Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, one trade to talk about and one Opening Day to mention. The star of the day, one of the greatest Pirates players ever, Paul Waner, got his own article earlier this morning. The rest of the news for the day is listed here.
On this date in 1937, The Pittsburgh Pirates traded first baseman/right fielder Earl Browne, to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Joe Bowman. Browne was a September call-up for the Pirates in both 1935 and 1936. He was 26 years old at the time and had hit .273 in 17 total games for the Pirates. Bowman was also 26, and coming off a season in which he went 9-20 5.04 in 203.2 innings. It was his fourth season in the majors and he had a 21-35 career record. The trade worked out decent for the Pirates in that they got five seasons out of Bowman. He had a 33-38 4.35 record in 629.2 innings for Pittsburgh. He pitched 134 times, 78 as a starter. Browne was a regular for the Phillies in 1937, playing all three outfield positions and first base. He hit .292 with 52 RBI’s in 105 games. The Phillies sold him to the Cardinals just over a month into the 1938 season and he never played in the majors again.
Former Pirates players born on this date include:
Babe Phelps(1908) Catcher for the 1942 Pirates. While with the Dodgers from 1935 until 1941, Phelps was a strong hitting catcher who made three all-star appearances. Twice he batted over .360 in a season and in 581 games with Brooklyn, he had a .315 average. His last season in Brooklyn was marred by health problems, injuries and a suspension, leading him to play just 16 games in 1941. The Pirates acquired him a four for one deal on December 12,1941 in exchange for shortstop Arky Vaughan. Phelps platooned at catcher with future Hall of Fame manager, Al Lopez, in 1942 for the Pirates. He hit .284 with nine homers and 41 RBI’s in 95 games that season. In April 1943, Phelps was put on the voluntary retired list by baseball for failing to sign his contract for that season within ten days after the start of the schedule. The Pirates tried trading him in May but the commissioner held up the deal due to Phelps’ status. They finally dealt Phelps to the Philadelphia Phillies, along with cash, in exchange for first baseman Babe Dahlgren on December 30,1943. Phelps never reported to the Phillies, instead deciding to retire after 11 seasons in the majors.
Piggy Ward(1867) Left fielder for the 1891 Pirates. He made his major league debut just after his 16th birthday, playing one game for the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers(Phillies). Six years later he returned to the majors, this time playing seven games for the 1889 Quakers. Two seasons later, he joined the Pirates for a brief six game trial in late August, all five of his starts played as a left fielder. The local newspaper at the time was critical of his defense, suggesting he should play third base because he was too slow to cover ground in left field. They did however, like the hitting that he added to the team during his brief stay. Pittsburgh was one of five teams he played for that season, spending time with four minor league teams at some point during the season, in four different leagues. He bounced around a lot during his career, playing for five different major league teams in six seasons and at least 30 different minor league teams during his 21 year career. Ward hit .333 for the Pirates in 18 AB’s with two RBI’s and three stolen bases. He was a .286 hitter in 221 major league games. His minor league stats are far from complete at this time, with a few seasons totally missing and others incomplete, but he is still credited with over 1700 minor league hits.
The 1903 Season Opener
On April 16, 1903, the Pirates played their season opener against the Cincinnati Reds. Pittsburgh had won the last two NL pennants and they looked to make it three in a row. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the 1903 season wouldn’t just end with an NL pennant. The Pirates would go on to play a post-season series against the Boston Americans, the AL champions, in what would be the first modern day World Series. The Pirates opened up the 1903 season with an easy 7-1 win against the Reds, on their way to sweeping the four game series. The starting lineup for the Pirates that day was as follows:
CF Ginger Beaumont
LF Fred Clarke
3B Tommy Leach
SS Honus Wagner
1B Kitty Bransfield
RF Jimmy Sebring
2B Claude Ritchey
C Babe Phelps
P Deacon Phillippe
That same lineup would start game one of the World Series, with the only change being Ritchey and Sebring were switched in the order.+ posts
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.