On the same day that my grandfather was born 90 miles away, Pittsburgh Pirates starter Wilbur Cooper was in Philadelphia having one of his best career games. The Pirates all-time leader in wins had a 14-10 record at that point, while the Pirates had a 50-45 record. They were facing a Phillies team that was close behind them in the standings, with a 44-51 record.
The two teams met on a Tuesday afternoon in the Baker Bowl, where a small crowd saw and felt the temperature reportedly reached 106 degrees on the field according to the Pittsburgh Press. I mentioned that Cooper had one of his best games, but you wouldn’t know it from the game report. It was described as a dull, listless and uninteresting game, things you would not get from reading the boxscore.
The Pirates were facing Mike Prendergrast, a 29-year-old right-hander, who had a 10-11 record, despite a 2.63 ERA. Hall of Fame umpire (and former Pittsburgh Alleghenys pitcher) Hank O’Day was behind the plate, while the Pirates had three future Hall of Famers in the lineup. Max Carey was batting third, while Billy Southworth and Bill McKechnie, both in the Hall as managers, were batting fourth and seventh respectively. The Phillies had their own Hall of Famer batting lead-off, shortstop Dave Bancroft.
This game was played quickly according to the accounts and the first two innings didn’t produce much noise. The Phillies got lead-off singles in the first (from Bancroft) and second, but both runners were stranded by Cooper. The Pirates top six were retired in order.
Bill McKechnie made the first out of the third inning to make it seven in a row for Prendergrast, but things got fun for the Pirates after that. They loaded the bases on a Walter Schmidt single, Wilbur Cooper double and walk to Roy Ellam. After that, the next five batters all picked up RBIs. Carson Bigbee made it 1-0 with a single. Max Carey made it 3-0 with a single. Billy Southworth made it 4-0 with a single. George Cutshaw broke the string of singles with a sacrifice fly. Fritz Mollwitz made it 6-0 with a single. Bill McKechnie, who started the inning with an out, ended it with a ground out to third base.
Cooper had an interesting bottom of the third, striking out three batters (including Bancroft), while allowing a single, plus another batter reached on an error by Cutshaw at second base. Each team got a runner on base in the fourth, but there was no damage from either side.
Max Carey led off the fifth with a single. He moved to third base on a single by Southworth. After Cutshaw made the first out, Carey stole home on a delayed double steal. After Mollwitz made the second out, Bill McKechnie drove home Southworth with the second run of the inning to make it an 8-0 game. The stolen base by Carey was his 49th of the season.
Cooper worked a quick bottom of the fifth, picking up two strikeouts. In the sixth, a little small ball made it 9-0 for the Pirates. Red Smith came in as a pinch-hitter for Walter Schmidt and Smith drew a walk. He moved to second on a single by Cooper, then both runners were moved into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Yes, the lead-off hitter bunted two guys over with an 8-0 lead in the sixth inning during the deadball era. Carson Bigbee grounded out to bring in Smith.
The game report noted that Cooper wasn’t working hard with the one-sided score and the brutal heat, so that may account for the sixth inning. The Phillies got back-to-back doubles, though they didn’t get their first run until a two-run single by slugger Gavvy Cravath, who was Babe Ruth before Ruth was in the majors. Cravath won six home run titles in a seven-year stretch from 1913 to 1919.
A pair of errors in the seventh allowed the Pirates to tack on their tenth run. Billy Southworth singled to lead-off the seventh. Cutshaw followed with an infield single to shortstop, which was thrown away by Harry Pearce, who came on to replace Dave Bancroft with the one-sided score. That allowed Southworth to score from first and make it 10-2.
The rest of the game went quickly from that point. Both Cooper and Prendergrast picked up singles. Cooper walked one batter and Mollwitz reached on a second error from Pearce, though he was thrown out trying to steal, up eight runs in the ninth.
Cooper went the distance, giving up two runs on seven hits and two walks. I was careful to word this up top by saying it was one of his best games and not one of his best pitching performances. He picked up the complete game win, giving him a 15-10 record, but two other things stood out more than the complete game victory. Cooper recorded ten strikeouts, which set a career high in his seventh season. It would end up being the only time he reached double digit strikeouts in a game during his career. The other part was his hitting. He was 3-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt. He scored a run and his double was the only extra-base hit for the Pirates. On the other side of the field, Prendergrast ended up with a complete game, despite ten runs and 14 hits. He failed to strike out a single batter.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
Here are links to the previous Game Rewind articles:
Pirates vs Braves, September 22, 1949
Pirates vs Braves, July 28, 1936
Pirates vs Phillies, July 9, 1912