This Date in Pirates History: August 14

A light day in Pittsburgh Pirates history for transactions and birth dates. We have a first baseman from the early 20th century being released and two first baseman born on this date, including the one that played the position during the first NL game in franchise history. John Fredland recaps and excellent pitching performance against a Pirates team that went on to win the World Series.

The Transaction

On this date in 1911, the Pirates sold first baseman John Flynn to St Paul of the American Association, the minor league team that they had purchased him from twenty months earlier. After winning the 1909 World Series, the Pirates parted ways with first baseman Bill Abstein, who was not well-liked in town by fans or management due to his occasional poor play and lack of baseball smarts(Abstein was often referred to as “bonehead”). They brought in two minor leaguers to compete for the open spot, Flynn and Bud Sharpe. Flynn was a strong bat with a passable glove, while Sharpe was a strong gloveman, who wasn’t much of a hitter. The Pirates ended up settling with Flynn as the starter due to his bat being much better and the fact that his defense wasn’t so far behind Sharpe, that his offensive contributions wouldn’t make up for it. John hit .274 with 52 RBI’s in 96 games during the 1910 season. The next year he was moved to a bench role, starting 13 of the 33 games he played before being sold back to St Paul. Flynn would play just twenty more major league games after the Pirates got rid of him, all as a member of the 1912 Washington Senators.

The Players

Dale Coogan (1930) First baseman for the 1950 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates in 1948 as an amateur free agent. Dale played that first season for Keokuk of the Central Association as a 17 year old, hitting .288 with three homers in 70 games. By the middle of his second season, the Pirates already had Coogan up to AAA, where he hit .265 with four homers in 64 games. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1950, though by July it was acknowledged that he could’ve used another season at AAA before he came up. Shortly before he was sent to the minors, he had a very bad game, making two errors and hitting into two double plays, with no hits. Coogan was a September recall in both 1950 and 1951, but he didn’t play any games after being sent down in July of 1950, leaving him with .240 career major league average in 53 games. It was said during the 1951-52 off-season, that Coogan had a good chance to be the Pirates Opening Day first baseman in 1952, but he spent the next two years in the Army. He was given a chance to win the first base(or bench) job in 1954, though the time off took it’s toll on him and Dale ended up in AA ball, never playing above that level in his last five seasons of pro ball.

Alex McKinnon (1856) First baseman for the 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He made his major league debut at the age of 27 for the 1884 New York Gothams(Giants). Playing first base everyday, he hit .272 with 73 RBI’s and a league leading 116 games played. The Gothams had tried their slugging first baseman Roger Connor, in a utility role in 1884, with minimal success on offense. He moved back to first base in 1885 and McKinnon moved on to the St Louis Maroons of the National League. There, Alex hit .294 his first year, then followed it up in 1886 with a .301 average and 74 RBI’s. McKinnon was traded to Pittsburgh in December of 1886 in exchange for first baseman Otto Schomberg and cash. Alex batted sixth and played first base during the first National League game in franchise history. It looked like the Alleghenys had found themselves a superstar with McKinnon, who was batting .340 through the first 48 games. He unfortunately came down with Typhoid Pneumonia in early July and while it initially looked like he would recover from it, he passed away twenty days after he left the team. A full bio on McKinnon can be read here.

Jolly Roger Rewind: August 14, 1971

Bob Gibson pitched the first-ever no-hitter by a visiting National League pitcher in Pittsburgh, leading the Cardinals to an 11-0 victory over the first-place Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.

In earning his 201st career win and first no-hitter, the thirty-five-year-old right-hander struck out ten Bucco batters and allowed just four baserunners, one coming when Milt May reached first base on a wild pitch after a second-inning strikeout. He benefited from strong defense on the Bucs’ closest bids for hits: center fielder Jose Cruz’s running catch on May’s seventh-inning fly ball and third baseman Joe Torre’s catch and throw of Dave Cash’s eighth-inning bouncer.

Gibson finished his masterpiece by retiring Vic Davalillo and Al Oliver on infield grounders and striking out Willie Stargell—the major league leader in home runs and RBI—looking to end the game and complete the first no-hitter against the Pirates’ franchise in Pittsburgh since Matt Kilroy of the American Association Baltimore Orioles held the Pittsburgh Alleghenys hitless in October 1886.* “This is the best game I’ve pitched—ever,” Gibson said afterwards.

He received all of the offense he would need in a five-run first off Bucco starter Bob Johnson, highlighted by Joe Hague’s three-run homer. The Cardinals went on to batter four Pirates’ pitchers for sixteen hits.

Winning for the third time in three nights in Pittsburgh, second-place St. Louis moved to within four and a half games of the first-place Bucs. The Pirates had held an eleven-game lead in the National League East on the morning of July 30, but had gone 6-15 since that date.**

Box score and play-by-play

Associated Press game story

* The Pirates’ Nicholas Maddox had thrown the only previous no-hitter in a National League game in Pittsburgh, shutting down the Brooklyn Superbas in September 1907.

** The Cardinals completed the four-game sweep the next day, rallying for five two-out runs in the eighth inning to defeat the slumping Buccos 6-4. They would leave Pittsburgh just three and a half games out of first place.

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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