Game Rewind: Pirates at Giants, June 7, 1902

On June 7, 1902 at the Polo Grounds, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Deacon Phillippe had one of his best career games. At the time, the Pirates were in the early stages of their best season in franchise history. They held a 32-7 record, while the New York Giants were struggling along at 17-23. The two clubs played a 4-4 tie in 11 innings on June 6th, but their Saturday afternoon game in front of 9,000+ fans wasn’t quite the same battle that the two teams fought the day before.

The Pirates on this day this day had two Hall of Famers in the lineup and six batters who were hitting over .300 through 39 games. Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke are the big names here, but it was the guy hitting in between them in the three spot who was getting the early season attention. Ginger Beaumont was batting .365 going into the day. That was 37 points higher than Clarke and 42 points higher than Wagner. Beaumont would increase his lead by the end of the day.

The Giants had one of their weaker lineups at this time. By the end of play on June 7th, they didn’t have a .300 hitter or a player with a .700 OPS. They had three former Pirates, Heinie Smith, George Yeager and Steve Brodie. None of them were in Pittsburgh long and Brodie was the biggest name, though he was nearing the end of his career at this point and it showed with his .204 batting average.

Phillippe was 6-3, 1.33 going into this contest. He allowed a total of four earned runs over 27.1 innings in his three losses, and he completed all nine starts up to that point. The Giants were throwing out Roy Evans, with a 6-5 record in his first big league action since 1899. New York had Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity in their rotation, which helped them stay somewhat afloat without any offense to speak of in their lineup.

The Pirates looked to put this game away early, with the first four batters all reaching base safely. Lead-off hitter Lefty Davis got things started with a triple. Fred Clarke brought him home with a single, then Ginger Beaumont hit a double. The Pirates loaded the bases when Evans pitched around Honus Wagner. Clarke would come home on a sacrifice fly from Kitty Bransfield to make it 2-0. Claude Ritchey and Tommy Leach couldn’t expand the lead and Phillippe took the mound with more than enough support for the day.

There’s no full play-by-play available for this game, but it would have been boring (in a good way) to read what Phillippe did to the Giants. He held them scoreless in the first and neither team scored in the second. In the third inning, the Pirates got a run on a single to right field by Beaumont, a sacrifice bunt from Wagner, followed by an RBI single from Bransfield.

The Pirates added two in the fifth on a bit of a wild inning. Beaumont led off and it looked like he was going to foul out to the catcher, but George Yeager dropped the ball. Beaumont took advantage of the extra life and singled. Both Wagner and Bransfield grounded out, allowing Beaumont to get into scoring position with two outs. Claude Ritchey lifted a fly ball into right-center and it looked like a sure out, but center fielder Steve Brodie and right fielder Jack Dunn both backed off to avoid a collision and the ball dropped. Beaumont scored and Ritchey got a gift double. Leach then grounded to shortstop Joe Bean, who knocked the ball down with a diving play. Leach attempted to go to second base as the ball got away from Bean, but it wasn’t far enough away and Leach was caught in a rundown. Before the Giants could tag him out, Ritchey crossed home plate with Pittsburgh’s fifth run.

The game moved quickly along into the ninth. The Pirates never came close to scoring in any other innings and the Giants bats were anything but giant. Phillippe led off the ninth inning with a rare feat during his career. After taking two strikes, he hit a ball into the right field seats, making it a 6-0 game. He hit three homers in 980 at-bats during his career, two at the Polo Grounds and an inside-the-park homer at Forbes Field when he was 38 years old.

Phillippe shut down the Giants in the ninth for the shutout. New York managed to collect just four hits against him, all singles. The only other base runner came on an error by Wagner. Phillippe didn’t issue a walk and he struck out six batters. This was one of five shutouts he had in 1902, on his way to 20 victories for the fourth straight season to start his career. He would extend that streak in 1903 with 25 wins.

This game took just 90 minutes to play (Baseball-Reference says 80, but the boxscores indicate 90 minutes). Beaumont finished 3-for-5, raising him to a .374 average. He finished the season with a .357 mark and his only NL batting title. Lefty Davis had two hits and a stolen base. Phillippe also collected a single. Honus Wagner had a ground out, walk and two sacrifice bunts. Fred Clarke went 1-for-4 with a walk.

Here’s the boxscore from Baseball-Reference