This Date in Pirates History: May 14

Only one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, and he played just one major league game. We also have a manager, who stuck around for six seasons and an impressive hitting feat from before the turn of the century. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland looks at an odd baserunning blunder that almost cost the Pirates a victory on this date in 1982.

The Player

Drew Rader (1901) Pitcher for the Pirates on July 18,1921. Before he signed with the Pirates, he was a star pitcher for Syracuse University, claimed by some to be the best amateur pitcher around as a freshman. Prior to enrolling in college, Pittsburgh tried to sign the young pitcher who was said to be equally strong at pitching with either hand, although he was known as “lefty”.  The Pirates upped the offer to Rader, asking him to leave school and join the team for Spring Training in 1921. Drew was with the Pirates for awhile before he finally got to pitch. He roomed with another rookie, Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse, a full-blooded American Indian and by early June, the two were said to be close friends. Drew finally got into a game on July 18th, although it took a 12-1 deficit late in the game to actually get him off the end of the bench. He pitched two scoreless innings against the New York Giants that day, giving up a single in each frame. It would be the end of his major league career and his career as a pro player was almost over as well. He only pitched one game in the minors in 1922 with the Reading Aces of the International League

The Manager

Horace Phillips (1853) Manager of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1884 until 1889. He was a minor league player/manager during the first season(1877) that minor league ball existed. After two years in the minors, he got the job as manager of the Troy Trojans during their first season of existence in the National League. Troy was the worst team in the NL and after 47 games, Phillips lost his job to veteran third baseman Bob Ferguson, who did no better at the helm of the team. Troy finished 19-56 on the season. Phillips returned to the minors as a player/manager in 1880, then as just a player in 1881, his last year as an active player. He was a manager of a team in Philadelphia in 1882, when talk of forming a second major league began. Horace was instrumental in getting the American Association off the ground, but when the first season started, he was without a job in the league. In 1883, Phillips managed the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association to a sixth place finish, 1.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the standings.

In 1884, Horace began the year managing in the minors. At the helm of a team from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Northwestern League, he led them to a first place finish with a 48-13 record. At the same time, the Alleghenys were changing managers rapidly during their season, going through four, including Bob Ferguson, before they hired Phillips to finish out the year. He went just 9-24 and the team finished in tenth place but Pittsburgh chose to stick with him. The 1885 Alleghenys had a huge influx of talent and they were players familiar to Phillips. When the Columbus Buckeyes franchise folded after the 1884 season, Pittsburgh bought most of their players. The moved merged a 30-78 Pittsburgh team with a second place(69-39) Columbus team, making the Alleghenys an instant contender.

Phillips led the Alleghenys to a 56-55 finish in 1885, their first winning season in the franchise’s fourth year of existence. They would get much better the next year, finishing in second place with a record of 80-57, which helped lead to the team moving from the AA to the National League. Phillips remained at the helm of Pittsburgh for two more full seasons, leading the club to sixth place(out of eight teams) finishes each year. In 1889, he managed the club through the middle of July but began making odd decisions off the field with his finances. He received a salary from the team and part of the profits, which amounted to a decent amount of money but he began to spend money like someone who was much more wealthier. He was relieved of his managerial duties and sent back home. His doctor diagnosed him with Paresis, brought on by overwork and said that Phillips has been in a slow decline for the last year. It was also said that his managerial career was over and that assessment was correct. Phillips was committed to an insane asylum and passed away in 1896.

The Hitter

On this date in 1896, Jake Stenzel collects six hits in one game for the Pirates. Pittsburgh had their bats working overtime against the Boston Beaneaters that day, collecting 27 hits and scoring twenty runs. The day after his big game, Stenzel collected another four hits, giving him 12 hits in 15 AB’s over a three game span. Despite the streak and the fact Jake hit .361 on the season, he still finished second on the team in batting by .001 to Elmer “Mike” Smith. Stenzel would be traded away by the Pirates at the end of the season.

The mound opponent for the Pirates that day was Cozy Dolan, who would make just three more starts in his career. He returned to the majors in 1900 after a three year layoff and played another 798 games as a decent hitting outfielder. He is not to be confused with the Cozy Dolan that played outfield for the 1913 Pirates. A popular practice back in that era was to give players, with the same last name as an older player, that player’s nickname.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 14, 1982

A baserunning blunder reduced Lee Lacy’s apparent go-ahead grand slam to a mere three-run single, but the runs were enough to complete the Pirates’ rally for an 8-7 victory over the Reds at Three Rivers Stadium.

Trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the eighth, the Bucs started the inning with Reggie Walton’s pinch-hit walk and Willie Stargell’s pinch-hit single off Cincinnati reliever Jim Kern. Kern then failed to field Omar Moreno’s attempted sacrifice bunt cleanly, loading the bases with none out.

Reds manager John McNamara called in Tom Hume to face Lacy, but the Bucco rightfielder hit Hume’s 2-2 pitch over the wall in right-center to put the Pirates into the lead. How far into the lead became an unexpected matter of doubt: rounding first and heading for second, Lacy failed to realize that Moreno had held up to ensure that Cincinnati centerfielder Cesar Cedeno did not catch the ball. Not expecting to encounter a teammate so soon into his celebratory trot, Lacy passed Moreno about 30 feet from second base, making him automatically out.

Its bizarre aftermath notwithstanding, Lacy’s clutch hit did give the Pirates a one-run lead that they would not relinquish. Kent Tekulve set down the Reds in the ninth to earn the save on Enrique Romo’s victory; earlier, Manny Sarmiento had performed the bullpen’s heavy lifting in a five-and-a-third-inning, one run, one hit performance in relief of starter Don Robinson, whom the Reds knocked out with a five-run first inning.

(Lacy’s “Slam That Wasn’t,” as the Pittsburgh Press called it, evoked two previous adventures in baserunning at Three Rivers. On July 4, 1976, Phillies catcher Tim McCarver had celebrated America’s bicentennial by hitting an apparent grand slam against Larry Demery, only to likewise wind up with a three-run single when he passed Gary Maddox between first and second. On June 19, 1974, Lacy, standing on third base as a member of the Dodgers, had walked off the field—along with various Pirates—and into the dugout when Los Angeles catcher Joe Ferguson apparently struck out on a full count pitch with the bases loaded and two outs. As it turned out, the home plate umpire ruled the pitch to Ferguson was ball four, and Lacy wound up returning to the field to score “from the dugout.”)

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Press game story

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