This Date in Pirates History: June 23

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers born on this date, as well as one trade to recap. John Fredland goes back 93 years in his Jolly Roger Rewind to cover a big game from a future Hall of Famer.

The Trade

On this date in 1956, the Pirates traded second baseman Curt Roberts and pitcher Jack McMahan to the Kansas City Athletics in exchange for second baseman Spook Jacobs. It took Jacobs eight years to make the majors after he signed his first contract. As a rookie in 1954, he hit .258 with 60 walks and 17 stolen bases in 132 games for the Philadelphia A’s. The team moved to Kansas City the next season and Jacobs spent most of the year in the minors. For the 1956 A’s, the thirty year old Jacobs was hitting .216 with 15 walks over 32 games at the time of the deal. Roberts had a similar story to Jacobs. He made his major league debut in 1954 and played 134 games for the Pirates that season. In 1955, he spent most of the year in the minors and at the time of the trade, the 26 year old second baseman was hitting .177 in 31 games for Pittsburgh. McMahan was a 23 year old rookie lefty reliever for the 1956 Pirates. He was a Rule V draft pick out of the Yankees system, with a 6.08 ERA in 13.1 innings of work over 11 relief appearances.

After the deal, Jacobs started 11 straight games at second base for the Pirates, but after he hit just .162 with four errors, the team decided to go in another direction. Spook was sent to the minors, where he would spend the rest of his career, retiring after the 1960 season. In his place, the Pirates called up a 19 year old from the minors to make his major league debut on July 7,1956 and he would hang around Pittsburgh until 1972 as a player, eventually making the Hall of Fame. That teenager, was of course, Bill Mazeroski. Curt Roberts went right to the minors for the A’s and remained there until 1963, never playing another major league game. McMahan would pitch 23 games for the A’s, nine as a starter. He pitched better than while he was in Pittsburgh, although he had an 0-5 record to show for it at the end of the year. Just like the other two players, his big league career ended in 1956, spending the next three seasons in the minors, where he only won six games over that time.

The Players

Ken Jungels (1916) Pitcher for the 1942 Pirates. Prior to joining the Pirates in the 1941 Rule V draft, Jungels had spent parts of four seasons with the Cleveland Indians. They were all brief stops with the team, as he had a total of 19 appearances(all in relief) and 35.1 innings pitched. For the 1942 Pirates, he was being used in the mop-up role through the beginning of June. Ken pitched six times, all in losses, and had a 6.59 ERA in 13.2 innings. Despite the fact he was used just six times over the first two months of the season, three of his appearances came on consecutive days in a series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. His last outing with the Pirates was also against the Dodgers. On June 2nd, he threw five innings during a 17-2 loss. That game was actually just his last game with the team as a pitcher, five days later he was used as a pinch-runner for the third time on the year. On June 10, the Pirates sold him to Jersey City of the International League. For the 25 year old Jungels, it marked the end of his major league career. He would begin serving in the military during WWII in 1943, returning to baseball for the 1946 season. He ended up playing four more seasons in the minors before retiring. Ken finished his five season major league career with a perfect 1-0 record.

Bill Harris (1900) Pitcher for the 1931-34 Pirates. He had a pro baseball playing career that stretched over 25 seasons, beginning in 1921 and ending in 1945. Harris would win a total of 281 games in his career, but very little of his time was actually spent in the majors. During the 1923-24 seasons, he pitched a total of 25 games for the Reds. It would then take another seven years before he pitched in the majors again, returning with the 1931 Pirates. Despite that long stretch, he actually had a fairly impressive season right in the middle of it, going 25-9 in 1928 for Asheville of the South Atlantic League. Bill had an 11-21 record in the minors in 1931, pitching in the Texas League, where his 2.87 ERA was near league average, but he played most of the year for an anemic offensive club in Galveston. He was a September call-up to Pittsburgh and had an impressive debut, throwing a five hit shutout over the Reds. Harris followed that up with two more complete games, allowing one run in each game, although he took the loss in his third outing.

In 1932, Harris started 11 games through the end of June, before being moved into a bullpen role, that saw him get occasional starts. At one stretch during August, the Pirates went through a rough patch as a team and Bill ended up pitching ten times(twice as a starter) over 24 days and all the appearances came during losses. He finished the year with a 10-9 3.64 record in 168 innings. In 1933, Harris was strictly a reliever, throwing a total of 58.2 innings over 31 outings. His role was great diminished the last two months of the season, making a total of six appearances over that time, with the last four coming during doubleheaders. In fact, on the season, 18 of his games pitched came on days the Pirates played a doubleheader. By 1934, Harris was strictly in a mop-up role, pitching just 11 times all season for the Pirates, plus he was sent to the minors for part of the year. He made one late season start and pitched a total of 19 innings with Pittsburgh. The Pirates released him in the off-season and he spent the next four years pitching for Buffalo of the American Association. In 1938, he got his last shot at the majors, going to the Red Sox, who gave him 11 starts over the last two months of the season. Bill pitched a total of 83 games with the Pirates, 22 as a starter, with a 16-15 3.45 record in 276.2 innings.

Jolly Roger Rewind: June 23, 1919

Casey Stengel put the Pirates ahead to stay with a long home run off Oscar Tuero in the top of the sixth and then preserved the lead with a running catch in the bottom of the inning, as the Bucs won their fifth game in a row, 3-2 over the Cardinals at Robison Park.

With one out in the top of the sixth and the score tied 1-1*, Pirates shortstop Zeb Terry reached base when Cardinals shortstop Gene Paulette bobbled his ground ball. Stengel followed by driving a Tuero** pitch over the rightfield stands—“on top of the high roof and it disappeared in a distant backyard,” reported The (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times—for a two-run homer.***

St. Louis answered in the bottom of the frame on Rogers Hornsby’s RBI groundout, and threatened to score more with runners on second and third and two outs. Austin McHenry hit a short fly ball to right centerfield that, to Gazette Times correspondent Charles J. Doyle, “looked very much like one of those awkward hits that grow out of collisions and near mix-ups.” But Stengel ran in from rightfield, avoiding centerfielder Carson Bigbee and second baseman George Cutshaw, and “pushed his way through the narrow pocket and grabbed the ball” to end the rally.

Aided by Stengel’s bat and glove, Frank “Bullet” Miller earned his third complete-game victory in as many starts by limiting the Cardinals to seven hits and three walks.

* The first Cardinals run had scored on a third-inning squeeze bunt by Jack “Dots” Miller, the Bucs’ starting second baseman from 1909-11 and first baseman from 1912-13.

** The Gazette Times game story referred to Tuero as “the flexible Cuban, who uses the spitball with considerable effect at times.”

*** According to the Gazette Times, Stengel’s blast sailed over St. Louis’ “knothole gang” section—in which children could watch the game for free—and “[t]here is little doubt that there was a grand rush for the ball as soon as the kids realized where it landed.” The article surmised that “the funny one [Stengel] made a mess out of somebody’s backyard garden” when the children pursued his home run ball.

Box score

Gazette Times game story

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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.
  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    I wonder if that was the same season Stengel had the bird under his hat?

  • JohnDreker

    It was, happened a month prior to the game listed above