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7/30 Through the 1910’s: Skipper-Go-Round; Pud Umps; Game Stories; HBD Johnny, Casey, Hal, Bill & Chuck

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  • 1870 – C/1B Bill Merritt was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. The reserve played for the Pirates from 1894-97, with a brief stop in Cincinnati (Pittsburgh was one of Bill’s six MLB outposts). He hit .280 with the Bucs. 
  • 1886 – Enjoying an off day between games against the Metropolitans in New York, Allegheny pitcher Gentleman Jim Galvin decided to take in the NY Giants-St. Louis match at the Polo Grounds, and ended up with the best seat in the house. Still steaming over some verbal blasts unleashed during the prior day’s game, ump John Gaffney demanded a pre-game apology from the Giants. With none forthcoming, he stormed off the grounds, and Pud was pulled from the stands to ump. He must have done OK; the Giants edged the Maroons 2-1 and he escaped in one piece. 
Casey – 1919 uncredited clip
  • 1890 – OF Casey Stengel was born in Kansas City, Missouri. The Ol’ Perfesser spent 1918-19 as a Pirate, with a .280 BA, and performed his famous “bird in the hat” stunt as a Bucco. He’s much more associated with New York, of course, than Pittsburgh. Between playing and managing, the Hall-of-Famer is the only person to have worn the uniforms of all four of New York’s major league clubs – the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees and Mets. 
  • 1891 – The Pirates got off to a 31–47 start following a disastrous 23–113 season, demoted captain/manager Ned Hanlon (who had left the team in 1890 for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the upstart Players’ League before returning to the club after that league folded) and hired Bill McGunnigle as skipper. McGunnigle managed the club to a modest 24–33 record over the remainder of the year. He was replaced by Tom Burns, who didn’t make it through the 1892 season before losing his job to Al Buckenberger. 
  • 1894 – IF Chuck Ward was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He started his six-year MLB career with the Pirates, playing 125 games and hitting 236 in 1917. The next five campaigns were spent with the Brooklyn Robins, where he became a deep bench player, batting 100 times in just one season. Ward started pro ball in 1912 as a 17-year-old at Falls City and retired after the 1924 campaign spent with Toledo. He later managed the Rutgers nine for a dozen years. 
  • 1904 – Baseball had some pretty rowdy roots. Per BR Bullpen: “Cardinals pitcher Jack Taylor walked seven and tossed three wild pitches to help the Pirates beat St. Louis, 5-2 at Exposition Park. The outcome was viewed suspiciously because several local gamblers had bet heavily on Pittsburgh before the game, but the real reason was Taylor and teammate Jake Beckley’s late-night public drinking.” Pittsburgh Press writer Ralph Davis did note dryly that “Taylor was not hit hard, but he was inclined to be wild.” Bucco hurler Roscoe Miller’s five-hitter may have played a role, too. It was the opener of a twin bill; the Pirates also took the nitecap behind Sam Leever 2-1. “Old Sam” even chipped in with a pair of hits, outdone only by Tommy Leach’s three knocks. 
  • 1905 – C Hal Finney was born in Lafayette, Alabama. He was a reserve that played for the Bucs from 1931-34 & 1936. He spent his MLB career in Pittsburgh, finishing with a .203 BA. Finney came by that BA honestly – he held the record for non-pitchers for most at bats in a season without a hit from 1936, when he went 0-for-35, until 2011. His OBP was .000 as well, a futility mark that stood until 2008. 
Vic bested Matty – 1909 American Tobacco
  • 1909 – The Bucs ended NY Giant’s Christy Mathewson’s 13-game winning streak by a 3-1 score at Forbes Field. Tommy Leach doubled in Fred Clarke & Alan Storke, and Wee Tommy in turn was chased home by Dots Miller in the first. That’s all the support Vic Willis would need, scattering nine hits for the complete game win. 
  • 1912 - OF Johnny Rizzo was born in Houston. He burst on the scene in 1938, hitting .301 with 23 HR and 111 RBI as a rookie; his HR mark for a first year Pirate stood until Jason Bay bettered it in 2006. Rizzo drove in nine runs against the Cardinals in 1939, and that’s still the team’s single-game record. He cooled off after that red hot start, and early in 1940 was traded for Vince DiMaggio after putting up a line of .283 with 29 HR and 168 RBI while in Pittsburgh. Johnny joined the Navy in 1943 and played minor league ball upon his discharge, then worked in the sporting goods business.


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