This Date in Pirates History: February 15

Only three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date although two of them most people remember. There is one very interesting fact on one of the players about his first major league win and a brief history lesson on the making of the 1891 Pirates.

Don Kelly(1980) utility player for the 2007 Pirates. He began his career in the Tigers organization after being drafted in the 8th round of the 2001 amateur draft. He became a free agent after the 2006 season and signed with the Pirates two months later. Kelly hit well during the early part of spring training and made the Pirates opening day roster. He played 25 games that year, going 4-27 at the plate with all four hits being singles. Kelly played four different positions and he made three starts, two at shortstop and one at second base. He was released following the season and he since played parts of three years with the Tigers in the majors. He is the brother-in-law of Pirates current 2B Neil Walker. Kelly is also one of just six players from Butler,Pa to make the majors and four of them made their major league debut prior to 1905.

Barry Jones(1963) pitcher for the 1986-88 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick of the Pirates in the 1984 amateur draft. He pitched the first season in the NYPL making 14 starts, going 6-3 3.43 in 86.2 innings. His first full season in pro ball saw him start the year at high-A ball and work his way to AAA for one game. He was also moved to the bullpen and in 52 games split between three levels he went 6-4 1.69 with 22 saves. He began the next year in AAA, getting called up in mid-July after posting a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings. He went 3-4 2.89 with three saves in 26 games for the Pirates that rookie season.

If you look at Barry’s player page on it says he made his major league debut on April 20,1986 when he was still in AAA. How could that be you ask? On April 20th the Pirates played the Cubs at Wrigley before the lights were in place. The game went extra innings and was called due to darkness with the score tied. On August 11 the two teams hooked up to play the conclusion of the game prior to their regularly scheduled game. Jones came in and pitched four scoreless innings, striking out eight and picking up the win. Since the game was started on April 20th, that is when the records for that game count for, so while he didn’t actually throw a pitch for the Pirates until July, he picked up his first major league win on April 20,1986.

Jones pitched poorly in 1987 and was sent to AAA during the season. He posted a 5.61 ERA in 32 games with the Pirates. He had a better 1988 season through late August, posting a 3.04 ERA in 42 games when the Pirates decided to ship him to the White Sox in exchange for veteran starter Dave LaPoint. Jones pitched in the majors until 1993, then finished his career in AAA in 1994. He played for five different organizations after leaving the Pirates.

Charlie Reilly(1867) Third Baseman for the 1891 Pirates. When the players thought they were being treated unfairly in 1889 they decided to form the Player’s League. A league run by the players and full of star power. That left the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys as a very weak team with the majority of their roster leaving for the new league. The league folded after one season and most players returned to their 1889 team. The newly named Pirates however added plenty of star power from other teams such as outfielder Pete Browning and Second Baseman Louis Bierbauer, two of the better players at their position at the time. They also picked up “Princeton” Charlie Reilly from the Columbus Solons of the American Association, the third major league running at the time. He had hit .266 with 75 runs scored, 77 RBI’s and 43 stolen bases in 1890. In his six game October major league debut in 1889 he had 11 hits and nine stolen bases for the Solons.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, even though they were a stacked team filled with new stars and their old lineup from 1889, the team struggled mightily. Reilly was very little help as he hit just .219 in 114 games and he seemed to have already lost a step in his running game at age 24. He was released just prior to the end of the season. Charlie went on to play the next four seasons for the Phillies, spent a year in the minors, returned to the majors for one last season in 1897 with the Washington Senators. He then played in the minors for seven more seasons, finally retiring in 1904, ending his 20 year pro baseball career

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John ~ Your three paragraphs on Barry Jones is an example of why I love the jobs you folks do at PP.  

Only with someone like “fill in any name” (Barry Jones) is the absurd fact that he won a game in April while not appearing in a game until July!  THAT is what makes this game so great; and to think that it could have happened in post-Recontruction America (1880s) offers a historical context that few aspects of our lives merit.  Only a sentimental ole soft-heart like me can get nostalgic over guys who give it their best in a sport, and ultimately make it to Pirates Prospects thirty, fifty, or 110 years later!

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