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4/22 Through the 1940s: Osborn Deal; Mace Sold; Expo Opener; Pirates Parade; Franchise First; Fred Slapped; Gray Raid; HBD Mickey, Terrible Ted, Sandy & Jake

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  • 1887 – RHP Sandy Burk was born in Columbus, Ohio. He had spent parts of four seasons in the majors and made his last hurrah as a Pittsburgh Rebel in 1915, jumping leagues after starting the year in Indianapolis. He started two games, going the distance and winning both, giving up just two runs/eight hits in 18 IP. Sandy pitched for Minneapolis the following year after the Players League folded, winning 21 games. He then served as an infantry sergeant during WW1 and tossed one last pro season upon his return in 1919. 
  • 1891 – The Pirates played their first game at Exposition Park, located on the North Shore of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh not far removed from where PNC Park sits now. Pittsburgh lost to the Chicago Colts 7-6 in front of 5,263 fans as rain before the game held down the attendance. The Pirates fell behind 4-0, rallied in the seventh to go ahead and then saw the Colts tie it in the ninth and win it in the tenth, defeating Pud Galvin. The Pittsburgh Press printed a special “Sporting Edition” that included a game story and illustrations. The 16,000 seat yard featured 400-foot foul lines and a 450-foot center field fence and was their home field until 1909 when Forbes Field opened in Oakland. 
Doggie Miller – 1890 Goodwin/Old Judge
  • 1892 – The Pirates set a franchise record when they scored 12 times in the first inning against St. Louis at Expo Park to beat the Browns 14-3. Doggie Miller led the hit parade with four knocks; four other Bucs (Lou Bierbauer, Ed Swartwood, Jake Beckley & Frank Shugart) had a pair of raps. The Pittsburgh Press wrote that “Fully 3,000 people turned out in the rain to see the game. It was too one-sided for interest after the first inning but the advantage was on the right side, so everyone was pleased. (Pud) Galvin (the winning pitcher) was fairly effective and did not have to work hard.” The game provided this footnote: Pittsburgh OF Elmer Smith worked a pair of free passes in that opening frame, the first time a major league player walked twice in one inning. 
  • 1894 – 2B Jake Pitler was born in New York City. Jake’s major league career was spent in Pittsburgh between 1917-18. He played regularly the first season but got into just two games in the second, hitting .232 in his time as a Pirate. Pitler was raised in Pittsburgh and was a newspaper boy working in the Forbes Field area. That piqued his interest in baseball and he played semi-pro, advancing to the minor-leagues. The Pirates were looking for stability at second base so he got his shot when the Bucs picked him up from Chattanooga. He lost out in 1918 when Pittsburgh acquired vet George Grantham to play second and sent Pitler to minor-league Jersey City. He didn’t report and instead returned to his indie league roots. He eventually caught on with the Brooklyn Dodgers after his playing days and served as a long-time minor-league manager and big league coach. 
  • 1898 – Cincinnati’s Ted Breitenstein tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates, winning easily by an 11-0 count at League Field. He struck out two, walked one, and another runner reached via error. All in all, the Pittsburgh Press declared it “…a wonderful feat.” And sweet revenge; Breitenstein was the pitcher the Pirates chased six years earlier during a record-setting 12-run first inning when he was twirling for St. Louis. 
  • 1897 – Per John Thorn’s must-read “Our Game,” the first major-league Opening Day at which the National Anthem was played took place in Philadelphia on this date when the Phils played the Giants at the Baker Bowl. From 1918 on, it was played at the opening of every World Series, but wasn’t universally adopted in MLB as a pre-game leadoff until 1942. 
  • 1902 – The Pirates and their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, marched in a raucous parade led by the Grand Army of the Republic band from the downtown Monongahela House hotel to Exposition Park for the Home Opener, cheered on by thousands per the Pittsburgh Press’ front page. The Bucs raised their 1901 pennant flag over the ballyard in front of a record 15,000 fans (the overflow was given SRO space behind ropes in the outfield, but “…gave the police no trouble and never once interfered with the players…” as noted by the paper) and then overcome an early three-run deficit to edge the Reds 4-3. Tommy Leach scored the winning run in the eighth, singling and then advancing from first-to-third on a bunt. He scored on starting (and winning) pitcher Sam Leever’s sac fly. 
  • 1903 – Theodore Roosevelt “Terrible Ted” Page was born in Glasgow, Kentucky. The speedy and gritty OF’er played for the Homestead Grays (1931-32) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-34). He grew up in Youngstown and turned down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State to focus on baseball. The lefty Page batted .335 for his career, but injured his knee in 1934, leading eventually to his retirement in 1937. He stayed in Pittsburgh and his sports focus switched. After baseball, Page ran bowling alleys, including Meadow Lanes (he was hired to work there by former teammate Jack Marshall), and wrote a bowling column for the Pittsburgh Courier. He met a tragic end, beaten to death at home during a robbery, and is buried at Allegheny Cemetery. According to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, he earned his nickname because of his fiery on-field (and sometimes off-field) personality. Bullheaded and aggressive, he “played to win,” per his bio, “and would intimidate a player with his spikes or with rough language.” 
  • 1913 – Manager Fred Clarke was suspended for five days after a “run in” with umpire Brick Owens, who called strike three on a Red at Forbes Field for the final out of a Bucco win on 4/19, only to change his mind and decide it was a ball, after all. The Pirates had started to trot off the field, allowing a runner to scoot to third while the club was in disarray. It became a moot point when the Bucs held on for a 6-5 win over Cincinnati. Afterward, Clarke admitted that he had used “forceful language” in arguing his case, but given the circumstances, was still upset by the time off. First-place Pittsburgh was already missing injured stars SS Hans Wagner and C George Gibson and would shortly start a slide that dropped them out of contention. 
  • 1918 – Mickey Vernon was born in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Vernon spent 1960 as the Bucs’ first-base coach and was actually added at age 42 to the active roster in September, going 1-for-8 in nine games. He went on to manage the Washington Senators, returning to Pittsburgh as a coach in 1964. The 1B’s MLB career spanned four decades (1939-60) and after Pittsburgh he coached for the St. Louis Cardinals, LA Dodgers, Montreal Expos and NY Yankees. He managed at the AAA and AA levels of the minor leagues and served as a batting instructor in the Kansas City Royals and Yankees’ farm system before retiring from baseball. 
Mickey Vernon – 1980 TCMA
  • 1931 – RHP Bob Osborn was sold to the Pirates by the Cubs. The early season move was triggered because pitchers Ervin Brame, Remy Kremer and Steve Swetonic were all out of action at the time with various ailments. The Pirates used Osborn mostly as a short reliever (he started twice) and he ended the season with a slash of 6-1/5.01 with his six wins in relief tops in the NL. He was sent to the Cards the following year as part of the Bill Swift trade. 
  • 1937 – Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo signed several players from the Crawfords including Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, to his Dragones of Ciudad Trujillo squad. It was one of the blows that eventually brought down the Pittsburgh team as a powerhouse Negro League club. The Crawfords were sold in 1939 and moved to Toledo. 
  • 1941 – Pitcher Mace Brown was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mace had spent seven years as a Pirate, doing everything from starting to closing, but Brooklyn converted him to one of the MLB’s first full-time relievers. He was fairly effective over the next three years, then lost 1944-45 to the war while serving in the Navy, and 1946 was his last major league campaign. 
  • 1949 – The Pirates won their home opener‚ beating the Reds 5-4 behind Ralph Kiner’s third-inning grand slam. The Bucs had fallen behind 4-0 in the first, but Bill Werle tossed 7-2/3 frames of scoreless relief to claim the win.


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