1874 – RHP Jim Gardner was born in Pittsburgh. He pitched for the Alleghenys in 1895, then again from 1897-99, going 24-20/3.91. He had an aversion to traveling because he had a local business to run; in his first season, he didn’t go to any away games at all. His career was cut short when he was beaned late in the 1989 season. Jim didn’t hit much, but did play a couple of dozen games at 2B, 3B and the outfield.
1902 – The Pirates wanted to get their last game of the year in despite the rainy weather, as they were going for a record 103rd win; the Cincinnati Reds, according to the Pittsburg Press “…wanted to go out and place a few bets on the races.” The game went on, and to show their chagrin the Reds pitched their first baseman, put a pitcher behind the plate, and player-manager Joe Kelley even stepped up to bat with a cigarette dangling from his mouth until threatened with ejection by ump Hank O’Day. Pittsburgh won easily 11-2. Per the Press’ Ralph Davis, owner Barney Dreyfuss refunded the fans’ money, and when the Reds business manager came looking for his team’s share of the gate, Dreyfuss just pointed to the now empty cash drawer. The Pirates won the NL by 27-½ games and had some great performances: Ginger Beaumont won the batting title with a .357 mark, Tommy Leach led the league in home runs with six, Honus Wagner led the league in RBI with 91, and Jack Chesbro led the league with 28 wins. The club scored 775 runs, which was 142 more than any other team, while the pitching staff allowed just four home runs during the season, the fewest in MLB history.
Jack Chesbro TCMA Artwork
1905 – Charlie Case and the Pirates lost to the Boston Beaneaters and Chick Fraser 1-0 in 13 innings at Exposition Park. Pittsburgh had nine hits, but baserunning blunders cost them dearly. Heinie Pietz tripled but was called out for missing first base, Steamer Flanagan slid past second and was tagged out, and later made the last out of the game trying to steal second.
1908 – Everyone remembers the Cubs and Giants “Merkle” playoff game for the 1908 pennant, but it was the Bucs that were ahead by ½ game on their final day when they lost to Chicago and Three Finger Mordecai before 30‚247 fans‚ the largest crowd ever at Chicago's West Side Grounds. Down 5-2 in the ninth, 2B Ed “Batty” Abbaticchio lined a ball down the line and over the fence with Honus Wagner aboard (the bases weren’t loaded, as sometimes reported for dramatic effect), but the drive was ruled foul. The Pirates argued that it was a HR, but ump Hank O'Day stood his ground and with that call went the Pirates last chance of taking the flag. There’s an urban legend that a lady in the stands was hit by the ball and later sued Batty. She claimed she was in fair side of the seats when the blast conked her, but that tale has never been substantiated. It was a tough loss; the Bucs had won eight in a row to get a half game lead on the Cubs going into the final game. Chicago had to win the next day to clinch, and the Bruins beat the NY Giants 4-2 to finish 99-55 to Pittsburgh’s 98-56 in one of history’s hottest pennant races. The Bucs may have been a game short, but Honus Wagner had a championship season. The Dutchman led the league with a .354 BA, 201 hits, .413 OBP, .542 slugging %, 109 RBI, 39 doubles, 19 triples, 308 total bases and 52 stolen bases. He was second with 100 runs scored and 10 HR.
Batty 1909-11 T206 American Tobacco
1988 – The Pirates fired GM Syd Thrift. He and the Buc ownership rarely saw eye-to-eye during his 1985-88 stint, but he hired Jim Leyland and helped lay the foundation for the successful early nineties teams, flipping veterans for young talent.
1992 – Tim Wakefield and three other Pirate pitchers spun a three hitter to win a pitching battle against Bret Saberhagen and the Mets by a 2-0 count at Shea Stadium, ending the season with the Bucs easy pennant winners in the NL East. Barry Bonds’ solo homer and Alex Cole’s sac fly brought home the runs.
2010 – John Russell was fired as manager of the Pirates. He equaled a franchise record for most losses by a manager in three seasons, compiling an 186-299 record. The other Buc skipper with as many defeats in the same span was Fred Haney, posting a 163-299 record from 1953-55.
John Russell (photo Associated Press)
2015 – It went to the last day of the season, but the Pirates clinched home field advantage for the wild card game with a 4-0 win against the Reds. JA Happ went six frames giving up three hits, three walks and collecting seven K’s. Josh Harrison went 3-for-4 with a RBI and run; Pedro Alvarez crushed a homer 479’ to right center. The Pirates ended with a 98-64 record, but finished second in the NL Central behind the 100-win St Louis Cardinals and barely nosing out the 97-win Chicago Cubs in a heart thumping pennant race.