Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus we have one trade of note. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look at a very long game that was played 98 years ago, with two great pitching performances.
On this date in 1998 the Pirates traded pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Todd Van Poppel and second baseman Warren Morris. Van Poppel was once considered a future ace before he pitched a pro game. He was a high school star that the Oakland A’s took in the first round of the 1990 draft, and at the age of 19 he made his major league debut. He never panned out though as by age 26, at the time of this deal, he was with his third team already. For the Rangers, Todd had made four starts and was 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA. Morris was in his second year of pro ball, hitting .331 with 14 homers and 73 RBI’s in 95 games at AA. Loaiza was also a 26 year old pitcher, though he had more success at the majors than Van Poppel. Esteban had a 27-28 4.63 record in 96 games, 87 as a starter, for the Pirates. He was 6-5 4.52 at the time of the deal.
After the trade, Morris finished the season in AA, hitting for the exact same average for the Pirates affiliate(.331) as he had when he came over. In 1999 he finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .288 with 15 homers and 73 RBI’s. His numbers dropped off during his sophomore year, then fell even worse in 2001, as he was sent to AAA for half the season. The Pirates released him during Spring Training the next season. Van Poppel went 1-2 5.36 in seven starts and 11 relief appearances for the 1998 Pirates. They resigned him for 1999, though he spent the entire year in AAA. He pitched in the majors until 2004 and for a short time, he found success as a reliever with the 2000-01 Cubs. Loaiza ended up pitching in the majors until 2008, winning another 99 games, including 21 for the 2003 White Sox, when he finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. He was a two-time All-Star, making the game in 2003 and 2004. For the Rangers, he went 17-17 5.19 before they traded him to the Blue Jays in July of 2000.
Brian Rogers (1982) Pitcher for the 2006-2007 Pirates. He was originally an 11th round draft pick in 2003 of the Detroit Tigers. Brian came to the Pirates at the 2006 trading deadline, in exchange for Sean Casey. At the time of the deal, he was pitching in relief at AA, where he had a 2.39 ERA over 37 appearances, covering 64 innings. Brian pitched just twice in AA for the Pirates before joining the major league roster. He made his debut on September 1st, pitching a scoreless inning. He would pitch ten times for Pittsburgh, posting an 8.31 ERA in 8.2 innings with seven strikeouts. Rogers began the next season in AAA, getting called up in mid-May. He made three appearances for the Pirates, facing nine batters over two innings of work, allowing three runs to score. He was returned to AAA, where he finished the season. The Pirates dropped him from the 40 man roster, then resigned him after the season. He split his 2008 season between AA and AAA, before being released in June. He went on to pitch in the minors for the Tigers and Mets that year before retiring from baseball.
Jerry Lynch (1930) Outfielder for the Pirates from 1954 till 1956, then again from 1963 until 1966. He played one season of minor league ball before spending two years away from the game serving in the military. When Jerry returned in 1953, he was a member of the Yankees organization, spending the year playing for Norfolk of the Piedmont League. The Pirates picked him up in the 1953 Rule V draft and as a rookie in 1954, he played 98 games, splitting his time between the corner outfield spots. Lynch had a similar role the next season, as he saw his batting average jump from .239 to .284 in the same amount(308) of plate appearances as the prior season. He would end up playing just 19 games in 1956, all but one as a pinch hitter as he missed most of the season with phlebitis. Just as the Pirates acquired Lynch in the Rule V draft, in December of 1956, they lost him the same way to the Cincinnati Reds. On May 23,1963, the Pirates traded outfielder Bob Skinner to the Reds to reacquire Lynch. He had played 640 games with the Reds, hitting .289 with 70 homers and 282 RBI’s. The left-handed hitting Lynch, saw limited time over his last four seasons with the Pirates, getting 161 starts, with all but three of them coming as a left fielder. He finished his time with the Pirates as a .263 hitter in 544 games, hitting 45 homers with 188 RBI’s and 144 runs scored.
Chummy Gray (1873) Pitcher for the 1899 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1893, with his only major league experience coming six years later during a September trial with the 1899 Pirates. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, Gray had pitched the previous four seasons for the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League, winning a combined 47 games during the 1897-98 seasons. His first major league appearance was on September 14th, pitching in relief of Sam Leever, who had loaded the bases. Gray allowed all three runs to score, walking one batter and throwing a wild pitch to score the other two. He finished the game off with four scoreless innings but the Pirates still lost by two runs. Chummy(real name was George) started four days later and won his first game 7-5 over the Boston Beaneaters. He then started six of the next 18 games, with the Pirates winning three of his starts. After the season, he returned to the minors, where he pitched for another seven seasons before retiring. The circumstances that led to Gray’s signing and use by the Pirates would be considered odd under today’s standards. The Pirates had a pitcher named Tully Sparks, who was only signed through September 15th, at that date he was free to leave for home to attend to his cotton business. Chummy was purchased for $1,000from Buffalo and took Spark’s spot in the rotation.
Jim Handiboe (1866) Pitcher for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. His pro baseball career began as a major leaguer at the age of 19 with the 1886 Alleghenys and 15 years later it ended without him playing for another major league team. Pittsburgh had two strong pitchers for 1886, Pud Galvin and Ed Morris, back during an era when teams rarely used more than that, especially when the guys were as good as they were. Galvin and Morris started 113 of the team’s 140 games that year, while Handiboe finished third on the team with 14 starts. He started his first game on May 28th, a 4-1 loss to Matt Kilroy, who is the holder of the all-time single season strikeout record. Jim’s next start was 11 days later, another loss. It was then another ten day stretch without an appearance before he started three games in a row. Ed Morris was out for a short time and Galvin had started all three of the previous games. Handiboe went 2-1 in those games, throwing a 3-0 shutout in the last game. After a start by Galvin, Jim went for the fourth time in a five game stretch and got hit hard, losing 19-5 to the Louisville Colonels. From then on, he started eight games over the final three months of the year, with his last major league game coming on September 8th, a 6-2 loss to the St Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader. Pittsburgh went with Galvin or Morris in 24 of the last 26 games, with new rookie pitcher Bill Bishop getting the other two starts. Handiboe finished 7-7 3.32, completing 12 of his 14 starts.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 17, 1914
Larry Doyle’s two-run, inside-the-park home run off Babe Adams in the top of the twenty-first inning gave the New York Giants a 3-1 victory over the Pirates at Forbes Field.
After Adams—who had held the visitors scoreless since the third inning—started the twenty-first by retiring the first two New York batters, Giants’ center fielder Bob Bescher singled and stole second. Doyle then drove the ball past rookie Bucco center fielder Joe Kelly and circled the bases for the go-ahead home run. Pitching with the lead for the first time in the contest, New York starter Rube Marquard retired the Bucs in the bottom of the inning to close out what was to that point the longest game in National League history.*
While Marquard wound up with the win and Adams the loss, both starting pitchers could claim nearly equal partnership in one of the greatest pitching duels in major league history. Marquard, two years removed from a record-setting nineteen consecutive victories, allowed a first inning run on Honus Wagner’s RBI triple, and then shut out the Pirates for twenty innings in a row. He allowed fifteen hits and two walks, while striking out two Bucs.
Adams, five years removed from pitching three complete games as a rookie in the 1909 World Series, more than held up his end of the duel. He issued no walks over twenty-one innings of pitching, struck out six Giants, and surrendered twelve hits. “Never did a twirler have more perfect control than the Missouri boy claimed yesterday,” asserted The Pittsburg Press. “He seemed able to put the ball wherever he wished and the Giants had great difficulty in locating it.”
Vexing moments in baserunning cost the Pirates opportunities to break the tie in the sixth and tenth innings. In the sixth, Wagner singled with one out and headed to third on rookie Jim Viox’s single to center. Buscher attempted to gun down Wagner at third, but the ball disappeared from view. When the Bucco shortshop jumped up and dashed for home, the ball fell out of his uniform and he crossed the plate with the apparent go-ahead run. Unfortunately for the Bucs, home plate umpire William “Lord” Byron took away the tally by calling Wagner out for interference; the call stood despite the vociferous protests of Pirate players and manager Fred Clarke, who wound up getting ejected by Byron.**
Four innings later, pinch-runner Max Carey reached third with two outs. Bucco third baseman Mike Mowrey—who played an excellent defensive game—grounded to Giants’ third baseman Milt Stock. Strock bobbled the ball, but Mowrey, as the Press observed, “evidently took it for granted that the play would be made perfectly, and did not hustle on his way to first, with the result that he was thrown out when he might have reached first safely and permitted Carey to cross the plate with the winning run.”***
Still, the Press ultimately took a cheerful perspective on the marathon: “with all the slips and errors of commission and omission duly considered, it was a wonderful exhibition of the national game—one which was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd.”
The Pittsburg Press game story
* Six years later, the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves set the major league record by taking twenty-six innings to play to a 1-1 stalemate.
** Reported the Press, “[t]he decision caused a mighty howl, which was participated in by many of the players and by Manager Fred Clarke, who applied a flow of profanity to the umpire, which was anything but pleasing to the disgusted spectators who were forced to listen to it or leave the grounds.”
*** “Fans recall Miller Huggins’ statement of last winter, when the big St. Louis-Pittsburgh trade [the eight-player swap of December 12, 1913] was made,” alleged the Press. “In which he said that Mowrey’s one great fault was his failure to run out hits.”