Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two that were born on the same exact day and one of them played just one major league game. Also included on this list are two players that were traded for each other. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look at a big home run day from Ralph Kiner during a run-filled game played in Brooklyn.
Windy McCall (1925) Lefty reliever for the 1950 Pirates. He originally signed with the Dodgers in 1943, but joined the war effort before playing game, coming back in 1946 as a free agent. Windy(first name is John) signed with the Red Sox and made his major league debut at the beginning of the 1948 season. He made one start for Boston, lasting 1.1 IP, allowing three runs before being pulled and sent back to the minors. In 1949, he was with the Red Sox at the beginning of the year, pitching five times before being demoted to the minors. He pitched a scoreless inning his first outing, then gave up multiple runs in each of his next four relief appearances. Shortly after the 1949 season ended, the Pirates purchased his contract from Boston. A Spring Training injury limited his use with the Pirates and after two outings( seven runs in 6.2 IP), he was sent to the minors. McCall was Pirates property through the beginning of 1952 when he was sold back to Boston. After two more years in the minors, Windy was able to turn his career around with the New York Giants, having a productive three year run(1954-56) as a reliever. After a few games in 1957, he was sent to the minors, where he finished his career two seasons later. He got his nickname because it was said he talked to much.
Al Lyons (1918) Pitcher for the 1947 Pirates. Although he was a great two-way player in the minors, Lyons spent most of his major league time as a pitcher, occasionally playing outfield. During a 14 year minor league career, Lyons hit .269 with 159 homers in 1559 games. He also pitched 147 minor league games, going 47-33 with a career ERA right around 3.55(he has a small number of games with stats unknown). Al made his major league debut with the 1944 Yankees, posting a 4.54 ERA in 11 relief appearances and he hit .346 in 26 AB’s. He pitched two games for New York again in 1946 and another six relief outings the following season before being purchased by the Pirates in early August. Lyons pitched 3.1 scoreless innings in his Pirates debut, then picked up a win with four scoreless innings just two days later. Al made another 11 appearances for Pittsburgh over the course of the season, all of them coming during losses. The Pirates traded Lyons to the Boston Braves on November 18.1947 in a deal that brought back Danny Murtaugh and Johnny Hopp(see below). He lasted just seven games with Boston before being sent to the minors, finishing his pro career eight years later without a return trip to the big leagues.
Johnny Hopp (1916) Outfielder for the 1948-50 Pirates. He had a 14 year career in the majors that saw him play 1393 games, make one All-Star team and pick up MVP votes in four different seasons. Hopp had nine seasons in at the big league level when the Pirates acquired him in the Lyons/Murtaugh deal mentioned above(see link for details). He batted .288 with 74 runs scored in 134 games during his last season with Boston, spending most of his time in center field. For the Pirates, he played outfield and saw some time at first base, hitting .278 his first year, with 64 runs scored in 120 games. He began the 1949 season with the Pirates, getting traded to the Dodgers for outfielder Marv Rackley in May. When Rackley reported to the Pirates he had a sore arm, which didn’t get better and weeks later the trade was voided, sending Hopp back to Pittsburgh. After being returned, Johnny hit the ball well, batting .335 over 85 games, with 50 runs scored. He hit even better in 1950, batting .340 through 106 games played, when the Pirates decided to sell him to the Yankees in early September. Hopp ended up winning a World Series title with the Yankees that year and the next, adding to the two he won in 1942 and 1944 with the Cardinals. He was a .296 career hitter with 698 runs scored and five seasons of batting .300 or better. For the Pirates in 1948, he played 80 errorless games in the outfield. Hopp hit .310 in his 331 games for Pittsburgh.
Wilbur Fisher (1894) Pinch-hitter for the Pirates on June 13,1916. He joined the Pirates in early June of 1916 after playing baseball at Marshall University. He was an outfielder, who was described as tall and rangy with power and good baseball smarts. Fisher never got much of a chance to show off those skills, his only major league appearance resulted in an out when he pinch hit for pitcher Frank Miller in the fifth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Phillies on June 13,1916, six days after he reported to the Pirates. When he joined the Pirates it was said that he would train with the team and if things worked out, he would get a start down the line but in the meantime, he would be used as a pinch-hitter. Wilbur played 45 games of minor league ball in 1915 under the last name McCullough (his middle name), hitting .310 for Charleston of the Ohio State League. It was a common practice back in the day for college players to play games under assumed names so they were still eligible to play college ball. The Pirates in 1906 had a college star named Dutch Meier on their roster, who had played exhibition games with the team the previous season. He went by the name “Koch” in those games. Fisher is one of three majors leaguers that were born on July 18,1894. A list that also includes…
Bill Haeffner (1894) Catcher for the 1920 Pirates. Bill began his pro career in the minors, playing in Canada in 1914. The next year he played three games for the Philadelphia A’s as Connie Mack went through 56 players during a 43-109 season. Haeffner then played semi-pro ball, going until 1920 when Pittsburgh picked him up, without playing another pro game. He played just three of the first 52 games of year for the Pirates, but on June 26th, he started playing more, getting into 51 games the rest of the season. Bill hit .194 for the Pirates with 14 RBI’s in 175 AB’s and he threw out 46% of would-be basestealers. Haeffner got his chance to play when two Pirates catchers were hurt in the same game. The regular starter, Walter Schmidt took a foul ball off his wrist and couldn’t continue. Second string catcher Cliff Lee tried to put down a bunt during his AB and he was hit on the hand and had to leave, forcing the Pirates to go to Haeffner, their third string catcher, for the rest of that game and another six full games over a four day span thanks to two doubleheaders. Just before players were due to report to Spring Training in 1921, Haeffner informed the team that he decided to retire after his salary demands weren’t met. He would return to baseball seven years later, playing two games for the Giants, both as a late inning replacement during blowout games.
Jolly Roger Rewind: July 18, 1951
Ralph Kiner’s three-homer barrage enabled the eighth-place Pirates to survive a furious Brooklyn rally and defeat the first-place Dodgers 13-12 at Ebbets Field.
Kiner started the day with a first-inning grand slam off Dodgers’ starter Phil Haugstad*, giving the Bucs a 4-0 lead before the home team had recorded an out. Three innings later, the twenty-eight-year-old Bucco left fielder highlighted a six-run eruption with a two-run shot off Haugstad.
This early slugging spree—the Pirates’ fourth inning also featured a solo home run by Joe Garagiola and RBI triples by Gus Bell and Monty Basgall—staked Bucco starter Murry Dickson to a 10-2 lead. But Chuck Dressen’s squad, who entered the contest with a seven-and-a-half-game advantage over the second-place New York Giants, had no intention of raising the white flag. Brooklyn answered the Bucs’ six-run fourth with four unearned runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, thanks to two errors by shortstop George Strickland.**
After Bell’s home run restored the five-run Bucco margin in the top of the fifth, the Dodgers rested for an inning before surging ahead with six more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Carl Furillo capped the first half of the rally with a three-run, bases-loaded double off Dickson. Billy Meyer then summoned Mel Queen in relief, but Queen could not halt Brooklyn: Duke Snider drew a one-out walk and Jackie Robinson—whom The Pittsburgh Press called “the Dodgers’ Negro star”—followed with a three-run homer for a 12-11 advantage.**
Kiner, however, was likewise not finished. Leading off the eighth, he drove Erv Palica’s pitch over the fence for his fourth career three-homer game, his seventh RBI, and a 12-12 tie. Five batters later, one-time Dodgers’ wunderkind Pete Reiser, batting for winning pitcher Junior Walsh, singled off Palica*** to drive in Erv Dusak with the run that put the Pirates ahead to stay.
Bidding for a record-tying fourth home run, Kiner flew out to Furillo in deep right-center in the top of the ninth. “I was gunning for it, all right,” he admitted in his column in the Press.
Box score and play-by-play
The Pittsburgh Press game story
* It was the tenth career grand slam for the five-time defending National League home run champion.
** Because of the Bucs’ poor fielding, the Press theorized that [f]or a time yesterday, it appeared to be a battle between Murry Dickson and his teammates, instead of Dickson and the Dodgers.”
*** The Press’s full verbage on the home run was “Mel Queen appeared and before you could say Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers’ Negro star blasted his 13th homer with two on to give Brooklyn a 12-11 lead,” an allusion to the figure of speech “before you can say Jack Robinson.”
**** Dressen and Dodgers’ general manager Buzzy Bavasi were not charmed by Palica’s not-entirely-unrespectable-looking five-inning, three-run relief effort. Dressen told the media that Palica was “finished” and held his left hand to his throat to make the “choking” sign. Bavasi indicated that he “walked up to [Palica] in the clubhouse “ and challenged his courage, accusing him of not having “a gut in [his] body.” For good measure, Dressen questioned the “alleged sore arms” of two other members of his pitching staff, Don Newcombe and Ralph Branca. At the time of this tirade, Brooklyn maintained a seven-and-a-half lead in the National League, would initiate a ten-game winning streak in their next game, and still had three weeks of stellar baseball to go before starting the historical collapse that would result in the Giants winning the pennant.