On this date in 1887, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, formerly of the American Association, played their first National League game in franchise history. Last January, I posted a story on the first NL game and how it came about. That story can be read here. On the 125th anniversary of Pittsburgh’s first game in NL history, I thought I would bring the players to life that participated in that game. Using Old Judge tobacco cards from my personal collection, you get to see real photos of the players in their uniforms that they wore that first day they took the field as a member of the National League on April 30, 1887 against the Chicago White Stockings. Although the date these pictures were taken isn’t known exactly, recent research has shown that they were likely taken within two weeks after the first game.
Leading off the game that day was Abner Dalrymple, left fielder, who was playing his first game with Pittsburgh. He was with Chicago the prior year. He collected one hit that first game, a triple and scored a run.
Batting second that day was Tom Brown. A speedy center fielder in his third season with Pittsburgh. Brown had stolen a combined total of 119 bases during the 1885-86 seasons and finished his career with over 650 steals. In 1891 he scored 177 runs, the second highest single season total in baseball history. Brown had a single during the first game and struck out twice.
Batting third for the Alleghenys was catcher Doggie Miller. The youngest player in the lineup at 22 years old, he was in his fourth season with Pittsburgh in 1887. He drew a walk, singled, stole a base and scored two runs during that first NL game.
Hitting in the cleanup spot was second baseman Sam Barkley. He was the regular second baseman for the 1886 Alleghenys, his first year with the team. On Opening Day 1887, he went hitless but played well in the field.
Batting fifth and playing right field was John Coleman. He joined Pittsburgh late in the 1886 season. Coleman was an outfielder on this day but he is better known as the pitcher with unbreakable records. No pitcher has lost more games, allowed more hits, more runs or more earned runs in a season than Coleman did while with the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers. For more on these records, check out his bio from a previous article posted here. On Opening Day he went hitless but scored a run after being hit by a pitch.
In the sixth spot was first baseman Alex McKinnon, the hitting star of the day. He collected four of the Alleghenys twelve hits that day, scored two runs and missed the cycle by the home run. The 30 year old slugger was in his first season with Pittsburgh and sadly it would be his last. He was hitting .340 through the beginning of July, when he came down with Typhoid Pneumonia. Twenty days after his last game with the Alleghenys, he passed away. A full story on him can be read here.
Batting seventh was third baseman Art Whitney, who had been with the team since 1884. In 1885 he led all shortstops in fielding percentage. He moved the third base in 1886 and would lead the AA in fielding in 1886 then the NL in fielding in 1887. On Opening Day he collected a single and a triple.
Hitting eighth was shortstop Pop Smith, a light-hitting veteran with a solid glove. He was the leading fielder among shortstops in the AA in 1886, his second season with the Alleghenys. In the first game, he had a single, stole a base and turned an unassisted double play.
Batting ninth and standing in the pitchers box that day was James “Pud” Galvin. He joined Pittsburgh in 1885 and was coming off a 29 win season in 1886. Galvin already had 254 career wins by age 30 and he was far from done. On Opening Day, he picked up two hits at the plate and held the Chicago White Stockings to just two runs, going the distance for the complete game.
On that Opening Day in 1887, just under 10,000 fans packed Pittsburgh’s Recreation Park and saw the Alleghenys emerge with a 6-2 defeat of the Chicago White Stockings. The game took just 95 minutes to play and Pittsburgh scored five early runs and never looked back. The Chicago lineup that day included all-time greats Cap Anson at first base and 300 game winner John Clarkson opposing Galvin. Leading off for the White Stockings was Billy Sunday, who played three seasons with Pittsburgh(1888-90) before quitting baseball and becoming a world famous Evangelist. During his day, he was possibly the fastest player in all of baseball. Pittsburgh was helped out that day by three Chicago errors, accounting for three unearned runs.
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.