This Date in Pirates History: April 11

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and they played in four different eras. Starting with the most recent player first.

Turner Ward(1965) Outfielder for the Pirates from 1997 until 1999. He was drafted in 1986 by the Yankees in the 18th round and made his major league debut four years later for the Cleveland Indians. Ward was traded to the Blue Jays in 1991 and then was picked up on waivers by the Brewers in November of 1993. In his first seven seasons, Turner had more than 200 plate appearances just once, coming during the 1994 season, when he hit .232 with 45 RBI’s and 52 walks in 102 games. In 1996 he played just 43 games, getting 82 plate appearances in which he hit .179 with 10 RBI’s. The Pirates picked him up on April 22,1997 as a free agent. After hitting .340 in 59 games for AAA Calgary, the Pirates called him up and he continued with the hot bat. Ward hit .353 in 71 games, with 33 RBI’s and 33 runs scored. In 1998 he played a career high 123 games, with half (61 games) coming off the bench. Turner ended up hitting .262 with nine homers and a career high 46 RBI’s. In 1999, he struggled at the plate in limited playing time and was released in August. He signed with Arizona, where he hit .348 in 23 AB’s, then hit a three-run homer during the NLDS against the Mets. Ward played parts of two more seasons in the majors before retiring as a player. He has managed in the minors since, including the 2007 season for the Pirates with their State College affiliate.

Hank Schenz(1919) Infielder for the 1950-51 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1939, playing until 1942 before losing three seasons to military service during WWII. When he returned in 1946, he hit .333 in 138 games for the Tulsa Oilers of the Texas League, earning a late season promotion to the majors. Hank spent four seasons with the Cubs, but only during the 1948 season did he actually spend the full year in the majors. He hit .261 that year in 96 games, spending most of his time in the field playing second base. The other three seasons combined saw him play only 20 games. The Cubs traded Schenz to the Dodgers during the 1949 season and the Pirates purchased his contract from Brooklyn that November. In 1950 he saw backup playing time at 3B/SS/2B, getting into a total of 58 games with 110 plate appearances. Hank hit .228 with five RBI’s and 17 runs scored, the latter number was high due to numerous pinch running appearances. In 1951 he was used often early at 2B but by the end of June, he was put on waivers where the New York Giants picked him up. The rest of his major league career consisted of just eight pinch running appearances. Hank finished his pro career with four seasons in the minors, the last as a player manager for the Tulsa Oilers.

Red Smith(1892) Catcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. In major league baseball, four players have been known by the name Red Smith. All played during the same era and one played for the Pirates, Willard Jehu “Red” Smith caught two seasons in the majors, both for Pittsburgh. He began his pro career in 1910 but didn’t make the majors until mid-September 1917 after hitting .267 in 89 games for the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association. It was his fourth straight season playing in that league, which was two levels below the majors(equivalent to AA now). Smith caught six games with the 1917 Pirates, got 24 plate appearances and hit .143 with two RBI’s. In 1918 he saw limited time, getting into 15 games total, six as a starter. Red hit .167 with three RBI’s in 24 AB’s. Following the 1918 season, he next played minor league ball in 1923 and then again from 1926 until 1928.

Pop Corkhill(1858) Outfielder for the 1891-92 Pirates. He was a star outfielder earlier in his career, posting three straight 90+ RBI seasons for the Cincinnati Red Stockings from 1886-1888. In 1889 he hit .250 with 78 RBI’s and 91 runs scored for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, helping them take the American Association title. When the team moved to the National League for the 1890 season, Corkhill came along and while the team finished in first place again, he hit just .225 in 51 games. The 1891 season saw him play for three different teams in two different leagues, the third team was the Pirates. In 41 games in Pittsburgh, he hit .228 with 20 RBI’s, while playing center field. The following season he saw time in center and right field, playing strong defense but hitting only .184 in 68 games, in what would be his last season in the majors. Pop was a career .254 hitter with 631 RBI’s and 650 runs scored in 1086 games. He was one of the top outfielders of his day, five times leading the league in fielding percentage and his 224 outfield assists rank him 35th still to this day.

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On this date in 1988…

The Pirates opened their home schedule with a 5-1 victory over the Phillies.  After two years of accumulating young talent, this home opener served notice that Syd Thrift had assembled a hard-charging squad.  First-inning triples by Barry Bonds (age 23) and Andy Van Slyke (age 27) yielded a first-inning run, and Bonds added a solo home run in the third.  A three-run double by Mike LaValliere (age 27) in the eighth inning put the game out of reach.  Doug Drabek (age 25) picked up the win with five innings of work, and Vincete Palacios (age 24) came out of the bullpen to shut down a bases-loaded, no out threat.

A crowd of 54,089 represented a new record for baseball attendance at Three Rivers Stadium, only 367 days after the previous record had been set.

Here’s the box score:

Here’s the game story:

John Lease

Don’t forget Turner Ward’s famous crash thru the outfield fence at 3RS…


I mentioned it on twitter, but did you(or anyone else) know that Dodgers outfielder Trent Hubbard also crashed through the same outfield wall that very same day in batting practice?

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