This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 12th, Joe Cronin and the Original Charlie Morton

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a Hall of Famer who got away.

Joe Cronin, infielder for the 1926-27 Pirates. He signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 1924 at 18 years old and played two seasons for the Pirates (1926-27) making his debut on April 29, 1926 at the age of nineteen. He was sent to the minors in early May of that 1926 season after just four games. When he returned the majors in late August, he almost immediately became the team’s starting second baseman in the middle of a pennant race. The Pirates would lose the division to the St Louis Cardinals but Cronin played well, hitting .265 in 38 games. In 1927 the Pirates got Cronin into just 12 games and hit .227 in 22 at-bats. That’s despite being healthy and on the active roster all season.

Just prior to the 1928 season started, the Pirates decided to sell Cronin to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association which obviously proved to be a bad idea. Just three months later the Washington Senators bought his contract and he was on the way to his Hall of Fame career. In 20 total seasons split between the Pirates, Senators and the Boston Red Sox, Cronin hit .301 over 2,124 games. He was a seven time All-Star despite the fact that the All-Star game wasn’t first played until his eighth season in the majors. He was also a player-manager for 13 seasons and managed another two years, leading his teams to the AL pennant in 1933 and 1945. Here’s an in depth article covering Cronin’s time with the Pirates.

Casey McGehee, first baseman for the 2012 Pirates. In 92 games with the Pirates, he hit .230 with eight homers, before being traded to the New York Yankees at the trading deadline for Chad Qualls. McGehee batted .258 with 67 homers over 850 games and eight big league seasons, spending time with seven different clubs. The Pirates acquired him in the winter of 2011-12 in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for reliever Jose Veras. McGehee was originally a tenth round draft pick in 2003 by the Chicago Cubs, though he had his best years with the Brewers. In 2009, he finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting, and in 2010, he hit .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBIs. While most of his playing time with the Pirates came at first base, he played just 41 games at first base during the rest of his career. McGehee played 625 games at third base.

Joe Trimble, pitcher for the 1957 Pirates. He made four starts and a relief appearance during his one season in Pittsburgh, going 0-2, 8.24 in 19.2 innings. His only other big league experience was two shutout innings for the 1955 Boston Red Sox. He was actually a member of the Pirates system before his time with the Red Sox. Trimble originally signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1951. He was released before making the majors, then signed with the Pirates in 1954. The Red Sox took him in the Rule 5 draft after the 1954 season, then returned him to the Pirates in 1955. Trimble appeared to be making the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1957, but a minor knee surgery kept him out of action for two months. His five appearances for the Pirates came between June 26th and July 14th. The final six batters he faced in the majors all reached base, four of them being former/future Pirates (Gus Bell, Jerry Lynch, Smoky Burgess, Ted Kluszewski). Trimble played one year in the minors (1958) before retiring.

Erv Brame, pitcher for the 1928-32 Pirates. He had a five-year career with quite a peak and drop. Playing only for the Pirates during his time in the majors, he finished with a 52-37, 4.76 record in 791.2 innings. Brame’s peak was during the 1929-30 seasons, which is one of the best stretches for offense in baseball history. He went 33-19 during that time, averaging 232.2 innings per year. By 1932, his big league career was over, after he had a 7.41 ERA in 51 innings that season. The Pirates released him to Toronto of the International League in February of 1933. Brame finished up his pro career with three minor league seasons. He had a 9-21 record pitching in the International League in 1926, then went 18-9 the next season playing for the same team. It was said that his decline in 1931 was due to the flu, which kept him sidelined for six weeks, and he never fully recovered, losing velocity on his fastball. Brame was a two-pitch pitcher and his fastball was his best pitch, with a curve that was average at best. He was an outstanding hitting pitcher, which helped him stick around as long as he did. Brame batted .306 in 396 at-bats, with eight homers and 75 RBIs.

Jimmy Burke, infielder for the 1901-02 Pirates. When the Pirates were busy having their best season in franchise history in 1902, winning their second straight NL title, Burke split his time between five positions, hitting .296 in 60 games. That was well above his career marks in seven years in the majors, as he finished his career with a .295 OBP and .289 slugging percentage. Burke joined the Pirates late in the 1901 season and hit .196 in 14 games. He began the year in the American League, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers (current day Baltimore Orioles) and Chicago White Sox. Prior to that season, he had 15 games of big league time, playing 13 games for the 1898 Cleveland Spiders and two games for the 1899 St Louis Perfectos (Cardinals). The Pirates traded him after the 1902 season back to the St Louis Cardinals and he played three years before retiring as a player. Burke managed part of the 1905 season in St Louis, then in 1918, he moved across town and managed the St Louis Browns for three seasons. He also managed in the minors and coached in the majors.

Charlie Morton, outfielder for the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the first Major League team in Pittsburgh history and the beginning point for the current Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. Morton was in the lineup for the first game in franchise history on May 2, 1882 which was also his big league debut. For the Alleghenys, he batted .282 in 25 games, while spending most of his time in center field. He finished the year as a member of the St Louis Brown Stockings and had just two hits in 32 at-bats. He played parts of two more seasons in the majors and hit .194 career in 88 games with no home runs. He managed  three season in the majors and off and on in the minors until 1898. In 1884, he managed Toledo of the American Association, while also penciling his name in the lineup 32 times, despite a .162 batting average. The next season he was the Opening Day manager of the Detroit Wolverines, where the team went 7-31 before he was let go. Morton batted .177 in 22 games that season. While he has no stats listed prior to 1882, he was playing pro ball in Ohio (Cleveland/Akron) for at least three years before his debut with the Alleghenys at 27 years old.

Charles “Pop” Smith, shortstop for the 1885-89 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He was the Opening Day shortstop for the 1887 Alleghenys, the first year that Pittsburgh played in the National League. Smith joined the franchise in October 1884 when he was purchased from the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association. The Alleghenys received a total of ten players from Columbus, as the club folded. In fact, the Alleghenys were often referred to as the old Columbus team in 1885, so much so that articles from other cities often cited their teams performances against Columbus in the past instead of Pittsburgh.  Smith stayed with the Alleghenys until he was sold off in July of 1889. In his five seasons in Pittsburgh. he hit just .220 over 557 games, but he had very good speed and played strong defense in the middle of the diamond, splitting his time between shortstop and second base. Smith was one of the first players born in Canada to play in the majors. He lasted 12 seasons in the big leagues playing 1,112 games, hitting .222 with 87 triples and 643 runs scored. He led all second basemen in assists in 1884 and 1885, then moved to shortstop in 1886 and led the league in fielding percentage. The Alleghenys parted ways with him at the perfect time. In 1890, he led NL second basemen in errors and he led the league in strikeouts as well. He played briefly in the majors in 1891, then continued his pro career in the minors, playing until 1899. He also served as a player/manager for three seasons in the minors.

Frank Ringo, catcher for the 1885-86 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Ringo bounced around a lot during his brief career, playing for five teams in four years. He appeared in the National League during all four seasons and spent parts of three seasons in the American Association. He began the 1885 season with the Detroit Wolverines, playing for the aforementioned Charlie Morton. Detroit released him that season because of a drinking problem. He then played for Augusta of the Southern League for 13 games, where it was said that he hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol since his early season incident. Ringo joined the Alleghenys on September 26th when the Augusta team disbanded for the season. He was joined by teammate/pitcher John Hofford in Pittsburgh. Ringo caught three games (all of Hofford’s starts) over the final six days of the season, going 2-for-11 at the plate.  In 1886, he played 15 games for Pittsburgh, splitting his time between first base and catcher. Those games at first base were the only ones he played there during his Major League career. Ringo hit .214 with five RBIs in 56 at-bats for the 1886 Alleghenys. On August 3rd, manager Horace Phillips released both Ringo and Hofford due to having too many men on the payroll at the time. They used just 20 players all season and not all of them were with the team on August 3rd. Ringo finished that season with the Kansas City Cowboys in the National League. That was the end of his big league career. Ringo played two more seasons in the minors, including 1887 with Kansas City in the Western League with Hofford as his teammate. That was before his life came to a tragic ending. Just before Opening Day in 1889, Ringo committed suicide by ingesting a lethal amount of morphine. He was just 28 years old.