First Pitch: A Brief History of July 4th and the Pittsburgh Pirates

Usually we would be right in the middle of the regular season right now, but the action on July 4th this year will be quietly run at PNC Park without any fans or media in attendance. July 4th has been a big day in the past, with teams playing doubleheaders in front of large crowds to celebrate the day. Here’s a brief history of the Pirates on July 4th against the oldest teams in the NL.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs have faced each other 2,534 times, more than any other two teams have played each other in baseball history. They first played each other on July 4th was in 1904, with the Pirates sweeping a doubleheader. Since then, they have played doubleheaders in 1906, 1908, 1910, 1914, 1916, 1919, 1922, 1930, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1948, 1966, 1970, 1975 and 1980. In 1915, 1926, 1971, 1991, 1998, 2000 and 2019 they played just one game. The Pirates are 1-9 over the last ten meetings, and 14-27 overall against the Cubs on July 4th.

The Cardinals are the next most common opponent of the Pirates. They have played 2,518 games over the years. The first July 4th in franchise history for both clubs saw the Pittsburgh Alleghenys beat the St Louis Brown Stockings 6-5 in 1882. They played a doubleheader the following year and the Browns (name change) won both games. The next time they met on July 4th was 15 years later and they split a doubleheader. Since then, the Pirates have gone 17-11, with one tie. The two clubs once went 40 years between July 4th games (1933-73).

As you would expect, the Pirates and Reds have seen their share of each other on July 4th. They haven’t played each other quite as many times total as the previous two match-ups above, but they have seen each other on July 4th more often. Their first July 4th meeting was a doubleheader on 1896, which they split. Since then, they have split the series evenly, going 23-23, with a total of 19 doubleheaders, though the last one happened in 1958.

So in 138 seasons, the Pirates/Alleghenies have played the Cardinals/Cubs/Reds 123 times on July 4th. Just looking at the other four original eight NL teams from 1901 when the AL became a Major League, the Pirates have the following July 4th records:

Braves: 4-7

Phillies: 11-9

Giants: 5-5

Dodgers: 7-6

I thought the Phillies would happen more often, but they had some important ones. In 1887, they met during Pittsburgh’s first year in the NL and split a doubleheader. Pirates took a doubleheader in 1903, which was the first World Series team. The two clubs played on the bicentennial in 1976 and split a doubleheader. Surprisingly, the Phillies weren’t home that day.

Braves and Pirates obviously haven’t met each other much on the holiday. That’s five doubleheaders (three by 1900) and their last game was in 1965.

Dodgers haven’t been a common opponent, even with all of that time in Brooklyn. The Pirates tossed two shutouts during their 1902 doubleheader, then they didn’t play again for 51 years.

Giants have played the Pirates just ten times total on July 4th and that includes four doubleheaders. Pirates won 12-0 in game two in 1901 and then they didn’t play again for 53 years. The two clubs split all four doubleheaders.

As a side note, the Pirates beat the Cleveland Spiders all four times on July 4th, winning both doubleheaders, including 1899 when the Spiders went 20-134.

The Pirates and Mets played back-to-back doubleheaders in 1968 and 1969, then played once on July 4th since then. Mets are 4-1.

Pirates are 5-3 against the Astros.

Pirates are 3-3 vs Expos (Haven’t played Nationals yet on July 4th). The split one doubleheader and each team swept a doubleheader.

I mentioned that the Pirates haven’t played the Nationals yet but the Alleghenys did play the Washington Nationals once on July 4th. That was back in 1888 and obviously a different franchise. Alleghenys won 14-0.

**We will have at least four articles today, including the one you’re currently reading. If any news comes up, we will have more. The other scheduled articles for today are as follows:

This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History – Nine birthdays today including the skipper of the 1979 World Series champs. Also one trade of note for good measure.

Game Rewind – If I planned better, I would have had one of the games mentioned above. Instead I have a doubleheader from 1969 in which a young Al Oliver had a big day.

1979 Season Recap – Willie Stargell and Bill Madlock have big games against the St Louis Cardinals.

Happy July 4th everyone!




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.

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