This Date in Pirates History: April 22

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and the team has played two season openers on this date as well.

Mickey Vernon(1918) Pinch hitter for the 1960 Pirates. He joined the Pirates as a first base coach for the 1960 season but ended up being used as a pinch hitter nine times in September as Pittsburgh fought for the NL pennant. He went 1-8 at the plate with a walk and an RBI. For Vernon, it was the end of his playing career that spanned four decades. It is possible that if he had not missed two years to military service, he would be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The year he returned from the service, he won the AL batting crown with a .353 average. In his career he had 2495 hits, 1311 RBI’s, 1196 runs scored, two batting titles, three times he led the league in doubles and he was elected to seven all-star teams. Mickey was a Pirates coach for just that one season. The following year he took over the helm of the expansion Washington Senators

Jake Pitler(1894) Second baseman for the 1917-18 Pirates. He was a light-hitting second baseman in the minors for four seasons before breaking out in early 1917 when he hit .364 in 42 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association. The Pirates called him to the majors for his big league debut on May 30,1917 and it was a successful one in front of the home crowd. During a doubleheader, he went 2-7 and was twice robbed of hits, Jake stole a base, laid down a successful sacrifice and handled all twelve balls hit his way without an error. The local press spoke highly of his play that day and also noted he had many friends in the stands. Playing alongside the great Honus Wagner all season, Pitler held his own in the field, finishing second among NL second baseman in fielding percentage. However, his batting reverted back to pre-1917 numbers, as he hit .233 with 23 RBI’s in 106 games. Jake was with the team early in the next season but was at the end of the bench and all but forgotten. On May 4, he played the second half of the game at 2B, going 0-1 with a walk and an error. Then twenty days later, he pinch ran for Bill Hinchman in the ninth inning of a 6-1 game with the Pirates losing. Pitler stole second, stole third, then scored the Pirates final run that day on a double by George Cutshaw. Jake would return to the minors, playing until 1936 without ever making it back to the big leagues. He also managed for 17 seasons in the minors.

Season Openers

In 1891 the newly named Pittsburgh Pirates, previously known as the Alleghenys, opened their season coming off the worst year in franchise history. The team went 23-113 in 1890, when the roster was decimated by players leaving for the newly formed Player’s League. When that league folded after just one season, many of the players returned to their old teams, but the Pirates were able to not only get their star players back, then also signed other star players such as Louis Bierbauer and Pete Browning. Pittsburgh opened the season at home against Cap Anson and the Chicago Colts. With Pud Galvin on the mound, they lost 7-6 in front of 5,500 fans. The Pirates lineup that day, which include four future Hall of Famers, was as follows:

Doggie Miller,SS
Jake Beckley,1B
Fred Carroll,RF
Pete Browning,LF
Louis Bierbauer,2B
Ned Hanlon,CF
Connie Mack,C
Charlie Reilly,3B
Pud Galvin,P

In 1897 the Pirates opened their season against the St Louis Browns. It was an easy 4-1 win for Pittsburgh, with the only run they allowed coming off a double steal in the second inning. Frank Killen was on the mound for the Pirates, coming off a 30 win season in 1896. It was his second thirty win season while with the team. Killen allowed six hits, all singles, struck out four and threw a complete game. Steve Brodie made his Pirates debut in center field that day. He was a star defensive outfielder that Pittsburgh acquired in the off-season for Jake Stenzel, the franchises all-time leader in batting average with a .360 mark. Brodie hit two doubles while batting in the fifth spot and all four men ahead of him in the lineup scored one run apiece. The Pirates lineup that day was:

Mike Smith,LF
Bones Ely,SS
Patsy Donovan,RF
Jim Donnelly,3B
Steve Brodie,CF
Denny Lyons,1B
Dick Padden,2B
Joe Sudgen,C
Frank Killen,P

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On this date in 2001…

Jason Kendall’s two-run, tenth-inning home run off Jeff Fassero lifted the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Cubs at PNC Park.  Kendall’s blast won the first extra-inning game in PNC Park history and thwarted the Cubs’ attempt to earn a second three-game sweep of the Bucs in the young season.

Bucco closer Mike Williams had set the stage for Kendall’s heroics by surrendering a solo home run to Gary Matthews Jr. (who would become a Pirate himself four months later) in the top of the tenth; it was the second consecutive day that Williams had allowed a tie-breaking home run to a Cub (Todd Hundley had won the previous day’s game with a ninth-inning homer).  With one out in the bottom of the inning, Kevin Young reached on a pinch-hit single, and Kendall (who himself had entered as a pinch-hitter four innings earlier) drove Fassero’s pitch into the bleachers just behind the left-field fence for the walk-off home run.

Here’s the box score and play-by-play:

Here’s the Post-Gazette’s game story:

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