Game Rewind: Pirates at Braves, September 15, 1920, Game Two

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Braves squared off in a doubleheader at Braves Field on a Wednesday afternoon, exactly 100 years ago today. During the second game that day, a 21-year-old from Framingham, Massachusetts made his Major League debut. Unbeknownst at the time, it was the start of a Hall of Fame career.

Going into this game, the Pirates had a 71-63 record that had them in fourth place. They were still technically in the playoff race, but their hopes were fading fast. Boston was 54-76, trying to avoid last place. The Pirates had Hal Carlson on the mound with a 13-12 record. The Braves had Dana Fillingim on the mound with his 10-18 record, though his ERA was slightly better than Carlson’s ERA at the time.

The Pirates had two future Hall of Famers in their lineup, though both went into Cooperstown as managers. Bill McKechnie started at shortstop and Billy Southworth was the right fielder. The Braves had Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville. Just a few months after this game, Southworth was part of a trade package put together by the Pirates to acquire Maranville. There was a fourth Hall of Famer on the field that day, home plate umpire Bill Klem. A fifth Hall of Famer would join the group later in the day.

Pittsburgh went down in order in the top of the first, then Carlson was a little shaky in the bottom of the inning. He hit the second batter and issued a two-out walk, but got an inning-ending grounder to keep it scoreless.

In the second, the Pirates went down in order again. The Braves got things started with a lead-off walk from Maranville, who moved up to second on a stolen base. After two fly outs, the pitcher helped his case by bringing home Rabbit with a single.

The Pirates got their first two hits of the day in the third and they came from their 8-9 hitters. Catcher Walter Schmidt singled and Carlson followed with a single. Carson Bigbee and George Cutshaw both made outs to end the rally. In the bottom of the third, Walter Holke got the first extra-base hit of the day, doubling with two outs. He was left stranded at second base and the two teams moved on to the fourth.

Billy Southworth led off the Pirates fourth with a double, but never moved. A pop up, foul out and fly ball ended the inning. Carlson had his first 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth.

Bill McKechnie singled to start the fifth. He moved to second base on a sacrifice and third on a ground out, but Carson Bigbee couldn’t bring him home. The Braves had a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth, getting a walk and singled, followed by back-to-back triples by Walter Holke and Tony Boeckel, who began his career with the Pirates in 1917. The Braves built a 4-0 lead.

In that bottom of the fifth, McKenchie left the game and he was replaced at shortstop by Harold “Pie” Traynor, making his big league debut. There wasn’t any reason given for McKechnie leaving, and he was in there for both games of a doubleheader the very next day, so it likely wasn’t injury related. Traynor would end up playing in 17 of the final 19 games for the Pirates in 1920.

In the sixth, the Pirates were limited to a one-out single by Southworth. Boston went down in order in the bottom of the frame and Traynor got his first action, handling a two-out grounder to end the inning.

The seventh started with a Charlie Grimm single. Traynor got his first at-bat and he popped out to the second baseman. After a Walter Schmidt walk, Jimmy Zinn pinch-hit for Carlson. Zinn and Carson Bigbee both grounded out, ending the threat and keeping it a 4-0 deficit.

As mentioned, Jimmy Zinn hit for Carlson and he stayed in to pitch. He was a pitcher, so it wasn’t odd that he was pitching in relief. He was also a pretty good hitter (.283 hitter in 76 games), so he wasn’t your typical pitcher. Zinn allowed a walk and a single (Holke again), but no runners crossed the plate in the seventh.

The eighth inning went quickly for both sides and sent the game to the ninth. Possum Whitted started the inning with a triple. After a Charlie Grimm ground out, Pie Traynor came up and doubled home Whitted for the Pirates first run. That was it however, as Schmidt and Zinn both made outs to end the game. Dana Fillingim pitched the complete game and nearly had a shutout until Traynor spoiled it with two outs to go. This game wrapped up in 89 minutes (two papers say 88 minutes), making the doubleheader one minute short of three hours.

The newspapers of the day were excited about Traynor’s debut because they heard great things about him before he joined the Pirates. Multiple papers commented on his above average speed while he ran out his double. He handled both plays at shortstop without issue. Traynor had another 2,415 hits left in him after this game. The game had something you’re unlikely to see elsewhere unless it’s an All-Star game. Three players were at shortstop in this game and all three went on to Cooperstown.

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