Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date including one of the better pitchers from the franchise’s early years. John Fredland tackles a doubleheader between the Reds and Pirates from the 1974 season in his Jolly Roger Rewind.
Jesse Tannehill (1874) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1897 until 1902. He made his pro debut for the Reds in 1894, going right from amateur ball in Cincinnati to the majors. After five games for the Reds, he went to the minor leagues, where he was a star pitcher for Richmond of the Virginia League. Jesse won 49 games between the 1895-96 seasons, which drew the attention of the Pirates, who took him in the 1896 Rule V draft. His first year with the team was average, though the Pirates saw potential in the young lefty. In 1898 he became a regular in the rotation and had a great season, going 25-13 2.95 in 326.2 innings. Tannehill was not a one-year wonder though, he would win 44 games against just twenty losses over the next two years. In 1901, Jesse went 18-10 as the Pirates won their first NL pennant. He led the NL in ERA that year at 2.18, just .04 ahead of his teammate, Deacon Phillippe.
The 1902 Pirates had the best record in franchise history and Jesse was part of a five man rotation that went 99-32 on the year and pitched all but 65 of the team’s innings that season. He finished that year with a 20-6 record and a team best, 1.95 ERA. After the season, he jumped to the American League, signing with the New York Highlanders. Tannehill would pitch until 1911 in the majors, finishing with a 197-117 record. For the Pirates, he went 116-58, posting a 2.75 ERA in 1508 innings pitched. He is 13th in team history in ERA, tied for 12th in wins and his win/loss percentage is topped by just two men, neither of whom pitched half as many innings with the Pirates as Jesse did. His brother Lee played ten seasons for the White Sox. For more on Tannehill, check out this article here where we detail the early years of his time with the Pirates
Jose Hernandez (1969) Third baseman for the 2003 Pirates, then returned in 2006 as a utility player. The Pirates acquired the veteran infielder in the widely unpopular Aramis Ramirez trade to the Cubs at the 2003 trading deadline. Hernandez was in his 12th season in the majors, one year removed from his lone All-Star appearance. Jose began the 2003 season with the Rockies, getting traded to the Cubs in June. After the deal to the Pirates, he took over for Ramirez at third base and hit .223 with three homers and 21 RBI’s in 58 games. Pittsburgh released him as the season ended, though he came back to the team in January of 2006 as a free agent. Jose hit .267 in 67 games for Pittsburgh, prior to being sold to the Phillies in August. He played all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots for the Pirates that year. Hernandez resigned with the Pirates again for 2007, spending the entire year at AAA. He finished his career with two seasons in the Mexican League. In 1587 major league games, he hit .252 with 168 homers and 603 RBI’s
Earl Francis (1935) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1960 until 1964. The Pirates signed him in 1954, but after one season in the minors, he spent the next four years serving in the Air Force. Returning to baseball in 1959, he went to Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League and posted a 3.33 ERA in 154 innings. Earl split the 1960 season between starting in AAA and pitching out of the Pirates bullpen. He was with Pittsburgh during the middle of the season, but was optioned to the minors in mid-August when the Pirates signed veteran reliever Clem Labine. Francis did not pitch again for the Pirates that year, as they went on to win the third World Series title in franchise history. In 1961, he began the year at AAA, joining Pittsburgh in early June for the rest of the season. He went 2-8 4.21 in 15 starts and eight relief appearances, pitching a total of 102.2 innings. Earl had the best year of his career in 1962, going 9-8 3.07 with 23 starting assignments and 13 relief outings. He was the Pirates Opening Day starter in 1963, taking the loss after giving up four runs in the first two innings. Francis pitched 12 more times as a starter that year and twenty times out of the bullpen, where he had more success. He spent the 1964 season in the minors, pitching twice with the Pirates as a September call-up. In December, he was part of a four player trade between the Cardinals and Pirates. His last big league experience was two September games for the 1965 Cardinals. Francis played one more season of minor league ball before retiring. With the Pirates, he had a 16-23 3.75 record in 101 games.
Bob Purkey (1929) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1954 until 1957 and then again in 1966. He was a Pittsburgh native that the Pirates signed in 1948 out of South Hills,HS. As an 18 year old, he was sent to the Alabama State League, class-D ball, to play for Greenville. Bob went 19-8 3.01 in 224 innings that rookie year in pro ball. He moved up two levels the next season and did even better, going 17-6 2.94 in 31 games. Purkey again skipped over a level the next year, though he didn’t have quite the success he did his first two seasons, going 12-12 4.78 for New Orleans of the Southern Association. His baseball career was put on hold for two seasons while he served in the military. Returning in 1953, he went back to New Orleans and pitched better despite the layoff. The Pirates kept him in the majors for the entire 1954 season, giving him 11 starts and 25 relief appearances. Purkey went 3-8 5.07 in 131.1 innings, walking 62 with 38 strikeouts. He split the next two years between the minors and majors, making 14 total appearances for the Pirates. Bob was again a full-time major leaguer in 1957 and he pitched often. He made 21 starts and 27 relief appearances, going 11-14 3.86 in 179.2 innings.
On December 9,1957, Pittsburgh traded him to the Reds in exchange for pitcher Don Gross, in a trade that did not work out well. Purkey went on to become a star pitcher for Cincinnati immediately, winning 17 games and making the All-Star team his first year with the team. He won 17 games in 1960, then another 16 in 1961 as he made the AS team again, but his best year was still ahead of him. In 1962, Purkey went 23-5, helping the Reds to the World Series, while finishing third in the Cy Young award voting. He won 103 games for the Reds over seven seasons, prior to moving on to the Cardinals for the 1965 season. After going 10-9 5.79 in St Louis, the Pirates purchased his contract from the Cardinals in 1966 just before Opening Day. Bob made ten relief outings for Pittsburgh, and while he pitched well(1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings), he was barely used after mid-May and was released in early August, ending his baseball career.
Jack Farmer (1892) Utility player for the 1916 Pirates. He is one of just two players from Cumberland University that made it to the majors and it took nearly 100 years for the second player(Luis Martinez,2011 Padres) to make it to the big leagues. Farmer played three years in the minors before making his major league debut with the 1916 Pirates in early July. That year he was hitting .253 over 48 games for Louisville of the American Association, prior to joining Pittsburgh. Jack played 55 of the team’s last 80 games, seeing starts at second base, both corner outfield spots and shortstop. He hit .271 with 14 RBI’s and ten runs scored and while the average was decent, his fielding wasn’t that good at any position and he drew just seven walks, without showing any power or speed. Farmer returned to the minors in 1917, briefly reappearing in the majors with the 1918 Cleveland Indians for seven games, before finishing out his career as a player in 1920 with Nashville of the Southern Association.
Joe Conzelman (1889) Pitcher for the 1913-15 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of Brown University in the Summer of 1912, though he didn’t make his pro debut until May of the following season. He made it known when he started playing pro baseball that he was only going to play a few years before moving on to “his real life work”. The Pirates thought he could be a good pitcher someday and worked with him as he continued post-graduate studies in the off-season after his rookie campaign. Joe had an impressive first full season in the majors in 1914, going 5-6 2.94 in 101 innings, making nine starts and 24 relief appearances. After the season he moved to the Pittsburgh area and took up a job as a civil engineer. Conzelman returned to the Pirates in 1915 and was used out of the bullpen for most of the season. He went 1-1 3.42 in 18 games(one start), pitching a total of 47.1 innings. The Pirates sold him to Indianapolis of the American Association in August, and after going 4-4 2.04 over the final games of the season, he retired from baseball to pursue his career.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 14, 1974
Attempting to avert a parade of horribles—a doubleheader loss, five-game series sweep at Three Rivers Stadium, and descent into the National League East cellar—the Pirates engaged the Reds in an intense bench-clearing brawl in the second game of a Sunday twinbill. The fight and resulting 2-1 victory over their sparring partners suggested a turning point for a heretofore moribund Bucco campaign.
The Reds had rolled into Pittsburgh two days earlier and swept the Bucs in a Friday-night doubleheader. A Saturday afternoon rout of Jerry Reuss followed. In the first game of Sunday’s series-capping doubleheader, a three-run first inning home run by Johnny Bench was all the scoring Cincinnati needed for a 3-2 victory. The Buccos were now twelve games under .500 and in sole possession of last place in the division.
Deliverance arrived in an unexpected package, with the teams tied 1-1 in the fourth inning of the nightcap. Earlier in the game, Pirate starter Bruce Kison had received a warning for throwing a close pitch to Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion; he had also thrown alleged brushbacks to Bench and Tony Perez. Bucs catcher Chuck Brinkman singled with one out in the fourth, bringing up Kison. When Kison squared to bunt, Reds starter Jack Billingham hit him on the arm with a pitch. The Pirate bench emptied on to the field; the Reds bench followed.
The confrontation initially appeared headed nowhere, but Reds manager Sparky Anderson stepped—likely by accident*—on the foot of Bucco outfielder Ed Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick responded by pushing Anderson. Cincinnati outfielder Andy Kosco threw a retaliatory punch at Kirkpatrick, and the situation rapidly escalated into what Rich Emert of the Beaver County Times called “a donnybrook the likes the people of Pittsburgh won’t see again for a long time.”**
When order finally emerged from the chaos, observers and participants reported an unusually extensive battle damage assessment.*** Reds pitcher Pedro Borbon had bitten Bucco hurler Daryl Patterson in the back, necessitating a tetanus shot from Bucs trainer Tony Bartirome; Pirate infielder Mario Mendoza had drawn Cincinnati’s ire for allegedly punching Bill Plummer from behind; and first-game Pirate starter Ken Brett had sustained a black eye and wound up with six Reds holding him down. Emert noted that Richie Hebner received a standing ovation from the home crowd for tackling “at least four” Reds. Home plate umpire Ed Sudol—who described the players as acting “like animals”—ejected Kosco, Anderson and Kirkpatrick.
Coming out of the cease-fire with runners on first and second and one out, the Pirates took a 2-1 lead one out later when Hebner’s single to right scored Brinkman. Kison regained his composure and pitched two more scoreless innings before succumbing to a blister and Ken Griffey’s single to lead off the seventh. Danny Murtaugh then called for Dave Giusti to protect the advantage, and Giusti retired all nine Reds whom he faced to record the save.
The Bucs’ comments after the game seemed to demonstrate a renewed sense of purpose. “It’s funny, but sometimes a team needs something like this to get it going, to get the adrenalin moving,” Kison told the Beaver County Times. “There is a good possibility that this might bring us together.”****
Game One box score and play-by-play
Game Two box score and play-by-play
Beaver County Times game story
* In postgame interviews, Anderson insisted that he had stepped on Kirkpatrick’s foot accidentially; Kirkpatrick indicated that he did not “think that [Anderson stepped on him] on purpose but [he] wasn’t too thrilled about [Anderson’s] foot being on his big toe.”
** Alluding to WIIC-TV’s popular “Studio Wrestling” show—which had gone off the air just two years earlier—Emert noted that “[a]ll that was needed was for the organist at Three Rivers Stadium to start playing the Gilette Theme and to have Bill Cardille describe the action.”
*** Bob Smizik of The Pittsburgh Press deemed the brawl “a melee that must be considered among the best in recent baseball history.”
**** Kison’s observations—and Manny Sanguillen’s statement that “I think we are fed up with hearing about everybody else. Now maybe we can make everybody else hear about us”—proved prescient. The victory over the Reds started an eight-game winning streak, triggering a 51-25 run that gave the Pirates the NL East title.