This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 28th, Louis Bierbauer and Grant Jackson

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the man that helped name the Pirates.

Louis Bierbauer, second baseman for the Pirates from 1891 until 1896. The abbreviated version of old story goes that after the Player’s League folded in 1890, Pittsburgh “pirated” players from other teams that didn’t put those players on the reserve list. The PL was around one season and most players returned to their 1889 teams because they were reserved. Pittsburgh signed Bierbauer (and others) and a few of the other opposing teams referred to them as the Pirates. An odd twist on the story is that they never went by that team name in 1891 or even within the next few years. The local papers still often referred to them as the Alleghenys, which was the accepted name before then. Others called them “Allies”, the “Hanlons” for manager Ned Hanlon, or just the “Pittsburgs”. Back then the town didn’t have an H at the end. The “Pirates” name, when seen, was almost always from a game recap sent from the road by a writer from a different city, and many of those references didn’t have the name capitalized.

When manager Bill McGunnigle took over the team in late July of 1891, he ran practice with a whistle and the local newspapers took to calling the team the “Pets”, which stuck through the end of the season. In 1894, they went by the name Braves. The nickname Pirates wasn’t used by the team until the 1895 season. The actual name of the team didn’t include the word Pirates for the longest time. The official name starting in 1891 was the Pittsburgh Athletic Company, and technically, the 1891 team was actually a brand new club, different from the 1882-90 version (I’ll cover that more one day). Having said all that, it’s easier to just say they started using the name Pirates in 1891 because that’s the earliest reference to it. The owner J. Palmer O’Neil referred to himself a few times as the “Pirate King” after a character in the play at the time, helping the name stay alive long enough that the club eventually embraced it.

Back to Bierbauer the player, who was a star second baseman at the time. He had an awful first year back in the National League in 1891 (-0.4 WAR), then rebounded to have a decent career with the Pirates. He hit .260 in 709 games, with 399 runs scored and 425 RBIs. He drove in 94 runs in 1893, then set a career high with 109 RBIs in 1894, though that was a huge year for offense in baseball. Bierbauer was an above average defender, who led the NL three times in assists while with the Pirates. He had one main issue on defense, and that was completing close plays, especially with runners attempting to steal. He shied away from contact after a spiking injury. His range and sure hands still made him an above average second baseman. Prior to joining the Pirates, he had a big season in the Player’s League for Brooklyn, hitting .306 with 99 RBIs. He had a .304 average and 105 RBIs in the previous season with the Philadelphia Athletics, the team that ultimately lost him to Pittsburgh. He was a career .267 hitter in 1,385 games, with 839 RBIs, 821 runs scored and 206 stolen bases.

Other players born on this date include:

Grant Jackson, pitcher for the 1977-82 Pirates, and the winner of the last World Series game in franchise history. Jackson was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961 as an amateur free agent. It took him four years to make the majors, debuting in September of 1965. His first full season was 1967, when he posted a 3.84 ERA in 84.1 innings. He was even better the next season, with a 2.95 ERA in six starts and 27 relief appearances. Jackson spent his only full season as a starter in 1969, when he went 14-18, 3.34 in 253 innings and made his lone All-Star appearance. His ERA rose to 5.29 in 1970 and he split his time between starting and relief. He spent the next 5 1/2 seasons in Baltimore as a strong reliever, who occasionally closed out games. In the 1971 World Series, he had one scoreless appearance against the Pirates.

Jackson was traded to the New York Yankees during the 1976 season and he went to the World Series again, though he had a rough postseason with five runs in seven innings. The Seattle Mariners selected him in the Expansion Draft and then traded him to the Pirates a month later. He had a 3.86 ERA in 49 appearances and 91 innings in his first season in Pittsburgh. He improved to a 3.26 ERA over 60 appearances in 1978, then dropped down to a 2.96 mark in 72 outings in 1979. Jackson picked up 14 saves and won eight games. After five shutout performances in the playoffs, Jackson came in on relief in game seven of the 1979 World Series and threw 2.2 scoreless innings to pick up the win. He also won game one of the NLCS over the Reds. The 1980 season was another solid performance, with a 2.92 ERA in 71 innings, with eight wins and nine saves. During the middle of the 1981 season, he was sold to the Montreal Expos. Jackson pitched for the Kansas City Royals during the first half of the 1982 season before being released. He re-signed with the Pirates and pitched his final big league game on September 8th, his only appearance with Pittsburgh that season. Jackson pitched 278 games for the Pirates and had a 3.23 ERA with 36 saves. He spent 18 years in the majors and had a 3.46 ERA in 692 appearances and 1,358.2 innings pitched.

Leon Chagnon, pitcher for the 1929-30 and 32-34 Pirates. He pitched 101 times in relief and 20 times as a starter with Pittsburgh, posting a 4.61 ERA in 355 innings. He debuted in the majors in 1929, just after his 27th birthday, and he made one late season start. Chagnon was with the Pirates for most of 1930, struggling with the high offense in the league like almost every other pitcher. He had a 6.82 ERA in 62 innings. He spent all of 1931 in the Texas League with Fort Worth, where he won 20 games. Back in Pittsburgh for most of 1932, he went 9-6, 3.94 in 128 innings, making ten starts and 20 relief appearances.  Chagnon spent his first full season in the majors in 1933, posting a 3.69 ERA in 100 innings. He was limited to 58 relief innings in 1934, and his ERA rose to 4.81 that year. After the season, the Pirates traded him to the New York Giants. Chagnon lasted 38.1 innings with New York before being sent to the minors, where he played until retirement after the 1937 season.

Everett Booe, outfielder for the 1913 Pirates. He played three years for Petersburg of the Virginia League before joining the Pirates for the 1913 season. He was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Pirates in September of 1912. Booe hit .303 in 122 games in 1911 and .325 in 127 games in 1912 with Petersburg. During his brief time with the Pirates, he hit .200 in 29 games. Most of his playing time came in May as a center fielder. He was traded to the minors for outfielder Fred Kommers on June 24, 1913. Booe played for two teams in the Federal League in 1914 and then couldn’t get a big league job after the league folded, which happened to quite a few marginal MLB players during that time. He played pro ball until 1930 and collected over 2,000 hits in the minors(his 1915 stats are missing, but he played for Statesville, NC as a player/manager that season). He also had six years of managerial experience in the minors. Booe missed the 1918-19 seasons serving in the Army during WWI.

Pete Compton, outfielder for the 1916 Pirates. He played six seasons in the majors between 1911 and 1918, seeing time with five different big league clubs. Compton went 1-for-16 in five games in Pittsburgh during the middle of the 1916 season. The Pirates picked him up as a waiver claim from the Boston Braves on July 3rd and returned him 11 days later. There was some dispute over his claim by the Pirates. Boston had put him on waivers with the idea to trade him to a minor league team in Louisville. In fact, they already had a deal worked out. Owner Barney Dreyfuss refused to waive his claim and Compton joined the Pirates, where it was said that his play was unsatisfactory. Manager Jimmy Callahan asked that he be placed back on waivers and Boston immediately picked him back up for the $1,500 waiver cost. Boston then sent him to Louisville, as per the original deal. Compton played a total of 19 seasons in the minors and collected over 2,600 hits as a pro, with 186 coming in the majors.

Harley Young, pitcher for the 1908 Pirates. During his short time in Pittsburgh, he made three starts and five relief appearances, posting a 2.23 ERA in 48.1 innings. The Pirates acquired Young mid-season from the Boston Doves for Irv Young. He was a rookie in 1908 and had a 3.29 ERA in 27.1 innings before the trade. The 1908 season ended up being his only season in the majors. Young has a little more notoriety than your average one-year player from 100+ years ago. The popular thing to do back in that era was give players with the same last name, the same nickname. Cy Young was nearing the end of his brilliant career back then and the aforementioned Irv Young got the unfortunate nickname of “Cy the Second”. That’s not too much pressure for a young (pardon the pun) pitcher, is it? So when Harley came around in 1908, he got the nickname “Cy the Third”. Harley fell exactly 511 wins short of Cy Young’s career total. Harley Young pitched in pro ball from 1905 until 1920, picking up at least 153 career wins (some stats are incomplete).

Bill Nelson, pitcher for the 1884 Alleghenys. He started and finished three games for the 1884 Alleghenys, winning one. That brief trial turned out to be his only MLB experience. Nelson debuted on September 3rd and pitched his final game seven days later,  a 10-2 loss to Columbus. His lone win came over a Hall of Famer, Hank O’Day (he’s in the Hall as an umpire). Nelson pitched for Muskegon of the Northwestern League to begin the 1884 season. In what would seem extremely odd by today’s standards, he batted sixth in the lineup in his first big league start. He was in the ninth spot for the final two games (he went 2-for-12 at the plate) He had a 9-18 record there, though it came with a 1.72 ERA in 245.1 innings. Nelson pitched in the minors until 1889.

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