Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training: 90 Years Ago Today

Last week I took at look at what was going on in the Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training camp of 1937, going back exactly 75 years to the day. I figured I’d give it another try this weekend, this time going back to this date in 1922, exactly 90 years to the day. The 1921 Pirates finished the season 90-63 in second place, trailing the Giants by four games in the standings. The team was fairly quiet over the off-season. They did land a young outfielder named Kiki Cuyler late in September, but the future Hall of Famer was still two years away from really contributing to the team.

The Pirates trained in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1922. They were managed by former catcher George Gibson, in his third season as the manager. Besides Cuyler, they had three other future Hall of Fame players on their roster, shortstop Rabbit Maranville, third baseman Pie Traynor (in what would be his first full season) and outfielder Max Carey. They also had longtime pitcher Babe Adams, who at age 40 was in his 14th season with the team. Wilbur Cooper was also there and he went on to win more games in a Pirates uniform than anyone else in franchise history.

On March 17, 1922 the Pirates took on the Boston Red Sox with Johnny Morrison on the mound for Pittsburgh. During his rookie season in 1921, Morrison went 9-7, 2.88 in 17 starts and four relief appearances. He threw five perfect innings that March day with four strikeouts. In relief, Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse came in to pitch, he was a full-blooded Pawnee Indian. In his rookie season in 1921 he went 5-3, 2.98 in 48.1 innings. Moses finished off the game, allowing two hits and two walks but no runs.

The Pirates lineup that day was:
Carson Bigbee, CF
Max Carey, LF
Rabbit Maranville, SS
Pie Traynor, 2B
Ray Rohwer, RF
Charlie Grimm, 1B
Jewel Ens, 3B
Johnny Gooch, C
Johnny Morrison, P

The Pirates scored 12 runs that day off of 17 hits. Ray Rohwer hit two home runs in the game. He was a 26-year-old rookie outfielder in 1921 who hit .250 with six RBIs in 45 plate appearances. He was with the team the entire season but started just three games, playing a total of 30 times on the year. First baseman Charlie Grimm also homered in the game, a long drive to center field. The amazing part about that homer is the fact that he went to the plate 649 times without a regular season homer in 1922. Carey and Traynor (listed at 2B) had two hits each and Maranville collected three hits. All of the position players played all nine innings and only backup outfielder Johnny Mokan got to play off the bench when he pinch-hit for Morrison.

As for team news for the day, two players were still holding out for better contracts. Walter Schmidt was a 35-year-old catcher who had played his entire big league career with the Pirates starting in 1916 at 29 years old. In 1921, he played a career high 114 games and hit .282 with 38 RBIs. He led all NL catchers in putouts and assists, plus he threw out 57.5% of baserunners trying to steal against him. When asked about it on March 17, the Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss said that Schmidt returned his contract unsigned to the Pirates and Dreyfuss mailed it back without any changes. It was said that Schmidt was holding out for a two-year contract, but Dreyfuss was unwilling to add a second season.

Also holding out was 31-year-old outfielder Dave Robertson. He joined the Pirates from the Chicago Cubs in a July 21, 1921 trade. In 60 games for the Pirates after the deal, Robertson hit .322 with 48 RBIs. In 1920 for the Cubs, he hit .300 with 75 RBIs and previously (1916-17) he led the NL twice in homers. Robertson had supposedly asked for a large increase in salary and when asked for comments about it, Dreyfuss simply said “Robbie is just joking with himself.”

Schmidt would eventually sign with the Pirates but not until early August, making his first appearance in the team’s 100th game. Robertson never had a chance to sign, the Pirates released him and he signed with the Giants in late April. They used him strictly off the bench in what would be his last season in the majors. He played six more full seasons in the minors, batting at least .304 each year.

The Pirates announced Wilbur Cooper and John “Sheriff” Blake would pitch the following day in the second game against the Red Sox, as long as the weather held out. The team lost a lot of training time early in Spring due to the weather and March 18th was looking to be another lost day due to Mother Nature.

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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