Game Rewind: Pirates at Cardinals, September 12, 1955

On September 12, 1955, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in St Louis at Busch Stadium to take on the Cardinals. It was a Monday night and a small crowd of just 3,289 showed up to watch two teams that already clinched losing records with three weeks remaining in the season.

The Pirates had Cuban pitcher Lino Donoso on the mound. He was a 32-year-old rookie in 1955, who was looking to pick up his fourth career win. His mound opponent was a pitcher who would make a permanent name for himself in baseball history a few years later with the Pirates. Harvey Haddix compiled a 38-22 record during the 1953-54 seasons, but he was 12-15 going into this game.

The starting lineups that day had one future Hall of Famer on each club. The Cardinals had veteran slugger Stan Musial batting third and playing right field. The Pirates had 21-year-old Roberto Clemente, who was also batting third and playing out in right field. The Cardinals had their own rookie in the outfield who became a pretty good player. Bill Virdon would join the Pirates in a trade eight months after this game. On this day, he was batting fifth and playing center field.

The top of the first was an easy one for Haddix. He retired the side in order, getting Clemente to ground out to second base for the final out. In the bottom of the inning, Donoso started with a strikeout and then a single. Musial hit a grounder to second base, but Johnny O’Brien couldn’t handle it. Harry Elliott then singled to right field for the first run of the game. Donoso settled down and got a strikeout and a line out to end the inning.

In the second, Jack Shepard doubled with one out. Dale Long then singled to right field. Shepard tried to score on the play, but Musial hosed him at the plate. Johnny O’Brien flew out to left field to end any threat. The Cardinals got a lead-off single from Wally Moon in the second. He was quickly erased on a caught stealing and Donoso ended up facing the minimum in the inning.

The Pittsburgh third started with a lead-off double from Dick Groat. He made a base running error on the next play when Donoso grounded out to shortstop and Groat was thrown out at third base. Lead-off hitter Eddie O’Brien (the twin of Johnny) singled to move Donoso to third base, then a Gene Freese ground out tied the game. Clemente flew out to center field to end the frame. The Cardinals went down in order in the third and Musial matched Clemente by flying out to center field to end the inning.

Haddix walked Frank Thomas and Jack Shepard to start the fourth inning. Dale Long gave the Pirates the lead by hitting his 15th home run of the season over the right-center field wall. Haddix set down the next three batters in order, two by strikeouts.

In the bottom of the fourth, Bill Virdon collected a one-out single. After picking up a strikeout for the second out, Donoso walked Wally Moon to put two men on. Alex Grammas hit the ball hard, but Frank Thomas was able to corral it in left field to end the threat and keep it 4-1 Pirates.

The Bucs went down 1-2-3 in the fifth, with Clemente lining out to third base for the final out. Donoso did the same to the Cardinals, retiring Haddix, Solly Hemus and Ken Boyer in order.

Haddix was hurt again by Dale Long in the sixth. Thomas singled, then moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Shepard. Long followed with a double that scored Thomas to make it 5-1. Haddix was replaced by Mel Wright at that point. Johnny O’Brien reached on an infield single, then Dick Groat successfully put down a suicide squeeze, scoring Long from third base.

The Cardinals got a run back in a hurry, as Musial led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to make it 6-2. It was a blip on the radar for Donoso, who then got three straight grounders to second base to end the inning. The seventh inning was quiet for both teams, with no one reaching base.

The Pirates threatened in the eighth, but could not add any insurance runs. They put two runners on with a Thomas single and a Long walk, but the next two batters both made outs to end the inning. In the eighth for the Cardinals, another Hall of Famer got a chance to swing the timber. Red Schoendienst came on as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning at second base. Donoso was able to retire him leading off the eighth, getting a grounder to shortstop. After a Ken Boyer fly ball, Musial stepped up and homered again, his 30th of the season.

The first two Pirates of the ninth made outs. Gene Freese singled and moved up on a wild pitch. Clemente, who was 0-for-4 at that point, singled him home to make it 7-3. That score didn’t last long, as Thomas followed that up with his 21st home run of the year. Working with a six-run lead, Donoso struck out Virdon, walked Nelson Burbrink, then got Wally Moon to hit into a 3-6 double play to end the game. The Pirates had a 56-87 record at that point.

This was the third complete game for Donoso and his fourth big league victory. It also ended up being his final big league win. He was out of the majors by the following May. Thomas went 3-for-4 with a walk, homer, three runs and two RBIs. He stole two bases as well, which was one more than he had all season coming into this game. Dale Long went 3-for-3 with a walk, double, homer and four RBIs. The only Pirates player without at least one hit was Donoso, though he did score a run. Musial hit 475 homers in his career, which is where Willie Stargell also ended up. These homers off Donoso were his 321st and 322nd shots.

Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference