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4/18 Through 1954: Friendl-ly Opener; Lights On; Greenberg Gardens; Ralph's 1st; Forbes Named; Duel; Twin Opener; HBD Ron, Steve, Larry, Bob, Jacks & Fred

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  • 1864 – RHP Fred Doe was born in Rockport, Massachusetts. Fred was a long-time minor league player (1886-1902) who got to twirl two MLB games, both in 1890 in the Players League. The first was with Buffalo and the second in Pittsburgh, where he tossed four mop-up innings and gave up two runs. Doe was a player, manager, and owner over several decades in the New England League and was known as the “Father of Sunday Baseball” due to his efforts to repeal state blue laws. 
  • 1872 – 1B Jack Rothfuss was born in Newark. Rothfuss tore it up for the Atlantic League’s Newark Colts, was bought late-season by the Bucs for $2,000 and made his MLB debut on August 2nd, 1897. Jack hit .313 and was the frontrunner to become Pittsburgh’s next starting first baseman. Alas, Rothfuss never played in the majors again after contracting dysentery late in the season. (He blamed it on the city’s water, telling The Sporting Life “…the water in Pittsburgh is atrocious.” And during that era, he was probably right.) He was loaned to minor-league Kansas City, recovered and bolted back home to play for Newark. Jack returned to KC the next year, but jumped back-and-forth among minor league/indie clubs until he finally hung up the spikes in 1907. 
  • 1886 – The Alleghenys played the only Opening Day doubleheader in Pittsburgh baseball history at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, with the twinbill scheduled because of a rainout the day before. (it was actually two separate games with separate gates on the same day rather than a two-fer). The North Siders dropped both ends to the eventual American Association champion St. Louis Browns. They lost the opener, 8-4’ with Ed “Cannonball” Morris on the bump and went down, 10-5, in the second game with Hall of Fame pitcher James “Pud” Galvin toeing the rubber. The Alleghenys team was pretty strong; they went 80-52 on the year, but still ended up 12 games behind the Browns. It was the last season the team played in the AA, moving on to the NL in 1887. 
Pud Galvin – SSPC Hall of Fame
  • 1892 · RHP Jack Scott was born in Ridgeway, North Carolina. Scott was a knuckleballer who got his start in Pittsburgh in 1916, where he got into one game for five innings, giving up six runs. But he got better and became a workhorse for four different teams over a dozen campaigns, leading the league in starts three times while slashing 103-109-11/3.85 (Scott was also a 20-game loser twice). He helped himself with the stick, banging out a .275 lifetime BA, and was known as “Lonesome Jack” because of two weeks he spent isolated in a hospital as a teen. 
  • 1902 – C Bob Linton was born in Emerson, Arkansas. Bob’s MLB career consisted of 17 games with the 1929 Pirates, half of them behind the dish and half as a pinch hitter (not that his .111 BA got him many at bats). Bob did have a long career in pro ball, beginning in 1927 and ending in 1942, with a brief comeback in ‘45 and a spell of minor league managing in the forties. 
  • 1909 – Howie Camnitz spun an eight-hit shutout (he was, as the Press noted, “a trifle wild” with six walks and a bopped batter) as the Bucs whipped the Cubs, 1-0, in 12 innings, besting Three Finger Brown at the West Side Grounds. The run scored when “(George) Gibson hit to (Chicago SS Joe) Tinker, who bungled and (Bill) Abstein scored…” but the Pirates wouldn’t need much help that season – they won 110 games and the World Series from the Ty Cobb-led Detroit Tigers. 
  • 1909 – The Pirates announced that their new Oakland ballyard, opening in a few weeks, would be called Forbes Field. The team and the Pittsburgh Press held a contest for the naming rights, and out of 100,000 entries, seven chose Forbes Field, winning season tickets. Owner Barney Dreyfuss’ name seemed to be the top vote-getter, but he passed on the honor, saying that his decision was reached after “I considered it from a historical, euphonious and appropriate viewpoint.” 
Larry Foss – Custom One Year Wonder
  • 1936 – RHP Larry Foss was born in Castleton, Kansas. After bouncing around the minors, he was called up as a 25-year-old by the Bucs in September of 1961. Danny Murtaugh threw him right into the fire, telling him that he was starting against Bob Gibson at Forbes Field that night. And while not exactly a classic duel, Foss outlasted him to earn an 8-6 win. He pitched a couple of more games (1-1/5.87), and was sent back to the bushes. In September of ‘62, he was waived after the minor league season and the Mets claimed him. He finished the last two weeks of the season with them, and after another year on the farm retired with arm woes. He went on to earn his daily bread in the oil and gas industry, saving enough to open a sporting goods store later. 
  • 1942 – RHP & AT&T SportsNet talking head Steve Blass was born in Canaan, Connecticut. The Bucco announcer was an All-Star and World-Series-clinching pitcher for the Pirates from 1964-74. The righty won 103 games for Pittsburgh during his career to go with two Series victories against Earl Weaver’s Orioles in 1971, and has been associated with the Pittsburgh Pirates in one way or another for over 50 years, not retiring from the booth as a color commentator until after the 2019 campaign. Steverino was announced as a member of the first class of the Pirates Hall Of Fame in 2022. 
  • 1946 – Rookie Ralph Kiner smacked his first big league homer off Howie Pollet in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to St. Louis at Sportsman Park. He would end his career with seven home run titles by banging 369 long balls, with 301 blasts while a Bucco. That was good for second place all-time in the Pirates record books, behind only Willie Stargell’s 475 bombs. 
  • 1947 – The Pirates took the Home Opener from the Reds, 12-11. The Bucs had added Hank Greenberg to their roster and shortened LF at Forbes Field for him. Greenberg himself (and for that matter, Ralph Kiner) didn’t go long, though the other Bucs apparently took a liking to the short porch. Pittsburgh blasted five homers – rookie Wally Westlake had a pair while Billy Cox, Roy Jarvis & Jim Russell went yard too – and three of the balls landed in the new Greenberg Gardens plot. Cox became the first Pirate in history to lead off a Home Opener with a dinger when he took Joe Beggs deep. The season lidlifter at Forbes Field drew a record crowd of 38,216. The Gardens cut the distance to the fence by 30’ (365’ to 335’) for dead pull hitter Greenberg. It also moved the bullpens from the playing field (previously located in foul territory up the lines) to behind the new fencing. 
Wally Westlake – 1947 Exhibits
  • 1948 – RHP/coach Ron Schueler was born in Catharine, Kansas. Schueler was selected in the 12th round of the 1966 draft by the Pirates, but never signed and was eventually taken by Atlanta the next season. He spent eight years in the show with four teams, and 20 years after he was drafted, he did join the Buccos in 1986 as Jim Leyland’s first pitching coach after stints with the White Sox and A’s. He lasted a year here; his wife was ill and he returned to his California home, hooking up with Oakland again. He became Chicago White Sox GM in 1991 (He had lobbied for the Bucco spot in 1988 when Syd Thrift was dismissed, but Larry Doughty got the job). After a decade, he became a special advisor to the owner and then bounced around with the Cubs, Cards, and Giants. 
  • 1950 – Pittsburgh played the first MLB season opener under the lights at St. Louis’ Sportsman Park. The Cards won, 4-2, as Bob Chesnes gave up homers to Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst in the loss to Gerry Staley, who went the distance. Johnny Hopp had both Bucco RBIs. 
  • 1952 – In their Home Opener at Forbes Field before 29,874, Bob Friend shut out the Reds, 3-0, on five hits, with the help of three Bobby Del Greco knocks. It was the second win in a row for the Pirates, and at 2-2, it was the only time they reached .500. The sad sack “Rickey-Dinks” wouldn’t put together a winning streak longer than two games all season (they finished 42-112), a 20th century MLB record for futility. They didn’t win consecutive contests again until May 30th-31st.


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