Doggie Miller, Longtime Pirates Catcher

George “Doggie” Miller became the first player in Pittsburgh Pirates history to play ten seasons with the franchise, a feat that wasn’t equaled until 14 years after he last put on a Pirates uniform. Only two other catchers have spent at least ten seasons in a Pirates uniform, George Gibson and Manny Sanguillen. Born on August 15,1864, he was primarily a catcher for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys/Pirates from 1884 until 1893, although he was a good enough hitter and fielder that he could play other positions on the days his hands and body needed a rest from catching. 

He began his pro career playing for Harrisburg of the Interstate League in 1883, hitting .231 in 55 games, playing with a team that was filled with former and future major league players. Miller joined the Alleghenys the next season, while the team still played in the American Association. He made his debut on Opening Day, May 1st, one of many losses that season for the Alleghenys. They finished 11th out of 12 teams that year, with a 30-78 record. Miller batted .225 in 89 games, playing 48 games in left field and 30 behind the plate. During his career he played at least 20 games at eight different positions, never taking the mound.

In 1885, Doggie really struggled at the plate, hitting just .163 with four extra base hits in 42 games. Due to those poor batting stats, he saw the majority of his time as the backup catcher to Fred Carroll, who was known more for his bat, but as a rookie, he led the AA in fielding percentage while with Columbus the previous season.

Miller went two seasons without a home run to open his career, then just five games into the 1886 campaign, he belted two homers off Reds pitched Larry McKeon. Doggie went the rest of that season, and each of the next two years, hitting just one more homer, giving him more homers on April 21,1886, than he had in the other 403 games combined over that time. The 1886 season was Pittsburgh’s last year in the AA, a strong record got them an invitation to join the National League for the following season. Miller caught 61 games that year, hitting .252 with 70 runs scored in 83 total games.

Now in the NL in 1887, he batted third and played catcher during the first NL game in franchise history. Miller caught 73 games that year, the second highest total in the NL, finishing with a .928 fielding percentage, which also ranked second in the league. In 1888, he cracked the 100 game mark for the first time. He raised his average to .277, though he walked just 18 times all year. In 1889, Doggie caught a career high 76 games, hitting .268 with 77 runs scored, 56 RBI’s and a career best 25 doubles. 

When most of the Alleghenys left to go to the Player’s League in 1890, Miller stayed and endured a 23-113 season, the worst in franchise history. He was the best hitter on a horrible team, leading the team with a .273 average, 66 RBI’s, 68 walks and 85 runs scored. He mostly played third base that year to keep his bat in the lineup daily, but when the PL folded after one season, Doggie went back to catching more often. He batted .285 in 1891, stealing 35 bases for the second time in his career.

During the 1892 season he played a career high 149 games, playing at least 19 games at five different positions(C/2B/OF). It wasn’t his best season at the plate, with a .254 average and a .661 OPS, but he managed to score a career high 103 runs. During his career he was always one of the hardest players in baseball to strikeout, but never more so than in 1892, when he struck out just 14 times in 699 plate appearances. After a down year in 1893, one in which he only played catcher and hit just .182 in 41 games before being released, Miller moved on to the St Louis Browns for the following year. He had actually finished the 1893 season in the minors back in Harrisburg.

The 1894 season was a high offense year in baseball, as the pitching distance to home plate was moved back and pitchers had a hard time adjusting to it, especially with breaking pitches. It gave new life to Miller, who hit a career high .339 with 86 RBI’s and 93 runs scored. He was also the team manager that season, though all they could muster was a ninth place finish with a 56-76 record.

He was still a productive major leaguer for two more seasons, batting .291 with 81 runs scored and 74 RBI’s for the Browns in 1895, then finishing his major league career in 1896 with the Louisville Colonels, where he batted .275 in 98 games. Miller finished his career with a .267 average, 1381 hits in 1318 games, scoring 839 runs and compiling 567 RBI’s(not a complete total as the stat isn’t know for the 1884 season). His playing career wasn’t over at that point, he still had seven full seasons of minor league ball left in him, five of those years he served as the player/manager. For the Pirates, he hit .254 with 209 steals(does not include 1884-85 seasons) and 611 runs scored, collecting 985 hits.

  • I always wondered why he was the only guy who didn’t jump to the Player’s League. Must have been SOME reason.

    • The 1890 Alleghenys also kept second baseman Fred Dunlap and pitcher Bill Conway. Likely just a numbers game. The PL team took Pittsburgh’s other two catchers, Jocko Field and Fred Carroll, plus they had other players signed already such as pitcher John Tener, second baseman Yank Robinson and catcher Joe Visner, who ended up playing outfield for the PL team. The PL got a lot of great players, but they were also taking players from the American Association, and some big name players such as Cap Anson, Sam Thompson and Billy Hamilton, to name a few, didn’t jump to the new league.

      • I just wondered if he wasn’t a favorite of the owner and maybe got a bump in salary or something. I think Cap Anson was a part owner, although I could be wrong on that. He was certainly the most ‘famous’ player that went from the AA to the NL and lasted such a long time. He had to be ugly though, with that kind of nickname!

  • I always wondered why he was the only guy who didn’t jump to the Player’s League. Must have been SOME reason.

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