Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who went on to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. We also have a doubleheader of note from the 1969 season. We start with a star pitcher for the 1909 World Series champs.
Howie Camnitz, pitcher for the 1904 and 1906-13 Pirates. Camnitz debuted in the majors with the Pirates in 1904 after one year in minor league ball. He won 26 games for the (get ready for it) Vicksburg Hill Billies of the Cotton States League. He wasn’t ready for the big leagues and lasted just ten games before being sent to the minors. Camnitz went 14-5 for Springfield of the Three-I League in 1904, then posted a 17-17, 3.00 record in 300 innings for the 1905 Toledo Mud Hens. He was with the Mud Hens again and threw 342 innings in 1906, before rejoining the Pirates for two late September games. In 1907, he was there to stay.
Camnitz went 13-8, 2.15 in 180 innings in 1907 for the Pirates and didn’t allow a single homer. He was even better the next season, going 16-9, 1.56 in 236.2 innings. His best season was yet to come. The Pirates won the World Series in 1909 and Camnitz was a huge part of getting them there. He went 25-6, 1.62 in 283 innings. He threw 20 complete games, had six shutouts and even saved three games (not a stat at the time).
For the next three seasons, Camnitz saw a much higher ERA, though he was still a solid pitcher at his worst. He went 12-13, 3.22 in 260 innings in 1910, then bounced back with two 20+ win seasons, throwing a total of 544.1 innings during that time. Camnitz pitched poorly in 1913 and was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies late in the season. He spent his final two years pitching in the Federal League before retiring. He had a 116-84, 2.63 record in 1,754.1 innings with the Pirates. Camnitz ranks eighth in team history in ERA, tenth in WHIP (1.17), 12th in wins, 13th in innings pitched and 17th in strikeouts. He’s also 14th in complete games and 12th in shutouts.
Drew Hutchison, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was drafted out of high school in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays and it took just three years for him to make the majors. Despite the quick path to the big leagues, he never found success. In four seasons in Toronto, his 30-21 record hid the fact that he had a 4.92 ERA during that time. He was still just 26 years old when the Pirates acquired him late in the 2016 season as a salary dump deal that involved Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. Hutchison joined the Pirates in September and made one start and five relief appearances. He had a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings. He spent 2017 in Triple-A, then moved on to the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers in 2018. He pitched in the minors in 2019 and independent ball in 2020. He has a 5.10 ERA in 460.1 innings in the majors.
Doug Bair, pitcher for the Pirates in 1976, then again in 1989-90. He was a second round draft pick of the Pirates in 1971 out of Bowling Green University. He reached Triple-A by 1972, but didn’t make it to the majors until September of 1976. Bair made 79 starts and 45 relief appearances for the Pirates Triple-A team from Charleston before he played his first Major league game. In four relief appearances for the 1976 Pirates, he allowed four runs in 6.1 innings. On March 15, 1977, the Pirates and Oakland A’s hooked up on a nine-player deal, with Bair and five other players going to Oakland, for a package that included Phil Garner. Bair would pitch for Oakland, and six other Major League teams, before returning to the Pirates in June of 1989 at the age of thirty-nine. He was in Triple-A for the Toronto Blue Jays at the time, when the Pirates purchased his contract. He pitched 44 games for Pittsburgh, going 2-3, 2.27, with one save in 67.1 innings. Bair split the 1990 season between Pittsburgh and Triple-A, getting into 22 games for the Pirates spread throughout the season. He would pitch two more years in the minors before retiring, finishing his Major League career with a 55-43, 3.63 record in 584 games (five starts) and he recorded 81 saves.
Wally Hebert, pitcher for the 1943 Pirates. He made his pro debut in 1930, pitching for Springfield of the Western Association, where he won 15 games and pitched 241 innings. Hebert then pitched for the St Louis Browns for three seasons (1931-33) before going to the minors for nine years, all spent in the Pacific Coast League. He went 11-25, 5.65 in 91 games for the Browns, making 38 starts. Hebert threw 170 innings in the minors in 1934, then pitched at least 219 innings in each of the next eight seasons, throwing a high of 319 frames during the 1942 season. His minor league record stood at 162-139 after ten seasons, with three 20-win campaigns. In November of 1942, he was taken by the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft. That 1943 season marked the end of a ten-year absence from the majors. Hebert went 10-11, 2.98 in 184 innings, with 23 starts and 11 relief outings. He decided to retire from baseball after the season and take a wartime job, rather than return to the Pirates, who held his contract rights. There was talk of him returning two years later, but he never did.
Lyle Bigbee, pitcher for the 1921 Pirates. For 11 seasons, Carson Bigbee played outfield for the Pirates, playing 1,147 games in a Pittsburgh uniform. In the middle of that stretch, the Pirates gave his older brother a shot at the end of the 1921 season. Lyle Bigbee pitched 12 games for the Philadelphia A’s in 1920, while also seeing some time as an outfielder and pinch-hitter. The problem was that he didn’t have success anywhere that season, batting .187 with an 8.00 ERA and below average defense. In between his stint with the A’s and his brief trial with the Pirates, Bigbee pitched for Newark of the International League, where he went 9-6, 2.60 in 121 innings. He made five relief appearances for Pittsburgh in 1921, debuting on August 24th during a doubleheader. He pitched well, giving up one run on four hits and four walks in eight innings. Bigbee returned to the minors in 1922, playing three more seasons before retiring. Both Carson and Lyle began their pro careers in the northwest in 1916.
Harry Swacina, first baseman for the 1907-08 Pirates. He played seven years in the minors before getting his first chance at the big leagues with the 1907 Pirates. Swacina hit over .300 three times in the minors, and in 1907, he hit .292 in 123 games for Peoria of the Three-I League. He was purchased for a reported $3,000 price tag and was called Peoria’s best all around baseball player ever. He joined the Pirates in September and ended up playing the last 26 games at first base. Swacina hit .200 with two extra base hits and ten RBIs, showing a good glove at first base with just one error. He was with the Pirates for the early part of 1908, getting into 53 games, and while the defense was good at first base, his hitting remained weak. Swacina batted .216 with 13 RBIs and just seven runs scored. Despite the low average and lack of power, the move to release him was not a popular one among fans and the press, who were getting tired of the revolving door of first baseman the Pirates had in recent years. Swacina as it was, didn’t play in the majors again until 1914, and even then it was in the Federal League, a new formed Major League that year that lasted two seasons. When the Federal League folded after the 1915 season it marked the end of Swacina’s Major League career. He remained in baseball another eight years as a player, hitting .290 over 2,126 minor league games.
Ned Hanlon, Alleghenys/Pirates outfielder/manager in 1889 and 1891. He was a speedy defensive center fielder, who racked up steals and was often among the league leaders in walks during a 13-year career in the majors. Hanlon is more famous for his career as a manager though, his ticket to the Hall of Fame nearly sixty years after he passed away. Back before the modern World Series began in 1903, the champion of baseball was the winner of the NL pennant, and Hanlon led the Baltimore Orioles to three straight titles (1894-96). Then after two straight strong, but disappointing second place finishes, he led the Brooklyn Superbas (1899-1900) to two straight NL titles, a string snapped by the Pirates, who would go on to win three straight times. He won 1,313 games as a manager and batted .260 with 930 runs scored in 1,267 major league games.
Most sites say that the Pirates adopted their current name in 1891, but that wasn’t true. The team itself adopted the name during Spring Training of 1895 and the name didn’t become official until much later. When Hanlon was managing the team in 1891, local media began calling the team the Hanlons quite often. The “Pirates” name was mostly used by the media in a few National League cities, so you would mostly see it when the local papers were wired game recaps from those cities. When the team played at home during his managerial stint, the “Hanlons” name was used more often than not.
During his time in Pittsburgh, he hit .252 with 107 stolen bases, 168 runs scored and 97 RBIs in 235 games. As a manager, he took over mid-season in 1889 and went 26-18. He returned to the helm in 1891 and was 31-47 before being replaced. He was one of many players who jumped to the Player’s League in 1890, where hit .272 with 81 walks and 65 steals for the Pittsburgh Burghers, while guiding the team to a disappointing 60-68 record.
On this date in 1969, the Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds in a doubleheader at Forbes Field. Rookie Al Oliver had a big day, homering in game one, before hitting a walk-off homer in game two. Here’s the link to the Game Rewind article, which recaps both games from that day, highlighting the heroics from Scoop.