent five of his 12 big league years in Pittsburgh from 1924-28, hitting .315 over that span. He was a member of the 1925 World Series-winning club (he hit .350 v Washington) and the 1927 Series team that lost to the Yankees. Smith was suspended for a spell in 1925 for brawling with a fan in Boston; not only did he lose time to the league, but he was laid up briefly after the fact when a second fan clunked him with a chair!

No comments: